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
Classroom Crisis
Gatchaman Crowds (Season 1)
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:

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