Impressive Shock! Chroma's 2014/2015 Winter Impressions
Sometimes a season comes along that just leaves you speechless. While I can't use that statement in a literal sense (this would be a very quiet post in that case), I am so overly impressed with some stuff in this season that I just had to jump at the first chance to write this post. Yes, I just caught up on the final episodes. Is it that obvious?
One classroom. One teacher. One year to kill him. What I hear is an insanely popular manga series has hit the TV screen, reincarnating as the little brother of Danganronpa. It's really done in a style that is unmistakably Lerche's work, and thinking back to it, it's not too surprising to see that Re:Hamatora was one of theirs too.
The series to this point has been a decent mix of light action and even lighter comedy. I kind of have this growing attachment to the ludicrously heavy-lined art style, but I'm still not really sold on much else thus far. By no means is this a poor series or anything, but it just hasn't been anything I jump up at to watch week by week. There are a steady pace of unique characters that can certainly will have their time to grow over the 22 planned episodes, but I don't the individuality of the cast is what bothers me. No, what seems to keep me semi-uninterested is the concept as a whole, and just the off-kilter clashing between the classroom's personality groups.
You know, it's almost like going into a restaurant and picking out your own meal. You start off with a creamy caviar, followed by a savoury beef dip sandwich. To cap it off you add a generous slice of soft cheesecake. Then you slowly realize these three things don't taste very great together as one meal, and that the restaurant you're in isn't really all that great either. That is what this series is like. Despite sounding like the spiteful Anton Ego from Ratatouille, I'm very hopeful for this series. There are a lot of things to like strewn about, and with another half to go, I am cautiously perusing an opportunity for this 3-star establishment to earn its place.
Shaft's "food porn" series has successfully shed its deteriorating skin and become its own creation. A simple, but ultimately enjoyable meal, Kofuku Graffiti is just what the doctor prescribed to ease over some of my heavier-hitting shows of the season.
Yes folks, after my much needed spouting at how Studio Shaft has been overplaying its cards over and over, there's been some kind of divine intervention. Kofuku Graffiti drops a lot of its ridiculous Shaft tropes, and at worst it severely diminishes what it always did. Moment after moment I was waiting for a ludicrous neck tilt that defied the existence of vertebrae, and for the whole run I was waiting to get the jump on the shameless fondling-in-the-bath scenes. I tried to scope out the constant cutaways to static panels attempting a little too hard to be edgy. I just did not find much of it here.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Shaft is no longer art nouveau". What fans of the Monogatari series and Shaft as a whole keep telling me is an edgy art style, it's been done to death by this company already. I remember watching series like Pani Poni Dash and Negima!? and thinking it was pretty darned unique back then. Now, with every single show using the exact same tropes, it's losing its appeal fast. Luckily, Kofuku Graffiti takes a step back, presents a charming setting with likeable characters, and even tries something a bit new with the fabled "food porn" scenes. It was such a refreshing take from the studio, that I have to give them a standing ovation. It's not an amazing series by any stretch, but it's hard not to be charmed by what it presents.
I jumped for joy at the announcement of these new seasonal extensions to the fantastic world of Durarara. Now that I'm here and starting to experience them, I can comfortably say that it's a great start.
The unbelievably strange world of Ikebukuro continues to expand, inviting brand new characters into its crazed embrace. It's almost unfair to this season to be compared to the majestic adventures of a headless ghost biker, a Russian sushi chef, an unnaturally unbreakable bartender and much more, but by god does it keep its charm beautifully. My friend always describes this series so simply as a "gangster" series, and I don't know just how much more precisely condensed I could get it. This season has the bonus of already having its established world and protagonists, so now we delve into the colour gangs and how they clash with the lives of the one colourless gang, the Dollars.
Where the first season dealt mysterious intrigue by the pound, this one offers blood-fueled rage expelled in constant typhoons. It's not just two different gangs clashing all the time either. There's genuine creativity in internal disagreements, bad gangs kidnapping and attacking people on the streets, and even scandalous acts within the Dollars that threaten the very nature of the gang itself. It's a damned fun time and very much worth your time. It also promises even more exciting moments to come with one heck of a cliffhanger. Don't miss it.
If you're not the Best, you've got to earn your place above the Rest. A group of four ordinary girls set forth into the segmented nations of Post Tokyo War's Japan, on a journey to help mediate the battles arising between the nations.
When protagonist Nozomi's best friend (a powerful hero and leader known best as Matcha Green) is severely wounded and unable to perform her duties, the Rolling Girls set out as missionaries in her place. These four girls are however, vastly variated in every aspect, each embarking on this adventure for their own personal reasons. Gaining power, helping friends, or maybe even just seeking out a place of being, these characters are all quite charming and easily relatable. While the rainbow-bursting explosive action is (for lack of a better term) epic, it really is the relationships these characters share that generates the most excitement and investment from the series.
But it's not even just the diversity between the main girls that drives you to check back week by week. Each faction these girls visit is an entirely new experience and setting, just waiting to be explored. There are cosplay security guards in one district, but travel to another episode and you'll find feuding biker gangs. Wander further past that to find purebred rockers, and let's even throw traditional nadeshiko into the mix. At the end of the day, everyone has their own problems, and if the soft purr of the Rolling Girls' bikes can't solve them, then just maybe their cute renditions of The Blue Hearts' songs will.
THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
"Boy, I sure wish I was watching the 2011 iDOLM@STER right now." It's not a good sign when episode after episode, you wish you were watching something else. Let's talk about this questionable piece of work.
I'm just going to say it right now, Cinderella Girls is not smelling like a lovely bed of rainbow roses. First established years ago as a Mobage phone game to introduce over 100 new characters into the iDOLM@STER universe, we're down to a mere fraction of that in this series. Sadly, while this is just the right way to tackle building an anime around this universe, a majority of the characters are just bad. The designs are cute and sometimes even gorgeous (Anastasia and Shibuya Rin sitting comfortably at the top), but they cannot save my interest in them if their development arcs are written so poorly.
After my decent first impression of the series in my previous post about the season, things spiralled downward faster than a Six Flags rollercoaster. It's either sitting on an end where the most boring characters are shoved together into a unit to deal with their arcs too quickly, or crashing on the other end where semi-interesting characters burn into depression faster than you can ever imagine. When the formula drifts away from this failed procedure, we actually get some episodes with some nice progression. I only look ahead with hopes of improvement.
Kiseiju: Sei no Kakuritsu
Metamorphosis portrayed in episodic form, everyone in this series goes through their own change as the world continues to move forward. In our lives, we sometimes lose things we love. Sometimes we gain things we never wanted. However, there's always one undeniable truth: the parasites are coming.
Waking up one day to find a parasite has overtaken his right hand, nerd-persona Shinichi responds accordingly. Luckily, this specific entity he names "Migi" (right in Japanese) is not explosively destructive like the horrendous photos Shinichi has seen online. As the two slowly begin to adapt to their unorthodox situations, more infectious parasites begin to show up and even start to attack. What happens from there must be experienced, rather than explained.
Migi and Shinichi are undoubtedly the stars of the show, with their quite quirky relationship to one another. Hirano Aya performs amazingly as Migi, giving the character a voice that always borders on the cusp of caring and not caring about the human race. Shinichi's main romantic interest Murano is voiced by Hanazawa Kana (no need to describe her performance, naturally), and in a shocking twist, Sawashiro Miyuki makes her appearance as Kana, one of the most fun characters I've seen in a long time. There's endless amounts of tension and buildup, and after all that, the final episode raises an eyebrow for me. It's an episode that is quite good on its own, but its execution in relation to everything that happened up to that point begs to be questioned a bit. It's up to you to interpret whether you like the finale or not, but most people can't deny the series' value as a whole.
"Welcome to Quindecim". Hearing those fabled words very well could mean you've passed on from the everyday life you once knew. Where souls are said to pass to heaven or hell after death, here it is represented purely as reincarnation or eternal damnation. For a soul to be judged into the appropriate choice, an arbiter must do their job.
Death Billiards saw a very positive reaction when it debuted as part of the Anime Mirai project a couple years back. It portrayed a gleaming bar filled with intrigue, a bartender that was hard to analyze, and two people who had no idea where they were. Their pulse-pounding game of billiards built up to an exciting climax, and I for one wanted more. Death Parade is just that, with many more games to play, people to judge, and backstories to explore. What really tips it over the edge is that we get to see the world past the bar, where other arbiters and people of higher position reside.
Naturally, certain games and events shine more than others, but it's very nice to mostly see consistency from this series. It's always engaging and leaves you wondering just what you'll find out next, and that's great to look forward to week after week. It's all capped off by an ending that was pretty darned heartfelt. I'm comfortable leaving the series at this ending, but I would absolutely love to see more of this universe as well.
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
For 21 amazing episodes, I thought I knew what the title to this show meant. One single lie in April, and it was a lot more simple than I thought it was. As a result though, the lasting effect it left was somehow way more powerful than I ever could have imagined.
Miyazono Kaori's story completely takes over in the second half. From what I've heard, many people felt like Kosei's melodramatic sequences dragged on for a little bit too long, and I'm actually inclined to agree in retrospect. It's pretty powerful in its end effect, but it really does eat up a chunk of time that could have been used to evolve Kosei's attachment to some of his other friends, which probably would have made the ending even better.
So let's look at the ending. As previously mentioned, the title is finally brought to light with a single letter that strikes your heartstrings until they snap into your face. It's even more powerful as the reading of said letter is preceded by an amazing performance sequence that speaks volumes without using any dialogue. I've already detailed just how much I love the performance scenes, but when they just keep getting better and better across the board, it's really worth another mention. The absolute best thing for me in this series is that it took my favourite classical piece (Debussy's 'Clair de Lune') and mixed a beautiful light rock ballad around it. A must watch for any fan of music.
And let's save the best for last, shall we? A series that I was barely halfway sold on the last time I posted on it, I humbly requested that P.A. Works inject more of their unique personality into the series. By god, did they ever.
Shirobako is an endless flood of great comedy, tension-built thrills and best of all, bonds between one another. While no squishy-cheeked children made it into the cast roll (I guess Arupin kinda counts!), P.A. Works establishes its astounding "family" sense with the diverse employees of Musashino Animation. I had actually sort of given up for a while on the very first scene of this series, thinking the group of 5 anime-dreamer friends would just end up all successfully enter the anime industry in some way and that would be it. What the series does with it ultimately made me weep uncontrollably. If you told me I'd be doing that in my last point, and I'd exclaim "funny story!".
P.A. Works has a ton of fun with this series. It presents a ton of variety in its scenes, throws a ton of wacky scenes with the goofy characters, and even has some genuine heartfelt moments with the struggling members in the studio. When you have a series that nails almost every joke it fires, scores on the majority of its characters, AND draws you into the majority of its dramatic scenes, you know you have a winner. All that's left is for me to go back to just before Christmas and prevent myself from ever doubting this series.
And that brings us to the end of the Winter 2014/2015 season. It's a great mixture of series that gave me a really great feeling overall. I'm itching in anticipation for the Spring season, with amazing potentials like Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic, Tekyu 4 (and its amazingly titled spin-off),and even KyoAni's Hibike! Euphonium, which will hopefully bring me right back to my jazz band days.