Now that I’m back stateside and everyone else has moved on to the spring season, it’s about time I start wrapping up the winter shows! I’ve got a lot to talk about this time around, so you can look forward to several more wraps to come after this one.
- 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.
It is with a heavy heart that I begin my winter reviews with a show dear to my heart, Yuru Camp. Easily among my favorites of the season, and now of all time, this anime knew exactly how to make me smile, laugh, and wonder at the outdoors. I’ve been on a travel kick these past few years, particularly for locations closer to home than I would have originally looked. Living on the west coast of the U.S. means access to some of the best national parks. I used to think these trips had to include some lofty goal like hiking a mountain or renting a cabin with a large group. Laid-Back Camp showed me that it’s just as enjoyable to go for a relaxing time and a nice view.
I spoke out it more in length in my recent post about the show, but the anime succeeded largely due to its strong writing and characters. It doesn’t stretch the mind to imagine this show not doing so well in another crew’s hands. The pacing of the conversations and humor rolled along smoothly from scene to scene. This makes it so that even those viewers less inclined to slice-of-life might remain interested in what these girls do and say. Each one of the characters are unique and memorable. Particularly enjoyable for me was Rin’s character, a girl who prefers her alone time but from time to time indulges her friends. I love that the anime accepts both sides without seeing a need to “fix” her solitude.
Rating: 3 dango
The Ancient Magus’ Bride
The Ancient Magus’ Bride started out strong in the season, riding high off of the previous films and hype. I love the approach it takes to fantasy; my forgotten love for Arthurian and Celtic lore was revitalized thanks to the setting and creatures encountered by Chise. Unfortunately, I found the momentum floundering midway through to the end with the show’s push for a closing act. While I appreciated seeing Chise learn more about herself and grow stronger, I was less interested in the main villain. I would have much preferred smaller arcs similar to the start of the show, and perhaps a promise for another season someday. Or perhaps I just want another Natsume’s Book of Friends?
Despite my misgivings about the writing, I’m still fond of the overall design of the anime. Their interpretations of different myths delighted and surprised me. I wanted to see more, learn more. It was also wonderful seeing Chise’s physical appearance strengthen in accordance with her will. Though she went through some trying times that threatened to physically break her, her sense of self maintained its improvement. I do hope that regardless of the ending we’ll see more of Chise, Ruth, and Elias in the future. Ideally, I’d like to see her come to her own as a figure rivaling her mentors.
Rating: 2 dango
Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles
Ramen Daisauki Koizumi-san was unfairly made the brunt of jokes at the start of the winter when its ramen was compared to the curry ramen scene in Yuru Camp. While I had to agree that the character introductions were done in a more interesting style in the latter, I still enjoyed Koizumi-san for what it was: a ramen foodie’s journey. There was no mistaking this show for anything else. I was particularly interested in the anime due to my recent Japan trip, and I knew all of the places featured in the anime could be found in real life. While I didn’t actually get to indulge any of my ramen desires, I will keep the list on my mind the next time I go.
Each episode features a new place and a new style of the dish, be it the better known tonkotsu or shoyu ramen, or modern twists of Italian and Russian ramen. Say what you will about the repetitive nature of Koizumi slurping down her noodles—I was never bored seeing the variety of food she ate. I did tire almost immediately of her stalker who the show persisted in using as a main character. Yuu really has nothing likable about her. Her obsession with Koizumi creeps me out and I don’t find the show’s use of her comical at all. The anime could have completely cut her out and I would have been all the happier for it.
Rating: 0 dango
Maybe it’s my age, or perhaps the show’s clever writing, but I’ve been liking kids in anime more often these days. Babies, in particular, aren’t as annoying to me as they used to be. I’d still rather appreciate them from a distance, though! And with relatives, I’m more than glad to hand them back at the end of the day.
School Babysitters intrigued me with its idea of a high school nursery that looks after the staff’s children. It reminded me a lot of Hanamaru Kindergarten, another show centering on infants. While that show has full grown adults tending the kids, this one mainly features a high school boy. Using a male character instead of the stereotypical female as the caretaker emphasizes the ability and responsibility of all humans to look after one another. While the circumstances for our main character aren’t great, I still enjoy seeing someone so young learn how to care for kids and teach others to do the same.
The show balances its characters well, moving between the older crew and the children effortlessly. Like Maria points out at the end of the series, once we get to know the children, they become individuals with likes, dislikes, and quirks of their own. I grew to like almost all of the people in this show almost from the get go.
If there’s one major problem I have with the anime, it’s the use of pedophilia as comedy. None of the notable characters explicitly voice or display the disorder, but they certainly hint at it with bleeding noses and a desire to touch the children. These scenes are always used to comedic effect, with other characters popping up to protect the kids and reprimand the offender, but none of it is serious. I wish these scenes had been completely cut, even if they might be in the source material. They add nothing of value to the anime and only made me want to fast forward to the next section.
Thankfully, these types of scenes are few and far between, and the anime is for the most part heartwarming. Seeing this anime before visiting with my exchange sister’s baby in Japan actually helped me try to look for her unique traits. When she cried, I’d try to figure out why without feeling stressed. And when we left, I promised myself to stay in her life as she grows up.
Rating: 1 dango