Now, as an otaku of only a few years, I’ve watched a surprising amount of anime. Adding it all up, it equals around 2 months of total watch time. That’s just shy of 1500 hours. So, in that time, I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what quality anime look like. In this new segment, I’ll be going through the various anime that I’m interested in, whether that be retro action series like Dragonball, modern slice-of-life series like K-ON!, or even the latest and greatest thrillers, two of which are in this segment.
Today on The Otaku Corner, the three anime I’m watching this season:
- Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)
- Tokyo Ghoul
- Sword Art Online II (Gun Gale Online)
Let’s start with my personal favourite: Zankyou no Terror.
In an alternate timeline, a nuclear facility in Aomori, Japan was attacked by two terrorists, who stole plutonium and escaped without harm or identification. The only evidence they left behind was the tag “VON” in red paint. Six months after this incident, two men in masks post a video online, under the name “Sphinx”, and announce an impending terrorist attack in, which would consist of an afternoon power cut, followed by an explosion in a skyscraper in Shinjuku, downtown Tokyo. The city is devastated by the attack, though nobody was killed. A lone ex-detective fails to report the video, first perceived as a hoax. From then on, the terrorist group “Sphinx” release more videos through the TOR browser, leaving cryptic riddles and no trace of the perpetrators’ locations, in the vein of the ancient Sphinx asking riddles to Oedipus. Only then can the police begin to solve the riddles and play a very, very dangerous game with two terrorists, known only as “Sphinx” to the public, but “Nine” and “Twelve” to the viewers.
I really, really like this one. From Studio MAPPA, which has its roots deep in Madhouse, I expect beautiful art and animation, which this series delivers in tonnes. Everything is so detailed, like real care and time has been put into each scene. Animation is pretty smooth. Not quite KyoAni level for silky-smooth animation 100% of the time, but it’s still at a very good, Madhouse-level of quality. My best example for the art and animation looking amazing is the opening, which honestly is worth the week wait for each new episode by itself. Speaking of which, the music is composed by Yoko Kanno.
THE Yoko Kanno is working on this series.
As she has worked on many, many amazing soundtracks in her legendary career, including the scores for Cowboy Bebop and Darker Than Black, she doesn’t fail to disappoint in Zankyou no Terror. The music always fits the scene beautifully, and just sounds so good, as one would expect from such a well-versed composer. The opening, ‘Trigger’ (Galileo Galilei), is quite simply outstanding. Dark and sombre, it fits the human side of the series perfectly. It is a look into the minds of the two main antiheroes, and their view on the precise beauty of terrorism. The ending, also composed by Kanno, ‘Dare ka, Umi o’ (Aimer), is dolent, sorrowful, and still beautiful, focusing on the beauty of sorrow, as expressed by the lead female character, Lisa.
The riddles are a big part of the early episodes, and very interesting to solve. They are usually age-old riddles, with a twist to either make them more difficult, easy to confuse, or more related to Japan, specifically Tokyo. They reveal the location of the next attack, and attempt to make the police and government see the errors of their ways, as seen by through the eyes of terrorists. It is much more than what it first seems, which is like a “villain of the week” concept that many other series use. Look for the attention to detail, and if you’re interested in logic and ancient history, you will love this layout of the story.
After watching all 6 episodes available at time of writing:
9/10 – Strong contender for Anime of the Year, if the second half builds on and continues in the vein of the first.
With that, onto a series based on a rising hit manga: Tokyo Ghoul
In a modern Tokyo, there is a growing population of shady creatures called ghouls. These ghouls devour human flesh, as it is the only thing that can sustain them. They must disguise themselves as humans, and fight to survive against the humans that want them dead, the ghouls that want to eliminate the competition, and the hunger that will destroy them if they cannot find human flesh in time. This dark fantasy follows one Ken Kaneki, a college student, who one day meets a beautiful woman (Rize) in a coffee shop. They hit it off, talking about their deep interest in literature, and plan a date. Delighted at finding such a woman, he walks her home, excited for their upcoming date. It is then that Rize reveals herself as one of these vicious ghouls, and attempts to devour Ken. Luckily, a falling platform crushes her before she can make her final attack. Ken, in critical condition, is taken to hospital and is given many organ transplants. From Rize. He must now contend with his new life as a half-human, half-ghoul, trying to fit into the ghoul society in Tokyo, as well as hiding it from his human friends.
This one is dark. Like, literally. Sometimes the lighting is nonexistent, as to hide the copious amounts of blood, flesh and gore. I imagine this will be changed in the BD release, because then TV airing laws won’t apply, and we can can all of the gore we want. Seriously, though. This is a hit or miss show, depending on if you’ve read the manga or not. If you have read the manga, prepare to be slightly disappointed, as episodes show scenes out of place, and in not enough detail. If you haven’t read the manga, then you should at least be able to appreciate the show for what it is:
A violent, dark, entertaining gorefest.
The art and animation is pretty good, much better than the usual generic style that we’re all so used to seeing from Studio Pierrot. Kazuhiro Miwa’s first foray into character design is overall, a good one, and hopefully it’ll lead to him getting more series to work on in the future. The story (for those not reading the manga) seems pretty solid on its own, and there are genuinely interesting characters scattered around a mostly half-decent cast. After more character development and power scaling, most characters have the potential to be great, though to me the supporting characters are a lot more interesting from the start.
As for the music, I don’t really have much to say for the score. It’s decent. Not amazing, but not noticeably bad. The music fits the scene. However, the opening, “Unravel” (Ling Tosite Sigure) is great. The heavy, psychotic feel of the music contrasted with the calmness at the very beginning fits the story well so far, and the key that TK sings in is just heavenly. The series follows the general rule of anime, which is that if a series has a great opening, 90% of the time the end theme will be disappointing. “Saints” (People In The Box) isn’t a terrible song, and it sort of fits the whole “calm before the storm” that some episodes leave as a cliffhanger, but when it’s compared to not only how good the opening is as a song, but also how it fits into the series, it really doesn’t make much of an impact, but then that’s a very small flaw in an otherwise decent show.
After watching the first 5 episodes:
7/10 – Has the potential to improve, but should stay firmly in place for this season. Read the manga instead.
Now, the third and final series for this piece: Sword Art Online II
One year after the incident in Sword Art Online (SAO) took place, where 3853 players lost their lives, main character Kirito is contacted by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs, and they want him to investigate an entirely new threat to VRMMORPGs. Recently, a few players of the game Gun Gale Online (GGO) have been found dead, all after having encounters with a mysterious figure only known by the alias “Death Gun”, who supposedly uses a namesake pistol that can kill players in real life, as opposed to in the game. It is Kirito’s job to investigate this figure, and work out exactly who it is, and how his gun can kill those on the outside. As such, he enters GGO’s biggest tournament, the Bullet of Bullets, in hopes of making direct contact with this “Death Gun”.
Oh boy, here we go again. Now I know the cool thing to do is to hate on anything Sword Art Online right now for no apparent reason, but this season is just as uninteresting as the first. I’m still going to watch it, because it’s already better than the poor excuse that was the second half of the first season, which is another article for another time. The games on PS Vita are also supposedly good (again, another article for another time).
Right, now if you approach SAO II with the mindset I do, you may actually enjoy the series more. I knew it would be overhyped and disappointing, but as I’m watching for good animation and some cheap thrills, while I wait for episodes of the other two anime in this article, I can actually stand watching it, unlike those who just dropped it in the first season (I can see why) or those who hate just to be cool (shame on you). The animation is good, just like last season. The addition of firearms means that even more attention is paid to backgrounds and scenery, which is nice to see. The quality of animation is somewhat similar to Blue Exorcist, but not quite at the level for A-1’s newest creation, one Aldnoah.Zero. It’s about as good as this series gets. The cheap thrills kick in about 5 episodes in, but because of that, I have a huge problem with it:
Just because GGO is supposedly getting 24 episodes to itself (it’s highly unlikely Underworld will make an appearance until season three), it doesn’t mean that the pacing has to be so slow. Kirito doesn’t even enter the game until the fourth episode, which defeats the purpose of the season. Yes, I know there is the backstory of Sinon, but honestly, it can wait until the main character is in the game, and gets to know her a little better. It makes more sense that way, especially when you consider that you’ve essentially waited 4 weeks and wasted the 2 hours watching the episodes. After that, the action kicks in a bit and it gets a bit better, though Kirito is still as overpowered and as plot-armoured as always.
The music is the same quality as last season. Okay, but not great. The opening, “Ignite” (Eir Aoi) is not a bad song, but it just doesn’t fit the series at all. It immediately gives off the wrong impression, which is the common concept of “time is running out”. Judging by the pacing of the show, that’s not really a concern. However, the desperation that Eir Aoi puts into her singing resonates a lot with Sinon, and her fears about her past, and being all alone in the world. That was impressive, though it doesn’t make the opening much better.
After watching the first 7 episodes:
6/10 – Average all around. Better than the second half of last season. Still has potential, but don’t expect it to be anything but a cheap thrill with decent animation.
With that, readers, I leave you to bode over what I’ve written and decide how you feel about each series in question.
- Zankyou no Terror gets a full recommendation, because it is nearly perfect. There hasn’t been a psychological thriller this good since Death Note.
- Tokyo Ghoul gets a half recommendation, if you haven’t read the manga. If you have, you may want to avoid.
- Sword Art Online II doesn’t get a recommendation, as it just doesn’t live up to the hype and suffers the same issues as last season.