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10:00 PM on 04.12.2014

Final Impressions: Saki: The Nationals

The final episode of Saki: The Nationals doesn't really feature much in terms of climatic wrap-up. The series end with a giant standing nod to the other half of the story: the Episode of Side A. And maybe that's for the best....

Jeff Chuang


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Final Impressions: Nagi no Asukara photo
Final Impressions: Nagi no Asukara
by Karen Mead

Nagi no Asukara was a show featuring intriguing ideas and frequently beautiful imagery, but it never quite gelled into a cohesive experience for me. For the show's entire 26-episode run, I kept feeling like the story was just on the precipice of going somewhere very interesting, yet never quite went there. The final episode did offer a fair amount of emotional payoff regardless, yet by that point, I have to be honest and admit that the series had worn out its welcome.

I don't regret watching it, and some of the characters certainly grew on me -- particularly the secondary characters, who were much more interesting than our junior-high aged leads. But I am kind of saddened by it, because I'm not sure entirely what went wrong here.

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Final Impressions: Sakura Trick  photo
Final Impressions: Sakura Trick
by Brittany Vincent

Too often, romance anime is relegated to tsundere girls and beautiful bishounen. Where's the yuri representation? True, we've got plenty of harems and beautiful boys, but there's a huge dearth of relationships between women in anime. It's either always played for laughs or touched on in the briefest of manners. I found Sakura Trick refreshing in several ways for this reason. Even though it was quick to rely on humor to weave its narrative, it was also cute, refreshing, and real in several ways. Now that it's over, I'm sorely missing my Yuri Fridays.

The final episode of Sakura Trick was one that provoked a few different feelings. While it was interesting to see Mitsuki finally coming to terms with her obvious crush on Haruka, and to see Yuu and Haruka still moving forward in their relationship, it still felt extremely bittersweet. Week after week, this series felt like a small beacon of hope for the Winter 2014 anime season, as something I actually enjoyed watching for multiple reasons. With no more Sakura Trick, I'm not sure where I'm going to get my next fix.

Sakura Trick was always so sweet, and though you could take its many panty shots and gratuitous kissing/somewhat lewd scenes as fanservice, it was done in such an innocent manner that contributed to the growth of the characters themselves. It never felt sleazy or strange, and I never felt as though I was watching something that used the girls as plot devices or objectified them in ways that were out of place or uncalled for.

I particularly enjoyed the reluctance of both parties at first, where even Haruka was a little hesitant to do something that would forever bond the two together. Then there was gradual growth that allowed two likable characters to become a "true" couple, with strengths and weaknesses that aren't normally touched upon in anime or manga -- especially with yuri leads. Not only that, but the whole cast seemed to be in on it. [Editor's Note: The whole cast was shipping them SO hard, it was great.]

I'm hoping there will be some additional episodes in the form of OVAs, or at least another season to get to know the girls more, because watching Sakura Trick was a lot like slipping into a warm blanket and snuggling up with a great, fluffy read. In many ways,  I wish we had more series like this one to curl up with. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check out the manga. 

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Final Impressions: Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO the Animation photo
Final Impressions: Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO the Animation
by Karen Mead

It was patently obvious we didn't expect much from Soni-Ani: no one on Japanator even bothered to write up a First Impressions for it at the start of the season. We figured it would be a vapid, 12-episode long commercial for super-curvy Nitroplus mascot Super Sonico, and all the merchandise that goes along with that.

While it did serve as a commercial for the pink-haired mascot, where we were wrong (DEAD wrong) was the "vapid" part. Instead of feeling like an empty shell of a show designed to sell PVC figures, Soni-Ani proved itself to be a consistently entertaining, and often even heartwarming, slice-of-life show. With Sonico herself, the show provided the kind of sweet-yet-not-saccharine young girl character that so many shows try to present and fail. Even more wisely, the writers knew when to take the focus off Sonico and let the quirky supporting cast shine instead.

Naturally, the show isn't going to be knocking Akira or Grave of the Fireflies off of anyone's "Best Anime Ever," list, but the fact remains: given the premise, it's shocking that it was this good. Shocking, and kind of inspiring, really.

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Final Impressions: Engaged to the Unidentified photo
Final Impressions: Engaged to the Unidentified
by Karen Mead

As much as I enjoyed watching Engaged to the Unidentified, the end of the series left me feeling more than a little conflicted. Seriously, I haven't felt this conflicted at a series conclusion since, er...Golden Time. Which was maybe a week ago. But for the sake of this article, let's pretend it's been a long time since I've been this conflicted, okay?

Basically, the things I wanted to happen never quite happened, and I'm not sure if that's a sign that the series didn't deliver on its promise, or I just got too many ideas in my head that were destined to go nowhere. I feel like the opening episodes wrote a lot of checks that the second half of the series couldn't cash, but is that just falling into the trap of saying "The story didn't go exactly where I wanted, therefore it's bad?"

I'm going to try to puzzle this out, one way or another.

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Final Impressions: World Conquest Zvezda Plot photo
Final Impressions: World Conquest Zvezda Plot
by Jeff Chuang

I don't have a good grasp as to how to truly enjoy enjoy an anime like World Conquest Zvezda Plot, where clever writing and smart world building paint an internally consistent story, but what happens in this story about a little girl who tries to conquer the world comes together like a fistful of sand. It slips through my grasp of mental faculties like Venera's statue, just made of sand, on the beach, right before the rising tide. When I try to make sense of it, it hurts my head. 

At the same time, because it is so smartly executed and in general, A-1 Production is at the top of their game -- and since World Conquest Zvezda Plot is a pet project from one of the studio's more interesting collaborators, Tensai Okamura, there is still a lot to like. I like many elements of the show, so much that I can't help but to think well of it. It just hurts to try to come up with a reason why I would recommend it to anyone.

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Final Impressions: Kill la Kill photo
Final Impressions: Kill la Kill
by Elliot Gay

The final episode of Kill la Kill has come and gone, with the story of the lone transfer student seeking revenge for her father's death having come to its conclusion. 

Things exploded, Gainax references were made, people were cut into tiny pieces, and dramatic speeches were given.

The curtain has finally fell on TRIGGER's first TV anime production since its founding, which means it's time to look back on the whole shebang. Did it deliver? Did director Hiroyuki Imaishi make something worth talking about?

Am I extremely sad that I no longer have Kill la Kill to look forward to every Friday? 

None of these answers and more, after the break!

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Final Impressions: Wizard Barristers photo
Final Impressions: Wizard Barristers
by Karen Mead

In the final episode of everyone's favorite poorly-written supernatural law procedural, Cecil agrees to defend her worst enemy in court, because no one in this world has ever heard the phrase "conflict of interest." However, since it's all a big conspiracy and the prosecution is actually in her client's pocket anyway, she ends up prosecuting Makusu from the defense podium while opposing council somehow defends him from the prosecutor's stand. I think we're supposed to think that this defense/prosecution switch is clever, but like everything else on this show the lack of logic makes it all just seem disjointed and silly.

Let's do this crazy Wizard Barristers thing one more time, guys.

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Final Impressions: Gundam Build Fighters photo
Final Impressions: Gundam Build Fighters
by Pedro Cortes

It’s finally at an end. After 25 episodes of unfiltered Gundam love, Build Fighters has reached its climax. Starting off as a kid who couldn’t find the right pilot for his beloved gunpla, Sei has gone farther than he ever could have imagined: He not only got to the world stage for gunpla fighting, but he managed to win the tournament despite the odds being stacked against him at nearly every turn.

However, there’s one last obstacle for Sei and Reiji to overcome. Thanks to Chairman Mashita’s tantrums, the giant Arista crystal underneath the arena has gone berserk. With Plavsky Particles shooting all over the place and sprouting crystals, what will our heroic duo do? Well, they’ll just have to destroy it. Thankfully, they won’t be doing it alone.

Hit the jump to read my recap of the final episode and my impressions of the series as a whole.

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Final Impressions: Recently, My Sister is Unusual  photo
Final Impressions: Recently, My Sister is Unusual
by Brittany Vincent

ImoCho has consistently been a source of great confusion and frustration over the short time it's been airing. It started out as a hilariously trashy series I felt a little sheepish about enjoying, then it evolved into something different entirely. In the end, the entire season evolved into something completely unrecognizable. Mitsuki stopped urinating all over herself, but the chastity belt remained locked in place. Was that some kind of metaphorical sign I should have caught early on? That the show would purify itself somehow into something completely different? No, it's never been that intelligent.

You may have noticed my continued frustration with the lack of real plot exposed with each episode over the past few weeks, especially when it comes to explaining Hiyori's back story and what the deal was with the bookish Yuki Nagato ripoff character Neko, who's got her nose buried in a book all the time. The final episode played out like some kind of sick joke, with Neko coming out of nowhere, throwing some "hypnosis" on Yuuya, and making him especially truthful with everyone around him. That means he calls Mitsuki cute, grabs Yukina's breasts, and calls out every single little thing others do that he notices, doesn't like, or finds attractive, apparently. Despite all this and all the awkward moments that arise from it, he still doesn't do anything but tell Mitsuki to stop wearing her "scary panties." Somehow, this is enough to get Mitsuki's heart gauge filled all the way, and for a brief moment it seemed as though the series would end without giving us any real revelations.

It was all a clever ruse for a second season, however, when Hiyori didn't ascend to Heaven proper and came right back to Earth, much to everyone's chagrin. I suppose from a narrative point this was a good thing since plenty of seeds were planted but never given any additional attention once revealed. Has Neko been writing some sort of bizarre story using Mitsuki and Yuuya as magical pawns this whole time? What's going on with Hiyori, anyway? Is Mitsuki really going to fall in love with her stepbrother and everyone is just going to be okay with that?

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Final Impressions: Pupa photo
Final Impressions: Pupa
by Brittany Vincent

Pupa has been a long, strange ride. I'd love to say that I enjoyed it, but the truth is I couldn't wait for it to be over. Instead of a gritty, disturbing look at a symbiotic brother-sister pair and the challenges that come with turning into monsters, I got a neutered mess that had no cohesive plot. What's extremely frustrating is the fact that you simply can't even blame the constraints of being a four-minute series with a limited amount of resources -- talented writers and artists can tell a nuanced story in less time, if you think about it. When's the last time you watched an excellent music video or short film? No, Pupa is fundamentally flawed in every single way, and will forever live on as one of the biggest disappointments I've ever had the misfortune of sitting through in terms of anime.

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Final Impressions: Wake Up, Girls! photo
Final Impressions: Wake Up, Girls!
by Jeff Chuang

The journey for Wake Up, Girls! ends with episode 12, but the real challenge WUG faces only begins as the anime ends. It's high time to remember that the anime of WUG is just that; some stuff we watch on TV or via the internet. In the end there are real people who stand behind what we call WUG, and the Sendai-based idol group furthermore stands for even more people, perhaps the people of Sendai and its surrounding areas. Perhaps Japan as a whole, as examples we see from overseas. Their works mean something.

It's in that context now we see what it means to be an idol, at least for WUG. But what does that mean to you and I who just finished watching this show (and the movie before)? Why, and more importantly, how would anyone cry in a situation like the one portrayed in episode 12? Have you seen this happen before?

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