Mid-seasons are kinda scary in the sense that, yes, there’s a lot to write about, but at the same time there’s that looming realization that (crap) 6 weeks have already passed.
And that makes me wonder what the heck I’ve been doing with my life. Maybe it’s because I’m currently crunching experiments to write my dissertation, and that’s got me thinking why it feels like I’ve hardly gotten anything done these past five months.
Time is a fickle mistress.
Either way, the Spring 2017 season has been a similarly fickle affair, what with a strange line-up of titles that just basically feels weird in many respects. A big chunk of them are continuing cours, whilst others are long-standing franchises that are gracing the anime format… but regardless of the source, each had their own sort of spat with me, either due to their tendency to get lost in their respective genre tropes, or their general eclecticism. Whatever the case, this is the season we’re dealing with — a strange beast that is neither dull nor terrible. It’s something in-between.
So yeah, same format — general overview with a tl;dr in bold at the end; shows are ranked in descending order. So with that aside, let’s hop right to it!
#1 – Tsuki ga Kirei
Were you one of the “normal kids” who had an innocent crush on someone back in middle/high school, and you ended up dating, but realized you had very little in common, lest anything to say to one another whenever you were together? Tsuki ga Kirei is as innocent and as simple as it gets in terms of depicting a youth romantic drama, but it’s the show’s incredible visual direction and use of character space that makes for a highly-polished show. The apt term to describe the entire production is “natural”, as the emotional headspaces of both Kôta and Akane are immensely palpable despite a bare minimum of dialogue.
If you enjoy a simple romantic drama coupled with a wonderfully executed artistic vision, this is the show for you. It’s been a while since I’ve seen visual direction this good. Not all stories have to be compelling in their own right; rather, even simple shows can be elevated to an entirely new level with a similarly compelling artistic vision.
#2 – KADO: The Right Answer
Sociopolitical dramas tend to be polarizing affairs due to their inherent worldview — either agreeing or disagreeing with our own opinions — but KADO: The Right Answer takes a slightly different approach by asking what would happen to humanity if it were confronted by an alien existence that arrives under the pretext of wishing to advance humanity as a whole. It’s an intriguing question that is met with a more bureaucratic tone; and if that doesn’t sound interesting enough, rest assured that this show actually delivers more than you’d expect it would.
And perhaps the reason for its success has more to do with the shows general ability to keep viewers invested with the events that unfold. The characters are fully fleshed out, each with their own respective views and idiosyncrasies, all of which are related back to the central question of what it means to be placed in an otherwise “out-of-this-world” situation. If you’re into sociopolitical dramas with occasional philosophical discussions into morality and human existence, then this is the show for you. It’s not a massive eye-opener by any means, but it sure is a brilliant page-turner. That in it self is enough to justify an extended watch.
#3 – My Hero Academia
Continuing from its initial Spring 2016 run, My Hero Academia is the underdog story of one Izuku Midoriya who strives to become the number 1 hero in a world where superhero powers are commonplace. This particular season focuses on the tournament arc that supposedly pits aspiring hero-students against one another as a means of showcasing their talents before future employers.
The premise is deceivingly simple, but what makes My Hero Academia so good is its ability to drive a very strong thematic truth behind its depiction of Midoriya, and how his character can be likened to the human struggle of becoming a hero in any given situation. Alas, this season’s tournament arc format means the show gets pulled down a little into the shounen beat ’em ups that are standard to its genre, but that in itself doesn’t mean that this show is unwatchable. If you enjoy Shounen battlers that resonates strongly with the underdog, then this is the show for you. If you’re in doubt, I say give this show a watch — it may just win you over.
#4 – Natsume Yûjinchô Roku
Natsume Yûjinchô is a long-running franchise that depicts the misadventures of one Natsume and his companion wolf-spirit-turned-cat Madara a.k.a. “Nyanko-Sensei” in what is essentially a journey through the eyes of a boy with a third-eye. The franchise earns points for its ability to portray often bitter-sweet stories about being different, the pains of marginalization, and the efforts of Natsume to reconcile his own lived experience in isolation with people showing him the warmth of companionship. This is all reflected in his experiences with the occult, who share the same tone of isolation, rejection, and in the end, acceptance from Natsume.
This is framed in the greater narrative premise that is Natsume’s goal to free spirits from a booklet that contains the names of many spirits his grandmother had locked away (for fun, apparently). Regardless of this premise, this show is a giant of a slice-of-life, and in this sixth installment, shows no signs of slowing down. If heart-warming slice-of-life shows with a hint of the occult is your thing, then this is the show for you.
#5 – Attack on Titan (Season 2)
After a four-year hiatus, the second season of Attack on Titan finally makes its way to us and continues its fury-infused onslaught of massive bodies crunching against human flesh. Essentially depicting the strife of human survivors against a merciless hoard of deformed giants, Attack on Titan focuses on the efforts of humanity to fight against these grotesquely large adversaries as they build walls to fortify their minuscule bastions of existence.
This season continues without a real break, shuttling the viewer forward in its ever progressing plot of reveals, which feels to some extent a little contrived. Much of the reveals feel like they contain a shock factor due less to effective story telling, rather more of dramatic effect. If you enjoy unbridled dramatic action with some elements of suspense, horror, and macabre, then this is the show for you. It’s honestly not one of my favorite titles, but I will admit it’s quite a thrill to watch.
#6 – Re:CREATORS
What if your anime creations became real people in the world and are out to find their own creators in order to change their destinies? That’s the question asked by Re:CREATORS, and to some extent, this was an interesting twist on the whole Isekai genre. The result is basically Anime Smash Brothers, except you get 20 minutes of free-flowing dialogue before getting to the good part.
And this wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the dialogue was inherently intriguing, which unfortunately isn’t. Part of the reason this show is struggling is its heavy reliance on a single character to drive the story’s plot variables forward, whilst also having to juggle several other characters in order to add variety to its other-worldy mash-up. If isekai action-brawlers with strong ties to anime-otaku culture are your thing, then this is the show for you. I was really hoping for more out of this title, but half a season in, things aren’t looking all too good for it.
#7 – Shûmatsu Nani Shitemasu Ka? Isogashii Desu Ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu Ka?
Humanity has fallen after unleashing the power of dreaded beasts that now roam the lands, and the remaining races of the world now live atop floating islands in constant threat of the said beasts down below. In order to suppress them, fairies that hold the power to wield the dug weapon — an ancient artifact of the ill-fated humans — are sent as living weapons to fight on behalf of the world. It’s in this fantasy world setup that the story of Shûmatsu Nani Shitemasu Ka? Isogashii Desu Ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu Ka? takes place.
Despite a reasonable setting, the show suffers from hasty dramatic exposition, which causes some character interactions to feel a little misplaced. Otherwise, the story is intriguing, with some occasional bits of reflection that are worth contemplating on. If fantasy stories with a semi-romantic drama interest you, then this is the show for you.
#8 – Sakura Quest
Sakura Quest revolves around the experiences of one Yoshino Haruko, who finally lands a job in the far-flung county of Manoyama after several strings of failures in the big city. Only this job is apparently to become the “Queen” of their board of tourism, and that she was selected only because of a mistake in reading her name. Despite the outlandish circumstances, she finds the resolve to see the job to the end, and in doing so, meets many new friends along the way that help give her perspective in to the world of “adulting” and what it means to pursue passion.
The show is somewhat generic as far as slice-of-life titles are concerned, and the characters aren’t as fleshed out as I would’ve hoped. Regardless, there’s a simplicity to its production that can’t be hated. If you enjoy simple dramas with a similarly simple portrayal of self-discovery, then this is the show for you.
#9 – Alice & Zôroku
Special powers known as the dreams of Alice are steadily manifesting in people in the world of Alice & Zôroku, and has lead to an internal power struggle between factions of the government looking to either protect or harness these powers for their own political gain. In this struggle, a certain Saya emerges as the incarnation of these dreams of Alice, hence a mad scramble between the two factions to secure her. Sandwiched between this conflict is the reluctant Zôroku, a florist who ends up taking Saya under her care as her surrogate godparent.
The show is a strange mix between sci-fi and slice-of-life, and feels more like an experiment of genres than an actual attempt to blend these two seemingly disparate genres. Each character — Alice & Zôroku — inhabit distinct spaces in their genre setups, which is to say that its interesting, but not exactly the best sort of mashup you could expect. Still, this is an interesting title, albeit quite polarizing. If you enjoy sci-fi action with the trappings of a slice-of-life drama to put things into perspective, then this is the show for you.
#10 – Ero-manga Sensei
Your parents divorce and the one that takes custody over you ends up re-marrying with a partner who has a daughter. You fall in love with your half-sister, but she ends up becoming a shut-in and draws lewd pictures of herself. You become a novelist to share your frustrated domestic situation in metaphorical terms, and it just so happens your sister discovers your work and does the illustrations of it for you (but you don’t know it’s your sister at this point). You realize the situation and the two of you get embarrassed (and awkward). Rinse and repeat.
Despite the forced premise, Ero-manga Sensei delivers in terms of nonsensical comedy whenever it doesn’t involve the obvious incestuous undertones of its ostensible protagonists. If you enjoy well-animated comedies featuring little sisters and everything that makes an otaku jump for joy, then this is the show for you.
#11 – Fukumenkei Noise
Fukumenkei Noise revolves around Alice who longs to re-unite with her childhood friend-turned romantic interest Momo who moved away due to a troubled domestic life. Along the way, she runs into Yuzu, who after experiencing a botched surgical procedure, ends up not being able to sing. Falling in love with her voice, Yuzu pledges to become a man who creates music meant specifically for her, and eventually creates the band In no hurry; to shout. All of this eventually culminates in the three running circles around one another in a love polygon surrounded by music, rock, and bad choices.
It’s nothing novel in its own right and the execution could use some work, but there’s some merit to the premise that warrants some watching. If overly-dramatic teen love-polygons interests you, coupled with heavy emo-esque rock music, then this is the show for you.
#12 – Granblue Fantasy
Granblue Fantasy is based off of the mobile game phenomenon of the same name and revolves around the story of Gran, an aspiring hero wannabe who finds himself caught up in a conflict between the tyrannous “empire” that seeks to harness the powers of a rare group of ancient beings.
It’s a very generic JRPG-esque setup, but it works insomuch as it gives the show context. The illustrations and animation are also brilliant in their own right, but the show lacks the bite to drive itself forward it a way that makes it legitimately engaging. I feel like this show is meant to be appreciated by fans of the original franchise, and in that sense I think it does very well. But as an outsider, it’s hard for me to appreciate this show at pure face value alone. If you enjoy fantasy stories with a reasonable sense of scale and adventure, then this is the show for you. Do not expect anything grand or epic, however. But hopefully this will change down the line.
#13 – Sword Oratoria: Is it Wrong to Try Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side
As a side-story to the wildly popular DanMachi series, Sword Oratoria focuses on the adventures of Ais and her compatriots. As much as the story tries to create a pseudo-relationship between Ais and Lefiya, there isn’t any real plot that isn’t peripheral to the established narrative from the original show.
That said, this show is basically fan service under the guise of an entirely separate plot. Now that could work for some people who are itching to see more from the DanMachi universe, but was something like this really necessary? If you’re a fan of DanMachi and like fan service, then this is the show for you. Sure it’s kinda fun, but is it necessary to enrich the DanMachi experience? Not a bit.
So I didn’t include Little Witch Academia since it aired in the previous season, but I hope this selection helps you to pick out a show if you happen to be one of those people who wait half a season before picking up what to watch. That said, happy viewing, and until next time, ciao!