Posted by psgels on 5 November 2016 with categories: Monthly Summaries

In the past I wrote these summaries to give everyone an overview of as much of the series of the month as I could, therefore I tried to avoid spoilers as much as I could. Right now though, this feels like a good method to talk about everything that I’m watching, since I’m not going to do episodic posts, so I do want to talk about spoilers. Apologies for that. Also, in the past when I was a student with no life I really made an effort to post these summaries at the exact last day of each month, but right now I’m not going to even try to be on time. Still, this summary is about all episodes that aired in October of the shows that I’m watching, excluding anything that aired in the past four days. For the sake of clarity, I just included all relevant episodes after each title.

With these technicalities out of the way, this is a very solid season! It has really been a while since I witnessed so many solid shows together, that actually ended up delivering. There were a few shows that have started so show cracks despite initial favourable impressions, but there is really a lot of good stuff to be found here. So here are my impressions on the shows that I watched more than 1 episode of, in order of least favourite to favourite:

#12: Soushin Shoujo Matoi (02-04)

I gave this one four episodes, but I’m going to drop it now. The first episode was fun, it had diverse characters, humour; it was exciting. And episode 02 and 03 were also alright too. Not as good, but still fun enough to keep my attention. And then episode four happened, that blond girl arrived, and everything got so dark and dramatic and serious. It showed that yes, this series intends to take itself seriously.

Here’s the thing: this is a show where teen-aged girls in silly outfits throw waves of energy at evil monsters that want to destroy everything. You cannot pull that with a straight face, the only way for this show to work is to be a wacky action series carried by the antics of the lead cast. As soon as the blond girl started angsting this show was over. I mean kid, if you want to tell a serious story: there are way better series this season for that.

#11: Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku (02-05)

I cannot suspend my disbelief for this series enough. This is a show where you absolutely need that because some characters pull some really weird leaps in logic, but my ability to take it seriously got less and less (now that it’s episode 05 I finally cannot ignore it anymore).

So yeah, my predictions came true: this show tried to all be cute and lighthearted at the beginning, only to get really “dark” twists after a while. The dark twist being here that people die. Fair enough, you can make that work with the right development, but I do not think that this show knows that right development is. It tries, oh it definitely tries, however it just is so hard to take it seriously.

The characters are the problem here. The concept on its own is good: collect a bunch of magical girls, kill ’em off here and there, and watch the drama unfold. The creators really tried to have a diverse cast, and by that we have characters who aim to be the reincarnation of Mother Theresa, and other other hand we have the “yes rawr fight I kill” types, trying to cover the whole spectrum. That’s commendable, but the characters only get developed within the context of the game the characters are playing: everybody has a different tactic, a different way to interact with the rest of the cast, and a different way of looking at the game. That’s plenty of variety and it really is nice and all, but beyond that I have no idea who these kids are. Who they are in the real world… this show refuses to give us any background in that. We have a businesswoman. Okay, what about the rest. Any hobbies? Any nice tidbits? Just the bare minimum. Then there’s the lesbian couple. Good, but are they anything other than lesbians? The only reason is that one seems to be really rich. How? In what way? And nearly every character is like that. Even the lead character is a bit of a blank slate with the amount of time dedicated to her. How am I supposed to feel sorry for these characters?

So what about the rest? Yeah, the battles are boring, the animation is just a string of people talking keeping up mostly the same poses. So yeah, if then you pull stuff like “I like you and look up to you for your leadership skills but I need to kill you because I want to be a leader even though it’s totally out of character”… yeah it’s not gonna work. Heck, just use the reason that everybody was fed up with Ruler’s whining. I would totally have accepted that!

#10: Cheating Craft (02-04)

The only reason this show works is because of the completely ridiculous things the creators keep throwing at the characters. But hey, that’s enough, and I’m still entertained. I’m noticing that I keep watching to find out what ludicrous gimmick the next exam is going to have. I also really like how much this show takes itself seriously during these exams, because it has reached exactly that uncanny valley of “so bad it’s good”. Episode 04 had just a small one, but I loved the idea of just stuffing the characters into an airplane and blowing the roof off. Now that’s creative!

As for the characters… yeah, they work, I guess. They do their job, but the only reason they work is because everything is so over the top, and they’re not ashamed of it. If the male characters were even a little less subtle about their actions they’d be incredibly annoying, but the way they are now is sufficient and they make me laugh without annoying too much. I like the bespectacled girl though. Her biting cynicism speaks to me.

#9: Bernard Jou Iwaku (02-04)

This… is one of those shows that should not be good, yet I keep enjoying. Heck, all this show is, is name-dropping famous books and authors. It makes a point that it’s only interested about these names and not about the content, that it only wants to superficially seem smart but actually has the intellectual value of that one hipster you see at parties who tries to seem all educated.

And yet, it works! The really fast dialogue helps as well, but most of all: it packs a number of good jokes. And four episodes in and I still see no sign of them getting worse. I find myself having to actually pay attention in order to catch everything they manage to stuff into these three-minute episodes. Very few shows of its kind can claim this.

#8: 3-Gatsu no Lion (02-04)

Okay, so this one didn’t turn out to be as solid as I thought it would be, but it definitely still has my attention. Its portrayal of Tokyo still is as immersive as in episode one, and you can definitely see that it’s trying to do something new. Every episode so far has shown us a bit more about the different cast of characters, and they’re getting really well fleshed out, and the few bits of drama hit hard, yet with plenty of subtlety. They make you think.

Unfortunately, the past few episodes are also trying to be funny… and they’re not. I mean I can see that the creators are trying to bring in this fun banter between the characters, the music gets all forcedly “quirky”, and we’re supposed to laugh as an audience and all, but I haven’t even chuckled at all during this series. And it’s not like the humour is terrible thankfully, it’s just… not funny. Because of that I’m a bit bored during the segments that are just focused on random jokes that are not getting anywhere, with the rival being the worst offender (however his silver lining is that he’s an overweight character done right, and his annoyingness is used actually well afterwards!).

Also, the close ups in this series! Usually this show looks gorgeous, until the camera is like inches from a character’s nose and then all kinds of problems appear, but what annoys me the most has to do with cinematography. I don’t get it. They put in so many inbetween frames in some of these shots, yet all movement looks weird and unnatural. Also, whenever a character turns his/her head to look at something: there’s like no continuity in that whatsoever. Usually this is a camera trick used to get the viewer to pay attention to the immediate next scene. This time they’re just randomly turning around with no reason from angles we did not see them turn to. And then the camera focuses on something completely different. What is the purpose of these scenes? Because I can vaguely recall that Shaft has done this before in the past. Is it to mess with the viewer’s mind? Shake things up? Because personally, my immersion is broken every time with such a shot.

#7: TO BE HERO (02-04)

Oh Nabeshin, you glorious bastard! I wait years and years for a new series of yours (Excel Saga still stands as one of my favourite comedies), and then you finally return, with THIS?! This show is off its knockers! We’re four episodes in now, and it’s still an incredibly disturbing watch, and yet I find myself in stitches from start to finish. This show completely butchers the idea of superheroes, and leaves nothing standing, and I love how it keeps searching for new ways to freak its audience out. Episode four was completely disgusting, but it just went with the idea and squeezed a ton of jokes out of it. My favourite though was the Transformers parody in episode 03, along with mister smilie face.

What’s also interesting: despite being a comedy, this show continues to evolve. These four episodes basically did everything they could about an alien invasion, and there’s no way they’re going to be able to add to that, so the creators decided to just ditch that whole storyline and we’re looking to go more into a sitcom. Okay, that works. Although in a few episodes it’ll have to change again of course, because simply devolving into a sitcom and staying there has been done many times before, with disastrous results.

#6: Shuumatsu no Izetta (02-05)

Contrary to what I suspected, Shuumatsu no Izetta turned out to be much more a series about political games. The titular character has huge powers, however also huge weaknesses, and in these first five episodes we saw them trying to use them in the best way possible. Characters actually use their heads instead of blindly attacking, and even though there is a bit of a “good versus evil”-theme going on, the evil empire isn’t just attacking because they’re evil: they’ve got their reasons, which are quite believable. The series really is about seeing how well such a tiny nation can hold against such a big foe.

There are times where it does do a number of weird things though. Like I did not expect this to be one of these series that thinks female bonding is groping each other. Or the squad of elite sniper teenaged girls in episode 05 also came from out of nowhere. Scenes like these feel so… out of place. “Oh, every show with cute girls does this, that means we should also have that”.

#5: Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari (02-04)

Yeah okay, this show probably piggybacked off of the popularity of Usagi Drop (and wasn’t there this other show recently…? Barakamon I think it was called), where an “old” guy takes care of a child. But you know, that is how genres are created. More and more shows realize that it can be done to successfully make a series about a certain topic, and with a bit of luck there will be more and more good ones, using the original as a diving board to jump off to and explore other concepts. In the ideal world you’d obviously hope for total diversity, but unfortunately we’re stuck here in this boring real world and this will have to do. And they’re handling it well. What often happens is that copycats just start appearing, for example what happened with Shaft’s signature style: as soon as they got successfull inferior copies started hitting the market while they themselves had already moved on, and I guess that years later, anime has gotten kinda better overall with its use of colours… but the bad stuff about their style and the uninspired clones still persist unfortunately.

Udon no Kuni puts the focus on a character study. The kid in this case has some mystical relationship to him (it’s probably his child version), and it’s not so much about parenting as they use parenting as a vehicle to where they really want to go to: character-development. How well that turns out is still hard to say at this point because they’re still building up and all, but in terms of setting up the main character, they’re pushing a lot of the right buttons, these past four episodes just show him. His interactions with the closest people to him. why he made some of big decisions in his life. They show key moments in his past, but not too much of it so they can also use the vagueness for nostalgia. From the outside it’s obvious what the creators are trying to do, what matters now is them doing it well, and they’re right on track.

Is this a show for you? If you like laid-back slice of life series with a meaning behind them: yes. Obviously I’m biased because I recognize a lot of myself in this character, especially since we don’t get to see his age that often (and if I have to be totally honest: I find him to be more interesting than the lead of Usagi Drop). However there’s a lot to like here. It really tries to be adorable with the raccoon child, and so far it has only slightly tested my patience. Obviously though, because it’s not a real child the creators can get away with “yeah okay he acts child-like but not really childlike.

#4: Natsume Yuujinchou Go (02-04)

I seem to recall that Natsume Yuujinchou was at its best, the less plot there was. Just single episodes focused on a story of some youkai. The main storyline with the Matoba clan was good, but not AS good. This season starts off with a bit of both: we get two standalone episodes, plus two episodes about the main storyline. Natsume Reiko is gone though, despite my original thoughts that this season would focus on her like how Season 4 focused on Natsume’s family.

My memory is fuzzy, however the two Matoba episodes have been the best ones so far. He upped the stakes this time, got a bit more direct in his approaches, and at the same time we learn that the guy really has a bad reputation. Most people hate him and he only gets by by blackmailing. This will be a very good thing for Natsume to overcome next. He has grown now, and for example has gotten better at dealing with people, and became a lot less shy and isolated. Natori didn’t appear a lot, but the scenes he did have were also great for him. We got a tiny bit closer to his character.

Meanwhile episode 2 with the towel was just completely adorable. Absolutely wonderful and it has shown that the creators haven’t lost their magic in creating these episodic gems.

#3: ClassicaLoid (02-04)

Okay, I can’t help it. This has the most ridiculous premise, and yet I just love this show. Each episode has me excited like no other this season, it’s just so incredibly uplifting! Really, the premise of the show is just about the only negative thing I can say about it, this is everything entertainment should be.

What ClassicaLoid does incredibly well is breathe life into its characters. It’s so chockful of emotions, completely over the top, but so incredibly genuine. Every character so far works, but I have to give especially credit to Mozart and that male lead. Not because they’re my favourites, but because they’ve mastered the art of being annoying. Every single episode I want to punch their smug faces really badly, yet their ridiculous antics crack me up at the same time. As for my favourite characters… Beethoven and the female lead. They keep everything together, and the female lead especially for surviving all of the crazy stuff that she has to deal with as the only responsible character in the show.

Speaking of responsibility: you would not expect this show to have so much continuity. A hole is blown in the wall? It’s not immediately fixed. Heck, the female lead is constantly cleaning. You want delicious tasty gyoza? Well then you’d better have the money for it. You do weird stuff? People will remember that, actions have consequences yo! Especially episode 04 was a very good example of that. And holy crap, did they bring in some former Ghibli staff for that episode or something? They managed to bring Ghibli’s expressive art into a freaking TV-show! That kite festival was just incredibly well done. Really creative to set your episode there. ClassicaLoid, I applaud you and please keep this up for your entire runtime of 26 episodes!

#2: Yuri!!! on Ice (02-04)

I was not surprised when I found out that Sayo Yamamoto is directing this thing. When it comes to TV-series, she is one of the best you can get, and she especially stands out with an impeccable sense of characterization and framing, and she did it again: the characters in this series feel alive. Not just because of how well they’re written, but also how they are on the screen: their movements, expressions, and presence: it’s all full of life, and incredibly fun to watch.

So far one criticism I’ve heard of this series is that it’s kinda gay. And why yes it is, but so what? I get that gay guys have gotten a rather bad name in anime due to all of the badly written gay fanservice that exists solely to please the fanservice, but this is the first time in years that it’s actually been done right: there is tension, but it’s not so ridiculously overblown: it adds to the characters. I can’t recall when the last time was in which this wasn’t done for either cheap comedy or fanservice, but simply a part that happens to the characters. I get that in both the cases of gay and moe fanservice that you have to prove that you’re not doing it for the porn of it, but at this point this show basically proved more than enough that it’s one of the top shows of the season.

Episode 03 in particular was big, and contained a ton of character-development. I love how they put Yuri and Yuri against each other, even though they’re completely different, especially the age part: rivals are rarely that much apart in terms of ages. Yurio is growing as a brat, while Yuri is trying to grab his last chance. It’s all wonderful coming together. What I loved about episode four was how it stressed that everybody had a life before the series started off. Please continue on with this amount of attention to detail!

#1: Fune wo Amu (02-03)

I cannot stress how good the animation in this series is. And it’s not just the budget here, but also how well it’s used. Characters move around in all sorts of ways, with as little corners cut as possible. They touch each other, they occupy each other’s space. Their faces and gestures are stuffed with subtle and not-so-subtle signs and details. Yuri on Ice breathes life into each characters by clever directing. This show just does it by the sheer force of its characters. You can almost literally feel these people and touch them. And the voice acting! Holy crap talk about good. Everyone gives such a layered performance: knowing when to ham it up, and when to be more subtle.

Like seriously, this show is actually doing it: they made a series about writing a dictionary interesting. At first I wasn’t sure whether the introduction of romance in episode 03 was a good idea, however it was surprisingly honest about it: so far it’s just a random crush from the incredibly socially awkward male lead. And he’s actually socially awkward in a believable way, because of how all other people react to it. That’s something you hardly ever see in anime. And it’s not romance for the sake of romance, but it’s first and foremost for the characterization of the lead male. I mean of course this guy would be horrible with girls.

But yeah, despite my praises: know what you’re getting yourself into. This show absolutely isn’t for everyone since the target audience is so far from the usual. The plot of this series is exactly what it is on the tin: they’re making a dictionary, and that can take up to 10 years. So far they’ve done a few pages’ worth. This is NOT fast-paced. The atmosphere depends entirely on whether you connect to the characters. If you don’t, there isn’t any humour, action or sad backstory to make up for it. Oh wait, episode 03, at the end, seemed to feature one twist. Let’s see where that takes the series.

And no, I am also not sure on the meaning behind the really silly and out of place dictionary skits and the exact kind of effect the creators were hoping to achieve with it.

7 Responses

  1. Avatar asdasd says:

    p-p-p-p-p-psgels!?

  2. Avatar fgfdfh says:

    Oh, welcome back, psgels!

    It’s nice to see your taste in anime is still pretty… unique. That’s good.
    Just a question though: why didn’t you watch girlish number? It seems to have everything you like: adult character, more realistic depiction of working condition, and a different style of humour.

  3. Avatar Hogart says:

    Has the writing in Yuri on Ice improved substantially after the first episode? I can’t get into a character drama where the characters and their motivations seem to be “whatever the plot needs them to be for this scene to work”, and that’s all I got in the first episode.

  4. Avatar sushi55 says:

    PSGELS! YOU’RE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!

    *cough* Erm…

    Welcome back, fanboying aside.

  5. Avatar donhumberto says:

    You’re back Psgels!!! I’m soo glad to have you back here. I just would like to recommend you a couple of series you may have missed from the last few seasons you’ve been absent:
    -91 days (a dead-serious mafia revenge story)
    – Joker Game (adult spies in the 2 World War)
    Death Parade
    – The perfect Insider (as you enjoyed Mouryou no hako so much, this is the closest comparison I can think of)
    Please, check those out, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them ;)

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