Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2017

rakugo shinjuu season 2 header
I’ve said numerous times in the past that when it comes to anime, I prefer quality of quantity any day – that I judge a season by those titles that are good rather than how many of them aren’t. That being said, winter 2017 makes this stance pretty hard for me to be mindful of no matter how I try to spin it.

Purely as a point of reference, allow me to mention that excluding direct sequels and fall leftovers, there are 20-25 televised anime airing this season, which is about 10 less than in recent seasons. Based primarily on the synopsis, I typically take on around 10 shows for at least the premiere episode and eventually whittle that number down to 5 for keeps. This time around, also excluding direct sequels and fall leftovers (only Rakugo Shinjuu and 3-gatsu no Lion respectively), I took on just 5 shows for the premiere episode and still felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Just a little something to bear in mind.

Spiritpact
Score: 2/10 (Dropped)

spiritpact anime
Wow. It’s been a while I’ve seen something this legitimately terrible. I don’t mean that the plot or the actual onscreen events are offensive in any way – in fact, the premise in and of itself even sounds like it could be quite promising – but just about everything else in Spiritpact is literally The Worst, and I assure you I’m not exaggerating for effect. The artwork is ugly and bland. The animation is basic. The music is downright awful. The main character manages to be both incredibly annoying and incredibly un-funny despite the clear intentions otherwise. Even worse is the fact that all these are secondary issues in comparison to the writing, which is so abysmal as to be barely coherent. It’s not that the plot is too convoluted to follow; it’s that the script itself is so appallingly bad that what comes out of the characters’ mouths comes across as more or less completely nonsensical. Even looking past the glaringly obvious exposition, Spiritpact has all the logic and consistency of a story composed by a 5-year old; I can see that everything is all part of the same general narrative, but all the dialogue and the individual scenes fit together so disjointedly that it’s almost physically painful to watch.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka/ACCA: 13th Territory Inspection Department
Score: 6/10

acca anime
I’m predicting that ACCA will easily become one of the most popular titles of the season – and not just because of the general lack of competition. It’s got a ton of atmosphere, it practically oozes visual style and panache, and the plot looks to be a slow burn that nonetheless has some interesting cards up its sleeve. On the other hand, the problems with the storytelling plainly speak for themselves; exposition in the form of a character delivering the ubiquitous “as well know” speech to his colleagues is supposed to make things in this alternate-universe setting clearer, but funnily enough I always start to instinctively tune out whenever this happens. If a title really feels the urge to let its audience to know what the geographical/political/whatever situation is right off the bat, I’d prefer some brand of upfront narrator introduction, which might be uninspired but at least isn’t as awkward or clumsy as what we get here (plus, you know, points for honesty). This type of thing could very well just be a teething issue, but as I can only go by what the first episode is delivering, I’m not yet confident that ACCA won’t just be a series with style in spades but not quite enough smarts in the writing department. That said, I’ve seen enough to know that I’m happy going back for more, so I guess the premiere mustn’t have been too shabby.

Onihei
Score: 6/10

onihei anime
While I wasn’t wowed by the premiere of this show, I think it has potential. At the very least, it’s wildly different from anything else airing right now – and given the sheer amount of crap this season is offering up, that alone makes Onihei worth a look. I’m as yet unsure whether the series is going to be a period drama with one or two gory scenes along the way, a bloody action piece with the drama sprinkled in, or something else entirely, but I can appreciate a decent chanbara show as much as the next anime viewer. Besides, it’s actually been some time since I’ve seen a more serious and historically accurate Edo-Period title. A potential problem though is that I don’t really know which characters I’m supposed to be rooting for, if any; Heizou seems to be a man of true strength as opposed to a stereotypically idiotic, cowardly, or corrupt police head, but I guess he’s still into blatant torture when it suits him. Kumehachi, on the other hand, is a thief-with-morals who was nonetheless thrown out of his old gang for attempted rape and is probably about to become a spy. So… go, team? On the technical side of things, the art style, particularly with regards to the character designs, seems almost purposefully ugly at times, even retro, while the animation itself pretty low-grade. On the other hand, the OP is fantastic and will undoubtedly be a contender for best of the season. It’s both visually and aurally stylish as hell – I love the jazz-fused take on the more traditionally Japanese fare.

Little Witch Academia
Score: 7/10

little witch academia tv
First off, I’m not a huge fan of this franchise. I watched and enjoyed the pair of short films back when they aired, sure, but Little Witch Academia doesn’t represent the Second Coming for me like it seems to with a lot of other anime viewers. Having said that, this is a delightful little romp that I’m perfectly happy to watch for a couple of reasons. First off, in terms of anime at least, this is a fairly original setting. The majority of other titles dealing with kids going to magic school draw primarily on Japanese tropes, but Little Witch Academia is digging straight into Western mythos, complete with broomsticks, bubbling cauldrons, and black pointy hats. We all know these codes and conventions, but with maybe one or two exceptions, anime really hasn’t until now, and I’m curious to see how they’re handled. Second, this show looks to be as sweet and as unpretentious as they come – the kind of series that anyone can relax to and enjoy regardless of age or gender. I don’t anticipate any kind of revolution in storytelling, but what I do expect is a consistently charming, optimistic, and fanservice-free title with no agenda other than to be its own very pleasant self.

Kuzu no Honkai/Scum’s Wish
Score: 7/10

kuzu no honkai anime
Well that was way more explicit than I was expecting. Not that Kuzu no Honkai is what I’d call an ecchi title by any means, but coming from a genre where even holding hands is typically seen as an incredibly bold move… well, the fact that we have two high school kids talking so openly with one another about sex as well as engaging in some unequivocally intimate acts themselves took me aback. Mostly in a good way – the series avoids some obvious pitfalls by making Hana the main protagonist and point-of-view character, and also by having her make the first move. There are some things that make me uncomfortable about this dynamic, but as far as I can tell, that’s at least partially the point. Personality-wise these characters seem totally indifferent to one another, yet they decide to form a sexual relationship based on mutual loneliness and yes, the mutual physical need that results from it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever really seen that kind of thing dealt with so obviously in a televised anime before (although I do get echoes of Evangelion, purely in terms of some of the psychology at play here). I think Kuzu no Honkai is going to have to be veeery careful about what exactly it portrays and how in order to refrain from getting sleazy or downright creepy, and it’s already toeing the line for me there in a couple of ways, but colour me highly intrigued. And hey, if nothing else, I can already tell I’m going to love the soundtrack.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Score: 8/10

rakugo shinjuu season 2
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that this will be good. I’m just not sure in what way yet. See, the first season of Rakugo Shinjuu was a crushingly beautiful tragedy and everyone was aware of it. The entire series was basically one giant flashback, and we all knew where it was going to end even if we didn’t know exactly how. But this second season brings us back into the present – so is Rakugo Shinjuu going to continue to have that inevitable note of tragic melancholy that so pervaded the first, or will it become something more uplifting? Because if so, I’d suggest that it would also become a totally different show in the process. What I very much doubt will change either way is the absolutely stunning cinematography, which swept me up and carried me along so completely last time that I probably won’t mind what Rakugo Shinjuu becomes, so long as I get to experience more of that. No matter what happens plot-wise, I’m excited to see more of this series, which I fully expect to be quietly tense, finely-crafted, and highly emotionally-charged, all of which the first episode hints at. Assuming it consistently delivers (and while I’ll try not to get ahead I’ve myself, I think that’s a fairly safe assumption), I’ll no doubt be bumping up the score later on.

Question of the post: As always, what’s the best and worst anime you tried out this season in terms of premieres? Am I missing out on any must-watches?

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13 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2017

  1. Interesting thoughts!
    Considering Acca, I can’t believe that there are still writers who would go for “as you know” route.
    By the way, you said that we both chose very similar shows to watch this season and, even more weirdly, our screencaps for Rakugo this week also are identical.

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    • I can definitely believe it, just because it acts as such a quick and convenient way to get through ‘necessary’ exposition. It’s plain bad and/or lazy writing though, and always sticks out a mile, so I have little patience for it myself.

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  2. Yeah, Acca seems to be pretty decent anime and I’m curious about plot developing. But the one I’m really waiting for is Gyakusatsu Kikan. After watching the trailer I thought it resembles GITS in a way. But time will tell if I’m right or wrong.

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    • I hadn’t planned on watching Gyakusatsu Kikan, but who knows, maybe if I end up dropping one or two of these other shows. My free time lately has been pretty limited.

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  3. Demi-chan wa Kataritai is super adorable and unsleazy, I would wholeheartedly recommend it!
    Kobayashi-san chi no Maid Dragon is likewise cute, although it is also unabashedly/straightforwardly (but mostly tastefully) lewd and somewhat less immediate in its emotional grounding. Still very fun though! (The above is based as much on reading both series’ manga as watching the respective first episodes.)

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    • Fair enough. I may make time for one or two other shows this season, but then again my free time has been pretty limited lately, so I’m purposefully being fairly cut-throat with what I watch these days.

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  4. Good news – ACCA, Showa Genroku & Kuzu no Honkai will fully adapt their source mangas and have complete endings. The mangas for the 1st 2 ended last year, while Kuzu ends this March 2017.

    I’ve also seen Chain Chronicle, although the anime’s plot is an original story taking place after Part 1 of its source mobile game’s story. The anime assumes viewers are familiar with the source’s characters, their personalities and the various factions of the game’s world. Gameplayers love it, but anime-only viewers have been left confused.

    Have you tried watching HandShakers yet? It’s from Studio GoHands and the same creative team who did K, so they’ve amped up the colour saturation and put lots of moving details in the backgrounds.

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    • Excellent, happy to hear it.
      I’m not a gamer at all so I doubt Chain Chronicle will have much to offer unfortunately. As for Handshakes, it sounds fairly awful in terms of writing, going by what I’ve heard so far. I certainly wasn’t a K fan either – I enjoy pretty but it’s not enough for me to stick around if the rest of a production sucks.

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  5. Only saw ACCA and Rakugo so far, but everything else here (minus Spiritpact) are on my check-sooner-or-later (probably later) list.

    …exposition in the form of a character delivering the ubiquitous “as well know” speech to his colleagues is supposed to make things in this alternate-universe setting clearer, but funnily enough I always start to instinctively tune out whenever this happens.

    Haha, yeah, me too. Upfront narrator is preferable. Or, just have lingering shots on the world map and department chart sans all the clumsy dialogue; so far, I don’t think it’s that complex you can’t trust the audience to figure things out by themselves.

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    • Yeah, I get the general idea of the setting in ACCA and don’t think it’s overly complicated. But as soon as that roll of exposition started, my eyes started to automatically glaze over.

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  6. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2017 | Afro Futurism

  7. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2017 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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