Spring 2016 Check-in

Boku no Hero - 04 -61Concrete Revolutio - 15 -5Ushio to Tora - 30 -50

When it comes to anime seasons bigger isn’t necessarily better – but it usually doesn’t hurt.

We’re almost a third of the way through Spring 2016, which probably brought with it higher expectations than any season since 2012. When I try to step back and assess it so far, the challenge is to judge it in strictly on its own merits rather than against the expectations I set for it. And one’s feelings about the season largely depend on which of those two prisms they view it through.

I don’t think there’s any question that in terms of sheer volume of watchable series, this is indeed the biggest season for at least a couple of years. We have a lot of shows every week that are worth watching, and no matter how you slice it that’s a good thing. Of all the shows I expected to be load-bearers only Bungou Stray Dogs has fallen short of my projections, and I haven’t given up on that one yet. My schedule is as full as it’s been for some time, and the blogging choices are going to be fairly difficult.

If the hope, however, was for Spring 2016 to be an epic season on (or even approaching) the level of Spring 2007 or even Spring 2012, that’s certainly not been met. It’s a good season, but lacks the cluster of truly great shows at the top of the table an elite season has to have (I’d rank this season’s best series a notch below the two best of Winter 2016, in fact). And there haven’t been the out of nowhere mind-blowers (like Nazo no Kanojo X, for example) a historically good season always offers. I’ll admit that several of the best shows this season were ones I expected to be good based on the fact that they’re sequels, or that I’ve followed the manga, but that doesn’t meaningfully change the overall picture.

In a way, stylistically Spring 2016 is playing like a “many faces of shounen” season. Boku no Hero Academia, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge, Sakamoto desu ga?, and a raft of sci-fi and fantasy series dominate the ranks from top to bottom. The season is doing a good job of showing off the diversity of the shounen demographic (albeit sorely lacking a sports series), though arguably not as good a job doing so for the anime medium itself.

On, then, to Spring 2016:

The Elite

Boku no Hero Academia
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A
Comments: Even as I was admitting that Boku no Hero Academia was the Spring series I was most looking forward to, I think I was selling it short.  Deep at the heart of what shounen is, at its very innermost layer, you find series like Boku no Hero – honest, emotional, goofy, inspiring.  Bones gets that, and they’re doing a flawless job translating this series to the screen.  They haven’t necessarily improved on the manga, but more crucial is that there’s no leakage here – everything that is BnHA is surviving the transition.  I knew when director Nagasaki Kenji kept the introduction intact, even knowing it might disappoint viewers looking for an action bomb right out of the gate, that we were in pretty good shape.  It’s easy to belittle this series for what it isn’t, but I prefer to celebrate it for what it is – great shounen in its purest form.

 

Outstanding

Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou – The Last Song
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A-
Comments: Long after lesser series with greater momentary popularity are forgotten, Aikawa Shou and Mizushima Seiji’s Concrete Revolutio will be remembered.  As was Space Dandy, Concrete Revolutio is relentlessly changing and endlessly creative, the product of an ever-changing roster of guest writers and episode directors.  It can be befuddling at times, but this show is one of the smartest and most intellectually ambitious anime to come down the pike in several years.  Politics is rarely central to any anime, and almost never in a fashion as insightful and thought-provoking as it is here.  Concrete Revolutio isn’t a perfect series but it is a very special one.

Ushio to Tora Season 2
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A-
Comments: Not that much to chew over here, really – Ushio to Tora was one of the best series of 2015 and it’s one of the best series this season.  This is effectively one contiguous three-cour run that just happened to have a one-season break in it, and UshiTora hasn’t missed a beat.  MAPPA is wisely letting this series be the old school shounen gem it is rather than trying to update it, and the results speak for themselves.

 

Very Good

Joker Game
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B+
Comments: The only things that really prevent Joker Game from edging into the “Outstanding” category are the casting and the fact that it seems destined to spend much of its run on episodic stories about the individual members of D Agency.  I like this series very much but the fascinating politics of it are its most compelling feature, and I’d just as soon see they be the focus for the next nine episodes.  Japan is a nation that still hasn’t come to terms with its role in World War II, and Yanagi Kouji’s novels seem to tackle that head on – and the more of that survives into this adaptation the better series it will be.

Shounen Maid
Episodes Watched: 2
Grade: B+
Comments: As with Boku no Hero Academia and the next show on this list, Shounen Maid is a series I think I undersold even as I was singing its praises.  Either that or (as with Kyoukai no Rinne) it just works better as an anime.  I know a lot of folks will have trouble getting past the premise, but if you do you’ll find a very smart and surprisingly subtle and emotionally engaging story of family, pride and acceptance.  You don’t have to be ashamed to admit you watch Shounen Maid, and you don’t have to be embarrassed to admit you like it – it really is that good.

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade:
B+
Comments: I have one minor quibble with Silver Link’s adaptation of this delightful manga, which is that so far at least it’s accenting the plot at the expense of the, well- listlessness. Apart from that, though, the anime has done a very good job of capturing what it is that makes the manga so charming – the quirky and offbeat sense of humor, and the bromance between Tanaka and Ohta. Silver Link has become almost a better version of Shaft – they have a signature style, but manage to make it sync with the source material.

Kyoukai no Rinne
Episodes Watched
: 3
Grade: B+
Comments: I know a few of you are watching this superb adaptation of Rumiko’s Shinto-themed manga, but it’s not nearly enough. I can get comedy elsewhere, but no one else delivers it quite the way Kyoukai no Rinne does. It may be one of the most deadpan anime I can remember, in fact, which makes a perfect contrast with the occasional bouts of slapstick. The manga is good, but the anime is definitely better.

Sakamoto desu ga?
Episodes Watched
: 3
Grade: B
Comments: It’s a very good season for comedy in the “Very Good” category, and with this many styles of humor there should be something for almost anyone’s tastes.  Sakamoto desu ga? is a pretty unique piece of work – it’s pretty much the coolest high school dude ever being coolest non-stop.  Is he an alien?  A Kami?  Who knows, but he’s certainly GAR (and in touch with his sensitive side, too) and consistently very funny.

Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou
Episodes Watched
: 3
Grade: B
Comments: It’s half-length and non-traditionally drawn and animated, thoroughly unconventional in premise and style.  And as a result, Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou is being mostly ignored just as you’d expect.  But anything directed by Akitarou Daichi deserves at least a look, and this series more than that.  It’s very funny, quite astute in its social and cultural observations, and even a bit educational for folks like me who know very little about DJs and club culture.

 

Worthwhile

Sousei no Onmyouji
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: Sousei no Onmyouji isn’t breaking any new ground, and it does pale in comparison to this season’s great traditional shounen, Boku no Hero Academia. But it’s a good show – the onmyoudo premise works, the characters are pretty likeable, and they do show actual signs of growth.  I get the sense there could be a bit more depth and edginess here than we’ve seen so far, too.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: Koutetsujou no Kabaneri may be destined to be this season’s biggest commercial hit, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s big and brash and fun, a melange of Shingeki no Kyoujin and The Walking Dead, with a soupcon of Dracula for good measure.  I don’t think it’s especially riveting myself, but it has a sort of Michael Bay, easy access entertainment value that makes it appealing.

Flying Witch
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: This slice-of-life was totally off my radar when the season started, but it’s not bad at all.  There’s been comparatively little witchy activity so far, but as a laid-back depiction of life in the countryside Flying Witch works quite well (much better than, say, Kumamiko).  It’s a very sunny and upbeat show, but there’s an occasional outburst of impish humor that helps brighten things up.  A very relaxing and pleasant way to wile away 22 minutes.

12-sai: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: I have a soft spot for anime that try and take a meaningful look at the lives of children younger than high-school age, and they’re mighty rare.  12-sai definitely does that, and does it pretty well. In the end I prefer the more comedic style of Kyou no Go no Ni, which also tackled the premise from the perspective of both girls and boys.  But on balance 12-sai is a solid series – too cutesy at times, but heartfelt and entertaining.

Big Order
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: Big Order is a pretty farcical exercise even by Esuno Sakae standards, but what can I say – I enjoy it.  This is more straight spoof than the sharper and more satirical Mirai Nikki, but it’s good fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously.  And really – why would you?

 

Still Watching

Bungou Stray Dogs
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: Bungou Stray Dogs is really the only series this season that I would say I’m genuinely disappointed in.  It’s not that it’s awful or anything, but it was a legitimate contender for my top series of this season and boy, it isn’t.  It’s Bones and the manga is quite well-reviewed, but I just find the humor here leaden and unfunny, and director Igarashi Takuya’s style has always been an uneasy fit with me.  Even the great ones miss sometimes – hey, this is the studio that did Soul Eater Not.

Super Lovers
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: What a strange show this is.  For most of an episode it’s rather good – quite well-written and emotionally on-point – and then it randomly throws in an incredibly skeevy moment and makes you sorry you didn’t drop it.  It’s a rare thing, but with Super Lovers I’d say that if you could cut one minute of your choice out of every episode, you’d have something really good.  But of course you can’t, so buyer beware.

Mayoiga
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: Mayoiga is the better of the two Okada Mari series airing this season, though from my perspective that’s not saying much since I find Kiznaiver nauseating.  There’s a trainwreck quality to Mayoiga that keeps me watching, and it’s interesting to try and figure out just how much of this is supposed to be taken as abject parody.  My fear is that this is going to devolve into another Blood-C, but I won’t ignore the warning signs for nearly as long as I did there.

 

Dropped:
Kiznaiver, Kumamiko, Uchuu Patrol Luluco, Kuromukuro, Ace Attorney, Endride

Interestingly that’s 17 series, which is the same as Winter (though at least they’re more heavily weighted towards “Very Good” this time around). Here’s where things stand:

Monday:
Definitely Blogging: None
On the Bubble: 12-sai: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki

Tuesday:
Definitely Blogging: Joker Game

Wednesday:
On the Bubble: Sousei no Onmyouji
On the Respirator: Bungou Stray Dogs

Thursday:
Definitely Blogging: None
On the Bubble: Koutetsujou no Kabaneri

Friday:
Definitely Blogging: Shounen Maid, Sakamoto desu ga?, Ushio to Tora

Saturday:
Definitely Blogging: Kyoukai no Rinne Second Season, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
On the Bubble: Big Order

Sunday:
Definitely Blogging: Concrete Revolutio; Choujin Gensou – The Last Song, Boku no Hero Academia
Probably Blogging: Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou

Manga: Hunter X Hunter, Otoyomegatari, Mix, Chihayafuru

Watching For Now: Mayoiga, Flying Witch, Super Lovers

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13 comments

  1. H

    I agree with you completely that there are quite a few watchable shows this season, though nothing mind-blowing. I’ve been sticking with more series so far than I normally do, but I have dropped two that I had on my radar initially: Joker Game and Mayoiga. Joker Game is not bad, I just can’t seem to get into it even though I wish I could. I’m disappointed since I had chosen it in the poll for most anticipated anime this season, along with Mayoiga. I ended up dropping Mayoiga as soon as I finished the first episode because I hated it so much. For me, this season is all about the fun or light-hearted shows. I’m really enjoying Tanaka-kun, Flying Witch, Shounen Maid, Kuromukuro (since I love seeing someone out of their own time adapting to all the elements of modern day life), Boku no Hero Academia, Kiznaiver (which has the BEST opening song of all the new shows- I LOVE Boom Boom Satellites so much!), and Bungou Stray Dogs. I’m on the fence over Koutetsujou no Kabneri at the moment, but I really want to love it despite its flaws.

  2. V

    God when you put Bungou Stray Dogs in the category “on the respirator” I lol’d so hard. For some strange reason, the humor is working for me (episode 2 was brillant haha) and sadly I think I know why ( I remembered you posted this a while back). Even as of episode 4, I still don’t care much about the characters and the plot. This anime’s silliness and wacky comedy detour from the main story-line (especially after episode 4) leaves you nothing but not taking the anime seriously. It’s like kyoani trying so hard to make their shows too cute but instead Bungou dogs is trying too hard to be funny and maybe cool? It’s weird considering the Port Mafia plot could change the anime’s theme from the strange humor to serious s**t is going to happen real quick. Gosh though I love the character designs and the animation!?! I would say episode 4 was the weakest one. The pacing and anticlimactic end was so bad. I was left thinking what the heck did I was watching? I still see hope though since this series is getting two seasons. I’d say watch the series but leave the blogging out of it if time management is a problem for you. But ultimately, the fujoshi bait is not helping me haha… dammit!

    Also, if you want some interesting info about Bungou Dogs, a reddit user posted that the character’s names are based on past Japanese writers and their works. Here’s the links:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/4ds169/the_literary_references_of_bungou_stray_dogs_part/
    https://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/4e5t6x/the_literary_shoutouts_of_bungou_stray_dogs_part_2/

  3. For the Spring 2016 season, just following these few for the time being (in alphabetical order):

    Big Order – Watching this out of curiosity to see whether main character can outsmart the group that is blackmailing him
    Boku no Hero Academia – Fun and involving shounen action. Izuku is someone I can wholeheartedly root for.
    Joker Game – I’m in the target audience for this type of show and it’s unerringly spot-on in getting my attention.
    Koutetsujou no Kabneri – Entertaining flashy action pop-corn show. Part of a balanced diet of shows.
    Macross Delta – I’ve already been well-hooked in the 80s by Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. Watched every Macross series since then. It’s a given that I would watch this.
    Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – Curiosity got me to watch this and it’s been interesting enough as a mystery/puzzle piece for me to continue
    Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – Tanaka-kun was my teenage school days ideal. It speaks to me right to my heart.
    Ushio to Tora – Continuation from early season. Very much invested all the way to the finish.

    List of shows falling under occasional non-priority watch:

    Bungou Stray Dogs – Trying to figure this out
    Gundam UC RE: 0096 – The TV series version of MS Gundam Unicorn OVA – which I have already watched and enjoyed.
    Sakamota Desu Ga – A bit of hit-and-miss with me. Some worked, others missed.
    Shounen Maid – Too early and not enough to commit
    Sousei no Onmyouji – Felt generic but a bit above the norm. Will still watch but not a priority.
    Super Lovers – Agreed with Guardian Enzo on ignoring/cutting away 1 minute of each episode covering certain scenes. With that done, it is just a normal shoujo slice-of-life/growing up series.
    Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou – Quirky but interesting. However, not interesting enough to follow closely every week.

    Will only watch Mayoiga after it ends. Some elements annoy me and I would not want to deal with it weekly. So, the best way is to watch as a marathon and deal with it in short period of time.

    The rest will only be watched if there’s really nothing else and available time after the above are watched.

  4. I am giving you my not set in stone TOP 24 subject to change already this week

    A lot of shows were too hyphed up early.

    BTW I like Baukon becuse I rode motorcycles and the things you did see are so far fetched as you think.

    For my self I thought Winter 2016 wa much better I was watching close to 50 shows.

    WATCHING 39 Shows 29 Full / 10 SHORTS

    TIER 1 TOP FAVORITES

    1 Assassination Classroom 2
    2 Shonen Maid
    3 Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
    4 Three Leaves, Three Colors (Sansha Sanyo)
    5 Joker Game
    6 My Hero Academia
    7 Bakuon!!
    8 Concrete Revolutio 2
    9 Tanaka is Always Listless
    10 Kyoukai no Rinne/RIN-NE CR TAN
    11 Haven’t You Heard ? I’m Sakamoto
    12 Uchu Patrol Luluco / (Space Patrol Luluco) SHORT

    TIER 2 Good / Enjoy watching !

    13 GIRL Meets Bear
    14 Flying Witch
    15 Kagewani Season 2 SHORT
    16 Kuromukuro.
    17 RE: Zero CR
    18 Sailor Moon Crystal 3
    19 Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096
    20 Monster Strike 2 SHORT
    21 Macross Delta / Valkyrie vs. Valkyrie
    22 Kiznaiver
    23 Bungo Stray Dogs
    24 Twin Star Exorcists

  5. You’ve gone back in time twice in a row, this check-in reads “On, then, to Winter 2016:” while the previous check-in was “On, then, to Fall 2015:”…

    I enjoyed your description for Super Lovers, its dropped by this point but man, that could have been a good show. Flying Witch is nice too, surprised you’re not blogging it, a lot of uniquely Japanese stuff are probably going over my head(those strange creatures in the show…)

  6. h

    I have been keeping up with ushio to tora,I think you overrate it so much,overall I find it to be medicore ,as for the production front ,it got nice art but there is barely any animation,it is just soooo cheap with expection of the 1st episode which got really nice animation

  7. D

    There is one show that is never mentionned here but which I think is one of the best currently airing : JoJo Diamond is Unbreakable. It is fun, creative, beautifully directed and since I read the manga I know it gets only better afterwards. This is the manga that influenced Togashi the much for his Hunter X Hunter, and this adaptation could very well be the best shounen anime made since HxH concluded.

    Other than that my personal pick would be Joker Game, because I like both Prod IG’s style and spy stories. The episodic nature of the show does not bother me because it allows each episode to be unique and memorable. I also found funny your comment on Kiznaiver, because I saw Anthem of the Heart two days ago and I found them to be very smilar.

  8. e

    – The surprise show for me has been Tonkatsu DJ. It might be the one I anticipate the most every week XD. I’m hungry for its brand of humour and visuals apparently. Oh, and pork. Yay pork!
    – Boku No Hero Academia. Alright, it’s good. I’m feeling superheroes-on-screen burnout at this point but it still managed to grab me. The mentorship bit is very heartwarming and Deku – and his giant baby deer eyes. Kacchan btw how can you! It’s like you’re abusing a puppy! ;_; – is just too likable to resist. Plus his chara des features a lot of green *ahem*.
    – Seconding the above commentor’s praise for Jojo IV. I’m finding it definitely better than Stardust Crusaders, there is a bit of mystery/detective story flavour in a small town that really works and offsets the trademark bizarreness very nicely. I like the main cast better and the humour better [ the special town places! I suspect by the end there will be many more, to the local tourism business delight X,D ] as well – the short blond kid has potential especially 8D – . Even returning-as-support Jotaro gained more personality and dialogue in this handful of episodes than in the whole past season/series :,) , huzzah. TL;DR: Enzo it’s fine if Jojo is not your style but you can skip Stardust Crusaders and watch part IV straight ahead. The nittty gritty bridging bits you might or might not need to know are quickly summarized by Jotaro to the new Jojo MC in episode 1 of Diamond anyway :p…
    – Ushio&Tora: I’m two episodes behind but hey it’s still as good as ever.
    – Joker Game: so far so good. We’ll see if and how it holds. Aaand I’m a sucker for its OP song, especially the instrumental bit at the very start :,D.

    – ConcRevo has been on the bucket list since it started. See under my aforementioned superheros-on-screen burnout. If this one also require more brain power I’d rather wait for better times to dive in…

  9. D

    So far, this has been a better season for me than usual. Most times, I picked out 1, maybe 2 shows to watch (and usually only 1 of them holds my interest till the end), but this time around I’m enjoying several. Joker Game is probably my favourite pick so far, but I’m disappointed it has seemingly taken the course of an assortment of short stories. They are all excellent, no denying that, but it could definitely be much grander.

    Sakomoto and Flying witch are all good fun. I’m also gonna wait a few more episodes on Kuromokuro to grab me, but I’m not terribly hopeful. I like the hook with the time-lost Japanese warrior fighting mechs and coming to terms with the modern world. The story itself, the character and everything else leave a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, it looks like PA works has another lackluster show on their hands.

    And I think I’m done with Stray Dogs. I’ve had no expectations of this show and only checked it out because of the hype surrounding it, so I can’t say that I’m disappointed, just very bored.

  10. The 2 shows this season I have enjoyed the most are Hai-furi and Flying Witch. They are both a lot of fun to watch.I’m also watching many other shows this season but those 2 I watch as soon as they get subbed. If you liked Girls Un Panzar, Strike Witches, Soro No Wato then give Hai-furi a chance.

  11. Really feeling this season. First one in over a year where the number of shows I look forward to exceeds 5. Interesting point about Winter’s top tier being a notch better than this seasons. I feel ‘I agree – from a more distant, critical standpoint at least. In practice I find Boku No Hero & Macross Delta (extremely likely to be my anime of the year at this rate) far more personally appealing than Erased or Rakugo. But hey, biases.

    I must catch up on Tanaka-kun soon. Really quite enjoyed its first episode. Very relaxing in a way quite different to Flying Witch, our other slepy show of the season.

    Slightly disappointed to see you didn’t enjoy Kuromukuro. The beginning didn’t exactly blow the doors off for me either, but I’ve come to enjoy it more and more each passing week. Episode 4 in particular had me laughing harder than anything else these past two seasons. Refreshingly entertaining use of the Fish Out Of Water formula.

    Anyway, good season! As always, good to see you’re enjoying yourself. let’s hope it only gets better from here

  12. I tried 2 eps of Kuromukuro and it didn’t grab me. Maybe I’ll give it another shot – a lot of people do seem to like it.

  13. S

    If I chose my favorite show this season, I would say Boku no Hero Academia. Most of my friends says that they didn’t like the animations, on the contrary I just can’t help loving the art style which definetely suits to the spirit of this pure shounen work. Also, Izuku couldn’t be more lovable as a protagonist.

    Bungou Stray Dogs was the show that I had the biggest expectations, unfortunately after five episodes, I still can’t say that I found what I look for. But I have weak spot for Bones so I’ll be with Bungou Stray Dogs until the end.

    Eventhough I found the characters a bit half-read, unlike you, I’m still watching Kiznaiver and enjoy with it. To be honest I also like how fickle the art style is (sometimes the show has an almost mature aura and the next a wild Gomorin appears)

    Other than these there,

    Concrete Revolutio; Choujin Gensou– The Last Song, Joker Game, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri Sakamoto desu ga, Shounen Maid, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge, Ushio to Tora are series that I’m satisfied with and most likely I’ll watch until the end,

    Flying Witch and Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (I know the concept is generic and actually I’m a bit surprised the story turned out this well for me ), 12-sai.: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki, are the shows that I liked quite a bit,

    Sousei no Omnyouji, Big Order, Kuromukuro, Kumamiko, Haifuri and Mayoiga are the ones that I’m not really sure about. (Especially for Mayoiga, at first I thought it is impossible to find a character that I can sympathize with but then realized that probably they’re just not meant to be loved.)

    Finally the ones that I dropped are Ace Attorney, Bakuon, Endride, Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?.

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