Let us all breathe a sigh of relief that I have finally finished the fall anime! Thanks to my three-week honeymoon and a terrible throat infection/fever, I had a lot of catching up to do after returning home. There were a ton of wonderful shows this past fall that I was almost sorry to complete. 2016 as a whole was actually a great year for anime, and the fall season capped it beautifully. I hope you enjoyed the season and year as much as I did, and that you’ll share with me your thoughts and personal favorites!
- Bungou Stray Dogs 2nd Season
- Days (TV)
- Fune wo Amu
- Gi(a)rlish Number
- Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou
- Hibike! Euphonium 2
- Magic-Kyun! Renaissance
- Natsume Yuujinchou Go
- Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume
- Shuumatsu no Izetta
- Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
- ViVid Strike!
- Watashi ga Motete Dousunda
- YURI!!! on ICE
- 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.
Bungou Stray Dogs 2nd Season
No one is more surprised than myself that I actually stuck with Bungou Stray Dogs, given my lukewarm appraisal of the first season. But continue with the show I did, and I do not regret it. As ridiculous as much of the story was, and as pointless as the literary references by name only were, I still had a lot of fun with the characters and their interactions. The first half of the sequel also was what really staked my interest in the outcome since it gave us history on Dazai’s past with Port Mafia and his reasoning for joining the Detective Agency. I only wish we could have seen more of that kind of atmosphere, but then BSD would be a completely different kind of show.
I’m conflicted on whether or not Dazai’s back story was actually beneficial or harmful to the rest of the anime, since I could also argue that it differed too much and upset the overall tone and flow. It was, however, the reason why I stayed even when we came back to the present with Atsushi’s involvement and the arrival of the Guild. It will be interesting to see if there will be yet another sequel given the ending we received that shows us a new organization bent on destruction. I would have preferred that the show just ended without this mysterious group coming into play, but perhaps I will be convinced yet again.
Rating: 0 dango
I’ve finally found a decent anime with soccer as its sport! There are a few others, but none of them really provided the quality I expected that we see in other shows about baseball, basketball, and now volleyball. While I would not put DAYS up there art and animation-wise with Haikyuu, I do consider it to have just as compelling of a story. It reminds me quite a bit of Baby Steps. Both works feature a main character who picks up a sport late in life and has to do a lot of catching up to meet the level of others of the same age. They differ in their approach and atmosphere, though, since soccer is at its fundamental stage a group sport. Tsukamoto already has a temperament beneficial to a team: he works hard, is observant, cares about his teammates, and always looks up. Without any knowledge or experience about soccer, these assets don’t do anything for a team as prestigious as Seiseki, but his steady application of everything that he learns and positive attitude turn into the perfect weapons. There’s something undeniably delicious about other teams underestimating Tsukamoto only to have him run circles around their strategies.
In addition to the main story line about Tsukamoto’s growth as a player, we also have other staple scenarios like the selfish players who see themselves ahead of others, the players whose skills just don’t cut it for the team, players who have pasts with other schools or players to face, and teams whose ethics oppose those of Seiseki. We’ve seen these situations rise repeatedly in other sports shows, but they still feel fresh in DAYS in large part due to the bonds we’ve built with the individual players over the past two seasons. I only wish that we could go with Seiseki to the very end and see them wins Nationals–but that’s a permanent grievance with competitive anime.
Rating: 1 dango
Fune wo Amu
Fune wo Amu is the type of show that you never expect to make it to the anime schedule. It’s too obscure. It misses the main viewer demographic. It seems like it would work better as a live action film. Yet, somehow, we have this miracle in complete anime form. The existence of this anime gives me hope for the future. If Fune wo Amu can make it this far, what else out there might we see?
I’ve already discussed in length my appreciation for this show, but that was before the final few episodes had aired. Now that I have seen the ending, I can even more assuredly praise the vision and outcome. We had the privilege of seeing The Great Passage brought to publication, even if that journey took an incredible amount of time for our characters and will continue to require revision into the future. That time flashed by for us with a single cours of 11 episodes, made possible by a couple of time skips. The first jump surprised me, but made sense given the scope of the dictionary project. While it would have been nice to see the early years of Majime and Kaguya’s relationship, romance was not the main focus of the story. Our story’s true love was always The Great Passage.
I feel I should address the complaints about the show, mainly the tone and characters. Some people have described the anime as dull. They see the passion of the cast, but feel none of it. I do understand that view, though I certainly did not experience the story that way. My literary and academic background influenced my interest in the project. I also found some on screen silence more expressive than words could ever share. While some viewers thought Majime unbelievably backwards, despite being well read, I was reminded of several peers who, too, struggled with portraying their extreme intelligence into emotions and words for others to understand. Obviously others will not have the same connection to Fune wo Amu that I did; perhaps they have ones even more personal, or find the entire plot too removed from their preferences. Regardless, I hope that stories like this will continue to be told and made into anime.
Rating: 2 dango
I never thought I’d feel this way about Chitose at the end of this anime, but I actually felt bad for her. For almost the entirety of the season, I could not stand her character. She’s selfish. She’s lazy. She has no talent or skill. She’s the type of person I would cut out of my life in an act of self-preservation. Despite all of this, I still sympathized with her struggle in an industry that all too quickly gobbles up and spits out those who dare to enter. I could say that she should have been prepared to deal with the work, especially given her brother’s history, or I could say that she deserved every bit of setback that she received from both peers and the public, but neither would do her justice. Emily of Atelier Emily wrote a provoking piece on Chitose’s character, comparing her to Singin’ in the Rain’s Lina Lamont. Girlish Number does a good job not only revealing the ugliness in Chitose’s personality, but also in the people around her. Anime producer Kuzu picks Chitose as the show’s main character. He chooses her not because of her voice or work ethic, but purely from her looks and cheeriness. As one light novel to anime adaptation ends and a sequel arises, his attention quickly turns from Chitose to the newcomer who not only has looks, a positive attitude, and a pretty voice, but is also hard working. The reality smacks both Chitose and the audience hard. I want to say, “I told you so,” but I also want to encourage her, “Chin up and start working for it!”
So, to the rating. I made it no secret at the beginning of the season that I loathed the feelings I had while watching this show. It emotionally hurt to listen to the characters. But, I stuck with it and appreciated the window we were given into the industry. I also found that the closer I got to the end, the more I wanted to encourage Chitose and her brother to not let obstacles stop them from their desires. By the end, I begrudgingly appreciated the anime and Chitose, even if I still disliked her as a person and would not befriend her should she suddenly appear in my life. I encourage viewers to try the anime and appreciate it for what it imparts to the viewers.
Rating: 2 dango
Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou
I’ll admit that I was confused before the start of this season thinking that this series would take place at the national tournament. It doesn’t. The match between Karasuno and Shiratorizawa is the final regional qualifier for nationals, which is a shame since I was extremely excited to finally see a high school team perform at the national level. Once I realized that we were watching the step just prior, much of the built-up tension fizzled out. It’s rare that sports anime deign to show viewers national coverage–I’m not sure what the reason is, but almost all of the time we stop just short of qualification, and that may ring true for Haikyuu!! Readers of the manga will have to fill me in on where exactly in the timeline the source material stands right at this moment.
As for this third season, I was pleased once again with the high quality of the franchise. A major issue with sports and shounen anime in general is the tendency to drag out confrontations to staggering lengths. Haikyuu avoids that by only showing the exciting moments of its volleyball games. While true fans and athletes of the sport might see that as a fault, I–an uninformed viewer–note it as a boon to the flow of the show. Another pitfall is the unnecessary back story. We do get a bit of history of one of the show’s antagonists, but it isn’t drawn out too long before shifting back to the game. I felt like one of the fans in the stands clenching my chair at crucial moments and screaming with joy whenever the tide turned favorably towards Karasuno. I also have to give major props to Tsukishima’s character, who grew significantly in the previous season and played to his best in this third installment. Without him, the game would have likely been one-sided. I truly, truly hope we will see more from the crows of Karasuno and further growth in Hinata as a player.
Dango: 1 dango
Hibike! Euphonium 2
I will be eternally grateful that a story like Hibike! was made and brought to the screen. There are now a fair number of shows featuring music, but not many of them have made the impact that Hibike! has on the general viewer. One exception that comes to mind is Nodame Cantabile, which is still one of my favorite anime of all time. Hibike! comes across as much more accessible to the average person, specifically to the non-musician. While we do witness a good amount of performances, some of them even full pieces, they are nowhere near the level and frequency of the music in Nodame. High school band has touched most people growing up in one way or another, either through personal experience, or through friends and other activities. The character drama also extends beyond music and into relatable scenarios involving friends and family.
Whereas season one focused primarily on determining the strength of the band’s resolve to make Nationals, season two steps further into the personal motivations of several members, including Kumiko, Taki-sensei, and Asuka. The sequel actually opened with an arc featuring a lesser known member, Yoroizuka Mizore, the oboist. Her story bridged the first season’s drama with the sequel. While I was originally annoyed at the return to the backstory of the mass exodus of band students the previous year, I later appreciated the way Mizore tied in to the current members’ feelings about the competition.
I am also extremely relieved that they pursued the mystery of Asuka, who I always loved but felt to be an unknown. Her constant cheer, sly humor, and lack of background raised her almost to a celebrity status. Like many of her band mates, I looked up to her as a near perfect leader. This adulation of her character makes it all too easy to forget that Asuka is a human with her own worries. I’m so glad we have someone like Kumiko to rely on–it came as no surprise that of all people it would be her who narrowed in on Asuka’s struggle and confronted her on it. Ending with the senior’s graduation, especially to Asuka who embodied so much of their group spirit, was the perfect way to say farewell. And despite the outcome of the competition, I do not need any continuations to the anime, because the journey for me was all about this specific group of people.
Rating: 2 dango
I don’t think anyone, myself most of all, would have ever guessed that one of my favorite shows of the fall would be one prominently featuring girls in swimsuits using their boobs and butts for sport. The mere description sounds like some horrible joke of a self-published work, but the actuality is pure gold. Kaminashi Nozomi is a young woman looking to go pro in keijo, a sport that entails pushing other contestants off a platform into the surrounding water using only the butt and breasts. It sounds obscene, and oftentimes treads into the supernatural, but the show displayed by our girls is entertainment at its finest. It’s a bit comical to me that the first few shows that I finished in the season were all included on my 2016 sports anime entry for 12 Days of Anime, but that just goes to show how successful they were at capturing my heart.
Keijo!!!!!!!! excelled at tone. Where some companies might have erred too far into comedy, self-deprecating or ecchi, Xebec instead sticks to the competitive nature of the sport. Yes, it is funny tits are used like drills to penetrate another’s defense, but it is also extremely effective and intimidating. The girls seriously approach their craft and each other with respect and determination. Their training is brutal. Matches are televised. If keijo was a real sport and treated with the same attitude in real life, I would absolutely watch it and have my favorite athletes. Alas, it is not, and I only have the anime to fulfill a craving I didn’t even know I had! Even if you don’t like sports, or are turned off by ecchi humor, I highly encourage you to try out Keijo!!!!!!!! before passing judgement.
Rating: 1 dango
While WataMote gave me everything I didn’t realize I wanted out of a reverse harem, Magic-Kyun! Renaissance played exactly to my expectations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since I tend to like reverse harems for certain key parts. Variety and setting are what’s most important to me, and Renaissance does decently well in both.
We not only have a delightful selection of males appearance-wise, they also each demonstrate well-established and likable personality archetypes. Even more entertaining is that they provide different talents in dancing, calligraphy, sculpture, singing, cello, painting, and cooking. These skills align with the intriguing setting–in the world they inhabit, some people are born with magic arts. Those with exceptional ability attend schools that specialize in magic arts, like Hoshigei, and if successful become Artistas. The show doesn’t go into much further detail about the magic than that, but I forgive it since world building isn’t what fans of reverse harem seek. We’re there for the men, and the fantasy of trying out each one of them. Renaissance fulfills that requirement by taking us along with Aigasaki Kohana as she encounters each of the young men. My obvious favorite is Hibiki Kanato with his cello, positive energy, and tall, athletic build.
I enjoyed the story and sweet friendships for most of the series, but the ending threw in some unnecessary conflict. The inclusion of a sickness that originates from too much magical art affinity is interesting, but out of place in an otherwise un-detailed setting. The play on Kohana’s magic art and obsession with her mother made sense, but they could have just as well written in a confrontation of her feelings without messing with magic arts.
Rating: 0 dango
Natsume Yuujinchou Go
Are we getting a sixth season? I think I heard a rumor to that effect, but I’m really not sure with the way this fifth ended whether or not that is true and I’m too lazy to news hunt. Someone tell me what you know!
I always find it a bit silly to rate sequels, particularly ones that are this far along. Natsume Yuujinchou is a story that is dear to my heart, and I can’t imagine it without any of the characters–they all contribute something precious. But I can’t recommend this fifth season on its own because it refers so much to previous seasons. You really shouldn’t watch it without first watching the prequels, otherwise too much will fly right over your head. You see this not only with the amount of referencing, but also with the span of them. NY has opened so many threads over the course of its seasons; Go touches on too many of them to bring any kind of closure for the viewer. I loved the new stories told here, but I am not satisfied with where it left us. Give me more!
Rating: 1 dango
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume
Sometimes the best things come in the simplest of packages. While I wouldn’t label Shakunetsu no Takkyu Musume as a great show overall, it does many things consistently well and fulfills the expectations that I had for it. That’s really all I ask for from the majority of the season’s offerings. As wonderful as it would be to receive groundbreaking anime every season, I understand that they are far and few between and that much of what I’ll see I’ll send up dropping or finding mediocre. When the offerings are slim, I seek out stories that will at the very least entertain, which Shakunetsu no Takkyu Musume does.
I’ve mentioned this before, but the anime reminds me a lot of Saki with its all female cast and game play. Thankfully, matches move along much quicker here, and we don’t get extensive backgrounds of every single player from an opposing team–we only get the stories of the more prominent members, like Kururi and and Zakuro. The tennis technique borders on the supernatural from time to time, which doesn’t really bother me since any good player of a sport I don’t know (pretty much all of them) comes across as otherworldly in skill. I do have a greater appreciation for table tennis after watching the anime Ping Pong and the documentary film Top Spin. This made it easier for me to sit back and enjoy the display of table tennis put on by the girls of Suzumegahara. I also thought the characters pigeon-holed into archetypes, but in a reliably affectionate way. Yes, Agari is a textbook tsundere, but I can’t help but like her after she confronts her feelings. The relationships between the girls will please viewers with yuri preferences. There are countless heart pounding moments–my favorite pair is Hokuto and Hanabi ❤
Do note that, once again, this sports anime does not show the team’s fight to the National stage. The highest point takes place at a mock match with a rival school, and we end at the team’s training camp. Despite this, the story feels nicely rounded and I wasn’t upset at the end. There doesn’t look to be any sequels on the horizon just yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one in the next year or so.
Rating: 0 dango
Shuumatsu no Izetta
I am so glad that I stuck with this anime, because there was a crucial moment in the series where I almost dropped it. Several other friends from my ani-blogger and ani-Twitter circles did. What stopped me from letting Izetta fall into forgetfulness was the build up in the earlier episodes. I was already too invested in the outcome of the Principality of Elystadt’s struggle against the overreaching arms of the Germania Empire. The heart pumping scenes at the start between Princess Fine and Germanian soldiers flashed in my mind more so than the out-of-place fan service that appeared later in the season. I’m not sure why the show felt the need to include any of the scenes joking about the girls’ bust sizes when there was already much more interesting material to focus on. The inclusion cheapened the gravity of Elystadt’s fight and added nothing of importance to the characters or story.
If you were one of the viewers who gave up on Izetta and Fine after the dress fitting scene, then I urge you to give the show another chance. Yes, there will be a couple more incidents of the same tone, but the rest of the story more than makes up for them. Izetta’s and Fine’s trust in one another and their subsequent support lifts the viewer’s spirit. They remind us that even the darkest of times, we are still capable of extraordinary strength.
The girls are not the only interesting character study; both Elystadt and Germania have their own men in the shadows moving the cogs of war. They are similar in many ways, such as their unwavering devotion to an ideal–one for love of his country, the other for an obsession to self. The costs for their visions are many and ugly. Theirs are not the actions mentioned in history books.
Rating: 1 dango
Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
Words cannot describe my joy and sadness at watching Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari. No other show this season connected with me so emotionally, and I put off finishing the anime for as long as I could bear it because I simply did not want it to end the way I knew it would.
The magic of Udon is that despite knowing exactly how the events will likely play out, you still find yourself wrapped up in Poco’s story. Just like Souta, you can’t help but imagine a future with the little boy in your life every day. Poco’s appearance in the lives of our characters stirs up memories they thought lost to time. As they confront their pasts, I, too, found myself musing on my experiences and questioning much of what I thought I knew I wanted in life. Udon is the type of show that works its way into your heart and encourages you to self-reflect.
My own self-reflection touched on a couple of topics, including my career and my view on children. Kids have been particularly forward in my mind since I just met my cousin’s kids, a 2-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, whom I found delightful. I’ve always avoided children since the vast majority of them annoy me, and I’ve always said that I would never have any of my own. The thought of the discomfort, pain, and responsibility terrifies me. But meeting my cousin’s kids, getting to know Poco in Udon, and hearing Rinko’s own change in view has shaken my conviction. Now, I’m not saying that watching this anime will change your life goals or anything, but it will likely soften your heart for just a bit and remind you to cherish the time you have now to live.
Rating: 3 dango
I included ViVid Strike! among my 12 Days of Anime for notable sports shows even before the season had ended due to the show’s unique subject matter and how it added to an already robust franchise. Nanoha has its fair share of loyalists who have followed her through all iterations of the main storyline; ViVid enters long after that ending with a completely different tone. While Nanoha ViVid followed with more familiar characters, like Vivio and Nakajima, ViVid Strike! introduces us to a completely new cast. I can imagine it might be off putting to fans to accommodate not only the new way of life with strike arts being used for sport instead of life and death, but also strangers who do not continue any of the past threads.
Fuuka and Rinne as the main characters are a compelling duo. Their common background and later divergent paths set up an obvious competition between the two. You can choose sides as the spectator, but it’s also easy to empathize with both and hope for reconciliation. And that’s where strike arts enters. Just like in Nanoha ViVid, fighters here are professionals who use their skills as martial artists to compete and gain titles. Unlike in the past, they are motivated by self-improvement, the challenge, even a desire for camaraderie with others like them. It’s also important to not be misled by the girls’ sweet exteriors–they are seasoned fighters who pack punches like the most formidable of men. Even with protective barriers, you will see plenty of blood, puke, and broken bones to turn even the hardiest of stomachs. They treat their sport seriously, and so should we.
Rating: 1 dango
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda
Romping around with Serinuma Kae and her would be suitors was a fun rollercoaster of comedy and romance. I don’t think I’ve seen any other romantic comedy quite like this one, which takes the conventional genre of the reverse harem and twists it using a unique female protagonist. Serinuma gets flustered by the advances of her male friends just like any other girl, but has her own clear objectives for their relationships as well as her own passions. One of my biggest complaints about reverse harems is the tendency for the lead to be completely bland in character, which of course is done intentionally for the viewer to insert him or herself into that role. While this works for games, I don’t enjoy it as much in my anime. Serinuma is a great character who obsesses on BL relationships, be they in manga, anime, or games. When we first see her, she is overweight with an exaggerated low voice. The “death” of her favorite anime character is so shocking that she loses weight and emerges as beautiful and slender with an appropriately girlish voice. The drastic change is pretty insulting–why would her voice change? Thankfully, the sudden attention paid to her by everyone else does little to change her personality. She remains just as devoted to her hobbies, and loses none of her inherent qualities of thoughtfulness and kindness.
There have been some interesting appraisals by others of the suitors who fall in love with Serinuma, particularly of Igarashi, who was originally my favorite. I’ve always leaned towards more assertive males in my romance material, ones who are not afraid to declare their feelings and pursue the objects of their affections. There are some valid points, however, regarding the overly aggressive nature of Igarashi, who ignores physical and emotional barriers despite seeing the effects on Serinuma. She obviously shies away from intimate contact like hand holding, yet he repeatedly pushes her discomfort with the excuse that she only needs to become accustomed to it. Another aspect of his personality that I liked was his unconditional kindness. Even before she lost weight, he was always thoughtful of others. This is why it took so long for me to accept Nanashima, who treated Serinuma rudely before her change. In the end, I preferred Mutsumi, who, like Igarashi, liked Serinuma as a person regardless of her weight. However, he never overstepped her boundaries–except in a life and death situation–always respecting her feelings and acting in her best interests. As is normal for reverse harems, there is no clear choice at the end of the series, but the show’s way of concluding this perfectly fit Serinuma’s character. For once, I’m not flailing my hands in the air in despair at the heroine’s indecision, but cheering on her resolve. Thank you, WataMote, for staying true to yourself!
Rating: 1 dango
WWW.Working!! was the last fall anime I completed for a couple of reasons. The first was that it was mediocre most of the time, and KWoo and I preferred to catch up on other more interesting shows. The second was that since I was watching it with my husband, I had to wait for him to want to watch the show. We would watch one episode here and there, then move on to something else.
The major issue both of us had with this anime was our inability to divorce the setting from the Wagnaria we came to know and love with the earlier anime seasons. I would see the restaurant and uniforms and think it odd that certain characters were missing. This made it difficult to get to know the new cast, but I blame that mostly on the writing since many of the staff were completely glossed over in favor of others. I also found the relationships either boring or aggravating. It wasn’t until the last few episodes where I started to invest a bit more in their characters and actually care about how they treated one another. It helped, too, that the comedy writing sharpened and the misunderstandings started clearing up with proper communication. In the end, WWW.Working!! is a passably amusing sitcom, but nothing you should go out of your way to watch.
Rating: 0 dango
YURI!!! on ICE
I never thought that an anime with figure skating at its center would ever create the storm that it did, but YURI!! on ICE did so with natural flair. First, it tossed aside all preconceptions created by the title. Second, it jumped to the opposite end of the spectrum. Third, we jetted across competition timelines like sports anime slogs were nonexistent. It seemed like everyone was watching the show or had at least seen the first episode. The phenomenon continued through the entirety of the season, and now that it’s over, I have to applaud Yuri!! for standing strong until the end. If you’d like to read more on my thoughts about the anime, check out my 12 Days post about it.
I’ll only discuss a couple of my favorite things here since I’ve already talked about the anime, but I was particularly pleased with how it featured the relationship between Yuri and Victor, as well how it used social media. Unlike many other viewers, I didn’t expect a girls love show (based on the title) since none of the promotional art I had seen featured women. I knew we were going to have male main characters. I did not know, however, that they would also bring along their own love story. I’m actually still in a state of minor disbelief regarding their romance since I see them more representative of a mentor/student type of relationship. They obviously prod at the line more as the episodes progress, but I can’t help but envision the age gap from when young Yuri would watch his role model on television. Once you’re an adult, the years don’t mean anything. They’re only four years apart in age, but the difference seems much more when we see them as children. I’m glad that even though we see plenty of hints regarding the deeper feelings they have for one another, we still see the barrier maintained between the teacher and the taught.
I only recently got into Instagram, so it was with much excitement that I saw how much the application was used in this anime. Most of the characters are attached almost permanently to their cell phones. We frequently see them take photos and post them publicly to their Instagram accounts for anyone to see. There’s a sense of intimacy when following someone and witnessing their experiences almost immediately, as if you, too, are seeing what they see in real time. Is it too much to share? Maybe. I sometimes wonder if the constant updates are more bragging than anything else, or if the posting comes from an honest desire to share wonderful experiences with others so they, too, can enjoy the moments.
The question now is whether or not we’ll get a continuation. The door is open for further development in Yuri’s career and in their relationship, but I don’t think a sequel is necessary given the outcome of this season.
Rating: 2 dango