Summer 2017 Anime Finishing On Top:
The Final Heat & The Best of the Best!
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.
Racing in at first, with a lead so heavy it may have lapped other anime, we have my favorite and clearly the best anime this season, Made in Abyss. With the perfect vehicle to take you to on a the veritable trip of feels, Made in Abyss truly brings home a grim anime with a story that blows everyone else away. Sneaking in at second, or would have been second had it decided to finish, is Princess Principal. With cute/hot spies working for it, it was sure to take a top spot, but it didn’t feel like finishing today, maybe a season two will fix that? Next we have Gamers! A show content with placing whenever, wherever, because it’s more about the journey than the destination. And the dark horse of our race, one we’d never expected to place with the elites, Tsurezure Children! With the car that warms your heart just by staring at it, this anime takes the top spot for wholesomeness and diabetes, because it’s just that sweet.
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!
Made in Abyss
Verdict: Contender for “Anime of the Year”! –
This season, when we were going through our anime for the draft picks, or even just checking out promotional videos for the new stuff, one particular anime piqued my interest above the others. Showcasing young children crawling deep into an accursed chasm, beautiful backgrounds and architecture that popped to life on my screen, and a soundtrack to make it all the more real; That anime was Made in Abyss.
This anime centers around a young girl named Riko who lives at an orphanage in a city called Orth. Their city is strange in that is built on the inside of what looks like a volcano. However, what lies in the depths of the gaping hole in the middle of their city isn’t lava, it’s an area beneath the earth’s crust they call “The Abyss”. Riko and the other children at her orphanage are forced to become “Cave Raiders” at the top layer of the abyss, mining and searching for rare relics from ancient civilizations who had once lived there.
While looking for treasure one day, Riko finds a young boy asleep in the middle of nowhere. Soon finding out that this boy, whom she names Reg, is a robot (complete with rocket arms and lasers), Riko begins to realize her dream of entering the Abyss to become what’s known as a “White Whistle” – people who have descended deep into the abyss and come back to tell the tale.
Right after Reg arrives, Riko receives a letter from her estranged mother, a legendary White Whistle named “Lyza the Annihilator”. The contents of the letter spur Riko into action as she conspires with Reg to climb down into the cursed depths to find her mother at a tender age of just twelve. But, just because she has a trusty robot on her side doesn’t mean she’s invincible. The reason people don’t dive into that veritable hell hole is because of something called “The Curse of the Abyss”. Upon entering the abyss, the Cave Raider is cursed and ascending more than 10 meters causes the curse to activate. On the top floor all it causes is nausea and vomiting. The second floor causes pain in the body and numbness of limbs, the third causes vertigo along with visual and auditory hallucinations, the fourth causes you to hemorrhage from every open orifice of your body, and beyond that, ascending causes either “death or the loss of your humanity”. . .
From the get-go, Made in Abyss is something that’s strangely intriguing in more ways than one. The juxtaposition of a carefree and energetic child, complete with cute character designs and animation to back it up, wandering into an accursed territory really causes a lot of complicated emotions. You know that it feels almost happy-go-lucky at first, but you also know that there’s this awful foreshadowing encroaching on you every episode. You want Riko to be able to meet her mother, but at what cost? Just from the description of the abyss alone, the story is leagues beyond most adventure or fantasy anime published today.
One of the things that makes the show so fun is how perfectly Riko and Reg compliment each other. Riko, while seemingly air-headed and altogether clueless, is actually very intelligent. Keeping notes on every monster she passes in the abyss, how to cook specific animals while camping, what plants you can and can’t use, and even instructions for an emergency, Riko is every bit the Cave Raider she wants to become. However, being a twelve year-old girl doesn’t exactly speak much for her strength, but this is where Reg comes in. Durable to a point where his body couldn’t be pierced with knives, able to extend his arms to great lengths, and even equipped with an insanely powerful laser, Reg is the brawn of their team, however clueless he may be about survival. Their constant backing of each other makes it feel like they’re actual people, rather than tropes thrown into a pile a picked out at random. They are a unit that rely on and need each other to survive.
What genuinely sells the show, though, is the art and how they build the world with it. The backgrounds in Made in Abyss are given so much detail and authenticity that it really brings to life how bizarre and absolutely screwed up The Netherworld actually is. Trees growing upside-down which are seemingly coming from nowhere, large gaping chasms filled with monster nests, and enormous beasts capable of squashing our heroes with a single foot. Everything feels so real and intimidating that it’s genuinely hard not to get excited with every new area they explore and every depth they descend too. The world they built isn’t just something to sell copies or make money, they’ve created an entire ecosystem that’s full of adorable critters and hideous beasts alike. Something like this helps to make the plot that much easier to get sucked into.
Without spoiling too much, the story itself is absolutely stellar. It is extremely dark, as you would expect from the description alone, but it’s so compelling that you’d be hardpressed to stop in the middle at any point. (Let me tell you, it was excruciating waiting every week for a new episode to air.) Riko and her mother, where Riko came from and how she was born, and what Reg actually is, all tie into the main theme of the show and something we hear from other Cave Raiders, “What comes from the abyss is destined to return”. Almost as if peeling an onion, each layer of the story is woven into the other near seamlessly and can sometimes be a bit of a tear-jerker (kind of like onions . . . awful metaphor, I know).
I know I’m being relatively cryptic and mysterious, but this show is definitely worth the watch and staying spoiler free before hand. The mystery of what lies at the bottom of the abyss, The Curse of the Abyss itself and how it takes it’s toll on the Cave Raiders, and the ever growing notion that, no matter how badly she’ll want it, Riko will never be able to return the surface because of the curse. And that, my friends, is what sells the show so hard: the finality of it all. The inescapable conclusion. With every passing foot, and every meter walked toward the bottom is a gross realization that there is no going back. Riko isn’t special, she’s just another Cave Raider who happens to have a famous mother, and she’s affected by the curse just as bad as everyone else.
As you can tell, I highly recommend this show, no matter who you are. I do, however need to give a quick warning. The show gets very, very dark and it does get fairly gorey at certain points. One specific scene made me a little woozy myself. But, everything in the show happens for a reason and every event is somehow tied to the main plot of the anime. There’s no exhausting exposition and the plot moves forward at a great pace, with our two heroes who grow along with the story. If you want something of quality, you want something that will definitely make your list this year, if you want something that will make you feel, Made in Abyss is an obviously outstanding choice. Ostensibly and undeniably the best anime this season, you deserve to watch this show, and it deserves to be watched in turn.
Made in Abyss: I would be incredibly surprised if it doesn’t win some kind of anime award this year and even more surprised if it doesn’t get a second season. It, more than anything else this season, deserves one!
Verdict: Not As Girly As the Name Sounds –
Princess Principal may have been one that slipped under your radar, especially with crazy action-packed shows like Boku no Hero Academia or Fate/Apocrypha airing this season. While it may not be quite as gung-ho as the other series, I can assure you the intrigue of spies and political movements can hold just as much suspense as the former . . . for the most part, at least!
Setting in 19th Century London, Princess Principal is a view at a world where classism still exists in the highest order, London is split down the center via a giant wall (much like Belgium), and steampunk is the way of the future. In this dystopian era, a group of spies are ordered to infiltrate a specific academy where princess Charlotte, 4th in line for the throne, is continuing her education. Their mission is to infiltrate the school and attempt to either turn her to their side, or to take her out of the picture entirely. Ange, the spy extraordinaire and pathological liar and her partner Dorothy, the driver and sexy one of the group, are chosen to run this mission. Unfortunately for the spy team, Ange and Charlotte have already been acquainted and their mission is instantly ousted.
The Princess uses her knowledge and position to hold an advantage over the spies, though her terms are surprising: Let the Princess join so that she can become the new Queen, in place of her grandmother, so she can tear down the wall separating her people. With a new ally to call the ace up their sleeve, the spies rally to take over the Albion kingdom and unify London.
With a name as silly as Princess Principal, you’d probably expect something more along the lines of Princess Jellyfish or even girlier – but, you’d be wrong. Princess Principal is out-and-outs a spy show with all the infiltration, trickery, and murder to go along with it. Though our group of spies consists of 5 girls ranging from ages 14-20, they don’t generally pull any punches when it comes to getting the job done. After all, assassination is just another part of the job.
However, the show comes with one big juxtaposition and that’s the Princess herself. As a technical head of that particular spy team, the Princess is often briefed on what needs to be done. However, her world and theirs might as well not even be in the same universe as she often asks for the impossible. “No killing”, or “can’t we bring him AND his family?”, or even “let me take the lead this time!” are just an example of several selfish things the Princess demands. But, true to her character, Ange stays impossibly unflappable and completes any request the Princess might demand.
The story itself is rather satisfying, to say nothing of how grim it can get. With a story structured similarly to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or Baccano!, the cases are told out of order so piecing the story together falls on your shoulders. This kind of attempt at a fractured storytelling can often lead to a disastrous cacophony of random facts, but Princess Principal handles itself extremely well and tells a story worth watching. However, it doesn’t work quite as well as it did with the former two as it doesn’t have the same impact or “wow-factor” they did. But, even with it’s several different kinds of stories – a character’s abusive past, assimilating from different cultures, and even why friends can be helpful as spies – this anime tends to be on the higher end of all these things, despite the fact that most episodes are tragedies, or at least terribly bitter-sweet.
With a fantastic, jazz-oriented soundtrack by the extremely talented Yuki Kajiura, this anime sports a score that’s hard to beat this season. Ranging from deep bebop numbers, to upbeat jazz during chase scenes, and relaxed bluesy style anthems for tender moments, Kajiura proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s second to none when it comes to adapting her style to specific kind of anime. Hell, I watched the show, partly because of the weird name, but partly because of how great the music sounded in the promotional videos!
As a whole, Princes Principal tells an intriguing story of quirky spies and their tragic pasts. Although they never get around to explaining Ange’s compulsive lying, I think one of the more interesting aspects is that you don’t actually know when the lying started. Thinking back, it makes her a deeper character than I’d first thought, one who might be using lies to cover something up. The only downside is that the final episode didn’t really accomplish anything. There was a huge climactic fight, people died, things exploded, and secrets/feeling were revealed. However, the climax trailed off and the episode ended as if nothing happened, just as if it was going to get a new episode next week. And, no, I am not aware if it is getting a second season.
All in all, this show was highly enjoyable. Despite the extremely infuriating final episode, I can give it a slight pass for being entertaining throughout the rest of the run. If you’re looking for a darker show with a fantastic soundtrack to boot, I will highly recommend Princess Principal, especially for those of you in love with the spy genre! One episode is really all it takes to know how much you’ll like this show.
Verdict: Rom-Com/Harem Anime Done Right –
So Gamers! Is actually one anime that was fairly popular this season, so you’ve probably already heard of it through word of mouth or “nerd osmosis”. At this point you probably won’t need a whole college-length thesis on what it is, but I’d genuinely love to throw down some love for a wholesome, heartwarming anime this season.
Gamers! Is strange in that it starts with a cold open: our protagonist Amano Keita confessing his feelings to a long time crush in front of his whole class. The reason I find this strange is because something like that is usually reserved for action anime like last season’s WorldEnd. However, you can be sure that the anime makes full use of this terribly awkward cold open and only six episodes in!
I think one reason that Gamers! Resonates so strongly with so many people is because of Keita himself. Sure, other anime like the pretend that their characters are super nerdy or hard to approach by telling you such, but none of them actually prove that with action or nuance. As if by magic, most protagonists suddenly have no fear of talking to other people or opening up to strangers! On the other hand, Keita is a lot like us (or I should say me), so much so that it was almost painful to watch sometimes. He was shy, meek, overbearing when it came to video games, and hard to approach because of his awkward demeanor. Here’s the kicker: Gamers! Actually proves this through his interactions with other characters. People dislike him because he always has his nose in his phone playing mobile games, not because he doesn’t want to be friends with anyone else, but because he just loves games that much. Most of us can relate to that on some level regardless of how hard that is to admit.
The turning point is when a classmate of Keita’s, the school idol Tendou Karen, invites him to join the “Gaming Club” at their school. Overjoyed to have finally talked to someone, let alone his crush, Keita attempts to join a club that is basically his living dream. However, Keita’s response to the invitation is a bit unexpected for everyone as he never wanted to join something that focused only on “winning” games. Much like myself, Keita only wants to appreciate games for what they offer: story, characters, art, and the world itself. Distraught and disappointed in himself more than anything, Keita resolves himself to become not just a better, more likeable person, but a bigger man as well.
The anime takes off instantly at the end of the first episode and I will tell you that punch line hit like a ton of bricks. I was in stitches for nearly the entire anime as Gamers! takes a much less subtle approach to nerd humor. Remember when certain anime would allude to something else? “Oh, that slime over there totally looks like it’s from ‘DRAKE ADVENTURE XX’!” No, not Gamers! This show has Persona 4: Arena, Guilty Gear, and Under Night In-Birth posters plastered literally everywhere in this show! Hell, some of the jokes are literal references to awful games, or awful points in certain games! While most people think a more subtle approach would work well in this situation, so they can point and laugh with their hands over their mouths saying “Haha, only us REAL
Scotsman Nerds will understand that!”, Gamers! Lets everyone in on the joke and it pays off in spades.
I appreciate that the anime has an (almost) established relationship, even halfway through and all the characters were enjoyable to watch. Though, it’s hard to pick a “best waifu” because they were all garbage, I think it speaks to how well they were written as characters. They aren’t perfect because they’re in highschool. They’re awkward, prone to misunderstandings, and they really don’t know what they want, and all of that made it just feel so much more real.
My favorite part of the show is how it becomes built up as a harem. Literally one man starts pulling all the strings to make people meet up at certain times and places to create the stupidest, and most fun, love triangle in any anime I’ve ever seen. Beyond that, it proves that something as stupid as a high school harem couldn’t happen unless some asshole was behind the scenes playing the puppet master to make everything happen in “an anime way”.
I’m not known for my love of Rom-Coms or harem anime in general. Hell, I’m downright critical of most of them because of the overused tropes and garbage writing. Gamers! takes this to the next level and brings home an anime that’s full of laughs, cute relationships, and an almost cathartic feeling as you watch Keita grow from a lonely, gamer loser – as society sees most of us – into a man worth calling a “friend”. I highly recommend this show to anyone and everyone as it had me clutching my chest several times through its run. If you want a good Romance/Comedy, a silly high school harem, or a cute coming of age story, Gamers! Is definitely the way to go!
Verdict: NO! YOU CAN’T END THERE! THAT’S NOT FAIR! –
As you can tell from the verdict, I absolutely, positively, and entirely loved the hell out of this show. A show about several different groups of high school kids and their relationships, Tsurezure Children children is the most charming, fun, romantic, and wholesome anime this season. So, just for the sake that you know I already love this show, I’ll go ahead and keep this short.
Tsurezure Children as I mentioned before, is an a Rom-Com that focuses on several different relationships on kids in high school. While it may sound like an incoming train wreck as it takes a similar approach to story structure as Fate/Apocrypha, I can wholeheartedly say that is not the case. This anime, unlike Fate, can pull this off by the simple fact that it makes all the couples incredibly endearing. Almost like you’re rooting for several different teams all playing the a different sport in your city! You can root for the Lakers, Dodgers, Rams, and Galaxy all at once, and never get tired of it!
How the show makes it feel so “right” is that it feels like they’re real high school relationships. The kids are dumb, prone to wild misunderstandings, they make mistakes in their relationships, they have no clue what they really want, and they’re innocent to a point that it’s just. Damn. Cute.
As a side note: I’d like to mention this is one of the few times in my life I’ve come to like a “tsundere” character and, believe me, I can count those times on one hand. One relationship between a typical blonde-haired “Yankee” girl (our tsundere) and the school council president had me clutching my chest for fear of heart attack because of how ridiculously cute it was. How the school president would tease her until she showed her true colors, and how she changed her attitude about school, and how her tough exterior was used to hide a girl who was much more fragile than she appeared. I can’t tell you how fun it was just to watch these things play out. This is how you break a tsundere, Gentlemen! If that doesn’t get you to watch this show, I don’t know what will.
My buddy Dr. Gabe and I feel that the “ugly” kid romance really resonated with the both us the most though . . . I wonder why . . . ?
Anyway, the anime is only 10-12 minutes per episode and it’s one of the few things this year to get me cackle uncontrollably because of the comedy it used. I highly recommend this show for just how cathartic it is. Tsurezure Children exists as the antithesis to modern-day Comedy/Romance genre and probably for that reason alone it resonates so strongly with a lot of fans who love that style of storytelling. Reasoning? Well . . .
Have you ever wanted to see a couple in an anime get together, but they just didn’t because the anime just wanted to squeeze the angst out of the relationship? Have you ever seen an anime where it took all of three seasons for the couple to finally get together!? HAVE YOU SEEN A SHOW WHERE THEY DON’T EVEN KISS!?
THIS RIGHT HERE!
THIS IS WHY THIS ANIME MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD!
Watch this show, feel good, feel happy, FEEL THE LOVE, and have a great f—ing day! For the whole two hours it’ll take you to marathon the season, it’s definitely worth every second of your time, and then some.
Please, any fan of rom-coms needs this catharsis. You don’t want to end up in the “angst ward” like so many other fans!