Spring 2014 Anime Titles

I always try to be updated with anime,  so every season (though it does seem pretentious for a Tropical resident to follow temperate seasons) I follow the latest anime titles to come out from Japan. I’ve considered myself ‘updated’ since I was fifteen (that’s seven years of being an otaku now!).

How do I do it? Well,  I’m a loyal online streamer, and I never really got accustomed to torrenting stuff. I survive on the few online streaming sites left on the interne these days –  I suspect streaming is going to be an act of nostalgia for anime fans in the near future. My views on copyrights, you ask? Oh I’m rather non-materialistic about art – sure piracy steals from the artist a few million here and there, but it doesn’t leave him starving. Heck, I could even say that piracy expands an anime creator’s market as more viewers means more buyers of related merchandise. But I digress.

The streaming sites I subscribe to  feature series for the latest anime season, Spring 2014, and for what will be my eighth year in anime fandom I weeded through the new titles.

Now it is impossible to watch everything new, so I’ve developed a selection process of sorts over the years to know which titles to watch. I know the method is not perfect – I’m bound to miss some good titles. But I’m always trying to improve.

The most rudimentary step is to look at the title. Does this series’ title sound stupid? Something like ‘I, My,Me Strawberry Eggs’ will have very little chance of being watched. I’ve noticed that my literary side plays a role here – I go for ‘iconic’ titles (i.e. titles that feel as if they’re going to be remembered for years to come)  –  like ‘Shingeki no Kyojin’ or ‘Skip Beat,’ or titles with violent language – something like ‘Mawaru Penguindrum’ or ‘Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru.’ As that last example shows, this discrimination is very unreliable: I end up wasting my time on bad series with good titles and ignoring good series with bad titles. I rely on word of mouth to watch a series I ignored because of title and watch it retrospectively. Such cases include Lucky Star and Bleach.

Some titles automatically get watched because I’m a fan of their creators. Angel Beats was immediately on my list when it came out because it was by Key. The same goes with Arata Kangatari because it was by Yuu Watase. Of course, the same applies to ongoing series (Natsume Yuujinchou” and the Monogatari series being examples).

Another idiosyncrasy that affects my choice is if the new title appeals to my other interests: literature, politics, and history – here my interests overlap! It was not easy for me to like the Kingdom series because of its Chinese Warring States setting, and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood‘s political dimension was a delight. I actually waited for Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu Uta Koi to come out because it had the novelty of being an anime about Japanese poetry.

If I am ambiguous about a potential title, I refer to my oldest anime idiosyncrasy of all: I look at the cast! If I have any specialization as an otaku, it’s with seiyuu. If the title I am not sure with has seiyuu I know there’s a greater chance I will watch it. I was not a fan of demon-turned-human stories, so Aoi no Exorcist didn’t sound very exciting to me. But Nobuhiko Okamoto and Jun Fukuyama on the cast – and to my delight later Megumi Hayashibara – was enough to catch my attention. In fact, before I even read the synopses of the series, I look at the cast! In the Philippines, voice actors – dubbers – are grossly under-appreciated in spite of their talent (let me put it on record: I’ve always been a Jefferson Utanes fanboy).  Being a seiyuu fan is one small way I can show appreciation for voice acting in general.

Okay so now I have the titles I want to check out, what next? Well, I watch the first episode, and if it does not repulse me, I watch three more episodes to see if I’ll continue to follow it – my variant on the three episode test. Of course I rarely reach 3 episodes. It’s either I hate the series on the first episode, or I decide to continue following it by the second episode.

This season, I tried many titles but, owing to this picky process, I ended up following only two. They are:

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii: The title alone got my attention. I watched it without reading a synopsis of it, and to my delight there’s inter-kingdom politics in a fantastic world! The cast is also up and coming: Nobunaga Shimazaki, who recently starred as Haruka in Free Iwatobi Swim Club, moves closer to Jun Fukuyama level by playing the political prodigy Livius I, while Rena Maeda makes her first big break since voicing Machi in the 2011 adaptation of Hunter X Hunter with Nike-hime. In the supporting cast is also Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, and Daisuke Namikawa among others.

 

Black Bullet: I wasn’t too intrigued with the title, but the apocalyptic series’ complexity is captivating. Though I do feel it borrows too heavily from Shingeki no Kyojin – the bombastic OP with the choral interludes, the “constant threat to human existence prevented by not altogether perfect barriers,”  discrimination the oppressiveness of mankind with some of its own in spite of the threat. It doesn’t help that, like SnK, Yuki Kaiji also plays the lead role. But it remains original enough to keep me interested – in fact, what is here that isn’t in SnK (or in any other title I know for that matter) is what I’d like to coin as aware-moe, the moe based fundamentally on pity. The Cursed Children are kawaii not only because they are inherently so, but because they are pitiable. They are kawaii because they are kawai-sou.  Moe has been defined as the urge to protect the character (I cannot recall where I read that), and Black Bullet returns moe to that definition at its rawest by reminding us how fragile these fragile looking characters really are. Another thing that also keeps me hooked is Rikiya Koyama. Since playing Ouki in Kingdom, Koyama has taken on more fabulous roles over the years, and it seems like V for Vendetta-esque Kagetane Hiruko will be his most fascinating character yet. Also in the supporting cast are Yui Horie, Aki Toyosaki, and Ami Koshimizu among others.

Two titles are still being tried, Ryugajou Nanana no Maizokin and Mekaku City Actors. Nanana is strange enough that I might actually continue watching it, but Mekaku feels too much Bakemonogatari-ish without the cleverness.

I watch Soredemo and Black Bullet this summer (in the Philippines at least) with my two perennial series: Naruto (which I had started following in Tagalog on ABS-CBN since I was twelve, Shippuuden online consistently since I was fifteen) and Hunter x Hunter 2011 (I followed the original series in Tagalog on GMA-7 when I was ten, and I initially disliked the 2011 series, but that it has gone beyond the Greed Island Arc caught my attention). I am also rewatching Bleach and Fushigi Yuugi, while discovering more and more about utaite singers and vocaloid song writers (the Kradness-Niki colabs are working for me).


Hybrid no Anime o misete!

 

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