Wooohooo! Spring is finally over! Or should I be crying, now that a few of my beloved series are either paused with sequels on the horizon or completely finished? Either way, here is my second and last part of spring reviews. Quite a number of these deserved individual coverage, and maybe that will happen some day with second viewings. Please do read on and let me know your own thoughts on the below shows.
- Nijiiro Days
- High School Fleet
- Boku no Hero Academia
- Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?
- Ushio to Tora 2nd Season
- Koutetsujou no Kabaneri
- Shounen Maid
- 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.
It took me a surprisingly long time to realize that this show comprised of episodes that were only thirteen-minutes long. I just kept thinking, “Huh! That was over way too quickly…” I can’t remember the last time I watched a series with this kind of duration–the series could have easily been one cours with full-length episodes instead of stretching itself over two seasons. Perhaps the decision came from time constraints? Whatever the case, I still loyally kept up with Nijiiro Days week to week because it was so easy to fit into my schedule and because I liked the story well enough to see where our characters would go.
This goes not only for the main duo, but also for their friends who received a decent amount of coverage. They weren’t just the cheerleading squad for Hashiba and Anna, but had their own interests and goals. It was fun to go off on their own paths, like cosplaying at an anime convention, having a grumpy heart-to-heart in a Japanese inn hallway, and discussing the possibility of an S&M-relationship. As far as Hashiba and Anna were concerned, I loved the interactions between them as they each struggled with their growing feelings. Hashiba’s obvious infatuation worried me at first–I thought it might be a rebound from his previous heartbreak. It became clear fairly quickly that his interest was far from fleeting, and I shared his puppy-ish excitement at every one of Anna’s positive reactions. The push to the ending was cliche as so many of these romances are, but I was still satisfied enough with the result of Anna’s realization of her own feelings.
Rating: 0 dango
High School Fleet
This show was not at all what I expected it to be. Once I saw the character designs, their outfits, and the fleet, I immediately thought we’d receive something along the lines of Girls und Panzer: cheery high school girls playing at war without any actual danger. I expected the Harekaze to receive some cutesy mascot nickname, and to work its way through all the other ships for a final victory against the intimidating Musashi. We did get this face-off, but not in any way I would have imagined.
The start played out as I thought it would with our introduction to the impossibly positive main character, Misaki. Even though we haven’t known her long, the assumptions about her archetype influence our later shock that this girl has been chosen among so many other seemingly better options as the captain of one of the fleet’s ships. The entrance of deputy-captain Mashiro only supports the indignation at Misaki’s rank. With that disbelief, we set off on the crew’s maiden voyage together. What follows in that same opening episode sets the pace for the rest of the series–the happy-go-lucky group are suddenly attacked by their teacher’s ship and it becomes clear that the Harekaze is in real danger. Their retaliation is only the beginning of a string of battles with other ships both from their school and from outside. The cause of all the miscommunication and aggression comes to light thanks to the Harekaze’s lucky cat. With that knowledge and the trust forged from multiple fights at sea, the crew back Misaki in her desire to help others on this memorable first voyage, all while remembering to enjoy every day like high school students should. I very much recommend this anime to anyone looking for a good bit of fun with an overarching goal that drives the girls forward.
Rating: 1 dango
Boku no Hero Academia
Vying for first at the top of my favorites this spring, Boku no Hero Academia enters the super hero stage with its own distinct style. The art, younger characters, and displayed powers immediately give the vibe that this series is aimed at a young audience, but the story writing is enjoyable for all ages and I can’t help but see imagery reflective of recent political and social issues here in the U.S. and abroad. If you brushed by this anime because of the setting, main character’s age, and promotional art, then I highly suggest you look past them and give it a try.
Midoriya, or “Deku” as he is called in both derogatory and admiring tones, starts the story as the odd one out of his generation. While his classmates each gain different powers as children, he alone receives nothing. The boy who loves heroes more than anyone else must now face a future of normalcy. It’s tough imagining this scenario even as an adult, much less seeing the bullying he endures from former friends. Despite the setback, Midoriya sets his sights on the elite UA High, where the gifted are trained to become professional heroes. Call it a hell of a lot of luck, or fate, but his encounter with the #1 pro who is also his role model, All Might, completely changes his future. His eventual entrance to the school of his dreams brings on the most challenging, yet exhilarating, trials, and we finally meet peers who value him for his personality and smarts. This ultimate underdog tale has only just begun and I can’t wait to see more of the quickly learning Deku in the expected sequel.
Rating: 2 dango
Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?
If there was anything in danger of being cut from my already shorter than usual list, it was this show with its unoriginal setup and one of the most annoying characters of the season, if not several seasons. What we have here is something of a cross between a harem romance and a gamer-centric sitcom. The protagonist is a high school boy, with the handle “Rusian,” who plays an MMORPG titled Legendary Age. He fills the role of the tank in his guild, “Alley Cats,” and is surrounded in game by male characters–that is, except for his wife and the team’s healer, “Ako.” We later discover together with him the true identities of his guild mates, who all coincidentally attend his same school and are all female. An even bigger shock is the realization that the wife he assumed was actually a male really is a girl who looks and acts just like she does in game.
If the anime just decided to end there and play out like any other harem with a game setting, I probably would have checked out completely. Thankfully, NetoYome opted to include plenty of the game’s aspects into their daily school lives, including setting up a club that conveniently allows them to play Legendary Age at the school, as well as puts them up to forcing Ako to accept real life along with the virtual one she prefers. Several other fun events occur that now have me really missing video games; maybe next year when all the wedding planning is over, I can finally pick up the the few I paused. The anime was more enjoyable when it focused on the lesser featured aspects of games, like account theft, premium items, and guild versus guild territorial warfare. It suffered when following the noxious pink fluff of Ako. While I can certainly understand her blending of virtual and reality, her complete lack of separation in regards to romance when she stumbles elsewhere is baffling. What does Rusian even see in her?
Rating: 0 dango
Ushio to Tora 2nd Season
Was it just me, or did this second season’s climax feel both sudden and drawn-out? Don’t get me wrong, I still love this anime and its characters, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were stampeded to the edge of a cliff, only to find ourselves falling for what felt like forever. I almost feel like re-watching the show from the very beginning uninterrupted to see if I can pinpoint where the shift in pacing began.
My uncertainty aside, it was pretty fantastic to see the humans and youkai we had met over the past several episodes finally go up against the ultimate baddie, Hakumen no Mono. Even more satisfying was the creature’s backstory and origin, which in turn also revealed Tora’s past. I knew there was something more to him than just being an ancient and stronger-than-most monster. There had to be a reason why the spear didn’t kill him when he was stuck in the warehouse, and why he bonded to Ushio, albeit reluctantly, as he did. Seeing his mentality as a human warrior was pretty funny, actually, since the thirst for battle hadn’t changed much in his youkai state. Other than that, I was moved by his journey as a child and his eventual birth of Hakumen no Mono. The origin story was perfectly placed in this second season after a full season and then some of us getting to know him and Ushio as a duo. While I may not have loved Tora to the extent that Mayuko did, I desperately wanted to see him survive to the end and perhaps even regain his human body–maybe even be reborn.
The overall 39-episode count of this story seems long compared to most other anime these days, but I really could have undergone much more exploration into the side characters. I wish I could have seen Nagare and his spiral into violence at Hakumen no Mono’s prodding before his sudden confrontation at the end. I really wanted to see more from Asako’s point of view after the huge build-up with her forgetting about Ushio amidst the storm of cherry blossoms. I could have used an extra episode fully revealing the first meeting of Ushio’s father and mother. The huge scale of the events that took place here could have easily filled many more episodes, and I just wasn’t ready to see it end.
Rating: 1 dango
Koutetsujou no Kabaneri
Ahhh, Kabaneri, you beautiful, over-the-top piece of crap. You were such a joy visually and aesthetically with your character designs, special effects, and steampunk-inspired technology, but so lackluster in story and direction. Your coolest character had too-few scenes, mostly driving Hayajiro (see above picture). Your lamest character was the main villain with a boring agenda against his pops. And your main character, despite his creative art design, is almost all talk with very little fighting skill. What merit he has in his mechanical experimentation ends with his own survival from a Kabane bite and the later popularity of his steam-powered gun.
I know I’m being pretty harsh with this series, which admittedly entertained me each week with its pretty settings and predictable cliffhangers, but I had hoped for something more substantial after all the hype it received earlier this year at Sakura-Con. It was also included with Amazon Prime, which excites me for future seasonal anime inclusions on the streaming site. Still, Kabaneri fell short of my expectations. As fun as the Kabane seemed at the start, they ended up being just re-imagined zombies. I know the idea of cannibalism and infection should terrify me, but we’ve seen it in so many other places that the fear no longer sticks. The Titans of AoT look goofier than the Kabane, but the mystery of their origin and the continuing unknowns lend staying power to their terror.
I can’t even begin to piece together what happened at the ending. Maybe someone else can better explain it for me? Why in the world would Biba provide the antidote to Ikoma? That makes absolutely zero sense for his character and essentially undermines everything he has said and done over the entire series. Also, why didn’t they use that antidote on Horobi? I don’t see her as weak at all, and I imagine it must be rare for Biba to find others as loyal as she. Whatever! I wash my hands of it. Someone else tell me if the movies do a better job than this main series, otherwise I’ll ignore them.
Rating: 0 dango
Let’s finish on something refreshing, shall we? Shounen Maid seems to have gone under the radar of many of my anime peers, but it really should be credited more for its unique premise and solid story building. I’ll admit that at a glance, I assumed this would be another horrifying BL between a young boy and older man. Can you really blame me with the recent anime that have aired in the genre? I am so, so thankful that this is nothing at all like that. Boiled down, this is the story of a young boy and his uncle who come together after a tragic death and learn to care for one another as family. Shounen Maid is very much more than just that, though, and I encourage those of you seeking family and friend-oriented shows to give this a try.
Families can be messy, particularly when one side has been cast out from the main. Chihiro is the child of one such disowning; his mother married against her parents’ wishes and when her husband died far too young, she struggled as a single mother to pay the rent and provide for the two of them. This fight isn’t shown much to us–in the very first episode, Chihiro becomes an orphan and faces an uncertain future. Luckily, he is reunited with the uncle he never knew he had, the younger brother to his mom. Their comical first meeting and Chihiro’s introduction to his estate sets the adorable atmosphere of the rest of the season. This boy has matured far quicker than most because of his upbringing. While it would usually be strange to see a kid with housekeeping as a hobby, it’s somehow believable in Chihiro’s case. His horror at Madoka’s messiness and the overall unkempt mansion is infectious. Not only does he enjoy cleaning, but he is a skilled cook and loves to be praised for his hard work. He’s such a good kid that you can’t help but want to see all his wishes fulfilled.
As he and Madoka’s familial bond strengthens, so do the references to the family history. We know Madoka and Chihiro’s mother cared very much for one another, and that she left without looking back. We later learn that Madoka no longer speaks to Chihiro’s grandmother. The anime pushes the reunion of grandson and grandmother as a logical move forward. And while there’s a clear nudge for them to form their own connection, there’s also the recognition that she wasn’t the best mother to her children. She obviously cared for them, but she and their father also cared greatly about social expectations. That multi-dimensional responsibility as a mother and as a wife of high standing has resulted in her current solitude. Chihiro repeatedly sees her alone in the town, and I can’t help but feel sorry for her. Perhaps one day Madoka can forgive her and they can come to an understanding, but I don’t expect to see that in any type of sequel. The series opts to end on a hopeful note with a sweet entrance by Chihiro’s mom as a little girl ghost. Some might have found the fantastical twist a little odd, but I thought it perfectly wrapped up the feelings at the end of the season.
Rating: 2 dango
Fourteen finished shows doesn’t seem like much when my usual count is up in the twenties! If you haven’t already read the first part, please check it out. If you don’t see any spring shows that you think I’d like in either part, feel free to let me know in the comments. I sometimes go over so many episodes during the first weeks of a given season that I can overlook something I might have loved.