Anime Winter Season 2017 – Final Thoughts

I have gotten somewhat used to the Winter seasons being fairly chill affairs, but this one has felt a bit weird.

Most of the shows I expected to be good let me down, and the ones I never would have expected much from beforehand turned into my favourites. And of course the one I really wished I could have gotten into and liked, but absolutely couldn’t get on with. Hopefully I can put that behind me now that the season is over and I won’t see people talking about it every week.

I don’t really have more preamble. There’s a lot of games out right now that occupy my thoughts, so let’s jump right in. You can also check out my early impressions, and mid-season update.

Dropped Shows

Let down.

Little Witch Academia (TV)

Dropped during episode 12.

LWA ended up saving GabDro from being my biggest disappointment this season. This is such a cavalcade of missed potential it’s astonishing. Maybe it’s just time to admit that Trigger are not good at making season-length anime. I now believe the reason I liked the LWA films so much is that they were so short the creative team didn’t have time to get bored and distracted.

When’s the last time they made something you’d genuinely call good all the way through? Kill la Kill held itself back to become really only decent at best, and subpar and problematic at worst. Ninja Slayer ran out of good ideas before it hit episode 10 (and the episodes were only 10 mins long). Inou-Battle is probably the one I liked best of their recent work, and even that didn’t manage to stick to what it was good at, and turned into a right mess in the last few episodes. Even Luluco ran out of steam before it got to the end.

LWA TV has several issues that cripple its quality, so let’s just look at the bigger ones:

  1. It can’t decide what it wants to be. It wavers back and forth between silly gag comedy, and fantasy-sprinkled heart-warming story about personal growth, with very little effort and success in marrying the two. The jokes aren’t that funny, and even if they are they tend to be run into the ground really quickly. Any personal growth that does happen regularly seems to be forgotten by the next episode. In episode 12, halfway through the show, they said Akko still can’t ride a broom. It really should have committed to something instead of trying to do everything.
  2. It makes very poor use of its character cast. It focuses almost entirely on Akko, and a lot of that time is wasted on pointless gags. We’ve seen hardly anything of any of the others. Even Lotte and Sucy have barely gotten anything, so other cast members like Diana, Amanda, and Ursula have barely scraped together one episode’s worth between them. And again, any development that does happen seems entirely forgotten by next episode. Ideally the run-time in the episodes should have averaged at: 5 mins of Akko screwing up, 5 mins of Akko sorting her shit out, 10 mins of checking in with how other cast members are doing. A full episode of Akko should be balanced out with a full episode featuring what the others are up to. (Or they could commit to telling Akko’s story without wasting so much time.)

Those two big ones, plus several smaller ones has resulted in a lot of wasted time. Like not knowing when a joke has outstayed its welcome. The “Akko screws up everything” one was tired already by episode 4. Still, I will grant that episodes 1-5 were good, or at least okay most of the time with some good payoffs and developments. Then episode 6-10 are such a waste of space that you lose absolutely nothing of value if you skip them. It also spares you the Andrew/Akko nonsense. Another minor problem: They seem to think they’re good at writing romance, when they really just do what everyone else does: stick a boy and girl next to each other and go “look, they’re in love” without building up to that in any believable way, or showing any chemistry between them.

I liked episode 11 well enough, but would have liked it better if it had been episode 6. When I tried starting episode 12 I just didn’t have that much patience left after how 6-10 had worn me down. So with the double hit of “Akko still can’t ride a broom”, and them starting a deception story, I decided it was no longer worth it. I believe I’ve talked before about how badly I deal with deception stories.

Really not worth it. I’m not even sure where I ever got the idea that Trigger is a good anime studio. Others hyped it up so much I got caught up in it, I guess?

Ongoing Shows

Excellent!

BanG Dream

Holy shit, this show got so good.

Not that it was ever bad, just that at first it seemed like it was just fine. Cute and decent. Pretty good. But then it got sooo good.

The allegory to K-On is pretty obvious with the band composition being basically identical, but it’s certainly more focused on actual music, and in many ways feels more like Love Live.

But you know how Love Live Sunshine was a big improvement on the original Love Live? BanG Dream feels like nearly as much of an improvement over LL Sunshine.

The main characters are well-written with clear personalities and motivations, the character arcs have been very well handled and carried out, and it makes great use of side characters as well. And there’s just such a good chemistry between the various band members. For instance I keep having to remind myself that Kasumi and Saya haven’t known each other for that long, because they feel so much like childhood friends. Which they sometimes seem to forget themselves until they hit a moment where they realise how little they still know each other.

Kasumi is your fairly standard highly energetic and easily distracted anime girl protagonist who drags everyone along on things, but BanG Dream handles that a little differently in that they don’t always let her get away with it. If she acts in a way that hurts one of the others, or is just negligent or annoying, she is called out on that and has to make up for it. They are willing to cut her some slack, but she does at times push things too far. The final arc seems like it will be focusing on her insecure side, which we’ve not seen too much of so far.

Arisa is very tsundere, but they’ve managed to make her feel likeable and relatable. The way she acts sometimes makes it seem like she doesn’t actually buy her own act, or even expects others to, but she is kinda stuck in this way of behaving and relating to others. She is not used to other people, or good at dealing with them, but she still doesn’t want to be entirely alone, and clings very cutely to Kasumi. I hope she finds happiness.

Rimi is the cute and quiet one who has slipped into the role of acting like a peace broker/interpreter between the others, as she is more observant and better at reading the mood than any of them. When something is up, she is usually the first who notices. It also seems like her repeatedly pointing things out to Kasumi has led to Kasumi herself becoming a bit more observant and considerate. Rimi deals with a lot of insecurity, and is the type who prefers to avoid conflict and help others get along. Like Kasumi, she loves her sister very much.

Saya does her best to outwardly appear positive and helpful, as she deals with a lot of conflicting feelings that tear at her, but she can’t manage to share them with anyone. A deeply caring person who can’t find room to care about herself, instead placing everyone else, her family especially, above her own needs. No matter how much she has to sacrifice for it. Her development so far has been learning to open up, and that it’s okay to do something for yourself too.

Tae is probably the biggest mystery for me yet. She hasn’t really had an arc dedicated to her so far, so all we see of her is how she has interacted with others. A very blunt girl who often seems to speak before she thinks. She resembles Kasumi in certain ways, like how she seems very easily distracted. She can be very enthusiastic about certain things others might find odd, yet often seems almost in a world of her own. However in other ways she also seems like the most mature and responsible of them, having seemingly more experience and insight in certain things. I look forward to seeing more of her.

That became more words than I had planned, but I really like this show.

Precure furries. Prefur?

KiraKira Precure A La Mode

The new Precure is trucking along quite well, and now that all five of them are in the mix it’s led to some interesting things. It’s my first time watching a Precure show with so many Cures at once, and it’s working better than I feared. Cure Gelato, Cure Macaron, and Cure Chocolat all have amazing transformations. Cure Whip and Cure Custard aren’t bad either, but they’re a bit out-shadowed by the other three.

But even though the Cures are very good, I don’t really feel like the show has hit its groove yet. I still feel like it has too many catchphrases that it uses too much, and Pekorin is just barely a better a mascot fairy than Aroma was. Certainly not on the level of Puff, or even Mofurun. Definitely not Haa-chan, if she counts. Not really any critical shortcomings, just several minor things that hold it back as it seems to lack a clear focus yet.

While I applaud it for wanting to do some things differently from the previous two shows, I wonder if not having a clear villain is part of why it feels like it’s lacking a certain something. In general it could use a plot, or some goal. A slice-of-life Precure show could work, but I don’t feel like they’re making the best of it. Having a better fairy mascot would also help.

I do find it very interesting that they don’t seem to have finisher animations this time. Go Princess and Maho Girls both relied heavily on having set finisher animations that they used to defeat the monster of the week with in spectacular (if repetitive) fashion. Kira Kira seems to just wing it and have them finish off the monsters dynamically as part of regular combat. I like that, but I imagine it has to be more work on the animation team as they can’t reuse as much. I hope they’ll be okay.

It’s a good show, I just think it falls a little bit short of the previous two so far. It might just need more time to grow and hit its stride.

Completed Shows

Friends!

Kemono Friends

Aka Animal Friends

Concluded at 12 episodes.

I don’t think anyone saw this coming, but this is genuinely one of the best shows this season. I’d say it’s close to equal to Dragon Maid, and I’d understand if someone thinks it’s better. That finale was just… wow. I’ve not cried that hard in a long time. There’s even a really good set-up for a sequel, which may or may not have been confirmed, depending on who I’ve talked to. I know the creator has said Kemono Friends will continue, as in there will be more of the manga, but I’m not sure if more anime has also been confirmed. I hope so. With hopefully better art. It turned out to be the writing that carried this show to extreme heights.

Even when this show started gaining traction, and Kemono Friends fan art was everywhere, I’m not sure if any of us actually thought it would get this good. All of the stuff it had subtly and slowly been building up in the first nine episodes started gaining traction more in episode 10, before 11 and 12 just cashed in all of it in spectacular manner. The wait between the final two episodes was excruciating. Well worth checking out.

Fennec confirmed as best Friend.

Dergen!

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon

Aka Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Concluded at 13 episodes.

This show is so much to me,  how to adequately put that into words? In case you wonder, I still wouldn’t put it above Takkyu Musume, but that finale is going to stick with me for a while. Oh, my heart.

Elma was finally introduced, and she is Very Good. Good dragon. Want to hug. 11/10. I’m sorry, but she just seems so nice and soft. And she’s a total glutton. Though in a bit of a funny twist; even though Elma is portrayed as a glutton (and she is), Kanna seems almost even more so as she will eat anything. That wasn’t really a part of the manga though, as far as I’m aware. Kanna has a smaller role there, while she’s been around more in the anime. So it made sense to also keep the goofs about Elma’s gluttony. I still wonder whether those two are related in any way… they keep dropping hints, but nothing’s been confirmed.

The later episodes, 11 and 12 especially, spend a lot of time just showing how far we’ve come. How much more comfortable everyone now is, both with their new lives, and with each other. So many little nods back to earlier episodes, to show how they’re doing better now. Everyone’s blending in in their own way, and feeling more and more like family. The main three are of course very heart-warming, but so are Takiya and Fafnir. Even Elma in how we see her naturally picking things up from Kobayashi-senpai, and not minding her new life. I will eternally adore the dynamic between Kanna and Saikawa Riko as well. I am still iffy on Lucoa and Shouta, though… even with some of the more endearing scenes in later episodes.

This is what makes the upheaval in the finale all the more heart-piercing. I don’t want to spoil any more than that, so I’ll just say I found it very affecting.

I don’t know whether they could make another full season of this, but damn do I really want to see more of it.

Final announcement: Kobayashi Kanna to receive award for All-Time Best Good Child. Comes with life-time placement on Santa’s nice list.

Not quite Long Riders.

Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-Bu

Aka Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club

Concluded at 12 episodes.

This show died as it lived: perfectly okay.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate, I just really wanted to say it. For most of its run, it was just exactly okay. Nothing more, nothing less. They did finally introduce the fifth member of the club, Sandy, in like episode 8 or 9? I don’t quite remember. She’s an American exchange student, and the biggest stereotype of an American exchange student I have ever seen. It’s like not a single original thought went into her character.

Now the finale actually pissed me off a bit. It relied on the old “things happen because the plot demands it”, and cast members acting stupidly out of character, in order to carry its final episode and create some fake drama. It was so blindingly obvious they couldn’t do it well, but just did it anyway, and I found it really quite annoying.

I stick to my original impression: Watch Long Riders instead.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeee

Nyanko Days

Concluded at 12 episodes.

Why is this over? Why was it so short? I want more of it. It’s such a lovely and great little show. Please give it more seasons and longer episodes, I need more nyankos in my life.

I still can’t believe I’ve not seen this idea before, that everyone’s cats are just mini cat-girls that still behave very cat-like. Now that I’ve seen it, it seems like such an obvious concept. Maybe it was too obvious for anyone to think of it before. Don’t get me wrong, I like big cat-girls too, but I want more nyankos. Maa’s my favourite.

Has potential.

Schoolgirl Strikers Animation Channel

Concluded at 13 episodes.

After seemingly getting all their horny out in episode 6, the show calmed down again and actually began focusing on telling the story it had largely just hinted at in the first half. We got most of the things surrounding the mystery of Tsubame answered (though I wonder if maybe a couple of things contradicted each other), and while Tsubame could have used better character development throughout the season to help us care, I still cared enough to be interested. Could have been better, but not the worst, I guess.

I’d say this show qualifies as decent. It’s not terribly exciting, especially not in the first half, but at least it has some ideas going. The animation is mostly fine, with seemingly some extra effort put into the finale. The characters aren’t terribly deep, but I also didn’t find them annoying. Overall a decent effort. They tried. Not sure how hard they tried, but they tried.

But it is probably doomed to be completely forgotten in a couple of weeks, assuming anyone is even aware of its existence right now.

So gay.

Urara Meirochou

Concluded at 12 episodes.

It’s a bit amazing how consistently good and gay this show managed to stay throughout.

While it maybe leaned a little more on Chiya/Kon than anything else, I still feel like they did a good job at making it feel like they’re actually in a four-way relationship. The show is at its strongest when it focuses on the relationship and interactions between the four of them.

I still feel that the story backing all this up is quite good, though. It helps set up the more serious moments, which I think it handles just as well as the silly ones. There are occasionally some very deep, intimate conversations that happen, and they are set up and carried out well.

I expected a real tear-fest for the finale here too, but it was actually pretty sweet and relaxed. A quiet wind-down after everything that had happened. Not quite the send-off I expected, but still quite nice. I wouldn’t mind seeing another nine seasons, one for each rank of urara they climb.

Also: Nina and Saku should just fuck already. They both seem like they’re just moments away from pouncing each other, and like they’ve been that way for a long time.

Get Rekt Tanya.

Youjo Senki

Aka Saga of Tanya the Evil

Concluded at 12 episodes.

I know this is a trite thing to say, but holy shit is this show better than it has any right to be. It is honestly and unironically great, and the finale was so good.

I still say the show is at its most entertaining whenever hardships are happening to Tanya, but I can’t deny it’s also just a well written and well performed story. Especially Aoi Yuuki as Tanya herself delivers a stellar performance. The artists and animators also seem determined to not fall behind, and do great work to help sell this simultaneously ludicrous yet all too believable setting.

And I just think Tanya is a very compelling villain. While you hopefully don’t sympathise with her, you might perhaps somewhat empathise. She isn’t being evil just to be evil. She has her reasons, her beliefs, and you might see how from her point of view what she does would make sense. She thinks her actions ultimately serve the greater good: To end the war. In the quickest and most efficient manner possible. Her methods can’t be excused, they’re not ethically or morally sound, but you can maybe understand why she would think it’s the best way.

It became my fourth favourite full-length anime this season, and I hope it gets renewed. The way it ended was a great set-up for more. I might even look into the novels, because I’m curious to what extent the tone matches up. The show doesn’t shy away from showing the horrors of war, but also isn’t afraid to poke fun at its own ridiculous aspects. And somehow neither feels out of place or jarring. So it would be interesting to see whether the novels have that same self-deprecating sense of humour, or if they’re entirely serious.

Five good shows I would like to see more of out of a Winter season isn’t bad. I can only remember two from last year: Koukaku no Pandora, and Prince of Stride. Of course it depends on the rest of the year how many of these five will be remembered for the end of year list.

I feel like Spring Season cheated by getting started nearly a week before the Dragon Maid finale,  so I couldn’t completely hold out. I’ve looked at a couple of things, but nothing exciting yet. I’ve heard good reports from things I’ve yet to have a look at, so I’m sure I’ll find something.

I also learned that Attack on Titan S2 is in the upcoming season. That should be a thing. After S1 I read a bit ahead in the manga, so I wonder whether S2 will get past that point or not. We’ll see whether I still think it’s good enough to stick with.

~Wulf

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Posted on April 6, 2017, in Cartoons and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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