Autumn 2012 – Mid-Season Review

hyouka-18-autumn-fall-japan-red_leaves-garden-lanter-trees-screen_doors-homeWith the Autumn season of anime over halfway complete, each show has had ample opportunity to introduce its concepts and themes, progresses its stories and characters, fix any issues or peculiarities, and show enough material to provide adequate and fair evaluations that are more than just momentary impressions.  This is about the first time when our assessments, grades, and rankings have significance to them, that they hold merit in their worth, that they’re actually grading the anime as a whole and not simply an episode or two or undeveloped characters.  Here, in this Mid-Season Review, it’s time to evaluate the anime of Autumn 2012.

When considering the season as a whole (and by a whole I just mean the select few anime I’m watching) the season is some impressive combination of delightful and desirable.  Many of these anime deliver in terms of their story, characters, setting, comedy, whatever and there are a few brilliant anime who succeed at multiple metrics in which I regularly evaluate anime.  As a result, the season has the highest average ranking for a Mid-Season review, although this could be partially due to my grading scale becoming softer or that I am able to discern which anime I like and won’t better than in seasons past.  Either way, the fact is that I am enjoying this wonderful season for numerous reasons and in part due to numerous anime.  This season has featured stunning and dazzling art and animation, especially in respects to a creative use of colors and lighting, sophisticated and engaging characters of all varieties, and satisfying entertaining in the form of enticing fights and fulfilling humor.  This season has also showcased some issues, too, especially in regards to pointlessly convoluted or painfully boring plots in certain anime.  And though these vary from anime to anime, it seems the stories this season are somewhat lacking or underwhelming from my perspective, at least in this general, overview sense of the season.  However, from my personal perspective, plots and stories are among the least important aspects of an anime and though I spend plenty of my time analyzing, assessing, and often complaining about these integral aspects of an anime, they ultimately have little effect on how much I enjoy or dislike an anime.  Stories are valuable, no doubt, but not as much as other attributes.  However, those simple thoughts encompass my general impressions of the season thus far, so all that remains are the individual anime reviews and their scores at this middle point.  It’s about time to see how these anime grade out and fare against each other.

Every anime receives a grade in the form of a numerical score (ranging from 10-5 with the option for D [delayed or dropped]) and is positioned in order to how I would rank these anime when compared to each other for this Autumn season.  Included with each score is an evaluation which further explains the rationale and reasons for the assigned score, in addition to my favorite character and some advice on what I want to see from the anime to improve my impression of it and earn it a better score.  At the end are my thoughts on the best Art, Characters, Entertainment, Setting, Sound, and Story.  Any questions or discussion are welcome and encouraged in the comments section.  And with that, enjoy the Mid-Season Review for Autumn 2012!

Psycho-Pass – 9

psycho_pass-01-akane-detective-inspector-police-salute-rain-rookie-naiveFavorite Character: Akane Tsunemori

Review – Psycho-Pass emerges as a premier anime thanks due to its magnificent storytelling, fastidious characterizations, and dramatically thorough and precise setting.  Although the episodic murder mysteries have been somewhat weak and the overarching plot seemingly nonexistent, Psycho-Pass has excelled on its primary focuses thus far which are on Akane’s new superiors and subordinates, her challenges as a rookie Inspector, and how the anime explores the setting of Psycho-Pass through their lives.  The storytelling of Psycho-Pass is sound and technical meaning that each scene and conversation serves a purpose in describing these characters and their world.  As we’ve seen thus far, the setting of Psycho-Pass is more than a dystopian urban hellhole.  And unlike most anime which would fine that setting to be ample for their stories, Psycho-Pass has examined various aspects beyond the criminal justice system, explaining details on recreation, drug use, human behavior, social media, education and the slightly deceiving structure of the government.  And unlike other anime which copycat this setting exterior from other 1984- or Blade Runner-clones, we’ve found that the oppressive policing system is below other bureaucratic agencies, the Economic Ministry being a key example, which raises some deviations that Psycho-Pass can explore to elevate its distinctiveness in this intriguing genre.  The characterization beyond Akane has somewhat been insufficient through these first episodes, but the expressions and reactions of Akane provide excellent examples of introducing the audience to the setting and systems of Psycho-Pass while revealing some ways for her to grow and adjust to this new life.  The remainder of the cast have flashed glimpses of greatness but none have taken the initiative to make this their anime, too, leaving it to be filled by a decent Akane character.  Perhaps this is because the stories have been largely episodic without any emphasis on characters not named Kougami or assisting in structuring the main plotline in any obvious way.  Nevertheless, the few disjointed stories have been fair to pleasant and the signs of how they intertwine might prove my dissatisfaction thus far to be premature and render these complaints unnecessary.  I can only hope that this is true.  The art and animation diverge from the mainstream slightly with Akane’s facial structure being a notable positive (I find her cute) but nothing seems notable besides it is consistent and above-average.  The soundtrack of Psycho-Pass is fine, but outside one or two tracks, I hardly notice anything.  Still, the anime finds its success in a few key areas where I base my evaluations on which is on storytelling, characters, and setting, and Psycho-Pass has done a phenomenal job with each, earning it the top spot for this Mid-Season Review.

What would raise the score? Less episodic storylines and more attention on the overarching plot please.

Robotics;Notes – 9

robotics;notes-02-kai-aki-elephant_mouse_syndrome-fainting-romance-sunset-dramaticFavorite Character: Kona Furugoori (Frau)

Review – Robotics;Notes is a brilliant display of how charismatic and entertaining characters positively affect every aspect of an anime, thus making it both more enjoyable and mesmerizing to watch.  The fascinating cast of characters is the unquestionable core strength of Robotics;Notes and each of the primary characters has made a significant impact on the series, either in the form of their budding storylines or simply by making the audience laugh with their delightfully absurd behaviors.  Each character plays their part to near-perfection, especially with Akiho whose unrivaled energy and enthusiasm constantly means this anime begins with an accelerated, spirited beginning and remains peppy and positive throughout.  Furthermore, these characters have begun to bond with each other as a Robotics Club, opening entirely new possibilities through their interactions together which will help develop the plot of this anime and foster entertainment with enhanced comedy and humor.  Really, the characters are what make this show and what make this one of the most delightful of the season.  And now with the plot finally emerging, not to mention various personal storylines being addressed, Robotics;Notes is poised to become more absorbing and engaging.  These storylines have been somewhat underdeveloped thus far but substantial progress has been seen in the most recent episodes, especially with Frau and Subaru.  The progression has been a bit slow with these storylines besides Akiho’s gung-ho approach to GunPro-1, but I’ve been more than satisfied with the character introductions and the comedy throughout this first quarter.  The art and animation have been fine, nothing spectacular but nothing erroneous either and the soundtrack has been a pleasant aspect though that’s thanks to a few select tracks.  The setting on Tanegashima is a pleasant alternative to urban Japan, not only the rural aspect but the tropical and isolated one, too, but certain details that are influencing the story need to be explained before a specific evaluation can be made for Robotics;Notes.  Still, these details in the setting seem to be intregral to the story, which has been improving, and is sure to help explain the characters, too, so it might be best to wait and see how everything plays out in these upcoming episodes.  Any way you look at it, Robotics;Notes has been a rewarding anime to experience and is showing signs of continuous improvement which is sure to make it one of the best and most memorable anime of this year.

What would raise the score? Continue with the current plan of developing the characters and story side-by-side.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – 9

jojo's_bizarre_adventure-02-jonathan-dio-rugby-handshake-friendship-rivals-bromanceFavorite Character: Dio Brando

Review – An anime with disregard for moderation and fully indulging in its ingenuity and intensity is the only way to adapt the legendarily popular JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga into an anime, and this anime certainly satisfies that daunting challenge.  Through astonishing fighting sequences, not only in terms of visual brilliance with innovative color patterns and fluid animation but also in regards to the directing, flow and passion, JJBA has come to live and the brawls between characters are always fulfilling and enjoyable.  Sure, there are times when it goes over-the-top or completely excessive in its dramatization but it feels appropriate with this story and these characters rather than cartoony or misplaced.  Perhaps it’s because the whole anime is fabulous and flamboyant which adds some entertainment value to this thorough story and comprehensive characters.  Yeah, beyond the fighting and entertainment are some excellent characterizations with JoJo and Dio along with a simple story that is being told effectively without need to bog down the anime with infodumps or illogical twists or generalized apathy from the audience.  Really, any anime can make a cast of absurd characters fight each other but the whole core of JJBA is the constant struggle between JoJo and Dio which has been evident and carefully constructed throughout by a superb and precise story.  The creative use of varying and conflicting colors really keeps the anime from being drab and dreary, often making scenes more alluring than just looking at someone’s face time and time again.  Not only that but it helps add a dimension of significance to their expression or reactions, too, making it feel more extraordinary than it really is.  The animation, however, has been a slight disappointment with several of the fight scenes including too many still-frames or simple motions and frequently interrupted by bystanders commenting on what we already watched and already know.  However, these comments are often some of the most entertaining because of how ridiculous they are and they do add value to the entertainment of the anime.  Still, there could be more animation than what’s already there.  The soundtrack and voice acting are outstanding, helping aid the anime with more stress and fury into each scene.  The setting, taking place in 19th century England, is awesome because of how unique it is compared to the norm for anime and has allowed the series to infuse various other aspects of fantasy and fighting to make it completely distinctive from everything else.  What will be interesting with this anime is to see how it deals with its time-skips, soon to be launching ahead to the next story arc with a new setting, new characters, new storyline, and new everything.  It’ll be an enormous task and fitting test to see how the anime manages this crucial transition but, after what we’ve seen with this arc, I have faith the anime can pull it off.  Also, considering that we’re about to shift gears to a new story soon, I suppose that this effectively serves as a comprehensive review for the Phantom Blood story.  And while this scored well by itself and in respect to the other anime this season, I can only hope that Part 2 will be even better.

What would raise the score? Handling the transition between Part 1 and Part 2 well. Also more animation from the characters during the fights will help.

Kamisama Kiss – 9

kamisama_kiss-07-nanami-smile-heartwarming-gentle-endearing-loving-bubbles-sparkles-shoujoFavorite Character: Natsuko Umibe

Review – Easily the most underrated and underappreciated anime of the season, Kamisama Kiss has been an absolute surprise this season by being innocently charming and delightful, chiefly due to its magnetic cast of characters lead by the exceptional Nanami and a commitment to simplicity and fun.  Really, most anime could learn a lesson or two from Kamisama Kiss which has proven to be both an effective entertainer and proficient at romance and drama.  Although several storylines and background characters are little more than shoujo romance clichés and struggles, the anime feels entirely original in that Nanami’s life as a deity take precedence over her unrequited crush or those terrible, terrible stereotypical shoujo school plotlines.  Her character is phenomenal, both in terms of her personality and actions.  Seeing her always attempt to improve those around her makes her amiable and her commitment to helping others is encouraging.  Watching her influence the world in a positive way is very heartwarming, making this anime a treat to watch.  And her smile, oh my God, her smile is to die for, just the way it radiates out and soothes your heart.  Most of the anime takes place at various shrines or otherworlds, often revolving around local youkai, monsters and spirits and their issues that require Nanami’s assistance (or her mark as a deity).  Because of this unique focus for a plot, one about the lives and challenges of an upcoming Earth deity, Kamisama Kiss has found success as a simple shoujo romance anime where most do not.  In addition to that, the lighthearted nature of Kamisama Kiss plays well into the comedy aspect of the anime which often produces a few smiles or laughs each episode.  The art style is humbly enchanting, often showing various adorable, cartoony drawings of Nanami and friends while carefully placing select images of gorgeously drawn bishounen (and Nanami too!) faces at various intervals.  The animation is all plain with the anime opting for talking faces all too often but it doesn’t need to be considering most of the anime is dialogue rather than action.  The soundtrack is decent but forgettable.

What would raise the score? Less shoujo romance clichés, more time spent with Nanami acting as a deity and improving the lives of the humans around her.

K – 9

k-02-neko-strain-human_form-naked-sleeping-boobs-fanservice-ecchiFavorite Character: Neko

Review – K is an anime renowned for its style but features substance often overlooked or underappreciated.  While it is true that the story and character development in K are lacking compared to its remarkable visuals, the progress thus far has been more than sufficient and is shaping up to be one of the better anime this season both in terms of its enigmatic story and its delightful but extensive cast of characters.  Yes, though the story seems a bit convoluted with several sources going about the city pursuing their own goals, everything is connected to a grand scheme that slowly moves and is more attentive to developing each character’s side of the story than revealing the whole ordeal in a linear or traditional fashion.  Instead, K follows the characters around and shows the impact of Tatara Totsuka and how each character influences each other as they search for justice, redemption, revenge, or whatever solution they find fitting.  There hasn’t been much but each character has had their motives explained in a clear fashion in respect to the events that have occurred and the story has progressed accordingly.  Because it has its own style, an effective one at that, K has done well in communicating its plot to us and the only complaints are focused on fine details that nit-pick instances or dislikeable details.  The characters are a bit underdeveloped which is justifiable given its massive cast and the secretive nature around Yashiro, Neko and the murder, but it still is a fault of the series, especially since that has been ample time to provide adequate development to the remainder of the cast.  Still, the cast has proven to be enjoyable with most of the characters sharing a serious and a funny side which has allowed the story to progress and the comedy to greatly exceed expectations.  The art and animation are unrivaled, both sensational in their own respects.  The anime is a visual masterpiece considering its aesthetics, with innovative uses in opposing colors and lighting to stage each shot in a way that pulls your eyes in and never wants to let go.  Not only that but the use of colors play into the characters and story, too, providing importance to certain scenes and characters as seen appropriate.  Not only that but beyond the creativeness with colors and lighting are the meticulously and exhaustively detailed sceneries and backgrounds which are truly magnificent, both in the level of detail seen in the shot and also its composition of what it shows us.  The animation, especially in fight sequences have proven to be the most unforgettable aspect of the anime with seamless, complex motions documenting each schuffle.  Not only that but the cinematography rotates the camera around, too, providing a full perspective, enhancing emphasis on their struggle, and diversifying the shot to prevent the scene from ever appearing dull or tedious.  It is outstanding in every regard to the art and animation and faulting it for inconsistencies when it is otherwise so dazzling is certainly unfair; it does the best considering it has ordinary budget and timing constraints.  Not only are the visuals a stunning success but so is the audio aspects of K, a spectacular soundtrack featuring some of the best tracks and insert songs of the season to match the excellent voice cast that provides life and emotion to the cast of characters.  Really, the way K both delights our eyes and ears are sure to keep it among the best of the season.  Some particular faults, however, are in its entertainment value and in the passé setting.  Although the anime can be a riot at times in terms of comedy or during the vibrant fights, certain scenes and dialogues can be a bit tiresome or lackluster, making a stark contrast between the exciting and the dull.  The setting is particularly uninteresting being set in a futuristic urban Japan with high-schoolers, thugs, special cops, crazy kings, superpowers, and unfathomable destruction.  Man, this stuff wasn’t even original in the 90s, why does it continue to persist in anime today?  I suppose it has the ability to differentiate itself as the series goes on but it has been a cookie-cutter setting thus far.  Nonetheless, K has proven itself to be a superior anime with its progressing story, its pleasing characters and the genius of its art, animation, and music, truly embracing what the medium of anime has to offer.

What would raise the score? More development for the main cast and the other major characters and kings.

Magi – 8

magi-06-aladdin-morgiana-friendship-journey-adventure-reaching_outFavorite Character: Leila

Review – Embracing adventure and exploration, Magi is an anime with high value in its entertainment and story, features a sincere cast of various people, and is set in a world that carefully blends concepts of fantasy and historical fiction to facilitate the humble themes of friendship and self-discovery.  Magi performs well in just about every measurable category, especially that of the setting which showcases numerous details about the environment, societies and characters that further reinforce the plot and growth we see in our protagonists.  Whether it be a mercantile city facing revolt or an despotic slave-community seeking freedom, the various places of the world continue to play vital roles in how the story and characters progress.  Not only that but the aesthetics of these surroundings, comprised of sweeping or stunning landscapes of various colors and detail, provide a spellbinding atmosphere for each episode.  And though the series has seemed episodic thus far, it has shown glimpses of a central storyline to tie everything in once these initial adventures are over and everything settles down.  Every character has their own goals set out for them and each are working toward accomplishing them, facing their own directions but working together which then helps keep them together.  As the anime continues, these stories and the main plot are sure to develop, thus clarifying what this anime wants to be about.  There has been a stark contrast in the characterization between the protagonists and villains with our heroes grading out much better due to a few key factors.  Our heroes have had the opportunity to have their motivations and histories examined which then explains their behaviors and actions through satisfactory writing.  The various antagonists, however, are poorly conceived clichés that all seem to be handled quite poorly and ineffectively, leading to the struggles between the two to feel sloppy and unsatisfying.  It’s like there was thought put into the good-guys but not the bad-guys which leads to an incomplete feeling when comparing the two or when both are fighting each other. The fights are a bit underwhelming with the best coming in the first episode but it doesn’t appear to be a pivotal factor for the anime nor the dominant focus, rather just an adverse outcome of two sides failing to resolve their issues with words or friendship.  The visual aspects of Magi have been consistently above-average, especially in terms of the backgrounds, scenery, and characters and does a fine job of adapting the art style of the manga, but it’s nothing compared to the top-tier anime in terms of its artistic aspects.  The soundtrack, however, is tremendous with numerous orchestrated pieces that match the setting of the anime and enhance the mood in every scene.  As a soundtrack alone, it might be my favorite of the season.  And though the review is almost entirely positive, there are some faults with Magi that keep it from reaching the coveted 9.  Perhaps the most notable is that the story is still in its infancy and the villains have been atrotious, but these appear to be clearing up and Magi is on its way up.  Hopefully by the time the next evaluation comes around, Magi will have shown enough to climb in the rankings.

What would raise the score? An understanding of the central story and some actually decent villains for once.

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! – 8

chuunibyou_demo_koi_ga_shitai-04-rikka-eye_patch-sunglasses-hilarious-comedy-humor-secret_organization-mibFavorite Character: Touka Takanashi

Review – Romantic-comedy anime are often unfairly doomed from the start due to my numerous previous failures but Chuunibyou has proven its worth through genuine comedy, a delightful cast of imaginative, lively teenagers, and a romance that doesn’t want me to repeatedly bang my head on the bloody corner of my desk like what so many anime before have forced me to do.  Well, to clarify, the romance genre has been frequently disappointing or frustrating for me, so to see some thoughtful development, although minimal, keeps this from suffering the same fate as countless others before it.  The romance has been fine, just it’s not the reason why I enjoy watching it.  The comedy is largely responsible for the respectable score, featuring hilarious antics that continue to produce smiles and laughs episode after episode.  The dynamic relationships between all the characters, such as between Rikka and Dekomori or Dekomori and Nibutani foster the comedy in this show by establishing relationships and then running a series of connected jokes to build the humor into more than one-liners, puns, and sight gags.  The fact that the comedy continues to be structured and references previous episodes goes to show the quality of the entertainment here.  While on the topic of quality, Chuunibyou also features some of the best animation and art of the season, featuring perhaps the most consistency in both departments.  What makes the art in Chuunibyou spectacular is that feels methodical, never feeling lazy in backgrounds or character details nor using animation tricks or short-cuts that leave the product feeling cheap.  The animation is smooth and fluid, too, and really plays into the comedy with how comedic or exaggerated these motions are.  Not only that but the cinematography diversifies the shots, giving us various angles and perspectives that heighten the visual impact of various scenes.  Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the music, which is fair at best.  Thankfully the voice acting and sound effects (specifically those during the battle sequences) makes up for that, giving the anime decent sound overall.  As for the characters, they’ve steadily grown on me over the course of the anime and, now that they’ve bonded, have really made the anime a blast to watch.  All the characters have their own distinctive personalities and add something to the anime which, combined with everyone else, makes the comedy function to the greatest magnitude.  There hasn’t been much development beyond each warming-up to each other and enjoying their lives more, but for an anime of this caliber, that’s perfectly fine with me.  The one worry I have with this anime is how the romance will be handled throughout the final few episodes since it will lessen my favorite aspects of this anime (comedy) and go into an area where anime have frequently made miscues (romance).  If Chuunibyou can provide a satisfying conclusion while keeping the clichés to a minimum, you can expect Chuunibyou to make a rise in its score and the rankings overall.

What would raise the score? A decent conclusion to the romance and more comedy overall, specifically with Dekomori and Nibutani.

Girls und Panzer – 8

girls_und_panzer-03-mako-saori-yukari-miho-hana-panzer_iv-german_tank-world_war_2-military-trainingFavorite Character: Mako Reizei

Review – Simplicity and a dedication to its amiable central company of characters, Girls und Panzer has amazed many, including myself, at being one of the better anime this season.  Fundamentally, Girls und Panzer appears to be something of an ordinary slice-of-life anime, documenting the lives of girls partaking in their club activities.  The crucial difference is due to the innovative setting where tank warfare is an admired and popular pastime, one that is unquestionably feminine and intended for teenage girls and schools aimlessly circumnavigate the Earth aboard massive aircraft carriers.  Not only does it enable the setting to differentiate itself from every other high-school girl slife anime but it does so in a way that rattles our generalized notions of the world to show life through an unthinkable perspective.  The result is outstanding, especially considering how the amusing characters cooperate with each other for some charming storylines and enjoyable battles.  What makes the cast pleasing is that they are all unpretentious and uncomplicated; each girl has a fun personality that fits in with the group dynamic.  This straightforward approach means that the anime is never bogged down by wild or eccentric personalities that would disagree with the story or setting or that a few characters outshine each other leaving it humble and inclusive in its approach to the cast.  Likewise, the plot of Girls und Panzer is simple, too, but almost too simple in its approach to the collection of battles and the character storylines.  Whereas these are advantages to the unique setting and friendly characters, it is a drawback for the story which feels rudimentary, specifically that each one is a stereotypical anime girl problem which isn’t as suitable for the unconventional anime girl setting.  You wish the anime were doing more in this regard but, thus far, it’s been nothing more than a string of mother-daughter conflict, a girl with no friends, a girl having attendance issues, and one timid about her God-given skills at Senshado, Panzerfahren, Tankwando, or whatever you want to call it.  The battle animation, principally the 3-D tanks stampeding across the gentle landscapes and empty cityscapes, are remarkable and help enhance the tank fights by giving it a consistent and gratifying look.  The rest of the art is rather fair but likeable; it’s nothing special but the art style for the girls is cute.  The soundtrack features a number of military hymns and tunes, further promoting the tank theme of the anime, which is a plus.  Hopefully from here on out, the anime will continue to feature military tactics and battle scenes rather than school scenes and whatnot, but I figure the only way for the girls and story to advance are outside of battle.  It’ll be interesting to see how the few remaining episodes handle Miho’s problems since it’s been reiterated again and again, but it doesn’t seem as desirable as tank warfare or watching the girls have fun together and strengthen their friendships.  Depending on how the anime handles these next few episodes, Girls und Panzer could rise as easy as it could fall.

What would raise the score? More fun battles, more focus on their friendship together, and a resolution that doesn’t feel like another anime cliché.

Shin Sekai Yori – 8

shin_sekai_yori-06-satoru-saki-light-escape-underground-looking_upFavorite Character: Saki Watanabe

Review – Shin Sekai Yori is rather polarizing as an anime, alternating between moments of sheer brilliance and mangled bewilderment.  And this does not only pertain to the story and characters but to also the art and animation quality, sporadically switching between gorgeous and lethargic.  And though certain scenes are guest directed/animated by prominent figures, it is the normal scenes where this problem mainly occurs with certain inconsistencies cropping up in the same shots with the same characters.  Really, if any problem were to be fixed first with this anime, it would be with the art and animation first.  The story is intriguing and fascinating with the five friends searching for a way to live in this society after the sins they’ve committed.  With a world constructed where humans are breed for certain traits and possess unfathomable psychic powers, the oppressive and secretive nature really accents the story to give it a demanding feel and, combined with certain horror elements, it really captures the audience.  And though the substance of the story is great, the storytelling has been somewhat troublesome, often involving infodumps in the form of lengthy exposition where there’s no movement, motion, or animation besides moving mouths.  Well, considering the problems with the visuals in this anime, that might not be such a bad thing.  The characters are one other aspect I’m having trouble with.  It seems like everyone but Saki has been forced into the preconceived concepts clarified in the library’s history.  Saki seems to be the only one with any personality, individuality, and is the only one really showing conflict with this community’s system.  It’s like everyone is a zombie but her.  But, beyond this animation problems and concerns of the story and characters, Shin Sekai Yori has been enjoyable given how different it feels compared to other anime.  It’s distinctiveness really stands out when comparing it to any other anime and its focus on a slowly evolving storyline shows a dedication to its intended purpose.  Still, it seems like the novel that it is based on has had some slip-ups in its transition to an anime, so hopefully these areas are addressed as the anime continues throughout this season and into the Winter.

What would raise the score? Improvement in the animation and art quality and perhaps some clarity on Saki’s character compared to everyone else.

Space Brothers – 8

space_brothers-27-azuma-astronaut-space-earth-reflection-touching-moving-inspiring-emotionlessFavorite Character: Masa Hoshika

Review – Having complained about the sluggish pacing and negligible developments each week, I decided to save Space Brothers for a marathon session so that way I could watch actual events occur in a single sitting.  The experiment paid-off with the most recent viewings lasting a few hours but providing more enjoyment and entertainment than what I recall from the Summer season.  I plan to continue watching the anime in this fashion seeing as I appreciate the series more in this manner.  As for the anime itself, nothing much has changed compared to my previous four reviews of this anime spread across the Spring and Summer reviews.  Space Brothers continues to make the life of Mutta advantageous to watch, given his characteristic challenges and inspiring successes.  The characters around him continue to grow as he reaches closer and closer to becoming an astronaut who walks on the surface of our lonely satellite, the Moon.  The art and animation quality ranges from passable to miserable to hilarious, which is about consistent with what it’s always been.  No complaints for me concerning the music, something that remains a positive throughout this lengthy anime.  And for ideas on how it can improve are pretty much worthless at this point given that it’s in the mid-30s and what we’ve seen is what we’ll get.

What would raise the score? Continuing to watch this anime in 4-5 episode spurts, it really helps.

Medaka Box Abnormal – 7

medaka_box_abnormal-05-medaka-crying-tears-fear-stress-fighting-emotionsFavorite Character: Yatsushiro (absent)

Review – Medaka Box Abnormal continues to be a worthwhile entertainment anime, now focusing more on character fights than ever before while still retaining that clever dialogue and prominent comedy that made the first season fun to watch.  With each episode pairing one good-guy against one baddie, the anime spends each episode working on these characters, highlighting their strengths and motivations and displaying some respectable fighting, the one complaint is that it heavily relies on their gimmicks, with wonderful comedy certain to make one smile or laugh a few times each episode.  As a result, it feels like this sequel has taken an approach at filling out these rather shallow characters while the first season was devoted to Medaka first and Medaka second.  In this regard, this sequel has done a better job of addressing the characters that support and adore Medaka and help enlighten us to why, helping round out the cast through fulfilling brawls.  The comedy has seen a drop in prevalence but, with the added emphasis on understanding these characters, it is a bit understandable and a good move on the part of this anime.  And when comparing the storylines between the original and this, I feel that Abnormal is doing a better job by having a continuous storyline that features episodes that build off each other rather than the episodic nature of the first season in which served as random encounters between Medaka and the students of Hakoniwa Academy.  It’s no surprise that when comparing Medaka Box Abnormal to the first season, Abnormal turns out to be the better of the two.  However, when compared to everything else, Medaka Box Abnormal is only a good anime, nothing great.  Watching Medaka Box Abnormal for its entertainment value is the best bet for enjoying what this series has to offer with this season primarily comprised of decisive battles and hilarious comedy.  Trying to watch Medaka Box Abnormal for its rich story and enthralling characters can be done but it may disappointing considering the story itself feels a bit basic and substandard and the characters rather plain and boring outside Medaka, especially with these villains who are entirely defined by their gimmick.  Still, I am enjoying this second season of Medaka Box and am interested in how this battle arc eventually resolves itself.

What would raise the score? More comedy which will probably come when Shiranui reappears in the anime.

Zetsuen no Tempest – 7

zetsuen_no_tempest-02-hakaze-rags-bikini-sun-proud-arrogantFavorite Character: Hakaze Kusaribe

Review – Zetsuen no Tempest has proven to be a bit of a mixed bag, demonstrating signs of excellence in various aspects and mediocrity in others.  The story itself is something I find fascinating, a careful intertwining of Hakaze’s story, being stranded on the island and using her powers to defeat her own clansmen, with Mahiro’s story, journeying across Japan to avenge the death of his beloved ‘sister’.  The characterization has been a bit of a pleasant surprise, too, though the way it has been handled has been a bit questionable.  I find Mahiro’s complete disregard for the world and his arrogant personality to be remarkable given how he is seen as a protagonist, something you wouldn’t expect from someone potentially saving the world from destruction.  Hakaze’s character has been interesting, too, though it hasn’t been as fleshed out as well as Yoshino and Mahiro.  Yoshino and Aika, unfortunately, aren’t much to talk about, though the way that Yoshino continues to deceive Mahiro has been exceptional.  The setting of Tempest is satisfactory, playing well to the themes of the story but not proving to be special in and of itself.  My chief complaint with this anime is that I often find certain scenes and aspects boring which can be attributed to the character flashbacks, the infodumps on the setting and histories, and the way the fights are portrayed besides the ones in the first episode.  The way the flashbacks continue to irregularly appear destroys the continuity in the present and saps whatever interest I found in the current scenes to deplete whatever energy or enthusiasm I had.  And given the extensive nature the anime has used these flashbacks, I find myself going from eager to bored quickly and regularly.  The setting and history of Tempest has been explained through lengthy monologues that further increase the frequency of my bored with this anime though it really depends on what the anime chooses to show in the meanwhile or what the subject matter is.  Sometimes I appreciate these descriptions but often times I find myself bored as the characters go on and on about whatever.  And though the anime doesn’t particularly want to focus on fights, each one has been adequate at best, never really exciting or intriguing or intelligent at best.  Maybe if the anime doesn’t care about these fights, neither should I.  I find the art and animation to be some of the better this season, along with the music, but it grades out to be around the median from what we should expect from anime these days.  In terms of the approaching conclusion, I’m not sure what to expect or what I’d like to see, so I suppose that these are positives considering it has me legitimately guessing what will happen next.

What would raise the score? A satisfying conclusion to the story and the three main characters.

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – 6

sakurasou_no_pet_na_kanojo-01-mashiro_shiina-genius-beautiful-stunning-absentminded-air_head-clueless-artist-mangakaFavorite Character: Misaki Kamiigusa

Review – Although I often disregard romantic comedy anime, I’ve found Sakurasou to have some charming and touching moments that help make this anime watchable and somewhat enjoyable.  It’s worth noting first that the anime seems completely derivative with its stereotypical harem set-up, lame male lead, extraordinary female lead, choice archetypes surrounding the character and clichés and misunderstandings ruling the episodes.  Once you’re able to get beyond all that filth and banal material, Sakurasou proves to be effective in its comedy.  Really, that’s the main reason why I am watching this anime is that I find myself laughing at this anime more than just about any other this season.  It doesn’t mean that I find everything funny because there are often scenes I find myself criticizing this anime harshly for being unoriginal, but specific dialogue and reactions have shown time and time again that this has some great comedy.  Outside the comedy, though, there isn’t much going for this anime.  Nothing about the characters seems original or interesting with each functioning as the pieces to any romcom story with a love-triangle rather than a harem.  The story has some sparks of interest in me, only slightly though, given that it pertains to anime and manga which I have more interest in that otherworld super-powers or school antics which often seems to be the case in these works.  The setting is among my least favorite because of how it oversaturates anime these days, a school-setting in urban Japan.  The art, animation, and music are all standard though the character visuals, both how they look and how they move, are dazzling and adorable.  If only the anime didn’t have this romance angle to it or elements of teenage angst and uncertainty, then we’d probably see Sakurasou score better than it did.  Unfortunately this is not the case with Sakurasou being as much of an enjoyable comedy as it is a dreadful, derivative romance.

What would raise the score? Completely removing the whole romance bullshit going on and replace it with friendship and more comedy.

Little Busters! – 6

little_busters-01-masato-kyousuke-riki-rin-kengo-childhood-memories-flashback-friendshipFavorite Character: Kudryavka Noumi

Review – A disappointment any way your measure it, I continue to watch Little Busters! each week given that I’ve always wanted to watch it.  And though some of the blame lies in the story of Little Busters! itself, a vast majority of the fault lies in the way that this was adapted to an anime, exhibiting issues in just about every aspect of the series.  Episodes seem to be paced way too slowly, characterization feels absolutely mismanaged, comedy is considered an afterthought and the art and animation quality is unacceptable at best.  Like, Little Busters! wouldn’t be a 6 if it were being animated by KyoAni like the other Key anime.  This JC Staff adaptation have proven to be a regrettable disaster.  Still, I find myself enjoying Little Busters! in spite of these issues.  The whole theme of a harem of friendship rather than a harem of romance is an admirable topic to use for the central storyline.  Whereas romance in anime are often set to be inconsistent, prone to resets, and marred with misunderstanding and confusion, friendships are straightforward, progressive, and incorporate characters together to facilitate a more enjoyable experience with the characters.  Besides the mishandling of Komari’s problem, handling the problem way too quickly and easily, I’ve found the characters to be quite comprehensive and amusing and I enjoy seeing them work together.  The setting, again, is something overused in anime, which certainly doesn’t help this anime which finds it struggling.  The subjects of the comedy are often quite amusing but sometimes the delivery is fumbled which leads to some jokes being less impactful than I feel they were intended to be.  The art and animation are substandard but it does well in specific areas, such as during the emotional or pivotal scenes of the series.  And though this review was covered with complaints and faults of the series, I do find myself enjoying the anime and wanting to see how it ends.  There are some concerns with where it’s, its pacing, and how the anime is being handled, but I plan to finish this anime given how long I’ve been waiting for it to be made.

What would raise the score? KyoAni stepping in and taking over for the remainder.

Jormungand: Perfect Order – 6

jormungand-20-koko-jonah-hug-cute-pester-obsessFavorite Character: Schokolade

Review – Although Jormungand began as a promising action-oriented anime in the Spring, the anime has since completely bombed for me.  And while there are a number of factors contributing to this shocking and unexpected demise, there is one damning aspect that is primarily responsible for my current disappointment and dissatisfaction.  Jormungand: Perfect Order has become tediously predictable with every episode following the exact same damn pattern: Koko and her team are off to some dangerous part of the world doing something dangerous when all of a sudden there’s some random, abrupt backstory for a character we never gave a damn about before and sure as hell aren’t going to give a damn about after.  Jonah learns something new, Koko laughs, Valmet is a lesbian, and Lehm is a badass when all of a sudden, Koko and her team are attacked by some dipshit assassins/soldiers/insurgents/whatever.  Even though we know no one will die from Koko’s team, character-of-the-week does whatever the hell that makes them special to ensure that no one dies and they kill all the badguys with some stock action footage like people firing guns, people being sniped, and everything exploding.  With everything okay, the episode ends on a joke and the credits roll. If the anime weren’t so exhaustingly predictable and there were decent character development, non-episodic content, and entertaining action, then I’d definitely enjoy Jormungand more.  But because it’s gone essentially Endless Eight on us, it’s a low 6.

What would raise the score? Anything, I don’t care.  Just do something to improve the characters, story, entertainment, or whatever.  Or bring back Schokolade.  I don’t care, just give me something.

Sword Art Online – 6

sword_art_online-17-kirito-alo-fairy-elf_ears-comedy-hilarious-crashing-flyingFavorite Character: Keiko Ayano (Silica)

Review – Unlike all the anime before this, I currently watch SAO mockingly due to the hilarity it continues to provide.  Watching it socially with constant remarks, observations, complaints and confusion make this anime much more enjoyable than it should be, that I find value in this dreadful and remorseful anime.  If I were watching this alone, then the review would be comprised entirely of how the characters have stagnated, the writing is wildly inconsistent and counterintuitive, the fights are all ‘here’s how Kirito wins…’, the story is incoherent and poorly articulated, and there’s sister-oh-wait-she’s-my-cousin incest.  But no, instead of stating the obvious which is how regretful and ashamed this anime is, it’s worth noting why I continue to watch it.  Well, beyond the social aspects which is the main component of staying up-to-date with SAO, always worth some satisfying laughs, the online world is decent with its emphasis on journeying around the environment and interacting with other players.  Of course, the setting is largely underdeveloped and we spend way too much time in the real world, but the scenery and exploration are highlights in each episode.  The soundtrack for this anime is one of the better for this season, often matching mood and enhancing atmosphere to be suitable for the scenes.  The aesthetic component of the art in the backgrounds and scenery are splendid which makes up for art and animation mistakes that pop-up from time to time.  So really, there are a number of reasons why I continue to watch SAO beyond having the opportunity to berate it every week.  And though this is the most flawed and erratic anime of the season, I will continue to watch it and find enjoyment out of it anyway I can.

What would raise the score? Less real world, less incest, less inconsistencies, less clichés, better characterizations, better exploration, a completely new story, and a completely new cast.  And while I’m making wishes, I want…

Autumn 2012 Mid-Season Recognitions:

Best Art: K

Best Characters: Robotics;Notes

Best Entertainment: Kamisama Kiss

Best Setting: Psycho-Pass

Best Sound: K

Best Story: Robotics;Notes

And so that ends the Autumn 2012 Mid-Season Review.  Since the beginning of this post, several anime have subsequently aired their continuing episodes and, as you should expect, the rankings have begun to shift and scores have begun to change, too.  These rankings are fluid thus allowing every anime to move freely depending on how it performs and how it improves.  Because these are only momentary evaluations examining the first half of each season, there is no guarantee that this is where the shows will end up depending on how the latter halves go.  Furthermore, many of these anime will continue into the Winter 2013 season meaning that these shows are only in their infancy and their final evaluation will only be assigned after watching hours and hours of these shows in the quickly approaching future.  Every anime has their own opportunity to earn a better score or increase their ranking, so seeing how they perform in these final episodes will ultimately dictate whether they’re moving up or moving down.  Until these anime reach their finales or momentary conclusions and earn their final grades and evaluations, let’s do our best to enjoy these anime as much as possible because, after all, that’s why we continue to watch and love anime!

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  1. #1 by Zammael on December 2, 2012 - 5:30 PM

    Excellent review, Avvesione :)

    I am somewhat more critical and less expansive with my predilections for anime, given my background in graphic novels and scifi classics.

    10 – none
    9 – none
    Psycho-Pass: has everything I want in a show – depth, visuals, setting, dialogue, themes – with the exception of a fascinating lead character.

    Shin Sekai Yori: slightly less consistent than Psycho-Pass, but possibly more ambitious. Once the execution catches up with its intent, then this show will find its peak rhythm.

    Zetsuen no Tempest: Solid action fare, great pacing/storytelling, good riff on Shakespeare classics. Excellent twist in that episode two weeks ago, but I hope there’s more to it.
    Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo: Fun slice of life comedy, barely no hiccups (except for that dumbass cliched lil’ sis’ episode)
    Space Brothers: the humor is still consistent, but the pacing has now slowed to mimic the shuffling of a tortoise. Tsk
    Robotics;Notes: I don’t think they know what to do with the excellent cast and the themes, which makes it seem like they’re playing it safe.
    Jormungand Second Order: much better than the first season, so far, and I cannot wait to see more episodes like the first two.
    Medaka Box Abnormal: Also better this time than the first cour. Somehow this show works better when marathoned.

    Girls und Panzer
    Kamisama Kiss
    Sword Art Online

    • #2 by avvesione on December 3, 2012 - 12:22 PM

      Thanks for adding your thoughts on this season. Seems we agree on most of the same stuff save for the ones you’ve dropped and on Robotics;Notes and Jormungand. Glad to see everything you’re watching is something I’m watching since now it feels like I’m not missing out on anything big.

      I’d recommend saving Space Brothers for a bit of a mini-marathon session each month since it really helps mask the lethargic pacing and distance between events. I’m enjoying more than ever save for when I first started it.

      • #3 by Zammael on December 3, 2012 - 12:56 PM

        I have trouble marathoning Space Brothers because it’s still a show I look forward to every week. Their cliffhangers are on the verge of trolling the audience. Not to the nadir of Endless Eight, but it’s getting there.

        I forgot to mention K: Project as the most disappointing show of the season, if not the year. I agree that the background art is well done, or perhaps photosimulated, and that the characters are intriguing, but I was let down by the revelation to the mystery as something terribly trite to be uninteresting. Animation is the form – thus it cannot and should never be the content of a story. In the end K is just eyecandy.

        • #4 by avvesione on December 3, 2012 - 5:37 PM

          Oh, well, if you’re looking forward to it every week, then I guess it might be hard to marathon it. I don’t have that problem, so I can let a month of episodes build up and watch them over the weekend. Also explains why I removed them from my Weekly posts, too.

          As for K, and really for any anime, the content or the story is among the least of my concerns. Yes, I even put art and animation above the plot when evaluating anime. As a result, I’m enchanted with K and am enjoying it for its aesthetics, its characters and whatever so happens to be the story when everything works itself out. Yes, the storytelling in K is confused and directionless, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the anime at all.

  2. #5 by bobbobsters on December 2, 2012 - 6:53 PM

    You would like Neko best. Also, I dropped code:breakers because the characters ruin it entirely, the concept was interesting, but the completely polarized character personalities destroy this show, any semblance of what it could have been was been eradicated. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, shit for code:breakers.

    • #6 by avvesione on December 3, 2012 - 12:24 PM

      I would like Neko the best YOU KNOW ME TOO WELL.

      Thanks for the warning on Code:Breakers. I never really had any interest in it after watching the PVs and reading about it, so I’m glad I didn’t waste my time with it. Haven’t heard anyone really talk about it for a while either but people were bashing it for the first few weeks of the season. Guess a lotta people dropped it?

  3. #7 by Sudachi on December 3, 2012 - 12:18 PM

    Just started K over the weekend and I think it helped to marathon a few episodes at a time. Beautiful animation and graphics make up for some of the lack of character development. Going to have to check out Girls und Panzer before the end of the year too!

    • #8 by avvesione on December 3, 2012 - 12:28 PM

      The character develop begins a few episodes in but, as you said, it is slow. It’s probably best to watch it in spurts like 3-4 episodes at a time since then you’ll get the story progression and character growth during a single sitting. As for the art and animation, it really is special and a favorite of mine this season.

      Girls und Panzer is simple, lighthearted fun with an emphasis on friendship and tanks. Hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

  4. #9 by celestermoon on December 4, 2012 - 1:18 AM

    K project is the best series for me and for the anime bgm/op music, sword art online. But I’m worried about the genre of K project ’cause it’s giving me a BL vibe~ shivers~ I hope that it wouldn’t turn out to be gay lol.

    • #10 by Kaellian on December 4, 2012 - 3:34 AM

      I agree that K is one of the best series this season, and I sincerely don’t understand all the hate it get…but why does it matter if two boys end up kissing? It’s not like your balls will drop on the floor if they do, especially not with Neko running around naked all the time. Either way, I wouldn’t worry about that, nobody seem to have any libido in that world.

      • #11 by celestermoon on December 4, 2012 - 5:29 AM

        I guess “mine” would probably drop on the floor if its BL (lol no legit!). Well i might as well see Neko running around naked ‘cuz she’s a chick ( acceptable) rather than Kuroh kissing Yashi- ohohoho… anyways, I still love this seriesXD

    • #12 by avvesione on December 16, 2012 - 6:59 PM

      Even if it turns out to be BL or gay, you’ve still enjoyed K and love it for what it is. Even as it is now with some semi-homoerotic subtitles and whatnot, you’re still enjoying it. I don’t think it’ll go any further than it always has but even if it does, I bet you’ll still be a fan of the anime since it’s still a good and enjoyable anime. Might not like it as much as you did before, but it’ll still be a great anime.

  1. Organization Anti-Social Geniuses » Reference Resource Mondays: Mid-Season Responsibility With This Japanese Medium

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