End-of-Month Rundown – October 2013

10rd

We said last month we were hoping to keep our Fall watchlist under a dozen, and we seem to have settled on a dozen exactly, eight of which are currently rated 7 (Very Good) or higher after 3-4 episodes. So how has it all wrung out in this first month of the Fall?

12. Strike the Blood 4/-  (6.000) – A very by-the-numbers supernatural buddy rom-com that breaks no new ground, but has a certain inscrutable charm to it, which has a lot to do with the couple, who have nice chemistry (once you get past the awful pervert gags).

11. White Album 2 4/12  (6.750) – A classic example of a show not trying to do too much; just getting two girls and a guy together in a band and watching how things get complicated when they all start to like each other. Don’t read too much into that!

10. Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta 4/13  (6.750) – The second of two non-sequel franchise “re-imaginings” (the other being White Album), this richly-detailed supernatural slice-of-life with occasional spurts of intense action got off to a very promising start, but its creators clearly didn’t know what they were doing in the last episode, which is troubling.

9. Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova 4/12  (7.000) – The bizarre concept of haughty “mental models” – avatars of anachronistic Japanese warships – coming to appreciate the value of humans through their defeats appeals to us, and the battles are awesome. But if the cel-shaded characters have the Uncanny Valley effect on you, you won’t like this one bit.

8. Kakumeiki Valvrave 2nd Season 3/-  (7.333) – Three episodes is a small sample size, but Valvrave’s second season has yet to make any serious missteps. Of course, last season’s worst episode was its fourth, so knock on wood. We still couldn’t care less about the esoteric “Magius” business, but we like how characters like Akira and Marie are getting more fleshed out.

7. Kyoukai no Kanata 5/- (7.400) – After completely changing gears with the innovative, guy-centric Free!, KyoAni returns to its well-worn “adorable goofball girl” formula. We were initially dubious that this series had anything new to say, but when what it does say is said in such riveting fashion as its fourth episode, it’s hard not to keep watching.

6. Monogatari Series: Second Season 4/12 (including 1 recap)  (7.667) – Sengoku Nadeko’s arc is notable in that there is no happy ending, only setup to a possible conclusion in the indeterminate future. After the recap we shift to a new arc that explains why Koyomi was mostly absent for Nekomonogatari(Shiro). It just started, but we like the sound of learning more about the lil’ vampire’s past.

5. Nagi no Asukara 4/26  (7.750) – Aside from being utterly gorgeous, we like the worldbuilding/mythos behind this show, how it’s been dealing with societal issues like ingrained prejudice, and how it’s underscored how fragile and possibly doomed the sea people and their culture are.

4. Golden Time 4/12 (including 2 recaps)  (8.000) – Don’t let it’s #4 ranking here mislead you: Golden Time is a smart, sweet, top-tier series with some really solid writing and character development. It took an obnoxious brat of a character and made her sympathetic, and the male lead didn’t waste any time expressing his feelings for her. The college adventures are also fresh and relatable. It’s also covered an impressive amount of ground in four episodes, considering it’s running for a full 26.

3. Kill la Kill 4/-  (8.250) – It’s clear both from the first four episodes of this show and all of the shows they’ve made before that the creator(s) are very well-attuned to the primary purpose of anime: to entertain. Kill la Kill is insanely fun to watch, but also tells a coherent story. It’s replete with fanservice that cleverly serves that story: modesty lessens the power of the uniforms.

2. Kyousougiga 3/10  (8.333) – While Kill la Kill will almost always out-crazy this show in a head-to-head crazy duel, Kyousougiga’s focus is on history, family, and love, much like last season’s Uchouten Kazoku. Like that tanuki-infested gem, this show is full of lively characters, all with their own agendas.

1. Samurai Flamenco 3/22  (8.667) – We’re not in middle or high school anymore, so we always rejoice when a good show featuring adults comes around. And this show is very good indeed, having a lot of fun with the audience’s expectations of how far the superhero milieu will go. Like Kick-ass and real-life viral superheroes, it looks like this will stay grounded in reality, which is just fine with us!

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