Saturday, 12 November 2016

Streaming: Summer 2016 anime final impressions

Did the season end already?! Between my packed schedule, real life stresses (I'm never moving house again) and keeping a close eye on Sengoku Basara news (which I badly need to write up into a news post), I feel as though it only just began. It doesn't help that I've been forced offline for a very long time due to problems with my Internet connection. I even ended up dropping Love Live! Sunshine two thirds of the way through simply because I was getting too backlogged - it was too much like the previous series only with less likeable girls and I wasn't enjoying it. Without my sudden and inexplicable addiction to Mystic Messenger the last couple of months would have been rather dull.

Real world politics are depressing right now so here's Arslan

Thankfully, Funimation Now and Crunchyroll made catching up relatively easy since both services have schedules and episode tracking, features which I've asked for countless times on lesser streaming sites without any success. I closed my Funimation Now account at the end of the season since they're switching to focusing on dubs and the site isn't really functional for me without a quality selection option or an app for any of my devices, but it was still a better experience than Animax or Viewster.

First and foremost, the post-season ranking.

1. Arslan Senki
2. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
3. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu Love! Love!

My prediction wasn't too far out except that the sequel to Binan Koukou was even better than its first season and I'd apparently underestimated quite how much I loved Arslan Senki. Danganronpa 3 was good fun too, but the annoyance of Funimation's new website made it a nuisance to watch. I'll give it another spin on Blu-ray in future to accompany the next game release.

As I want to get caught up on the already-half-finished autumn season straight away, my comments may be shorter than usual.

91 Days
91 Days never quite managed to meet my expectations after a very strong first episode; the story wasn't quite tight enough and I found my attention wandering partway through. Things did pick up again enormously towards the end, but the focus on paying tribute to classic gangster films (most of which I've never seen) hurt it a little. All in all it was a decent watch, if not the second coming of Baccano! which I'd secretly been hoping for. The lasagne episode made me feel physically queasy.

Every good shot I took was dark, sorry

Amaama To Inazuma (Sweetness And Lightning)
Almost at the exact opposite of the scale to 91 Days, the final episode of Amaama To Inazuma was just as lovely as the first. Each episode explored human friendship and familial bonds through a different Japanese dish, and it even showed viewers how to get the most out of preparing the food - strangely interesting in this modern era where traditional skills are rapidly being lost rather than handed down from parent to child. My favourite moment in the whole series was Tsumugi's shark song. Her voice actress did a particularly good job throughout the show and I hope she gets more work in future; she managed to capture the sweet naiveté of a friendly young girl perfectly. It's difficult to imagine anyone with human feelings failing to find Tsumugi utterly adorable.

Finally managed to get a shot of this cutie

Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu (The Heroic Legend Of Arslan season 2)
A great follow-up to a show I thoroughly enjoyed, but did it have to run for just eight episodes? And did it have to end on that huge cliffhanger? I'm not satisfied to leave things there!

Even though most of Fuujin Ranbu was dedicated to a self-contained storyline, enough happened in the background to turn the political situation on its head in several different locations across Arslan's world. It's more obvious than ever that anime viewers will need to hope for future adaptations in order to find resolution for the existing plot, let alone any new problems which spring forth as the story develops further. In the meantime, I'll look forward to another beautiful UK release (I don't get to say that very often) from Universal to match their special edition of season one. Arslan Senki has proven itself to be a very satisfying watch - in spite of the abrupt ending.

Arslan has the best companions

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! LOVE! (Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE!)
I didn't think it was possible but I loved this sequel to Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! even more than the original! The main reason for this was the new villains, a pair of twin boys who also happened to be intergalactic idol singers with petulant streaks a mile long. At the start of the show they're typical enemies sending monsters to fight the heroes and hiding away in the background themselves, but after a few episodes the cracks in their flawless idol façades began to show and they stopped being able to hide their ridiculousness. This culminated in an episode where they have second thoughts about one of their plans and have to try to persuade the heroes to transform and deal with the threat without blowing their own cover, only to have the heroes constantly reject their invitations, introducing a layer of uncomfortably realistic social awkwardness to the whole thing that could only be part of a Japanese anime script. I was laughing so hard during this particular episode that I had to keep pausing the stream to give myself time to stop giggling before the next round of jokes! I'm not sure how great the show is for anyone who didn't start out surrounded by wonderful magical girl shows - the comedy relies on knowledge of the genre to a certain extent - but for me the humour is absolutely spot on. A great sequel to a great show. What more could I want?

Comedy villains are wonderful

Berserk
I never got used to the 3D CG artwork in this new series of Berserk. It looks ugly. However, once the plot got going and it became evident that there were some likeable new characters to be found amongst all of the monsters, religious zealots and cannon fodder - I really like Serpico - it become much more watchable and there were moments when I could almost pretend that I wasn't watching an awkwardly-animated puppet show. Which is ironic given that I did actually watch a puppet show this season and those characters were considerably more lifelike than these dead-eyed CG models. This remains a huge disappointment for those of us who had long been hoping for a traditionally-animated Berserk series to cover the rest of the manga material, but ultimately the core plot is still interesting. I'll stick around for the second season when it comes along,

I wish this guy could be happy one day

Cheer Danshi!! (Cheer Boys!!)
I wanted to like you, Cheer Danshi!!, but you just didn't stand out. A run-of-the-mill female-orientated sports series focusing on cheerleading - which I will admit is more of a sport than I thought when I first started watching - it never quite captured my imagination the way its more bombastic cousins in the genre have in the past. It was just too squeaky-clean and, well, cheerful. And most of the plot twists were obvious a mile away. Still, it's not a bad thing to see a bunch of misfits find friends and a shared interest and if I'd been less frantic all season it would probably have been a fun way to unwind. An average series.

I wanted more of these moments

Danganronpa 3: The End Of Hope's Peak High School - Mirai-hen (Future Arc) and Zetsubou-hen (Despair Arc)
There was also a single episode Hope Arc but I'll keep things as simple as I can. This new Danganronpa anime was crazy. I loved the way it alternated between 'future' and 'despair' episodes, because at first Future Arc was very dry. Like the games, it took a while to get to the point and the new characters' endless melodrama made it difficult to warm to them. The dull, more 'realistic' visuals didn't help. In contrast, Despair Arc was full of over-the-top silliness from the younger versions of the cast from the second game. They needed no introduction for existing fans, which made the early episodes interesting right from the beginning. I would quite happily sign up to watch a full-length television series of Tanaka Gundham shouting at everyone with Sonia swooning in the background and Nagito smiling creepily at the camera. No plot necessary.

With that said, I was actually surprised that the anime took the time to explain almost all of the lingering mysteries from both of the original games; it was a very pleasant surprise. The new story from Future Arc - which also related to Despair Arc in the end - wasn't the strongest, yet overall the mix of backstory and new content was satisfying. Now I have to wait patiently for the next game. I love Danganronpa!

Characters so bonkers that everyone else seems boring

Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu (The Highschool Life Of A Fudanshi)
The laughs were ultimately few and far between but this comedy about a perpetually-flabbergasted male BL fan was still worth my time for the handful of genuinely clever jokes. Even though I'm sure I will have completely forgotten about it in a couple of years. Crunchyroll's strategy of licensing everything they can is a real blessing when it comes to shorts which would otherwise never get a chance at a simulcast over here.

This picture cracks me up and I don't know why

Gyakuten Saiban: Sono 'Shinjitsu', Igi Ari! (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)
I have heard nothing positive about this cheap-looking show, which is either a retread of familiar ground (if you've played any of the Gyakuten Saiban games) or a bewildering parade of nonsense (if you haven't played them). With its unremarkable animation, lack of coherent backstory and major spoilers for the game, this is probably one for the hardcore fans only. However, since it's been a while since I played through the first few games I've really enjoyed the trip down memory lane with the familiar old cast. It turns out that I'd forgotten most of the solutions to the mysteries which helped keep the suspense higher than it might have been, and it was nice to hear the Japanese story (which characterises some of the supporting cast quite differently from the localised script by necessity). It's difficult to imagine recommending the Gyakuten Saiban to anybody but I liked it nonetheless.

The opening sequences were the best/funniest parts

Orange
I'm proud of myself for finishing the anime version of Orange after wimping out partway through the phenomenal manga, which I'd love to buy if/when I ever have money again. Since I was too afraid to finish it, I'm not sure whether the anime adaptation sticks tightly to the same plot or diverges at the end. What I do know is that I enjoyed the end and it avoided some of the more awkward possibilities for resolving the surprisingly complicated plot. I was satisfied by how things turned out.

Regret is a difficult emotion for me. In fact, I'd say it's one of the most terribly sad emotions in the entire spectrum and Orange captures that tortured feeling so accurately that it's been painful for me to get through the series from start to finish - definitely a sign of a very well-written story. It's a real emotional rollercoaster, with the purity of the friends' desperation to protect one another clashing with the darkness that poor Kakeru has locked up inside him, and suddenly losing someone you care about is a scenario that has played out hundreds of thousands of times in social groups all over the world. It's hard not to become emotionally invested. Ropey animation or not, I love this series and I'd definitely pick up a home video release if someone brought it to the US (or UK) one day. It deserves to break out and be seen by non-anime fans too.

;_;

OZMAFIA!!
I watched this whole series and came out without any real thoughts. If it hadn't been so short, it would have ended up dropped like Love Live! Sunshine because it really did feel pointless. At least the designs were pretty?

Nothing happened! Nothing!

Shokugeki No Soma (Food Wars! The Second Plate)
A very satisfying self-contained season of ecstasy-inducing cookery battles. I'd much rather The Second Plate had been a full two-cour season like its predecessor since I gather that there's still a lot of material to cover from the manga, but the staff managed to keep the plot tight; the first few episodes resolve the tournament from the previous season while the last few concentrate on the 'stagiare' work experience all of the students have to do as part of their training. This was probably my favourite arc of the two since we got to see Souma having to learn on his feet in unfamiliar situations without his usual cheerleaders around him. The episodes about French cuisine were particularly interesting since Souma knew even less than I do about it, and had to display a much more humble attitude than we're used to seeing from him on his home turf. However, I imagine that fans of the wider cast were probably disappointed that they didn't get to do much in these episodes. I'm lucky that this is one of those rare series where I actually really like the lead character!

What's with the short-running sequels to great shows?!

Thunderbolt Fantasy: Touriken Yuuki
Somehow, I ended up watching the whole show despite not really liking puppet theatre and finding the Chinese/Japanese name mismatches annoying. It was just so passionately exciting at all times. The utterly generic anime/Asian fantasy plot about some strangers gathering a party together to go and stop an evil bad guy from running off with a magical sword has never been told in such a gorgeous way before. It was also surprisingly bloody. Someone needs to put this out on Blu-ray in the west and get it on Adult Swim or something.

Screaming Phoenix Killer has to be one of the best titles any person can hope to aspire to. Instant favourite character. Sigh.

The beauty of these puppets is mindblowing

--

That's all for summer; it was a decent season and the UK coverage was better than ever. If not for my real life problems, I'd have had an easy time keeping up with everything I wanted to watch thanks to the dream combination of Funimation and Crunchyroll - which looks set to become even better from now on.

The best thing about the current JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is the only show continuing into the autumn season, which has already started. It looks as though I have a lot of catching up to do!

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