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Let’s Pass Final Judgement on the New Season Based on Two Episodes!

January 17, 2010

Why wait for an entire season to pass, and why wait for a series to get to its last episode, before making blanket judgements about a series’ quality? Let’s do it after watching two episodes!

I rarely change my feelings about an anime after the first few episodes. If I dig something from the get-go, it usually takes a massive dose of mediocrity or suckitude for me to “downgrade” my feelings. On the other side of things, if I’m not digging a series at first the series has to take a major turn of events to get me interested again.

Bleach is a good example of a series that I enjoyed at first then eventually couldn’t stand. I liked the initial episodes where we saw Ichigo and the rest of the main characters find out they have freaky powers and learn there’s weird monster crap going on in the world. Then the series devolved into your usual shounen nonsense when Rukia got kidnapped and the gang had to go to the Soul Society to save her from being executed. The core cast of characters, who I like, got shafted in favor of lame Soul Society characters whose personalities boil down to “I have a different sword than you.” Whatever. A lot of fans say the series got bad after the Soul Society arc. Nope, it got worse with that arc.

On the flipside, Getbackers is a series that I couldn’t stand at first that somehow managed to turn into something cool. The first two episodes of the series sucked hard. The two main dudes were lame over-powered guys whose powers made no sense thematically (Strong grip and some freaky eye mind power? Yeah, right, that’s really cohesive.). Then a friend of mine forced me to watch the third episode. And the fourth episode. And it was awesome. The series introduced several new villains, all of whom were pretty awesome. These guys could hold their own against the Getbacker dudes. They posed a genuine threat to these two dorks who came off as overpowered fanboy-wanking Mary Sues. And they had cool gimmicks, especially Mr. No Breaks, who’s power consisted of “I never break when driving.” That’s style.

All that said, these two series are the exceptions. If I sat down and really thought about it, I’m sure I could think of other series that fall along these lines, but there won’t be too many. I’ve sat through the entirety of numerous shows that I hated from the get-go and hated in the end (Eureka Seven, Death Note, RahXephon, Dragonball Z/GT). All of my concerns with those series and other series I didn’t like came to pass. This is because most anime series do a good job of establishing mood, theme, and other aspects in the early goings, for better or worse. Whatever plot twists that occur are usually consistent with the “rules” established early on.

That’s why I have absolutely no hesitation when it comes to making conclusions about an anime series this early in the season. So let’s look at the latest batch of series.

Cobra the Animation

I haven’t said anything about Cobra yet, mainly because all I’d be doing a bunch of fanboyish blabbing. I love this kind of stuff. It’s a throwback to a different era of anime. Cobra himself plays like a sci-fi Lupin, trying to get the girl but failing to realize she cares more about her case/mission/whatever. The women (yes, women, not little girls) run around in what amounts to thongs and bondage gear. Everyone, even the heroes, don’t hesitate to shot to kill. Eveything is over-the-top and very pulp-ish. And there’s no angsting, no attempts at “deep” shit, no slice of lifing. There’s no signs of most modern anime trends. I don’t expect every series to be like this (then it’d become yet another annoying trend), but it’s awfully nice when we get one. It also has the best opening song since Bartender (although not quite as good as the original Cobra theme.

Totally Correct Conclusion: Awesome

Durarara!

Less Baccano! and more Boogiepop Phantom or Paranoia Agent at this point. Either way, this is a classy series after two episodes. Still don’t care for the opening song (not bad, just generic and not in keeping with the series’ feel) and still hate the ending song (fuck you, autotune), but that’s the extent of my complaints. The second episode went places I didn’t expect, and when my expectations are confounded I’m usually happy. I like to be surprised. I’m sure the series can keep up the pace, and I fully expect Durarara! to be my favorite series of the season, and likely the year.

Totally Correct Conclusion: Awesome

Sora no Woto

Already said a lot about this. To recap: It’s squandering a fascinating setting by focusing on inept little girls doing cute shit. At least throw us a bone and have something happen. There needs to be some conflict. It doesn’t have to be violent. It could be some dispute happening in town or something that results in things happening. Or we need some humor thrown into the mix. Anything. Something. Please? And, no, girls playing Scooby Doo isn’t “something.” Don’t see this series going anywhere, which is a shame. It’s Railgun all over again. Bleh.

Totally Correct Conclusion: Wasted opportunity

Baka to Test to Sokanju

Nothing new, nothing thrilling, but it has a certain charm to it that I’m digging. It’s energetic without being obnoxious. It isn’t hilarious, but it makes me laugh at times. It as a ridiculous premise that’s ridiculous in the right ways. It’s harmless fluff, but “harmless fluff” seems just as rare as “genuinely good” at times.

Totally Correct Conclusion: Decent

Hanamaru Kindergarten

I don’t know about this one. It seems innocent enough, but who’s the target audience? If it’s a kiddie anime, then yeah, this is cute fun. If it’s adult otaku, I’m not so sure. The show is harmless cute stuff. The whole “I’m in love with my teacher” thing plays more like innocent kid stuff than creepy pedophile crap. It obviously just a gag. But at the same time, if this is meant for otaku consumption, that puts the series into a completely different context. A fucking creepy context. But if we pretend those freaks don’t exist, Hanamaru isn’t bad.

Totally Correct Conclusion: Decent, especially considering where it could have gone

Ookami Kakusi

This series has no idea what it wants to be. Ultra-violent When They Cry wannabe or mysterious paranoia horror? The mix could work if they played it out differently, but so far it’s just a tonal mess. Not terrible, just not very good.

Totally Correct Conclusion: Kinda lame

Dance in the Vampire Bund

Vampire Bund is still up in the air. The first two episodes have been great, but I’ve yet to hear anything good about the original manga save for the premise. The anime is apparently deviating from the manga, which should be a good thing, but I’m worried it’ll devolve back into a straight-up manga translation with time. Digging it so far, but I’m concerned.

Totally Correct Conclusion: Awesome, but we’ll see

The two series I had high hope for, Durarara! and Cobra, are as good as I expected. Vampire Bund has avoided the pitfalls I was expecting it to fall into while Sora no Woto has fallen into more than I expected. Hanamaru and Baka aren’t super-amazing, but they’re genuinely surprising since neither one totally sucks. The only real disappointment is Ookami, since it has all the goods to be a good series but has no idea what to do with them.

All things considered, this is a decent crop. Not as bad as I was expecting. I was completely prepared to only watch two series this go-around, and now I have four series I’m looking forward to (Baka, Durarara!, Cobra, and Bund), one I won’t mind watching at this point (Hanamaru), and only two series that I’m through with (Sora and Ookami). Even then, if I get word that either one of them finally starts to amount to something, I’d likely give them another try. But like I said at the beginning of this post, that rarely happens.

Oh yeah, if a series ain’t on this list, I haven’t bothered with it for whatever reason. No way in hell I’m subjecting myself to Chu-Bra or Qwaser, and I’m not into stuff like Cantabile, so I haven’t watched any of those series. I can safely say that those first two series are horrible without watching them, but I won’t say anything about the others one way or the other.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2010 3:14 PM

    “I fully expect Durarara! to be my favorite series of the season, and likely the year.”

    Holy premature predictions batman! Last winter I had Ride Back down after 4 episodes as a certain top 3 finisher and that most certainly didn’t come to pass. Fucking terrible ending that show had…

    It is actually a pretty decent crop. It’s a small selection but it isn’t weighed down by being full of shows you’re not entirely sure why you’re still watching it

    • Landon permalink*
      January 17, 2010 3:47 PM

      The only times I’ve had endings come back to bite me on the ass have involved Steven Spielberg. War of the World’s ending, with the son who ran off into battle (and to his assumed death) is safe and sound without a single scratch on him, pissed me off to no end. I’d buy it if he, like, had a broken leg or a missing arm or a patch over an eye, but totally unharmed? Come on, Spielberg, don’t ruin half the movie with that crap. It was pretty cool seeing the son run off like that, most likely to die doing something he believed in. Don’t pull crap like that.

      Didn’t watch Ride Back, so I can’t say anything about it, but I can’t think of an anime that had an ending that made me question the rest of the series’ quality. I usually dig the endings that most people feel come out of nowhere or don’t meet their preconceived expectations.

      But yeah, surprisingly decent season. I’m happy, even if I rant about Sora no Woto. Heehee…

      • January 17, 2010 6:25 PM

        I take it you’ve never seen Mai Hime then…I have yet to see a worse ending. At least the Evangelion ending was original. Mai Hime dropped several marks thanks to its ending. A Dues Ex Machina at its absolute worst, tossed all the character development out the window as if it never bloody happened and they all lived happily ever after with all those dead characters brought back to life and bleargh~

        BTW, the more I read this blog, the more clear it becomes how awesome it is. Adding you to my blogroll

        • January 17, 2010 9:53 PM

          Unfortunately, he couldn’t get pass the 5th episode of Mai Hime. As you know, the first 3 eps sucked like a blackhole. Ep 4 (the panty ep) was cool, and fifth was kinda narm. I’ve been trying to get him to watch 6th onward though, since that’s where it starts getting decent to good to awesome sauce.

          I’m fine with the ending though. Simply because it was the only one of two ways it could have gone. Either totally dark or totally bright. The latter undermined everything, but the series as a whole was good.

          As for Rideback, Landon, I thought you did watch it? It’s the one with chicks on Mecha-Bikes yes?

  2. Hogart permalink
    January 17, 2010 3:21 PM

    Pff… Cobra and Bund, “awesome”? Durarara I can kinda see, but not even my inner fanboy cares about the new Cobra and Bund has been laughably stupid so far. Oh well, at least I’m getting more FMA, Bantorra, and Sunred. Then again, this is all coming from a guy who wishes there was more of an anime named “Birdy the Mighty Decode”, and who enjoyed Natsu no Arashi more than Bakemonogatari… my opinions are worth less than the pixels they’re dimming :D

    • Landon permalink*
      January 17, 2010 3:42 PM

      My digging Bund comes two sources: A) The first episode, which played out in a way I didn’t expect and B) The fact that it’s playing like Vampire: The Masquerade put into anime form. I don’t get why everyone’s dissing on the first episode, since I don’t give a damn about following the manga and I thought it did a good job of establishing stuff. The latter reason is obviously a sentiment most anime fans won’t have, since a small minority at most are table top RPGers and anime fans at the same time. Even then, laughably bad? Just not seeing it.

      I’m willing to admit that my love for Cobra may be of the “god damnit they finally did something that isn’t about schoolgirls!” variety, but I’m not going back on my feelings regardless. And I loved the talking human-headed manta rays. The instant one of them started talking I was in love.

      And, yes, more Bantorra and Sunred is good. Never cared for FMA, but I don’t hate it. I want alchemy that at least vaguely resembles “real” alchemy, not Edward playing patty-cake with himself and making stuff appear. But that’s just me.

      • Hogart permalink
        January 17, 2010 4:23 PM

        Personally, I’m just disappointed that Shinbo’s wasted two episodes telling us that: (1) this is a show about a loli vampire queen, and (2) this is a show about a loli vampire queen that gets naked, and her amnesiac werewolf boyfriend. I wasn’t expecting much, but the show just didn’t take me anywhere. I found myself laughing at how lame it was, hence “laughably bad”.

        As for Cobra, I’m completely in agreement with your “not more school fanservice” sentiment, but I guess Cobra (like Transformers) died for me a long time ago. I’ve got plenty of other well-rated shows on the backburner from 2008/2009, but if you’ve tapped that well dry, I’m glad you at least chose Cobra and aren’t one of the bleating flock who see Railgun and BakaTest as “awesome”, but merely for what they are: “meh”.

        FMA is just consistently “not bad”. It has a few stand-out eps that are quite good for their rather imaginative action scenes, and is otherwise consistently alright. I agree with your desire for “realism”, but at least they put some ass into the setting and the characters. I also managed to stick with it this time, unlike the first FMA which bored me for some reason.

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