Fairy Tail – Thru 48

Funny thing: if you get to watching long-running series, you begin to watch them out of habit, rather than because of their actual merits. Bleach for instance, had a really good start, and the first couple arcs would actually make a 3 on my Rating scale; individual episodes could warrant a 3.5. But I feel like I watched it for too long. The series developed a tendency to whip up incredibly dull filler arcs that lasted dozens of episodes and went absolutely nowhere.

They couldn’t have permanent effects on either the characters or the story, because the manga material was the only material that could do that. I always wondered what poor soul(s) had to actually write filler material, and why they made it so paralyzingly dull. After 228 episodes, I had to say goodbye to Bleach. There was simply not enough going on, and I felt like it would take another 50-100 episodes to actually get to the conclusion I wanted. That’s just too much.

Now Fairy Tail has come to a major arc conclusion, and after 48 episodes, I still want more. I don’t know why, but it has a lot to do with watching so much of it. Sometimes battles drag out, but on the whole this series has done a good job moving forward, both with characters and with the plot. It’s battles also always strive to be relatively creative. After so many episodes, many enemies have become friends, many wrongs have been righted, and the series remains steadfastly upbeat.

I thought the series was over after 48 episodes, but alas, it was only this last arc. That’s okay, I think I’ll continue sticking with  it for now. I can’t really help it; I’m invested in a good five to ten characters (out of the dozens), and would like to see what will come their way next. It’s too early to tell if Fairy Tail will run out of steam, but it’s been good to me so far, so I’m not giving up on it. It’s not a pointless habit yet. Rating: 3

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama! – Wrap-up

And so ends another high school rom-com in which the focus is on the two most perfect students in the school. Usui is perfect at everything but quickly cracking the tsundere nut that is Misaki, while Misaki is perfect at everything but realizing that someone is in love with her, and she’s falling in love in return. Because why would a perfect guy or girl persue an inferior mate? That would be boring for them and us.

Usui relishes the chase and the constant reproaches. Misaki remains in an agonizing mix of confusion and denial for most of the series, which comes off as denseness to more and more of the side characters (this is appreciated.) The catalyst for her realization finally comes in the final episode, and after twenty-five episodes of turning away, lying, and storming off, she finally leans into a smooch of her own accord. Despite their ridiculous perfection in everything from sports and academics to looks and style, Usui and Misaki stay interesting, and both grow quite a bit, the latter growing more. The series takes its time developing them, with decent results.

Usui essentially knows what he wants from the get-go, and spends the series dispatching rivals and refining and adjusting his charms to suit Misaki’s personality, while knowing when to be firmer and more forward. But Misaki’s transformation isn’t just from an overbearing tomboy to more feminine and mature young woman; due to her role as the perfect backbone of her family, she has never known love period, so it makes sense that it would take a while for her to notice it staring her right in the face.

I had a feeling this series wouldn’t end ambiguously, and in the end, like Usui was with Misaki, I’m glad I was patient with Maid-Sama. The Maid angle is essentially garnish, and always was. The meat of this series is the two main characters, and the steady, measured evolution of their relationship from mutual antagonists to lovers. Rating: 3 (Ending: 3.5)

Nurarihyon no Mago 11

The moment Rikuo announces his intention to succeed his grandfather as the Nura clan’s Supreme Commander, a rival youkai clan comes out of the woodwork to challenge him, dispatching one of Nura’s grizzled veterans with alarming ease. Things are going to get rougher from here on out for our little Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde dude.

In this episode, Yura the onmyogi gets some well-deserved screentime, and doesn’t waste it. Ai Maeda even breaks out of her normally cutesy voice when she gets all serious and kick-ass, and proves more than a match for the wind-weilding youkai. Her whole interaction with the Supreme Commander has a nice dynamic. He clearly excels at concealing his youkai identity, so Yura assumes he’s just her friend’s small, helpless old grandfather. He even admits that of course all youkai are bad, simply because they’re “youkai.”

It’s a good point…demons are demons. They’re not supposed to befriend humans. But some are clearly worse than others, and so Yura’s struggle will continue if/as she learns the truth about Rikuo and his ‘family’ – can she bend the precepts of onmyogi-hood by befriending some youkai while hunting others? She’s still young, so it isn’t a stretch to believe she may. Rating: 3

Seitokai Yakuindomo – Wrap-up

SYD’s formula was simple: High school slice of life chock full of plays on words, double entendres, and good ol’ fashioned sex jokes, almost always delivered with good timing. The quality of the jokes varied throughout, but the series on the whole was consistently funny, just not laugh-out-loud ha-ha funny, the way Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei was at moments.

According to the ANN, this is only the third anime produced primarily by GoHands, and the first that I saw, and I enjoyed the different character and animation style it afforded. The voice-work was also spot-on and diverse, with even minor characters given very interesting voices. There were also several nice bits that parodied various genres of anime, and they’re convincingly done to the point that I’d probably enjoy a GoHands non-comedy as much as a comedy, if they did one.

Besides the growing hints of romance between Tsuda and Shino (which naturally doesn’t go anywhere; this is slice of life) I initially felt like one could watch these thirteen episodes in just about any order and not miss that much; it was very episodic. Of course, if one did they wouldn’t get the second half of the final episode, which is a recap with a twist; all of the incidents the cast remenices on are either embellished or completely new material, much of which trancends the high school setting, satirizing other genres. Rating: 3

Occult Academy 13 and Wrap-up

Well, that was unexpected! Then again, I really didn’t have a clue how this series was going to end, but in this case being in the dark worked to my advantage. The final episode proved an excellent and novel conclusion to one of my favorite series this summer season, both week-to-week and in general. It wasn’t afraid to not only throw a couple more big twists, but also navigate from calm a calm farewell atmosphere right to the edge of pure global catastrophe. This was a most impressive and satisfying finale that shows that each Anime no Chikara anime-only series has been better than the last.

I must commend the producers of this series for pulling out all the stops, particularly in the last three episodes, which were truly make-or-break. The relationship between Maya and Bunmei had a very nice and varied progression, and its conclusion was handled nicely as well. Other aspects of the series that were consistently excellent were the diverse character design with a nice edge to it, and some really terrific animation, from action scenes to facial expressions.

In fact, my only major gripe is the end-credits sequence, which features two creepy kids sleeping in the grass…this sequence is thankfully missing from the last episode. However, the opening-credits sequence made up for it, brimming with character portraits blended occult imagery, and the stirring opening theme itself was my favorite of the season, with a really nice bass-line and some powerful female vocals. As we move forward to the fall season, this is one series I shall miss. Whatever the next Anime no Chikara series is, it’ll have big shoes to fill. Rating: 3.5 (Ending: 4)

Asobi ni Ikuyo – Thru 11

Yes…that is a big cat bell around the guy’s neck. I know what you’d say: that’s ridiculous. You’re right; it is. But much of Asobi ni Ikuyo is ridiculous. It knows it is, and it’s not shy about it. Private ocean liners owned by cat-ear enthusiast cults, young women running around naked with guns, little dogs who only communicate by laughing through their teeth…and bells that can be used to construct spaceships. If this series were human, it may be inclined to lick windows.

Things in this series simply don’t always have to make sense, and it’s okay with that. Yet despite the rather tired premise of three girls after the same lame guy, most other aspects of this show are actually fairly imaginative and fresh, and the show is exceedingly vibrant and well-animated. It certainly keeps you guessing.

That combination of unpredictability and refusal to take itself too seriously has kept this show consistently fun to watch, even if it’s about as deep as a petri dish. The shit hits the fan in episode 10, and preparations to resolve the conflict take place in episode 11. We’ll see if the last episode can bring home the bacon, or just have us laughing “meh” through our teeth.  Rating: 3

Nurarihyon no Mago 10

After the duel and reconciliation with Rikuo’s betrayer and the political mess was cleaned up, the series could sit back and focus on a underused character, Kana. It wasn’t until this episode that I even noticed she was Aya Hirano (which is strange, considering she’s the lead heroine in Fairy Tail, which I’m currently watching). Chalk it up to how little she’s actually said in the first nine episodes. I also figured out Yuki-onna is voiced Yui Horie (Kushieda in Toradora); her quirky voice works very well for the spirited snow girl.

Anyway, this episode centered on Kana, and was the first to do so; as such, Hirano gets to say a decent amount. So much of the series has taken place from Rikuo’s perspective, it was good to see her get a little more fleshed out. Rikuo’s friends basically have no choice but to deal with demons from here on out, because they’re certainly not going anywhere. What I like is how they react in different ways. Had Yura busted in on a restaurant packed with Youkai she would have gone ballistic – it’s her calling to hunt them.

But Kana plays a more pragmatic role; much like Chihiro in “Spirited Away”, she kinda just goes with the flow. That said, it’s interesting that now she’s suddenly interested in Night Rikuo and not the weeny day version; one wonders if he’ll ever tell her (or anyone else) that they’re both him. I suppose that wouldn’t go over so well in the demon world, but being the boss must have its perks. Rating: 3