Mid-Winter 2017 Anime Ranking

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Sukeroku Futatabi-hen 05
01. Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Sukeroku Futatabi-hen) (ep. 1-10) – It may have seemed like an unwanted burden to raise someone else’s child, and Yakumo may have wondered what he was thinking when he took Yotaro in on a whim, but without them, he would have nothing now, nothing but rakugo and his personal demons.

Other than Konatsu and Shinnosuke, none of the members of their family unit are blood-related. Konatsu and Yotaro’s marriage appears to be platonic even. Yet the affection, loyalty, and respect they all feel for each other is obvious. To Yakumo’s chagrin, it’s this family that keeps him tethered to this earth; and even if he thinks he’s ready, it won’t be easy to take rakugo to the grave with him in a lovers’ suicide. (At least that’s what I wrote last week. Some of that is brought to the forefront in the emotionally rewarding ep. 10.)

It’s a rare treat to see this kind of grown-up anime. The characters are realistic and have so much personality. I continue to be blown away by Ishida Akira’s performance in the lead role, too. He is voicing Bon/Kikuhiko/Yakumo as an aging master now, one whose body is failing, and who still performs rakugo. Just wow.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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02. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 39-45) – After the unfair attack on Turbines, Tekkadan had ample reason to fight back in retaliation. No, there didn’t need to be an additional loss of life to spur them to action. However, I really liked that Orga intended to honour the wishes of his lost friend and take the high road. It took the secondary attack to prove that Jasley was not about to take no for an answer and that a battle was unavoidable after all.

Rarely have I ever had it in for a character as I do for Iok Kujan. This guy needs to die. I even blame Julieta for saving his life last cour. She should have allowed that stupidity to be nipped in the bud. Look how many good people have gone to their deaths because he lived!

So, Tekkadan basically have no choice now but to go all in with that snake McGillis. The death flags are all but smacking us in the face. It’s depressing, and I hope I’m wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we have a huge Shakespearean tragedy in the works.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

ACCA 05
03. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept (13-ku Kansatsu-ka) (ep. 1-9) – In this stylish, but rather simplistic-looking anime, major revelations are treated with the same gravitas as casual discussions about food.

Considerable intrigue is swirling around beneath the surface. A lot of higher-ups have the idea that someone is planning a coup against the kingdom, and that our main character Jean is involved. He doesn’t seem to think so, but whatever. After all, there are more pressing matters, such as how to find the best place to buy the local specialty dessert for his little sister. Truly a unique show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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04. Masamune-kun’s Revenge (Masamune-kun no Revenge) (ep. 1-10) – Teenager changes his name, pretties himself up, and schemes to get revenge on the childhood crush who rejected him years ago.

This could have been pretty dark and ugly, since it’s based on such a mean-spirited premise. However, Makabe is actually a friendly and reasonable guy, apart from his vendetta. And, he’s worked hard to become the good-looking specimen he now is.

I really like the way the music is utitlized in this show. It is intentionally just a little bit more exaggerated than you would otherwise expect during certain scenes, effectively evoking ominousnous or drama – and humour, since the disconnect is noticeable.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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05. Yowamushi Pedal: NEW GENERATION (ep. 1-9) – It’s a new year, and the senior members of Sohoku Cycling Club are passing the torch. The next generation faces the pressure of defending the school’s standing as the current reigning champion after winning the last Inter-High.

So glad it’s looking like underdog Sugimoto is going to get some development. Yeah, he’s not as good as his teammates and he’s arrogant beyond his abilities (probably to hide his insecurities), but he seems to have good intentions, so it wasn’t nice to see him treated as the show’s running joke.

On the Hakone Gakuen side, I didn’t really pay any attention to Kuroda before. I like him; he’s a riot. I hope to see more of him messing with new guy Ashikiba, whose confidence combined with cluelessness is pretty funny too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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06. Fuuka (ep. 1-10) – I definitely had some reservations going into Fuuka, as romance stories aimed at male audiences frequently have elements that bother me, such as violently tsundere heroines, extreme milquetoast protagonists, and tacky fanservice.

The first episode seemed to feed into that stereotype; it had its panty flashes and the main guy got assaulted for no reason. Thereafter, though, the anime seemed to break out of the mold. Fuuka acknowledged that her behaviour was inappropriate, which in turn made her friendship with Yuu believable.

I like that they are taking the band practice stuff very seriously, even if their rate of progress would be considered miraculous. The earlier coincidences in the show were also pretty laughable – let’s just get that out of the way.

I totally don’t mind the direction they’ve taken with the romance; but I am concerned about where they might be going from here, as the show’s namesake is surprisingly not currently part of that equation.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Marginal#4 Kiss kara Tsukuru Big Bang (ep. 1-9) – This season’s idol group / high school anime is pretty stupid. Thankfully, there is usually a touch of something twisted or unexpected, either in the boys’ personalities or their behaviour, or in the events themselves. It goes a long way toward keeping the show from feeling generic.

I probably laugh out loud at least once every episode, including every time the dense redhead brings up his lucky underpants.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. ONIHEI (ep. 1-9) – Episodic tales about Hasegawa Heizou, a legendary fictional law enforcement officer feared as a demon by criminals. Some of the stories are lighthearted, while others can be pretty dark and dramatic. Often, they follow a fairly predictable course.

More and more we are seeing that Heizou is not entirely the monster that is his reputation. He has a gentler side to his personality too, and a sense of humour.

Crime stories aside, it’s a treat to see the lovely historical scenery and costumes in this late Edo period-setting anime.

Gabriel DropOut
09. Gabriel DropOut (ep. 1-9) – Once an honour-student angel, Gabriel succumbed to earthly temptations during her placement in the world of humans. She’s now become an unmotivated slacker and online gaming addict. You know I find these types insufferable, so it’s a good thing there are 3 other girls to round out the main cast.

The one who frequently steals the show is Satania, a demon (obviously) who serves the Demon Lord. She’s so harmless, though, that everyone thinks she just has chuunibyou. Try as she might, she’ll never be Gabriel’s equal in depravity.

Gabriel DropOut is reasonably funny and enjoyable, but like most shows that are not part of my Top 3 this season, I think I might forget to watch it if it wasn’t on a viewing list.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. ALL OUT!! (ep. 13-21) – While I’m still not terribly invested in the characters, ALL OUT!! is shaping up to be a decent sports drama at least.

The soundtrack, by Naruto Shippuden composer Takanashi Yasuharu, continues to impress. At times I have hit rewind, not to re-watch the game play, but to hear the music again!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. KONOSUBA –God’s Blessing on this wonderful world! 2 (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2) (ep. 1-9) – I got a few laughs out of the earlier episodes, when the group was facing off against the slimy toad-creatures and when Darkness made her return. In general, I don’t feel like I’m enjoying KONOSUBA! 2 as much as other viewers are. It just isn’t super funny to me. The current arc, which takes place in a town populated by aggressive proselytizers, is even kind of tedious.

The artwork continues to be hit on some episodes and miss on others. Apparently it’s not even a budget or timing thing. One of the directors really just doesn’t give a damn whether the characters appear on-model or not!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon) (ep. 1-9) – KyoAni’s latest series is an innocuous little comedy about an office lady who gets involved with fantastical (and yet rather mundane) creatures after inviting a dragon to live with her. The animation is good and the production is smooth and competent overall.

Personally, I find the slice-of-life stuff to be played a bit too straight for my liking. I wouldn’t say the show is unfunny, exactly, but both my sister and I can easily sit through entire episodes completely straight-faced. Even though they’re cute and sweet, the characters just don’t charm me the way it seems they’re supposed to.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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13. Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga (Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen) (ep. 1-10) – I was looking forward to the return of Blue Exorcist since I remember enjoying the 2011 series quite a bit; but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to really engage with this sequel. Part of the problem is that it’s been so long since the first anime that I’ve forgotten a lot of the details. And also, the last chunk of that series was anime-original material that we have to pretend doesn’t exist now, so that doesn’t help either.

It’s taken until ep. 8 to get me a little interested in the show. Finally, we are seeing some humorous interactions between the crew, mostly thanks to Suguro and Rin talking to each other again. I still wish Rin and Yukio would have some better scenes together, though.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai) (ep. 1-8) – An uncomfortable tale of two teenagers in the midst of unrequited love for someone unattainable who find solace in each other’s company. The anime attempts to explore the dark side of romantic and sexual relations, and obsessive love.

Honestly, it’s a bit of a challenging watch. It’s supposed to be edgy and deep, but virtually every character is selfish and unlikeable. I personally can’t relate to any of them. I especially can’t get over the openly promiscuous teacher; how does she carry on like that without fear of nasty rumours and job loss?

15. NANBAKA (ep. 14-23) – It seems like we’ve been stuck inside dreary Building No.5 for a long, long time. What happened to all the sparkles? It’s true that there’s an actual plot now, but I don’t really care about these side characters. I’d prefer to see more focus on our main quartet of prisoners. And Hajime. Needs more Hajime.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching 3 seriously cute but twisted shorts:

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KORO SENSEI QUEST (ep. 1-12) – Assassination Classroom re-imagined as a chibi fantasy game narrative featuring Koro-sensei as the Big Bad.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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Ninja Girl & Samurai Master (Nobunaga no Shinobi) (ep. 14-23) – The history of Oda Nobunaga re-imagined as a chibi gag comedy continues from last season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Chiruran nibun no ichi
Chiruran 1/2 (Chiruran: Nibun no Ichi) (ep. 1-9) – Shinsengumi-themed Chiruran re-imagined as a chibi slice-of-life comedy, except there hasn’t even been a Chiruran anime yet! I hope this means we’ll get a proper adaptation in the future. I’d like to see it happen.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Winter 2016 Anime Ranking

showa genroku rakugo shinju - 5
01. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (ep. 1-10) – Definitely not your typical anime production, Shouwa Genroku plays out more like a live-action period drama. The rakugo at the heart of the story is a traditional style one-man stage play, where the pieces are classics and what sets the performers apart is their delivery.

After the stunning double-length first episode, Shouwa Genroku flashes back to Yakumo (Kikuhiko) and Sukeroku’s youth. It’s a slow burning character study; and we know there’s going to be tragedy on the horizon, although how things will end up that way is a mystery.

The setting is immersive and the characters seem like real people, each full of charm and flaws. Kudos to the voice actors in this show, who must convincingly portray their characters performing Rakugo; and especially Ishida Akira in the lead role, who plays his character as an awkward young man, all through his evolution to becoming an elderly Rakugo master.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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02. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (ep. 1-10) – A well-written time-travel murder mystery. Like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, the show’s premiere revealed a fatalistic present, only to go decades back in time from the second episode on. It’s been a tense and thrilling ride so far.

It doesn’t seem like Satoru’s efforts to prevent each victim’s murder will accomplish much, as long as the killer’s identity remains unknown. But wait, we might be further along than I thought.
(streaming at Crunchyroll, DAISUKI, and FUNimation)

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03. AJIN (ep. 1-8) – The way Kei’s personality is sometimes very cold and clinical, but other times emotional and impassioned is very interesting. I’m eager to learn more about ajin and what it is that turns people into them. So far the show has been great with its pacing and with how it reveals tantalizing morsels of information a little at a time.

It’s hard to believe that almost all the humans are heartless money-grubbers, though. I can see there’s a message here that the normals are maybe less human than the ajin. Well, the problem is, how can you not see it? It’s pretty heavy-handed.

The CGI may be a barrier for some viewers. At times the movements can look really good, however, just as often, they look stiff and unnatural. The quality is similar SIDONIA, and not as polished as in BBK/BRNK, for instance. Also, as I was searching for a screenshot, I became acutely aware that the colouring is all grey; so yeah, definitely not a great-looking show. Good thing the story is strong enough that it makes up for the visual flaws.

This season has been above average for decent theme songs. For two of the best, in my opinion, you need look no further than AJIN’s OP and ED. I did a double-take when I saw flumpool’s name in the opening credits; I never knew they could sound this good! And Miyano Mamoru’s “HOW CLOSE YOU ARE,” a heartbreaking acoustic ballad full of longing and regret, is also quite the departure from his usual upbeat dance music.
(to stream on NETFLIX in future)

04. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (ep. 23-32, or SECOND SEASON ep. 1-10) – AssClass has been so much fun to watch! The season premiere episode was great, and it’s continued strong each week, even while varying between lighter and darker story arcs. It’s nice to see the students and staff getting some character development too, especially Nagisa and Irina.
(streaming at FUNimation)

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05. Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime) (ep. 13-21) – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this second half of the series, as things on the romantic front seemed pretty resolved by the end of the first cour.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Prince Raj’s personal growth and how he’s been inspired to better himself. He’s become an unexpectedly sympathetic character. And Obi, as Shirayuki’s bodyguard, has had many opportunities to shine lately. I like him a lot.
(streaming at FUNimation)

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06. GRIMGAR OF FANTASY AND ASH (Hai to Gensou no Grimgar) (ep. 1-9) – GRIMGAR’s team of volunteer soldiers are tasked with killing goblins in order to earn a living. But more than battling the goblins, which seem to be intelligent and social creatures, they are hunting them. It is intentionally disturbing, and I like that.

The kids spend a lot of time sitting around, talking, maybe too much time, but I find that it’s preferable to the opposite situation. By comparison, currently airing series “BBK/BRNK” also features a ragtag group of juveniles forming team in a fantasy setting. BBK/BRNK has no shortage of action scenes, but after 3 episodes (which is all I watched before dropping), I couldn’t get a grasp on why the characters were working together, and I didn’t care about any of them.

Although GRIMGAR takes its time developing its characters, it had my attention even after just one episode. But it really does move at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Did I mention how pretty it is? Regardless of content, this anime might just be worth watching for the breathtaking watercolour artwork alone. It is that gorgeous.
(streaming at FUNimation)

07. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans)
(ep. 14-22) – After some unexpected conflict at the Dort Colonies, Tekkadan make it to Earth with Kudelia. Things won’t be easy from here on out. Kudelia’s work is just beginning and there’s no telling if the Tekkadan members will even be able to go home.

Whenever IBO’s writers raise a death flag on a character, they pretty much will follow through on it without fail. Not necessarily saying that is a good or bad thing, but I certainly didn’t expect that the title of the first OP, “Raise Your Flag,” could have had that kind of meaning!
(streaming at DAISUKI, Crunchyroll, and FUNimation)

08. Mr. Osomatsu (Osomatsu-san) (ep. 13-22) – A runaway hit in Japan, Osomatsu-san continues to provide irreverent and random comedic goodness. I like it best when the Matsuno brothers look like themselves or appear as their bishounen versions. I have to admit I don’t really get the Girlymatsu stuff.

My favourite episode so far is definitely ep. 16, featuring that outrageously inspired Mad Max parody.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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09. PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE (ep. 1-10) – The whole sport of Stride, which requires the closing of city streets and the cooperation of many people for a few minutes of parkour/foot racing, strikes me as impossible, or at least highly impractical. But to dwell on that would be missing the point. PRINCE OF STRIDE is not asking to be taken seriously. This is a show that has been known to check off anime tropes onscreen! And yes, one of the teams happens to be an idol group and another team spends time modelling fashion in photo shoots. I had to reset my expectation bar to a slightly lower setting after the second episode, but I’ve been enjoying it just fine since.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

10. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 39-48) – Even though I don’t especially think I look forward to Ace of Diamond every week, once I start watching, it’s always riveting. I take for granted that this show will always be there for me with a weekly dose of Seido baseball. The thought that it will be ending soon, for real this time, does leave me anticipating a bit of withdrawal.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Haikyuu!! Second Season (ep. 14-23) – After the stretch of intense training, the Karasuno boys are facing some of their toughest matchups to date. It’s good to see them making use of their improved skills; and I like how the players’ personalities are having an impact on gameplay.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

KONOSUBA
12. KONOSUBA –God’s Blessing on this wonderful world! (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!) (ep. 1-9) – Amazingly, there were 3 series this season in which a boy dies after being hit by a motor vehicle and subsequently receives a new life of some sort in the first episode. That would be ERASED, AJIN, and this show, KONOSUBA.

I had been kind of off of the trapped in game/fantasy world genre for a good while, but this season I’ve ended up following 2 such shows. GRIMGAR is the dark, serious take on the theme, where the adventurers need to think about cooking, cleaning, and making a living; and a mistake can mean death.

By contrast, KONOSUBA plays the scenario for laughs, in much the same way as IXION SAGA DT did. I’m happy to report that it isn’t even close to as offensive as I’d feared, although it maybe isn’t quite as funny as I’d hoped, either. Overall, it’s still been pretty enjoyable, low-intensity entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. DURARARA!! X2 Ketsu (The Third Arc)
(ep. 25-34) – All the pieces are in play and getting ready for the grand finale. However, the preparation is taking a while. There really are too many characters! After all this time, it’s pretty hard keeping track of how everyone is related to each other and what their individual objectives are.
(streaming at Crunchyroll, DAISUKI, and FUNimation)

14. GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (ep. 13-21) – Fortunately, the main focus has been on power struggles and politics and dragon hunting in the Special Region. The show has yet to descend to full-on fantasy harem, and for that, I’m grateful.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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15. Active Raid (ep. 1-10) – This series about an armoured police force tries to be both funny and serious, but unfortunately, it isn’t terribly successful at either comedy or drama. The attention that’s given to police protocol is impressive; and even though the characters are pretty one dimensional, they are sometimes amusing to watch. Overall, though, the show’s not that good.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Utawarerumono: The False Faces (Itsuwari no Kamen) (ep. 13-23) – This show’s been all over the board. There’s been a big war that kind of fizzled out, some big reveals, a plot-twisting death, some power-struggle scheming, and some nothing episodes. At least the girls all seem to have something useful to do lately, and they’re not just sitting around looking at and drawing yaoi; and all that time that Haku spent cleaning gutters might finally be paying off.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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17. RAINBOW DAYS (Nijiiro Days) (ep. 1-9) – Pretty forgettable show about the daily lives and romantic exploits of 4 high school friends. It’s a half-length program only. The other half, “club RAINBOW,” is live-action, and it features the 4 male seiyuu who play the leads doing random activities. Club RAINBOW is totally trivial, but it actually leaves a much greater impression than the actual anime itself.
(streaming at FUNimation)

18. Dimension W (ep. 1-9) – Normally, this type of dark and gritty science fiction would be right up my alley, but Dimension W really lost me with the ghost story in eps. 4 and 5 and never regained my interest again. There are too many unimportant characters, and not nearly enough development for the leads to make us care about them.

It kind of feels like we’re in the middle of the second season of DRRR!!, with how convoluted it is and how difficult it is to keep track of the characters. Except we’re only at 9 episodes of a single cour of Dimension W, as opposed to 50+ episodes of DRRR!! over 7 years!

Also, what kind of idiot (main character) brings a sports car to navigate across a torn-up terrain?
(streaming at FUNimation)

19. GARO: CRIMSON MOON (Guren no Tsuki) (ep. 12-19) – Every once in a while an episode will impress us by being not bad, such as the one involving the other brothers (ep.16), but at this point, I’m mainly watching because now that I’ve come this far, I may as well continue for completion’s sake. I have long since discarded any hope I had for this series.
(streaming at FUNimation)

20. Sekkou Boys (ep. 1-10) – About a group of idols who are literally plaster busts, and the long-suffering manager girl who has to look after them. The Sekkou Boys talk, but they do not move, not even their lips. I’m sure there’s some social commentary in there somewhere, but the only reason I can make myself watch this is that each episode is less than 8 minutes long, and it’s usually over before it becomes excessively tiresome.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)