Every couple of months, it’s time to sit back and take a look at the bigger picture, ranking the anime series that I am continuing as well as putting to bed shows that I have completed. The last time I did this was back on October 7th and before that on August 13th. So now, time to summarize “Where Things Stand” as of today.
- First is a look at continuing shows that I am currently watching. This is for shows where I have watched two or more episodes — therefore it includes current series that I am watching from the Winter and Spring 2011 Seasons. However, it does not include anything from the Summer 2011 Season…yet. These will be ranked from “best” to “worst”.
- Second is a look at shows I have completed since the last time I did my last “Where Things Stand” post. This can include continuing series or feature-length movies, and these shows receive a Final Letter Grade that sums up the entire experience.
- Third is a very quick look forward at what comes next, primarily focusing on shows from Summer 2011 and Fall of 2011.
1. SHOWS I AM CURRENTLY WATCHING:
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Winter 2011 Season) through Episode 9
It only gets better and better…or perhaps I should say more bitter and bitter. With only two episodes left, our (non)-heroine finds herself in an impossible situation. The truth of Kyubey’s amoral machinations have been revealed, and with the death of one magical girl after another, taciturn Homura stands alone against the impending Walpurgis Nacht. Unless, of course, Madoka makes the Faustian bargain to join her…but will it be worth it? (Current Grade: 10 out of 10)
Hanasaku Iroha (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
Not quite as happy-shiny-bittersweet as the first two episodes as Hanasaku Iroha takes a bemusing break into the theater of the absurd as the porn artiste is exposed, and then as Ohana traipses off to her new school for the first time. But the writers really know how to twist that knife just right at the very end when Minko is floored after seeing her unrequited, unspoken crush run off with the rival girl. Yet despite everything that has been flung at Ohana before, her upbeat attitude is infectious. (Current Grade: 9 out of 10)
Hourou Musuko (Winter 2011 Season) through Episode 9
Man-o-man, Nitorin, you’re really done it now. There’s no turning back at this point, is there? Of course, if you truly and honestly believe that you were born as the wrong gender, then this really was the only course of action to take, after all. Given how vicious American junior high schools can be about non-conformity (most especially involving sexual topics), I could hardly imagine trying to go through such a decision. But in the Japanese school system and society, which is only that much more rigid and unforgiving? I shudder to think of the backlash coming. One thing is for sure: Nitorin’s relationship with everyone changes forever from this point forward. (Current Grade: 8 out of 10)
Ano Hana (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
Yes, the series may seem to center around lonerboy-in-training Jinta, and how messed up his life has turned out following his inability to cope with Menma’s death many years ago. But it looks like he’s not the only one that needs saving, as the some of the other members of their former clique are screwed up as well — and I suspect it will turn out the all are in the end. Healing may be coming late for them, but better late than never. (Current Grade: 8 out of 10)
Gosick (Winter 2011 Season) through Episode 9
If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Gosick, it is that Kujo must be congenitally stupid. Not only that, but he’s a trouble-magnet of the first order of magnitude, seems like he can’t walk two steps without getting caught up in some life-or-death scheme. The series is taking a troubling turn as Kujo is temporarily separated from Victorique — since most of the charm to this point derives from the oddball relationship between the duo. As for the mystery itself – fuggedaboutit, don’t even try to think about it logically because you’ll only get burned again. (Current Grade: 7 out of 10)
Tiger and Bunny (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
For all of Madhouse and Marvel’s posing and their grandiose adaptations, this is actually the superhero series that is worth the watching. Kotetsu and Barnaby seem to be settling into an uneasy (or perhaps a resigned) relationship, and now we also have a closer look at Miss Pepsi Nex Girl. What the series lacks, however, is any sort of antagonist, so far it’s just internecine squabbling and introspection, which only goes so far before it gets tiring. (Current Grade: 7 out of 10)
Nichijou (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
The hit-and-miss sketch comedy of the year, also the anti-Azumanga Daioh. The title may be “My Ordinary Life”, but the characters and situations are the exact opposite. Like many non-plot, non-linear comedy series, there’s a lot of fairly blah stuff. What you keep your eye out for are those occasional gems where they hit it out of the park. So far, I’m bemused by Mai’s continuous epic trolling of Yuuko. (Current Grade: 7 out of 10)
Yondemasu-yo, Azazel-san (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
It’s the other flat-out comedy series I’m watching right now, and it couldn’t be more different from Nichijou if it tried. Slapstick and physical, profane and unrepentant. But I really don’t like when it takes a turn into the toilet humor category, and I hope the humor remains inventive enough to avoid that low road. That will mainly determine whether I keep watching in the future or not. (Current Grade: 7 out of 10)
C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
So, now I think all of the main chess pieces are on the board, and the rules have been explained. Good – now let’s move forward already. Kimimaro seems to finally have shed his deer-in-headlights persona and figured out what he wants to do, it’s time to see him in action. Let’s see if this series is more than just a glorified Pokemon on steroids. (Current Grade: 7 out of 10)
Hyouge Mono (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
Hyouge Mono is tough to love, tough to get into…because it is so far afield of about any anime series I think I have ever experienced. The heart of the show is Sasuke, the most unlikely anti-hero who is fumbling through sixteenth century Japan as he finds himself caught up in courtly intrigue while all he wants to do is devote his life to tea. Yes, tea. Someone in the upper echelons of Japanese television broadcasting must have called in alot of their chips on this one. 39 episodes, by god. (Current Grade: 7 out of 10)
Fractale (Winter 2011 Season) through Episode 9
Rather than building up to some grand, magnificent climax, I’m just sort of hanging on to catch the final episodes of the series so I can have a somewhat satisfactory conclusion. With such a rich tapestry of ideas they could have chosen involving the dystopian world around them, Fractale squandered much of its potential with throw-away episodes and unsatisfying character development encounters that could have been handled much better. Mind you, Fractale joins a long list of other anime shows that were equally underwhelming, I really should temper my expectations where such shortcomings are the norm rather than the exception. (Current Grade: 6 out of 10)
Yumekui Merry (Winter 2011 Season) through Episode 4
…And another concurrent series that has turned out to be less than stellar. But at least Yumekui Merry has the advantage over Fractale in that the characters are generally more entertaining…especially with a main character that isn’t some wimpy-ass idiot (Yumeji trumps Clain every time). As for the story…well, it’s kind of a mess. But at least it’s colorful and shiny! Navel-lovers rejoice! (Current Grade: 6 out of 10)
Steins;Gate (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
Bah, the story is taking forever and a day to get moving. The whitewashed artwork leaves me with a headache. The convoluted logic also gives me a headache. So, what keeps Steins;Gate together? Why, it’s Mad Scientist Rintarou, who is just all kinds of crazy, and he knows it, and he loves it. But if they don’t get the story out of first gear, that’s not enough to keep watching. (Current Grade: 6 out of 10)
Deadman Wonderland (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
I know the story is not supposed to be taken seriously in any fashion, it’s just a mindless popcorn flick so don’t try to read much of anything into the story. However, there is ridiculous…and then there is ridiculous. On top of that, Ganta is that whiny-ass character archetype that just gets on my nerves. (Current Grade: 6 out of 10)
Blue Exorcist (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
In the end, it turned out to be a by-the-numbers shonen action/adventure series. That by itself is perfectly fine, but not enough to keep me interested and watching. (Grade: 5 out of 10) SERIES DROPPED
Kaiji Season 2 (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 4
The problem with Kaiji is that he realizes he is fucking up, does nothing to change, and there is no hope of ever changing. And because of that, what is the point in watching if it’s going to turn out the same sad tale every time? (Grade: 5 out of 10) SERIES DROPPED
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 3
This is what happens when you decide to surround the main character with a passel of whacked-out crazy characters, who seem to be crazy for no other reason than for craziness sake. I had a hard enough time trying to keep my own sanity watching them all do their nutso peculiarities, I can only imagine the protagonist caught up in the middle of them all. (Grade: 4 out of 10) SERIES DROPPED
Moshidora (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 3
I just got tired of Minami winnowing out little pearls of wisdom from Drucker’s book and forcefully trying to apply them to whatever situation she was facing at the time. I have no problem with taking business management techniques and finding a new twist where they can be used in the world of baseball, but I would like to see it done *properly*. (Grade: 3 out of 10) SERIES DROPPED
X-Men (Spring 2011 Season) through Episode 3
Saying this is not the worst adaptation of an American superhero comic book into anime form is not exactly high praise. I suppose the problem is less the anime part, but the original source material, the X-Men story itself, which is just…well…terrible. (Grade: 3 out of 10) SERIES DROPPED
2. SHOWS I HAVE RECENTLY COMPLETED:
You Are Umasou Movie (Fall 2010 Season)
It’s a children’s movie, but surprisingly charming. A baby Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur is raised to be a herbivore, but when he can no longer deny his heritage he runs away…only to end up raising an orphaned herbivore himself. It has talking dinosaurs, action-packed fighting scenes, a big exploding volcano, what more could you ask for? FINAL GRADE: B
Eden of the East Movie 1: The King of Eden (2009)
Well, this turned out to be no better…and no worse…than a big, extended sequel episode to the original television series (or, rather, like six episodes mashed end-on-end). As a stand-alone movie, it would be a complete failure, and for anyone who did not watch the entire television series they would be thoroughly lost. Mostly the whole thing felt like it was a prelude, just setting up for the real action in the second movie. Honestly, I do not understand why they chose this format, and didn’t just do a second season; it gains nothing by being in movie format. FINAL GRADE: B-
Macross Frontier Movie 1: The False Songstress (2009)
My experience with the world of Macross dates back a quarter of a century to the days when Robotech was airing on after-school television in the eighties. And from what little I remember from that…it did absolutely nothing to prepare me for this movie. I did not know any of the characters, I did not know the setting, I did not understand who was doing what, or why, or even *how* for that matter. Frankly, this movie is not for a Macross neophyte such as myself, not in the slightest. I feel I should give this an incomplete grade instead, because it is just sort of a halfway stopping point in the story which continues in the second movie. I guess I’ll reconsider at that point. But for now, I must say that the fighting and action sequences were gobsmackingly wonderful, if you can ignore the story the visuals are great. FINAL GRADE: B-
Bakuman Season 1 (2010)
I watched, then reviewed the first six episodes of Bakuman last year, but ultimately it fell on the cutting room floor because it was simply too boring. But with the second season just around the corner, I thought I better give it another try. Turns out the entire series remains just as boring all the way through. It’s not a bad show, just not good enough to merit recommending. FINAL GRADE: C
A year ago, I watched the first episode of this four-part Original Video Animation. Turns out it was about as exciting as watching paint dry. I would compare it to K-On, except with out the fast-paced action, comedy and charm (oops, forgot to enable the sarcasm tags there). With a new television series around the corner, I figured I’d give this another try, and it turns out the remaining three episodes are as equally vapid as the first. Not a terrible show, but totally un-noteworthy. FINAL GRADE: C
Ah, Naruto. A series I dislike intensely. So what do I think about a movie based on a series I dislike intensely? Guess. G’wan, just guess… FINAL GRADE: D
3. COMING UP NEXT:
I’ll keep this very short, because I have a kidney stone drilling into the back and it is very difficult to concentrate at the moment. My future anime viewing and reviewing is broken down as follows:
- Winter 2011 Season – There’s five shows left I’m still watching: Fractale, Hourou Musuko, Yumekui Merry, Gosick and Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Four of these I’ll be finishing up in the next month or so, the fifth continues for several more episodes.
- Spring 2011 Season – Nine shows remain after four episodes and it is likely I’ll watch most of these through to the end.
- Summer 2011 Season – I have exactly eight shows to go before I’m finished up with sampling the first episode of everything, and I expect to have all of those reviewed in the next week or so. After that, time to look back at the best and the worst, and move on to judging the second episodes of those receiving a passing grade.
- Fall 2011 Season – I’m one or two weeks away from doing by “Preview” of this season’s shows, and start reviewing them as well.
- 2010 and Earlier – I’ve found a few dozen shows left to review — for a complete breakdown check out here.
And that’s it! Until next time!