Thursday, February 28, 2013

Crunching the Numbers: Live Free or Love Hard

Welcome to the third edition of Crunching the Numbers, where we analyze the currently running anime shows and calculate which is the best and worst. You'll notice that this week there are some extra numbers. Shows that have moved up on the list will have a green number next to them showing how many ranks they've gone up. Red numbers mean the opposite. Considering the relatively small pool of shows I'm watching right now, there probably won't be many changes, but there are a few this week. Let's do the math and crunch those numbers!

1) Chihayafuru 2 (episodes 5-8)


This show is still the best thing this season and you should all watch it. The end.

Okay, I’ll say more, but at this rate, do I really need to? The recent tournament match between
Misuzawa and Hokuo was even better than the first time they met. I even went back and watched their
match from the first season, because I wanted to compare the two and because season 1 is worth
rewatching. Every time a new tactic is introduced in karuta, it never feels forced, and effectively ups the
stakes of the match. It’s amazing to see how far the team has come, but they still have their faults that
they recognize and need to overcome.

It’s not just the karuta matches that make this show so good. The character interactions and drama are
still top-notch. Chihaya’s family usually doesn’t get much focus, so it was nice to have an episode
where Chihaya and her mom hang out. It quickly reinvigorates the story right after the exhausting and
nerve-breaking school match in the previous two episodes. Arata is still making brief appearances, and
Chihaya still longs to play karuta with him again. I’m still rooting for Taichi to get with Arata, but
it’s looking less likely now. Shipping’s not what the show’s about, though. It’s about the love of
karuta and the engaging relationships it creates, and this show exceeds at that and so much more.

2) Maoyu (episodes 6-8) (+1)

I hear that girl is real spicy, if you know what I mean.

Was Maoyu watching Oreshura a few weeks ago? Because it just added a love triangle, and the show
strangely has become even more compelling because of it.

Well, that’s not all this show has been doing lately. There’s been much discussion about the war in this
show, but for the first time we get to see a battle, and the wait’s been well worth it. Demon King
shows that she’s as equally effective at battle strategy as trade negotiations, and the results are nothing
if not clever. Lady Knight gets much more to do, and her relationship with Hero has been fleshed out
more. The Church becomes a new obstacle in Demon King’s plans, adding even more layers to the
complexities of the war. We see that the humans and demons might be able to get along after all.

A lot happens in these last three episodes, but it’s never overwhelming. The story fast-forwards
through some of these parts, having gone through over a year within 8 episodes. To some, they might
feel as if they’re being cheated out of seeing some world building. Hero has mentioned some
adventures that have happened off-screen.  If this were a larger show with more money and more
episodes, I’d have liked to see them, but given the length and budget of this show, it’s probably for the
better that it stick to the important plot points and fast forward through some parts.

It’s still incredibly unique regardless. I complained about the characters not having much depth early on, and while they’re not as complex as the characters from Spice and Wolf, the things they talk about
and their relationships are so interesting. Hero and Demon King are quickly becoming my favorite
anime couple of Winter 2013, with some competition from Oreshura’s Eita and Masuzu. The love
between the two is more believable, and they even spend some time together in bed. Well, nothing
serious happens, but it’s a cute scene. Hero still has his “dumb harem hero” moments, but they’re small
potatoes, as are the rare moments of fanservice. There’s no other show like this airing right now, and
not only is the subject great, the action and romance are now operating on a similar level, leaving
Maoyu is a much more balanced and engaging show than it was at the start.

3) Love Live: School Idol Project (episodes 5-8) (+2)

Good luck remembering all of them.

Like Oreshura, this show might have too many girls for its own good. Every episode adds another girl or two, and now we’re at 9 girls total in Muse. However, I think it’s actually improving, or maybe that’s just because I really like Nico, the Idol Club president who’s an uber idol fan who’s prideful but often has her ego bruised by the other idols. She’s almost a Wile E Coyote type character in one episode, in which she plans to become leader of Muse but every one of her plans fails in the most hilarious ways.

I honestly forget half of the girls’ names in this show, mainly the underclassmen who seem to be there mostly to fill out the roster, but some of the girls manage to stand out as fun characters, and the underclassmen are still very likable. More importantly, and this sounds really cheesy, this show has a lot of heart. The sincerity and sweetness of the show is just as strong as ever, and never to an annoying degree. I actually do want to see these girls succeed as idols and save their school, and there’s never an episode wasted on what could be considered filler. This is what I wish K-On could have been. Not only are our girls adorable and endearing, but they have goals and aspirations that move the plot forward. In every episode we see our characters work hard at their goals, improving and becoming closer as an idol group. It’s not a complex story, but it’s simply good. The animation is still top-notch and the dance scenes are impressive, only slightly marred by some awkward CG shots. What can I say, there’s a lot to love about Love Live.

4) Oreshura (episodes 6-8) (-2)

Whoops, I think we made a mistake.

Last time, I mentioned that I was worried the show would start going downhill once Eita had a harem of 4 girls to deal with. Is that true? Yes, the quality of the show is not as good as it was in episode 4, but rather than an avalanche it’s more of a stumble. Himeka and Ai are simply not as interesting as Chiwa and Masuzu, and the recent episodes take time away from our original three characters. It’s as if this show realized it wanted to be a harem and plucked two random characters that don’t really fit the great chemistry of the show.

And yet, the show is still pretty good. The current arc, which focuses on Masuzu trying to figure out Ai’s weakness by having Eita going on a date with her, feels unnecessary, but the show is still charming and more importantly funny. Even the old joke of Masuzu reading Eita’s notebook has been kept fresh. If you have a running gag, you need to find new ways to make the joke work, and this show gets that. I can’t say that for some shows (more on that later). More importantly, the main three characters are still well-written and engaging. I really like them and want to see Eita and Masuzu get together for real.

So while the show has seen better days, it’s still one of the strongest shows this season, and much better than any harem show has the right to be. I do hope the show goes somewhere and there’s a satisfying resolution to the romance, because it certainly has enough talent behind it to achieve that.

5) The Unlimited: Hyobu Kyosuke (episodes 6-8) (-1)

I don't think he can get much whiter.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here. Andy’s big moment is here, the status quo will be changed, and… wait, why are we wasting two episodes on Hyobu’s backstory?

Episode 6 really delivers on the developing plot threads this show has been weaving since episode 1, but we won’t get to see the results of until episode 9, because the writers of the show thought it’d be best to interrupt the story for two episodes to elaborate on Hyobu’s backstory. It’s okay, but my problem with the way the backstory is handled mainly has to do with the pacing and how redundant it is. I’ll note that the opening is slightly changed for these episodes; there’s a black and white filter applied to give it an old movie feel, which fits the aesthetic of the time period the backstory episodes focus on. It’s not much of a change, but it’s a neat little gimmick. The backstory itself is fine, but I don’t think it justified being two episodes, mainly because a good deal of information presented here was already revealed in prior episodes. We know why Hyobu is the way he is already. The extra details are interesting, but not integral to the story, and what’s worse is that this is thrust on us at a crucial turn in the show. Okay idea, mistimed execution.

Next week’s episode returns us to modern day. Now that the plot will be moving again, I expect to see Unlimited higher on the list next time, but we’ll see.

6) Kotoura-san (episodes 5-7) (+1)

More like Kotoura-YAWN

 So, this show is still going. It’s abundantly clear that this show wants to be more of a comedy than a drama, and to be honest I’m okay with that direction. Its attempts at drama came off as dark comedy in the first episode, so why not? So why am I not laughing?

As much as Oreshura is doing wrong right now, it’s doing everything Kotoura-san should be doing. Funny jokes? None here. There’s really only two jokes in this show: Manabe (sometimes Kotoura’s grandpa, eeeewwww) having perverted thoughts about Kotoura, and Moritani being the chew toy of the ESP Club. Have I laughed at these jokes? Like maybe once, but I was desperately trying to laugh at these recent episodes, and nothing. The comedy is almost as lame as the drama, which is really lousy. I had problems with the earlier episodes, but I at least got some chuckles out of them.

Right now the show seems aimless. We’ve gone from having Kotoura deal with her being a problem for the ESP Club to generic beach episodes. If the jokes weren’t so stale, I could deal with some bad filler, but I’m begging this show to throw me a bone, because it’s just disappointing at every turn. What's keeping it from the bottom of the heap is that it's at least trying, and the characters aren't necessarily bad, it's just stagnating badly.

7) Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman (episodes 6-8) (-1)

Ass ass ass ass ass

Oh hey, another aimless show that’s been losing me. Roman continues to be super safe, much to its detriment. It attempts to have some drama in the recent episode by having our hero doubt himself, but the whole ordeal is dragged out and meandering.

Last year, TMS and Monkey Punch worked on The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, a stellar show with unique visuals and great ambition. To go from that to this really sucks, and while it’s really not fair to compare those two, it’s hard to forget considering Roman’s origins. It looks like Lupin, but it’s no Lupin. If you’re looking for something mindless to watch that won’t offend your sensibilities, I guess this show would be fine, but there’s very little meat here. There’s been slightly more story lately, but it’s a case of too little too late.

8) Problem Children (episodes 5-7)

Stuff like this is kind of cool, and yet...

Is this show even trying to have a story? Do we know these characters any better now? Is the opening really catchy? Only of these things seem to be true.

I almost considered putting Roman and this show in the same category, because my problems basically come down to the same reason: there’s no substance to chew on. I actually think this is the more disappointing of the two given the setting. There’re vampires, dragons, demons, and all sorts of fantasy tropes that could really spice this show up, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it all. None of it seems compelling when it should be. Roman may be an underachiever, but this show is downright failing to live up to its potential. I’m not expecting art here, I’m expecting some of these tools to be used.

9) Vividred Operation (episodes 5-7)

It says no push, but I bet the otaku are pushing hard on something right now.

Can we never do beach episodes again? After Kotoura-san and this, I never want to see anime characters waste time on a beach ever again.

So, our four magical girls are all together, but in typical red ranger fashion Akane and the mysterious girl who may become the fifth Vivid are the only ones that seem to matter. Actually, our mysterious magical girl’s been hogging most of the screentime lately. Turns out she’s a collage of every good dark magical girl you’ve seen before, and yet somehow less compelling. So Kraehe, er, Rei is working for the Alone. She doesn’t have the Vivid’s powers, but she has a magical bow that can revive the Alone. She’s also skilled with guns like another dark magical girl *coughHomuracough*.

You know what show I’d rather be watching right now? Any of those magical girl shows this show is stealing from, or Evangelion, which this show takes some cues from as well. What’s the deal with the Alone? They want to destroy the Manifestation Engine for what purpose? Why do they force Rei to go to school? Rei makes a comment in the recent episode. “Only six left”. Well, there’s about six episodes of this show left, but that seems like too many. Practically everything about this show has been done better by other shows, and they don’t all have a fixation with underage booties.

No comments:

Post a Comment