Sunday, July 3, 2016

Spring Anime 2016 Review

3 months later, and the Spring anime season was a pretty solid one!

Spring has always traditionally been known as the best season for anime fans. Winter seasons don't really have as many amazing titles, but the Spring is usually when passion projects and the like are released and titles are shown that really set the industry ablaze. This season did have a lot of titles that people utterly adored, but I personally found myself loving the titles that didn't really get as much press as the other big name series did.

This season had more experimental titles that tried to do something completely different, and for the most part, they succeeded. Some series didn't do as well as others, but overall the ratio of good to bad was still manageable. There weren't any Comet Lucifer's this season is what I'm trying to get at. All six of these titles were good in one way or another, though the best shows of the season all did something unique to set themselves apart. So here at the six titles I had the pleasure to watch over these past three months.

Bungo Stray Dogs
Bungo Stray Dogs is a very... different kind of series. Every character is named after a famous author, who either belong to a detective agency called the Armed Detective Agency, or the Port Mafia, while all of them have superpowers tied to the novels they made. The show also flipflops between serious action, slapstick comedy, and actual detective work with every new episode, making the show... mixed to say the least.

I never disliked watching Bungo Stray Dogs, but I can't say anything impressed me. Most of the action seen is pretty standard fare, while the characters are all broad archetypes, minus one detective Dazai, who is incredibly popular in Japan and is probably the best thing about this show because of how light hearted, yet tragic he is. Still, I couldn't help but feel that everything in this show felt rushed. Each episode was dedicated to a character or two, then we moved on to another one-off episode to see more adventures with the Armed Detective Agency against the Port Mafia. There is a central plot, but it's so muddled and doesn't have much focus after 12 episodes. The series is a two cour series that will continue in the Fall, but most of the show has just been rather slow. I can only hope that this is to set up all of the set pieces for the second half, a three way war between the Agency, the Mafia, and a new group of American authors led by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Many fans of this show have compared it to another superpowered action/comedy series, Blood Blockade Battlefront, but BBB had much more focus and many more interesting characters. Here, I can't help but feel the famous author names were to fill in for character that isn't there, that as long as you're familiar with their works, you'll know exactly who they are. If that's the case, the impact is lost on American viewers because of our association with American literature way more than Japanese literature. If that's the case, then I don't think I'll ever be able to fully enjoy this show in the same way that Japanese viewers do. Bungo Stray Dogs is perfectly fine. Nothing more, nothing less.

Flying Witch
I think I finally understand the appeal of slice-of-life shows now. They're shows that are calm, mellow, and just give you warm fuzzy feelings. They just feel good, and Flying Witch is just pure comfort to me. The series revolves around a witch who moves in to her cousin's house and just lives a normal life as a witch there. She goes to school, does some magic, makes a garden, and lives her life with her friends.

Flying Witch, for lack of a better phrase, is pure magic for me. It's a show that isn't challenging and isn't demanding to watch, but it fills you with some much happiness that it's hard to ignore. I could watch an episode of Flying Witch at any point during the day and I would just melt into my couch watching it. Half of an episode is spent explaining the history of hotcakes to our main character, while an entire episode is dedicated to them just having lunch at a cafe run by witches. The magic is never in your face and never really defined the show. It was just an element that was present and a part of these character's lives, and I loved that. Magic did have a presence, but it never overwhelmed the characters or the atmosphere. A giant flying whale appears over their house one day, and the main characters just sail it and have a good time. No conflict, no pressure, just relaxation.

I never thought I would love a show like Flying Witch, but I can't help but feel happy whenever things happened. While most slice-of-life shows attempt to be cute and adorable, Flying Witch was charming. It had a maturity to it that you don't see in most shows, but it was always open to that sense of childhood wonder. If you ever get the chance, you have to see this show and just enjoy the positive energy the show gives off.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is just plain awesome. There's no other way to describe this show other than by its titanic scale and jaw dropping action. That shouldn't come as a surprise though, seeing as how the studio behind Kabaneri, Studio Wit, is also the series behind Attack on Titan.

In fact, Kabaneri shares a lot in common with Attack on Titan in more ways than one. Actually, in a lot of ways. Very obvious, very comparable ways. The world has been destroyed by creatures called Kabane, who are essentially super strong zombies, while the surviving humans live in cities and travel between them through trains. Our main character, Ikoma, is half human, half Kabane, and the squad of soldiers on the train often fight against these zombie hordes in order to defend the passengers. So... a lot like Attack on Titan. Just with zombies and vampires.

At first, it's easy to say that Kabaneri is a ripoff of AoT, but if I'm being perfectly honest here, I think that Kabaneri surpasses AoT on several fronts. I enjoyed all of the characters in the show, whether it was Ikoma, the nerdy yet serious Kabaneri with a steampunk machine gun, Princess Ayame and her intelligence at diplomacy and making sure everyone on their train, the Kotetsujo, is alive, to even bit characters like Suzuki, who will randomly speak perfect English with MANLY ENTHUSIASM. I remember more about Kabaneri in its 12 episode run than I do of AoT's 24 episode run.

That isn't to say that the series is perfect however. While the action shown is so drop dead gorgeous that I couldn't believe I was watching it, the story isn't as strong as it could have been. What starts off as a simple thriller tries to become more complex with the introduction of a central villain, the elegantly evil Biba, but I never was able to get fully invested into that story arc. He appears, raises hell, and launches the cast into the explosive finale that rips off Snowpiercer as well as The Walking Dead. He was hateable and made for a good villain, but I wanted to spend more time with the characters we grew to love over the past dozen episodes instead of being thrust into an out of nowhere villain reveal.

Villain aside, Kabaneri's action is still phenomenal and sets a new industry high in my opinion. The technical achievements alone are worth a watch, but the characters will help you stay for the long haul.

Kiznaiver had so much potential. It could have been a seminal classic that people would have talked about for years to come, but instead the show is merely a half-hearted good. It had a great premise, yet the premise sunk the series beyond repair.

Kiznaiver revolves around seven characters as they are forcibly bonded to something called the Kizna System. The system forces all of them to share each other's pain, whether it's emotional, physical, or even mental pain. The goal of said system? To achieve world peace through understanding. If seven high schoolers from different backgrounds can become friends, then surely the Kizna System can benefit humanity and lead the world into a golden age of understanding and peace. So for 12 episodes, we watched our heroes bond with each other, fight with each other, and grow into stronger people together over time.

The premise is an interesting one and all seven characters are fun to watch. All of them are layered and genuinely do grow to care about each other, which is shown through several amazing episodes. Seriously, a few of the episodes in the middle of the season are so good that I wish that the entire series could reach the heights of those few episodes constantly.

So what happened to make this show simply good and not great? Well, it's hard to say, but the series tended to focus more on the how than the why. For any episode that wasn't phenomenal, it was mostly because the series wanted to explain the science behind the Kizna System or how certain characters got to where they were in the story. No one cared about how the pain distribution happened in Kaznaiver, we just wanted to see the cast interest with each other and become friends. Instead, the show took its time to sit the audience down, explained the hows and whys for the Kizna System, instead of seeing these actions in real time. It's less of a case of "show, don't tell", but more of a case of "I don't care about any of this, just let me see if this character will confess their feelings towards each other". Every time to show goes into an interesting direction, the audience is denied that satisfaction until we get to a finale that's unsatisfying and is about two character who literally cannot express emotions. Because riveting drama is all about hearing emotionally deaf people talk to each other about feelings and friendship.

I wanted to really like Kiznaiver, but the more I saw of the show, the more it began to disappoint me on more levels. My expectations were squashed, and while I still got an enjoyable show out of it, it could have been so much more.

My Hero Academia
Shonen shows and I don't really get along that well. I don't have an exceedingly large attention span, and I can't honestly see myself sitting down to watch a serialized show for several dozen, even hundreds, of episodes as the show crawls at a snail's pace through the original manga. Even then, I typically don't read Shonen manga, so whatever I see from a Shonen show has to grab me instantly and make me want to stay because of how good the premise of the show is. Yu Yu Hakusho was fantastic, same as Dragon Ball Z, and I do have a soft spot for Shaman King. My Hero Academia is a damned good show, but its pace is what kills me.

Izuku is a guy who was born without a Quirk. Quirks, or superpowers, develop as a person ages, but Izuku never got one, but all he wants to do is be a hero. It's not until he meets his idol All Might, the world's greatest superhero, that Izuku is able to apply to U.A High School, a high school for heroes in training, to become a superhero and fulfill his lifelong dream, all the while being trained by All Might himself.

The first few episodes were able to hook me instantly with its fun premise and even better portrayal of All Might. All Might is such an interesting character with his personality and his dedication to heroism that he's probably the best reason to watch this show. When All Might fights, it feels like watching an actual superhero fight. That being said, the Shonen pace of the show made me lose interest exceptionally fast after the first arc was done. I was never able to feel fully satisfied after watching an episode until the finale, where I knew there had to be closure for the season. Every other episode ended on a cliffhanger that didn't fill me with excitement, but made me sigh that that was all we were getting for the week. It felt like a tease more than anything.

I keep trying to fall in love with this show, but whether it was the entrance exam or various training episodes, I just lost so much interest that I didn't care when actual villains appeared and began to test the heroes. I just knew that it would be a long battle, have some good heroic moments to them, but I would be left wanting more. And that's the best way to describe My Hero Academia; I wanted more from a series that people have been clamoring for for the past year. It's safe to say that the manga is probably fantastic and deserves all of the credit that this series gets, but the anime isn't as heroic as it's led up to be.

Space Patrol Luluco
For Studio Trigger's 5th anniversary, we're treated to a short series called Space Patrol Luluco, an insane comedy starring Luluco as she joins the Space Patrol, a group of space cops that save the universe from crime and keeps it at peace. Luluco is more interested in boys though and quickly falls in love with her partner, Alpha Omega Nova. What follows is love, mischief, and pretty much reference to every series that Studio Trigger has ever made. Inferno Cop is here, the Kizna System is featured from Kaznaiver, and Luluco even travels to the Primordial Life Fiber from Kill la Kill for an episode.

And... that's about it. Everything in that paragraph will determine whether or not you'll like the show or not. If you have like any of Trigger's work in the past five years, you'll like this show. If you're a fan of fast paced comedy straight from Kill la Kill, you'll like this show. If not, tough luck.

As for me, I found this show a bit too fast and a bit too hectic for my taste. Every episode is about 5-6 minutes long, but you're hit with so many characters, jokes, visual gags, and action that's it's hard to process it all. It can get a little annoying with how fast paced it is, and the story doesn't even begin to make sense. Just watch it solely for the fun and fast animation and not for the actual content of the show.


It's safe to say that Space Patrol Luluco was the show I enjoyed the least this season, followed by My Hero Academia and Kiznaiver. All three of these shows were fine, but I just couldn't get invested into any of them as much as the others. Bungo Stray Dogs may have had its problems, but the show was still handled well and has the potential to improve some more in the Fall, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt on this one.

As for Flying Witch and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, it almost seems unfair to pick between these two shows. Both of them are very well put together and kept me invested for two completely different reasons. I was on the edge of my seat for Kabaneri, yet Flying Witch made me feel safe and cozy for its run. Both of them are from completely different genres, so for the first time here, I'm saying that both of these titles are the best of the season. It's impossible to compare two excellent series from different genres because I love them both equally. One is when I want to relax, and one is when I want to be entertained. Regardless, both of them do their job nearly perfectly and make me happy to have watched them for three months.



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