Summer 2017 Season Wrap: Love and Lies, Re:CREATORS, & Fastest Finger First

I didn’t realize it then, but the first part of this season wrap came out on the official first day of autumn, the best time of year. I’ll be right over here, patting myself on the back, for being on top of this season’s shows and reviewing them in a timely manner. We continue here with three more shows, one of which ended far too early.

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Summer 2017 Season Wrap: Tsuredure Children, Restaurant to Another World, & Aoyama-kun

As sad as I am to see many of this season’s series end, I’m overjoyed that the hot summer months are on their way out. Bye-bye, mosquitos! Farewell, sweat-drenched dog walks! Hello, blankets and sweaters. Come to me, hot chocolate!

This past summer anime season included a lot of comedy and sci-fi continuations. While there were a handful of exceptional shows that went beyond expectations, the vast majority of them hit at just about average or slightly above. I dropped a large number of anime that either lay far outside of my preferences or were completely unpalatable after one or two episodes. I did a lot of weeding, but it was for the best since I was also able to catch up on a fair number of older television series and films, like SDF Macross and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro.

My summer 2017 season wrap starts here with three wonderful series that I do think are worth your attention, if not in full, then perhaps at least enough to give a passing glance. First love, fantastical food, and super clean soccer: take your pick!

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Netflix’s Castlevania: A Welcome Addition to the Family

Love and revenge. Hunger and blood. Castlevania brews a stew of emotions in a way that leaves you both terrified and exhilarated. Thanks to positive reactions from my peers on Twitter and elsewhere, I picked up the show with very little background knowledge and watched all four episodes in one sitting. The urge to continue the next episode after finishing one was irresistible. Through a combination of atmosphere, story building, and characterization, Castlevania the television series—a Western-made product that pays respect to both the original games and Japanese animation—succeeds in reasserting the charm of 2D animation and its place in adult media.

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Seeking the Light in The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star

“The lonely little star, the tiny child of a star, twinkled in the empty sky all by itself.”
(“Those Awaiting a Star: Part 2”)

“You can see them if you look really carefully. The sky is endlessly connected. Just try, and you’ll see even the faintest of lights.”
(“Those Awaiting a Star: Part 3”)

The third and final episode of Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito recently aired—just in time for the much anticipated series coming out this fall. This three-part OVA tells a supplementary story that can be watched at any point, be that before, during, or after the main series. “Those Awaiting a Star” is a wonderful addition to better understanding Chise’s past and her present point of view. Her dark history and unbelievable apprenticeship point Chise towards an uncertain yet promising future should she choose to take it.

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Made in Abyss: Eating to Survive, Eating to Unwind

“Over the span of many years, with a spirit of adventure for the unknown and countless legends luring them in, the world’s only remaining unexplored chasm has swallowed up a great many people. It is known as the Abyss.”

(“The City of the Great Pit.” Made in Abyss.)

From setting to character, story to music, this season’s Made in Abyss is all anyone is talking about lately. The show, a manga original, stunned viewers right from the beginning with its visuals and Kevin Penkin’s haunting melody, “Underground River.” That overwhelming feeling still persists more than halfway through the series, and now that we’ve made it to the third level of the Abyss, the danger seems more present than ever before. Our moments for respite are far and few in between. One thing about them obviously stands out to me: many of those quiet moments are spent around food.

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A Silent Voice: Remembering the Past and Improving the Now

While the 2016 film A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) spotlights topics like solitude, bullying, and death, much of the story plays out on our common desire to connect with one another. Connections by blood, friendship, rivalry, and even animosity all begin with the self, accepted or not. The lessons play out beautifully in the film through characters whose expressions and emotions seem almost tangible in their vividness—especially important for a central figure suffering a hearing disability and who rarely speaks. Nishiyama Shouko’s desires come to life in her body language. Conflict arises from a combination of her classmates’ discomfort and insecurity, and their teacher’s neglect.  Their experiences show not only how easy it is to misunderstand one another and to perpetuate the mistreatment of others, but also how it is never too late to confront your mistakes and learn from them.

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Action Heroine Cheer Fruits: Your Local Idol-Heroes

“The nine of us will become the saviors of the city. We will! Maybe!”

(Shirogane Misake, “Explosion Angel Hatsuri-chan”)

If you’re watching Action Heroine Cheer Fruits this season, chances are you’re enjoying the theatrics as much as I am. The odds for success are high given the almost guaranteed popularity of idol and superhero shows, but Cheer Fruits has more than a winning formula to help it–the show also addresses Japan’s established concern of shrinking rural communities, as well as displays solid writing that paces itself well over the course of its episodes. From practice to performance, the Cheer Fruits are the local heroines who will capture your applause and heart.

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[Review] Please Tell Me! Galko-chan

“Galko: A bit sharp tongued, but a good natured, popular girl in the class. Her hobbies are watching movies and cooking.

Otako: Likes to be in the corner of the class, bus she’s somehow friends with Galko. Her hobby is messing with Galko.

Ojou: An airhead who hangs out with Galko and Otako. She has multiple hobbies.”

(“Is It True You’re a Gyaru?”)

I know I’m late to the game, but my recent viewing of the 2016 show Oshiete! Galko-chan made me realize that I still have a long way to go in trying things outside of my comfort zone. Initially, there were several factors that convinced me that this was not a show that would interest me. It’s a short with only seven minutes per episode. The titles and subjects are questions frequently sexual in nature. On the surface, Galko-chan herself looks like some creator’s masturbatory fantasy of the unattainable. On the surface, that is.

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Celebrating my 1st Wedding Anniversary with Tsuredure Children

One year ago today, I said “I do” to my husband, and promised to share with him a future filled with all its ups and downs. We referenced our hobbies and quirks in our vows, agreeing to compromise as necessary and always communicate. Looking back on our time together before and after marriage, I can happily say that we’re as strong as ever.

So much of what makes every day interesting is a summation of several little things that would normally be too mundane to stand out on their own. Take for example the fact that he brews coffee for us every morning, and that I try to time dinner with his arrival home from work. I could just as easily make the coffee, but he takes into consideration that he always wakes up first. He wouldn’t mind making dinner, but I like to cook. These normal, even boring, details mean a lot to us both and are nothing like the tumultuous romances I imagined when I was younger.

This season’s show, Tsuredure Children (or Tsurezure Children), picks up on the types of romantic scenes that skyrocket ratings: the moment when you realize you’re in love, the confession, the firsts that fill every relationship. Usually these scenes are bookended with slower moments where the characters first notice and start to get to know one another. For the audience to care, we need to know who the players are and why we want them to be together. Tsuredure Children skips these seemingly necessary steps by jumping straight into the juicy meat of the matter.

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Welcome to the Ballroom’s Stumbling Lead and Silent Follow

“The one to capture the crowd wins. The conditions to win are obvious: lead and follow, unity, ability to read the floor, configuration, and confidence and impact. He has them all now” (Sengoku Kaname, “Line of Dance”).

“Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels” (Bob Thaves).

Couples dancing is one of the few stages left where the importance of following is just as strong as ever. Leading and following are set roles that dancers take, with men typically the leads and women the follows. We see this norm displayed in this season’s show, Ballroom e Youkoso, to varying degrees.

Fujita Tatara is understandably starstruck by the people he sees and the moves they make. He finds a goal he never knew he needed in competitive ballroom dancing, and undertakes the long and painful journey to earning his place among giants. Yet even among the stars, he meets others who challenge his vision. Leads like Akagi Gaju treat their partners with disdain and their desires with objective possession. To Gaju, his sister Mako is a weakness holding him back; Shizuku, in turn, is sexy, capable, and desirable. He wants to swap the two and use Shizuku to fulfill his own needs. Gaju’s chauvinistic greed is among the ugliest displays we see on the dance floor, and an example I hope Tatara avoids for the sake of himself, his partner, and us viewers. We need a lead who dances with, not for, the follow.

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