Fall 2012 Simulcast Rankings – Tier 2

Fall 2012 Simulcast Ranking:

Tier 2:

(To read from the beginning of the rankings go to the Tier 1 rankings)

7. Robotics;Notes

Episodes watched: 3 – Streaming on Funimation.

Current Rating: 3.5 of 5

The followup to the extremely well done Steins;Gate, Robotics Notes takes place in the final time-line of that series. The basic premise, so far, is that the world has experienced a “robot boom” over the past eight years, (approximately the time frame after Steins;Gate that the story takes place based on the age of one of the characters that appears in both, I think…) and Chuuoutanegashima High School’s Robot Research Club is in danger of loosing its club status. Having only two members and needing funding to finish their giant robot, based on the robots in a famous anime and game series named Gunvarrel. The two make a deal with the vice principal of the school: if they win the upcoming hobby robot competition, Robo-One, they will get their funding. Otherwise, they will hang up their tools and the club will cease to be.

Our club members are Akiho Senomiya, a plucky girl with boundless energy and optimism, and Kaito Yashio, a slacker that doesn’t care about anything except for the robot fighting game, Kill-Ballad, which he plays constantly. At least that is what it seems like at first. It turns out that he does care about at least one other thing: Akiho. It seems that they have a shared past and her older sister, who founded the robotics club, made Kaito promise to look after Akiho. In addition, they both have some sort of strange illness related to the event in their past. In Akiho’s case, she experiences five minutes worth of time in the blink of an eye. It appears to be stress induced and quite debilitating at the time. It is unclear what the nature of Kaito’s issue is at this point, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

Only two of the other main characters have been introduced so far: Subaru Hidaka – a complete jerk who is also a robotics enthusiast, but doesn’t want anything to do with their club; and Frau Koujiro – the creator of the Kill-Ballad game. There is a mystery surrounding the never aired final episode of Gunvarrel and the issue of the clubs survival is neatly wrapped up in these first three episodes, which seem to serve as a prelude to the “real thing” as the show is just getting on its feet.

My take on this so far is that it could be the best show of the season, but it could also be a mess. The first two main characters introduced are good characters, though the mysterious illness thing is a bit of a disappointment, as that type of story line frequently strains the bounds of credulity too much for a show with pseudo-serious SF chops. However, if they can manage to explain these bizarre illnesses within the bounds of rationality, that will go a long way toward making the show work. It definitely doesn’t hit a home-run right out of the box like Steins;Gate did, but it is be unfair to compare it to the awesomeness that was the first few episodes of that series! It is good so far, but not as gripping as some of the shows in Tier 1. I have a hunch that the fun is just beginning though, so I expect this show to make the jump up by the next installment of this post series.

8. Sword Art Online

Episodes watched: 17 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: overall 4 of 5 – recent episodes – 3.5 of 5

This returning favorite from the Summer 2012 season is still going strong, but has taken a hit in my overall estimation over the past few episodes. The end of the previous arc, and the SAO game, which corresponds to the end of the first novel in the light novel series, was a powerhouse, full of emotion and heroic action. The start of the next arc brings us back to the real world, where Kirito, whose real name is Kazuto Kirigaya, is trying to adjust to life among the flesh and blood, regain his strength after 2 years in a hospital bed, and deal with the fact that not everyone has woken up from their ordeal. In particular, Asuna Yuuki, his virtual wife, is still in a coma. Also dealing with this turn of events is Kazuto’s “sister”, Suguha, who is actually his cousin, as Kazuto’s parents were killed in an accident when he was very young. She has a brother complex about as big as a continent and is conflicted about her feelings for her cousin and the fact that she knows that he is head over heals in love with Asuna.

Eventually, Kazuto goes back to being Kirito, as he full-dives into another game. This time, he is not trapped in the game, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone who is trapped. Asuna is in that game, kept in a cage at the top of the “world tree”.

The Elf themed game looks fantastic, with flying and magic to provide some change of pace from the hack and slay of SAO, and the “new” character of Leafa is a well done piece of writing, at least so far. The new bad-guy that has trapped Asuna, and about 300 other people, is a little too over the top evil, but it will be satisfying to see him get what’s coming to him. The biggest issues I have with the story have to do with the massive brother complex that Suguha has and the inherent icky factor involved. Sure, they are cousins and not actually brother and sister. Sure, cousins in love is a fairly common thing in Japanese culture, not to mention the history of European culture when it comes to cousins marrying, especially in the royal families. (Not that the royal families of Europe are a sterling recommendation for the practice!) But the fact remains that, prior to the SAO incident, Suguha thought that Kazuto was actually her brother. (He found out shortly before he began playing the game, evidently.) The fact that the two of them were raised as siblings makes the siblings in an emotional sense and that makes a romantic love relationship between them unhealthy to say the least.

The set-up for the current arc also seemed to drag a bit. After the action and excitement of the endgame of SAO, perhaps that was needed, but I am happy that the show has moved back into the virtual realm. The returning character from SAO that Kirito “finds” shortly after entering the new game is a welcome addition, as she is one of the better characters in the series. I look forward to seeing how she aids our hero on his quest. The twist at the end of the most recent episode does hold some promise. There is also a fairly severe time limit placed on Kirito’s mission to save Asuna, so that suggests that the story will move along better now that the magic, flying, and swordplay have begun.

9. Code: Breaker

Episodes watched: 2 – Streaming on Funimation.

Current Rating: 3 of 5

I read quite a few chapters of the Code: Breaker manga in preparation for the anime when I read about it last spring. Unfortunately, the anime is just as stilted and fragmented of a story in the early going as the manga was. While I was prepared for this, it didn’t make my estimation of the quality of the show any better. The main female character Sakura Sakurakouji, is entertaining enough, and knowing some details about what revelations about her are yet to come makes her devilishly more entertaining than when I read the manga. However, the remainder of the characters we have met so far are practically unlikeable, particularly the main male character, Rei Oogami. He has practically no redeeming characteristics.

I will continue watching this show, though I may fall behind, as I have already read the manga. I did notice that the anime is not strictly following the manga, introducing some of the characters much earlier than they were introduced in the original. This is probably a good thing, as they may make more sense when the story gets to them this way. We’ll see…

10. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World)

Episodes watched: 2 – Streaming on Crunchyroll.

Current Rating: 3 of 5

This series has great promise, but so far has not delivered on that promise, in my view at least. I enjoyed the first episode quite a bit, but I didn’t find it gripping. I was a bit disappointed in the second episode, as it did little to make the world more comprehensible or the characters more interesting. Some of the new information was interesting, but not enough to spur me to watch the next couple episodes yet. I will, eventually, but it is not high on my priority list. (Actually, I watched about half of the episode, but the player I was watching in failed, and I didn’t feel like re-watching that part, so I have to wait until I can watch it on the computer and can skip through the part I have seen, which is hard to do on the Kindle Fire version of the Crunchyroll app, which is where I was watching it.)

I have a hunch that the end of the current camping arc will raise the stakes of the show and improve the story, but I have to get there first. The first two and a half episodes didn’t help me do that very well.

11. K

Episodes watched: 4 – Streaming on Hulu (from Viz Anime).

Current Rating: 2.5 of 5

K… What can be said about K?

First things first: it is gorgeous! The art, animation, and most of the character designs are wonderfully done. The action sequences are exiting, the slice of life sections attractive, the background are stunning, and the female cast adorable. Second, the music: it is very good as well. The OP, with its selected English phrases, is reminiscent of a theme from a Bond movie. The ED, with its calm, soothing melody, ethereal background vocals, and pizzicato/harp instrumentals is a thing of beauty almost equal to Tabi no Tochuu from Spice and Wolf or Mitsu no Yoake from Spice and Wolf II, the gold standard, in my opinion, of this style of anime music.

What else is there to say? Not much that is pleasant, I’m afraid. As of the fourth episode, the story is lacking in coherence, originality, and likeability. The motivation of and relationship between the competing groups in the show is unclear at best. The majority of the characters are one dimensional, undeveloped, or intentionally enigmatic. Yashiro (aka Shiro) Isana, the “protagonist”, self proclaimed to be such in one of the episodes or episode previews, if I recall correctly, is either a clueless wonder, a multiple-personality case, or merely a psychopath. It is hard to tell which. Many of the other characters seem to be psychopaths, or at least psychics/magic users with no concern for the little people. The most recent couple of episodes have begun to try to make some sense of the plot, but it has  a long way to go before it could be called coherent. Far too many of the characters and plot lines are generic or inconsistent.

So why am I up to date on this show, when I am behind on the two shows prior to it in the rankings? One word: Neko! The character of Neko is a delight! (And not just because she spends a good deal of the first three episodes, as well as large portions of the OP and ED animation, naked.) The character of Neko is what I am talking about. Who is she? She is, simply put, a cat. She happens to be a cat that occasionally transforms into a very attractive young woman, but even after the transformation she is still, in essence, a cat. She is funny, endearing, and totally adorable. She obviously has some sort of magical/psychic powers, and they are fairly impressive powers at that, but for the most part, her concerns are the concerns of a cat. She is a loyal cat, who wants her master to be happy and safe, but she is far more concerned with when her next snack is due and who is giving it to her than with the problems Shiro faces or the reasons people are trying to kill him. One of the best moments in the show is when one of the other characters, whose efforts to kill Shiro have been thwarted by her powers, asks her what exactly she is. Her reply is “I’m Shiro’s cat! And Shiro is mine!” complete with very cat-esque jumping and cavorting, and a few more exclamations reaffirming this relationship. The fact that Shiro doesn’t seem to have any more clue about Neko’s origins than he has about the reason why so many people are trying to kill him adds to the enjoyment of the character.

I will have to admit that the revelations near the end of episode four do give me some hope that the story will improve. Whether it improves or not depends entirely on how they develop that revelation and whether they bother to do anything other than action sequences with the multitude of other characters that have been littering the screen for these past four episodes without a single bit of effort to make them anything other than plot contrivances and flashy, pretty things that move in attractive ways in front of our eyes to the accompaniment of an appealing soundtrack. However, regardless of the success or failure of the writers in terms of plot coherence, world building, or character development, I will be back for my weekly dose of Neko.

I have always been a cat person… 😉

Other simulcasts that I haven’t watched yet, but plan to:

Busou Shinki
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
Girls und Panzer
Ixion Saga DT
Magi
Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne
Litchi DE Hikari Club

Simulcasts that I don’t intend to try:

Teekyuu
Btooom!
Aoi Sekai no Chuushin de
Gintama’ Enchousen
Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb
Jormungand: Perfect Order
Medaka Box Abnormal
To LOVE-Ru Darkness
Hiiro no Kakera 2nd Season

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