Winter 2017 season of anime is over.
Of course, with the exception of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (which has yet to air one more episode) and Little Witch Academia (a two-cour anime) every TV anime I started watching fro January completed airing. Looking at the MAL seasonal chart- I sampled about 20 shows and stuck with 13.
In this roundup, I will be doing mini-reviews of the shows I watched throughout this season. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be doing long-form reviews of any of the shows. I plan to review the following anime over the next month or so: March Comes in Like a Lion, ACCA, Scum’s Wish, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. I don’t know, the Rakugo review might come out a bit later because I plan to review both the seasons in one post and I want to re watch the first season. Yeah, so I will be reviewing five anime from this season- not saying that these were the only good shows from the season, it is just that I feel that I don’t have enough to say about the rest of the shows that would fill-up a long-form review.
First, let me do a lightning round on my ‘dropped’ list:
Saga of Tanya the Evil (Episode 5): The first three episodes were quite interesting in terms of premise and character buildup but from episode 4 onward, the anime became a bit too much of a military guide for me and I got bored from the strategic talk about war. Maybe, I was watching this show with misguided expectations- I thought there would be more character writing and interactions rather than a narrow focus on Tanya and military. Since people have been saying good things about this anime, maybe I will pick it up again at the end of the year (if I have the time).
Seiren (Episode 1) on the other hand: I was happy to drop. The whole pacing of the first episode was really off-putting, the dialogue was flat and tedious and the character designs didn’t appeal to me at all.
Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club (Episode 1): I don’t think this is necessarily a bad show and I would probably watch this in my summer vacation. But the CG kind of put me off and the character designs didn’t impress me.
Hand Shakers (Episode 3): I wanted to complete watching this anime ironically, but I just couldn’t finish the fourth episode. The visuals are head-ache inducing: the weird mix of colors in the background, the horribly rendered CGI that made the anime have an awkward frame rate and the bad fan service animation. I was having fun making fun of the visuals after watching the first episode, but soon I lost interest because the story and premise doesn’t make any sense to me.
Akiba’s Trip (Episode 6): This anime had an interesting setting and moments of good old wacky comedy- but the jokes got repetitive and stale (like most creatively dry gag anime). Also, I couldn’t stand the ‘moi’ incantations from the blond cosplay girl.
That’s all for the dropped shows.
March Comes in Like a Lion
While the first cour focused on Rei’s patient character demonstration, this second cour had a more dramatic heft and Rei’s change in mindset through experiencing a stronger opponent’s (Shimada) failure to beat the Meijin. This second cour also humanized Kyouko and added some light hearted features to the stoic Gotou. The only criticism I can write down off the top of my head is the inconsistency in visual representation of shogi games- sometimes they just seem a bit too showy and hence have no heft to them. But I don’t have the same gripe for the visual representation of Rei’s monologue (and even Shimada’s) because they have well paced direction with dialogue whereas the shogi matches don’t have an accessible narrative behind the visuals.
The direction is impressive in both narrative and art departments (the pastelly art is reminiscent of Chika’s other popular manga, Honey and Clover). The character writing is pretty solid which made Rei one of best written characters from the last two seasons. I enjoyed this show and I look forward to the second season. Rating: 9/10.
I really enjoyed the first season for its unpredictable grimy, wacky comedy; but I would be lying if I said the comedy didn’t go kind of stale and dry in this season. Sure, a couple of new characters were introduced but they weren’t really funny. I wanted the anime to revisit the old characters from last season but only Wiz was included.
I still found Konosuba funny, though. The conversations between Kazuma and Aqua at the beginning of some episodes were really funny. Megumin’s blasts are still worth screen-capping and Darkness is still the best girl of the anime (especially after the bridal episode). The last arc of the series brought back the wacky and unpredictability that I felt the show was missing in the first episodes. The animation quality in the last episode and the dungeon one made Aqua a real bad-ass and made me reconsider my stance on the animation quality of the show- and made me realize that the animation quality may just be intentionally bad for parody. Even though I didn’t find this show an 9/10 like the first season, I still had good laughs and it deserves another season. Rating- 7/10.
This anime was just one that looks good but its writing is really bad. The only praise I can sing for this show is that the visuals are poppy and bright and the color design is pleasant on the eyes. The sound design is also packed and commendable.
But that’s all the good things this show has. The character writing is offensively flat: Masamune is insecure but confident, and this can be a good character trait if integrated into the story in a more monologue-y way. Adagaki is just another irritating ‘ojou-sama’ and Yoshino is an empty vessel who never even feels like a mystery character nor an important cast member with a back story; the same can be said of the trap and the class prez-like character. Kangetsu or whatever his name is- was a joke. Neko’s introduction late into the game killed the anime but it turned out that she is the one character that has some depth.
Basically, this anime is as lazy as one can get with tropes. The comedy isn’t even remotely funny and the story told is just stupid: this doesn’t deserve a second season. Rating- 3/10.
From one bad show to another, let me talk about this slightly more inoffensive, slow train wreck. I wasn’t a huge fan of this franchise from the beginning but 13 year-old me really enjoyed the first season- and I was interested to find out if I still found this enjoyable. In the first quarter of the season, I thought that the anime was being patient with laying out the drama and hence it felt slow. But in mid-season onward, it became pretty obvious that the show is dragging out this 5 or 6 episode arc into a whole cour: and I was not okay with it anymore.
The lighting and color design may make the show a bit more polished but the animation is pretty sub-standard. The fights don’t have any visual flair to them nor did they have many flashy demonstration of battle mechanics (the exorcism incantations or whatever that was prevalent in the first season were one of the selling points of the show): I was completely clueless to what was happening during the final fight between Rin and the Impure King (who is more of a silent plot device more than a villain)- it is a forgettable fight. Rating: 4/10.
Speaking of forgettable things, this anime is definitely one from this season. The characters are not really badly written but the execution of the story just falls flat. Almost every shot in this anime looks straight out of a manga panel with no polishing: there is no depth to the shots, the background art looks bland and the color design looks too rigid- basically, the show had rotten production design. The CG instruments’ animation is offensively bad- why did they need to make it CG in the first place?
I might say that the characters are not really that badly written but boy oh boy, the script is really dumb and unimpressive- which doesn’t help in the character development. Might I say, that the anime had awkward pacing in each episode- I had no idea what was happening in the first half of the episode then everything just falls onto each other to set up a conclusion and a rickety foundation for the next. I don’t think the character designs are bad but then again, they are unimpressive- which contributes to the ‘forgettable’ factor this anime has.
The only saving grace the show has is probably its music and the voice acting. The music had good production but it didn’t really resonate with me so I am not going to actually listen to them in my spare time. So that’s all I will write for this show. Rating: 3/10.
Interviews with Monster Girls
I will give this show the best premise from this season. The first episode had some light-hearted comedy and it impressed me with the humanizing approach this show had to monster girls. For once, fan service and harem (nor the ‘cute girls doing cute things’ factor) isn’t the center stage for a monster girl show and it intrigued me how far will the show steer away from that.
Well, it didn’t steer away that far, and it is to be expected. It occasionally slipped onto the harem puddle but regained its position to the humanizing demi-chans stance, save for a few mention of Macchi’s front, there were no titillating panty shots or boob bounces. A iyashikei with monster girls is something I have yet to watch and this anime comes close enough to it.
In terms of slice-of-life elements, Interviews with Monster Girls doesn’t really score impressively- its sound isn’t chill enough and its backgrounds are not really warm and pastelly. But the show has light-hearted comedy, character gimmicks (they are demi-humans), a fairly optimistic script and a chilled pacing: which makes this anime have a passing grade in that aspect. Wow, that didn’t feel good- I hate making ‘what makes a good SoL’ come down to a rigid standard, but this was only approach I came up with to articulate my thoughts on the SoL aspect of this show.
I am not saying I am disappointed with this anime. I liked it- I think the approach it had to humanize demi-humans was well executed. It tried to stand out as being a different anime from other SoL with good character writing and it did. But there wasn’t much narrative to run through for a whole season so it transformed into a iyashikei from mid-season.
It was pretty obvious that the show wasn’t going for impressive visuals- the character designs are pretty simple but calling them bland would be a bit too much- they were distinguishable, the lighting is poppy enough (the sunlight was a factor in terms of Hikari’s character writing) and the animation was consistently and necessarily non-extravagant. I don’t think I have anything else to say about this show. Rating: 6/10.
Gabriel Dropout is the only ‘cute girls doing cute things’ show I watched from beginning to end from this season. It is pretty entertaining and I announce Satania as best girl.
Doga Kobo is one of the go to studios for moe shows and they didn’t disappoint with Gabriel Dropout. The production design is poppy and on point- the background art had good color designs and the sound design was noticeably upbeat. As far as character design goes, they were appealing and matched the girls’ personalities really well; their wardrobe were also noticeably varied and pleasant (then again, I don’t know jack about fashion). I think the art was cute with impressive consistency- especially the character expressions. Speaking of consistency, the animation doesn’t disappoint either.
The character writing is well done overall, with the exception of Gabriel- well, she is kind of a listless character. Like I said, Satania is the best character from the group- she might not have gotten a special episode like Vigne does but her genki-deluded personality is hilarious to watch week by week. She sets up the comedy in almost every episode- she is responsible for most of the well-tied gags that this show is known for.
I don’t think the comedy is like lung-burstingly hilarious, but I had some good laughs throughout the season. I also like the OP song, it has a unique structure and lyrical composition (it reminded me of GJ-bu’s opening). The ending song featured the girls in their vocational wardrobes- and they looked ‘moe’. Rating: 6/10 (or even a 7 if there aren’t any better ‘cute girls show’ this year).
[To be continued]