Here are thoughts on the anime I watched this past fall, winter, and spring. Dropped anime are not included. Some were written without a reader in mind and contain spoilers (marked).
Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus (2014 OVA)
(SPOILERS) Holy crap this wrecked me. The circus arc is my favorite in the manga (so far), and it was such a pleasure to watch it–a sad, often violent pleasure. I think I love this arc so much because I liked the new characters and was devastated by their backstory. I’m repulsed by what they did yet find it believable since Baron Kelvin saved their lives, and that earns so much devotion and faith. I forgot that Joker and the rest didn’t know what happened to the children, just as Snake didn’t know what the rest of the first stringers were up to.
Speaking of…though he has little screen time, Snake is still my favorite–why do the others keep the truth from him? Is it because he didn’t grow up in the orphanage with them?
I prefer this arc too because it’s pretty dark, and we’re reminded of how changed Ciel is. The flashback to his past is horrifying. The title sequence and song were wonderful, too. I wish these characters were around longer, but at least Snake comes back.
Kuroshisuji: Book of Murder (2014 OVA)
(SPOILERS) God I hope they do the Campania arc because I need more Snake and some ass-kicking Lizzie.
This is one of the lighter arcs, which is saying something given there are murders. Though I already read it in the manga, I didn’t remember who did what (except for Snake’s role) and that Jeremy was Sebastian, so there was still the fun of following the mystery.
The servants are one of my favorite aspects of Kuroshitsuji, and it broke my heart all over again when Finny grieves and is super-conscious of being respectful with Sebastian’s “body.” We also get glimpses of the staff’s pasts and strict!Tanaka.
And Earl Grey can go fuck himself, seriously.
This turned out to be very cool. It took an adjustment to get used to the pace–essentially four games spread across all 26 episodes, with two episodes beginning the story or transitioning to the next game. There are many truly tense moments where I reacted physically as Kaiji and others were on the verge of winning, losing, or even dying.
Kaiji begins the story as a loser; he’s in debt due to gambling and staking others’ loans, and he does stupid shit like steal hood ornaments. He’s invited to take part in an opportunity to repay his debt in one night aboard a ship. It requires even more money borrowing and involves a game of “restricted” Rock Paper Scissors. Kaiji is at first too trusting and learns a hard lesson fast. He’s revealed to be smart and capable, but not enough. There are three more game scenarios run by a cold and cruel organization, and you come to root for Kaiji despite having a gut feeling that there won’t be a happy ending.
The anime is quite philosophical and also a keen portrait of addiction, desperation, and survival of the fittest (aka capitalism).
Kaiji 2 (2011)
At the end of this second season, I felt almost high. During the final battle with “the Bog” pachinko machine, I practically crawled to my television screen in excitement. I was like one of the crowd cheering Kaiji on and crying with frustration and despair alongside him. In my gut I knew it couldn’t end happily, and we see that Kaiji is still a loser whose future likely isn’t bright, but he has honor, loyalty, and friends, which is more than his enemies and co-conspirators can say.
I watched this arc with the same high tension and emotion as the first. After the beginning of the first season I’d adjusted to the pacing and began enjoying it, so no problems there. This season has a similar arc, but in some ways Kaiji has grown. You can’t help but be disgusted with him at the start when he’s “backslid” into debt further and is once again gullible. But soon you begin rooting for and admiring him, trying to anticipate his tricks and strategies, wondering how much he’s accounted for and how much he hasn’t.
Definitely a favorite.
Diabolik Lovers II: More, Blood (2015)
Not that I expected much from this, but the second season of Diabolik Lovers introduces a whole new set of bishie vampires who are essentially the same as the originals, who are also still around. These new vampires weren’t born such; they were humans who were turned as opposed to Raito, et al. Through flashbacks you can see that they were poor and then “saved” by some mysterious figure who made them vampires. Naturally the two groups of vamps don’t get along, but much more could have been made of this conflict and mythology. Instead, the two fight over Yui while acting like she’s only food. Once again there’s one vamp especially into her, like Ayato was first season. Once again, too, Yui is somehow special–the new vamps call her “Eve,” and she’s supposed to make one of them Adam, with what result I forget or never learned. This storyline seems to fizzle out, and in the end the two groups sort of come together when attacked by yet another group, this time werewolves (of course). The story ends with Yui actually being given the power to choose for herself.
Really both seasons of this anime (based on a visual novel/otome game) are no more than an excuse to drool over pretty boy vampires biting a resisting girl as code for sex. Even knowing that, it’s still hard not to wish for more.
Dance with Devils (2015)
Sticking with the reverse harem trope… There’s nothing genre-busting here, but this anime was fun enough. It’s also my first musical anime; the songs are dumb but still catchy, with good singers. I liked the heroine, Ritsuka; usually I get annoyed with heroines who put themselves in danger, but Ritsuka basically can’t help it, and I instead liked that she did what she wanted. Like a Korean drama it’s clear who her two main romantic choices are, especially when her brother turns out to be in love with her and really her cousin (wincest!). More of the mythology might have helped, and more time to get to know all her suitors, but this was a 12-episode anime. It ends pretty neatly, with no cliffhangers or unfinished business.
Noragami Aragoto (2015)
I saved the last few episodes for the season until after winter break, which means my recollection of specifics from the show isn’t the best. Mostly I’m left with gargantuan feels: I can barely handle how much I love these characters, the mythology, and the animation. When I watched the first season, it took me a little bit to get into the world; now I feel immersed in it. I adore the trio of Yato, Yukine, and Hiyori, and this season we’re introduced to some new and interesting characters while relationships between the familiar ones is deepened (e.g. Yato and Bishamon). The stakes of not letting Hiyori go are raised, Yukine gets a promotion of sorts, and we learn more about Yato’s past with Nora. There are some great fight scenes and high tension, warm moments, and humor.
I hope there’s another season. Either way I plan on checking out the manga.