Winter 2016 First Impressions / Act 1 Thoughts

Welcome to 2016, everybody! We may be a couple weeks into the winter season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still put out a belated first impressions and early Act 1 thoughts article! Instead of two separate posts, we’re combining them into one this time around, with Yata and Haru running down what we enjoyed or didn’t care for from the start of this year. Are any of the inevitable fantasy light novel adaptations watchable this season? Will pure CG ever be respected as a form of animation? And most importantly, does fan favorite ERASED meet the hype? Answers to these questions and more ahead on our early Winter 2016 Thoughts. Let’s do some animu justice, people!

Header

ACTIVE RAID

Active Raid 1

It’s like Rail Wars without the fanservice. So basically it’s nothing.

Summary: Active Raid follows a unit of Tokyo police officers who transform with powered armor suits called Willware in order to combat the city’s criminals. Assistant inspector Asami Kazari gets assigned to the unit with the goal of reforming their shoddy workmanship, but instead she finds herself the odd one out.

Yatahaze:
I wish I had better things to report about Active Raid. I dig sci-fi police dramas and I dig near-future slice-of-lifes, and thus I should enjoy the two when mixed together, but this show is just not up to par. Its first offense; Active Raid features poorly-written in-show exposition-dumping early on then doesn’t utter a word of explanation when the unit starts racing back and forth in technobabble that the viewer can’t follow during the mission. Offense two; the pilot’s mission has no stakes. It’s established that the perpetrators of…whatever crime the perps pulled off…are minors, so the police team can’t use as much force as quickly as they want to. Nothing else vital is mentioned about who these criminals are, why they’re doing what they’re doing, or even why what they’re doing is potentially dangerous. Third, the police unit’s camaraderie is full of forced cheesy introduction lines and little natural conversation. These characters aren’t even really firm archetypes either, so they’re stuck somewhere between “yeah, I guess this is supposed to be that character” and “You have no excess personality, who the fuck are you?” And last but not least, the show doesn’t even look that great. The mech suits and vehicles are all animated in poor CG (which will be a recurring trend this season, so buckle up) and the character designs are sloppy. Asami basically looks like the character design crew just shoved Chaika’s face onto Akane Tsunemori’s body, and the result is as hideous as you’d imagine it to be. There’s nothing about Active Raid that makes it inherently poor; it’s just not a well-executed show in the slightest, and making me groan several times during your pilot is a surefire way to make me doubt the future material’s presentation will be any better. I may be wrong about that, but I think it’s safe to say for now that Active Raid isn’t worth my time.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 1 episode.

ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM SECOND SEASON

vlcsnap-2016-01-28-18h56m48s573

At least Itona isn’t busting through the walls any more.

Summary: Second Season of Yuusei Matsui’s hit school “slice-of-life” that picks up right where the first season left off.

Harubro:
More Korosensei shaming for everyone, hallelujah! Seiji Kishi breathes a sigh of relief as he returns to direct a series that’s nearly impossible for him to fuck up. Wonderful!

It’s great to have this show back. AssClass has always had a knack for being a fun watch in my book, and in this case, I’m absolutely glad to have more of the same. In this case, the lighting, animation and presentation overall seem to have improved over the first season, perhaps due to all the cash Lerche is rolling in thanks to how illogically successful that Monster Girls show was. It’s pretty hard for me to come up with anything more to say about Assassination Classroom other that it remains the same consistently fun and wacky little show as its ever been.

Anywho, our lovely ensemble cast that is the End Class added another member to their roster as of the most recent episode, with Itona’s arc wrapping up nicely. After that, we’re on to more exams and competitions with Class A we go from here. This will be a fun ride for the next couple cours like its predecessor.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

BUBUKI BURANKI / BBK/BRNK

vlcsnap-2016-01-28-18h45m39s108

tfw you say Bubuki Buranki 20 times fast

Summary: When Azuma Kazuki returns to Japan after 10 years, he gets assaulted by a group of armed men and becomes their prisoner. Kogane Asabuki, a childhood friend, saves him with a weapon on her right hand known as Bubuki; a weapon with its own mind. Azuma Kazuki, who is a Bubuki user himself, learns about the existence of Bubuki and goes on a journey alongside the companions he has found, in an attempt to find and revive Oubu, a Buranki who sleeps underground.

(Yeah, I copped that summary straight off of MAL. What you gonna do about it?)

Harubro:
I’m a sucker for a nonsensically fun action show every once in a while, and Bubuki Buranki is just that. The story and characters are been-there-done-that, but those action sequences… the action sequences are fun as hell to watch in this show, there’s no other way to describe it. Fortunately, BBK/BRNK’s contents have been more flashy mech battle scenes than the sluggish and mostly played-out dialogue bits.

Oh, I forgot to mention. This series is completely animated in CG. I’ve seen a ton of people complaining about the CG. Not me, though — I kind of dig it. Personally, I think it lends itself well to the CG animation and vice-versa. The show can feel choppy at times, but I don’t really count that as a significant knock against the show. I actually find it kind of neat to see how far CG animation is going nowadays.

When I think about it, perhaps the reason why I like this as much as I do is that it’s extremely reminiscent of the sort of shows that I used to wake up early on Saturday mornings for when I was much, much younger. Bubuki Buranki kind of feels like it’d be right at home in a Saturday morning lineup, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If it keeps going the way that it started, I can imagine myself sticking around with this one a bit longer.
Current score: 5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

DAGASHI KASHI

Dagashi Kashi 2

Believe it or not, Coconuts isn’t coocoo for Coocoo’s puffs.

Summary: Kokonotsu Shikada is poised to inherit his father’s candy store, but the kid just wants to write manga instead. His father wasn’t making much progress convincing him to change his mind until one day when an eccentric girl named Hotaru Shidare arrived in the countryside with an offer for Kokonotsu’s dad: leave the shop and come work for her family’s candy company. There’s just one problem: Kokonotsu would have to take over the shop, so in order for Mr. Shikada to leave, Hotaru whips up some plans to make Kokonotsu and his friends Tou and Saya realize the wonders of cheap candy.

Yatahaze:
Though by “realize the wonders of cheap candy,” the show really means “be an extended infomercial about cheap candy.” It’s not a premise that should work, and I don’t necessarily have faith that it will all the way to the end, but right now Dagashi Kashi’s getting by somehow. It occupies that weird space of comedy where the jokes aren’t really jokes and at least 50% of each episode is spent using Hotaru to explain why she likes certain sweets and why other people should like them too. Though the underlying “take over my shop, Coconuts-kun” plot is mentioned every so often, this show is using it more as a justification to exist in the first place instead of an actual concern the characters face. Dagashi Kashi is a slice-of-life about a nutjob, a straight man, a love interest, a “perv bro,” and a goofy father, but before anything else it’s a candy extravaganza. The mileage it gets varies, though overall I feel it isn’t as entertaining as it could be.

Which is why I’m shocked it’s still entertaining enough for me to keep watching it at all. Hotaru’s tirades about candy often end up in fantasyland narration, with shots and lines like this keeping the humor surreal and comfortably ridiculous. Take the more traditional “fanservice” however you may, but it’s hard to deny Hotaru’s one hell of a character to follow around. And the voice acting in general kind of sells everything. That girl is nuts, Kokonotsu’s dad’s head is also in the clouds, Kokonotsu himself and Saya are down to earth and Tou is…well, Tou, but their voice actors and actresses do a phenomenal job nailing each role and keeping things lively. So far the episodes have been constructed as sets of skits; that keeps the pacing smooth, but I can’t help but feel like as a whole Dagashi Kashi is underachieving with its potential. I’d like to see a little less candy infodumping and a little more natural hijinks in the future, but either way, the show has me sold for the moment. This won’t be a season highlight, but it’s a pleasant and goofy little way to pass the time and satisfy your anime sweet tooth.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

Harubro:
Dagashi Kashi is another one of those shows that I hyped myself up for ages before the show actually came out. Typically, that tends not to bode well for a prospective show, because of my high expectations heaped upon what usually are half-assed adaptations unenthusiastically going through the motions of the source material.

This is not one of those half-assed adaptations. JOY!

I’ve been reading Dagashi Kashi’s manga for a long time, and Feel’s adaptation not only feels faithful to the original work, in a way, it breathes even more life into this already lively series. It’s the dead of winter as I write this right now, but the show did such a good job with portraying the kids’ vexation at the stagnant summer heat in their out-of-the-way small town. It was almost too easy to recall the sweltering summer heat.

But hey, who would’ve figured that a series about candies would have taken off the way that it has? As a show, by all means Dagashi Kashi shouldn’t work, but I’m pretty pleased with it. Then again, silly skit-based slice of life comedy shows tend to be right in my wheelhouse, so that’s probably a huge factor as to why I enjoy this show. There’s also the fact that Hotaru is a firework of a character that can easily draws a viewer’s attention, just like poor ol’ Coconuts’. All the characters we’ve seen thus far are endearing, especially our main trio of Coconuts, Saya, and Hotaru. There may not be anything particularly outstanding about this series, but whatever its dynamic is, it works well.

Coconuts’ dad is best girl, though.

Watching Dagashi Kashi makes me want a Ramune. Guess that must mean it’s doing its job right.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

DIMENSION W

Dimension W 1

The W of course standing for “What part of ‘you sleep in the trailer’ do you not understand?”

Summary: In the 2070s, the world’s energy largely comes from an international conglomerate named New Tesla, which has harnessed the technology to monopolize infinite power sources called coils. But in this modern world, one solution leads to another problem, as dangerous transactions of unofficial (and thus illegal) coils have created spheres of organized crime. For jobs the police don’t tackle, old-school non-coil-using Kyouma Mabuchi is sometimes called in, and after a particularly interesting day of vigilante justice, he ends up getting partnered with Mira Yurizaki, a robot made by New Tesla’s disenfranchised and recently deceased founder.

Yatahaze:
Dimension W has all the advertised elements for a fun pseudo-sci-fi mob show: a gruff weathered protagonist, a charming and surprisingly capable sidekick, an old imposing contractor, a morally ambiguous corporation, third party factions looking to make a point, pretty much everything. I particularly enjoy the main duo’s chemistry so far; Kyouma is quick on his feet and rational but emotionally distant, both with his peers and the world as it currently is under New Tesla’s influence. Referred to as a coil hater, he seems to have some kind of beef with the technology itself, but in taking out rogue coil users and underground gangs that trade the unofficial tech, he indirectly assists New Tesla’s monopolization. His relationship with the world seems simple, but there are already hints that nothing going on with New Tesla is as straightforward as it first seems.

Add to the cast Mira, whose own situation is a prickly and complicated one. Previously helping the now dead Dr. Yurizaki take out the same coils Kyouma’s been after and then some, her meeting with him was a little more than convenient, but it’s a logical move for them to work together from the series’ start forward. Despite being a robot, she’s a lot more emotionally engaging and sociable than her new partner, and the two bounce off each other well despite not being all that familiar with each other yet. Episode two’s Loser seems to be gracefully picking up the anti-hero position left open by last season’s Concrete Revolutio, and as Dimension W confidently moves forward, I assume we can expect to see more great character moments, an increased emphasis on the show’s thematic threads of justice, and a better look into New Tesla’s past and what makes them tick now. Dimension W sometimes lacks key dialogue, scientific accuracy, and artistic flourish (and the tameness of Mira’s fanservice doesn’t make its existence any less irritating), but its world is an intriguing place to explore and its characters haven’t let the potential down yet. I’m excited to see where this one goes.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

DURARARA!!x2 KETSU

DRRR 1

Even the headless character can clearly see something sketchy is brewing.

Summary: The third and final cour of supernatural urban jungle action clusterfuck Durarara’s second season.

Yatahaze:
Yeah, I’m officially running out of different things to say about DRRR at this point.

The show’s not bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but by the middle of Ten, I was starting to lose my will to bother analyzing it. DRRR is fun because it’s an ever-winding web of badasses mixing it up with other badasses. Even now, at arguably the second season’s tensest moment yet, plot events are still building on top of each other with no clear hint of what the series and all its ticking timebomb incident-weaving will result in. I love that DRRR keeps me guessing, and I love how wide its scope has expanded since the start of Shou. Celty can’t help but wonder who half the people who showed up to her hodgepodge house party are, and that’s not just a silly line thrown in there for the hell of it; this show’s cast is humongous now. Not even the series’ oldest main characters know who the other vital parts of their city’s ongoing trainwreck are, and as such DRRR continues to tread ground both new and old regarding character interaction. Moments of quick-witted humor (like those in Celty and Shinra’s apartment) and dangerous provocation (like those between Anri and Izaya…or Izaya and everyone…or Saika and everyone) keep the tone in constant motion, and constantly engaging as a result. All of Durarara’s 2 seasons and 60-some episodes will have built to the end of this cour, and I sure hope it goes out with the bang it seems it wants to. It would take a disaster to turn one of the most consistently fun shounen showdowns out there around now.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

Harubro:
Congrats everyone, for now I’m pretty much in the same boat as you concerning Durarara’s ever-more-confusing plot. The anime has now reached the point in light novels where the translations that I could find four years ago became rather sporadic. I know of some events here and there that will happen in the near future with this series, but the point remains.

The show’s exponentially expanding cast are all striding towards one giant explosive clusterfuck and it is still as fun as ever to watch. Narita has done an excellent job as far as going out of the way to show all the characters’ various perspectives and motives for their sometimes utterly befuddling actions, and I have faith that everything shall stay the course for this last push. My only real complaint is that the OPs have gotten progressively worse since X2 began. I miss Uragiri no Yuuyake and Complications.

Despite that minor complaint, this series has been a gift for years and continues to be after all this time.
Current score: 8/10
Durrr, I’m still watching after 3 episodes.

ERASED (BOKU DAKE GA INAI MACHI)

ERASED 5

Just watch this goddamn show.

Summary: 29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma has a unique ability he calls “Revival:” he sporadically gets sent back in time by a couple minutes, usually noticing something off-putting which he then tries to fix or prevent. After he ends up in the hospital following a Revival-related accident while delivering pizzas, his mother comes to town to visit. She thinks it’s about time her son learns the truth about a kidnapping incident which occurred in their area during his childhood, but right before she can tell him, Satoru ends up Revival-ing back 18 years to the very time period in question. Knowing he only gets sent back as far as he needs to in order to make the necessary changes to his timeline, he’s immediately concerned something is very wrong and may take years to fix. His primary suspect? Classmate Kayo Hinazuki: age 10, a girl with a turbulent home life, and destined to die in a few weeks if he doesn’t figure out how to change their future.

Yatahaze:
We’re intentionally leaving out spoilers in this summary and our posts, but it’ll be kind of hard to dissect ERASED in the future without that, so consider this your one and only spoiler-free recommendation on the matter.

ERASED is an uncharacteristically suspenseful and ambitious show for A-1 Pictures. Pre-Revival timeskip, Satoru is largely apathetic and lonely, not that he particularly cares for attention. He’s a tired and frustrated late 20-something, evident in his just as uncharacteristically sluggish voice acting. Shinnosuke Mitsushima does an absolutely outstanding job nailing this role, and while the voice acting all throughout ERASED is tactful and spot-on, Mitsushima’s delivery goes an extra step beyond his peers’ time and time again. The aesthetics are amazing too; Yuki Kajiura provides an exceptionally reserved soundtrack that lets the show’s dreary winter scenery do most of the talking. Constant shots of low income housing, blankets of silent snow, and a claustrophobically low grey sky set the tone extremely well after the timeskip. The desolate atmosphere and narrowed framing view do a number of goods for scenes where Satoru and his friends (remember, these kids are in elementary school then) are out and enjoying themselves, sparking an unsettling contrast between the nature of these kids’ neighborhoods and the reality that they’ll soon live but, like Satoru himself, not remember until years later.

ERASED simply thrives on this middle ground between childish nostalgia and forthcoming dread. And for all the variables it’s thrown in so far, the show has been remarkably tasteful about how the time travel is presented. Satoru doesn’t have a God complex or want to be the hero; his earlier attempts at fixing the present when his Revival kicked in were reflexive, but this time, he has to plan cautiously and feels a wide range of conflicting emotions. Out of place but at home, living two distinct timelines at once, and with only his own conjecture to guide him on, the emotional weight of this show is fantastically understated considering how poorly the tone could’ve been overdramatized. The series’ visual polish is fantastic, the dialogue is smooth and conversational, and the way everything in this story has been presented so far has been borderline flawless. I can’t divulge too much more than that, so hopefully this much has convinced you to pick up ERASED. Long story short, if you don’t, you’ll be missing 2016’s first legitimately fantastic show and Anime of the Year contender, and that would be a damn shame.
Current score: 9.5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

Harubro:
ERASED is absolutely sublime; my early impression of the show only three episodes in is that it’s a strong contender for Anime of the Season, and of the Year.

This show featured one of the strongest hooks that I’ve ever seen in a pilot episode, and perhaps that’s because of just how well the show had built the suspense in the minutes leading up to Satoru’s 18-year Revival. Now that the viewer and the viewpoint character Satoru are aware of the forthcoming big bad event, there’s a cloud of dread that hangs over the show as low as the clouds in the dreary winter weather. It’s fantastic, and this methodical buildup leaves me wondering just what the next episode has in store.

You can almost feel your blood pressure rise as each episode goes on. Erased’s affinity for suspense alone is worth the watch, but don’t count out how well the whole thing has been directed, composed, animated, and acted out — even the soundtrack is quality, and I was already a huge Kajiura fan before this. Almost everything about this points to it being a strong contender against whatever prospective masterpieces may come out later this year.

You are missing out if you fail to check ERASED out.
Current score: 9/10
Duh, I’m still watching after 3 episodes.

GRIMGAR OF FANTASY AND ASH

Grimgar 1

If your fantasy show’s cast isn’t constantly bumming around in the rain, cold, tired, and dirt poor, you’re probably doing your fantasy show wrong.

Summary: Haruhiro awakes in a strange land with several other people who can’t remember anything about themselves but their names. Upon questioning someone from a nearby town, the group is informed that they’re in the world of Grimgar, and that if they want to get anywhere in this place, they should acquire skills and join the humans’ frontier army. The group reaches a split decision, and while about half of them indeed head off to the frontier, Haruhiro and 5 others stay behind in the peaceful town of Ortana as volunteer soldiers. However, just because the scenery is beautiful and the world is a fantasy doesn’t mean their daily life will be either of those things.

Yatahaze:
It’s gonna be tempting to forever compare light novel fantasy anime to SAO and Log Horizon. A majority of new shows of this ilk will easily fall into a camp similar to one of those two, either an angsty power fantasy inept at storytelling or a lackadaisical slice-of-life adventure where living in a fantasy world really means earning a living in a fantasy world.

And then there’s the bizarre anomaly that is Grimgar.

First things first, I haven’t read this series’ light novels (since when do I ever?) but at no point is Grimgar explicitly called an MMORPG world. Unlike the countless other shows in this trend which try to establish that the world is a game right off the bat, Grimgar is, as of right now at least, just another world. That’s it. And while the protagonists of stories like this either say “I need to get back to the real world,” or “I like this world better than the real world, let’s stay here instead,” Grimgar’s main group almost instantly forgets that they’re from another world in the first place. They soon lack the knowledge that they even have a place to go back to, and things exclusive to that world (such as video games and cell phones) are offhandedly mentioned but immediately second-guessed, because though the words are still floating around in their heads, the objects they signify don’t exist here. This extends to their core personalities too; you get the sense that the six protagonists have some idea of how they tend to act and what they enjoy, but anything specific is shrouded in doubt. At the same time, I’m continuously getting the sense that these are people, not just characters playing up the most dramatic aspects of their personality for the sake of standing out. Well…besides Shihoru, but that’s not too important.

An odd moment or two aside, the six leads get along well and generally seem well-adjusted to their sudden change of setting, helping each other out along the way. Aesthetic-wise, Grimgar has a lot of good things going for it and it’s easily the prettiest show airing this season, chock full of calm watercolor sketch art. The soundtrack is nice and warm too, rounded out by fantasy-tinged folk numbers and lengthier pop insert songs.

Why does the show feel so empty then?

Cause in spite of all its successes, Grimgar still comes off as rather lifeless. For each crowning moment of awesome it showcases (like the group becoming terrified of hunting down a goblin who they’re forced to recognize is a living creature), there’s a negating cliché one, like when Ranta, basically the show’s half-Favaro, half-Tarou character, tries to peep on the girls bathing and all that stupid shit. It’s like Grimgar is just a step away from letting the characters fully take their own reins, but the direction is too subdued half the time to seize the potential, letting the sextet just wander around in character development hell (which is apparently the most visually pleasing hell out there). Maybe more establishing moments will come later on, but for now it almost feels like Grimgar knows what not to be but doesn’t have strong enough core writing to make its world its own unique place. I’m hopeful the series will find itself, because at the moment, the potential is certainly there for this show to turn out well. I just can’t tell if it’s biding its time for a better moment to shine or if it genuinely doesn’t know what it wants to do.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

Harubro:
Oh hey, another light novel adaptation set in a fantasy world that seems like its straight out of an MMO.

buuuuut….

Grimgar different feels different from the other shows that you and I have already inevitably compared it to. The characters even stated that the world feels like a game before they came to realize they have no recollection of the world they left behind. Despite all this, it does appear so far that Grimgar is not just another “Oh no, we’re stuck in a video game” show, rather it seems to be a good old-fashioned “We’ve been transported to another world through strange circumstances” show. Good shit.

Sure enough, even though Grimgar is a pretty world to look at, life there sure doesn’t seem to be all that much of a fantasy, as we’ve spent the first few episodes getting introduced to the plight of Haruhiro and crew’s poor asses struggling to get themselves established and starve to death. Naturally, this being an extremely MMO-like world, they all pick various roles for themselves and attempt to go goblin hunting. You’d think it’s a fool-proof plan, right?

Nah. Shit hit the fan spectacularly as we got to see one of the more visceral yet believable fights I’ve seen in a while. A single goblin almost manhandles our group of young upstarts as both the party and the goblin fight to stay alive. The show did a good job of demonstrating the characters’ fear during that sequence, and the relative sense of shock that remained once the battle had ended.

It’s part supernatural mystery and part fantasy slice-of-life, and definitely a light novel adaptation, going off the expected A-1 ass focus, gratuitous peeping scene and its aftermath. Yata is on to something with how dry the content of the show can be at times. Still though, Grimgar is a fun watch, and is probably one of the shows I look forward to more than others this season.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

HAIKYUU!! SECOND SEASON

vlcsnap-2016-01-29-02h47m52s658

Tanaka is my spirit animal.

Harubro:
I mean, the first season won an award from me last year, so of course I was going to watch the inevitable continuation of the Volley-bros show. The show’s as enjoyable as a sports-centric anime can get, with just enough un-sports stuff on the side to hold on to anyone’s attention. I do miss the Spyair OP and the Galileo Galilei ED, though.

Let’s not forget that Haikyuu is also a veritable cornucopia of reaction faces.

It’s been fun watching the Karasuno Volley-bros develop more and more tools and tactics to screw with their opponents on their way to Nationals, but it’s also fun to see the various competitors’ vastly differing play styles, which when they oppose one another offer some pretty neat insights into some of the technicalities of a sport I’ve always dug growing up. Karasuno’s match against Johzenji was a great example, with the latters’ freewheeling and disorganized strategies adding a fun breath of fresh air to the rather straight-laced play styles of the teams we’ve encountered up until now.

If you wanna watch a sports show, Haikyuu should definitely be one of your first considerations.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after a two-cour first season and 14 episodes

HARUCHIKA

vlcsnap-2016-01-28-18h41m59s552

what any good viewer should do with this show: kick it far away.

Summary: The Wind Instrument Club Haruta Kamijou is in is on the verge of being shut down, but at the last minute, his childhood friend Chika Homura decides to join. She’s a newcomer to flute, but as long as the club has at least five members, they’ll be allowed to continue, so she joins right away. At the same time, their club room’s chalkboard is vandalized with a musical passage scrawled in red paint. Can the club solve who wrote it and what it means?

Yatahaze:
I’m assuming the musical passage cipher is just one mystery of what will come to be many, but I won’t be sticking around to see the other ones. Haruchika’s tone is extremely dull. Chika’s the only even remotely lively character of the bunch, and to make up for everyone else’s monotony, she’s pushed to the limit, to the point where her narration just comes off as jarring. Her “I was a sports chick, but now I want to be a cute girl” philosophy is vapid, the show’s few attempts at comedy all fall flat (ba dum tiss), and the drama is predictable and tame. I hope the art – which is easily P.A. Works’ ugliest in years – speaks for itself. I know Haruchika’s far from the worst show out there this season, but it’s easily the most boring one I sat through for this roundup. I have better things to do with my time, and frankly, I think you do too. Instead, I recommend you watch Hyouka and Sound! Euphonium if you haven’t already. Between them, you’ll get the best of both the worlds Haruchika is trying to be and failing tediously at.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 1 episode

Harubro:
The fhána OP can’t even save this corny ass swing-and-a-miss by P.A. Works. That’s really all I can muster for Haruchika, I’d just be repeating what Yata did a fine job of stating beforehand.

*sigh*

I miss Shirobako.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 3 episodes

KONOSUBA (KONO SUBARASHII SEKAI NI SHUKUFUKU WO)

Konosuba 2

Because chuunibyou apparently exists even within fantasy worlds.

Summary: Kazuma Satou is your typical otaku shut-in. The one day he goes outside, he gets in a traffic accident and dies. Typical. Then a pretentious goddess named Aqua offers him a choice between going to Heaven (which she insists is quite dull) or reviving in another world, where he can go on adventures to defeat the Demon King! Typical. And as one last gift, she informs him that he can only take one thing with him to the new world. His choice: Aqua herself. Typical?

Yatahaze:
Ah, loopholes.

Konosuba is exactly the kind of show it advertises itself as; a light novel-adapted fantasy world harem with an otaku male protagonist and a bit of fanservice. It’s not at all original.

But despite that, it’s occasionally pretty funny. I rarely watch anime of this nature because of the whole power fantasy vibe they often emit, so it’s a nice change of pace to see Aqua actively make fun of Kazuma for his previous otaku lifestyle. The group’s two (or three?) new additions all have momentarily funny quirks – I’m just not sure if they’ll grow old early on or continue to provoke the chuckles for a whole season. There’s not gonna be any grand character development or huge narrative twist as far as I can tell. Konosuba relies on comedy, and its specific brand of comedy relies on the viewer’s genre savviness and the main characters taking verbal cheap shots at each other while making silly faces. As such, you should already be able to tell if this show is for you or not. Konosuba is nothing but a lighthearted and sometimes mean-spirited fantasy world show, but I’ll give its first two episodes the benefit of the doubt anyway; I can’t deny they made me giggle.
Current score: 5.5/10
Still watching after 2 episodes

Harubro:
…aaaaaaaand here we have our gratuitous “stuck in an actual video game world” show.

Thank the lord that Konosuba plays up that plot for keks rather than drama, because this show has shown a consistent ability to have me on the floor laughing my ass off. I hadn’t planned on watching this to begin with, but this is a strong participant in the “ehh, what the hell, I’ve got nothing better to do” category of show.

Though it’s set up like a harem show, it’s one of the glorious ones of that category where the show just keeps giving the protagonist the business, with Aqua’s smug teasing of Kazuma shortly after his arrival in limbo, and his teasing of Aqua after the latter realizes the gravity of her situation afterward both setting a very nice tone for the show right off the bat.

Konosuba ups the ante further after it introduces Megumin, an explosion magic user with a case of chuunibyou, and Darkness, a masochistic knight. Each person in this newfound group is completely and utterly incompetent in their own endearing way, and the show makes great strides in pointing at them and laughing as hard as it can.

This show boasts probably my favorite ED this season, and has proven to be a freaking gold mine of silly faces and over-the-top exaggerated reactions with quality comedic voice acting to boot, but its crowing achievement thus far?

Cabbages.

If you don’t already know what I’m talking about, I do hope you get a chance to find out. You won’t be sorry.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

MYRIAD COLORS PHANTOM WORLD

Summary: Following a containment breach at a bio-lab that left Japan’s millennial generation with superpowers and the ability to see previously hidden “Phantoms” (most of which are, if not evil, then to some degree dangerous), kids have started going around hunting them with the goal of sealing them in a different realm. Haruhiko Ichijou, Mai Kawakami, and their mascot-like good Phantom fairy friend Ruru head Team E at their school’s Phantom-hunting club, and though they’re not total embarrassments, they could certainly stand to improve. New member Reina Izumi and (one can assume) soon-to-be member Koito Minase might have what they need.

Yatahaze:
Might as well address the elephant in the room right now. Yes, this is KyoAni’s first offering of the year. Yes, it’s only a fanservice fantasy. And yes, it’s easily their worst product in years.

Yet believe it or not, it’s still surprisingly watchable.

That shouldn’t be a surprise on the visual front, because KyoAni are KyoAni and they have their reputation for a reason; even if the source material they have to work with is inherently poor (as is the case with this show), the studio does their all to make it look absolutely beautiful. That’s really the first thing to notice about Phantom World; it’s got a vibrant, poppy color palette, detailed character animation, and sublime battle choreography. In lesser hands the characters in a show of this nature wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, but KyoAni’s knack for subtle character expression changes and energetic transactions breathe fresh life into them. The plot – or what little trace there is of one at the moment – is expectedly bland, but I can ride this train for a little while longer before demanding that more needs to happen. When KyoAni branches out from grounded drama by including fantasy variables, the results are often frustratingly mixed (case in point, look at Kyoukai no Kanata and Amagi Brilliant Park), but despite their inconsistencies and the former’s terrible ending, both remained series that I wanted to continue watching until their finale. Despite the fanservice, Phantom World’s already looking like it’ll be in the same boat, and frankly, I’ve made my peace with that. It could be much, much worse.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 3 episodes

Harubro:
Even though this was a KyoAni title, I went into Myriad Colors Phantom World not expecting a whole lot, because I figured it’d be one of those shows.

I’m glad I was right, because I can appreciate this show a lot more for what it is. Colorful Fanservice World is a shamelessly silly chuuni harembait show, and I kind of love that the show made it clear from the get-go that it is just that, and not attempting to be anything more. No beating around the bush here, just lots of Phantoms, a bunch of long-winded supernatural spells, flashy explosions and some neat martial arts sequences mixed with nonsensical fanservice bits, all delivered with KyoAni’s somewhat wry and tactful style of comedy. Another plus is though the girls may not really show all that much disdain for Haruhiko, our central male protagonist, the events of the show tend to treat him as a punching bag, and I like when harembait shows go that route.

When one sees “Myriad Colors” in the title of a show, especially a KyoAni show no less, they’d presume it’d be a pretty show. Despite how the content may lack at times, KyoAni shows are always a feast for the eyes, and this one doesn’t disappoint, certainly living up to the “Myriad Colors” bit of its title.

I really could not care less for this plot or where it goes, but it is pretty fun and definitely fills that middle of the week pick-me-up after what’s usually a tough start to the work week for me. I didn’t ask for much from Colorful Fanservice World, and I’m glad I didn’t, because I’d be missing out on an idiotically fun chuuni show. I’ll be sticking with this one, barring some manner of catastrophe.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 3 episodes.

SEKKOU BOYS

Sekkou Boys

Need a hand?

Summary: Ishimoto Miki recently graduated from a terrible few years at art school. She was forced to draw boring sculptures just to get into one, was barely accepted by a low-ranking university, and once she arrived she was just subjected to endless critique. But the experience taught her perseverance and willpower, stuff she’ll apparently need as the new manager for a popular idol group, the Sekkou Boys.

The Sekkou Boys are four immobile talking Roman busts, by the way. So more sculptures. Oh, poor Ishi.

Yatahaze:
Haru told me Sekkou Boys would be Anime of the Year 2016. I thought it sounded silly as a novelty show, something worth watching since its episodes were only 8 minutes long, but I wasn’t expecting to actually laugh at it too much.

I was wrong.
Sekkou Boys is ceaselessly hilarious.

The concept is so absurd but surprisingly packed ripe with potential for gags. The four “boys” are St. Giorgio, Mars, Hermes, and Medici, and they have precisely the personalities you’d expect them to. Honestly, the thing that makes me crack up time and time again is how insanely hammy the voice acting gets while the busts just sit there with the same pupil-less (except for my man Giorgio, whose scenes are even funnier) expressions.

This show is so stupid.

Go watch it.
Current score: 10/10
You can think I’m fucking joking all you want but I’m still watching after 3 episodes

Harubro:
This has given me life anew.

Comedy isn’t dead. Far, far from dead actually.

Sekkou Boys gives me hope that there are still truly ambitious people out there. It is a shining ray of light in a cold and inhospitable world of tasteless and crude comedy. Sekkou Boys transcends not just the genres of comedy and music, it transcends the medium of anime itself. God bless the saints who have delivered this gift unto us. Millennia of human culture and innovation have culminated in the single most ambitious and original endeavor ever committed to animation. Sekkou Boys shall stand forever as our species’ greatest creative legacy. Our only duty is to behold and bask in this its everlasting glory.

Sekkou Boys might not only be the magnum opus of idol group anime, but may certainly be the magnum opus of all anime.

Truly, we all are not worthy.
Current score: 10/10
Watch Sekkou Boys.

SHOUWA GENROKU RAKUGO SHINJUU

Rakugo

(raku)Go home, kiddo.

Summary:  When an energetic and rambunctious man is released from jail, he seeks out a traditional rakugo storyteller, Yakumo Yuurakutei, who previously did a performance where he was an inmate. Determined to leave his gang by becoming Yakumo’s apprentice, the man (whom is later referred to as Yotarou) is reluctantly accepted by the master, but he has to prove his worth at rakugo and his conviction to tie up a few loose ends regarding some family drama in the Yuurakutei household.

Yatahaze:
Alongside ERASED, Rakugo seemed to be the show with the most amount of promise heading into this season. It’s an adult drama about actual living concerns and art, and I (like many comparatively older anime viewers) tend to fancy that.

And I’m glad people seem to be enjoying this show, but I just didn’t.

I think a lot of that lies with the specific tradition this show is about; rakugo is a form of storytelling native to and more or less confined to Japan. It’s one-man verbal comedy basically, with the rakugo performer (the rakugoka) voicing and taking on the mannerisms of every character involved, all while sitting on a mat. There is very little body movement and it can be hard to follow. And I have little doubt that Rakugo is presenting this art the best that it can, but that’s the issue. I personally found it dull to watch and found the rakugo stories predictable, and if the series will continue to show full performances the way it did in this long (nearly 50-minute) first episode, it just won’t hold my attention.

If Rakugo’s character interactions were fantastic outside the rakugo performances, maybe I’d still consider sticking around, but I found many of those conversations to be dry and awkwardly directed too, transitioning from scene to irrelevant following scene far too often. I already have a firm handle on who all these characters are, but for a josei show, the cast acts disappointingly forced. I feel like all these characters’ roles are just that – roles. By the end of this stretched out debut, Yotarou’s newbieness, Yakumo’s elderly wisdom, Konatsu’s drive to prove herself (in between cigs and alcohol), and the gang boss’ pining to get his comrade back all felt like empty caricatures of real people with no underlying spirit. As odd as this may sound, it was almost as if the show itself was the content of a rakugo performance, but even the occasional motion and different voice actors didn’t help drag the tone of the dialogue up from monotony.

I wanted to like this, seriously. I did. But one lengthy episode has already made it clear that despite everything in the synopses sounding up my alley, this show is just not for me.
Final score: 5/10
Dropped after 1 episode

SNOW WHITE WITH THE RED HAIR 2 (AKAGAMI NO SHIRAYUKI-HIME 2)

Shirayuki

You dropped something.

Summary: Picking up where Snow White With The Red Hair’s first cour left off last September, Shirayuki and Obi are off on a diplomatic trip to Tanbarun to visit Prince Raj, while behind in Clarines, a young thief named Kazuki has his eyes on snatching Shirayuki away from Prince Zen.

Yatahaze:
By the time Snow White With The Red Hair wrapped up its first half last fall, I had just about had enough of it. There wasn’t enough variety or drive in the show’s closing episodes, and I was frustrated to see that despite Shirayuki’s supposed growth and independence, at the end of the day she always seemed to end up the damsel in distress. It’s what the shoujo fans wanted I guess, but it’s disappointing to see a series play at Zen not always being able to be the hero yet still end with Shirayuki getting saved by him (or another male in close vicinity). At the very least, the show looked gorgeous and its larger political world, while peaceful, still felt real, the princes bogged down with diplomatic relations, internal obligations, and stacks upon stacks of paperwork. I wanted Snow White With The Red Hair to thrive outside its hackneyed and starry-eyed perfect romance bubble, and I knew that if the show spent time doing anything else – like focusing on Shirayuki’s herb studies, some of the side cast, or even a visit to Tanbarun, I mean anything – it would be more memorable and more enjoyable than what it instead opted to do.

With the threat of Kazuki lurking in the background, I fear that this cour hasn’t learned its lesson, but at the same time, everything else so far has been consistently more engaging and fun than much of the first season. The decision to go back to Tanbarun and see Raj (while sort of frustrating because it was coordinated by Izana and that guy is so poorly acted), is exactly the kind of development I was hoping to see this cour. Raj is a complete klutz, out of touch with realistic expectations. He’s like the Ethan Couch of this series’ world, and thus it’s hilarious to see him fumble his way through diplomacy and interpersonal relationships that even his second-hand-man mocks him about. The dude gives so much exuberance to the show on his own, and Obi’s always been one of the more interesting fellows at Wistal, so their little party’s shenanigans boost this cour’s score for the time being. At this point, I still don’t see any evidence that Snow White With The Red Hair will bother correcting its long-term issues, but it’s got momentum on its side now and is very visually pleasing to tune into either way, so I’ll likely be sticking with it to completion.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 3 episodes of the 2nd cour, 15 episodes total

Harubro:
Man, this season is jam-packed with sequels, and I am sufficiently pleased that Snow White with the Red Hair has returned to provide me with my much-needed romantic fluff breath of fresh air show of the week!

So what’s going on with Shirayuki’s new season?

Actual diplomatic business stuff, with Shirayuki and Obi being tasked with a trip to the former’s home country of Tanbarun to meet up with good old friend Prince Raj. As Yata touched on, now that Raj has sort of chilled out on the creep factor he had in the first episode, his boisterousness and clumsiness give a much needed change in tone to a show that sort of lacked in the personality department, with Obi being the notable exemption. All the while, a mysterious pretty boy by the name of Kazuki appears, with some sort of intention of taking Shirayuki away for reasons yet to be explained, so there appears to be a decent little arc forming up for Snow White in the very near future.

This show’s already proven itself a worthy enough watch, so I have no qualms about sticking around to see what happens from here on.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after a 12 episode first cour, 1 OAD in between, and 3 episodes.

That’s all for this time, folks! See you later this season.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s