Summer 2017 Final Thoughts

Welcome back, everybody! I think it’s fair to say it’s been a rough week or so in the anime community. Between Kemono Friends director Tatsuki’s unceremonious firing by Kadokawa, the news that One Punch Man 2 would be done by a different team at a different studio, and Hollywood once again deciding to adapt a certain little recently successful anime film in Americanized live-action, a lot of us were looking to find a headline deserving of our big Toblerones.

But we have good news too, fellas; the summer season came to a close this week, and while there were a fair number of late stumbles to cover, there were also some resounding successes. Which series stuck the landing? Which let us down when it mattered most? Yata & Haru are here to run down everything they finished, so find out what juicy takes of theirs await you below in FGJ’s summer 2017 anime season final thoughts!

GAMERS!

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Harubruh:
Did none of us cover Gamers! at first?

None of us did, save for a couple of tweets from me. Shame.

Despite its title and perhaps even that pilot episode leading you to think this was an anime about a video game club, or competitive gaming, at its true core, Gamers! is a ridiculously silly romantic comedy featuring some kids who sometimes play video games, with said games being an underlying unifying theme, rather than the focus. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any games at all here, as the final episode was largely spent (rightly) eviscerating the concept of DLC.

Sooooo, confused yet? You shouldn’t be.

Aside from the awkward scene in the classroom at the beginning, most of the pilot episode is rather inconsequential, with a very notable exception for the moment that Gamers’ main character-kun Keita Amano turns down an invite to the Gamers Club from school idol and club president Karen Tendou. A few wires in her head proceed to short-circuit, irreversibly setting the rom-com into action.

Amano, like most MC-kuns in anime these days it seems, has no friends except for his online buddies in his games. He eventually makes a friend in the class alpha bro, Tasuku, whose underlying motive is his interest in Karen, despite already being in an at-first farcical relationship with best girl Aguri. The boys quickly befriend another girl, Chiaki, and from there things start to snowball even further.

Through a series of continual misunderstandings, the group begins to suspect that everyone is having some manner of affair with one another, with multiple attempts to clarify the situation only complicating things even more and driving most of our cast insane. Typically this sort of schtick can get played out, but the cordial vibes of the Gamer Group and general lack of malice with regard to their mutual suspicions make the love dodecahedron work in this show’s favor. Between Karen’s previously composed demeanor undergoing a complete meltdown or Tasuku’s unwavering desire to stir the pot, these kids were a veritable treasure trove of golden reactions.

The OP is also my probable favorite that I’ve come across this season, depicting the gamers as characters in a variety of popular video games set to an earworm tune backed by some 8-bit music. It’s good stuff, and definitely worth a glance even if you don’t dig the series itself.

Gamers! is a twelve episode long train wreck of a romantic comedy and I love it for that very reason. If you’re in the mood for a zany rom-com, here you go.
Final score: 7/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

KAKEGURUI


Yatahaze:
Back during our mid-season update, I commented that Yumeko’s goal was partially to dismantle the Student Council. This was incorrect; her goal was to gamble to the most dangerous extent that she could, through and through. While the upheaval might’ve mattered to some of the other characters, as the driving force of the show, her own ambitions became increasingly prevalent. She didn’t really care about tearing down the overblown class hierarchy of Hyakkaou, she just wanted to have fun.

In that regard, my experience with Kakegurui was very similar; the rules and strategies of the series’ games became increasingly less clear, and if you’re curious about this show for its gambles on their own merit, you’ll likely find yourself disappointed in how often Kakegurui resolves its wagers with unforeseen mechanisms. Whether it’s a physical trick or the result of faulty logic, the show rarely foreshadows its “twists” to the degree that the viewer would be able to play along and guess how everything will go down. Yumeko almost always wins; those who defeat her only let their guard down to be overcome by her deux ex machina-style blend of main character invincibility and outright dumb luck. There’s tension to the gambles, but it’s on the behalf of the players’ personalities and rarely a result of the gameplay itself.

Fortunately, if there’s one thing Kakegurui has, it’s personality: whether it’s Yumeko’s guts, the Student Council’s ridiculous posturing, or Mary & Suzui’s increasingly ignored voices of reason, there’s always somebody shouting or scheming, and I can’t deny that I was thoroughly entertained by every character from start to finish. We all presumed from the outset that this wouldn’t be a particularly deep show, and it’s not; even though those “destroy capitalism, become a lesbian” memes aren’t too far off mark, the finale reins itself in by ending its ultimate wager in a nobody-loses draw. It’s the type of meek conclusion I feel like I should be upset by, but attempting to actually make a grand political statement after three months of self-aware edge drama would’ve been a pretty jarring tonal shift. Safe outcome aside, if you take a glance at this show and feel like you’d be even mildly entertained by the journey and all the silly drama it contains, I’d say go ahead and give Kakegurui a try when you’ve got the time. If you don’t, I certainly can’t fault you for that either.
Final score: 6/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

KATSUGEKI/TOUKEN RANBU

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Harubruh:
Well, the good times can’t last forever. In Katsugeki’s case, they started to tail off right around the tenth episode.

It was on a pretty decent roll, too. One of my favorite points of the show was Izuminokami’s agony with regard to his definition of “protecting history.” Initially distraught from the additional casualties resulting from the big-bad Time Retrograde Army’s attempts to meddle with historical events and he and his comrades’ thwarting of said attempts, I appreciated that the Second Unit’s captain came to openly question (even to his own master, Saniwa) if they could truly call it “protecting history” if needless casualties and damage were occurring for the sake of a historical event proceeding as it was supposed to.

Another great touch was the brief ride we got with the ace First Unit as they confronted an evil manifestation of one of their members’ former master. Not so much for the actual confrontation, snazzy looking as it was, but more for the feast they prepared afterwards as their way of attempting to make amends with the locals who ended up getting caught up in their mess. I almost find it slightly ironic that these swords manifested as people displayed more humanity than a vast majority of protagonists in anime do, even if it was for just a brief moment.

The final high point for Katsugeki was Mutsunokami’s meeting with his former master Ryoma Sakamoto as he thwarted an attempt by the big bads to interfere with his escape from the attempt on his life at the Teradaya inn. As he parted ways with Ryoma, Mutsunokami wistfully bid his old master farewell, knowing the eventual fate in store for him.

I didn’t care as much for the final arc, which took the “meeting their masters” element further, with Izuminokami and Horikawa having a run-in with Toshizou Hijikata. The two reacted in different ways, with Izuminokami getting sentimental about his former master, yet remaining collected and committed to Saniwa’s mission, and Horikawa nearly defecting to possibly change his master’s fate, but he rejoins his comrades for the big final battle.

Yeah, that battle was neat. Ufotable sure can pull out all the stops for the fight scenes! It was worth sticking around through Katsugeki’s highs, lows, and mostly middles to watch that sequence, especially the spectacular bit in the battle’s last moments where the two units finished the job.

Given that the last arc sort of soured Katsugeki for me a tad, I honestly couldn’t even tell you if I prefer it over Hanamaru at this point. Yeah, the visuals and overall production are more polished with this, but truthfully, I do find Hanamaru’s mostly slice-of-life take more interesting. Perhaps time will tell, as this was a decent (but not great) little action show. Now that I’ve enjoyed two shows about personifications of inanimate objects, I might as well just watch the shipgirls show at this point…

…or not.
Final score: 6.5/10
Completed after 13 episodes.

LOVE AND LIES (KOI TO USO)


Yatahaze:
I was there with you, Love and Lies, I really was. When people dropped you at first impressions, I saw promise in your ambitious gimmick. When you cooled the brakes on that and switched to a more personal story of confused, young love, I praised your ability to deliver at key emotional moments. When you started losing focus, I found solace in the fact that you were still entertaining. But you’re finished now, and I’m finished lying to myself about loving you. That’s right, folks. This show’s biggest defender has finally reached his breaking point.

Love and Lies is bad, actually.

I could say that in regards to its wasted premise or its underdeveloped characterization, but – source material aside – both of those problems ultimately come down to one thing: a complete and utter lack of an overall message. To tell a story like this, a clear sense of where you want each character to end up and how they’ll get there is paramount. Love & Lies set itself up fairly well: in a world where the government assigns everybody a marriage partner (an act that, by the way, if any of the characters had actually researched, they’d know was avoidable with a bit of counseling), what does love truly mean?

No, really. What does it mean? It asks itself and us that over and over. Nearly once an episode, some character ponders aloud what love is. And yet, by the time the series concludes, it hasn’t even reached a cop-out answer. Never mind the government propaganda thing, never mind some characters getting shoved aside and others stewing in melodramatic guilt for 24 minutes a week, the worst part about Love and Lies is that it offers not even a hint of a reply to such a stupid, simple question.

Sure, some characters “grew” a bit from the experience: Ririna discovered a sense of social belonging and Yukari realized (albeit without reforming much of anything about himself) that being a geek obsessed with burial mounds doesn’t get you very far in life. But while the former’s growth is a feel-good story and the latter’s is almost embarrassingly relatable, Misaki & Nisaka, two vital players in this series’ conflict, remain practically unchanged from start to finish. They brood and brood and just when you think they’re going to receive the attention they need in order to become interesting characters independent of the mains, they revert to the stifled, vague personalities they’ve had all along. It’s not even a matter of subtext: yeah, it’s pretty clear Nisaka feels uncomfortable about coming out of the closet and Misaki has something else going on, but the series fails to dive any deeper than that. Nisaka’s unvoiced component aside, the points of this series’ “love triangle” don’t connect; Ririna and Misaki basically play a courtesy tug-of-war with Yukari in the middle, each insisting that the other should remain with him. It’s hopelessly naïve, and while I was almost certain Love and Lies would use that childish outlook on puppy love like an empathetic “there, there, you can grow from this,” the series’ indecisive conclusion leaves it muddled in adolescent blindness.

So you! Yes, you out there! Are you 14? Do you want to feel like you’re emotionally 14 again? If so, maybe Love and Lies is a show for you. If you’re not…well, against all odds, the art style was generally pretty, the series was scored with consistently fitting romantic classical music, and if you go in blind, you might even find yourself entertained for a while and hopeful for a last-minute recovery like I was…but that’s about all you’ll get out of this, and even Frederic’s great OP can’t save a show that’s this big a let down.

Then again, you probably don’t need me to tell you that like it’s any sort of revelation. It may have taken me way longer to admit it than it should’ve, but just as the consensus went all season long…Love and Lies is bad.
Final score: 4/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

MADE IN ABYSS


Yatahaze:
I almost want to be disappointed in Made In Abyss for leaving us where it did. I feel obligated to state with the utmost clarity that Riko’s goal – reaching the bottom of the abyss and reuniting with her mother – has not come to fruition yet. When this adaptation ends, she and Reg are only in the fourth layer, still blissfully ignorant of what their society is really up to below, and to some extent, so are we. Abyss’ second half was a thrilling time and its hour-long finale was a tearjerker that, if it weren’t also tasked with being the finale, might be worthy of Episode of the Year contention. But Abyss…just isn’t over yet, not like this. There’s been no announcement of a second season on the way, and this one doesn’t wrap up enough loose ends to be satisfying from a writing standpoint.

Thankfully, writing wasn’t the show’s only strength up until now. With a setting as creative and interesting as the abyss, the series would’ve been considerably less engrossing if the world was presented as anything less than the imaginative wonder it is. Each layer contains its own unique ecosystem that the protagonists explore with little objectionable infodumping. Like how those back home in Orth are drawn to the gaping chasm in the middle of their island, I found myself completely absorbed in this pit and its dangers. Granted action/adventures aren’t really my strong suit, but I’m struggling to think of a more gripping anime title in the genre from the last few years.

Part of that is on account of the mysterious worldbuilding, yes, but the other half of that praise goes to the series’ expert emotional control. Two extremely spoilerific moments from the final arc come to mind, so if you’ve been curious about Abyss but holding off, skip ahead to the final paragraph.

The series’ middle arc with Ozen demonstrated just how unprepared Riko & Reg were should they encounter a monster way out of their league, and after Riko dragged a lifeless Reg around for 2 hours in layer three, the fourth layer finally proved too much for their inexperienced minds to handle. A monster’s needle punctured Riko’s arm, and the combination of its poison and a desperate escape ascent virtually killed her. Reg, freaking out as she started bleeding out every orifice, had to try amputating and resuscitating his comrade, the panic in both of their voices something far more intense than anything that had come from the show up to that point. At the time, I assumed this was “that one part” people who had read the manga got weirded out by, and on the contrary, I thought it fulfilled on the lurking dread the series had teased us with since the first episode without straying too far into gross-out shock territory for its own sake.

But that wasn’t the end of it; after getting saved by the mysterious hollow Nanachi, they told Reg their own story of being loaded up and brought down the abyss by elevator only to end up used in human experiments under White Whistle Bondrewd’s discretion. This latter tale occupied the first half of the series’ finale, and with that fresh in mind, it’s hard to critique the episode as unfulfilling; containing several of the most heartbreaking scenes in anime this year en route to resolving Nanachi’s acceptance and giving us the most concrete details yet of some of the darker shit going down in human society, it was still a tremendously important, memorable, and satisfying note to go out on.

And now? The age-old refrain of “go read the manga” remains, but in the meantime, I’ll stay optimistic for a second adapted season. Even if the overarching plot to Made In Abyss remains shrouded in secrecy, the show ended as great as it could’ve with the time it was given, and I otherwise only have minimal, insignificant qualms with it. Saying much more would be a disservice, so please do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t already. Where you go from its finale is ultimately up to you, but I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy the journey there.
Final score: 9/10
Completed after 13 episodes.

MY HERO ACADEMIA 2nd SEASON


Yatahaze:
With a third season already confirmed and MHA2’s final arc mostly consisting of team battles against the handicapped UA teachers for training, the series kind of faded out in lighthearted class shenanigans and small moments of additional characterization. Momo regained some confidence following a quick defeat in the tournament arc, Bakugo & Deku somehow used their rivalry to work around All Might and win their challenge, and Minet-

er, right, He Who Shall Not Be Named won his too, but do what I do and imagine a future him 20 years down the road who’s learned from his mistakes and has to live with perpetual embarrassment at how he acted as a teenager. Makes him more manageable every time.

But yeah, coming off Stain’s arrest, this season bided its time for a while before deciding to properly re-introduce Shigaraki as its main villain, upset that his brief former “comrade” stole the spotlight following their big night on the prowl. Initially distrustful of the League’s two newest recruits, a chance run-in with Deku seemed to rekindle his desire to kill, and that’s where this season let us go.

Steady and solid now, it’s hard to remember a My Hero Academia once plagued by its adherence to the manga’s pacing. This season proved that the source material can thrive when given space to breathe outside a strict one-cour timeframe. Furthermore, with its introductory details out of the way, this sequel rarely had to worry about establishing background matters that weren’t immediately relevant; MHA2 felt like a show living on its spirit of heroism in the moment instead of how its predecessor had to convince us it would get there sooner or later. Make no mistake, My Hero Academia made a fan out of me, and like so many of us, I’ll be greatly looking forward to it as long as it runs.
Final score: 8.5/10
Completed after 25 episodes.

NEW GAME!! (SEASON 2)


Yatahaze:
When I last covered New Game!!, the show had just introduced us to Momiji and Narumi, two new prospective interns in different departments who, for one reason or another, weren’t quite easing in with the rest of the cast. The two knew each other before applying to Eagle Jump, and surprised by the apparently lax company’s standards, they both slowly learned that while even your coworkers are your competition in the gaming industry, you have to be able to work with them. Narumi’s arc involved low-key bullying Nene (which I’m kind of ashamed to admit I enjoyed) until she realized it was her own reputation she would drag through the mud by not relying on anyone for help. Momiji’s personality was a little less consistent and her passive-aggressiveness with Aoba a little less realized, but her motivation – also being inspired by Kou – made her a decent foil for our main character’s happy-go-luckier mentality.

That said, by the end of this season, New Game!! didn’t really have a “main” character anymore; its field of vision drifted from person to person several times an episode, and for better or worse, Eagle Jump as a whole became the body holding everyone together. While some characters received clearer arcs of development than others, especially in the back half (the two newbies, Nene, and Kou at the last minute in particular), everybody got pretty ample screen time. That ultimately ended up being a mixed blessing, because while I don’t mind any of these characters on an individual level, certain combinations of them make for repetitive gag sequences that can easily disrupt the flow of an episode; Hajime & Yun, for instance, don’t reveal to us much of anything new in their chats about high school on a day off, nor do Narumi & Momiji’s fanservice-heavy scenes at their apartment (other than reinforcing just how big of an airhead the latter can be). For better or worse, New Game’s comedy has rarely been laugh-out-loud hilarious, and that continued to be the case across this season, but its relative diversity and rarity made it much more manageable than the humor in season one.

And that wasn’t the only improvement; the drama in New Game’s first season is chump change compared to the emotional highs and consistency in execution on display throughout this one. Previous comparisons to Shirobako once felt like a stretch, but this summer, New Game didn’t just hone in on what made its characters want to get involved in gaming, it also allowed them the agency to grow in their craft once they got there. This season’s finale hit me hard, and I think that’s because, despite all the lighthearted laughs, I don’t expect a franchise like this one to force truly hard decisions onto its characters. Kou’s choice to leave Eagle Jump and apply her talents abroad just as avid fans of her work get their own foot in the door with the hope of learning from her is an inherently bittersweet development, and the series’ decision to end on it in a manner that gave both the mentor and the starry-eyed students a chance to air their thoughts was so touching. Like in Shirobako, the best stories about inspiration are ones that understand well that our heroes are only human, and that if you work hard, you too can become a hero to someone else, even if you feel like you haven’t gone far enough yet. New Game!! overcame its occasional tonal bobbles to stand out as a proud continuation of that message, and alongside MHA’s second season and KonoSuba 2, I’d say it’s handily a contender for the most improved sequel of the year.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

RAGE OF BAHAMUT: VIRGIN SOUL


Yatahaze:
It was pretty simple, wasn’t it? All Bahamut had to do was keep Charioce the bad guy he was and make an oddball coalition of demons, gods, and the gang overthrow his dictatorial slave society. That’s it. That was the bare minimum of logical story progression. Knowing Bahamut, it wouldn’t settle for only that, but that was at least the general trajectory of the series, right?

Oh, of course not! If there’s anything Rage of Bahamut is truly good at, it’s setting up an amazing story and then throwing it down the shitter at the last minute. Genesisoverzealous hodgepodge of ideas looks mighty fine in comparison to Virgin Soul taking a turn so backwards you’d think it was written in a game of telephone: Charioce was the good guy all along! He just wanted to vanquish Bahamut once and for all to avenge his dead mum, really! Don’t worry about the genocide he carried out or how he tried to have his crush killed, that was all totally necessary to the plan somehow.

In case the sarcasm isn’t getting through to you, Charioce’s face-heel turn was the one thing that could’ve made this series fall apart, and boy, did it. He was an utterly unlikable character from the start, as he was supposed to be, the kind of villain whose actions you’re supposed to understand but find innately despicable. I was never too put off by his dates with Nina where he acted like a completely different person; the series had been playing up the whole “people are more complex than you think” theme for a while, and this was a good extension of that. But consider how almost all of Nina’s growth in the second half of the show was accepting that her man might be an evil maniac not worth saving, and not only does Charioce’s redemption not make much sense from a writing standpoint, it also actively hampers her own arc of maturity. Not to mention how after spending 20-odd weeks rooting against Charioce, everybody casually accepting “yep, he’s doing this for the good of the world, it’s okay” and stepping aside effectively rendered everyone else moot. For a cast with dozens of loud personalities, the fate of the world ultimately came down to just two, leaving the rest to squabble amongst themselves and get lost in an ocean of sloppy action choreography. Again.

The epilogue was mildly entertaining, but the way the series once again glossed over its previous sociopolitical misery under the vague prospect of “we’re working on it, but things are definitely better now” just felt like a shallow shell of a solution. Sure, zombie Kaisar is a thing now, so that’s cool, but overall, I’m still just kind of stunned at how hard Virgin Soul shot itself in the foot. It never fails to amaze me how some series can be so consistently entertaining for so long with the promise of a grand conclusion only to butcher everything when the time comes. Since April, Bahamut had been one of the best shows of my week, but now I can’t even claim the adventure up until the end was worth it, especially if, like me, you were intrigued by but lukewarm on Genesis. Virgin Soul does so much better, expanding its cast and world with grace and a smile on its face, but its shortcomings here feel so much harsher as a result, and after it all, I can’t claim with any sincerity that the ride was so exceptional it outweighs its frustrating conclusion.
Final score: 6.5/10
Completed after 24 episodes.

SAKURA QUEST


Yatahaze:
About a month ago, I remarked that unless total disaster struck, Sakura Quest could have a feel-good ending or a realistically sad one, and I would be satisfied either way…forgetting, of course, that part of Sakura Quest’s whole message is finding the happiness in “realistic sadness,” the new opportunities that await you when don’t give up on your passions. Dee Hogan’s fantastic new feature on Crunchyroll uses Maki’s final audition and her subsequent founding of Manoyama’s own acting troupe to illustrate one character’s path towards modest re-invigoration, but while Maki remains my favorite member of the primary cast, just about everyone from Yoshino to the extras we just met at the end got their own moment to shine in these final five episodes.

Some of these moments were resoundingly joyous; Sandal received closure in his search for information about his ancestors and Ririko broke out of her shell, performing for the Mizuchi Fesitval (which went off without a hitch!) and deciding that she’d like to leave Manoyama herself too. Some other characters may have to wait; Erika, the petulant café brat, didn’t get very far trying to run away from home in the dead of winter. Not long later, a swath of townsfolk had to deal with invasive requests to open up their shop space to unreliable strangers, a matter which blew up at one of Oribe’s Board of Merchants meetings so quickly the group only narrowly avoided crumbling apart. Sakura Quest mostly came to an uplifting close, but it didn’t get there without drama and some unresolved matters remain; Manoyama’s still on the verge of being annexed by a larger, neighboring city, and while the Mizuchi Festival and a tighter sense of community may start to put this small town back on the map, that may not be enough to keep it a separate entity. An OVA or something notwithstanding (please, P.A.!), we likely won’t get to see how that plot thread ends, but the one thing I’m certain of is that the community will do its best to fight off their town’s dissolution.

And that’s because while Sakura Quest’s lively batch of personalities are vital in making this show what it is, they’re not greater than the sum of their parts, shining best and getting the most done when they work together as the community they are. At the start of the series, the majority of Manoyama’s residents didn’t mind kicking back and letting their village fade into nothing, even at the expense of its future generations. Over the course of its one in-universe year and several clumsy attempts at bringing people together, Manoyama realized that it needn’t be forgotten so easily. Its citizens were wary of change and the outside, but they too enjoyed the splendor of young and foreign ideas in the end. While the Tourism angle constantly made the show feel like its goal was to bring economic progress in, what it really fought for was something more human; getting people to connect with one another again. Whether a few bakeries, bookstores or re-purposed abandoned schools can generate enough GDP to keep the town afloat is sort of besides the point, as is the threat of its absorption; when people come together, their quality of life improves, and the positive atmosphere it breeds is what really draws people towards a place. It can be manufactured in the form of TV spots or festivals, but there’s no substitute for the genuine thing.

In the midst of the town’s fervor, Yoshino still decides to leave. She had found a home in Manoyama, initially accepting her one-year job out of desperation but ultimately molding a place where she could be loved and give that love back. But she also sees that, with so many people staying on board like Kadota or putting their roots back down like Sayuri and Kumano, the town remains in good hands even without her there. She shined in bringing new ideas to a place in need, but when dreamers stay stationary too long, they can lose the unbridled passion that carried them so far in the first place. After one last teary goodbye, Yoshino has a new start ahead of her, and the young woman who once feared not having a sense of direction has embraced that about herself and helped so many along the way. As we too finish and move on from Sakura Quest, all it asks of us is that we do what we can to bring people together just the same. This show wasn’t always a smooth ride, but for the better half of its two cours, it had me absolutely hooked and captivated, and its heart of gold cannot be denied. Please watch it.
Final score: 8.5/10
Completed after 25 episodes.

TSUREZURE CHILDREN


Yatahaze:
If there’s any upside at all to Amazon snagging several of anime’s latest high-profile titles, I’d say it’s how the subsequent desperation for good airing shows not hidden behind a ridiculous double paywall led hordes of fans to one of the season’s finest underdogs, Tsurezure Children. Back when it premiered, I was stunned by how eloquently individualized the show made its ridiculously large cast feel. For the number of characters it had on hand, it was a wonder to me that it even attempted to give them all decent screen time.

That didn’t last very long.

Which, depending on which ones immediately impress you, could lead to gratefulness or frustration; as the series went on, the duos of Gouda & Kamine, Sugawara & Takano, and especially Best Couple Chiaki & Kana got disproportionate amounts of attention, so much so that despite introducing about a dozen more characters, Tsurezure really didn’t bother giving many of them a conclusive send-off. Hell, it even debuted a few new goofballs in the final episode and veiled others as non-speaking extras in the background throughout the whole season. With a manga so relatively long-running and a cast so huge, the series really only had two options: split everyone’s arcs apart so that each couple got a strong start but only half-complete development, or zoom in on a select few and wrap up their stories at the expense of everyone else even getting past the starting line.

In that regard, it’s indeed a “like this sampler? Go read the source material” kind of show, but by giving those few pairs an in-depth look, it’s not without deeper substance; for example, Gouda & Kamine’s relationship moves well past the sunshine and rainbows stage, Kamine’s desire to get more intimate with her dense boyfriend occasionally getting the better of her behavior. And Chiaki & Kana’s relationship actually follows a full arc of growth from confession to comfort to temporary breakup and back. While Tsurezure’s comedic timing is virtually flawless throughout, it was during this duo’s skits where the show’s heart shined through strongest: towards the end of the series, Chiaki worries about not acting like “enough of a man” (you misguided child, you) to make a move on Kana, so he gets drunk to loosen himself up despite her objections. It’s not played for laughs: the show knows that dumb luck and bad timing make better comedic fodder than deliberate, selfish actions, and Chiaki’s genuine shame about his unwanted smooch after the fact wasn’t enough to instantaneously reverse his relationship to how it was before. That’s how real relationships go, and of all the things Tsurezure does well, knowing where to poke fun and where to prioritize each character’s feelings is perhaps its finest attribute.

The lack of a conclusive finale makes it hard to recommend Tsurezure Children as perfection, but it is goofy, earnest, and enjoyable with a consistency I’ve not seen out of a rom-com in a very long time. If you’re a fan of the genre, the series’ quick, marathonable nature means you’d be remiss to not gave it a whirl. Though Studio Gokumi hasn’t made any announcement on the matter, I’ll stay hopeful for a Tworezure Children, and if it doesn’t come, then hell, I may even read the manga. Truly words of praise coming from FGJ’s least active reader.
Final score: 8.25/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

Harubruh:
What a fun little ride that was!

Though I was hoping we’d have more than we got, I’m still thrilled that Tsurezure Children is an anime now. I’m even happier that it was lauded by most who watched it.

The anime’s success largely was a result of Studio Gokumi and the director Hirako Kaneko (who prior to this, had primarily directed ecchi shows. total upgrade, man) cherrypicking the “safe” couples whose interactions lent themselves best for an anime adaptation. There were a few teasers of some of the other couples, such as the few appearances of my personal favorite couple, the expressionless Sunagawa and Toda. It was a shame we barely saw them, or much of Patricia save for the last episode, because she is definitely one of the funnier characters in the manga. Same goes for a proper send-off for Furuya and Minagawa, I’d have loved to see that.

I won’t nitpick this show, given the time constraints it had to work around. This is easily the best short-episode series I’ve seen in years, and I am so very glad it not only met my expectations, but exceeded them handily. Given Tsurezure Children’s success, I have my fingers crossed that Gokumi will announce another season, because they did a stellar job on this from start to finish, and there’s more than enough material for them to play around with.
Final score: 9/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

(P.S. The manga is available in America for e-readers at very least, you owe it to yourself to check it out)

WELCOME TO THE BALLROOM


Yatahaze:
No point sugarcoating things; Welcome to the Ballroom had never really been a contender for my favorite anime of the season, and this past month and a half has made even continuing it a chore. With Sengoku pulling the strings and issuing an ultimatum, Mako, teamed up with Tatara, had to prove she was worthy of the spotlight over Shizuku and her new partner Gaju in a formal competition. Of course, there’s just one issue there: Tatara’s skill is nowhere near on par with Gaju’s, and frankly Mako’s isn’t quite on par with Shizuku’s either. Still, if the goal was for this timid, soft-spoken girl to get attention, the pair overcame the odds; Mako won ballroom queen even though she and Tatara came last as a duo, rendering Gaju and Shizuku’s win pointless for their own personal stakes.

It should’ve been a feel-good story, but this whole arc was not particularly entertaining. It was the first time we’ve seen the cast do extensive dancing, sure, but it relied on tension that became more and more predictable the longer it dragged on. Sooner or later, the amount of screen time it spent eliminated any hint of the notion that Mako wouldn’t win; if after all this, the only consequence was Tatara realizing his stamina is still shoddy, it would’ve been the biggest waste of five episodes I’ve seen in a long time, sending everyone back to square one.

Even Mako’s success is undercut somewhat by how her accomplishment is attributed to Tatara “making her shine.” This isn’t really a complaint about the writing, since obviously the judges have to critique competitors within the inherently patriarchal leader-follower realism the series abides by, but it’s hard to feel emotionally satisfied when her well-earned moment of glory is then shifted over to Tatara being really good at amplifying his partner’s strengths. Hell, the only reason they got to the finals in this cup was the judges’ sheer curiosity in seeing someone as unrefined and new as Tatara doing so comparatively well early on.

I’m kind of running dry on appreciation for Ballroom now; it’s been inconsistently flashy from the start, and this latest arc only compounded its problems with dramatic pacing and characterization. As we enter the second cour, I’m hopeful some fresh faces and Tatara’s high school transition can provide a wider scope of material to work with. If, in a month or so, it appears that Ballroom won’t learn from its mistakes though, I’ll likely let it go for good. Fingers crossed.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 11 episodes.


And that’s all for now! What were your favorites from this summer? Agree or disagree with our commentary here? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter, which you can follow us on via the sidebar if you haven’t already. We should have our fall season first impressions article out in a few weeks, and we look forward to seeing you again then! Thanks for reading!

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