Rule of Three Review: Winter 2017 Anime Digest

Easing on down the road, speed bumps and all.

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I keep thinking of this as a light season, but I’m still keeping up with nine series so clearly I have no concept of what “light” means anymore. Maybe by “light” I just mean there isn’t a lot of meat here: I’m enjoying what I’m watching, but with the exception of a couple of series there’s not a ton of in-depth discussion to be had. …Or maybe burying myself in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju each week has just fried the part of my brain that analyzes things.

Probably the biggest bummer about this season is that the list of titles I would happily recommend to everyone is, er…not long. Lotta caveats this season, which means a lot of shows that could easily lose you and perpetually run the risk of losing me. As with everything in life right now, reckon we’ll just have to take it one day at a time.

Locked In

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Barring the world’s greatest narrative faceplant, I’m with these till the end.

ACCA

While a series about paranoid bureaucrats in a nation inching towards disaster might be a tad too real for comfort, my initial instincts proved correct: ACCA knows what it’s doing and is building on itself very well, developing its intrigue at an unhurried but increasingly tense pace. While it’s still fairly bare-bones in terms of animation, the direction and storyboarding have seen an uptick in quality along with the plot, working with the narrative to build that sense of impending crisis.

The cast of mostly adult government workers are being teased out in a similar manner to the story, their professional or public faces peeling back here and there to reveal hidden motives or sympathies. In a series that’s so far been all about suspicion and uncertainty, maybe it’s not surprising that I can’t tell you much more than that. All I know is I’m definitely sticking around to see where all these half-glimpsed threads lead.

ClassicaLoid

I fell behind on ClassicaLoid during my early January chaos, not because I’ve lost interest but because I know it will always be there to cheer me up when I need it, and that is a comforting feeling to have. Point being, I don’t have anything to say about its second half yet except that there’s an episode where Schubert turns himself into a fish and I would expect nothing less from this underappreciated gem of a series. Looking forward to being caught up soon!

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Fluid KyoAni animation combines with a story that fluctuates between wacky hi-jinks and sweet family bonding moments to make this my favorite new series of the season (although ACCA may give it a run for its money at this rate). The bawdy humor continues to be light and fun instead of uncomfortable (isn’t it amazing what consent can do, anime?!), and the two female leads have genuinely adorable romantic chemistry together. Plus it’s always nice to see an openly queer character depicted as positively as Tohru (and Kobayashi?) is/are.

Throw in a super-cute dragon kid that they basically adopt, some weirdo side characters, and excellent comedic timing and expressions, and you’ve got a winning recipe for a comedy that’s as warm as it is wacky. Like almost everything on this list, it has its weak points–Kobayashi’s aggressive Drunk Mode especially; body-shaming occasionally–but overall I’m enjoying this one an awful lot, and looking forward to more fire-breathing shenanigans.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

I’ve been talking about this one a whole lot, but in case you missed the memo: Season 2 is just as good as Season 1, except with the added bonus of feeling like it’s going to end happily instead of tragically. I sure hope so, anyway. I’ve fallen head-over-heels for this cast of conflicted, flawed strays and their little found family, and I very much want their story to end well.

Secure(ish)

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These are probably queue fixtures, but I don’t wanna make any promises just yet.

Saga of Tanya the Evil (Youjo Senki)

Tanya is still entertaining as hell, but it’s also become one of the more fascinating shows of the season, with the potential to turn into something more than just the “Dumbest Best Thing” I called it in my premiere post. What began as a magical war story about an unhinged child soldier has morphed into a heavenly conflict between Tanya and an all-powerful deity known as “Being X,” whom Tanya refuses to believe in no matter how many miracles (or, more accurately, curses) the deity throws at her.

I have no earthly idea where it’s going with its stubborn survivalist hero(ine)(?), and that lack of a clear end-goal could become a problem further down the line. For now, though, I’m ready for the next chapter in this bizarre, divine battle of wills.

Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation

It’s hard to believe anyone is coming to this post for a YowaPeda recommendation, given that we’re, what? 60-odd episodes into this thing? But if you’re like me and enjoyed previous seasons but weren’t sure about the need for this one, well…that’s still kinda where I am, to be honest. So I can’t help you folks either! Womp womp.

Losing my favorite character was a harsh blow, but the cast is filling out again with eccentric newcomers and returning players with lots of chutzpah and heart. I’m still not fully sold on this “New Generation,” but I enjoy it while it’s on, so that’s enough to keep it in the watchlist for now.

Hangin’ On

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No dropped titles so far, but this trio are livin’ life on the edge:

Akiba’s Trip

I’m four episodes in but still torn. On the one hand, Akiba‘s celebration of nerd culture in all its many forms (from games to pellet guns to idols to DIY radios) is a delight. It has quirky but enjoyable characters who fight but like each other; energetic, smeary action scenes; and a talent for stupid humor. It even works in some messages that I fully support, such as its welcoming attitudes towards nerd newbies and the way it encourages its characters to follow their passions, no matter how silly someone else might think it is.

But on the other hand, there sure is a lot of fanservice. I can’t really fault Akiba for that since it never pretended it wasn’t a fanservice show, but it’s not something I enjoy, especially since there’s an annoyingly disproportionate amount of stripped ladies as opposed to stripped dudes. The third episode in particular was a glaring weakness: It wanted to make a statement about exploitation in the idol business, but it exploited its characters in order to do it, meaning that it contributed to the very problem it was trying to call out.

All that having been said, I still like it more than I don’t, so I’m still watching it. I just want to make sure everyone understands that this isn’t a usual JND Recommendation–it’s entertaining and interesting and frustrating, but it comes with a million asterisks and warning labels attached, too.

Gabriel DropOut

At the risk of damning it with faint praise, Gabriel DropOut is a totally fine comedy about cute girls behaving badly. Its effectiveness tends to fluctuate depending on which characters we’re following–there’s a genuine cruel streak in Raphiel that makes most of her scenes fall flat, as opposed to the selfish or petty meanness of the others–and I often find myself enjoying the first half a lot more than the second, which probably speaks to its sketch comedy nature.

Even so, it can be genuinely funny and occasionally quite clever (I’m still impressed at how often it puts a twist on cliche fanservice jokes and gets me to laugh at them), and I do so have a fondness for trash girls. The third episode’s coffee shop story line, with its steady stream of bitterness softened by just a dash of sugar, may have truly sold me on it, but I want to give it at least one more before I say I’m in it for the long haul.

Interviews with Monster Girls (Demi-chan wa Kataritai)

It’s one of the more complex shows on my schedule in terms of the way its monster girls can serve as stand-ins or metaphors for real-world people and problems, so I’m half-tempted to keep watching it just for the essay possibilities. That said, it’s also the show I’m enjoying the least. There’s so much potential here, but it keeps stubbing its toe by insisting on practically every episode and conversation focusing on romance or sex.

The female characters are fascinating figures in their own right, but their individuality is lessened by the constant need to center their stories around how hard they’ve fallen for the pleasant male teacher, Takahashi. And given that so many of the characters are high schoolers, that fixation keeps throwing up red flags that make it that much harder to enjoy the very good stuff that’s happening around the edges.

In Monster Girls‘s defense, Takahashi has shown zero interest in the students themselves. But the fact that neither he nor the female teacher, Satou, has shut down these advances or pointed out the inappropriateness of them leaves the door open for some seriously messed-up power dynamics in the future. That concern makes me hesitant to commit to it, and so here it sits, an uncertainty on the edge of my watchlist.

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6 thoughts on “Rule of Three Review: Winter 2017 Anime Digest

  1. Wow, 9 shows. I’m only on 6, and one of those (3-Gatsu no Lion) is a carryover. The rest are Rakugo Shinjuu (of course), ACCA, Onihei, Little Witch Academia, and Kuzu no Honkai.

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  2. Wow! I’m sticking with ACCA, Shouwa Genroku, March comes in like a lion, and Kuzu no Honkai for now. Couldn’t really find anything else to my taste. Maybe I will check out Miss Kobayashi’s dragon maid.

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  3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo is brilliant. Nuff said.

    Next….

    ACCA is just downright excellent for me … am glad you were also infected by it!

    Am also very interested (still) to see you enjoying Youjo Senki to the degree you are … and to be honest I have been interested to see how the material has been adapted. I am enjoying it quite a bit still, and am even a bit intrigued by the adaptation choices.

    Speaking of which, both Demi-chan and Kobayashi are also very good adaptations for me, but are again cases where I am (again) kinda intrigued to see the choices and arrangement of the source material (I still follow both of the source manga).

    Kinda surprised Onihei is not on the list, but I could see the first episode losing some viewers to be sure.

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  4. inrosegalaxy says:

    I just started to catch up reading blog posts I’ve fallen behind in and I’m happy to find I’m not the only one who is REALLY not feeling the romantic/sex fixation in Interviews. Especially the tired bit where everyone falls for the older teacher. It’s like watching a creepy guy’s fantasy…. Glad I’m not alone in being uneasy with that one.
    I’m still really behind with ACCA, but I’m glad to hear that one is doing well going forward thus far. That and Tanya have been the only shows that have really stuck out to me thus far… Original shows anyway. We do thankfully have some nice continuing shows from last season.

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