Well, despite almost losing her finger, your mistress of mean is back and caught up, and it’s finally time for this quarter’s installment in our season recaps! Where I hand out a bunch of bullshit awards to series based on how they will probably distinguish themselves in my memory.
Following this, each series (save the last) will receive it’s own recap, where I try to take the more objective approach to judging these series (but judge them we shall), as opposed to the knee-jerk stuff you see here week to week. My opinions may have changed as time wore on, after all. Here is a general order, though each series may jockey ahead or behind one space: Space Dandy (an abridged review), Nobunagun, Noragami, Strike the Blood, Sakura Trick, Kill la Kill.
Enough stalling, let’s get to it!
Winter’s Most Important Series: On so many levels, this has to be awarded to Sakura Trick. I said at the very start that Sakura Trick is almost insidious in how it expresses gay people as human beings through its audience’s collective penis, and though I’m not a Yuri genre fan in general, it is very hard to see Yuri as a whole return to business as usual after the sophisticated treatment in Sakura Trick. The story dynamics were thought out, the humor was wide reaching and consistently funny, there were story arcs, the characters had dimensions beyond their existence as fanservice. It is thus the most important series this season, I think, beating out KILL la KILL in terms of “revolutionary”. It will almost certainly not be as popular, and while we can’t speak to the possible or impossible immortality of Sakura Trick, we do know that it is going to be an important series, if nothing else as a benchmark for Yuri and Slice of Life comedy for the next several years. And on a personal level, Sakura Trick is important to me because I think it brought out the best in me as a fan and as a critic. Some of my best work emerged analyzing this series, challenging me to rise to its level. So regardless of its position in anime history, it will always be extremely important to me.
Winter’s Biggest Disappointment: I regret it, I was quite possibly one of this show’s biggest champions, but I must hand this to Nobunagun. What started out with, hands down, bar none, the strongest opening of the Winter’14 season tripped over its own success and took a tumble that left it permanently limping the remainder of the run. It managed to redeem itself at least as passable entertainment, but the damage was done and its rebound too late to save the series from its impression as a directionless mess of shonen cliches. While, say, Strike the Blood is a consistently bland piece of mediocrity with bits of competence peeking at us in breaths, Nobunagun had already introduced itself as perhaps the most brilliant anime on air in those early weeks. And this really falls on the main draw of the first two episodes, that of the Asao/Shio relationship, which was immediately jettisoned in favor of a cast of the most bland of action heroes with the WEIRDEST fingers in all of anime, which didn’t know any other type of characterization other than the creepy, molester kind. Perhaps they just didn’t know what they had, and I can only hope that our collective outcry of “Give us more Asao-san ship!” will be heard as it was in Ga Rei, and perhaps the print installments will adapt accordingly. But until then, this series stung right in the fangirl.
Winter’s Most Evocative Anime: This is awarded to Noragami. Not just in myself, but in fan circles all around the world, it managed in its depiction of the character Yukine to give the most punchable face that anime has ever seen. If, at around episode 8, there had been Yukine plushies that cried when you hit them in the face? I estimate the industry would have earned no less than 3 billion units sold (I don’t really know math). That is always going to be what Noragami means to me, I’m afraid, as settling on a rather pedestrian final act and a bullshit morality resolution to the Yukine plot soured the great feelings I had for the series. But there is no doubt that it was finely crafted, with a lot of attention paid to its character dynamics to make you care about them without being too overt about it and ramming the sap down your throat. It was an excellent balance and a very “girly” action series that I would recommend to almost anyone.
Winter’s Most Frustrating Experience: Yeah, it’s the Space Dandy award. I am tempted to give it “worst anime” but I’ve seen Witchcraft Works. That and, as I’ve said, I do not consider Dandy an objectively BAD anime, but it is never something I would force myself to sit through by choice. Even if coerced, you’d have to threaten my wife. Not even. My wife, my siblings, throw in a couple friends and my grandmother all with guns pointed at their heads…and I might negotiate that I don’t have to sit through the Boobies scenes. The Great Anna-sama has limits, and they were all summoned into the form of a frat boy with a pompadour hairdo in order to best me. It is hard to imagine a series like this popping up by chance, and not some dastardly plot by Watanabe to show how much he hates ME, personally.
Winter’s Most Adjusted Expectations: How to sum up how I feel about KILL la KILL? It was such a wild ride, but in the context of the Winter Season only, I think this award is fitting. Granted, my rosy glasses were cracked before the Autumn season had even finished, but week after week KILL la KILL taught me that hope was a lie. And, hey, the episodic reviews are there, in their original glory, I quote, ahem, “Yes, surprise surprise, logic is not at the forefront of the menu in KILL la KILL.”, and “While very much a style over substance first outing,” and “I can’t promise it will be deep, but it will be FUN.” So even my expectations have been tempered from the beginning. But where we hoped for twists, we found shame. Trigger seemed to adopt a bipolar stance in regards to swinging from completely cliche to defying expectations. But much like having Captain Kirk killed by a no-name bad guy, just because it is against expectations does not mean it is automatically satisfying storytelling. At the Elections arc, I had high hopes. I saw the faintest glimmers of drama and allowed myself to get drawn into the show. And, as the record shows, by Episode 12 that was shown to be so much nonsense. And my hopes to get a satisfying story dwindled to a satisfying story-element, then hoping that if we couldn’t have that, could we have a satisfying CHARACTER by episode 21…and when even that failed us, I was only asking for a satisfying MOMENT, and those were hard to come by. But these are mostly the result of my own willingness to let KILL la KILL troll me into hoping it was going to be interesting. Not any specific flaws with what was presented. KILL la KILL still comes recommended…as fun. As a way to waste time. There is an inherent magic in a show where I can see the same transformation sequence week after week and still be as excited as I was at the beginning. And that at least says something very important.
Series I Wish We Had Covered: Last season I added this out of frustration with the line up. Even KILL la KILL had betrayed me and I was regretting not picking a series I would have truly enjoyed. But this season, I still regard everything but Dandy winners. Yes, even Nobunagun. But with such a good line up…I miss my sadistic side. So this season I award this to Nobunaga the Fool, a series I would have loved to have here…if only to stomp on it with my heels and watch it beg for mercy.
Well, that’s Winter 2014 in review. I’ll see you guys at the series recaps! Up first: Space Dandy….ungh…