Mike's Summer Season 2014 Review

Now that’s more like it. This season was full of great shows and  such a far step up from how weak last season was. However, during the Spring Season Retrospective, I stated that there would be at least seven shows that would be stronger than No Game, No Life. I was incorrect. That means that A) I overestimated how good this season was going to be i and B) I underestimated how good No Game, No Life actually was. Turns out it was real good and I didn’t give it enough credit. Happens. So yeah, there were not seven shows better than NGNL. There were only two. And they were pretty damn good. Let’s get to it.

Top 5 Shows

Honorable Mention: Persona 4 Golden The Animation ii

5. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

This show just didn’t let up. It was incredibly strong during it’s first half and easily maintained it’s momentum during the back half. It was probably the most consistent show of the season as there was never a weak episode.  It just simply brought it’s A-game to bare every single week and entertained. As entertaining as JoJo’s is when sh** gets poppin’, I don’t require anymore than that.

4. Sword Art Online: Season 2

Sword Art Online was an incredible show iiiiv. It’s a matter of a fact. It outstripped most shows of that year, including easily laying waste to the knock-off that is Accel World v. No show apart from Fate/Zero that year was able to touch it in terms of writing, characters, story, and overall quality. Season 2 had a tough act to follow and sadly it was not up to the challenge. That doesn’t mean it was a bad show. It’s hard to follow a season like the first Sword Art but Season 2 was placed behind the 8-ball from the get-go. The stakes are nowhere near as high as they were in Season 1 and this leads to the show having a distinct lack of urgency. When viewed through a critical vi lens, Gun Gale Online can look as melodramatic as any MMO that is taken way too seriously by a fan-base. This, paired with popular characters from the first season being pushed to the way side (even if for the purpose of developing an admittedly strong new female lead) just gives the show a feel of not having the same quality. It is still Sword Art, however. Kirito is still a strong, capable main male lead in an industry with a dearth of them and while SAO is more of my cup of tea, GGO seems like an interesting, well-thought-out concept for a game. While the writing does make the occasional mistep here and there, everything you loved (or hated) about the original show is still here. And that is still a strong showing.

3. Tokyo Terror

For a time, this was my top show of the season. The opening and ending were stunning and the show put on the most compelling cat-and-mouse theatre of Criminal vs. Police I’ve seen since Death Note. The little riddles Nine and Twelve left for police in regards to their bombs referencing Greek Mythology were highly engaging and the most captivating part of all of this is while they used their bombs to wreak havoc on police investigation it was never in the name genocide and they miraculously never killed anyone. I wanted to know why. The reason why, though interesting, is a bit of let down. They went in a roundabout, almost masturbatory way of communicating something that could’ve been done by leaving a note in someone’s mailbox. The common argument to this is “Then we wouldn’t have a show,” but that does not that absolve an anime of its sins, it only shines a spotlight on it. But it does not bring the show down too much. A rather lame ending does not allow one to disregard the strengths of a show and typically does not ruin it.vii. People tend to get so caught up in the destination that they forget about the journey. While the destination is unfortunately not what I expected, it was still well worth the ride.

2. Akame ga Kill

This is one of the shows that was better than No Game, No Life. But that wasn’t always the case. Akame ga Kill, in spite of itself, has a gift for being able to blend slapstick humor with grisly, stomach-rending violence in a way not seen since Angel Beats. Admittedly, it’s a pretty effective way of getting eyes on your show quickly and keeping them there. But this can lead to such tremendous tone whiplash that it can put some people off of the show and I can understand that. I was almost one of them. The show doesn’t always flow like I feel it should and the sudden tone changes are the main culprit. Fortunately, it’s story-telling and characters are so strong that it doesn’t matter. All of the characters on both sides of the conflict are so well-written and fleshed out that when it came time for a few of them to inevitably get picked-off, I actually felt something, which cannot be said for most anime I watch. Akame ga Kill is able to deftly balance development and screentime of all of its characters in a way that I haven’t seen since BLEACH, and like BLEACH, this is its greatest strength. Being able to make you care about both sides of a conflict and the people that inhabit each side is such a brilliant writing move that I don’t understand why most anime don’t do it. When it comes time for the final showdown between each side, rest assured that I’m going to feel some type of way. It has already sowed those seeds and now it’s time to bring in the harvest. And what a harvest it will be.

1. Aldnoah.Zero

Aldnoah.Zero was one the most hyped anime in recent memory and with good reason. When your show is going to war with the writer of Madoka, the musical composer of Guilty Crown viii, and the director of Fate/Zero, it has only two options: Be the best show of the year or be the biggest disappointment of the year. And Aldnoah is damn good. It’s visual style may be a little too vibrant for the story it is trying to tell but it doesn’t give a f*** about what I think when it comes to that. It tells a gripping tale of inter-planetary civil war that expertly sets the table for what could be a transcendent second season.  By alluding to prior events of the world before swiftly moving into the new modern conflict, Aldnoah is able to keep a brisk pace while slowing down at the appropriate moments to explain only what needs explaining. Walking the razor-thin line of “Don’t lose your audience” and “Show, Don’t Tell” is a tall task for any writer, regardless of medium. Gen Urobuchi walks that line magnificently and I wouldn’t expect anything less. By building to an extraordinary crescendo with an ending that legitimately punched me in the gut, the second season of Aldnoah.Zero is positioned to be the best anime of 2015 and can easily go toe-to-toe with the Durararas and Attack on Titans that will step up next year. After what this anime has just shown me, I wouldn’t dare bet against it. Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum. Let Justice Be Done Though the Heavens Fall.

 

Honorary Best Anime of the Season”

Hanamonogatari

Hanamonogatari was basically a two-hour OVA for Monongatari: Second Season. Though it came out this season, it was technically disqualifed from the rankings because it’s basically Monogatari but more of it. That doesn’t stop it from being fantastic though. SHAFT’s best-in-industry writing is still here in full force and it’s characters are still as incredible as ever. It took a while for them to give Kanburu her just due but when they stepped to it, they did not miss. This was my favorite piece of anime content I saw this season and because of this, I feel obligated to acknowledge it. This is the best possible way.

 

Best Female Character

“Esdeath” of Akame ga Kill

Esdeath_up_close

Honorable Mentions: Asseylum Vers Allusia (Aldnoah.Zero), Five (Tokyo Terror)

 

Best Male Character

“Slaine Troyard” of Aldnoah.Zero

salineHonorable Mentions: Kenjirou Shibazaki (Tokyo Terror), Nine (Tokyo Terror)

 

Biggest Disappointment

Sailor Moon: Crystal

It has been over two years since Sailor Moon was first announced back in July 2012. After being set to release in Summer 2013, it was pushed back to 2014. And now it’s out, and it’s a bit of a travesty. Part of me feels like it is my fault, like I expected too much, and I probably did. What I expected to be a reboot of the beloved franchise was actually a remake, but it’s not even a good one. In its haste to hark back to the older series, the show nearly looks exactly as it did 15 years ago to the point where I couldn’t readily tell the difference. It did not feel like the show pushed it’s visuals forward with the tech and technique of today but instead up-resed the art of the old series and called it a day. It is even more damning that instead putting most of its effort into beautifully animating it’s transformation sequences, the most iconic aspect of Sailor Moon, it instead chose to just show these in CG, and bad CG at that. On top of this, in essentially watching the same show again, it throws in the sharp relief how Sailor Moon, at it’s core, is just not a very good show. None of the characters are even moderately interesting and Serena’s (Yes, I know her Japanese name is Usagi but I’m calling her Serena) voice actress, though same as the original, performs in such an high, screeching voice that it makes me actually loathe the character. Not to mention, there’s the very troubling legacy issue of a man in college pursuing a romantic relationship with a 14-year old girl in middle school. All so its episodes can come out every two weeks. It’s a crying shame. Every aspect of Sailor Moon is on it’s knees, begging for a reboot featuring updated visuals, rewritten characters and a plot that is more fit for the modern age but its cries go unheard. When summed up, it is everything you can ever ask for in the most disappointing anime of the season, and easily the most disappointing anime of the year.

Honorable Mention: Tokyo Ghoul

 

Best Insert Song

“INTERSECT” by Toshiyuki Morikawa & Kensho Ono (Bakamatsu Rock)

 

Top 5 Openings

Honorable Mentions: “Sen no Tsubasa” by livetune adding Takuro Sugawara from 9mm Parabellum Bullet (Re:_Hamatora),  “Thunderclap” by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas (Sengoku Basara: Judge End)

5. “Hanaha Odori Reya Iroha ni Ho” by Team Hanayamata (Hanayamata)

4. “Mukaikaze ni Uta Renagara” by Minori Chihara (Rail Wars!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEF3Ee9ij4s

3. “ENAMEL” by SID (Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus)

2. “Trigger” by Yuki Ozaki (Tokyo Terror)

1. “Unravel” by tk of Ling Tosite Sigure (Tokyo Ghoul)

 

Top 5 Endings

Honorable Mentions:   “I Didn’t Want to Know About This Kind of World” by Miku Sawai (Akame ga Kill), “the last day of my adolescence” by Miyuki Sawashiro (Hanamonogatari)

5. “Dare ka, umi o.” by Aimer (Tokyo Terror)

4. “Dazzling Smile” by Shihoko Hirata (Persona 4 The Golden Animation)

3. “Silver Salvation” by Yousei Teikoku (Tokyo ESP)

2. “OVERDRIVER” by ZAQ (Rail Wars!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xr3j3Ua3iFI

1.“aLIEz” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:mizuki (Aldnoah.Zero)

 

Final Thoughts

Where in the hell is High School of the Dead Season 2? I’m going to keep asking this until we get High School of the Dead Season 2. High School of the Dead is a god damned Japanese national treasure ix and deserves to be treated as such. Anyway, this season it’s about Psycho Pass Season 2 trying to become anime of the year and Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works being the best looking anime ever made. Everything else is secondary. In the meantime, someone get this girl a uniform!

 

PEW PEW PEW PEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWW! <3

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