Three shows that I am following continue onto the summer season as they enter their second cour: Hanasaku Iroha, Nichijou, and Steins;Gate. Coming into this season, I felt that these three shows had immense potential and looked forward to seeing them every week. Reality was such a cruel mistress though. Here’s where I would grade each series based on half of their alloted episodes (Iroha and Nichijou:13 episodes, Steins;Gate:12 episodes)
Hanasaku Iroha: 84 points
Iroha immediately captured me with one of the best opening episodes of a show I’ve seen. The immense quality of the backgrounds and character designs as well as the steady animation was immensely beautiful. It was one of the few times just the sheer quality of animation brought me nearly to tears. Combined with pleasant yet never overwhelming BGM, Iroha looked to nearly tackle Toradora! on my top 5 list. The story set up well and had many great points with the introductions to everyone. I immediately pre-ordered the BDs.
Unfortunately the remainder of the show never continued that immense quality storyline. I still think the show has great potential and I enjoy every episode, but it lacks a destination to arrive to. The first cour ended with a three-part arc involving Ohana’s return to Tokyo and her mother’s return to Kissisou. That arc came close to reliving the greatness of the first episode, but still fell short. I’m curious how the show will continue to progress and hope that we reach a satisfactory destination.
Improvements to be made: Consistency between comedy and drama. For the majority of the cour Iroha has balanced both well but episodes 3 and 7 tuned the comedic portions to new levels. While they were certainly enjoyable in a different style the tonal shifts take away from the rest of the series. Near the end of the cour Iroha showed that it could balance between the two with three good stories (Finding Tohru, Ohana’s Illness, Newspaper Article), but where we go from that determines how good the show is. I’m still importing it as it’s a great show, but I somewhat regret that it could be immensely better.
Nichijou: 75 points
Nichijou came off nearly the opposite of Iroha: weak and undefined. The show based itself around comedic sketches rather than a generalized plot and suffered due to that. I’m not against a giant cast of characters (Saki would easily prove that), but it’s a problem when you don’t allow your audience to become attached to any of them. The two groups of three (Yuuko, Mio, and Mai/Nano, Professor, and Sakamoto) work well together but their sketches tend to be hit/miss depending on the audience.
Nichijou lacks the central character/s that can make or break a series for KyoAni. There’s no one there that appeals to either the Japanese or international audience and makes you want to see what they are about. The closest to many would be Sakamoto. Mai’s too detached and less featured than any other main character, Mio’s trick is getting upset and over-reacting, Yuuko’s jokes are hit-or-miss, Nano’s too obsessed with being a robot, and Hakase is a child. That’s literally everything you need to know after 13 episodes. When you can sum up everything in that short of a span, there’s something wrong with your characters.
Improvements to be made: Nichijou appears to be heading into a good direction with the decision to have Nano go to school. That episode maintained the random stories, but was able to tie everything together into a general plot. It felt more like the first episode of a show rather than the 13th. If it continues that way I can see it being more liked, but sales will be hard to raise after going this long plus Kadokawa’s pricing strategies.
Steins;Gate: 67 points
I can’t in any way give this show any higher than that. It may seem as though I’m joking when I’ve said on Twitter that Steins;Gate puts me to sleep, but it seriously does moreso than any other show I’ve watched. While I’ve read that the pacing is much faster than the original VN, it’s still incredibly slow and took forever to reach the intense event of episode 12. If that episode had been closer to 3, it would’ve been better paced.
Steins;Gate has a very interesting cast. In addition to Okabe and Kurisu, the other characters also have a likable trait to them. They fit perfectly into the action portion of the show, but when you have a slow slice-of-life aspect they tend to lose some entertaining value.
The art is well done, though it’s lost a lot of the original designs from the character creator. The CGI is well placed and doesn’t overtake a scene and the time-traveling effects are not obnoxious. The OP is fantastic while the ED is passable. I’ve barely noticed any BGM, so it’s been used well thus far.
Improvements to be made: I need to watch when I’m 100% awake (though that hasn’t stopped this show yet) so I can finish an episode in one viewing. Other than that it appears that the show has picked up and is moving well on its own. I’m curious where the story will lead with the events of episode 12. Only time will (or won’t) tell.
And so that’s my thoughts on the 2-cour shows from Spring. These grades are still temporary and have room to change at any time. Neither of the two shows I’m picking up (KamiMemo/Dantalian) will last two cours, so I’ll have a clear plate for Fall. Here’s to another good season ahead of us!