Mid-Winter 2018 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Jacquie’s 2017 Year in Review – Anime

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

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

☆ TOP 10 ANIME:

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

Aired Summer 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aired Spring 2017 to Summer 2017

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

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

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

Aired Winter 2017

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

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

Aired Autumn 2017

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

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

Aired Spring 2017

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

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

#6. MADE IN ABYSS (13 episodes)

Aired Summer 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aired Winter 2017

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

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

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

#9. DREAM FESTIVAL! R (12 episodes)

Aired mid-Summer to mid-Autumn 2017

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

#10. INUYASHIKI LAST HERO (11 episodes)

Aired Autumn 2017

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

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

☆ Best Recap Episode:


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

☆ Favourite Seiyuu:

Umehara Yuuichirou

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

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

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

☆ Anime Songs Top 9 Countdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Autumn 2017 Anime Ranking


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also watching:

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

Notable drop:

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

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

Mid-Summer 2017 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Spring 2017 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Winter 2017 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

GUNDAM IBO 40
02. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 39-45) – After the unfair attack on Turbines, Tekkadan had ample reason to fight back in retaliation. No, there didn’t need to be an additional loss of life to spur them to action. However, I really liked that Orga intended to honour the wishes of his lost friend and take the high road. It took the secondary attack to prove that Jasley was not about to take no for an answer and that a battle was unavoidable after all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yowamushi pedal new generation 08
05. Yowamushi Pedal: NEW GENERATION (ep. 1-9) – It’s a new year, and the senior members of Sohoku Cycling Club are passing the torch. The next generation faces the pressure of defending the school’s standing as the current reigning champion after winning the last Inter-High.

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

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

Fuuka 08
06. Fuuka (ep. 1-10) – I definitely had some reservations going into Fuuka, as romance stories aimed at male audiences frequently have elements that bother me, such as violently tsundere heroines, extreme milquetoast protagonists, and tacky fanservice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also watching 3 seriously cute but twisted shorts:

Koro-sensei-Quest-02
KORO SENSEI QUEST (ep. 1-12) – Assassination Classroom re-imagined as a chibi fantasy game narrative featuring Koro-sensei as the Big Bad.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

nobunaga no shinobi 18
Ninja Girl & Samurai Master (Nobunaga no Shinobi) (ep. 14-23) – The history of Oda Nobunaga re-imagined as a chibi gag comedy continues from last season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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

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-Autumn 2016 Anime Ranking

yuri-on-ice-07
01. Yuri!!! on ICE (ep. 1-10) – For much of its runtime, Yuri!!! on ICE exists as a sports anime about competitive figure skating. As such, it stands just fine, more than fine actually. The narrative and detailed animation is as good, or almost as good, as a top-tier production such as Haikyuu!!. The professionally-choreographed skating is brilliant and gorgeous to look at. There’s plenty of humour throughout. And it’s easy to cry and to celebrate right along with the well-written characters.

The best sports shows can be really excellent at handling sports drama, but, and I’ve said this before, I often want to know more about the athletes’ personal lives. This is where Yuri!!! on ICE goes above and beyond. I wasn’t originally rooting for the characters to get together (apparently I’m not much of a shipper in general), but I really like the casual way in which the romance has developed, interwoven with the skating plot. Having a love story tie everything together adds so much depth to the overall picture.

Plus, the fact that it happens to be an unconventional romance, taking place in a widely popular anime, is very unexpected and makes for a momentous social statement.

Sadly, the positive and tolerant environment of this anime is not the real world that we live in, but Yuri!!! on ICE shows us how the world could be if we just live and let love. And that’s beautifully inspiring.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

ajin-14
02. AJIN (ep. 14-23, or Season 2 ep. 1-10) – If anything, I think the CG animation and the facial expressions have improved this season. The theme songs are kind of crap, though, especially compared to the first season’s offerings.

As an intellectual action story, it doesn’t break any new ground; however, everything AJIN does, it does exceptionally well. So in terms of sheer excellence in pacing and logical yet thrilling story progression, AJIN 2 probably surpasses Yuri!!! on ICE. However, Yuri!!! is my number one, because it is well rounded and truly groundbreaking.
(to stream on NETFLIX)

bungo-stray-dogs-2-dazai
03. BUNGO STRAY DOGS (ep. 13-23, or Season 2 ep. 1-11) – The first 4 episodes were amazing. No offense to Atsushi, he’s fine, but I greatly preferred Oda as the main character. The flashback storyline was darker and more serious than anything in the show beforehand. Plus, there were 2 jaw-droppingly cool temporary versions of the OP (which were both superior to the actual version of the OP, by the way). And, it was the only time I can recall hearing my 3 favourite seiyuu, namely Miyano Mamoru, Suwabe Junichi, and Miki Shinichiro, all in the same show, in significant roles, and in the same episodes together. That was some incredible ear candy!

The rest of the season covers the 3-way war between the Armed Detective Agency, the Port Mafia, and The Guild. Honestly, the Guild members haven’t really captured my interest. Dazai, however, continues to be a fascinatingly nasty yet loveable character.

Incidentally, Mamo is starring in all 3 of my top favourite anime this season. Since Dazai and Nagai Kei are both pictured above, I was almost tempted to put a picture of JJ at the start of the post, instead of Yuuri. How wrong would that have been?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

haikyuu-s3
04. Haikyuu!! 3rd Season: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou (ep. 1-10 complete) – Yes, this whole season is about Karasuno’s one match-up against Shiratorizawa.

It’s also very good. The plays are riveting, the animation continues to be top-notch, and there’s character development too. It’s really satisfying how Tsukishima has become a major force for Karasuno.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (special ep. 66-100, or ep. 14-20) – Still highly enjoyable week after week, even if this cour has so far not been quite as crazy imaginative as the first one. Of course, a certain plot twist that I have been expecting (due to a spoilerific casting announcement back in early October) is still to come.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

06. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 27-37) – For a long time, I had my doubts about Rohan; I thought it was creepy the way he would try to buddy up to Koichi. But what do you know, I genuinely like the guy now! He’s smart and analytical, definitely a good asset when the rest of the team consists mostly of idiots and the villain you’re up against is an over-powered genius psychopath. The best part is his awkward and antagonistic relationship with Josuke; it’s so real, and so funny.

We’re finally nearing the climax of the Yoshikage Kira story arc which was being built up all season long. I’m kind of lukewarm about what’s happening right now, since I’m not sure all that time travel stuff actually makes sense.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 26-34) – This is shaping up to be one super-complicated war/politics story. There are so many different factions in play that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Tekkadan, which now has ties to a number of these groups, including Turbines/Teiwaz, McGillis/Gjallarhorn, and Arbrau, is caught in the middle of it all. If they play their cards right, the potential rewards could be great, but there’s no telling if their “allies” can be trusted or how great the costs might be.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

izetta
08. Izetta, The Last Witch (Shuumatsu no Izetta) (ep. 1-11) – Pseudo-WWII-themed Izetta, the Last Witch is pretty impressive most of the time. The episodes focused on the war battles, the tactical strategy, and politics are well done; and the narrative is presented in a way that’s reasonably easy to follow. Finé is a great depiction of a strong and proactive leader who happens to be female.

Unfortunately, the occasional down-time episodes have been consistently cringe-worthy at worst, yawn-inducing at best. In those interludes, we get to see the female characters grab each other’s boobs, feel insecure about their bodies, and have tea-time with cake, because that’s what girls do!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

dream-fes-kurofune
09. DREAM FESTIVAL! (ep. 1-10) – At first, I was not very impressed with DREAM FES; it looked like it would be just another second-rate idol anime. Mostly, I hated the Dorika (Dream Card) time stuff. The anime is pretty grounded otherwise, so the transformation sequences, in which the idols not only change clothes magical-girl style, but also transform into CG versions of themselves, are just weird.

But once I got past the Dorika Time and CG performances and unnecessary recaps, the characterizations and personal drama were actually pretty solid. The music is also nothing special, but it does come across as being slightly above average for an idol program.

I actually really liked the KUROFUNE rival duo introduced in ep. 7. I can see how their personalities would make them popular. I think I would totally be rooting for them if not for my awareness that Kanade is the main character and he and his group-mates are really hard-working!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. DRIFTERS (ep. 1-9) – DRIFTERS is graphically violent and loaded with potentially offensive material. For example, one respected, competent female character is constantly referred to as “Boobs.” There are also significant hints that the hooded leader of the villains is none other than the Son of God. Nevertheless, it can be pretty entertaining.

What the show does an excellent job of is illustrating Nobunaga and Toyohisa’s battle strategy and goals. In particular, Toyohisa’s methods of building loyalty while amassing troops are very smart; it’s no wonder so many people will take his side and fight for him voluntarily.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

utapri-4-tokiya-eiji
11. Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Legend Star (ep. 1-10) – I was half-dreading this sequel after the terrible third season, but thankfully Legend Star has been way, way better than Revolutions. There is some purpose to the narrative and the dialogue is much improved. UtaPri is the granddaddy of idol shows, and it proves to be as much a pro at storytelling as at dishing out the tropes in this incarnation.

It’s nice to see some of the STARISH guys’ backgrounds expanded on finally, as they individually participate in duet projects with the members of their new rival HEAVENS, almost all of whom have a screw or two loose.

The theme of the season seems to be “kizuna” (bonds), so many of the stories, although varied, come back to the members having to re-evaluate whether or not they belong in their boy band; and that does get a little bit tiring.

One of the highlights for me was seeing 2 of QUARTET NIGHT’s meanies turn on each other in the second episode. It always annoyed me whenever Camus or Ranmaru bullied Nanami or Reiji, so getting to see the two of them rip into each other was really satisfying.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Kiss Him, Not Me (Watashi ga Motete Dousunda) (ep. 1-10) – You know? In this show, it doesn’t bother me much at all if the guys only like the main girl for her looks. Because what else is there to like really? She’s a diehard fujoshi who only cares about her BL. She isn’t personally interested in any of the guys except to ship them together. Other than that, Kae’s a reasonably nice, decent person, but not in any way that particularly stands out. If they want to be with her, they will constantly have to accommodate her otaku tendencies. So if she isn’t at least hot, what’s in it for them?

I do give the series credit for its honest, self-deprecating portrayal of the obsessive insanity of a raging otaku. Despite some occasional offensive content (such as Kae’s fat voice and sexual harassment-sensei), it is a very funny show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

days-kimishita-ooshiba
13. DAYS (ep. 13-22) – I still don’t care much for Tsukamoto, or Kazama for that matter. It’s Kimishita that keeps me coming back to DAYS; I love his angry personality and I enjoy his interactions with all the other cast members. Now that he has been playing a bigger role in the series, it’s no wonder my opinion of DAYS is also improving.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

nanbaka-02
14. NANBAKA (ep. 1-10) – For no reason at all, this show has more sparkles than Magic-kyun (see below). It is ridiculously shiny and blindingly colourful, which is especially confounding as NANBAKA takes place in a prison.

There isn’t a lot of substance or depth here, but it is pretty fun to watch. You certainly don’t need to worry about tiring any brain cells in the process.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. Bloodivores (ep. 1-10) – It is really hard to say if this Chinese-Japanese co-production is good or bad. A lot is going to ride on how well the ending ties the pieces of the mystery together. So far, all I can do is give it the benefit of the doubt and trust that this vampire/monsters/survival game series has a plan. We will see.

(End of season edit: The naysayers were correct after all; it is bad. Bloodivores continues to raise questions right to the final episode and ends with nothing resolved.)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Magic-Kyun! Renaissance (ep. 1-10) – While this anime is supposed to be about exceptionally gifted artistes, the actual art produced is decidedly lacklustre. Of course, talent in Magic-kyun! is not measured by aesthetics; rather, it is all about the obscene amounts of sparkles that each artiste can produce. It’s hard to just take that on faith as a viewer, though. One standout fail for me is Ichijouji’s music. I would have expected an elite singing prodigy such as himself to have a deeper, more classical-sounding voice. Somehow the lightweight pop songs don’t get across the depth of emotion the show seems to want to convey.

Most of the characters are likeable enough, I guess, but Magic-kyun! will likely prove to be just another forgettable confection.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. ALL OUT!! (ep. 1-9) – I don’t really get rugby, and muscled guys in skin-tight uniforms are not my kind of fanservice.

As a sports anime, it has some similarities to DAYS, as they both feature a diminutive first-year main guy who is a newbie to his respective sport. By comparison, ALL OUT!! comes off as a more realistic portrayal and a more competent production overall, although it’s arguably a bit more boring from its lack of stand-out sympathetic characters. (Which is not the same as stand-out hairstyles – ALL OUT!! has those in spades.)

The soundtrack might be my favourite part of the show. They’re doing a good job with the frequent rock music as well as the lovely piano pieces.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

nobunaga-no-shinobi
18. Nobunaga no Shinobi (Ninja Girl & Samurai Master) (ep. 1-10) – The first of 2 shorts on my list, Nobunaga no Shinobi is a cute, comedic take on the events of the Warring States Era starring a cute ninja girl named Chidori. Some of the episodes are pretty funny, but often they’re too short or quick to get that much out of. The more familiar you are with the events of the time period, the more likely you are to appreciate the gags presented. My knowledge of Japanese history is only so-so.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

19. GAKUEN HANDSOME (ep. 1-10) – It seems kind of unfair, yet obvious, to put this one last, as its charm lies in the fact that it is intentionally bad. GAKUEN HANDSOME is a willfully low-budget, horrendously drawn BL anime full of supposedly hot guys who don’t actually look anything remotely like handsome and a main character who doesn’t even have eyes. It is a series of 3-minute shorts parodying probably every trope in BL/harem/highschool anime, and your enjoyment level may vary. I know mine does.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

~ Well, I think I’ve pictured all the characters voiced by Mamo in the shows I’m watching. I can’t possibly forget about you, JJ. Representing Canada: Jean-Jacques Leroy!
yuri-on-ice-jj

Mid-Summer 2016 Anime Ranking

By the numbers:
30 – series I started or continued this summer season. Of those, at least…
3 – series already finished airing mid-season
3 – anime involving time travel/re-living the past
2 – cooking anime
3 – sports anime
2 – spoon-bending psychic lead characters
47 – idol singers/band guys (WALKURE: 5, Odd-I’s: 5, Procellarum: 6, Six Gravity: 6, Kitakore: 2, THRIVE: 3, MooNs: 5, VEPPer: 2, MIVV: 1, Fluna and Seleas: 12)
7 – idols cast in the role of Shinsengumi members for in-show stage plays
5 – idols cast as Shinsengumi member Okita Souji for in-show stage plays
4 – series airing Christmas episodes during the month of August (Cute High, Saiki K., CHEER BOYS, Scar-red Rider XechS)

91Days - 02
01. 91 Days (ep. 1-9) – In this dark prohibition-era mafia revenge story, there are really no good guys, just a matter of who you might be rooting for at the time. Our protagonist is just as evil as they come, and he’s more conniving than most. Characters in this show get brutally killed off all the time; it would not surprise me in the least if even Angelo does not survive past the end of the series.

After 9 episodes, story progression continues to be pretty much flawless. Also, I like how the angsty OP theme, “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure, effectively evokes a sense of tragedy amidst all the violence and bloodshed.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Saiki Kusuo 01
02. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (special ep. 1-50, or ep. 1-10) – Saiki is an ESPer who can move things with his thoughts and read other people’s minds. In turn, we’re privy to the rapid-fire snarky comments in his head and it’s devastatingly funny.

Considering that Saiki claims to not give a damn about anyone or anything except for not drawing attention to himself, he’s actually an unexpectedly good guy. While he’s not beyond judging people (he does it all the time), he does go out of his way to help friends and strangers alike with surprising regularity.

Apparently even telekinetics call their mama when there’s a bug in the house. Who knew?
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

ReLIFE Kaizaki
03. ReLIFE (ep. 1-13 complete) – ReLIFE had the most unusual release schedule, with all 13 episodes made available immediately at the start of the season. We watched the first half of it almost right away, then put it aside reluctantly to check out the other new offerings of the summer, then returned later to finish the rest.

Underemployed 27-year-old Kaizaki is recruited to take part in a social experiment. He takes medication to age down his appearance and must redo a year of high school for unknown reasons. The characters are very well-written and their conversations mostly ring true. The way little bits of the mystery are revealed gradually as the students go through their experiences makes it hard to stop watching.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Orange 01
04. orange (ep. 1-10) – The group of friends in this show is really convincing and likeable. Unlike KIZNAIVER from last season, for instance, it’s easy to understand why someone would want to be friends with these people.

This anime deals with mental illness and I appreciate the way it handles the topic. Depression sufferers don’t go around moping 100% of the time. It often is hard to tell that someone is thinking about hurting themselves until it is too late.

What’s really a shame is that the animation quality has been declining steadily week after week. Lately, the characters’ faces sometimes look so off-model that I have trouble telling who’s who.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Macross Delta 22 - Freyja
05. MACROSS Δ (ep. 14-23) – This newest iteration of MACROSS is only my second foray into the musical-combat space opera franchise. My initiation was its immediate predecessor, MACROSS Frontier from 2008.

That there is also a love triangle in this MACROSS anime is not at all surprising. What is refreshing is that Mikumo, the lead singer of the musical unit WALKURE, has a different role to play and is not part of said triangle. Additionally, DELTA has none of the fanservice that Frontier had; that alone makes me respect this series so much more.

The most notable element of this production has got to be the music. The show generously trots out a new song every few episodes. These musical numbers don’t sound generic, either; they are consistently well-crafted and frequently sung by the voice actors specifically for the scene (as opposed to only using the recorded versions).

06. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (ep. 1-10) – It’s the sequel, and our colour-coded Battle Lovers are back with frilly new upgrades to their combat outfits. Now that they’ve been around the block a few times, they have a good understanding of when they need to mobilize, and when it’s okay to just stay in the bath.

Unfortunately for our attention-seeking villains, the Beppu twins, the Defense Club has deemed them to be not a threat. The Beppu brothers are also known as the pop duo VEPPer, because obviously, in an anime environment so chockfull of idols, Cute High would surely have at least one or two.

I quite enjoyed the weaponized words in ep. 3. It reminded me, likely intentionally, of Aquarion LOGOS, which was based on the whole bloated premise of physical word attacks. Being used as the passing assault of the disgruntled-student of the week in this show was the proper treatment for that particular lame concept.

Also, the aforementioned Christmas episode was pure comedy gold.

Season one ended pretty conclusively. There didn’t need to be a second season. But these writers are confident and highly self-aware about their material. I have no doubt they know exactly what they’re doing and I’m happy to be along for the ride.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and FUNimation)

srx-01-yousuke
07. Scar-red Rider XechS (ep. 1-10) – I’m not into the generic sentai action, nor am I particularly interested in the alien attack storyline. Even the band stuff is sub-par; the guys seem to talk about music way more often than they actually make any. How SRX has won me over is with its oddball characters, which goes to show how important that single factor can be in determining whether or not I can find a mediocre series enjoyable.

The way Yousuke beats around the bush instead of saying things directly makes me laugh. And I especially empathize with his serious and self-conscious best friend and group leader Takt. Their conversations together are hilarious!

I even kind of like the romance subplot. Three of the guys (so far) seem to have a crush on the same (oblivious) girl, but they each have their own reasons for admiring or feeling protective of her. Because their personalities are well-written enough, it’s actually convincing.

Unfortunately, I’m not super-enthused about the recent dark turn of events. The show is better when it doesn’t bother with the serious plotline as far as I’m concerned.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

08. MOB PSYCHO 100 (ep. 1-9) – Of the psychic-themed comedies this season, this is the more serious take of the two. Mob is young and inexperienced, but he has strong principles regarding the use of his special powers, at least when he’s able to control them anyway. His part-time employer Reigen is a real personality. He’s a self-serving liar and professional con man, and yet, he improbably manages to be a decent mentor to Mob; and it’s all completely in-character.

If you’re into detailed action animation, MOB PSYCHO delivers on that front, offering creative camera work and fluid motion in its fight sequences. If I’m honest though, I’d have to complain that the character designs are all pretty ugly.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Food Wars! The Second Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara) (ep. 1-10) – As the Autumn Elections continue, Souma is challenged harder than ever and is even forced to acknowledge some of his shortcomings in the face of fierce competition. At the same time, we’re seeing more collaboration among the Totsuki students.

Shokugeki continues to be a fun watch, especially during mealtimes, but it does feel a bit repetitive in how it’s mainly just been one tournament after another.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

sweetness-and-lightning
10. sweetness & lightning (Amaama to Inazuma) (ep. 1-10) – Kouhei is a single father juggling the demands of his job as a school-teacher and the needs of his young daughter. It concerns him that Tsumugi rarely gets to eat a decent home-cooked meal, so he ends up joining forces with one of his students and the 3 of them learn to cook together. There is some mild development in other areas of their lives, but basically a new dish is served up every week.

This is certainly a sweet and pleasant show. Probably the only thing I really have trouble believing is Tsumugi’s curly, below-the-bum long hair. I can’t imagine any parent, let alone a single dad, having the time and patience to handle such an unruly mane. I think it could even be a safety hazard for a pre-schooler like her.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. The Morose Mononokean (Fukigen na Mononokean) (ep. 1-10) – Ashiya starts working for Abeno, the Mononokean, after the latter helps him to remove a fuzzy yokai that attached itself to him and was draining his energy. Other than an arc in which the pair enter the underworld themselves, the show consists of a series of sentimental stories of yokai needing to make peace with their worldly issues so that they can be exorcized.

The 2 main guys are pretty entertaining to watch, but the best characters are Fuzzy (Mojya), who is expressive with just his eyes, and the yokai wall scroll of ep. 4. That wall scroll deserves more screen time!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 14-23) – JoJo’s is just as good as it always is as far as story, characterization, and humour goes. The reason I’ve been liking it less this season has more to do with the content rather than the quality of the show. I can’t help it; things like severed body parts and spider dissections (I had to look away) are huge turn-offs for me.

If there was one episode I enjoyed immensely, that would be the standalone ep. 16, in which Josuke teamed up with Jotaro to hunt down a rat. Josuke’s thoughts and reactions throughout the ordeal were so funny!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

arslan-senki-fuujin-ranbu
13. THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN: Dust Storm Dance (Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu) (ep. 1-8 complete, overall ep. 26-33) – The first series ended without resolving anything, so this is basically a continuation of the story. I liked that they revisited the slavery issue and the effect that Arslan’s position on the topic could have on his potential allies. I also enjoyed the political stuff toward the end. Otherwise, the animation was not great for the most part, and I’m not sure I agree with how the limited time this series had was spent. The pirate arc took up a pretty big chunk; and (spoiler) they still don’t make it back to Ecbatana, though the pieces are now in place for what could be an explosive season 3.
(streaming at FUNimation)

14. Re:ZERO –Starting Life in Another World- (Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu) (ep. 14-23) – I’m definitely not enjoying this second half of the series as much as I did the first half. The supporting cast are mostly new and we don’t seem to be getting any closer to solving the underlying mysteries from before. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think I’m really getting the point of all the Witch’s Cult and White Whale stuff and how it relates to the big picture.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. CHEER BOYS!! (Cheer Danshi!!) (ep. 1-9) – The men’s cheerleading anime. This was pretty enjoyable for the first few episodes, when the core group of 7 guys were assembling and preparing for their first performance. Then the troupe suddenly ballooned in size to 16 members! Not only did I no longer know who was who, but I was also a bit bored that the main focus was on a personality clash between 2 of the newcomers.
(streaming at FUNimation)

b-project-01-thrive
16. B-PROJECT~Kodou*Ambitious~ (ep. 1-9) – Both B-PROJECT and TSUKIUTA. this season feature multiple boy bands, making it pretty challenging to keep everyone straight and remember which unit they each belong to. We’re talking about a total of 22 idol guys between these 2 programs alone! God help me.

Of the two, B-PROJECT seems to be the slightly better series in terms of characterization and providing insight into the Japanese idol/music industry, well, up to ep. 4 anyway…

They lost me a bit with the incurable illness stuff in ep. 7. Was it supposed to be sad or funny? Sad, I would assume, but I was laughing when I realized the same character who shares a voice actor with Okita Souji (from Hakuouki, whose name as a Shinsengumi member came up previously in this very show) also has a TB-like infectious disease.

They lost me a lot with boring ep. 5 and the spirit-possession stuff in ep. 6. Also, those trashy naked end cards seem out of sync with the not-nearly-so-sexually-suggestive content of the show proper.

Personally, I do enjoy the musical and cultural references in B-PRO. I have twice attended T.M.Revolution’s real-life INAZUMA ROCK FES that the RAIZIN Festival of ep. 4 was based on. Also, ep. 6 had a scene in a Jangara Kyushu Ramen restaurant, one of my favourite ramen joints in Tokyo. However, the way the material plays to an in-the-know audience could be potentially alienating to an average viewer.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. BATTERY the Animation (ep. 1-9) – A talented but abrasive young pitcher joins the baseball team at his new school after befriending the catcher. This anime is about baseball, however, the potential BL is frequently acknowledged in-show, as our pitcher-catcher duo is often teased with romantic/sexual innuendo by family, friends, and others.

It started out pretty good, actually. I thought Takumi’s attitude was believable and I was interested in what was going on with his little brother Seiha. However, it’s been very slow moving and it seems like we’ve gotten derailed with the current story involving the rival-team couple.

18. The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi (Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu) (ep. 1-10) – A fudanshi is a male BL fan. This short series focuses on Sakaguchi’s experiences and his friends’ reactions to his unusual hobby. Generally, it’s pretty funny, but no kidding it really is short, at about 3 minutes runtime per episode only.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

19. planetarian (ep. 1-5 complete) – This five-episode adaptation of a Key visual novel is about a cute-girl android and the junk-collector who encounters her at her planetarium years after the apocalyptic destruction of the city (and maybe the world). It is intended to be a terminal illness-type moe tearjerker, as Yumemi is running on her final few hours of battery life. I thought it was all right.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

tsukiuta-01
20. TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION (ep. 1-10) – One of my least favourite parts of this show are the CGI dance sequences, which never seem to look good in any idol series I’ve seen using that technique. I can understand that doing them that way allows for a greater amount of detailed movement, but it’s just too weird here, especially when the characters are suddenly singing with doll-like faces.

Incredibly, both TSUKIUTA. and B-PROJECT each had an episode where some of the idols were training to star in a Shinsengumi stage play, portraying Okita Souji specifically. Is that a really common thing for boy bands or something? Anyway, TSUKIUTA. won that round; its version, which involved a tough veteran actor (and no supernatural elements) was definitely the better take.

TSUKIUTA., like B-PRO, is vastly different from episode to episode since its focus changes to a different character every week and there is limited linear plot development. So far, I’d say episodes 3 (Animate), 4 (stage play), and 6 (where TSUKIUTA. suddenly became a whodunit comedy) were worthwhile. All the rest were okay, I guess, but I don’t feel like I gained anything from watching them, and I still can’t keep the guys straight! (It turns out there are 12 idol girls in this show too, but don’t even get me started on that. I give up.)
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

kuro
21. SERVAMP (ep. 1-8) – Way too many characters just keep showing up, some of whom have had memory-wipes and/or memory implants. Meanwhile the plot is very unclear. I almost dropped this after 3 episodes – actually, I really did drop it. But eventually, I came crawling back to give it another chance because of the voice cast and because Kuro is so damn cute. I had to completely start over in order to get a better grasp of what was supposed to be going on in this stupid vampire anime.

One thing SERVAMP definitely has going for it is its delightfully heavy OP “Deal with” by OLDCODEX, my choice for best theme song of the season. Additionally, in what other entertainment do you get to see pretty men conversing with and fighting each other while carrying cute dolls and kittens in their arms? Then again, maybe nobody needs to see that.
(streaming at FUNimation)

22. DAYS (ep. 1-10) – My brutally uncharitable take on soccer anime DAYS is that it’s nothing but self-insert wish-fulfillment sports fiction. I totally don’t buy all the opportunities Tsukamoto gets, or the admiration he inspires in teammates and opponents alike, when he is so clearly unskilled. That said, the show is not wholly unlikeable. Several of the supporting cast have amusing personalities, including team captain Mizuki, who has his own unique way of expressing himself that everyone finds hard to understand, and team tsundere Kimishita.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

23. OZMAFIA!! (ep. 1-10) – Not much happens in this series of 4-minute shorts about a new student at Oz Academy. There’s no point in watching weekly, so I marathoned a bunch of episodes at once. OZMAFIA!! functions primarily as companion content for the otome game it’s based on, as far as I can tell, not being a player of the game myself. To its credit, the character designs are really cute, but seriously, this show isn’t good. Don’t watch it.

The ending sequence alternately features several songs by Article One, a defunct Christian rock band from London, Ontario that I’d never heard of before. Once again, it amuses me to learn something about my home country through Japanese entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching:

thunderbolt-fantasy-05
Thunderbolt Fantasy (ep. 1-10) – the Taiwanese/Japanese co-production puppet show, which is technically not an anime at all.

It takes a bit of effort to get used to the puppets’ movements and expressionless faces, but the personalities and storytelling are quite involved. I guess we’ve come to expect no less from writer extraordinaire Urobuchi Gen. I’m still struggling with the Chinese names, though, since they bear no resemblance to their Japanese pronunciations.

Sawano Hiroyuki’s soundtrack expertly adds drama and gravity to the narrative, while the voice actors do a stellar job of breathing life into each of the characters as well.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

BROTHERHOOD FINAL FANTASY XV (ep. 3-4) – The latest installment was the one I had been anticipating the most. Finally the Ignis episode! Suffice it to say I was not disappointed. Ignis is totally like a mom to Prince Noctis. How can you not love him?
(streaming at Crunchyroll and YouTube)

Active Raid 2nd (ep. 1-6) – since it’s the sequel. However, you may recall we weren’t terribly impressed by the first season, so it’s no surprise we weren’t that keen on this either; and we’ve fallen behind. I must say, though, ep. 5 was pretty great. Sena’s impassioned takedown of a garbage-strewing idiot was the highlight. But let’s not overlook MIVV’s sugary, Satanic pop tune; that was pure fabulousness.
(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.

Assassination classroom 2nd Season - 22
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)

Kabaneri - 06
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.

Re Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu - 06
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)

My hero academia - 01
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)

Joker Game 7
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)

Shounen Maid - 08
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)

Bungou-Stray-Dogs-02
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)

Flying Witch - 04
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)

Kiznaiver 04
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)