Monday, April 28, 2014

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

My watchlist for the Spring 2014 season has been finalized, and the 8 shows below are all part of it.
 
Haikyuu!!

Alternate title: Attack on Volleyball Titans

Shoyo Hinata, despite being rather short, dreamed of playing volleyball, so he gathered together a bunch of friends to form a previously-nonexistent male volleyball club, trained hard for the regional competition... and in their first match, got crushed by the "King of the Court" Tobio Kageyama and his team. However, he did not leave without leaving an impression on Tobio, thanks to his quick reflexes and surprising jump height for his short stature. He vows revenge as he joins the high school volleyball team... but revenge will have to wait, as this time, Tobio is on the same team as him, and now, two rivals will have to learn to work together to bring their school's team to victory.

All things considered, this is pretty standard sports anime stuff. You have the plucky underdog with some crazy skills and the strong player who needs to learn how to work with others, along with the rest of the team aiming for the national title. There's not much to distinguish this from other sports titles plot-wise, but the execution is solid, and for fans of sports anime, that's plenty good enough. Plus, I like cheering for the short guys in sports. I would say that has absolutely nothing to do with being short myself, but I would be absolutely lying.

Haikyuu!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Mekakucity Actors

They may be actors, but they aren't playing around.

In a city live several people who have special powers related to their eyes, such as Momo Kisaragi, whose eye draws the attention of people to her whether she wants to or not. She also has a brother, Shintaro Kisaragi, who holes himself up at home and spends all his time on the internet, until an intrusive (yet rather cute) AI named Ene hacks into his computer and sets things up for him to step out into the world. These two find themselves involved with the Mekakushi-dan, who use their eye-related powers to thwart various evil plots.

This show is based on the Kagerou Project, which is a series of Vocaloid songs by Jin designed to tell a story, and which has since been adapted into various media, with this anime adaptation being the latest. As someone who does not follow Vocaloid much, though, I'm going into this show treating it as pretty much any other show about superpowered kids. The story being presented here is at least somewhat interesting, though the character interactions among the Mekaku-dan are the main draw for me at the moment. Oh, and this is being animated by Studio SHAFT, so be ready for a heaping portion of their trademark crazy visuals.

Mekakucity Actors is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
 
Mushi-shi: The Next Chapter
(Japanese title: Mushishi Zoku Shou)

There's one on your shoulder right now.

Sequel Alert: This is a sequel to the first season of Mushi-shi, which aired way back in 2005. Yeah, I don’t know why it suddenly got a sequel either. That said, this show is very episodic and the episodes are all stand-alone stories in and of themselves, though some knowledge of the overall setting is recommend, so before going into this second season, I would suggest either watching a couple episodes of the first season (available on Hulu), or watch the hour-long special released earlier this year (available on Crunchyroll).

Mushi are beings that are the very representation of life itself. They are generally invisible to people, and their natural behaviors will sometimes cause problems for the people around them. Ginko is a Mushi-shi, a person with the ability to see mushi and the knowledge to help those who are afflicted by problems relating to them. He wanders the world, learning what he can about mushi and helping out people along the way.

It is hard to describe just what kind of a show Mushi-shi is. More than anything else, it is an experience: something you fully immerse yourself in while watching it. There's plenty of symbolism in the show about the human condition, and beyond that there's also just a lot of a simply fascinating world with these strange mushi creatures. It is definitely a show you have to try out, though; it is one of the most critically acclaimed anime out there, and while the critically-acclaimed stuff is not always my cup of tea, this is one show which I feel definitely deserves the praise it gets.

Mushi-shi: The Next Chapter is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
 
Nanana’s Buried Treasure
(Japanese title: Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin)

Land of a Thousand Treasures.

Always be wary when you get an apartment with really low rent. There's always a catch, like the roof leaking when it rains, the walls falling apart, or, in the case of Juugo Yama, the apartment being haunted by a cute but rather assertive ghost girl. That girl is Nanana Ryuugajou, a genius who helped create the "Special Student Zone" island, but who was murdered in her apartment ten years ago, and is now bound to that same apartment room as a ghost. She has also left something special behind: the Nanana Collection, consisting of various treasures scattered around the island. Now, Juugo and various others find themselves with two tasks: find as much of the Nanana Collection as they can, and in the process, see if they can find out who Nanana's killer was.

One of the two shows on the noitaminA block this season (the other being Ping Pong, which I am not following), Nanana's Buried Treasure is a show with some promise, with solid characters, some interesting "ruins" to explore, and a mystery behind it all. Whether there really is a treasure of a show buried here has yet to be seen, but for now, it is a fun enough show to keep up with it. Not much else to say about the show itself. (Though there's the fact that Kana Hanazawa voices a crossdressing, effeminate boy in both this and Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara...)

Nanana's Buried Treasure is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

No Game No Life

More problem children are coming in from another world, aren't they?

Sora and Shiro are siblings who have shut themselves in their room out of declaring the real world to be a crappy game. They spend all their time playing games online, where Shiro's incredible raw skill and Sora's ability to psychologically read and manipulate other players make them a force to be reckoned with. Their skills capture the attention of a strange entity, who then warps them to a new fantasy world where everything is decided by games: exactly how Sora and Shiro like it. They join forces with the human race there, who is currently the weakest of sixteen races, to help them regain glory and to make the most of a life that actually is not too bad for once.

So yeah, this show is 100% pure wish-fulfillment. I don't think there's too much wrong with that, certainly not when it's done well and all in the name of good fun, and this show is doing okay in that area. The games look to be fun, with their twists on traditional rules, and Sora and Shiro are... interesting protagonists, with quite a skewed outlook on life, but they sure make the games interesting with how they play it. It's overall rather silly, but for a show like this which seems to be focused on having fun over trying to be anything serious, that is just fine.

No Game No Life is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

One Week Friends
(Japanese title: Isshuukan Friends.)

I had something to put here, but it's Monday and I forgot.

Kaori Fujimiya is a girl that is always alone and keeps her distance from others. Yuki Hase decides he wants to be friends with her. She refuses, but humors his company during lunch for a week. The two of them have fun despite themselves, but then Kaori reveals the reason why she avoids making friends: she loses her memories of her time with friends every Monday. Next week, Yuki, faced with the reality that Kaori does not remember who he is or anything they did together the previous week, makes a resolution: he will continue to ask Kaori to be his friend, as many times as he needs.

Amnesia is a common theme in fiction, with anterograde amnesia (not being able to make new memories, as opposed to retrograde amnesia where one forgets past memories) being explored in such works as ef - a tale of memories and the Adam Sandler movie 50 First Dates. Whereas the condition gets a fully dramatic treatment in the former and the kind of comedic treatment one can expect from an Adam Sandler film in the latter, One Week Friends instead goes for a more emotional approach, using a combination of low-key drama, light comedy, and atmosphere to present a simple yet emotionally powerful show about the power of friendship.

One Week Friends is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Soul Eater NOT!
 
Death City is about to get a whole lot cuter.

Sequel Alert?: This is a spinoff of the original Soul Eater series, chronologically taking place before the original series. While some knowledge of the original series will help with understanding the setting (as well as all the cameos), this is also an easy enough show to jump right into without having seen any of the original. (For the record, I myself have seen only the first nine episodes of the original series as of now.)

Tsugumi Harudori was a normal middle school girl until one day when she tripped and her leg became a blade. Thankfully, this particular world has just the place for people with this condition: the Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA), where humans who can turn into weapons partner up with "meisters" who are skilled at wielding their weapon forms. And while one always has the option of joining the EAT (Especially Advantaged Talent) class where meisters and weapons use their skills to collect the souls of evil humans and witches and protect the world from disaster (working alongside such people as Maka Albarn and her weapon Soul Eater), one also has the option of joining the NOT (Normally Overcome Target) class, where weapons simply learn how to control their powers and live a relatively normal life with the help of meisters. Of course, the key word here is "relatively", as DWMA is not the sort of place where "normality" is the norm. But Tsugumi is in good hands thanks to her roommates and potential meisters, the ditzy but friendly Meme and the runaway rich girl Anya.

To those waiting on Soul Eater: Brotherhood, sorry, you're gonna have to wait on that. This show, as indicated by the "NOT" in the title, is a different beast entirely. Gone are the crazy battles against evil, and the fancy art style that went with all that; in its place are several cute girls and a coming-of-age story that is somewhat slice-of-life, or at least as much as there can be in a place that trains human weapons. There's a little bit of action, as well as some hints of sinister going-ons, but the focus is more on how one girl comes to terms with how she can turn into a halberd, and how she gets along with the new and unusual friends at her new school. If that sounds like the worst thing in the world... well, no one's forcing you to watch it. (Unless someone is, in which case, you might want to contact a lawyer about coercive anime-watching.) Understandably, if what you care most about Soul Eater is its unique art style and high-energy action, then this show will probably just come off to you as an attempt to cash in on the moe craze. But if you're like me and are more interested in worldbuilding and looking at the world of Soul Eater from a different perspective (or are a fan of cute girls), then this is an excellent spin-off which does just that. 

Soul Eater NOT! is currently streaming on Funimation.
 
The World is Still Beautiful
(Japanese title: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii)

Rain, rain, don't go away.

The Sun Kingdom has conquered much of the world, and while the Principality of Rain is technically part of the land under its control, King Livius I has allowed the rain country to maintain autonomy... on the condition that it provide a princess to be the king's bride. Nike is the princess who, due to losing a game of rock-paper-scissors, ends up traveling to the Sun Kingdom to marry this king. Two things complicate the matter: first of all, as it turns out, King Livius is just a young boy, and a pretty bratty one at that. Second, the king is in plenty of danger from those who are not happy with his rule, and with Nike being his bride-to-be, she's going to get dragged into any conflicts that come about. But Nike has the ability to manipulate air and change the weather, including being able to summon rain, and for a kingdom which has seen nothing but the harsh sun, she might be just what both the kingdom and the king's heart needs.

This season is an excellent one for fantasy works. Just from what I'm following alone, there's everything from hard action fantasy to slower-paced adventure fantasy to more fun-focused shows. This show is more of a political fantasy (focused more on societal issues than adventurous exploration; think Maoyuu Maou Yuusha or Outbreak Company) combined with character drama. It all works out quite well thanks to Nike, who is one of the best leads this season (if not the best), the kind of spunky princess who takes no crap and can stand up to everything from the bratty king to the outright malicious opponents of said king. There are a lot of really nice moments in this show, made possible by the character interactions and the use of the rain aspect, which helps make this show overall one I'm very much looking forward to each week.

The World is Still Beautiful is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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And that's it for me this season. Some of these shows might end up dropped before the end of the season, but so far all of them look good. Here are some random stats for fun:

15 new shows
13 shows streamed on Crunchyroll
5 shows licensed by Sentai Filmworks (Kawai Complex, Haikyuu, One Week Friends, No Game No Life, Is the order a rabbit?)
3 shows licensed by Aniplex of America (Mushi-shi, Mekakucity Actors, Nanana)
2 shows licensed by NIS America (Love Live!! S2, Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara)
1 show licensed by FUNimation (Soul Eater NOT!)
3 shows confirmed to be 2-cour (~25 episodes)
8 shows adapted from manga
3 shows adapted from light novels
2 sports shows (+Yowamushi Pedal) + 2 non-sport competition shows
31 moe female leads (listed as a main character by MyAnimeList)
2 shows with effeminate males voiced by Kana Hanazawa

What are you watching this season? Anything I should consider watching later? Do I need to stop watching crappy shows? (Mind you, if you are going to force me to watch or not watch a show, I have a lawyer who's an expert on coercive anime-watching.)

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