Mekakucity Actors Eps 1-12 (Shaft/Aniplex of America)

Mekakucity Actors
CREDIT: Aniplex of America

Rating: 3/5 – Visually Engaging but Poorly Paced.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Greg Bretall.

Premise
Mekakucity Actors starts by focusing on a shut-in named Shintaro who leaves his apartment for the first time in two years, only to get dragged into a terrorist kidnapping. He is then saved by a mysterious group of teenagers called the Mekakushi Dan (literally Blindfold Gang) who all have super powers that are based around their eyes and is subsequently dragged into their organization. The show is 12 episodes long. http://www.crunchyroll.com/mekakucity-actors

What’s Awesome About It?
Mekakucity Actors has a lot of issues, chief amongst them being its extremely poor pacing. Mekakucity Actors not only jumps its focus to a completely different character for each of the first several episodes, but it also withholds an alarming amount of information from the viewer. This withholding ends up only leaving the viewer in the dark, to the point where it isn’t even clear at all what the plot even is until well over halfway through the show’s relatively short 12 episode run. The show attempts to hint at the overall plot by having a short sequence at the end of each episode that follows a storybook tale of monster that is rejected by humanity. However, this only serves to confuse the viewer even more.

The animation in the show, however, is very eye-catching in traditional Shaft style. The show employs a very skillful usage of color coding for its characters. However, the character designs themselves are extremely similar to those found in one of Shaft’s other major works, the Monogatari Series. In spite of the similarity, the show still manages elements of its own unique artistic style to show through, especially in the aforementioned storybook segments which take on a paper-craft style similar to that found in Madoka (another Shaft work), but with a distinct style to them that sets them apart. The show also attempts to focus on idol and vocaloid songs, something which featured much more prominently in Kagerou Project, the manga that the show is adapted from. However, this largely falls flat as the show isn’t really long enough or coherent to really capitalize on this gimmick, making the only instances of this seem odd and out of place compared to the overall tone of the rest of the show which is equal parts dark supernatural and science fiction combined with elements of fairy tales.

My Thoughts
I really wanted to like Mekakucity Actors and while I didn’t explicitly dislike it, it definitely suffered from a lot of issues. In my opinion the show could’ve benefited from being stretched out over another season instead of the 12 episodes that the entirety of the plot was crammed into. While the show definitely has some interesting things going for it, I don’t think it’s a must watch show.

Reviewed by: Greg Bretall
(greg@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Golden Time Eps 1-24 (J.C. Staff/Sentai Filmworks)

GoldenTime

CREDIT: Sentai Filmworks

Rating: 5/5 – A Slice of Life That Breaks the Mold.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Greg Bretall.

Premise
Golden Time is a 24 episode slice of life show that follows a Japanese law school student named Tada Banri who lost all of his memories after he graduated high school. As the show continues on, it follows Tada Banri and his relationships with various people, mainly an obsessive girl named Kaga Kouko who chases after Banri’s new friend. The show is 24 episodes long. http://www.crunchyroll.com/golden-time

What’s Awesome About It?
While the premise may seem similar to other slice of life shows, Golden Time has a lot that really sets it apart from the crowd. First off, the setting of the show is a break from the norm of slice of life shows as it doesn’t take place in a high school. In addition to this, the show spends almost no time on the school aspect of the show, but rather spends its time on developing its characters.

The characters themselves are the other major driving force behind the quality of the show. The character development of the core cast in the show is superbly done on a level not usually seen in run of the mill slice of life shows. Rather than focus on character development through plot gimmicks or contrived events, Golden Time usually focuses on character development through less trope-ridden plot lines as well as genuine character interaction. The romance aspect of the show is also extremely well done. While most shows that feature a romantic relationship end up dancing around the issue for the run of the show, only giving a weak start to a relationship during the final episodes, Golden Time features much more believable relationships and actually follows them through their course. Combined together with the well-done pacing of every aspect of the show, Golden Time manages to remain interesting throughout its entire run.

My Thoughts
I personally am a huge fan of slice of life fiction, especially when it actually features real relationships instead of just teasing them. It’s for this reason that Golden Time was particularly appealing to me as a series. It also has superb writing and I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who is interested in any slice of life or romantic anime.

Reviewed by: Greg Bretall
(greg@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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One Week Friends Eps 1-12 (Brain’s Base/Sentai Filmworks)

One Week Friends
CREDIT: Sentai Filmworks

Rating: 4/5 – A Cute But Predictable Slice of Life.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Greg Bretall.

Premise
One Week Friends follows high school student Yuuki Hase who wants to become friends with a girl in his class who doesn’t talk to people named Kaori Fujimiya. Upon speaking with her, he learns that she doesn’t make friends because she has a condition where she forgets everything about her friends every week. In spite of this, however, Hase makes an effort to become friends with her again and again every week. The show is 12 episodes long.  http://www.crunchyroll.com/one-week-friends

What’s Awesome About It?
What really shines about One Week Friends the most is the overall cute style of the show. While most slice of life shows attempt to be cute, there aren’t any in recent times who have pulled it off as expertly as Brain’s Base with One Week Friends. The art style is defined by the fact that the characters are always blushing somewhat as a feature of how they’re drawn. This, combined with the generally warm color palette of the show and the generic happy slice of life soundtrack, results in a very cute overall aesthetic. The show also has no shortage of cute moments between the two main characters. However, this also leads into the show’s main weakness: predictability. One Week Friends follows almost all of the standard high school slice of life show episodes while also combining in several tropes from romance type films. Due to this, many of the plot twists in the show are rather expected and are designed specifically to tug at the viewer’s heartstrings.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed most of One Week Friends. While it did err towards predictability and tropes, the general cuteness of the show definitely outweighed this most of the time. If you’re looking for a cute high school romance show, then One Week Friends is definitely for you, but otherwise, it would probably be best to steer clear.

Reviewed by: Greg Bretall
(greg@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Ping Pong: The Animation Eps 1-11 (Tatsunoko Production/Funimation)

Ping Pong
CREDIT: Tatsunoko Productions

Rating: 4.5/5 – Mold-Breaking Sports Anime.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Greg Bretall.

Premise
Ping Pong the Animation follows two high school ping pong players named Smile and Peco. Smile earned his name because of his emotionless and robotic nature and the show follows the two of them as they both go their own separate ways, searching to find the reason for their motivations to play ping pong. The show is 11 episodes long.  http://www.hulu.com/search?q=Ping+Pong%3A+The+Animation

What’s Awesome About It?
While Ping Pong may just sound like a sports anime, it is anything but. Director Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, Tatami Galaxy) took what may not have been the most interesting source material and successfully adapted it into something extremely unique and worth watching. The animation style of the show is very rough, with a distinct hand-drawn and wavering look to it. This adds a very unique dimension to the show and sets it far apart from the standard crowd of anime that come out nowadays which often all have very similar looking animation and character designs. The show also does a phenomenal job of using manga panel style cuts as well very interesting and colorful cut away sequences to turn the ping pong matches into a gripping and integral part of the show.

Ping Pong also does a very good job of genuinely developing the entire cast of characters throughout the show. While most anime in general develop only the main two or three characters, Ping Pong takes all five of the main characters and gives them full and complete character arcs. The pacing in the show is also done very well, with each episode raising the stakes from the previous episode, keeping the viewer engaged throughout the entire run of the show.

The sound work on the show is also extremely polished. The opening is an extremely upbeat rock song that comes along with a good showcase of the animation style that is to be expected in the show, while the actual soundtrack itself consists of airy electronic music. It does a very good job of setting the mood for the show. The voice work in the show is also very good with all of the characters very skillfully conveying their character through tone of voice. As an additional note, the show features two Chinese characters that were fortunately voiced by actual fluent speakers of Mandarin.

My Thoughts
I had an amazing time watching Ping Pong the Animation and highly recommend. When I watched it, I had not watched any other sports anime, but was drawn in by the animation style and by director Yuasa’s previous works. I highly recommend Ping Pong to anyone who is even remotely interested in sports anime or just wants to see something that is different and very well written and executed at the same time.

Reviewed by: Greg Bretall
(greg@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Free! Eternal Summer Season 2 Ep1-4 (Kyoto Animation/Funimation)

free eternal summer

Rating: 3.5/5 – Largely the Same as the First Season.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Greg Bretall.

Premise
Free! Eternal Summer is the second season of Free! which follows a group of friends who all swam in a relay together in elementary school and have decided to reunite in high school and start a swimming club at their school. The second season follows the three main characters (Haruka, Makoto, and Rin) as they go through their last year of high school and swim in another relay race. The series is ongoing and premieres on Wednesdays.
http://www.crunchyroll.com/free-iwatobi-swim-club

What’s Awesome About It?
Free! Eternal Summer doesn’t have a lot going for it over the first season of the show. While the first season had a lot of good moments and character development in it which made it a worthwhile experience, Eternal Summer has so far fallen flat. Most of the season has been a series of mirrored moments from the first season and relatively uninteresting slice of life moments. So far in the season, none of the old characters have really faced anything that challenges their characters, with them reacting in predictable. In addition, the two new characters introduced into the show are relatively uninteresting with one being mostly a delivery mechanism for gags and the other being a brooding and relatively uninteresting old friend of Rin’s.

The show still benefits greatly from its superb animation however. Kyoto Animation once again has delivered top notch animation especially during the swimming scenes. The show also keeps up on the fan service targeted at the female audience, although unlike the first season, a lot of the fan service this time around is much staler and less entertaining.

My Thoughts
Although I was skeptical of the first season of Free! as it was a fan service show directed mainly at a heterosexual female audience, I found myself genuinely enjoying it for its humor and good character development. This is why, even though I want to like Free! Eternal Summer as much as the first season, it really falls flat for me. This is obviously a must watch for fans of the show, but for new viewers I would recommend just the first season and potentially waiting on Eternal Summer as it still has potential to get better.

Reviewed by: Greg Bretall
(greg@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Sword Art Online II Ep1-4 (A-1 Pictures/Aniplex of America)

sword art online II
CREDIT: A-1 Pictures

Rating: 4/5 – A Great Return to the Core of Sword Art.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Greg Bretall.

Premise
Sword Art Online II is the sequel to the popular Sword Art Online which followed Kirito, a teenager who was trapped inside the virtual reality MMORPG Sword Art Online. The second season takes place several months after the first and focuses on a new game, Gun Gale Online (a shooter game). There are rumors that there is someone in the game who has a gun that allows him to simultaneously kill a player in the game and real life. A government agent enlists Kirito to go into the game and find this player and stop him. The show is ongoing and premieres on Saturdays. http://www.crunchyroll.com/sword-art-online

What’s Awesome About It?
Sword Art Online’s second season does a good job of recapturing some of what made the original Sword Art Online so captivating. The show has added back in the threat of death, although it is still not the same as the first arc of Sword Art. In spite of this, the show manages to do a good enough job of keeping the viewer’s attention. All of the action sequences in the show so far have been very well done.

The main boon that the second season of Sword Art has is its introduction of the new character Sinon. By not spending the focus of the narrative on Kirito so far, the show has managed to be much more interesting and has avoided the staleness that usually completely pervades the second seasons of shows. Both the animation and the score of the show are relatively on par with the first season in being of definitely above average quality while not breaking any ground.

My Thoughts
I strongly disliked the second arc in the first season of Sword Art Online, so I went into Sword Art Online II cautiously. However, I was pleasantly surprised by what they’ve done with the second season of the show so far. While it doesn’t maintain the tone of the first arc, it has managed so far to be something more action focused. The focus so far on gun based combat has definitely made the shounen action more interesting. If you were a fan of the first season of Sword Art Online or like shounen or first person shooter games, then Sword Art Online II is definitely worth watching.

Reviewed by: Greg Bretall
(greg@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Aldnoah.Zero Ep1-4 (A-1 Pictures/Aniplex of America)

Aldnoah.Zero_
CREDIT: A-1 Pictures

Rating: 4/5 – An Exciting Mecha Show with Great Potential.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Greg Bretall.

Premise
Aldnoah.Zero takes place in an alternate history where humans found a hypergate to Mars on the moon during the 1970’s. On Mars they found advanced alien technology and a faction of humanity broke off from Earth and had used this technology to wage war against Earth. During the last war, the Martians blew up Earth’s moon and have now taken an opportunity to invade Earth again, intending to conquer it once and for all this time. The show is ongoing and premieres on Saturdays. http://www.crunchyroll.com/aldnoah-zero

What’s Awesome About It?
The show starts off rather slow, focusing on minor political intrigue and some high school students that are hopelessly outgunned by the technologically superior Martian forces. However, the show picks up significantly by the 3rd episode, showing off what sets it apart from the crowd of other mecha shows. Rather than focusing on straight forward fights like most shows, Aldnoah.Zero focuses on ingenuity and strategy to solve battles, much like an even more underdog version of Code Geass.

The writing has unfortunately been rather lacking so far with the characters not being particularly fleshed out. However, the show still has time to grow the characters and writer Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero, Puella Magi Madoka Magica) has a good track record of doing exactly. The soundtrack also brings star power in the form of Hiryuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill), bringing his signature mix of electronic and rock music together again to enhance the excitement in the show. The animation is one of the show’s main weak points, not particularly standing out, although the CG used for the mechas is relatively good, not particularly breaking the viewer from the show unlike the CG used in a lot of shows.

My Thoughts
I was skeptical of Aldnoah.Zero at first and considered dropping the show altogether, but it has definitely improved. I believe that as the show continues on, it will keep getting better, much like Gen Urobuchi’s earlier works of which I am a big fan. Aldnoah.Zero is, however, still a mecha show and if you’re not interested in mecha shows, there is nothing so far which really puts Aldnoah.Zero above and beyond into the realm where it is a must watch.

Reviewed by: Greg Bretall
(greg@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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