Fall 2017 Mid-Season Thoughts

The holiday season is imminent and we’re trudging through the end-of-the-year work rush, but it’ll take a little more than that to stop Yata & Haru from scribbling together some updated thoughts on (most of) this fall season’s hit series. Which ones are exceeding our expectations? How are the numerous sequels of the season faring? And most importantly, which shows are we letting go of now that we’ve given them a fair chance? The answers may surprise you – read on!

THE ANCIENT MAGUS’ BRIDE (MAHOUTSUKAI NO YOME)


Yatahaze:
Not that I really mind, but The Ancient Magus’ Bride has slowly gone from a series with seasonal highlight-tier hype to…a pretty standard fantasy show? Aside from episode 3, which was a spectacular tearjerker about death, the series has played things rather detached and straight to expectations. Both the Cat Village arc and the introduction of the Grimm (don’t wanna spoil his name for anyone who hasn’t seen the OVA) were decent, expanding the cast as well as the world’s lore.

But while seeing this show’s magic on a broader scope is certainly enjoyable, I almost worry the worldbuilding is doing too much of the work. Chise and Elias form the backbone of everything happening in this show, but as individual characters they’ve been given minimal attention since the series started, and I could certainly see that being problematic for people hoping for some sort of intimate grip to suck them straight into the story. As a result, their relationship is severely underdeveloped, and since their bond is supposed to be the thing keeping them together throughout these early adventures, that doesn’t give the series much solid ground to stand on. And yet, it’s not driving nails in the coffin either. Magus’ Bride’s sense of wistful magic (bolstered by Wit’s consistent production) and the promise that all will be explained in time are keeping me patient. But if you’re looking for something truly original or exemplary? We’re still not getting that just yet. Not really sure what more I can say right now.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

BLOOD BLOCKADE BATTLEFRONT & BEYOND (KEKKAI SENSEN & BEYOND)


Yatahaze:
I said back at the start of the season that B3&B didn’t seem particularly better or worse with previous director Rie Matsumoto’s absence, just different. And I still stand by the ruling that it’s different, but at this point I’m coming around to accept some other harsh truths as well. I love Matsumoto, I really do, and I loved her take on BBB’s world and story. But my favorite episodes of the original BBB were loud and brash despite being tinged with a nice helping of soulfulness. In retrospect, I suppose that’s ’cause I admittedly still have a hard time figuring out what exactly BBB’s goal was. Its plot lines were over-ambitiously run over by each other to the point of exhaustion, with a notable miss coming for every few hits. Some characters were substantially more important than others, some events crucial into understanding the series’ bonkers narrative, but just because they were cornerstones of the show doesn’t mean they were handled with the grace they’d needed in order to be coherently conveyed to the viewer. I rewatched a little BBB the other day and was struck at how in its best moments, I thought it blew everything from this season out of the water. But at its worst, it was run entirely amok with convoluted overarching digressions that made me zone out.

Now say what you will about B3&B, but I’ve found that aside from one episode (the second, if you’re wondering), the strengths and weaknesses have completely flip-flopped, and I’m more consistently amused by the effort made here than I was with season one. It’s certainly not the better of the two from a production standpoint, but it does seem to understand that the series’ pull comes more from its stupid cast doing ridiculous things than from vampires and depraved maniacs trying to destroy Hellsalem’s Lot. Events like Zapp getting his penis cursed by a witch, Zed’s “zedphones” (I’m proud of that one, sue me) getting stolen, or Gilbert taking a week off would’ve been but peripheral gags in season one, but whereas the show’s previous installment bought time wading through genre stew, barely held together by Matsumoto’s oversight, this one efficiently lets its most brash moments carry whole episodes.

And in my opinion, it’s honestly not much worse for it, if at all. The core mishaps of BBB haven’t necessarily disappeared, as episodes sometimes end before they reach a satisfying close or feel torn between several plot lines at once, but now they’re all at least discernible, easier to follow, and frankly, more of a constant hoot than what came before. It’s got some lowbrow material too, but with a more dedicated focus on episodic shits and giggles, the cartoonish side of BBB is proudly showing its face this season, and though it might be a contrarian call, I’m finding it a more invigorating time despite seemingly settling for less. Make of that what you will.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

CHILDREN OF THE WHALES (KUJIRA NO KORA WA SAJOU NI UTAU)


Yatahaze:
There’s not always a show that I love on first impressions week and ceaselessly praise only for it to immediately shit the bed right when people start listening to me, but boy, when there is, I feel like the worst critic on the planet. Last season it was A Centaur’s Life. Hell, even Love and Lies would count to some degree. The only difference between them was that I realized one was absolute garbage and let it go early. The latter I held onto until its bitter end.

Apparently I don’t learn from my mistakes.

But how bad is Children of the Whales, really? Certainly not bad enough for me to drop it, right? Honestly, this is the worst week to hazard a prediction. The show’s stellar setting and exposition-heavy start had me enthralled, waiting to see what would come next. But while the magical visuals and worldbuilding gripped me (and mostly still do), my total immersion was soon shattered; an invading force attacked the Mud Whale, gleefully massacring a large number of its inhabitants before leaving with the promise that they’d be back in a week to finish the job. That in-universe week has just ended and the second assault is about to begin. The time in between has left me with more questions than answers. And it’s the hope of something better that’s keeping me going, because I am not at all satisfied with the answers I’ve received from Children so far.

I’ll admit part of my trepidation comes down to genre preference; I’m much more inclined to enjoy a slowly unfurling drama than an action-heavy war fantasy. But even though Children is leaning towards the latter, there’s no reason it can’t do both, and I think at some points, it’s trying to and just outright failing at it. There’s nothing inherently problematic with making cross-cultural interaction gory and gruesome, especially with the whole “empire vs. rebels” dilemma this show’s centrally about. Where that falls on its face is when the protagonists remain so underdeveloped as individuals that it feels impossible to empathize with them while they’re being attacked. It doesn’t help that the antagonists in this case take active pleasure in pillaging and raping; the only way to make poor protagonist writing feel even worse is to make their enemies pander to the lowest common denominator of vileness. But not eager to let that be the end of it, some of the “heroes,” namely the elders and their nous’ spectre-like guardian Neri, are so half-hearted and narrow-minded that they suggest everyone commit suicide or shy away from their responsibilities. The main trio of Chakuro, Lykos, and Ouni are all…okay, but they’re nonetheless easily my least favorite MCs to follow this season, even with more balanced development in recent weeks.

All of this is to say that Children of the Whales is on incredibly thin ice, and whether I make it to the end or not will rely almost entirely on how the show treats its impending counterattack and whether or not I feel it will even attempt to address the endless questions it’s raising. Even if it stays watchable to the end, it’s already hard to think of Children as anything other than a let down though, and that’s the most disappointing thing.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 6 episodes.

FOOD WARS: THE THIRD PLATE (SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA: SAN NO SARA)


Yatahaze:

Food Wars’ third season took a while to heat up despite kicking things off with a contest of spice. Souma’s ambitious challenge against Kuga played out more or less how you’d expect from a series whose boundless camaraderie and knack for selling its protagonist slightly short have become its primary showdown characteristics. Souma was under-prepared at first, slowly built up grassroots success learning from his mistakes each day, and accrued a crew of helpers to meet public demand in the end. He didn’t “win” his duel, but neither did Kuga, who it was revealed later on essentially did the same thing as Souma one year earlier towards Elite Ten member Eishi Tsukasa. After choking then, Kuga needed a total sweep in order to be granted a rematch, and he failed to get it. In other words, neither character really “succeeded,” and while the Moon Festival made for a nice little arc, this was also the first time since some one-offs in the first season where nothing particularly new was brought to the table. I love Food Wars’ blend of stupid competitiveness and supportive friendship, but those elements shine brightest in absurdity, and from narrative to production, this arc just didn’t seem particularly important.

No wonder, though. I wasn’t prepared for what’s been going down since, but I sure can’t complain either. To make up for its uneventful start, the following arc is essentially the result of a bunch of elitists deciding to Make Totsuki Great Again, with a coup throwing out the academy’s longtime leader and electing Erina’s disowned father Azami to the position of director. The shady move came with sweeping changes: no longer will students be allowed to form recreational clubs or research societies. No longer will they get to express their original ideas in the classroom. No longer will there be “fair” judges, or even shokugeki for that matter. Installing an effective dictatorship with him at the helm and the Elite Ten to share his privilege (and his paperwork), Azami has big plans in store for the school, and from the look of things, only Souma’s brazen recklessness may carry the rest of the student body through. It’s taken the show to an extreme, caricatured place, but that’s precisely what often makes the series so fun, and it sure as hell isn’t failing here either.

So yeah, I’m excited to see how in the world Souma and company will attempt to stage a counter-insurrection, but I recognize that Food Wars’ villainy can sometimes stoop to pathetic lows, and while I’m mostly satisfied with what we’ve received this season, I think it’s imperative I touch on this one concern: Azami’s abusive parenting. In general, Erina’s been the brunt of many a joke in this franchise, as you’d expect from the arrogant tsundere of pretty much any series, but while I can and do feel awful about her manipulated upbringing, the show isn’t doing itself any favors by pairing those scenes of mental hopelessness with shots of her sexually moaning half-naked. As the old Professor Oak proverb goes, there’s a time and a place for everything, and an earnest montage about abuse is just not the environment for schlock like that. There have been several less dramatic but still poor directional choices this season too, and even though I’m enjoying Food Wars and I think it still has a lot of great potential coming up, so far The Third Plate easily feels like its most unbalanced, least refined season yet.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

GIRLS’ LAST TOUR (SHOUJO SHUUMATSU RYOKOU)


Yatahaze:

Girls’ Last Tour may not have been real high on my radar coming into this fall, but it’s easily jumped over everything else airing to become my favorite show of the season. Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely love soothing, atmospheric anime when done well, and GLT might be the best I’ve seen out of that “iyashikei” genre in years. For a work that ruminates the afterlife, starvation, war, and the end of human accomplishment, it’s surprisingly digestible and careful with fragile subjects. I can’t say for certain which brand of apocalypse inevitably awaits our planet, but I sure hope it’s something like this one, with fascinating ruin, plentiful rations, and no dead corpses or mutated monsters on anyone’s tail. Sounds pretty great, all things considered.

And on that note, I love how diverse Girls’ Last Tour’s setting manages to be. Whether through the introduction and send-off of an episodic character or the discovery of a new destination, few (if any) scenes carry the exact same dynamic as one previously explored. Chito & Yuuri’s banter remains not just entertaining but often actively thought-provoking on its own merit, and never since the first episode has the show wandered too blunt with its points. It can wax philosophy about God one minute and then simply occupy the empty space as the duo hear “music” for the first time the next, and both feel like equally stunning microcosms of the human experience.

What’s more, it somehow manages to accomplish this with very little in terms of character writing. That Chi is “the responsible one” and Yuu is “the goofball” doesn’t mean that they can’t both share in moments of relief or swap roles to some degree if the scene calls for it, but they feel less like individuals and more like extensions of the setting; in a bleak wasteland, there’s no need to get sentimental over “friendship,” especially when these two disagree as much as they do. It’s almost always understated, leading moments like the duo confessing they have more faith in each other than some divine being to feel particularly poignant. It’s a bonus that the world itself feels both familiar and foreign, the tiered cityscape and peering religious statues suggesting an alternate time or one so far down the road that the culture and infrastructure have changed so drastically it’d be a disservice to implant our own current trifles atop it. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and it’s that soul of perseverance, that resigned but hopeful heart at the center of Girls’ Last Tour, that continues to pierce my own, and I’m savoring every second of it.
Current score: 9/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

THE IDOLM@STER SIDE-M

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Harubruh:
As I had expected from the outset, Side-M has stayed pretty solid thus far, and only looks to improve with the entire 315 Productions cast now working towards a concert featuring all of the company’s idol units.

I don’t have any complaints about how things have gone so far. Side-M’s time has been well spent depicting the new units building a rapport amongst their members, or fleshing out some of the already existing units. Heck, the producer even recruited a couple more members to the team while recovering in the hospital, too!

The sheer amount of polish this show has in comparison to the other boy band shows out there really is what is setting this apart from the background noise. The performances look smoother, the songs seem more compelling, the visuals are super crisp, and even just the plain ol’ storytelling is more believable than all the others, and it looks like Side-M isn’t even finished building up steam, either. Every episode has a handful of cameos by characters from the extended series — for example, the Aoi twins who the Producer recruited made a brief cameo appearance earlier in the series.

Side-M has been by far the best idol show I’ve watched that isn’t named Sekkou Boys, and it can wear that title proudly.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

JUST BECAUSE!


Yatahaze:
At the start of the season, I had nothing but praise for Just Because. I’m already a sucker for down-to-earth, bittersweet portrayals of high school life, and with a fairly large, vibrant cast all either sinking into or happily accepting the possibilities of what’s to come after graduation, I was mentally sent back to my own senior year experience just a few years ago. That time in my life – as I’d assume is the case for many people – was a confusing, sentimental, and yet carefree moment, and it’s hard to portray a universe with emotions that conflicted without making one of them feel too dominant (or all of them too passive). It’s even trickier when there’s no whimsy to elevate the scene and all the emotion has to leak through believable individual characters. Often times, only the studios with exceptional staff and a history for this sort of thing (see: basically Kyoto Animation) can reliably pull this off. But after 2 episodes, the newly-formed Pine Jam looked poised to do the same, and that absolutely stunned me.

As I should’ve predicted, it’s all been downhill from there.

The story’s still fine, of course. When a series sticks to narrative fundamentals like this, it’s kind of hard to butcher those too, be it an anime original work or not. But the production quality has spectacularly nosedived after stress at the studio came to a peak (more info here), and it’s still not fully recovered. Off-model faces, obnoxiously long held shots, backgrounds and foregrounds that don’t correlate, Just Because has become a near-constant mess to look at, and sure, the characters and narrative may be intact, but when a show’s primary selling point was its sensitive tone, those aspects can’t be sustained with visuals this inebriated. Honestly, it’s gotten to the point where I’m so actively sucked out of the story I have to rewind to catch simple discussions and incidents I missed ‘cause I was distracted by the production woes or bored by the simplicity. Regardless of initial promise, that’s a clear sign of trouble.

But I recognize there’s still hope here. Pine Jam took an off-week this week, and in their case it would probably be quite beneficial and allow them to catch up with themselves. Should the quality improve, I have a hunch I could easily find myself re-captivated by the story and its cast. As things stand now though, Just Because is yet another early highlight I’m mainly sticking with…well, the title basically gives it away. Fingers crossed it’ll rebound.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 6 episodes.

JUUNI TAISEN: ZODIAC WAR


Yatahaze:
Nisio Isin, you magnificent bastard.

Wait, people don’t like fanboys blindly praising the guy. Hell, I don’t like fanboys blinding praising him either. But I’ll be damned, Juuni Taisen has far and away exceeded my expectations. “Cult classic LN author writing a bloody battle royale” is not a recipe for success in my book, but the man somehow took shit and transformed it into cake. And in true Nisio Isin fashion, he’s having it and eating it too.

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of battle royale series, but I don’t necessarily dislike the concept. It’s just tricky to pull off a show that murders a majority of its characters, especially in anime’s uncompromising linear airing structure. Often, especially if there’s a large cast, some will get disproportionate screen time the whole way through, or an “immediate attention means imminent death” formula will become apparent after just a few episodes. Juuni Taisen may have avoided that first option, but the latter threatened its staying power just a couple weeks in, as the Boar, Dog, and Chicken were offed in three back-to-back episodes after serving as their respective narrators. And there came the worries; these episodes were, outcome aside, very well put-together, with intriguing, immersive backstories and a reasonable supply of side-setup for conflicts down the road. They earned their drama, and while the pattern was predictable (Snake’s pre-contest death aside, the killing has gone in zodiac and ED appearance order), the ways they met their ends felt both true to character and shocking in the moment. The show was still reeling us in, and the only thing that kept me hesitant to sing its praises too loud was its aforementioned predictability.

But episode 4 brought a change of pace. Monkey was next on the killstreak, and she was indeed the next contestant to die, but it didn’t happen so soon. Giving itself space to breathe and address some politics, Juuni Taisen spent not one but two weeks on death cold turkey, only to relapse with three deaths in an incredibly bloody and heart-wrenching sixth episode. Its individual characters may be eccentrically designed and over-the-top, but the best of them (and that’d be a hard title to hand out) still hold very human thoughts and goals. Earlier on, the Chicken is granted a true hero’s death, and while many of the competitors have let underestimation get the better of them, it’s hard not to feel sad for the old-timer Sheep who only entered to save his grandson from misery, or the Monkey, whose emotional breakdowns revealed via flashback over her limited practical success as a negotiator were still nonetheless touching. It’d be easy for a series with entrenched political undertones like this to play things heavy-handed, but it rewards individual grace to many, even in death. Don’t sell platitudes short indeed.

Whatever though, if you don’t like Nisio Isin, even Juuni Taisen’s minimal wordplay and philosophical rambling will still be bound to turn you off. And that’s fine – so far, I’d say I’m more entertained by it than challenged, and though its action sequences have their occasional troubled spots (the latest episode is of particular note in that regard), it’s fair to say that most of the tension comes from close-quarters combat and the desire to see most of these ridiculous contestants live. With half the playing field gone and bets on the victor open, the ultimate outcome of the show may be a lock for anyone who’s caught onto the killing order (unless Nisio pulls a last-minute twist, which…wouldn’t be beyond him, honestly), but that doesn’t prevent it from being a reliably exciting watch week in and week out. With lots of organizational lore and rich backstories to come, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered, so Juuni Taisen’s ultimate fate will rest with how well it tackles those loose ends. Either way, the fundamentals it’s presented so far are as solid as I’ve ever seen them from this genre.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

KINO’S JOURNEY -THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD- (2017)

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Harubruh:
Flying in the face of the nearly universal disdain I’ve seen for the reboot by the bloggers I follow that gave this a watch, the new Kino’s Journey has been one of my favorite shows to run this season. Perhaps my enjoyment of this series is due to the fact that I’ve yet to watch the original series from 2003, but my intention is to marathon it in the very near future.

There’s a lot for me to love about Kino’s concept: Traveling around the world indeterminate of a final destination, motor vehicles with literal personality, occasional gun-slinging, some infrequent gallows humor, and momentary focus on some bright, dark, or outright peculiar aspects of these varied collectives of people, which I suppose works as a sort of commentary about our own world at times.

I happen to like the aspect that even the more becoming countries Kino has visited still hide a skeleton or two in the closet, like the ever-moving “Bothersome Country” from the third episode leaving a mess in its gigantic tracks, or the twist at the end of “The Country of Liars.” I also get a real kick out of the talking motorcycles in the world of Kino’s Journey. As a lifelong gearhead, I’ve attested that the vehicles I’ve driven or rode would take on personalities over time, and it’s kind of fun to see the motorcycles in this series exhibit literal character, especially in the case of Kino’s rather flippant Brough Superior motorcycle, Hermes.

Unlike most folks I’ve seen reviewing Kino’s Journey, I don’t really find fault with the non-episodic approach of the show. For me, it fits well in this case precisely because there has never been a final destination stated at any point. Kino’s literally just moving on to the next country on the map, ready and willing to weather any potential obstacles that may come as a result.

The new Kino is one I keenly wait for every Friday, and at this point, any show that is able to have me eager for next week’s episode has to be doing something right.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

LAND OF THE LUSTROUS (HOUSEKI NO KUNI)


Yatahaze:
A few weeks ago, I remarked that Phos was the real hook of Land of the Lustrous. I didn’t think the show’s world wasn’t entrancing, per se, I just thought it hadn’t shown us all its cards yet.

And don’t get me wrong, it still hasn’t, but it has begun leaving a breadcrumb trail. Each new episode contains morsels of history that shift the series’ perspective with each new piece of information. First, the theory that the gems, sea creatures, and Lunarians were all descended from humanity. Later, the ultimate betrayal when Phos thinks they’ve finally found something of a friend (even if it was a…slug…thing) only for it to submit them as a hostage. And most recently, the uncomfortably blunt reality that while the jewels are immortal, the wear-and-tear they endure takes its toll mentally, with amnesia preventing the damaged from remembering recent events and thus learning from their mistakes as a species over time. Whether it’s something important to the series like that or simply an unexpected, silly facet of their culture, exploring the gems’ world has proven just as fascinating as watching Phos tool around like the childish brat they are.

Speaking of which, Phos does grow emotionally a bit, but only a bit. Still seen as the weirdo of the group, they’re persistently vocal, easy to aggravate, and overly eager to prove themselves. But perhaps most crucially, Phos’ willingness to challenge the norm has led them to tough questions many of the other gems don’t seem willing to ask. Of particular note was a scene from the show’s latest offering, where while exploring the icy wilderness as most of the cast hibernates (because yes, of course this series presented “BUT I DON’T WANNA SLEEEEEEEP” as the impetus of an episode), Phos pondered hacking apart their own body to replace it with something more durable. Their new agate legs, granting them a little more hardness and substantially more energy, finally allowed Phos to be useful in some capacity for the first time in their life, but still not enough to act self-sufficiently. From one partner to another, they’ve bounced looking for new purpose in defending the island with their comrades, but nothing’s quite worked out, and it was chilling to see them contemplate killing their own personality for the sake of utilitarianism.

And that raises several other questions, but all in due time, ’cause this ain’t solely The Phos Show. Whether it’s Bort & Dia’s uneasy savior dynamic, Rutile’s testy medic threats, or Jade’s haughty overseeing, nearly every gem who plops into the margins has a personality all their own that bounces off the rest of the cast with hilarious wit. The show’s shot framing, coloration, and pacing are all virtually flawless too, imbuing every scene with the precise emotion it needs to land on the viewer. As far as production goes, this may be the best show I’m watching this season, and while I’ve never been a CG hater (“skeptic” is probably the better word), I’m definitely surprised to hear myself saying that about a completely CG series. Not that the story’s dragging it down any either; since we’re still in the thick of things, I guess the truest praise I can offer is that I’ve not known what specifically to expect from LandLust each week, but quality work is just about guaranteed. I’ve finished every episode fulfilled and even more eager to see what comes next, gradually unfolding with grace towards every horizon possible. This show is pristine, smart, and best of all, a total blast. And if you’re not watching it, I feel very sad for you.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

LOVE IS LIKE A COCKTAIL

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Harubruh:
I present to you all: The most wholesome (and #relatable) three minutes of anime you can probably take in at a time. There’s not a whole lot of substance to this — Just a hardworking office lady coming home to a cocktail served by her loving husband, but damn, Chisato and Sora are a friggin’ cute couple.

The three minute air time may not be much, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t an enjoyable show for the amount of time I’ve invested in it. They’re even generous enough to give us the ingredients for each drink at the end of every episode!
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 7 cocktails.

MARCH COMES IN LIKE A LION 2ND SEASON (3-GATSU NO LION 2ND SEASON)


Yatahaze:
March’s second season sure is off to a SHAFT-y start. From the distracting, stylized visuals to the choppy pacing, the run of episodes starting this sequel off are by far the most reminiscent of the studio’s other work, and while there were traces of this in the show’s first season that I rationalized under the pretense of “evoking manic,” they honestly weren’t necessary there either. Here, they’re around in a much larger quantity, and while they don’t necessarily suck out the “soul” of March per se, they do scatter it around.

And I bother to bring this up at the start because, as much as I loved March’s first season, this sequel has been very sluggish, middling, and repetitive out of the gates. Thankfully, the emotional energy has begun resurfacing in recent weeks thanks to a new arc about Hina getting bullied. Alongside that, we’re starting to receive a deeper look into Rei’s tendency to associate the Kawamoto family with “saving” him, a well-intentioned enough idea but especially uncomfortable applied to a girl several years his junior. After a few episodes more solidly focused on this, March at last has momentum again, and while it’s not been as hard-hitting as the sheer desperation Rei hit last season, the material on display here is still visceral and multi-faceted.

Rei’s “approach” to dealing with bullies was to ignore them. Eventually, they neglected him as well, and frankly never mattered as much as the people he had to contend with in his home life. But Hina is a different story; she’s an outgoing girl with a strong sense of justice, and sticking up for a friend who’s since moved away has led the group of harassers to focus their attention on her instead. As much as March can pile it on with optimism (Grandpa tries his best, bless his pure soul), I’m glad that it’s not offering an easy answer to this. Even when there are clearly people at fault, there’s sometimes just not a win-win solution. Hina wants to lash out, but can’t. Akari wants to help, but fumbles in the moment and fears her stress has just made things worse. Rei wants to prevent bullying from continuing, but with teenagers, that’s like trying to prevent the sun from rising, and while everyone else around him tries putting his endeavor in more realistic terms, I’m just glad that we’re back in the muck again.

March Comes In Like a Lion is a hard-hitting, meaningful show when it has something to say, and for a while there, I was afraid it had exhausted all its best ideas in its first season. The pacing and out-of-place comedic routines feel disruptive still, but at least there are hard questions at the forefront again. Come what may, I still love all these characters and wholeheartedly enjoy my time with them, but it’s frustrating to watch an exceptional series become a merely “great” one, and I hope I can get a bit more enthusiastic with my adjectives again by the time March’s second season fully gets its wits about it for good.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 6 episodes.

RECOVERY OF AN MMO JUNKIE (NET-JUU NO SUSUME)

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Harubruh:
I was legitimately surprised at just how enjoyable MMO Junkie has been so far. At least from my point of view, anyways.

At this point, just about any show with a focus on anyone over the age of 25 will have an easier time grabbing my attention, and MMO Junkie just clicked for me. I’m a sucker for the self-deprecating humor that comes so easily with the show’s main character being a NEET. Add in the occasion dig at some of the questionable trends currently happening in gaming today, i.e. loot boxes and pay-to-win, and I have myself a winner of a show.

Despite coming off as another video game show, MMO Junkie is more of a romcom slice of life using the in-show Fruits de Mer MMO as a vehicle for the characters to converse and move the plot forward. The fact that Moriko and Yuuta just happen to be cross-playing in the game just adds another layer to the irony cake once that ball begins to roll, and it is definitely rolling now that some of the characters are finding out about one anothers’ online personas.

I can’t say I for sure dig this developing love triangle between Moriko, Yuuta, and Koiwai, but MMO Junkie has been too solid so far for me to just drop it so quickly. I’m just curious to see if Moriko can connect the dots between Lily and Yuuta, or that the connection is made to their characters from the old game that was referred to in the most recent episode.

Oh, and MMO Junkie’s is easily my favorite OP this season, by a very wide margin.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

TWO CAR

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Harubruh:
Whatever mental wherewithal I had to keep investing in Two Car has pretty much dried up.

Though this had the potential to be a decent motorsport-centric show, the charm Two Car had built up through its varied winks and nods to racing fans like me in its first couple of episodes has fully worn off. It’s been 7 episodes and it doesn’t even look like we’re remotely close to an actual race, only a few test runs here and there.

The show’s main focus is on its large cast, but even there it’s just stumbled in between the teams working out the kinks (in the case of one of the teams, literal kinks) in their bikes or their racing lines, largely leading to a bunch of drama and arguing.

The only bright spot has been the running gag of the two girls from Hyogo, Mao and Iseki, who have been shown in each episode with at least one instance of them flirting with each other like a couple of casanovas, only for their banter to very suddenly grind to an awkward halt.

Either way, I’m checking out. Watching Two Car the last few weeks has felt laborious, so that’s probably the only red flag I’ll need for this. Hopefully the next motorsport anime will rise to the occasion.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 7 episodes.

URAHARA


Yatahaze:
Artfulness was always going to be the Urahara’s selling point regardless, but it’s wonderful to see the series expand from something simply zany to watch into something attempting more meaningful insight. The floating battles, aggressively scribbled art, and cutesy elements all remain, but they’re now complementary to the show’s broader thoughts on creativity.

Oh, and there’s that kind of heavy-handed alien invasion narrative too, but even that is largely in support of the series’ messages. Rito, Kotoko, and Mari each have their own insecurities about their passions, fearing public response, outreach, and/or their own originality. Through one another’s support and a helping hand from a crepe-seller, Sayumin, the girls slowly overcome their episodic woes and take out an art-eating Scooper (or several) along the way. Some episodes were handled more gracefully than others (I found Rito’s ones particularly resonant), but as a base standard, Urahara had a nice little monster-of-the-week format going for it, and it was pulling it off fairly well. The production remains shaky, but its amateur appearance arguably benefits the themes the series is juggling. There’s nothing like the very obvious presence of effort to back up a show about that very subject.

That “monster-of-the-week” streak may be coming to an end though, and while I want to praise the show for treading somewhere more ambitious now that it’s earned viewer investment, I’m unsure it will pull off this “twist” it has up its sleeve. Sure, it was clearly foreshadowed that Misa and her fried shrimp mascot friend had something sinister going on, but happily decreeing that both they and the girls themselves were Scoopers (or turning into ones) seemed a little…I dunno, forced? It shouldn’t – the whole point of the Scoopers was to signify mindless consumers of art, and artists themselves in particular aren’t exempt from that. But the thing I’m not sure the series will address is how that’s not an inherently bad thing. No idea is 100% original, and just because Urahara is playing things abrasively artistic doesn’t mean they’re not also paying some degree of homage. Thus far though, it’s been shown that the Scoopers are solely things to defeat, third-wheelers unwelcome in this world. And I admire Urahara for trying something grand, but I’m hesitant to say it has as firm an understanding of itself as it will need to actually deliver on that promise. I’m still enjoying the show a lot more than I thought I’d be at this point in its run, but only time will tell if the journey will truly mean anything.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

WELCOME TO THE BALLROOM


Yatahaze:

Woooooow, it’s been a while since I’ve talked at length about Welcome to the Ballroom. Back when the whole lengthy “Tatara & Mako dance against Gaju & Shizuku” arc ended, I remarked I wasn’t all that excited about the show anymore, as it relied extensively on its genre fundamentals to pull its dull characterization forward. Several episodes of dance sequences at a time weren’t helping its visual impact either, with an increased number of still frames and repeated footage filling the gaps so much they outnumbered scenes of fresh, animated material altogether. Most of these problems were so prevalent because Ballroom focused half a cour on one tedious competition alone though, and with a new protagonist on the way and what appeared to be greater tonal diversity as a result too, I was at least somewhat hopeful the show could retain my interest for its second half.

And it is, but barely, with several inconsistent showings that continue to echo the first cour’s problems. What’s new is nice; Chinatsu and her frenemy Aki are a far more amusing duo than anyone else in the show so far, and I’m not just saying that for their yuri vibes. With clearly-articulated motivations and differing approaches to dance that reveal more about their personalities than nearly every other character’s attitudes do about theirs, these two are written with drama bursting at the seams. That’s more of a recent development though; the majority of this second cour tried acclimating Chinatsu to Tatara, and while the former’s frustration revealed a lot about Tatara’s amateur work so far and just how disappointing it can be to go up against a patriarchal culture and feel defeated by it, both these threads have been worn thin from excessive monologues. Ballroom’s drama still feels deflated by the show’s tedious length. As for its comedy, while it sometimes hits the mark so square I find myself bursting apart laughing, it’s still incredibly hit-or-miss with some really tasteless bits thrown in for good measure.

If this were slotted to run on even longer, I’d say I’ve had enough now, but with only four episodes left, I might as well see Ballroom through to the end. That said, I don’t expect my opinion on the show to change all that much in this final month; it’s shown it’s content to waddle through low expectations with the bare minimum of finesse, and for how invigorating and charming so many of its sports shounen counterparts have been in recent years, Ballroom can’t help but feel like a pale imitation of its ilk, understanding what makes a series exciting on paper, but not fully grasping how to invest its audience or set itself apart.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 20 episodes.


And that’s all for now! We’ve got a busy month and a half of material planned, from our inevitable final thoughts article to Yata’s Top 25 OPs of the year and all our writers’ Faves of 2017 pieces. With the onslaught of other work on our plate, we may have some delays as a result, but it’s our intention to get everything out there eventually, so thank you all for your continued readership and patience. In the meantime though, what are your thoughts on this season’s ongoing shows? Agree or disagree with any of our commentary here? Reach out and leave a comment below! Until next time, this has been Yata & Haru of For Great Justice. We’ll see you again soon.

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5 comments

  1. I dropped Two Car after six eps, and it looks like a *bunch* of people have Had Enough with ep 7 and the end of the twin’s story. Which is a real shame considering how strong the first two eps were.

    SideM is turning out to better than expected… It feels much closer to the original series, as has failed to duplicate the errors in handling a large cast that made Cinderella Girls such a mess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, though for me, I think the Tsukuba girls’ mini-arc did as much damage to the show with its silly S&M theme as that roundabout end to the twins’ arc.

      I admire how well Side-M has managed to stay focused despite its enormous cast. No group feels like it’s being neglected, but none of them are really hogging the spotlight, either. It’s maintained a healthy balance so far.

      -Haru

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was willing to let the mess made Tsukuba girls’ mini-arc slide if they otherwise got their stuff together. They didn’t. (The two girls in the cafe weren’t helping.)

        As far as Side:M, I think we’re admiring the same thing in different words. 🙂

        Like

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