Winter 2015 Final Thoughts

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Winter 2015 Final Thoughts




Alright, this post is way overdue. Winter anime season ended almost two months ago, but I've been absolutely swamped with school, so only now that I'm on summer break have I had time to catch up on everything. Sorry about that. This is also why my spring 2015 week 3 impressions aren't up yet, despite being 6 weeks into spring anime season. I simply haven't watched any spring anime yet. Now that I've finished winter 2015 anime, I will be starting spring 2015 and those impressions should be out shortly.
 
I also wasn't sure I'd do any sort of final review like this, but I decided that I have enough thoughts on the various anime I watched to post something. I will restate the premise for each anime, but it will be copied straight from the week 3 impressions, seeing as the premise should not have changed between then and now. In addition, for the sake of comparison, I will give a final score alongside the week 3 score, though this time around, very few of the scores have changed at all. If I were doing full reviews (which I may do in the future for other anime), I might subcategorize into story, characters, art, etc., but really this is just a place for me to post some final thoughts and update scores, so that's all that these posts will contain.

[Note: I originally had all of the gifs(/gifv/webm) embedded in the post, but it was taking a lot of space, and it took a while to load all at once. Also, the forum apparently doesn't like gifv or webm, so those were just links anyway. In the end, I just reverted them all back to links. Whatever, you're adults, you can deal with clicking on a few links.]
 
 
 
 
Japanese: Ansatsu Kyoushitsu
English: Assassination Classroom
Studio: Brain's Base
Premise: The premise for Assassination Classroom is that a strange sort-of alien has blown up the moon, and he's stated that he will blow up the earth unless he can be killed first. From this general summary, you're probably thinking that this is a sci-fi series, and you would be very wrong. Here's the rest of the details. This alien is all but impossible to be killed, so the government decides to give into his request that he be allowed to teach a high school class full of prep school rejects, promising not to harm them. These students are in turn promised 10 billion yen if they can successfully kill their new alien teacher, but as he effortlessly avoids being killed, this alien proves to be a genuinely good teacher.
Thoughts: Still ongoing. I'm still pretty behind on this show, but yeah, it's 2-cour, so the final review is not relevant yet.
Week 3 score: 7
Final score: N/A (Ongoing)
 
Japanese: Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!
English: Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Studio: Diomedea
Premise: Imagine the most stereotypical magical girl premise that you can, and then replace all of the girls with dudes.
Thoughts: I dropped this show. It wasn't because it was bad, and if it weren't for the fact that I am way behind, I probably wouldn't have dropped it, but circumstances were not so kind, and I needed to drop some shows. However, if the twins did watch it all the way through, they can give their opinions. In fact, if you guys did, I would very much like to hear what you thought, so I hope you'll let me know. Thanks!
Week 3 score: 6
Final score: N/A (Dropped)
 
Japanese: Death Parade
English: Death Parade
Studio: Madhouse
Premise: Oh man, I don't want to spoil the premise too much because that's what makes the first episode so great. Basically, two people show up at this bar and are told that they will set their lives at stake and play a game. I will say that there's an original short called Death Billiards that was created a little while back and which was then serialized into Death Parade. I watched it before watching any of the series, and I think it's worth watching first (wherever you can find it), but in truth, it's very similar to the first episode, so if you skip it, you wouldn't be missing all that much.
Thoughts: I will write a full review, so look to that for further thoughts. The short version is that Death Parade is heavy and dark, but it is also beautiful and thought-provoking. I think it is absolutely worth watching.
Week 3 score: 8
Final score: 9
 
Japanese: Junketsu no Maria
English: Maria the Virgin Witch
Studio: Production I.G.
Premise: Taking place during the Hundred Years' War in France, Maria is a powerful witch who uses her magic to get in the way of battles. However, because she is disrupting the natural workings of the world, Archangel Michael comes down to force her to stop. He decides that if she is absolutely certain that she is benefitting the world, she must be willing to sacrifice her own happiness and pleasure to continue doing so. As such, once she loses her virginity, her magic will also be taken from her.
Thoughts: Junketsu no Maria was all in all a solid and enjoyable show, and at points it looked like I might raise my score, but in the end, I'm leaving it as is. The story was enjoyable, though some parts felt rushed, likely because of the one-cour time limitations. Nevertheless, the conclusion felt right, and I have no major complaints concerning the plot. There were a few scenes in the midst of the story that were powerful and well-done, but they were not enough to raise my overall score. It is also worth noting that despite the way it sounds, Junketsu no Maria is not an ecchi anime. Aside from the jokes about virginity, sex is handled maturely.
The art is fairly bland, at least for my tastes. The style is somewhat reminiscent of Ghibli, but without the color and detailed backgrounds that make Ghibli films so breathtaking. I liked the character designs, but I couldn't bring myself to love the overall art direction.
I think it also would have been more enjoyable for me if I were more of a history buff. On the other hand, if there were major inaccuracies, perhaps recognizing them would have actually caused distress, but from what I've heard, Junkets no Maria went to significant lengths to maintain a decent level of historical accuracy, which is pretty cool.
Week 3 score: 7
Final score: 7
 
Japanese: Kantai Collection
English: KanColle
Studio: Diomedea
Premise: KanColle is based off of a free-to-play browser game. It is set in a world in which girls representing Japanese warships are outfitted with weapons in order to fight off a group of monsters originating in the ocean.
Thoughts: I dropped this. As stated in my week 3 impressions, I didn't feel very strongly about this show, and a lot of the jokes seemed to be targeted at players of the game. Given how swamped I was, this was the first show to get cut when I decided it was time to get back on schedule.
Week 3 score: 5
Final score: N/A (Dropped)
 
Japanese: Koufuku Graffiti
English: Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Studio: Shaft
Premise: Ryou is a middle school girl who has lived by herself since the passing of her grandmother. She has always loved to cook, but ever since her grandmother died, she has found that cooking has lost its spark. However, when her cousin visits out of nowhere, she realizes that what she's been missing is someone to share a meal with.
Thoughts: This is one of the larger disparities I've seen between my opinion and that of the general public. The general consensus is that while it was pretty, Koufuku Graffiti was way too boring to be worth watching. And I cannot bring myself to share that sentiment. Admittedly, the plot was not a compelling narrative. In fact, it would be outrageous to claim that there was really a narrative at all, but I did not at any point find myself bored while watching. It was warm and soft and reminded you what it means to be happy. Dramatic atmospheres and intense moments certainly have their appeal, but that was never the point of Koufuku Graffiti. Instead, Koufuku Graffiti aims to remind you how it feels to be surrounded by people you love.
Furthermore, while there wasn't any particular plot, to say that nothing happened would be misleading. There are quite a few moments of significant character development in which Ryou comes to understand how much happiness people can bring to one another. Frankly, even simple character development is a lot for a slice-of-life show like this. Anybody who was expecting a plot was dramatically misled, as this show is about as slice-of-life as it gets.
Furthermore, as you may recall my stating, the artistic renditions of the food are simply gorgeous. There wasn't a single episode where I didn't find myself hungry whether or not I had eaten beforehand. Here are some gifs to really show what I mean. These all come from the end-of-episode previews for the next episode, but they demonstrate how much work goes into making your mouth water at drawings of food.
But speaking of the food, that may be where another bias of mine came in. Unlike a majority of the American viewers, I have eaten a majority of the foods presented in the show. While some of the food items presented, i.e. instant ramen and pizza, have likely been consumed by the average American, a lot of the dishes, i.e. unaju, somen, and oden, are distinctly Japanese and not easy to find. But I love a lot of these foods and have lots of memories tied to them. Somen makes me think of childhood summer lunches where my mom would set down a big pot on the table and my mom and sisters and I would all eat as much somen as we could. Unaju reminds me of visiting Japan with my grandparents. And these are exactly the kinds of memories that Koufuku Graffiti wants to evoke because they are exactly the message of the show.
In short, Koufuku Graffiti hits pretty much all of the right buttons for making me happy. It is happy and warm with beautiful art, and it's a show about food and being with loved ones. With that being said, I can definitely see why the appeal may not be as strong for other people.
Week 3 score: 8
Final score: 8
 
Japanese: Kuroko no Basket 3rd Season
English: Kuroko's Basketball 3
Studio: Production I.G.
Premise: "Teikou Middle School basketball club: an incredibly strong team with over one hundred members and three consecutive championship wins. Amongst their brilliant record, was a generation of five prodigies known as the "Generation of Miracles." However, there was a strange rumor concerning the Generation of Miracles about one more player recognized by the five prodigies... a phantom sixth man." That is literally copy-pasted from the MAL page for the manga. That description is plenty good.
Thoughts: Still ongoing. As a small note, I recently found out that this season will go all the way to the end of the manga, so this is in fact the final season unless a sequel manga series is eventually begun.
Week 3 score: 7
Final score: N/A (Ongoing)
 
Japanese: Rolling☆Girls
English: Rolling☆Girls
Studio: Wit Studio
Premise: I'll begin by admitting that I'm not fully sure that I understand the entire premise because it seems a little unnecessarily involved. But here's what I've gathered. Ten years prior to the show, there was a war called the Great Tokyo War, and since then, the prefectures of Japan have split into independent nations. The nations are trying to take each other over, and each nation is protected by what amounts to a superhero (called a "Mosa" or "Best") plus a bunch of normal people (called "Mobs" or "Rest"). The real story is supposed to be about four "Mob" girls who go around dealing with problems, though that has only now started with episode 3, so we'll see where it goes.
Thoughts: I really wanted Rolling Girls to be great. The art and animation are both incredibly beautiful, and the music is really good, but there unfortunately isn't much beyond that. The story isn't really that bad, but it's pretty sparse. What is there only gets more and more complicated, and a lot of the weirdness is never really understood. There's a lot of randomness for which the only explanation is a plot point revealed at around episode 9, which is around where the plot goes off the rails, and not in a good way. I very thoroughly enjoyed the first 8 episodes because they were simple 2-episode arcs about passion and fighting for what you believe in. But then in the final 4 episodes, Rolling Girls suddenly attempts to cram in a convoluted storyline, and everything breaks down. There are attempts at character growth, but they're weak and overshadowed by the plot that's rapidly falling apart.
And this really sucks because as I said, there are a lot of great parts. The watercolor backgrounds are gorgeous, and the characters are colorful and lively. On top of that, the animation is buttery smooth. The fight scenes have top-notch choreography and the over the top action is absolutely brimming with energy. Here are some gifs.
In addition, the music is great. The background music is well composed and fits well, but what I really love are the OP/ED and insert songs. They're mostly covers of songs by The Blue Hearts which was a Japanese punk rock band from the early 90s. The original songs are sweet, and the covers are just as good.
Judging by the story alone, Rolling Girls would earn a weak 6 at most, but the art and music still manage to raise the overall score by a full point. I would still say that it was a pleasant ride overall, but unless you're a major sucker for pretty art and animation like I am, you'll probably just find it confusing and half-baked.
Week 3 score: 8
Final score: 7
 
Japanese: Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata
English: Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Premise: Tomoyo Aki is an otaku who, upon a chance encounter with the most beautiful girl he has ever seen sets out to capture that moment in a galge/VN. Along the way, he must work with other cliched characters to create the perfect galge.
Thoughts: The general rom-com nature of the show is nothing new, and even the premise, which gently pokes at otaku culture, has been seen in various forms over recent years, but Saekano handles its humor well. The tropes are played up, but the characters, especially Megumi Kato, hang lampshades to prevent the heavily archetypal characters from becoming overbearing. In addition, because the overall plot has the charactes focused on making their game, cliched rom-com shenanigans never take center stage. The romantic elements are present and abundantly clear, but most of the tired standards of the genre are averted or subverted to good effect.
The character designs are nothing original, but this is deliberate and is in fact explicitly noted by Megumi. Speaking of, one of my favorite parts of Saekano was Megumi. Her deadpan snark and subtle exressions contributed greatly to the humor and her overall development as a character was well done.
All in all, while the art is nothing to write home about, though nevertheless good with pleasant use of color and generally decent art direction. One shot which I enjoyed was a shot from Tomoyo's perspective in which the frame of his glasses was visible, and the space outside of his glasses is blurry. Nothing actually happened in this shot, but it was interesting and captured my attention.
The season ends very clearly setting up for a second season. There is no forced resolution, no half-baked conclusion, just a small checkpoint from which a second season could readily pick up. This can be a risky approach; if the show doesn't do well enough, then that's it. Even the final line is a meta-humor stab at the fact that a second season may not happen. Personally, I applaud this approach. Forced conclusions are never as enjoyable as sticking to the source, and they make sequel seasons awkward to set up. However, it has since been revealed that a second season is in fact being produced, so there is no need to worry about that.
Week 3 score: 8
Final score: 8
 
Japanese: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
English: Your Lie in April
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Premise: Arima Kousei was a child piano prodigy, but after his mother passed away, he had a breakdown while playing in a competition, and from that day on he was no longer able to hear the sound of the piano. He continued his life content with the world that had lost its color for him until one day he meets Kaori Miyazono and suddenly everything begins to change.
Thoughts: I will write a full review, so look to that for further thoughts. The short version is simply that Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso was absolutely phenomenal in every regard. I've heard people dissatisfied with it for various reasons, but I don't even care because I thought it was outstanding.
Week 3 score: 10
Final score: 10
 
Japanese: Shirobako
English: Shirobako
Studio: P.A. Works
Premise: Anime about making anime.
Thoughts: As the episodes went on, Shirobako only got better. I personally found the plot of the second cour more compelling, as it delved into what drives a person to create anime while continuing to explore the actual process that goes into production, which I found interesting.
The art and color does not stand out too much, but the character design is well done. A lot of the characters are fairly standard anime character designs, but Shirobako manages to mix in quite a number of characters who legitimately look like real world people, which is great. Furthermore, the characters go through various outfits throughout the show which do a very good job of giving depth to the personality and style of the characters. And this brings me to one of my favorite aspects of Shirobako, the fantastic attention to detail. The various outfits are an example of this, but there is much more than that. The character's desks look like the desks of actual people, and they are kept consistent throughout the show. When the anime they are working on must undergo retakes or character redesigns, the different drafts shown actually have changes which accurately reflect what needed to be adjusted.
Having said all that, my week 3 impressions still pretty much give the gist of the show. Shirobako tries to illustrate the struggles of creating anime, and the hardships faced by people in various roles of anime production. There are some incredible moments and references which made me really close to raising the score to 9, but in the end, I can't quite justify it because without some reasonable degree of prior anime knowledge, a decent amount of the show loses its charm.
But at the very least, even if you don't ever watch it, I want you all to know that Shirobako provided the world with this great moment.
Week 3 score: 8
Final score: 8

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Winter 2015 Final Thoughts :: Comments

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Post on Fri May 22, 2015 10:19 pm  yang777

We did finish it!

Um, thoughts. Well, there were some good episodes, some really weird episodes, and the rest were just okay episodes at best. The jokes were hit and miss, but it probably would have been funnier if we understood Japanese and got all of the innuendo which was apparently ubiquitous (there was one that translated well to English, which was pretty cool). They definitely couldn't keep up the novelty of their situation for very long and it wasn't until near the end that they started to introduce other plot elements to cover the weakness. All in all, we were happy to have had a new henshin hero show to watch and for us it was worth the watch.

On an unrelated note, I wish Sailor Moon Crystal was more enjoyable...

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Post on Fri May 22, 2015 10:29 pm  ChaoticGrowth

I'm glad you guys enjoyed it! Although yeah, that seemed to be the direction it was heading, even at episode 3, and since I'm much less of a fan of the henshin hero genre, I don't know if I would have enjoyed it for long.

And I'm sorry about Sailor Moon Crystal. I heard it's pretty mediocre, and I can only imagine the disappointment. What would you say the problems are?

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Post on Sat May 23, 2015 11:00 am  yang777

The biggest problem might stem from the fact that it is a closer adaptation to the original manga, since maybe the original manga didn't have good writing (I haven't read it so I don't know). Some of the episodes have been very boring as they are almost completely exposition. Also, the other four Sailor Scouts have very minimal personalities...pretty much amounting to "I'm your friend Sailor Moon!", although they seem to be gaining some in the later episodes, but not enough as they are still mostly interchangeable.

The bishoujo style isn't my favorite, but it seemed to me like the later episodes toned it down a bit (or maybe I'm getting used to it). There are also many lazy art moments where the really needed more frames but didn't do them to cut costs. One time they even just slid the characters across the screen toward each other for like 3 seconds and it was really awkward...

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Post on Sat May 23, 2015 12:50 pm  ChaoticGrowth

Yeah, I don't know much about Sailor Moon at all, though from what I read, the original anime did a much better job of character development, so if it's following the manga closely, that could explain why. Also, apparently, the narrative in the original manga is less consistent.

And yeah, I can't handle heavy use of traditional shoujo art, which is a shame because I generally really enjoy the shoujo romance plotlines. Fortunately (for me), that artstyle is rapidly falling out of use in favor of a more neutral style.

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