Thoughts on Winter 2013/2014, part 1 (Buddy Complex, Gin no Saji S2, Hamatora, Hoozuki)

Is this blog going to consist only of initial and final impressions? (At this rate, it looks like yes.)

Anyway, this season was fairly mediocre, though there were a few standout gems that made it a lot better than last season (and only two absolutely terrible new series, actually).

No trigger warnings for this post, though there will be one in another post (for Kill la Kill).

Buddy Complex

In a nutshell: Generic shounen protagonist is saved by love interest and travels back in time to pilot giant mechas, along with a healthy dose of queerbaiting, as per Sunrise standards.

This… wasn’t terrible, actually. I had fully braced myself for the awfulness that was the Sunrise mecha genre, but Buddy Complex, probably because of its length, didn’t really had any super problematic elements that I can think of. Well, other than the usual love interest who’s overly concerned with the main character and who practically sacrifices herself for him, of course. And the massive amounts of queerbaiting that will not go anywhere because Sunrise. But compared to Valvrave, Buddy Complex looks positively progressive. (Oh, Valvrave, you have set the standards low.)

The biggest problem with BuddyCom has to be how completely generic it is. It’s basically every other Sunrise mecha series mashed together, with the same exact stock characters who never gain any development, and the typical black-haired, super nice, every-man protagonist.

Andddd, while it isn’t as bad as Valvrave, BuddyCom’s worldbuilding, in typical Sunrise fashion, makes absolutely no sense. It was relatively OK for the initial episodes, mainly because they focused primarily on Aoba adapting to his new environment instead of on the time travel aspects, but the Big Reveal in the final episodes absolutely killed it. And with the promise of a second season, I can only anticipate the worldbuilding getting worse, like always. There’s really just no saving Sunrise.

(Like, I can understand if they decided to go the “parallel worlds” deal instead of the “time loop” deal, but then they did both? Even theoretically, I cannot imagine this working out. At all. Who made this decision. Why was it necessary other than dramu. Why.)

I was pleasantly surprised at the actual ending itself, though, even though it created an enormous logic error. I think this is the first time Sunrise has actually not killed off any girls in their mecha series. That shouldn’t be praiseworthy in the least, but with Sunrise’s track record, I almost want to give them a cookie.

(And, I’m sure that once season 2 rolls around, I’ll want to eviscerate them with a butter knife, but for now I’ll just try and enjoy the lack of dead female characters.)

Bottom line: Painfully generic but not that problematic. Not recommended unless you really, really love mechas.

Gin no Saji S2

In a nutshell: Boy continues to study at an agricultural school, and shenanigans ensue.

There’s really not much else I can say about Gin no Saji other than that I enjoyed it. It’s been a while since I’ve read the manga chapters this season adapted, but the anime definitely felt well-scripted to me.

BUT, to be honest, I found myself enjoying this season a lot less than the first season, and I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t really have anything specific that I wish they did better with, and I don’t really have a huge problem with any characterization or plot developments. I just… enjoyed it slightly less. I don’t know. I’ll think of this.

On a semi-related note, though, and about the story in general, I’m actually getting really tired of the whole “will they-won’t they” deal with Hachiken and Mikage. Like Hachiken isn’t persistent or entitled about Mikage’s attention or anything, and Mikage seems to genuinely like him back, but the whole “leaving the relationship up in the air” deal is just not working for me. I had this problem a bit with FMA too, though I think it wasn’t as noticeable because both Ed and Winry had a whole bunch going on with their lives that wasn’t about each other. But, here, as a slice-of-life manga in which Mikage and Hachiken see each other EVERY DAY, it’s just SO tiring to see their relationship taking one step forward and two steps back every time.

And I guess at this point in the manga it’s kind of understandable because Hachiken doesn’t want to get in the way of Mikage’s studies, but there have been other manga that have done love confessions at the critical moment and pulled it off. (I’m thinking of Baby Steps here, but I’m sure there’s plenty more.)

It’s just a shame because they both have so much chemistry together, and it’s not like everyone doesn’t already realize that they’re going to be the endgame canon pairing. At this point, it really feels like their not getting together is simply an excuse for ramped up tension.

Bottom line: Good series. If you liked the first one, definitely watch this one too.

Hamatora

In a nutshell: People with powers exist, and they are sort of discriminated against.

Anddd, here it is. One of the really, tremendously awful series that aired this season. God, I really hope it’s not getting an anime sequel, because Seiji Kishi cannot direct for his life. (I’ve checked out the manga too, and for something with such a generic premise, the manga really pulls it off and makes it compelling with actual characters. So, yeah, it’s just Seiji Kishi being terrible at everything.)

First off, the pacing is horrendous, though it gets slightly better after the first episode, and then worse again after, say, episode nine. Kishi seems to be trying something with jumping scenes really fast to seem “hip” or “cool” or whatever he thinks kids are into these days, and it doesn’t work. Sometimes I wonder if these directors ever realize the reasons why people don’t do the things they are doing. It isn’t because they’re unimaginative; it’s because these ideas are fucking ridiculous.

Second off, the colors are awful. And there’s this weird grunge filter over everything, including the character’s faces. Probably to make this series seem edgey and dark or someshit but only managing to make it look like the director has no artistic sense. Which he doesn’t. And, did I mention the colors? Because this series needs to come with a goddamn epilepsy warning. I got headaches watching opening and the minimum activation scenes, and my only vision problem is my nearsightedness. Seriously, this shit needs to stop. Want to be trendy? Try picking up hints from the aesthetics of Space Dandy or something. Those have trippy colors but they work. This? This just looks like toxic rainbow vomit.

Third off, Jesus Christ, what is with these mood swings? The tonal shifts are even worse than an MRA on a dating site. I can’t even. One minute everything is hunky-dory and then the next, oh look, ANGST, and then back to comedy and fighting with cucumbers, but no look HORROR SOMEONE DIED IN A HORRIFIC WAY, and then back to comedy again. A+ scripting, Seiji Kishi. This really adds to the aesthetics of this anime, making it the perfect representation of absolute shit.

Oh, and newsflash, Kishi, your comedy isn’t funny. Seriously, what was with that beach episode? That was absolutely terrible. I can’t believe you’re honestly being paid for this. And the way he completely circumvents the, you know, very real grief and mourning process for bad comedy? There’s a REASON why writers don’t add a ~haha see how funny this is~ scene at the climatic showdown between the main character and the villain who KILLED TWO OF HIS FRIENDS. It doesn’t making Nice seem cool; it just makes him seem like a HEARTLESS DICK who cares only about himself.

Fourth off, I’m not even going to talk about the names. Theo is basically the only halfway-grounded character in this series–and one of the few with an ordinary name–so he is automatically my favorite. Everyone else can go home.

Bottom line: So terrible it is indescribable, with flat and static characters, bad storytelling, and awful visuals. Avoid like the plague.

Hoozuki no Reitetsu

In a nutshell: Goldfish plants. An office-worker comedy that takes place in Hell. With goldfish plants.

GOLDFISH PLANTS.

GOLDFISHH PLANTSS.

GOLDFISHHH PLANTSSS.

OK, now that I’ve (sort of) gotten that out of my system, let’s talk Hoozuki.

I enjoyed this.

Hoozuki is definitely the kind of comedy that basically requires that (1) you be intimately familiar with Japanese culture and (2) you enjoy deadpan/dry humor.

For someone who isn’t native to Japan, Hoozuki is definitely an anime you have to be willing to buy into. If you’re skeptical about it, chances are, you probably won’t like it. Hoozuki isn’t trying to win you over, not really. It’s an incredibly popular and well-established series in Japan already; it knows its intended audience will like its humor as long as they watch it. So, entering this one with an open-mind and a willingness to be amused definitely helps with my appreciation of it.

It also helps that the animation is gorgeous, and it’s clear that Hoozuki had an enormous budget. The backgrounds made for a particularly nice aesthetic in the context of the show, and I didn’t see one single instance in which a character was off-model.

It’s also just incredibly nice to find a comedy anime that, well, isn’t crass. It doesn’t make boob or ass jokes; it doesn’t resort to misogyny or “no homo” moments; and even though there are instances where it uses violence as a comedic vehicle, for the most part, it stays on the innocuous side. It’s just nice to see a slice-of-life comedy animated that is genuinely funny while also not being incredibly offensive. This should be common stuff, but it isn’t, so I guess we gotta appreciate what we’ve got now.

Bottom line: An inoffensive and not-crass comedy that is definitely worth checking out, though understanding many of the jokes require a lot of prior Japanese knowledge.

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