2014 In Review: Summer 2014 Season

I’ve posted about the series I watched in the Winter 2014 season and about the series I started watching during the Spring 2014 season. Today, I’m posting about the anime series I started watching during the Summer 2014 season.

Sailor Moon Crystal: So far, this series seems to be following the manga much more closely than the original anime series did. I’ve only seen a portion of the original Sailor Moon anime, but from what I’ve seen of both that and Sailor Moon Crystal, I think that the storytelling and feel of Sailor Moon Crystal is stronger. The animation in Sailor Moon Crystal was very rough for a while, but the quality seems to have improved with more recent episodes. The main weakness that Sailor Moon Crystal has is the fact that it only airs twice a month; because of that, momentum is lost between episodes. Hopefully once the series becomes available on home video in the future and viewers can see episodes much closer together, that the storytelling will feel stronger than it does now. This is a series that will be continuing into the Winter 2015 season, so expect to see it appear in a retrospective for 2015!

Free! Eternal Summer: This is the second season for Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club, a series that aired during the Summer 2013 season. When I watched the first episode of Free! Eternal Summer, I saw much more blatant “fanservice” included in it than I had in all of the previous season of Free! I found myself fearing that Free! Eternal Summer was going to try to focus more on the fanservice than on the story. Fortunately, the fanservice was toned down tremendously after Episode One and that there was more of an emphasis placed on the story. Not only did Episode Two tone down the fanservice, it also did a great job of setting up the new elements that were being introduced to the series. With Episode Five, I was very happy to see Nagisa get a character development episode. While most of the other characters had received character development episodes in the first season, Nagisa was the only one who hadn’t. After watching Episode Five, I felt I understood where Nagisa was coming from a lot better than I had previously. With how the prefecturals progressed in Episode Six, it allowed Free! Eternal Summer to differentiate itself from the first season, since there would be a story that focuses on the Iwatobi team going to nationals. I also appreciated seeing the way that Free! Eternal Summer came to an end, which is with a montage that shows what happens to the various characters during the next school year. But from seeing this montage, it leads me to believe that there more than likely won’t be another season of the Free! anime. While I do enjoy this series quite a bit, I really can’t see where they could take the story, especially with Makoto and Haruka no longer being on the school’s swim team. It just wouldn’t be the same without all four of them.

Aldnoah.Zero: After watching the first episode, I thought that Aldnoah.Zero showed a lot of promise. However, I did have some issues with how much “info dumping” took place. During the first couple of episodes, I found myself being able to predict some of the events that happened. But this ability to predict what would happen in the story went out the window as the series progressed. The info dumping came back in Episode Six. At this point, I found myself wondering if maybe the series needed more episodes, because the info dumping felt as if it was being done to help the story move along faster in order for it to fit into the allotted number of episodes for the series. At the end of Episode Seven, I thought the storytelling had become even more of a mess than what I’d seen during Episode Six. At the end of Episode Eight, I thought that the writing had gotten sloppy, there was a relative lack of character development, and that there were radical changes in characterization. It almost felt as if someone was making up the story as they went, and that was the only way I could explain how the storytelling had fallen apart as much as it did over the course of eight episodes. Unfortunately, the quality of the writing never improved over the remaining four episodes of the series. After reaching the end of the series, I found myself thinking that I’d wasted 12 weeks of my time watching it.

Re: Hamatora: This is the second season of Hamatora that I’d been looking forward to watching after watching the cliffhanger at the end of the Winter 2014 season. After watching the first episode, I felt that even though there was a more serious tone than there had been to the first season of Hamatora, the second season seemed to be a strong continuation for the series. I pretty much felt this way through Episode Five. With Episode Six, though, the series started to become much more weird and dark than it had been. At that point, I had hoped that perhaps this would be the weirdest that the series would get. Unfortunately, the episodes continued becoming stranger and stranger for the remainder of the series. In the end, I didn’t enjoy Re: Hamatora as much as I did the first season of Hamatora. Right at first, the darker and more serious tone of Re: Hamatora was a refreshing change of pace. However, as the season wore on, the storyline in Re: Hamatora just continued to become stranger and stranger. Ultimately, the two seasons of Hamatora were as different as night and day: the first season was more light-hearted with the occasional serious moment, while the second season was more serious with the occasional light-hearted moment early on. But by the end of Re: Hamatora, any light-heartedness was basically gone. In the end, Re: Hamatora did present some interesting concepts, but I’m not convinced that the execution of those concepts worked as well as they could have.

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun: After watching the first episode of the series, I thought it was off to a good start. I liked the main characters and how they interacted with each other. The story also kept my interest, and the humor was very enjoyable. Episode Two did a good job of building off of Episode One, and the story continued to be amusing. That episode introduced Yuzuki, who ended up being the only character who never truly grew on me; I found her to be rather annoying. I have to admit that my interest started to wane a little with Episode Five, because the humor in that episode wasn’t quite as amusing as it had been in the previous four episodes. This slump in the humor lasted for two episodes, then started getting better for a couple of episodes, and then there was another minor slump in Episode Nine. Fortunately, the final three episodes of the series help to make up for the slump in the humor that appeared around halfway through the series. But even with the episodes that weren’t as amusing as the rest of the series, the stories presented in those episodes weren’t bad. My main gripe, though, is that there seemed to be too many characters, so some characters couldn’t get the development and screen time that they needed. The characters who really felt as if they didn’t need to be there are Nozaki’s tanuki-loving former editor, and his upstairs neighbor who’s also a shojo manga artist. In the long run, those two particular characters really didn’t add a whole lot to the series and didn’t contribute much to the overall story. Even though there was no real conclusion to the story, I think the series needed to end the way that it did. This is due in large part to the fact that the manga is still ongoing in Japan. Also, if any of these potential couples did officially get together by the end, it would have had a strong effect on the series’ humor. Overall, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun was an enjoyable viewing experience from start to end. In fact, I would have to say that this would be one of my overall favorite series that I watched during the Summer 2014 anime season. I’d even be willing to go so far as to say that would rank up there among my favorite series that I watched during 2014.

Blue Spring Ride: After watching the first episode, I thought that Blue Spring Ride was off to a promising start. I liked the various character interactions, and the episode did a good job of establishing the characters and the story. And after watching Episode Two, I thought it was even better than Episode One had been. By the time I finished Episode Six, I thought that there were a lot of ways in which the plot twists and turns in Blue Spring Ride remind me a lot of what I saw in Strobe Edge, another manga by Io Sakisaka. Since I enjoyed the twists and turns in Strobe Edge, I also enjoyed them in Blue Spring Ride. After I finished watching Blue Spring Ride, I thought that it was a well done shojo anime series. The series had characters that I became interested and invested in, and the romantic and friendship storylines were done in a way where they really didn’t come across as “over the top.” Blue Spring Ride is a series that I’d happily watch again at some point in the future. It’s another title that would rank up there among my favorite anime from 2014.

HaNaYaMaTa: After watching the first episode, I found myself thinking that the animation was very bright and colorful. Also, all the female characters seemed to have a rather “cute” look to them, which gave the series a moe feel. Storywise, I thought HaNaYaMaTa was off to a decent start and appeared to have the foundation for an interesting story. At the time, I hoped that the series could continue in the style I saw in the first episode and not devolve into yet another “cute girls doing cute things” show. By the end of Episode Three, I had to give HaNaYaMaTa some credit for the fact that while it had a “moe” look and feel to it, the girls came across as actual characters and not as girls that fit various character types. There was also an overarching story that helped to keep a viewer interested, unlike many of the more recent moe type shows that seemed to focus more on vignettes and simply being cute rather than having much in the way of substance to its story. At the end of Episode Six, I was impressed by how the series’ plot kept the story moving and how the portrayal of the characters endeared them to the audience since they were actually characters and not simply character types. I appreciated HaNaYaMaTa for proving to me that a show with cute girls can actually have substance to it and be enjoyable to watch week after week. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as satisfied by the ending of HaNaYaMaTa as I hoped I would be. A major event happens at the end of Episode 11 that really affects the Yosakoi Club, but Episode 12 brings a resolution to that roadblock in such a way that I had a hard time using my “willing suspension of belief” or finding any way to the ending to be anywhere near realistic. Also, I thought there was a major loose end that was left resolved at the end of Episode 12. Overall, I did enjoy HaNaYaMaTa, even if I was a little disappointed in how the expected resolution with Hana ultimately transpired.

Love Stage!!: After watching the first episode, I saw that Love Stage!! was leaning more toward the comedic side. From what I saw, the comedy seemed to work for the story being told. I also thought that the series showed a lot of promise. Episode Three, however, made me a little uncomfortable when Ichijo tried to force Izumi to strip down and then became rather romantic toward him when he saw Izumi’s face. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that this scene featured two guys. In fact, it would have bothered me just as much if this scene had taken place between Ichijo and a female character. Honestly, if Shogo hadn’t come at just the right moment, Ichijo could have potentially raped Izumi. And that would not have been cool at all. But it still wasn’t cool how far Ichijo had managed to get before Shogo’s interference. By the end of Episode Four, it was very blatant that the series was heading into boys’ love territory. As I watched the remainder of the series, I thought that the boys’ love aspect was handled rather well. The series ended pretty much as I expected it to, with Izumi and Ichijo becoming a couple. With the way this episode ended, it could work as an ending for the series, but if there’s more content in the manga that hasn’t been covered, there could always be the potential for a second season if the first season performed well enough. As of this writing, there’s only been an OVA that’s been released in Japan in addition to the television anime series. Overall, I thought Love Stage!! was an ok series, but it’s not something I’d personally rush to see again anytime soon. I’m not saying that because it’s a boys’ love title, because if this had been a series with a straight couple that was done in this manner, I’d feel the same way.

Terror in Resonance: After I watched the first episode, I thought the animation looked good, and that Yoko Kanno was delivering another good anime score. Story-wise, I thought the series was off to a promising start, even if it was a little slow to get going. Once the story started to become more established over the course of the episode, it intrigued me enough to keep my interest. By the end of Episode Five, it felt like the story had been kicked up a notch, due to the introduction of Five and the potential issues that Shibazaki faced in this episode. But at this point, I found myself not feeling terribly sure about Lisa as a character, because she just didn’t seem to have much of a purpose; she was starting to feel more like a prop than anything else. At the end of Episode Six, I found myself wondering if should truly be rooting for anyone. Nine and Twelve were the main characters, but I wasn’t sure I could root for them with everything they’d done up to that point. Five may have been affiliated with the authorities, but she was only looking out for her own interests, so I couldn’t root for her. Lisa still hadn’t done much of anything at that point, and the closest character there was to a “good guy” was Shibazaki. At the end of Episode 10, I was still rather frustrated with Lisa as a character. At this point, she’d either been a prop or becomes the “damsel in distress.” Also, I was also feeling frustrated by the overall lack of character development for both Nine and Twelve, who are supposed to be the main characters of the series. After finishing the series, I came to see how the series only touched on its themes and the majority of its characters on a purely surface level. The only character to truly have any character development was Shibazaki. Lisa seemed to have the least development. All we seem to know about her is the fact that she was being bullied and had an extremely clingy mother. Episode 12 made an attempt at trying to make Lisa a more important character in the series, but at that point, it was simply too little, too late. Two of the characters were killed at the end of the episode; however, since they were really only known to the audience on a surface level, it was hard to feel any kind of emotion when they died. Terror in Resonance is a story that had so much promise, but in the end, it didn’t deliver as I’d hoped. It’s got good animation, great music, and an interesting premise; unfortunately, the series was ultimately lacking in its overall execution. It reminds me a lot of cotton candy: it looks good, tastes great, but in the end it still leaves you feeling empty.

Tokyo ESP: After watching the first episode of Tokyo ESP, I thought that the animation was rather well done. I also thought that there seemed to be an interesting idea being presented, but that the pacing felt a little on the sluggish side. I also found myself feeling rather confused, because the episode was done in such a way that it felt like it was being assumed that the audience already knew and understood what was taking place. With Episode Two, it became clear that the trick of starting at one point in the story and then backtracking to fill in the gaps to get back to where the story started was being utilized. After watching Episode Two, I did have a better impression of Tokyo ESP. But as the series continued, I found myself thinking that it probably would have made the series stronger if the second episode had been the first episode and had just gone in chronological order. By eliminating that first episode, the writers would have gained one episode that could have potentially allowed them to develop the characters or the story a little more. When the final episode concluded, it didn’t feel like the story had come to an end. In fact, it felt as if the stage was being set for a second season. However, there was nothing at the end of the episode to announce that another season would be coming in the future. After finishing Tokyo ESP, I found that I never was able to enjoy it as much as I’d hoped I would. The way the series started didn’t really help anything, since it left me so confused as to what was going on. When the actual story got going in Episode Two, the pacing of the story tended to feel slow, although not quite as slow as the first episode. But the pacing never really improved much after Episode Two. I also found that I just couldn’t get into the characters, not even into the characters who had some clearly defined development, such as Rinka and Kyotaro. Looking back, I realize I had this underlying sense of detachment from the characters. In the end, Tokyo ESP had an interesting concept behind it, but the execution just wasn’t as strong as it could have been.

Additional 2014 In Review posts:

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