Wow that was a busy summer.
Summer has come and gone, and with it was an absolutely massive amount of anime to digest. There were dozens of series that came out during the past three months, and almost all of them have had high expectations thrust upon them. That being said, this was definitely a season ripe for disappointment. Several titles that were amazing in concept had lackluster executions, which is a crying shame given some of the titles on offer here.
Truth be told, I dropped more shows this season that I had in previous seasons. I was originally watching Orange, but I fell out of that extraordinarily fast. Technically Thunderbolt Fantasy isn't an anime, but I still gave it a watch for a few episodes and I couldn't get into it as hard as I tried. I even braved Taboo Tattoo for half an episode before running away in fear. For the longest time, I only had three real shows to talk about, but I hunkered down and binged two shows in order to pad out this post. So this season ranged from having great shows, unexpected hits, and an ugly ass show that makes me cry. Hooray for me.
As always, if you enjoy these shows, more power to you! I'm just one man with one opinion and I'm not always right. So this is just my own take on the shows from the past three months and whether or not I enjoyed them or not. So let's dive right into my most anticipated title of the season.
After nearly 20 years, Berserk finally progresses past the Golden Age arc that it's been stuck in since the late 90's. I cannot exaggerate when I say that Berserk has one of the best stories ever told in a manga. It's dark, mature, and tackles complicated themes of morality, honor, and religion among MANY other issues. When I heard that Berserk was finally returning and continuing the story of Guts after what was known as the Eclipse (look it up), I squealed with joy. You have no idea how rough it is for a Berserk fan.
And then the show looks as ugly as sin.
Berserk is a truly ugly looking show, sporting some laughable CGI and even wonkier animations. For a show that originally sported some grizzly action scenes, it's so sad to see that the action in this series has progressed to watching two ballooned models flailing at each other. Scenes and moments are ruined by having the characters imply talk to each other with faces that barely move or react to situations unless there's a cut. Occasionally there will be a switch to gorgeous 2D animation, but it'll only last for a few seconds before the CGI takes over again. It'll be even worse where in some shots you'll see tons of characters in traditional 2D animation, but a CG character walks into frame and ruins it all.
That isn't to say that the story isn't good. On the contrary, the story was the on thing that kept me going until the finale. I loved seeing the cast of characters like Guts, Lady Farnese, Serprico, and even the villainous Mozgus on a weekly basis, as horrible as all of these people were. The aesthetic and imagery in this series was horrifying to watch, but in the best way possible. Yes the CG might have made everything progressively worse, but at least what they were trying to portray was compelling. I was still awestruck at certain lines of dialogue or seeing the horrors that characters had to put themselves through. Thankfully, by the last few episodes, the visuals were finally able to sustain a climactic finale, so I got used to watching the ugliness. It still sucks though that I have to say I got used to how horrible it looks, but that's the way the cards are dealt unfortunately.
The series was originally supposed to be 24 episodes told through two seasons, but the second season was delayed until the Spring of 2017 for unknown reasons. Maybe they'll put a stronger focus on actual 2D animation? Still, the story was still classic Berserk, even if the visuals were classic Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage.
|Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak Academy Despair and Future Arcs|
|Mob Psycho 100|
Aoba is a woman fresh out of high school that is going off to work at her dream job; a video game company! She's hired by a company called Eagle Jump, who's hard at work making a super big JRPG, and Aoba is brought on as an art designer. She interacts with the other departments in goofy hi-jinks, and everyone has a good time.
Nothing is fundamentally WRONG with New Game! per se, but I feel like the only thing that the show has going for it is its premise. Even then, there are a million other anime slice-of-life comedies with the same general idea; girl working. It just so happens that now the "girl" is working in a video game company, and because video games are super-duper cool, the show must be a crazy comedy about video games! In actuality, this is a show about making video games, which is still entertaining, but all of the jokes are more subdued than laugh out loud.
I did enjoy some of the characters, like a woman who's incredibly shy to talk to, but if you message her, she'll reply back extremely giddily and with emojis. I honestly just think that the comedy here is too safe and tame to elicit any reaction out of me. Does that mean that I only like absurdist comedies? No, but here's a difference between telling a subtle joke and telling a joke with no bang. Subtlety means that a joke is present, but the delivery was subdued enough to hide the fact that you were telling a joke in the first place. A joke with no bang is a joke that has a decent delivery, but the punch line just didn't cut it. I went in with moderate expectations, and they were met exactly. Not exceeded, no disappointed, just... expected.
Our story revolves around Yumemi, a robot that works at a planetarium. She was built to entertain the masses and to narrate the star exhibit, but after a war involving germ bombs, all life in the city ceases to exist. However, for one week every year, she wakes up and continues her job of entertaining and waiting for people to come to see the planetarium. After 30 years of waiting, a Junker, a person who scavenges ruined cities for food and water, finds her. With Yumemi coming in contact with another human, she only has one goal; to show him the stars.
planetarian is a somber series with many sad, yet poignant moments to it. There's something almost romantic about the fascination with the stars that Yumemi has. What makes it even more effective is that the story is told in a world without the stars. The city is a literal wasteland, with constant rain, no sunlight, and ruins of major shopping centers, and while the Junker is aware of all of this, Yumemi is still working as if she's a tour guide from 30 years ago. Make no mistake, when I say that Yumemi is a robot, I do mean that. She'll cycle through repeated dialogue, she'll make inquiries when she doesn't understand something, and she'll make prime directives for rules she must follow.
The Junker is only human in the story, and seeing his character progress is fairly interesting, if a bit predictable. It's so refreshing though to see a character be cynical for completely rational reasons. The "loner badass" is a type we see all too often in anime, but when you get right down to it, there's no real reason for a character to be like that, fundamentally speaking. Why are they so emotionally distant and cynical towards everyone? If the reason doesn't pan out, then it's a trope for the sake of tropes. The Junker though is cynical because we know about the world he lives in. We see his flashbacks and his narration explains what his mission is and what he set out to do. 30 years of living in a ruined world would change a man, and his harshness isn't because he's just like that, but because he knows what it means to lose someone and he wants to genuinely protect Yumemi.
I won't give anymore of the story away, but planetarian blew me away with how polished it was a simple show that lasted no more than an hour and a half. If you have an afternoon, sit down, turn it on, and let the wonder and feels run over you. This isn't a tragedy, but it's still pretty sad. It also happens to be absolutely great.
This was as clear cut of a season as I could have hoped for. Every title had a clear ranking for me and expressed pretty much how I would rank all anime titles from here on out. As the clear worst title of the season, Berserk's visuals hampered a huge amount of enjoyment I could have had. Yes the story was still great, but as an adaptation, what's to stop me from just reading the manga when the anime is so flawed? New Game! is slightly better for being a fun little ride, but not really being too memorable or having any raw staying power. As for great titles, Mob Psycho 100 had all of the spunk and energy in the world, and it came together in a satisfying way. It wasn't flawless, but it was still a great experience.
I had trouble deciding whether or not Danganronpa 3 or planetarian was better though. On one hand, we had a massive 24 episode series that explained and concluded the original Danganronpa storyline, while the other was an incredibly small series that was barely five episodes long, and even then had a two minute closing and several shorter episodes. As much as I love Danganronpa 3, I have to say that planetarian is a better series if only because it had a strong focus to it. D3 was great, but in its length and ambition, it had a few more hiccups and stumbles than I would have liked. planetarian was something I don't remember seeing before; a drama that actually works and doesn't overstay its welcome. In the anime industry, that's a rare gift indeed.