HazMatt's Top 5/Bottom 5 Summer Anime Season 2014

 

With the summer coming to a close and autumn on its way, it’s time for my (super late) mid-season top 5/bottom 5. I’m going to be doing something a little bit different this time around, simply because there’s so much to talk about this season on top of a few of the continuations from last season. Typically I only like to mention new shows and leave out continuations or second seasons, but for this specific article, I’ll be making an exception.

 

Top 5

Aldnoah Zero – When I first saw the announcement for this series, I had high expectations, mainly due to the staff working on it. Based on Urobuchi Gen’s work, you definitely get the same feel of his previous projects. For those of you who don’t know, he is the writer of Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, Saya no Uta, and Fate/Zero, just to name a few well known titles. If having a good writer for Aldnoah wasn’t enough, it has Ei Aoki as the director, who also worked on Fate/Zero and Kara no Kyoukai. Still not impressed? Aldnoah’s soundtrack composer, Hiroyuki Sawano, was the same composer of soundtracks from Guilty Crown, Kill la Kill, and Attack on Titan.

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I honestly feel this is the best show of the season, only to be rivaled by a series I will mention later on. Some might feel skeptical about having the thought, “with a staff like that you can’t go wrong.” But the truth of the matter is, they didn’t go wrong. Even if you aren’t a fan of mech anime, this is still worth checking out at the very least. Having finished the series already, I can tell you that it is much less about the mechs, and more about the characters and story. One thing to keep in mind while you watch this: don’t think of Inaho as the main character. You will enjoy the show that much more if you bear that in mind.

It’s available on Crunchyroll here.

Zankyou no Terror – Though I know little about Mappa studio, they must have had a massive budget for this. The animation is smooth and sharp, and the story gives the same feeling of suspense as Death Note did. In fact, I haven’t felt this kind of suspense since Death Note. The characters are all well done for their parts, minus the one bystander that gets caught up in the middle of the commotion. She quite literally serves almost no purpose, other than to be a liability. Despite this, the plot execution and cat-and-mouse suspense is more than enough to make up for it.

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This is the only other anime this season that I feel can rival Aldnoah Zero. Both have me grunting in frustration at the end of each episode because I have to wait a week to see what happens. Definitely check this one out. It isn’t on Crunchyroll, but I believe you can find it on hulu.

Akame ga Kill – At first I didn’t know what to think of this show. It sort of had a Naruto feel to it minus the overly optimistic and annoying main character. The battles aren’t over the top, but they aren’t anything to sneeze at either. As the series progressed, I found myself liking it more and more. Eventually, it got to the point where it bumped my personal number three show to fourth place (which I will explain later as well). All of the main players in this show are likable and unique. Even the villains have quirks and personalities that you just can’t hate on. One of the things this series does that I like is that it shows a conflict from both sides of the spectrum, instead of the cliché “these are the bad guys because we’re the protagonists and we said so.”

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If you like intense battles with borderline supernatural abilities, this one is for you. Go Nightraid. It can be found on Crunchyroll here.

Tokyo ESP – Let me just start off by saying I really enjoyed Ga Rei Zero. This show is written by the same author. But what makes it interesting is that you really don’t have to have seen or read Ga Rei Zero to understand what’s going on in this show. You see a couple characters from Ga Rei, but they are mostly just cameos. I can only assume it was a throwback.

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This was the show in my top three that got bumped down to four. This is not to say that this show is bad by any means. One thing that I can say for sure is that the tension, over arcing plot and aim of the characters is very much like the movie “X-Men.” Just replace mutants with ESPers, switch around the abilities a little bit, and there you have it.

Available on Hulu here.

Last but not least, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (The Irregular at Magic High School) – I had to put this in my top 5 simply because it’s not very often that I pick up a show after dropping it. Usually when I drop something, it’s because there’s something about it that just bothers me, enough to the point where its merits don’t shine enough to keep me going.

From the first few episodes, I felt that it was going to be another one of those typical school dramas focused around a girl with an older brother complex. These genres I tend to stay away from because, well, I just don’t like them.

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About halfway through the season, more and more people around me kept talking about how good it was, so I bit the bullet and picked it back up once I was told it switches focus to more important things. As it turned out, I ended up actually enjoying this show quite much. The animation was really well done. That’s initially what drew me in. The battles got fairly intense later on, and the tension continued to tighten. I won’t spoil anything for those that haven’t seen this yet, but when I found out what Tatsuya actually was and his purpose, it got infinitely more interesting.

Mahouka is a longer series (spanned over spring and summer seasons), but it was well worth the watch if you like magic and high school done properly by Madhouse Studios (*coughMahouSensoucough*). Check it out on Crunchyroll here.

 

Bottom 5

Free! Eternal Summer – One thing is certain: it sure felt like an eternal summer watching this. And in Arizona, that would be a bad thing. Where do I even start? This season of free was so incredibly bad. Even the otaku girls I talk to that are into yaoi didn’t like it either. That says something.

For starters, there was little about actual swimming in this season. Kyoto Animation suddenly switched focus away from competition and practice, and in the worst way possible. Not only did this make the show quite boring to watch, but it didn’t accomplish anything objectively until the last few episodes.

I don’t mind a little bromance in anime, but this took it to a whole new level. In one scene, we have this new character Sousuke, who was a friend of Rin’s from way back. They end up sharing a dorm together with bunk beds. One of them says, “Oh that’s right, you prefer bottom too.”

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This all but did it for me. I could tell at this point that the writers really didn’t care to put effort into making the story interesting, but rather milk the gay fanservice for all it’s worth.

But hey, if that’s what you want, then go here and knock yourself out.

Glasslip – I had my eye on this because P.A. Works was doing it. About halfway through the series, I couldn’t bear to watch any more because I felt like I was lied to. The summary for this show mentions glass artisans, so therefore I assumed I would be watching an anime about the hardships and accolades of such a profession.

Boy was I wrong to assume anything. I noticed a trend by about episode 5 or 6. They threw in about 10-15 seconds worth of actual glass blowing per episode, which I assume was to do the title justice. The actual focus of the story has nothing to do with that, however.

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As it turns out, this is actually a romance/drama series (and a boring one). Even though I enjoy these types of anime from time to time, they really didn’t do anything to hold my attention. None of the supposed comedic parts were funny, and they really didn’t do a good job of making me care about the “he said/she said” crap.

I will give it one thing: it’s very beautifully animated. P.A. Works is known for their prettiness. It’s just too bad that their stellar animation quality had to suffer from such a shallow plot, and boring execution.

It’s here on Crunchyroll if you have nothing better to do.

Rail Wars! – This is one of two shows out of my bottom 5 that I finished. Do I regret watching it? A little bit. There wasn’t much to this series. Main guy wants to drive trains, and must work for the civil service to learn more about operations. The others in his group were all very stereotypical.

You have the big breasted, delicate, helpful nice girl. Then you have the red-headed tsundere. Third is… well, the bro I guess? Mr. exercise/sports/Call of Duty YEAH! Though I will say, he didn’t serve much purpose other than to make the main cast a round number of four. Considering the stupid blatant fanservice this show was chock-full of, he may as well have been another girl with a different stereotypical archetype.

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I expected a show about trains. Really, it’s about stopping terrorists. It just happens to have trains in it. Considering the nature of the genre this falls under, I really can’t say anything super positive about it. The animation is decent, but everything else is just a train-wreck (no pun intended).

But if you like trains with an emphasis on “cabooses” and silly fanservice, then maybe this is right up your rail… err, I mean alley. You can board the video-car here.

Blade Dance of the Elementalers – I went into this knowing it was probably going to be bad, but there was nothing redeeming about this to even make it “so-bad-it’s-good.”

I don’t have much to say about this show (other than don’t waste your time). The best way I can describe it is that it’s a poor man’s Zero no Tsukaima (Familiar of Zero).  It’s definitely not the first of its kind, and certainly won’t be the last.

It’s on Crunchyroll here for those of you who live for bad shows like these.

M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane –  The second of the bottom 5 that I finished. This was probably one of the worst “mecha” anime I’ve seen in a long time. I picked this one up because it was categorized as “mech.” Half the show doesn’t even involve them whatsoever, and instead they focus on the psyche of the characters.

In this world, it’s possible for people to be “connected.” You can share thoughts, feelings and emotions without having to say a word. The main characters are all trained to do this in combat in order to fight in the “lightless realm.” When they explained what exactly the lightless realm was, I wanted to gag. The “corpses” they were fighting in these specialized mechs the whole time? Worst idea ever.

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They didn’t bother explaining any of these things until the last few episodes, which felt like rush jobs when the studio realized, “Oh whoops. Guys we only have four episodes left and we haven’t explained anything. Better get on that.”

The whole concept is very confusing and not interesting at all. To make things worse, I felt like the characters didn’t even know what was going on. The “twist” at the end wasn’t even much of one, and made absolutely no sense. The ending resolution gave me no closure whatsoever, leaving me with a million questions unanswered. That in and of itself worries me that they will make a second season, which I really hope they don’t do. Goganime has it here.

 

Not strong enough to be in the top 5, but worth mentioning.

Persona 4 Golden: The Animation – If you watched the first season of Persona 4, you probably already jumped on this. For those that haven’t, but have played the game, I highly recommend this. It’s not a complete re-telling of the story, but they throw in the extra stuff in the Golden.

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If there’s anything I miss from Persona 4, it’s the characters. The Golden animation has a good number of episodes of just the characters doing random things, and it’s fantastic. But they also went more into Adachi’s side of things which was also very well done.

Don’t worry, Marie got plenty of screen time. Crunchyroll has this here. i

Sabagebu! – My dark horse of the season. This was probably the best comedy I’ve seen so far this year. They manage to do it without mindless fanservice, or relying on gimmicks. They make a few subtle references, but they aren’t the bulk of why this show is funny.

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For those gun fanatics (like me) out there, you are in for a treat. They actually talk about the guns and use the real technical names. Aside from that, however, the character interactions are simply hilarious. Even the narrator comes into play.

All in all, worth watching if you like comedy. I laughed every episode, and a couple of them had me dying in my chair. This was everything C3-bu should have been. It’s here on Crunchyroll.

But why aren’t you talking about/watching________________?

Sword Art: Gun Gale Online – Let me just start off by saying I am watching this season of Sword Art, and I enjoy it. I don’t think it’s better than the first season, but it’s better than the ALO arc. I didn’t really want to put this in the top/bottom 5 for a couple reasons:

1. Even though I enjoy it, I don’t think it’s better than the top 5.

2. It’s infinitely better than anything in my bottom 5.

Honestly I feel like it’s a waste of time to try and review SAO with the intent of explaining why it’s good/bad. The fans are already watching this season, so I don’t need to persuade anyone into it. The haters will continue to hate and not care about it.

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Here’s where I stand when it comes to SAO: I don’t believe it’s the best of any season, year or all time. It does not deserve all the hype it gets. On the fripside flip side, I don’t believe it deserves all the hate it gets either. I’ve seen plenty of bad shows in my time and SAO is nowhere near the level of garbage I’ve seen. If you wanna buy into the hype though, it’s right here on Crunchyroll.

Sailor Moon Crystal – Let it be known I was born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s. I watched the old sailor moon as a kid growing up.  I never really understood what was going on, but it was on before the other shows I was waiting for. When I got older I went back and watched each episode in order.

When Sailor Moon Crystal was announced, “excited” isn’t the word I would use to describe my reaction. After I read that it was to follow the original manga, I was a little more interested since I’ve never read it.

Having seen the first seven episodes of the new series, I can tell you that this is really nothing more than a nostalgia trip for me. I can’t objectively say that this show is fantastic. It’s not that it’s bad either, but there’s a few things about the show that have always bothered me.  I won’t go into them right now, but there’s a video out there that I think perfectly addresses the series. You can watch the series pretty much anywhere but its on Crunchyroll here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mziTsgji7to

 

That about wraps things up. As always, if I didn’t mention a show, it probably wasn’t interesting enough to me to bother watching, or it’s not better/worse than the top/bottom 5. If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, our Summer 2014 Retrospective is up for a more in-depth discussion. Stay tuned for my Fall Anime Season Top/Bottom 5, hopefully not super late like this one.

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