Summer 2014 Episode Rankings – Week 1

And so begins the ‘dreaded’ Summer season… it really wasn’t as bad as I feared, though I didn’t really have to agonise over my decisions as I do in some seasons. It was very much ‘these are the good shows, take them or leave them’. So I took them. 15 of them. And here’s the full list, along with the three shows continuing from previous seasons, and my summarised thoughts (focusing this week on most of the all-new, non-sequel episodes). 🙂

Should go without saying, but be prepared for spoilers beyond this point~

Why can't more series open with snowmobile chases?

Why can’t more series open with snowmobile chases?

1 – Zankyou no Terror ep 1

2 – Aldnoah Zero ep 1

3 – Hunter x Hunter ep 137

4 – Barakamon ep 1

5 – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders ep 14

6 – Tokyo ESP ep 1

7 – Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus ep 1

8 – Tokyo Ghoul ep 1

9 – Re:␣Hamatora ep 1

10 – Akame ga Kill! ep 1

11 – Bakumatsu Rock ep 1

12 – Haikyuu!! ep 14

13 – DRAMAtical Murder ep 1

14 – Free! Eternal Summer ep 1

15 – Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun ep 1

16 – Rokujyoma no Shinryakusha!? ep 1

17 – Love Stage!! ep 1

18 – Persona 4 The Golden Animation ep 1

More explosions in Aldnoah Zero, though our protagonist in the background seems unphased...

More explosions in Aldnoah Zero, though our protagonist in the background seems unphased…

Topping the list in Week 1 is Zankyou no Terror! It was action from the get-go, as two people broke into a high security facility and got away with spent nuclear fuel. They are revealed to be the show’s protagonists, who refer to each other as ‘Nine’ (a cold, serious-looking type) and ‘Twelve’ (a cheery, happy-go-lucky lad). Following their heist, they transfer to a regular high school, where they meet Mishima Lisa – a victim of bullying who suffers from an eating disorder, but who is otherwise an ordinary schoolgirl. Not by the end of the episode, she isn’t! After posting an anonymous warning video online, Nine and Twelve set up bombs (concealed in stuffed toys) throughout a department store. Twelve runs into Lisa there, and gives her one of these toys… and once the explosions start, the duo offer her a choice – die, or join them. Why these two turned to terrorism is so far a mystery, though there were hints about their past in an ‘orphanage’. I look forward to finding out more! 😀

Aldnoah Zero was a close second. It is set in an alternative universe, where humans found ancient but advanced technology on the Moon, and used it to terraform Mars… where even more technology was discovered, and claimed by the Martian immigrants (calling themselves the Vers Empire), inevitably leading to war. In the present, both sides maintain an uneasy truce, though mech combat is now compulsory at high school level on Earth in preparation for the worst. The man in charge of instructing our protagonists seems to think it’s all futile though, as the Martian technology is simply on another level. And we’ll find out soon enough, as the fragile peace is brought to an end when a visiting Versian princess and goodwill embassador is welcomed by a barrage of missiles. Was it vengeful Earthlings that were responsible, or was it a set-up by Martians looking for an excuse to finish the war and claim Earth? Again, this first episode poses plenty of questions, and shows plenty of promise!

Naru constantly sneaking back in was fun, if not overly original. But having the mayor do so as well was inspired. :D

Naru constantly sneaking back in was fun, if not overly original. But having the mayor do so as well was inspired. 😀

Also making my Top 5 is Barakamon, a much slower, calmer series than the above two. It did start with main character Handa Seishuu punching an old man with a walking stick, however! 😮 He is a calligrapher, whose work is supposedly textbook-quality, lacking in any originality… just don’t tell him that!  He is sent to live on a small, rural island, to give him a chance to calm down. There, he meets the mischievous Naru, who has already claimed his house as her base (colony?), and who proceeds to pester him for the rest of the episode. It doesn’t take him long to warm to her, though, and despite his initial shock at the island’s lack of modern conveniences, when everyone turns up at the end to help him unpack and move into his new house, his opinion of the place improves greatly. Here’s hoping his calligraphy improves too. 😛 Interestingly, Naru is voiced by an actual child seiyuu, which was a nice touch. 🙂

Next up is Tokyo ESP. WOW.  I didn’t realise before watching that it was by the same creator as Ga-Rei-Zero, so the cameo from Kagura and Yomi was a surprise! I’m sure I recognise those guys in orange suits from somewhere, too… oh, yeah. That’s unfortunate. 😦 Ending theme by Yousei Teikoku? Yeah, there was no way I was dropping it at this point. 😀 I hear that the cross-overs are all anime-original, and that the manga starts at a different point in the story. I’ve also heard it’s a comedy!? This introductory episode was full on terrorist espers vs the rest of the world though, and was not short on explosions and gory death scenes. I assume that now they’ve started with a bang and got our attention, they’ll ‘flash back’ to the actual beginning, but who knows at this point? As someone unfamiliar with the source material, I really enjoyed this episode.

Has nobody told Tokyo ESP and Zankyou no Terror that this is the Summer season?

Has nobody told Tokyo ESP and Zankyou no Terror that this is the Summer season?

In the bottom five we have Love Stage!!, a show which, while not bad, got off to a bit of a slower start than everything else. Main character Sena Izumi is an otaku, and the black sheep in a family of showbiz superstars, who dreams of becoming a manga-ka despite being about as good at drawing as me. He did once star in a TV commercial for a bridal magazine when he was 8 years old, however – playing the role of a girl who catches a bouquet, after the planned actress dropped out. Starring alongside him was another boy of the same age, Ichijou Ryouma, who in the present is a popular actor. He still remembers the young ‘girl’ from that commercial, and when an opportunity to film a sequel crops up, he agrees on the condition that the original cast is kept the same. And so, bribed by anime goods, Izumi is forced back into dressing as a woman for the shoot… and it’s clear that Ichijou is still head over heels for him, unaware that he is male. I’m guessing they won’t keep the matter a secret for long…

Ranking slightly higher we have Rokujyoma no Shinryakusha!?, an anime which basically made my list because I couldn’t be bothered waiting any longer for subs of Nobunaga Concerto. 😛 It took the tired, generic ‘sudden harem appearance’ format and somehow made it work; while I’ve seen a lot of the jokes before, and I worry it’ll get repetitive very quickly, I was entertained by this episode nonetheless. The show has decent production values, and actually spent time developing the main character and explaining his situation first, in a way that didn’t feel forced at all – it’s surprisingly well written and directed! And when the massive onslaught of fantasy girls did occur (there’s a ghost, an alien, a magical girl, and a member of an underground race?), it was all so over-the-top that I couldn’t stop laughing. I’m not expecting a masterpiece here, but I can live with generic so long as it makes me laugh. 🙂

I say Love Stage!! was slow, but they wasted no time getting a kiss scene in there!

I say Love Stage was slow, but they wasted no time getting a kiss scene in there!

I feel bad putting Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun in the Red Zone… it’s the old curse of ‘action beats comedy’ at work. I can’t really fault the first episode – it’s Dogakobo bringing what they usually do to the table, a romantic comedy filled with hilarious misunderstandings, but with a shoujo manga twist to add some originality. Main character Sakura Chiyo confesses her love to the titular Nozaki Umetaro, but due to her vague choice of words and for the sakes of comedy, he misinterprets her completely, and instead signs her an autograph. Because in addition to being a high school student, he is also a successful shoujo manga artist, under the pen-name Yumeno Sakiko! So Chiyo ends up working for him as an assistant, and helping him come up with inspiration for his series, all the while waiting for the right opportunity to confess her love properly.

Just escaping the bottom five is DRAMAtical Murder – an anime adaptation of a BL visual novel, but whether any of the BL content will be maintained remains to be seen. Since I’m unfamiliar with the original, I’m not too bothered either way if it works without it and remains entertaining, something that fellow Nitro+chiral adaptation Togainu no Chi apparently failed at. My thoughts on this episode were mostly positive, it has a lot of style and I like the futuristic technology. I was slightly overwhelmed by the quick barrage of names/terms (Brain Nuts, Bug Bombs, Dry Juices etc 😛 ), but no doubt I’ll learn the significance of the important ones as the series progresses. The animation from NAZ wasn’t bad, and the character designs are bright and attractive – even the protagonist’s elderly grandma has bright pink hair and twintails! The series apparently focuses on a virtual game known as Rhyme, which we only get to see at the end of the ep, but what I did see was enough to intrigue me. 🙂

Nozaki's multiple attempts to reinvent the bike-riding scene were brilliant. :D

Nozaki’s multiple attempts to reinvent the bike-riding scene were brilliant. 😀

Akame ga Kill! debutes in the middle of the table; I felt it got off to a weak start, was a bit generic, and the animation wasn’t the best I’ve seen this season either. But the second half sold it for me. In a reversal of the situation in Barakamon, main character Tatsumi leaves the countryside and arrives in the imperial capital, hoping to make a name for himself as a monster hunter. However, he soon learns that its inhabitants aren’t all as trustworthy as the villagers he grew up with, and is conned out of all his money. Just as he has resigned himself to spending the night outside, he is approached by a young lady of the nobility, who takes pity on him and invites him to her home… with plans to torture him to death, as she and her family did with his friends who arrived at the capital before him. And so Tatsumi ends up joining Night Raid, a gang of assassins who aim to rid the capital of all its corruption. They seem an interesting and merciless bunch. 😀

Finally for this week we have Bakumatsu Rock, a fabulously fun and unfairly underrated series full of musically inclined bishonen! Thanks to the shogunate’s tough rules, it is illegal to sing or write any songs aside from the approved Heaven’s Songs performed by the Shinsengumi… which Sakamoto Ryouma can’t stand. Armed with a guitar given to him by broccoli the mysterious Shoin-sensei, and later joined by bassist Shinsaku and (hot) drummer Kogorou, he aims to bring rock music to Edo! With it’s weird mix of late Edo period setting and modern Western influences (electric guitars and pizza being just two obvious examples), I’m reminded of Fuuun Ishin Dai Shogun, though thankfully Bakumatsu Rock has actual animation. 😛 Of course, the music is a big feature in this series – can’t say it’s the kind of thing I’d listen to outside of the anime itself, but it wasn’t bad.

I'm assuming this 'discerning pretty boy' is someone important - another mystery waiting to be solved!

I’m assuming this ‘discerning pretty boy’ is someone important – another mystery waiting to be solved!

So, that’s my lineup – let me know in the comments if you approve/disapprove of my choices! If we use the continuing shows as a marker, things aren’t so different from last season… though Hunter x Hunter’s new arc is only just setting up, the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure crew have met but not yet fought with Justice, and Haikyuu!! is also building up for the inter high, so it could be argued that none of them were at their best this week. Should be interesting to see how things change as the season progresses, as usual. 🙂

<< Spring 2014 Episode Rankings – Week 12

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4 Responses to Summer 2014 Episode Rankings – Week 1

  1. I was also shocked by the cameo appearance of Yomi and Kagura and the guys in orange suits. (I suppose we both know the one thing which can’t happen to them this series. 🙂 ) And what do you make of the character who seems an exact facsimile of Ryougi Shiki? Tokyo ESP has much to live up to given how great Ga-Rei Zero was!

    Aldnoah.Zero certainly has a strong start. Hoping for good things from it, especially with the high quality of the animation and quality of the battles. (Though, the battles are rather lopsided as of now.) I like their inclusion of the motto “Fiat iustitia et ruat caelum” in the opening song, though in the less forceful English translation “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.”

    As a huge fan of the manga, I’m very pleased with how the first couple of episodes of Akame ga Kiru have been done. They convey the feel of the manga perfectly! And the voice acting cast is very strong indeed! Many bloggers seem to be avoiding it because of all the hype surrounding it, which strikes me as highly unusual of them. Most are complaining about the contrast between utter corruption of the capital and the happy-go-lucky attitude of our heroes. Did they want miserably depressed assassins instead?

    I’m looking forward to seeing how you rank the second episode of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. I nearly died laughing while watching it!

    • I do hope that Tokyo ESP can stand on its own, since it mostly stuff like the cameos and ending theme that led me to rate it so highly. 😛 Though the animation quality was fantastic, so at the very least the action scenes should be worth watching!

      I didn’t realise Akame ga Kiru was being hyped up more than anything else, but either way I wouldn’t let that influence my decision to watch something or not. I don’t dislike the assassins’ personalities or general cheeriness either. I think my main complaint about the series after two episodes is that the animation really isn’t up to the standards of most other shows this season, but it seems to be making good use of what budget it has. 🙂

  2. […] << Summer 2014 Episode Rankings – Week 1 […]

  3. […] << Summer 2014 Episode Rankings – Week 1 […]

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