Spring 2011 – Mid-Season Review

This is probably not the halfway point in the season for everyone but it is for me (and only because I’m making this post now).  With 12 anime taking up a majority of my free-time, it’s about time I update everyone on my thoughts and opinions regarding these shows, as well as provide a ranking because subjective information can potentially be confusing.  But first, some words on the Spring season, as a whole, thus far.

This Spring has been an entertaining season.  I’ve been pleased with all the comedies I’ve been following, and even more impressed with the comedy elements in more serious anime like Tiger & Bunny and Steins;Gate.  I never would’ve expected those shows to produce more laughs than something like Nichijou but they have, although just barely.  There’s also a strong presence of well-defined and interesting protagonists in many of the anime, like Hanasaku Iroha and AnoHana.  I’ve been pleased with the story in some and disappointed in others.  There are just some stories I cannot get too invested in or take too seriously.  But maybe that’s why I consider this season to be entertaining rather than thought-provoking or something more intellectual.  But you wouldn’t get that if you look at my rankings, seeing as all of my favorites are Brain On anime which usually have a more art/story focus.  Maybe it’s because of how versatile and balanced they are at the expense of some other mindless animes.  But enough about that, on to the specifics.

The order listed below is in the order that I’d rank them now along with their numerical score (between 10-5).  I’ll also toss out my favorite character of each series, too, since that’s always a requirement I’ve imposed upon myself.  The best Art, Characters, Entertainment, Sound, and Story are there, too.  There are some minor spoilers, so if you haven’t watched a show and don’t want it to be spoiled, then simply skip over it or get mildly outraged.

And with that, onto the reviews.

Steins;Gate – 9

Favorite Character: Rintarou Okabe (Hououin Kyouma, Okarin, Mad Scientist, etc.)

Brain On – Steins;Gate has been both incredibly enjoyable and stimulating.  Most of the entertainment derives from the absolutely magnificent cast of Characters who, without a second thought, are my favorite of the season.  Each one fits in nicely with each other, both for story and comedic aspects.  Their design and development are more interesting than the mysteries and time-travel, which I hope are devices that explore the characters instead of merely plot elements.  Another helpful aspect is how the voices match the personalities of each, making this the best Sound anime of the season.  I do have a problem with the seemingly evident harem going on around Okabe, with the five girls and the trap that all seem to gravitate toward him for no reason.  The mysteries and time-travel aspects are still developing and depending on how they influence the story and characters, I can see this show easily rising to a 10.

What would raise the score? More time travel, character, and story development; less harem stuff.

Tiger & Bunny – 9

Favorite Character: Kotetsu T. Kaburagi

Brain On – In what has been the best surprise of the season, Tiger & Bunny is another show that features a great mixture of story and comedy.  The story seems to revolve around each of the title characters, Tiger trying to keep his ideals of a hero alive while facing irrelevancy and Barnaby pursing revenge on the crime syndicate Ouroboros.  The highlight of the show has been the comedy and I find myself laughing at this louder than any other anime this season.  The heroic efforts and fights have been spectacular to watch, especially with the visuals in the show.  Sunrise knows how to use 3-D characters in a 2-D world and have the end result be stunning.  From an Entertainment perspective, this has been the best of the season.  The cast of characters has been neglected at this point and I’m hoping to see more development out of the other heroes but I assume we’ll see that later.  Tiger, however, is probably the best character this season, for his personality, ideals, actions, and comedy.  He really carries this anime for me with everything he does.  He is what all anime-leads should aim to be.  You could even say… he’s my hero.

What would raise the score? Some recognition from the characters at how great a person Tiger really is.

[C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – 9

Favorite Character: Masakaki

Brain On – C was my most anticipated anime of the season, so ending up third may appear high to some but it is low for me, especially since it spent all of April in the top spot.  What I enjoy most about C is the Story dealing with the whole ‘selling-your-future’ angle.  Seeing the results of the Deals in the real world leaves you with a sense of wonder and amazement, watching the real world change as a result of a battle between monsters with money as hit points.  Additionally, all the symbolism is amusing, seeing so many representations for what’s going on, either economically or demonically or whatever other layers exist.  However, sometimes the art and animation seem a little lethargic and the 3-D use has been haphazard and awkward.  But at least the Assets have interesting designs and all the characters are appealing.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see this jump back on top before the season is over.

What would raise the score? A complete termination of all 3-D animation.

Hanasaku Iroha – 9

Favorite Character: Ohana Matsumae

Brain On – The beginning of Hanasaku Iroha was astounding and it appeared to set up what would be an extraordinary coming-of-age story.  As the anime has progressed, however, Hanasaku is evaporation into more of a slice-of-life anime, showing seemingly disconnected episodes rather than gradually building up Ohana’s character.  But the show receives high marks for a number of other aspects.  The Art in Hanasaku is inspiring at worst and often, I’ll pause just to appreciate the scenery and landscapes.  And when it comes to characters, Ohana is definitely my favorite and is a close second to Tiger as my favorite character of the season.  Her attitude toward challenges, her outspokenness, and her initiative are all admirable in a lead character.  What’s most impressive is how she continues to solve an issue even after she screws up and makes it worse for her friends and herself.  Perhaps it’s simply her character and her enthusiasm over everything that has me feeling cheerful whenever I watch Hanasaku Iroha.  The show can move up to a 10 by the end of the series (summer) but it needs to alter its storytelling into something more sequential instead of episodic.

What would raise the score? A return to a coming-of-age story, not a slice-of-life.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai – 8

Favorite Character: Jinta Yadomi (Jintan)

Brain On – AnoHana is the anime that just feels right for the noitaminA timeslot.  The anime has exceptional writing, skillfully crafted characters, and inspirational artwork.  In other words, it’s a show that has a meaningful story and the staff that knows how to show it.  Despite the constant attention toward Menma, each episode provides something fresh for the circle of friends as they get back together again.  Everything they do connects something old with something new.  But the issue I have with AnoHana is that I am not sympathetic with the character’s feelings.  I can understand the reminiscing and sorrow but what about the feelings for each other?  All the characters have emotions toward Menma but nothing for their fellow ‘friend’.  It’s not like they’re getting back together again because they want to see each other and they want to reconnect but rather, just to remember Menma.  It’s these relationships that are empty and leave me feeling somewhat disinterested in them getting back together.  As for Menma, I’m interested to discover the mystery behind her and her behavior.  She’s the most enchanting aspect of the show for me.

What would raise the score? The characters doing something non-Menma related.

Maria Holic Alive – 8

Favorite Character: Kanako Miyamae

Brain Off – While not as hilarious as the first season, the second season of Maria Holic certainly does not disappoint, especially with the comedy and art style.  Where it falls behind is in the various stories.  Each episode doesn’t seem to be as engaging as before, although the series does a good job of incorporating the cast into these episodes to provide enough screentime for everyone.  The pairing of Kanako with Mariya is still golden and I have yet to tire of a scene with them on screen together.  There seems to be more comedy coming from the lesser characters now than before, which is nice since they have a different delivery and allow for Kanako or Mariya to be the straight-man in a gag rather than the focus.  The art work is eye candy, especially when the style suddenly changes or the show begins to mock something else.  Always a pleasure to be watching Maria Holic.

What would raise the score? More Kanako.

Nichijou – 7

Favorite Character: Mio Naganohara

Brain Off – Nichijou’s strengths lie in its high production values.  Everything from the animation to the music is splendid, making it unlike most other gag anime.  However, it doesn’t make the material of the anime any funnier, only more pleasant for our senses.  The comedy in Nichijou has been hit or miss, which is often the case with comedy anime for me, but it’s been getting closer to the bull’s-eye with each subsequent episode.  The best to date has been the fifth episode where I was amused, if not annoying my neighbors with my uproars of laughter, with every joke and gag presented.  I wonder if the show will be able to keep up that high level of comedy or if it’ll fade and return to more hit or miss gags in episodes.  Also, that cute, little virus that you see everywhere in Nichijou appears to be a coronavirus, distinguishable by its crown-like appearance.  I thought it was a sun for the longest time, but no, it’s just a simple virus.

What would raise the score? More episodes like the fifth one.

Ao no Exorcist – 7

Favorite Character: Yukio Okumura

Brain Off – I typically have trouble enjoying shounen anime because their characters, stories, ideals, and whatnot seem either monotonous, stereotypical, or totally infuriating.  Ao no Exorcist is not immune from this complication, but it overshadows those aspects with rather entertaining episodes, both in the department of action (what I expected) and comedy (complete surprise to me).  The actually humorous scenes really help with the fighting scenes to make a fairly solid anime, one I am not disappointed in watching.  However, I’m somewhat weary of the plot that seems to be developing which might be too-shounen for my likes but if it can keep up the action and comedy, I’ll be content.

What would raise the score? Maybe more comedy?  More action?  I’m not sure what I like better in this anime.

Dog Days – 7

Favorite Character: Leonmichelle Galette des Rois

Brain Off – Dog Days has been cheerful, inoffensive, and fun, making it an ideal choice for just watching a relaxing anime devoid of tension.  It is because that’s the type of show Dog Days is.  That attitude doesn’t help in its ranking or score but I have zero regrets in watching the anime.  The characters and story seem to be missing something, both seem somewhat undeveloped, especially considering the anime is already over halfway done.  Conversely, the setting is wonderful, from the scenery to the mechanics of their war system to the merged use of medieval and futuristic technologies.  Where the story goes could boost the ranking depending on how satisfying the ending is.

What would raise the score? Involving all the characters instead of just focusing on Shinku and Millhiore.

Softenni (Sofuteni) – 6

Favorite Character: Kotone Sawanatsu

Brain Off – Yeah, Softenni is not in last place.  Despite probably having the lowest budget of all the anime I’m watching this season, Softenni does some things that keep me entertained.  Watching the girls actually play tennis and some of the jokes make this anime enjoyable.  Asuna and Kotone are both adequate characters, each with their strengths and weaknesses.  And one of the most underappreciated aspects of Softenni is you get to see the girls have fun and enjoying their friendship together through tennis.  What’s not to like about that?  But even with those pleasant and acceptable things, the anime spends most of its time irritating and disappointing me.  The animation and art are really pathetic but you wouldn’t expect something like this to have a hefty budget, especially when I hope all the budget goes to animating the girls swing their rackets and run around the court.  But that’s not happening since the tennis scenes have been replaced by ‘nothing’ scenes, consisting of tedious jokes, ecchi fantasies, and the girls talking to each other like a slice-of-life.  I don’t mind that there are panty shots for the sake of fanservice, but do we need to see these girls in sexually suggestive scenes every episode?  Outside of the two main characters, no one is worth mentioning.  The anime is destined to improve when we see more tennis matches but until then, it’s one of my least favorites this season.

What would raise the score? Some actual tennis would be nice.

Deadman Wonderland – 6

Favorite Character: Kasuga Kyouko (the glasses-wearing female guard)

Brain Off – The reason for the miserable score and ranking are mainly due to the fact that I cannot take this anime seriously.  From the character expressions, to reactions, to the characters themselves, to anything that happens, I just can’t take this anime seriously in the way the anime wants to be seen.  It just that everything is too unbelievable.  Think about the legality/ethics of the Deadman Wonderland and imagine it trying to be set up in any country without severe backlash from the masses.  None of the characters make any sense and Shiro is just painful to watch, being the oblivious and suddenly girlfriend character in the series.  But the reason I keep watching it is because I rather enjoy the unbelievable nature of the anime and the gore is definitely a plus.  If I weren’t busy laughing at the sheer outrageousness of this anime, I’d have dropped it long ago.

What would raise the score? Make the anime even more ridiculous.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – 6

Favorite Character: Maekawa

Brain Off – Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko has been like a yo-yo for me.  I’ve tried dropping it only to immediately pick it back up.  Try it again only to see it return.  The main reason I started watching the anime was because it was produced by Shaft and I’ve loved everything they’ve done to date, but this just isn’t my type of show.  I haven’t connected with any of the characters because they all irritate me.  Virtually all four women fall into the ‘suddenly girlfriend’ category because they all gravitate toward our nonspecific male lead, Makoto, for no justifiable reason.  Not to mention that Makoto is punchable in his own regard for his dismal philosophy on attaching a numerical value to every single thing he does.  I can tell a good thing from a bad thing on my own, okay?  Aside from all that negativity toward the characters, the show is gorgeous and I love the way scenes are directed and how the characters are presented (not their designs but how they look in the various shots/scenes).  Those are the only reasons I keep watching Denpa Onna.  Or you can say Shaft is the only reason I keep watching Denpa Onna.

What would raise the score? Kill off Meme.  The anime’s stock would skyrocket for me.

And with that, there are my mid-season thoughts on the twelve animes I’m following this season.  As you can see, the season is fairly balanced in scores, with almost a perfect distribution between the four values.  I expect the season to improve as a whole and many of the shows to shuffle around before the final review of the season at the end of June.  I figure [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control will end up at the top then since the other 9s are continuing into the summer and C’s conclusion may be good enough to edge it above the rest.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I drop or delay either Deadman Wonderland or Denpa Onna before the season is over.  It likely won’t depend on how the animes do but rather how much time I can devote to watching anime.  It’s always a shame when that happens.  Anyway, the season has been strong and enjoyable and I am excited to see what tomorrow and the following weeks have planned for us.

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  1. #1 by Justin on May 30, 2011 - 8:11 PM

    Huh. I’m surprised you didn’t like Deadman Wonderland. I still have yet to keep up with it (anime and manga), but I read some of the manga and it was, “Wait, what the f***” Now I can understand that there’s some unbelievably in the entire situation, but it happened, and it was pulled off rather convincingly. At least to me.

    • #2 by avvesione on May 30, 2011 - 8:23 PM

      Yeah, Deadman Wonderland has picked up since I wrote this review but I still can’t take the show seriously for whatever reason. I have a tough time getting into shounen anime, which may be part of the reason, so I watch them a little differently than most. Some of the stuff is just so over-the-top that I can’t help but laugh during serious/gruesome scenes. Still an entertaining anime and I absolutely love the ED.

  2. #3 by Vargaskall on June 4, 2011 - 3:54 AM

    I like your description of C, it really depicts the mood of this show. In the beginning I had some trouble with the animation as well, but after a few episodes I got used to it, and now it even seems to fit the show, because it is so distinct and recognizable. Too bad it’ll be only 11 episodes, I would have liked to have some more background of some of the characters. But all in all quite a good anime!

    As for Deadman Wonderland, I think the main problem with it is that it keeps hinting at certain things, but never really explains them. I’ve been anxiously waiting all this time for some more explanations, but they never come, they just keep going on with these wicked games. Oh, and I don’t like Ganta.

    • #4 by avvesione on June 10, 2011 - 7:16 PM

      I haven’t had a chance to catch-up on Deadman Wonderland since my computer has had troubles playing any type of video, but I’ve been reading better things about it lately. I just wonder if I’ll like what it does since I already have a pretty negative opinion of the show already. And for C, C is great. I’m liking where it’s going with its story and am already excited for the ending in a few weeks.

  1. Steins;Gate – 8 « Avvesione's Anime Blog

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