Fall 2014 Check-in

Mushishi - 11 -11 Kiseijuu - 01 -34 Akatsuki - 03 -20
Yowapeda 2 - 03 -20 Shigatsu - 02 -28 GBF Try - 02 -24

This season is a lot like a Chicago stuffed pizza – tasty on top, soft in the middle, and extra-thick underneath.

My expectations heading into the Fall Season were pretty low – probably as low as for any season since I’ve been blogging.  So when I say the season hasn’t been a disappointment so far, you have to take that in context.

In contrast to the rather unpredictable summer lineup, Fall 2014 has thus far behaved very much as expected.  The top shows as of now are pretty much the top shows on my expectations list going on, and the rest of the schedule has been pretty mediocre.  If I’m going to say the glass is half-full, there do seem to be a higher number of decent, watchable series than I expected.  But on the flipside, none of the shows I’d pegged as sleepers going in has really exploded except for Akatsuki no Yona, and truth be told it was a bit of a cheat to call a sleeper in the first place – it was probably #4 on my list going into the season.  But then, this fall is that kind of season…

If a season is to be judged by its contribution of elite series, this one has a chance to wind up pretty good – my top picks going in have all gotten off to strong starts.  But this is a judgement that can’t be made until close to the end of the season (and sometimes after, thanks to multi-cour series – of which Fall has plenty), and sadly most shows that look like classics after three or four episodes don’t wind up that way.  I don’t see much chance at all that this is going to end up as a strong season in terms of depth, providing a lot of shows in the “very good” category of the sort that wind up on the #11-20 list at the end of the year – there simply aren’t enough candidates at that level.  What jumps out is the enormous pool of shows in the “Worthwhile” and “Still Watching” categories – a larger percentage of these merely decent series than in any season check-in.

In looking for themes, I see a lot about Fall 2014 that screams “throwback”.  The best shows all seem like relics of another time (Akatsuki no Yona, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) or actually are (Kiseijuu, Mushishi Zoku Shou).  There’s a lot of old-school sci-fi and fantasy on the schedule, stuff like two Gundam series and Shingeki no Bahamut.  Most of the other series making creating splashes are sequels, and most the more “contemporary” stuff – adaptations of newer manga and romcoms adapted from trendy LNs or trying to act like they are – is eminently forgettable.

On, then, to Fall 2014:

The Elite

Mushishi Zoku Shou Season 2
Episodes Watched: 2
Grade: A+
Comments: Talking about Mushishi can turn you into a broken record, but it’s a broken record of the best kind.  This series is simply brilliant, and nothing ever changes in that sense – be they years or months, breaks between seasons have no impact on the quality of the material or the power of the experience.  The only thing that’s different this time is that this will truly be the final season, with the anime adapting the last of the source material – assuming that Artland doesn’t have another production disaster which pushes everything back.  Artland’s problems are the only thing that’s ever been able to slow Mushishi down.


Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A-
Comments: While Kiseijuu hasn’t been a revelatory experience and it may not be the flashiest show on the schedule, it’s certainly delivered on expectations and been the best of any new series this season.  So much with Madhouse seems to depend on how passionate they are about a project, and from the beginning (including the cameo in the finale of the series they unabashedly consider their pride and joy, Hunter X Hunter – a symbolic passing of the torch) it’s been obvious that this is the new series they’re pouring their heart and soul into.  It doesn’t hurt that Iwaaki Hitoshi’s manga is one of the best of its kind, alternately terrifying and hilarious and acting as a kind of metaphor for adolescence and alienation.  Comprehensive adaptations of great manga by elite studios are one of the great joys of anime, and we’re very lucky to be getting one here.

Akatsuki no Yona
Episodes Watched:3
Grade: A-
Comments: Whether you call it a sleeper or not, Akatsuki no Yona is one of the best series of the season.  Unapologetically reminiscent of the likes of Juuni Kokuki (not least because of Kunohiko Ryo’s music) and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this is a show that gives its audience enough credit not to explain everything up front, and to offer subtle character nuances that don’t immediately jibe with what we’ve seen.  There’s a growing sense of a Rashomon Effect at play here, where the perspectives of the cast are coloring the interpretation of events we see on-screen.  Bringing strong characters and a fascinating premise to the table, this series has all the makings of a classic of its genre.

Very Good

Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B+
Comments: My only quibble with “Grande Road” so far is the lack of Onoda, but apart from that Yowapeda continues to be one of the best sports anime of recent years.  True, the final kilometer of the second day of Inter-highs took too long, but the flashback episode which finally shed some light on the chimera cyclist Midousuji Akira was truly brilliant.  If the focus shifts to the more interesting members of the Sohoku Six, “Grande Road” is only going to get better.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B+
Comments: What an emotional roller-coaster Shigatsu has been for me.  If I’d written this after second episodes this series would have ranked as my top pick of the season, but the third seemed to highlight every concern I had about the series even as I was enraptured by it.  Maybe, like Chihayafuru, this is a show that’s destined to piss me off at the same time it has me completely emotionally ensnared.  At its best Shigatsu has delivered the most transcendent moments of the season, but I have my doubts about not just the female leads but the perspective of the series itself when it comes to music, friendship and gender roles.  I very much doubt Shigatsu will ever bore me, but I hope I end up loving it a lot more often than disliking it.

Gundam Build Fighters Try
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: GBF is just plain fun.  This series and its predecessor take on the Gundam mythos with tongue thoroughly in-cheek, and the result is consistently entertaining.  Both anime and Gundam would be happier places if every series had the sense of perspective this one does.  Most of the faces have changed but the new cast of plucky middle-schoolers is an endearing as the last one, and Mr. Ral is every bit as hilarious as ever.

Bahamut - 02 -10 UBW - 03-21 Kokkuri-san - 02 -3
Tribe Cool Crew-1 Shirobako - 02 10 Ronja - 01 026


Shingeki no Bahamut
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: MAPPA has two sword-and-sorcery series this Fall, and for my money Shingeki no Bahamut is the more interesting.  I’m not especially engaged by the plot or characters yet (that’s starting to change, hopefully) but Bahamut is so different from traditional anime fantasy that it has an appeal on those grounds alone, and it’s a pretty entertaining show besides.  The visuals and music are outstanding, and there’s a swashbuckling vibe that’s almost reminiscent of old Hollywood.  The fourth episode was clearly the best, which is a good sign moving forward.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: Type-Moon is a phenomenon, a popularity engine that shows no signs of running out of gas, and UBW continues their amazing run.  The best thing here is the involvement of ufotable, who always bring top-notch production values and do as well with CGI as any anime production house.  UBW is certainly a feast for the eyes, though my view is that the content itself isn’t really all that – this is mostly a fanservice series that artfully presents itself as something deeper.  But there’s nothing wrong with that if you deliver an entertaining product, and UBW generally meets that threshold.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: I have serious doubts about whether the brand of humor in this offbeat comedy can hold up for an entire season.  But for four episodes it works pretty well, ranging from mildly amusing to occasionally hilarious – and the fourth ep did manage to take the series in some fresh directions, which is a good sign.  There’s even a bit of tenderness in the main relationship between Kokkuri-san and Kohina, and hints of dark events from the past lurking just beneath the surface.  Hopefully the flotilla of new characters still to be introduced will be able to keep the comedy fresh.

Tribe Cool Crew
Episodes Watched: 5
Grade: B-
Comments: It would be hard to imagine a series more thoroughly ignored by the English-language fan community, and more utterly dismissed as kiddie fare.  That’s too bad – this show is really quite good.  It’s infectiously genki, silly and more than a little clever with the comedy.  I can’t dance to save my life (with my back, it might just end it if I tried these days) but even I get the urge to move watching TCC.  Is this aimed primarily at kids?  Yeah – but so what? That doesn’t mean it can’t have something to offer older viewers as well.

Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: My worst fears about Shirobako – namely, that it would be the kind of show its previews suggested it would be – have not been realized.  I haven’t quite figured out just what Mizushima and Yokote are trying to do here, but the result is a pretty entertaining look at the underbelly of anime production.  There’s a bit of Bakuman, a bit of WUG, a bit of Waiting for Guffman – all in all it’s a most peculiar mix.  So far the series has focused more on the documentary aspects at the expense of real plot or character development and it’s keeping me guessing as to what sort of tone it’s trying to achieve, but that might just be intentional.

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja
Episodes Watched: 4
Grave: B-
Comments: I hope this isn’t the last work we ever see from Ghibli, because it would be sadly ironic if the studio that’s done so much to promote and preserve hand-drawn animation goes out with a full CGI TV series produced by Polygon.  But taken in a vacuum, Ronja certainly isn’t a bad show – Astrid Lindgen’s source material is a justifiably beloved children’s story, and the character designs and backgrounds still look like Ghibli even if the character animation is unspeakable.  There is magic here, but the pacing is a bit on the glacial side – I’m not sure Ronja is well-served by being padded out to 26 episodes – and I wish Ghibli had cast kids as the kids like they usually do.  The best part of the story – Ronja’s friendship with the son of the rival robber chief, Birk – is only now seeing the screen.

Chaika 2 - 02 -11 Donten - 02 -14 Sora- 04 02

Still Watching

Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: It’s been more of the same from Chaika this season, which isn’t surprising as it’s been one of the most consistent shows I remember.  That consistency is pretty middling though, and it’s just never quite been able to make the jump into the realm of series I really want to commit to.  I’m not sorry I covered it for as long as I did, but it was definitely time to move on.

Psycho-Pass Season 2
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: The new season of Psycho-Pass works perfectly well as background entertainment, kind of like a good lounge band at a casino bar.  But there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of intellectual imperative behind it, and everything seems a notch of two less sharp than in the first season (including the visuals – I like Tatsunoko, but the show looked better under Production I.G.).  It’s also saddled with perhaps the worst character in a watchable show this season in the new detective, Mika-san.

Donten ni Warau
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: I had Donten ni Warau as a sleeper going into the season, and after the premiere my modest hope was that it would about on a par with Hakkenden, while filling a similar niche.  It’s a decent series, but I’d put it a notch below that at this point – neither the plot or any of the characters really pop at this stage, and while there are some strong individual moments none of the episodes has really come together as exceptional.

Sora no Method
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: I’m a big fan of Hisaya Naoki (Kanon, Sola) and we’ve waited a long time for him to re-emerge from the doujinshi world and return to anime, so I really wanted to like Sora no Method.  But while I quite liked the third episode, on the whole the series just isn’t connecting.  I expect moe from Hisaya, but he’s always been able to create that “hook” that snares you and makes you really feel.  I don’t get that here – I just don’t buy into the premise or characters enough to justify all the intense emotion they’re displaying, and it plays as histrionic and overwrought.  I’m sticking with it for a little while just to see if that magic moment does come, but I’m less than optimistic, and that makes me quite sad.

World Trigger
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: I’ll be the first to admit that the production values from Toei (who, despite the snark and sneering, are capable of very good production values) are lousy – the animation is terrible and the direction uneven.  Yet somehow I still kind of like World Trigger – the characters (especially Yuuma) and premise are a notch more interesting than the average shounen.  And in Yuuma the series is slyly asking some interesting questions about Japanese society, even if it seems to be opening the door to some potentially unpleasant answers.

Dengeki no Honya-san
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C
Comments: Another one of my sleeper picks that’s fallen short.  I was pretty much set to drop this show but I rather liked the fourth episode so I’ll watch at least one more.  The second ep was especially unpleasant – crass, calculating and insipid – but there are some funny moments in this story of a very thinly fictionalized Akihabara.  Some of the comedy is quite sharp and perceptive but ultimately, I think Denkigai is more interested in exploitation than commentary.

Nanatsu no Taizai
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C
Comments: The Seven Deadly Sins is getting a far better treatment in every way than its too-quickly adapted to anime cousin, World Trigger, yet I find myself less interested.  I’m just not finding this series as funny as it thinks it is, and the plot and characters are about as cookie-cutter as shounen gets.  I’m really only sticking around at this point to see if the show can show me something to justify its popularity, but I don’t expect that will be for much longer.


Garo, Amagi Brilliant Park, Magic Kaito, Gundam G no Reconguista

There are a pretty good number of bubble shows, thanks to those overflowing middling categories, though I doubt I’ll end up sticking with more than one or two.    Here’s my take on the schedule as of right now:

Definitely Blogging: Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road
Probably Blogging: Shingeki no Bahamut

Definitely Blogging: Akatsuki no Yona

Definitely Blogging: Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu

Definitely Blogging: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen
On the Bubble: Shirobako, Psycho-Pass 2

Definitely Blogging: None

Definitely Blogging: Mushishi Zoku Shou
Probably Blogging: Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

Definitely Blogging: Diamond no Ace
Probably Blogging: Gugure! Kokkuri-san
On the Respirator: Sora no Method

Manga: Otoyomegatari, Mix, Chihayafuru

Watching For Now: Gundam Build Fighters Try, Tribe Cool Crew, Sanzoku no Musume Ronja, Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle, Donten ni Warau, World Trigger, Dengeki no Honya-san



  1. w

    I'm actually thoroughly enjoying this season, I'd call it the best season of 2014 by a wide margin (which is admittedly not the highest bar to vault). I can see where you're coming from though, it's very heavy on basic entertainment level but less so with those truly 'artful' or transcendent or whatever you'd call it series. My top 5 at the moment probably looks something like Shirobako, Bahamut, Yona, Yowapedal and then Garo. I've yet to start either Mushishi or Parasyte.

    I am worried about the next couple of weeks, though. This year especially a lot of series I've enjoyed have a promising first month, then they shoot themselves in the foot around the 5-6 mark. It'd almost be better if they had the decency to mess up sooner. Hopefully this won't happen with fall.

    Oh and as for Nanatsu, I'd stick around until Ban and King show up at the very least. I think that was the point where both the events and the characters get much more interesting. The humour is toned down, the fights are ramped up, and we get some genuinely good character conflicts.

  2. Yes, it's not just this year but this year has been especially rough for shows starting strongly and fading around month #2 (or 3).

    I don't hang up on the artful thing, but what I'd like is more shows – be they straight entertainment or something more – good enough to be in that year-end 11-20 range. That's where this season comes up short for me – there are some potentially excellent shows at the top, but the next layer is of a lower quality level than I'd like. Quantity it has, not so much quality depth.

  3. 7

    You know in your heart of hearts that Tribe Cool Crew is actually A+ material.

    Really, really happy to see it mentioned. Hype it up more, Enzo!

  4. Yeah, no… But it did earn that B-. Generously, maybe a B. It's fun and energetic and cute and clever, exactly what a kids anime should be.

  5. s

    id say my favorites this season in descending order are:

    Mushishi- a great example of using the anime medium to tell humanistic stories about nature and our physical and mental co-existence with it. While the animation in mushishi is simple for the most part (although things get high-quality when the sasuga kicks in) the artistic direction and cinematography is pretty damn good and helps drive home the fundamental themes this story tries to express.

    Psycho-pass S2- while i was glad psycho-pass was back, i was afraid that it would plummet into mediocrity and boy was i glad my fears were laid to rest. This season of psycho pass, while not focusing heavily on the world-building laid out by the first season (and why would it? this season needs an identity of its own), is still as smart as it was before and im enjoying this new focus on perception and sanity within this world of sibyl. Having the production go over to tatsunoko, ive noticed that while the characters animate better due to the tweaks in character designs, the cinematography, scene composition, cgi (tho i.g's cg stuck out like a sore thumb as well), and art direction arent as strong as the first season, even though the first season suffered from some quality dips from time to time. There are some art direction choices i definitely dig like the use of unnatural lighting in certain scenes which sort of connects to this season's theme of the color of a person's hue

    Shingeki no bahamut: a show that knows what it is an executes itself with grace. Talent as a story-teller is just as meaningful as telling a deep story and bahamut has great execution in its storytelling. It understands that it's art and animation are instruments to it's storytelling and uses them gracefully to present its audience with a shwashbuckling fantasy adventure

    Kisejui: a highly regarded manga being fully realized in anime form and i am digging it so far. I wish the animation didnt take such a hit after the first ep tho. An anime that is based on body-horror such as parasyte should have some consistently impressive animation to really sell that fear and dread more effectively but i am still pleased with what we have. It certainly gets the message across.

    Fate/stay night UBW: Again, it's good to see an anime that understands how to use it's medium to bring the best in it's story-telling. Ufotable's great use of color gradience, lighting, and animation to tell this battle of ideals makes for an immersive if somewhat engaging experience (mostly due to the presentation….for now at least because there is depth to this story)

    As of for everything else, it ranges from pretty good, to good, to decent, to ughhhh (looking at you cross ange). I want to be more engaged and taken away by Akatsuki no yona but i find its narrative progression to be just decent. I wish the screenplay was a bit stronger so i can be taken in more with the characters and the story because the premise has potential to get pretty epic; it's sort of got that moribito vibe about it (although i enjoyed that series so much more because it had a genius writer in Kenji kamiya so uhm uhm yea that kinda goes back to my original point). Still enjoying Garo's fantasy world. Shigatsu wa kimi no uso is also decent and has potential to be a good drama if it irons out some of its kinks. Amagi brilliant parks is enjoyable, chaika still kicks ass, i put argevollen on hold due to its uneven story-telling. I have no problems with the series being slow and methodical as those tend to be ones i really enjoy (like rozen maiden 2013) but have some good writing behind it dammit. Oh and i wish shirobako was a bit……more polished.

  6. 7

    Yeah, i like this Season, too

  7. D

    Thise season is the opposite of the summer season for me – low expectations but lots of (mostly good) surprises. I also have a few concerns about Shirobako, so here's hoping that last weeks episode was a fluke. It really is my favourite show this season, even above my beloved Fate franchise.

    Also, Enzo, did you not end up giving Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji a try? I suppose it's a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, but I gotta say it turned out be better/funnier than I expected.

  8. The premise just sounded too repulsive.

  9. Z

    Parasyte/Kiseijuu is okay I guess, but it feels like a very pedestrian adaptation, with some very questionable BGM choices.

  10. R

    So, what made you drop G-Reco? As an admitted "Gundam nut", I am still okay, though it does feel a bit overly manic at times.

    One series not in here that is surprisingly drawing me in is the third Sunrise mecha show of this season, Cross Ange. I don't like it. It's crass and overly gratuitous, plus the lead heroine is just downright detestable. But it's premise, setting, and character dynamics are really catching my interest. And I must say, it has a much tighter story as of yet than Valvrave and Buddy Complex. You might want to check it out for curiosity's sake.

  11. I checked out enough to know there's not enough curiosity in the world to get me to check out more.

    Reconguista went past the point where I found it interesting as a train wreck, to where I just found it a train wreck. I love Yoshida's character designs and there's no denying it's never sedate, but it just doesn't seem like Tomino is trying to do any more than have a bunch of random shit happen and make it look like it was made 30 years ago. GBF is the far better series IMO.

  12. R

    Can't blame you on G-Reco. It took them five eps to really settle down on the story, and it still very confusing and random at times.

  13. Z

    Just like an old Gundam series. :)

  14. H

    G-Reco is slowing coming into its own (in a world of is own) and somehow I find its madness enthralling to watch. The incoherent dialogue, oddball characters, animal cartoons and toilet seat can be very random, but never boring. Tomino on anti-depressants.

  15. d

    No interest or opinion on Log Horizon 2? Just not your taste, or schedule?

  16. You can check out my posts on the first few eps of S1 to see why I dropped it.

  17. c

    gosh i'm afraid this season has nothing that makes my blood boil to any point, nothing i wait for every week. Akatsuki no Yona is maybe the only one that really catches my attention…..i guess when it comes to my tastes i'll have to wait for the winter season that already looks promising…

  18. R

    Not sure if you're being sarcastic or just plain having questionable taste, but winter looks terrible so far (minus 2-3 shows).

  19. s

    It seems like the usual case of different strokes for different folks; although, in my opinion, winter 2015 looks abysmal…like one of the worse seasons ive ever seen on paper in my entire anime-watching life. If people wanted more evidence to support their claim that the anime industry is going downhill, this would be season to heavily support that claim.

  20. It's still early enough to change, though I have to say as of now, it does look pretty awful.

  21. w

    I'l chime in here and just say I think winter looks great! Thanks in no small part to being plastered with sequels I'm looking forward to.. Plus new non-mongatari Shaft plus YURI BEAR STORM

  22. s

    I guess we'll see what winter 2015's true colors are once it starts airing….im all for my opinion being changed and me being wrong at the end of the day

  23. R

    Yeah, on positive note, winter (and occasionally Summer) is the season to be surprised because it always set you on low expectation mode.

  24. c

    well, i just can't find anything at all this season that lives up to my expectations(Mushishi is only exception) so at least the winter season has TG2, Aldonah zero2, Kamisama Hajijmashita, Durarara; Snk. this seems at least more acceptable than this season….but othewise it sure looks grey, nothing really to look forward to…….exceptional animes just don't seem to be popping up recently….i only just recently caught up to some anime i didnt have the time to watch: Nazo no Kanojo; what a little pearl LOL, i had the best time fufuffu!

  25. R

    Whoa didn't expect you would mention Tribe Cool, Enzo. I watched the first two episodes and quite liked what I see. But still not sure if I want to continue it because it never mentioned everywhere in any aniblog. Now I'm convinced because you actually watched 5 episodes and rate it decent.

  26. Maybe I shouldn't be the one saying this, but I don't think you should necessarily take your cues on which shows to follow based on anime bloggers. There are certain biases among what types of series they'll follow and what they won't (I don't consider myself wholly exempt from this) and you'd miss an awful lot of true gems if you skipped them because you couldn't find anyone blogging them.

    I mean, look at it this way – I'm pretty sure I was the only one covering Ginga e Kickoff, and what if I hadn't done it? It could easily have happened.

  27. R

    Well, to me it works like some sort of recommendation (or in case of Tribe, reassurance), because at this point I'm still fumbling around which series I want to follow this season (like you said, there are just so many series that seemed watchable this season).

  28. If you can live with the CGI, Ronja is really past the prologue now and the actual story is starting. The pacing is still slower than it should be, but Birk adds a certain whimsical energy that the series desperately needed.

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