Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Anime

As I sat down to contemplate the series that I felt were the best of 2016, at first I thought I might be looking at a 3-way tie, maybe even 5-way. Only after checking my scoring on MyAnimeList did it become apparent that one series received a higher grade than everything else. The other shows settled in behind it then. The top shows were really close, though; and it doesn’t help that they were all so different in terms of setting, genre, tone, and subject matter.

In the end, the top 4 were basically my highest ranking picks from each season. I’m not actually going to rave about these series again right now; please follow the links if you wish to see the previous write-ups.

☆ Top 10 Anime:

#1. 91 Days (12 episodes)
91-days-wallpaper
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#2. Yuri!!! on ICE (12 episodes)
yuri-on-ice-06
Aired Autumn 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (13 episodes)
shouwa-genroku-rakugo-shinjuu
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) SECOND/FINAL SEASON (25 episodes)
Assassination Classroom
Aired Winter 2016 and Spring 2016
(First season of 22 episodes aired Winter 2015 and Spring 2015)
(streaming: FUNimation)

#5. AJIN (26 episodes)
ajin-season-2
Aired Winter 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: NETFLIX)

#6. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (24 full-length episodes)
saiki-k
Aired Summer 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

#7. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (12 episodes)
Kabaneri - Mumei
Aired Spring 2016

#8. Thunderbolt Fantasy (13 episodes)
Thunderbolt Fantasy - Lin Xue Ya
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (12 episodes)
ERASED
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll and DAISUKI)

#10. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (12 episodes)
cute-high-earth-defense-club-love-love
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Favourite Guilty Pleasure Anime:

Scar-red Rider XechS (12 episodes)
scared-rider-xechs
Aired Summer 2016

I watch most of my anime with my sister. Scar-red Rider XechS was bad or boring enough after 3 episodes that she dropped it. I persevered however; and before long, I found myself looking forward to each new episode with an enthusiasm that was out of proportion with my generally low opinion of the production’s quality.

One of the reasons was that I started to love the characters. Yosuke and Takt (more on him later) in particular were well-written and well-acted, but the rest of the cast were also entertaining and endearing in weird ways.

The other reason was my gradual belief that the absurd plot developments and dialogue were intended to be comedy, and weren’t just bad writing. Just as how The Lost Village didn’t make it clear to its audience if the plot was supposed to be funny or not, SRX sometimes presented a similar predicament. Well, I like my personal interpretation of these shows; after all, I seem to have found a lot more enjoyment from both of them than most viewers did!

Anyway, I will always remember the “western-style restaurant” conversation of ep. 5. It literally had me giggling for days, maybe weeks, afterward whenever it came to mind.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

☆ Sequels that significantly outperformed their predecessors:

Active Raid 2nd – With all the goofing around they did in the first cour, and much of the second too, who would have imagined that Active Raid was in actuality laying down the groundwork for a serious, even thought-provoking, storyline all along? But that was what we got! The payoff was a whole lot better than I expected, infinitely better, since I don’t think I ever considered that a show like this would arrive at such a coherent, meaningful outcome.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 – Even those of us who were not won over by the meandering first cour of BUNGO STRAY DOGS had to sit up and take notice when this second season started. Suddenly we had a brand new protagonist and a mature, plot-heavy flashback tale. I, for one, was in no hurry to return to the present timeline. When we did, it was predictably a bit of a disappointment, but by then the show had secured my interest and my goodwill.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Biggest Regrets:

Dimension W and KIZNAIVER. These shows had some potential, but managed to squander it completely and go in the opposite direction. I ended up hating them.

BATTERY the Animation similarly went completely off the rails and turned into a huge disappointment. However, it didn’t incite the contempt that those two shows did.

Other shows that were simply a waste of time: GARO: CRIMSON MOON, Bloodivores, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, OZMAFIA!!, and Sekkou Boys. It was my own damn fault for continuing to watch most of them, though.

☆ Favourite Characters:

srx-05-takt
#1. Kirisawa Takt (cv. Miyano Mamoru), Scar-red Rider XechS

Obviously, the leader of LAG’s 6th combat unit and frontman of Odd I’s is pretty and has a nice voice. And it’s easy to sympathize with him as the straight man in a show full of eccentrics.

Beyond that, I like him partially because I can relate to him on a personal level. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me, but as a fellow skinny, height-challenged, long-haired idealist with a discerning taste for rock music and a preference for black platform boots as everyday footwear, I guess this anime character and I have a few things in common! Naturally, I also share Takt’s opinion on the topic of shiitake mushrooms as an ingredient for food preparation.

bungo-stray-dogs-odasaku
#2. Oda Sakunosuke (cv. Suwabe Junichi), BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2

He was only in 4 episodes, but those 4 episodes, which told a dark, tragic prequel story, were so good! I loved Odasaku in the lead role; he was badass, principled, and extremely sympathetic.

As mentioned, that early segment of season 2 totally blew me away and changed my opinion of the whole series up till that point.

days-kimishita
#3. Kimishita Atsushi (cv. Ono Daisuke), DAYS

Abrasively bossy characters with a habit of pointing out other people’s faults because they themselves are so smart and/or skilled are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I seem to have a soft spot for these types, though. MACROSS DELTA’s Messer had this kind of personality as well, albeit with less anger than Kimishita, and I liked him a lot too.

There are the rare occasions where Kimishita reveals that he is actually a nice guy. However, those moments of kindness could also be interpreted as a backhanded way of expressing his impatience at others’ incompetence, whereas normally he is just way more upfront about it.

It is entirely thanks to Kimishita and the other senpai, especially Ooshiba and Mizuki (ie., not the main characters), that I made it through all of DAYS and ultimately gave the show a somewhat decent score. I even intend to return for the sequel.

☆ Best (Funniest) Single Episode:

Osomatsu-san 16 Osomatsu-san 16a
Osomatsu-san episode 16: “Matsuno Matsunan / The Ichimatsu Incident.” As if the “Mad Max” parody featuring F6 wasn’t gratuitously over-the-top enough, it was then followed up by an incest sketch!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Best Finale:

TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION – I can’t actually recommend most of this idol anime. But if you’re inclined to watch, make sure you continue to the end, because the last part of that concert-themed final episode was the most stunning and feel-good finish of any series that I watched in 2016.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

As far as shows I do recommend go, I applaud ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM for its emotional yet heartwarming and hopeful ending.

I was also very satisfied with 91 Days’ ending, including the way it left some things open to interpretation.

☆ Best OP/ED Sequence (music & visuals):

BUNGO STRAY DOGS season 2 OP: “Reason Living” by SCREEN mode, version 2, which appeared in the middle of the third episode (or overall ep. 15). It occurred once only, but we may have watched it more times than we do most regularly occurring OPs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to share here; if you’re interested, you can find it at 11:52 to 13:22 of ep. 15.

Honourable mentions: Yuri!!! on ICE ED “You Only Live Once” by Hatano Wataru, and 91 Days OP “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure.

☆ Anime Songs Top 20 Countdown:

As with last year, this is a list of the best anime songs of 2016 according to me. The songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs, not the TV-size versions, that are being considered.

20. old revelation, by Mutsuki Hijiri (cv.KENN) (Scar-red Rider XechS ED)

19. RUSH, by GALAXY STANDARD (cv: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Ono Yuuki) (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

18. Shounen no Hate, by GRANRODEO (Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS 2 ED)

17. The Experience, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Soushuu-hen: Namida no Saki e Main Theme)

16. Kaze wa Yokoku Naku Fuku, by WALKURE (MACROSS Δ ED8)

15. Reason Living, by SCREEN mode (BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 OP)

14. Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE ED)

13. Kokoro no Arika, by Heshikiri Hasebe(cv:Shingaki Tarusuke), Souza Samonji(cv:Tai Yuuki) & Yagen Toushirou(cv:Yamashita Seiichirou) (Touken Ranbu -Hanamaru- ED2)

12. ninelie, by Aimer with chelly(EGOIST) (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS ED)

11. You’re My Courage, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

10. Through My Blood <AM>, by Aimer (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

09. Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Highlights -Shadow and Light- Main Theme)

08. Yoru Ha Nemurerukai?, by flumpool (AJIN OP1)

07. Ao to Aka no Forzato, by Komae Christoph Yosuke (cv.Suzuki Tatsuhisa), Kirisawa Takt (cv.Miyano Mamoru) (Scar-red Rider XechS OP)

06. HOW CLOSE YOU ARE, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN ED1)

05. The Birth, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN: Shougeki Main Theme)

04. Signal, by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (91 Days OP)

03. Hikari aru Basho e, by May’n (Izetta, The Last Witch ED)

02. Warcry, by Sawano Hiroyuki feat. mpi (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

01. Deal with, by OLDCODEX (SERVAMP OP)

☆ In closing, some Notable Quotes:

“If you look even half-decent, you’re considered hot.” – Choromatsu, considering the voice acting profession, in Osomatsu-san ep. 20.

“Your stupidity can’t be cured even by your death. So you might as well live.” – Julieta to suicidal Iok, in Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS ep. 37.

“Well don’t lose heart. Girls are as plentiful as stars in the night sky… and just as unreachable for you.”
– Saiki to freshly rejected Toritsuka, in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. spec. ep. 50, or full ep. 10.

“There’s only one carbonara!” – Yosuke to dumbfounded Takt, in Scar-red Rider XechS ep. 5.

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)

Boku-Dake-04
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)

Ajin - 03
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)

akagami shirayukihime-21
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)

Grimgar-of-Fantasy-and-Ash-4
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)

Prince-of-Stride-Yagami
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)

Active-Raid-04
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)

rainbow days - 6
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)

Mid-Autumn 2015 Anime Ranking

One Punch Man 05
01. ONE PUNCH MAN (ep. 1-10) – Well, I don’t know where to start. This super hero anime is simply really good. The humour is great, the action is great. I love Saitama and Genos and their interactions with each other. There are lots of great characters with distinct and amusing personalities.

If you want, it’s possible to read into the material some social commentary about work culture, the way institutions evaluate individuals, and what it means to be a hero. But you don’t have to think about any of that stuff. Above all else, OPM is just super fun to watch.
(streaming at DAISUKI)

Gundam Iron blooded orphans 04
02. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 1-10) – As expected from GUNDAM, the newest series features a complex narrative which develops on multiple levels. The pacing is good and there is some nice mecha action, of course. Beyond that, what I really appreciate is how well the characters are written. Even minor supporting players have clearly defined personalities and the antagonists are not simple villain types, either.

Recently, we’ve started to see some of Orga’s insecurities and vulnerabilities, whereas previously, he seemed so smart and confident in his role as leader of Tekkadan. It really brings home just how young he and his gang all are.
(streaming at DAISUKI, Crunchyroll, and FUNimation!)

Seraph 2 Guren Shinya
03. Seraph of the End: VAMPIRE REIGN (Owari no Seraph) (ep. 13-21, or BATTLE IN NAGOYA ep. 1-9) – This second season started off a bit slow, but the momentum is definitely building up now. Things are getting complicated; it’s still a mystery how Guren, Kureto, Ferid, and Krul figure into the plot and what their motives are.

Previously, I criticized the poor action animation of the first season. Let me just say I have no complaints this time around. Episode 21 in particular was stunning! I do think it would have been easier for Mika (and Seraph’s animators) if he had decided to attack the Demon Army group from behind; but if he had done that, we would have missed out on a spectacular fight sequence!
(streaming at FUNimation)

Noragami aragoto 06
04. NORAGAMI (ep. 13-22, or ARAGOTO ep. 1-10) – I am one of those people who wasn’t really a huge fan of NORAGAMI when it first aired in 2014. But, I’ve been pretty impressed with this sequel.

The principles that were laid down in the first season explaining the complicated relationship between Yato, a god, and his human regalia, Yukine come to fruition here. In this installment, those same ideas are applied to a very different god, Bishamon, in a way that thoughtfully explores the complexity of her situation and the consequences of her actions. Along the way, we also learn the source of her conflict with Yato. Bishamon’s arc is terrific.

The second half of the cour is taking another dark turn, with Yato regressing to his toxic roots with Nora. It’s still good, but ultimately, I think I was more interested in Bishamon than in the Yato/Ebisu story and Yato/Hiyori’s relationship.
(streaming at FUNimation)

STARMYU 06
05. STARMYU High School Star Musical (ep. 1-10) – Well, there’s no shortage of otome trash titles this season, and God help us, we’re watching all of them! The best of the bunch is STARMYU, about a group of cute boys enrolled in a musical academy. It has been likened to Uta-Pri, except with fewer (haha) female characters.

At first the cast seemed pretty unlikeable, but gradually their personalities have gotten fleshed out and their rapport with each other is good. And yes, this is actually a musical, so there are performances and the guys will regularly just break out in song, which is awesome.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

06. Mr. Osomatsu (Osomatsu-san) (ep. 1-9) – A new gag anime based on the Osomatsu-kun manga from the 60s, which last had an anime adaptation more than 25 years ago. The identical sextuplets are under-employed adults in this iteration, with A-list seiyuu providing their voices. Honestly, I still have trouble telling the brothers apart, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the random, subversive humour of the show.

You might expect Osomatsu-san to be old-school and innocent, but it has turned out to be the most scandalous show of the year. The first episode has been removed and will be completely remade for the home video release as a result of making unauthorized references to various other anime. Episode 3 also caused a stir (and necessitated revision) over a particularly vulgar parody of Anpanman. Who knows what trouble they’ll get into next? Watch it while you can!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 26-35) – Not much new to say at this point. If you’ve been enjoying Ace of Diamond so far, as I have, you won’t be disappointed by the current offering.

Seido is facing Seiko in the current arc. Their strange but talented relief pitcher, who sometimes sings the Anpanman song while on the mound, is putting the brakes on Seido’s offence. Meanwhile, Furuya and Sawamura are feeling the heat from Seiko’s powerful batters.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

K RETURN OF KINGS 09
08. K: RETURN OF KINGS (ep. 1-11) – It’s rewarding the way RETURN OF KINGS has built upon the ideas presented in the first season and in the “MISSING KINGS” movie. Because of that, I’m enjoying this sequel even though I was not a big fan of the original series.

My biggest complaint overall is that there are really only 3 female characters among the rather large cast; and the 2 of them who aren’t children seem to exist almost solely for fanservice, with boobs and butts randomly plastered in front of the camera at every opportunity. Fortunately, this isn’t all the time, since they are so vastly outnumbered by the guys.

For me, the highlight so far was ep. 9. I loved seeing Awashima and Kusanagi all dressed up. Okay, so I like this kind of fanservice; it’s nice to see regular characters wearing clothes and hairstyles so different from their usual. Plus, there was plot development, foreshadowing, and get this: a break dance/gunfight in an elevator! Colour me impressed.

09. Haikyuu!! Second Season (ep. 1-9) – The Karasuno guys are finding that they can learn new things by practising with other teams.

The production quality remains high with this sequel. Manager trainee Yachi is a great addition to the cast. I only wish Asahi would stop wearing his hairband like that; it’s weird and doesn’t look comfortable at all. He should take a hint from his coach – there’s a guy right in front of him who knows how to rock a hairband!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Dance with Devils
10. Dance with Devils (ep. 1-10) – The second of 3 shows in our Otome Trash lineup, Dance with Devils is yet another musical. Ritsuka, who is surprisingly smart and strong-willed for a protagonist in this type of anime, finds herself targeted by vampires and devils (in the Student Council) because of her family’s connection to the coveted Grimoire.

While the first episode greatly exceeded my expectations, the characters’ songs since then have been laughable for the most part. Not to be missed: the Pomeranian gets his turn to sing in ep. 7; and in the latest episode, the Student Council members collaborate to accuse their President of being an “Emo Liar”!

Just so we’re clear, I’m not saying the show isn’t good. On the contrary, I think it’s pretty fabulous.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

AoT Jr High
11. Attack on Titan: Junior High (Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou) (ep. 1-8) – If you go into this expecting new insight on the Attack on Titan story, you will be disappointed. This half-length spin-off is basically a self-parody of the series. The setting is completely changed, but the jokes are all just exaggerated takes on the original material, and they’re not even that funny. The main thing that sells this? Cuteness. The characters appear in chibi form and they are ridiculously cute.

Unfortunately, I will be putting this on hold as of now since the content seems to have veered into possible spoiler territory for the main series.
(streaming at FUNimation)

12. Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider (ep. 1-9) – A murder takes place in a research facility on a remote island. Nishinosono and her mentor Saikawa happen to be visiting when it occurs.

This is a dark, locked-door mystery, but sometimes I have trouble taking it seriously. Everyone seems to just take things in stride and come and go as they please even though there’s been murder! And the killer is almost certainly on the premises! No one’s suspicious of our protagonists, either, despite the fact that they just happened to show up on the night of the crime.

It’s kind of unfortunate that other shows this season have inadvertently served as parodies of this particular story; Osomatsu-san especially (the “Calming Detective” segment of ep. 8 was hilarious), and also some parts of Beautiful Bones (the uncanny parallels between the 6th episodes of each series).
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. Chivalry of a Failed Knight (Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry) (ep. 1-10) – The basic premise of this anime sounds like any number of other magic school shows where the hero is branded as weak but in actuality is very strong, and all the girls desire him. Think: Mahouka (The irregular at magic high school). Fortunately, this show seems to be a bit more self-aware and operates with a modicum of restraint.

It helps that even though there is obviously a harem set-up, the romance is mainly with just one girl. And that girl isn’t the protagonist’s sister! Of course, that doesn’t mean Ikki’s sister isn’t in love with him; naturally a show like this has to have an incestuously-inclined little sister. Naturally. Even I have to admit that it is somewhat amusing as satire. Nevertheless, the brocon stuff is still not actually very funny.

There are times when I’ll be rolling my eyes at the fanservice and contrivances, but then the anime will just as often turn things around and show its good sense. For instance, I had started to feel apprehensive of the misunderstanding between Ikki and Stella in ep. 5, but to my surprise, the two of them actually hashed things out honestly and resolved the issue by episode’s end! That’s pretty unprecedented!
(streaming at Viewster)

GARO CRIMSON MOON Seimei 07
14. GARO: CRIMSON MOON (Guren no Tsuki) (ep. 1-9) – This is the second anime of the GARO franchise and it has virtually nothing in common with the first series. Here we have a whole new set of characters and a new Heian-era Japanese setting, which I thought was a unique idea. Unfortunately, CRIMSON MOON is also a whole new beast in terms of depth of character, narrative flow, and maturity in subject matter; those elements do not measure up to GARO THE ANIMATION at all.

The storytelling is rather slow and strangely episodic; it’s taken a long time to reveal the overall plot. I can appreciate what they were trying to do in re-imagining classic tales from the Heian period and tying them in to the Garo world. Unfortunately, the way these stories get connected to the main characters is kind of amateurish and contrived.

Seimei is actually an interesting and eccentric person and I’m relieved that we are finally getting to see some of her story. I’m glad that both of her companions will call her out on her questionable behaviour at times as well.

One thing I still like about this production is the eclectic musical choices, which I also mentioned in my (unrelated) review of “Miss Hokusai” earlier. The artwork is often quite pretty too.
(streaming at FUNimation)

15. Beautiful Bones –Sakurako’s Investigation- (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru) (ep. 1-9) – Another show featuring a beautiful and eccentric leading lady with a taste for bizarre collectibles. This one has a young male sidekick too. The topic here is modern day mysteries, with a leaning toward forensics.

It bothers me how much this series relies on contrived coincidences to connect the main characters to the cases and often to solve the mysteries too. Sakurako is somehow more knowledgeable than police detectives, microbiologists, and physicians. I can be convinced that she might be well-studied and have an amazing memory, but there’s no way she can know absolutely everything – even what people she doesn’t know were thinking!

Objectively, Beautiful Bones looks great and it’s not a terrible show, not worse than GARO: CRIMSON MOON, anyway. But more and more I’m feeling bored and cynical toward it, while at the same time GARO has been trending up a bit at last.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Utawarerumono: The False Faces (Itsuwari no Kamen) (ep. 1-9) – The show got off to a decent start by introducing the 2 main characters and having their community face the truly terrifying threat of giant centipedes and super-giant centipedes (shudder). As the cast expanded, though, I found myself losing interest fast. Episodes 5-7 felt like a slog. It’s true I have not seen the first series, but I suspect that wouldn’t have made much difference aside from recognizing a few recurring characters who appear in ep. 6.

All the females in this anime look the same to me! And there are so many of them now. I’m sitting here staring at the screen thinking, “Who are these girls again? Please let there not be a test!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

DIABOLIK LOVERS MORE BLOOD 07
17. DIABOLIK LOVERS II: MORE,BLOOD (ep. 1-9) – I’ll never understand what’s so good about this rapey piece of trash anime, the final and definitive title in our Otome Trash lineup. But somehow, the franchise has been successful enough to warrant a second anime season, and furthermore, I’m watching it! What the heck.

There is another family, consisting of 4 brothers, that takes Yui captive this time around. They have been added to the cast in order to further torment our brainless heroine. I think I harboured a tiny shred of hope that at least one of them would turn out to not be another abusive asshole. Ah, what was I smoking?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)