Glancing Upstream: Winter 2016 Retrospective and Review

Something something “the winter of our discontent.”

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This is my shortest retrospective to date, thanks to a pretty dismal season in terms of incoming series. Some of that had to do with my own time constraints and self-imposed ranking rules (there are four shows in the “unranked” category this season, three of which I’d happily recommend to others), but some of it had to do with there just not being a lot that caught my eye this time around. Still, the top two were pretty special, and if an anime season can give you even one incredible series, then it’s hard to call it a true disappointment, I s’pose.

If there’s one positive trend to take from this season, it’s that we’ve got some good artists and directors in the business: people able to take into account all elements of a production and elevate the source material, whether that’s from “meh” to “good” or “good” to “great.” So take heart! The blueprints may be rough at times, but at least they’re in the hands of skilled builders.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 13 (Season Finale)

I’ve never been so happy to write the word “season” instead of “series” into a post title before.

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In case you missed the good news, Showa Genroku is getting a second season, something I never thought I’d be writing and am positively giddy to be doing so. Given that the manga is scheduled to wrap up sometime this summer, it’s likely the production staff had this planned out as a complete, two-part adaptation right from the start. Thank the anime gods for risk-takers and passion projects, that’s all I can say.

Knowing we’re only at the halfway point takes a lot of pressure off of me, too, as I don’t need to try to tie it all together or judge it as a complete work just yet. There’s lots of story left to tell, and while SGRS Act I set up one complicated, tragic stage, this season finale injects a powerful shot of hope into our story, suggesting that Act II may just find a way to give its current players a more optimistic ending after all.

Click here for the full post on Anime Evo!

Snow White with the Red Hair – Episode 24 (Series Finale & Review)

And so we turn the final page on our cozy little fairy tale.

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With a surprise messenger and a moonlit conversation, Snow White comes to a warm, heartfelt conclusion, providing a finale that’s open-ended but also satisfyingly complete. As is the norm, I’ll spend the first half of this post providing a spoiler-free review for those curious about the series, and the second half talking about the episode itself. Hit the jump for glowing words and screenshots alike.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 12

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for?

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Showa Genroku’s tragedy-coaster reaches its summit and drops us straight down in more ways than one, fulfilling its first-episode promises in dramatic fashion. There may be a small light at the end of this tunnel, but it’s an awful long way off. For now, we need to talk about our cast and our story, and about why things happened the way they did–or, rather, about why that “why” remains so elusive in the first place. It’s another essay, this one in four parts. Get comfy. It’s a long way down to the bottom of this post.

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Snow White with the Red Hair – Episode 23: “The Future Because of Who You Are”

Is it a little shoujo in here, or is it just me?

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“Come for the calm, stay for the comedy” is becoming my new Snow White pitch as of late. Strong interpersonal dynamics and a newfound emotional closeness have been the through-line of the last few episodes, turning this more into an ensemble production than a two-person show, and one with a hearty dash of humor to boot. Add to this a BONES team that knows its way around a silly face as well as they do a quiet, honest moment between friends, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for one delightful fairy tale. Seems a shame we have to close the book so soon.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 11

You know, if we stop watching now, we can pretend they lived happily ever after…

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My goodness, was that a delightful episode. While Showa Genroku makes for a fascinating character study, it’s not what you’d call a “feel-good” series–our protagonist’s dour outlook, our cast’s ongoing struggles, and our knowledge of the eventual conclusion weigh too heavily on the story, infusing it with a quiet sorrow even in its brighter moments. This week, though, for perhaps the first time since the premiere (or at least since Kikuhiko’s first triumphant performance), we had an episode that was positively resplendent with joy. My grin was nearly as wide as Konatsu’s.

Click here for the full post on Anime Evo!

Snow White with the Red Hair – Episode 22: “The Spring of Intent”

A retainer’s work is never done.

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We return to the palace and our characters’ return to their daily lives, which means navigating relationships professional and personal and trying to find that tricky balance between duty and desire. Fortunately Shirayuki and Zen have not only each other, but a bevy of friends and coworkers to support them in their journey–including one new ally who could make all the difference in turning their quiet fairy tale into a political reality.

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