So in the wake of finally churning out another post in the form of the Kuroko no Basuke praise I put up yesterday it seemed only fair that I also do one of those little summary/reviewy things that I do for the Autumn 2012 season. I think this might be the first time that I've done this after a hefty portion of the shows have already finished airing... It's been a pretty decent season overall. Quite a few shows worth giving a watch if you've got the time. Sorry fans of the Summer season - you missed out this year.
Bakuman 3 (pictured above)
I think with this I'll have posted something on all 3 series? No matter. Bakuman is back! Now in its third season, this anime follows the exploits and trials of young mangaka and depicts what life is (hopefully) like for people in the business. As I've mentioned previously, the main protagonist of this show (Mashiro) is an absolute moron whose existence never ceases to confuse and infuriate me, and this remains to be the case. Even Shujin, who used to be one of my favourite characters, has gone dramatically downhill. Basically our dynamic pair of heroes are the worst part about Bakuman, which is a shame but somehow doesn't detract from the quality of the series too much - as the show has progressed through its seasons it has begun to focus more and more on the other authors/artists, presumably after recognising the failures of these two. What passes for a main storyline is still bland, uninteresting and predictable, with each apparent hurdle for our heroes being seemingly overcome by their determination to "just do better". Though interestingly enough they went to the trouble of introducing a super-antagonist-mangaka-rival now which is good fun. I'm not exactly painting the series in a good light, but I will still never stop watching it due to the brilliant cast of characters and fantastic comedic interactions that occur between them. I'd recommend it, but only if you've seen the last couple of seasons of course.
BTOOOM!, apart from being great fun to try and pronounce, is about the concept of an online game (also called 'BTOOOM!', where people kill each other with different types of bombs) being applied to real life. Basically a load of people are kidnapped, dropped onto a remote island, given a set of bombs and told they can only leave once they've killed at least seven others. Not the most original of ideas - comparisons can be drawn to Battle Royale and other such things - but reasonably well executed when it comes to dishing out a reasonable number of explosions. The show has a couple of annoying habits that can make it a pain to watch however. Aside from having more than enough attempted rape scenes to make most people uncomfortable, the thing that annoys me most about BTOOOM! is the way it tries to spell every little thing out for the viewer, no matter how obvious it may seem. For instance, someone may throw a bomb at someone else and it's pretty clear that they must have dodged somehow to get out of it alive, but once it's been established that they are in fact still alive-and-kicking apparently it's necessary to go back and have about 5 different lengthy flashbacks explaining how they just dived out of the way. I've seen enough Naruto to be very sensitive about overuse of flashbacks. The other thing is that BTOOOM! has a tendency to make up arbitrary rules for the setting whenever they seem convenient to the circumstances (one scene it's "Oh no, I can't use a dead person's bombs because they're not mine!" and the next it's "Oh no, I can't use a dead person's bombs because they're not mi- no wait it's fine because I'm the one who killed them!"). Overall the series is good for a laugh though, especially a laugh at the incredibly shallow characters, and it has an incredibly catchy OP song so give that a look at least.
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
Chuunibyou covers the subject of school kids suffering from "eight-grader syndrome", a tendency to lose themselves in a fantasy entirely separate from the reality of our world, i.e. they're delusional. More specifically we follow our protagonist who, upon entering high school, wishes to leave his embarrassing past as the "Dark Flame Master" behind him but unfortunately encounters the wielder of the "Wicked Eye" (pictured above) who drags him back into this socially unacceptable world. This anime was fairly cutesy, and could be very funny in places, but I can't say I was particularly taken by the way they decided to resolve the "story" at the end. Even so there were some entertaining action scenes - cross-cutting between how events are unfolding in the real world and a depiction of how they appear in fantasy - and it was overall reasonably entertaining.
Code:Breaker drew me in with its bizarre synopsis (which ended up only really covering the first half-minute of the show), but upon watching the first episode I was left with the impression that it was the most generic piece of generica in existence. The premise for the series is that there are a select few born into the world with special powers, and the uber-government (not blatantly evil or anything) train up a crack squad of them as a tool to fight crime: the 'Code:Breakers'. The powers themselves are pretty obvious - control of fire, ice, light, shadow, sound etc. - though I must say I quickly warmed to most of the Code:Breakers as characters, but not the main chap Ogami. A nice little twist is that when they use their powers to much they go "Lost" which is a state of recuperation individual to each of them; my favourites being reverting into a childhood state and turning into a cat. As far as the story goes it is indeed a fairly standard tale of lies, intrigue, politics, revenge and the like. Also at one point it features people acquiring special powers due to carrying around backpacks filled with drowning children, so there's that. If that's your idea of fun, give it a watch!
I can't say I've quite grasped the whole premise behind 'K', despite the fact that it's now over, but it generally involves the idea of coexisting and/or warring factions of people who may or may not possess some kind of special power. Best I can do on that one I'm afraid. Confusion hopefully aside, what the show does have is a really nifty artstyle and a collection of pretty and exciting action sequences, as well as both Daisuke Ono and Sugita Tomokazu! I doubt it's one I'd list at some point in the future as one of the stand-out shows of 2012, but it was a decent enough ride while it lasted.
The long-awaited (at least by me) adaptation of the Key visual novel featuring more baseball than just an obligatory episode! For once when it comes to these things I can actually say that I've played the VN, so I was looking forward to this even more than I was when it was just "the next Key anime". The story is pretty tricky to describe succinctly, but it's a fairly typical high school setting with a very eccentric cast of characters and baseball is played along the way. It has the classic Key blend of hilarious comedy and serious tear-jerking scenarios. Frankly though I have to say I've been slightly disappointed by the anime. I'm sure that if I hadn't played the VN at all I would be enjoying it far more, but as it is there is a pretty clear gap in quality between them. A hefty portion of the truly funny moments have been stripped away from the anime incarnation, but a more pressing concern is the story progression. At first a few episodes were taken to introduce the characters and such which is perfectly reasonable, then one of the heroines' (Komari) routes was played out to conclusion, but now the show is just moseying around showing little snippets here and there from different routes without any clear focus or direction. I'd assumed that, given the start, they would follow three or so routes fully but things haven't turned out that way. Of course I wholeheartedly recommend playing the VN, but if that's not so easy then I'd watch the anime as it's still very enjoyable as it is.
A new big shounen anime set to be on-running for a while methinks. Magi seems to take its inspiration from the Arabian Nights, featuring a main cast including Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad (voiced by Daisuke Ono!!!). 'Dungeons', labyrinths fraught with hazards, have sprung up around the world due to some strange magic, and it is said that if you can make your way to the top of one then you will obtain untold riches or your wishes will come true. Magi, sages powerful in the ways of magic, exist in the world to elect their candidate for a new great king and guide said candidate through dungeons and lead them to their throne. Can't think of much to say about this one actually. It's certainly been interesting enough to keep me watching for a whole season, and the setting is definitely a refreshing change from your usual fare. I'd recommend it, but it reeks of typical shounen otherwise so if that's not your scene then stay clear.
Medaka Box: Abnormal
The second season of Medaka Box, which I do believe I've mentioned previously on here. This whole series is essentially a battle arc between the student council and the members of class 13 who make-up "The Flask Plan"; a sinister scheme involving the sacrifice of hundreds of innocent students in an attempt to create the perfect human. This series seems to me to have a very different tone to the previous one which involved the recruitment of the student council and a lot of scenes of them fulfilling requests from the student body, along with a side-helping of battle scenes. Now the focus is very much on the action, and I think they were right to make that call - it's fantastic. Each person's abilities are downright outrageous and that's just how I like them, and every confrontation is highly original and a joy to watch. One thing that bothers me is the whole premise of "Normals, Specials and Abnormals" which the series seems to revolve around; I can't for the life of me remember any mention of it being made in the first season which is a little odd, but it certainly doesn't detract from the quality at all. I recommend this show to everyone, though you should really watch the previous season as well as that is also fantastic.
Sakarasou no Pet na Kanojo
This show is a sort of blend of high school slice-of-life with semi-romantic comedy. It starts out as the story of a guy who has been (supposedly) unfairly demoted to the shoddy living quarters of Sakarasou, which is full of eccentric characters, and his quest to escape this fate. However it quickly becomes the wholly different tale of the same guy trying to look after a clueless inmate who can't take care of herself. Then it becomes a motivational piece about the very same guy trying to psyche himself up to achieve his goals of becoming a game designer. After a few more changes of tone the series arrives at a reasonably satisfying conclusion. To give the show credit it does pull off these shifts fairly seamlessly such that it feels like natural progression, though it means it's hard to categorise it in one particular box. This series was certainly entertaining, and I found myself laughing and cringing along with it on a regular basis. Pretty decent all-in-all.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
The pitch for this series was probably something along the lines of "Not just your average high school love story", and that would indeed be a fairly accurate description. The show revolves around the odd couple of the always-serious study bug and the carefree long-time delinquent, and I must say it had me from episode 1 - I guess if I had to sum it up in one word it would be "charming". A relatively small but lovable cast of key characters carries this romcom through its ups and downs, with frequent laugh-out-loud moments and genuinely decent attempts at conveying emotion which didn't leave me shaking my head for once! The more I think about it the more I can say this was one of my favourite shows of the season, and you should all give it a look.
Naturally there are ongoing shows still captivating me as well! The main ones worth mentioning are of course Shirokuma Cafe which continues to be a delight and Uchuu Kyoudai which, in my opinion, just keeps going from strength to strength and is always a highlight of my week.
I imagine those of you more in the know might be questioning the absence of certain notable shows from this list. First of all Robotics;Notes. Now I was a big fan of Chaos;Head back in the day and an even bigger fan of Steins;Gate, but I'm afraid this one was just moving too slowly for me - I made it 10 episodes in before giving up. Zetsuen no Tempest is an interesting one. I really enjoyed the ideas behind the show, and really liked the look of it as well, but I was always teetering on the edge of whether or not to drop it until we reached episodes 9-11 which were just three straight episodes of people facing one another spewing inane arguments and counter arguments, full of twisted, turgid logic and often seemingly irrelevant. This was presented as if it were the epitome of drama but it was just dull I'm afraid, so that was the end of that chapter.
Other shows that people seem to like but I haven't included. Shinsekai Yori: the first episode bored the hell out of me so I didn't give it a chance. Psycho Pass: I really enjoyed the first episode and thought the concept was interesting, but then the next episode mainly consisted of desk work and the one after didn't exactly pick up either so I dropped it there.
Thanks for making it this far if you're still reading! These have been my thoughts on the season that's just drawing to a close.