Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2016 (Part II)

tanaka ohta
I know I say every season that I plan on being ruthless and dropping a lot if shows fail to impress me, but I guess I must have really meant it this time because holy crap I’ve dropped a ton. Fifteen shows originally went in to my weekly watch-list trials. Only five of them are still around. Ouch.

For the record, I already dropped Endride, Ace Attorney, Kuromukuro, and Shounen Maid right after the first episode and so I won’t be talking about them again here. They either bored or annoyed me enough that I had no inclination to watch any further, and since nobody else seems to be exactly raving about them either, I’m also not inclined to give any of them a retry. Moving on.

Mayoiga/The Lost Village
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

mayoiga
I know some people are calling this the best comedy of the season, and since humour is entirely subjective I can’t really argue with that. My own personal feelings are that a) Mayoiga, while campy, probably isn’t intended as a comedy and b) even if it was, I still wasn’t laughing. At three episodes I’d like to think that I gave it a decent shot, but the scripting in particular just got so cringe-worthy that even with the possibility of the show turning into a cathartic bloodfest à la Battle Royale or Another, I just didn’t have the patience to wait and see. Sure, I would have probably derived at least some pleasure from watching these characters getting picked off one by one in increasingly grotesque ways, but since nearly every single member of the overlarge cast struck me as being either dumb as rocks or else mentally unhinged, it still wouldn’t have been worth it.

Kuma Miko
Original Score: 5/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

kumamiko
Honestly, I don’t have all that much to add after last time. While I did give Kuma Miko a second episode to try and change my mind, it only ended up cementing my initial impressions; the jokes themselves were (mostly) fine, the timing was way off. I tend to enjoy whimsical, light-hearted little slice-of-life titles, especially when they involve an element of the supernatural and aren’t too heavy on the romance, and in that sense Kuma Miko should have checked a lot of boxes for me. However, the delivery was such that ‘politely bored’ was basically the best I could have ever hoped for, and that’s never enough for me to keep a show around.

12-Sai: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

12sai
Again, after giving this a second episode I was left with little more to say. I think I probably would have enjoyed 12-Sai well enough if I was in fact a 12-year old girl, and I do applaud the fact that this isn’t the kind of series that sexualises any of its characters. As far as I can tell, it deals sincerely and thoughtfully with some pretty relevant topics that could definitely use a lot more discussion, both in fiction and in real life. That said, it’s just not my kind of show. Too sparkly, too cutesy, much too heavy in the ‘swoon-first-romance-d’aww’ department. I’m happy that titles like 12-Sai exist but I’m simply not the target audience for them.

Bungou Stray Dogs
Original Score: 5.5/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

bungoustraydogs
I wanted to like this show, I really, truly did. I gave it the obligatory three episodes despite not even subscribing to the three-episode rule and it only annoyed me more with every one of them. It’s not as though the series doesn’t have anything good going for it – the art direction in particular really appealed to me – but it whipped between comedy and seriousness so fast that it threw absolutely everything else off. Worse, its attempts to evoke an emotional response were not only way too obvious but also just plain cheap, and effectively ruined anyway by the one-note character routines and repetitive suicide jokes. In short, the glimmers of entertainment and occasional moments of decent storytelling were overshadowed by bad writing, plain and simple.

Sakamoto desu ga?/Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto
Original Score: 6.5/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

sakamto
This show frustrated me, because it’s the kind of anime that should be funny simply on the basis that its jokes are so stupid you have to laugh. Combined with the almost glacial pacing though, the delivery was constantly lacking in any kind of punch whatsoever; the absurdist humour was completely offset by the amount of time it took to get to the actual punchline. The only jokes that did end up working for me were the ones that took a swing at the fourth wall, and these were so brief and so far apart that I never felt they made any one episode worth my time. I should probably also mention that the second half of the third episode creeped me out – as in, I actually felt uncomfortable watching it. Seeing somebody’s mother literally throwing herself at her own son’s teenage classmate in an increasingly desperate, stalker-like, and eventually full-on psychotic manner does not constitute comedy for me.

Super Lovers
Original Score: 5/10
Current Score: 5/10

superlovers
Why, you ask, am I still watching Super Lovers when I’ve already dropped titles that are of the same quality or better? That’s a good question. Morbid curiosity? Which probably makes it sound as though Super Lovers is a total train-wreck of a show, but it’s not – though it’s not a good show either. The random time-skips make the series feel really weirdly paced, but I welcome them anyway since they make the main relationship a lot less creepy than it otherwise would be. This still isn’t a pairing I’m particularly enjoying, mostly because none of the characters are that interesting or compelling to begin with, but we all know it could be far, far worse. And I’ll admit, I’m genuinely curious to see how all this is going to end. (Preferably with yet another time-skip, because while Ren is technically of age now and little more than a few brief kisses have taken place, the whole thing still makes me vaguely uncomfortable – especially with what went down in episode six.)

Flying Witch
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 6/10 (Dropped)

flyingwitch
There’s nothing wrong with Flying Witch. Just thought I’d get that out of the way before saying anything else about the show – it looks great, the cast is perfectly lovely, there’s a marked lack of moe-style fanservice (or really just any kind of fanservice, for which I’m doubly thankful), and it’s just a very sweet, very warm title all round. So why didn’t it warm my heart? Honestly, I have no idea. I usually dig slice-of-life anime no matter how slow the pacing is and I have a huge soft spot for anime set in rural Japan as well, but this one simply didn’t do it for me. There was no real sense of connection there, no personal sense of charm despite Flying Witch being an obviously charming series. I gave it four episodes just to be totally sure of that but was forced to conclude that for whatever reason, it failed to captivate me.

Kiznaiver
Original Score: 6.5/10
Current Score: 6.5/10

kiznaiver
Six episodes in like all the other new shows still on my list and I continue to be a bit on the fence about Kiznaiver. I’m happy to watch it all the way through before making any major judgment call though – there are both things I like about it and things I don’t, though I find the main idea interesting enough that the positives manage to outweigh the negatives. I think. Probably. Most of the negatives stem from the execution rather than the story itself or the characters; actually, the series is doing a pretty good job of the cast interactions. On their own, I doubt I’d much care about any of them but as a group, the dynamics make them all a lot more engaging. The biggest problem for me right now is more a lack of focus than anything else, to the point where it sometimes feels like even the creators aren’t quite sure where they want this thing to go. As a result Kiznaiver sometimes comes across as a bit messy and also badly paced, which weirdly enough might actually compliment Trigger’s general style but is still a little off-putting anyway. Guess I’ll just have to wait until the end to see whether or not the show was ultimately worth my time.

Joker Game
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 6.5/10

jokergame
At this point I almost feel like the first two episodes of Joker Game were false advertising. This has now become a purely episodic series, each one presenting a different spy and a different setting (though all taking place within roughly the same time-frame) – which I actually quite like since I care more for the mini-mysteries themselves than I do for the actual characters or their ideals. I don’t think Joker Game is making any especially meaningful statements about politics, espionage, or the nature of war but then again, I don’t really get the impression that it’s trying to; so far this has been a slightly campy but pretty fun romp that’s half historical drama, half mystery/thriller. It’s not great but it’s competent, and the art direction is stylish enough to make up for the lack of overarching narrative, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III
Original Score: 6.5/10
Current Score: 7/10

sailormooncrystal
If you’re one of those viewers that watched the original Sailor Moon but were thoroughly let down by seasons one and/or two of Crystal, I highly recommend just trying to forget the latter (easier said than done, I know) and starting off fresh with Crystal’s current season. Watching it from the start will destroy your soul and ruin all of your childhood dreams, but I assure you that season three is better in every way. Much, much better. The pacing is good! The scripting is actually decent! The artwork no longer makes me want to weep! Praise the anime gods, for Sailor Moon is finally back on its feet and I suspect the majority of Uranus/Neptune fans are particularly relieved to hear it. It’s still not a perfect show by any means, and I question a couple of the decisions made in terms of the new voice actors as well as exactly how some of the characters are portrayed visually, but these are relatively minor complaints. Overall, this is a surprisingly solid addition to the franchise.

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

tanakakun
Tanaka-kun is still easily my top pick of the bunch even if I can’t properly explain why. High school slice-of-life comedies are certainly nothing new and this one doesn’t do anything terribly innovative with the genre – and yet it’s a series that’s consistently funny without being mean, charming without being sickly-sweet, and just a really fun time all around. Despite the name, Tanaka-kun is far from listless; it’s fresh and bright and incredibly endearing, and all the characters are built to match. Tanaka and Ohta continue to steal the show for me though because while everyone else is equally adorable in their own way, these guys make for best bromance I’ve seen since Ore Monogatari – all the better for the fact that neither the cast nor the anime itself ever makes a big deal out of it. If you’re not watching, you’re missing out on one of the best shows this season has to offer.

Question of the post: Now that we’re at or over the halfway point for most shows this season, what are you general thoughts? Drastically changed your mind on anything since the premieres? Sound off in the comments!

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21 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2016 (Part II)

  1. My general thoughts are that this season is merely marking time until the next round of titles come out. I’ve dropped more shows this season than I normally would and a lot of the shows I am watching it is merely becuase I just want to know how they end. I did pick up a show this week (My Hero Academia) that I originally had thought wouldn’t be my thing but I quite enjoyed the first frew episodes.
    Thanks for your thougths on these shows.

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    • I’ve dropped a ton of shows this season as well, but mostly that’s down to how much (or rather how little) free time I have up my sleeve these days. In any case, quality over quantity. I’m happy watching only a small handful of shows if they’re good, but I just don’t have the patience to keep watching a whole batch that bore me.

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  2. Ah, Tanaka-kun continues to be an inspiration for us all.

    I haven’t been watching nearly as much as I plan(ned) to due to time constraints, but even so there have been surprises. I was expecting to like the new JoJo season well enough because it’s JoJo, but the direction so far is just blowing any expectations out of the water — it’s legitimately great in a particularly stylized way I usually don’t see outside of SHAFT(-esque) shows.
    Granted, part of my surprise may be the experience of reading the manga for these current arcs with infamous fan translations, ahah…

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  3. Wait, The Lost Village is supposed to be comedy? Something must be wrong with me …

    Tanaka-kun hands down best show for me too (though I feel like they kinda paddled out of the canon-lesbian pair (Echizen/Miyano) with the last episode, which was pretty sad but then again, maybe I just understood that wrong in the first place).

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  4. The Lost Village seems increasingly unlikely to go full blood-bath, so it’s just as well that you dropped it, probably.

    For the season, hmm, I’ve dropped Bungou Stray Dogs, Joker Game, Flying Witch (very cute and pleasant, but too slow for me at the moment), Shounen Ashibe: Go! Go! Goma-chan!… saying I’ve dropped Sakamoto doesn’t feel quite accurate, as I only watched half of the second episode after being cajoled into it (I walked away at the halfway point). I would’ve dropped Kabaneri by now if I didn’t live with someone else who is watching it, since while I don’t think it is bad, I also find it impossible to connect with the characters at all. Yet, I’m still watching Big Order! And that is honestly probably the worst show I’ve seen this year. I just can’t look away…

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    • Yeah, from what I’ve heard of the episodes after I dropped Lost Village, the show does seem pretty uninterested in going that route. I certainly have no regrets about letting it go.

      I never watched any of Big Order but I’ve seen images of it around and what other people have said, and I’m reasonably sure I’d hate it. Good luck with that one.

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  5. I think I know whats wrong with Flying Witch – it made a big thing about being set in Aomori. Cool! I stayed a couple of weeks in Aomori and really got to like the place and the people. Flying Witch feels like it was made by people who have heard of Aomori but not been there. No Conan Bus! Just a token apple! No cider! No Utuo-jinja! One unconvincing tourist shot of Hirosaki Castle. Meh. I too gave up 🙂

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    • Fair enough. I don’t really feel qualified to comment on that because while I’ve lived in rural Japan for four years now, I’ve never visited anywhere in the Tohoku region.

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  6. Joker Game
    We’re in full agreement here.

    Flying Witch
    I’ve been enjoying this due to its great atmosphere, and it also shines whenever it showcases its magical aspect (love the mandrake, the harbinger, and the transfiguration shenanigans). I do think that it could be a bit too mellow for its own good and lacks a compelling emotional anchor. Makoto… is fine, but a bit too milquetoast for my taste, especially compared to the prickliness and complexity of leads like Kiki, Natsume, and Handa. Slightly different show, I suppose.

    Tanaka
    That’s like the hundredth lovely screenshot from this series that I’ve seen. I didn’t watch this because I read the manga (and not really taken by the first volume), but I may eventually give it a try based on that art direction and largely positive reaction.

    Crystal
    Damn, I kind of want to watch this, but then have to slog through two terrible-looking seasons first…

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    • I haven’t read the Tanaka-kun manga so I can’t compare the two, but the anime is simply lovely. Its sense of humour also works for me completely whereas no other comedy does this season, so I’m really happy with what I’ve seen so far.

      For the love of god do not watch the first two seasons of Crystal. Just jump straight into season 3 if you’re curious – the narrative isn’t difficult to follow, especially if you’ve already seen any of the 90s anime version and/or read some of the manga.

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      • Yeah, I watched some of the 90s anime… up to Saturn, I think. Thanks! Feels kind of weird to jump mid-way, but I suppose one can’t help it in a case like this. The lifeless glossy look I’ve seen from the clips of the first two seasons really put me off.

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  7. I agree with your “quality over quantity” approach, Artemis. Too often I feel some viewers merely watch all these titles just so they can say they watched so many titles as a bragging contest of sorts, like the number of Facebook friends one has.

    I’ve remained with Joker Game and have been enjoying it for the reasons you described. But I’ve heard the standalone eps should end pretty soon, & the real story & character begin afterwards.

    But the biggest breakout title for me would be Kuromukuro. The character development and plot pacing have been very spot on and fairly believable, and the mecha elements haven’t been overly annoying yet. A few interactions have had Evangelion vibes (the director handled some episodes of it) and there’s an intruiging ancient alien mystery too.
    Are you sure you don’t want to give it a 2nd chance?

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    • Put it this way, if I give Kuromukuro a second chance then it won’t be any time soon – I simply don’t have the time, and since I don’t even tend to like mecha as a genre anyway (though admittedly Evangelion is one of the relatively rare exceptions), it’s not going to be at the top of my to-watch list when I do have more time up my sleeve. That said, I’ll keep an eye out for what people are saying about the series when it’s done airing. I’m more likely to give show a second chance after it’s been completed if people are still raving about it then.

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      • Foreign viewers will likely be raving more about Kuromukuro after its airing; Netflix has the global streaming rights, but they’ll only stream all the episodes after the main Japanese broadcast, as per their usual business practice. (Netflix Japan still screens weekly though.)

        I do understsnd where you’re coming from with your dislike of mecha in general; it’s the same reason I could never get into Kabaneri or popular zombie themed shows.

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  8. Late to the party (just now caught up with my blog reading), but I find it hilarious how we both struggled with Flying Witch and Sakamoto. Good for you on dropping them! I just have them playing while I get ready in the morning or do chores. Flying Witch is probably the most disappointing for me right now as it has a great, clean feeling to it and if it ONLY had a biiiit of tension, it’d be great. I keep expecting her witch training to get more serious or for her to have at least one big obstacle to overcome to grow her as a character, but…. Plateau. That’s the word. This show is like a plateau. No hills. No valleys. Just flat ground for miles… Not exactly the most compelling way to run a show… Yes, plateau is the perfect descriptor for Flying Witch.
    I’m still keeping up with Kiznaiver and Tanaka, although I gotta say, this season overall in REALLY underwhelming. While episode 7 of Kiz seemed to kick things into gear a bit better and Tanaka is still enjoyable… they’re still just so-so. I wouldn’t say either is on any recommended list of mine. Not if they have to compete with shows outside of their season. They’re honestly only “good” when compared to the other shows in this streaming group. On their own, they’re kinda sub-par.

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    • Yes, Plateau is exactly the right word for it. And that’d probably be okay if Flying Witch was a straight-up comedy, but as a pure slice-of-life series… even shows like Non Non Biyori have an occasional bit of conflict or seriousness to them. I wish Flying Witch had brought a little more something to the table. As for Sakamoto, that just wasn’t particularly funny.

      I agree that Kiznaiver isn’t a great show. It shows occasional glimmers of greatness and there have been one or two stellar episodes, but on the whole it’s a bit too uneven. As you say, it’s near the top of the list for me only because it’s lacking in any serious challengers this season – with the exception of Tanaka-kun, which I actually totally adore. Admittedly it’s not my favourite comedy of all time or anything like that, and I can see its weak points, but I’m loving it anyway.

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