Welcome, dear readers, to the first edition of the Midseason Awards, wherein I shall take a look at the best, worst, and most average shows of the season! If you’ve been following my writing since the start few of the discussions below will surprise you, but hey, we should all step back from time to time lest we miss the forest for the trees. If you’re new around here then I hope this post will serve as a window into my anime watching habits and as a summary of the summer’s TV series thus far.
Put on your fanciest tuxedo, slap on a pair of catgirl ears, and let the ceremonies begin!
Category: Oh Right, Guess I Forgot To Watch
At first glance the shows in this category were fairly appealing and should have held my interest. Nevertheless, somewhere along the line, they missed the opportunity to hook me in for the ride, but to be honest it’s not always their fault: I am human, after all, despite my uncanny intellect and rabid sex appeal. I can only follow so many shows at a time.
Natsume Yuujinchou: I never even mentioned this one on my blog, which, as you may intuit, is not a good sign. The first episode introduced us to Natsume, who has the powers to see invisible ghosts and demons, including a hilarious uber-demon who spends most of his time in the guise of a whiny household cat. The show had its laughs and dramatic potential, since Natsume’s quest involves releasing the demons his Grandma (who had the same powers) captured by writing their true name in a book, but it slipped my mind the minute the first episode was over. A Death Note clone is how I’ll remember it.
Birdy The Mighty Decode: The first episode was an utter disappointment: a titillating first five minutes of sleek sci-fi action set in space followed by (yet again) the adventures of your average high school boy who comes in contact with Birdy, an alien bounty hunter and star of those tantalizing five minutes. To add insult to injury, the second episode didn’t even leave a mark on my memory despite holding the distinction of being the first show I watched on my new iPod Nano. I liked the character of Birdy a lot (and her uber-cool high heel boots too!) but bending over backwards to involve the genre’s usual tropes was a complete turn-off to me. To reiterate the obvious: not every anime TV series has to be set in high school, okay? Curse you Haruhi and your excellence! You’ve condemned us to an anime eternity in high school.
And the winner is…
World Destruction: A stylish show with colorful animation that could not escape the blandness integral to its storyline. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a bumbling but well-meaning simpleton discovers a hidden power within himself and ends up trying to save the world with the help of a cute heroic sidekick and a sexy but deadly woman with a dark past. Ring a bell? Maybe it’s because that could describe 90% of all anime shows ever created? To be fair it’s an anime tie-in for a Sega RPG to be released later this year so perhaps it was wrong of me to expect fireworks from World Destruction. I’m still, uhm, “collecting” the fansubs as they come out with all intents of watching at some point in the future, but if I run out of disk space before my new rig arrives (2 terabytes of storage, oh joy!) they could get the axe.
Category: Top Dogs
Sorry, but if you’re not watching the shows in this category, you’re doing it wrong.
Kaiba: Technically a spring show, and also technically over, which makes me sad beyond words. But screw the technicalities! You need to watch Kaiba before it is lost in the sands of time. It’s also the perfect answer whenever some smug acquaintance asks the dreaded question, “Anime, eh? Isn’t it just a bunch of cartoons for kids?” Simply point them towards Kaiba and its mature treatment of themes such as memory, love, family, sex, and many more. Everything from the animation and the music to the twisted (but oddly satisfying) storyline conspired to make it a one of a kind experience the likes of which I do not expect to encounter very often; to this the day, the words “Tadaima, boku no Neiro” echo in my ears. Spoiler-free review is this way.
Antique Bakery: “Four gay guys open a cake shop”. Yup. Antique Bakery follows the adventures of smooth-talking Kei (the owner), devilishly gay Ouno (the pâtissier), inept Chikage (the garçon) and spunky Eiji (the apprentice) as they struggle to clean up their lives and make scrumptious-looking French desserts. In a tightrope act worthy of admiration Antique Bakery has managed to balance drama and humor in each episode, though it does have a tendency to switch gears abruptly, but come on, is there any show that’s truly perfect? Well, maybe the next one is.
And the winner is…
Someday’s Dreamers: Hoping I wouldn’t start ranting about my favorite show? Here, let me dash your feeble hopes on the rocks of amazing atmosphere, fantastic characterization, and a deliberately slow pace! Photorealistic backgrounds and the lack of a soundtrack make Sora’s world so vibrant and real I feel as if I could catch a plane to Tokyo to visit her. Someday’s Dreamers is also proof that you don’t need extravagant settings or barrels of nipply fanservice to be entertained: the story simply follows Sora’s life as she leaves the Hokkaido countryside to go live in Tokyo for her magic apprenticeship.
But hey, speaking of nipply fanservice…
Category: Ten-Foot Pole Not Included
Not a lot of competition in this category. Credit me for being able to spot the stinkers from a mile away! Or for developping godly patience towards even the lamest, most stereotypical shows (re: Sekirei). And yet, this category’s “winner” horrified me so badly I didn’t even want to revisit its first five episodes to find new screen caps to use.
The “winner” is…
Strike Witches: Biggest disappointment of the season. If you remember my original first impressions post, at the time, I picked it as the unlikely cream of an admittedly feeble crop due to its “original” subject matter and high production values. Why am I still watching Sekirei (and Antique Bakery, which skyrocketed out of that primordial cesspool into the Top Dogs category) but not Strike Witches, then? For one, the initial delight of discovering a world where magical flying foxgirls use WW2 weaponry to shoot down alien mechanical planes of death wore off before episode 03 was over. At roughly the same time the show jettisoned its heroine’s personality and therefore her appeal: Miyafuji’s motivation changed from “I want to help people because my Dad did so” to “I wonder what the other girls’s boobs taste like”. I mean, there’s fanservice, and then there’s FAN-FUCKING-SERVICE.
Dishonorable mention goes to…
Slayers Revolution: Dear Lord what a piece of shit. In the name of journalistic integrity I gave it another shot and watched episode 06, which depicts the struggles of a village split in three over a festival that showcases sweaty men in loincloths obsessing over giant balls. I’m not kidding. It hadn’t improved one iota since I’d first sampled it, with the same wooden characters spitting out the same hackneyed lines and conforming to their cozy stereotypes. And the animation’s a full two decades behind the curve. My brain almost explodes every time I stop to consider that this show has been going on for over one hundred and twenty episodes. One hundred and twenty. ARGH!
Category: Returning Champions
The following spring season offerings are still going on strong, and judging by their outnumbering the Top Dogs, you’d be right to assert that the summer season hasn’t offered us nearly as good a crop as spring did (since I am counting Kaiba as a spring show after all).
Real Drive: Shirow is doing his best to give Real Drive‘s viewers a cataclysmic case of blue balls by wasting precious airtime discussing such crucial matters as the philosphical implications of a canine collective consciousness. And yet I watch. The realistic look at tomorrow’s future is spellbinding in many ways, and the characters, though far from perfect, behave like normal and rational beings. It doesn’t hurt that curvaceous Holon (left) is one sexy mama too!
Macross Frontier: What can I say? It’s Macross and it’s damn well executed. The animation is polished to a CG shine and the characters are revealing surprising depth. Despite its sudden bout of “Neon Genesis Evangelion syndrome” the show is poised for a strong finish that should earn it admittance into the Macross pantheon. If the words “transforming robots in space to pop music” light up some pleasure centers in your brain this is a series you should check out.
And the winner is…
Code Geass: Still on the weekly menu rain or shine, still chock-full of plot twists, and still a notch above the rest of the action/mecha competition, including Frontier. There is no other show quite like it. Now that the conclusion is drawing nearer, expectations and speculation are running rampant as fans try to make sense of the convoluted plotlines and mysteries that have yet to unravel. The Emperor? Geass? Milly saving the planet by smothering the gods to death with her humongous funbags? Place your bets! If you’re an alien who’s just disembarked on Earth you could do a lot worse than catching up with this one.
Category: The Muddled Middle
The ho-hum shows, the ones worth watching when there’s nothing on TV but that still can’t hold a candle to the Top Dogs or even the Returning Champions. To be clear, I like those shows — in fact I like the category’s winner a lot — but not enough to endorse them or recommend them for everyone.
Sekirei: Should I consider this show yet another fanservice-cum-harem magical action girl disaster and stick it next to Strike Witches at the bottom of the ladder? Or is a mysterious compulsion to watch every week despite the show’s evident flaws proof that it not nearly as bad? This dilemna earns it a spot inbetween those extremes. To reuse a metaphor from a comment I wrote on another blog, Sekirei is like the retarded ten-year-old kid who keeps you company as you wait for the bus and brings you candy because he wants to be your friend: a little slow under the hood but full of good intentions.
And the winner is…
Koihime Musou: It was love at first sight, and believe me, a savage inner conflict rages on about my decision to include it in the Muddled Middle category instead of Top Dogs. But I cannot forgive it entirely for flirting with the yuri element in a way that gives me ulcers to this day. For more on Koihime Musou, do read this week’s post on episode 06. If you’re a fan of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and not easily put off by girl-on-girl fanservice do yourself a favor and give it a try.
Well, that’s it for this first edition of the Midseason Awards! Did your favorite show fail to make an appearance? Are you an irate Slayers Revolution fan who wants to know where I live? Visit the Contact page or leave a comment!
Today’s Karen is: HAPPY