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 ominousnous or drama – and humour, since the disconnect is noticeable.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

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

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

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

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.

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#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.

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#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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

Mid-Winter 2016 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

Boku-Dake-04
02. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (ep. 1-10) – A well-written time-travel murder mystery. Like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, the show’s premiere revealed a fatalistic present, only to go decades back in time from the second episode on. It’s been a tense and thrilling ride so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grimgar-of-Fantasy-and-Ash-4
06. GRIMGAR OF FANTASY AND ASH (Hai to Gensou no Grimgar) (ep. 1-9) – GRIMGAR’s team of volunteer soldiers are tasked with killing goblins in order to earn a living. But more than battling the goblins, which seem to be intelligent and social creatures, they are hunting them. It is intentionally disturbing, and I like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacquie’s 2015 Year in Review – Music

BEST SINGLES (A-sides & B-sides):

X.U. scaPEGoat
01. X.U. | scaPEGoat, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] (X.U., scaPEGoat, INSANITY LOVE) – I have already gushed about this single before. The double A-sides, sung by Gemie and Yosh respectively, represent the OP1 and ED1 of the Seraph of the End anime series. As I said back in the spring, these Sawano songs are head and shoulders above the majority of music that’s commonly heard as anime themes and in pop charts. The B-side INSANITY LOVE is a quieter, melancholy tune sung by vocalist mica, and it’s no slouch either. As if that wasn’t enough, the TV size versions of X.U. and scaPEGoat are included, as well as the full instrumentals of both songs, making it evident that both of them shine even without their vocal tracks.
(Available on iTunes internationally – title tracks only)

Aching Horns
02. Aching Horns, by OLDCODEX (Aching Horns, Reminder, Get Up To Go) – It seems to me that there were very few new releases in the early part of 2015; I remember having only about 3 new songs to listen to during the first quarter-year. OLDCODEX saved my ears from boredom when they came out with the excellent “pledge” EP in April. They continued releasing anime tie-in singles through the summer and finally snuck in at the end of the year with this gem, the main theme single for the “High Speed! -Free! Starting Days-“ film. The title track seems like it might be a ballad at first, but soon makes clear that it is definitely not. It’s angsty and melodic and really good. And the B-sides, they’re killer.

As with their first “Free!” tie-in single, “Rage on,” these coupling songs are harder and heavier than their A-side. Reminder doesn’t feature much actual singing, but it doesn’t need it. Its melody is all in the instrumentation and there’s an attractive urgency to the song. Anyway, it sounds amazing.

Get Up To Go is the best. It is heavy, rhythmic, melodic, and complicated and everything I love about OLDCODEX and music in general.

GazettE UGLY
03. UGLY, by the GazettE (UGLY, DEPRAVITY, GODDESS) – It took me a while to warm up to UGLY. True to its name, it is kind of ugly, as advertised. But warm up to it I did. (“Death to traitors!”)

DEPRAVITY took less convincing, as it has a familiar GazettE sound; I’m probably thinking along the lines of BEFORE I DECAY (2009). The third track, GODDESS, is simply divine (once again, truth in advertising). It is heavy, dark, and just a little twisted and it actually reminds me a bit of QUIET (2013), one of my favourite the GazettE songs. If I had bothered to make a Best Song ranking for 2015, GODDESS would likely have taken the top spot.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

EVOKE cover
04. EVOKE, by lynch. (EVOKE, DOZE, GUILTY) – A huge wave of new releases from my go-to artists started at the end of the summer and continued into fall: multiple releases by the GazettE and a full-length album from coldrain, among others. lynch. unleashed 2 maxi singles and a full-length album at just one month intervals between each. “EVOKE,” the first single, turned out to be my favourite of the three, based mainly on the strength of the two B-sides. Incidentally, their album, “D.A.R.K. –In the name of evil-“, had its highlights, but I felt it to be a letdown after last year’s far superior “GALLOWS” album.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST MINI-ALBUMS:

OLDCODEX pledge_350_350
01. pledge, by OLDCODEX – It may seem like I’m just an OLDCODEX fan girl, but that’s not entirely true. I’d say that lately, I tend to like their works more often than not. However, their music covers a range of genres and I’m not into everything they put out. The single that came after this, “Lantana,” for instance, with its more pop-punk B-sides, was not really my thing.

The selection of songs on “pledge,” though, represents the style of OLDCODEX that I love the most – their darker, more metal side. It’s almost like they made it just for me!

Favourite tracks: Lost before and physical (the “Q Transformers” OP)

ANOTHER ARK
02. ANOTHER ARK, by UROBOROS – I had first heard of vocalist Kamiki Aya several years ago. My sister used to listen to a lot of pop-rock guitar girls and Kamiki Aya was one of them. I remember she had more of a rocker chick image than some of the others and I thought it a shame that her songs were so tame. What a nice surprise it was to find her fronting this new prog-rock outfit! And UROBOROS kindly scored a tie-in for their first single, Black Swallowtail, as the OP for an anime I was watching (“Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers-“), so I didn’t have any trouble finding them either.

Favourite tracks: Jyuuni ya and Red Moon
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST FULL-LENGTH ALBUMS:

coldrain VENA
01. VENA, by coldrain – How do they just keep churning them out? “VENA” is another remarkably strong record by coldrain, chock-full of hooky, appealing, modern rock songs. Vocalist Masato is really quite the lyricist. Listening to Japanese music all the time, I sometimes forget how much meaningful words can add to an already good song. It is obvious that English is Masato’s first language, but still it’s kind of ironic to find some of the most thoughtful, exceptionally well-written English lyrics I’ve heard coming from a Japanese band.

Favourite tracks: WHOLE and HEART OF THE YOUNG
(Available on iTunes internationally)

DOGMA
02. DOGMA, by the GazettE – In my opinion, this material is not as easily accessible or immediately engaging as the GazettE’s previous two full-length albums. “DOGMA” does sound very cohesive; and there are actually plenty of good songs in the track list. Unfortunately (and this might be an unreasonably high standard), I don’t consider any of them to be up there with the best work the GazettE have ever done.

RUKI’s English pronunciation has come a long way in the past few years. And his English lyrics make perfect sense too; just check out BLEMISH!

Favourite tracks: WASTELAND, BLEMISH, OMINOUS, DERACINE
(Available on iTunes internationally)

Dark before dawn cover
03. DARK BEFORE DAWN, by Breaking Benjamin – I never said I only listen to Japanese artists! Pennsylvania-based Breaking Benjamin received praise as well as criticism for sounding like themselves on their first release of new material in 6 years and after significant personnel changes. Personally, I thought it was the right decision to not stray too far from the tried and true for their comeback album. “DARK BEFORE DAWN” is a worthy collection of solid rock songs.

Favourite tracks: Hollow and Angels Fall
(Available on iTunes internationally)

For a list of my Top 15 Anime Songs of 2015, please see the “Year in Review – Anime” post.

Jacquie’s 2015 Year in Review – Anime

There were about 50 or so series that I watched in entirety which finished airing in 2015. Those are the titles being considered in this Best of 2015 section.

Looking back on the anime series that I really enjoyed during the past year, I realized that while they all had various strengths, most of them were considerably flawed in one way or another.

If I were to think about the shows I most looked forward to watching each week, there would be GARO THE ANIMATION or GANGSTA.. However, both of those had issues in the later parts and I wasn’t that happy with the way either of them ended. And good endings are important to me.

On the other hand, if we’re talking about great endings, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! might have actually had the best one all year. But that’s a show that didn’t even crack my top 10 as it aired during the winter season.

Meanwhile, there were anime series that were thoroughly unique and well-written, such as SHIROBAKO and SCHOOL LIVE!. Unfortunately, the characters in those shows didn’t click with me personally, for whatever reason.

There was ultimately only one truly enjoyable series that did not have any problematic issues for me.

I think it was our last pick-up of the summer season and it might not be what you expect. Certainly I, myself, did not have very high expectations when I decided to start watching this fanservice-laden jailbreak comedy.

Anime of the Year:

Prison School
PRISON SCHOOL (12 episodes) – Five male students in an otherwise all-female high school are imprisoned on school grounds by the Underground Student Council for the crime of attempted peeping. They are forced to perform hard labour, endure indignities, and complete their studies in jail. They could just get themselves expelled and walk away, but somehow these guys view expulsion (and having to explain to their parents the reason) as a far worse outcome than their current situation.

PRISON SCHOOL is riotously funny, thrilling, and well-paced throughout. And it presents a satisfying conclusion even as it sets up a possible storyline for a sequel.

The main drawback is that I can’t exactly recommend it to polite company. PRISON SCHOOL is a gross-out comedy, after all, so there is implied nudity, sexual deviancy, uncontrolled bodily functions, forcible confinement; the list goes on. But in the show’s defence, almost all of it is plot-relevant! I’d also say the more gratuitous fanservice stuff is just totally over-the-top rather than titillating in nature.

In spite of all the absurd and uncomfortable situations that they find themselves in, the characters are generally viewed sympathetically. As I’ve said before, PRISON SCHOOL is not particularly mean-spirited, and that goes a long way in making the crude content tolerable and in helping the humour to really succeed.
(streaming: FUNimation)

And that’s it! No seriously, it’s too hard to do a proper anime ranking this year, so I give up. Instead, I’ll just highlight some of the shows that stood out for me and say a little bit about them. Maybe next year I’ll go back to the Top 10 format.

My Favourites, with Flaws:

Garo the animation
GARO THE ANIMATION (GARO: Honoo no Kokuin) (24 episodes) – This anime started its first episode with the burning-at-the-stake execution of the main character’s pregnant mother. Yup, that immediately set the stage for what kind of dark, mature-content production this was going to be.

Throughout most of its run, GARO excelled in its depiction of its complex, flawed characters. It was evident from the animation, story, and dialogue that the people who worked on this action-drama anime really loved and respected these characters. And because they gave a damn, that made me give a damn too. I particularly enjoyed the father-son dynamic between German and Leon and the refreshingly cooperative relationship between the two young Makai Knights.

Unfortunately, the final story arc proved to be rather nonsensical and disappointing. That ultimately had a negative effect on my overall enthusiasm for the show.
(streaming: FUNimation)

gangsta-anime
GANGSTA. (12 episodes) – Amazing series, except there’s one major problem.
When I think of previous anime that made no attempt to wrap up any plot threads, the first to come to mind is “Deadman Wonderland.” With that show though, I didn’t particularly like or care about the characters at all.

At least with GANGSTA., I was primarily invested in the characters. I was interested in how their relationships were informed by their past and present situations. Even relatively minor roles were fleshed out and sympathetic. Because of this, I think I really got something out of each episode, even the final one, in spite of the obvious fact that it failed spectacularly in delivering any kind of conclusion whatsoever.

I suppose if there really was no good way to end it, this kind of “advertisement for the manga” ending was still preferable to an anime-original one that didn’t make sense or that would be problematic in the off-chance that a sequel should ever happen.  However, as it stands, I could never recommend this show without also warning the potential viewer about the unsatisfying non-ending.
(streaming: FUNimation, DAISUKI)

Seraph of the end
Seraph of the End: VAMPIRE REIGN (Owari no Seraph) (24 episodes) – Another show with an interesting storyline and characters who were full of personality. The facial movements and expressions were frequently exceptionally well-animated. The quality of the action sequences was inconsistent, but the show was enjoyable overall.

No concrete ending here, and likely won’t be for a long time, as the anime is apparently caught up with the source manga already.
(streaming: FUNimation)

PARASYTE the maxim
Parasyte –the maxim- (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu) (24 episodes) – The smaller-scale story of Shinichi and Migi learning to live with each other and developing an understanding for the other’s perspective was thought-provoking and often humorous. For me, the show lost some of its momentum as the view expanded to the rest of the outside world.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Arslan Senki
THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (Arslan Senki) (25 episodes) – The epic tale of Prince Arslan after the fall of his nation offered balanced viewpoints from all sides of the conflict. I really appreciated that aspect of the show. The second half was more about Arslan’s group working to assemble their allies in order to retake Pars and that was not quite as riveting for me. No real conclusion here either, as they don’t make it all the way back to Pars by series end.
(streaming: FUNimation)

Great Fun:

one-punch man
ONE PUNCH MAN (12 episodes) – The action scenes were often creative and really well done, however, what I loved best about the show were the characters and their interactions, especially the dynamic between Saitama and Genos. Sonic was great too; and I think Mumen Rider had me at hello!
(streaming: DAISUKI)

Assassination Classroom
ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (22 episodes) – This story of a class of misfits who must kill their tentacled teacher, Koro-sensei, before he destroys the planet turned out to be not only humorous, but also surprisingly heartwarming.
(streaming: FUNimation)

Starmyu
STARMYU High School Star Musical (12 episodes) – Let me just state that we were not impressed by the first episode of STARMYU. The many characters each got only brief appearances and we didn’t get a sense of who they were at all. But the real kicker was the abominable introductory song by the elite Kao Council, in which they basically told the student body, “We’re better than you.”

My sister, who is now a devoted fan, was so turned off, we almost didn’t continue with the show! For some reason, I insisted that we had to keep watching; maybe it was morbid curiosity.

We ended up loving STARMYU! It’s not about much, but the characters turned out to be really likeable and had good chemistry with each other. And I was actually moved by the flashback storyline which explained the difficult relationship between two of the Kao Council members.

It was weird when the guys broke out in song, and the pop tunes were generally not to my taste, but the music was competently produced and the songs sounded polished. One of them even found its way onto my best of 2015 list (see below).
(streaming: FUNimation, DAISUKI)

Cute high earth defense club love
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!) (12 episodes) – There was a significant mid-cour slump, such that I lost a lot of enthusiasm for the show for a while. But then the final episodes came along, and they were so inspired and insanely funny! That incredibly strong finale made me really glad that I watched this crazy stupid magical-boy anime!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Ace-of-Diamond-anime
Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) (75 episodes) – This baseball anime was consistently enjoyable and deserves a mention here as a technicality.  The stopping point was kind of arbitrary and SECOND SEASON started immediately after the first one ended, so it really doesn’t feel like it’s over at all.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Sequels Made with Love:

yowamushi pedal grande road
Yowamushi Pedal GRANDE ROAD (24 episodes) – The previous season ended right in the middle of the Inter- high. GRANDE ROAD brought the race to a proper conclusion with all of the show’s usual charm intact.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

noragami aragoto
NORAGAMI ARAGOTO (13 episodes) – This sequel took the concepts from the first series and really ran with them. ARAGOTO played out in two main arcs, the first featuring Bishamon and the second focused on Ebisu, and in turn, Yato. Both arcs ended up being thought-provoking and touching, with self-sacrifice vs self-preservation being a major theme.
(streaming: FUNimation)

K RETURN OF KINGS
K: RETURN OF KINGS (13 episodes) – After the first season, I wasn’t that sold on K’s setting or colour-coded Kings mythology. So much so, that I was actually reluctant to watch the subsequent movie and this sequel.

It seemed like too much style over substance. The K franchise is nothing if not stylish. The visuals were colourful and vibrant, and the constantly moving camera made for some stunningly dynamic action sequences (and also some uncomfortable fanservice).

Impressively, this had an ending that actually made some sense. It seemed obvious to me that the creators really cared about the story they were telling and the roles of the players involved. The characters were consistently true to their motivations and personalities, and the outcome made sense based on the setting and events prior. Maybe it also helped that I was not particularly fond of the Silver Clan, who were the primary focus originally, and therefore totally didn’t mind that they had much less screen time this season.

The Worst Ones:

I suppose it’s a good thing that I had to actually think about this. These are the shows that had some potential, but managed to disappoint despite already meagre expectations.

Tokyo Ghoul √A (12 episodes) – This continuation of the conflict between humans and ghouls inexplicably introduced a ton of new characters and featured even more clumsy storytelling than its predecessor. In the end, lots of people died, yet nothing of consequence happened.

Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Revolutions (13 episodes) – My introduction to UtaPri was in 2011, when the first season was streaming on Niconico. I had heard that it was hilarious to watch with the scrolling user comments on. Indeed, that was good advice. The second season came along 2 years later, and it was actually respectable. I counted myself a fan.

Magi LOVE Revolutions… would have been better with scrolling user comments. Most of the dialogue and story arcs were pretty lame. Not only that, this third season did something even the previous ones didn’t: it actually ended on a cliffhanger.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider (11 episodes) – A murder mystery which cannot be comprehended by a normal human being.

Your lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) (22 episodes) – Cloyingly manipulative tearjerker about middle school-aged musicians in love probably did right by its target audience. However, I was not that target audience, not by a long shot. We weren’t supposed to hate the girl at the end, were we?

________________________________________________________________

Here’s some more random retrospective stuff. This section includes anything that came out in 2015, not just the completed shows.

Memorable Quotes:

– We recently saw the GARO: CRIMSON MOON special episode. In one of the segments, the voice cast showcased their favourite lines from the show so far. That reminded me that there were not many notable lines in CRIMSON MOON of one quote that I did enjoy.

In many love stories, one partner has to make a great sacrifice for love and it’s beautiful and inspiring. It played out a little differently in ep.5. When Yasusuke told his ex-thief love interest Kosode that he intended to relinquish his name and status in order to be with her, she had this to say: “You want to step down from the good life you were born to? Who wants to be with a fool that doesn’t know the meaning of his actions!”

Well, the rest of the episode went to crap, but that one line was memorable for me.

– The quote that I think made me laugh the most last year came from ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM ep. 8. In response to his colleague apologizing for asking a prying question about his past, Koro-sensei said, “You’re a wise man, Karasuma-sensei. Even while traveling, it’s crude to ask after the number of one’s appendages.”

Favourite Seiyuu of 2015:
Akatsuki Jaeha 17 2015 Kuroko no Basuke 3 Suwabe 2015 Kamisamahjimemashita 2015 Fsn UBW Suwabe 2015 JoJo 2015 uta no prince sama revolutions Suwabe 2015 Food Wars 2015 Gangsta 2015 Gate 2015 Starmyu
That’s right: Suwabe Junichi. The above is a sampling of the roles performed by Suwabe-san last year. So many memorable characters. In at least two instances, his characters appeared mid-season and proceeded to steal the show; I’m thinking of Jae-ha, the Green Dragon in YONA OF THE DAWN, and Terence T. D’Arby in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STARDUST CRUSADERS Egypt Arc.  He was also perfectly cast as Worick Arcangelo in GANGSTA. and as Ootori Itsuki, the charismatic mentor and muse in STARMYU.

Anime Songs Countdown:

And finally, in advance of the music retrospective post, which will go up next, I now present a list of the best anime songs of 2015 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 that are being considered – that’s especially relevant to my top 2 picks, both of which have so much more to offer than what can be heard in their TV-size versions. Here we go.

15. Lantana, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball S3 ED3)

14. One Light, by Kalafina (THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN ED2)

13. Black Swallowtail, by UROBOROS (Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers- OP2)

12. Feed A, by OLDCODEX (GOD EATER OP)

11. Aching Horns, OLDCODEX (High Speed! -Free! Starting Days- Main Theme)

10. Renegade, by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION (GANGSTA. OP)

09. FOCUS, by Showtaro Morikubo (GARO THE ANIMATION ED2)

08. Yoru no Kuni, by Annabel (GANGSTA. ED)

07. Brave Shine, by Aimer (Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] S2 OP)

06. Akatsuki no Hana, by Cyntia (YONA OF THE DAWN OP2)

05. Limited sky, by Tsukigami Kaito (CV: Lounsbery, Arthur) (STARMYU insert song)

04. X.U., by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Gemie (Seraph of the End OP1)

03. scaPEGoat, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh (Seraph of the End ED1)

02. Last Theater, by NoisyCell (Death Parade ED)

01. physical, by OLDCODEX (Q Transformers: Kaettekita Convoy no Nazo OP1)

That was really long! Thank you for reading.

Mid-Autumn 2015 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Summer 2015 Anime Ranking


01. GANGSTA. (ep. 1-9) – Expert storytelling and exposition; GANGSTA. shows us how it’s done. It reveals just enough information to pique your interest and keep you on the hook for more. Every once in a while, there’s a touch of humour – sufficient to endear you to the characters and to keep the story from being completely bleak.

Worick and Nicolas are not your typical anime leads. Not only are they in their 30s, but one of them is blind in one eye and the other is deaf. The show features gangs and violence and prostitution. Distastefully, Worick and Nic do murder, among other things, for money. And yet, I was invested in them from the very first episode.

It seldom happens that the show I’m most hyped about before the season starts actually ends up being my favourite. That’s definitely been the case for GANGSTA. this summer, and by a wide margin too. Episode 8 marked the first time that I felt even a little disappointed and really noticed the animation shortcomings. Otherwise, week after week, I have been absolutely floored by just how good this show is!
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)


02. PRISON SCHOOL (ep. 1-9) – GANGSTA. may have its share of objectionable content, but it’s got nothing on PRISON SCHOOL!

Here’s what you can expect: ridiculously crude, gross-out humour, gratuitous boob and crotch shots (censored), absurd situations which may variously involve things like incontinence, hemorrhoids, and bleeding canker sores.

I’m not usually into bathroom gags or fanservice, but this shit is funny as hell. Perhaps surprisingly, there actually is a smart, substantial plot; and it helps that the humour is not particularly mean-spirited either.
(streaming at FUNimation)


03. THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (Arslan Senki) (ep. 14-21) – Most of this cour has been about Arslan’s group getting involved in the royal power struggle of nearby nation Sindhura. While this arc may not be directly relevant to the main plot, it has been fairly enjoyable anyway. The Sindhurian princes and their father, the king, were compelling, flawed characters.

I was really affected by ep. 17, which had Daryun in a death match against a monstrously strong opponent. As a viewer, of course I am aware that Daryun is protected by all kinds of plot armour. But this episode was successful in getting me to see things from Arslan’s point of view. I was worrying right along with him. What if Daryun should fall? And for such a reason, which had nothing to do with their cause, even!

Also worth watching: ep. 16’s war elephants!
(streaming at FUNimation)

04. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 14-21) – Other than some conflict between Miyuki and Zono, this has been more of what we know and love. Seido has to face increasingly tough teams and, sometimes, tough crowds too.

It’s nothing earth shaking, but all said, Ace of Diamond remains one of the shows we look forward to and enjoy the most each week.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Aoharu X Machinegun (Aoharu x Kikanjuu) (ep. 1-9) – A girl who is often mistaken for a boy gets involved in the world of survival games. Ultimately, the plot is pretty thin, but the show is consistently fun to watch anyway.

I like how the main character just happens to be androgynous and comfortably wears boys’ clothes. I fervently hope she doesn’t end up having to dress like a girl to try and get the guy, or for any other reason!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. Food Wars! Shokugeki no Souma (ep. 14-21) – Somehow, this culinary battle anime is getting better and better.

Can you believe we’ve actually planned our meals around this show? After having to sit through the first karaage episode fried-chickenless, we made sure to have some karaage dinner at the ready the following week.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime) (ep. 1-9) – This anime shares a name with and makes some casual references to a much-reviled (according to yours truly) fairy tale. Fortunately, this Snow White (Shirayuki) is nothing like that other one. Shirayuki is a hard-working herbalist who is dedicated to her craft and her studies. One of the main reasons Prince Zen seems to be attracted to her is because she is determined to make a useful contribution to society and has no interest in pandering to royalty.

The show has had its ups and downs for me; but a definite highlight was ep. 4, which covered Shirayuki’s court herbalist exam and featured some great interaction between her and Zen.
(streaming at FUNimation)


08. Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers- (Rokka no Yuusha) (ep. 1-9) – Every few hundred years, six powerful braves are chosen to prevent the rise of the Demon God. When seven braves show up at the meeting this time around, all bearing the mark, something is obviously amiss. Since the fourth episode, when all of the braves had assembled and found themselves trapped within a barrier, it’s pretty much been a whodunit to discover the identity of the fake.

The mystery aspect works well for Rokka. It’s also a good-looking anime, most of the time. And despite his tiresome habit of constantly declaring himself “the strongest man in the world,” our main guy Adlet comes across as an earnest and likeable hero.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. DURARARA!! X2 Ten (The Second Arc) (ep. 13-21) – This is the middle cour of DURARARA!!’s planned 3-part sequel. The final cour will air in January next year. There are still way too many characters (and more being introduced all the time!), but so far, I’m enjoying Ten a lot more than the first arc, Shou.

My favourite episode has been #14, which awesomely dispelled the notion that Mika and Seiji were nothing but a couple of single-minded, love-struck idiots.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)


10. Baby Steps 2 (ep. 14-21) – Eiichirou’s been getting a taste of the types of players he might have to handle if he goes pro, including a really likeable opponent who is strongly favoured by the crowd, as well as a sneaky player who utilizes dishonourable tactics.

Yukichi, the guy from STC who calls Ei-chan “Aniki”, has been really cute lately. He’s usually sweet and easygoing, so it’s great seeing him all riled up and pouring the hate on Ei-chan’s recent opponent.

Unexpectedly, there’s actually been some development on the romance front too, though it hasn’t had any huge impact so far on Ei-chan’s goals or performance.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. MY love STORY!! (ORE MONOGATARI!!) (ep. 13-21) – Takeo and Rinko’s wholesome romance continues. Some of their friends are getting infected by the love bug too.

The current arc covers the new addition to the Gouda family. I have intimate knowledge of what that’s like, as my family also welcomed a new baby when the older kids were almost grown. However, I don’t recall my baby sister being even half as well-behaved as the new little Gouda!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. SCHOOL-LIVE! (Gakkou Gurashi!) (ep. 1-8) – Novel concept of cute schoolgirls plopped into a zombie apocalypse thriller. It is actually very effective and genuinely frightening. Well, horror and moe are not really my thing, which is the reason for my personal lack of adoration for the show; but for anyone who goes for this stuff, I give SCHOOL-LIVE! a very high recommendation.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. CLASSROOM CRISIS (ep. 1-9) – The first 5 or so episodes were pretty underwhelming. It’s only recently that the characters have started to grow on me and I’ve developed some interest in their personal dynamics and back stories.

If you’re going to watch this, it’s necessary to not think too much about the pseudo-science it presents. Don’t question the space travel and the colonized-every-planet stuff. Just let it go.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)


14. GOD EATER (ep. 1-6) – Because of its sporadic release schedule, apparently due to frequent production delays, there have been fewer episodes of GOD EATER compared to the other summer shows. It’s still hard to tell if it’s good or not. The main premise of a gifted kid fighting monsters for the sake of saving humanity is nothing special.

On the plus side, the action scenes have been spectacular and the oil-paint-like visuals are nice to look at.

I do question the feasibility of that Aegis project they’re working on. Unless they figure out a way to safely and efficiently farm for cores, it seems very likely all humans might be extinct before they are even half done building the thing.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

15. WORKING!!! (WAGNARIA!!3) (ep. 1-9) – This series has always been mildly amusing and it’s easy to watch when you’re busy with other things, like eating dinner, so I’m back onboard with season 3. This is supposedly going to be the last installment and we can expect things of import to really happen this time around.

How much one enjoys WORKING!!! probably hinges a lot on how much one likes or tolerates Yamada. I think I’ve made no secret of the fact that I just don’t. I have to admit I was amused when, in ep. 5, she showed surprising self-awareness by actually stating that her presence could feel like a punishment to others.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

16. GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (ep. 1-8) – For whatever reason, most anime seem to feature teenaged protagonists. It’s a novelty when we get a show about college students or young adults entering the workforce. This season, however, we are fortunate enough to have not one, but two, series with 30-something main characters: GANGSTA., of course, and this one, GATE.

When a portal to an alternate world opens up and monsters attack Tokyo, the Japanese Defense Force fights back by sending a team through the gate. On the other side, they encounter humans as well as fantastical beings.

GATE’s not bad when it focuses on the politics and military strategy taking place in both worlds. I also like that Itami takes his job seriously, though he works primarily to support his otaku habits. I am notably less interested in the fantasy girls that the team has picked up.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


17. Seiyu’s Life! (Sore ga Seiyuu!) (ep. 1-8) – The sort-of sister show to SHIROBAKO, this slice of life anime follows the exploits of 3 young voice actors trying to make it in the entertainment industry.

While the girls have a number of positive experiences, where they get a chance to learn and grow, a lot of what they go through is quite unglamorous. They sometimes don’t know when or if they’ll be offered another gig; they work second jobs to make ends meet; even when they get the opportunity to form a musical unit, they basically have zero say in the direction of the project.

Seiyu’s Life! provides an informative inside glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, but unfortunately, I just don’t care that much about these characters.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Notable Drops:

Ushio and Tora (ep. 1-4) – I’d heard some good things about Ushio and Tora, so I gave it a try for 4 episodes. I found it to be a competent production, but felt pretty meh about it overall. I think I was hoping for a little more depth or some adult humour; instead, it was largely predictable.

If you happen to be a fan of old-school shounen, you can certainly do a lot worse than this show. But outside of that, I don’t think there’s much crossover appeal.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

AQUARION LOGOS (ep. 1-2) – If the first episode had not been prefaced by an Aquarion EVOL special, I don’t know if I would have tuned in at all to this show.

The many characters are poorly introduced and I just found it impossible to connect with them. Especially when the premise is stupid, it’s important to have likeable characters to carry the proceedings. Although, it’s uncertain whether any amount of quality characters or interactions could actually make up for something this stupid.

The word-monster of the week concept actually manages to be more lame than the intentionally lame adversaries in Cute High! With that show, and EVOL, what both had in spades was a self-aware and over the top sense of humour, something LOGOS sorely seems to lack. Wish I hadn’t wasted my time on this.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace (ep. 1-2) – Based on the first arc, mystery anime Ranpo Kitan seems to want to be edgy and provocative, but to me, the story was just so completely out there that it strained all credulity. Sure, it’s not uncommon for people to want to be immortalized as furniture after they die, even if they have to die prematurely. Yeah, happens all the time.
(streaming at FUNimation)