Sunday, April 9, 2017

Winter Anime 2017 Review

Well that was surprisingly crap.

While I've been going on about how amazing 2017 has been so far for movies and video games, I've neglected to talk about how the world of anime has been doing over the past three months. In short, the winter was a pretty bad season for anime. I mean... it was bad. Barely any decent titles to watch, and the few that were actually good were either barricaded by distributors until God only knows when (Thank you Netflix for stopping me from watching Little Witch Academia), or passable at best.

Now I know I don't normally talk about what kind of anime comes out every season, since I'm almost positive that only the dedicated anime fans even read what I have to say about each season, but to sum up, most of the titles that came out this winter were either cute slice-of-life shows, fan service related shows, or teenage dramas that tried to be deep and meaningful but instead turned into utter nonsense. Now every season usually has these kinds of shows and I avoid them like the plague unless there's a really good reason to pay attention to them, but this season had all of those shows in bulk with little of anything else. Hell, the four shows I watched this whole season weren't even all that fantastic. I was just so desperate to find something okay to watch that I would have settled for anything.

So here's are the four titles I've seen this winter that... existed.

Hey kids! Do you watch to watch a show about political bureaucracies and the work of bureaucrats inside of a fictional nation? Then boy do I have a show for you!

ACCA 13 was a show that I was actually fairly interested in watching when it first came out. It was going to be a political thriller with hardly any action and all just dealing with espionage, the intricacies of a government that may or may not have to deal with an upcoming revolution, all told through a character that just screams cool. What wasn't to love?

Well outside of the first few episodes, where we were just getting to know our characters, nothing much happened. And that was perfectly fine since we need to establish ourselves into a new world with clearly a lot of lore and history. But then... nothing happened. The entire show really just had very few interesting things happen over the course of its run. Things certainly happened, but I couldn't muster up any reason to care about them. And while Jean, the main character, does have the cool idea of being a smoker in a world where cigarettes are an ultra luxury and he has an infinite supply of them, but that's all there is to his character. He's dispassionate about most things and is mostly just a bore to watch.

I won't deny the great animation and clear sense of style this show has. I have no idea why I feel this way, but ACCA 13 reminds me most of Lupin III for its style and tone. Other than that, it's a fairly fine show that doesn't necessarily feel like an anime title. If you want something that definitely out of the ordinary, then this is the title for you.

Hand Shakers
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the worst anime I have ever seen.

Oh Hand Shakers, how do I describe you? You're a visually painful show that feels like it came straight out of the early 2000's, looks worse than appalling, has one of the most complex premises I've ever heard of in an anime and I still had no idea what was happening by the end of its run, features terribad action, and did I mention how ugly this show is yet? It's ugly as sin.

See, I've seen some bad shows before. Most of the bad shows I see have dull characters, unlikeable characters, inane plots, wonky as hell animation, and some bad voice acting thrown in for good measure. Hand Shakers transcends all of that by making me physically sick watching it. I had to pause the first episode just because the animation was so bad I was getting motion sickness. That's not even an exaggeration for comedic effect, I had a noticeable headache while watching this show. And when the animation wasn't making me ill, you can bet that the story about two people that are forced to hold hands at all times and compete in some action tournament thing possibly run by God will make you try and crush your skull with your own hands.

I can't stress enough how much of a bad time Hand Shakers is. I would rather watch Bible Black than this show. I'd rather watch Lucky Star on loop until the end of time. Hell, if it was between that and watching Hand Shakers again, I'd get down and my knees and kiss your feet for giving me the privilege of watching something else. Avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid.

Interviews with Monster Girls
You know, I'm actually becoming really fond of the "monster girl" sub genre of anime. I don't know why it became it's own sub genre, but between this and Monster Musume, which is now my go to definition for insane, over the top anime, the monster girl sub genre has been hit after hit. And yes, Interviews with Monster Girls is a good show.

The show revolves around a Biology teacher named Takahashi, who is doing independent research on monsters that exist in the world. Only 1% of the human population are monsters, and even then they're not that noticeable. They just live their lives normally and don't cause harm. They're just like ordinary humans. So when three freshmen monster girls enroll in his school, as well as a math teacher who is a succubus, he has all of the opportunity to conduct all of the research he needs.

What's striking right from the start is that Takahasi is not a pervy, socially awkward, nervous wreck of a main character. He's a pretty cool teacher actually. He only asks the monster girls questions about how their abilities work, makes sure they're all prepared for exams and classes, and tries to help them come to grips with their problems. Interviews with Monster Girls could have easily devolved into a harem, slapstick, fan service slice-of-life show, but it doesn't. It treats its premise with respect and maintains its charm as just a middle of the road, pleasant slice-of-life series.

There are several episodes where not much happens and we just see the three monster girls, a vampire, a dullahan, and a snow woman, being high school girls. The most interesting character of the show is the succubus math teacher, Ms. Satou, who is fully aware of her pheremonic powers, tries to keep them in check, yet falls in love with Takahashi not because he's a perv or anything, but because he's a sincere kind person that likes her for who she is and not because she's a succubus. It's actually fairly touching.

I wasn't planning on watching this show when it first came out, but it surprised me immensely with its solid cast of characters, pleasant tone, and relaxing atmosphere. Sure, it's not going to break expectations, but it's a quaint little show that would be a fine palette cleanser between more heavier shows. Speaking of...

Saga of Tanya the Evil
Girl Hitler leads an army of wizards to take over the world for Not-Germany.

That's your very simple premise, and that's everything you need to know about the show. If you're not comfortable with watching a little girl brutally massacre armies or essentially spending an entire season with truly detestable characters that are unmistakably the villains, then don't watch it. If you're fine with all of that, then Tanya the Evil actually becomes one hell of a fun ride.

I can appreciate ACCA 13 for trying to tell a serious story about bureaucracies, but Tanya the Evil takes some of those discussions, puts them into tactical war plans, and mixes in a healthy dose of action to entertain the audience. You'll get an equal dose of watching a little girl, who is actually a manipulative business from Japan who was reincarnated into a little girl's body in the early 20th century to teach him humility, destroy everything that gets in her way and watching her discuss plans with her superiors about how to destroy their enemies, win the war, and turn all of Not-Europe into Not-Germany's playground.

Tanya herself is easily the star of the show, often displaying a dedication to her cause unlike anyone else in the entire army, but all she wants to do is secure a high strategic position in the government and do literally nothing for the rest of her days. She's a villain through and through, but she's just a damn joy to watch. However, every other character in the show, outside of God, whom Tanya refers to as Being X because she refuses to accept that God actually exists, are bland and unmemorable. I can't remember a single one of their names, and just when you think you got to know a new character, five more are introduced to remember. It feels as if even the minor characters are meant to be important, but when you have 30 minor characters all popping up every now and then, it's almost impossible to really care for them all except for Tanya.

It's a minor issue, but it doesn't negatively affect Saga of Tanya the Evil at all. The anime is still dark and fun to watch, and as long as you enter it with the mindset that this is Tanya's show and damn everyone else, you'll have a good time yourself.


Hand Shakers is trash, so let's move on.

Actually, when anything is compared to Hand Shakers, you'll look like the second coming of Christ, so at least it makes everything else look a bit better in comparison. Nothing really lit my passions on fire this season, so I was mostly just jostling between good and very good titles for this ranking, which is a bit underwhelming. ACCA 13 was probably the one show that didn't impress me as much as Monster Girls or Tanya the Evil, so I'd probably put that as the most average show this season.

As for the best show, as tough as it is, I'm gonna give the nod to Tanya the Evil for being something fresh that I haven't seen before. Oh, it has problems, believe me, but I still had a fun time watching it from beginning to end. Monster Girls was a fine show and I do recommend it to others, but it didn't light my world on fire or captivate me as much as it could have. It was a simple show with humble goals, but that was all there really was. Finely executed, but when your competition is a show about a little girl moving down Europeans and reveling in it, it's a hard act to compare to.


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