Guess I oughta call it a “Rule of Four Review” at this point…
Between the two shows I’m covering for Evo this season, the standalone posts I still need to finish (I solemnly swear those last two Tanaka-kun mini-essays are gonna happen someday!), a potentially expanding load of freelance geek writing, and Moving Day Part Deux, getting a full Rule of Three post out this season just wasn’t in the cards. (Actually, if the other work stays steady, I may wind up retiring the Rule of Three Reviews entirely so I can focus on other posts, but if I hear a Great Outcry to keep them then I’ll reconsider.)
Still, I figured I owed it to you to pop in and at least let you know what my summer watchlist looked like. There isn’t a ton that I’m excited about, but I am really excited about a few of them, and given everything else that’s going on I’m more than happy to sacrifice quantity for quality. Hit the jump for a quick run-down.
In For the Long Haul
Barring a catastrophic misstep, I’ll be sticking with these until they’re over:
- 91 Days: A prohibition-era gangster flick with sharp cinematography, a tight narrative, and a delightfully twisty plot. I’m blogging it weekly at Anime Evo.
- orange: The anime adaptation of the surprise bestselling manga is staying true to the characters and themes of the original story while also adding its own individual, eccentric touches that give it a unique flavor all its own. Great character-driven YA story. Also blogging it weekly at Anime Evo!
- Thunderbolt Fantasy: This Chinese Fantasy Martial Arts Epic WITH PUPPETS! is the Anime of the Season, and it isn’t even an anime. An action-packed, campy treasure and the highlight of my week. Bless the Butcher and his eclectic tastes.
- Cheer Boys!! Infectiously optimistic and quietly progressive, Cheer Boys is the story of a men’s cheerleading club who work together to overcome prejudice and personal weaknesses. And all of that’s great, but it’s the delightfully weird sense of humor that really makes this one click for me, and has me regularly looking forward to new episodes.
- Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! The only sequel on my roster, Cute High hasn’t changed much: It’s still that same blend of pointless conversations, cheeky manservice, dry commentary, dumb perils, and loving magical girl parody. I don’t think it’ll ever be more than that, but as long as it gets a giggle out of me every week (and occasionally produces Pure Comedic Genius like Episode 4), I’m A-OK with that.
- planetarian: This one may deserve paragraphs at some point to talk about how well it uses contrasts to quietly pummel the audience’s heart, but for now let’s just say it’s a low-key, sweet, and achingly sad tale of a robot at the end of the world, and I look forward to seeing how its finale is going to wreck me.
- Bananya: C’mon. It’s three minutes of cats living inside bananas. Why wouldn’t I watch that every week?
I never look forward to new ones but I always enjoy them while they’re on, so there’s a good chance I’ll be sticking with:
- Sweetness & Lightning: The cooking show aspect tends to cause my attention to wander (I’m just not interested in watching other people make food, turns out), but the family bonding and Tsumugi cuteness tends to keep me coming back for a weekly dose of “Aww.”
- Amanchu! They’ve toned down Pikari so that she’s not so much an MPDG as an awkward outcast in her own right, and the show accurately captures the feeling of social anxiety while still leaving room for a lot of optimism and cheer. I could do without the shipteasing, but the beautiful art and soothing tone balance it out. I think this one may have finally won me over.
Figured I’d head off any questions at the pass, so:
- DAYS: I mentioned in my premiere review that DAYS tended to blast through its Triumphant Story Beats so quickly that it felt like it was hitting a checklist of “sports series milestones” without ever earning the emotional payoff. Well, that kept happening. The soccer boyfriends are adorable and I hope they’re happy together, but I don’t have any interest in continuing the series.
- ReLIFE: I watched the first three, then looked at the fourth one in my CR queue and went “Eh, I’m good.” It’s fine, I just don’t feel the need to keep up with another high school story right now.
- Mob Psycho 100: This show is incredibly well-made, an explosion of artistic creativity and animation, and with an undercurrent about bullying and the need to show compassion towards others that gives it real weight, too. It’s so good, in fact, that I have an almost physical revulsion to it, because almost every scene, shot, angle, and expression works to evoke feelings of anxiety and does so with relentless efficacy. Watching it is like sitting on the edge of a panic attack for 25 minutes. I can’t find even a sliver of enjoyment in that experience, so for the sake of my own stress levels, I’ve gotta bow out of this one.