The Best of Summer 2013
Right, so after all those season finales over the past week, I now have a disturbingly empty watching list in preparation for the upcoming Autumn season – so it is time to pick my favourites of the Summer season! It has been a pretty damn good season, normally I only list 5 shows from an equinox season and consider that a decent showing, but this time I have enough good shows to compile a top 10! It has been a while since we had such a strong summer season.
Danganronpa was a very entertaining watch. Since it’s a game adaptation it was always going to feel a bit choppy, but I think the show worked pretty well overall. As a mystery some of the twists were quite obvious, but enough twists blindsided me that I didn’t feel bored with the series. The characters were fairly shallow, but they served their purpose well and I definitely had fun watching the series. The somewhat cheap animation probably isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I felt it lent an interesting, slightly off-kilter atmosphere to the show which worked in it’s favour as a murder mystery series. I’d be quite interested in playing the game now!
Watamote was a strange show which left me with very mixed feelings more often than not. I feel vaguely guilty for rating it so low, but I just don’t have any real love for the show so here it is in 9th place. I guess I’m just not a massive fan of the cringeworthy black humour which Watamote was so amazingly adept at. I rarely made it though an entire episode in one go – often having to pause the episode and go do something else for a while before resuming – such was the cringeworthiness. But Watamote is still a brilliantly written show which does an excellent job of portraying crippling social anxiety. Tomoko is a fascinating creature to watch – entirely unlikeable and you often feel more pity and sympathy for her – I often experienced a sense of morbid fascination in watching her self destruct over and over again. But at the end of it all I still can’t say I enjoyed Watamote personally – it just didn’t have enough positive moments, and Tomoko really didn’t grow much as a person over it the run of the series. I like shows to have some sort of positive outlook at the end, but Tomoko is as hopeless as ever in the final episode, which means I just can’t rate it very highly. Interesting series, but not enjoyable for me personally.
8. Monogatari Series: Second Season
My thoughts on Monogatari tend to vary wildly. The meandering dialogue and visual style that made me fall in love with Bakemonogatari, now feel rather standard and the show needs to try harder to get my attention. I sometimes feel rather put off my the paedophilic fanservice the series indulges in rather too frequently, but at the same time I really do like the characters. Hanekawa’s arc was pretty interesting (mainly because it had a sizable dose of Senjougohara), I enjoyed the time-travel aspect of Mayoi’s arc quite a lot and the first episode of Nadeko’s arc promises good things to come. This season has rolled back Araragi’s presence quite a bit, allowing the girls more time to tell their stories themselves – it has resulted in a fairly mixed bag IMO, everyone gets a bit more depth, but since I enjoy Araragi’s antics most I’ve ended up missing him. However the change of pace was needed as all Araragi all the time was getting rather tedious. I still enjoy Monogatari, but I’m no longer in love with it.
7. Genshiken Nidaime
The third season of Genshiken focuses on the all fujoshi new members of the club and unfortunately they’re just not as interesting to watch as the original cast. Of the new cast the only truly interesting character was Hato, the crossdressing fudanshi – which the series seemed to realise given how much attention he received. However the show was at its best when it was centred on Madarame and his personal struggles with unfulfilling employment, the tedium of the “real world” after graduation and unrequited love. Of course Madarame benefits from having 2 previous seasons of development, but his complexity as a character really made the new girls feel even more shallow in comparison. Still Genshiken Nidaime was a fun show to watch, full of the fun throwaway references to animanga that always made the show entertaining. Not as good as its previous seasons but still worth watching.
6. Hakkenden Season 2
When I originally picked up Hakkenden I did so because I was looking for one of those pretty multi-coloured bishie shows that I so enjoy – imagine my surprise when this show managed to really draw an emotional response out of me beyond “ooh pretty!”. Hakkenden has some amazingly well written episodes that put me in mind of xxxHOLiC & Natsume Yuujinchou – both shows I love to pieces, so this is high praise indeed. It is also fantastically pretty (which is why I picked it up in the first place) with gorgeous direction and some really stunning use of colour. I never failed to find myself surprised by just how good Hakkenden was on a week to week basis, especially since it is a Studio DEEN show filled with bishies! I don’t think it would be to everyone’s taste, but I would recommend it if you want to watch something pretty with a bit more depth to it than you would initially expect.
5. Servant X Service
I went into Servant x Service expecting another Working! – and that is pretty much what I got…..except better. Focusing on a cast of adult civil servants, SxS was a huge amount of fun and actually had quite a lot of “feels” too. I really wasn’t expecting romance to play such a large role, but watching Lucy & Hasebe interact was so fecking charming I couldn’t stop myself from going ‘D’awwww~!’ and getting really into their budding relationship. The cast is quite small and they all have excellent chemistry in all conceivable combinations, which is quite an achievement in a comedy show as often a couple of characters steal the show. Servant x Service is a very solid show and I’d quite happily watch another season (although it doesn’t necessarily need one).
Ah Free! I enjoyed this show way too much considering it is essentially identical to the majority of ‘cute girls do cute things’ shows except genderbent & with added swimming. Being the shallow, shallow fangirl I am, the pretty, pretty bishies and glorious KyoAni animation voided out any criticism my more rational mind may have had about the poor pacing and how much Rin needed a good slap. Saying that Free! certainly put effort into building up believable relationships between its main characters – Rei especially turned out to be very interesting considering he doesn’t share the same past as the other four boys, and his outsider status gave him a unique perspective on all the Rin drama. But yeah, the plot progression was pretty predictable and Free! doesn’t exactly do anything groundbreaking or new. If I’m being completely honest I loved this show so much solely because good god is is gorgeous! KyoAni did not disappoint with their wonderfully detailed swimming animation and character designs with actual human figures (hoorah for a show with no blobby designs!) Free! is a pretty, pretty show which knows its demographic well and for once I really didn’t mind the blatant pandering…..mainly because for a change it was me being pandered to! Also that ED is still the best thing in the world.
3. Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family)
Finally! A PA Works show I can actually say I truly enjoyed! I am so fecking happy right now! Of course the fact that Uchouten Kazoku bares absolutely no resemblance to any other PA Works show helps – the drastically different artstyle employed in this show is a real departure from their usual beautiful, but overly polished style. However that’s not to say that Uchouten Kazoku isn’t beautifully animated – outside of the stylised character designs there are some fantastic backgrounds and glorious use of colour. However it isn’t the aesthetics of the show that endeared it to me so much, it was the writing and the characters. Focusing on a group of mythical creatures mixing with humans in modern day Kyoto, the show blends comedy & drama exceptionally well. However the final quarter went a wee bit heavy on the drama aspect, which caused me to lower my final score a touch. The dialogue is rich and nuanced, every conversation feels natural and adds something to the characters (unsurprising given this is from the same author as The Tatami Galaxy). However it is a pity that we never learn more about Benten given how prominently she features in the show, but the series was always more about the tanuki family rather than the tengu, so I can’t complain too much.
2. Silver Spoon
Silver Spoon was damn near perfect. Its deft blending of comedy and education immediately puts me in mind of Moyashimon, but Silver Spoon feels much more polished and more rounded than Moyashimon ever was. The writing is just superb in Silver Spoon – it is abundantly clear it came from the same mangaka that gave us Fullmetal Alchemist – the same perfect comedic timing and wonderful character interaction is present in Silver Spoon. Indeed it is watching the characters interact that really make this show something special. Everyone feels like a proper person and they all bounce off each other remarkably well. Hachiken is the lynch-pin of the show, being the standard fish-out-of-water character all the comedy tends to centre on him as he reacts to agricultural life, but it’s the way Hachiken’s presence make the other kids start to question things that had been second nature to them, that makes Silver Spoon really interesting. It is very clear that the author is intimately acquainted with farm life – Arakawa drew heavily on her experience of growing up on a dairy farm in Hokkaido – and as a result the show is pretty educational while avoiding being preachy. There is a second season coming out in Winter & I honestly can not wait to watch more of this delightful series.
1. Gatchaman Crowds
While it is far from perfect Gatchaman Crowds is certainly the most interesting show to air this season, and I personally really enjoyed it. I am a fan of Kenji Nakamura’s shows – they’re rarely perfectly realised and often suffer from being too short for their stories (Gatchaman suffered from this too) but they are stuffed full of fantastically interesting things and really eyecatching direction. Gatchaman Crowds is pretty classic Nakamura in that respect – it is the first show to really tackle the potential of social media and the internet in a meaningful way. The execution may not have been perfect, but the show throws out plenty of intriguing ideas that really get you thinking. On a purely aesthetic level Gatchaman Crowds is pure eyecandy – filled with a whole rainbow of colourful, eyecatching designs, the action scenes are pretty damn cool and the series is never boring to watch. The characters are fun, and even though I initially couldn’t stand Hajime with her impossibly genki personality, she really grew on me throughout the show and I really quite liked her by the end. But yes the ending was very rushed and a lot of plot threads were discarded with little explanation, but that doesn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the show as a whole, so it’s my top pick of the season.
So that’s my top 10 of the Summer 2013 season. The only other shows I finished were Blood Lad (crap), Brothers Conflict (hilaribad) and Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen (zero closure once again!) which were all easily eliminated from the top 10.
New season starts this week so first impressions posts will be coming out as and when I watch stuff – I’m looking forward to watching all the things once more~!