Thoughts on the Winter 2017 Anime Season

Without question, this is the definitive take on the season.

ACCA 10-3.jpg

Let’s not bury the headline—I finished exactly three shows from this season. We’ll get into my thoughts on each shortly, but as those of you who have been following me for a while know, this was a fairly big shift in my relationship with seasonal anime. This upcoming spring season will mark the start of my fourth year following simulcasts, and up until last season I had been watching anywhere from 8-15 shows a season. Of course, those numbers had been trending downwards, but still—to go from 8 shows a week to a mere 3 (and not often watching things the day or even the week they came out) was… well, it was different.

I’ve got a post in the works about the changes I’ve been making in the way I watch anime and the reasons for those changes, but we’ll leave that for another day. For now, all you need to know is that while I only finished 3 shows, I did sample a pretty wide variety of things that I’ve got thoughts on. I’m not going to be ranking things or doing awards as I have in seasons past—with only three shows, such ceremony seems rather misplaced.

So enough spinning our wheels, let’s talk about some Winter 2017 anime!

Finished Shows~

I suppose it makes sense to start with my favorite show of the season, director Shingo Natsume’s ACCA. I wish I could remember back to the start of the season and what I thought of ACCA before the first episode aired, but I just don’t remember. Maybe it’s because the show was more of a speculative pick that anything for me to start, but the first episode blew me away with its slow-paced and effortless sense of style.

While the show as a whole didn’t manage to keep up visually with the excellent opener and best-of-the-season OP, it did manage to find some other strengths to lean in to. Liborek’s coverage of the show over on the Sakugablog highlights some of the reasons the show’s visual quality was so inconsistent (heavy storyboarding duties on one staffer, a ton of outsourcing), but it was nice to see that overall the production issues never overtook ACCA‘s core strengths: 1) the compelling relationships between many of its characters, 2) the general human cuteness it put on display, 3) the richness of its world, and 4) the well-handled slow burn of political intrigue.

Perhaps more than any recent show I’ve seen, ACCA was fascinating for its depiction of various relationships. Jean and Lotta had their comfortable dynamic; Jean and Nino’s genuine affection and care for each other stood out; Nino and Lotta were charming to watch together; Jean and Mauve were riveting as a couple (a ship I was both totally okay with not sailing and also crushed over); Mauve and Grossular’s mutual respect was super neat. Et cetera. And that these relationships and love and loyalty of a human, familial kind ran alongside their political parallels in a kind of beautiful synchronicity made the experience all the richer.

In the end, ACCA left me really satisfied. As great as the cute interactions between characters (and their food lol) were on an immediate basis within the show, the way things pulled together emotionally (like in episode 8) and plot-wise (in episode 12) was immensely gratifying to watch. Whether it was the revelation of the backstory that tied all the characters together or the sheer rush of watching Jean and co. turn the tables on Lillium at the last second, ACCA was beautifully crafted as a story. When I finished the final episode, I felt full, like I’d just eaten a satisfying English muffin and finished a cup of tea (a ritual I actually completed with over half of the show’s episodes—it just put me in that mood). That’s a good feeling to walk away from a show with. I’m glad I watched it.

ACCA OP 13.jpg

Speaking of things with satisfying endings, how about the finale of Konosuba‘s second season? Kazuma a pile of bones and Aqua lauching a final boss character into the sky with a magic-fueled uppercut? Seriously, what more could I ask for?

That’s more of less to say that Konosuba delivered more or less exactly what I wanted—and expected from it this season. The stuff I didn’t like about the first season (ecchi stuff, Kazuma being gross, Kazuma getting to take most of the heroic planning stuff credit) was still there, and the stuff I liked (Aqua) was still there too. Did anyone else noticed that the quality of the episodes seemed to go up and down proportionately to Aqua’s screentime, or just me? Well, this is notice to all you who didn’t realize this, so now you can go back and watch this season with new eyes. Lucky you, you will be able to experience the full glory of Aqua clapping for fishes.

Incidentally, I found even more things this season to relate to Aqua with. Everything else about the Axis cult aside (yes, I’m cherry picking), it was pretty darn cool to see the way Aqua responded with such benevolence to her followers even though they treated her like crap. I mean, sure, they’re directly linked with her goddess powers, but still… seeing the lengths our beloved selfish goddess would go to for the people who worshipped her (or their image of her lol) still was neat. As I’ve said before, Konosuba‘s appeal for me lives and dies with Aqua—it was good that it went out on a pro-Aqua high.

 

And then we have Hand Shakers. Yes, I finished it. I watched every second of every episode (except the OP/ED, which were eminently skippable and not at all necessary to setting a mood for the show). It was bad, as I expected, but I don’t regret watching it. If nothing else, it’s been a while since I actually finished a show I could rate a 3/10; the bell curve of my MAL rankings was starting to get out of whack.

As you may recall, I wrote a piece early in the season “defending” Hand Shakers‘ visual choices. The thoughts I expressed in that post regarding the fascinating prospect of seeing a show place pursuit of a particular aesthetic before all over values—including coherency—still hold true, although I’m sad to report that Hand Shakers largely settled into a kind of complacent expression of that aesthetic as the show wore on. That was a disappointment for me, and I’d have to say that K will probably remain the definitive GoHands-style anime for me going forward.

So what about Hand Shakers‘ story and characters? Well, the story pulled a last-second spin and lots of the characters were either yucky (the incest siblings) or grating (Makihara-sensei) or just plain uninteresting (Kodama Awaza, in a tragic waste of an idol character). But there were still some that I wound up liking, particularly Chizuru and Hayate and their affectionate, almost pseudo-parental friendship with Koyori and Tazuna. The latter pair wasn’t anything exceptional and bogged down by Koyori’s nearly show-long muteness, but even so I felt there was a enough of a kernel of a well-intentioned effort to make their relationship feel genuine and sweet that I found them pleasant to watch. (Also, it had the best episode titles of the season.)

In summary, I absolutely do not recommend you, your friends, or anyone else watch Hand Shakers. It is not a good anime, and at its worst it is disgusting and offensive. And yet, somehow there are things in it that are good, too. That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever not find fascinating—seeing the unexpected good in something largely bad.

Hand Shakers Ending 16.jpg

Unfinished Shows~

That covers the stuff I finished, but what about the stuff I didn’t? There were plenty of shows less bad than Hand Shakers that aired this season. Some of them were—Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon MaidKemono FriendsBanG Dream!, and Idol Jihen.

I got the farthest into Idol Jihen, which I watched 5 episodes of. It wasn’t a terrible show, as it sometimes indulged in some delightfully wacky contortions of its ridiculous premise, but generally speaking it was a boring waste of time in between the bigger moments. It didn’t help that the characters had no personality or charm (at least part of that due to the horrid character designs). Draggle’s right—watch AKB0048 instead.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a substantially better show that Idol Jihen, yet I watched less of it. That’s probably not Dragon Maid‘s fault. I liked the three episodes of it that I watched. It’s cute, with KyoAni’s typical fixation of small gestures and warm character interactions, and has some standout things going for it—like Kanna, its (somewhat inferior) rendition of Non Non Biyori‘s Renge. But just being nice wasn’t enough to motivate me to really catch up with it, so it just benignly slid off my watching schedule.

Kemono Friends was somewhat the same, although I will say that I enjoyed watching people talk about Kemono Friends more than I liked watching them talk about Dragon Maid—and possibly more than I liked watching the show itself. I did three episodes of Kemono Friends for a Crunchyroll article I wrote on it myself, but there were a number of other great pieces (Kastel’s, Froggy’s, Bobduh’s) that came out about Kemono Friends. I can’t remember the last time so many different writers all were all hooked on writing about the same show in this way. If meme shows are what it takes to attract a bunch of critics all at once, I guess more meme shows is what we need.

Demi-chan wa Kataritai lost me after three episodes, too, but for worse reasons that the prior two. After a lovely first episode, it started to go more and more for romance and creepy stuff between the high school girls and the teacher, and I really just wasn’t in the mood to navigate that in a show I’d hoped would be more pleasant and less blatantly sexual than Urara-chan, which I never even picked up for that reason.

Oh, yeah, I watched one episode of BanG Dream! and while I found it somewhat quirky, that wasn’t enough to get me back. I also opted not to watch the (obvious AOTS) sequel of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju on a week-by-week basis, meaning that someday in the future I’ll have the glorious chance to marathon it all at once and bawl my eyes out.

Kemono Friends 19.jpg

And that pretty much sums up my Winter 2017 anime experience! What did you guys watch and enjoy this past season? Feel free to tell me what I missed out on in the comments (although I can’t promise I’ll pick up anything other than Rakugo in the future).

31 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Winter 2017 Anime Season

  1. “In summary, I absolutely do not recommend you, your friends, or anyone else watch Hand Shakers. It is not a good anime, and at its worst it is disgusting and offensive.”

    Thank you for struggling through that atrocity and delivering this message.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You left off the very important second part of that paragraph, though! I didn’t watch Hand Shakers just to crap all over it—that kind of thing is entirely antithetical to why I write about anime. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started the show, and the fun part was seeing where it had the capacity to be good instead of bad. So even though it’s a poorly done anime, I can’t really consider it an atrocity. I reserve such dramatic words for things that are morally offensive by nature, rather than as a small part of their opening episodes & a pair of characters.

      Like

      • I left it out on purpose because I was more concerned with the final recommendation and the sentiments attached to that. As someone who also finished it as well, I largely agree that should be the bottom line.

        “I didn’t watch Hand Shakers just to crap all over it—that kind of thing is entirely antithetical to why I write about anime.”

        While this bit and the following dialogue that correlates with it is a nice platitude, I never thought or even mentioned that those were your intentions. But I suppose it’s good to know nonetheless so thanks for the clarification Bless 🙂

        Like

  2. I’d recommend picking Demi-chan wa Kataritai back up again. I was also afraid that things would get sort of creepy/rapey between the students and sensei, but I was truly thankful that the show did successfully avoid that. The relationships are handled really well and are absolutely adorable. On a deeper note than the characters being simply cute though, the show also grapples with some pretty complex issues. One thing that stands out to me is how Demi-chan could actually speak into discussions about race and marginalized people groups in society. Give it a watch with that in mind, and things will begin to stand out to you. It opens one’s eyes to the daily struggle of what it means to be different and on the margins of society. This liminal position causes activities which the privileged group never thinks twice about to become fraught with difficulties and struggle for the marginalized individual. In a way, sensei is having to re-learn how to live life because he’s being invited into the struggles that these girls are living with. Not to mention, the female teacher being a succubus and the struggles that she has present a fascinating exploration of what it means to live as a woman in modern society, especially how women are perceived and how they should act under the microscope of public scrutiny.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I picked up on some of those themes as well, and the best part is that the show really presents them without being preachy about them. At its core it is really a show about understanding and reaching out to others. It’s heartwarming and fluffy on the outside, but there’s definitely some substance there that makes it worth watching for more than just cute monster girls.

      Like

    • Hmm, a good case for it! I was aware that Demi-chan was playing with themes of marginalization and stuff from the very first episode… I think that’s part of the reason the crushy crush stuff really put me off—it seemed at odds with the the themes the show was otherwise working with. But that could just be me!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I started off watching quite a few more shows than I ended up finishing as well, though I think that was more or less my intent at the beginning of the season. From what you’ve said, it seems like the only one I was really missing out on anything in was ACCA–it just started off slow enough and the visual aesthetic came across sparse enough that when it came time for me to drop a few shows, it was an easy choice around 3 episodes in. I may have to give it another chance.

    I’d have to say the standouts for me this season were Konosuba S2 (though for different reasons than you, I suspect, as I actually like Kazuma lol) and Scum’s Wish. The latter is not a show I can really recommend to you, since from what I’ve seen of your taste in anime I seriously do not think you’d like it. But for me, it was simultaneously riveting and yet difficult to watch at times due to its portrayal of the characters’ attitudes towards love and sexual relationships being, let’s just say, a little challenging on a personal level. But in a good way, if that makes any sense at all.

    The only show I’d say I think you might have missed out on this season was Onihei. It’s the kind of thoughtful, classy episodic character piece that we don’t see that often these days, and even the weaker episodes’ stories were still immensely satisfying. The strongest stories, though, are among some of the single best episodes of anime I have ever watched–no exaggeration. I really wish Crunchyroll had gotten ahold of it instead of Amazon, because then it might have had the kind of exposure it really deserved. It seems to me like the kind of show you might like, if you’re ever inclined to check it out.

    Anyway, great post, and some really good thoughts on this past season!

    Like

    • I think the key to ACCA is whether or not you like the characters enough to stick with them through the downtime when they’re just kind of puttering around and being the cute humans they are. I did, so it made it easy to enjoy the show even when it wasn’t doing stuff with the main plot. But if you didn’t have that attachment, I imagine the show would be a bit of a dull watch.

      I think I’d find Scum’s Wish interesting if it weren’t so sex-obsessed. But that seems to be a huge part of its story and I’m not asking it to change—just not what I want. Contrary to popular belief, I do like wrenching personal dramas, but they’re rarely entirely what I want (and also seem to rarely end in a way that satisfies me).

      Amazon strikes again… RIP Onihei (pun intended).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, with regard to ACCA my only concern is that maybe I didn’t give the characters enough time to grow on me? I forgot to mention earlier that I did REALLY like the music for the show–lent it quite a classy air, and that along with the enigmatic natures of much of the cast (at least early on) means there was quite a bit for me to like about the show even in its slower moments, when I think back on it. Perhaps the issue for me was less the show being slow/characters puttering around, so much as the elements that attracted me to the show fading from my memory over the week between each episode. I do want to give it another chance to charm me, especially because I suspect it will be one of those shows that I would prefer to watch over a short period of time rather than week to week.

        Hm…I don’t know that I would describe Scum’s Wish as “sex-obsessed” per se, but I totally get what you’re getting at. Normally that would be an issue for me as well–I try to avoid shows with a lot of nudity and sexual content, especially when the goal is merely to be titillating. But without going into a whole essay’s worth of detail, suffice it to say that I really do not think that’s why the sexual content was there in Scum’s Wish. But if the context of the content doesn’t matter to you, then I’d definitely say skipping it is the safest option.

        Like

        • Oh, I could totally see ACCA being a way better watch as a marathon than weekly. Actually, it totally makes sense that it would go over better that way…

          Oh yeah, I definitely got the sense that the sex stuff isn’t there just to be there in Scum’s Wish, but I suspect even so I wouldn’t really appreciate the context of it too much, so yeah. But thanks for that, bad word choice on my part calling it “sex-obsessed.”

          Liked by 2 people

  4. ACCA is the best new show of the season, Rakugo is the best overall show of the season, and Crested Ibis is the best idol of the season.

    I was curshing on Demi chan at the start of the season, but that played itself out. At its best the show was really, really good, but it had it’s face-palm moments. (Ex.: Teacher and succubus chan talk about romance for succubi; teacher explains his take complete with illustrations and graphs; succubus chan is about to tell us her take, and… we cut away. What? What!? Why? There are lots of little things like that; the show makes the same over-eager-academic mistakes as the teacher. Sigh)

    Most of the best shows this season were either season 2’s or second cours. In terms of qunatity it was one most meager seasons I can remember. In tertms of quality… it had Rakugo!!!!

    Like

  5. I got through four (well, one still has a week to go), Konosuba, Demi-chan, Dragon Maid & Gabriel Dropout.

    Dunno if I’m misremembering S1 of Konosuba, but if felt like the girls were getting their own back on Kazuma more often (Darkness kind of torturing him with the fake fiance stuff, Megumin’s Excalibur ‘artwork’). Aqua sure did get a Crowning Moment Of Awesome at the end.

    Demi-chan I think was covered by the other commenters pretty well, Dawnstorm with the bad and Matthew with the good.

    Dragon Maid was mostly like you said, obviously I’m more into that than you. (at the moment at least)

    Gabriel Dropout was just mindless slapstick stupidity so great for just wanting to laugh/not to think.

    I dropped Hand Shakers somewhere after the main pair beat the restaurant pair, only watched it to see what the hate was all about.

    Also started but never finished Masamune-kun’s Revenge. Read the manga and as bad as that is, the anime was somehow worse, and not in a good way like Gabriel Dropout above. I’d read it initially thinking ‘two trash main characters, want to see them screw up & grow from it’ but nope, didn’t go there (think something like Girlish Number)

    Like

    • I do think you’re right that the girls turned the tables more on Kazuma this season, but what would really have been good would be them constantly dunking on him with no let up. That would be truly a blessing on this wonderful world… but we did get The Aqua Moment… what a good two minutes of anime that was…

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’d also chime in with the recommendation to pick up Demi-Chan again… No, the creepy “schoolgirl crush on sensei” never goes away, but it doesn’t dominate the show either. As Matthew said, it covers some pretty heavy topics without getting preachy.

    Mad-Dragon has a lot of face-palm moments, but it’s pretty good too. You managed to drop right before the first of really good episodes.

    I’ll post my own season write-up on my site later this week, I’m waiting on the finale of Maid-Dragon… Plus that give me more time to catch up, this whole weekly writing business is turning out to be harder than I thought.

    Like

    • Heh, heh, heh, now you know my pain! These days I dunno how I watched as much stuff weekly as I did and still managed to get out those weekly posts.

      To be totally honest I feel like the schoolgirl crush thing, once it tipped off my alarms, would probably hurt the rest of the show for me no matter how non-dominant it is. A sad casualty, but so it goes.

      Like

      • I’m going take a different approach this season, commenting less. (Mostly forcing myself less.) Writing does not come easily to me.

        Yeah, I know how it goes, sometimes all it takes is one thing for me too.

        Like

  7. Demi-chan really droppes the ball during episodes 2-4 aprox., but after Yuki’s introduction, the show picks up pretty well! Don’t​ know if you’ll have the time to watch it, though, but by the end, it’s a pretty fun watch. And fortunately it goes back again to its sweer understanding of demis as a minority.

    ACCA wasn’t my favorite, but I really liked the things you mentioned in your comments. Everything that had to do with Nino was done pretty well and he fas my favorite character. And the art (and from time to time the direction as well) looked gorgeous.

    Like

    • Seems like Demi-chan turned out alright in the end, but yeah, probably just not enough time for me. I’m sure it’s nice enough on the whole, but I’d need people telling me it was incredible to consider going back. Plenty of nice shows to go around, so just one more nice show is just one more nice show.

      Nino’s story was so greaaaaaat

      Like

  8. What did I watch this season? Let’s see. I watched all three seasons of Saki, which was a lot of fun. I re-watched Wish Upon the Pleiades after picking up the Blu-Ray, I re-watched Angel Beats when some of my friends wanted to see it, and I also (finally) started watching the first season of SNAFU a few days ago, which I’m enjoying a lot so far. What else…

    Eh? Oh, you meant the actual seasonal simulcasts? Um, well I’m working my way through March Comes in Like a Lion if that counts, although I’m still way behind on it. I do like that show, although I’ve found I have to be in the right mood for it. Seriously, though, there was almost nothing this season that really grabbed my attention, so I was happy to mostly stick to the CR back catalog and some more of the discs I hadn’t gotten around to watching since I bought them. I’m sure I’ll get to Konosuba 2 eventually, and maybe Dragon Maid since it feels like the kind of show I should like, but that might be all.

    Like

    • Heh, I also watched far more non-airing stuff this season (Macross 7, Mahoutsukai Precure, Gunbuster, Diebuster) and played games and stuff.

      Nothing wrong with taking a season off, though! I’m itching to rewatch some old favorites myself even with the current season already upon us.

      Like

  9. Late comment is late, sorry.
    I enjoyed the second season of Rakugo Shinjuu and the second cour of 3-gatsu no Lion the most of the winter season. As far as just the brand new titles went though, Scum’s Wish and ACCA were the only shows I enjoyed from start to finish. I did watch all of Onihei as well, but I got pretty bored with it by around the halfway mark. Fantastic OP, completely average stories and storytelling.

    Like

  10. I haven’t been to your blog in a while. But I’m kinda shocked that you didn’t watch Rakugo season 2. It was such a good season. Quite excellent even on its own, but put season 1 and 2 together and I would say that Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is the only anime I can think of that I would describe as perfect. That doesn’t make it my favorite, but it’s just such a masterpiece. An anime that you can look at and confidently say “this is a work of true art”. It made an otherwise lackluster season actually memorable.

    Other than Rakugo, I watched only finished few anime as well. Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga was quite good, making up for season one’s horrible anime original second half. Konosuba was hilarious and highly enjoyable. Masamune-kun’s Revenge started out good but had a rather meh finish.

    Two anime I still intend to finish: Chaos;Child and Rewrite s2. My husband is a fan of the science adventure anime (Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes, Chaos;Head) so we’ve been working on this one. Though we kinda stalled out after episode 7 (which had the single most horrifyingly macabre scene in anime I’ve ever watched) but we do intent to finish it at some point. We more or less enjoyed Rewrite season 1, but the ending was a bit of a downer, so we’re hoping season 2 ends a bit more happily. Only 2 episodes to go.

    We’ve also been watching Little Witch Academia (which is ongoing for spring season) and I absolutely love it. It’s just adorable and magical. I highly recommend it.

    Like

    • I’m shocked too! I watched and thought the first season of Rakugo was great! But I do prefer marathoning things to watching them weekly, so when I watch it I think it’ll probably be an overall better choice to have not watched it during the season. The good anime never disappear, after all.

      I might give LWA a try, although I confess I wasn’t a huge fan of the first OVA. Just not my style, for whatever reason…

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s