Summer Anime Review: Top 20: Part 3

Part 3 of my Summer Anime Review is here with reviews for Free: Eternal Summer, Space Dandy 2, Sword Art Online 2, Ao Haru Ride, and Nobunaga Concerto. If you missed it, you can read parts one and two by clicking here and here. 

Free: Eternal Summer
Free: Eternal Summer, the second season to Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club, which I reviewed here, continues the story of the five swimmers, plus Rin's new team. With the series' screen time split between the Iwatobi Swim and Rin's team at Samezuka Academy, it is able to both give the characters from the first season satisfying character arcs, as well as introduce some new and fun characters. Eternal Summer has the tone and feel that fits the sports genre more so than the previous season, while still retaining the fun slice-of-life drama and comedy elements. It is not necessarily superior to the first season, but I enjoyed it at least a little more than the first season overall. The humor was even better, and since the audience already knows the characters, everything can move at a faster pace. Of course, the series' drama is not always perfect, with one or two episodes retreading previous material. Despite the minor flaws, Kyoto Animation's work on the series is still stunning, and the swimming sequences are even more fun and thrilling! Overall, Free: Eternal Summer is a satisfying season with top notch animation, and good character development. Even though it is unlikely, hopefully there will be another season following the guys after school, like Clannad: After Story.

Ao Haru Ride
Ao Haru Ride was a mid-season addition to my watch-list for the summer, thanks to it being given a pass (positive review) on the Anime Addicts Anonymous podcast, and I am certainly glad that I did. Ao Haru Ride, or Blue Spring Ride in English, is the first true shoujo comedy/drama series that I have seen, with my only experience with shoujo being Ouran Highschool Host Club and a couple of mahou shoujo series. Ao Haru Ride is a series that takes typical themes and explores them in unique ways. It also has several well executed characters arcs with very strong and compelling development. In the romance genre, Ao Haru Ride is one of the better examples of the year, and being a shoujo, it lacks any fanservice or usual tropes that I am familiar with. Maybe it is just because I am unfamiliar with the genre, but the story really works. The final episode is also very satisfying, and it makes the entire series worthwhile. That being said, it is not perfect with a few episodes dipping into being overly-dramatic on a few occasions, and it is not particularly fast pace. The animation style is distinctly shoujo, for better or worse, but to me, it is pleasant and fitting. The music is very nice and perfectly fits the scenes as well. Overall, Ao Haru Ride is one of the more pleasant series of the summer, and it is certainly the most surprisingly good anime of the year. Also, since I did not include this series in my summer first impression post, you can read the plot summary from below (it’s better than it sounds).

Plot Summary: "Yoshioka Futaba has a few reasons why she wants to "reset" her image & life as a new high school student. Because she's cute, she was ostracized by her female friends in junior high, and because of a misunderstanding, she couldn't get her feeling across to the one boy she has ever liked, Tanaka-kun. Now in high school, she is determined to be as unladylike as possible so that her friends won't be jealous of her. While living her life this way contentedly, she meets Tanaka-kun again, but he now goes under the name of Mabuchi Kou. He tells her that he felt the same way as she did when they were younger, but now things can never be the same again. Will Futaba be able to continue her love that never even started from three years ago?"

Space Dandy 2 
Space Dandy is the most inconsistent, hit and miss, anime that I have ever seen, yet, when Space Dandy hits the mark, it is some of the most entertaining anime of the year. If you are not familiar with the story, the series follows Dandy and his crew of inept alien hunters on crazy and absurd adventures. Space Dandy is from Shinichirō Watanabe, the creator of Cowboy Bebop and Zankyou no Terror, and like Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy is an episodic series, with absolutely zero continuity. For example, the crew might all die comically in an explosion, and the next episode the crew go off on another adventure as if nothing happened, yet it works because Space Dandy is a pure comedy, and as such, humor is subjective. In terms of humor and entertainment, the series is completely hit and miss. Of season two's 13 episodes, four are nearly unwatchable, mostly due to ugly animation, three are decent, and the rest are amazingly fun and entertaining. In those good episodes, Space Dandy 2 actually gave the characters some surprising depth, introduced some fun new one-off characters, and is positively hilarious at times! However, the biggest problem with Space Dandy in general is the fanservice, so I cannot recommend the series to certain audiences. Also, Space Dandy is notable for airing the English dub in the US before the Japanese dub is even released in Japan, and the dub is fantastic. Overall, Space Dandy is a wacky comedy with a ton of classic sci-fi and anime references, and, in certain episodes, top notch animation. For those looking for some good mindless fun, Space Dandy is a great choice, but if inconsistent quality or the fanservice is a turnoff, skip the series.

Sword Art Online 2
Even though the first season of Sword Art Online (SAO) had some major flaws, it was a fun action series with some great ideas and poor execution at times. Season two of SAO, titled Sword Art Online 2, seems to have fixed many of the problems, while still having some insanely awesome action sequences and amazing animation from A-1 Pictures. The series is still flawed for sure, and it is a little over halfway through its 24 episode run, but it is definitely enjoyable. SAO2 takes place within the game, Gun Gale Online, aka GGO, and Kirtio is sent to investigate a strange series of murders of GGO players. Being set in the sci-fi shooter world of GGO, it offers different types of action set pieces using guns and Kirtio's laser sword, which looks and sounds exactly like a Lightsaber. Sinon is an interesting new character added to the series, and while she does have fanservice moments, her dark backstory is executed surprisingly well. Thus far, SAO2 has been the most entertaining action series of the summer, and if it continues to be this good, I am certainly going to enjoy it. However, if you hated the first season, you will likely dislike season two as well.

Nobunaga Concerto
Nobunaga Concerto was another mid-season addition to my weekly-viewing thanks to a recommendation from the Anime Addicts Anonymous podcast, and it was certainly worth the watch. Despite the jarring 3D animation, the series delivers a story that does not feature many of the main tropes that are present in anime, and it uses time-travel to create a fun, and surprisingly serious, historical story. My full review of the series will be coming tomorrow.

Plot Summary: "The story centers around Saburou, a high school boy who time-travels to Japan's Sengoku Era. He must become Nobunaga Oda, the famed warlord who helps unite Japan."

Did you watch any of these series? Are you interested in any of them? Please comment below and let me know, and do not forget to check back tomorrow for my review of Nobunaga Concerto.

Below are links to the previous parts of my summer review, as well as my fall impressions.

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