2017 Winter, Final Thoughts
Spring 2017 viewing update #1
Spring 2017 viewing update #2

We’ve reached the halfway point of the year now. Two Spring shows stepped up far beyond my expectations while a few others managed to meet expectations which made it a much stronger season than I previously anticipated.

[ Standard disclaimer: Spoilers! Lots of spoilers! ]

All of the following are loosely grouped by color: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier 4. Click on a title to jump to the comments.

Completed or Airing
T1. Urara Meirochou [ 9.5 / 10 ]
T1. Alice to Zouroku [ 9.5 / 10 ]
03. Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? [ 9.25 / 10 ]
04. Gabriel Dropout [ 8.5 / 10 ]
05. Hinako Note [ 8.25 / 10 ]
06. Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2 [ 8.0 / 10 ]
07. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen [ 8.0 / 10 ]
08. Natsume Yuujin-chou Roku [ 7.5 / 10 ]
09. Twin Angel Break [ 7.0 / 10 ]
10. Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu [ 7.0 / 10 ]
11. Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel [ 6.0 / 10 ]

Shorts
01. Nyanko Days [ 7.5 / 10 ]
02. The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls Gekijou [ 6.0 / 10 ]

Dropped
Little Witch Academia [10 episodes]
Sin Nanatsu no Taizai [4 episodes]

Top Characters
Chtholly Nota Seniorious – Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?
Kurumizawa Satanichia McDowell – Gabriel DropOut
Kashimura Sana – Alice to Zouroku
Chiya – Urara Meirochou
Tsukinose Vignette April – Gabriel DropOut
Koume – Urara Meirochou
Kon – Urara Meirochou
Konatsu – Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
Nakajima Yua – Hinako Note
Shikishima Hatori – Alice to Zouroku
Nono – Urara Meirochou
Kamikura Fuyune – Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu

Top Pairings
Chiya / Kon / Koume / Nono – Urara Meirochou
Chiya / Kon – Urara Meirochou
Koume / Nono – Urara Meirochou
Chtholly Nota Seniorious / Willem Kmetsch – Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?
Sakuragi Hinako / Nakajima Yua – Hinako Note
Kisaragi Sumire / Amatsuki Meguru – Twin Angel Break/span>
Yaginuma Io / Namori Mana – Schoolgirl Strikers
Konatsu / Yotarou – Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
Christa Lenz / Ymir – Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2
Konagai Yuuko / Shiratori Azumi – Nyanko Days

Top OPs
Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu – “Jitenshi ni Hana wa Mau”
Urara Meirochou – “Yumeji Labyrinth”
Hinako Note – “A-E-I-U-E-O-AO!!”
Gabriel Dropout – “Gabriel Dropkick”
Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2 – “Shinzou wo Sasageyo”

Top EDs
Gabriel Dropout – “Hallelujah☆Essaim”
Urara Meirochou – “go to Romance>>>>>”
Hinako Note – “Curtain Call”
Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu – “Nijiyume Road”
Nyanko Days – “Nyanko Is Love”


Urara Meirochou Imported!
» Winter wrap-up post
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Alice to Zouroku Imported!
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In Alizou and Sukasuka we got two very different takes on a not-quite-human character with magical powers desperately trying to create a sense of self. Of the two Sukasuka is a lot easier to gush about due to the way it wears its heart on its sleeve, but in the end I had to give the edge to Alizou as the best show of Spring (and tied for best of the year thus far). Where Sukasuka got by on raw emotional power and some well-written dialogue, Alizou was a masterfully executed narrative from start to finish. Its brilliance is formed from a thousand small moments where it hits just the right tone, picks the right facial expression, or delivers just the right turn of phrase to sell me on the reality of its characters’ emotions.

But brilliance is also found in the overall story structure, which succeeded beyond all expectations. It even takes the bold risk of, if not changing its main character halfway through the show, at least asking its lead to share equal time with a new character. And like so much else in this show, it came off flawlessly.

Thinking back on the first half of the show is a little tough now, considering how much stronger the second half was. But stronger is relative, and the first half of Alizou was already one of the best shows of the season. The moments of bonding among Sana, Sanae, and Zouroku are indispensable to the events that follow, and it’s only due to the actions of Sana’s found family that she gets the opportunity to meet and be changed by Hatori and Ayumu in the latter half.

But the first half was also Minnie C’s story. Judged by her actions, she comes off as irredeemable and hateful, obsessed to the point of madness over the husband she’s lost and more than willing to do terrible things to Sana to get him back. She is most certainly a villain, but glimpses into her past managed, in what was little more than a few moments, to humanize a monster and contextualize (without justifying) her desperation. Many shows try this, but I find few succeed like Alizou did. So while I hated Minnie C the way she deserved to be hated, her humanity wasn’t entirely extinguished.

Since Zouroku gets much less focus in the second half, I shouldn’t go without bringing him up here. He’s just a delight, and for all the things this show gets so very right, one of the simplest advantages it has is eschewing the usual teenage male lead for a grumpy old man who really doesn’t have time for all these loud, irritating magical children. He will give a stern talking to anyone who disrespects him, and damnit they’re going to listen when he speaks! He has no special powers, and he’s ultimately an incredibly simple character with no real arc to speak of. He resolves the final obstacle of the series by, literally, lecturing at the sky. But his very presence, more than anyone else’s, saves Sana. His words are sparse, but always get at the truth and give Sana peace. His gravitas holds together so many scenes that would have fallen apart if he were another 17 year old high school boy in the same situation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, give us more adult male characters!

“Stern but caring” is precisely what Sana needs to adjust to life outside of the research facility, but sisterly love also plays a huge role. Zouroku’s granddaughter Sanae isn’t really any more complex than Zouroku, but in showering Sana with affection of a different sort she helps expand Sana’s emotional horizons. She’s able to bare her heart to Sana in a way that Zouroku’s gruffness won’t allow. She also provides Sana with physical intimacy – brushing her hair, hugging her, bathing together. Skinship isn’t a small thing when you think about how solitary and sterile Sana’s life has been thus far. Sana reciprocates the love and opens up unreservedly to Sanae, in a relationship that becomes shades of Makoto and Chinatsu in Flying Witch.

The payoff to these relationships arrives in the moment when Sana realizes she can become Kashimura Sana. The look of “holy shit, you can do that? I can just… become your family?!” is absolutely heartwarming. But both parts of Sana’s name are important: “Sana” was given to her by Yonaga and Asahi, her first friends, while Kashimura is given to her by her first family. In a story about Sana trying to become human, it’s so fitting that her very name embodies a recognition of personhood from both her friends and her family.

With the fifth episode, a curious thing happens. The exploitative research lab is raided and shut down, Minnie C is deported to America, Sana formally moves in with Zouroku, and the other Dreams of Alice are taken into protective custody. The natural expectation at this point is for the antagonists to regroup and come back stronger than ever… but Alizou goes in a completely different direction.

Given all the progress Sana made in the first half, she enters the second happy, healthy, and incredibly curious, but also “frazzled“. This onomatopoeia (もじゃもじゃ) is a word she’ll use constantly through the rest of the show, generally eliciting looks of confusion from those around her. I adore this because it’s total non-specificity is entirely the point. She’s a kid who just went though a profound mental and emotional change, and while things seem stable now, she can’t shake an indescribable feeling that something isn’t right.

It’s in these scenes that Alizou’s knack for naturalistic dialogue shines. Sana is very intelligent for her age, but she’s unmistakably still a kid. In some ways she’s more mature and self-aware than a girl her age should be, but that just makes the frazzled feeling extra frustrating, and her inability to precisely vocalize what she’s feeling doubly so. She’s so intensely curious that a puzzle she can’t solve sitting right there in her own head is simply crazy-making. These confused feelings are a benign annoyance at first, but the event that precipitates the show’s second arc arrives at just the wrong time to push her past a breaking point.

Shikishima Hatori is another Dream of Alice. But with no connection to the research lab or Ichijou’s group she’s left on her own to deal with a strange power, a broken family, and the helpless feeling of only being nine years old. Hatori’s arc is where an already outstanding show truly soars. Her family situation is a stark, and dark, contrast to Sana’s happy new family. This isn’t initially what creates tension between Hatori and Sana, but it does inform the personae they each adopt when they finally clash.

There’s just so much that can be said about Hatori, but it’s her relationship with Ayumu and her philosophical, er, “debates” with Sana that define the second half of the show.

Given that they’re only nine years old, it’s perhaps hasty to definitively say that Hatori and Ayumu are in love. But there’s a strong argument to make that the relationship is at least tentatively queer-coded. And I don’t mean “coded” in a “punch-pulling tease” way. It’s handled elegantly. It’s a layer of subtext that runs organically through their interactions. It’s something they don’t yet fully understand, beyond knowing that the emotions they feel for each other are stronger than those they feel for anyone else.

It’s important that in the end, Ayumu is the one who shoulders the burden of rescuing Sana and Hatori from Wonderland. Zouroku takes a back seat while Ayumu runs herself ragged looking for Hatori. There’s no need for Zouroku to be the hero here. He’ll just show up, yell at some clouds, and then make sure these kids get home safe and sound, like a good grandpa. The kids are given time, in the isolation of Wonderland, to work through their own emotions at their own pace.

And that they do, in some of the best-written exchanges of the show. The verbal sparring between Sana and Hatori isn’t exactly Ookami to Koushinryou or Monogatari-level banter, but it’s grounded in a way that sells it as entirely age-appropriate.

Alizou makes a smart decision not to let Sana linger in the dark – there’s enough of that from Hatori. Sana instead takes on the mantle of the righteous avenger, even dipping into a bit of megalomania in the process, but it’s an ill fit for her. Her awkwardness in the role keeps poking through, providing moments of levity while we’re dealing with Hatori’s darkness.

And that’s where Hatori and Sana finally meet. Hatori has dubbed herself the Evil Witch, and Sana the vengeful Queen of Wonderland. It’s tempting to laugh despite the serious backdrop – they’re being such children, and it’s precisely that immaturity and lack of perspective that makes it feel so real. “Don’t do bad things!” “Nobody understands me!” The show isn’t mocking them, it’s simply depicting the awkwardness you’d expect from a philosophical debate about right and wrong between two elementary schoolers. It’s really brilliant writing.

Childish though they may be, it doesn’t take long for them to realize they’re both just kids struggling with powers they don’t understand and never asked for. Dwarfed by excessively large furniture, and depicted as the vulnerable child she is, Hatori finally opens up and Sana does her best to reciprocate. I can’t really do justice to how beautiful this entire exchange was. It was amazing in ways I’m not eloquent enough to explain. But over the course of this conversation, Hatori finally gives voice to, and thus extinguishes, her demons. Sana, confronted with the reality of what could have happened to her without Zouroku, Sanae, and everyone else, finally clears the “frazzled” feeling from her mind.

And that’s how Sana makes the first new friends of her new life.

Alice to Zouroku is a gem. It pulls off a sharp mid-season pivot without any awkwardness. It adapts an ongoing manga while providing a perfectly gratifying ending. Doing either of these things is hard, doing them both in one cour and making it look easy is the kind of feat that separates merely good shows from the extraordinary ones. With Alice to Zouroku this year and Flying Witch last year, Sakurabi Katsushi is going to be a director to keep an eye on for sure.

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Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka? Imported!
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Dying worlds, ceaseless threats, short and violent lives, and the profound determination to live and to love, despite everything. There’s beauty in characters who struggle to grasp normalcy in the face of seemingly inevitable decay. Sometimes it’s a quiet celebration of the everyday in a ruined world, as in Sora no Woto or Gakkou Gurashi. Sometimes it’s a passionate cry to the heavens that you’re still here and will not go quietly, as in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Sometimes sarcasm and humor are the tools of survival, as in Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Sometimes the goal is to stop or reverse the decay, but other times the goals are much smaller, much more personal.

Sukasuka is very much a personal story. Its lore is ponderous and its backstory complicated, but its heart beats strongly within Chtholly’s chest. For all the gods and leprechauns, for all the beasts and men, for all the mystical weapons and floating islands and racial politics, Sukasuka understands that the best stories are about conveying what characters are feeling, and letting us react emotionally to that. And no character has affected me this year quite the way Chtholly has.

The very first scene is such a arresting cold open that it took me a while to continue the episode at first. Between the impassioned monologue, the beauty of the track “Always In My Heart”, and the intensity of the visuals, it was unquestionably the most memorable cold open since Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. That it also depicts nearly the last scene of the show is something I didn’t quite grasp at first for a few reasons, which may either be unfamiliarity with the material or some good misdirection from the anime staff (Chtholly sure doesn’t have red hair when we meet her, but another character does!). I ended up thinking it was a mixture of two different time periods being depicted in parallel, though the truth became clear eventually. Regardless, it was gripping.

  We vowed to be together, and that vow brought me happiness.
  I realized how much I loved him. And that realization brought me happiness.
  He told me he would make me happy. And those words brought me happiness.
  He brought an incredible amount of happiness and joy into my life.
  Which is why I can say for certain, and no one can convince me otherwise…
  That I am the happiest girl in the world right now.

This narration immediately sets the tone. We’re not told about the battle going on, about the factions in the fight, about the political or military stakes. We’re told about one girl, and the moment in which she comes to comprehend the depths of her happiness. Everything that follows serves to contextualize her bold proclamation.

After the genuinely graceful opening episode (particularly the stunning Scarborough Fair sequence) Sukasuka does take a bit of time to reclaim its footing. No episode of the show is bad by any stretch, but episode one set such a high bar that it was difficult to tell if the show was the real deal or not. Pacing was also a serious concern, with the first half of the show creating rapid-fire crises that it resolved almost before I could react appropriately. That it still evoked a strong emotional reaction from me speaks to the fundamental strength of the characters, but the fear of a late-series collapse was ever-present.

It still had a lot to offer in the early episodes. While we’d been told that these girls were born for fighting and had no concept of self-preservation, the moment where Almita falls off a cliff and barely registers her own injury finally got it to sink in. It’s also here that Willem resolves to provide these girls with as normal a life as he can, knowing full well that the obstacles he’ll face are endless.

These early episodes also totally won me over to Willem as a character. His talk with Chtholly in ep3 while tuning the weapons cemented them as a couple I could get behind, and everything afterward convinced me even further that they were each exactly what the other needed. Another highlight of this episode was Chtholly’s talk with Limeskin. The positive (or at least not actively hostile) nature of the girls’ relationship with the military was a pleasant surprise. That Limeskin felt sympathy for Chtholly was important (he even gave her the push she needed to decide not to open her Gate), because if the military used the Leprechauns even somewhat reluctantly, it only enhanced the tragedy and power of the situation.

But episode 6 was the turning point where Sukasuka began to snowball into something genuinely special.

The story justification behind Chtholly’s deterioration was fairly intriguing, but I’m much more interested in how she and those around her reacted. Sukasuka posits the old question of whether it’s better to live with certainty devoid of hope, or hope devoid of certainty. Chtholly could simply go into battle, open her Gate, and vanish like countless Leprechauns before her. It’s what she prepared all her short years for. Willem’s arrival into her life helps her to discover new goals and dreams, but those can be terrifying things. Goals can be missed, and dreams shattered.

But after a near disaster, Chtholly chooses dreams. She understands that a normal life is likely not in her future, but she’s here, right now, and she will absolutely make the most of it. There’s strength here that exceeds that of any Gate she could open or weapon she could wield.

Deep down I think we all know how things must end, and Chtholly’s heroic fight to live and love in defiance of expectations and gods and common sense and the basic laws of the world is deeply dyed in melancholy. It makes every moment she shares with Willem precious, and every second she maintains her sense of self a victory.

And yet when she finally gives her utmost and embraces her (somewhat ambiguous) end, it’s in no way a failure. She was prepared for this. She’s touched everyone around her and left behind a potent legacy for the other Leprechauns. Her farewell is a powerful, deeply moving, expertly executed scene that’s equal parts brutal and graceful. The monologue accompanying the show’s opening scene is masterfully bookended here. Chtholly and Willem alternate lines expressing the depths of their love as the opening’s single cryptic voice takes on a fuller meaning in the finale, as two voices bound together forever.

  We vowed to be together forever, and that vow brought me happiness.
  We vowed to be together forever, and that vow gave me peace.
  I realized how much I loved him.
  I realized how much she meant to me.
  And that realization brought me happiness.
  And that realization brought me joy.
  He told me he would make me happy.
  I told her I would make her happy.
  And those words brought me happiness.
  And those words gave me satisfaction.
  He brought an incredible amount of happiness and joy into my life.
  She gave me so many things I never thought I’d have. But I…
  Which is why I can say for certain, and nobody can convince me otherwise…
  That I am the happiest girl in the world right now.

Before it all ends she’s able to declare, without hesitation, that she is Chtholly. The Happiest Girl In The World. May she be always in our hearts.

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Gabriel Dropout Imported!
» Winter wrap-up post
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Hinako Note Imported!
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Hinako Note neatly sums up so much of what I love and yet am slightly frustrated by in slice of life anime. The emotional heart of the show is found in two character arcs I adore, but the limitations of the broadcast format and genre prevent the fuller exploration I’d prefer. Slice of life shows thrive by playing on small movements in a story’s status quo, but that reluctance to push farther (at least in a cour of episodes) is a double-edged sword. The issue is hardly unique to this show, but I think the clash was a little more pronounced than usual.

One of my favorite archetypes is the shy character who gradually builds self-confidence and breaks out of their emotional shell by working together with friends to accomplish something they are (or become) passionate about. That can be sport, a club, a job, or whatever, but in this case it’s school and community theater. For someone who quite literally stiffens up any time she’s around strangers, Hinako has taken on about the scariest thing you can do. Can’t accuse her of going the easy route, that’s for sure.

Some of the strains of the one-cour format show here and there, meaning most of her progress is more told than shown, but I felt there were enough scenes focusing on training and rehearsing to get the point across. And while she doesn’t completely get over her fears, the show was careful to show us situations where her improvement was clear. Her ad-libbing during the school play is the big one, but she quietly grew more accustomed to working in the bookstore/cafe she’s rooming at as well. Not to mention her obvious comfort around Mayu, Kuina, Chiaki, and Yua. It’s an unexceptional character arc in many ways (see Yuno in Hidamari for a much stronger example), but the small touches sold me.

It’s that comfort around her friends that matters most for the show’s purposes, and by far most important was her relationship with Yua. There’s actually a really neat contrast between Yua’s comfort with Hinako and her hesitation with Chiaki that, beyond what it says about Yua, says a lot about Hinako. That the girl barely able to talk to other people becomes the unlikely confidant of a proud individual like Yua is a cute way of showing Hinako’s progress from a different perspective. The show never lingers on it, but it’s there if you want to notice it.

But on to Yua, because goodness do I ever love Yua. Even more than the shy girl finding self-confidence, I love the archetype of the proud tsundere loner who gets gradually drawn into the main character’s group of friends (see Rin in Bakuon or Hibiki in Anne Happy for recent examples). As with a shy character there’s a theme of emotional barriers being overcome through friendship, even if it comes from an opposite starting point. It’s such a satisfying thing to watch either way.

In Yua’s case that journey runs in parallel with her growing relationship with Hinako. And this is where the show is both at its absolute best and its most frustrating!

At its best, Yua’s interactions with Hinako are what really pull Yua into the group in the first place, and they give us that new perspective on Hinako’s character I mentioned earlier. While the show is a little sparse on showing us the process of Hinako’s growth, when it does it puts most of it through Yua’s eyes. Yua starts out attempting to upstage Hinako so she can look good in front of Chiaki, but it’s clear to the audience that she’s spending an awful lot of time thinking about Hinako. And that makes the transition from quasi-bullying Hinako to openly greeting her as a friend (by given name and without an honorific) go oddly smoothly.

It’s in scrutinizing HInako so closely that Yua sees all the small ways in which Hinako is improving, and how much effort is going into that improvement. And to an extent I really didn’t expect, the show starts to own this emotional realignment away from Chiaki and towards Hinako. Whether it’s training in the park, bonding after the school play, their moment together in a dark hallway during a school stay-over, or simply any time Yua’s face brightens up whenever she sees Hinako, there’s something unmistakably there, and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch. Just the fact that she gets so used to Hinako being the one she comes to Hitotose to see speaks volumes.

But like I mentioned, this is where some frustration comes in too, because Yua’s introductory gimmick is her huge crush on Chiaki. Slice of life can sometimes hold onto a gag well past its shelf life, and here that means we never quite get past her Chiaki obsession. Even when it’s looong since been rendered obsolete by far more meaningful scenes between her and Hinako.

On the one hand, getting more episodes could really help address this. The direction seems obvious, but with one cour we never arrive at the destination. On the other hand, the adaptation had one big unforced error, a really poor scene ordering decision that undercut its own message about Hinako and Yua. The finale, for some reason, makes Yua’s last major skit a valentine’s episode where she frets over giving Chiaki chocolate. While there’s a few good moments (such as her confiding in Hinako about being afraid to hand over the chocolates), this whole thing just feels really out of place after her scenes with Hinako, particularly the school sleepover.

So out of curiosity I skimmed the manga and what to you know, the valentine’s day scene originally happened *before* the school sleepover. So did another scene of Yua obsessing over Chiaki that they also placed after the school scene. Swapping these scenes around is such a strange choice (especially in what’s a pretty straightforward adaptation otherwise) and it hurt the momentum the show had going. Ending the show on this scene did help a little, and questionable scene ordering doesn’t erase the message the show is sending, but damn is it ever kinda frustrating.

Knowing how slice of life is, I wouldn’t expect the manga to go too much farther with Hinako/Yua, but I hope it does. A character transitioning from a one-sided senpai crush into a meaningful relationship with a different girl is something I really would like to see, and that’s exactly where Hinako Note was going… even if it got distracted occasionally. So close, yet so far. But all in all, I really enjoyed this show. It’s not a top tier slice of life show, but I’d put it easily ahead of the lower tier titles. A pleasant mid-tier show with a fantastic ship that it sometimes did, and sometimes didn’t, seem to understand the appeal of.

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Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2
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Shingeki no Kyojin… is good. Not that that’s strange for me to say this considering I really liked season one as well, but being able to say it four years later means that something about the series managed to stick with me, and that’s pretty cool.

While I still don’t quite understand how seriously or not the show wants to be taken, I feel like this season hit on a great blend of being something I can laugh at and also be legitimately engaged by. No matter how goofy it is to see characters EAT so ANGRILY (but sometimes, happily), few other shows manage to generate as much legitimate unease as Shingeki does. True, this season did kind of drive home that major characters aren’t going to die very often, and that may reduce the tension. But the results are unsettling enough when anyone with even a small speaking role does die that it’s tense nonetheless.

Sasha’s episode arguably pulled this off best. A strange thing about Shingeki is that the creepiest titan interactions are with the smaller ones. They’re more… intimate? And they fall deeper within the uncanny valley. Zipping around a skyscraper-sized monster with physically improbable sky rockets is dangerous, but going one-on-one with something that you know is going to take a whole lot more bites to finish you off is somehow worse. And so Sasha’s escape from a small (though varying hilariously in size between shots) titan in episode two nails this perfectly. Having a shellshocked young girl in tow only added to the tension.

But the core story this season involved a few plot reveals (the identity of the Colossal and Armored titans, and new details on where titans are coming from) and the Ymir/Historia relationship. The plot stuff was all functional, if unintentionally amusing at times. Good lord episode 6 was a wild trip, though I think Eren summed it up best. Ymir and Historia meanwhile got the lion’s share of the character focus.

I knew Ymir and Historia were a popular pairing, but had never gotten invested in them myself. This is largely because I don’t read the manga, and they didn’t really do much of anything in season one. I’m also reluctant to expect much out of a ship where one or both halves could be eaten alive at any time. By the end of this season, though, I’d bought into it. The backstory was solid, and their interactions in the present hit that very Shingeki mix of both hilarious and weirdly genuine. And the show’s reluctance to kill major characters makes me feel at least a little confident in them sticking around a bit longer. Both Ymir and Historia feel like properly fleshed out characters now, at least insofar as Shingeki can manage that sort of thing.

So yeah, I’m pretty happy with this season. A much more consistent production, incredible work on close-ups by the “makeup” team, some very cool action scenes (good goddamn those final eps were awesome), and even a bunch of interesting (if often goofy) plot reveals. Eren continued to be the lovable doofus I so legitimately like, we spent quality time with characters who weren’t as developed before, and we’ve got a third season announced with no stupid four year gap this time. All in all, a thumbs up, and I’ll be back for season three.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
» Winter wrap-up post
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Nyanko Days Imported!
» Winter wrap-up post
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Natsume Yuujin-chou Roku
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There hasn’t been anything new to say about this show for years, but if you care too much about that you’re not still watching it anyway. This season was almost entirely episodic youkai stories with the only plot movement being that one of the major players (Natori) now knows about the book of friends. Also a little tease at the end about Natsume’s grandfather(?) could be promising, because we’ve been absolutely starved for Reiko information for ages now. I can only hope for a seventh season where we’ll finally learn more about her. I know the manga is ongoing however, and I have a feeling we won’t get any closure on Reiko until it ceases publication.

Lack of plot movement aside, this series is built upon an incredibly solid foundation and its formula is one that can work almost indefinitely. I can’t think of an episode that matches the heights of the transcendent Touko episode in season five, but Reiko’s episode 7 was my favorite this time around. It’s not just that Reiko is incredibly fun, but that we saw the more vulnerable, hesitant side she tends to keep hidden. She’s always been a complement to Takashi. When he’s initially timid and afraid of youkai, we see Reiko’s charisma and fearlessness in the face of these otherworldly beasts. But now that Takashi has gained significant confidence in himself and the trustworthiness of those around him, we see Reiko’s weakest moments. It illustrates how important a support network is when you’re out on the fringes of society. It also plays well into the grandfather tease, because eventually Reiko does meet someone who accepts her, or there would be no Takashi. But the details are still hidden from us.

With any luck this show’s nearly unmatched (for late night) six season run isn’t over, and we’ll still learn more one day.

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Twin Angel Break
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My mid-season write-up covered most of what I’d say about this show, though I’m happy to report that fears of brocon nonsense didn’t pan out. The latter half of the show stayed very focused on the conclusion to, and aftermath of, the Veil/Nui story. And when they were killed (or “killed”, lol sequel hooks), Sumire stepped up big time to save Meguru and reaffirm their relationship. Hell, Yuito even had some amusing scenes here and there and managed not to mess anything up.

While Meguru/Sumire stays firmly in the subtexty best friend realm, focusing so much on Sumire’s growing affections for Meguru made it a lot more satisfying than I’d have otherwise expected. The show was still a production mess (though it improved on the abysmal early fights) and about as by the numbers as it gets, but it ended up being really solid. It feels good for a show that seemed irredeemably mediocre early on to pull together and turn out so totally watchable.

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Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu
» Winter wrap-up post
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Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel
» Winter wrap-up post
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The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls Gekijou
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Not a whole lot to say here. It improved in the last third by mostly cutting out the bland “some idol flirts with an off-screen P-san for 60 seconds” skits, and the move to some single-skit episodes generated some fun scenes. But there’s just not much to hold onto here unless you’re 1) into the “self-insert Producer” side of Imas fandom, which I very much am not, and 2) you’re really familiar with the girls who weren’t in the main Deremas anime, which I also am not. Sometimes the gags were self-evident anyway, but other times it was obvious they were riffing on a personality trait of a character I simply didn’t know anything about.

But I have to give a huge thumbs up to the last episode, which surprisingly was a shippy Asuka/Ranko story. They’re my favorite Deremas pairing involving a character who wasn’t in the main TV series, so that was awesome. Enough that I’m reconsidering my choice to only import the first volume… Ah AsuRan, you’re so tempting.

All in all though, Puchimas was a significantly better take on a comedic spinoff of an Idolmaster series.

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Summer 2017 Plans

Planned
01. New Game!!
02. Centaur no Nayami
03. Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ

Definite but Later
04. Owarimonogatari Season 2

Potential
05. HinaLogi
06. Action Heroine Cheer Fruits
07. Musashino!
08. Isekai Shokudou

These aren’t necessarily listed in most-least wanted, more like “safest to riskiest”. As in, I’m most likely to enjoy the ones at the top just based on the premise and genre, or being familiar with a previous season.

Had to update this list a few times to strike off shows that fell into the Sentai/Amazon Strike dead zone. RIP Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi no Togi, Made in Abyss, Princess Principal, and Battle Girl High School. There could be further changes later since AX is ongoing and we’re waiting on some announcements.

As for what’s left… sequels are the easy choices, and New Game!! is quite far and away the obvious #1 choice. But there’s one non-sequel in the bunch: Centaur no Nayami. This series is an extremely rare case of me having read a significant chunk of the manga before the anime adaptation, which I’ve probably done infrequently enough to count on one hand and have fingers left over. Off the top of my head I’m not even sure what the last time was. As for Monogatari, I always wait until it’s out on BD rips with cleaned up subtitles, considering it gets those really bad Daisuki subs.

All the potential shows are just me picking anything that doesn’t appear to have major male characters, though I do have Isekai Shokudou listed. It seems sort of interesting based on the very little I’ve seen (and CR has it, which is a big plus), and at a minimum don’t appear to have teenage male MCs. Musashino! is just some all-girls slice of life thing I know nothing about, though I kinda have a feeling it’ll be a short. And then there’s AHCF which probably won’t be any good but is worth a shot I guess.

[Edit: Forgot that I decided to pick up HinaLogi]

My Spring shows are all one cour so I don’t have anything continuing over from Spring.

13 Responses to “Mid-year 2017 viewing update, Summer viewing plans”

  1. MEN_iiParfumDa says:

    Urara is the best overall new show I’ve seen so far this year. Found this site a few days ago, and after going through all the past-year postings, good to see all the love for titles like Urara, Flip Flappers, GabDro, and so forth. Though it seems most commenters are purely interested in Yuri on Ice. Gonna watch AliZou here soon. Been looking forward to that one since I am a big fan of Comic Ryu. Hence I am also really looking forward to Centaur no Nayami because I love the manga. Of course looking forward to New Game! and the Seitokai Movie. As well as Made in Abyss, though I’m not sure about the sub situation for that one, and my Japanese is still not good enough so I need subs as a guide for longer more technical sentences. Also Kakegurui which is also in a sub mess, even though I don’t usually like series like that. But the PV had enough style and craziness, plus really cool character designs, that I will give it a shot.

  2. steenspring says:

    It’s probably best you didn’t pick up battle girls high school, since it’ll probably turn into a school girl harem swoonfest over sensei. Some people playing the mobage were pretty upset when they made sensei a male in the game (was ambiguous for like the first year or two). That being said there are some strong pairings and heavily implied yuri in its cast of characters.

    • something something says:

      Male lead? Well that’s the worst thing you can do for a show like that. Sounds like I won’t miss it.

      • steenspring says:

        Depends. I’m hoping that he ends up as more of a teacher/ supreme commander that just gives commands type character, but going by the game, there is the distinct possibility it’ll end up as a school girl harem.

  3. BlackPoint says:

    I quite recommend checking out HinaLogi the first 2 episodes were quite nice and i quite liked the characters behaviour and the face expressions and the main girl Lion with her pet are just too cute to miss out^^

    • something something says:

      Yep, watched eps 1-2 this past weekend. It’s easily going to be one of the best shows of the season.

      • BlackPoint says:

        Great to hear, but sadly judging from the amount of comments and its MAL score not many like it and thoose that watch it aregiving low score >_< Cuz as you said it will be one of the better shows this season which is quite a surprise due the previosu Luck&Logic guess they learned their lesson from the poor sales the 1st one had and are going this time with a moe style which sales better and i hope this does sale good too.

        • something something says:

          Never ever worry about MAL scores, there are the most meaningless metric.

          Bushiroad heads the production committee, so this isn’t a normal project with a video publisher on top. The franchise is based on a card game, so that’s probably the most important thing. I doubt they went into this expecting much in the way of disc sales, especially since even the main series sold effectively zero and spinoffs usually do even worse. That they greenlight not just another entry in the franchise, but a slice of life spin-off at that, means there’s a whole lot more going on that we can’t see in disc sales.

          • BlackPoint says:

            Ye you are right on all that probably more about how much card games they can sell and with a moe anime the disc might sell more to get some extra cash cuz ye the first one barely sold anythin and they probably said hey it isnt worth doin a 2nd season for smth that ppl dont buy lets ty a different gerne atleast thats how it is ^^ But ye who knows what is all going on behind their doors…

  4. AholePony says:

    x2 on the Hina logi and super excited for more Symphogear ridiculousness. Nice write up on Hinako note, I always appreciate your unique angle on these moe SoL shows I love so much.

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