Glancing Upstream: Summer 2016 Retrospective and Review

Diving in for one last look at summer’s little treasures.

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The Fall season may be well under way, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to bid fond farewell to our Summer standouts. After spending two weeks out of town and then writing a whole lotta final thoughts on orange and 91 Days, my schedule’s a mess right now (I haven’t even finished all of the shows on my summer watchlist), so this post will be shorter and more informal than usual so I can get it out before the Fall season overtakes me completely. Thanks in advance for your understanding!

As all that may suggest, Summer’s been pretty hectic on my end thanks to a second move, family events, new writing projects, and the aforementioned two-week trip, so maybe it’s no surprise that I gravitated toward lighter comedies and escapism this season. That said, there are still a trio of shows on this list that’ll punch you right in your feels pouch. Good thing you’ve got those other soothing shows to help ease the sting, eh?

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Glancing Upstream: Spring 2016 Retrospective and Review

Gold and silver and bronze and on.

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Spring might have been lacking the standout masterpiece and shoujo gem that Winter had (Shouwa Genroku and Snow White, respectively), but it more than made up for it in sheer quantity, offering up a variety of lively, stylish, and just downright fun series. In that respect, this season feels a little like last summer: I’m not sure how many of these shows are gonna make my 2016 Top 10 list, but I enjoyed watching just about all of them.

In other news, I think this is the last time you’ll see my Totally Arbitrary Rankings used in a season retrospective. More and more I’m realizing I don’t love the ranking system–it forces me to list shows one after the other even if I think multiple shows may have all been equally worthwhile for very different reasons. It’s reductive and misleading but, more to the point, not that fun. So enjoy the numbers for today, bid them a fond (or not) farewell, and look forward to a new format from here on out.

For now, though…

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The Josei’s Top 10 Anime of 2015: Part 1 (#6-10)

Ringing in the new year with a loving look back at the old.

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Glancing Upstream

This was my kinda year, both in terms of the types of shows and the way they were executed. Lots of bleeding cool action, entertaining fantasy, charming shoujo, and some ambitious projects from both up-and-coming and seasoned directors/writers made the year not just a fun one, but at times downright stunning.

While there were still plenty of bad or just forgettable titles floating around this year, the industry as a whole seems a lot more financially comfortable than it used to be (thanks in part to international simulcasts), which has led to studios not only releasing more titles, but taking greater risks with some of them, too. Not to say that niche passion projects like Maria the Virgin Witch or animation-fests like One Punch Man would never have seen the light of day in past seasons, but with greater economic stability, big-name studios like Production I.G. and Madhouse (and my darling BONES, who would have positively dominated this list if I’d allowed split-cours) can produce these titles with a little less reticence than they might have in the past. And that’s always a good thing.

Beyond that, two things really stand out after putting this list together: First, that the year was front-loaded like nobody’s business, as half these titles aired during the winter; and two, that it featured a lot of smart, character-driven series, and some particularly well-written female protagonists, which is a huge bonus for me. All-in-all I had me a very good 2015, and am excited to talk about some of its standouts.

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Glancing Upstream: Fall 2015 Retrospective and Review

The autumn colors were certainly on display, I’ll give Fall that, at least.

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This was a slim season for me in terms of overall series completed, and would have been a pretty disappointing one if not for a couple happy surprises and a pair of standout shows from the ever-reliable Studio BONES. Still, there’s good variety here, with a strong focus on action/adventure titles, so there’s a pretty good chance something out there will speak to everyone’s tastes.

One thing Fall did have in droves was plenty of style. From the jaw-droppingly dynamic animation of One Punch Man, to the ’60s comic book-inspired design of Concrete Revolutio, to the painted landscapes of Seraph, the glowing monsters of Noragami, and even the washed-out color scheme and bursts of acid-trip weirdness in Perfect Insider, a lot of creative teams threw themselves into making the shows this season visually striking, and they by-and-large succeeded.

While ultimately I’m the kind of viewer who needs a developed set of characters and a meaningful (or at least entertaining) narrative to keep me invested in a story, that should by no means take away from the sheer amount of hard work and talent on display this Fall. Animation is art, and (narrative content notwithstanding), these creators have made that abundantly clear.

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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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Glancing Upstream: Spring 2015 Retrospective and Review

Well, that was certainly a season of anime.

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Okay, maybe I’m being too hard here. Winter 2015 was a nigh impossible act to follow in terms of sheer depth and breadth, and it’s not like Spring didn’t have its fair share of light, fun series. Plus there were a few clear standouts along the way as well, particularly if you enjoy more realistic YA-style fiction. Still, I’m finding that, while last season I was recommending just about everything to just about everyone, this season is a lot more about “Well, if you like {Genre}, you’ll probably enjoy {Title}.”

Weaker seasons tend to tell you more about your own tastes than the stronger ones, and now that I’ve officially blogged a full year’s worth of anime seasons, I think it’s safe to say that I have a wide range of genre and story interests and will watch just about anything so long as I can get halfway invested in the characters, whether that’s through humor or emotional drama. There are some definite clumsy and/or questionable shows on this list, but I stuck around largely because I liked hanging out with at least a portion of the cast and wanted to see what became of them. So, really, this season’s list is as much about who I liked as it is about what I liked.

Hit the jump for the best characters of the season (and their corresponding series).

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Panning the Stream: Spring 2015 Midseason Review

Time to peek in on the Spring line-up and see how our new team’s holding up.

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The word for this season so far is “light,” and I don’t necessarily mean that in terms of the number of shows I’m watching (although there is that, too). Unlike this past winter, which was jam-packed with ambitious stories, social commentaries, and questions with no easy answers, Spring is more about kicking back and having fun, whether you’re engaging in rom-com shenanigans, trying to make it big in an anthropomorphic CG band, or swearing vengeance against those damn dirty vampires. And while I’ve grumbled about the weakness of this season, there’s something to be said for good old-fashioned escapism sometimes, too.

Lightness notwithstanding, there’s still one major standout, a couple solid sequels, and a few new series which are growing well and showing signs of real potential—including some that should have never worked for me and yet draw me in a little deeper each week. This is either proof that execution trumps premise, or that my taste is getting worse by the minute and it’s all cat girls and panty jokes from here on out. Remember me as I was, not as I am. Then hit the jump to get a rundown of our current roster.

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