It often seems like Smudge watches all the anime there is. She certainly catches a good portion of it, and then I watch the things she recommends. Well, mostly. Anyway, the Summer 2014 season for anime is just wrapping up, and I thought I’d talk about what I watched over the last three months.

Sword Art Online II — As many of you may know, I really enjoyed the original series, though I didn’t get into until it was about halfway through. Kirito is back, but the rest of the cast, including Azuna, isn’t. They’re there, but not even as a supporting role. Obviously, the author considers this to be a series about Kirito, and not Kirito and Azuna, even though those two together is what made the original story. It’s good, and better than the second part of the original series, and Sinon is a nicely developed character. I have some problems with how the mystery around Death Gun is handled, but in general it works, and is very much a personal issue for Kirito even while being a bigger problem.

And it’s hit episode 13 without hitting the end of the story. I suppose this means it’s going for another season, and will do a 14-12 episode story split like the first series did….

Nobunaga Concerto — It seems like we just can’t go very long without some sort of historical Warring States drama. This one is an interesting mix of the goofy and the serious. Saburo, a modern high school student gets inexplicably sent back in time to the Warring States era, where it turns out that he looks just like the young Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga, a sickly youth, and overcome with his responsibilities, has Saburo take his place. Saburo isn’t much of a student (“Quiet. This is the first time I’ve legitimately read a textbook.”), and while he knows some of the more famous names, he doesn’t know what they did, nor Nobunaga’s eventual fate.

The interesting thing is that it looks like they’re playing the history straight. There’s been four time-travel characters so far, and it looks like they’re all being used to explain the inexplicable in history. I don’t quite know enough to really be able to catch all of it, so I really wish I had the time to study the period some more just to aid my enjoyment of the series.

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun — This was the surprise of the season. I’m not sure what inspired me to see the first episode with Smudge, but if I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have seen it, since I liked it more than Smudge did. Most of the series was nicely humorous, but there were a good number of laugh out loud moments, which is why I watched it.

It’s primarily about the relationship between Sakura, and her crush Nozaki. It turns out he’s a successful manga creator. Girl’s manga creator. Much of the series is wrapped around his creative endeavors (trying to figure out the next romantic plot line, research for new ideas…), but also devolves upon an extended cast of wacky characters. It scratches the same kind of nerdy humor itch as Genshiken and Comic Party, but more episodic and also with a gender role-reversal theme.

Free! — I missed this one-season series last year, but caught up on it early in the season before watching the sequel Free! Eternal Summer, which just finished. The high concept is definitely to show a bunch of exceedingly fit boys not wearing much as part of a swim club, a nice reversal of the usual, which Smudge appreciated. ~_^ However, it also has good writing, and an actual story to tell.

In fact, the original told such a complete story that the sequel was something of a surprise. And you know, it was just as good a story, and not a rehash of the original. They really put together a good team to do this series.

Sailor Moon Crystal — Okay, Sailor Moon, being relaunched from scratch. Instead of ‘reinterpreting’ (dark! edgy! …bleh), or trying to polish up the original, they’re playing it fairly straight to the original manga, including hewing closer to the original character designs.

Somehow, I figured the relaunch of such a storied property would get more love. This is very much a ‘B’ (or even ‘C’!) team effort. The writing has been tightened up some, but could use a lot more polish, and hasn’t really aged well. Characters are wandering off-model all over the place, and the animation is fairly limited (okay, I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Haruhi). And it’s coming out every other week for some reason. The transformation sequences were lovingly done by someone in 3D… and I’ve certainly seen better. But it’s just getting to the point where the story starts coming together, so we shall see….

The Devil is a Part-Timer — This came out some time ago, but it was on Funimation, while the smart TV only has an app for Crunchyroll (Funimation promised one…). But thanks to the magic of AirPlay and Apple TV, we can now see Funimation on the TV.

Anyway, this was a favorite of Smudge’s, and with good reason. It’s a very fun series that kept avoiding my expectations even when being predictable.

A Certain Magical Index/Scientific Railgun — Again, being able to see Funimation shows on the TV have led me to this one. The two series cover different people in the same universe (/city), so occasionally the plotlines overlap a bit. Smudge is attempting to fit them together, so I’ve seen about a season of both so far.

I have to agree with Smudge that the stories are stronger in Railgun, but it suffers… other problems. Index leans towards harem anime, but not to a point where I really notice yet. Railgun has a bad side of humor-through-sexual-harassment that seems to have gotten a little better over time. Here’s hoping the plot continues to crowd it out.

As far as this next season goes, well, I’ll find out what I’m watching over the next few weeks. However, I know that Log Horizon is back, so I’ll certainly be catching that.