Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Your Investment Portfolio: Spring 2011's Losses

The Spring 2011 anime season is just about over!
Pay two months of subscription fees!

I'll be the first to admit that I know very little about finance and economic matters. I'm not dumb enough to be unable to tell stocks from bonds, but I'm also not the sort that will be able to construct Madoff schemes. I get much more use out of a book on checkers than a check book.

However, I do understand that there are nuances with stocks. Just because a stock has fallen in its price, that doesn't mean that the stock is totally going to be worthless now or in the future. I'm going to apply the same mentality when it comes to my anime—a show that has improved over the span of a season doesn't mean it was or will continue to be good in the future, and a show that has lost ground may not continue to lose it.

So take the following analysis with a grain of salt (but hold the tequila). Here are some of the shows that have lost some steam over the pressure of the Spring 2011 season.

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).

Hanasaku Iroha
Still airing on Crunchyroll
Original Rating: 20
Current Rating: 18

I still think that Hanasaku Iroha a terrific show amongst those that grace Crunchyroll this season, as the show manages to tell a very good drama about a subject that probably wouldn't appeal to many—traditional Japanese inns (ryôkan). In many ways, the show is comparable to the initial thrill of going to a ryôkan for the first time. The first experiences are exciting (especially when alcohol is a factor), and everything smells and feels new, from the robust sulfur of the hot springs to the tightly-woven rice straw tatami mats. However, the longer you stay at a ryôkan, the luster tends to wear off.

While Hanasaku Iroha manages to find humor in daily operations—spunky Ohana spends each day either as a helpful employee or an animated Lucille Ball—things are rolling a bit slowly. Granted, the bar was set high to begin, but there are particular characters that have gotten under my skin. The story's still solid with good direction, but hopefully the characters around Ohana manage to grow into likable foils.

Deadman Wonderland
Original Rating: 19
Current Rating: 18

Deadman Wonderland could be the perfect TV series out there for the horror fans who are seeking a gory story with little cohesion in the way of its bottom line. It's meant to shock people from its lack of ethical thinking and humanity's tendency to corrupt social boundaries. In other words, expect lots of blood and little comprehension.

There's no doubt the story will seek a second season, but stopping the presses in mid-story is a serious flub. Too many things make too little sense in too little time. Yes, the splatter alone could probably impress George A. Romero, but there are so many gaping holes from the plot by the time the last episode closes that not granting a second season would be a crime. However, so much would have to be retold and explained just to reintroduce things to fans. A skeptical thumbs-up if it leads into a second season.

Maria Holic Alive
Original Rating: 19
Current Rating: 16

The first season of Maria Holic was a delight to watch, as Shaft and Akiyuki Shinbô did a great job of turning the genres of Takarazuka and bishôjo games onto their perfectly-styled heads. It was fun to watch Kanako internally drooling over each of her classmates, only to be held in check by her crossdresser-in-charge Mariya.

If the first series was smooth sailing, then there were warning signals that Maria Holic Alive would experience a bit more turbulence. There was no true departure from the schtick, and it seemed that the series was settling into Kanako's nosebleed as the go-to gag. Direction was there, but I look at Maria Holic Alive and see a fourth season of Sayonara Zetsubô-sensei—too many plot devices from that show led the series into a montage of non-sequiturs.

The World God Only Knows II
Original Rating: 17
Current Rating: 15

Speaking of sequels, the second season to The World God Only Knows managed to turn my head by promising the addition of Haqua, Elsie's elder in school and work. It felt good that the gears were turning and that Keima's quests would be a little more urgent, especially with the introduction that a spirit could be lodged in the hearts of demons, too.

However, things just...returned to normal. No bigger challenges, just more "conquests" and another gaming finale that focuses on Keima's galge obsession. It feels like there was no real ground made in this season; you could conceivably start the inevitable third season by skipping the second. Hopefully things will click more in the future, as this game of "Capture the Flag" is starting to wear thin.

Sket Dance
Still airing on Crunchyroll
Original Rating: 16
Current Rating: 14

Sket Dance has been fortunate in the sense that the characters' unique personalities and sharp-tongued comments have been keeping it alive so far this season. The situations may not have been all that entertaining, but at least the color from the assembly of fools have managed to keep the club from disbanding.

Unfortunately, by the end of the first 13 episodes, the show has resorted to its usual bag of Shônen Jump tricks by putting clubs in an arena-packed competitive battle. For a martial-arts show or a coming-of-age seinen show, this might feel more appropriate, but it seems like it was just an excuse to appeal to more SJ fans. Hopefully, a return to less bloodthirsty battles and more attention to the backgrounds of Bossun and Switch will give the show a little drama to counter-balance the comedy.

Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi (World's Greatest First Love)
Original Rating: 15
Current Rating: 12
Biggest Disappointment

I do like the art that goes along with Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi, as it is flexible enough to pop between serious melodrama and superdeformity, but in the end, that's really all I enjoyed about the show. All the averages that held the show as a decent boys'-love romance ended up pulling it down into a show that really didn't require the editorial department to tell the story.

It's hard to really put a finger on why the show never really settled with me, but I'll be honest in saying that it wasn't the subject matter. If anything, it was the difficulty of really getting to like the personalities of the characters. While the show managed to get off of the conflicting relationship between Onodera and Takano by focusing on two other book-related relationships, they never seemed to feel unique. It was as if Onodera and Takano were just redrawn into two other versions of themselves, the personalities merely transplanted into other receptacles. In the end, I just couldn't get into the tease of a relationship between the wishy-washy Onodera and the stubbornly confident Takano.

Original Rating: 10
Current Rating: 9

Now that this season is promising us slice-of-lifer shows Yuruyuri (already streaming on Crunchyroll) and Morita-san wa Mukuchi, I wonder just what sort of Kraken has been released by the likes of Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star. It appears more and more creators are assuming, ergo ipso facto, that putting four girls in a classroom will guarantee success from some sort of otaku clique, so they really don't bother fleshing them out with personality.

That's what really destroyed the chances that A Channel had this season. Considering everybody and their brothers were releasing anime shows, you needed a good gimmick and stand-out characters to grab fleeting attention spans. A Channel's staff might have thought that insert songs and a strong logo (the "A" in the background) would do the trick, but that still gets nothing from me. The foursome weren't all that spectacular, aside from Run's flamboyant ditziness, especially when compared to the shenanigans going on in a similar show, My Ordinary Life. There wasn't much in the tank to begin for A Channel, and I'm pretty sure the show ran out of gas early in the season, leaving it thumbing for a ride until the very end.

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