Sunday, 7 May 2017

Streaming: Winter 2017 anime final impressions

Another busy season for me outside of this poor blog, which is limping along on these anime roundups alone these days. I've only been keeping up on the shows which aired on Crunchyroll which was rather convenient and economical. It feels as though this era may be over moving into the spring season, sadly, as it's absolutely loaded with service-specific exclusives; even losing just one must-see title in winter to Amazon Prime was a shame.


I dropped Fuuka partway through its run after realising that it was never going to become the alternate version of NANA I was hoping for, and from all accounts it seems that I dodged a bullet there. I also dropped Ao No Exorcist for no reason in particular. It was too confusing trying to stitch the canonical events from the previous adaptation together.

So let's go with this for my top three:

1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
2. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept
3. MARGINAL #4

The other reason for my lateness in posting these final impressions (and consequently, my first impressions for spring) is a little silly. I loved my top show so much that I was afraid to finish it for quite a few weeks, and ended up trapped in an extended winter much longer than I planned. Several of the shows - most notably Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans - were such emotional rollercoasters that they left me in tatters. I hope the current season will be kinder.

Shows which started late in the season

There were two titles which missed the deadline for my 'first impressions' post so I'll quickly summarise those here. I didn't like either, so I only tried out one episode each.

BanG Dream!
Despite its unfortunate title, BanG Dream! is the latest in a long line of attempts to topple THE iDOLM@STER and Love Live from their dominant positions in the multimedia idol market. It's a lucrative niche, and Bushiroad have obviously poured quite a lot of money into this project, which only makes it all the more a pity that BanG Dream! is so chronically underwhelming. Kasumi is a scatterbrained young girl just starting out in high school who dreams of chasing a beautiful sound she heard in the past. This eventually leads to her finding (and taking!) an abandoned guitar and joining up with other girls at her school, presumably to form a band if the opening sequence played at the end of the first episode is anything to go by. Taking cues from K-On! and other big hits, the lead isn't the brightest of people and her flakey personality means that others are naturally attracted to her in order to help her perform the most basic of tasks. I'll stick with better idol shows, personally.

Nice visuals, shame about the show

GRANBLUE FANTASY: The Animation
A yawn-worthy adaptation of an insanely popular mobile game. The beautiful artwork from the game had me curious, but aside from an attempt at 'scratchy' outlines there's not much visual appeal in the animated version's designs. The plot is also as generic as they come, with a good-hearted youngster and his aggravating talking animal companion encountering a mysterious blue-haired girl and a heap of trouble. It's probably a lot more interesting if you're already familiar with the characters; since I'm not, the best thing about it is that the lead is called Gran, a fact that made me smile every time anyone called his name and stopped me falling asleep.

A series about the cool female knight would have been better

Shows I completed

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsuka (ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.)
It took ACCA ages to get going; I still couldn't work out what it was supposed to be about halfway through its run! However, something about it really got under my skin; so much so that I started actively looking forward to Tuesdays just so that I could watch the next instalment. Was it the catchy opening, the deadpan facial expressions or the bright colours? What started out as a mysterious, atmospheric tale of office politics eventually evolved into a fascinating web of political shenanigans and episodic studies of humanity. I don't begrudge ACCA its slow start. Some things are better for having extra time to develop.

Bonus award: Best opening song of the season.

Best badass woman in uniform of the season, too

ALL OUT!
From the lascivious comments about the show's promotional images (and the art style itself, which heavily favours depicting tight, muscular bodies over attractive faces) I was expecting this to be more of a fan service show, of sorts. It wasn't, at all. ALL OUT! is a straightforward sports show about a mediocre school rugby team pulling itself up from nowhere and starting to make progress towards their dreams. There's a little drama sandwiched between the rugby games, yet the formula is very simple; don't expect any superhuman rugby elites or groundbreaking plot twists. The hero's big-hearted stupidity is painful to watch. Still, without standing out in any way, ALL OUT! fills its niche. The matches are exciting and the team gradually grows together over the course of the show.

Bonus award: Most mystifying character designs (I still don't understand some of the facial quirks or the captain's hairstyle).

Worst anime hairstyle ever?

Chiruran 1/2
I followed this every week, yet in the end there's not much to say about this series of fluffy short episodes about the famous Shinsengumi. Nothing much really happened; the famous warriors simply lounged around and made jokes about one another, making Chiruran 1/2 a pleasantly pointless comedy diversion which will pass forgotten into the past very quickly. So, when are we getting an anime of the original Chiruran Shinsengumi Requiem manga these shorts are based on, then?

Bonus award: Eh, it was so mediocre that nothing springs to mind!

Creating spin-offs without the source material sucks!

Gintama.
This season of Gintama was extremely light on laughs, instead telling the story of the 'Rakuyou' battle, an intergalatic clash between samurai, space pirates and overpowered superhuman aliens which saw copious amounts of blood spilled on all fronts. The Gintama story overall is in its final acts, and seeing things slowly drawing closer to the end in anime form is a bittersweet feeling - sadly, the manga is still unavailable in English after being unceremoniously 'paused' many years ago. The main stars of this season are Kagura's family as the full truth about her past finally comes to light (and it's much weirder than I thought). They even made Kamui likeable at last. While I have no complaints about the storytelling or animation quality, it's a shame to be reminded that the carefree days of Gintama at its peak are long gone now. The hilarious gags would be out of place amidst all of this destruction and sorrow.

Bonus award: Lewdest jokes of the season.

How can such a silly character be so sweet?

Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu No Orphans (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans)
This series destroyed me. I was always petrified of spoilers because I was watching on Crunchyroll's one-week delay instead of viewing on Daisuki, yet I somehow managed to get through without having anything ruined. In exchange, the series' writers were out to cause me anguish in a different way. I had to pause the last episode three times and come back later because I was too stressed to keep watching everything crashing down around these stubborn fighters I'd grown so attached to over fifty episodes of bloody combat. What a brutal, brutal show.

Bonus award: Most heartbreaking anime of the season.

I have nothing to add, everything is too depressing :(

Kobayashi-san Chi No Maid Dragon (Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid)
A very uneven comedy show with gorgeous designs and animation, and some moments of absolute genius. When Kobayashi-san Chi No Maid Dragon was good, it was excellent. However, this may be a controversial opinion but I think the series would have been much better if every single plot element involving the young dragon Kanna had been absent. I appreciate that some of her moments were supposed to develop the relationship between Tooru and Kobayashi-san since they were acting as her joint carers, but the majority of her screen time was pandering nonsense and hearing her slowly, deliberately speaking each of her lines actively bored me. The teasing about her relationship with the other kid at her school was often more awkward than cute, much like the running joke about the underage boy being shocked by all of the sexual harassment one of the dragons kept forcing upon him. The show is what it is and if the manga is the same way then censoring it wouldn't have been right, but the reliance on these tired, annoying moments really hurt what was otherwise one of the best harem comedies in ages. At least Tooru, Kobayashi-san and Fafnir were all pretty great. I know that Kanna has her fans but personally, I just can't see past the pandering. Not finding helplessness cute is a character flaw of mine.

Bonus award: Most infectious ending song of the season.

Fafnir is me

Marginal #4: Kiss Kara Tsukuru Big Bang (MARGINAL #4 The Animation)
Marginal #4 isn't a great anime. It isn't my favourite otome game adaptation, or even my favourite Rejet game adaptation. But in a series full of so many heavy, complicated, emotional titles, Marginal #4's completely brainless boyband antics provided a welcome breath of fresh air each week. I wasn't a huge fan of the lead, Atom, but the rest of his buddies were ok and the brief glimpses we got of the other two bands in their agency's stable were wonderful. The music was decent too. And absolutely nobody died or had an emotional breakdown!

Bonus award: Best non-serious storylines of the series (a whole episode about pants, which didn't suck?)

Mild worry is about as complex as this show's writing gets

March Comes In Like A Lion (3-gatsu No Lion)
The first of two very similar titles in this list, March Comes In Like A Lion is a show about shougi - except that it isn't. Shougi is constantly present, and the viewer will definitely come away knowing a lot more about the game if they pay even passing attention to the events on the screen, but what the series is really trying to explore is something much more universal. It's a study in psychology told through the perspective of a listless boy genius who constantly feels slightly out of sync with the unusual life he's leading as a young professional shougi player. Young Rei is surrounded by people with strong personalities who pull him in many different directions; whether they're dazzling, quiet, sullen, rude, warm or cold, his introspective eyes see right into their souls the more time he spends with them. His own emotional immaturity is handled sympathetically, and I found it easy to relate to his situation even though I've never been a talented young prodigy with a complicated web of friends and acquaintances. The sequel will go straight onto my viewing list; this is a high quality work which reminds me exactly why I love anime.

Bonus award: Best animated cats of the season, even if they're only in a few scenes.

This is how you make a schoolboy lead relatable

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Descending Stories)
This was deeply painful to watch for all of the right reasons. I didn't want it to end so much that I delayed posting these impressions a month longer than I'd planned just to give myself enough time to watch the last couple of episodes. It's a direct continuation of the previous Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu series, which skips its way through time to tell the story of the latter parts of Yakumo's life, from his time spent training Yotarou through to his difficult twilight years. Yakumo has always been a challenging character to understand and as he ages, he becomes more and more attracted to death; just as Yotarou desperately wants to keep rakugo thriving, Yakumo wants to pull everything down with him and bask in the misery of self destruction. You rarely see any kind of story told through the eyes of an elderly person, let alone one who has been bitterly battling what we would now class as clinical depression for most of his life. The direction is just as good as the script. I often felt as though I could smell the incense sticks burning on the rakugo stage as the characters performed, or feel the heat of the candles as they flickered along with the stories. The voice acting is so good that I would go as far as saying that this series will be impossible to dub; if it's ever done, I hope that the studios hire exceptionally talented, well-rounded actors, because every one of the main characters has to be capable of pulling off a huge variety of tones and emotions in scenes deliberately framed around the sound of their voices alone.

I feel as though I could probably write a huge post on the beautiful symmetry of the story all on its own. So I'll keep it short: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is sublime. Highly, highly recommended.

Bonus award: Most likely title this season to be considered a genuine classic for decades to come.

I missed him almost as much as Yakumo did

Super Lovers 2
A whole season of fluffy, melodramatic nonsense. This is pure, shameless trash, and if that's what you're looking for to scratch your BL cravings then it is guaranteed to do the job. The relationship between Haru and Ren has settled down a little since the first season, and the two of them are coexisting (mostly) happily and helping out with their cafe while their family members support their constant, ridiculous dramas. There's a very awkward subplot early on about Ren asking about sex at school which feels uncomfortably out of place even though it is played for laughs, but overall the strangeness of the main couple's relationship isn't a big deal for me. What is a big deal for me, however, is how silly some of the bad decisions the characters made often become. I wanted to throw something at the screen during one particular scene when Ren, upset that Haru still isn't willing to treat him like an adult in bed, decides that the best way to resolve the situation is to go off and sleep with another relative instead. And this (ostensibly straight) relative just goes along with it. It's dumb. It's annoying. A little more tender character development as seen in the first series wouldn't have gone amiss but the fault is mine; I knew what I was getting into when I started Super Lovers 2 and I kept watching in spite of it all.

Bonus award: Most awkwardly melodramatic romantic misunderstanding (almost every episode).

I don't know why I keep watching this show, really I don't

--

That's all for now! I took so long finishing Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu that I have already prepared all of my first impressions for next season, so I'll be posting that right away.


There's only one show continuing (and it's a silly one) so there will be a clean slate of new content to look forward to in spring. While I loved this winter full of dark, introspective titles, it would be a lie to say I'm not looking forward to a less intense experience for the next couple of months. Onwards and upwards!

3 comments:

  1. Hello!

    I like how Fuuka ended. Since I barely don't watch romance anime, I watched it. This anime was so polarizing, since "Truck-kun" didn't do his work XD XD Half of people prefered Fuuka dead as it ocurred in the manga, and the other half hated that part of the manga, so they are happy with the anime decision XD XD

    Sangatsu no Lion was pure poetry in their dialogues! I especially liked how characters described situations with such elegance. And also it was a surprise to see Shin'ichirou Miki (AKA Sengoku BASARA's Gotou Matabei) voicing the ill but talented Shimada... Just to give you an idea, Gotou Matabei is my second least favorite character from Sengoku BASARA (the first one is Mouri Motonari. I don't like his psycopath tendencies, I find them rather disturbing), but Shimada probably became my favorite character here, along the funny sensei (which was voiced by Sen no Rikyuu's seiyuu, Takahiro Sakurai) and Hina.

    By the way, did you note also that Nikaido was voiced by Shibata Katsuie's seiyuu, and the president of Shougi asociation was voiced by Genda Tesshou (Takeda Shingen)? Also, though he didn't talk so much, the white haired genius guy was voiced by Akira Ishida (Takenaka Hanbei). Yuuichi Nakamura (Shima Sakon) voiced another character, but he didn't appear so much. Anyway, he was hilarious XD XD So, it was interesting to see some Sengoku BASARA voices in very different characters XD XD

    Since I'm a seiyuu fan, I'm always trying to discover who does which voice, especially if they are Sengoku BASARA voices. Being a seiyuu must be a fun work n_n

    It's good to see your entries again!

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    1. The quality of the seiyuu cast in Sengoku Basara is absolutely amazing, it's always fun to see my favourites appearing elsewhere, especially in series like Sangatsu No Lion where there are lots of familiar faces (erm, familiar voices). It's funny that you don't like Matabee and Motonari as they're two of my favourites (Shimada in SnL was great though, and a genuinely nice person unlike those two crazy villains). Can't wait for the story to continue!

      My weakness for the seiyuu cast often affects which anime titles I choose to watch. I almost continued with Re:Zero just for Noto Mamiko when it first aired after she appeared and stole the show (and maybe I'll pick it up again later). Such a beautiful voice!

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    2. XD XD XD Well, I don't like them because their personalities an principles are almost opposite to mine XD XD XD That's why I like more Yukimura, Motochika and Keiji (though Sen no Rikyuu and Ashikaga Yoshiteru are also among my favorites).

      Yeah, I also see animes if my favorite seiyuus appear. By the way, in the last chapter I saw of Love Tyrant, Takehito Koyasu (Sarutobi Sasuke) and Hocchu Oozuka (Sanada Masayuki) made Maou-sama and Kami-sama's voices XD XD XD

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