Weee! I’m finally writing my first mid-season round up post since I started this friggin’ blog. Two seasons have already passed since then, so I guess third time’s the charm?
But what’s all this for, anyway? I mean, I’m already doing weekly round ups, so why one come mid-season? Well, there are just so many shows, and a number of my RL friends often come to me sometime around mid-season just to ask if there’s anything worth picking up. In some ways, you could say they’re more than happy to make me suffer on their behalf, what having to plough through all these shows expecting for the worst… But at the same time it’s always a good feeling when I can recommend a good title or two. Because let’s face it, some shows grow at their own pace, but knowing a show will be worth the effort is always something helpful to keep in mind.
So this will just be a quick rundown of the current standing of all shows this season based on my current census of titles. As with the season preview list and weekly round ups, these shows are ordered in descending rank. Only the season end ranking places the shows in order of ascending rank (they say it’s more dramatic that way). Also, if you’re lazy and just want a TL;DR, look for the words in bold in the last paragraph of each show description.
On a personal note, I’d highly recommend #’s 1-6. The rest might require a bit of… well, patience. Anyway, enough talk, let’s do this!
#1 – Sound! Euphonium 2
Follow-up to the Spring 2015 hit by Kyoto Animation Studios, Sound! Euphonium 2 continues the high school drama in full force as it follows the Kitauji Concert Band‘s journey towards the Nationals. The show is mostly a character-focused drama, revolving around the experiences of an initially passive-aggressive Kumiko Omae, who eventually opens up to her own passion in pursuing music together with her band. The second season focuses more on Kumiko navigating the more complex emotional subsets of her peers in the band, as well as opening up more insight into the background of their own mysterious conductor.
The show is beautifully animated and features deep character introspections on top of a strong musical foundation. Expect a well balanced production, overall. In terms of pace and dramatic tone, this second season tends to be a little “distracted”, often diverging from the main narrative in not-so-subtle ways. Otherwise, it’s a worthy compliment to the impressive line up of Kyoto Animation works. If you enjoy character dramas and character-driven narratives, then this is the show for you. And it goes without saying that if you’re a KyoAni fan, you MUST watch this show.
#2 – Izetta: The Last Witch
An original story that asks the question: What would happen if Magic could be harnessed as a weapon? Set to the tone of a pre-World War II setting, Izetta: The Last Witch follows the efforts of Finé, the Archduchess of the Kingdom of Eldystat, and Izetta as they fight against the forces of the Empire of Germania.
Much of Izetta’s success comes from its consistent storytelling, coupled with immersive dramatic fight sequences and generally engaging characters. What the show lacks in tactical showmanship, it makes up for with smart dramatic execution and framing. So while this isn’t exactly a show that WWII buffs would go crazy over, its well-grounded enough to make the stakes feel real. If you enjoy themes of fantasy blended into real-world conflict, then this is the show for you. Take note that there are occasional fan service shots which can border distracting at times.
#3 – March comes in like a Lion
From the same director who brought us shows like the Monogatari Series and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, March comes in like a Lion is a drama/slice-of-life based off of a manga of the same name. It focuses on the troubled life of a certain Rei Kiriyama who at an early age loses his family in a car accident. Being a brilliant Shougi player at a young age, he uses his skills to become a professional player to earn money to live on his own. The show invites us into the headscape of Rei as he contemplates his lived experience in light of the traumatic past that haunts his inner self.
March comes in like a Lion is thematically heavy, but is balanced off by bubbly fanfare, which often comes off as a little out-of-place. Director Akiyuki Shinbo’s characteristic animation style is on full display in the series, and the unique character designs accentuate this bouncing off of themes quite nicely. The elements of slice-of-life can sometimes be overshadowed by ominous themes, such as depression, suicide, or even domestic violence. If you like character dramas that focus on sensitive topics in an artistic headspace, then this is definitely a show you will enjoy.
#4 – Yuri!!! on ICE
An original animation production that focuses on failed ice skating prodigy Yuri Katsuki and his attempts to regain glory in the international grand prix after his own idol Victor Nikiforov offers to become his personal coach. The show introduces a slew of similarly passionate characters as they skate towards becoming the number one figure skater in the world.
Yuri!!! on ICE is a light-fared sports comedy that actually uses the competitive aspect of figure skating to promote its own character interactions. Instead of getting caught up in the whole competition, the show focuses more on what competitive skating means to its protagonists, and thus builds a more endearing narrative that is less about winning against others than it is winning against oneself. If you enjoy mildly tempered sports dramas with a strong character focus, then this is the show for you. Take note that the show features themes that border BL (Boy’s Love, which is just a few degrees short of Yaoi), so YMMV.
#5 – Flip Flappers
An original animation brought to us by studio 3Hz, the same group responsible for the recent Winter 2016 flop Dimension W. But far from a flop, Flip Flappers boasts a bold animation philosophy that focuses on the story of a certain Cocona and Papika and their adventures in the strange and mysterious parallel dimension called Pure Illusion.
Both conceptually and aesthetically, the entire production of Flip Flappers is avant garde and highly polished owing to animation director Kiyotaka Oshiyama, who was responsible for art direction in shows like Space Dandy and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. There’s a bold sense of adventure in each of the episodes that makes it feel like you’re watching a fairy tale unfold. If you enjoy conceptual pieces that aren’t completely narrative driven, then this is the show for you. Take note however that the reception of this show has been highly divisive, so YMMV.
#6 – gi(a)rlish number
Brought to us by the writer responsible for the hit series My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, Wataru Watari presents to us his latest take on the Anime industry in the Fall 2016 drama/comedy gi(a)rlish number. The show wastes no time pitting its overly obnoxious and self-entitled heroine Chitose Karasuma against a ridiculous industry, with no reservations of poking its deformed nature with witty and obtuse commentary.
gi(a)rlish number is a commentary-based show that makes several jabs at industry while depicting characters that are conceivably real and self-actualized. Although the depictions of the industry may be a little bit caricature-ish at best, there is a charm in how the shows characters overcome its adversity. Chitose may be very cynical, but much of the production places emphasis on how industry weighs down on such an attitude, and not the other way around. If you like smart satires that feature witty character dialogues and acute takes on industry stereotypes, then this is the show for you.
#7 – Natsume Yûjinchou Go
Natsume Yûjinchou Go is the fifth installment in the anime franchise of the serialized manga of the same name. It focuses on the experiences of Takashi Natsume and his power to see creatures of the occult. It is a well-loved franchise that spans over a decade of memorable character vignettes and stories. This particular season is produced by studio Shuka, marking the first departure from its original’s production line, which was primarily headed by Brains Base.
The show is perhaps best described as a slice-of-life with trappings of the occult. Much of the charm of the show was in its ability to create small moments of reflection between Natsume’s lived experience and his encounters with the occult. If you’ve watched Mushishi, then it has a similar experience, but less foreboding and more intimate. This season, however, lacks the charm that made the series great before. Although its characters are still the same, the whole experience seems to be lost entirely. If you like shows that use themes of Japanese occult with lightly tempered drama, then this is the show for you. I would recommend watching the older seasons above this one, if possible.
#8 – Occultic;Nine
From the mind that brought us stories like Chaos;HEAd and Steins;Gate, Occultic;Nine is a eclectic mix of character stories that converge around the theme of bizarre manifestations of the occult. It features characters like a noisy shut-in, a black magic-wielding gothic lolita, a well-endowed air head, a high school NicoNicoDouga celebrity, and so on.
The visual presentation of the show is impressive and diverse, but this is watered down by frantic and messy cinematography. The plot is also largely fragmented to the point of obfuscation, and its progression seems to be similar in pace to Steins;Gate. Regardless, the intrigue comes in much later, so if you’re willing to forgive its odd pacing, you might be rewarded with a fun watch. If you like eclectic stories with a strong mystery base, then this is the show for you.
#9 – BBK/BRNK: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy
BBK/BRNK is the 10th anniversary release for studio Sanzigen, which is known for its 3D production of Arpeggio of Blue Steel and 009 Re:Cyborg. That said, this is a fully 3D animated production that focuses on the adventures of children who have the power to wield objects called Bubuki. The story is set to the tone of a post-apocalyptic world that is under siege by strange mechanisms called Headless Buranki. By utilizing the power of the Bubuki, these kids can combine to form a larger Buranki, which they use to battle the forces that threaten their peace.
BBK/BRNK: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy is the sequel to the Spring 2016 show simply titled BBK/BRNK. Unlike its predecessor, this season is hampered by an overly grandiose plot, which buckles under the weight of poorly executed plot flows and generally bad script writing. The first season was actually legitimately engaging, offering an interesting world view with some relevant thematic points. This season, however, squanders much of the established narrative, making for a generic shounen battler with little reason to become even remotely memorable. If you like shounen shows with some battle elements, then this show is for you. But don’t expect to leave with anything good in terms of story.
And there you have it! I can’t believe we’re half-way through the season! It’s been great so far, surprisingly. Any show featured here that you think you might be picking up? Do share in the comments below! Until next time, ciao!