In the midst of getting ready for the exciting summer of anime this year, the shows I’ve been watching this past season have made me wish I’d started this blog a lot sooner. I’d have loved to do episode-by-episode reviews of a number of them right off the bat. But alas, I began this blog in the middle of spring and didn’t want half a series reviewed. I stuck with (sometimes unnecessarily long) editorials instead, which has helped me get into the aniblogging groove before summer 2015 starts. And now here I am, looking back at the highs and lows of the first season I’ve ever been so connected to, both to the shows and the communities around them.
Before I begin, I have to say thanks to everyone I’ve had such incredible discussions with, even if I came across as an overly critical whatsit in the process. You guys are what really made these past few months mean so much to me.
So, without further ado, this I what I got up to watching this season:
Anime of the Season: Hibike! Euphonium
It’s not like I’ve ever had a rough relationship with KyoAni – they gave me Chuunibyo and the desktop wallpaper I’ve forever had since having Rikka persuade me away from my original waifu. But Hibike! Euphonium was entirely different to anything I’d seen from them before.
More beautiful than Hyouka, more elevating than Amagi Brilliant Park; if K-On! can be summed up as cute girls doing cute things, Hibike! was cute girls doing cool things. There were complex explorations of love and questions of ambition and purpose and drive all woven through the breathtaking symbolism that drew a dazzling, evolving portrait of adolescence into an unassuming school band. The cinematography was gorgeous, making me feel the pain of practice and the tension of performance, but it was ultimately the music that rightly stole the show, especially during the performance we’d been waiting for. What made it even more entertaining to follow were the cries of ‘Yuri-bait’ between Kumiko and Reina that only shed further light on how masterful KyoAni could be at portraying how confusing and exciting teenage life was, and how courageous you needed to be to become ‘special’ in that chaos of youth – though not without the right guide to lay you a steady path. Hibike! didn’t miss a beat for me, giving it ample opportunity to contend for Anime of the Year. Now, about that second season?
Let Down of the Season: Plastic Memories
Ack, I said before that I wouldn’t be talking about this show any more. But oh well – it deserves this spot more than anything else, since I dropped most of the other shows that left me disappointed.
Take a show that starts thinking it’s Time of Eve, finishes thinking it’s Clannad or Angel Beats!, and doesn’t remember that it has to in some way bridge the two; that’s PlaMemo. Not only is it a poor example of genre-crossing, however. It was also genuinely fantastic in places. The retrievals were small stories reminiscent of how tightly contained Death Parade could be in its execution of rapid character development and emotional dynamite. But the thing other episodic shows often do well is cap it all off with a final, climactic focus on the main characters behind all the little dramas. PlaMemo, on the other hand, finished its story around ep 10, with ep 11 acting as a kind of OVA. By that time all the character development was done, and the rest was just an epilogue to the traditionally-structured and effective romance of the series (if you overlook the hit-and-miss comedy, and the forgettable supporting cast, and those terrible every-slice-of-life-trope-we-can-remember episodes). A two-episode epilogue, that is, where nothing comes to challenge our couple in any way from getting exactly what they’ve signed up for. I could say the ‘climax’ of the show watches like fan-fiction, but that would be wrong. It watches like bad fan-fiction. Isla’s death was only a tear-jerker because of brilliant directorial choices, which still couldn’t make up for the emptiness of plot in those last few episodes. Overall, the series was misdirected with the potential for both incredible speculative sci-fi and memorable, meaningful romance. It ultimately failed at both, and if anyone wishes to celebrate it for not reaching for much more than the mediocrity it accomplished, then I should be able to celebrate the mediocrity of a review without insulting the author. But I don’t, and won’t, because artists and critics alike should be encouraged to aspire.
1st to be Dropped: Owari no Seraph
My first editorial was a half-essay, half-rant about why I gave up with the Attack on Titan rip-off I’d never asked for, so I don’t need to expand much on that here. It was a shame that Seraph of the End’s bold first episode bled none of its slick characterization, delicate themes and engrossing, heart-stopping, tear-wrenching violence (those poor children) into the rest of the series. At least Attack on Titan’s second season will eventually come around to give me the sincerity of action and emotion that the show was devoid of.
2nd to be Dropped: DanMachi
I guess I just couldn’t become a follower of the loli-boob-goddess Hestia, considering how most of my attention was focused on trying to see Bell as anything but an even blander version of Kirito. Another show/LN that seemed to piggyback off the success of a more popular franchise. Even if SAO’s later arcs were bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, its first 14 episodes (the ones actually in Sword Art Online) had some of my favourite moments in fantasy anime. DanMachi, on the other hand, had nothing remarkable going for it, as the ‘plots’ thickened, I opted out of seeing any more sleep-inducing fantasy and fan-service tropes than I needed to.
3rd to be Dropped: Denpa Kyoshi
I actually forgot about this one just as I was going to publish this post, which goes to show how unimpressive the series became overall. I actually made it into double figures, but it wasn’t long before the overly-stretched arc centred around the harem’s ‘trap’ made me realise that the only reason I tuned into this show was to hear the titular ‘ultimate otaku teacher’ announce that it was time to ‘begin the lecture’ each week (I have some simple pleasures). Sadly, even those small instances of joy lessened in greatness over time, leaving the series lost in the very definition of mediocrity.
There were also some shows that got ahead of me, so these are the series I’ll be catching up on over the summer:
Ore Monogatari: I have nothing against this sweet-as-sugar-coated-sugar romance, but it’s not the kind of thing I ‘look forward to’ every week or feel compelled to watch at a certain time. I much prefer having it float around as an option of what to watch when I’ve not got something high-priority to see.
Kekkai Sensen: Definitely a binge-watch series, a little like Baccano! is, considering how wonderfully all-over-the-place it is. I can take the disorientation of plot that Durarara!! offers on a weekly basis, but I’ve yet to be sold on Kekkai Sensen’s world and premise fully, so it’s something I want to do all in one go before I over-analyse the living daylights out of it.
OreGairu: I sometimes feel lonely on the internet when I see how many people write epically long essays about OreGairu’s later episodes. I had to stop after ep 8 after it was proving to be too hard a watch; the mood of the show was at odds with my own stresses, and I couldn’t enjoy anything that was there, especially the climax that episodes brought to the surface of the intricate relationships that I had previously critically drooled over in my pre-blogging days. I’ll never forget how much I loved S1, so I’ll finish the rest of the second season, probably all in one go, some time soon.
And that’s it! It might seem odd that a compilation of ‘highlights’ involves mostly talking about shows I was disappointed in, but having those reactions is as important a part of watching anime to me as finding shows I fall in love with. I’ve always found critics to be shaped more by what they hate than what they celebrate, but maybe that’s just what the internet is biased towards.
Thanks again to all you readers and bloggers for being what makes anime really matter to me. The next season will see me start my first episode-by-episode reviews, so stay tuned for my Summer 2015 schedule. Editorials will become more scarce, but I’m thinking of also introducing a few features, along with more criticisms in everything I write that are directed more at the Christian perspective I’ve been meaning to adopt on this blog. The over-analytical approach of a student preparing to read English at Oxford (if I make the grades) will remain though, so be ready for words with more syllables than there are shows this upcoming season. I hope you enjoy Summer 2015 with UEM! following you along the way!