Anime Review: Where Things Stand as of December 21, 2010

(Originally published and formatted for Livejournal on 12/24/10)

It’s coming up towards the end of the year, and it’s time for another very quick review of where my anime-watching habits are at this moment. The last time I did a similar summary review was two months back on October 14th, then before that on August 25th. So, without further ado, here’s a brief run-down on the shows that I am currently watching (mostly from the Fall 2010 season), plus grades for shows that I have completed in the past two months, and a few shows that I have been watching and that are now stalled/on-hold for one reason or another. Rankings of shows from “best” to “worst”:

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – Considering my general distaste for low-brow gross-out humor, who would have thought I would be giving this show the thumbs up? Ah, Panty and Stocking are just *insane*, the “non-anime” art style is crazy, and I always find my eyes glued to the screen for the entire show. With the addition of Scanty and Kneesocks as arch-nemeses, that just amped it up to a whole new level. (9 out of 10)

Shiki (Summer 2010 Season) through Episode 18 – You know the old proverb, “It’s always darkest before the dawn”? Well, the Sun better show up pretty soon or else there won’t be anyone left in Sotoba village! After slowly, slowly, slowly building for so many episodes, we’ve reached a point where the vampires have surreptitiously gained almost complete control. This has grown over time to become one of my favorite shows of the year. (9 out of 10)

Shinryaku! Ika Musume (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – In a season chock-full of comedies, this one is at the top of the heap. Light, silly, wacky, short humorous skits about a (quite literally) fish out of water. And Ika Musume is so darn cute, too! (8 out of 10)

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – At first I was concerned about the setting (in a maid cafe that’s not *really* a maid cafe), but thankfully it’s not about the cafe, and Hotori is so cheerfully ridiculous to watch. The whole cast is just a little bit off, but also entirely believable as real human beings, a refreshing change from so many beyond-realistic shows. (7 out of 10)

My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – Based on the show’s very premise, this was easily the most unlikely show I would still be watching at this point. But incest overtones aside, it’s surprisingly enjoyable, even if all the characters are totally predictable. (7 out of 10)

Kuragehime (Summer 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – Perhaps the comedy element is a bit too over the top for my preference, but I do find the more dramatic themes to be intriguing as all of the main characters are flailing around to discover their true place in the world, each from a totally different tangent. (7 out of 10)

Yozakura Quartet: Hoshi no Umi (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 1 – The second episode won’t even see the light of day until this Spring, yet this re-visioning of the show (closer to the manga, but different art style from the 2008 series) has me interested in more. (7 out of 10)

Legend of Legendary Heroes (Summer 2010 Season) through Episode 18 – Despite my chronic criticism of the uneven melding of un-funny humor bits and the dead-serious dramatic plot, it’s still worth watching. Although I’m sure I am handicapping this because it’s the only worthwhile swords-and-sorcery fantasy of the year. (6 out of 10)

Psychic Detective Yakumo (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – …And in the same vein, I’m probably also handicapping this show as well, as the only worthwhile adult drama of the Fall season. Also, don’t be fooled by the “detective” word in the title, this really isn’t a mystery show, but more about bringing Yakumo emotionally back from the deep, dark cave he’s dug for himself. (6 out of 10)

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – A continuation of the story from where it left off at the end of the Summer season, Recruit is still having to deal with the inanity/insanity of those around him. But now we also get a peek at Nino’s cryptic past. (6 out of 10)

Bakuman (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 6 – Two middle school students determined to become professional manga artists, so one of them can marry the girl of his dreams. Sure, I have a soft spot for impossible-against-all-odds underdog stories, but this is just plain *boring*. It’s not a bad show, just not very…exciting. SERIES DROPPED. (5 out of 10)

Letter Bee Reverse (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 3 – Starting off right at the cliffhanger at the end of the 2009 series…and then it doesn’t go much of anywhere past that point. I am frustrated by both the lack of movement towards resolving the main story arc of the whole show, and also by the somewhat juvenile storytelling method. Like Bakuman, this is also not a bad show, just not worth my time right now. SERIES DROPPED. (5 out of 10)

Otome Youkai Zakuro (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 3 – I wish this series was worth watching because the artwork is beyond gorgeous. But it takes more than eye-catching artwork to carry a show, and this one doesn’t quite have what it takes. SERIES DROPPED. (5 out of 10)

The World God Only Knows (Fall 2010 Season) through Episode 3 – Potentially interesting comedy setup, but totally ruined by a main character this is annoying and unlikeable as humanly possible. SERIES DROPPED. (4 out of 10)

Shukufuku no Campanella (Summer 2010 Season) through Episode 3 – This is the one show from the Summer season that I dropped after the first episode, but returned for a second chance. I chose…poorly. SERIES DROPPED. (3 out of 10)
And now, for a final look back at the series (and two feature-length movies) that I have completed since my last summary listing two months ago:

Occult Academy (Summer 2010 Season) – 13 Episodes – At the beginning of the Summer season, I had posited that Occult Academy was the one show to watch out of them all, but it didn’t *quite* live up to that initial potential. The wild rush to wrap things up at the end nuked a few fridges, and it felt really contrained to fit everything into thirteen episodes. Still an enjoyable show, just not an epic show.

SERIES GRADE: B+

Highschool of the Dead (Summer 2010 Season) – 12 Episodes – Once I learned to embrace the beyond-crazy cheesecake rather than complain about it, this show was so much more enjoyable. But it’s really all a big, biting commentary on modern society…then again, EVERY zombie flick is a commentary on modern society, isn’t it? There just *has* to be a second season, I would be flabbergasted if there wasn’t.

SERIES GRADE: B+

Bungaku Shoujo Movie (Spring 2010 Season) – The premise (and title character) is about a girl who eats books, living off the stories, to survive. However, the movie is not really about that at all — instead it’s a bittersweet love story between a damaged-goods girl and her long-suffering childhood friend. Surprisingly good.

MOVIE GRADE: B

Kaichou wa Maid-sama (Spring 2010 Season) – 26 Episodes – An unlikely show for me to watch, since it’s a shoujo love story (strike one) involving a maid cafe (strike two), but quite touching with the right dose of humor to keep the wheels greased. Started out strong (A-/B+ at the beginning) but started to drag over time, with about five or six totally worthless episodes (usually involving the Moron Trio) that should be avoided entirely.

SERIES GRADE: B

Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in the Sky Movie (Spring 2010 Season) – The *fourteenth* feature-length movie in the incredibly long-running series. I’m not an avid fan of Detective Conan, but the movie did have me engaged the whole time, with a few twists along the way as well. Nothing amazing, but worthwhile.

MOVIE GRADE: B-

Ookami-san (Summer 2010 Season) – 12 Episodes – I had high hopes at the beginning of this show, but it never really got off the ground. As a love story between ultra-tsundere Ryouko and ultra-wimp Ryoushi, it was just *okay*, and the off-screen narrator needs to have her throat slit. Not a bad show, really, just…disappointing.

SERIES GRADE: C

Saki (2009 Season) – 25 Episodes – This show is all about two things: The game mahjong (often delving into the arcane minutiae of the rules), and yuri girl-on-girl inferences (often with a disturbing amount of inappropriate fan-service). Kinda like Angelic Layer with mahjong instead of fighting dolls, and girls who *really* love each other. Also, it ends at a story midpoint with no resolution, and no plans for a second season at all.

SERIES GRADE: C- (B- if you really love mahjong)

Please note that I only give “Letter Grades” to series that I complete — that I watch every episode through to the end. Therefore, very few shows will ever receive a “D” or an “F” grade, because it would be very unlikely I would continue watching a show that bad all the way through. For comparison, here are the grades of shows finished in the past several months:

Durarara: A
The Tatami Galaxy: A-
Arakawa Under the Bridge (first season): B+
Kurenai: B+
Letter Bee (first season): B+
Angel Beats: B
Bakemonogatari: B-
Darker Than Black: Gaiden: B-
Working: C+
Senkou no Night Raid: C
K-On (second season): C

Also, there are currently several shows that I have started watching and are now stalled/on-hold for one reason or another. I *may* return back to watching these shows in the future, but they are not actively on my “to do” list at the moment. Here’s a list, roughly ranked from “most likely” to “least likely” to complete:

Broken Blade – through episode 2, waiting for the next episode.
Katanagatari – through episode 4
Nurarihyon no Mago – through episode 18, also a second season has just been announced.
Yozakura Quartet (original series) – through episode 7
To Aru Majutsu no Index (second season) – through episode 3
Mobile Suite Gundam Unicorn UC – through episode 2
Mahou Shoujo-tai – through episode 28
Good Witch of the West – through episode 4, unlikely I’ll watch any more.
Kiddy Girl and – through episode 5, very unlikely I’ll watch any more.


What comes next? There’s about half a dozen shows from the Spring, Summer and Fall 2010 season that I still need to review (Tatami Galaxy Special, Shin Koihime Musou OVA, Bungaku Shoujo Memoire 2, Haiyoru Nyaruani series, Princess Resurrection OVA, and Battle Spirits Brave), and that pretty much wraps it up for those three seasons. And, of course, from the list above there are two series from the Summer season (Legend of Legendary Heroes and Shiki) I need to finish up, and seven shows from the Fall season as well.

Also on my plate: I’ve downloaded more than two dozen shows from the Winter 2010 season (first three months of this year) to sample and give my thumbs-up/thumbs-down recommendation. However, I am most definitely NOT going to give full-length reviews on these at all — that’s just way too much work! Instead, I’m doing it so that I can say that I’ve watched *every* show from the year that has been subtitled — at least the first episode of each. And then, I can confidently put together my list of the “Top 10 Shows of 2010” and “Worst 10 Shows of 2010”. I’ll probably get around to that around the first part of January.

And speaking of January, the Winter 2011 anime season is upon us! The first wave of new weekly shows will be hitting the airwaves in Japan in the next one or two weeks, and here I am still mucking about in the middle of the Fall 2010 season. For me, the Winter 2011 season officially starts with the winter solstice, so any show that debuts after December 21st falls into that category. Looking for a good place to start for information? Start Here — I probably won’t get around to previewing them myself for a few more weeks.

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