Glancing Upstream: Summer 2015 Retrospective and Review

Having some good old-fashioned fun in the sun.

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Summer might not have had the most groundbreaking or ambitious of series, but what it lacked in artistry it made up for in pure enjoyment. This season was just plain entertaining, chock full a variety of genres from high fantasy to crime drama to horror to comedy. Well-executed (or awesomely bad) pop fiction was the name of the game, and I was genuinely excited for the next episode of even the lowest-rated series on this list.

That isn’t to say there weren’t some excellent ideas and characters to be found among the batch, mind you. While “entertainment” was the primary focus, many of the top series featured strong character writing, showrunners who knew how to develop unique atmospheres through art and music, and an understated but insightful exploration of social issues such as power imbalances and bigotry.

School-Live and Gangsta dealt with trauma in nuanced ways, and Snow White and My Love Story depicted some of the healthiest relationships in shoujo memory, promoting communication and quietly but consistently challenging traditional gender roles and genre stereotypes. Part of the reason I had so much fun this season was because I wasn’t having to constantly roll my eyes at some trite or harmful characterization, but could just get swept along in a bunch of great (or hilaribad) stories. And that makes this a pretty strong season in my book.

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Panning the Stream: Summer 2015 Midseason Review

Things’re really heating up, and I ain’t just talking about these August temperatures.

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The summer season is halfway(-ish) over but it feels like many of its shows are just getting started. Some shaky premieres nevertheless rife with potential have taken off in recent weeks, building momentum through character and plot development alike. My watch list isn’t quite as deep as it was in, say, the winter season, nor are the shows quite as across-the-board ambitious, but there’s a lot of variety, and the pure entertainment level is maybe higher than it’s been all year. I’m genuinely excited for the next episode of just about everything, and that’s a very good sign.

As for what I’m most excited about, you’ll just have to hit the jump to find out.

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Rule of Three Review: Chaos Dragon – Episodes 2-3

You hear that? It’s the sound of whatever critical reputation I may have had flying merrily out the window.

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Let’s get one thing straight: Chaos Dragon is not a good anime. It is a convoluted mess of fantasy rules, characters, powers, and political factions. A lot of those elements are at least kind of interesting and some are even pretty different from your usual fantasy fare, and if this series had had two cour instead of one, it might have been able to make all this work.

As it is, we’re having pro- and antagonists alike introduced in a flurry of special powers and absurdly complicated JRPG-style costumes, only to have them vanish again in 30 minutes or less. Similarly, important world-building details and sociopolitical schemes get explained in a blur of exposition that results in everything carrying about the same weight, which is to say, very little at all. (But hey, there is a dragon, and the writing is chaos, so give this one credit for truth in advertising at least.)

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Panning the Stream: Snow White with the Red Hair, Chaos Dragon, Actually I Am, Monster Musume

Love is in the air, but the sparks ain’t always flying.

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We come at last to my most anticipated new series of the season—and no, it isn’t either of the ones about dudes with monster harems. Animation studio BONES is doing a shoujo for the first time since—geez, Ouran High, I guess—and the results are predictably lovely. As for the rest… well, it wasn’t all bad, it just wasn’t all my cup of tea. Of course, some of it was rull bad, too. Hit the jump for some goodies, some not-so-goodies, and of course, some dudes with monster harems. Only in anime, I tell you what.

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