Spring 2014 Anime – Final Impressions

We’re already a week into the summer season of anime which has given me ample time to let my thoughts simmer and settle on what I ultimately thought of the anime that managed to keep my interest to the end of the season. Spring 2014 will forever be known as the season that brought No Game No Life, and for me personally, it was so much more. Spring marked the return of my favorite anime, Mushishi, and it’s quite hard to elevate it further than that. Hunter X Hunter finally concluded the arc that had our breaths bated for months now, and Fairy Tail came back to amazing reception. Any way you look at it, this was a very important season for the industry. Here are all the anime I followed to the end of the season, in order of preference.

The Irregular at Magic High School (6/10) *Not Continuing*

Synopsis: In this modern sci-fi world magic has become a type of technology that can be experimented with, tweaked, and engineered. Tatsuya Shiba is a young, brilliant engineer who is newly enrolled in the most prestigious magic high school in the world. However, within the high school he is lowly ranked because if his incompatibility with the ranking tests. What is apparent is that there is much more to Tatsuya’s powers than meets the eye,.

What started off as a promising anime of intelligent magical combat and a genius main character turned into…high school. I guess I SHOULD have seen that coming because of the title, but still, there is a lot of potential for the amount of thought put into this fictional version of magic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen powers described in such detail. A lot of it goes right over the viewer’s head because the engineer talk is borderline foreign sometimes, but when you examine closely, you’ll see that they really do take every single nut and bolt of a magic spell and explain it thoroughly.

Unfortunately, this turned into a lot of school drama that ultimately did little to progress the plot. In fact, the last few episodes have just been a sports competition between schools. A competition that I harbor no interest in because the main character’s school is already number one, and because I don’t want to see this magic used in trivial school games. As an action anime, it has already fell way below my expectations, and as a school drama/comedy, it hasn’t made me laugh or tear up nearly enough for me to give way emotionally. Because of this, and the utterly slow pace of progression, I have simply lost all my interest in continuing.

Black Bullet (7/10)

Synopsis: Set in the near-future, mankind lives in the aftermath of the destruction of most of the world by giant insects called Gastrea. A virus caused by the Gastrea causes the “cursed children” to be born, who have heightened powers and agility. They face constant anguish and resentment from society, but a government group pairs officers called “promoters” with a cursed child. Sentaro is a promoter who has a soft heart for the cursed children and his journey will introduce him to more cursed children, a new battle with the gastrea, and the inner struggles of a city that barely managed to survive.

This anime took me for a ride. Initally, I hated it, but then it’s world building took a sudden turn for the better, and I started liking it again. Close to the end of the season, it had the potential to be one of my favorites, and then it kind of just ended with a not-so-powerful or clever conclusion. The focus on the insect-beasts called Gastrea was something that seemed ill-fated from the beginning. They just aren’t that appealing, and very rarely felt threatening. What really interested me was the inner-turmoil amongst the higher-ups within the confined civilization and the potential of a dirty game of politics, but that took a back seat at the end of the season to the Gastrea yet again. The other weak point was the rather unfounded nature of a few things, such as the system that ranks the power level of a promoter and initiator. Apparently, should the queen think so, she could simply promote you to number 1, rather than a detailed examination of your true power. Because of this, a fight between a rank 1,000 and a rank 100 didn’t really express much difference from either combatant. Similarly, Sentaro yelling crazy-ass moves that sound like the most advanced techniques of a Fairy Tail guild member were simply kicks and punches. I literally could not understand he necessity of the over-the-top shounen shouting during certain fights.

What is definitely commendable was the pumping soundtrack and a rather colorful character design that contrasted vividly with the dystopian world. I really liked the overly-sympathetic main character. He could never leave a “cursed child” in the hands of the harshly judgmental society and apologized endearingly to the children for many things. Overall, because of the colorful anarchist character that was initially the villain, and the rather entertaining and outrageous combinations of the adult “promoters” and child “initiators, this show rarely lost my interest. The action was suitable, carried mainly by the style of the characters and the music, and the emotional tone was a bit melodramatic, but powerful at times. It’s just that it didn’t do much to grip me in any way, nor do anything to break the mold of a typical anime. The writing wasn’t too stellar, but the characters had enough personality to carry the show.

Selector Infected Wixoss (8/10)

Synopsis: Wixoss is a new collectible card game taking the world by storm. Hidden deep within the realms of the card game is a more important game that only certain players, the “selected” can play. In their case, their character card actually comes to life and they are able to compete to have a wish actually come true. However, there are signs of something more sinister making it seem too good to be true.

Wixoss did one thing right that immediately made me enjoy it more than most people did. I personally feel like it nailed it’s feeling of suspense perfectly. Several times I was hooked to see what happened in the next episode. The hidden rules of the card game were a delight to discover, and even the season finale left me wanting to immediately jump into the next season. Color me against the odds with this one because I’m one of the few who seemed to have enjoyed it as much as I did. I will admit that one of the biggest aspects of this anime, the card game itself, is a mess. The rules are not explained, but then again I think it’d be boring to actually explain the rules anyways, so ultimately I think the medium of using a card game was a mistake. The purpose behind this card game, however, is stellar. The main character also shined rather brightly for me. Her rather addictive desire to battle was juxtaposed with her sanity making it have a light psychotic undertone.

The other characters didn’t do much which does bring the anime down a notch. The forbidden incest love of the sister was rather over-bearing at times, but I will say it was handled in a very realistic way. What happens to the characters is more interesting than the characters’ personalities themselves which only means the story itself is doing the all the work, and not the characters. In the end, the card game is what hurts this anime the most. I do like the characters that come to life, but everything else about the card game only limits the scope of the story. From the failure to understand anything going on in a battle to the rather awkward transitions between the casual building a deck and the horrific aftermath’s of the battle, it’s an anime with a glaring weak point, but wrapped in a genuinely addictive and mysterious plot.

Chaika: Coffin Princess (8/10)

Synopsis: In this fantasy world, Toru and his sister live as saboteurs living in a tight pinch for money. They meet Chaika who’s traveling on her own journey, and end up being hired by her. As they go on their adventure, they learn that there’s a lot more to “chaika” than what was initially let on. They journey to find the scattered remains of her father, remains that act as powerful magical catalysts.

I’m glad people came around by the end of the season and said this anime was actually pretty damn good because it was, for a while, the most underrated anime of the season. Chaika is a perfect example of an anime that does EVERYTHING decently, but NOTHING superbly. It’s a rather well-conceived fantasy world with a unique take on magic. The combat is surprisingly smart and was actually one of the best highlights of this anime. The story was a mix of random journeys that built the lore of the world, and an over-arching plot that unearths the mystery behind Chaika’s origin. The character interplay was well-done with a sympathetic enemy group who pretty much became a second group of protagonists by the end of the season.

I don’t really have much to say with a negative mindset about this anime. I feel like everything could be improved, but at the same time, nothing really needs to change for the second season for this to remain enjoyable. I’m simply excited to see more of this world, and figure out what was behind that big twist near the end of the last episode. If anyone wants to enjoy an adventure anime for the pure sake of learning about a new world and meeting new characters, this anime is actually quite perfect for that. I guess if you can’t handle the way Chaika talks, which is synonymous with caveman speak, then that could be a valid reason to never look at this anime again.

One Week Friends (8/10)

Synopsis: Hase has his heart set on befriending the seemingly distant and cold-hearted Kaori Fujimiya. When he does, he learns that her unpleasant personality is a facade meant to hide the secret that she suffers a unique short term memory loss that triggers every week. Hase is not perturbed and instead opts to become her friend, from the beginning, every week if he has too.

I thought this was going to be the next Usagi Drop, and it many ways it kind of was, but it didn’t quite hit as high as that wonderful anime by the end of it. Mainly because there was this lull right before the finale that tried to escalate their friendship into a romance, which wasn’t handled nearly as well as the portrayal of their initial friendship. I will definitely concede to the fact that the final episode hit hard, and hit strong. It’s a slice of life that knows how to handle the powerful moments, but ultimately, One week friends didn’t have the big facet of change that I really like in my favorite anime in this genre. The main character, Hase, pretty much solves only one character problem which made the conclusion a bit weak, despite how powerfully the scene was conveyed.

The art style, however, was beyond gorgeous. It’s easily one of the prettiest anime I’ve seen. Every character except the main character were extremely likeable. Okay, Hase was too, with his faithful motivation to befriend her over and over, but even with that, he paled in comparison to the others. The main thing I didn’t like was the aforementioned hints of romance. It was more like a tease that felt poorly executed that put the anime in a tight spot of where to go with the conclusion. In the end, I wanted the anime to go a little further, or have a bit more character development, but aesthetically speaking, this is one way I definitely prefer my anime to be.

Fairy Tail (8/10)

Synopsis: In this arc of Fairy Tail, the guild is battling in a tournament to reclaim their number one title, which was lost due to the main team’s long disappearance. Behind the scenes, the threat of a dragon apocalypse looms on the horizon.

It’s hard to grade Fairy Tail in it’s current arc because it’s still continuing, since most Shounen don’t follow the same finale schedule as most anime do. It’s definitely worth saying that this arc has the potential to be what we’ve all been waiting for since the first episode, which is the return of the dragons. I can definitely speak on the new art style that’s being used since the anime’s return to form, and that I do really find it just as good as the last one. The eyes are the most noticeable change, but I don’t think it got any worse at all. I will say that the mystery aspect of this current arc has been pretty standard in execution and the fights have been a mix of fervorous and dull. Gajeel turning shadow/steel was really cool, but also felt very shounen-esque in general which typically rubs me the wrong way.

The more interesting reveal was at the last episode of Spring when it was revealed that one of the characters who most thought to be helping them save the world has an ulterior motive. The main reason this season has been a bit lacking is that there hasn’t been a classic Fairy Tail Feel moment. The moment where the powerful orchestra music starts kicking in, and the characters start talking this crazy talk about friendship and power, and it gives everyone chills. Yeah, those moments haven’t returned yet, but I’m definitely ready for when they do. I don’t think I’ll ever stop watching Fairy Tail because it’s generally entertaining every episode, but I will say that I wish it would improve just a tad more in a few departments.

No Game No Life (9/10)

Synopsis: Sora and Shiro are two gaming prodigies who have been undefeated since adopting the username, Blank. On one fateful day, they are approached by a god of another world. They are invited to join, and are pulled into a world where everything is decided by games. Literally, EVERYTHING.

This is what I like to call a popcorn psychological anime. It’s like if Michael Bay got a psychology major. Similar to Code Geass, it features a genius main character, or in this case, a duo, that has an agenda so blown out of proportion that it rivals insanity. It’s over the top, yet very, very steeped in playing mind games. It’s an anime that has no shame of stretching the boundaries of psychological warfare to it’s utter limit. What’s happening on screen is sometimes pure lunacy, but it’s all wrapped up in delectable intelligent writing that just gives your brain chills.

There’s not much to dislike about this anime except that it also drags along an ecchi comedy routine that may brush some the wrong way. Even myself, sometimes has to reel back a bit when the comedy gets a bit weird. Ultimately this is a very popular anime for good reason, and could be compared to the likes of Code Geass and Death Note. However, I still prefer those two more because their style is more up my alley. Code Geass has a flair for powerful dramatic moments between it’s characters, and Death Note has the deliciously dark undertone that I always crave.

Hunter X Hunter (10/10)

Synopsis: The end of the longest arc in the anime, the Chimera Ant Arc, has finally happened. Gon’s mission to free his father-figure, Kite, from the clutches of the Ant King’s generals, and the Hunter Association’s attempt to rid the world of the tyrannical Ant King finally concluded.

Excitement, suspense, drama, heartache, and a numbingly slow pace. This arc was incredible. Among all Shounen rivals, I have found this arc to be the most masterfully crafted progression of story that I’ve ever seen. What happened in this arc is more suitable for a pivotal, heart-wrenching drama than a typical shounen action anime. From the full evolution of the king’s character to Gon’s descent into madness, and Killua’s painful loss of purpose, the haunting events that took place in this palace will remain with me forever.

Hunter X Hunter, to me, has always been a Shounen in a league of it’s own. I have my gripes with it, mainly the fact that there’s still just some weird stuff in this anime. I’m looking at you multi-orgasmic butterfly guy. But, those are just raindrops compared to the vast amount of things I just love about this anime. The clever innovation of the powers, the progressively dark storyline, the incredible bond of Gon and Killua, and the sad fate of the King in his final moments. The creator of Hunter X Hunter is a genius. His mentality is melded with weird thoughts, but a genius all the same. I believe that Hunter X Hunter is going on break after this arc to allow the manga to gain some ground, so I will be SORELY missing this anime from Summer 2014 onward until it finally returns. Will it have a new intro song? Probably not.

Mushishi: Zoku Shou 10/10

Synopsis: Mushi are abstract beings that live amongst humans unseen by most. The ones that can are considered gifted, and some among those choose the path of a Mushishi, or a Mushi Master. Ginko is a Mushi Master, and this anime follows his journeys across the mystical world helping people with their problems caused by Mushi.

Due to delays, the first half of this season hasn’t technically finished yet, with a two-part mid-season finale still on the horizon, but since this anime is purely disconnected in it’s episodes anyways, you can pretty much grade this anime at any time. I did not think I’d ever see this anime again, so I’m already thankful just for the opportunity to see more of this world. Furthermore, this season has been just as good, if not, better than the first season. The art and voice acting has become much more crisp, and if you include the OVA from the beginning of the year, this has had some truly magnificent tales to witness

I could try to describe the stories, but the best way to describe Mushishi is the mood and tone. Mushishi crafts a wonderful tone steeped in soothing storytelling and slow, rhythmic pacing. Each story is a peek into the supernatural, and will either grip your heart, feed your imagination, stimulate your eyes, or pepper your thoughts with the need to reflect. Needless to say, a brilliant continuation to what is already my favorite anime is easily going to be my favorite of the season. For the sake of those that have seen it, we like to discuss favorite episodes, and I’d have to say that my personal favorite was Episode 2 – The Warbling Sea Shell. It had everything I love about this show. An inventive design of a mushi, powerful character interplay, and utterly gorgeous art design. It’s a shame my favorite episode was so early on, but this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy each and every other episode to a high degree as well. Mushishi’s bad episodes are still stories that I will remember for years to come.

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In the end, I started 21 anime and ended up liking 8 of them. That’s not bad at all! And with that, we are on to Summer 2014. I have already seen a few first episodes, but I am waiting for a couple more to debut before doing my first impression write up, so keep your eyes on the blog! I thank anyone who takes the time to read, and wish them pleasant anime journeys!

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