Preface: Even though this should technically be more of a “season review”, I think the term “retrospective” would more suitable since this isn’t going to be the comprehensive, in-depth reviews that you might find on other sites. Instead, I’m going to
briefly talk about my overall thoughts on a show, bring up whatever is worth mentioning, as well as anything else that comes to mind.
Season overview: There are two highlights that define the Winter 2013 season for me. First up, is the conclusion of *counts* 7 two-cour shows, which I think is going to set an all-time record in my history books because it means that half of the shows that I follow in Winter were carried over from Fall. Secondly, as you might have guessed it (shame on you if you didn’t), is all about Hana Kana stealing all the spotlight for herself, albeit unintentionally. Starring in a grand total of 7 shows, 5 of them being on the same day, this feat will also be going down in my history books for most number of appearances in a season. For the record, I consider 1-2 roles to be normal (at least for the bigger names in the industry) 3-4 roles to be quite plentiful, 5-6 is kind of insane, but 7? That’s uncharted territory right there. The shows listed below are in a particular order, I’ll leave it to the readers to figure out what it is though.
Little Busters! – Disclaimer: I have not played the VN, which is something important to note. I’ll be honest about this, I disliked LB and I will be harsh. The main beef I have with LB is the way the series was adapted as a whole. This isn’t about the shoddy animation, because I don’t judge solely based on appearance. It is about the way the story was being told, that is something I just couldn’t sit back and turn a blind eye to. Having not played the VN, it doesn’t matter how faithful, or unfaithful the adaptation was for uninitiated viewers like me. In the span of 6 months, all LB has shown are the various character arcs (character-driven stories), which I find them to be purely a hit or miss situation.
Right from the start, viewers were alluded to something known as the “secret of the world”, something larger happening behind the scenes, which is the key reason (pun intended) why I’m watching this. There has to be a huge plot twist somewhere along the way, after all we’re talking about a Key VN here. Bit by bit, breadcrumbs have been dropped, hinting that LB isn’t all about baseball but something more. What is it then? The answer is: “We never knew.” For 6 months, I’ve hung onto this series solely because I wanted to find out what the “secret of the world” is and all I got in return was: “Wait for next season, buddy.” Some people may like the slice-of-life character arcs, I couldn’t care less, because the damage has already been done. At the end of the final episode, a second season was announced, where the focus is on “secret of the world” – arguably the best part of the LB story.
This is not how you tell a story. Refrain (the second season) can be mind-blowing, tear-inducing for all I care, it still isn’t going to change the fact that LB has failed to live up to expectations (come on people were hyping it up). Maybe it was for the sake of being faithful to the original material, then again if the character arcs were this weak, why not just cut them out to make room for the real deal? I wouldn’t have minded if they spent 22 episodes on character stories and the remaining 4 on the main storyline. Instead all we got was.. a promise that was severely delayed. In a nutshell, LB is nothing more than a poor 6-month buildup to the climatic portion of the overarching LB plot, I might rave about Refrain in the future but as it is I’m sorry to say that LB has dropped the ball, hard. It is just simply too little too late.
Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru – While people may hate/bash on this series because of its HaremRomCom nature, I found Oreshura to have exceeded my initial expectations. Yes there isn’t any deep, complex plot to be found in Oreshura, however in terms of pure entertainment value though, that is a different matter. Obviously if you don’t fancy RomCom shows you may very well skip this whole section, nonetheless I’m going to delve why Oreshura got me hooked right from the start.
To be fair, I have to agree that Oreshura got off to a slow start, with the first few episodes being kind of awkward (Chiwa’s date and Mana vs Himeko comes to mind), however once the
harem girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, fiancee and childhood friend were finally assembled together, this was where the series really started to shine. The main draw of Oreshura was how each of the lead female characters were endearing in their own way. Chiwa plays the role of the (often shafted) childhood friend. Masuzu belonged to the typical cool beauty, venomous-tongue archetype. Himeko falls under the soft-spoken, 100% dere type of girl. Ai is the classic tsundere that everyone should be familiar with. Coupled with the all-star cast and the hilarious battlefield antics later on, this is basically Oreshura’s recipe for success.
Senran Kagura – Senran Kagura is one of the rare ecchi anime where there is actually semblance of a proper plot (innuendo half-intended). While big-boobed ninja girls make absolutely no sense whatsoever, remember that Senran Kagura is adapted from a Nintendo 3DS game – meaning that it is much more difficult to adapt in terms of creating and animating a proper storyline, as opposed to say an adaptation from a light novel or a manga. The end result is that Senran Kagura turned out to be what I call “one of the better” ecchi anime in recent times. Contrary to popular belief, blatant fan-service isn’t the end all to such shows (I won’t be explaining why here for the sake of brevity). Once again, having a mostly well-known cast is always a huge plus.
Magi – Magi is yet another one of those anime that falls into the “strictly average” group for me. In Magi’s case, the second half of the series helped to make up for its rather lackluster start, wherein the plot direction started to get a little more exciting. The one downfall of Magi was that its animation quality wasn’t really impressive, especially when it came down to the fighting scenes, considering Magi is a shounen action series at heart. I will also never forget how badly butchered Morgiana’s dance scene was, as it was literally missing frames (?), making it kind of bemusing to watch. Even though a second season has been announced, right now my current stance is that I may or may not continue watching this series, as Magi didn’t quite manage to achieve the “must watch season 2” status. PS: Hana Kana plays a supporting role in Magi.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – Well, that escalated quickly. The opening episode gave off a generic RomCom vibe leading many to dismiss it off the bat and I questioned if Sakurasou was really worth its 2-cour status instead of one. I didn’t have to wait long to find out the answer to that question. By the third or fourth episode, Sakurasou’s strong emotional showing made that particular episode seem as if it was a finale. At the moment, viewers found out that Sakurasou was a RomCom that was more than meets the eye, and everyone started showering compliments after compliments.
Many people have likened it to Toradora, and I can see the similarities. Both have that “coming of age” theme and positive drama that gave viewers the “feels”. Although the drama can at times be sappy (especially the school graduation episode), most of the time I find it to be within the boundaries of realism. Sakurasou wasn’t only adept in moving viewers with scenarios that they can relate with, the comedic plus romantic aspects of the series were also by no means inferior at all. If you’re looking for a RomCom that is more than a RomCom, I do highly recommend giving Sakurasou a watch.
Tamako Market – Oh KyoAni. KyoAni tried to venture onto new grounds by choosing to animate something original as opposed to sticking to their bread and butter – adapting cult hits such as K-ON!, Lucky Star and Haruhi. The inherent problem with creating an original work is much like taking a huge gamble – it can either score, flop, or in Tamako’s case, turn out to be nothing more than an average slice-of-life with a slight plot twist. Being just average is nothing short of a disaster for KyoAni. Making a simple comparison with KyoAni’s previous works, I vastly enjoyed Hyouka and Chuunibyou more compared to Tamako. That is not to say that Tamako sucked, because it was decent for a slice-of-life (aka the bane of me). Settling for mediocrity however, spells failure in KyoAni’s case. Looking at the bright side, at least we’ll be getting Chuunibyou S2. Sorry Tamako, at least you did manage to make me crave for some mochi..
Robotics;Note – Be warned, comparisons to previous 5pb. X Nitro+ works will be inevitable. In all honesty, RN really paled in comparison to its predecessor, Steins;Gate (Hana Kana’s tuturu compilation plug). Using one of the fan favourite anime of 2011 to compare isn’t very fair though, but nonetheless I’ll evaluate RN as a standalone and as a spiritual successor to SG. The most glaring issue that I have with RN was how long the plot actually took to develop. The other major flaw in RN is how..uninteresting the characters are (except for Frau), just compare them to their SG counterparts and you’ll see the difference.
Going back to the aforementioned point, the grand scheme of things only presented itself right towards the end of the series, whereas in SG, viewers were thrown right into the fray right from the very beginning. Even as a standalone, RN felt more like a slice-of-life, mecha series until the pieces of the puzzle started to fall in place, after taking their own sweet time. In light of my criticisms, somehow I feel that the crux of RN’s shortcomings lies with how the anime was adapted, not the source material itself.
Vividred Operation – If Senran Kagura was all about the PLOT, then VVR is all about the BACK-STORY. Many have flamed VVR for being utter thrash, and it depends which side of the fence you’re on. I hate to use the trope “so bad, it’s good”, though that could well be used to sum up VVR. The good – stunning visuals, fan-service, yuri vibes, friendship themes. The bad – terrible episodic plot, unreal physics (come on, Newton would be sad), cheesy ending. My biggest gripe with VVR is how unrealistic it is – I mean, flying and talking simultaneously makes no sense because, can you even do that? Watching your teammate take a beating while doing nothing in the meantime doesn’t seem very legit either. If you’re able to overlook the visible flaws of VVR (aka turn off your brain while watching), then VVR can be actually fun to watch.
Kotoura-san – The darker-than-expected first episode caught many off-guard, including myself. This led to many people singing praises and calling it the dark horse of the season, albeit a little prematurely. As the dust settled though, Kotoura is still first and foremost a comedy despite also having slight romance and drama elements. Even though I’m glad that the series got the attention it deserved due to its stellar start, the remainder of the series ended up to be fairly “normal”. On the overall, watch Kotoura for the comedy, as the drama factor should be taken as a surprise bonus. PS: Hana Kana plays another female lead, not Kotoura herself.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT – Haganai S2 pretty much follows in the footsteps of S1, in other words developing Kodaka’s harem even further. While the forerunners (Yozora and Sena) still remain unchanged, the attention has gravitated more towards Yukimura, even Kate, and especially Rika. Haganai S2 is what I would call a “safe watch”, you can’t really go wrong with it, although Kodaka has to be one of the most annoying male protagonist to watch. Unfortunately for fans of the series, the anime has caught up to where the light novel is currently at, thus it will be unlikely that we’ll get to see a season 3 anytime soon. Kukuku~ I am Reisys V. Felicity Sumeragi.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – Based on Japanese mythology, Sasami comes off as “I don’t get it, but is still awesome anyway” type of show. When Sasami‘s seemingly erratic way of storytelling is paired with SHAFT’s trademark unconventional animation, the end product becomes somewhat of a unholy combination. It’s hard to appreciate, yet brilliant at the same time. Many viewers have struggled to understand what the heck is Sasami all about, and now that I think about it, the larger picture is one that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either. That being said, who cares about logic (*cough* VVR) in a supernatural, comedy show? Personally, the beauty of Sasami lies in the character interactions more so than the plot itself. When an unmotivated Sasami (plus her perverted, faceless brother) meets the 3 Yagami Sisters – the troll master Tsurugi, the aloof Kagami (pictured) and the child-like Tama, this is where the magic happens. PS: Funyaah~ Kagamin is awesome!
Zetsuen no Tempest – Why hello there Shakespeare, we meet again (Horizon, Psycho-Pass says hi). Tempest, as its name implies, is in reference to Shakespeare’s literary work, The Tempest, while also including a tragedy work in Hamlet. English literature is not my forte (even though I studied it), so I’m not sure how much it corresponds to the actual Tempest. Anyway, Tempest has a compelling story that managed to capture right from the get-go. Throughout the entire course of the series, there has been no lack of plot twists, conspiracy theories, red-herrings that makes Tempest oh so unpredictable. Then there’s also the enigmatic Aika (pictured, played by Hana Kana), just who is she? Out of this entire season, Tempest has easily one the best stories to follow as it unfolds, and what is perhaps more remarkable is the fact that there was hardly any dull moments despite Tempest being a 2-cour show (as they generally tend to be slower-paced).
Shinsekai yori – I don’t even know where to start for SSY. It’s like being awestruck and being left speechless in the process after digesting the series in its entirety. If RomComs like Oreshura and Haganai can be said to bring joy and laughter to the heart, SSY can be said to be pure food for the brain. In other words, a totally different form of enjoyment. SSY has enough depth to entice people who look for engaging concepts, enough cliffhangers to keep viewers on the edge of their seat each week, enough brilliance to disguise the ending as a direct message to humanity itself. Words (partially due to my inability to convey my thoughts) alone cannot do justice to what a gem SSY is. Granted, it isn’t perfect (nothing is), it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it can be difficult to comprehend at times. Nonetheless SSY belongs to the select few anime that can actually break the mould without failing spectacularly. Lastly, credit has to be given to A-1 for not messing up the adaptation of the award-winning novel. PS: Don’t forget about Hana Kana!
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – In my eyes, Maoyuu will always be that “show that had potential, but never quite delivered”. Others have associated Maoyuu with Spice & Wolf, stating that there subjects that revolve around economics and bartering, in which I can attest to. However, I didn’t find them as fascinating as I thought it would be. Yes, they are interesting in a sense, however it didn’t have that sort of impact that would make me go – “Oh I see!” Rather, it was closer to – “Oh, ok.” On the flip-side, it was the lovey dovey antics between the Maou and the Yuusha that I looked forward to each week. To rub salt in the wound, the abrupt conclusion of Maoyuu leaves much to be desired.
Closing thoughts: This post took way longer than I had expected it to – it took me over a span of 3 days to complete it. Perhaps I should’ve been more brief on my “reviews” – it’s not easy to find the sweet spot. If it is too short and it won’t be informative enough, if it is too long then I might as well do a full review (therefore defeating the purpose of this type of post) Truth be told, apart from getting distracted, it wasn’t an easy task to complete this particular retrospective – I had to run through the all 14 series in my head and then try to come up with a concise way to describe it, without repeating myself too much. In fact I probably could go on a little longer, as I found myself skipping several minor details since I felt that it wasn’t really necessary to mention them (like talking about certain events, endings, throwing in more Hana Kana promotion). Well, I’ve gone on long enough and right now I need to replenish some brain juices so I hope this has been insightful, in one way or another.