2015 Summer of Anime – Week 1

I used to make photo albums on Facebook of the anime I completed during the summer, but I skipped 2014 because I didn’t really watch much of anything last summer.  I spent the first half of it in China and the second half getting used to being home again.  So, even though my backlog would make the Allfather himself tremble at the sheer size of it, I’m gonna try and bring back the Summer of Anime.  Gonna change it up a bit this year by trying to write a post every week about what I complete.  So, let’s get started.

Haikyuu!! eps. 12-25

Look at how Japanese they are.

Every sport gets an anime!

So most entries in the first few weeks are going to be anime that started in early 2014 simply because I never got around to finishing/keeping up with them after a certain point.  Gonna be a while until I get to some other stuff since I want to finish all of these first.  Now then, Haikyuu!! is the story of this tiny dude Shouyou Hinata who idolizes a volleyball player known as “The Little Giant.”  He’s also a tiny guy, but he’s so good at spiking that it doesn’t matter how tall the blocker is–the Little Giant is always higher.  So, Hinata gets obsessed with volleyball, and in his last year of middle school he finally gets to play in a tournament with his friends he kinda Shanghaied into it.  Unfortunately, they’re soundly thrashed in their first match by setter Tobio Kageyama and his team.  HInata vows to take down Kageyama in high school, and “The King of the Court” welcomes the challenge from a potentially dangerous player.  Only problem is, when Hinata finally makes it to Karasuno–the high school the Little Giant played for–he sees that Kageyama is also attending.  So begins the tale of these two rivals who must now come together so that the “Flightless Crows” of Karasuno can take to the skies once again.

Okay, I love sports anime and manga.  I sometimes don’t even care how fantastical they can get (looking at you, Kuroko no Basket).  I just love ’em.  One of the main draws for these series is the supporting cast.  Yes, Hinata and Kageyama are fun leads, but this show wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without the rest of the Karasuno team.  Tanaka Ryuunosuke (the angry-looking bald guy in the pic) is probably my favorite of the bunch, but the entire team has a great dynamic.

You can’t have a good sports anything without decent rivals.  Although Haikyuu!! did introduce some pretty good ones in its first season, I was somewhat underwhelmed by them.  I mean, I love the whole “Battle of the Junkyard” relationship with Nekoma High School, and “The Great King” of Aoba Jousai is cool, but something was still missing in the rival department.  Not sure what, though.

The animation is pretty fantastic, and although I do like the art style, it can get a little jarring sometimes.  There was one scene where Hinata was really hype during a game, so he had this big-eyed smile on his face.  It was supposed to convey, “Holy crap.  He’s so into this game, he doesn’t care that his team’s losing.  He just loves volleyball that much!”  Instead I got, “Holy crap.  He just walked straight out of Higurashi.”

All in all, I’d probably give this an 8.5 out of ten.  Really looking forward to the second season later this year.

The Irregular at Magic High School or Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei eps. 12-26

Not gonna lie, I really like the school uniforms.

Not gonna lie, I really like the school uniforms.

I guess I’ll try to include both the English and Japanese names when I can.  I’m not pro or anti either, I just go with whatever’s easiest for me to say.  So, Irregular is Harry Potter in the future.  Magic is widely known and utilized, there are powerful magician families, and we’ve had at least another World War.  Our two main characters for this trip are Tatsuya Shiba and his little sister Miyuki, and we join them at the beginning of their first year of high school at the First Private Magic University Affiliated High School.  The school is pretty much divided in two:  Course 1, or “the Blooms,” are the more magically gifted students while the Course 2 “Weeds” are kinda second-class citizens.  Despite being the elder, Tatsuya is not only in Course 2, but he’s also not even the heir to his family–Miyuki is.  There are reasons for this, but I kinda don’t feel like getting into them.

Okay, so right off the bat, I did enjoy this anime.  It’s one of the most mindless self-indulgent wish-fulfillment shows I’ve ever seen.  I’m gonna spoil some stuff here, but it really doesn’t matter.  Tatsuya is not only a chick magnet, the great inventor “Taurus Silver,” the dreaded “Mahesvara” of the last war, and still secretly a soldier, but he also can feel no emotion other than familial love for his little sister and outclasses every other character in the series so much it’s not even funny.  Seriously, if Tatsuya is not in the scene, then nine times out of ten the characters will be talking about how great he is.  It’s absolutely hilarious.  I honestly think I enjoyed this anime so much because it played all this completely straight.  It was unintentionally funny.

Now then, I did mention something in that last paragraph that I’m gonna go ahead and address right here:  I don’t get the incest thing in Japanese fiction.  When it’s played for comedy like in Oniai I don’t have a problem with it.  You could actually get some amusing jokes out of it as long as it doesn’t get too ooky.  However, when it’s not only played straight but also glorified (looking at you, Oreimo), I just don’t get it.  It’s a trend that makes no sense to me, and holy crap is it uncomfortable.

This is one of those where the supporting cast is far more interesting than the lead characters, but the writer(s) seems determined to follow the Japanese High School Superman as he emotionlessly wanders through throngs of women and war.  I guess I’ll give it either a 6.5 or a 7.

Baby Steps eps. 12-25

I'm sad you can't tell how anime hair-y his hair really is.

I’m sad you can’t tell how anime hair-y his hair really is.

Yay!  More sports anime!  Here, we follow Maruo Eiichirou–an overly studious high schooler who’s in search of some physical activity to fit into his daily routine.  The kid is so good at taking notes, I suspect his entire class only passes their tests because they borrow his notebooks.  Well, one day, the school’s idol, Takasaki Natsu, comes to his class because she’s in dire need of his detailed notes.  Their first meeting is a bit of an odd one.  Although she’s impressed by his attention to detail, the idol luster kinda fades away when she trips and his notebook winds up in someone else’s lunch.  Looking past that incident, Eiichirou finally decides on tennis as his physical activity.  He’s just looking for a hobby to stay moving, but when he sees the ditzy Natsu tearing it up on the tennis court, he realizes there’s more to this than what he initially thought…and when he finds out she wants to go pro, Eiichirou begins to think that’s a pretty cool idea.

I shortened that last bit quite a lot, but you get the gist.  So yeah, I love Baby Steps.  It honestly took everything I had to not just power into the second season that’s airing right now (which I still might do anyway).  Eiichirou is a great lead for this series since it’s so realistic.  Yeah, there’s no sports superpowers here.  The anime has its title because that’s what it’s about.  Eiichirou slowly becomes a player who can hang with the best of them.  No super high jumps, no court invisibility, no channeling the spirit of your dead brother to score critical points (yeah…anime is weird sometimes)–this is a straight-up fairly realistic take on someone’s journey to becoming a legit contender in tennis.  I just found myself so invested in each game since Eiichirou really isn’t a prodigy.  The guy just has an endless amount of determination.  Don’t wanna take away from Natsu, though.  As the other lead, she’s simultaneously a romantic and a skill goal.  She’s one of the best junior players in Japan, and you’re always reminded of it.

I feel like this anime did a better job of introducing rivals than Haikyuu!! did.  Of the many we got, I feel like Takuma and Nabae take the cake.  Takuma is similar to Natsu in that he’s not only a romantic rival, but also a tennis rival.  Keeping up with him in an actual game is one of the main reasons Eiichirou drives himself so hard.  Nabae is a great rival since he and Eiichirou are so alike.  They both have detailed notes on their opponents, and both are tied to the term “All-A”–Eiichirou in terms of school grades, Nabae in terms of tennis grades.  The guy also adapts how he plays depending on the opponent.  Most of the characters stick with their bread and butter, but Nabae’s main weapon is his chameleon-like play style.  I love it.

The animation doesn’t flow that well at points, but when it does get a bump, it’s awesome.  The art is kinda a fusion of modern anime with a bit of a throwback style in it.  When it’s all said and done, I’m feeling 9 out of 10 fits this anime pretty well.

Well, that’s it for this post.  We’ll see where it goes from here.

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