Summer 2014 Check-in

Hunter X Hunter - 139 - Large 16[2] Tokyo Ghoul - 03 -28[2] Zankyou no Terror - 01 -40
Space Dandy 2 - 04 -6 Nozaki-kun - 04 -3 Aldnoah - 01 -2

Summer is no longer an afterthought on the anime calendar.

2013 marked the first time since I became an anime fan that Summer was the strongest season of the year.  It’s too early to tell if that will be true in 2014 – in fact it’s too early to tell just how strong this summer will turn out to be – but it does seem possible that it will end up being a better season than either Winter or Spring.

It hasn’t been a great 2014 on the whole.  Winter was truly execrable forgettable, and Spring had a number of shows which tailed off some in their final episodes, though it still managed to wind up as a decent season on the whole.  As for Summer, while as always the schedule has fewer shows in total the batting average looks pretty good.  What will ultimately determine whether it turns out to be just a decent season or a memorable one is whether a couple of shows from the top tier emerge as truly excellent series, year-end top 5 caliber shows.  That was what set last summer apart – it ended up dominating the year-end Top 10 list.

I’m still hopeful, and for the most part the shows I expected to be really good are really good – but none of them have so far proved to be truly exceptional in the mold of Uchouten Kazoku or Watamote.  In fact this is the first check-in post I’ve done where not a single series has made the “Elite” category, though it’s far too early to say none will finish there.  There have been a couple of nice surprises, and two of my three sleeper picks look to have hit the mark (alas, then there’s Jinsei).  It looks to be a decent season with good depth and some quality at the top, but the pressure is on the likes of Zankyou no Terror and Barakamon to give the season at least one masterpiece.

Genre-wise, it’s a fairly normal summer mix – comedy is faring well, there’s a bit of sci-fi and horror and while there’s not much new in the world of sports, we have strong carry-overs in that genre.

On, then, to Summer 2014:

The Elite



Zankyou no Terror
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A-
Comments: When Watanabe Shinichirou is directing a series, you expect a master class in anime filmmaking and that’s exactly what we’re getting.  This is a stellar operation all the way from MAPPA, right down to the Kanno Youko soundtrack.  And the story is interesting, with hints of coming moral ambiguities and a focus on alienation in modern Japanese culture.  For me, Zankyou no Terror is so far working better intellectually than emotionally and I’m not feeling a strong connection either to the story or any of the characters, but there’s still time for that to change.  This show is very, very good indeed – but as one of the most likely on the schedule to achieve greatness, I’m still hoping it can elevate to the next level.

Tokyo Ghoul
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A-
Comments: Despite a marvelously campy performance by Miyano Mamoru the fourth episode was a bit of a step down, but on the whole Tokyo Ghoul has been the most entertaining new series of the season for me.  This is a horror thriller that puts character first and that makes a huge difference, and Oscar-nominated director Morita Shuuhei is bringing a great sense of style to the production.  The looming danger with Tokyo Ghoul was always the anime struggling trying to adapt the manga in a single cour, and there are signs that may have been a contributing factor in the somewhat jarring nature of the most recent episode.  This show seems on-track to sell pretty well, so I certainly hope the door is left open to another season, as it was with Sidonia no Kishi.

Space Dandy 2
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A-
Comments: You’d be forgiven if you figured you knew what to expect from the second season of Space Dandy, and to a certain extent you’d have been right.  It’s been a superficially seamless transition – same OP and ED, same episodic narrative style, with a new creative team every week ensuring a constantly shifting stylistic experience every week.  But once you get under the hood, some fairly significant changes can be detected.  After a hilarious premiere that definitely focused on the comedic side of the ledger, the next two episodes have been among the most somber and unsettling of the entire series.  We’ve seen a more overtly antagonistic role for the main guest characters – both of whom have met with grisly ends – and Dandy himself is noticeably more in on the joke this time around.  There’s a stronger sense than ever that the chickens are coming home to roost, and the underlying plot suggested by the ED is indeed going to reveal itself fully in the last several episodes.  Whatever happens, Space Dandy remains a gem – a showcase for some of the best and brightest in the anime industry behind the camera and behind the mic.

Barakamon - 02 -6 Kuroshitsuji - 03 -23 Majimoji Rurumo - 03 -7

Very Good

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B+
Comments: One of my sleeper picks going into the season, Nozaki-kun has delivered the goods.  This series is all about flipping gender and demographic expectations on their heads (it’s a shounen about a shoujo mangaka written by a shoujo mangaka), and it does so with wit and occasional brilliance.  The only downside is that its spot-on satire has pretty much ruined me for Ao Haru Ride, which airs a day later.  Best girl?  Mikorin, for sure.

Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B+
Comments: We’ll see how the top mecha series of the season holds up now that it no longer features the direct involvement of Urobuchi Gen, but so far Aldnoah.Zero has been a massively entertaining popcorn flick.  There are some hinky issues with the timeline and technology, but the overall premise is a winner and the execution by director Aoki Ei and A-1 Pictures has been stellar so far (I especially love Sawano Hiroyuki’s urgent and relentlessly driving soundtrack).  I wouldn’t say the character development has been off the charts but the stone-faced hero and the mysterious princess are intriguing protagonists.  I’ll feel better when this is officially confirmed as a split-cour because there’s a lot of story here for 12 episodes, but if sales are the determining factor that second cour should be a lock.

Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: This is a tough series for me, because I’m not able to fully enjoy the anime for what it is without agonizing over what it isn’t.  Barakamon is a very good show, but so far at least it’s a very sanitized and watered-down version of the manga, and what the anime has chosen to skip suggests that they’re intentionally trying to create something that’s thematically very different than the source material.  As a feel-good comedy with cute girls Barakamon is operating on a very high level, but there’s so much more to the manga that hasn’t really gotten a sniff in the anime version yet.  Whether it eventually does will determine whether this turns out to be the true standout it has the potential to be, or just a pretty good show and a pleasant diversion.

Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: Considering that A-1 is taking only 10 episodes to adapt the Circus Arc, I could have done without quite so much recap.  That said, it’s a real pleasure to be back in the real world of Toboso Yana’s Kuroshitsuji, with the unpleasant taste of Okada Mari’s anime-original second season being slowly cleansed away.  This is a wonderfully atmospheric series, very funny and very dark, and “Circus-hen” really allows it to show off its best qualities.  We’ve had only a taste of just how disturbing and impactful this story is going to be – the best is yet to come.

Majimoji Rurumo
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: I’ll be the first to admit that I might not have paid much attention to Majimoji Rurumo if it hadn’t been for the fact that the mangaka, Watanabe Wataru, wrote one of my favorite recent series in Yowamushi Pedal.  The premise sounds like a fairly generic light novel setup (though it’s a manga) and the artwork seems quite plain.  This is a funny series, though, in that what looked like weaknesses turned out to be strengths.  Rather than playing as generic Majimoji Ruruomo comes off as unpretentious and old-fashioned (in a good way).  It’s like a cheeky ecchi comedy from 10 or 20 years ago (and looks the part).  Watanabe’s trademark heart and wit shines through, the heroine is cute without being pushy about it and the hero is a genuinely good guy despite being a bit of a goof.  Simple charm is not to be overlooked as a selling point for a series, and Majomoji Rurumo has it to spare.  If you’ve been wavering on this one and have a taste for comedy, I urge you to give this show a chance (and stick it out for at least two episodes, as the premiere isn’t the equal of what comes after).

Argevollen - 03 -5 Sailor Moon Crystal - 01 -20 Glasslip - 03 -6


Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal
Episodes Watched: 2
Grade: B-
Comments: I’m desperately unqualified to judge this remake of one of the most popular franchises in manga and anime – as I said in an earlier post watching it makes me feel like I’m attending services for a religion I don’t belong to.  The animation is a little stiff, I’m not crazy about CGI henshin sequences, and Mitsuishi Kotono’s performance as Usagi is definitely not working for me.  But on balance Sailor Moon Crystal seems pretty faithful to the manga and it’s good fun, so while I admit I’m not the toughest audience, I’m pretty well satisfied so far.

Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: The mecha series that people love to hate, if they can be bothered to notice it exists.   I kind of like Argevollen, though I certainly acknowledge it isn’t pulse-quickening and the hero is a bit of a trying character.  The gritty and unpretentious realism of the series works for me – if the armies were using tanks instead of mobile suits it could easily pass itself off as realistic.  The focus is on the drudgery, hopelessness and pointlessness of war rather than on heroism, and that can be a hard sell.  But I appreciate it, and I sense the possibility that this is a series that could level up substantially before its two-cour run is through.

Still Watching

Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C
Comments: The one thing I can’t find in watching Glasslip is any compelling reason for why it exists, or evidence that the staff knows one either.  The entire show feels very rote to me, a series made from a mix rather than from scratch.  The visuals are nice but not exceptional by P.A. Works standards, the willingness to press romantic conflicts quickly refreshing but ultimately undercut by a lack of buy-in to any of the participants as characters.  I’ll stick with it for another ep or two, but no longer unless it shows me something considerably more compelling than it has so far.


Love Stage!!, Shounen Hollywood, Akame ga Kill, Tokyo ESP, Hanayamata, Rail Wars!, Jinsei, Ao Haru Ride

Compared to this stage in most seasons there aren’t a lot of bubble series  in fact I’d say Argevollen and maybe Sailor Moon (a bi-weekly) are about the only ones.    Here’s my take on the schedule as of right now:

Definitely Blogging: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Space Dandy 2

Definitely Blogging: Hunter X Hunter 2011

Probably Blogging: Majimoji Rurumo

Definitely Blogging: Tokyo Ghoul, Zankyou no Terror, Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus
On the Bubble: Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen
On the Respirator: Glasslip

Definitely Blogging: None

Definitely Blogging: Aldnoah.Zero, Barakamon
Probably Blogging: Captain Earth
On the Bubble: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal

Definitely Blogging: Diamond no Ace, Haikyuu!!, Baby Steps

Manga: Otoyomegatari, Mix, Chihayafuru

Watching For Now: Abarenbou Rekishi!! Matsutarou



  1. F

    So you actually TRIED to watch Hanayamata?!

    I am … surprised.

    Pity about Ao Haru Ride though … I have been enjoying it quite a bit, but I can understand how Nozaki-kun could tweak the appreciation thereof. ^^

    I have already decided to drop Glasslip after ep 4 though – a pity, too … I was hoping it would be a lot better. :(

  2. I overstate Nozaki's importance in that decision, TBH. AHR just isn't generating any strong feelings in me, for whatever reason.

  3. F

    Well, if it does not click it does not click. Kinda like for me – it just did not work, even though I can tell it is well done and all. :

    Am very glad you are blogging Majimoji Rurumo though – that series definitely deserves more attention in my opinion! ^^

  4. S

    I feel Tokyo Ghoul is extremely over-hyped the main character is generic on too many levels and his tendency to overreact took away most of the psychological tension after episode one. At this point Akame Ga Kill is up there and Gun Gale Online is capturing it's feel amazingly. But one must wonder what makes an author choose such a lacklustre main as Kenaki when they are capable of writing characters like Rize, Toka, and Gourmet…

  5. N

    Too bad you dropped AKG. I would have liked to read your opinion as someone who doesn't read the manga.

  6. AGK just wasn't pushing the right buttons for me. Seems outrageous for the sake of being outrageous and I'm a but put off by the worldview the author (same as Majikoi) always manages to sneak into his work.

  7. g

    Are you really getting xenophobic vibes from this show? It seems to be anti-establishment more than anything to me…

  8. That's not the word I would use, exactly. Have you seen Majikoi?

  9. g

    I have – not that it was too memorable then. To double check – I skimmed your final review of it and took away mostly that it was right wing xenophobic, and pro-military? (correct me if I'm wrong…)

    I'm really interested in what right-leaning things you're seeing from AgK. I don't love it – just casually watching for the action. But I don't know much about Japanese politics, so if there's a hidden message here I might be missing it.

    Could you talk more about this? I want to know what I'm not seeing…

  10. F

    I never watched Majikoi and I too am curious about the worldview of the author. Also I dropped Akame ga Kill, found very little interest in the story.

  11. That was the main reason I dropped it, too. Once that nightmare of a supporting cast was introduced it was a losing battle.

  12. Z

    I didn't like how tonedeaf AKG was.

  13. D

    Is Majimoji Rurumo really that good? Because to me, the first episode did absolutely nothing for me. It wasn't funny, the characters weren't interesting (and our protag wasn't all that likeable) and the artstyle looked pretty blah (which caused the fanservice to feel out of place). And I usually like these oldschool comedies, mind you. Now you say it gets better, but I wonder in what way. Does it just take the elements is already had and work them out in a slightly better executed way or does it actually bring something new besides that to the table? Not really inclined to give it another chance if it's the former.

    Also, I will never understand the hatred for this year's winter season. It wasn't exceptional, no, but it was a lot better than 2013's winter and it had plenty of fun shows as far as I'm concerned. The second half of Log Horizon and Magi, a good short with Pupipo!, fun shows like Noragami, Sekai Seifuku, Silver Spoon, Space Dandy and a lot more shows I'd place in the worthwhile category. Especially coming off of Autumn 2013 which gave us such joys as Coppelion, Kyoukai no Kanata and Samurai Flamenco (hell, everything in that season was either 'kinda good' or utterly terrible) I find it hard to believe why you'd rank Winter 2014 of all things as the worst in a decade.

    Though I'd agree this is not an exceptional year. Only one show so far I'd put in my top-five-of-the-year list, and I still wonder if any of this season's batch will make it there. Last year summer had four out of the five from the list airing at the same time, but whether they will repeat that?

  14. Yeah, to be honest you're probably right – it isn't quite as horrible as all that, more just forgettable.

    As for Majimoji, I would say it adds some new elements to the mix after the premiere. There was an element for me of simply finding the series as a whole more winning, yes, but it works better once the scene is established and it has a chance to slip into the daily existence of the characters.

  15. w

    I'm surprised to see Aldnoah only getting fifth. It's by far my favourite of the season right now. It's been pretty awesome every week, probably the most fundamentally entertaining show of the season. Nozaki-kun and Dandy would be just below it.

    I'm also not really getting the hype behind Zankyou no Terror. It sounds great and has stellar direction, but I don't know… It comes across as quite boring sometimes. They're not maintaining the tension they created in the first episode, which is pretty essential for a crime thriller like this. It feels like they're rehashing themselves a little every week. The grayscale art style is bothering me as well. I find it pretty unattractive, and it really doesn't help it become any more interesting visually. Also still looking for a good reason to care about these characters. We've 3 out of 11 episodes finished so it needs to wow me again if I'm to see any real greatness here.

  16. If two shows get the same letter grade, I don't really think of one of them being ranked ahead of the other…

  17. m

    Aldnoah is also my current fav of the new season in terms of entertainment value. Though I get this sort of looming sense that it's only going to go down a bit in overall quality. I keep getting the sense, though I admit it's biased, that Argevollen is going to end up being the better mech show. Not so much in animation quality, but overall entertainment and enjoyment.

  18. s

    WELP!!! I guess i lost that Tokyo ESP bet (probably shouldnt have gambled considering the creative staff on the series teehee). Derppp; better luck next time; I shall hold my end of the bargain

  19. v

    Now that's a surprise. I thought Aldnoah Zero would at least make it to your A-list.
    And sad to see Ao Haru Ride. Not a big fan of shoujo but I'm really enjoying AHR.

  20. J

    Just Zankyou no Terror & Space Dandy for me this season, none of the others have really done anything to get me excited enough to pick them up.

    I am giving Ao Haru Ride a chance but mainly just because of the gorgeous water-colored back-grounds. I have the advantage I haven't consumed anything of this type for awhile (Tari Tari probably comes closest?), but I'll have to see how long it holds my attention.

  21. l

    If you have capacity to follow another monthly manga, you may want to check out Kono Oto Tomare! (この音とまれ!). It is centred around a high school koto club. The publisher, Jump Square, has even commissioned a performance of one of the pieces played to give readers the chance to hear the koto and what is being played – YouTube link. It is juxtaposed against the relevant scenes in the manga.

  22. Thanks, I've had it recommended before and it does look interesting (and the MC looks strikingly like Taichi). I've recently picked up Koe no Katachi so I'm even more stretched than usual, but I'll keep it in mind.

    Shueisha is always aggressive about anime adaptations, so if this one gets an anime that would certainly be the incentive to check it out sooner rather than later.

  23. F

    For what it is worth it Kono Oto Tomare is not a bad story Enzo … it is not earth shattering or showing signs of greatness for me (like, say Tetsugaku Letra) but it is still quite good. I would also love to see Kono Oto get an anime adaptation tbh. ^^

  24. l

    The reason I brought up Kono Oto Tomare! is because it seems similar with Chihayafuru in tone and style and thus, may be of interest to Enzo.

  25. H

    Bishoujo Sailor Moon: Production wise this show is a dog. I’m sticking it out for all the sailor girls to appear and Zoisite. I have seen the 90s version and rightly miss the expressive character designs, wonderful transformation sequences and superior theme tune. After two episodes of Crystal, I think it’s safe to say 1992 holds ground as the definitive sailor moon anime, easily. C+

    Tokyo Ghoul: Not really what I was hoping for out of this show. I was looking for more chilling suspense and thrilling horror/atmosphere from this series. I find the MC too out of depth which sort of drags the chain a bit. I wish the focus was on the adult characters. B-

    Space Dandy: First season was a mixed bag for me. Thankfully this new season has offered a more relatable batch of episodes which seem to have a more introspective feel about them. They almost feel more connected, where each episode features a character striving to attain something. Can’t explain it very well, but I whatever it is I hope continues into the future. B

    Aldonoah.Zero: As you feel towards Zankyo no Terror, as do I with A.Z. I’m not connecting to the characters or conflict, but it’s serving up an entertaining pop flick vibe so far. The stoic MC is questionable, but I’m confident that there is a purpose behind that decision. The character art is not to my taste, but it serviceable. I’m not so keen on the loud insert songs, which seem a bit too crude for this thoughtful and well organized show. B+

    Barakamon: Wasn't on my radar, but it been pretty swell so far. Decent, fun, and surprisingly likable rounded cast of crazies. I’ll say the majority of the comedy works for me and the main character’s creative sensibility matches my own temperament at times. His self-doubt, stubbornness and aptitude to grow around others is well observed I feel. A-

    Zankyou no Terror: I don’t feel terribly invested emotional power in character or plot, but I don’t think I need to just yet. At the moment it’s an interesting jigsaw puzzle. I trust the show is leading us down somewhere meaningful and all will resonate in time. Most aesthetically pleasing show of the season for me. A

    Dropped: Akame ga Kill, Majimoji Rurumo, Argevollen, Tokyo ESP, Kuroshitsuji: Black Circus

  26. H

    Also, gonna be one of those bitchy manga people for a bit!

    F@*%^#! Madhouse. They've obliterated the character designs for Parasyte this fall.

  27. Or we could wait and see a PV first.

  28. H

    I don't see how a PV is going to improve that particular aspect…the animation will look nice at least.

    I'm not rage-quitting! just sorely disappointed in Madhouse for feeling the need to make a superficial modification/update (and not for the better as you can tell from my reaction). Imagine Chihayafruru looking like k-On… I know they made changes to HxH manga style, but that seems largely necessary considering the art decline in the manga at certain points.

    Looks like the director has had a good foot in Brain's Base's door though, but the rest of staff doesn't inspire much. I'm calmer now.

  29. S

    I don't think they really made changes to the HxH manga style. As far as I can tell, MH just went with the art style of the latest chapters. This sort of thing seems to be the case with long-running shonen anime.

  30. R

    I agree with you. While this Summer has been good so far, I haven't found one that can move me like Uchouten and Watamote could, but it's a little too early to tell.

    I'm a little disappointed by Barakamon — it's still good; it's just that I had a different expectation. Despite a dip in its latest episode, Tokyo Ghoul is still one of my most anticipated shows this season, and I really like how it delves into its characters while painting the world of ghouls and setting up the conflicts. Zankyou no Terror is just top-notch — Kanno Youko's soundtrack is totally on a whole different level and completely hyping up the overall enjoyment.

    I'm not picking up a lot of shows this season. Other than the above 3 shows, I'm following Aldnoah.Zero, Ao Haru Ride, and Space Dandy, on top of Hunter x Hunter, Haikyuu, Ace of Diamond, and Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo Returns — 10 shows in total, which is quite a drop from last Summer.

  31. p

    2014 has been a pretty banal year so far. Winter seasons suck but in all seriousness Winter 2014 was probably the worst winter season I've seen since I started watching anime seasonally and might even qualify as the worst season period. I managed to finish only two shows, Wake up Girls which was a waste of time by the end, and Space Dandy which was good but not great.

    Spring was a bit better but still pretty damn disappointing considering it's supposed to be one of the carry seasons of the year with Fall being the other. Only Ping Pong and Mushishi achieved greatness whilst the others I can't say but I never had the motivation to finish them.

    And now the current Summer season. So far it's better than Winter and Spring, but the true test like you said is whether they cross the finish line with grace. My favourite of the season is Zankyou no Terror, which I am very much intrigued by its premise and plot and I'm not as disconnected to the characters as you are, though I do somewhat agree in that they do not resonate an emotional connect at least not. It's also the only "great" series this season. Then it's an equal tie between Aldonoah Zero and Tokyo Ghoul. Aldonoah at the very least is a great popcorn mecha series though it is significantly better than its competitors and similar series of past times, whilst Tokyo Ghoul has been on the whole great, but took a hit in the latest episode.

    After that it gets a bit iffy. Gekkan Shoujo is actually quite funny and is the biggest surprise of the season though I don't quite find myself laughing out loud, more like snickers here and there but for an anime comedy (a type of comedy I do not like generally) it's pretty good. Ao Haru Ride is standard textbook fare, but it's executed not too bad and Barakamon is a pretty decent slice of life/calming show that is filling the shoes that Glasslip was to though it is by no where near Usagi Drop quality.

    And talking about Glasslip… yea… I don't know what PA Works is thinking but getting a mix mesh of thier past series and converging them in a halfass manner just isn't working. This was "meant" to appeal to people like me that like their kind of shows but it just isn't and that's that. Probably the biggest disappointment of the season for me.

    Sword Art Online 2 I may continue watching for shits and giggles to see how bad it is… and yeh it's just as I expected (it's pretty bad, but hey some of the action is pretty cool I guess). Anything else has been definitely dropped though to be fair anything aside from Zankyou, Tokyo Ghoul and Aldonoah are all maybes or on probation for me.

  32. Z

    Zankyou no Terror (B+) This one seems to have the most going for it, interesting themes, relatively mature cast of characters, old school colour plate and character design, direction. Not thrilled with Lisa as a character but that could change if she isn't relegated to token love interest (please no!).

    Aldanoah Zero (B) Generally okay, character designs aren't my thing, pretty stock setup, nothing we haven't seen before but shows signs of improvement.

    Tokyo Ghoul C+ Good production but everything else, story, themes, characters leave much to be desired. Original promo video and art gave a somewhat different impression.

    Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal (C) Serviceable adaption so far but hardly stellar.

  33. m

    I'm not buying into ZnT all that much. Anyone who watches it can tell right away that it's directed brilliantly, and the concept is written well enough and contains a unique look at things. That being said, maybe bc of the lack of connection with the characters, it still isn't keeping me interested. I feel like I spend more effort trying to make myself care about what's going on than I should. Almost like Im giving the director so much credit that I keep thinking I'll eventually get enthralled if I keep watching. Hopefully I will, but it hasn't reeled me in yet for aome reason I can't explain.

  34. m

    I'm actually really starting to like Tokyo ESP. After the first ep I thought I would hate it as a blatant x-men rip-off, but whoever posted that it was more of a tribute (I think it was sonic) was right. It has more of the feeling of having been made by someone who loves the x-men comics, and not someone trying to copy them. I don't know if you dropped it right away after ep 1, but if so it's prob worth another look. Not for blogging, but just to watch.

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