Panning the Stream: Space Dandy 2, Persona 4: The Golden Animation, Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler): Book of Circus

They’re baaaaack!

This trio sees us saying hello to a bunch of familiar faces, whether we’re continuing where our adventures left off or rebooting them altogether (or, in the case of Space Dandy, doing both at once). Will it be just like old times, or have we grown apart from our old friends? Hit the jump to get reacquainted!

Space Dandy 2

Studio: BONES
Original Series: Directed by Watanabe Shinichirou and Natsume Shingo
Streaming On: Funimation, Hulu (one week delay) (listed as “Space Dandy”); also airing on the Cartoon Network Toonami block

In a Sentence: Bumbling space adventurer Dandy, robot Q.T., and catlike alien Meow travel the universe(s) discovering new planets and life forms.

How was it? Funny, clever, meta, dynamically animated – exactly what I’ve come to expect from this show, really.

Overall
If you’re not watching Space Dandy already, it’s probably because you didn’t care for the lackluster pilot. I encourage you to put aside that first impression and give this show another try. Everything after the pilot is markedly better – consistently good and often downright excellent.

Space Dandy is marginally a show about multiple universes (and in this “premiere” episode, it’s ABSOLUTELY a show about multiple universes). What this means for the series itself is that the show basically “resets” at the end of every episode, giving the staff a clean slate on which they can try out a new, clever, insane, funny, and/or heartwarming story. It’s less a “novel” as it is a sequence of short stories tied together by a trio of characters (a bit like Mushishi in structure if not in tone), and this format gives the creators – guest directors and writers alike – the freedom to go absolutely hog wild.

Not every episode is brilliant but every episode IS unique, an explosion of ideas and art and music. It’s as much about creative exploration as it is space exploration, and it’s a delight to see what each new episode will bring. We’ll see if this second cour tries to develop a storyline or if it sticks to its current format, but either way I’m confident it will be one hell of a memorable ride.

Coming Back for More?
You know it, baby!

Persona 4: The Golden Animation

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Based On: The video game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, developed by Atlus.
Streaming On: Crunchyroll (listed as “Persona4”)

In a Sentence: I’m actually not sure WHAT just happened, but there’s a bear-robot, a creepy butler in a limo, and a transfer student named Narukami Yu who enters an alternate universe inside a TV and agrees to take the human(?) girl Marie into the outside world with him.

How was it? Despite that one-sentence description, it really didn’t leave much of an impression.

Overall
My understanding is that this isn’t an actual sequel to the other Persona 4 anime (which I never watched), but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to know what was going on even though I pretty much didn’t.

And at this point, while I’m not too sure what HAPPENED, I’m also not too sure I’m invested enough to find out. Everything about this show was just… fine, I guess. The characters were fine – not annoying, not interesting, just fine. The story was fine – a bit confusing, but fine. The animation was fine – not all that dynamic (seriously, people, how hard is it to animate facial expressions?) but not noticeably bad, either. There’s a kind of “coolness” factor lurking at the heart of the character designs and OP/ED animation, but the show itself got caught up in slightly dull action sequences instead of playing to its mystery/cyberpunky strengths. I wanted to like it more than I did, but in the end, well… it was fine. Simple as that.

The music was really good, though. I’ll definitely give it that.

Coming Back for More?
In a weaker season I could see this making my schedule, but with Summer 2014 shaping up to be a right monster, this show is getting pushed pretty far down my priorities list. It’s a bubble show for sure, and I suspect that bubble will burst by the time episode 2 rolls around.

Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler): Book of Circus

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Based On: The manga by Toboso Yana
Streaming On: Funimation, Hulu (one week delay) (listed as “Black Butler”)

In a Sentence: Earl Ciel Phantomhive and his demonic butler Sebastian investigate crimes both mundane and supernatural in this genre-defying take on Victorian England.

How was it? Exactly how I remembered it – and this is a very good thing.

Overall
Black Butler has returned with its trademark blend of tongue-in-cheek humor and creepy, Gothic horror, and while I wouldn’t say that I missed it while it was gone, it’s still very nice to have it back. It should be noted that I never saw Season 2 of the anime (I heard bad things), but that doesn’t seem to matter – indeed, this looks to be a straight adaptation of an arc of the manga, meaning that we’re basically expected to ignore all of the anime-original material. I’m fine with this because it means LAU IS STILL ALIVE, but if you’re expecting this to pick up right where the anime left off, you should check that expectation at the door.

That said, this first episode does a good job of serving as a refresher course for those of us who aren’t dedicated followers of the series. We get to check in with Ciel, Sebastian, the clumsy servants, the aforementioned Lau, his Deadly Viper Assassination Squad partner Ran-Mao, and while Elizabeth doesn’t make it into the episode itself, she does get a few mentions, too. (The Grim Reapers are sadly missing, but the very cool opening theme assures me they’ll turn up soon). This premiere also quickly reminded me of what BB does best, combining the silly and the macabre in a way few shows can. The magic is definitely still there, and this season should be just as much fun as the first.

Oh – and if you’re like me and only ever watched BB dubbed (yeah, yeah, confiscate my otaku card already, why doncha), rest assured that this season features the magnificent Miyano Mamoru playing what looks to be a prominent character (listed as “Joker”), so that should help ease you into the Japanese version quite nicely.

Coming Back for More?
Yeah, this one’s definitely on my watchlist. Bassy would (literally) fork me to death if it wasn’t, and nobody wants that.

Not Watching

Here are a bunch of sequels I know nothing about and have no interest in investigating! Cheers!

  • Ai Mai Mi Mousou Catastrophe
  • Encouragement of Climb Season 2
  • Fate/Kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA
  • Hanamonogatari
  • Shin Strange+
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