...for a quick summary of the spring season. As usual, I'll discuss my top picks, and then the rest of the shows I watched.
My personal top five, in alphabetical order:
- Acchi Kocchi. What seemed like a typical moe-blob show evolved into a charming and sly slice-of-life comedy. The characters were interesting, and the gags ranged from good to great. Yes, it helped that Tsumiki seemed to be some sort of cat, but it was really the interaction among the five leads that made the show shine. There was even some character progression, if nothing conclusive.
- Haiyore Nyarlko-san. The subversive comedy of the season, if not quite as anarchic as Yondemasu Azazel-san. Chock-a-block with parodies, references, political satire, and shattered fourth walls, Nyarlko-san was far better than the Flash-based shorts that preceded it. The show never took itself seriously, which allowed for absurd plots to climax in even more absurd denouements. (The summary for several episodes was, "What a terrible punch line.")
- Nazo no Kanojo X. Like most viewers, I'm still put off by the drool ick-factor, but that aside, Nazo was a charming and honest exploration of the head-heart (or hormone-emotion) conflicts of teenage romance. If the hero, Tsubaki, was a bit generic, the heroine, Urabe, was an original creation, brilliantly voiced by a new seiryuu. I wish we could see how this all turns out.
- Polar Bear Cafe. This droll, slow-paced comedy seems to be an acquired taste, but it suits me fine. Polar Bear's constant trolling; Panda-kun's childisth narcissism; Penguin-san's romantic anguish; and the general absurdity of animals and humans interacting naturally while still remaining true to their natures; all tickle my funny-bone. The last couple of episodes have been unexpectedly "sincere" without becoming maudlin.
- Tsuritama. Probably my favorite. A show that began as character-driven and transitioned to plot-driven without missing a beat. All of the characters change and grow - and grow closer - while pursuing that least-interesting of sports (fishing) and a Macguffin of a fish that legend says they must catch. The interactions among Yuki, Haru, Akira, Natsuki (and Tapioca the duck) drive the show and shape the plot as well. Tsuritama was visually innovative and a pleasure to watch. Unfortunately, it truly wrapped up conclusively, so no second season or OVAs seem possible.
The others that I watched or am watching:
- Accel World. I really have trouble with the lead character being drawn as a dumpy chibi. It makes his friendships with Snow Black and the others seem unrealistic. Or will we discover that the "real world," as the hero sees it, is also a virtual reality of some kind? In any case, I find Accel only intermittenly interesting, as the VR trope has been done to death.
- Ginga e Kickoff. I started watching this because of Guardian Enzo's recommendation, and I'm still watching it, despite my distaste for both shounen and sports anime. It's not sophisticated, or brilliantly animated, or all that original. However, it has sincerity and enthusiasm going for it, as well as likeable characters and realistic situations.
- Hyouka. Or, the mystery of "Much Ado About Nothing." I was okay with the show's trivial mysteries when they only lasted an episode, but the current four-episode arc is trying my patience. It is totally dependent on what Roger Ebert calls the Idiot Plot device: if they ask the screenwriter what she intended, the show is over in 30 seconds. But meanwhile, it's beautiful eye candy and interesting on occasion.
- Kimi to Boku 2. If you enjoyed season one, you liked this; and if you didn't, you didn't. I did, although the show is sometimes so laid back as to be soporific.
- Kore wa Zombie 2. The same comments apply to this sequel. If it was no better than season one, it was no worse, either.
- Kuroko no Basketo. This started out well, with an interesting premise and set of characters, but now it is caught up in the Endless Cycle of Shounen: in each show, the basketball team must draw a new rabbit out of the hat to confront the Next Boss. I'd like to see more character development, particularly of Kuroko, who remains a cipher.
- Lupin III: The Woman Called Mine Fujiko. Stylish, sexy, and totally over the top. The author's fetishes are on full display in this series, but to me, that just added to the interest. I particularly liked the dark side that Lupin and the other characters displayed. This wasn't the G-rated Lupin of the later TV series and specials: Lupin wanted into Fujiko's shorts, and Zenegata actually got there. The animation style was different, gritty, and well-suited to the material.
- Medaka Box. There are better shows about high-school student councils. Much better shows.
- Mouretsu Pirates. This show seemed thematically conflicted. On one hand, it was about cute high-school girls doing cute things. On the other hand, it was about galactic conflict. On one hand, there was lots of slice-of-life comedy. On the other hand, ships got blown up and people killed. The show never really came to grips with the life-and-death nature of piracy and treated it, until the last few episodes, as a form of cosplay. Still, the heroine was plucky and likable, the supporting characters interesting, and the animation good.
- Sakamichi no Apollon. I'd like to add to the near-universal chorus of praise this series received, but I felt it fell apart at the end. Probably there was too much material for a 12-episode show, but the breaks in continuity, and the deus-ex-machina events, of the last few episodes were very annoying. Kudos, though, for the music, the animation, and the direction; it was fun spending time with these characters.
- Tasogare Otome. This just couldn't hold my interest after the first couple of episodes.
I dropped Folkstales from Japan, Hiiro no Kakera, Natsuiro Kiseki, Saki Achiga-hen, Sankarea, and Zetman. I never started Aquarion Evol, Eureka 7 AO, Jormugand, Phi Brain S2, Queen's Blade Rebellion, Sengoku Collection, or Shining Hearts. Your mileage may vary.
Among the short series, I continue to like Poyopoyo best. Yurumates 3D was okay (although not as good as the OVAs), but Recorder to Randoseru fell back too often on the "he's a child molester" joke.