Season Recap: Spring 2014

Been breaking a lot of rules the past couple months. Guess that’s just how it is.  I hate to do these before I’ve completed all I intended to with the episodic stuff but with us sitting literally hours away from the Summer season, I’ll at least handle this now that everything’s done airing.

It’s time for our totally nonsense award show, and boy, how the samey-ness is stirring. So many of these held 3-4 contenders, but it was so very tough to pick one!

How’s this fake enthusiasm selling it?

Spring’s Laziest Series: This is coming down hard, but I hand this to Akuma no Riddle. Formulaic, insulting to its audience’s intelligence, and just. So. Boring.  I think that was ultimately the worst part about this series, was how utterly generic and predictable it was. Most of the time. There were indeed stellar episodes, but most of these were less about actual content than promising set ups.  Except Episode 6. That just turned out to be made entirely of lies.  This was not a show about yuri assassins, it was a Precious Moments collection of yuri assassins.  The characters and scenarios were display pieces only, not meant to be rough handled because that might produce imperfections in the safe ensemble of archetypes. It wasn’t badness, per se.  It was generic.  Beige sweatervest, beige slacks, with an every-joe voice that you couldn’t pick out of a crowd.  The set up may have been about trying to “kill” a lead character, but there was little difference in tone between this show and Sakura Trick in the end. But at least the latter was honest about how bubbly it was.  Akuma no Riddle was the vampire kid on South Park. Dressed a big game, but didn’t want to get its hands dirty, and ultimately no different from its preppy neighbors when you got right down to it. Like I said, it wasn’t outright bad, otherwise it might be getting…

Spring’s Biggest Disappointment: Despite my mean girl attitude and clear disregard for social convention, your Mistress does check her hit counts once or twice a week.  Anyone who has an anime blog knows this pattern: One or two shows account for nearly half your traffic, with the others and older hits making up the rest.  This season’s big name was Akuma no Riddle, but in the early weeks, there was a second series just as frequent, if not more prolific. Yes, Black Bullet.  What began as a rather competent if not entirely self-aware action series just plummeted after week four into a nosedive of absolute dreck. It was an assassination of a promising series.  No slow death, no. Just a switch was thrown in Episode 5 that threw the series against the wall and gunned down all hope and promise.  There was a slight revival towards the end when they went back to the Gastrea plot (you know, the premise of the series), and the return of the always amazing Kagetane. But not enough.  Which is a shame, as I loved Episode 13 to bits.  But it was like a bad student who suddenly scores high on his tests and turns in all his homework during the month of may in the hopes that the teacher will remember his good behavior and take it easy when report cards come home in June.  The studio said, “Oh shit, we want a series 2 right? Let’s make the last episode good, just for a change of pace.”  While I am personally not bothered by the loli stuff, I am annoyed by the harem antics that dominate this post-apocalyptic monster-bug-zombie-plague.  A wonderful premise and rather engaging first act, but the rest is best left buried under the floorboards.

Spring’s Worst Series: Do you need to ask? Gokukoku no Brynhildr comes out leaving her competitors in the dust, folks! While the kitsch of the series was forgivable when this was a fun mystery series, when it turned into full harem antics with Chris Hansen warning signals over everything, it ceased to be a dumb fun series and just became dumb.  Wait why complain here when Black Bullet was worse in the sexualizing minors department? Was it? Was it really? Say what you will but Black Bullet was at least behind a veil of “oh those wacky loli antics” with misunderstandings and played for laughs.  In Brynhildr it was just straight up wank material. “I want to have your babies” belongs in a Robot Chicken parody of Justin Bieber, not your dramatic magical girl series.  Needless to say, lack of direction, lack of characters, lack of MOTIVATION took an already flimsy pretense and stuck it naked in the stockades for all the world to see its shame.

Spring’s Guilty Pleasure: While my terminology may be hyperbole, and while the show did deliver this season’s lowest moment, I admit a certain affection for Blade and Soul. As I explained in my review of Episode 9, the show took risks, and that was lacking in most of the shows this season (one could argue, in anime in general).  It is obvious that Gonzo just shat this thing out to fulfill a contract, but occasionally, you did see glimpses where people working on this thing would experiment with ideas, test something new, switch up the dynamics just to mess with our expectations.  There is a sense you get when something is pumped out to meet some arbitrary deadline, the director staring into his paycheck to remind himself why he took this job, but Blade and Soul, a handful of times, showed us that some people wanted this to be better than a potboiler adaptation. And while I don’t expect to go back and watch it again (certainly not in full), I think, for this show, I will taking up Devil’s Advocate, should the topic ever arise. It’s worth that much.

Spring’s Big Winner: Pretend you’re surprised, but obviously Knights of Sidonia wrecks the competition here. To all the naysayers who think anime has lost its way, that the creative forces can’t challenge our minds and souls, Sidonia proves that strong work can still emerge when you least expect it.  And arguably, it will prove that the new cel-shading style remains.  If this had crashed and burned? Might have been a cute experiment. But Sidonia is likely to become a windfall, and imitators will emerge. Hey, 3-D might have been years behind if Toy Story had sucked.  Sidonia tackled issues of the relationship between individual and state, the difference between morality and law, the nature of Humanity, and a host of other things that fit a grand work of science fiction. Not a perfect series, but an amazingly engaging one that has me (even me) excited for the follow up material. This is one of those shows that years and years from now we will still be picking out possible themes and messages, and for the glory of hypnotoad, we can all now go and get caught up on the print version.

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2 thoughts on “Season Recap: Spring 2014

  1. I didn’t watch Blade and Soul or Gokukoku no Brynhildr, and I was pretty quick to drop Akuma no Riddle after I figured it really wasn’t the kind of show I generally like in the first place, but I guess we have kind of similar tastes? I really enjoyed Knights of Sidonia despite not being a mecha or even sci-fi fan – other than Mushishi, I definitely think it was the most solid title of the spring season. And Black Bullet was indeed a huge disappointment, although personally, I’m naming Captain Earth as my number one disappointment this time around.

  2. Another thing is with sakura trick the arc they were translating into anime form was one that did not work as well in anime form, if they had say taken the later issues and done them it might have been better whereas akuma they just ignored the manga completely and it just became generic moe with some occasional killing.
    After the disappointment of macross frontier (look guys Evangelion is my favourite anime and all and i appreciate it when references to it are made but blatantly ripping it off is a NO) i was ready to stop watching mechas but knights of sidonia made my interest come back, so while spring was mostly weak hoping for a better summer, till then stay frosty.

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