There were some watchable things in the Spring season, but the stand-out item for me was Chihayafuru, which was carried over from the Winter.
Returning to the Summer season, so far I"ve checked out:
GENSHIKEN NIDAME: A college anime/manga club tries to recruit new members to replace those who have graduated. Cue some more strange characters to add to the weirdos and misfits. However I found that I believed in these characters and wanted to see more about them. The three new members are all female - or so it seems till one turns out to be a cross-dresser. This series has a lot of fans, and I start to see why. I haven"t seen any previous Genshiken except for one episode I downloaded last year. I'll be watching the next few episodes.
WATAMOTE: Tomoko Kuroki is a thorough social misfit, who plays dating sim games at home but has hardly spoken to real boys. She hopes that things will improve when she enters senior high school but they don"t, and she starts to resent her more socially accomplished classmates. When she tries to alter her appearance, the results are just embarrassing. It"s very funny, but at the same time anyone who has suffered from self-inflicted social isolation, either now or in their youth, will sympathise with Tomoko. It"s not that Tomoko is ugly; she could be quite cute if she tried, but it just isn"t in her. She might be a natural punk rocker if she broke out of her shell. The opener ignores many of the usual anime cliches to create a really interesting character. One to watch.
MONOGATARI SECOND SERIES: For the easily confused, this is another series from the Shinbo Akiyuki stable (Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari Black). I loved the first two series, but find this latest one a slight disappointment. Some of the quality seems to have gone, and for newbies there is little to latch onto. In the first episode, the focus is on Tsubasa. She sees a giant white tiger, then when her house burns down, takes refuge in an abandoned school. A worried Hitagi takes her home and then provocatively teases her.
UCHOUTEN KAZOKU (THE ECCENTRIC FAMILY): Kyoto is a city inhabited mainly by humans, but also by tanuki who scuttle around, sometimes in disguise, and also by tengu who fly through the skies. The story centres on Yasaburo, a young adult male tanuki (racoon dog), who spends the entire episode in the shape of a high school girl, while indulging in such adult behaviours as smoking and drinking. Yasaburo looks up his old professor, and is sent to give a message to Satomi, also known as Benten, a powerful and rather menacing human with tengu powers. The first episode has a breezy, conversational feel, and one suspects that odd details of the animation, such as Yasaburo not posing in a girly way, are quite intentional. Definitely an interesting opener.
SERVANT X SERVICE: Three new employees start work at a Government office, and are immediately put into public-facing roles. It's a plus that this has adult characters and is about civil servants vs. the public, but I found the humour heavy-handed and there is at least one really annoying character. I"ll watch some more episodes to see how it goes.
INU TO HASAMI WA TSUKAIYOU, which was quite amusing, especially if you're not a dog-lover (and I'm not). Any show that"s about reading and authorship is OK with me. The second episode is a mixed bag, with a rather unconvincing fight scene.
GIFUU DOUDOU! KANETSUGU TO KEIJI: set in the 16th century, was amusing, colourful and decidedly Japanese, with a lot of dialogue about strange Japanese customs and notions of honour and respect. It's about the reminiscences of two manly larger-than-life heroes, both drawn with rippling muscles. And did Japanese courtesans of the period really have such plunging necklines? Enjoy this for the camp artwork and comedy.
FREE! was about four youths who used to be in an elementary school swim team; one of them still obsessed with water. Despite the obvious potential for male near-nudity (fan-service for girls?), it was the most boring thing I've suffered in ages, and only fatigue and a hope that it might get better prevented me from rising to switch it off. It was also poorly animated - note the miniature cat near the beginning, if you stay awake that long.
KITA KUBU KATSUDOU KIROKU (GOING HOME CLUB: Some schoolgirls form a 'club' for students who go home after school instead of participating in club activities. I found the characters stereotypical and the whole thing an irritating bore, and switched off before the end.
GEN'EN OTAKERU TAIYOU (IL SOLE PENETRA LE ILLUSIONE - DAYBREAK ILLUSION): This reminded me a bit of last year's "Kotoura-san" which also had a girl with psychic powers. Gen'en Otakeru Taiyou, which seems to be about magical battles with good and bad tarot cards, is mildly diverting, but the heroine, with her weak, high-pitched voice is a bit irritating. I stopped paying attention after she rushed past the firemen into a burning building. It soon stops looking cute and becomes rather dark and menacing, but I"m not sure that I'll continue with it.
KINMOZA! (KINIRO MOSAIC): Middle school girl Shinobu gets a week's home-stay in the English countryside, though she can barely speak a word of English. She still manages to get along with the foreign family's blonde daughter, Alice. This set-up episode is satisfyingly bilingual, and some extra if unintended hilarity is added by the English being spoken with an American accent, the family living in the kind of cottage that only rich people can afford, and the father driving a Morris Minor, a species of old banger now obsolete and never seen these days outside a classic car meet. In the second half of the episode we jump forward by perhaps two years, with Alice turning up for a stay in Japan, now fluent in Japanese. It seems that the body of the series will be about Alice in Japan at Shinobu's school and home. Contains much gentle humour.
ROZEN MAIDEN 2013: The third Rozen maiden series. The opening episode is a variant of the opening of the original series, and this is apparently a kind of rework of the original story with the hero now some years older. It is a bit early to say if this will match the previous series, but the signs so far are really not good. In a rush to cram other stuff in, this episode fails to bring out the personality of the doll Shinku. I thought the first series was great, the second so-so and slightly redundant, and fear that this one is another example of a great original being flogged till dead.
THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS: GODDESSES: This is the third outing of this franchise, and it skips several story arcs of the manga, which could be a mistake. In the original, the charm lay in the game-obsessed hero having to deal with real girls, and being tasked with winning over some confused and spirit-possessed maiden. Now, it seems that the original girls are possessed by various goddesses, and a cute original concept has turned into an over-complicated save-the-world RPG style comic drama. I fear that this is yet another example of a great original being flogged till thoroughly dead.
FANTASISTA DOLL: young heroine Uzume gets five cards, from which emerge five cute fighting dolls. Looks like it"s intended for girls. Not very interesting.