Another week, another 22 minutes lost forever to this black void known as Universe. It just keeps getting worse.
Suffer with me.
Another week, another 22 minutes lost forever to this black void known as Universe. It just keeps getting worse.
Suffer with me.
As previously stated, I’ll be posting my weekly reviews of this show here in order to artificially bloat content production and to shill my reviews. What?
Anyway, this show is not very good at all, in fact, it’s pretty terrible. Watch me lose my mind here (and subsequently every week): Ep4 Review
Thanks once again to all those reading and I hope you continue to enjoy the content.
I have been gone for a bit, but I’m still (technically) keeping up with my “once a month” policy I established at the beginning of the year.
The thing is, I’ve become kind of, sort of, an actual anime writer now? So what I’ll be doing is, if I don’t have anything planned or prepared to post on this blog by itself, I’ll simply be linking to my articles and reviews on the other sites I now write for. This is also a way to shill my reviews. I have no shame.
I will be writing stuff exclusively for this blog in the future, but being as busy as I am now with all this stuff, it won’t be as frequent.
Currently, I’m working on a Simulcast Review of Cutie Honey Universe, so here are the three parts that are already out. I’ll be posting more every week when they do come out.
Thanks again for sticking by (those few of you who are) and I hope you enjoy this fresh batch of content.
Happy New Year! We finally made it! My first year watching anime and I think I’m ready to group up and unpack my favorites of the year. As someone who watches seasonal anime so adamantly as myself, this year has brought a lot of fresh, fascinating surprises, as well as some truly mind-bending moments. With over 50 shows watched (that’s finished, not counting the 50+ shows I dropped), I have gathered my picks for Top 10, and here they are:
10. Little Witch Academia
Studio Trigger have gained somewhat of a blip on their otherwise spotless repertoire of shows, never quite rising to the breadth, impact and raw power that 2014’s Kill la Kill garnered. With 2015 bringing us the fantastic, but otherwise short burst Space Patrol Luluco, and also the highly controversial and breathtakingly animated Kiznaiver, Trigger have taken back the reigns of their creativity this year and delivered on a full, 25 episode, long-promised series with years of buildup to capitalize on. Their 2013 and 2015 LWA projects pulled in lots of attention to the studio, and they took the gamble and created one of 2017’s most visually striking shows, taking the talent of lots of young animators, the look of an early-90s OVA and the lightheartedness and sincereness of a family friendly, Saturday Morning Cartoon show. While the movie and OVA that inspired the series hold up quite well, feeling tighter paced, the show definitely doesn’t wane in quality, featuring a friendly, early Harry Potter-esque tone and with unyielding charisma and vivid character movement. Even if there are some moments of meandering politics and confusing narrative decisions, expect episodes consisting of blood-pumping buildup, heartwarming friendship, inventive situations and unmitigated catharsis. If Trigger strike gold on something, it’s definitely that last bit.
Final Score: 7.5/10
9. Girls’ Last Tour (Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryouko)
Continuing with the curious trend of “potato-faced” girls in recent anime, Girls’ Last Tour strikes a pretty damn solid balance between contemplative, bleak, and relaxing. Studio White Fox can definitely craft sturdy-looking shows, from the detailed and chaotic piping and jagged architecture of the post-apocalyptic world, to the blob-y and bouncy hijinks of Fall’s SoL sweethearts, Yuu and Chi-chan. Episodes are pretty calm and tip-toed, but there’s a constant tingle in the back of the spine, cautious as to what survival-related problem these cute girls could run into at any moment. The musical score is eerie and very broad, borrowing from drone music to electronic and even orchestral. Lots of the dialogue also subtly deconstructs modern lifestyles and priorities, commenting on the fleeting importance of property, religion, animal ethics and more. An informed, calculated show that doesn’t show its colors casually. There’s no Made in Abyss-esque horror, though, so viewers don’t need a pillow in the vicinity to shield against possible cute girl gore.
Final Score: 7.8/10
What’s this? You don’t remember this hidden gem? You probably dropped it one episode in, you sucker. But I stayed the whole way. And it’s fantastic.
With rough, Masaaki Yuasa-esque background art, a blindingly sweet pastel art palette, off-kilter and difficult dialogue, and rattling themes of artistic expression and integrity, URAHARA is Amika Kubo’s directorial debut, one filled to the brim with creative ideas, clever symbolism and tons of style experimentation. It’s definitely not for everyone, as the character artwork (barring the awesome designs) is rather flabby, and the pacing can be very strenuous, but the moments of thematic realization that come with this show are very satisfying and blend masterfully with the setting and aesthetic. The way it integrates elements of fantasy and sci-fi into its contemporary setting is very interesting and done with care, as it flawlessly matches the events happening with the overarching theme of artistic purity. It even bends and melts its own tone to enhance certain emotional scenes. During the midpoint it manages to twist its tone so drastically as to be disturbing, all while retaining its bubbly and colorful look. It truly has vision and can display it confidently on screen. It’s one of those shows where every scene has purpose, and where the themes permeate the show and infect every single aspect of it. When a show can pull something like that off, you know its doing something right. If I had a complaint, it would be that sometimes it very blatantly states it’s themes and that the animation is not quite up to the quality standards of say, a Madhouse or even like Lerche or White Fox; the character can look very wonky at times as pans/tilts and shortcuts are often used, but coming from a newbie staff with a totally fresh director, this project is still very impressive. I’m highly excited to see what comes from these guys in the future.
Final Score: 8/10
7. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Descending Stories
2016’s paced and old-school Rakugo Shinjuu caused quite a bit of a stir in the anime community when it came out. A slow, patient drama about rakugo, love, death, and the people around it, it managed to tell a compelling and gripping tale of admiration, purpose, and regret. With Descending Stories, Studio Deen continues the stories of the characters we met in the first and subsequently last episode of the first season, the new, younger rakugo performers, but with much more scope. It covers possibly entire decades, and it extends its reach to the next generation. It’s a story that travels throughout the breadth of the 20th century, yet feels constantly private and familial. With dreamlike, striking sequences and some intense philosophical deconstruction, Descending Stories feels heavier, deadlier and bleaker than its predecessor, dancing with the blackness of the void like never before.
Final Score: 8/10
6. Tsuki ga Kirei (as the moon, so beautiful)
Our first surprise on the list, Tsuki ga Kirei suddenly landed one day on the Spring charts and made almost no splash. In a season dominated by fat, action-heavy shounen giants like Attack on Titan and Boku no Hero Academia, how could a quaint, original show about middle school romance by a tiny studio (Studio feel.) ever rise up the ranks and become something? It did so by displaying genuine effort and painful relatability. It painted a picture of young, nervous, uncontrollable love perfectly, bringing back memories even for people like me, who remember doing the things these character did a mere three years ago. The amateurish but detailed character animation and subtle expressions added to the hyperrealistic feel of the setting and story, and the non-melodramatic tone it adopts turns what could’ve been a painfully bloated tear-jerker into a trip filled with nostalgic and whimsical bliss. If you’re a sucker for anime romance, this 12 episode trip is like hot cocoa in a Winter morning.
Final Score: 8.1/10
5. Princess Principal
Studio 3Hz already made one hell of an impression with 2016’s arthouse journey Flip Flappers, a show dripping with visual style and torrential creativity. So when the first episode of Princess Principal dropped in Summer, it already promised a slightly different experience than with everything else on the charts. Classy, sleek designs on the backdrop of a steampunk-ed London. Mystery and action expected. Writer Ichiro Okouchi (of Code Geass, Valvrave and Planetes fame) was helming the script. The interest was rising, to say the least. And I’m happy to report that it is one of the years best crafted action experiences. Taking influence from lots of badass spy thrillers, mixed with a cast of beautiful, diverse girls, spine-tingling costume and world design, episodic plots filled with intrigue, punchy and engaging actions scenes, and a cool tone that rivals that of Lupin III. If you’re looking for pure hardcore fun, this is the show to check out.
Final Score: 8.2/10
4. Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon)
This year didn’t see many ambitious, grandiose shows by any of the big, recognizable studios. Madhouse, Sunrise, Production I.G., none of them truly packing the big guns and delivering us a beefy, complete show (unless for some reason you count the lame, unimpressive and rather sexist Welcome to the Ballroom). Kyoto Animation is one of those studios, but this year it struck it big with a show that was very subtle about its greatness. Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon sounds like a cheap, fanservice driven romp through and through, but manages to both be that style of gut-busting comedy, and also pull out some moments of legitimate sentimentality and development. Kobayashi and Tooru’s quirky, skewed relationship, the parallels between dragon culture and our own, and some truly heart-wrenching loneliness and introspection litter this poppy, bright and colorful meme-fest. It’s definitely a little racy, but do not skimp on this excellently animated, slice of life encounter.
Final Score: 8.3/10
3. Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous)
Yeah, it’s actually that good. No exaggeration, no hyperbole, no bullshit. Studio Orange‘s fully 3D delve into existentialism, body horror and pathos is quite possibly this years most successful experiment in anime. Completely stealing the hearts off its fans and causing a total ruckus in the sphere, this smartly framed and beautifully written character drama defied all odds and will probably be remembered well into the future. With tons of unique personalities, a main character that feels real and human (despite being a gem), and a soaring, breathtaking musical score. There’s already a fully fledged fanbase around it. It has this timeless, contemplative nature that balances between lighthearted and terrifying with ease, not to mention its twisting, agile action scenes. The 3D techniques have turned lots of people over from 3D skeptics to apologists, as the show uses the advantages of the style and look of anime to make the 3D look striking and bold instead of wobbly and cheap. Congrats on that. But fuck you for teasing me like that at the end of the season. Can’t wait for the second one.
Final Score: 8.4/10
2. Mahoujin Guru Guru (Magical Circle Guru Guru)
The experience of watching Mahoujin Guru Guru is akin to that of boxing. The throttling, non-stop barrage of gut-busters and jaw-droppers is already too much to handle, but when the occasional inspiring, genuinely emotional moment comes in, only to be interrupted by another stupidly punchy joke timed perfectly, has got to be one of the most entertaining rides of the entire year. Genius, frantic comedy that strikes gold every single time, with constant dips into absurdism, parody, and subversion. Adorable and memorable aesthetic, godly OPs and EDs, and an unbreakable vibe of fun and adventure. Almost flawless, only rarely bent by taste-based disagreements. Reminded me a lot of watching Cardcaptor Sakura for the first time, so if you like that show, this is a total winner.
Kukuri LOTY 2017.
Final Score: 9.4/10
1. Sangatsu no Lion (March comes in like a Lion)
Man, this show is in my Top 10 favorites list. Of all time.
This first half of the first season aired in 2016, but the entire second half as well as the first half of the second season all aired in 2017, so I’m counting it here.
When its not causing my eyes to water from pure pleasantness, its crushing my soul with black sadness. It’s able to balance between tragic and endearing so perfectly that it feels like real life, that I’m watching real, fully fledged people and not cartoons on my screen. The way its stories happen around each other, how the structure is organic and free-flowing, how it can deliver all the emotional punch of a moment with a single, perfectly written line. How it can both warp and melt the world and screen to show you pain and despair, but also how it can blow all your worries and doubts away with bright splashes of comfy and warm orange; the show carries itself visually with no struggle. A show that exemplifies everything I love about storytelling, and how all of the different aspects of a show can blend together to enhance the narrative. If you want emotion done well in anime, this is the pinnacle.
Final Score: 9.6/10
Overall, 2017 was a fantastic year to be introduced into anime. I see many people complaining and discussing the prominence of isekai-style shows, or the continual bastardization of light novel adaptations, or the decades-old perpetration of bad business decisions causing ripples that extend into relevancy, but frankly, this is a rock solid list of shows. Lots of table-turning surprises, underground rises and tons of creative experimentation. 2018 is already looking like a powerhouse of a year, but this one put up a fighting chance too.
One of the most widely fascinating but rarely explored themes of fiction is the idea of “Metafiction”, which is a form of fiction in which the text, through it’s narrative, visuals or characters, is “aware” that it is a form of fiction. It’s a pseudo-genre widely used in many mediums of entertainment, and certain projects along the years have become beacons of excellence in the exploration of this concept. Some examples are the subtly terrifying and bizarre House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, John Carpenter’s dizzying and world-ending film In The Mouth Of Madness, and Daniel Mullins’ underground mischievous masterpiece Pony Island, amongst others.
Specifically, though, I want to narrow down my net of reference and only focus on Japanese anime, seeing as there are a plethora of examples in other mediums while it remains relatively untouched, or at least, undiscovered, in the medium of animation. Also because this is an anime-centric blog. Deal with it.
What I mean by “Metafiction” in this case isn’t what some lowbrow, late night TV anime calls “meta”, taking place in the real world and featuring characters that watch anime (like OreImo, or Umaru-chan), or even shows that provide commentary on the medium of animation itself and it’s inner workings and dilemmas (like Shirobako or Girlish Number). Of this extremely specific section of the thematic spectrum, one show comes to mind, that utilizes the actual definition of metafiction as a concrete baseline for it’s theme and story: Princess Tutu.
*WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND. WATCH THE SHOW BEFORE CONTINUING*
Princess Tutu is a story drenched in the nature of fairy tales and legends. Episodes begin with a short and ominous piece about a tragedy on some way or another, the major aesthetic of the show is ballet dancing and appropriate music, and the main villain of the story is the very writer of the show’s plot: A mysterious and blabbering madman/genius named Drosselmeyer, the most crucial piece in the puzzle.
Drosselmeyer impersonates the concept of a tragic ending. He is the metaphysical writer that has blanketed the town where the protagonists live inside of. It’s a hazy and foggy aura, as citizens are turned into anthropomorphized animals, select teenagers are hosts to powers beyond their control, and time itself has been tampered with in order to create the most beautiful tragedy ever conceived. This is Drosselmeyer’s masterpiece, The Prince and the Raven. And the character Princess Tutu herself is the catalyst for the tale that he wants to tell. (Here is Drosselmeyer’s complete fan-recreated story for reference. Read it before continuing.)
Tutu’s role in the story is one of brief but meaningful importance. She is meant to appear momentarily, cause en event, and subsequently die. She is by far the least present character in The Prince and the Raven. Despite this, her name is the title of the show itself. This subtle detail is to emphasize the idea that even the actions taken by the least prominent characters in a story can have unparalleled ramifications, and that they are characters in their own right, with their own story to go along with the one being told. Not to mention the final confrontation, as she and the then-useless knight Fakir (the two least narratively important characters in Drosselmeyer’s story, by the way) are the ones that persevere against fate itself to turn a tragedy into a happy ending. If that’s not subversive, I don’t know what is.
The story itself is about characters stuck in, and then breaking apart the realized ballet-inspired fantastical narrative of the antagonist, whom expresses curiosity about whether or not he himself is also part of a story at the end of the show. They are not only questioning their existence inside fiction, but the writer of that world is also questioning his fictional existence. It’s a double metafiction!
Princess Tutu also utilizes these ideas to weave together a greater theme of morality in fiction, debating whether or not the authors of such stories create tragedies out of morbid curiosity, a greater artistic purpose, or mere fetishistic obsession, much like Re:Creators (2017) lightly touches on in it’s more heartfelt conversations before turning back into a Fate knockoff.
I’m sorry, I just really have a problem with Re:Creators.
Anyway, all of this evidence is proof that Princess Tutu explores most, if not all of the avenues of metafiction, integrating them into the story through it’s characters, episodic scenarios and climaxes. It’s one of my favorite shows of all time for this reason. Oh, and also because it balances all of it’s contrasting tones (whimsical and melancholic) and atmospheres (bouncy and somber) perfectly, and because the episodic storylines all hold golden nuggets of romantic wisdom, are seamlessly integrated into the overarching narrative, and have an ending that is just the right combination of bitter and sweet.
Just finished Gosick, and I’m rather torn. For one, I loved the relationship between the two leads, even if it started slow and often times showed glimpses of returning to it’s annoying and repetitive master-servant state. It ended up evolving pretty subtly throughout the plot and was very engaging, mostly due to the genuine chemistry they had while tackling the different mysteries and especially when shit hit the fan, that’s when they really showed their best as people slowly falling in love with one another.
On the other hand, the “mystery” aspect of the show was hit-or-miss, and mostly on the miss side. Often times the arcs were incredibly obvious with their clues, leading to minutes (or sometimes even entire episodes) of waiting around for the plot to catch up with that I already had deciphered. Other times, the twists were properly shocking and well-timed, and on reflection were set up nicely and coherently. They clicked enough to where you could miss certain things if not paying attention. The most fascinating sections of the mysteries were the setups, as they began with explosive and properly magical displays that really piqued my interest, but as soon as the two leads began their investigations, interest quickly hit a wall. Those last 2 episodes were very frenetic and nerve-wracking, mostly because by that point their relationship was the most important aspect of the show for me, so I was hoping that they would actually get together. The ending was overall solid.
Overall, Gosick is fine. The mysteries are rather dull and easy to figure out, but nonetheless interesting to piece together casually. The romance begins rather banal and repetitive, but slowly inches its way towards genuine chemistry and satisfaction, and the whole tone of the show was dark enough to expect major twists and turns, but also peppy enough to where a chipper scene between the two leads was always a welcome addition. I’d give it a strong 6, maybe a light 7 if I’m feeling generous.
Casshern Sins is fascinating in a way that’s very different to most other shows, because it takes an episodic adventure genre and uses it to explore the depths of the human psyche, all coalescing into one central theme that I have never seen be explored in media at all: Humanity’s dependability and need for conflict.
When we think about peace on Earth, it’s almost universally agreed on that it’s the most desired outcome for the future of humanity. People want peace above all, and hate the ideas of war and conflict basically conceptually. What many people don’t realize though, is how important conflict is despite how it’s been perceived as an objectively negative thing.
Obviously any kind of suffering is something most people don’t want, but surviving suffering leads to adaptability and evolution. Humans have become what they’ve become due to the strain they’ve suffered, from being hunted by wild animals 10,000 years ago, all the way through written history and all of it’s atrocities, to the modern day, where pain and death happen every day. It’s a part of our life as human beings and it’s lead us to the level of technological and societal sophistication that we currently maintain. We are what we are because of the horrors that happened to our ancestors.
What Casshern Sins mananges to show in it’s titular character Casshern, is that he is very much a man (or in this case, robot) tied to war and conflict. He cause the end of the world, plunging the Earth into an era of desolate landscapes, rust, and despair. He wishes to stop fighting, to repent for his sins, but the world that he lives in doesn’t let him. The robots that are left have all grown insane, hungry for his body and desperate to consume him in order to achieve immortality. Casshern is faced with these robots day after day, having to face the results of his actions. Due to what he is, the world is filled with pain.
This is very much similar to how humanity has evolved. Humans have turned humanity into a greedy existence, and now have to cope with the way that they have shaped their very being. The prominence of conflict is due to human’s actions, but now that humanity has reached a level of sophistication that conflict ins’t necessary, it has to repent and reflect on it’s sins now that the idea of war has been so ingrained in our subconscious. It’s for a reason that humans are the only species on Earth that has ever systematically eliminated members of their own race.
Casshern Sins paints a somber picture of humanity and how it’s shaped itself to unconsciously cling to conflict, despite it’s lack of necessity in modern times.
“Sometimes, a lie will become a truth in the telling.”
Studio 3Hz gained quite a name for itself as well as a loyal following after last years arthouse adventure Flip Flappers, and this year, it’s returning with a show that masters the style and smooth classiness of old-school steampunk and mixes it with an episodic spy-centric storyline. Welcome to Princess Principal.
The show centers around it’s titular spies, the stoic and compulsive liar Ange, the smug and rather gothic Chise, the always energetic yet inconspicuous Beatrice, the charismatic and verbally assertive Dorothy, and finally the enigmatic yet strangely mysterious Princess.
The characters all have distinct and fascinating personalities, especially Ange, who is cold, calculating yet never predictable and always surprising. Her stigma about lies and deceit lends well to the show’s narrative, as it plays with the audience’s expectations and always results in things never being as they seem. This makes for constantly twisting episodic narratives that feel complete and concrete.
The setting of the show is a strikingly detailed steampunk-ed London, which has all the workings of a functioning and believable world. It pulls no punches about it’s dirty and dusty rawness, from the actions performed by the main and supporting cast, as well as by the moving parts of the story itself, which all weave together solidly and have no moments of either narrative downtime or of inconsequential scenes.
The fact that it’s original also lends itself to the medium of animation rather well. Adaptations from manga or light novels have vastly different pacing, mostly revolving around the reader’s own speed while reading, but here, the story it feels properly condensed into the entire episode.
The fight sequences (aside from feeling frenetic yet always lighthearted, sort of like Lupin III) have interesting connotations to them, from regular gunfights in corridors, to car chases with gravitational components to them, to many more. They’re always different, always fun, and never feel interrupted by it’s dialogue and witty banter.
Another aspect that I’ve come across is the vast amount of fan theorizing that’s been going on even after just the first episode. The 1st episode’s story (while being rather uncomplicated in the grand scheme of things) is packed with little tidbits of potential secrets for the future, and knowing that the show is heavily steeped in lies, it’s not difficult to get carried away with predictions, and that also makes for fascinating conversation, especially in 4chan’s /a/ board, where watchers have already made character evolutions, revelations and more that all have solid backing and just increase the interest in the show ten-fold.
Researching the show’s staff, we get some very concrete ideas as to what this show might be about. Let’s take a look:
From these staff members (except perhaps Yuki Kajiura, seeing as her music, while excellent, doesn’t affect the story at all), it’s easy to determine the nature of this show and what it will try to be, and from the first episode, the signs are all there.
It’s a half action, half spy story, with moments of violence being preceded with secret plans and political manipulation, with massive twists coming in at the show’s climax upending everything we know about the show. These are all traits found in shows like the extremely frenetic and insane Code Geass, as well as the complexity and nuanced narrative of GITS, mixed with the excellent action choreography and visual style and flair that Kabaneri has. The art direction and backgrounds are all impressively realistic and detailed, and the design of the steampunk world itself is very concrete, but the show still lends itself to moments of interspersed warping and vastly “out-there” scenes, like the opening of PriPri as well as in certain scenes in Paprika. The show might be told in a non-linear way, seeing as episode one was labeled “Case #13”, and might either skip cases entirely or regress back in time to the forming of the team of spies.
It’s all very viable as of right now and up for debate, but this show is definitely one to check out. It’s not difficult to understand if you’re paying attention, but it does require some more inquiry and attentiveness from the viewers in order to be fully grasped.
P.S.: Don’t believe her lies.
So, as an avid anime watcher, the constant, never-ending resurgence of new shows is something that elates my pleasures into astronomical levels. New anime every season? 40+ shows? Endless enjoyment, probably until the day I die. I could not be happier.
So, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 11 most popular shows of the season, and will analyze them accordingly. Why top 11? Because I like to take one step beyond.
If there’s a particular show that I feel has something deeper to explore in it’s themes or technicalities, I will post about that show. Remember that I’m doing a daily 750+ word long blog breakdown about one of the most dense and complex series ever made.
Anyway, on to the shows (sorted from highest to lowest number of members in MyAnimeList):
The setting is a parallel world to Fate/stay night where the Greater Grail mysteriously disappeared from Fuyuki after the Third Holy Grail War. After many years of silence, around the same time as the Fifth Holy Grail War would have happened, the Yggdmillennia, a family of magi, openly declares their secession from the Mage’s Association, and that they are in possession of the Grail. The Association dispatches fifty magi to retrieve it, and all but one are instantly slaughtered by a mysterious Servant. The one remaining manages to activate the reserve system of the Greater Grail, allowing for the summoning of fourteen Servants in total. In the city of Trifas, two factions will fight for the control of the sacred relic, each of them possessing their own team of seven Servants : the Black Faction whose members are part of Yggdmillennia, protecting the Grail, and the Red Faction whose members were sent by the Mage’s Association, trying to take the Grail back. For an event of this scale, the Grail itself summons its own Servant, the holy Ruler, to oversee the conflict. This marks the start of the Great Holy Grail War.
So, those are the Top 11 most popular coming shows of the Summer 2017 season. Hopefully we get something truly meaty and awesome. I’m betting on Classroom of the Elite.
See ya around.