The ending wasn’t bad exactly. Barakamon (Funimation) is still my favorite show of the season. But it left me vaguely dissatisfied, with a feeling that this could have been even better.
Guardian Enzo is a big fan of the manga and has been complaining all season that the anime focused on the humor but left out all the best character-development stories. To which my immediate response was “So what? The anime stands on its own. It’s hilarious!”
But the last two episodes toned down the comedy and focused on the character development, which gave just a taste of what I had been missing.
They probably did the best they could given that they only had 12 episodes to work with. I suspect that they could have done better with 24, maybe even making this a classic. It’s not impossible for a seinen anime to get 2 cours. Last year’s Golden Time got that and Mushishi will have completed 4 by the end of the year.
Still and all it’s not a bad show. The ending is sort of heartwarming, but not too heartwarming. As I see it, Handa has made it only about half way from being an annoying insecure artist to being a fully-realized human being. That would leave room for a sequel if they get the money for one.
Tokyo ESP (Hulu) turned out to be a surprisingly good action-adventure series with characters I cared about, even if they were over-the-top.
The only problem is that with only 12 episodes there was no way to tell the full story of the manga. So they limited themselves to a single story arc. The good guys get a minor victory but the main problem isn’t solved and there are a lot of loose ends dangling.
So maybe there will be a sequel to tell more of the story. The odds are that there won’t be enough sequels to tell the whole story, but you never know. If there is a sequel I’ll watch it.
Blue Spring Ride (Crunchyroll) is the best shoujo anime that I have seen in several years. It’s an unapologetic shoujo romance, but it tells a thoughtful story with intelligent characters. (If the characters do dumb things it is because they are young and inexperienced, not because they are stupid.)
Though it is based on an ongoing manga the anime selects a single story arc that stands by itself quite well. That’s about the best we could expect. The manga looks like something that could run for many years including too much material for any but the longest-running anime series.
Though I like this series there is something about it that makes me uneasy. I can’t discuss it without spoilers, so the rest is below the fold.
Nozaki-kun (Crunchyroll) ended about as well as any off-the-wall comedy could end. It stayed funny through all 12 episoded and avoided the temptation to betray its premise with a sappy ending.
Of course this show is mostly about skewering the tropes of shoujo manga, so I don’t know if it would appeal to someone who is totally unfamiliar with the genre. But if you do know something about shoujo manga (whether you love it or hate it) then you probably will find it pretty funny. It’s all in good humor and even the most devoted fans of shoujo will probably be more amused than offended.
Cardcaptor Sakura is now available for streaming on Crunchyroll here. This is big news for American anime fans who have gone for years without a legal way to watch it. (DVDs and Blu-rays are also available.) I reviewed the series based on the old Geneon DVDs here.
If you haven’t seen this show you probably should. This is a true classic, probably the best straight magical girl series ever. (By “straight” I mean that it is not a parody or a deconstruction like Madoka Magica.)
Some of the old classics really show their age, but this one holds up very well. In fact it still looks great!
From my point of view Tokyo ESP (Hulu) has two strikes against it: It’s bloodier than I usually like and it looks very derivative of Marvel’s X-Men franchise. But I find that I’m still watching it anyway because I like the main characters.
The first episode almost made me drop it though. It starts out right in the middle of the story with the bad guys doing all sorts of horrible things while the main characters (the ones I actually like) barely had walk-on roles. Things improved quite a bit with the second episode.
The premise is that there are mysterious glowing fish flying around Tokyo. If one of them swims into your body you get a psychic power which you can use for good or evil. Whether you’re good or bad, the non-powered majority are going to be suspicious of you and generally give you a hard time.
While Nozaki-kun is a hilarious take-off on standard shoujo tropes, Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride) (Crunchyroll) is pure, unadulterated unapologetic shoujo. So be warned, if that isn’t your thing then you need read no farther.
This reminds me more than a little of KImi ni Todoke (Crunchyroll) from 2009-2010. For one thing the drawing style looks similar, probably because both are from the same studio, Production IG. The characters are actually quite different but the basic structure is similar. Once again we have a high school girl who has trouble fitting in, a potential boyfriend who initially seems out of reach, and a subtext that reminds us that while the boyfriend may get more screen time, reliable female friends are even more important.
There’s not too much that I can say about Sword Art Online II (Crunchyroll). If you liked the first season you are probably already watching the second. If you are unfamiliar with the first season you can read my comments here.
The new season has Kirito in a new game world tracking down a new supervillain with a new companion (a girl who plays a cold-blooded sniper in the game, but is attempting to use the game to deal with her real-world panic attacks.)
I actually like the new season a bit better than the first. SAO was Reki Kawahara’s first published work and I think his storytelling skills improved as the series progressed.
I’ve already posted about Barakamon and Nozaki-kun, and I remain convinced that those two are the big winners of the Summer anime season. However there are some other shows which aren’t quite in the same league but are still workmanlike and entertaining. I think some of these deserve at least a brief mention.
Locodol (Crunchyroll) is the most lightweight of the lot, a simple show about cute girls being cute. That kind of thing usually gets boring quickly but this one has managed to hold my interest.
The full title is Futsuu no Joshikousei ga ‘Locodol’ Yattemita (“Ordinary High School Girls Tried Being ‘Locodols'”.) I commend Crunchyroll’s decision to shorten it.
The heroine, Nanako, is a shy and awkward high school girl. Her uncle is a local bureaucrat charged with promoting business in the minor city of Nagarekawa. His problem is that Nagarekawa has little to recommend it. It is a typical town distinguished only by its unsurpassed mediocrity.
So he decides to put together a group of “locodols” (“local idols.”) These are basically cute girls who make public appearances to promote local businesses. He makes Nanako join the group because she is available and will work cheap.
Guardians of the Galaxy (IMDB) is an action comedy based on a Marvel comic book. It might have been better with a bit less action and a bit more comedy.
The hero, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was abducted from Earth as a small boy by a flying saucer in 1989. He has grown up to be a roguish interstellar thief. He carries around some mementos of his childhood; the most precious is a mix tape of 1970s pop music hits that his mother gave him. (Much of the humor is based on pop culture references from the 1970s and 80s.)
At the beginning of the movie Quill steals a mysterious orb which apparently has some sort of mysterious evil power. Naturally everyone wants it.
He gets thrown into prison and teams up with four other misfits: a beautiful green-skinned cyborg assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldanaa), a muscle-bound warrior with a huge vocabulary named Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a walking humanoid tree named Groot (Vin Diesel), and a bad-tempered talking raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper). (“Rocky Raccoon,” get it? Don’t say that to his face or he’ll kill you.)