Seasonal Recap: Spring 2017, Part 5

5. Ah, What Pleasant Surprises Are These

I love a lot of anime, and I have many reasons for why I love the anime I do. I have 6 shows left to talk about, and each one is one I love for a very different reasons. I will discuss the first 4 here.

 

Ani ni Tsukeru Kusuri wa Nai was probably one of the most surprisingly fun time I’ve ever had watching an anime. I grew up with brothers, so watching shows that competently address the love/hate relationship siblings have for each other is always a fun time for me. Despite leaning much more towards “hate” for comedic purposes, this show still infused itself with enough heartfelt familial moments to make me bond with the main characters and hope for both of them to do well.

Of course, the main crux of the humour in Ani ni Tsukeru is that the younger, shorter sister is a martial arts expert with a proper disposition and a penchant for getting blazingly angry at her layabout wimpy brother, but fortunately the slapstick beatdowns that result from this dangerous mix of characteristics never end up feeling repetitive or boring. This is partly thanks to studio Fanworks’ excellent work expressing the energy of Shi Miao’s anger, but the dullness is also averted because Shi Fen keeps on finding new and more rock-brained ways to annoy his fiery sister.

It is obvious that the slapstick violence depicted in the show is not supposed to be taken seriously, but I can understand why some people would be disturbed by a show that is all about clearly-gendered violence directed by the main female character toward the main female character. I think however that this show successfully mitigates this potentially disturbing reading in a few ways: Firstly, the violence shown is so ridiculously over-the-top and leaves minimal (if any) effects on the victim, so the show is already signalling that this violence should be dismissed as unrealistic and humorous. Secondly, Shi Fen’s annoying behaviour is clearly shown to be provocative, so it is very difficult to call him an innocent party to his sister’s rage-filled outbursts. Finally, while Shi Miao is never criticized for her violent anger, she is also never rewarded for it or told that she did the right thing.

There isn’t very much to say about this show, it was a short little fun series and there are no deep messages behind it. I do think, however, that it is well worth anyone’s time, and that it’ll bring a smile to most people’s faces.

 

One of the pains of being an anime fan is knowing that it will usually take half an eternity before you can watch the anime movies that you’ve been excitedly waiting to see. I am still heartbroken that I was not able to watch either of Science SARU’s debut movies, I hope those get subtitled and brought to North America as fast as possible. One movie from last season that I was able to watch was Polygon Pictures’ Blame!. This movie is the first piece of Polygon’s work I have ever seen, although I was aware of their unique 3-D approach prior to watching this film.

The world of Blame! is a brilliantly well-realized dystopia of shining metal and creaking machinery where for the last thousand years, humanity has been hunted almost to extinction by a network of artificial intelligences that once kept humankind safe and secure. The aesthetic of this world in unmistakably unique, and the movie does a very good job of showing it off- every robot, every location, every surface is designed with an inhuman and uncanny feeling, there are hundreds of picturesque moments that would serve perfectly as desktop backgrounds.

Blame! does not use its setting to ask any philosophical questions, instead it tells a pulse-pounding action story. As my love for Koutetsujou no Kabaneri and Redline might make evident, I love me a good action story, and this movie certainly did not disappoint. The main character Killy is an enigmatic stoic badass with an awesome pistol, and in a story like this that’s all I need- watching him lay waste to enemy robots was never once any less than exciting. The human characters are all written enough to be endearing, so watching them get slaughtered is heart-wrenching enough to be effective. I also rather liked the design of their equipment, and their spear guns were really cool too!

Unfortunately, Blame! suffers from the same problem that many 3D anime projects suffer from- namely, at times the frame count drops enough for a few seconds for your eyes to notice that the action is a bit more choppy than it should be. This happens rarely enough that I was able to overcome the displeasure I felt when encountering it, but still, this impacted the viewing experience enough to make this an anime that I would only strongly recommend, rather than glowingly recommend. Any fan of awesome robots, badasses with guns and gripping life-or-death stakes, however, should definitely give this one a look.

 

I love being surprised by the media I watch, and for me, there was no greater surprise this season than Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?. This anime, made in collaboration by two studios I knew nothing about and displaying a thoroughly standard-looking artstyle and merely competent animation, was never a show that I expected to ever name a favourite from this season, but its second half took my previous judgments and entirely shattered them. I will do my best to explain why.

The world of SukaSuka is one that is slowly crumbling. Hundreds of years ago, a horrible accident that no one completely understands caused the surface world to be overrun by monsters of fearsome strength and insurmountable numbers, and now all remaining intelligent life remains precariously preserved atop a series of floating islands. No workable solution for this desperate state of affairs is ever presented or discussed, and so good people fight to the death again and again while meanwhile everything keeps crumbling and the islands fall one by one.

SukaSuka’s world is an unforgiving one, it is one where no one gets a happy ending. The crumbling of the world around them is mirrored in the leprechauns’ nature as ultra-powerful warriors whose strength stems from the same source that will inevitably consume their minds and personalities. Chtholly is the most tragic example of this- we, the audience, are forced to watch this beautifully lovable character have her thoughts, her feelings, her memories, and eventually her very self get eaten away by a force that no one is able to fight, and when an item that might have helped restore her was finally found, events beyond anyone’s control instead conspired to lead to her agonizingly heartrending death. The tragedy of Chtholly is a microcosm of the tragedy that inevitably awaits the world of SukaSuka, and it is this tragic lifeblood that imbues the show with an emotional throughline.

One of the questions SukaSuka tackles is what exactly makes a person their self, and how many elements of a personality could a person lose before they stopped being their self and became someone else. As a person with an obsessive fear of losing my mind, this thematic focus absolutely wrecked me on multiple occasions- I especially remember crying for minutes when Ithea revealed that she had lost her mind and became another person long ago, but that she had found a way to live on pretending to be the person she once was.

And of course, watching Willem be tortured by the unavoidable tragedy of his situation and be forced to watch everything fall apart around him was just right for me. Willem is a likably-noble guy with a personality that is just deadpan enough to make him fun to watch in comedic situations, and I became endeared to him just as quickly as I became endeared to the lovable and sincere Chtholly. The relationship that developed between the two of them was one of the most happy things the show offered, and I desperately wished that things could end up okay so the two of them could be happily together… Of course, this only made the final episode hurt just that much more.

If you are looking for an endearing yet tragic experience, there are few anime that do the job better than SukaSuka. I loved this show more than I ever thought I would, and I hope other people give it a try.

 

Before this season, I had never seen a single anime by PA Works. Sakura Quest ended up being my first, and when I found myself loving that show I noticed that the studio was also working on another show, Uchouten Kazoku 2. I was curious enough to give it a try, so I watched the show’s first season… and was promptly blown away. Uchouten Kazoku showed me a vividly-realized world where everyday life was a chaos of interpersonal conflicts, random happenstances and touching familial moments, and I loved every second of it. The visual presentation alone was a spectacular thing to experience- this series is seriously one of the most gorgeous things to ever appear on TV, I heavily recommend that anyone at least give it a try just to experience it! By the end of the first season, I was left excited and ready to experience more.

The first thing that needs to be noted about Uchouten Kazoku 2 is that its OP may very well be the most stunning OP of the season. Its action-packed, chaotic presentation perfectly fits the madness of the show it precedes, and it features the best integration of credits that I have ever seen in an OP! Also, the song is awesome and energetic and fun.

But more importantly, the show…

It is easy to see Uchouten Kazoku 2 as a retread of the first season- random events happen, Kinkaku and Ginkaku are troublemakers, Benten causes some trouble, everyone’s almost eaten by the Friday Fellows before the Shimogamo brothers save the day, and Ebisugawa Soun attempts a plot at becoming Nise-emon. This kind of repetition is actually part of the themes of the show, though: The Uchouten Kazoku series is attempting to allegorically comment on chaotic modern life, and so the events in it are supposed to feel both maddeningly incomparable and yet strangely regular, almost mundane. The series attempts to reveal the madness of our own world through the madness of its world of tanuki and tengu, and I think it is successful in that respect.

While the show’s general plot may feel well-trodden, what Uchouten Kazoku 2 brings is a huge amount of expansion. In addition to the three races of tengu, humans and tanuki, it is also revealed that oni exist and they live in their own uncanny world. The Shimogamo family is still the focus of the show, but Yaichirou’s marriage to Gyokuran and Yasaburou’s reinstated engagement to Kaisei swell their numbers while meanwhile a second broken tengu family consisting of Master Akadama, Benten and the Nidaime is shown. A troublesome new character Tenmaya is introduced, locales outside of Kyoto begin to be shown, and now the Friday Fellows must compete with a rival group called the Thursday Fellows. The world of Uchouten Kazoku has never been more crazy, and it all adds up to create a series of episodes that I honestly think were even more entertaining than those from the first season!

Perhaps the best part of Uchouten Kazoku 2 for me was seeing Shimogamo Yajiro begin his long path to recovery and take a journey. I relate to Yajiro in a few ways, so seeing him successfully work through his mental hang-ups and find the strength to quest for a better self was really self-empowering. Also, I really like the look of his human form, so seeing him get animated more in that form was something that really pleased me.

Of course, Uchouten Kazoku 2’s lifeblood is its characters. Watching its characters struggle and fail and succeed is entirely the appeal of this series, so if you never watched the first season or you didn’t enjoy it, this show is not for you. As a person who strongly enjoyed the first season, however, this season made me smile even more than the first did, and I really hope that it made lots of other people smile too.

 

And so the penultimate work is complete. I have never before committed so many words and hours to talking about anime, and I don’t have adequate words with which to thank anyone who has read through all of this… Thank you though, I only hope my over-emotional fanboy love has not made you cringe too much yet. As the 6th and final installment of this retrospective recap, I will be committing all my thought to discussing two shows that I will cherish forever- one, a modern legend told in an awesomely sci-fi way, and the other, an endearing tale that for me became a freakishly (yet beautifully) accurate mirror. I don’t know how long it will take for me to find the right words for these anime, but I definitely want to try to do them justice. One more time, thank you, and see you again in the next one.

Seasonal Recap: Spring 2017, Part 4

4. Unfinished Business

I do not have as much to say about an unfinished show as I have to say about a finished one, but some of the anime that partially ran last season were really good and I need to mention them somewhere.

Discussion about the new artstyle of Pokemon Sun and Moon got me interested in regularly watching Pokemon for the first time in my life. The show right now has been going for a very relaxed, arguably slice-of-life feeling, but considering my knowledge of the story the games eventually took on, I have a sneaking suspicion that it all is leading up to a more engaging plot. Anyway, for now the show is fun enough and things look pretty enough to be worth your time.

Oh, also, everyone should check out episode 28, just the fact that the episode exists is… amazing.

After discovering the aesthetic beauty that is Heartcatch Precure, I decided that this metaseries interests me so I promptly picked up the currently running Precure show. KirakiraPrecure a la Mode has been running since February, and I’ve loved every minute of it! To be fair, that’s probably because cheerful girls making sweets and defeating bad guys with magic candy powers and the Power of Friendship (TM) is a premise basically tailor-made to appeal to me, but also this show’s colourful picture-book aesthetic and drop-dead gorgeous character designs make me a very happy watcher.

You would think that a show about girls who cook sweets would opt for a more laid-back and slice-of-life approach, but weirdly enough this show’s story is progressing very quickly! In addition to having the 5 main girls be established, each girl has also gained a super attack plus the 5 of them have a team finisher skill, a main bad guy has already been defeated, replaced by an even more dangerous bad guy and then returned in a powered-up state, and we’re only 21 episodes in! The stakes in Kirakira Precure rise so quickly that it’s really exciting to tune in week after week and see where the story’s going.

Of course, this fast pace does come with some drawbacks. All this forward motion means that the residents of the girls’ hometown have been given little to no time to develop interesting personalities of their own. This is disappointing coming from Heartcatch Precure, because one of the most impressive aspects of that show is how dedicated that show was to developing a community of side characters that felt like their own complex personalities, and not just background features during action scenes. The relationships the Precures in this new show form amongst each other and with friends have also not been explored very much, instead it seems like there is more of a focus on exploring each Precure’s individual personality. This all combines to make Kirakira Precure feel like a sort of shallow experience, but I think that a show with as much aesthetic appeal as this can afford to be a little bit shallow, and I don’t see myself dropping it any time soon.

Also, the show’s OP is pure gold and I love it to death.

Other shows I am keeping up with purely because they are fun as heck are Boku no Hero Academia 2nd SeasonNobunaga no Shinobi: Ise Kanagasaki-hen and Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul. Boku no Hero Academia is a show that I understand a lot of people love, and while I see the appeal of it that people resonate with deeply, for me I’m just not that affected by the characters’ struggles and successes. That being said, this show is stylish as frick and when the fights decide to look impressive, they can TRULY look amazing. My favourite moment of the show so far is undoubtedly the Bakugo vs. Uraraka fight, it made me see Uraraka in a whole new light and made me appreciate her as a character a lot more.

Nobunaga no Shinobi is a silly little short-episode series chronicling the exploits of Oda Nobunaga and his faithful shinobi Chidori, as they attempt to reunify Japan. This show finds a way to balance comedic hijinks with actual historical events that both amuses and engrosses me, and it’s definitely the most fun way to learn about the Sengoku period that I’ve seen yet! Also, Chidori’s sincere badassery is always fun, this show’s just a lot of fun.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul is a fun enough romp through an especially quirky fantasy world, and I definitely think that it is doing a fine enough job for making up for the multi-car pileup that was the second half of Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis’s story. I think Nina has so far been a less entertaining main character than Favaro was, but I very much prefer the plot surrounding her- the first season ultimately failed because conflicts between the 3 factions (angels, demons, humans) were not well-established and everything seemed to be heaped on at the end, but in this new season the conflict is simpler and made clear from the very beginning. Also, I think the idea of humans conquering the angels with an assembled armada of powerful relics is much more interesting than a ridiculous plan made by a demon to resurrect Bahamut and then gain control of him… somehow…

That is not to say that Virgin Soul is an altogether-excellent show. I still think it falters when attempting to properly and completely characterize its leads, and while I think that everything going on is interesting, I wish there was a more general message that all this was leading up to. Also, recent events have made me start to suspect that the human king Charioce XVII’s motivations and personality have not been written very well or very consistently… Time will tell and I hope that my opinion of this show improves, after all studio MAPPA is doing a good job animating this and I would hate for their efforts to be in vain.

I think I like Yugioh VRAINS specifically because the Yugioh card game is so cool to me. The game’s rules are still not quite like any other popular card game on the market now, and it allows for so many strategies to be viable and for the tide of a game to shift back and forth many times even within the space of one turn! Also, the way Yugioh structures its card archetypes allows for almost every character in a show to be easily designed with a unique set of main cards that all interact in completely different ways to anyone else’s cards.

All this is a fancy way of me saying that I love the card battles in VRAINS. Of course, the surrounding story is freakin’ stupid and the characters are ridiculously over-designed, but I’ve come to understand that this is sort of the Yugioh aesthetic, and its gaudy ridiculous nature has sort of a childlike sense of fun to it. I dunno, I love this story about people playing card games while surfing through cyberspace, it’s dumb and it’s my favourite kind of dumb.

There’s been this short-episode series that I’ve been really loving called Aggressive Retsuko. The basic premise is that Retsuko is an office worker who is continually being inconvenienced in minor (and sometimes major) ways by everyone around her, and her way of dealing with the frustration she feels is through DEATH METAL RAGE SCREAMING! I empathize with Retsuko, I understand her pain, I love this show, and each episode is only 1 minute left so none of you have any excuse for not checking it out!

And now we get to the really good stuff. I had been meaning to check out PA Works’ shows for a while, so when Sakura Quest started up last season, I happily gave it a try. I did not expect to fall in love with it this much. I grew up in a small town, so many of the aspects of small-town life shown by Sakura Quest directly correlate to my experiences. I also appreciate the multifaceted approach the show takes to representing its characters- it would have been easy enough to paint the people who want to keep the status quo as lazy and selfish while showing the outsiders who want to resurrect Manoyama in a positive and heroic light, but instead the anime constantly shows us the good and bad sides of our characters, and it even outright questions whether bringing more people to Manoyama would be good for the town.

The complex characters are definitely the lifeblood of the show. Shiori’s desperate wish to both preserve Manoyama the way it is and also bring more people to it, Yoshino’s desire to do her job right and give back to the town that gave her a job when no one else would, Kadota’s loudmouth insistence on changing Manoyama paired with his doting fatherly nature, these are just the three characters who interested me the most and Sakura Quest is full of beautifully-deep characters just like them. Watching them succeed, watching them fail, watching them just live, it all feels palpably real and I love every episode.

Honestly, watching Sakura Quest almost feels like I am among friends. I don’t want this show to ever end.

And now we come to Re:CREATORS. Considering this is studio TROYCA’s third major project, I think we should all be at least impressed with how excellently produced this show is. Fights are animated with an impressive skill and flair, dialogue is written intricately and intelligently, and in general this anime is fascinatingly cool. Rei Hiroe’s awesome character designs are of course no small part of what makes Re:CREATORS a beautiful experience, but the animators behind it also must be applauded.

I read and loved a book called Inkheart when I was in grade school, so seeing a show with a premise similar to Inkheart’s is so cool! I love the potential storytelling presented by a world where characters are leaving their stories and walking among us, and I think the direction Re:CREATORS takes this premise is not just fascinating, but extremely entertaining. The messages this show seems to be preparing to tell about the value of art, the veneration it deserves in our society, the power of a beloved story, and the value of our world all excite me, and I can’t wait to see them realized.

Also, this show’s 13th episode is the best recap episode that has ever been made. Seriously, it would not be unreasonable to watch this show solely to experience the majestic awesomeness of episode 13. Watch it if you aren’t already!

Other than that, there are a few shows that I’m still working my way up to watching. I have become strongly infatuated with the Natsume Yuujinchou franchise, and while there are still a couple more seasons between me and Natsume Yuujinchou Roku, I am excited to catch up to it. I have also been enjoying Furusato Saisei: Nippon no Mukashibanashi quite a lot, but that beautiful series of folktales is over 250 episodes long so I will not be getting to Furusato Meguri: Nippon no Mukashibanashi for a while. Finally, while Youkai Watch has been a lot of fun to me, the lack of a consistent fansubbing effort has sort of put a damper on my push to catch up. I will eventually, though, I love this colourful spirit adventure!

 

And that’s all I have to say about that. Now, let’s finally get into the really good part. In Part 5, I will be addressing a few shows that really stood out to me, while in Part 6 I will be dedicating all the space I need to talk about two shows that have become really important to me. Thank you again to everyone who has willingly read through all my fanboy rambling, I will be taking a break from this series tomorrow but expect the next part soon!

Seasonal Recap: Spring 2017, Part 3

3. The Good Stuff

The beautiful thing about anime is, even when a series is merely “good”, there are usually lots of things to talk about regarding it. Anime has this beautiful knack for rarely being merely pleasant, that’s why the medium has interested me so much. These following 4 shows are all ones I think are solid experiences that anyone should give a try, and I will be trying my best here to explain why I think that.

 

When I watched the first episode of Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine, the humour didn’t click with me and I dismissed it as just another shallow joke show. I was very wrong, so I’m happy a friend of mine convinced me to give it another try. In retrospect, perhaps this was a surprisingly fitting way to engage with the show.

After all, the most fundamental theme of this anime is that first appearances can be deceiving. Each of the four young princes in OKH appears at first as a distasteful person, but through their tutor’s careful guidance they learn to show their true admirable selves. Even the titular tutor Heine Wittgenstein is revealed to have a very nefarious reputation that was hiding a truly admirable and selfless personality! This all is in service of a greater point about leadership- this show posits that, in order to be a truly strong and just leader, one must be capable of seeing beyond a subject’s reputation and first appearance in order to examine its more fundamental traits.

Dismissing OKH as a poor comedy was unfair of me, because in fact this is a feel-good character piece. The events in this show are a continual cascade of things getting better and better- as more characters open up about their true selves and grow into better people, the community around them changes to similarly become happier. True, our leads need to suffer through adversity and challenge from time to time, but every conversation is always able to be solved by our princes staying true to their core principles and talking rationally out of their predicament… with a little superhuman fighting help from Heine Wittgenstein, but ah well.

One little detail I really enjoyed about OKH is in the opening- a first listener may be taken aback because the opening’s music begins on an off-beat. If, like me, you instinctively try to group music into rhythmic chunks, then those first few seconds of the OP already misled you into believing one thing and then revealing that the truth was different. In other words, you were already deceived by a first appearance! Perhaps this is just me over-analyzing the artistic choices made here, but I dunno, I enjoyed it.

Otherwise, everything else here is competent. The soundtrack is unmemorable but pleasant, the art is lavishly beautiful but the animation is minimal, the voice acting is on point but I am not a good judge of voice acting so I will not be so presumptuous as to make a judgement on it. Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine is absolutely worth experiencing, it’s a fun and happy time and it delivers good morals and I like it and you should like it too!

 

The first time I heard that Kabukibu would be airing, my eyes narrowed. After all, Studio Deen had just finished the second season of critically-acclaimed Shouwa Genroku Rakugou Shinjuu, so I found it a bit funny that they would decide to immediately follow it up with another show about another inaccessible classical Japanese art form. I wonder how much of the initial distaste towards Kabukibu was due to unfavorable comparisons to SGRS, after all Kabukibu is an obviously much lower-effort production: The characters are considerably less animated, the story is much less carefully told, the soundtrack is merely competent instead of being incredible like SGRS’s was, and performances in Kabukibu were given much less fine attention than they were in SGRS.

On reflection though, I wonder if that was all intentional. After all, Kabukibu is not the story of master kabuki practitioners attempting to preserve their beloved art form, rather this anime is about a group of enthusiastic high school students who discover a love for kabuki and, despite lacking the proper training, attempt to spread their love of it to the greater student body. Kabukibu’s core essence is a love of amateur art, and in that light, I think it could not have aired at a more proper time.

In my recent post about Nana Maru San Batsu Ep. 1, I stated that it is vital to me that, if a show centres its premise around a certain activity, then it must demonstrate passionate knowledge about that activity. Kabukibu is absolutely passionately knowledgeable- every episode hums with the energetic enthusiasm of kids putting on a stage performance, and the wealth of knowledge this show exhibits regarding kabuki traditions and terms is very impressive! (My favourite part was learning about omuko, just the idea of having a time-honoured tradition of audience members hollering at the stage sounds like such a fun idea and I wish we had some of that over here in North America too haha!)

Watching our main character Kurusu assemble and grow his kabuki group was a very fun time. Maybe Kabukibu is not high art, but it is definitely worth a watch.

 

Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism is the second of 3 shows that I think were unfairly criticized by the community- you have already heard my thoughts on Warau Salesman New, and I will talk about the third show in a future post. It is difficult to find a discussion on BSM that doesn’t inevitably discuss gender politics and feminism, and… I understand why people decide to examine the show with that lens. After all, we live in a highly-polarized time where the gender discussion is a core issue for many active Internet users, and this show’s premise does definitely appear to invite a heavily-gendered reading. I just think that examining a show from a gendered perspective alone will rarely if ever give a complete and satisfying analysis.

It is worthwhile to at least consider the gendered reading, however, so let us do just that. The school of BSM consists of a dominant female population and a submissive male population. The girls, given weapons ostensibly for self-defense, are tasked with rehabilitating violently-deviant boys, and the method of rehabilitation they choose is through conditioning these boys to abandon what these girls perceive as violent masculine traits, and instead to adopt passive feminine traits. This replacement of traits is done so completely that the boys end up cross-dressing- whether the cross-dressing is compelled or not is never made completely clear. Either way, this society is one where violent males are forced to perform the female role, and it is at first assumed that this system is the best way to engender social cohesion.

BSM, however, does not believe this society to be just because it presents 2 fatal flaws to the society’s collective reasoning- namely, that of Nomura Fudou and of The Empress. In Nomura, we see stubborn male individuality represented. His conviction to follow his own way of life is so strong that this society cannot force change upon him, and in fact as the show goes, more and more people start to respect and admire him for having the strength and will to live the way he wants and no other way. The Empress, however, represents violent female nature. She is the best candidate for breaking down the school’s societal system because a system that presupposes female passivity is inherently incapable of coping with a violent woman. While Nomura’s non-consensual nature is only indirectly harmful to the society by providing an example that other individuals may follow, The Empress is a deadly menace whose violent spree almost becomes a killing spree because society is incapable of even recognizing her existence let alone dealing with her! Thus, as the gendered reading concludes, BSM’s message is that a society cannot be successfully maintained if it presupposes female passivity.

There are a lot of important themes that cannot be discussed in a gendered reading, though, and I think it is these qualities that I think many people have missed. Maybe at its core Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism is a critique of a potential societal structure, but it is also a story about earning respect, finding friendship, and the value of individual expression. As I discussed in an earlier post, this show shares a lot of its messaging with Kenka Banchou Otome, another show about a high school student being forced to attend a school dominated by the opposite sex and, through fights and honest words, wins respect and friendship. As in that show, BSM posits that it is through demonstrating your skills that others will respect you, but the show goes further and also posits that it is through respecting and expressing your individual nature that those who respect you will become your friends.

As an example, consider Rin Onigawara. Due to her upbringing, Rin learns to hide her face and her personality behind a mask. Rin’s first appearances make her out to be a zealous upholder of the social order at school, so zealous in fact to the point that any individual characteristics she may have had were barely apparent, and as a result she had many people who respected her for her strength but only one person who could even possibly be considered her friend. After meeting Nomura, Rin’s preconceptions about the inherent rightness of her society are shattered and, as that metaphorical mask comes off, she emotes more and reveals more of her true personality, and by doing that she find friendship in Nomura and in other members of the Supreme Five Swords. I think it is through Rin’s character arc that we are shown how friendship is earned- not through alliance in a political cause, but through expressing yourself and doing impressive things until people come to not only respect you but also understand you.

Of course, this show is not just a show about messages, it is also a fight show, and I believe these fights were handled excellently well. Every encounter feels expertly-choreographed, each movement seems like a logical extention from the last and mid-battle reveals are always exciting. While the characters’ abilities often go beyond the bounds of realism, the show understands this and treats them with a great amount of fanfare and fun. Most importantly, every character has abilities that seem like an extension of their character traits, so when they clash it is not just a flurry of cool moves, but also a battle of personalities and ideologies.

There is a surprisingly large amount to say about this mid-tier anime, and I really do think anyone should give it a try. Please, though, try to look past the simplest gendered reading of its themes, there is a lot more to love here.

 

I wish I had more to say about Little Witch Academia, because this show is undeniably beautiful. While I personally still think the OVAs looked better, the TV adaptation of LWA is gorgeously realized with beautiful character designs, an enchantingly-colourful world, and uniquely-energetic animations that only Studio Trigger knows how to do. Additionally, the soundtrack by Michiru Oshima is heartrendingly gorgeous, there are many tracks on here that I will probably be listening to many times in the future. Also, the Little Witch Academia franchise is inherently lovable because of its unique place in the anime landscape- the 2nd OVA was one of the first (maybe the first? I’m not sure) anime Kickstarter successes, and this show is one of the first (again, maybe the first, my anime history knowledge is lacking) anime to premiere on Netflix. Despite that, I have trouble considering this most recent incarnation of the series to be anything more than… fun. LWA attempts to present interesting messages and themes, it attempts to develop characters, but in the end all these elements end up taking backseat to a series of episodic adventures through a magical world that is never made to feel entirely cohesive.

Of course, that is not to say that there is no underlying story. The quest to discover 7 magical words and open the Grand Triskelion ostensibly drives the show, especially during its second half, but even this quest is shown to be meaningless in the final act when the Grand Triskelion is just forced open using overwhelming amounts of magical power. LWA seems like it has a habit of declawing its own narrative stakes- the most visible example of this is Croix. Set up near the midpoint as a potential antagonist or at least a competing moral influence on Akko, Croix ends up having very little effect on Akko’s personality beyond making her doubt her role model for a short time, and in the end Croix is even denied the satisfaction of her victory when she opens the Grand Triskelion and finds nothing grand inside. Potential moral questions Croix could have brought up about the value of tradition vs. the potential of new ways of life are never brought up, she is instead just turned into a villain and she can’t even do that properly.

LWA feels like a very shallow story, and I think I understand why. If I am reading its messages correctly, the final message of LWA is that there is no harm in creating shallow entertainment, and that it is in fact those enthusiastic people who create shallowly fun things who may end up saving the artistic mediums they love. I remember reading a post by ajthefourth the addressed Akko’s nature as a person who is purely interested in magic for magic’s sake, and analyzed her character as a metaphorical representation of an average artist or animator. The analysis is very good, and I think this reading still holds up by the end of the show.

So, LWA is a shallow fun show, and that is all it ever intended to be. In that context, I think the anime is a success, but I need more from my media before I can call it excellent.

 

Part 3 is complete, and that means now we’re getting into the stuff that I really want to talk about. First, though, I will be taking a diversion to discuss some shows from last season that are not yet finished airing. A revised estimate puts the total length of this recap at 6 parts, so expect 3 more posts coming soon. Thank you again to everyone who has followed all this, and see you in the next one!

Please do consider following me at my new daily episodic anime blog if that kind of content is for you.

Seasonal Recap: Spring 2017, Part 2

2. These Were Pretty All Right

I am able to enjoy anime in many diverse genres and at many levels of quality. While I thought these shows were good enough to deserve watching until the end, I still think they were not good enough to be worth recommending to others. That being said, let’s talk anime!

 

I have been enjoying my recent foray into the new and untapped world of Chinese anime lately- while I still that, as a biome of animation, China has some developing to do before its work can match the work being done in Japan, I have still appreciated learning about the idiosyncrasies and unique ideas Chinese anime has been integrating. So far, the work of G.CMay Animation & Film has been interesting me the most- I thoroughly enjoyed their series Twin Spirit Detectives, and last seasons’s The King’s Avatar, while in my opinion being less excellent than the former, still had enough fun elements to warrant me finishing the show.

The King’s Avatar is a silly story about competitive online gaming that succeeds despite its flaws, and its flaws are apparent. While critiques about the game design of the MMO Glory would be better fielded by a more-experienced gamer, my criticisms lie more with the narrative elements of the show: Beyond a couple identifying characteristics, none of the characters are ever fleshed out, and none of them except for the main character are ever given a goal to work toward. Even the main character’s goal is nebulously-defined, really. Despite that, these simple characters’ banters are entertaining to listen to, their in-game antics are quite colourful and fun to watch, and the show is undeniably visually-distinct from anything else that was airing last season.

I am excited to see what G.CMay makes next, I hope they preserve the polished visual style displayed here.

 

It is interesting that this season we got 2 stories about kids attending high schools dominated by the opposite gender to them and asserting their place there through force of will and fighting capability. While I think the other show (which I will be addressing in a later post) executed on this basic idea with more style and meaningful flourish, Kenka Banchou Otome: Girl Beats Boys is still a fun enough fight showcase, and at 8 minutes per episode it definitely does not overstay its welcome.

The fights in this show are, for the most part, pleasantly kinetic and well-choreographed. These fights, in my opinion, make up for the polished but unimaginative art design of this show. The characters here are quite shallow and simple, but this show does not try to tell a complex story so I think that’s at least tolerable. There are some simple morals about earning a friend group and respect through displaying your skills, and character interactions are fun enough. Also, there is a potentially interesting reading of this show as a demonstration of performed gender- the biologically-female main character accepts the role and dress of a boy and performs her role as one well enough to even be accepted as a boy by her “older brother”. There is absolutely something there to be analyzed, but that critical lens doesn’t interest me very much so I will leave that to others.

This show is simple, disposable fun, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.

 

Getting into the more interesting part of this list, we have World Fool News Part 2. An absurd workplace comedy made by the people at CoMix Wave Films (better known as the studio that makes Makoto Shinkai’s movies), I enjoyed the oddball humour of the first season of World Fool News, so of course this season entertained me.

While the first season faltered in my opinion by seeming to go for a more serious story during a few of its later episodes, Part 2 completely understands the appeal of the series and thus, every episode is full of slightly off-kilter concepts being reacted to by our unfortunate everyman protagonist. The visual design of this show is decidedly strange, opting for a colourful, abstract and 3-D animated art style. For all these reasons, I understand why World Fool News would not appeal to many anime viewers, but I personally love seeking out shows with odd art styles so this one was a special treat.

Despite how fun World Fool News is, its comedy is not especially hilarious and it never builds up to any meaningful moral statements, so I don’t think I would be justified in recommending this as a legitimately good show. At the very least, check out World Fool News if you want to see something that is definitely not similar to any other anime.

 

I feel like a lot of people misunderstand Warau Salesman New, and that it is because of this misunderstanding that the show has garnered so much dislike. While the first few episodes allow for the interpretation that Moguro Fukuzou is a deity delivering morality tales and life lessons, it becomes quite apparent quite quickly that in fact he is just a bored deity who gets his kicks by messing with people. Of course, he messes with people in such a way that he can claim that their punishments are “justified,” but he never intends to teach, only to disrupt and destroy.

With that context established, I think it is very easy to enjoy Warau Salesman New, and I intend to eventually check out the older series Warau Salesman to see if I can get more of the same from it. This show’s art style is charmingly retro and in some ways reminds me of Osomatsu-san- again, this is a show that doesn’t look like anything else that was airing last season, and I appreciated it for that. Each episode is strictly composed of 2 self-contained stories, and while that means no greater point was able to be built up to, that also meant each episode was free to be fun in its own way without any continuity restricting it.

I do think it is perhaps valid to say that Warau Salesman New has a small message about the dangers of temptation embedded within it. Perhaps the show is trying to tell us that the lives we all lead could be a lot worse, so we should learn to complain less and appreciate what we have…? Regardless of whether this purposeful reading is strong enough to withstand scrutiny, the show was fun enough to entertain me consistently week to week, so I like it.

 

As my last entry in this section, I would like to discuss Starmyu. The first season of this series is something I definitely did not expect to love- the show’s design is generic and its character designs are especially dull, and the personalities given to these characters are just as flat. Despite this, I found myself loving the show and its themes of traditional art vs. unbound creativity and its message about using the system to create the beautiful things you want to see.

Thus, to my thorough surprise, Starmyu 2nd Season was a show I was looking forward to, and I think my expectations were fulfilled. While this show is not especially excellent in any ways, the musical interludes never fail to charm me and watching these characters (whom I have developed a surprising level of affection for) successfully pull off a major theatrical work was very satisfying. While the first season’s themes were more defiant and strong-willed, this season’s themes were more about the values of collaboration, growing stronger through friendly rivalry, and finding the role that best fulfills your skills. I guess perhaps my inherent bias towards stories about music is showing, but I really enjoyed this show, and I hope that a 3rd season will be coming some day.

At the very least, I recommend that you check out the Starmyu soundtracks. These shows have some really great songs, and while I think they are much better within the context of the show, on their own they are still really fun pieces.

 

And with that ends Part 2. In Part 3, we will begin discussing shows that I believe are good enough to recommend to others, but not exceptional enough to warrant acclaim. On further thought, I believe I will need at least 5 posts to completely express all the thoughts I have… perhaps 6, depending on how much I end up having to say about a few shows in particular. Regardless, thank you to all who continue to follow me!

I have begun discussing shows episode-by-episode at my new blog, Okay Greg, Calm Down. I would be happy to see you all over there too.

Seasonal Recap: Spring 2017, Part 1

1. The Dropped List

I have little interest in these anime, so I don’t have much to say about them. I’ll keep this brief.

I decide to drop shows for many reasons, but it’s always easiest for me when a show’s core aesthetic repulses me. Frams Arms Girl, Gin no Guardian, ID-0, Sin: Nanatsu no Taizai, Tomica Hyper Rescue Drive Head and Love Kome: We Love Rice are all shows that I quickly decided to drop because their aesthetics were offensively amateurish and their storytelling seemed to be offering me nothing else to invest my interest in. Makeruna!! Aku no Gundan and Suryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yori ni were both short series that, after only 2 episodes, I could already tell were not interested in doing anything appealing for me.

Tsugumomo and Eromanga-Sensei both quickly revealed themselves as shallow and dull experiences attempting to keep attention by using GIF-ready moments and basal sex signalling (to be fair to Tsugumomo though, Eromanga-Sensei was MUCH more egregious). I have no time for useless lowest-common-denominator trash television, so I abandoned both. It truly broke my heart when Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho revealed that its intriguing fantasy premise and lovely main character design were mere facades over an innuendo-laden, trashily slow narrative, but even my good will for studio White Fox was only able to last me 3 episodes into the show.

Puripuri Chii-chan, Hinako Note and 100% Pascal-Sensei were all shows that I watched much too much of before discovering the obvious, that these shows were poorly-created products with unimaginative aesthetics and no aspirations. I concluded the same for Clockwork Planet after only one episode, and 8 episodes in Atom: The Beginning also bored me enough to drop it- these 2 were especially heartbreaking because of the work musical artists Soraru and Mafumafu did on the former’s ED and the latter’s OP. My respect for these musicians was not enough to carry me through the drab chunks of animation their excellent music was attached to.

When Rokudenashi Majutsu no Akashic Records revealed itself around episode 8 to be every bit the trashy light novel adaptation that it had appeared to be subverting for a time, I was not too surprised. I was still disappointed, after all the magic system in that show had interested me greatly and I had hoped it would be explored more. The show revealed itself to instead be about a perv teacher trying to save his harem of cute girls… Sigh…

Renai Boukun’s slip into doldrum was much more surprising. The show began as a quick-paced and funny- albeit non-excellently animated- ridiculous concept comedy that in some ways reminded me of the energy of Konosuba. By episode 8 however, a poorly-conceived plot about a battle between 2 families I had no reason to care about overcame the show’s comedic potential, and I lost interest.

Dropping Fukumenkei Noise came much quicker but hurt much more. I loved this show’s first episode for being a raw, musical, powerful torrent of emotion, and I hoped the show could build on that emotional potential and create something truly impactful. Episode 2 was then a completely-flat flashback episode… and from there, the pointless teenage melodrama overcame whatever potential the show had to express primal emotions. I lost interest around the point where it was revealed that a dude was crossplaying as a palette-swapped version of the woman he loved and lip-synching in a very famous band.

Sakurada Reset‘s potential interested me- a story about a town full of super-powered people, being produced by the same guys behind JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? I was enthralled, and then I watched episode 1 and all my interest drained away. What I saw was a dull, pointless, lifeless production, one devoid of character, devoid of personality, devoid of life. I accepted that this may be purposeful, but then the very first power revealed to us was also revealed to be internally impossible, and at that point I lost any hope for enjoying the show.

If there are 2 shows I unfairly dropped this season, they would be Granblue Fantasy The Animation and Alice to Zouroku. Granblue Fantasy’s animation (ironically) was the thing that turned me off about it- it felt stiff and non-expressive to me, and nothing else about the first episode interested me enough to continue with it. Alice to Zouroku, on the other hand, felt like a grey slog of dulled emotions and poorly-done CGI for the first episode, so I also lost interest in it. However, more than any other show on this list, I would be willing to give either of these shows another try if anyone could give me a reason to.

And with that, the unpleasant appetizer is over and we can move on to the main course. Thank you again for taking enough interest in my words to read this, and cheers until next time. I heartily welcome discussion, please do tell me if you think I have the wrong impressions of any of these shows! I want to love as many things as possible.

I Loved Anime In Spring 2017

There is a certain appeal to watching anime weekly that I think people who binge watch anime can’t completely enjoy. Waiting for the next episode of a show you love allows for a unique kind of personal narrative-crafting: Will this be the episode that saves an ailing show, or the 24-minute nail in its coffin? Will my favourite show continue to be amazing, or is this the week that it falters? Whether it was the heart-wrending Uraraka vs. Bakugo fight of Boku no Hero Academia, the brilliant introduction of Magane in Re:CREATORS, Azumi and Akane’s first kiss in Tsuki ga Kirei or the perspective-shifting brilliance of Seikaisuru Kado’s 9th episode (don’t worry, I’ll be talking about that later), Spring 2017 was a season full of beautiful moments, exciting turn-arounds, and great, great anime.

I feel like I have a lot more to talk about in regards to this season than I did for last season, so I expect to divide my retrospective look at the past 3 months into at least 3, maybe 4, separate posts. Thank you to everyone who has kept with my blog despite the abject lack of content, I hope I have finally found some things worth talking about.

Before I go, I will state some shows that will not be getting talked about. Firstly, I was unable to catch up to Natsume Yuujinchou Roku or Furusato Meguri Nippon no Mukashibanashi. I’ve been enjoying the prequels to each show, but I am still getting through those prequels, so it will be some time before I am able to fairly discuss these ones. It also breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to watch either of Science SARU’s movies, but ah well, that’s to be expected for anime movies.

That’s all for now, expect more tomorrow. As with last season, I think I’ll begin with the most negative parts and end with the most positive. Cheers!

Seasonal Recap: Winter 2017

Because this is the first time I’ve ever discussed a season of anime, I should quickly go over my experience with the medium. I have been watching anime for about 3 years now- my ex started me off with the Madoka Magica movies- but I’ve only been seriously binging tons of it for the past 6-ish months. This is the first season I’ve kept up with currently-running shows.

And let me tell you, I feel like I picked the perfect season to start! Whether it was the charming goofiness of Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon, the childhood-invoking beauty of Little Witch Academia, the pure endearing fun of Nyanbo or the aesthetic loveliness of Kirakira Precure a la Mode, I felt like I had an anime making me smile every day of the week. Meanwhile, shows like Shouwa Genroku Rakugou Shinjuu 2 and 3-gatsu no Lion kept me thinking while other shows like Ryuu no Haisha and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt 2 had me transfixed by beautiful animation and Idol Jihen was… freakin’ Idol Jihen.

Not everything this season was enjoyable to me, however. Let’s start there, with:

Part 1: Shows I Dropped

I made an effort to check out as many shows as I could this season, and unfortunately that also meant I watched a lot of first episodes of shows that did not interest me or otherwise repulsed me. Shows that lost me at the first episode were:

Fuuka
Forest Fairy Five
Hand Shakers
Marginal#4
Seiren

Marginal#4 was the least offensive of these 5 shows to me, but after a few minutes, I could already tell that I was going to find nothing I could enjoy in this series. Seiren’s first 6 minutes bored me to tears with the most bog-standard of dull-romance-show openings. Hand Shakers and Forest Fairy Five were both shows whose rock-bottom production values appalled me, and as I watched each minute of those opening episodes, my mind boggled to think that platforms actually paid to air them.

Fuuka is the first episode I hated the most, though. While its colour choices were immediately interesting to me and I mildly enjoyed its OP, I could not get over my intense hatred for the eponymous main girl herself, Fuuka. Within 2 minutes, the show had convinced me that Fuuka was not only a hateful and emotionally-incapable character, but I had also noticed that the show was attempting to frame this despicable character in a positive light. I dropped it after this dissonance became too much for me.

eIDLIVE is a show I dropped after 2 episodes- while the first episode seemed to present a compelling premise along with some interesting artistic choices, by episode 2, it was already evident that the characters would remain flat and uninteresting and I completely lost interest. Similarly, I dropped Gabriel Dropout after episode 3 and Urara Meirouchou after episode 4 when I lost hope that either anime would progress in any meaningful or interesting way.

Masamune-kun no Revenge is a show that I never felt especially invested in until around the 5th episode, but episode 9 was so atrocious that it made me feel betrayed. Classicaloid is a show that I had already dropped, and while I checked out a random episode to see if it would become compelling to me, it didn’t, so the show remain dropped. Kuzu no Honkai and Kemono Friends are also both shows I stopped watching, but that was not because they repulsed me in some way but instead because I was not in the right mindset to engage with the shows, and I think I would be willing to pick them up again some day.

While it is important to me to recognize that winter 2017 was not a season I completely enjoyed, these negative anime ordeals were by far the smaller part of my viewing experience. With that, let’s move on!

Part 2: Shows I Liked

There were a good handful of shows I watched to completion this season that, while I never expect to revisit, I still enjoyed experiencing.

First is Akiba’s Trip: The Animation. Akiba’s Trip is an anime that first interested me in episode 1 with some beautiful hand-to-hand fight choreography and a fun art style that reminded me of Teen Titans for… some reason. While the show started to bore me at times, I felt like my loyal viewership was completely legitimized with the brilliantly-ridiculous wrestling sequence in episode 9, and in general I think the show was a good dumb fun time.

Next, Idol Jihen. Hoo boy, how do I possibly explain why Idol Jihen was worth watching to me… Honestly, the concept carried me the whole way through. I think it’s self-evidently obvious that idol girl groups would form the optimal kind of government, and watching the show tackle this completely stupid subject matter in the most inoffensively lighthearted way possible was just so funny to me. Also, the girls were adorable and the songs were enjoyable and sometimes that’s all you need!

Two series of 2-minute episodes I liked were Chiruran: Nibun no Ichi and Nyanko Days. Chiruran was a series I couldn’t really get into that much because I’m not familiar with the source material, but still it was a fun enough gag series that didn’t overstay its welcome. Nyanko Days, on the other hand, was an absolutely-adorable series that made me smile a lot purely because representing cats as tiny lolis is literally the best idea ever. Neither show had a particularly-big impact on me, though, and that’s why I merely liked them instead of loving them.

Finally, Bang Dream! is a show I picked up because it looked like it’d give me a K-On-lite experience, and that’s indeed what I’ve been getting. The show isn’t anything extraordinary and the animation is sorta weak, but the main character is adorable and I’ve teared up at a few moments so I’ll be happily watching the last few episodes when they come out.

Part 3: Shows I Liked A Lot

Three things that can immediately interest me in a show are a jazzy soundtrack, a fun OP, and a stylish art style. Onihei and ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka fulfilled these desires perfectly.

Onihei is the first anime to be created by the newly-formed Studio M2, a studio that as far as I can tell is the newest creation of Masao Maruyama, esteemed Studio Madhouse founder and also creator of Studio MAPPA. Onihei is an animated adaptation of the classic Japanese novel series Onihei Hanchako, and the story is drenched in classic Edo-period samurai bravado. While there are many more impressively-animated shows out there you could experience, Onihei’s enjoyably-dark art style and flashes of visceral fight choreography are very entertaining and combine perfectly with the one-off stories of honour and betrayal that take up each episode. Unless you are completely adverse to Onihei’s violent themes, I think this is a series anyone could enjoy.

Studio Madhouse was busy itself producing a show this season: Helmed by Shingo Natsume, the esteemed director of One Punch Man and Space Dandy, ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka delivered a vibrantly-stylish political drama in a European-inspired country on the brink of collapse and revolution. I had trouble investing myself in the characters in this show, but despite that, the premise was compelling to me and the brilliantly-excellent soundtrack kept me coming back week after week. Also, I cannot ever recommend this show highly enough for its art style alone- the art from the original manga was translated well, and it creates character designs and colour palettes that look throughly different from anything else that was on TV this season. Most impressive to me though were the brilliant OP and finale song created by the newly-formed group One III Notes, I really hope we get to hear more from them in the future!

Youjo Senki was the happy surprise of the season for me. Originally writing it off after its first episode as an anime with some decent ideas but nothing that would compel me to keep with it, beginning with episode 2, I became completely invested in the story of a psycho Nazi loli’s vengeful quest to destroy her enemies and one day rise up to strike down God himself! While Tanya herself is a very fun character, I also found her comrades to be charming and relatable, especially best girl Serebryakova. Studio NUT did a good job animating the battles in this anime- as far as I can tell, this is the first anime that NUT has created, and I hope it is not their last.

Conceptually, I like the idea of taking fantasy tropes and presenting them as mundane parts of regular life, so A-1 Pictures’ Demi-chan wa Kataritai was a very fun show for me. Seeing how Hikari, Machi, Yuki and Satou-sensei adjust to be a part of society despite their supernatural features was a lot of fun to me, and I was especially entertained when it was claimed that a dullahan’s unique traits were the key to understanding quantum physics! The animation of Demi-chan never really impressed me (and the final episode is a boring swimsuit episode), but some moments featured goofy faces that reminded me of Konosuba… and if your anime can remind me of Konosuba, it’s doing something right. Oh also, the OP is really charming!

Piace: Watashi no Italian is a short-episode series that really caught me off-guard with how much I enjoyed it. Mind you, much of my enjoyment of Piace is predicated on my love of food, but even looking beyond how hungry the show made me, its simple story of a young girl fitting in with an eccentric bunch of cuisine crazies was really endearing to me. I feel like Piace would have lost me if its episodes were full-length, but as a series of shorts, I never felt like the show overstayed its welcome- it told a simple story in a simple way, and that’s completely fine with me. Oh, also each episode has a unique ED, and I really respect shows that put in the extra effort to do that!

Finally, we come to Nyanbo. Nyanbo is a series of shorts that began airing last season but finished this season. I have happy childhood memories of watching feel-good shows like Roly Poly Oly and George Shrinks, and I feel like Nyanbo captures that same sort of feel-good vibe that those cartoons did. Watching Tora and his friends bumble around searching for UFO parts and playing around with other wacky characters always put a smile on my face, and also Kotora is the cutest daughter ever and anyone who disagrees can fight me. I know Nyanbo’s art style is something that can immediately turn people off of even giving the series a try- after all, 3-D animation is something heavily stigmatized in anime- but I really do believe that if you look beyond that, you’ll find a show that evokes that particular kind of childish happiness that could put a smile on almost anyone’s face.

We’re coming up to talking about the shows that I loved, but first there are some other things to mention:

Part 4: Shows I Will Be Continuing To Watch

There are three shows that I picked up this season which I expect to continue watching.

Pokemon Sun & Moon is the first Pokemon series I have ever watched weekly, and I have been loving every minute of it. As many others have already said, this show’s animation is freakin’ fantastic, infusing Pokemon with an exuberant energy that pairs really well with the kinds of stories it tells. Team Rocket is fun as always, Ash Ketchum is endearing as always, and… goddamnit, it’s Pokemon but it actually looks good, everyone should at least give this show a try!

Little Witch Academia is Studio Trigger’s newest project. Trigger is the creator of one of my favourite anime of all time, Kill La Kill, as well as other shows I’ve enjoyed including Space Patrol Luluco, Kiznaiver, Inferno Cop and Ninja Slayer From Animation, and at this point if Trigger makes it, I will watch it. Little Witch Academia is a beautiful show full of great ideas and brilliant moments of animation, and while I still don’t feel its aesthetic has yet reached the beauty shown in the original Young Animator Training Project short or The Enchanted Parade movie, it’s still one of the best-looking things on TV. I was at first finding myself growing uninterested with the show because its characters were not developing and its plot was not progressing, but as of a few episodes ago, certain events have completely re-invigorated my interest and now I cannot WAIT for next week’s episode to come out! Michiru Oshima’s work on this show’s soundtrack also shines- while I enjoyed her soundtrack for Fullmetal Alchemist more, this soundtrack brings the exact right classy but also goofy feel to the show, and I think it is one of the things that elevates this TV series beyond the original short and movie. Also, the OP is fan-freaking-tastic and it’s made me cry a few times.

Finally, there’s Kirakira Precure a la Mode. I already mentioned above that I love shows that make me hungry, and godDAMN does Kirakira Precure make me crave sweets every week. This is my first experience with the Precure metaseries, and if other Precure shows can deliver a similar level of aesthetic beauty and animated energy to this, I think I’ll become a fan. Also, Kotozume Yukari’s character design has quickly become one of my favourite character designs in anime, and I make sure to visit Pixiv every few days to look up fan art of her.

Part 5: Shows With Irregular Release Schedules

When I marathonned the Japan Animator Expo a few months ago, the first short Dragon Dentist immediately piqued my interest, so I was very excited to hear that it was getting a full 2-episode anime! While Dragon Dentist does not deliver an especially-compelling story, the world it creates is imaginative and fascinating, and the aesthetic it delivers is gorgeous and memorable. I would very much enjoy a full-length series set in Dragon Dentist’s world, I hope there’s someone at Studio Khara who decides to do that.

Mahoutsukai no Yome is a series that I am now very excited for, because the 2 episodes of the 3-part prequel OVA that have come out so far have completely engrossed me in its world and I need to see more! Also on the topic of things I need to see more of, aaaa I love Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt SOOOO much and I wish its episodes released a little bit more quickly! Gundam Thunderbolt may be my favourite-looking series that’s currently airing- I loved the first season, the first episode of season 2 was brilliant, I can’t wait to see the rest of season 2 this spring.

And finally, we come to Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Zaregototsukai. Kubikiri Cycle is gorgeous, although that might be my Akiyuki Shinbou bias talking (after all, starting my anime journey with Madoka has sorta biased me towards the guy’s work). This is the second adaptation of a NisiOisiN story I’ve seen (the first was Katanagatari), and I’ve decided I love this madman. His obsession with writing about crazy genius people is really entertaining to me, and when paired with Shinbou’s crazy aesthetic sensibilities, it creates a show that oozes crazy nonsense. Episodes 3-5 of Kubikiri Cycle aired this winter, and I’m excited for the show to finish up over the coming months.

Well, this is it. It’s time for me to tell you about the shows which I consider to be the gems of Winter 2017. While I would happily tell people to give any show I’ve liked a try, I think these next 4 shows are all must-watch golden examples of animated excellence, and if you skip any of them, you are doing yourself a disservice. Without further ado:

Part 6: Shows I Loved

And what better way to start off this section than with Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon? I have not seen nearly enough of Kyoto Animation’s work yet, but K-On is one of my favourite series of all time and I’m happy to see that Kobayashi-san continues KyoAni’s tradition of writing realistic, endearing female characters. It’s weird to say Kobayashi-san’s characters feel realistic- after all, this is a show about dragon girls- but really, despite the supernatural abilities of some of the main characters, the show’s plot is mostly focused around mundane happenings like going to work, hanging out with friends and making meals. It is a testament to KyoAni’s talent that they are able to create beautiful moments out of these everyday occurrences- I was never once bored by Kobayashi-san, and some moments almost moved me to tears. Tohru and Kobayashi’s domestic relationship is definitely the focal point of the show, so it is good that the relationship between these two characters is well-developed, deep, interesting and lovely to watch. Seeing Tohru and Kobayashi subtly open up to each other was a wonderful experience… and that made it all the more heart-wrenching when Episode 13 came around and it almost seemed like their relationship was going to be unfairly broken. I really hope this show gets the second season it deserves, I enjoyed every minute of it, its animation is brilliant, its OP and ED were some of the best of the season, everything about this show is great, Kanna is my daughter and if you don’t think she’s the cutest I will fight you, go watch it.

KonoSuba season 1 is exactly the right comedy for me- it’s got the exact right mix of fundamentally-flawed but redeemable characters, its animation is loose enough to allow for the most hilarious moments, its voice actors really put their all into making already-ridiculous situations even more ridiculous, and the way Kazuma and company’s misadventures pile up and spiral out of control always makes me smile widely and chuckle heartily. And fortunately, season 2 is even more of everything I loved! Honestly, I think KonoSuba is a self-evidently excellent comedy series that everyone should watch, so I’m just gonna move on to the next thing on my list.

I’ve already mentioned that I have strong bias in favour of Akiyuki Shinbou’s aesthetic style, so it should be no surprise that I loved 3-Gatsu no Lion. While at its core, the story of Kiriyama Rei working through his deeply-ingrained mental problems and learning to love himself and make friends is something I felt a personal connection to, I loved much more the way Shinbou presented Rei’s mental turmoil, taking his thoughts and presenting them with stark palette swaps and jarring art style changes. I’ve been loving 3-Gatsu ever since last fall season, and I was so happy to see the show never lose its focus. Also, I feel sorta compelled to play shogi now, so I guess the show worked! Oh, one final thing- I’ve been mentioning a lot of great OPs in this post, but in my opinion, the best OP of the season belongs to 3-Gatsu. “Sayonara Bystander” by YUKI is not only a gorgeous song, but the OP is full of excellent character moments and gorgeous art, and the final few seconds of it always makes me cry. I am so happy that a second season of this brilliant anime has already been announced, it gives me another reason to look forward to this fall.

Finally, we come to Shouwa Genroku Rakugou Shinjuu 2. Between this show, 3-Gatsu and Kubikiri Cycle, I don’t think I could pick one show I was the most enthralled by this season, but the absolute mastery of technique on display here was entrancing. Between this show and Konosuba, Studio Deen has been making some amazing stuff lately, and their character animation has been especially excellent! Shouwa Genroku is a series all about the art of rakugou, so it was a must for the rakugou scenes to be expressively-animated, but Deen went above and beyond to create experiences that were some of the best of Winter 2017. I especially loved the way every character’s mouth animations precisely matched up to the voice actors’ performances- I have begun to be very annoyed by the tendency of anime to just animate simple mouth-flap loops to represent their characters speaking, so I was happy to see Shouwa Genroku pay extra attention to this feature of the production. Also, the jazzy soundtrack was a big plus for me, and the OP and ED were both excellently done even if I would call neither a favourite. This season built on the first season spectacularly, expanding on all the important characters and bringing a satisfying close to a brilliantly-told multi-generational story. I’m also pushing this series on my dad, so I hope he ends up enjoying it too!

And thus concludes Winter 2017. Spring 2017 is just starting, so it’s anyone’s guess how this season will turn out. No matter what, though, I look forward to experiencing lots more lovely anime, and hopefully by the end I will have some new favourites! Cheers, y’all, and happy anime watching.