Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2017 (Part II)

rakugo shinjuu header
Even half-decent shows are incredibly thin on the ground this season, which means of the shows I did try out, I only ended up dropping one of them (that being Spiritpact, which as you may recall I managed to watch a whole ten minutes of before the pain got too much for me. I still have nightmares.) Not counting the ongoing second half of 3-gatsu no Lion, that leaves me with just five titles on my weekly viewing list – ACCA, Onihei, Little Witch Academia, Kuzu no Honkai, and Rakugo Shinjuu. Let’s see how they’re faring now that we’re approaching the season’s halfway mark. At the time of this writing, each of these shows has aired five episodes.

Little Witch Academia
Original score: 7/10
Current score: 6/10

little witch academia tv
I’ll no doubt have to dodge the rocks pelted at me by fans for saying this, but Little Witch Academia is boring me. I know it’s the darling of the season for many, and I actually still stand by what I said about the show last time around: it’s sweet, it’s charming, and as far as mainstream televised anime is concerned, it’s also pretty original. I basically don’t have any issues with the general content or the technical production, as this is quite obviously made with a lot of love and by people that really know the ins and outs of their craft. Having said that, I’m simply not enjoying Little Witch Academia all that much on a personal level. The spotlight is mainly on Akko and her friends when I’m far more interested in the likes of Ursula or even Diana, and I also seriously question the decision to make this a two-cour series when one would’ve likely been able to keep my attention a whole lot better. I respect that this is a school/slice-of-life show just as much (if not more) as it is a fantasy one, but I really do feel it would benefit from a slightly faster-paced and more tightly focused approach.

Onihei
Original score: 6/10
Current score: 6/10

onihei
My opinion on this keeps changing with every episode, yet it’s somehow managed to keep the same score. Long story short, I liked the premiere but didn’t love it, was alright with episode two, bored with three, and so annoyed with four that I seriously considered dropping the series altogether. Then episode five happened, and there I was all ready to go again. Shoddy animation aside, my main complaints have been with the stories themselves. I tend to quite enjoy episodic shows and Onihei is no exception, but these stories are often highly predictable and what’s worse, they also have a tendency to be downright lazy in how they’re told, as was so horribly demonstrated by that fourth episode. I was all for the serious, down-to-earth style at first, especially if it was going for historical accuracy with its setting, but now I’m thinking I’d much prefer a more comical tone. Episode five has been the only one so far with a character who was actually likeable, and the whole thing was a breath of fresh air, especially with all that jaunty, jazzy background music going on. In terms of atmosphere, it felt a bit like I was watching a discount version of Samurai Champloo – and I’d rather have that over the uninspired narrative shortcuts and gradually building misogyny of most of the previous episodes of Onihei any time.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka/ACCA: 13th Territory Inspection Department
Original score: 6/10
Current score: 6.5/10

acca
One of the biggest criticisms of this show seems to be that its main character has all the emotional range of a (chain-smoking) robot. I guess I can’t refute that, but I also don’t actually mind it. It’d be one thing if said robot was also an asshat, but as far as I can tell, Jean is a decent guy and very observant to boot – so no, I don’t have any major problems with the characterization here. Of course, that doesn’t mean ACCA is telling a great story, and I can certainly see why people who aren’t overly fond of dialogue-heavy titles might have tuned out long ago. ACCA is clearly biding its time, and there’s really no way of telling whether the wait will be worthwhile. Which probably means that those viewers who’re still around are there for the style and the general atmosphere of the piece more than anything else, and as it happens that sums up my own feelings pretty accurately. To be clear, I’m not saying the story has nothing going for it, and I’m genuinely curious as to how things will resolve themselves. Mostly though, I’m just sticking around because I dig ACCA’s stylistic choices.

Kuzu no Honkai/Scum’s Wish
Original score: 7/10
Current score: 7/10

kuzu no honkai
I really, truly appreciate Kuzu no Honkai’s incredibly frank and forthright depictions of sex. I also wish it would demonstrate just a bit more subtlety, especially in regards to the sex. That may sound contradictory but I don’t believe it is. A large part of the show’s appeal for me is in the way it refuses to put sex or romance on a pedestal, and that it makes absolutely no attempt to beat around the bush when it comes to the actions of any of its characters – desperate, unhealthy, or just plain awkward as they often are. After anime titles featuring hordes of pure-of-heart teens seemingly incapable of even holding hands without spontaneously combusting, Kuzu no Honkai feels not just refreshing but actually honest. On the other hand, do we actually need such attention to visual detail when people are kissing for example, or such on-the-nose calls in the voice acting department? I’m no prude, but less really is more sometimes, and I think the emotional impact of what are otherwise quite well-crafted scenes get frequently undermined by the show’s eagerness to be explicit. Hopefully that description doesn’t make it sound like a porno, especially since the psychological aspects of the series are the driving force behind it rather than the more obvious physical follow-throughs. However, while I do genuinely value Kuzu no Honkai’s candor, I think it could employ more restraint without sacrificing any of that aforementioned honesty.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Original score: 8/10
Current score: 8/10

rakugo shinjuu
As always, I lack the words to describe exactly how well this show is crafted and why it works on so many symbolic and emotional levels. The fact that I found that final scene of episode five almost literally painful to watch, while simultaneously being unable to look away, speaks as to how invested I’ve become in the lives and events unfolding on screen. Now in terms of pure enjoyment I’d probably have to say that the first season has this second one beat for me (currently at least, which is the only reason I still haven’t bumped the score up any), but that’s certainly not to say Rakugo Shinjuu has been a disappointment. Far from it. In terms of production it’s right up there, a masterpiece of storytelling about storytelling, with wonderfully layered characterization and a giant question mark hanging over the whole affair. How will it end? Beautiful tragedy or ultimately hopeful and uplifting tale of family finally coming together? Because it could really go either way, and I have no doubt that Rakugo Shinjuu could satisfy the audience with just about any kind of conclusion. The fact that it continues to keep me guessing like that is a pretty rare thing, and just one more mark in its favour.

Question of the post: Now that we’re nearly halfway through most shows this season, have you changed your mind on any of them?

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12 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2017 (Part II)

  1. Agree with your thoughts about LWA – it certainly is charming, but knowing how well the original OVA was made raises the bar pretty high. Akko and the gang are entertaining, but it’s about time for the show to become less directionless. For me it’s still very enjoyable, but maybe it’s still riding on the success of the past. Still, the amount of brownie points LWA has isn’t going up.
    Thinking about Rakugo, it has been a huge relief that the story still hasn’t run out of steam.

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    • I feel bad saying anything too negative about LWA because it’d be like kicking a puppy – it’s too innocent and adorable to lay into without losing some serious brownie points of my own. That said, yeah, I could do with a bit less high school antics and a bit more direction and focus.

      I can’t say I ever really doubted Rakugo’s ability to stay strong and fresh – the show’s just too good for that – but seeing it pull everything off with such aplomb is a wondrous thing nonetheless.

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  2. Rakugo Shinju is amazing stuff. I’ll be watching episode 6 soonish as post-gym recovery. In terms of other shows, MinaKama has grown on me somewhat for not beating about the bush. No debut queue here: most of the characters were introduced in the 2nd ep, and the club formed in the 3rd.

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    • That does sound refreshing. I’m not a big sports anime fan, and am more than a bit fed up with the ubiquitous bunch-of-cute-girls-in-a-high-school-club style titles at this point anyway, but I’m glad to hear it’s not a bad little series.

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  3. I’ve noticed how food is so prominent throughout ACCA. Either its creator is trying to make some kind of thematical statement, or she decided to unleash her inner foodie for this series (considering she created Ristorante Paradiso, that may not be far off).

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  4. I really, truly appreciate Kuzu no Honkai’s incredibly frank and forthright depictions of sex. I also wish it would demonstrate just a bit more subtlety, especially in regards to the sex. That may sound contradictory but I don’t believe it is.

    I kind of get what you meant. Is the show perhaps….more ‘look, we’re totally having sex scenes here!!’ instead of ‘the characters have sex, let’s not make a big deal of it’?

    I’m interested in this, but I’ll wait until it’s finished. Anything too bombastic (say, a violent bloodshed as a finale) would be a dealbreaker.

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    • Something like that, I guess. I mean, the sex is a really integral part of the show and is definitely part of what makes it so compelling. However, it at least sometimes edges too far towards titillation as far as the visual (and sometimes sound) work is concerned. It needs to be more explicit than what we normally see in mainstream televised anime in order to carry as much impact as it does, but even so, sometimes it’s just a little /too much.

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