Autumn Anime Knockout – Round 2

In which I decide which five anime I’ll be keeping on this season! It pained me to drop so many promising new shows in the first round, and the casualties this time will be even harder to bear… but I can always go back to them if/when my internet is sorted out. 😛 Until then, five series will have to do. The extra free time might even convince me to get back to my huge backlog of older series, as I’ve only really watched ongoing anime since starting my job!

Match 1: Magi vs Jormungand: Perfect Order

Magi:


The second episode saw Ali Baba and Aladdin enter the dungeon known as Ammon, hoping to discover great riches and be the first people to leave the place alive! But it seems Ali Baba may have another reason for taking on the dungeon, one that he’s so far keeping from his even more mysterious companion (and the viewer). Inside, they face a multitude of traps, ranging from the classic giant boulder trap (who resets those things?) to giant combining slime bug hatchlings.

Their biggest threat comes in the form of the local Sharrif, however. Briefly introduced in the previous episode, he is the owner of the land surrounding Ammon, but craves greater wealth and power, and believes Aladdin will help him get it. Together with his slaves, the small but strong Morgiana and the enormous Goltas, he follows them into the dungeon. Much like Budel from the first ep, the way he treats these slaves makes him impossible to like.

I don’t know what changed (if anything) between the first episode and this one, but Magi didn’t feel quite so spectacular second time around. Maybe it’s just the fact I’ve sampled a lot more new shows since, many of which had more complex plots and characters, or intriguing mysteries… I honestly don’t know. I still enjoy the setting, however, and animation-wise it’s definitely one of the nicer looking series of the season.

Jormungand: Perfect Order:

Jormungand: Perfect Order may be a sequel, but unlike Hidamari Sketch and Bakuman its first series didn’t leave me desperate for more. It satisfied my craving for action in a season full of slice-of-life, romance and comedy shows, but always seemed to be lacking in the plot department in my opinion. The fact that I couldn’t help but compare it to Black Lagoon (similar but far better IMO) also worked against it. And though it cleared Round 1 of this tournament, Code:Breaker was hardly tough competition…

Still, neither of the two episodes of Perfect Order I’ve sampled have been particularly action packed. This one mostly consisted of talking, flashbacks and character building for the protagonist Koko, the antagonist Hex, and one of Koko’s subordinates known as ‘R’ – who is a double agent, acting as an informant to CIA executive George Black (AKA The Puppeteer, Saw, Bookman, Adib…). They’re all interesting, and none of them could easily be labeled ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ – which gives the show an edge over Magi.

Basically, Perfect Order seems to be fixing all the issues I had with Jormungand first time around, focusing on characters and hopefully a more in-depth story over short arcs filled with gunfights (though I’ve no doubt there will be gunfights later on, and I look forward to them!) If it keeps this up, it certainly will be Perfect! 😛 Who will R choose to side with if Operation Undershaft leads to Koko and Saw ending up as enemies? I look forward to finding out!

RESULT: I may have seeded it fifth to begin with, but Jormungand: Perfect Order‘s victory over Magi was a shock considering how impressed I was with the latter in Round 1…

Match 2: Zetsuen no Tempest vs BTOOOM!

Zetsuen no Tempest:

Zetsuen no Tempest surprised me first time around, defeating Bakuman, but then my Final Five would be a pretty boring selection if I kicked out every promising looking new series to put through old favorites! The first episode promised plenty of action, but of the magical/supernatural kind, so the fact I’ve already put Jormungand through shouldn’t count against it there.

Plot-wise, we get a little more of an explanation of what’s going on – the Kusaribe clan are trying to summon these ‘fruit’ things, and if they are all summoned, they will merge into their ‘true form’… which can’t be good for the rest of the world. Mahiro has agreed to help the stranded mage princess Kusarube Hakaze save the world from those who betrayed her, in exchange for help tracking down his sister Aika’s killer. Then there’s Yoshino, who (unbeknownst to Mahiro ) was Aika’s secret lover… what role will he play?

I like the idea of using Talismans to harness magic power. Since the power is already in the items, all the characters need to know is how to use them, and they’re able to get straight into action without need for years of magical training or whatever (years they don’t have, with the end of the world swiftly approaching…) It also places restrictions on their powers, though – talismans have limited uses, so they’ll have to make each use count! Suffice to say, I’m still impressed with Tempest after two episodes. 🙂

BTOOOM!:

BTOOOM! entered Round 2 as a firm favorite, simply because I love survival game style series. The second episode took a rather unusual direction, however – rather than continue on from the first ep, the focus shifted entirely from our male protagonist and onto the female character introduced at the end, showing us her back story. Part set in Japan, part set on the desert island… but crucially, nothing in between to explain how she got from one place to the other.

On the island, this new protagonist Himiko doesn’t adapt well. Choosing not to enter the forest, she lies on the beach until she is found by three men. One, a school teacher, seems genuinely interested in working together to find a way off the island. Needless to say, he doesn’t last long, killed by another of the men who is only interested in looking after himself. Scared that they’ll be next, Himiko and the third man make their escape… and that doesn’t end well either, when he turns out to be *a little* creepy.

The flashbacks to her life in Japan, meanwhile, are focused on one event: Himiko introduced some of her friends to members of a band they liked, as they lived next door to her. But before joining them, she stopped at her house briefly. When she finally arrived… they were getting raped. Himiko escaped and phoned the police, but was blamed by her best friend for what happened. She now believes she’s on the island as some sort of punishment for this… and after all that’s happened, doesn’t think highly of men!

RESULT: Censorship in BTOOOM! and the fact that it didn’t really progress at all from the first episode, means that Zetsuen no Tempest surprises again!

Match 3: Psycho-Pass vs Robotics;Notes

Psycho-Pass:

I love that the random draw placed Psycho-Pass against Robotics;Notes – both are noitaminA slot series, both are produced by Production I.G., and both have concepts which appeal to me a lot! This season isn’t big enough for the two of them, and based on Round 1 alone, Psycho-Pass looked by far the stronger. Again, while I try not to pick up loads of very similar series (particularly when I’ve only got five spaces to play with), I feel it’s different enough plot-wise to Jormungand and Zetsuen no Tempest.

While the first episode introduced the basics of the Psycho-Pass and Sibyl system using latent criminals as an example, the second episode showed just how much this world of super advanced technology impacts on other aspects of life too. Rooms can be customized with whatever theme you like as easily as changing a desktop wallpaper, clothes can similarly be changed instantly, and the flavour and calorie content of food can be precisely controlled… all by your friendly holographic jellyfish assistant!

The system even tells you what jobs you’re allowed to apply for – in this case, our protagonist Akane happens to be a prodigy who ranked highly in the tests, and was offered several high ranking positions… but she chose Public Safety, because of all those tested, she was the only one who showed an aptitude for it. But regardless of what the system says, is it the right job for her? This question was the main focus of this solid second episode, which also fit in plenty of character introduction and development.

Robotics;Notes:

Introductions out of the way, the two person Robotics Club make a start on fixing up their 8-year-old ‘hobby robot’ in time for a tournament only two weeks away. Failure would mean the end of their club, and of their dreams of building a giant replica of Gunvarrel! But unsurprisingly, the old machine needs a lot of work, and a lot of replacement parts which they can’t afford. And even when they DO somehow manage to get it moving, controlling it is another matter entirely…

The additional focus on robots meant that this episode was a big step up from the first, and much more fun to watch. Female lead Akiho remains fun to watch, and the side characters introduced so far have all been interesting too – watching Akiho trying to haggle with the old man for cheap parts was hilarious. It seems there’s more to her than just generic genki girl, though – I didn’t quite understand the explanation behind her ‘Elephant Mouse syndrome’, but no doubt it’ll be plot relevant later on…

For me, it is the male lead who continues to hold this series back. While he did show a little more action and personality in this episode than in the first, these positives were still pretty much cancelled out by the large amount of time he spent playing Kill Ballad. He’s certainly no MAD SCIENTIST, or even a delusional hikikomori. I don’t stare at screens all day to watch other people staring at screens, that’s just boring!

RESULT: Psycho-Pass remains my favorite of the new season’s offerings so far, and easily makes my Final Five.

Match 4: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure vs Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure:

This series… as the title says, it’s just bizarre. Somehow it manages to portray a (relatively, if a little exaggerated) realistic view of life in Victorian times, while throwing in things like shuriken bowler hats that defy even anime laws of physics… and somehow, it just works. You don’t question it, because it’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. If you’re looking for something different this season, this could well be the show for you!

Plot-wise, underneath all the spectacular effects, it is still quite generic at this stage! Dio wants to inherit the Joestar fortune, so begins poisoning his adoptive father. JoJo figures out this plan after finding out his father’s symptoms match those of Dario Brando, Dio’s late father. But lacking proof and an antidote, JoJo is forced to go searching for a Chinese apothecary in the most dangerous places! Later on in the episode, we get to see the creepy mask in action – seems it has the power to turn people into vampires!

As already mentioned in Round 1, this series has a lot of style, and uses it well – very bright colours, on-screen sound effects of the kind usually only seen in manga (due to the lack of real sound effects in books!), and the most muscular character designs ever. The actual quality of the animation didn’t seem as good as in the first episode, but if you can live with that then there’s not much to complain about in this series at all.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!:

Another series with a weird setting, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!’s crazy, imaginative antics probably make it the best match for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Hard to believe that these pairings were actually chosen at random, but I assure you they were! The first episode introduced some very fun characters in the form of former Dark Flame Master Yuuta and eyepatch girl Rikka, and I looked forward to seeing what they’d get up to next!

My main worry for this series is, will Rikka’s delusions remain entertaining in the long run, or will they eventually become boring and predictable? For now at least that’s not an issue, and the introduction of new characters (Rikka’s sister, and their sempai Kumin) added to the fun and the chaos. Who’d have thought that the simple act of adopting a chimera cat would lead to a battle to decide the fate of the Earth!

Of all the second episodes I sampled, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! is the one that got the most laughs. Sure, I usually have a preference for plot over comedy, but with three action-packed series already in my Final Five, some variation might be a good thing… and it certainly has JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure beat in terms of animation quality and consistency, even if it lacks the hilarious effects. 😛

RESULT: Based on the aforementioned thought that a pure comedy series would be a nice addition to my viewing schedule, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai wins!

Match 5: Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb vs Shin Sekai Yori

Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb:

My most highly anticipated series before the start of the season, Hidamari Sketch continues to amuse with its obscure animation style, hilarious characters and short, snappy jokes!  The start of this fourth series has seen 3rd year characters Sae and Hiro leave for a school trip to Hokkaido, while the rest of the cast (Yuno, Miyako, Nori and Nazuna) stay behind at the (now much younger on average!) Hidamari-sou!

Despite the cast being split up over the course of these two episodes, the humour is virtually unchanged – Miyako doesn’t lay off the weight jokes even with Hiro absent, for example. 😛 About the only difference back at the apartments is that, as one of the oldest left in the building, Yuno suddenly feels the urge to do something to help the younger residents, just as Sae and Hiro had always been there to help her. Needless to say, she isn’t very successful.

Meanwhile, we also get a nice snapshot of Hokkaido – or at least the parts of it that an art school trip would be likely to visit. But while the seniors have great fun on the trip, they’re also well aware that everything they do this year will be their last time as part of the school. That’s a feeling I remember well… Anyway, the trip ends just as the episode itself does, so it’ll be back to normal from episode 3 onward. Not much more to say about this series apart from that I love it!

Shin Sekai Yori:

From the series I’m most familiar with this season to the one that’s seemingly keeping the most secrets… these random pairings, I couldn’t have done better myself! Shin Sekai Yori had an easy ride through Round 1, but it wasn’t all luck; I like mysteries, especially if they’re as creepy as those in this strange world of telekinesis  ‘Bugrats’ and disappearing children.

In this episode, the class held their ‘traditional team ball-carrying tournament’, which involves making figures out of clay and using them to either push a large marble ball from one end of the room to a goal at the other end, or to try and stop the opposing team’s attempts to do so. It was fun to watch… but as always seems to be the case with Shin Sekai Yori, this ‘game’ has a darker side. When one boy uses his power to directly interfere with a classmate’s figure, he breaks a ‘sacred rule’… and disappears soon after.

And then there’s the Bugrats. Introduced nearer the end of the episode, about all we know about them is that children whose ‘cursed power’ hasn’t awakened yet are kept away from them, as they are seen as two-faced – they worship those with the power as gods, but how would they react to those without the power? Our protagonist Saki doesn’t let this prevent her from saving one from drowning, and the creatures seemed grateful for her help… but her classmates seem worried that the school may find out…

RESULT: I said at the beginning that a promising enough new series could knock out Hidamari Sketch – and Shin Sekai Yori is that series.

So that’s that, the five anime series I will definitely be following this season are Jormungand: Perfect Order, Zetsuen no Tempest, Psycho-PassChuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai and Shin Sekai Yori! And that’s the last time I try to predict the results of something like this. 😛 Because of the time spent downloading and watching all thirty episodes used in this tournament, I’m already weeks behind on all five, so obviously for the next few weeks catching up on them will be my main priority.

After I catch up, however, if I find I’m able to both download and watch these five (plus the shows continuing from last season) weekly and still have time left over, there’s nothing stopping me from coming back to one or more of the other anime that didn’t make the list. Heck, in an ideal situation my internet issues might even get resolved before the end of the year, allowing me to pick up the whole lot! But until then, these are the shows I’ll be watching. 🙂

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