I’ve started to notice blossoms along the path I take when walking my dog, and I haven’t had to adjust the heater for a few weeks now, so I guess winter is finally coming to an end. As much as I detest being cold, I hate heat even more, so it is with mixed emotions that I say farewell to the winter season. There were a number of gems this time around that I am sad to see end, namely 3-gatsu no Lion, Demi-chan, and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. They each impacted me in unique ways and left me thoughtful of my own relationships and contributions.
This anime season seemed to fly by even more quickly than usual, perhaps due to me actually keeping on schedule for the first time in a long while. I have decided to split my season review into a couple of posts, largely because Tales of Zestiria the X announced a delayed final episode. If you don’t see one of your favorite shows listed immediately below, see if it is included in my list at the end of this review.
- 3-gatsu no Lion
- Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen
- Demi-chan wa Kataritai
- Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2
- Masamune-kun no Revenge
- Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu
- Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu S2
- Urara Meirochou
- 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.
3-gatsu no Lion
Kiriyama Rei’s journey isn’t over yet, but we are taking a break after 22 episodes and will resume later this year. I’m relieved over the decision to continue sooner rather than later, and only wish we could’ve continued without interruption. Whatever the reason for the breather, I’ll count myself lucky in the knowledge that we will see more of Rei, shogi, and the Kawamoto sisters.
Our protagonist still has quite a ways to go in his journey of self discovery. He’s already taken several steps in the right direction, in no small part thanks to those around him. Without people like Kawamoto Akari, Hina, Nikaido, Shimada, and Hayashida-sensei, Rei seems more inclined to close himself off to any possibility of discomfort. We see this repeatedly in his awkward conversations and in his spartan home furnishings. Yet as prone as he is to seek solitude, we also see his yearning for companionship. He may want to deny it, but relationships are a good part of what makes life fulfilling. Familial relationships, romantic relationships, friendly relationships–they define who we are and are not, creating a space for the self.
I’m hoping that in the next series, we will see further growth in his character and confidence. There’s already promise in Rei’s joining of both Shimada’s master class and formation of his high school’s Science Shogi Club. Now if he can just give in more often to his desire to visit the Kawamoto household, I would be 10x happier. The last episode of this season also set up an obvious confrontation between Rei and Souya, though I imagine that will make up the last climax of the sequel after much build up.
Rating: 2 dango
Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen
Kyoto Fujouou-hen on the whole gave too little too late for me to completely re-bond with the characters, but I did have a fun time romping around with them. I’m hoping now that we’ve received a sequel that a third season chasing all the loose ends won’t be too long in following. I have to admit I owe it to the Kyoto setting for snagging my interest long enough for me to start re-investing in Rin and his classmates. It was nostalgic seeing again many of the places I went to a couple of years ago–I did not, however, go to Kyoto Tower. Sorry, Rin!
But back to this series and all my gripes and pleasures. Though it took a while for me to warm up to the cast, I did quickly remember my irritations, namely the epidemic of misunderstanding. It came as no surprise that almost all of Rin’s classmates shunned him following the events of the first season–that’s just how they roll. So many of the people in this series jump to conclusions and prejudice without any kind of communication. Bon’s reaction to Rin’s secret makes sense, but the extent to which he gave in to his anger was petty given the circumstances. Shiemi and her embarrassment at her own seeming ineffectiveness again fits, but she disappointed me the longer she kept her distance. And most irritating of all was Yukio, whose ongoing self-loathing and over-protectiveness of Rin tasted like the same meal served over multiple days. It’s old, boring, and will likely blow into unforgivable acts should a third season ever happen. The sooner we get there, the sooner we’ll either get rid of his character or see a long-awaited improvement in his temperament.
Regardless of the formulaic personalities and plot, I still basked in the setting combining the occult with Japanese culture. The two fit together just right, and the character designs (excepting Shura) perfectly suit the practicing exorcists and students-in-training.
Rating: 0 dango
Demi-chan wa Kataritai
No! I need another season of Demi-chan interviews and Sakie crushing on Tetsuo. This anime brought with it an unexpected, yet welcome, discourse on topics relevant to today, including diversity, identity, and discrimination–both intended and unintended. Here I was expecting an easygoing high school fantasy focusing mainly on fan service, and instead I found myself applying many of the scenarios to everyday life and the current sociopolitical climate.
I realize the way I’m describing the show makes it sound preachy, but it’s far from that tone. Yes, the characters muse on their own feelings and the actions of others, but they don’t feel forced. If anything, they come across as more natural than other “daily life” shows where hardly anything of substance comes into discussion. It’s natural that minorities like these demi will notice how they impact their surroundings. The girls also represent a spectrum of the supernatural, from vampires like Hikari and snow women like Yuki who look the same as any other human, to Dullahan like Machi who can’t hide her nature no matter the situation. Watching the girls confront their identities as Demi-humans helps the viewer to better understand the Other, whether that be someone of another race, ethnicity, sex, or physical capability.
I so badly wanted to see the succubus teacher, Sakie, overcome her daily inconveniences and pursue Tetsuo. The show did acknowledge that desire with the swimsuit scene, which delighted and mortified me at the same time. This show and its characters will be sorely missed. I highly recommend it to any viewer, since it includes an enjoyable mixture of comedy and drama, as well as reminds us to walk in another’s shoes from time to time.
Rating: 2 dango
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2
At last, my time with Kazuma & Friends this season has come to an end! I am certain this will not be the last we see of this party, but I’m willing to wait for an unknown amount of time until that third season is announced. To be perfectly honest, I found the circumstances of almost every episode equally funny and painful. The cringe worthy stupidity had me seeking to catch up on other winter anime first. The only reason why I finished this 10-episode season somewhat on schedule is because KWoo loves the anime. It’s the same reason why he watched Prison School despite me noping right out of it. Heck, I couldn’t even enjoy Watamote because I found the situations too repulsive.
KonoSuba’s sequel follows in much of the same spirit as the first installment in humor and tragedy. Our group has the worst luck no matter how much the odds are stacked in their favor, and what good fortune they do find is usually spoiled by their own actions. Kazuma is still a lecherous bastard, Aqua an insufferable narcissist, Darkness a masochist masquerading as a knight, and Megumin a pyro junkie.
The comedy also continues its masterful construction with some seemingly unrelated scenes, like Aqua purifying Kazuma’s tea near the start and her purification of Arcanretia’s hot springs cropping up again at the end. Some of my favorite skits include Vanir’s possession of Darkness and the group’s encounter with Axis believers.
Rating: 1 dango
Masamune-kun no Revenge
I should have listened to my instincts and dropped this show at the start. While there are certainly plenty of shows out there far worse than Masamune-kun, there wasn’t anything else on my schedule this season more boring.
The beginning presentation wasn’t too bad, and the hope of seeing the main hook brought to light and fruition was probably what kept me hanging on until the end. Hottie Masamune Makabe, you see, was a fat kid with a low self-esteem and a bratty attitude. The one little girl to take pity on him and befriend him turned down his confession in an admittedly rude way (c’mon, kids usually have no tact), turning him into a determined vengeance-seeker. When we meet him as a high school student, Makabe is a fitness freak with a single mission on mind: win Adagaki Aki’s heart and break it. Luckily for him, she no longer has any clue of his true identity as the chubby little boy who warmed her heart.
The nature of the show’s set up and characters made it clear that we would likely see plenty of predictability, but I was hoping with the twisted premise that a tad bit of originality would win out in the end. Sadly, that was not to be the case. As expected, Makabe and Aki do start to soften up towards one another, but no real headway is made towards developing their characters. My favorite girl, Fujinomiya Neko, gets shafted by the boring people around her and the story into which she’s written.
Also note that there’s no ending. We’re set up for some kind of continuation with an upcoming trip to Paris, but who knows if that’ll be an entire new series, a special, or a movie. I don’t know, and I really don’t care.
Rating: 0 dango
Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu
KWoo and I feel spoiled lately with all the attention paid to cycling. This winter’s offering was Minami Kamakura High School Girl’s Cycling Club, which played exactly as it sounded. Our story centers on a group of high school girls who form a cycling club. Setting up a brand new club is a pretty standard conflict in high school anime, and it entails gathering members, an adviser, a meeting place, equipment, and events. It does take the entire run of the anime for the club to be officially recognized, but they accomplish many goals on their journey.
I do feel the need to compare MinaKama to the previous season’s cycling series, Long Riders!, which focuses on college girls and the team they create. Both shows feature all female characters, and both take an educational tone. I actually learned useful information about bicycles and different cycling styles by watching these series (I’m judging you, YowaPeda). MinaKama also included live action lessons at the end of each episode with two of the voice actresses. As similar as these anime are, I felt that MinaKama fell short in quality of characters and story. Each of the girls we meet could be exchanged for some other girl of the same archetype; I struggle to remember any of their names. The one noticeable trait about the protagonist is that the same actress voiced Bakuon!!’s Hane, who sounds and acts exactly the same as Hiromi. Both girls also share a ditsy excitement for their new hobbies.
As mentioned previously, the new club structure makes the events follow a set schedule. Like their school’s principal implies at the end, the simple element of enjoyment is missing from the girls’ actions. They’re so set on creating their club that they seem to forget to simply have fun–they take on tasks out of obligation rather than pleasure. Though their principal takes a roundabout path to this reminder, I appreciate that she bothered with the sentiment at all.
Rating: 0 dango
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu S2
We’ve come to the end of our run with the Eighth Generation Yakumo and rakugo, and the show’s closure was just as masterful as the rest of this story. We covered decades by Kikuhiko/Yakumo’s side, with this sequel spanning life during his “grandfather” years. Following on the first season’s announcement of Konatsu’s pregnancy, we watch Yotaro blossom as a storyteller, Shinnosuke charm everyone around him as a child, Konatsu find her direction in life first as a mother, then later as a shamisen player and rakugo artist, and Yakumo defy both death and the continuation of rakugo. The drama of all of the players center on rakugo and the old man, with each dictating the lives of all involved, arguably for the better.
While this second season feels wholly different from the first due to the time period and characters, I hesitate to say that one is better than the other. Both are masterpieces, and both are necessary for the viewer to best understand the sentiment of the cast members and the world they occupy. In terms of flow, I do think this sequel moved more smoothly. It also did a wonderful job of uniting the many ideas and threads raised earlier in the story. And while Yakumo’s physical journey ended in the penultimate episode, his influence carried on into the last and its sixteen-year time skip. It’s essential that the tale didn’t just end with Yakumo’s crossing into Death; the audience needed to see the evolution of rakugo.
As much as I love this story, I do have a few areas to nitpick on. These minor irritations don’t greatly impact my overall opinion, but I do wish they had been reconsidered. First, I found the physical intimacy between Shinnosuke and his little sister Koyuki oddly sexual. It didn’t help that we already had an example of mock incest with Yotaro still calling his wife “onee-san”, but I am willing to chalk that up to habit as well as the Japanese term for a young woman. Maybe Shinnosuke’s and Koyuki’s comfort with one another bothers me because I’m an only child, or because of the frequency of incest in anime.
Second, I did not care for the suggestion that Shinnosuke’s true father might be Yakumo. This gives me nasty memories of the true ending to Usagi Drop. Yakumo essentially raised Konatsu into adulthood, so the idea that they might have had a sexual encounter, one time or not, doesn’t sit right with me.
Third, while I understood the meaningful act of introducing Konatsu as the first female rakugo performer, history states otherwise. I’m on the fence on this decision. History buffs and rakugo fans understandably wouldn’t want a misrepresentation of information, but they also need to understand that this anime is historical fiction. None of these people existed in real life, though the stories they tell on stage are authentic works.
I consider Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu an anime classic that every fan of anime and storytelling–written or performed–should watch. In a way, I’m reminded of how lyrics and poetry are sometimes used in prose. Some people skip over the songs in Tolkien works, while others memorize or sing them aloud. Yet no matter the type of story or number of times performed, each of the rakugo performances in this anime held me captive. I listened and watched, enamored in the art.
Rating: 3 dango
My first foray into the anthology romance is finally over and I think I’m a little better than expected; I even welcome a second season as implied by the anime’s opening credits. We experienced three scenarios with the same male protagonist. The setting, characters, and many of the events remain the same–what changes are small things that propel our main character to a different girl, like hobbies and fetishes. I held a higher standard for the anime after the Tsuneki arc since I enjoyed her personality and their repartee. And while her ending was not quite what I would have wished for, it still left the door open for my imagination. Unfortunately, interest in the girls and show declined from there.
Toru’s arc and the whole gaming experience was fun–don’t get me wrong–but I never clicked with her personality like I did with Tsuneki’s mischievous flirting. Even though this second arc was supposed to feature Toru and Kamita, I would perk up every time Tsuneki waltzed onto the screen–even when she played a bit of an antagonist. I loved the consistency of the deer details, which was started in the first arc and ramped up in Toru’s story with their favorite video game and its associated sexual innuendos.
Then there was the last arc featuring childhood friend Kyoko. As a rule, I tend to support the childhood friend character since the connection makes sense and they are typically a type of sweet personality I love. Yes, Kyoko is a nice girl, but she’s also boring and plays hard to get at the most unexpected of times. I wish hers had not been the story to finish out the season, but there’s no changing that now.
Despite my declining interest and outright dislike for one of the arcs, I still like Seiren for its style and format. I particularly love seeing the time skips at the end of each arc showing us the results of these romances several years into the future. Tsuneki may have been my favorite girl, but I laughed the hardest at the future shown with Toru.
Rating: 1 dango
Urara Meirochou filled my cute girls show slot this season and succeeded in pleasing me much more than I had anticipated. It admittedly did not start off on the best foot, with the introduction of a gag that would repeat itself through the rest of the season. Regardless, I leave this series fondly and do hope to see more of these girls and the Meirochou soon.
The act that raised a possible flag in the very first episode was the moment that Chiya rolled up her clothes and bared her naked stomach to convey both an apology and a desire for reconciliation. I reacted much like the characters in the show did upon seeing this for the first time: I pulled away in shock and wanted her to cover up. I thought this was the show’s way of including fan service, and while that is true to a certain extent, the act is meant to be more innocent and endearing rather than sexual. Like additional visuals assert, we should see her more as a cute animal exposing its belly in submission instead of a young girl trying to turn us on with a flash of skin.
A similar sweet and silly atmosphere permeates each episode and keeps us cheerful on the prospects of our girls succeeding in their goals of becoming high-ranking urara and of Chiya meeting her mother. Along with Chiya, Kon, Koume, and Nono, we learn different methods of divination, including tea leaf reading and crystal ball gazing, as well as more occult-associated activities like fox spirit summoning and tarot cards.
I thought it interesting how the show brought together seemingly opposing spiritual beliefs, like gods and traditionally evil spirits. Perhaps this is more typical of eastern faiths, but I find it odd from a western perspective. I wouldn’t normally equate fortune tellers and witches to those who commune with gods. There’s also the grand mystery of Chiya’s parenthood–I assumed early on that her mother is the legendary urara who stands at the top of their hierarchy. Then who is the father? Part of me thinks she might be a demi-god of sorts, especially given her early connection with a being that could be a god or a spirit. None of this is answered by the end of the season, but I’m hoping that should a sequel be announced more answers will be provided.
Rating: 1 dango
- ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka
- Gabriel DropOut
- Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon (is this ending this season???)
- Kuzu no Honkai
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
- Tales of Zestiria the X 2nd Season
- Youjo Senki