Continued from Part Three.
- Sakura Trick
Studio DEEN strikes again! I’m not entirely sure how good this was supposed to have been in the first place, but this ended up being one of the two shows that I dropped this season. The premise is this: Lesbians kissing, a lot. That in itself isn’t inherently bad; It’s every single other thing that makes this show unbearable. The first thing that I noticed that bothered me was the SHAFT-esque visual techniques. For those unfamiliar with Studio SHAFT and director Akiyuki Shinbo (Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Hidamari Sketch, Monogatari Series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica), their works (especially the aforementioned ones) make use of unique, avant-garde art and cinematography, such as randomly changing colors, bizarre and detailed backgrounds, real-life objects, slow motion movements, and head tilts. Watching one of their shows is the only way to truly grasp what it means for a show to be uniquely SHAFT, so I won’t attempt to fully explain it. Sakura Trick, directed by an ex-SHAFT employee, is clearly attempting for a similar style, but since it hardly has any budget and DEEN doesn’t know how to make a low budget work to their advantage (which SHAFT did successfully for so many years until their insanely huge success in 2009 with Bakemonogatari, after which they did mostly the same things except 10x better), the show falls flat on its face. It’s silly; In the first episode there’s a scene in which the two main characters must jump across a space between balconies, and the animation is so terrible and lazy that it’s almost laughable. That brings me to my next point: The jokes themselves aren’t laughable. The show feels like a fanfiction. It takes pre-established characters and ships them together with lame humor added in. The characters are all generic archetypes, none of them have any depth, and most of them are completely irrelevant. I hardly laughed once or twice during the five episodes I went through. I even thought that I could watch it solely for the kissing scenes (which there are a lot of) but it became so extremely boring that I just couldn’t stand watching it anymore. It has a decent opening song though, so it’s got that going for it.
- Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Now for a show that’s absolutely amazing. I picked this show midway into the season (something I normally don’t do) but boy am I glad I did, because this is probably the best show that I’m watching this season (which, sadly enough, was a very easy position to claim). Nearly everything about it is great. The show is about a girl, Kobeni, who has just turned 16 years old. With this, she finds out that she’s engaged to a total stranger. The story follows Kobeni, her older sister Benio, her fiancee Hakuya, and Hakuya’s little sister Mashiro. The main strength of the series is the character interaction. Each character has a different and interesting relationship with each other character, never allowing things to become dull. The character interactions also develop over the course of the show instead of remaining constant. The daily happenings of the characters are always fun and interesting, and the conflicts are realistically handled. On top of all that, Mikakunin de Shinkoukei is ridiculously funny.
- Wake Up, Girls!
Wake Up, Girls! (WUG) is the latest from infamous director Yutaka “Yamakan” Yamamoto (The Hare Hare Yukai dance from Haruhi Suzumiya no Yuuutsu, the first four episodes of Lucky Star, Kannagi, Fractale). In 2007, Yamakan was fired from Kyoto Animation after four episodes of Lucky Star, and decided to found his own studio, Ordet. Ordet is fairly inexperienced, having only done the main production for two other TV anime, Black Rock Shooter and Senyu. (they have also done one net animation series, Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku). I don’t think a lot of people thought that this would be any good after hearing that Yamakan would be behind it, due to most of his and his studio’s works being either average to bad. In addition, he will never live down his claim that his 2011 anime Fractale would “save anime”. Fractale went on to sell 883 units, well under the Manabi Line (approx. 2,899*), or the approximate amount of copies an anime needs to sell to make a profit.
History aside, WUG was officially introduced with a film, Wake Up, Girls! Shichinin no Idol. The movie, to many people’s surprise, was very good and well made, telling the story of how an obscure talent agency recruits seven rookie idols that debut as “Wake Up, Girls”. The movie struck down claims that the anime would be another standard-type idol anime in the vein of The iDOLM@STER, AKBOO48, or Love Live!. It gave a more realistic (“deconstructive”**) perspective on the subject of starting an idol group.
Sadly, this was not a good thing.
After the movie it immediately went down a dangerous downward spiral with forced drama and annoying, one dimensional characters. The drama is mostly the same and is neither interesting nor is it dramatic. The “problems” that the idols and agency run into are all solved in very simple ways within one or two episodes. As the episodes go on it becomes more and more generic; The most recent problem is that one of the idols was at risk of being thrown out of the group. She cried at home, and after some stupid conversations with the temporary manager and pep-talk, by the end of episode 8 everything was perfectly back to normal. Most things in the show are just plain boring. I am not interested in the lives of these seven idols. Why am I still watching this?
Finally is the animation quality. It started off very well, and to many people’s surprise, did not use any ugly CG animation. However, the TV anime suffered from massive amounts of QUALITY, and after a few weeks Yamakan used Twitter to beg for animators, since the guys over at Ordet obviously weren’t doing their jobs very well. Sadly, that Tweet was redacted very shortly after its posting.
This anime is genuinely terrible, maybe even worse than the shows that I actually dropped. I suppose the only reason I’m still watching this is to talk about how bad it is.
That concludes the fourth part of my thoughts on Winter 2014 anime. Thank you for reading!
To learn more about any of the shows I’ve mentioned, try searching for their names on Google, or using a database like AniDB or MyAnimeList.
*The Manabi line is based of the number of copies that the 2007 anime Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! sold. The anime was reported to have sold just enough copies to make a profit, so usually if an anime is above the line it has avoided being a flop.
**“Deconstruct” and “Deconstruction” are words that are so vaguely defined that some people don’t even acknowledge it as a term to define anything. In the common sense talking about anime, it basically means that the anime changes certain tropes and ideas (compared to the standard in the genre) to make it more realistic given a certain situation. Usually a deconstruction involves making the characters more realistic. For example, in Neon Genesis Evangelion the characters act like any normal human beings would if they were in a situation involving apocalypse-causing beings and giant robots, as opposed to something more standard like Mazinger Z. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Uta Kata, and Code Geass are pretty good examples. More recent examples include Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Oregairu.