The Wrap-Up: Summer 2014

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If you go about doing a season preview, it is only obvious you also close off on a season review. In The Wrap-Up, all of our contributors get to shine a spotlight on the show they thought to be the very best of the past few weeks, as well as reflect back on the preview to see which shows let us down the most. When you watch currently airing anime or tokusatsu, eventually the question will rise which of these shows can rank amongst the medium’s true classics. Regardless of who covered what, this is where we single out the cream of the crop, and decide which shows from the past season deserve to stand the test of time.

If it’s made in Japan and airs on TV, it’s eligible, but naturally, a show can only be called “the best” when it has been watched in full, so only shows that ended this season can be nominated as show of the season. These restrictions do not apply to (dis)honourable mentions and the award for biggest disappointment, however. Luckily for us, no one was planning on picking Sword Art Online II, Argevollen or Sailor Moon Crystal as best of the season anyways, so that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. On the other hand, a few long-running shows, like Hunter x Hunter and Kamen Rider Gaim have come to an end this season, which does make them eligible. Let’s just say that, unlike previous installments, this Wrap-Up will be quite the celebration.

jel_700

What was your favourite show of the season?

nozakikun_08_4

What is whoever made this show on and where can I get me some?

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

Over the course of its first few episodes, Nozaki-kun evolves from a cute romance to a gentle satire of manga tropes to a delightful, positive statement on gender roles and expectations – all executed with top notch writing, directing, and animation. It’s also consistently hilarious every single episode and nearly every single scene. The end result is a perfect anime comedy, avoiding the usual trappings of the genre like fan service and overly repetitive gags and replacing them with lovable, multi-faceted characters and elaborate comedy scenarios. I’m hard pressed to think of another show that was this much fun to watch and it’s arguably my favorite show of the year.

Honorable Mentions: In my nearly 5 years of blogging anime this was probably the best season for anime comedies that I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t even get to watch all of them personally, but I must shout out to the hilariously cruel Sabagebu! for daring to go where no anime jokes have gone before. That might have been my favorite show in lesser seasons, but Nozaki-kun wins for its much deeper and satisfying material.

Which show let you down the most?

SAOII_04_2

Sweet Ass Online strikes again. I think.

Sword Art Online II

You may have noticed our distinct lack of coverage of Sword Art Online after the first few weeks. The truth is I was so exhausted by watching the show help its audience mentally self-gratify themselves from week to week that I couldn’t even bring myself to write a proper post to drop it. I take no pleasure watching Anime Jesus curb stomp life simply because he’s good at video games, and while I knew what I was getting into (I did watch season 1 of course) a man has his limits. I guess the optimist in me was hoping that a change of scenery and a potentially cool character like Sinon would improve the series, but some things just never change.

Dishonorable Mentions: That’s all I got! As I said before, this was a fantastic season for anime comedies and that is pretty much my favorite genre, so there wasn’t much for me to disappointed with.

zigg_700

What was your favourite show of the season?

SD193

Hop on losers, we’re going alien hunting.

Space Dandy

There have been very few shows in the history of anime that have been as richly diverse, artistically fulfilling and beautifully executed as Space Dandy, and the fact that it’s astonishingly funny helps a lot too. This second run has taken us from high school to the second dimension, from dance contests to the shores of Limbo, and it’s never been less than stunningly animated and sharply written. The show is a testament to the power and imagination of the animated form and the creators who made it, and to my mind it’s an instant classic that will still be talked about for years to come.

Honorable Mentions: Given it ends this season and is therefore eligible it pains me dreadfully not to be able to give Kamen Rider Gaim the top spot. Through a solid year of programming it’s proved it’s possible to run a complex, compelling arc plot that talks seriously about loyalty, hope, and the human condition, while at the same time having dumb rubber monsters and explosions and hawking toys. With the target audience curbing Gen Urobuchi’s more unsavoury tendencies he instead produced a wonderfully paced drama full of twists, heartbreaking moments and fruit falling on people’s heads. 

Which show let you down the most?

SMC37

My head hurts too, Rei.

Sailor Moon Crystal

It wasn’t difficult you know. You had an all time classic to build on, all the advantages of modern animation technology, a guaranteed fanbase and a truckload of money. How then did this remake turn out so disastrous? Well, an obvious lack of effort from all involved seems to be the answer. Sloppy scripts and some absolutely shocking animation proved to be a deadly combination, as the basic strength of the Sailor Moon story so far hasn’t been able to overcome the myriad of issues that plague the show. A crushing disappointment.

Dishonorable Mentions: Sword Art Online II, because everyone told me this arc was better than the last and while they’re technically correct, my god it’s still bad.

iro_700

What was your favourite show of the season?

SD143

I wanna die.

Space Dandy

There hasn’t been a show in years that could surprise and delight me so consistently every week. Touring such locales as Planet Trendy, Planet Grease, and Planet Pushy Boyfriend, Dandy was an unpredictable roller coaster. It accordingly had its ups and downs, but the peaks were space elevators and the valleys were still at least decent. Anyone who isn’t above enjoying a good laugh at the misadventures of an intrepid space crew should consider this an instant classic.

Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, because JoJo; DISK Wars: Avengers, for being incredibly entertaining in its stupidity.

Which show let you down the most?

SMC31

The only proper treatment for this show.

Sailor Moon Crystal

You’d think that one of the most renowned anime properties in existence would have a bit more effort put into it, but instead we got the shoddiest remake I’ve seen in years. Crystal‘s poor animation and questionable writing have basically ruined me on the entire Sailor Moon franchise, no matter how much everyone assures me that it’s good. Seriously Toei, your stupid Marvel tie-in show looks better than this. What the hell?

Dishonorable Mentions: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!, on principle; Sword Art Online II, Aldnoah.Zero, and Akame ga Kill! for being the lifeblood of pretentious teenagers everywhere.

marlin_700

What was your favourite show of the season?

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Aaaaagh, the colour! My eyes! Where is all the death? Where are all the female characters getting brutalized?

Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun

Nozaki-kun is jockeying heavily for my favorite show of this entire year. I can’t think of a single other show that could combine amazing slapstick gag comedy with genuinely heartfelt romance and never fail to satisfy on both ends. Characters break genre norms as easily as they do gender barriers, as the show continues to espouse its theme of personal expression over social norms. Even its jokes can service the greater romantic subplots and not feel out of place. The finale outdoes everything set before it with an absolutely heartpounding scene which I will remember for a long time to come.

Honorable Mentions: Kamen Rider Gaim was my first foray into the world of Kamen Rider, and boy was it a doozy. If this season didn’t have such a fantastic show as Nozaki-kun, this would be my favorite in a heartbeat. Great characters, dynamic fights, and fantastic writing all combine to make a show teeming with personality and life. Drive is going to have a hard time filling its shoes now that it’s gone.

Which show let you down the most?

glasslip3a

Why are panties the only thing anime ever gives a coloured outline?

Glasslip

Glasslip had so many opportunities to be something better than it was, and didn’t use them. What was the most frustrating is that every once in a while there would be an episode that makes you believe the show could turn around again, only to have it slip back into mediocrity in the next. Not only that, but there was very little to care about the characters in this character piece. Kakeru, the character with by far the most bland persona, actually becomes the most interesting character of the whole bunch by the end after we get to learn about his childhood. What’s worse, the romance is really hackneyed and baffling. For a show that seemed to be billing itself on its romantic development, it was simply confusing and unsatisfying to the very end.

Dishonorable Mentions: God, I watch too much stuff. I try to make it all good, but that is obviously a tough task for someone like me whose usual list goes into double digits. That said, this honor would have to go to Sailor Moon Crystal. I was hoping to have something new to help me realize why Sailor Moon is such a dominating name in the anime zeitgeist, but all I got was a hot mess I dropped by episode 3.

aqua_700

What was your favourite show of the season?

[Aesir]Kamen_Rider_Gaim_-_23HD[F00B8404].mkv_snapshot_20.46_[2014.03.26_00.31.44]

EY EY OH!

Kamen Rider Gaim

Back when I conceived of the Wrap-Up, cynical old me figured it’d never pose too much of a problem to be able to pick just one show as the very best of the season. It’s a decision I’ve come to regret, for there were a great many shows this season that’d easily take the cake if the competition wasn’t so overwhelming. Yet when they’re going up against a 47-episode behemoth that I’ve written more on than on my bachelor’s paper, no other show can match Kamen Rider Gaim in how overwhelming a part of my life it has been. With a complex, ever-changing narrative, strong performances, engaging characters and levels of depth no show about men in rubber suits should ever be expected to deliver, Kamen Rider Gaim cranks up the standards for the franchise to all new heights. Look past the blatant toy pitches, the cheesy special effects, the over-the top acting and the childish gender politics. Ignore the irreplaceable damage freaking out over this show will deal to your impeccable reputation. Disregard the claims that shows for kids can’t be great fun for grown-ups as well. Watch Kamen Rider Gaim, or you’ll have missed the most endearing bit of Japanese television to have come out all year.

Honorable Mentions: It’s a real shame that Gaim ended this season, otherwise the phenomenal second half of Space Dandy would have taken my award and ran with it. Few anythings ooze with creativity and off-kilter joy the way this ever-endearing anthology series does. Rife with fantastic humour, splendid art design and more imagination in single minutes than other works have over their entire lifespan, Space Dandy is a bona fide classic. Shinichiro Watanabe was on a roll this season, however, as his other show, Terror in Resonance, was highly interesting as well. Furthermore, it was an enjoyable season for anime comedies, with HaNaYaMaTa being a particular standout for me. Yes, I am trash, I know. Sorry.

Which show let you down the most?

charisma

Such charisma.

Aldnoah.Zero

Aldnoah.Zero taking the prize is a perfect example of how being a writer with an identity of your own and trying to emulate one is a difference between life and death. Aldnoah.Zero started out as your standard Urobuchi fair, but imploded quicker than it took us to find out he wasn’t as involved with the project as we were fooled to believe. What we got was a poor imitation of an interesting show, starring gallons of boring technobabble, characters with less personality than a black hole, and ridiculous plot holes which demolish the very foundations Aldnoah.Zero‘s story is built on. It’s the very prime example of what the internet likes to call ‘edgy’ — the protagonist is an apathetic übermensch who’s better and smarter than everyone else, the villains are smug, cackling snobs whose motivations make less sense than a child’s ramblings and characters drop like flies without any incentive for us to care, let alone be shocked. Shimura’s pretty character designs don’t fit the show’s mood and Sawano’s widely inappropriate music blares out of the speakers at all the wrong moments, creating a cacophonic, pretentious mess that gathered together a bunch of big names without considering how well their talents would fit the show’s content. Aldnoah.Zero is not the blockbuster befitting of their efforts. It’s not smart. It’s not mature. It’s not anything. It’s nothing.

Dishonorable Mentions: Sailor Moon Crystal remains one of the most baffling mysteries of our generation. How could you treat a beloved, money-printing franchise’s much-anticipated remake with such outright disdain?

gee_700

What was your favourite show of the season?

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[insert obligatory GaoGaiGar reference here]

Space Dandy

The first season of Space Dandy was inconsistent, but undeniably respectable for its willingness to be unique. In its second season, Space Dandy managed to be both unique and constantly impressive. Funny, entertaining, and even poignant at times, it brought something interesting to the table every week. What it lacked in coherency, it made up for in novelty. Space Dandy is a wonderful visual exploration of what the medium of animation is capable of.

Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. Straightforward, but still wholly entertaining. Sabagebu! also ended up becoming a surprising highlight of my week.

Which show let you down the most?

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Help! I’m being chased by a personality!

Aldnoah.Zero

If you’ve been following my coverage of Aldnoah.Zero in the Roundup, you’d think I am just a terribly bitter person. You’d be correct, but Aldonah.Zero was also fucking terrible. It wasn’t always that way though. With Urobuchi writing (at least part of it), Sawano heading the soundtrack, and some genuinely great mecha designs, Aldnoah.Zero had a ton of things going for it. Unfortunately, it decided to eschew all of that and instead become the most recent example of just how self-masturbatory and creatively bankrupt the mecha genre can be at its worst.

Dishonorable Mentions: Terror in Resonance isn’t bad, but compared to what I was hoping to get from it, I can’t help but be disappointed.

chris

What was your favourite show of the season?

HunterxHunter

Guess who the main character is. (Hint: It’s the one with the spiky hair.)

Hunter x Hunter (2011)

This probably surprises no one. If you’ve seen the show then you can find out why I like it so much in the Final Thoughts post, but for you lovely people that haven’t yet checked it out, I’ll try and explain exactly why I like Hunter x Hunter so much. I feel that the shounen genre gets a pretty bad rap, due in part to many, many terrible shows and a huge bucket of tropes that even the big names like Naruto and Bleach like to pull ideas from. To cut a long story short, the reason why I like Hunter x Hunter so much is because it gave me faith in the genre again. Yes, it has fights, monsters and special powers, but it throws out so many of the traditional shounen practices that it feels like a long overdue revamp of the genre. It’s a show that despite it’s cutesy look is absolutely not afraid to throw around tragedy, twists and meaningful character deaths, and it’s this unpredictability that ultimately makes it stand above the majority of shows I’ve seen. Check it out on Crunchyroll, please!

Honorable Mentions: I started watching Nozaki-kun quite late, which actually didn’t turn out too badly as the marathon was pretty good fun! Barakamon is a fantastic show and probably would have clinched the top spot if Hunter x Hunter didn’t happen to end this season. Kamen Rider Gaim is the third time I’ve completed a show about dudes in spandex, which I think means I’m passed saving. Sorry about that. It’s also good so please watch it.

Which show let you down the most?

reggie-shrug

Maybe I should watch more shows or something

Turns out that I picked pretty well! I’ll try my best to watch something awful for the next one of these.

Dishonorable Mentions: Can I just moan about the Dragon Ball Kai opening for a second season in a row?

-=-

All things considered, if you watch only one show from last season — which would be an extremely stupid thing to do, just saying — we at The Glorio Blog would argue that Kamen Rider Gaim should be that show! … Okay, no, actually, Space Dandy won, but you should still watch Gaim anyways. Watch them both. And Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, too. Anyway, there’s only two kinds of people in this universe: People who think Space Dandy is fantastic and people who have never seen it. We love the show’s audacious display of talent, from the juicy animation to the incredible wackiness of its episodic plots, and we’re going to miss Dandy, Meow and QT until our we draw our final breath. On the other hand, the gormless, phoned-in treatment of the beloved Sailor Moon franchise left more than a few of us with a bitter taste in our mouths, and as ever, Sword Art Online continues to be the blight on ou– okay, I will shut up now.  Have fun with next season or whatever. Baby.

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7 thoughts on “The Wrap-Up: Summer 2014

  1. There is definitely a lot of fanservice whenever they go to Boobies(still the stupidest part of the show in my opinion). The first episode is really bad about it, but it gets better, so if you want to skip out on some really egregious fanservice I’d just skip to about minute ten of the first episode because the rest of that episode has some stellar animation that you shouldn’t miss. It’s an anthology, so skipping over any of the more mediocre parts doesn’t really have an impact on the overall enjoyment of it in my opinion.

  2. Last season was such a wonderful one. Nozaki-kun (still my favorite) and Gaim were the top choices for my own, with Stardust Crusaders, Space Dandy, and Barakamon being close followups. All of them are consistently entertaining and excellently produced. For things that are still going (and thus doesn’t qualify), I can’t emphasize enough how surprised I am that Diamond no Ace is as consistently good as it is. I mean, it’s a BASEBALL anime!

    Sailor Moon Crystal is a terrible disappointment. They have two weeks to work on each episode, and it looks like they were drinking for most of that time. I guess I should be glad they didn’t make it using RPG Maker or something (actually, that might be better). I actually don’t hate SAO II – the recent arc “is” better, like people have said… though it’s still not very good. I don’t think I’ve said “Ubermensch” as many times in regards to a single series.

    I find Akame ga Kill enjoyable. There, I said it.

  3. You didn’t like Aldnoah Zero, huh? Well then, let’s see you reasoning.
    Characters with less personality than a black hole:
    Disagree. A good test of a 3 dimensional character comes from what they have to hide and almost every character in this show reveals unique false pretenses to their true motives sprinkled between a few honest to good ones.

    Ridiculous plot holes which demolish the very foundations Aldnoah.Zero‘s story is built on:
    No examples. Funny that.

    The protagonist is an apathetic übermensch who’s better and smarter than everyone else:
    Did you not notice his apathy as a cover? I mean it makes it pretty obvious in the end. Also here’s another word for übermensch; a badass.

    the villains are smug, cackling snobs whose motivations make less sense than a child’s:
    Domination of a territory through superior power? Like the trigger for many wars have been?

    Characters drop like flies without any incentive for us to care, let alone be shocked:
    You did care about the final headshots? Kind of says more about you than the show man.

    Shimura’s pretty character designs don’t fit the show’s mood:
    Somewhat agree here, could have been a bit more rustic and edgy to suit the mechs.

    Sawano’s widely inappropriate music blares out of the speakers at all the wrong moments:
    You didn’t like the action scenes? Because that’s like the only time this happens.

    Aldnoah.Zero is not the blockbuster befitting of their efforts. It’s not smart. It’s not mature.
    It’s not anything. It’s nothing.
    Now who’s being dramatic… ahem, I mean edgy? Please tell me what popular things you do like.

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