First Impressions: Summer 2014 Anime

Summer 2014 anime are rolling in, which means it’s time to decide how right I was about some shows and realize how miserably wrong I was about others. Fortunately, I don’t pollute my blog with those abominable season previews (I recently wrote a post that tackles more generally why you can’t judge a show’s quality without having seen it), so you’ll never know exactly what I was expecting. Instead, you get my generally unfiltered thoughts on the new shows of the season, based on what’s actually aired.

That’s the way I like it, and that’s the way I’m gonna keep it. And anyone who doesn’t like it—you can talk with my new best girl Sakurai.

Not included, but will be watching: Terror in Tokyo, Tokyo ESP.

Rail Wars!

I Win the Hype Game: Glasslip

Is it generally what I expected from a P.A. Works slice-of-life drama? It sure is, but that doesn’t mean anything. I like the aesthetic code P.A. Works seems to hold itself to and Nagi no Asukara was enough of a departure that returning to the world of Tari Tari doesn’t bother me too much. As far as Glasslip itself goes, five kids are living their lives happily together, settled into their circle of unrequited love, and then some jerk shows up and throws a wrench in it all.

Glasslip, perhaps ironically for a show in which glass-blowing is supposed to be featured, gave a lot of attention to sound in the first episode: the fizz of the bottles opening, the clucking of chickens, the boom of fireworks, the clinking of those little balls in the bottles…and the final piece of the soundtrack as “David” is introduced to the group. He’s clearly unwelcome, and the dramatic string music (which took me right back to Blast of Tempest) really enhanced the moment. Overall, the music seemed a bit more dramatic than what I’d expect from a P.A. Works show, but when a studio is essentially playing their same formula again and again, twists like that are welcome.

Glasslip

Even though she hasn’t been very nice so far, I already like this one. Sorry, girl. That probably means you are screwed for getting the boy you like.

Early Verdict: Definitely a keeper at one cour; if nothing else, it’ll be pretty to look at, but I’m expecting more than that from Glasslip after that really solid first episode.

Sleeper Pick Gone Right: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS! I was lucky enough to stumble upon not just one, but TWO new shows that surprised me with how fun they were. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun [Dogakobo] is definitely the superior of the two, as it’s another hilarious rom-com from the same studio that brought you the wonderful Love Lab. If you can’t already tell, I’m pretty high on this show, as it was pretty much everything I like about the rom-com genre without any of the normal annoying pitfalls. Sakura is adorable, Nozaki is appropriately quirky, and the overall potential for being a stellar comedy is really, really exciting.

The chemistry between the two leads is excellent, and I already recognize some of the tricks Dogakobo used in Love Lab coming back to great effect in Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. I’m going to try to make this the last time I compare the two shows, but the similarities are so much in the realm of things I like that I just have to—cute female lead, check. Clean character and situational humor, check. No fanservice, check. Animation that enhances the comedy, check. What else could I ask for?

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Early Verdict: Absolutely a keeper. I’m thrilled by this gem of a show in the schedule, and I MASSIVELY recommend it. I don’t how anyone could not like this.

Watching for the Funs: Rail Wars!Free! Eternal Summer

Rail Wars!: While it’s considerably less classy that Nozaki-kunRail Wars! [Passione] was the first big surprise for me out of the summer schedule. Along with a legitimate best girl candidate in Sakurai (redhead+tsundere-y+good with guns=swoon), the rest of the cast is pretty solid, with protagonist Takayama showing a little more spunk than most. The main quartet also includes another guy and a girl, making Rail Wars! a relative anomaly in the light novel medium by having a gender-balanced main cast. The novels are billed as action, which hopefully means we’ll see more of the excellent fight animation that we did in the first episode.

Early Verdict: I like action, and I like Sakurai, so it’s a keeper for me. As long as it stays fun, I’ll keep watching.

Rail Wars!

Free! Eternal Summer: It’s pretty amazing how much I’m not at all the target for this show, but I still enjoy it. There is a weird kind of ironic hilarity in watching all the tropes and clichés I’m so used to seeing (and enjoying) applied to girls, and Free! is undoubtedly in the exact same vein, with ab-shots and butt-shots and hawt dudez saying easily misinterpreted things to each other. It’s an interesting experience, and I’m sure I could say some really profound things about the nature of fanservice if I paid enough attention while watching the show, but…Makoto is too kawai, so I don’t think my brain will be able to focus on inconsequential things like blogging.

Early Verdict: I mean, I wouldn’t have picked it up if I didn’t already kind of like it. If you’re a fujoshi and you like being pandered to, oh boy, Free! has everything, and I mean everything, you want.

Still Don’t Like Urobuchi: Aldnoah.Zero

Dull first episode, capped by a “oh, she’s okay! LOL she’s not” ending. For the umpteenth time, I do not like Gen Urobuchi, and all the problems I have with his writing seemed to be evident in this episode. It has a kind of weight and emotional distance to it that makes it tough to engage with (a problem I had with Madoka, as well), and the killing of the princess was rather horrible in that it wound up being nothing more than a plot point, after all the scenes of her we got. Furthermore, the episode was expositionally heavy and the main earthling character seems to be an absolute stick in the mud, even worse than your generic harem MC. Slaine, on the other hand, does seem to have some potential. And there are certain to be fireworks between the 37 Mars Knights as they battle it out on earth.

Early Verdict: I’ll give the show a mulligan for this being a set-up episode, but it better get rolling soon and get its MC to show at least a shade of emotion. I just dropped Mahouka, I don’t need another robot brother in my schedule.

Aldnoah.Zero

Yeah, I get the irony, but this is pretty heavy-handed…

Well, It Didn’t Suck…: Silver Will Argevollen

And then we have the Xebec mecha, Argevollen, which seems to be a straight up war movie with robots. But at least Xebec appears to know better than to just dump “15 years ago” and “We’re still rebuilding…” type exposition on us. We got a brief setting info dump (not a historical one) at the very beginning of the episode, and then Argevollen just let us learn through the battle and the conversations between the characters. Some of the dialogue was clunky, and piece of the narrative were somewhat, “Huh?” but overall it was decent first episode for the secondary Xebec show I’m watching this season.

Early Verdict: Could be a drop later on if it gets slow or repetitive, but for now I’m more impressed with Argevollen than I am with Aldnoah.Zero.

Silver Will Argevollen

The Legacy: Sailor Moon Crystal

So, my very first experience with the anime legend that is the Sailor Moon franchise. I know a LOT of those filthy casuals who watched and love this show—some are even watching Sailor Moon Crystal. But, for me, this was a new experience. I liked it, although if it weren’t for the pedigree, I probably wouldn’t be very excited about the show. I am totally on board with the gender/sexuality thing. I’m not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy watching a female main character who is an actual person as much as anyone. And there’s definitely strong thematic potential here, impressive even in the first episode. Usagi’s very first attack as a superhero is her wails in the midst of battle.

Early Verdict: Looks to be a very fun, potentially very smart show. Again, wouldn’t say I was wowed—but my interest and curiosity are piqued.

Sailor Moon Crystal

I do very much support this art style.

Carry Overs: Haikyuu!!, Fairy Tail, Hunter x Hunter

Haikyuu!!: Still fresh, still fun, still watching.

Fairy Tail: Two good episodes in a row have given me hope that Fairy Tail can still be good.

Hunter x Hunter: Still the best thing I’m watching by miles and miles.

Hunter x Hunter

DO NOT TALK TO ME ABOUT: Sword Art Online II

Listen, folks. I marathoned season one without outside interference either on the hype side of things or the hate side of things. I’m doing the same with this season. I do not want to hear your impressions. I do not want to hear your thoughts. I do not want to hear when X part of the plot happened. Do not talk to me about Sword Art Online II.

 

So, how about you guys? What’s impressed you, one week in? What’s let you down?

12 thoughts on “First Impressions: Summer 2014 Anime

  1. Personally I felt Argevollen suffered from cliche overload. As soon as the generals opened their mouths I knew what would happen. Thirty seconds after they introduced the main character I knew what would happen though I didn’t think it would follow the trope that closely. Yeah I get that these types of mecha shows tend to have this pattern but I felt it was almost a caricature.

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    • That’s a good point. I actually wonder if Argevollen might turn into the Nisekoi of mecha; that is, a show that is so devoted to embracing all the cliches of the genre that it actually turns out to be decent.

      A book I once read about writing fantasy said that the more archetypes you put into your fantasy novel, the stronger it will be, because that’s what people read fantasy for. I wonder if maybe the same sort of thing could happen with Argevollen.

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      • I have also read similar advice regarding story writing. The problem is that the quality of the writing should at least provide the illusion of originality. For me at least it failed to do that. My feeling about Argevollen are a bit like yours for Aldnoah Zero. I’m willing to watch the second episode.

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  2. compared to the spring season, there’s fewer shows this summer I’m following . . . so far. Maybe this is an opportunity to clear up my backlog.

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    • This is also true for me. There were less shows that I was initially interested in, and I did wanted to cut down a bit.

      But people are already yammering at me to try Blue Spring Ride and Barakamon.

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      • Yeah, you do have to watch Barakamon… the girl is a believable child, not a loli, who reminded me a lot of Ponyo, and the whole thing had a Ghibli influenced vibe to it, albeit perhaps a bit more edgy in the beginning.

        Blue Spring Ride was pretty OK for a first episode, but seemed a little rushed and maybe left out some backstory details. It could go either way for me at this point, but it seems favorable so far.

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  3. I know this is the summer run of anime, but there is one anime that, for better or worse, I think you missed during the spring run. Nanana’s Buried Treasure. It’s on Crunchyroll and it’s only 11 episodes long. While obviously not a match for something like Hunter x Hunter, it is still worth a watch.

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    • I did actually watch the first episode and a half of Nananananananana! I rage quit on the second maid, the bipolar one who was yan to the MC and sickeningly dere to the Treasure Club guy.

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  4. “Fortunately, I don’t pollute my blog with those abominable season previews”

    And I can say with no sarcasm whatsoever that I’m eternally grateful for that. My feed has been completely littered with them for the past month, and if I found them generally pointless (not to mention dull reading) before, I all but loathe them now.

    Anyhow, you already know this, but to answer the question at the end – most impressed by Zankyou no Terror, most let down by… hmm, maybe Ao Haru Ride. There are far worse anime out this season that I’ve seen, but I didn’t really have any expectations for those, whereas I had put more faith in Ao Haru Ride and was mostly disappointed by the second half of the first episode.

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    • There really is no point to them. A lot of times it just comes off (to me) as people rattling off their industry knowledge, but as we so often see, pedigree isn’t really even that great of an indicator of how good a show will be. You have to actually see the show before you make a judgement (or, I’d say, even a prediction) on quality.

      And interesting. I’ve had Ao Haru Ride recommended to me, and it does come out on the aforementioned black hole that is Monday…and I liked the last shoujo romance I saw (SoreSeka)…I might give it an one or two episode spin sometime later, but keep my expectations down.

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