Spring update #3

First things first, the overall 2016 rankings so far:

Completed or Airing
1. Flying Witch [9.5/10]
2. Anne Happy♪ [8.5/10]
3. Bakuon!! [8/10]
4. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu [8/10, ongoing, currently two eps behind]
5. Sansha Sanyou [7/10]
6. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu [7/10]
7. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! [6.5/10]
8. Mayoiga [6/10]
9. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai [6/10, ongoing]

Oshite! Galko-chan [1 ep]
Pan de Peace [5 eps]
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge [6 eps]

Please note THIS IS NOT SPOILER FREE. I’m talking about my reactions to what I’ve watched and anything goes.

Flying Witch [IMPORTED]
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Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Lock of witch hair, fistful of bakke,
Root of mandrake, Ishiwatari sake,
Plate of flowers, ladybug’s delight,
Ancient sky whale’s unending flight,
Makoto’s jar of finely aged pickles,
Akane and Inukai’s drunken tickles,
Add thereto a relaxing day,
For the ingredients of our iyashkei.

Humor, atmosphere, and character interaction are the ingredients that drive any slice of life story. Flying Witch excels in humor, effortlessly delivers delightful character interactions, and manages a pretty solid atmosphere too. It may not quite have the character interactions of K-ON!, the atmosphere of Aria, or the humor of Yuyushiki – but it gets exemplary marks in all three categories regardless. They combine into without question the strongest show of the first half of the year.

Honestly, I had to reach pretty far to provide a better example of humor, and I’d *still* confidently put Flying Witch alongside the funniest slice of life shows. A mixture of impeccable timing and intentionally muted reactions form the core of Flying Witch’s comedic identity, and time after time those jokes landed with the intended effect.

Whether it’s the mom’s easygoing reaction to everything, Inukai’s hamster’s traumatic relationship with Chito, or the desperately funny attempt to cure Inukai, jokes in this show just don’t miss their mark. It’s as if I’m under one of Akane’s spells that makes everything feel inexplicably hilarious. Flying Witch shows that timing and reactions can deliver effortlessly organic laughs.

“Rural supernatural” is my description of Flying Witch’s mood, something of a cross between Non Non Biyori’s relaxed meandering and Natsume Yuujin-chou’s parade of fantastical youkai. It’s shot through with the supernatural and the strange in ways that Non Non is not, but entirely located within the gentler, calmer side of life in ways the sometimes dramatic Natsume is not.

The balance leans towards relaxed meandering but the menagerie of other-worldly beings is noteworthy: the imposing Harbinger of Spring, the ghostly waitress, the flying whale, the one who brings the night, the mysterious postman of the witchy realm, and so on. Flying Witch presents them to us largely though Chinatsu’s eyes, and as she grows more accustomed to them, so do we. Eventually they’re as (delightfully!) mundane as the show makes being a witch look. But these strange visitors leave their mark anyway, and Flying Witch would be a very different show without them.

The background music really pulls its weight in conveying this mood. Most of the tracks tease a mysterious undercurrent while largely giving way to a playful beat. The titular “Flying Witch” is one good example, as is “Chito-san”. But a handful of tracks like “Haru no Hakobiya”, “Hen na Ikimono”, “Uranaishi”, “Majo no Yume”, and “Kokucho no Mai” lean the other way. It’s an effective mix of emotions conveyed through music as much as through visuals.

None of this means much if the characters aren’t endearing and possessing great chemistry, but the Flying Witch cast is both of those things. It works in plenty of ways: Nao and Makoto have a really great casual friendship. Kei is a delightfully easy-going dude who the show never shoehorns into romantic nonsense. Akane and Inukai are painfully shippable. Anzu’s and Inukai’s integration into the core group is something I’d love to see developed further. Akane alternates between uncontrollable tornado and responsible older sister (when she has to be).

But Chinatsu is the emotional heart of the series. Her eyes are ours, and through her we’re introduced to the world’s hidden side. Her excitement about witchery and ambition to become a witch drives the story. Chinatsu’s journey from shy kid to excitable apprentice witch who has no inhibitions about bugging this thing with questions is something I came back to over and over again when discussing this show during the season. Compare the Chinatsu who met the Harbinger to the Chinatsu interacting with the cake shop’s patrons and begging Akane to train her as a witch. It’s endlessly satisfying.

This growing comfort with the supernatural is mirrored in her relationship with Makoto. They grow closer together every episode, and I feel like Chinatsu’s interest in witchcraft motivates Makoto to work harder on her own training. Whether it’s planting a garden or sewing up a new witch robe or practicing simple spells, Makoto and Chinatsu end up doing everything together.

I’m not sure who or what we need to sacrifice to the witchy dark arts to get a sequel, but one is sorely needed. There’s such a clear sequel premise too – Chinatsu’s journey to become a witch, and Makoto’s to become a full-fledged one. Just keep on the flight path that’s already been established! Flying Witch surely has a ton of stories left to share with us.

Anne Happy♪ [IMPORTED]
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Four shows on my season roster fall under the “slice of life” umbrella, but they’re not very similar to each other, are they?
• Flying Witch is very much on the “pure iyashikei” end of the spectrum. See also: Aria, Non Non Biyori.
• Sansha Sanyou sticks very close to the “school friends just hanging out being goofy” approach, where (this is what separates them from the first category) the atmosphere is secondary to whatever gags are going on. See also: Yuyushiki, Hidamari Sketch, Azumanga Daiou, Sakura Trick, Kinmosa, etc – this may be the biggest category.
• Bakuon leans heavily into the “club” (sometimes a hobby, sometimes even an occupation) sub-genre which has characters coming together though some common interest. See also: K-ON!, Hanayamata, Yama no Susume, Manabi Straight. I’d exclude shows explicitly about competition – Garupan and Saki are more properly sports shows, really.
• Anne Happy’s main distinction is the “Happiness Class”. It doesn’t really function like a club in the sense that it’s not a “shared interest”, it’s something they’re unwillingly thrust into. And there’s too much focus on the consequences of what it means to be in that class for it to pass as a pure “goofing off” show like Sansan. I can’t say it’s more “plot-based” than the other types because the school machinations as narrative device doesn’t really constitute a coherent story, it just generates weird scenarios to which the characters have to react. But there’s something noticeably different about how most Anne Happy episodes play out because of it.

That’s an overly long preface all to say that Anne Happy might send people running if they wanted a type 1-3 slice of life show. I guess the weirdo school portion of it just needs to click with you, at least enough not to be an annoyance.

I can’t tell if I’m disappointed or not that there wasn’t some overarching story behind the school’s weird happiness curriculum, at least in the anime. It would have been easy to mess that up so it might be for the best, although early on I was intrigued to know what exactly was going on at the school. But in the end, it all worked out. While I didn’t really dig Timothy and their teacher was hit or miss, I really enjoyed the situations the girls were put in and how it ended up drawing them together.

Episode 4 (searching for the flower of happiness) was the first episode to signal that this show was capable of delivering big emotionally affecting scenes. All the character chemistry snapped into place, and the episode built into a really solid climax. Hibiki was irreversibly attached to the group at that point, whether she’d admit it or not.

Then just when I thought the show would have trouble topping episode 4, the very next episode was a major Hibiki/Ren episode. Unsurprisingly they were my favorite aspect of the show. While the show never “went anywhere” with them in the sense of canonically recognizing a relationship, I felt like it let Hibiki own her feelings for Ren a bit more honestly than most slice of life shows with ambiguous yuri couples. There was something matter-of-fact about Hibiki’s love for Ren, and something about the way Ren comported herself around Hibiki avoided the “hilarious” misunderstandings and denseness of characters like Rize in Gochiusa or Youko in Kinmosa towards their own Hibikis (Sharo and Ayaya respectively). Everything about Ren conveys the feeling that she knows how Hibiki feels. She’s not ready to openly respond, but she’s not dense either. It’s a subtle thing, but it stripped away a lot of the frustrations I tend to have with the not-quite-recognized relationships in these shows.

Pulling Hibiki into the main group’s orbit using Hibari was also an excellent choice. From early on I found Hibari the weak link in the group, but every scene she had with Hibiki was gold. It’s good writing when you pull characters out of their niches and throw them together and greatly improve both characters in the process.

After these two episodes, the show was set. It had established humor I liked, characters I found interesting, and enough chemistry between them to make any situation thrown their way into something enjoyable. It capitalized on that throughout the remaining episodes, through to a really solid ending.

Bakuon!! [IMPORTED]
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Bakuon is good for all the reasons any competent slice of life show is, so there isn’t anything too exceptional going on here. I’m not interested in motorcycles or the whole culture around bikes, so what I got out of Bakuon was nice character designs and quirky character interactions. No less enjoyable for it, but pretty standard stuff…

…Except when it decides to go off the deep end. There’s a couple really bizarre aspects to this show and when it leaned into those it delivered its best gags. Hane’s meeting with Bike Jesus, all of Rin’s ridiculous dad stories, Onsa’s shady bike dealership, Rin’s contagious Suzuki disease, Raimu’s… whatever is going on with her. I’m still convinced she’s a ghost. This stuff was great, it was the zest an otherwise vanilla premise needed to stand out.

Not that it always hit its mark. Episode five stumbled badly, with a fairly gross drunken groping incident courtesy of one of their female teachers, and then a questionable scene of the girls soaping up their bikes with their bodies. Everything involving Baita’s dialogue was pretty cringe-worthy too. Bakuon is more fanservicey than your average slice of life show and doesn’t always use it well. Although, given the mangaka’s questionable background, maybe we got off easy.

But the most important part of Bakuon is, of course, Rin. She (like Hibiki in Anne Happy) is the bulls-eye in my character archetype strike zone. Cute, hard-working girls who are passionate about what they love but have trouble being honest with their feelings around others are just. the. best. Not because their inability to express themselves is in and of itself “adorable” (that way lies Kuma Miko, from what I understand), but because that struggle is accompanied by moments in which he characters score little victories or open up more to others which make it all that much more rewarding.

Rin also works in the archetype of the character eternally bullied by her own show. Even the goddamn shopping district Santa shits on Rin. But the bullying doesn’t feel fundamentally malicious to me. It’s very much comedic, and she does it to herself as much as others do it to her. The message of the show isn’t “Rin is bad and deserves to be mocked” by any stretch.

Bakuon isn’t trying to hurt Rin, and if it were we wouldn’t get endearing scenes like her working hard delivering pizzas on Christmas Eve, or her victory in the culture festival race. The latter was the culmination of a lot of silly gags but I legitimately teared up when she realized she won the race. Ahhhhh, Rin, you’re the best. Without her this would be a very different and less enjoyable show.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
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Because this show is ongoing, I’m only putting it here for the sake of linking to an ask.fm answer I did recently in which someone asked me about why I like it. As of writing this I haven’t seen any episodes since then, so everything still holds: http://ask.fm/somekindofthing/answers/139067839662

This is also a rough placeholder for where it currently ranks in the year. If the second half avoids self-destructing, I can see it pushing past Bakuon, maybe. It’s going to need to be consistently strong though, and not constantly regress Subaru’s character. If he grows along with the show, it could become something pretty great.

Sansha Sanyou [IMPORTED]
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Sansan is a slice of life show that maybe cut the slice a little too thin. Something about it felt insubstantial, and not in the “light and breezy” way I want a slice of life show to feel. While I found it consistently watchable, it always felt lacking in direction.

“But slice of life means not having to have a direction!” you say. Sure but I guess I mean that Sansan never carved out its own niche. Anne Happy and Bakuon had more outright missteps than Sansan but they also had a sense of identity that I didn’t feel as strongly from this. Pretty animation aside, it comes off as something I won’t remember for very long, because I’m not sure I can describe to you a particular attribute that made it special.

If you asked me to describe the aspect of Sansan that distinguished it from its peers, I’d actually come up with a negative: half the secondary cast was unusually annoying. While Kou, Nishiyama, Kondou, and Sonobe were great, we also got saddled with some really dismal characters: Yamaji, Yuu, Sakura, Hajime, and Sasame. The last showed brief sparks of promise in her interactions with Youko, but by and large they were all unwelcome distractions in every scene they invaded.

The best way I could spin them is that they gave the better characters a chance to do some heavy lifting, usually pretty successfully. Sonobe was a good foil to he exasperating Yamaji. Futaba delivered some of her best lines when crushing Hajime and Sasame’s hopes. Youko’s one or two more intimate scenes with Sasame were a saving grace. There was really nothing the show could do to redeem Yuu/Sakura scenes though. I guess the “sing into a bucket” scene was pretty funny?

Sansan had some of the quiet character moments that -really- endear me to these shows. Teru and Kou’s conversation when walking home in episode two. The girls stopping by Youko’s place to cook a meal with her. A few Nishiyama scenes. They feel sparser than in other shows though. More of those moments would have really helped the show click with me harder.

And it’s not purely a shipping thing, but I do wish the characters had felt closer to one another. Nishiyama and Teru were in a classic frenemies position but it just kinda simmered without going anywhere. Nishiyama is my favorite character in this show, but unlike Rin or Hibiki (who I liked for similar reasons) I don’t think the show provided her a equally strong support structure which meant that her scenes lacked the same punch. I do think she show did a good job rewarding Youko’s gradual opening up to her friends with some nice scenes between her and Teru/Futaba though.

As I’ve said before, Sansan is the kind of show I actually -liked- even if my comments always come out negative. Maybe it’s because episode one blew me away so hard and I expected the rest to live up to it, or maybe it’s because the delightful character animation felt like it was just dressing up a rather plain core.

I know I liked it because I’m -importing- it, although I’d probably describe it as not-quite-import tier if I didn’t feel compelled to support most Kirara anime adaptations. Still, even when I’d put a show near the bottom of the slice of life totem pole, it’s still a competently executed slice of life show and as such it’s so inherently My Thing™ that it’s hard to turn me off completely. As long as you avoid injecting bad het romance or something similarly catastrophic, I’m probably going to enjoy the show!

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
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Winter series. Included to show relative ranking. See the Winter 2016 wrap-up post for thoughts.

In truth, Rakugo accomplishes what it sets out to do far better than Sansan does. But “what it’s trying to do” is inherently much, much more My Thing™ with Sansan than with Rakugo. That I enjoyed Rakugo at all is a testament to its strengths even if it doesn’t change how I’d rank them.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
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Winter series. Included to show relative ranking. See the Winter 2016 wrap-up post for thoughts.

As “boy trapped in a fantasy world” shows go, this and Re:Zero are wildly different. Konosuba avoids some of Re:Zero’s protagonist pitfalls (while swapping in some different ones) but Re:Zero definitely has a much, much higher ceiling on its potential than Konosuba. It may also have a lower floor if things go terribly wrong, but time will tell.

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Lovepon is love.

Lovepon is life.

Lovepon is also death, but what a wonderful way to go.

Mayoiga is a very flawed little thing. At times I thought it 100% understood its dumb appeal. Other times I felt it had actually convinced itself it was marginally serious story – and that’s no good. Its appeal was tied directly to how stupid it was being at any given time. Its insistence in the latter half of presenting Mitsumune, Hayato and Masaki as characters with story arcs worth telling simply didn’t work for me. They brought the crazy train – or bus – to a screeching halt. Whenever that happened, the wheels fell off the whole thing.

After Lovepon carried the first half, her position in the second was regrettably diminished. While I dug all the stupid explanations of Nanaki and the goofy shit with the researcher and the reveal of the villain, none of that really made up for being asked to engage even a little bit more seriously with the material.

And then in the final episode, they separate Lion and Nanko for no reason I can discern. That left a bitter taste in my mouth right at the end, and probably wound up docking the show a full point. I’d actually gotten really invested in their growing relationship. Nanko was in so many ways what Lion needed, and Lion’s trust in Nanko seemed reassuring for the latter. Maimai did a great job rounding out this unexpectedly precious trio. Then it just dissolves – while dull shit Mitsumune and his dull shit girlfriend get to stay together despite having zero chemistry. How exasperating. If you’re going to ask me to take anything seriously, make it the one thing you actually did a good job with!

I really liked some of the characters. I liked its subversion of horror tropes (nobody dies!). But I guess I expected it to commit harder to chaos than it did. So I ended up somewhat disappointed in Mayoiga. I can enjoy stupid shows up until the point they ask me to take boring characters even semi-seriously.

Mayoiga was not a bad show (at least not unintentionally). It just petered out in a disheartening way.

JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai
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You know the drill by now, I just robotically watch Jojo, I don’t actually have anything to say about it. I don’t even livetweet or screenshot it. Part 4 is fine so far, but… I guess that’s all the commentary I have!


Now that Crunchy has confirmed most of their Summer announcements, I’m happy to see that the three shows I cared about are safe and accounted for.

1. New Game!
2. Amanchu!
3. Amaama to Inazuma

Nothing else looks immediately appealing. There was supposed to be a show with 2D mecha and girl pilots but I think Funi grabbed it, so I’ll pass. Mecha aren’t my thing anyway.

I have two multi-cour shows continuing from Spring:

1. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
2. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai

So I’ll still have 5 shows, I guess. Should have some time to push farther into my Aria mega-rewatch. There’s always the chance something unexpected will come around, I mean it’s not like I ever thought I’d be watching Re:Zero. But I’m not holding my breath or anything.

10 Responses to “Mid-year 2016 viewing update, Summer viewing plans”

  1. Jim says:

    I really, really enjoyed Flying Witch. That was the first show of the year that I know for sure I’m going to buy. Chinatsu was wonderful, and a rare anime kid who actually talked and acted like a normal kid, and not an anime character.

    “There was supposed to be a show with 2D mecha and girl pilots but I think Funi grabbed it, so I’ll pass.”

    That was Regalia, and yeah, it’s gone to Funi. No big loss, I don’t think. The only show Funi took out of the six that I’d circled was Love Live, so I’m in pretty good shape too (and I’m really looking forward to Sweetness & Lightning and Amanchu).

  2. BlackPoint says:

    Iam kinda surprised you droped tanaka since both flying witch and tanaka were one of the best SoL anime that we have got recently atleast for my opinion…..*-*

    • something says:

      Tanaka-kun did some things I really, really hate.

      • rederoin says:

        Chapters where adapted out of order, apparently(deliquent-chan blushing at the 2 Male MCs happend before the yuri confession scene). Not that makes it any better.

        Although aside from ep 2-3 and Aoi Yuuki’s character, I also do think the show was great. Not something i’ll ever be watching again

        • rederoin says:

          Got a pretty big rewatch list this season though, so can’t complain.

          Pan de peace(only one BF joke, like wakaba, so can be overlooked, and it even introduced a love traingle with the bread loli and a new twintail girl)
          anne happy
          Flying witch
          Sansha sanyou

          Shounen maid was a border-case, but too much drama for good rewatchability.
          Kuma miko went downhill those last few eps that it even became one of the most hated anime of the season in both the west and Japan(?)(By the few comments i’ve seen and the last ep getting one of the lowest NND ratings i’ve ever seen)

  3. AholePony says:

    Very nice reviews something. As I had mentioned in another thread, I was particularly interested to see your take on Anne Happy. I’m always interred to see an alternate opinion to my own. I think after all is said and done those characters just never grew on me. It makes all the difference in the world when you’re looking at SoL shows to have characters you enjoy.

    It’s too bad you aren’t into bikes because Bakuon had A LOT of fanservice for people like me that knew everything from who the professionals were watching their race to other inside jokes about the manufacturers. Most of all though, I loved the quirky humor. Like when Rin got “branded” and they had the guy quickly quip that the logo was put on backwards, little details like that crack me up. Also Chisame having her nostrils enlarged by a photo booth and her friends showing no mercy laughing about it. The show wasn’t perfect by a long shot but it did enough to make it worth my time and that’s all I could ask for.

    I agree with all the other assessments, Sansha was pretty and cute but a tad soulless I guess. Which was unfortunate but it was still plenty watchable. Flying Witch was the most healing I’ve had from anime since Tamayura I’d say (the movies are done *sniff* ), loved the hell out of that one this past season.

  4. Mari says:

    You should give Kabaneri a shot, well at least the first 7 episodes anyways, where it was a fun action blockbuster romp with a surprisingly inquisitive male lead like a badass Jeff Goldblum science geek and Mumei who’s just fun and kind of bratty all around. Of course the 2nd arc kind of blows since Biba is a terrible villain who nearly ruined Mumei’s character until the last episode where specific nuance actions redeemed her.

  5. rederoin says:

    Ange vierge and regalia(very heavy yuri undertones) have all girl casts. Could always grab the raw for regalia for those who dislike funi(or does cr have it?)
    Qualidia looks like a standard LN magical school show(although its an orginal), but one of the main pairing(the strongest one, by a long shot) has yuri undertones and Maihime is voiced by Aoi Yuuki, no idea if any of you will be annoyed by mr.douche(a mc), but not everything can be top tier.

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