Posted by psgels on 4 May 2017 with categories: Monthly Summaries

Busy weekend so I am late! As usual, this summary is about all episodes that aired in the month April, ranked from the ones I like the least to the best. If I kept adding I’d never get these posts done.

There’s lots of great stuff this month, and I managed to keep up with twelve shows till the end of this month. No short 5-minute episodes, so fitting them all in was a challenge. General themes this season seem to be fantasy and racism. Overall production seems very solid. I mean, the bad shows were really bad and all, but so far the good shows really seem to want to deliver something good, and seem to all more and less understand what they’re doing. I feel a lot of them are trying to take their viewers seriously. You cannot imagine how refreshing that feels after 2013…

Anyway: yarr there be spoilers! And obligatory these are just my own impressions and nothing else. 3500 words which doesn’t seem too bad this time. Let’s go!

#12: Sakura Quest (01-04)

I liked the first three episodes. They were chaotic and colourful, yet grounded. The lead female was naive, sure. But she was thrust into this new situation and just had to figure out how to deal with everything being thrown at her. I like that. After that though… I’m afraid that the creators have already hit a bit of a slump. Episode four was all over the place in terms of how much it wanted to be taken seriously.

The show spent so long try and get the female lead to accept her place as the queen. And then it just pulls the other four leads into the team like it’s nothing. Their motivations are all hazy at best, and now they’re suddenly all working together (getting paid, I think) like they don’t have anything else to do. And then there was that inventor. Like, there are more series that have a character that totally doesn’t fit amongst the rest, and it can work, but the difference is here that his inventions totally transform the context of this series from out of nowhere. This used to be a fairly grounded series: it was colourful, but it could have happened in real life. Not anymore. This is actually very important, because how are we going to have to relate to it now, if it can just pull stuff like this out of its ass?

And with this, this show has become a “5 girls doing cute stuff”-series, instead of the Hana-Saku Iroha-wannabe. Hana-Saku Iroha did some crazy stuff, sure. But its sharp drama was what made me return to it. Sakura Quest so far hasn’t been sharp. I’d sooner describe it as dull and forced, very in danger of being dropped.

#11: Atom – The Beginning (01-03)

This show frustrates me. Not because it’s bad, or I wouldn’t have kept up with it, but because I see potential that this show is trying to not draw attention to. Like at first sight this is a really childish robot show with annoying characters. And yet I cannot name something that it’s technically doing wrong. And then once in a while it delivers something surprisingly poignant.

Now, three episodes in, I understand that Atom – The Beginning is an homage to Tetsuwan Atom, the very first anime series ever made. That explains the characters: Osamu Tezuka’s characters always were out there and exaggerated. The creators are doing their best to re-create his charms, but they do miss something that the old master had. His stories were about absolutes, big plot twists, and teaching kids harsh lessons instead of sugar-coating everything. But who knows where this series plans to be going.

But I admit: it knows how to write its annoying characters. The whole point of annoying characters is that they serve to bring in energy, and if they’re rounded enough you as a viewer will warm up to them. This is actually very difficult to do, and most attempts fail and become excruciating to watch, because failure means that you have to spend an entire series with a character that you hate. Like this show is seriously doing something right, but then on the other hand it spends an entire episode on finding a lost robot dog.

#10: Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho (01-03)

The animators are really struggling with properly bringing life to these characters, but thankfully the rest of the show does a really good job at making up to it. The setting in this series feels alive. The characters visit a lot of different towns and cities in these first three episodes, all of them populated with different people who actually feel like they live there.

What makes this series stand out the most is the racist themes. A lot of the fantasy series this season deal with them, but this series does it best, because there is not one side who is morally right in everything. It presents three different parties, who all are against each other due to complicated reasons and misunderstandings that grow because of some overreactions. There are evil characters, but they are individuals who mess things up for everyone. It really stresses that things are complicated. I like that a lot.

In terms of the characters, I still really like the two main ones; their chemistry is as solid as ever and they’re a delight to watch. It’s not all well though, because episode 2 introduced a really annoying character who seems to be tagging along for the whole ride. And I can’t stand this kid. All he does is whine or make bad jokes. And that’s basically this series: there are some things that it does really well, and some things that it’s really bad at. What makes me want to continue is that it’s the core of this series that’s really good. I mean it’s really onto something with its racial themes!

#9: Uchoten Kazoku (01-04)

Uchoten Kazoku is really tough to measure, because of how different it is. On one hand it’s slice of life, but enough things happen, and yet it doesn’t really have a plot: just a sequence of events in the lives ot these characters it plays through. It’s chock full of culture, references both really obscure and popular. It lacks the dramatic bombast that every other series had, but in terms of world-building it’s pretty darn excellent: how these tanuki are living their lives, and all their customs and strifes.

I think this lack of dramatic flair is what got to me in the first season. I mean, I couldn’t call this bad at all… it’s just hard to find a structure here to follow. Like, certain points or scenes that stick out or stand out as memorable. You could say that this series’ flaw is that it’s too consistent. Sounds weird of course, but anime remains an art form, and art can be really weird in how it sticks to people.

But don’t get me wrong: the writing here is very good. It always has something to talk about, characters are well rounded with rich backstories, the writing is also excellent, and you can definitely see that the creators did their homework.

#8: Sagrada Reset (01-04)

Okay yes, that was one hell of a misleading opening episode. I can understand why some people were turned off by episode 02, and let me warn you: if you were turned off by that, stay FAR away from episode 04, because it’s going to get even worse. As for me though, I like what the creators are trying to do: they have got this world chock full of people with strange powers, and every episode they try their best to make an as complicated story with them as possible. They just keep throwing stuff at you as the episode progresses, and combine that with how characters are constantly trying to explain each other’s motivations, constantly seeking the truth amidst these bizarre rules.

But let’s get one thing very straight: this is NOT a high school show where characters happen to have powers. This is full on mystery. And the way this show looks at death and pain is really weird. It’s like: “oh by the way, Pete died”, right as the characters are casually talking about something else for example. And none of the characters show any sign of being put off. There is plenty of remorse, but that initial shock you get when something terrible happens: that doesn’t seem to exist in this universe. It’s really weird, but they’re very consistent at it, which leads to a number of really bizarre situations, culminating in that incredibly disturbing end of episode 04.

I still like it a lot though. This show dares to break with conventions, and it’s constantly trying to one-up itself. Some of the logic either flew past me or is not consistent with itself, but eh: not enough for me to find it bothersome. The characters still are very enjoyable, and their calculating chemistry still works quite well. Perhaps not as good as with episode one, but in the meantime they tried to put in enough to make this work for the long run and make this not a one trick pony.

#7: Warau Salesman (01-04)

You’d think that this would become a novelty. Yet I keep returning, every week, despite how similar each episode is. Is it some sort of Stockholm Syndrome or something? Like every single episode is a big kick in the balls, and yet I keep returning. Falling for the charming salespitch, being drawn into this show just as the characters are tempted by the titular character. Seriously this guy is one evil sunovabitch.

The strength of this series is that it shows how easy it is to fall for temptations. While everything here is exaggerated, the core truth that they want to portray rings everywhere: its criticism at these sales constructions that are set up in such a way that breaking them and ruining your life is wraught with temptations that are just too easy to break. The same temptations keep returning: lust and stress relief. And some stories are stronger than ever, but there are some particularly biting ones. The first one of episode 04, for example. Like holy crap!

Make no mistake, despite the cartoonish look, this is an incredibly dark show. Also look how the Laughing Salesman also manages to wiggle his way into innocence, by pointing out the faults of his clients. It’s now gotten as far that during episode 4, you could see the traps he laid out miles beforehand. And that’s what makes this such a good horror series: by making these traps so easy you’re constantly screaming “don’t do it!” at your screen, yet unlike your average dumb horror character, you can understand where they’re coming from.

#6: Alice to Zouroku (01-05)

A big theme of 2017 is pushing powers to a new level: have characters with powers that are more all-encompassing than before, that have less limits. And not in the way that they create bigger energy-beams, but with the way that they start tearing the whole fabric of reality. Alice to Zouroku puts this in thriller-form, with a lot of childish innocence.

Out of all the series with action this season, Alice to Zouroku is the most grounded in reality because of how it keeps stressing responsibility. The characters all have lives, and backgrounds, rich in detail. And yet, it doesn’t shy away from anything, that’s what makes it scary. Seriously that hands woman was one hell of an effective villain in how she just completely doesn’t mess about, but even then I didn’t expect her to actually shoot something resembling a child. But that’s the strength of this series: this incredible contrast of childlike innocence on one hand and just this businesslike harshness on the other.

In april, Alice to Zouroku got five episodes out. It was not the most entertaining series of the season, but still I have to say that at the end of episode five, when they closed off the arc, they did so in a really adorable way. And it was thanks to all of this careful build-up. But erm, show… you do realize that you’re 12 episodes long, don’t you? Everything seems resolved now… how are you going to be able to top this?

#5: Re-Creators (01-04)

Re-Creators may not have had the most exciting start, but it’s clearly and visibly growing: every episode has gotten more interesting so far. This series came with a really interesting premise: what if characters suddenly came to life? It shows how they’d react to this new find knowledge, and also how they view their creators: the ones who write their stories. Every character looks at the issue in a different way: that’s what you need! A look the matter from many different angles.

And on top of that it also just got the basics right. It knows how a story and characters are written: rounded, instead of simple stereotypes. It takes its time to establish the kind of world it’s in. Characters behave in believable and consistent manners, there are no weird leaps in logic, and the acting is powerful, yet nobody is overacting. Animation is overall consistent, and the soundtrack also keeps getting better. These guys are really trying to put down something solid, yet exciting, and the kicker: the dialogue is also really well written. Heck, the main focus of this show is on its dialogue: the action is just there as a vehicle, to create tension.

My only complaint is how average the male lead is: like nothing sets him apart. But ah well: you can see him as a jar of glue; he holds everything together. Because of him this really diverse cast of characters managed to gather together and interact. And what this show did really well is keep him in the background. It realizes that this is in no way his story, and instead keeps the main actors the main actors, without him trying to wiggle himself in the important positions. And thank god there’s no romance yet!

#4: Shingeki no Bahamut – Virgin Soul (01-04)

Okay, so Virgin Soul is the sequel. Unfortunately I cannot find the time to watch the original like what I did with Shouwa Rakugo, so I’ll just watch the second season. For now it seems to be quite accessible without any prior knowledge, unlike Berserk, which I really want to continue, but won’t, for the same reason why I haven’t continued Mushishi’s second season.

There is one thing in particular that Shingeki no Bahamut does better than any other show this season. Yeah okay, there are multiple. The fluidity of some of its action scenes is un-rivaled, even when put next to Shingeki no Kyojin, which makes for a great spectacle. But the reason why it’s so high on this list is because of how expressive it is. The characters are alive and vibrant with emotions, they just pop out of the screen. The female lead is the best example of this where she just continues to bubble all over the screen, but the other characters do this to. Some obvious, but others subtle. Because of that it has a very engaging villain. Just the way he’s posed and drawn: this guy got presence. He beams royal confidence. That, combined with the setting in which a bunch of humans are the assholes for once in a fantasy-show makes the plot simple, yet very effective.

And it doesn’t need a complicated plot like what the other fantasy series have. This show is all about power plays. Taking what it has, and really trying to get everything as right as possible. That has lead to some impeccable animation: the poses, the stances, it’s all right. Notice how few still frames this show uses. When characters talk, it’s not just their lips that go up and down, no their chins move subtly as well. There’s more life in this series than any other show this season.

#3: Shingeki no Kyojin (26-30)

Ah, it’s just as I hoped: Shingeki no Kyojin decided to screw some conventions here. Not the ones I expected though, which makes it in a way even better. Five episodes aired this month, and in a move that very other series dare: it pretty much put the main cast on a bus in order to focus on some side-ones: all Eren&co did was travel, while the side cast got bombarded by all of the weird plot twists. And consider that this second season is only 12 episode makes this even more special: for this show to have the balls to really take its time, instead of doing the most obvious and put more focus on Mikasa, the most popular character of the series.

On the technical terms: yes. Great animation, soundtrack’s good, pacing’s terrific, storytelling had me on the edge of my seat. It pretty much did everything right. One thing in particular that stood out was the way in which this show does its horror. It combines it seamlessly with its mystery here: the characters were terrified, and it used that fear brilliantly while hinting for certain plot twists. It created such a paranoid atmosphere. Well done, Shingeki no Kyojin! Sometimes, not saying anything can do wonders.

Shingeki no Kyojin definitely aims to take the viewer on a ride. The most of any other show this season. It’s an emotional roller-coaster, but very different from the first season, which had a lot more bombast. And yet, when it hits, the second season does go much further. Like the gore? Much more detailed than what we saw in season one. These guys have gotten more interested in making something really special. Now keep challenging yourselves! Keep screwing more conventions!

#2: Seikaisuru Kado (00-04)

Shingeki no Bahamut and Shingeki no Kyoujin are behemoths. Their budget is huge and you see that in the animation, which is a feast for the eyes. And I like that a lot: one reason why I’m into animation is to see how well it can bring characters and settings to life, and big production-values are a great way to do this. My taste may be weird, but I love seeing a big group of people working together to animate a story, in all different meanings of the word. That this isn’t required or even necessary is proved by Seikaisuru Kado.

Nearly everything here is done in jarring CG. This is not a pretty looking series, and it was obviously done on a budget. But here’s the thing: Shingeki no Kyojin was bound to get a sequel, so you’re bound to invest in it. The other shows this season: here too you can see why investors were interested in their production: Bahamut is an epic fantasy series with dragons, based on a well received first season, Alice to Zouroku has cute girls, Warau Salesman is the next in line of classic shows to be revived. Even my number one pick for this month: it’s incredibly save. They all make sense. Seikaisuru Kado is the only one that doesn’t. I mean, how was this even pitched? “All-powerful aliens visit the earth and we need to negotiate with them”. Just, where did this come from? This is just so out of left field, it really takes balls to come with a series like this. I admire that a lot.

This show… over the course of five episodes it has done some really weird things. Note how every episode is significantly different with its focus, and yet every episode flows seamlessly into the other. Every episode is also incredibly thought-provoking. You may not agree with its statements, but that’s not the point: what IF an alien suddenly came with items that would solve the world energy crisis if used well? What would you do? What would happen? And it goes incredibly in-depth in its analysis and predictions. It’s bold, the way it’s doing this is going to piss off a lot of people, and in terms of global politics it is bringing more and more unspoken rules to the surface. A lot of shows this season have balls, but really: Seikaisuru Kado has by far the biggest ones. I was for a minute debating with myself about putting at at the top spot this month, but nah: that show reduced me to tears due to its sweetness. However, out of all new series to debate this year without a first season… yeah I can say that Seikaisuru Kado has the best and most interesting opening month of 2017.

#1: Natsume Yuujinchou (01-03)

I was about to go on about how this series really needs closure now, but then this new season came with its first three episodes, and even for this series’ standards they are excellent. Where the previous season felt perhaps like it was treading a bit of the same areas, these episode could only fit at this point in the story because of how well they’re making use of all of the build-up of the previous five seasons.

It all fits now: Season 1 was the introduction, Season 2 was Natsume getting to know more and more people. Season 3 was his growth. Season 4 was about his family. Season 5 was about his friends and the people around him. And now Season six is there to show how different he views the people around him now. He’s part of the family now, he has friends he trusts, and he’s opening up more and more to them: you see his resistance fade away more and more. Episode 02 stressed that he’s not alone anymore, and episode 03 did something really clever, in bringing back a character that used to annoy him, yet now manages to accept and see the good intentions. And vice versa.

And in the meantime he’s just completely adorable. Six seasons in and it still manages to tell these incredibly heart-warming stories. One month in and without a doubt this series is my favourite of the currently airing ones. It has this way of storytelling and pacing that makes the ending of every episode a delight, and at this rate, the other series have got an incredible job ahead if they want to be able to compete with this one. This is good! Be competitive! Strive to be the better one, this competition and wave of inspiration is what’s going to make the medium as an entirety better. The key is to learn from each other and inspire each other. Natsume Yuujinchou has nailed how to tell a story, and after nine years you can see its subtle influences all over. Holy crap the first season aired 9 years ago already! What happened to all that time!?

12 Responses

  1. AidanAK47 AidanAK47 says:

    Might as well get in here before anyone else points it out but Atom – The Beginning is a prequel. Not a Homage. And it’s nice you posted this now as my post are going to be weak this week. Things have been getting in the way of blogging lately as well as a lack of energy.

    • psgels psgels says:

      Ah, so it’s happened to you as well. No worries, the “lack of energy” hits every blogger at some point. I’m stil surprised it took so long before it managed to hit me.

      • AidanAK47 AidanAK47 says:

        Well truthfully it’s not a matter of getting tired of anime or anything. Lack of sleep may be a better way of putting it. Had a four day weekend and can’t seem to shake off vacation mode.
        I will admit to having some moments thinking “Why the hell am I even bothering to do this?”

  2. Avatar noop_noob says:

    I don’t understand how episode 1 of Sakurada Reset was misleading, and how it’s going to get worse.

    (BTW, this is my pick for AOTS, and episode 2 was the best episode so far.)

    • psgels psgels says:

      Well, let me put it this way: episode 01 did not exactly allude to how Sagrada Reset would be the series with the most gore after Shingeki no Kyojin. Episode one also made it seem like most powers were useless and random, yet the subsequent episodes have brought out crazier and crazier powers.

      Based on episode one I was expecting something more along the lines of Hyouka.

      • Avatar noop_noob says:

        I’m pretty sure what turned people of wasn’t the gore, but was the unnatural monotone dialogue. If any episode was misleading, it was both episode 1 and 2.

  3. Avatar Axis says:

    Thanks! I really appreciate your good work.

    These lists (and the pre-season “potential %’s” are a lifesaver.
    I can’t watch every first episode myself. It’s not about the time… I tried it once and it honestly threatened my enjoyment of the medium as a whole.

    I like to skim the reviews as briefly as possible, then compare notes after I’ve seen the episodes.

  4. SuperMario SuperMario says:

    Basically in tune with you regarding how I feel about those shows, especially towards Sakura Quest and Zero, hopefully this week’s Sakura Quest going to get better.

    Natsume’s on top huh? Quite a safe choice tbh. I hope you’d give more chance to Tsuki ga Kirei, I know it’s not modern classic or anything but for what it does, it does very well.

    @Axis: Well, the main reason we’re trying to give first impressions for every show is for you guys to NOT having to watch everything. While at the end of the day I enjoyed what I had done, it’s a long winded, fatigued and sometimes rage-inducing ride that you don’t need to be a part of.

    • psgels psgels says:

      With Natsume it’s safe, I know. At the start of the season I did not want to put it on top, but these first three episodes really deserved it. I’ll be very strict for the rest of the season.

      And yeah, I find that I really enjoy giving everything a chance. It’s sometimes terrible to sit through, but I always find that it’s worth it. I’m weird like that though, and I very much understand that for most people it’s just too much, so I’m glad that these posts are useful.

  5. Avatar SunDog says:

    “Their motivations are all hazy at best”
    Well, yeah. That’s why the last episode ends up questioning one of the girl’s motivation. The other girls were born in the town, I don’t see how that’s hazy.

    “and now they’re suddenly all working together (getting paid, I think) like they don’t have anything else to do.”
    Getting paid? Yeah, why would they do that? But seriously, one was already working there, two still do their usual jobs and one was unemployed.

    It’s weird because these things would be understandable if you hadn’t watch ep4 already, but the review says you did.

  6. Avatar Puran says:

    BTW the “exoskeleton” that helps you lift things that they showed in Sakura Quest, is a real thing and has been for the last 5 years. So the inventor’s inventions were not *that* out there (although a lone inventor in a small rural town making them is pushing it).

    But it didn’t bother me that much.

    I also wasn’t bothered by how easily everyone came together. It sort of made sense to me. All the characters are a bit lost, kinda retreated in a small town where there isn’t much to do, they happened to do something fun together, so they decided to work together.

    The real problem of the series is the lack of drama. Or if not drama, some great characterization. Hanasaku Iroha was also silly at times, but its drama and characterizations were excellent when it wanted to.

    But maybe that was just Mari Okada at her best, so it’s quite possible this series won’t hit any highs as high as hanasaku. I do feel like it’s building up to something though. I guess we’ll see.

  7. Avatar Alt says:

    The lack of of a gantz character after the lack of a gantz remake makes me think no one actually read the gantz manga. Eaten is actually more worthy. But it is not a perfect world.

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