Spring 2016 Anime Impressions

Spring is here, and as I try to get those final winter reviews out on Infinite Rainy Day, I decided to give my thoughts on the Spring premiers I’ve seen, which is quite a few. This list isn’t completely comprehensive, especially with general bullshit walling from sides like Netflix, but I got a big chunk of the season here.

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Everybody do the “Fuck Netflix” dance! *clap clap*

I’ll be leaving out the second season premiers of Asterisk War and Concrete Revolutio, but it’s safe to assume those are as great as their first seasons. This will be premiers only. I’ve divided everything into categories based on quality and entertainment value, from most recommended, to specialized recommendations, and stuff you should avoid.

So, here are my thoughts.

Best of the Best

My Hero Academia

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The hype show of the season, this Shonen Jump adaptation has a lot of familiar shonen trademarks (constant flashbacks to things we saw a moment ago, never giving up, ridiculously goofy characters, ect), but it’s already better than most SJ anime out there by sheer heart. No joke, I nearly cried twice in the first episode. This superhero series gets why kids are so endeared to capes and cowls, perfectly capturing the innocence of the concept long forgotten among all the pretentious deconstructions that flood the market these days. Just as Gatchaman Crowds accidentally became a idealistic counterpoint to the grim Man of Steel, My Hero Academia does the same for Batman v Superman in terms of sheer heart. The story of a boy who just wants to be a hero, despite having no powers of his own, really hit home for me, and captured a lot of the same feelings I had as a kid watching Spider-Man on Saturday mornings. This is in start contrast to Zack Snyder masturbating over objectivism and guy muscles for three hours.

Just be warned the first two episodes are the first chapter of the manga. It’s a controversial choice many says kills the pacing, but I like it because it allows the emotional impact of the more serious scenes to really sink in.

Kiznaiver

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I was wary about this one, because it seemed so unlike what I expected from Trigger, and I was worried Mari Okada’s writing style wouldn’t fit the immature studio. Thankfully, those fears have been squashed pretty fast. Kiznaiver is basically a SHAFT show done in the more outlandish, goofy style of Trigger’s signature style, and it’s a much better fit for me than the obnoxious film school editing SHAFT has become so used to. There’s great comedy bits here, and the series is wasting no time in establishing the cast. The idea of superhero characters that share pain is a good one ripe with possibilities, but I also like the first two episodes are all about getting all the backstory out of the way quickly so we can get to the main point later.

This one has the greatest chance of swerving into disappointing territory, especially because it’s anime original, but for now, I adore it.

Flying Witch

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I’m actually a pretty big fan of slice of life shows these days, especially ones that focus on creating a sense of normalcy and natural awe. Flying Witch does this easily, despite the fantastical set-up, and goes with a lot of great deadpan jokes. It uses a lot of pauses and quiet moments to let every moment speak for itself, and it works great. It’s both very mature and reserved, but also ridiculous, especially episode one’s mandrake scene. Sometimes slow and steady is the way to go. It helps the show is absolutely gorgeous to look at.

Great Stuff

Anne-Happy

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Wacky comedy about a class of complete losers. Main characters include a girl with a ridiculously fragile body who constantly spouts gloomy, self-loathing thoughts out-loud, a happy-go-lucky girl that can only invite misfortune at all times, and an otherwise normal girl who has made a construction sign mascot her husbano, plus a lesbian with no sense of direction and her would be partner who is an animal magnet. This show was practically made for me. It’s a tad mean-spirited, but reels back just enough so the characters remain painfully relatable or endearing. Lots of great gags, pretty art style, and some great performances from the voice cast. Easily the comedy of the season after Flying Witch.

Haifuri (High School Fleet)

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Easily the biggest surprise of the season, mainly because all advertising did a good job at hiding what this show was actually about. Presented as a cute girls do cute things BUT IN THE NAVY sort of thing, the first episode completely turns everything around in the last scene, as the show becomes a survival drama about cute girls trying not to be killed for mutiny by the government upon getting wrapped up in a mysterious conspiracy. While doing cute things, of course.

The show quickly sets up its main cast and shows how well they can work as a team, makes some great conflicts, especially with the ship’s captain trying not to crack under pressure and keep morale up as everything goes south fast, and the comedy is matched well with tense naval battles. This could be a surprise up-setter at this rate, especially with the great production values.

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless

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Probably the most SOL thing I’ve seen this season, Tanaka-kun is great. It gets a lot of mileage out of the sleepy protagonist concept in the first episode in interesting ways, creating a strong main duo for the series, then introduces a great contrast character in the next episode. Miyano is instantly the best part of the show within her first speaking scene, a tiny, cute ball of go getter energy that utterly fails to copy Tanaka’s sloth-like lifestyle. It gets even better after her with the introduction of a lesbian tomboy who’s crazy about Miyano.

The show is beautiful and easy to lose yourself in, but the jokes keep it fun the whole way. There’s a lot of memorable ones spread out well, particularly a clever little gag about background characters. Also, this is about as close to good BL we’re getting this season even if it’s only teases subtext.

Solid Attempts

Twin Star Exorcists

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Good dark shonen stuff here. Think Blue Exorcist with even more impressive direction. The premise gives us a male and female lead, and both get good definition and a solid basis for a relationship between the two as rivals (though of course we’re going to see ship teasing down the line). All the pieces are there, like the goofy but possibly evil mentor character and unnecessary mascot character, plus some very messed up traumatic back story for the leads. Even the male lead is a ball of awkwardness wrapped up in unmasculine traits until he gets a PTSD episode (I’m serious, the kid has issues).

This one could go either way, but it’s starting off on the right foot. Though the action is questionable at times, with our heroine not exactly given the most diverse of movesets.

Space Patrol Luluco

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Trigger’s other show this season is basically Inferno Cop mixed with some light coming of age narrative. It’s wonderful. The series follows Luluco, a normal human girl growing up in an alien society trying to have a normal life, until her father accidentally freezes himself and she’s forced to take his place in the space patrol. The jokes in this series rely on sheer absurdity and fast pacing, and it works great, with highlights including the Inferno Cop like police chief changing his mind in a nano-second regularly, or Luluco having a sexual awakening symbolized via the big bang. I am completely serious, that happens and it’s amazing.

Episode three also introduces an alien girl played by Mayumi Shintani (the voice of Nonon from Kill la Kill and Haruko from FLCL) that starts as a criminal and then decides to join the space patrol so she can hit on Luluco’s cute partner. She is so good, guys. And don’t even get me started on all the great quotes (“THEY CAUGHT ME SPACE CHEATING”). As a short, it’s great stuff, butt it would probably get tiring if it went on any longer.

Joker Game

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This one isn’t really for me, but it’s one of the more interesting premiers this season. Joker Game is basically a spy thriller about a bunch of uncaring Japanese spies doing their whole spy thing alongside a transfer from the military who seriously has no idea how spies work. The belief system of these guys is like r/atheism 101, but that’s not necessarily a problem. The show is based around mind games and all these people trying to fuck around with each other and gain the upper hand in espionage situations, and that works great. The direction is solid, dialog very meaningful and clever, and there’s a sense of humor to be found (oh my god the American man). If you want something different, this may be up your alley.

Bungo Stray Dogs

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Liking this one depends entirely on if you like that wacky scream comedy from stuff like Full Metal Alchemist. If you do, you’ll love this. Bungo Stray Dogs is the latest pretty boys action show, a superpowered drama about an orphan taken into a paranormal investigation agency because of his ability to turn into a tiger. I like the humor myself, and the show is very stylish, even if it’s about as complex as a four piece jigsaw puzzle.

Enjoyable but Forgettable

Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear

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I’m not entirely sure who the target audience for this show is. It has too many vulgar jokes to be for kids, but it’s not really raunchy adult comedy either. It feels very confused. But I like it anyways. Sort of. The show is basically about a shrine priestess living in the boonies and hating it, wanting to go to the big city. She just has to convince her bear guardian to let her go. The show is very slow moving, and it works okay. Not as well as Tanaka-kun or Flying Witch, but it has some good punchlines mixed in. But it also has weird perverted jokes where said priestess character gets sexually harassed by someone, and it’s not funny in the slightest. It’s a very hit and miss thing. The ending credits are adorable, though.

Hundred

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Surprisingly solid light novel series. Which is amazing, because it’s one of those fucking magic school shows. It’s no Asterisk War, but it’s better than its contemporaries because characters actually feel like people a lot of the time, get well structured arcs, and there’s fun action to be had. We can’t go without obnoxious tropes and dumb world building, of course, but the writer has the fundamentals down. Good characters can save even the worst story concept, and this one is pretty enjoyable so far. I just wonder if it can mange to keep improving.

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakumoto

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There is a single joke in this show, but it’s a really good joke. Imagine if a JoJo lead character was thrown into a normal school setting. Sakumoto does everything in the coolest possible way, and people who hate how cool he is end up humbled. The series has a lot of great gags from this premise, including a scene where a chair is pulled out from under the guy and he sits on the freaking air, but this is also one I can see getting old pretty fast. It may have been better off as a series of shorts.

Shonen Maid

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The other shota show of the season. I’ll get to the first one later. Trust me, I have some words for that one. Shone Maid, thankfully, is not pedoriffic like you’d expect. It’s pretty much a dramdy about a kid who lives with his uncle after his mother’s death. There’s some good character stuff to be found here, the cast is likable, and it never really steeps into creepy territory. At least, so far. This one could go south so easily, but so far, it’s just a pretty nice little show about two damaged family members meeting and helping each other in little ways.

I’ve heard nothing creepy about the manga, so hopefully this will just remain cute. One thing I really like is that our leads aren’t traditionally masculine people, and they seem pretty comfortable with that. It’s a nice little touch. The second episode also seems like it’s going into a bad crossdressing joke, but it swerves out of it. Going to be interesting to read opinions on this one.

Usakame

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The Teekyu spin-off of the season, this time with a new director. It’s basically a slower, much gayer Teekyu, and that’s okay. The show has a lot of familiar absurdist humor, but the simplistic wacky style is replaced by a relaxing colored pencil style that I really enjoy. It’s also oddly character focused. Hard to say if this will work in the long run, but I hope it does.

Shonen Ashibe GO! GO! GO! Goma-chan

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Finally, a new entry in the comedy series where that screencap of the seal being surrounded by reporters comes from. It’s okay. There are cute jokes here, and that seal is so ridiculously adorable, but it’s also something I’m sure will be forgotten pretty quickly. It’s a series of shorts though, so you lose little time trying it.

Pan de Peace!

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AKA the lesbian bread show. It’s a short yuri comedy about girls who really like bread. That’s the joke. This entire series lives and dies by the premise, so watch the first episode and decide if this is for you. Each episode is only about three minutes, what have you go to lose?

High Grade Trash Goodness

The Lost Village

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Mari Okada’s other big show is directed by Tsutomu Mizushima, who is known for directing the fantastic Shirobako. The reason it’s down here is because this is a horror series, and Mizushima horror series have a habit of becoming either hilarious or completely and utterly insane. If you’ve seen Another or Blood-C, you know what I mean. I adore the guy’s horror work for sheer entertainment value, and teaming up with Okada has resulted in quite possibly the greatest B-horror homage I have ever seen. There are scenes in this show involving a character imaging an exploding basketball, a bus driver nearly driving his bus off a cliff because he goes on a rant about eggs and ramen, and a man rapping about his life being in shambles. And that’s just the first episode.

Basically, the series is about a bunch of internet nerds with giant egos (all using their online handles to boot) going to a village hidden off from the world to start life anew, and bad things start happening. Everyone in this series is a ridiculous stereotype of some sort, and it makes for good popcorn fun once they start arguing. There’s a character here named “Lovepon” who constantly just wants to execute people. She is great. Few shows have left me laughing so hard as this one, and I highly recommend it if you love campy trash.

BIG ORDER

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THE TRASH GODS HAVE HEARD MY PRAYERS

The creator of The Future Diary’s second series just removes all pretense of horror or tension. This entire series is just pure, unfiltered, edgy chuuni trash. I love it. The set up is that a kid made a wish that destroyed the world almost entirely one day, and people with edgy stand powers called “Orders” started appearing shortly after. His wish ended up giving him a power of control and dominion, allowing him to subjugate anyone in his territory and make them his minions. Episode one ends with him forcing the crazy yandere girl of the show (who is basically Yuno 2.0) to follow his orders is a strangely suggestive way (trigger warnings ABOUND), and includes scenes of his little sister curling her toes with a touch (SHE HAS PICTURES OF HIM SLEEPING ON HER WALL) and a speech about why being a dictator is actually good you guys, no really.

This is terrible in such a shameless, idiotic way and I fucking love it. Broken powers, a cast filled with evil and fucked up people, a legit cool art style, and sheer vile indulgence into the worst exploitative stuff. This was tailor made for connoisseurs of well crafted trash. It’s like if Code Geass was written by a teenager in their rebellious but stupid phase.

A Tad Pathetic

Ace Attorney

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Hey, let’s just make an LP show with absolutely no budget or effort, surely that’s a good idea. I didn’t like it when Persona 4 did it twice, and I sure as hell don’t like it now. It’s baffling how cheap this is too. Why couldn’t we have had the lesbian dragon girlfriend Bahamut spinoff instead of this?

BAKUON!!

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It’s amazing how fast this show wears out its premise. Girls like motorcycles and are kind of noobs about it. There you go, that’s the joke. They stretch this out over thirty minute episodes, including a bad trans joke and other moments of pointlessness. The only truly good thing about this show is the Suzuki girl (she writes a fucking paper about why Suzuki bikes are the best and it reads like a bad essay written by a child), but that can’t save this dull thud of a series.

Cerberus

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Imagine of Rage of Bahamut has no budget and a much stupider script. That’s Cerberus! There is something enjoyable in this show’s stupidity, especially because the main character is basically a cool guy poser, but it’s hard to justify the frankly embarrassing animation and lame style of the series. I have not seen a show look this bad in a long, long while. If I had more time, I’d probably follow it for fun, but Big Order and Lost Village are working fine filling my trash quota.

*picks up giant clock* IT’S TIME TO STOP

RE:ZERO: Starting Life In Another World

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It’s a light novel show about a self-aware protagonist who gets whisked away to a fantasy world. I already hate this show by principle, but it gets worse with the obnoxious self-aware writing that only points out the stupid writing decisions and just plain generic story and characters. Also, the first episode was a goddamn hour long.

This is going to be popular and end up on Toonami, isn’t it?

Super Lovers

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Well, I finally found the bad anime that I refuse to finish ever. I can’t even say that about Dai Shogun. Super Lovers is well produced and has some solid jokes in the script, but where it becomes ninth circle of hell stuff is the subject matter.

See, this is the more infamous shota show I mentioned at start, and it is effectively about a grown ass man raising an orphaned boy. So is Shonen Maid, but that series actually treats that like a somewhat proper family relationship. Not Super Lovers!

Oh no. There are multiple moments where the grown ass adult does creepy shit (like wiping the whip creme from the kid’s cheek and EATING IT), and the kid falling for the guy because he has pretty eyes and does nice things. And the first episode ends with the grown ass fucking adult man kissing the traumatized, orphan boy on the lips and deciding to take him back home with him to raise him.

This is effectively Lolita without the unreliable narrator and I’m still trying to scrub myself clean. It’s bad enough we live in a world where that series about the little girl hitting on her teacher exists, did we really need the gender swapped version of that too!? And people are fucking defending this! Like, fujoshi are saying people who don’t like this don’t like depictions of non-masculine male characters, and no, people who don’t like this don’t like that it’s basically an abuse story done in a super happy, cheery way that makes sexual attraction to a child seem okay. This shit makes Boku no Pico look …okay, bad example, but you get what I’m saying!

Anime was a mistake.

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