Rule of Three Review: Fall 2016 Anime Digest

I thought spring was the rainy season, so why am I drowning in shows in October?

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There are far too many shows on this list, but I can’t bear to cut any others at this point. It’s too early to say this is the strongest season of the year, but it sure is looking promising. Some are artistic marvels, some compelling character studies, some soothing balls of cuteness, some just plain fun, and some are…er, Keijo (look, I don’t feel great admitting that either, okay?). Hit the jump for both my pride and my shame.

In For the Long Haul

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I love these shows so much, they’d have to take a dive off a very impressive cliff to get dropped.

ClassicaLoid

The premiere really set the tone for this one, so if you enjoyed its bright, silly reimagining of famous composers and colorful orchestral magic, odds are you’ll keep enjoying it. The characters have distinct personalities and good chemistry, keeping their interactions fresh and fun, and ClassicaLoid introduces its cast with a relaxed pace that gives you plenty of time to get to know (and like) everyone. Possibly the funniest show on my queue, and the perfect cartoon to kick off my Saturday morning.

Flip Flappers

Simultaneously the most ambitious and the riskiest show of the season, Flip Flappers is an explosion of creativity and an incredibly entertaining romp that flirts with a lot of interesting ideas about adolescence, instincts, and the way we see the world. Whether it will make good on any of those promises has yet to be seen, and it could easily collapse. Either way, I’ll be blogging about it each week on Evo, so feel free to join me in decoding this wild enigma.

Haikyu!! Karasuno vs. Shiratorizawa

Tense and dynamically animated volleyball matches, intimidating rivals, and endearing protagonists who keep learning and growing, making it easy to root for them. What else is there to say? Haikyu is still Haikyu, and thank goodness for that.

Poco’s Udon World

I hereby vote this the show most likely to murder me with cuteness! Yes, Poco the Tiny Tanuki is adorable, but Udon World also has a quiet, pensive tone to it as it explores 30-year-old Souta’s uncertainty about his future and uneasy relationship with his past. An iyashikei (healing) anime about grown-ups and quarter(ish) life crises that I’m delighted to have on my schedule.

Show by Rock!!#

This second season is shaping up to be even sillier and more endearing than the first. There’s an evil threat on the horizon, but mostly SBR has been content to expand its characters’ (magnificently goofy) backstories and their relationships with each other. It’s still a little too saccharine and oversimplified for its emotional beats to really resonate, but any week with SHINGANCRIMSONZ is a good week, and any week with Alien Sheep Princess Moa is even better. Somehow, this has become my favorite sequel of the Fall.

YURI!!! on Ice

The most complete anime of the season (so far), YoI has a well-developed cast, terrific skating animation, a great sense of humor, and a sizzling relationship building between its two leading men, all of which is enhanced by Sayo Yamamoto’s trademark attention to body language and interest in the erotic. Add to that an undercurrent of gender role commentary (Yuri prefers to skate using traditionally feminine motions rather than masculine ones), and there’s little else I could ask for. You keep doing your thing, Yuri on Ice.

Hangin’ Around

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Some of these are well and truly on the bubble, but most are pretty solidly on my watch list, they just haven’t quite earned a spot in the top tier. Like I said, it’s a strong season.

Bungo Stray Dogs – Part 2

The second half began with a four-part mini-arc detailing Dazai’s past, and I admittedly struggled to care because (despite Miyano Mamoru’s typically great performance) Dazai doesn’t interest me much and I wanted to hurry up and get back to the central story. That said, the arc built on itself well and proved to be surprisingly powerful, particularly in its final scenes that tread the careful line between despair and hope. And of course Igarashi’s in the director’s chair and BONES is in the studio, so visually it was quite striking at times, too.

As with Part 1, while it took some time to win me over, Bungo has caught my attention again and invested me in its damaged band of magical misfits once again. I’m looking forward to seeing how this backstory arc ties into the central story, and where that goes from here.

Girlish Number

This snarky series about voice acting and the anime industry is on a one-week delay on Crunchyroll, so it didn’t get a mention in my premiere posts and I’ve only seen two episodes. Still, I enjoy what I’ve seen, especially of Chitose, a protagonist with a self-effacing professional front that hides her cynical, ambitious heart.

It’s kind of like Shirobako if most of the cast were jerks or idiots. I’m not usually a fan of comedies about terrible people, but Girlish Number‘s study in contrasts and snarky repartee is working for me so far. Also, the character animation and expressions are A+. I may get tired of its biting tone, but for now I’m enjoying this one a whole lot.

Magic-Kyun Renaissance

This otome game (dating sim for girls) adaptation about a “magical arts” school distinguishes itself from the harem anime pack thanks to some nice art direction, a group of basically likable (if slightly bland) characters, and an ongoing exploration of the creative process and how young artists find their voices. It may not be outstanding, but it fills me with determination even so.

March Comes in Like a Lion (Sangatsu no Lion)

I want to love this one, and on paper I do, but what should be a reflective, sadly hopeful story about grief, depression, family, healing, and shogi is robbed of much of its grace due to ostentatious direction. The storyboard jumps from one disjointed frame to the next, snapping from wide shot to extreme closeup and back again with no sense of continuity or purpose. It’s like the director is afraid to linger on any one frame for more than a few seconds, as if they don’t have faith that the (great) story and (lovely) artwork are enough to hold the audience’s attention.

It gives large swathes of the production a jerky, frantic air that’s frankly unpleasant to watch. While there are times when this mostly works (when depicting Rei’s discomfort and the harsh edges of the other shogi players), there are other times when it makes a scene loud and sharp when the story calls for softness and restraint. The lack of integration between script and art is frustrating and off-putting, like the anime staff keeps yanking my head away from the TV to shout “See what we just did?!” in my face. I’ll give it a few more to see if it can tone that down or if I can get used to the showy style, but if not, I might have to give up and wait for an official manga release instead.

Keijo!!!!!!!!

I have no defense for this other than that it is okay to like problematic things and this is a problematic thing that I like. Keijo is a big ball of T&A and keeps ruining its mostly amiable tone with crass groping jokes…but heaven help me, I like the cheerful, driven protagonist and am genuinely invested in both the keijo matches and the characters’ struggles to make it to the big leagues. Also, the butt attacks make me giggle, because I am apparently twelve years old. That’s all I got. Let’s just move along before I lose any more followers, shall we?

Notable Holds & Drops

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Since I’d initially tagged these as watchlist contenders, I figured I should mention them here, too:

  • Izetta: The Last Witch: What looked like a fun show about two ladies saving a nation from pseudo-Nazis has been ruined thanks to creepy, leering direction that completely undercuts the central story. I’d initially put it on hold and was gonna wait to see what others had to say about it, but this tweet sealed it for me. Emphatically dropped.
  • Sound! Euphonium 2: My feelings about this show have always been in flux. The first season was perpetually on my bubble until it won me over with a strong third act, but this second season has kicked off with club drama about supporting characters and crushes that just don’t interest me at all. I haven’t dropped it, but my watch list is packed, so I’m putting it on hold for the time being. We’ll see if/when I come back to it.
  • WWW.Wagnaria!! I’ll likely return to Wagnaria some sleepy evening when I need something light and amusing, but I’m not compelled to keep up with it right now.

I’m also still waiting on Amazon to stream The Great Passage with increasingly less patience. I might crack and torrent it, although I still won’t blog it until (if?) it gets an official U.S. release. Because morals or something. Stupid morals.

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3 thoughts on “Rule of Three Review: Fall 2016 Anime Digest

  1. Keijo is kind of a wierd one this season. In someways it is so in your face that’s it’s no longer even fanservice. It’s just too ridiculous and by the 3rd episode I find myself more interested in the anime sports aspect than any of the rest of it. We are into killer moves that risk ending your career, special training, weight suits and life and death battles on the “land”. It’s Guts, Effort and Friendship all the way.

    Is it a “problem” series. Absolutly without question
    but it is still kind of addictive and fun

    If they toned things down just a bit it would be about perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. katmarie13 says:

    I just finished the first episode of ClassicaLoid and I am c r y i n g. I am never getting over the visual of Great Bach-sama and his shades. As long as this continues to be goofy and silly and fill the void left by Boueibu, I’ll be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

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