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.

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

Mid-Spring 2016 Anime Ranking

In a season where there are some shows trying really hard to be smart (JOKER GAME, and arguably KIZNAIVER) and at the same time other shows trying hard to be really dumb (Sakamoto desu ga?, and arguably The Lost Village), it’s a challenge to rank them in any kind of order. Here’s my attempt at it anyway.

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01. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (ep. 36-44, or SECOND/FINAL SEASON ep. 14-22) – Things are really getting serious as AssClass heads towards its conclusion. Koro-sensei’s past is revealed in detail at last. Predictably, the increased awareness of their target’s backstory does nothing to enhance the murderous intent of Class 3E.

I like the direction they’re taking with the story. While the students have been specifically tasked with eliminating the threat which is their teacher, in the big picture, the overall goal is actually to save the Earth. But they’re not the only ones who want Koro-sensei dead.

Whether he lives or dies, either way, I’m definitely going to miss Koro-sensei and his assassination classroom when this is all over.
(streaming at FUNimation)

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02. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (ep. 1-9) – A lot has been made of KABANERI’s similarities to Attack on Titan. It’s clear that KABANERI owes some inspiration to its predecessor, but it’s easy enough to appreciate this series as its own entity.

Many of the characters have distinct personalities and it’s been nice to see their development as the story has progressed. In particular, Ayame has shown herself to be brave and forward-thinking. I think she has really risen to the challenge of leading her people, despite the fact that the role was thrust upon her unexpectedly. And Ikoma has displayed emotions ranging from joyfully ecstatic, to bitterly crushed, to everything in between. He’s a testament to nerd heroism: his inventions are not only protecting the survivors aboard the Koutetsujou from the Kabane attacks, but the selling/sharing of his technology is also helping to feed the train’s occupants!

Mumei started out as overly strong but unsophisticated; gradually she’s gaining some maturity through her experiences with Ikoma. I’m not sure about Biba, though; so far, he’s been too blatantly evil. I’m curious to see if they will do anything more interesting with his character. I hope so.

KABANERI has its flaws, but for the most part, it’s well-written, it looks great (especially the action scenes), and yes, we are also here for the musical soundtrack by none other than Sawano Hiroyuki.

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03. Re:ZERO –Starting Life in Another World- (Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu) (ep. 1-10) – It’s an ongoing mystery why Subaru suddenly finds himself in an alternate fantasy world where his life is constantly in danger. The good thing is he has the ability to start over at a seeming “save point” whenever he dies. However, it is scary and painful to be killed, and it isn’t known how often he can restart before it’s game over for real. Re:ZERO is entertaining, well-written, and at times, genuinely suspenseful.

I’m impressed that Subaru is actually a decent, likeable guy, considering that he is the male lead in a fantasy show full of female supporting characters. I like Ram and Rem too; they’re cute and they seem to have a complicated bond as sisters.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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04. MY HERO ACADEMIA (Boku no Hero Academia) (ep. 1-10) – It’s kind of like X-Men, except mutations (called “quirks”) occur commonly and are valued by society. Poor Midoriya (Deku) grew up idolizing superheroes all of his young life and is devastated when his quirk never appears. Nevertheless, he is determined to attend The Hero Academy. He does receive some unexpected help, but still it won’t be easy. Deku is so enthusiastic and hard-working. You just can’t help but root for him!

It’s weird to me that the bad guys actually call themselves “villains” in this show. Does it have a different meaning in their world? Or do they not believe in the justness of their own cause?
(streaming at FUNimation)

05. Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge) (ep. 1-10) – The show’s bright and clean aesthetic is very appealing, and that’s a major selling point, even if I’m not at all a fan of the main character’s slack-off, do-nothing personality. Those types always annoy me. He is, however, the whole reason this series exists. And there are other things I do like, such as Tanaka’s long-suffering and enabling best friend, Ohta. Ohta comes off as really sympathetic and his lines are frequently smart and dryly funny.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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06. JOKER GAME (ep. 1-10) – D-Agency, a paramilitary spy organization, is created in Japan and its operatives are stationed around the world in this WWII-era drama. Most of the series has been more episodic than I expected. The early parts would feature one of the spies at a time in short stand-alone stories. They are difficult to tell apart from one another and we don’t get to know them much at all; which is completely intentional, since they are spies after all, and they’re not supposed to stand out. However, that has the side-effect of leaving me less invested in the show as a whole.

It’s only recently that there’s been a greater semblance of an overarching narrative, as Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki’s enemies are trying to figure him out. Ironically, because we are seeing things from an outside perspective now, that actually removes us even further from D-Agency. Lt. Colonel Yuuki and his spies remain as much of an enigma as ever.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 1-11) – Something in Morioh City seems to be attracting stand users. It’s the 90s now, and our main protagonist this time is Josuke Higashikata, the illegitimate son of elderly Joseph Joestar.

There’s just no denying how entertaining JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure consistently manages to be. I may not love the character designs or the show’s technicolour aesthetics, but when all I need is some good dumb fun, JoJo’s always comes through.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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08. Shounen Maid (ep. 1-9) – Chihiro goes to live with his young and carefree uncle after his mother passes away. He refuses to just accept Madoka’s charity, and plus Chihiro happens to have an unnatural love for housework, so they agree that he will do the household chores in exchange for room and board.

The tone is consistently light-hearted, funny and positive, but what’s unique is that there is an underlying sadness here that doesn’t get addressed directly. On the one hand, it’s really heartwarming that Madoka and Chihiro have found and connected with each other after the loss of their sister/mother, but there’s no way child-like Madoka could ever take the place of Chihiro’s mother, Chiyo. It’s also perplexing that Chiyo seemingly made no plans for her child’s welfare and never introduced her son to her family, even when her death was imminent.
(streaming at FUNimation)

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09. BUNGOU STRAY DOGS (ep. 1-10) – I admit many of the references are lost on me, as the characters are based on real-life historical writers and I’m not very familiar with their works or backgrounds. As an uninitiated viewer, it seems a lot of focus has been on showing how wacky the cast is instead of presenting a real story.

It’s been getting a bit better recently, now that our main character Atsushi is finally taking the lead. Ep. 10 featured some good action and it convinced me that Dazai and Atsushi have a close mentor-apprentice relationship, even though I didn’t really get that from the show previously!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. The Lost Village (Mayoiga) (ep. 1-10) – A busload of one-note characters arrives at mysterious Nanaki Village to start their lives anew. A vast number of them are pretty annoying and stupid and nobody would have minded if they became fodder for getting killed off one by one as they faced the monsters in the woods.

The Lost Village can’t be considered good by any stretch of the imagination, but you’ve got to give it credit for not pretending to be anything more than the shallow schlock that it is. In fact, the jury is out on whether this show is intentionally ridiculous or if it’s just plain bad writing. Personally, I’ve been taking it as absurdist comedy because it makes me laugh.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (Sakamoto desu ga?) (ep. 1-9) – This show is based on one single joke, and that’s that Sakamoto is absolutely, unbelievably perfect and cool in everything that he does. More often than not, it works and it’s funny! The best parts are when the bullies and tough guys find themselves becoming Sakamoto’s fans. I think those guys are more fun to watch than Sakamoto himself.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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12. Flying Witch (ep. 1-10) – This is a charming, slice-of-life series about a young witch-in-training who goes to the countryside to live with relatives. The characters are likeable, and more than a few of them are a bit quirky. Of particular note is Chinatsu, the little girl who is fascinated with witches now that she has gotten over her mild shock at the discovery that they exist. She is adorable and totally makes the show.

The reason Flying Witch is relatively low on my list? Well, nothing really happens in it. I hate to say it, but honestly, it’s a little too laid-back for my taste and I find it kind of boring. Also, I rather disliked the behaviour of our main characters during the café segment (eps. 7-8), in which they tricked their waitress and harassed the other customers (although they didn’t seem to mind too much). Fortunately, Makoto and company are not that boorish usually.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. RAINBOW DAYS (Nijiiro Days) (ep. 13-21) – I was worried about my tolerance for this show since it is airing this cour without the accompanying Club RAINBOW live-action segments. I’m relieved that the developments have been just slightly more interesting than in the first half and the new characters (in eps. 17 & 18) have proven to be a welcome addition.
(streaming at FUNimation)

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14. KIZNAIVER (ep. 1-9) – Several high school kids are unwittingly enlisted to take part in an unethical human experiment in which they become linked to each other through feeling/sharing each other’s pain. It’s all for a lofty purpose, apparently.

From the special episodes which preceded the series, it seemed the people who were working on the project were pretty hyped about its concept and characters, which succeeded in piquing my interest. Unfortunately, after 9 episodes, I still find the whole thing to be underwhelming. The characters are not terribly sympathetic, the humour often misses its mark, and the romantic shipping seems forced and melodramatic.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching:

MACROSS DELTA – but I’m not caught up enough to include it in the rankings or have much of an opinion about it. Word is, the songs are quite good; of course, it’s girl-idol pop music, so I’m not a reliable judge of that aspect.

BROTHERHOOD FINAL FANTASY XV – only 2 short episodes have aired so far. They’ve been low on substance but undeniably fun anyway.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and YouTube)