Wrapping Up the Spring 2017 Anime Season

As is our custom around here, it’s time to take a look back at the shows of last season before the new one hits (actually, it’s already here but oh well).

Alice to Zouroku

I’ve been watching seasonal anime for a while now, but I never seem to grow bored of looking back at seasons as a whole and considering my experiences with them from a self-reflective perspective. First, some stats: I followed 5 shows through the full duration of the season, as well has have two others that I started but never finished. In terms of pure volume, this is up from the season prior, but it’s interesting to note that even with a few more shows, I feel behind less often and generally felt more engaged than I did during the winter. Perhaps evidence of a better crop of shows?

But probably the most interesting thing that happened – one that rather curiously illustrates the difference watching something weekly or marathoning it makes for me – is the case of Saekano. I watched the first few episodes of the first season back when it aired in 2015, but dropped it. However, when people on Twitter started posting a lot of screencaps that made it seem like I’d like it, I marathoned both seasons in about a week or so. And because I watched it that way, even though Saekano Flat was technically a spring show, it doesn’t really feel like it to me. It’s a unique experience unto itself, not a part of the three-month event that was Spring 2017 anime.

But anyways, about those shows from this season!

The first show I finished this season – and so the first one I’m going to talk about – was the second season of Attack on Titan. Overall, I think I rather agree with Sakugablog’s Kvin on the state of the show as a whole: it was better executed than the first season but not necessarily as fun. While the final two episodes of season two were basically as good as the show has ever been, everything leading up to that was pretty dull. The Ymir/Historia stuff had long been talked up by manga readers as being some of the best material of the story, but I found it horridly uninteresting and irking for how much attention was paid to it.

Attack on Titan (perhaps especially as an anime) is really not equipped to deal with the nuances required for something like Ymir and Historia’s relationship. Simplicity can be graceful at times; for this, though, it just came across as shallow (although others, like ANN’s Rose Bridges in her kick-ass article on the women of Titans, have a different opinion). But what Titans is good at doing is overblown action and people yelling at each other, and we sure did get a nice amount of that in the show’s final third. Everything from Eren and Reiner’s fight at the wall to their shouting match in the trees to Mikasa’s rage to Eren being able to control titans (lolololol) was very near sublime in pulling out all the stops. I’ll probably never think that highly of this franchise, but it sure is fun sometimes.

My Hero Academia

Sticking with the action theme, I also kept up with both My Hero Academia S2 and Ei Aoki’s Re:Creators for the full season. Both are ongoing into next season, and while I’ll definitely be watching MHA (it’s finally into material I haven’t already seen in the manga!), I’m not so sure I’ll be sticking with Re:Creators.

The strengths and weakness of both of these shows are rather obvious, but they make for an interesting pair. My Hero Academia‘s obvious debts to the traditions of both Shounen Jump manga and American superhero comics make it an easily watchable, momentum heavy experience – especially as it seems to have figured out a few of its lagging pacing issues from the first season – but the the real charm has always been its characters and how earnestly they pursue their dreams of being heroes. It’s easy to watch.

Re:Creators, on the other hand, I suppose I would say is more heady, although I’m not convinced it knows where to find the balance between forward motion and taking time to consider its ideas. Re:Creators having a mismash of characters from different kinds of stories gives it a prime opportunity to draw on these wells of meaning (as it did with the Mamika episode I wrote about), but on the whole it seems to be more interested in having action setpieces for their own sake and leaving the meaning-making to the talking. The show has proven it can do better – Selesia’s creator’s teary-eyed smile when Twitter powers her up was really special – but it hasn’t proven it can be consistent.

Consistency was an issue for more than one show this season, including The Eccentric Family 2. A long-time favorite of mine, The Eccentric Family‘s return to TV anime was surprising, but welcome. According to folks in the know, it seems to be a pet project for P.A. Works – and what a good pet project it is. Despite lacking the overarching plotline that helped hold the first season together thematically, the second season largely remained a delight for its wondrous collection of stunning individual scenes. If the first season of the show was a single tapestry woven together, the second was more like a series of individual paintings – and even the fact that they didn’t all flow together can’t take away from their individual beauty.

That aside, the most rewarding part of The Eccentric Family 2, really, was the chance to dive deeper into this cast of characters that we’ve all come to love. Whether it was the slow additions of nuances and humanity to Benten’s character, the ways new addition Gyokuran brought out different sides of Yasaburo for us to see, or even the way the OP sequence provided its own sort of fascinating context (as Brianwuzhere notes). Alongside the chance to explore new worlds alongside Yajiro or Yasaburo or delve more deeply into tanuki society and customs with Yaichiro, the additional textures The Eccentric Family 2 added to the decadent world of the show’s version of Kyoto were their own reward.

Alizou 6-15.jpg

But my not-so-secret favorite show of the season was Alice and Zoroku (Alizou). Because I’m bad and slow at writing these days, I don’t yet have up the post I started writing on my thoughts on the show, but for now it’s interesting to trace my feelings on the show from seeing it as a good sort of Shana-type anime to being convinced its something quite different (and better) than that, an anime that can stand on its own without such comparisons. From its ideas on family (which I wrote about) to its humorous depictions of a small child slowly growing up to its fun explorations of Sana’s created worlds to its very seriously considered relationships between the children characters, Alizou is packed much more tightly with things worth thinking about than it might appear on the surface.

I’d even go so far as to say that Alizou was the smartest show of the season. Aside from how immaculately effective it was as a story, the ease with which it tackled questions as different as “what makes us human?” and “what does it mean to be a family?” was frankly astounding for a show that initially looked to be nothing more than just cuteness. In some ways, I suppose this is one of the hidden strengths of blending fantasy into a mundane setting – the mismatch inherently creates a space where questions must be asked to bridge the gap between worlds. Alizou did this wonderfully, adding a valuable extra level of engagement on top of its more basic appeals (i.e. Sana being a cute kid).

Maybe it’s good that I didn’t watch Saekano Flat as a weekly show, because otherwise it may very well have knocked Alizou out of the top spot & I’m pretty happy with having it there. As things stand now, I don’t have too many specific things to say about Saekano, though. There’s too much about that show that I still need to process. So congrats to Alizou, my favorite anime of Spring 2017!

I also started and did not finish Sukasuka (7 episodes), Tsukigakirei (5 episodes), Sword Oratoria (4 episodes), Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul (1 episode), and Granblue Fantasy (1 episode). The first two I may go back to finish; the rest I think I have said farewell to forever.

Granblue Fantasy 1-11.jpg

As always, you may yell at me in the comments about how I didn’t watch your favorite show of the season, am bad for not finishing Tsukigakirei yet, or just politely tell me what you enjoyed this season. Get to it~

14 thoughts on “Wrapping Up the Spring 2017 Anime Season

  1. There’s something ironic in the fact that Derek and I both watched and thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Saekano back when it came out even as you dropped it like a hot potato, and yet here you rally from behind and end up watching the second season before I could, thanks to this crappy Amazon situation. Glad to hear you liked it, though. I understood why you were initially put off by the opening fanservice episode the first time, but I always thought you gave up on it too soon. And now, given your endorsement of s2, I have another reason to look forward to it. At this point, though, I might as well wait until season 2 of Yuki Yuna inevitably ends up on Amazon (which it will if it airs on the Animeism block again like s1 did, now that Amazon just bought the streaming rights to that block). Then I’ll finally cave and buy a subscription for three months while that streams, and go crazy catching up on the other shows they’ve taken away from me like Saekano 2 and Vivid Strike at the same time.

    My one seasonal show for spring was Sakura Quest, which I’m enjoying and intend to continue. I like the cast, and it’s light-hearted enough that it’s a good show to relax in the evenings with. Rather than watching it weekly, though, I’ve been watching it in 2-3 episode chunks, and I think that also helps since I can take in each mini-arc all at once instead of having to chew on a half-finished story for another week.

    The other reason for my cutback in seasonals (besides Amazon stealing most of my “want” list) is that I’ve been putting more of my happy fun time into reading books and gaming lately (mainly Persona 5, LLSIF, and now Fate/Grand Order), which means less time for anime watching in general. But I did finish the first season of SNAFU and really liked it. That was a show with some unusually strong character writing, I thought. Looking forward to S2, especially since most people say it gets even better.

    I’ve also been on an anime buying spree the last couple of months, mostly movies. Picked up Blu-Ray copies of Space Adventure Cobra (fun movie!), the Garupan Movie (you already know my thoughts on that one), Horus Prince of the Sun (haven’t watched it yet), Disappearance of Haruhi (replacing my old scratched-up Bandai DVD), and of course pre-ordered Hyouka. I’ve also started buying the digital manga of Saki, because I’m getting addicted to that series and I need to know what happens after season 3 ended. I never thought I’d be a digital manga reader because it was a nightmare trying to read manga on my regular Kindle, but it turns out that my iPad screen is actually the perfect size for it.

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    • Well, in my defense, I think the second season of Saekano is VASTLY better than the first, so stand by my earlier decision. I really don’t think I would have enjoyed watching the first season at all had I been watching it weekly. If the second season didn’t exist I honestly wouldn’t have all that much to recommend the first season by – it’s like a passable 5/10 versus the second season being an 8/10.

      I don’t think it’s a problem to take some time away from anime to do other things instead; in fact, it’s probably healthy. I know that when I was playing Nier: Automata my anime watching speed really dipped (and then I followed that up by binging a ton of Code Geass after that). Also, it’s funny that you mention Oregairu, because I feel somewhat the same with it as I do about Saekano. Strong character writing, but not the greatest first season – followed up by a far more compelling (and emotionally exhausting) second season.

      I’ve been thinking about getting an iPad myself lately, but even then I’m not sure about digital manga; somehow it’s just not to same as actually having the book in my hands…

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  2. I’m so, so happy to have had Uchouten Kazoku back. At the beginning I was worried it wouldn’t measure up to season one, but it did. To be sure, season one was still better, but then what we have here is the connective tissue in a trilogy. One of the key moments, theme-wise, was the scene where Yasaburo was talking to Jurojin about the painting of hell. And that tanuki grandma was just such a lovely character. All the new additions (including the new characters) gave something of worth to the show. I’m so, so happy to have seen it. Season 3 in 2027? Heh.

    My next favourite show was Tsuki ga Kirei. I’m an aromantic person who watches romances mainly for characterisation, but if there ever was a show that would tell me what romances are about it’s this. It’s my new benchmark for the genre. (It’s not my favourite show that is also a romance; it’s just the show that handled the romance elements best. And I’m not only talking about anime, here. This is really the show that taught me about the romance of… well, romance.)

    Then, there’s Alice & Zoroku, which pushed all the right buttons for me. I’m glad you liked it. The children in this show are actually children, for the most part, not just recepticles for anime childishness.

    I largely agree about Attack on Titan: better than season one, and better while engaged in insane action (such as titan tossing). I do heartily dislike Eren, though, and when he yells he’s a lot harder to ignore.

    My Hero Academia… well, there are aspects about it I dislike and they were front and certain during this tournament arc (I’m fundamentally opposed to its treatment of heroes and inspiration; if I had a blog, it’d be worth a full post or two). I’m just glad that part is over. It had its excellent moments, though, so overall I still enjoyed it. I think what I like most about this show is the way it individuates its characters. It’s just so stylish.

    Sword Oratoria was boring, and Granblue Fantasy was even more boring. In the case of SO cameos by Bell and Hestia were emberassing, because they reminded you what show you’re not watching right now, and that’s never a good sign. GF might actually make a fun game (depending on the mechanics), but it’s just too formulaic for an anime. Even a let’s-play video might have been more entertaining.

    Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul if quite entertaining, for me. Surprisingly, I like it better than season one. If you’re ever bored enough, it’s there, I suppose, but it’s no must-see, and there are almost certainly better alternatives. It’s good, though, and if fantasy’s your genre, you could do worse.

    SukaSuka was good, too. It’s main strength was world-building, and the characters are endearing enough to get me through the show. The plot isn’t that great and but it’s interesting enough to carry setting and characters to the end. The tragedy isn’t the memorable sort; it triggers emotions, gives you catharsis (or boredem, depending on whether you click), and then it’s over and done with.

    Another fun fantasy show locked away in the Amazon dungeon is Grimoir of Zero. Fun romp, that – like SukaSuka – didn’t mine its full potential but ended up great entertainment.

    I’ll mention Tiger Mask W briefly, which has now ended after a three-season run. Who knew that shounen anime plots and wrestling entertainment narratives are so compatible? It’s extremely cheesy, great fun, a lot less misogynistic than actual wrestling (as I remember it). Also, it’s very well animated, and has a pleasing retro style (unsurprising, since the original Tiger Mask anime aired in the sixties? seventies?)

    And finally: so you watched Saekano? I quite liked the first season, and liked parts of the second season. The male main character, whose name I have forgotten, is so supremely annoying me that he singlehandedly can ruin whole episodes for me. Fingernails on chalkboard, I tell you. For what it’s woth: Megumi made the first season, but Eriri made the second. If there ever is a third one, I suppose it’s time for Utaha (fair is fair). In any case, everyone had great scenes in both seasons (except for musician cousin, who barely even shows up).

    On the whole, I watched fewer shows this season than I’ve done for years, and this season it looks like it’ll be even less. I’m hoping, I’ll find at least 2 per day (one in the morning, and one in the evening), as I like to watch anime before going to work and after coming home. Maybe it’s time to catch up with older shows (Kino’s Journey, before season 2 starts?). If this trend continues, I might have to find a new hobby. (I’ll still watch anime, but I might stop watching simulcasts and direct my daily wind-down attention elsewhere.)

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    • It’s interesting hearing you talk about finding a new hobby to replace anime because you’re down to (by my count, at least) 10 shows in a season when I’ve been running 5 or less for the past few seasons. But the hobby looks different for everyone, I suppose!

      I actually didn’t mind Aki too much in Saekano. I found his role in the story frustrating in the first season and less so in the second, but I’d say on the whole he’s better than most of his peers in my estimation. And yes, Eriri rules the second season. Incontrovertibly, which is just how I like it.

      The way Alizou treats its child characters is, I think, the most important part of the story. It’s actually the topic of the post I’m working on about the show.

      How’d you like the frogs/holes girl in Uchouten? I think she was a shining example of how effortlessly this show creates unique, memorable, charming characters without having to lean on cliched anime tropes. Same for the grandmother. It’s such an amazing show on so many levels – and, you know, it only took 4 years for an S2, so really it should be 2021 that we seen S3 (if the pattern holds).

      FYI – Granblue is based off of a mobage, so that likely explains the lack of a good, propulsive story. A flaw I’ve seen in other mobage-based games, as well. And Sword Oratoria takes the cake for most disappointing show of the season; I dunno how you can so utterly strip away the charms of the original material (I do, it was taking out Bell and Hestia), but this was a tour-de-force in doing exactly that.

      Yet another ringing endorsement for Tsukigakirei… okay, okay, I get it…

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      • Heh, yeah, I need around 2 anime per day that help me relax for the hobby to fill its current need: that is, to come down from work in the morning, and to get a kick-start for work in the evining (I work at night).

        @ Saekano: I can definitely see Aki’s value for the show. I think he’s a well-written character who fills his plot-function well. I simply find him unpleasant to watch, and I can’t do anything against it. It was worse in season 2. (Also, I think season 2 of Saekano is better marathoned than watched weekly; so Amazon might have done WingKing a very tiny and totally accidental favour.)

        @Uchouten Kazoku: Ooh, the frog/hole girl was great – exactly the right mix between cautious and welcoming. (Also, it took 4 years between the two anime seasons, but 8 years between the two novels, and the most recent one came out in 2015. So, 6 – 10 years for the novel finale, and then another 1 to 2 years to prepare the anime… I’d be guessing around 10 years is realistic, if the author isn’t quicker, this time, with the writing.)

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        • Ah, yeah, that’s fair. Otaku in real life can be aggravating; it makes sense a well-written fictional one could be the same. Agreed on marathoning versus watching weekly. Thanks for… something, I guess, Amazon. Just this once.

          And aww crap I forgot that the third novel has been written yet. 10 years is a long time to wait… but it would be amazing if it happened.

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  3. I completed very few shows this season – just Natsume Yuujinchou season 6, Tsuki ga Kirei, and Eccentric Family 2. I’m still watching Bahamut: Virgin Soul but I very much doubt for much longer, especially now that the new anime season is starting up. Mind you, I’m not particularly complaining at how few new shows I’ve been into lately. Quality over quantity and all that.

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