I made it to the end of a season! Wohoo!
We made it to the end of a year! Wohoo!
Yeah, 2016 was a pretty bad hand, but instead of brooding over what was, I think it’s also just as important for us to appreciate what we have. And true enough, 2016 was quite an adventure for me. I’ve been to three different continents, seven different countries, and fourteen different cities; I’ve met random people on the street and have met new friends and faces in all of my travels. And I’m not here to show how blessed I am; rather, I’m here to tell you that it’s important to count your blessings as well.
It’s one of the reasons why I rushed in a review for Flying Witch, to remind everyone to look for the magic in a dismal world. Because it’s only in realizing what’s important to us — the things we value — that we actually strive to see to it that these things are upheld. It’s what ignites passion and fuels change. Never lose sight of the things that have made your life worth living, no matter how shitty 2016 was.
Because the truth is, there’s no telling how shitty 2017 will be. Or the year after that. But if you know what it is you live for, then that’s an entirely different story.
But what does that have to do with anime? Well, nothing really. But I’ve been trying to link the anime I watch with life in general, and to a certain extent I think I’ve achieved that. What I write basically tries to prove to people that you can learn quite a lot about life through moving images on a television screen, and that every story has a hidden message just waiting to be told. We can bitch and rant about the things we hate about 2016 — just as much as we can bitch and rant about the things that sucked about anime. But I’m here to talk about what makes us enjoy the things we enjoy; what makes us hate the things we hate; what makes us keep coming back for more and more anime despite all of that.
In short — anime is love; anime is life.
And before I go on aimlessly with this lengthy entry, let’s move on to the season end ranking, yeah! (man, what a messy segue)
#9 – Occultic;Nine
I honestly tried to give this show the benefit of the doubt, but it’s simply too eclectic for my tastes — and I’m someone who is actually very tolerant of eclectic themes! I think much of my dissatisfaction has to do with A1-Pictures choice of execution. And it’s not just the visual vomit that they passed off as creative license — it’s the poor execution of dialogue. If you can even call it dialogue. The characters sound like they’re reciting lines from the book at 100 words per minute. And I’m not saying what they’re saying is nonsense; what I’m saying is that any well-meaning director would think of ways to translate such wordy dialogue into something acceptable for the visual anime format. Maybe this story is good, I don’t know. But 10 episodes in and I had it… I simply could not keep up with this show. Final Rating (dropped): 4/10
#8 – BBK/BRNK -The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy-
There was a time when I looked at this franchise and thought it was full of wonderful ideas with a complex worldview that had a pretty good story to tell. Then this season happened, which pretty much lost itself in the whole beat ’em up philosophy. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but it makes me feel like this story was simply tinkering with complex philosophies without really driving home into the meat of the issues it tried to portray. The result was a pretty formulaic story that ended on a bitter sweet note for the sake of it. And that’s pretty much it. Final Rating: 5/10
#7 – Izetta: The Last Witch
I feel really bad putting this all the way down here, because honestly, this show had a lot going for it. It had a great concept and commendable execution in animation and adherence to period themes. What undid it was a messy plot structure that rushed the dramatic exposition of the true nature of the White Witch, leading to an unconvincing revenge motive and lopsided character dynamics. There’s also the fact that the show has unnecessary diversions into fan service, which only serve to clutter the already battered story. In all fairness, however, it had a reasonable ending with a clear message of hope amidst a world devoid of “magic”. But man, I really wish they treated this title with more respect. A second cour might have helped, but really… what a shame. Final Rating: 6/10
#6 – Natsume Yûjinchou Go
Yet again another title I feel bad for putting down here. And the only reason why is because of inconsistency. Much of the first half of the season showcased bland character vignettes that lacked the essence of what makes the franchise so endearing, trading off thematic cohesion for uninspired and disconnected stories of the occult. This lack of focus was thankfully regained in the latter half, which boy oh boy was so darn good. It’s a shame that it took that long for the series to regain its charm, but hearing that a sixth season is coming up only serves to heighten my expectations even further. I know this show can do much, much better. So here’s hoping. Final Rating: 6.5/10
#5 – Flip Flappers
I’m pretty sure this will be a contentious title for many people given how notorious it has been as a highly polarizing show. Indeed, the underlying plot has many flaws, but the overarching goal of creating a wonderful world full of infinite possibilities, in my book, seems to overshadow any doubts I have about the intent of this show. It’s fun, imaginative, pregnant with symbols and meaning, and structured in such a way that each individual episode speaks its own thematic truth, but builds up its underlying structure as an entire ecosystem within itself. The animation is superb; the themes compelling; the music perky and uplifting — it’s been a long time since I’ve watched a show so fresh and free of any constraints. This is a show that is proud to be as unique as it is, and isn’t afraid to stand in front of any nay sayers who would say otherwise. Final Rating: 7/10
#4 – Yuri!!! on ICE
Yet another show I’m sure people will give me the stink eye for. Yuri!!! on ICE was a refreshing re-envisioning of the sports anime genre and a pleasing take on how lived passion with kindred spirits can bring out the best in ourselves. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really sold with the final message that the show had to say regarding victory. The format pretty much dictates the importance of victory, but this in itself does not justify the need for Yuri to insist on trying until he gets Gold. This single scene pretty much disillusioned me from the overall message, which I think is a personal quibble than a general statement. Nevertheless, this show was a wonderful journey towards self-mastery and discovery; a touching tale of what it means to become one’s best self. Final Rating: 7/10
#3 – gi(a)rlish number
For me to place this higher than Yuri!!! on ICE is definitely bias at work, but I’m quite honest to admit that I find myself resonating much more with Chitose’s character than I do with Yuri’s. Because Chitose isn’t talented; she thinks she is entitled to more than she’s worth — that sounds a lot like me and many other people that I know. And yet she’s able to discover fulfillment in a demoralizing industry with the help of people that make her job meaningful to begin with. This is a story of purpose in a purposeless world — the millennial struggle personified in a bubbly girl that just irks you to bits. But that’s the beauty of this production. If you find yourself annoyed at Chitose, it’s done it’s job pretty well. Yet again another character drama from Wataru Watari that I am more than happy to have watched. Final Rating: 7.5/10
#2 – March comes in like a Lion
There is beauty in the simplicity of its premise: the life of a boy undergoing depression. But the dramatic exposition is so beautifully executed, every emotional exercise that Rei undergoes is full of meaning and relevance that speaks leagues to the brokenness of human existence. Even if you have never considered yourself depressed in your life, the show paints the life of a troubled mind so palpably real, you’ll be pressed to discover your own brokenness in your life. But the show is too earnest to simply be a dismal portrayal of a battered mind. It goes beyond that — showcasing a wonderful cast of endearing characters that uplift one another and draw out the importance of kindred spirits, of family, and of friendship. It’s a wonderfully evocative canvas of emotions that presents itself quite like the paintings of Claude Monet or Vincent Van Gogh. A high tier classic from none other than Akiyuki Shinbo himself. On-going Rating: 8.5/10
#1 – Sound! Euphonium
You ought to have seen this coming. Sound! Euphonium is perhaps one of the most touching character dramas I have seen since My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (aka “oregairu“), and arguably sits close to the top tier of Kyoto Animation greats like Hyouka. Both visually and thematically, this show really blew me away with its depiction of Kumiko growing out of her shell of cynicism and embracing the oft difficult task of expressing oneself honestly. REsound!!! Euphonium is perhaps the more apt translation of this title, but by all means this show has justified its name and even more so. This was a wonderful youth drama that sends a poignant message of what it means to pursue your passions with no regrets. This is a story with a message far more profound and earnest than the modernist depiction of #YOLO. I highly encourage anyone and everyone to watch this great show! Final Rating: 8.5/10
Whew! What a season! There were only so many shows, but they were all pretty great. What a way to end the year. So yeah, lift you glasses and toast to the year that is to come. Celebrate not the stumbles, but the individual triumphs — no matter how humble or small they may be — and raise them up for everyone to see. We’re ready for you 2017, and we aren’t going to back down!