Mid-Spring 2018 Anime Ranking

There are a lot of good shows this season, including a handful of big-name sequels. Not necessarily great shows, mind you, but a whole slew of series that are too good to drop even though we kind of need to pare down our list. It’s frustrating, as we simply haven’t had the time to keep up with everything we had wanted to.


01. Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These – Kaikou) (ep. 1-10) – Some of the political stuff is maybe a little dry for a visual medium, but it is still fascinating, both in terms of plot development and as a statement to real-world events, past and present. It really makes you think, and it can make you cry, that the themes of this story are just as relevant now as they were 35 years ago when the novels were first written. And they will continue to be, probably forever.

If only people like Yang (and possibly Kircheis), who value human life and have their eyes on the future, were in charge, humanity could actually have a chance at lasting peace. However, these are just the types of guys who would not likely ever seek a position of power for themselves, and who would never win the support of the under-educated, self-interested masses anyway.

Actually, Yang is my hero. I agree with everything that he’s said and done and I really sympathize with the difficult situation he’s in, in terms of personally wanting out of the war, yet knowing that others will be worse off if he leaves.

Regarding the cast, it is an exceedingly rare treat to find all four of my favourite voice actors in just one show: On the side of the Galactic Empire, there’s Miyano Mamoru, Umehara Yuuichirou, and Suwabe Junichi; and then there’s Miki Shinichiro over on the Free Planets Alliance’s side – just an extra perk on an already impressive series.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. WOTAKOI: Love is Hard for Otaku (Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii) (ep. 1-9) – Relatable and funny workplace romance starring a group of otaku. Yes, the show pokes some fun at their geek tendencies, but mostly, it serves to illustrate the joy of like-minded adults spending time with each other. There is actually very little drama to the main romance, which is realistic, though a little anticlimactic.


03. MEGALO BOX (ep. 1-10) – The new boxing anime, created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ashita no Joe manga, is a pretty slick production, featuring dynamic fights in the ring, cool music, and a multi-layered plot.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. 2 (Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan 2) (ep. 13-20)


05. DEVILS’ LINE (ep. 1-10) – I expected this to be a trashy, pulpy romance about a stupid girl falling in love with a dangerous, angsty vampire. Well it is that, but it is surprisingly a lot more too. It’s also a decent crime drama that covers serial murders, discrimination, terrorist organizations, double agents, and that staple of anime storytelling: secret orphanages for “special” children. Plus, the main character actually expresses some self-awareness of her own folly.
(streaming at HIDIVE)


06. FULL METAL PANIC! Invisible Victory (ep. 1-8) – I like the time-skip storyline featuring Sousuke’s new group of colleagues. The underground mech battles have some similarity to the setting of MEGALO BOX, actually. I feel like I should be missing Chidori and Tessa more than I do…
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Food Wars! The Third Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara – Toutsuki Ressha-hen) (ep. 13-22)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Yowamushi Pedal: GLORY LINE (ep. 13-22) – Imaizumi is supposed to be Sohoku’s ace, but it seems like he never wins anything!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. DARLING in the FRANXX (ep. 13-20) – We’ve finally gotten some big reveals now that the climax is near, but that isn’t as interesting to me as the more character driven stuff was.

On the romantic front, while things got serious for 2 couples, the other kids continued to face heartbreak. It’s an unpopular opinion, perhaps, but I actually liked the way the show dealt with Ikuno’s same-sex crush. Certainly she faces extra challenges from being gay in a straight world, but her friend did not judge her for being different; and the bottom line is that she was not rejected because of her sex, but because her crush simply did not reciprocate her feelings, which really is no different from what many of her straight teammates have gone through already.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. Record of Grancrest War (Grancrest Senki) (ep. 13-21) – No joke about the fast pacing! I definitely did not imagine, back when Theo met Siluca in the forest at the start of the series, that he would end up accomplishing so much career-wise. And the show isn’t even over yet.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. Rokuhoudou YOTSUiRO BiYORi (ep. 1-9) – Not much plot happens in this slice-of-life anime about four guys who run a trendy and classy café, and yet somehow, it manages to be consistently riveting to watch regardless! It has some things in common with last summer’s Restaurant to Another World, in that many of the stories are about the various customers that visit the café, although YOTSUiRO BiYORi is obviously more grounded in a real world setting. I personally prefer less fantasy, so this works for me.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. Tada Never Falls in Love (Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai) (ep. 1-10) – This show is supposed to be a romance and a comedy, but it just isn’t terribly effective in either category. Most of the guys are obnoxious; and even the fact that two of them are voiced by a couple of my aforementioned favourite seiyuu (Mamo and Ume) does nothing to mitigate my annoyance with them. Unfortunately, the not-particularly-annoying characters, such as Tada and Teresa, in turn have no personality to speak of.

Alexandra is the type of character I would normally support, but I never found it in me to forgive her for the undeserved attack on Kaoru in the very first episode, which she didn’t even apologize for. Believe me, I get it, but being annoying is not a justification for assault!

You know what? The best guy is probably Charles, who, like Villar Constance in Grancrest Senki, appeared for a few episodes and stole the show. Both characters have long, fair-coloured hair, are super-cool dudes despite initially negative expectations, and speak with the velvety voice of Sakurai Takahiro. Also as with Villar, it’s pretty easy to ship Charles with the tall redhead that he can’t be with.
(streaming at HIDIVE)


13. SPACE BATTLESHIP TIRAMISU (Uchuu Senkan Tiramisu) (ep. 1-10) – A lot of the stuff that happens in this space opera parody anime is really crazy and out-there. At the same time, it’s not a completely absurd idea that spending a long time in space, frequently all alone in your cockpit, could make a person somewhat weird in the head. This is a pretty funny short, as long as you’re okay with gross-out humour.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. LIBRA OF NIL ADMIRARI (Nil Admirari no Tenbin) (ep. 1-9) – There are too many characters in this cursed-book murder mystery! I thought I was doing fine for a while, but nope. Especially at times when they are referred to by name only, it can be a real struggle.

After seeing the uh, subtleness with which the romance was handled in Code:Realize, I do at least appreciate that the apparent main suitor in this series has made his attraction to Tsugumi obvious. Sadly, Tsugumi appears to have more chemistry with one or two of the other guys though!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


15. Butlers X Battlers (Butlers ~Chitose Momotose Monogatari~) (ep. 1-9) – It’s kind of laughable that practically the whole cast has been revealed to be “Butlers” now, but the show plays it pretty straight. The odd little bits of humour do occasionally hit the mark too.

The main character’s goal, to save his sister, is a story device that’s strangely common in anime and often assumes that no explanation is needed. But I can’t muster any empathy without seeing what their relationship was like before she went missing, or what their shared experiences were.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

For the record, here is the whopping list of shows we’ve fallen behind on, but have not formally dropped:

BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (Crunchyroll)

Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS! (Binan Koukou Boueibu HAPPY KISS!) (Crunchyroll)

GOLDEN KAMUY (Crunchyroll)

HINAMATSURI (Crunchyroll)

LAST HOPE (Juushinki PANDORA) (maybe we’ll try again when it comes to NETFLIX)

MAGICAL GIRL ORE (Mahou Shoujo Ore) (Crunchyroll)

MY HERO ACADEMIA (Boku no Hero Academia) Season 3 (Crunchyroll)

My Sweet Tyrant (Akkun to Kanojo) (Crunchyroll)

Ninja Girl & Samurai Master S3 (Nobunaga no Shinobi: Anegawa Ishiyama-hen) (Crunchyroll)

Steins:Gate 0 (Crunchyroll)

Haikara-San: Here Comes Miss Modern (Part One)

Released 2017

3 stars (out of 4)

Benio is a teenaged girl living in 1920s Japan. Contrary to the expectations of her family and school, she is more interested, and has more skill, in kendo than in housekeeping. She is also very much against the idea of arranged marriages, which turns out to be a problem when her father reveals that she has long been betrothed to a young army lieutenant, and understandably, there was never a good time for him to tell her!

The film starts out moderately paced, with good time for development of the characters and the setting. Benio and her fiancé Shinobu both prove to be likeable people. I also appreciate that Shinobu’s grandfather’s discomfort at the whole marriage arrangement gets addressed on multiple levels.

However, a few scenes in the second half feel strangely truncated, including the part where Shinobu fights to earn the respect of his charges in the army, the parting of Benio and Ranmaru, and Benio’s seemingly ill-informed response to the riot during her first assignment as a journalist.

I have to stress that this movie is only the first half of the Haikara-San story, and so, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Other than that though, it is a funny, enjoyable, and well-animated adaptation of a classic shoujo manga.

INITIAL D Legend film trilogy

INITIAL D Legend 1: AWAKENING (Released 2014)

INITIAL D Legend 2: RACER (Released 2015)

INITIAL D Legend 3: DREAM (Released 2016)

3 stars (out of 4)

A reboot of the classic car racing anime series, the INITIAL D Legend movies play out pretty much as expected plot-wise. Main character gets challenged by various tough opponents, which he reluctantly takes on, all the while developing an appreciation for the sport.

I never saw the original series, but I’m sure the updated animation added to the excitement here, including impressive camera work that would zoom in on the driving inside the cars, and then seamlessly transition out as the vehicles maneuvered down the mountain course. I also had no complaints about the voice cast, which included Miyano Mamoru, Ono Daisuke, Nakamura Yuuichi, and Suwabe Junichi in major roles.

Mogi, the girlfriend, existed only as a plot device and to provide fan service in the first 2 films. Fortunately, she was redeemed a little bit in Legend 3, as she was given more lines and seemed like more of a friend and confidante for Takumi.

That relationship didn’t work as well for me as the one between the Takahashi brothers, though. It was realistic how they both shared a passion for racing; and I loved seeing their easy rapport and mutual respect for each other.

I was not quite convinced that Takumi’s dad would have told him nothing about cars and racing while he was growing up, considering the dad’s past and the racing culture of his hometown. A valid reason would’ve been that he didn’t want his son to get involved in racing – that I would understand; but that didn’t seem to be the case. Regardless, it did make for good comedy that the fastest guy on Mt. Akina had no interest in racing and didn’t know jack about cars!

Mid-Winter 2018 Anime Ranking

I haven’t started with one of these in some years, but there are actually a few decent theme songs currently, so let’s kick things off with my choices for best OP/ED songs this season:

1. The Perfect World, by Marty Friedman feat. Jean-Ken Johnny & KenKen (B: The Beginning ED)
2. KISS OF DEATH, by Nakashima Mika (Produced by HYDE) (DARLING in the FRANXX OP)
3. Treasure, by Narek (cv: Ishikawa Kaito) & Vino (cv: Umehara Yuuichirou) (Dame x Prince ANIME CARAVAN ED3)
4. Heavenly Visitor, by TRIGGER (IDOLiSH7 ED)
5. Ref:rain, by Aimer (After the Rain ED)

It’s the season of Sanrio and ramen. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty and My Melody, not only has their own anime airing right now, they also have product placement and tie-ins with the other 2 “cute” shows on my list, How to keep a mummy and SCHOOL BABYSITTERS! Meanwhile, ramen is featured in the titles and content of 2 (very different) shows.

To tell the truth, I’ve been procrastinating about making this ranking. The reason is that there are so many really good series this winter that it’s kind of a pain deciding which show is better than which! Anyway, I’ll do my best.


01. DARLING in the FRANXX (ep. 1-9) – Depending on how I feel about each episode week by week, any of the shows in my top 5 could easily be my favourite of the season. Ultimately I’m going with DARLING in the FRANXX because I’m most invested in the characters of this show. The ways they relate to one another are compelling and I’m curious to know more about their world, even if I’m not expecting to be blown away by originality.

The early episodes of this mecha anime presented the cockpit scenes as one elaborate, extended sex joke. I think it turned some people off. I, however, thought it was really funny! Well, I also liked Aquarion EVOL and STAR DRIVER, so apparently I’m not one to be easily offended by this type of material. (On the other hand, I do find a tad offensive the way we always see Futoshi eating something. You can always count on good ol’ anime to fat-shame the chubby kid whenever there’s an opportunity to do so.)

Since then, the focus has turned more toward developing each of the characters, and I’m enjoying that aspect too, since I really do care about these kids… Well, except for Mitsuru; I have a feeling even he might become sympathetic eventually, but for now I just feel really sorry for Ikuno, who has to partner with him.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. SCHOOL BABYSITTERS (Gakuen Babysitters) (ep. 1-10) – I love my sisters more than anything in the world, so I’m a super easy target for heartwarming stories like this that emphasize the bonds between siblings. Additionally, there is a big age gap between myself and my youngest sibling, just like Ryuuichi and Kotarou, so this brings back memories of when my baby sister was, well, actually a baby.

Ryuuichi and Kotarou are on their own in this world after suffering the loss of their parents. Naturally, they are very attached to each other. They get taken in by the Chairwoman of a private school, and Ryuuichi uses his experience in raising his brother to help out at the school’s daycare.

The anime is not as sombre as I’m making it sound. Most of the time, it’s lighthearted and sweet and funny. I laugh a lot while watching; and then afterward, I’m left thinking about the characters’ personalities and how different the various sibling relationships are.

Personally, I would never leave my child at a daycare staffed by guys, especially not if the adult in charge were someone like Usaida – he is disturbingly irresponsible! I think I enjoyed it too much when Kamitani whacked him on the head that time. Then again, I always enjoy it when Kamitani whacks people. Is that bad? – I absolutely do not condone hitting people (especially children) in real life!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. HAKATA TONKOTSU RAMENS (ep. 1-9) – This show depicts Hakata as a city teeming with killers-for-hire. It has a huge ensemble cast, and it’s really hard to keep track of who’s who and who is whose associate, but I can follow it enough to enjoy it a lot. All the double-crossing and personality quirks are a blast to watch, although I’m also glad we are finally getting some background on Lin.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

04. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. 2 (Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan 2) (ep. 1-9) – More Saiki K. goodness. It’s great to have Saiki and his friends and family back; their personalities and the situations they get themselves into are always hilarious. If you liked the first season, you will also enjoy this.

The current OP, “Psilent Prisoner,” by Psychic Lover featuring lead vocals by Kaidou (cv: Shimazaki Nobunaga), is very chuunibyou and kind of amazing. I wonder if I should have included it in my song list up top?


05. How to keep a mummy (Miira no Kaikata) (ep. 1-9) – So freakin’ cute. That’s pretty much all you need to know. This show, about a boy and his mini mummy, and his friends and their fantastical pets, takes the cuteness of something like SCHOOL BABYSITTERS and dials it to eleven. There’s no deep meaning, no complicated plot to follow; just sit back, relax, and let the warmth wash over you.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. B: The Beginning (ep. 1-6) – A mature investigative crime drama along the lines of PSYCHO-PASS and Terror in Resonance. Uploaded by NETFLIX in its entirety early in March, we haven’t had time to marathon it, but we did check out the first 6 episodes over 2 sittings and I’m intrigued by what we’ve seen.

In some ways, Lily, the female protagonist, kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. She has a more cartoony appearance than the other cast members and it’s obvious she’s there largely for comic relief. But I like her. B: The Beginning is dark, violent, and frequently disturbing. When Lily shows up though, it lightens the mood and makes things feel less horrifying.
(streaming on NETFLIX in its entirety)

07. Yowamushi Pedal: GLORY LINE (ep. 1-10) – We’re in the middle of the Inter-High and GLORY LINE (YowaPeda season 4) is once again as exciting and funny as the first 2 seasons. It’s nice to see the Sohoku boys back in the spotlight. Their team banter is always fun too, especially Naruko and Imaizumi. Now all we need is for Onoda to strut his stuff!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Dame x Prince ANIME CARAVAN (ep. 1-10) – This show is pretty dumb, but damn if it isn’t really funny too! It basically functions as a parody of reverse harem stories. The guys of DamePri are handsome to look at, I guess, but every one of them is a certifiable weirdo. Part of the joke is that our lead, Princess Ani, wouldn’t be caught dead dating any of them. Her reactions to the shenanigans are hilarious.

All along, there were hints that something shady was going on behind the scenes, but the anime has been fluffy and comedic for the vast majority of its run. Until now, that is; the tone suddenly shifted in ep. 10, and it seems like things will be a little more serious in the final stretch.

Funniest character: Prince Narek. He’s so ridiculously, obliviously full of himself that sometimes he only needs to show up and I already feel like giggling. Least-funny: Gurimaru. Mascot characters just don’t work for me.
(streaming at HIDIVE)


09. After the Rain (Koi wa ameagari no You ni) (ep. 1-10) – After the Rain is about a teenaged girl with a crush on her 40-something boss. As such, it tiptoes on some potentially problematic material. To its credit, the anime is sensitive and believable and not really weird at all, in no small part because Kondo, the boss, is a decent guy who doesn’t take Akira’s advances too seriously.

10. GARO -VANISHING LINE- (ep. 13-21) – Even though Sword and Sophie are the real main characters, it’s the episodes focused Luke that I’ve enjoyed the most. Also, ep. 16, a mostly stand-alone story about a chance acquaintance, proved to be a highlight. It was written well enough to make me care about this random guy. And it was refreshing to see that not everything has to be because of Horrors.

As previously stated, the action is great; and in particular, I am satisfied with the musical accompaniment during those scenes. A show like this is just crying to have some metal in its soundtrack; GARO gets it.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. VIOLET EVERGARDEN (ep. 1-10) – The animation looks absolutely stunning in this much-hyped KyoAni production. VIOLET EVERGARDEN tells the story of a former-soldier doll who starts a new life after the war as a letter-writer, while coming to terms with her past.

Disappointingly, the quality of the visuals far out-classed the rather unsophisticated narrative in the early stages. But then the anime apparently started following the source material more closely around the fifth episode and it was a huge improvement. My enthusiasm for the show increased dramatically.

Basically, VIOLET EVERGARDEN has taken the opposite trajectory of SANRIO BOYS (see below) in my rankings.
(streaming on NETFLIX weekly)

12. Record of Grancrest War (Grancrest Senki) (ep. 1-10) – This reminds me a bit of Lord Marksman and Vanadis (2014). Both have a political/fantasy setting, extremely fast pacing, and strong female warriors. Grancrest Senki is the less fanservicey and more respectable of the two.

The pace really is fast. There’s a war going on and there can be five or ten different things happening at the same time, with very little explanation. It is possible to enjoy it just from following the gist of it, though.

The series can also be terribly violent at times, but I feel the violence tends to be presented in ways that are more artistic than gratuitous. I also like that even doomed extras sometimes get decently animated fights before getting killed off. However, it’s kind of a shame that frequently, named characters with interesting personalities or backgrounds also just get killed off soon after their introduction.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. IDOLiSH7 (ep. 3-12) – The male idol anime of this season is fairly competent, though I don’t feel it particularly stands out among other shows of its genre. It’s realistic that IDOLiSH7 does not become successful immediately, and that in fact a couple of the members rise in popularity ahead of the others.

I kind of wish there was more focus on the rival group, TRIGGER. Two of the 3 guys have somewhat abrasive and rebellious personalities. They clearly have their own agendas, and I am genuinely interested in learning what their motives are. Plus, TRIGGER’s music is better; which isn’t actually difficult since the IDOLiSH7 songs are all terrible.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Ms Koizumi loves ramen noodles (Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san) (ep. 1-10) – While this is a cute and pleasant show, it really has no plot. Gluttony is the name of the game for ramen-addicted Koizumi and her friends. We usually make sure to get some ramen in us before watching, or at least have food in hand, because man, all that ramen on display looks sinfully good. It’s definitely given us ideas on where we want to eat when we next go to Japan!

It can be argued that both this and last season’s Love Rice are pro-carb propaganda vehicles, and I’m not sure I can really support that message. While I do happen to be staunchly pro-carbs myself, it’s more of a personal preference and not because I have any delusions that this kind of diet is balanced or healthy. Having ramen every day, several times a day may sound heavenly, but it can’t possibly be good for you!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (ep. 40-47) – The Byakuya Gang arc was actually not bad, in that it was fairly enjoyable to watch. I didn’t see the grey in the criminals’ ideology, though. They were trying to gain public favour by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, but I think Boruto summed it up pretty nicely right from the start, that “stealing is stealing!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Osomatsu-san 2 (Mr. Osomatsu 2) (ep. 14-23) – A clear improvement over the first cour, even if it still isn’t quite measuring up to the creative genius of season one.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


17. SANRIO BOYS (ep. 1-9) – SANRIO BOYS had a very promising start. The message of the first few episodes, that it’s okay to be yourself, even if you like Sanrio mascots and you’re a boy, was relevant and easily applicable to anyone who might feel they don’t fit in with the crowd for any reason.

Then, the show veered off into worshipping-Hello-Kitty-as-a-deity territory and they lost me. In ep. 7, the boys had a transcendent experience visiting the Sanrio Puroland theme park. I didn’t get it at all. I’m grateful I got to see it in this anime, though; now I know I don’t ever need to go there myself!

Now the new friends are putting all their resources into making a musical, even though it’s obvious none of them has any expertise in that sort of thing. It’s just not believable. All in all, SANRIO BOYS could have been so much better if it had continued to play out as a parable for the challenges of learning to accept yourself and to accept others who are different from you. What a missed opportunity.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Jacquie’s 2017 Year in Review – Anime

Year-end best-of lists are highly subjective things. Let me just state that upfront as I suspect my list is going to look nothing like pretty much anyone else’s top 10 for 2017!

As usual, titles that finished airing (or finished airing for the foreseeable future) in 2017 were eligible for consideration. Click on the links below to view the previous seasonal write-ups for each show.

☆ TOP 10 ANIME:

#1. Ikemen Sengoku: Bromances Across Time (Ikemen Sengoku: Toki wo Kakeru ga Koi wa Hajimaranai) (12 episodes)

Aired Summer 2017

This is pretty surprising even to me. Yes this is reality; my chosen anime of the year is a short. And not just any short, but a full-on CGI one! Previously, I never would have imagined that a short format series could be a contender for my yearly top 10. Then I saw Ikemen Sengoku, which made impeccably good use of its limited runtime. It was the most entertaining Sengoku-period time slip story I have ever seen. It was also the best anime featuring Oda Nobunaga that I’ve seen, and there have been many.

The computer graphics were not especially high tech, but they were creatively used and all the tiny details in the warlords’ clothing, movements, and expressions were a delight to behold.

The show conveyed the guys’ personalities very succinctly and efficiently. The voice actors did an amazing job too. No matter the ridiculousness of the body proportions or absurdity of the situations, the seiyuu played it completely straight all the time.

My sister and I were both captivated by Ikemen Sengoku. We watched and rewatched and watched again. We laughed at the cuteness and the gags; we bonded over our shared experiences, including catching the latest episode at the airport once right before a Wednesday flight in August; and we argued over which end card was the most lewd. (For the record, I said Masamune’s, based on the English text; she asserted that Shingen’s was worst, based on the spoken Japanese.)

The craziness didn’t even stop there. The whole intent of this type of anime is to sell the related game and goods – and I was completely sold on the franchise. My sister and I collectively spent over a hundred dollars on IkeSen café drinks while we were in Tokyo. We each also downloaded the mobile game (something I’ve never been inclined to do before, in spite of all the game-adaptation anime I’ve seen over the years) and enjoyed it so much that we started throwing money at it. I have no regrets.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#2. Rage of Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL (Shingeki no Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL) (24 episodes)

Aired Spring 2017 to Summer 2017

Rage of Bahamut 2 dominated my rankings for almost half the year. So how did it end up ceding the top spot to IkeSen? The answer is that endings are important to me, and I felt that BahaSOUL sadly dropped the ball in its final stretch. Specifically, it was the meaningless deaths of 2 prominent and well-loved characters that troubled me the most. Well that, and the implication that everyone’s efforts and sacrifices were maybe all for nothing in the end.

Because it was so wildly enjoyable otherwise, though, it still manages to hang on to the number 2 spot against ACCA.

#3. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept (13-ku Kansatsu-ka) (12 episodes)

Aired Winter 2017

ACCA was ultimately more satisfying than BahaSOUL, but it was also more of a slow burn. Underlying the mundane absurdity of this political mystery anime, there was actually a lot of heart. ACCA ended up as my favourite series of the winter season, and also the show on this list that I would most recommend to a general audience, even those who may not share my eccentric taste in anime.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. RECOVERY OF AN MMO JUNKIE (Netojuu no Susume) (10 episodes + OVA)

Aired Autumn 2017

This was already finished airing when I wrote about it recently. The additional OVA episode presented a couple of comedic side stories. They were sweet and fun, even if they didn’t add much to the main story.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#5. STARMYU High School Star Musical Season 2 (12 episodes)

Aired Spring 2017

STARMYU 2 was an excellent follow-up to the first season. It was funny and entertaining, and it delivered on expectations and then some.

The weakest part was the ending. It is admirable to take heroic measures because “the show must go on,” but I believe there should be a limit to that, especially when physical injury (and the potential for long-term complications) is involved. (This actually applies to DREAM FESTIVAL! R as well.) So I have mixed feelings about its final message, but overall, it was pretty great.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#6. MADE IN ABYSS (13 episodes)

Aired Summer 2017

Unfortunately, I was somewhat bored during the middle section of MADE IN ABYSS. Also, the show occasionally made some uncomfortable choices that I had to struggle to not see as fetishistic fanservice; and obviously the story is not really over yet.

The things that worked, though, were phenomenally effective. Character-wise, I really felt for Nanachi and her plight; and I’ve already gone on at length about my fondness for Reg. Plot-wise, the last story arc was outstanding. It was sensitively-written, chillingly horrifying, and heart-wrenching. It broke me, but I’m glad I watched.

#7. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (50 episodes)

Aired Autumn 2015 to Winter 2016, then Autumn 2016 to Winter 2017

The word-building and character-writing were really great. I appreciated the realistic, bittersweet ending too. Sure, the show had its ups and downs for me, but ultimately I would count it among my favourite GUNDAM series.

It was an added bonus that part of it was set in Canada. It’s also remarkable that one of the main characters became a paraplegic in the middle of the story. And never before had I ever had the occasion to think, “This man deserves a harem” until I met Naze!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#8. Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Sukeroku Futatabi-hen) (12 episodes)

Aired Winter 2017

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu‘s first season was the lead up to a foretold tragic event. The second season covered the aftermath of that tragedy, perfectly balancing the despairing feelings of the cast with interactions that showed love and forgiveness. Yotarou, with his endless generosity and open-heartedness, served as the physical embodiment of those values. I really enjoyed being immersed in their world and following the lives of these well-written characters.

That final episode twist, unfortunately, was too much for me. We already knew this was going to be a bittersweet story, and that characters we loved were going to die. It wasn’t necessary to sugarcoat the ending, especially not in such an awkward way. Usually, when a show has a crappy ending, it doesn’t cancel out the goodness of what came before it. This ending actually did, because its misguided reveal tainted the preceding events and forced you to see them in a new light.

By rights, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 should have been much higher on this list. Instead, I was so turned off of the whole thing after seeing the last episode, that it is with reluctance that I’m placing it even at number 8.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. DREAM FESTIVAL! R (12 episodes)

Aired mid-Summer to mid-Autumn 2017

I thought DREAM FESTIVAL! was one of the lesser known idol franchises, so it was a bit of a surprise to see the anime get a sequel. You know, I didn’t realize how much I liked and missed these guys until I saw them again. I especially enjoyed the first half, with its extended focus on Yuuto and Keigo of KUROFUNE. The portrayal of Keigo’s personal insecurities, in spite of his flashy good looks and flamboyant stage presence, felt very real to me.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#10. INUYASHIKI LAST HERO (11 episodes)

Aired Autumn 2017

Although there was ultimately no real message to INUYASHIKI, it did provide an interesting and thought-provoking look at the (mostly) irresponsible use of great power and what consequences it would have on society and on the ones wielding that power.

**********************************************************************************************

☆ Best Recap Episode:


Re:CREATORS ep.13. As was usual for this anime, Meteora talked and talked. But this time, there was added snark to her deadpan exposition. She even pinpointed some of the show’s and characters’ flaws and made fun of them! In her narration, she humorously played up her own character, while resorting to nicknames for people that she couldn’t be bothered to remember the names of. It was really funny and I enjoyed it a lot more than any part of the actual show itself. Best recap episode ever.

☆ Favourite Seiyuu:

Umehara Yuuichirou

I enjoyed so many of his roles in 2017, most notably: Charioce XVII, the smokin’ hot evil sovereign from Rage of Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL; Eugene Sevenstark, Orga’s loyal and outspoken deputy in GUNDAM: IRON BLOODED ORPHANS; and of course, my favourite chibi warlord from my number one anime of the year, Takeda Shingen.

Umehara was responsible for breathing some life into a whole bunch of stoic, expressionless dudes during the fall season: Ushii from JUNI TAISEN, Ouni from Children of the Whales, TSUKIPRO‘s Dai, DYNAMIC CHORD‘s Shinobu, THE iDOLM@STER SideM‘s Kyouji, and SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD’s Date Masamune. In general, though, it was probably more fun to hear him voicing impassioned characters like hard-luck Shinsengumi member Nagakura Shinpachi in Chiruran ½ from earlier in the year.

Umehara has a great voice, I like his performance style, and I also tend to like the types of characters he gets to play, so I will definitely be paying attention to any shows I see his name in from now on.

☆ Anime Songs Top 9 Countdown:

It’s a tiny list for me this year! As usual, the songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs, not the TV-size versions, that are being considered.

09. Kakuran Romantist, by Date Masamune(cv:Umehara Yuuichirou) (SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD ep.7 ED)

08. sh0ut, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Tielle&Gemie (Re:CREATORS OP2)

07. Hoshi no furu machi, by Numakura Manami (Fuuka insert song)

06. Yes / No, by STAR☆CONCERTO (Ikemen Sengoku: Bromances Across Time OP)

05. Masayoshi-ron, by Uesugi Kenshin(cv:Toriumi Kousuke) (SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD ep.6 ED)

04. SunSunSunrise, by 9nine (THE REFLECTION ED)

03. gravityWall, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Tielle&Gemie (Re:CREATORS OP1)

02. LET iT END, by SiM (Rage of Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL OP1)

01. FEED THE FIRE, by coldrain (King’s Game The Animation OP)

Mid-Autumn 2017 Anime Ranking


01. RECOVERY OF AN MMO JUNKIE (Netojuu no Susume) (ep. 1-10 complete) – 30-year-old Moriko reacquaints herself with the world of online gaming after leaving her job. She soon becomes very attached to Fruits de Mer and her in-game friends. Little does she know that real life and fantasy are about to collide in unexpected ways.

This is such a cute and sweet show. The characters are sympathetic, likeable, and funny. Moriko’s reactions are especially great.

On a personal level, I’ve never been much of a gamer myself, but I have recently developed an attachment to an online game for the first time in my entire life (note: see previous post). Even though it’s not an MMO, the experience nevertheless gives me an extra level of intimate familiarity with some of the themes of this anime. Yes, I can attest it is absolutely believable that a grown professional woman could carry on like a middle-school girl because of a game.

Unlike Moriko though, I did not quit my day job and become an Elite NEET. Not yet anyway!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. INUYASHIKI LAST HERO (ep. 1-9) – Ichirou, a middle-aged man who appears older than his years, and Hiro, a high school boy, are both killed when a flying saucer crash-lands into them. The hit-and-run aliens proceed to hastily reconstruct the victims’ bodies using machinery in an effort to cover up the accident. Thus, our 2 main characters unwittingly become cyborgs at the start of this action/sci-fi drama.

INUYASHIKI examines how Ichirou and Hiro each handle their newfound bodies and super-human abilities in vastly different ways. The consequences that result are fascinating, often tragic, and thought-provoking.


03. JUNI TAISEN: ZODIAC WAR (ep. 1-10) – Warriors representing the 12 animals of the Zodiac are recruited to take part in an epic battle royale. It’s a fight to the death where the last survivor is the victor.

JUNI TAISEN spends a lot of time setting up elaborate back stories for the various participants. The stories are good, but it’s weird that the characters are often killed off quickly and unceremoniously afterward without really getting to demonstrate their skills in a proper fight.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. DREAM FESTIVAL! R (ep. 7-12 complete) – Depending on how you count them, there are as many as 6 male-idol series this season. (Note that I am not even counting the female-idol shows!) TSUKIPRO, THE iDOLM@STER SideM, DYNAMIC CHORD, and Love Rice 2 are fully part of the Autumn cour. IDOLISH7 doesn’t officially start until January, however 2 advance episodes have been broadcast already. That brings me to DREAM FESTIVAL! R, which began airing mid-August and thus already had 6 episodes under its belt before the current season began.

Of the many idol franchises, DREAM FES is probably one of the least hyped of the bunch. It happens to also be one of the best of its genre. Well, STARMYU is probably more crazy-fun overall, but that show is also way cheesier and more fantastical, whereas DREAM FES is a little more grounded in depicting the hard work and challenges faced by the performers.

I still dislike the CG stage work and transformations, which can’t be helped, but the narrative parts are really good! The characterizations are detailed, and the expressions and interactions show that the creators put a lot of effort into making each of the guys seem like real people with their own goals and perspectives. It helps too, that there are only 2 main units, consisting of 7 guys total, a manageable number.

KUROFUNE received a bit more of the spotlight this time around, which suited me just fine. I thought Keigo and Yuto’s development in the first half was believable. I totally didn’t expect that we’d be seeing Keigo’s schoolyard bullies again too, but I loved that even that relationship got revisited.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. Food Wars! The Third Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara) (ep. 1-10) – The first 5 episodes covered Totsuki’s Moon Festival, in which Souma was cast as the underdog (again) against one of the Elite Ten. Then things took a sudden dark turn as Erina’s creepy father returned from exile to engineer a hostile takeover of the school, putting everyone and everything at the whim of his unbending beliefs of culinary right and wrong. Souma and company quickly find themselves at odds with this new dictatorship; but of course our hero has never been one to back down when it comes to taking on the establishment.

Souma’s cool confidence is always fun to watch; and as usual, the dishes featured in the show look scrumptious.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. THE IDOLM@STER SideM (ep. 0-9) – The idols of 315 Productions number 19 in this guy-version of the iDOLM@STER franchise. I absolutely do have trouble recognizing all the characters and placing them in their respective groups.

It’s an interesting gimmick that the agency specifically recruits talent from outside the entertainment field, however some cases are not as convincing as others. It’s hard to buy a doctor and lawyer putting aside their hard-earned and expensive educations to become idols (when they haven’t even been barred from practising their professions), for instance.

I do appreciate that the performances are beautifully animated and not all CGI, truly a rarity nowadays for an idol show. I also love the realistic depictions of various locales, some of which are familiar to me in real life, including Haneda airport and some of the livehouses where the units perform.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. GARO -VANISHING LINE- (ep. 1-10) – The latest GARO anime takes place in the fictional location of Russell City, USA, a dark and gritty urban jungle. Once again, there’s a whole new set of characters to accompany the new setting.

So what’s good about this GARO? Well the animation and fight scenes are intense and packed with motion. Frankly, it’s a bit much for my poor little computer to handle sometimes! Also, the show features a lot of racial diversity among the characters without making a big deal of it. And from Gina to Sister to Luke’s mom Adelaide, I can’t think of many series with such an impressive collection of seriously cool and kick-ass ladies.

How does it compare to the 2 previous GARO anime series so far? I think it’s not quite as good as GARO THE ANIMATION; I still liked that one more, and more consistently. However, VANISHING LINE is way, way, way better than CRIMSON MOON.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Children of the Whales (Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau) (ep. 1-9) – The first episode was intriguing and beautiful, probably the best premiere of the season. However, it didn’t really set the tone for the rest of the series, which went on to take several sudden left turns in the following weeks.

Cerebrally, I liked seeing the differing approaches taken by Suou and Ouni when their people were attacked. I personally agree with Suou’s high-minded tactics more, but I can appreciate that sometimes it’s only the person who’s willing to get his hands dirty (and bloody) who can get favourable results when your opponent is not so high-minded.

The more fantastical content, related to the Nous at the heart of the ship, is weird and not explained that well, so I don’t enjoy that stuff as much as the character drama.
(to stream at NETFLIX eventually)

09. TSUKIPRO THE ANIMATION (ep. 1-10) – Another slice-of-life idol anime where it’s a weekly challenge to identify the characters and match them with the units they each belong to. Just to complicate things, people from TSUKIUTA. also make cameo appearances occasionally.

The highlight of the series was ep. 5, which might have been one of the best things I’ve seen this season. Basically, the 4 guys of SolidS went on a drive around the city in a borrowed car. TSUKIPRO is not exactly a plot-driven show anyway, so this was the perfect way to get us familiar with these idols as they experienced something mundane, yet funny and very relatable.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. Welcome to the Ballroom (Ballroom e Youkoso) (ep. 13-23) – Recent episodes have been more focused on the characters than the dancing, which is a welcome change, in my opinion. And when there is dancing, it’s often actually animated, not just still frames.

The sexism and occasional body-shaming still crop up, but I’ve gotten past that in this show. By now, I can just ignore that stuff and try to make the most of the positives.


11. King’s Game The Animation (Ou-sama Game The Animation) (ep. 1-9) – For the second time in his young life, high school student Nobuaki is targeted to participate in the King’s Game, in which he and his classmates receive mysterious text messages ordering them to do perverted and cruel things or else suffer a gruesome death. Nobuaki was the sole survivor of the earlier game.

The anime takes the unusual, and probably unwise, tactic of trying to cover the events of both King’s Games at once. In general, it is ridiculous and stupid and trashy. That said, it tends to not be boring either.

The main reason I came to this show was for coldrain’s OP “FEED THE FIRE”, a truly awesome song which really deserves to be in a better anime than this!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Just Because! (ep. 1-9) – Eita reunites with his middle school friends when he returns to his hometown during his final year of high school. It is a difficult time for them, as they prepare to make the transition to the next stage of their lives, education-wise and career-wise, and in terms of romance.

The show utilizes a subtle style of storytelling. It’s so understated that it look me quite a while to figure out who is crushing on whom and what the coordinates of the love triangles are. Honestly, the languid pacing bored me for most of the first half. I’m following it a bit better now, though obviously, this isn’t really my kind of show.

13. Osomatsu-san 2 (Mr. Osomatsu 2) (ep. 1-10) – The first episode felt like a great comeback effort, but subsequent offerings haven’t really measured up to the levels of fun of the first season. In particular, I really don’t get most of the Cave-matsu skits. I enjoy them even less than the Girly-matsu stuff. If only we could get the pretty boys back instead.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ (~Sousei no Himegimi~) (ep. 1-9) – Protagonist Cardia is a walking weapon whose skin is poison to anything it touches. She ends up being taken in by Lupin and his colleagues. They are also investigating her father’s work, likely the cause of her affliction.

Code:Realize is based on an otome game, so I think we’re supposed to like at least some of the guys. Unfortunately, their personalities and the main romance (with Lupin?) are sorely underdeveloped. The story is also pretty weak, Finis’ motives especially (he’s evil).

The show looks reasonably good though. The character art and the steampunk Victorian London setting are nice.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (ep. 27-34) – Boruto and his classmates’ excursion to the Hidden Mist Village turned out to be pretty tedious and boring. I was so glad to see the kids back at home finally, only to discover that it means we have to sit through a bunch more filler episodes before they actually get around to the graduation exams.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD (ep. 1-8) – Didn’t I say, only last season, that “Warring States Era time-slip stories are a dime a dozen”? Well, here’s another one already. Just like in Ikemen Sengoku (game version), a modern day girl is magically transported back in time to an alternate reality 1500s Japan. Only in this case, the Sengoku warlords happen to be vampires and werewolves.

It’s hard to get into the story when they’re trying to incorporate so many characters in a short time, and basically not doing a very good job of it. Therefore, the events seem to unfold without proper build-up. It also bothers me that Yuzuki constantly looks out of place in her modern dress. Is it supposed to be a joke that she can’t get a change of clothes?

Stupidly, the best parts of the show are the closing credits. Almost every episode features a new song sung by a different warlord, with new visuals. My sister dropped the anime long ago, but she continues to check out the EDs. This might as well have been another idol show rather than the low-rent otome fantasy that it is.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. DYNAMIC CHORD (ep. 1-6) – “Dynamic” does not describe this anime at all. Not much of anything happens in it. All that the guys seem to do is brood and look up to the sky, accompanied by random sound effects and maybe a moody piano or clarinet piece. Sometimes though, they brood to rock music, and then it’s slightly better. I’m not even kidding.

There’s something to be said for plot subtlety, but this is ridiculous. These guys really need to learn to say what they think instead of cryptically running away and hiding every time. How many missing band/musician story arcs can one show have?

Some of the performance animation, if you can even call it that, is so cringingly bad, I think they would have been better off using still images. It’s perplexing that they bothered to air this in a season so overflowing with higher-budget boy-idol shows. But then again, I’m sort of still watching it. At least the music isn’t bad.

Also watching:

Love Rice 2 (Love Kome –We Love Rice- 2nd Season) (ep. 1-10) – It’s the rice idols vs. the bread idols once again, but oh no, this time ramen is also a contender. Disappointingly, the cooking feature did not make a return in this sequel.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Notable drop:

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Mahoutsukai no Yome) (ep. 1-5) – The most hyped and probably highest-rated show of the season… didn’t really do anything for me! After the initial 2 episodes, I didn’t particularly like Elias, the mage of the title. I kind of expected that we would get some good interactions between him and Chise that would endear them both to the audience, but that hasn’t been the case at all. Instead, the following story arcs were more on the arty, philosophical, and dry side. The pacing was slow enough to rival the underachieving DYNAMIC CHORD and there was basically no humour.

It seems to be a high budget production, so the imagery is pretty, but this type of fantasy anime just doesn’t appeal to my plebeian tastes. I have a feeling that fans of Mushishi or Natsume’s Book of Friends (both of which I also eventually dropped) would have a better appreciation for this sort of show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Summer 2017 Anime Ranking

This post was delayed unfortunately, due to the fact that I fell behind on my anime viewing. But as per usual, the ranking applies to the first 7 to 10 episodes of the current season only. Some of these shows have ended already and that is not being covered here. My apologies for the lateness.

Shingeki no Bahamut VIRGIN SOUL-19
01. Rage of Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL (Shingeki no Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL) (ep. 14-21) – No surprise this time. This summer has been a pretty weak season in general for anime and Rage of Bahamut 2 has had absolutely no challengers for the top spot, as far as I’m concerned.

In this second cour, I am very surprised, but also happy, that the romance subplot has become as prominent as the overarching conflict between the angels, demons, and humans; maybe more so. I didn’t go into BahaSOUL looking for love (that’s true in more ways than one), but I’m solidly onboard when the love story is set in the middle of a complicated narrative that’s populated with so many intensely likeable characters.

I continue to admire the confident and straightforward storytelling, even if this second half is maybe not quite as well-written as the first. After all, I have to admit it does seem a tad contrived that Nina and Charioce did not discuss what their side was aiming to do when they had the opportunity to. Considering that their respective goals include trying to thwart and/or kill the other party, it would have made sense to coordinate things a little bit better.

Oh yeah, after much teasing and withholding, Favaro is back for real now, a little older, a little wiser, and indeed, a little hotter than before.

ikemen sengoku 03
02. Ikemen Sengoku: Bromances Across Time (Ikemen Sengoku: Toki wo Kakeru ga Koi wa Hajimaranai) (ep. 1-10) – Warring States Era time-slip stories are a dime a dozen, but this is the most adorable series of its type that I’ve ever seen. I can’t get enough of chibi Oda Nobunaga, Date Masamune, and all the other little Sengoku warlords. Each of the mini hotties moves individually and behaves in distinctly characteristic ways too. It’s so cute and detailed! The creative camera work adds a lot to the amusement as well.

Originally, I had hoped that Ikemen Sengoku would be like the Chiruran short, only with a little more substance. Well, it has far exceeded my expectations. The random gags are really funny (especially ep. 3, when Masamune and his pals learn to rap), and there is actually an honest-to-goodness plot. As if that wasn’t enough, how about some chibi sword-fight action? It’s got that too!

I recommend watching each episode more than once. There are usually several characters on screen and a lot of little things going on at the same time. This is a 3-minute short – things happen fast.

The sexually suggestive end cards, a shout out to Ikemen Sengoku’s otome game roots, are a bit much though. I can see them turning off male viewers especially, which would be a shame.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Made in Abyss 5
03. MADE IN ABYSS (ep. 1-10) – Child explorer Riko descends into the frightening depths of the Abyss in search of her mother. She is accompanied by her newfound best friend Reg, a robot boy she picked up in the Abyss. I liked the early parts best, when Riko and Reg were interacting with the other kids in the orphanage. Things have gotten decidedly darker and more disturbing since they set off on their journey.

I am watching this anime for Reg. I love his tolerant disposition, his gentle compassion, his thoughtfulness, his intelligence, his sense of morality, and his loyalty. More than any of the show’s other great mysteries, including Riko’s mother and the Abyss itself, I am curious about Reg and want to see him get answers to the question of who he is. Where did he come from; how is he part human and also part machine? Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get those kinds of answers any time soon.

Saiyuki Reload Blast
04. SAIYUKI RELOAD BLAST (ep. 1-10) – As a newcomer to the series, I’m certain there are many things I don’t understand as well as I could. However, SAIYUKI RELOAD BLAST is enjoyable even to me and it doesn’t seem to be too hard to follow in general. The 4 guys of the Genjo Sanzo Party get plenty of opportunities to show off their personalities through their interactions, and it’s often very funny.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu 09
05. Katsugeki / TOUKEN RANBU (ep. 1-10) – The Touken Danshi are Sword Warriors. They travel through time to stop the ghostly Time Retrograde Army, who are sent from the future, from changing past events.

Although the narrative got a bit unfocused in the middle, the main takeaway is how challenging it can be for the Touken Danshi to perform their duties. What if preserving history meant ensuring the death or suffering of innocents? Furthermore, what kind of toll would it take on the psyche if the doomed party happened to be someone they once knew and respected?

Katsugeki / TOUKEN RANBU is made by ufotable, the folks who gave us Fate/Zero. Unsurprisingly, this is one good-looking anime.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (ep. 14-23) – The ghost arc concluded (with the perpetrator getting off a little too easy in my opinion); and it was followed up by a handful of Sarada-centric episodes featuring her quest to learn more about her father and her lineage. In spite of being almost entirely Boruto-less, these episodes were some of the strongest of the series so far. Of course, Sarada did have the original Team 7: Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura as her co-stars.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Kakegurui - 10
07. KAKEGURUI (Compulsive Gambler) (ep. 1-10) – Jabami Yumeko, a beautiful and smart gambling addict, joins an academy that incorporates gambling into all its extra-curricular activities. There, she proceeds to mess with the social order.

The characters are rather two-faced and irredeemable all around, but there’s no denying the show can be morbidly entertaining to watch.
(to stream at NETFLIX eventually)

08. Fastest Finger First (Nana maru San batsu, 7O3X) (ep. 1-10) – The buildup for this quiz-sport anime was not that exciting, so it’s taken a while to get rolling, but Fastest Finger First has taken off now that we know the players better and they are actively participating in a quiz meet.

As an aside, we happened to catch some of the real-life high school quiz bowl on TV while we were in Japan recently, which was pretty cool. This stuff is real.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Re Creators - 17
09. Re:CREATORS (ep. 13-20) – The show continues to be pretty talky and very meta. If I’m looking forward to it more than I used to, it’s mostly because I care more about the characters now that I know them better. Well, some of them I still don’t really get, including Altair and Magane, but I did appreciate the development that Selesia and her creator, Matsubara, have undergone.

I’ve almost forgotten that Souta is supposed to be the main character though. I wonder when he will become relevant.

10. My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia) Season 2 (ep. 27-35) – The practical training placement arc and the fight against Stain were not as interesting to me as the tournament, but they did reveal that there are darker things to come. Also, while I agree that Stain’s ideology had some merit, I thought it was grossly oversimplified and overstated.

But first, it’s time for the kids’ practical exams, which is the kind of material that My Hero Academia really excels at.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun (Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun, Cleanliness Boy! Aoyama-kun) (ep. 1-10) – Ostensibly, this is a sports anime featuring a clean freak soccer player. There isn’t really all that much soccer, though; and even the clean freak isn’t the featured character in many of the episodes! He’s more of a mystical enigma that other people react to. Luckily, these other characters are quite often at least as interesting as Aoyama himself.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Ballroom e Youkoso 02
12. Welcome to the Ballroom (Ballroom e Youkoso) (ep. 1-9) – There was a lot of hype for Ballroom before it started, but compared to the other unconventional sports show that’s airing (the quizzing anime), this one surprisingly doesn’t fare as well for me. It’s actually easier to grasp the rules and strategy of quiz bowl than ballroom dancing.

I’m also finding it hard to sympathize with the characters. The females, especially, get the shaft in terms of development. It often seems they exist only to be accessories to the men; and in fact, that is the way competitive ballroom dancing is evaluated? I didn’t know that. That underlying patriarchal, boys-club vibe, embodied by Tatara’s teacher Sengoku, kind of rubs me the wrong way.

The show is clearly knowledgeable about the dancing and the fancy moves, but the actual animation is limited and consists mostly of still-shots and pans. Yuri!!! on ICE this is not. Also, those stretched necks and distorted bodies are hard to get used to, though I’m trying. It just doesn’t look that good, c’mon.

13. Princess Principal (ep. 1-9) – The episodic spy stories, which seem to be presented not in chronological order, are reasonably interesting on their own; but I think I would enjoy everything better if I knew what the overall plot was.

Or maybe I just don’t have enough of a thing for cute girls as spies.

14. CHRONOS RULER (Jikan no Shihaisha) (ep. 1-10) – The actual plot involving trying to get Victor’s time and memory back is kind of boring. What makes this thing watchable is the humour that arises from the characters’ personality traits and quirks.

For example, it’s funny how Kiri is the most serious member of the family group and yet, since he is technically the youngest, he gets the least respect. Also, it was amusing the way Blaze spent all of ep. 8 in the background trying to solve a mildly complicated math problem.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

isekai shokudou 01
15. Restaurant to Another World (Isekai Shokudou) (ep. 1-10) – Once a week, the door to Nekoya Restaurant appears in other worlds and mystical creatures can enter and enjoy an exquisite meal of western-style Japanese cuisine.

The episodes are easy to watch and the food looks good. I do appreciate that the show attempts to tie some of the random stories together, but there’s really very little in the way of plot.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. THE REFLECTION (ep. 1-8) – Well, this is different. It’s a Stan Lee anime, and appropriately, it is flat-looking and minimally animated, sort of like a Western superhero comic book come to life. It sounded like a great idea and I was looking forward to it, but the pacing is strangely slow and I’m frustrated by the lack of music during most of the scenes.

Despite being one of the main characters, X-On seems rather unmotivated; it’s just weird. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be funny or what? Once, when Eleanor was captured, he simply went back to the car and sat down! He always has a mask on, so it’s really impossible to tell what he’s thinking or feeling when he’s doing nothing, which is most of the time.

I will say 9nine’s ending song is really catchy though. In a pretty weak season for anime music as well as anime in general, “SunSunSunrise” is proving to be one of the highlights.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. Ninja Girl & Samurai Master S2 (Nobunaga no Shinobi: Ise Kanegasaki-hen) (ep. 40-49) – The other super-cute, Sengoku-period chibi comedy short starring Oda Nobunaga. While still played for laughs, this ongoing series at least endeavours to be a slightly more accurate representation of historical events than the ikemen short.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

vatican miracle examiner
18. Vatican Miracle Examiner (Vatican Kiseki Chousakan) (ep. 1-9) – Roberto and Hiraga are Vatican priests hired specifically to debunk false miracles, so they are uniquely required by their jobs to tread the fine line between being believers and disbelievers.

For a show featuring the Catholic faith, there’s an awful lot of occult, blasphemy, Satan-worship, wielding the Bible to inflict blunt-force trauma, and Nazis. It’s actually pretty hilarious. Those endless panning shots – seriously, it’s hard to find a scene that doesn’t pan – that’s hilarious too.

Quite obviously, I cannot recommend Vatican Miracle Examiner as a good anime. However, we genuinely get a lot of laughs at the expense of the show and its characters, so I won’t say it isn’t fun to watch.

19. DIVE!! (ep. 1-10) – All the exclamation marks cannot hide how boring this diving anime is. Part of the problem is that diving is a lonely, individual sport. There is no team.

DIVE!! seems to preach that if you are not giving up everything to devote yourself to the sport, then you’re not trying hard enough. I mean it’s one thing to resign yourself to the fact that you won’t have much opportunity for fun and socializing while training, and accept it; it’s quite another to have your mentors tell you outright to forget about your friends and to not be too buddy-buddy with potential rivals. It’s just so unpleasant.

Ironically, they’ve more or less thrown that out the window now. Yoichi has temporarily(?) taken over the main character role and, in spite of what he said to Tomo earlier, he’s actually interacting with his club-mates like they’re friends or something! The show is definitely better for it anyway.

20. KONBINI KARESHI (Convenience Store Boy Friends) (ep. 1-7) – I thought this would be silly and fun. Oh how wrong I was. How did we end up with a slow-moving, humourless romance following several potential couples, none of whom come across as interesting or particularly likeable? The titular convenience store is hardly in it even, and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the story whatsoever.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

BLAME!

blame

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

Like the TV series KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA, this film is also an adaptation of a Nihei Tsutomu manga by animation studio POLYGON PICTURES. As such, the 2 projects have a similar gritty, dark, monochromatic aesthetic. Certainly, there are still limitations on how good CGI animation can look, but POLYGON is demonstrating here that they currently do the best work in this field. The background images and the action sequences, in particular, are stunning.

BLAME! takes place in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting in which the centralized technology operates blindly on its own, no longer recognizing the commands of humans. Instead, humans are seen as a threat to the system and are brutally purged by the Safeguard whenever they are detected. One small village of people known as Electro-Fishers has barely gotten by for decades, trapped in a protected space. But now they face extinction from starvation.

I would have expected one of the draws of the film to be Sakurai Takahiro as the lead character. Unfortunately, you might be disappointed if you are here for Sakurai, since the mysterious hero Killy hardly ever speaks! It’s a good thing (for me) Miyano Mamoru is also in this thing, in a supporting role, and his character actually gets to talk.

I was a bit disturbed by the rough way in which Killy handled the remains of Cibo. Yes, it was clear that she was basically a machine; but regardless, she looked human! I was also suitably terrified whenever the Safeguard activated to exterminate the villagers.

Some things do not get fully explained during the film, such as how Killy and Cibo came to be. Everything is also not resolved for everyone, so the door is open for a potential continuation of the story down the line.

THE EMPIRE OF CORPSES (Shisha no Teikoku)

Empire of corpses

2 stars (out of 4)

Released 2015

This animated adaptation of late author Project Itoh’s zombie novel takes place in a steampunk 19th century Europe in which “corpse reanimation technology” has been accepted by society as a way to provide laborers to serve the living. However, these undead never retain their souls.

Medical student John Watson secretly reanimates the body of his friend and research partner, but becomes obsessed with finding a method to return his soul as well. He gets the opportunity to search worldwide for the records of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s work when he teams up with the British government, who also want the notes for different reasons.

First of all, the movie looked great; the art and animation were absolutely top-notch. That would be the one good reason to watch it.

The plot itself was all serious and philosophical, but it honestly didn’t make much sense to me. While it was simple to follow what was happening from scene to scene, understanding why was something else entirely. It’s kind of a failure if the audience can’t reasonably tell why the protagonists made the choices that they did, or how the villain was doing whatever he was doing (re-creating GUILTY CROWN’s Lost Christmas?…), or even what governed the behaviour of the zombies.

The name-drops of famous literary figures didn’t seem to add anything to the story either. And it was not that clear whether the ending had anything to do with Watson’s initial goal.

I confess I’ve never understood the romanticism of zombies; this film didn’t help to enlighten me.

Anyway, after watching The Empire of Corpses, my sister and I also went and re-watched the fourth episode of Space Dandy. It covered similar musings of achieving world (or universal) peace through mass zombification – except that it was conveyed much more succinctly and enjoyably.

Mid-Spring 2017 Anime Ranking

It’s sequels galore this spring, including some very highly anticipated and long-awaited ones. The Eccentric Family and My Hero Academia make their return; and need I mention the blockbuster Attack on Titan? Fully half of the shows we’re following this season are sequels and spin-offs, with many of them taking up residence in my top 10! One of those is the surprising title currently at the number one spot.

rage-of-bahamut-virgin-soul charioce
01. Rage of Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL (Shingeki no Bahamut: VIRGIN SOUL) (ep. 1-10) – Well, well. I knew this sequel was coming, but it was not even on my plan-to-watch list at the start of the season, since I was not exactly a fan of the first series, Rage of Bahamut: GENESIS. Back in the fall of 2014, I partially described GENESIS as “overwhelming and boring at the same time” and I griped that the males were “needlessly unattractive.”

My how things have changed in this new series, which takes place 10 years later! The guys are smokin’ hot now, and it’s actually relevant to the story! Interestingly, it’s not that Azazel and Kaisar, for example, superficially look that much different from before; I think it’s more a matter of dignity.

The new heroine, Nina, is also great. She’s physically strong, but she has to hide her weakness (to hot guys), since she doesn’t want to turn into a dragon and destroy everything. It’s relatable incredibly, and really funny.

So far, the setting has been almost entirely in the human world, which is another thing that I wanted. The reason for it is rather dark, though, and sets up the central conflict at the heart of the narrative.

Episode 6 was a blast! Gorgeously animated, it kind of reminded me of Aladdin, only the incognito royal love interest wasn’t a beautiful wide-eyed princess, but rather a handsome genocidal king! Okay, it’s kind of twisted and you just know it won’t end well, but that’s part of what makes it thrilling. It also added a shocking softness to Charioce’s persona, who had already been pretty well-fleshed out as a formidable enemy.

The animation is such that you can frequently tell what the characters are thinking just from small changes to their eyes and facial expressions.

Additionally, the story provides enough hints to make it fairly easy to figure some things out on your own (such as the identities of the Rag Demon and the drifter), which adds to the anticipation of what’s to come. I also like how events relating to one subplot will have repercussions on a different subplot later on; it really shows how much thought the writers have put into crafting a consistent and cohesive story.

Oh, and once again, there is an awesome OP with music by SiM. Basically, I have no shortage of good things to say about VIRGIN SOUL thus far. I only wish there were a legal way to stream it where I live.

starmyu s2-05 kuga
02. STARMYU High School Star Musical Season 2 (ep. 1-10) – Yes, STARMYU – there’s no mistake! Plot-wise, there isn’t that much. The students are just competing for roles in a high profile school play. But what I want from a sequel like this is ridiculous musical numbers and personality-infused character interactions; and above all, I want to have fun. In that regard, STARMYU 2 delivers in spades.

I love Hoshitani’s banter with lovably self-important Tengenji. The guy is fiercely loyal to his teammates even while insulting them to their faces! And Kuga’s sudden, unwanted harem is pretty funny too. Next time he’ll probably think twice before unleashing that level of coolness in public!

Poor Ageha chose the wrong guy to look up to. I’m sure Haruto is immensely talented as a performer, but as a mentor and instructor, his skills seem to be somewhat lacking.

Ootori and Hiiragi are much more deserving of respect and admiration, in my opinion. They are genuinely encouraging and helpful toward their juniors. Speaking of those two, one of the highlights from the first season was learning the basis for the strained relationship between them. I find it really heartwarming to see them hanging out together and being comfortable in each other’s presence since the start of this season.

What could be better? Sometimes Haruto and his team go a teensy bit overboard with their BL-suggestive wording when they talk amongst themselves. It gets to the point where I barely know what they’re actually talking about sometimes.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Attack on Titan 31 Reiner-Eren
03. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Season 2 (ep. 26-35) – So far, this season has nailed the feeling of terror and creepy foreboding. The animation has improved too. Development-wise, the pace is slow though, and the story does not seem to be in a hurry to provide answers to the many ongoing mysteries. That’s not to say there are no revelations, of course. Personally, I loved the super-casual way in which the major plot bomb was dropped in ep. 31. That was so creative and so funny.

I have enjoyed the greater focus on the supporting cast, but ultimately I’m of the camp that wants to see more of Eren, Mikasa, and Armin.

No matter how grim the situation may be most of the time, Attack on Titan always finds room for at least a little bit of humour in every episode. That’s one of the things I really like about this show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Uchouten Kazoku 2 09
04. The Eccentric Family 2 (Uchouten Kazoku 2) (ep. 1-9) – Yasaburou and his tanuki family are back for another season, and it’s as charming and quirky and cute as ever.

Although I don’t feel confident that I can explain most of what happens in this unusual series, I strangely don’t feel lost either. The characters are so distinct and the narrative is so compelling, that just being along for the ride is fanciful and fun.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Kenka Banchou Otome 5
05. Kenka Banchou Otome -GIRL BEATS BOYS- (ep. 1-9) – Hinako is coerced into taking her brother Hikaru’s place at a boys school full of delinquents, where there’s more fighting than studying. Fortunately, she can totally hold her own and quickly rises up the ranks of the social ladder. All the characters are colourful and likeable. The delinquent school premise hasn’t gotten old either; it was funny in BEELZEBUB and Cromartie High School, and it’s funny here.

I always look forward to the OP, since it usually incorporates part of the episode’s action. I even like the mock documentary sessions where the cast members soberly reflect on the current events as if from the future. It’s so absurd.

Each episode is only 8 minutes long so it’s often over way too soon. Kenka Banchou Otome is ridiculous and over-dramatic, and it’s a lot of fun!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. KADO: The Right Answer (Seikaisuru Kado) (ep. 0-9) – In this mostly 3D-animated sci-fi drama, an alien being from the anisotropic drops his huge impenetrable cube (Kado) down at Haneda Airport, then proceeds to gift humanity with extra-dimensional devices.

The early reactions of the humans tasked with investigating Kado were presented in great, realistic detail. Then the pace kind of slowed down in the middle. It seemed to me the production was putzing around during the relocation of Kado, the repeated explanations of Sansa, and of course the recap episode (which I didn’t watch).

We’re building up momentum again, and it looks like things are going to get weirder from here. From a storytelling standpoint, I think that’s probably a good thing. If they try to keep it too realistic, I just don’t see how it would work.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Royal Tutor Heine
07. The Royal Tutor (Oushitsu Kyoushi Heine) (ep. 1-10) – Heine, a diminutive man with a mysterious past, becomes the latest in a long line of tutors for Grannzreich Kingdom’s four difficult young princes. Predictably, the early parts involve him getting to know his students and earning their respect.

Now, it seems there’s a conspiracy afoot and it might not be easy for Heine to keep his past hidden for too much longer.

One of the best segments so far was ep. 6, in which His Royal Highness himself decided to take a hands-on approach in evaluating Prince Licht’s extracurricular activities.

Incidentally, King Viktor seems to have a perpetually youthful appearance and is at least as handsome as any of his sons. If you’ve ever lamented that there just weren’t enough hot kings in your anime, well then between The Royal Tutor and Rage of Bahamut, this spring season has got you covered!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia) Season 2 (ep. 14-23) – When I first realized that this second season would be all tournament-based, I was honestly not very enthusiastic at the prospect. Now that we’re well into it however, I have to admit the show is really good and seems to be getting better by the week. The match-ups are exciting and the soundtrack has been phenomenal too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Yowamushi Pedal NEW GENERATION (ep. 13-21) – It’s time for the Inter-High again. Currently, Teshima seems to be paying the price for not warning Onoda sooner that the number one tag on his back would make him a target for the other riders.

I thought Midosuji was creepy, but his teammate Komori is even more gross. I literally felt violated when he groped Onoda and Imaizumi previously. Kyoto Fushimi High has been notably absent from the screen since the race began. I shudder to think what they might be up to.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Kabukibu-09
10. KABUKIBU! (ep. 1-9) – A kabuki-loving teenager starts an amateur performance club at his school. Following some issues with recruitment, the group begins to perform. But that comes with a whole new set of challenges.

I have to say, I really don’t get kabuki. I appreciate that the show makes the effort to educate its viewers on the art form, but so far, it has just reinforced my opinion that kabuki is weird and hard to understand. The characters themselves are likeable enough, though, which makes KABUKIBU! easy to watch.

11. BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (ep. 1-10) – I was really enjoying this Naruto spinoff at the outset. Boruto is smart and full of personality, and he’s a much more charismatic protagonist than his old man was.

I’ve lost some of that enthusiasm now that the show seems to be stuck in a disgruntled-person-of-the-week-gets-possessed cycle that has already been pre-emptively parodied in 2 seasons of Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!. It would be okay if each episode revealed more of the mystery behind the shadow or why Boruto is the only one who can see it, but there’s typically very little progress.

I also have an issue with the way that overweight characters are portrayed as always eating junk food. I’m trying not to let that get in the way of enjoying an otherwise decent production, but there it is.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Tsuki-ga-Kirei-01
12. Tsukigakirei (as the moon, so beautiful.) (ep. 1-9) – This is a pretty understated, realistic take on first love that foregoes most of the usual tropes of the genre. Kotarou and Akane are sweet kids each with their own interests and goals. As they tentatively develop their newfound relationship with each other, they also encounter awkwardness in their dealings with family and friends.

If Tsukigakirei is relatively low on my ranking, it’s only because romance is not my preferred genre. If you like gentle love stories without a lot of manufactured drama, then you won’t go wrong with this series.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. Re:CREATORS (ep. 1-9) – The first 4 or so episodes were way too heavy on talky exposition by Meteora. But then, the mecha pilot and his creator showed up, and they were fun and interesting. I also liked that when the government stepped in, they were highly efficient and already knowledgeable about the situation. I’m happy to see Kirihara Kikuchihara, in charge of the investigation.

Ultimately, though, I think there are just too many characters; and while the whole concept of fictional creations being transported to the real world is a fascinating idea, the execution seems a little clumsy and unfocused.

14. Ninja Girl & Samurai Master S2 (Nobunaga no Shinobi: Ise Kanegasaki-hen) (ep. 27-35) – This short series chronicling the history of Oda Nobunaga and his trusty little ninja continues without much of a break, but it’s officially season 2 now.

In ep. 30, I commiserated with Mitsuhide, as I was going through a similar work experience of having to deal with someone unpleasant for longer than I could tolerate. I also laughed out loud when the ugly Daimyo of Mino from the first season showed up again suddenly looking hot; it reminded me of a certain other show I happen to be watching that I can’t seem to stop talking about…
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Fukumenkei-Noise-01
15. THE ANONYMOUS NOISE (Fukumenkei Noise) (ep. 1-9) – Singer girl Nino/Alice crosses paths again with the boy she traumatically parted ways with in childhood when she enters high school. Subsequently, she also reunites with the other boy she even more traumatically parted ways with even earlier in childhood. Yes. There is a rock band and then there is another rock band.

The show is really emo about the stupidest things. If from now on I always cringe at the sound of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or giggle at the sight of a pedestrian crossing button, it’ll be because of this overly-sincere, angsty anime.

16. WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? (Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?) (SukaSuka) (ep. 1-9) – My sister and I are both watching SukaSuka, though neither of us is really that into it. Personally, I dislike that all the characters are walking around with dead-looking eyes. There’s a reason for it, as none of them are normal humans at this point, but nevertheless it does get in the way of my connecting with any of them emotionally.

Strangely, maybe because we are not engrossed in the story itself, we find ourselves noticing technical things about the production – my sister especially. She can understand a lot of the Japanese in this show, and every once in a while she will interject that Crunchyroll’s translator made a good choice in wording and such. In particular, we had a good laugh at the use of “defenestrated” in ep. 8. It is a wonderfully descriptive term all on its own, but because it is often applied in a military context, it also happened to be very appropriate to the character who spoke the line.

She has also pointed out, with dismay, that one of the music pieces in the soundtrack seems to be recycled note-for-note from the Free! anime, which had the same composer.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. Love Rice (Love Kome –We Love Rice-) (ep. 1-10) – At first I didn’t really get the rice jokes. Well actually I still don’t get them; and the puns go right over my head most of the time. However, I began to see the humour in the absurd way that Love Rice sends up the usual tropes of the idol anime genre.

At the end of every 4-minute episode, there’s a quickie live-action cooking segment showcasing the preparation of various rice dishes.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)