Fall 2015 Check-in

Subete ga F ni Naru - 01 -18[2] Subete ga F ni Naru - 01 -20[2] Subete ga F - 02 -5[2]
Noragami Aragoto - 04 -31[2] Haikyuu 2 - 01 -35[2] One Punch Man - 01 -7[2]

Fall 2015 is notably light on surprises, for better and for worse.

I had a pretty good idea of what shows figured to be good coming into the season – and judging by the poll, so did you.  I haven’t been taken aback by much of anything so far this season either positively or negatively.  The good sequels have been good, the interesting non-sequels have been interesting, the enigmas have been vexing, and none of the vast pool of “other” has made a big impression.

This is the new normal in anime – if you get one or two shows in a season that are exceptional you count your blessings, likewise if there are a good handful that are at least entertaining.  The volume of Spring and Fall gives you a better chance for a decent haul of watchable series, Summer usually has a standout or two that raises the overall bar, and Winter is a crapshoot that often comes up snake eyes.

As I survey the current landscape, I’d be lying if I said it was especially encouraging.  The best shows airing right now are probably carryovers and a couple of sequels.  Of the new series One Punch Man was the one that carried a huge weight of expectations going in, and it hasn’t disappointed – it’s been very good, but perhaps not the flight of genius I’d held out some hope it’d be.  I like both series I’d pegged as sleepers, Osomatsu-san and Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note, but neither are exceptional.  The most pleasant development (“surprise” would be too strong a word) has been the excellent Subete ga F ni Naru, which marks a refreshing return to iconoclastic form for NoitaminA.  But the bottom line is, there were no shows in the “Elite” category, and it wouldn’t have been a stretch not to have any in “Outstanding” either.  And that’s a historic low ebb since I’ve been blogging.

Genre-wise, the compelling story for me is a resurgence of science-fiction – not necessarily really good science-fiction for the most part, but at least it’s there – and anime just feels more like anime with lots of sci-fi on the docket.  There’s also more mystery than we’ve seen for some time, most of it at least decent – though Subete is the clear standout in that field.  What’s missing?  Well, it strikes me that for the first time I can remember, I’m not following a single series with a romantic relationship that’s important to the story.  And as a fan of both the romance and romcom genres and romance as an element in others, that makes me kind of sad.

On, then, to Fall 2015:

The Elite

None

Outstanding

Subete ga F ni Naru
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A-
Comments: I get why this series isn’t everybody’s cup of joe, but for me it’s the most interesting of the season – the only one that’s truly compelling.  Finally a NoitaminA show that feels as if it could only air on NoitaminA – thoughtful, meandering, perverse.  Subete ga F ni Naru is by no means perfect but it has a genuinely and fascinatingly odd sensibility about it – not to mention a stellar cast, great BGM and extremely stylish direction.

Very Good

Noragami Aragoto
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B+
Comments: As expected, the two top sequels of the season are among its best series, and there isn’t a whole lot to choose between them.  Both Noragami and Haikyuu!! are shows I like a lot but don’t quite reach the level of brilliance for me, but I will say that Aragoto at this stage is certainly better than the first season.  The Bishamon arc was reputed to be an excellent story and indeed it’s turned out to be – I’m glad Bones padded out the first season with original material (which was quite decent) in order to save it for the sequel.

Haikyuu!! Second Season
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B+
Comments: With a complete lack of modestly I’ll admit I like my own take on Haikyuu better than any I’ve seen elsewhere – it’s like a cute, floppy-eared beagle driving a sports car.  I’d rank this season right on par with the first, which is perfectly fine given how enjoyable that season was.  The addition of Shenata (Yachi) and her role in coaxing Kiyoko into a more prominent role has been an interesting twist, but on balance I think consistency is the hallmark of Haikyuu – both in terms of tone and in terms of the stellar production quality.

One Punch Man
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: Only in context of the extremely high expectations surrounding it would I consider One Punch Man anything less than a clear success.  It’s a very good series – beautifully produced, very funny and consistently entertaining.  Given how weak the season looked on paper (and indeed has turned out to be) it’s not surprising, though, that OPM was carrying an unfairly large burden of hope on its shoulders.  I see the intelligence and subversiveness in this series that made me think it could be great, but it’s definitely a background note so far, with the broad comedy carrying the melody.  I worry that comedy is going to start to get stale as an awful lot of it repeats itself week after week, and if the show is to get to the next level and fulfill those lofty expectations, that balance is going to need to shift – and there were some hints of that in the “Hammerhead” story in Episode 4.  I remain hopeful, and in any event I’m enjoying the ride.

 

Gundam Orphns - 04 -22[2] Osomatsu-san - 04 -3 Concrete Revolutio - 04 -29[2]
Sakurako - 02 -4[2] Tantei Team - 02 -12[5] Onsen -4[2]


Worthwhile

Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: I have mixed feelings about the Nagai/Okada take on Gundam so far, but I will say that the most recent episode was probably the best.  I see some potential here in the larger story, which – while hardly original – has a lot of pathos.  But the individual characters don’t really pop yet, and it feels to me as if Okada is being too respectful of the mythology.  Love it or hate it (or sometimes both) Okada’s bailiwick really isn’t being respectful of the mythology.

Osomatsu-san 
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: I can’t speak to Osomatsu-kun, but this modern take on the old classic in definitely a black comedy.  The humor is hit-and-miss, but when it clicks this is among the funniest shows of the season – and so far that’s often enough.  Stuff like the interview sketch are “comedy” that gets more like tragedy the more you consider it, but perhaps even more of the humor here is just flat-out bizarre – a mix of scatology, satire of modern pop culture and references to the original series.


Concrete Revolutio

Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: Concrete Revolutio is something of a mess, but at least to some extent I think that’s intentional.  The timeskip narrative style is needlessly confusing in the name of seeming clever, but there’s something compelling in this mishmash of sc-fi/fantasy genres that keeps me coming back.  Aikawa and Mizushima seem intent on telling a story about what happens in the margins outside moral absolutes, and there’s a lot of potential on that path.


Sakurako-san no Ashinmoto ni wa Shittai ga Umatteiru
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: “Quite good for a light-novel adaptation” is certainly damning with faint praise, but I think it applies to Sakurako-san.  This series is too in love with its own dialogue (and with long titles) in the way LNs usually are, but overall it’s a modestly interesting mystery of the week.  And there’s something kind of interesting in the “is there or isn’t there?” relationship between the two leads – which alternates between big sister-little brother, old married couple and something with a lot more chemistry and danger to it.

Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: This is a simple and pretty straightforward show aimed mostly at a young audience, but Tantei Team KZ has a lot of charm to it.  The mysteries aren’t half-bad in an “Encyclopedia Brown” sort of way, and the relationship between Aya and the boys of Team KZ is genuinely sweet.  The series has a nice take on the difficulty of making and keeping friends, too.

Still Watching

Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan has a decent amount of appeal for a short.  It’s cute in a good way, a bit impish in its humor, and rather pretty to look at.  There’s certainly nothing substantial going on here but as throwaways go, this one is pretty good.

Comet Lucifer
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C
Comments: There is a certain innocent charm to this poor-man’s Eureka Seven, and dancing produce was certainly one of the oddest scenes this season.  But on balance Comet Lucifer is pretty standard stuff, and the moe pandering can get pretty insufferable.  I suspect I’m going to reach my limit fairly soon.

Shingeki Kyoujin Chuugakkou
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C
Comments: To be honest I think the best part of this series is the clever remix of the iconic “Guren no Yumiya” OP (seeing it on the even more iconic New Year’s Eve Kouhaku Uta Gassen – with old farts in tuxedos and party dresses waving glowsticks to it – is one of the most surreal things I ever saw in Japan).  There are funny moments here but on the whole Chuugakkou isn’t as funny as it should be – perhaps because Shingeki no Kyoujin is too ridiculous to begin with to be properly parodied.

Dropped:
Young Black Jack, Heavy Object

Looking back on it, that may be the shortest check-in I’ve ever done, which is as good an assessment of the season as any I could make.  Here’s where things stand:

Monday:
Definitely Blogging: Ace of Diamond Season 2
Probably Blogging: Osomatsu-san

Tuesday:
Definitely Blogging: None

Wednesday:
On the Respirator: Sakurako-san no Ashinmoto ni wa Shittai ga Umatteiru, Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note

Thursday:
Definitelyly Blogging: Subete ga F ni Naru

Friday:
Definitely Blogging: Ushio to Tora, Noragami Aragoto

Saturday:
Definitely Blogging: Haikyuu!! Second Season

Sunday:
Definitely Blogging: One Punch Man, Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans
Probably Blogging: Concrete Revolutio

Manga: Otoyomegatari, Mix, Chihayafuru

Watching For Now: Comet Lucifer, Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan, Shingeki Kyoujin Chuugakkou

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16 comments

  1. s

    what i coinkidink, i feel the same way about this fall season of anime. As i mentioned two weeks back, nothing truly grabs me this season….everything just feels ok. Winter 2016 is sort of looking a bit similar as well and it makes me wonder if we are reaching a point where heavy-hitting anime will be a thing of memorabilia.

  2. f

    it won't, it will just become something rare

  3. s

    perhaps; although i will admit that we are kind of seeing a slight revival in popularity of anime in the west

  4. E

    Winter has the benefit of carry-overs though

  5. G

    I think we really have to thank sequels and carry overs this season.

    I'm just curious, why did you not even try watching the new Utawarerumono season?

  6. People keep nagging me about that! I didn't care for the first series much. But as soon as I can find a little time, I do plan to give the new one a look.

  7. G

    Its very good. I liked the 1st series but this one is even better. Kinda like how the newer HunterXHunter was better then the original.

  8. A

    Yeah, I'm watching less this season than any season for years, and there are still a couple of shows in the drop zone (Sakurako and One Punch Man, I'm looking at you, but maybe not for much longer).

    "Subete ga F ni naru" is definitely the standout show of the season, good old fashioned Noitamina doing what Noitamina should be doing more often.
    "Osumatsu-san" strikes me as a good black comedy of the kind that's rare.

    "Concrete Revolutio" – I have no idea where they're going with that, but I like its style.

    Counting out sequels or continuations, there's just a handful of shows I like that are all new.

  9. G

    Noragami Aragoto has been fantastic this season. The current arc is very exciting.

  10. l

    For me, the sequels/continuations starting this seasons are better than the new shows. The highlight of these shows has been Soukyuu no Fafner Exodus, 2nd Season as the standout for me. Mostly ignored by the anime fandom due to it being a sequel that came about 9 years after the main show. Safe to say that it is the best mecha show of the past 12 months.

    Haikyuu!! 2nd Season is go to for putting me in a good mood and a smile on my face. As a manga follower of this title, it's my opinion that the anime adaptation is exemplary. They made some small changes in story sequences that are seamless in the anime narrative. Production is just top notch. The animators throw in little touches that make the show feel alive, e.g. in the most recent episode, watch Kageyama napping and the movements in the van that Saeko drove Hinata and Kageyama to Tokyo.

    With respect to Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen (the sequel to Utawareumono, I have a gut feel that it may just be be better than the original series as I find that it is just slightly better in most aspects compared to the original. There's no need to have watched the original to watch this but it would give you a better edge.

    Like most. the new show this season that stood out for me is Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider. The one that exceeded my expectations and hit all the right buttons is Osomatsu-san. What a wicked comedy show it is. I should have known this would be right up my alley as it features Gintama alumnus directing and writing this show. The parodies, the boundary-pushing, the dark twisted comedy of life… more I say, MOAR!!!

    In contrast, 2 of the new shows were below my expectations. The most disappointment in terms of expectations not met is One Punch Man. Too much hype and what I have seen so far is only above average. Good production with lots of sakuga but it didn't elicit the laughs that I got from Osomatsu-san.

    The other disappointment is Young Black Jack. It is only average so far in my assessment. I expected above average as you are using an iconic Tezuka character that is my favourite of Tezuka's. Will continue to watch.

    Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans turned out meeting my expectations. I don't consider myself a Gundam fan as I'm not that rabid in my appreciation. I just find myself inexplicably drawn to watching shows of the Gundam franchise…

    There are a few more shows that I'm watching but the above are the ones of note. They are just.. what.. Watchable? Ordinary? Watching for the sake of filling the gaps?

  11. R

    I'm quite surprised to find another Fafner viewer here. Though I am not that fond of the series abruptly between its two stories every other episode, Exodus has performed well for me, even better than the original, especially episode 4 of the current season, which I would say the best character death for the entire franchise.

    As for One Punch Man, maybe it's because I haven't been caught in the hype, but it still works for me. Though I am not laughing as much as I expected to, but it still works.

    And I'm with you about Iron Blooded Orphans. I'm really drawn to its narrative despite my initial concerns.

  12. G

    I also enjoy fafner. Its good but pretty bleak.

  13. D

    Hello Enzo. Let me start by saying that I really like your weekly reviews, even if I often disagree with your opinions. You and I have drastically different tastes in anime but that's what makes following your blog interesting.

    My Fall 2015 chart would be basically the same as yours (I wouldn't put Subete ga F this high though, I find this show quite shallow) but I find a hard time getting what is your real complaint about Gundam IBO. The show is rather fine so far, and it's relieving to see a by-the-books Gundam after years of lackluster mechas series which tried too hard to be "hype" or "original".

    You're probably waiting for the moment when Okada will go full on angst and melodrama, but if you've sat through M3 Sono Kuroki Hagane as I did you would know that it's not something to root for. Restrained Okada is best Okada.

    Anyway, thanks for the good work. Greetings from France.

  14. R

    I think what Enzo is referring to is that balance of emotional restraint and all out drama that characterized Okada's best works (HanaIro, NagiAsu, etc.). If she can pull that off here, then this will certainly avoid what happened in M3 (yeah, I've watched it to completion too. It was horrendous).

  15. E

    Feels to me like Summer and Fall have swapped places actually, since I started following anime seasonally Summer has always been the better season. Subete ga F is the standout for me this season too, but I'm getting worried since strange stuff happening usually doesn't bode well for the mystery genre…

  16. Z

    Subete ga F ni Naru best show of the current season for me so far.

    Noragami is probably BONES genuinely best show for a while.

    Not really disappointed in One Punch Man as I wasn't expecting that much in the first place. Saw it for what it was and buy into the hype.

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