Or “it’s halfway through the new season and I still can’t think of much to say about these shows.”
In Accel World's jargon Zero Fill is when, due to lack of willpower, the signal transmitted to an avatar is reduced to zeros only. A fitting analogy for a series which, despite some promising foundations, an unconventional protagonist and a general high level of visual polish, ends up being brainless and largely unfulfilling.
It's not surprising given how exposition and the script in general is delivered like a kudgel to the forehead. Regardless of ongoing events, be that an all out war or impending attack , meticulous explanations as to what is going on are sure to follow. Combined with the protagonist's ostensibly chivalrous but archaically chauvinistic desire to protect the gaggle of women folk who flock around him, it's not long before genre titans like Bleach and Naruto begin to exert their influence.
There is a spacious fifty minutes to each episode of Katanagatari - enough time for sweeping, epic tales befitting of the peculiar art style and setting within feudal Japan. Disappointing then that each episode has enough content for ten minutes which is written for twenty four then stretched torturously out to fifty. Utilising every possible means to extend and protract results in great swathes of time dedicated to ceaseless banter between the two protagonists. The script may be sharp enough to prevent abject boredom and the characters just shy of caricatures, but like the recent Bakemonogatari, this isn't enough to hide deficiencies in key areas such as storyline and pacing.
Based upon a light novel series, Katanagatari follows the reclusive martial-artist Shichika Yasuri and the white haired strategist Togame as they search for twelve legendary swords forged by the master craftsman Shikizaki Kiki. After travelling to the island where Shichika has stayed all of his life, Togame explains her predicament and manages to enlist his help after one of the twelve sword's current owners attacked, endangering both her life and that of Shichika's sister. Journeying to Kyoto then to Inaba (now Tottori Prefecture) they track down the second sword, wielded by an proud swordsman still clinging to his ancestor's legacy. Despite Shichika's naivete, he and Togame begin to bond through their tribulations and a reticent respect for each other's role and specialities is born.
Casting Aya Hirano as the lead character is not the worst thing that Fairy Tail does, but it comes close. Her voice is so identifiable and her status so confoundingly overwhelming that it overshadows many of the other more accomplished actors such as Rie Kugimiya (Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist) and Tetsuya Kakihara (Simon from Gurren Lagann). The worst thing Fairy Tail does however is through a concerted and continuous effort, wringing all aspects of originality from itself; one would have a more rewarding experience staring at a beige rug than watching the first three episodes.
Lucy is a seventeen year old wizard whose uselessness is matched only by her peppiness. No back story is given to her, no parents or family members mentioned, a blank canvas to scrawl childlike motives on in crayon. Living in a world where every gawping twit can buy magically imbued items, she of course wants to join a most notorious and powerful guild, the titular Fairy Tail. After being duped onto a boat and subsequently kidnapped, she is saved by a powerful but sloppy member of the guild, Natsu, and by the end of the first episode she is unceremoniously inducted into the supposedly elitist group. The following two have her run errands for the group. Hilarity ensues.