Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Anime-zing Race (Summer 2015 Edition): Weeks 6-7

When you're really behind, it's time for a double-episode!
Last time, despite overcoming its Speed Bump, Aoharu x Machinegun could not catch up to the rest of the shows this season, and was eliminated. The standings are:


  1. Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
  2. Actually, I Am...
  3. Charlotte
  4. Classroom Crisis
  5. Ushio & Tora
  6. GATE
  7. Overlord
What surprises await our racers in this special double-episode? What show will be eliminated... next?

This next leg will focus mainly on episode 6.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Anime-zing Race (Summer 2015 Edition): Week 5

Insert witty comment here.
Last time on The Anime-zing Race, Charlotte's winning streak was finally broken by Actually, I Am..., while Aoharu x Machinegun, showing an ugly side to its main heroine, fell in last place, but was spared elimination thanks to a non-elimination leg.

The rankings are:


  1. Actually, I Am...
  2. Classroom Crisis
  3. Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
  4. Overlord
  5. Charlotte
  6. GATE
  7. Ushio & Tora
  8. Aoharu x Machinegun
This week, will Aoharu x Machinegun be able to clear a Speed Bump and avoid last place and elimination? All shows will be judged up through episode 5.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Anime-zing Race (Summer 2015 Edition): Week 4

Well, once more shows get eliminated, it'll be faster to catch up...
Last week, the remaining nine shows sought to outlast the three-episode rule. With GATE finally introducing its girls, it manages to stay ahead of elimination another week, and this time, the outside-of-season visitor Gatchaman Crowds was eliminated.

The ranking is:


  1. Charlotte
  2. Ushio & Tora
  3. Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
  4. Overlord
  5. Actually, I Am...
  6. Aoharu x Machinegun
  7. Classroom Crisis
  8. GATE
This week, no Detour or Roadblock either, just a race through episode 4. Which show will be eliminated... next?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Summer 2015: What I'm Watching (The Anime-zing Race)

For the second half, let’s look at the shows still running in The Anime-zing Race. This part will cover the following shows:

Actually, I Am…
Aoharu x Machinegun
Charlotte
Classroom Crisis
GATE
Overlord
Rokka: Braves of Six Flowers
Ushio & Tora


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer 2015: What I'm Watching (Regular Viewing Slate)

It’s time for my seasonal rundown of all the shows I’m watching this season. This time around, I will split the entries into those shows which are set as part of my regular weekly viewing schedule, and those shows that are still competing as part of The Anime-zing Race series. As this entry focuses on my regular shows, expect lots of sequels, slice-of-life shows, and other shows that are ineligible for participation in the Race.

In addition to the shows below, I am continuing with three shows that started last season: Baby Steps Season 2, Food Wars - Shokugeki no Souma, and My love Story!!.

The shows that will be covered in this post are:

Castle Town Dandelion
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! Herz
Himouto! Umaru-chan
The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (2nd Half)
Non Non Biyori Repeat
Seiyu's Life!
Snow White with the Red Hair
Wagnaria!!3
Wakaba Girl/Miss Monochrome 2nd Season

Check out what I have to say about all these shows after the jump.


The Anime-zing Race (Summer 2015 Edition): Week 3

I've been lapped...
Last time on The Anime-zing Race, the ten remaining shows displayed their musical prowess to try to get ahead. Charlotte used the strength of its opening to take first place for the second leg in a row, while both Rampo Kitan and GATE displayed some disturbing sides to them, dropping them to the back of the pack. In the end, though, it was Rampo Kitan that could not avoid elimination.

The standings are:


  1. Charlotte
  2. Actually, I Am...
  3. Rokka: Braves of Six Flowers
  4. Ushio & Tora
  5. Overlord
  6. Aoharu x Machinegun
  7. Classroom Crisis
  8. Gatchaman Crowds
  9. GATE


This week, with no Detour or Roadblock, and a place in my seasonal What I’m Watching posts at stake, the remaining shows race straight through the three-episode marker. What show will be eliminated… next?


Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Anime-zing Race (Summer 2015 Edition): Week 2

In this race, the slow one seems to be the blogger...
Last week, the Summer 2015 season of The Anime-zing Race started off with a bang as eleven new shows sought to make a strong first impression. Charlotte schemed its way to the front with a first-place finish, while a horrifically boring first episode put Sky Wizards Academy so far behind that no other show felt the pressure of elimination. In the end, Sky Wizards Academy had no hope of catching up, and was eliminated from the race.

The current ranking is:


  1. Charlotte
  2. Actually, I Am
  3. Ushio & Tora
  4. Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace
  5. Classroom Crisis
  6. Gatchaman Crowds
  7. Aoharu x Machinegun
  8. GATE
  9. Overlord
  10. Rokka: Braves of Six Flowers


This week, some shows reveal some very ugly sides to themselves… Which show will be eliminated next?



This week, the shows will participate in a Detour, where they will choose to be evaluated on one of two aspects. A show’s performance in a detour may affect its final standings in that leg of the race. The choice this week: Opening or Ending.

Opening: Shows doing this detour will have their opening sequence judged, primarily by the music, while also factoring in the animation and how well it goes with the music.

Charlotte (“Bravely You” by Lia): Lia, who sang some great openers for other Key-based shows like Air, Clannad, and Angel Beats, does it again with another fantastic opener. The music has some unique structuring to it, the vocals are great, and the animation features all sorts of fascinating effects and intriguing imagery that is likely teasing future events. Definitely one of the best OPs of the season.

Some of the imagery is just plain amusing and cute, though.

Classroom Crisis (“Cobalt” by TrySail): Another very good OP, both musically and visually. Musically, the powerful vocals and energetic music make for a very engaging song. As for visuals, there are some really neat effects in this one, too, this time of a more playful, sci-fi style to fit the show. Another one of the season’s top OPs.

Gatchaman Crowds (“Crowds” by White Ash): The song has a neat vocal style, while the animation is definitely the highlight with all sorts of flashy, colorful effects, just like the show itself.

Rokka (“Cry for the Truth” by Mich): Because this show apparently has a different ED every episode, it is forced to put its OP for evaluation. Thankfully, this show’s OP is plenty strong musically, with some fantastic instrumentation to fit the fantasy world of the show.

Rampo Kitan (“Speed to Masatsu” by amazarashi): “Unnerving” is definitely the best way to describe this OP. The music and visuals both evoke a sense of unease, which definitely fits with the overall tone of the show.

Overlord: Eh, not much to say about this show’s OP (or ED). The song rocks out hard enough, I guess.

Ending: Basically the same thing as the Opening detour, but with show’s ending sequence instead. Keep in mind that most shows’ ending sequence animations are minimal compared to opening animations, so strong animation will stand out more.

GATE (“Prism Communicate” by Nao Touyama and Risa Taneda): Where on earth did this ED come from? The groovy electro-pop music, and especially those colorful, discotheque-like visuals, feel like they clash with the show… and yet, it works really well. Definitely one of my favorite EDs of the season.

When I joined the military, they never told me it'd be like this...

Actually, I Am (“Hologram” by MINMI): …a bit of a fan of Japanese rapping. Not sure why, when American rap just makes me want to throw a brick at the speakers… probably because I can’t tell what they’re saying, because American rap lyrics are generally horrible. Anyway, this song puts the rapping to a more downbeat song, and it sounds chill and sweet and just right. Kind of like the show itself.

Ushio & Tora (“Hero” by Sonar Pocket): I love me some good synths, and this ED definitely provides. The visual style is also pretty interesting.

Aoharu x Machinegun (“Gunjou Survival” by Mikako Komatsu): Unfortunately, both the show’s OP and ED are rather average musically. The ED wins out thanks to some decent animation, particularly one close-up shot as Hotaru leaps out of her shoes.

---

With the Detour now over, it's time to see how the shows' actual episodes fare as they head toward the pit stop of the leg. The last show to check in... may be eliminated.

Charlotte and Actually, I Am continue to be the front-runners of the race. The former already starts going into emotional territory as we learn of what happened to Nao's brother, and the latter introduces a fun new girl in Nagisa with her own amusing secret. While I actually liked the latter's episode more, the former's strong performance in the detour means that Charlotte takes 1st place again, while Actually, I Am comes in second.

If Rokka: Braves of Six Flowers gave me some reservations with the first episode, the second episode certainly had none. A nice, slower-paced episode that explored the emotions of our two known Braves, it really helps color the fantasy world this show takes place in. As such, it takes 3rd place.

Ushio & Tora continues to be surprisingly good. It's mostly fun stuff, but there's some nice themes of looking out for people other than yourself. As such, it takes 4th place.

Overlord takes 5th place as Momonga shows how he gets along with his more human-like NPC companions. The highlight continues to be the contrast between what his sort of character ought to be like and what sort of guy he actually is.

Aoharu x Machinegun takes 6th place as it gets into more survival games with a new character, albeit not a particularly likable one. Still, the episode is still overall interesting enough. Classroom Crisis also introduces a rather annoying new character, but its strong Detour performance and the likability of the rest of the cast helps it take 7th place. In 8th place, Gatchaman Crowds is... well, it was entertaining enough, but there's not much else to say about it.

The two shows racing to avoid last place both have problems with the tones of their shows that make me hesitant with continuing them. For Rampo Kitan, the resolution to the first mystery got really disturbing. The whole idea of the "human chairs" was disturbing enough, but the stories behind them are just so mentally messed up that I find the show just trying to be disturbing for its own sake. As for GATE, I'm not sure which is worse: the portrayal of the fantasy kingdom as a horrible, imperialistic one willing to throw its own subjects to the slaughterhouse, or a scene showing the American government as being... a bit too interested in the resources of this fantasy world.

However, Detour performance is no small matter; GATE manages to survive another week thanks to its strong ending sequence, coming in 9th place.

And that means Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is the last show to arrive, and has been eliminated from the race. I don't mind some disturbing stuff in shows, but there's a difference between the unnerving stuff that can make a show fascinating, and stuff that is just plain wrong. I don't care how much you love someone; you just do not want to be made into a human chair by them. Especially if you're a middle-schooler.

The definition of love is "not what I feel for this show".
Since I'm behind, next week will not feature a Detour or a Roadblock. However, the shows that can last through this next leg will get a "What I'm Watching" entry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Anime-zing Race (Summer 2015 Edition): Week 1

New season, new race rules, same bad banner-making skills.
It’s finally time to start the Summer 2015 edition of The Anime-zing Race! As I mentioned in my last post, this season will work a bit differently, with more limitations on eligible shows and a number of non-elimination legs. In addition, this first leg will introduce another new aspect to the Race that I might do for any given leg.

Before we begin, though, there has been some changes to the race lineup. Castle Town Dandelion has ascended from the race, being way more like my preferred slice-of-life anime than I had expected, a look into what happens in Chaos Dragon has told me that I want nothing to do with that show, and Suzukinashi The Animation has not received a legal stream at the time of the race start, so those three are no longer part of the Race, and three shows need to take their place. Two of those shows will be Overlord and Sky Wizards Academy… but unfortunately, all of the remaining shows are either too ecchi (Shimoneta, Monster Musume, Prison School), too dark and gruesome (Gangsta), or are not streaming on CR or Funimation (God Eater). Or, they are sequels to shows I have not yet watched… so…

I am now allowing shows from past seasons to participate in the Race. There are two conditions, though, for bringing in a past show. First, I cannot have watched any episodes of the show already (not even one episode). Second, the show must be either: 1. A show for which a sequel season is debuting in the current season, or 2. A show which started in a previous season but is still airing new episodes. Shows that fall under 1 will take priority.

As such, based on those conditions, Gatchaman Crowds (Season 1) will be my final Race candidate. The full list of Race candidates are:

Actually, I Am
Aoharu x Machinegun
Charlotte
Classroom Crisis
Gatchaman Crowds (Season 1)
Gate
Overlord
Ranpo Kitan
Rokka: Braves of Six Flowers
Sky Wizards Academy
Ushio and Tora

While many of these shows already have two episodes up, this first leg will focus only on the first episode of each show. So, let the Race begin!


Friday, July 3, 2015

The Anime-zing Race: Changes and Plans for Summer 2015 Season

So I kind of gave up on the whole "The Anime-zing Race" project last season, mainly because the same couple of shows were always at the top or at the bottom, and one show dominated the season too much. I'll be doing it this Summer 2015 season, but there will be some changes...

1. Shows that I have pegged early on as likely favorites will not be eligible. The Race will instead determine which show will be the "breakout hit" of the season, surpassing my initial expectations to become one of my favorites.

2. Related to the above, if I watch a show's first episode and decide that the show is all too easily going to dominate the race, it will "ascend" from the race, and another show will take its place.

3. Sequels and continuing shows are not eligible.

4. Also not eligible are any adaptations for which I have read the original source material beyond about 2 episodes' worth. For this upcoming season, that mainly means that Gakkou Gurashi/School-Live! is ineligible, as I've read a good portion of the manga already.

5. I will be very hesitant to put any slice-of-life show among the race competitors. I judge such shows on very different standards and usually rely on them as relaxing diversions, so critically judging them for something like the Race is pretty hard. Such a show would have to be well below my average expectations for its genre for me to consider giving it a spot, and can easily "ascend" from the race after the first episode.

6. Only shows streaming on Crunchyroll or Funimation are eligible (I wouldn't be watching the show at all otherwise.)

7. Finally, there will only be 11 shows participating at the start of the race (just like in the actual The Amazing Race). Shows that "ascend" from the race or lose eligibility some other way will be replaced with a backup show. Plus, out of the 12 legs of the race, only 8 will be elimination legs, where the last place show will be eliminated; 3 pre-determined legs are non-elimination legs, with the last place show spared elimination; however, said last-place show must fulfill a certain additional requirement in the following episode or its final placement in the next leg will be two places below where it would have otherwise placed that week, which may be enough to eliminate the show.

I may introduce some other elements into the Race if I feel like it. For now, here's a look at the (potential) participants for this season's Race:

Actually, I Am (Jitsu wa Watashi wa): Honest boy discovers girl is actually a vampire, and must keep her secret, while other monster girls surround him. Since that other monster girl series is going to be too lewd for me, I'll have to make do with this one.

Aoharu x Machinegun: Because apparently, survival game anime is still a big enough thing. This one has more of a shoujo flavor to it.

Castle Town Dandelion: It's Big Brother but with magically-powered siblings (and audience voting).

Chaos Dragon: Fantasy RPG-esque anime ahoy!

Charlotte: A Key original work, like Angel Beats. Definitely could end up ascending in the first leg, but can't say for sure.

Classroom Crisis: A romantic comedy, but on a colonized Mars. Slight chance of ascension.

Gate: In which Japanese "soldiers" station themselves at a portal to a fantasy world, and one, who happens to be an otaku, gathers companions in said fantasy world and deal with inter-world relationships. (Outbreak Company all over again?)

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace: A mystery/horror series on the NoitaminA block, based on the late Edogawa Ranpo's works.

Rokka no Yuusha: Six heroes will be called to conquer evil... so when seven appear, one must be an impostor, right? (Basically, The Mole in a fantasy world.)

Suzakinishi The Animation: Two seiyuu transfer into school to check it out. Not really sure what to make of it, so it's a slice-of-life that I'm allowing in the race's initial lineup; there's a slight chance of ascension.

Ushio to Tora: A priest's son and a youkai must team up to defeat a greater evil.

Backup candidates:

Overlord
Gangsta.
Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei no Kyoukan

---

If you want to see what I thought of various Spring 2015 shows, check out some of my reviews over at Beneath the Tangles, and check the comments afterwards for my thoughts on all the shows I've finished/caught up with this season:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Anime-zing Race: Spring 2015, Weeks 6-7

A double-episode for double the fun!
I fell behind on anime last week, so this week will feature two legs of the race. Last week, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan proved it had what it took to keep up with the front-running shows, and all the other shows put up good showings as well. In the end, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches could not quite keep up with the other shows, and ended up eliminated from the race, though not dropped from my watchlist.

The standings after Week 5 are:
  1. Sound! Euphonium
  2. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
  3. Hello! Kinmoza
  4. Baby Steps Season 2
  5. My Love Story
  6. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
  7. Show by Rock
  8. Re-kan
  9. Rin-ne
  10. Wish Upon the Pleiades
  11. Mikagura School Suite
  12. Food Wars - Shokugeki no Souma
Let's begin the next leg of the race!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Anime-zing Race: Spring 2015, Week 5

It's one thing to stay on my watchlist; it's another thing to stay in the race.
Last week, my final watchlist was finalized, with most shows putting up solid to outstanding performances, and in the end, it was Plastic Memories that was the last show that had to be dropped from my watchlist. The standings are:


  1. Sound! Euphonium
  2. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
  3. Hello! Kinmoza
  4. My Love Story
  5. Baby Steps Season 2
  6. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
  7. Show by Rock
  8. Wish Upon the Pleiades
  9. Re-kan
  10. Rin-ne
  11. Food Wars - Shokugeki no Souma
  12. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
  13. Mikagura School Suite
As a reminder, from now on, shows do not have to be dropped; they can simply be eliminated from the race, while I still watch the show outside of the race. That said, shows that are "out" will become lower-priority shows, which I am more likely to fall behind on.

This time around, Yamada-kun will be judged mainly on episode 4, while other shows will be judged on episode 5. So let's start the fifth leg of the race!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring 2015: What I'm Watching (Part 2)

And here are the rest of the shows I’m following this season:

RIN-NE
Show by Rock!
Sound! Euphonium
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
Wish Upon the Pleiades
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Go past the jump for more details on each of these shows.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Spring 2015: What I'm Watching (Part 1)

If you've been following my "The Anime-zing Race" series of posts, you know what shows will be on here already. If this is your first time seeing one of these posts, this is my seasonal rundown of all the shows I'm watching, with some background information, whether the show is a sequel to anything you should watch first, what I think of them so far, and where the show is available for legal streaming.

Here are the shows covered in this first part. Later on, I'll add links such that clicking on each show will jump you straight to that show's entry, but for now I'd just like to get this out as soon as possible.

Baby Steps Season 2
Food Wars - Shokugeki no Souma
Hello! Kinmoza
Mikagura School Suite
My love Story!!
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
Re-Kan!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Anime-zing Race: Spring 2015, Week 4

It's do or drop time.
All sorts of crazy things happened last week. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches invaded the race, forcing the leg to be a double-elimination and putting even more pressure on the competition. It was too much for Etotama, which tried too hard to become something more serious than it was, and it critically injured itself and had to be pulled from the race. Meanwhile, Plastic Memories suffered a huge slowdown and ended up at the back of the pack, but it was Ultimate Otaku Teacher who failed to gain tenure in my watchlist.

The current standings are:

  1. Sound! Euphonium
  2. My Love Story
  3. Hello! Kinmoza
  4. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO
  5. Baby Steps Season 2
  6. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
  7. Re-kan
  8. Wish Upon the Pleiades
  9. Show by Rock
  10. Food Wars - Shokugeki no Souma
  11. Rin-ne
  12. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
  13. Mikagura School Suite
  14. Plastic Memories
This next leg of the race is a very important one, as it is the last leg when the eliminated show will be dropped; every show that makes it past this leg will officially appear on my seasonal "What I'm Watching" posts, and in future legs, shows can be eliminated without being dropped--they'll end up as low-priority viewing, so I might fall behind on them, but as long as they don't do anything particularly ragequit-worthy, I'll still plan to finish them. This leg will be judged primarily on every show's fourth episode, except for Yamada-kun, whose latest episode is its third. So let's see which shows can stay safe during this critical leg of the race...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Anime-zing Race, Spring 2015 Edition: Week 3

Now with 200% more shocking twists, just like an actual reality show!
Last week, 16 shows entered the race to be one of the best new shows of Spring 2015. It was a battle to not be the first show on the chopping block, but after a close final dash between Etotama and Punch Line, it was ultimately Punch Line that was the first show to be sent home. Here is a recap of the standings from last week's race:

  1. Sound! Euphonium
  2. Hello! Kinmoza
  3. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO
  4. Baby Steps Season 2
  5. My love Story
  6. Plastic Memories
  7. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
  8. Re-kan
  9. Show by Rock
  10. Wish Upon the Pleiades
  11. Rin-ne
  12. Mikagura School Suite
  13. Food Wars - Shokugeki no Souma
  14. Ultimate Otaku Teacher
  15. Etotama
These fifteen shows stand ready to run the next leg of the race to avoid being last and the next show to be dropped... but wait! What is this...

NEW CHALLENGER ALERT!!!

That's right; at any point in this race, a new show may invade the race to compete for a winning spot. And when a new show appears, that week's race will always have a double elimination! So now racers must avoid being in the two bottom spots to still stay in the race one more week. As for who the new challenger is... well, let's introduce:

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches - A supernatural rom-com with witches, body-swapping, and kisses... lots and lots of kisses. It might be a week late in joining the race, but if it puts a strong performance, it can still claim a top spot and get its own victory smooch.

This week, all shows will be judged up to (and mainly on) Episode 3, except for Yamada-kun which will be judged up to episode 2 (the most recent episode). So let's begin the next leg of the race!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bottom 10 of 2014: What Just Did Not Work

I am not normally a negative person. When I watch shows, I watch them with the full intention of liking them, which does more often than not mean my overall evaluation of a show leans toward the positive side as I overlook various flaws the show might have. That does not mean I ignore those flaws, though, and sometimes they do noticeably detract from a show. And sometimes, the best way to know what works for me is to note what does not work.

So here are the parts of shows from 2014 that just did not work for me the most. Many of these come from shows I otherwise liked; in some cases they keep the show from ranking significantly higher, and in other cases they are just black marks on otherwise fantastic shows that I more or less overlook.  I'm not going to bother with stuff like "fanservice" or, say, the yuri in Sakura Trick, since that was aimed at a particular audience that I'm not a part of; rather, I'm looking at those things that were aimed at someone like me but failed to deliver. And, of course, this is my opinion, so you are certainly going to disagree with me; just be respectful and leave a comment on why you disagree, or what you felt the worst parts of 2014 are, or if you do agree with me on one or more of these.

My reaction to these moments.


Monday, April 20, 2015

My Favorite Anime of 2014: #40-49

I've put this off long enough. Time to go over the first ten of the shows I finished in 2014. These shows are technically the worst nine shows I watched, though that is really only a technicality and I did like all of these shows, especially those with a score above 8.0. That's why this all is the Top Anime of 2014. There are no "worst shows", just shows that aren't quite as amazing as others. So let's take a look at these shows, what worked in them and what did not quite work.

This time around, I have two scores with each title. The first is my personal score, out of 10.0, which is the basis I am making this ranking, because after all, this is my personal favorites list. The second score is a "review" score, based on how willing I am to recommend the show to others, based less on my own biases and more on the show's innate strengths. It is by no means an objective score, though, and is also simply my opinion of how much I can recommend this show to others.

The shows here have review scores of B or B-; here's what they both mean:

B (7/10): Good anime. Recommendable to anime fans in general with the understanding that it might not suit a decent portion of the fandom’s tastes. Fun, enjoyable, entertaining, albeit not necessarily memorable, these shows make a good way to pass a lazy day. Has flaws that do stand out, though, keeping the shows in question from being scored higher.

B- (6/10): Above-average anime. Probably only recommended for genre fans, these shows are very much steeped in their tropes and plot devices, with only minimal writing and execution done to make them rise above others like it. Their flaws are easy to find. However, they do have some amount of quality to them that makes them enjoyable and by no means a waste of time for its fans.

Anyway, enough of that; let's get to the shows themselves.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Anime-zing Race, Spring 2015 Season Edition: Weeks 1-2

Yes, my picture/text-editing skills are bad.
So here's something I'm doing to evaluate the new shows I'm watching this season. I'm taking all the shows I have some interest in this season and keeping track of how they stack up against each other. In a sort of reality-show style competition, I will eliminate the one show each week with the worst performance, and the shows that survive at the end of the season are the winners... which for this blog just means that they'll get a special post honoring the show, plus guaranteed following of any continuations or sequels.

There are two types of eliminations that can happen to a show:

A show that is out is out of the competition, but I will keep following it for the moment. Shows that are out are eligible for a special runner-up prize... which for this blog is a quick Looking Back post for the show.

A show that is dropped is just that: dropped. This will happen for the first several elimination rounds until I am down to thirteen shows, and will potentially occur from then on out if a show just gets really bad. Shows that are out could also get dropped later, which I will indicate if it happens.

So without further ado, let's introduce the competitors in this race (in alphabetical order):

Baby Steps Season 2 - The second season to a charming tennis show about a diligent note-taker who takes up the sport. Can it keep up the charm and take a top spot?

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan - A spinoff to the popular Haruhi Suzumiya series, but one that is decidedly less supernatural. How far can it take its own strengths and what it has inherited from its parent series?

Etotama - A silly (and somewhat meta) show about a cat having to battle her way into the Chinese zodiac in 3DCG duels. It might be a silly show, but can it hold itself up long enough to reach the end?

Food Wars - Shokugeki no Soma - A shounen cooking-battle show with eating scenes that make Gourmet Girl Graffiti seem G-rated. What kind of a performance can it cook up here?

Hello! Kinmoza - The second season to the cross-cultural classic from 2013 featuring cute blond girls from Britain and their Japanese friends, plus some new faces. It's a favorite of mine, but will that be enough to take it to the top?

Mikagure School Suite - A wacky school battle series based on a series of Vocaloid songs. How will its battle spirit hold up against the other shows fighting it out this season?

My Love Story - A shoujo series about a scary-looking but kind-hearted guy and the girl he falls in love with. It's a show that breaks shoujo conventions, but will that be enough to break its competition too?

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO - The sequel to another great show from 2013, about a group of maladjusted high schoolers as they fumble their way through a high school romcom and make a mess of it along the way. Can this show keep up or improve on its first season and take a top spot as expected?

Plastic Memories - An original series about androids that are nearing the end of their lifespan, and those who have to collect them before they expire. Will this show last in my memories and in this competition to the end?

Punch Line - A show about a guy whose spirit gets separated from his body, and who destroys the world if he sees too many panties. Yeah. Will the punchline be that this is the show that ends up on top?

Re-Kan - A slice of life show about a girl who can see spirits. Will its heartwarming tone keep this show from passing on into the afterworld?

RIN-NE - A shounen show about a girl who can see spirits, from the manga by the legendary Rumiko Takahashi. Can this work by a big-name artist avoid crossing over to the other side?

Show by Rock - A cute show featuring Sanrio characters who turn into CGI chibis to rock out and defend the world against dark music demons. If that sounds out of whack, that might be what this show needs to get to the end.

Sound! Euphonium - A show about a school concert band. As a former band player, this show is right up my alley and could be a top contender for this contest.

Ultimate Otaku Teacher - An otaku teacher tries to teach students with his special otaku ways. With teacher shows gaining popularity, can this show ride that wave to a top finish?

Wish Upon the Pleiades - A classic magical girl series that eschews the depressing stuff Madoka Magica made popular for more lighthearted fare. Can it finish the race and possibly convince me to make my next car a Subaru?

Well, there are the contestants. Without further ado, let's start the race!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Series of Miracles to focus entirely on moe anime!

...Happy April Fool's Day, everyone. (Besides, it's not like I don't already focus too much on moe anime as it is...)

On a serious note, my apologies for not being more active with this blog. I'll be trying to finish up the Best of 2014 series over the Spring season, as well as write some other posts for this blog. In the meantime, if you haven't seen my posts on Beneath the Tangles on The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, you can check them out through the links below.

When Will My Time Come? (Episode 5)
Too Great Expectations? (Episodes 6-7)
Relational Risk (Episode 7)

So while I won't be exclusively covering moe anime, I think I will still end up talking a lot about them, as long as they give me plenty to talk about. But I'll definitely try to find things worth talking about in other types of shows.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter 2015: What I'm Watching

Yeah, I'm late on this, because I've first been finishing up all the 2014-ending shows I was behind on before catching up with all of this season's new shows. (I'm still behind on a number of shows that started last year and are continuing into this season.) For now, though, let's look at this season's new shows. Since I'm doing this so late, this post will double as a sort of mid-season impressions post.

And yes, there's only one part this time; I only picked up nine new shows, so I figured I would just put them all in one post.

You can jump to any show directly by clicking on the links below:

Assassination Classroom
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Death Parade
Dog Days''
Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Kamisama Kiss Season 2
Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
The Rolling Girls


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I am now a writer for Beneath the Tangles!

Time for some special news. I am now officially part of the writing team for Beneath the Tangles!

Beneath the Tangles is the anime blog that inspired me to do my own blogging about Christian themes in anime, and I have been a big fan of the site for a while, so I am definitely honored to join their team. If you have not checked it out yet, I definitely recommend doing so.

As for what this means for this blog... well, it will still continue, although I plan to move continual coverage of ongoing shows to that site. This blog will move somewhat toward being more of a personal blog about my anime experience, though faith-based posts will not entirely disappear; they will probably be geared more toward older series, though. I will post links to any posts I write on that site here, too.

All that said, for all my readers, thank you for reading my blog and I hope you continue to join me in my exploration of Christian themes in anime, both at Beneath the Tangles and here. And if you have found this site from there, welcome!

Like A Good Shepherd? The Nature of Selflessness

So I've finally been able to finish A good librarian like a good shepherd (a.k.a. Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai), and it ended up being quite good. It certainly has its flaws, but it tells a solid story with likable characters, it can do emotional scenes well, and it's just overall one of the better visual novel adaptations I've seen. It also has some interesting things to say about the nature of selflessness.

Be warned: this time around, there are major spoilers after the jump.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Case for (Culinary) Sensuality

Perhaps one of the more unusual aspects of Koufuku Graffiti, a.k.a. Gourmet Girl Graffiti, are the rather... sensual eating scenes. Especially compared to the innocent look of the rest of the show, those scenes can come off to some Christians as unsavory, due to having just a bit of an erotic feel to them (Kirin even says so in the first episode about Ryou's eating style). As far as I am concerned, though, I think these scenes work well for the show. For a show that's all about food, they really highlight just how much the girls are enjoying the taste of the food. The "sensuality" is definitely there, in the sense that they are an attempt to evoke the sense of taste visually, moreso than being sexual in nature. As far as "fanservice" scenes go, it's actually quite... tasteful.

(Yeah, go ahead and throw tomatoes at me now. Fresh tomatoes please, though.)

You do realize every post about this show will start with a screencap of food, right?
Whether or not you approve of this show's displays of culinary sensuality, I think "sensuality" is an interesting topic worth considering for Christians. The Bible does have some strong words against sensuality, such as in 2 Peter 2, though according to the ESV Study Bible's notes, the actual original Greek word used, "aselgeia", refers to "lack of self-constraint" or "abandonment to immoral behavior", and usually refers to sexual sin, though it can certainly apply to eating habits as well. Eating with no self-constraint leads to all sorts of health problems, and as we are called to take care of our bodies to be temples for the Holy Spirit, having self-control with regards to food is an important thing.

That being said, the "sensuality" I'm talking about here, which is represented in Gourmet Girl Graffiti, is not unrestrained eating, but rather, simply enjoying the flavors of food. And that is a part of eating food that I think we all take for granted. How often do we just stuff food in our mouths, chew it, and push it down our throats without giving more than a couple thoughts to how the food tastes?

God could have made the world with only a minimally-functioning sense of taste, enough to warn us when we're about to eat something poisonous and nothing more. Instead, He gave us a sense of taste that allows us to greatly enjoy the process of eating. Eating moves from just being a bodily function we need to perform to survive to a way of experiencing pleasure on a regular basis without potentially causing serious harm (as long as we are careful and keep things in moderation).

Savoring our food's flavors has all sorts of advantages. By directing our attention to what we're eating instead of how much we're eating, we can more easily move toward eating better food (unless you really think McDonald's is gourmet fare), and with the right mindset, we can be satisfied with smaller portions. More importantly, while we are eating, we can praise God for great flavors and for making eating an enjoyable experience.

Like all good things, though, culinary sensuality can be taken to bad extremes. There's a difference between enjoying your food and demanding that your food be only of the highest quality. Even without going to that extreme, there is no reason to break your budget for taste; culinary sensuality is not a license to eat at fancy restaurant every night. And while this can also apply to other sensual experiences such as enjoying a visually-impressive anime or listening to great music, it clearly should not be applied to certain experiences, such as drug use or sexual immorality.

All that being said, I would wager that our problem is less likely that we enjoy food too much, and more likely that we do not enjoy our food enough, or at least, not in a truly God-glorifying way. In that way, Gourmet Girl Graffiti, in all its sensual glory, is a good reminder to savor our food every now and then.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Assassination Classroom and Great Teachers

If there's one show this season I was not quite expecting going in to love as much as I do, it would definitely be Assassination Classroom. I had heard that it would be a fun little romp about a crazy, tentacled teacher and his students' attempts to kill him, but I was not expecting the show to also have a deeper side to it, one that has quite some heart to it as it explores the relationship between teacher and student. Sure, the hyper-powered Koro-sensei is going to destroy the world in a year, and sure, he has invited one classroom of thirty kids to try to assassinate him before he does so, but as it turns out, Class 3-E is no ordinary class; it is a class of low-performing students at a prestigious prep school, and as such, many of the students have all sorts of issues with self-esteem and the like. As it turns out, though, Koro-sensei takes his teacher duties seriously, and in addition to dodging his students' attacks at Mach 20, he also helps them out with both homework and their personal growth. The complete contrast between the assassination attempts and the teacher-student relationship building seems like it should not work at all, but it sure does, and makes for a wonderful viewing experience. No wonder the original manga is so popular in Japan right now.

Homework help? Attempted murder? Who said the two don't go together?
Now that I think about it, there are actually quite a number of anime and manga series that involve teachers, oftentimes of unusual sorts, and how they connect with their students. There's Great Teacher Onizuka, which sees a former gang leader try to become a teacher as he ends up with a class of problem children. Negima! features a ten-year-old take on teaching duties while all sorts of magical hijinks go on. For more "normal" stuff, there's Doki Doki School Hours, and the upcoming anime adaptation of Denpa Kyoushi will feature a NEET who gets thrown into teacher work. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples, too. It's pretty clear that there is an appeal for these types of stories, where teachers are shown going beyond their teacher duties to really connect with and help their students.

In many cultures, teachers are well-respected in general, while at the same time stories of especially nasty teachers also frequently appear. It is as if we realize that there is quite a lot of weight and responsibility that goes with the teacher role, such that a bad teacher can be absolutely ruinous, but a good teacher is absolutely irreplaceable.

Christianity also gives teachers a lot of respect, and places a lot of responsibility on them. The fact that Jesus was frequently referred to as a teacher is already a good indicator of how respected teachers are, as well as how really good teachers care about those they teach. At the same time, the Bible is full of warnings against false teachers, because nothing is worse than a person in a respected position of instruction spreading falsehoods to people who generally do not know better to question him. James 3 warns that not everyone should be a teacher: the teacher role comes with an extra strict judgment because of how influential it is.

Great teachers, though, are truly worth celebrating. They can not only help children learn important things for their future, but they can also help those children through the various difficulties they encounter growing up. Shows like Assassination Classroom are not just fun, entertaining shows, but are also celebrations of great teachers. Even if said teachers are trying not to get killed by their students.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It has begun...

The page for the Best of Anime 2014 is up! You can find it on the header.

I'll be doing things a bit differently this time around. Everything will be on that one page (except for the actual Top Anime of 2014, which will still be full blog posts), and the page will be updated as I write more entries. Entries will have shorter explanations and will not include pictures, to keep this project from overwhelming me like it kind of did last year. But, there are some new categories this year, so look forward to those!

I still have some shows from 2014 to finish up, so it might be a while before things get fully updated. I do have the Best Opening Episodes of 2014 up, though, and the Best Opening/Ending Themes/Animations will be up sooner rather than later. So with that said, get ready to make fun of my weird tastes in anime... or something.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Koinonia Graffiti

Think about your favorite meals from last year--those meals that were so delicious, you still remember them long after you've eaten them. (If your memory doesn't go back that far, just think about your favorite meals from the holiday season.) What did you have during that meal? What flavors can you recall?

And... who did you eat those meals with? Family? Good friends? That guy/girl you have a huge crush on?

For me, I most remember the various meals I had in Japan, a lunch on Thanksgiving Day, and various holiday meals. The Thanksgiving meal was with friends, while the others were with family. Of course, the foods themselves were great (sushi from nearby a wholesale fish market is the best), but even then, I doubt I would have remembered them as much as I do if I had eaten them by myself. Something about food just tastes better when eaten with people you care about.

And that is what Koufuku Graffiti, or Gourmet Girl Graffiti, is all about.

The obligatory cute-girls-doing-cute-things show of the new anime season, Gourmet Girl Graffiti is a Studio SHAFT production that is equal parts cute and hunger-inducing. Ryou Machiko had been living by herself for a year since her grandma died, and while she enjoys cooking, she finds that nothing she's been making is tasting good. Things change, though, when her second cousin, Kirin, visits for the weekend, and suddenly, the food she's making tastes good again. As Kirin explains, it's because she had been eating alone all this time, when dinnertime is supposed to be a time spent with loved ones.

No foxes were harmed in the making of this dish; it's just udon with fried tofu.
The importance of fellowship and food is also something that the Bible mentions when describing the first Christians:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, ESV)
The Greek word for "fellowship" here is "koinonia", which is perhaps one of the more well-known Christianity-related Greek words out there. And this fellowship does seem to be connected with "the breaking of bread", referring to both the observance of the Lord's Supper and general group mealtimes. The early Christians seemed to recognize that there was something about food that is worth enjoying together, just like what Ryou discovered with her food.

If you do find yourself eating alone, though, don't worry, because you are never truly alone: you can always enjoy your meal with God. Things like saying grace before a meal and receiving your meal with a glad and generous heart can help, as can taking the time to savor your food to praise God over it. Of course, this doesn't mean you should forego fellowship meals with loved ones; Christianity was never a faith to be followed alone, after all.

---

Gourmet Girl Graffiti is definitely is looking to be my favorite show of the season. Aside from its cuteness and charm, it's a show that makes me think about food--not just eating it, but also what role food has in my life and my relationship with others and God. As such, expect more posts about this show and about food. And yes, I realize this show has some rather... sensual eating scenes. In fact, that will be the topic of my next post on this show.

If food is something important to your life, too, then I think this is a show worth watching. Whatever the case, though, I hope this post and the rest to come will encourage you to think more about your food. Bon appetit!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Looking Back: Tokimeki Memorial: Only Love

Just because it's the show that really got me into anime doesn't mean I have any particular nostalgia for it...

Not pictured: One knockout chick.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Encouragement of Climb: From a Promise to a Covenant

The second season of Encouragement of Climb has finally come to an end, and with it, the end of the YamaHanaBara trio of shows that I have compared to stages in a Christian's walk of faith. While I haven't been blogging this show as much as I would like, these final episodes have been a real joy nonetheless as Aoi and Hinata climb the same mountain they climbed as kids, to finally fulfill the promise they made back then to see the sunrise atop that mountain again. All the while, the two of them wonder... just what will happen when their promise is fulfilled? Would their relationship change once the promise between them was no longer there?

One thing's for sure; that is one gorgeous sunset.
There will be spoilers after the jump, as usual.