Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2016 (Part I)

yuri on ice
I’d normally do all of these in one shot, but with 16 shows on my to-watch list and all of them so far giving me a decent amount to say, I thought I’d break it up into two separate posts for a change. When it comes time for my usual mid-season thoughts post, I’ll go ahead and combine them again. First aired first serve, so this one features the following titles: Izetta, WWW.Working!!, Magic-Kyun! Rennaissance, Touken Ranbu, Trickster, Natsume Yuujinchou, Nanbaka, and Yuri!!! On Ice.

Magic-Kyun! Renaissance
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)

magic-kyun renaissance
Lord knows I have nothing against shoujo or reverse-harem titles (Ouran is still one of my favourite anime of all time), and sometimes the really trashy stuff can be surprisingly fun, e.g. Amnesia or Dance with Devils. Unfortunately, Magic-Kyun! Renaissance doesn’t fit into that category for me. In fact, it does nothing at all but fall back on done-to-death romance tropes, right down to the earnest yet clumsy MC and her bevy of bishounen, most of whom have crappy personalities that get excused thanks to their inevitably angsty backstories. Even if this is meant to be some sort of parody – and I’m not convinced that’s the case – Magic-Kyun! Renaissance feels remarkably soulless. It’s certainly very colourful, and if you like sparkles then you’ll be in anime heaven, but that’s about all I can say for it. If you really want a trashy reverse-harem show that’s also an unmistakable parody, I recommend trying Kamigami no Asobi instead.

Trickster: Edogawa Ranpo “Shounen Tanteidan” yori
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

trickster
I really wish anime would stop ruining Edogawa Ranpo for me. In recent seasons it seems almost mandatory for at least a couple of his characters or stories to be butchered though – looking at you, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace and Bungou Stray Dogs. Sure enough, strip away the by now irritatingly overdone shounen detective trappings of Trickster, and all we’re left with is just one more throwaway ‘mystery’ title with poor production values and generous lashings of angst. So much angst. I’m getting uncomfortable flashbacks to Divine Gate here, guys. On the bright side, there was only one boob joke, so I guess the writers have at least some sense of restraint. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an Edogawa Ranpo-related anime that’s actually any good, you’ll find it back in 2008 with Daughter of Twenty Faces.

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

touken ranbu hanamaru
I respect that this show is teaching history through bishounen and their slice-of-life shenanigans, especially since a lot of this is stuff the target audience has to learn in school sometime anyway, but I honestly struggled just to make it through a whole episode. In part it was because I was just plain bored, but I also feel that anime has more than reached saturation point with the whole wacky-yet-adorable anthropomorphic thing. Yes, we get it, they’re moe as hell, and haha they’re also swords isn’t that hilarious?? Except we’ve already had everything from anthropomorphic trains to countries, guns to warships, so I’m only mildly surprised that this one didn’t happen sooner. I have very little else to say about Touken Ranbu. It’s inoffensive but nearly put me to sleep. Even if you were happy with absolutely nothing more than cutesy bishie eye candy, there are surely better choices out there.

WWW.Working!!
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

www.working
I watched and mostly enjoyed all three seasons of the first Working!! anime, but the franchise has more than overstayed its welcome at this point. This one takes place in a different restaurant of the same branch, so all the characters are new, but they feel like nothing so much as uninspired repeats even so. It doesn’t seem like the show is even pretending to try; it’s probably watchable, but it’s also bland as hell. I think I may have cracked a weak smile once or even (gasp!) twice, but ‘inoffensively dull’ is about the closest I can get to an actual compliment here. I’m more than ready to move on and I think Working!! should do the same.

Nanbaka
Score: 6/10

nanbaka
I suspect that pretty much everyone going into this show will have already figured out whether they’ll like it or not. From beginning to end it’s pure, stupid fun with no pretensions of being anything else. Like an adult-orientated version of Looney Tunes, Nanbaka is aggressively colourful, likely completely pointless, and dirty in (mostly) the right places. I’m admit I’m planning on watching a second episode mostly out of plain curiosity, as I’m interested to see if and how the show’s going to keep itself fresh. The self-censorship and fourth wall breaking is neither especially clever nor original, but it was amusing enough, as was the earlier half of the episode featuring our protagonists (I wonder if we’ll ever find out what they did to deserve their prison sentence?) navigating a bunch of utterly ridiculous booby traps. However, this kind of material can only be recycled for so long before tedium sets in, so I’m keen to find out what else, if anything, Nanbaka has up its sleeve.

Shuumatsu no Izetta/Izetta: The Last Witch
Score: 6/10

izetta
Goddamnit anime, stop trying to ruin what has the potential to be good! Surprisingly good, actually – despite the Totally-Not-World-War-II setting and light novel-style synopsis, there’s some really nice work going on here. Our main heroine (well, one of them anyway) is genuinely likeable – and not because she’s depicted as being cutesy or ‘adorably’ clumsy or anything like that, but instead because she’s self-contained and level-headed, and already prepared to do whatever she believes necessary in order to save her country. Bonus points for the even pacing, general lack of awkward exposition, and lush background art. Having said all that, there was also an overlong shower scene and a male villain who seemed unable to prove his villainy without implying the possibility of rape, so… yeah. I’ve seen way too much of similarly lazy writing and thinly veiled excuses to be offended at this, and I’m sure everyone has seen far, far worse in the past. Still, “I’ll watch more because I wasn’t grossly put off” seems a depressingly low bar to set, don’t you think?

Natsume Yuujinchou Go/Natsume’s Book of Friends season 5
Score: 9/10

natsume yuujinchou go
I’m not biased or anything but Natsume Yuujinchou is the single best supernatural/slice-of-life anime ever created. … Alright, so maybe I’m a little biased. But I have every right to be, just as I have every right to be blissfully content that we’re getting a fifth season of this gorgeous work. I don’t generally like or watch long-running shows, but Natsume Yuujinchou is special; it has such fantastic character growth and such a deftly nostalgic touch that I don’t think anyone could possibly dislike it. And fans of the series can safely rejoice – this is exactly the same series in nearly every single way as in the previous four seasons, the only change-up being that the studio went from Brain’s Base (who, let’s be honest, hasn’t produced anything truly great since the previous Natsume Yuujinchou in 2012) to Shuka. Since this hasn’t made any impact on the art style, or on anything else I can see, I’m pretty okay with that.

Yuri!!! on Ice
Score: 9/10

yuri on ice
I’m putting this one veeery slightly above Natsume Yuujinchou because while that show, being on its fifth season, has nothing to prove, Yuri!!! On Ice does. And oh my does the premiere ever deliver. I just assumed going in that the series would be good, because I have a hard time imagining that anything Yamamoto Sayo helms could ever be bad, but I didn’t allow myself to imagine it would be this good. I love pretty much everything about it I’ve seen so far – the way Yuri (Katsuki) and his family’s dynamics feel effortlessly natural right off the bat, the way the very personal drama is carefully balanced by the moments of warm humour, the comparative realism of many of the character designs, the gorgeous animation and choreography. All jokes about manservice aside (and I do expect a lot of them), Yuri!!! On Ice really is something else. Delightfully bold, charmingly subtle, and beautifully crafted, this is everything I wanted and more, and hands down the best anime premiere I’ve seen in years.

Question of the post: Favourite and least favourite shows of the season so far? For good or for ill, is there anything that came as a major surprise to you?

Note: Expect Flip Flappers, Watashi ga Motete Dousunda, 3-gatsu no Lion,  Ajin season two, ClassicaLoid, Occultic;Nine, and Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari in the next post.

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21 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2016 (Part I)

  1. I was kind of expecting Yuri On Ice to be the next big “pretty boys do sport” anime since I saw it getting hyped up in the wake of Free! but all the reviews I’ve seen for this first episode say it’s a genuinely intriguing and emotional story. I mean, not that Free! WASN’T also that, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised enough by the feedback to think I might give it a go

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    • I enjoyed Free! a lot but yeah, I get what you mean. I expected Yuri On Ice to be a lot more ‘filling’ than that because of Yamamoto Sayo – she’s absolutely one of the best anime directors out there – but again, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this amazing. Or rather, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, lest they be crushed by something that was perfectly decent but nothing extraordinary. Happily, I guess I should have known better.

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  2. I’m with you on Natsume. I’m not big on Slice of Life but that series is amazing.
    I loved this line from your write ups: Still, “I’ll watch more because I wasn’t grossly put off” seems a depressingly low bar to set, don’t you think? – It kind of sums up how I have felt this week with the majority of shows and I’m really hoping week 2 sees a marked improvement for some of them.

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    • Yeah, Natsume’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I tend to have little patience for shows that go for over 50 episodes (and these days sometimes even 20-something is a stretch), but I’d happily watch Natsume for 50 more. It has a very special place in my heart.

      Honestly, so long as I have that as well as Yuri!! On Ice, I don’t really care if everything else is crap or not. Obviously as an anime fan I’d like everything I watch to be decent, but the truth is, I’m happy just to have not one but two shows of such high caliber airing in a single season. (Though I do have reasonably high hopes for Funu wo Amu.)

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  3. Yep, Yuri!!! on Ice is the best so far. I love the animation! I’m a figure skating fan so I’m really impressed they managed to make all the moves so smooth and natural. And Viktor’s butt was a bit like cherry on top. 🙂 I had high expectations of Touken Ranbu but it really disappointed me. It wasn’t even funny, totally not my cup of tea.

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    • I wouldn’t call myself a figure skating fan as such, but I do like to tune in every time the winter olympics rolls around – it’s really gorgeous to watch. Thankfully, this show is gorgeous in every way too, Victor’s butt or no Victor’s butt.

      I can’t say I had high expectations of Touken Ranbu, or even any expectations at all, so I’m not particularly disappointed. But even if everything else turns out to be crap this season (and I’m sure there”ll be one or two other half-decent shows along), the fact that I have both Natsume Yuujinchou and Yuri!! On Ice is happiness enough for me. 🙂

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  4. Wow. I’m surprised that Yuri on Ice is getting so much love. I haven’t been able to check out the fall season yet. But I really want to check out Yuri now. Especially since…wow. Bishounen boys at their finest. But it does seem interesting.

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    • I’m not too surprised that Yuri On Ice getting this much positive attention – it really is just that good – but I am certainly glad and relieved that it seems to be on par with the other works directed by Yamamoto Sayo. No doubt about it, she’s one of the best in the business.

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  5. I won’t start watching this season’s shows anytime soon , but Natsume and Yuri are certainly on the top of my priorities to watch before end of year. Have high hopes for Sangatsu no Lion, too.

    Wish someday, someone would give Ranpo the anime adaptation the guy deserves. Bring the likes of Moryo no Hako director and art director, I’d say.

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    • Glad to hear it. 🙂
      And yeah, that would certainly be an intriguing mix. I wouldn’t say I loved Moryo no Hako but it definitely earned my respect. I’d very much like to see more of that kind of material in general when it comes to new releases.

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  6. Yuri on Ice is certainly very pretty and detailed – apparently the skating choreography’s done by an ex-Olympic ice skater, Miyamoto Kenji. Plus, there’s potential to trump the emotional heights of Free! if the drama’s handled correctly.
    Interestingly, the head writer and Viktor’s VA, Suwabe Junichi, respectively joked about how Yuri’s fanservice would put the fanservice of moe animes to shame, and how it barely passed the local censors. I’m guessing Viktor’s butt is a sign of things to come…

    Studio ufotable’s also making their own version of Touken Ranbu for 2017 – speculation is that series will adapt a more serious, darker style to set off against the lightheartedness of Hanamaru. Perhaps you may want to give that a try.

    If you’re still interested in Akatsuki no Yona, there’s an OVA which covers the past of Zeno the Yellow Dragon, who appeared at the end of the TV series. Manga readers can guarantee it’s a must watch for anime-only viewers.

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    • Yeah, I did read about Yuri On Ice’s skating choreography. It was one of the many things I read about the show before it started airing that made me assume it would be at least decent. Happily, it seems Yamamoto has outdone herself once again and as a result, I get to watch something that’s not only good but great.

      I’ve seen the trailer for ufotable’s Touken Ranbu. ufotable and I don’t generally see eye to eye (basically, I think their writing sucks), but their shows are always extremely pretty. I’m sure I’ll watch a little of 2017’s Touken Ranbu if only for that reason.

      Yup, I watched that second OVA a week or so ago. I liked it a lot, too! Still one more OVA episode to come out, I believe.

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  7. I haven’t finished catching up on trying everything out myself, so I can’t comment on all of these, but… Trickster. Yeah. This and the series they had on Noitamina a few years back are just… no thanks. And Nijuu Mensou no Musume really was a quality anime. Makes you wonder where exactly they keep going wrong here.

    Also, Natsume. Natsume Natsume Natsume. I’m going through a lot right now, and lo and behold… Natsume. Natsume is always there for me when I need it, and the studio change to Shuka hasn’t changed a thing. It’s still same old Natsume. I’m really getting more curious about Reiko from this first episode, too. Like, what kind of guy would even catch her interest?

    Aside from Trickster and Natsume (favorite new series of the season so far, naturally) all I’ve really watched is absolutely bonkers random things like HeyBot and TO BE HERO. I don’t know if you had any intention of trying those two out, but if you are, you should know. They are some of the most random anime I’ve ever seen.

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    • Noitamina’s often a very decent programming block but yeah, there’ve been some major duds there as well. I’m still trying to un-remember Galilei Donna myself.

      Natsume will always have an incredibly special place in my heart. I’d be perfectly content if this season had exactly the same sorts of stories as in the previous seasons and didn’t add anything new – it doesn’t need to and I’d still adore the series. But likewise, I’ve been extremely curious about Reiko and her… husband? Boyfriend? whatever since the very first. That’s the crux of the question exactly: just what sort of person could charm Reiko enough that she’d want any kind of relationship with them at all, let alone a sexual one? I never really expected the show to answer this question, but I’m pretty excited at the prospect that it actually might.

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  8. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2016 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

  9. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2016 (Part III) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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