Rule of Three Review: Winter 2017 Anime Digest

Easing on down the road, speed bumps and all.

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I keep thinking of this as a light season, but I’m still keeping up with nine series so clearly I have no concept of what “light” means anymore. Maybe by “light” I just mean there isn’t a lot of meat here: I’m enjoying what I’m watching, but with the exception of a couple of series there’s not a ton of in-depth discussion to be had. …Or maybe burying myself in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju each week has just fried the part of my brain that analyzes things.

Probably the biggest bummer about this season is that the list of titles I would happily recommend to everyone is, er…not long. Lotta caveats this season, which means a lot of shows that could easily lose you and perpetually run the risk of losing me. As with everything in life right now, reckon we’ll just have to take it one day at a time.

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Panning the Stream: Winter 2017 Premieres Belated Mega-Digest

Premieres, second episodes…let’s not quibble on the details, shall we?

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Sorry this didn’t go up sooner. It should have. I had it in my head that I could work my 9-to-5, travel to a different city, help my best friend plan for her wedding, be IN that wedding, and still have time to watch all the anime premieres and write about them WHILE ALSO posting detailed episode analysis on the second season of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju.

I, uh… guess it’s important that we all discover our limits so that we remember we are fallible and squishy and capable of mass exhaustion, eh?

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Hidden camera footage of me from last week

Most of these shows are already on their second episodes or heading into their third. Still, I didn’t say I wasn’t going to write a premiere post, so I felt like I had to get something out there. Here’s a very quick rundown of what’s earned three episodes, what’s on the fence, and everything else. On the plus(?) side, the potential watchlist is already shorter than usual, which is the only reason I had time to slap this together at all. As you’ve likely heard by now, it’s, uh, not the most abundant of seasons.

I’ll have a proper Rule of Three out next week, with proper write-ups for everything I’m still watching. If you’re looking for lengthier premiere posts, Amelia covered everything in-depth at Anime Feminist, and of course ANN had their crack team of reviewers preview all the things, too. Thanks in advance for your understanding! And now, at last, the winter premiere post~

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Glancing Upstream: Winter 2015 Retrospective and Review

I’ve never been so sad to see the end of winter.

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Real talk, dear readers: This was the best anime season I’ve experienced since I started regularly watching simulcasts a few years ago, positively jam-packed with not only quality adaptations but also tremendous original works (a relative rarity these days). As a result, creating this list was torture, because there were simply too many great or good series, full of tightly woven plots, provocative themes, and captivating characters. So take the numbers with a grain of salt and, if you’re looking for a new show to watch, pay closer attention to the grades and premises.

I like to talk season trends in these retrospectives, and Winter saw a couple fascinating ones: Well-written female characters, and an exploration of binaries (male/female, life/death, Madonna/whore, geeky/sporty, etc.) and seemingly irreconcilable cultures and social groups. The top seven shows all feature diverse, layered lady protagonists; in five of those shows said protagonists are the main character; and two of them (Yurikuma Arashi and Maria the Virgin Witch) are overtly feminist works, portraying and challenging society’s expectations/treatment of women in both reality and fiction.

There’s a mess of complicated, morally gray, thought-provoking stuff here, but more impressive still, these ideas are generally paired with complex characters and compelling stories, leading to a gripping cocktail of the intellectual and the emotional, a winning combo of Dem Thinks and Dem Feels. In short, Winter was a damn good season, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Hit the jump for some spoiler-free mini-reviews, final grades, and Totally Arbitrary Rankings.

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Panning the Stream: Winter 2015 Midseason Review

And here I thought winter was supposed to be the quiet anime season.

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A solid mix of carryovers, sequels, and newcomers has (so far) made this the best winter anime season in recent memory, filled to the brim with engaging shows of varying styles and genres. The fall trend of arealism continues as almost every series on this list has at least some fantastical element to it, but perhaps most happily, there’s a sense of people taking risks – or, at the very least, having fun – this season, both in the art/animation and in the storytelling.

There are a surprising number of original series on the list (a relative rarity these days), and while it’s often messy and unpolished, it’s not the same ol’ blend of tropes and story lines churned out without imagination or even enjoyment. Energy and enthusiasm can make up for a lot of imperfections, and this season has me thoroughly engaged because of the amount of sheer excitement splashed across these frames. Here’s hoping that continues through the second half of winter, too.

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The Josei’s Top 10 Anime of 2014: Part 1 (#6-10)

Because no anime blog is complete without a proper Top 10 list.

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Glancing Upstream

I’ve seen some people calling this a weak year for anime, but I’m not sure it’s that so much as it’s just a very top-heavy year—the upper tier was a massive cut above the pack, making the rest of the shows seem a little lackluster in comparison. It also featured some disappointing adaptations and originals, and any time you get excited for a series and it doesn’t live up to those expectations, it can make the whole year feel weaker. Fortunately, off-the-radar “sleeper” series had a very good year, particularly when it came to comedies and sports shows, and a few strong sequels and long-running series helped give 2014 a much-needed boost in terms of quality.

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Glancing Upstream: Fall 2014 Retrospective and Review

Fall is at an end, but that doesn’t mean its best shows have to be.

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We saw two forms of storytelling make a welcome comeback this season: The high fantasy and (perhaps even more importantly) the long-form anime series. As anyone who’s been watching simulcast anime over the past few years will know, one-cour shows have become the norm, and anything longer a happy exception. This season, though, a whopping nine of the 13 shows on my watchlist ran longer than that, and seven of them will be continuing into the coming seasons. So there are a ton of “midseries” reviews in this bunch – and hey, what better time to catch up on some great shows than over the holiday break?

Overall it wasn’t the best of anime seasons, full of shows that fluctuated dramatically in tone and quality (Fate/stay night, Gugure! Kokkuri-san, Your Lie in April), one that shot itself in the foot (Yuki Yuna is a Hero), and a few that suffered to varying degrees from not getting more episodes to tell their extensive stories (Rage of Bahamut, Laughing Under the Clouds). But hey, no season with Mushishi will ever be a total failure, and there were two incredibly consistent, solid, just good old-fashioned well-told stories to round out the Top Three. So let’s focus on those first, starting with one of the great masterpieces of anime, back for its (sniffle) final round of episodes.

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Panning the Stream: Fall 2014 Midseason Review

Good sequels and good fantasies keep the stream from drying up this season.

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My fall watchlist is considerably smaller than my summer one, partly because of time constraints on my part, but mostly because there just isn’t as much that interests me this season. Not counting sequels (and yes, I count Fate/stay night as a sequel even though it technically isn’t), I’ve only kept up with seven new shows this season. Compare that to summer’s whopping 13 at the midway mark, and it sounds pretty dismal by all accounts.

That said, there is a pleasant ray of hope this fall: Fantasies have made a sudden and welcome comeback, as nearly every new series on this list features some element of magic or “arealism.” Better still, a fair number of them are two-cour, continuing this year’s trend of studios producing longer series (a very nice trend indeed). And hey, I’m also trying to watch half a dozen U.S. shows and a trio of sports, so maybe the shortened list isn’t such a bad thing.

Most everything falls (pun always intended) in “solidly watchable” B-range territory, with a couple standouts and a couple series hovering near the chopping block. What’s shining and what’s dimming? Hit the jump for a midseason check-in.

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