Seasonal Reviews: Summer 2014 Pt.1

Welcome to the first installment of our seasonal reviews. Every anime season, our staff joins together to take a look at all the currently airing shows, or at least the one we can find. We'll be giving our thoughts on these shows on a bi-weekly basis, with every member assigned a certain number of shows. We also have secondary opinions for some series, shows that other staff have seen and want to talk about, but aren't assigned. Consider these another possible viewpoint.

Every member of our seasonal review staff will take part, as with a few other staff members who have expressed interest.We all get a set amount of shows to review, giving those with premium accounts on streaming sites higher priority than everyone else. From there, we decide through a random list generator who gets what, all while making necessary changes based on availability. As a result, a few shows we covered this time will go to other staff, and shows we didn't review this time will get reviewed the following installment.

Only new series and reboots will be accepted, any additional seasons or multiple cour shows will get a review from any interested staff upon their conclusion. Shorts will also be covered, if possible.

With the introduction covered, here's the thoughts on all the watch shows as of the recent Friday.
Jonathan Kaharl

Aldnoah.Zero got a good bit of attention before the series start due to the attached name of Gen Urobuchi, who has made a name for himself in recent years with the incredibly popular Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero. However, excitement died down when it was revealed that Urobuchi only came up with the series concept and didn't have much of a hand in writing it. Personally, I have no real opinion on Urobuchi right now, as I haven't seen enough of his work, so I picked up Aldnoah simply out of curiosity. It blew me away. The premise is very similar to Gundam, pitting Earth against space colonists from Mars and a war caused by misunderstandings and with plots breaking out. However, Aldnoah throws in a new twist; the Mars colonists have found ancient technology on Mars called "Aldnoah," horrifically powerful spaceship and mech technology capable of far more than any Earth made weapon could ever hope to be. The first episode is all about slow build, establishing the politics of this world and a few viewpoints, both the governing and the small people of both sides. The strained relations between the two sides becomes increasingly more and more obvious, as does a sense of hopelessness over the situation, with a princess trying to get things going in the right direction during a goodwill mission on Earth.

Things do not go well, and then the metaphorical WRATH OF GOD drops down all over the planet. I cannot even begin to describe how incredible this entire sequence is. The presentation of Aldnoah.Zero stands heads above every single other airing show this season, with thick, grim atmosphere matched against the realistic Earth cities and the poorly lit colonist ships (which might be a bit of informing to their very selective and racist outlook). The animation is near perfect, even the surprisingly impressive CG, and the score is incredible and grandiose, all without copying the usual holy chanting these types of shows have. The direction is the really incredible part of all this; The score is used sparingly to create this quiet unease during dialog between characters, while small parts of the world are slowly shown around the speaking characters. As something is about to go down, the series takes its time and moves between the action and the normal characters slowly realizing the chaos that's about to unfold. It keeps building and building as the situation gets worse and worse, even using some impressive angles you'd expect from a big-budget Hollywood drama, before the score explodes at the height of the storm. I felt like I was watching a movie instead of anything madde for TV; the production is just that incredible. The New Orleans scene alone left my jaw on the floor. Even with an idea of what was coming, the show still surprised me in how far it was willing to go.

The story isn't too much yet, relying on some pretty stale concepts, and the two main characters don't have much to them. The human kid is emotionless and strange (but I kind of like that), while the colonist protagonist reminds me way too much of Suzaku from Code Geass. However, the show sells these elements well, paces the first episode perfectly, and then just shows off all the chaotic force it's capable of with unbelievable results. In all these big movies and epics getting made today, they all forget what makes those styles of story work; spectacle, tension and context all working together. Aldnoah.Zero's first episode understands this perfectly and created one of the single most memorable scenes I have ever seen in any piece of media. That's going to be a hard act to follow, but Aldnoah has earned my trust. This is going to be something truly special.

You can find Aldnoah.Zero streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Daisuki and their Youtube page.

Strong Recommendation


Idol anime has become a thing as of late for some odd reason. Japan's obsession with the career makes sense, I suppose; otaku like idols, otaku like anime, people who make anime like money. You can put the pieces together from there. Still, there's so many that it's near impossible for any of these shows to stand out beyond random chance (Love Live) or messing with the formula (Miss Monochrome). Locodol doesn't really do anything to make it stand out, but it still surprised me. The execution is just rock solid and makes for a very inviting comedy about a young girl tricked by her bureaucrat uncle to follow her childhood dreams and become a local idol to help her hometown.

Locodol doesn't bring anything new to the table. The premise, set-up and cast have all been done plenty of times before. Despite this, it works. Nanako makes a likable lead in how awkward she is in crowds, and the series makes good use of that for a really good bit of awkward comedy during her first performance. Her partner Yukari does a good job at balancing her out and supporting her when she needs it, becoming likable very fast, despite not having too much definition. I also really like the uncle, who's really trying to do something good for the place he loves, just through some truly devious and manipulative methods that make him more amusingly cruel than outright villainous. The atmosphere is very light, matched with a good color pallet and simple music, fitting the slice of life feel and working well with the higher energy comedy scenes. The show does very little wrong, even if it doesn't bust guts or give any real surprises.

If I had to describe Locodol in one word, it would be "pleasant." It's fun and a bit memorable in some ways, even if it doesn't really take many risks or tries anything new. It's pure entertainment done well, with a solid appeal and care in its development. I hope future episodes match up with the humor of the first, because Locodol has a chance at being one of the better series for the season. Not at the top good, but in a good higher-middle ground.

You can find Locodol streaming on Crunchyroll.

Solid Recommendation

Samurai Jam: Bakumatsu Rock

There's a lot of anime out there, and quite a few end up with the short end of the stick when it comes to budget and attached talent. These shows either become forgotten relics someone will eventually bring up to point out that animation wasn't better at a certain time, or they will have something about them so strange that people will occasionally look back on that show and think "how did that happen?" Bakumatsu Rock is in the second category, and it's kind of amazing in a way. It's a series about a red haired wanderer with a guitar in an old era Japan, where the government decides the official musical idols of the country, all their best soldiers. The wanderer, named Ryouma, eventually finds out that his passionate music he keeps trying to play is a style called Rock, and the government is stamping out his kind wherever they go, as they see the rebellious music as a threat to their current control through musical entertainment. Ryouma is absolutely determined to sing his songs, however, and quickly gains some new allies with similar musical styles. The goal is to make it big and reject the government's musical style for their own hot-blooded tunes.

Oh, and did I mention that when the three rocking characters started playing, a giant lights show started, fireworks went off, and they rocked so hard that their shirts exploded? Or that the ED is mostly just slow panning shots of the main cast of male rockers in a half naked state? That's kind of important.

Bakumatsu Rock has a lot of problems. This is one of the lesser Studio DEEN works, meaning it got a B-team and little budget. It shows pretty fast, managing to be on model but without any real visual flair for most the runtime. The writing also spouts a lot of exposition between characters who don't need to hear it, an annoying fault that kills some of the fun. However, the series is so silly that it's hard to be particularly put off by its short comings. I certainly noticed, but the constant string of shenanigans that Ryouma kept getting into through his general stupidity never failed to put a smile on my face. The J-Rock is passable, but the presentation is fun enough to make it survive the low budget and occasional use of CG. This is not a stand out show, but I don't think it deserves to be ignored either. Bakumatsu Rock tries to be something cool with little to work with, and it's so sincere and dumb that it's hard to hate it. There is better stuff you could watch, yes, but if you have the time, this is one to check out.

You can find Samurai Jam: Bakumatsu Rock streaming on Crunchyroll.

Weak Recommendation
David O'Neil
Akame ga Kill!

Akame ga Kill starts out like your average shonen adventure story. A dashing, naive young boy with exceptional fighting skills arrives at the big city after a long journey from his village out in the country, hoping to make it big in the military in an attempt to save his hometown from heavy taxation. At first the city seems deceitful and greed-filled, but he finds solace in the home of some kind hearted nobles in the area, learning that even in this city of scoundrels, there is goodness. Until assassins storm the house, murder the family in cold blood, and then reveal they were actually psychotic murderers who torture and kill innocent people for fun, including the main character's two best friends he'd become separated during his journey to the city. And if that seems like a drastic, 180 degree change in tone, yep, it sure was.

It was clearly a purposeful decision to make the first episode so sudden and jarring. Making one feel safe with it's conventional set up and light hearted humor, just to flip it on it's head. And to an extent it did work, it surprised me and got me more interested than if it had just started with that right off the bat. It definitely won't have the same effect for people not going in blind (like anyone reading this) but even the twist aside, it was a pretty good episode. The main character was pretty fun, if also a pretty generic protagonist (although I think that's kind of the point) and I find it an intriguing change from most similar stories that when he was faced with the family's true nature, he actually killed the daughter with zero hesitation. The animation's solid aside from one lazy use of still frames, and the music provided by anime soundtrack god Taku Iwasaki (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Gatchaman Crowds) is great as always.

But the show itself is still not quite great. For one thing the tone is a bit of a mess. I understand that the point was to create a jarring switch there when things got ugly, but even when the darker stuff begins, the show still has these awkward, out of place comedy moments. Hopefully as the show goes on those'll stay out of the scenes trying attempting to bring a more serious tone. Also, and this is more of a possible future issue, after the show got my attention from the big twist in it's first episode, the question becomes, now that this big surprise is out of the way can it build a quality show with it's own style and tone around this. And only time will tell. From the first episode, Akame ga Kill got my attention, but with that attention grabbing twist it's a bit unclear what sort of direction the show is actually going. But, what I've seen so far was pretty good, so I'd still recommend it.

You can find Akame ga Kill! streaming on Crunchyroll.

Solid Recommendation


Barakamon was my favorite first episode of the season. And that's really saying something, with other shows like Glasslip and Aldnoah Zero also having strong starts this season, but Barakamon somehow managed to effortlessly do just about everything right. For one thing the show looks great, and despite the studio (Kinema Citrus) not having too many shows of note to their name, the animation is very well done. Characters move a lot, and their movements are bursting with energy. That and the show has a strong atmosphere, capturing the essence of the the Japanese countryside with meticulous care, with scenes like the sunset being beautifully made.

The characters are also some of the best I've seen this season. Seishu Handa is a flawed, but likable protagonist. He has trouble taking criticism and over the course of the episode he learns that this simple but eventful life on the countryside is exactly what he needs to give more personality and passion into his calligraphy. Naru Kotoishi is my favorite character of the season so far, a hyperactive young girl who's made Seishu's home her base, who's as hilarious as she is surprisingly insightful. The first episode also gives a small look at some of the other characters, and all of them seem like a lot of fun so far as well. The second half of the episode boasts some especially heart warming moments and emotionally resonant themes that make for a better ending than a lot of entire series get, and it's only the first episode. But it's made clear Seishu still has more to learn.

If someone asked me to suggest just one anime to watch so far this anime season, I'd without a doubt go with Barakamon. The characters are terrific, the animation is high quality, and it has some really strong themes as well. It has just about everything I could possibly ask for in this sort of show, and it's still only just started. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the show, and I hope it stays this great throughout.

You can find Barakamon streaming on Funimation (eventually).

Strong Recommendation

Blue Spring Ride

The first thing I immediately noticed about Blue Spring Ride is that it's a good looking show. The studio behind it is Production I.G., who while may best be known for their work on science fiction anime like Ghost In the Shell and Psycho Pass, a better comparison with their past work would be their adaptation of Bunny Drop. A large part of it is that the opening scene looks almost like a watercolor painting in its visual style, that with it's detail, warm colors, and some great animation made it one of the more memorable opening scenes of the season. The rest of the episode looks good as well, I just wanted to give some attention to how terrific that first scene looked.

From a story perspective, I can't help but feel a bit mixed about Blue Spring Ride. It's about change, more specifically how middle-school sweet hearts Yoshioka and Tanaka no longer feel that they can be together because over the years they've both changed too much, Tanaka even having changed his name as a result of his parent's divorce. The problem for me at this point is, I don't really feel all that emotionally invested in this main conflict. It feels like Tanaka is just sort of being a jerk, when it's completely clear that Yoshioka still has strong feelings for Tanaka, all due to some romance shenanigans that'll probably be clarified more later on. I don't really like Tanaka as a character very much so far due to his cold attitude and contrived reasoning. I get that's probably sort of the point, but it went a bit too far in making me annoyed by him. So I find it difficult to get behind wanting to see the two protagonists get together, what should be the main drive behind a romance show.

This could get better, as I see more of Tanaka more and his reasoning and attitude is elaborated on there's a possibility I could end up liking him more as a character, but at this point I'm just really put off by him. The show is still very well executed, the visuals are great, it has solid pacing, the opening scene is still terrific, but I can't fully recommend it when I'm not all that invested in the romance at the center of a romance show. I'll have to see if that continues.

You can find Blue Spring Ride streaming on Crunchyroll.

Solid Recommendation


After high quality shows like Hanasaku Iroha, The Eccentric Family, and Nagi no Asukara, I know better than to neglect a new show from P.A. Works coming around. From the get go, it's clear that Glasslip is to an extent channeling their most recent success, Nagi no Asukara. From the visual style, to the early implication of some love triangles forming, basically all that's missing is the fish people. That aside, the first episode of Glasslip still stands on it's own as one of the better starts I've seen so far this season.

First off, the visuals really are great. Everything is meticulously detailed, the character designs are great, and the animation itself is smooth and well done. The show does occasionally use some still frames, but it seems like more of a stylistic choice rather than a budget related one (though I think it'd be better off without them). At first it was a little bit difficult figuring out exactly where the story was going, by the looks of things it'll mostly be dealing with themes on the changes that come with growing up, and probably a bit of romance. And then in the second episode it's revealed that the protagonist can see into the future. Ummm alright then. The twist threw me off at first, but despite how silly it sounds it's actually presented in a pretty reasonable way and seems like it may take the story in an interesting direction. As for the characters, all of them are really sweet and likable right off the bat. It's too early to get a whole lot of depth from them, but even early on I felt myself really enjoying the interactions of the characters, and even maybe creating theories on who's gonna end up with who (oh man this really is gonna be Nagi no Asukara all over again).

The first episode of Glasslip was simple, fun, and beautiful to look at. It's a bit hard to tell where it's going and what it'll do with that somewhat bizarre twist, but clearly the characters will do at the least a solid job making us care whatever it does. I still thoroughly enjoyed the first two episodes, and I'm looking forward to seeing more. One of the better, and prettier slice of life shows I watched this season that I have high hopes for.

You can find Glasslip streaming on Crunchyroll.

Strong Recommendation


Jinsei is bland, boring, and not even funny. I know it's a bit unusual getting to the point right out of the gate, but this show really left me wanting to just put that out there. First off, the visuals are the most dull and lifeless of any show I've seen all season. Everything looks pretty mute with no bright colors, the characters barely move most of the time, and the character designs are boring and incredibly generic, in a way fitting of how generic all of their personalities are. Other than the flat as a piece of cardboard protagonist with absolutely no personality whatsoever who affects the story in no way other than being attracted to girls, there's: The smart girl, the athletic girl, and the shy girl. That's it. None of them ever show any qualities other than their uniform stereotypical personalities, and most of the time they don't even seem to act like actual human beings, more like robots spouting generic anime tropes.

Even if you're just looking for some dumb, mindless harem hijinks, stay away. The show tries to shoehorn in incredibly forced to an almost funny (but not actually funny because nothing in this first episode was funny) moral lessons, by- I kid you not- completely halting what flow and pacing the episode had (not much) to have a freeze frame of the character explain what the lesson they were trying to teach the viewers, ranging from how to be social to how to be decisive. It's like something you'd expect out of an 80s cartoon targeted for toddlers, and I sure as hell hope this show isn't aiming for the same audience when a major plot thread involves the girls having a water balloon fight and having their bras and breasts proudly presented.

The worst part of this show isn't that it's dumb. No, a dumb harem show can be totally tolerable at times. The problem is that it's entirely lifeless. The characters, the animation, the jokes, the everything is completely devoid of any energy or effort. I found myself completely bored out of my mind watching it, and that's something I can't even say about a lot of my most hated shows. Do not watch Jinsei, don't even go near it because it's not just a terrible show, it's a flat out boring show.

Jinsei is not streaming.

No Recommendation

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun

High school girl Chiyo Sakura has always had a crush on her classmate, Nozaki, but has never had the courage to confess to him. One day, she finally brings herself to confess, but due to some poor wording (calling herself a "fan" of Nozaki), he ends up giving her his autograph. As it turns out, Nozaki is actually a highly successful artist of shojo manga (aka manga targeted for a young female audience), and invites Sakura to be his new assistant. On the one hand, she's closer to Nozaki than ever, but at the same time she still can't bring herself to tell him how she really feels.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun isn't the most original premise in the world, but it's well executed and a lot of fun to watch. The relationship between Sakura and Nozaki is really cute, even as Nozaki constantly acts completely oblivious to Sakura's feelings for her. The way Nozaki, someone who technically makes little actual contact with girls, bounces ideas for his manga off Nozaki results in some really great comedy moments. It's a lot like a similar series last series, Mangaka-san to Assistant-san, except while that show was terrible this one is not. There isn't much in the form of drama, it's clearly aiming to be a straight up comedy series, and it does this very well. It's well animated, with lots of solid visual gags with tons of energy and movement, and the way it parodies tropes from shojo manga is funny as well.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is a great comedy series with a ton of laughs, good animation, and likable protagonists. Not much about it is unique, but if you're looking for something fun to watch, you can't go at all wrong with this one. Judging by it's first episode, it's a top notch comedy series.

You can find Monthly Girl's Nozaki-Kun streaming on Crunchyroll.

Strong Recommendation

Rail Wars!

As a kid, there were two things that I thought were the coolest: Dinosaurs, and trains. Considering the severe lack of dinosaurs in modern anime, I guess I'll have to make due with this. Rail Wars! sort of reminds me of Girls und Panzer, except instead of the main characters geeking out over different tank models, they're geeking out over trains. And if you're the kind of person who actually geeks out over trains, there's no point in even reading this, you're probably already watching Rail Wars!. For everyone else, Rail Wars! is just sort of average.

The main characters are all pretty basic, the bland main character, the tsundere, the ditsy shy girl, etc. As a first episode it did feel a lot like set up, as the cast trains (no pun intended I swear) for the career that the show is based around, being security personnel for the Japan National Railways. They sit through classes, shoot targets, overcome challenges, and go through typical fanservice hijinks (the girl fell on the guy and he accidentally grabbed her boob har har har har). So it's still sort of up in the air whether or not this show will be able to get into it's own groove and have enough to keep interested the people in the audience who don't care about different train models.

But that in mind, the first episode wasn't all that promising. The characters seem pretty dull and the fanservice is pretty shameless. The high point of the episode was actually the brief action scene towards the end of the episode, which was surprisingly well animated and pretty neat. That aside though, Rail Wars! just doesn't have much to keep me interested so far. I mean, other than the trains.

You can find Rail Wars! streaming on Crunchyroll.

Weak Recommendation
Stephanie Getchell
Majimoji Rurumo

Magic has always been popular. It’s a fact. This year, alone, the anime world gain a variety of magical series like Magical Warfare, Witch Craft Works, Wizard Barristers, and...... well....... that thing (Irregular at Magic High School). This season, we have a more comedic approach to the magical world and I’ve gotta say I’m a little conflicted with this one. The set up is rather hilarious and it actually does acknowledge it’s own intelligence throughout the course of the episode (seeing as how the main character knows it was a stupid idea to wish for girl’s panties). But, what I think I’m having a problem with right now, is the characters. They’re rather cookie cutter to me. We have the pervert with a heart of gold and the stoic, moe companion. It just irritates me a bit that stereotypes continue to be used constantly.

I can't give this one a strong recommendation right now. The character stereotypes just aren’t as strong as I would like, however the set up is interesting enough to keep me from dropping it. I want to see where this story leads and all the humor it wants to show. But what I would REALLY love, is a break from stereotypes and to see these characters grow much much more.

You can find Majimoji Rurumo streaming on Crunchyroll.

Weak Recommendation

Sailor Moon: Crystal

Ah, Sailor Moon. That piece of childhood that many otaku of today may call their first anime. Myself, on the other hand, can’t say that. In fact, until recently, I had never seen Sailor Moon before. I’ve heard of it, sure, but never watched it. When Viz made the announcement that they picked up, not only the newest member of the Sailor Moon family but all of the original series, I knew it was time to give it a go! Basically, what I’m saying is, I’m a relative newbie to the franchise so that’s the kind of view I’ll be talking about throughout my coverage of Crystal.

Now that I have that out of the way, the first episode. If you’ve seen the original series, then you already know what’s going to happen as this is basically the first two or three episodes combined. I actually found this to be a slight problem as, since this is planned to be a 26 episode series, it tried to cram in a lot of story into the first episode. This made the episode go by a little too fast for my liking, and a little hard to keep up with everything. I’m glad I’ve been watching the original because I may have been worse off when tackling this first episode. Another point I would like to make really quick is the animation, because there seems to be a split on that subject. Some people love it and others seem to hate it. Me, I’m kind of in the middle on this one. It’s a nice updated look to the original, but it still manages to stay true to it’s source material. But on the downside, there's the transformation sequence. I have this problem with CGI animation mixed with 2D animation. A lot of times, I have a hard time adjusting and it will even look a bit clunky to me. This is one of those times, kinda. Again, the sequence is a nice update, but adjusting to the different animation style took a little bit. For now, I need to see where it all goes.

Despite these issues, Crystal has a nice updated look and feel, but there’s a little too much jammed into the story right now. However, since this is the first episode I’m going to keep going and hope it lightens up a little bit. Because of the story and my dislike for the transformation sequence (which will be appearing quite a bit, as this is a magical girl series), I can’t give it a strong recommendation. I do see the potential, and I understand that this is a kind of abridged version of the entire Sailor Moon series, but you still need to try and keep it at a decent pace instead of giving us information overload. But, we’ll see what’s in store next time!

You can find Sailor Moon: Crystal streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and NicoNico.

Solid Recommendation

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49-

To be perfectly honest, I’m a little bit of a late bloomer when it comes to the idol subgenre of anime (if that’s not an actual term, then it is now). The first time I got to experience this was with Wake Up, Girls! this past winter, and previously I had seen Nana, which isn’t an idol show exactly, but has music as a major part of the story. Otherwise, I haven't seen Love Live, I haven’t seen Uta no Prince-sama, and all those other idol series. Going into Shonen Hollywood, I know I’ll be in for an interesting experience as I go.

From what I can gather from this first episode, five middle to high school aged guys are in training to becomes idols. When the President stops by to visit, he tells them they are to take on the name of Shonen Hollywood and give the group a rebirth after the first Shonen Hollywood broke up 15 years prior to this series. The set up actually isn’t too bad. Normally, from what I can tell, these kinds of series start with the forming of the group but, in this case, the group is already together and are hard at work. Certainly an interesting start to an idol series. Not only that, but I actually enjoyed some of the humor. Since the five guys are diverse in personality, it gives us fun with a mix of wacky and dead pan humor. It also helps that they acknowledge some embarrassing parts of the idol world, such as individual catch phrases. I do have a couple issues right now with this series. The first, and probably more of a minor one, is the animation. I’ve seen what many other idol shows look like and Shonen Hollywood is not one of them. It’s actually a lot more of a realistic look rather than a moe or shoujo type of style, which I’m sure is the main point of this choice. Again, it’s a minor problem and it’ll probably be fixed once I’m adjusted. The other problem I’m seeing at the moment, is the pacing of this series. Unlike Sailor Moon Crystal’s rather fast pacing, this one is a little slower. Because of this, there are times where I thought the episode was longer than it should be.

For a starting episode, Shonen Hollywood has positives and negatives like every other piece of entertainment out there. The humor and the not so cliched starting point are a nice touch, but the animation will take some getting used to and the story is a little slow at the moment. Never the less, I’m giving it a good thumbs up for the time being. I don’t have high expectations after watching the first episode, but I do have my hopes. And, I really hope, the story at least picks up just a tiny bit instead of dragging its feet.

You can find Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49- streaming on Funimation, with an eventual Hulu release.

Solid Recommendation

Terror in Resonance

Out of all the series coming out this season, this is one of the shows I’m covering that I am very happy about because it’s one of the ones I have been looking forward to the most. Mind you, this was BEFORE I knew Watanabe and Kano were involved. There’s a lot to this story than anyone could have guessed at this point. It has action, it has a bit of a psychological bent, and there’s even a little bit of thriller hiding away. As of right now, there are two teenagers who are basically terrorists and blowing up building and stuff. But the reason behind it hasn’t been explained quite yet. Not only that, but a girl, Lisa, is now dragged into the mess as an accomplice. The set up is pretty damn good, if I had to say, and there’s plenty of mystery surrounding Nine and Twelve that my interest for this series just keeps growing. Yeah, I can tell that this is Watanabe’s work so of course it’s going to be down right badass. And, so far, it hasn’t disappointed me!

There isn’t really anything bad about this show right now. It’s got a strong start and leaves the viewer with questions that the series will more than likely answer later on down the line. I will say I’m not too fond of Lisa, at the moment, but I’m pretty sure that will change a little bit as we keep watching. Since I don’t really have anything terrible to say for this series, Terror in Resonance is getting a big recommendation from me! It’s an explosive start to the series, and it’s up there are one of my favorites right now. Yes, this is just after one episode. That’s how awesome this anime is right now!

You can find Terror in Resonance streaming on Funimation, with an eventual Hulu release.

Strong Recommendation

Tokyo ESP

Tokyo ESP is a bit of a late comer this season, as it was just licensed by FUNimation this past Friday. I’m glad it got picked up, since this was something I had some interest in ....and then I saw the first episode. I’m not saying it was a bad episode, I loved all the action that I saw. But I think there was a little too much going on in this one. The main idea of the story, so far, is easy to follow. A group of esper terrorists have made a massive attack on Tokyo, and we see parts of it played out throughout the episode. So, again, LOTS of action going on here. “But, lady, you can never have too much action!! What’s the big problem?!” The problem I have is the characters.

There isn’t a clear introduction of the characters in the series, because are sent around Tokyo many, many times in the episode, it’s rather unclear who the focus should land on. The only thing we may know for sure is who the villain is, but we don’t know if it’s a one time deal or if he’s being used as a throw away villain that we will never see again. Out of all the series I’ve seen this summer, thus far, this is the weakest in the character department. I hate to make a comparison to other series but, since the episode is similar, Terror in Resonance had a much stronger start than ESP did. Both have have a similar plot line for their first episode, but Resonance handled it much better than ESP. Hell, Majimori had better character introductions than ESP! That’s how bad it’s bothering me right now. So, because of this, Tokyo ESP is on the weaker end of my series coverage right now. Since we now have the appearance of our, supposed, heroine of the series I’m hoping for better. Personally, I think it needs to calm the hell down or take a cold shower or something. Maybe later episodes start making more sense.

You can find Tokyo ESP streaming on Crunchyroll, Madman, and Funimation for different regions.

Weak Recommendation

Tokyo Ghoul

For those who don’t me very well, I’m gonna let you in on a secret. I absolutely LOVE the horror/mystery/psychological genre. I love sitting in suspense as I try to see what will make me jump out of my seat! I also love seeing wonderfully played out mind fucks. I’m a little twisted like that, I suppose. So guess who’s excited to be talking about Tokyo Ghoul this season?!?! THIS GIRL!! Luckily, I had the chance to cover two episodes for the first seasonal coverage, and I watched them back to back to I can get a good idea of this series. And, I gotta say, I’m liking what I’m seeing.

The first episode, I will admit, was a little rushed. It felt like they were just wanting to throw Kaneki into the world of ghouls as soon as possible without really get a lot of time to get to know him. We know him as human for, maybe, six or seven minutes and then he becomes a half and half thanks to the transplant of Rize’s (the ghoul who nearly ate him) organs. From there, the remaining one and a half episodes that I saw are Kaneki trying to come to terms with what he was turned into and trying not to eat his best friend. Personally, I would have love a longer time with Kaneki before he becomes half ghoul, but there’s not much I can do there no is there? However, the horror aspect mixed with the world of the ghouls is just really interesting to me and I’m now asking where did they come from? I get the part that they were born into the world, but where did it really all start for them? Not only this, but Kaneki is now stuck with Rize whether he wants her or not thanks to some wonderful psychological games she plays in his mind. It makes me a giddy just thinking about it!

This series isn’t going to be for everyone, that’s for sure. There will be people who are put off by the blood and gore, and there has been quite a lot so far. However, because, personally, I’m a rather big horror nut who loves this kind of thing, I’m going to say it’s rather solid right now. There is an interesting world they are trying to create here, and the mind games Kaneki now faces against Rize are just so enjoyable! Now that we’ve had our establishing arc done and out of the way, it’s time to see where this story plans to lead me!

You can find Tokyo Ghoul streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Solid Recommendation
Joe Straatmann

Argevollen's first episode feels like Xebec made a mech series based on someone's school project that was thrown together at the last minute. It has some ideas, but it is graceless and slapdash in its storytelling and absolutely generic in its design. There is a prologue that explains the basic war between the two nations, but it rushes through everything so confusingly that it can even be hard to tell what side the platoon the series focuses on is fighting for. While the character and mech designs are not bad and the animation is pretty good, there is absolutely nothing special about it. It could be an anime spinoff of Front Mission and nobody would be the wiser. The lack of an opening and closing credits played over black seem to be a sign that certain things weren't finished by deadline rather than an intentional choice.

It's genericness seeps right down to the hotblooded young pilot and main character Tokimune. He spends his first few minutes of screen time complaining about everything, and then endangers his platoon of soldiers by disobeying orders trying to save a civilian truck, getting outgunned and surrounded in five seconds, having his expensive piece of government equipment utterly destroyed, and risking the lives of his platoon to rescue him. We're supposed to like him because he stands up to protect the people or something. Lucky for him, the truck he was protecting has a new prototype mech called Argevollen he pilots in an emergency, so instead of being faced with court marshals and dishonorable discharge, Tokimune gets the most advanced piece of equipment in the war that hardwires itself to the first person who pilots it.

The second episode is more presentable in that it narrows its focus to a simple plot about the platoon being pursued by the enemy while Tokimune has to learn about his new piece of equipment. It doesn't get much better as far as being all that interesting. The end of the first episode has a bright spot in Argevollen's caretaker Jamie. Jamie is a civilian engineer who punches Tokimune at one point and counters his excuses for being unable to properly pilot Argevollen for more than a few seconds by shouting, "No, you just suck!" For a brief moment, I liked her. However, this is all undermined when it's revealed while she's trying to give more formal instruction that she forgot the main method for utilizing the mech's mental envisioning controls. She's the one person in charge of taking care of it, and she forgot how to use its key feature. Whatever they're paying her, it's too much. The rest of the episode is so ordinary that it made me pay attention to the weird plot quirks that most people don't care bout unless they're bored. Like how Tokimune's platoon is being pursued and they're trying to keep a low profile, yet he trains in the open, where Argevollen rises above the trees and can be spotted from ten miles away. Or when Jamie is on a wireless communication network with all the soldiers, and yet takes a two-minute jog when she has to deliver some urgent information to a specific person.  Obviously, this one isn't impressing me very much so far.

You can find Argevollen streaming on Crunchyroll.

No Recommendation


Of all the shows I've watched so far this season, this one has the greatest promise of breaking out into something special. Naru is an introverted high school girl who loves fairy tales and secretly wishes she could be something "dazzling" like her friend Yaya, who is in a rockin' band. Her opportunity arrives one night when she finds a girl literally dancing on top of shrine gates who promises to take her away. However, instead of being some kind of fairy or being from another world, she is simply Hana N. Fountainstand, a transfer student from America (Of the Princeton Fountainstands, to be exact) who wants Naru to learn a Japanese dance style called yosakoi. Since dancing is an art that involves performing in public, Naru immediately clams up and declines.

Despite a nomination for goofiest character name of the season, there is plenty to like here. The setting is a scenic port city (Not unlike this season's Glasslip. They even have the same gorgeous fireworks), the animation is mostly fluid during such acts as playing musical instruments and dancing, and the story glides effortlessly through a dream-like encounter to light comedy to more serious internal struggles. The highlight of this episode for me is the core relationship between Naru and Hana. Naru has some serious self confidence issues and the wall she builds up in fear of social rejection feels very real and tangible. Hana, on the other hand, has no walls and simply wishes to do what she loves and wants to someone to join her. Both would benefit each other, and it's genuinely sad when Naru fights every opportunity Hana offers her. Hana's recruitment is heavy and energetic, but it never feels like it's too much. Since the series' name is the first two letters of the five main girls, it's safe to say the rest of the cast will have more significant roles in the future, and with a bit of luck and good writing, they will be just as glowing of additions to the story.

You can find HaNaYaMaTa streaming on Crunchyroll.

Strong Recommendation

Persona 4 the Golden Animation

As a person who's logged over 300 hours between the original Persona 4 and its upgrade Persona 4 Golden, I was kind of surprised how quickly I dropped the original anime adaptation of it. It wasn't bad, but after the disastrous response to Persona ~trinity soul~ and its attempt at telling an original story in the universe instead of being a straight adaptation of Persona 3, Atlus went too far the other direction by making Persona 4: The Animation absolutely worshipful of its source material. That it even included the game's day-to-day transition graphic made me wonder, "Why don't I just play the game instead?" This especially considering the game is heavily based around roleplaying led by the player's choices about how to respond to everything, what to do today, who to date, and so on. To see the character meant to be the gamer's avatar evolve into Yu Narukami is strangely bizarre and I never really went with it.

Persona 4 the Golden Animation improves on it predecessor by way of providing a somewhat fresh approach. It's not outright stated, but it's quietly implied that Narukami has gone through this experience before and is "playing" on New Game+ mode with maxed stats. He mouths off to his ball busting teacher which requires a high courage rating in the game, he goes straight to where he needs to go the moment he hits the shadow world, and instead of being threatened by his first experience with the lowest enemies the source material has to offer, he literally destroys hundreds of them single-handedly. Also like a player who's done this before, the series skips through a lot of information in order to get to the new stuff, which is a godsend since even when sitting through the story for the first time, the introduction to the flow of the world is deathly slow. For people new to this story, be prepared to be baffled. This approach can even take the people who've memorized the game by surprise, so it's more than just Endless Eight-ing an entire series for more cash. It also quickly introduces and involves Marie, the character addition from the Golden game who fixed the weird plot gaps of Persona 4's first release and is one of the most interesting characters in the series to boot. Aside from the character designs that seem like the people's legs are jointed stilts, Persona 4 the Golden Animation starts out on generally the right foot.

You can find Persona 4 the Golden Animation on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Daisuki and their Youtube channel.

Solid Recommendation

Sabagebu! Survival Game Club!

Reading the summaries for this Summer's anime, this one struck me as the most worrisome. With the concept of transfer high school student Momoka being dragged into a club based around survival games after she's saved from a pervert on the train to school by Desert Eagle wielding classmate Miou, the series seemed like Battle Royale as a light comedy mixing with otaku-baiting cute girls that have a gun fetish. It's a bit of a relief that actually watching this reveals that it's more sane than that... maybe a little TOO sane for what it's going for. Sabagebu! is more in the style of a Looney Tunes parody. Scenes like one where Miou drugs Momoka and then puppets her unconscious body as she hands in her club application to her student advisor set the normal tone for this series. The "deadly" club games are pretty much make believe as they wield only replica guns that shoot BBs, and the narrator-who never saw a fourth wall he didn't immediately shatter-reminds the audience again and again that all the carnage shown is a visualization of the characters' delusions.

So if its head seems to be in the right place, why isn't Sabagebu! more funny? I think I only chuckled a couple times during the entire first episode. The main problem is it seems to lack the confidence just to go with its own insanity. The self-aware narrator is a decent fit for this series, but too often he's used to reassure the audience, underline what are obvious jokes, and overall put up a safety barrier between the show and the viewer. I realize it's probably to comfort people like the me who wrote the first two sentences of this review, but one of my favorite comedy series,  Full Metal Panic FUMOFFU!, dealt with similar issues of madcap comedy and violence by simply winding up the crazy situation of a teenager raised in war zones dealing with normal high school life, and letting it go at such an over-the-top level that taking it seriously in any form possible would be an act of idiocy. Sabagebu! seems to slow down after starting to jog like it's worried the floor is too slick. It also lacks comedic foils at this juncture since the students seem to have deep reverence for club leader Miou and Momoka is pretty much one of the group after the first episode. What it does have is time to improve, and if it can fix itself up, it has the potential to be a pretty decent comedy.

You can find Sabagebu streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

Weak Recommendation
Second Opinions


David: I was as disappointed as the next guy when I heard that fan favorite writer Gen Urobuchi (Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass) wouldn't actually be reuniting with the director of Fate/Zero to script Aldnoah Zero. That aside, the first episode still impressed the hell out of me. It's not perfect, some moments (I just wish there could be peace on earth!) felt a bit too forced, but others flat out blew me away. With the animation, direction, and incredible soundtrack from the composer behind Attack On Titan and Kill la Kill's also incredible soundtracks, Aldnoah Zero really does feel grand and exciting. With the emotionless protagonist I'm still a bit worried as to where the story will go, but so far Aldnoah Zero is brimming with promise that I'm crossing my fingers the show lives up to. Strong Recommendation


Jonathan: This is not a show that will blow anyone away, even those new to the mech genre. While the CG animation is very nice for these types of shows, the 2D animation is either spotty or dull to look at. Transition with the flashbacks are confusing, while all the main cast are very stock. War is nothing new covered for a series like this, and Argevollen doesn't seem to have anything interesting to add. The first episode starts very dull, but the reveal of the title mech brings some much needed life with a likable and spunky tech expert, along with an interesting angle. The Argevollen mainly fights against clunkier models through its perfect mobility and super armor, basically making it a physical brawler with a thick hide. It will eventually get weapons, but Argevollen makes good use of this concept for the starting battle. The problem is the series lacks any real identity beyond this, and while there is promise, it will take a few more weeks before I have a good idea if this is one to pick up for more casual audiences. Weak Recommendation


Joe: Like Hanasaku Iroha before it, P.A. Works' Glasslip is very pleasant. It has beautiful settings, the gang of high school students who get together every Summer are nice and friendly (Save the one grump that joins them, but he adds flavor to the group!), and the work they do doesn't seem like work at all! In fact, it's so pleasant that when conflict is introduced, it barely registers on an emotional level. When one of the characters wants everyone else to keep chickens in their household, they protest at first, but eventually they give in and kind of enjoy it, even though in the real world, the droppings alone would make the setup a nightmare. I can't deny the solid craftsmanship, especially the detailed background work, and it promises heavier issues with all the characters trying to figure out what they want to do with life after high school. However, if it continues at this current level, it'll be difficult to keep my attention from drifting, no matter how pretty the show might be. Weak Recommendation


Stephanie: I have mixed feelings about this one. I see the appeal and there were some fun moments, but it was actually rather dull to me. It’s rather hard to explain, honestly. Maybe it’s the newbie to the idol genre in me, or something else but there’s something I didn’t like about Locodol and I can’t figure it out. However, I’m not giving up just yet. I at least want to know if this feeling is going to stick with me or if it’ll get better. Hopefully, I’ll actually know why I don’t like the show that much right now. Weak Recommendation

Persona 4 the Golden Animation

Jonathan: This is probably the most pointless thing I've ever seen. Persona 4, one of the greatest games ever made, already received an anime with a movie just a few years ago, so the existence of Golden is baffling to me. Essentially, it's an animated version of an enchanted port that added new scenes and a new character, but the changes made in it are very minor. This is a cliff notes version of a far more interesting story with fanservice thrown in, and only has two redeeming factors in the great action and the hilarious writing for Yu this go. The animation is also better than the last series, but that isn't particularly high praise. The addition of the character Marie is also terribly done, throwing her in after credit scenes that drag on too long. The first episode does not make a good case for this existing, and I doubt the rushed pace for future episodes will either. We're already getting to Kanji by episode two, which is simply insane. No newcomers welcome, fans should just play the Vita version. New Yu is awesome, but not enough to warrant time spent on this. No Recommendation

Sabagebu! Survival Game Club!

Jonathan: I like the idea of Sabagebu, but not the execution. The show does manage some good laughs, especially whenever it does a meta joke (minus the survival games scene), and the personality of the main two characters are very funny. I about lost it at the revenge gag. However, the pacing out of the gags is the big issue. There's simply not enough to make up for the lower moments, or some jokes go on a little too long and lose their bite in the process. Some jokes are also not wacky enough or too expected, which doesn't work with a wacky comedy. Sabagebu is fun so far, but it needs to improve fast to really stand out among much funnier shows of the season (especially the new seasons for Hamatora and Space Dandy, the latter which had one of the best season premiers in recent memory). Weak Recommendation

Sailor Moon: Crystal

Jonathan: Well, it's definitely Sailor Moon. This reboot is selling itself as a much more faithful adaptation than the original anime, made far more for the target audience of young girls and older Sailor Moon fans, instead of the eventual bent into the male demographic the first anime started bending towards. That is definitely accomplished here, but with mixed results. The characters look ridiculously pretty, which is nice, but it does a disservice to comedy scenes. Not much energy is found in these designs, and I know shojo designs can to high emotion, so I have no idea why this is. Usagi in particular felt off. However, they worked much better in the more dramatic scenes, even adding some cool updates like the new form for the moon tiara. The animation and general use of color is also very lovely, but this first episode hasn't sold me too strongly yet. It's a very lovely show, but it needs some more time to flesh itself out. Hopefully the other sailor scouts and make things more lively. Solid Recommendation

Joe: It's Sailor Moon. If you've been waiting for this since the moment it was announced, it won't disappoint you. If you have serious issues with the series and would like the story and characters to bring something new to the table in 2014, you won't find what you're looking for. The first episode is slavishly devoted to the art style and story of the manga. This means the initial plot is centered mostly on Usagi, a character who eats shojo tropes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then goes into a food coma that causes her to be late for school the next day. She works better with an entourage, and for me, they can't get here soon enough. But if you want to argue that if it isn't broke, don't fix it, I won't debate that too much. Solid Recommendation

Samurai Jam: Bakumatsu Rock

Stephanie: It’s official, this is one of the most odd series I have seen this season! The premise is so out there that I just can’t take it seriously... But that’s not a bad thing. I feel like Bakumatsu is going to end up as one of those series that you need to turn your brain off in order to enjoy it. Typically, when I go into a new series, I try to be as open minded as possible. But when I sense a dumb series, I know I’m right a very good amount of the time. Personally, I’ll give it another episode or so to tell me where is wants to go. Doesn’t mean I’ll keep going throughout the entire season (since I do an Impressions series on my blog and drop seasonal things throughout the course of three episodes), but I’m willing to try another jam session! Weak Recommendation

Tokyo Ghoul

Jonathan: The first episode is a little disappointing. It skips over a lot of character building and psychological horror bits from the manga's early chapters, and it may leave newcomers feeling a tad cold. The good news is that the action is grotesque and exciting, the use of colors is beautifully grim, movement from scene to seen is spot on, and the voice acting is top notch. Pierrot is really putting in their best on this one, but I hope they don't rush through too much of the series too fast. Also, it was interesting to see Jason introduced so early and some major mysteries in the series getting hinted at already. Fans of the manga will love this, newcomers won't be blown away, but you should like what you get just fine. Strong Recommendation
We'll be back on the 26th with the remaining shows yet to be covered, along with thoughts on further development for shows we choose to continue following. See you again then for another report.


  1. Looks like you've been busy bees. I wish I had the time you had to sit down and watch all these shows...


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