ANIME (FIRST PLACE VOTES)
Shingeki no Kyojin (8)
Uchouten Kazoku (6)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (3)
Gatchaman Crowds (1)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (3)
On the cusp: Love Lab, Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!, Servant x Service, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S, Choujigen Game Neptune, Genshiken Nidaime, Teekyuu 2, Free!
The season has been extremely disappointing with endings, despite having numerous series primed with potential and anticipation. Uchouten Kazoku burns out with an anti-climatic rescue scene leading to a "nothing changes, life goes on as usual" ending despite a multitude of shocking and life-changing reveals prior. Most damning is the lack of catharsis for the tragic character of the series - Yajirou - receiving none of the redemption that he is due. Servant x Service fares only sightly better in its finale, with a similar sense of non-progression, despite the tying up of several plot points, which leads into a slightly hollow conclusion; deemed superior only by the lack of build-up for a failed "epic conclusion" which Uchouten had been alluding to.
Shingeki no Kyojin tops our grand finale to the summer 2013, taking the top spot for the first time all season. Also making its APR debut is Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen, its satisfying finale jumping 10 spots into the third place slot. Additionally, a record number of shows are recorded as "on the cusp" this week, thanks to a 4-way tie for 10th place.
Well, considering this is all finales and one penultimate episode, it makes sense how these episodes deal with the thematic themes of the season, the multi-season show in general, or rather, give you a new lens to either view the whole show or its ending, so let's discuss these themes and episodes for some of the shows:
Railgun S - this show really pulled out all the stops, the finale-action sequence with everyone fighting together and the show's theme playing as they give it their all? That played out as almost the entirety of the episode, giving us untold minutes of "Ending-fight" quality. The themes of the two seasons of the show had also been highlighted in this episode, big and small - Everyone has their part to play, and are equivalent in show-importance, those with powers and those do not. Everyone has something only they can do. The dream is for everyone to get home safe, everyone. You need to rely on your friends, and relying on them gives you power. No matter what you do, you can and should atone for it, rather than try to run away. You can be forgiven.
But wow, this last episode. Non-stop action, and cool lines fired non-stop by everyone, lovingly making fun of friends and allies. Movies don't have such finales!
TWGOK - The theme of this whole season had been "Consequences." Up until now Keima got to do as he wished, and act as if nothing happened due to the memory wipe. This season Keima's past deeds have come back to haunt him, as every action he's taken had lasting effects, on the girls, on their relationships with him and one another, and on his own emotions. Keima could no longer follow with his plans at all costs, because the emotional cost was too great - no longer would the line "It doesn't matter what I do, it's for a good cause, and they won't remember anyway" work for him - they will remember, and the world could burn rather than he hurt them needlessly. Not only that, but by hurting them, by lying to the girls (and being the God of Conquest - he loves them all), he's hurting himself, and he has no one to whom he can truly turn. The girls would not be manipulated, they finally gained their agency back, also casting the regular Keima method that is the ultra-cynical theory that claims humans can be easily swindled into love, into doubt
And as a sim-gamer, that was Keima's method all along, though he claimed to know that reality and the virtual games are different, this is the first season where he truly couldn't adapt all his methods without fail from non-reality to reality.
Uchouten Kazoku - the theme for this one is simple - Family. Family sticks together, and if you don't stick together, then you're not family. The frog in the well family makes an appearance, giving us a charmed sequence through the streets and skies of Kyoto, before crushing into a second story-building, where Benten is cheeky, and tensions are rising. I was sure for the last 3 episodes that people are going to die, but they keep things moving while always increasing the tension. The boil is only getting higher, and who will end up boiled in the hot pot?
This episode was just fun.
Gatchaman - The main theme of this show, as I see it (not the message) is communication. Gamification and trust, the prime minister communicating with his constituency, Hajime communicating with Berg-Katze, and Berg-Katze, revealed to be an internet troll who tries to sabotage communications, but is helpless when he's not listened to, even as he tries to tear down anyone's capability of listening, were all pushed through in this episode that even though it didn't tie up everything, was a very thematic ending to the show. Moreover, just like the ending of Samurai Champloo, sometimes the ending is just telling you "We've had fun together, let's say goodbye, but we're still friends, so we'll get to still meet one another, so we don't need to make a big deal out of it." - I love it when I'm friends with a show, don't you?
Genshiken Nidaime - I really liked the final episode because of what it was, and what it wasn't - it wasn't Madarame and Hato talking everything out, not the Fujoshi just having fun, not Sasahara and Ogiue - it was the whole club. And it felt natural, and it didn't feel forced. The club went on a trip, and everyone acted like they always do. So what if this is season finale, in real life everyone just lives day by day, and there's no sense of ending, and so, this episode was yet another perfectly carved slice of life, of actual life, not some pandering non-comedy, high-school moe-moe. Life.
Shingeki no Kyojin - Here is a theme I think they pushed in the latter half of the show, but not the first - to defeat the monsters, you must be willing to cast off your own humanity, to become a monster. You must be willing to make sacrifices to make any gains. Armin had grown up, Armin is willing to make sacrifices. Eren had remained the idealistic boy he was, and as such, though he grew up, he hadn't matured. The juxtaposition here is interesting. The innocent looking boy is developing into someone who will sacrifice his friends for an advantage, and the man who was willing to kill as a young child, the man who can literally transform into a monster, is unwilling to sacrifice anything, anyone, and is adamant on maintaining his sanity. It's interesting how Eren has the same ideals of Touma and now Misaka from Index/Railgun - everyone must be able to come home unharmed, but he's in the wrong show. Eren is the man-child, and rather than being humanity's savior he always needs rescuing.
The final episode had tied the thematic arc quite well, and the animation and action had also been well done, with all the major actors being true to their personalities.
Though the second episode of "Nadeko Medusa" placed this week, I find the underwhelming performance of Monogatari Series rather surprising. Even Nisemonogatari dominated its (albeit weak) season. Are people just tired of this franchise, or is this season truly stacked? Overall, I have found Monogatari to be an intriguing and quality show. Not the best thing this season, but close. And unlike the vast majority of shows this season, it is going into Fall 2013.
This week's Monogatari starts out relatively weak, given that the first half is a dialogue that nobody cares about between the worst girl and a snake ghost, The gorgeous scenery and second half make up for that and more. Koyomi nearly succeeds in achieving what is apparently the dream of every male Japanese anime fan (i.e. getting a middle school girl in to sleep with them) only to be cockblocked by Shinobu as she emerges from his shadow to shoryuken his lights out. That alone was great. The tongue lashing Shinobu gives Nadeko afterwards about checking her privilege of having others do things for her because she's cute and soft spoken made it even better. Bravo, Monogatari; you can't see it, but I'm giving you a standing ovation.
Usny (Desu ex Machina)
I said last week that I didn't know how they could wrap up the storyline in The World God Only Knows. I did not expect the answer to be "by devoting all of 30 seconds to the goddesses actually defeating vintage after being freed." On the one hand it feels kind of odd since usually getting the team together is only half the battle and the other half is actually getting things done. On the other hand I really only cared about the conquests in the first place so I can't be particularly mad that they ignored that part. Overall I found it to be a solid conclusion but I don't know if that feeling will apply to viewers with more of a taste for action than I.
Servant x Service was true to form this week with an episode that possessed healthy amounts of solid romantic comedy that ultimately falls a bit short of greatness due to the lesser members of the cast. Despite its flaws Servant x Service was a show I enjoyed when I watched it but it was never something I was looking forward to week after week.
I'm going to buck the trend of effusive praise for Watamote I've seen this week by saying that I found this episode and the show as a whole merely fine. To me it was a show that started out amusing enough but got progressively more uncomfortable and unpleasant to watch as the season went on. "But that's just the point Kelloggs! It's supposed to be uncomfortable!" I hear you say. Well, hypothetical dissenter, I watch anime to relax and enjoy my free time so if I can't enjoy watching a show I don't particularly care about its realism or social commentary. That was ultimately Watamote's undoing in my mind. If that makes me a shallow, uncultured plebe so be it.
Aside from the inexplicable postscript KamiNai had a solid finale this week. It was clearly an uneven and flawed show but it did have its moments and it's something I glad I follow along with until the end. It mostly makes it on here because three of my top five from last week finished but nonetheless it's something I would hate to see get completely forgotten.
Teekyuu gets in at number five because there weren't any other anime I like this week. It doesn't have quality animation or a coherent storyline or compelling characters or any of the other hallmarks of "quality" anime but it amuses me for a couple minutes each week so I have to give it credit. What more can you really ask for out of a silly tennis short?