10,000 words, 24 anime, 1 time-bending season. 10th anniversary of thin slicing continues.
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 Ass Classroom, Nurse Witch Komugi-chan, or GATE.
A twist for this season: Time periods! Market inefficiencies! Alternatives! Do the twist!
Updates on thin slicing are always on my Twitter account.
Quick recap from last season: We punched shit.
Quick advice for anime studios:
UNRANKED. Ojisan to Marshmallow
Creators in Pack
Normally, I do not thin slice mini-episode anime, but this season seems to have even more of them. I think eight years ago, the studio would have stretched out Ojisan to Marshmallow (or I Can’t Believe Paul Blart Won’t Impregnate Me Despite My Marshmallow Seduction Techniques) into a full twenty-four minute show, and everyone would have been the loser: the studio, the viewer, the reviewer, and humanity in general. Fortunately, Paul Blart Marshmallow Cop Who Hates Sexy Office Ladies is only three minutes long an episode, which is the perfect length for it. It is even padded with the dumbest 30 second cooking segment ever. Much like One Punch Man, Ojisan to Marshmallow started as a webcomic… just only not as good as OPM. Webcomics! The new market inefficiency.
(Other alternate names for this anime: The Sexy Office Lady Keeps Tossing Her Ovaries at Me, But I Just Want Marshmallows and Marshmallow-Related Antics at Web-Related Company Ha Ha Ha.)
(I am writing most of this thin slicing while under the effects of codeine. After the holiday break, I got a nasty cough that persisted for over a week, so my doctor prescribed me a huge bottle of codeine. Good times!)
UNRANKED. Sekkou Boys
Sculptures! As a boy band! You would think it would be an one off gag for something like Osomatsu-san or Zetsubou-sensei? No! Sekkou Boys is an actual anime! Granted, it’s eight minutes, but still a very long eight minutes. Your dreams of seeing hot statue action come true. With statues forming a boy band, we have reached peak idol group parody. The next parody is an anime boy idol group that can actually sing and dance well– the ultimate parody of all anime boy idol groups. I am just curious how much life an anime about unmovable objects can have, and how repetitive the comedy will get. Also, how the hell did this get green lit? Linden Films is desperate to make anything into an anime? Then again, I can also picture this show as a full twenty-four minute show that lasts for two cours.
(Wait, you are forming a Mount Rushmore of sculptures that can dance, and you don’t include Michelangelo’s David? What? And what were other rejected ideas? Corpses of dead American presidents? Washington! Jefferson! Lincoln! Hayes!)
UNRANKED. Oshiete! Galko-chan
Let’s make an eight minute anime where a girl with an oversized bosom tells raunchy facts! Why does it feel good to put sugar on your anus? Why do people have different bladder sizes? Can we make jokes about buying tampons? To find out, stay tuned to Please Tell Me! Galko-chan. It is funny to me that this manga is originally in a seinen magazine which targets older guys. If you are an older guy, please don’t use this show to educate you on how the female body works. That is a terrible idea. Though an anime about a clueless high school male harem lead using knowledge bombs from this show to try to score with his harem might not be a bad idea.
Not ranked! There’s no official stream yet since it is licensed by Netflix, and I am not waiting for Netflix. The CG animation is also pretty bad, and I am going to start skipping 100% CG anime that looks like someone’s high school cinema project. I have suffered enough in my long years.
#MR IRRELEVANT. Phantasy Star Online 2
Telecom Animation Film
I… I… I don’t even know where to begin with Phantasy Star Online 2. The production is terrible, with really simple backgrounds, poor drawn animation, and shoddy CG animation. The character designs are bland and boring at best. The story is wretched, with the whole premise being that a random kid is promoted to vice-president of his high school student council and is forced to play Phantasy Star Online 2 to research social networks. Like there is not a better way of research social networks than making a kid vice-president? There’s no better social network than Phantasy Star Online 2? The characters justify playing PSO2 with, “If you are not playing online games these days, you are left behind.” Seems like they put zero effort into forming a plot for this show. It is the blandest, saddest excuse of a video game adaptation ever. You know a video game has a bad storyline when the anime version can’t even use it for the anime. At least the Persona anime and the Tales anime adapt the game story, PSO2 does not even try to come up with a decent story.
I also like how at one point, the president tells the sad sack male lead that PSO2 is easy to learn and pick-up. He then gets thirty pages of hand-written notes from his friend on how to play the game. Seriously? You say the game is easy, yet the friend felt obligated to illustrate a thirty page manual. He couldn’t have sent a wiki link or a Gamefaqs link? He also plays the game in windowed mode in a tiny window on his PC. Sigh.
SEGA, if you want more people to play PSO2, just bring it over the US. Actually, scratch that. It’s too late. Just make PSO3 and bring it over. The amount of money and effort spent on making this flaming pile of hot garbage could have been put to a worldwide release of PSO3.
My prediction for 2016: Year of CG. There might be more minutes of CG anime produced in 2016 (if not 2017) than minutes of drawn animation. The industry switch-over started a few years ago and continues to move along. With CG anime getting better and cheaper, it is only a matter of time before drawn anime becomes a luxury.
My bonus prediction for 2016: Sentai Filmworks experiences financial difficulties. Why does it always seem like whenever I rank a show Mr. Irrelevant, the show has been locked up by Sentai Filmworks? They made the same mistakes when they were in charge of ADV… if they were basketball general managers, they would have given Rashard Lewis $118 million over six years and Jerome James $30 million for five years. Seriously, Sentai, why license a show where the video game isn’t even available in the US? Who is the market for this anime? People who like PSO2? People who already play PSO2? People who want a plot recap of PSO2? Because none of those people seem to be who this game is for: it’s for brainwashing people into trying PSO2… which isn’t available in the US.
(Alternative: Final Fantasy Unlimited. Sure, the plot was incoherent, but it had a plot.)
(Mitigating factor: Plenty of SEGA easter eggs. Though I think the only thing that will convince me to watch this show is if Segita Sanshiro takes over as the main character and turns the story into a SEGA-themed version of Kamen no Maid Guy.)
#23. Norn9 – Norn+Nonet
Kinema Citrus, Orange
My head almost exploded when I watched Norn9 – Norn+Nonet. The premise for the show is just ludicrous. The otome game turned anime is about a mysterious god-like character or organization called “The World” that protects the world by recruiting young people and have them watch over the world in a floating ship. Except every trapping for a generic otome game is here. The ship isn’t a floating military complex or even a cruise ship but rather a floating idyllic European town. Why does the ship have to resemble a floating town, complete with waterfalls and windmills? You think they would have better use for the space?
The World assigns the characters clothes– of course, the characters all wear typical Japanese high school uniforms because why the fuck not. They do not go to school, which makes the clothing choice even more confusing. Also, the characters have to farm and produce food for subsistence, which makes the outfits an even more curious choice though it leads to some funny scenes of watching the characters in their fancy uniforms trying to hoe a field. Some of the men have powers that help with gardening, I suppose, but they are still using very basic farming tools. There is also no sign of an animal pen yet they eat meat. The characters spend very little time farming, with most of their time spent in fancy meeting rooms, eating, or hanging out with their shirts open. There is also an army of baby chocobos that seem to be their slaves for whatever reason. The cast is supposedly international, but they only get Japanese food, and even the blonde pretty boys use chopsticks expertly. There are just too many complications and way too many typical otome tropes shoehorned into the story as if they were some sort of otome game comfort food.
Norn9 can’t just tell a story, but rather it needs all of these distractions to distract us from the fact there is barely a story there. I would rather have the show be about a never-ending orgy on this floating ship. What other realistic scenario is there for three sexy girls and a dozen attractive guys to be trapped together in a floating ship, unable to reach land? They would devolve into a massive orgy until everyone starves to death.
(The female lead character apparently comes from the past and other characters come from the future or present… I don’t know. The World picks its sexual cast no different than the Holy Grail does.)
(Egads, so much bad high school poetry.)
#22. Divine Gate
Badly written, badly produced, badly animated anime based on a f2p app phone game. Did I grab your attention? Aren’t you salivating to hop on Funimation and watch Divine Gate? Let me get you even more excited about this show: the premise is that it is a futuristic Japan where people can use elements like fire and water to fight each other. But they need an amulet or amplifier or something to do so, yet the main character does not need one. He can use his powers freely. The secret? He is a mopey sad depressed probably should be seeking therapy kid because his rich parents did not think he was cute enough. Instead, his brother got to sleep inside the mansion and got all the food and love. He was forced to sleep in the barn (WTF?) and got bread and soup and was basically ignored and outcast by his family. What is even worse is that a stray dog comes around and totally ignores him. He is unloved by everyone. The whole battling thing where they need to create sphere arenas and all the rules– they might as well just put all of the game rules as a thirty second explainer at the beginning of each episode. Just a ridiculous premise in a show trapped by tropes and wrapped in a mobile game license.
(What mobile game should get an anime next? Maybe Flappy Birds? Game of War? Kim Kardashian: Hollywood? Neko Atsume?!?)
(There’s a major character who has a wallet chain. Wallet chains are still around in futuristic Japan? And there is also a guy who wears a fedora. I feel like I am taking the bullet watching this show for you. Of course, the fire character has spiky red hair just the same as every other single fucking fire character has.)
(Alternative: Did you buy tickets for Kizumonogatari yet?)
#21. Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
My favorite line from Aokana Four Rhythm Across the Blue is probably when one character derisively accuses another of being a mobile gamer: “Or could you be a… mobile gamer?” Aside from that, the latest creation by Gonzo is really bland and boring. Like any good harem setup, the setting is on an idyllic island no different than the islands from Sister Princess or Da Capo. There is something about these tropical islands that get the harem juices running. There is a menu of haremettes to choose from, including the ditzy new transfer student, the ojousama with her “Ho-ho-ho!” Santa laugh, the girl who only speaks in nyaa~n puns, and the sexy voyeuristic next door neighbor. The twist for this harem setup is that the characters can all fly using special Air Jordans. Yep. Using these shoes, they can fly to school, which is weird because still many students walk to school. Why walk when you can fly? Also, these shoes are apparently 100% safe because the anime said so yet takes hours and hours of learning to use. Because these magic hoverboard-like shoes exist, people compete in a very silly airborne game that resembles tag between bases in baseball where you try to stop someone from running between two floating poles by tagging their back. It is a poor man’s baserunning mini-game. As silly as the air shoes are and as dumb as the flying game is, the worst part of this show is how utterly unlikable the haremettes are. They are all super bland and super safe– even more boring versions of haremettes that we have seen hundreds of times already.
Concerning market inefficiencies, there was a time when it seemed like every other show was a harem show, and that the harem was based off of an eroge game. To my surprise, Ao no Kanata is based off an eroge. Seems weird to have an anime based off of an eroge when so many anime these days are based off light novels or non-h visual novels. Maybe eroges are the new market inefficiency to be exploited.
(Alternative: Pick from any of the hundreds of others eroges turned anime.)
(Mitigating factor: If the eroge featured a sex scene where the pair uses the flight shoes as part of their airborne lovemaking, and that scene makes it into the anime… okay, might be best anime of the year.)
#20. Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu
Project No. 9
Girls Beyond the Wasteland / Girls Beyond the Youth is yet another visual novel about making a visual novel. Unlike Four Rhythm, Shoujo-tachi is an all-ages visual novel. Can we get a visual novel about making something other than a game or a visual novel? Can we get them to make an eroge, like Mira and Zack Make a Porno, only good? Or some sort of parody visual novel like Hatoful Boyfriend? Maybe something like Shower with Your Dad to Gain a Harem? Or can we get them to make something besides a visual novel, like a new antibiotic or a social networking app? Overall, it is exactly what you expect: a bland, boring, cut-and-paste loser male protagonist trying to co-exist with a bunch of nubile haremettes in trying to make a game in a school club-ish setting. The twist is the lead haremette is bad at social interactions and is a self-proclaimed “bitch.” You have seen this shit before. You do not need to see it again.
Animation production is okay, but I don’t like how all the line work is either really thin or really light or some scenes and seemingly normal anime darkness/thickness for other scenes. The characters also look weird when they are drawn farther out.
(You probably think I mailed in this review. I did! I fell asleep during this show. It might have been the Codeine… but… Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu! Feel the excitement!)
(Alternative: Go play the visual novel. At least you can make the text go faster!)
#19. Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
Stop me if you heard this before. The first real scene of Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut starts with a prince who gets tossed into a hot spring and collides with a princess. He sees all her naughty parts, and he calls them, “Erotic!” He gets sent to jail. His sister and friends bail him out on the condition he attends a magical high school that trains dragon mecha pilots. The school happens to be virtually all female. The male protagonist suddenly meets a bunch of women who want his man seed, and the girls talk about him like, “Once he decides on something, he follows through on it!” Dialogue like that is a sure sign of quality writing. The characters all have secrets, but instead of spending one sentence to explain, the characters are all like, “I’ve got no time to explain why I’ve got no time to explain yo!”. You wouldn’t believe what happens next: the princess from earlier find outs, gets pissed, and challenges him to a duel! This scene totally did not happen in The Asterisk War and Chivalry of a Failed Knight, and, if it did, those princesses had pink hair, not blonde. Of course, the perverted prince seemingly starts to lose against the princess in the duel, but– you’ll have to watch for yourself to find out what happens next in Generic Fantasty Magic Battle High School Mecha Harem Fanservice Anime!
(Mitigating factor: Licensed already by Sentai.)
(Alternative: The Sacred Blacksmith.)
ixtl & Linden Films
Schwarzesmarken is a collision of mecha anime, eroge spin-off, doomsday, gore, Stasi, and big-breasted high school girls in skintight pilot suits. Schwarzesmarken (purposefully misspelled) is set in the MUV-LUV Alternative timeline where BETAs have basically conquered earth, only it takes place in happy East Germany instead of Japan and America (since that setting change worked so well for Code Geass). CARNELIAN’s overly sexy high school girl character design never made sense to me in the MUV-LUV Alternative timeline as it just does not fit the setting, and it makes even less sense for this show. Being in East Germany, the show features the Stasi prominently, and one would think faced with almost total annihilation that people would work together in the face of overwhelming odds… but alas. I also do not believe that East Germany would be able to hold out against an invading alien force for more than four days, ace sexy big-breasted high school pilots be damned. There is also a surprising amount of diversity in this show, which seems weird considering it is set in East Germany.
Also weird? Anyone would want to defect to East Germany. And the Stasi executing people? Why not toss suspected traitors as frontline fodder against the BETA? Arm them with pitchforks and put them in front of the trenches?
I have the same main issue with Schwarzesmarken that I have with MUV-LUV Alternative Total Eclipse: the world is quite dense with lore, and we are tossed into it expected we know what is going on already. I think if MUV-LUV had a proper anime adaption, it would mitigate the issue, but anytime I get confused watching an anime based on a visual novel and the response is “go play the visual novel” (much like when I was covering Higurashi) that is totally unacceptable. The anime has to be written in a way that everyone can enjoy it, not just the people who 100% the game. The key is that Clannad and Steins;Gate took time to world build. They did not expend their big bullets until the viewer understood the importance of the big bullets. Schwarzesmarken feels like it is rushing from A to B to C like a Super Mario 3 speedrun. Okay, this character died. We shot her. We found a random girl in the middle of a forest. Okay, what is the next plot point? Oh, let’s have the Stasi show up and kill more people.
(Alternative: Dual! Parallel Adventures.)
#17. Prince of Stride Alternative
You know what kids like these days? Parkour! You know what is a really good idea? Instead of calling them parkour races, let’s call them stride races! And add a relay element! Kids will go nuts for it! That’s the basic premise of Prince of Stride Alternative. It is yet another pretty boy reverse harem sports anime about a sport that does not really exist. I think I would be more into an anime about a pretty boy Dota 2 team than a parkour team. The show takes itself way too seriously. The boys are all too fabulous to believe they spend more time training than putting on cosmetics, the girl (stand-in material for any girl reading/watching this franchise) is too mousy, and the parkouring is too silly. It is almost Guilty Crown level of human absurdness. Why does the girl need to tell the guys how to hand off relays? Why can’t they pass a baton? Why is the shogi club involved? There are just too many complications. Maybe the show needs them because otherwise the main concept is super boring. Maybe they should be playing Dota 2… lots more potential for drama… tell me Sakurai, did you leak our scrim against Nekoma? The one with the level 1 Rosh?
(At one point, the team decides to have an impromptu race. The school transforms like Unicron in Transformers: The Movie into a parkour course filled with lighting, routes, cushions, and cameras. Yet the school supposedly doesn’t have a stride team. The school newspaper suddenly has a special edition announcing the impromptu race. Why does any of this need to happen? Why a newspaper? Wouldn’t a Facebook post be more apt these days? Why does the school need to transform? Couldn’t they just run over normal terrain as parkour is meant to be ran? Why would the school be able to transform so quickly if it no longer fielded a stride team?)
(I would love to see an anime about an e-sports team. The time is ripe! There is a market inefficiency here.)
(Alternative: Over Drive or H2.)
#16. Active Raid
Active Raid: Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault Eighth Unit‘s contribution to the anime zeitgeist is the “What’s anime got to do with politics?” line uttered midway through the first episode (much like Bodacious Space Pirate‘s “It’s time for piracy!”). The show is a confusing blend of crime fighting, mecha, and bureaucracy. Yes, bureaucracy. Is anything more fun than made-up ordinances governing police procedures in a slightly futuristic Tokyo? That’s what anime is about right?
There are a lot of WTF ideas and moments in this show that can only be described that the author has major ADD. One point, the police force apprehends a criminal. Great. That is what they are supposed to do. Next, they tie her up in traditional bondage wrap. That is also what they are sup– wait, hold up. Handcuffs do not exist in 2035 Tokyo? Of course, they completely forget about this plot point. Another weird plot point? Next up… the police force hires a new girl, and she is supposedly some hot shot graduate. Great! What is her job? She runs around in a mini-skirt and high heels chasing after mecha just so she can deploy a tent before the mechas dissolve and show the world the pilot’s faces and private bits. That is her job. Then there is the police force’s mobile train command center. Okay, why a train? The train latches on a Chou train (one of the busiest lines in Tokyo), and it then disengages. It stays on the tracks. It is like there are no more trains after it. The train’s purpose is to deploy police mecha, but the train can launch the mecha across Tokyo… so… again, why do they need a train? If you remember the previous point about the poor girl running around Tokyo in a miniskirt and high heels, well, she gets deployed from the train after the train launched the mecha across Tokyo. She had to run across Tokyo. In like three minutes. She does not get to call Uber or, more sensibly, use a police cruiser or chopper. Of course, who deploys the girl? Is it her boss? The chief of police? Nope. It’s the train’s maintenance man. He tells her it is her job to go and deploy the tent. Not even Steve Guttenberg and Bubba Smith are this bad at training police recruits. Of course, she goes from deploying tents to piloting a mecha. Sigh.
Other quickies… two teenagers manage to steal two mecha and use them, expertly, to steal gold. Wouldn’t the mechas themselves be worth quite a bit? The vending machines seen at major Tokyo train stations resemble ones from today not 2036… the girl uses some version of Oculus Touch with Google Glass, which seems like dogs and cats getting married… and they charge their phones with USB– not USB-C. I would imagine twenty years from now, USB-C would be considered old and USB to be like vinyl records: only around for the nostalgic value. There are just too many damn logic breaks and police rules and ordinances that pop up to generate tension. Nothing about the show is worthwhile, aside from random fanservice.
(Alternative: Patlabor. You want to watch a group of police officers try to get around bureaucracy and fight crime with mecha? But with a sensible plot, humor, and character development? Patlabor is the Shaq to Active Raid‘s Shawn Bradley. It is not even that close.)
(Good news: This show is already cleared for two cours! Meanwhile, poor Saitama…)
#15. Luck & Logic
When Bushiroad wants to create a new franchise to sell a new collectible card game, do they just go for the most common anime tropes of the time? Let’s see… walled city! Magic high school! Magical girl! Luck & Logic is an anime that has occurred already and will occur again– the tropes are strong with this one. The basic premise of a lone male character (when the rest of the warriors are all little girls) who can wield a special weapon to fight monsters is not new. The basic premise of characters that turn into weapons for other characters is not new either. The basic premise that the lone male character has to make a contract with his female weapon by kissing her is not new either and really, really tame compared to what happens in Valkyrie Drive. The basic premise that evil monsters are trying to invade a city that built a huge wall around it when the monsters can just teleport into the city is not new either gau gau never give up on love. So what exactly is new and interesting about Luck & Logic? Nothing. Maybe you could not get enough of The Asterisk War or Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei no Kyoukan, or you just really like playing yet another terrible Bushiroad TCG.
The show also thinks it is really smart by trying to explain this future world via the classroom setting like a history lesson. Man, that has never been done in anime before *snicker*. It also has a lot of teal and bright green, as with most futuristic high school anime, like slapping a teal stripe on a high school student uniform suddenly makes it futuristic. Animation is a bit wonky because of the super pastel look of the show plus how it uses light grey lines in addition or normal black outlines. At times, there are just objects that look really weird, like these quality hamburgers.
(Mitigating factor: The names in this show… Orga Brakechild? Is that a name or a password?)
(Alternative: Mai Hime. Mai Hime was great because it ramped up the crazy.)
#14. Bubuki Buranki
Bubuki Buranki wins the award for most fun anime title to say this season. I will give it that much. It is a CG anime with drawn backgrounds, and the effect looks much better than the all CG Ajin. The scenes that take place on Treasure Island are beautiful and show some thought was put into the art direction. However, the post-apocalyptic Japan that features a city enclosed by yet another giant wall (which never work in anime) looks like any other boring post-apocalyptic Japanese city… I think I would have liked the show more if it took place almost entirely on the floating island. The convenience store at the top of a helicopter pad seemed really weird and out of place too.
The story feels like typical Gonzo fare, which should not be surprising as Sanzigen was the CG arm of Gonzo. The creative team for Bubuki Buranki is mostly newbies to the task, with the director Daizen Komatsuda having not directed before and series writer Jirou Ishii most famous for writing an OVA for Monster Strike, which I shouldn’t be surprised that it has an anime considering how popular the mobile game is. But, still, it does not give me a lot of confidence in the story, which has so far consisted of a lot of kids with living weapons beating the crap out of each other. The kids can also combine their weapons a la Voltron to summon forth an iron giant. There is also a laziness to the writing and animation as sometimes it just turns into characters inside bubble shields pushing against another character inside another bubble shield.
The character designs are pretty atrocious. The costumes look like a mishmash of ideas with no thought to how it would come together. Why does the sniper character have just one kneepad? The CG is another issue as just with any other CG anime, the outfit is part of the character. The character and the clothes are not modeled as separate pieces, so while the clothes move, they have a very limited way in that they can move. They also do not incur damage or deformities… like for example, you won’t see a character ripping off his scarf to act like a bandaid in CG anime until they model the clothes and characters separately. And a character wears a fedora.
(Alternative: Gad Guard. Decent Gonzo show about a group of kids with the ability to turn spinning cubes into mecha.)
#13. Koukaku no Pandora
Originally written and illustrated by Koushi Rikudou (Excel Saga) from an original concept by Masamune Shirow,Pandora in the Crimson Shell is about androids, cyberbrains, augmented realities, and networked minds as one may expect. But also DFC fanservice, meido fanservice, cat girl fanservice, yuri fanservice, off-beat humor, and also ridiculous situations. The gist of the show is that there’s one android who was implanted into a robot body at a young age (like the Major) who has a special ability to learn (and forget) anything quickly kind of like Neo’s “I know kung-fu!” in the Matrix. She can download new skills and abilities by touching the most private part of a cat girl meido robot. Think where Chii’s switch is located. Okay, then. They then go on wacky hi-jinks battling other robots. There’s a good helping of fanservice and action, but none of the it feels weighty. The situation and story (that takes place on some sort of super developed super advanced tiny island) isn’t very gripping and feels secondary to the antics the two girls get themselves into… which is basically Excel Saga. So if you ever wondered what happens if Excel Saga and Ghost in the Shell had a baby, Pandora in the Crimson Shell is it. Except I sorely miss Menchi… the emergency food supply and best part of Excel Saga.
Animation is middle of the road and very cartoony. Get ready for a lot of o_o faces.
(Alternative: Excel Saga. Get your emergency food supply on!)
#12. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
Do we need yet another light novel adaptation where a normal high school student from our Japan gets sucked into yet another RPG-esque world? Do we need one that starts with the protagonist peeing in his pants? At least Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (Give Blessings to This Wonderful World!) tries to do something different by going for full comedic effect. Sometimes the jokes hit, other times it misses, and the show feels like a 2016 version of Tower of Druaga. The male lead gets basically shanghaied to a RPG world, but he gets to take along a powerful it or skill as determined by the goddesses of life and death. Of course, he picks a goddess to go along with him. This move is actually brilliant, until he realizes that the goddess is fairly useless. He then acquires more party members, each of them uniquely broken and useless hence why they are so desperate to party with him.
The most annoying thing about this show is how Aqua keeps referring to the male lead as a hikikomori shut-in. She does it like every four lines. The character designs are fairly bleh with no costume changes. You would think that the male protagonist would change out of his tracksuit sooner. Though it would be cool to see a headline like, “Mr. Tracksuit Defeats Demon King!” Also Studio Deen must have tossed all of their animation prowess at another show this season because this show got the short end of the animation stick. The backgrounds are quite bland, and the characters seem to go off model quite often. It is almost like twenty studios worked on this show, and each of them got different key art.
(If a beautiful, young girl who is broke lands in an RPG-esque world– let’s be honest here– the only job she will be able to find is at a brothel. I think the obvious reaction to all these RPG shows is a super grim dark one that makes Now and Then, Here and There seem cheery.)
(Fashion Czar’s comment: The fit out of the outfits changes from shot to shot. Sometimes, they are baggy, and, other times, they are loose. They don’t know how to draw clothes!)
(Alternative: Is It Okay to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?)
#11. Nijiiro Days
I feel like if Rainbow Days were a twenty-four minute show instead of a thirteen minute show and had better production values, it would be higher up in this list. I guess the best way to describe it is that it is like the shoujo version of Everyday Lives of High School Days with more of a focus on romance and significantly worse animation. The four male leads of this show all have annoying nicknames like Mattsun, Tsuyopon, and Paul Blart, and they are all too cool to button the top button of their shirts. Why are all cool male characters in shoujo depicted as people who refuse to button their top buttons? It is such lazy characterization. Anyway, there are genuinely funny moments in the show as the main male lead, Na-chan, tries to score with Anna, a girl who showed him some kindness when he was down in the pits. It feels like a Amagami route at times, but other times it is brutal unlucky boy humor.
(Some mysteries: Why would people who cannot speak Japanese visit a karaoke bar? How did he sculpt a chocolate Gundam? Why are brass band senseis suddenly the new market inefficiency?)
(Alternative: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.)
#10. Myriad Colors Phantom World
Kyoto Animation does the magic high school thing with Musaigen no Phantom World. Kyoto’s production is still top of the class, and they really bring out a lot of life and energy in an otherwise generic story. Guess what? It’s a bunch of high school students with magical powers who must capture phantoms that are running amock! No, totally not like Kyoukai no Kanata, which featured a nice love story in between the phantom catching. Myriad Colors Phantom World is fanservice. It is a safe, feel good Kyoto show, except despite the rampant energy of the show, it feels lifeless. The generic male lead is as generic as he gets, and the female leads have all been quite one dimensional. Who would have guessed that the girl whose power is to Kirby the phantoms also enjoys eating a lot of food and might have an eating disorder? I think what Myriad Colors Phantom World shows is that even with a generic story, Kyoto can make a show at least watchable. If a studio like Trigger had this show, we would have ended up with a boring slog like Inou-Battle wa Nichijo.
There are also a lot of fanservice moments that do not involve undressing a character, like when Mai won the limbo contest or when Reina sucked Ichijou’s finger or when Mai and Reina were inexplicably stretching in front of Ichijou in a classroom. But as Tirami said, we need to go lewder to save this Phantom World.
(Alternative: Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de HAHAHAHA)
#9. Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Believe it or not, there was once a time when every other anime was not about someone from modern times getting stuck in an RPG-esque world. It reminds me of the world around 2006 when everyone had a Motorola flip phone, Japan was unstoppable in their mobile phone technology– you can watch TV on your phone!, and Samsung was best known for price fixing DRAM prices. Then the iPhone came and the floodgates exploded. Not owning an app phone these days makes you seem like an outsider or deviant. Sword Art Online was the iPhone for normal modern people getting sucked into an RPG-esque environment. Sure, the concept is not new, but Sword Art Online got it perfect and opened the gates for other similar anime. Just in the past few years, we have had many variations, including Overlord, Outbreak Company, GATE, and Log Horizon to name a few. Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is yet another anime about modern people getting sucked into an RPG-esque world. Though there is one difference: in a series like Sword Art Online or Overlord, the leading characters are all super damn poowerful and are the heroes. In Grimgar, the characters are not that. They are more townsperson A than hero A. They are the people living, existing on level 16 of Aincrad as Kirito and Asuna ascend to the top. The show even acknowledges that having a parallel party that seems much more the hero A type. For the characters of Grimgar, it is more of a battle against hunger and adaptation as they learn to live in this new world. Most of the scenes are everyday slice of life moments for these adventurers. With so many of these RPG anime focusing on the powerful characters, naturally there would be a market inefficiency concerning the not-so-powerful characters. The show has me interested and wanting to see if it becomes a bigger story.
A-1’s production is also quite great. The fights are well-animated, the characters have good movement to them, and the painted backgrounds look fantastic. When the characters are in a forest during the day, there are some good shadow usage to mimic tree foliage. The characters have seemed a bit one-dimensional, but hopefully more time and episodes will give them more development. Whether or not the characters can seem like characters rather than RPG tropes will make or break this series.
(You might be interested to know that Grimgar has a sister story that is described by fan translator oniichanyamete as “Remember in Grimgal how with the starting money, everybody got their jobs? Well this guy blew all his money, and set out with his party as a jobless NEET, and yeah…” It is also drawn by a famous doujinshi artist.)
Haruchika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru is PA Work’s attempts to catch up to Kyoto Animation yet again. Kyoto’s going to adapt Jun Maeda? We will have him come up with an original work for us. Kyoto’s doing cute girls being cute? We’ll do that too– except at a rural inn. Kyoto’s got love and triangles? We’ll do that too and add chickens. Kyoto’s doing an anime about boys who love being in water? Well, we will top them by featuring everyone underwater in an anime. Kyoto made an anime about a failing amusement park? We will make an anime about a failing anime studio. Kyoto made an anime based on a highly regarded mystery light novel concerning high school students? Kyoto made an anime about a brass band? PA Works strikes back with an anime about school mysteries revolving around a brass band! You know who is hot? Taki-sensei. So we’ll make a copy of him, except make him less hot. Girls and boys will go wild for a less hot version of Taki-sensei.
(It’s about time: even though the first novel for Haruchika was published back before Japan had an app phone, the first mystery featured an app phone at a key moment. Key is that old flip phones in Japan don’t use QWERTY. It was not until app phones and slab phones became more common that QWERTY keyboards started showing up. So there is evidence that even though the original setting is a decade ago, PA Works is adapting it for a 2016 setting.)
Last season gave us two mystery shows, so maybe mystery anime is the new anime market inefficiency where there’s still a lot of good mystery novels to be mined. Haruchika could be a good show, as it has PA Work’s production values plus some decent moments, like the “I seriously won’t recognize this love triangle” after she realizes that she is the only girl said love triangle, but the mystery is really blah. I am not impressed. One issue is this weird time juxtaposition PA Works is attempting. One of the big points of the first mystery is that the mystery is written on a wall, and less hot than Taki-sensei gives the Scooby gang until after school to solve the mystery. Well, everyone has an app phone! We see the characters use image chat and social media… yet no one thinks to take a picture of the mystery until the very end (which turned out to be key in solving the mystery). Interaction like that feels off as a modern high schooler’s impulse for any weird situation is to snap a picture and post it on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Vine/Instagram/Reddit/Tumblr/Pinterest/YikYak/MAL.
The second issue that I have with this show is that the characters know way too much random trivia. I can’t expect a Japanese high school student to know when Poe wrote The Raven or to do slightly tough math for a cipher in his head in the span of two seconds or know who invented what random puzzle. Maybe Cumberbatch’s Sherlock? Or some magic high school where the character’s power is to read a lot of books? But a normal boy? I hope episode 8 reveals that he traveled back in from in 2036 to warn Japan not to implement the ACTIVE RAID police force project.
The third issue is that Hibike Euphonium set the bar high for brass instruments. Kyoto actually got them right. Haruchika plays brass instruments like how a cheap anime would play them: mismatch between hand movements and sounds.
(Alternative: Want same-sex brass band love palpitations? Hibike Euphorium. Mystery involving high school students? Hyouka.)
(You are like wondering why do I care about flubs? Well, it is a mystery. Having a mystery depend on flubs or idiot detectives, that is not a good thing unless we are going the Mr Bean detective route. I can tolerate them more in other genres, especially if it does not affect it plot. Also, more importantly, PA Works just made an anime where the importance of a fact and scenario checker such as Diesel-tan was emphasized. Did they fire her? Was she a pipe dream? Did the studio not take its own advice? Then again, this show is almost charming in how often it screws up. How did Haru know about Maren’s suitcase? And the combination? And how the show just gets China’s one child policy wrong? Or Maren asking what about if he were in a different part of China, would the time be different– China has one timezone! The show ends out-smarting itself and results in possibly turning into the Code Geass of mystery shows, which I fully support. Haruchika will become a show that I love to complain about.)
#7. Dimension W
Studio 3Hz, Orange
This show takes place a bit into the future, at least twenty years or so, and mankind is finally weened off of carbon fuels by a mystery energy source from Dimension W. Coils are used to pull energy from that world to our world, and the coil supply is tightly controlled by a mysterious New Tesla Energy that hunts down illegal coils using bounty hunters. The main character, Mabuchi, is a more depressed, more gasoline-addicted version of Samurai Champloo‘s Mugen. He is an old fossil who refuses to use coils and instead barters with one of the last few sources of gasoline. In the first scene, he tells kids to get off of his fucking lawn. Of course, he gets a complication in his life in the arrival of an unwanted android, Mira, who is trying to solve what the hell is going on with New Tesla Energy in the first place.
There are a lot of good visuals, and the city looks like something I might make in Cities: Skylines. The pacing is good, the characters are interesting enough, though some of the side characters are pretty much caricatures (as in most anime), but the action is where the show excels. The action sequences have their own unique style and flair, and they are well done and smooth. There is a little bit of Lupin, Darker than Black, Concrete Revotio, and sadly Blood Blockage Battlefront in Dimension W.
(Alternative: Definitely not Blood Blockade Battlefront. I can actually understand what is going on with Dimension W, and the premise is less ridiculous.)
#6. Akagami no Shirayukihime
Snow White with the Red Hair is back, and it does something not a lot of anime does anymore: it is treating a split cours as an actual continuation rather than a fancy new season. It’s not called Akagami no Shirayukihime: Redder than Red or Snow White with the Red Hair 2.0: You Shall Not Zen or even Akagami no Shirayukihime Ketsu but just Akagami no Shirayukihime. It also continues with the episode numbering with 13 instead of starting from one. Based on that, I have even less reason to thin slice it. You are either in on Red’s journey to be the best herbalist ever, or Zen’s quest to go through as many windows as possible or out by now. I am going to thin slice it because I enjoyed it and because how few good shoujo shows are out there now. Though the show feels a bit less urgent this season with Zen’s and Shirayuki’s relationship progressing at a good clip last season, so it is now just how many typical shoujo tropes can we toss at their relationship. Time apart? More mysterious suitors? Obi? His and her careers? Kidnappings? More kidnappings?!?
(Shoujo that is not from otome games or about magical girls is a market inefficiency waiting to be exploited. What was the last big budget shoujo anime? Tamako Market? And that was fantastic.)
I, for one, look forward to twelve stories involving our favorite Ararararagi over the year. I think Shaft is saving money by reusing old openings, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Staple Stable again. I think it is a good send-off for characters who have been in our lives for the past half decade or so… wait? What? There’s more books after Koyomimonogatari? And more books after that are planned to be released in 2016? And Nisio Isin is addicted to cocaine (which explains how he can write so much), so he has to keep writing Monogatari basically forever to support his habit. Well, then.
I kind of like the quick half-episode, single story format. It is a nice change from having Gaen or Yotsugi talk for twenty minutes straight. If I had to go through more of Gaen or Yotsugi talking forever, I might have buried this series in the #10-15 magic high school zone. I also like seeing Meme, who I now completely understand why he left as he sees through everyone’s bullshit, like seeing Shinobu cower in the corner, and like seeing the Fashion Czar rage because she can’t believe how bad the writing has gotten in Monogatari.
#4. Durarara!! X2 Ketsu
デュラララ!! x2 結 is supposedly the conclusion to… something. Much like Monogatari, Durarara! seems to chug along forever. And why not? The last few x2 cours have been enjoyable, and the new characters inject some life into the story, which I cannot say about Gaen and friends and Monogatari. This cour flatly places Celty at the center of the storm. Other seasons she might be in the center, but she is the center this season. She gets the last shot in both the OP and ED, and she is the lead-off narrator. Though I do wish Shinra would elaborate more on Celty’s sex life– but that’s what doujinshis are for! Except everyone is too busy making doujinshi about One Punch Man‘s Tornado these days. And Genos. Poor Saitama… left out again.
(Alternative: Durarara! Start from the beginning.)
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (The Town Without Me) is a standout star. A-1’s production is top notch (only behind Kyoto), and the story– the story!– hits all the notes that it needs to hit. The story is a fantasy thriller that uses a very familiar device, namely that the protagonist can jump time to correct a mistake much like Charlotte, Madoka, Steins;Gate, Space Dandy, and numerous others; however, there is one big difference. In almost all the anime I have seen with the time redo mechanic, none of them has painted as vivid or great of a picture of the time period that Erased has done. Whether we are in 1988 or 2006, we feel like we are in 1988 or 2006. It hits home for me because I remember both 1988 and 2006. I was a typical elementary school boy in 1988, and I talked about how to get Erdrick’s armor in Dragon Warrior with my friends. We would also salivate over the screenshots of Final Fantasy (coming in 1990!) in Nintendo Power. That was 1988. 2006 is the year of Haruhi Suzumiya. If A-1 managed to sneak a Haruhi reference into Erased, it would be perfect. Nonetheless, you feel the scenario.
I am, though, getting tired of the time rewind gimmick. It is so easy to write a story because time rewind lets you bookend the series in the present, show off the tragedy, and the show the impetus for correcting such a tragedy. There are other story structures. I do hope we get a parody where something good happens, the protagonist unwittingly rewinds it, and then suffers an eternity trying to get back the good result. Dammit, I got “atari” on the Popsicle! And now I’ve rebooted 15,532 times and still hasn’t gotten it. Actually, fuck all that. We hit peak time rewind when Kyoto Animation decided to spend a whole season animating the same damn thing.
(Asian Kung-Fu Generation is even used for the OP, which would seem normal in 2006 but in 2016? Noteworthy especially if the anime starts in 2006.)
As I mentioned before, A-1’s production is outstanding, with an eye on making the show feel cinematic. There’s interesting camera angle, the camera pans and has movement, and even colors are used for good effect. The present day is vivid like Hi10P encoded anime while the past is dull and washed out like VHS. The plot of trying to find the real killer (or killers) is also gripping as the story slowly tickles the information it is willing to give you, and you are the impatient addict wanting more. But even the normal banter and moments between the various characters and Satoru are entertaining and interesting.
(Mitigating factor: Butterflies? Why is it always butterflies to indicate that you can jump back in time to affect a change? Am I back playing Life Is Strange?)
(Alternative: Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2.)
#2. Dagashi Kashi
It is kind of amazing that even in 2016, an anime can be created from an original manga in just 18 months. It has to be some killer manga, right? Maybe involving pirates or mecha or space aliens or some sort of magic battle high school? Nope. Dagashi Kanshi is about cheap Japanese snacks (and literally means it too), and the dying culture around the snacks. The manga has exploded in popularity, even before the anime came out. But, of course, there has to be an anime bent in addition to the nostalgia gags: the main character, Coconuts, is an aspiring shoujo manga artists, but his evil dad only wants him to inherit their family’s dagashi store. Because this show is an anime, let’s toss in a random well-endowed high school student, Hotaru, whose only goal is to convince Coconut’s dad to work for her dad. Well, okay. I am totally going to believe that the teen-aged daughter of a multinational company has nothing better to do than hang out at a candy store in a hick town. That somehow this random dad is such an awesome person that she must recruit him no matter what? And that people still care about these snacks in 2016 that owning a dagashi store is a better career move than being a manga artist (granted manga artist isn’t that great in itself)? The show does not handle plot points very well, as the first episode has her wondering about where she should live, yet there is no mention of any living arrangement in the second episode. It is totally forgotten. Also the boy’s manga gets forgotten for long stretches too. Actually, that’s probably for the best as the manga is just an informative nostalgia gag manga without plot or character development. But, you know what? The anime is fun. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a very fun show to watch, and it is a show you can be passionate about. If Dagashi Kashi was a Kickstarter project to properly historically document Japanese dagashi snacks as a nice hardcover book, I would back it.
I do have a theory that Hotaru is the illegitimate love-child of Coconut’s dad. That’s why she knows about him. She had a rough and tough childhood, so the only joys in her life were the 10 yen dagashi candy. She has come to this town to take revenge on everyone by getting them addicted to dagashi, thus not getting enough proper nutrition. Though I have no idea how her melonpan would get that large just on eating dagashi. She is also sleeping under a bridge somewhere with newspapers as covers. That’s why she looked so happy during the fanservice shower scene in the first episode: it’s the first bath she has had in weeks.
There are quite a few parody gags, with the longest one involving legions of dagashi Gundams fighting each other. The creativity of Japan is
Feel’s production is pretty good, and they make the snacks look way too tasty and good. I guess for an outsider with no real access to dagashi, I shouldn’t mind, but I want the best looking and most authentic Japanese junk food in my anime while also not wanting to order everything on Amazon and gorge myself. Must resist purchasing 200 case of Miyata’s Young Donuts. Also, the character designs vary quite wildly with Coconut’s eyes drawn as two simple dots most of the time, but Hotaru’s eyes are more complex and crazy. Maybe that is to further reinforce that Hotaru is a lot like Shimoneta‘s Anna, if instead of gorging on Okuma’s cock, it is gorging on dagashi. She goes cross-eyed and feral.
(Fashion Czar’s comment: Shidare Hotaru is the Haruhi Suzumiya of dagashi.
(Alternative: None! Actually nice to get a show about a weird Japanese cultural thing.)
(Hotaru wins the award for being most popular new character on pixiv.)
#1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
(Alternative: Miss out on the best show of the season. You’re at #1! Why do you need an alternative?)
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a show that hits the viewer immediately with its world, and it does not let the viewer leave. It is an interesting concept, set a few decades ago and centered around rakugo storytelling and redemption. Rakugo isn’t popular today. How do you tell an anime about it? Change all the characters to high school girls and have them do cute high school girl things in a slice of life setting? Or do you tell a story about real adult characters growing and living in the world of rakugo? Shouwa Genroku tells an actual story with interesting characters spanning two generations. It feels more like a well-produced drama series than an anime series. If it just was about storytelling and characters and development, Shouwa Genroku would have been a great show. But what really kicks it up another level is the animation production. Studio Deen (STUDIO DEEN!!!) throws the kitchen sink at this show. The characters, their faces, their movements– all seem natural. And they have to be if they are to be doing rakugo. It is not the exaggerated, comical, easier-to-animate movements of Joshiraku. The fantastic animation production is kind of crucial as there are long rakugo sets, and they have to be made entertaining. And they are. They are fantastic. When a person is supposed to do well, you can tell. When a person is supposed to bomb, you can tell too. When a person a nervous or cool or sleepy or drunk, you can tell all of that through the production instead of being told it. If listening to Gaen or Yotsugi boringly talk for twenty minutes one side of the spectrum, then listening to the four performers of Shouwa Genroku is the opposite side of the spectrum. More so, the show is a just a breath of fresh air. It shows that anime can be something other than male leads colliding into female leads or magic high schools or giant robots or high school clubs that make eroges or RPG fantasy worlds or time-rewinds to fix a tragedy. This show does something different and succeeds at it.
(I appreciate the little details too like the fly net they used for the leftovers, as I am certain my grandmother has the same one. Studio Deen has worked in outfit changes that are appropriate for the characters.)
(Sadly Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches had the story and characters but not the animation production.)