2016 Year in Review

This is the mid-season update so comments will (mostly) be brief. I save longer thoughts for the end of the season. I’ve seen 6 episodes of all of the following shows.

[Standard disclaimer: Not spoiler free.]

Completed or Airing
01. Urara Meirochou [ 9.0 / 10 ]
02. Gabriel Dropout [ 8.0 / 10 ]
03. Little Witch Academia [ 7.5 / 10 ]
04. Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu [ 7.0 / 10 ]
05. Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel [ 6.5 / 10 ]
06. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen [ 6.5 / 10 ]

Shorts
01. Nyanko Days [ 7.5 / 10 ]


Urara Meirochou 99% import
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When I try to think of another show that’s done for me what Urara is doing so far, what keeps coming to mind is Yuyushiki. Don’t get me wrong, they’re actually very different in their tone, visuals, sense of humor, etc. But the way Urara emphasizes group intimacy hits on something I haven’t quite felt since the Yuyus. Chiya, Kon, Koume, and Nono are supremely comfortable and casual around each other, and there’s something in that which enhances each of the characters in the process. Like Yui, Yukari, and Yuzu, they combine into far more than the sum of their individual personalities. It’s about as close to a poly romance as we get in these shows, and I really treasure that.

I’ve even grow more pleased over the past week with how the first half of episode six (the “controversial” part, insofar as a show nobody is watching can be controversial) played out. It was a little weird at first to see Koume suddenly getting her heteronormative on talking about Princes Charming and finding a man for Nina, but when you actually step back and look at the message of that segment, it was very affirming of relationships between women. The entire conceit of the gag was the girls looking for a soulmate for their urara teacher Nina, and finding her old friend and smitten admirer, Saku (who was disguised as a man at the time). Yeah, Koume swoons at Guy Saku, and so do Saku’s two lieutenants who are so blatantly enamored of her as a woman. But the slightly awkwardly executed yet still obvious gag was how bad they’ve got the hots for Saku in any form. It’s definitely not the best yuri trope, but it is a common one.

Far more importantly, when Saku is unmasked, it takes our girls about three seconds to realize Saku is so obviously Nina’s soulmate. They immediately launch into following up this reason with a thinly veiled excuse to get them on a date. There isn’t even a single “but she’s a woman” line here, because it feels so normal to them. But perhaps my favorite part is a bit earlier in the episode, when Koume is waxing romantic about destined meetings. The immediate parallel the show draws is to Chiya meeting Kon, which is great on its own – but it’s the way that Koume immediately treats the idea of a relationship between them as normal and legitimate that I love. The shot of her so casually leaning her head against Nono’s, giving Chiya and Kon a profoundly kind, accepting smile warms my heart so much.

So the more I’ve been thinking about the first half of episode 6 the more my feeling has morphed from “trips awkwardly on uncharacteristically heteronormative tropes but has its heart in the right place” to “I think I actually fucking love this segment, because even if it’s not perfect, its slightly awkward execution is completely blown away by a message that’s fundamentally true to itself and its characters”.

::sighs:: I love this show so much. I wanted to keep my comments brief because I’m sure I’ll want to repeat most of the above in my final season comments, but it’s been on my mind a lot this past week and I wanted to get my thoughts out now, not a month and a half from now. Comments on other shows will be much shorter!

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Gabriel Dropout 95% import
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The angels are alright but the one-two demonic punch of Satania and Vigne is what makes this show. Gabdro nails two important aspects of slice of life shows: when not to end a skit with a goofy punchline, and the importance of bullying adorable damedame tryhards. Vigne, as the only genuinely nice person in the main cast, enables moments of emotional sincerity to slip through all the cynicism and gags. No clever gag in the world would have been better than Vigne genuinely enjoying coffee shop guy’s coffee. Satania on the other hand is tip-top tier dunk-bait. Like Rin in Bakuon or Hibiki in Anne Happy, the worse these characters have it and the deeper they dig their own holes, the more you root for them and the more important their little victories are. Seeing Satania triumph over Tapris was as emotionally gratifying for me as it was for Raphi, though, uh, for very different reasons.

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Nyanko Days 99.9% import
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Excluding the ED there’s been a grand total of 9 minutes of unique content in this show thus far, and in that time we’ve been introduced to four adorable little nyankos, watched our protagonist open up to her first human friend, and seen a great yuri love begin to blossom. It makes me want to look most other shows in the eyes ask “What have *you* accomplished in the last 540 seconds?”

I’ll join the chorus of laments over such an endearing show being limited to just about the shortest possible runtime. =( It’s just wrong.

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Little Witch Academia 50% import
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This has been an odd one, and I’m a little concerned to feel my interest waning. It’s visually creative and full of life and certainly not lacking in good characters (particularly Sucy, Diana, Akko, and Barbara) but I’m just not clear what I want out of it yet. It’s not quite slice of life, it’s not quite monster of the week episodic, it’s not quite a cohesive story arc. And that’s fine. Series don’t need to fit into a clear structure. But part of me is already wondering, as much as I hate to say it, if being one cour might have given the show more focus? That said I hope that in three months time I feel ridiculous for ever typing that as I’m enjoying a fantastic episode 18. (Also, yeesh, I need something to prop up that dismal Spring schedule.)

I also wouldn’t feel so mixed if I hadn’t just come off the episode that introduced Mr. Fun-Destroying Black Hole. I put distressingly high odds on him becoming the catalyst for a love triangle with Akko and Diana. Everything about Akko’s and Diana’s personalities says this would be a disaster (even putting aside shipping, because I really didn’t go into this expecting any yuri). But I’ve learned to be very jaded about how anime handles this stuff. Might as well expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised if it all goes well, I guess.

At least there’s Sucy. ♥

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Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu 70% import
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This keeps teetering on the edge of being very good, but continues to land just on the side of “solidly decent”. It’s getting really close though! It’s unfortunately held back by awful CG during some of the biking scenes. It’s a bit rougher than with Bakuon because bicycles require more movement, and it just looks so bad even when it’s reserved for distance shots. I was disappointed when it messed with a really nice moment at the end of episode six. At least they’ve been somewhat sparing with it so far. Either way, the introduction of Fuyune and Korone has breathed new life into the cast and I’m really starting to dig the dynamics it’s got going on. And I really liked how it pulled the rug out from under the trope of characters accepting arbitrary challenges to determine the fate of something entirely unrelated. Minakama continues to go from charming if unremarkable to something with serious potential.

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Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel 1% import
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Schoolgirl Strikers doesn’t get much terribly wrong but it also doesn’t get much very right. It’s uninspiring in most respects, remaining good enough to watch but incapable of standing out. It’s not the second coming of Ange Vierge I’d hoped for… but it does have Io. It’s a fact of the universe that everyone is gay for Io, who in addition to being perfect is also voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki (but I repeat myself). I think episode five was legitimately damn good (in no small part due to tsundere maid striker being all tsundere for Io) and episode six, while less excellent, still tapped into the kind of dumb zaniness I think a show like this needs if it’s not going to attempt anything serious. Overall it’s still only just “alright” and if it weren’t for the great ship Io x Mana I’m not sure I’d have stuck with it. But I’m glad the last two eps I saw started “getting it” in a way the show didn’t quite before.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen 0% import
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It’s only though a coincidence of scheduling that I started the first season, because the cast and premise just don’t resonate with what I’m typically interested in. And that feeling of “this is much better in the abstract than it is for me specifically” still holds true. But I have every intention of sticking with this. I already like it more than season one: bitter old Yakumo works better than young Yakumo, Yota is a good dude, the whole burdensome air of inevitability that suffocates flashbacks is gone this time around… and Konatsu. I fuckin’ love Konatsu. The moment when she got out on stage and finally, finally did rakugo for an audience was deeply rewarding. I guess if I have one other piece of praise for Rakugo, it’s that it’s provided that rarest of things in anime: a good hetero couple. I really like Konatsu and Yota as a couple.

In other words, if even *I* find it decent enough, and you think it sounds like something you’d naturally be into, you’ll *absolutely love it*.

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Dropped Series
none yet

 

Urara feels like a lock for top 5 of the year already. I wish there were another show on its level this season, but Gabdro is still a worthy #2. There’s a chance I may pick up BanG Dream because I’ve heard that so far the CG has been limited to the OP. But I fully expect that to change in their first big concert, so if I start it at all it won’t be until it’s complete and I’ve got confirmation it’s free of CG musical performances.

Spring continues to look dire. Hinako Note is a lock for AOTS, and I’ll catch the Natsume and Shingeki sequels. But besides that I’m not confident in anything. Sakura Quest sounds good on paper but my hit rate with PA Works originals is not amazing. Then I guess the only other “maybe” is Twin Angel Break but all I know about it is that the OP looks cute and its two[?] male characters seem to be very minor.

8 Responses to “Winter 2017 viewing update #1”

  1. something something says:

    This post only covers to 6 but… RAKUGO EP 7 THO. Definitely consider it bumped ahead of Schoolgirl Strikers now.

  2. hannsfrans says:

    What about Miss Kobayashis Dragon Maid? I think you would like it too.

  3. Shiro says:

    What about Demi-chan wa Kataritai? That’s my favorite Anime this Season, it is so fking kawaii :3

  4. AholePony says:

    I gotta hand it to you, you have good taste in #bestgurls. I feel the same about LWA, it feels like it’s been meandering, and also dancing around Akko’s development. We’ve all seen shows like this, we know she’s either going to become an awesome witch or she’ll always be a bumbling goof. But 7 episodes in and they still toy with just that plot line and I don’t think it’s a strong enough force to carry the show. Monster of the week rather than “spell she’s bad at of the week” would be cliché for sure, but I would prefer it to what we have so far. Or, as you mentioned, a stronger SoL focus.

    Strikers has some really fun characters but also doesn’t seem to know what is wants to be, and I agree, watchable and fun at times but not an import-worthy title. Minami Kamakura feels a little forced, characters aren’t as natural as I’d like or something. I like it more than Long Riders so far though. Rakugo 2 was really boring and I hated the first 4 episodes of melodrama, but it’s been on a roll lately since it’s gone back to actually showing rakugo performances and opened up the drama to the whole cast rather than just Yotaro being a patsy for the drama.

    As to the other 2 mentioned by the above commenters, I think I remember you saying you’re boycotting Kyoani after Eupho so I understand its absence (maid dragon is really good though ;-) ), and Demi-chan is really cute and the girls have good chemistry but there’s the male lead that also might preclude your enjoyment of that one. All in all this is a wonderful season for SoL/moe/cute girls doing cute things fans such as myself.

  5. Khris says:

    Give Kemono Friends a try, seriously.
    Disregard the horrible visuals and animation and just do it.

    • something something says:

      “Disregard the visuals” isn’t an option in a visual medium. I’m also vehemently opposed to CG shows so watching it would be giving it tacit approval, and I’m definitely not going to do that (and watching it on CR would also be giving it financial support, which is an even bigger no-no).

  6. lolivampires says:

    I’m surprised you’re not watching Maid Dragon. Great slice-of-life and the main couple is 2 females, seems like it’d be right up your alley.

    I really like Maid Dragon and Urara, but I’m probably going to import LWA this season. I didn’t expect it to be so episodic but it’s growing on me now that they are actually using plot points across episodes.

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