Monday, August 21, 2017

Summer Anime 2017 Initial Round-UP

Let me tell ya folks, I have NOT missed messing around in blogger to try and make sure my posts are actually legible. HOO BOY.

Anyway, as anyone who listens regularly to the The OASG podcast probably knows, I tried out a heck of a lot of anime this summer! I'm not keeping up with all of it but that's fine by me, I'm forever trying to find that happy balance between "this anime is only okay but I want to watch it alongside other people" and "this anime just isn't doing enough for me, let's work on my backlog instead." I am trying to plow through last year's Precure show, Mahou Tsukia Pretty Cure, since my plan is to finish that witch series before watching Little Witch Academia and then finish THAT before I go back to this year's Precure series, but really that's the only backlog show I'm watching right now too. Especially since I am still watching three shows from the spring (which again are Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, My Hero Academia, and Sakura Quest) so once again I've got a full plate of shows to watch!

Unceremoniously Dropped:

Swordboys (Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu) (1 episode) - It might seem odd that I was interested in Swordboys in the first place, given that I am not terribly interested in boys and while swords are cool they simply aren’t the coolest weapons ever. I haven’t even heard that much hype about this Swordboys anime but I was still a little curious, I know a lot of folks who like the game (for the boys) and Ufotable tends to make nice looking shows. Sadly I don’t really care about any of the boys (duh, not familiar with the game/this is the first episode) but nothing grabbed my attention to keep me watching. So a pass from me.

Knight’s & Magic (1 episode) - I’m a bit picky about the isekai stories I enjoy and with the sheer number of them coming out these days (in both light novel and anime form) I can afford to be picky! I’m a little puzzled why this story had to be a “man from our world ends up in another world” situation in the first place, the fantasy setting would work just as well on its own and franking adding in the isekai elements raises more questions than it eliminates. The only answer I can think of is to make the story appeal extra hard to the diehard mech fans out there, that or someone is trying to cash in on the isekai boom but I'm not sure that would actually get you any additional viewers....
I’m a pretty big mech fan myself, I don’t make any plamo but that’s because I have neither the time nor space for another hobby (also, I’m picky about mech designs), but the addition of mechs alone to an isekai series isn’t enough to peak my interest. From the characters to the cockpit designs, this first episode was filled with nothing but generic details (those cockpits are totally swiping ideas from either Escaflowne or the even older series that Escaflowne was borrowing from!). So nothing to keep me interested here, think I’ll just try to keep making inroads on my Gundam backlog.

The Reflection (1 episode) - As someone who likes a lot of superhero anime but not as many American Superhero comics, this one was a dud for me. For one thing, it’s not a good looking show. As an American I associate super thick art outlines [in animation] with low budget, quickly produced shows with flash animation and limited brains/humor. This thick outline art style also made me notice how “limited” anime’s animation is, usually I have no problem with a show animated on the 3s or 2s but here something just felt off.
Plus, nothing felt knew about these superheroes! Hell, when I was watching I thought “oh that’s what that person’s quirk is”, only to realize that I was borrowing a term from a totally different superhero property (MHA) by accident! There’s still a chance, there’s always a chance, that the later episodes would be more to my liking (more interesting plots and actually giving the characters a time to act) but until I see good reviews consider this another soft drop. 

Vatican Miracle Examiner (3 episode) - This is the kind of show where it’s far more fun to read the summaries for it than to actually watch the show. For example, I found the first episode a hot mess and decided “okay, I don’t think I’ll be watching anymore but I will totally go look up other folks’ reviews of the show to see how some of these mysteries from the first episode were resolved.” I’m still not sure if any of them have been resolved but man this ANN write-up of the first three episodes was really amusing to read. Reduced to its most basic components the show sounds like a fun ride but in execution it’s schlocky, fits together oddly, and reminds me once again that no one ever dives into actual Catholic mysticism (which is a trip once you find it) and instead relies of pop-culture pastiches instead. 
I will note that this show is a hoot to watch with friends btw, we dubbed it That’s Not How Catholicism Works: The Anime (also That’s Not How You Solve Mysteries!)

If I’m in the right mood

A Centaur’s Life (2 episodes) - Aw man, I was nervous when I started seeing the promo art but this anime really isn’t living up to the manga. The manga is a weird beast, it’s one-half “cute monster girls do slice-of-life things” and one half “deep introspection on a completely alternate reality and how inter-species relations would affect everything from politics to trash tv” and while it took me awhile to get into it I am really enjoying it! It was always going to be tricky to incorporate both of these disparate seeming aspects into the anime (and the appeal to the manga is that you have BOTH of these things) but the anime is floundering in other ways too. The art style doesn’t match up to the original manga art sadly, critically it looks like how they have no idea how to animate horses, and the pacing is off too. 
But, I still really like the manga and want to see it in color so I’ll probably try this on and off when I’ve got the time but sadly this isn’t appointment TV for me.

Dive!! (1 episode) - It’s a little weird to see a show that looks so much like a Free!! Clone (both in regards to the sports show aspect and in the character designs to an extent) and have it air, um, 3 years after the last season of the anime (although only 2 years after the most recent movie with more on the way?). This is one of several shows that came off as rather bland for me, nothing pushed me away from the first episode but nothing pulled me towards it either. Diving is a sport that entertains me for a half hour or so every four years but nothing really beyond it and besides, nothing seemed really unique and interesting about these characters! Honestly 703X entertained me more as a sports show so I might just continue with that instead…..

Fastest Finger First (703X) (5 episodes) - I really have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, it turns out that I really dislike this style of quiz bowl? I actually did a similar club in middle school called Battle of the Books and that competition required the team players to all be very familiar with a list of about 30 books, things that you can’t memorize basically. That felt like a game of knowledge and memory, this feels like a game of posturing, arrogance, and rote memorization whenever older characters explain the tactics with how to answer before the question is read in full etc.
But on the other hand, I liked a lot of the character moments and it was fun to “test” myself with the trivia as I was going along so I’m feeling really confused! I’ll probably keep watching the show until it either annoys me too much or the season finishes. I also still can’t believe that the quiz bowl manga is actually getting an anime, there are so many points where this feels like it should be a parody of sports manga and yet it’s a sincere rendition…..

Elegant Youkai Apartment Life (1 episode) - This is a pretty darn generic “boy without supernatural abilities is introduced to the supernatural world” story. Actually this reminds me, The Morose Mononokean aired last summer and I haven’t thought about it recently, I wonder why?
*checks crunchyroll*
*manga hasn’t updated in forever*
Ah that’d be why. Okay where wa-oh right this show! Yeah, this one isn’t actively bad and falls into my general wheelhouse for comfort-food anime but, yeesh it is not trying to make me like it. Super bland character designs, tired premise, no interesting characters of note after one episode, it’s unlikely I’ll watch much more but I’m not going to call it dropped yet.

I’m In I guess?

Altair Record of Battles (5 episodes) - I’ve tried the manga for this series previously and I feel the same way about the anime as I did the manga: interested but can’t put my finger on why things aren’t quite jiving. Ignoring the anime art for a second (I’m so sad that it’s not as elaborate as the manga’s), something just feels off about Mahmut (having a conflict which is “he’s one of the highest ranking government officials but inexperienced” is just plain weird considering how seriously this world/story take politics) and so far the world feels like a bit of a flat re-imagining of the Near East with simplified politics. I’m, going to give it more episodes since I want to see if it just takes a while to get going, but I doubt this will become one of my must-watch shows of the season. 

Made in Abyss (6 episodes) - This show far and away the one that’s grabbed my attention the most this season and it’s also the one I’ve cause to be the most worried about. Basically as soon as the series was announced people started posting online things along the lines of “oh but it’s secretly dark!” which of course made me nervous. I think I’ve found out what they were talking about so for those folks who are also worried about what they’re getting into: it sounds like it’s some pretty disturbing imagery of the characters (who aren’t even teenagers) but that the anime is already taking a slightly different track from the manga so we might be safe.
Thinking about what the anime has actually do so far I like it. The entire concept of the Abyss, a seemingly bottomless hole with strange creatures, plants, and effects on anyone who enters, requires less suspension of disbelief than you might expect, certainly less than “we have a group of orphans whose job is to explore and bring back treasure from it.” I like the characters though, the brash Rico and the more cautious Reg, and I am genuinely curious to see what they’ll encounter down in the Abyss. And I’ll be sure to let readers know if there genuinely are reasons to avoid this anime once it wraps up in the fall. 

Princess Principal (7 episodes) - So up above I accused Vatican Bros for being schlocky so, what’s keeping me from accusing PP of the same thing? It’s a couple of different things, primarily the execution worked a lot better for me here (in media res first episode to grab attention and then a couple of episodes of backstory to fill out some details) and in an odd way the setting worked better. I think I was clear that I wasn’t too pleased with Vatican Bro’s willy-nilly use of C-movie “Catholic” horror-mysteries and I will not contest that PP’s setting is utterly silly as well. But it’s easier to ignore PP’s setting so far, clearly the countries aren’t real so I can treat this like a regular fantasy series in that regard, and so far the central parts of the story has to deal with the characters and how they relate to each other, in Vatican Bros the religious weirdness is integral to the story.
Truthfully spy stories are often a little ridiculous anyway so for now I’m down with watching a genre-steampunk-spies-mash-up and making sure I get my money’s worth from my Anime Strike subscription (although dangit, why didn’t this show air earlier, Beatrice would’ve been the perfect cosplay for Otakon 2017’s “spies” theme!).

I usually like to post what my current, day-to-day anime viewing schedule is like but since nearly everything airs Friday-Sunday this season (and I have finally, finally! gotten a job that allows me a half hour lunch break that I can watch anime during) my schedule is up in the air every week. Basically I'm watching what I want when I want which is good enough for me!