Posted 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.

Posted 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!?

Posted on 1 April 2017 with categories: Monthly Summaries

Delayed by a day, because I wanted to include Classicaloid’s ending in this. Word currently says that this turned into an article of more than 4500 words, Jesus Christ what am I doing. At the very least I’ve got the passion to write back, but at the same time this format works best: write a huge amount once a month (or twice in the start of a season) and take a bit of a break the rest of the time. This works when balancing this blog with the rest of my life. There will be some weird months here and there, but eh, we’ll see when they come.

As usual: yarr there be spoilers. Really major ones this time because this month delivered some really good plot twists and endings, but I also really want to talk about them and all of their contexts. Again these are just my impressions of whatever aired the past month, the episode numbers are indicated next to the title, and these are ranked based upon the shows I liked least to best this month.

#10: Piace – Watashi no Italian (08-12)

This month, something happened to Piace: it stopped being funny. This is a pretty big deal for a comedy.

It’s classic what happened: as the show goes on the best jokes run out, and the creators hope that they can continue on, on the merits of the characters. The problem is that you need to have good characters for that, and it became painfully obvious that Piace only had its comedy to write home about. Without it, these characters are empty shells. Stereotypes and cardboard boxes who just depend on their own two quirks, rather than being actual characters.

Yeah, it’s pretty serious for a show of 12 episodes of only 20 minutes to run out of material. Like dude, it’s not that hard! It’s Italian food! I mean I finished this up because of how short it was, but this last month unfortunately was another strike against series like this: their creators are a bunch of lazy bastards. This was one of the few that actually had some effort going into it, which makes it all the more sad that they couldn’t even remain fired up for a measly 36 minutes.

I am a completionist, but next season I will stop giving every tiny show the same kind of attention. Only if they’re notable in some way, because this trend is getting too much out of control.

#9: Onihei (08-12)

So of course Onihei has to be the oddball here to have its final episode air on april 4th, while the new season is already well under its way. Ah screw it, unless the final episode does something really unusual this is going to be my final say on the series, I don’t want to wait that long.

Onihei always stood apart from the other series this season. It attempted to show samurai tales from a different perspective, and it didn’t shy away from the ugliness, while not going completely overboard like what Shigurui did. Every episode showed a different story, which tried to be thought-provoking in some way or another. Last month I complained about there way too many pure evil minor-characters who only existed for the story’s sake and had no depth to them whatsoever, and this month improved that. They were still there, but not as abundantly as before. The stories all were interesting, I saw no real big slips or overly stupid episodes.

However my problem with this series is that thinking back… I kindof have to say that I liked the first episode best here. And that’s not a good sign. The fist episode to me was the sharpest. Had the best ideas. And while the other ones aren’t bad by any means, you just keep hoping for something as good as the first impression, and that tends to sting more and more as the show goes on. Thankfully episode 12 came close to it, at the very least I consider it the best of the rest, but even then I can’t get rid of this slightly bad aftertaste for Onihei.

Also, I’d like to say a few things about the acting in this series: the show has this look that’s different from the other series this season, and the creators tried to put in a lot of details in the characters’ faces. But the problem is that it’s also really had to emote that, and what irked me through the entire series was that all facial expressions just look weird. The budget was very obviously limited, but the creators here need to learn the art of cutting corners. They did the basics of course, but strangely not in the area of facial expressions. I mean I can forgive bad animation of course, but the whole reason why I watch anime is watching characters being brought to life. And watching these weird expressions in this uncanny valley… it didn’t work as well as the creators hoped to.

#8: Hand Shakers (09-12)

Okay, that ending. First of all it was obvious sequel-bait, but even then this episode definitely also attempted to close things off in case the investors aren’t gonna bite, and with that in mind you’d expect some sort of closure. That happened, but as the final two episodes went on I found myself really scratching my head because the main villain really wasn’t making any sense.

We’re talking about a former partner, who broke off without saying anything, who went on to kidnap a young girl and drug her into fighting for him and keeping her from disappearing. I know the alternative was putting her to sleep, but even then this seems wrong on so many levels, especially seeing it develop into this weird Stockholm syndrome relationship. And when they revealed his reasoning behind everything things made even less sense. Holy crap what an anti-social dork!

Only when I really started to read inbetween the lines did I see the values of this ending. Handshakers isn’t just about a bunch of people fighting, it’s about deeply flawed people, connecting with each other through something as innocent as holding a hand. Even the two leads: one born doomed to be different, the other haunted by the death of his sister. And a big theme throughout this series is characters trying to pretend that nothing is wrong and things are perfectly normal. People being afraid to show their true colours, and being beaten allows them to fully open up and accept themselves. Within that context, this all makes sense, and it fits within the central theme of hand holding. But yeah, this really is one of those series where reading inbetween the lines is absolutely necessary, otherwise this was a horrible ending.

So yeah, I was preparing to write this whole rant about wasted potential, but in the end I just can’t. I appreciate this series, I really do. And I do not regret watching it. If anything, it tried a whole different way of storytelling, and just for that it deserves credit. Hand Shakers is nice. If has warmth. It’s cliched on the surface, but beyond it’s worth it. However the cliches on the surface remain. If there ever comes a second season, I’d love to see less typical stories. Don’t start with idols, thugs and incest, start with actual characters. Dare to stay away from the stereotypes.

#7: Kuzu no Honkai (08-12)

Again that final minute! What Kuzu no Honkai did in its final month was different: instead of focusing on unrequited love, it had two other focuses: moving on, and actual love. Moving on was the logical progression: everybody got their time to show their feelings come to a breaking point, and being able to move on from their desires, accepting that it never was gonna be something. The actual romance though… sorry but I just didn’t buy it. It was just way too cheesy for me to take seriously. This show was always good at the dark side of romance. The bright side: nope. Especially not so quickly after Fune wo Amu.

So yeah, the entire final episode was hinting at that the two leads were gonna end up as a couple after not seeing each other fr a while. The hints were so obvious and cliched, you see them everywhere. And then… they don’t! They actually realized that they could return, yet they chose because they wanted real romance and went their own way! The only correct way for this show to have ended. Move on! There are more fish in the ocean! Any relationship between these two would have been doomed from the start.

I do think that this is the month I enjoyed the least of this series. It mostly had to do with how good it was at its unrequited love. This ending wrapped everything up perfectly fine and it left the cast as very well rounded, so it was definitely necessary, but it didn’t have that “wow”-factor that the first parts had. Although I still want to praise it a lot for that ending. And also one other thing: it’s Noitamina. Ideally, I would like to never again see a series to take place in a high school in this timeslot again. The timeslot was meant for adult series, and we have plenty of room for high school series in the other timeslots that don’t have this context.

#6: ChaoS;Child (09-12)

Okay, yeah. ChaoS;Child had a really juicy ending. It pervailed through the sheer force of its original material, and I’m not going to spoil anything more. It just has to be experienced. Instead of that, I’m going to talk about the context of it all.

Because aside from Steins;Gate, make no mistake that this was the best semi-colon series to come out. It took Chaos;Head’s potential and actually made it better, which is very rare for an unplanned sequel. It was less solid than Robotics;Notes, but instead of falling apart at the end it came together. And while the characters weren’t the best, they were miles above the annoying shells that I had to witness in that one episode of Occult;Nine. Steins;Gate remains miles above it though. I mean Chaos;Child’s problems are really big. But damn, this was some wasted potential overall. In the right hands this would have been one hell of a series.

I can really imagine the original visual novel being a really good one, and a great ride. That doesn’t have the horrible pacing and acting problems that this series had, and it’s something I’m going to recommend, especially for those who are familiar with Chaos;Head (because let;’s face it, you need to have seen that one before watching this). Will I end up playing the games at one point? Hell no.

Leaving aside that I already know what’s going to happen, the bigger issue is that I’m simply not going to touch games, or light novels, or even mangas for that matter. Even though their stories may be better than in anime, I’m not gonna. So there. Even in the case of Chaos Child, where it’s obvious that the story of the game is better than in the TV-series, I would still have picked the anime if I knew this beforehand.

“The original story is better” is something I have heard, almost since the start of this blog, and it always irked me, even though I couldn’t always explain exactly why. It confused me for a long while, and I did dabble into manga for a bit. And what I read there were indeed some awesome stories. But in the end, while I was in my two-year slump of not watching anything, I realized that I wanted to return to watching anime, while I couldn’t be bothered at all with the mangas I checked out. The reason in the end is simple: the reason why I’m so drawn to anime is the sum of its parts. The way everything comes together to make something bigger and better than what they individually could have done. This means that stories may be done better in novels, mangas and games with more time, there is better music in the medium that specializes to music. Pure art and movies will have better visuals. But it’s everything coming together that really is my passion. That’s also why ratings splitting ratings up into various sub-categories, like story, characters, animation, et cetera always felt weird and unnatural: they miss synergy!

And of course, your mileage may vary. Everyone enjoys entertainment in a different way. It’s useful to listen to others and give things a chance, but in the end the person you need to listen to the most is yourself. Your time on this planet is limited, so you’d better spend it on the things that pique your interests. Because of that, I’ll gladly take this collection of badly acted blobs here, because somehow, despite everything against it, this show came together and delivered something that should have been impossible.

#5: Youjo Senki (08-12)

The finale set up for a sequel, but to be honest, I’d be glad if it didn’t get one, as weird as it sounds. The open ending fits actually quite well with the themes that the final number of episodes were going for: fighting to stop fighting is a bloody stupid idea that’s only ever going to make more people mad at you.

What disappointed me though was that they did very little with Being X. There was lots of silence from it, and it’s much more that its presence loomed over the entire series. And yes, I never thought I’d ever say this, but God won, and was glorious. I quite liked how it pretty much passed over the baton to the new superpower to emerge.

It’s a simplistic depiction of war sure, but to me they quite got away with it. I had quite an enjoyable time while watching this series, and “Tanya” actually turned out to be an excellent example of an anti-hero. Clearly the protagonist, but obviously not on the moral side of rightness. The war here was presented as something that sucks for every side, even the winning one. The tactics used were simple, but not the reason to watch it. Surprisingly, it’s the human element. It did so in a really different way from Shuumatsu no Izetta, which while it had a better start, lost my interest after a while, while Youjo Senki remained strong. I think the reason was because it was about something: through the series it really drove home that everyone wanted the war to end, especially as the show went on. Izetta meanwhile got lost in its boob jokes and its main characters ended up being a bit too… perfect. And too morally one-sided now that I think back to it: the evil empire is evil and must be stopped, while the small country with lots of pretty girls in the center has to fight it off.

Seriously Youjo Senki I really commend you for not using any boob-, loli- or any other kind of fanservice pandering joke here! Well done!

#4: The Dragon Dentist (01-02)

Kazuya Tsurumaki comes along with his team of former Gainax employees at Studio Khara, and basically shows how it’s done. Dragon Dentist consists out of two 50-minute tv-specials, and they’re apparently continuing a project Khara did a year ago with a compilation of 35 different pilots and short films. Now there’s one movie that I’m really interested in checking out – I thought that the genre was dead!

But I digress, The Dragon Dentist: basically had this been a 26-episode series, then it would have been the epic of the year. The mainstream show that got people talking, draw in people who aren’t usually interested in the medium, and that would still stand ten years after airing. Perhaps no Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, but bigger than Attack on Titan, it was that solid. And only something that could have been done in anime. I really liked the idea behind this series, of giant near-invincible dragons floating around, and the whole world built around it. Its own religions, customs and traditions. From what we saw of the world here, the creators were excellent at bringing life to it. Plus the action was amazing. The two episodes did it in completely different ways, but it had me glued to the screen, and this show getting really gorgeous in the second episode only helped this.

But yeah, we only got two episodes. This basically was a pilot, in the same way that Kyousogiga, and Little Witch Academy did their thing. Now all that’s left is waiting for an investing party to bite, to try and make a full fledged one. I mean it just felt weird that in episode one, everything just happened too fast. There was no way to really build up urgency or context before things started happening. This show really did what it could, but it really feels we just skimmed the surface of all that’s possible in this setting. Like the creators ran home with a clump of gold while being inches away from this gold mine.

Full Metal Alchemist, Attack On Titan… I don’t think that those shows are the best to compare this with. You know what this reminds me most of? Bounen no Xamdou! It’s got the same inspiration behind its setting, it too looked incredibly solid, while still daring to break barriers. Both toyed with their own religions and had very relatable characters. Now Bounen no Xamdou made the mistake of lingering on a bit too much near its ending. I really think that if this gets green-lit for real, then The Dragon Dentist will be able to avoid the same fate, because the way episode 2 ended was actually really, really good. It’s the type of thing why I watch anime: watching everything come together. The action was great, while in the meantime the setting got fleshed out, characters kicked ass, the plot thickened, the graphics got gorgeous, the music. It gets it! Everything just fit.

I remember how I disliked the Evangelion movies. Made by the same guys. I think what irked me the most there was watching a recap, and things didn’t really mesh well. And while I still need to watch the third Evangelion movie, I do think that they were on to something, and this really feels like they took what they learned there, and are experimenting further. At the very least, these are the guys that need to be influential. These are the guys that need to inspire the next generation that there is plenty of kick-ass material just waiting to be brought to life, and the best way to do it is to be bold and show some balls! Instead of being too safe.

#3: Classicaloid (21-25)

Wha? There’s gonna be a sequel? If you said that at the beginning of this season, this was going to be one of my last guesses for a continuation. It is all the more weird because this definitely is not the most popular series, and with an announcement this early this definitely was planned in advance… yet the final episode was pretty conclusive. I was about to praise this series for avoiding the dreaded comedy ending, but here’s another hurdle it’s going to have to face: the dreaded comedy sequel. Will it have enough material to keep fresh for 25 more episodes? I am writing this like immediately after that twist and it puts like everything in a different perspective. And don’t get me wrong: if the creators know what they’re doing then the result will be beautiful. This cast has that potential. However if this was a decision from the producers against the writers’ will: oh dear god the pain!

But anyway, to the ending. Classicaloid was completely different from all other shows on this list. Most of them, at least the best ones, were tasked in wrapping up their stories. Making everything come together in a clever way, with layered plot twists, themes and characters coming together (which they all did really well by the way). Classicaloid however never was based on logic. For Classicaloid, the point was to deliver a bang of an ending. Bring it to an emotional climax. And they went to heaven and beyond for that!

Five episodes. The first two were the standard episodic ones, but they rank among the funniest of the season, including the single greatest rap track ever to have appeared in an anime. The final three episodes delivered the finale, and you know these parabolic graphs? Well, it was like that. It started off quite standard, with a lot of exposition that made me fear that they were going for a completely serious ending. Then things got better with anti-climax. And then the aliens arrived!…!?!?

Like Deus ex Machina much?!? And yet in the context of the series it totally fit, and it allowed the creators to just keep surpassing themselves in atmosphere. They saved some of the best tracks for the finale, and especially the ending was just a visual orgasm of colours and shapes and musik, it was glorious and incredibly fun! Really if it wasn’t for the sequel announcement I might have placed this at the top of this list!

So yeah, for now I’ll spend the next half year without Classicaloid, and when they return, let’s hope it will be glorious. Please be even better! You can do this! You have half a year! Use this time to plan out the best possible course for this show! It deserves it!

#2: ACCA – 13-Ku Kansatsu-ka (-)

Thinking back, the season that set my writer’s block in motion was the Autumn of 2013. This is where I became disillusioned by the series that came out, and even though I tried to hold on, my interest became less and less, and the reason for that was the sheer amount of series that had very interesting premises, yet utterly failed at even the most basic elements of storytelling. The worst offenders were Galilei Donna, and Copellion, but also Nagi no Asukara, Yozakura Quartet and even Samurai Flamenco and Kill la Kill: they all were disappointing because of their lack of respect to the rules of basic storytelling, to the point where only Kyousogiga ended up as a success.

I feel that this season, we have the antithesis of that: lots of different series who actually KNOW what writing is. One of the best examples for that is ACCA, simply because of how much it had against it. I mean, now that the final episode has passed, I can confirm that they actually did it: they managed to squeeze this huge story and setting into one season, and they made everything fit. The pacing feels natural, there were no forced episodes. And despite all of these constraints, it was constantly building up to the final episodes, and never forgot what it was trying to do.

It’s a show that has many layers. The foundation is the 13 countries. All of them get visited throughout the series. Above that is Jean Otis and his colleagues and his sister. On top of that is the central government. In between them are the storylines around the coup that was to be attempted, interwoven with the background stories of all of the different characters, who due to the nature of this series all came from a different part of the world. The focus on food was fluff to flesh out the setting and characters. And even then the final episode delivered a twist that was lurking behind all of that in the shadows and tied everything together. This is the example of what happens when you put a lot of time into planning out your series’ structure, instead of rushing it or outsourcing it, to make sure that everything is just right.

Of course, this method is not perfect. The benefit of spontaneous writing is that it’s better at bringing out emotions, it’s more spontaneous. But that was solved by the very consistent mood this show had. It always was mellow. There was no drama whatsoever in this show, and instead it hinged on intrigue, and that made it work. I also loved how diplomatic everyone was. Sure people have their own agendas and stuff, but instead of the yelling and irrational fights, putting groups of people against each other, people just drop grudges, accept things and go on with their days. Obviously this show does present a very simplified form of politics: it assumes that everyone in a country has the same opinion. which of course in real life is a bit more complicated.

Of course, Natsume Ono, who previously wrote the original material of Sarai-ya Goyou and Ristorante Paradiso delivered some amazing story again, but that is no guarantee that it translates well to the anime format. But they did it, and let this be a lesson for future writers: this is how you write a series and make it interesting. It takes both itself and its audience seriously and simply wants to write a good story with the means that it has. Kudos to Madhouse&co!

#1: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Season 2 (09-12)

And finally it’s Shouwa’s turn to end. The final four episodes of this series had a lot to live up to, after such a series. And all in all I have to say that this ending was totally rock-solid. The past four episodes all wrapped things up perfectly, really taking their time to make sure that everything got closed off in a satisfying way. All that this show had been building up to: the main characters, the side characters, but also all of the themes when you start reading between the lines.

This whole series was the story of death and rebirth. You see it everywhere, with the main one being Yakumo’s life, but the death of Sukeroku, and him surviving through the next generation if another really big one. How Rakugo almost died under the 8th Generation, but was revived by the 9th generation. How all the rakugo titles keep getting inherited whenever someone passes away. And not to mention the following: I cannot recall any other series that featured more generations than this one. Four generations, all changing as time goes on, growing and weakening.

The big challenge with endings like this is that they tend to just wrap everything up like a good schoolkid, while forgetting to actually tell a story, make it interesting, make sure everything is satisfying. What Shouwa did really well was that the final episodes all managed to keep the balls in the air, and they kept delivering new stuff. We worked towards Yakumo’s death, but even there it wasn’t a simple case of him dying, but he was really clinging to his last moments in live like a living paradox. Then the afterlife episode came, and we finally got to wrap up a lot of questions that the big death left us. I think that this would have worked even better for those who watched the first series as it came out, instead of me, catching up to it in January. Everyone got to accept death, and it felt good. Then the final episode showed yet another time-skip, but there was much more meat to it than usual, because it showed the rebirth of Rakugo, with new rules that could finally be implemented now that the eighth generation has moved on. It was essential to show this. Plus, it even came with an extra twist to boot, hinting that Yakumo may have had a descendant. They could have easily done without, but it made things even more interesting in hindsight, and while awkward, it fits strangely well.

This series is not perfect though. I was not convinced by the romance, and I don’t think that this show really understands it. It was definitely the most annoying part of the series. Also this is not the easiest show to watch. You need to pay attention, and this definitely isn’t a series that you can watch while relaxing. There are parts that while vital to the story, are a tad difficult to sit through. No, in terms of pacing, I don’t think that the creators could have done a better job here.

And yeah, this is the type of series to set a new standard for future shows to live up to. Last season this was Fune wo Amu, and together they create a very solid baseline to hold shows up with. These series show how you should tell a story, where Fune wo Amu shows how to bring characters to life, and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu shows how you should pace your series. And what’s also important about these two series: usually series as solid as them are the product of a big name director who has already proved him or herself. This is especially true of the past ten years, remember Sayo Yamamoto’s Yuri on Ice last season. But Fune wo Amu’s director? He had done Sukitte Ii Na Yo and a number of episodes here and there, but nothing as vibrant. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu was directed by Shinichi Omata, the director of Sankarea, Rozen Maiden Zuruckspielen. While good, they always lacked something, and here he really managed to make everything come together, and you can see a very tight control from beginning to end. This is the new generation waking up and coming up with their own styles, rather than just doing the same popular thing over and over again. This is a trend that needs to continue. They have demonstrated that they know how to tell a story. From here, it’s time to add more and more guts and balls. Dare to be exciting! Dare to challenge the status quo! You have the power!

Posted on 28 February 2017 with categories: Monthly Summaries

Demi-chan and Masamune-kun have been dropped. With series like these in a generic school setting, I zone out very fast when they revert back to the stuff you see everywhere, and the same old fanservice. I do not have time for that. Beyond that though, this definitely was an interesting month, full of twists and surprises. There’s some definite good stuff here, and I can see the ambition to get better from a lot of them.

Usual disclaimers: there be spoilers, arr. And these are just my impressions, influenced only by myself.

#10: Hand Shakers (05-08)

This list is based on my rankings for all episodes that aired in the past month, with my least favourite first and my most favourite last. Hand Shakers takes the spot of worst this month as a punishment for what it did for the past four episodes. Those who know me know why, and this series should also be well aware and it should feel bad about it!

I’m sorry Hand Shakers, but if you introduce a brother and sister and your first instinct is “incest!”, you obviously haven’t learned your lesson enough. This goes for the entire industry. Let’s first let a good number of years pass with series of siblings with actually normal relationships before we’re going to even think about this subject, mmmkay? This in particular was the perfect opportunity for that: a great way for this series to explore the strong bonds that siblings could have. It would have fit perfectly. Or just make them a regular couple. Heck, they acted more like one than 90% of all other couples in anime.

And this is a bloody shame because aside from that really big detail I’m really digging this series. I like how it explores hand holding, and this series has this warmth flowing across every episode that is really cute to watch. This is how you do chemistry! And look at how ambitious the animation is! Yeah it looks weird and all, but look at all the things they’re actually trying to animate! How crazy the camera sometimes gets, and how much it moves on an actual three-dimensional plane! This is incredibly difficult to do, and yet they keep trying, even beyond the first episode.

So yeah Hand Shakers: lay it off with the incest, and you have next month to redeem yourself!

#9: ChaoS;Child (04-07)

Oh boy. Episode seven. That was… quite something else. Really, I can see why they wanted to animate this show now. In the hands of competent creators, this really would have been the smash episode of the year, and I’m not kidding! The most disturbing single episode in years! Or at least, that was probably the plan. Oh god, in the hands of Tetsurou Araki this would have given me nightmares for months!

But yeah, let’s face it: the acting in ChaoS;Child is abysmal. It may not be the single worst acting of the season, but it is for what it’s trying to do. In episode one it already was quite clear how silly and over the top the gore was, but the real problems started to become apparent over this month: these characters can’t emote to save their lives. They’re all a bunch of cardboard boxes wiggling around and when things get dramatical instead of feeling with the characters, things just get incredibly awkward. Okay, so you want characters who pee themselves out of fear? You want characters who cry blood? Emote them! There was no way the creators would have been able to make that work with this execution, and that was apparent right from the start. What a good director would do in this position was just tone down the gore: make use of what you have, pull a few directing tricks here and there and pull off a more subtle performance that requires less time and budget.

Because it’s obvious that this series should have been 24 episodes long and it’s battling against time, but that’s no excuse. There’s another series this season in the same boat here: ACCA, having to bring thirteen different countries to life in just one cour. But there you can see that the creators are desperately trying to pull all kinds of tricks to make it tick and work. Chaos;Child simply animates the original story line by line without thinking about how to make it work best.

And that brings us to episode seven. Oh boy, I already tuned out a bit with the peeing and blood crying, but here? It was hard to watch what went on there, seeing these incredibly wooden characters trying to cope with the single most traumatic event in their lives, and it just got more and more awkward as it went along. And it just kept going! It felt like an eternity, and I was just hoping for things to stop, just to spare them for any more embarrassment. In more than 10 years blogging, I very rarely had to sit through an episode that was this difficult and awkward to watch.

And really: I dig the original storyline. The original game really was on to something. Before episode seven I could tolerate the bad acting because I was finding myself quite intrigued by what was going on: I wanted to learn more! I really don’t know how to rank this one. Good? Bad? Well, it’s certainly something.

#8: Little Witch Academia (03-08)

So, episode 08 was the best of the series so far, however I’m not sure whether that’s a good sign or not. I mean don’t get me wrong, episode 08 was good and all, and it gave some neat insights into Sucy’s character in a really creative way and all, but I’m more worried about the rest of the episodes. Basically: I expected a lot more from this series.

This may be complaining that apple pie tastes like apple pie, but I expected a bit more than high school hi-jinks for this series. For something from Studio Trigger, you expect something crazy, and yet most of the episodes have been surprisingly tame. It may have big ideas, but they all feel… so inconsequential. Episode 8’s mushroom forest? Gone as fast as it appeared. Dragons! Cool! But not when they’re old farts that don’t really do anything. There’s a whole world beyond the school, which is fastly leaving magic behind! Cool if this show would actually focus on it!

It would also help if Atsuko wasn’t so epically bad at everything. I mean I can understand having good and bad subjects and all, but where’s the fun in watching her fail again and again and again. This show is called Little Witch Academia, part of it should be showing how fun magic is. And yet they don’t show any of the basics. They just expect you to point your wand at stuff and things happen, but there’s no depth to it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to discover this world of magic alongside Atsuko? Instead, we get a series of an incompetent hack who manages to summon incredible powers through sheer luck.

It seems to me that this show doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. Every episode tries to do something different and they don’t seem to mesh at all. For a while it seemed like this show was about the wonders of magic. Then episode seven and eight came along and portrayed in a much more negative light without any lead-up whatsoever. One episode Atsuko is determined to win, the next she gets distracted by everything and completely loses any sene of urgency.

In a series with a setting this expansive, you’re bound to want to cover a lot, but instead it feels like the balance is completely gone. There is just so much time devoted to Atsuko sucking that whenever this show wants to include something new about its setting, there is hardly any time to look at it, resulting in that it just feels like it’s continuously pulling things out of its ass. Jobs for witches are a neat idea, but not when episode 7 brought it up from out of nowhere, only to never talk about it again. Astrology? People can predict the future now? Diana also conveniently is good at everything for Atsuko to have a rival. It just doesn’t feel organic.

I’ll just say it: Studio Gainax was better than Studio Trigger. Not now, obviously, but I can see that Studio Trigger has Gainax’ wit and balls, but not in the right places; only when it doesn’t seem to have much consequence. I think even when you ignore Hideaki Anno’s works. I mean, one reason why they’re famous is the Gainax ending. Back in the day it was used as a bit of an insult, but I really wonder: is a Gainax ending really a bad thing?

#7: Piace – Watashi no Italian (04-07)

Now, two months in, it’s safe to remove the benefit of the doubt for this series: Piace – Watashi no Italian is a genuinely funny series. Its episodes may only be four minutes long, but it hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, in fact it’s only getting more enjoyable. There are many keys in this, the snappy directing that wastes no line of dialogue, knows how to deliver a punchline, and a cast of characters that is just lovable to watch. They are a bunch of stereotypes, but the creators keep squeezing new things out of them, within these stereotypes: they give them different stuff to do, put them in a different context, slowly make them change and acclimatize to each other. Continuity also deserves praises: a wall that is smashed in one episode still bears cracks two episodes later. It also helps that the lead voice actress really carries this series: everything revolves around her, and she is wonderful at keeping all balls into the air.

One thing that is surprising me as well is that this show definitely did its homework. You see that more and more: people actually just googling the things they’re writing about. I feel this happens more and more, so props to this positive trend!

#6: Onihei (01-07)

Onihei is a strange series. It tries to be ugly: it doesn’t shy away from gore, it shows humans at their worst, and its stories are filled with death, sex and abuse. Amongst that it tells stories from around the samurai era, usually centered around a really big moral. First of all I applaud this series for daring to be different. In this day and age of feel-good series which try to play things safe, it’s very refreshing to see a series that just throws a lot of taboos overboard. But how about the execution?

Every episode, Onihei tries to tell a story around a certain character, and this part is something it does really well. It loves the use of irony, and every episode plays around with it in a different way. Most episodes have big plot twists that aim to make you think. It’s also very good at creating its tension through its art style, music and pacing. This combination makes this show tick: well written major characters that make you think.

It’s really bad at animation though. This show takes a good dose of suspense of disbelieve, because a lot of the characters just look silly when they’re trying to be funny. However the biggest detractor for this series is its cast of minor characters. You don’t see this being an issue often, but minor characters are there to fill a story. They are not the main focus, but they populate the world, and especially for this series they give the major characters their reasons for acting the way they do. And sorry, but the cast of minor characters here is just so full of Hitler-wannabes that it gets hilarious. Every single corner of this show is just filled with the exact same corrupt raping murderer that dies at the end that it’s really hard to see a threat in them. There is no look into what made them that way, and while this series is incredibly sympathetic towards its major characters, the minor ones are just ugly sword fodders who are evil just because the story needs it to be. Only episode 1 played with this, aside from that it could very well have been the same guy over and over again. No reason behind it. It’s like one of those stories that forgives a major hot character for committing a few atrocities due to being misunderstood, while at the same time having no qualms of the main cast killing off hordes of nameless goons who are probably only just doing their jobs.

#5: Youjo Senki (05-07)

I’ve compared Youjo Senki to Shuumatsu no Izetta, and that comparison still goes. Both series are set in a fictional Europe in the middle of a war, focused on a magical girl with huge powers of incredible strategic importance. Izetta is about a small country defending itself, Youjo Senki is about the biggest country expanding its territory. Both deal with politics, but Izetta uses a lot of espionage, while Youjo Senki meanwhile is big on the tactics. Objectively, Izetta portrayed its war in the most solid way. Its portrayal of characters was the most realistic and down to earth. And yet, why am I enjoying Youjo Senki far more?

I mean Izetta’s acting was rock solid, while the characters in Youjo Senki really are hamming it up. But on the other hand though, the actual war of youjo Senki simply is more interesting. Izetta was about the underdog and got its tension for watching to see how long they could hold on against all odds. But here’s the thing with underdog stories, in my opinion: there are so many shows about the underdog! It’s not special anymore, and after a while you have exhausted all possible ways to make it interesting. Youjo Senki meanwhile is different: her team already was on the winning side, but with her powers they might actually be able to do something even more crazy. Its tension comes from the weight of the decisions the characters take. Izetta showed on a personal level how terrible the tragedies of war are, and how it must be stopped. Youjo Senki meanwhile uses the tragedies of war to underline that yes: the characters are killing people. Both have their merits. And really, the war alone wouldn’t have done it for me for this series. At this point I was starting to get tired on Izetta, even though the stakes kept growing there. And the setting of Youjo Senki alone is not enough to excuse its lack of depth in the cast of side characters.

No, what I like best about Youjo Senki is its atheism vs theism themes. When after episode 1 I hated the whole setting, it just took a minute of being X to just sell me on it, and its subsequent appearances have toyed with some really interesting ideas, with this tug-of-war between the lead character, and trying to get her to accept that God exists. It’s really different from the Jesus you usually see in these types of stories, and being X is the one who throws in the irony to keep this story interesting, the extra kick and layer of depth that this series needed.

#4: ACCA 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (05-08)

From the start, it was obvious that ACCA would be a slow burner. With a setting this huge, it first had to do its share of building up. It’s still a bit weird, considering at the same time that it’s trying to rush its storyline into just one season. The result is that we just flew past 13 different countries and we’ve already gotten to the part where everything is starting to come together.

And that’s my opinion of ACCA: taking these constraint into consideration, it is doing a really good job here! A complaint you usually get with these series is that they don’t put in any thought in how to make their story work best for the anime format. The writers of ACCA clearly put in their hours. They did their homework in order to make sure that ACCA works as an anime.

This show is here to present its story, and episode eight made all of the scenes that felt a bit weird in the earlier episodes make sense. When the big twist was first announced, it felt far-fetched, but at the end of the eighth episode, they got away with it for me. Meticulous is the word here, I think. The more I think about it, the more I see that this show didn’t get any scene go to waste. Every scene was there for a reason, even all of the cakes, sweets and deserts were very deliberately put there to flesh out the identity of the different countries here. It’s actually very clever of the creators. And beyond that, every scene is just meant to either flesh out a character or country more, or to advance the main plot. It’s an excellent example that aspiring writers can look at for writing compact stories.

The big danger with being so compact is of course that the characters will feel more like plot devices than anything else. But even there this show pulls a number of tricks to try and avoid that. First of all the cast is just huge. There are so many characters, to the point where this series feels alive, and all characters are just part of it. I also want to praise this series for how it really tries to avoid overacting, and still makes the characters feel sympathetic. I still felt along with the characters, due to how good the writing was. The voice acting in the meantime was still able to offer colour to the cast, but without the overacting there is always something subtle behind them.

#3: Kuzu no Honkai (04-07)

Kuzu no Honaki has firmly established itself as “Unrequited love: the anime”. The whole set-up is carefully crafted to show many different perspectives, many different flavours in different contexts, intertwined together. Some parts are a bit exaggerated; played up in order to be able to tell a coherent story that fits within 11 episodes. Others through…

Like seriously at times this show completely nails it! Since the original Honey and Clover we haven’t gotten unrequited love this well depicted, and this show goes deep within the cast of characters. To show exactly how they feel, and why it sucks so much. The characters are all gradients of self aware: they know full well of what they’re doing, but all of them are desperately trying to find solutions in how to cope with their feelings, gradually finding them over the course of this month. And all characters do this, so this show just can keep juggling its characters around to prevent one story thread from getting too stale.

And all that lead to a number of great emotional punches, and every episode so far had at least one. Just one of those moments where a character learns to accept the situation they’re in, they cave in to their desires and move away from the ideal world they created in their own minds. It has now reached the point where every time I start an episode, I just know I’ll be getting the feels. This consistency deserves applause.

Oh, and one final thing: Youjo Senki, thank you for not including any awkward fan service like what Izetta did. Good lord being X this felt refreshing once I realized this.

#2: Classicaloid (17-20)

Remember how last month, I said that nothing happened in this series? Well, for February, things DID happen, and it hasn’t screwed up!

This usually is the point for comedies where the storyline kicks in and the jokes are much less of a priority. However Classicaloid’s advantage is that it has an amazing cast of characters with some amazing chemistry. So when these episodes tried to be serious, even if the comedy WOULD have been abandoned this still would have worked. And the thing is that these past four episodes were just as hilarious as ever, my favourite being the love-episode. That episode was all kinds of amazing and had me in stitches from start to finish, more than any other Classicaloid episode so far. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be done: continue with the priority of being as entertaining as possible, while in the meantime pushing the story and the characters further.

Because of this I have high hopes for the finale. This series seems to know what it’s doing. Even though the final month is usually disastrous for comedies, if this series actually has the balls to screw conventions and do what’s best for the characters then it will be able to stand as my top pick for the past three months. It IS the show I’m most anxious about ending though, because if it doesn’t do that the potential for a mellow ending is the largest here, and a show of this caliber really deserves to go out with a bang!

#1: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (05-08)

As funny as Classicaloid may have been, and as touching as Kuzu no Honkai was, I cannot give my favourite show of February to any other than Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu; something really special happened here.

The thing with fiction is that over time, stories just keep getting written and written. They pile up about all kinds of topics. The first stories have it easy because there is a wide variety of different topics and techniques that haven’t been done before: originality is easy. However, at this point pretty much everything is a derivative of something. To get something truly original, you’d have to venture into territory like “a 13-legged octopus travels to Vermont to watch paint dry”, but that’s just faux originality: the story itself also has to be good.

What we got here, in the past month. Closer to something truly original is probably never going to happen again, especially in the realm of anime. And not only that, it did not sacrifice emotional impact, in fact this was higher than ever. This is the month where everything starts coming together for this series, and the past starts linking to the present. With Yakumo’s failing health the past comes above again, just like what happened with his master. I love how in-depth this show got at how hard it is for him to accept his own old age, how his passion for rakugo has evolved. They’ve built this guy up to such a beautiful walking contradiction. And the rest of the cast was brilliant too! Everybody had their own motivations that while all the same, they all came together from different directions to the same conclusion in not wanting to give up Yakumo’s rakugo.

Also, from out of nowhere, this show suddenly got incredibly good at doing plot twists. Like every time I’m just struck with surprise, but the big reveal really was something else. At the end of season one, when IT happened I remember how I found it a bit underwhelming. the scene was a bit weird and it just didn’t feel right. At that time I saw that as a fault. Well consider my ass kicked and I take all that back. I have been beaten. Praise the glorious rakugo overlords!

Posted on 1 February 2017 with categories: Monthly Summaries

I know I missed Onihei, but it’s just impossible to find much about it. Perhaps in February I’ll give it some more coverage. Aside from that, this was a good month. I’d say that overall the winter season is more varied than the past autumn season, but at the same time the good series are not AS good. All of course according to my own impressions. Like always spoilers beware, and this list is on order of my own preferences, worst first best last, only about the episodes that aired in January, minus the first episodes that I already talked about. The number after each title signifies the relevant episodes.

#15: Granblue Fantasy The Animation (01)

This one aired a bit later than the other shows this season. It’s also a fantasy series, probably another kind of game adaptation like Chain Chronicle, but I liked that one a lot better though. That I’m not watching Chain Chronicle anymore should say enough for Granblue, but the gist of it that while Chain Chronicle was simply generic, with Granblue I got the feeling of gradually losing brain cells while watching. Granted, a bit reason for that is that incredibly annoying dragon that keeps floating everywhere, but what also ticks me off is that we’re given very little reason to care about any of the characters. The main character doesn’t really have a reason to go along on this life-threatening quest, he just happens to be at the place where a cute girl falls from the sky… and starts following his boner, I guess… Why am I supposed to root for these people? Do the bad guys have any other reason to attack besides being evil? I don’t expect answers to those questions in episode 01, but at least hints or some other kind of nuance. You just can’t think you can get away with this simplistic mess just because you’re a game adaptation, right?

#14: Spiritpact (02)

In the end… I just can’t. Snappy dialogue is one thing, but if everything else is just amateurish i’m not really sure what I’m gaining by watching this and I’ve got many better things to see and do. I can see where they’re coming from, but episode 2 didn’t really convince me to just keep watching. For one it wasn’t as fun as the first episode, but the first episode also just felt worse in hindsight. They introduced this new character who is the fiance of the white haired guy, and obviously she has her issues, but they all seemed to be trying so hard, and nothing really came out of it.

The animation is partly to blame for that. I watch anime because I also care for the “animation”-part of the whole deal. I want to see people bringing characters to life. If you have to use short-cuts then so be it: be clever with the jump-cuts, pull some visual tricks, use your music. It’s not an exact science at all and it’s an art form, however this series doesn’t seem to try any of this, with awkward jerky motions and no attempts to hide it. Japanese anime has the experience in these cheap tricks, but Korean animators still need to find their own way. Mind you, I am not suggesting them to follow anime’s example. Let them go their own way, as long as that way works of course.

#13: BanG Dream! (01-02)

This is another series that came out a bit late this season, about a bunch of middle school girls starting a band. I gave it two episodes because there is one thing it seems to understand: build-up: it’s not like “Wheee band!”, but instead it is carefully building up the different girls, why they’re going for it and how they end up meeting each other. Really, one of the most difficult things about being in a band is actually starting the band and finding the right people. By taking its time, the series makes also sure that the characters are well fleshed out in the process.

Still, I’m not going to continue with it. The teenaged girls are just too annoying, and I think a lot can be contributed to bad acting and voice acting: characters hamming it up a little too much. There is one shy girl and nearly all she does is breathe very loudly. That’s not how shyness works! The main character also feels a bit weird: they really tried to make her this enthusiastic girl whose energy pulls the entire band together, but in the end it just feels fake, like they try too hard. She too has this habit of just breathing very loudly, which after a while just gets distracting. These random squeaks and moans instead of just actual dialogue. This obviously isn’t the only show that does this but that doesn’t make it okay!

#12: elDLIVE (02-03)

elDLIVE could have had potential if they kept the momentum of the first episode going. A fun light-hearted show about alien hunting with quirky characters, but in the end it lost this quite quickly. Episode 02 and 03 pretty much repeated what episode 01 did, only less interesting, and quite witless to be honest. These episodes had a bit of high school hi-jinks, dull aliens, and nothing really interesting. It wasn’t fun, and at times they also got way too dramatic for their own good. You don’t want to be dramatic for a series that involves a bunch of kids busting aliens, that just serves to highlight how stupid the show is, unless you invest really heavily in suspense of disbelief. But ultimately this show lacks any sort of ambition or desire to be special. This one is dropped.

#11: Demi-chan wa Kataritai (02-04)

This one turned out to be not as good as what I hoped. On one hand, it managed to portray this world in which a small percentage of people is “demi”, or half human, half mythical creature like a vampire, dullahan, etc. It’s an interesting look at minorities, being slightly different and a bit of bullying here and there. Its characters are very vocal about their issues and that makes this a very honest series.

On the other hand I really don’t like how this show pulled a Sword Art Online and made every single one of these “demi-girls” fall for the main character. Granted, the verdict is still out on the snow girl, but it’s getting there, trust me! I find that cheap, and it’s also just pointless. This is supposed to be a series about teenaged issues, and the romance just feels shoehorned in. There is no reason why these girls can’t have boyfriends, or at the very least guys interested in them if they also want to handle things like sexualities. This is also in the main character’s favour because now we just end up with him getting demi-boners half of the time, which just turns him into this slime-ball rather than a scientist. It’s a real shame because I feel that there are two groups among the creators: one that really wants this to be a character study, and one that want this to be a romantic comedy. The result gets very awkward in a bad way.

#10: Piace – Watashi no Italian (02-03)

Piace is clever: it knew that if you want to be interesting, you need some kind of material to work with. Slice of life has been done to death and there is no way to make something out of it, and you have to be really funny for a pure plain comedy to succeed. However by basing its setting on an Italian restaurant it can interchange the jokes with Italian cooking. And it’s not like you really learn something about this, but the creators make a point of showing that the characters are making good food. When you combine this with the banter between the different characters, this becomes pretty decent for 4 minutes per episode, because let’s face it: the only jokes in this show are based on the characters’ banter; do not expect any food puns. The characters are also grounded and fun to watch: the voice acting here is good. The slightly-faster-than-usual pacing along with portraying the characters variedly, yet fairly wasn’t something I expected from a series like this.

#9: ChaoS;Child (02-03)

ChaoS;Child is chugging along nicely, along with its own issues. The thing with this series is that it’s all about its mystery. You can see that the story behind this series, the string of weird murders and the strange connection between them is the strongest point of this series. While no Higurashi by any means, I admit that after three episodes I’m curious to learn what is behind everything. Apart from that though… the gore is laughable, the animation is jerky, but my most important issue with it lies with the characters.

When telling a story with a clear main character, the audience needs a way to relate with him or her. A key part of that is the reason for his/her involvement in the story. And this doesn’t need to be complicated, as long as it’s something strong that can take the audience along for the ride. The lead character here is this sulky high school kid who keeps poking his nose in ridiculously dangerous murder cases. He knows this and still goes after them. Even after his loved ones get hurt he still tries to get more and more involved, even though there is no guarantee for the safety of his other friends, he gets told this plenty of times, and he realizes that he’s being incredibly reckless. How the heck are we supposed to relate to that?! I mean the lead of Chaos Head was a loser, but the creators used his panic very well to engage the audience. With him, it’s all so weak that I kept thinking “stop getting involved! Let the cops take care of it! You’re a high school kid, you can’t do anything!”

#8: Masamune-kun no Revenge (02-04)

Four episodes in, and Masamune has still retained its wit that we saw in its first episode. I didn’t think I’d be praising a romance between two high school kids, but it’s enjoyable enough to see just what an incredible dork the male lead can be. For once he’s actually balanced well: he’s flawed, but not a complete idiot, diligent but not perfect, his attempts of hitting on the lead girl are a refreshing combination between desperate and surprisingly effective. The tropes that have been done in other romances, it really tries to subvert them. It’s like a cat and mouse game between the two of them.

However, I’m very afraid that we just saw the best of this series. Episode 04 ended with something really questionable that has ruined many series that came before it. Up to that point, every twist, even though unexpected, sort-of made sense. You could see things happening that way if you put yourself in the characters’ shoes. Then completely randomly there’s this girl that offers herself to the lead’s feet as they’re about to have this serious moment. The episode ended right afterwards, but the creators are going to have to come up with something amazing to try and explain that one, because it also just does not fit the storyline at all, and I really doubt what this show can benefit from her. This was the “will they won’t they”-love-triangle I was afraid of when I first saw the OP and ED of this one, and there’s gonna be another girl! For now I enjoyed this show plenty, but unless episode 05 makes a very good case for itself I’m going to drop it then and there.

#7: Youjo Senki (02-04)

Okay. I did not expect that kind of back-story for the main character. It’s far-fetched, but.. fair enough it works. In fact, episodes 02 to 04 have all pain-stakingly spent time dealing with the issues I had with the first episode, setting everything up and actually doing a very good job at it. At this point I don’t see this as a dumb war-series anymore, but definitely something with its own qualities. Something totally different from what Shuumatsu no Izetta tried to be.

It’s ironic: Shuumatsu no Izetta made sure to portray soldiers as actual people, but in the end it was about the survival of the actual kingdom. Youjo Senki throws heaps of unnamed soldiers under the bus, but in the end its central theme is survival of the individual. Everyone in this series is thinking either about themselves, or their close families. The people next to them. The patriotism feels more like a formality here. In face, what I like is how it takes many serious issues of other war-series, and turns them into formalities. The whole goal of the main character isn’t to win, it’s to live a comfortable life and winning just happens to be very convenient for that goal. It’s a different look at war politics than usual. And the fact that she’s a child… fair enough. It works and they use it well.

#6: Hand Shakers (02-04)

There\s something really interesting going on with the music here. During the fights, notice how the soundtrack is completely different from what you’d usually suspect? It’s all dreamy, instead of the hard, dramatic and edgy sound that series usually go for. It’s very much on the foreground, rather than mostly lingering in the background. That is awesome! Back in the days lots of series had these incredibly complicated soundtracks with creative tunes, to scenes that totally didn’t match your expectations, even blasting over the dialogue and it was glorious! At a certain point this trend stopped though, only resurfacing very rarely. This needs to be brought back! Obviously not in every series, but let’s revive the spirit of Bee-Train! Hand Shakers is obviously no El Cazador, but obviously a step in the right direction.

Aside from that, this show has me pretty baffled. On all accounts, on paper I should hate this show. A boy meets a girl and they use powers to fight others. And yet this show is just so incredibly genuine. I find the lead couple so adorable for some really weird reason. The rest of the cast: I just like them. Everything here is just enjoyable to watch. Like I said, there’s something inherently cute about a show that’s about hand holding, something most romance shows don’t even seem to realize exists.

I am not a fan though of how passive the female lead has been so far: the male lead pretty much did all of the work here. You could replace her with a pet dog and pretty much the only thing that will change is the sexual tension. Don’t think too much behind that comparison…

#5: Little Witch Academia (02-04)

What makes this series special is that the creators really seem to have made this with an international audience in mind. This show is a weird amalgamation between east and west, but some parts really feel like Trigger putting a global audience first, rather than what most shows do: just produce your series for Japan and afterwards just release it internationally because hey, why not? Or make your show so generic that it doesn’t matter what country it’s from. I mean, otherwise no sane writer would include a reference to Hanna Barbara so randomly there. Episode four was also was about fandom, and it felt uch more like we were watching western fandom than Eastern.

Also in this world, everything is exaggerated. Everything. That makes the plot pretty random and stupid, but the energy. Good lord, the energy of this show! This show always manages to conjure up something creative for the magical hi-jinks that the characters find themselves into and especially the main trio just bubbles with personality, and yet they’re grounded and varied. This is what makes characters who usually would have been really annoying, it makes them actually fun to watch. I mean we all know about the blond girl who is good at everything and incredibly posh, but in this show she works. Her henchmen are annoying at first, but we see them do different stuff besides fangirl about how amazing their sempai is.

And beyond that this does just about all of the basic stuff right. These four episodes were random hi-jinks, but they were perfect in fleshing out the characters and making the audience familiar with them. This light-hearted note is something I missed from Kill la Kill for example. Trigger still hasn’t forgotten to do action either, so bring on the rest of this series!

#4: ACCA – 13-ku Karusatsu-ka (02-04)

Okay ACCA, let’s talk for a minute about immersion. Consider the Twelve Kingdoms, a series that also focuses on a world with about a dozen different countries inside it. One thing it did a lot, especially in the beginning, is show a map of the world, including a pointer where the story was about to focus at. This happened a lot, and while tedious at the time, because of this you always knew where the story was in relation to the rest of the setting. It made you feel part of the world. ACCA has a map, but we only see it very occasionally, and only brief, so we as a viewer are constantly having to guess where the heck we are, especially since every episode deals with a different country. What if the beginning of each episode could show for a small bit where on the map we are? You could incorporate it in the OP if time is the issue. It’s a very simple detail, but I feel like it would add a lot to this series.

Now, ACCA is an incredibly ambitious series, and it’s obvious that it can’t fit everything it wants into episodes of 20 minutes, so it has to compromise. The option it went for is to try and get as much information as possible into just one episode. The big difficulty with this approach is keeping thins personal, and I have to say that when taking this into consideration, it’s a very good attempt. Obviously the huge focus on consumables helps. Characters have this “tell, rather than show”-approach to their characters, but this is fixed by the creators using subtle non-verbal clues to flesh out their characters.

The big sacrifice though is continuity. This series both doesn’t have the time to deal with the aftermaths of everything that it does (lots of minor issues are just explicitly assumed to just get resolved), plus the way it leads one thing into the other… just happens. Coincidences pile up and there is no quiet time. It’s impossible to add those and still get everything within 20 minutes. Because what it is doing is powerful stuff. Makes you think, it’s interesting. Not to mention here that the potential for this show is virtually unlimited.

#3: Kuzu no Honkai (02-03)

Okay, so they’re not brother and sister. They just grew up together, with different parents so he always was the person she looked up to. Fair enough, that takes away my big complaint of episode one, but this series is not entirely in the clear. After all the “they’re not really siblings”-schtick was very often used back in the day to give the illusion of incest, while allowing for a back door for the creators to say “what do you mean? It’s not incest! They’re not related!” – we all knew what they were alluding to and it was disgusting. If this show ends up bringing back that trend I will punch it.

So, now that that’s out of the way: this show has been pretty incredible here; it does so many things right here. Episode 02 and 03 showed that it’s really trying to balance like six characters together, all intertwined in a web of crushes and all having their own issues, and we keep hopping back and forth between different perspectives, although the lead girl does seem to be the main character here. The lesbian girl was particularly surprising: for once they took a honest look at what it means to be attracted to the same gender. It doesn’t have the squee-material of the likes of Yuri on Ice, and while there is nudity, it doesn’t feel like fanservice like most other series of the past five years. This is how it should be done: treating them as actual people.

This series really isn’t glorifying anything, and that’s what makes it so great because it’s a side we very rarely get to see because of how wishy-washy romance is in anime. Fune wo Amu showed how you should do romance from the light side, this one flips things around and shows how to do romance correctly from the dark side. This show is ugly, even though it looks so pretty, but the amount of detail they managed to put in here. Mugi’s wet dream: they actually had the guts to do that. Or how the teacher wore the same outfit twice. They don’t explicitly say it, but it’s obvious, and when it hits it’s glorious!

Also can I get a thumbs up for the soundtrack here? It doesn’t just sound dreamy and sad, but it’s also used really well here. Every single note here fits, and there are a lot of tracks here! Someone really put some thoughts into how to place the music, otherwise it wouldn’t fit this well!

#2: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Season 2 (01-04)

I managed to marathon the first season during the past month (though for the sake of this ranking I only consider the first four episode, otherwise it’s impossible to compare). And oh yeah, this is the real deal! I can’t believe they actually made an anime about Rakugo, a performance art where so much is dependent on acting, tonal changes and gestures, and they pretty much got away with it. I still consider Fune wo Amu my favourite series of 2016, but that was because that series managed to breathe life into its characters in a way that I had very rarely seen before. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shunjuu has its own list of things it does incredibly well.

The best being the character-development. Like seriously, there are very few series that can boast the level of detail that this series can put in it. Usually series have one flashback, or a number here and there for each character if they’re lucky, but most of the story takes place in one time frame. This series is the examination of the life of one guy, and every single episode it jumps forth a few years. And we don’t just see him change, a huge emphasis is also put on the side characters: they too change realistically and believably. The voice acting here is also wonderful in changing along with the cast. Top notch! Characters rise and fall, we get to see both their heights and lows right through each other. Every episode manages to change something.

What also makes this series really rare is that it managed to teach me something. And I don’t just praise this because I had no knowledge of Rakugo prior to starting this series, it not only gave an overview of how it evolved, it was an in-depth look at it, through the characters it analyzes, praises and criticizes the format. And it also encouraged me to look up the parts that they assumed the audience already knew. I like that: assume that your audience knows the meaning of Google. You don’t need to hold people by their hand. Inspire; and dare to go deep!

One thing I did not like, or rather one thing I found annoying is a better way to put it, is the romance. I know why things happened the way they did, the creators definitely make a good case for themselves and all, and they really try to make it complex and interesting, and yet I found that the most boring parts of the series. Perhaps it’s because episode 1 already told what was going to happen in the end, you could see them building up to it and the actual moment of the “big death” felt rather… forced. It probably worked well in manga-form but in the anime it just looked silly. And building up the romance… it took some patience to sit through even before it happened.

However the new season the romance is thankfully refreshingly down to earth, if you can call it romance anyway. It’s almost politics, and it knows its place much better. The characters in return are a bit less interesting, but they’re really starting to grow now, which was probably the intentions of the creators: how the heck are these newbies going to fill the shadows of the old masters? Yes, a lot of thought was put into this. More series like this please!

#1: Classicaloid (13-16)

Yeah, yeah. I know that the above series have more substance than this one. I know the characters are complete idiots. I know that the past four episodes of Classicaloid have been completely stupid and have established absolutely nothing. And yet… and yet… I can’t. I can’t label my favourite show of the month as anything other than Classicaloid. It just had me completely in stitches, all four episodes even though they all were completely different. This show just makes me happy whenever I watch it that no other show this season manages to do.

So let’s get things clear: in these four episodes we have people turn into fishes, become idols, make horrible music, and hunt for a merleopon. All of them focused on a different character and were mostly used to flesh them out. All of them were hilarious, but my favourite was the fish episode. There was something magical of following a mute fish around for 20 minutes and looking into the despair that ensued. It also becomes more and more apparent that this show has the second director of Gintama. This is a compliment by the way.

This series takes me back to the good old days. Back when series still understood how to properly fill in a 26-episode series. The first half being a build-up, and the second then using it as a board to jump off of. In this case the first half has made sure that these characters are so much fun, that I just smile whenever they’re on stage. This is what I consider terrific characters. The ones that just make you happy, no matter what they’re doing. When manga and light novel adaptations got more and more the norm, and more and more series only turned to 13 episodes max, this was a format that I unfortunately missed deeply. I don’t want to be that guy who goes “gahw things were so much better in my days, you kids with your stupid trends and stuff” – I used to get very annoyed by these people – but in some areas I really have to give in: we are not living in the glory days of anime anymore. I do have hope though, I want to see anime evolve again. Try to see what it will turn into next. For that we need a constant flow of new talent, because at this point the old guys have mostly all left, while the ones who remain are the only ones still bringing in interesting and fresh stuff. The new talents need to get the confidence and the connections in order to be able to do their own things. They need to step up and realize that the future of anime lies in pushing the medium forward. They have the misfortune that the focus today lies much more on consistency: having clean frames, and a higher resolution makes anime more expensive, and it makes it harder to have experimental series, and therefore it makes it harder for the real geniuses to get noticed. The likes of Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Oshii, Masaaki Yuasa, they would have had much more difficulties breaking through in today’s atmosphere. Classicaloid is our hope: the director is relatively new, and I remember when he first took over Gintama I disliked the changes he brought forth. Over the past ten years though, Classicaloid showed that he did learn a lot. He’s using his influence clearly, while at the same time keeping the viewer’s attention. Entire episodes are devoted to one really weird idea, yet he knows how to make it tick now. I’m in no way saying that he is among the greats, but what I am saying is that he’s on the right path there, though unfortunately it’s not entirely there yet. Classicaloid is amazing, yet the great series of 9-15 years ago and the volume with which they came really was special.

I really believe that anime is due to improve. We just need to wait for the people who grew up in the golden age of anime go work themselves up to the top. I do not know how many years this will take. 10 years? 20 years? No clue. However I am interested in sticking along as long as fun series like Classicaloid keep getting made, and I also honestly believe that the worst is already behind us.

I know the above two paragraphs are really weird ramblings, poorly formulated and not that connected, but these are thoughts that I’ve been having a long time. I hope that I’ll be able to put more structure to them in the near future…

Posted on 29 December 2016 with categories: Monthly Summaries

This December was… a challenge. Amidst the busy holiday month, my schedule got very busy and my backlog got larger and larger. However, in the end I did manage to keep up with five series (four of which which ended, and one which will continue onto the next season). These are the first series I have finished ever since the first season of Space Dandy, in Winter 2014. Two years, since my writer’s block started.

And really: all these five series are special. They have made this a very successful season, and even though I have my criticisms about them, when it comes down to it I consider them to be really good. These are what anime as a medium is capable of. They knew what they were good at, and they delivered, unhindered and without compromise. They’re all incredibly different from each other, all at least a bit weird, but I recommend them all for those with an open mind

As usual, these impressions are mine and mine alone. And beware of spoilers here and there.

#5: TO BE HERO (09-12)

Okaaaaay… that ending. I’m a bit speechless by what I saw there, but I think the creators actually did it: create a comedy without cheesing the ending. Or at least, that’s what it feels like right now. Even though some of the things they pull are like the things that immediately get you an F in writing 101.

Yet it all works because of how ridiculous the series is. On one hand the final episodes turn this show into an action series. And really good action by the way, the animation is surprisingly good, and while the series is a bit more serious, the jokes aren’t completely gone. The tone changes, but it stays very deliberately TO BE HERO. The main character’s love for his daughter keeps everything together, and even more after “the big reveal”. It’s just as trolly as you’d expect, and yet I admit that I felt sorry for the guy. He’s a horrible human being, and yet… it worked.

This was an emotional roller-coaster. It’s faaaar away from the series you’d usually associate with that term, but it fits so much, only the emotions you feel are a bit different. At any moment in this series, you either feel schadenfreude, disgusted, or the struggles of a failed father who despite everything loves his daughter deeply. It’s comedy at its blackest, and yet I’m glad to have finished this series.

#4: Yuri on Ice (09-12)

And the series of 2016 with the most annoying fanbase is… yeah. I mean I do not belittle anyone for their passions and likes. Everybody is different and everyone’s taste is unique, and it would be horrible if this wasn’t the case. However, when one of the main reasons to like a series boils down to “porn”, things get a little… awkward. Both for male and female fanservice.

Thankfully there are plenty of other reasons to love this series. The final two episodes of Yuri on Ice breezed through the world championships of figure skating, and in two episodes we got 12 performances with together made for a riveting finale where in total style, a ton of things happened and a lot of characters got to show off. However, because it was the finale, its disadvantage was that it got a little predictable. I mean, the ending… think of the single most likely scenario for the final results. And yeah, that’s it.

It was beautifully made though. And props to the creators for using actual French in their series. I really like how international this series is. There are many nationalities represented here, and the creators did justice to them: characters were portrayed as actual characters, and the creators resisted going for the cheap racial stereotypes, and that resulted into a really wild and colourful cast of characters.

With this success there is bound to be a second season. I’m not sure whether that’s the best idea, since these 12 episodes are perfect for just a standalone show, however the ending really was a bit of a cop-out with a “will they won’t they continue”-tactic. Be bold: either close things off or immediately plan for two seasons right from the beginning. Being wishy-washy more often than not makes things awkward. Like you’re at the end of a party and say goodbye, only to end up awkwardly standing in the same room for fifteen minutes without anyone leaving.

#3: Natsume Yuujinchou Go (09-11)

My favourite episode of the fifth season? Episode 10. My heart just completely melted, it was just so adorable. Season 5 was really the season of the side characters (where Season 1 was the introduction, season 2 about the setting, season 3 about the character-development, season 4 about Natsume himself), and this season was at its best when focusing on this. Not that the other episodes were bad or anything, but we’ve seen better.

Like expected, the sixth season has already been announced, and I really beg the creators: make this the conclusion! Make this the end of the series, and end it with a bang. Compare it to eating chocolate for example. A bit is delicious and amazing, especially if you’ve got the really good quality kind. However try to wolf down ten bars of the stuff and after a while you’ll be so full that it just tastes horribly. It’s up to the series to find that right balance between leaving the viewers hungry and over-stuffing them, and season six feels like exactly that balance, especially considering how season 5 wasted one of its episode for that stupid Nyanko-sensei sidestory.

Because episode 5 I would not consider that the best season. That goes to season 4. I’d also consider season 1 and 3 better, and season 2 worse. It was very clearly a building-up season, so I’ll forgive it for that. But I keep stressing this: brevity! Like it’s a good thing that I watched Legend of Galactic Heroes when I still was a student with no life, because brilliant as it might be: if I had to watch it today I’d simply refuse. There is no way I have that much time just lying around.

#2: Classicaloid (09-12)

This was the halfway climax for Classicaloid, and it was awesome. It’s a fitting climax by finally making everything around Bach come together and finally made him step outside of his shadow and gave him a character; it did not disappoint. However, my favourite episodes still are the ones that revolve around Kanae. I LOVE her character, she is one of the best straight man (or straight women in this case) in a comedy I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t just offer order to the chaos of the other characters, she offers responsibility to their idiocy, she’s being forced to deal with whatever ridiculous ideas the other characters come up with, and is basically being forced to raise this group of man-children. Also check out all of the effort she puts into keeping the mansion tidy. This might seem like an tiny detail, but it’s actually incredibly important from a storytelling perspective. It not only adds character to the mansion itself, but it also makes the setting so much more believable. It adds a very natural sort of tension to the series to keep the mansion clean. It makes the viewer feel much more part of the whole setting, compared to if the characters just lived somewhere.

Amazing stories and characters can be found in any medium. But what makes anime stand out, and the reason why I originally became a fan, is the way in which it combines everything: animation, music, storytelling, characters, themes, setting. How they all work together in creating one experience to the point where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. Obviously not every anime gets this (most don’t), but Classicaloid adheres very much to this philosophy. It very blatantly sacrifices making sense for a feast for all the senses (heck Musik is pretty much a Deus ex Machina with which the creators can do whatever they want). And it’s not just the way in which all Musik scenes are incredibly fun, with all their remixes of famous classical works and full of crazy ideas like giant penguins and mecha helicopters, but also look at the themes: Classicaloid is a series about music. And between all the lines of goofing off, it really is trying to explore what music is, what drives great music, the struggles that the composers face when creating it. We’re halfway through the series and it’s already quite fascinating what’s going on here.

This is why I like Classicaloid more than Natsume Yuujinchou: as much as I love Natsume, it could have been done in any other medium. I can see that work. Classicaloid can only work as an anime. Any other way to do it just won’t work, and it makes brilliant use of that.

#1: Fune wo Amu (08-11)

In its final month, Fune wo Amu has turned out to be incredibly motivational, much more than I expected. Just about everything that was thrown at the characters: they just ended up sucking it up and dealing it up, working diligently for fourteen years until finishing. And I love how well they did it: usually when a challenge is presented, the creators end up cheesing it with the solution: a convenient loophole is found, the problem doesn’t really matter that much in the end, a plothole shows up, or they just kind-of end up solving everything without really going into detail how. Fune wo Amu avoids all of this: the characters work hard and for every problem in their way, they come up with a solution to handle the incredible task of putting together a dictionary.

The time-skip was brilliant in this, and yet it didn’t gloss over how hard these characters worked in compiling every of the 240000 words to get there. There was only one commonly used trope: the death of the professor. But even that was handled very tastefully: very carefully built up for episodes, and it was swiftly presented as part of the path of life, rather than dragging it out for the sentimental value. I really shed a tear that final episode, it was that good.

And really, there is no contest that this was the best of the season. Of course I have not completed many series this year, but let me just say that there would be very surprised if there is a better series than this one in 2016. Fune wo Amu has been amazing, and exactly what I needed. As I struggled keeping up with the episodes, I found that I really WANTED to finish this series. That’s a first in years.

And if there is any series I’d like to be influential, it’s this one. And it’s not like I’m asking for more series about dictionaries, but it goes deeper than that: nearly every single series can learn something from Fune wo Amu. How to animate characters to breathe them to life without overdoing it. How to develop characters, how to adapt your source material by making everything fit within the time you’re given. You want romance? Treat it as this show does, rather than the annoying whining we normally get. Look at this series for a textbook example of how subtle acting should be done, how attention to detail should be done. I can name very few series where it’s all this obvious. The biggest flaw really is that building a dictionary limits audiences: it’s probably a bit too mundane for most audiences. But whoever manages to figure out how to apply the design principles and philosophies that lead to the creation of this series to a more mainstream title: you’re gonna hit pure gold!

Posted on 2 December 2016 with categories: Monthly Summaries

And that was November. The month without a beginning or end, most series are using this time to build up their setting and characters for added depth. Some shows got better, some started to show kinks. These are my impressions, in order from least liked to best liked, about all the episodes that came out in November, so some of the new episodes aren’t counted yet. As usual: there be spoilers. And I’m not sure whether I’m going to include ratings in these lists. For now I’m refraining though. Just note that #2 is way above #3 and #1 is miles above #2 again. #1 in particular just restored my faith in anime again.

Oh and I unfortunately had to drop 3-Gatsu no Lion. Not for a really particular reason other than time. I had to drop one, and it became that series. Was I right in dropping it? Dunno.

#9: Bernard Jou Iwaku (05-08)

Granted, the only reason I’m still watching this is because every episode is over within 3,5 minutes, but it says something that out of the entire onslaught of mini-shows this season, this is the only one I kept. This is what I expect when I watch one of these series: due to the dialogue it never loses my interest, it remains fresh, it makes me chuckle once in a while and it knows what it’s about: name-dropping famous novels.

I like how it’s both poking fun at the literary imbeciles as the snobs. This dynamic has been good for 8 episodes of fun, and I can pretty much see this show finish its run without too much difficulties at this pace. It’s interesting, fun and short. Nothing special of course, but short series should look here for how it’s done. They really need that because the amount of really bad shows really is getting out of hand.

#8: Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari (05-08)

Oh boy, this series. This was not a good month for Udon no Kuni. I will continue watching it, but this month the show headed into a really questionable direction that… I both don’t like it and I don’t get it to be honest. Over the past month I’ve been watching this guy slowly losing his mind by a shapeshifting tanuki. And if that was an actual plot point then I’d love that, but I’m getting more and more convinced that the creators are playing this straight: that the series really is going to end with Souta and Poco living happily ever after as a family…

In a normal series that would be fine and all, but at times this show seems to forget that we’re dealing with a tanuki here… Souta never seems to question where he came from, his origins, he doesn’t seem to find it weird that he basically is treating his pet like his son. He gave up his entire life in the city, not through careful consideration, but because Poco liked it there better, which takes away a lot of the power of the first episode.

It also doesn’t help that Poco is getting really annoying now. His antics… they’re a bit too blown up. He’s trying sooo hard to sound like a kid, and I get that he’s a tanuki and all, but it’s also the responsibility of the creators to create a fun series and all. Episode nine was especially cringe-worthy when he got lost in the most clichéd way possible. No meaning behind it whatsoever, just to get some development out of Souta. I also really dislike Souta’s coworker, especially now that the creators seem to have decided they want him back as a regular character.

They’re going to really have to step up their game for the finale here. And what happened to the Udon? I mean they eat it here and there and all, but this is supposed to be one of the major themes of this series. We don’t call Cross Game Napolitan Game for a reason.

#7: Cheating Craft (05-08)

Usually in a comedy, when the big rival is introduced it’s the moment the series goes south. I do not know why so many comedies want to be taken seriously all of a sudden, but you need good characters for that, and most comedies depend on stereotypes or gimmicks. Cheating Craft is basically one gigantic gimmick, so I was dreading this moment, and yet something really weird happened: the show actually got better.

The crowning moment definitely was episode 6, which just said “screw it” to linear storytelling and delivered a really weird mish-mash of scenes right intertwined with each other, held together in a theater play. That one episode succeeded in trying to sound like it was taking itself so seriously, yet it kept trying to get away with more and more ludicrous scenes. And it was fully aware of that by the way. It was magic!

After that followed two episodes of training arc parodies. A bit more conventional, but they worked. It had a bunch of neat ideas, it was fun, it made me laugh. I’m impressed in the way that the story of the show is actually progressing, and yet it does not forget that it’s supposed to make the audience laugh. This is the middle month in which series like this usually lull into a period of nothing really happening, and here Cheating Craft comes with a pacing that really is just fine.

#6: To Be Hero (05-08)

This series continues to be an excellent example of how comedy should be done. The fast pace makes sure that the jokes just keep coming and coming, the half episode length makes sure that it doesn’t drag, and in terms of inspiration it hasn’t slowed down in the slightest since it started, and it still feels fresh. It still manages to surprise me with how politically uncorrect it can get and every episode finds a new way to weird me out. It’s one of those rare shows where I just know that I’m going to laugh through the entire episode.

What also helps is that there are no bad characters. Sure, the characters are terrible people and all, but every characters has a point and purpose, and actually made me laugh. Even Gintama (or Excel Saga for a more concise comparison) had characters that got on my nerves and I wanted to just go away. Every character is also their own epitome of black humour. Some characters may have some annoying moments, but these are so rare compared to what I feared this show would turn into.

Endings are the bane of comedy’s existance, but with Nabeshin at the helm I actually have confidence that he can pull it off. The key is have a climax while still being funny, and using that climax for extra tension for the jokes. 90% of all comedies make the mistake of just completely scrapping the jokes, or putting the jokes on second place for the sake of wrapping up the story. That’s bad! Ideally, you’d use your entire series to one gigantic joke of a climax at the end, and there are very few series that understand that. Is this series one of those that do? Find out next month!

#5: Shuumatsu no Izetta (06-09)

This show, it’s got a lot of major things right, and a lot of minor things wrong. So overall, I’m happy. My biggest praise is how well the creators thought about the plot. There are no really big cop-outs, the tone is consistent, the setting is very solid. A good story just writes itself, and that’s exactly what happened here. This month we saw the war between the two main nations here evolve further, and with what it was given, it makes sense for things to have happened the way they did. Characters are no morons, Eylstad did what they could in order to hold out as long as possible, while Germania took its time to find a way to deal with the white witch: a powerful weapon, yet ultimately too fragile to win an entire war with.

And I realize how rare this is now that there is a series that actually doesn’t do that: but the deaths actually surprised me. I’ve seen so many series that copped out at the last minute: pretending to kill off characters only to find some way to revive them again, or pulling completely ludicrous leaps in logic to prevent certain characters from dying. Not here: when it felt logical for them to die, they actually did. They underestimated the situations they were in and paid for it. I love that! These deaths have meaning, it’s not like this is a trigger-happy show that just kills for the sake of killing. Hats off!

Now the bad: first of all the fanservice. An sich I don’t mind that (hell, there are some series this season where there is far, far more), but it’s the context in which it’s used. This is a series that takes itself very seriously, the light-hearted moments are very limited, and there are nearly no jokes. The only jokes are the really bad boob jokes that you see in every single series. THAT’s is what I take offense to: if you’re gonna do fanservice: make it flow well into the storyline. Don’t come across like the only way you know to flesh out characters is grabbing each other by the boob. I’m sick and tired of that.

Now, episode 09 finally brought in the second witch. It was a major episode, and I loved what it lead to… except the new witch herself feels kinda iffy. The revelation that she was cloned feels… a bit out of place in the setting. For the first time in the entire series. It was built up, but still it felt a bit weird. But okay, it’s their series, if they want a setting reminiscent of the first world war with a few details changed here and there, like witches and cloning, I can buy it. But then the witch started talking….

Look, what also made this series so good is the believable characters. There were a few things here and there, but most of all the characters here: you can believe that these people all fit, and their acting was all down to earth and business. There was a lot of cold and serious acting, but Izetta and Fyne balanced that out by also showing the human side of the cast, and when they did they also knew their place. And then that new witch came and started acting like a supervillain in an action flick. It was… jarring…

#4: Natsume Yuujinchou (05-08 + special)

I’m not entirely sure what to think right now. On one hand, episode 08 was the best episode involving Natori and Matoba so far. The other episodes have been really excellent as well. But that Nyanko-sensei special was the single worst episode of Natsume Yuujinchou, ever. It’s really rare how consistent Natsume Yuujinchou is, so any episode that isn’t up to its standards immediately stands out, to the point where the episode was just hard to watch.

Let’s talk a bit about brevity in storytelling. Ideally, a story should progress at a logical pace, and it should end at a place where it fits best. This is not an attack on filler episodes, because these can serve a very good purpose in fleshing out characters and getting to know them, however we are already more than 50 episodes in right now. Series should not try to pad out their length and go on as long as possible, because that will eventually just diminish the impact. Telling a story is a delicate balance between taking your time at the right moments and hitting hard and fast at the right moments. The timing of that special felt completely out of place, and the creators knew it so they aired it as a special outside of the main series, so I’m not really sure whether to hold this against the series or not. I mean most specials are either just for background information, or some silly side-story… however specials always air when a show is finished. Not when you’re right in the middle of a story.

Because it seems that this series is addressing my concerns I voiced right at the beginning of this series: there’s been lots of character development of the major side characters this month. Whereas season four was all about Natsume and his family, this is about his friends and Natori, Matoba and Reiko. Since for these episodes, the series depends on something other than the powerful closures of the episodic stories, so it took a while to build up, but with episode 08 it all came together quite nicely.

Now ideally, there should come one more season after this. ONE. Entirely dedicated to wrapping up the story and closing off all threads that the series laid out. I really think that any longer than that will be too long for Natsume Yuujinchou By then it will have been able to say everything that it wanted to say.

#3: Yuri!! on Ice (05-09)

Well then. Sayo Yamamoto’s series have always been incredibly sexual, all in their own unique way. Her masterpiece Michiko e Hatchin seamlessly blended the sexiness in Brazilian culture with its plot and characters, while Lupin the Third… I’m still surprised that they managed to get away with everything they did. Now Yuri on Ice is here for the Yaoi fans. The thing with fanservice is this: there will always be people who will not be attracted to what you’re showing. So, if you focus too long on that, or make it incredibly stupid you will alienate people. This is a rule that a lot of anime fail to understand. Yuri on Ice was awfully close to that line this month though. Especially on the orgasm skater I was like… “do I really want to watch this?” And yeah, the first episodes still were a bit ambiguous, but this month made no mistake: Victor is gay and Yuri is bisexual, and we’re getting a romance here. It feels forced. I don’t buy it. I have that with most romances though, but it’s a shame that the romance in this show does not form an exception.

Because damn, the characterization in this show is so good! This month this series had the challenge of blowing through two major matches, each showing 6 contestants performing two routines. Usually a series would then focus on the main character and one rival, degrading the other characters to a bunch of cardboard boxes who are just there for filler, but not this show! Because so much time of these episodes is focused on showing actual ice skating performances, every single one of the characters gets his own personality, story, background, antionality. And with the exception of the above-mentioned orgasm skater they were all incredibly well done for how little time they got. You remember them, they’re all fun, they all drew me right into their performances. They made for four really riveting episodes that just sparkled with personality.

However, one big problem remains: Yuri on Ice really is about its characters, and therefore it really is putting logic a bit on the second place. The world of ice skating is huge, and Yuri just basically reached the world finals in a best of six tournament, even though he finished fourth and second once. I get why they do it: the creators really does everything it can to spice up this show, and for the characters it works! For the story though… do not watch this for the story.

#2: Classicaloid (05-08)

Can I also give a shout-out to the producers of this series? Every single episode features a new awesome cover of classical music, used both in the climax as the ED. And don’t forget we’re dealing with 24 episodes here! This is something you have to consciously decide to go after, certainly with how good all these songs are. And on top of that there is the “Pain! Pain!”-song of episode nine, which too was just incredible in its own way.

I’m not sure how much on the radar this show is, but I love everything about it. Seriously, I have nothing to really criticize here. Perhaps only really minor nit-picks like jerky animation here, and some coincidences there, but that’s nothing. This is my idea of a sitcom. Every single character here is completely adorable, and their chemistry is just amazing. These guys can be incredibly annoying, but every time they do something that gets on your nerves, it also gets on just about every other character’s nerves, and that all just continues to build up, to the point at which I just can’t stay angry at these guys. The most notable example of this is episode 07: on paper this episode is terrible. It’s a gimmick that spelled the downfall of so many series yet. And yet at the end the only reaction I could muster was the same that Kanae, the female lead had: just shake your head and give up.

The plot moves slowly, but it does move. And the way it does move! It’s always either in ways you don’t expect, or the most obvious way imaginable. Things happen and characters act like it’s the most normal thing in the world, so it takes a while to really digest what happened. Or in the incredibly obvious cases it takes a while that yes, they really are going that way. There are very few series I had as much fun with as this series. This is no longer just a comedy, this is just a show with awesome characters.

#1: Fune wo Amu (04-07)

Fune wo Amu is my favourite series this season, but even that isn’t indicative of just how good this show is. This is just a completely different level, it blows just everything away with its execution, and it would stand at the top of nearly every season this decade. That’s how incredible this show is!

And it didn’t do so with the biggest story, the most epic setting, dramatic conflicts. Instead it’s so simple, yet everything it does is perfect. Aside from throw more budget so that some drawings can be more high-resolution (not even better animated, just give the artists a bit more time to animate everything in the right resolution) I would not change anything so far about how these episodes have played out. The way this series manages to breathe life to its characters with such a simple story of writing a dictionary. And sure, there is drama. But it’s everyday drama: corporate issues of management that’s looking for ways to have their way, cocky professors. It all just feels so real, like you can touch these characters.

And the romance! Holy crap the romance! Let me tell you that this show has the best romance out of any series where romance isn’t the main focus. Like I can’t even think of any show that tops it. Especially episode six, it hit me like a truck, that’s how well built up and acted it was, and it has been many years since an anime hit me as much as that single episode, even many years before my writer’s block started.

Like finally a show comes in and does everything right. Majime is socially awkward, and yet. No silly drama, no characters behaving illogically for the sake of creating drama. No bad overreactions, no misunderstandings that create terrible drama because characters refuse to talk to each other, no main character who is too scared to even confess, no generic forced resolutions. Nope. Majime just needs a few episodes to gather courage, but the bugger actually goes ahead and does it! And not just that, Nishioka himself kicks ass too. He has a stable relationship, and while this has its ups and downs, these ups and downs are realistic: they’re about the small things. I absolutely adored how subtle the end of episode 07 was. Where in every other series there would be a huge drama, the very small gesture of him planning a date was so much more powerful.

And I know, these are so simple. And that makes it al the weirder that this series is the first to actually get everything right. THIS is the romance I want to see: scrap the bullshit, the whiny drama about nothing, the refusal to communicate, giving such a skewed portrayal of reality. THIS should be the standard!

Posted 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.

Posted on 1 October 2013 with categories: Monthly Summaries

Inspiration can both be a blessing, and a curse. It’s awesome to have, but often likes to strike at the most inconvenient moments. So hereby I present a list of my impressions of the series of the past half year. I’ve been feeling guilty for a while knowing that I can’t write a full review for all of them, so hereby an overview, in order of how much I like them. With the ones that I finished I included their final rating. Also enjoy the big pictures.

And yes this is about the past half year. As in, the most recent six month, otherwise known as the series that aired in the spring and summer season. Not the winter season. Just the past six months.

Watamote, Blood Lad

These series started out as moderately fun comedies, but I did not expect them to become more than that so I did not watch more than two episodes. I’ve said this before: when I watch a comedy, I really want something with really good jokes and I want to laugh out loud, instead of just having to snicker occasionally.

Fantasista Doll

This one won the award of the OP song with the most chance of annoyingly getting stuck in your head. It had potential, but in he end it was just too childish. Those thingies that the lead character summoned were complete idiots, and I don’t mean in a good way. Anime writers pay attention: there’s a different being simple minded and stupid!


Free was a prime: finally there was a fanservice series for females that didn’t have horrible production values or incredibly cheesy acting and it actually resembled something like an actual drama. It wasn’t interesting enough for me to keep watching though.

Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-Bu

The first episode was really fun to watch, I dropped this after episode 2 though. Why? Because I did not think that the creators could match episode 1. I feared that it would be too much of the same thing over and over again with a few coming of age themes here and there. Was I right?

Servant X Service

This series actually did make me laugh out loud… in the first episode. I continued for five more episodes, but the wit of the first episode was just gone, and the characters descended into stereotypes. That otaku girl in particular. Dear god what happened to her? She used to be normal but devolved into this deranged fangirl.

Dagan Ronpa

Excellent premise, but Seiji Kishi. In the first two episodes I already saw hints that this would be a really lackluster adaptation and some stories I heard afterwards seemed to confirm this. Because of this I didn’t watch past episode two.


Beautifully made, but in the end it’s just a random show about high school girls. Come on, someone put Ryouske Nakamura on a project that will actually put his talents to good use. I only watched four episodes of this one.

Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge

Crime Edge turned out to be a series that celebrated weird fetishes. Nice for a while, but after a few episodes it just got boring and formulaic, with every arc doing a different genre. It had its charming moments, but not enough and I dropped it after about 5 episodes.

Tamayura – More Aggressive – 75/100

I like series to be concise and to the point. A bit of lingering is okay of course, especially if it has interesting stuff to do, but Tamayura mostly just repeated itself in its second season and gave hardly any attention to the side cast. That’s basically the reason for the low grade here: it was fine with just one season. Don’t go and make it longer and harder to watch.

Hataraku Maou-Sama – 80/100

Oh, the promise that this series gave. For a while, it really was a lot of fun to watch, but alas: it couldn’t keep up. It lost the spark that originally made it really funny, and the episodes, while still well written, started to become a bit of a chore to watch

Majestic Prince

Surprisingly, I didn’t finish this show. I’m only something like five episodes away, but I can’t think of a reason to finish it. I thought that it was good, but in the end none of the cast really made an impression on me, strangely enough. Even though the battles got good, and the characters were slightly fleshed out and developed, not to mention episode 19. I’m not sure what happened here… but I totally have no motivation to continue it.

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet – 81/100

Gargantia had a pretty interesting setting, but its plot had a few humps and bumps along the road, with characters that had strange motivations, or didn’t really become engaging. Still, overall it was Enjoyable, and especially that AI was a great character in how it played off the rest of the cast.

Teekyu – 82,5/100

This show is just heaps of fun to watch with all of its energy and the creativity that the animators throw at the screen.

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru – 82,5/100

Yahari Blahblah (yeah I’m still calling it that) started off rather mellow, and then something happened. Completely against my expectations, it turned into a very well written high school drama with relatable characters. The cast consists out of characters who look like stereotypes, yet aren’t and the show actually made quite a few good points along its run.

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San – 82,5/100

For me, this was the best comedy of the past half year. Utterly hilarious but also completely shameless. It often had me wondering what the heck the creators were thinking and smoking. Sometimes in bad ways, but when it was funny, it really was funny.

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 84/100

This show really had a great premise, and I loved how it showed all of the characters coping with it. It had a strange sense of plot twists when it suddenly pulled random twists out of nowhere at the most random moments, but that did give it a unique spin. It’s a melancholic but very engaging and thought-provoking series.

Gatchaman Crowds – 84/100

Gatchaman Crowds got a lot of flack for not making any sense, but in the end, I loved this series as a quirky action series with an imaginative premise. In fact, the summer season stood out in how its series had some really great ideas for their premises. At its core, this is a series that celebrates social media, and all of the chaos that comes along with it. It has absolutely nothing to do with the original Gatchaman, but if it used this title in order to get funded, then it is a sacrifice that had to be made. It was a bit weird sometimes, but it built up into a very satisfying climax.

Uchuu Kyoudai

I’ve mentioned this before: Uchuu Kyoudai has fallen. It used to be the best, incredibly well written and really engaging characters. It’s still there, putting a lot of detail to its characters, but its sense of pacing is totally gone, and it feels like they’re just randomly adapting the manga now without any soul left. It’s a bloody shame because this show deserves some good treatment here.

Hunter X Hunter

Hunter X Hunter is really difficult to rate because my opinion of it just jumps all over the place. The Chimera Ant arc for a long while just took waaay too much time building up and too much time was spent on training arcs. Now that those are over though, this series has suddenly become amazing lately, with the main storyline and objectives having completely changed. These are the characters at their best for the entire remake’s airtime.

Silver Spoon – 86/100

Silver Spoon, an anime about a farming school. It’s got a lot of similarities to Moyashimon, but the big difference is that it’s meticulously planned: everything is there for a reason, either for a good joke, or some sort of character-development, and that character-development is really good and well thought out. I really was surprised how this series did not shy away from the darker side of farming and it tackled that issue with a lot of respect.

Uchoten Kazoku – 86/100

Uchoten Kazoku for me stood out as the best non-sequel of the past summer season. It was chock full of cultural references, and with most of its characters being either Tanuki or Tengu, they actually acted like that. It’s a fun and whimsical series, that still can be really intelligent when it wants to, and the dialogue in particular switches from really simple-minded to intelligent and well thought-out.

Rozen Maiden 2013 – 86/100

My only gripe with this show is the cliff-hanger at the end. Apart from that, this show gave a terrific new spin to the Rozen Maiden anime, and turned a to of characters completely upside down. I really have to praise the plot for taking risks, and trying out something different, and the themes of the series rock as well: every character here is trapped in some way. The creators also managed to make this a very varying series by cleverly putting characters on a bus in order to focus on others.

Shingeki no Kyojin – 87,5/100

This really was the epic of the past half year. No other series came close to its production values, or its sense of action. The pacing was slow, but it always gave us the impression that humanity is completely screwed, and that the titans are just inches away from wiping out humanity altogether. The creators put so much detail into this series, and it looks gorgeous, and the great thing is that it’s also really quite smart: the battles are full of tactics and people trying their best to think straight. This really is just one of those series that deserves the praise that it gets.

Aku no Hana – 89/100

I spent a long time thinking about my favorite series of the past half year. I mean it was obvious for me that it would be one of these two. Both shows were just fantastic, though unfortunately unfinished. However in the end I gave Aku no Hana the edge. Yes, it’s completely unlike any other series that we’ve seen before, but what really won me over was the sheer atmosphere of this thing. This is filled to the brim with emotions, The rotoscoping will push a lot of people away, but that’s not the only thing about this series that’s controversial. The incredibly slow pacing also was an incredibly risky move, but it works oh so well. The series is so chockfull of details that it allows us to get to know the characters on a deeply personal level.

Posted on 5 June 2013 with categories: Monthly Summaries

Sorry for the lateness of this entry. You can thank animecon for that. Anyway, the current season. I’m having trouble keeping up with it, and because of that I am rather glad that it’s such a small season. Nevertheless, this just pales in comparison to what we’re used to from Spring Seasons.

#12 (13) – Saint Seiya Omega – (7.75/10) – Saint Seiya Omega is currently in its boring character-reintroduction phase. At least, that’s what I thought until the creators pulled that really random episode in which Ryuuho suddenly became a rock star in order to let out the conflicted feelings that loom inside of him. Saint Seiya, you are treading a very dangerous line between character development, and someone just completely changing character. And don’t get me wrong, I like the idea, the execution was just… weird.
#11 (8) – Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge – (7.9/10) – I watched up to episode 6, and I think I’m going to drop this in favor of other series. I like how it celebrates really weird fetishes and all, but it does so formulaic, and the different powers all feel rather shallow. With the length of this series I don’t really think that this show can really make something memorable.
#10 (12) – Valvrave The Liberator – (8/10) – Valvrave is completely stupid. It however realizes this, and just rolls with it. This also means that I will drop it as soon as it starts taking itself too seriously (there is no way you can get anything remotely serious out of this), but as long as it keeps bringing in the cheese I’m hooked.
#9 (9) – Majestic Prince – (8/10) – I’ve seen up to six episodes now I believe, and this was a big surprise. The creators took cardboard cut-outs and slowly gave them character. I still dislike how these guys are able to somehow do the impossible by winning battles against huge odds, but it uses this well at least.
#8 (10) – Yahari Blahblah – (8.25/10)

I have seen up to episode six here. Yahari Blahblah took a while to get going, and it had a few boring parts. However, episode five gave the characters depth that I was looking for. Here, some of the characters became more than just random tropes and I didn’t expect that.

#7 (4) – Hataraku Maou-Sama – (8.25/10)

Hataraku Maou-sama’s sense of humour rocks. It still makes me laugh in every episode, but the clever plotting… it just isn’t as clever as what it was In the first few episodes, and that made this series a bit of a disappointment to follow. But who knows. It has the potential to pick back up again.

#6 (6) – Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet – (8.25/10)

Gargantia could have balanced itself a bit out a bit better, resulting in two strange slice of life episodes after each other. It still had thought put into it and it showed new and different things about the setting, but the writing just was not as solid as what it could have been. Also culture or no culture, having a bunch of teenaged girls dance half-naked into a bunch of grown men… they could have put some more thought on that.

#5 (15) – Uchuu Kyoudai – (8.5/10)

My biggest problem with Uchuu Kyoudai isn’t the slow pacing. That is brilliant, and it really allows the characters to slowly build themselves. Instead, I get more and more annoyed with the recaps at the start of each episode. I know it’s small, but this series is so good. It’s not worth it to have it brought down by such a single stupid thing that makes it much longer than what it needs to be. Because the effort it put into its character development this month was brilliant.

#4 (5) – Hunter X Hunter – (8.5/10)

Thank god we’re finally at the new material when it takes off, and thank god it actually delivers! They took a bit of time to get used to, but the villains are getting better with every episode as this show continues to explore their personalities.

#3 (3) – Shingeki no Kyojin – (8.75/10)

This really turned into an awesome action series, in a different way from the manga. It really tries to put the characters into as much despair as possible, without making it one-sided. The giant designs really work well in animation and how some of them are coloured, and most imporantly: the characters are also getting very engaging to watch.

#2 (1) – Aku no Hana – (8.9/10)

I don’t care. Aku no Hana is amazing. Heck, the past month had a few scenes that would have been impossible to do right if it was in regular animation. And heck: if you ignore the low budget then the creators pretty much did a perfect adaptation for this series with how god damn expressive it is.

#1 (2) – Chihayafuru – (9/10)

That finale was awesome. It just boggles my mind how much build-up the creators have been putting up throughout the entire second season (and also first season) in order to reach that point. Heck, everything is just coming together in such a ridiculously solid way. It’s amazing!

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Chihayafuru S3 – 07 [The Storm Blasts]

I’ve positively loved the last five episodes of Chihayafuru’s third season, so I don’t derive any pleasure from saying that I kind of hated this one. “The Storm Blasts,” in my eyes, makes an unwise narrative choice to achieve a convenient result, and creates a minefield of non-credibility for itself going forward. Though it’s this […]

Psycho-Pass 3 – 04 [Political Strife in the Colosseum]

Sibyl isn’t everything but episode four has me nearly convinced with its balance of investigation, action, and social commentary that it is on par with the first season of Psycho-Pass. Wrapping up this case answers the case’s immediate questions like what makes Komina tick, but only more questions crop up like who is the First […]

Vinland Saga – 18 [Out of the Cradle]

Ah it’s good to be back after a weeks break, as Vinland Saga gives us another fantastic episode. This week sees Thorfinn fight for Askeladd’s life. Meanwhile Canute kills the boy so that the man may live. Lot’s to talk about, so let’s dive in! Starting off, I have to comment on how Vinland Saga […]

Fire Force 17 – Black and White, and Grey

Oh Fire Force.  Every episode it seems you do 5 things right…and three things wrong.  Every single one is on the verge of greatness, but very few cross over.  Let’s take a look!

My Hero Academia – 67/68 [Fighting Fate/Let’s Go, Gutsy Red Riot]

We’re here with a double header for My Hero Academia, with one pretty important episode…and one filler.  Let’s go!

Dr.STONE – 19/20 [To Modernity/The Age of Energy]

Hello all, to this double feature of Dr.STONE, as this lazy bones plays catch up. Apologies for missing last week, but a combination of factors made getting the post up in time… difficult. Enough excuses though, onto the episodes! Starting off, since I missed two episodes, let’s talk about the production for a second. As […]

Hoshiai no Sora – 06

I’ll say this for Hoshiai no Sora – the tennis scenes look good. Characters are shown positioning themselves, swinging, and following through with remarkable consistency. The shortcuts that once plagued Baby Steps and Prince of Tennis rarely appear during this series, and that’s worth celebrating. There were even a few serves in this episode that […]

State of the Season – Fall 2019

Welcome to the second official State of the Season! I’m your host, Amun, and joining us are the esteemed Wooper, Mario, and Lenlo! For Fall of 2019, the anime community awaited more sequels than Star Wars – surprisingly, some first-season hidden gems lurk among these established franchises. In this State of the Season, we’ll take […]

Neon Genesis Evangelion – 2 [An Unfamiliar Ceiling/The Beast] – Throwback Thursday

Hello all and welcome to week 2 of Neon Genesis Evangelion! I know a lot has been going on lately, what with the site scare, but don’t worry. A lot of work is going on in the back and we have plans. In the meantime, how about we just jump into this week’s episode of […]

Latest Reviews

Mononoke Anime Review – 75/100

I have reviewed a lot of odd shows recently. From Paranoia Agent to Serial Experiments Lain, they each had their own… je ne sais quoi, their own unique flavor. Keeping with that trend is Mononoke, a sort of Horror Anthology reminiscent of Tales From the Crypt or a Stephen King short stories collection. Though where […]

Mix: Meisei Story Review – 75/100

Mix is, by my count, the eighth Mitsuru Adachi work to be adapted to animation. I’ve only seen one of the other seven, so it may not be my place to say this, but Mix probably ranks around the middle of those eight. Its main cast is complex, but the non-baseball players among them slip […]

DanMachi2 Anime Review – 40/100

“Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon” burst onto the anime scene as something of a B-tier cult classic.  2015 saw Season 1 massively outperform expectations  – ignoring the occasionally shoddy animation – to bring excitement and mostly fan service (and the cosplayer favorite: the Hestia ribbon).  Now, four years later, the […]

Kimetsu no Yaiba Anime Review – 80/100

It’s hard to find a more ubiquitous genre in anime than Shounen. Maybe romance/moe-blobs, but it’s a close race. With series like One Piece and until recently Naruto, being a constant presence each season/year. Often this makes it difficult for newer series to break into the anime market in a meaningful way. With the recent […]

Youjo Senki Movie Review – 85/100

Outside of a very few exceptions, I have come to despise the isekai genre with its predominantly self-inserted overpowered male protagonists, massive harems, fan-service bait and overused fantasy settings. Youjo Senki is none of those things and it has gained a very special place in my heart where it features the combined arms of a […]

Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel – II Lost Butterfly Anime Review – 91/100

Long time no see and strap in cause this is going to be a long one. I will preface this review with the assumption that you have seen the first movie of this trilogy and this movie as well as the assumption that whomever is reading this knows what a command spell is. So basically […]

Serial Experiments Lain Anime Review – 78/100

Serial Experiments Lain is weird. It is a series unlike any other, wholly unique in anime, both modern and historical. Every aspect of it, from presentation to narrative, is best described as an experience. It is because of this that I believe Lain is a must watch, if only to experience a piece of anime […]

Penguin Highway (2018) Movie Review – 89/100

You’re walking along in your neighborhood, going about your daily routine. It’s a fine morning. The sun is shining brightly. But suddenly, you see something strange. You squint your eyes; even rub them, to make sure it isn’t a mirage before exclaiming with excitement, “Oh, look. It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane! No no. […]

One Punch Man Season 2 Anime Review – 34/100

Often at the start of one of these reviews, I will wax philosophical about a series. Attempting to slowly draw you, the reader, in to whatever topic or anime I am discussing in that review. This time, none of that. This time, I have to come out and say from the beginning, that One Punch […]