Rule of Three Review: Spring 2017 Anime Digest

Feels like only yesterday we were talking about the Spring premieres. They grow up so fast…!

It’s a great season for sequels, a good season for fantasy, and a not-too-shabby season for female protagonists. The watch list hasn’t shrunk much at all since the premiere digest (although a few shows could easily drop off in the coming weeks), so this is more of a check-in than a culling. Maybe that bodes well for Spring’s staying power?

(In other news, there’s a good chance I’m gonna retire the “Rule of Three” posts after this one. It comes too closely on the heels of the premiere reviews for me to feel like it
provides much value, and it takes significant time out of a schedule that’s becoming increasingly packed. This isn’t set in stone, but don’t be surprised if summer rolls around and we’re down to Premiere, Midseason, and Retrospective check-ins.)

Locked In

The Royal Tutor

The good boys are still good and I still like this one a whole lot. I’m starting to think it was custom-made for me to help fill the ClassicaLoid-sized silly comedy hole in my heart. I’m covering it for Anime Evo, so I’ll let my Early Impressions post do the talking on this one.

Sakura Quest

This is still the best-executed series of the season, blending coming-of-age narrative with small-town ensemble sitcom and…oh dang, I just realized. It’s anime Parks and Rec. It has the same character-driven focus, fond teasing of small-town locals, and doesn’t flinch from acknowledging sometimes dreary reality (such as people ignoring a growing problem because they won’t ever have to deal with it personally) while still hanging on to the possibility of something better. Huh. No wonder I enjoy it so much.

We’re only three episodes in but it’s already a series I don’t feel like I need to worry about. I can watch it whenever, and I can count on it to entertain through distinct dialogue and character interactions along with alternating bursts of dry humor and optimistic sincerity. I can also count on it to treat its female cast as real people, with diverse strengths and failings, which is always a big plus. It’s still eclipsed by a few shows as far as “personal favorite” goes, but I also don’t have any real critiques. Sakura Quest is good, y’all. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Sequel Parade

  • Attack on Titan: Turns out all this show had to do to earn my interest was focus on literally anyone other than Eren. Season 2 has been quality action/horror thus far, and for maybe the first time ever I genuinely give a damn about what’s happening to its cast. Looks like I’m on board after all.
  • My Hero Academia: Even the obligatory tournament arc can’t kill my enjoyment of this earnest series. I’ll watch this group of kids face any challenge, and I will be inspired every darn time.
  • The Eccentric Family: I love this series so much that I struggle to talk about it. Each episode draws me into its fantastically grounded world and I’m spellbound in a way that’s utterly unique from any other of my favorite series. (The experience of watching Mushishi comes close, but not quite.) I’m hoping I’ll find a way to cobble together some meaningful words about it soon, because I really do want to share the singular charm of this singular series with others, somehow.

Secure(ish)

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation

Here’s another one of those series I’m going to damn with faint praise by saying it’s a perfectly fine fantasy series that’s doing nothing new but doing all the old stuff quite well. The characters are archetypal but likable (well, the dragon mascot is annoying, but Katalina and Rackam are Extra Good to make up for it); the story moves at a pace that allows it to build its characters without letting its plot stagnate; the storyboards treat the female characters with respect (there’s a character who’s armor is basically a leopard-print bikini, and the camera still never ogles her!); and I’m still an absolute sucker for the art and character designs.

I’m enjoying it, mind you, but it hasn’t given me much else to say since that premiere review. It’s still very much a straightforward fantasy JRPG, so if you like those (as I do) then you’ll probably like Granblue. Otherwise I doubt there’ll be much here for you.

KADO: The Right Answer

KADO is a dialogue-heavy, ideas-driven series about negotiation and communication packed with a bunch of high-concept SF ideas that’s interested in (and fond of philosophizing about) the ability of one person/being to fully explain their intentions to another. It’s not gracefully executed, and while the narrative structure has definitely improved, it’s still glacially paced and only marginally interested in fleshing out its characters beyond the roles they represent.

But I, uh…kinda don’t care? Because I’m fascinated by those ideas, too, and I have no earthly clue where this story is going. That mystery of intent makes me not only come back for more, but actively want to see the next episode (even if I spend half of it annoyed at how bogged down KADO gets in its own concepts). It’s also one of the few series where the CG sorta works, as there are some wonderfully unsettling moments of alien-ness made all the more uncanny by the awkward movements and models. I’m real hesitant to pitch it to others because it is undeniably a weird, often frustrating series, but I confess that I’m liking it a little more each week.

Livin’ on the Edge

Alice & Zoroku

I thought I’d dropped this one, but then I tried Episode 3 on a whim yesterday, and the story got all intense and action-packed and introduced some overarching themes along with a really fascinating antagonist, so, uh… it seems like I might be back into it? The premise is inherently screwed-up, so I’m frankly relieved to see that the series is acknowledging that rather than shying away.

I could see how its split tonal personality could drive off plenty of viewers, both those who lose interest in the gentle family comedy and those who balk from stories about child experimentation and violence. Alice is walking a very careful line between cute-girl fluff and cute-girl suffering porn, and it could absolutely fall into either pit if it isn’t careful, but so far it’s managed to ride the line pretty deftly. I’m curious to see how it’s going to keep balancing its two halves, and how Sana’s story will weave together with those of the other Dream-wielders. No promises, but it looks like I’m in for at least a little longer.

WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? (SukaSuka)

I had this slotted into the “Bubble” category before watching Episode 3, but now that I have… well, I’m gonna leave it here for now, but it’s a lot closer to “Secure-ish” at this point. WorldEnd reminds me very much of Grimgar in that its pensive tone and focus on community/family-building are very well done, and there’s a poignant, heartfelt story at its core, but it can’t quite shake itself from some of those stock anime/LN tropes.

The characters are all still great–quietly sad and developing relationships to each other that aren’t mutual but are equally complex–but the narrative itself is a bit skeevy. This means that even though it’s very clear that Willem himself isn’t interested in the 15-year-old girl, the camera and story just can’t stop itself from throwing in a creepily suggestive massage scene. That happened in Episode 2, when I got annoyed. Episode 3 dispensed with that nonsense and went back to building familial and teacher/student relationships, and it was lovely. There’s so much potential here. I hope WorldEnd doesn’t squander it.

Dropped

Just one at this point: Tsukigakirei was still on the fence for most of Episode 2, and I was even leaning towards giving it one more, but the little shorts that ran after the end credits included a “boy acts aggressive to girl who secretly wants it” vignette that left such an unexpected, sour taste in my mouth that I haven’t been able to go back. If I hear good things, I could power through that sour taste, but my watch list is plenty lengthy as is, so I’m fine for now.

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2 thoughts on “Rule of Three Review: Spring 2017 Anime Digest

  1. I felt the same way about WorldEnd. The MC seems perfectly respectable and interesting but it’s like the show itself thought “if he won’t be skeevy we’ll just have to be skeevy ourself”, which feels very odd. It’s as if the show was betraying its own characters.

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