Ep.1 left me full of enthusiasm, but that dwindled. I was always well-disposed towards the show, but I'd quite often find my attention drifting and I think, comparatively speaking, it's a disappointment. It's got fantastic design and lots of ideas, but I get the impression that those are what the show was built around, rather than story or character. It's based on a fantasy novel series that only had two volumes when this anime started airing, which makes me think that they just didn't have enough material.
In some ways, the show's biggest problem might have been its studio. It's a Kyoto Animation show, which raises expectations. They're top class. Fans might make a fuss when something's just sort of okay, especially when they think it's the wrong kind of "okay". KyoAni's best known for innocent, charming shows with lots of moe, e.g. Kanon, K-On! or Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. This, on the other hand, is... business as usual, frankly, but with a bit of mild fanservice. I don't get it. You could broadcast it on children's television. People calling it ecchi should get out more. The show's real problem is that it's a bit generic and forgettable. For me, that's the only way in which it feels significantly out of character for KyoAni.
1. One male protagonist surrounded by lots of girls? They've done lots of those.
2. Fanservice? Well, what about Free? Admittedly that's the other way around, being a show about dripping wet boys in swimming trunks, but even someone looking for scantily clad women would probably be better off with Amagi Brilliant Park than with this.
It's set in a world where "phantoms" (i.e. demons, yokai, etc.) are a daily but harmless occurrence. If you have a problem, you might as well get in touch with a school club. Our protagonist is Haruhiko Ichijo (bookworm) and his friends are going to be Mai Kawakami (strong and busty), Reina Izumi (nice), Koito Minase (a bit anti-social) and Kurumi Kumamakura (about nine years old, a bit shy and worried). At first the club's only members are Haruhiko and Mai, but over time they'll accumulate others.
They're pleasant. They have fun and/or imaginative powers, with Reina's being particularly odd. (She eats phantoms. She opens her mouth and turns into a human vacuum that sucks in everything, drawn to be almost reminiscent of Dr Seuss.) I liked everyone... but they're also fairly static characters, without even the sleazy dynamism that you'd get from a harem anime. Koito thaws a bit. Kurumi becomes less nervous. Mai takes on a maternal role in ep.11 and Haruhiko has some family issues that come into play in the two-part finale. Nonetheless, though, I don't think the stories are really built around them. Instead they'll be built around things like Schrodinger's Cat, the unreliability of human memory or a gigantic horny ape in the school swimming pool. We see some delightfully imaginative phantoms. You'll see a giant teddy bear fighting ninja. I really liked all that. Most of the time, though, the cast could have been anyone, really. The show raises and then immediately forgets about potentially interesting character points like Mai and Reina being impoverished students at a private school.
The character who felt the least generic for me was Kurumi, actually. Theoretically she's the biggest cliche of them all: a lovable girl much younger than the rest of the cast. That's been an anime staple for decades. Kurumi, though, isn't genki. Theoretically she's close to the Shy Girl archetype, but to me her manner is more suggestive of fear. She even has a worried air when we see her dancing in the opening and closing credits.
The season's second half is better than its first, I think. Ep.8 is funny, ep.9 is quite good (with the drama club phantom) and everything from ep.10 onwards is doing interesting things with the regular cast. There's some good stuff in there, with the two-part finale even managing to do meaningful things with Haruhiko's family issues. Ep.10 is great for Mai and ep.11 is great for Ruru (a flying girl about six inches high who's imposed herself on Haruhiko and wears a Arabian Nights bikini).
If that final run were perhaps the show finding its groove, then I'd be relatively enthusiastic were KyoAni to announce a second season.
There's a Matrix thing going on. Everything we see seems to be set inside virtual reality. The eye-catches to mark the advertising breaks are green-on-black scrolling letters that must surely be a deliberate reference to The Matrix, while very occasionally, the world appears to be made of pixels. You need to hit things to bring them into normal existence. However the show never does anything with this, just leaving it as an unusual feature for the fans to theorise about.
I wouldn't call this a bad show at all. It's fine. I wanted to like it and it's undeniable that there's a lot of ambition and creativity in all the different episode ideas and seeds. All it needed was some narrative momentum, built around the cast. There's nothing wrong wiith them. They're underused, that's all. I think the show wanted more episodes like the ones in the second half and more of a sense that it was all going somewhere. All of its ingredients are strong... but in the end, the net result is a deceptively weak show that you'll probably watch once, at best, and then delete.