Spring 2016 Anime: What I Dropped and What I Finished

Spring wasn’t the best season I’ve ever experienced. While I went in with high hopes I only finished 5 of the single cour shows I started that season, and of those I only thought of 2 or 3 as memorable. I enjoyed part 4 of Jojo as well, but that’s ongoing and won’t be included in this. However as I said, I did think of multiple shows as memorable, and I felt like writing something so I decided to finally sit down and talk about what I thought of all the shows I watched last season. I’m going to start with shows I dropped after 3 or more episodes, and then go into shows I put on-hold and then shows that I finished.

DROPPED

Re:Zero:

As the most popular show of both this and last season by far, I’ve felt quite a bit of pressure to go back and look at Re:Zero. I’ve considered doing this, and it’s very possible that I will once the second cour is over, but for now I have it dropped at three episodes. While I’m aware that the show  plays with its genre, I find it to be a genre which is so boring that it takes more then showing the reality of the situation to interest me.

What doesn’t help my already low interest due to the genre is the fact that Subaru is boring and Emilia is nearly as uninteresting. Obviously they’ll be developed, but the direction the show was heading in didn’t particularly interest me either. I don’t like seeing characters suffer, and while there are many shows that I like where the protagonists have a hard time, I like them in spite of this, not because of it. Re:Zero seems too dark for its own good to me, and while I may watch it later out of a sense of obligation, I have no intention to sit by and watch it week by week.

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I never even got to these two but they’re fucking everywhere.

Bakuon!!:

I watched eight episodes of Bakuon, which should make it clear that while I found it to be an overall negative experience, I did derive some pleasure from watching it. I liked the character designs quite a bit, and the art in general was pretty nice to look at. It was at times genuinely funny, though it also failed to hit the mark on far too many of its gags to be called a consistently good comedy. The real issue  is the lack of any emotional connection. If a comedy isn’t going to have me constantly laughing, it needs to keep me paying attention through something else. The problem is that while the personalities of the characters work well for the jokes, they do absolutely nothing for keeping me interested outside of that, and characters like Rin get annoying when they aren’t funny. It’s a show I could come back to at some point, since it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t worth remembering.

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The sexualization was also super unnecessary and detracted from the show most of the time.

Sansha Sanyou:

I wanted to love Sansha Sanyou, and at first I did. It’s excellently animated, standing as the best looking CGDCT anime in quite a while. The three main characters have interesting personalities, and the ways they play off of each other are great. The show does a good job at making you care about them early on, something a lot of similar shows don’t manage to do(looking at you Anne Happy). The issue is the side characters. As the show goes on it introduces more and more side characters. This is immediately a negative because of how strong the dynamic is between the main three, but if these new characters were strong it wouldn’t be a big deal. The issue is that they aren’t. Other than Teru’s rival in Nishiyama, every single side character is an annoyance. The scenes with them in it aren’t funny and never add anything. As more and more show up, the dynamic between the main three becomes even less prominent. Eventually the show just became boring and I stopped paying attention. It had potential, but it really dropped the ball. Hopefully New Game stays strong, as I don’t want two DogaKobo CGDCT shows to ruin themselves in two seasons.

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If only it had stayed like this the whole show.

Joker Game:

Joker Game had an interesting premise, but it unfortunately went in the negative direction that I expected it would. While a spy thriller focusing on a number of Japanese spies is interesting – though it left me worried that it would get nationalistic – the show didn’t use the premise in an interesting way. Early on it emphasizes that the spies have few to no differences, and that’s one of the biggest problems. The spies are all the same plain, boring characters, and there’s no ability to become attached to any of the characters at all. Additionally, the show’s mysteries were terribly done. Each episode started off confusingly, then followed the spy doing some stuff and then at the end of each episode an exposition dump occurs, containing information that could not have possibly been figured out by any viewer. If that’s what you’re looking for it could be a fine show, but I had no interest in it and was bored to death by the fifth episode.

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They even wear the same suits.

Sousei no Onmyouji:

This is probably the worst of the shows that I watched more than three episodes of, though it wasn’t complete garbage. It’s an action shounen with an interesting aesthetic, but beyond that it fails to do anything interesting. The characters are the classic hotheaded guy and stoic girl, and nothing is really done with them to set them apart from the rest of the herd. All of the humor was terrible, and the emotional moments did nothing for me. Honestly, I don’t know why I watched four episodes of it, nothing it does is interesting aside from the enemy designs, and it was definitely not worth my time to watch.

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At least it looks nice sometimes.

ON-HOLD

High-School Fleet:

I initially thought Haifuri was going to be nothing more than a simple CGDCT anime, so when it turned out to be more of a Cute Girls Doing Adventurous Things anime I was excited to see where it went. I still am, but as you can see it didn’t keep me engaged enough to watch it weekly. While the first episode delivered quite a shock, after that it didn’t do too much with its premise. Each episode had an action scene, but seeing dull ships send torpedoes at each other isn’t much fun when you see it every week. The rest of the time the show was still a CGDCT slice of life, and it wasn’t magnificent at that either. It wasn’t a bad show, but it lacked the well-done action or enjoyable character interaction which would have kept me engaged throughout the season. That said I do plan to come back and marathon it at some point.

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The characters are decent, but again they’re nothing special.

Macross Delta:

Macross Delta is perhaps the only show that I’m upset I did not finish last season, though it is still ongoing. The show combines two things I love: anime idols and giant robots. So why did I put it on-hold? The simple fact is that the conflict wasn’t all that interesting. Windermere is a boring antagonist, and no one on the side of the Windermerans is particularly interesting. When you add the fact that the rips used by GG look like garbage, I just couldn’t keep up week after week. I intend to return and wrap up the show shortly after it ends, but for now it had to be put aside.

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Only the right of this image is interesting.

COMPLETED

My Hero Academia:

Coming into the My Hero Academia, or BnHA, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I’d heard it was the best ongoing battle shounen manga, but aside from that I knew little to nothing about it. I was pleasantly surprised with how the show turned out, though I had a few gripes.

BnHA uses its superpowers to great effect. Good battle shounen, as seen in such examples as Hunter x Hunter and JoJo assign powers to characters and then immediately start testing out how many ways they can be used, and BnHA follows suit. The powers are incredibly varied right from the get go, and even in the short 13 episodes that we get, the powers of the main characters get shown off in numerous ways. By testing the different directions that the characters’ powers can be used, we get to see them as more realistic, deepening the sense of immersion and overall making their use more interesting.

Additionally, the show does a very good job at fleshing out the side characters. They hardly have full narrative arcs, but by the end of this season you should have a decent picture on everyone in Class A’s personality. Many shows I watched this season had a hard time making even the main characters interesting, while this was able to fully characterize 20 or more characters.

That said the show does have one major flaw keeping it from standing on the level of some other battle shounen anime, that being the slow pacing. I assume it’s because they wanted to find the best stopping point for the season, but the chapters are adapted quite slowly, leaving the anime feeling a bit lacking in tension. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be so bad, but since this part is already the opening to the story the slow pace just slows down something which was already fairly slow. That said the show is still very enjoyable despite its pacing issues, but they should be taken into account because they do hamper the story. Overall I’m happy I watched this, but more than that I’m happy it introduced me to the better paced manga, as the anime doesn’t do too much better than the manga.

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They’re all interesting characters, and there are more to come.

Kiznaiver:

Kiznaiver is a tough show to write about, because my thoughts on it aren’t exactly complete. I enjoyed the show, despite sometimes finding it a bit overly melodramatic, but it also turned me off in a number of ways, so I think I’ll start with what I liked.

The show is simply beautiful. The animation is nice, but nothing special, but the actual individual frames are all amazing. The characters have wonderfully sharp designs, especially in the eyes and hair, and that never fails to come through. I could save most frames from this show, and they would all work well as desktop backgrounds. It just looks that good.

I also liked a lot of the things the show tried to say. The importance of friendship is a theme I always like seeing, and perhaps it is even more important to me as someone who does not have too many friends. I thought what it had to say about remembering the past but not letting it tie you down was also nice.

That said, the shows execution stumbled constantly. The final episode was a rushed mess, and the show threw its themes directly in your face. The entire last main segment focused on all the characters yelling the themes directly at Sonozaki. This was quite off-putting to me. I’m not against a show directly telling you what message to take away. Aria does this constantly, and its my favorite anime. However in Kiznaiver it felt inorganic. The way the characters were all shouting the importance of true friendship in unison was just off putting and felt more like the writers were telling me something than the characters. I also don’t like the way they handled Ruru and Honoka’s relationship, as it reeks of the classic “tragic lesbian” trope, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment too much, and having that relationship be there at all was better than nothing.

My rating should make it clear that I did think it was a good show. It had a lot of nice ideas, even if it didn’t land them perfectly. That said, its flawed execution and sometimes messy storytelling means I probably won’t be coming back to it at any point, despite enjoying it.

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Seriously, this looks amazing.

Space Patrol Luluco:

Luluco was my least liked show of those I finished, and had it not been a short I would never have made it past the middle of the show. I thought it started fairly strong, though it wasn’t quite as funny to me as it was to others, likely because Imaishi’s style of humor has never worked that well on me. However, I did laugh a fair amount, and I thought it was worth watching. This all ended as soon as Luluco started meeting other Trigger characters. The concept is certainly one which sounds interesting, but the actual Luluco cast stopped playing off of each other at this point, and whenever they did they fell back on the same tired jokes.

Unfortunately it never made up for the attention it lost during the crossover arc. I never managed to find the rest of the show funny, and it certainly wasn’t thematically or emotionally interesting. I would have preferred it to stick to its early pace, because it all went to shit when it turned everything up a notch. Oh well, at least the Little Witch Academia TV show should be great.

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At least Luluco herself was pretty cute.

Mayoiga:

I’m not sure I’ve been so conflicted on a show in a while as I was with Mayoiga. Throughout the show’s airing the central debate within the anime community was “Is Mayoiga a comedy or  a serious drama”. I stand firmly placed in the comedy camp. The show is simply too ridiculous for me to believe that it could have been written seriously by any competent writer, and the direction directly lends itself to this comedic tone. The show comes across as an intentional “so bad it’s good” comedy, and I’m almost sure that’s what it is.

That said, I don’t think it does a very good job at being one, ironically enough. The simple reason for this is that I didn’t find it very funny. Some of the characters’ Nanaki were so ridiculous they were funny, and the conclusion was also funny in a certain sense. But you can only do so much over the top, stupid writing and directing before it simply starts to get boring. I barely wanted to watch the last few episodes, because by not knowing what way it could possibly go, I knew exactly where it would go. The plot became increasingly ridiculous and stupid, but after a while this stops being a funny surprise and just becomes a chore to watch.

Now, if stupidity and intentionally bad writing can constantly keep you enjoying yourself, Mayoiga is a good show. But I tend to prefer more direct, jokey comedy, so Mayoiga didn’t do much for me after the initial surprise wore off. It isn’t a terrible show, it’s a boring show trying to be terrible, and that might be an even bigger indictment.

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Execution girl was pretty great though.

Flying Witch:

I certainly saved the best for last with this post. Flying Witch was my favorite show of Spring by far, and my second favorite show of the year up until now, only slightly behind Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. Flying Witch is an excellent iyashikei series which merges low-key fantasy elements with a simple, rural Japanese setting to create an excellent example of what is easily my favorite genre.

The first thing we need to look at for Flying Witch is iyashikei’s key element: the healing atmosphere. Flying Witch has a very interesting atmosphere because of the way it uses its more magical elements. Many parts of the show feel similar to Non Non Biyori, in that they’re simple moments in rural life, or at school. The show usually nails these moments, but it’s at its best when it uses the less realistic elements. The magic in this show feels very down-to-earth, both because of the characters’ general lack of shock towards it, and due to the way in which it is implemented. The magic is treated as a simple fact of the world, and as no more amazing or interesting than any other cool thing that we could see in our world. This helps to make the setting feel easy to relate to while still giving it a sense of wonder. Every episode of Flying Witch really does heal you, because you start to feel like a part of this magical but organic world.

The comedy is also done perfectly in this show. The humor is often quite deadpan and matter-of-fact, but unlike Mayoiga the jokes stem not from the absurdity of the writing but from the simple surprises that we see in life. Seeing as the show is an iyashikei, making the humorous parts feel like natural byproducts of the world and the people living it gives it a sense of realness which makes it even easier for the viewer to be lulled in by the atmosphere.

The characters aren’t particularly deep, but they really don’t need to be. You can see the beginnings of character arcs for Chinatsu and Makoto, but the fact that they aren’t even closed to resolved doesn’t hurt the show in the slightest. Every character has a unique enough character that they work well for whatever scenario or joke the writers had planned. None of them are ever boring, and while in other genres they would be a bit to dull and too happy, that only adds to the atmosphere in this.

This a show which I could retroactively give a higher score if later seasons were good enough. Aria the Origination retroactively makes the other season’s perfect by showing how necessary each and every episode was to the development of the characters, and Flying Witch could do the same. I’m dubious that Flying Witch will ever get an Origination, and even if it did Flying Witch hardly reaches the highs that Aria does, but it still is an excellent iyashikei, and that in its own is enough to make it my favorite show of last season.

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How I feel when watching Flying Witch.

And there we have it, every show that I watched more than three episodes of last season, aside from Jojo(which I’ll cover when I go over Fall anime). All in all it was a decent season, though I had high hopes going in and ended up disappointed. So far this season is off to a better start, and lets hope that it stays that way until the end.

 

 

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