April Anime Review – What Did We Do to Deserve So Much Win? (And a 4-Year Spring Retrospective)

[Part 1 of my plan to totally cover a season for once. This post isn’t going to say much in spite of being so many words, but I’ve taken a liking to these little things that keep my thoughts on the shows intact across the season. I guess I’m learning the appeal of episodic blogging.]

Screenshots from random current shows that I haven't gotten to use.

Spring 2007 was my first season watching anime fresh from its release, and over the years I’ve continued to think of it as the best major season I’ve been around for.

Looking back on it now, the lineup for that season was unbelievable. Lucky Star and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann both came out, and I don’t think any show has been as big a deal with as much consistency as those two since. Darker Than BLACK and Hayate no Gotoku were both great shows, and I also enjoyed the likes of Hitohira, Touka Gettan, Claymore, and Dennou Coil. There are a number of shows I’ve got on-hold still that were pretty well-liked, such as Seto no Hanayome, Seirei no Moribito, Terra e…, Bokurano, Heroic Age, Gigantic Formula, Ookiku Furikabutte, and while it’s a bit less-liked, Idolm@ster XENOGLOSSIA. That’s a hell of a season to be compared to.

Spring 2008 was utterly dominated by Code Geass R2 to the extent that most of the shows I know were good have very small cult fanbases. There are a couple of standouts, like Macross Frontier and Soul Eater, but a lot more sleepers like the criminally unrecognized Amatsuki, BLASSREITER, Zettai Karen Children, Nijuu Mensou no Musume, and my favorite of the bunch, Kyouran Kazoku Nikki. Maybe it was due to cynicism—I remember Spring 08 as my first season in a blogosphere that hated pretty much everything. I remember how much shit Kanokon got, and my surprise when I watched it and found out it was really good. Perhaps the more respected shows of the season were the artsy Kaiba and my favorite, the highly divisive Kure-nai. All in all, it was a good season with a lot of little greats, but nothing compared to the year before it. Kind of looks like a summer or winter, really.

Forgot to post this on SOS, my "Essence of Qwaser" screenshot from ep 2. Sasha is speaking Russian in this image, hence the JP translation.

2009 was unsurprisingly my least-favorite year of anime because it was the one when I didn’t watch anything on TV. Contrary to the year prior, this season made *me* a bit more cynical about the state of anime. The big stuff at the time was Haruhi’s second season—the trollgasm that I still haven’t seen yet; K-On!, which I didn’t really care about until the second season, and Eden of the East, which I was rallying against at the time. What did I like that season? Sengoku Basara got off to a good start, though it didn’t follow up on that. FMA Brotherhood started that season, though it also aired for well over a year. My favorite short-term series from that season was Saki, and the best show I never finished that season was Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-Hen on television. Besides that, notable shows included Queen’s Blade, Pandora Hearts, Guin Saga, and the one that never finished getting subbed, Souten Kouro.

Out of rage over my inactivity in 2009, I watched everything in 2010 and found it to be a really solid year of anime. Your mileage may vary on the quality of spring season—a lot of people consider it amazing for having both House of Five Leaves (which I like but haven’t finished) and Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (which I didn’t like and dropped) at the same time. I’ve seen a lot of praise for Rainbow and Kaichou wa Maid-sama, neither of which I got around to, and a lot of people liked Working!! (which I dropped, but not definitively). For me, it was a season with shows that I really loved—Angel Beats, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou—and shows I enjoyed a good bit—B Gata H Kei, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Giant Killing—but which weren’t big deals the way the stuff from 2007 was. The best part of Spring 2010 was definitely K-On!!, which I think was better than anything that was on during the two Springs prior.

So why this lengthy retrospective? Why do I feel the need to compare the seasons? It’s no big deal, nothing serious, just for fun. I’m not trying to be cynical or critical, like “Oh this season is so much BETTER than the other ones, blablabla,” but it’s interesting to me to say “wow, this season, one of the biggest of the year, might have the most shows I love out of any year.” It’s like a helpful injection of optimism.

Perfect date movie!

It’s too early to say how great this season may be. A lot of the best shows will be 26 episodes long, and we’re only a third of the way through the season itself. But god damn if it doesn’t look really good right now! Here’s my lineup of Shows I’m Still Watching After April.

1. Steins;Gate – Already stealing my Best Anime Dialog and Fastest Admission To Favorites declarations from Kure-nai, Steins;Gate is my favorite show of the season. It’s not even over and I already want to rewatch it. This is a rare kind of anime where watching it is purely fun and enjoyable—the kind of show that moves up my favorites list over the years because it never gets boring.

2. Hanasaku Iroha – It put me off at first with its Diablo Cody level of hipster dialog in the first episode, but Hanasaku Iroha quickly turned into what I wanted it to be, which is the pinnacle accomplishment of “4-Girls” anime. Production values are off the charts, but what really matters is that the character designs are high-class, lending to top-shelf fanservice that only such a great director and studio can make possible. This isn’t a show I can confidently say would be a favorite until it’s over, but since I already see the potential to love it more than K-On, I think it’s got a damn good shot.

3. Astarotte no Omocha – I can’t overstate how crucial every element of this show is in making it so amazing. This probably would’ve been a one-off, just-for-fun show if it’d been a straight-up adaption of the unfinished manga. It’s because the writers stepped it up to a whole different level that the show is carried into “something-to-cherish” territory. Combine all that with the amazing art design by Okama and the quality of production, and we’re pushing favorites levels. I may have been the biggest supporter of this show from the start, but I couldn’t have imagined it would be this good.

4. Seikon no Qwaser II – I’ve only seen two episodes because of the fact that the uncensored releases are a week later than the regular ones, but that’s more than enough for me to be in love with it. Qwaser already became the weirdest show on my favorites list a short time ago, and it’s really gratifying to watch an excellent continuation of it so soon after loving the original. Thus far, it’s everything I could’ve wanted.

Sadly dropped this 'cause subbing was slow.

5. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai – Yes, I’ve actually memorized the title! Anohana started off on an extremely strong foot, to where all it needed to do was keep being that good and it was guaranteed to be a huge success. That’s exactly what it is, and the brilliantly directed show (production quality and directing make it feel like watching a movie) continues to impress, even if it hasn’t emotionally involved me yet. Plus, there’s so much fun to be had with the fans.

6. Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai 2 – While I’m sad that Manglobe skimped out on their production of Deadman Wonderland, they’re making it up to me by keeping KamiNomi as fun and entertaining as the first season. I have a connection similar to a kids’ show with KamiNomi (Pokemon would seem an apt comparison), where it’s something I feel like I could watch forever and never get bored of. (Incidentally, Yumeka, have you watched any of this? If not, you should!)

7. Tiger & Bunny – I’m a tough customer for a show like this, in which I don’t really care for the character designs and in which so many of the episodic plots are ones I’ve seen a million times and which don’t do much for me. The show makes up for it with superb visuals and high-tension action scenes that I can really get excited about. This kind of show could never be a favorite of mine, but it’s a damn good time nonetheless.

8. A Channel – Simply put, this show is fucking hot. Every time I think of why it is I like the show, that’s the conclusion I come to. The cute girls hanging out thing is nice, but it only works because those girls are *so* cute, and the show makes no attempt to disguise its fanservice. There are kinds of fanservice anime that I don’t care for, but this is the kind that was made knowing someone like me wants it.

Okay I did use this before but I'm still loving it. Every time this happens I yell PUNISH THEM TITTIES!

9. Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san – I really wanted Dororon Enma-kun to be the ridiculous comedy of the season, but while that descended into a kind of silliness that doesn’t work for me, Azazel-san has gotten more and more hilarious. Episode 4 was up there with the best episodes of Detroit Metal City and FMP Fumoffu in levels of hilarity.

10. Sengoku Otome ~Momoiro Paradox~ – The fourth episode was a bit on the boring side, but otherwise this show has been a bucket of pure fun and that’s all there is to it.

11. Ao no Exorcist – Nothing has changed since my impression of the first episode. I’m still walking a tightrope between really loving this show and being unable to get past the differences from the manga, and only time will tell what the verdict may be.

12. C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – Talk about a fall, eh? In my first spring post, this was my #1 thanks to the high-energy, stylish opening episode. Since then, the other episodes can be best described as “ugly” and “boring” respectively. Still, there’s a tug of intrigue around every corner, and between Taka and Otou-san, I think we’ll scrape up all the good to be had here.

13. Nichijou – I don’t know exactly why, but I can’t seem to care about this show. The characters don’t stand out to me, and the jokes make me laugh, but not that hard. The only reason I can keep watching it is that it’s exactly the type of show my thirteen year-old brother adores, so I’ve been watching it with him. I think I’ll see it through to the end, but who knows if I’ll even remember having done so later.

Hajime Ueda, I wish I could do this style like you do.

Other Stuff That Was On

1. Pokemon Best Wishes! – Did the creators go into this show with a conscious effort to make it the best Pokemon series to date? Or is it just that the addition of some great new characters with great voices, and the fact that the new batch of Pokemon is so much cooler than the last two, have done enough to rejuvenate a stagnating franchise? Whatever the case may be, Pokemon Best Wishes has been a nonstop stream of some of the best episodes of Pokemon I’ve seen in my 10+ years as a fan, and it’s the most exciting thing on TV for me.

2. Mahou Shuojo Madoka Magica Finale – I made a point to marathon the series in time for the finale, and it was a great decision to make. Madoka had the best kind of ending and left me feeling very satisfied with the phenomenon of the series altogether. It’s taken the place of Le Portrait de Petit Cossette as my favorite showcase of Shinbo’s directing style.

3. Suite Precure – It finally started to slow down a bit in the tenth episode, which was inevitably going to happen as part of the nature of a fifty-episode magical girl show, but it’s nevertheless accomplished a lot already and currently holds the position of my favorite Precure series. (Sadly, that doesn’t yet mean much.)

Anything else, I either dropped or didn’t start (or in the case of Kaiji S2 refuse to watch until it’s over). I still haven’t been able to start Gintama 2 because I’m still working through the first season, but summer break starts, like, now, so I’ll have time to get caught up. I also intend to start watching Toriko with my little brothers. Everything else, I’ll wait until it’s over and see what the general consensus is like.

8 thoughts on “April Anime Review – What Did We Do to Deserve So Much Win? (And a 4-Year Spring Retrospective)

  1. >>Already stealing my Best Anime Dialog and Fastest Admission To Favorites declarations from Kure-nai.

    No small feat for an anime with only 4 episodes out

    >> It’s taken the place of Le Portrait de Petit Cossette as my favorite showcase of Shinbo’s directing style.

    hmmm… His style seems to change with every new show he does. Sure, there are some common elements throughout, but I guess you can say that he goes into every show with a different vision for the outcome. Yet, despite the diversity, when you see his stuff you know it’s his work. I think that’s quite amazing.

    • I disagree. I watched a porn OVA (Blood Royale) from 2002 that had pretty much everything Shinbo’s ever thought of in it. He’s gotten some new stuff since Bakemonogatari, but it’s been in all the shows (most especially the “slow pan up while camera turns” thing). Madoka had a lot of originality because it had a great budget, though I think Zetsubou-sensei got to have almost as much fun (albeit with less meaning).

      • I’ve always thought the Bakemonogatari was kinda an experiment, where shinbo tried to find out just how weird he can make his shows. But yeah, they all have those strange angles and slow pans, as well as the denial of everything in film 101.

        Also Shinbo did porn?

  2. This post raises a good point I’ve been considering – despite all the hue and cry raised over the apparent “death” of animation, with fingers leveled at the death of Gonzo, the closing of overseas localizers, etc. etc. – these past few seasons have actually been really strong. And really good, too, possibly one of the most gorgeous I’ve seen.

    I think if anything it’s likely due to the maturation of techniques and technology. Compared to some of the very old shows, the digital – and not even talking Blu-ray – formats of a lot of shows are just a lot cleaner and sharper.

    Plus, the usage of computer-generated imagery as well as animation outsourcing has clearly matured as well. There’s been an overall improvement across the board – possibly facilitated by the move to digital cels, but I suspect also more because many animators that got their start in the 2000s have likely improved in terms of experience and skill. Gone are the days when Korean animators meant a poor quality show, and long gone are the days of herky-jerky CGI as well (the currently airing Tiger & Bunny is a good example of both of these). The expectations for even the most basic shows are consequently much higher.

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