13,000 words, 28 anime, 1 high production value 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 ELEVEN 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 Concrete Revolutio, Terra Formers, or Kyoukai no Rinne.
A twist for this season: Parents! I’ll call it the “Parental Test” where episode one of an anime passes if it features two parents talking to the protagonist. A semi-fail would be one parent. Do you think this season has more shows that pass the parental test than number of magic high school anime?
Updates on thin slicing are always on my Twitter account. This thin slicing was posted 3 days after the last thin sliced show, Big Order, aired.
Quick recap from last season: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Erased, and Dagashi Kashi were fantastic. Haruchika had the single best moment of any anime with the coin wall. Between the coil wall grandfather and the Stardew Valley grandfather, I’m not sure which one is a bigger trollolololol.
Ten year recap: Spring 2006 featured The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. That was actually a killer season. I think now I would go Haruhi, Ouren, Black Lagoon, Underwater Ray Romano, and Planet of the Beast King for my top five of that season. Higurashi and School Rumble wouldn’t make the cut. That thin slicing was 3,300 words long and covered 17 shows.
UNRAKED. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable
You know if you are in or out of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure at this point. But Diamond Is Unbreakable is noteworthy for one thing: the ED is Savage Garden’s I Want You. How did they decide on using a 20 year old song? Are they going to use Truly Madly Deeply or The Animal Song for the next cours? What were the rights negotiations like? Is Viz going to license the song for US release? What did Darren Hayes first say when he found out? Why didn’t they put more effort into the ED when the song is so awesome? Why Savage Garden?
I have some suggestions for anime OP/ED themes from the mid 90s inspired by Total Request Live. They will be the additional twist for this season. There will be a lot of YouTube links. I promise, no rickroll, or else your money back.
(Mitigating factor: Seven dogs dead now. Come on, Jojo, we can show how bad ass a character is without them brutally killing a dog.)
UNRANKED. Space Patrol Luluco
Hiroyuki Imaishi seems to just do whatever the fuck he wants to these days. I don’t blame him. Gurren Lagann? Panty and Stocking? KILL la KILL? That’s his whole resume. Impressive. I like his high energy, kinetic, cartoonish, over-the-top, violent style… and it continues with Space Patrol Luluco. The art style seems to be a weird blend of Gurren Lagann, Ninja Slayer, and Little Witch Academia. I think I would have preferred this show more as a two-episode hour long OVA than as a five minute long mini-anime.
(Parental Test: Fails. No mom and poor Luluco basically kills her dad in the first episode.)
(90s TRL: Technically, the song is from the 90s but never sniffed TRL since TRL wasn’t until the end of the decade. Oh well. I’m going to dedicate this one to Luluco’s dad.)
UNRANKED. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt
I always wanted a Gundam series that had plenty of jazz influences. Though I’m not sure if I needed a second Gundam series featuring a man grafted into a mobile suit so soon.
(90s TRL: Again, I have to cheat for this one. It’s from the 90s. It’s not on TRL. But the song is perfect.)
#MR IRRELEVANT. Seisen Cerebus
Seisen Cerebus (Holy War Cerebus) is yet another anime to be spawned from a mobile card game. Seems like the only thing Japan loves more than abandoning kids and magic high schools is mobile card games. Pluses: this anime features a Voldemort-type dragon. There are a lot of clever orphans. There is a killer loli cat girl. You can scream things like “Trap card!” Minuses: Everything else. The show is dull, the characters are uninspired, the fantasy setting is worse than a 99 cent game on Steam, and the plot has about the same amount of depth as a hot dog. The main character is infuriating to watch, and he has both a comically large sword sheath with a tiny sword inside. I normally take notes of all the shows that I watch, but for this one, I only wrote down, “Why do all the characters have such douche-bag-looking eyes? There are some good anime from mobile games like Rage of Bahamut, but that’s more of the exception to the rule. Most of these mobile game adaptations seem like low effort and low budget cash-ins.
(Parental Test: First anime on this thin slicing to pass! I guess this show has that going for it. The main character causes the death of his mom and dad because he wouldn’t hold up a mirror properly. Honestly, if the parents had to pick between hundreds of veteran mages or their seven year old son to be a vital part of a sealing ceremony, they have to go with their kid, right?)
(90s TRL: Douche-bag song? Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping. Gosh, I hate this song.)
#27. Ace Attorney
If you want to see a media version of Ace Attorney, go watch Takashi Miike’s film adaptation. It is at least more visually interesting. This anime version by A-1 seems to be made by A-1’s summer interns as the animation seems to be more from the 80’s He-Man cartoon than any modern anime. The animation is atrocious. The character designs seem off. The first episode is the 5 minute tutorial trial stretched to a full 24 minute episode. The only saving grace about this show is that CR offers both sets of localized names, which is a nice gesture that has nothing to do with the actual anime. I am also quite puzzled why in 2016 are we getting a Naruhodo/Phoenix Wright anime. This show is entirely a low budget, low effort cash-in to try to get little kids (tip: if you see kana readings for kanji in the karaoke, it’s aimed at little kids) interested in the Ace Attorney franchise because I can’t think of any reason why anyone who has played the game would want to watch this as it follows the game almost exactly. Honestly, I think an Avian Attorney anime adaptation would be more interesting.
I really do not think this anime needed to be made. I really don’t. Let’s give it the Phantasy Star Online 2 Memorial “Wait, why are they making this again?” award. Good news is that Sentai Filmworks has not licensed Ace Attorney yet– it’ll probably be their big announcement for Fanime or AX.
(The OP is also a bit weird with Phoenix chained to Miles. I think if they went with the yaoi angle, they might do better with BD sales. But, alas, it is a kids series.)
(Parental Test: Fails. Zero parents.)
(90s TRL: Mandy Moore’s In My Pocket. I have no clue what the song is about, but I do know one thing: It didn’t need to be made. We already have plenty of Mandy Moore evidence, and there’s already Christina plus Britney ahead of her in the 90s pop food chain. The song is also so ever low calorie. The best thing about this video though is her Captain Janeway haircut.)
Based on a mobile phone game, Endride has 24 episodes already planned. What a world we live in. Do you like watching pretty boys extract weapons from their tummies as if they were Utena characters? Do you like a main character that doesn’t do anything except complain? And complain about things other than magic high schools? Do you like subpar animation? Do you like generic fantasy worlds? Did you ever wish you lived in a house that explodes and turns into a plane after exploding? You might like Endride. The show is just a snorefest with nothing distinguishing it.
The premise is that a guy really, really likes rocks. More so than Gunther in Stardew Valley. He goes to his father’s office (supposedly a secret facility but had no security) and finds a gem. That gem infused his tummy with a sword and sent him to a fantasy world. The fantasy world is actually the center of our earth. The earth is actually hollow with a giant crystal in the middle. The crystal reflects the sun’s rays from a hole in the North Pole to the people in the center of the world. THAT MAKES NO SENSE! Let’s start with the fact we have seismic data showing that the earth isn’t hollow. And if the earth were hollow, we’d be in deep shit as we need the core for things like heat and magnetic fields that shields us from harmful solar rays. Moreso, how the heck does sunlight go from the North Pole into this crystal? We’d notice a huge hole, let alone one that can allow sunlight in. Also, the North Pole is the least efficient place to collect sunlight. It also wouldn’t cause day/night cycles as the North Pole has super long days or nights but rarely has days with 50/50. I’m wiling to suspend disbelief that there’s a fantasy world that has belly weapons. But at least get the story right… if the hole letting in sunlight, then the world has to North Pole day/night cycles not Japanese day/night cycles. The easiest solution is just to place it on a different planet or dimension or something. The middle of the earth? Seriously? Did the writer even pass sixth grade science class? This is even bad writing for a mobile game.
Also, Endride has a story where they connect our world and their world by building a tower of Babel. But the tower goes straight to the middle of the earth. If they wanted to connect our worlds, they don’t need a tower but rather a deep hole. The show can’t even gets its own flawed physics right.
(Eyecatches are done in 4:3. There’s a laptop that is comically oversized. The weapons look like rejected designs from a kindergarten class project. It’s like Brain’s Base is spending the least amount of money to make this show.)
(Parental Test: Semi-fail. His mom talks to him, but his dad does not. Dad is alive though!)
(90s TRL: Freaks on a Leash by Korn. I hate this song too. But it was on TRL all the time. Sigh.)
Magic high school alert! Magic high school alert! Hundred is a magic high school series, complete with all the trappings of a magic high school. Loser male lead collides with a haremette and grabs either her boobs and/or butt? He stumbles across a half-nakkid haremette? He then finds out he is a bit special? But some prissy haremtte doesn’t agree so she challenges him to a duel? And either the duel is interrupted, or he wins via groping? An opening that features the characters jumping? That magic high school series? Yep. All of it. The big different from Asterisk S2 or Chivalry of a Failed Knight is that the lead haremette doesn’t have pink hair. The magic high school is also a boat. Yep, that’s the big twist. A lady without pink hair and a boat. It might be interesting, but the show hasn’t done anything interesting concerning the boat.
I’m sure you’re as bored reading about Hundred as I was watching it. Even if the magic high school genre is here to stay, at least do something interesting with it. Not every single story needs the same beats. I’m sure there’s a core group of fans who eat this shit up, and I just think we need an intervention for those people.
(Parental Test: No parents to be seen. Fails.)
(90s TRL: For the most generic magic high school show, let’s go with the poster child of 90s pop music. Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn. Hard to get more generic than that.)
#24. Age 12
I know I am not the target audience when the first episode of an anime prominently features a twelve year old girl experiencing her first period. Age 12 is literally about what troubles a 12 year old faces. I am not an expert, but why does she need to go to the store by herself to buy tampons? Wouldn’t her mom or dad go with her and support her? That is what is wrong with anime. I just can’t believe this type of “real” story without even mentioning parents. Little girls should have their mom and dad supporting them through their first period.
The main plot follows the girls as they discover love, as what better way to show a love story than with a bunch of twelve year olds? Honestly, I don’t know. They seem a lot more competent in love than every other anime this season, last season, and the year prior. The main couple has been honest about their feelings and to themselves in a way twenty and thirty year olds have trouble doing. They are twelve! The boys should be daring each other to eat hot peppers or something. They have progressed farther in relationship in one episode of Age 12 than pretty much all of Ore Monogatari. Also, the boys in this show seem too mature. They apologize for their mistakes? Wait, what? twelve year old boys do this? I feel like if this show is meant to get twelve year old girls ready for life, they should show just how bad twelve year old boys behave not this idealized nonsense.
Production is very uneven with the main cast drawn with typical detail but the background cast looking almost like stick figures. The boys are also significantly taller than the girls (looking like Shaq next to my grandma). At age 12, they should be around the same height. Also, the boys sound older– like the boys’ seiyuu have an audition to be the voices of Uncharted 4 after this show. Animation is fairly low budget.
(Fashion Czar’s review: “The theme of this episode: Boys are the worst. Accurate.”)
(Parental Test: Apparently, in a realistic anime about twelve year old girls, parents do not exist.)
(90’s TRL: Reflections by Christina Aguilera. 1998.)
#23. Super Lovers
Wikipedia’s description for Super Lovers is, “The story focuses on the relationship that develops between Haru and his adoptive younger brother Ren after their mother tasks him with ‘civilizing’ the antisocial Ren.” I see. The show is squarely in the boy’s love genre where an older man tries to impose his civil-ness on a younger boy, who isn’t originally “fit” for your society. The best way to describe Super Lovers is Twilight minus vampires plus more penises. The little boy, Ren, is somehow a Japanese boy abandoned in Canada. Okay. A random author decides to adopt the young boy because she was there volunteering at the orphanage and had brought her five huskies along. Okay, I guess. She adopts him primarily because the huskies picked him out and were nice and stuff to him. Okay… makes kinda sense? Maybe the dogs just wanted to eat him? So she brings him home, and lo and behold has issues because the kid is straight out of the Jungle Book. The dogs won’t even go near him for a month. Wait, what? I thought she brought him home because the dogs liked him. Well, let’s not let something as trivial as “plot” get in the way of our hot man action. So this lady gets a guy from Japan, Haru, to fly out to Canada to meet this boy and take him back to Japan with him. I’m not an expert on Canadian adoption laws, but all of this has been sketchy so far. The lady who summons Haru may or may not be his mom? It’s really confusing. All I know at the end is that Ren likes onigiri, sleeping with the huskies, and there’s a Pomeranian in the ED in a non-standard breed color.
Of course, Haru has other adopted brothers in Japan who depend on him. Thus, Haru has a man-harem of little adopted brothers. This show also features a mouth-to-mouth kiss between Haru and Ren in the first episode. They have progressed faster than Takeo and Yamato, Arararararagi and Hanekawa’s melonpan, and Belldandy and Keiichi, but still slower than Age 12. It’s almost like people who are fans of boy’s love want action whereas fans of harem anime want things to go as slow as fucking possible. It’s almost like self-insertability is a huge aspect of both audiences. Mmmm.
(Parental Test: Pass! Haru’s parents, I think, pick him up at the airport and the very end. I’m quite confused who his real parents are, but there are enough adults in this anime to give it a pass. No, please, don’t leave comments correcting me. I don’t really care. However, please do feel free to leave fanart of Stardew Valley haremettes. That will be appreciated.)
(90’s TRL: “We ain’t nothing but mammals / Let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel”. Bad Touch by The Bloodhound Gang.)
#22. Shounen Maid
I’m watching all the new shows for this season, and I wonder if anime is properly serving their fujioshi audience this season. Typically, there’s going to be at least one or two pretty boy shows or at least one reverse harem show, but I haven’t watched one yet this season. Then I watched Shounen Maid. Oh, I get it. We are in on a run of shouta anime. And a very specific type of shouta: young boy, older man. Great. Then again, this shit sells just because of how rare it is. Anime typically does not cater to a non-traditional male audience. I can picture Funimation and Sentai Filmworks in a bidding war over Shounen Maid (and Funimation won, btw). The gist of the show is apparent immediately: the main elementary school aged protagonist is at his mom’s funeral. His mom had a long bout with a disease, and she passes. Of course, she leaves no plan in place to take care of her kid. She leaves him a note that basically says, “Good luck kiddo, you’re gonna need it LOL 4Head PogChamp BibleThump.” What kind of mom lets her elementary school kid fend for himself? This is why we need to build strong parental characters in anime, and why the writers will pay in sweat to make it happen. The poor kid, Chihiro, is so pathetic that the landlords let him stay a bit longer before they need to evict his poor ass.
So Chihiro’s rich uncle picks him up, and he is a fashion designer living in his own filth, much like any fashion designer. I liked to picture this is how Michael Kors lives. The two then embark on a very uncomfortable relationship where he forces Chihiro to wear a maid outfit. The uncle’s secretary slash gay lover (you’re telling me that this character isn’t analogous to Simon in The Wedding Banquet… he most certainly is) even asks him point blank, “Wait, why is he wearing a maid outfit?” And the answer is, “Because I wanted to troll Chihiro.” Reading between the lines, I get, “Because we want our predominately traditional female audience and non-traditional male audience to enjoy some meido anime.” I actually have no issue with that aspect. I just have an issue with the fact that an elementary school boy is turned into an indentured servant. Chihiro was at the mansion for quite some time, and he hasn’t gone to school during that period. Shouldn’t authorities be involved? Aren’t there child labor laws in Japan?
The ED is also tremendously ridiculous. It feels like the male version of Shirobako‘s Exodus. I think that’s why in a battle between two shouta boy’s love anime, I give this one the edge. The other show has huskies and a pom, but this has more fabulousness.
(Fashion Czar’s Review: “Please don’t tell me this is a shouta– goddammit.”
(Parental Twist: Well, the mom’s funeral is the first scene of this show. Fails.)
(90’s TRL: Dave Matthew’s Band, Crash Into Me. “I come into you / In a boys dream“)
The moe girl after school club genre continues with Bakuon!!, which features high school girls riding motorcycles. The anime is about as generic as it can get. There’s a new student interested in riding motorcycles! There’s the unlucky girl! There’s the grizzled vet who may or may not be Celty from DRRR!!! There’s the rich ojou-sama! There’s the girl with back-breaking boobs! Most of the show focuses on the girls talking or riding motorcycles. I’m not into motorcycle culture, so a lot of the jokes are lost on me. I could honestly care less about the brand war between Honda and Suzuki. Does the show have actual rights to use name brands and likeness in their anime? Wouldn’t Ducati be pissed about their representation in a solidly below average anime? Why are these girls riding motorcycles before they can even drive? Who gives a high school girl an expensive motorcycle to begin with anyway?
Besides motorcycle jokes, there’s a lot of crass sex and prostitution jokes from the talking motorcycle. There’s also really weird references, like one to JFK. This show just feels like it is all over the place without a cohesive thread other than “Hey, these girls like motorcycles!” Animation from TMS is sub-par with too many shots of CG motorcycle action interspersed with drawn cuts. Pick one or another. Going back and forth just makes for bad viewing.
(Parental Twist: No parents. Throwaway line about how parents are in America. If anime is indicative of actual Japanese demographics, a solid 75% of living Japanese adults would be living in America. Fails.)
(90’s TRL: Let’s go with the theme song to a movie that had a terrible motorcycle chase sequence. Destiny’s Child presents Independent Women Pt. 1.)
#20. Anne Happy
A mom in anime! Except she looks like the main girl’s older sister than mom. Oh well, Anne Happy is about three girls with varying amounts of “luck,” and the show explores how their “luck” changes the outcome of certain situations. Yep, it’s a cutesy slice-of-life comedy anime (the Ichigo Mashimaro memorial cute girl award) about cute girls doing cute things with “luck” being twist. To me, it’s more that each girl is broken rather than having varying degrees of luck. One girl carries around a briefcase of drugs and pills– that has nothing do with luck. Another girl has a fetish for a cartoon construction worker. If anyone could use a strong role model in her life, it’s her. Their brokenness is good for a quick laugh or two, but I cannot imagine it carrying the show for an entire season. Space Patrol Luluco has deeper characters than this show.
The art style is kind of charming, and I like the black cat. But the show is a bit too dull and slow-paced for me with the girls not being broken enough to be enjoyable. I’m also not convinced that luck has that large consistency to it. Random numbers are random, yo. One interesting thing about Anne Happy is that it is a rare breed these days: both the OP and ED are sung by the seiyuu of the show. That used to be very commonplace, but nowadays, it is almost a commercial act performing both the OP and ED. Savage Garden: stealing jobs from Japanese workers.
Silver Link has a lot of anime this season. They’ve had decent shows, but they haven’t been a top tier studio. Seems like they are content in pumping out as much average and forgettable anime as they can right now.
(Parental Test: Semi-fail as there is a mom but no dad. Oh anime. No wonder so many haremettes are broken: lack of strong male role models.)
(90s TRL: “She’s so lucky, she’s a star / But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart“. Britney Spears, Lucky.)
#19. Tanaka-san Is Always Listless
Tanaka-kun is Always Listless is a very straightforward series. It is about a guy named Tanaka who is very listless. End of story. The anime seems to focus on how Tanaka’s laziness and sleepiness affects the people around him. He says things like “I don’t even want to be the main character in my own life” and “I work hard so I can slack worry-free” just in case you don’t understand how unmotivated he is. There are definitely funny moments, but I just wonder if there is enough content to keep up the gag for an entire season. I think the show might work better as a short anime rather than a full blown 24 minute per episode anime. Maybe all the boy’s love vibes will save the show. Tanaka might be the male version of the manic pixie dream girl.
The show is quite beautiful. The backgrounds are pretty, and the food is well drawn. However, there is a scene where they eat a hamburg steak between two slices of bread. That’s not hamburg steak anymore! That’s a full-blown hamburger! That’s like putting tomato sauce and cheese on baked dough and going, “That’s not pizza… that’s uh… saucy bread!”
(Fashion Czar’s Review: “I like parts of it, but the pacing is too in tune with the character.”)
(Parental Test: Nope. Fails.)
(90s TRL: Let’s go with a song that I don’t think ever made it onto TRL: Numb by U2. Not only is the video super low budget and effort– think Evangelion 25-26– it doesn’t even feature Bono as the singer but rather Edge. A case of where the main character isn’t the main character. Wait, is his name “Edge” or “The Edge”? I keep forgetting.)
#18. Macross Delta
I have nothing but fond memories of Macross. Do You Remember Love is one of my favorite adaptation movies, 7 is good dumb fun, Plus is just damn good, and Zero could be worse. Macross Frontier, though, did everything I wanted in a Macross series the Macross way (except for the naming as it should have been named Macross X Yosemite): love triangle, slug cell phone, great Macross-style firefights, excellent music (OBAMA MY STAR~), and a certain level of dumbness. Not too dumb but just enough dumbness. When I heard that Macross Delta would be a direct sequel to Macross Frontier taking place less than a decade after, I was excited. Then I watched the first episode. My one word review: UGH. My five word review: They forgot how to Macross.
Macross Delta starts with everything. You get it all. Zentradi? Yep. Valkyries galore? Yep. Innocent country girl? Yep. Big star girl? Yep. Clueless teenaged boy who can hop into a Valkyrie and fight well? Yep. Mysterious overpowered sinister organization? Yep. J-Pop concert that still can’t measure up to a K-pop concert of 2016? Yep. It starts with everything and does nothing well. Characters, events, and concepts do not have any time to breathe. The show tries to cram a 13 episode cours into a single episode. It does not work. Even the futuristic cell phones are disappointing: nails? Seriously? That’s the best you got to replace Ranka’s awesome slug phone?
The main character barely gets four lines of dialogue during the J-pop festival. Hayate Immelman (please Japan stop trying to come up with hybrid names… I can’t think of one Japanese mom/Western dad couple who named their kid something like Hayate McMahon or Haruhi Levesque) is fired from work, has to keep working (wut), and manages to pilot a downed Valkyrie. He then outdoes all other Valkyrie pilots by dancing. You know what people love? Step It Up 4! Let’s combine that with Macross!
The combat… if you think of how combat worked in Macross Frontier, Plus, or the original as playing something like Eve Valkyrie, then Delta would be the iOS version of Love Live. So there is a girl paired with each Valkyrie, and the Valkyrie tosses the girl out to sing while the Valkyrie does combat. But the girl can transform and turn into a magical girl and help fight? Music is a big part of Macross, but not even 7 had transforming magic girls who used magic on giant robots.
While the animation of Macross Delta is quite good, the writing is quite sub-par. I’m just wondering why they decided to toss Yasuhito Kikuchi for Log Horizon‘s Toshizo Nemoto. It’s not like anyone watched Log Horizon S2 and went, “Toshizo Nemoto can craft an epic.” Currently, Macross Delta is over a point lower in score than Macross Frontier on MAL, and very few shows increase in score over time.
(Parental Test: Fails. Zero parents.)
(90’s TRL: Spice Girls, Say You’ll Be There. Lens flares! So much lens flare!)
#17. And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online?
Project No. 9
Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta (You Thought Your Online Game Waifu Wasn’t A Girl?) is the worst title of this season. Not only is the title ridiculously long, the title Funimation is going to use for the English release isn’t even the same sentence as the original title. There’s a lack of waifu in the title. This show also wins the award for most appropriate use of “waifu”. The premise is quite simple: Netoge is yet another Sword Art Online wannabe. The protagonist is yet another typical loser male who spends too much time playing an MMORPG. He joins a party, and they adventure for half a year or so. One of his party members, a buxom avatar, wants to marry him. He is apprehensive at first because he thinks the player is another man, but he eventually gives in and marries the buxom avatar. His party then decides to hold an offline event where he discovers that his MMORPG waifu is indeed a girl. Not only that, she looks exactly like her game avatar plus named her game avatar after herself. That would be a remarkable twist except Sword Art Online already addressed the whole guys playing as female characters thing. The real twist is that every character in his party except for the male loser load is a girl. Even the male avatars. He is in a harem party. And, guess what? They all are as romantically interested in him as Mankrik is interested in finding his waifu.
The main four characters seems to cover the MMORPG stereotypes: the person who plays a lot and escapes into the fantasy world, the rich person who buys power (aka the premium user), the person who plays but denies playing in real life because they don’t want to seem uncool, and the noob who doesn’t understand what “o7” or “kappa” means. I think we have a huge overabundance of comedic, fanservice fantasy RPG anime, and this one doesn’t set itself apart in any meaningful way. Look! It’s another loser male lead trying not to touch the breasts of a girl literally throwing herself at him! Look! It’s another joke about the tank dying because his party isn’t support him! Look! It’s another joke meant to poke fun of MMORPGs! Fetch quests! Kill ten goblins! The jokes are so funny and original, they’re overqualified to be on an anime blog.
The bigger question I have is that are these anime even relevant in Japan anymore? Outside of Final Fantasy XIV and Phantasy Star Online 2, has Japan produced any significant MMORPGs? Let alone fantasy MMORPGs? Most MMORPGs like Black Desert Online and Tree of Saviour seem to originate from Korea these days. Instead, Japan is awash in mobile games like Puzzle and Dragons and Gran Blue. Is the only place where fantasy MMORPGs are thriving in Japan is in anime?
(Netoge also features the tree shadowing technology here and there.)
(Mitigating factor: One thing I did like about this way is that the main character has not only enough time to play his MMORPG, but he has time to watch every anime of a new season. Other characters ask him for new season anime recommendations. I have to give up playing Stardew Valley to blog. Maybe in the future there will be an anime about someone who is crazy enough to watch every first episode of every new anime and then rank them.)
(Fashion Czar’s Review: “This is like a Playboy ‘It Could Happen To You!’ story.”)
(Parental Test: Fails. You’d think they would work in a, “Please stop playing the game and go to sleep!” line from the mom. But nope. No parents at all.)
(90s TLR: Meredith Brook’s Bitch.)
Thinking about anime, Japan’s greatest threat isn’t giant samurai robots from outer space nor is it demons who eat kids nor a catastrophic earthquake nor even zombies with hearts encased in iron. Japan’s greatest threat is global warming. Too bad Hai-Furi (High School Fleet) misses an opportunity on that one as somehow an earthquake (?!?) manages to sink all of Japan’s coastal areas hundreds of feet below sea level resulting in Japan turning into a more nautical society. Global warming would make a lot more sense. In this new nautical society, little teenaged girls are conscripted into serving on-board military vessels. They literally enter high school, and in their first day, must take these multi-million dollar ships out to sea. By themselves. As they were leaving port, the Fashion Czar deadpanned, “She immediately crashes [the ship]. It is the Vasa.” I’m curious where a mostly sunk Japan finds the money and resources to build so many battleships. They had to import significant amounts of iron already pre-WWII to build that fleet. Also proving that Japan learned nothing from WW2, these military vessels are all destroyers and battleships with no aircraft carriers. Not even drones or helicopters. Good luck winning any war without air support.
Besides the ridiculous scenario, the Hai-Furi is typical military otaku x moe schoolgirl fare. The original work is even written by Reiko Yoshida, who was responsible for adapting both K-On! and Girls and Panzer. Somehow the girls are actually apt at manning a destroyer (and the captain is a first year student?), but you also get dialogue gems like, “The rice cooker isn’t working!” after an attack on the ship or “Now we know banana peels are very slippery!”. But there is something extra for Hai-Furi: the show hints at a shadowy conspiracy that wants to take down high school girls. But that presents an extra interesting dilemma… all of these powerful people have nothing better to do than conspire against a bunch of high school girls? It’s like the rich dude in Karate Kid 3 who could be enjoying his vast fortune but instead decides to use it to torment Daniel-san and Daniel-san’s bonzai tree.
The animation and ship CG was acceptable. I liked some of the small touches, like using jet skis to get around a mostly underwater Japan. Also, finally, we have school girls wearing sailor uniforms sailing. I’m glad this happened in my lifetime. There is a fat cat is named Isoroku and sounds like a 60 year old man. Still, I’m a bit confused why Production IMS decided to do two anime series this season featuring boat high schools with this show and Hundred.
(Parental Test: Fails. Why am I even bothering with this test? Is any show going to pass?)
(90s Song: So tempted to break out of 90s and use The Lonely Island, but I’ll stay strong. Let’s go with David Duchovny by Bree Sharp. Just sub out David Duchovny for Harekaze. “Harekaze, why don’t you love me?!?” Actually, this song is exactly how I picture military moe girl otaku yelling at their TVs whenever a military moe girl anime disappoints them. “Production IMS, why don’t you love me?!?”)
#15. My Hero Academia
Boku no Hero Academia is not a magic high school anime despite the fact it is about a high school for students who have magical powers. It is classified as a superhero anime because the characters dress up as superheroes and use their powers to fight crime rather than aliens, demons, or zombies. But, come on, Boku no Hero Academia is a magic high school anime. The trappings (except for melonpanriffic fanservice) are all there. There’s the seemingly weak and unpowerful loser with an actually powerful power. Everyone has a magical power. They are all in high school. They are all battling to save humanity.
I guess people want this show to succeed and bridge the comic book / manga gap, but this show did not impress me. I think my issue is that the comedic superhero genre is already dominated by the superior One Punch Man, and the humor doesn’t go subversive or clever enough. Instead, Boku no Hero Academia is structure like any other shounen high school anime with the only distinction that some superheroes are drawn in Western style. There’s a plucky, happy-go-lucky protagonist who wants to get stronger so he can sail to the Grand Line… err… save lives. The humor is made for little kids, and, really, it is a little kid’s superhero show without the adult intelligence or layer that something Adventure Time, Nichijou, Bible Black, or Batman: The Animated Series might have.
The show did get one good chuckle from me: Wait, you caused significant damage? You harmed people? But your worst crime is that you stopped traffic.
Bones is doing a good job with the series. The characters are all well-designed and expressive. I do like the mix of art styles. I just think the timing is a bit off… I would have waited another year to put a bit more of gap between Hero Academia and One Punch Man.
(Parental Test: Semi-fails. Izuku has a mom who gets quite a bit of screentime and mentions that Izuku has a dad, but we don’t see the dad. Also, her power is mild telekinesis and the dad’s power is to breathe fire… what could their genetic mix produce? Someone who can throw fire? I dunno. If I had the power to breathe fire, I’d try to marry someone who can breathe ice and then name our kid “Jakiro.”)
(90s TRL: Seal’s Kiss from a Rose. Since the art style of All Might and others draw from the 90s Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld type of design. I still find it funny that the best actors that we could get to play Batman were Val Kilmer and George Clooney at the time.)
#14. Sansha Sanyou
Sansha Sanyou is something that once was common but is sort of rare nowadays– it is an anime based off of a 4koma comic about cute girls doing cute things. The crux of the series are the three main girls, each one with her own trait. There’s the formerly rich girl from Atherton who now has to slum with the poor unwashed masses in Santa Clara. There’s the bottomless pit stomach girl, who enjoys eating unsliced white bread and plain rice onigiri (“Bread is kind of a snack!”). There’s the student council president who may or may not be the female version of Sakamoto. But, in the end, it is a show about cute girls doing cute things. If the show can get past the tropes that they put on the girls, maybe it can become a decent, watchable show. I can only tolerate so many “she used to be rich, and now she has trouble adjusting to non-rich life” before I get the urge to play Stardew Valley instead.
Doga put a lot of effort into some scenes, but, for the most part, the show is acceptable average for animation production this season. There are some scenes where Doga does the lighting through tree leaves effect much like Trigger and Kiznaiver, but they don’t do it consistently. This show also does something not a lot of anime do anymore: the first episode starts with the OP, and the OP is performed by the seiyuu of the show instead of some random j-pop cash-in.
(Parental Test: Fails. No parents, as usual. Poor purple-haired girl lives by herself, eats bread crusts, and her only luxury good is Kewpie mayonnaise. Obviously, when a family goes bankrupt, the best thing to do is send their daughter out to live on her own. That’ll surely cut down on expenses.)
(90s TRL: Thank You by Kevin Smith’s God.)
#13. Sailor Moon Crystal Infinity
2014’s Sailor Moon Crystal was pretty much a low budget cash-in. This newest installment? Actually not so low budget anymore: Toei put real animators instead of their summer interns on the show, and the animation is much improved. All the CG is gone too: the OP, the attacks, and transformation sequences are all now fully drawn. To highlight this fact, Crystal Infinity features a four minute long segment of all the Sailor Scouts doing their full transformation sequence one right after another. A bit overkill, but I appreciate the effort. In fact, Sailor Moon Crystal‘s serial Scout transformation sequence is– gasp– better than Macross Delta‘s serial Walkure transformation sequence. The show could still use better key framing to keep characters on model, but overall the appearance has improved. I guess TV Tokyo saw the original 2014 Niconico version and said, “Nope, we ain’t putting that shit on TV,” so Toei had no choice but to increase their budget for the series.
(Fashion Czar’s review: “At least Luna is more cat-shaped now. And why are they still using the spaceship? I don’t think they can fit that many people in Luna’s ship in the manga.”)
(Parental Test: Passes. Not only do we get to see both of Usagi’s parents, we get to see both of Chibiusa’s parents. We also get to see both of Diana’s parents too. Sailor Moon Crystal is the rare anime that has parents.)
(90s TRL: The anime with boom anime babes that make me think the wrong thing? Barenaked Ladies One Week. Funny that the song also references Keanu Reeves as a samurai and the X-Files with smoking man… they could have released the song last month, and it would have been somewhat culturally relevant. Wait, did Keanu even make a samurai movie in the 90s?)
(What does “boom anime babes that make me think the wrong thing” even mean? Serena is hardly a “boom anime babe,” especially compared to the cast of Seikon on Qwaser, Cross Ange, or Monster Musume. What is the wrong thing? Is thinking ecchi thoughts about the cast of High School of the Dead. Shounen Maid, or K-On! any better or worse than the plot to Usagi Drop, which is basically about a man patiently raising his daughter so he can marry her. Or is the wrong thing that “Man, I watched some anime, and it really inspired me to leave my wife and kids. Anime has taught me that being a deadbeat dad is a-okay.” I think what that line tells me the most is that Barenaked Ladies do not watch a lot of anime.)
#12. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re: Life in a Different World from Zero) started awfully, gained promise, and then squandered it all away. It is yet another story about a loser male lead who gets wisked away to a fantasy MMORPG-esque world. This time, the main character is standing outside of a convenience store when he gets fish-out-of-watered to a world full of furries. I groaned. I might have cursed Sword Art Online. We are getting yet another fish-out-of-water fantasy anime full of all the same tropes and jokes. But there is a slight twist: the main character, Natsuki, is powerless in the new world. He has to earn everything the hard way, and no one gives him any quarter. I liked that. Too many of these types of shows features a special protagonist who comes into a world and dominates it. It has been done in a serious way with Grimgar last season. Maybe Re:Zero would be a fanservice, comedic version of that.
But, nope. Fuck that. Not only does Natsuki have a special power, it is one that is so overused these days that it is absolutely boring: time loop. Much like Keiji in All You Need Is Kill, Natsuki can loop time whenever he dies. Sigh. Last season had the excellent Boku Dake ga Inai Machi with time loop powers. Before that? Steins;Gate, Haruhi Suzumiya‘s 15,532, Madoka, Clannad, and Charlotte. Just the last six months alone, we have had three protagonists with the ability to loop time. It’s just silly how much time loop has become so overused. I understand the attractiveness of time loop: it is a great device for bookending a story, it can derive maximum emotional impact by killing off major characters without actually killing them off, and it can create interesting narratives that a linear time stream might not be able to. But, man, it is an overused mechanic.
For Re:Zero, the time loop is both good and bad. I think it is bad because it places more emphasis on Natsuki, since we see his point of view constantly, and he is an annoying character that I just want to slap with a fresh red snapper. It is also good that we get to see Natsuki killed in very violent and gruesome ways. If you like grotesque murders, then this show is for you. Though I am hoping that Natsuki dies at least once or twice to syphilis.
(One thing that bugs me about this show is that the world is full of furries. You see a bunch of animal demi-humans. And guess what? Everyone that the main character hangs around with is a sexy human girl.)
(Parental Test: Fails. We don’t spend a lot of time in our world before Natsuki is spirited away. I’m also worried we might have more anime with time loops this season than the number that passes the parental test.)
(90’s TRL: Why Can’t We Be Friends? They were on TRL way too much. I understand N’Sync and Matchbox Twenty, but what the heck is the appeal of Smash Mouth? They weren’t even edgy in 1990. I wish they would get spirited away to a fantasy world without any powers… Westeros preferably. Oh man, 90s was a weird time for music.)
#11. Big Order
Sakae Esuno next manga after Future Diary is now an anime. Big Order hits a lot of the same notes as Future Diary, with Rin being a homeless man’s Yuno Gasai. She even has similar hair and design. The setup is that the protagonist, Eiji, destroyed the world ten years ago, causing the deaths of billions of people. But, fuck that, he doesn’t care. He only cares about the well-being of his sister since he’s a siscon on the level of Lelouch or Ararararagi. Apparently, a magical fairy visited him and gave him a wish, and he wished for the destruction of the world when he could have wished for something good for this sister (other than his penis). Not to understate or overstate, but there is some serious Lannister action here. His sister has a selfie of the two of them lying on her bed, and she has a picture of him sleeping. His sister is supposedly the impetus for why Eiji goes on a killing spree, but it feels a bit weak. I think the show could have benefited starting with a slice-of-life episode featuring happy times with his sister to build up a real reason for why the two are so lovey-dovey. I also don’t understand the fairy girl as she is only used as a plot device. That’s okay if your character’s name is Deus Ex Machina. And it’s okay if it is used once. But to have another story after Future Diary where it’s just basically, “Hey, uh, we need more deus ex machina on top of Deus Ex Machina” is just lazy writing.
This show also has the Seraph of the End issue where society has fallen and humans are in a never-ending war with vampires, yet ice is plentiful and high schools are exact replicas of normal Japanese high schools. Here, despite most of the world being ruined, high schools are the same, and kids are more into playing mobile phone games than studying.
Production is a bit bland with some bad backgrounds and poor character animation. The storytelling is a bit wonky. The first episode features Eiji not remembering what his power is, and the in the final minute of the episode, he not only remembers his power but he also gives it a swarky English name. “Binding Dominator– I choose you!” He power is basically a souped up version of Lelouch’s power. I guess it’s good that it’s not a magic eye but rather a magic eye on his hand? I think when Rin stabbed him initially, if he went back in time, the show would be more interesting as a time loop power. Time loop is a power that is rarely seen in anime, having definitely not been used last season or in a recent blockbuster Tom Cruise movie. Nope. Totally original powers. Okay, what if Eiji could turn into a tiger instead? Or he doesn’t feel emotions? Or maybe he attended a magic high school?
(Parental Test: Fails. It is heavily implied that he killed his parents via the destruction of the world. But it is also heavily implied that he did not destroy the world but instead an agency even more evil and sinister than Facebook destroyed it. This sinister agency resembles the S-class hero tier of One Punch Man.)
(90s TRL: Goo Goo Dolls, Iris.)
#10. Twin Star Exorcists
Sousei no Onmyouji (Twin Star Exorcists) is a typical shounen anime. There’s a plucky 14 year old male protagonist who has a dark past (to be revealed over the next 300 chapters of manga) who has immense potential power, there’s an organization built around magic fighting magical beasts, there’s a 14 year old female protagonist who the show tries really hard to show that she’s not weaker than the male protagonist, there’s the grandma who looks like Maz Kanata, and of course there’s three useless background characters who have Jedi haircuts. For a typical shounen action show, this one is okay. There’s nothing too offensively dull and boring except the 14 year old plucky male lead who is a bit grating… “Look! I have trauma from my past! No, I don’t want to talk about it! But I have trauma!” who reminds me a lot of Bailey on Party of Five: “Look! I have cancer! No, I don’t want to talk about it! But I have cancer!”. The action is okay for fighting dull monsters that can otherwise be from Noragami, BBB, or the Harry Potter universe.
The female lead fights really ineffectively. She needs to infuse herself with at least six different charms to buff herself to fight the monsters. It’s the classic Sailor Moon transformation issue: just knock her out when she’s transforming. Don’t just stare at her. Overall, I would rank this show lower except it has potential. I won’t spoil it here but if the show went that route instead of typical shounen fare, it would be worth watching.
(Parental Test: I’m almost positive Rokuro killed his own parents because they bought him a Turbografix 16 instead of an SNES. So, uh, fail.)
(90s TRL: I don’t want my song choice to give away the spoiler… or do I? Ghetto Superstar by Pras, Old Dirty Bastard, and Mya. “Some got hopes and dreams / We got ways and means / The ultimate dream team“)
#9. Kuma Miko
Kuma Miko seems to be a hit or miss comedy series featuring a bear and his bear priestess, Machi. The first segment which just made fun of Machi’s hickness wasn’t very funny. I give it a solid 2 out of Nichijou. The second segment which featured a story about bear/women bestiality told to elementary school kids is a bit funnier, but I developed an eye twitch watching it. I give that a good enough 14 out of Pani Poni Dash. The third segment is about the girl trying to navigate her way to Uniqlo to buy HEATTECH clothing. My gosh. How can anyone in this day and age not be able to buy HEATTECH from Uniqlo? I give that segment a Duck Dynasty out of Kamen no Maid Guy. I think the series works best when it is a buddy comedy with the priestess and the bear and when it goes believable (like the cousin’s drinking friend) rather than the absurd (wait the bear has power of attorney over the girl?). I could have used more scenes of the bear and little girl growing up. I also liked some of the drier jokes, like when the little boy asked, “What’s with the picture show? Use PowerPoint.” Replace PowerPoint with Pretzi, and you have something there kid.
Animation by Kinema Citrus is good with some really background work. I think they got the bear movements pretty realistic, but I am no bear expert. The facial expressions are very good too, especially when the little girl accuses all the men of sexual harassment. I think the pacing is on target too.
The ED is probably my visually favorite ED of the season with the isometric view.
(Parental Test: Fails. I guess technically the bear is her father figure? Kind of sad that this little girl gets abandoned by her family, despite having a cousin nearby, and her only companion is a bear. A little girl got sacrificed so we can get a mediocre comedy anime series.)
(90s TRL: The Animal Song by Savage Garden. As stated earlier, I actually like Savage Garden.)
#8. Bungou Stray Dogs
After the resounding successes of Captain Earth and Star Driver, Takuya Igarashi decides to adapt a manga with a story that hopefully he cannot screw up with Bungou Stray Dogs. The premise is typical shounen action fare with a group of detectives who hunt and solve mythical oddities. Sort of some weird cross between Blood Blockade Battlefront, Monogatari, X-Men, D.Gray Man, Bible Black, and Getbackers. My impression is that the show is above average for a shounen action series as it tries to incorporate some sense of mystery, and the characters are broken enough. However, I can only hear about how hungry poor Nakajima is or how much Dazai wants to Zetsubou Sensei himself so hopefully there is character development… which would be rare for the shounen action genre.
I also knew nothing bout Bungou Stray Dogs, and I watched it right after watching Super Lovers and Shounen Maid so I thought I somehow stumbled into three shouta anime in a row. Whew. Bones’ production values are quite good, and I enjoy all of the character expressions, even if some of they might be over-the-top. Bones also makes a curious decision to run the OP and ED sequentially at the end of the first episode. That doesn’t happen very often.
(Dazai’s power, where he can strip other people’s powers with a touch of their flesh, much like Rogue from X-Men is considered pretty strong in this world. Yet, somehow, Touma is still a level 0 in Academy City despite having the same basic ability. I don’t understand how anime works.)
(Parental Test: Nakajima’s opening scene is getting kicked out of an orphanage, so, yeah, fails. There has been more anime involving orphanages than having two parents. What does this say about typical anime watcher self-insertion fantasies?)
(90’s TRL: Oddities? Boys? Everybody. It’s time. It’s time to go back. Back in time. Back to a body rockin’ time. Back when Backstreet’s Back. It’s Everybody by Backstreet Boys. “Am I the only one / Am I sexual / Am I everything you need” I still have a hard time believing girls in the 90s thought these guys were the knee’s bees.)
#7. Flying Witch
Flying Witch is another rarity these days: a straight up slice-of-life series with mild whimsical elements. If you are a fan of simple, low calorie slice-of-life anime, I think you will like this show about a witch and the friends that she makes as she moves to a new town. It’s a rural-esque setting with a store much like Junes from Persona 4, a train that takes forever to get there, and lots of panoramic backgrounds of Mount Fuji. While the show does feature a titular witch attending high school, it isn’t a magic high school show. In fact, the show reveals that Makoto in a very matter-of-factly almost plain way.
JC Staff does a great job with the music, which sounds like it got lifted from Stardew Valley, and their postcard-ish backgrounds. The show is pretty, and I like how sensibly dressed most of the cast is (like it could be from a Muji or Uniqlo catalog). They put layering to good effect, which is not something most shows do outside of Kyoto Animation.
(Best random scene this season? When Kei politely declines to hang out with his hot childhood friend and his hot second cousin. Normally, anime wouldn’t let this opportunity slide, but the man had better things to do. A few minutes later, we find out what his better thing to do is. He is bro-ing out at a karaoke club with, “We’re in high school!” drawn on his stomach. Fantastic. I appreciate humor like this.)
(Best new character this season? Mandrake-kun.)
(Best random food advice this season? “Curry tastes better the next day.” I’ve been saying this for ages. Japanese curry is so good. I could go for some now…)
(Parental Test: Fails. Mentions mom and dad but doesn’t speak to either.)
#6. Mayoiga: The Lost Village
I really enjoy Mari Okada’s The Lost Village. She is a prolific writer with a certain style and has taken over Gen Urobuchi’s role in the anime writing zeitgeist. But… it is Mari Okada. As someone who dabbles in writing, I know you only get so many bullets in the chamber. How many ideas does she have left? Can she continue writing at the pace she has been?
Mari Okada is the ultimate mercenary. Since 2012, this is her resume: Black Rock Shooter for Ordet, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine for Telecom, Blast of Tempest for Bones, Nagi no Asukara for PA Works, WIXOSS for JC Staff, M3 for Satelite, Koufuku Graffiti for Shaft, Anthem of the Heart for A-1, Iron Blooded Orphans for Sunrise, Kiznaiver for Trigger, and Mayoiga for Diomedea. That’s pretty much every major studio except for Kyoto, WIT, and Production IG. She is very hit or miss lately with most of those series being forgettable except for when she does her coming of age groups of youth stories where she can tell her own story (versus something with real constraints like Iron Blooded Orphans). She excels in those, much like in Anthem of the Heart, Anohana, and Hanasaku Iroha. I get the felling The Lost Village is in that group. There’s a group of troubled youths on a bus (literally 4chan on a bus) who refer to each other via nicknames. They all want to start over. And they all end on a trip that probably makes them realize, “Hey, my old life wasn’t that bad after all!”
The writing seems to be self-aware too, with the some of the ill-fated cast mentioning, “This is a self-conscious tour for sickos” and “I hope we don’t end up cannibalizing each other.” I enjoy those lines almost as much as the girl barfing on the really out-of-place bus driver and the 24hr french fry vending machine. I need a 24hr french fry vending machine at my office.
Production values from Diomedea are strong with characters looking lively (which is impressive considering the huge DRRR-ish cast) and great atmospheric backgrounds and music. This show is a strong statement by Diomedea showing that they can do a more serious and dark show than what they have done before (Campione!, Kantai Collection, and Sky Wizards Academy). The only complaint I have is that for a ridiculous long bus ride, the bus passed zero cars. I know they want to keep a mysterious air around the proceedings, but come on it is 2016. What hasn’t Google mapped at this point? Show some other cars around at the very least.
(Mitigating factor: I actually think The Lost Village had the best first episode of all the series, if it turned out that they were trapped on the bus forever. That would have been fantastic.)
(Parental Test: Fails. Badly. Very badly.)
(90s TRL: Easy. One Headlight by The Wallflowers. “Come on try a little / Nothing lives forever/ There’s gotta be something better“. I’m also contractually obligated to link to the MTV Music Awards where Jakob and Bruce Springsteen were performing this song when Bruce shows him up at the end. It’s like watching Kira and Athrun take over Gundam Seed Destiny from Shinn.)
I made fun of Haruchika last season because (a) it seemed like it tried to imitate Kyoto’s works (b) had a coin wall (c) featured awful animation of brass instruments being played. It’s like PA Works had their C team on that project so their A team can work on what PA Works is good at: mecha action anime. Wait, what? Tensai Okamura, director of Darker Than Black (and Darker Than Black Gemini, sigh), Vividred, and Blue Exorist, teams up with the writer for Another, Ryou Higaki, and PA Works to make a fairly straightforward samurai mecha anime. There’s robot aliens, there’s an ancient samurai warrior, a robot discovered deep underground, there’s the UN developing weapons of war, and there’s a guy who cannot stop shouting about ejaculating inside anuses. Kuromukuro is a fairly standard anime. Except… well… all that Netflix money. Production values? Oh my Oharuhi-sama, there are production values. Everything is wonderfully animated, and there are even inconsequential movements animated. Like for instance, a character is walking down a hallway chatting with another character. Her hand would sometimes just move around, and not in a looped fashion. There are a lot of scenes with many characters moving at the same time, a lot of subtly expressive faces (rather than easier to draw exaggerated ones), visceral battle movement, and fluid CG. My only knock is that the tiny enemy mecha could use more differentiation, but, alas, PA Works spent money on this show.
I even like small touches like how the protagonist drinks coffee with cream but the bad-ass mom drinks it black (like her heart). I like how when one guy sees giant robots fighting in front of him, his first instinct is to Periscope the incident. I don’t like how they try to cram too much action in the initial episodes with vain attempts to squeeze expositions during battle downtime. Also the way the bad guy mecha flees reminds me too much of Star Driver. I hope the series can go in interesting direction (besides a modern Vandread) and not devolve into a trainwreck of tropes. I would at least hope Netflix read the completed script before forking over the big bucks to secure full worldwide streaming rights.
(Parental Test: Passes! Woohoo! Technically, the dad spoke to the protagonist in the first episode, even if it were via flashback.)
(90s TRL: When I think of high production values but generic plot, I think of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. I hope Kuromukuro paves the way for a Titanic 2 where Leo gets unfrozen in the year 3050, and he boards the Titanic spaceship on a voyage to Jupiter.)
#4. Sakamoto Desu Ga?
I am just as shocked as you are that Kyoto Animation would make a spin-off to Nichijou, considering Nichijou was one of their worst selling anime. I am just happy we are getting an anime about Sakamoto’s adventures where he goes into various novels much like PBS’ Wishbone. His first adventure whisks him away to the world of Dune, where he teams with Paul Atreides to take down the sinister Emperor. I’m not really sure how I feel about Sakamoto playing a pivotal role in Paul’s rise as Muad’dib, but it’s done in such a cute, Kyoto-esque style that made the killing of so many Fremen and Sardaukar seem charming and whimsical. And believable. Now I want a Sakamoto unit in Dune 2: Battle for Arrakis.
Production values are up to Kyoto’s standards. I can’t wait for the second episode where Sakamoto visits Westeros and claims the Iron Throne for himself.
(Parental Test: Fails.)
(90s TRL: I don’t know. Has this song been on TRL? Oasis, “D’You Know What I Mean?” Because only Sakamoto knows what you mean. He knows. Even if you don’t. Yeah, yeah, yeah.)
(Mitigating factor: I mean, seriously, you believed me?)
#4. Sakamoto Desu Ga?
Haven’t You Heard? I’m Motherfucking Sakamoto As In I Stylishly Fucked Your Mom is a comedic anime this season from Studio Deen. It is in the same vein in the Just Win Baby genre as No Game No Life where the protagonist just keeps winning and winning and winning, which is the exact opposite of Nichijou‘s Sakamoto and also Erased episodes one through eleven. Personally, the Just Win Baby genre is still enjoyable because there’s not a lot of shows in that genre. Just like how One Punch Man manufactures drama by how Saitama is going to punch, Sakamoto Desu Ga? manufactures drama but just how he is going to win. (To be clear, One Punch Man isn’t a Just Win Baby show because poor Saitama never gets any respect. If the main character were Genos, okay.) I do like how Sakamoto’s rivals all realize, “Hey, our attempts to embarrass or harm him only backfire and make him look even cooler.” The show itself is self-aware of how ridiculously overpowered Sakamoto is. I kind of like that. It’s not often in anime where the anime itself is in on the joke. Again, I don’t want this for every anime I watch, but occasionally, it’s good enough to tie me over to No Game No Life S2… which is happening, right guys? Right? RIGHT?!?
Studio Deen is not known as an animation powerhouse, but they do enough to help this show along. There is some nice sultry saxophone BGM. Sakamoto is always drawn superbly, as if the hand of Miyazaki blessed his appearance. They somehow got Horie Yui to be on this show, presumably with stacks of cold, hard cash. They don’t over-embellish, which I can see as a temptation, instead letting subtle moments play out the way they should. The speechless scene where Sakamoto rescues a bird reminded me a lot of Nichijou, and I can’t really think of a comedy series outside of Nichijou that would incorporate so many speechless jokes. Hopefully, Deen will incorporate more of these moments into Sakamoto. Studio Deen, when they aren’t doing bad reverse harem adaptions, seem to be hitting their stride… Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu was amazing last season, and Sakamoto seems like a completely different pivot.
The show is directed by Shinji Takamatsu, who has interesting credentials. Gundam Wing? Gundam X? School Rumble? Daily Lives of High School Boys? That is some resume. Also interesting to see him slowly transition from mecha to comedy over the years. People change.
This show also does something I like. It used its own title in the first five minutes of the anime. More anime should just random shout their names. “Mika! We are going to that place! That place where we belong! Because we’re iron blooded orphans!”
(Mitigating factor: This show begs the question, “If you are stylin’ in the forest and no one sees it, are you truly stylin’?”)
(Parental Twist: Fails. To be fair, Sakamoto might have impregnated himself and given birth to himself.)
(90s TRL: Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas.)
Trigger has been focusing a lot of their own original works. Only Inou Battle has been an adaption. Kiznaiver is written by the mercenary writer, Mari Okada, and directed by first time director Hiroshi Kobayashi. I have no idea what the fuck is going on except it seems to be in Mari Okada’s wheelhouse of young people trying to overcome and obstacle and evolve into fully functional human beings. The show seems like a mash of Paranoia Agent (the Gomorins especially), a David Fincher movie, Mekaku City Actors, and Higurashi (crazy Sonozaki?!?). The plot, hopefully, is slowly building up to something, and I am interested to see where the story goes. Unlike many other shows this season, this one hasn’t shot its bullets in the first one or two episodes.
The reason I bring up Fincher is that his movies have a certain psychological edge and style to them, and Kiznaiver has those elements. But in a not-so-subtle similarity is to one of my favorite Fincher movie is The Game. Major spoilers for the rest of this paragraph! In that movie, Michael Douglas’ character is hounded by CRS until he reveals his true self and his true fears. At the very end of the movie, once he realized what his real fear and deepest secret was– that he didn’t not want to turn into his dad, realize he had no emotional bonds left, and then commit suicide by jumping off a building– he does just that. He jumps off a building. But he ends up landing on a giant inflatable air mattress in the middle of his birthday party– all arranged by CRS. It’s a fantastic movie, and it even holds up today. I bring it up because it almost seems like Mari Okada watched that movie and decided to condense it into a single anime episode. Giant inflatable air mattresses have shown up too often in anime lately to save falling characters, and I’m not referring to Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, which needed an air mattress.
There’s some funny moments like how the Teacher is addicted to an iOS f2p dating sim, the self-aware trope stereotypes, and the dog chase. But mostly the show leans towards the serious side.
Animation and production is extremely good from Trigger. It has that Trigger style that was missing in Inou Battle, and, fortunately, all that Ninja Slayer style went over to Space Patrol instead. This show also has a lot of the tree shadowing effect that seems really popular lately.
(When Sonozaki is teasing all the Kiznaivers about how she knows their deepest darkest secrets, come on, it ain’t hard. She just read their Facebook profiles.)
(Asian Kung-Fun Generation for Erased, Glay for Kuromukuro, Boom Boom Satelites for this show… it’s like a renaissance of old 90s/00s bands. We just need L’Arc-en-Ciel and SMAP worked in somehow.)
(Random Trivia: David Fincher is 53 years old. Kazuki Nakashima, who wrote both Gurren Lagann and KILL la KILL, is 57 years old. Did you ever think that the writer of KILL la KILL is older than David Fincher? Now you know.)
(Parental Test: Fails… he at least mentions his parents.)
(90s TRL: “I feel the pain with or without you“… *NSYNC debuts on thin slicing with Tearin’ Up My Heart. Yes, I’m having a lot of fun watching old videos. No, I don’t feel any regret time that I spent in the 1990s watching TRL.)
#2. Joker Game
I think my readers can tell that as I age, I start to value anime that doesn’t beat to expected norms. I’ve seen more than enough magic high schools. I’ve seen hundreds of teenagers strap themselves into giant mechs. I’ve lost count of how many loser male leads collided with a haremette and groped either her boob or her butt. These days, I like to see new things, like parents who didn’t abandoned their kids, a time period that isn’t as popular, or anime featuring crisp, intelligent writing. Rakugo last season was an example: extremely niche topic generally ignored by anime with great writing. This season, I’m happily surprised by Joker Game. How many anime take on the serious topic of pre-WW2 Japan? And provides both the pro-Imperialistic and the pragmatic side of the country before the war? Joker Game is a smart series that takes on a world that anime hardly ventures. It aims for drama and snarkiness in an espionage anime set around WW2. I also like how the show references tautology, which is basically how I describe Twitch chat, Reddit, 4chan, and magic high school anime.
Production IG’s animation is top notch, with a lot of care put into the animation of facial expressions and into the backgrounds. I probably could have done without the stereotypically bad accent of the American, but I’ll let that slide. The poor army guy who has to play the straight man to the spies could also use some work… he goes “Nandattyo?!” so much I think he was Naruto at some point. I think if they subbed in Sagara Sousuke for him, the show wouldn’t miss a beat. There’s twelve episodes planned plus a 2 episode OVA later this year.
One thing to note of Joker Game is that all of the characters that spoke in the first episode were all men. I cannot think of another anime where the entire first episode featured over ten characters and did not have a woman speaking. Needless to say, poor Yuki Bechdel is spinning in her grave.
(Shirow Miwa is the original character designer for Joker Game. He is a member of supercell, and he only has one other character design credit to his name thus far: Kiznaiver. What are the random odds the only two anime he has character designed for back-to-back in thin slicing?)
(Parental Test: Fails. They are spies! They have no need for parents.)
(90s TRL: To be a spy, according to Joker Game, a man has to be good with ladies, drive fast cars, speak multiple languages, and be really smart. Obviously, the female version of that is Agent M in Honey.)
#1. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
WIT continues their apocalyptic vision of humanity in walled cities with Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. They spared no expense. They wanted to hit a home run. Tetsurou Araki returns the director chair for the first time since Attack on Titan, legendary artist Haruhiko Mikimoto (Macross) for characters designs, and Ichirou Okouchi (Code Geass, Code Geass R2) for story. And I think they hit a home run. Everything in the show is exactly what I want in a Snowpiercer meets Attack on Titan meets High School of the Dead scenario. It is loud, dumb, thrilling, explosive, and exciting. The humans in their walled cities are as much to blame for their demise as the monsters outside of the city. It is glorious train wreck of humanity.
There are a lot of great moments, like how the main protagonist is an engineer who engineers. The suicide bags, which should have been in the bus for The Lost Village as well as in every Graze in Iron Blooded Orphans. The very impressive Tori gate location. The trains– oh the motherfucking zombie trains. The killer loli who is obviously the Misaka of the show. The main character’s bro who believes in him and refused to leave him behind. There is a lot to like. I just kind of wish that we get a walled city apocalypse show where humanity isn’t dumb. In the first episode, they show a series of checks before letting the first train into the city. A lot of discussion occurred before raising the drawbridge. The second train? They don’t do any verification. If they only required that trains stop, and they look with binoculars to see if there are zombies on top of the train as a first visual inspection, the station could have been saved. Nope. We need the two least competent people to man the drawbridge and let a zombie train into the town, thus dooming it. Humanity should also invest more in actual guns than the steampunk guns. If they have gunpowder in this world, why the heck don’t they have actual rifles yet? Also I’m not sure about a horrendous zombie virus that encased your heart in an iron coffin that somehow can be fought back if you choked yourself. This show can either be fantastic or a literal Code Geass train wreck. I’m ready for either.
The production values are top notch. WIT made Kabaneri look like a big budget anime movie with a style ripped from the 1990s. The characters move fluidly, the backgrounds are impressively detailed, and there is plenty of movement with multiple characters in many scenes. The fight scene at the beginning of the second episode looked very impressive. They took all of that Attack on Titan money, know how, and guts and invested it into this show… if Attack on Titan is Braid, then Kabaneri is The Witness. If there is one thing this season is showing, it is that studios have caught up to Kyoto Animation. Between Netflix’s investment in Kuromukuro and Amazon’s investment in this show, it also shows that Western money is becoming a much bigger deal in the industry. With the arms race between all the Western streaming services, it will only be a matter of time other players like Hulu and HBO will want their own anime. It is an exciting time again to be an anime fan. Let’s all get on the train and ride it.
(Parental Test: Hahahahaha. Fails. At least the mom wasn’t eaten in the first episode. Final tally? Only four anime out of twenty-eight thin sliced passed the parental test.)
(90s TRL: Cmon Ride the Train by Quad City DJs. Choo-choo motherfuckers, Iron Fortress hype train is coming through.)