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.

#49: Le Fruit de la Grisaia (Grisaia no Kajitsu)
Personal score: 6.8/10.0; Review score: B-

Mission accomplished, I guess.

As far as visual novel adaptations go, this adaptation of the first game in the Grisaia trilogy has a lot to like. The cast of characters are all fun, and the stories are interesting enough, with some nice comedy moments and a sense of absurdity over it all. However, that absurdity did hurt it somewhat in taking away from the emotional impact of the routes. The biggest problem with this show, though, was definitely the pacing. The 13-episode format made a lot of the arcs feel rushed, especially those that only had one episode to them. Ironically, the last arc, given a full four episodes... kind of dragged a bit for me. It's bad enough that I don't feel like watching the new season currently airing. That said, I did get interested enough in this show to back the Kickstarter for the English localization of the visual novels, and considering that most of these visual novel adaptations are intended to promote their source material... I guess the show did its job.

#48: Seitokai Yakuindomo*
Personal score: 7.3/10.0; Review score: B-

More than just a dirty jokes show.

Seitokai Yakuindomo is a show that's all about a bunch of girls making dirty jokes. This sounds like a bad show for someone like me, who's not big on dirty jokes, but thankfully there's more to this show than just the dirty jokes. The characters are more than just mouthpieces for the jokes; they are given enough characterization and relational development to feel like actual characters, and thus make the show feel less like a dirty jokes show and more like a slice-of-life show about hanging out with dirty-minded girls and one shorty. The second season has some nice small relational developments and just overall help make an already decent slice-of-life better. It's not a show I'd recommend easily but I'm always up for more of them.

#47: Golden Time
Personal score: 7.6/10.0; Review score: B-

Romances don't automatically get more mature just because you graduate into college.

With a college-setting show by the writer of Toradora!, a top-notch romantic comedy, I was really looking forward to this show. Unfortunately, for various reasons, this show just did not work on the same level. My biggest problem with this show was that I just did not really feel the main romance too much. Sure, it was pretty realistic, with two broken people getting together for rather arbitrary reasons--sounds like most college romances, honestly--but it does put it at a significant disadvantage from Ryuuji and Taiga of Toradora!, still one of my favorite anime couples ever. Back to this show, the amnesia/ghost aspect also didn't work too well with me. What did this show do well? Overall solid writing where it counted, and great comedy. Still, it's not a particularly memorable show, but I liked it enough, and I guess a story in set in college instead of the usual high school setting is a nice change of pace.

#46: Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror)
Personal score: 7.8/10.0; Review score: B

Bad(ly-written) girls, whatcha gonna do?

This show had so much promise. Helmed by the legendary Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame, with Yoko Kanno on sound work, and a first episode that promised a provocative thriller story juxtaposed with a girl trying to find her place in life. The result... did not work out quite as well. Lisa could have been a great female character, one whose presence would radically change Nine and Twelve's very way of life. Instead... she ended up being a damsel in distress pretty much the entire time. Blah. Add in a very bland and stereotypical femme fatale villain, and this show is definitely not female-friendly. It does hold up pretty well as a classic thriller, though, and Detective Shibasaki's side of the story is excellent. It also has some interesting things to say about things like Japanese nationalism and nuclear weapon usage. If only it said those things better...

#45: Sabagebu!
Personal score: 8.0/10.0; Review score: B

Yet another reminder that this show originally came from a shoujo manga.

As far as comedy types go, this show definitely has a mean streak. This show would often push the envelope of what could be considered tasteful comedy, with plenty of cases of comedic abuse and even bulimia played for laughs. The mean-spirited-ness of the comedy is not my first choice of comedy style, but it is plenty amusing enough and helps the show distinguish itself from other comedies this year. Adding to the show's value are a number of sequences that reference famous movies such as Mad Max and Predator. In this show, nothing is sacred, and everything is, for the most part, fun, even if I prefer more... sensible comedies.

#44: Kill la Kill
Personal score: 8.1/10.0; Review score: B-

The next Gurren Lagann it's not, but it's a fun ride still.

Kill la Kill is a show full of style and supposedly about the role of clothing in our lives or something like that. Well, never mind that part; this is a show mainly full of flashy battle scenes and a plot with more twists than a box of Red Vines. The characters are mostly fun, with Mako easily being the best part of the show and making what is otherwise an okay show much better. I still feel this show is somewhat overrated: yes, it's plenty of fun, but for all it supposedly says about clothing, in the end, it's about a girl that gains power from wearing a skimpy battle suit, and as far as I see it, there's a limit to how meaningful such a show can be.

#43: Girl Friend BETA (Girlfriend (Kari))
Personal score: 8.1/10.0; Review score: B-

Maybe a couple too many cute girls doing cute things.

Funnily enough, from what I could gather, the mobile game this show was based on was more or less a dating sim--and yet, the show here is not a harem show, but a simple cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, albeit with about six times the girls. As the show shifts its focus to different sub-casts, the quality also varies, with the last of the band episodes and the episode with the aspiring novelist being the best. The biggest thing that keeps this show from being as good as other cute girls' shows is that, with the focus spread out among so many girls, I don't get to connect with any of them as deeply as I would if the show focused on a core group of girls like other cute girls shows do. Still, it's a nice, laid-back show with some good moments.

#42: Sakura Trick
Personal score: 8.2/10.0; Review score: B-

Basically, a show about horny teens. That they're both girls is just details.

I have talked a lot about Sakura Trick on this blog, because for a Christian like me to willingly watch a full-on yuri show is something that has to come with some evaluation of such an experience. You can read my posts for my full thoughts on it, but my conclusions were that, while as a standard cute girls slice of life comedy, it worked fine, as a yuri show... it was okay. It had some interesting aspects to it, mainly in exploring how physical attraction and emotional intimacy are different, though that same focus on the physical aspect of the relationship also held back the show for me, since I'm more for that emotional intimacy stuff. And in the end, for reasons I have also blogged about, I just prefer the pseudo-yuri stuff. Still, I got through a yuri series and I liked it, even if not for the yuri itself.

#41: D-Frag!
Personal score: 8.2/10.0; Review score: B

No need to put a bag over this show's head.

Here's a fun show, full of wacky characters who get in wacky situations and one guy who reacts to it all in classic tsukkomi style. It even has some more heartwarming moments here and there, though that does take a backseat to the comedy. It's an overall well-rounded show and I enjoyed it a lot, even if I do not have much to say about it otherwise.

#40: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!
Personal score: 8.2/10.0; Review score: B

This show is slowly starting to become a full-fledged part of the Fate-verse.

The first season of Prisma Illya got a 7.8, so this show is on the uptick. The addition of Chloe to the cast is great, the battles are plenty of fun, and the storyline is also developing some serious backbone as we learn more about Illya. The comedy is still great, too. There's still another half to the Zwei storyline, and I am most definitely looking forward to that.

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