Winter 2016 Mid-season Impressions

ERASED

This season’s diverse range of utter crap to entertaining has really begun to meet — or fail — some of the expectations we initial had in our Winter 2016 First Thoughts article. Some of the shows that we thought were fantastic in the beginning ended up running out of interesting material, and if the most recent Anime Power Rankings don’t reveal it already, the winners of this season seem to already have been decided. Of course, there’s always the possibility an unsuspecting anime can have a surprise finale for us, so there’s no point in giving up on any mediocre anime just yet.
Introduction by Kylaran

Reckoner on Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED) after 8 episodes

With the initial charms of Erased wearing out, the show has honestly become a bit disappointing. This is not because the show is bad, in fact it continues to be a very solid offering this season, but because it felt at first like something truly special. Erased is not the first story involving time travel, but it differentiated itself with a raw, humanistic touch alongside its mystery and thriller elements.

For me, the problems with Erased boil down to the story’s incessant focus with Satoru trying to save Kayo. Yes, Kayo’s abusive childhood may tug at the proper heart strings for some, but a serial killer mystery begs deeper exploration of the other characters in the show. It is particularly amazing to me how Erased has essentially left the other murder victims unexplored.

All this serves to stunt Satoru’s character development as his character becomes defined by trying to protect Kayo. I would have loved more meaningful interactions between the 29 year old Satoru and other characters in the past. As such, not enough intrigue has been built into the serial killer’s motives, Satoru has failed thus far to be a compelling main protagonist, and the time travel has been used too randomly to generate the proper tension.  Overall, Erased is still a title worth checking out, but it is not the highly engrossing experience I hoped for.

Kavik Ryx on Active Raid: Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai Hakkei after 7 episodes

Eye candy action series like Active Raid are often troublesome for me to watch as they quickly offer diminishing returns for not stepping up their game. And that being said, that’s exactly where this series has been headed. That the anime community has lambasted this show as much as it has doesn’t surprise me. Despite that, I’m going to come to its defense here.

It took me a while to figure out what I was finding so endearing in such a junk food anime. The pieces of the puzzle started falling into place as I sat listening to the suspiciously retro opening, noticing how characters appear aged up as opposed to the convention of looking aged down. Listening further to the show’s dated sound effects, the idea of running the police force out of a rail car slowly became a sensible choice. Once I accepted the shows simplistic episodic format -with superficial characterization of the week- I understood what was going on. Remove the idol singer and creepy Onii-chan elements and replace the viewpoint character with a ten year old boy, and suddenly this becomes a schlocky ’90s anime. On those terms, I can accept Active Raid’s nostalgia fest in the same way I can willingly consume a can of cake icing. It may be horrible for me. But in the moment, I just don’t care.

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar

AC on Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash after 7 episodes

Grimgar is fascinating. The premises aren’t unique per se: a group of people mysteriously wakes up in an alternate historical world, learns the rules of the land and tries to adapt to their new environment. It’s the same as Sword Art Online, which is also produced by A-1 Pictures, so it’s natural to see many people drawing parallels between the two shows. Indeed, the two shows are similar but only on a superficial level.

Grimgar stands out among the rest in the fantasy genre because, rather than being an MMORPG-like action-adventure story, it is more of a slice-of-life than anything else. Forget IMBA characters (yes Kirito, I’m calling you out) and action scenes that thrive on suspension of disbelief; in Grimgar, the protagonists are fretting over making enough money just to get decent underwear! The characters are stuck in an unfamiliar world, yet their struggles are all too familiar in real life. Worse, they are now trying to get along with a new member after a tragic demise of one of their own.

The show is a breath of fresh air for the fantasy genre because of how ironically down-to-earth the story is. With a pastel color-like art and animation, it even feels soothing to watch despite the occasional bloodshed. This is one of the better shows of this season and that’s a good thing when the past few seasons have been lackluster.

TIF on Shoujo-tachi no Kouya wo Mezasu after 7 episodes

What started out as a unique take on the visual novel production industry, or at least a unique first episode what with characters actually interacting with each other like human beings and all, has eroded into a rather confusing mess of what amounts to writers whining. The irony that this is based on a visual novel to begin with is not lost on me, but when it seems as though the dialogue was written by a production team with an axe to grind against the hard work it takes to produce a show, well I can only take so much of that crap before I just want you to shut your pie hole. Yes, producing a piece of artwork for the consumers is a difficult task. Thanks for cluing me in on something everybody already knows.

Sure, we’ve seen quite a few of these types of shows lately. Production of anime, or voice acting, or video games, seems to be a hot topic for viewers right now, and so far they’ve been entertaining enough to justify it. This one, however, does not. The characters used to interact like human beings, but now they’re acting like the fictional VN character personalities and archetypes that were supposed to be lampshaded about in the first place. The show has lost the initial charm and, hell, maybe it never had it.

Bubuki Buranki Mid-season Impressions

Kylaran on Bubuki Buranki after 9 episodes

I don’t really want to hide the love I have for the battles in this ambitious anime. Devastating battles resulting from Buranki clashing with each other have potential to elevate this show into a unique entry into the annals of flawed mecha anime. The show should also be lauded for its integration of 3D animation with 2D to create what is possibly one of the better examples in anime today of how the two styles can work together.

Although I’m enamored with the show, it’s not hard to see where it really comes up short: the characters fall flat and come off as tropes, the post-Buranki society comes up terribly short as commentary about society under totalitarian control, and the complex relationship that the main characters’ parents have with each other is starting to get stale. I’m really hoping that the show will be able to figure out exactly where it wants to go in terms of action and drama, but until it’s able to work out its characterization and plot issues, I have a feeling it’ll remain as a personal favorite and nothing more.

Slashe on Dagashi Kashi after 5 episodes

Dagashi Kashi attempts to transform the mundane into the extraordinary with its presentation, but perhaps due to my age or lack of inebriation, it simply falls flat. The characters are attractive and well animated, yet none of them come off as particularly interesting or engaging. It’s funny how the main conceit of the show — exploring the wondrous world of dagashi — works to hook the protagonist yet fails with its audience, because after all the glitz and glam, it’s just candy. Extremely cheap candy. There’s little interplay between the different personalities, and without any overarching obstacle, struggle or goal, the episodes amount to simply a bunch of kids gushing about the joy of candy. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the humour isn’t anything exceptional either, following common comedic beats and routines one can see coming a mile away. With nothing to carry the show, Dagashi Kashi ends up as a series whose existence I’ll struggle to remember when the season is over.

Muv Luv Schwarzesmarken

 

Reckoner on Schwarzesmarken after 8 episodes

I still have to say that Schwarzesmarken is more for fans of the original Muv Luv visual novels than it is for the general viewer, but it makes a hell of a case for new viewers to explore this franchise more deeply. Yes, new viewers may not understand the intricacies of the battle tactics employed by our fighters against the BETA, but seeing Muv Luv mecha action in animated glory is definitely enthralling for more than committed fans. Schwarzesmarken serves as a much better example of what fans love about the franchise than the failed Total Eclipse adaption. This includes many of Muv Luvs most common themes such as human conflict even in the face of humanity’s extinction, devious political machinations, gruesome combat, and tragic deaths. Total Eclipse never really managed to hit its stride well enough on this front, but Schwarzesmarken has blown it out of the park.

No, this is not a deep story, you can poke holes into many of the scientific justifications for what goes on in the Muv Luv universe, and those body suits definitely serve no other purpose than providing male viewers with fan service. Schwarzesmarken and the Muv Luv franchise as a whole may be shameless about many of its otaku contrivances, but damn I would be lying if I did not think the complete package has been entertaining.

TIF  on Koukaku no Pandora after 7 episodes

So, Koushi Rikudo, a name you may remember if you’re old like me, has once again attempted to take everything established and knock it down a peg.  In this case, he’s taking a concept apparently originally conceived by legendary mangaka Masamume Shirow and doing whatever the fuck he wants with it.  I’m still not entirely sure if this show is good or just outright trash, and by definition good, but I will say that I have never been bored with it.  Sure, it has some rather obvious blush inducing shock moments, and the plot is wonky, but it remains one of my favorites to watch each week.

Maybe that’s testament to Koushi Rikudo’s bizarre style of telling stories and comedy, I don’t know.  What I do know is that this thing is fucking bizarre, and while I normally wouldn’t take such a show seriously, it almost forces me to, while still being utterly silly and retarded.  I don’t know how to explain the conundrum any better than that.  So, instead, I’ll just advise you to watch loli robot fingerbanging, fifth leg having lion toy things running amok with ancient speech patterns, goofy super-science being the answer to everything without significant consequences, and enjoy the hell out of it, because I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be doing watching this stuff.

Akagami no Shirayukihime Mid-season Impressions

Kylaran on Akagami no Shirayukihime S2 after 7 episodes

While the slow pacing of the first few episodes of the second season didn’t quite hold my interest compared to the action-packed first episodes of the the first season, Akagami no Shirayukihime’s balance of deliberate character development and shoujo-tastic action once again proves that this show is one to keep watching.

Shirayuki’s the same as ever — spirited and persistent — which keeps the show anchored and contingent to the first season, but the side characters are getting a good amount of screen time as well. Raj, the first antagonist of the series, grows as a person to become a better prince to his kingdom and even an interesting friend. Likewise, Obi’s development is also handled with grace and subtlety, adding a bit of complexity to the relationships Shirayuki has with the men around her. I wrote in my First Thoughts that this show its side characters to step up in the second season; that’s exactly what’s happening and it’s fun to watch.

AC on Dimension W after 7 episodes

Dimension W started off as a promising series: high production values, interesting storyline and quirky characters are ingredients for a good series. And yes, that OP dance number though. The show was indeed off to a solid start: it’s an entertaining, shounen action-packed series that’s fun to watch on a weekly basis. Plus, the theme is unique: a new form of renewable energy has changed the world, yet protagonist Mabuchi is obviously against using it for unexplained reasons (we will surely know in due course).

But as good as it sounds, Dimension W so far has been just that: an action series. It’s a well-executed series of its genre but it’s hardly anything beyond that. There were two episodes that dealt with alternate reality and time travel, both of which ended up being a pseudo-scientific babble. A mini-arc that was handled awkwardly, it sealed in my thoughts that this show should just stick to action entertainment.

Now, it looks like the main plot will be put into motion very soon and I think it’s about time before the show drifts from the common “villain of the week” trope. There are issues still deliberately in the shrouds for now and I think it’s time to find out why.

Haruchika Mid-season Impressions

Kavik Ryx on Haruchika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru after 7 episodes

I have a confession. I’ve fallen asleep during Haruchika without bothering to see what I missed. My unreliable proxy server may have discouraged me from reloading the whole episode for all of two minutes. But in principle, I just didn’t care enough to rewind. The problem here is simple. This is a mystery of the week series where the only thing of intrigue is the bizarre color of everyone’s pupils. 

Good luck in finding oneself invested in the mysteries of the week, given their banal scenarios and underwhelming resolution. Want to understand the workings of Haruta’s “smartest man in the room” mind? Play around with SIRI for an hour for a comparable experience while somehow being left in greater awe. Perhaps  there is potential in Chika’s role as the viewpoint character. By consequence of having, well, any energy compared to her peers, she remains entertaining, if a tad grating. Alas, if only this series took even an iota of interest in her newfound appreciation for music, or hell, the music at all. So long as the core focus is off of her, she’ll merely serve the role of being mildly surprised at Haruta’s alleged genius. In the meantime, I’ll find something more productive to do with my time, like running a rat circus.

TIF on GATE: And So the Defense Force Fought Season 2 after 7 episodes

If you’ve paid any attention to the ongoing thread discussions in our forums, you’ll know that I am no fan of writer Takumi Yanai and how he has presented this story to us. I may be unfairly judging him more than I would other writers, but by this point I am in for a penny; in for a pound, so fuck him. I’m not even one of those douchebags who thinks that Japanese nationalism is a bad thing and that his biases are not without precedent. I don’t care if he wants to glorify the Japanese military, I just want him to stop insulting my intelligence and write something that doesn’t read like bad fanfiction.

By this point in the series, what started out, as defended by fans of the novels, as entirely not a harem show, has basically become a harem show with a bevy of fantasy trope based waifus hovering about our nearly flawless main character for reasons that range from inane to confusing. Any good that GATE may try to build up with the political shenanigans of the Empire, or fantasy RPG elements with gigantic dragons, is quickly usurped by random silliness and standard anime hijinks. By this point, GATE is a mostly frustrating piece of forgettable garbage and best left not revered the way it is.

Slashe on Ajin after 7 episodes

What is better – to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort? Even if everything around conspires you into darkness?

Nagai Kei is a curious breed of protagonists rarely explored in anime – the sociopath that strives to be good. Despite discovering his true nature as an immortal Ajin, he wants nothing to do with it, preferring a life of normalcy and productivity. Enter the rest of the society, which oust Ajins as non-humans and hunt these extremely rare individuals for cruel, never-ending experimentation. Kei’s unique psychology makes for a fascinating, albeit not completely accurate read, as he struggles to empathize and care for others, while evading mankind’s persecution.

Ajin delves into issues of morality and mortality through the relationships and conflicts between the different Ajins and the government in their high stakes games of cat and mouse. Well paced and thrilling, the story remains realistic and relatively free of plot holes despite the many twists it brings us through. Barring any huge missteps, Ajin will likely end up as my anime of the season, regardless of the abundance of strong contenders this season.  

6 Responses to “Winter 2016 Mid-season Impressions”

  1. Given that Kayo is the only character in any particular danger, I don’t see any of the attention being given to her in BokuMachi as being undue.

  2. She is? She’s merely the first target. We spent a majority of this entire cour on her one case, to the point we suffocated any other plotline in the show. In the end this show should not be more about the sob story drama than the mystery/thriller aspect and I felt it went too far down that route.

  3. Wait.. No Rakugo? Or KonoSuba? Awwwww…..

    Yeah, Dimension W is just.. UGH.

  4. I don’t hate Dimension W per se. Just that I feel that the show is straddling across a few genres. From the onset, it looks like this is a solid action series but it’s falling short. Now it’s trying the sci-fi theme approach but it ends up being a babble. Character development? No signs of that, much. Even Mabuchi’s past was revealed in a half-assed and haphazrd manner that I don’t sympathise his pain at all.

    The only way this show can redeem itself is through the action genre, and I think a climactic fight or two should help things a little… IF that can happen soon.

  5. […] Key adaptation, which doesn’t pack the emotional punch of previous works. We also posted our mid-season impressions last week in case you missed […]

  6. People take the notion of Kei Nagai being a “good-striving sociopath” way too far when talking about Ajin. Its really not that Kei Nagai is a sociopath at his core, even though the manga has chapter titles like ‘The Real Kei Nagai’ for what was adapted into episodes 5 & 6; it’s that the manga, and by extension the writing, has always been deeply ambiguous in its presentation, even during the ‘The Real Kei Nagai’ arc, about what the real Kei Nagai is like.

    Its accentuated by the chapter almost immediately preceeding the Real Kei Nagai trio, ch8 ‘Blindness’, about this nondescript kid in Kei’s school ultimately coming to terms with the conclusion that he doesn’t really care about Kei, a chapter which I note was carelessly omitted from the adaptation.

    Back to the point, its a baffling reading of Ajin, especially considering that the person who first expresses the notion of Kei’s real self being callous and devoid of empathy is Tanaka, who has the pleasure of being, next to Sato, the least unbiased person, and by extension just about the worst mouthpiece for authorial opinion in all of Ajin. Its a forced reading of the work that I find to be quite unmotivated.

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