Lesson learned: never do early anime impressions. The tides can turn at any given moment and basing your thoughts on only one or two episodes will most likely not reflect the overall series (even if there are exceptions as always).
Never before have I been this disappointed in the outcome of an anime season since I properly started following the airing anime seasons back in fall 2010. Attack on Titan, Suisei no Gargantia and Hataraku Maou-sama!. These three all had magnificent starting episodes that made me excited about what was to come. But then, when they all hit episode six, something happened.
Attack on Titan completely ruined its fantastic pacing with an out-of-place flashback episode. And as the series progressed it only became slower and slower.
Suisei no Gargantia had lots of off-model belly dancing and was about to head into a direction I did not like.
And Hataraku Maou-sama! started to overstay its welcome.
Was someone playing tricks on me? Had I somehow upset the gods of anime? And as a way to ask for forgiveness, they gave me Yuyushiki and Henneko? They know me too well, because that plan worked. At least a little.
Spring 2013 Anime Early Impressions – Surprises Everywhere
Spring 2013 Anime Reviews – When Good Becomes Bad and Bad Becomes Good
#10 Valvrave the Liberator – 2/10
12 Episodes | Action, Mecha, | Original | Sunrise | Spring 2013
Do you like cheese? I do, especially when put on crackers. And it should be the stronger kinds and not the bland ones that do not taste anything except plastic.
If you happen to like the latter kind of cheese there is a high chance that you like Valvrave. Is Valvrave aware of how utterly awful and cheesy it is, or is it actually playing it straight? Here we have every predictable cliché we can find exaggerated it is impossible to watch without being embarrassed (or at least laughing at it). The characters are flat and remain stereotypes. The plot is completely hilarious with students running a country, Team Dorssia blasting off again and L-Elf being able to predict every single thing.
At the start it was fun in its own way, being so stupid you could not help but love it. But as it went on it only started to leave a sour taste in mouth, particularly when it casually added rape for no reason at all. At that point I realized I despised Valvrave.
#9 Aku no Hana – 4/10
13 Episodes | Drama, School, “Psychological” | Manga | Zecxs | Spring 2013
Let us get the elephant out of the room first: the rotoscoping is not the biggest problem Aku no Hana has. Yes, it does look fairly cheap and it is very jarring how characters’ faces fade in and out depending on their distance from the camera. Plus it does seem to have few frames per second, making certain scenes look awkward. And not to mention the fact that expressions, such as being confused, do not even show due to the poor rotoscoping.
But no, this is not the issue with Aku no Hana. The issue is how shallow it is. By the time the third episode aired I had read the whole manga since I felt the anime did a poor job at certain scenes (which you can read about in the Spring 2013 Anime Impressions post). While this obviously spoiled the story for me, it more than anything made me confused when I watched the anime.
You see, Aku no Hana barely tries to develop its characters. Our lead Kasuga remains a spineless wimp without any reason to behave the way he does, Nakamura is crazy and we never learn why and Saeki… she is a walking question mark in how she never reacts to anything around her. The same goes with the story, which honestly is only doing as many insane things as possible because insane things are insane. It is not until the exact spot where the anime ends when it Aku no Hana starts to flesh out a little, eventually leading to the genius Part II which builds upon the foundation Part I had laid.
But the anime takes a different approach. It is slow, has creepy background sounds and basically just tries to be heavily atmospheric. And this works…but only at key scenes (which honestly are fantastic). Outside of those key scenes Aku no Hana is trying to hide its shallow core by pretending as if some sort of meaningful development has occurred during eight minutes of walking, by unnecessarily rewinding or prolonging scenes and so on. This becomes a problem when it all boils down to: “I AM CRAZY AND HATE EVERYTHING”, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF” and “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!”. A bad cake is still a bad cake even if it has a pretty exterior.
This sort of fake “build-up” culminates in the final episode which is a whole load of nothing, telling you to go read the manga if you want to know what will happen later on. It renders the whole anime irrelevant since it never reaches a satisfying conclusion. Exactly what was the point?
At least Aku no Hana gave us some of the best anime scenes from this year.
#8 Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai 2 – 5/10
13 Episodes | Comedy, Slice of Life | Light Novel | A-1 Pictures | Spring 2013
OreImo 2 is very disjointed, to say the least. The first season focused on Kirino and her being a horrible, horrible little sister that is not cute at all. The special episodes focused on Kyousuke and his time with Kuroneko in school. The second season, however, is a little bit of everything. We have flashbacks, dates, random comedy hijinks and some sort of romantic plot towards the end which is never resolved (because that is what the future specials will cover!).
And somewhere in the middle of all this we have frustrating love bait-and-switch episodes which come out of nowhere and end… for no given reason at all, actually! It is as if the author behind OreImo wanted to bait as much as possible without any idea how to switch said bait because the bait made too much sense compared to the switch, yet he still insisted on baiting. As a result the viewers are only shoved a big “Nope, moving on, nothing to see here!” into their faces and are only left upset.
This is a bit sad considering how the more lighthearted episodes, or the comedy centered ones, are really enjoyable. But whenever OreImo 2 tries to be dramatic it completely trips over itself.
#7 Suisei no Gargantia – 5/10
12 Episodes | Action, Sci-Fi | Original | Production I.G | Spring 2013
Gargantia, what did you want to be? At first you were an extremely charming fish-out-of-the-water story about the soldier Ledo who tried to adjust to a simpler lifestyle on Earth. It was nothing new and fancy, but it worked extremely well thanks to the clashing cultures. Then later on it did a complete 180° in terms of mood and nullified the development Ledo had gone through earlier. Other characters also changed personality without warning, with Pinion becoming an idiot. And Amy, who had a central role earlier? She completely disappeared.
And just when you are adjusted to this change in mood it changes again to something that has exactly nothing to do with what Gargantia tried to be earlier. Hell, the final part even makes the whole message of the story, telling young adults that going out into the world is not scary, becomes lost in it.
It is so… mindboggling that I lack words for it. Is the reason having multiple writers on the series, each with his or her own idea of how the story should have developed? Because as it stands, Gargantia is three completely different series crammed together to make an unsatisfying whole.
#6 Attack on Titan – 5-6/10
13/25 Episodes | Action, Fantasy | Manga | Production I.G | Spring 2013
Dear Attack on Titan,
Your first episode shook me to the very core. So much I even said:
“Dare I say that this may be the best anime of 2013, or will I jinx it?”
You kept up this fantastic quality for five episodes before you hit the end of the road. First came a flashback. Then came superpowers. After that a glacial pacing and more and more stills; so many it was almost comical. Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, you started to have visible production problems. Unfinished scenes, “lagging” dust, purple rocks and more.
Why did you have to do this? Will you be better when the DVDs and BDs are released? And more importantly, will you even have the strength to animate the second half you have left?
I just do not know anymore. I want to love you, yet you refuse to love me back.
Please, come back to me.
#5 Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san – 6/10
13 Episodes | Comedy | Manga | Tatsunoko Productions | Spring 2013
I expected a weekly dosage of fast-paced comedy that sometimes works and sometimes does not along with gorgeous animation. I got a weekly dosage of fast-paced comedy that sometime worked and sometime did not along with gorgeous animation.
Muromi-san is exactly what you expect it to be: a little bit of fun.
#4 Hataraku Maou-sama! – 6/10
13 Episodes | Comedy, Fantasy | Light Novel | White Fox | Spring 2013
As I have said, Hataraku Maou-sama overstayed its welcome when it entered the second arc. The first arc is fantastic and easily one of the best anime comedies I have seen. But after that it sort of… fizzles out. Its charm is long lost, even if there are some genuinely good moments. Thankfully it is never disastrous, but sadly it never reaches the same heights as it used to.
#3 Aiura – 6/10
12 Episodes | Comedy, Slice of Life | Manga | Liden Films | Spring 2013
I would recommend reading “Are Anime Shorts Series Actually Worth Your Time?”, because it can be applied here. This part in particular is important since it reflects how I feel about Aiura:
“If I had to create an analogy, you could imagine Aria the Animation as eating a whole cake at your own pace, having all the time in the world to enjoy its flavors and texture. But Yama no Susume would be only eating half a cake while barely appreciating its taste and Aiura would be someone taking the cake away from you when you have only eaten a fourth of it. You want to eat more to be satisfied, yet you are not served any and leave with an empty stomach.”
Aiura was a little bit of cute every week, but I wanted more than it could give me.
#2 Yuyushiki – 7/10
12 Episodes | Comedy, School, Slice of Life | Manga | Kinema Citrus | Spring 2013
The first episode was a lie. It had lots of yuri-esque scenes and boring jokes as if it wanted to scare me away. But I stayed and was rewarded the very next episode. Or perhaps I had gotten used to Yuyushiki’s atmosphere by then.
What makes this little series work is thanks to the chemistry our main trio has. They may follow a typical formula (the airhead, the straight man and the unpredictable/crazy one) but the thing they all have in common is energy.
Yuyushiki is a bit different from many slice of life anime in how it never really tries to make the viewer feel like he or she is one with the series; instead we are merely observing this group of high school girls’ daily lives and that is it. Nothing more. All they do is banter around in a classroom, perhaps doing bad puns or teasing one another. Sometimes they are in their club room finding random facts in the internet like you and me and at other times we see them in their free time lazing about in their houses.
And this actually works. While it still is a very typical 4-koma adaptation with jokes having an obligatory “intro > set-up > punchline > reaction” format, it still feels slightly more real than your average slice of life. The characters and their behavior may still be exaggerated, but it is not overly cutesy or unrealistic mind the slight yuri-vibe.
What also helps is the production itself which frankly is one of the best this season. The comedic timing is there, it sounds good, it has a clean and pretty art style, is playful with its camera and so on. It is basically well-crafted all around.
It is nothing that will revolutionize the world of slice of life. Instead Yuyushiki simply appeared, did an awesome tango and then left.
#1 Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko – 8/10
12 Episodes | Comedy, Drama, Ecchi, Romance | Light Novel | J.C. Staff | Spring 2013
In a sense I could argue that Henneko suffers from the “Only the First Light Novel is Good Disease”. The initial premise is cleared up after a few episodes and is never brought up again. But at the same time that would be unfair considering how it effortlessly manages to take a new spin on its concept that feels organic. The central theme, the wish-granting cat statue, is still there and so are the main characters; they are merely only put in new situations.
Mostly all of these situations end up being relevant for the final arc which has a finale so satisfying I doubt anything else will be able to beat it this year. We learn about the characters and their stories are neatly tied together at the end.
J.C. Staff has surprisingly done a great job with Henneko, giving it a pacing that is nearly flawless and a production that is more akin to their more well-made series. Nearly everything fits to a T. Even Kaji Yuki and Ogura Yui make splendid efforts and are not grating on the ears as they can be in certain anime titles.
What holds Henneko back is sadly an arc where it introduced a new character out of the blue that did not really end up relevant to the story besides being a central character in said arc. The climax of that arc also remains unexplained, which is a bit unexpected seeing how everything else in the series is explained to some degree.
But other than that? Nothing. Every week I was always looking forward to Henneko. It may seem like a dumb harem comedy at first, but it evolves into something far grander as it progresses while still retaining the silly and innocent fun.