Winter Anime 2017
A Really Long-Winded Way to Say . . .
“KonoSuba Anime of the Year”!
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello Giga-Landers and welcome to another acclaimed(?) anime review by Yours Truly! This time covering a couple of anime that might have flown under the radar for a most of you!
This past Winter had a lot of anime that was fun to watch. We had Kobayshi-san Chi no Maid Dragon, Demi-chan wa Kataritai, and especially KonoSuba S2. But, what about some of the ones you haven’t heard about? Well, I haven’t heard about those either! What I had the pleasure of doing, though, is watching some anime that went a little under the radar. In an attempt to make you watch good things, and steer you away from the bad, I’ve done my utmost (lie) to bring you an article with all the things you’ll ever need. Food, Sleep, Shelter, AND Love!
. . . Ok, so the first three not so much, but you can’t deny your love for me and we both know it.
This time I take a long look at Masamune’s Revenge, an anime with a lot of potential that decided to squander it under tropes. But, in that pile is a load of women’s underwear which we can most definitely find Fuuka buried under! And, despite being about high school Monster Girls, Demi-chan wasn’t buried at all. In fact, it was at near the top of cuteness mountain, only beaten out by Kobayashi-san!
On the side, I did a couple of mini-reviews, just to help brighten your day a little! Read, and make sure to breathe, because we both know I’ll be leaving your lungs deprived as you read an epoch of untold greatness.
That, or just read my dumb anime articles! -J.R
Masamune-kun no Revenge
Verdict: Ah, Teenage Angst! Thy Name is “Harem Anime”! –
If you read my impeccable initial review article, you’ll know that I wanted to have high hopes for this show. I thought maybe it would be a different take to what a “tsundere” actually is and how they deal with their problems emotionally. Hell, one of my favorite scenes in anime this year was from KonoSuba S2, where Kazuma states that, were he in a relationship with a girl that was in love with him and a tsundere girl was doing her tsundere thing to him, he would bloody dropkick the tsundere and stick with his girlfriend! You know, that kind of different!
Maybe I’m too violent or expecting too much from a harem show. . . But, all I was looking for was a different take on the Harem genre. Why do we remember things like Ouran Highschool Host Club or Clannad as compared to things like To-Love-Ru or Tenchi Muyo GXP? Is it because they gave us tits and ass? Did they bury is in a pile of womens’ underwear? Or is it because they did something different with the genre and gave us a cast of characters we could grow to love and get attached too? Either of those sets of questions lets you know where you stand on the subject, and the former will probably find more to enjoy about this show than I did.
Masamune-kun was obviously about Masamune getting his revenge on the girl that had broken his heart so many years ago as a child. Fat, spoiled, and nasty to boot, Masamune vowed to change himself into one of anime’s “perfect hot guys” and get back at the girl who had torn his heart to shreds by doing the same to her. He had promised to make her fall in love with him only so he could deny her at her most vulnerable, leaving her in tatters much like she’d done to him.
On the outside, it sounds like a great premise for a show. An idea that turns the genre around and essentially flips it on its head. Not only is it promising to introduce a lot of girls, which us men love, but it lets us know he’s going to actively ignore them for the sake of revenge. And, as the “perfect hot guy” he’s always wanted to be, Masamune most definitely attracts many females, but what it does different is it shows the main character shooting them down. Shooting down women he actually likes all for the sake of a single, petty goal. This led me to believe that we’d get something more emotional and intense, even from the start.
Instead, what we got was a main character that was poorly written, a cast of side characters underused and abused, a typical tsundere heroine and the “gags” to go along with it, and a story that went almost nowhere in all of 12 episodes. I mention that Masamune is poorly written, but only for a few specific reasons: Masamune, as someone who has been unsure of himself and devoid of confidence since his childhood was far too often shown as either stupid or dense in any situation. There are certain scenes like an extremely memorable one with Neko, the catty girl (pun intended) of the bunch, where she openly admits to loving Masamune, but he doesn’t have the confidence to feel like he can be loved. All his emotions were put on display and it led up to a scene that convinced me not to drop the show and, what it did most, is remind me that Masamune wasn’t actually the perfect hot guy. He was still the same fat, insecure little kid on the inside. What annoyed me, though, is that I had to keep reminding myself of that throughout the entire show, rationalizing all of his stupid banter with the other girls or whatever decision he made.
I crap on the show a lot, like I do most Harem shows, but it wasn’t all bad. There were several very emotional scenes regarding Masamune and Neko that were the only things keeping me from dropping the show. While the show goes out of its way to crap on Neko, I still thought she was a well written character that added a lot of depth, not only to the story, but also to Masamune himself. Hell, the show even got me to chuckle a few times even beyond the normal tsundere hijinx they threw in to fill the status quo!
But, in the end, the anime was perhaps too ambitious for its own good; nothing really ever happened, nothing was ever solved, and no relationships were ever solidified or progressed beyond “awkwardly friendly”. It felt like a lot of nothing was accomplished in terms of Masamune’s character development and, even at the end, he was still a bit uneven, to say the least. While the idea for the show is really intriguing and sets up a lot of great plot points, the show never really capitalizes on any of the points it tends to bring up in a satisfying way. Instead, for the entire show, we’re treated to a girl who treats men like shit because someone hurt her once and because she can. Which is fine and dandy, apparently. No lessons were learned this day. To boot, Aki, the source of Masamune’s hatred, never really gets much development. Even when it seems like she does, she goes right back to treating all men like garbage and being tsundere because she can and it’s funny, right!? RIGHT!?
If you want a new harem show that takes a slightly different direction, and you genuinely like the Harem genre, then I can recommend Masamune’s Revenge to you. If you don’t like the genre as a whole, only want quality shows, or are wanting to take a peek at the genre again after a long rest, you’d likely want to look elsewhere. There are plenty more anime this season with cuter girls, deeper characters, well-written stories, and better comedy. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming . . . Hey. . . Was I right for ONCE!? *checks to see if hell froze over*
Demi-chan wa Kataritai
(Interviews With Monster Girls)
Verdict: Illegitimate Relationships with Monster Girls or My Little Vampire Can’t Be this Cute! –
Everyone knows why they watch slice-of-life shows: They’re cute and you can generally turn your brain off when you watch it. The cuteness factor has long been a deciding factor in how popular a waifu anime is and why we watch it. Hell, an ongoing example is this season’s Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon where Kanna, the smallest and cutest of dragons in existence, has made the anime extremely popular this season.
So, what sets this anime apart from the rest of the cuteness? I know, you’re thinking, “Obviously, the monster girls! Moron!” And, you would be right! . . . If they were real monster girls! Do Vampires, Succubi, and Snow Women count as “Monster Girls” to you (like they do for me)? Then you are vanilla (like me). If not, then you’d better keep walking.
While the show’s star, Takanashi Hikari slash the cutest Vampire, definitely brings a heaping helping of “cute” to the show, what the show does best is something just a little bit different. Since the Demi (Monster girls in this universe) are extremely rare, they are generally hard to deal with when it comes to their “Demi needs”. That’s where the main character, Takahashi Tetsuo comes in. A biology teacher by trade, he’d always been interested in meeting a Demi, but until the beginning of this particular school year, he’d never even met one. Thankfully for him, three students and one teacher joined to satisfy his thirst to learn about these unknown species of Demi-humans!
With a Vampire, a Dullahan, a Snow Woman, and the new teacher as a Succubus, Tetsuo sets out on his journey to write a research paper on the wonders of the Demi! Along the way he’s met with some laughs, some high school hi-jinx, surprise boners from the Succubus, and some challenges. The same thing we can expect from most slice-of-life shows. What made this show a little different was how it treated these Demi. Rather than making them seem like some kind of all-powerful superhumans, they’re just humans with quirks effectively making the Dullahan a very rare case of “special needs”. When you have to carry your head everywhere, you kind of lose the ability to do a LOT of things; swimming for instance. It’s a unique take on the “Monster Girls” thing, and it definitely takes a new look at how some of them would fit in to society were they to ever emerge.
However, there are some drawbacks to the show, the foremost being the student-teacher relationship. Tetsuo is genuinely a really nice guy. He’s dependable, highly intelligent, trustworthy, and caring all tied up in one strong-man package. But, he tends to get a little bit too close to his students and it feels a little awkward watching their back-and-forth when he gets a bit more affectionate than is called for from a teacher. You can definitely tell this show is a fantasy because, in real life, the police would have his head on a platter, effectively making him the second Dullahan in the show!
All in all, the show had some really great elements that made it fun to watch. The coming of age story of three young highschool girls, the problems and fears they dealt with that were unique to their situations as Demi, and the hot succubus teacher all made the show cute and enjoyable. If I had one complaint, it would be that the only (singular) plot-worthy problem that was raised in the show was hand-waved away literally the same episode it was brought up. And wouldn’t you know it? It was about Tetsuo being too close to his students!
If you need a cute slice-of-life to watch with a terribly charismatic and adorable vampire girl to lead the charge, I would highly recommend at least giving the first few episodes a shot. Come for the cute vampires, stay for the hot succubus, I say.
Side Note: Satou-sensei, the Succubus, is voiced by Hikasa Yoko who did an extremely outstanding job of adding a lot of depth and comedy to her character. Comedic timing, either through talent or training, was definitely on point and some of the sounds she made during the last episode were cute enough to make this manly-man blush. Beware.
Verdict: An Anime About Making Music That Doesn’t Really Make Music But Also Has Good Music –
This is an anime I hadn’t actually planned on picking up from the beginning. One of my friends, one whom I often take manga advice from, mentioned that the story and characters of the manga were all extremely well written and was a light sequel to the manga/anime Suzuka. I was wary, just from the description of the anime alone, but I reluctantly picked it up. Whether I finished the anime through pure strength of will or insanity, I may never know, but what I do know is that I finished it, and I will let you know my feelings.
The anime centers around Haruna Yuu, a socially inept, phone-loving, twitter expert and how his life turns around when he meets a young girl named Akitsuki Fuuka. Until his chance meeting (and chance panty-peek) with Fuuka, Yuu didn’t really have any friends or interests other than social media. But, hanging around with Fuuka, finding out that she had a wonderful voice, and compelling her to start singing, all brought Yuu out of his shell. Well, “forced” is probably the correct verbage. When Fuuka decides to start her band, she forces Yuu to pick up the bass and a couple of her other classmates to pick up drums, piano, and guitar. With their new band, “The Fallen Moon”, things really take a different direction for Yuu as he learns to devote his time to something more than himself: Music.
I will start by saying that I did not read the manga for Fuuka nor did I read/watch the spiritual prequel, Suzuka. But, I have done my due diligence! At least a little. For those of you wondering, Seo Kouji, writer and creator of the series, likes to tie all of his manga in very loosely. Suzuka just happens to be the titular character’s mother in this anime. That’s it. In fact, they never even say her name, so I honestly wasn’t sure until I asked one of my friends who were die-hard fans of the manga!
I digress. For those of you who did read the manga, you will notice there are a lot of glaring differences in the anime, one of which I will not spoil. But, the anime has taken a very different direction than the manga on one of the most important aspects of its story and most of those changes seem to affect Yuu’s character development and overall likeability as a character.
You see, in the manga, Yuu’s personal life suffers a terrible blow, something that throws him into a spiraling depression. Coming out of that depression with the help of his friends and own strength of will completely changes him and not only helps him realize his love for music, but also his talent. In the anime, Yuu suffers no kind of life-altering event. He never grows past “awkward high school boy” and his relationships, while cute, never really hit an emotional depth that’s satisfying to newbies like me and lovers of the manga alike. The problem is that Yuu is weak, he needs a jarring event to shake him to his core to make him realize he needs to change. But, other than the whole 80’s movie idea of, “Hey, let’s get the band back together!”, Yuu very rarely shows any growth or determination.
I think one of the biggest failings of the show is this band that the cast constantly refers to called “The Hedgehogs”. They are set up as some kind of aspiration for Fuuka and the rest of her band because the whole band mentions loving The Hedgehogs at certain points. Some of The Hedgehogs members even show up at one point to push the kids along, but past their first interaction they are used only for exposition. Exposition of the worst kind: the kind where they are there just to show up and talk about events that are in the process of happening and give us details on things we already know! SHOUNEN EXPOSITION! The entire anime long, they’re built up as the “goal” of the main cast, or as a side-story, or even as a group to “pass the torch” to our young musicians. But, nothing ever comes of the band and three of the five serve no purpose in the anime and if they’d been removed, the story wouldn’t have changed at all.
After much discussion and arguing with lovers of the Fuuka manga, there was a conclusion that was drawn: The single most important event in the manga, that was changed in the anime, is where the anime went wrong. Without a driving force to push Yuu, he stays the same and, to quote one of my friends, “It turns into the director’s own personal fanfiction” where everyone is happy and nothing bad ever happens outside of high school arguments. One of the worst tellings signs of bad writing is that, during all the original parts, Fuuka doesn’t even act like herself. She’s completely out of character and the whole show is thrown off by her whole, “woe is me” attitude. And the ending couldn’t have been more cookie cutter if it tried, even using the, “I wished we could be together forever!”, as the final line of the show.
You can guess that I don’t recommend this show at all. The shoddy writing and terrible direction all left me with a sense that all I watched was another cookie-cutter high school rom-com. Compared to things like Ore Monogatari!!, this show couldn’t even hold a candle, nor would I expect it to. Seo Kouji might be OK with the direction the anime took, which he stated in a previous interview, but the writing speaks for itself. Turning a coming of age story, that shows actual growth and determination, into another trope-filled Comedy/Romance takes a special kind of talent and I don’t want that kind of talent anywhere near my anime.
Here are some mini-reviews on some other things I watched. These (probably poorly written) reviews will harken back to my older days when it was just a paragraph or two long and just touch on some details I liked or didn’t like about the show. Highly biased and probably unfactual, take it with a bit of salt! If you have the same taste as me, then you’re probably in luck with this section.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
(God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!)
Verdict: If You Watch This Show and Don’t Like It, You Are A Robot and Have No Emotions! –
I mean, seriously, you can’t watch this show and not laugh. If you dislike this show, I just can’t see myself loving you. I mean, we can still be in a relationship, but there just won’t be any love. We won’t have that spark! We’ll get do all the things couples do, but there will always be that one thing holding us back.
Do yourself a favor and watch this comedy gold. Anime of the Year, four episodes in. Satire or not!? You decide!
3-gatsu no Lion
(March Comes in Like a Lion)
Verdict: I Still Don’t Know Crap About Shogi, But I Know I Felt the Feels While They Played It! –
3-gatsu no Lion was definitely one of the sleepers this past season. It flew under the radar of a lot of people because it’s about “Japanese Chess”, or Shogi for us nerds. This actually kind of turned me off too, until I watched the first episode. Showing me that it was a little about Shogi and a lot about Rei’s daily life really made it switch gears from, “Hikaru no Go Part 2” to “Original Sports Anime”. Try and follow me on this: While Rei doesn’t play a physical sport, most sports anime aren’t just 100% about playing the game. That would be stupid and boring. Sports anime tend to focus on the emotional development and relationships of the characters and how they train to get better at the game. Minds blown yet?
One of the best parts of the show is Rei himself, and his insecurities. Rei most obviously suffers from some kind of depression or Survivor’s Guilt, and dealing with that alone destroys Rei on the inside. What saves him aren’t just his friends, but a blessing that is a family of three sisters who take him in and treat him like one of their own. It lets us know that dealing with monsters like that isn’t impossible and, even more, lets us know it’s easier with friends to help you.
3-gatsu is a very real dose of reality that might hit a little too close to home for a lot of people. Things aren’t always “anime” for Rei; they don’t always go his way. He loses, he hurts, he cries, and more often than not, life takes a huge dump on his head. But, through all the shit life throws at him, Rei has the strength to get up, get dressed, and tell life to go fuck itself because he’s here to prove that he’s a winner. A definite watch if you love sports shows with a heavy slice of life element. Studio Shaft has outdone themselves again with visuals and describing how a certain character plays with strong visual metaphors. The music, to boot, is top notch for lovers of blues, jazz, and rock. Do yourself a favor, and learn to fight with Rei, so you can learn to fight yourself.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Verdict: Sometimes We Just Don’t Need a Season 2 . . . (Or Maybe We Just Need A Better One) –
The first season of this show had most of us floored with its quality. Especially after the disaster that was Gundam Build Fighters Tri, Iron-Blooded Orphans (hereafter: IBO) was a show steeped in the reality of war, child enslavement, and a freedom. Heavily influenced by the history of Joan of Arc, it was about a rag-tag group of kids fighting not only for their freedom, but so other child soldiers like themselves would never have to go through the same thing.
Season 2 was about . . . well, it was about a lot of things. Definitely not freedom. Something about being the “Kings of Mars”? Anyway, that’s not important if you’re distracted by pretty fights! To be blunt, S2 of IBO was a cacophony of different ideas painted together in a canvas too small to fit all the colors. The first arc, dealing with Tekkadan’s group on Earth was boring enough to drive away most of S1’s faithful fans, but was followed up by a fairly emotional story about The Turbines, Tekkadan’s saviours. However, when it came to the political ploys and backgrounds, it feels like most of the story is phoned in, to the point where I can almost assume it was written by someone completely different.
The ending itself, while prefaced by an amazing fight sequence, was completely out of left field. Some of the characters who became “Earth’s Saviors” were not foreshadowed at all, others were corrupt officials who, just a few episodes early stated that they were bad guys, decided to be good guys because “story said so”. But, it left a lot more holes in the plot than not and didn’t pay off at all on an emotional level. Death is a part of war, and it can be sad, which is something I bet a lot of us were actually counting on. What’s more painful is being betrayed. As in, my expectations were betrayed and now I am visibly upset.
To be honest, I liked it, bad parts and all. Hell, the fight scenes were so expertly directed that they make up for a lot of the worse parts of the show. If you’re a long time fan of Gundam, this is most definitely better than SEED and well worth the watch for the fight scenes alone. For lovers of Mecha anime in general, or people interested in the genre, you may want to lower your standards during S2, or just skip it altogether. I give this show a very, VERY slight “pass”, if only because Atra became an adorable waifu in the end. That’s right, I am trash and this is where I belong.
Let’s Live Until We Die.
Sousei no Onmyouji
Verdict: That One Shounen Show I Stuck With for a Year Straight –
Sousei was that one Shounen-themed anime that I picked up one time, because it was Shounen and I have to watch one of those every season because I am young and immature (on the inside). Remember? I did a review on it waaaaaaaay back in the day! So skipping the intro is OK! I digress. The anime, about halfway through, does one of those infamous time skips that shounen anime are known for and it takes a completely different tone. The two exorcists, Rokuro and Benio, who had hated each other so much of the first half became friends and even partners. What surprised me about the show was how subtle the transition was, especially in this genre where shouting your feelings is basically the only way for a male to emote. It generally focuses on how the two become stronger and more emotionally receptive to the other, all while adopting a stray young girl with “Spell Power” higher than the both of them put together. It was a cute twist that added a lot of depth to their relationship, but that’s about it.
Every other relationship, including that of Rokuro and his brother-like character, suffers on account of how much effort they put into the main characters. It isn’t exactly a detriment to the show as a whole, but it definitely leaves a lot to be desired. There were also a lot of characters introduced just for the sake of dying, all 12 Guardian Deities to be exact. Sans for two of them, they were just characters to fill slots and hammer in the fact that “the bad guy is really strong!”. There were even some side-stories with a lot of potential that went the way of the birds because of how quickly they wanted to end that particular arc.
That being said, it was generally a fun show to watch. It never really gets more deep than, “boy meets girl, love saves the world”, but I genuinely liked watching them grow up and fall in love. That being said, there is definitely an emotional payoff in this anime, despite how many times their almost-kiss gets interrupted by anime-reasons, it was a good way to lead up to their eventual “first”.
All in all, not something I will remember down the line, but fun nonetheless. If you need a Shounen anime that’s longer than it needs to be and delves a lot into the Shinto Ideology, you’re in luck. Despite being pretty bland until about 10 episodes in, I stuck with it and enjoyed myself for the most part.