Chihayafuru has been fun. I find myself agreeing with Caraniel, in that it’s not the show I look forward to most on any given week, but I end up really enjoying it when I do watch it. My hope for the second half of the show is that it doesn’t get too carried away with the budding romance between Chihaya and the two male leads, Arata and Taichi. There is so much potential for melodrama there that I’d rather it was kept low-key and played second fiddle to the actual karuta. I’ve no idea how the manga handles things – the latest scanlation I can find covers up to episode ten – so I can only hope it keeps karuta at the forefront of everything. It’s been an entertaining ride so far, so more of the same, please!
Future Diary (1-12)
Oh Future Diary, how you pain me so. Half of the time, Future Diary is the best show of the season – the other half it’s one of the worst. Gasai Yuno is undoubtedly the most interesting character of the season. I’ve seen a number of blog posts studying her, with some focussing on such minor elements as her eyes. Almost everything that she does can be analysed, either enhancing existing character traits or discovering new components of her character. But then we have the shitty harem ‘comedy’ antics that plague the show, and its curious fixation with characters doing their business – Yukiteru, Yuno and Minene have all been shown taking a whizz for no good reason. Baffling. This show would be utterly brilliant if it had been conceived as a seinen series, but instead the shounen genre’s need for fanservice drags it down.
Guilty Crown (1-11)
Oh dear. Guilty Crown has thus far been a massive waste of talent and resources. All the elements of a truly great series are there, and it has a staff roster that should have brought the best out of these elements. And yet here we have one of the worst train wrecks of recent years. The whole cast of characters is just so frustratingly bland (apart from DAN EAGLEMAN of course, but he’s been inconvenienced somewhat with being killed in the latest episode). Even Gai, the leader of the Undertakers, who had started off as a Lelouch/Light-esque figure is now nothing more than a weak parody of the anti-hero authority figure. Guilty Crown has had two half-decent episodes in my opinion (and that’s being charitable), but these have been nowhere near enough to redeem it. The whole thing comes off as a combination of Code Geass’ general plot elements and Macross Frontier’s idol romance – two series I despise with every fibre of my being. I should have seen this coming. I should have seen the Code Geass influences when I first previewed it, but for some reason I decided to distrust my own opinion of that show and say Guilty Crown would be brilliant because of it. And now, when people criticise it for the same things that get on my nerves in Geass and Frontier I’m just left mystified. It takes a serious level of incompetence to make a show worse than Fractale, but by god have Production I.G. managed it.
Mawaru Penguindrum (13-24)
Penguindrum’s second half is an improvement over its first, mostly due to not taking itself quite so seriously when it came to the imagery and symbolism on show (at least, until the final episode). Episode sixteen, dealing with Masako’s grandfather, was a real treat because of how batshit insane it was – from “I like my woman how I like my blowfish: stripped by me” to “MISTER PRESIDENT WATCH OUT”. The darker tone it took after this point was much appreciated too – the three episodes before the finale were especially good. Episode twenty-four was a bit of a let-down, as it was mostly an Evangelion-esque extended trip into the land of metaphor. Penguindrum is a good series, but it’s not a great series.
Persona 4 (1-12)
Persona 4 hasn’t been quite as good as I hoped it would. The animation isn’t brilliant, and the sense of style that everyone expected hasn’t really reared its head outside of the OP sequence. Most episodes have ranged from average to good, with two excellent episodes in the shape of Kanji confronting his Hard Gay-esque Shadow and the camping trip in the following episode, featuring some awful cooking and an unexpected confession. I’ve enjoyed Persona 4 on the whole, however. This is due in no small part to the facc that, in my opinion, there have been no bad episodes – every single one has had something good in it, and only a few have something bad in them.
Phi Brain (1-13)
MAKIOKOSU IT’S A SUPERNOVA, TOBIKIRI SHIGEKI TEKI NA! HIRAMEKI WO AGEMASHOU MISSKEY MISSKEY LA TU MA. YUMA NO NAKA IT’S A SUPERNOVA, WATASHI WA SOU BRAIN DIVER! KIMI HA SAGASHI MOTOMETERU KOTAE NI NARERU MADE!
Phi Brain is far better than it deserves to be. The latest episode especially was genuinely excellent, even when setting aside the fact that I’ve been watching the rest of the serious semi-ironically. If you want to watch a series that takes an utterly ridiculous premise 100% seriously, then Phi Brain is for you.
Squid Girl (Season 2)
Squid Girl is as great as ever de geso! This series had two amazingly good stories – the one where Cindy teaches the girls how to speak English (“Itadakimasu!” “Eat a duck I must?”) and the one where Squid Girl, Eiko, Sanae and Kiyomi play House with a girl whose ideas of a happy family is a squiddle different from the norm. Both stories fired laughs at an inkredible rate, and made for great episodes overall. The other episodes were all good, apart perhaps from the very last episodes, as the drama in the last story felt somewhat forced (plus, well, Eiko was being a massive bitch). It didn’t do too much damage to the overall standing of the series, so all is well with Squid Girl.
Tamayura has been soft and light and lovely. For a lot of this season I’d ignored the people – real life and aniblogger friends alike – who said this was one of the best shows of the year, but once I’d caught up I saw what they meant. Pretty much every episode from seven onwards has been wonderful, if not as attention-grabbing as shows like Future Diary or as compelling as Un-Go. Iyashikei isn’t a genre I have much experience with, and if it was a genre I was really hot on I would imagine Tamayura would feature highly on my list of favourites if the reactions of those who frequent SCCSAV’s Iyashikei Sundays livewatch are anything to go by.
Un-Go had its ups and its downs, but in the end we got a bloody good show. The finale was great. It unravelled a web of deceit and intrigue, revealing twist after twist. The fight scene between Inga and Bettenou threatened to throw the fantastic elements that ruined No.6 into the show, but it steered clear at the last moment and Un-Go’s integrity was retained. As I’ve said before, episode seven and its intentionally disorientating atmosphere was masterfully done, a wonderful piece of direction. It had a couple of poor episodes – the first two stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the series – but the good episodes are so good that they made Un-Go one of the best series to air all year.