Winter 2016 Season Wrap, Part 1

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

*Rating system:

  • 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

Dimension W

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


Stay tuned for part 2 of the Winter 2016 Wrap!

10 thoughts on “Winter 2016 Season Wrap, Part 1

  1. I’ve quit trying to watch outright Sports anime, because I’ve found them insufferably tedious. The subject matter is fine, and the character development is usually good, but the glacial speed they go and the shounen yelling just turns me off. So when there are shows that I’ve dubbed “sports-lite” I tend to like them a lot (the competition and development of a sports show, but not a gazillion episodes and no progress). And that’s what I think AoKana turned out to be. I thought it ended up being a well-plotted show having ditched the romance aspects of its VN source, and focusing on not just Asuka, but also giving plenty of time to Misaki, Mashiro, and Saki. It did leave out Rika a bit (disappointing because I really like Madoka Yonezawa’s work), but had a really good handle on what it decided to do with the characters. They made the tournaments not boring (not an easy task) and made a fun show out of it.

    Dimension W wasn’t bad, I didn’t mind how the story went, and that they didn’t go too much into their made up “lets steal energy from this other realm” thing. From an engineering standpoint, the concept is pretty dumb anyway, because there’s no such thing as ‘limitless energy’ anywhere. Instead making it about the characters was probably the best they could do, and try handwaving away the worldbuilding. If one doesn’t accept that handwaving, then the show will be tough to take, I think.

    KonoSuba was one of the best comedies I’ve seen, and it’s not something that’s easy to do. I also liked using it to further dispel the “ewww, Studio DEEN” attitude (they haven’t made a bad show in years, honestly). Putting four individually hopeless characters together in such a way that they accept the extreme weirdness of each other, minimize their hopeless characteristics, and reinforce and support the big pluses that they have really worked for the show, and the way that they became some of the more relied-upon residents of the town was great. The show wasn’t about any sort of big quest to kill the Demon King. The show was only about these four screwups and the way they get to be nice people. I hope there will be more, but I know better than to trust end cards that say there will be.

    Shirayukihime was very nice, and I don’t mind a nice romance show. I’ve been spoiled by these character-driven shows, and liked that it didn’t really just make Shirayuki some damsel in distress. Even the one arc that did didn’t really play too much on her helplessness, and it gave Raj a chance to stop being terrible. And that they didn’t go back to that was welcome, just finish it and then get back to life.

    I liked Oji-san to Marshmallow as well, but was disappointed when Wakabayashi punted at the end. Ah well, anime… You say that’s the only short you were watching, but I wonder if you tried Oshiete! Galko-chan? I really enjoyed it, and thought it was a great show featuring a lot of good people that tried to bust up stereotypes. Good body positivity, good personalities, helpful people, and a lot of discussions about girl topics that I’m told are pretty authentic.

    And for Utawarerumono, I actually thought that the noodling around with a bunch of characters was the better part. When they tried to force both some future history war stuff and origin stories and then some big epic story line of wars and invasions and then the emperor dying, that just kind of took it off the rails for me. It felt shoehorned in and didn’t belong at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so, so happy AoKana went the route of “sports-lite” (love that!) instead of romance. I was pretty shocked when I first read the synopsis of the source material and was terrified that it would eventually go that route with the anime. It was like a bucket of terror teetering over me through the rest of the show. It wasn’t until near the end where I finally forgot about it and was able to focus on the tournament.

      It’s funny you point out the effort it takes to ignore the science in Dimension W, since the science realm is exactly what differentiates the show from others. Ironically, my engineer fiance was able to set aside the impossibilities after some grumbling, while I was put-out all the way to the end!

      Ah, I believe you recommended I try Oshiete! Galko-chan before! I’ll have to remember tonight to hunt it down if it’s finished airing. This spring season, I’ve purposefully cut out anything I see is a short, with the exception of the one about girls and bread. Galko-chan might make a good substitute🙂

      I really wish Utawarerumono had just gone one direction. The light-hearted daily living felt so wrong after having seen the original, but then when things became serious, I found it empty and almost wanted to return to the comedy.

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      • I wasn’t really worried about AoKana if it went the harem romance route, because I like a good harem romance as well (although I think it should be a rule that they all have to end with a couple, no cop-out endings!) and because Sprite also was responsible for KoiChoco, which was actually a very good harem romance story until the very end (when they futzed it all up with a stupid kidnapping final bit). It’s interesting how much variety there is in adapting VNs, tho, as I’m learning as I actually play some VN’s (I finally finished my first one! In Japanese! and I might write about it sometime).

        I was able to ignore they sciency parts of DimW pretty well, because they didn’t make the show rely on them. And they didn’t put this completely broken stuff in your face all the time (like things like stupid Attack on Titan).

        Galko-chan has finished airing, and I hope you like it. I found it to be one of those shows that you just like watching because it’s good people being good people (and I hate shows that are bad people being bad people).

        I haven’t seen the first Utawarerumono, and I’ve heard that a lot of things in the second one, especially during the fluffy parts, are callbacks to that. But I agree completely that the story parts and the war parts were just so empty and dull that they shouldn’t have quit with the wacky antics. The ending was also a bit disappointing, although I’m convinced that Kuon knew what was up, and decided not to fight it. Kuon and Haku were the best parts of the show, and first separating them for half the series, and then having that ending just was cold.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Talking about harems, what are you favorites? Or do you have a blog post discussing that very topic I can read up on? I do have some I watched early in my foray into anime that I’m still fond of, like Ai Yori Aoshi, CLANNAD, and Kannon (2006). KWoo is a HUGE fan of Love Hina and I’d like to provide him with some others he might enjoy.

        Also, since you brought up Attack on Titan, I’m looking forward to trying out Kabaneri and trading first impressions with you. I went to its announcement at Sakura-Con this year, and they kept comparing it to Titan.

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      • I tend to like harem shows based on my perceptions of the male lead character, rather than the harem itself. I also really (really!) prefer a harem series where there is a couple at the end of it. So as far as those criteria go, KoiChoco really wasn’t too bad as a harem, it just messed up the story.

        But as far as best shows with harems, I think that High School DxD is probably the best series. Issei is a great protagonist, he is not sitting around waiting for things to happen to him, he earns his harem protagonist stripes. And he also exhibits a lot of personal growth. Plus, the show has an obvious (to everyone except the people involved, at least in the time frame of the anime so far) couple, yet still manages to be harem-y due to the rules of devils. Issei and Rias are the couple, but the other girls have found niches that keep them relevant.

        Another harem show that I like (and everyone else thinks is dull) is Hoshizora e kakaru hashi, or A Bridge to the Starry Sky. I really like that this one has all of the girls take a (metaphorical) swing at Kazuma, and that all of them are properly answered. It also ends with a couple, in my favorite confession scene. I like the characters enough that I’ve actually played through the whole VN, all 6 routes, all in Japanese! It took me 3 years, but I did it (the last 4 routes only took me about 4 months of on-again, off-again playing).

        Mashiro-iro Symphony is a pretty good show that does end up in a couple, but the MC is a lot more passive, and I felt like the story went too hard down a few of the routes to just end up saying “Nope, not that girl!”

        And really, the show that got me into anime was a harem show: Sekirei. I can’t claim that this is a particularly good show, but I really like it because it has some excellent voice work with Saori Hayami, Marina Inoue, Aya Endou, Sayaka Ohara, and a lot of others. It does kind of leave you hanging storywise, but I have found it enjoyable even on rewatches.

        There are a few other shows I’ve enjoyed watching, like Asobi ni Iku yo, Shuffle!, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls (the second series – Samurai Bride – is really bad, tho), Mayo chiki (probably more just love triangle). I even enjoyed OreImo, but then I’m not bothered by the way it ended up. Some people just can’t get over that.

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      • Wow! Thank you for the extensive list and explanations! I’m going to hunt these down and hopefully I’ll find some that even I will like. I think the only one on your list I’m pretty against is OreImo, but I’ll still leave that up to KWoo to see if he likes it.

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      • Thanks, I hope you like some of them. They have differing amounts of nudity and sexual content (with DxD and Sekirei having the most, Hoshizora having none, Mashiro-iro Symphony having one scene (that in broadcast had a ridiculous half-screen light beam), so maybe be wary if that bothers either of you. I figure you expect that, but just wanted to make sure you knew.

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