Monday, July 25, 2011


I admire the ability of my editing colleague, Dark_Sage, to review multiple fansub versions of the same anime series, pointing out the errors of omission and commission in the subs and grading the overall effort.  I couldn’t bring myself to do those kinds of reviews, because so much anime these days is garbage – or to use the particularly redolent Yiddish term, dreck.

I’m not going to claim that anime quality was higher in some mythical past.  Popular entertainment – TV, movies, anime, music – always contains only small amounts of gold surrounded by tons of dross.  While the clichés of today were once original ideas, they weren’t necessarily any better when first introduced, only fresher.  Harem is harem, whether it’s Love Hina or Nyan Koi.

What has changed is my tolerance, or rather, my intolerance, for tired ideas presented in unchanged tropes.  Harem, moe, shounen, mecha, mahou shoujo, girls with guns – they’ve all been done to death.  As a result, my collector’s mania has started to fade.  I always knew I was collecting more anime than I could ever watch.  Now I’m limiting what I watch and keep.  There’s just too much dreck.

The spring 2011 season, with its record number of shows, was the turning point.  It took just five minutes of Cardfight: Vanguard to convince me that further watching was a waste of time and bandwidth.  Toriko followed shortly thereafter, followed by Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream.  I couldn’t bear to watch Dog Days (cutesy-poo), Deadman Wonderland (too violent – grandparents don’t like shows that feature mistreatment of children), Sengoku Otome (pointless), 30-Sai (witless), Softenni (useless), Hen Zemi (yuck), Oretachi (a confused mess), Sket Dance (shounen tripe), X-Men (superhero tripe), Gintama (I’m going to watch another 203 episodes of this?), Hidan no Aria (girls with guns clichés), Kaiji S2 (emo run riot), C (not engaging), or Steins;Gate (ditto).

Many of the shows I did watch left me with mixed feelings.

  • Ano Hana.  This show’s promising premise was undone by clumsy execution and devices straight from the Idiot Plot handbook.  All the character development was left to the last episode, and the suspense was only sustained because the ghost refrained from demonstrating her presence – until she didn’t.
  • Doronron Enma-kun.  Dirty-minded fun, but it stopped being original after three or four episodes.
  • A Channel.  This slice of life comedy was harmless enough, but I can’t say it left a lasting impression.
  • Denpa Onna.  Another show with a strong premise, but it disintegrated as the episodes progressed and ended up as a boring and routine teenage comedy.
  • Astarotte Omocha.  The creators tried to have it both ways – heartwarming comedy and loli ecchi-fest – and succeeded only at leaving a distasteful impression.
  • Ao no Exorcist.  I keep hoping it will come to a clean, quick end.  However, the progression of the manga is not promising.
So did I like anything at all?  Yes, a few shows.  As I said in a previous entry, Fireball Charming had terrific dialog and deadpan delivery to go along with its short, CG-based episodes.  Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san was an equal-opportunity offender, taking vicious potshots at everyone and everything.  Neither its plot nor its outcome was predictable.  Nichijou started randomly but grew into a really funny (if still incoherent) show, and besides, I liked the talking cat.  Hanasakaru Iroha was a shoujo show without bishounen or reverse harem overtones, a slice of life that wasn’t insistently heartwarming, and a warm comedy.

But the summer 2011 season looks to be no better. I’ve already discarded Yuruyuri, Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel, The Idolm@ster, R-15, Ro-kyu-bo, Uta no Prince-sama Maji LOVE 100%, and Manyuu Hikenchou, which range from the insipid to the disgusting.  Blade, Sacred Seven, Kamisama Dolls, Blood-C, and Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi don’t have an original idea between them.   Nurarihyon is a sequel to a series I didn’t much like in the first place.  Nekogami Yaoyorozu is making me break my “I’ll watch anything with cats” rule.

So what’s left?

  • Ikoku Meiro no Croisee.  This gentle slice of life show is very soothing.  Nothing much happens, or has happened so far, and that’s goodness.  The characters are developing slowly but visibly; there’s no melodrama or villainy.  I’d like it to stay that way and avoid the usual trap of “We must provide some dramatic tension for the climactic episodes.”
  • Usagi Drop.  Another gentle slice of life show.  Although fans are raving about how cute Rin is, the real draw for me is that the protagonist is actually an adult, confronting real-life adult problems, like balancing work and child care.  I’ve heard that the manga goes disastrously wrong at the end; I hope the anime can hold its balance.
  • Natsume Yuujinchou San.  Yeah, it’s a sequel to a sequel, but so what?  The episodes are showing more depth, even compared to previous seasons.  The protagonist has developed emotionally, and Sensei is better than ever.  This is a great show, possibly the best of the summer.
  • No. 6.  I’m afraid this series is going to strike too hard for “depth and profundity in eleven episodes,” like Fractale, and the boy(s)-against-the-system mantra is totally clichéd.  But I’ll give this another couple of episodes, because it’s the only science fiction show this season.
  • Dantalian no Shoka.  A good premise, but already showing signs of “monster of the week” syndrome.  Fewer specious mysteries and more character development, please!
  • Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni.  I loved the first series for its utter goofiness.  This season seems to be “more of the same,” yet I’m finding the freshness to be lacking.
  • Kamisama no Memochou.  I’m editing this show for Monokage, so I’m watching it despite its flaws.  At least the spineless hero is showing signs of improvement.
  • Nyanpire the Animation.  Cats with fangs!  No need to say more.
So there you have it: a capsule review of two anime seasons.  You may agree with my preferences, you may not, but I think you’ll agree with my starting premise – these days, you have to sift through an awful lot of dreck to find anime series that are worth watching.

Updated 8/27/11. Zalis's comment prodded me to take a second look at this column, and I can see that I need to update a few shows.  I'm still watching the eight summer shows I listed, even though Monokage has dropped Kamisama no MemochouUsagi Drop continues to grow on me.  I've added back Kamisama Dolls, which has taken its "kids-with-superpowers" premise in different, and darker, directions than I had expected.  And I must confess to watching Mayo Chiki, which falls in the "guilty pleasure" category: I feel guilty for watching it and guilty for enjoying it, because of its harem tropes and blatant fanservice, but I watch it anyway.


  1. As a fansubber, I actually have to be really careful on what new series I watch (since I have no time to watch everything), and I definitely agree with you that a lot of the shows were garbage.

    I actually prefer my shows to be reasonably wholesome and uplifting, and most of the series the last two seasons simply do not fit the criteria.

    Unfortunately the fall season doesn't look promising either. There's only one series out of the fall season that I may be interested in watching (and subbing). That says a lot... and that says a lot on why I prefer to work on the "backcatalog".

  2. What about Mayo Chiki! Already on the scrap heap, I presume?

  3. Thanks for reminding me, Zalis. No, I confess that I'm actually watching. It belongs in the "guilty pleasure" department (like your excellent resissue of "Lime-Colored Wars").