Summer 2017 Check-in

Three weeks in, Summer 2017 definitely looks like a season that’s middle-heavy.

As compared to the one that preceded it, this season was decidedly lighter on prospects – not unusual for summer as opposed to spring anime, though in recent years summer has often punched above its weight.

Another important contrast between this season and Spring 2017 is that none of the series on my prospect list were sequels – this coming after one of the most sequel-driven seasons in memory. That’s refreshing in a way, though of course it does bring an additional layer of uncertainty into the equation. Sequels aren’t as exciting to look forward to as new series but you have a good idea of what you’re going to get. Stuff like Ballroom e Youkoso and Shoukoku no Altair are based on well-regarded manga, but still – unless you’ve read the source material you don’t know what you’re going to get (and even then, you can’t be sure).

At this point, the cluster is definitely in the middle – in the “Still Watching” and especially “Worthwhile” categories. The one series on the board that’s really overperformed is Made in Abyss, which is the clear standout of the season so far. The two shows that looked like the twin pillars of the season going in – Ballroom and Altair – have been very good, but Abyss (for me at least) clearly better. That, of course, is subject to change.

Comparing this season against Spring, then, it’s definitely weaker – a smaller list of series to begin with, and the mean and median considerably lower on the food chain. 2017 is definitely not one of those surprise summers that salvage a rough year – it’s not awful across the board (based mostly on the decent percentage of shows that are at least watchable) but it does nothing to steer 2017 off its likely course towards being the weakest anime year of the production committee era.

In terms of genre and demographic, this looks to be a pretty standard-issue season as well. There’s almost no seinen or jousei, though that’s hardly unusual. We have a smattering of sports and “near-sports”, some traditional shounen, a bit of sci-fi and fantasy. If anything is over-represented against normal levels it might be romantic comedy – the quality and stylistic range is huge, but there are upwards of a dozen series that might reasonably be placed into that broader category.

On, then, to Summer 2017:

The Elite

None

Outstanding

Made in Abyss
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: Made in Abyss was at the head of my (brief) sleeper list headed into the season, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be summer’s best new show. The staff is a fascinating mix of industry stalwarts from the likes of Madhouse, Bones, Gainax and Ghibli, and the series reflects that – it has a stylistic ambition no other series this season can match. The three anime it calls to mind most for me are Hunter X Hunter, Dennou Coil and anything Miyazaki (maybe Laputa) and that’s every bit the heady mix you’d expect it to be. The narrative seems to have taken a significant turn and the manga is notorious for its dark side, so we’ll see if the anime is able to maintain its charm.

 

Very Good

Game of Thrones Season 7
Episodes Watched: 2
Grade: B+
Comments: Game of Thrones has long since left A Song of Ice and Fire in the rear-view mirror. And while I don’t want to come off as a book purist, that’s definitely had an impact. A lot of things that are happening now aren’t nearly as grounded in the story and characters – they’re more like necessities of plot. There are still some real highlights here (The Hound’s storyline is stellar, for example) and the cast remains one of the best ever assembled.  But on the whole, I think the series has definitely lost a step – much like an anime usually does when it burns through its source material and has to go original.

Ballroom e Youkoso
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B+
Comments: This highly-anticipated manga adaptation has largely delivered, if perhaps falling short of being exceptional. We’re early in the story yet, so the concessions to shounen cliché are to be expected. Apart from the giraffe effect I think Itazu-sensei and Production I.G. have done a very solid job with the mechanics of bringing ballroom dance to anime, and I like most of the cast pretty well. What we have is already quite good, but I see a lot of upside potential here too.

Nana Maru San Batsu
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: Another sleeper that’s panning out nicely, 7O3X is filling largely the same role this season that Kabukibu! did last (which unfortunately encompasses being “that really good show nobody watches”). I won’t deny I have a predisposition to like a show about the competitive quiz world, but I truly believe this series is strong in its own right. It combines classic elements of the coming of age and sports genres effectively, and the attention to detail is impressive.

Shoukoku no Altair
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: This season’s other headliner along with Ballroom e Youkoso. Shoukoku no Altair has likewise been solid without knocking my socks off. Given the premise (historical fiction set in Turkey in the Middle Ages) I’d hoped MAPPA might once more dazzle us with gorgeous art and animation, but Shoukoku looks middling by their standards (which is still above average, of course). A couple of story elements have whiffed with me, but on the whole the writing seems solid and the plot and characters more than capable of holding up for two cours. As with Ballroom I want greatness here and haven’t gotten it yet, but Shoukoku no Altair is still quite good.

Keppeki! Danshi Aoyama-kun
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: I certainly sold Keppeki Danshi Aoyama-kun short after the first couple of episodes, dismissing it as a one-joke trifle that was amusing but little else. But the last two have convinced me otherwise, especially the most recent – which introduced the series’ other germaphobe, Narita-kun. There’s a little bit of Watamote to this series (seriously) – it doesn’t treat neurosis as a joke, but rather presents it as something that can quite debilitating, but also can be learned to live with. And the humor – often dark – is derived from the absurd situations the premise gives rise to, rather than at the expense of the neurotic characters.

 

Worthwhile

Tsurezure Children
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: Tsurezure Children is a show I like a bit better in concept than execution. A romantic comedy about middle schoolers (where the romance is really front and center, especially) is certainly welcome, and building it around the hilarious ineptitude kids that age have in communicating with each other is very clever. However, the pairings vary widely in terms of appeal, and while the focus on tropes is central to the gag, they can sometimes be a bit much. I enjoy this series, and I think there would have been plenty here to support full-length episodes, but every episode so far has been hit-and-miss.

Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: Youkai Apato seems to be a pretty good LN adaptation, of which 2017 has had a few (take the good news where you find it). Many shows in this sub-genre start off in quite sedate fashion only to later prove they had more dramatic heft than one realized, and this seems to be happening here. I could easily see Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou sneaking up a grade or two by the time it’s finished.

Koi to Uso
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: I get why some folks are leery of Koi to Uso, even comparing it to the (ultimately nightmarish) experience that was Kuzo no Honkai. But for the moment, I’m convinced that this show is creepy because it’s trying to be creepy, and genuinely interested in exploring the rather interesting social experiment at the heart of the premise. Plus, it’s not afraid to ask the hard questions. But seriously – what’s with those eyes?

Gamers
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: I came into this one very late, but I kind of like the three episodes I’ve watched. There’s something rather sweet and good-natured about it, and the characters are tweaked from their archetypes just enough to keep them interesting. Plus, it’s always nice to hear Han Megumi playing a male role – she’s rather good at it.

 

Still Watching

Mahoujin Guruguru
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: It’s a remake of an old series I never saw to begin with, but this lower-budgeted effort from Production I.G. is robustly entertaining. As with most of these sorts of revivals it seems considerably more ecchi than its predecessor – not surprising, as the audience this time is primarily nostalgic adults rather than kids. It obeys the Hippocratic oath of comedy and being an I.G. series, it definitely looks good despite clearly being a second-tier priority for them.

Vatican Kiseki Chousakan
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: This series isn’t totally lacking in appeal, but the same ridiculousness that gives it a certain charm also limits the upside. Basically, this is a Catholic mythology mix tape as seen by Japan. There’s the potential for a campy appeal here, but the show is so unabashedly silly that it doesn’t take – on some level a series has to be aware of its own silliness for that to work, and I don’t think Vatican is. The kicker for me came when one of the titular priests said “Who’d have believed a priest would make a student his plaything?” without a trace of irony.

THE REFLECTION
Episodes Watched: 1
Grade: C+
Comments: A Nagahama/Stan Lee crossover at Deen is certainly an interesting proposition, and it’s too early (one episode) to make any firm decisions about THE REFLECTION. I can’t say the premiere overly impressed me – I thought the static American comic book visuals looked cheap rather than stylish, and the story opened in about as generic a genre fashion as you could imagine. But it’s different if nothing else, and that alone is worth another ep or two of audition time.

Clione no Akari
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C
Comments: Apparently this short is basically a one-man production, and to be honest it shows – Clione no Akari looks about as you’d expect a college-level animation project to look. But its heart is in the right place, and any attempt to shine a light on the endemic problem of middle school bullying in Japan should probably be encouraged.

Dropped:

Dive!!, Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu, Fate/Apocrypha, Hajimete no Gal, Kakegurui, Centaur no Nayami

 

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

Monday:
Probably Blogging: Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou, Keppeki! Danshi Aoyama-kun
On the Bubble: Koi to Uso

Tuesday:
Definitely Blogging: Nana Maru San Batsu
Probably Blogging: Tsurezure Children

Wednesday:
Definitely Blogging: None

Thursday:
Definitely Blogging: None

Friday:
Definitely Blogging: Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul, Made in Abyss, Shoukoku no Altair

Saturday:
Definitely Blogging: Boku no Hero Academia Second Season, Kyoukai no Rinne 3rd Season, Ballroom e Youkoso

Sunday:
Definitely Blogging: Game of Thrones Season 7

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

Watching For Now: Mahoujin Guruguru, Vatican Kiseki Chousakan, Gamers, Clione no Akari, THE REFLECTION

 

 

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24 comments

  1. M

    So HeroAka is a spring series?

  2. M

    I guess not much has changed since Spring.
    Including the increasing excellence.

  3. I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. BnHA is a spring series, yes.

  4. M

    I momentarily forgot that check-ups are here to judge the performance of new series, and display the overall trend of a season.
    So I thought you forgot to include HeroAka – but then, I pondered a reason why that might be the case.
    Then I backfilled my amnesia with a dose of judgement.

    HeroAka is a spring series, so it’s not relevant to the post. The question was a trace to my conclusion.
    Amen.

  5. It would be #1 overall if I were including it here, for the record.

  6. s

    “Plus, it’s always nice to hear Han Megumi playing a male role – she’s rather good at it.” eeehhh not so sure i can agree with you on that one. The direction she took voicing Gon was fine because the character was just a 12 year old boy filled with innocence, but now where talking about a second year highschool student; having him sound so effeminate (arguable more so than Gon) is kind of distracting i must admit. ive always been nitpicky when it came to females doing older teen/adult roles (only a few female voice actors can actually pull it off convincingly). Han’s voice acting is good as usual but she doesnt pull off the deception of being a male. Eh, ive made peace with it; ive just convinced myself that the blatant feminine touch to his voice is intentional as a reflection of his character.

  7. Really? I think she’s excellent here, TBH – she seems to get across the sort of kid Keita is pretty effectively.

    It’s always a bit of a Hobson’s choice with teen roles anyway, given how rarely anime casts males who are close to the actual age of the character. Generally you either get a woman (and as you say, most aren’t that good at it) or a man in his 30s or 40s who sounds like he’s doing an impression of his son at a party for a gag. It’s easier for a woman in her 30s to sound like a teenaged girl that a guy that age to sound like a teenaged boy – but the irony is, anime uses younger female seiyuu way more often than they do male.

  8. s

    “man in his 30s or 40s who sounds like he’s doing an impression of his son at a party for a gag” haha got a good laugh out of that, mostly because of how true it is. Yea i agree that Han effectively gets across the kind of kid keita is, but that’s more in the voice acting itself rather than the technicality of tempering her voice to be that of a male high school student. Again, ive come to peace with it because Keita comes off as this 16-17 year old with the childish innocence of an 8 year old. Having his voice sound a bit feminine makes sense as that would be appropriate in overtly conveying his childish-like exuberance when speaking about games. It works for the slight moe-like feeling Keita is supposed to have; which makes the whole rivalry between him and chiaki all the more ironic, especially since chiaki is more “moe” than he is.

    I guess i just expected something along the lines of a seiyuu like megumi ogata. I know ive brought this up before but i remember first hearing Shinji in the japanese audio for evangelion and almost being convinced that was a male doing a soft spoken voice.

  9. Plus, Keita is a bit of a late bloomer physically – it makes sense he’d sound younger than he is.

    I agree about Ogata Megumi, but that’s a pretty high bar – she’s one of the very best ever at it. And I too was convinced Shinji was a male actor when I first saw Eva. That’s one aspect of NGE that doesn’t get discussed enough – how great the cast was. And they had to be.

  10. s

    “That’s one aspect of NGE that doesn’t get discussed enough – how great the cast was” I know right?!!! What a shame. I find it to be such a funny happenstance that our convo shifted to eva and news just came out that the final rebuild eva is now in production. About time it escaped the eternal production LCL/hell i t was stuck in. But yea, taking to account Keita is a late bloomer, i agree that it makes sense. That’s my rationalization of it and that’s what im sticking to

  11. M

    The other day I checked out a random chapter from Made in the Abyss and I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was definitely not that. In the first episode recap, you mentioned about the dark tone and cute characters combo but yeah, the story is definitely only going to get more and more trippy.
    A bit of its vibe reminds me of Mahou Tsukai no Yome.

  12. Speaking of which, I saw the 3-ep premiere of Mahoutsukai at the theatre on Wednesday. It was pretty flipping great.

  13. M

    Awesome… The OVAS are great but we need more Elias and Ruth [even though Ruth is introduced later in the manga].

  14. G

    Made in Abyss is my favorite show this season but I am also really enjoying Isekai Shokudou.

  15. I really need to find time to watch an ep or two of that.

  16. G

    Saw this on RC…. Isekai Shokudo was voted #1 in the poll.

  17. I tried a couple of eps… It just didn’t click for me.

  18. R

    Made in Abyss is definitely the top show this season for me. I know the plot will get thicker, but I just love it when children characters feel like children.

    Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou is just a nice discovery. It’s rough around the edges, but you can find warmth at its core. I’m expecting to see growth from Inaba but for now I wanna give him a hug of encouragement…

    Shoukoku no Altair has caught up from its premiere — I like all the politics in the last two instalments.

    Tsurezure Children just has a way to crack me up each week — the KanaXChiaki progress this week was super hilarious…don’t know who wrote the script but those lines could happen to adults, too.

    Isekai Shokudou is slow but I love all the food and in some cases the reminiscence of it.

    Ballroom e Youkoso is a pretty standard shounen in my book. Some people compare it to Haikyuu, but in my view, Haikyuu is far superior. Aside from all the great things, Haikyuu’s strongest success rests in making high schoolers real high schoolers and giving women characters dignity. I’m not saying that Ballroom e Youkoso is bad — I do enjoy watching it — but the characters are less real. I’m watching it because it’s just rare to see ballroom dancing in anime. It’s far-fetched but to me watching Ballroom e Youkoso feels like watching Yuri on Ice…an unconfident protagonist, the art, technique and physical strength in a sport…etc.

    Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul became boring when the story shifted to Jeanne and Nina, so thank God that it shifted back to its charm last week. I think I might be the rare one here who likes the first season better.

    Surprisingly, as mediocre as it might feel coming in, I’m watching 17 shows this season. Maybe you have given us enough warning ahead of time that I have lowered my expectations. Thanks for the review, as always!

  19. C

    Any thoughts on Centaur no Nayami? Can’t say it’s the greatest series, but I’ve been enjoying what’s out of it more than I expected at least. I’m not that into the genre of cute girls doing cute things, but there’s some points of interest in the world they’re creating that are keeping me mildly interesting.

  20. I tried watching two episodes, and it really did nothing for me. Struck me as boilerplate CGDCT with some shock value material tossed in to try and spice up sales.

  21. Abyss round face style gives me a turn off as soon as I picked it. Good thing I continued watching. it’s a pretty cool anime that stands out from the herds of common anime. I hope it can deliver until the end. I am a bit worried because our heroes are just little kids while the abyss seems to be something very dangerous to even seasoned fighters and adventurers, the anime might leave us in an open ending with ton of things unresolved.

  22. G

    For sure that is going to happen. Just pray for a 2nd season.

  23. I

    What happened to Shokoku no Altair, pulled from broadcast?

  24. 2 week break. Various sporting events and such. Bahamut as well.

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