Spring has finally drawn to a close, and man was it crazy. I burned myself out half-way through the season, and apparently so did the CR staff handling the newsletter. As a result, NONE of my articles were ever published this spring, leaving a bitter taste in an otherwise enjoyable season. But my “enjoyment” was only to the extent that the shows were pretty much there to fill a void. It certainly wasn’t as dismal as the winter season, which only had one or two titles which I could consider worthwhile. But at the same time, Spring 2016 wasn’t exactly what I would call stellar, either. Sure, I was quite delighted mid-way through to have a pretty good spread of titles, but as the season dragged on, things began to stagnate. In the end, majority of the shows were pretty ho-hum with one ending up in the “dropped” category on its final episode before proceeding on to a double-length cour (which I’ll get to in a bit). So after all is said and done, though nothing was really “bad”, nothing was all too memorable, either.
So just what happened this season? Let’s run down all the titles, season end ranking, from worst to best! Continue reading
This wasn’t one of the strongest weeks for spring, which is quite surprising given the shows have actually been doing fairly well. In fact, this season has turned out to be one of the better seasons as of late. At the start, there weren’t even any signs that the season’s offerings would do as good as they are doing now — that and the fact that genre spread is quite diverse. It’s going to be interesting looking at how these shows will fare in the mid-season review, which is — wow, next week? Holy crap, time flies when you’re having too much fun.
And fun we shall have! Here’s this week’s week in review! (NB: I might not have mentioned it before, but I’m starting to order the shows in this list based on my overall impression for the week, meaning the best shows appear first, and the not so good shows round up the end. Anyway, enjoy!)
Joker Game‘s inherent weakness in characterization becomes apparent in this particular episode, which returns its focus on a specific spy as its central figure in the narrative. The fact that this was about a spy’s worst nightmare — getting caught by the enemy — means it is a very weighty theme that often implies a certain amount of investment in the captured party. In the case of this show, however, that weight could not be felt no thanks to the anonymity of our spy-of-the-week. I can’t even remember his name, and the only thing that I was thinking about when he got caught was “okay, so he’s gonna find a way to escape.”
There was some misunderstanding over at Crunchyroll, hence my writeup on Asterisk War didn’t get published in time for the April 27 edition of the Crunchyroll Takeout. Oh well, no biggie. I just decided to edit it up a little and post it here. But the process of reviewing Asterisk War actually made me realize how well-constructed it was as a battle show, and so if you have yet to pick up the show and are looking for a reasonably competent battle anime to watch, then by all means watch this show.
Otherwise, the fourth week was pretty much the settling period for most shows. It’s that sort of tentative period before the mid-season where shows have gained a rather comfortable rhythm for themselves, not opting for anything too daring (or too risky either, for that matter). So just how did the shows fare? Read on!
I hinted in my last review that Joker Game’s current style of self-contained vignettes could run the risk of becoming stale. That and the fact that each individual spy is obscure to begin with, owing to lukewarm characterization that does not guarantee any emotional investment. Thankfully, episode 4 showed the type of narrative flexibility the show is willing to show in order to push its spy stories forward. And indeed, these are the type of spy shows that anyone into the drama will definitely enjoy. In this particular episode, the spy is primarily out of the picture, as the story is told from the perspective of a “guest” detective for the purposes of this short story vignette.
I’m wondering if I should retime these week-in-reviews to mid Wednesday to accommodate the first half of shows, then a second week-in-review to handle the remainder. Because as it stands, there are just so many shows on my watchlist, that these week in reviews are getting really long. And that’s troublesome because there are times that I have quite a lot I want to say about certain shows, but I have to limit myself in the interest of not boring you to death.
And it didn’t help much that this week had lots of shows giving pretty good arguments to warrant further watching. It’s been a solid season of anime thus far, and majority of the shows that have been shaved off of my list were pretty easy to let go of. The remainder, not so.
Any, enough of that. Let’s do this! Continue reading
Joker Game started off with the premise of pre-World War II Imperial Japanese spies as framed through the interactions of the D-Agency with a traditional Japanese soldier, Sakuma. Episode three, however, takes a departure from this formula and enters into specific character vignettes for each of the eight spies introduced. In a way, this was a good approach since the sheer number of spies present in the show (eight in total) would make for a messy task of balancing out character development. Focusing on individual spies means getting self-contained stories that capitalize on their own unique abilities. The only problem is that I can’t remember for the life of me who is who in this spy-filled show…
But it doesn’t really seem to matter if we remember their names or not. Each of the eight spies was introduced using a pseudonym in the first episode, anyway, and it doesn’t seem to be the point so much as making it clear that there are, in fact, eight of them. Plus, their character designs are pretty generic and unassuming — undoubtedly a characteristic of a spy — but stylized enough to make them distinguishable. I honestly can’t half-ass myself to remember all of their (fake) names, so I might as well just call them “spy-of-the-week” for the sake of simplicity.
Or week 2-3… I dunno. I’m confused as to when a week starts for this season of shows since there are some shows that have only just started on their second episode, while others are already on to their third. Anyway, I decided to just go with every Monday for a week in review once all shows have had their shows out.
The second week of any season is usually the weeding period. Shows that made their mark on their premier episodes pretty much nailed it again the following week, while those that were a little iffy remained their iffy selves… and then there were those that just bit the bullet and faded off into obscurity. But a couple shows remain wild cards, and probably for good reason. That said, let’s do this!
N.B. – Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress was cancelled last week due to the Kumamoto quake. My condolences go out to the people of Japan, especially to some friends who live in the Kyuushu area. Continue reading
I’ll be honest. I was never very good at History, what with date memorization and understanding the relevance of treaty so-and-so of year-goes-here in random-nation development. But at the same time, I’ve always enjoyed a story that ties itself into historical events. For Example, much of my understanding of the Cold War comes from Metal Gear Solid III: Snake Eater; historical figures of significance are thanks to the Fate/Stay series, as well as other random historical tidbits care of Japanimation, et al.
But Joker Game isn’t so much caught up with its historical machinations than it is, truly, a period piece that makes the best of its setup to create an engaging political exercise of sorts. It’s a particular time in Japan’s history where they were an emerging superpower, prominent enough to have had a seat in the League of Nations, but still too young a nation to be taken seriously by the big boys. This sort of setup sets the stage for Japan to create a spy network aimed towards improving its intelligence network in order to keep pace with its burgeoning western rivals.
So this is what it feels like.
I’ve been writing casual articles for Crunchyroll for a while now, but ever since I started this blog, I’ve come to realize how taxing this kind of work is. I have to watch shows I normally wouldn’t watch, but even then I probably only watched a fraction of what other seasoned writers had to go through. Plus the fact that for whatever shows I did watch, I had to go through them with a sharper eye for detail to actually piece together the thoughts I’d use in my articles.
It’s been a very humbling experience to be honest. Writers may look like they’re simply watching anime and spewing out criticisms and whatnot, but it’s actually a very carefully calculated process of discerning the media we consume. To all the writers out there, I salute you.
Of course, it didn’t help that this season was just full of really great shows — shows that have a lot of potential, or have a strong premise — and for once, I went back on my promise to actually cut down on shows to watch. But that’s precisely what this post is for; this is the tl;dr of the past four entries. Though it’s only a smattering of what other writers probably had to dig through, I hope this helps in trimming down your own list of things to watch. I ranked them based on overall (personal) impression, not just the initial scores I gave in previous posts. Think of it as a sort of prospective list of hopefuls that is bound to change throughout the course of the season.
Anyway, enough talk. Let’s do this! Continue reading