Here are the my thoughts on Shirobako, Durarara!x2, KanColle and Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano):
Shirobako – Shirobako was good, not great, but solid. The little doll and bear were unnecessary, and a bit of a crutch. The biggest issue I had with the show though, is that I feel like it could have reached higher. The problem with a really good slice of life show is that if you’ve spent the a lot of effort on the characters, they are going to outshine the plot. Shirobako avoids falling into this trap by being educational, but I feel that the setting and characters could have handled more drama pretty effortlessly. Down the stretch, I was as interested in what was going on in Aerial Girls Squad as I was what was going on in the animation studio. Still, despite (or perhaps because of) playing things a bit safe, the show was consistently good from start to finish. While not an anime I would recommend to everyone, I think that the educational elements of the show make it a must watch for anyone who consumes a lot of anime and manga. Shirobako does a great job of showing the pitfalls that cause bad anime or at least shows how a number of flaws, from bad frames of animation to airing delays happen.
8 out of 10
Durarara!x2 – Watching the second season of a show you like is a bit of a trap, particularly with the kind of juggling act style that Durarara! uses. I kept waiting for everything to come together, and when something happened that I wasn’t that fond of, I excused it with the thought that the show would iron it all out in the end. That, I’m sad to say, is not what happened. It wasn’t really until the last couple of episodes that I realized how disappointed I’ve been with this season. It just didn’t click. Perhaps the “I bet you didn’t see that coming” style doesn’t work as easily on the second go around. It might be like watching a comedian that relies heavily on shock factor. It just isn’t as funny the second time around. The Orihara sisters antics and Heiwajima’s bizarre romance weren’t bad, but the mafia/yakuza story and the return of the street gangs were very skipable. Really, the only interesting thing in the second half of the season was Mikado’s development. Whether this is a direction issue or problems with the original LN, I don’t know. The second half of the season just felt flat to me.
6 out of 10
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano) – Saekano is like that slacker, that barely pays attention and doesn’t really care, but then suddenly makes a real effort and does an amazing job. The first couple of episodes were almost painfully slow, and to be honest a bit boring. This may be because I hadn’t warmed up to the subtleties yet, but the show didn’t even attempt to do what any really successful show needs to do. It didn’t set the hook. There is little in the show’s early episodes to indicate how good Saekano is going to be later. Sadly, I think a lot of people were turned of by the fan service in the hot springs episode or simply found the first couple of real episodes boring (because they were). Once the show hit it’s stride though, it proved to be quite good. If not for some pacing issues, I’d say really good. Saekano manages to pull off being the harem show for people who don’t like harems and take aim at the harem connoisseur. There are plenty of tropes around, but they actually get explained. Great effort is made to make each character more than just a cardboard cutout. Even the fan service is good, in that it is actually sexy, when it shows up. There a plenty of elevator pans and lingering gazes, but no anti-gravity boobs or panty shots. However, a huge issue with the show is that is in no way complete. There’s been a serious gamble made here that a second season will be made. Without it, we really just have the introduction. It really makes me wonder why they spent the first couple of episodes messing around. Sadly, until we get a proper finish, I can’t really recommend the show, even though it was the most enjoyable to watch most weeks of the season.
6 out of 10
KanColle – Disclaimer: I skipped the Curry Cookoff episode I got sucked back in to Kancolle because I’m a history buff and there were enough WW2 parallels to get me interested. How exactly was the show going to handle the Japanese Navy’s crushing defeat at Midway Island. It’s hard for me to talk too much about those last couple of episodes without major spoilers, but it was not a particularly satisfying ending. The show in general wasn’t particularly satisfying either. The cutesy stories never really synced with the war as a backdrop. The combat sequences were pretty, but with just a couple of exceptions, never really had a real suspense to them. There was just enough history brought out to scratch that particular itch, but not enough character or action to elevate the show past it’s pretty animation. I’ll give my score first, and then I’ll talk about the elephant in the room.
4 out of 10
Something that came disturb me as the show went on, was the US fleet being portrayed as monsters. That’s something I was willing to give the show a pass on at first, but as the historical parallels became clear, it became harder to justify. An anti-US bias or revisionist history are not anything new, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it done so blatantly in an anime. If this had been a German film paralleling WW2 in a similar way, people would have lost their minds. I’ve always been one to stand up for Japan when people start bashing them about the war. A very small percentage of the people represented at Yasukuni Shrine are considered war criminals, about 0.04%, and the US targeted and killed almost half a million Japanese non-combatants by the end of the war (some estimates are higher). The question remains in the back of my mind though. What would a Japanese victory in WW2 mean to the people of East Asia? It certainly would not have been good for the civilians in Korea, China, or anywhere in Southeast Asia who suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese military. More than the cutesifying of combat in the anime, the nationalistic overtones are disturbing. At a time where many here in the US are hoping for Japan to take a larger role in the security of themselves and their neighbors, the show causes me some concern. It is important that Japan takes an increased military role gracefully and not with a nationalistic bent. Japanese atrocities are still very much in the minds of their neighbors.
As a side note, the actual Battle of Midway is a fascinating subject that is well worth reading up on. The battle had a massive impact on the outcome of WW2, and is a fascinating example of how small factors, decisions, and luck can determine the fates of nations.