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

The month of may was… tough. I was incredibly busy and had very little time to keep up with 12 different series, and in the end I just couldn’t. But ah well, this happens. Back in the days this blog was my top priority after my studies: I’d finish my classes and homework and aside from that, all I did was watch anime and write. At this point my life is totally different, and I cannot do that anymore, so months like these happen. Next month’s going to be even worse because of a 2,5 week holiday to Denmark.

But yeah, the thing with this season was that there are a lot of series with potential. With months like these, it’s not just a matter of dropping the bad and uninteresting ones, but they force you to honestly look: which series are the really special ones? Which ones do more than just tell a story? Which are the series that go the extra miles. Below is the list of the shows that survived.

First some notes on the shows that I ended up dropping: Uchoten Kazoku was definitely well written but it just couldn’t grab me. Sakura Quest almost immediately lost my interest after last writing about it, Alice to Zouroku has a nice message for family values, but in the end it remains a story about a magical girl that has been done in essence many times before, Re-Creators lacks something that puts it above the others to me, and Sagrada Reset suffers from the “first episode is the best”-syndrome. I loved episode one, because it had this really melancholic undertone, but that completely disappeared after the first arc and now it’s just this “Hyouka with gore”. Dropping Warau Salesman hurt like the entire series, but in the end: it does remain a one-trick pony.

#4: Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (04-08)

Okay, I told myself I’d be strict on this series: if it’s going to go on for 6 season I’d better be consistently amazing to be worth it. This month was not. It was pretty much average Natsume: good stories with good morals that fleshed out the characters some more. At this point, I think it’s a good moment to officially label the length as one of the flaws of Natsume Yuujinchou, because it sure as hell isn’t going to stop after this season.

Here’s the thing: being concise is a key part of storytelling. You cannot just let your story go on for ever and ever. A good story has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is there to sweep you away. The middle is there to develop, keep you on your feet, be a roller coaster ride of some sort. And then the ending is there to take everything to a next level. Natsume Yuujinchou is just a middle part that keeps going on and on and on. There’s no closure. That’s a very big problem with adaptations: they’re often way too faithful because of their length, so that there is no way to create a good ending. The reason why I’m still going back to anime is the ones that were made with an ending in mind. You cannot start your series and make stuff up as you go along, that is not good storytelling, and yet a lot of light novels and mangas are set up like that: they are written by small teams, who hope to go on for as long as possible. Anime have much tighter budgets, so especially the small ones know exactly how much time they have on their hands. A competent writer can use that to exactly plan the course of the series.

This is going to be fun for Jigoku Shoujo next season. Oh, I am going to sound SO hypocritical!

#3: Shingeki no Bahamut – Virgin Soul (05-08)

I did not continue with Zero Kara Hajimaru no Shou. Despite its great themes on racism, it got me thinking: it’s not like it’s breaching new ground or something. It’s just portraying racism pretty well this time, but should we really praise a series for doing something so trivial? Should we praise a seires for being not bad? No, what I’m interested in is the shows that go the extra mile and Zero just didn’t cut it.

Shingeki no Bahamut is more: this uses animation to tell its story, and it’s just as important as the written dialogue. It’s the type of series that can only work as an anime because in manga-form you’d miss out on so many details, movements, gestures, and not to mention the wonderful soundtrack here. But what this show is best at is portraying emotions: it beams across the screen. And that’s why I watch anime: I want to see what animation can elicit from viewers. Not a narrated picture-book, no something only movement can do. The direction, script, and production-values are all geared towards that. I mean logic is good and all, but sometimes you just need a character motivation of “I just felt like it”.

No, screw average or merely good. All series should strive to achieve something special. I don’t care what it is, as long as it stands out and it’s amazing (being especially bad is obviously not the right path). And when I look at my favourites over the years, they are all series that understood that, and did something in their own way. Something that cannot exactly be put to words, and at the very least can never be written down as a guide or something. It’s this feeling you get. And that makes it different for everybody of course, but I can see this show being filled with good intentions, and it’s drawing me in unlike most other shows this season that feel much less ambitious. And this is not just about the budget. Sure, it helps, but there is one particular show this season that demonstrates that you do not need a big budget for that. But first:

#2: Shingeki no Kyojin (31-34)

Okay so this turned out to be completely different from what I expected, but that’s good! This has turned out to be a really excellent sequel. It was so easy for the creators to pull a sell-out here: lots of titan-bashing, lots of Mikasa, much of the same really. And they didn’t: they used the first season as a diving board to go into a new direction. There is so much more mystery and horror here.

Also, the characters: like what did the three main characters do this season anyway? Aside from some flashbacks, all of them basically rode some horses, fought once, failed miserably and apart from that they did nothing and instead the spotlights were on all of the side-characters. This takes balls for such a mainstream series that has so much money depending on it! I love it! Especially since all these characters are much more interesting than our main trio (because let’s face it: they bear a lot of resemblances to Ash, Misty and Brock from Pokemon). This is the type of storyline that really tries to sweep its viewers off their feet the right way: not by having the flashiest budget, but because it messes with your expectations, your mind, while still being very well written.

This show has this annoying trick where right as a character is about to get to a plot twist, they get distracted, something happens, or they outright refuse to tell something that’s obvious to them. It’s like there’s this whole storyline going on that we have no idea about but they keep teasing us with it. That’s good mystery! Great mystery should be messy. It’s driving me crazy to get to know what’s really going on here. Yes, this is better than Yuri on Ice. In terms of really mainstream series it’s been a long time since a show had so many balls here.

#1: Seikaisuru Kado (05-07)

Okay, so why did Seikaisuru Kado win this season? I don’t think I’ve ever placed a series on top with this much intrusive CG: like half the character animations are in 3D, something I previously thought to be impossible to properly bring to life. Well let’s just say that the creators pulled a few tricks, plus what they did bring to the table is more than enough to make this just not matter.

A big theme in anime is evolving humanity: lots of villains’ plans are attempting not to destroy humanity, but to advance it. They can be done both well or terribly, but the fact remains that this is something typical of Japanese animation. You see this much less in the mediums of other countries. Seikaisuru Kado is entirely about this, but it plays with it brilliantly. Instead of having the villain attempt this, we’re at this moment still not sure whether Yahakui Zashunina is a villain or not: what his intentions are, and why he’s doing everything. Instead he has offered a number of advantages to humanity that are much more specific than what you’d otherwise see: this series really is trying to evolve humanity, but it’s also looking at the geopolitical implications of this, also something unheard of!

Out of all series this season, this really feels like it’s taking risks. It’s doing something that goes against the trends, proving that you can tell great stories on a small budget, it’s taking risks and it’s also attempting to evolve the medium itself by asking questions about common tropes. It’s in this way quite like a deconstruction, and a really good one. Because hell, before the season started I expected Shingeki no Kyojin to deliver the best plot twists, but hell no: this show blows everything out of the water. Every single episodes drops some kind of truth bomb that you don’t see coming and give an entirely new swing to the whole storyline.

Take episode 07 for example: when they went to the festival, and put that female character in a kimono, I found myself thinking “oh god, another one for the fanservice”. And then at the end of the episode she delivered a plot twists that pushed the story in a completely different direction from where it was going.

Yeah this is a really big contender for the Anime of 2017.

4 Responses

  1. Avatar Konstantinos Travlos says:

    I do think you will miss out on RE:Creators. But such is life.

  2. Avatar Konstantinos Travlos says:

    By the way things to see in Denmark if you are interested in military history
    1) The Dybbol battlefield site
    2) The Danverike fortifications
    3) Steam Frigate Jylland (one of the few pre-1900 ships left around)

  3. SuperMario SuperMario says:

    A little bit disappointed that you dropped heaps of shows, but well, real life takes top priority. Hopefully you holiday won’t affect the next season’s first impressions.

    Seems lto me that your comment in Bahmut was incomplete, or was ot intentional?

    Second on Re:Creators. They know pretty well what they’re doing so far.

    Denmark should be fun. Never been to the Scandinavia myself but my friends living there just love it. Planned to visit Ansterdam last year but boy, the accomodation (and flight) were expensive there in Holland.

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