10,600 words, 25 anime, 1 not that bad season.
The granddaddy of gimmick posts is once again upon us. That’s right– thin slicing has returned!
Thin slicing is based off of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, a book about– OH FUCK IT. YOU’VE READ THIS SAME BOILERPLATE FOR
EIGHT NINE TEN YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, I’ve been writing thin slicing posts since 2005 where I ranked Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome.
For people who want to know how this ranking is done, I suggest reading the archived explanation. If you’re like, “This show is ranked too high!” or “Too low!” then, well, you obviously don’t know how this works. For every show high, there has to be a low. Deal with it. And, again, for the sake of time, I don’t rank sequels if I never finished watching the original or if there’s nothing interesting about the sequel. It’s a sequel! If you watched the first season, you should know if you should watch the second as well. You don’t need me to validate your watching of Symphogear, To Love Ru (is this still on?), or Fate Kaleid Liner PRISMA ILYA 2wei Herz! (which is probably the second worst anime title of this season).
A twist for this season: I didn’t start watching any series until around the third episode mark due to visiting Scandinavia. I ate a lot of meatballs, open-faced sandwiches, hot dogs, herrings, pork shoulders, fish and chips, Cornettos, and “chicky bits.” And cinnamon buns. My gosh. Sweden has the world’s best cinnamon buns. We were so addicted to them, we wandered aimlessly around Oslo just to find a bakery that had Swedish-style cinnamon buns. Whatever the Swedish magic is, they are better than Danish, Norwegian, American, Taiwanese, Japanese, and Korean cinnamon buns. Best part is I don’t feel like a disgusting mess like every time I get a whiff of Cinnabon.
I was surprised by the sheer amount of sushi restaurants in Scandinavia. What passes for sushi there is barely any better than a typical American sushi restaurant in the Mid West. The gulf between Japanese sushi and sushi anywhere else is huge. And every Asian restaurant in Scandinavia serves sushi, Chinese food, and pho. One restaurant even prided itself on serving multiple types of Asian cuisine.
I got to see The Scream, The Vasa, The Louisiana, and many, many fjords. So obviously, anime was not at the top of my list. Though I did find time to watch Thor 2, The Imitation Game, Mockingjay Part 1 (which felt like a bad magic high school anime at this point), Code Geass Akito the Exiled (which more or less shoves the Akito cast aside for Lulu and Suzaku much like how Kira and Athrun took over Destiny), and Gone Girl during the flights and train rides. I also read most of Ian Toll’s Six Frigates. I would love an anime harem take on the American Revolution as the Warring States generals are all played out at this point. I also got many cats in Neko Atsume.
(It’s always funny when people wonder where is the thin slicing post. I put updates on my Twitter account.)
A bonus twist for this season: I’m writing most of this post while watching The International.
Quick recap from last season: YAMADA-KUN! BELL-KUN! EMIYA-KUN! TAKI-SENSEI! SOUMA-KUN! TAKEO-KUN! Suna. I need a favor.
#MR IRRELEVANT. Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou
Everyday Life with Monster Girls is a fanservice harem anime with the twist that the haremettes are all monsters. Like centaurs. And harpies. And this weird water elemental. It’s as disturbing as it sounds. There’s not a lot of exposition, and the show serves as a vehicle to show the monster ladies throwing themselves at the poor loser male lead. Do you like imagining what sex with a harpy or a centaur would be like? Do you get aroused by wondering how scaly the tail of a half-snake, half-woman would be? Then this sho– nah, forget it. This show still isn’t worth your time. It’s barely a show. I think Lerche should have just made a hentai series instead of this drivel. I’m sure if you want to investigate possible human x centaur sex, there’s better options. This is the motherfucking Internet after all.
(Mitigating factor: There’s another show this season that is basically a statement about Japanese decency, which is funny as a show like Monster Musume would never be able to air in America. Yet this show is airing every week on AT-X, Tokyo MX, SUN, KBS, and BS11.)
(There’s a suddenly increase in inhuman harems this season. This show, Jitsu wa Watashi wa, To Love Ru, and Overlord all feature haremettes who are not human.)
#24. Chaos Dragon
Is there a name for the genre where people have to die for the sake of plot? Like Basilisk? Chaos Dragon is that. The male lead can summon an all powerful dragon, but the cost is that he must take someone’s life. There’s a lot of forced melodrama trying to elevate plot beyond fantasy JRPG nonsense. Apparently, the basis of this 7+ light novel story came about because of a D&D session featuring Gen Urobuchi, Kinoko Nasu (Nasuverse fame), Ryougo Narita (hint: he has a show airing this season), and others. The story is a bit too rushed, with a quick minute overview of the setting before being tossed into the first battle. The director obviously wants to blow his load and show the dragon as fast as possible, but it really destroys any narrative pacing the show might have. Also, the deaths of the characters would have a more powerful effect if they were introduced first before being ripped from us. Random girl who dies after two minutes of screentime doing nothing but saying the protagonist’s name? Not very impactful. Not exactly Kamina or Gai Daigoji.
One of the weirdest sequences of this season happened in the first episode of this show, around the fifteen minute mark. There’s a battle going on, and a mom with a newborn baby are attacked. The mom dies, so the male lead and the first sacrifice go check up mom and confirm she is dead. The male lead then picks up the baby, who is alive and crying. We cut away to see the evil lady, and when we cut back to the male lead and the first sacrifice, the baby is gone. Did they just forget about the baby? Or did the male lead set the baby down to die with the mom? Wouldn’t the sensible thing to do run away with the baby or at least give the baby to someone who can take it out of harms way?
Animation is a bit wonky, and the character designs are bad. I really dislike the hat the main character wears. Why can’t anime get fantasy character design right? The dragon CG is also not very impressive.
#23. Jitsu wa Watashi wa
Normally, I keep notes of shows as I watch them, but my notes for Actually, I Am… just reads “Protagonist has good friends.” That’s the best thing that I can say about this show– the protagonist’s bro buddies are actually good friends to him. As for the rest of the show– ugh. It’s a monster girl harem anime in a season that already has too many monster girl harem anime. This one features less lewd fanservice, so if you want to fantasize about a harem of monster girls but don’t want to feel like that much of a creep about it, I guess. The twist for this show is that the typical loser male lead is terrible at keeping secrets, and he has a terrible secret he must keep or else he loses the girl he is in love with. Of course, overnight, he turns into a secret keeping machine (relatively speaking) keeping both the secret of the girl as well as that he is in love with the girl as well as any typical loser male lead might keep such secrets. This anime is a boring slog with poor characters, poor setup, and even worse execution. There’s too many of the “That girl is the smartest in the class!” type moments where they tell you rather than show you. I have more fun cliff jungling as Furion.
Character design is pretty bad for this show. The school has half a dozen different uniforms, the main character is extremely boring, and the haremttes look like rejects from superior harem series. This show is a low budget affair.
#22. Classroom Crisis
You know what is a great idea for an anime? Take Amagami Brilliant Park, strip out the fun, take out Sento fanservice, make Kanie an even bigger asshole, remove any heart and personality, and presto, that’s Classroom Crisis: Anime’s burning desire to marry high school life with being a salaryman. I don’t get the concept of this show at all. They are a R&D branch of a major space age corporation, yet they are all high school students who go to high school and work in R&D. One would think college and graduate school would be needed to work on advanced aerodynamics and mechanical systems– nope! Calculus and wood shop are good enough. Second, the point of the R&D branch seems to be building fast racing spacecraft which, of course, is highly unprofitable. Here in the 21st century, no company goes into F1 racing to make money, so why are they expected to make money in the future? It makes no sense. The corporate powers that be are unhappy with the fact the R&D racing division isn’t generate Facebook-levels of profit (let alone Microsoft levels), so they send in a hot shot executive to clean up the mess. The hot shot, you guessed it, is actually a high school student. At least Amagami Brilliant Park tried to explain why a high school student was running an amusement park with magic. This show? He’s an executive genius, and he’s related to the CEO. It feels like a North Korean press release praising glorious leader Kim Jong-un.
Beyond the ridiculous premise, the characters are all boring and lackluster. None of them really stand out. There’s the mechanic dude, who is a poor man’s version of Bellows from Gargantia. There’s the pilot, who makes Rei Ayanami seem sociable. There’s the boss, who isn’t even a homeless man’s version of Kanie. I think if the premise of the show were switched to focus either on a high school or a company (but not both), it would improve the show, but still not make it watchable due to the mediocre cast. If we transferred Sento into this show, she would be like Scottie Pippin in the Scottie Pippin’s time warp commercials. Heck, even Macaron and Tirami would be All-Stars on this show.
(Also, nonsensical dialogue like, “Do we even have authority to do a hostage rescue mission?” Normally, I like dialogue like that, but in this show, it goes absolutely nowhere.)
(Mitigating factor: Apparently they will graduate sometime this season. I certainly do not want to watch that far to find that out.)
#21. Ranpo Kitan – Game of Laplace
I fell asleep during Ranpo Kitan – Game of Laplace which means this show has a high chance of being licensed by Sentai Filmworks. The show is about a genius boy detective who solves crime while trying to be a functional member of society. For a mystery show to work, I have to have faith in the logic the show is using. I have none for this show. A teacher is beheaded in gruesome fashion, and one of the students is the prime suspect. Does the student call for a lawyer? Does the school suspend the student? Does anyone genuinely acted shocked? Nope. The school re-opens the following week as if nothing happened. There’s no grief consoling for the students, there’s no suspension for the suspected student, and there’s no big criminal investigation– just the genius boy detective starring at his laptop wondering why he didn’t buy Cities Skylines instead of SimCity. The suspect, of course, instead of lawyering up, decides to apply for a job as the detective’s assistant. Um, okay. For a detective show, there just isn’t enough detective work and a bit too much lunacy.
Lerche’s production of Game of Laplace is not very good. The animation and character movement are a bit below average. Worse still, they try doing Shaft being Shaft without Shaft’s design style. It just ends up looking bad and not cohesive. For example, Shaft uses silhouettes a lot to depict people in the background or as a way of saying “this character doesn’t matter”. Here, silhouettes seemingly happen on a whim. Characters also come and revert back into silhouettes to the point of annoyance. There’s also a bit too much filtering and shaky cameras. The character designs are also very inconsistent with a 32 years old teacher looking like she is 17 years old while the 36 years old detective looks like he is 63 years old.
#20. Sore ga Seiyuu!
Seiyuu’s Life is an unoffensive low calorie slice-of-life show featuring three girls trying to make it in the harsh world of anime voice acting. Seiyuubako if you will. I am not really in the mood for this series as it is fairly boring, and Shirobako already nailed the meta anime genre recently. There’s not much to add except whereas Shirobako showed you how things worked via dialogue and the characters actually doing things, this show is content in having a doll scream terminology and explanations at you. I was waiting for the doll to break out a teleprompter and go John Fucking Madden on us. The doll is really unnecessary, and it just exposes really lazy writing for an already flimsy premise.
Production-wise, Seiyubako is a fairly simple show with a seemingly simple budget. Gonzo doesn’t add much to the presentation except there’s a curious case where the fake studio that is apparently one of the top studios in this show’s world is “Zongo,” and they came up with something similar to Evangelion. Come on, Gonzo, have some pride in your past work. Instead of pretending you made Evangelion, why not use Kiddy Grade? Or Desert Punk? Or Glass Fleet? Or Strike Witches? Or Pumpkin Scissors? Or Romeo x Juliet? Aren’t these all popular shows that have withstood the test of time, and are constantly referred to on anime blogs, 4chan, Reddit, and MAL to this day? Quick! Without Googling, can anyone tell me the premise or main character name for Special A? Gad Guard? Blassreiter?
(Needless to say, anytime ADV licensed a Gonzo show from that era, you can expect to see it in a Best Buy clearance aisle very soon.)
(One character carries around both an app phone plus an electronic dictionary. Goddamn it. When will anime learn? )
(There’s always an asshole. This show has it’s own Hiraoka-kun, but he is more annoying since he is not named and every line he spews is toxic. He is a typical Internet troll personified as a background anime character.)
#19. Joukamachi no Dandelion
Castle Town Dandelion is about a modern day royal family. That’s what the show would like you to think, but it’s really a commentary on the modern surveillance state. It’s not like concept of a royal family with nine kids is enough, but each kid has a superpower. They are an X-Men family, except for using their superpowers to fight crime, they use them to win popularity contests, as the most popular kid will become the next king. Oh okay. The powers are also quite wanky and arbitrary. One can command an army of drones purchased from Amazon (not kidding), but it deducts from her savings account. There’s no explanation for why they have powers. Of course, the only child who doesn’t want to become king, has secretly become popular because of embarrassing moments documented on social media. She’s also the main character. This setup just seems like the least effective way of choosing an heir. Couldn’t the dad just grow a fucking spine and pick a kid? The show uses some hand wavy excuse that it’s the law of the land to choose an heir via popular vote, but one sibling quickly tells the main character that if she becomes king, she can abolish the system. Why doesn’t their dad do this already?
Also, confusingly enough, the family lives in a tiny house in the suburbs. They have an hour long commute to the castle where most of them work. The commute is so long and annoying, the kids that can fly just fly to the castle. To keep the kids safe, the king orders thousands of security cameras to be installed and monitor the kids. Why not just live closer to the castle or in the castle like a normal king? Why not have bodyguards like normal kings? Furthermore, the most perplexing aspect of the show is the bathrooms. Seems like every episode has a House Hunter’s like montage where the kids are waiting for the bathroom since there’s only one bathroom in the house. Yet, the penalty for a game the kids play in the first episode is that the loser has to clean all one hundred or so bathrooms in the castle if they lose. Why does the castle have so many bathrooms, and why does the house have so few? This king is pretty terrible at architecture and family planning.
#18. Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei no Kyoukan
Sky Wizard’s Academy is a throwback show to the magic high school era of around 2013-2014. The premise is that a high school exists for people who can use magic. There is a new boy at this school, and, surprisingly, he is assigned to be with three troublesome female students whom he has to whip into fighting shape. Sound familiar? Ugh. I really disliked the magic high school meta. It is by far the worst anime meta I have come across, much like Dota 2’s Spiritbreaker meta or the dreaded HOHO HAHA meta. At least the moe blob era, studios did not try for plot and just try to out moe each show. I can live with cute girls doing nothing. The magic school school shows try to bolt on terrible plot after terrible plot into nonsensical worlds full of incomprehensible jargon. They are also all based on light novels indistinguishable from the next. I fully blame A Certain Magical Index. Other people looked at that series and thought that the magic was the best part and why people like it. Nope, nope, nope.
The beginning battle sequence of Kuusen Madoushi was so bad, I wanted to turn off the show. The whole battle made no sense, as the characters just swung swords, and enemies exploded. The enemies are also generic bugs, which just shows how bad villains are in anime. All of these magical high school shows that have followed Index have piss poor bad guys who have zero character development. At least Index has Accelerator. I am also beginning to dislike when anime starts off with nonsensical battles without any exposition. It’s a technique that is used too often to poor effect. The characters are also boring, which each girl given a stereotype right off the bat. I guess that cuts down on the time we need in developing the character.
Animation quality is not very good. The battle sequences harken back to late 90s or early 00s. The character designs are all a bit too similar, and it is hard to tell background characters from the main cast. At least use more lines or details for the main cast.
#17. Aoharu x Kikanjuu
Fashion Czar’s review of this series: “Aoharu x Machinegun is a dumb, dumb show.” I agree with her. The show has a bit too much going on. The male lead is a host, and he’s like the best host ever. He’s also a BB gun otaku, and the ladies love him for that. I don’t get it. The female lead is a tomboy who dresses like a boys, enters the host club mistaken for a boy (Ouran?), and is quickly scouted by the male lead to be a BB gun prodigy. He then entraps her into joining his BB gun team. And it’s not like done for comedic effect as the characters are all super serious and quite full of themselves. Maybe this is common in Japan, but people don’t normally shoot BB guns at each other, donning on a visor. Generally, people gear up with full helmets, pads, and use paintballs instead of BBs. There’s also a bit too much fetishization of BB guns and host clubs for my taste.
Brain’s Base once again comes up with above average animation, but there’s a few troubling scenes. In the first episode, the two main characters meet in an outdoor hallway. The hallway’s perceived length changes almost every other shot. One moment, it seems like they are a few steps apart. Another, it seems like more than a few steps. None of this was done in a dramatic or stylistic way a la Shaft. It seems like they just screwed up. Also, the BB gun scenes have a dark, moody Instagram filter that is unnecessary.
#16. Dragon Ball Super
Breaking one of my own rules for Dragon Ball Super. I forgot where I personally left the Dragon Ball franchise, but it was many Sundays ago. I decided to give Super another shot, and, well– it has not evolved. It’s an anime aimed straight at Dragon Ball otaku and kids– maybe more for Dragon Ball otaku than kids at this point. The purpose is no different than making more To Love Ru, Highschool DxD, or Code Geass (please!). There’s not enough time since Kai to actually want more Dragon Ball, and the show feels more like Toei’s version of Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed at this point. Toei is making this show because it makes money, there are stockholders to please, and they do not have any other ideas for anime.
One jarring thing is that I have only watched Dragon Ball dubbed. The Japanese voices do not feel like the characters at all. It is like they kept a teenaged Goku’s voice despite the fact he is almost a grandfather. Maybe they did not want to switch seiyuu, but at least tell him to sound a bit older. Just listening to Goku and Goten speak without looking at the imagery, you would think they were kindergarteners playing in a sandbox. But, then again, maybe that effect is what the show is going for…
(Sailor Moon Crystal Z is almost a guarantee, with new Kuiper belt objects being new scouts. Sailor Eris! Sailor Haumea! Sailor Ceres!)
(You don’t have to be lonely at Farmer’s Only dot com…)
(One of my favorite moments of this season is seeing Gohan carrying around a book that said “DIFFICULT BOOK” as the title of the book. Classic. I feel like Gohan is as believable as a college student as Denise Richards is as a nuclear scientist.)
#15. GOD EATER
Let’s just start with the obvious: ufotable chose to do GOD EATER in a very unique style in trying to mimic the game. They do not succeed. While it is a cool look with interesting shading, my main issue is that the animation is wonky, and nothing feels natural. Watching GOD EATER felt like watching PS2-era in-game cut scenes. There is something that is still not quite right… I wonder if it is because CG, the style, or a combination of the two. There’s just a lot of animation that doesn’t seem like it was properly thought out. Like when all the characters were fighting on the plane, the smoke from Lindow and everyone’s hair just felt wrong. The animation is also really sparse, and all the clothing feels rigid on the characters. These are things ufotable usually gets right, so I am a bit disappointed. Some people think it might be because of Fate/Stay Night, and I can see that possibility. Kyoto usually takes a season off, and ufotable, not known for their scheduling prowess, probably could have used a break too. I wonder if they just bit more off than they can chew, and it really shows in GOD EATER.
In terms of the anime itself, GOD EATER seems to be following the path of GOD EATER BURST, with the entire first episode feeling like the tutorial sequence. I’m not sure if I met anyone who said, “You know why I can’t put down my PSP? The story for GOD EATER BURST is just so damn good.” It’s yet another post-apocalyptic wasteland with humans huddling inside walled cities protected by humans with special weapons. Maybe this show would have had more impact in 2010 but after Attack on Titan, Seraph of the End, BBB, etc., we have a lot of anime about post-apocalyptic wastelands with humans huddling inside walled cities protected by humans with special weapons. Maybe too much. It’s like the do nothing after school club boom that occurred after Haruhi Suzumiya. We are approaching peak apocalypse. The story, sadly, doesn’t do anything new or interesting. The battle sequences have all been slicing or shooting at giant bugs.
(I think people are forgetting what made Attack on Titan great: the fucking awesome OP. And also the how PTSD and despair shallow the humans. And the awesomeness of the apocalypse in the titans. That’s just something I don’t get from GOD EATER. The humans are too happy-go-lucky and eager, and the apocalypse beings are just boring bugs.)
(Mitigating factor: I thought the show would be a lot more interesting if Lenka dies at the end of the first episode. The second one would begin with a new recruit basically going, “Don’t be like that idiot.”)
#14. Aquarion Logos
I was really confused watching Aquarion Logos as I didn’t expect the first episode to include a crappy fanservice OVA for the two previous Aquarion shows. The OVA is pretty bad, and it is barely intelligible unless you really, really like the Aquarion franchise and gattai-ing. I consider this franchise to be a poor man’s Vandread, which had just the right mix of humor, fanservice, CG spaceships, and gattai-ing. Plot is basically super eager burning passion hero is such an awesome pilot, he can force others to gattai with him… which is on par with the franchise. The twist is that the villains are corrupting kanji, and kanji are attacking earth. It doesn’t make any sense… unless the aliens only want to target Japan, why kanji? Why not use the full Chinese character set or, Oharuhi-sama forbid, the latin alphabet. I understand where they are going with the gimmick, but it is a poor gimmick and makes the villains seem even more non-threatening then they are. Reminds me of Wilson Fisk in Netflix’s Daredevil. A lot of people seem to love him as a villain, but I do not. Sure, by virtue of having a TV series, he has more screentime than all of the MCU movie villains combined, and that screentime leads to character development, but his plan of selling heroin to speed up gentrification of a part of New York is so silly. One, New York is already gentrifying. Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t need his help. All the crime he is introducing (like bombings) is most likely going to slow down the process as no rich person wants to buy a luxury condo in the middle of a drug war. Two, for all the money he spent on a PMC and bribing people, he could have just invested in a few tech start ups. Nothing gentries faster than tech start ups. Three, why is it bad that he wants to gentry the neighborhood? Sure, long time lower income residents residents get evicted, but is that on the same scale as Loki committing regicide, Alexander Pierce trying to kill millions of people, or even New York being destroyed by an alien invasion? It’s just not threatening enough.
The main character is very straightforward. Maybe a bit too much as it kills any chance for character development. While someone like Gatchaman‘s Hajime is also straightforward, she at least doesn’t verbalize everything she is going to do and at least has some non-robotic personality. The main villain is literally Mark Zuckerberg, if he were Japanese, old, and trained orphans to fight a proxy war on kanji. Logos feels like a very late 90s/early 00s anime. That’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, I want to watch something like that, just maybe a sequel to Vandread instead.
Animation is not bad, with the CG mecha battles being a bit too busy. The backgrounds from 1 to Sound! Euphonium is around a three. Character designs skew 90s… beyond that, nothing too notable about the production.
(Mitigating factor: Somehow this government organization tasked with saving the world needs a cover, and that cover is an anime meido cafe named, “Shirobaco.” Huh. Okay. Well then. Get Miyamori and Ema to be meido waitresses, and I might watch this show.)
#13. Prison School
I don’t know where to rank Prison School (Kangoku Gakuen). Part of me wants to watch it for the spectacle. Part of me is okay with never watching another episode. Fundamentally, Prison School is a fetish fanservice misfortune school life anime… I think the pioneering entry of its genre. The whole premise is ridiculous: a high school has a tiny prison in the middle of its courtyard, and it sends problem students here to do hard labor. Because the school is mostly female, all the male students tend to end up in the prison. In prison, horrible, horrible abuses take place. The school cares about its “morality” and “purity”, but it sure doesn’t care about its human rights record. Also contradictory, how can the underground student council complain about decency when some of them wear clothing no normal Japanese high school would accept. There’s a lot of paradoxes. They all up end to a fetish fanservice misfortune school life anime.
All of the girls seem to have their own kink, unbeknownst to them. One is obviously into domination. Another is into, uh, water sports. There’s also some major, major daddy issues that aren’t caused by a dad going out for cigarettes and never returning. I suspect another would be into sumo. The whole brunt of the anime then becomes the girls abusing the guys, but the guys occasionally strike back when they more or less stumble into a weak spot.
Most interesting part of this series is that the director is Tsutomu Mizushima, and the writing staff is Michiko Yokote (Aa! Megami-sama, Princess Tutu). It’s the creative team for Shirobako. If there’s any anime with a tone and style as far away from Shirobako, it’s Prison School. I don’t understand how the anime industry works.
#12. Himouto! Umaru-chan
Ever what happens if Hakase from Nichijou grew up with an older brother instead of Nano? Himouto! Umaru-chan is what happens. It is a comedy about a girl who is the most “kind, smart, and talented. She’s the perfect high school student.” At school. Once she gets home, she turns into a literally moe blob who enjoys eating junk food, playing Mortal Kombat and Monster Hunter, and watch anime. She is basically a hikikomori slug. I’m just confused at how absolute her switch is. How can she be the top student at school yet doesn’t study at all at home? How can she be so trim and pretty if all she eats are french fries and chocolate? Anime magic. Comedy is okay, but it’s the same gaming and anime meta jokes you’ve experienced many times already mixed in with a twist on the imouto genre. It’s a moe blob slice-of-life version of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. Watching this show does make me want to go back and rewatch more Potemayo.
Animation by Doga Kobo is quite good. I’ve seen more gifs of this show than anything else of this season, especially the one where Umaru runs home to play games. Facial expressions. They also nailed the whole imouto moe thing too. One thing I don’t like: no one is going to believe a real PC gamer is going to use a Dell. Has to be a full custom box, or at least something from a boutique seller. Dell? No way.
(Fashion Czar’s review: “This girl is a terrible, terrible human being.”)
(Mitigating factor: What are these guinea pigs?)
(Bonus mitigating factor: One of the few shows that chose to have the female lead sing the OP. It used to be very common in anime, but the past few years studios have been using pre-canned music, presumably because of production committee demands, and it’s something that reminds me of the olden days of anime.)
Every wanted to watch an anime about a fantasy MMORPG? And then a glitch in the matrix occurs such that you are stuck inside the MMORPG world? But it’s not that bad as you have friends and even a romantic interest inside this game world? Overlord‘s the homeless lich’s Sword Art Online. I guess there’s a few distinctions: one, the main character is not a pretty elf boy. He’s a lich. Two, it doesn’t seem like an MMORPG at all and seems more like a single-player game. Three, no fucks are given concerning the real world. There’s no explanation for anything going on except the main character can’t log out. Is it supposed to be a VR system? How is his body staying alive without food and water? There’s a lot of questions. SAO actually takes time to address these issues. Overlord waves a staff over them and hopes you don’t notice.
Animation by Madhouse is fairly average for 2015. There’s a lot of shadows and lackluster backgrounds, but the characters move fluidly. The character designs, aside from Momonga, are a bit boring.
(Mitigating factor: Of all the UI they have shown for this DMMORPG, the UI is terrible. If this is what passes for an UI in 2136, that is a very depressing and dystopic future. There’s also a moment where Momonga is surprised that an NPC’s mouth moves when she talks. It’s 2136! We have NPCs in MMORPGs with moving mouths in 2015! What is going on with the human race?! Also everything about this world is generic fantasy– Yggdrasil? Seriously?– that I do like the twist where every guild member must not be a human. Unfortunately, there are no other guild members as Momonga is the only one left.)
(Bonus mitigating factor: Combat meido.)
#10. Gatchaman Crowds Insight
I feel like Gatchaman Crowds told a complete story and didn’t leave room for a sequel unless they want to shoehorn in another cast character. Well, they decided to shoehorn in two new cast members to an already large cast that doesn’t adequately provide screentime except for Hajime and Paiman (who doesn’t need screentime). One of the new character is also a plucky, cheerful, can-do! girl much in the Hajime mold, so instead of building a new character, the show just makes Hajime more conservative than her original self. There’s a few times where I go, “Old Hajime wouldn’t do that!” I’m not a fan. I’m also not a fan of the extensive use of a talk show as a narration framing and plot explaining device. Talk shows make for some of the lamest ways to convey plot information, and Insight feels like nothing but a talk show. It’s doubly worse for this show since Gatchaman Crowds was about pioneering new ways of human interaction with Crowds and X, yet this season it falls back on motherfucking talk shows. I think it’s already proven that the last thing an internet saavy audience wants is to watch fixed-time television. Maybe if the show were Periscope’d or on a streaming service it would be more palatable, but seriously people all making time in their calenders to watch a TV show in the supposedly hyper-connected world where Crowds dominate? A world where they give out free tablets?
There’s also the whole idiot plot device where the events of Insight can only occur if characters are behaving like idiots. And they do. I’m horrified. The alien, Gelsadra, also seems horrified that people make the dumbest choices possible. If newcomer Tsubasa doing things according to what her heart tells her to is the smartest of the bunch with Hajime basically going, “No! Don’t follow your heart!”, I think we have fundamental Gatchaman problems. The main villain also has a nice, “To show how dangerous this shit is, I must harm people using this shit.” contradiction to him. No one, of course, brings up the fact he is indeed a terrorist and should be hunted down and arrested ASAP. It’s not like the Gatchaman don’t know his secret identity or anything.
Animation and production from Tatsunoko are still high, but the CG Gatchaman interacting with traditionally drawn characters is still jarring. While one can use a lot more lines and garnishments in CG than hand-drawn, it doesn’t mean you should. It just makes the two styles seem even less complementary.
(Melon-shaped bread soft serve ice cream sandwich?! Where can I buy one?!)
#9. Ushio to Tora
MAPPA and Studio Voln
Ushio and Tora is the anime version of Calvin and Hobbes. Lonely boy meets tiger, frees tiger, and they become best frenemies forever and ever. Pesky girls with cooties show up from time to time. The show is remake and supposedly full retelling of a manga that ran from 1990 to 1996. How many of my readers were even alive then? The story is also slightly updated as characters have iPhones, but I don’t see technology used well. Ushio could have resolved an early incident if he, well, just called his dad. Another anachronism is that the dad asks Ushio to air out the books as his first duty. What? Who does this? The dad also tells him to not eat a steamed bun in a fridge as he will be gone for a week… isn’t that going to spoil and stuff? Just minor plot brainfarts I wish were cleaned up for a remake.
Let me make this clear: I’m not ranking Ushio and Tora low because I think it’s a bad show. It’s just something I’m not currently in the mood for right now. A 39 episode shounen action series? That’s going to be basically monster of the week for most of it? And lack of meido fanservice? That’s a bit more of a commitment than I want. I’m going to place it in my backlog behind finishing up Yamato 2199. That said, MAPPA and newcomer Voln have done a great job in bringing back a series that is over twenty years old. Where Parasyte felt old, wooden, and a bit lifeless, Ushio and Tora feels updated, kinetic, and– most importantly– fun. MAPPA is on a roll, showing that they are a powerhouse production studio with this show and the recent and enjoyable Bahamut/Garo.
(I think it was the head of Voln said that they were interested in remaking older series– especially Kenshin— if Ushio and Tora did well. I’m not sure how I feel about this as the Kyoto arc for Kenshin is about as perfect as one could make it. They could update the art, but storywise, I’m not sure what an updated 201X version of Kenshin would bring.)
I’m a bit conflicted with GATE: The Self-Defense Forces Fight Like This in That Place.
One, /u/pruflock451 already wrote a story (soon to be a major motion picture) about U.S. marines/special forces fighting against the Roman Empire. His scenario was already grim for the Romans, even with the marines unable to re-supply or reinforce. GATE‘s scenario allows the JSDF to re-supply at will. I’m not sure if dragons will help as, well, the JSDF has F-15s, and if there is anything I’ve learned from the Escaflowne PlayStation game, F-15s trump dragons. One point five, there’s also this whole Stargate franchise thing.
Two, the military gap is even larger than presented in the anime. There’s no way the JSDF would send an armored column through without drones and attack helicopters scouting first. As seen already in the first episode, a few Apache attack craft will decimate the opponent, especially if the Apaches are operating against open targets in an open field. Maybe the JSDF didn’t send any Apaches through the gate because of budget cuts. The Iraqi ground army stood no chance against the Apache. What are horsemen and spearmen going to do? (Except in Civilization where my mechanized infantry can somehow lose to spearmen. Fuck you, Huskar.)
Plus, there’s this whole MLRS thing. The M270 can toss rockets up to 80km (without GPS), and Japan has quite a few of them. I think if GATE occurred during the Cold War, it would make a stronger story, it would feature less capable equipment plus a strong reason to invade the portal (that is Soviets). It can also present a reason why the U.S. cannot intervene as they are busy keeping the Soviets out of Area 11. This brings me to…
Three, the U.S. president in the anime is pretty much Donald Trump. I don’t think Obama’s reaction is to sweep the Japanese aside and claim the resources cuz America. I think any military incursion through the gate will involve the U.S. as well as the UN. I know the show wants to build suspense via China and America, but it feels distracting from what the show does best: slice-of-life military goodwill tour.
Four, something about charging fortified machine gun positions and tanks with muskets and horses reminds me of Japan’s invasion of China in WW2. There is something really unsettling about it. It’s like the show is trying to subtly whitewash world history.
A-1’s production is pretty good. I’ll give it above average since they have started experimenting with depth of field. I do question why not show even more carnage. When the invaders attacked Tokyo, it did not seem menacing at all since all the deaths were implied rather than show. A little more gore, death, and destruction wouldn’t be out of place for this story. Casually mentioning 100,000 soldiers died in an interstitial is boring.
(Mitigating factor: I’m not sure I like that the main character is an otaku. Takes me a bit out of the universe whenever he’s whining about some otaku thing… dude, you are leading an expedition into hostile territory… with full military regulations… get over it.)
(Bonus mitigating factor: I complained about anime characters not changing outfits. Anime characters started changing outfits– thank you Kyoto. I complained about the lack of app phones in anime. Now we have anime that make commentary on the p2w features of f2p games. I’m still complaining about the amount of adult magazines in anime. When will we see the first anime haremette discover the male protagonist’s search history?)
#7. Durarara!! X2
Technically, this show is the second cours of the second season of Durarara!!, so you should know if you are in or out at this point. We are over 30 episodes deep into the adventures of Shizuo and Izaya. I guess what’s notable is that the show has been using the online chat room less and less. They are also bringing out very minor characters from the first season of Durarara!!, much like how Rocky Balboa brought out very fringe characters from the original Rocky (mainly because other than Stallone, these were the only people still alive and desperate for money still). The cast is huge– Dragon Ball huge– and there’s not enough primer for me to remember all the characters. The show does mix in flashback scenes, which I appreciate, but I wonder if the show would be better off marathoned after X2 completes next year.
(Mitigating factor: Victorian Celty.)
(Bonus mitigating factor: A think a Durarara!! MOBA game would work. There’s a large and diverse enough cast to draw from, there’s conflict, and the map could be based on Shibuya.)
Gansta. with the period is a brutal, brutal show destined for Cartoon Network someday. It is more or less anime Daredevil, with the blonde gigolo being Foggy, the raven-haired prostitute as Karen, and the deaf Japanese samurai thug being Matt. They try to eek out a life in the harsh, harsh town of Ergastulum (which I presume is in Italy somewhere) despite killing around 322 people in the first four episodes. I’m surprised anyone is still alive in this town anymore. It’s a simple concept, yet executed well. There’s times where the series is full of action (Nicholas is the male version of Black Lagoon‘s Revy), and other times the show feels like a slice-of-life anime with a few random decapitations thrown in. My biggest complaint is the setting. It does not feel like a real world place, except in a third world scenario. The writer is going for Italy, but the story would work better in a fictionalized ex-Soviet republic or Africa.
The characters are interesting because they are flawed. Nic Brown feels, uh, too Japanese, and a bit angry like the Hulk. Worick Arcangelo has high perception skills visualized as a Geass-type eye, but one wonders if he is happy how his life turned out. Alex Benedetto hasn’t done much yet except give blow jobs in a dark alleyway. As you can probably tell, they all have terrible names.
Manglobe’s animation is average, but they do ratchet up a gear for the action sequences. That’s all I ask for.
(Shukou Murase, the director of Gansta. hasn’t directed anything since 2006 when he directed Ergo Proxy. Before that show, his first directorial job was 2002’s Witch Hunter Robin. I guess he just likes shows with dark, muted color palates. But he is probably most famous for the colorful character designs of Gundam Wing.)
#5. School Live!
School Life! (Gakkou Gurashi) is about a bunch of cute girls and their cute dog, Taroumaru, living at school because they are part of the Living at School club. In terms of low calorie, slice of life moe blob anime, this one is close to bottom of the barrel. I stuck through the first few episodes only because of Taroumaru, since he’s so damn cute and certainly will not be eaten as emergency food supply. The entire plot of one episode is Taroumaru running around the school causing chaos, which just shows how utterly devoid this show is of creativity. The girls are all very generic, with the main airhead character, the sports girl, the sisterly girl, and the girl who is a bit mysterious and tsuntsun. Even if you are not into the moe blob genre, I recommend watching the first episode at the very least– and, whatever you do, don’t Google/Bing/DuckDuckGo/Excite/Webcrawler/Lycos this show, don’t read the comments to thin slicing, and don’t feed the gremlins after midnight.
Animation from Lerche, out of their many shows this season, is their best work. They put a lot of effort into their moe high school girls. It’s good enough to pass for average.
(Mitigating factor: There’s a huge plot twist in the first episode. It’s probably the best plot twist since Haruhi‘s first episode. If you think this series is low calorie, slice of life moe blob, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.)
(Bonus mitigating factor: Come to think of it, a lot of things were off in the first episode, besides the shovel otaku. One, why were they having packaged spaghetti for breakfast? Why is that girl so rude in interrupting so many classes? Why is hardtack so prominently involved in the plot? Why are the desks arranged as if Shaft animated this show? Gakkou Gurashi does do a good job at dropping hints. Oh Megu-nee~)
#4. Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Let’s take a time machine back to 2010, when Working!! and K-On!! were ushering in the days of moe blobs and double exclamation marks. There were quite a few Japanese historical settings like Five Leaves, but there was only one straight-up fantasy anime: The Legend of Legendary Heroes. The two best fantasy anime in years were one about economics, and another about the bloody calculus of war. Recently? An explosion of fantasy anime, including a shoujo series plus a JSDF series this season, I’m guessing in no small part due to the Sword Art Online effect. Haruhi had similar effect– look at the 2010 shows– many of them were about clubs that did jack shit after school. Now? How many Haruhi clones are still around?
Rokka no Yuusha has some great parts, some bad parts, and some clever parts. Overall, it is an enjoyable fantasy anime. It feels like both fantasy and anime, which is not an easy tone to strike. The whole premise of six legendary heroes and the world building (opting for a more Aztec society) are some of the best parts. I also like the action sequences as well as the downtime. Adlet and Nashetania going through the fruit orchards is one of the best scenes. The bad? The character designs. They are way over-garnished, with Nashetania being the worst offender. They had just too many ideas for her, couldn’t cut anything, and made this bunny-cosplaying girl who conducts swords while wearing a gigantic codpiece. Why?!? I liked her weird meido outfit more. Or even the outfit she wore at the games in the first episode. Anything is better than bunny girl cosplay with a huge codpiece. Please, Volvo, giff her a new arcana. Goldof and Fremy also looks very similar, with each wearing black, having some sort of head decor, plus a strap covering their nipples. The character designs for this show are atrocious. The clever? The fact that there’s supposed to be six braves, but there ends up being seven. I hope the explanation isn’t dumb (as Fremy seems to know but isn’t telling) as that either makes or breaks the series.
(I’m hoping for the Fate/Stay Night explanation. Wait, how are there eight servants in this world? Why are there two archers? Simple: one is a carryover from the previous war. I wonder if the brave who didn’t make it to the rendezvous 300 years ago is the seventh brave. Or if that person isn’t, maybe that person found an orphan child, trained that child, and had that child carry on his legacy.)
Animation production by Passione is… uneven. The first few episodes were fantastic, with some production values best of the season. The fourth episode, however (see, normally I wouldn’t make it to four in a normal thin slicing post but this season…), features a drop-off. It’s actually not as bad as the drop-off in KILL la KILL‘s get to school episode, but it’s there, with some really poor facial drawings and the spinning scene that made me dizzy. I think new studios can’t properly pace themselves and blow their load too early. Rokka is directed and written by the same team behind MAOYU and Spice and Wolf. Maybe there’s hope that even if the animation falls apart, there’s enough plot and story to keep the anime afloat.
(We are definitely in a period of peak confident, heroic male protagonists. Kamina and Simon ushered in this current age with others like Bell-kun and Kirito joining them. With this show, Logos, and even GATE, not a single Shinji Ikari in the bunch. I wonder when will the pendulum swing the other way, and we get another Shinji Ikari. I’m guessing 2017. Anime, life, and circles are all cyclical.)
(Frenemy Speeddraw is the best anime name of this season.)
(Mitigating factor: Whenever CR advertises a series heavily, it is never good. CR is advertising this series heavily.)
#3. Snow White with the Red Hair
It’s a tender ra– oops– wrong series. Akagami no Shirayukihime is much like Soredemo Sekai Wa Utsukushii in that it’s a low calorie shoujo fantasy manga about a girl who follows her own heart, the prince who wins her heart, and the throngs of evil men who try to rape her or sell her into slavery. Charming, really. Now that I think about it, how many of these types of manga feature a female for the initial antagonist? It is almost always a creepy guy to start with. There’s a lot of typical fantasy tropes to deal with, including princes who do not like governing (and rather go fight with swords), princes who act like spoiled brats, surprise princes, the whole nobility vs. commoner thing that I’m sick of, the story starting with the girl saying, “This is my story,” and medicine that is based on herbs. There’s apparently an herb for everything. The female lead, Shirayuki, has apple red hair, which apparently is an open invitation for guys to force themselves on her. At one point, she says, “Claines is such a nice place,” and I fully expect her to end it with, “… with so few rapey princes here.” The male lead, Zen, feels like a plucky character from a Tales game. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of personality aside from sword fighting, drinking poisons, and entering rooms via windows. Yet, there’s something charming and sweet about the show. I prefer my shoujo to be the winning kind, much like Ore Monogatari. This kinda fits the bill.
If you think about it, the title Snow White with the Red Hair is a bit misleading. You’d think the title refers to Shirayuki, and you’d be correct except if you really think about it, Snow White is the one who bit into the poison apple. That would be poor Zen. So the title could also be interpreted that Zen is the Snow White, and he’s with someone with red hair.
Technically, the show mixes some great facial expressions in some scenes, but other scenes feature very lackluster animation. The backgrounds are, for the most part, boring. On a scale from 1 to Sound! Euphonium, I would give them a 4. I would say production value-wise, this show is very average for a summer 2015 anime.
(Mitigating factor: After watching Gone Girl, I totally want a shoujo anime where the main female character is an antihero psychopath. Like a chaotic good type of alignment but with a cool, hard efficiency.)
Jun Maeda and NA GA team up once again for a visual novel slash anime franchise in Charlotte. And it looks good! And it seems like typical Jun Maeda stuff! Jun Maeda really likes baseball! The main protagonist uses a Geass-like eye power! He’s also Machiavellian like Lelouch! An idol who can sing and dance at the same time! I can’t stop using exclamation marks!
Charlotte is like half-baked X-Men. Japanese children with half-baked powers are trying to find each other via wet, hairy Cerebro to prevent their persecution. It is literally X-Men if Charles Xavier were a high school haremette with a short skirt. Strangely enough, there’s a lot of similarity with the powers from Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches, just they don’t need kissing here. Though I think Charlotte would benefit from Yamada-kun‘s kissing mechanic. The body switching is very different for the host body, and the invisibility power is the exact inverse of the power in Yamada-kun.
There’s a lot of classic Maeda moments, like an early scene involving grabbing sandwiches from the cafeteria. I watched it, and I was like, “Oh right, Maeda wrote this.” The opening is also 100% VN opening, completely with silhouettes of characters replaced with a pattern, falling through the sky, and camera pan of the protagonists.
PA Works’ production is top notch. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miyamori is running desk for this one. Animation, backgrounds, movement, staying on model– PA Works is second only to Kyoto these days. PA Works can improve their backgrounds a bit more, definitely work on their CG to animation transitions, and put a more directorial camera, but overall Charlotte looks clean and vibrant and actually looks like it is made in 2015 instead of 2005. Music is also splendid, though I enjoy Gangsta‘s BGM more than Jun Maeda’s typically appropriate BGM here.
(Mitigating factor: Why does Nao use a Handicam? It’s 2015! Why not use her app phone? Or a GoPro? Even a Flip, which seems slightly less dated? I got the fact maybe Maeda wants the aesthetics of a Handicam, but no high school girl will be using one in this day and age. I think a GoPro with a head mount will be best for Nao, as that seems to be both modern and fits her personality. Or a drone. She seems like the type of character who would have a drone. Nao also has a fanny pack to store her Handicam, which makes the Fashion Czar cringe.)
I don’t now where A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist goes in the ranking. I feel like the characters in the show, unsure what exactly to do with their raging hormones. I watched the first episode. I thought it was going to be another generic fanservice harem romp. I decided to watch the second. Oh my gosh where is this show going? “WE MUST HURRY! WE MUST PROTECT THE URINE!” Is this show secretly a commentary on our surveillance state? Or a commentary on Bristol Palin’s “chastity”? Or just making fun of how prude the Japanese are? I then watched the third. What is going on? Then the fourth. Yes, the fourth. Rarely does thin slicing venture to a second episode let alone a forth. But I had a fourth to watch by the time I returned home. Wait, what is happening? Did Anna just gank Okuma? Are we going full H?! Is she going full Yuno Gasai?! Oh my gosh Anna went bat-shit insane! She broke! Holy shit! This show! Where will it end! What will happen! Exclamation marks!
Fundamentally, there’s a lot of problems with Shimoneta. One, the title is pretty bad. I almost wrote off A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist based on the name alone, but I remember last season’s Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? which was actually very enjoyable. Two, the show is lost in translation. Kudos to the fansub groups and CR who are trying to make the puns work in English, but they don’t. But even without the puns translated, the message gets across. I guess penises and vaginas are universal in all languages. Three, there’s a lot of leaps of faiths in this series. Somehow, the bracelets are monitoring what they are saying for obscene words, yet do not monitor for everything they say (yet)? How does it monitor for just obscene words? What if they say those words in another language? What if they used ASL to convey how much they want to penetrate each other? The bracelets also prevent people from drawing dirty pictures. How does it do this? It can somehow know I’m drawing a doujinshi of Yamada and Shiraishi? What if someone drew a line for an obscene comic, drew something else, took a break, and drew another line for that comic? How will they know? How is this possible? Four, I kinda get the whole commentary on how uptight and “proper” Japanese society can be, but, seriously, it’s not that bad in Japan. Okay, they digitize naughty bits in their pornography, but something like Comiket would never be able to exist in America. Maybe if the series were reframed as taking place in the religious South or even in China it would be more believable than in Japan.
Five, the biggest combo breaker of them all… for a society that is shrinking and desperately needs to improve their birth rate, this is probably the worst idea possible. Japan needs babies. This is not how a country gets a lot of babies. If anything, the declining birth rate in Japan is a more serious issue than anything this anime presents. Just as an aside, Japan, do you know how to get a lot of babies? Long maternity and paternity leave. Sweden is a sea of babies. Japan can learn from that.
But I’m willing to overlook all of those issues because the show does one thing tremendously well: it is entertaining and fun. That’s why we watch anime, right? For fun? For the most part, none of the characters are that memorable by themselves, but they are explosive when they interact. The “TMI GREAT PARENTING!” scene. The painting of the lady enjoying a mushroom. The broadcasting of fly sex. There is just something enjoyable about hentai terrorism.
Another thing this show does surprisingly well is fanservice timing. The fanservice it shows has a purpose. It’s not random panty shots (which would be difficult since this anime features the longest skirts of any anime ever) but rather the show uses fanservice as an actual plot device. It’s a bit disorienting since the light novel covers had more fanservice than the first three episodes.
Production-wise, JC Staff is doing a competent job. The animation is average to above average for a 2015 anime series, and it’s best ever for a 2015 hentai. I’m surprised that both sexually extreme shows this season are by JC Staff. They have moved past their days of the wrathful DFC loli. Masahiro Yokotani (Keroro, Maria+Holic) is the main writer, and his last major job was Free! and Free! Eternal Summer.
(Mitigating factor: I like when anime uses its own title in dialogue. This show does it a lot. “Let’s say goodbye to a morbid world where dirty jokes do not exist.”)
(Bonus mitigating factor: A show finally rationalizes the existence of dirty magazines. Since pornography is not completely and utterly banned, the only porn left in the country is whatever dirty magazines people have hidden from the decency police.)
(Bonus bonus mitigating factor: The dialogue. It’s like both trying to be dirty while not being dirty yet serious yet… it’s a show where “I wish to unlock the secrets of reproduction” can be dead-panned and taken in a serious context.)