Spring 2017 Final Thoughts

Well, we’re a day behind deadline, but it’s been a hectic seasonal transition here at For Great Justice. Catche had to persevere through a laptop falling apart on him, Haru is drowning in A-Kon merch with no oxygen tank (expect an article on that later this week), and Yata is desperately trying to ignore the fact that there exist people in this world who have already seen the first episode of Violet Evergarden. But we’re not here today to talk to you about shows still around the bend, nor is it yet time to cover what new offerings this summer has started to give us. No, today we’re offering our opinions on the hits and misses of the past three months. Which sequels remained strong? Which titles flew under most people’s radar but deserve more recognition? And was completing Eromanga-Sensei worth it, like, at all? The answers to these questions and more in our spring final thoughts below:

ALICE & ZOUROKU


Yatahaze:
If you had told me at the start of the season that Alice & Zouroku would look good by the end of its run, I’d have called you crazy and told ya to stop frazzlin’ me up, but it did just that. Even better, it refined its production right when the story itself took a really neat turn with the introduction of two new characters, Hatori and her friend Ayumu. After watching Sana adjust to “normal” life over the first half of the show, Hatori’s relationship with her parents (and theirs with each other) provided a stark contrast and a tough reminder that not everyone has a supportive, caring family environment. The atmosphere in these scenes was downright oppressive without crossing over into overtly cheesy territory, a feat I didn’t think the show would be able to deliver based on its earlier tonal snags.

From a storytelling standpoint, seeing Hatori discover her own Mirror Gate powers, abuse them to quell any sense of tension from her surroundings, and then eventually shut herself off from guilt was a poignant way to explore this dynamic, one that felt really grounded and believable for an elementary-schooler with little social experience and low self-esteem. Though Sana initially branded Hatori as a villain for making her feel unsettled, Alice forced her to acknowledge that feelings like those are just part of being human. In turn, when the two found themselves trapped in Wonderland, they had a heart-to-heart in which the both of them realized that although the world can sometimes be a cruel place, it’s unhealthy to seclude yourself from it entirely.

And here I think it’s worth digressing a bit to discuss what exactly Wonderland is: in the first half of the show, all we were able to gather was that Sana was born there and could wander in and out of it as she pleased. It seemed at first a physical place…but with the last few episodes came an in-universe theory that gave us a new lens to look at the show through: Wonderland is Sana herself. Not her person, per se, but her thoughts and imagination. She explains that everything there stems from some experience she’s had or thought up, and the bizarre floating scenery suggests as much too.

We also see a brief glimpse earlier in the series of Sanae’s own Wonderland, containing a memory of her younger self forming graves in the dirt as Zouroku looks on. Based off this information, it makes perfect sense that Wonderland is a collection of memories and loose thought still being processed in order to form a comprehensible perspective. When Sana and Hatori “get trapped” there towards the end of the series, they do so because they don’t want to embrace the consequences of being a part of the outside world, Hatori because of the guilt from manipulating her parents’ behavior, and Sana from the fear that she’ll lose what’s precious to her.

But you can’t stay in that mindset forever. Wonderland never leaves a person (hence why everyone’s apparently capable of triggering a Mirror Gate), but it’s also not a place you should permanently reside. Remaining there would mean disengaging from the real world and all the connections and responsibilities we hold dear. It’s just not feasible if you want to grow as a person, but then again, if you find yourself locked in there, it’s precisely because you don’t consciously want to. You need outside help. And that’s where Zouroku, Sanae, and Ayumu came in, plunging headfirst into somebody else’s confusion in order to try guiding them out. Even Hatori’s parents, who don’t know enough to help firsthand, still cry with relief when she arrives back home safe.

In other words, Alice & Zouroku is a really quirky, roundabout tale about mental illness in youth.

Or at least that’s what it feels like to me, and I’m satisfied enough with it from that angle, especially with all the finale’s incidental details to that end. Sana’s own admission that Wonderland never stops growing in its goal to “become a whole universe” seems like a perfect parallel to people gathering experiences over the course of their lives. Alice’s first half made it plenty clear that family and connections are important, but the second half viscerally drove that point home with a more focused plot, sharper symbolism, and much better visuals.

Because of that, it almost feels like the show is split in half as a weaker version of itself followed by a more proper one instead of a consistently resonant whole, but all things considered, I can’t say I was disappointed with it. Alice & Zouroku was a splendid underdog, a fun, emotional, and increasingly thematic jaunt through the minds of some people searching for meaning and the help those who have already found it can lend them. It stumbles a bit and has a few tedious stretches, but in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and would gladly recommend it to anyone looking for an “lol XD ran-dumb” watch with subtler depth.

Also there’s a good chance you slept on one of the most underrated EDs of the year, so get on that.
Final score: 7.5/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

ANONYMOUS NOISE (FUKUMENKEI NOISE)

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Harubruh:
Perpetually unrequited high-school love rhombuses are punk-rock as fuck, Exhibit A: Anonymous Noise.

As I mentioned when I initially picked this up, I felt justified about my hesitance towards watching another high-school punk band romance show right on the heels of the disaster that was Fuuka. Noise quickly kicked away most of those reservations.

Yata’s probably going to laugh his ass off as I completely murder this attempt at equating these contemporaries to albums by Green Day, my most beloved of punk bands, but here goes: If Fuuka was Warning, then Anonymous Noise was Nimrod. Yeah sure, Fuuka tried to play this whole semi-mature take on its bit of romantic drama, but it fell flat and utterly failed to do anything all that enthralling. Anonymous Noise wasn’t its creators’ magnum opus, nor was it a masterpiece of its own genre, but in its whimsy and comparative rawness, it was vastly more entertaining, as zany and scatter-brained as it got sometimes.

Anonymous Noise shined by featuring a vivid cast of strong personalities, bouncing them off each other with an entertaining mix of drama and comedy, and coherently marching them along an actually somewhat coherent plot. Of course the plot’s endgame involved pitting Yuzu, Alice, and In No Hurry versus jerk-ass Momo, Miou and their blatant copycat band Silent Black Kitty at a huge-ass rock festival, because impromptu pseudo-battle-of-the-bands are also punk rock as fuck.

Another thing that made Noise so fun was that it made no attempt to hide or gloss over each characters’ respective flaws, be it Alice’s initially unrefined singing and total obliviousness, Yuzu’s inability to sing or parental issues with regard to music, Miou’s unabashed jealously towards Alice, or Momo’s general clusterfuck of a situation. Some of the show’s most brilliant moments happened as a result of these various issues crashing together.

Also, speaking of flaws: Aside from the token handful of gorgeous (mostly still) shots that happen throughout each episode, it’s obviously evident this was a Brain’s Base work, despite some half-promising efforts to make pretty what few bits that they could manage. I still found the visual trickery used in the vain attempts to soften the grating CG visuals for In No Hurry’s performances funny as all hell. Better to use all that instead of using ultra-corner-cutting “animation” as they utilized in Durarara’s runs, I say.

Anonymous Noise was a fun-as-hell show in spite of its flaws, and it’s just a god-damned shame that it’ll never get half the attention it deserves, all because certain elements of its industry have completely sold their fans the fuck out in the name of profit. Pure irony for a punk rock show.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 12 episodes.
P.S.: Yuzu deserved better.

ATTACK ON TITAN SEASON 2

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Catche:
After completing the first season of Attack on Titan a few years ago, my feelings on the series were pretty straightforward: it was a cool action series driven by some interesting ideas which had my eyes locked upon my screen and kept me coming back for more. It wasn’t anything revolutionary nor was it even particularly engaging, but it was certainly a worthwhile experience.

Having now completed Titan‘s sophomore season, I found that my experience was a bit more complicated this time around. Though I was entertained by each week’s 22 minute installment, my feelings on the 12 episode run as a whole were much more lukewarm.

This, in part, is due to the nature of the storyline that this arc follows. By the end of the season, though a lot of information has been revealed to the audience, it feels like very little has been accomplished by the end of the cour. This is, at least in part, due to the reactive (even by Titan standards) nature of the plot, in which the main characters are forced to confront a dire threat which they stumble into some key information about while never really making much headway against the newly understood threat.

The feeling that the experience is a bit shallow just adds to my growing weariness with the constantly oppressive tone that Titan has taken since its first episode. A darker tone is perfectly fine, particularly when in service of some greater point, but in a pulpy action series like Titan it just leads me to stop caring after a certain point. If everything is dark, then moments that are supposed to have greater weight lose their intensity.

Attack on Titan Season 2 certainly wasn’t bad. After all, I did enjoy the experience of watching it. However, the series as a whole is starting to drag due to issues of tone and pace, which will probably continue into the next arc, if my experience with the manga is anything to go by.
Final score: 6/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

ATOM: THE BEGINNING

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Catche:
After a promising opening episode, Atom: The Beginning spent the next four episodes doing virtually nothing. It’s genuinely a bit hard to form much in the way of interesting critique of the series beyond the fact that it just wallows in shallow anime clichés and uninteresting episodic storytelling.

I feel like I’ve seen this show hundreds of times before and I didn’t even get much out of it the first time. I don’t care about anything in this series by this point and, unless you’re some kind of Astro Boy superfan, I doubt you would either.

It is a bit of a shame considering it’s coming from Production I.G. (working jointly with a few other studios) and the OP looks fantastic, but there’s little redeeming quality. If there’s anything positive to say here, it’s that I did not find Atom to be offensively bad, just aggressively boring.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 6 episodes.

THE ECCENTRIC FAMILY 2 (UCHOUTEN KAZOKU 2)


Yatahaze:
The Eccentric Family 2 didn’t outshine its predecessor.

I feel like I should establish that before I really get into my final thoughts, because there’s bound to be a fair bit of hyperbole in them. The Eccentric Family is a personal classic for me— rarely does any work of fiction, anime or otherwise, tug on my heartstrings and envelop me into its world as much as this one. Some may say the hallmark of a great sequel is to come out on par with or even better than its original work, but my expectations are a little lighter: just make me feel connected again. If it can wrap me up in its proceedings, command my attention completely, and leave me personally satisfied, that’s all I really care about.

The Eccentric Family 2 didn’t outshine its predecessor.

But it did all those other things, so did it really need to?

I’ll be the first to admit that this sequels story isn’t as consistent, thoroughly explored, or flawlessly executed as the first season’s. Its weaker episodes were weaker from both a storytelling and a production standpoint, and even some of its best didn’t add tangible depth to the sequel’s plot, which in and of itself was a bit scatterbrained. Nidaime and Benten’s rivalry, lineup shifts among The Friday Fellows, Soun scheming not one but two revenge plots…these were all notable developments, but there were like, 5 or 6 more. Ultimately, I think it’s safe to say this season had too much content and not enough time.

And that’s kind of frustrating because all the content we got, even at its least interesting, was still so, so enjoyable. Each plot domino tapped the next in much the same way they did in season one, constantly intertwining and building into a grand final spectacle, except this time, that spectacle had more to resolve with less breathing room.

Which isn’t to say that the resolutions here didn’t make sense, just that with all of them packed so densely together and occupying different branches of developmental space, it lacked the cohesiveness that the first season’s finale had. The source of Nidaime’s beef was addressed via an ambiguous flashback that certainly could’ve came much earlier than it did, and Yajirou’s sudden journey to Shikoku only to immediately return with the real Kureichirou in tow felt more convenient than it did natural, something that rarely happens in this series. And not that I necessarily wanted more screentime for Soun or Tenmaya, but the way in which they were nonchalantly whisked back to Hell felt like the under-utilization of two superb villains, especially since one was just brought back from the dead. I have several nitpicks like this, but all of them are things I simply think the series could’ve done better, not fatal flaws that tarnish the entire experience.

And boy, what an experience it otherwise was! I’ve remarked before about how well season 2 used reprisals of events from season 1, and that habit continued all the way through the finale, where the gang crashed Jyurojin’s impossi-bus into Nidaime’s impossi-roof. But I don’t want to downplay how well this season also introduced new characters and moods we’ve never seen before and made them feel like smooth (if not integral) extensions of the world we got to know in season 1. Obviously the Nidaime was a fantastic third party riddled with his own concerns, and Gyokuran felt like such a pleasant addition to the Shimogamo family I only regret that she wasn’t introduced any earlier.

And when this season really brought the tension, it was unlike anything season one had the guts to attempt: I already mentioned Yasaburou’s descent into Hell as a highlight in our mid-season thoughts article, but the events that followed, especially the chaotic Friday Fellows dinner party which led to Soun’s death, were shocking and agonizing in a way The Eccentric Family had never before ventured. Ditto for Benten and Nidaime’s fight in the finale, a scene so charged that it couldn’t result in anything but indecipherable yelling and hair-pulling.

Not that all its tricks were downers, of course. Others included Yasaburou’s stubborn, bratty refusal to accept greater responsibility, and, to keep him in his place, Kaisei, who really came into her own as a character this season. Rounding out the new additions include the four brothers’ maternal grandmother, the most adorable senile furball you’ll ever lay eyes on and several other one-offs who made me just want to see more and more of them.

And if all goes well, we’ll get to! If my sources are correct, the series’ third book should come out within a year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we got yet another anime adaptation out of it. I hope so too, because between the themes of obligation, maturity, love, and self-growth that this season stressed, The Eccentric Family 2 proved that it could still be an engrossing, lively, and tonally diverse pleasure of a series. With more material comes the likelihood that my gripes here will be patched up a bit too, and even if they’re not, this season doesn’t really feel like a let down at all. The Eccentric Family is a fun thing, and if there’s one thing this series has taught me, it’s that a fun thing is a good thing.
Final score: 9.5/10
Completed this good thing after 12 episodes.

EROMANGA-SENSEI

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Harubruh:
Despite anime’s increasing acceptance in Western culture up to the point that it’s actually sort of a cool thing to like nowadays, shows like Eromanga-sensei are why folks like myself still to this day pause with a slight cringe whenever a family member asks me, “Oh, you like anime?

Yeah, Eromanga-sensei was bad— like really fucking bad. It’s one of those shows that I’d easily qualify as one of those “actively toxic to the reputation of the medium” sort of shows, but perhaps not the degree of toxicity brought upon anime by shows such as Big Order, Bikini Warriors, or even this show’s direct predecessor OreImo. Unlike its predecessor, Eromanga-sensei never actually went down the step-sisterfuckery route, but the fact that it held that specter over nearly every episode right down to the end is just downright despicable.

Some of you may ask, what exactly blew this show over the top after ALL the other transgressions I described from our previous writeup? Was it the dudebro writer whose only purpose was literally to make Masamune the butt of repetitive, predictable, and rather unfunny gay jokes? How hilariously original! Or how about Muramasa’s convoluted-ass introductory arc? I still can’t wrap my head around that turn of events. Maybe it was Megumi’s half-assed attempts to act like a pervert?

Actually, I think I know what it was. It was probably the numerous deliberately provocative depictions of a damned 12-year-old girl. There’s a special place reserved for those of y’all who actually thought that kind of stuff was necessary.

Eromanga-sensei is something of a frustrating show, because there were a handful of decently entertaining characters, like Kagurazaka, the editor who was having none of these young writers’ shit, or Elf Yamada, who aside from that nude piano fiasco early in the show, had more characterization than the rest of the cast combined, or even Tomoe, the peppy bookseller who added a kick to the few episodes she appeared in.

It cannot bode well for Eromanga-sensei (or any show for that matter) that the rather bland main character (Masamune, with this one) ends up being one of the better characters of the show. In this case, I think most of the credit for that goes to Yoshitsugu Matsuoka’s superbly entertaining voice acting, which helped characterize him a bit. Most of the ethical entertainment I got out of this show was due in large part to his now-trademark shrill screams and exaggerated reactions.

Then there’s my big caveat in this largely negative review: The production quality. I always mention this with one of their shows that I cover nearly every season, but it’s still worth pointing out that A-1 Pictures has been raking in some cash on some big-name shows for nearly half a decade or more now, and it’s really starting to show in their works these last few years. This is one of the first A-1 shows I can recall in recent memory that never had a precipitous drop in animation quality from start to finish. It probably helps that there’s not really much to this show as far as action scenes go, but still. They even supposedly had one single animator tabbed just to animate most, if not all of Sagiri’s scenes, so I suppose this calls for a subdued “yay” for consistency?… Meh.

The fact that the only way I could consistently tolerate this show was by being half-drunk is probably a dead giveaway as to how much I actually enjoyed it. Eromanga-sensei was pretty entertaining to watch once I was sloshed enough to be able to not give a flying fuck about the constant barrage of questionable content.

Eromanga-sensei falls right between “Crime Against Anime” and “Entertainingly God-awful” for me. Like I said in the last writeup, it’s anime heroine. Just don’t get hooked on this shit.
Final score: 3/10 (One point each for Editor-san, Bookstore-chan, and Elf.)
Completed after 12 episodes.

GRIMOIRE OF ZERO (ZERO KARA HAJIMERU MAHOU NO SHO)


Yatahaze:
Back in April, I barely stuck with Grimoire, only eyeing its potential. About halfway through the season, I was convinced the move paid off.

But here we are at the end of it all, and I’m back to feeling completely lukewarm on the whole thing. As a story, Grimoire isn’t anything special, nor is it anything awful. Its worldbuilding is fleshed out enough, each character in its central cast has a clear personality and motivations, and the turn of events that leads them to separate then reconvene throughout the final arc of the show seemed plotted well. It’s a competent little fantasy series, I’ll admit it.

But it massively underutilized its biggest strength throughout the second half: Mercenary and Zero’s banter was the backbone of this show, the thing that elevated it from a “fine” adventure to an actively enjoyable one. They were also by far the show’s two strongest characters, with Thirteen being a wishy-washy, self-gratifying tryhard of an antagonist, Holdem being…problematic for an addressed pro-slave past, and Albus making things worse for everyone whenever she was on screen. Great adventure series are often held aloft by complex, lovable characters, and Grimoire was exemplary when it starred its best but disengaging when the rest became more prominent.

And I get why that had to happen; separating Mercenary and Zero was instrumental in forcing them to see each other as they were and reconstruct their relationship after their little spat halfway through the show. But that one conflict dragged on and on while also trying to make Thirteen this conniving, double agent authority figure and the dynamics just went all sour. Was the solution of “let’s eliminate magic from Wenias altogether” a pretty cool conclusion? I guess, but the initial awe of “whoa, they’re gonna get rid of magic from a whole kingdom?” was dampened by the realization of how small it apparently is. This whole time, I envisioned this like, humongous nation spreading as far as the eye can see, but all we ever see of it are like two cities, a few villages, and some woods that appear to barely cover 20~odd miles. It not only makes the gang’s final feat feel less impressive, it also shatters the earlier illusion that Zero, Merc, and Albus were actually traversing considerable distance. You know, that other fundamental in an adventure series?

Maybe I’m just nitpicking because deep down I know Grimoire wasn’t really a “bad” show, or even a “poor” one. I certainly wouldn’t have finished it if I thought it was beyond improvement. But after witnessing it do so much so well earlier in its run, I can’t help but be disappointed that it casually let its selling points slip out the door in favor of an incredibly generic, predictable crawl to the finish.
Final score: 6/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

KADO: THE RIGHT ANSWER (SEIKAISURU KADO)


Yatahaze:
Well, my prediction that Yaha-kui’s anisotropic gadgets would be a bit much for the world at large was correct. I was just wrong about which one would send them over the edge.

And…you know, tons of other stuff.

But can you blame me? Through episode 8, Kado had made little to no suggestion that there was another anisotropic being in the fray. Then, suddenly, Saraka breaks her humanoid cover and reveals that she inhabited this body after billions of years of watching over the universe. Do we ever get a satisfying explanation on how she came to realize this or relevant foreshadowing that would’ve made the twist less of a shocker? I’d have to go back and rewatch the whole show again, but aside from her prominence in the OP disproportionate to her screentime until then, I don’t think so. It was immersion-breaking too: I’ll straight-up admit I was lucky enough to find myself in the “this is kinda hot” camp, and that led me to continue watching. Others dropped Kado instantaneously, disappointed that what had been such a grounded, political sci-fi decided to shift gears so out of the blue.

But get this: though the show could’ve easily fallen apart right there, it miraculously played everything as thematically straight as it could until the finale. Before I get into that, allow me to recap those packed, final few episodes: Saraka (pre-reveal) addresses her concerns about humanity’s pace of advancement to Shindo, explaining to him that she thinks it should be mankind’s own achievements that lead us forward. Shindo thinks it over and decides to ask Yaha-kui about it, but the latter refuses to back down, introducing his third and final gift to the world, Nanomis-hein, a device (or mindset? It’s never really clear with this show) that allows people to distort the laws of physics. When Shindo continues resisting, Yaha-kui fucks around with his sense of time and space, demonstrating through force how he has the upper hand and revealing his own motive for introducing the world to anisotropic technology: to him, humanity is the singularity capable of producing the massive cocoon of information he craves to consume. “Are you God?” Shindo asks as he’s rendered useless. Yaha-kui’s answer is pretty telling: “I am merely an anisotropic being.” It’s in his nature to do this.

But while the anisotropic beings may be hardwired towards the consumption of information, Saraka’s arrival proves that they can be raised to believe otherwise, and Yaha-kui’s eventual downfall shows that his superiority isn’t the same as omnipotence. Hell, even Yaha-kui himself has doubts about casting Shindo aside and replacing him with a clone to finish promoting Nanomis-hein to the world. While the rest of the government believes their chief negotiator is just doing his job, the real Shindo, saved by Saraka, embarks on an elaborate bait-and-switch with the help of Shinawa’s brilliant mind, his connections with the metalworkers from episode 0 (called it), and inter-anisotropic skoodilypooping.

And in the end, it works! Knowing the only way to defeat Yaha-kui is to present him with information that shouldn’t make sense, Shindo sacrifices himself and a Fregonics neutralizer to catch his frenemy off guard, while Yukika, Shindo and Saraka’s child shows up and overpowers Yaha-kui, mocking his lack of understanding. Obviously the two negotiators being a canon couple was tremendously satisfying on its own, but it wasn’t just fanservice, nor was Yukika’s dominance out of line with the themes Kado has worked with this whole time. The show’s opening thesis was that negotiators had to understand both sides of a conflict in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. That was the “right answer to diplomacy. Yaha-kui’s “right answer” gave beneficial things to both sides, but he would’ve had the upper hand all along, and even the “gifts” he gave humanity were helpful according to his own standards. Yukika represents true negotiation, the result of the anisotropic and humanity literally coming together in harmony. After chasing away the threat, she removes all manifestations of the anisotropic from the world and disappears herself. Like mother, like daughter, I guess.

So after that convoluted mess, how does Kado ultimately stack up? Like a handful of other series this season, it’s a show of two tonally different halves that carries the same message throughout to varying degrees of effectiveness. Its early run is clearly the standout, and it plays political drama as well as any anime I’ve seen in recent years. The small slice-of-life elements sprinkled here and there lets us buy into the cast as people and not just political actors too, something that’s vital for the second half of the show to play out as well as it does. And while that second half is sure to be divisive, I for one think it did a commendable job at maintaining the spirit of progress, willpower, and knowledge that the first half introduced. Those looking for a conclusion tethered to reality may be disappointed, and this is very much an anime take on its subject matter (the less adventurous would probably be better sticking to Arrival) but keep an open mind when you watch or re-watch Kado. As evidenced by everyone’s different takes on it, there is no single right answer: what makes humanity unique is our ability to assign individual values to the same objectKado itself is a shining example of that, and I can’t think of much better praise.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 12 episodes (+ episode 0).

Catche:
Well that was a fucking mess.

Kado had a pretty good run there for a while, but that shit really just collapsed in on itself there at the end. It’s honestly kind of hard to tell exactly why the bizarre story choices were made towards the end of the season other than the determination to shock the audience at all costs.

If Saraka secretly being an anisotropic without much of any setup or explanation wasn’t bad enough, the crap at the very end there really sealed the deal. It doesn’t matter if such a result was “thematically appropriate,” it was so poorly integrated into the narrative that I can’t help but have a negative opinion at this point.

If you never got to the end of Kado, don’t bother. Whatever point you left off on was probably as satisfying a conclusion as the one actually provided by the series. It’s a shame, too, considering how good Kado was for much of its run and how I would have found the series to be perfectly fine if it had opted to avoid so many unnecessary twists.

In the end, Kado succumbed to its own ambitions. It seems like the right answer would have been to just skip this one entirely.
Final score: 4/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA (TV)


Yatahaze:
Little Witch Academia seemed on track to conclude in a rather predictable fashion: Akko would find that elusive seventh word, unlock the Grand Triskelion, and save the day from whatever cartoony ploy Croix was up to.

But it wasn’t satisfied with that, and I don’t think I would’ve been either. I’m all for thematic simplicity, but Little Witch had long had its fair share of that stuff. I wanted something deeper. A change-up or two that would redefine the whole situation and provide it a little more depth before the big finale.

And I guess this is “give Yata what he wants” month or something, because whoa boy, it certainly did. First we found out that Diana once lost her ability to use magic— a nice detail told to us during a home visit that allowed us to empathize with her more as well as foreshadow an even larger twist: that Chariot unwittingly stripped children of their magic at her shows. As the series doubled down on parallels between Diana and Akko’s teamwork and Croix and Chariot’s fractured relationship, this one simple fact leveled the playing field, introducing moral ambiguity between what Chariot did and what Croix was doing now, and acting as the catalyst for Akko to realize her idols aren’t infallible people. She still needed some cheering up, of course; you don’t star a cast of friends this large if you’re not gonna feature them in a rousing last-minute pep talk, after all, but with this realization, Little Witch Academia came full circle. The inspired aimed not to replicate their icons, but be themselves.

The finale itself was more than a little ridiculous and sort of hampered by the vagueness in its political conflict (calling an enemy nation “that country” instead of a real or fictional named one does some serious damage to worldbuilding), but the ultimate antagonist being a missile driven by people’s darkest emotions is somehow at once both silly and striking, like Summer Wars meets Harry Potter set in Brexit. Not to mention the obvious nods to other anime, which also drove home director Yoshinari’s animation side of the metaphor. There were probably more that passed over my head, but I particularly liked the projectile-dodging scene highly reminiscent of Eureka Seven, and Little Witch was full of moments like that, capable of maintaining a whimsical, influenced mood without separating itself from a grounding all its own. Sometimes it leaned a little too far on either side of that divide, but in the end it was able to re-balance itself. What’s more, it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride from start to finish, exploring themes of tradition, inspiration, and persistence with grace and featuring a cast I’d love to see more of, should Trigger ever decide to re-visit them. I’ve enjoyed but not loved the studio’s stuff before, but Little Witch Academia made my heart a believer. Shiny justice.

oh, and for what it’s worth, I totally called that the unchained broom would be Chekhov’s Gun back in like, February. Score one more point for good ol’ Yata here.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 25 episodes.

Catche:
Little Witch Academia is a rad fucking show and the second half was just as good as the first and if you disagree then you are what’s wrong with the anime community. Now, that might sound inflammatory, but since my doctors have diagnosed me with a condition known as “being pretentious and abrasive” you should realize that what I’m saying is entirely reasonable.

LWA has received a bit of flak over the course of the Spring season for its move into a more serialized style of storytelling over the episodic form that it previously took, the main complaint being that the series is no longer as entertaining and that it lacks the same level of thematic expression.

The first point is a bit hard to argue since everyone finds different things entertaining, but I could always find at least one sequence in each episode that I found to be extremely enjoyable, or at the very least quite memorable (and since I am “pretentious and abrasive” you should hold the exact same feelings as me.)

There is, however, something to be said about the thematic nature of the series’ latter half; not that it is inferior in how it conveys such themes, but rather that they are simply conveyed in a different fashion. Though the function of the overarching narrative as a coming-of-age story for Akko has been present throughout the series’ run, the second half really pulls this to the forefront, especially for the last few episodes. Yes, this may result in individual episodes not being so thematically rich in isolation, but the point is to build towards a big, satisfying conclusion (which the series has, by the way.)

Little Witch Academia feels like a complete experience, which is more than I can say for some other shows this season. Above that, though the method of presentation may not have been enjoyed by all, it crafts a solid tale of optimism and self-improvement.

Dig it, son.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 25 episodes.

MY HERO ACADEMIA 2nd SEASON


Yatahaze:
When I last wrote in-depth about My Hero Academia, the one-on-one battles of the Sports Festival had just gotten under way, with Midoriya persevering through Shinso’s mental assault. In one episode, the show was able to convey a newcomer’s bittersweet childhood, subvert expectations typically reserved for characters with brainwashing abilities, and demonstrate to us and Shinso himself that he found a place he belonged at UA. Like much of My Hero Academia, it was touching, heartwarming stuff that may have been handled in a by-the-books fashion, but the books were really fucking solid.

And yet nothing could’ve prepared me for what was still to come: Midoriya vs. Shinso was very much the appetizer to a full course meal of shounen spectacle that also included Uraraka staying motivated despite a loss, Midoriya inspiring Todoroki to unleash his fiery side, and a slew of other match-ups that shed some spotlight on the overwhelmingly uplifting supporting cast of the series. My Hero Academia’s charm is still its infectious spirit and well-rounded take on the genre’s fundamentals. That hasn’t changed one bit— in fact, this arc just proved it’s only gotten better with time. Any complaints about season one’s glacial pacing aren’t relevant here too: this season’s groove is confident and snappy.

And I realize I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but the characters are just so goddamn charming. I can’t add anything new to that now, but I want to reiterate it again anyway. Every single kid in MHA is either complex or cool enough (or both) to be the protagonist of their own story, and while this is still clearly Midoriya’s, it doesn’t indulge in that sort of singular superhero pretense. As much as this is a show about heroism, it’s also a tale of personal growth, and one glance at Todoroki or Tenya’s familial turmoil should be enough to demonstrate that it’s not any one character’s spotlight to hog. It’s that kind of additional weight that makes My Hero Academia such a consistently-fulfilling blast. I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to the show reintroducing its villains (they’ve so far been the weakest part of it all and it appears like their one-dimensional eeeevil hasn’t really changed since season one), but with or without them, this is still one of the best rides I’ve had with a shounen series in years, and both it and I can not stop twinkling.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

Catche:
My Hero Academia is the series I look forward to most every week. I’m not sure that it’s definitively the best show of the season, but the consistent output of high quality episodes just keeps me coming back week after week.

This is probably the most written-about series of the season and I’m not certain I can add too much to the discussion of the content that has already come our way. What I can add, though, is a bit of cynicism on my part.

After such a solid run of episodes within this tournament arc, I can’t help but feel that this second cour simply will not be able to live up to its first half. I’m really not sure that anything could live up to this past arc which executed on the series’ themes so perfectly and let so much of the supporting cast shine. This isn’t to say that the next half will be bad, I just wouldn’t be surprised to see pessimists lamenting the declining quality of a series that “could have been a masterpiece” or something like that.

I, however, doubt that the quality would take such a hit that it would hurt my overall impression of the series too much and as things move into summer, I’m still excited for a new MHA every week.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

RAGE OF BAHAMUT: VIRGIN SOUL


Yatahaze:
With Azazel’s uprising against Anatae thwarted, Charioce sent our heroes off to prison, where Nina soon met Jeanne and Kaisar reunited with Favaro. This recent stretch of episodes has been a bit exposition-heavy, but the material and characters are so strong that’s hardly been a detriment; I (and I assume most other viewers) wanted some catch-up time, taking a breather from Virgin Soul’s fun but in-the-moment start and spicing things up with some long-absent personalities from Genesis.

And fear not, because wherever there’s Genesis’ cast, its high-octane spirit isn’t far behind. Though I’ve loved Virgin Soul from the beginning and continue to, even I’ll admit that it didn’t quite hook me on spectacle. I fell in love with this sequel for its world and characters, both things that I think were refined here well, but at the cost of its “look how cool we are” action factor. It’s almost as if that sensation never left though: the crew sure didn’t miss a beat jumping back into it, and now that we’ve been given several clear motivations for each member of this ragtag cast, the series has earned the right to get a little wild.

And boy, did it ever.

For an episode or two, that is. Even at its most exuberant, Virgin Soul is considerably tamer than Genesis, and if you’re late to the party and just catching up now, be aware that this season doesn’t exactly contain any horseback roof chases or krakens destroying naval fleets already overrun by pirates. The evil and tension in Virgin Soul isn’t supposed to shock you as much as it grips you…and with the self-righteous human lord’s possession of and willingness to use a literal God-tier weapon of mass destruction in order to maintain the slave society he built, I think it’s safe to say we’ll have plenty to grip us as the series enters its second cour. My only complaints are that I think the series’ frequent CG use could be integrated a little better, but it’s still not awful. That and we just spent a pretty lengthy span of time with a separated cast and they’re already scattered again, but the highs of their reunion felt so high in part because everyone had some catching up to do, and I think Bahamut could get away with that same trick one more time.

So yeah, Virgin Soul has been one of the most consistently enjoyable shows of the spring and I don’t see that changing as we move on to summer.

Your take, Rita?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

Catche:
Fuck the haters, Bahamut’s still a damn fun ride.

I’d probably find a fair bit of enjoyment in Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul even if it wasn’t particularly good, due to my personal investment in the series. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the series has taken a decidedly slower tone this time around, but even then, each episode is packed with its own bit of excitement and fun.

By this point in the series, I’m pretty much sold on everything going on. Even my own personal concerns, like the possibility that Rita (who was friggin’ great in the first season) might be underutilized here, have proven to be non-issues.

This isn’t to say that Bahamut is free from flaws. The “climax” which occurred in episode 8, meant to be a culmination of all the tensions built up until that point, fell very flat. The whole Nina/Charioce dynamic is also kind of weird and uncomfortable, though I assume (hope) that whole bit will be resolved further down the line.

Despite these reservations, Bahamut remains close to my heart. Its use of old action/fantasy tropes still manages to feel fresh and exciting with each new twist and turn and I’m really happy that we’re getting more than one cour of this one.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

RE:CREATORS

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Harubruh:
Man, I’m so damned pleased that Re:Creators is gonna be a two-cour offering. In my opinion, this is seriously one of the best shows airing right now, by a long shot.

I was nearly disappointed that this most recent episode was going to be a re:cap episode, but just like everything else so far in this show, Re:Creators embarked on one of the most entertainingly unconventional re:cap episodes I’ve ever seen, with Meteora narrating it from her point of view about as gleefully as you could imagine she would. She retells the whole story up to this point, though with a lot of humorously wishful re:visions and some initial exaggerations on her, uh, abilities. Meteora then takes the time to introduce the cast of Creations, explaining their backstories from their respective universes, and then letting us know just how she really feels about some of these quirky characters.

Needless to say, Meteora’s rather monotone delivery accentuates her deadpan jokes, but the absolute best bit of the whole re:cap was when she recalled Aliceteria February and their battle from just a couple episodes ago that was brought about by Magane’s meddlesome lies. Just before she was about to be struck by one of the knight’s attacks, the action freeze frames as Meteora turns to look at the viewers to lay out her complaint about Aliceteria before she got her lights knocked out. I just wasn’t ready for that.

Nor was I ready for what followed.

Knowing that their audience was likely saying the typical recap-episode-reviewer-isms, it looks like Troyca used Meteora as a direct messenger from the animation staff, and possibly even from the director and producer to the viewers starting with her introspective on Altair, the big-bad military uniform princess all the way to the end. Leave it to Re:Creators to have a re:cap that was meta as fuck and incredibly funny.

Re:Creators has remained about as poised at it’s ever been since the outset, and yet more Creations seem to be appearing, so it looks like the second cour will be an ever wilder ride than the first. I can’t even begin to predict where this show will go.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.
P.S.: Here’s my obligatory “fuck you” to the corporate overlords playing keep-away with this show, too.

Catche:
Back in our spring first impressions piece, I said that Re:Creators was bad. This was a slightly incorrect analysis. Rather, it is a very uneven series, with strong character moments tied together by a connective tissue of contrivances.

Moments with characters like Kanoya and especially Meteora show just how strong the writing for this series can be and how much potential it has. But then, you have a scene like the one where Mamika reveals the identity of her killer; revealing the information in full to Megane but then choosing to play the pronoun game once Alicetaria shows up. It’s an infuriating mix of good and very bad.

At least I think I’m going to stick this one out for the time being, which is more than I could have said just a few weeks ago. Still, I feel that my opinion of this show is far lower than many others’. Let’s hope that I’ll see the quality that everyone else sees in the coming second half.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

THE ROYAL TUTOR (OUSHITSU KYOUSHI HAINE)

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Harubruh:
Long story short, my seemingly token slice-of-life comedy centered around a group of bishounens closed out with the nice and safe status-quo happy ending after Heine briefly resigns from his post as Royal Tutor after his somewhat checkered past is brought to light by the scheming noble Rozenburg as part of his attempts to interfere with the younger princes’ grooming for the throne. The princes then take up for Heine when a council is called to select another tutor, and the four proceed to give a stirring oratory that impresses those present for the selection. The final episode ends with the four princes welcoming Heine back to the castle, and everything was all happy again.

Am I mad about this being yet another predictable status-quo happy ending show? Nah, I’m not that petty.

The Royal Tutor left a deeper impression on me than, say other my other token bishounen watches from seasons past, such as Marginal #4, Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, or the like, but it’s not really going to get many other accolades from me aside from my usual “fun while it lasted but not particularly memorable” commentary. These episodes were entertaining enough on a week-to-week basis, but unless a second season drops —and that seems unlikely— I don’t think this is a show I’ll revisit with maybe one exception for the “King Victor plays Undercover Boss at Prince Licht’s cafe” episode, which was probably my favorite episode of The Royal Tutor’s run.

I may seem like I’m being a real downer on this show with this last writeup, but it shouldn’t be taken that way! At this point, I’m just sort having difficulties coming up with new ways to describe these fairly-safe-in-their-own-path popcorn shows with every writeup that I force myself to do for them. The Royal Tutor is a perfectly enjoyable comedy driven primarily on the prince’s strong personalities, type-cast as they very well may be. This is just the sort of show I enjoy once, and then probably never again.

On to half-assing my way through whatever popcorn show I decide to take on with the next season!
Final score: 6.5/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

SAKURA QUEST


Yatahaze:
I’ve been harsh with Sakura Quest before, but boy, has it rebounded strong in its second quarter. A lot of that probably comes down to the characters, who’ve warmed on me now that we’ve been given time to see who they are as individuals. But even more than that, the series has expanded its focus lately. The tourism board’s efforts mattered little to me when we lacked a sense of the place they’re trying to help, and while Manoyama isn’t the most unique of places, I feel like we were only ever given a slight glimpse into the town during the series’ opening stretch. We could see the place and immediately got to know some of the people working to “save” it, but we rarely got a hold on the outliers, those leading the backlash against them, and the townsfolk wholly content with their locale’s trajectory and skeptical of outside help.

No single event shifted the show’s direction, but with a more fleshed out primary cast and more context, it’s easier to slip into the show’s dilemmas each week than ever before, and the material itself is more resonant as a result. Maybe it was just a matter of time: could Shiori’s heart-to-heart with her old man have happened any earlier and still felt as weighty? Would the desperate matchmaking tour and TV opportunity have felt logical coming any sooner in the show? Pretty much every decision the Tourism Board has made since the mid-way point of this first cour has grown increasingly out-there while also staying restricted by a force looking to keep them from overreaching their authority. In that space, the comedy has become tighter, the twists themselves have gotten more memorable, and the episodic themes have been much more poignant.

It makes sense that the series became stronger with prolonged exposure: when you never leave a place, its surroundings become all you know, and Sakura Quest, much like some of Manoyama’s residents, felt misled by satisfaction, realizing after they saw others leave the town and come back just how important it may be to obtain a fresh perspective. Another moment that struck me particularly hard as a turning point for the show was Ririko’s interruption of the romance tour; she’d always been a little strange, and while her grandmother still loves her, it’s clear that she feels out of place in Manoyama and ostracized for her interests. While the community claims to honor its traditions and residents first and foremost, it has an unrecognized history of embracing the unknown. With Sandal’s help (he’s the best, by the way), Sakura Quest’s shyest protagonist stood up not only for herself, but also pointed out the hypocrisy of turning away outsiders.

That’s huge, because if there’s one thing I’ve picked up on since the start of the show, it’s that Manoyama means something different to everybody: to some, it’s a tepid, self-serving pithole. To others, it’s just a place to start over. And Yoshino herself is still trying to figure out how best to serve Manoyama and herself when in fact there is no single right answer. Like any community, some members will favor certain moves and others won’t. Tourism is a business, and in business there sometimes isn’t a win-win solution.

But I’ll be damned, seeing these guys and gals do their best to bring happiness to everyone has finally got to me. I’m done being a stickler; Sakura Quest has quietly refined its focus and grown on me with time. It’s still not necessarily AotS-potential, but it’s no longer the shadow of the show it could be. It’s finally stepped into the light, and I’m thrilled we still have another cour of its soul-searching and awkward promoting ahead of us.
Current score:
7.5/10
Still watching
after 13 episodes.

TSUKI GA KIREI


Yatahaze:
All season long, Tsuki ga Kirei had been a competent underdog, a show that played middle-school romance in the digital age safe but strong. It validated the integrity of each of its characters without necessarily granting them the things they most wanted. For the entire show, Akane and Kotarou were happy with each other, and though Hira and Chinatsu each wanted to make a move on their respective crush, they were too sloppy at it to succeed and too mindful of everyone else in the equation to press forward without much guilt. Unlike most rom-coms, it wasn’t a bitter love rival who almost sank the series’ ship, but pure coincidence: the Mizuno family had to move, and while their new home would be just within reasonable traveling distance, it wasn’t close enough to sustain our young couple’s relationship.

Except, you know…it was.

But it didn’t get there without some trials, and the finale was all the stronger for it. A huge part of Tsuki ga Kirei’s charm was how it depicted the strange, contradictory feelings that come in adolescence: kids in that period of their lives have a way of thinking they know all they need to when the world is so much wider. It wasn’t at all unreasonable for Kotarou to cling to his love by working his ass off to get into Koumei, nor was it wrong for his parents to begrudgingly let him try but force him to have a closer back-up plan. It wasn’t wrong for Akane to hope that he got in so she wouldn’t feel like a burden, and it wasn’t wrong for her sister to suggest that the two of them break up. Basing the trajectory of your next handful years on your first relationship would be a disastrous move, but in a series like this, with kids who don’t know or care about much else than their friends and hobbies, that naivete is cathartic.

And if there’s anything I can label the show’s finale, it’s cathartic. Like, almost Your Name.-tier, and considering that film had several heart-wrenching twists and turns up its sleeve and this one had…a bit of smooching and a lot of social media flirting, the fact that I’m making the comparison at all speaks volumes to just how closely connected I felt to these kids. Everything works out in the end: the epilogue breezes through the years as Akane and Kotarou stay together through high school, young adulthood and into marriage, but it’s a montage that feels earned.

Why though? There isn’t anything about these two that suggests their first love would be the one from the start other than undying loyalty to each other. The Mizunos’ move is the one struggle big enough to pull them apart, and it’s a fairly small one in the big scheme of things that could fuck over a relationship. But even though these two don’t encounter much hardship – or maybe precisely because of that, I couldn’t help but root for them these past three months and feel ecstatic when everything worked out. With art this beautiful (seriously, look at how stunning it can get without the CG crowds!) and moments this cute, it’s irresistible.

I called it at the start: Tsuki ga Kirei is a vanilla love story. It’s cute and unambitious, reserved even at its most dramatic points, and optimistic to an almost unrealistic degree. But it’s all of those things about as well as anyone could hope to see them, breathing life and addicting coziness into an otherwise dull premise. It’s a slow build to a stunning payoff, one that finds itself among my current top 5 shows of the year almost out of nowhere.
Final score: 8.25/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

And that’s it for now, though we have a rather busy post schedule ahead of us. In addition to Haru’s aforementioned A-Kon recap piece, our summer first impressions are just around the corner as well (likely in about two weeks time), and Yata may have another editorial up his sleeve soon too. In the meantime, let us know what you thought about these shows, our thoughts, and anything else from this spring that you thought we might’ve overlooked. Until next time, this has been For Great Justice. Thanks for reading!

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