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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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)

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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)