What I Learned from the 2017 Summer of Anime

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Now that it’s come and gone, I find myself pondering the process, the execution, and the things I could change about this year’s Summer of Anime. What better way to collect my thoughts than to share a post to the world about my overall impressions from the torture experiences I had to face since June 1st, as well as some tidbits that could prove interesting to onlookers and newcomers alike. I could very well title this post “Thoughts on …,” but for the sake of variety, I’ll make this particular entry a little more academic.



Just kidding.

Still, it’s astounding to see all the average to below-average series rated for this year’s batch of anime titles. Out of thirty completed anime, only nine have a “B-” or higher in either score category. That’s not even a third of the list. Initially, I thought this was incredibly alarming… until I looked back on previous years and discovered that I haven’t fared much better picking my own titles. While this year is technically a low point for anime, my Summer of Manga back in 2015 produced the same results: only nine of thirty manga received a “B-” or higher in either score category. Really, we all have pretty shit taste, don’t we?

2. Anime over Two-Cour Are a Death Sentence

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I did not do well with big chunks.

NANA and the ‘Aria’ series. Those are the only two series recommended to me that are longer than two-cour that did not have a negative impression left by either a tough, uphill battle or time constraints. Strangely enough, they’re also two of the better series I watched this year! The rest festered within the restraints that I placed upon them (and myself), with finishes ranging between decent (Code Geass) and horrid (Fate/kaleid), if they weren’t dropped outright.

Blood+ (50 episodes), Hikaru no Go (75 episodes), and Ghost in the Shell (52 episodes) were all dropped due to time constraints. Eureka Seven (50 episodes) started out alright, but eventually feel prey to its own undoing, making the last fifteen episodes or so a complete drag; dropping it would mean having to face another longer series, so I put up with it. Code Geass (50 episodes) and Fate/kaleid (42 episodes) were both fairly early on, so the rush for time wasn’t as prevalent, though their quality didn’t make them a breeze to go through, either.

If I ever do this again, two-cour will be the limit.

3. (Most) Anime Within the Top 100 Were Enjoyable


Out of the thirty anime recommended, six (and a not-quite seventh) anime are ranked within the top 100 on MyAnimeList. Out of those six, five got a rating of “B-” or higher in the “Personal Score” category. The lone loser? Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso. Everything else is recommendable (to whatever extent).

Why is this important? For the sake of formulating theories.

Back in 2014, I intentionally ended that year’s Summer with five titles from MyAnimeList’s top 100. Sure enough, four out of five got a Personal Score of “B-” or higher, and the fifth got a “C+.” The message on display is that while a number of anime are overhyped, it’s really to what extent, as many anime I’ve seen ranked within the top 100 are, at the least, decent shows. It was no different this year, as five of the six anime qualified are anime I would recommend most from this Summer—most specifically NANASamurai Champloo, and the ‘Aria’ series.

So, when looking for a new series to watch, if you really want a bang for your buck, it’s probably better to go with a series with an overall rank of 200 than 2,000. Don’t take that to heart, though.

4. I’m Never Exceeding Twenty-Five Anime Again


I’ll admit outright that I did not expect to receive so many recommendations for this year’s special condition (I brought this slightly on myself). Not wanting to let anyone down, I pushed the envelope further and further until everyone’s picks got equal chance to be included, to the point where I was pushing myself past my limits. At first, I was ready to take on the extra load. By Eureka Seven, I was looking quite a bit like Oreki up there.

This year was rough. By the end, I was crawling to the finish line, resorting to ashamedly sprinting through the path that took the least amount of effort (strategic drops). I certainly had enough motivation to do thirty series in the beginning, though with all garbage I had to wade through, my tolerance wore thin quickly. Of the last ten anime I watched, only two had a “B-” or higher in either score category. Six of them had a “C-” or lower.

For any future event similar to this, two things will be set in stone: only two recommendations per person and the total count is twenty-five. I’m not sure I could do this again without resorting to dirty tactics (which, admittedly, I did near the end of this year).

5. I Had Fun


Yeah, sure, by the end I was praying for sweet death and cursing myself for being so hardheaded, but despite it all, it was a worthwhile Summer. For the first time, I was doing the Summer not just for myself, but for the people who continue to read and support my blog. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for taking part this year. This is both my most and least favorite year so far.

I’m glad I got such a diverse selection of titles to sink my teeth into, as well as opportunities to watch things I had been putting off for years. These fun concepts wouldn’t be possible without the help of you readers, so thank you, again. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I only hope next time I won’t have to show my cynicism by smashing everyone’s choices.

Until next year!

Entry #30: 07-Ghost (SoA 2017)


(Recommended by 100PostsPerDay, completing the recommendation trifecta.)

Instead of ending the Summer on a long, explosive note, I’ll end it the way I feel it deserves to end: lazily, mirroring my own drive at its last junction. Unfortunately, my motivation to stick with the self-imposed rule system of this year’s festivities left me in a weakened state of misery by the end. It felt like a job—this really shouldn’t feel like a job.

With all due respect to Karandi, who may have recommended this to me with the utmost earnest, my hands are too drained to give this series, which ended up being another dull drag, a proper analysis. Instead, the next few paragraphs will only linger upon what the series has left me to ponder upon.

07-Ghost is a lot like Bungou Stray Dogs. It is also a lot like Pandora Hearts, and a number of other series with the same aura to them. Series that are, at their hearts, very serious pieces that typically revolve around fantasy plots, which occasionally employ over-the-top character quirkiness to combat the ever dark tone and feature a large cast of good-looking male characters—some of which are fairly intimate with one another. Not quite bishies, but semi-bishies—male characters with bishie-like qualities. All the aforementioned titles flirt with these characteristics, creating a vibe that feels somewhat foreign to me. It goes without saying, but these titles simply don’t interest me. That much should be obvious with my overall disinterest with both Bungou Stray Dogs and Pandora Hearts.

What isn’t necessarily set is the type of impact these series can have, as while Stray Dogs has a generally negative view in my mind, Pandora Hearts has a more positive image. 07-Ghost is of a similar vein to the latter, though admittedly in a more dull sense. Things that occur, characters that receive screentime, events that occur… all ring very familiar to others of its kind. Not to say these aren’t good on their own, it simply ends up being a little worn by this point. My interest varied between gradual interest and minimal boredom. It at least held my attention.

As such, I’m going with a safe rating. Its quality is understandable for those who wish to follow through, it’s just nothing extraordinary. Nothing I would willingly recommend, but can see why others would. If there was any true enjoyment I received from watching, it was a single scene that reminded me of a skit from The Whitest Kids U’ Know. Absolutely unintentional on their part, but it gave me a hearty laugh. That doesn’t technically count as “an anime making me laugh.”

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #29: Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Spoilers) (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended, once again, by 100PostsPerDay.)

Remember my post on Sekine-kun no Koi? I found that story fairly interesting, if not for its constant need to block the story’s progression with needless hurdles. Natsuyuki Rendezvous is by the same mangaka, and boy, does it show.

See that long-haired fellow in the white rag up in that picture? That’s the male lead of this show. It may be a tad hard to see with the size of the image, but his eyes are exactly like Sekine’s. At one point in this series, his hair is cut very short and he gets a pair of glasses. He undoubtedly looks a lot like Sekine, then. See the short-haired girl in the middle? That’s the female lead. Putting aside her backstory, she runs a small shop in a semi-rural setting and has an optimistic, yet docile nature, like the female lead in Sekine-kun. And because the mangaka cannot possibly do anything more with the characters to put the stamp on her trademark style, she also has this anime employ a large number of needless hurdles to delay the eventual realization that could take no more than six episodes, rather than eleven.

Yet another one for the “trainwreck” list.

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The grace, the maturity, the uniqueness; everything was there to make Natsuyuki Rendezvous more than a shallow attempt at the “Spirits left behind due to vague regrets” plotline. Characters were forward(!), honest (to a degree), and willing to get where they needed to go. Initially, things were moving at a comfortably quick pace, something that is warmly accepted by someone who tires of seeing episodic progressions of “Saying first name” → “Touching each other’s hands” → “Going on an awkward date” → “Kiss on the cheek” → “Saying ‘I love you'” → “Actually acknowledging a romantic relationship” → “The End!” And while the inclusion of the ghost of the female lead’s husband leads to the inevitable “I’m not actually over her, you can’t have her” stereotypes, the fact that he could do nothing but watch was something I was comfortable with. Then, it was shown that he could do something, and that’s when my brain went into defense mode.

So, what exactly is it about love triangles that piss people off? Is it the fact that people are wholeheartedly set on a specific ship and don’t want to be denied that reality for even a moment? The fact that sometimes those within love triangles clearly do not deserve happiness and the person holding all the cards becomes more stupid than normal? Here’s my fact: love triangles encourage complacency. Think of it this way: when two people are in love, they want to grow closer. If only those two are involved, the rate at which they grow closer is consistent. Throw one other person in there and that rate is cut in half. Throw another in there and cut it by another half. It’s easier to grow two plants (Characters) with a limited water supply (Audience’s attention span) than more so. Once that consistency is cut, one is left with what is, based on the end result, filler and/or wasted time.

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This isn’t to say love triangles are a burden on narratives and have no place whatsoever. It’s a slippery slope of managing the course in a way that improves the storyline. Natsuyuki Rendezvous does not incorporate it well, to put it lightly. What progress was made in the first four episodes eventual skids to a halt once the ghost husband starts breaking the boundaries of what spirits should be able to do. With this, the story also gets… really convoluted. Ghost husband takes over male lead’s body and male lead gets transported into a number of different fantasy worlds because he needs to “play a role” in order to survive. Uh… huh…. It carries on like this as ghost husband, who doesn’t reveal himself to his wife, carries on as if he were male lead and does fuck all for the next two-and-a-half episodes. I get it, he wants to hang out with his wife, but you could quickly reveal yourself to be ghost husband by providing info only you and her would know. Not to mention, you could actually be able to talk with her normally. Don’t really see how hiding yourself does you any good.

The gist of what I’m saying is that this anime had a good run for four episodes, then kills itself by running around in small circles and does nothing to really present itself as meaningful. Combined with the subplot about the male lead running around in fairytale land, it’s simply too bizarre and too nonsensical to be taken seriously. Also, nothing really happens. I really, really cannot stress enough how much nothing happens for four or five episodes, up until the finale. Damn love triangles delaying things. In a final nail to the head, the final few minutes is the kind of ending I hate in almost every context.

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What a lovely anime to behold, however. While I’m not 100% keen on the designs specifically made to appeal to women, animation and vibrancy are at a very high level. Small movements, attention to detail, emphasis on facial cues; Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a visual treat for 2012. Even if it lacked any sense, the fairytale scenes are pretty creative in their design. If not for the fact that I’ve read Sekine-kun and recognize the mangaka’s style, therefore knowing that she’s basically ripping off herself, I’d definitely compliment the different styles of character design—though my one complaint is that everyone looks far too fair-skinned to be thirty and over.

It went from a six, to perhaps a seven, back to a six, then finally to a five. Frankly, it’s lucky I don’t rate it any lower, seeing as four episodes in the eleven-episode series are basically the equivalent of looking at a wall in value. That’s more than a third of itself. Its first third, however, saves it from being an altogether wasted experience, as there was enough genuine interaction and romantic shenanigans to be charming. If only—how awful it is to say this so often—it managed to finish the way it started.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #28: Berserk (Original) (Spoilers) (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by a coasting chatter, completing the recommendation trifecta.)

It’s considered among the greatest anime of all time. I’ve come back from Hell to inform the masses that it is, indeed, a series well worth this horrible world.

God forbid we have a series that showcases violence, nudity, and genuine angst in a way that matches the weight of the situation. God forbid we go against the formulas to create a successful series rather than a great series. God forbid we take any real chances, any step outside the comfort zone of the general public’s interest. Very, very rarely do I come across a series in modern times that accomplishes the feat of doing everything it wishes to do with enough strength to bore through the details and cast aside the shackles of triviality. Arslan Senki tried and failed, Parasyte tried and failed, Erased tried and failed. Shinsekai yori is the one series that comes to mind that does what Berserk manages to do with both its story and its characters, creating a lasting experience that deserves its rank among anime’s best and most creatively ambitious stories.

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Where will you ever find an anime again that has an albino man sacrifice his entire army to become a demon lord, only to rape his only female recruit and corrupt her unborn child, which she had with his second-in-command? How the fuck do you top that level of outright cruelty? This series has semblances of it, but pray to whatever God you may believe in, there is no sappy POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! present in this series. I truly wish more stories, not just anime in general, had the gall to stomach loss, tragedy, and misery the way Berserk can—on top of still being a remarkably relatable, enjoyable, and invigorating story full of themes to take to heart. Fuck.

Emotions are still reeling, as one can no doubt tell. Even peering through, this series is not flawless. There is a cushy middle sequence that isn’t very interesting in hindsight. Taking siege of castles and battles against armies full of cocky, loud-mouthed foes fill Berserk neatly to its core. One knows who will win, one knows that the plot armor is very, very thick, and one knows that, whatever happens, the first episode tells the fate of seemingly everyone involved in the next twenty-four episodes. Animation also isn’t the best. Certainly not bad, though not quite good; its best comes with the abject imagery accompanied by the satanic illusions scattered throughout and by the series’ end. Animation and fluidity are typically sound, yet suffer in meandering moments.

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Oh, how gray this series is. Gray is a color so absolute in its fluctuating state. Good and bad are terms not truly understood, left to the interpretation of everyone. And with so many different representations of motivation, drive… it’s hard not to empathize with the (main) characters of Berserk. Guts (Or Gatsu?) is a spectacular lead who, while slightly hinging upon the typical male lead, grows through his experiences and strengthens himself through not only his technique and physical stature, but his resolve. I whine quite often about the overemotional screaming of male leads and how it makes them able to accomplish anything, but it can—it can—work within a very specific context, one Berserk manages to do. Casca is, if I may be honest, just a tad overemotional, hopefully not because she’s a woman and because she’s just overemotional. With a tragic backstory (like most of them) and her connection to Griffith and Guts, she handles herself as one of the strongest female leads I’ve ever witnessed in anime despite it.

Griffith, well, Griffith is perhaps the most complex character of the whole. I cannot bring myself to hate him, no matter how strong his betrayal. To some apathetic, completely cynical and self-serving twinge of understanding, I can relate to him. Griffith is the embodiment of “The end justifies the means,” and it’s explored beautifully, though only in key moments. How much does a dream mean to someone? How strongly do they feel the need to realize that dream? What are they without that dream? Nihilism is one of many themes present that define Griffith as a character, and one of many more that make up the web of Berserk’s complicated mass.

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What it all comes down to is whether or not it says anything. At the core of every great piece of visual media is whether or not it resonates, whether it manages to leave some sort of impact on an emotional, creative, or intellectual level. When I watch anime that involve clichés, pretentious and/or lazy writing, horrendous amounts of sex jokes, or uninspired characters, it doesn’t resonate. It doesn’t shine. It misses. It may as well not even be there. When I watch anime like Berserk, there’s a point. It makes it seem as though my time is of value to the writer, to engross me with their passion and novelty. Creating this sort of imaginary connection, to magnify what the author was intending or to find new value within the words. God, do I love to actually think. It makes me feel alive. Berserk makes me feel alive.

Personal Score: A-

Critical Score: B+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #27: Mai-HiME (SoA 2017)


(Recommended by not-so-plain pasta, completing her recommendation trifecta.)

Thoughts will be quick, mostly because there’s little to say.

Mai-HiME is one of those old-fashioned anime that go by a set of clichés to formulate their story and characters. If comparisons can be made, it reminds me slightly of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, slightly of older JRPG titles, and slightly of Hanbun Tsuki ga Noboru Sora. It’s light-hearted when it wants to be and tremendously overdramatic when it has to be. Anyone not a fan of a lot of forced sex jokes/misunderstandings (like me) need not apply, though if one is willing to push past this, there’s a whole lot of darker themes lying in wait.

However, these dark themes are not presented in an interesting way—rather, much of this series isn’t presented in an interesting way. When not seriously cringing at whatever mood Mai-HiME wanted to convey, I had my head in my hand, fighting off the desire to close my eyes. It’s so, so, so formulaic that any veteran of the industry would rather be watching anything else that has done the shtick better. It ends up becoming the fatal flaw: there is nothing really unique here, only things that have been done before a thousand times in other settings.

Though this remains so, it’s not without spirit. I was slightly surprised by how certain things arose within the plot, as well as how well-handled the last few episodes were (until the retcon halfway through the final episode). My emotional state through most of the series was flatlined, yet the last few episodes had me intrigued in a way that the rest of the series couldn’t achieve, and left me with a generally good impression. Not good enough to recommend the series, but enough to think, “Hrmm. I could watch this again without wanting to scratch my eyes out.”

Painfully overdramatic, woefully unoriginal, forgettable to a fault; all of these describe the experience of Mai-HiME. Its saving graces lie within the very occasional points where the plot becomes appealing enough to override the level of ridiculousness and angst. Characters and art mean little to how gargantuan a presence the plot has on the entire series, such that everything bows to its influence like a religious idol. When that idol is uninteresting, everything else crumbles under the weight of its expectations.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #26: Tamayura Hitotose (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by FD.)

What I expected was Girlfriend (Kari). What I got was closer in quality to Kamichu!. There’s a certain serenity to slice-of-life titles that don’t incorporate a lot of comedy to distill the lethargic blissfulness of everyday nature. Titles such as Aria, Sora no Woto, and Tsuki ga Kirei are good examples outside the aforementioned two that keep a level balance of slice-of-life and other genres to keep its interest afloat (except Girlfriend). Some prove successful while others are more or less trapped within their own creative constipation, trying to find that line between relaxed boredom and actual boredom.

Tamayura Hitotose, or just Tamayura, is an exemplary example of doing too much of everything to really accustom itself to something great. There’s no subtlety to make the emotional moments sweeter, no real fixation on comedy, romance, or drama to keep the boredom at bay, and characters develop in a rather standard formula. These girls are cute teens who look like preteens living out their life in a manner in which they see fit, participating in as many meaningful events as possible. One can’t help but think the “YOLO” context of the events is influential, but after each and every episode of being told exactly how to feel with overt dialogue, it comes off as a little naive. This also ties in to another issue that plagues not just this series, but many “true” slice-of-life’s.

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It’s too happy. It’s too optimistic. Everyone is nothing short of altruistic, even if their outer persona shows otherwise. Its glossiness paints an idealistic society of togetherness that simply doesn’t happen. Just once, just once, I’d like to see a series like this employ a dick for a character who isn’t treated like a bad guy that will eventually learn their lesson by the end of the episode and remain a dick all throughout. Such that the characters can learn to accept that not everything in life is rosy and kind. Believe it or not, there are people who exist that are apathetic of people’s situations and resolve. Not necessarily implying they’re all dicks, but some apathy could really spur some intrigue from the vapid attempt at creating a perfect society that will motivate every kawaii teenager to pursue a degree in taking pretty photos and reading stories in front of audiences.

This optimism also seeps into many of the integral plots of each episode by making conflicts simply inborn hesitation and doubt. A character wants to do something. She tries to do it. She fails. She gets upset. Her friends cheer her up. She either tries again and succeeds or promises herself to never give up in the future. The end. Many episodes roll along in this fashion, with a lot of them feeling bloated from such a simple line of thinking. Do we really need to dedicate twenty-something minutes to a girl being nervous about a recital? Is that not already predictable enough?

A lot of these issues wouldn’t necessarily be that major if the characters were anything but one-note personalities. Fortunately, it is just barely not the case here, as despite the fact that I can only remember three characters’ names a day after finishing it (and one only because it’s really easy to remember), their exuberance makes the show worth it to fans of the genre. In particular, Norie and Maon are the stars of the show, both in terms of overall personality and development of character. Norie is the character you’d typically see in a more comedy-based slice-of-life. Her eccentric persona is one that is more than welcome in a show as plainfully dull as this one. Full of overexaggerated faces and actions, she’s likable based on the merit of explosive personality. Also, she’s a good cook and loves making people happy with her cooking. D’aww. Maon is, by all accounts, the most adorable thing on the planet. All that’s necessary to describe her is to show this gif, which this series made possible.


Pessimistic view of society and overall distaste for many brands of pseudo-emotional garbage everywhere, I can’t help but find the series cute. Bland as it may be and formulaic in its structure, there’s something very Aria-esque about the series that makes its naivety seem graceful. It’s possible that having the same director front both anime had a say in this, but he couldn’t save Tamayura from a script that tends to run on longer than it should. Not to mention, there’s not a lot of things here that haven’t already been shown in other shows, specifically in slice-of-life. Whether the characters, the optimistic view of society, or something in-between, Tamayura has a spark of tranquility that leaves a mark.

On the animation front, it’s a mixed bag. Within the genre, animators can get away with a lot of not-so-fluid movement as long as it looks realistic within the setting. Not to mention, Tamayura has a somewhat keen focus on photography, which means some scenes are simply shot in stand-still. There’s not too much of a focus on backgrounds, nature, or an overall worldly aesthetic that one may have expected going into this. Fluidity is decent, with not many issues in static movement or strange mannerisms. I suppose aside from some memorably adorable moments (see above), it’s a serviceable series. Nothing jumps out, but it won’t disappoint, either.

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I can only feel a tinge of excitement with a series that I initially wrote off as bland garbage being something a little more than meets the eye. It’s a particularly exciting feeling when something subverts your expectations in a positive way. And for me, a slice-of-life title, no less! Any longtime reader knows I’m not huge on the genre, but here and there I find something worth coming back to. Then again, slice-of-life is as varied as any other genre could be, be it drama, romance, or comedy. It’s all subjective preference in the end. And I, Kopo-kun, will graciously accept this anime within the positive notes of this year’s Summer.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #25: Fate/stay night (Unlimited Blade Works) (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended, once again, by an unnamed lurker.)

First things first, allow me to apologize for the lack of posts/anime viewing recently. I took an unexpected three-day hiatus from the Summer to recover from a hefty plate of “irl overload.” Secondly, allow me to apologize again as this post will be short and sweet. My internet is being unkind to me at the moment and I want to keep the anime train rolling without a hitch.

Fate/stay night (UBW) is an overall okay series. Not great, probably not even good, but “okay.” It employs a lot of what one would expect from a fantasy battle shounen with a little extra in the art/animation and narrative departments. As such, the popularity and/or fanfare behind this anime is likely due to everything syncing up in exactly the right way to touch upon the general mass’s love of all things shiny, fantasy, and serious. Somewhat cynical, yes, but when many of the top-rated anime on such databases all employ these scenarios, they tend to blend together, especially to a veteran of the medium such as myself.

Fate/stay night (UBW) seems like something of a follow-up to Fate/Zero’s massive success, taking what they felt worked from the former series to recreate the sequel series originally made many years ago. In this sense, they do a mediocre job, as while the dialogue is still eloquently put and morally gray, they end up saying far too much to say one simple thing. “I am altruistic! Monologue with me as I tell you all about how altruistic I am!” “You are naive! Altruism is dumb! Monologue with me as I tell you why I feel altruism is dumb!” It doesn’t have the same impact that Urobutcher’s writing style allowed in the aforementioned Fate/Zero, but on its own, it still has more charm than many others of its kind.

What surprised me more than anything was how much I actually cared about the characters. Aside from Emiya, because “lead male protagonist” is all that’s needed to describe him, characters have a little depth to them that I wasn’t expecting. Rin particularly stole the show with her constantly changing attitude, cunning, and sprinkle of tsundere archetype. This certainly helped me to follow along with the more intimate details, and I was even more surprised that I started to remember aspects from Fate/Zero as the story continued along. A nice touch to sprinkle in some nods to the previous work. Though Gilgamesh isn’t as… “likable” as ten years prior.

A perfectly decent series worth recommending to people who like the battle shounen genre. It has enough insight to the characters and a typically constant tone that makes it engrossing almost throughout. There’s a little too much emphasis on THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! and overindulging in dialogue to make it a truly worthwhile experience, but still manages to keep itself afloat on an even basis. I’d recommend Fate/Zero over this, however.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #24: Donten ni Warau (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by Cake-o’s Bakery, completing the recommendation trifecta.)

I really can’t justify making a long, thought-out post on this anime, as something has occurred that prevents me from doing so: next to nothing was retained. Much like the time I watched Girlfriend (Kari) (Yes, I watched that), mere hours after doing so, I forgot next to everything about it. Donten ni Warau may not even be that bad of a show, but for whatever reason, it didn’t click with me. Everything that occurred onscreen either left me bored or indifferent, as every other thing around me served as an easy distraction. This would’ve been a relieving drop, but I really shouldn’t be so picky with those so late in the Summer.

Some things I did end up retaining, fortunately, serve as somewhat of an indicator of what this series is about. A younger sibling wishing to be as reliable as his older brother, ninjas and loyalty, double-crossing, self-sacrifice, Orochi from Okami, and pandering to women. Basically, the standard fantasy anime flick except with lots of bishies. No wonder I couldn’t pay attention. In all seriousness, aside from some noticeable jumps in animation, the design is nice and the effects of the series are serviceable, if not decent. Characters are developed (although in a cliché fashion) and the story is easy to grasp/empathize with. It’s simply done in a way that gets me cross. I can’t really place it. Almost in a Bungou Stray Dogs kind of way.

I’m almost tempted to put an asterisk next to my final score for this, as it probably doesn’t reflect its actual quality. My initial impression upon finishing is almost entirely subjective, that being “I was so boooooooooooored!” and such. Experience, timing, repetition of ideas; whatever the case, this was a much more forgettable experience than I ever would have anticipated.

Personal Score: F

Critical Score: D+(?)

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #23: Selector Infected WIXOSS (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended, once again, by a coasting chatter.)

Madoka Magica meets Yu-Gi-Oh!. That’s something.

I’ll say this outright: WIXOSS is a s-y-m-b-o-l-i-c series. An anime dedicated to evoking the imagination of those looking for something a little deeper. We get the impression one would get from a card game anime—lots of shounen shouting matches and cool-looking creatures fighting under the player’s whim. Here, there are stakes to the game, something along the lines of Sword Art Online’s “You die in the game, you die in real life,” except not upfront. There seems to be a lot of direct inspiration that makes WIXOSS a culmination of different things, yet holds its own as a series constructing its own path by questioning what would typically come from the genre.

The story of a game, where players (though more popular with girls, for some reason) fight each other with specific “magical girls” of sorts to eventually have their deepest wishes granted. Of course, not every player gets this luxury, as only the “selectors” are given opportunity to make those dreams a reality. Everyone else just sees it as a fun game endorsed by celebrities and the like. To those selectors, it’s a game that will eventually give them freedom.

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Part of the issue with this series is that one of the most integral aspects of a card game is to have a clear focus on rules, power level, and skill differentiation between veterans and newbies. WIXOSS has none of this, as the “rules” for the card game are incredibly vague and dumbed down to “Magical girl ‘grows.’ Attack and hope they win.” It’s really nothing short of the inevitable POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! that come with teenagers and magical stipulations. The female lead is amazing at the game because she’s special and everyone else wins or loses whichever is convenient to the plot. At the same time, there’s a nudge towards the viewer that the focus of the characters and their motivations are more important than the battle itself. Such that the battle is more just a representation of the character’s will than a straightforward game with needlessly convoluted twists and turns. Some would be willing to look past this, others won’t. I’m somewhere in-between.

Another issue is that the series is rather easy-going, picking up only around episode four or so. A lot of downtime can easily induce some insomnia relief, especially if one doesn’t attach themselves to the characters immediately. That being said, characters have more or less a realistic representation of the reality they’re set in, but none have really a distinguishable personality set to them. The female lead is somewhat reserved and good-natured, her eventual friend is a tad spunky and quick to emote expression, and all of their rivals are insane. I won’t go and say these characters aren’t realistic (except the insane rivals), but they aren’t exactly amazing people, people which one can empathize with without the effect of a tragic situation. Following them around before the major plot points reveal themselves feels more like an eventual falling action, rather than something endearing to miss once the falling begins.

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It is also—though almost inevitably—a little on the overdramatic side. Again, insane rivals. Literally insane. Speaking in cutesy voices only to threaten other people with knives when they’re humiliated. Smiling seductively as the battles rage on as though it turns them on. There’s a level of humility a series can employ that WIXOSS flirts with to only a minimal degree. It’s certainly no Kiznaiver or Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, though one can’t help feeling overwhelmed. One can understand the weight of the game on its users, all of whom (except one) have a desire they feel they must have or die trying. I can’t help but think this should’ve been with adults rather than teenagers, because seeing a kawaii little teenybopper pull a knife out on people just makes me laugh. Oh, and that thing I said above about… y’know, the exclamatory remark about the strength of the human emotive system.

With that, all of my issues with the series are covered. Now let’s talk about the good: IT’S NOT A STUPID ALTRUISTIC MESS. Dear Lord in Heaven, it is so refreshing to see a series initially pander towards that direction only to have the rug slipped out from underneath. I’m starting to remember why Madoka Magica was so well-received; not just because it tried to have an involved narrative, but because it was something differentWIXOSS is something different. Paving the way for intrigue and thought-provoking ideas that others take for granted. Granting wishes? Yeah, cool. But what if the wishes were stupid shit that one could likely do with actual effort? Are they using this game as a means of escaping reality? Is one really so gullible to trust everything as a talking head within a card is telling them? Can one be altruistic and at the same time self-serving? These things and more are explored here, in this deliciously wrapped (and open-ended) season of flipping expectations.

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Now, don’t let this one paragraph dissuade you from everything else I said above. WIXOSS is far from a fantastic series, but it serves as the foundation of a series that could be great if handled correctly. It left more of a positive impression than a negative one, however overall, I can’t say the series isn’t flawed. Animation and design aren’t even really that appealing, even in those typically interesting dream sequences foreshadowing later events or battles involving fantasy fodder. There’s nothing entirely wrong with the aspect, it only doesn’t stand out. It’s serviceable and nothing more, much like the initial reaction to this series when it first aired (see: average rating on MyAnimeList). In hindsight, though, when even ThatAnimeSnob is championing the series as a modern… well, not “masterpiece” but something that should be praised, then perhaps there’s something there.

As it stands, it’s a decent series, though I shudder somewhat at the thought of continuing it, as I hear nothing but “it gets worse” from those who moved forward. I adore its willingness to try and showcase something more than its genre would dictate. If more series would take that leap, that would be more than enough to have hope for the future. And with a whole two anime about card games under my belt, I think I can officially say that WIXOSS is my favorite one!

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: B-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Entry #22: Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de (SoA 2017)


(Recommended by Shokakakakakamoka.)

It’s a light novel adaptation. I could end it there, but I won’t.

Inubato!‘s appeal lies within the studio that produced it: Studio Trigger. I’ve said enough in the past about how Trigger seems to have a magical approach to animation that makes them stick out from the rest, notably through overexaggerated reactions and spastic movement. With this in mind, I wanted to know if Inubato! was capable of harnessing the power of Trigger’s bombast. Short answer: not really. Long answer: only in very rare instances.

Certainly gifs of this show’s brighter moments are available online to some capacity, but that’s really all that can be said about the studio’s influence. Aside from those moments, I don’t think anyone would note that this series was done by Trigger. From the designs to the movement to the behavior, Inubato! is a by-the-numbers example of what I noted somewhat earlier about the stereotypes of light novel adaptations. There isn’t anything really new here, and the synopsis of the show is a blatant attempt at cashing in on the chuunibyou craze partially started by Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!. This could be excusable if they did, well, anything with the concept, but instead employ a cookie-cutter, episodic structure of developing each girl in the harem while making the male lead look good by saying the right things at the right time… then say something stupid to reinforce the chuunibyou aspect. Screaming of repetition and basing one’s work off the success of others, a particularly foul taste is left in the aftermath.

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Points can be distributed through some process of creativity, as the premise of a chuuni male lead, who believes he has superpowers, surrounded by non-chuuni individuals who suddenly acquire superpowers, could be something worth some solid development. It’s just not done in the way that could ultimately be seen as taking advantage of the potential. I’m sure some will applaud it for the way it actually goes and develops the characters, as each female member is given an episode and change to show what they’re all about and what the male lead means to them. It’s the way that it’s presented that feels so hollow, so within the formulaic confines of light novel-adapted anime that one can’t help but feel slighted. This episode is red-head’s episode, then the next is the blonde’s, then the next is the dark-haired girl’s, and so on. And then there’s this strange subplot about one female member’s brother, who is also hardcore chuuni (how convenient), where he apparently has a group of mythical beings that fights against bad guys or something? That was all lost on me, and really didn’t amount to anything in the end, so it may as well have not even happened. Rather, the brother shouldn’t have even existed.

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The inclusion of one character’s chuuni brother is only one aspect of the anime that seems out of place. The fact that the characters have superpowers at all doesn’t amount to anything. They almost never use them and aren’t brought up as if it affects their lives whatsoever. Why even give them powers if they’re not going to use them? Why are all of the characters so perfectly-moraled that one of them can’t think, “Hmm. I wonder what I could get away with with my power to FREEZE TIME?” That’s the kicker; these aren’t just dumb powers, either—they’re amazing powers that could give them the ability to change their lives for the better (or worse). The blonde girl can create anything! Are you serious?! Create a trillion yen! Become rich! Help the homeless! End world hunger by making a million McRonald’s! The sheer magnitude of what they’re capable of is lost on them, and what could have been an incredibly appealing narrative of what they could do with their powers is wasted on some fart that says a lot of stupid things being nice to them and making them realize that all boys have to do to be loved is be a nice guy. Sorry, my prejudices came out.

Just a horrible waste in potential, though I didn’t expect much from it regardless. It’s as the very first line states: it’s a light novel adaptation. The stereotype stands and sucks yet another product into its void of emptiness.

Personal Score: D+

Critical Score: D+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.