The Spring season has given way to Summer; some really good show wrapped up their stories (Sakamichi no Apollon), some really stinky shows slithered away in ignomy (Hiiro no Kakera), some left us with surprising revelations just before concluding (Jormungand), and some continued on into the Summer season. My viewing schedule is packed beyond capacity and so for some titles I’m only able to slip in an episode every once in a while. The Summer season is well underway and so it’s possible to get a real sense of the quality of the shows, and some of them are deliviering excellence in art, characters, plot, and music… others? Not so much.
My anime viewership has had to share time with my Olympics obsession, and I can’t help but think of sports anime at this time. This season I am continuing the three sports shows I was watching last season. Area no Kishi has narrowly avoided being dropped a couple of times by demonstrating fleeting glimpses of greatness; I hope the next episodes will realize the promise briefly seen in past episodes. My enthusiasm for Ginga ni Kickoff has waned a bit as the coach’s character becomes harder for me to relate to. I remain pleased an impressed by the way they are allowing for the slow growth (and slimming) of Reika; she is clearly an important member of the team, and her efforts at trying her beat are valued by the strongest members. Good job!! I liked the characters in Kuroko no Basuke and that remains unchanged; I also like the emphasis (made more appearant in these past episodes) on the importance of team work.
Four long running powerhouses: SKET Dance, Naruto Shippuuden, One Piece, and Fairy tail continue to rack up numbers in their episode counts. The generally episodic SKET Dance fairs better than the others in terms of pacing, but it is also the newest on the block. Other shows making continuations are Uuchu Kyoudai taking a leisurely path through JAXA’s third exam, Hyou-ka continuing to be a pleasing mystery show, and Shirokuma Cafe which is currently airing my favorite of their ending songs so far. It is “Zoo-tto, ne?” sung by Konishi Katsuyuki who provides the voice of the Full-time Panda. Shows making welcome returns after some time off the air are Moyashimon Returns sporting character designs closer to the manga than to the previous anime but delivering the goods in term of edutainment, and another entry into the Hakuouki saga. This time it is a prequel and at the moment not saddled with a ridiculous heroine; which is something I appreciate.
I also appreciate some of the interesting art and storytelling decisions that lie at the heart of the great new series of this season. Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi gives life and breath to the poems of the hundred poems collection; it’s art highlights the beauty of Japan’s traditional textiles. I like that the complexity of relationships is given voice as it has been in the last three episodes. The characters in Natsuyuki Rendevous know all about complicated relationships. I watched episode four last week, waiting until Friday for my chance to see episode five is one of the hardest waits this seasons. Moving away from Josei titles, Sword Art Online hasn’t brought the stunning fight sequences I was expecting, and is better for that; I look forward to finding out where this anime is heading (I haven’t read the light novel source material). In case my “what-the” bucket was in danger of emptying after Tsuritama ended, Humanity has Declined is ready to fill the breach. I am amused by the fairies, who seems to be embodied “Reductio ad absurdum” of all of humanities faults, but the human characters are unwilling to be left out of the action, and so we have a recipe for delicious delicious weirdness.
Speaking of weird, the plotline for this season of Phi-Brain is beyond bizarre (and I was pretty much able to go along with Rook’s deal from last season). It heads up the list of shows I’m watching, but would absolutely love if they could improve. Also on the list Binbougami ga! who just hasn’t totally hooked me in either plot, character, or art and Eureka 7: Astral Ocean which is sad given its impeccable pedigree. Last are the shows about cute people doing/ saying cute things. Joshiraku skewers the genre, but then it skewers everything else too, and seems to have a lovely time doing so. I’m not exactly sure what going on in Tari Tari it feels like there will be a plot at some point, I hope that is the case. My favorite in this set is Kokoro Connect it can sometimes be a challenge to follow along, but is proving to be well worth the effort.
At the risk of having severely burried the lead, the real winners of the season are North American viewers who can, now more than ever, watch legal high quality streams from services like Crunchyroll and Funimation. Both of these websites offer paid subscriptions that not only (in theory) help support the production of great anime, but provide perks to the viewer like ad-free episodes or HD quality (and in the case of Funimation’s subscribers access to their extensive catalogue). This season nearly every new anime was picked up for streaming to North America, and that is a very good thing.