Winter 2015 Check-in

Death Parade - 01 -47[2] Death Parade - 02 -26[2] Death Parade - 03 -32[2]
Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 - 03-24[2] Kamisama Hajimemashita - 02-35[2] Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 - 03-5[2]

If one is determined to look for bright sides, this generally dismal season at least provides a couple of them.

In a vacuum, the Winter 2015 season wouldn’t be too concerning – merely disappointing.  But coming on the heels of one of the weakest seasons in years and one of the weakest anime years ever, it’s a troubling lineup.

I think we’re looking at a new reality in anime, whether we like it or not.  If we get one or two really good shows on a schedule – for Fall they were Akatsuki no Yona and Kiseijuu – we need to consider ourselves lucky.  This is the new normal, where the vast majority of new series (including originals, most troublingly) are going to be factory-produced marketing gimmicks that range from abysmal to forgettable.  I don’t see that changing, soon or probably ever, and I think the halcyon days of anime calendars fit to bursting with brilliance and originality are gone for as long as the industry exists under the current economic model.

In that light, I think we can at least say that Winter 2015 is no worse than it looked going in.  It’s terrible by the old measures – there are very few interesting series and almost no outstanding ones, and the overwhelming majority of the lineup is drivel.  I have nothing at all in the “Outstanding” category and “Still Watching” is the smallest it’s ever been, which reveals a lack of both quality at the top and depth.  But we do have one standout in Death Parade – happily, a near-original series – and a couple of watchable shows.  And in the new normal, that’s par for the course.

If there’s any upside to this season so far, it’s that a couple of split-cour returnees for which I had very modest expectations – Tokyo Ghoul √A and Aldnoah.Zero – have been a little better than I expected.  I have serious doubts over whether Ghoul can keep it up given the budgetary issues and general lack of coherence, but Aldnoah at least has been surprisingly sensible and on-point.  Of the sleeper candidates only Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! has lived up to the billing – though honestly, it was the only show that looked interesting enough for me to really consider it a sleeper (Saekano was a reach, and it’s been as terrible as it looked like it might be).

Thematically, there’s not much to go on – what little quality we have is all over the genre map.  There was definitely a mini-bubble of Gainax nostalgia which manifested in Rolling Girls and Yoru no Yatterman, but I just don’t think either show has the chops to pull it off.  The initial burst of enthusiasm I saw for both shows is a bit mystifying, and I wonder if it isn’t a combination of wishful thinking and standards lowered by the increasing predominance of mediocrity and worse in anime.  It’s fine to appreciate a series that’s at least trying to exhibit a bit of style and historical awareness, but ultimately I simply don’t think either show is good enough for it to matter.

On, then, to Winter 2015:

The Elite

Death Parade
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A
Comments: Death Parade is a tough watch.  It’s not a feel-good series, most of the characters aren’t all that likeable, and the premise it depicts is pretty messed up.  It’s a troubling series – but I believe it’s supposed to be.  But even if it isn’t and DP is trying merely to be provocative, I would still class it as brilliant.  The visuals are exemplary and the writing razor-sharp, and it manages to be riveting despite having neither the crutch of long-term character development or especially sympathetic characters.  I believe we’re going to see the mysteries surrounding Quindecim peeled back like the layers of an onion over the next two months, and with that many of the questions about what Death Parade’s ultimate raison d’etre is will be answered.  But even if that’s not the case, the series is still easily the most entertaining and imaginative of the season.



Very Good

Kamisama Hajimemashita
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B+
Comments: Kamisama Hajimemashita has been one of the most underrated series in recent memory all along, so it’s no surprise that the sequel should be excellent and mostly unnoticed.  With shoujo titan Akitarou Daichi again at the helm there was no reason to expect a downturn, and we haven’t gotten one.  If anything’s different, the series seems a bit more serious and plot-driven this time around, but that follows the course of the manga so it’s no surprise.  This series strikes the balance between humor and drama about as well as any out there, and it remains a joy to watch week-in and week-out.

ALDNOAH ZERO - 15 - Large 30[3] Durarara Shou - 01 -24[2] Binan Koukou - 04 -18[2]
Tokyo Ghoul Root A - 01 -17[2] Junketsu no Maria - 02 -3 Ansatsu Kyoushitu - 01 -18[2]


Aldnoah.Zero 2
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: I won’t deny that in order to buy into Aldnoah.Zero’s second season you have to swallow the huge asspull we all knew was coming in the premiere.  But if you get past that, this season has been surprisingly strong.  It’s been entertaining and great to look at in its usual “summer blockbuster” way, but it’s also showing more coherence than one might have expected and planting seeds for an interesting larger plot that I’d mostly lost hope was coming.  Given than I expected Death Parade to be the season’s best show, Aldnoah has probably been the closest thing to a pleasant surprise.

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!

Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! hasn’t been a revelation in the way the first few episodes of Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou were (alas, that show never managed to hit those highs again), but it’s been consistently clever and funny.  It’s always encouraging to see an original series actually doing something original, and Binan Koukou has thrived because it’s clearly willing to go all the way with its very screwball premise in the interest of satire.  I’m not sure why we’ve never had a mahou shounen so thoroughly committed before now, but I’m glad we have this one.

Durarara!!X2 Shou
Episodes Watched:
Grade: B
Comments: I don’t think much has changed about Durarara, but I’m just not enjoying it as much as I hoped to.  Narita-sensei’s light-novel series is one of the best and a real groundbreaker, but the anime world has ripped it off so much and so often that DRRR itself feels less fresh and inventive than it used to.  That’s not the series’ fault, of course, but I can’t help the way I feel.  DRRR is still pretty entertaining, Omori Takahiro’s direction is still outstanding, and there are flashes of the old brilliance from time to time.  But so far at least, it’s not quite the same.

Tokyo Ghoul √A
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: In many respects I feel as if I’ve been enjoying this sequel more than I should have, given how little I understand what’s happening on-screen.  That’s because Morita-sensei’s direction is stylish and the germ of an intriguing story is always lurking underneath all the confusion, but I think the limitations of how far that can carry a series started to show in the fourth episode.  I need more – more Kaneki and why he’s done what he’s done, more focus on the pathos of the human-ghoul conflict, more explanation as to who all these new characters are and why I should give a damn about them.  If I get it, there’s still a lot of reason to believe Tokyo Ghoul can be a show with real impact.

Still Watching

Junketsu no Maria

Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: There always seemed the possibility that there was more to this manga adaptation than the rather dumb-sounding premise, and so far there is – but it’s not enough to really engage me.  Junketsu no Maria has some wit about it and it’s handsomely produced, but the humor comes off as pretty broad and I don’t really care about any of the cast at this point.  I’m waiting for a “Eureka” moment to make me want to commit to this one, but so far I haven’t seen it.

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: I guess Kishi Seiji’s adaptation of this pretty good Weekly Shounen Jump manga has been about as expected.  That is to say, pretty good.  But at this point the anime doesn’t seem to be offering anything in terms of production or changes to content that would raise Assassination Classroom’s game at all – the anime is nothing special in terms of visuals or casting.  To be honest I think the manga is somewhat overrated, and there are better series in WSJ selling fewer volumes.


Rolling Girls, Yoru no Yatterman, Saekano, Yuri Kuma Arashi

At this stage, the only thing I could call a true bubble series is Junketsu no Maria, though I’d be surprised if I decided to blog it.  There are actually several ongoing series I’m watching and not covering – GBF Try, Tribe Cool Crew, Ronja, Shirobako and World Trigger – and I may just decide to add one (or another weekly manga) if time allows.    Here’s my take on the schedule as of right now:

Definitely Blogging: Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road,  Kamisama Hajimemashita◎

Definitely Blogging: Akatsuki no Yona
Probably Blogging: Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!

Definitely Blogging: Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu

Definitely Blogging: Tokyo Ghoul √A

Definitely Blogging: Death Parade

Definitely Blogging: Aldnoah.Zero Season 2
Probably Blogging: Durarara!!X2 Shou

Definitely Blogging: Diamond no Ace
On the Respirator: Junektsu no Maria

Manga: Otoyomegatari, Mix, Chihayafuru

Watching For Now: Gundam Build Fighters Try, Tribe Cool Crew, Sanzoku no Musume Ronja, World Trigger, Shirobako, Junketsu no Maria, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu



  1. B

    I'm sad you dropped Yuri Kuma Arashi, the latest episode was the best one yet, it actually had me looking forward to the next one. Oh well.

  2. Z

    That is probably for the better in the long run, both for Enzo's sake and that of his readers. It is clear to me (after several years of reading this blog) that Enzo is both ill-equipped and underqualifed to evaluate a series like Yuri Kuma Arashi.

  3. J

    How so, Zeta? I haven't been reading the blog as long as you, and although I may differ with Enzo on his utter fanboying of HxH, I think that his insights and reviews are quite decent, if seeing a bit more into things than are there and giving the creators of the anime more credit than they deserve.

  4. Z

    It's much easier to write about things you enjoy and understand, while at the same time filing away everything you don't under the label of being pretentious. It wouldn't be so much as a fair review, nor provide much of the insight you mentioned, as much as a checklist of complaints. Better for everyone.

  5. j

    Thank you for blogging Binan Koukou, I let it pass by because of the color palette. I randomly decided to read the ep.03 post and I got interested and I gotta say that I'm not regretting it at all. As far as comedies go this season, it's definitely the one I look forward to most.

    And about Yuri Kuma Arashi, I don't know if you kept up, but the narrative structure is still largely unorthodox. I believe it could be a good show in the end if the story comes together well as a whole, but as it stands, waiting around week by week doesn't help keep it's viewers engaged. Although as Ben mentioned, the new episode was by far the most coherent one, more reminiscent of Penguindrum.

  6. Apart from Binan, this is probably the worst comedy season I can remember. Really vile.

    I couldn't take more than about 2.5 episodes of YKA. It's a complete trainwreck as far as I'm concerned – Ikuhara at his most self-indulgent and inane.

  7. J

    I'm hearing of more people really getting into Yoru no Yatterman, maybe evveryone is just taken by the nostalgia, but I'm gonna give it a try, when did you stop watching?

    Rolling Girls was pretty much a dud, I don't think I even had the energy to finish out the second episode.

    Death Parade is good, and Kiseijuu keeps being good, Assassination Classroom is an entertaining enough diversion but nothing very special. Those are the only ones I've been watching (since I haven'tseen many of the series the sequelitis is based on).

    Luckily that gives me time to catch up on other shows I've missed like Katanagatari.

  8. I dropped YnY after 3 eps. It just does nothing for me. Not terrible (apart from the female lead) but nothing special.

  9. H

    Yeah, I don't quite get the fuss over RG, but more so YnY. The latter is playing the violin a bit too loudly for me to feel anything genuine towards the story or characters. Neither are bad shows at all. The top is pretty great when you consider they're my lowest rated new show for the season. Quite a bit I haven't even touched though.

  10. J

    I'll join in on that; it seems to me that YnY has awakened the "back in my day" sentiments more than it has done anything deserving of massive praise, which is amusing considering the days we're talking about are less than 10 years ago. It's not bad though, which given the malaise of the moment is a bigger compliment than it should be.

    The unusually large carry-over/sequel list is keeping me busy enough (I'm still watching 10 shows, typical winter season for me). Whether this is me subconsciously compensated for the lack of originality/quality is another matter.

  11. h

    About Durarara!!, I believe you are not crazy to think the new season is not quite on par with the previous one. Just watched episode 4 and I was quite surprised to notice the arc have ended already. And even went to confirm that, indeed, these 4 episodes apparently were the whole volume 4 of the original novels.

    For comparison, the previous season just told 3 novels across its 24 episodes, and the first one only finished by episode 12. Now, I suspect they included stuff from other novels into the early first arc, for a more organic introduction, but volume 3 and 4 were still both 6 episodes each. That is 50% more than what volume 4 got. That is extra leeway the anime staff have to how to tell the story. I fear that is what hurt this first few episodes in the new season.

    Now, 3 to 4 episodes per novel is somewhat the industry standard for light novels adaptations. But, frankly, I like to think Durarara!! is (used to) be above that. Durarara!! was a great series in a way these other adaptations frankly are not. I suspect that part of the reason was because they were allowed to take their time telling their story instead of rushing it out.

    My hope is that these 4 first episodes were a fluke in the season. Apparently this volume was deliberately lighter in tone so maybe the staff wanted to rush it out to get into the meaty stuff sooner. But 3-4 episodes per novel standard fit too well if you consider there are 35 episodes remaining and 9 more novels to go (45/9 = 3.9, btw). This leaves me really worried.

  12. Thanks – that's an interesting thing to consider.

  13. G

    I was expecting more from Assassination Classroom. I did not read the manga but everyone spoke highly about it so I thought it was going to be very good. Instead its a D or C series at best.

  14. J

    I was surprised to see that you were still watching World Trigger, I was under the impression that you dropped it for some reason.

    Is it worth watching for action? How is the pace and characterization compared to the first 4 episodes?

    I was thinking of waiting for most or all of it to air to watch it because people who read the source material claim that the start is bad but it gets better. It seems like you drop shows you think are incoherent pretty fast so I'd assume World Trigger is at least watchable.

  15. Incoherent? Certainly not. It's pretty meh from a production standpoint, but there's something to the story and Yuuma's character that I find interesting. It's obviously getting the weak sister treatment compared to stuff like AssClass and Nanatsu, but I actually find it more involving. Not a great series by any stretch, but IMHO worth watching.

  16. F

    "If one is determined to look for bright sides, this generally dismal season at least provides a couple of them."

    I read this and chuckled, wondering if I may have been one of the immediate targets for this opening sentence. ^^

    In any event yes – I think Kamisama Hajimemashite s2 and Death Parade are very good indeed, and Akatsuki no Yona is continuing to be excellent.

    At the moment Yatterman and Rolling Girls are still "bubble series" for me, though for both it is looking rather … bleak. Like the season.

    And that's calling it bleak while enjoying roughly the same number of series – although there are a few trade offs with you watching some I am not (like Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!) and vice versa (like Koufuku Graffiti).

    Even with that … yeah … is it Spring yet? Spring does not look as interesting to me as last year, but it looks better than Winter at the moment as far as new series goes. 🙂

  17. G

    I am liking KouKou Graffitti and Dog Days. They are guilty pleasures for me as I don't usually likeseries like those.

  18. b

    Is Ronja really good? I got turned off by the 3D animation and the director, but I'm wondering if I should have given it more of a chance…

  19. The CGI doesn't get any better, but the story does. If you can live with that (eventually you kind of get immune to it) definitely worth sticking around.

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