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.

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