Friday, July 20, 2012

First Impressions: Anime of Summer 2012

Summer is usually a dry season for TV animation. There are barely any new cartoons in the west, and anime doesn't fare much better. Oh sure, there are plenty of "new" anime out this summer and streaming legally on sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation, but the basic rule of thumb for summer anime is that the majority of them are nothing to write home about. Summers are usually filler seasons to give the anime studios more time to work on the big autumn anime. 

So is there anything worth watching this season? Actually, yes. Sure, there's still some crap, and I'll talk about that crap in this First Impressions list, but I've already found several anime worth following this season. If none of these are your cup of tea, there are some anime from last season that are still airing such as Space Brothers and Polar Bear Cafe, which I recommend watching. With that said, let's dig into the new!

So, I Can’t Play H

There are two good things about this show: the animation and how open the protagonist is about his sexuality… to an extent. Here’s the problem with many ecchi anime; too often is the male protagonist afraid to show any interest in girls or is berated for it. I Can’t Play H says “fuck it, our protagonist is a perv, deal with it”, and it’s almost refreshing in a way. However, it goes a little too far with it, forgetting that while adolescent interest in sex is healthy, there’s such a thing as too much interest.

So the plot of So I Can’t Play H centers around this guy who’s a shameless pervert, openly talking about girl’s boobs in public. His one female friend is okay with this, but naturally everyone else is weirded out by it. He meets a red haired girl after school one day and thinks she’s in love with him, which is quickly disproven when she stabs him with a broken sword. Oh, but don’t worry, it was just a ritual that combined their souls, so he’s okay. She’s actually a Grim Reaper, but she needs the energy of humans to use her powers, so she forms a contract with the main character. His soul is actually below average for a human, but he’s able to power her up with his immense perverted energy.

The idea is quite frankly dumb and it’s an excuse to put the main character into perverted situations for the pleasure of the audience. The main character’s open sexuality is refreshing at first, but later on he basically acts like a sexual predator, even at one point intentionally putting his face in the main heroine’s crotch against her will. If you’re watching this Crunchyroll and hope to see some boobs, you’ll be sorely disappointed because they’re covered with gigantic black and white censor bars. There’s nothing else going for this show, so I suggest skipping it.

Sword Art Online

Remember when virtual reality was all the rage back in the 90’s, and then we all gave up on it when the Virtual Boy was released? Well, apparently Sword Art Online didn’t get the memo, because virtual reality has become a thing in the year 2022, and it’s being used for a new MMO called Sword Art Online. It’s a typical fantasy RPG, but everyone wants to play it because it’s virtual reality. Kirito, our main character, was a beta tester for the game and one of the best players in the game. He’s going to need those skills, because now everyone’s trapped in the game by its insane gamemaster, and no one can leave the game until they beat the 100th level or die. Oh, and if you die in the game, you die in real life. Sounds like fun!

The story is very similar to .hack, but unlike .hack it’s actually entertaining. The first episode is mostly set-up, explaining the basics of the game and showing Kirito as a character who has issues working with others. The second episode also does this, but it gives the audience some cool characters and kick-ass action. This anime has some of the best fight scenes of the season so far, and it’ll probably end up being the best action anime of the season. I have to complain about the ending of the second episode, however. Kirito acts like an asshole out of nowhere, supposedly defend his fellow beta testers, who have stupidly been called out as cheaters, but it’s still a jarring moment. Character drama is not this show’s strong suit, but it’s still young and the action is great.

Binbogami ga!

I… don’t have much to say about this one. I definitely watched it, but it’s a blur of nonsense. Ichiko Sakura is this perfect girl that everyone at high school worships. Why is she such a Mary Sue? Because she’s actually sucking up the happiness energy of everyone around her.  The gods are not happy about this and send Momiji, the god of misfortune, to absorb her power and restore balance to the world. What follows is a half hour of complete nonsense. Not once did I laugh at this. It’s as if this show was trying to absorb the happiness of others. Skip this and watch something that’s actually funny, like Humanity Has Declined.

Humanity Has Declined

Well, I wasn’t expecting this. When I originally heard about this show, I thought it’d be a cute story about humans coexisting with faeries. What I got was a black comedy featuring suicidal bread, undead chickens trying to conquer the world, and a future dominated by Boy’s Love manga. I LOVE THIS SHOW!

To sum it up, humanity has gone through an apocalypse, and faeries, ten-inch-tall people with permanent smiles and serious sweet teeth, have emerged as a dominant race. Our main character, a girl known as the Mediator, works as a UN liaison between the humans and faeries. Oddly enough, despite the focus on the faeries in the promotional material, the show ends up focusing more on the return of modern conveniences to a dying world and maliciously using it to satirize our modern world. It’s a weird contrast with the cute-looking world and faeries, and it’s quite frankly hilarious. It’s a show that needs to be seen to believe. Some might be turned off by the weirdness, but if you give it a shot, you’ll realize it’s genius. Go watch this now.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Hazuki is in love with Rokka the flower shop owner, but he’s unable to admit his feelings for her. He takes a part-time job at her flower shop to be closer to her. He’s ready to give up when he meets her husband, but then he learns that her husband has died years ago. Yep, her husband is a ghost and only Hazuki can see him.

This is the only serious romance anime this season, and it’s a ghost story on top of that. It’s a sweet story that will probably make you cry, but it has some fun moments with Shimao the dead husband. It’s rare to see a ghost cockblock someone, but it happens in this show. If you’re looking for a good romance show to follow, this should do nicely.


This show confuses me. Oh, it’s not the story is confusing, it’s confusing because it’s the kind of show I normally dislike, and yet so far I like it. It’s yet another harem comedy, focusing on a high school student who slays a god.

Our godslayer, Godou, at first acts like every typical harem lead. He’s very generic with few discerning traits, and he’s forced into the plot against his will. However, by the end of the first episode, when he gets a little magic, he instantly mans up and takes down a god that threatens to destroy Italy.

I’ll be honest here, this is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. There are some pacing issues in the first episode, some silly fanservice, and stock harem characters like the tsundere who claims to want nothing to do with the main character. It gets better in the second episode, where some of the harem tropes are still present, but more focus is put on the magic and mythology of the world, and while still unwilling, Godou actually trains and accepts his new powers and the responsibility that comes with them. The show could lose its charm soon, but for now, it’s my guilty pleasure anime of the season.


Now here’s a niche title for you. Very few Westerners know about the Hyakunin Isshu, an old compilation of Japanese poems, but those who watched the amazing Chihayafuru last year will know what it is. It was the basis for the karuta card game in Chihayafuru. Fans of Chihayafuru may want to check out Utakoi based on that alone, but the show offers something for fans of poetry and history.

Each episode focuses on the history behind each poem in the Hyakunin Isshu, telling the stories of the poets who wrote them. The majority of poems were romantic, so expect plenty of romantic episodes. The stories are tied together by the narrator, Teika, who compiled the poems in the first place. He gives the audience a history lesson each episode to introduce and end the one-shot stories.  History buffs will get a kick out of this, and since the poets are so goddamn horny, the romance fans might as well.

Kokoro Connect

5 high school friends who are unable to get along with other clubs form their own club, which has no real focus. One day, they randomly start switching bodies. Hilarity supposedly ensues.

Bodyswapping comedy has been done before, and Kokoro Connect hasn’t done much new with it. There’s an element of mystery in the first episode since the characters have no idea what’s causing the random bodyswapping, but most of the mystery outright killed in the next episode by a new character who explains it. The characters are basic archetypes with few unique qualities. The show hints that their new predicament will lead them to opening up about their lives, but unless the show does something to make them interesting fast, it’ll be too late for me to care. I’m giving this show one more episode to impress me, but unless you’re willing to watch bland characters trapped in other bland characters’ bodies, I can’t recommend this.

Every show on this list can be found on Crunchyroll, with the exception of Binbogami, but why would you want to watch that?

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