It’s finally here!!! I’m so relieved to have made it through almost half of my winter anime now that Sakura-Con is over and the spring season looms ahead. This season didn’t strike in my target zone as frequently as ones previous, but there are still a handful of series worth noting.
- Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
- Boku dake ga Inai Machi
- Haikyuu!! Second Season
- Diamond no Ace: Second Season
- Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen
- Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2nd Season
- Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
- Dimension W
- Ojisan to Marshmallow
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
At only 10 episodes, this sleeper ended up being one of my most anticipated series each week due to its golden comedy that interjected itself wholly into all aspects of the anime. Constant comedy is usually very hit-or-miss with me, but it works here due to the thoroughness of the characters and their predicaments. The players across the board are stupid and selfish, as so many people are wont to be, and are drawn together by their similar feelings of desperation and loneliness. Each one of the characters are ridiculous in different ways, from a holy knight who can’t hit a single thing with her sword, to a crimson mage who will only do explosion magic despite one spell wiping her out for the day. Even our main character picks up odd spells completely unrelated to one another, such as a “Steal” that unnaturally focuses on panties. The world is just as unbalanced as our group of adventurers. Mandatory quests crop up with impossibly high difficulties, quests that have no business taking place near a beginner town such as Axel.
The dialogue and art step up to assist in the best ways possible. The dialogue works as well as it does because of its consistency with our characters’ personalities. Kazuma’s asides are exactly the type of inner grudge any person might think but wouldn’t usually voice. That he actually says them aloud is a reminder of just how helpless he and his teammates are. You can clearly hear the irritation and undercutting tone in their voices. Then there’s the art, which is pretty generic, but shines oddly enough when it is intentionally distorted, like when Aqua wails for the things she wants. I’m really happy to see that there will be more of this show to come, because Kazuma and Aqua have made almost zero head way, as to be expected, on defeating the Demon King.
Rating: 1 dango
Boku dake ga Inai Machi
BokuMachi looks to be the show with the most ups and downs this season. The pilot swept a lot of people off their feet, including me, with its unexpected turn of events. The end of each week had me gnashing my teeth, and the start of the next almost always had me watching BokuMachi before my other winter shows. I still appreciate the thrill almost every episode and cliffhanger provided, as well as the actual ending given in the final episode.
Where the series tread too far was most apparent in the characters outside of Satoru, as well as in the tone which more often than not turned comically dramatic. Satoru is the main character, and the only one who leaps through time from adulthood to childhood. The series took care to make sure that young Satoru spoke in a child’s outer voice, but retained an adult’s inner voice. His odd maturity makes sense given his ability and experiences. Yet there are those around him who share his level of dialogue without any believable reason. Kenya and Kayo both sound like adults in kid-form. Why? And then there’s the suspense that pervades every pore of this show’s being. At times it’s cleverly used, and at other times I find myself batted in the head repeatedly. There are only so many times I see the color red stand out from a monochrome setting before I start to dismiss its attempt at importance. BokuMachi worked best when we saw individual quietly speaking with each other, like at home with Satoru and his mom, or at school among his friends.
Rating: 1 dango
Haikyuu!! Second Season
Third season, anyone? And here I thought we’d make it completely through the finals so the next installment could completely focus on the national competition. But this is a sports anime! It needs to milk every step of the way up for its viewers’ agony. Although the first season had me bawling my eyes out, in the end, the early failure was the perfect driving force for Karasuno to get to where they are now.
The second series was all about payback, and about our already talented and hardworking players improving upon themselves. There were several weaknesses in the team, including feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and fear. The show did a great job of addressing them all, and not letting the characters get away without facing the consequences of their actions. Unlike the other major sports anime also having wrapped this season (to be discussed below), Haikyuu!! fulfilled its promises to the audience and continues to lift their hopes even higher. I’ve enjoyed the journey with the team as a whole, and look forward to seeing them once more on the stage they deserve.
Rating: 2 dango
Diamond no Ace: Season 2
I’m not sad to see this series end with the way it has messed up my heart throughout its entire long run. I’ve come to love anime baseball with its brotherly camaraderie and play-by-play commentary, but Daiya no Ace repeatedly punched at that adoration until I felt too bruised to care about the ending. The anime followed a similar format to Haikyuu!! by taking us to near success at the summer tournament, then taking that loss to heart and trying again for the fall.
Where it went wrong was in its handling of the character conflicts. Fatal flaws were brought up but overlooked, such as Furuya’s attitude for much of the 126 episodes. He did show very slight improvement in appreciating his teammates, particularly Sawamura, but I don’t find it enough to put him on for the bottom of the 9th to close out the game. Then there are the injuries, seemingly serious ones, that are underestimated with the present glory in mind as justification. As much as I respect and adore Miyuki, as well as understand his influence on the pitchers and entire team, I would have likely pulled him from the game at the first sign of his pain. Seido already has the memory of Chris to remind them of the lasting consequences of pride.
After having dragged the audience through so many long, painful episodes, to end the way it did in the final episode felt like a gigantic slap in the face. At first, I thought I might have left music on somewhere else through the opening five minutes. I was horrified to realize that the orchestral music played to a fast forwarding of the game. How dare this show speed up the deserved victory in its final episode! How dare it trample my dreams then end this horrible way like some kind of afterthought.
Rating: 0 dango
Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen
I loved the Utawarerumono that aired back in 2006–it was one of the handful of shows that marked the beginning of my foray into anime. Its high fantasy adventure, adorable character designs, and light humor remained with me over the years. When this unexpected sequel was announced, I was thrilled. I wanted to see the original cast and romp around with Aruruu and Mukkuru. That was not to be, as we opened with an entirely new cast far in the future of the previous events. There are references to the original, and we do meet some of our old friends, but they are largely ignored in favor of focusing on the kingdom of Yamato.
I really wish I could have judged this series on its own without remembering the original, but I kept wanting more out of the story, more conflict and forward movement and less dilly dallying in the capital. The show could have done so much more to elaborate upon Yamato’s founding instead of the short tale the emperor provides on Haku’s behalf. KWoo was actually watching Seirei no Moribito at the same time as I was watching this Utaware, and seeing such a fleshed out and complicated world like Balsa’s made me hunger for it all the more in Haku’s.
Rating: 0 dango
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2nd Season
This world of Shirayuki’s is a strange one that doesn’t really fit into any expected genre despite its original shoujo audience. This is the continued story of a determined young woman with clear goals for the future. Like the typical shoujo, there is romance and personal growth–but her journey is so much more than just that. There’s adventure, suspense, political dancing (literal and metaphorical), and comedy. As simple as this anime appears episode to episode, there’s a wealth of emotions and experiences to learn from.
This second season, in particular, focuses more on Shirayuki outside of Clarines and away from Prince Zen’s protection. She is a strong, smart, and resourceful woman who raises the spirits of everyone she meets, encouraging them to be the best of themselves they can be. I really enjoyed seeing the warring emotions of fear and determination on her face while with the Claw of the Sea–they grounded her as a relatable person full of her own uncertainties. This attention to character depth reaches out to the rest of the cast, like Zen, his retainers, and Prince Raji. Due to the events of the first season, I saw Raji as a very one-dimensional person with only his selfish desires to define him. Happily, this second season showcases his growth as a person and as the prince of Tanbarun after his encounter with Shirayuki.
I don’t foresee or expect any kind of sequel after this season. It finished open-ended with many joyful promises for the future, and I like the idea of leaving that to our imagination.
Rating: 2 dango
Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
Flight has always been high up on humans’ dreams for possibility–it’s resulted in our planes, paragliding, and sky diving through Earth’s sky, our building of ridiculously tall buildings, and our venture into space. We are fascinated with high up spaces. There are legends like Icarus that warn of flying too close to the sun, and untold tales of superheroes who almost always own the power of flight. And now we have AoKana, where an entire archipelago is gifted the ability to fly. I’m fascinated by the the islands and their seeming solidarity from the outside world–when Asuka transfers in to Kunahama high school, the concept of flight is still new. Her first attempt at using Grav-Shoes has her tumbling through the air with no control of her movements. And yet, flight has been present on the archipelago long enough for there to be significant access through the four islands, like designated landing and take-off zones, school-issued Grav-Shoes, and an entire sport called Flying Circus. I want to know more about how this science came about, and why it seems isolated to this small area–or maybe it is widespread and Asuka just never had a chance to try it until now?
But that’s that, and this is really a different story altogether. While the visual novel is an adult visual novel that pairs off the main guy with each of the girls in turn, this anime comes wearing a sports jersey and lacks any romance. Unless, of course, you count Mashiro’s obsession for Misaki. I am fond of quite a number of the girl pairings! AoKana surprised me in its almost complete focus on the Kunahama’s Flying Circus team. The flailing club is revitalized with fresh blood full of talent and determination. Together, they help Asuka learn to fly and each other became formidable athletes. Some of my favorite moments were scenes that only included two girls at a time, like Mashiro and Rika, and Misaki and Asuka, learning and growing stronger together. It makes me laugh thinking how an obvious sports anime like Daiya no Ace could disappoint me so much, while a visual-novel-turned-sports-show like AoKana delighted at every air kick turn.
Rating: 1 dango
Mira is so cute! I love her character design, and if I could, I would love to cosplay as her, green hair, metal tail, and all. Now if I could just convince KWoo to go as Mabuchi, we’d be set…maybe at next year’s Sakura-Con!
In all honesty, though, while I did like Dimension W’s concept of renewable energy, I could never get behind its rules and expectations. It’s explanation of the fourth dimension couldn’t commit to either being vague enough for me to overlook or detailed enough for me to believe. Instead, it tried to balance somewhere in between with its half-assed graphs and theories and confused the hell out of me. Then there’s gynoid Mira, whose existence makes the world all the more ridiculous. She exhibits an advancement so far beyond the realm of any other robot that it doesn’t make sense to call her anything other than a human. Everything about the say she acts, speaks, and feels screams of humanity, but the truth to her birth is never really explained. Is she the product to her creator’s rumored “perfect” coil?
I really wanted to like this anime and enjoyed the various battles: Mabuchi’s hand-to-hand combat, the adorable Eastriver siblings’ grappling with various robots, and the cross-dimensional battle with Haruka Seameyer. It was just all held together by a stupid story.
Rating: 0 dango
Ojisan to Marshmallow
Now this is how you take a theme and run with it to the end. Ojisan to Marshmallow was my one short this season, and it rightfully earned its place among my weekly viewings when others fell behind. The simple premise of a man who loves marshmallows and the woman who loves this marshmallow man made me giggle and grin. It inspired me to make marshmallows. It had me contemplating purchasing many dessert-scented candles.
Rating: 0 dango