Fall 2015 Anime Review: The Late Edition!

6:29 PM

Yes, yes it's super late. The story goes like this: I actually managed to finish it just as the season ended but when I went to maximize the window (I work with multiple windows on screen), the page crashed and I was left with literally nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even the labels or title stuck. The draft I saved? Gone. I was perplexed as much as I was horribly frustrated, and put it off until I felt like redoing all of that work. Thankfully, I made notes, so rewriting wasn't as painful as it could have been, but holy shit that was bad.

Anywho, I've summed up 7 series: 5 completed and 2 ongoing. I wrote about how I felt about them, and occasionally whether I'd recommend watching them, but I can sum it up here pretty concisely. Remember that this is purely by personal opinion and taste. Also, OPM good, but you know, not grrrreat.

Watch these, they're great: 

  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans
  •  Owarimonogatari (only if you've watched all of the previous Monogatari series)

Sure, go for it:

  • One Punch Man
  • Ushio to Tora (not reviewed)
  • Is the Order a Rabbit? 2
  • The Perfect Insider 

I mean, I guess you could watch it?:

  • Yuru Yuri San Hai!! (only if you've watched season 1)
  • Beautiful Bones (not reviewed)
  • A Failed Knights Chivalry (not reviewed)
  • GARO: Crimson Moon (not reviewed)

Don't do it

  • Utawarerumono: False Faces

* * * * * And now, onto the show. * * * * *

Image from Random Curiosity

The latest entry into the pantheon of Monogatari series focuses entirely on Araragi, where Monogatari 2nd was largely Araragi-less. This season fills in the gaps left in the 2nd season, the gaps of what Araragi was up to in his absence from the story.

The strength of this season is it's building of Araragi, who, with all his flaws, was probably one of the lesser developed characters by the end of Monogatari Second. Owari begins with a story from fairly far in the chronology of the “big picture”, ending with a poignant monologue from Araragi which he could only make due to the lessons he learns in arcs before Sodachi Lost. Sodachi's arc also had the emotionally wrenching shattering of the titular character – the fragile sound of her voice (Inoue Marina, who was recently at AniRevo'15) makes the delivery of the grim backstory all the more effective. Then there's the ominous nature of Ougi, who is further painted as a possible “antagonist”, or at least a counter-force against the all-knowing Gaen Izuko. She seems to be able to get Araragi to talk, to which even Araragi wonders why he keeps spilling his guts to her.

Whereas Second largely revolved around the idea of “liars”, Owari seems to revolve around “happiness”, in a loose sense. The two major arcs, Sodachi Lost and Shinobu Mail both end with a remark of what it means to be happy. In Sodachi Lost, Araragi's monologue has him state that “happiness isn't a race”, not a competitive, solo event, but is often a collaborative effort that continues indefinitely. The end of Shinobu Mail has him being told a similar message by Yotsugi, who's turning into quite the “bringer of good advice” to him, essentially telling him what he and Hanekawa tell Oikura.. The entirety of Owarimonogatari is showcasing the, somewhat slow, character development, cumulating in satisfying display of a stronger, better Araragi than we've ever seen him, though the pervy side of him is definitely still there. The second major arc started pretty slow, largely centred around Kanbaru and Araragi's usual kind of conversations. However, it ends in a spectacular shimmer that makes the whole arc definitely worth it, neatly wrapping up a messy story in a satisfying manner.

Another standout detail in this season were the gorgeous tapestries that accompanied Shinobu's telling of her backstory. The way these tapestry images slowly panned lent an air of a different kind of visual story telling that we usually get in Monogatari series, with hard cuts, frequent framing changes and that distinct “SHAFT style”.

Overall, Owarimonogatari is a strong entry into the Monogatari series, featuring some of the strongest emotionally charged episodes in it's two major arcs, and the satisfyingly changed character that Araragi has become. As it's another entry into the long list of Monogatari series, watching at least some of the prior series are a necessity. This was one of my favourite series in the Fall 2015 season.

Image from Random Curiosity

OPM is this season's Attack on Titan – the series that manages to transcend the hurdles that anime has on the wider populace and the series that a large majority of the viewer base seems to fervently respect. I, unfortunately, am not one of those people. While I enjoyed OPM, it's not a series I'll go to bat for. It has lavishly animated fight sequences, or rather is book ended by two of them, is a great take on the super hero genre, but at the end of the day, there aren't any characters I really like. Saitama is, frankly, a boring character, by design and in execution. He's pepper with interesting actions, like his reflection on Hammerhead and how he could have ended up like him if he had taken a wrong turn somewhere, or his decision to become the “antihero”, to allow the efforts of the other heroes to not be in vain. With a character like him, and the show in general, the question of what a “hero” actually is a question brought up, not in the show, but how it presents the characters. Saitama has the superhuman, and supernatural strength, but lacks any of the spirit your cookie cutter hero has. Mumen Rider is the cookie cutter hero, but lacks any of the physical strength to be that hero. Genos has that dark gritty back story of revenge and justice, but again, doesn't demonstrate an explicit desire to be a hero. Looking at it this way, Genos really is the only “almost true definition” of a hero – he has the strength, the popularity and the drive, which Saitama and Mumen lack one way or another.

I enjoyed One Punch Man, but the show definitely fell a little flat, especially compared to shows like Owarimonogatari and Gundam IBO, which, while far different genres and themes, were just wholly more entertaining. Oh, and OPM had a totally rad OP by JAM PROJECT that you should all listen to.

Image from Random Curiosity

A locked room murder mystery updated for the 21st century running parallel to a pair of parallel, unfurling back stories of the two female “leads” of the series. The Perfect Insider was as confusing as it was enjoyable. The main mystery is drawn out as the series seeds clues in the form of flashbacks to Magata's, one of the series' 3 main characters, past. The other two characters, Saikawa Souhei and Nishinosono Moe both are better characters than Magata, the character at the heart of the mystery. Saikawa starts off being a little annoying, with his pseudo-philosophical quips, though that dies down as the series progresses, and he comes into his own as a much more likable character. Moe doesn't change too much through the series. The series isn't so much a character series, like Owarimonogatari, but more a slow burn as we learn more about Magata, and where Moe fits into the puzzle.

As a whole, the series is interesting in the way it's told, but the weakest part for me is Magata herself. She's made to be too much of an enigma, to the point where every character describes her as “thinking / existing on a higher level”. While she's very clearly a sociopath (psychopath?), this makes her a very one note character. Another weak point was how neatly everything tied up. Literally every question the series raised was answered, even the subtitle “Everything becomes F” had a thorough explanation. I'm not saying series should answer questions they raise, but this ended maybe too neatly?

This one's a difficult series to recommend. It's not the kind of series that's up most peoples' alley, and the fact that it's probably more than okay, but not great puts in that “if you've got time, maybe check it out?” category. Oh, and it's a cool OP and a pretty swell ED.

Sakurako (left), worst character of the season
Yuru Yuri San Hai!! (Season 3)

This series ended up having some pretty good episodes, with some pretty awful ones in the mix. Any episode centred around the antics of the “idiot” characters, Kyouko or, even worse, Sakurako, can almost certainly be written off. Kyouko's at least got her artistic talents and can, at least, show some semblance of normal behaviour. Sakurako's literally got nothing, with all scenes featuring her basically ending up as “hey look how dumb she is” and generally being grating and annoying. How a side story based on her family exists strikes fear into my soul, knowing that there are people out there who like her.

Moving on, this series brought more character development into the picture than any of the other season. We saw Ayano start making progress with her crush on Kyouko. We saw a nice sequence of the close friendship shared between Ayano and Chitose. We got a seriously hammed up, overly dramatic, almost cringe worth character development scene with Chizuru making friends. We even got more time with the sibling characters, which is always nice. The Kyouko – Yui ship put it's masts up a little, while the Kyouko – Ayano ship just managed to leave port by a few metres.

Outside of the main ships, the other characters like Chinatsu and...who else? A...Aka..Akihabara? Ah, Akari of course. They largely remain the same, with Chinatsu being that annoying, obsessive light “yandere”, while Akari is a good girl.

The increased focus on the side characters is a plus for this series, as it keeps the Amusement Club's interactions from becoming too stale. There are some great character moments in the series, some more fleeting than others, but it fleshes the characters out some more, which gives us more definition to the characters. Except for Sakurako, who leads the charge for the bad episodes that you should skip, should you decide on watching this. Light hearted comedy, with light lesbian undertones set in middle school. Also there are literally no male characters in this series.

Is the Order a  Rabbit? 2

Describing this series is tough. It's cute, fun, sweet, fluffy stuff and really not much more than that. It's like cotton candy in a way, but has a bit more substance in it's characters. Much like K-ON, it's a series that's generally about nothing, but still manages to put a smile on my face every episode.

This season we get more the usual fluffiness, with endearing “d'haaw” moments scattered throughout the run. There was more development of Maya and Megu's characters, from Megu's home to how the pair ended up being buddies with the quiet and withdrawn Chino. There's a brief dive into Aoyama Blue Mountain's past, casting her as the Rise's and Syaro's one time school club helper – being extraordinarily talented and lent her hand to any club in need. Also, Aoyama's constant running from deadlines hits a climax, ending with her editor, and school friend, coming into the picture to drag her back to work. Speaking of new characters, we also meet Mocha, Cocoa's older sister, who turns out to be an equally zany, but significantly more reliable and “put together” version of Cocoa. She's loads of fun and helps bring Chino closer to Cocoa, showing her a side of Cocoa that she hasn't seen. I'd be all for seeing the cast take a trip to Cocoa's home – a change of setting might do the series well.

It's a feel good series; great to unwind to or when you need a bit of a pick-me-up.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans

This might be the strongest series running at the moment, in terms of story, content and characters. Few series manage to nail all of these while maintaining a steady, not rushed, forward momentum. I'd attribute this perhaps to the handiwork of Mari Okada (series composition) and director Tatsuyuki Nagai, who, together, worked on such titles of Toradora, AnoHana and more recently, Anthems of the Heart. Anthems of the Heart aside, the two TV series were both really strong in terms of their characters and story. Iron Blooded Orphans is showcasing those strengths with it's ragtag crew of youth. Combine that with the sci-fi political backdrop of a Gundam series and you've got something really special.

In terms of the story, this one has some of the grittiest moments in Gundam, especially after the oddly whimsical G-Reconguista. We're also treated to a story that doesn't begin with the protagonist stumbling upon a Gundam, which is always a plus in my books. They story also is a little more down to “Earth”, reminding me a bit more of the OVA titles, like War in the Pocket, more so than the recent entries into the pantheon of Gundam. It's also got a nasty little habit of raising death flags up for less major characters, but never putting the flag up full mast. It keeps you on edge whenever characters other than Mikazuki head out into the battlefield.

By far, the characters are the strongest point of this series. They're well written, well realized and always developing – few major characters remain stagnant for long, growing as the story throws bumps into their lives. It's impressive how much of the main crew has been characterized, some obviously more than others, and how much of their character you can gleam from their actions.

This series is was a strong contender for “best series” of the last season, and with the first couple episodes of this newest season out, it has a pretty high chance of being up there for another season.

Utawarerumono: False Faces

Well, despite the seemingly strong start, this series has more or less evolved into a disappointment on various levels. All the goodwill that it gathered in the beginning, with the fun, fluffy interactions between Haku and the feisty Kuon was squandered over the course of the next...8 or 9 episodes? From cookie cutter harem member introductions, to bad comedy that just won't stop, Utawarerumono really just bungled everything it could. That last sentence is basically the entirety of the series thus far. Much of it is so inconsequential and unremarkable that you probably could skip it and still be fine. Now, halfway through the series, marked by a new pair of OP and ED songs, we finally make it through all of that bad muck and stuff, only to find out that the series hasn't exactly made us feel attached to any characters. Two of the princesses have been sent to war by their fathers, leaving the viewer to feel for their, or at least one of their, plights, but both princesses have more or less have been used almost solely for comedic relief – scratch that, the entirety of the cast has been used for that role and nothing else. Then we come to Haku, who finds himself unwillingly pulled into the battlefield, as with everything else he's done, and shows a brief moment of capability by knocking out two guards with his metal fan. Other than that, I can't say much about the character who complains and grumbles about stuff he gets roped into doing, especially when the majority of that has been odd jobs around the city.

In ways, this might actually be the complete opposite of Gundam IBO, where this series hasn't succeeded in crafting characters you care about, and the story is flying right over viewers yelling “HEY CARE ABOUT THESE CHARACTERS”. Until this series is done, and we see the end result, I honestly can't recommend this one. 

All other series that were in previous reviews that aren't on this one were dropped. That's a lot of series, but at the beginning of the season I subscribed to Crunchyroll as a premium member ($7 / month), meaning that series like Rakudai Kishi and GARO, which stream on Funimation exclusively weren't possible to watch (legally), and not that I cared. They weren't all that great anyways. 

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