Here we are, at the end of my summer season reviews with a heart heavy at saying good bye, but also excited to see what’s in store for the ones we may see again someday. I cried and laughed a lot this season, including in some of the shows below, and I’m hoping if you do watch any of the ones I did that you also share your reactions, good and bad.
- 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.
While Sakura Quest focuses on young adult women in the countryside, New Game!! gives us more of what we saw in the first season with young women in the gaming industry, and this time on a more competitive scale. Those of us viewers who are already out in the workforce could have predicted the direction Aoba’s career would take, but that doesn’t make the topics any less appreciated. If anything, I respect the characters even more for confronting their personal desires and those of their coworkers. This sequel also introduces some new faces, interns Momiji and Tsubame, both of whom instigate even further change in the chemistry at Eagle Jump. I was surprised at the amount of conflict and frustration I felt towards some of the people and decisions made over the course of this series, but in the end might consider this season equal or even superior to the original.
A large part of what resonated so much with me this season was the growth in both Aoba and Yagami, individually and as coworkers. Aoba put Yagami on a pedestal for much of the first season, but here we finally see her step up as a rival for Eagle Jump’s new project. Watching Aoba improve in the face of unlikely success is scary and invigorating. We also get to see the process through Yagami’s eyes, someone with an impressive resume, god-tier skills, and in a spot many people might consider satisfying. A lesser person may have blocked Aoba from her path, or become complacent and held onto his or her position. Instead, Yagami helps her competition, encourages her, and is encouraged herself to improve even if it means leaving behind familiar faces and comfort.
The inclusion of interns made sense in the narrative, but I was admittedly resistant to them for much of the season. Momiji and Tsubame entered a well balanced environment and disrupted the flow with their jealousy and ambition. I was reminded all too well of when I met a new coworker of my own who quickly tried to assert her superiority without even getting to know me or my process first.
Momiji was the first to annoy me with her self-perceived rivalry with Aoba for Yagami’s praise, but I warmed to her once I realized just how painfully shy and socially awkward she was, aspects about herself she wanted to change. Tsubame, on the other hand, deceived me at first as the one who seemingly was more understanding. That thought changed the moment I saw how poorly she treated Nene. Digging at Nene’s connection with Aoba and Umiko without really knowing her was just spiteful, and belittling Nene’s recent decision to enter the industry just brought down her own character. I’m glad both interns came to terms with their own weaknesses and misunderstandings, but can’t shake the distrust I know hold for them. Their stories might have hit a little too close to home!
Even though this sequel wasn’t just fun and games, I respect it more for acknowledging some of the real difficulties with personal ambitions and workplace environments. The only bug in my ear about this series, both first and second seasons, is the excessive fan service. Much of it adds nothing to my already strong affections for the characters, and many times seems out of place in a show centered on strong women in an industry previously dominated by men. I’m not saying they should have cut it all out, but the amount could have definitely been lowered down a notch.
Rating: 2 dango
Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul
After all the events of Genesis and 24 episodes of Virgin Soul, I’m having a hard time fairly judging the latter due to the gut-wrenching ending. For much of the summer, I thought this sequel improved upon the already wonderful first season. Our main character, Nina, carried the narrative with the same ease she threw around construction materials. Her cheer and strength reminded me so much of Favaro, and I loved the positive way she always looked at life around her. It was also wonderful reuniting with old faces like Kaisar, Rita, and Bacchus. Unfortunately for the citizens of their world and for us, romance bloomed.
Before the relationship between Nina and “Chris” took off, we witnessed countless demons, angels, and even humans are crushed under King Charioce’s heel under the guise of protecting humanity. No longer do they need the guidance of the gods, and no more will they be preyed upon by the dark. With the power obtained by Charioce and his forces, humans can rise above as their own masters. We even see a bit of the king’s past and why he harbors revenge against Heaven and Hell. Despite the slavery and genocide, the narrative steers Nina into his arms and tries to convince us of their love.
As repulsive as I found Charioce, I still held hope for the rest of the show and our heroes. There had to be some way they could convince the king and his followers to see how cooperation across borders is stronger than fighting alone. We’re even given a convenient common enemy in the revival of Bahamut. Yet Virgin Soul opts to triumph the wrong ideals in the face of destruction. Nina, the dragon girl we grew to love and laugh with, utters words that smear her character and everything her friends fought for. She chooses her love for Charioce over the world. Why she had to say that when helping him also means helping the world doesn’t make sense to me. It would have been better had that entire exchange between her and Favaro never occurred. And when Nina and Charioce survive, no explanation for why Charioce had to kill so many or consequences for doing so are given. It’s as if we’re expected to accept the price paid by his vision and Nina’s voice in exchange for all the lives senselessly snuffed out over the course of this entire show.
Regardless of all of my anger about Charioce and Nina, I can still remember my enjoyment for the first half of the show. But take my advice for if you watch this for the first time after my review: do not watch any further than the final credits of the last episode. Don’t watch the epilogue. That last minute and a half were enough to make me want to toss a controller at the tv, to curse Virgin Soul for ever having been made. As much as I love Favaro, I do not need another season of Bahamut.
Rating: 1 dango
Boku no Hero Academia 2
If you enjoyed the first season and have yet to watch this continuation, then I highly encourage you to do so if you’re looking for a faster-paced narrative. As much as I loved the original and fell in love with the characters, the lead up to Midoriya enrolling in U.A. High School and using his power with any semblance of control took much of the single cours episodes. The second season jumps right into the thicket with a series of arcs testing our students physically and mentally. We also see an alarming decline in All Might’s well being that hastens Midoriya’s need to master his abilities and for all of our heroes to join together as a unified force.
Of course, this wouldn’t be My Hero Academia without plenty of humor, and we start off with a more light-hearted tone with the school’s Sports Festival. We see them square off against not only their classmates, but even students outside of the Hero Course: Business, Support, and General Studies. Seeing specialties from different fields teaches Midoriya and his friends to not only not underestimate others, but to also strengthen aspects of themselves they might not have noticed before working with those who share their mentality.
While everyone learns something valuable about themselves in the course of these episodes, my second favorite after Midoriya’s study with Gran Torino are Todoroki’s scenes, first in his Sports Festival match against Deku, and second in his Final Exam with Yaoyorozu against Eraser Head. Despite Todoroki’s overwhelming confidence, he exhibits a surprising vulnerability in his refusal to use the “hot” side of his powers. He also struggles with teamwork, moving too quickly on his own at times instead of planning moves with others. I also appreciated the increased focus on side characters like Yaoyorozu, who sometimes pale in comparison to the main cast.
I would be remiss to not discuss Bakugo, who has grown significantly since his early bullying days but still suffers from his burning need to be better than everyone, particularly Midoriya. While I definitely cannot be counted among his fans, I do always appreciate the scenes featuring him and Midoriya together because they usually involve self-evaluation. Bakugo precariously walks that line between hero and villain, and I can easily see him someday turning against his classmates. I hope that never comes to pass, and that he someday learns to value others as much as he does himself. As most of us come to learn as we grow up, there is always, always someone out there better than you, smarter, faster. Improvement is satisfying, yes, but so is accepting who you are as well as those around you. The world is far too big to navigate alone.
The final episode made sure to tell us to stay tuned for the upcoming third season, a promotion I’m glad to see. We hopefully don’t have to worry too much about waiting. I don’t know anything about how far along the manga is in the story line, or if there’s enough original material to fill all of the third anime season, but announcement gives me the impression that an outline has already been set. If you know more, please feel free to share!
Rating: 2 dango
Action Heroine Cheer Fruits
I’m still convinced that if Cheer Fruits had aired on Crunchyroll, it would have pulled in much more discussion and coverage than it did when simulcast on HiDive. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened, and I find myself among the few to have watched and blogged the series. That’s a shame, since I find these girls equally lovable to Love Live! (μ’s, not Aqours, you heathens) or WUG. Not only can they sing and dance, but they can pull off their own action stunts, special effects, and story writing.
AHCF follows a standard outline for school idol shows, or any school club in general. A small group of girls gets the idea to form a group to save their local event hall and bring publicity to their small town. Over the course of the season, they add to their numbers and improve performance quality. Local heroes even have rankings, like idol groups.
Each girl has her own mini story contributing to her individual and group strength. As their confidence in their own abilities grows, so does their audience. There wasn’t a single character arc I thought pointless or uninteresting. My favorites included Mikan, who plays Cheer Yellow and writes all the screenplays, Genki, who doesn’t let her wheelchair stop her from handling much of the behind-the-scenes action, and Roko, Cheer Fruits’ main villain and the student council president’s best friend.
There’s a particular point in the story where Cheer Fruits comes face to face with the inspiration for their group, and must overcome their feelings of inferiority and competition. While this is another familiar conflict for shows of this nature, the pressure here felt more intense due to it not being only the image of Cheer Fruits on the line, but also that of their town, Hinano City. That the kick to get them back on the right path came from one of their child fans as well as from the support of the town’s local businesses was a wonderful reminder of their true goal. They’re not here to win the number one spot in hero rankings, or even to save the event hall from closing, but to instead cheer on their community and everyone else they encounter.
Rating: 1 dango