Mid-year Recap
Summer Update #1

My overall 2016 rankings thus far:

Completed or Airing
T1. Flying Witch [ 9.5 / 10 ]
T1. Amanchu! [ 9.5 / 10 ]
03. New Game! [ 9.0 / 10 ]
04. Anne Happy♪ [ 8.5 / 10 ]
05. Ange Vierge [ 8.5 / 10 ]
06. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu [ 8.0 / 10 ]
07. Bakuon!! [ 8.0 / 10 ]
08. Amaama to Inazuma [ 7.5 / 10 ]
09. Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin [ 7.0 / 10 ]
10. Sansha Sanyou [ 7.0 / 10 ]
11. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu [ 7.0 / 10 ]
12. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! [ 6.5 / 10 ]
13. Mayoiga [ 6.0 / 10 ]
14. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai [ 6.0 / 10 ] (ongoing)

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

Top 5 Characters (unordered)
Hagyuu Hibiki – Anne Happy
Suzunoki Rin – Bakuon!!
Kuramoto Chinatsu – Flying Witch
Megumin – Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
Yagami Kou – New Game!

Top 5 Pairings (unordered)
Ooki Futaba / Kohinata Hikari – Amanchu!
Almaria / Sofina – Ange Vierge
Sanagi Ageha / Sanagi Mayuka – Ange Vierge
Hagyuu Hibiki / Eokda Ren – Anne Happy
Yagami Kou / Tooyama Rin – New Game!

Top 5 OPs
01. Ange Vierge – “Love is MY RAIL”
02. Flying Witch – “Shanranran”
03. Amanchu! – “Million Clouds”
04. Anne Happy – “Punch Mind Happiness”
05. Sansha Sanyou – “Clover Kakumation”

Top 3 EDs
01. New Game! – “Now Loading!!!!”
02. Anne Happy – “Ashta de Ii kara”
03. Ange Vierge – “Link With U”

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

Amanchu! [IMPORTED]
(click to hide)

While there’s always more to slice of life shows than is evident on the surface, Amanchu! dives especially deep into its protagonist, Ooki Futaba, aka Teko. It’s more of a character study than most SOL shows. If you want to distinguish it from its predecessor (Aria), there are many ways to do so but I think this psychological intimacy sets the tone. Aria was a broad story about many small interactions across an entire city, while Amanchu is an intensely personal story constructed around one character’s anxieties, and how the special girl in her life helps her overcome them.

Just like Aria wasn’t about becoming a Prima, and K-ON! wasn’t about performing concerts, Amanchu! wasn’t about diving. The diving certification represents a self-confidence Teko’s always lacked. It represents a goal, a fresh start. It could just as well serve as a marriage license with Pikari but I digress… Regardless, it was a very fitting way to end the series.

Having just moved away from the only friends she’s ever had, Teko is a depressed, lonely girl with severe social anxiety. We meet her just before a wave named Pikari crashes into her life. As bewildering as Teko finds Pikari at first, she quickly latches onto her – so intensely that she feels completely lost whenever Pikari isn’t around. There’s a lot to unpack regarding how Pikari and Teko interact, and what they mean to each other.

Teko’s anxiety looms over the story. Her steadfast refusal to delete pictures from her phone when she runs out of memory, even though she can just copy them off to external storage, has to be understood alongside her intense fear of losing the slightest control over the few happy memories she’s been able to make. Her middle school friends slipped through her fingers and now exist only as data on her phone. Couldn’t that happen to Pikari, Ai, and Makoto just as easily? This. terrifies. her.

The flashback to her call with Akane prior to moving is the most heartrending moment of the season. “I know that whoever gets hung up on will be more scared. But I also know that whoever hangs up would be in more pain.” She gradually sinks below the frame, until she’s on the ground, paralyzed with grief. “The words of gratitude I finally mustered up somehow felt like parting words instead.” I can’t even think about the scene without tearing up. It’s one of those scenes that sticks with you for a long time, and it speaks volumes to where she is when the show starts.

Teko finds her light in the radiant Pikari. But our perspective is biased; it’s heavily filtered through eyes hidden too long in a dark room, adjusting to the painful light of day. As much as Teko depends on Pikari, what she’s unable to see in the midst of Pikari’s brilliant glare is that Pikari needs her too. The gratitude Teko feels is returned as mutual affection.

It would have been easy to leave all the issues on Teko’s side and have Pikari fix them, but Pikari is given depth though her own (infrequent, but crucial) introspective moments. Where Teko withdraws from others and clings to old memories, Pikari handles social awkwardness by acting out. Pikari offers an important counter to the idea that only introverted people can feel lonely.

If you stop and think about it, what friends does Pikari have before meeting Teko? Absolutely none at school, from the looks of it. She gets along with the divers at her grandmother’s shop, but has no personal interaction with girls her own age. We don’t even hear about middle school friends. Comments she makes in the last episode reveal that she’s often turned other people off with her strange behavior. So go back and watch her first encounter with Teko again. Pikari needed a friend every bit as much as Teko did.

A friend, and more than a friend. I’m writing this a few hours after having watched the finale, and I’m struggling to sort out my feelings. It ended as soon as it began, and there’s no hope of animated follow-up, and why oh why couldn’t it have happened earlier but, but, but… there’s no reasonable way to read that other than as a confession. The specter of plausible deniability hangs over the vast majority of girl-girl relationships in anime but this is not leaving much room for misinterpretation.

It’s hard to come up with words to describe how I feel because I spent every episode thinking about how undeniably romantically coded their reactions have been, but also knowing full well that in these cases, we don’t get the words. But Amanchu did it. I’m just… not used to this. I’d only dared hope to avoid outright disaster, nothing more.

But I am happy. I’m truly happy. Even though I know there won’t be a sequel. Even though I’m sure the manga doesn’t actually take this to the next step. Even though the show had to dance around it until the last 30 seconds. It’s still a moving, beautiful, and important thing. Seeing both of them so happy fills me with gratitude and happiness as well. And what is Amanchu!, if not a story about gratitude?

New Game! [IMPORTED]
(click to hide)

Take one high school club anime, add one to ten years to every cast member, stir vigorously. Pour the mix into one medium-sized corporate office environment. Garnish with a 50/50 mixture of an adult’s exhaustion and a newbie’s enthusiasm. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve in your cutest dishes. Enjoy your New Game!.

Instead of being a first year high school student joining a new club, Aoba is an 18 year old high school graduate hired on as an entry-level character designer at Eagle Jump, the developer that created her favorite game. While detractors initially made a lot of her lack of experience and how “unrealistic” that was, in reality the original mangaka worked at a game development studio and this “hire new, teach on the job” approach is actually quite realistic. It really makes you wonder how many of Aoba’s experiences mirror Tokunou Shoutarou’s experiences.

I’ve always said that I enjoy slice of life shows not because they remind me of a past I’m nostalgic for, but because most of them instead offer a heartwarming faux-nostalgia for a past I didn’t have, but much prefer. The unreality is the point, and I’m content watching the characters on screen grow together and be happy, nevermind that reality offers something much more ambivalent.

New Game! effectively transitions this feeling into an adult workspace. It certainly acknowledges the cynicism corporate environments breed (“Full-time Employment is a Loophole in the Law to Make Wages Lower…” is an A++ episode title), yes. And those of us who have worked office-type jobs for years can smile and nod tiredly at that sort of thing, which is fun in its own way. But fundamentally, New Game! maintains for me the same faux-nostalgia high school slice of life does.

It’s incredibly fulfilling to see Aoba’s meet her idol Yagami Kou, to see her eyes light up when her first character model is approved, to see the pride and satisfaction she feels when her game is released to the world. These triumphs keep her passionate and excited about her job. They’re certainly not feelings I know from my job. I do what I do because it’d be a huge hassle and risk to try to find something else, and because it pays the bills comfortably enough. Not because I feel any sense of accomplishment from what I do. Maybe part of the difference is that Aoba is working in a creative field, while I’m not. She’s more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment and ownership over what she does. Regardless, I’ll never have Aoba’s experiences, but I can completely understand why they’re so desirable, and I feel so happy and grateful that she’s finding success. Aoba’s happiness matters to me.

Aoba’s progress happens under the watchful and compassionate eye of her superiors at work, particularly Kou. The gap in age between Aoba and Kou (18 to 25, seven years) is larger than is possible in school settings. While they’re written similarly to a first-year kouhai/third-year senpai dynamic, it’s more accurate to see Kou as combining the teacher/club advisor role with the emotional intimacy of being a fellow student. She is both a boss (teacher) and a coworker (classmate). The Aoba/Kou dynamic generates much of New Game!’s emotional appeal and would itself be reason enough for me to desperately want to see more slice of life with adult casts.

Watching Aoba settle into her job and create things she’s proud of would be a fine enough show on its own, but the ways Kou grows from the experience are just as satisfying. While confident in her own skills, Kou lacks any confidence in her ability to lead a team. It’s just not what she ever expected to be doing (WELL SHIT, RELATABLE MUCH?). Aoba understands Kou, and it’s Aoba’s faith in her that gives Kou the confidence to accept her role. The final scene of the show is dedicated to precisely this moment and is among the most magical of the whole season.

If Aoba is the sudden push that Kou needs to take the next step, Rin is the gentle embrace she’s needed to keep going these last few years. Their relationship, so clearly romantic in all but name, leaves me craving more adult couples even more than I was before. That’s another bonus of New Game!’s setting – you just don’t get this in high school slice of life. I got slightly spooked early on when a romantic moment between these two was derailed by a cliche weight gag. But that was soon forgotten and their relationship grew into one perhaps only surpassed by Teko and Pikari in Amanchu!.

Rin is the perfect “loving mom” character, and that was especially on display with her handling of Nenecchi during the pudding theft episode. Which leads me to the unexpected character also at the heart of this show…

If Nenecchi had just remained Aoba’s cute phone buddy, giving Aoba a chance to recap her feelings at the end of the episode, that would have been enough. I didn’t dare hope that she’d become such a major character. I knew she joined the debug team from reading a little of the manga, but I thought it was something that’d come and go in an episode or two.

While Aoba went straight to work, Nenecchi continued on to college. She provides a unique perspective on Aoba, telling us things her coworkers wouldn’t know. Her conversations with Aoba remind us that Aoba is still only eighteen, and is struggling to grow up rather suddenly, without the buffer the college years provide. Nenecchi’s feelings towards Aoba are a mixture of pride, jealousy, protectiveness, surprise, and affection. As goofy as Nenecchi can be, she’s able to tell us a lot about Aoba that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

I really didn’t expect Nenecchi to become such a major character, let alone one that gave us so much more insight into the cast – not least of which being almost everything we know about Umiko, thanks to their strange and amusing relationship. Thanks, Nenecchi!

So that’s New Game!. All that’s left now is to hope we one day see New Game+. As Aoba would say, 今日も一日がんばるぞい

Ange Vierge [IMPORTED]
(click to hide)

A good show is more then the sum of its cliches. Ange Vierge is meant to advertise a card mobage, and the ED even depicts the characters as cards. The dialogue is stuffed with references to in-game mechanics, particularly the ranking system, something that became a constant source of amusement for those few of us watching it. There’s plenty of meaningless technobabble and questionable mathematics. A long explanation of the premise with riveting dialogue like this precedes the OP before every episode.

And roughly two-thirds of the first episode is the entire cast naked (in surprisingly casual and un-lewd ways, I’d like to add) in and around the baths, with the other third being practice battles, and tons of exposition/game jargon interspersed. I think this episode does a better job setting up the premise and character interactions than it got credit for but it’s easy to see why so many viewers dismissed the show out of hand at this point. The comical levels of censorship (while so off-the-charts I actually find it charming) also contributed to the snap judgment that Ange Vierge was a cheap throw-away advertisement show with nothing going on beneath.

But give it a second chance and you’ll find a show that handles itself pretty deftly. I won’t try to sell it as the most sophisticated of stories, but it presents its ideas in a consistent, effective way. Its characters’ interactions and growth are all directed with focus towards that end.

There’s a formula to Ange Vierge’s arcs: One of their recently-turned-evil EXR senpai begins to threaten the world crystal on their homeworld, and the lower-ranked UC kouhai speed off to stop them. After an initial skirmish the episode ends in a cliffhanger and the next episode opens with how the focus girl of the arc befriended Amane. The episode concludes with the Dark Progress EXR being subdued and rescued. The next episode begins with a reconciliation scene between the EXR and her respective UC and the formula repeats. Generally there’s a non-sequitur scene involving the military sisters Ageha and Mayuka, either during the episode, post-credits, or both.

Formula isn’t bad if what it loses due to predictability is made up in focus. Arcs effectively established what Amane means to each of the girls: a little sister, a mother, a best friend, a commander, a “special” person. It’s easy to understand why they’re passionate about saving her. The same applies to their determination to save the Dark Progress EXRs. It’s not just because doing so prevents the destruction of five worlds, it’s because of the tight bonds they share: Saya and Miumi, Almaria and Sofina, Elel and Ramiel, Stella and Xenia/Carene, Nya and Ein.

Ange Vierge is successful at not wasting the limited time it’s got. Although the EXRs each spend most of the show possessed by darkness, it’s made very clear that they’re still fundamentally themselves. Their hangups are just exaggerated, twisted versions of their real feelings, so even when they’re trying to beat the crap out of their beloved kouhai, we’re learning more about who they are and how they see each other.

Elel’s and Almaria’s arcs do this best, but I’ll just talk about the former. Elel idolizes Ramiel, but the handicapped (she’s a one-winged angel) Ramiel harbors suppressed mistrust about whether the happy-go-lucky Elel really likes her, or just pities her. It’s not hatred – Elel is genuinely precious to her – but there are dark feelings amplified by becoming a Dark Progress. The psychological attacks dark Ramiel launches on Elel (aided by Yuuki Aoi’s virtuoso performance), and Elel’s response, help define both characters and their relationship better. It’s also enhanced by strong visual direction, depicting the distance between Elel and Ramiel via elevation: far apart at the start, coming closer in their second encounter, and then, literally, seeing eye to eye when they reconcile. Fine, it’s not revolutionary stuff. But it’s really effective within the context of the story!

Regardless, it’s not big themes that really sold me on Ange Vierge. The themes just provide a solid framework for a continuous stream of endearing and sometimes moving character interactions. There are some dramatic moments but also a ton of funny scenes, fantastic pairings (some quite unambiguously romantic or even sexual), a killer OP (best of the season!), frequent examples of really charming character and effects animation, top notch character designs, a really strong sense for color to set moods, and probably the cutest example of in-universe social media use ever in the final scene of the show.

Ange Vierge is fun. Unashamedly, unadulteratedly, unreservedly fun. That should be cherished.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
(click to hide)

(Spring 2016, but it finished this season.)

In a genre that uncritically pats its MCs on the back, Re:Zero distinguishes itself by asking, meaningfully, what would happen if the world rejected their preconceived notions about who they are and what the world owes them.

Subaru approaches his abrupt arrival in a new world by the usual script: apprehension masked with genre-aware humor, quickly giving way to a sense of excitement, of opportunity. It’s the essence of the genre: you were a nobody out there, but you can be somebody here. This is a world that Subaru thinks he understands. He survives a run-in with scummy thieves, meets a pretty girl, and it’s going according to plan (mostly – she saved him, not the reverse). That is, until his insides become his outsides and he’s lying dead on the floor.

If Subaru’s setbacks were purely external in origin, Re:Zero would have been largely unremarkable. But he made many bad situations worse through his own actions. Only as the failures mount does his tendency to quickly bounce back to a persona of flirty over-confidence give way to something much darker, much uglier. His character arc drags the audience through genuinely unpleasant territory, but it works because the show’s intentions always seemed to be clear.

Subaru isn’t rewarded for his arrogance. This. Is. Crucial. It’s the linchpin of the show and culminates in the most powerful scene of the entire run: Emilia’s renunciation of him after his shockingly petty behavior in front of the royal selection committee.

Subaru’s collapse into raw desperation in episode 7 and Rem’s radiant smile in episode 11 were both powerful show-defining moments, but it’s this scene that ultimately sold me on Emilia, on Subaru, and on the fundamental aspirations of the show. I gave my thoughts on the matter here so I won’t restate them all, but it was a deeply moving moment. Part of it was the catharsis of seeing a Subaru at his ugliest get slapped down unambiguously. A larger part of it was seeing Emilia assert herself in a way she had unquestionably earned. It also has some important things to say about not projecting your unfair expectations onto others, a message I don’t think the show entirely follows through with, but it makes an effort. It’s a scene I wish we could gift to a hundred other heroines.

My feelings on the second half of the show are… complicated? Where do you go after making a very conscious statement about pampered protagonists by rejecting every deeply-held belief of your own lead? Re:Zero goes with despair, then deeper despair, then unfathomable despair, then an angelic light of redemption, a reset from zero, a hard-won comeback, and a triumphant finale. (Yes, I have heard the anime chose to end in a very, hmm, “particular” spot, right before something else happens. But I don’t want to know anything about that, given how a sequel is likely.)

Eventually, yes, Subaru was going to triumph. But I don’t think this necessarily negates the show’s critique on isekai conventions. Even though I didn’t like quite everything about how the latter arcs played out, I feel the show took pains to show us that Subaru had changed. That he earned his turnaround. That he succeeded by relying on others, not protagonist exceptionalism.

But I do of course have criticisms. Many of them, but we’ll stick with the big ones.

While the broad strokes of Subaru’s redemption were solid, I still don’t feel convinced by his relationship with Emilia, which is a problem given it’s his primary motivation. The finale stretched credulity regarding the depth of Emilia’s feelings for him (I’ll accept his feelings for her, however grudgingly). Her “nobody has loved me before” spiel isn’t enough to sell me. I also have serious misgivings about how this episode partially walks back her justified anger from episode 13. By no means should she be apologizing for that, regardless of what Subaru did right afterward.

For a show that tried so hard to eschew convention, the reconciliation with Emilia felt so very average. It suffers doubly for being compared to the much stronger romantic chemistry with Rem. Subaru and Rem survived a lot together, and Re:Zero doesn’t lock down their feelings for each other until quite late. By contrast, his relationship with Emilia feels like it’s at roughly the same spot Rem and Subaru were in episode 11. We’ve been sold an unfinished product.

I could say so much more on this but I really just want to bring it up as an example of a broader structural issue the show had from the White Whale onward – it lost some of its mystery, some of its spark. It stopped surprising me as much, stopped defying conventions as much. The tricky thing is that I don’t have great suggestions for what it could have done differently on the big picture level. In details I could poke at a lot. But the overall trajectory seems… right? Defensible, at the least. Despair creates exciting twists, but it isn’t a complete story in itself. For the story to move, Subaru had to successfully overcome the most immediate internal and external threats, and that’s what happened.

If we do get a season two, I want to see the following. Do not confirm or deny anything if you’ve read the novels, I want to be free to speculate without getting hints:
Felt totally fucking up the status quo, without becoming the tragic puppet of a hidden hand. I want that spunky little brat to have as much agency over her own destiny as possible, because she’s been buffeted around by events thus far with little control. And she’s still my favorite character in the show, so I’m biased.
Rem finding a new passion outside of being Subaru’s #1 fan. While I think she’s become a much freer, happier, outgoing person since expressing her feelings to Subaru, I also understand where the “trophy wife” (or I guess mistress now) criticisms come from. I think that’s quite reductive criticism and doesn’t reflect her character very accurately, but I totally see where the fear comes from and I’d hate for Rem to fall prey to that.
Ram to take on a bigger role, hopefully one that doesn’t revolve around being completely subordinate to Rosewaal. His absence from most of the show mitigated that this season, but their scene together early on (and their quite literal master-servant relationship) creates a deeply unbalanced power dynamic.
Emilia being more directly involved. She’s a complex and interesting character, my second favorite overall actually, but she spent most of the series off-screen. I was disappointed at how passive and apologetic she was in the final episode. Her entirely warranted indignation in episode 13 was the highlight of the show and walking that back at all concerns me. Did Re:Zero really take its own messages to heart? To be clear I don’t think the show has treated her badly, but I think her potential remians almost entirely untapped. Since we aren’t getting my dream scenario of Emilia escaping romance with Subaru entirely, I at least want her to be an equal participant with him in the coming events.
• More Betty. I don’t care how, just gimmie.
• Interestingly, I don’t have any idea what I want from Subaru. The main thrust of his character arc has been largely resolved, so they need to do something different with him now. But the most important thing is that he retains the growth he’s managed thus far. Just don’t rehash past struggles and we’ll be good, probably?

I guess the theme is more explicitly exercised agency for the ladies of the cast. They actually have quite a lot of structural power over Subaru given their socio-political roles and/or physical/magical abilities. But the nature of the time resets limits how much power they can wield over the narrative.

All in all, I have respect for Re:Zero. Not everything it did worked, and it had to work very hard to sell me on a genre and premise I’m not inherently disposed towards liking. But it pulled it off. It didn’t quite make the case for a BD import from me, but I would without question watch a season two.

Amaama to Inazuma [IMPORTED]
(click to hide)

Anime has a solid track record with adult men taking taking care of young daughters/dependents. Usagi Drop (I’ve only seen the anime so it’s all I care about!), Barakamon (not a father, but similar dynamic), what I read of the Yotsubato! manga, hell even Papakiki handled this aspect really well at times, even if it didn’t entirely shake a (one-sided thankfully) romantic distraction. So I expected to enjoy Amaama to Inazuma, and enjoy it I did. When you have to question who is cuter between Kouhei and Tsumugi, I think the show is doing something right.

Because the show follows such a simple formula, I think the finale manages to wholly represent everything Amaama does best.

In the last episode, Tsumugi is in a bad mood after fighting with her friend, and as usual the prescribed cure is “cook some yummy food at Kotori’s place!”. Along the way we hit all the show’s highlights: Tsumugi cheering up while watching everyone cook. Kouhei having a meaningful father-daughter heart-to-heart with Tsumugi. Kotori reveling in the opportunity to share her love of food with people she cares about. Yagi being a grumpy dude. Shinobu being her cute, silly, and deceptively perceptive self. Even Kotori’s absentee mom shows up this time.

Amaama had two primary options for injecting drama into the story: Tsumugi having a serious breakdown over finally coming to terms with her mother’s death, or a scandal of some sort concerning Kouhei (an adult man) spending so much time around Kotori (a teenage girl, and his student) without Kotori’s mother around. Or as a variant on the second, Kotori falling in love with Kouhei and some manner of conflict over that. I was prepared for one or both, though I didn’t really want either.

Thankfully, we didn’t get either! Tsumugi does occasionally get upset and lonely when thinking about her mother, but this only serves to reinforce Kouhei’s determination to make up for lost time by being the best dad he can be. And Kotori does have a pretty clear (and understandable) crush on Kouhei, but Kouhei maintains an appropriate child/adult, student/teacher distance. His discussion with her about the feelings of parents towards their children puts a gentle yet firm kibosh on any movement in that direction.

And thus the show concluded in exemplary slice of life/iyashikei fashion: it’s just another regular old day, and that’s why we love it.

Gochisousama deshita! …Okawari?

Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin
(click to hide)

[Quick update: I decided to cram this in over the weekend in the lull between seasons.]

While Alderamin gets caught on a few snags (some of the MC’s personality traits, a few overly convenient plot developments, a near-total lack of animation, cliche ineptness from the military higher-ups), most of that is fairly superficial, so I’m not going to go into detail. It matters, and did hurt some scenes, but the core of the show was very solid. Solid in a genre that I’m not particularly drawn to by default, granted, but solid enough that on the balance I definitely enjoyed it.

Alderamin’s core strengths were the Ikta/Yatori relationship and the story’s moral ambiguity.

While Ikta’s flirtatious attitude was one of the consistent annoyances, looking back on it I can’t say there’s actually any romance in the show. Nana makes a few comments that you can put down to what we know of their matriarchal culture, and it’s not relevant to her character arc in any case. Kanna seems a little taken by Ikta, but it doesn’t get to go anywhere (for… reasons…). Chamille’s reactions raise an eyebrow a couple times, but while she cares about him her interest seems to come from a very different place. Maro, for all Ikta’s flirting, and as flustered as it occasionally makes her, is far more interested in doing her job than nurturing romance. That leaves the female lead, Yatori.

Emotional intimacy between Ikta and Yatori is depicted without having to code everything romantically. Trust is what binds them. It’s a kind of love, perhaps, but one that’s being laid into a deeper, more meaningful foundation. They describe themselves as two hands working in tandem and that’s borne out repeatedly in their actions towards each other. The excellent flashback episode skillfully contextualized their relationship, but the best single moment is probably Ikta’s intervention to pull Yatori out of her adrenaline high after she takes out the unit attempting to kidnap Chamille. Given that trust is the defining emotion between them it’s fitting that Ikta and Yatori sitting back to back is one of the show’s defining visuals.

Given this is a show outside of the genres I default towards liking, keeping me interested was aided greatly by the moral ambiguity of the actions of all involved. The Imperial family and bureaucracy aren’t just corrupt (which would be par for the course) but as Chamille points out in the rather brilliant ending, it’s rapidly eroding. It not only can’t be saved, but it shouldn’t. She openly asks Ikta to work with her to lose the war – but to lose it in a way that preserves Imperial culture while wiping away the ossified political order order. That this will to some extent involve prolonging a war claiming thousands of lives with no hope of traditional “victory”… well, Chamille is determined to take that burden on her young shoulders.

This is born out militarily as well. After the office training arc, the next arc is for all intents and purposes a war of genocide against a reclusive mountain tribe. While our focus characters make clear they’re not happy about it, and the worst atrocities are ordered by a commander who gets his comeuppance, this isn’t a story of a rebellion against orders. Ikta and friends execute the war to its ultimate end because they’re soldiers, and that’s what they do. Ikta works where possible to minimize loss of life, but he’s not trying to be a maverick hero. He’s just trying to protect the people he cares about.

Alderamin ultimately feels like a prequel arc to a series we’re never going to see. It’s the story of Ikta’s reluctant rise in prominence, but it makes no attempt to end on a triumphant note. Hell, it ends with the Imperial military securing a tactical retreat via shady negotiation tactics. The country is on the brink of ruin and has no hope of stopping the opposing forces. We close out in a country facing irreversible decay.

In the end, survival is the only accomplishment. It’s not glamorous, and it’s certainly not conclusive. But I think that ended up being one of the most interesting developments Alderamin had to offer.


Ongoing Series
Kemono no Souja Erin34 eps, 6/10
I started watching this earlier in the year and got through a lot of it quickly before slowing down. And now I haven’t watched an episode is maybe two months. I should really finish, but I started to find it less interesting as Erin got older.

Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai18 eps, 6/10
Comments about Jojo.


Nothing has been announced yet in terms of simulcasts, and the whole Crunchyroll/Funimation partnership means I have no idea what Fall will look like yet. But if everything goes right, here’s what I’ll be watching or trying:

01. Natsume Yuujin-chou Go
02. Stella no Mahou
03. ViVid Strike!
04. Lostorage incited WIXOSS

05. Long Riders!
06. Soushin Shoujo Matoi
07. Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku
08. Girlish Number
09. Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume
10. Shuumatsu no Izetta
11. Flip Flappers
12. Keijo!!!!!!!!

The potentials 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.

That is a ton of potential shows, even though I’m guessing a lot won’t pan out. Maybe there will be a lot of CG, or they’ll be shorts, or have the dreaded boys and/or hets, or something will be wrong with the streaming arrangements. Lots to consider though, so clearly a couple have to pan out. If by some bizarre twist of fate I watched and finished everything on this list, Fall would double the whole year’s count. They really saved the sequels to things I care about and all-girl cast shows for Fall this year, huh?

As far as re-watches, I finally finished Aria the Animation, and have started on Aria the Natural. I’ll finish it and Origination someday… month… this year?

37 Responses to “Summer 2016 viewing update #2 (final), Fall viewing plans”

  1. That final scene for Amanchu really was kinda incredible to get. I wasn’t expecting it, and I’d kinda given up on the manga ever giving that sort of explicit scene to us. For all the positive stuff the extended series has with that couple, it’s still kinda walking the line with them in the way some stories do. So it really felt special and spontaneous to watch the anime end the way it did. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. hpulley says:

    First, you probably DON’T want to watch the PapaKiki OVA. It’s canon and I’ll say no more as even this insinuation probably lets you know where it goes.

    On the summer season I mostly agree on all counts.

    Amanchu was a wonderful show pretty much from start to finish and I too am so glad that we got the real payoff episode in the end with a culmination of both Teko’s open water diving license and her relationship with Pikari. Beautiful scenery, beautiful character designs and scenes which plumbed the depths of the ocean and of the characters. We got some real development in a 12 episode SOL series and that’s pretty rare these days.

    Re Zero I found that line and many others to describe the show itself. “You know, I had high hopes for that show.” but the second half was mostly just painful to watch and really didn’t live up to its expectations. There is a lot more available in the web novels, a LOT more but I’m not sure how much I want to see of that if it’s like the third arc of the anime. I imagine it has more than enough disc and novel and merch sales to warrant a second season in a couple of years and I’m sure I’ll watch it but if it doesn’t happen I won’t be sad. I don’t feel the need to know what happens as the relationships and feelings just don’t feel real to me. Emilia is a really powerful character in the beginning and she’s reduced to an eyelash batting damsel in distress in the final arc. At the same time the Rem Subaru relationship feels more real and yet like most light novel series, the first best girl remains the best girl for the entire series regardless of anything else that happens, side story alternative arcs aside. Too bad as I really did have high hopes for it after an excellent first cour.

    Amaama was really good though for me it was starting to feel a bit repetitive by the end. I’m glad that Godou… sorry, Kotori’s mom finally showed up in the end and wish that had happened a bit sooner. I’m not super hot on cooking shows so I wish there had been a bit less cooking and a bit more character development.

    Ange Vierge was a show I had 0 expectations for. It seemed like a standard card collecting fanservice showcase at first but there was a certain cheesy charm to it so I kept watching. Hara Yumi is one of my favorite little known or used seiyuu and the rest of the voice talent really carried things. The character designs were super cute and the quality of the animation was quite good given that I expect the budget was pretty low. Aside from the annoying repeated intro every episode I enjoyed every moment of the episodes. It was predictable and silly but really a lot of fun to watch and listen to the dialogue. And Konomin always does an amazing job with her theme songs and I can’t wait to see her perform this one live.

    New Game was really fun! It is rooted in reality and yet of course it is not reality. I was more interested in the characters than the game development but I think we got just enough of the development side. We got the famous line which many say is likely the main or perhaps even the only reason why it got made into anime in the first place and it really embodies the spirit of the show and the manga. They waited a long time to do some of the explaining of what made the characters tick but that made it interesting, leaving us to wonder about it for a while. I thought it would compel me to buy the manga and I did have it in my shopping cart a few times but in the end I decided not to get it. I’m happy with how the show ended.

    • something says:

      I was pretty sure I did watch the Papakiki OVA but the only scene I can remember at all was Sora and Raika in the closet, so I probably only watched the first episode. I have no problem just keeping it that way, though not surprised to hear it goes in a romantic direction – I suppose that’s what most of its readers/viewers were hoping for from it.

      • hpulley says:

        It was the second of two and final OVA I was referring to. Just came out last year with the final (at the time) volume of the novel. Turns out another volume was released posthumously but it did not have a third OVA. And PapaKiki: After still isn’t done… so I suppose it could even get another OVA.

    • something says:

      As for Re:Zero, yeah the whale and Betelgeuse arcs were the weakest by far. Not without their great moments, but at that point the show really had no way to recapture the feeling of the first 13 episodes.

      I think Emilia’s role (or lack thereof, besides the one cool fight she got) in the last arc would have killed the show for me if I wasn’t still feeling so positive about episode 13. But I am so much more wary of what the show intends to do with her now than I was before, and that’s a shame. I have some faith in the author, and in the team adapting the story, but if we get a sequel I will be hyper-sensitive to her portrayal, and a lot less likely to forgive what I see as any regression back into the less desirable light novel norms regarding how the women of the cast are handled.

      My main worry is that with Subaru having redeemed himself (and yes I think he earned it, kudos on Re:Zero for that), the story could decide “alright, we paid the character development tax, now Subaru can become a typical protagonist”.

      As before, I don’t want anyone who knows to spoil anything, whether good or bad. If it gets a sequel, I’ll be watching it either way. If it doesn’t, well, I enjoyed the show but not enough to feel like I have to know what happens next.

  3. AholePony says:

    I don’t blame you on Kemono no Souja Erin, I watch a couple cours a week worth of “backlog” anime but that series took me 6 months to complete. It lags a lot while she’s in school. It’s when she graduates and gets a job that the word starts to have expectations of her and the drama gets turned up. The viewing of that series went something like: week 1-2 (episodes 1-15), week 2-23 (episodes 15-28), then the last dozen in a few days haha.

    Agree Amanchu was fantastic and beautiful. I now have what I will call the Junichi Satou Directed Iyshikei Trilogy (JSDIT) of Amanchu, Aria, and Tamayura to re-watch many times in the years to come!

    • something says:

      Yeah I just, like… got kinda tired of the only character she interacted with much being the goofy looking dog-bird. And I’m not sure how well it’s merging the political storyline into hers. I swear I’ll finish it some day but with 12 potentially worthwhile shows airing in Fall it may not be for some time yet.

  4. rederoin says:

    You should try Qualidia, if you can’t find a non-funi source. Maihime x Hotarun is my favourite couple of the year, although only the middle eps are focused on them.

    • something says:

      I don’t think I’ll have any time to marathon a show before Fall starts, and since there’s so much coming out in Fall I’ll probaly need to be dropping shows for time as is.

    • hpulley says:

      Actually Qualidea Code was on Crunchyroll!

      And this fall supposedly we won’t have to worry about using Funimation ever again (well, not me anyway since I absolutely hate English dubs). Lineup announcement in a few hours. Guess we’ll need a new thread for fall.

      • hpulley says:

        Oops, this is also the thread for fall viewing plans. I guess no new thread until we are into it.

        • something says:

          Especially because I probably won’t get around to posting fall impressions for a good 3-4 weeks, heh. So yeah anything about upcoming or recently completed stuff is fine here.

      • something says:

        I’m still really displeased about there even being the potential for some of my CR sub money might end up with Funi if it’s a title they’re sharing rights with CR for (like ones where CR does subs and they do dubs). It may not end up a deal-breaker for me like current Funi licenses are but it’ll definitely make me hesitate.

        • hpulley says:

          I would hope that Funi only gets paid for plays of the sub version on their player and sales of their R1 discs but unfortunately we have no way of knowing what sort of revenue sharing deal they might have. So far of the shows on your list only Izetta is being dubbed but I will watch it on Crunchyroll anyway.

          For me, the main point of course is that the show itself gets some money which is why I used to subscribe to Funi and TAN. I held my nose because supporting the show is the most important factor for me. I hate shows I have to watch darkside (or want to because Netflix takes so long to release their shows and I’m really impatient).

          • something says:

            Do you mean “dub version on their player”?

            I’ve gotten conflicting opinions about this. One argument was that it should be viewed as a distribution deal (like Funi distributing CR’s hom video), where Funi will license things then just pay CR to sub it, but otherwise get the view revenue. My assumption from initial reports was it was more like shared negotiating to avoid competing on licenses, and they’d each get paid just for whatever views happened on their site, but not the other.

            The Izetta page currently gives a 404 so I can’t see who is listed as Publisher.

            The way the whole thing is set up, though, I don’t see why Funi should get any money for me viewing the CR-produced stream on CR’s website in CR’s player… but who knows??

            • hpulley says:

              I mean you can only view dubs using Funi’s player and only subs viewing using CR. That’s my understanding anyway. So far I don’t see any Funi dubs showing up on CR though they do have some catalog entries which are dubbed separately from Funi. As the CEO explained last year the views or plays are by the minute so I don’t believe CR will count for anything for Funi but I’m not sure how this will affect the minimums, if that would be combined in the contract.

            • something says:

              So the Izetta page is up and Shochiku is the publisher, not Funimation, which makes sense to me. So yeah I really see no reason why Funi would get any money for views of the subbed version on the CR player…

  5. Hahalollawl says:

    Regarding fall, does anyone know what Drifters is? I’ve seen it described as comedy, but then the premise doesn’t seem that funny, though I guess it could be a bunch of silliness. Not sure what to expect, but I am intrigued.

    Another show like that is Occult;Nine, not sure if it’s silly or serious…

    So someone must be making money off of WIXOSS otherwise they wouldn’t keep making more of it right? Is it the card seller?

    Other than that, not much that interests me this season, maybe Gundam, but I haven’t finished the last season…and I have so much I could probably watch from previous seasons anyways.

    • hpulley says:

      Drifters has some comedy but hmmm, there aren’t any spoiler tags on this site so I would call it more of a time travel sci-fi fantasy adventure with a bit of comedy to take the edge off. I enjoyed the OVA and am looking forward to the TV series. Not expecting the AOTY or anything but it should be entertaining at least.Ask me on MAL if you want a more spoilery impression of the OVA.

      Occult;Nine looks like more of a mystery show. I’ve enjoyed several mystery shows recently so it could be interesting but again, not that high on my list.

      Yep, WIXOSS making 3 TV series, movies etc. means the card game and other merch are doing alright presumably.

      I really enjoyed the first season of Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans so I’m looking forward to the sequel … although I thought S1 ended fairly well so I’m not quite sure what they’ll do for another 26 episodes.

      • Hahalollawl says:

        Oh, there’s an OVA for Drifters? Didn’t know that. Well, “time travel sci-fi fantasy adventure with a bit of comedy to take the edge off” sounds like something I could be into.

        IBO seems like it SHOULD be a show I’d like, maybe I’ll get around to finishing it…

        3-gatsu no Lion could be interesting as well. Don’t know much about shogi, but heck I didn’t know much about Karuta before Chihayafuru either…

  6. something says:

    Holy shit the early streaming announcements have been a disaster.

    • Amazon grabbing Vivid Strike [???], at least in the UK
    • Sentai basically nukes ties with Crunchyroll and goes Anime “Who The Fuck Even Remembered This Existed” Network-exclusive with Soushin Shoujo Matoi, Girlish Number, Flip Flappers
    • Daisuki asserting itself and apparently has exclusive rights to Long Riders, Stella no Mahou with no sign that we’ll see them on CR.

    Remember when it seemed like this CR/Funi partnership was great, because it effectively neutralized Funi and would concentrate so many more subbed simulcasts on the only competent streaming service? Hahaha… ha.

    I knew the CR/Funi thing wouldn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped but it’s already turning into a fucking nightmare.

    Edit: Well, CR got Utapri which was previously looking Sentai-exclusive. Doesn’t help me, but some hope for Matoi/Girlish/FlipFlap… maybe. I’m sure they’re much, much lower on CR’s priority list than mega-hit Utapri.

    • Progeusz says:

      I knew it. It seemed too good to be true and we can’t have good things with absolutely awful companies such as CR (thieves and hypocrites) or Funi (zero care about quality [a much bigger sin in my eyes to be honest]). I don’t know specifics of Sentai but if I heard something, it usually wasn’t positive. Streaming was a mistake.

      • something says:

        Holding CR’s origins against them is incredibly silly, it’s like harping on Youtube for getting off the ground years ago with tons of copyright-infringing content. It’s so far in the past it’s totally irrelevant to today. Or rather, if anything, their origins from outside the usual R1 home video industry is precisely the reason they understood how to do streaming right within a legal context. Funi/ADV were never going to figure it out.

        • Progeusz says:

          I have my fair share of gripes with current CR too. Lack of download option, poor typesetting and timing, no karaoke, background lines not being translated, insufficient encoding, improvements being very slow to implement (at least they happen, I guess) and lastly, being unable to watch majority of their anime even after getting the subscription. However, as long as they remain harmless (read: not hurting fansub groups), I don’t really mind them existing regardless of my personal opinion about them and they’re quite useful for fansubbers who use their scripts and sometimes video and improve them a bit.

          Streaming by definition can never be truly right because it offers suboptimal quality and isn’t as comfortable to use.

          • something says:

            The CR download option is called HorribleSubs. I don’t share the timing or typesetting (which is generally superfluous) complaints. I’ve always been quite happy with the encoding quality for a stream, but yes that’s “for a stream” – wouldn’t try to compare it to a meticulously encoded download, since it isn’t one. Even then, it’s only in certain very hyperactive scenes, or in some dark scenes, that there’s noticeable issues and they’re neither bad nor frequent enough to bother me. Most of the time it looks spot on. Depends in part on the quality of the materials they receive from Japan too, so the shows with any issues tend to be a minority.

            The only concerns I share are certain things not being translated, namely OP/EDs. I find they make the right decisions in when to sub signs and background chatter or not (I never feel I’m missing anything at all relevant) but it would be nice to get OP/ED lyrics. Though in truth, I almost never care. I would often turn subs off during OP/EDs anyway. And I’d only want a translation, not fansub-style karaoke (which is one of fansubbing’s worst habits). As for geographic restrictions, they do literally everything about that they can (and more than other services for sure) and are aware that any restrictions at all are really bad PR. International licensing is still a shit-show when it comes to restrictions and exclusivity, but the lawyers always do lag behind the reality of how people watch things.

            I’m personally quite glad to be able to ditch fansubs, which are of wildly varying quality and often produced by egotistical self-righteous assholes who can’t go three minutes without getting into petty rivalries. I don’t see much benefit in going back to the days of wondering if I’ll miss an episode this week because the editor had a biology exam, or a show getting dropped because a group took on too much, or decided they didn’t like it, or finding out the only group doing a show are idiotic memelords. Fansubs were a pain in the ass to deal with and having to use them increasingly rarely has been a blessing. If I had a magic wand to wave, I’d have those groups exclusively focus on producing good quality BD rips (which still aren’t available for many shows) because that’s really the archival copy I want, at least for the tiny percentage of shows I plan to rewatch.

            The extreme convenience and speed/consistency of CR is something fansubbers can’t match. If getting episodes on a set schedule and literally before the vast majority of Japanese citizens outside of Tokyo do means no OP/ED subs and a couple slightly crude sign sub placements, holy shit yeah that’s the easiest possible trade-off.

            I don’t even need to point out the “it’s legal/supports the creators” rationale, because while it’s true, I think the product itself competes perfectly well and that’s what matters more to me (I get my “support the creators” in via thousands and thousands of dollars of imports every year). Legal is nice, but it’s a bonus. I use CR because it’s just overall better, not because it’s legal.

    • AnimePhoenix says:


      When I first heard that UtaPri S4 was on TAN I was shocked. But then CR saaid they ahd it, phew. But I’m worried about other shows I’m looking forward to like Yuri on Ice!!!, WatashiMote, All Out!, MajiKyun, Haikyuu! and others.

      Granted, I live where none of these sites are available in my region except maybe Daisuki and even that I’m not sure if it’s worldwide or the favorite ‘worldwide except Asia’. But this sucka for fans in other countries.

    • Jim says:

      Looks like Crunchyroll will carry Flip Flappers after all. First episode is already up – too bad I’m at work and can’t watch it for another seven hours.

      • something says:

        Yeah they’re gradually picking up the Sentai titles, though Matoi looks like a no-go. Now we wait and see if we get a last-second announcement for Girlish Number.

        Daisuki and Amazon titles are sadly off-limits it seems (at least the ones I’m interested in).

        Wixoss is the lone remaining title I’m interested in that has no announcements from anyone yet. Airs in under a day now…

    • Mari says:

      Good news,

      Flip Flappers is on Crunchyroll now so go watch it!

      • something says:

        Yep, just hadn’t updated this post yet. Haven’t watched the episode yet. I can generally only watch anime on the weekends. Hopefully tonight I’ll start catching up after work today if I’m not too tired…

        As Sentai goes, they didn’t get Matoi and apparently Girlish Number has aired now so I guess that’s out as well. Well at least there’s Flip Flappers.

        Daisuki titles seemed like a black hole… then I looked and saw they got every Daisuki title except the two I care about. -Figures-. I’ll have to see what the options end up being for Stella and Long Riders.

        Amazon was obviously not going to share with CR, but one of the rippers is doing it and more importantly cleaning up the subs to my liking (no more “Ms. Einhard!”) so I’ll be watching Vivid Strike.

        CR did well with the stuff I was still waiting on. Wixoss, Natsume, Keijo, and Takkyuu Musume all got picked up. Worst comes to worst, I watch Stella raw, skip Long Riders and Matoi, and I guess we’ll see what happens with Girlish Number.

        So far I’ve only had time to watch Izetta, Mahoiku, and Vivid Strike.

  7. something says:

    So Alderamin snuck its way in on a recommendation, partly because I had so little else to watch this weekend. The comments above contain a fair number of spoilers so if you’re wondering what I thought, the no-spoiler tl;dr is that it’s a really solid war story. It’s not immune to a couple out-of-place cliches, mostly involving the lead. But the underlying story is strong, even the lead has plenty to offer, and it does a consistently good job delivering on slightly unusual narrative goals.

    I’ll give it a solid 7/10 for keeping me interested in a genre/premise I don’t typically care about. I can recommend it if you’re at all intrigued by a good early-industrial (firearms are considered new-ish technology) war story.

    • AholePony says:

      Nice take on Alderamin. I feel it could have done without the spirits/mascots because they were more of a distraction to the story if anything; but as you mentioned, having soldiers act like soldiers and the moral dilemmas brought forth as a result made for an interesting watch.

      • something says:

        I sort of liked the spirits because they were just so darn weird. They’re these vaguely cute things but always have a deadpan expression on their face, rarely talk, and just… sorta… do their thing. They also played into the whole religious debate which was a fairly important part of the later arcs. So I guess I found them both relevant and unoffensive.

        • AholePony says:

          I agree but as a plot device they could have had jewels or some inanimate object. I say “distracted” because they seemed to be more than just a plot device and I kept thinking “what the hell is up with those things” for the ENTIRE series lol. I guess my feeling was that if you’re going to include sentient beings….. I wanted them to tell me more about them (maybe/probably they do in future arcs). Instead it was like the first time they show Shinobu in bakemon and Koyomi tells Hitagi “oh just ignore that”, I can’t ignore it!

          As to the deadpan look on their faces, they seemed like they would be right at home in the Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita universe haha.

          • something says:

            Yeah this is where Alderamin feeling more like a teaser for a much bigger story comes into play, I guess. The spirits are clearly important (the first half of the translated title would be “Wind-Up Spirit Chronicles” after all) but definitely not something the show got into deeply.

            • hpulley says:

              Well, it was at least a plot device so the “Holy Warriors” could attack them but doing bad things to the holy spirits. I suppose the “Holy Gemstone Collecting Warriors” could have attacked them instead. I agree it is a bit of a cheesy barnacle so far in the series but perhaps they are better introduced, explained and used in the novels.

Leave a Reply