2015 Fall Anime Reviews: Midterms

11:15 PM

For 12 episode series, we're half way through the run. That calls for the mid-season review of where things have gone, the movers and shakers of the season if you must. 3 series have been cut, while two new ones join the ranks, bringing the new total series to 8. Dropped series are crossed out, while new additions are in bolded italics.

  • Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigations
  • Chivalry of a Failed Knight
  • Ushio to Tora
  • UTAWARERUMONO - False Faces
  • Heavy Object
  • Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider
  • Yuru Yuri 3
  • Is the Order a Rabbit? 2
  • GARO: Crimson Moon
  • Owarimonogatari
  • GUNDAM: Iron Blooded Orphans

Beautiful Bones' latest 2 episode arc was the series' best atmospherically and pacing wise, but the series continues to struggle to be intriguing. The mysteries are okay, but this latest one was still fairly straight forward. The arc does briefly introduce what's likely to become a recurring antagonist to the pair to deliver a dose of 'conflict' to a series that doesn't necessarily need one. Speaking of recurring, the overarching plot of what happened to Sakurako's younger brother continues to be drip fed ever so slowly. From the opening credits, "A story dedicated to those trapped in the past", more or less telegraphs future events in the plot line about her brother. My guess is that she's left with unanswered questions about her brother's death and her misadventures will eventually lead her to answers regarding that. She sees her brother in our lead character, Shoutarou, and is keeping him around basically as a surrogate brother. "This is what it probably would have been like", or something like that. I'm going to keep up with the series, but it's fairly low on the priorities list. 

Based on the opening animation, I know where this boat is headed. The Sword Eater fight will be the feather in this one's cap, being the big, long, flashy fight. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that between that and now, there's basically a bunch of episodes that will be spent on setting up that fight involving a lot of a jealous Stella, some teary Stella and a Shizuku that needs to be developed as a character much more than she is at the current point. With Ikki and Stella now in a romantic relationship, all other formerly potential love interests are there just to tease Stella, with exception of Shizuku who continues to vie for her brother's affection. The series has managed to strut out from the crowd with it's "not actually a harem" set up, but other elements are still stuck well in the mudded waters of light novels adaptations, and the rushing through things certainly doesn't help. Episode 5's end sequence showed off an imposing student council who ended up being trounced in the next episode in what basically is a fight montage. I'll likely check in on this series in a couple episodes, but I'm expecting this arc to be dragged and spread thin until the end. My prediction is that they'll end the arc at 11, leaving the final episode to a fanservice driven original episode to let Ikki and Stella have some fun with the rest of the cast. 

I powered through the current 19 episodes over a couple days and was pleasantly surprised to find how good this series is. This is the newest adaptation of a long manga (Weekly Shounen Sunday) that ran between 1990 and 1996. The series is a great mix between comedy, drama and action, usually swapping between the two rather comfortably. At the heart of it is the love-hate friendship between Ushio and his tsundere demonic ally, Tora. The interactions between the two swing between trying to get rid of each other and then feeling bad about it, then making up, followed by some bickering. Throw in all the characters that the pair meet along the way, from Ushio's school mates Asako and Mayuko, to the ghost of the now ancient family of the blacksmith who forged the powerful Beast Spear that Ushio wields. Episodes 17 and 18 brought the entire cast together to save Ushio from the cursed of the spear, tying together Ushio's entire journey and giving a new light to the previously episodic structure. Those one off encounters ended up coming back to save him, lending an importance to those episodes. 

Apart from Ushio and Tora, the important side characters show a remarkable amount of growth and development for, well, being side characters. Each one of the girls that Ushio helps out on the journey has come back a stronger character in every way, which was wonderful to see. 

On a side note, they've modernized the series enough to have cellphones, but haven't touched the fashion, meaning that you've got 90's fashion design alongside the modern touches of today. It really looks like 90's series with the crisp production quality of a series today.

It seems that the first season may actually play a bigger role in this new series than I initially thought. In the latest episode, it's revealed that Kuon was communally raised by the entire female cast of the previous season, which leads many to believe that they'll likely make more an appearance, along with the events of the previous season to be at least referenced in this new one. I still believe that watching the first is vitally important to understand what's going on, but for those who have, the ending of Episode 6 references and foreshadows what's to come and perhaps where this series is headed. The best episodes so far have been ones that focus on Haku or Kuon, while the weakest have been character introductions, such as episode 5 which played the goofy card really hard. Episode 6 centered entirely around Kuon and ended up being one of the strongest episodes, giving us a heart warming sequence as Kuon's adoptive mothers brought up stories of Kuon's childhood, as well as their recognition of her growth and"adulthood". It also kicks off what could be a major plot point, while raising more questions about Haku's name, which, for those in the know, should know at least the importance of the name. 

It's shaping up to be a fun series, bouncing between goofy and fluffy with it's lovable pair of main characters, who, for those wondering, are not romantically interested in each other. Yet. I stand by my initial belief that the first season isn't necessary, but I will say that it would help in predicting where the story goes. For the record, while I've watched the first season, I can recall next to nothing from it, outside of the main two character's. 

Ah Heavy Object. You had potential. Your story of the little ants bringing down the dam wall was interesting in the "how are they going to manage this" sense. Your mech designs were cool from a technical stand point, and your two male leads were an entertaining pair fighting for their lives because of how well they did. Regardless of the strong points, the amount of idle chatter between the two was becoming irritating, and Millinda continues to be underdeveloped as a character, as well as being kind of useless. It's heavy reliance on exposition to tell it's story also doesn't help, as nothing is really happening when it's being told. It's more or less devolved in a rather generic light novel adaptation in my eyes, and the pedigree of it's creator does little for me, since I quickly grew cool on Index and Railgun. As it is now, I can't recommend this one at all.

If you decide to pick this one up, be aware that it's as dialogue heavy as the Monogatari series. 

The Perfect Insider is a murder mystery revolving around the trio of misfits that, in turn, revolves around another murder mystery centered on the two female characters of the triangle. The triangle is made up of characters interested in each other. Nishinosono Moe is romantically interested in her professor, Saikawa Souhei. Saikawa idolizes Magata Shiki, PhD, academically and perhaps as a person. In turn, Magata shows an odd interest in Moe. Nishinosono is intelligent, but extremely sheltered, coming from an extremely wealthy family. For those who have seen it, she drives an Alfa Romero 4C. Saikawa Souhei is the professor of Moe's lecture group and rambles in philosophical nonsense about the nature of life, living and the such. Magata Shiki, PhD, is a certified mega genius, completing her doctorate before most kids even have an idea of their future. She's isolated on an remote island lab for the alleged murder of her parents and is generally at the center of all of the mysteries the series has to offer. 

The smaller murder mystery is the more interesting one,, told through flashbacks of Nagata's life, as well as being cryptically seeding questions about her interest in Moe through scenes of their meeting. The larger mystery is a serial murder mystery taking place on what essentially is a locked room on the scale of a remote island. At the time of writing this, two have died, and there still isn't any clues as to who is behind it or how it's been happening. It is dialogue heavy, and the dialogue really is best when it's between Moe and Magata, as Saikawa's rambling really is just rambling. This results in the mystery of the past (Magata and Moe) being much more interesting than the island murder mystery, which generally is a lot of "check the records, tapes" and hypotheses about how it happened. 

Recommended? Not really, but if you're interested in it, give it a try. 

Yuru Yuri 3 brings more zany high jinks to the table with the main cast interacting with more of the fringe cast, like the older and younger siblings of the other cast members. The relationship chart of this series will have connections between everyone, as there's not a single character who doesn't have some sort of relation to another. While it remains enjoyable, I just hope that there's a change or break from Sakurako and Kyouko's idiot gags. It's getting a bit old now, and it'd be a shame for YRYR to suffer from a gag that overstayed it's welcome.

The same fluffy cuteness from season 1 continues straight through to season 2. It's hard to say much about this one because it really is just an enjoyable fluffy warm series. Fun fact: my girlfriend tears up from happiness watching this. 

While I say I've dropped this one, I'm probably going to try to jump back into down the line. I've always been mildly interested in the GARO series, back even in the days where it was an "edgy" tokusatsu. This series follows the pattern of losing my interest along the way and I have a very hard time trying to jump back into it. As it stands, I really don't like any of the characters enough to have any sort of investment in the series. Perhaps it was the "monster of the week" format that lost me, or the slow drip feed of an overarching plot, or maybe even the way the CG Golden Armour looks. There's lots of reasons why this series lost my interest but it still interests me. For the time being, I'll consider this one dropped until things start looking more interesting.

Owarimonogatari has consistently been a strong show this season. With episode 6 comes the conclusion of the series' second arc, and what an arc that one was. Sodachi Lost didn't involve the supernatural, but it was one of the most straight forward and hard hitting arcs the Monogatari series has given. While told in a round about way, fragmented across different segments, and always visually interesting. Episode 5 hits an emotional peak, with Oikura Sodachi telling her story to Arararagi and Hanekawa, who was amazing in this arc. The arc seeds us with bits and pieces that imply Oikura's troubled life, but little prepares you for just how bad it turns out to be. Episode 6 can't quite match that, but further implies that Ougi might end up being the final boss, pitting her against Hanekawa for control over an Araragi. Araragi, on that note, was at his best this arc, trading both his goofy antics and self sacrificing habits for a moment of character growth. He wasn't saving Oikura. He wasn't going to make her happy. He was giving her the closure she needed to move on. She would find happiness for herself. It's summed up beautifully in his monologue just before he meets with her for the last time. 
"Even concerning happiness, after learning some tips, she's sure to pass me in no time. But happiness isn't a race. If she passes me, I just need to learn from her in return. That's how we learn, teach, and take each other to a higher place."
The Monogatari series has only gotten better as it's gone on, consistently producing arcs that can be referred to as "one of the best yet". 

Even on the slow episodes, Iron Blooded Orphans remains a strong series, using it's time to develop the major characters. The character development is great, but the series still has a problem with many of it's explanations. It's political climtae doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and neither does any explanation about any piece of technology. It tends to devolve into technical babble, especially when it's about technology. It's characterization might be the best of recent Gundam series, giving us insights into the behaviour of the two lead males, Mikazuki and Orga, while also pitting the privledged Kudelia against those she wants to "save". It's most telling in Mikazuki's single response comments to her grandest of statements, which bring Kudelia's sheltered life into the view. 

While I'm loving everything about this series, I just hope that it can keep up the brisk but deliberate pacing. Every moment feels purposeful, but if there's not enough of those moments, it might end up feeling slow and perhaps wasted.

Well, what can I say? One Punch Man is settling into it's rhythm with Saitama now reluctantly learning the ropes of the Hero Association. The setting reminds me a lot of Tiger & Bunny, but on a much more sarcastic take on the "hero". Take for instance, Mumen Rider. As a hero, he's basically useless. As a brand though, he performs exceptionally well. Perhaps One Punch Man is exactly the series we need in a time where Marvel and DC are both heavily marketing their brands.
The latest arc will take a bit of time to build to where the big set piece action sequences start so be prepared for at least a couple episodes of Saitama goofing around as he tries to make his name in the mean world of Heroes. 

And there we have it! I'll be doing another one of these at the end of the season, with final thoughts on series that wrap up at 12, and another quarterly review for those that run 24 and up. 

My ranking right now goes as follows:

Tier 1: It makes my week
  • Owarimonogatari
  • Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans
Tier 2: Watch it every week. These series could be skipped every now and then.
  • One Punch Man
  • Ushio to Tora
  • UTAWARERUMONO - False Faces
Tier 3: Would be fine with out it
  • Is the Order a Rabbit? 2
  • Yuru Yuri 3
  • Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider
  • Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigations

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