Well, the spring season is under way now, so I thought I'd make a post of my impressions of the shows so far. I'm happy to say this season is definitely a lot more promising than the last, with several shows that definitely look like they're worth the long haul. Really not too many complete throwaways, either.
So, without further ado, let us begin...
K-ON is the sort of show that offers a lot of different things for a lot of different people. It has the cuteness and character designs to please the moe-obsessed, but it maintains enough depth and simple charm to appeal beyond that sort of base appeal, as well. It's humor is similar to other 4komas, except that this one has a lot more structure, and seems to contain something of a continuous plotline, which hopefully will push it beyond the sort of fluff entertainment value that most 4komas hold. Just as with Lucky Star, one can appreciate the low-key nature of much of the show. It's about people in their elements, not fighting space battles or dealing with hyper-dramatic love affairs of various kinds. It's just a club full of girls trying to play music. Admittedly music has not been a major focus so far, but after two episodes it would appear that it certainly could become a more major focus. We'll have to wait and see about that, but so far the lovingly detailed animation and charming characters are more than enough to warrant watching this show, especially if you've ever been a fan of other 4koma series, like Lucky Star or Azumanga Daioh.
Basquash is sort of an odd show, because it began with perhaps the lamest idea for a show ever (mechs playing basketball), and then in the first episode showed how awesome that actually could be. The first episode was most one giant, high-octane, well-animated chase scene, full of style and character. It's already shown itself to be willing to whore out its female characters for fanservice, but if you can get past that lame aspect of it--or if that's your thing--then there would appear to be a decent show behind it. Unfortunately, though, the second episode was pretty weak. Without the energy of the first episode the show sort of falls apart amid its weak premise and, at least so far, flat characters (I guess all the depth went into the breasts of Miyuki, who has proportions that would make the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann team proud). If you're a fan of high-octane shows about young boys who pilot mechs and are totally awesome at it half the time and suck at it the rest of the time, this might be the show for you. For anyone else, the jury is still out, but you could certainly do worse.
Saki is a show about a girl who hates mahjong but has the ability to manipulate her score in a very specific way. It features animation from GONZO that would have been so-so ten years ago, but these days it just comes off as kind of pathetic. It also features female characters, who make up almost the entire cast, whose uniform skirts are so short you can see half of their ass even without cheesy up angle perspectives. If you can get past all of that, then you find a remarkably cheesy sports-type anime. Here's the thing: if you really, really like mahjong, maybe this show would do it for you, but even after researching mahjong and learning more or less what the hell is going on when they're playing it, there just isn't anything interesting about the show. The characters are dull and poorly realized, and mahjong does not make for a very good anime activity, no matter how many dramatic lightning bolts you throw in, in true nineties anime fashion. Worst of all, it doesn't even feel like the creators of the show give a shit about mahjong. There's no heart in any of it, even when it's just the girls sitting around playing mahjong. It utilizes all sorts of asinine cliches to try and make it seem dramatic, but it just comes off as a desperate attempt to milk an anime out of another Japanese pastime. At this point, my advice to everyone is to avoid this one like the plague.
Okay, I'm just going to be frank about this one: I don't know why the hell they decided to make a TV anime out of this game. It's not that it doesn't work, it's just that the game is structured so much like an anime already. Certainly I can understand that not everyone has access to a PS3, but that never seemed to bother them before. Anyway, that isn't to say the anime is bad--it's actually quite good--but for anyone who has played the game, the show will simply leave you underwhelmed. From the animation to the characters to the drama, the game does everything better than the show so far. The anime feels clumsy by comparison. However, if you haven't gotten the chance to play this gem of a PS3 game, and don't think you will, the anime, which still looks and sounds good, with plenty of charming characters and--assuming they don't totally butcher the game--a good plot, is definitely worth checking out. I can't really suggest it to anyone who has actually played the game, though, since I feel like your time would be better spent just playing through the game again <_<;;. style="font-weight: bold;">
Phantom -Requiem for the Phantom-
For some reason, a lot of people seem to think this is the big show to watch this season, or at least one of the top ones. Let me just say that I have no idea why. Don't get me wrong, the show hasn't been bad so far, and I liked Noir well enough--which is 60% the same show, so far--but so far this show hasn't shown me any reason to get excited for it. It has a fair amount to offer, a good soundtrack, good animation, good atmosphere, but so far it's just been creepy organizations speaking creepily and Ein being creepy and Zwei becoming creepy. The first episode set everything up well enough, and the second episode showed exactly how boring training sequences are. Certainly this training was more interesting because of the psychological impact it had on presumably main character Zwei, but it was still a lot of re-used animation and humdrum stuff, broken up by one of anime's most idiotic time-honored traditions: the mysterious all-knowing figures speaking dramatically in poorly-veiled foreshadowing and description. At this point, I'd suggest giving the show a shot, at least until we can see if it goes the way of Noir, which was good enough, or Madlax, which was pretty much intolerable.