Summer 2017 Anime Races In:
The First Heat!
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello again, my Giga-Landers! J.R here again to bring you the Summer season’s anime in it’s final state!
As promised, I have performed my herculean task of watching
12 a lot of anime this season to find what shows are definitely worth watching, and which ones should be buried in the backyard with the rest of the skeletons. As is my civic duty, I promise to bring you and expertly(?) written review with no bias whatsoever at all, anywhere in here . . . at all. Anywhere.
First off is our group draft picks of the season. Starting off with the ostensible winner of the season Ballroom e Youkoso leads the race with a clear victory. Marrying the sports and drama genres, Ballroom will definitely tug at your heartstrings and make you care about something you never thought you would: ballroom dancing. In a far-behind second, but second nonetheless, Isekai Shokudou speeds in at a leisurely pace with not only the oxymorons that I write, but just the right amount of healing for your heart and your stomach. Finally, in some kind of place, whatever comes after second, we have Aoyama-kun. Wobbling in on four different kinds of tires, Aoyama-kun isn’t sure which kind of car it wants to race. It’s a good car, that’s for sure, but the sum of the parts is less than the whole and stumbling is the best it can do.
With all the love in my heart, which honestly isn’t all that much, I bring you the reviews you so deserve. If you’re the kind of person who likes to wait for an anime season to end, and then find out which ones were the best so you can marathon them, I have your answer(s) right here! Look no further than this, and the following, articles!
As the wind beneath your wings and the weed killer in your garden of anime, I welcome you. And, as always, you’re welcome!
Ballroom e Youkoso
(Welcome to the Ballroom)
Verdict: Awarded “Best Show” of the Group Picks! –
By no small margin, Ballroom was definitely the unanimous choice between the six of us as “Best Show” of the six anime we drafted this season. And since I’m positive, absolutely sure, that you’ve read my previous article, I won’t go into the details on the setup.
What surprised me more than anything was that Ballroom handled itself more like a sports genre anime/manga, rather than a drama like I’d thought at first. The biggest thing about the sports genre, which I’ve learned about from Dr. Gabe, is that it focuses more on the character development and relationships than most anything else. Obviously, training and practicing at that sport takes up a lot of time as well, but the selling point is watching our heroes grow through the sport that defines them. Ballroom is one such anime that takes this ideology to heart.
What sells the show, other than the animation, is our protagonist Tatara Fujita. As the newbie to this strange new world, not only can we learn about the sport of Ballroom dancing together, we get to watch him grow into a dancer with surprising speed. This coming-of-age story of a lonely, meek boy who becomes a beast on the battlefield that is his dance floor, is surprisingly effective at making you feel what the audience feels, and seeing what they see. The enormous amount of energy and emotion put into the voice acting and animation really helps spin a tale that tugs at your heart strings when life doesn’t always go like an anime says it should. Tatara isn’t some kind of dancing genius, and he doesn’t go around winning highly sought-after trophies and competitions. Instead, he’s prone to choking, losing, and panicking like a normal newbie should, and would be doing in the real world. The slice of reality that Tatara is faced with is hard not to empathize with, especially when such a young kid has to face it for the first time.
Like I mentioned before, one the best parts of the show is the animation and that still holds true even half way through the show. When the dancers take center stage, everything about the show begins to change in a way that makes each dance they do seemingly impossible, yet irresistible to watch. Some of the steps and strides are animated with such precision that you can almost feel the strength and inertia coming from their kicks and landings. Hell, even beyond that, the look of pure anger, desperation, pride, or happiness on anyone’s’ face just sells how invested all the characters are in their dancing and that in turn really helps you to get invested in the characters. However, there is a slight drawback to all of this and that would be the budget, or lack thereof. Specific, important scenes tend to cut away from the dancing a lot to focus on the character’s inner monologuing or audience reactions. This in turn takes time away from the action and stifles a lot of the scenes that could have hit infinitely harder had they been given the time and attention (and budget) they so deserve. It’s a sly trick, and they can almost get away with it for how well they help us become invested, but not good enough! But, that’s not to say it’s all bad. Ballroom does dance, and it does it well, and you’d be hardpressed to find someone who did it better.
All in all, the show is amazing and continues to be so as the second season starts and among the six we picked it is ostensibly the best. Ballroom was a surprise hit of the season that starred a young man trying to find his place in the world and through a bit of serendipity, and a little high middle school crush, Tatara is able to do just that. With his love comes a new man, a new Tatara that isn’t afraid to butt heads, slam into other dancers on the floor, and not above picking a (dance) fight with someone much better than him. But, this all makes the world so much more believable because, in the end, don’t we all just want to find our spot like he did?
Ballroom is definitely worth your time and it packs a strong punch during the emotional scenes while letting you smile your heart out along with Tatara and his garbage (yet handsome) teacher Sengoku. The score really helps to bring home a strong sense of empathy during most scenes and paired with animation that breaks not only the laws of physics, but the character’s spines, it does so many things just right enough to make it a good sell against most of the other shows this season. If you’re interested in the slightest, I highly suggest watching at least to the end of the first competition, about six episodes, and you’ll know exactly how much you love it by then.
Props go to Captain Gabe for picking the best show of the six of us. You win, Good Sir.
(Restaurant to Another World)
Verdict: Food Porn With a Slice of Life . . . Get It!? –
With the comfortability of, well, comfort food on its side, Isekai Shokudou ended up being one of the more watched anime this season, not only for us, but for a larger audience as well. Bryan’s pick, while questionable, ended up being just the right fit for the hole in our hearts stomachs which just enough healing left over for dessert.
Isekai Shokudou, as I mentioned before, is more of a slice-of-life show about a restaurant that opens its doors to a different world on every Saturday. The core of the show centers around introducing a patron to the restaurant, how they came about finding it, and a little of their backstory as a small topping. While this anime usually introduces two new restaurant goers per episode, we never really dig too deep into any of them, who they are, or what drives them . . . other than an insatiable hunger for the restaurant’s food.
Herein lies the issue for most watchers of the show: The lack of meat, figuratively speaking. Shokudou handles itself less like a slice of life, something it is advertised as in other sites. Instead, the anime is handled like a collection of short stories, something done better in other anime like Kino’s Journey. However, this may be what people want out of a show like this: the ability to watch and not have to think too hard about interweaving plot lines, character development, or drama. The anime takes a much more soothing approach to an . . . anthology(?) . . . type genre, and establishes itself as something we call a “healing anime”. The show exists to be calming, soothing, and a little shallow, something that is meant for a nibble here and there so we can sate our hunger without getting too full. This, apparently, is what people want sometimes as it is something you can turn your brain off with, appreciate the cuteness and food, and just have a good time.
This, however, will turn off a large portion of the audience as the show never, and I mean never, gets any deeper than it’s core formula. Shokudou holds tight to its recipe of introducing a character, why they’re at the restaurant, and what food they like and why it makes them nostalgic. While a collection of short stories sounds fun on the outside, people looking for something that tells a good, deep story will be sorely disappointed. It’s really very easy to understand where you might stand on the subject.
All in all, Isekai Shokudou was fairly enjoyable and definitely worthy of the title “healing anime”. To speak nothing of the soundtrack, which may have been one of the most drab I’ve heard in a very long time, the superb animation, regarding the cooking, never failed to get my stomach growling for a little of whatever the chef was cooking . . . except for the vegan stuff (sorry ladies, I’m a carnivore). The character designs themselves were very elegant and smooth, and even cute at times, making it very easy on the eyes, keeping in tone with the rest of the show. The characters and their interactions were cute and interesting, but never so deep that I had to think much about them. The final episode revealing who the chef was and his connection to that world was interesting and a little more deep than the rest of the series, but fun nonetheless. If you want something to relax with and maybe find some new recipes, or new waifus, this anime will give you all you need. Even one episode is enough to let you know where you stand on this.
I do have to say a good pick by our young Bryan. However, I do have to let everyone know that I give this anime an ULTRA “F” MINUS because it made all Elves vegans and that dashes all my dreams of making it with a hot Elf chick! DAMNIT ANIME, I CAN’T COOK ANY VEGAN MEALS!
Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun
(Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun)
Verdict: Aoyama May be Clean, but the Rest of the Anime Certainly Isn’t –
A sports anime that isn’t really a sports anime, a comedy that isn’t all that comical, and a slice of life with not enough pie (does that metaphor work?); all the things that Aoyama-kun is.
I talked about this in my initial article, but Aoyama-kun centers around the titular character and his high school life in the soccer club. However, Aoyama is germophobic and can’t be bothered to touch the ball with anything other than his foot, and refuses to bump shoulders with anyone on the field for fear of transferring germs. While this sounds like a good lead up for a coming-of-age story, or a coming together as a team, or even a light social commentary, none of these things ever happen in the show. Ever.
Aoyama-kun sells itself as a sports anime but, honestly, that isn’t quite right. It sets itself into several different genres, exploring many different styles in its 12-episode run. Hell, there are a few episodes where they don’t even mention soccer! Instead, it takes more of a life-like approach to a silly high school drama. Obviously, all the girls are in love with our handsome, multi-talented, and all around perfect protagonist, so watching a cute young girl fawn over a man she has no chance with is both endearing, and a little cute. HOWEVER (Read as; “DAGA KOTOWARU!” In Kishibe Rohan’s voice; I don’t know why and that doesn’t even translate over), again that isn’t what the anime is about!
So now you’re wondering, “J.R what in the hell is the anime about then!?” And to you, my lovely young Giga-Child, I would answer, “I. Don’t. Bloody. Know.”
Aoyama-kun seems to be hellbent on creating a new genre for itself, something that the relatively recent Shirobako did. But, this is an endeavor that falls on deaf ears. While it explores several different types of storytelling, none of which are particularly bad, none of them are very good on their own either. What’s worse, nothing comes together as a cohesive whole and I’m left wanting to know more about the characters that got overshadowed by silly gags and flat comedy. Hell, the young girl fawning over Aoyama was precious as hell, but she’s used more as a comedy tool than a character (mostly) when she could have been fleshed out as either a very cute character to root for, or even a possible love interest.
None of the comedy really hits home as genuine or flat out funny. I caught myself chuckling a couple of times, but nothing as loud as a cackle . . . if we’re going by that gauge. So I can’t wholly recommend this anime when things like Tsurezure Children or Gamers! Exist on the same spectrum, but on a much grander scale. If you’re looking for a good comedy, romance, or slice of life this season, the former two I mentioned would really fill your needs much, much better than anything Aoyama-kun could muster. While there are few good, solitary episodes (especially the last episode), nothing comes together to form a completely good show.
For Aoyama-kun it’s free kick into the corner post of the goal. A miss, if you will.