Anime Winter Season 2017 – Mid-Season Update
I am slowly coming out of my January hibernation mode, and the world is on fire. That’s not what we’re here to talk about today though.
As I’ve had little energy for much else, I’ve ended up watching more anime than what I would consider normal. Not more from this season, but I’ve checked out a couple of recommendations, and re-watched some favourites. Figure I might as well throw those in, but feel free to skip that section if you’re not interested.
You can check out my early impressions here, so without further ado let’s get started. There’s a variety of things to cover.
I re-watched Takkyu Musume yet again (third full re-watch, though some eps I’ve seen at least five times now), but there’s not a lot more to say about that right now since it’s as recent as last season.
Black Rock Shooter (OVA and TV series)
I don’t entirely remember why this was recommended to me, but I ended up checking it out. I started with the OVA as that was released first, but I had already been told the stories of the two aren’t really connected. They’re AUs of each other, basically. Same characters in a similar setting, but with a different story and relations. The TV series also has more characters.
I suppose the OVA in a sense could be a called a proof of concept. For about 50 mins we follow Mato, Yomi, and Yuu, and how they get (and don’t get) along. It also switches to a secondary thing where we go to an other-world to watch the titular Black Rock Shooter on a quest for something, and utlimately facing off against Dead Master. I didn’t really get how or even if the two storylines are connected until I was nearly at the end. Overall I’d say it was a sweet and well put together little film, with concepts more hinted at than properly explained. Still easy enough to follow. I liked it.
The TV series takes the basic concept and the characters, and spins them off in a slightly different direction. There’s still Mato, Yomi, and Yuu, but they’re connected differently, you might say. There were some really awkward bits in the first couple of episodes that nearly put me off, but once it got past that it really started sinking its hooks into me.
Things are more straightforward here than in the OVA. It gradually lays out exactly what is going on, but it takes you on quite the ride to get there. I built up all sorts of theories that more or less worked, though sometimes it would just throw twists at me that knocked a lot of them over. Most interesting were the twists that had been signalled all along, but I hadn’t noticed until the reveal. Only going back and checking I could see the signs were there all along.
I’m not going to claim everything worked though. Sometimes the characterisation feels a little inconsistent, in ways that can’t be easily explained away. But for the most part I feel like things were well set up, came together in ways that (mostly) made sense, and the pay off was pretty good. I’ve been told it’s considered a divisive show, but personally I enjoyed it.
Side-notes: I had a lot of disappointments in 2015; and I’ve not been able to buy the discs yet because money has been fairly tight. I’m hoping to buy both the discs and the novels when I can afford them.
There were two reasons I re-watched this: 1) I heard there’s an OVA out, and movies coming soon, so I wanted to refresh my memories, and 2) more importantly I just really wanted to.
After re-watching it I think I like it even more now. While I had forgotten a lot of details, it was much more enjoyable to watch it when I knew the general layout of what was going to happen. It was also a lot of fun to re-discover those things I’d forgotten, and spotting new details I missed the first time around. And it was a lot easier to just sit back and enjoy the episodes I thought were a bit dull the first time. Back then I feared it was a sign the quality of the show was declining, but now that I know where it’s going and that it spectacularly picks back up later I can just enjoy them for what they are.
I will say there are bits of the show I find to be unnecessary, especially Albedo and Shalltear’s intense obsession with Ainz that honestly diminishes both of their characters. I would not be sad to see those parts toned down or gone entirely. But it’s not enough to noticeably impact my enjoyment of the show and its central premise.
Saki was recommended to me because of my love for Takkyu Musume, and now that I’ve watched the first season I can see why. It is very clear that the author of Takkyu took a fair amount of inspiration from Saki.
Saki and Nodoka are very sweet together. Yuuki’s an adorable bundle of energy (even though her obsession with tacos maybe gets overplayed a little). Mako doesn’t get quite as much characterisation as I think she deserves, but what she gets is pretty good. Hisa looks so much like Maki from Love Live that it honestly freaks me out. I refuse to believe that whomever designed Maki did not have Hisa in mind when doing so, because they could be twins.
Saki is about Saki, a girl who comes from a family of mahjong players. Her parents are now separated, and she lives with her father, while her sister lives with her mother. Because of how she was treated while playing with the family, Saki doesn’t like mahjong. It holds bad memories for her. But her childhood friend Kyoutaro (who is ultimately unnecessary to the show, and could have been easily written out) ends up dragging her to the school’s mahjong club because they’re short a player. Because she displays a peculiar skill, they end up trying to pull her in even more, and she learns how to enjoy the game.
Which is in large part due to Nodoka, the club’s ace and soon enough girlfriend/rival to Saki. Like with Agari and Koyori, the two push each other to be better, and help each other find a deeper enjoyment and meaning in the game.
I like the show quite a lot, but not close to how much I like Takkyu. I’m just not as into the structure of it, and it doesn’t grab me in the same way. Plus it’s not really helping me understand mahjong. After 25 episodes, I have learned virtually nothing. I can still feel some tension and excitement for the matches because there are a lot of visual elements and they show off the personalities of characters. It’s just I have no idea what they’re talking about or what it means when they show us their hands. Table tennis is an easier sport to spectate.
While I have not gotten around to watching the sequels yet, they are on the list.
Okay, let’s move on to stuff actually from this season. There are two new things to talk about, but first let’s start with what I’ve dropped. Side-note: I am personally offended that people are watching Fuuka, but the silver lining is getting to see their reactions to the twist if that makes it into the anime.
Choboraunyopomi Gekijou Dai San Maku Ai Mai Mii: Surgical Friends
Aka Ai-Mai-Mii: Surgical Friends
I know weird is the point of this show. Nothing about it makes sense, but it got too weird for me to enjoy it any longer. Not really much more to say.
Akiba’s Trip: The Animation
Aka Akiba Strip
As episode 7 of this came out before episode 6 of Dragon Maid, I decided to give it a look, and my attitude towards it was so negative I decided just to drop it.
My entertainment value of this show has been declining. After what I considered a strong start, it has fallen into a “topic of the week” format which I don’t feel is working well. At least not for me. If it’s a topic I don’t know, care about, or that gets handled badly, I get bored. Especially since they have a tendency to push things a bit far at times, which I only feel like tolerating when it’s otherwise entertaining.
After the initial start-up episode, we got into the topics, all nerd/otaku related.
Ep 2 was militaku, which was a fair enough episode, with some decent character development and introduction of secondary characters.
Ep 3 was idols, which also dealt with a sensitive topic regarding predatory idol scouting and honestly crossed a line in terms of how it was handled.
Ep 4 was radio, and I was honestly just utterly bored with this one.
Ep 5 was ostensibly about games, but mainly about a Street Fighter V tournament. Yes, they had gotten to use the license. It was also quite boring, honestly.
Ep 6 was about computers, and while I wouldn’t call it great, it was a step up from the previous two.
Considering it’s the same team that did Sore ga Seiyuu, I really wanted to give this show a chance, but my patience for it has run out. Maybe if Tamotsu had been a better and less annoying character.
Demi-chan wa Kataritai
Aka Interviews with Monster Girls
Well, my feelings on Demi-chan cooled quickly. One of my stipulations/hopes for this show was that it wasn’t going to turn into any romance stuff with the teacher, both because I don’t care for student-teacher relationships, and because I grew tired of harems years ago.
Unfortunately the romance stuff starts already in episode 2, as Kyouko (the dullahan) develops a crush on Takahashi. Then episode 3 it’s Satou (the succubus), and after that episode I just wasn’t interested enough to keep going any longer, especially since BanG Dream had just started. I swapped those two, basically.
The final thing I’ll say on Demi-chan is that I feel Satou is treated unfairly by the author. While Hikari, Kyouko, and Yuki all seem to be able to live mostly normal lives with just a few adjustments, Satou’s succubus nature is far more limiting to her than the other three put together. Touching her skin acts as an aphrodisiac. If she dresses too attractively it acts as an aphrodisiac by sight alone. When she sleeps she involuntarily gives erotic dreams to nearby men. Her ability to lead what one might consider a normal life is very low.
So I feel like she has just been laden with too many side-effects compared to the others. Give her a fucking break, won’t you? I am also slightly annoyed that apparently she only affects men, but… maybe that counts as giving her a break. At least she can interact with women/girls, presumably. I think it was the dream thing that finally broke the camel’s back for me. That was when I went “okay, now you’re definitely overdoing it”. If it was just the touch and the looks, that would be more acceptable.
I just couldn’t get this to click with me. I gave it the three episode treatment, but as I was starting to feel even less favourably towards it, I dropped it there.
It’s like the show’s sense of humour is just slightly off from what I can enjoy, so most of the jokes just fell flat for me. Plus I still really, really don’t like Raphi. She dragged down the show far more than Vigne and Satania combined could lift it up. By the end of ep 3 I hadn’t seen anything of her that I would consider a redeeming trait, and nothing that would make her an enjoyable villain to watch.
Episode 3 also soured my feelings on Gabriel a lot. She was such an absolute shit that I developed quite the distaste for her. Really not my kind of humour, I suppose.
But since I feel like this is one I should have been able to enjoy, it’s probably going to keep annoying me for the rest of the season that I don’t. I’ll do my best to just be happy other people are enjoying it.
For whatever reason BanG Dream (yes, that’s how they spell it) started a couple weeks later than the rest, so it’s only on episode 4 yet. That’s probably enough to give a decent impression of it, though.
Someone said it’s like a cross between K-On and Love Live, and while I can see that in a way, it also doesn’t feel entirely correct.
Our main main character here is Kasumi, a girl searching for some sparkle to her life, if I remember her wording correctly. Trying a recapture a feeling she had when she was younger. A trail of stars leads her to the house of shut-in and tsundere Arisa, where Kasumi finds and falls in love with a guitar. When Arisa finds her, they… don’t exactly get along immediately. At least not from Arisa’s side. But somehow Kasumi manages to drag her along to see a live show.
Watching a band on stage Kasumi feels like she has discovered the sparkle she was looking for, and immediately decides she wants to start a band. Arisa still gets dragged around, seeming to have grown attached to Kasumi in spite of her objections to the contrary. Kasumi also discovers and pulls in shy girl Rimi, and while she attempts to also rope in her friend Saya, she has so far resisted. She’s in the OP as the drummer though, so you know how it’s going to end.
The latest addition is Tae, a girl curiously similar to Kasumi in many ways, who teaches her some of the basics of playing guitar. Unlike Yui’s innate talent in K-On, Kasumi has to learn from scratch.
I guess in a way this is sort of like a slightly more serious version of K-On, that’s still very cute, sweet, and fun. Also gets a lot of bonus points for the amount of hugging and snugging. Anime needs more of that.
KiraKira Precure A La Mode
It’s that time of year again when the new Precure show starts.
This time the central focus is sweets and desserts, along with the five Precure girls who make them. Currently there’s still only 2 episodes out, so we’ve only met two of the girls: Ichika who’s Cure Whip, and Himari who’s Cure Custard.
The idea this time seems to be that what I am going to call Candyland (until I learn otherwise) blew up due to some bad fairies, and now the good fairies and bad fairies are spread to the winds. The good fairies are looking for the Precure, who are in this setting Legendary Pâtissières, to help them beat the bad fairies and restore Candyland by… baking sweets. I guess. Infused with magical kira-kiraru, a substance made of love or something that makes sweets and desserts taste good. The bad fairies want to steal and hoard the kira-kiraru for themselves, as it makes them very strong.
Interestingly the Cure forms are both dessert and animal themed. Cure Whip is a strawberry shortcake bunny, and Cure Custard is a custard pudding squirrel. Their powers and abilities are based on a mix of the two themes. The episode 3 preview spoiled that the blue one is Cure Gelato, who’s an ice cream lion. I’m sure her roars will send a chill down your spine.
Something about the art-style makes me wonder if we’re back to the same team that did Go Princess, but it certainly has a sillier tone to it than that. Not that Go Princess was super-serious or anything, but compared to Maho Girls and this it feels serious by comparison. I don’t find Kirakira as immediately grabbing as Maho Girls was though. The comedy doesn’t feel as strong, and there’s already so many catch-phrases and weird lingo being thrown around. “Let’s la cooking”, seriously?
I think it’s going to be a decently fun time at the very least though. There’s a lot to introduce right now, so we might just have to give the show time to get that done and find some breathing room to fully spread its wings.
Aka Animal Friends
This is still very cute and fun, as Serval-san and Bag-chan go on their adventure with the Safari Catbus, and meet some new animal friends every week. Usually helping them out with some thing.
It seems like they are finally reaching the library in episode 7, so that should be interesting to watch.
At this point we have run into a couple of animals that are guessing/suspecting that Bag-chan is a human. Why she doesn’t remember that herself is a different question, but episode 6 sure ended on a cliffhanger of sorts.
Considering we don’t know how long the park has been abandoned (though signs point to quite a while), and we don’t know how long the various animals have been Friends, it’s hard to say which of them might have seen a human, or even heard of them.
But mostly it’s just a very cute and fun show about Bag-chan and Serval-san on a road trip, and the Friends they encounter along the way.
It also seems to have really blown up. I’ve heard that’s because it somehow became a meme in Japan, and it spread like wildfire from there. Now it seems like almost everyone is watching it. Which is honestly pretty amazing.
Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon
Aka Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
I love this show so much. Perhaps the biggest surprise this season. I already said last time what my expectations were after seeing the PV, but it has also exceeded the expectations I had after the first episode.
In episode 2 Kobayashi and Tohru adopt a child: the young dragon Kanna. From there on it becomes a show about this odd and precious little family settling into life together. And some of the adventures that come their way, sometimes courtesy of the other dragons. You can see them in the OP and ED: Fafnir, Lucoa, and Elma. The latter of which has yet to appear in the anime.
I’ve looked into the manga a little, and the anime fleshes things out a bit. It also adds entirely new chapters. The stuff that is taken from the manga is mostly intact, though the tone is changed a little bit. There’s really only a couple concrete examples I can point to, but I just get the feeling from the anime that is has a gentler tone.
And the added chapters and fleshed out bits seem to be mainly to reframe this as being a story about a family. Like the director is really pushing for that angle. I appreciate that, because it is absolutely adorable.
There are perhaps a few things I wish they had changed a little more, or perhaps omitted entirely, based on what I’ve been told.
But the vast majority of the time this show is a brilliant success, and I’m glad it’s getting as much attention as it is. It really deserves it. I hope it ends up doing well in sales and merchandising as well, because I’m sure I’m going to want more once the season is over. I certainly do my best to catch every new episode as soon as I can. Wednesday is the Dragon Maid day.
Little Witch Academia (TV)
Contrary to what I expected before this season started, this has not turned into one of my favourites.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s bad. The episodes have interesting themes and concepts, and how they’re wrapped up is usually quite satisfying. It’s dealt with fantastical things like dragons, and more mundane things like a really popular book series. Often coated in social commentary in ways I believe Terry Pratchett might have at least given a nod of approval to. There are certain things that dampen my enjoyment a little, though.
First off: While the wrap-up to the episodes is typically quite enjoyable, the journey to that point isn’t always so. I’ve run into a lot of awkward bits that I find hard to watch, even when I’m certain the payoff later will be good. So it’s turned into this thing where every week I ponder what I have to sit through and endure to get to the good bits. I still want the good bits, but the awkward bits prevent me from rating this as one of the top shows of the season.
Second: I feel they are dragging out Akko’s incompetence a little too far. The whole “haha, she can’t manage even the most basic thing without messing up” thing was cute for a few episodes, but I feel like the joke is outstaying its welcome. You don’t have to make her brilliant overnight, but at least let her have some basic competence in her classes. Is that too much to ask for? Her being hopeless at everything is growing old for me. Let us see that she actually has a little bit of growth.
In all fairness, the latest episode where she got a bit introspective and learned some personal lessons was a nice touch.
It would also be nice to see more character development from the rest of the cast in general. Perhaps it’s because of how much of the focus is just on Akko, and the others really only show up when involved in what she’s doing, but they feel a little static. There was one episode that gave us more insight into Lotte, but there’s not been a whole lot else for the others. Plus some of the things that happen seem to have no impact on future episodes, but maybe they need more time to pay off.
I wonder if my enjoyment of the show would be more or less if I had not watched the films. I know that part of my frustration with Akko comes from having seen how she had improved in Enchanted Parade, and all of that now being reset and gone.
Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-Bu
Aka Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club
This is pretty cute show in its own right, but it’s hard to stop thinking of it as Not Long Riders. Especially with Long Riders now having put out its final two episodes and reminding us how good it is. Minakama just isn’t quite on that level.
It’s still a sweet and enjoyable show though. Pretty light and fluffy. Maybe doesn’t always handle its topics as well as it should (in my entirely subjective opinion of course), but it’s not offensive in any respect. It’s basically just some light and easy watching, nothing exciting, and that’s fine.
I have been wondering whether they decided Hiromi was going to be Hane 2.0 before or after they hired the same VA? I keep forgetting her name is Hiromi (even had to look it up now), because I just keep thinking of her as Hane.
Oh. Looking at the promo image now, I realise they haven’t actually introduced the fifth girl to the club yet. I believe it’s the girl Hiromi speculated was a foreigner in her surprise at seeing her at the opening ceremony. Considering what is currently going on, maybe she’ll show up in episode 7.
Why is this show so short? It’s way, way too short. I need more nyankos in my life. It doesn’t help that it’s now also become a yuri show that takes up time in the meagre two minutes we get each week. I would normally never complain about yuri, but I currently have several sources of yuri in my life, and this is my only source of nyankos. I need more nyankos.
They better make another season of this with longer episodes.
Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel
This hasn’t really grown as I had hoped it might, but it is still quite okay. For what is ostensibly an action show, it is really quite chill. It tries to introduce some drama and deeper plot here and there, but the episodes always seem to be very relaxed.
There is the ongoing mystery with Tsubame and where she came from, there’s a strange new teacher in the school, and something seems to weakening the barriers to the other-world. But none of that really plays out very dramatically in the episodes. They take a very relaxed approach to things. I was not a fan of the team battle episode though. I have no interest in seeing the teams battle each other, because it’s already pretty clear there’s a big power difference between them. Especially between our main characters and the others.
Episode 6 was strange though… it’s like they got a carte blanche to do whatever, and decided to channel all their horny into it. I wouldn’t say the show has ever been free of fan-service, but it’s been pretty light. This episode they ramped it up considerably. It was also a swim-suit episode. Because a swim-suit mode is part of their battle gear, apparently. It was also borderline fourth-wall breaking, which has not been a thing so far either.
So I’m hoping this was just a weird one-off thing, and not the new standard for the show.
This show is so gay, and it’s like it keeps trying to up its gayme with every episode. There is of course the plot of how they’re working to become better urara/diviners, but the main focus on the show is the inter-personal relationships. Heck, the ED is literally about the four of them finding each other in a labyrinth of romance. No subtext there, it’s just text.
Considering the show changes up its pairings a little each episode, I feel like it’s actually aiming at a four-way poly-amorous relationship between them. Which I find interesting.
There’s also Saku and Nina, and Saku’s two extremely thirsty subordinates who keep trying to gain and show affection for their boss, while generally just appreciating her existence.
I think Saku has the filthiest mind of them all though, as she keeps assuming lewd things are going on, or are going to happen, and her mind fills in blanks in the lewdest ways. The way she keeps accusing others of indecency might simply be to hide her own embarrassment and wicked thoughts.
I do want to note how the first half of episode 6 turned out to be a bit of a divisive one. I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say that while I might not have found it necessary to do in the first place, I feel the way they handled it was very affirming and normalising of the idea of same-sex relationships. While I’ve seen others who interpreted it as enforcing heteronormativity. I’m not sure exactly what caused us to have basically polar opposite views, but my take-away from that part was “how can this be so gay?!”
Aka Saga of Tanya the Evil
The Saga of Get Rekt Tanya has turned out to be far more entertaining than I ever expected. When it kicks into full ridiculousness I always sit there grinning at what I’m seeing.
While episode 1 was enough to make me want to see more of this, it wasn’t until I had also watched episode 2 that I felt I had a full picture of what to expect from this nonsense. I really think you need to watch both to get the full picture of whether or not this show is for you.
I am still not entirely sure whether the anime studio is seriously playing this straight and at face value, or whether they’re just putting on the act to highlight how ridiculous the whole thing is, and further sell the comedy. It seems to go back and forth in a way that really makes me unsure. Based on comments and reviews I’ve seen of the novels, it is played very seriously there. So maybe there are just a lot of scenes where they can’t really put a ridiculous spin on it without ruining things. Maybe they feel it speaks for itself.
Because sometimes it does just genuinely feel like the studio looked at what they had to work with and went “this is absolute nonsense, but I’m sure we can make it entertaining nonsense”.
I saw someone on Twitter who basically summed up the show like this: Tanya: “Things are finally going my way.” Narrator voice: *Things do not go Tanya’s way* Tanya: “I think it’s a good idea to form this death squadron.” *shortly after* “How did I end up on the death squadron?”
And she never learns, she’s just as surprised every time. It’s amazing. Maybe it is finally starting to sink in now, we’ll see in the upcoming episodes. This is definitely the one I look most forward to every week after Dragon Maid.
Concluded at 12 episodes.
The final two episodes of Long Riders were dropped at the same time near the start of February.
After the climax of finishing the race in episode 10; 11 and 12 were basically like an extended epilogue. They went to an area considered a paradise for cyclists; Ami got some new experiences; there were some highly emotional scenes where I cried a lot; and we get to see Ami pass on the torch, as it were. Now she’s the one to teach a newcomer about cycling and bicycles.
I am honestly not sure what more to say… it’s a sweet, beautiful show that focuses on being positive, and bucks a lot of trends and tropes you would see in a show like this. It’s a shame it wasn’t up on more international streaming services, because it definitely deserves that exposure. I’m not sure if Daisuki dot net is available in all countries, but I think that’s the only streaming service that has it.
I will still hope for an S2, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it never happened.
Aka Maho Girls Precure!
Concluded at 50 episodes.
I damn well went ahead and did it. Over the span of three days I watched the remaining 25 episodes (half of the show) I was missing. In many ways Maho Girls felt different from Go Princess. Both had a new Cure show up near the halfway mark, but in Maho she didn’t match the theme of the other two. It felt like there was far less new tat that appeared in Maho, which really surprised me. I thought that was the whole business model here. It was generally more bright and light-hearted, and more willing to have fun with itself. I definitely felt like Maho had a lot more speeches, really pushing the “moral of the story” thing more.
It was a really fun journey overall, and things set up early in the show came around to pay off in interesting (if occasionally predictable) ways later. The way they quickly managed to fit together old and new Cures into what felt more like a cohesive unit, and giving them a combined finisher was fun. The final battle far exceeded my expectations, and I think it wrapped up well. I cried really hard the ending, because that’s my thing.
Just a really nice story about a girl-girl couple and their adopted daughter. Like, really. The episode where Haa-chan straight up said that Riko and Mirai are her mothers I was shocked. I had not expected that in any way. It was certainly implicit and heavily insinuated, but for them to come right out and say it, that was unexpected. It’s not unprecedented in anime, but definitely a surprise for a children’s show as big as Precure. A heart-warming moment to be sure.
That was a lot of various stuff to go through this time. Maybe I should start doing stuff like making an index, or making the section headlines bigger, so it’s easier for people to skip over the parts they’re not interested in. Feel free to let me know if you have any opinion on that.
I suppose I’ll see you again for the season wrap-up in another six weeks or thereabouts.