Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2016

tanakakun1
And with barely a break in the proceedings (or actually, not any break at all), the spring anime are out of the gate. I’ve got precious little time up my sleeve this season and am feeling the need to be ruthless, so don’t be surprised to see plenty of titles being dropped between now and the next couple of weeks. In fact, let’s get started on that right now, shall we?


Endride
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)

endride

There are not enough words in the English language to describe just how lifeless and generic this premiere felt. The entire thing looked, sounded, and played out like an awkward mishmash of several fantasy action/adventure shows stitched together, all of them clichéd and poorly written. The exposition is clumsy, the dialogue flat, the OP and ED sequences painfully bland; it’s seriously been a while since I’ve seen anything quite this tired and unimaginative. I don’t doubt there’ll be far worse this season, if only because Endride at least isn’t inundated with creepy fanservice, but you have to admit that’s a pretty low bar to set. After all, “I wasn’t offended, just bored out of my mind” doesn’t exactly make for an inspiring tagline.

Ace Attorney
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

aceattorney

This show looks and feels like it’s being marketed to 10-year old boys, which is quite an achievement when you think about the actual content. The first case certainly could’ve been resolved by one even if the audience hadn’t already been pointed straight at the murderer beforehand, and the visuals come across as incredibly cheap and clunky. In fact, they look like they’ve been ripped straight from the game cut scenes, and I can only assume that the anime is aiming to cash in on already-existing fans of the franchise – the story, such as it is, definitely won’t be picking up any new audience members on its own aside from the chronically bored.

Kuromukuro
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

kuromukuro

In hindsight, I should never have tried this to begin with. I usually don’t like mecha and I haven’t fully enjoyed a P.A.Works title since 2013, so really I was just asking to be put off. To be fair, I don’t think Kuromukuro will be a bad series so much as just a bit flat – more to the point, it’s simply not my kind of show. Not even a naked man waving a sword around managed to wake me up much, so I think I’ll just leave it at that and let people decide for themselves whether or not it piques their interest.

Shounen Maid
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

shounenmaid

Okay, so this isn’t my kind of show, but it’s also not the kind of show involving either blackmail or leering uncles with an unhealthy interest in elementary school kids, regardless of how the synopsis makes it sound. So that’s something at least. The bad news is that it’s still not a good show, mostly because while it might be totally family-friendly, it’s also pretty dull and not funny at all despite being labelled as a comedy. Feel-good fluff comes a bit closer to the mark – Shounen Maid is obviously going straight for the heart-warming messages about family and belonging – but even from that angle I was still nothing more than politely bored. There’s absolutely nothing here we haven’t all seen numerous times before.

Super Lovers
Score: 5/10

superlovers

Inevitable cracks about Boku no Pico aside, this could certainly be a lot worse. Right up until the final minute or so of this episode, you could almost have been forgiven for assuming that Super Lovers was just a nice little story about a boy with an abusive past and abandonment issues finally learning to trust again, and being rewarded with a family who genuinely loves him. Almost. If the title didn’t give it away though, this is a BL series, so I can certainly understand where those aforementioned Boku no Pico jokes are coming from. Thankfully, it looks like there’s about to be a time-skip of several years, so this (probably) won’t be poorly-disguised paedophilia. Er, no guarantees though. I’m curious enough to keep watching for another episode or so thanks to that suddenly dark after-credits scene, but even if it steers clear of any further creepiness I’d say Super Lovers will be average at best.

Kuma Miko
Score: 5/10

kumamiko

I was cool with this show right up until the random bear-human sex jokes. I mean sure, the rest of the comedy wasn’t exactly side-splitting, but I would’ve been happy enough to watch a nice little absurdist yarn about a shrine maiden living somewhere in rural Tohoku and her best friend/bear god. I like supernatural slice-of-life titles and I like titles set in the Japanese countryside (Kamichu flashbacks, anyone?), so I figured Kuma Miko would at least be mildly entertaining – harmless, light-hearted fluff. And for a while that’s exactly what it looked like… only at some point after that city quiz segment (which was genuinely funny to me, albeit possibly only because I too live in rural Japan), things got a little too weird. I’m tempted to watch a couple more episodes of this, but if it doesn’t stop with the bear-human sex shtick then I’m out. Sorry, but that’s just not funny.

Bungou Stray Dogs
Score: 5.5/10

bungoustraydogs

You know what, I’m just gonna ignore all those literary references, since they aren’t clever and as far as I can tell, the exact same story could be told without them. Unfortunately what I can’t ignore is the tonal whiplash I’m getting from this thing – I have no idea whether or not I’m meant to be taking Bungou Stray Dogs seriously or as some kind of black comedy. It’s not that a show can’t have aspects of both, but when it keeps shifting back and forth so abruptly, I’m left not knowing quite what to think. I’m probably more likely to enjoy a more serious tone overall in this case, although the woe-is-me orphanage flashbacks got repetitive pretty quickly and were laid on much too thick for my taste. Any emotional weight these types of scenes might have had were ruined by flippant one-liners anyway, courtesy of Dazai’s and Kunikada’s bickering married couple routine. That said, I like the visuals as well as the voice acting, so I feel obliged to give this a couple more episodes to try and prove itself.

12-Sai: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki
Score: 6/10

12sai

It’s a shame this series is aimed at young girls rather than slightly older women, because if it weren’t so saccharine-sweet and, well, girlish, I’d probably enjoy it a lot more. I can’t really blame it just because I’m not the target audience though, and besides, an anime that genuinely deals with topics like first crushes, periods, bullying, etc. without sexualising any of it can only be a good thing. I’ll probably drop this since I’m not 12 and don’t have a 12-year old’s tastes in artwork, but it’s not a bad little show; if you’re after something adorable, wholesome and sparkly then it might just be for you.

Mayoiga/The Lost Village
Score: 6/10

mayoiga

This is the only show listed here that I’ve seen two episodes of, not just the premiere, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing. See, the premise looks promising enough on paper, but the execution is honestly a little ho-hum, which never bodes well for a mystery/suspense title. My main issue is that while the creators are clearly going for a creepy atmosphere (and at least partially succeeding), I feel let down in that there’s been absolutely no payoff so far – just a lot of dialogue involving way too many characters, most of whom annoy the everloving crap out of me. It’d be one thing if this really was Another written by Okada Mari like everyone keeps insisting, but since nobody’s died at all yet let alone died grotesquely, I don’t see how this is an accurate comment. On the other hand, I do still think the story has potential, so I’m giving Mayoiga one more episode to prove it.

Flying Witch
Score: 6/10

flyingwitch

Well, that was a lot better than I thought it’d be. What with the Japanese shounen audience I had assumed it’d have a ton of moe going on, but actually this seems nothing but harmlessly cute and non-pandering, at least so far. I like that while the main character definitely has her moments, she’s not just some airhead incapable of making it through life on her own, and I also like that the guy she’s living with is neither an asshole nor a creep. In fact, everyone and everything here seems nice and even pretty normal, general witchery aside – a less charming but still perfectly adequate version of Kiki’s Delivery Service, complete with broom and black cat. I may give it up if pressed for time even so, if only because this season is already plenty rich in the light-hearted comedy/slice-of-life department, but we’ll see.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III
Score: 6.5/10

sailormooncrystal

I totally understand if you were burned the first time around with Sailor Moon Crystal, I really do. It was awful. This is better. No really, I promise. Clearly those staff changes worked wonders, because this is a major improvement over the first two seasons of Crystal – gone is the stilted dialogue and the terribad CG transformation sequences, to be replaced by a feel that’s much more in line with what I was hoping from this series in the first place, i.e. an updated version of the original story that has the potential to appeal to its older fans. I’m not saying Crystal is now perfect, but the show should at least be fun again, and at this point that’s all I’m really asking for.

Kiznaiver
Score: 6.5/10

kiznaiver

As is to be expected from a Trigger show, one episode alone just isn’t enough to go on. There are a lot of good ideas going on here, but it remains to be seen how well they’ll be presented, and of course whether or not they’ll eventually be tied together into a coherent whole. The raw potential is certainly there though, and so is the energy along with the visuals – this is a good-looking series if you like that kind of frenetic, colourful style (though I don’t blame you if you don’t), and it suits the overall vibe of the piece. Other than that I don’t have a whole lot to say as of yet, but I can live with sticking it out a while to see which direction Trigger chooses to take things. If you’re not the patient type though, you probably already know enough of the studio and/or Kobayashi Hiroshi to give Kizvaiver a miss.

Sakamoto desu ga?/Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto
Score: 6.5/10

sakamto

I liked this well enough, but I also expected to find it a bit funnier than I actually did. I mean, there was nothing wrong with the jokes themselves but I was hoping for a little more… oomph, I guess? Sakamoto’s comedic style definitely leans towards parody, but I think it’d do better if it went even more over-the-top and out there in terms of execution, because right now the tone seems almost flat at times, at least in comparison to what’s actually happening onscreen. Then again, if the show is purposefully going for the combination of absurdist humour and deadpan delivery, then I guess I’d have to say it’s succeeding pretty well. And hey, it’s also easily the most screencap-able series of the season – I spent a few minutes just debating which shot to use for this post.

Joker Game
Score: 7/10

jokergame

Bad first impressions with that English aside, I think I’m going to like this one. I’m a little leery about the setting because I’m not yet convinced that the series will handle 1930s Japan with a whole lot of delicacy, but I generally enjoy historical pieces (especially when they focus on a time other than the now much overdone Edo period), and the premise is certainly fresh enough to be interesting. Joker Game is based on a series of full-length novels rather than on a manga, game, or light novel franchise, and because it’s not aimed at teens, there are none of the usual shounen or shoujo tropes to have to slog through. Where the show clearly shrines though is in the visuals – Production I.G does solid and distinctive work as usual, with great character designs and a lot of attention paid to composition and framing. Whatever I end up thinking of the actual story, Joker Game has already impressed me with its clear sense of style.

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge/Tanaka-kun is Always Listless
Score: 8/10

tanakakun

You guys, I literally cried laughing while watching this. I honestly don’t know if that was almost purely out of surprise since I was expecting to crack one or two smiles at best, but good lord I enjoyed the hell out of that first episode. I suppose it wasn’t the jokes themselves so much as the timing, because if I tried telling someone about them I don’t think the show would sound interesting or funny at all – the only reason I gave Tanaka-kun a shot in the first place was because I saw iblessall’s post and thought sure, why not? And then proceeded to bust my gut laughing, because the timing truly was just that spot-on for me. I will never be able to sing Furusato again without cracking up – which might be a serious problem considering just how often it comes up at school, but oh well, that’s a fair price to pay for decent comedy. I don’t care if nobody else cares for Tanaka-kun like I do, this show is legitimately hilarious.

So there we have it. One great show, a few decent ones, and a whole lot of extras that might appeal if you have nothing else going on. No comment on whether or not I think this is a good season or not, because I never see the point – so long as I find a small handful of shows I enjoy watching on a weekly basis, I’m perfectly content.

Question of the post: What’s been your best and worst premiere this season? Any huge surprises either way? Oh, and let me know if you think I’m missing out on anything spectacular as well, I never have time to cover everything.

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26 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2016

  1. Kuromukuro:

    No legible subs yet, so didn’t watch. Am curious how it’d turn out.

    Endride:

    Didn’t watch, but “Bored me more than watching the wall for 20 minutes straight” is my quickest reason to drop shows these days. Even if a show angers me and I think it’s badly-written, it might be easier for me to watch than shows I’m just really bored by. I’ll mention which ones those were for me a bit later.

    Bungo Stray Dogs:

    Yeah, this show might cause a lot of widespread disappointment. I thought we were promised an action show. Yes, Kekkai Sensen was mostly about the funny antics of a bunch of weirdos too, but it still had a lot more action and things going. What sort of show is this trying to even be? It feels a lot more like Noragami in many ways to me. With non-stop would-be-humor that isn’t funny.

    I wonder who this show’s audience is going to be if it remains the way the premiere was. Going to give it one more episode to show me what it wants to do, and be.

    Sakamoto:

    Parody? I felt it’s more of an absurdist or pure physical gag comedy. I’m sticking with it for now, but I can see just reading the manga being better, where an episode’s worth of content would only take 4-5 minutes. It is a bit flat, the production is like cardboard people standing around Sakamoto, it’s true.

    The most important thing is the show had me chuckling non-stop. It’s not amazing, but it’s so much better than the usual crop of anime comedies that I’ll keep watching for now.

    Worst Premieres:

    Part 1: The Boring:

    Anne-Happy and Kuma Miko. I just sat there, looking at the screen, not getting angry or amused by anything. Tepid voice acting, tepid art, and not a single laugh. I mean, I even stared at the 9 year olds getting horny at the thoughts of a bear going down on a 14 year old girl (and thanks for the images, show), and that not only didn’t make me laugh, it didn’t make me care at all. Anne-Happy was the same. I expected a lot more from the director behind Baka to Test and Fate/Kaleid (which was actually very funny in its comedic segments), and… nothing.

    Bungo Stray Dogs also sort of falls into that category for me there, but it did get a couple of laughs, and had shown some hope for having a couple of characters, so I’m giving it another episode.

    Part 2: The Bad:

    While Kabaneri had stupid writing, it made me laugh and was propulsive. Kiznaiver’s writing was super heavy handed. But no, I’m talking about Mayoiga. I watched two episodes of that, and I just like nothing about it. That’s not a good description, because I also liked nothing about Anne Happy and Kuma Miko. No, I actively dislike almost everything about Mayoiga. The characters are all annoying. This is intentional, but it’s a risky road to take with a show. The problem is they’re all also badly-written caricatures who keep spouting badly-written lines.

    Yes, that’s part of how they make us mock them and dislike them, but they don’t feel real. They are not even detestible as real people whom you hate are. They are not the Taros of Shirobako. They’re flat, and their every interaction and pronouncement paints a show that isn’t well-written. Almost every line deserves attention as failure in writing. I hate watching it. So I stopped. I’d rather focus on stuff I enjoy.

    ReZero is a bit of a mix between part 1 and part 2, where the first half was boring, and it had some bad stuff throughout, but it massively improved in the second half, and it had a few segments of genius, enough for me to keep checking it out. So not a bad, but interesting how it had so many things I found boring (half an episode), and so many bits that were outright badly-written.

    Best Premieres:

    The best premieres were the non-premieres. Concrete Revolutio was really good, and Ushio to Tora (2 episodes) was even better. Great action, going straight for the feels. I shed tears.

    Ok, now for actual premieres. Joker Game didn’t have the best premiere, because it only had half of one, where the real hook will appear in the next episode, but I liked it. I liked it a bunch.

    Aside from that, My Hero Academia was a lot of fun, but it’s not like it’s going to be “amazing”. Being a pure shounen means I can enjoy it a lot, but it often means the ceiling for excellence is quite low. Kabaneri also had a very propulsive episode, and it was the second funniest show I watched this season after Sakamoto, but its writing was a bit suspect as well.

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    • I have no idea if Kuromukuro would be your thing or not, but I suspect most people would just find it about average. As for Endride, I can’t imagine anyone getting a whole lot out of that regardless of their taste – it’s almost aggressive in how boring it is.

      I wouldn’t say Sakamoto had me chuckling non-stop, but it at least had me smiling non-stop, which is fine. I’m happy to stick with it – it’s just not quite the Comedy Of The Season that I was anticipating, going from the synopsis and stray bits of artwork I had seen around the place.

      I haven’t seen any of Anne-Happy, Kabaneri, ReZero, or my My Hero Academia but I’m not convinced I’m missing too much there so I’m happy to take your word for it. I’ve not seen the premiere of the second season of Concrete Revolutio or Ushio to Tora either, but that’s because I didn’t like the first season of Concrete Revolutio and never watched any of Ushio to Tora to begin with.

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  2. The only show I’ve watched so far this season is Re:Zero, which I am DEFINITELY sure is not your thing. Your high praise for Tanaka-kun surprises me, though. The show looked really boring from the synopsis…

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    • Yeah, pretty sure you’re right about that one…

      Believe me, I was surprised as well. The synopsis sounded mildly entertaining at best, but – I don’t know, I can’t explain why exactly, but I just could not stop laughing. Maybe it’s because I’m now all too familiar with Japanese schools and can get exactly where some of the gags were coming from, or maybe I was just in exactly the right mood at the right time. Whatever the reason, I thought what I saw was hysterical.

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  3. Tanaka had the best premiere for me, it made me chuckle and I found it rather cute. The singing rehearsal scene was hilarious and the ‘sheeee’ caught me by surprise.

    I liked the stray dogs premiere just for the hilarious faces but storywise too early to judge for me.

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  4. Tanaka… just really reminded me of myself a lot (with both main characters). Certainly charming. Probably going to stick with the manga, though.

    And going off of the manga, Flying Witch will probably remain in that “less-drama Kiki’s” space, so no complaints there.

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    • I don’t read manga as such, but if I find the rest of the anime as hilarious as I did that first episode then I’ll be more than happy.

      Glad to hear it about Flying Witch. Another unexpected treat, that.

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  5. I’ll be following Joker Game,Kiznaiver, Stray Dogs and Flying Witch but I have mixed thoughts if I’ll complete the season too and sticking to my 3 ep before I drop anything.

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  6. Bungou’s director did the Ouran High School anime, which uses the same anime-original visual cues of funny faces and flashing arrows (the source manga chapter had less comedy).
    But I think Bungou’s appeal wholly revolves around the literary gimmicks – it wouldn’t be the same otherwise.
    Some references for those interested.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/4e5t6x/the_literary_shoutouts_of_bungou_stray_dogs_part_2/

    Not taking a peek at My Hero Academia? They say it’s shaping up to be a hit.

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    • I honestly think the literary gimmicks are dumb. I get them all, I’ve even personally read most of them, but it feels like the show thinks it’s being way cleverer than it thinks it is, which always annoys me.

      Nah, My Hero Academia doesn’t really look like my bag. If it’s good then that’s fine, but given that I’m not much of a super power shounen fan even on my more patient days, I think I’ll sit that one out.

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  7. Shounen Ashibe Goma-chan is my favorite premiere, that one played my nostalgia for wholesome adorable family show very hard. I like many other things I’ve seen (Joker Game, My Hero Academia, Bungou Stray Dogs) but they don’t get me too enthusiastic yet, still need to second episodes before making up my mind.

    Mayoiga is almost assuredly not going to be a Good Show, but it’s at least very tonally interesting. Say, how many episodes Another spent before going full Kill Em All mode?

    I need a good, un-problematic, slice so I’ll probably watch Flying Witch. I may just continue to catch up with Natsume though (just finished the first season. God, so many great episodes, and the whole thing is the kind of melancholia I love). New season just got announced!

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    • I am BEYOND excited for the next season of Natsume Yuujinchou. I cannot adequately describe my feelings for that show in any language – it made me cry multiple times, mostly from happiness, and that includes on the re-watches. It only got more heart-wrenching/heart-warming with each season as well, so I have extremely high hopes for the fifth.

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      • Have you seen the short film Hotarubi no Mori e? It’s what eventually led to Natsume, since I like it so much I need to see what else the author has done/been adapted.

        They got my first tears in the Tsubame (*the female swallow youkai who wanted to see the dude who’d been nice to her) episode. The picture, Natsume’s expression at seeing it, then fade in to the magnificent ED…. damn, that got me real good. I’ll definitely write something on the show once I’m finished with the first four seasons.

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  8. I also agree with you about Kuma Miko. Sex joke between animal and a girl in ep1, bear, kid, made me laugh for unexpected joke but I know this is not normal for little kid to has an abnormal idea like that.

    For me, I will follow Mayoiga since it should be mysterious and horror anime even if I don’t like the plot is running too fast but I still think this is very interesting anime and I can’t judge it with only 2 episodes.

    For Flying Witch, I think anime plot will follow manga plot. I also watch short anime “Flying Witch Petit” and I will give high points for kawaii power punches that made me KO in just 2 minutes anime. After I waked up from KO, I started to write a post especially for high rank cute characters (especially, chito-san)

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    • I don’t really care whether or not Kuma Miko is in any way realistic – pretty sure we surpassed any kind of need for realism for having a talking god-bear in the first place – I just care whether or not a comedy is actually funny. And weirdly enough, human-bear sex jokes just don’t do it for me.

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  9. Uh, so pretty off-topic:

    Do you know if there’s a (japanese) name for these towering clouds anime is so in love with? Natsume Yuujin Chou uses them almost every time you can see the sky, I think they’re called Cumulonimbus or Towering Cumulus?

    I started screenshotting them whenever they come up and thinking about starting a Tumblr or something with them (although that probably exists).

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  10. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2016 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

  11. Dang, you’re a rough critic! XD But your opinions are well-thought out, even if I personally think that The Hidden Village (forgive me…I keep forgetting the Japanese names, and as a student of the Japanese language it causes me no end of shame) could be as good as Joker Game by the end of the season. Still, as a new reader of your blog, I’m enjoying reading your opinions. 🙂

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    • Yup, I can be pretty rough. Mostly it’s just because I don’t have the time to be anything else though – I could watch every show that was at least average or I could single out the ones that really stand out. At this point, the former isn’t really an option for me so I’m forced to be pretty strict with what I spend my time on, anime-wise. If you’re interested, I’ve now written the follow-up now that we’ve reached this anime season’s halfway point. Even if you don’t agree with my opinions (which is great, it’d be pretty boring if everyone agreed all the time), I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts. 🙂

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