Spontaneous Saturday 7/4/15: My final thoughts on spring 2015 anime

It’s America’s Independence Day and I’m talking about Japanese animation. Heh.

 

Disclaimer: The following opinions are expressed by a casual anime viewer with enigmatic tastes. Please perceive with caution. Also, spoilers may or may not be present.

Today, I will be talking about the most recently completed series of anime that I have watched. The particular topics that I will discuss are:

  • Opening comments / Things that stood out to me the most
  • Three favorite characters listed in descending order
  • What anime I find to resemble it the closest (N.B.: this only includes anime I’ve watched)
  • Overall rating/impression

Don’t recognize the name of an anime or character? Chances are you will be able to click on the first instance of the name and be directed to a relevant MAL (MyAnimeList) page.

For clarification, this is just like my previous review but with the anime sorted in chronological order of final episode aired rather than ascending alphabetical order.

So, without further ado, time to get started.

 

Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (second season of Kiniro Mosaic)

Opening: Kiniro Mosaic (abbreviated as KinMoza) is the story of an English girl (Alice Cartelet) and her homestay with her best friend in Japan (Shinobu “Shino” Oomiya). These two also have friends of their own: Karen Kujou, a half-English-half-Japanese friend of Alice, and Shino’s two classmates Aya Komichi and Youko Inokuma. These five characters constitute the main quintet of the series. The way I would describe these five is if you took Mio and Ritsu from K-On (who correspond to Aya and Youko, respectively) and had them mingle with Tooru, Run, and Yuuko from A-Channel (who correspond to Alice, Shino, and Karen, respectively). I mean, that’s only in terms of how they behave as groups; adding in further details (instruments in K-On, youngness of Tooru and shyness of Yuuko in A-Channel) would hinder the credibility of the comparison.

Anyway, as far as what happens, KinMoza is just a typical moe slice of life anime but with English elements as its gimmick. To be more specific, Alice and Karen, being foreigners with blonde hair, are portrayed as princesses with “golden” hair, which is what makes Shino obsess over them (although this is subjective in the case of Alice, with whom Shino shares a deeper bond). Also, there is plenty of use of the English language (which, if you ask me, is (sadly) more like Engrish, even from Alice…but hey, every form of media has its shortcomings) and an additional setting in England (notably Alice’s home).

Not much is different in season 2 than in season 1, just that a new teacher is introduced (Kuzehashi, a foil to the other teacher Karasuma) and some of the minor characters get more time in the spotlight (particularly Honoka Matsubara who, in my mind, would have fallen into obscurity if not for season 2 episode 11).

Favorite characters:

  1. Aya Komichi. Simply put, the fact that she’s so Mio-like is the reason why I like her. Going back to my roots—that is, when I started watching slice of life anime—I would generally claim the shy character as my favorite of a series—Sakaki in Azumanga Daioh, Miyuki in Lucky Star, Mio in K-On—and Aya is no exception. Out of the main quintet, Aya seems to be the most likely to get her work done (along with Alice) but the least likely to speak up. She also tends to overthink things, notably in her many interactions with Youko, who is so dense that the interactions become naught more than misunderstandings. For example, if Aya were to shout, “It’s not like that!”, Youko would respond, “Not like what!?” In summary, Aya is yet another character to whom I can relate in shyness.
  2. Karen Kujou. She’s basically the jokester of the series, and the most popular character for a good reason (also the star of the Desu song, which is basically what drew me to the series in the first place). She’s outgoing and a good friend to all, but sometimes she’s portrayed as a rival to Alice (especially in Shino’s wild imagination) due to them both having blonde hair and being from England. She’s also a good example of what it means to be part of two sides, like how I am a Canadian living in America (except I don’t sound Canadian…unless I speak French, and even then few people can distinguish that). All in all, Karen is a comedic character who, metaphorically speaking, shines light on everyone she meets (notably Kuzehashi, who lightens up from her usually stiff demeanor while supervising Karen).
  3. Isami Oomiya. Elder sister of Shino, she’s usually there if anything happens at Shino’s place, where she will provide help whenever needed (e.g., by waking Shino and Alice if they both happen to oversleep). In addition, she is a fashion model and has a nice voice, as well as a sort of laid-back personality (as in, one similar to that of Levi Kazama from Trinity Seven).

Similar anime: A-Channel. As I mentioned earlier: Tooru, Run, and Yuuko => Alice, Shino, and Karen. The first is short, the second is a ditz, and the third is a tension-causing third party. In addition, both series each have a duo of teachers dissimilar in how they behave (A-Channel has Kitou and Kamate while KinMoza has Karasuma and Kuzehashi…and heck, all of their romanized surnames start with K). Key differences: A-Channel has 4 main characters as opposed to KinMoza’s 5, A-Channel has a male teacher (Satou), Tooru is one year younger than her companions while Alice is in the same grade, and A-Channel doesn’t have any foreigners (Yuuko is from a different area in Japan than the others, but that doesn’t count).

Overall rating: 9/10. Light-hearted slice of life anime series are always welcome in my book, and KinMoza is no exception. Once again, I do criticize the quality of the English, but that’s just a minor setback in terms of Japanese animation. Looking past that, the characters are great—we have a familiar duo in Aya and Youko, and a unique character in Karen—and the series definitely had its moments.

 

Nisekoi: (second season of Nisekoi)

Overview: Nisekoi (literally “False Love”) follows the daily high school life of Raku Ichijou, who possesses a locket for which he does not have the key. Sadly, he never does find the key, even after the 2 prologues, 32 main episodes, and 3 OVA episodes that have aired so far. He does, however, meet three girls who happen to have keys of their own: the pure-hearted Kosaki Onodera, the tomboyish Chitoge Kirisaki, and the forward Marika Tachibana. As for where the title comes from: Raku and Chitoge are forced into a relationship to prevent their families from feuding against each other. Meanwhile, Raku and Kosaki are truly in love with each other but have not confessed their feelings, and Marika is head over heels for Raku to the point where it’s slightly obnoxious. Other notable characters include Seishirou Tsugumi (a servant to the Kirisaki family who, despite her main purpose being to protect Chitoge, ends up having feelings for Raku), Ruri Miyamoto (a close friend of Kosaki who sometimes pushes the relationship between her and Raku), and Shuu Maiko (Raku’s goofy male friend).

In the second season, some new characters are introduced, notably Paula McCoy (an antisocial rival of Seishirou), Haru Onodera (little sister of Kosaki who starts out hostile towards Raku but later warms up a little), and Chitoge’s parents. Sure, not much happens in terms of romance, but if anything, that’s because Raku runs into so many difficulties in his life, mostly as far as being unable to choose one girl without hurting all of the others. I mean, Kosaki, Chitoge, Marika, and Seishirou are all attracted to him somehow, and they don’t seem to have anyone else in mind, so he basically has to deal with all of them at once, which is no easy business (as is evident in season 2 episode 3, for example). What also stuck out to me was episode 10 of season 2, where Shuu is developed even further and is revealed to be in love with his teacher, Kyouko, to whom Raku pushes him to confess before she moves away. The best part is, this action inspired Raku to put himself in Shuu’s shoes and be more courageous in his relationship with Kosaki (although I’d say not enough, but obviously it’s not that easy).

Long story short, Nisekoi is a love comedy featuring a dense but kind-hearted male lead going nowhere fast.

Favorite characters: To be honest, this is a really difficult choice for me because I only find the characters average, and it’s not so much the individual characters I like in the anime as it is the chemistry they share together. Nonetheless…

  1. Ruri Miyamoto. This may seem like an odd choice due to her not being one of the main characters, but maybe it’s for that exact reason that I like her. Well, also because she wears glasses, speaks in monotone (generally), and is always ready to punish Shuu when his behavior goes out of hand. All in all, an interesting supporting character.
  2. Chitoge Kirisaki. I’ll admit I wasn’t too big of a fan of Chitoge until the finale of season 2 opened my eyes to just how much she means to the series. Sure, she’s basically the reason why Raku can’t have nice things, but without her, the series just wouldn’t be the same. She’s kinda like Karen from KinMoza (also both voiced by the same actress) if you replace her carefree nature with a tomboyish personality and take out all of the “desu” (which leaves basically a less moe version of Karen).
  3. Kosaki Onodera. It’s become difficult to decide at this point, but I’ll choose Kosaki because of her shy yet pure-hearted nature and her compatibility with Raku despite the circumstances. Also, even though I emphasized how much Chitoge matters to the series, I support Raku x Kosaki.

Similar anime: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. The male lead (Raku/Kodaka), who is one huge target of misunderstandings (especially Kodaka), is caught in a harem with no idea whom to choose, bound together with a blonde girl (Chitoge/Sena) due to family matters, along with another girl whom he’s known in the past (Kosaki/Yozora). Also, both series are comedic with dramatic elements, and neither series has the most satisfying conclusion. Key differences: Haganai has different character types (aside from the male lead, who is just about the same) and is based around a club.

Overall rating: 8/10. Season 2 episode 11 was such a tease; I expected there to be more Raku x Kosaki action (but, looking back, I was jumping the gun), but sadly the finale is centered around Chitoge and offers a hardly satisfying conclusion. Like I said, though, it’s not that easy being in Raku’s position, surrounded by the tension of a harem of girls gathering the strength to confess. Also, the series did have its moments, comedic and dramatic alike.

Despite the lack of a proper conclusion to the mystery behind Raku’s locket, I don’t expect there to be a third season, so I’ll probably go through the manga if I want more of what the series has to offer.

 

Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka

Overview: I’ve always been rushed when talking about this anime, but this time I’m going to give it my all.

This anime presents another mouthful of a title that can be translated as “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon” or shortened to DanMachi. The story takes place in an RPG-like fantasy world where gods and goddesses live amongst humanity and manage their own communities known as familia. The star of the show is a boy named Bell Cranel who belongs to the familia of Hestia and wishes to get stronger in order to measure up to his crush, Aiz Wallenstein. Things don’t go well at first, as Bell ends up splattered in minotaur blood before Aiz. Later on, however, he manages to prove himself capable of feats greater than any stranger would ever expect of him. More accurately, Bell goes through a continual sequence of being thrown down and getting back up, so to speak. Obviously, he didn’t do it on his own; he’s gotten lucky at times and received support from his goddess and the rest of his party (Liliruca “Lili” Arde and Welf Crozzo) among others. All in all, the plot is hardly unique, but it’s something.

I’ve seen criticism about how much fanservice the anime has (and trust me; there’s plenty), but I personally don’t mind it. To me, fanservice is like a snack. Sometimes I’m tempted to consume it, sometimes I can do without it; sometimes it satisfies, sometimes it leaves me empty; but in the end, just as snacks detriment my health, fanservice has a negative impact on my soul. I’m not saying I don’t like it; I’m just saying there may come a time when I’ll be averse to it (but that time is not now).

Also hestia.dance is a thing.

Favorite characters:

  1. Bell Cranel. As generic as it is to pick a main character as a favorite, Bell is, without a doubt, the character who undergoes the most development, and it’s his struggle as a protagonist that keeps the anime interesting. What makes him admirable is that he’s kind to a fault and will stop at nothing to get stronger and protect what he holds dear. Sure, his headstrong personality gets him caught in sticky situations and sometimes damages his reputation, but a hero is always willing to risk his life, right?
  2. Welf Crozzo. He doesn’t appear until 9 episodes in, but I gotta say he’s a cool guy, what with his red spiky hair and personality of a young adult. He proves to be an indispensable party member for Bell, being able to forge weapons and armor and supporting in combat with his own forged weapon and a spell called Will-o-Wisp that reverses the flow of a monster’s magic, causing it to explode.
  3. Liliruca Arde. I realize I just named off Bell’s entire party, but hey, they are the most interesting characters. Lili started out with the reputation of a thief, and at one point she deceived Bell for her own personal gain, but Bell’s compassion in saving her life afterwards led her to be an exceptional supporter with a purer heart than before. Also, you can’t take for granted that she usually hauls around a backpack that’s basically her size; she must have some muscle just to keep it on her back.

Similar anime: Zero no Tsukaima. The main character (Bell/Saito) is under the guidance of a woman who is nothing without him (Hestia/Louise) and wishes to get stronger to protect whom he holds dear, starting out low and climbing his way up. Despite his many struggles, he ends up coming out on top and being heralded as a hero, and he has many peers behind his back. Key differences: Zero no Tsukaima has a different setting, involves more magicians and no gods or goddesses, has more fanservice, and has different character types (e.g., Hestia is radically different from Louise). In a nutshell: same basic plot, different elements.

Overall rating: 8/10. It’s something, but it’s not exceptional. The usage of gods and goddesses clashes with my religious beliefs, but I won’t hold that against anyone. The characters in general are nothing stellar, but some are interesting. Also, as mentioned before, the plot is hardly anything new, but it’s not bad.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a second season in the works, but I’m not holding my breath.

 

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo

Overview: (N.B.: I have not read the manga, so this part of the review will be entirely based on the anime. Also, you might find it unsettling that I refer to people by their surname here when I use their first name everywhere else, but it’s whatever. I just refer to them how I see fit. Okay, now on with the review.)

Life is complicated, but imagine how much more complicated it would be if you and your peers had super powers. Such is the plight of Ryuu Yamada, a delinquent whose experience at school changed completely when he fell on top of honor student Urara Shiraishi and found out that he and she had swapped bodies with one another. This newfound power, which they found to be triggered through mouth-to-mouth kissing, earned them a place in the newly revived Supernatural Studies Club with Toranosuke Miyamura and Miyabi Itou.

At first, they were under the impression that Yamada was the one with the power to swap bodies (although maybe Shiraishi knew otherwise), but after a series of close encounters with Nene Odagiri (who had the power to charm whomever she kissed), they found that Shiraishi was the one with the power to swap bodies, and Yamada was just copying it through his own special power. After convincing Nene and her enamored companion Ushio Igarashi to join the Supernatural Studies Club, their overall motive was made clear: to assemble all seven witches (women with special powers) to fulfill a prophecy that would make one wish come true.

I don’t want to spend too much time explaining the plot, so I’ll just name the seven witches and their powers.

  • Urara Shiraishi: swaps bodies with whomever she kisses
  • Nene Odagiri: charms whomever she kisses; kissing again will nullify the effect
  • Meiko Ootsuka: opens a telepathic line of communication for whomever she has kissed
  • Maria Sarushima: sees visions of the future
  • Noa Takigawa: sees dreams of past trauma of whomever she kisses
  • Mikoto Asuka: appears invisible to whomever she kisses (power initially stolen by Shinichi Tamaki)
  • Rika Saionji: causes a person’s acquaintances to forget all about the witches; requires a 24-hour delay to activate as opposed to a kiss

It is also worth noting that Yamada can kiss a witch to copy her power, and Tamaki can kiss a witch to steal her power (or return it if he kisses her again). These two are known as “witch killers.”

Of course, the quest of the Supernatural Studies Club to assemble all seven witches does not go unhindered; not only do they have difficulties dealing with Takigawa and Saionji, but they’re also at odds with the student council—that is, president Haruma Yamazaki and his trusty bodyguard Asuka.

After watching the whole thing, I have to say that it is surprisingly good. I mean it; I jumped into it with low expectations, but I ended up being drawn to its supernatural charms and entertained by the comedic moments it had, not to mention it had a satisfying conclusion.

Favorite characters:

  1. Mikoto Asuka. Besides being beautiful and having a sweet voice, Asuka is Yamazaki’s trusty bodyguard who doesn’t afraid of anything. Not only can she deliver swift kicks and do acrobatic flips, but she can also be menacing at times, one time making Yamada fess up about his plan to get Maria’s power erased. I do have to wonder, though, under what circumstances Asuka ended up having her power stolen, and the issue is pressing enough that I might consider reading the manga. Anyway, I guess you could say I like her for the same reasons I like Kili from Juuou Mujin no Fafnir: antagonizing, but likable in her looks, voice, and talents (except Kili is superior to her in all of these qualities), and she never gives in until the very end.
  2. Urara Shiraishi. Speaking of fearlessness, Shiraishi is the type of character who can usually keep her head up in situations where a character like Yamada would falter or panic. When she’s tasked with something that must be done, she will do so without faltering. That is why she’s usually seen studying and shows no sign of hesitation when being required to swap bodies. Also, she and Yamada go together well, what with their contrasting personalities and how they affect each other more than anyone else. For example, there was one moment when Yamada vowed to go to university as an attempt to convince Shiraishi to do so as well, and she agreed. Moreover, let’s not forget that Shiraishi is the reason why Yamada got to know all of the witches, as well as a handful of supporting characters (so to speak), and changed his behavior to get more serious about school. In summary, a pivotal character, not to mention one with her fair share of good points.
  3. Meiko Ootsuka. This is more in terms of relatability than anything. Wears glasses, socially awkward on the outside, raging warrior (for lack of a better term) on the inside. It’s because of her power that she, Yamada, and her friends could get out of cram school as soon as possible, so there’s her contribution to the plot. And…that’s about it.

Similar anime: Trinity Seven. Both anime take place in a high school (go figure), involve seven women with special powers (two of whom cause problems), and get increasingly more complicated over time, reaching a level that betrays their face value. Key differences: Trinity Seven involves combat, is more ecchi, has a significantly lower male-to-female ratio, has a more forward male lead, and concludes in a less satisfying manner that actually leaves a void for a second season.

Overall rating: 9/10. I was leaning more towards 8, but now that I think about it, it’s quite a refresher to see a romantic anime actually reach a satisfying conclusion (Nisekoi, I’m looking at you). Once again, I must say it exceeded my expectations, given that my attention was not drawn to it until five episodes had aired and, when I actually did get around to watching it, I found I was getting more into it than I had imagined. However, there is still one thing that remains unclear to me: the witches obtained their powers because they wished for something, but what exactly were their wishes? Maybe something like this:

  • Urara Shiraishi: to live life from another person’s perspective
  • Nene Odagiri: to find love
  • Meiko Ootsuka: to communicate without pressure
  • Maria Sarushima: to see the future
  • Noa Takigawa: to relate more to people
  • Mikoto Asuka: to be less involved with people
  • Rika Saionji: to become a ruler of some sort

That’s my best guess. Still, what does it matter? Some anime just don’t have room to accommodate such subtle details like that, right? I mean, I’m the type to make more of a big deal over small details than I should, but when I think about them like I did just now, I suppose I can let them slide.

So, to summarize, Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo is a surprisingly good supernatural slice of life.

 

Overall, it was an okay season, especially considering what I chose to watch this season was 50% sequels. There were no particularly outstanding theme songs, although Rally Go Round (Nisekoi: OP) would be cool if not for the vocals.

So what’s next? Well, nothing listed on the summer 2015 preview particularly jumped out at me, but I will, at the very least, keep up with To LOVE-ru Darkness 2nd, and I still have to watch the entirety of Non Non Biyori season 1 before I can keep up with season 2. Otherwise, I am somewhat interested in Chaos Dragon: Sekiryuu Seneki, and Wakaba*Girl is also up for consideration, but that’s about it. Oh, and maybe Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite Kaku Tatakaeri, because people on MAL say it’s like Outbreak Company.

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

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