Panning the Stream: Spring 2017 Midseason Review

Some of these spring buds are really starting to blossom.

WorldEnd - Willem, Ithea, and Ren

I finished writing this a few days ago, but I held off on posting it so I could roll it in with a neat bonus: I joined Amelia and Peter on the “Chatty AF” Anime Feminist podcast to talk about how this season’s shows are doing! So you can read the check-in or listen to it! Or both if you’re so inclined! The possibilities are endless! (Well, okay, the possibilities are three. But that’s still more than we had before!)

Much like this past Winter season, my favorite shows are returning ones, although I do think this gang of newcomers has more potential than the last batch did. A few are picking up steam, a few are wobbling on the edge of the cliff, and many are chugging along, doing their thing. Hit the jump for the written details, or click this here link for the spoken ones. (And remember that you can always search for Chatty AF on iTunes and Stitcher, too!)

Old Pals

My favorite shows of the season are sequels, so they deserve to kick off this post.

Attack on Titan – Season 2

Hanje talks to Titan Eren

Grade: A-

The sequel I was halfway dreading has become one of my most-anticipated weekly watches. Attack on Titan has dispensed with the self-serious inner monologues and high-concept debates of the first season and embraced its inner off-the-wall action extravaganza, added a splash of self-aware irreverence, and somehow managed to make its characters more sympathetic and enjoyable along the way. I am having a freaking blast. Spent the entirety of Episode 6 just laughing and applauding and then laughing some more. Keep it up, you beautiful, ridiculous spectacle.

My Hero Academia – Season 2

The My Hero Academia main trio

Grade: B+

I’m watching this one with a friend and we’re a couple episodes behind, which actually works better because that way we can binge a few at once. As always, there are valid critiques to be made about the pacing (do we really need a recap at the start of each week?), but also as always the cast is so gosh-darn excellent that I just can’t seem to mind. Featuring a variety of fascinating characters and unafraid to dive into more serious issues like child abuse without losing its core message of hope, MHA is still very much MHA, and that’s still a very good thing.

The Eccentric Family – Season 2

Yasaburo and the Nidaime

Grade: A

I. I just. Ahhh. I love it so much. An utter delight, week in and week out. I blathered on about it in the AniFem podcast and still couldn’t seem to properly explain how I feel about it. It’s just. It’s the whole package. The family narratives. The balance between the fantastical and the real. The fascinating, contradictory characters and their diverse relationships. The tension between individual and group. Even the background art and color palettes.

The Eccentric Family is a top-to-bottom production that casts a start-to-finish spell each week. The first season was one of my top 10 favorite anime of all time, and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

New Friends

Recent arrivals that have me pretty well hooked.

KADO: The Right Answer

Shindo and zaShunina on the cube

Grade: ??

I give up, KADO. You win. I legitimately like you, ya big weirdo. I have no idea where you’re going or what you’re doing, and I wish to high heaven that you’d give your characters more layers and that the female scientist wasn’t such an annoying version of the “immature genius” archetype and that you’d let someone other than Shindo or zaShunina do something cool… but dammit if I’m not utterly intrigued by you even so.

I won’t be able to give this one any kind of proper grade or recommendation until we’ve reached the finish line and I can decide if the bizarre journey was worth it. All I know is I’m definitely going to see it through to the end.

The Royal Tutor

Heine and Leo in town

Grade: B+

In case you missed it, I’m covering this one weekly for Anime Evo and having a whole lot of fun doing so. The humor is very warmhearted, mixing cuteness with deadpan with visual gags, and the story has some actual meat on its bones, bringing up issues of empathy and communication, social status, privilege, performance anxiety, and more.

As a nice bonus, the episodic antics contain a Mysterious Past and Antagonistic Figure to help form an overarching narrative. It’s not quite the comedic gem I thought it would be going in–it’s a bit too sincere and “cute boys having emotions”-esque for that (not that I’m complaining, mind you)–but it’s still a very charming outing each week, and one I’d happily recommend to others.

Sakura Quest

Yoshino celebrates with a beer

Grade: B

I’m glad I found out Sakura Quest is going to be two-cour, because otherwise I might be coming in here to express concerns about the pacing and wondering if the story could come close to a satisfying resolution in 12-13 episodes. Thankfully, Sakura Quest has plenty of time to develop its characters and their individual arcs, along with the overall arc of the town as it tries to revive its tourism industry.

The series is still very much a sitcom-style sequence of mini-arcs, with some working better than others, but each arc successfully reveals more about its central figures (all young women struggling to figure out who they want to be going forward) and hit one or two emotionally resonant chords along the way. This is another one where I think the ending will have a strong effect on my overall enjoyment, but so far I’m here for the ride–even if its focus on quarter-life crises means it can get a little too real at times.

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

Chtholly and Willem

Grade: B

If WorldEnd could dispense with the occasional cliche harem-isms (suggestively framed massages, girls slapping someone because they’re embarrassed), I’d have put it in the “A” range. I really, really love the concepts at play here: found families, second chances, trauma and healing, finding hope amidst impending tragedy, and the nifty role-reversal of having a male character waiting at home for the girls to return from war. God help me, I’m even warming up to the (problematic, I know, dammit) shipteasing between Chtholly and Willem because it’s played with such sincere, emotional warmth.

Because of those harem-isms, WorldEnd will likely never live up to its full potential, and I’m constantly bracing myself for it to fall off a cliff. Even so, it hits all my weak spots in terms of tone, theme, and character dynamics. Add to that some genuinely beautiful shots and frames along with a developing (and trippy) Chtholly backstory, and it’s enough for me to wince about but ultimately look past its failings, making it one of my favorite new shows of the season.

Mere Acquaintances

Each week it’s a roll of the dice whether I’ll keep watching or not.

Granblue Fantasy: The Animation

Granblue cast and airship

Grade: C

There’s little to complain about with Granblue–in fact I quite like its core cast and focus on teamwork, and A-1 Pictures has done terrific work animating the action sequences–but there’s nothing to get real excited about either. It has the potential for some great character dynamics and arcs, but it keeps adding new people instead of focusing on the ones that already exist. This wouldn’t be an issue if I knew the series was two-cour (or more), but to my knowledge it isn’t, so more characters just means everyone gets shafted. An unsatisfying conclusion is beginning to feel like an inevitability, which is killing my desire to keep watching it. Maybe I should just play the game instead?

Alice and Zoroku

Alice and Zoroku

Grade: C+

I kinda got sucked into A&Z during that tense kidnapping story, but then it wrapped up pretty much all of its plot threads at Episode 5 and I was so satisfied with the “ending” that I had no desire to go back. Unless I hear really good things about the second half’s story line, I’m probably done with it. My thoughts on it haven’t changed much since my Rule of Three review, so read that if you’re wondering whether or not to pick it up yourself.

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7 thoughts on “Panning the Stream: Spring 2017 Midseason Review

  1. Can’t believe you’re not watching Tsuki ga Kirei! That’s *the* unheralded sleeper hit of the season.

    I’ve been down on Sakura Quest myself, but the latest arc seems to have cleared up many of the problems… So I’m crossing my fingers.

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    • I talked about this in my Rule of 3 as well as in the midseason podcast, but Tsuki ga Kirei never quite clicked for me, and then it did some stuff that irked me enough that I decided to stop watching for now. I’m keeping my ears open for series reviews, though, so if people say it ends well there’s a good chance I’ll give it a second try.

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      • Fair enough. :) It’s impossible to keep track of what everyone is watching. Heck, I’m so busy last week and next, it’s hard to keep track of what I’m watching! :)

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  2. I’m with you on Kado. I actually dropped SukaSuka and Alice and Zoroku. The former because I spoiled myself xD and later because I lost interest after the way-too-cute slice of life part.
    I’m actually surprised with The Royal Tutor. I’m kind of rooting for all of them to be the next king, what do I do? xD
    I’m finally catching up with Eccentric Family! I can’t believe this series, how can it be so good?

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  3. No Eromanga-sensei? I think it’s enjoyable although it has some ehhh undertones. I’m super pumped for BNHA, it will be really enjoyable in a few episodes when they’re on the high of the tournament arc (there’s 2 epic battles to look out for and todoroki’s angst gets full focus soon)

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    • Those undertones (which are very loud overtones from my perspective) are why I dropped it. Couldn’t even make it through the entire first episode, to be honest.

      My Hero Academia has been fantastic as of late. Can’t wait to see where the stories and characters go from here!

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