Tomoki’s First Thoughts: Summer 2014 Anime – Part I

IA Vocaloid Summer Girl Anime Cute

This year’s lineup for summer anime looks like a promising one. Being the season where most people are Free! (pun intended), a lot of the more “high profile” shows were announced, such as the remake for Sailor Moon; Sailor Moon Crystal, the second season of everyone’s favorite swimming anime; Free! Eternal Summer, as well as the second season of 2012’s most popular show; Sword Art Online II. In addition to this we will also be getting to see the K! film and the third part of the Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex retelling, dubbed Ghost In The Shell: Arise. Ghost In The Shell: Arise Border 3 being the name of this hour long episode – the third in a series of four. Of course, many have also been looking to adaptations of popular manga that were announced for the season as well as completely new pieces of work that were slated to hit the screens. The full roster was introduced in our Summer 2014 Anime Visual Guide but here we’ll have a look at some first impressions based on first episodes of several of the shows many have been looking forward to.

So crank up that air conditioner and pour yourself a fresh glass of iced-tea, it’s time for Tomoki to tell you what’s worth following this summer!


From producers like Lantis, P.A Works, and Pony Canyon, Glasslip was certainly one of the several new shows folks were interested in seeing. The PVs and screenshots showed off the visuals which were – as many noted – reminiscent of Nagi no Asukara in true P.A Works fashion. Being one to watch, people may have held high expectations for it. Comparisons were already being drawn and predictions made. But how does it fare now that we’ve actually had a taste?

Glasslip Anime New 2014 SUmmer Cover

As expected, the show does have a Nagi no Asukara feel to it. Vibrant and colorful visuals coupled with lively scenery of the port town in which our main characters reside make for an aesthetically pleasing setting. Indeed captures the essence of summer! The characters are a very archetypical mix – the cute klutzy girl, the quiet nerdy girl, the obvious tsundere, the happy-go-lucky guy, the strong silent type and an enigmatic transfer student. It seems very generic to start off and the pace was slow as they seemed primarily to be introducing the setting and characters, but being the first episode that shouldn’t be held against it.

They are beautifully animated characters regardless and being old friends, we’ll be seeing a mixture of dynamics between characters for sure, as was already partially explored – a few of the characters seem to like each other. As for the story, not much of it has been revealed as of yet but one can expect elements of fantasy and mystery as well as a lot of chickens. (I hope I’m wrong about the chickens)

Both the opening and closing tracks are catchy, fun tunes and the soundtrack throughout the show is quite nice as well – being one comprised mostly of classical instruments played in a fun but also mystical melody, as if to foreshadow the impending adventure.

Worth watching if: 

– You like the “group of friends in a high school adventure” type of show.

– You enjoy slice of life with elements of fantasy and/or mystery.

– You like shows with an ensemble cast of characters.

– You liked Nagi no Asukara, Kokoro Connect, Ano Hana, Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or shows of the like.

Free! Eternal Summer

How could you ignore it when it has “summer” in the name?! Yes ladies and gentlemen, Free! Eternal Abs- er… Summer has started airing. Producers including KyoAni and Lantis as well as FUNimation, it’s no surprise this season was anticipated, not counting the massive fan following it gained after its first season. The show needs little introduction but for those who were not familiar with it, while it may seem like some kind of fan-service-for-girls-reverse-harem show, it is very much a sports anime, and as mentioned in previous reviews, it does hold some depth – deeper than a puddle, but not as much as an ocean… A swimming pool! (No, I will never get over these puns)

It explores ideas such as the ties of friendship and the power of determination and does a fairly decent job of it. It wouldn’t be surprising if it inspired some of us to go swimming!

Free Eternal Summer 2014 Anime Nagisa Rin Matsuoka Haruka

Picking up shortly after where the last season left off, the cast are back and they’re just as interesting and fun to watch as ever. While nothing incredibly significant happened in the first episode, new faces were introduced and one can note that the humor, pacing and style has been retained almost entirely. The visuals don’t seem to have been improved drastically, but having said that, they were already quite fluid and beautiful to begin with – especially the underwater or swimming scenes.

In terms of actual episode content, we get to see the traits of each character in a mini-reintroduction of sorts and are treated to liberal amount of (yes, that was another pun) light hearted, humorous scenes followed by one big race in which both Haru and Rin take part (won’t tell you who wins though!) followed by the introduction of a new character. Certainly not a disappointment for fans – a very typical episode.

The soundtrack too has the same overall feel as the last seasons and the opening/closing themes are just as fun and entertaining as ever. All in all, this is a good start to a second season of an already good show, and it is most certainly recommended for those who watched and enjoyed the first to pick up.

Worth watching if: 

– You enjoy sports anime with fair parts of comedy and actual sports action.

– You like an ensemble (mostly male) cast.

– You enjoyed the first season.

– You like seeing the bare torsos of adolescent anime boys.

– You enjoyed Kuroko no Basuke, Slam Dunk, Ouran High School Host Club, Hetalia, or other shows of the like.

Aldnoah Zero

Coming from the same studio as that of (most recently) Psycho Pass, Aldnoah Zero was definitely another one of the shows fans would be scrutinizing. Fortunately, they would not be disappointed! A sci-fi mecha anime with interplanetary politics and war. What isn’t to love? While it received its fair share of hype and its visuals seemed promising, let us find out if it’s one to follow through to the end of its 24 episode run!

Alnoah.Zero anime 2014 mecha political sci fi action drama

Visually speaking, just as seen in PVs, the visuals are beautiful. The colors are vibrant, the character models are aesthetically appealing (but more leaning towards the shonen slice of life look than your typical mecha – think Steins;Gate) and animation is sharp, making good use of CGI technology where it makes sense. It isn’t so abundant that it detracts from the experience – it only enhances it. The soundtrack too is masterfully composed and during the more intense scenes, it certainly fills one with a feeling of dread and impending doom. This of course, is a good sign!

Those who were waiting for an action packed mecha from this season may be disappointed by the first episode as it barely shows any mechs at all. The primary focus is on the backstory and political intrigue. Having said that, this aforementioned political intrigue is certainly engaging and builds a solid platform from which to work on eventual battles. In very broad strokes; in an alternate universe to our own, descendants of Earthlings who came across unbelievable power separated into another race, living in space and on Mars. There was a war however, between Earthlings and this race 15 years prior to the events of the anime. This is by no means meant to be the future, as the year is 2014. It is, as said, an alternate timeline of sorts. It would seem that two parallel stories on either side of the war will be followed, from the perspective of different characters. This is an extremely brief summary, but the story is best explained and understood through a watch. It would certainly interest many.

What may detract from the experience however is the fact that one may need to pause it at times or give it a second viewing altogether as the creators seem to have no qualms with delivering vital pieces of information at the same time. For those who watch anime with subtitles, this means having to read both what’s written at the top and bottom of the screen at the same time (which makes both pieces of information harder to absorb) or for those watching raw versions, having to focus on two pieces of dialogue at once. In both cases they are confusing but in order to gain as much information and get the nitty-gritty details, it is essential.

All in all however, the episode is dramatic, nice looking and more than engaging enough to be worth following to see where it leads – for fans of mecha action and the intricacies of politics in a sci-fi universe both.

Worth watching if:

– You enjoy sci-fi.

– You like shows with mechas.

– You enjoy political intrigue and depth in a show.

– You enjoyed Psycho-pass, Ghost In The Shell, Code Geass or other shows of the like.

Tokyo Ghoul

Another one of the most anticipated new shows of the season was FUNimation and Studio Pierrot’s Tokyo Ghoul. As the title suggests, it’s a horror anime in a densely urban setting. Being an adaptation of an extremely popular manga, many were looking forward to seeing it in action on screens. The PVs looked promising and the story was known to be intense and thrilling. Did this creepy tale manage to make the hairs on our necks stand on end?

Tokyo Ghoul Episode 1 preview frame #25434

For the most part, this show delivers. While the animation during the less intense scenes of dialogue may not be impressive or seem overly fancy, during the more fast paced action scenes, it does its job. Obviously taking place in Tokyo, one can expect plenty of urban scenery. Dark alleyways coupled with the bright streets of the city’s nightlife. Contrast is abundant in the visuals and almost each frame has a splash of a color that makes the show joyful to watch. If one can stomach the gore, that is.

The blood and gore in this show is abundant, and is definitely not to be viewed by the faint of heart. The story revolves around the ghoulification of our protagonist, 18 year old Ken Kaneki. An average, polite, nerdy university freshman. Ghouls are creatures that feed on humans but can blend into normal society if well fed. While not introduced in the first episode, a wide array of characters will be seen and the plot will thicken with each passing episode. In terms of plot, this one would certainly interest fans of the more morbid or creepy stories involving creatures of the night. While the fights are brutal, one shouldn’t expect too much grit as it may borrow elements from shounen anime style fights. Use of powers, wild poses, talking during fights and tropes of the like. That isn’t to say they are childish by any means however.

Both voice acting delivery and soundtrack are well done, the acting successfully portraying the fear in the main character’s tone and the sick, sadistic, deranged ones of various ghouls. Kana Hanazawa (voice of Rize) definitely takes the cake in terms of a job well done, as expected. What stands out is also the opening theme of the show (shown at the end of the first episode) which is very unique and captures the feel of the anime.

Overall, the show is certainly worth following as it has set a good atmosphere using its dynamic visuals and expert use of sound (both voice and music). One can hope that it delivers the story of the manga just as well, but they seem to be on the right track.

Worth watching if:

– You enjoy horror anime.

– You enjoy zombie stories.

– You like seeing blood and gore in an anime.

– You enjoyed shows such as Elfen Lied, Shiki, or Another.

Sword Art Online II

Well ladies and gentlemen, arguably the most anticipated show of this summer was the second season of 2012’s smash hit Sword Art Online. Gaining popularity at an exponential rate for being an anime that takes place in an online MMO, Sword Art Online II had an incredible amount of hype and speculation surrounding it. It was announced that the second season would take place in the Gun Gale Online game – as shown in the light novels the anime is based on. With the Black Swordsman; Kirito Kirigaya back in action a year after the events of the first season, does this season seem promising enough to live up to the hype?

Sword Art Online II 2 Gun Gale Online Kirito Sinnon

Partially due to its popularity, especially among newer fans of anime, as well as the sharp dip it took in terms of plot and excitement during the second arc of the first season, the show has suffered its fair share of antagonism among more “veteran” fans of the medium. With this season, they may have the opportunity at a fresh start. The mistake in the first season was a change of the game  Sword Art Online to one called Alfheim Online – a more fantasy oriented game – one which fans simply weren’t attached to. More over, the plot was entirely focused on the relationships of Kirito in an odd love triangle of sorts between him, Sugaha and Asuna – the focal point of the show being him wanting to save Asuna. Many simply were not invested in these relationships and thus didn’t want to see 14 episodes revolving around them. Hopefully, the mistakes won’t be repeated and we’ll see more action. In this regard, this episode cuts both ways.

While the game world of Gun Gale Online is primarily concentrated around the use of – you guessed it – guns, the premier episode itself contains extremely little action. It’s mostly just laying out the background for the story and showing Asuna and Kirito together in the real world. Which may not be a bad thing for those who were invested in their relationship, but might seem like a step with the wrong foot for some. In any case, being a first episode, it could be forgiven and hopefully those who did not like the lack of action would be able to look past it.

The episode is dialogue heavy and the visuals are more or less the same as 2012’s entry – which is by no means a bad thing, but nothing too spectacular takes place. Again, perhaps in future episodes we’ll be impressed. The voice actors depicted have returned to reprise their roles and those who enjoyed their work in the first would certainly enjoy it now. Eir Aoi also returns to sing the opening theme for this season which is a pleasant treat to fans of the first season as well.

To summarize, while nothing spectacular takes place in the episode, a firm foundation is set down for the future ones and those who enjoyed the first season would certainly want to come back for more. In terms of plot, while it may seem less is at stake and thus it would be less intense, those who have read the light novels would ask that you show a little faith for the time being as you just might be surprised.

Worth watching if:

– You’ve seen and enjoyed the first season.

– You like anime that take place in MMOs/game worlds.

– You like guns and gunfights in anime.

– You enjoyed shows like Log Horizon, No Game No Life, Gurren Lagaan, Btooom!, etc.

The above were just a few of the many great shows we’ll be seeing this season. Stick around for the second part of the “first thoughts” review to learn more about the other shows – including Sailor Moon Crystal, Akami ga Kill, Argevollen, and many more!

Have any thoughts of your own to share regarding the mentioned shows? Please share in the comments section below. Until next time, Tomoki signing out!

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