Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2018 (Part III)

hisone to masotan header
Now that we’re around the halfway mark for the season, with most shows having recently aired either their fifth or sixth episode, let’s check in to see how they’ve been faring since their respective premieres.

Lupin III: Part V
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 7/10

lupin part vi

The most recent episode (six) aside, which I assume was intended as a breather between story arcs (and which for some reason went all the way back to mid-80s Pink Jacket Lupin), Part V has managed to be consistently smart and entertaining, both in terms of plot and presentation. I wouldn’t call the Lupin franchise in general particularly deep or even particularly clever, but I also don’t think it strives to be either, aiming instead for style and pure, rollicking fun. It’s difficult to say whether Part V will be able to keep the entertainment factor up, as much will depend on what the following stories will be about, but I’d say the show has already been more focused and therefore more consistent than Part IV was – as well as being a nice nod to the world’s own current focus on mass media, mass communication, and the kind of user-generated technology that freely allows both.

Amanchu! Advance
Original Score: 8/10
Current Score: 7/10

amanchu advance

The second season of Amanchu! has likewise been fairly consistent, although I’m not so certain that the introduction of Kokoro has been lending anything much to the series. While I do like that the show has been touching on Teko’s emotional independence, and that Pikari’s budding friendship with Kokoro has not led to a bout of irrational jealousy, I don’t think Kokoro herself adds a whole lot of value to the proceedings. I’d rather focus more on Ai, Mokoto, or Mato-sensei, all of whom have been getting little in the way of screentime as it is – not to mention the introduction of Pikari’s younger sister, Kodama, who does add something extremely potentially interesting to the family dynamic. That said, Amanchu! is still a lovely, peaceful little show I’m always happy to watch, and I doubt that will change.

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 6/10

gun gale online

I’m convinced that if Gun Gale Online didn’t have the specter of the original SAO hanging over it, it would be a much more popular title. Not because it’s anything great, mind you – at best, it’s nothing more than decent, and at worst it still suffers from some of the lesser sins that the vast majority of light novel adaptations tend to commit; dawn out and awkwardly delivered exposition, lackluster writing in general between action scenes, incredibly obvious foreshadowing. However, I also don’t actually think Gun Gale Online is a bad show, and if I cared anything about guns, I might even be tempted to give it a higher rating still. I dig that Gun Gale Online explicitly acknowledges that generally speaking, the players likely know little about guns or shooting in real life, and that the skills they gain in-game would have no impact on their ability to accurately shoot with a real gun. I also think the action scenes are perfectly fine, and that so far at least, the show has shown a lot more focus than most other titles of its ilk. In short, this series is still surprisingly okay, so I guess I’m here for the long haul.

Piano no Mori/Piano Forest
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 6/10 (Dropped)

piano no mori

Well, I made it three episodes before dropping out when things got weird – something about stage fright, a girl locking herself in a bathroom stall, and some self-therapy involving petting the main character’s head like her pet dog. It’s honestly a lot less creepy than I probably made that sound, but was also still pretty damn strange. I admit I wasn’t exactly enthralled with the series prior to this moment either. There was plenty about Piano no Mori that I liked, but it was all being constantly undermined by the often hilariously dramatic delivery and the terribad CG, so I was honestly almost relieved when I was given a more concrete excuse to move on.

Golden Kamuy
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 7/10

golden kamuy

Once again I seem to be in the minority here, thoroughly enjoying Golden Kamuy when a lot of other viewers gave up after the first episode (which, incidentally, I also enjoyed). See, while Golden Kamuy is billed as an adult action/adventure piece, I tend to view it at least half the time as a comedy. Sure, it has a bunch of murderous villains inflicting R-rated violence on everyone else, but at its heart I view the series as two things. First, a wilderness survivalist piece of historical fiction, which paints in great detail exactly how Asirpa and her people, as Ainu living completely apart from the rest of society, manage to live contentedly even in the middle of Hokkaido winter, as well as imparting fairly accurate details about their culture and way of life. Second, a comedy involving some of the best reaction shots and derp-faces I’ve seen in a while, especially given that Sugimoto obviously has a decent sense of humor and isn’t actually inclined to be all that serious when someone’s not trying to kill him for a change. Honestly, I find all of this pretty refreshing, and while certainly an odd combination, it’s not inherently a bad one.

Fumikiri Jikan
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

fumikiri jikan

I’m not sorely disappointed, as that would imply I had high hopes for this in the first place, but I am somewhat saddened by the fact that Fumikiri Jikan turned out to be a purely episodic series, with no main or even recurring characters beyond whoever’s introduced every week. It’s not that I have anything against this kind of format, which can work especially well for shorts, but the show was so much more interesting when I thought it was about an ongoing and genuine potential romantic relationship between two young women. The rest of the show (well, up to episode four when I dropped it anyway) was fine, but lacked the charm of that first episode, along with anything consistent in the comedy department. Oh well, at least those initial three minutes were good.

Hisone to Maso-tan/Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Maso-tan
Original Score: 8/10
Current Score: 8/10

hisone to masotan

I feel really bad that viewers can’t yet legally watch this unless they live in Japan, because it’s still easily the best anime of the season. Bones is really outdoing themselves with the art style and animation here – it’s not only charming but also unique and impactful, and definitely suits the style of storytelling being used along with the characters themselves. Speaking of, I can’t even think of the last time I’ve been introduced to a main cast of this size and immediately liked each and every member, flaws and all. This goes doubly so for Amakasu, who’s just so personable and direct that I can’t help but love her – especially given how rare that combination is in any anime female lead, let alone in a military drama/comedy. My only major reservation at this point is how deeply sexist the men tend to be in this show… which, given that all the main characters are women tasked with piloting dragons and potentially defending Japan itself someday, might be the point. For whatever reason, the men simply aren’t capable of this, yet are constantly either trying to get their counterparts in bed or demeaning them by loudly discussing their supposedly overwrought emotional state. Sometimes both in the same sentence. I’m hoping the series actually ends up going somewhere with this, as opposed to just letting the guys get away with it and having the whole thing pass as a kind of wry social commentary on women in the military.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii/WotaKoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 6/10

wotakoi

At this point, Hirotaka is basically carrying the entire series on his shoulders. The rest of the gang are amusing enough with their otaku hijinks (even if Hanako and Kabakura’s relationship is hardly the pinnacle of a healthy romance, and Narumi hardly the pinnacle of a decent human being), but Hirotaka is just so smooth that I feel compelled to continue watching anyway. It definitely helps that the series is so light-hearted and doesn’t seem much interested in saying anything deep or meaningful about any of the characters, or how their hobbies and work lives intersect; if it were otherwise, the characters just wouldn’t work with the story. As nothing more than a relatively shallow yet lively romcom though, I don’t feel that I need anything other than twenty minutes of relaxed entertainment each week. As such, I think Wotakoi does an above average job.

Question of the post: Now that we’ve reached this anime season’s halfway point, are there any titles you’ve changed your mind about since the premiere?

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7 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2018 (Part III)

  1. I do love Amanchu, but all the Kokoro stuff is lacking in my opinion, too. I haven’t exactly been scrambling to watch each new episode as it comes out anymore because I just, don’t care about the new characters. Personally I’ll probably just watch it all at once when the season’s over.
    Also great post! I keep seeing ooc screenshots from Hisone & Maso-tan but had no clue what it actually was so I’m glad now I finally know what the show is called lmao

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    • Yeah, it’s just not the most riveting or emotional impactful material with Kokoro. I can see how you’d rather watch the whole thing all at once when it’s done airing, rather than week by week.

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  2. I accept pretty much everything Amanchu throws at me pretty uncritically. I like season 2 better than I liked season 1, but I think it’s more the anime context than the show itself. Relaxing shows like this one have become rarer, and shows with such attention to background art and beautifully handdrawn stuff is even rarer, so I think I treasure the show more than I did its first season for that reason alone. It’s so pretty. (There’s still some CGI, e.g. for swarming baby squids, but I can live with that.) There’s also the excellent soundtrack.

    Piano no Mori‘s story is now outpacing the film, so I don’t know what’ll happen from here on out, which means I’m mildly curious. But, yeah, it’s not that hot a show.

    I’m actually fine with Golden Kamuy. It’s not really special for me, but it’s not losing me either. I am interested in the Ainu angle, and I feel they’re pretty good about it. I’m not that fond of the reaction faces: some work for me, others don’t.

    Honestly, I expected Fumikiri Jikan to be episodic. I find the show highly uneven, but since the episodes are so short I find it worthwhile sticking with the show for the good bits.

    Hisone to Masotan really is a great show. I’m not quite as enamoured of it as I was after episode one, but it’s still very much one of the best shows this season (and very unlikely to lose its top-10-of-the-year spot – very likely top 5).

    As for WotaKoi, I’m not really into it. I’m mostly into it for the voice acting, to be honest. The cast’s banter feels natural; they play well off each other.

    Surprisingly, Hinamatsuri is an even better show than I thought it would be after episode 1, and I loved episode 1. I’m impressed, for example, with its treatment of homelessness: not realistic enough to stop the show from being a light comedy, but heavy enough to lend the scenes an unexpected depth. There’s some genuine heart in this show, and it’s not afraid to let its main cast look bad in select scenes, either.

    Also, Steins;Gate 0 managed to dispell all my fears. After a rather unneccessary OVA and movie, this one’s as interesting and engaging as season 1 (which means you likely won’t much like this either).

    And I’m really happy with Rokuhoudou Yatsuiro Biyori, which remains my most relaxing watch this season (beating out Amanchu). It’s also got that rare thing: an instrumental ending.

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    • I do want to check out Hinamatsuri now, although I don’t really have time to do so this season. The same goes for Rokuhoudou Yatsuiro Biyori – I wasn’t totally wowed by the first episode but I did like it, and if I had more free time available then almost certainly would’ve kept it on my weekly watch-list.

      It’s not that I have anything against Steins;Gate, or even the idea of a Steins;Gate sequel (unnecessary as I think it was). It’s more that at this point, enough time has passed that I’m simply not invested in the characters any more on any real emotional level, and don’t have the time to attempt to get re-invested (which honestly would probably involve re-watching all the original first, since I’ve forgotten a lot of the important details). I’m essentially working two jobs IRL, and I have to be very picky about how I allocate what free time I have left to me.

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  3. I misremembered about Steins;Gate. I fully understand not coming back to it. It’s not necessary, but it’s integrated much better than I thought it would be. The original focussed on time travel, with the neuroscience being an after-thought, which was something I never really noticed when watching the original. They might even address some questions I still had after season 1. As far as sequels go, it’s doing a good job carving out its own niche. That said, I was in a better position than you, having played the game only last summer (although as luck would have it, I never found the route they’re going off of).

    Two jobs sound like they would fill your days quite a bit. I watch anime before/after work, to unwind and to wake up, so I end up watching a lot – sometimes shows I wouldn’t watch if there was anything else coming out on that day. (For example, I might have at least tried SAO if it weren’t a weekend show – there are enough shows to watch on the weekend.) This approach sometimes gives me shows to watch I would have ignored, like the fun Last Period (which feels like a Magical Circle Guru Guru for the cell-phone-game generation).

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    • One of my jobs is the official, full-time one. The other I’m doing freelance, so the work isn’t necessarily a ton all the time, but does definitely eat into what would otherwise be my relaxation time.

      It’s true, the weekend seems particularly loaded this season, whereas usually the shows I end up watching mean a more evenly spaced week.

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