Hello again readers! This is part two of the Winter 2015 final thoughts, if you would like to check out part one, click here.
While that might be a common opinion on most Winter seasons, and definitely holds true for the last few years, Winter in 2015 has been a pleasant surprise, stunning original series, trash LN adaptations turning out good, and highly anticipated sequels. It’s a good time to be an anime fan!
Right after saying that, I will preface by admitting my opinions on some of the shows covered in this post are quite negative, hopefully that impression will be rounded out in Part 3.
(Note: This post, due to its nature as thoughts upon full series completion, will contain spoilers.)
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano)
Saekano is one of the many dreaded Light Novel (LNs: those things that are killing anime!) adaptations that came out this season, and while I didn’t keep up with its four (more battle/fantasy-based) contemporaries, I watched this one all the way through. “Why?” you may ask – because it’s pretty good, and I genuinely liked it much more than I thought I would. Due to the talk I had been hearing about the source material and the rather unsavoury translated title, I had the initial impression that Saekano would be awful trash, and I was about ready to tear it apart when its (rather controversial) premiere in the form of episode 0 first aired. Indeed, many others did just that, the series was derided for its hyper-meta self-commentary-as-humour conceit, in fact I wasn’t too hot on it right away, but as the episode went on, I couldn’t help but find it funny – and surprisingly natural.
The first thing to note is that Saekano definitely is the kind of show that it’s making fun of a lot of the time, it is a harem series and it sure as hell doesn’t hold back on the fanservice either. It contains romance, drama and a solid ongoing narrative too, but I would primarily characterise it as a comedy. Its brand of humour is the main attraction, if it doesn’t work for you, or worse, if it grates on you, it is extremely doubtful that you would enjoy anything else the show brings to the table. I think the humour is great, it’s well-written and delivered bitingly through witty dialogue (usually one of the girls undercutting our MC, Aki Tomoya) and dynamic visuals, it might emit a sense of smugness from the author to some, but I feel it’s appropriate, and exists to clue us into the personalities of the characters. Tomoya, Utaha and Eriri are all hardcore otaku who consume countless works of media, they love to be referential and self-deprecating, they revel in self-indulgence, loving to demonstrate knowledge and mastery over their vast database of story machinations and genre tropes.
The humour is also enhanced by the production: Saekano is very good-looking, not just in its art and designs, the animation brings the show to life. A lot of what makes this dialogue-heavy series a pleasure to watch is the quick editing, movement-filled characters and use of body language to express emotion and personality from the cast. There are odd direction choices I want to point out however, the colour palette shifts are an interesting (and pretty) way to highlight certain scenes, but their overuse can get a bit too blatant. Along with the jaunty camera angles (that have an unfortunate tendency on lingering on the girl’s figures a little too much) and the show can get visually overbearing at times. This did end up resulting in some weaker, unfocused and incredibly lewd episodes.
I haven’t yet mentioned my favourite character in the show, Katou Megumi. She is the inspiration for the indie game of Tomoya’s dreams, which the plot revolves around making and selling at Comiket as part of a new doujin circle. Saekano balances the formation of the circle, hurdles of production and interpersonal relationships over the course of its run well, devoting single episodes to each key conflict, which keeps the series moving at a steady pace and leaves time for character development to evolve organically throughout. This does have the unfortunate side-effect of somewhat bastardising the creative process, with one-time resolutions to problems like concept planning and writers block which felt a little cheap. By the end of this season’s run, Winter Comiket, which will feature the unveiling of the game has yet to pass. The story is still incomplete, but the finale went out with a bang: an absolutely hilarious double-episode which featured the rough completion (just one route) of the game and the addition of Michiru (and her band) to provide music, placing us at a good stopping point for a sequel to hopefully pick up upon.
Score: 7/10 – Good
Yoru no Yatterman (Yatterman Night)
Yatterman had the most promising first episode this season, it grabbed me seconds in with a crazy and fluid animation style that exhibited high production values. Not only did the initial premise that turned hero and villain roles upside-down seem ripe for some intriguing commentary, but it also managed to tell an emotional tale centring on the young girl called Leopard: with the death of her mother, she chooses to don the iconic garb of her ancestor, the villainous Doronjo, and swear revenge upon the tyrannical “hero” Yatterman. The series is part of a recent trend Tatsunoko has of creating darker reboots of their 70’s classic superhero titles, other examples being Gatchaman Crowds (which is great) and Casshern Sins (highly regarded, I’ve yet to see).
I’ll get it out of the way, I think Yatterman is terrible. It was quick to fall apart, and I only kept watching because it showed occasional glimpses of what made the first episode so great. The most glaring flaw was its astonishingly bad tone-deaf nature, flitting between tear-jerking (of the horribly melodramatic kind) and juvenile comedy (of the sort that makes one groan audibly) at the drop of a hat. The absurd tonal whiplash makes it impossible to take anything seriously, which makes the show fall completely flat on its face whenever it tries to handle any character progression or attempt at creating meaning.
The issues don’t stop there, the series was clearly front-loaded, with the most impressive animation being present in the first few episodes, with things petering off to a medium soon after. After a particularly egregious set of banal comedy episodes in the latter half, Yatterman lurched towards its finale, which had no chance of setting things right, as it pulled dumb reveals and devolved into nonsense. Even the production matched the broken story, the final episode went to air noticeably unfinished.
Score: 3/10 – Lacking
Aldnoah.Zero was bombast incarnate, channelling all the worst elements of Hollywood in its writing style, it was totally misguided in the methods with which it used ridiculous plot twists, resulting in cliffhangers almost every episode. In retrospect I kind of have to love it for being what it was, there was no doubt that I had a lot of fun with that show. The final episode pulled the biggest farce of all, with its ending that became infamous all over anime fandom. Its second season (which I will from now refer to as Aldnoah) now had to pick up the pieces.
In the time between seasons, everyone had been going crazy with their speculations on how the fallout of those events would play out, with incredibly preposterous fan theories floating about too. Turns out Aldnoah went with an even dumber solution to how on earth everyone lived: Inaho gets a cybernetic eye (ahem, Analytical Engine) installed, Princess Asseylum ends up in a plot-enforced coma and Slaine ropes Saazbaum into servitude, only to later slaughter him mercilessly. Aldnoah seemed just about ready to play out the trainwreck we all hoped it would be – and it kind of did for the first few episodes: the stoic Inaho toed the line between man and machine, his hyper-competence reading parodic levels; Slaine decided to make everyone else suffer in a morbid karmic reversal on the series’ prior sadistic fascination with beating him down – but things got boring quickly as the series settled into a dull status quo.
Aldnoah suddenly became weirdly sincere in the way it told its story, the new (and completely out of thin-air) character in the form of Princess Lemrina turned out to be the best character in the entire show. However it’s unfortunate that Lemrina found herself in a much lesser work than she deserved, because the mid-section of Aldnoah essentially turned into a soap opera in space, where the main reason to watch was to poke at the droll and ironic drama that ensued. Aldnoah got a little spark of life in it towards the end and people were clamouring for a season three, but it ultimately ended, disappointing almost everyone with its weak, rushed and intelligence insulting finale, that served little purpose but to drive in how pointless everything was.
Score: Aldnoah Zero/10
Koufuku Graffiti (Happy Cooking Graffiti)
Koufuku Graffiti, which I personally like to call by the name Taberu (to eat) is a very warm, friendly and above all, appetising show. The main spice it brings to the dinner table beyond the base nature it possesses as a “cute girls doing cute things” anime is the focus on cooking, and well, this line from the synopsis will give you the rest of the picture: The cooking manga is “full of detailed cuisine art to whet the appetite and slightly erotic meal scenes”. Taberu takes the phrase “Food Porn” a bit too literally if you ask me.
To be honest, it starts out kinda weak. The first few episodes awkwardly try to introduce the main characters, while also setting up the premise that results in them living together while also trying to display its grandiose meal scenes while also trying to shoehorn in some overplayed drama to try and grab our attentions. This all came together quite poorly, as few of these individual ingredients were able to shine. It wasn’t until the series let the characters go about and do their own thing that we were really able to get a good grasp of what their personalities were like, as well as their intergroup dynamics. When Taberu got going in its mid-section, it was able to deliver on some extremely good episodes, not only did it have a great sense of how to achieve a relaxing, laid-back atmosphere, but it used super pretty backgrounds and a thoughtful colour palate to set the appropriate mood for each scene.
Our main duo possess an almost symbiotic relationship, as nothing could make Ryo happier than others enjoying her cooking, while Kirin is always on the hunt for something tasty to chow down (which turns out to be her primary motivator for leaving home to live with Ryo). The episode where they were separated was one of best in the show, it focused on Ryo’s loneliness, creating these quiet, beautiful moments as the show radiated a contemplative, nostalgic aura that washed over me. That dish was matched in a subsequent episode that focused on the socially anxious newcomer Yuki, I particularly liked the relatable illustration of her very real issues without going overboard on the drama train.
This is all in service of the ever-present idea the series exudes: how good food can bring people happiness and a sense of belonging with others. Simple stuff, but effective nonetheless, which brings me to talking about the extravagant meal scenes themselves – I mean, go look ’em up, they can get pretty hilarious. While I’m not against that, it can get annoying at times with the characters narrating in excessive detail what they are tasting when I’d rather the show remain calm and relaxing. Overall, Taberu ends in a comfy place, with Ryo and Kirin (who do make an adorable couple) essentially ending up all but married, how can I not be behind that? Futari doobie doo bah!
Score: 5/10 – Average
And that’s the end of part 2! I decided to keep my negative thoughts on Yatterman and Aldnoah.Zero shorter, because I do not like ranting. I hope you enjoyed reading this post, especially the piece on Saekano, which I greatly enjoyed writing about. Be sure to comment on what your own thoughts were regarding these titles, I’m sure many will disagree with me, but that’s totally cool.
The final part of this post was supposed to come out this weekend, however I will be delaying it a bit, this is because I want to go back and finish Tokyo Ghoul √A. So the third part containing that, Junketsu no Maria, Durarara!!x2 Shou, Yuri Kuma Arashi and Death Parade will be coming out early next week.