Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter 2014: What I'm Watching (Part 2)

It’s time for the second part of my Winter 2014 initial impressions on shows I plan to follow. Included this time is one short show; I don’t normally cover them in these posts, but since said show is somewhat on the longer side and one of the better shorts to come out lately, I’m putting it in here. Beyond that, there’s a fair variety in this set, including a number of sequels. No point delaying this any further; let’s go straight to the shows.



Saki – The Nationals
Just because it's not gambling in yakuza gangs doesn't make it any less awesome.

(Also known as: Saki - Zenkoku-hen)

Sequel Alert: This is a direct sequel to the first season of Saki, and you’ll definitely want to watch that first. Alternatively, you can read the manga up through the end of the prefectural tournament (to the start of the training camp afterwards). (You may also want to read my post on the basic rules of mahjong.) Less necessary is the spinoff series, Saki Episode of Side-A, which covers the characters that play in the A-side of the Nationals tournament (the current season covers the B-side) up through the semifinals. Some characters from that do get shown in the current season, but you won’t miss any important story elements.
[spoiler: Kiyosumi High’s mahjong club has made it to the Nationals, where Saki’s older sister, Teru, is seeking to become the first person to become champion for all three years of high school. However, in order for Saki to meet up with her sister’s team and hope to repair their broken relationship, she and her team must first make it to the finals, and with teams like the Shinto miko squad of Eisui High, the mysterious Miyamori Girls School, and the perennial inter-high favorite Himematsu High, Kiyosumi High has some tough competition to get past first. However, the taco-loving early-game power player Yuuki, the table-memorizing Mako, the bad-wait-manipulating Hisa, and the online mahjong master and middle school individuals champion Nodoka will all put up a fight, and that’s before Saki and her monstrous mahjong skill and luck goes in to make sure her team comes out on top.]

One of the ways I can measure how good a show that revolves around a particular activity is is by how much it gets me interested in that activity. In this sense, Saki is nothing short of a blowout hit for me, as after watching through both the first season and the spinoff, I have completely gotten absorbed into the game of mahjong--hence why I even bothered to compose an entire post introducing the game. Of course, Saki itself is a very entertaining sports show where players use a combination of raw skill and supernatural powers to try to win games. What really helps is that this show develops not just the main characters' team, but also rival teams they encounter, and at the same time, they make sure that, at the most critical matches, every opponent is a worthy one. Whether it's by coming up with crafty strategies or turning the tides with their unique powers, each match is full of thrilling moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Objectionable content: There's some characters who wear somewhat-loose clothing, some bath scenes, and while there hasn't been too much of it yet, there's definitely some strong hints of yuri throughout the series (though not nearly as much as the next show). I'd put it somewhere between a high PG and a low PG-13.

Saki - The Nationals, as well as the first season of Saki, is streaming on Crunchyroll, as is Saki Episode of Side-A.

Sakura Trick
Your average rom-com has maybe 1% of the number of kisses this show has.
Haruka and Yuu are best friends from middle school, now entering high school together. However, despite being in the same class, they end up seated on opposite sides of the room, and when Yuu starts getting friendly with other girls, Haruka starts worrying that she will no longer be Yuu’s “special” friend. Knowing about her worries, Yuu suggests that, in order to confirm their “special” relationship, the two of them do something girls don’t normally do with each other. And if Katy Perry’s notoriety is of any indication, top of the list of “things girls don’t normally do with each other” is “kiss each other full-on on the lips”. Of course, once that happens, their relationship might have moved past being just friends… Oh, and there are other girls in their class that are also exploring their relationship with each other.

The latest entry in the infamous “cute-girls-doing-cute-things” genre, like others before it, is based on a 4-koma manga. Unlike most previous ones, though, Sakura Trick differs in one major way: rather than tease romantic yuri relationships between the girls, it goes all out to make it quite clear that these girls have the hots for one another. They explicitly kiss in the opening, they kiss multiple times per episode, and while they aren’t explicitly mentioned to be girlfriend and girlfriend yet, there’s definitely the feel of there being a budding romance between the girls (with some of them being more open about their feelings than others). Obviously, if you’re a yuri fan, you’re probably already all over this show. But what value does it have for non-yuri fans, particularly Christians like me who personally consider homosexuality a sin? Well… that’s something I will talk about in an upcoming post. For now, suffice it to say that from a pure comedy perspective, the show is hilarious, particularly with Haruka, who is just the right kind of crazy to make this show a lot of fun.

Objectionable content: Well, first of all, there is all that yuri. And while it hasn't gone beyond kissing, the kissing itself does get somewhat sensual. The opening also has a fair amount of Barbie-doll nudity. It's a bit above a normal PG-13… to borrow a different rating system, TV-14 is pretty fitting.

Sakura Trick is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Seitokai Yakuindomo*

Your average rom-com has maybe 1% of the number of dirty jokes this show has.
Sequel Alert: This is a sequel to not only the first season of Seitokai Yakuindomo, but also the 8 OVA episodes that came afterwards. It is not strictly necessary to watch the previous material, as the first episode of the new season does its best to introduce all the characters, though the more gradual introduction of characters across earlier material might be more helpful. Alternatively, you can read the manga.

Two years ago, Oosai Academy was an all-girls school, until the shrinking population due to low birth rates forced the school to go co-ed the previous year. Takatoshi Tsuda started attending the school last year since it was nearby, finding himself in a school where girls outnumber guys seven to one. Moreover, Takatoshi was appointed to become the Student Council Vice-President, as current president Shino hopes to get a guy’s perspective on how things should be run in the school. Of course, this is the first time Shino’s gotten close to a guy, so to say the least, she’s definitely more than just a little interested in the birds and the bees. Along with the equally perverted secretary Aria, the short, intelligent returnee Suzu, and other characters such as a judo captain, a disciplinary committee member who’s afraid of men, and a little sister who is going through puberty, Takatoshi’s days are full of making comebacks at whatever dirty jokes come his way as he goes into his second year.

Objectionable content: Hoo boy. This show is about the dirty jokes, and boy are there a lot of them, and they get rather risqué, too. On the other hand, there's not a whole lot in visual fanservice (though sight gags abound). Still, the heavy amount of dirty talk in this show means it can get no less than a TV-MA rating, and makes it hard to recommend to fellow Christians. It also means I have to bring this up first, before going into why I'm watching this show myself.

So what value does this show have aside from the dirty jokes? First of all, not all the jokes are of a sexual nature: Suzu is pretty clean-mouthed (at least in Japanese; she has some interesting use of English swear words) and most of the jokes regarding her are based on her short stature. More importantly, though, the character interactions in this show are surprisingly genuine. This isn’t a show where the girls are sexually exploited for fanservice; this show is more like a classic slice of life about a guy and his life with these girls, some of whom just happen to be highly interested in sex (and for a reasonable reason, too). For what it’s worth, I hear that real-life high school girls can be just as dirty-minded (if not more), so maybe this show will give you some nostalgia for hanging out with such girls. Not sure if that’s a type of nostalgia one particularly wants, but… well, the point is, the character interactions make this show better than its plethora of dirty jokes might otherwise suggest.

Seitokai Yakuindomo* is streaming on Crunchyroll. However, the first season and OVAs are not available for legal streaming anywhere at the moment.

Silver Spoon Season 2
Horse riding? Baseball? Did this show become a sports anime?
(Also known as: Gin no Saji Season 2)

Sequel Alert: This is a direct sequel to the first season of Silver Spoon, so watch that first.


As Yuugo Hachiken moves into his first autumn at the Ezonoo Agricultural School, he finds new things to deal with. There’s his relationship with his crush, Aki Mikage—they’ve been growing closer, but at the same time, it seems like she’s putting up a wall and not letting him know some important things. There’s also how, as he gets more involved with the equestrian club, he has to start really learning how to ride a horse. And there is, as always, learning just how different farm life is from city life, and dealing with the demons of his past.


Silver Spoon ended up being one of my favorite shows of last year. Being written by the same mangaka of the highly acclaimed Fullmetal Alchemist manga is not just a matter of mere name recognition; the writing in this show is simply some of the absolute best I’ve seen in anime. The characters are well-developed, the plot is very engaging, especially with the whole aspect of what it means to raise farm animals for food, and there’s also plenty of good comedy to go around. There’s not really much more to say; I might not care much about others not watching a number of the shows I like, but this is one show that I would say if you are not watching it, then you are missing out.

Objectionable content: This show has none of the "typical" objectionable content (sex, violence, language). However, this show does not shy away from some of the more unsavory aspects of farm life, namely the fact that a large part of farming is raising animals to be killed for food. All things considered, I'd give this a PG.

Both seasons of Silver Spoon are streaming on Crunchyroll.

Space Dandy
That pompadour is as alien as the rest of 'em.

“Space Dandy. He’s a dandy… in space.” Dandy is an alien hunter, who seeks out new species of aliens for cash. His hobby is visiting every Boobies restaurant in space, for exactly what the name of said restaurant chain promises to offer. Of course, alien hunting is a job where you never quite know what will happen. There’s also an evil force out for Dandy, but whether they’re of any threat is another question entirely.

There are a number of things weird about Space Dandy, but probably the strangest is its distribution; in addition to a standard Japanese-language-with-English-subtitles simulcast on Funimation’s site, every new episode is also being broadcast weekly on Toonami with an English dub, before the show is even broadcast in Japan. It’s also the latest original work by Cowboy Bebop director Shinichi Watanabe, so there’s definitely pedigree behind this work.  The show itself, though, is more like a classic American cartoon, with lots of silliness and the reset button being hit at the end of every episode, so that random character deaths and property destruction is played more for laughs than anything. I personally am watching the dub broadcast on Toonami, so like Pokemon XY, I can keep it on in the background while I do other things. It’s probably a good thing too, because honestly, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be watching this show. It’s amusing and interesting, but nothing particularly stands out about it, it doesn’t particularly have a lot of heart, and the whole Boobies aspect isn’t really to my taste. Still, it’s pretty good so far, and it looks like it can get better.

Objectionable content: Well, first of all, consider that part of the whole schtick of this show is a restaurant called Boobies. There's definitely fanservice, as well as some general dirty talk going on here. The space battles get mildly violent, but nothing too gory, though the third episode has some… disturbing imagery. Funimation and Hulu list the show as a TV-MA, so let's go with that.

An English dub of Space Dandy is being broadcast on Cartoon Network's Toonami block on Saturday evenings. Check your local listings for times. The Japanese dub is streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Tonari no Seki-kun

When Seki's around, time doesn't stand a chance.

(Full English name: Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time)

Yokoi finds it hard to pay attention in class. That’s because the guy sitting to her left, Seki-kun, likes to take advantage of his seat, in the far back corner and behind the biggest guy in the class, in order to kill time in the most elaborate ways. Whether it is setting up complex domino structures, playing shogi to re-enact a feudalistic drama, or polishing his desk until it shines like a mirror, there seems to be no limit as to what he will do to pass the time. And Yokoi, being the easily-distracted type, always seems to get caught up in whatever he’s doing.

This is the one short series I'm covering in this section (I'm watching a couple others, but they're not particularly worth talking about). It's a bit longer than most shorts, with each episode being about 7.5 minutes long (so it's about a third the length of a normal-length episode), and as far as being adapted from a manga, each episode covers one chapter, adding in some extra things to help fill the time as each manga chapter is only ~10 pages long. There's definitely a charm to this series: Seki's various games start out innocuous but soon take a life of their own as they escalate into something unusual and insane--oftentimes helped by Yokoi's overactive imagination, which get fully animated for great effect. And there are also the times when she ends up participating in his games (though not always because he wants her to). The individual episodes can vary in quality, but for a short series, it's very funny and has quite a charm to it. And if you're a fan of Yokoi's seiyuu, Kana Hanazawa… well, there's that, too.

Objectionable content: None. G-rated stuff here.

Tonari no Seki-kun is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Wake Up, Girls!
An idol show that does not idolize the idol industry.

In the 2011 earthquake-affected Sendai area, the struggling entertainment company Green Leaves Entertainment decides to follow up on the huge success of Tokyo idol group I-1 Girls and create their own idol group. The group’s seven lone applicants, including a former member of I-1 Girls, band together to make the long climb to stardom, and have fun singing and dancing in the meantime. The road will be tough, as the harsh realities of the idol industry stare them right in the face, but maybe, just maybe, these seven girls can achieve something that can be considered success.

First of all, a note: In addition to the TV series episodes, there is also the "Seven Idols" movie, which is essentially an hour-long Episode 0 that serves as the start of the series; as such, it is recommended that you do watch the movie, if not before episode 1, then definitely at some point.

Wake Up, Girls! is an original anime project directed by Yamakan, the director of Kannagi and Fractale. It's the latest in the "idol anime" genre that is growing more popular, with entries such as The iDOLM@STER, AKB0048, and Love Live! in recent years. What makes WUG different is that it is a much less glamorous portrayal of the idol industry. Sleazy producers, problematic presidents, and the absolute lack of funds or name recognition all make the idol business much harder for these girls. For this reason, to an extent one can't help but cheer for these seven girls to somehow manage success despite all of their trials. It's definitely not the prettiest idol show (though for what it's worth, the idol dancing sequences are hand-drawn ala The iDOLM@STER rather than animated using 3DCG), but if you want an idol show that is more realistic and doesn't try to sugarcoat what can sometimes be a rather ugly industry, perhaps this is the show for you.

Objectionable content: Some idol sequences feature panty shots, and the girls do end up in revealing swimsuits, though here it's not glamorized for fanservice. Overall, the fact that this show portrays some of the uglier realities of idol work is definitely something to watch out for. I'd give it a solid PG-13.

Wake Up, Girls!, including the movie, is streaming on Crunchyroll.

World Conquest – Zvezda Plot

She may be small, but she'll be looking down on the world someday.
(Also known as: Sekai Seifuku - Bouryaku no Zvezda)

Kate Hoshimiya is a ten-year-old girl with a grand ambition: to conquer the world. Starting up the secret Zvezda society, with all of the superpowered items and people needed to make world conquest a reality, all that remains is to carry out the conquest, one step at a time. At the same time, Kate is still a young girl who wants to eat with people like family, hates those that smoke in public, and worries that, once she’s conquered the world, she won’t have a place in it anymore. World conquest is almost sure to happen; the question is, will Kate and her followers be happy with the result?

This is a completely original anime work, and I didn't know what to expect from it, but I will say I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by this show. It definitely scores high on the "what on earth is going on"  scale, and the fact that there's a scantily-dressed young girl can put off some people from this show. However, there are definitely moments that suggest that this show has some potential. That the would-be conquerer, Kate, is worried about having a place to belong indicates that this show might have some heart behind its world-conquering premise, and the latest episode definitely provides an interesting look at just how her world-conquering ways work, and how it is both reasonable to expect from a young girl and also the dangers of such ways. It remains to be seen just what direction this show will ultimately go in and how it will all turn out, but this show might be one worth keeping an eye on.

Objectionable content: The costume that Kate wears, as you can see from the promotional image, is definitely on the revealing side, especially for a 10-year-old girl. If you can ignore that, though, nothing else is particularly objectionable, though some of the concepts brought up in the show are probably best not blindly taken in (the show is told from the "villain" perspective, after all). I'd say it's either a PG or a PG-13, depending on how sensitive you are to Kate's costume choice.

World Conquest - Zvezda Plot is streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Daisuki.

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That's it for this season's new shows. There are other shows that have somewhat interested me but due to the fact that I'm already following 15 new full-length shows, I've decided not to bother with them for now; if they turn out good in the end, I may watch them later.

So what shows are you following and enjoying this season? Feel free to sound off in the comments. And don't forget to check out the "What I'm Watching" tab at the top to see how I'm currently ranking all the shows I'm following at the moment, including those carrying over from last season.

1 comment:

  1. Surprised that you're watching Seitokai Yakuindomo! I did actually like the first season quite a bit - I never watched the OVAs and I gave the second season a chance, but not much of one. I jettisoned it pretty quickly. I do agree with your assessment, though - it's definitely much more about language than visual fan service. Somehow, that made it more palatable to me.

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