This second and final wrap for the summer season turned out shorter than expected, as I resorted to reserving a few series for later viewing. There’s still a lot to read, though, and I encourage you to let me know what you thought of these shows. The summer season treated me very well with its wide range of genres. There are always the disappointments in shows that didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but there are also a handful of wonderful surprises.
- Cheer Danshi!!
- Fukigen na Mononokean
- Love Live! Sunshine!!
- Macross Delta
- Mob Psycho 100
- Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin
- Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara
- Tales of Zestiria the X
- 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.
Cheer Boys!! turned out just as energetic and fun as the title, and I’m happy to see sports anime delving into lesser explored areas. While I do love baseball anime, there are so many other fields that beg coverage. Cheerleading itself is a sport that despite greater acceptance still is dominated by women. All-male teams do exist, though their prevalence is far less than all-female and co-ed groups. It’s interesting to see this special case featured in anime, where male-centric sports are the norm, particularly since I just discussed in my review of Taishou Yakyuu Musume. the rarity of sports shows featuring only women. Cheer Boys!! dodges the stereotype by its choice of sport as well as its more relaxed approach.
Instead of focusing mostly on perfection and competition, Haruki and his friends aim for self-improvement, teamwork, and most of all, fun. They want to enjoy themselves and bring smiles to their audience. The art style of the anime worked well to bring across that more gentle temperament, and sticking to just one season resulted in a fairly smooth progression to the end. We weren’t forced to sit through weeks of a single performance. We didn’t stumble across too many points of conflict or overly dramatic twists of plot. Most of the team members had moments of self evaluation that were quickly confronted and used as building blocks towards improvement.
Rating: 1 dango
Fukigen na Mononokean
The Morose Monokean quickly became one of my favorite shows of the season with its characters and individual stories. Like I’ve said plenty of times before, it should come as no surprise to my readers that I would gravitate to this sort of setting. I’m a sucker for youkai-focused anime, particularly those of the healing variety–shows like Natsume Yuujinchou, Kamisama Hajimemashita, and Gingitsune. Monokean joins their ranks as another favorite of mine that blurs the lines of reality while reminding us to always hope for the best. The various youkai we meet together with Ashiya look completely otherworldly, yet share many of the same basic needs and desires of humans. They seek safety, company, and nourishment. Unfortunately for us, sometimes their comfort results in our discomfort, and it’s up to methods like the Mononokean to return youkai to their rightful place in the underworld.
Abeno’s hiring of Ashiya works wonderfully for both of them as it not only reminds Abeno of the importance of seeking the best outcome no matter the circumstances, but also helps Ashiya become more confident in his own capabilities and understanding of others. I loved seeing the designs of the different creatures each week, though am still puzzled at the lack of facial detail in Fuzzy (“Moja”). The fluffiness and three-tails are certainly enough to make me protective of the spirit, but I find the large eyes by themselves wanting expression-wise.
Rating: 1 dango
I really hope P.A. works continues trekking in mecha/sci-fi territory, since this attempt turned out pretty solid. I’m always on the fence when I see them on the schedule, since they’ve turned out some phenomenal stories (Shirobako, The Eccentric Family) and some terribly unforgettable ones (Another, Charlotte). Kuromukuro doesn’t rise as high as my favorites of their studio, but it passes with agreeable ratings. I think what held it back was mostly its lack of teeth and the art quality.
As dire as we were made to think the situations were with the Efidolg (Efy Dolgh?) and all of the ships raining down on Earth, I never felt very concerned because the show established fairly early on that people’s lives were not endangered. They described events as life threatening and weapons flew around drawing blood, but very few people actually died, and those that did were mostly the result of either suicide or accident. The art quality, too, could have done with a bit more oomph. Or maybe I’m just used to other mecha-heavy studios coming full out with the shinies and slick CG, so when I don’t have those, it feels like something is missing.
What the show did do well was its portrayal of its characters, stereotypes of non-Japanese notwithstanding. Yukina is an indecisive high school student balancing a strange lifestyle between her relaxed class atmosphere with her mom’s fast-paced work. The opening segment where she lists “Mars” as her career choice perfectly captures her whimsical yet confused direction. It certainly is a destination instead of a career, and she doesn’t know yet how she plans on getting there. Then there’s Kennosuke with his bushido spirit and man-out-of-time conundrum. Like Yukina, he’s a mix of emotions given his experiences and the unsettling similarity of Yukina to Yukihime. The side characters, the “good,” “bad,” and “indifferent,” have their own quirks that liven up their personalities in memorable ways.
I’m also quite pleased with where the story ended, particularly with the additional scenes several years in the future with Yukina as a grown up. There is room for a sequel, but it’s completely unnecessary. We know she’s off to reunite with Kennosuke, and that there’s a global battle for freedom, but the positive outlook by our characters is enough for me.
Rating: 1 dango
Love Live! Sunshine!!
I complained at the start of the season at the almost blatant copying in Sunshine!! of the original, as well as at the forced personalities of each of the girls, but I recant some of my statements as overly harsh. The similarities between Otonokizaka and Uranohoshi are intentional and drive much of the motivation up to their girls’ first serious performance. After that experience, they have to re-evaluate their goals and re-define their identity as Aqours. While understanding the intentions of the opening parallels, I don’t fully forgive the show for its almost tasteless mirroring. I still think a similar effect could have been achieved with with a bit more tact.
As we moved past the overly drawn out reveal about the third years’ past experience, I started to get a bit more attached to some of the girls. Favorites include Riko, whose fear of dogs certainly poses a problem but whose piano concerts I would always attend, You with her adorable fluffy hair and love for the sea, and Hanamaru, whose dialect, passion for books, and wonderment at modern technology always entertain.
On a side note, I got back into playing Love Live! School Idol Festival now that the mobile game has added the Sunshine!! crew along with many new songs. Thanks to the little story lines of this game, I’m satisfied enough with the character interaction to not want any further anime adaptations.
Rating: 0 dango
Disclaimer for Macross fans: I don’t have any prior knowledge of this franchise other than Macross Frontier and Macross Zero, both of which I liked very much. I found Alto a bit obnoxious, but I thoroughly enjoyed both Ranka and Sheryl–I admit that I frequently sing “Aimo” in the shower.
It was with much excitement that I picked up Delta, whose characters Freyja and Hayate reminded me greatly of Alto and Ranka. There wasn’t much to like at the start of Hayate’s personality, his awesome work machine dancing notwithstanding, which felt empty until he flew with the wind and suddenly blossomed with color. Freyja was always fun to romp around with, from her introduction in the apple transport, to her audition for Walkure, and later with her growing affection for Hayate. That creepy laugh of hers gets me every time. I also loved the design of Ragna as a water planet and the different being inhabiting it, humanoids or not. What I would give for a day of swimming with the mercats!
I’ll probably get flack for saying this, but I appreciated the small extent Delta went to connect their story with those preceding it. The hints about Lady M’s identity and the role of music in the shaping of their universe were all interesting. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much further than their shallow explanations. I wish we could have gone more in depth into the music and Walkure’s current application of it.
Rating: 1 dango
Mob Psycho 100
Another fantastic submission from this past summer, Mob Psycho 100 hailed from the original creator of One-Punch Man. While OPM received plenty of coverage and praise during its run, I found the response to MP100 oddly lacking given its similar style and tone. Substitute paranormal activity for superheroes and villains and you basically have the same story. There’s our main character Mob who, like Saitama, wields immeasurable power that does little to fulfill his actual desires. All he wants is the affections of a girl who prefers brawn and looks to psychic ability. Despite his complete lack of physical strength, he joins the body builder club and persists in the goal of improving himself. Competing with club activities is his part time job with self-proclaimed psychic Reigen Arataka, a man who from the beginning lacks any and all psychic ability. Reigen’s character is an interesting one, since at the start I mildly despised his use of Mob in his scams of the gullible and desperate. Over the course of the season, he impressed me with his skilled redirection of clients and rebuffing of less-capable swindlers. His character took on a warmer hue each time he consoled Mob with surprisingly sound advice.
The show switches gears from its episodic nature once the villain shows up as an organization of peculiars called “Claw” looking to recruit strong psychics and transform weak ones into mindless drones for their army. Up to this point, it was fun seeing Mob effortlessly defeat his opponents but not very surprising. Claw provided the push needed for him to confront the darkness within and re-evaluate the purpose for his powers.
Rating: 2 dango
Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin
I hope this is not the last we’ll see of Ikta and Yatori, who both endeared themselves to me with their unquestionable bond, unique personalities, and battle prowess. I’ve said it before and will again, but Alderamin is another example of a light novel transitioning into anime correctly. It sets itself in high fantasy as is typical of these kinds of adaptations, includes many of the same tropes, yet avoids most of the pitfalls.
Light novel-based anime have created a bit of a bad rapport with many viewers, particularly those of the ani-blogger and ani-Twitter sphere who like to take a more critical approach to what they choose to watch. Forgettable series like Rakudai Kishi no Calvary and deeply flawed interpretations of Fate/stay night are both examples that immediately spring to mind. Alderamin brings a memorable face to the blurry crowd of its genre by including an interesting cast and setting. Ikta has the textbook appearance of the dark and messy-haired everyman, but actually has the brains to back up his attitude. Yatori, too, comes in with too-often used red hair, but she has an admirable temperament to match her sword skills. Their strong bond with one another that runs back to their childhood is apparent in their trust in one another no matter the circumstances. The group of friends that forms after recruitment does have its merits, but the real gold comes from Ikta and Yatori. It was also nice to see our genius come up against actual obstacles, like stupid higher-ups in the military and a rival strategist from the enemy. The show didn’t aim for ridiculous miracles or feats of stupidity, but took the challenges head on with the least casualties possible. I would like to see more now that the gauntlet has been thrown down by princess Chamille threatening to create a rift between Ikta and Yatori.
Rating: 1 dango
The reward for best drama of the season goes to Orange, a beautifully crafted story about a group of friends who send advice into the past to save a dear friend from a too-young death. There is a timeless quality about this show that I think starts with the decision to use hand-written letters, an old-fashioned yet still highly regarded means of communication.
We actually only know of one letter in the beginning sent to young Naho, who isn’t sure whether or not to believe the predictions and warnings. Even if she does believe the letter, she aptly points out that knowing what to do doesn’t make the action easier. Her high school self is still painfully shy and prone to pleasing others. When the forecasts come true, she still has a hard time believing everything she reads until she experiences it. Her hesitance and self-doubt express themselves so well in her expressions and inner monologues and come across as completely authentic. When we find out later that her friends have also each received letters from the future, the quest to save Kakeru becomes even more passionate and we start to see some of the best qualities of our characters emerge. Naho’s friends are, without a doubt, one of the best group of friends I’ve seen in anime in a while. They are human with their flaws and emotions, but also incredibly caring. While I did not share their enthusiasm for Kakeru’s personality, I respected their dedication to him and to each other.
Rating: 2 dango
Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara
Season two progressed with must the same tone as season one, but there were some twists to the typical food war that helped it stay balanced with new material. If you loved the over-the-top reaction of the previous, then you’ll be happy to hear that this sequel still includes shirt-busting, naked bodies wrestling with ingredients, and Souma’s persistent quest for more knowledge. And if you were one of those complainers unhappy with our protagonist’s invincibility, know that he does face opposition here that he fails to defeat (for now). We also exit the school premises and enter the real world with its moody customers and near-tyrannical chefs. This isn’t the end, though, and we will hopefully have more to come, which is good since the sequel was half the length of the previous. For once being further in a manga than the anime, I’m really hoping to see more of my favorite scenes on the screen.
Despite only including thirteen episodes, I enjoyed season two almost more because it included many of my favorite sections from the manga, like Souma’s battle against Alice over bento, Megumi’s fight with Ryou using seafood ramen, the entire Subaru arc, and the Stagiaire pairing Hisako and Souma together. Japanese cuisine is probably my favorite at the moment, and has been for a while. Despite the many different dishes I’ve tried and loved, I still come back to the bento. The combination of flavors with ease of transportation and consumption makes it a go to whenever I’m running around. As much as I would loooove to feast on Alice’s sushi bento, Souma’s creation speaks more to my heart. After the Autumn Elections conclude, the students then must undergo the Stagiaire, a program that sends students into the world to assist in many different environments: fine dining restaurants, family-run pubs, mass production factories—you name it. They go through two stages, and I actually enjoyed Souma’s first stage more where he had to work with Hisako at a small but well-established restaurant. His lifetime of experience shines and Hisako comes to a respectful truce with him.
Rating: 1 dango
Tales of Zestiria the X
When I found out that Zestiria would be produced by ufotable, the creators of Fate/Zero and Kara no Kyoukai, I was hopeful that we would finally get a decent adaptation of a Tales series. Other than the Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike film that I did enjoy very much, the other OVAs from the Tales franchise didn’t turn out very good. From a visual standpoint, Zestiria the X looks phenomenal. The character designs, color palette, CG, and animation are all top notch. Story-wise, the anime is a complete wreck.
We’re dumped into a setting with characters who mean nothing to you if you are unfamiliar with the game. When you start to get a feel for the current events, you’re suddenly transported to a completely different place and time for two episodes with zero explanation. I had to look up the anomaly to realize that it was an advertisement for Tales of Berseria, which has only recently been released in Japan and is set to launch in the U.S. at the start of 2017. Berseria and Zestiria are actually part of the same world, with the events of Berseria having taken place several centuries before Zestiria. There’s no way the average viewer would figure out that connection, much less care since the two episodes break up the already weak flow of the series. If there’s a silver lining to this terrible decision, I actually did get sucked into the Berseria short story and wish it had its own series, or film. As an advertisement, I found it incredibly effective.
I still have mixed feelings about the characters and events of Zestiria, since I never formed an attachment to any of them due to my feelings of being constantly run around. The Seraph are interesting, but still too objectified to care about as individuals. Alisha is probably the one who has come the closest to actual emotions, but she’s not even the main character and has limited screen time. I’ve read that we do have an expected sequel on the horizon, so perhaps the rest of the cast will find their places soon enough.
Rating: 0 dango
- 91 Days (4 episodes)
- ReLife (1 episode
- Servamp (2 episodes)