Happy New Year, everybody! 2017 has been a weird year and I expect no less from 2018. Seriously though, I really hope I can be a bit more consistent than I was last year.
I haven’t posted an Anilog entry for the last month and a half, and that’s because of academic stuff- I am trying to apply abroad for college so I had to write application essays (I have a hard time writing about myself- so ironic) and had to prep for midterms at the same time. After the exams, which ended in mid-December, I found it difficult to get back to. I realized that my weekly post wasn’t really fulfilling to write- sure, they are easy to write, but I don’t feel I had anything interesting and new to say about a show each week. My blog is pretty bland as it is, so I don’t want to pad it with something I actually think is not good. So I am chucking out Anilog. I think I am going to do episodic reviews for a couple of shows from Winter 2018. Of course, I am going to do First Impressions and Roundups as usual.
This roundup ended up being really long, and I apologize that I can’t really do much about it. I have listed the entries from worst to best, which was really hard to do because this season was the best one from 2017 for me. So here goes…
At no point when watching this show did I feel like dropping this indescribable trash. Why? Because even though I could feel my brain cells dying, I couldn’t stop laughing at the edge. This is the type of story my ever-so-edgy-self would write in my elementary school when one of my teacher just made my classmates laugh at me, making me hate the world. When writing that story- I would think of the worst way those people would die, and at the same time imagine myself having the time of my life with a spontaneously spawned harem cast- with each girl dying each other day, only to make space for more girls. Yet, I trust myself to do a better job than this. I even trust a plot randomizer to conjure up a better story than this anime’s.
With the choppy production quality and a boring middle as the only boring aspects of the show, the script, the characters, the writing, the blood- they are all enjoyable, they are all bad. The show ended being almost exactly as I wished it to be. Except that it got worse than I expected it to be. I can’t hate this show, it made me laugh, as unintentionally the author intended their intent to be. But what was it that the author really intend to intend on? The more I talk about this show, the more I feel myself getting stupid. I’m done.
A Sister’s All You Need
I never had ‘good’ expectations for this show the moment I learned that its author did Haganai; and sure enough, this anime turned out to be almost exactly what feared it would be- a half assed harem anime with extra grotesque fanservice (for shock value), pretending to have ‘deep’ character narratives and then provide some meta-commentary on the light novel industry. Yeah, it’s a mess. But I respect anime that are ambitious, and I love writing about this type of anime.
Frankly, I didn’t have a hard time watching this show- I enjoyed the opening song, cringed at its visual sequence and spent 3 minutes trying to remember what happened in the previous episode that would explain what was going on in the episode I was then watching. Even the harem elements aren’t as solid as Haganai, at least Haganai didn’t have mellow and mono-toned color schemed character designs (that’s a mouthful, now that I read it back).
Characters come in and go as fast and frequently as Nayuta drop grotesque and repetitive sex jokes. There were some good character moments, but only get drowned with more visual and scripted fanservice or irrelevant tangents. I don’t have any comments on the anime’s commentary on the light novel industry- except that it fills up an unnecessarily large portion of the show’s runtime- I don’t care about light novels, if anything they should have focused more on the light novelists themselves. By the end, I was left with a show that lost its vision within the first 10 minutes, or it never even had a target. Or perhaps this is just a stunt to get people into the light novel and make doujins, which seems more plausible.
After watching the first five episodes of the original Kino’s Journey, I got what went wrong with this remake. First, the episode order made Kino more of a character I didn’t know jack about until episode 11. (What’s with that visual effect where her hair color from purple to green somehow after she escaped- have light effects gone too far?), while the original put that episode as episode 4 (That time, Kino’s hair color remained constant and the dramatic moments were not turned up to a 1000 for once).
Second, this remake had great visual quality (maybe that’s all what it really was going for) and the music was adequate, but the tone doesn’t feel right. The original had less photorealistic, rounded visuals and character designs which exuded the intended surrealistic and fable-like aesthetic. Hence, the remake has tonal dissonance that made it very hard for me to take the show seriously- come to think of it, the drama elements seemed more odd in the remake, the climactic or ‘dark’ moments were just intentionally hyperbolic. I really can’t think of a good thing to say about this remake, other than it looks pretty. Just watch the original if you are interested.
Oh boy, I had misguided expectations from this show after I watched the first episode. I expected a solid psychological action thriller coupled with philosophical introspection, but the show ended up to be bombastically produced, poorly structured action thriller with it’s philosophical commentary presented in the most ham-fisted way possible- most probably because of the time constraint.
Like I mentioned before, the production values on this anime is really polished: the animation is rendered pretty smoothly and the music delivers the adrenaline required by action thrillers (the OP and ED are great, too). So the show certainly has entertainment value. That pretty much concludes my positive points on the show.
I looked up and found out that the first episode more or less adapted the whole first volume of the manga (8 chapters), not that it convincingly indicates the hopscotch-like pacing of the show but it definitely shows that the writers had their hands tied with the shackles of time.
Owing to that, the philosophical debate surrounding the two anti-thetical main characters wasn’t fleshed out as much as it hinted at in the first 3 episodes; then again, I didn’t read the whole manga, maybe even the manga didn’t explore constructive philosophical themes; but the show was pretty vocal on talking about ‘being human’. Sure, there is character writing is substantial, but that’s weaponized for delivering tension (not saying that’s a bad thing) and voicing the idea that ‘See? The whole world against you, and you are all alone’ (saying that this is a bad thing). Speaking of which, I don’t want to go too overboard with this, so I will refrain from ranting about Hiro’s edginess; you should all know it, you’ve seen the memes (Bang).
And boom! Shallow, angry nihilistic finger pointing completed, now watch as more explosions to pop in the background while the characters are regurgitating what they said 7 or 6 episodes ago with tears in their eyes; yes, I was talking about the tail-end part of the show. And yes, I know I am all over the place with this rant. And yes, Inuyashiki is probably my biggest disappointment this year, and that’s my fault, really; it’s like a salad that looks good but the cucumbers are bitter and that makes the whole salad tastes bitter. And no, it totally didn’t take me 30 minutes to come up with that bad analogy.
Now I got the bad ones over with, here are some okay ones…
Food Wars S3
Before the Anilog series slipped past my fingers into the dumpster fire (where it belongs), I was pretty consistently vocal about the sudden rise of shonen-hyperbole (which was already present) in the series. But then I slapped myself, saying that this is a shonen with cooking as it’s sole ‘battle mechanic’ so it has to turn to other form of dramatic devices to aid in its narrative; then I slapped myself again, saying that Azami and Eizan are comically bad villains. And while my metaphorical cheeks were swollen red, I was waiting for something to happen, something did happen- more exposition and Shokugeki that can only serve as narrative padding. And even after this much foundation laying, the show still seems to be hiding some cards which will probably be revealed in the next season, through more exposition. At this point, I just want to see some Shokugeki (where the winner isn’t determined by who serves last) with genuinely high stakes, not only for Souma but the Central as well.
Admittedly, I was never a huge fan of Food Wars. My first impressions were my overall impressions: the art style is gewd, the food makes my mouth water and Souma is an unconventionally collected shonen protagonist and his development interests me, and it still does. But I never expected much more from this show, and I think that’s a healthy way of watching this anime (or any anime, now that I think about it). Nevertheless, I really admired the tight pacing of the show and this season lost some steam in that department. Is it me (I know it’s me), or are the culinary-orgasmic visual metaphors getting somewhat boring and trite? Where are the gewd food-porn moments? Where are they? But seriously, this season isn’t really a step-up from the last one.
Kekkai Sensen & Beyond
Save for the more in-depth character focus on the cast and less bombast in its direction, this season is more or less the same as the first one- structurally at least. The story isn’t really about Leonardo anymore, and the rest of the cast get the spotlight, making each episode more coherent, in terms of character narratives, than the episodes from the first season. Because of that, the comedy content didn’t end up being as funny as I expected. The production side of things were better than ever, which made me want more action oriented scenes.
The show’s good but I guess I like the previous season more (hence the comparisons). That’s primarily because there’s no overarching narrative present and the character narratives don’t really bleed into the narrative or each other as much I expect them to.
This one turned out to be nice one where the show never seemed to change its pace despite it being in the climactic portion of the narrative by the end. The production of the show felt really weird to me, the ambitious yet clunky animation doesn’t really go with the photorealistic backgrounds; and I already mentioned how I think that the color-scheme of the show just feels washed out and boring. Then again, I heard that there were production issues with the show- so I am going to cut some slack; but not reluctantly so, I didn’t think that the art and animation were horrendous.
I don’t have any gripes about the writing or the characters in the show at all, they are fine and they didn’t stand out to me. The dramatic things didn’t go overboard and perfectly adequate. I am not really an impartial judge on anime concerning highschool romance since I gobble them up, regardless of whether they are good or bad, without thinking too much about them- but I enjoyed this show.
The Ancient Magus Bride
This anime has great concept art and the color schemes are really eye-pleasing, and the accompanying BGM adds to that fantastical feeling one gets from looking it. Elias’ and Chise’s character dynamic is still interesting, but I don’t really care about Chise as a character. Sure, more of Chise’s big character moments might be awaiting us in the second cour, but so far, her character development didn’t show me anything special- just standard shoujo stuff. If I hadn’t watched the OVAs, I think I would have much less positive judgments on her character writing. Anyway, I feel that the show doesn’t seem to delve into the magical worlds deep enough, the drama and tension always seem to take the front seat.
I don’t know, I never had much to say about this show- I do find this show entertaining but I can’t seem to shake off the feeling that this show seems a bit too safe and manufactured given it’s armed with a great production department.
Welcome to the Ballroom
I saw some actual dancing in the last episode- NANI?!
But seriously, this cour made me feel feelings, and I don’t mean frustration for the show’s production quality and the infinitely stretched out sideline commentary. I mean that the characters brought life to the story: Tatara becomes the protagonist wearing the underdog attitude and keeping his chin up, and Chinatsu shed away her tsundere demeanor to embrace another nagging character trait. The supporting characters like Kugimiya and Hyodou were also active in the narrative. But my praises can only stretch from the character writing to the character designs.
Speaking of stretching, the show got excruciatingly slow at points and that only added salt to the wound known as the panel by panel slideshow animation (during the dances). But some dances do have that brief spurt of sakuga, but every character-movement-centric show has that (even though I now realize that’s weird tag to attach to anime). Anyway, the slowing down during dances kills the atmosphere of the competition. Although every sports show does that to some extent, most don’t take to the blue-balled level that this show does- the music disappears, the show dives into elaborate flashbacks and I forget that the dance started that episode. The author of the manga clearly cares a lot about ballroom dancing and they try their best to get the audience to understand ballroom dancing as a sport, the show could have done a lot of weird contrived crap (although there were scarce instances of that) and I am glad it didn’t. So, although the show had choppy structure during the dances, there’s enough coherence to make this show worth watching- especially if you want to watch an unconventional sports anime.
Now these are my favorites from this season…
Recovery of an MMO Junkie
This show is a tightly written, short and sweet rom-com; featuring a NEET meeting a long lost MMO player she was close friends with back in the old days. This show doesn’t stand out by being ambitious, by that, the writer didn’t saturate the narrative with extra character perspectives or romantic drama devices (not that the show is devoid of such). Although it wasn’t really clear what the show was going for in the first 3 or 4 episodes, once it steered towards a target ending, it sailed smoothly towards it (and it still is, the ship I mean). The only gripe of mine I have for the show is that Morioka’s past isn’t really explored.
Morioka’s initial character design was charming and realistic to the model of a stereotypical NEET at the same time; she has a disheveled appearance, she has wrinkled skin under her eyes, unmaintained (don’t know the right term) eyebrows with the expected absence of a thin yet curvaceous figure- her design effectively conveys her trait without the viewer actually knowing her. Yet, her soft and (sort of) plump outline allow her to pull off adorable and funny reactionary expressions. When Morioka’s character design changes in the latter half of the show, her new one accentuates her feminine side- and even though that isn’t as ‘cool’ and nuanced as her first version of her character design- it does it job well enough. As for other characters, their designs didn’t appeal to me as much, neither did the MMORPG’s game design. The character writing was also very focused, probably due to the show’s time budget of 10 episodes- but that didn’t seem to affect the show in a negative way. I enjoyed this show, but I don’t think it blows anything out of the water- not that I was expecting that from the show.
Land of the Lustrous
After I dropped Black Clover, I picked this one up, because I heard good things about it and I wasn’t disappointed. I never thought I would watch a CGI anime that would definitely look better than its hypothetical 2D counterpart. The anime takes advantage of those 3D models to give a solid cinematic experience with fantastic camera movements sprinkled with those gorgeous sparkles from the gem people’s hair and the backgrounds are vivid and beautifully rendered. The orchestral soundtrack only adds to this theatrical viewing experience I had when I was watching it.
I would say that this show is a gem of a show, but not yet. The character narrative of Phos is interesting, but her character interactions with Cinnabar is weird- and I can’t really understand it. Maybe, things will become clear to me in the potential second season- I don’t see myself reading the manga. Speaking of which, I wonder how people differentiate the colorless characters with same-y hair in the manga; I mean, all of them have the same body types- flat chested, genderless, and have rounded butts (which sometimes prop up get some fan service shots). That’s really taking the idea of a generic character template to an extreme.
Despite those mild gripes, the narrative is well structured and the mystery aspect of the show has been really engaging for me. I enjoyed the comedic character interactions between the gem girls (yes, I am now going to call girls- gems don’t have genders but their voices sure do). There are potential themes that the show hinted at, like existentialism, so that’s interesting. I definitely want another season of this. I recommend this show if you initially turned away from this show because this is a CGI anime or anyone who just wants to be entertained by anime.
This season brought back the gold-standard, ridiculously wacky side of Gintama, the comedy routines are still funny with that sprinkle of warm ‘introspective looks into life’ near the end, and then goes back to messing around. Certainly, this season is formulaic, but that’s not really a solid criticism since that’s almost every comedy-centric anime; it’s like criticizing House MD for having new cases every episode- that’s the point! Alright, that’s enough fanboy preaching.
Anyway, Gintama doesn’t try anything new in terms of it’s structure, but that’s not to be expected since the anime is e-en-ending (I feel my heart sinking as I think of that). The animation and color scheme made me wonder why did the visual aspect of this show seemed so drab and grey in the last season. Old characters missing out on screen time for the last 20 something episodes make their brief comeback in this season- Tsukuyo came back to play baseball with a bass… yeah, that idol arc was great. That’s all, if you haven’t watched any Gintama, watch the past 300 something episodes first and then- just kidding, you can actually get a feel of its comedy writing by watching this season; then again, the level of ridiculousness isn’t really (but it’s close) at its peak quality in this one.
Girls’ Last Tour
This show is my favorite one from the new shows this season. It features the perfect marriage of light-hearted iyashikei elements and philosophical introspection. Since there’s only two characters to focus on, the staff takes that opportunity to flesh out the environment with a surprising attention to detail and interesting shot compositions. Even the ‘moe blob’ character designs of the girls are pretty crafty which complements the vastness of the desolate world and reminds the audience that even though the girls are interacting with each other in light spirit, they are actually lost in this wasteland in the midst of a nuclear winter.
The philosophical content in the show, unlike Inuyashiki, is pretty straightforward and doesn’t hide under the illusion of ‘being nuanced’ (even though it might actually be nuanced). Yet, the topics are presented in a powerful and tasteful way that it doesn’t come off as being preachy and making the audience feel stupid. The show could have gotten overboard with it and completely mess up the tone of the anime- but it didn’t. Speaking of which, the show is a barren field in terms of scripted exposition, and I really liked that aspect of it. Not only that, the visual exposition is also done pretty tastefully, especially during the last episode where the girls’ learn of the prosperity and destruction of human civilization through a montage with Chopin’s Nocturne playing in the background.
The opening and ending songs are great too, with really nice synth layering and engaging visuals (especially in the opening sequence). But let’s not kid myself here, the real reason this memeboy loves that opening is because of that:
I really enjoyed the character dynamics between Chito and Yuuki, they are adorable, funny and, at the same time, really thoughtful and mature when dealing with their dire disposition. The message they convey about ‘getting along with the feeling of hopelessness’ seems like a really corny thing to say on nihilism but it is a powerful idea and most importantly- meaningful. I really recommend this show, it has been a unique watching experience for me.
March Comes in Like a Lion S2
This anime has transformed from being a slow, meditative protagonist centered show to one with rich character narratives made of solid metaphoric gold. Speaking of metaphors, the integration of metaphors have gotten more forefront and stylistic in a more clear and deliberate way in this season. The sound design has also stepped into the limelight, or I have grown to be more attentive to such things- but I think the music is great nonetheless.
I have nothing but praise to throw for this show (save for some scarce and minor gripes about its tone at certain points). Also, you can read my detailed, episodic reviews here.
That’s all of the 14 shows I watched to completion or up-to-date on. Thanks for reading (or even skimming through) this.