Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fall Anime 2016 Review

I'm tired, I'm crotchety, let's get this over with so we can end 2016.

So... those past three months were a trip, right?

Honestly, as I'm writing this, I just finished watching one show on this list, and all I can say is that I just didn't care about this season. Like, at all. Now usually there's one or two titles that will wow me and force me to watch if only because of how compelling the show is, but even then, there were just too many titles to choose from. There were so many shows that were nothing but flash, Moe, and genre tropes that the few shows that did stand out were weakened because of it. I've heard nothing but praise from Yuri On Ice, but I didn't watch it just because I was on burn out from the season. I had to watch three of the four shows here in the past week just because I needed something to talk about that wasn't trash.

If I'm coming off as overtly harsh here, it's not intentional, believe me. I'm getting over a fairly annoying cold and I spent all day just wrapped in a blanket trying to feel somewhat better. So what better time to write a review of the shows I've seen than now?

I'm bad at transitioning to my actual reviews so... bleh!

BBK/BRNK: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy
Well I wasn't expecting this to get a sequel anytime soon!

BBK/BRNK was a show that I covered back in the Winter of this year, and looking back on it, I enjoyed this show more than I think most people did. BBK had tight action scenes between giant robots, fun villains to follow, and was a mindless little action show to watch on a weekly basis. Granted, I took it as a mindless show even though the terminology and world building were confusing as all hell, but plot was never BBK's strong suit. It was always characters and characterization.

Gentle Giants of the Galaxy picks up a few months after the first season and features our heroes fighting against other countries and their giant robots, all of whom are manipulated by a mysterious benefactor, so Azuma and friends must stop the mysterious benefactor, even if they have to team up with the villains from last season!

Gentle Giants keeps the action fast and intense, which is always a good sign for a show that excelled in its action scenes, but drops the ball a lot with its characters this time. There are some good moments from our heroes working with the villains of last season and understanding them, but there are just too many superfluous characters this time around. There were three main factions last season, with the heroes and villains composing of five people each, the benefactor's team which consisted of ten people, but those ten hardly featured into the plot except to set up conflicts for this season. Now that they're here, they're joined by 11 new characters that are subordinates for the new big bad, and I couldn't tell you thing one about their personalities or names, except for Azuma's sister, who is best described as being obnoxious and rude.

I couldn't ignore the story anymore, seeing as to how it factored heavily into the episodes, explaining why things are they way they are, why the giant robots exist, and what their bonds are with humans. Look, I'm not saying that the first season was a masterpiece by any stretch of the word, but it knew what it was focusing on. The story was simple; go to this place and find Azuma's mom. Simple and effective. When you complicate things, it requires more effort to explain them, and BBK/BRNK did spend time trying to explain them, but they made several missteps because the series was complicated enough as is.

I still enjoyed my time with BBK/BRNK as an action show, and I still think the first season holds up fairly well, but the second season isn't nearly as focused and well executed as it was before.

Bungou Stray Dogs Season 2

Talk about a sequel that surpasses the first season in every way, shape, and form. Typically sequels aren't as good as the original, despite Bungou Stray Dogs being a split cour and not two seperately developed series, but this season rocked on nearly every conceivable level. 

We actually had two different stories happen in this season, with the first four episodes being a prequel for the best character in the series, Dazai, as we explore his past through his best friend Oda. It's short, but the impact of those four episodes were so impactful and efficient that I'd be damned pressed to not call it the best arc of the series so far. Then we had eight episodes dedicated to the main conflict, which was a war between two Japanese superpowered author agencies, with the good guys being the Armed Detective Agency, and the bad guys being the Port Mafia, but then you included a group of American super powered authors called the Guild, which consisted of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, and the main man himself, H.P Lovecraft. 

The second part of the series was let down a bit because of how quickly it went through the actual war between the three groups. I had No problem with the prequel story because of hos great it was, but the longer it went on, the less time the actual main conflict would last, and eight episodes simply wasn't enough time to cover a huge war between these factions. Hell, each episode resulted in a member of the Guild being defeated in some way, so it was just a matter of time before the final showdown between each group. The actual fight scenes were fun as were the characters, but the story just rushed from Point A to Point B without any reason as to why we went there. 

The moments that were great in Bungou Stray Dogs were still great, and it beat the hell out of the first season as its fairly slow, understated pace, so I don't regret sticking with it at all. I just wish that the show was able to stick the landing a bit better than it did. 

Okay, I may get some flack for this one, but... I didn't like Drifters. Or at least, I didn't like it as much as many others did.

Kouta Hirano is an author that is known primarily for two things; he's the man that made Hellsing, and he LOVES his violence. A Kouta Hirano series lives and breathes on its action and the characters that cause it, and Hellsing delivered that on all fronts with Alucard, Alexander Anderson, Seras, Integra, the Major, and a whole host of others that just made that series so damn fun. Drifters is trying to replicate that same success, but it doesn't do it as well as its predecessor.

Drifters stars several major historical figures as they're thrown into a magical world with one single goal; fight for the being that put them there. There are two factions of historical figures, one being the Ends, or villains, and the other being the Drifters, who aren't exactly heroes, but at least they're fighting for good causes. Drifters succeeds on many fronts for me. The action is top notch and there are several interesting ideas in play, like the fact that the Drifters and the native inhabitants on this world cannot speak the same language, so there's a clear communication divide between the two of them that I'm shocked isn't explored more in anime. However, our biggest problem comes from one key factor... I'm and American.

Normally I have no problem watching anime because usually there are subtitles for me to understand and I don't necessarily need Japanese knowledge in order to fully enjoy a show. I can watch a show like Bungou Stray Dogs without a problem because while most of the characters are based off of Japanese authors, they never once reference their own lives and works in the series. They're their own characters that aren't tied to the actual people they're based on. Drifters is entirely based on being familiar with the historical figures that they draw, and they're fairly obscure characters to Western audiences. Figures that Oda Nobunaga and Joan of Arc should be familiar to some people, if not the average historian, but for figures like Shimazu Toyohisa, Nasu no Yoichi, Scipio Africanus, and Abe no Seimei, your average Western viewer will have no idea who they are. Adding on to that, they'll make references to their own pasts and the relationship they have with others, alienating even more viewers.

No you may say that it shouldn't matter if the story is told well, and that's the problem at its heart. The story is simply fine. It's nothing great, and it pales in comparison to Hellsing, which I would say Drifters was whole-heartingly ripping off if it wasn't for Kouta Hirano writing the damn thing. I tried really hard to give Drifters a chance, and while I certainly did enjoy the action and animation (good God the animation on any Kouta Hirano project is amazing), I couldn't break past the fact that I had no idea who any of these people were or why I should care about them. Character goes a long way in a series like this.

Well this was certainly the most insane show of the season. I have no idea how Keijo!!!!!!!! exists or why it exists, and the fact that it's so ridiculous and out of control is astounding to me. And... I adore this show. No really, I think Keijo!!!!!!!! is a downright great show with a lot of charm and humor to it.

Now, stop me if you've heard this one before, but Keijo!!!!!!!! is about a fictional sport of the same name where women fight each other on top of a floating stage and compete to knock each other off of it. The catch is that each contestant can only use their boobs and their asses. No hands! And so we have a sport where women dress in swimsuits, slam their asses and breasts into each other, and give ridiculous sounding names to each of their moves, like the Vacuum Butt Cannon, Gate of Bootylon, Titty Hypnosis, and Buttack on Titan. Yes, seriously.

So why is this show actually one of the best shows of the season and not a complete joke like so many other fan-service heavy shows? Well, to put it simply, it doesn't feel like fan-service. I know that may sound crazy given the premise and moves I just listed, but Keijo!!!!!!!! treats itself like a sports anime first and a fan-service anime second. It's like wrestling where while you see a bunch of ripped shirtless men fight each other in close combat, it's never sexualized. The sport takes center stage here, and Keijo!!!!!!!! wisely uses that to its advantage, making the fan-service straight up comedy. It's funny to watch a women use her erect nipple for a judo throw because there's no way in the world that it should be physically possible or legal in any sport, but there's never once any being embarrassed about their moves or the sport itself, and the women are never once objectified or sexualized by men. Hell, I think there are only three guys in the entire series, and only one of them is relevant to the actual plot.

But the key thing that makes the show stand out above the rest is that there's a general sense of camaraderie here. Even when the girls are fighting each other and pulling out all of the stops once the timer starts, they'll always say good game afterwards and give advice for one another. There's never any petty arguments or smack talking outside of the ring, and if there is, it's usually for character motivated reason and not just to make more conflict. It's easy to make an anime that has women in tight clothes and forces them to fight against each other, but it's much harder to make me care about the sport and the characters, and Keijo!!!!!!!! honest to God accomplishes that. Who'da thunk?


God this season sucked.

Drifters was the worst for how much of an uphill battle it had against me, BBK follows shortly after for being solid, but suffering a bit too much from too many new characters, and then you had Keijo!!!!!!!! and Bungou Stray Dogs.

While it was a tough call, I gave the nod to, and I can't believe I'm saying this, Keijo!!!!!!!! as being the best anime of Fall 2016. I'd much prefer 12 episodes that told a solid story than 12 episodes that told one story very well and another story not as well, but still good. Wrap your head around that one.


We all good? Great, cause I've got a date with an Advil cocktail and chugging away at the 2016 lists. Until then!

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