Spring 2016 Final Thoughts

It’s getting hot out there, and with the approach of summer, at long last Haru and Yata return to run down their belated (but complete) thoughts on any shows they’ve continued since the start of the spring season. It may have been a while, but many of this season’s offerings were consistent, which makes catching up with you all just a bit easier. What came out on top? What fell on its face? What stuck to a comfortable middle ground? Read on and find out on this update with For Great Justice!

Header

ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM SECOND SEASON

vlcsnap-2016-07-01-02h51m03s709

Tentacles that you can trust, I swear.

Harubro:
As I had somewhat feared, Assassination Classroom decided to use its fourth cour to sprint to the finish line, which feels particularly hasty for me seeing as the manga wrapped up only a couple of months prior. Naturally, this means that some bits of fun character moments got glossed over or just skipped outright, but it’s happened before with AssClass’ anime adapation, so it was something to be expected.

It feels as though the suspense that was ever-present with the final arc of the manga was kind of spoiled by the rushed pace of the plot. It seemed like Koro-sensei getting isolated at the campus by the barrier and the E Class’ infiltration of said restricted area were supposed to be more of a struggle, because it actually was just that in the manga. The anime just kind of hastily charged into Koro-sensei’s final battle with Yanagisawa and the Reaper, a battle which ended up unfolding in a rather underwhelming fashion in the anime, perhaps due to the studio’s lack of knowledge concerning lighting and contrast. I know that has been an ever-present issue with AssClass from episode one, but I know you guys could’ve done better with that one, Lerche.

However, as atonement for that poor performance, the End Class’ final moment with Koro-sensei turned into a real tear-jerker as the teacher bid his farewell to the kids by taking attendance one final time. Then came the big moment, a culmination of the hard work and antics put forth by the students. Mourning scenes can be rough for me when done right, and sure enough, this one nailed it.

Things brighten up a whole bunch in the finale, though. The kids attend their school’s graduation ceremony after which the jerkasses from the main campus shield the End Class from some tenaciously nosy journalists in something of a reconciliatory moment, which I guess is nice. The remainder of the episode occurs some seven years after the Assassination Classroom’s graduation, and basically unfolds as a “What are they up to now?” feature showing the kids all grown up and chasing after their respective dreams, most prominently featuring a now short-haired Nagisa as he follows in Koro-sensei’s footsteps to teach a class of less-than-upstanding guys, to whom our boy is promptly forced to demonstrate who’s the new boss around there.

AssClass has definitely had its share of highs and lows, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how this show has fully its course. I honestly couldn’t ask for more from a show with madman Seiji Kishi at the helm. I’m definitely gonna miss the Koro-sensei shaming the most out of everything this show had to offer.

This was a fun ride while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end.
Final score: 6.5/10

BIG ORDER

vlcsnap-2016-06-27-01h35m33s972

basically mfw watching all this hot garbage

Harubro:
Hooooly shit, what in the hell inspired such a hateful work as this? It’s been ages since I’ve gone all the way through a show that was as actively and harmfully incompetent as Big Order was all the way through its atrocious run.

I mean, I knew full well what I was in for knowing that this show was shat out of the same sociopathic mind that laid the rotten egg that was Future Diary, so it’s not as though I had lofty expectations of this to begin with.

This show gleefully ticked all of the “Fucking Awful” qualification boxes, and then ticked them some more, and proceeded to make up its own additions to the list and tick those as well. Where would I start? The grimdark edgelord plot? The young male power fantasy, cut and paste disposable female companions and the shamelessly flagrant “she’s my sister, but we’re not related by blood, so it’s totally okay” incest peppered throughout? The endless barrage of plot ex machinas that somehow willed this show to its clusterfuck of a finish line? The laughably bad motivations of all parties involved in that final grand clusterfuck? How about the part where the protagonist impregnated a girl (but not like that) only for there to be no actual baby so that inevitably led to another very questionable scene later on where the girl forced herself upon unwitting protagonist in an attempt to actually conceive one after she developed a very unhealthy obsession with the dude for whatever goddamned reason?

What the in the actual fuck was the point of all that? What was this show trying to prove? Why did the creators feel that including all these horrific things was vital to the show? Why was this committed to animation? How in the actual fuck do people think that Big Order is anything other than an utterly appalling train wreck?

Big Order was a total shit-show, and ended up not even being a satisfying hate-watch, if only because of my recognition of how god-damned depraved this show was in retrospect. Literally anything out there is an improvement over this, even goddamned Mars of Destruction. Shit shows such as Big Order are why anime doesn’t get taken seriously.
Final score: 0/10 – I gave it a 1 on MAL because it can’t go any fucking lower.

BUNGOU STRAY DOGS

vlcsnap-2016-06-27-01h49m48s272

same, bro

Yatahaze:
I’m kind of unsure what happened here. Two episodes in, I remarked Bungou Stray Dogs wasn’t anything groundbreaking or superlative, but that didn’t stop me from still having a good time with it. Over the weeks that followed though, it grew off me at a crazy rate. At the time I remember thinking the pacing went whack; scenes which felt like they should’ve been condensed into about a minute or two’s worth were dragged out to several times that, and the series’ reliance on repetition became grating once it applied to more than just its gag humor. Constant episodic inner-monologue reminders of “how hard Atsushi had it” being abandoned by his orphanage never landed since there was nowhere near enough detail or emotional attachment to warrant them, and by the time the series’ main antagonists were introduced, the show’s desperate attempts to elevate the intensity felt awkward and misdirected.

And indeed, that’s the reason I dropped this. Bungou’s first few episodes functioned more effectively as quirky comedy than anything else, but unlike another certain quirky comedy from this season (*cough* Mayoiga), it quickly threw that out the window and leaned headfirst into a dull action plot with unearned character drama on the side. It became a complete chore to sit through, and by the time I realized the series was going to keep chasing its own tail, I decided to leave (the) Dogs in the yard and head back inside. Considering Harubro’s score after sitting through it to completion, I think I’m justified in giving up on it early.
Dropped after 5 episodes.
Final score: 5/10

Harubro:
For the first three episodes, I legitimately enjoyed Bungou Stray Dogs. On top of the visuals being mostly on par for a Studio Bones show, the premise seemed passable, the characters were lively enough, and the execution was decent enough. However, everything after that point is an entirely different story. Perhaps I’d oversold the show to myself on what I thought were some lively performances on the part of the voice actors early on in the series, because I came away from this disappointed.

Disappointed in what, though? That I had fooled myself into thinking this had potential to be a very good show? Or was I disappointed that I’d wasted my precious time, anticipation, and my patience on what turned out to be a rare stinker by Studio Bones? Was it my high expectations of them following a couple of big hits in Shirayuki and BBB?

The only element of Dogs I feel is worth praising is the okay-quality soundtrack, which I think was the thing that prolonged my ever-fading attention span whilst trying not to fall asleep as this played towards season’s end, but even that aspect is outdone easily by other shows that ran this season.

This show just sours on a viewer like myself after the slapstick and the sob story grow repetitive and what little logic the show had gets thrown out the window. I’m pretty puzzled that a second season of this has already been greenlit, but you can rest assured that I won’t be anywhere near that thing. There’s nothing really motivating me to be interested about more of this.

Bungou Disappointment Dogs will ultimately go down as one of those also-ran shows that I’ll forget everything about once the summer season hits its stride. Hell, I’m ready to forget about this show right now. I’m not even sure if I think that it’s a shame about that either, as I just don’t think the potential was actually there for this show. Maybe next time, Bones.
Final score: 4/10

CONCRETE REVOLUTIO: THE LAST SONG

ConRevo Cap

“what this campaign is about is a concrete revolutio” – Bernby Sandpapers probably

Yatahaze:
Before starting on a list of Concrete Revolutio’s shortcomings, I want to emphasize that it’s a bold and one-of-a-kind show. Sometimes those qualities come at the cost of coherence, and indeed, that’s where most of ConRevo’s problems lie. At several times between both seasons, I could understand the occasional complaint that the Bureau members were nothing more than talking heads for different views of justice. I can’t deny I sometimes felt similarly about that, but since ConRevo’s imposing clash of perspectives was practically the point of the show, it’s both a blessing and a curse, robbing from much of the cast the ability to develop as people and forcing them to stick to their guns. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that their personalities were often confined to their face value-ideals, and any change to or expansion on those ideals was almost purely plot-driven.

Which in the end is somewhat strange, because the series’ overt central “plot” was far less gripping than its clusters of episodic adventures featuring one-off characters who were able to go untouched by the show’s talking head problem. The Last Song arguably fared better than ConRevo’s first season in this regard, with figures such as Olympic athletes, a widower trying to regain his young daughter’s appreciation, and a Vietnam War veteran suffering from PTSD (directed by Gen Urobuchi, no less) all stealing the show as Jiro and his frenemies darted around them, bouncing tension and throwing thematic gut-punches at each other. My issue with ConRevo ultimately comes down to direction; not necessarily visual direction (that was fine), but emotional direction, as several crucial events in the narrative didn’t come off that way. There was a major lack of narrative punch, and its inclination towards anti-chronological storytelling made everything that much harder to piece together. I mentioned before that trying to dissect ConRevo in writing is a nigh-impossible task without a completely focused watch and several pauses for note-taking. It might be too much for the average viewer, and whether it is or not, I think it’s safe to say that the amount of information this series shoves at you is much greater than that of your average show. At this point the question becomes “Does ConRevo at least make good on all its threads and themes? Does it really come together in the end?”

The short answer is a frustrating “kind of.”  As far as strict plot detail goes, the series’ final antagonist suffers from the same characterization problems as some of the protagonists do, and it doesn’t help matters that ConRevo’s knack for playing its backstory cards close to its chest just made his reveal at the end of the series come off as an underdeveloped “okay…?” For all the spectacular buildup across its two seasons, ConRevo barely went out with a fizzle, much less a bang. But The Last Song’s last note does (somehow) resolve the chord; for a series that ceaselessly poked at how vastly different people’s notions of justice were, the ultimate conclusion it comes to – that there can be no concrete (pun intended) end to conflict, but the present will keep moving on as long as there are people who look to improve it – is a poignant one. Whether it’s the manipulation of entertainment to influence the masses, political ramifications from a world in the midst of the Cold War, or environmental pushback against a rapidly industrializing nation, ConRevo has so much to say, and it says it with so much heart (and in several moments this season, absolutely stunning animation) that even if all the pieces don’t neatly come together in the end, the messages it’s trying to convey still get across with heaps of flair. With more time and polish, the series could’ve been something utterly incredible, but settling for “a highly intriguing, unique, and contemplation-encouraging watch” is hardly something I can fault it for. Even considering all its flaws, it still manages to squeak by as my runner-up favorite show of this season, and I would passionately suggest you give it a try.
Final score: 8.5/10

FLYING WITCH

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 1.06.13 PM

Little Red Flying Hood meets her idol and co.

Yatahaze:
Man, talk about not realizing what you have until it’s gone. Before this season, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of iyashikei; literally “healing,” it’s a term for media designed to relax and relieve the stress of its audience. Like any genre tag, wars will inevitably erupt somewhere if they haven’t already over what constitutes iyashikei; does something funny or adorable that in effect soothes a viewer count even if it’s not overtly crafted to have that effect? Is your average cute girls doing cute things show iyashikei? Is your average upbeat comedy? Is fucking Mushi-shi?

Those are questions I’ll leave you to answer, because Flying Witch, for all intents and purposes, will from now on be my go-to example when trying to explain this genre to someone. It’s not mindblowing. It’s not particularly ambitious. It’s certainly not dramatic or tension-driven, and it isn’t even all that funny for the most part; much of the series’ comedy comes in simply thinking “haha, wow, I so feel that shit” at whatever mundane activity is currently shown on-screen.

What Flying Witch is, and abundantly so, is charming, calm, and relatable, always either firmly planted in reality or just casually drooping one foot outside it. For a series about some witches, their acquaintances, and their family, it stays a rather small world with minimal, controlled appearances of magic that engross through simplicity and nature rather than complex rituals or omnipotent power. The magic of Flying Witch is rarely the point; what really sells this show are its delightful characters, from the cool deadpan bro to the awestruck child to the “why the fuck do I hang out with you” drinking buddy to their chummy parents and beyond. I’m especially amazed with how well the people working on this portrayed the personality of the series’ familiars, especially the cats Chito & Kenny, which are like, the most genuinely pet-like pets I’ve ever seen in an anime. Their mannerisms and movements are perfect.

That perfection is hardly limited to the cast either; the whole city of Hirosaki provides lush scenery within its everyday mountain town vibe and breathes extra life into the setting, while the series’ score and composition are also wonderful season standouts. J.C. Staff’s artwork is consistently gorgeous and the cast’s character animation is minimal but purposeful and packed with personality. Despite me generally not being a fan of the “combine two skit ideas into one disconnected episode” format, Flying Witch made great use of it, allowing just enough time for its chosen subject of the day to arrive, get comfortable, and then wrap itself up before things got too monotonous or dragged out. From gardening and going on walks to riding skeletal flying whales and visiting supernatural cafés, Flying Witch near-flawlessly contained just the right mixture of wonder and downtime, and I can’t accuse it of ever once trying too hard to force a comedic idea or something out of character upon its cast. It’s not a show that will appeal to everyone, and its first few episodes are among its weakest, but when it hits its slow, relaxing stride, that iyashikei, that healing, will come flowing to you like a school of fish in the ground. (Trust me, that makes sense, I swear).

All I expected out of Flying Witch was a solid and consistent slice-of-life show to unwind with on my weekends. I want to say I got more, but that’s not entirely accurate. Like the show itself, Flying Witch capitalized on a “less is more” philosophy, and it mastered nearly all it set out to do over the last three months, and that’s the greater success. When you want a laid back, warm, and beautiful recent series to brighten up your days, you probably won’t find something much better than this. I feel no shame in claiming that this was my favorite anime of the spring and an underrated contender for Anime of the Year.
Final score: 9/10

Harubro:
In such trying times as these when negative news seems nearly constant, I am truly thankful that we were blessed with such a relentlessly positive show as Flying Witch.

Sure, it’s not the most exciting show by a long shot, nor was it the prettiest, but it compensated for that with a lot of heart and a cast of characters brimming with personality. Don’t we all wish we could live the damn life the way Akane did almost every episode following her introduction?

One of my very favorite things to see with shows that have a supernatural element as a norm about them is when they go out of their way to demonstrate the normalcy of the supernatural thing. Take BBB for example, with how you’d regularly see shots of otherworldly creatures and normal people walking amongst each other without a care in the world. I love that kind of stuff from the bottom of my heart, and much to my enjoyment, Flying Witch very happily indulged in this activity, with the small-scale magic spells or even the casual acknowledgement of witches by the non-witch town folk.

The moment that this show truly heralded its arrival with was that oh-so triumphant moment when Makoto yanked that mandrake out of the ground in the first episode, then after the thing let out its shriek, offered it to the bewildered non-witch Nao, who very understandably declined the witch’s offer. Another great moment early on is when the quite imposing looking Harbinger of Spring arrives at the Kuramoto residence where our rookie witch is staying. The very young Chinatsu is frightened of him at first, but then Makoto arrives and begins speaking politely with the Harbinger as the two exchange offerings for one another. With events like these, Flying Witch does a good job of establishing a sense of awe about it, which it bottles up to save for moments later on, such as the hidden cafe, the whale in the sky, or even the drunk groundfish in the final episode.

Even the less notable moments of Flying Witch are wonderful, like Makoto learning a crow-summoning spell from her sister only to have it backfire somewhat, or Inukai telling everyone’s fortunes and getting a certain Nao a tad too hopeful, or even the bits spent hard at work on the farm or at the orchards. The flavors of local life are also present, such as the moments where Kei or his father’s Tsugaru dialect show up. Little details like that are always a plus.

Something worth applauding with Flying Witch is that the voice actors for Makoto, Kei, and Akane made their debuts with this show, which warrants a tip of the cap, considering how natural the three sounded. A couple of other relative newcomers got a chance in the spotlight, too. Gotta wish them all the very best to them going forward.

Flying Witch is a very exquisite example of Slice of Life done right by J.C. Staff. I need more, guys.
Final score: 9/10

HAVEN’T YOU HEARD? I’M SAKAMOTO

Sakamoto Cap

“Your fresh steaming pile of shit is ready, boys.”

Yatahaze:
I’m almost amazed by how quickly my opinion on Sakamoto flip-flopped. The series’ first episode painted him as an untouchably cool enigma, the kind of stud you either wish you were or wish you were on good terms with. There was a stupidly charming positivity to its premiere, a feeling that whatever the world may throw Sakamoto’s way, he could deal with it without breaking a sweat and gain himself more admirers in each dilemma’s wake.

As it often turns out though, the personality traits that often make a kid like this cool in real life overlap with those of a self-righteous asshole. It soon became clear that Sakamoto was no exception. That didn’t inherently ruin the show; after all, there are certainly ways to play that card well for a series like this; he could’ve been an accidental self-righteous asshole who meant the best with his intentions but just couldn’t seem to convey them without twisting things his way, or he could’ve been a passive-aggressive on/off playful asshole à la Nichibros.

Instead, Sakamoto was (and pretty knowingly from what I could gather) either a self-centered dick or scheming stoic pest. I didn’t stick around long enough to see if he went through some sort of redemptive arc, but the way his portrayal so brazenly changed from episode 1 to its follow-ups was a massive turn-off. It didn’t help matters that the series’ portrayal of everyone else was so ugly and low too, as if to try and prop Sakamoto himself up even higher by making all his peers settle for the lowest common denominator. The show’s skits didn’t flow well from that first episode on, and even before this production took a class in mean-spiritedness, its aesthetics were hardly a strong point, so when the other shoe dropped, I felt no reservations about kicking this off my watch list.
Dropped after 3 episodes.
Final score: 4/10

JOKER GAME

Joker Game Cap

“We all spy with our little eyes the one little guy who’s gonna say bye.”

Yatahaze:
Usually when I say a show is reliable or well-rounded, that’s meant to be taken as a compliment. Joker Game is certainly both of those things, and I definitely want to acknowledge that.

But hopefully the underlying sentiment of “goddamnit, this show could’ve been something much grander than it ended up as” still leaks through, because seriously, the pieces were all there. I.G. is near faultless on the direction side, and the show’s heart is certainly in the right place, taking on inter-World War authoritarianism and showing firsthand the dangers of the hierarchies and hive mindedness it creates. More than that, it was able to consistently contrast its characters’ ideologies and personalities in a manner which supported Yuuki’s persistence to stick to a “do not die, do not kill” philosophy.

Ultimately, aside from a few caricature-ish antagonists scattered across the series’ myriad of episodic features, there’s not a lot to criticize Joker Game on as far as characters go, though this comes with the disclaimer that Yuuki’s spies rarely feel fleshed out in the way the supporting cast does. I personally like this decision; I think it plays to the thematic strengths of the story and the nature of the D-Agency members as enigmatic and covert. There’s no denying the guys act professionally through thick and thin, especially when compared to their war- and homeland-idealizing counterparts. But that can become a problem when given only roughly 20 minutes to get to know each character, get a feel for the situation they’re in and the tasks they’ve been assigned, and keep an eye on everything else to try to come to the conclusions each episode is hinting towards before their reveal. That’s a lot to get done in a rather short amount of time, and although the series almost always pulls it off in a way that never loses the viewer’s attention, many moments certainly could’ve been more impactful. Chalk it up to the series not arriving at any grand conclusion other than the themes it established in its earliest episodes or not reconvening with any of its surviving D-Agency members to give a “how/what did they do afterward?” type of epilogue, or whatever; Joker Game is a solid episodic show about espionage, loyalty, and trickery, but it doesn’t feel complete as a whole, and it’s hard walking away from this one a bit unsatisfied in spite of all its strengths and short-term successes. Still, with no massive internal fumbles and plenty of production finesse, I’d be hard-pressed to say it’s not worth a look, especially if you think it would be up your alley.
Final score: 7/10

KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS

Kabaneri Cap

FIGHT ME YOU STEAMPUNK FUCK

Yatahaze:
I knew Kabaneri was sure to be more of a popular favorite than a personal one, but for a while there I thought things would at least stay on the rails.

But no, as much as I’m glad I get to make this pun, I’m disappointed Kabaneri ended up an utter trainwreck. It certainly had potential; the series looked poised to combat authoritarian rule by following the adventures of an underdog mutant and a crew that gave him and his newfound battle ally a chance, but somewhere along the way that charisma was lost, replaced by a pretty-boy sociopathic bandit and his goons who uh…

…you know, 12 episodes later, I’m still not exactly sure what their endgame was. Power, I guess? The ability to dictate other peoples’ fates? Michael Bay-tier explosions? Kabaneri attempted to pit Biba’s crew against Ikoma’s and take out a few indistinguishable cities in the process, but with so little downtime in between, the show’s narrow range in dynamics prevented any real tension from rearing its head. Instead, what we got was a lot of Biba acting preachy (see also: cheesy) and cutting people to shreds while the rest of the cast looked on, afraid they’d be next if they spoke up. The series seemed to be trying to say something grand and powerful about how fear and the distrust that results from it are dangerous, but instead of supporting that angle and highlighting the Koutestujou’s struggle for change, it more so just seemed like a fallback excuse to make a no holds barred Testuro Araki wankfest; that is, endless screaming, blood, and flames. Any moments in the show’s second half to try and revisit that earlier message felt more like a mere afterthought, leaving me waiting for a breakthrough that never actually came. Worse yet, because Biba’s introduction forced the crew’s natural interactions to be cut short just before they started to come into their own as characters, the second half of the show hinged on an emotional investment it didn’t earn, full of cringy moments that were dull at best and counterproductive at worst.

If you’re an edgy middle-schooler, this will probably appeal to you tons. But for me, someone who wanted to see an actual story with understandable character motivations and at least half a clue what it was trying to get across, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress was a complete flop. What little I can praise it for include its early promise, wonderful animation, and (though I was less of a fan of it than most) unique art palette. Major demerits for just about everything else. Sorry, not sorry. Fight me, you steampunk fucks.
Final score: 4.5/10

KIZNAIVER

Kiznaiver Cap

“Lay your hands on m-” “Broken arm.” “oh right”

Yatahaze:
When the idea to throw Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” into this article header pic brilliantly came to me, I momentarily considered skipping doing a proper write-up for Kiznaiver and just throwing that song’s entire lyric sheet here. I immediately thought better of it because one, that’s stupid, and two, it may have been perfect for that picture, but it certainly wasn’t a spot-on match for the entire show. But sitting there struggling to come to terms with and fully digest Kiznaiver led me to return to the song once more in an unironic way. Honestly, I grew up in a time just too soon to really remember “Jumper” being played anywhere and everywhere, but it’s almost impossible to not know its chorus and catch the imperfect but well-intentioned message behind it. So too with Kiznaiver; for a show with such a positive message, its narrative inconsistencies and poor series composition damper what was still an entertaining and popular show.

…if only it had been, well, you know, a solid one.

The most obvious problem is the Kizna Program itself; the massive suspension of disbelief needed to pay any investment into that element of this story is just…too far. It’s a case where themes were attempting to supplement a narrative device built around those very same themes, leaving neither feeling all that well-constructed. Kiznaiver was at its best in this regard when the show leaned into its own eccentricity and didn’t try to explain itself; the Gomorin goons bumbling around, the awkward mayor’s cartoony drive to save face after realizing how insane what he allowed was, etc. But the fact is that Kiznaiver’s narrative cornerstone – the Kizna system’s origins and how it tied into Sonozaki’s lack of development – was hidden for far too long to feel effective when it eventually tried to bring on the waterworks. Not an unsalvageable problem, sure, but constructing the show’s peak and finale to occur on these bullet points instead of something more nuanced, downplayed, or already introduced was not playing to the show’s strengths.

But you’d better believe Kiznaiver had strengths; its visuals were absolutely incredible. The shot framing, art direction, and color palette were refined, impressive, and subconsciously gripping, selling scenes of melodrama that I think in retrospect wouldn’t have worked in other hands. While its central octet of characters remained inconsistent at best, balls of energy like Tenga and Nico were easy to root for, while Yuta and Honoka together provided a tense chemistry I feel the rest of the show tried to reach with its other mains but couldn’t quite grasp. Chidori and Katsuhira’s awkward romantic blundering sometimes worked and sometimes felt overplayed, while the latter’s interactions with Sonozaki boosted both their characters to heights they couldn’t reach on their own. Hisomu remained the odd one out; a half  “comic” relief/half Group Dad figure, he was such an oddball that it often felt like he was more of a device for the show to offer commentary on itself or fuck around depending on what they could get away with in any given situation. Aside from Hisomu, nothing was fundamentally terrible about any of these characters; their personalities were just either made or broken by what was happening when they got screentime.

If this praise sounds half-hearted, that’s because it kind of is. I enjoyed this show a lot, but I have to admit that it’s deeply flawed. Kiznaiver set a perfectly reasonable bar for itself, got a running start, and made the jump successfully…but it did so facing the wrong direction, so that once it stuck the landing, then and only then did it realize it went off-track. I found something contagious in this show’s cast and art direction that kept me coming back with a grin on my face – I only wish I could promise a similar reaction for most people, but the reality of the situation is this; Kiznaiver is only alright. You might want to lay your hands on it. You might not. Whatever conclusion you come to, I would understaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand.
Final score: 6.75/10

Harubro:
What Yata said.
Final score: 7/10

KUROMUKURO

Kuromukuro Cap

ain’t gonna lie, I forgot this existed lol

Yatahaze:
Kuromukuro was never the most promising show, nor the most original, but for a while there, it had enough charm to keep sneaking by week after week. About halfway through its first cour is when its problems became glaringly evident; there were no stakes with its antagonist. As a mysterious alien threat, those space mechs should invoke terror and mystique. Granted, with CG as mismatched as what P.A. Works brought forth here, it’s understandable that they’re not threatening in a direct visual manner, but the direction never tries to do anything which makes them more foreboding. There was no anticipation to see what development would happen next, and for a action show with a whopping (for modern standards) 26 episodes, running into that issue so early on is a surefire way to stall viewer investment.

It’s not quite enough to ruin it though, and had Kuromukuro been a bit more well-rounded, it might’ve warranted a deeper look. The clincher for me was the introduction of the other pilots, all either one-note personalities or just plain irritating. There was solid chemistry between the show’s adults, Yukina and the ball of comedic culture clash that is Kennosuke, and whenever that was able to shine through, I was reminded why I kept watching Kuromukuro in the first place. But as those moments became less frequent and less compelling when they did appear, Kuromukuro completely lost my attention. Hardly the worst show in the world, but it’s far too generic and passive for me to feign interest in through the end of September.
Dropped after 7 episodes.
Final score: 6/10

MAYOIGA (THE LOST VILLAGE)

Mayoiga Cap

The wheels on the bus go round and round all through the middle of the fucking forest

Yatahaze:
I want to start off by acknowledging that I was utterly wrong regarding a statement I made about Mayoiga in my first impressions write-up for it. I boldly said “Mayoiga shouldn’t be a comedy, but it inadvertently [was] one,” and while at the time I certainly thought that was the case, about halfway through this series I realized…no, wait, it is a comedy. That’s the whole point. But at the same time, it’s not exactly a parody; to call it such would be to discredit how the series maintains its own fucked internal logic, because while Mayoiga gets a bit of mileage out of classic B-movie horror genre beats, it’s sure as hell not reliant on them. Furthermore, it doesn’t explicitly shoutout to other horror media; Mayoiga is just Mayoiga. It’s half-nonsense drama, half-bloodbath.

Oh, except there’s also no bloodbath, because the monsters are in everyone’s heads! Boy, do I feel sorry for those sad suckers who made Mayoiga Death Bingo charts back in April only to have to wipe them clean by series’ end.

And therein lies what I think made Mayoiga so tactful within its own delicate absurdity; instead of culminating in a dramatic fury of flesh and fire (see Director Mizushima’s past horror take Another), Mayoiga’s witch hunt got derailed time and time again, constantly interspersed with character backstories that established just enough detail to give the viewer some clarity into their minds while also not ruining their inherent goofiness. That’s not to say the show’s character development was smooth or even ultimately necessary – hell, about half the cast received no such thing, lounging around and not giving a fuck about anything due to the village’s mysterious lethargy-inducing side-effects. But many of those who did receive something (Mitsumune, Masaki, Hayato) in turn became more understandable, while others (Lovepon, Jigoku no Gouka, Lion, etc.) were made even more hilarious because their backstories intentionally undersold the actual connections between their personal demons and their current state of mind. Somehow, the show even played a successful feels card with the bus driver’s backstory – one of the few not intentionally under- or over-told; his daughter’s death came with no shocking on-screen depiction and his acceptance of her passing wasn’t a moment of forced drama, just genuine acceptance.

Which I think brings us to Mayoiga’s greatest blessing; that in spite of all its wacky bullshit, there was an actual story with an actual message here; running away from your problems means running away from acknowledging them, and you can’t overcome something you don’t even acknowledge exists. The show’s mechanics for getting this across were exaggerated, whimsical, and sometimes head-scratching, but I found myself coming out the other side with genuine pride in how it was pulled off in between silly puns, headphone-shattering monster cries, forgetting everyone’s names, and spontaneous appearances from the Magic School Seriously Unlucky HippopotaBus. Mayoiga was full of ridiculous dynamics that shouldn’t have sat well together, but it was able to have its cake and eat it too; be goofy without sacrificing engagement, be nonsensical without sacrificing its inner consistency, and be toned-down in spurts without getting too far ahead of itself. Mayoiga was far from a perfect show and how much you enjoy it will depend significantly on your taste in comedy (and from the looks of it, your ability to identify it), but give this stupid cast a chance to nudge into your heart and you might be surprised by how enjoyable they become. All else I can say is that I’m going to miss Mayoiga and all its…well-executed twists and turns.
Final score: 8/10

Harubro:
Well, I know what most of us expected out of The Lost Village when we embarked on that fateful first bus ride. A mysteriously abandoned village, a bus chock full of people with either a slight lack of common sense or total leave of their sanity, and a forest apparently full of monsters. All the right ingredients were present for a spectacle.

We all thought this was going to be Another 2.0; I’ve never been happier to be so wrong.

What this ended up being was the most absurdly glorious clusterfuck of an actual witch hunt I’ve ever seen. Week in and week out, I eagerly anticipated what the hell was going to happen in the next episode, and when the time came, I was laughing my ass off at the completely unexpected turns that the show took with each and every terrible decision made by each cast member every week.

I know many people seem to not be too keen on Mayoiga, but this show instantly becomes a classic when one looks at this less like a completely irreverent and toothless horror show, and instead views it as a deliberately tongue-in-cheek parody of the scary movie/show genre as I did. Viewing this show that way makes me chuckle when I imagine how deliberately the staff were throwing spite and shade at the folks who actually churn out horror movies. The concept of the Nanaki, a creature born of each of the characters’ individual traumas with a bespoke presence to each character corresponding to their bad thing, was a novel one that induced some unwitting laughs from me. Between the train Nanaki, the silicone blob Nanaki, and even the wood grain Nanaki (amongst others), the scenes where they confront their owners had me rolling on the floor. It does come as something of a surprise that lovable half-wit Mitsumune and actual messiah Yottsun were the first ones to come to grips with their Nanaki.

Worth mentioning about Mayoiga is that it ended up triggering a proverbial landslide of lolsy shitposts that were almost as entertaining to behold as the actual show itself, spawning one of my favorite nicknames for a show in recent memory — Memeyoiga. I mean, somebody went and made Laughing Tom Cruise memes out of all of the unwitting saps who took the bus ride to kind-of-sort-of purgatory, which has to be the most hilarious thing I’ve seen an anime spawn in a very long time. I’m determined to collect them all, but am admittedly struggling to find a last handful of characters.

The internet’s reaction to everyone’s favorite psychopath, our very own Lovepon, and her unbridled passion for hasty executions was also of extreme amusement for me. For a brief period of time, it truly seemed as though somebody was actually going to die on Lovepon’s Wild Ride. Her breakdowns as those opportunities get quashed are also golden. All in favor of a Lovepon spin-off?

I don’t even care about the lack of fucks Mayoiga had for the gaping plot holes scattered about, when a show such as Mayoiga spawns this much quality content on top of being actual quality content in and of itself, I’d happily call that a winner in my books. Unlike a certain other show this season which I will not name again, the incompetence actually contributed a great deal to my enjoyment of the show.

M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of this one.
Final score: 8/10

MY HERO ACADEMIA (BOKU NO HERO ACADEMIA)

Academia Cap

ONE PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNCH

Yatahaze:
Given that I’ve never been enamored by superhero franchises or action shounen, I went into My Hero Academia with virtually no expectations aside from a smidgen of skepticism about the hype that surrounded it. The manga was highly regarded, Bones was in charge of bringing it to life, and its first few episodes, while not particularly gripping to me, were nonetheless solid genre material. All of this is to say that while I enjoyed it, I didn’t anticipate My Hero Academia would wind up one of my favorite shows of 2016 by cour’s-end.

But alas, here we are, and it is for now. That comes with a few caveats though. The most obvious critique is that this thing is sluggish as all hell, even if by design. It’s balanced out slightly by the rumors (and as of episode 13, confirmation) that there would be a second cour coming our way at some point, as well as how that final episode ended during a comfortable break in the story, but for several episodes of material to be set over the course of the same day or event stretched out to as long as possibly able, there usually needs to be a promise of future time left to work with that Academia couldn’t guarantee to its audience until the literal last minute. Looking back on it, the pacing choices make sense, but that doesn’t make sitting through them any less tedious.

What does makes Academia’s anime adaption less tedious is how ridiculously charming its cast is. Every member of UA 1-A is endearing in their camaraderie, passion, and/or optimism, and I adore how the school’s faculty balance their testing techniques and superhero demeanor with genuine attentive care to their students and each other. I was a little worried when Academia started skimping out on its thematic threads of justice, but in retrospect, although they’re right up my wheelhouse, those weren’t the series’ strong suit in the first place. My Hero Academia is pure heart and love, an untainted and forward-looking piece of easy entertainment held steadily aloft by its sense of creativity and community. I can’t wait to revisit this cast and their legitimately cool powers again whenever – and thank God it truly is a “when,” not an “if” – it gets its second installment.
Final score: 7.5/10

Harubro:
Again, what Yata said.
Final score: 7/10

RE:ZERO – STARTING LIFE IN ANOTHER WORLD

vlcsnap-2016-07-01-04h16m08s223

rejection

Harubro:
Hear me out, okay?

Re:Zero is that one show that comes up every now and then that I’d rather not watch, but my friends insist is a fantastic show. As a show, Re:Zero is okay at its very best. My best friends are watching this and enjoying the hell out of it, but I legitimately struggled to stay interested in this series. I’d actually dropped this show once already, and in the process of writing this blurb out, I ended up convincing myself to drop it once more.

I tried to invest myself in Re:Zero, I really did. However, when the central point of the show is “Will the somehow likable NEET protagonist and maybe a companion or two die gruesomely this episode or will he finally get a chance to get it in with whichever disposable female character is the focus of the arc,” you’re already gonna get a slightly contemptuous groan out of me. Maybe I’m just exhausted of cliffhanger-reliant thrillers after watching the burning emergency landing that ERASED ended up being. The quasi-harem setup of this show also throws up a red flag for me as, even though what’s-his-face seems dead set on courting what’s-her-name.

I will give some due praise to White Fox for cranking out a pretty show at the very least, as I like the character designs and the work thrown into backgrounds and animation. Perhaps that’s what kept me hanging on to this for as long as I did.

I wouldn’t call this a “love it or hate it” type of show— it’s more of a “’This stuff is exciting’ or ’This stuff is boring’” sort of show, of which this falls into the latter category for me. While there are definitely some eye-catching moments of action peppered here and there, having to focus my attention span on the yawns in between is laborious. The dialogue is tired, and much of the plot is quite literally “been there, done that.” The most innovative part of this whole show is that occasionally the protagonist gets to see what his innards look like on the outside, and then he gets to do it all over again in some different way until he figures out how to not get gutted at that particular moment. It’s all just a tad macabre for my tastes.

When a show feels like a task to watch rather something I look forward to weekly, that’s usually the sign for me to drop it. However, some folks whose opinions I respect actually enjoy this, so I’m at something of a loss on what to tell you. Whether you’ll enjoy this show or not comes down to a coin toss.

Count me out for the second cour. Sorry.
Dropped after 13 episodes.
Final score: 5/10

SPACE PATROL LULUCO

Luluco Cap

Trigger warning: Trigger

Yatahaze:
Yep, that sure was a Studio Trigger show.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Hiroyuki Imaishi, and from the looks of it, Hiroyuki Imaishi has a bit of a love-hate relationship with his own creations. Yeah, Space Patrol Luluco has a “plot,” though about half the series (and surely the parts of it that people will most easily remember) exist solely as escapades featuring characters and visual motifs from his past shows’ universes, with hilariously inconsistent results. His Kill la Kill and Sex and Violence with Machspeed throwbacks are underdeveloped and downright irritating respectively, while Luluco’s near-death experience (bluff) with Little Witch Academia’s Suzy and down-to-earth rumination on life in Hell with Inferno Cop were absolutely brilliant. And when he’s not shamelessly fellating his own cock, Imaishi doesn’t see it a problem to borrow other infamous dialogue sure to raise an eyebrow. (Though now that I think of it, that could’ve been the work of one trigger(hehe)-happy translator instead of he himself – but fuck it, that point still stands).

For Imaishi, this trip down memory lane within itself must’ve been a blast to write and direct, and I can imagine anyone like myself who’s seen (or at least immediately understood) the works where all his self-references came from can applaud him for the ambition. The problem in selling Luluco becomes “what do you say to convince anyone who’s unfamiliar with him to give it a shot?”

I’m not sure I have an answer to that question. For better or worse, Space Patrol Luluco is Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Wild Ride; even the show’s own style and characterization are unmistakably the work of Trigger in a way that while enjoyable on its own merit, is more appealing than it would otherwise be due to how shamelessly Trigger it is. Any pure plot or thematic focus is merely acceptable on its own and boosted in humor by knowing what Imaishi’s tackled in the past. See the antagonist’s goal for capturing and destroying Luluco’s heart; it, the manifestation of her first adolescent crush, is utterly worthless in the grand scheme of the universe, and after consuming all that he could, he wondered if the most worthless stuff out there might actually be the most valued. If that’s not a spot-on metaphor for Imaishi’s willingness to be crude and break the visual envelope, I don’t know what is. But does it and the rest of Space Patrol Luluco’s plot actually work in a way that sustains the show as a whole?

Hmmmmm. Yeah, I guess. It has moments where it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud amazing. It has moments where it’s groan-inducing nonsense. It has moments where you feel like it’s on the verge of being something fun but overthinking itself and ending up stunted. If you want to watch Space Patrol Luluco, it’s best to have a grip on the man behind it first. If you’re confident in that regard, go right ahead. If not, this is definitely something better watched later on. And if you know you can’t really stand Imaishi and his studio, you might want to steer clear completely. Regardless, Luluco was a comfortable, alright thing to have around. Hardly the best secret airing this season or an utter mess, it’s exactly what Luluco strives for: average.
Final score: 7/10

TANAKA-KUN IS ALWAYS LISTLESS

vlcsnap-2016-06-29-02h16m52s160

Daily Lives of High School Boys (2012)

Harubro:
Make a note of this folks, here’s one of those rare moments where you’ll see me disagree with Yata.

I saw you talking shit on Tanaka-kun is Always Listless at the beginning of the season, bruh. You had it wrong, this show was comedy gold for the entirety of its run.

Yeah, my opinion on this show may have been more in agreement with his had the show stuck with just the duo of Tanaka and Ohta, as those two don’t really have a dynamic that could carry a whole episode on its own. Fortunately, we’re introduced to some of their classmates who eventually become semi-regulars on the show, such as Miyano, the diminutive ray of sunshine determined to learn the art of listlessness from the understandably reluctant titular character, Shiraishi, the intelligent beauty of Tanaka’s class who develops an unrequited crush on Tanaka after a hilarious turn of events, Echizen, a self-proclaimed delinquent who is skeptical of Miyano’s relationship with Tanaka, and other characters, such as the main duo’s younger sisters, Rino and Saya.

What bit of narrative this skit-based show contains really starts to take off when Tanaka and Ohta interact with their classmates, which brings their personalities to life, especially in the later episodes where Tanaka and group are outside of the classroom setting. The McDonalds episode, is a golden example, where Tanaka and Ohta unintentionally manage to scare the daylights out of an unwitting employee.

From what I’ve read of the manga, I can tell that they jumbled the order of a bunch of the skits for the adaptation for chronology’s sake, as the events of the anime flow smoother (aside from some small details) than the manga, at least how I perceived it anyways. Tanaka-kun also displays a decent knack for comedic timing, with my favorite moments always being the skits that lead into the break for the OP (which happens to be a brilliant OP at that) usually because they end on some sort of awkward silence or somebody staring at Tanaka with a “are you for real?” expression. I laugh erry time.

Tanaka-kun’s art is consistent and impeccable, and in my opinion is the second prettiest show to air this spring behind only Kiznaiver, which my exhausted mind is much too fried to prepare a proper writeup for. The color palettes for this show were so vivid, between the lush greens of the foliage in bloom on a summery day to the deep red-orange of a winter sunset. The designs of the characters are clean yet detailed, and I have no qualms with the actual animation itself. The voice acting in this show ended up being some of the best work turned in this spring. The folks at Silver Link really hit the ball out of the ballpark for this show.

I’m sad to see this one wrap up, because this was such a comfy show that could effortlessly elicit a laugh from me. In the process, Tanaka-kun became the show I looked forward to the most every week. I really hope that we’ll get more listlessness in the near future.
Final score: 8/10

 

And that’s it for this installment of For Great Justice! Were there any shows you agreed with us about here? Any you think we utterly got wrong? Want to chat in general about this season or last? Whatever the case, feel free to leave a comment below and start up some conversation. Looking forward, at least one of should be able to crank out a rather comprehensive summer season first impressions guide in about two weeks time, as usual. We’ll see you then, so thanks for reading!

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