Spring 2015 Final Thoughts — Post-Mortem Retrospective

[FFF] Death Parade - 01 [354391BE].mkv_snapshot_00.51_[2015.06.30_23.49.37]

Imagine the scene. Me, with my expensive uniform and dashing hair, behind the counter as always. I, Decim, am working at my extremely classy bar. It’s downtime, no customers around. My assistant makes me a delicious burger for lunch, but I am interrupted before I can eat. The ominous rumble of the elevator and the heralding ring of the bell announces that patrons have arrived. The deceased.

Anime shows, two of them, are in my bar, and I’m tasked with Judging them. I have been shouldered with the grave responsibility to decide where they belong…

in Heaven

or Hell.

Such a preposterous event took place on that fateful day.

And then it happened again.

In total, it happened three times that week.

[ShadowZael: Decim, are we rating shows arbitrarily now? Not only is that incredibly reductive, but it undermines the entire point of Death Parade, remember it was all about not making binary judgements, instead seeking to fully understand… all that good stuff. Also, wasn’t it actually deciding between Reincarnation or the Void?]

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings
Quiet, you

Case 1 — OreGairu Zoku and Nisekoi:

So, here we have sequels to two popularly established “RomCom” franchises. However, these two shows bear few similarities whatsoever, on what axis could I possibly Judge them?

OreGairu Zoku

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - OreGairu Zoku episode 13 ends with a perfect conclusion. Hikigaya Hachiman, Yukinoshita Yukino, Yuigahama Yui's last, but not final, scene
[ShadowZael: The OreGairu entry needs to be long!]
OreGairu Zoku was bold in its adaptation choices, series composition writer Suga Shoutarou chose to very noticeably excise more lighthearted scenes from the Light Novel source material and solely allocate time to the more serious ones. This resulted in a show that possessed a very clear focus and a very different tone in comparison to its prequel. The first way that’s made abundantly apparent is with the total visual upgrade the new studio, Feel, has given it. From character designs to backgrounds to animation, direction and lighting, the story of OreGairu felt right at home with this more mature look. It fit the darker turn the tale of its characters were taking, as the show zeroed in almost exclusively on the existing incisive social and psychological commentary and mindset of our main character, Hachiman.

With this shift came a much more streamlined, cascading format, where instead of each episode having a new case being taken, approached and solved with comedic and not-so-comedic mishaps along the way, we instead get freely-flowing dramatic arcs. The tension between our Service Club members was pulled taut starting from the moment of Hikki’s false confession in episode 2, which both caused Yui a great deal of pain, and opened a vast fjord between the two of them and Yukino.

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - OreGairu Zoku episode 8. Hikigaya Hachiman, Yukinoshita Yukino, Yuigahama Yui, a fraught relationship

As Hachiman writhed and struggled with the now-becoming-ever-apparent consequences of his prior actions, he was not helped by the presence of the ill-natured Iroha, oblivious Orimoto (Preach it!) and harassing Haruno. The series became more and more tense, more and more painful to watch, as we witnessed the cast making bad decision after bad decision. Only from our knowledge of the characters from an outside perspective, and via analysis of their underlying motivations were we able to grasp the full extent of their emotional crises. OreGairu Zoku is notable for managing to be as compelling as ever, while also expecting its audience to infer a lot. This confidence in challenging its viewers was also mirrored by the way the show challenged Hachiman himself.

As the oppressive, tangibly heavy atmosphere came to a breaking point, our “hero” Hachiman broke down himself, coming to his self-reflective conclusion that he does value human connection, that he doesn’t think himself above social interactions, that he wants to strive for something genuine. With the thematic weight of a season-and-a-half’s worth of minutely detailed characterisation and gently encouraging narrative-push forming the fuel to back up this moment, OreGairu finally delivered its phenomenally resounding and resonant message. A compassionate, uplifting message, and with that emotional release came a relief in tension to match.

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - OreGairu Zoku episode 12 Yuigahama Yui spinning a bowl

We suddenly returned to a more familiar feeling show from episode 9 onwards. As we saw our characters working together, having fun and acting in concert once more, we got not only the sense of how much they have changed since we first saw them, but also of how much more room they still have to grow. The penultimate episode was clever to place the cast in a similar position to how we initially discovered them back in season one– making Valentine’s day chocolates, with this situation it became more than noticeable that friction was slowly building up again. Yui’s been bottling up her feelings towards Hachiman for a while now, and no-one wants to make any moves to acknowledge any of their romantic feelings. Haruno sees right through these band-aids, ones hastily plastered over the cracks in the relationship of this trio, cunningly pointing out to them, that they aren’t quite “fixed” yet. 

While episode 8 might be considered the thematic climax of this series, the final, last, episode 13 is very explicit in working as a thematic conclusion, of sorts. It shows that there is no finality, through literally placing the characters on a Ferris wheel, we learn that change doesn’t come so quickly and easily: growth (and regression) are an ongoing process that we will continue on the path of throughout all of our lives, as we go around and around in circles, even well into our later years.

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - OreGairu Zoku ending, Ferris Wheel of life

However, in spite of that, or perhaps because of that, the life these characters have is worth living, worth suffering through for those all-important moments of intimacy and togetherness they share. As Yukino makes her request to her two dearest friends, a request in response to the ever-present background atmosphere of threat her family has had on her since the beginning, we close the curtains. We don’t need to know the nature of this request, we are not expected to assume this is a final request, by any means. What we do know is that Yukino, Hachiman and Yui will continue to fight, continue to support each other, continue to live, even though their story, their youth romantic comedy, is wrong as expected.

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - OreGairu Zoku ending Hikigaya Hachiman, Yukinoshita Yukino, Yuigahama Yui
[ShadowZael: Oh wait, this was supposed to be a fair and balanced case… moving swiftly onto Nisekoi then, take it away, Decim!]
(You can read about my OreGairu S1 rewatch experience here, and my post about Zoku episode 1 here)

Nisekoi:

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - Nisekoi season 2. Ichijo Raku, Kirisaki Chitoge, Onodera Kosaki, Tachibana Marika, Tsugumi Seishirou
[ShadowZael: You probably know the outcome of this case by now, but Nisekoi’s magical girl spinoff episode was pretty cool though, huh?]
The second season of Nisekoi, is on the other hand, a totally different story, I mean that by the fact that it doesn’t even have one! Nisekoi Colon, also known as Nisekoi: or Nisecolon is an example of a sequel which I think fails to live up to its predecessor in every way.

Nisekoi may not be a series that is especially known for its “plot”, but the first season did feature a lot of nice one-off character stories and multi-episode arcs. Despite “nothing happening” in the more tangible forward-progression sense, Nisekoi made that nothing happening into a regularly entertaining and comedy-filled experience, with some extremely endearing moments and notable character development scattered throughout. This was aided by the lovely, colourful and ever-changing visuals each new episode rewarded viewers with, keeping the series feeling fresh and exciting even through the most banal of RomCom clichés it dipped into.

The second season however, does not have that benefit. The show is marred by production issues throughout: we got lots of barely-animated episodes with extremely flat direction and consistently off-model characters, all depicted with lacklustre, lethargic visual timing, resulting in poor, lazy comedy, and well, just failure to engage me at all. It’s true there were some gorgeous episodes mixed in, the first and last ones especially, but that was the exception rather than the rule, the inverse of what was the case in season one.

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - Nisekoi season 2. Ichijo Raku, Kirisaki Chitoge No ribbon

The lack of visual cohesion is matched by the lack of narrative cohesion too. A lot of the episodes in Nisekoi: took the form of two halves, each adapting a manga chapter, often two separate stories with no connection to each other. The general pattern of all these stories took a rote, repetitive structure of misunderstanding followed by “comedy” followed by cheap, foregone resolution. Fair enough to be read as a snappy manga chapter, but excruciating to actually sit through. A wiser adaptation would have cut these chapters entirely, and reached ahead to adapt the more interesting arcs and chapters of the later material. As it is, this was a season that didn’t really do anything, progress anything or move any variables around.

If OreGairu Zoku shows us how a sharp focus can channel the existing strengths of the original into an even better sequel, Nisekoi: is an apt counterexample for doing the exact opposite. It’s an awkward, aimless collection of bad episodes with occasionally acceptable ones, a roulette of poor-chances. Thus forming an overall impression that can only result in my inevitable verdict:

Spring 2015 Season Anime Review Power Rankings - Nisekoi season 2 - Chitoge crying

  • OreGairu Zoku — Heaven
  • Nisekoi: — Hell

(Visit the next page for the Second Case…)

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11 thoughts on “Spring 2015 Final Thoughts — Post-Mortem Retrospective

  1. *Applause* Bravo, bravo…..

    Its interesting how you judge shows like this, analyze them by their shared similarity’s in trapping, contrasting them and finally, arrived at a conclusion for both of them

    Well, as for me, I didn’t get to finish /any/ of the show on spring season. For some reason, school holiday made me lose any drive to watch anime. Even Oregairu which I really look forward to (though strangely enough, now I’m close to keeping up with BBB). Maybe I prefer watch anime during my downtime after school, not during the time where downtime is all I got. 😛

    Also, darn your post is giving me writing itch.

    Like

    1. Thank you for the kind words!

      It was definitely an interesting idea I had been wanting to try for a while, but upon starting it, I realised it would need to be quite a long post, and it took longer to write than expected. I was initially planning to have it come out earlier.

      As for the Spring season, and drive to watch anime. I wouldn’t worry /too/ much. Often in the climate of airing shows we force ourselves to watch things we aren’t enjoying, instead of just watching the stuff we /actually want to see more of/.

      OreGairu and Euphonium are definitely worth checking out, but remember, they’re always going to be there for you. If drumming up the motivation to watch them is too much, I’d suggest finding some older title you have been wanting to watch for ages, but never got around to, and just diving into it!

      Lastly, it makes me happy that my post has given you an itch to write, words words words, enjoy spouting them out, even though arranging them coherently is the hard part.

      Like

  2. Yea, like Namhur said, it’s interesting how you analyzed two shows, takes a shared element from both of them, and compared how the both of them executed said element. The addition of Decim is a very nice bonus :p

    I didn’t watch both the shows from Case 2, but I can certainly see where you’re coming from in regards to Case 1 and 3. One of the best thing I like best about OreGairu Zoku is definitely how it removes most of the typical romcom elements and just focus on the seriousness. It has a very dramatic edge and focused narrative, which easily sets it apart from the season 1, making me like the series that much more.

    Like

    1. Decim is indeed the best.

      Case 2 was a weird one for me, because both those shows are much more obscure sequels than everything else I was writing about. I also didn’t want to spew too much hatred towards Grisaia, so I cut that piece short.

      OreGairu Zoku was a surprise. I definitely wasn’t expecting a sequel to OreGairu to turn out like that, but I am very happy it did.

      Like

  3. Very nice and refreshing idea to pass judgement like this on your seasonal shows, good job.
    My favourite shows this season were Euphonium followed by OreGairu and then BBB (I also watched Fate and Attack on Vampires). Euphonium has the upper hand here because it was so much more resonant with my young days in soccer and gaming than OreGairu was on any metric. But I understand the appeal that ultimately makes a lot of people like OreGairu more.
    Least favourite show of the ones I finished was Seraph of the End. For me it was an “okay” popcorn show. It even build some passable dramatic structure towards the end (and I compare that to the very poorly done one in the first episode). But I don’t expect it (and it most possibly won’t) to rewrite the laws of the universe with the 2nd half (was that a good Madokami reference?).
    From what I gathered through your and other bloggers list/impressions I don’t really have anything to catch up on from this season except maybe JoJo which I plan to watch at some point anyway.
    To answer almost all of your questions Favourite OPs were “Dream Solister”, “Hello, World!” and “Brave Shine” in that order. Favourite ED “Sugar Song to Bitter Step”.

    Like

    1. Thank you for the compliment! It was a big experiment for me to write it like this, but I’m glad it’s been received well.

      Yes, I too gave the slight edge to Euphonium over OreGairu, even though the latter has been very close to me since it’s first season aired 2 years ago. I think both shows are really damn great though, so I don’t see anything odd with anyone preferring one over the other.

      Seraph of the End was another odd one for me, because I actually really liked episode 1, followed by the first 3 or so episodes, but it quickly lost my interest and just continued being fine enough popcorn for the rest of its run. I will probably watch season 2 anyway, though I’m not expecting much. All I can hope for is that the production values don’t implode, Studio WIT has a very busy year ahead of them.

      As for Jojo, the first season from 2012 at least, is definitely worth watching, if you haven’t already. Stardust Crusaders is an almost 50 episode show, one where I could take or leave over half the episodes of, so it’s not a high recommendation from me, but if you liked season 1 of Jojo, give it a shot!

      Dream Solister’s beginning segment, the part Euphonium usually played over the previous episode recap, to lead into the OP, is great. However, the rest of the song doesn’t really do that much for me, though I will always remember it fondly and have the tune stuck in my head, because it’s attached to a show I love so much.

      BBB had a great OP and ED, couldn’t not mention it for both categories!

      Lastly: Nice Madokami reference, May We Always Remember Her.

      Like

  4. Good stuff, I like the new format!

    But wow, you were way more lenient on Sidonia than I was! Tsumugi was a cool concept, like a lot of things in Sidonia, but totally undermined by making her an Uguu~ing childlike moeblob. Even though yes, she was technically born almost literally yesterday. Her infatuation with Nagate was just weird and creepy, and not for the reasons it probably should’ve been. I mean, she blushes. She’s a giant bio-mechanical tentacle-monster that shoots lasers… and she blushes. That doesn’t even make any sense! She doesn’t seem to actually have blood, so just, whhyyyyy? What are you doing, Sidonia?! Then Izana gets turned into a busty cyborg, because of course she does. And then there’s the brain-slug subplot that gets weirdly sidelined for most of the season. I thought S2 was a pretty significant step-down from S1. There’s way too many characters now, Nagate is way too Robot-Pilot Jesus, and the whole season felt way too haphazard and unfocused to me. But at least Izana is winning.

    Still probably not as deserving of Hell than Grisaia, I suppose.

    Like

    1. I definitely acknowledge that a lot of the added elements in the second season, especially the overt switch to the harem setting (those few mid episodes were a chore) and the kind of infatuation that Tsumugi represents as being incredibly self-indulgent.

      However, by the end of the season, I actually found myself thinking of Tsumugi as my favourite character in the show. Nagate has gone on too long as the bland lead archetype, and I can’t take Izana seriously because the show has used her as a punching bag too many times.

      On the other hand, it felt like Tsumugi had a pretty interesting arc, albeit a simple one, where she learnt to live and co-exist with the humans, and to let herself become more than the all-purpose-weapon she was created to be. That aspect of her coming from both human and Gauna DNA(?), seems to me the foundation for some kind of end-game the author has in mind for an eventual peace between the two species (so much baiting that we have a Gargantia situation going on here).

      The other reason I’m much more lenient on S2 than S1 is because, as I said above, I enjoyed how it leaned into both extremes of its indulgent personality, and it felt like it had quite a purposeful theme of contrasting past and future. I couldn’t really isolate any interesting elements like that in S1.

      Like

      1. Yeah, that’s totally fair. I mean, Sidonia was never quite the show I wanted it to be, and S2 just sorta doubles-down on the stuff that annoyed me in the first season. I do like a lot of Sidonia’s Big Ideas, but the muck and clutter has just become too much for me to dig through, I think.

        If they ever make any more seasons, I’ll probably be relying on you to find out what happens!

        Like

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