Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2016 (Part III)

yuri-on-ice-header
Well, here we are again already, just about at this season’s halfway point. And a very interesting season it is too – although that hasn’t stopped me dropping more shows than I’ve kept. Occultic;Nine, Magic-Kyun! Renaissance, Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, Watashi ga Motete Dousunda/Kiss Him, Not Me, Trickster: Edogawa Ranpo “Shounen Tanteidan” yori, and WWW.Working!! all got the chop after only one episode, but that didn’t prevent a second round of cuts and there’s still the possibility of more to go. Let’s see how those left have been faring.

Shuumatsu no Izetta/Izetta: The Last Witch
Original score: 6/10
Current score: 4/10 (Dropped)

izetta
Dear god no. Just no. I thought there was going to be a decent story here despite the synopsis; I thought Finé with all her actual smarts and agency and refreshingly un-moe personality would make up for all the ridiculously phallic gun-riding; I thought the series would be able to tame its urge to showcase Izetta’s bust (and/or butt) every few minutes. I was wrong. The titular character is by far this show’s biggest weak point – such a huge and unwelcome contrast to Finé that all the decent character work from the first couple of episodes got utterly undermined. Throw in a horrible excuse for a personal tutor/reporter whose hobby is molestation (it’s funny because she likes to grope breasts, har har), and I was more than ready to admit my own foolishness at keeping Izetta on for a whole five episodes.

Nanbaka
Original score: 6/10
Current score: 5/10 (Dropped)

nanbaka yamato
There were actually a few pretty decent gags here, but three episodes in and Nanbaka didn’t feel like it was going anywhere, or even like it had much interest in doing so. Slow pacing doesn’t particularly bother me and there’s definitely something to be said for dumb, irreverent humour, but most of the jokes either dragged on so long that they quickly lost their entertainment value or else were just plain repetitive. When even the neon-bright colours and random wall sparkles started getting dull, I figured it was time to move on. I would, however, totally watch a Nanbaka spinoff featuring Yamato as MC.

ClassicaLoid
Original score: 6/10
Current score: 6/10 (Dropped)

classicaloid bach
I have absolutely nothing against this show; it’s just that it’s not my particular brand of crazy. I’m actually a bit jealous of those viewers who were able to get more into it, because it seems like a truly fun anime to watch; on paper at least, a lot of things really do work in a freakishly oddball kind of way. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to try out a show featuring the most famous of classical composers existing in modern-day Japan and duking it out? Look at Bach in his killer shades and tell me you aren’t at least curious. Alas, only two episodes in and I could already tell it wasn’t for me. As with Nanbaka, I felt the gags sometimes worked but more often were too drawn out or occurred more regularly than was good for them. Also like Nanbaka, the creators clearly picked the wrong people for MCs.

Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari/Poco’s Udon World
Original score: 7/10
Current score: 6/10

poco
My main problem with Poco is that, while obviously cute, it lacks focus. Or rather, it’s not focused on telling any kind of story so much as it is on being a giant flyer for countryside living. I finally figured out (admittedly pretty late in the game) that the show isn’t interested in tanuki, parenting, udon, or even just being one of those slow but sweet slice-of-life tales, despite what the title or synopsis may suggest. Instead, what we have here is an advertisement not only for Kagawa but also for abandoning the big cities in favour of living a relaxed and wholesome life out in Japanese ruraldom. And don’t get me wrong, my heart actually belongs there too – especially when it comes to Shikoku – but at this point Poco has become more moralizing commercial than anything else. And no matter how adorable the series, I’m not sure I’m willing to invest much more of my time in something like that.

Flip Flappers
Original score: 7/10
Current score: 6.5/10

flip-flappers
I’m a bit torn on this one. On the one hand, I still really like the overall tone and feel of the series; it’s dreamy, often downright trippy, sometimes even vaguely horrifying. On the other hand, ‘vague’ would actually be a pretty good descriptor of the story. There is one – or at least, there wants to be one – but the focus keeps skipping off elsewhere, and while I don’t mind some mysteries here and there, Flip Flappers has gone beyond mysterious to being intentionally evasive. Given the huge potential of the show, I find that quite frustrating. Likewise frustrating is the fact that while I respect and even applaud the genuine exploration of adolescent sexuality, Flip Flappers sometimes doesn’t quite seem to know where to draw the line. Fanservice purely for the sake of titillation, especially in this case, makes me feel decidedly uncomfortable but beyond that, the series feels smart enough that it should know way better. Instead, I get to watch it shoot itself in the foot at least once scene per episode. The jury’s still out on whether the compelling artwork and potent use of symbolism can make up for this.

Ajin 2nd Season
Original score: 7/10
Current score: 7/10

ajin
Ajin
is still going strong, and while I don’t think the series is quite good enough to elevate itself from being just plain decent, at least I can say that it’s consistent. The pacing has been very steady overall, as has the general quality, and there are enough twists and turns going on every week to keep me guessing. My only real complaint right now is that the side-characters are only popping up whenever the plot deems them convenient enough to do so. We haven’t so much as a single shot of Kai since the early episodes of season one, now suddenly here he is and I’m just supposed to start caring again? Ditto with Kei’s hospitalized sister, who I’m sure will become abruptly important to the story whenever Ajin decides it needs to spice things up. These appearances are just too obvious to have much impact, and make it difficult to emotionally invest in anyone other than the main characters and villains of the piece. Personally, I think the show already has enough in the way of both drama and action for anyone but the current core cast to be necessary anyway. Adding yet more plot points only serves to lessen the story’s focus.

Fune wo Amu/The Great Passage
Score: 7/10

fune-wo-amu
Since this show began airing a week behind everything else, I didn’t end up including it in the first batch of titles. For what it’s worth though, Fune wo Amu is well worth including – a decidedly slow yet oddly compelling series about, of all things, the creation of a dictionary. If internal drama and extremely deliberate pacing aren’t your thing than Fune wo Amu will be as about as dry as it sounds on paper, but otherwise I think there’s plenty here to like. It’s a show about adults doing adult things (shocking, I know), and it’s far more interested in paying attention to the little details than it is in being in any way loud or flashy, as most dramas tend to be. There’s a ton of focus on body language, for example, and on characterization through cinematography rather than dialogue. The animation can be a bit patchy, and the mid-episode break featuring cutesy anthropomorphic dictionaries feels both jarringly out of place as well as completely unnecessary. However, the former is mostly made up for by the meticulous camerawork, and the latter can at least be ignored for the real charm points of the series.

3-gatsu no Lion/March Comes in like a Lion
Original score: 8/10
Current score: 8/10

3-gatsu-no-lion
I was holding my breath a little here because I really, really don’t like the bulk of what Shaft comes out with, but so far so good; it might get ever so slightly overindulgent in its use of imagery at times, but 3-gatu no Lion is a damn good show. There’s sometimes a ton going on at once with onscreen text-visuals and animal dialogue amid several people talking at once, while at other times there’s gapingly empty spaces and only Rei’s physical presence or internal dialogue to fill them, yet the series very rarely feels inconsistent or badly paced – most likely because the overarching story is broken down into smaller snippets that, while interconnected, also manage to stand very well on their own. As a result, there’s a ton of characterization, backstory, and relationship development packed in, but I never come out of an episode feeling overwhelmed and I’m always ready to go back each week for more. That’s good storytelling right there.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go/Natsume’s Book of Friends season 5
Original score: 9/10
Current score: 8.5/10

natsume-yuujinchou-go
I still adore Natsume Yuujinchou with all my heart and it would take something pretty major for that to change. That said, I’m not sure if this season is quite as good as the previous ones. Other than some very minor and for the most part barely discernible changes to the art style, everything else is the same, from the characters themselves to the background music, so I can’t be completely sure – and in any case, I don’t really feel comfortable making a judgment call on that until the whole thing has finished airing. Still, something seems just a tiny bit off. Maybe the dialogue/pacing is a little faster than usual, or the individual stories less focused? I’d welcome some other opinions on that. But hey, again, this is Natsume Yuujinchou: the supernatural/slice-of-life iyashikei anime to end all others. I can only complain so much.

Yuri!!! on Ice
Original score: 9/10
Current score: 9/10

yuri-on-ice
Hot damn I love this show. I’m not saying Yuri is a perfect anime, but it’s certainly something I haven’t seen the likes of in a very long time. It’s especially awesome in this case because I never would have thought it of a sports series, yet here I am completely glued to the screen each week, with nearly every episode feeling like it lasts only two minutes instead of twenty. If the gorgeous choreography, razor-sharp focus, and brilliant character development wasn’t enough, might we actually be getting a mainstream anime show centered on a queer relationship instead of just one filled with queer-baiting and awful BL tropes??? Because that would be amazing.

Question of the post: How’s the season as a whole going for you? Has your opinion on any shows changed drastically since the premieres?

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9 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2016 (Part III)

  1. Oh yes, Yuri and Ajin are the season’s pearls. I wonder what’s your opinion on Bloodivores. I have mixed feelings about this one (vampires? not again…) but it’s good to hear Eri Kitamura.

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    • I actually never tried Bloodivores. It’s true that vampires have been done to death (oh ho, see what I did there?) at this point, though I don’t mind stories about them in general. Honestly though, the show looked to be pretty low-quality, so I ended up giving it a miss.

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  2. Izetta’s probably the one that is annoying me the most in that I really loved the first episode and if it ahd kept that tone it could have been a really good show. But instead we are wasting a good part fo the run time with girls being dippy and fan-servicey meanwhile an actual war could be going on. The other shows are all still doing much what you would expect them to do.
    Actually, my surprise like from the season is Bungo Stray Dogs 2 given I wasn’t such a huge fan of the first season. This second season is so far feeling a little more cohesive.

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    • Yeah, I’d agree with Izetta being the most disappointing show of the season, at least in terms of first episode vs. where the show’s at now. Since I had no expectation of it getting any better, I decided to just quit while I was… well, certainly not ahead, but at minimum frustration levels.

      I admit, I never got far into the first season of Bungo Stray Dogs. There were one or two things I liked about the series, but not enough for me to keep watching. It’s good to hear that the second season is surpassing expectations though.

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  3. I’m holding out to see whether or not Yuri on Ice pulls a No Homo at the end of the series, because I can never truly trust the review “this is the gayest thing I’ve ever seen!!” until the gay is undeniably confirmed in the narrative. I want to start watching since I hear it’s so damned good, but I also don’t want it to raise my hopes and then break my heart, you feel?

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    • I do feel – very much. (I don’t actually agree with anyone saying that the show is the gayest thing on earth, though. It’s really not. That said, the queer vibes are strong with this one, and thankfully not in the cliche yaoi trope kind of way… yet. I also don’t want my heart to be broken there.)

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  4. I was shocked to read you dropped Trickster, because that show hooked me from the beginning. When Kobayashi literally cried because he couldn’t die, that tugged at my heart strings and hooked me.
    Anyways, honestly for me the shows I’ve decided to watch, my impression of them hasn’t changed.
    Yuri on Ice was a surprisingly interesting show but I do prefer my action and gritty anime, so it doesn’t trump shows like Drifters and Tiger Mask W. I decided to watch 3-gatsu no lion on Gigguk’s recommendation and was pleasnatly surprised to enjoy it.
    I think overall this season was a strong season with many different kinds of anime that appealed to me.

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    • I have a particular dislike for shows that strike me as pointlessly melodramatic or overly theatrical. I’m not necessarily saying that Trickster is a bad show – I really didn’t want enough of it to judge it in that way – but it definitely annoyed me enough in the first episode that I knew right away I didn’t want to watch more.
      Likewise though, I didn’t expect to like 3-gatsu no Lion anywhere near as much as I do. I don’t have a good opinion of most Shaft anime, so that came as a very pleasant surprise. It’s not far at all behind Yuri On Ice in terms of enjoyment for me.

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      • I can see how the first episode came off as melodramatic, but somehow I was just intrigued to watch this character more. Kinda like I was interested to see how a character like that plays out.
        I never pay much attention to who or what makes the anime, I just watch the anime or read the synopsis 😅

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