Spring 2017 Check-in

Spring 2017 is a big season, if nothing else. But it seems on-track to be more than just that.

One thing that was certain when Spring 2017 started was that it was going to take a while to sort itself out. There were a ton of shows (as usual for spring) but more than that, a lot of prospects sending conflicting signals.  More so than in most seasons the intriguing series also has serious yellow flags.

Well, we’re almost a month in and I don’t think we’re fully sorted yet. As expected there’s a big clump of series in the bubble zone, some of which I figured would be but a few which I didn’t. A preview dominated by originals and intriguing LN adaptations is always going to have a high uncertainty factor, and this one is no exception. The sequels, at least, have delivered more or less on-target – but then, that happens more often than not, truth be told.

The top tier this season figured to contain those sequels (Uchouten Kazoku, Boku no Hero Academia and Natsume Yuujinchou most prominently), and it does. The question was whether any of those lottery tickets would pay off and join them. It looks like one of them has – the superb Tsuki ga Kirei, which was near the top of that list of prospects going in. The rest of them range from promising and entertaining (Kabukibu!) to downright hideous (Sakurada Reset), and almost every level in-between.

So where are the “clusters” this season? In the “Outstanding” and “Still Watching” categories. There’s no one show that blows all the others out of the water like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu did last season, but having so many series operating at a high level is a definite positive. Most of that second category, of course, are the bubble series – though I’ve already more or less given up on covering many of them. In hindsight this was probably predictable given how many shows in the preview were based on light novels, where there tends to be less there than meets the eye.

Thematically, I don’t see a lot here that stands out. There’s a good deal of sci-fi, certainly, some of it (like Sekaisuru Kado) quite transparently trying to be retro. Maybe one reason Tsuki ga Kirei stands out as much as it does is because there’s very little in the way of relationship-focused drama or comedy on the schedule. Plot is king this spring, with only a few exceptions, with many of the best series being driven by the premise rather than the character dynamics (though the characters are excellent as well).

On, then, to Spring 2017:

The Elite

None

Outstanding

Uchouten Kazoku 2
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: In a season packed with sequels, Uchouten Kazoku always figured to be at or near the top and it hasn’t disappointed. This is such a unique series – so different than anything else in the P.A. Works catalogue, and from anything else in anime generally. It’s a show that will make you believe magic really does exist in the world – certainly in Kyoto (though if you’ve been there you probably believed that anyway).

Boku no Hero Academia Season 2
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: Anyone who reads Horikoshi Kouhei’s manga knows it just gets better and better as it develops, so it’s no surprise to see the second season of Boku no Hero Academia start off as strongly as the first left off. We’re in for two cours worth this time and the best is very much yet to come, and the reasons why Horikoshi reminds me of Togashi (when pretty much no other mangaka does) are starting to become more apparent. Bones continues their impressive run of recent success.

Tsuki ga Kirei
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A
Comments: This season’s list of elite is certainly dominated by sequels, but happily Tsuki ga Kirei has stepped up to keep it from being a clean sweep. Any serious anime about middle schoolers is always welcome, but this original series from .feel also happens to be really good – smartly written and tastefully directed (the latter by the much-maligned Kishi Seiji). Tsuki ga Kirei always looked like one of the smartest bets from this season’s wild cards, and so it’s turned out to be. Why aren’t there more series like this – simple, restrained and naturalistic takes on first romances? Because no one expects them to make money, presumably – and that’s a real shame.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A-
Comments: “Same old same old” is something we’re used to hearing with Natsume Yuujinchou, but in this case it’s a compliment. There are no radical changes so far in “Roku” – in fact, it’s opened with two of the more archetypical episodes of any season so far. It’s always just a question of degrees with my enjoyment of this series, but if it remains focused on the warmer side of its emotional spectrum and keeps the exorcist involvement to a minimum, “Roku” may end up being one of my favotire seasons yet. Still needs moar Kogitsune, though.

 

Very Good

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B+
Comments: Of the many strong sequels this season, Shingeki no Bahamut has been the biggest overachiever. I liked the first season (though it was inconsistent, especially in terms of production) but so far “Virgin Soul” is blowing it out of the water. The premise is dark and engaging, the visuals have been stellar and the pacing spot-on. This didn’t miss “Outstanding” by much, and one or two episodes as good as the first three (especially the last two) and it’s going to be part of that conversation.

Kyoukai no Rinne Season 3
Episodes Watched: 3

Grade:
B+
Comments: If there’s ever been a consistent long-running anime comedy it’s Kyoukai no Rinne, which is as winning as it us underrated. There haven’t been any big changes here, which means Rinne is the show that’s easy to take for granted but as watchable as any on the schedule. This may end of being the final season given the “major announcement” due for the manga, so best appreciate this one while you can.

Kabukibu!
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: Along with Tsuki ga Kirei, Kabukibu! was probably my top choice among the non-sequels going into the season. The prime difference, of course, was that this show is an LN adaptation rather than an original. And there’s something of that factor in why Kabukibu! hasn’t been as strong as Tsuki ga Kirei – it’s suffered from a bit of clumsy exposition and character development. But the third episode was definitely the strongest, and the show has a real appeal – a protagonist who’s relentless in pursuing his dreams and a fascinating subject of focus in kabuki. One more solid ep and I’m pretty much ready to commit.

 

Worthwhile

Shingeki no Kyoujin Season 2
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: All the things I liked about Shingeki no Kyoujin are still present, along with the things I wasn’t so nuts about. There’s a certain measure of repetition that does become more noticeable with time, though. I enjoy the spectacle, but there’s so much spectacle that it dulls the impact. And I enjoy the conspiracy plot, but my patience for Ishiyama’s caginess is starting to stretch a bit. While it’s not relevant in this context, it is interesting to note that Stalker predicts a big drop in disc sales – suggesting perhaps that the criticism that the production committee waited too long for this sequel might be valid.

Atom: The Beginning
Episodes Watched:
2
Grade: B-
Comments:
There are definitely some positives about this prequel to Tezuka Osamu’s Astro Boy.  The character designs are excellent, the art and animation generally good, and as an origin story it seems to hold water.  But Atom: The Beginning is swimming in the deep end trying to be a worthwhile part of this hallowed mythology, and it very much remains to be seen if it has the chops to stay afloat.  There are elements of the story that feel way too contemporary to me, but it’s going to be a question of which elements the show chooses to focus on.  I’m cautiously hopeful.

Warau Salesman New
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: I’ve found myself getting quite wrapped up in Warau Salesman, which tells me it’s doing a pretty good job telling stories (and a great guest cast doesn’t hurt). I do, however, have a problem with the fundamental premise in that there’s no sense of justice to it. If we’re to believe that Moguro-san’s victims deserve what he visits on them, I’m not buying it – they’re flawed, not evil, and he’s engaging in spiritual entrapment.

 

Still Watching

Clockwork Planet
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: I can’t mount any convincing case that Clockwork Planet is better than it is – it’s cliched and the storytelling is pretty clumsy. The reason I like it is that I like the main couple, Naoto and RyuZU – they’re adorable together. That, and the steampunk setting is kind of stylish.

Sekairsuru Kado
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: I enjoy that Sekaisuru Kado is trying to do anime science-fiction in the classic mode. But honestly, the execution is nothing special. The series has the air of a high-schooler’s self-published novel – it’s full of made-up technobabble and pseudo-philosophical pretense. Frankly the best episode was the prequel “Episode 00” – it told a story that was more interesting and distinctive than the one in the main series, and looked better doing it.

Re:CREATORS
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: The main ingredient Re:CREATORS is lacking is ambition – but in this instance it’s a crucial one. There’s ample fodder for social satire in a premise about (mostly) LN characters coming to life and crossing over into the real world to interact with their creators. But Re:CREATORS doesn’t seem too interested in doing anything but playing at wish-fulfillment fantasy, and if that’s all you’ve got you’d best be better at it than this series has shown itself to be.

Tsugumomo
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: The premiere left me a bit stumped as to why this ecchi romp seemed to be fairly well-regarded in manga form, but since then Tsugumomo has grown on my in a very mild way.  It’s not bad – the protagonist has some sense about him, the gags are occasionally funny and the Shinto mythological plot has a little depth.  Tsugumomo is certainly forgettable but it is competent and modestly entertaining.

Fukmenkei Noise
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C
Comments: This one is barely hanging on by a thread.  I generally want to defend shoujo romances from their many detractors, but Fukumenkei Noise just seems to exemplify what some say is wrong with the genre.  The drama is very manufactured and the heroine is rather annoying (LA LA LA LA LA), and the sulky main love interest has little to redeem him.  I like Yuzu but he’s the obvious loser in this scenario, so there’s not much reason to punish myself by giving a damn.

 

Dropped:
Renai Bokoun, Alice to Zouroku, Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine, ID-0, Love Kome: We Love Rice, Sakura Quest, Sakurada Reset

So with that, here’s this season’s rather fluid blogging prospectus:

Monday:
Definitely Blogging: Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation

Tuesday:
Definitely Blogging: Natsume Yuujinchou Roku

Wednesday:
Definitely Blogging: None

Thursday:
Definitely Blogging: Tsuki ga Kirei
Probably Blogging: Kabukibu!
On the Respirator: Clockwork Planet

Friday:
Definitely Blogging: Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul
On the Respirator: Sekaisuru Kado

Saturday:
Definitely Blogging: Boku no Hero Academia Second Season, Kyoukai no Rinne 3
Probably Blogging: Shingeki no Kyoujin Season 2
On the Bubble: Atom: The Beginning

Sunday:
Definitely Blogging: Uchouten Kazoku 2

Manga: Hunter X Hunter, Otoyomegatari
On the Bubble: Chihayafuru

Watching For Now: Pokemon Sun & MoonWarau Salesman New, Tsugumomo, Re:CREATORS, Fukumenkei Noise

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13 comments

  1. k

    Well I mostly agree with you here about the worthwhile shows, I do like “Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho” which has some great characters & chemistry (but suffers from typical LN exposition with a narrator). Now that you’ve determined your blogging schedule, I was wondering if you still got time to blog the final Akatsuki no Yona and Kamisama Hajimemashita OVA’s

  2. They’ve been sitting in my queue waiting, believe me. I don’t know why, I’m just reluctant to watch those, especially Yona. When they’re done, that’s it.

  3. k

    Aaah I totally understand, both were pretty satisfying and heartwarming :), made me want to watch Yona all over again.
    I noticed you didnt include ” Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho” in your Spring preview, perhaps with good reason, but if you still got time, give it a chance :).

  4. Nice! I’m behind on recent anime seasons, but it’s good to hear your opinion on Tsuki ga Kirei. It’s not on my list, but I’m keeping an eye on it.

  5. Most of your choices are also mine. However I still like Alice to Zouroku, and really enjoy DanMachi and Berserk.

  6. Berserk is one of the very few shows where the visuals and general production were so bad that it was hard to get past it.

  7. Funny thing is the manga looks just like the anime. Its so richly drawn. Every panel is just beautiful.

  8. Berserk? I agree the manga is beautifully drawn. But the anime? Really?

  9. R

    Do you really enjoy the spin off of DanMachi this season? It’s been underwhelming so far to me.

  10. Its not quite as good as the 1st season but still worth watching. This weeks episode was a step up.I want to see what happens with the timid elf mage.

  11. I’ve just caught up with Sakurada Reset, and would like to recommend it as the dark horse of the season. Maybe it’s because I was watching it on 3x speed but I didn’t think it was too terrible. What’s to come judging by the ending of episode 3 seems quite , so I would definitely not give up watching it just yet.

    There are currently two great mysteries about the show that I would like to see resolved which are my motivations to keep on going at it, regardless of how badly things proceed from here on forth. Much like the recent Occultic;Nine, I can’t tear myself away from a mystery that has captured my interest.

  12. *fascinating –> What’s to come judging by the ending of episode 3 seems quite fascinating

  13. I hated, hated, hated, hated the first episode. That would be a very difficult hurdle for me to overcome.

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