End-of-Month Rundown – September 2012

11. Binbougami-ga! – Complete (5.923) – At times, this series was either trying to do too much or not doing enough, but it had a strong finish to go with its strong first episode, and Ichiko and Momiji had a good friendship arc. Aside from Rindou, we didn’t really care for the supporting cast.

10. Accel World –  Complete (6.000) Some nice twists at the end, including some epic scheming by Chiyu, completed a consistently decent second half, marred only in the middle by Hime’s forgettable beach mini-arc.

8. Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 13/24 (6.308) – Yui and Yuuya have always been fun to watch both earlier when they were at each other’s throats and more recently now that they’re essentially best buds. The show does best when it focuses on these two and amps up the danger levels, definitely not when it’s going for fanservice or comedy.

9. Sket Dance – Complete (6.385) – Still…can’t believe…it’s over…but we’re also kinda glad it ended when it did, with the nostalgic return of episode one client Teppei and the bang of Saaya’s simple, earnest confession.

7. Tari Tari – Complete (7.154) – By the time the end came around, the spell Tari Tari had cast on us was wearing thin, as it lacked balance in the attention it gave its characters, and their goals were just a little on the hokey side.

6. Sword Art Online – 13/25 (7.154) – Kirito and Asuna are officially a couple, and aside from a side episode or two, the remainder of the series should focus on continuing to work towards beating the game. We hope we get to see some of these people waking up in the real world!

5. Rinne no Lagrange Season 2 Complete (7.333) – A second season that was just as good, if not a little better than the first is what we were hoping for. The competent action and space battles all continued to take a backseat to the characters and their bonds. It earned its tidy, feel-good epilogue.

4. Kokoro ConnectComplete; until extra episodes (7.769) – Like Oreimo, there will be four more episodes to come, but even if there weren’t, the series had a great ending. We liked all three arcs, all the characters, and cared about what happened to them. Their interactions under duress were always engrossing.

3. Hyouka – Complete (8.333) – The perfect example of a series not going where we might’ve liked, but still being amazing to watch, maybe even in spite of Chitanda and Oreki never quite getting anywhere on the couple front.

2. Eureka Seven AO – 22/24 (8.444) – AO has really stepped up its game in the second half, and the twists and trippy turns never quit. Ao, Fleur, Elena, Naru and Truth have all been through a ton – as has the world. The cliffhanger leaves us highly anticipating the final conclusion later this fall.

1. Natsuyuki RendezvousComplete (8.636) – The best series of 2012 so far. A short, sweet, mature, and absolutely moving romantic drama.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 14

Moments from defeat, Yuuya is bailed out by Latrova and the Zhar battalion, who wipe out the Beta surrounding him. The Soviet bombers start bombing the base, killing five of Latrova’s Eishis. Laser-Class Betas take out the bombers, saving Zhar. Latrova orders Kayl and Tonya to escort Yuuya to safety. She pursues an unknown signal while the rest of her battalion attempt to destroy the Laser-Classes. Just as Argos is about to pull out of the USSR, ending their joint exercises, Yuuya hobbles home, to everyone’s joy and relief. Later, news comes that Zhar Battalion was victorious in holding the front, but were was lost in the process. A new “Second Phase” Shiranui is unveiled.

Numerous times while conversing, Latrova mocks Yuuya’s Soviet conspiracy theories as not only stupid, but irrelevant. He and she are Eishis – the only remotely effective weapon against the Beta. They have neither the time nor the inclination to worry about politics. She has a point – it’s a strenuous job without worrying about the moral implications. But she also shows her softer side in voicing her belief that Eishis have a unique power to protect those things closest to them. Fikatsia Latrova lost her husband and son because she lost sight of her primary duty, and perhaps shared Yuuya’s suspicions. Now she has a new family with Zhar Battalion, and she intends to protect them to the end.

To do so, she covers their rear by going after a lightning-fast, mysterious TSF that’s shadowing her, but we never see the result. But she knew that both she and her battalion probably weren’t coming out of this alive. When she sends two of her comrades off with Yuuya with orders not to return, she’s actually saving their lives by excluding them from the impending battle. Of course, they disobey and return after dropping Yuuya off, likely joining their commander’s fate. But much to Yui’s relief, Yuuya returns, with Shiranui in almost one piece, and the unveiling of its replacement marks the end of the Soviet arc and the start of the next chapter in humanity’s struggle against the vile Beta.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 01

1000 years from the present day, in a tranquil and isolated village, Wantanabe Saki begins Apotheosis class in which to master her newly-bestowed “cursed powers” of telekinesis, or juryoku. She recieved her “blessing” late, causing her and her parents to worry because of a mysterious rumor of a “Faze Cat” that takes underachieving children away. The unconfident weak link in Saki’s group, Amano Reiko, suddenly disappears.

This table and tone-setting first episode does not unfold strictly linearly, starting in more-or-less the present day we recognize, in which a troubled-looking young man blows out the door of the taxi he’s in with his mind, then sets to work ‘popping’ everyone around him with deadly telekinesis. Jump forward a millenium, and society has – depending on your opinion – progressed or regressed. Technology is almost nonexistent; the land is lush and untouched by industry; villages are modest; no one can leave their boundaries; and everyone develops telekinetic skills.

We don’t see (not yet at least) what exactly people do with these powers – normal scenes like dinner are presented without any juryoku, which is limited to training in the classroom – but considering all the talk about Akki and Faze Cats and other supernatural baddies – some of which may be taking the less-talented telekinesists away to their doom – it would seem these cursed powers are a necessity for survival in this new age. Wantanabe Saki is mindful of this as we watch most of this episode from her perspective, dotted with foreboding moments of her past that inform her present. It’s a neat, cerebral, and very cool presentation. Combined with above-par animation, deep colors, a slick, moody soundtrack, and cool wardrobe, this series didn’t waste any time showing promise.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameo:
Our horrid little person-exploding boy arrives at his destination in a green-and-yellow Toyota Comfort taxi.

Sword Art Online – 13

After catching a huge legendary fish with an old man named Nishida, Kirito and Asuna are summoned back to the front lines by Heathcliff. The KBO guild are the first line of attack against the newest boss, The Skull Reaper. The boss is extremely powerful – able to kill a player in one strike – to the point only combined coordinated attacks of Heathcliff, Kirito and Asuna will have any effect.

We feel a little cheated over the first third of this episode. Sure, there was a very sweet and intimate bedtime scene between Kirito and Asuna, but for crying out loud, the rest was all about catching a daggone FISH. It was just filler! But in case you haven’t grasped the depths of Asuna’s love for Kirito: she cried herself to sleep every night until he came along; he became her only reason for living, if he were ever to die, she’d kill herself; and she wants to date and marry and grow old together with Kirito, even if it’s in hospital beds hooked up to machines. That last point is the first serious mention of interest in what could be going on with peoples’ bodies in the real world.

Asuna’s absolute devotion forces us to take a good long look at Fayt Leingod Kirito and ponder: is he worth all the fuss? Don’t get us wrong, he’s a nice guy, who’s saved Asuna’s life and the lives of countless others. But now it’s as if Asuna doesn’t consider herself an individual anymore. She’s either going to be with Kirito, or she doesn’t exist. For his part, Kirito is fine with all this devotion-bordering on-obsession, but can’t quite match her desperately intense passion. All of Asuna’s lovey-dovey talk could also be foreshadowing her death, but we highly doubt the series will pull a stunt like that on such a popular character at this juncture, if ever.

Rating: 6 (Good)