Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Best Spring Anime of 2014

Spring has come and gone, and with it we have a look back at all of the shows I had watched over the past three months. Usually the spring season has some of the best anime released during the year, like last year's big spring title being Attack on Titan. This year, we didn't really have as many great series and we actually had a much weaker spring than usual. In fact, I started out this season with six shows, but now I only have three shows to talk about. I dropped most of those shows after a few episodes because they bored me to tears. I couldn't even finish three episodes they were that boring. These three titles though are not boring in the slightest. In fact, dare I say, all three of these titles are phenomenal. Like, 5 of out 5 good. So let's get started.

Mushishi Zoku Shou
If you were to ask any anime fan what some of the best series of the last decade were, they'd probably give a whole host of answers. Some titles would pop up more often than others, with Mushishi being one of those said titles. It's pretty hard to even describe Mushishi is terms of a narrative. It's about a man named Ginko who roams the Japanese countryside and acts as an observer to the actions of strange creatures called Mushi. Mushi are essentially spirits that have various forms and effects that can alter their environment or even effect people physically as well as mentally. The real kicker though is that most episodes are quiet, peaceful, and have no graphic violence in it. Yes there can be violence in the show, but it mostly comes through character actions and their own mental state.

Mushishi is a very difficult series to sell based on its premise because of how laissez faire it sounds, but that's exactly what it is. This is a series that you can fall asleep to. It's the equivalent of taking a nice nature walk in the middle of a bright summer day. You walk around the woods and don't even make a sound. You just listen to what the forest has to offer and how you can experience it. That's what Mushishi is. Mushishi Zoku Shou is essentially a season two of Mushishi, and it's unlike anything you've ever seen before. 

There are ten episodes in the season (so far), and each one of them is a meditative look at people and how the Mushi can influence them. There are innocent children who come into contact with Mushi, depraved gardeners, and even a happy family. However, let me stress that the Mushi have no malevolent intent. They're like the flow of a stream; going about their own business and affecting people as they come into contact with them. Throughout the show, Ginko provides observation and occasionally does help out people that have come into contact with the Mushi. 

I cannot say enough praises for the show. It's a work of art. It's relaxing and will melt all of your cares away. After a rough day, all you need to do is watch Mushishi Zoku Shou, and you'll be left in a state of tranquility and peace. 

No Game No Life

Hey boys and girls! No Game No Life is probably the most enjoyable show last season because of how insane and brilliant it is at the same time! It revolves around two siblings, Sora and Shiro (also known together as Blank), who are teleported into a fantasy world where everything is decided by games. Games determine national borders, wars, bets, and anything else that you could possibly imagine. The catch is is that Sora and Shiro are some of the best gamers in the real world, so teleporting them to a world where they can determine kingdoms and rule over civilians based on their skills is all too enticing for them. They have one ultimate goal in this new world they were taken to; beat Tet, the God who brought them there.

No Game No Life is, by all accounts, a show that I should find unenjoyable. The games that Sora and Shiro play can be won by sheer plot convenience and by changing the rules halfway through the game. Shiro has a thing for her older brother Sora, while Sora is a pervert to the nth degree, even hinting at a thing he may have for his younger sister. The voices of the characters can get grating fast and can devolve into fan service just as fast. But damn it all, it's just so much fun!

This series has so much life to it that every second NGNL is on screen it makes me want to salivate. The world is bright and colorful and is covered with a tint that looks unlike anything else I've seen in anime, and the characters are just as lively. I may had derived at Sora and Shiro a few seconds ago, but their interactions with each other and their friends is just as enjoyable. This is a great comedy series that is smart about its comedy and walks perfectly across the line of being comedic and being fan servicey. It has just enough moments of fan service that I don't get bothered by it, but enough comedy so that I'm drawn to that much more. 

Getting away from all of that though, NGNL is a very smart show. Games are the central premise of this show, and almost every episode features the characters playing a game in some capacity. Each game has several twists though, like a game of chess shown at the beginning of the series. At first it looks like a normal game of chess, but then it quickly turns into a full blown strategy game where the pieces are fully functioning soldiers that are influenced by their leaders, i.e the players. The more determined and fierce their leader is, the more willing the soldiers are to leap into battle and fight for their cause. I do think though that Sora and Shiro may be a bit too smart at times, planning so far in advance that there's no humanly possible way to predict what the opponent would do. It may stretch out its suspension of disbelief a bit too much for my liking, but I still watched each episode the day it aired because of how much fun it was. No Game No Life is the most enjoyable show of the season hands down. 

Mekaku City Actors
Oh dear, how do I explain Mekaku City Actors to someone who is unfamiliar with anime. The best way I can explain it is by telling you to watch something called the Kagerou Project. The Kagerou Project is a series of songs that illustrates the stories of several characters and how they interact with each other. I want to say it's kind of like a rock opera, but that may be overstating it a bit. The plot is told through the songs and the visuals on screen with nary a bit of dialogue throughout the videos. So what exactly is Mekaku City Actors then? Well, it's an attempt to take the Kagerou Project, a series of songs, and adapt it into an anime with dialogue and much fewer songs. The results are insane and unexplainable to say the least. 

When I say unexplainable though, I mean that literally. I watched the entire series and a frequent basis. I know about things that have happened in the show, but I couldn't tell you exactly what happened. It revolves around a group of people who have the ability to activate special powers through their eyes. One person can become invisible, another could change their appearances, and another could manipulate technology with their eyes. The series spends a lot of time dishing out backstory about each character and rarely advances on its actual plot, almost to the point where more time is spent in the series explaining the character's backstories than there is watching the actual story.

And yet, this show is strangely watchable. It sets up numerous plot lines and drops just enough hints to keep viewers invested in what's going on, though you probably have no idea what's going on in the first place. By the end of the season, I had no idea what I just watched and could NEVER give a plot summery that could properly summarize what just happened, and yet it left me satisfied that I watched it.

The series looks interesting to say the least. It features tons of static shots and almost all of them are reused multiple times, and yet the actual environments are stunning to look at. The dialogue is very wordy and spends way too much time explaining itself, yet the songs that the series lifts from Kagerou Project are stellar and features lyrics that are so much more memorable and powerful than any dialogue could ever be. This series divided a lot of people, and even more people had no idea what they were watching, but I just let Mekaku City Actors take me on its wild, strange ride. 


So which series was my favorite of the past season. It's a really tough call, but I had to go with Mushishi Zoku Shou as my favorite series that the spring had to offer. Every episode was near perfection and it always kept me fascinated with what I was watching. It just felt so calming and so relaxing that I was mesmerized by every second of it. For the worst series, I had to go with Mekaku City Actors based solely on my confusion regarding the plot. It had a few other niggling problems here and there, but I had no clue what I was watching every week. It would always change into something new and be a different beast than it was the week before, but it could never keep a consistent and flowing narrative. It was still a great show, but it had its problems. No Game No Life was really close to being my favorite series, but I just couldn't say that a series like that was better than, for lack of a better word, art. Again, No Game No Life is phenomenal in its own right, but it can't hold a candle to pure zen. 



Man, summer is going to be a busy anime season for me!

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