Winter Anime 2016 Review (Part 1/3)

The start of a new season simultaneously marks the end of an old one. As the new shows begin to air, see what we thought of some of the past season’s anime in our regular seasonal review.

Grimgar ED

Hai to Gensou no Grmigar
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

Annalyn – 7/10

I didn’t expect to have any interest in another show that’s about people stuck in an MMORPG. Been there, done that. Oh sure, in this one, the characters don’t realize they’re in an MMORPG. They only remember a few things from their old world—mostly idioms, and the fact that the moon wasn’t red. They don’t realize that the world they’ve woken into is a game. But to the audience, it’s very obvious. 

So I only tried Grimgar because my cousin likes it. And to my surprise… it really is different. Unlike other MMORPG-related shows, this one never deals with the overall situation. It doesn’t follow experienced gamers who try to beat the game or set up political alliances. Instead, it follows a group of normal beginners as they join guilds, learn skills to aid their party, and fight goblins. They can be healed by magic users, but cannot resurrect… and all of this feels natural. There’s battle, but there’s a relaxing effect from the colors, watercolor-style background, and music. It feels rather slice of life, if your life involves learning to kill goblins in order to earn your living. In fact, it reminds me of the days when I played the occasional free MMORPG. I never got beyond the “newbie” stage, and Grimgar is often a dramatization of what my avatar went through.

There are some annoying elements: fanservice and an obnoxious, lewd character who pokes fun at a girl’s chest on a regular basis. These things broke the spell for me. But I enjoyed watching the characters grow as warriors and teammates. Even Ranta, the obnoxious character, ended up serving a good purpose to the story, though I still believe he was used for cheap attempts at comedy earlier in the series. All in all, I enjoyed Grimgar more than the other MMORPG-related series I’ve seen over the past few years. I didn’t expect to, but it was a pleasant watch. So it earns a very solid 7/10 from me, which translates to “good enough.”

Screenshot 2016-03-24 10.07.38

Dagashi Kashi
Dagashi Kashi

Japesland – 5/10 

My personal watching experience of Dagashi Kashi transitioned through three stages. First, I began the series with no expectations and almost immediately hated the art style, the characters, and found it generally unfunny. Next, after deciding not to drop it after two episodes, I found myself enjoying all three things I hated at first. Then, by the last episode, I found myself actually quite drawn to the art style and quirky characters, but the comedy had begun to wear thin (not to mention rely somewhat heavily on juvenile sexual innuendo).

Personal experience aside, though, Dagashi Kashi is a solid comedy, for what it is. There is no plot. Any sort of plot introduced in episode one is quickly abandoned for the sake of setting up an environment in which characters can make candy entertaining. But you know what? That’s fine. The show displays no pretense for what it is, and that is a silly gag comedy based solely on the concept of Japanese sweets. Sometimes the gags are lacking. Sometimes they’re over-sexualized. But generally, Dagashi Kashi was something I could look forward to consistently entertaining me for twenty minute blocks once a week. Plus, I now know a heck of a lot more about Japanese sweets than I did before. Not sure I can really recommend the show, though…

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Active Raid: Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai Hachi Gakari
Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault Eighth Unit

Medieval Otaku – 6/10 

This show held some promise, but it turned out merely fun. All the characters from our naïve and by the book Asami to the perfectionist Soichiro to Haruka the train otaku turned out to be very likable. The animation felt occasionally impressive with the CGI not sticking out like a sore thumb. Overall, it was a combination of the vivacious characters and action which made Active Raid fun to watch. My favorite episode had to be episode 8: “Ulti-maid-ronde,” because of the hilarious interaction between Soichiro and his former girlfriend, Miho. It well illustrated the concept of the perfect being the enemy of the good, since Soichiro only broke up with Miho because of the inferiority complex produced by her perfection and his impossibility of meeting it.

But, the plot leaves as much to be desired as the opening and ending songs. The villain and his henchmen provide ample trouble for our heroes, but most would find the solution in the finale lackluster. So, should you watch it? Sure, but there are better shows out there.

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu OVA

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu
Assassination Classroom

R86 – 7/10

When a giant space octopus destroys half the moon and threatens to destroy Earth in a year, what else is there to do but put him in charge of the lowest-ranking “E-for-End” class of middle school children? Obviously the next step is for the government to intervene with these students, equipping and teaching them to assassinate the genius-level octopus, who can evade threats at the speed of sound. When they find that he is the best and most effective teacher they’ve ever had, that none of their efforts comes close to scratching Koro-sensei (as they dub him, short for korosenai “we can’t kill him”), and that there is no small back-room intrigue involving the school principal (whose son happens to be in the top or “A” class), you have yourself a story so odd, so ridiculous in fact, that one almost thinks it just might work.

So does it work? Well, that depends. One of the shortcomings of Ansatsu Kyoushitsu is one common to many anime series, in that there are simply too many characters. Not including children in other classes, or other faculty or staff, the “E” class alone has between 25 and 30 children in it. To the show’s credit, I do believe it tries its best to give us an opportunity to get to know each one of them a little bit. And yet I must admit that whenever the show finds itself in a bind, it seems to say, “I know! Let’s introduce another character!”

Still, I have kept up with this series through both seasons, and I expect I will finish it. I can’t say it’s taught me anything deep or otherwise changed my life much, but the premise is so unusual that I just have to see how it turns out. When I told my colleague Kaze how I guessed it would end, he made it clear that I wasn’t even close, so I have that to look forward to at least.

AjinReviewPic

Ajin
Demi-Human

Emdaisy – 8/10

Upon starting the first episode of Ajin, I very nearly just shut it off with the intent of not watching the series – due to the graphics. The 3D-ish style really threw me off. However, the MAL description made the show sound a lot like Tokyo Ghoul, which is one of my favorite anime. Basically this anime follows Nagai Kei – a boy who finds out that he is, in fact, not human, but Ajin. Ajin appear entirely human but cannot die – they simply regenerate as soon as they are killed. *Insert lots of political problems of Ajin versus humans and  fighting between good guys versus bad guys + poor innocents/neutrals.*

This anime hasn’t finished airing yet, so I can’t judge based on the final episode, obviously, but once I got over the animation style (it’s just so… foreign), I really enjoyed this anime. I guess just the way they portray the psychological and political aspects of things intrigued me. The show had almost no clear-cut “good” or “bad” characters. Really, most of the main characters are neither “good” nor “bad” but are merely trying to find a way to live how they want to, which makes the whole plot that much more interesting – it’s hard to predict who’s going to do what next, and why.

The reason I wouldn’t give the show a 10, though, for as much as I enjoyed it would be for a few reasons. For one, like I’ve mentioned a few times before – the animation bugged me. It’s just not the typical 2D style I’m used to in anime. Another reason is that the show can be pretty gruesome at times – some of the killing/torture scenes in the show are almost too realistic. Finally, the plot had some parts that were a bit too stretched to be believable. Aside from those flaws, though, I did enjoy the show. It’s something I’d recommend to people who enjoy psych thrillers (and don’t have a weak stomach or fear of ghosts). If there is a second season (which there may be – I don’t know if episode 13 will wrap this show up or set it up for another season), I’ll be watching!

Daiya no Ace 2 Episode 45

Ace of Diamond 2nd Season
Daiya no Ace 2nd Season

Annalyn – 7/10 

Ya’ll know I love my sports anime. You could even say I’m biased toward them, and that usually shows in my scoring. But it’s not a blind love, and Daiya no Ace has slowly fallen from my grace. At the end of its first season, I gave it an 8.4. The second season had a rough start with recap episodes that were even weak compared to other recap episodes, but it showed promise by the end of its first twelve episodes, so I gave it an 8 after last spring. The road’s been rocky since then. There are stretches through which the conflict draws me in, like when Sawamura works to overcome his yips, or when the new assistant coach, Ochiai, disrespects Coach Kataoka. I enjoy watching the team members figure out their roles after the third-years leave. And of course, it’s always fun to cheer for Team Seido during games. I love these characters.

But after 126 episodes (51 in Season 2), the stars are gone from my eyes. I admit that the animation isn’t special. I notice that the pacing is a little off, and I have trouble sustaining interest week to week. And if there were any stars left in my eyes, the finale stole them. It’s been a week, and I’m still pouting about the finale—not because of a game outcome, no, and not because it marks the end of the season. I’m pouting because the episode is rushed. It’s like cramming an entire season into a single extended ED sequence. While I really like some of the events in that episode, and it manages to tie up some important conflicts, I’m too annoyed at the presentation to really enjoy it. So Daiya 2 gets a 7 on the normal anime rating scale, or a 7.5 on my sport anime rating scale. (Sports anime ranks are determined partially based on how the sport is portrayed.) Is it good? Yeah. Really good at times. But it’s far from perfect.

The OP for this show is top-notch, by the way.

Haruchika
Haruta and Chika

stardf29 – 6/10

With a premise that sounds like a cross of Sound! Euphonium and HyoukaHaruchika sadly fails to capture the charm of either of those shows. The whole band aspect is woefully underdeveloped, as while it’s not insignificant, it is largely put in the background in favor of the mysteries. As for the mysteries, they are small single-episode vignettes that cover some interesting topics, but suffer from the male lead, Haruta, encyclopedically solving the vast majority of the mysteries single-handedly (and coming off as an annoying know-it-all in the process). That, and because the mysteries are limited to one episode, most characters involved do not get any notable development. That said, this is not a bad show, as the personalities of the characters not named Haruta are all great (especially Chika) and make the show work as a simple, entertaining series of character interactions. If that doesn’t sound like enough praise for an “above-average” 6/10 score, all I can really say is that I really love Chika’s character and she pretty much carried the show for me.

aokana

Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue

Kaze – 5/10

Aokana may be a fun watch but it doesn’t have much else going for it. While I could bash on its plot or antagonists for being so shallow, Aokana’s biggest weakness is a common problem with many fictional stories. Flying Circus is the fictional sport the story is about, with the characters playing in tournaments and working to become better players. However, since everything from the rules, physics, and theorycrafting of the sport is completely subject to the author’s whims, it’s very hard to take anything seriously. Contrast that to something like Go or baseball, where you can objectively determine how difficult the situation is for the protagonists and what they concretely need to do to win, and instead you get matches that may be fun to watch but change at a moment’s notice for reasons that just sort of happen because the writer decided they can. Not that there’s anything wrong with a show about having fun, but in that case, they really needed to take out the terrible antagonists who do nothing but repeat the same lines over and over as if it actually means anything. In some ways, that’s the exact problem Gundam Build Fighters had where I really wanted it to be pure fun but felt the need to add horribly written drama and antagonists. So yeah, it has its fun with a fictional sport, but don’t expect any of it to make much sense.

Screenshot 2016-03-24 10.09.17

Shoujotachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu
Girls Beyond the Youth KOYA

Japesland – 5/10

As an anime, Shoujotachi is quite mediocre. The show does not have a single unique character, instead relying on pre-established tropes, and the plot itself is neither engaging nor surprising. In these ways, Shoujotachi blends in with the sea of mediocrity that dominates the anime industry. The anime’s main saving grace is that it focuses on a topic that hasn’t yet received much attention in this medium, namely visual novel production. Unlike Shirobako, which also focuses on the behind-the-scenes element of production in anime-related media, though, Shoujotachi never digs too terribly deep into the process. Unfortunately, all of this culminates in… nothing special, really. The show has its highs and lows (I was pleasantly surprised by episode 11 and the finale), and visual novel fans like Kaze or myself enjoyed it for its subject matter, but it simply does not have any stand out points that make it worth recommending.

 

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Didn’t see an anime you liked? No worries just yet as we still have plenty more to review tomorrow and the day after!

4 thoughts on “Winter Anime 2016 Review (Part 1/3)

  1. Grimgar is one of the shows I wish that I had picked up this season. All the articles and reviews are surprisingly positive despite it being another RPG-style anime. I suppose that genre is here to stay.

    Dagashi Kashi could have been much better if they had included more of the main conflict, trying to get Kokonotsu to take over his father’s shop, in each episode. Often the best comedies contain a serious thread in them, and that show would have benefitted greatly from using that tactic. Still, it managed to be utterly hilarious at times, e.g. the whole “Saya-shi” gag.

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  2. Grimgar:

    The art direction, and backgrounds look interesting, but, I kept reading about the fanservice alluded in the review, about one girl that liked to physically harass other girls, and, the obnoxious character that according to what I’ve read in the wiki, has evil-based powers, with summoning, etc. That was enough for not watching the show.

    Dagashi Kashi:

    I didn’t find the premise boring, -a common criticism of the show-, in fact, a rural based slice of life sounds good, even if the subject was something that was meant to be better enjoyed with a previous knowledge or experience with Japanese candies (I guess the author was going for some nostalgia factor). But, the focus on sexual innuendo, and some fanservice, ruined the potential the show could had. I dropped it a the first episodes. Reading about the last episode, they even included a shoujo-ai style scene… I don’t know if that was adapted from the manga, but I have the impression that the anime has more fanservice than the source, maybe they were trying to give a wider “appeal” to the show, thinking about a “limited” niché appeal that needed to be expanded.

    Content warnings: The first episode had a bathing scene, (barely) censored. And the innuendo mentioned earlier.

    Active Raid:

    The show premise was interesting, with a combination between mecha and super sentai. I dropped it after the third episode, the one featuring a singer that resulted being a boy passing as a girl, a bad surprise for one of the characters, that was being depicted as a fan of that singer, and an annoying trend in some recent anime.

    Content warnings: The transformation scenes (basically the characters receiving armor parts with the help of mechanical arms) feature the characters in underwear.

    Assassination Classroom:

    I watched a couple of episodes from the first season, but dropped it becausetsome fanservice scenes. I don’t know if that continued with the other chapters.

    Haruchika:

    I didn’t liked a part of the premise… some sort of love triangle involving the two students and the teacher, so I didn’t watched it, even when I like some of the productions from that studio. How prominent was that part in the show?

    Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm:

    I watched the first episode. Some likable characters and fun premise. There is some girl that seems too attached to other of the female characters, but possibly is only friendship.

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    1. The part that irks you about Active Raid is the most annoying part of the show. (I often wonder what point they try to make with the male trap character: is it really that amusing to the Japanese audience? And, unlike in Danna ga Wakaranai, one can’t even see how this particular character might possibly be male.) But, that singer only makes one or two appearances after that episode. Thankfully, most of the fanservice in the show is brief.

      I also liked Dagashi Kashi. The fanservice and sexual innuendo did not strike me as too egregious, but many people have been bothered by them. They rank as one of the better reasons one might drop the show.

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      1. I don’t know if that character being pursued by an stereotype of pervert otakus was some kind of commentary or had a point. Besides that, I think they put that character there because they liked it. And visually, looked like a girl. So, it was more of a characteristic that had to be told by other characters.

        I think they just tried to give the show more appeal than the niché topic it covers. Also, reading more about the last episode, that shoujo-ai scene seems to happen in the imagination of the blonde girl. I thought she liked the protagonist.

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