Spring 2016 Season Wrap – Part 1

These past couple of weeks have brought about so many changes! First and foremost: I just turned 30. Happy birthday to me🙂 KWoo and I went on a very short trip up to Alaska for a belated engagement party and to celebrate both my parents’ wedding anniversary and my birthday. Second is the wrapping up of this spring season, which I have surprisingly kept current week to week. I think I cut out way more at the start than I have in previous years, so the marginally smaller number of shows was much more manageable. Third, I’m now less than two months from the big wedding date, so I’m eyeballing the new summer season with a wary eye. I know I’ll be way too busy in the upcoming weeks to keep up with as many as I would like, but I promise to backlog anything that looks interesting and to chat with you a bit throughout the summer about the few I will watch.

This particular spring, I had a handful of great, a decent amount of pretty good, and sadly too many of the mid-range. I probably could have cut out more, but I’m still too forgiving on the flags that raise in the opening episodes. Now, on to the first part of my season review!

  • Bakuon!!
  • Joker Game
  • Kuma Miko
  • Anne Happy♪
  • Bungou Stray Dogs
  • Flying Witch
  • Sansha Sanyou


*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.

Bakuon!!

With Top Gear’s demise, Bakuon!! gave just the right dose of mechanical worship and human tomfoolery that I had been missing. Instead of cars, we’re presented with motorcycles, a mode of transport almost completely foreign to me. A friend of mine had recently purchased a Ninja; riding astride it had me feeling like a little kid on Santa’s lap. The possibilities of travel suddenly seemed to blossom before my eyes. Then I remembered, in the words of Hane, the inconvenience of cold, rain, and maintenance.

The negatives of bikes paired with the obstinate passion of the riders parcel much of the comedy of this show. We’re party to an air-headed main character with the ability to talk to her Honda, an aggressive, narrow-minded girl who brings a whole new depth to stupidity, a filthy-rich classmate with zero common sense, a Suzuki-nut who is the brunt of many jokes, a proud freshman with a Napoleon complex, and an ageless senior whose head is forever encapsulated in a helmet, Stig-style. Following along with Hane, Hijiri, and Chisame as they obtained their motorcycle permits and first bikes was only a small part of the fun in the series.

There’s an effortless humor in self-deprecation, and this show constantly makes fun of its characters and bikes. I’m faintly reminded of Sabagebu! in that light. Onsa is an insufferable know-it-all who mercilessly bullies Rin because she loves Suzuki motorcycles. Her idiocy rings clearly through words and expressions, but I also can’t help but like her open emotions. Then there’s the running joke regarding Hane’s mysterious connection to her training bike and later to the savior of motorcycles.  Isn’t there some quote about an idiot’s propensity for luck? Whatever it is, Hane has an undeniable charm that wins over her club members, motorcycles, and Jesus look-alike. Her revelation at the end of a world without motorcycles perfectly captured the stupidity and genius of Bakuon!!

Rating: 1 dango

Joker Game

I love the idea of Joker Game and commend Production I.G. for proceeding with an arguably controversial work, however fictional the characters and scenarios are. There’s no overlooking the historical influences of the time period, and I felt a strange sense of taboo while viewing the events from this point of view. They do establish the fact that some, if not all, of the D-Agency spies sympathize with the Allies, but there’s no real concession of right or wrong. There’s only the game and our spies’ ability to play it and survive without taking any other lives.

What surprised me most was the overall layout of the show. I figured with a historical fiction such as this that there would be an overarching mystery or conflict. Instead, we are privy to several episodic events, usually with different protagonists. The closest thing to a larger story is the repeated attempts by other organizations inside and outside of Japan to either undermine or discover the truth of D-Agency. While I found the individual experiences interesting as mysteries, I never felt a connection to the characters and as such hardly cared about the endings, except for a mild “that’s too bad.” I wish that the opening episode where we first met the spies had its own mini arc for us to really get to know them before being thrown with them into missions.

Rating: 0 dango

Kuma Miko

Ahhhh, Machi. How you at times endeared yourself to me, and at others completely aggravated me. And the same goes for Natsu–at times I sympathized with his frustrations, and others wanted to shake him for either pushing Machi too far or for coddling her too much. For the most part, Kuma Miko danced the line between mortifying humor and utter humiliation.

My favorite parts were scenes oozing with cute and just a bit of comedy. Sections featuring Yoshio typically horrified me. I can certainly understand caring for your hometown and wanting to promote its charms, but must it really be done at Machi’s expense? He shamelessly uses her for advertisement purposes regardless of her own mental and emotional health. I know I’m probably taking this show far too seriously, but with an ending like we were given, how can I not be repulsed?

Rating: 0 dango

Anne Happy♪

With two school-girl-centric anime this season, I’m happy to say that both surpassed my low expectations. Anne Happy was the fluffier of the two, but I can honestly recommend it as a heart-warming story about unfortunate girls finding happiness in their daily lives. The premise is simple from the very beginning and remains so throughout: Class 1-7, dubbed the “Happiness Class,” is filled with students of varying levels of misfortune. The main character is practically cursed with ill luck, another has an extremely frail body prone to injury and illness, another is in love with a construction safety mascot, and so on. Together, they almost cancel out one another’s shortcomings–that, or they charge on despite them.

As most others of its genre, the series takes an episodic story route. The adventures are each contained in one episode. We do see a steady growth of all of the girls as the season moves on–while they don’t necessarily lessen the effects of their individual problems, they do learn to cope with them with the help of their friends. Ruri becomes less insecure about her feelings for the construction sign, while Botan makes up for her physical weakness with mental strength. Anne is probably the only one who doesn’t really seem to change; from the beginning, her optimism and persistent attempts to succeed carry her through the never ending accidents that surround her. And now with friends who understand and care for her, she can also count on them to help out in times of trouble (every day).

Something else I found interesting was the inclusion of two more characters who aren’t quite featured enough to be main, but not sidelined enough to be fully secondary. Hibiki and Ren pop up a bit further into the series as fellow classmates with their own issues: Hibiki has absolutely zero sense of direction, and Ren attracts the adoration of all living females, human and animal. At first I was resistant to their increased airtime, but as their friendship with the main trio strengthened, I started to appreciate the way they, too, worked together. As a side note, if anyone sees any Timothy merchandise, would you tell me? I could use my own Timothy bodyguard🙂

Rating: 1 dango

Bungou Stray Dogs

Much like Joker Game, I found the idea of Bungou Stray Dogs promising. Unfortunately, the series never really progressed beyond that–it remained mildly interesting, but insubstantial. I think the biggest issue for me lies in its lack of a convincing main cast for the Armed Detective Agency. We are introduced to the bulk of the agency’s employees at the start, and are tossed names familiar to many readers, like Edogawa Rampo and Osamu Dazai. Just hearing their names and suddenly being thrown into a group with them isn’t enough for me to really know them. Even though I’m familiar with some of the authors and characters, that doesn’t mean who they were in real life and how they’re portrayed in this anime are anywhere near the same. For all I know, this show is just appropriating their names for novelty’s sake. One thing I can commend this series on is its art, which very prettily showed off the different abilities of our cast.

We really only experience a couple of character-building stories before trouble slaps us in the face. I’m suddenly supposed to care about our ragtag agency, despite not knowing much about the opposing group, Port Mafia. The “enemy” is presented as shallow, bad guys out to either recruit or kill the main character. They, too, are blessed with supernatural gifts, but not the brightest of minds among their agents. When their evil almost runs its course, we’re provided with yet another authority called The Guild. At this point, I care even less about the power play in their community. Their introduction comes at the end of the series as a clear segue into the sequel scheduled to come this fall. I’m not sure if I’ll follow loyally along with Atsushi…

Rating: 0 dango

Flying Witch

Hands down my favorite of the season, Flying Witch was a surprise and delight this spring. At a glance, it’s an unassuming show about a young witch living day to day in a peaceful town. She lives with her non-magical cousins and attends high school with humans. She struggles to fly on a broom properly, but at least has a black cat with whom to converse. It all sounds so normal, but that’s where the charm of this anime enters. The intersections of non-magic and magic are absolutely believable in their regularity. A lot of witch shows, or just fantastical series in general, work so hard to extend the mystical into every crevice, from basic appearance to every life and breath of their worlds. While high fantasy can be fun and I’ve read and watched a lot of it, I also enjoy the calmer-paced settings where I can easily imagine existing in my own neighborhood.

For the majority of the series, the stories are either half-episodes are single episodes. This all taking place in one town, we of course have recurring characters and places, but the situations all vary from one another. We meet other witches passing through or living in the same town as main character Makoto. We visit a restaurant only visible by the knowledgeable guest and frequented mostly by the otherworldly. We go hunting for mythical mandrakes and ordinary fiddlehead ferns. Some of my favorite repeated faces or scenes include little cousin Chinatsu, still in grade school and already knowing that she wants to become a witch. Then there’s Makoto’s older sister Akane, a fully-fledged witch with a great love for alcohol and magical experimentation. The character interactions in Flying Witch are exactly the type I wish more shows would take the time to include. In very little time, I felt a part of Makoto’s circle of friends and family, and looked forward to each week. And while the ending came far too soon for this single-cours series, using the festival to bring together the two sides of Makoto’s life was the perfect place to rest.

Rating: 2 dango

Sansha Sanyou

The second of my straight up high school girl series this season, Sansha Sanyou was unquestionably the more filling of the two, both in depth and flavor. The premise is strikingly similar at the start: we have a trio of girls who are all quirky in immediately noticeable ways. Main girl Yoko has fallen from wealth into poverty–she eats literal bread crusts for lunch every day and deeply values any gifts, particularly food, bestowed upon her. Her mannerisms still reflect that of a refined upbringing, and she just can’t shake two of her loyal family servants. Then there’s Hayama, a deceptively thoughtful (more like manipulative) and responsible girl who is the class representative. When the situation calls for it, the darkness within gushes out to intimidate others, but never fear! A mewling kitten is all that’s needed to make her forget her conniving train of thought. Finally, we have Futaba, a girl with a never ending appetite and the champion of every food contest she’s encountered. Of the three, I find her closest to my heart, and was thrilled to see that her character was crafted to not only love eating food, but to also showcase skill in preparing it. Her temporary horror at using roux for curry cracked me up since it was my initial response as well!

There’s no particular direction for the series other than the friendship between these three very different girls. Hayama’s brutal honesty at not using the term “friend” too quickly was so completely unexpected that I couldn’t help but actually laugh aloud and respect her for saying it. I also sympathize with Yoko’s yearning for close connections, particularly now that she is forced to deal with a whole slew of scenarios she previously wouldn’t have encountered, like taking her own prepared meals to school, and working part time for the money and not for the novelty of it. Talking about the bakery where she works, there included my other favorite character: Sonobe, former maid and current patissiere. Her “monstrous” resilience and love for dressing others up created some of the most awkward and funny scenes in the anime.

I would dearly love to see another season for this show, or to perhaps read the source material to see how much was used or left out. If you’ve read the manga, please do let me know if I’m missing out.

Rating: 1 dango


Part 2 to follow!

20 thoughts on “Spring 2016 Season Wrap – Part 1

  1. Two things in particular I could not agree more with – first Flying Witch was also my aots (though you know this already😄 ), and the other is regarding Kuma Miko….

    [rare rant mode] … engaged!
    I can honestly say that it has been a long time since I was so disappointed with a series as I was with the last couple of eps as this series. At the end I came as close to “ragequitting” as I ever have. There was just … no need to emphasize things to that degree. It was not funny, enjoyable, tasteful, clever, artistic or whatever else someone might try to sound clever in calling it. And that is not just my opinion – many people from many different countries thought so, the mangaka himself thought so (!), and the noticeable nonexistence of disc sales also shows what people think. What were they thinking?!
    [/rare rant mode]

    Can you give negative dangos btw?😄

    Liked by 2 people

    • ❤❤ Flying Witch❤❤

      That's crazy that the mangaka also found the last few episodes of Kuma Miko disappointing. Was it not like that in the original work? It's very hard for me to forget my distaste for the ending and remember my joy with plenty of the earlier scenes in the anime, but I made myself do so since I honestly did appreciate some of the humor. I can't give negative dangos :p If I could, I probably wouldn't have finished the series in the first place!

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  2. Flying Witch wasn’t my anime of the season, like the last commenter, but it was definitely my favorite of the anime on this page! Solid slice of life entry, to be sure!

    I’d also have to agree that Kuma Miko was a disgrace to its medium. I think I was enjoying it more than most, until it simply became unbearably unwatchable by the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that one of the things that bothered people more about Kuma Miko is that we’ve seen shows where the main character is resistant to learning the lesson, and still have even a bit of a turnaround to pull a positive from the show. So we stayed watching the show until the end hoping for that moment of enlightenment, or incident of growth. And instead we got regression. Not only was the thing we hoped for not given to us, it was actually repudiated, “No, we’re going to go this other way.” A direction which felt not just personally backward, but culturally backward to a lot of people.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ahhhh, Tanaka-kun. I did try one episode of that but really couldn’t get into the comedy of the show. This summer season is also looking stronger than the spring, which is unfortunate for my schedule!

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  3. I tried two episodes of Bungou Stray Dogs, but it just felt like it wasn’t for me. I thought that I was probably missing a lot of the ties to the writers they were named after, and that other people were getting more out of the show, but the more I read about it, that wasn’t happening much, and they were just basically trading on the names to try to get people interested, not making any connection between the character and the famous name. So that’s even more disappointing to me.

    You talk about all three of the shows I blogged this season in this post, and I really enjoyed, even loved, all three of them. Bakuon!! was full of fanservice of many types, but most particularly for motorcycle gearheads. The show was made by the frenemy relationship between Onsa and Rin, and having their earnest friend Hane there to give them someone to fight over. It was a lot of fun, but had a disappointing to me amount of filler from Tazuko, I didn’t really care for any of her parts.

    Anne Happy was almost there, and in a season without Flying Witch would have been the far and away favorite for me. I’ve come to really like Shin Oonuma’s work, he is wonderful with ‘losers’ (like in Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry or Rokujouma no Shinryakusha), and he made these characters who would be pathetic in most situations really stand out. I loved the play between the naturally and self-inflicted “unlucky”, where Hanako and Hibiki’s direction was naturally, Hibiki’s superiority complex and Hibari’s self-consciousness were self-inflicted, and Botan’s went back and forth. And I loved that there was so much more to the characters and their world that they would let slip but not tell us about. Hibari’s parents, Botan’s family, Timothy and the girl controlling him, Miss Kodaira’s background. There was so much more there, and there was so much that we were fulfilled in seeing. It was a great show to look forward to as the “coming of the weekend”.

    And Flying Witch was just superlative. Beautiful art, beautiful music, beautiful characters and writing, beautiful relationships. A witch aesthetic all its own, that as you say didn’t shove meaning into every single normal thing (like Harry Potter does) and it didn’t make the witching out to be everything in Makoto’s or Akane’s life. It’s just who they were.

    I did enjoy Sansha Sanyou, but it just didn’t click with me as much as it did some other people. It always felt a little too ‘try hard’, especially with Youko. I wanted her to calm down a bit more earlier, and she did get more of a comfort level later in the series, but to me there was something just a little offputting about her early on. And I could have done with less of Yamaji and most of the other recurring characters like Nishiyama (and maybe it’s an American thing, but why do you name two characters in a 10 character show “Nishiyama” and “Nishikawa”?) and the Tsuji siblings. It felt like they were purposely kept one-dimensional, which is fine, but not when you have them appear that often. So for me, like I said, something was just a little ‘off’ about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re actually the first person I’ve encountered who preferred Anne Happy to Sansha Sanyou! I’m always guilty of forgetting to look into the staff’s history, so I had no idea Shin Oonuma was involved with Rokujouma (which I very much liked) and Calvary (which I found uninspiring). Seeing other works I like such as Baka to Test and Prisma Illya makes it even clearer why the tone of Anne Happy felt so familiar to me.

      I actually neglected to name Kodaira-sensei, who was another favorite character of mine from the show. I’d love to see more of her and Timothy’s handler. A spin-off would be a dream come true!

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      • I don’t think anyone’s going to call Shin Oonuma the greatest director ever, but as far as I’m concerned, if he directed it, I’m probably going to like it more than average. And I’m almost certain to like the OP sequence, partly because they almost always includes lip syncing, and partly because they frequently use interesting visual effects. Rokujouma used a recent 3D enhancement effect with those two framing bars on the screen, and Anne Happy used the cute chibi portion.

        To me, the questions that I imagined being relevant to Anne Happy really pushed it over the top for me, especially over Sansha Sanyou. I really loved that it wasn’t super cut-and-dried, or even all out there to see. It made the world the show was in feel so much deeper.

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  4. KumaMiko could have been glorious as it starred a miko and a bear but no. Too much Machi torture fetish and only Machi and Natsu being remotely likable along with a “Why?” conclusion drastically made this one of the few disappointments in my career as an animeniac. Thankfully there were plenty of other shows that cheered me up.

    Anne Happy was my anime of the season which if you know my tastes should not surprise you.

    Flying Witch was a great “chillax” show and I want a second season.

    Sansha Sanyou was good but I have seen better shows that are similar to this one over the years. At least, like Anne Happy it was visually astounding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, that is a pretty solid point about Anne Happy’s art–it really was beautiful on the screen. Now that Highway has reminded me about the director and his other works, I’m even more remembering how much I enjoyed the visuals in Baka to Test, which had a similar feel looks and humor-wise.

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  5. Oops. I forgot Bakuon!! K-ON! on wheels was pretty good imo. Unlike Rolling Girls this gave me what I wanted, an anime about cute and sexy girls riding motorcycles. That is all I asked for and Bakuon!! gave me that. Also the T&A was delicious for the most part.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aughhh, I forgot about Rolling Girls! (Not too hard to do :P) I didn’t even remotely consider that a motorcycle-show given the complete irrelevance their rides had to the show.

      Liked by 1 person

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