Whew, what an intense first two weeks for Fall 2017. There are many reasons to be excited for the offerings this time around, but as usual I tend to be a little cautious given this is a honeymoon period of sorts for all of these shows. On a different note, I’ve bumped up my viewing palette to whopping eleven titles — twelve if we include March comes in like a Lion, which will be premiering later this week. Long week-in-reviews, here I come…
Anyway, same ‘ole applies: shows are ranked in descending order of interest. So sit back and relax as we run ’em down!
#1 – Just Because!
Sometimes, you don’t really need a fantastical plot or amazing visual bonanza in order to sell a show. Just Because does just that by introducing a rather down-to-earth story of high schoolers just being high schoolers, but is done so with both nuance and grace. The dialogue flows naturally and doesn’t feel overdone despite its characters having a wide range of personalities. Character designs and details give hints of their underlying personalities and backstories without too much exposition, and the culmination of the first episode, alone, brings together these seemingly disparate story threads into a cohesive whole. It’s a simple yet sophisticated showcase that makes for a very intriguing show, even if I’m not exactly sure where the story is headed. But any story, no matter how trashy it is thematically, can be an enjoyable watch if it is guided with excellent direction and purpose. This show has both of it, and is in a prime spot for probably being the best show there is this season. Initial rating: 9.5/10
#2 – The Ancient Magus’ Bride
I made comparisons with Chise and Natsume’s backstories, but the former is presented in a decidedly cynical light, if only to emphasize the fantastical difference between the world of humans and the world of the occult. If anything, The Ancient Magus’ Bride is eccentric enough essentially embrace Chise’s escapism as she comes to terms with her new life as the apprentice-wife-to-be of a certain mysterious mage. The intrigue of the series is accompanied with a just as competent directional style, which marries steady pacing with a wonderfully atmospheric musical score. All-in-all, this is a top-notch production for what is most probably a compelling romantic drama. I’m really hoping for some manly tears of some kind from this show. I really am. Initial rating: 8.5/10
#3 – The iDOLM@STER Side M
Idol shows, in general, always come with a caveat that it’s not for everyone. Indeed, don’t go walking into this show expecting to entertained if you aren’t already a fan of quirky teenagers dancing to candy-pop tunes with seizure-inducing visuals. But in all seriousness, Side M continues the tradition of The iDOLM@STER series in introducing charming characters that work their way through the corporate setup that is the idol industry, as runaway group “Jupiter” tries to make it big after a heated argument with their former talent agency president lead to them exiting the limelight in order to pursue their passions on their own. This show works as both a focused character drama for the boys whilst also working in parallel to previous events in the original iDOLM@STER animated series. What this means is that fans of the original will be more than pleased to know that Side M is just as competent in maintaining the charm that makes this series just so lovable. Yes, it’s a cult animation to some extent, but those who are enamored by its appeal are definitely going to enjoy what this season has to offer. Initial rating: 8/10
#4 – Jûni Taisen: Zodiac War
I’ll admit that I may be a little biased on this one, given I’m a big fan of NisiOisiN, but at the very least this is a battle royale that I’m actually intrigued in. Battle royales, in general, tend to revel in the trashy gore that has viewers ponder as to who will be the next to die — a sort of setup that winds up producing banal productions that tend to oversell themselves, if only to make enough noise to be noticed in the rabble. But Zodiac War achieves, early on, a noteworthy hook thanks to the nuanced expositions by characters like Boar. When you think about it, if you’re going to kill someone, anyway, you might as well make good use of them. Sure, you could call it emotional manipulation, but that’s the nature of the trashy genre that is battle royale. But even with this in mind, the production is quite sharp, boasting wonderful animation feats that just have the proper sense of timing for suspense or horror. Issues of a lack of thematic depth aside, if you like bloody gore done with style, then this is definitely a show to pick up. Initial rating: 8/10
#5 – Food Wars! The Third Plate
Yet again another show I think I’m biased about. The first episode of the ostensible third season is less stellar in terms of production than it is simply functional. Indeed, the only reason I’m very, very excited for this show is that it starts right at the heels of one of my favorite arcs from the anime. And what’s more, the pacing seems to have improved compared to the previous seasons; a gripe that I’ve always had with this show. Still, I’m hoping that the character dynamics between Erina and Sôma will be treated with the nuance and grace necessary to avoid making them come off as too tropey for the sort of schtick that this genre is accustomed to. But it’s nice to see Erina warming up, albeit subconsciously, to the phlegmatic Sôma. So yeah, this is turning out to be one of the better iterations of the franchise to date. Initial rating: 8/10
#6 – Shôjo Shûmatsu Ryokô
“Atmospheric” is the apt term to describe this show. Essentially depicting the daily life of two girls left in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by war, our two heroines work their way through the war torn landscape in search of food and materials in order to survive. Along the way, their simple dialogues regarding the state of their world usher in a humbling narrative against the atrocities of war, and the sort of stigma it leaves on succeeding generations oblivious to the reasons of why it had to happen in the first place. This, coupled with a decidedly dissonant art style, makes for a poignant introspection into the pointlessness of war, whilst maintaining a nuanced stance with regard to the human instinct towards survival. There are hints of some amount of depth beyond the slice-of-life that is presented in this first episode alone, but I’m still on the fence for this show. Let’s hope it remains interesting throughout its Fall 2017 run. Initial rating: 7.5/10
#7 – Neto-Jû no Susume (Recovery of an MMO Junkie)
A part of me resonates with the geeky antics of a shut-in who starts building a sense of affection towards someone they meet on an online game. Stories like this were common during the early days of the internet, where the means of communication were chat channels and forums, and things like ASL and IRL meets were still a thing. Translate that to 2017 and you have people falling for other people on online games. Sure, we’ve heard that one story of someone proposing to a fellow gamer after a successful raid in WoW, but embracing this same concept in the isekai genre is what made Recovery of an MMO Junkie work for me. It’s a silly yet charming first episode that just reeled me in. Give or take some improvement in animation is needed, this is a show that I just can’t find in me to hate. Initial rating: 7.5/10
#8 – Children of the Whales
I enjoy fantasy shows, but Children of the Whales seems a bit too keen on throwing the whole guidebook at me during its premier episode. And it didn’t help much, either, that there was nothing in the events that seemed to hook me other than stunning visuals. The plot progression felt contrived, and the exposition went beyond excessive. All-in-all, a promising show that was watered down by lazy composition and writing. Initial rating: 7/10
#9 – UQ Holder! (Mahô Sensei Negima! 2)
Hey! Maybe if I always add an exclamation mark at the end of all of my titles! I can make my show sound cool! And HIP! Kidding aside, works by Ken Akamatsu might have seen better days, given his penchant for penning out harem stories feels like something straight out of the early 2000’s. But don’t get me wrong: UQ Holder! has a reasonably competent production for its premier episode, alone. It’s just that there’s a lot of doubt in me that I’m going to be as engaged in this sort of thing as I was several years ago — and take note I WAS a fan of his previous works like Negima and Love Hina. But loyalties can only go so far, and quite frankly, this show feels like it’s going to do less than impress. Initial rating: 6/10
#10 – Black Clover
As a Shônen series, I think Black Clover has the basic ingredients needed to create a reasonably engaging story. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of audience for which this sort of narrative is intended. And it didn’t help much, either, that the choice of execution felt a bit shoddy. I blame it on My Hero Academia for proving to me that if you really want to, you CAN make Shônen resonate with a greater demographic. But not Black Clover. Definitely not. Final rating (dropped): 5/10
#11 – URAHARA!
I! CAN’T! STOP! SHOUTING! NEED TO USE! ALL CAPS THIS TIME!
Seriously, though, what a hot mess. As CrunchyRoll’s first attempt to foray into the world of international anime production, this probably wasn’t the best title to pick from. Many people have described the plot akin to something pulled out of a grade schooler’s diary — which isn’t really being fair to grade schoolers, but you get the drift. Although visually impressive, beneath the veneer of candy-coated peppiness is a confused hodgepodge of magical girl tropes and weeaboo nonsense. Really, what a shame. Final rating (dropped): 4/10
Oh yeah, I still have two shows left over from last season, so even with two shows dropped on this list, that makes my total watch count still 12 shows this season. Let’s see if the attrition rate won’t be as bad this time around. So what are your thoughts on the offerings this season. Anything else you’ve seen that isn’t on this list that you think might be worth a spin? Do share your thoughts in the comments below! Until next time, ciao!