Surprise Season Recap: Summer 2013

Another “on a whim” post.  As I sit anxiously awaiting the next week of premieres, I decided I’d recap the series I watched in the Summer of 2013 to better offer insight into why I even began this venture. There was lots of stuff to talk about this season from a creative level.  So, here’s what I thought, along with some nonsense awards:

Summer’s Biggest Disappointment: As close to follow up to the last post as you’ll get, Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi was ultimately disappointing to me. I think the desire to not “bastardize” original works is excellent, but often that takes the form of making a story completely incompatible with the format you have chosen to present it in.  So while I still think the series was overall on the positive end of the spectrum (particularly art-style wise), the lack of flowing narrative really nailed this one into the ground (no pun intended). At the end of it all, the entire work taken on it’s own, I cannot rate it any better than average. Which is a disappointment because the first half of the series was superior to pretty much everything all season, even the next show, which by no small feat ended up as…

Summer’s Big Winner: There’s a bit of an adage that you can tell how popular a series is by how fast its fansub comes out. In the case of Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou, this started in July at 2 days, and slowly accelerated to a mere two hours after airing.  What people underestimated due to the loose drawing style and bright colors showed us some dark moments with wonderful fighting and a bit of a mystery to go along with it. In the case of the LGBT community…this was also our biggest win.  The character Luna is 1) definitely gay. And 2) No one has a problem with that.  To cap it all off, 3) it was not a crippling disability to the story.  What I mean is, it didn’t drive her crazy or automatically make her evil.  While Luna was our “fall” character, she was tricked, and little more.  Her romantic attachment to Akari could literally be played as a straight romance, either making Luna or Akari the boy, and you wouldn’t even need to change the dialogue.  And that is a win, really.  Even ignoring this aspect of the series, characters visibly grew (unlike certain other gravekeeper series). Seira visibly softens, not just in words, but in her design and tone. Luna likewise toughens up (I am in love with her post-redemption look, the same doughy eyes we came to love with a hawkish fierceness to them, not to mention the dog claws and ears that turn her into a complete badass), her words become decisive as she fights to protect Akari.  The fights were among the best this season, and I hope to see more of this series somewhere in the future. And with so many loose ends in the Leguzario.

Biggest Nostalgia Trip: Rozen Maiden (2013) wins this one easy.  Okay, you got me. I am making up awards as I go along. Think of them as just little phrase descriptors.  I was new to Rozen Maiden, only catching episodes here and there at friends (this series hence made me go back and watch it completely). It is a reboot in the sense of tone, flow, and overall depth of the work.  It also did the nice retcon of jettisoning Jun’s original social phobia to stem from when embarrassing drawings were revealed and becoming physically sick in front of all his classmates.  Much more “in touch” than just poor grades, which yes, while Japan, always seemed a LITTLE excessive and more like fishing for a reason that parents would approve of. This version is more in tune with the manga, so the characters are slightly different, but still recognizable.  Suigintou especially takes several levels up in likability (did you know that was possible?).  No longer the manic witch, she’s much more “revenge” oriented, slipping much more easily into the role of Antihero than she did in Traumend. The same lovable black angel is there, just a little more self-superior.  Shinku is much more vulnerable, almost as if to counterbalance it, passive even to the point of indolence.  The ending gets a -little- tongue-bathy, as references get thrown at you. In episode 10 especially, all of the old dolls are tossed in at the last minute, in a series which -until that moment- had been very newb-friendly.  It is still watchable on its own, but a little disorienting I imagine if it’s your first Rozen Maiden. Still, it was a great series, and a perfect part 3 with hopes of part 4…? (SIDENOTE: The Megu/Suigintou romance is arguably the most adorable nine minutes of the entire season. I fell in love with the series at that moment with Sui singing on the rooftop.

Best Comedy: No contest, a show that has risen to become my favorite anime comedy of all time. Yes. All time. I am calling it.  Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou (InuHasa) is absurd on ten million levels, makes little sense, and is mostly an excuse to exert some fetish-humor, and I adore it.  I probably love it more than most people should, feeling a bit of kinship with Natsuno (TMI?), but hey, it’s my blog, I do what I want.  As long as you can recognize that “dog” and “flat chest” is a word play insult at each other, you can glide through. It is Japanese comedy, so expect some dissonance. The idea that Natsuno, as one of the world’s greatest writers, makes up nonsense words is a source of humor leaned on heavily.  But other stuff is just (Monty) Pythonesque in how surreal it all is. I laughed my ass off. So much so I believe my fiance may have tried to kill me several times. But I didn’t care, I was laughing too hard.

Most Cringe-Worthy Adaptation: Okay, so on the whole it wasn’t bad, but Danganronpa had a large share of problems.  The simple problem was pace.  16 characters (17 if we count Monokuma as his own entity) and 13 episodes left little room for development.  The final trial alone, in game, has over two hours of spoken dialogue. Dangan on it’s own has some 25-30 hours spoken dialogue, along with text boxes and exploration items that also count as lore objects.  Cramming that into 13 24min episodes is going to be a challenge for anyone.  They really should have held out for 26 episodes. They even cut out the opening and ending theme in the final two episodes as if they JUST realized what a chore this is.  The mystery element was mostly lost, as well.  Major details were withheld until the trials themselves, so that the red herrings would simply distract you until the drama was already upon you, not perhaps lead your reasoning astray like they normally would. There was also the “you have a line” syndrome. Any character who spoke was likely to be offed in the near future, almost certainly the current trial. It was just crammed so tight that there was no other way to do it.  This series had the biggest “two days until retirement” syndrome, as any detail about any character would probably lead to their death. I hope they make the second series, and I hope they push it to be a full two seasons.

Series that Took it Easy: Fantasista Doll was probably the laziest show this season. Formulaic, relying on comedy-Yuri-harem antics in a very safe manner.  There were genuinely touching, funny, and badass moments, but none of it carried any weight. If you haven’t noticed, I hold static slice-of-life series in low regard. This doubly counts if they get more than one season, and Fantasista Doll will almost assuredly get more seasons because people lap it up. And I will probably watch because I hold out hope there will be more weighty plots.  Really, Fantasista Doll is most entertaining from the perspective atop the fourth wall.  There were lots of jokes (especially if you’re a fan of the yuri-genre) that just got slapped in that really seemed to be a legitimate running gag of “did we mention yuri yet?” Those worked pretty well, too. It is really a shame because Fantasista Doll had the opportunity to explore love in the master/servant context like no other show has had the chance to do. They very lightly brushed it in the second fight with crazy stalker opponent, but that was really the “meatiest” chunk of the series.  The character of Sasara was incredibly interesting, too. Which is probably why the overwhelming majority of this show’s fans find her a wet blanket.  She’s a samurai, through and through, and seems out of place in an otherwise consequence-free environment.  Characters have some very sad backstory elements, but they never really payoff, because we know in ten minutes they will overcome them, and with finality. Only at the very end did the dolls seem to remember that there was supposed to be dissatisfied tension. It was probably the series highpoint, seeing the dolls gush and finally not just smile, but be truly happy.  One brief glimpse of subtlety…that played out in 120 seconds. Overall, Fantasista Doll has all the elements of a touching series that warms the heart and makes you laugh all the way, but it’s like a hollow copy. A cargo-cult harem series that desperately hopes by mimicking the shape of a good show, one will appear. It sadly didn’t work out that way.

 

And that’s all I “officially” watched this season. I poked around at Neptunia, but have thus far only gotten halfway. Same with Fate/Kalied and Symphogear (though Symphogear would be immune to blogging since it is a sequel series.)

See you next later this week when the first of the regular reviews start coming out.

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