Winter 2015 anime season arrived on a low note. Expectations weren’t that great in the beginning; a few series exceeded my expectations in the end while others were the downright disappointing. No so-so, half-baked, instant-noodle-tier production here, luckily. In total, I followed four airing anime and caught up on two series. Most of them were enjoyable, one of them had hiccups and the other one gave me that “the hell did I just watch?” moment.
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April)
Taking the bacon home this season is the classic drama slice-of-life tearjerker Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso from A-1 Pictures. The studio has flawless track record and excellent production quality and they are also responsible for one of the four most (arguably) tear-inducing anime of our time: Anohana
The soundtrack and art are sparkling in this anime. KimiUso features hand-picked classical piano arrangements that compliment well with the dramatic scenes. The original tracks are, in general, cheerful with hints of reminiscence and sadness. The tracks, especially the opening and ending, gave me goose bumps. I had seen enough of Narcissu and Anohana to guess what the producers were pulling behind the life-is-joy-till-stuffs-hit-the-fan-and-the-kitten-dies songs.
The story centered around Arima Kousei—our protagonist, a by-the-score piano prodigy who fell from grace after the death of his mother—and Miyazono Kaori—an aspiring freestyle violinist who confessed her love to Arima’s best friend. Virtually all characters in the series are related to Arima one way or another and they all played their part in his growth as a character.
It’s exactly the kind of writing I would like to see: nothing is without purpose. Every action taken is for good reasons and whenever the reasons are explained, cue for a bittersweet, heartwarming conclusion.
Watching KimiUso feels the same as riding an emotional roller coaster. The ride is full of twists and turns. One could barely catch a break before the next wave of drama makes landfall. I don’t recall seeing an episode without any waterworks going on, that’s probably my only complaint on this anime. Although I wouldn’t say the tears had lost their meaning or the impact had been diminished, they just seemed ridiculous and overused in hindsight.
Overall, the story is romantic, heartwarming and full of life. Yet, it’s also bitter, agonizing and full of regrets. Accompanied by top-notch animation and fantastic music, it’s no coincidence that the series is so well-received. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso to anyone though I doubt I would personally jump on the feel train again.
My heart is not ready for another ride.
Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch)
I’ll have a special mention this time. Junketsu no Maria is the hidden gem this season. It’s underrated and it deserves better. The series is produced by Production I.G. Personally, I’m not a fan of Production I.G. or their art style but they know at least how not to mess up badly.
The art quality is decent, not so great but definitely better than the average. Music is good, again even though it should be above average, it lacks the “bang, right on the spot” element. Except for the insert song in episode 11, which was awesome, I’m not impressed by the rest of the soundtrack. Put that in with static camera, zero effort to blend background and foreground, you get the reason why I pretty much skipped all the OP and ED and facepalmed countless of times watching this anime.
On the other hand, the cast is likeable, historical details are accurately portrayed. Well, except that Ezekiel was supposed to be a man but hey, it’s Japan, girl power! I can see that the producers did their research thoroughly, the bit of Latin in the titles is intriguing and the flash cards in the review are adorable.
Most importantly, the story is full of thought-provoking philosophies and, to an extent, surprising. “To an extent” because I saw the Disney-like ending coming. However, the rest was one fast ball after another, I could not see them coming at all. And, they dwell into (almost) taboo topics, without fear, without reservation. I will give the writers kudos for their daringness. Truly a unique and refreshing story.
Since I won’t be able to discuss in details without spoiling the anime, I will only say: “Expect twisted humors, expect grim dark, expect mind screws and expect to be blown away by the story!”
Aldnoah Zero 2nd season & Kantai Collection
These two anime I followed out of obligation this season.
Aldnoah Zero has hiccups. I don’t buy its story, or its character. Being a product of A-1 Pictures, it has great CGI action and cool battle music. However, the characters are bland, they are overpowered for no reason and they act without consistency. It feels like watching Inaho metagaming and deus ex machining every episode. Tough fight? Well, my sharingan has another hidden ability just for that!
Slaine used to be reasonable and sympathetic in season 1, now he’s just a Magne—err maniac. All other characters didn’t get much attention and they didn’t contribute to anything. Not to mention, the ending was lacking. Realistic alright, but hardly satisfying. Still, it has great entertainment values for a mecha action show. Ignoring the story and watching Aldnoah Zero for its sole battles is still worth the wait.
Kantai Collection, on the other hand, falls into “the hell did I just watch?” category. I’m going to throw that in with Mahoraba anime and Karen anime, both of which were ruthlessly mutilated by J.C. Staff, lock them up for good in a safe and bury that safe in my backyard. In any cases, Kantai Collection anime has problems everywhere. Barring the music, which is good, the art, the animation and the characters and the plot are all horrible.
Wait, do they even have a plot there? I don’t think so. It’s a jumble of everything; Comedy, Slice of Life, Drama, Action, Historical, etc. and etc.; and it flopped all genres without fail. The characters are mechanical, over-reference to the game, then to WWII history, then to fandom and then to something else, leaving no space for original lines at all! It tried to be a roller coaster like KimiUso, but this ride has no build-up, I feel like the best drama KanColle has is small bump on the road compared to the whooping hundred-meter slope down zero-gravity lane KimiUso has.
In fact, I will convince myself that KanColle anime didn’t exist in the first place. I would recommend people watch Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova (Arpeggio of Blue Steel) instead. At least the enemies in Arpeggio are not idle cardboard cutouts.