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!
- 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
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