Thursday, June 30, 2011

Your Investment Portfolio: Spring 2011's Gainers

The Spring 2011 anime season is just about over!
Go directly to Go! Collect what's left of your sanity!

Let's face it—being an anime fan this season meant that huge investments in time had to be made. Perhaps you've spent a little coin for a premium membership at Crunchyroll. In all likelihood, you've even invested sleep to watch some of the shows (since there were a lot of them). However, just how much of that investment has actually paid off? What shows out there were worth their weight in Perica?

It's about time that we get in contact with our bookie broker to see what shows have been wise investments this season and which will be wiser investments in the long run. We're going to run with this whole "Bank of Otaku" motif and discuss which shows improved over the season and which shows were dreadfully bad to the point of Chapter 11.

Part 1: Spring's biggest gainers!
Part 2: Spring's biggest losers!
Part 3: Spring's incomplete deals!
Part 4: Spring's bankruptcies!
Part 5: Spring's best investments!

"You have gain."
This rating doesn't necessarily mean I have confidence in these shows being good or bad; it just means they've improved since the first episode.

"You have loss."
Again, some of the shows that have received this rating are not necessarily bad or going to get worse, but their initial scores just happened to be higher than they are now.

These shows are considered winners, even if they have lost some momentum since the first episode. Good chance they will continue to be good going into the next season(s).

The outlook for these shows do not appear as comforting as others, while those that have ended will likely not get a second thought.

"Open deal."
These shows haven't been seen enough for a decision to be made. Let's agree to deal with them later.

"You are bankrupt."
We've seen enough. These shows deserve to have their Midas Money stolen and their Financial District cards broken.

"You have control."
The best of the best. These shows have had me from Day 1 and will have me on Day 1 of the Summer 2011 season (if applicable).

[C] - Control
Original Rating: 18 (out of 25)
Current Rating: 20

Let's start with the show that encouraged this style of review. While I was a bit skeptical of [C] as an art form, I was certainly impressed with its attempt to introduce a little bit more of an ethical discussion when it comes to consumerism and the state of economics. While, yes, the show did turn into a fusion between Pokemon and Wall Street, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as it gave that dynamic needed between "present" and "future".

I rather liked some of the characters, especially the enigmatic Masakaki and the gold-toothed Takedasaki, but I also regret that the brevity of the show (11 episodes) caused a bit too much acceleration in the plot. Perhaps this is where noitaminA's shorter episode count is its downfall—where there another episode or two, there may be some opportunity to have answers for unanswered questions. While the show may have had wrinkles, it was still crisp enough to be legal tender.

Still airing on Crunchyroll
Original Rating: 18
Current Rating: 21

It's me. It looks like that secret organization SERN has accomplished its mission. ... Not, time travel or that sort. They've gotten the public hooked on this show all about time travel! ... Okay, I'll call you later. El Psy Congroo.

While the theory behind Steins;Gate's time travel could probably be debunked by physics scholars, there's no reason to believe that the impossibility can't be dismissed. The show has just the right amount of good animation to keep the viewer interested, while the conversation between characters has enough quirks and nerd-core in it to stay fresh and witty. Of course, now that the details surrounding the Future Gadget Laboratory's D-mail time-travel invention are about set, we can get to the crux of the show—watching Rintarô jump from timeline to timeline to attempt to make everything right again.

Blue Exorcist
Still airing on Crunchyroll
Original Rating: 20
Current Rating: 20.5

A boy housing one of the darkest evils known to man gets accepted by a prestigious academy to fight against forces interested in unleashing that evil On the surface, Blue Exorcist could definitely draw some parallels to the early stages of Naruto, especially when you look at the training periods and unstable teams that Rin and his classmates must endure.

This similarity took the show down a few pegs in the beginning, but there's enough from the current cast to keep things interesting, and there is just enough subterfuge within the ranks of the academy's teachers to indicate things could explode in the next 13 episodes. Call the thumbs-up a tentative one for now...

Ultimate Survivor Kaiji Season 2
Still airing
Original Rating: 13
Current Rating: 18
Biggest Surprise

I was totally dismissive of the second season of Kaiji for its lack of clear-cut animation. The first few episodes seemed dry from its drab background and dim situation, but much like Kaiji's eventual walk into the sunshine, things became brighter and more exciting to follow. The character designs caused a little personal friction with how I was used to viewing them in the past, but I grew used to the large noses and angular expressions.

At times, it's hard to watch as people get dragged into the abysmal situations that gambling causes, but it makes for solid drama and some opportunities to try out animated metaphors. While the characters are none too exciting by themselves, the narrator (played by an energetic Fumihiko Tachiki) steals the show with his melodramatic descriptions of events. It is still slow for an anime, but it has legs with every episode.

Tono to Issho: Eyepatch's Ambition
Original Rating: 12
Current Rating: 15

I stand behind my opinion that Tono to Issho's first season was a wreck—the animation was rickety and wooden, all of it clipped from the OVA, and the humor felt lackluster. Somehow, I have a feeling others thought the same, as the second season pretty much fumigated the stench of the first season, perhaps entirely through the hiring of Kôsuke Yoshida as the new animation director.

The characters were more colorful this time around, both in personality and appearance, and there was less reliance on stressing history. Most importantly the show was given more time to breathe—it's amazing what adding two extra minutes to the episodes could do! Suddenly, a third season wouldn't be so bad if this formula is kept as is.

Original Rating: 10
Current Rating: 13

Okay, the pain from Softenni wasn't as severe as I thought it would be. The cheesecake shots were pretty inappropriate for the ages of the main characters, but compared to some shows that tend to push the envelope a little farther (see below for an example), it's pretty harmless. Yes, we could have done without the trips to the hot spring, the practice matches in school swimsuits, and the dozens of panty flashes, but we also could have gotten far worse scenarios.

That's not to say that its improvement means it should get a free pass. There was way too much implied nudity for middle-school students. The final episodes were pretty lame, and in the end, we only got to know more about the two main characters, Asuna and Kotone, while everyone else remained an enigma. At least they stopped leaning on the "Oh no! The cow's loose again!" gag by the middle of the season, but there's no need to revisit Softenni for a second season.

Astarotte's Toy
Original Rating: 7
Current Rating: 10

One step away. Astarotte's Toy was one step away from having its credit card revoked and bankruptcy declared. There was just so much wrong with this show from the beginning that it was a wonder that I continued to watch. However, it soon dawned on me that this was the season's Rio ~Rainbow Gate!~. This was the one show that people would cover their eyes with their hands, only to peek through their fingers.

It had its plusses. Rie Kugimiya managed to play the tsundere Astarotte with more uncertainty and less anger. The commercial break art was sculpted nicely, despite some of the erotic poses. The comedy managed to stay lighthearted, even if the hijinks were expected. However, the sum of all these parts still led to a whole that couldn't be ignored—this is a show about a ten-year-old succubus and her adult "lover" who just happened to have a ten-year-old daughter. If, perhaps, we replaced "lover" with "parent", maybe the show would have been more palatable.

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