Winter Wrap UpApril 28, 2011
The purpose of the post is two-fold. The first is that while we do a season preview every quarter we only randomly mention what we think of how the shows we finish in Ongoing Investigations. This is my attempt to give my concluding thoughts on the shows that wrapped up in the winter. Often it is your final thoughts that are most important. The second reason for this post is to use a song title from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and get a bunch of completely undeserved hits. I will try to avoid major spoilers but I will also warn you that talking about the end of any show might just give you more information than you are looking for.
At times I feel like the only person who legitimately enjoys Toaru Majutsu no Index II outside of Japan. I know the show is a silly little shonen urban fantasy show so I go in with the appropriate expectations. I also never have a problem with the exposition or pacing but that is just my personal tolerance showing. It might also be the fact that I don’t view the show as the world’s least efficient Rail Gun delivery service or the Accelerator Show where the main character is surprisingly absent. So when these two charters are merely side characters I am never surprised they don’t show up more. My tolerance of fan-service has gotten to the point were I just accept it and move on gracefully although it is often gratuitous in Index during the down periods. The show can goofy but I always viewed it like it was a really crazy game of Mage: The Ascension and therefore I cut it some slack in that sense. Plus I always like the idea of a secret battle between science in magic in the modern world.
Kimi ni Todoke 2nd season started out extremely frustrating but thankfully ended in a way that left me satisfied. The first season was a leisurely show that was a delight to watch because the characters involved were lovable and usually made smart decisions. Misunderstandings occurred, as is natural in shojo anime, but they were quickly cleared up so you were never beating you head against the wall. The second season starts off with people making bone headed moves and this growing frustration over the actions of everyone involved. You can clearly tell that the original story was stalling for time to extend the run of a popular series but that does not excuse the anime from the same frustrating pace. Eventually they decided they have wasted enough time and the show went back to delivering what it did so well in the first season. Those last few episodes really hit it out of the park and let your forgive what came before. I don’t regret watching this season but that first half really could have been cut down and been much more effective.
Star Driver was a fun show for me. It distinctly had its problems but in the end I was happy with what I got. I know some people will be unhappy with the lack of explanation of how much of the world worked and the ending is like a kung fu movie where the ending comes seconds after the climax with no falling action. While I would have liked some more answers and a bit of a cool down I enjoyed the ride enough that I can forgive those flaws. I am a surprised that notable segments of the fandom turned against this show but I suppose that can be the curse of high expectations. To steal a joke from Gundamn they felt that Star Driver was the worst Revolutionary Girl Utena since Melody of Oblivion. In many ways it was Utena with mecha but in ways people did not like. I don’t think it was as good as Utena but Utena is my favorite anime so I don’t think anything is as good as Utena. They did well enough to adapt the Utena formula into something I could enjoy.
Fractale is just wasted potential. The world introduced in Fractale had so many places it could have gone or meaty concepts it could have explored. The first episode seemed like it was living up to all the promise of the hype surrounding the show before it premiered. Then the show sort of stumbled along showing amazing promise from time to time but never capitalizing on any of the great ideas it brought up. It never investigated any part of the plot deeply enough that you felt satisfied so the overall plot was inoffensive but shallow. When the end came the villains were either silly or cliche and the climax was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Sadly my odd feeling that this would be the next Brain Powered was right on the money.
Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector was the boobs and robots show. I know some people found this show confusing but I thought it was dead simple for me to follow for better and for worse. While I enjoyed it I find it a hard series to recommend. The plot of the Super Robot Wars games are supposed to invoke your favorite robot shows themes and tropes in one tidy little strategy game package. But when you animate them and lose the interactive nature the inherent cheap particle board nature of the plot becomes apparent. Still I looked forward to each episode ever week so I would eventually see the bad guys get what is coming to them and see some sweet (but sometimes cheap) robot action. You do not have to go out of your way to watch this show but it is fun if you need a bit of a mecha fix. The again I might also just really like Excellen Browning.
Wandering Son remained consistently high class and entertaining. I found it very sad that the winter season of Noitamina was considered a failure because of what Fractale did wrong but that seems to overlook all that Wandering Son did right. It told a strong, consistent, and mature dramatic story that was not filled with otaku pandering. It tackled a sensitive and often ignored social topic in an even handed manner that could have easily fallen into the realms of melodrama or self indulgently dark storytelling. By making you feel the pain of the characters while keeping a hopeful core at its center it gave you just the right amounts of dark and light to tell a wonderful story. If you have no objection to the content there is no reason you should have ignored this wonderful little masterpiece.You should support the manga to get the whole story and promote some diversity in the market.
Bakuman did what it needed to in my opinion. It adapted the story from the manga fairly well and made you interested in Mashiro and Takagi’s struggle to become manga artist while getting some dramatized insights into the industry. Like any other Shonen Jump franchise it seem to have people who would scream bloody murder about how much they hated every episode, how it was ruining the manga, and the come back next week and do it again. I thought the pacing was hardly breakneck but I never felt they were spinning their wheels to kill time so I was never as annoyed as other people with the flow of the anime. I was impressed that I came to enjoy Eiji Nizuma who I hated at first and disliked Ko Aoki who your figured I might enjoy for reasons outside the show. I look forward to the next season unless I decide to just cut out the middle man and go straight to reading the manga.
Speaking of Bakuman it seems that Level E proves an important point mentioned about Shonen Jump manga mentioned in Bakuman. During a discussion of how Shonen Jump manga is judged they mention that manga artist tend love odd experimental manga because it is nothing like they have ever seen before but editors tend to favor solid but standard works because they could be serialized forever. Level E was the sort of manga that other manga artists would love but editors would hate. If feels very different with its unusual humor style and varied story telling but I suspect that is exactly what killed it so early in Shonen Jump. On the other hand that is what makes it an interesting 13 episode anime. In then becomes a short anthology series tied together by the Prince. As with any anthology series some of the stories are better than others. My favorite stories involved Yukitaka Tsutsui but sadly they only used him sparingly. The end was satisfying for me because the mastermind finally got played expertly which is exactly what you wanted to see throughout the series. It is an interesting curiosity to say the least and worth watching for its originality despite its inconsistency.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica was probably the show that got the most amount of positive otaku buzz during the winter season. It was an interesting examination of the darker elements that could be extracted from your standard magical girl show. The characters are very archetypical but it was mostly done so the viewer would know who the characters were quickly so when things go pear-shaped it throws you off guard. The ending was an odd mix of a deus ex machina happy ending and incredibly depressing conclusion which is about the oddest oxymoronic mixture you will get. I have a feeling that people will be debating how good the ending was for years much like a certain mecha show from Gainax. It is worth checking out just to see what it does with the genre. I was a bit worried it might go into major creepo territory like Nanoha. It did dip its toes in the skeevy end of the pool but thankfully in never stayed for any long period of time.