It’s that time of the season again folks!
As usual, I’ll be giving a short synopsis of the shows I’m currently watching, ranked in order of my personal preference. Hopefully some of these titles might be appealing to you, should you be one of those that likes to wait things out before binging on sure-hit titles. I don’t blame you if that’s your style, in fact I commend you for being able to binge watch in the first place. But yeah, that’s the general mechanics of this mid-season round up.
Also, if you’re lazy, look for the tl;dr in bold at the end of each entry. Lastly, I highly recommend the Top 4 of this season. And with that said, let’s do this!
#1 – Scum’s Wish
Scum’s Wish is the latest airing show in the noitaminA block from studio Lerche, based on an original manga series that depicts the tumultuous emotional journey of Hanabi, a high school girl who fell in love with her childhood friend-turned-homeroom teacher. The framing of the story is inherently cynical, attempting to portray love as an ugly human emotion that taints its characters, leading to a downward spiral of self-pity and self-destruction. It’s a propulsive drama that isn’t afraid to challenge our preconceived notions of romance and human relationships, whilst narrowing in on the complex nature of adolescence and the gargantuan task of finding one’s identity through sexual gratification and emotional dominance.
The idea itself isn’t innovative, but the show’s openness in discussing such themes is a very refreshing change of pace from the highly sterilized romantic comedies that pellet the modern anime scene. If you enjoy romantic character dramas that focus on adolescent themes and controversial issues in a mature tone, then this is the show for you. It’s been a while since I’ve a seen a show that isn’t afraid to talk about the things it wants to talk about. If that tickles your fancy, then pick this up right away.
#2 – Shôwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjû: Sukeroku Futatabi Hen
Sequel to the highly acclaimed winter 2016 show of the same name, Shôwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjû is a period drama that focuses on the life of a certain Kikuhiko A.K.A. “Yakumo“, a high-profile master of the theatrical comedic art known as Rakugo. The first season serves as the background story on Kikuhiko’s haunting past, whereas this current season continues the story in the “present day” of 80’s Japan, where Rakugo is but a dying artform. Former con-man turned apprentice Yôtaro, carries on the legacy of translating Rakugo into the modern era as the show goes on to present a harrowing drama of our connectedness to the past, and the efforts we make to forage towards the future.
The show has a very “classic” feel to it, and the overall direction is nothing short of superb. This is one of those shows that has a strong cultural feel to it, so if you enjoy period dramas with a strong Japanese cultural vibe, then this is the show for you. This current iteration might not be as headstrong as its predecessor, but I dare say it is doing a fantastic job at creating an engaging and fulfilling dramatic tale.
#3 – ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
Probably the break-out star this season, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. is a character drama that centers around a certain Jean Otus, a deputy-chief of a central agency called “ACCA” that audits the activities of the super nation known as Dowa. With rumors of a possible coup d’état brewing amidst the upper echelons of government, Jean finds himself in the middle of a power struggle that makes him a target of suspicion. The show has a rich visual palette and wildly imaginative world that fuses multiple cultures into its single super national premise.
At first, ACCA might have a very dull premise, but its manner of execution, framing, attention to detail, smart dialogue, and overall pacing leave little to be desired. If you enjoy character dramas with elements of speculation and socio-political strife, then this is the show for you. Again, don’t let the show’s premise fool you — this is one very engaging title, which albeit quite laid back, is a very fulfilling watch indeed.
#4 Little Witch Academia
Coming from the mind that brought us classic Studio Gainax titles like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Little Witch Academia was originally an animation short turned OVA sequel turned full blown anime series, featuring a certain Akko Kagari and her escapades at becoming a witch. She is joined by her partners in crime: the bespectacled goody-two-shoes Lotte Jannson, and the mischievous potion-totting Sucy Manbavaran. Together, they learn more about magic and what it means to be a witch in a steadily modernizing world.
Little Witch Academia‘s success can be attributed to its classic underdog story combined with its timeless morals on passion, motivation, and hope. What gives these themes its refreshing appeal is the shows vibrant visual expressiveness, which is no doubt thanks to the creative minds over at Trigger Studios. This show is a flavorful departure from the typical moe-ness of modern “post-bubble” anime, and has a strong almost “cartoony” feel to it, which to many an animation aficionado is a no-brainer. If you enjoy idiosyncratic animation styles combined with classic storytelling with themes of fantasy, then this is the show for you. There’s no escaping this show’s whimsy and generally good-hearted nature. It’s infectious, and I love it.
#5 – Tales of Zestiria the X (2nd Cour)
As a direct continuation of the first cour, which aired back in Summer 2016, Tales of Zestiria is a fantasy-adventure series based on the JRPG of the same title. It follows the adventures of a certain Sorey who has the ability to see divine beings known as Seraphim and use their powers to battle an amorphous evil known as malevolence. In the world of Tales of Zestiria, such malevolence is the product of human malice, and so Sorey embarks on a journey to rid the world of such malice, all the while discovering that socio-political unrest and power struggles between the church and state are but one part of a larger scheme of an unseen foe.
The show has a good grasp of creating a sense of grandiosity thanks to the animation prowess of UFOTable. The overall RPG-like feel is also evident, making for an immersive experience that is generally enjoyable. Unfortunately, the pacing feels a little haphazard, not surprisingly due to its split run. But even without this minor setback, much of the plot still remains a mystery, in particular a lack of focus on the “mastermind” behind malevolence, which was only partially dealt with in the first few episodes of the first season. Regardless, if you enjoy fantasy adventure titles with an immersive soundtrack and grandiosity of scale in terms of visuals, then this is the show for you.
#6 – Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
It’s easy to confuse this show for a random comedy based off of a four-panel gag comic, but Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a slice-of-life show that portrays the not-so-normal life of one “Kobayashi” and her serendipitous encounter with a dragon called Tohru, who offers to become her personal maid. The setup is obviously outlandish, but the show proceeds likewise unperturbed, featuring more dragons that freeload off of other human characters, whilst depicting their own experiences in the human realm.
The show gives off more of an introspective vibe at times, often questioning modern society through the inquisitive eyes of its dragon characters. Balancing this quasi-critical tone is a general smattering of random comedy and gratuitous fan-service. But despite being more or less all over the place, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is both endearing and light-hearted, despite attempts by the show to create emotional heft where it isn’t necessarily warranted. If you enjoy slice-of-life comedies with some dramatic elements and fan service, then this is the show for you. It still remains to be seen if this show will have any actual direction in terms of plot, but at the rate it’s going, it runs the risk of becoming another Amagi Brilliant Park.
#7 – Demi-chan wa Kataritai
Legendary creatures and monsters are an apparent genetic aberration, and efforts from society to be more inclusive towards these demi-humans has resulted in what is essentially the world of Demi-chan wa Kataritai. The show follows the exploits of a biology teacher, Tetsuo Takahashi, and his efforts to understand this minority more.
What is initially a rather endearing display of earnestly wishing to understand one another more ends up becoming some sort of fan-service crazed harem-esque setup, which might come across as somewhat disturbing for anyone who finds themes on student-teacher relationships a bit disturbing. See past that and the show is actually a rather fun discussion on social identity from the standpoint of adolescence and early adulthood, and does so with interesting, albeit inconsistent, visual direction. If you enjoy slice-of-life comedies with some elements of fan service (i.e. harem setup) then this is the show for you. It’s an oddball, surely, but if taken lightly, may turn out to be an enjoyable experience.
#8 – Gabriel DropOut
What happens when angels act like demons, and demons act like angels? Well, you get Gabriel DropOut, a show that focuses on the exploits of the angel Gabriel, who after descending to earth in order to “train” in a worldly high school, ends up becoming a social degenerate. She’s accompanied by her fellow angel brood Raphiel (a self-confessed sadist), and demon friends Vigne (a well-mannered philanthropist) and Satania (a dimwitted chuunibyou).
The setup is generic as its gags are basically predictable and uninspired. But even if you’re not expecting a punch to the stomach in terms of comedy, the show’s aesthetic is generally pleasing, if not cute enough to be endearing. If you enjoy simple comedies with cute character designs then this is the show for you. There isn’t really much to go with this show, so it’s probably a pretty campy show from the get go. You either like it or you don’t.
And there you have it! Not included in this list are Urara Meirochô, since I dropped that, and The Dragon Dentist, which only just premiered (and I will be writing about in a bit). And that pretty much wraps up this mid-season round up. Hope it’s helpful, and happy anime viewing!