Winter 2016 Season Wrap, Part 2

I made it!!! I dropped a good number of series as the winter season progressed, yet somehow I still ended up in the double digits for shows. If you haven’t already read part 1 of my winter wrap, please check it out!

  • Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
  • Dagashi Kashi
  • Bubuki Buranki
  • Musaigen no Phantom World
  • Prince of Stride: Alternative
  • Garo: Guren no Tsuki
  • Durarara!!x2 Ketsu
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
  • Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri 2nd Season

*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.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Its been over a week since I finished this show, and still it echoes in my thoughts in voices, sighs, and glances. I was entranced with the very first episode and its fully performed rakugo, then stunned that what I thought was a short flashback would instead span the entirety of the series. And, what a flashback! As a blogger who has also studied composition and literature, the art of storytelling is never far from my mind. We are born from stories, create our own stories, learn from them, and pass them on. Oral storytelling is the oldest method, and a practice quickly losing performers in cultures across the planet. Look at my home state of Alaska, where entire native languages  have disappeared without anyone to remember the legends and words.

Japan’s rakugo is presented here shortly after the turn of the 20th century–we can already tell it’s a struggling art with fewer entrants to the ranks. Following Kikuhiko and Sukeroku as they move through the stages under their master is both thrilling and worrisome. The allure of the stage and audience emotions are addicting, but the increase in other forms of entertainment also brings into question the longevity of rakugo. The two young men surge on, both hating and loving their roles as story tellers.

Rakugo is a show I never would have seen coming, and its existence rekindles my belief that anime will continue to grow and evolve. The series had its few low points, particularly in the ending, but its highs far overshadowed the negatives. Hopefully we will see more of Kikuhiko “Yakumo”, Yotarou, and Konatsu in the present time period.

Rating: 3 dango

Dagashi Kashi

Simple pleasures in crinkly wrapping! From its promotional art, I knew this series would strike right in my zone. The subject matter, setting, and comedy join together to create a package just as whimsical and bizarre as a new flavor of Umaibo.

The premise and layout of the anime aren’t anything groundbreaking, and might even be considered slow to some. High school kids eat candy and other Japanese snacks, sharing the flavors, textures, and histories of a few each episode.We go nowhere and accomplish nothing. The one possible motion for change comes in the wide-eyed, big-busted, overly excited Hotaru, heir to major snacks company Shidare Corporation, who is determined to stay in the countryside until she can convince Kokonotsu to inherit the family snack shop so she can whisk away his father, a man rumored to have amazing senses for dagashi. Hotaru’s lofty goals are waylaid by the town’s calm atmosphere and our characters’ very normal every day lives.

I enjoyed learning about various snacks–most of them unheard of. I kept hunting them down at the local Japanese grocery store I’m fortunate to have nearby. The mixture of education and light comedy was extremely effective.

Rating: 1 dango

Bubuki Buranki

I’ve been waiting for a decent mecha anime with a new world and concept, and had hopes after BBK’s pilot episode that I’d found just that. The character designs and CG were implemented well enough to please visually, and I thought the personalities in the Bubuki charming. I can’t see how Migi wouldn’t bring a smile to your face with its flower circlet and pastel coloring.

Yet the further we went along, the more apparent became the weaknesses. It took much too long for me to warm up to the main group of kids surrounding Azuma. The villains were comically evil until we randomly received some back stories and individual motivations near the end. The ending wasn’t even that–just a dissatisfying point to more to come with little resolution to the fight on Treasure Island. I found myself doing exactly what I hate most at the end of a season: regretting having spent so much time on a show when there were others worth so much more remembering and discussing. If you want mecha, pass on this and try Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.

Rating: 0 dango

Musaigen no Phantom World

There is so much hate for this show! Yes, it was aimless; yes, KyoAni had way too much fun throwing ideas together. There were quite a few times where I wondered why a specific visual effect was used–think of Haruhiko’s awakening at home the first time around, and also the trippy maze-like sequence in the cat mansion. But I’m besotted with the studio’s style, imagination, and attempts, be they successful or very much not. Phantom tripped more than skipped, but I delighted in the episodic encounters with phantoms, as well as in our characters’ approaches to the different scenarios.

Rating: 0 dango

Prince of Stride: Alternative

We were lucky to get two light sports anime this season–first AoKana, and now Stride. We see our young club struggle to find members, mesh as a team, and get recognition in their sport. This is a straightforward goal-centered show that sticks to many of the norms of the genre, but happily avoids the pitfalls of overly drawn-out matches, hence the “light” categorization. It was honestly such a relief to make it through a complete race in one episode, that I immediately had a positive glow for Stride.

The whole concept of stride as a sport is simple: a regulated form of parkour that follows a loose course relay-style. Extra points are awarded for tricks performed during the race, such as vaulting over an obstacle, or taking a short-cut when the opportunity arises. There are tons of questions raised by the sport that are never answered, like what types of short-cuts are or aren’t permissible, and whether females can be runners and not only relationers. Given the faster pace of Hounen’s movement to their goal, I forgave the lack of finer details.

Rating: 0 dango

Garo: Guren no Tsuki

After my surprised delight in Garo: Honoo no Kokuin, it was a given that I’d pick up Guren no Tsuki. Unfortunately, the two are worlds apart, both setting-wise, and in overall quality. Guren no Tsuki takes place in Heian Japan with Makai priests still in abundance. The premise of horrors filling the emptiness in humans’ hearts remains the same. This particular story revolves around one Makai knight, his guardian priest, and his retainer. Together, the three of them purge the city of darkness while also fighting its taint on their own souls.

The idea is fantastic, and I had high hopes for the story and characters. Since I didn’t have much of an idea of how much power priests could wield, I was excited to see Seimei in action. Her abilities are impressive, as flighty as she acts in her daily life. She goes so far to cover her insecurities and weaknesses as to convince not only Raikou, but also the audience, of her unreliability. I saw quite a few people drop the show because they couldn’t get past her character. I clung on in curiosity of the hidden and in hopes for something pleasantly surprising. I didn’t quite get all my wishes granted, but I did get much more development on the main characters and an overarching conflict with some resolution, which is far better than the first half of the series implied. There are also some added touches with the inclusion of the legend of Princess Kaguya that I really enjoyed at the end.

Rating: 0 dango

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu

Please, please let this be the end of the Durarara!! series! As a big fan of Baccano!, I jumped into this franchise at the beginning with high expectations, and as a whole, I very much enjoyed the first installment. Then came a second, and a third, until we ended up where we are today with a total of five seasons worth of anime. Granted, the 61 episodes are officially two seasons, but they were mostly split into single cours with whole seasons of nothing in between. This anime has a staggering number of cast members, so keeping track of everyone and their individual story lines with so much disruption was difficult, to say the least. I was a fan of the first 25-episode series, and my admiration suffered with each addition as the character list grew longer and the end more elusive.

Some of  you might say, “That’s the point of this series, a whole slew of people mixing their own stories within the same city,” and you’re right. It’s a style of storytelling, and not one I’m entirely comfortable with in such quantities. It’s how I view Izaya, a man who enjoys people so much that he gives his all to watch them experience the fullest range of emotions from joy to suffering. I hate him, but can’t help but watch the results of his meddling.

As a side note (spoiler): hell YES to seeing Celty in her full form! She was always a fantastical pairing with modern Tokyo, but that juxtaposition was even more alluring once she reunited with her head. Celty, along with Shizuo, was always my favorite part about DRRR!!

Rating: 1 dango

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

I almost passed completely on this series since I have very little experience with the Gundam franchise, my sole viewings including sporadic episodes from SEED that I can’t even remember, and the Endless Waltz film. I tried AGE but was disappointed with the art style and boring set-up. I didn’t pick up Iron-Blooded Orphans until I repeatedly saw praise for the show on Twitter. I was too far behind and too busy to try catching up with everyone else by the time I decided to start, so I backlogged it until last weekend, when I marathoned all 25 episodes. I LOVED every second of it, even that strange kiss scene.

What I most appreciated about this installment was its self-sufficiency. I didn’t feel like I needed to know the events of all the other Gundam series to understand or enjoy this one. The desire for a family and home is something anyone can understand, as are the dangers of single-mindedly pursuing the dream. There were countless times where I ached for members from opposing factions to openly speak with one another and to listen, only to watch the two destroy one another. The blood shed seemed so pointless, but I found myself swayed by the conviction in Mikazuki’s and Orga’s eyes and words. I quailed at Tekkadan’s lack of battle etiquette in favor of guerilla tactics, like with Mikazuki cut off Carta Issue’s attempt at chivalry. Yet I also cheered on the quickness of results–it was a welcome change from so many other series where battles are elongated by flowery speeches. Like Biscuit and Merribit, I kept voicing my concerns at the violence and vengeance, but found myself swept into the momentum to the goal destination.

As glorious as the closing episodes were, we have another season to look forward to, hopefully this fall!

Rating: 2 dango

Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri 2nd Season

I really should have saved one of my favorites for last, but GATE wasn’t such a bad place to end for the winter season. It’s chock-full of problems and blatant propaganda, but there was just enough included to keep me invested in Itami’s journey through the Special Region with his harem.

If the first season was mostly exploratory of the Special Region and Japan’s grounding as the sole Earth force, then this second season was an attempt at focusing on the political struggles within and outside of the region. The main driving forces of the show, including the fire dragon and the Empire’s prince Zolzal, were strangely built. We’ve seen the fire dragon from the very beginning, and in the closing episode to the first season, we’re forced to face the idea of actually killing it. There are then some very convenient events at the start of the sequel that push the Imperial Capital to a boiling point that set the stage for the transition from the dragon killing to the toppling of the empire. Looking at a distance now, all the various events make sense. Experiencing it, though, I kept feeling that certain situations and characters were strangely placed within the movement of the story at any given point. It’s like someone was handed major plot points and a list of characters that had to be used, but no instructions on how to string it all together.

Rating: 0 dango


 

Final Thoughts

With the exception of a few gems this season, the overall showing this winter was weak. I honestly can’t complain since I’ve been so overwhelmed with my own personal life and dropping series here and there was a welcome relief. I thought the slog worth the exceptional series that came through week to week, including Shouwa Genroku Rakugo ShinjuuMobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded OrphansKono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!, and  Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2nd Season. Let me know what you watched, and your thoughts on them individually or the season as a whole!

8 thoughts on “Winter 2016 Season Wrap, Part 2

  1. “Japan’s rakugo is presented here shortly after the turn of the 18th century” 20th century, you counted in the wrong direction. And wow, I think you’re the only person I know who stuck with Garo, I keep thinking of going back to it but it was such a let down after the first season, just wasn’t compelling at all even though it had all the right ingredients to make a good show….

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    • Aughhh!!! I knew it was one way or the other. That’s what I get for not double checking. You should just proof everything I write before I publish it!!

      Yes about Garo…I am very stubborn at times :p

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  2. This is half shows I dropped: BBK/BRNK, DRRR, Iron-Blooded Orphans. I tried Rakugo, but got so annoyed at that guy right at the beginning I turned it off (“dude, shut up, shut up shut up!!!!”), and never got to turning it back on, despite everyone saying how great it is. Maybe sometime.

    I think that people in general have been too harsh on Phantom World. If I were to rank all anime, Phantom World would easily be in the top 15%. Was it a KyoAni masterpiece? No, I won’t argue that. Was it better than most everything else even so? Yes – both visually and story-wise. It was jumped on from the beginning for being more male-gazey than most KyoAni shows, which was supposedly evidence of… something bad, but for the most part those criticisms weren’t anything but “I don’t like it because I don’t want KyoAni to do that!” Well, tough, they can do what they want, and to be honest, they did a really good job of it (and this is the same fandom that has for years excoriated KyoAni for “making everything look like K-On!!”). And the story was still pretty good, with good circularity and internal coherence and significance. I think much of the opprobrium directed at Phantom World is sourced similarly to the criticisms of Glasslip, in that it’s people trying to find a Wobble: something to come down hard on so that they look like they’re being ‘fair’ or “objective” and think it’s safe to slag something that people either don’t understand or don’t like as much.

    Dagashi Kashi was fun to watch. I most definitely don’t have a Japanese market around here, so there was no real-world relevance, but the show was well-put-together and amusing.

    I mostly liked Gate for what it was, and didn’t worry about whether this or that was propaganda or something else (I take the view that pretty much every story is propaganda for the viewpoint that the author is peddling. It’s mostly just when it goes against one’s belief that one labels it as such.) I did find I liked the story a lot better when it was Itami, Lelei, Ruri, and Tuka going around doing things, otherwise it got too spread out with a lot of people who were very simple character types. I think I cringed like everyone else when the SDF slaughtered a bunch of ‘bad guys’, so much overkill, but that’s what the show was.

    Thanks for the posts about the Winter shows! Now you need to get to the Spring shows post!😉

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    • Wow! I’m surprised you dropped Rakugo–I highly recommend you give it another go. If you’re talking about the young guy fresh from the prison in the opening episode, yes, he only appears in the first and last episode.

      I’m so relieved to find someone else who isn’t hating on Phantom World. There wasn’t much I felt I could talk about it in my season post, but I probably would’ve enjoyed blogging each episode if I had time. The random facts presented by Haruhiko were fascinating to me. I kept thinking that as much as the others put down his capability, I actually found him the most helpful with the information he provided.

      I definitely will get on to my spring set menu once I’m able to watch at least one episode of everything! I just finished the second OVA from Aria the Avvenire, and want to talk about that a bit first. Thank you for always dropping by🙂

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