Summer 2016 Final Thoughts

Seems weird to call this the end of summer when we’ve just now started October, but better late than never! Sure, neither of us have watched Re:Zero or Jojo’s, arguably the two most-talked about series this season, but that didn’t stop Yata from playing with his food (shows) or Haru from finally getting some words in about something – and it might not be what you’d expect. Whittled down to less than 10 entries, we’re wrapping up summer with quality over quantity, but that’s life sometimes. What show took Yata’s seasonal crown? What show did Haru manage to write about? And what’s next up on the FGJ agenda? Read on to find out below!

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91 DAYS

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and on the 91st day, God created the controversial ending

Yatahaze:
If there’s one thing I thought 91 Days would be, it was predictable. Thematically, I figured Avilio’s mission of revenge would play out according to the unwritten rules of gangster mob flicks; there’d be a lot of blood, a lot of yellin’, and a fair bit of backstabbing.

And there certainly was; 91 Days’ second half was filled to the brim with death, as one by one, characters surrounding our unstoppable duo dropped like flies. Factions shifted, partnered up, broke off, and then shot themselves in the foot more times that I’d care to count. Through every twist and turn, I was entranced. I won’t say 91 Days couldn’t have done a better job with its worldbuilding or visuals (the CG cars looked pretty awful in particular), but from a plot standpoint, the direction and revelations were all up to par. When Shuka got a little ambitious and threw in some frills, such as the cinematic beginning and conclusion, the show was all the better for it. Contrasting with Orange, because 91 Days kept a comfortable pace throughout and refused to sit still for too long, it kept viewers on their feet and didn’t lose steam halting on any one character dynamic. As the sudden changes kept coming and characters kept meeting their untimely ends, I found myself tethered, making it one of my most anticipated watches each week.

I’m sure there’ll be some mixed thoughts on its ending; you can’t combine atmosphere and ambiguity without upsetting a fair share of fans, and I’d easily understand any complaints people had about how anticlimactic and vague the show’s final moments actually were. I personally found the last episode rather poignant, however, allowing Nero to reflect on his 91 days with his right-hand-man turned cause-of-all-torment. It’s here where 91 Days took the route I least expected; there was no final bloodbath, no shootout, no guns blazin’. Just two broken men, a stolen car, and a road trip to where dreams go to die: Florida. As one drives back and one gets eaten by the sea, 91 Days goes out with a quiet whisper, and the ride up until that point proved to be a speculative pick well worth it. Its aesthetics could’ve used some help, and if I’m interpreting the existence of the series’ unnecessary recap episode halfway through correctly, the studio was likely behind at some point during production, so the fact that it was able to pull together not just a coherent story, but one worth some genuine praise is pretty incredible. Not particularly exemplary in any category but still gripping and well-written, 91 Days was a solid addition to my weekly schedule.
Final score: 8/10

BATTERY

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here’s a glove, now get ready to catch all the shit I’m about to fling at you

Yatahaze:
I don’t know why I told myself “based on an award-winning kids book” would automatically translate into “good anime,” much less something aimed at people older than 12, but I guess that was my mistake. In retrospect, Battery only appealed to me for the baseball memes. Any slight positives (minus Seiha, that adorable fuck) seemed accidental, as the story’s tone shifted all over the place, guided by a uniquely pre-adolescent logic that simultaneously felt juvenile and passive.

If that doesn’t sound very appealing, hopefully I’ve successfully redeemed my misguided judgment then. Not even considering the lackluster aesthetics, Battery went from a subpar show to a frustrating show, to a borderline-incompetent show, all while following a bunch of irredeemable sourpusses around. When you’re in the mood for a youthful growing up/baseball anime, stick to Big Windup.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 9 episodes.

FOOD WARS: THE SECOND DISH (SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA: NI NO SARA)

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tfw no more Food Wars

Yatahaze:
It’s tempting to once again leave things at “Food Wars was definitely Food Wars,” but now that we’ve reached the end of its greenlit anime adaptation run, it’d be a shame to not reflect on how much it did well. I remember first impressions week back in the spring of 2015; I really didn’t expect to keep up with Food Wars. Hell, I’m pretty sure it was only on my speculative watchlist at first as an ironic pick. But I’ll be damned if its stupid charm didn’t soak through rather quickly. For three cours-worth, the show held itself aloft not just on its inherently goofy “battle shounen at culinary school” premise, but on the trials and tribulations presented to its well-rounded, delightful, and vibrant cast of characters. By the time Autumn Elections final rolled around, I was pulling for all 3 contenders in some form, and after over 30 episodes of prior material, it was incredibly gratifying to see my investment in the series pay dividends. I won’t spoil who won for anyone still behind on the show, but to see the last dishes plated with excellent finesse and care in a challenge that gave all three finalists a chance to shine was an absolute treat.

And of course, after the main course came dessert; with a few episodes to spare following the Elections tournament, the series staged a brief encapsulation of Souma’s time in Stagiaire program, basically an internship arc with local restaurants that Totsuki’s top performers head off to as another test in their development. The arc itself felt a bit rushed, but as an afterthought, it still satisfied enough to feel like a worthwhile addition to the series instead of cutting the season off after just 10 episodes.

I considered Food Wars a surprise hit after its first season, and this second one only further emphasized it as such. Shedding its weakest material, The Second Dish exemplifies the spirit and quality of Food Wars in all the best ways; the over-the-top performances, the endearing ensemble cast, the science behind its mouthwatering entrées, and so much more. Food Wars is a treasure. I’m going to miss it. Thirds, please?
Final score: 8.75/10

MOB PSYCHO 100

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how do high five ghost

Yatahaze:
Thank Reigen for giving me something substantial to talk about here. Not to say the rest of Mob Psycho 100 isn’t substantial; obviously, the stuff’s some of the most visually-invigorating, charming, and, to quote its theme song, “maybe you can be what you want to be” material of the decade. That, I hope we can all agree, was unanimously great.

But Reigen, man…

What a guy. To say he made Mob Psycho’s final two episodes his own would be a bit of an understatement considering not only was his presence a blessing, but his attitude, the real driving force behind this show, was able to take center stage, both reinforcing the show’s love of taking the pretentious villain twats down a peg and encouraging Mob to abandon his worries. Finely coated with some brilliant animation setpieces and spot-on punchlines, Mob Psycho’s ending was about all I could ask for from Bones and co. The tiny little hint of sequel bait and a ONE-animated post-credits vignette were potentially the only weak moments and loose threads in the whole show, and neither affect its standing all that negatively in the long run. From the start, Mob was an Anime of the Season contender for me, and it made good on all its promises to such an extent that as is, it may even end up being my Anime of the Year. Classy and crude, goofy and serious, courageous and timid, all these contradictions somehow collided with laser focus to create an absolute masterpiece.
Final score: 9.5/10

MOMOKURI

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halp I can’t think of captions

Harubro:
For those of you who may or may not recall, you may know that I adore a well-done fluffy romcom, and this season, Momokuri filled that role nicely. I had tried it out as one of those “Ehh, what the hell, I ain’t got anything better to do” shows, and by season’s end it had grown into my favorite show this season.

Momokuri follows first-year Shinya Momotsuki (referred to as “Momo” by his friends) and second-year Yuki Kurihara as they bumble their way through the awkwardness of the grand old boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. The show jumps right into it, too, with Kurihara confessing to Momo in the very beginning of the first episode. Sounds like your typical run of the mill high school rom-com, right?

Weeeeeeell….

As we find out with relative haste, it turns out that Kurihara is a Momo maniac, taking pictures of him from afar and amassing a collection of his used straws, even as the two begin “dating,” if you are so inclined to call it that. You would think that I’d have dropped it at that revelation, but something about the way the sometimes absurd punchlines hit with Momokuri just ended up with me laughing out loud. Perhaps what kept me around was that Kurihara does seem to have a limit to her stalking, sometimes being kept in check by her monotonous friend Norika, who plays the straight man role to a T, at one point forcibly disposing of Kurihara’s aforementioned used straw collection. Her mania over her crush aside, it is easy to tell that Kurihara really does mean well for Momo in the end.

When this show isn’t focused on Kurihara’s antics, it seems to swirl around Momo’s perception of himself and his newfound relationship, overthinking about things that were said or done at times. Much to his chagrin, Momo is perceived by his peers as “cute,” rather than “handsome,” and piling on to that, he’s one of the shorter kids in his class. As a result of his identity crisis of sorts, Momo tends to try to show a “mature” or “manly” side to his girlfriend in an ill-fated attempt to impress her, such as ordering black coffee despite having a sweet tooth; adding to the air of the awkwardness is that Kurihara, knowing almost everything there is to know of the boy, is well aware he doesn’t like bitter or spicy foods.

The visuals in Momokuri, if nothing special, are consistent at the very least. Satelight did a competent enough job putting this whole series together, while still remaining faithful to the manga. The character designs are simple, and the animation is passable. Really though, if you’re looking for a show to watch purely based on aesthetics alone, you’d have watched a zillion other shows before you arrived at Momokuri. It’s not some high-budget technical production, and it never pretends to be, so kudos to it there.

hnnnggngngngngnn OP sung by the voice actors hnnngngngngnnn

This show made for a damned cute and fun little romcom slice-of-life that was something for me to look forward to after the rough weeks at work. Momokuri might seem slightly off-putting at a first glance, but every episode figured out a way to make me smile and laugh, and that’s all I could ask for from this. I’ll find myself coming back to my favorite moments of this show for a long time to come.
Final score: 7.5/10

NEW GAME!

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“you can’t just tell people there’ll be a second season of Umaru, people will flay us alive for that shit”

Yatahaze:
I feel like it’s kind of a cop-out to say New Game just continued to do its thing for its second half, but that’s really all that happened. At the risk of triggering all of ani-Twitter, I’ll admit that visually (and in regards to its other aspects of production), New Game remained a solid, consistent watch in a season plagued with shows that bobbled back and forth between beautiful and butt-ugly. It’s just a shame that any emotional appeal it had was half-baked or thrown to the dogs in favor of gags, which got increasingly less fun the more they (and the show) focused on Nene. New Game is certainly watchable, but it doesn’t amount to much more than what the cute girls it showcases can muster.
Final score: 6.75/10

ORANGE

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the devil and god were orangin’ inside me (RIP)

Yatahaze:
In my mid-season update article, I proudly ranked Orange as my second-favorite show of the season and proclaimed it could cement a place as one of the decade’s most poignant anime dramas if it continued to play its cards right.

It didn’t.

To an extent, at least. Orange’s first half strung along dramatic tension by framing its time travel conceit and Kakeru’s feelings as mysterious and volatile, a mood compounded by Naho’s inability to read situations and act on her gut instinct. This made the show an extremely tough watch, but at the same time, it was immensely rewarding. With its visual details never particularly the most intimate, the constant tension in its story was Orange’s key to success.

Somewhere along the way, TMS Entertainment dropped the key; its production took a massive nosedive, resulting in some of the ugliest, most laughable character model expressions I’ve ever seen in anime. Add to that a stretched-out, not-all-that-important arc and the show’s middle didn’t just drag; it got shoved to the ground and beaten while it was down. Without enough development to justify its length, this portion of the series actively hurt my engagement with the show; when silly faces galore and there’s a noticeable lack of drama, trying to reinvest when the show shifted its tone back was difficult.

And shift back Orange indeed did, but to revisit that key metaphor, TMS found it just too late to make it back home before its parade was rained on. Even though the series objectively capped itself off fairly well (and with a much-appreciated step back up in production quality), the damage had already been done. In the end, Suwa made a better confidant than the show’s main character ever could’ve, Hagita and Azusa a more entertaining couple-in-the-making to follow around. Naho’s fundamental personality did wonders while exploring the show’s more unproductive corners, but when it came time to take action, she – and by extension, her emotional stakes – were cast to the side. After all, the show was about Kakeru, and his internally self-loathing state wasn’t fit to be “saved” by a romantic relationship at all. If Orange got one thing right, it was allowing Kakeru to not only save himself, but to let the lovey-dovey veil drop from its head and focus on the more concerning matter; everyone’s goddamn well-being.

Still, while largely wrapping up on a positive note, the series’ random parallel universe explanations seemed largely unnecessary and poorly placed, and their core purpose: “we can save a Kakeru in another universe…maybe” feels more than a little shoehorned in and sketchy. The elder cast’s timeline thus could’ve used a better resolution, and I’d argue the series’ meandering middle irreversibly changed the show for the worse, but I don’t regret picking up Orange and seeing it through to completion.
Final score: 7/10

SWEETNESS & LIGHTNING (AMAAMA TO INAZUMA)

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“go on, gobble up your Dad’s lov- wait, why’s everyone staring?”

Yatahaze:
It’s Sweetness & Lightning taking the cake on the “making my job easy” train this time, effectively not changing at all in its approach or consistency from the show’s first half. Tsumugi was still the epitome of a lovable child, Kouhei in kind was still the epitome of the lovable dad, and Kotori remained an endearing third-member to round out the show’s primary trio. If I could levy any criticism about the show, it’d be that I would’ve liked to see a little more diversity to its “start with a minor personal problem then fix it with food and friendship” formula, but that’s part of what made the show such a pleasant little Monday night palette-cleanser. I also suppose Shinobu and Yagi didn’t add a whole lot to the show on their own merit, but their presence at least offered an extra character or two to bounce conversations off of in its later stages. Sweetness & Lightning was a delight for twelve straight weeks and it’ll surely go down as one of my favorite slice-of-lifes of 2016.
Final score: 8.5/10

THUNDERBOLT FANTASY


Yatahaze:
I haven’t watched Thunderbolt Fantasy since the last update article. Completely forgot it existed. Might catch back up at some point, but that point is not now.
Current score: puppets/10
On hold after 5 episodes, I think.

Reigen gif

Reigen / Mob ’16: Straight-talkin’ and genuine care, the best of both worlds

 Whew, what a season! It’s no secret we’ve been posting less lately, but a few developments will soon change that. It’s approaching end of the year time, which means Yata’s gonna get his ass in gear soon one way or another on his annual OPs list and 12 Days of Anime posts. Furthermore, there may be a new surprise for everybody that’ll boost our site’s productivity. More on that when we can promise it. In the meantime, fall’s already started, so come back in approximately two weeks for some first impressions! ‘Til next time, this has been Yata and Haru For Great Justice.

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