So first of all a mostly unimportant logistic detail: I’m changing the original definition of Brainmarks posts a little to make it easier on myself. The essential difference: I’ll no longer sieve through _everything_ the season has to offer. I’m no longer doing this with my housemate, and while checking out everything was sort of fun while it lasted, it’s also extremely time consuming and more often than not even sort of thankless (watching clearly shit shows just to make doubly sure they really are shit is not the most fun thing in the world). So what I’ll list here are shows that I i) somehow decided to check out, either from recommendations, blogs, or general buzz and ii) have not swiftly chucked aside after one or two episodes because I clearly didn’t like it. I’ll still rank the brainmarks though, because that’s sort of fun.
|Spoilered: What are brainmarks? (Revised)||Show>|
Oh, and as a bonus, since I don’t actually check out everything anymore, you get to yell at me in the comments if you think I missed a good show. And with that out of the way, let’s dive in.
Brainmark #6: Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatteiru
Episodes seen: 3
I’m really not sure how much I like this show at this point, but it’s resisted my attempts to drop it so far, so I’ll give it a brainmark. It’s got a sort of trope-y setting with the loser/socially reclusive male-lead winding up in a weird club with two different and attractive girls, along with pacing that feels a little bland and linear as well as generally terrible production values, but it’s got some pretty sharp dialogue with which it works on doing some fairly interesting exploring and deconstructing work on schoolyard social dynamics. I don’t really like many of the characters (except the ridiculous chuunibyou guy, who is awesome), and there are far too many obvious strawmen, but at the same time I’m kinda stuck with the show for now. It’s got a genuine theme to explore and it’s got things to say, I guess. We’ll see how well it continues to do it.
Brainmark #5: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S
Episodes seen: 2
The expositionary episodes of Railgun’s second season felt a little contrived to me to be honest. Oblivious street thugs, inconsequential terrorists, hostage situations, over-the-top resolutions, it’s all sort of deja vu by now – it feels like all of these were already deployed multiple times in the original Railgun and are just kind of recycled formula at this point. Still, JC’s production is pretty on the ball, so it’s still decent eye-candy while serving as a sort of effective reminder of what Railgun was like. Of course, there’s plenty of familiar ear candy too, with Itou Kanae on best-girl-Saten and Arai Satomi continuing her tour-de-force of perverted Kuroko lines. JC has never been really solid with serious shows so I’m not sure how much expectations I dare to have in terms of plot and drama (Season 1 was sort of hit and miss in this department after all), but IIRC the sisters arc is taken straight off the manga, so hopefully it’d be decent. The best part of the first season for me, as I detailed before, has always been the character relationships – the way the main characters interact and how this defined what they each meant to each other. JC doesn’t seem to have bothered itself with weaving much of that into the exposition, but I expect we’ll get into that in due time. It’s an important centerpiece of Railgun’s narrative after all, and as long as JC continues to recognize this and put some back into presenting it properly, I should be able to enjoy this show.
Brainmark #4: Suisei no Gargantia
Episodes seen: 3
While episode 1 featured some flashily pretty and eccentrically IG-esque mech-vs-alien battles, it sort of rubbed me the wrong way with that grand oratory painting that semi-cheesy picture of a futuristic, philosophically deranged society. It looked for awhile like it was going to be another Psycho Pass in terms of the themes it’ll explore and how it’ll go about it. However, the show surprised me when it cut all of that loose and kept only a single member of that grand world – our main character, and hurled him alone into a different world – a more primitive, more “normal” one. The ideological differences and the conflicting assumptions made by both worlds are then fleshed out by having the main character try to comprehend this new society he finds himself in, and having the other principal characters try to get to know our main character. I thought this was a very nice way to go about the whole thing. The production values are also pretty great (it’s Production IG after all). However, exploration has been on the slow side so far and not a lot of ideas have yet been thrown. Plus the antagonists so far are rather of the strawman variety that I despise, though I suppose the ones we have so far are only intermediary villains. It also annoys me that they have the “important looking leaders who apparently can’t connect the simplest of dots” thing going – a trope perhaps just a little too common in anime. Still, all in all I think Gargantia’s got potential, and at the same time is simple enough, so far anyway, to remain a decent show even if it doesn’t eventually meet its promises. A friendly and safe pick, you could say.
Brainmark #3: Red Data Girl
Episodes seen: 4
Putting this above Gargantia is probably largely a matter of taste. Red Data Girl is a pretty intriguing show with a lot of eye candy (as we’ve come to expect of PA’s shows), and with a funny little title that I thought was pretty detrimental to its exposition. “Red Data Girl” gave the show an unnecessary amount of sci-fi vibes which, along with the somewhat fumbly first episode, made the direction of the show confusing for awhile, until I eventually figured out that the supernatural elements of the show were really more along the lines of Japanese folklore. Once that got figured out, everything started falling together much better and one begins to appreciate some of the beauty and fluidity of the audio-visual direction. Even the main characters, who appeared forbiddingly obnoxious in the beginning of the show, started to warm up and feel approachable as the show got into gear. Having the main characters start off in such an unsightly state (a timid damsel-in-distress and a perpetually angry teen) I guess gives them a lot of character development room – if the rest of the story can keep it interesting while they’re busy being obnoxious. But I’m really in this one mostly for the artistic elements, as well as for some of the ideas behind the design of the show’s supernatural elements. Contemporary takes on Japanese traditional concepts of spirituality and divinity happen to be something that I find intriguing, and so I suppose you could say that this show is kind of my cup of green tea.
Brainmark #2: Shingeki no Kyojin
Episodes seen: 3
Otherwise known by its ungainly English tagline: “Attack on Titan”. Continuing the trend of shows this season annoying me with their first episodes, Shingeki no Kyojin opened with a very dramatic but more than a little cheesy portrayal of a titan invasion. Wit Studio (which appears to be a child studio of sorts of Production IG) nailed the key parts of the animation production admirably, but I thought that a lot of that artificial shock-mongering and general overuse of this “wide-eyed adults that look like they’ve peed their pants” thing were unnecessary, and left me with a bad aftertaste. It’s just not the sort of superficial bling that I enjoy. The blatant drama and emo mongering gradually toned down though as we got done with world building, and now that we have a core of characters introduced and stabilised, we can finally leave the over-the-top exposition behind and begin developing ideas, the potential of which I think are plentiful in a world like Shingeki’s. It’s a powerful and ambitious setting to base a story on, and Wit Studio has shown that they have the animating chops to carry through when we hit the inevitable battle scenes. We’ll see if the writing also holds up.
Also, while the OP has gathered much attention for being able to essentially go with anything, it is the ED that I really like. Hikasa Youko really has a great voice especially for numbers like these – radiant, stirring and sweet all at the same time.
Brainmark #1: Ore no Imouto ga konna ni kawaii wake ga nai 2
Episodes seen: 4
A peculiar choice for number 1 perhaps, but it basically just reflects how bumpy my experiences have been with the other shows of the season. In contrast, OreImo 2 opened exceedingly pleasantly, from the shallow yandere fun of Ayase’s episode to the impressive delivery of Saori’s glowing episode. A1 is also holding up the standards of production quality set by AIC and has taken over the production very smoothly. Still, it’s hard to argue that OreImo as a whole doesn’t have some obvious crippling flaws. I happen to think however that if you get past some of the contrived drama it flings at you, a lot of what OreImo is composed of is actually really quite well conceived. Looking back now on season 1 in the wake of Saori’s episode, the entire constructed web of character relations in the show actually feels pretty well thought out, and Kirino, her unpopularity notwithstanding, really does feel like an effective central figure for the entirety of the show. A pivot around which the other characters of the show can develop, and around which some of the ideas of the show can be fleshed out. Speaking of ideas, OreImo’s portrayal of otaku subculture is also unusually broad and dynamic. It feels like the show plumbs it and attempts to bring out different facets of it instead of just treating it like a static plot device. Interestingly enough, I actually have a planned post that has been sitting for the longest time in the pipeline – on the idea of Moe and OreImo’s interpretation thereof. Now that season 2 is up and new material is coming in, I guess that one’s gonna be stuck in blog post purgatory for some time more…
Anyway, I think there’s a lot to watch for in season 2. Season 1 left us with a good amount of room to progress upon – we’ve suffered past a lot of the ickier details that season 1 had to establish already (like anchoring and billing the obvious sis/bro-con overtones between the Kousaka siblings) and now that we’ve either been scared away or have somehow swallowed it, I’m actually sort of curious to see how the Kyousuke-Kirino dynamic will work out now that they’ve both sort of figured out what the other is thinking, especially in the wake of the whole arc with Kuroneko in the original “true route” ovas. All in all I have pretty high expectations actually. And of course, the best part of OreImo S2 is the return of the radio show. Only two episodes in and I’ve probably already grinned creepily to myself far too many times listening to it on my bus rides home.
Honorable mention: Hataraku Maou-sama!
A show as entertaining as you can expect a show about an impoverished demon lord working in Mc..Ronalds.. to be. It also seems to be making a good effort early on to gradually begin resolving the “I’m the hero and he’s the demon lord!” conflict even as it cranks out the comedy, which means this show may actually avoid the trainwreck wishy-washy ending and actually stay good to the end.
Honorable mention: Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko
Guilty pleasure show with decent comedy and a lot of shallow but cute d’aawww. JC’s animating is actually pretty up to par here, and in combination with YuiKaori’s killer work with the two lead girls makes this that sugary show you can watch at the end of the day when your brain doesn’t feel like thinking too much anymore.