Welcome to my Spring 2014 Roundup. On my roundup posts, I’ll be posting my final impressions of the shows I pick up every season. I normally don’t pick up more than ten shows a season, and I don’t like writing lengthy reviews of a whole show, so I’d rather lump all my impressions for the shows I watched in one post. I won’t give any ratings on this post; you can easily just check my MAL account for those.
That said, I’m satisfied with my picks this season, overall. This might be the first season where I’ve watched all the shows I picked up to the end.
Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?
Hitsugi no Chaika
Surprisingly, Hitsugi no Chaika delivered a decent, fantasy show. There’s a lot that the show can be praised for: it’s a fantasy-adventure anime (pretty rare these days) with decent pacing that doesn’t stuff you with needless details about the world in which it takes place. What makes Chaika interesting is that it lets you infer the details about what’s happening about the world its in – it’s a fantasy world which suffered from a great war with lasting consequences on its politics and the characters. Technology mostly relies on magic, which in turn runs on “fossil fuel”. Most of these aren’t explicitly said by the characters, but instead inferred through their actions and interactions.
But while the setting is intriguing enough to keep the viewer hooked to the show, the same can’t be said for all the characters. Akari and Tohru feel like generic adventurer characters – like they’re only there as vehicles for the viewer to tour the setting. The last arc did attempt to fix this, but they remain the weakest link of the show by far.
That said, Hitsugi no Chaika will be getting a second season this Fall. Here’s hoping that it’ll improve on the first one.
For twelve episodes, we’re supposed to believe that Hase just wants Kaori to be his friend. And he manages to succeed – Kaori manages to overcome part of her trauma enough to make a number of friends from her class, thanks to Hase’s efforts.
So what’s the problem?
Hase, to be frank, is an idiot. He is completely oblivious – or if not, in complete denial – to his selfishness. He refuses to acknowledge that he wants something more from his relationship with Kaori. Isshuukan Friends is dishonest: it seems to know that it’s actually a romance show but it and its characters refuse to acknowledge it. This leads to frustrating drama in the second half of the show – especially when the third wheel shows up.
That said, saying that Isshuukan Friends is crap is pushing it; other the issues with Hase as a character, the rest of the cast has strong, consistent characterization – Kaori’s friendliness hidden under her trauma, Shougo’s frank, seemingly uncaring but sensible personality, and Saki’s clumsy forgetfulness are all memorable and add to the show’s charm.
Hase’s dishonesty kills the show. You’re better off watching ef – which pulls off a similar premise without the need to disguise it as a non-romance. Or better yet, read the ef eroge.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara is a generic harem show. A guy with a special power suddenly gets surrounded by a bunch of girls and lives with them in a regular, co-ed dormitory. It’s a perfectly happy show, with no real drama plaguing the cast. The cast is made up of stock character archetypes that you’d find in any other harem anime.
Don’t go into it expecting any wild twists or turns.
Love Live 2nd Season
A year ago, I never would’ve considered watching Love Live. I was one of those people who would’ve refused to watch it because “it lacks substance”, or that “it doesn’t have a story”. Love Live is not deep. Love Live’s characters are not complex; its plot is normally what people would call cheesy, and honestly it’s also not that good at drama.
But what makes Love Live worth watching isn’t any of that: people watch Love Live simply because it’s fun, and people watch it because it delivers on the “fun, dreamlike time” that it promises. The second season of Love Live improves on the failings of the first season – it throws away the shoddy drama of the first season’s last three episodes in favor of showcasing the charm of the whole group. The quality of the performances also improved; while it’s very far from the level of The iDOLM@STER or Aikatsu‘s later performances, it’s a huge step-up from the obtrusive CGI of the first season. Episode 8’s remake of “Snow halation” deserves a special mention – it’s almost definitely the most well-executed performance this season.
Love Live deserves its following for being very effective at what it does – that is, to give the viewer a good time watching it.
No Game No Life
No Game No Life (Nogenora) is otaku-pandering. Nogenora is a blatant wish-fulfillment fantasy: its main character literally wins at every game he plays, is a NEET, has a little sister who plays video games with him all day, gets transported to an alternate world where he gets to play games all day every day, literally becomes king of an entire race, and gets surrounded with cute girls.
Nogenora is not high entertainment. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t fun to watch.
Nogenora is different from its light novel cousins in that it doesn’t pretend that it’s anything more than an entertaining show. But more than that, the show makes an effort to make its material very presentable. Even if the show’s premise necessitates the protagonists winning every game that they play, they’re entertaining to watch because instead of watching one guy do everything by himself, Sora and Shiro rely on each other to win their games.
Most importantly, No Game No Life is fun. Its premise is pretty much lies on base audience pandering, but the staff clearly went out of its way to have fun with making the show. The colorful setting, the over-the-top presentation of the games, and the well-placed references all add up to a very entertaining experience.