Wulfy’s Year in Anime 2016
As I mentioned in my Games post, 2016 has not been a bad year for entertainment. Even though it has been really bad in a lot of other ways. I’ve had to cut down a lot on what I watch, but I’ve still found plenty of good stuff. Even a new favourite anime of all time.
I did have to come to terms with just not having enough mental energy to put up with certain kinds of shows though. I’ve always been bad when it comes to second-hand embarrassment stuff, but I’ve also had to cut most dramas and stuff with heavy subject matters. I wish it wasn’t the case, but I just find it too difficult to watch now. I still give them a try because I know some are able to overcome that difficulty, but I’ve had to drop the vast majority of them. Often to my own great annoyance.
There’s also the issue that I’ve gotten a bit saturated and burned out on action shows and hetero romances. Again there are some I think are good and different enough to overcome that and still engage me, but I seem to have fallen into a bit of a small box regarding what I will and won’t watch.
Also yet another year where I try and fail to get into Gundam.
So what is there left that I want to highlight from this past year? I guess you’ll have to read on and find out. (Some of these categories might be entirely arbitrary and/or simply excuses to talk about a show.)
Worst Anime Experience
Setting aside ugly stuff I dropped during/after the first episode, like Big Order (leave it to anime to find a way to make mind-rape a physical act, the noises still haunt me), there’s really only one thing I actually watched that aggravated me enough for this category to exist.
Hibike! Euphonium 2
Aka Sound! Euphonium 2
It really doesn’t bring me any joy to put this here, but I also just need to get this out of my system. I will try to not repeat too much of what I already said here.
This isn’t the worst anime of the year, I’m sure that lies with one of the ones I decided to not keep watching, but it is the one that by far frustrated me the most. It got so close to brilliance before just throwing it away. It also made Midori into the worst character in the show, when I kinda liked her in S1.
Instead of getting into all of that yet again, I wanted to instead offer a hypothesis for why things turned out this way. Based on the product we got, what I’ve heard of how the novels are different, and knowledge of how original creators can influence anime productions. Big spoilers ahead.
I really don’t know the full context of the novels, but I’ve heard they’re not as yuri-heavy as the anime feels. S1 seemed to be pushing Kumiko/Reina pretty hard. Combined with the really obvious crush Yuuka has on Kaori as a backdrop for this, it set certain expectations for the show for me. I have a large amount of screengrabs and gifs (most of whom I posted in this Twitter thread) highlighting the chemistry between Kumiko and Reina.
Which is why the whole “I’m in love with Taki-sensei” really fell flat for me. Came out of left field, is that the phrase? The anime doesn’t really build it up in any way. Same with Kumiko’s supposed relationship towards Tsukamoto, the boy who is turned into a non-entity for the whole show, especially after asking Kumiko out.
This is where I feel perhaps the creator’s mandate came in. The anime studio might have been told in strict terms that Kumiko/Reina was not happening, and they should adjust accordingly.
I feel like the start of S2 supports this, as Kumiko and Reina start off super-flirty, but gradually transition into less so. There’s still flirting, but for every scene like that, there’s at least one of Reina fawning and being jealous over Taki-sensei. There’s also some vague, almost reluctant tones towards Kumiko and Tsukamoto making up. Which doesn’t really go anywhere (thankfully).
So with the studio’s hopes of their main ship dashed, they decide halfway through to shift Kumiko’s interest towards a different girl: Asuka. Their relationship hasn’t been explored in great detail before in the show, but there was some foundation to build on there. And in a relatively short amount of episodes they do a reasonably good job of building up a chemistry there, to the point where the confession at the end made sense to me. They even rejected the het ending from the novels of Kumiko and Tsukamoto matching up. Threw the het shippers into a rage, that.
Whether that was a compromise, or something they slipped through when it was too late to stop, that I suppose we will never know. So, all’s well that ends well? No, I wouldn’t go that far. Even though the final episode went some way towards redemption, that doesn’t excuse the frustration and anger the show caused me up until that point. And if I hadn’t been spoiled on how the finale was going to pan out, I would have spent the first half of that final episode absolutely fuming. Not the ending I was hoping to get, but one I was still largely happy to get, especially compared to what I feared I was getting.
So even with that mitigating factor, I will still without hesitation say Hibike Euphonium is the most frustrating piece of yuri-baiting I have ever experienced. I used to see yuri-baiting as annoying, but mostly harmless, and now I’m ready to throw the whole practice onto a pyre. Eupho 2 still gets worst anime experience of the year for me. Really a shame for an otherwise very beautiful show.
I feel like I was let down by several S2 shows this year; it generally wasn’t a good year for those. So I just picked a representative here.
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2
Aka Snow White with the Red Hair.
Shirayuki S1 was among my favourites of 2015. So I figured S2 was a safe bet. Oh, how wrong I was. It started with puzzlement and worry over how they seemed to be suddenly throwing in too many elements and plot threads at once, to deep irritation and displeasure at the show doing a redemption arc for Raj. The character I most wanted to never show up ever again.
I stated this with regards to Charlotte as well. If you want me to care about a bad character becoming better, you can’t make them so awful to begin with that I despise them. I won’t care about them improving then, I just want them gone or even preferably dead.
Raj’s original intent of kidnapping and raping Shirayuki just because his position as prince would let him do so was far and away enough for me to never want to see him ever again.
Having so much of S2 being about him, while simultaneously reducing Shirayuki to a passive role where most of her agency and cleverness was stripped away except when they needed to show that even when she struggled and was clever it was futile, and she definitely needed to be rescued.
I only stuck with it because of the good will S1 had built up, and I was relieved to see that from episode 20 and onwards the show became enjoyable again. The way the episodes before had worn me down did make me less forgiving of the flaws that remained, but it was nice to have fun watching it again. Though like with Eupho, getting better at the end doesn’t entirely excuse or forgive the fuck-ups that preceded it.
Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
Aka Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-.
This is less about disappointment in the show, and more about disappointment in myself.
I wish I could have seen this to the end. I absolutely loved the first 11 episodes. But the jarring gear-shift in episode 12 completely threw me off, and ground all of that to a halt.
I get what they were going for. Subaru had been through substantial trauma, and something broke. I mean, it’s not like that was absent in the first 11 episodes either, he had at least one major breakdown, but it did seem like he reached some sort of peace and determination at the end of that arc. So it all going way south in ep 12 still threw me off.
The Subaru now presented was awful, self-destructive, and spiteful. On the one hand too caught up in his own idea of self-importance and skill, and on the other deeply self-loathing at the terrible things he hadn’t been able to stop himself from doing.
I’ve heard it led to good places. I’ve heard he learned important things. But I couldn’t stick around for it. It was too heavy and painful to see him like this. After hearing how many episodes it would take for him to start learning, after hearing how long he was going to be tortured, I couldn’t stick with it.
And I can’t help feeling disappointment over that.
Hetero Romances I Actually Liked
In theory it’s not hard to get me invested in a hetero romance. They just have to put in a little effort beyond the bare minimum. Unfortunately the bare minimum seems to be far and away the standard. So let’s look at a couple of shows that made the effort.
This is an interesting one to dissect. It starts with the girl, Kurihara, confessing to the boy, Momo, and him accepting her confession and agreeing to go out with her. So right off the bat it’s different from what usually happens.
Then it starts getting weird, as it reveals Kurihara is a stalker. She has been obsessed with Momo for long before she actually managed to confess to him; doing stuff like taking pictures, collecting things he’s used, peeping on him whenever she could, devising elaborate plans for seeing more of him. She would memorise his schedules and preferences, and ask people to get more information.
Even after they start dating, she can’t lay off this behaviour. So that’s a definite hurdle to overcome if you want to watch this show. I know that had the roles been reversed, and he was the stalker, I would have dropped this down a trench as soon as possible.
Yet I stuck around. There was just something… well… it has all this, yet it still manages to be really cute, and it is fun to see them together. It might be hypocritical, but the context feels entirely different with the roles set this way. Plus there’s not a lot of stories about people who are already couples.
Yes, her behaviour is creepy, and the show acknowledges that. It takes some steps towards helping her realise that is wrong, though I’m sure you can argue that it doesn’t do nearly enough to condemn her.
I still think it’s really cute and funny, and they both grow as people throughout the course of the show in a way I found satisfying to watch.
There’s also the added bonus of a close boy/girl relationship that isn’t romantic. Two of the other characters are really close, but in a way that says “family love” rather than “romantic love”. It was just so… different in a way I really appreciated. They’re not brother and sister, but they look out for each other and care in a way close siblings would. It never once turns into a romance thing. Very nice.
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
Aka Tanaka-kun is Always Listless.
It is perhaps a stretch to call this a romance show, as it’s mainly a chill, easy-going, school slice-of-life show, with some romantic side-stuff.
I still put it under this category, because it managed to make me care about Shiraishi’s attempts to get Tanaka’s attention. She is so sweet and earnest, and she tries so hard, and Tanaka’s not a bad guy. He’s lazy and a little oblivious at times (and strangely observant at others), but he’s not bad. Considering their interactions, I didn’t find it strange that she might develop a crush on him.
The show is also about love in other ways. Tanaka and his best friend Ohta act much like a married couple. Miyano really loves Echizen, who loves her back, though maybe not in quite the same way. I’m fairly sure Miyano has a romantic crush on Echizen, while Echizen sees Miyano more like a super-cute friend she adores. I base this on Echizen’s reactions to when she thinks Ohta or Tanaka might be hitting on her.
I overall found this to be a very relaxed show with a decent sense of humour that provided a very enjoyable watching experience.
Interesting Dramas (I Actually Watched)
Honourable mentions to Orange, a beautiful show that unfortunately got too heavy for me to finish, and The Great Passage, March comes in like a lion, and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu which all seemed good, but ultimately weren’t for me.
This is a period drama set during prohibition in the US, when the mafia ran illegal booze production and sale (and just had a lot of power in general). Mafia dons, corrupt cops, murder, intimidation, betrayal, and politics. All this and more you can find here.
It all starts with Angelo Lagusa, whose whole family gets murdered by someone his father considered a friend, and he barely escapes himself. He decides to flee the city and make a nobody life for himself, leaving his only friend behind.
Seven years later he receives a letter informing him of who was behind his family’s murder, and saying it will help him get revenge. So he returns to Lawless city (yes, really) and adopts the guise of Avilio. He enlists the help of his former best friend Corteo, and together they concoct a plan to use Corteo’s booze-brewing skills to get Avilio close to the people who killed his family, and take them out.
I found the whole show really interesting. Things of course don’t exactly go to plan for Avilio, and I found it a really intriguing watch from start to finish. If you want something a little different, maybe this gangster drama is for you.
A drama thriller set before and during World War 2 with the founding of Japan’s first spy agency. It initially sets it self up as being about the difficulties of being accepted as valid in Japanese military culture, but ultimately turns into a “spy of the week” kinda deal.
It’s highly episodic, and I wouldn’t say any of the spies have personalities you will remember. Which I thought was kind of the point, as they’re spies. They’re supposed to not be recognisable or memorable.
So I really enjoyed the “spy thriller of the week” format as it always seemed to offer a different kind of story from different perspectives. It was almost a bit like Poirot, as you would often only learn what really happened and how they did it at the very end of an episode.
But if you were hoping for an ongoing narrative with persistent and fleshed-out characters, this would probably not be for you.
Good Sports Boys
Honourable mentions to All Out and Yuri on Ice, which I didn’t get around to watching, but have been assured are really good.
Prince of Stride: Alternative
I believe the first episode of Prince of Stride was the first new thing I watched in 2016. And it blew me away from the very start.
While sports anime hasn’t generally been something I’ve looked into, I did watch Free, and at first glance PoSA seems like that, but with running.
The gist of it is that some new students to a school originally applied to that school because it used to have one of the best Stride teams in the country. The operative term being “used to have”. They find that the current reality is far from what they expected. The current Stride club is barely a shadow of what it was, with not enough members to actually run. However, they refuse to be deterred, and join the club even so. They are determined to get it back up and running, and try to make their dream of what it was come true yet again.
Thinking back on it, I am not entirely sure the narrative makes complete sense considering some of the strange revelations towards the end, and how little it seemed to build up to it, but I don’t care that much.
The characters are fun, the episodes are interesting and exciting, it has a good sense of humour, and there’s just this energy to everything that left me feeling very invested in these running boys.
I had originally only planned to have one show here, but after looking back realised there were two others that also deserved mentioning.
Amaama to Inazuma
Aka Sweetness and Lightning.
Look, it’s a show about a single father trying to do his best for his daughter. About half a year before the show’s start his wife passed away, and he’s doing his best, okay?
He realises he isn’t doing as much for her as he thinks he should, and into their life stumbles one of his students who is quite a lonely girl with a mother who works a lot. Together they end up deciding to learn to cook better food, at which point this reveals itself as being a cooking show with a big focus on personal growth and having to deal with life moving on.
If you’re worried, it never tries to push any sort of romance between Kouhei and Kotori.
It’s just very sweet, heartfelt, and human; and I’ve been crying since I started writing this. It doesn’t pull its emotional punches, so expect tears if you’re going to give it a try.
On a different scale we have a show about witches, familiars, magic, and flying (the title doesn’t lie), that still somehow manages to feel like one of the most grounded and normal shows of the year.
Makoto is a young witch who moves in with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in the country to complete the practical part of her witch training. There she attends high school, gains new friends, settles in, goes on chill adventures, and practices her witchcraft. Perhaps a bit too leisurely at first. She is also supposed to keep her being a witch a secret, but isn’t very good at it.
It has beautiful art, excellent characters, cute cats that are really well drawn, a highly relaxed tone, and just this attitude that “yeah, there’s magic, but it’s honestly perfectly normal”. Fantastical things happen, and it frames them in a very lovely way. It does the same with the mundane things that happen.
The dynamic between Makoto and Chinatsu is an especially sweet part of the show. I just love this to bits.
Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
Aka Poco’s Udon World
Souta is a guy just past 30 who returns from Tokyo to the Kagawa prefecture where he grew up. His father has passed away recently, and he and his sister decided to clean up their old house (which doubled as an udon restaurant) in order to sell it.
Souta is filled with memories upon returning home, then stumbles upon a young boy, apparently homeless, sleeping in the place. The boy runs off, but comes back later. Souta decides to let the boy stay overnight, so they can go to the police the next day.
However, the next day Souta discovers that the boy is actually a tanuki in human form, and ends up adopting him while trying to figure out what to do. When pressed by someone else, Souta hastily names the boy Poco, which Poco accepts immediately.
Together the two form a soft of father/son relationship while Souta deals with his numerous feelings towards his old home, and his regrets towards how things ended with his father.
This might be the purest and most wholesome thing I have ever watched. If you want something heart-warming and relentlessly cute, you would be hard-pressed to find anything better.
Plus the Gaogao shorts after the ED each episode are also lovely. I’d be happy to let my kids watch that.
I thought I knew what to expect from this show early on, but it defied my expectations quite regularly. In a good way.
Ami and Aoi are good friends attending college together. Ami is a klutz who feels like she lacks any real passion in her life, and Aoi is not very outgoing and really only has Ami as her only friend. Still, Ami has always looked up to Aoi for being more active and accomplished in other ways.
Aoi cycles to and from school, and when Ami spots someone as a small collapsible bike, she thinks she has finally found something she can handle, and that could give her something to do together with Aoi.
It doesn’t take long for the two of them to meet more cycling buddies, and so begins a journey of self-improvement and growth for Ami as she learns not only about bicycles themselves, but how to ride properly and avoid the physical pitfalls that people tend to fall into when just starting out, like cramps, pushing themselves too hard, and the importance of proper hydration and eating.
I expected certain things from judging this book by its cover, as most anime tends to follow certain trends:
1) Ami’s status as a klutz will lead to her falling off of the bike a lot: Nope. She doesn’t fall off even once.
2) There will be a tsundere: Nope. Not a single one shows up. The evil moe has a slight moment when she gets a bit embarrassed once, but not one of the characters is a constant tsundere. They’re all very positive and helpful.
3) There will be frequent moments of drama and self-doubt: Nope. Ami has several setbacks, yes. She comes up against her own lack of experience and bad physical shape a lot, but she always vows to keep at it, and do better next time. Even when she fails, she often gets help from her friends and even random passersby.
It’s a very positive and uplifting show about personal growth and friendship, and it makes me very happy.
Sakamoto desu ga?
Aka Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto.
I’m still not sure how to really explain this show. It’s honestly one of those you just have to watch.
I’ll try. So there’s this high school. So far, so normal. The most popular guy in the first year is called Sakamoto, and here is where things get weird. Sakamoto is not a normal person in any sense of the term.
In fact, everything he does seems to be dazzling, impressive, and astounding. Every time someone tries to take him down a notch, it tends to end in a way that just makes him look even more amazing.
It is absolutely ridiculous, and the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. You owe it to yourself to watch the first episode of this. That should be enough to tell you whether you will like this or not.
A bit of an arbitrary category, but also entirely accurate. What makes a good OP (and ED) is not necessarily just the song, but also the animation that goes with it, and how well they fit together. I’d say the top five this year are from Love Live Sunshine, Flip Flappers, Classicaloid, 91 Days, and of course this one at the top.
The way the song fits the show, the way the animation perfectly suits the song, and how it shows off the personalities of the characters; it all got together to make the best OP of 2016.
As for the show itself: It mostly follows the perspective of Ruri (referred in the show as Hibari), and her friends Botan, Hibiki, Ren, and the titular Anne herself. Come to think of it, Hibari is the only one referred to by a name based on her family name, the others go by their given names.
Anyway, these five girls, and others, have been judged to be so unfortunate and unlucky that they’ve been accepted into the prestigious Tennomifune Academy in the lesser known class 7: the Happiness class. Which aims to help them improve their fortunes, or at the very least teach them how to be happy.
It disguises itself as a cutesy moe show, but don’t be fooled. This is a dark comedy. Occasionally quite dark. No one dies, I’ll grant it that, but the stuff that happens to these girls can be quite unfortunate indeed.
Yet for all of this it runs on a general theme of optimism and friendship. Though it also doesn’t hesitate to slap the girls down if they reach too far. How to stay optimistic in the face of failure seems to be the main idea.
Anne herself is the worst off. She is so monumentally unlucky that the very laws of the universe seem to bend in order to shit on her. Yet she is also the most cheerful and upbeat of them all. But even she has her limits, and it’s really heart-breaking whenever she’s pushed past them. She recovers, but seeing her crestfallen, even for a moment, is absolutely awful. I just want to scream “give her a break already!”
I highly recommend watching Anne Happy.
Koukaku no Pandora
Aka Pandora in the Crimson Shell.
I really haven’t been left with as many impressions of good EDs as I have OPs, but when I did think about it, this was the first one that jumped to mind.
This one is probably more biased, since I love Pandora a lot, but I still feel like the composition of the song and the animation work together really well. Plus it has the cute Pandoradio segments, and I saw a translation of the lyrics, and they’re so sweet.
The show itself: Nene is a young girl with a full body transplant. She’s a cyborg, her mind (and presumably brain) is the only thing that still makes her human, and as such she is often mistaken as a robot. She is moving to Cenancle island to stay with her aunt as part of her recovery and adjustment, and on the boat there she meet Uzal, a curious woman with an unknown agenda, and Clarion, Uzal’s servant (or ‘treasured pet’ as she says herself) and a full-body cyborg like Nene. Who looks like a catgirl maid.
Nene immediately falls for Clarion’s cuteness, and the show is about how their relationship builds while they are unwittingly drawn into the strange events going on on Cenancle.
There are some things that might be off-putting to people, like how the titular Pandora device works and fits into things, but if you can put up with/don’t mind that, it’s a really sweet show about two young girls learning to be friends and falling in love while exploring the island of Cenancle. They’re just also cyborgs with some amazing abilities.
Just in case it flew you by: This show is very yuri.
Cute Yuri Stuff
Another girl meets girl show. Futaba (Teko) is a girl who is moving to a new place with a new school, leaving her old friends behind, and not really knowing how to deal with that.
As she starts at the new school, she meets Hikari (Pikari), a strange girl who is the one who assigns Futaba the nickname Teko.
Turns out the two of them share some common ground, in that Pikari is lonely due to her strangeness making it hard to make friends, and Teko is lonely because she’s too introverted to approach people normally. That had changed in middle school as some friends found her, but now she’s in a strange high school and back to square one.
While it’s an uneasy friendship at first, the two quickly strike up a dynamic. Pikari is the type who ever charges forward, and Teko gets pulled along. Not against her will, because even though she is shut in and easily frightened, she doesn’t want to be. She might be hesitant and unsure, but ultimately she’s glad to be dragged into a new world.
Pikari agrees to help/urges Teko to get into the world of diving, as going in the ocean is definitely like going to a new world. Getting to spend more time together is a bonus.
They face troubles and personal demons along the way, but the two of them grow really close during the journey, and together they learn to overcome and conquer.
Yet another girl meets girl story, but this one is definitely stranger than most. In a way it’s similar to Amanchu.
Cocona is an introverted girl who really only has one friend. She wants to break out of her shell, to change, but is afraid of making any decisions that actually might change anything. Into her world comes Papika, a strange girl on a flying surfboard who is immediately drawn to Cocona, and asks her to go on adventures together.
They are pulled into strange worlds where they encounter strange creatures and strange people, while gradually growing closer (accompanied by a lot of yuri imagery and symbolism, often not very subtle) and learning more about themselves. Seems that for both of them there’s more than meets the eye.
This is one of the best shows of the year. Many factors play into this, such as good writing, a strong thematic consistency, well-realised characters, the amount of hidden secrets and foreshadowing you might only catch on repeated viewings, the love that permeates everything, and almost Ghibli-esque wonder the worlds they visit can inspire. To mention some.
There is a lot to unpack here, and it’s definitely worth giving a shot. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t seem to have been as blown away by it as some people I’ve seen. I admit the final few episodes were amazing though.
Love Live! Sunshine!!
They did another Love Live! And I think they did a better job this time.
To be clear, I adored the first Love Live. It’s a big reason for why I decided to get so invested in anime, and start writing about it. I had seen some anime before Love Live, but it became a catalyst for diving deeper into the medium. It’s shaped a lot of it for me.
I think Love Live Sunshine did it better. Took the good parts of the original, refined them a little more, removed some of the less good parts in favour of more interesting things.
They’ve assembled a new team of nine girls who you can tell take parts from the original girls into their personalities (though it’s divided up a bit differently), but they feel like well-realised and defined characters in their own right. I’d say they feel like stronger characters overall. More well-written and fleshed out.
The story is in broad strokes a bit of a retelling, but it’s far from identical. Sure, there’s the founding of the idol club that the school council president is against, the school is going to be shut down, it’s still nine girls, three from each year, who inhabit broadly similar roles, and they have to work themselves up from nothing.
Yet it’s now set in a fairly small place out in the sticks, the idol club isn’t formed because of the school shutting down (that is revealed later), there’s a larger focus on the community now, they have rather different challenges to face, both with being out in the country, and there being so many more school idols now. And there might be sneaky sneaks about.
It’s both a homage to the original series, and its own story wanting to shine. And shine it does. Well worth watching.
Also: I have adopted Ruby and Dia. They are my sweet daughters now. I will cuddle them lots and spoil them rotten.
Aoba is a girl just graduated from high school who has gotten a job at a game development company. The same game company where her character design idol Yagami Kou works, and lucky for her she ends up in the same department, under Kou’s supervision, working on a sequel to one of her favourite games.
This is super moe about lesbian game devs, what they have to go through during development, and the bonds they form along the way. You also get glimpses into other departments.
Part of what I find nice about it (besides the moe and the lesbians) is that Aoba isn’t completely incompetent, but actually picks things up at work fairly quickly. She has a lot to learn, but makes good progress throughout the show.
I guess there’s not really a lot to dive into to write about here. It does what it does, and it does it really well. It’s cute, funny, and even a little clever.
You do have to put up with some fan-service if you want to watch through it, though. Some of it very blatant. How off-putting that is to you, I think only you yourself can know. I personally didn’t mind it in this circumstance, but your mileage may vary.
Aka Macross Delta.
I’ve talked several times about my failed attempts to get into any of the new Gundam shows in the past couple of years, but I really had no such problems with the new Macross.
I have only watched one Macross show before: Frontier. And I didn’t take it seriously at all. I kinda turned it into a Transformers fanfic while watching, initially spurred on by how the main dude’s mech looked like Starscream. So I am actually not entirely sure what happened in Frontier. I mean, I got some of it. But I really wasn’t paying attention. Fortress Maximus was there, and they fought Unicron at the end.
So for Macross Delta I decided to take it more seriously. It really wasn’t hard, it turned out. I really was like “wait, this is a mech show that feels fun!” And that is the main feeling of this. After watching so many too-serious ones in the past few years, this one had a sense of fun and energy I realised I had been missing.
Set eight years after the events of Frontier, the Vajra are gone, but the galaxy is threatened by something called the Var Syndrome, where people lose control and start attacking others in a more or less coordinated manner. It quickly turns out what triggers the Var Syndrome is song. Because Macross. Though they’re not sure what causes it, since it doesn’t affect everyone.
In part to combat the Var, an interstellar idol group called Walküre is formed, and their songs have the power to calm the Var and snap them out of it.
As it so happens, a young girl named Freyja and a boy named Hayato both get wrapped up in this, as Freyja auditions and succeeds in joining Walküre, and Hayato ends up as a pilot in the wing designated to protect Walküre during their combat live shows. From there they of course have to help save the galaxy, because what else would a show like this be about?
I had a lot of fun with Macross Delta, bar one episode, and it kinda makes me wish I had tried to take Frontier seriously. Maybe I would have actually enjoyed it for what it was.
I will say that the romances don’t exactly feel like they fit in well. I’ve been told this is not a new thing for Macross. It gets even worse when the love triangle stuff gets shoved in. I wouldn’t say it’s unbearable, but it certainly makes me shake my head.
There is a puzzling thing I want to point out though, as at some point in the show someone says something to the effect of “we think we have discovered that music has actual power”, to which the people in the room, Walküre members included, seem shocked. Hello? You’re in Macross. I thought this would have been common knowledge since the first show. Plus you have been using your music as a superpower for the whole show until now, and you still didn’t have a clue? I don’t buy it.
Good show, though. Good show.
Regalia – The Three Sacred Stars
Regalia did an excellent job of coaxing out the speculator in me. I did so much theory-crafting between episodes of this show. It almost got a little ridiculous. This was one I eagerly looked forward to every week. Until it suddenly decided “okay, we have done four episodes, but we’re going to start over, okay?”
So then we went one month without anything, then one month of slightly altered versions of the first four episodes, and then the new episodes started at about the same time as the next anime season did.
Thankfully when it did start with new episodes, I still found it fun and intriguing.
The show starts with a prologue set in the country of Rimgarde, right before its fall. Two mechs are present and fighting, but below them underground something strange is going on. Something seems to overload, a wave of some strange energy is triggered, and every inhabitant of Rimgarde just vanishes.
12 years later, in the Enastria Empire, we meet Yui (who is soon revealed to be the empress), and Rena, her sister whom you might have spotted in the prologue. Rena is actually her adopted sister. She was found near Rimgarde while they were investigating, and Yui’s mother decided to adopt her.
It also turns out towards the end of the first episode that Rena is not human, in a kick-ass summoning sequence where she becomes her true self, a giant mech called a Regalia. She is one of three, named after the Furies of greek myth, who are called the Regalia of Erinius. There is a lot of lore to dive into here.
There’s a lot about this show I like. Rena and Yui have a very good relationship; the Regalia all look intimidating, and feel heavy and ancient, even when they look new and shiny; as I said: the lore is fascinating; I like the world they have built; and even the side characters are pretty interesting.
I think my only real criticism is that it maybe felt like it wasn’t everything it could have been, but that’s true of so many things. It’s an original IP as well, which just makes it more fascinating how much they’ve built into it. Very good show.
Anime of the Year
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume
Aka Scorching Ping Pong Girls
Currently the anime of all years for me. Favourite of all time. It’s possible it will be topped in the future, though I have no idea what it would take.
I knew almost right away I was in trouble. “The moe is strong. All girls. And there’s the yuri angle too. Yep, I have to watch this now. No choice.”
I still couldn’t have expected that the story of Agari, Koyori, and everyone else they meet, would be this exciting, and hit me this hard.
At Suzumegahara high school, the table tennis club’s star player is Kamiya Agari, a girl with a strong drive to win who has forgotten what it’s like to have fun playing table tennis. All that matters to her now is winning, and the praise she gets because of it.
Just transferring to the school is Tsumujikaze Koyori, another table tennis player who perhaps might even rival Agari in skill. To contrast Agari, Koyori plays entirely for the fun of the game. She loves drawing out the best in her opponents, and try to push them even further by mounting a fierce comeback to test their limits. She doesn’t mind if she wins or loses, so long as it was fun.
Koyori lacks the kind of drive Agari exhibits, and Agari lacks the sense of fun that Koyori revels in. Together the two of them awaken in each other what the other lacks, and a deep bond is formed as they stride forward to take the table tennis world by storm.
It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s interesting, the romance is great, the characters are great, great couples, and perhaps most of all: It’s incredibly exciting. It makes my heart race in a way nothing else I can remember watching ever has. Especially after a really intense match.
It has completely won me over, and I will sing its praises for a long time to come.
There we go. That was quite a lot, actually. Maybe it would have been better sticking to some sort of top ten or top five list format, but 2016 was a good anime year, and I had a lot I wanted to highlight.
As for 2017, I basically have no idea what to expect. I’ve increasingly come to stay away from promo material and such, so I go into a new season almost entirely blind. The only thing I know about the upcoming Winter Season is that there’s an adaptation of the Akiba’s Trip videogame. That should be… something.