First Impressions: Spring 2016 Anime (Part 2)

In a real season of anime that isn’t as stupidly stacked as this one this, a lot more the premieres I check out that usually flop so I can leave them behind without feeling bad. This season, some of the cuts I’m making to my schedule feel like chopping down a sapling before seeing what kind of tree it will become.

Concrete Revolutio

As with the first installment of this season’s first impressions, I’ll start with the obvious winner: Concrete Revolutio: Superhuman Phantasmagoria – THE LAST SONG. As you may recall, Concrete Revolutio‘s first season was both my favorite show of the Fall 2015 season and my top anime for all of last year. It’s an intelligent, thoughtful, and sharp-edged musing on a gigantic pile of issues relevant to human cultures in general, but also a deeply emotional and personal character-driven story just as capable of delivering poignant character moments as it is grand (or, perhaps more appropriately, grim but hopeful) ideas about what is means to pursue peace, justice, and just doing the right thing. I didn’t really have any worries that this season would fall apart or fail to live up to the success of the first one – like Rakugo Shinju last season, Conrevo now exists in a plane where I trust it fully and without reservation.

This premiere was just proof of that, kicking off this season with yet another one of those emotionally draining, thematically rich kind of episodes only Concrete Revolutio is capable of achieving. There were quiet and more pronounced callbacks to the events of last season, a whole bunch more of Shiba’s compelling personal struggles, the reveal that the Bureau Chief is still alive and now paired with Jiro, cool action, and just another reflection on the same themes Conrevo‘s been wrestling with all along. In short, it was really excellent and left us with great hope for the rest of the series.

The other elephant in the room is obviously Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, the new show from the director of Attack on Titan and very clearly the new show from the director of Attack on Titan. However, in my opinion, Kabaneri is already better than its predecessor for the simple reason that it appears to have actual female characters (potentially in lead roles??), which I’m aware may be a slightly controversial opinion to have. As for the rest of the premiere, I had more fun with it than I expected without having to drift into watching it for comedic purposes. There’s just enough weight to things here that I’m willing to take Kabaneri seriously for now. My main concern for the show is that it’ll get bogged down in overwrought drama between the brave zombie fighting crew that the OP promises and the fearful, conservative establishment. In other words, the more action and the more bigness Kabaneri has, the better it will be. Do the right thing, Araki.

Elsewhere in “fun but possibly insubstantial” land rests the final BONES premiere of the season, Bungou Stray Dogs. My expectations for Bungou were actually relatively unambitious—all I wanted was for it to be fun, pretty, and potentially cool, and it managed to do all three. There’s really no sense of story here at all yet (and perhaps there won’t ever be), but that’s fine by me because these kinds of supernatural comedy anime generally work pretty well for me (see Blood Blockade Battlefront, a show with plenty of obvious similarities to Bungou). Aside from Kunihiko Ikuhara protege Takuya Igarashi’s pretty lighting-based direction and frequent collaborator Yoji Enokido’s writing, the biggest staffing headline here is Mamoru Miyano finally taking another true lead role – because holy crap Miyano is a very good seiyuu and I like listening to him. Bungou‘s overall more of a crapshoot as to whether or not it’ll actually stay good than BONES’ other shows this season, but it’s got enough going for it for now for me to feel optimistic.

Bungou Stray Dogs

It’s interesting that my two slice-of-life comedy picks for this season both ended up airing on the same day and both hit the same sort of tone. Of the two, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless was actually the one I was looking forward to most – and it wound up being the stronger offering of the two as well. The dozy lovechild of One Week Friends and Non Non Biyori (and directed by the latter’s director), Tanaka-kun is infinitely pleasant and cozy, embodying well the sleepy mood of its eponymous lead character. There’s already an easy, comfortable relationship between Tanaka and his friend Ohta, and the side cast look to be both cute in design and appropriately well-matched in personality. Everyone in Tanaka-kun is cheerful and kind, so it should be a delight to see them all come together as friends. And as a closing note, I’d be remiss not to mention that Tanaka-kun‘s OP-ED combo is easily the best this season.

Flying Witch is my other down-to-earth slice-of-life comedy for the season, and while I don’t think it’s quite as well directed to atmosphere as Tanaka-kun is, the family themes and the rural setting seem like they’ll present opportunities for Flying Witch to have much higher overall ceilings than its fluffy Saturday compatriot. As with Tanaka-kunFlying Witch does a really good job of not overselling its jokes, leaving the comedy as a second priority to maintaining a warm tone. Even the more absurd or fantastical bits (like Makoto pulling out the mandrake) still perpetuate a quiet sort of attitude towards its overall execution. I’m not quite as sold on Flying Witch‘s main cast as I am on that of Tanaka-kun, but the lack of established relationships here means that makes sense. I’m looking forward to seeing this group slowly grow closer. And to more witch activity.

The last show that’s made my Spring watchlist is Mari Okada’s collaboration Studio Trigger, Kiznaiver. Okada and Trigger are two entities who like to loudly make their respective presences known within the projects they tackle, and Kiznaiver is no exception on that front. From the first post-OP scene being totally full of classic Okada dialogue to Trigger’s distinctively cartoony approach to character animation throughout, it’s quite a sight to see these two bullheaded creative forces coming together. After this premiere, I have some doubts about whether the Triggerisms (the Kamina clone, the Nui clone) can coexist well with the angst-filled setting Okada has created here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it can all work.

Aside from artistic influences, Kiznaiver also seems to be the most conceptually rich show I’m watching this season after Concrete Revolutio and Macross Delta. Okada has always been obsessed with material that deal with the relationships between people and the difficulties of understanding others (heck, even Mayoiga, as dysfunctional it is, riffs on this theme), and Kiznaiver is possibly more laser-focused on this idea than anything else she’s ever created – although through disparate fractured perspectives. Empathy and understanding have been taken out of the abstract and made painfully real in Kiznaiver, and I’m really hoping Okada can keep herself on-task enough to come up with some real emotionally resonant stuff and intelligent reflections on this theme. Cross your fingers, friends!

Kiznaiver

Dropping Anime is Hard

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is a big season. Too big. After really falling off my blogging pace following the completion of my Hyouka write-ups, I’m really starting to feel jittery about how lax I’ve been about my posting. I want to change that. And so, some shows, most of them strong enough that I didn’t really want to drop them, had to go. The following didn’t make the cut:

  • Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto – I laughed a lot at this premiere, but Sakamoto‘s ultimately not the sort of show that’s going to offer me much beyond some easy entertainment. I’ve already got the more rewarding soft comedies on my schedule to fulfill that niche, so I regretfully (and cooly) say goodbye to Sakamoto.
  • Haifuri – Weirdly enough, it seems like the general opinion on Haifuri was that it was fun, but I honestly got none of that. The beginning half of the episode had really disjointed, wonky pacing, and none of the characters really hit for me (a rarity for me with a cast this big—normally I’d find at least one character I really liked!). Perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood for it, but this ship isn’t leaving the harbor.

Out of the last post’s batch, Joker GameBakuon!!Twin Star Exorcists, and Pan de Peace all hit the drop pile. Again, none of these shows had particularly bad premieres and I’m not dropping any of them because I didn’t care for them (Bakuon!! in particular was hard to let go), but I had to prioritize. I might still try out Dogokobo’s Three Leaves, Three Colors, but chances are good this is my final watchlist.

Let’s have a good season!

Sakamoto desu ga?

 

13 thoughts on “First Impressions: Spring 2016 Anime (Part 2)

  1. Hearing Miyano in BSD was a little weird since it sounded like a pretty similar voice to the one he used as the lead in Star Driver (or that’s how it sounded to me anyway, similar enough I went and cross-checked Igarashi’s shows to see if he and Miyano always collaborated like this or if it was just coincidence!).

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  2. First episodes can be deceiving, but from what I’ve seen so far it seems that there isn’t really a standout show this time like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Grimgar or Erased were last season, but there are fewer outright bad or indifferent shows either.

    Last season I got stuck with too many shows that in hindsight really weren’t worth following for an entire season, so this time I’m more discriminating. Which still means some twentysomething shows I’m going to watch at least three episodes of:

    Macross Delta and ConRev are nobrainers of course.

    Flying Witch gives me that Non Non Biyori feeling, while Tanaka-kun is both very calming and at times very funny. Perfect comedic timing on a couple of those jokes. The same goes for Sakamoto: incredible stupidity performed completely deadpan.

    12-Sai – Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki is an adorable show about growing up when you’re twelve and on the cusp of becoming a proper teenager.

    Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu I would like more if I had watched it before KonoSuba and Grimgar, but it still looks an interesting variant on the trapped in fantasyland genre.

    Kiznaiver reminded me of Gatchaman Crowds for some reason, which is enough to keep watching, even without the patented Trigger weirdness, which works better here than in Space Patrol Luluco.

    Mayoiga and Joker Game both seemed to promise something more than they’ve delivered so far, but I’m willing to give them some time.

    Bungou Stray Dogs didn’t promise but delivered more; if not for its woeful sense of humour I’d like it more.

    Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was better than I hoped, looks gorgeous, but I hope it can avoids getting bogged down in cliche.

    Haifuri had an …interesting first episode. Most of it was very much cute girls doing cute things, for some reason while sailing in WWII Imperial Navy warships and then the fighting started.

    My Hero Academy and Twinstars are both perfectly decent shounen action series, with the latter being a textbook example of how to do an introductionary episode right. Endride and Hundred are not as good and will probably be dropped at some point if they really have nothing but generic action up their sleeves.

    Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta? is thrashy fun.

    Slice of Moe is very present this season, what with Bakuon, Anne Happy, Pan de Peace & Kumamiko; the last of which has to improve a lot if I’m going to keep watching.

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  3. Yeah, stacked season. Too much good stuff! Given that you just dropped most of my list, I wouldn’t be surprised if in three more weeks we’re watching equally good lineups that have no shows in common except Delta (at least we know that’s staying on both our lists!)

    Anyway, out of this batch of shows you just wrote up, I only watched two of them – Hai Furi and Bungou. I’m still going to get to Flying Witch, though. That and Wagamama High Spec (which premieres on Monday) are the last two shows on my preseason list that I haven’t started yet.

    Bungou: amusing, but I don’t really have a strong feel for where it’s going yet or what kind of show it wants to be, and the major “twist” of the first episode was something I saw coming from a mile away. Animation was good, though, and the story was entertaining enough that I’ll stick with it for now.

    Hai Furi: I share your criticism of the first half – just slow, disjointed, generic SOL stuff that mostly fell flat. I actually shook my head at the banana peel thing – I was like, seriously, did it really just go there? Once they got out on the water though, it suddenly turned into a much more interesting show, and the ending cliffhanger took the story in a direction I never expected. So I’m sticking with this too, at the very least until I find out what the heck is going on and what this teacher of theirs is up to. I’ll also freely admit that being the son of a retired ship’s captain, I’ve always had a weakness for nautical stuff anyway, so it’s not like it had to be a super-hard sell. That it even had to sell me at all is a testament to how dull the first ten minutes were.

    Anyway, here’s my updated personal ranks of the premiere episodes (just the premieres, even even for shows with two episodes out now). I’ve still only dropped the one show so far.

    Macross Delta
    Twin Star Exorcists (I like a good battle shonen when I can find one, so I hope this was the start of a good quality series and not Studio Pierrot blowing the whole budget on the first episode)
    Joker Game (I love historical fiction and I also like spy novels, so this looks like it’ll be right in my wheelhouse)
    Kaitou Joker 3
    Space Patrol Luluco
    Bungou Stray Dogs
    Bakuon
    Hai Furi
    Anne-Happy (you know what you said last time about Trigger’s brand of comedy not being for you? Well I’m starting to think that Shin Oonuma’s brand of comedy might not be for me. I did at least enjoy this premiere episode more than any episode I watched of Watamote or Baka & Test, I’ll give it that much, but it’ll probably be one of the first to go if I need to start dropping more shows.)
    Lost Village

    There’s a pretty sizable gap between the top four and the other six, and 6-10 are largely interchangeable in that I’m keeping all of them right now more for their potential than because they really wowed me.

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  4. Before I go to a more measured reply, I’ll have to get it out of my system. Surprise of the season:

    Shounen Maid

    I’m serious. The only chance this lovely little gem of a show has to gain a following is word of mouth. People interested via title and promo art will likely bored. People who might like the show will ignore it because of its title and promo art. I very nearly did.

    What I expected: Forced crossdressing. Ugly gender humour. Humour based on humiliation. Not my thing. Well, there was a slight chance that it could be a cute exploration of cross dressing. Or that it was effective slapstick humour. I wasn’t very interested, so I never even read the summary.

    So here I sit. Might as well click play. The first thing I see? A photograph of a black-haired woman with a very pretty smile. A black mourning ribbon on the top right courner. Eh?

    So our protagonist, Chihiro, has recently been orphaned? And from then on I got a show that filled with people (landlords, classmates…) awkwardly trying their best to be kind to our freshly orphaned protagonist, who himself is still too confused to realise what really happened. He’ll eventually live with the uncle he never knew he had. And the “maid” part? The servant-aspect is played as empowering, and the maid-dress part is the consequence of rather strange but believable character dynamics that just happened to play out the way they did.

    What I got was a sad but re-assuring episode that effortlessly modulated subtle emotion with absurd humour. Good light/shadow effects, and a house full of dust adds both a plot starting point and a metaphoric level for the uncle (and his butler) who lives there. I’m not sure where this is going but at one point Chihiro will have to realise that he’s lost his mum for good. It’s not going to be an easy scene. All my fears were ungrounded. This was a sensitive, melancholic, but ultimately uplifting episode, whose humour should have been out of place, but actually blended in perfectly.

    If you’re going to pass on that show, please don’t do it on false preconceptions. I very nearly didn’t watch it, and now it’s one of my favourites.

    With that out of the way:

    I haven’t watched Flying With, Haifuri or Kiznaiver yet; of those, Flying Witch has top priority.

    Tanaka-kun was one of my top picks for this season and it didn’t disappoint. This show might have my favourite character designs for this season.

    Kabaneri is semi-fun trash. I’m not sure what the MC was doing to get rid of his infection, but it looked ridiculous (was he trying to stop blood from flowing into his brain by choking himself?). I’ll be watching at least for a while longer, if only for Mumei (sp?), who looks fun to watch (i.e. the sort of character who knows she’s in a trashy show and acts like it – like Shinoa in Owari no Seraph)

    Bungou Stray Dogs was good stylish fun. Near the end of the episode I realised that all the characters were named after famous Japanese literati, and then, the next day, I realised that “bungou” is related to “bungaku” (as in “Bungaku Shoujo” – “Book Girl”), and I felt really slow on the uptake.

    Sakamoto was fun. My favourite would have been the sparrow-in-a-storm skit, but hornet fencing was great, too. This is perhaps one of the few shows that would work better in a shorter format. It seems a bit thin for a full show. (Tonari no Seki-kun knew what it was doing. I think that sort of treatment would have worked well here, too.)

    All in all, for me the dominating genre is clearly comedy. I can’t remember a genre dominating my favourites this much before. With the exception of Concrete Revolutio, all my favourites so far fall into that category.

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    • Thanks for championing Shounen Maid. I had written that off as a somewhat dodgy yaoi show (like Super Lovers) and hadn’t planned to watch it, but as you said it was surprisingly good.

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      • Shounen Maid /The Ads Promo / are misleading. / I got A Devik Is A Part Timer Fell with the comedy especially between the Uncle and his Ass’t / MGR

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      • The Ads Promo / are misleading. / I got A Devik Is A Part Timer Fell withe comedy especially between the Uncle and his Ass’t / MGR

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  5. Starting the season late… It’s been a crazy week, and on top of all the premieres I’ve been trying to follow a little baseball too! But the Mariners are once again headed to the cellar, so that may not last long.

    So, off to the weekly wall o’ text!

    Our Shows (Shows my lovely lady and I are watching together.)

    Anne-Happy; It seemed just weird from the start, and when they revealed the basic premise of the show halfway through… No. Just (censored) No. By mutual agreement, the drop hammer came down hard.

    Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto; Oh lordy, this one had us rolling on the floor almost the whole time. Absolutely howling funny bits delivered straight deadpan. Wing, it is short form, three or for of them collected into one episode. And really that can be seen as a flaw, too much in one episode. So I guess I kinda agree with Wing and kinda don’t. Still, if they can avoid getting too bogged down as a one-trick pony it should be a keeper.

    Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress; Man, I love anime that can come slamming right out of the gate and leave us gasping in the dust. Kabaneri wastes no time on setup, much preferring to show rather than tell, and it showed us a lot and hinted at much more. I’m crossing my fingers here that it can keep it up after such a strong first ep.

    As a side note, it’s interesting that Amazon is finally in the current season streaming game. Though Hulu hasn’t any shows this season, the Big Three have all finally entered the game. I don’t know what this bodes for the future though, especially since Amazon and Netflix have DEEP pockets when compared to Funi and Crunchy. And, like last season, Funi seems to have pulled way back this season, retreating to it’s safe lair of home video releases.

    Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear; We both had a semi-positive “meh” after the first ep. There’s a lot of weirdness in the show, but also a glimmer of promise. So, while it’s nervously looking at the cliff edge, it’s standing a ways back yet.

    Lost Village; What a hot mess. Too many characters and a very murky plot. We’ve seen two eps, and unless it improves markedly this week… We’re going to pull the trigger on the drop hammer.

    My Hero Academia; Frankly, shonen action just isn’t my bag. There wasn’t much to the first ep, and a lot of repetition, so this may become something she watches alone.

    Pan de Peace!; Short form CGDCT… all we’ve seen so far is the setup and introductions. Seems harmless enough, so were waiting for it to actually get underway to judge.

    Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal; A massive step up in terms of writing and animation over the earlier two seasons. But, while the first episode contained more character development than the entire first two cours, it still concentrates more on action that on characters. And poor Mercury… she still gets the short end of the henshin sequence stick.

    Space Patrol Luluco; Just too weird, repetitive, and badly executed. Dropped at the end of the second ep.

    Tanaka-kun is Always Listless; A badly executed one-trick pony. So boring we dropped it shortly after the eyecatch.

    My Shows

    And you thought there is never a girl online?; OK, who else thought there would only be one girl in the guild? Anyhow, it was fairly funny and well executed, so I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

    Asterisk War; Aaand the second cour starts with a bang, dropping us right back into the over-the-top action right where they left off at the end of the first. (Literally, the first scene takes place like five minutes after the last ep of the first cour.) It appears to sticking with the formula established in the first and to continue to be far better than the bare description would indicate.

    Bakuon!!; Seems cute enough. But there’s not enough there to feel much one way or the other, though I’m leaning positive I think much will depend on how things flow when the setup eps are past.

    Crane Game Girls; Short form about idols who are also magical girls, or maybe superheroes, or who the heck knows. Tottering on the brink mostly because of poor execution.

    Flying Witch; Seems to be Kiki’s Delivery Service updated into the modern era, not that there’s anything wrong with that mind you. Some funny bits, some touching bits, but a little off on the timing. And I’m in love with the art style. If it holds up, this may become an Our Show.

    Haifuri I really want to like this one. Kancolle meets Strike Witches meets a school comedy meets CGDCT? Should be right up my alley, right? But the timing was uneven, and the characters a bit wooden and tropish. However, as WingKing said, oh that cliffhanger! There may yet be something here, so I’ll stick around and see what’s up.

    Three Leaves, Three Colors; After one episode, a strong front runner for CGDCT of the season, and two strong candidates for Best Girl. (Though Mumei of Kabaneri may be a dark horse…) Well executed and with above average animation for the genre, it’s a keeper.

    There’s still a few premieres to come… Wagamama High Spec and Big Order on Crunchy, and Kuromukuro on Netflix. (The latter two I’m really looking forward to.) I’ll update with new entries once those roll out.

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  6. I am with you for myself Spring has some very good shows but a lot a nondescript drops.At least 5 dropped

    I will again say Winter was full of good anime .

    One thing wrong with Spring no soild carryovers ( for myself ) except Assassination Classroom 2 which everybody was stunned / surprised but straight out of the manga . A lot of people still say it’s one of their favorites. The ending will have people talking that is a certain because the end OF S 2 will have the manga ending.

    This is not even my merge yet so is sloppy at best

    A special heads up to you two slice of Life Shows that are kinda of similiar but take different paths that you might enjoy.Both under the Radar in this overhyphed season.

    Shonen Maid / THe Title and previews are all wrong. A boy become homeless but is found by his rich uncle but wiil only stay if he can earn his Keep . A little like Hayate but the Comedy is more like The Devil Is A part Timer.

    Three Leaves Three / Three Colors A simple funny but clean anime about a rich girl who went broke is clueless about food and lives on Bread Crusts but is befriended by two zany girls in a heartwarming show If you liked Wakaba Girl / Hello!! KINMOZA you kinda get it.

    My very incomplete list / It willbe week 3 / 4 before I have a better grasp of my Rankings These will be changing

    WEEK 1 Debuts NO RANKINGS YET!

    Made an impression for now

    My Hero Academia
    Bungo Stray Dogs
    Joker Game
    Bakuon!!
    GIRL Meets Bear
    RE: Zero
    Twin Star Exorcists CR
    Macross Delta (new) / Valkyrie vs. Valkyrie
    Monster Strike 2 SHORT
    Kagewani Season 2 SHORT
    Uchu Patrol Luluco / (Space Patrol Luluco) SHORT Ultra Super Anime Time

    WEEK 2 Debuts NO RANKINGS YET!

    Made an impression for now

    Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress / Kotetsujo no Kabaneri
    Shonen Maid
    Three Leaves Three / Three Colors
    Concrete Revolutio 2

    Ongoing Anime

    Assassination Classroom 2
    God Eater EPS 10 -13 SPRING

    Some other Points of mine

    Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto vs Tanaka-kun is Always Listless I am just the opposite

    Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto reminds me of My Neighbor Seki / Tonari no Seki-kun / very funny

    Tanaka-kun is Always Listless actually put me to sleep and is danger.

    Bakuon!! I have my MC license ridden bikes and get the antics.You do kinda have to be little crazy. It’s kinda sad its not getting traction ( no pun intended ) but is faithful to the manga. and the details / animation is great!

    Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress does have many similiar links to Attack on Titan ( Studio / Staff ) but is more similiar to the Empire of the Corspes move also from WIT !

    Kiznaiver / still trying to figure this one out. This has A FLCL / Mekaku City Actors / Kokoro Connect feel to it.

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    • There was a theory posted on one of the forums that Sakamoto is actually Toshinari Seki in high school.

      And yes, Three Leaves, Three Colors looks to be very good.

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      • Sakamoto Seki has a cool ring to it ! I wonder what Rumi would look like !

        Three Leaves Three Colors . A very nice anime indeed !

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  7. Kiznaiver sounds like it’s going to be awesome, and with a pretty strong first episode (I think) it’s going to keep being that way, although I have a weird sneaky feeling it might drop in quality from here on out, since similar shows with good premises very much like this (Guilty Crown or Sword Art Online come to mind for me on that front) have had that happen. But I will keep my fingers crossed!

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