Fall 2017 Season Wrap: Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Welcome to the Ballroom, & UQ Holder!

There’s no rest for the anime blogger, and with 12 Days of Anime and Anime Secret Santa behind us, it’s now time to get on with the fall anime reviews. Some shows finished up early with only six episodes, like the already reviewed Yuki Yuna: Washio Sumi Chapter, while others are still wrapping up their final episodes. I’ll be starting here with three solid entries, one of which was a runaway with its awkward adult romance. Let me know which of these shows was your favorite!

*Rating system:

  • 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.

Net-juu no Susume

At the start of the show, Moriko Morioka drops her job and spends her days gaming online. 30 years old and living alone, she interacts with others almost entirely online. Her search for a more satisfying life has turned her into a NEET. As negative as the connotations are for that term, I get a clear sense of love for MMOs from the show. They paint it as a place to “be yourself,” or perhaps reinvent yourself. For Morioka and the game Fruits de Mer, this means choosing a male character with blue hair and a more outward easygoing personality. Over the course of the series, we see a bit into the real lives of each one of her guild members, particularly their healer, Lily, who turns out to be the good looking guy who frequents the same convenience store as Morioka (there are a lot of coincidences in this show).

This is where the story sets up its primary plot line, to get the two gaming characters who work so well together to meet and get along in real life. This is ultimately where most of the episodes start heading, letting Fruits de Mer and the rest of the guild members fall to the wayside. I had hoped to learn about the history of the guild. I wanted to know more about the people behind Lilac and Pokotarou’s characters. Instead, we followed Morioka and Sakurai’s lovable antics, awkward as they were. I related with a lot of Morioka’s insecurities about friendship and dating. Even if I found much of the humor dependent on her and Sakurai’s third grade mentalities, I still laughed. I wanted to see them overcome everything holding them back from connecting to one another, which the show delivered to us in the end. There’s even a special episode (screenshot shown at the top of this post) that aired shortly after the final week that gives us a sneak peek into the couple’s promising future.

Rating: 1 dango

Ballroom e Youkoso

I had a lot of expectations going into this show due in large part to the promotional event I went to at AX earlier in the year. I also had my husband to thank for getting me into ballroom dance a few years ago. I so wanted Welcome to the Ballroom to be a show we could watch together and really enjoy. It was, to an extent. Ballroom suffered from a number of things right from the beginning, though did seem to improve near the end for a satisfactory finish. Its many problems included the art and animation, its treatment of female characters, and the overall attitude about ballroom dancing.

When the first couple of episodes of the anime aired, it didn’t take long for comparison images to pop up on Twitter. While the manga took a more realistic approach to the neckline, the anime opted for the extreme, elongating the neck and arching the back far more than humanly possible. I’ve been trying lately to be less of a stickler for “realistic” approaches since that’s not really the point of animation, but I was still put off by the ugliness of the dancing bodies. There’s stretched, then there’s stretched. The show also frequently displays the more intense portions with a rough, chalk-like style. I understand the appeal of this approach even if I disagree with it. For maximum effect, I would have preferred they contrast these rough sections with a more moderate design for the rest of the dance scenes.

It’s nearly impossible to talk about Ballroom without comparing it to the standard set by Yuri on Ice, where routines were choreographed by an actual ice dancer and shown in full form from head to toe. Ballroom went for more panning stills and magnified shots of the characters’ faces and upper bodies. We rarely focused on their feet, and were almost never shown a full dance. Like the sports anime that it regrettably mimics, we’re forced to rely on audience reactions and the dancers’ inner thoughts to get us through each performance.

For much of the show, female characters like Shizuku and Mako are manhandled by the men around them, both physically and mentally. I was frustrated with the incessant mantra of lead and follow, even if I accept those roles in my own dancing. Just because those roles exist doesn’t give permission to the men of this show (looking at you, Sengoku and Gaju) to yank the women around and berate them. Moments like Sengoku’s pulling at Shizuku’s dress are played for laughs. Instead, I was disgusted. Gaju’s poor attitude towards his sister is later presented as a reaction to her lack of resolve, but I saw it more indicative of his inability to communicate and respect others.

Ballroom attempts to use the “weaknesses” of the lead and follow mentality as a springboard for progress. Pairing insecure Tatara with headstrong Chinatsu of course creates problems, and the two are surrounded with incompetent teachers and friends who give them obstacles instead of hints about how to improve. That’s not trust. That’s risk. If these two were any less in love with dance, they could have easily quit over their frustration and embarrassment. I’d like to think that if they were slightly different their peers would have been more helpful, but I doubt it. Thankfully, they pull through and realize what works for them as a couple. Seeing them combine their strength and change the minds of the judges was satisfying. Welcome to the Ballroom is a sports anime through and through and not the work of art for which I had hoped. I yelled and threw my hands up into the air like any good fan in the stands, one who loves her home team even if they never win.

Rating: 1 dango

UQ Holder!

I’m surprised to find myself writing about UQ Holder! at the end of the season since it hails from a franchise I never intended to watch. When I hear “Negima,” I envision a crowd of female students, aerial battles, and clothes getting sneezed into oblivion. UQ Holder! is far less harem and more battle oriented, though there is plenty of fan service for those so inclined. There was just enough conflict and comedy to keep me entertained for all twelve episodes, even if I wish they had slowed the story down a bit and extended this into a two cours series.

I had mentioned in my season preview that knowledge of the earlier series was not necessary to enjoy this anime, and that still rings true for the most part. When older faces appear and events from previous storylines are discussed, there’s just enough information provided to the viewer to help us understand what’s going on.

My biggest issue with the show is its large cast, particularly at the end. Right when I was getting comfortable with all the faces and names of Tota’s comrades, we meet a new slew of villains. This is where prior knowledge of Negima would have helped, since it turns out many of them were Yukihime’s former team members. Regardless, it’s a lot of people to keep count of, and I thought their introduction as a group clumsy. In the end, I don’t regret my time spent on this show, and would welcome a sequel should it come along.

Rating: 0 dango

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8 thoughts on “Fall 2017 Season Wrap: Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Welcome to the Ballroom, & UQ Holder!

  1. UQ Holder: I finished this one as well without seeing any of the Negima series. It was ok, feeling like a pretty standard Shounen Battle Harem. There was a little bit too much ‘foregone conclusion’ in a lot of the fights, which kinda got old. And yeah, a lot of characters. It was mostly entertaining and wasn’t horrible (and didn’t cheap out with a stupid tournament, the thing I apparently hate more than anything else in shounen) but I don’t know if I’d watch more of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think one of my favorite aspects about UQ Holder was just meeting and learning about the different types of immortals. Kuromaru reminds me quite a bit of the girls in Simoun who can choose their sex after a certain age.

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  2. Ballroom: My visceral reactions to the rictus face while dancing was similar to yours, but I didn’t have as much of a reaction to the crummy gender bias, probably due to inexperience with the ballroom dancing scene. And it was pretty sportsy, but traded the training montages for competitions. They did do that same time-dilation thing, tho, with a whole episode taking place during a 2-and-a-half minute dance.

    Like UQ Holder, it was an ok show. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I doubt I’d watch more of it if it was made.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember being annoyed at the start that so much of the show was centered on competitions. With Fujita still being a beginner, competitions shouldn’t have even been on his radar. Sure, they could be inspiration for the future, but they shouldn’t be his sole means of enjoying dance. There’s so much out there like the social dance they showed in one episode where he had to learn how to follow the direction of the room. There are other types of gatherings and events on dancing, not just competitions with scorecards. I realize that Welcome to the Ballroom does just that, takes one narrow field and goes with it, and I guess I wanted something…more.

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  3. MMO Junkie: This was far and away my favorite show of the season. This one had a lot of parallels with my life, both with playing an MMO and becoming a NEET. The sense of family that one gets in a good guild is really nice to experience, and I’ve seen people actually meet in-game and become couples out of the game. And of course, I really like romance shows, especially those involving adults.

    That last was one of my favorite things about this show: it’s about adults. Adults playing MMOs, adults finding other people, adults dealing with their own shortcomings. People don’t become static when they turn 20, and having more shows featuring adults means the creators are realizing that more adults are in the audience.

    And on top of all that, I just love Mamiko Noto’s acting. She really did a great job with Moriko, both in her flustered real life interactions and her more comfortable individual times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like you, I love shows like these that focus on adults. Even more so if it shows adults doing “fun” things outside of the workplace. I do love me workplace anime (Servant x Service, Fune wo Amu), but it’s as if sometimes they think adults can’t be interesting outside of their jobs.

      I’m unfamiliar with the voice actress but you’re right that she really nailed the voice of Moriko, particularly those flustered moments.

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  4. Mamiko Noto is one of my favorites, and has been in seemingly hundreds of shows. More often recently you hear her with a much more lilting intonation than she used with Moriko, including one of my favorite lines ever in anime, in Witch Craft Works when White Witch Evermillion says “Aho! Nani mo toryashinai yo, saki wa uso da. Tonikaku, mimi!” (you can hear it at 15:45 in the CR version of Episode 5 of Witch Craft Works) (and that’s my own terrible transliteration). You’ve definitely enjoyed her work before, but frequently she’s not a main character.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, I looked her up, and WOW she’s been in a lot of works. I dropped Witchcraft Works back when it first aired, but now I want to hunt down that specific post you mention just to hear her voice. I also see she voiced Benten in The Eccentric Family, soooo color me impressed already.

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