Seasonal Reviews: Winter 2016 Pt.2

The Winter rolls on, and it's proving to be a weirdly mixed season all in all. We're still struggling through and enjoying the gems of the season, among the terrible videogame shows and the generic messes. Drops are still out for staff, so what will be cut from the chaff this installment?

Let's find out!


Dropped Shows
  • Mahou Shoujo Nante Mouiidesukara (David, one episode)
  • Nurse Witch Komugi R (Stephanie, one episode)

Full Shows

Active Raid
Jonathan Kaharl

I fucking love this show. After fighting a dance mech with some hacking and making Asami pretend to be an idol to trick the otaku inside it, the team has moved onto dealing with an attempted bombing and a game of life and death with an expert gambler. We have a better idea of who Sena is through the bombing plot now, as its revealed that he's a dropout of the Self-Defense program and is very focused on the mission before him. He wants the unit to be a well oiled machine, but he realizes he needs the ability to think outside the box as Takeru saves his hide during the mission. He finally feels like a character, helped by how he sees Asami and wants to work with Takeru, one of the few people he trusts despite his feelings towards him, to train her into a proper member of the unit. I can't be the only guy who got the two dads raising a daughter vibe here.

The gambler episode helped flesh out more of the supporting members of the team, including the section chief revealing he used to be a bit of a wild kid. But the bigger surprise is Madoka, the quietest member of the team and resident hacker, who is revealed to be a gambling legend who's now working with the police despite her criminal past. She quickly became one of my favorite characters with just one episode, helping to save the day and showing off some of the old ways that the world has forgotten. There's a major theme in this series of people failing to evolve along with technological progress, and this gambling plot combined with Logos' involvement is really highlighting this. Logos and Unit 8 are polar opposites, young and old, and treat technology differently. However, Unit 8's unorthodox methods also don't fit with the established order. They're a middle ground of the two approaches where imperfections among people are important to doing what's needed for the greater good, but they also succeed in that because they don't fully fit into a ideal of some sort. This really is mainly a job for them, and they don't think hard on why they help people in crisis. Asami's importance can't be stressed enough, as her idealism is needed to give the team greater unity and order among themselves, as her presence helps strengthen bonds between the entire team. She's a youth who believes in old ideas, and goes at them with an energy the old lack. Really, she is the ultimate counterpoint of the chaotic Logos, the overly structured system the police work under, and Unit 8's lax attitude.

The character dynamics in this show are so good. They're all very simple and easy to understand, but they don't spell everything out and move a lot of themes and ideas around alongside the absurd situations and fun comedy and action beats. It really captures the energy of the director's famous work Code Geass, but strips away some of the more misogynistic elements and dramatic flair for a hot blooded action flick style mixed with the same sense of humor and character as that series. Honestly, this may end up being the better written show out of the two, and a big surprise for the year. I have a lot of faith in Active Raid, and I can't wait for the next episode. It just so perfectly captures the flow of the world we live in, but makes it a joy to explore.

Strong Recommendation

Ajin
David O'Neil

The first episode of Ajin was one of my least favorite premieres of the season. It was a substance-less slog where not much of anything interesting happened other than generic set up. But still, it was only one episode, and I felt it was unfair to drop it when I didn't even feel I had a good idea of what exactly it was trying to be. The first episode gave the impression it was walking in the footsteps of shows like Parasyte and Tokyo Ghoul, but without any action, or much known about what exactly an "Ajin" was, it felt like I'd been given the intro and none of the meat. So, I gave the next episode a go. And I still just can't get into it.

It's clearly a slow build show, as yet another episode went by purely setting things up without any action or major shifts in the plot. And for some shows this can work, but it just isn't doing anything for me with Ajin. The characters, the premise, and the world just aren't strong enough to carry this show moving at this kind of pace. The main character is uninteresting, and seems to be holding back any elements of his past that may help to better characterize him, his best friend is bland, and the villains are a mix of generic government higher ups who are clearly hiding things and random rapists (because we need people who can die brutally without the audience feeling bad). The visuals were more interesting than that of the first episode, with more movement overall, no use of still frames, and more appealing use of lighting, but there were still moments (especially close ups) where it really just looked like still action figures staring off into space. The plot is moving along, but considering all it has to show for it still comes down to "teenager gets mysterious powers that put him on the run from the law" routine that's already been done in more inventive ways, and lacks anything in the form of character motivations or world building, the show just isn't giving me much reason to stick around.

There are glimpses of a good show here and there, similar to the first episode the second does have a single stand out scene that really got my attention. The climax of the second episode is creepy, and genuinely intense, and I thought it was really cool. Unfortunately, to get to it you'd have to slog through 20 minutes of slow, uninspired build up to actually get to that brief moment. After that, I felt pretty much done with the show. It still wasn't showing off enough to keep me interested to keep coming back week to week. In the end Ajin is a show that feels empty, lacking any real selling points to cling onto other than neat concepts other shows have already done better.

No Recommendation, dropped at episode two

AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across the Blue
David O'Neil

Right out of the gate Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue presented an intriguing gimmickan island where nearly everyone wears special technologically advanced shoes that allows them to fly, and are commonly used in a sport which has contestants flying through the air and trying to both tag each other and outpace each other. It certainly got my attention, but after that it was up to the show to keep me sticking around after the initial pitch, and so far, its done a pretty good job of that.

By far the biggest thing the show has going for it is the flying sport in the center of it all, called the Flying Circus (not to be mistaken with the Itano Circus- I apologize for the animation nerd joke). The more I see of it the more it becomes apparent this concept is no one trick pony, and the've already done a great job doing a lot of interesting stuff with the sport. It's intense, surprisingly complex, and new techniques and strategies are constantly thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. One match in episode 3 was especially intense, with two people zipping through the sky at immense speeds trying to tag each other, which is a sight to behold. The use of CG is disappointing, but you get used to it pretty quick and they make sure never to use it in close ups, exclusively using it for farther out shots, assuring the switch between 2D and CG is never very noticeable. I'd like to see them do even more with creating dynamic chases and match ups using the CG, but what we've gotten so far is still really solid. The strongest episode so far, though, is probably the fourth. It choses to focus entirely on one of the side characters, Mashiro, whose fallen behind the two leads in terms of skill in the sport, and teams up with a girl her age from a rival school to help her improve. Its a really nice standalone vignette that expands on the character well, and leads to some sweet moments. I'd love to see the show try to pull of these sorts of more contained, character driven stories more often.

Outside of all that, the show is still just a lot of fun. Gonzo continues to keep the animation and visual gags constant and full of energy, any fan of goofy anime faces is guaranteed to have a good time with this show. It does feel as if the narrative overall could use a bit more focus, with it being unclear whether it intends to focus more on the protagonist and his past, or Asuka learning to be a better player. Especially considering the male protagonist has barely even been around as of late (then again, he's the most boring character so I can't complain much). But still, with charming characters, and an interesting, exciting sport at its  center, Aokana is still a show very much worth checking out.

Solid Recommendation

BBK/BRNK
Danni Kristen

Following their brutal defeat at the hands of Reoko Banryuu's terrifying buranki named Entei, Azuma and his fellow bubuki users retreat to rest and recover. They head to the hideout of a friend of theirs named Horino, a bubuki user who ran from the battlefield. They can't rest for long, however, and are soon tracked down by Matobai, the first of Reoko's famous Four Kings. As the wielder of Entei's right hand, he challenges Oubu's right hand to a Bubuki Battle. In a Bubuki Battle, only wielders of the same type of buranki limb can fight one another. The fight doesn't end until one user either dies or admits defeat. Once a user loses, they can no longer wield their bubuki. As the wielder of Oubu's right hand, Kogane is chosen to fight Matobai. It's a fitting matchup considering he killed her father and she's sworn revenge against him. Since no one else can interfere in a Bubuki Battle, the others prepare for their journey to return to Treasure Island and find Azuma's mother. Horino lends them a train they can transport Oubu with, and it soon comes in handy. Kogane's fight against Matobai is only won because he's hit by the train and forfeits to prevent getting crushed.

As it turns out, though, the Bubuki Battle isn't over yet. Once a Bubuki Battle is initiated, it's not over until all of the users controlling a buranki have fought the users of the other buranki. Following their train escape, they're immediately attacked by another one of the Four Gods. He challenges Kinoa to a battle, and we soon find out they have a suggestive history together. It turns out that years ago he had saved her from the bubuki police and given her the courage to accept the bubuki her mother handed down to her. They became romantically involved before he disappeared. Sometime between his disappearance and the present, she found out he had been lying the whole time. In actuality, he was spying on her to ensure she did in fact have her mother's bubuki. Kinoa defeats him in the end, rendering his bubuki unusable. Once again, though, they're immediately attacked by another of the Four Gods. This time, their enemy is none other than Horino, who had been working undercover for Reoko. She challenges Hiiragi, and the two prepare to battle.

For the most part, these were some of BBK/BRNK's weakest episodes. The moments that the show's CG looks the worst is during the quiet moments, which was pretty much all of episode three. Episode four was better in this respect, but it spent a little too much time telling Kogane's backstory and not enough time battling. Episode five did this even more, showing hardly any battling during the actual battle. Instead, it dwelt on the creepy backstory between Kinoa and the guy she was battling. At the time of their meeting, Kinoa was a younger teenager, given that she's presumably in her upper teens now. Meanwhile, the other guy was obviously an adult, yet manipulated this young girl into a romantic relationship. It's also heavily implied they had sex, which adds a whole new layer of creepy to the mix. It really did not help get me more interested in BBK/BRNK, which I was gradually losing interest in. I wouldn't say that the show is bad, per se, but rather that I don't have much interest in taking the time to watch it when I already have a busy schedule. The battles are cool, but they aren't granting much time to those battles. Additionally, the show's best-looking aspect - its backgrounds - haven't been utilized well in the past few episodes. It's best aspects are being tossed to the side in lieu of really subpar substitutes. I'll give this show another episode or two to keep me interested, but it'll take some really good episodes to succeed at that.

Weak Recommendation

Dagashi Kashi
David O'Neil

For the second time since I started covering shows for Seasonal Anime Reviews on this site (at least from what I can recall) I'm going to do something I'm not especially fond of. Typically, I save my drops for the shows I like the least, because it feels somewhat like a punishment, or a declaration that I no longer want to watch it. But this time around, I'm using a drop on a show I like, quite a lot in fact. The show in question being Dagashi Kashi.

My reasoning comes down to the same reason I dropped Denki-Gai a whiiiile back. It's a gag comedy that's static and consistent to a point I've covered nearly everything about it at the halfway point. Keep in mind this isn't a really a bad thing, and Dagashi Kashi isn't a bad show, its an incredibly funny comedy where the focus is purely on the gags and a tight, 5 person cast of characters playing off each other in new situations every episode. At the same time though, all these situations pretty much revolve around candy, and things involving candy appearing vaguely sexual. The show continues to put out solid gags based on this concept, but because the show revolves purely on this single type of gag, this set cast of characters, a plot that has no intention of going anywhere, and has in no way particularly increased or decreased in the quality of its humor, visuals, or overall execution, I'd much rather drop it then one of the more interesting, constantly shifting, lesser quality shows I'm watching this season. Every episode of Dagashi Kashi delivers exactly what I expect, and nothing more or less: Hotaru being a goofball, some implied sex jokes, crazy characters reactions, and well timed punchlines.

Dagashi Kashi is a simple show that is a huge success at what it does best. It makes me laugh, it has a calming rural atmosphere while also delivering energetic, inventive humor, it has a small but memorable cast of characters, good animation, and overall consistently strong execution in its pacing and comedic timing. This hasn't changed since the show has started, nor has just about anything about its format, story, characters, or jokes changed. And this is perfectly fine, as someone who enjoys this sort of goofy, tongue in cheek fare, I'm glad to see a show dedicating itself to that tone and not showing any signs of letting up on the laughs. At the same time though, with a show so strict to its goal and unwavering in its delivery, it leaves me with little motivation to continue covering it week to week. A great comedy, but one that appears to have played all its cards and gotten into its groove very early on, to the point I feel I have nothing left to say about it. But still absolutely worth watching.

Strong Recommendation, dropped at episode five

Dimension W
Jonathan Kaharl

Now that the mess with Loser is dealt with, we get an episode with Mira getting used to her new living arrangements with Kyoma, using her earned funds to rent his trailer (though it lacks a bathroom, which she does need to keep her systems running properly). It's a cute episode that builds on some of the back story and direction of the plot proper, but it doesn't develop Mira or Kyoma too much. Episode four is similar in this regard. It's a bit weird that nothing of particular interest has happened with either since episode one outside their place in the larger plot, but we do get a bit more definition for Mira at least. She's treated as a sort of contradiction, a powerful machine that acts with the personality of a normal girl, which is a tad interesting and a tad obnoxious. She doesn't really have much to do besides cause problems for Kyoma, despite her having incredible combat ability. This is where episode four starts to frustrate me.

The two head to a supposedly haunted hotel and are trying to figure out who killed a famous writer staying there, while Mira ends up becoming entranced by the writer's horror stories and starts to see the world as one. The idea is good, but to make it work, the show has to depower Mira and make her into a damsel. There are so many more interesting directions this plot could have gone, but they went with the most tired option. On top of that, Kyoma remains as static as ever, as some whispers about him being an anti-coil super soldier are stated again and he continues being quiet and easily annoyed. What makes stuff like Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop engaging is that the cast have lively personalities and bounce with the ridiculous story being told every episode, but neither Kyoma or Mira is quite interesting or lively enough to work in the same context, despite being in a series with a similar format.

These problems were present in the first two episode, but I forgave them because the show was just starting and I expected some development for the two shortly. However, that hasn't happened. I'm still enjoying the show a good bit, especially for its style, but it needs to really do something with its characters and feel like its going in an interesting direction. The coils plot is a mix of interesting and very drab, and I'm wishing it doesn't stay on its current path for too long. For a series with so many cool ideas, it needs characters to match.

Solid Recommendation

Divine Gate
Stephanie Getchell

I know during the first report I couldn't really give a specific recommendation and was kinda caught in the middle of a weak and solid recommendation. With three more episodes under my belt this go around, I have a better idea of where Divine Gate lands... And it's not good. Each of these three episodes gave more focus on our main trio, Akane, Midori, and Aoto, as we get to know a bit more about them along with add more to Aoto's mysterious past. Midori, we learn, has a strong yet strange motivation for reaching the divine gate and that is her old friend Elena who's wish to be Midori's number one friend forever, brings her to the point of creepy stalker chick as she heads for the gate. For Aoto, we learn about an incident from three years prior to the series, Blue Christmas, where Aoto's brother and another individual was involved in the mass mall murder of over 600 people. Finally, during a special training session for Akane's team along with additional character Ginji, Hikari, and Yukari, Akane's naivet√© is explored when he learns about and encounters what is referred to as Defiers; a group of individuals that are seen as expendable to the World Council and are kept in hiding for their misdeeds.

This series is not exactly the most creative thing in the world; even right down to names of characters. Akane means deep red, while Midori is green, and Hikari means light. Now Aoto, Ginji, and Yukari are a different story as Yukari means affinity and Ginji is two beginnings; meanwhile I couldn't really find anything for Aoto. Unless those meanings come into play a bit more later on, it's still kinda meh either way. But honestly, my larger problem is that each of these characters have some kind of tragic backstory and someone in their lives that is basically bat s**t insane! Aoto has his younger brother who is the true murderer of their parents, while Midori has crazy creeper Elena as some kind of motivation for her search for the gate. Akane, there hasn't been a lot yet, but it's clear that his father is a strong influence, who is also dead from what I can tell, so that may be what comes into play here down the line. This is as if the series is trying way too hard to be complex and edgy when over half the things it's doing have been done in some form or fashion before. That and, because it's trying to do so much, there's way too much going on for me to really follow the show properly or even get into. I took a small break smack dab while watching these three episodes to catch up on Snow White with the Red Hair's season two simulcast just because it was getting drawn out and boring to see. It has so much potential to be a good series and it actually looks pretty decent, visually, but it's just taking itself and crashing into the ground over and over again...

While I do have one more drop this season, I'm holding off on using it for now. Not because I'm hoping this series will get better, I've pretty much given up on it; but because I'm going to have the hardest time deciding which show to use this drop on. Admittedly, this is the weakest set of shows I've been assigned to cover, yet, and I've got ti really consider which ones I'm willing to suffer through for the rest of the season. In Divine Gate's case, I know it's a mess, and it's boring as all hell. There are a few things that are interesting concepts, but, with it being so overloaded of a series, it isn't able to focus on those ideas. It's not as generic as Luck and Logic, thank goodness, but it's not the best thing right now. Probably won't be for it's entire run. I guess it would be fun to see how much it runs itself into the ground for the next several weeks... Always an idea.

Weak Recommendation

ERASED
Jonathan Kaharl

Well. That was a step in the wrong direction. I wish I could keep singing the praises of this series forever, but we've reached the point where we're starting to get a clearer picture of everything that's happening and the cracks in the writing are starting to show. The episode before last is more of the good, though. Satoru is finally managing to cause a divergence in the timeline, and we get some truly sweet and heartfelt moments between him and Hinazuki. It's a perfectly paced episode that ends on a fantastic cliffhanger. And then the inevitable finally happens.

We return to the present, as Satoru is wanted by the police and tries to hide out and figure things out. With the mom dead at this point of time, Satoru ends up trying to hide with his manager ...who rats him out almost instantly. Which is understandable. What isn't understandable is that Airi, his high school age co-worker, takes him in after. You need to give a good reason for this to make any sense (they barely know each other and he's suspected of murder), and the reason given is that Airi's parents got a divorce because her dad was accused of stealing a chocolate bar and her mom thought he did it too and so his entire life fell apart and he disappeared forever. Thus, she wants to believe in others when no one else will.

Yes. You read that correctly.

That is the dumbest single story I have seen this season, and I'm watching Pandora in the Crimson Shell. This entire episode is a massive drop in quality, not helped by outsourcing from a no name studio that ruins the cinematic punch of earlier episodes, and some far less interesting characters. Airi's entire purpose for being in this show is for plot reasons and so we have another woman stuffed in the closet (I am totally counting on it), while the manager just comes off as so slimy and pathetic that I can't see him as a real person at all. The humanity the writing had just disappears this episode, and the cliffhanger is really too normal. Also, it's starting to become clear what exactly is happening with the murder cases, and the answer its going for is way too easy. The warning signs are presenting themselves, hopefully things don't stumble too much.

Solid Recommendation

Girls Beyond the Wasteland
David O'Neil

I'm not sure where to even start with Girls Beyond the Wasteland, because honestly I'm surprised I'm even still watching it. But I am. And I'm looking forward to watching more. This is all despite that the show is pretty dumb, and fits into a lot of the tropes and contrivances that typically come with any harem or dating sim adaptation, even if to a less severe degree. It's actually pretty light on fanservice, but its still very clear the story hinges on a collection of girls admiring, and likely falling for the bland, self insert protagonist at the center of it all.

And yet, boy is it a lot of fun. I guess it's just my guilty pleasure this season, despite slogging through some pretty basic plot developments and genre conventions, the show never bores me. A lot of this is thanks to the characters, who, while appear pretty straightforward at first, have a lot more to offer than they seem in terms of humor and entertaining character interaction. Even the protagonist, as bland as he is, has more personality and fun moments than similar characters often do. The show has done fairly well moving past its initial set up as well. Having shown the group first coming together as a team, its now focusing on their early attempts to keep that team together and functioning, while making sure they don't end up all hating each other in the process. Any conflict so far has been shallow, the artist girl overworks herself, the protagonist has a writing block, the programmer nearly quits over creative differences. I'm in no way actually invested in these characters or their goal of making this project so far. Yet, even if I don't care all that much for the story itself, I'm still rarely bored when watching the show, which I believe is worth something. It's just funny, and while it occasionally delves into dumb, self referential jokes (wow, this is almost like some kind of anime-) for the most part these characters are genuinely funny and unique.

A major weakness of the show is its presentation. It's not an ugly show, while on very rare occasions I've noticed slightly off model faces, for the most part its very visually consistent. It just lacks any sort of style, energy, or stand out animation to make it more than just "good enough" visually. The pacing is similar, not especially slow or fast, but sort of average all the time. While when the show is most entertaining this is fine, when less is going on I do often feel speeding things up to get back to the stuff that matters would be appreciated. So far Girls Beyond the Wasteland is an above average, if pretty typical harem show. It can make me groan at times, but more often than that its making me laugh.

Weak Recommendation

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
David O'Neil

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is one of those rare shows that operates almost entirely on its characters. There isn't much of a plot outside of the cast trying to survive, it tells us very little about the world other than what's circumstantially needed for the characters (and by connection the audience) to know at that time, there isn't much in the form of romance, mystery, and even the action, while present, isn't front and center. Grimgar is a show about watching a cast of multifaceted, believable characters grow as people and grow as a group, and so far its fulfilling this goal wonderfully.

Grimgar continues to build its world and its characters slowly and inconspicuously. Other than one bit in the most recent episode that was a bit too on the nose in straight up listing new attacks they had learned, the show for the most part choses to let the world speak for itself, and let the audience figure out what they need to know as they go along. The same goes for the characters, as the show is terrific at showing how relationships shift and evolve purely through how characters act towards each other the more they get to know each other. I mentioned before that crafting these down to earth, fleshed out characters would make the battles all the more intense, and this has held true. The weighty, brutal, and well animated battles are just as strong as they've always been. And in the most recent episode, this came with the first big emotional moment in the series. Astute observers will probably see it coming from a mile away (if there's one thing the show isn't subtle about, its foreshadowing), but the moment still hits hard and is an effective way of increasing the stakes, along with throwing the band of characters into an even more vulnerable situation than they were before. From a character perspective, this show is still remarkably strong, managing to show development and personality through small details and careful writing, that makes for a show where I care about the characters and I'm engaged entirely through watching them struggle to survive.

The show does come with some caveats that's become more apparent lately though. For instance, unfortunately the series does on occasion border on being fanservice-y, or delving into stupid typical Light Novel humor. It's fairly rare, and on occasion even serves a purpose, but there are still certain moments I feel like they could've done without, like the main character imagining how none of the girls are probably wearing undergarments. In addition, while the music isn't bad by any means, it at times doesn't feel especially fitting to the tone of the show. Its soundtrack is an often loud, and energetic mix of jazz, pop, and rock, which doesn't quite mesh with the laid back low fantasy setting. A tense fight with a goblin is one thing, but an emotional moment being accompanied by electric guitar just doesn't quite feel right. But still, the flaws don't bog down what's one of the strongest character driven shows of the season. So far its meticulous attempts slowly but surely build its characters has payed off, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.

Strong Recommendation

Haruchika - Haruto & Chika
Stephanie Getchell

Remember during the first report when I was gushing over this series and the two episodes I saw? Well, I'm sadly doing a complete 180 on Haruchika because it's not as good as I thought it was... With these three episodes, we have a rather set pattern that's continued from the beginning. Episode three introduces use to saxophone player, Maren, an adopted Chinese-American whom Haruta and Chika try to recruit for the brass band club, but have to get past the drama club first in order to do so. Next we have an episode that takes place on Christmas Eve and after Haruta is evicted from his apartment because it's being torn down. The episode takes Haruta, Chika, and the others, including Haruta's eldest sister, as they help him find a new apartment as well as solve the mystery of a ghost priest haunting one such apartment complex. The third episode introduces trombone player Goto, as she asks for Haruta's help in solving a riddle regarding her amnesic grandfather involving three elephant paintings and an unknown color called 'Elephant's Breath'.

While I got caught up in the story of the second episode, going into episode three and beyond, I noticed the pattern; one that is pretty similar to Divine Gate. Each of the characters we get introduced to has some kind of problem or past that needs to be resolved, which Haruta and Chika seem to do flawlessly every time... Well... It's mostly Haruta, anyway. And none of these stories are sugar coated, by the way. One of them involves PTSD from the Vietnam War... No, I'm not joking here. As for our leading duo, while their personalities do compliment each other, they are also taken to extremes at points. For Chika, she can be the biggest tsudere to the point of being overly obnoxious; while Haruta's apparent genius is something that is never explained as he is just the slightly more gay version of Jimmy Kudo from Case Closed. While with Divine Gate, my main problem of it doing way too much in order to seem cool, Haruchika has the problem of making it's characters overly complex when it doesn't need to. Having one or two would be fine, just to spice things up a bit, but having every character outside of the main pair have the most traumatic of problems come during every single episode just gets to be a total buzz kill; regardless of the happy ending we get by the end of each episode. Some of which, we don't even see a happy ending play out! So, we get depressing stories that, while we do solve the problem and save the day, there's no real satisfying end to these; which makes me only semi satisfied.

Going a complete 180 on a series is something I never like seeing happen. I've seen series lack consistency and drop a little bit on my personal scale of enjoyment, but this is too much... Everyone else didn't like this one from the beginning, but I did, so I did hold out hope that I can prove everyone else wrong on this one and that it's a decent show. But it's going to constantly be such a damn downer every time, then I'm the one who's going to be proven wrong. And it doesn't help that I'm now having a hard time liking our main duo, causing that drop in enjoyment to further go. Yeah, like I said in my Divine Gate coverage, I've been stuck with my weakest crop of shows yet during seasonal and I'm only going to suffer more for the rest of the season. Haruchika has the chance to turn things around, as I did like it more in the beginning than Divine Gate, but I'm not so sure it's going to be able to lighten up rather than be the debbie downer of the winter season. While there are worse things out there, right now, Haruchika has dropped to the weaker end of the winter anime scale. I'm pretty sure Joe and I got the shaft this time around, but I'm glad to be taking the brunt of the bad shows this season. Cause, lord knows, Joe needs some kind of break every once in a while from covering purely awful seasonal shows.

Weak Recommendation

KONOSUBA - God's blessing on this wonderful world!
Joe Straatmann

Konosuba’s humor has become more according to taste. The sexual vibe that has been limited to random jiggles when one of the female NPCs appears has come bubbling to the surface with party member Darkness. You see, she’s a tank party member who can’t hit the broad side of a barn, so her best quality is acting a shield for the rest of the party… which turns her on. Yep, Darkness’ “thing” is that she’s a masochist. This opens the floodgates to Kazuma gaining the thief ability and only being able to steal panties as well as Megumin being a bit too attached to her new staff.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still an amusing comedy about a loser RPG party, but it’s definitely getting that otaku-bait bend. However, it’s aware of how slimy it can appear and at least keeps everyone in tolerable boundaries of pervyness. When Kazuma tries to take advantage of his panty stealing skills, he is brought back to earth by public shaming. Comedy allows for a certain amount of lechery as long as the character dynamics work, and they do. Kazuma’s a good foil for each of his party members, though we’ll have to see how the characters work with each other now that they’re all together.

One joke that’s rather telegraphed is the latest episode where Megumin starts practicing her devastating explosive magic at an abandoned castle same time a leader of the Devil King’s army moved into the area. No points for guessing where the Devil King leader moved. Nevertheless, it’s the proper prodding the party needs to move out of the town and get to the whole epic journey thing. I want to see how this party saves the world.

Solid Recommendation

Luck & Logic
Joe Straatmann

It’s weird to watch Doga Kobo as it tries to find itself. The studio has a few good ideas to hang a series on, but their work always seems to be missing major components to break through. Mikagura School Suite was one of my favorites from last year, but you have to forgive plotlines mostly triggered by Eruna randomly stumbling into them. Plastic Memories builds a decent foundation for a story and then drops all the world building it spent half the series on for the bland romance. With Luck and Logic, I can’t pinpoint one thing horrifically wrong except there’s no compelling reason to watch it.

The anime is like vapor from a hot spring. It swirls up and vanishes into the cold darkness almost immediately after it appears. I’ve watched the latest episode less than five hours ago, and I’m struggling for details. It develops the dumb blonde Chloe as an ultra athletic overachiever who clashes with leader Yurine because she’s not a team player. It’s mostly okay and inoffensive, but it’s on autopilot so much, they don’t even properly explain the clown villain-of-the-week in which its thousands of minion turn into gravestones when they’re defeated. If the makers shrug at that, what do they care about?

At least Lucifer has some potential to spice things up. Yes, in a universe where alternate dimensions hold gods, dragons, and the like, THAT Lucifer comes to town, and he’s a 9.8 level foreigner threat to boot (That’s Egon Twinkie bad for those who don’t speak Luck and Logic technobabble). He hasn’t done much but hit on a girl-as bishounen named Lucifer are wont to do-but maybe having a previous connection with currently trite female lead Athena will give her some dimension. We all know generic anime guy Yoshichika’s not going to bring it. We have a series that can look decent when it steps up and the music is actually quite nice. It just lacks anything to drive it past the doldrums of a terminally average series.

Weak Recommendation

Myraid Colors: Phantom World
Danni Kristen

Following our foray into Mai's backstory of being a violent prick to some phantom girls she met, it's time to delve into the backstories of both Reina and Koito. We'd already seen that Reina was insecure about her status as a member of the group's family dynamic, but this time we get a deeper look into it as she's possessed by a phantom that makes a person's deepest fantasy come true. Reina's fantasy, as it turns out, is to live out in the country with some furries (too much Undertale perhaps?). Mai and Haruhiko attempt to free her from her possession, but they end up sucked into the delusion as well, joining their little family. That is, until Haruhiko goes to take a shit and realizes that something isn't right. For some inane reason, walking into a bathroom frees you from a phantom's possession. So, he takes Reina into the bathroom and hugs her so that she instinctively assaults him, snapping her back to reality. Since the delusion has been realized, her phantom bunny parents tell her that they can no longer exist and must be sealed away. They invite Reina to come with them, but Haruhiko successfully pleads with her to hold onto reality. As it turns out, Reina comes from a very cold, distant family. She hides her phantom-hunting activities from them because she knows they would not approve. What eats at her the most though is that the older sister she loved deeply ran away from their stifling home and hasn't been seen since. Haruhiko pulls Reina back into reality by convincing her she should try to mend her family back together so that her sister can come home again.

Next, we get some insight into Koito's mind and personality. After being assigned the job of hunting a phantom who's been harassing animals in the area, Koito overhears someone talking with Haruhiko about her unflattering cold personality. Haruhiko follows after her to apologize, but interrupts her battle with the phantom. She shields him from one of the phantom's attacks, but ends up being sprayed by a gas that leaves her unable to use the power derived from her voice. Feeling responsible for her injury, he tags along with her in her continued hunt for the phantom. Eventually, he finds out from their teacher that Koito's power awakened when she was attacked by that very same phantom as a child. Her powers frightened her friends, her teachers, and even her parents. In the end, she was sent away from her home and transferred to a new school. Ever since then she's defaulted to alienating and avoiding people so that she can't get hurt. She finally confronts the phantom again, but is quickly defeated. Fortunately, she's saved by Mai, Haruhiko, and their fan Kurumi who all seal away the phantom. Then they find out it wasn't actually the same phantom that attacked her as a kid, just a similar type. No personal vendetta was actually relevant. Oops.

These were some very mixed episodes. On one hand, I thought the Reina episode was actually pretty good. It had the absolute best usage of colors so far in the series, and the storybook art style used for Reina's delusion was absolutely adorable. It doesn't hurt that this cute cast of KyoAni characters don't look half bad in bunny ears, either. It's only real flaw I could see was that the episode's emotional climax didn't connect well due to the show's incredibly fast pacing. All things considered, it was definitely the best episode so far. On the other hand, the Koito episode was extremely dull. The fast pacing was thrown out for more normal show pacing, which didn't work well considering very little actually happened that episode. Koito is a pretty boring character from what we've seen so far. If there was one episode that should have shown us more personality from her, it's this one. Yet, we never really saw any side to her we haven't seen before aside from a brief tsundere thanks directed at Haruhiko. Adding to the episode's dullness is the fact that there was more gray in that episode than in the previous four episodes combined. Phantom World is usually very bright and colorful, which helps disguise the fact it's not actually a good show. Hopefully there'll be more episodes like Reina's episodes in the future. That was a very fun and very cute episode, aka Very KyoAni. As long as this show stays noticeably KyoAni, I won't be able to help enjoying it.

Solid Recommendation

Norn9: Norn + Nonet
Stephanie Getchell

I'm not sure how this managed to happen, but out of the three regular shows I've been left with, Norn9 is actually the only one that's not a steaming pile of crap. Now is it as good as, what I consider to be, the best of the winter season thus far? Not in the slightest. However, it's at least a series that I don't want to kick off of a cliff. Hell, I think that rescue scene between Akito and Nanami is pretty much my feelings on the show right now. Still recovering from the attack on Norn, Koharu and the group continue on with their lives onboard. Bonds slowly become stronger among the ladies and their male partners as Koharu helps care for a sick Kekeru, Nanami and Akito end up handcuffed together at one point, and Mikoto cannot seem to forget the promise she and Sakuya made as children. These piece all lead up to the most odd of dreams as Itsuki, who's ability allows him to manipulate dreams, sends all three girls into a different kind of fairy tale where they have to find their important person. However, what no one seems to realize is that the men dream the same dream as well, potentially leading into some rather interesting times ahead for all parties.

So, somehow, this series is the one with the least amount of problems I've run into. Unlike Divine GateNorn9 doesn't toss everything into the pot all at once and all that often, making the pacing and story much more consistent. It leaves out rather critical and important information regarding the ship and what's going on for a good reason, because you need some secrets in order to create some amount of curiosity and suspense. If you lay all the cards on the table to early then you're just going to end up spoiling everything and leaving nothing to the imagination. Meanwhile, unlike Haruchika, we don't deal with constant downer character arcs during every episode; nor do we have unrealistic main characters similar to Haruta whose genius is unexplained. To be fair, Koharu falls under similar heroine characters similar to Amnesia and even Diabolik Lovers, to an extent, but she's also not the only female. In fact, in the original game, there are nine different routes with three for each female heroine. The series is exploring some of those possibilities, however it's leaning towards certain routes for our three heroines; with Kakeru and Akito being the most clear for Koharu and Nanami. And every single arc isn't resolved in an episode, but, instead, expands and grows as time moves along. This is all coming from an otome game, I remind you...

Once again, Norn9 is not the best the season has to offer, but it's at least something moderately enjoyable among the three remaining series that I'm stuck with. There's plenty going on, but it doesn't go overboard too quickly. My only real complaint, if I had one, was the difficulty the series is having following these three different romances at the same time while still keeping some kind of main story line together. And I'm not even going to get started on the random kid who's hanging out in the series because he's a little out of place. Which is weird because, when I looked up the game, he's supposedly the main character for the entire series. Yeah, I'm not 100% sure what Norn9 is intending to do, however I do have to give it some credit as it is the only show out of my remaining ones that I'm perfectly fine with. Not "oh my god this is amaze balls!" but it's at least slightly enjoyable as of now. Will I be expecting something great by the end? Probably not. But it's probably not going to be the one I use my second drop on.

Solid Recommendation

Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn
Jonathan Kaharl

This is a very, very poorly produced show. Like, ISUCA levels of bad. There are some really cheap close-ups done by just enlarging the image and making the quality drop significantly, animation is stilted and filled with shortcuts, and the coloring of the characters and backgrounds feels lifeless and unfinished. Even the opening isn't free of this, and the openings are almost always given the best or most solid animation. It's kind of astounding. And yet I still enjoy this show for some blasted reason.

Knowing this is the brainchild of the guys who made Ghost in the Shell and Excel Saga is really want makes it so enjoyable for me. It's the two at the most indulgent, and it's equal parts pathetic and entertaining because I can't believe this was really made by either of them. This is an adaptation of a published, running manga, meaning an actual human being read it and thought to themselves "yes, people want to read this." They thought the people wanted little robot flower/lion pervert things to crack boob jokes and a girl gain incredible powers such as juggling by fingering her cyborg cat maid girlfriend. It's like we're living in a parody world. And even more amazingly, nothing has really happened in this show since it started. It's safe to say the pervert scientist from the starting episodes is still alive and will appear again, so we're waiting for her to return with the plot as some bad guys with vague, undefined plans do things and sometimes Nene and Clarion sort of get involved but not really. It's mainly cute girls doing cute things, with some very childish talk of world peace thrown in and explored in the most simplistic, idiotic way imaginable. It's not a good show by any stretch.

Weirdly, it's the sense of humor that remains the one element that can be considered good on any level. Nene and Clarion get some great expressions and gags, while the loose animation actually benefits Clarion as we just see her as a weird, judgmental blob at random moments. It's far more amusing than it should be, and I even liked that weird flower/lion/robot thing because of just how completely out of place it is in the show. Hell, EVERYTHING is out of place. Pandora's world is very grounded and real in its most base form, but the people running it and the ones we follow are all straight out of either a Saturday Morning anime, a gag manga, or a sex comedy. The show has a strange atmosphere no other series has ever captured, and I think it works on some strange level. Despite everything, I'm enjoying Pandora, but it's definitely a bad show. Just not a bad bad show, I guess?

Weak Recommendation

Phantasy Star Online 2: The Animation
Joe Straatmann

If you were frozen in 1999, do I have a series for you! Not settling for copping out of animating a full-scale science fiction anime and going for a weekly infomercial instead, this series now is a mediocre introductory class in nerdom filtered through Sega’s marketing department. Our subjects for the recent episodes are dealing with Internet trolls and showing off the world of conventions in the most benign fashion possible. If this intrigues you, there’s a cat that desires approval to consume cheeseburgers that might be up your alley.

Hey, did you know some players in online RPGs will occasionally bail on their duties and berate fellow party members? This issue is dealt with in a vanilla, naive fashion as the troll is one of the main character’s best friends who merely lacks outlets to express himself. Did you also know that sometimes, people in online games want to meet offline and have things called conventions to facilitate such things? Main character Itsuki sure finds out when he thinks student council President Rina is asking him on a date when she’s really just finding a +1 for a PSO offsite meet. Oh, and did you know people in real life act differently than they do online?

There is one spot where I think this series might be actually helpful. At one point, the main character’s best friend gets depressed by himself at the convention and doesn’t know how to reach out to strangers. As an anime nerd with social anxiety issues, this is a real issue worth addressing. Of course, this is Phantasy Star Online 2: The Animation and it doesn’t even want to be about itself most of the time. The best friend disappears because he follows a mystery girl to a dark corner of the convention, loses her, and gets caught in the bathroom without toilet paper, too embarrassed to ask for help. Uh… huh.

This is all supremely goofy and I can’t hate on it as it has made itself extremely clear what it is. I really have nobody to blame but myself for going forward with reviewing the show. Still doesn’t make it any less of a dim-witted infomercial, though.

No Recommendation

Prince of Stride: Alternative
Danni Kristen

After their first match resulted in a loss, the Honen Stride Club has only one more shot at making it into the End of Summer event. Still blaming himself for their loss, Kadowaki resigns to improve at vaulting. He doesn't have much time to practice, though, and the team soon sets out to their next match. After a brief dose of hot springs fanservice, the boys go face to face with another school's stride club. We're soon introduced to a whole new stride mechanic: bluffing. Bluffing is when one school's relationer purposefully makes an unexpected call to throw off the opposing relationer and goad them into setting off their runners prematurely. Sakurai falls for the bluff at first, but thankfully the boys are able to avoid missing the takeover zone. The opposing relationer tries to bluff again, but this time she doesn't fall for it. Honan's problems aren't over yet, though, as Kadowaki finds himself once again falling behind. Determined to not let the club lose again because of him, he takes a risky shortcut. He doesn't make the jump, and ends up breaking his clavicle. Despite his injuries, he finishes his run and collapses at the takeover zone. By this time, Honan has fallen far behind, but Kohinata manages to pull out a victory for Honan at the final stretch. Kadowaki is taken to the hospital, and the club returns home worried for their friend.

With one of their club members sidelined by injury, the club now has to either recruit a new runner or forfeit the End of Summer. Riku suggests a third year he met before, who turns out to be Kuga, a former member of the stride club who was kicked out after assaulting and injuring Hasekura over lost race. Kohinata refuses to let him in. According to him, after Kuga was kicked out, all the club members besides him and Hasekura left the club, forcing him to recruit Kadowaki. Kadowaki never had any interest in running, but now thanks to Kuga's actions had been injured during a race. Kohinata tells the first years he won't let Kuga come back after injuring Hasekura and being the reason Kadowaki got hurt too. Hasekura then steps in and decides that all the Stride club members deserved to know the truth. He had never been assaulted by Kuga. Instead, he had gotten hurt during the race due to the team's relationer falling for a bluff. Trying to protect his own ego, the relationer blamed Hasekura for getting hurt and tried to injure him further. Kuga stepped in and defended him from the assault, but by the time the other team members arrived at the scene it looked as though Kuga had been the one to hurt Hasekura. He took the blame for the incident since the club could've been shut down had the school found out about a brawl between teammates. He was kicked out of the club, and the other members besides Kasekura and Kohinata left. After finding this out, the club decides to invite Kuga back in, and he eventually accepts their offer.

Almost halfway through the season and Prince of Stride remains a solid show. The animation remains suitable for the most part, though the running animations look kind of awkward and slow compared to the incredibly quick parallaxing backgrounds. Despite that, it's still a very nice show to look at thanks to it's strong visual style. It's also a lot of fun to just watch these characters play off each other, which is most of the show. It'll be interesting to see what Kuga will add to the group. Also, Riku's older brother Tomoe will be returning soon, and I'm looking forward to see how that shakes things up. One particularly cool thing I've noticed recently about Prince of Stride is the effort put into all of the side characters. There are 30+ total characters in this show with at least 20 of them being from rival schools' stride clubs. Normally I expect shows to get lazy with characters like these that get hardly any screen time, but for the most part they have cool character designs and good characterization during their brief screentime. It makes me excited for Honan's next race thinking about the new characters we'll get to see. Hopefully we see some girls running soon.

Strong Recommendation

Schwarzes Marken
Joe Straatmann

Melodrama isn’t as bad as the critical community would have you believe. If I get the right characters, I can travel through most of the overly contrived claptraps the writers come up with. The key that separates the people who make good melodrama and those who make soap operas is the characters are not their circumstances. They may be molded, twisted, and tweaked by circumstances, but it’s a very hard road ahead when the characters are their circumstances. It is this which makes Schwarzes Marken more like Days of Our Laserjagd.

Take our hero, Theodor. What we know about him is almost entirely what has happened to him. An orphan from an East German kinderheim (Hopefully not from the same one as Johan from Monster. Strangely enough, the head director of this was an episode director on Monster), he gets adopted by relatives of his real parents where he becomes as close to his adopted sister as a real sibling. His family becomes disenchanted with East Germany and tries to escape, getting captured or killed by the Stasi in the process. After much torture and questioning, he is forced into military service. Maybe it’s East Germany squashing individuality, but there’s not much on who he is. Even the scene that flashes back to the good times with his sister is just there to point out the ribbon he bought his sister was important and nothing more.

The show’s mostly like this. It expects what happens by itself to be sufficient. I imagine when they go to the serious plot twist well and bring a particularly tricky new member of the 666th, it could really work if it had any emotional punch. As it is, everything feels like a bald manipulation. When Katia is injured, taken to a fort outside Berlin, is constantly told she’s more important than all the soldiers in the fort despite her Western sensibilities refusing to believe that, it’s pretty much a given what happens when aliens swarm the place.

How plain the action is doesn’t help. At one point, the 666th is on a supposed training mission and then suddenly, a coalition force to wipe the aliens out of Europe appears. Some soldiers knew about it and some didn’t because preparing your troops for a major operation is for soft Westerners, apparently. When the attack is on, they bombard a seemingly empty patch of land and then say that decimated a large portion of the aliens. I guess I have to take their word for it. Sure, having the jet fighters of the era be translated into mechs is cool and all, but this project is otherwise full of underwhelming elements. It’s not so much bad as it could be so much better. I have to give props for a good joke about if the aliens are edible, though.

Weak Recommendation

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Danni Kristen

Having graduated from apprentice to futatsume, Yakumo and Sukeroku are no longer able to live with their master and must set off on their own. They end up renting a small apartment together, with Yakumo working to pay all of the bills and buy all of the necessities. This leaves him with little time to practice his rakugo or have a social life. Meanwhile, all Sukeroku does is drink, have fun, and perform rakugo in the theater. With this dynamic set firmly in place, the gap between Yakumo and Sukeroku's skill widens even further. However, according to their master, Yakumo is getting too much practice. Supposedly, his strict adherence to practicing form is making his rakugo stiff and unoriginal. He recommends that Yakumo loosen up a bit and have some fun. So, he takes his former apprentices out to the theater for a fun evening. There, he introduces them to Miyokichi, who is both a geisha and his mistress. Miyokichi takes a liking to Yakumo instantly, and pesters him relentlessly to spend time with her at the geisha house she works at. He eventually gives in and finds himself smitten with her, and they end up spending more and more time together. Despite his popularity with local women, Sukeroku is noticeably jealous.

Lamenting their lack of steady performances, Sukeroku devises a plan to boost both his and Yakumo's popularity. They decide to perform a play with other rakugo futatsumes and apprentices. Yakumo is skeptical at first, but Sukeroku is serious in intentions, and the two move forward with the planning. Sukeroku ends up starring as a common samurai, while Yakumo ends up in the leading role as the samurai's brother who disguises himself as a high class woman. Yakumo is nervous and embarrassed by the role, but changes his tune once he ends up on stage. For the first time, he experiences the feeling of having the audience enthralled by one of his performances. He latches onto and dwells on it throughout the whole play, fulfilling him in a way he hadn't felt before. Thanks to Miyokichi drawing him out of his shell, it seems he's finally hit the turning point that leads to his becoming the future of rakugo.

These were some fantastic episodes full of some wonderful character building. Watching the close bond between Sukeroku and Yakumo is genuinely heartwarming, while the rivalry growing between them underscores every scene with tension. Yakumo obviously loves Sukeroku since they grew up together like brothers, but he can't ignore or hide his jealousy that his rakugo isn't near as good as Sukeroku's. Meanwhile, his relationship with Miyokichi offers us a lot of scenes involving Yakumo allowing himself to be vulnerable around someone else. There are some very touching moments in these interactions, and it becomes tragic to watch knowing where it's all leading. It's all but explicitly stated that Konatsu is Miyokichi's daughter, and given that Sukeroku is her father, it means that at some point Miyokichi will betray Yakumo with his greatest friend and rival. We also know that Sukeroku ends up dead, and according to Konatsu it was Yakumo who killed him. All of these pieces work together fantastically to offer scenes that are genuinely human: heartwarming, vulnerable, and ultimately tragic.

The writing in this show is incredibly well-done, with one of its strongest points being how it completely trusts the audience to make their own connections and callbacks. A character who showed up briefly in episode one also shows up in the latest episode and happens to be the key to piecing together that Konatsu is Miyokichi's daughter. While Yakumo mentions Youtarou's similarity to Sukeroku in the first episode, the full extent of those similarities are never stated outright, yet there are many parallels between the two. All of this information and more is delivered in ways that merely hint at their importance within the story. There are no flashbacks or moments accompanied by sharp changes in the score so that the viewer is bashed over the head until they realize that these are important moments. Instead, the audience is assumed to be perceptive enough to take note of these things. I absolutely love when a show treats its audience like this. When they don't, it can taint what is an otherwise great experience to watch (*coughERASEDcough*). Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju had a very strong start and has only built upon it further. At this point, it's definitely my favorite show this season, and I'm waiting extremely impatiently for the next episode.

Strong Recommendation

Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
Jonathan Kaharl

With the tsundere of the harem introduced, Bahamut is wasting no time to bring in the last girl and explain what the deal with her is, and it's just as badly handled as one would expect. This character's name is Krulcifer, and if you guessed she's not human based off her name being just a few letters away from describing old scratch, then you have working brain cells. She's that quiet girl with the hidden agenda that's been acting differently around Lux than the other cast members, and it turns out that she's the princess of another country and needs Lux to help her buy time to avoid her political marriage to another dickpunch misogynist noble who might as well be named Objectifier McAbusive The 3rd. She has a goal to fulfill, and it's related to those dungeons those abyss monsters come from because she apparently came from one and is therefore not human and will probably cause some bad magic stuff to happen before Lux saves her and she spends the rest of the series wanting to jump his bones.

Krulcifer is easily the least interesting character of the series so far, and by a large margin. The attempts to make her mysterious leave no impact, and the actual reveal of who she really is just comes out of nowhere and doesn't feel meaningful in any way. She also has a very reserved and guarded persona, giving her no method to express any sort of actual personality. The most interesting thing about her is that her loyal servant is a cute girl in a suit and that is it. I can't even get frustrated at her or her story, but Lisha has more than enough annoying to make up for that. There's an actual joke where she has absolutely no idea what sex is and that she believes babies come from kissing. I'm not making this up. Someone wrote this in modern times and thought it was funny. Also, obnoxious romantic misunderstandings and Lux is a closet pervert. Hardy har har.

Phi remains the only good thing in this series, simply because how little of a shit she gives about all the wacky or dramatic going-ons around her. While a bad joke is going on, she just stares blankly and shoves a bit of sandwich in her mouth. Phi is good. Her second cheesecake scene even works, as she gets in the bath with Lux and does absolutely nothing but just take a bath as Lux freaks out, points out she shouldn't be here for obvious reasons, and she just replies that she has no problem taking a bath next to Lux. She's had feelings for Lux for a long time, but she doesn't go nuts over it and manages to get some good reactions from the little twerp without making herself out as a dope or sad little girl. It's refreshing. Hopefully her arc won't be a complete boner like the two we've had so far. But I'm sure the series will find a way to fuck it up.

No Recommendation

Shorts

Ojisan and Marshmallow
Stephanie Getchell

Ok, this series is slightly more adorable than last time. Honestly, I couldn't really see the appeal last time, but it's gotten a little bit better. Not by much, but just a little. It's certain that an episodic approach is being taken here and it won't just be the same every time as exhibited by episode four and the marshmallow factory tour. Which, by the way, of you didn't know, the two workers at that factory pop in post credits in aivr action segment and show a few different, and quick, marshmallow recipes. Something I originally thought to be random and pointless, but having the two seiyus do this live segment hells connect it a little so I can get past this issue. As for the main characters in the series, not much has changed except our female counterpart keeping up the slightly weird side of this crush which, combined with her personality, does make for something amusing. It's getting better, I'll give it that. Still not my favorite thing, but whatever.

Solid Recommendation

Ooya-san wa Shishunki!
David O'Neil

Since I last covered it, Ooya-san wa Shinsuki has continued to walk a fine line between adorable and uncomfortable. The show still for the most part luckily remains in the former rather than the latter, with the hijinks of Chie and the other characters making for some cute jokes scattered throughout the two most recent few minute long episodes. At the same time, a few bits (like Chie having to sleep beside the older male main character) borders on being iffy, though for the most part even the parts that sound bad in concept are for the sake of setting up jokes that subvert your expectations. In addition, it continues to be possibly the best animated comedy series of the season. It should be kept in mind that only having two minutes worth of content to animate each episode puts it at an unfair advantage over full shows, but that doesn't change that the amount of lively character acting animation put into this series is beyond anything else airing this season. At the same time though, the two minute runtime also comes at the cost of the show's pacing. At this point the VAs are basically speed reading their lines to be able to jam pack as much content as they can into each episode, and while I get why they're doing it, the breakneck speed does make the show come off as slapdash. Despite this, the series still shows brief bits of well animated fun, and works as nice little distraction, even if its right on the border of pandering towards some uncomfortable fantasies.

Weak Recommendation

Please tell me! Galko-chan
Jonathan Kaharl

I seriously love this show. Where so many lewd and rude comedies make the mistake of being sexist or objectifying, Galko-chan treats its entire cast fairly and comes up with a lot of cute gags, like one guy trying to figure out how big breasts feel after hearing a conversation on neck pain, or Galko realizing that her sister borrowing her uniform is probably for foreplay of some sort. I was expect the show to come up with a silly actual reason, but nope, it's exactly what the girls thought and the sister is just so open, it's hilarious.

I also like that all the teenage cast react to anything sexual with either curiosity or embarrassment. It just all feels so natural and real, finding good-natured humor out of a subject most people wouldn't consider good-natured at all. Just for that, Galko-chan deserves a look if you still haven't done so. it's good stuff.

Strong Recommendation

Rainbow Days
Jonathan Kaharl

Things are getting a little better, I think, but not much. The quiet guy of the cast has his girlfriend introduced, and in a very clunky way. When you see the two interact, it works. His girlfriend is so lively and likable that she can actually see through the guy's public persona. Unfortunately, we're introduced with her with false info that the guy may dump her, and he gets upset that she died her hair for a cosplay without ever really explaining himself earlier. And he really did talk about dumping with friends in private. The relationship works until you hear this bit of info, and it makes him come off as a controlling ass who's prone to envy. Thankfully, we don't get much of the popular guy and the love/hate things with him and the bi girl, but the show is already taking a step in the right direction there. It's a small moment, but when he threatens to kiss her again after she insults him, he backs off and you can tell he has genuine feelings growing beyond just base attraction. There may still be hope for this one.

The final guy also ended up being much more interesting than I expected. He's a sadist that has trouble forming relationships because he can't find someone who's sexually compatible with him, and while there are the usual stock sadist jokes that don't have a good understanding of what real sadists are like, this is a major part of his character and he's not treated as weird or lesser by his friends for the way he is. That's refreshing, and even him shooting down a love confession by revealing his tastes in detail works because you get the feeling that he's reached the point where he outright expects rejection and just speeds up the process, not wanting to open himself up emotionally to only be shot down. It's a nice idea, and though the execution is messy, he's easily the second best part of the series. The main reason to watch is still our socially messy lead and his crush, and they definitely make a cute couple. Still, the series has too many problems for me to give it a really positive thumbs up. I need to see where it's headed first.

Weak Recommendation

Sekkou Boys
Joe Straatmann

Here’s a weird compliment: I’m completely okay with details here that would drive me nuts otherwise. A big part of Sekko Boys is how awkward a boy band of sculptures are to transport from gig to gig. Yet they can still somehow suck down smoothies and use their touchpad computers whilst they don’t even have arms, aren’t mobile, and probably don’t even have stomachs. My completely over logical mind should be ringing off the hook, but it somehow makes the experience more amusing. Repeat to yourself it’s just a show, I guess.

Meanwhile, episodes are finding ways to be consistently funny, utilizing most of the potential angles the concept has to offer. Mars is not only a classical bust, but a god. Gods in Greek mythology are not the most politically correct creatures, leaving throngs of bastard children in their wake. Let’s see what happens when a famous Japanese talk show host brings it up. It’s those kinds of situations that make this anime worth your eight minutes every week.

Solid Recommendation

Sushi Police
Danni Kristen

To no one's surprise, Sushi Police hasn't gotten any better. Previously we left off with the information that a stowaway had been captured on the Sushi Police airship. This time we get to meet her and her gross CG torpedo breasts. Turns out she's a spy and Free Sushi advocate who is intent on taking down the Sushi Police. Honda tempts her using her love of authentic Japanese sushi against her, but she holds fast. Authentic sushi may be the best there is, but it doesn't mean it should be the only kind allowed. She escapes and the Sushi Police move on to deal with an English company who teleport their sushi instead of delivering it. Suzuki turns into a hybrid of sushi and man while Kawazaki finally realizes he's an android and questions his existence. The animation is still terrible and the premise stupid in the worst kind of way. I'd drop this show if I could, but I'm stuck with it. At least it's ending theme is pretty damn good.

No Recommendation

Second Opinions

Dagashi Kashi

Jonathan: I really wish this show was actively funny instead of just occasionally funny and kind of charming. I'm really busy this season, but I wanted to keep up with this one for the characters. I'm finding that I can't do that after the past few episodes. There's just not enough there for me. But it is a good show, and I'd still recommend it whole-heartedly. Solid Recommendation

Stephanie: I'm bugging to have mixed feelings about this series. It just repeats the weekly hijinks involving snacks and it can grow tiring every once in a while. While some of those hijinks are entertaining and creative in the comedy department, it's the actual story that concerns me. Is this really all we're going to be getting from this series or will there be to this established central plot? Being four episodes in, I would hope there would be something else going on, but it's just been sun shine and rainbows and snacks all day with this one. I want something more from this series, and I honestly hope that wish will come true because I only have some many hours in a day and if this isn't worth some of those hours, then I'm willing to let it go. Solid Recommendation

Dimension W

Stephanie: The world of Dimension W is ever growing and changing as we learn more and more about it. To be fair, the third episode doesn't go too much more in depth and just decides to give us a tiny bit of a breather after the very action heavy and info dumping that was the first two. Depiste that, we do get some bits of development for both Kyouma and Mira which makes for a nice substitute. The fourth episode gets back into the action fold and looks to be our first two part arc involving other dimensions and some classic horror fun that makes the horror fan girl in me a little too happy. The goal, I would assume, is to learn much more about these number coils that were introduced, but we'll see what happens from here. All I can say is, it's been a very consistent series so far and I can't wait for more as well as the Broadcast Dub to start up because my goodness do I have some casting predictions! Strong Recommendation

Erased

Danni: This show started off so well. It's such a shame the most recent episodes haven't been able to match the kind of quality the first few episodes had. They're still pretty good episodes, but their big important moments have all been way too heavy-handed in their delivery. The worst of which being the most recent episode, which - to no surprise - had been outsourced to a more inexperienced studio. Hopefully this will be just a small blemish overall and ERASED will return to its former quality. Strong Recommendation

Joe: There was recently a laughably heavy visual metaphor showing the painting “The Last Supper,” foreshadowing somebody about to get betrayed. That is the only bad thing I can say about Erased as of late. It is enthralling television for us post-twenties people who would love nothing more to reset life and fix the shit that went wrong. It knows how to play with every nostalgic button right down to talking Dragon Warrior (In this case, Quest) before class. For everyone else, it’s an effective, time-hopping thriller with a world of one man’s youth surrounded by people who feel real and don’t act like they’re cogs in a machine. Please watch this. You won’t regret it. Strong Recommendation

Stephanie: There are two series that I believe to be the best of the winter season thus far, Rakugo and Erased. Both had extremely strong starts, surprising a hell of a lot of people including several from the seasonal staff here on IRD. But, while it had that surprising start, Erased's story seems to have claimed down in quality. This doesn't mean the story is terrible, but more like it hasn't remained at that high of a level since episode one. It does have amazing visuals and actually some rather interesting symbolic pieces such as the children's writing of the kanji "hope" hanging up on the board in back of the classroom in 1988. And the cinematic view to distinguish between 1988 and 2006 actually goes with the film reel view that Saturo's power takes form in. There's a lot of great aspects going on in this series, but now it's just the story needs to get itself back to where it was in the beginning and keep a better consistency. Because, going back to Rakugo, if it doesn't then it's pretty much lost the title of best of the season to Rakugo. Solid Recommendation

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

Stephanie: I'll admit, I was ready to drop this show this week because it had been had slow going from the start. Not much has been done to progress the story along aside from our motley crew just living their lives in this new world and trying to find their way. But then episode four happened and a rather decent sized game changer that I honestly didn't expect! Sure, the signs were there thinking about it now but I choose to ignore them. And it also brings in a rather large subject that the series had yet to really talk about, that being death. It's interesting that it's occurring so early on, and because of this I'm going to keep trying with it. It's such a surprising part of the story and how our crew will be able to handle this change from this point forward will be a true test of the writing for this series because it could be handled well or very badly. That's something I do want to see play out. Strong Recommendatio

KONOSUBA - God's blessing on this wonderful world!

Jonathan: Darkness and Megumin are so good. Like, so good. They're so perfect for this show and round up the terrible people quotient quite well. I like that the show is giving more genuine moments of heart between the characters, especially Megumin and Kazuma, but I also like that it drags them back down rather quickly. They're not completely irredeemable people, but damn if they aren't trying to be failures and degenerates. Also, I love that one of the main jokes is that the general for the demon king got mad that those darn kids kept blowing up his castle and he tries to go ask them to stop and suddenly he has to deal with four of the worst people who have ever lived. Beautiful. Strong Recommendation

Myriad Colors: Phantom World

Jonathan: Minase finally gets her own episode and it does a good job at defining who she is and why she is the way she is. The character writing is improving, and the ideas at play are still wild and fun (such as mind-controlling bunny ears), but the production remains the star. This show is seriously gorgeous at times, and the pixel effects just give the series a feel unlike anything else out there. ALSO MAI AND MINASE SHOULD MAKE OUT Strong Recommendation

Ojisan and Marshmallow

Danni: As someone who has been a longtime defender of the stupid and weird, I'm angry that this season has set before me two shorts I can only accurately criticize as "needlessly stupid." This show took an extremely dumb premise and ran it into the ground completely before the first episode even finished. It's continued to do the same thing every episode since. No Recommendation

Please tell me! Galko-chan

Danni: I'm still thinking about their ass hair conversation. Strong Recommendation

Prince of Stride: Alternative

Stephanie: With this second report, I am fully caught up on all shows. Some have one plot going on, and others are still in the works. In Prince of Stride's case, we have a couple stories this time. One being the team's first competition, one where we establish the rival team, and the third giving us more into the brooding Kuga who rejoins after Ayamu sustains a major injury. Sure, we're following all the same sports anime troupes we have gotten so used to lately, I mean Haikyuu did a similar Kuga plot line with Asahi in season one, but it's still a great big ball of fun! I've come to realize that it always comes down to the characters in sports anime to help make it way more enjoyable. If you don't have that likeable of characters to root for, then you're gonna lose people's interest. Prince of Stride has a fun batch of characters, despite the troupes they each represent, and it's still something I enjoy a lot! Fujiwara is my favorite by the way. That goof ball has an even bigger muscle fetish than Gou from Free! and it's hilarious! Solid Recommendation

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

Jonathan: Still the best show of the season, to the shock of nobody who's watching. This prolonged flashback arc is well handled, so I can't complain that it's taking time away from our wacky tanuki of a main character. It also really cements the show's themes of creative passion, while offering great character drama at the same time. Writing wise, no show comes close this season. Strong Recommendation

Stephanie: I'm pretty sure that after seeing three more episodes that I have found my hidden gem of a series this season. After the double length first episode I saw, we are now taken to the beginning of Master Yakumo's story as a child with his rival and friend Sukeroku, as they both learn rakugo together. The distinction between the two is very clear as one has the strict and more controlling personality and the other a much more relaxed and fun side that compliments each other very well! It's like you have a sort of Odd Couple mentality brewing here. This is what the core of this series is, the odd friendship between these two men with their love of rakugo being what ties them together. The story and our characters are developing nicely! And I'm not even mad about missing our two other characters from the first episode! We have found the core of the story, folks! Strong Recommendation

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