Final Thoughts on Summer 2016

Welcome to the final seasonal post for a good long while.

We've been doing seasonals since the site first launched, but it's no longer feasible. Staff has left for various personal reasons, and we're reaching the point where most of us can't handle the load because of conflicting schedules. My hell semester alone this season has caused so many delays. I've also felt that general quality of reviews has weakened as we've been so rushed, and I've been more interested in long form articles anyways. The spark just isn't there right now. So, I've decided to end seasonals for the time being.

That's not to say we won't be giving updates on currently airing stuff. Staff has pretty free reign to write whatever, and I'll definitely be doing my own season premier impressions on my own blog, but organized reviews of airing shows is stopping for a bit. Expect to see more proper articles on the site from writers besides Zach, and bigger projects from me.

But for now, let's finish up this Summer season at long last. What was good? What was bad? What was meh? What was put into production hell? Well, let's start with the massive pile of dropped shows first.


David O'Neil

To an extent, I did feel bad about dropping Battery, because I appreciated what it was trying to do. Often anime can get in the habit of sticking too close to the norm of specific genres, so I did like that Battery wasn't just another generic drop in the sports anime bucket. It put much less of a focus on high stakes games and heated rivalries, instead focusing on quiet drama and interpersonal character interactions. In the six episodes I watched almost no focus was put on the sport of baseball itself, instead merely using baseball as a vehicle to drive the character's conflicts. It was trying to set itself apart from the crowd, but unfortunately, it just wasn't very interesting despite its best efforts. While the show had its moments, the drama as a whole just didn't have strong enough execution to make up for aforementioned lack of exciting sports games. As a result, the show was left feeling sluggish, and drab. Fans of sports dramas, and more low key character-driven shows in general may want to give it a try, but it simply left me bored.

Final Score: 4/10, Dropped at Episode Six

Andrew Lepselter

This strikes me as the kind of thing that quite literally just wasn't my thing. I can't really say I've watched any vanilla otome type harems nor have I watched any and all idol shows in my life. Neither of which are genres I am unfamiliar with. For something like this to really appeal to me I'd have to like some of the characters, and this one had far too many to even keep track of. I understand why reverse harems and idols are popular, but this just seemed like I came into this genre watching less of an innovator of its type, and more of an imitator.

Final Score: 4/10, Dropped at Episode Six

First Love Monster
Megan "Queenira" Z

Boy howdy did I dodge a bullet. I literally have. First Love Monster kind of proves an old adage; just because you switch the “genders” doesn’t mean you’re going to prove your point. First Love Monster is abysmal, horrifying, and downright not funny. If anything this anime is creepy and just weird. The animation is horrible, it’s just plain awkward and deep down I feel like I need a damn shower after words. If this series had tried to be a backhanded comedy or a serious drama. I’m not saying you can’t make social commentary and dick jokes at the same time but you better have the nards to walk the walk and talk the talk. The only semi-redeeming factor is a dub that made me laugh my ass off more because of the actors and my love of them rather than the actual humor. If you’re into the show um yay? Just please keep at least five meters away from me and any schools you may see.

Final Score: 1/10, Dropped at Episode Six

Hybrid X Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia
Jonathan Kaharl

I regret to inform you all, but The Straights are at it again. Hybrid X Heart is basically everything wrong with otaku culture at large, wrapped up in one of the most repulsive anime ever created. It's sexist out the wazoo, homophobic as all hell, and presents some of the worst sex scenes I have ever seen with some of the worst censorship that has ever existed. The main character is a despicable monster trained to be a despicable monster by even more despicable people, and the show thinks it has earned an ultra dark story that brings up human experimentation and brainwashing while the main character and random fetishized anime girl have awkward foreplay and dry humping sessions. Anyone responsible for any part of this series probably can't look their parents in the face. Hell, they probably can't look other perverts in the face, because even perverts have some standards. Truly one of the worst anime that has ever existed.

Final Score: 1/10, Dropped at Episode Seven

The Morose Mononokean
Thom "Tama" Langley

Frankly I hope there's a yokai that plagues anime productions because this show is so incredibly blase, so unorginal, and frankly so stiflingly boring that I begin to wonder whether it was in fact haunted. Its protagonist is a wet blanket, its spirit-calmer-downer so boring and unlikeable and its plot and design so paperthin that I'm surprised this had the legs to get to production. Boring to the point of being insulting and, given it came the cour before the fifth season of Natsume's Book of Friends, pretty poorly timed. Nothing there to offend, but then there's nothing there to start with. Yokai design is decent, but Yokai Watch and so many other shows have done it better. Avoid or go and watch Natsume Seasons 1-4 again

Final Score: 1/10, Dropped at Episode Two

Qualidea Code
David O'Neil

This seems to happen every season. Every season there's that one show that I lose interest in very early on, and then by the end of the season I end up completely at a loss as to what happened in it and how I felt about it. This season, that show is Qualidea Code. I have vague, fleeting memories of what the show was like. A half assed knock off of the current trend of "teenagers with special powers fighting of vaguely defined unstoppable force", with absolutely nothing to set itself apart from the crowd. I remember liking a few of the characters, but can barely remember them now. I also recall losing all hope for the series in general when it failed tremendously at trying to shift to a darker tone, pulling a sudden major character death that came off as more comedic than tragic. But in terms of actual episode plotlines and events its all something of a blur. A mishmash of ideas and visuals with no common thread to hold it all together, resulting in an indiscernible mass of a memory, lost between more prominent recollections of those shows that better accomplished what it had set out to do. A lot like the show itself.

Final Score: 2/10, Dropped at Episode Five

Scar-red Rider XechS
Jonathan Kaharl

Maybe some things just shouldn't be anime. There are good ideas in Scar-red, but the pacing of a visual novel rarely translates well to an anime. For an action heavy series, it sure does waste time on unfunny slice of life bits. They work to build character, yes, but they don't use that time efficiently. The series doesn't start getting interesting till the halfway point, but it's far too late to care by then. There needed to be some massive rewrites during the adaptation process to make this appealing to more than the people who played the original game, because the structure they just took from said game is flimsy for an episodic anime. Also, please stop using over-designed nonsense for outfits unless you have a high level animation studio, it will look god awful otherwise.

Final Score: 5/10, Dropped at Episode Seven

Tsukiuta: The Animation
Megan "Queenira" Z

I really wish I could have enjoyed this. It had a lot of good going for it. It had a great seiyuu cast, great ideas for the images but it all just went south. This series, an IDOL series, was bland and like watching paint dry. There was no pizazz, excitement or even draw to the normal lives these guys could live. Maybe if these boys had personality, maybe if they showed some side other than “must work hard to be best idol!” I could get behind it. I mean what draws fans to series like Utapri and Love Live is that the idols have good personas and actual personalities not that their dancing pieces of meat. Okay well they are but hey let that meat sizzle instead of lay raw. But at least the cast was okay and it was harmless.

Final Score: 2/10, Dropped at Episode Six

Full Shows

91 Days
Thom "Tama" Langley

Three cheers for sweet revenge, especially when executed this well. By far and away, 91 Days is not only the best series of a season, but perhaps of 2016 so far. But how does this brutal revenge draw to its bloody conclusion? Well, first to deal with an Agent attempting to run the Mafia and bootlegging out of town, and in a particularly stark scene, it seems Angelo has very much become a mafia man, threatening the agent's child, whilst Nero grows increasingly ruthless. Finally, the relationship between Angelo and Corteo reaches breaking point, as the agent's family are nearly brutally, (and in a clear homage to the Godfather), blown up. Fango attempts to bring Corteo under his wing and plots his next step. As Corteo slowly drifts apart from his friend, and as Scusa finally betrays him, he turns on Fango, beating him to death in one of the series' single best moments. Nero becomes Don and admints to Angelo that he couldn't kill on the first job he was brought along on, being the murder of Angelo's family. Seemingly fleeing the city with Corteo, we get a flashback to reveal the true writer of the letter, and the duo lying low in Angelo's previous quarters. After a brief soujurn back to the city. Corteo is then tricked into returning, and summarily executed by Angelo. After this brutal moment, it;s opera time! With the clouds of bloody revenge gathering, its not long before bodies start hitting the floor, beginning with the death of Vanetti retainer Del Toro, in a scene worthy of any mob movie. Captured by the Vanetti family, the truth begins to eke out, along with the bodies. And, just like any good opera, the violence finally reaches a climax. Captured, Angelo expects to be dispatched, but of all people, Nero comes to the rescue. Dragging Angelo across country, they finally reach a realization, and, in a sense, some sort of peace with each other. And, not to spoil the ending...the show ends how it begins. Perfectly.

By far and away, 91 Days steals the crown of show of the season. Nothing comes close to this perfectly wrogght tale of revenge and how it can destroy someone set on it. As I've said before, were this show live action, it would be up there with The Sopranos and The Godfather in the high ecelons of Mafia media. A must-see.

Final Score: 8/10

Alderamin on the Sky
David O'Neil

I was somewhat weary of my decision to not drop Alderamin On the Sky, because it wasn't a show that I especially liked or looked forward to each new episode of. That isn't to say I disliked it either, it's an enjoyable show that's more clever than I typically expect from Light Novel adaptations, and even had some nice characters with genuine relationships. But at the same time, it just didn't leave much with me, and towards the end it was as if I was forcing myself to watch each new episode rather than actually being brought back on the show's own merits.

The story of Alderamin On the Sky is fairly straightforward, but also well thought out. It follows the main character Ikta in his unwilling journey to become one of the top commanders of the Katvana Empire, and there's a decent amount of depth to his character. He faces self doubt, loss, and the repercussions of his choices and attitude over the course of the series. Both him and his relationship with Yatori were by far the most interesting aspect of the show, going through a lot of change as things in the series escalated, but also feeling surprisingly natural in that change. The show also deals with a lot of themes on war in general, and the many difficulties and contradictions that come with it. The show typically manages to explore these themes fairly well, it only goes skin deep but it still manages to deal with a lot of heavy topics without feeling too heavy handed. The final conversation of the series especially I thought was a pretty clever way of taking both Ikta and the Princess's characters, and having them break away from the doomed fate that seems to be approaching them and their country (with that said, who knows if this will ever get a second season and actually follow up on that). At the same time though, it is more difficult to take the show's themes seriously when it occasionally falls back on obnoxious light novel tendencies, especially sexual humor. It's fairly restrained, and gets less and less frequent as the show goes on, but still manages to kill the mood multiple times throughout the series.

And really, while the show is smarter than I would have expected, it's never quite able to achieve greatness. As mentioned before the themes are fairly shallow in terms of anti-war messages, and on top of that most of the show's big emotional moments feel toothless in their execution. The show does the bare minimum to make important scenes work, but was always too predictable and restrained to make me care more than the bare minimum. Which really speaks to my feelings on the show as a whole. I never got bored watching it, but it never was able to excite me, engage me, or leave me looking forward to each new episode. I just watched it out of obligation, and had a decent enough time as I watched it.

Final Score: 5/10

Thom "Tama" Langley

Whilst 91 Days up there may be the best show of the season, it's not my favourirte. That accolade goes to Amanchu, which, in a few words, is a joy to watch. First and foremost, like the best sports anime, (such as Haikyuu!!, next season's Yuri On Ice and a clutch of other series) you get a sense of the creator's utter and over-riding passion for the sport-the detail in place is extra-ordinary, as though their love and affection for it ioverflows onto the page-and it is the fact that this sport is diving, particularly in the last few episodes of the series, that adds an extra layer of utter beauty to the series. Even shots of the duo of Hikari and Futuba simply swimming back and forth in the pool are executed with grace, but when the sea is finally reached, the visuals are some of the best in this entire season. Then there is Hikari herself, and boy, where can I ever start with this adorable, infectiously enthuasistic "Whoop!"ing bug-eyed lively character? It is her joy that brings the shy and retiring Futuba out of her shell, her enthuasiasm that attracts the latter to taking her first steps into tthe water and her ecouragement that keeps her going. By far and away she is my favourite character of the season, a bubbly scatterbrain whose enthuasiasm and passion is incredibly endearing.

This is not to say Futuba herself is a passive character-certainly, she is as important in her own story as Hikari, and as their friendhip blossoms, so Futuba becomes a stronger and more confident character. Equally, the swimming club, with its duo of bickering siblings, and offbeat teacher who's as big a diving nerd as her student, are great characters, afforded as much screen time as their teammates; a subplot with a mistakenly delivered loveletter sheds some surprising light on both of the siblings, whilst Mato is rarely unfunny, often acting as straight-man to the antics of Hikari. Perhaps the sweetest thing about this show is the clear yuri undertones-a scene where Futuba becomes utterly lost and confused without Hikari, to the extent of essentially hugging the smaller girl fror support is perhaps the closest we get to an open suggesting that the two are more than just friends.

At its centre, however, Amachu is a series with a whole lot of heart, a beautful visual style, a quintet of great characters, and most of all, a clear love for what it's about, and nowhere is this stronger than in the series' final episode-not only does it have Futuba take to open water for the first time, a clearly cathartic and perfect ending to the series, but it does it in such beauty and style that this episode alone is worth the journey-to see how far Futuba has come, from shy girl overwhelmed by the sea, holding onto the electronic world of her ohone to stepping forth into the endless blue with confidence and her friends by her side.

Final Score: 10/10

Ange Vierge
Joe Straatmann

The last word a critic should use in a review is boring as it's far too easy to toss it out there and not confront what's actually wrong with a work. Yet as I subjected myself to around six hours of Ange Vierge, it's the most apt phrase I can think of to describe the entire project. It's an actioner created from a card game built around generic worlds that focus on one thing, creating characters with similar dimensions. The villains bent on ending the world don't even have the basic presence to BE the villains of the series (You'll see what I mean). The selling point is half of this show takes place in baths while typical anime girls blandly discuss the plot completely naked with dozens of light flares covering up things I didn't even want to see in the first place. The storyline is set up to where I know exactly what's going to happen and exactly when it's going to happen. This is an anime where the only thing you can do is sit and wait for it to be over.

The good news is portals have opened for four different planets other than Earth filled with vampires, angels, androids, and... uh, more military. The bad news is the worlds are being pulled to each other and if they get too close, all worlds will be destroyed. Thankfully, there are females with Exceed powers called Progress from all worlds who come together and expend their energy, which causes the worlds to stop moving towards each other because it just does and any other inquiries will be met with the middle finger. Their enemies are the Ouroboros, mysterious beings seemingly made of novelty flooring who come from... um, wherever, and want to destroy all existence because... reasons. Our main characters are the UC Progress girls, a mediocre bunch struggling to compete with their superiors for which they blame their alpha driver Amane, who is responsible for multiplying their power levels in exchange for feeling their pain in battle. In a twist, their superiors are caught in a diversion while the Ouroboros tunnel under their base and capture their alpha drivers, reversing their energy and turning them evil... except for the UC group as their relationship with their a-driver was far too weak to affect them. So they must take on their senpais extremely under powered and running out of time. Or they would be running out of time if the villains didn't just sit in their own individual bathhouses until they could be bothered to try to end the world. They want to make a game of it first because if your goal is ending the world and you've completely turned your rivals into puppets, that matters to the Ouroboros. Or does it? Who the hell knows. When their plans slowly fail one after another, it goes to that old chestnut of garbage writing that their constant failures were all part of the plan even though it clearly wasn't.

What results is a crushingly repetitive structure where one of the girls flashes back to first meeting Amane and they become best friends (Almost to the point of making one wonder how in the world they took her for granted in the first place). Then there's a crisis on each individuals' planet where their evil counterpart is threatening to destroy the world crystal (Which would essentially end the world), and they have to overcome an extremely minor character arc to rise above it all. The vampire Alma ,for example, must overcome her aversion to drinking blood. After that gets accomplished, there's this odd breather where suddenly main character Saya is the love interest of each of her teammates while at the same time they're all crushing on Amane while at the same time, most of them have some kind of attachment to their senpais. Of course, they're all naked for many of these moments. I'm not against polyamory. but that is BUSY. The cast mostly is made up of two traits, maybe one extra if they're feeling generous. The lead Saya received her powers and thought she was special until she realized so many others have similar or more powerful abilities, so now she has to fight to make herself truly special. That's 90% of her makeup and she's the main character. Oh, and this series seems to take a dim view of individuality in its subtext. For instance, one of the antagonists is Ramiel, a one-winged angel (No no, not Sephiroth). The dark side gives her the extra wing to fly, and this series seems to look down upon her being able to fly by herself, as well as anyone else who tries to do anything by themselves. Hell, the character who turns out to be the ultimate badass and can take care of everything alone turns out to be the ultimate villain.

I found the exact point where the script gives up. Nya, a Progress from the military planet, must defeat someone she thought she'd abandoned in a rescue operation while at the same time, saving her friends from a hostage situation. Her battle winds up creating a shockwave that is powerful enough to travel to through space all the way to Earth and knocks over the captors and ONLY the captors (Who are, by the way, pointless comedic time filler sister soldiers, and the punchline is the younger one wants incest all the time. Hilarious?). I don't think that was Nya doing that. I think that was the force from the writer yelling, "FUCK IT!" as loud as possible.

As a person who has been assigned to sit through this and Luck and Logic, which is the worst lazy anime based on a card game? To be honest, I haven't the foggiest. Most of Luck and Logic has already faded from my mind and I expect Ange Vierge to follow a similar path. It's cheap, dull, and its attempts at pandering is censored quantity over quality. Good things? I'm surprised a series such as this could get such a peppy orchestral score, but hey, so did dreck like Vividred Operation. Plus, I can't say I was completely unmoved by one point in the ending episode. That's about it, though. You've likely skipped it from what I can tell. Your instincts were not wrong.

Final Score: 3/10

Cheer Boys!!
Jonathan Kaharl

While Cheer Boys is definitely the weakest show I finished this season, it was a pretty enjoyable time. But seriously, coming out the same year as a new Love Live series was such incomprehensibly bad timing. The all guys cheerleading dramedy shares so many similar themes and ideas on character archetype use that it's impossible not to compare them on some level. But to Cheer Boys credit, it does eventually steer in a different and effective direction.

The series is ultimately about all of these characters completing an arc of growth, some overcoming simple character flaws, and others dealing with serious trauma. The last episode does a really great job of giving everyone a moment, even if it's not entirely earned for every character. There are seriously so many guys on this show that I tended to lose track from time to time, but damn if they didn't give everyone some sort of time to build their arc. Only the Chinese guy gets the short end of the stick, but he also gets arguably the best pay-off. The major focus remains on our main trio of the awkward Haru, the outgoing Kazu, and the former pro Sho.

What I was surprised by here is that the show seems like it was about to dip into heavy melodrama at almost every moment, but the solution to the problem managed to undercut the supposed heaviness in a meaningful way. Haru becomes distant from his sister, and it's portrayed like some sort of grudge for quitting the judo team, but it's really that she's scared that her brother is going to forget about her. The arc is ultimately resolved just by Haru cheering his sister on during a match. Sho's arc also seems really heavy, and his trauma is understandable, but it mainly happens because he misunderstood what his upperclassman was telling him. A large majority of the conflicts in the show come from people failing to understand what someone is trying to say, and just talking about those issues or their hang ups with others helps them find the answer. It doesn't negate their feelings, but it does point out how silly all this melodrama in the genre tends to be and solves them in the most logical and fitting way possible. Kazu is the only outlier, with his arc being as cheesy as a Cracker Barrel, but it's not terribly distracting.

The story also doesn't revolve around the usual underdogs beat the champions story, as the rival team has no real animosity towards them. The show does misdirect you, but it slowly becomes clear most everything that team leader does is to try and teach Sho something important. This is a cheerleading show, after all, so going with learning to be a better, kinder, and more happy person just works better than being the best. The show tries to say that your goal is to learn from your mistakes and overcome your shortcomings, and it does that great.

But while that's all fine and good, the series is a bit hard to sit through at times. Those melodrama scenes are still tiring, and it takes a good while to get to the payoff. The humor on display also feels incomplete, especially with the late joining members. They're all very simple archetypes that get only minor development, outside one or two here and there. The gangster guy turned out to be my favorite, with a very well handle subtle arc, but then you have the usual tossers like "the funny guy who's not funny" (he said broccoli and has an afro, that's the joke) and "the shota." And yes, the shota did ballet. They never really grow out of those archetypes and become particularly engaging characters, just one note jokes that have a twist in their story here and there (two guys are trying to get into sales and law, for example).

Add in the hard to miss production troubles (yes I have seen that flip at least twelve times now thank you for showing it again), and Cheer Boys is a bit hard to give glowing praise. But I think there's something charming about this show and what it wants to say, and it does have a good few entertaining bits. It's a gem, though covered in some grime.

Final Score: 6/10

Megan "Queenira" Z

I hate to eat my words when it’s for a bad reason and sadly Days is causing it. What started out a calm and rather thoughtful start has tripped over its own two feet. I love myself some sports anime but I can admit they have their faults. Despite being rather easy and popcorn fodder when they get bad, they can get bad. I can see why it’s a genre that gains the ire of many fans because they seem to be a dime a dozen. Now I could easily let Days off the hook here if it didn’t have something against it.; 12 MORE EPISODES. Not even my favorite seiyuu of all can save you here MAPPA.

Speaking of which damn it MAPPA did Saya Yamamoto show up with a bat and break the knees cap for the money she needed to make Yuri on Ice episode one look so immaculate or did they blow the show budget on hookers and blow? Execept for episode 11 and the non-soccer based episode the show looks okay at best. If this was some lesser studio I’d let it slide but this is MAPPA, a subsidiary of Madhouse, who only two years ago made Terror in Resonance shine. But I digress there are a lot more flaws that show up.

The biggest one is that the series, one that’s been rooted in a more realistic take, takes a few liberties. While Haikyuu is also in this they at least exaggerate the movements and live on the hype and we all know Kuroko’s Basketball is basically Jojo’s Bizzare Basketball. When Sakuragi’s star Narukami causes a nearly painful tackle and when Sakuragi’s team outright fucking cheats and kicks people on purpose. It also doesn’t help if you’re not as into soccer like I am.

While I’m not into basketball that much either, I’m a hockey girl, at least Kuroko had former opponents and characters I cared for explain the moments of over the top insanity. Days does not. We also have the fact that outside of Tsukushi none of these other characters are that captivating either. 

Like I said maybe Mizuki is due to his odd feelings of connections to Tsukushi is the other one who could and of course best girl coach Chikako. But it’s a massive flaw of a series if you take one cog and watch the rest of it fall down. But I honestly can’t say that I didn’t enjoy parts of Days. I found the first two-thirds to be pretty good. However the massive let down towards the end made me loose it. Maybe one day, when it gets a dub, I might come back but for now I think I’ve reached the end of my Days.

Final Score: 7/10

Andrew Lepselter

My feelings for this series have been continuously conflicted. It felt like an internal conflict and turmoil to me. A semi-decent comedy show that kind of rubs me the wrong way due to its current franchise placement. However, even then it feels like this show kind of does whatever the hell it wants to whether it makes sense or not. It's a harmless show in a way, but I just couldn't get invested into it. The one joke it played of complete and total misunderstanding is always one of my least favorite comedy tropes and the show itself played that as it's biggest story line.

I did not hate this show. By all means I could see reasons why you would love this show. It's goofy, zany, colorful enough and sometimes the jokes hit well. It's just I felt like even then a lot of the comedic timing for this series felt rather off. Like even a lot of the misunderstandings seem kind of shoe horned in.

To me the biggest problem with Handa-kun is this: no matter what happens, because it's a prequel, you know Handa can't and won't grow or change. And that's the big thing going against it. You can do so many little wacky side adventures with classmates and the friends he makes, but in the end, you know he can't and won't grow as a character or a person until Barakamon happens. He can't learn lessons because he's not supposed to learn them then. I could overlook this flaw of the story going nowhere if I think the jokes are strong enough or I like the characters enough (Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun is a good example of this) but neither element seems really strong enough to sell the show on these things without being annoyed by Handa's pre-growth.

As a separate thing, it's pretty decent. As a prequel to Barakamon, it's really strange and kind of dumb. I'm still surprised they were both by the same mangaka, Satsuki Yoshino. I guess she just wanted a change of pace maybe but I just never felt it worked, or even made sense to be in the same world. I'd say you should at least check out Handa-kun, far or not, to make your own opinion, cause I still feel my thoughts, perhaps, are a bit too unfair to the series not being Barakamon.

Final Score: 4/10

Hitorinoshita – The Outcast
Thom "Tama" Langley

And at last, Hitorinoshita outstays its welcome. Much like the shlocky B-Movies it imitates, it has finally made one episode too many, and finally spat out its last idea. And it's actually a pity, because occasionally, among the titilation and poor writing, there are one or two really great things. Chief among these is Houhou. Oh Houhou, if you were only in a better show, where you don't play second-fiddle to a dull, McChosen McGuffin who spends half the show comatose and half the show being a pawn chucked between various barely sketched out factions. Houhou is the one superb character from this show; a three dimensional character who's rarely played for titilation or fanservice, a tough resourceful interesting character. In a smarter writer's hands, she'd have been the protagonist but Hitorinoshita has never really been a show synonymous with smartness. Aside from Houhou, the cast are basically walking jokes, cardboard cutouts or walking pairs of tits, the villains have little to no motivation and our protagonist is less interesting than a water biscuit. The other redeeming feature are the fights which are choreographed with aplomb. And there, unfortunately, the show loses any other interest.

Were this a 15 minute-an episode series, with a tighter, more focused story, better written characters and less focus on cramming tits and ass shots into everything, or else in the hands of a more capable studio, it would be a more interesting show. As it is, however, it's a strange, oddly lacklustre beast. It's not interesting enough to be bad, and with few exceptions, almost always pulls its punches. It's a show that frankly, aside from its rather low budget shlocky feel leaves almost no impression; if The Morose Mononokean is boring to the point of being forgettable before you even finish an episode, this only just scrapes in above it.

Final Score: 5/10

Love Live! Sunshine!!
Jonathan Kaharl

I'm honestly not sure what to add here.

Love Live Sunshine is breaking records right now, so I think the majority of you already know it's good. And yes, I do plan to write a few articles more on it soon. I've seen great pieces that explain how the series uses camp, I've seen people point out how openly queer the franchise is becoming, and I have even seen many praising it as better than the original series. And from what I've seen of the original series, I can agree on that. So what else do you possibly say about this show?

Not much really. But imma try! Love Live has a really simple formula that it runs with hard. Nine girls have dreams that relate to being idols, they go accomplish that dream, then deal with the fallout after. What makes the franchise stand out so much is that it plays it up in every way imaginable, from overblown drama to ridiculous comedy bits (that's practically why Yohane even exists). It does all this really well, even if the actual plots and stories are very simplistic. Everything is framed and centered around the main cast, who all have lively personalities that clash and grow. It's just fun to be in this world and watch these wacky girls be who they are and achieve something.

The series sells sincerity so well that it can make even the most overblown moments very effective. That show in episode three is an absolutely perfect example, helped heavily by the incredible voice work. The soaring music, colorful art direction and lively animation all create the perfect atmosphere. On top of that, as silly as the girls are, they all have familiar issues to deal with, like struggling with something you were once good at, or trying to be more like what society wants than what you really are. Yohane is actually more than a silly gag character, her almost split-personality cosplaying is a joke, but also an important part of who she is. We even see her dive into that personality to give herself confidence. Every little message Sunshine sends out is a positive one, and even fixes a few problems from the old show, especially with Kanan and Mari.

But Sunshine adds another layer. Because this is a new series riding off the coat tails of one of the most popular anime in the last decade, its entire premise is meta as all get out. Aquors initially forms because Chika saw U's play once, and she tries to be as much like them as possible. But as the series goes on, the characters start to question what their group is in relation to U's, whom they barely know anything about on a personal level. Their journey is also a different one, as this season ends with them still trying to keep the school open, when U's already saved theirs by this point. Their journey is one focused on the frustration of being so unaware of themselves that they can't function properly as an idol group, explained perfectly with their eventual shared goal of "turn the zero into a one." This show so perfectly captures the frustration of failing at something you love, knowing that so many others have succeeded where you failed, and then it becomes inspirational by having them charge ahead anyways. They're absolutely crushed at times, but they keep going to prove something to themselves, not to the world.

I think Love Live Sunshine is going to be something special once it finishes. I cannot possibly recommend it enough.

Also You is the best girl.

Final Score: 9/10

Mob Psycho 100
David O'Neil

Right out of the gate Mob Psycho 100 was a series that managed to exceed the high expectations I had set for it. In the lead up to its release it'd garnered unavoidable comparison to the widely popular action comedy series One Punch Man, being from the same original mangaka, having similar looking characters, and even a vaguely similar premise. Despite this, as far as I'm concerned the first few episodes of Mob Psycho 100 were on a whole different level from One Punch Man in terms of characterization and delivering meaningful themes, and while there were some bumps along the way, as a whole the show continued to accomplish this throughout.

The first six episodes of Mob Psycho 100 are probably some of the most consistently excellent anime storytelling of the year so far. The first episode was mostly fun, visually inventive set up, but beyond that nearly every episode managed to expand on Mob as a character and the sorts of conflicts he was dealing with in a fascinating, thoroughly engaging fashion. We explore his motivations, his fears, his ideals, his self loathing, his isolation, but constantly in a new and interesting way. From the cult arc, in which a crazy possessed cult leader tries to push Mob with a villainous amalgamation of social pressures, to an arc focusing on him facing a rival who represents the exact opposite of everything Mob's been taught in terms of using his powers, it manages to stay both exciting and thematically interesting without missing a beat. Unfortunately, the second half of the show is a bit more hit or miss. Episode seven and eight are certainly steps down from the strong first half of the series, but still have a lot of intriguing subtext regarding Mob and his relationship with his brother. Episodes nine and ten however are by far the low point of the series, as it shifts to focus on an arc where Mob's brother and the young psychics he'd been training with are kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as "Claw". I wouldn't call it explicitly bad, it's still generally fun, but it moves at a really unnecessarily sluggish pace and lacks any of the emotional stakes that made the early arcs so great. It's just a bunch of generic shonen fights against nobody villains who are popping out from around every corner, with no real meaning or purpose behind it.

Now, in a way the show actually does address that in climax, in which the show makes a comeback and pulls off two excellent episodes. The senseless shonen fighting leads directly into Reigen (arguably the best new anime character of the year) returning, and taking apart the battle royale they've gotten themselves into. What results is a pretty damn effective subversion of battle shonen conventions, as Mob struggles with the responsibility of basically being the Goku of the situation, as the entire cast begs him to just let loose his immense power and end the fight, and Reigen tries to gain control of the situation with his wit and expose the villains for the pompous, spoiled brats they truly are. Now, with that said, the same effect could likely have been accomplished without the show devolving into two episodes of bland slog, but it was a relief to see the show hadn't lost sight of its strongest aspects. And all that isn't even going into the show's excellent animation, which constantly experimented with different techniques and vibrant styles, and great soundtrack. Overall, Mob Psycho 100 stumbled along the way to its conclusion, but when it was at its strongest, managed to near perfectly balance character drama, comedy, and action into a single, cohesive whole that was a blast to watch.

Final Score: 8/10

Thom "Tama" Langley

After 24 mini-episodes of  MomoKuri,what can honestly be said about it? It's...alright. Here's the big issue; it's a slice of life romance series in which two adorkable innocents really have their first brush with romance, fall in love, do cute romantic things with each other in a faltering, cute way, whilst their friends do cute stuff int the background. It's cutely paced, cutely packaged (I found out recently this is essentially a re-reun of a show originally broadcast online, with two 12 minute webisodes re-broadcast as a 24 minute tv episode), cutely animated and cute to watch. And that, after a while...honestly gets a little boring. There's nothing wrong persay about it, nothing offensive, nor does it ever get that boring to watch in of itself, but it really shows that this show is intended for more bitesized watching-like all sweets, gorging yourself on them all at once ends up with you hating sweets for ages and probably throwing up.

There is one very simple reason that MomoKuri ends up as "alright" rather than good or excellent: it's repetitive as all heck, and nothing ever truly feels important or major. Momo and Kuri certainly have moments of uncertainity, but like many slice of life series it simply either gets swept under the carpet or overly quickly resolved by the end of the episode (or half episode)-it's also sadly rather predictable-love rival turns out to be friend, girl thinks boy is cute and overcompensates for event XYZ. I'm not deriding MomoKuri for being cute and sorta fluffy as a series but it's as though nothing really ever causes an arguemebt between the two of them. Towards the end of the series, I was almost hoping for a sudden and unexpected turn into slightly darker territory-(Kuri having a picture that Momo really dislikes, whatever)-just to have this series actually do something and stick with it. Sure, life is full of little moments that build atop each other but MomoKuri, if it is building towards something, is starting so small that the pyramids will seem a weekend job compared to it.

Finally, there's just a sense with this show that, despite its rather novel "Older possessive girl and younger cute boy" set up, it eventually just becomes another romance show, in which a girl and boy try their best to be a loving couple despite their shyness and initial formality with each other. If you adore slow burn, slightly awkward, slightly role-reversey, very cute anime, where over time, two people learn to live with one another and love one another, then this is a perfect series for you. For everyone's not awful, has some truly funy moments from time to time and the shorter episodes make it less of a time vampire. Plus, it is very very, almost painfully cute. Now, if you'll excuse me, i need to go eat a bag of Skittles.

Final Score: 7/10

Joe Straatmann

If you thought Shirobako needed to make its yuri-baiting between the girls more overtly lesbian-ey, Doga Kobo has a New Game for you. It's still just subtext, but if you watch the opening and closing animations, their intentions are far more obvious. One would think it would be distracting from the angle of getting a decent behind-the-scenes look at video games, but all the pieces have a snug fit. If you're not focused on a certain other series about girls getting into an otaku industry that covers its topic with a much more encompassing brush, New Game! works rather well on its own terms.

To put it simply, New Game is charming. Gaming company Eaglejump is filled with the quirkiest of women trying to put together the latest of their famous fantasy franchise with high school graduate with Aoba as their new staff member (Something Japanese gaming companies actually do. They like blank slates who can learn how to do things their way). Aoba slowly learns the ropes with the help of her painfully shy co-worker Hifumi, department director Ko who practically lives at the office most days down to comfortably sleeping in her panties there, programmer and military otaku Umiko, and many more. They have dyads where one co-worker has an especially close relationship with another, like Ko and art director Rin who are a Yin and Yang of organization and personal presentation. Most of the staff also have their special moments with Aoba as she has to learn how her work connects with everyone else. It's tantamount to keeping shippers happy, but they find the balance of allowing the women to live out their lives while keeping the subtext there without being distracting. The show knows enough about game design to keep a confident hand over matters, but the game creation itself and the plots that deal with the potentially rockier issues are rather surface level and tame. Episode titles such as "Like.. the Release is Cancelled?" only deal with theoretical situation and not anything that comes to pass. It's not even much of a spoiler to say the staff achieves their ultimate goal, the show is that chill.

The experience is best described as spending free time with co-workers you really get along with. I've worked with a variety other employees, and some write message to the staff  in the bathroom with their own shit as the pen (True story). On the other end, you have these lovable women who would be fun to see outside of work for a drink or go karts or something. They make the soul-crushing concept of working nights and weekends almost sound appealing rather than grueling. What I like most is their layers of nerdery. These are not just attempts to relate to the target audience, but individuals who are on their own journeys through their own geeky hobbies. There are the younger ones who have an intense energy for their fandom and have to collect everything within their interests (Motion capturing employee Hajime plan her paycheck around what figures she can get). There are the in-betweeners who have to learn how to adult, but keep some semblance of their hobbies on their sleeves. Then there's the full adults who have it all cleaned up, but still have a certain gleam their eye. The episode with a subplot involving a "kids'" movie all the staff happen to have seen and how they react and talk about it is a wonderful example of just how well tailored these characters are as individuals.

Rounding out the experience is Doga Kobo's most consistent work I've seen. The animation and coloring have a quiet confidence in their craftsmanship that won't win awards, but makes it easy to disappear into Eaglejump's world for 25 minutes. There are occasional wanderings to plot cul du sacs for a quick couple of laughs, but the scripts are mostly tight affairs, keeping on task while allowing plenty of wiggle room for the characters to develop and be themselves. It's the quiet anime girl with glasses and pigtails. Maybe she's not the flashiest or the wittiest, but she's somebody's waifu.

Final Score: 8/10

Jonathan Kaharl

Well, this show made me cry. Really all you need to know. Orange went on a rocky journey, especially with some particularly hideous episodes where the animation took a nosedive harder than Trump's poll numbers (TIMING!). But in the end, it worked. Orange ended up becoming a beautiful story about nostalgia, regrets, and human relationships, and while it's very unrealistic in most every respect, it tugs at the heartstrings in the right ways.

The cast is what makes it work so well. These kids are insanely likable and feel very human, even if they're obviously playing with old character tropes. Orange gets away with it through this sense of nostalgia it creates, crafting a tale that heavily relies on looking back through the letter premise. Naho gets a letter from the future that tells how to make things better, and she tries to use it, pondering on what her future self is feeling in looking back. We get to see that ourselves, as the show keeps cutting back to the grown versions of the kids and we learn more about the emotions they felt during their school days. We see the fully grown versions, and the story with the kids plays out like we're partly seeing it through a lens of longing.

That trick really sells the drama, which could have so easily been a heavy handed disappointment like Erased (it was good, mind you, just not great). Kakeru's problems constantly border on being understandable and a bit far-fetched for drama, yet the show makes it work by letting us spend a lot of time with him and the rest of the gang. You see these people at their happiest and get an idea of what makes them tick and what they value. So when the problems arise, you want to see them get through it. This goes especially for Suwa, who has the most perfect possible end to his character arc in both past and future. Despite a lot of unnecessary fudging to make a ticking clock element with Kakeru's guilt complex (the climax arrives via a very awkward dramatic turn where he finds something I'm surprised he hasn't seen before), the foundation is really strong. What he ultimately feels is realistic in many ways, and the show captures his depression incredibly well. His smile is always hiding an obvious sadness that's not so obvious at first, and it uses that well for a little kick in the teeth.

All my nags that keep this from a ten are unfortunately all impossible to miss on viewing. This show LOVES playing up dramatic conveniences. Suwa accidentally admitting he's in love with Naho softly to Kakeru, the bully girl sabotaging Naho's possible relationship, Naho getting the wrong ideas from the letter for the millionth time and making things worse, and of course the constant looming threat of Kakeru getting clinically triggered over the most mundane events. Almost none of these things add anything to the show in the long run, besides creating some short lived tension that becomes obnoxious within seconds because of how horribly forced it is. Seriously, do not even get me started on that bully character.

But despite that and the aforementioned quality drop (definitely wait for the blu-rays), Orange sticks the landing. Everything it builds up leads to an emotional wallop that works despite its cheap narrative tricks and one deus ex machina that I'm surprised didn't happen sooner. The past and future story lines wrap up on pitch perfect notes, leaving a truly hopeful, melancholy feeling. Any show that gets tears out of me always deserves a nod, but Orange just captures something truly powerful. Really, the show is just a what if a few friends are having about how their lives could have gone differently, but it sells that what if scenario so hard that it leaves you more than you began. Where Erased became dragged down by the poorly handled thriller elements, Orange picks one direction and does it the best it can.

Final Score: 9/10

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars
Andrew Lepselter

Series smashed into production problems, review left unfinished - Jonathan

Joe Straatmann

This is one of those good series where it feels like I'm disproportionately harsh. For the most part, it is a solid yarn about a twenty-something who gets to relive his high school years for better or worse with some touching and smart moments that allow teenagers to fully unleash the illogical side of themselves alongside an adult with the slightly wiser experience of someone from the "real world.". So it's with some disappointment that it feels like there's a safety net under the dramatics at all times. Arata Kaizaki, a 27-year-old unemployed sad sack who is given a pill that allows him to revisit high school to help fix what's wrong with his life, never feels like he's in any danger. He's surprisingly a reasonably adjusted human being already who simply ran into an extremely unfortunate first job that firebombed his prospects. Certainly an ideal subject for a second chance, but not rehabilitation.

The concept begins to feel like it's backing off the farther it is along. As anime tends to do when dealing with an awkward situation of an older person with potential love interests that are significantly younger, it provides a back door when love interests begin to get more serious. It starts when Arata's classmate An, who seems like a good match with her slacker ways, is revealed to be a handler-in-training for future ReLIFErs. So she's not really ten years younger than him, and it's the start of a long line of tension diffusing moments. Arata's handler Ryo is strongly suggested to have issues with his failed first project that he hides being an overly wide smile. This goes nowhere. I'm not going to spoil the final twist, but it's a real head scratcher that provides another out to the main character being a creeper placed on top of one of those endings that's REALLY hoping for a second season to pick up the slack.

Again, this is a good series. I simply wanted it to take off into something special and it doesn't get there. At its core, there are cutting and sad moments stripping away the layers of what makes high school life so difficult and complicated, the worst of it reflected in Arata's adult years where the bullying that was supposed disappear only became organized and corporate with his co-worker being forced to suicide. The center character for most of the drama is Rena, a competitive student who finds herself struggling to keep at the top of her class in academics and volleyball. Her journey to accepting where she is in the world and not seeing the rest of her class and friends as secretly enjoying her failure is really well written. The colorful look and playful tone of most of the rest keeps it from being too depressing while at the time, serving as a contrast to the sadder moments.

Overall, though, it's a fun rerun through high school days that looks at through wise enough eyes to see that's neither the best times or the worst times of our lives. The main cast has a free and fun chemistry with each other even if some of the broader comedy falls flat (Arata constantly failing exams is probably spot-in for an adult going back to full-on high school, but after awhile, it comes off like he's an idiot, which he's not). The animation can be surprisingly good to the point where Haikyuu!! is given a run for its money on volleyball scenes from a show where volleyball isn't even a focus! The all-keys soundtrack is occasionally distracting, but an overall worthwhile addition. It didn't get much heat from the week-to-week viewers as it was released all at once from the beginning of the series, but it's certainly worth a look even if it's not all it can be.

Final Score: 7/10

Joe Straatmann

Where do we begin and where do we end with this incoherent garbage? I think what's essential to this entire experience is that it never really seems to have an interest in itself, forget trying to sell itself to others. I may not been big on director Tensho's Fruit of Grisaia, but it had a certain charm and even as a harem between extremely bonkers people, it liked its characters and they had decent chemistry with each other. The overarching plots were either really stupid or horribly botched, but the percentage between the characters hanging out with each other and doing big plot things was about 80/20. Every single weakness of Tensho's completely unconvincing macro storytelling is in play here while his strengths are wrapped under the boat anchor of some of the worst Key visual novel adaptation melodrama I have ever seen, and if you know their track record, that's saying something. There's a battle about environmentalism that has absolutely nothing to say about anything except one side thinks the environment would be a whole lot better if humans were all dead, and really, the only person who has the money and resources to push this opinion is an ancient, grouchy lady who has no happy memories yet still feels the need to forcefully implant them into her descendants. This gross simplification of the show leaves a hero who can basically make himself do anything the plot requires, nonsensical two-pronged special abilities among the harem girls, gigantic mutant dinosaur creatures, three guys who can summon beast portals at will, double-agent fairies, and countless other curiosities. The tidbit that most explains how much it all matters is lead Kotarou's ultimate goal of saving humanity and rescuing the assumed main interest Akane so he can potentially collect on the bet of allowing him to grope her. And that entire running joke is painfully stretched out to absolutely no payoff because their selling point was an ending that wasn't featured in the game regardless of how well it fit with the narrative. Yep.

I've already explained the bizarre and poorly conceived first episode way back at the start of the season. While the story and the goals of its various oddities ultimately becomes clearer, what exactly this show wants to be never comes into focus. The expository section plays out as typical Key harem mixing goofy antics with sudden left turns into tragedy, but it eventually abandons that course after a couple stabs at it. What follows is the harem is organized into an occult club that tries to find proof of the supernatural. Then they find a case that gets too close to the truth and most of the girls reveal themselves as either members of Gaia, a secret group out to save the Earth by annihilating humanity, and Guardian, who really doesn't want that to happen. Strange that they don't want to drag Kotarou and the innocents into their struggle, but occult club president Akane is one of the main figureheads of Gaia, has all the power in the world to delete or just not show the club the forum posts that lead to their doorstep, and just doesn't do it. Oh, and we haven't even reached the Key! Yes, in a Key adaptation, one of the essential characters to the story is called the Key. She appears as a ghost-like figure only Kotarou can see (Until the writers decide everyone can see her), and she visits his bedroom every night to bite him. This part is never properly explained, by the way. She also likes cheap coffee (Especially Key brand coffee! These guys are more into branding than Spaceballs).

I'm trying to assemble four different jigsaw puzzles just to explain this one anime, and that's really the major sticking point. Being subversive takes real skill, and if you don't have that, you have to know who your audience is, what you're trying to convey, and how you're trying to convey it. The fan service and bonding time with the girls is too insignificant and roundabout to make this work as any kind of harem. The tragic melodrama is either too telegraphed, too out of left field, or simply too contrived. The loli-bodied Shizuru can heal people, but she can also make people forget about her. How are either of these abilities connected? In Charlotte, the shortcomings of the super powers usually had some logical connection to the powers themselves, but here, it's nonsense pairings. Rewrite tries to blossom into an action series, and like Fruit of Grisaia when it tries to be some kind of Bee Train conspiracy mumbo jumbo showdown, it fails. Mainly with Gonzo-level astoundingly bad CG monsters in a series with otherwise passable technical aspects.

Speaking of Gonzo, Rewrite picks perhaps one of the worst pieces to rip off in the mediocre film Origin: Spirits of the Past. Kotarou has this ability to conveniently rewrite himself to get out of whatever bad situation he happens to be in. This turns out to be power borrowed from the earth that slowly is turning him into a plant. You know, there was a reason the popularity of plant-based superheroes didn't skyrocket after Origin, and this anime ignores all that. This revelation occurs far too late and is not properly examined enough to make any kind of emotional impact, much like most of the final few episodes. Oh, we want to give that sadomasochistic beastman and his friends some definition. How about we wait until AFTER they die? Kotarou's childhood friend Kotori has a shocking secret involving her parents? Let's give her parents about one scene previously and have them completely lost in the narrative shuffle. Even the climax with potentially apocalyptic consequences is so rushed and skips some scenes that were obviously meant to be there, that the possible end of the world doesn't matter. If this doesn't clue you in to what a waste of time Rewrite is, I don't know what will.

Final Score: 4/10

Megan "Queenira" Z

So. This is a series that happened. I honestly do not know how to sum up this little fucker of a series. I can’t call it trashy, fujo-bait, fantasy fun time nor can I really call it good shonen fantasy. Its somewhere lost between the pair that at the end of the day I can describe it as “just fucking go with it.”

When last we left Mahiru, the human white bread of this show, he was on the journey to center of cat. The others were out to save Licht and Lawless and honestly I couldn’t give two fucks about the plot. It turned into a muddled mess where the shining light comes in the form of the back story of why Lawless wants Kuro dead and why said Lawless is the messed up little fuck nugget he is. And let me say this…I found Lawless and Licht to be the most boring in concept characters there were. They were the odd couple holier than thou angel and random “wacky guy” who was a crazy blood night.

Then episode ten happened. Lawless went from the worst, okay in terms of what I liked, to the single most developed character in the fucking show. In twenty four minutes. We learn he was in love with his Eve, Ophelia, who loved peace more than herself. She entered into a political marriage and died of her own ambition. Lawless loved her, wanted to be her prince to whisk her away, only to fail and watch her execution. Then, when called by Old Child, he meets with his six siblings to decide the fate of their creator. As he was on the side to show mercy he becomes angry with Kuro who is revealed to not only be the swing vote but who did the deed. He became disenchanted with life and believed that even in death ambition is worthless.  Combine this with Licht’s OVER ambition we get a mix that brings Lawless, under the servamp name of Hyde, back to the floor.

This also ties into the other best developed character, Kuro. We see he questions his choice to kill, that he was wrong. It’s nice to see a character say to someone “yes, you royally fucked up”. It unlocks Kuro’s true form; A GIANT FUCKING LION. We also learn that regret and fear even bring the whack-a-doo Tsubaki down.

Speaking of which god did the resolution of this show suck! Servamp ends with not a bang but a whimper. A bit fat wet fart noise into your hands. I have dubbed this moment “the hug of infinite forgiveness!” Turns out Tsubaki was just sad and lonely! GOOD GOD GAG ME WITH A FUCKING SPOON. This murderous, crazy, bag of zero fucks, was just sad because his family didn’t love him! So he made his own family. Dear god what is this.

You know what, I can’t be that mad for one reason and one reason only…This show is oddly more tolerable in English. Sonny Straight created HAM the dub with performances by Micah Solusod, Aaron Dismuke and even a one shot appearance by Justin Briner with a character I will only call “Dr. Drugs”. However the true winners, just like in character, is going to be Ian Sinclair’s Lawless and Chuck Huber’s Kuro. They seem to be able to work all sides of their characters from moments of humor to moments gently subtlety.

Overall if you want mindless fodder come to Servamp. If you want fujo-bait, over the top, drunk as fuck fun times do yourself a favor and just watch Seraph of the End.

Final Score: 6/10

sweetness & lightning
Megan "Queenira" Z

Okay show. You win. You’ve won my heart over with the warm and fuzzies that no human can resist. Okay, unless you have a black hole for a heart like Vickie from the Fairly Odd Parents. In the course of this twelve week adventure of the lives of Tsumugi,Kohei and Kotomi it seems like the biggest dish being cooked was the one that warms the heart. In many ways Sweetness and Lightning was my favorite anime I’ve watched all summer, excluding that time I did force my mom to watch Seraph of the End, beating out much flashier and more polished looking animes.

In many ways Sweetness and Lightning carries an intangible something that most other shows miss, a heart.  It seems like these days anime get pumped out at a dime a dozen and while each special very rarely do they touch a piece of us that evokes heartwarming feelings or fond memories. In my opinion animes that can achieve this feat are the ones to be treasured, ones you pass on and show others.  But more on that later lets get back to the main story.

Call me a dolt but I had never guess Tsumugi didn’t know her mother was dead. Apparently she was like Timmy Turner and thought her mom disappeared while she was at summer camp. But that dream comes crashing down as she realizes that her mother, the things she misses about home, isn’t coming back. There are times she regresses, such as when she acts like a cat, all in attempts to vent. It’s quite heart breaking.  The idea of the normally sweet Tsumugi being a brat hurts when you know where it comes from.

Yet to me the most heartbreaking thing is Kohei’s position. While not malicious seeing him interact with the other mothers at the daycare seemed off. He’s in a position of being both father and mother. 
The other mothers accept him but yet it seems like they keep him at arm’s length. Yet Tsumugi is also a little guilty too. She wants to protect mama’s bag and not let dad make a new one but Kohei, and the writers, but to put a patch over it. Like Tsugmugi says “Mommy and daddy made it together!”
Speaking if Tae Inuzuka I love how she’s such a catalyst for this series despite her not being there. She drives Kohei to pick up cooking, Tsumugi to have heartbreak.  I love how mothers are a catalyst not for life, like food can be seen, but for how life flows even when you can’t see them. And it’s also why I enjoy that Kotomi’s mother, Megumi, finally shows up at the end. Its where everyone comes together and they finally eat as a family all because of a mother who will never make it to dinner.

So back to my earlier part about this being an anime to show to you family, to your friends who are apprehensive to the medium. Like how food brings this gang together it can probably bring you friends together. I honestly have so much praise to give. If I had to knock anything I do wish the animation could have been slightly more polished at time but if that’s my biggest gripe then you know how I feel.

Final Score: 9/10

Andrew Lepselter

I feel like I knew this show wasn't great from the start. I kind of knew that all this time, but I think it actually went even further beyond from being a not great show, to an actual honest to god messy piece of mutilated trash the likes of which almost offends me. This is a series that starts on mediocre at its absolute best, and descends into the likes of atrocious, terribad, offensive trash the likes of which I haven't seen in a long, long time.

Taboo Tattoo, to briefly describe it, is everything a blooming adolescent kid could ever want from a show. Insert protagonist, super cool powers and abilities, a secret world unbeknownst to the average person, some crazy antics and cool characters, and dynamic action and increasing stakes. Before I started watching this show, my reference points to anime of this type were Sword Art Online, and Akame ga Kill. I assumed that those shows were the bottom of the barrel when it comes to trashy, "mature edge" shows that in their attempts to go so far to be hardcore and mature, they come off as laughably immature.

I now have to apologize to both shows. SAO's source material is enraging, but at least the anime is directed by a competent enough director to make the action scenes look appealing and even hype at times. Akame ga Kill's hardcore, inconsistent mood whiplashing edgy schlock too, but the character designs are plenty appealing, I did find myself enjoying some of the characters and the OST is pretty strong and the color palette, while off at times, is certainly appealing to the eye.

Taboo Tattoo has the problems of both, without any of the positives of either. It's a fucking trainwreck.

It's been so long since I've been so baffled by a show in almost every regard. Nothing seems to be right about this. The characters are unappealing, the designs are hard to look at, the action while sometimes dynamic is jarring, the comedy's fucking light novel juvenille schlock, full of some of the most jarring and honest to god grossly distasteful fanservice scenes I've seen in a long ass time. Characters are so poorly developed, given some dumb traits and one-note things about them that were so unappealing and dumb. At around Episode 8, the show does a big game changer scenario that felt like one of the more forced and baffling things I had ever seen, and the entirety of Episode 8 by itself could probably be a 1/10 on it's own and a perfect 10/10 in terms of sheer vile edgelord trash. The tone is jarring, the humor's distasteful, the action isn't all that great, the show aesthetically is unpleasant and looks vile, I didn't like any of the characters, and the show wanted to be so many things all at once that in the end it came out as a jarring nothingness to set itself apart from any other shows of it's type.

If you want cool characters, cool edgelord type self insert stories, attractive character designs, with cool magic powers, solid action, actually interesting or appealing fanservice scenes, good music and overall more interesting, less confusing and overall better products, there's about a couple hundred different places to look. The things I did take away from Taboo Tattoo is that it almost became hilarious how I could take certain screencaps or quotes out of context and find use to them in internet forums or Twitter conversation. Outside of that, this show's got nothing to offer, and is a vile, offensive, infuriating, and trashy piece of shit.

Final Score: 2/10

Tales of Zestiria the X
Joe Straatmann

I'm sure one of these days, we'll get a passion project by the hard working folks at ufotable. For now, they have an adaptation of a Tales game that isn't bad at all, and that's a bigger compliment than it sounds coming from someone who rarely plays the franchise for the story and also was one of the handful of people who watched all of their infamously messy adaptation of God Eater. It's perhaps more straightforward and less artistically ambitious than their previous project, but it's not like the random implementation of slow motion and acid cuts actually added much to God Eater. Tales of Zestiria the X is a force driven by some mind-blowingly beautiful imagery and detail work, but it also understands what works about the Tales games' stories and characters and what holds them back, mainly the bland leading men who eat up hours with their vacant expression as they drift in and out of conversations with their far more engaging supporting cast.

I was surprised to find people critical of the prologue episode. Yes, it's a little murky as to what exactly is going on, but they open the door to making Princess Alisha essentially the second lead and that's probably the best move to make. Sorey isn't quite as much of a complete bore as his character design mixed with his Jesus-mixed-with-King-Arthur character arc would indicate, but the more the focus isn't 100% on the main character of these Tales stories, the better. Plus, Princess Alisha is a part of the royal family that leads her own investigations into the woes of her countries, personally tends to plague victims, and refuses to be a tool of her royal council trying to push war onto an already suffering nation. She's pretty damn awesome and deserving of a co-lead status, so ufotable does it and good for them.

Eventually, Sorey and the massive amounts of mythological references that blends into Zestiria's plot comes along, and it works well enough. Sorey is an exceptionally innocent lad who is raised among seraphim, the protectors of the land who have become invisible as mankind has fought among themselves and created massive amounts of malevolence, a negative energy force that turns living being into Hellions and creates a whole mess of problems like tornadoes and illness. Sorey is able to draw the sword of Ladylake, which happens to be not so much the sword but a powerful seraphim who lends Sorey her abilities if he becomes the Shepard. a hero of legend who clears the malevolence of the land by taking it within himself. So lots of gobbledygook that approaches conventional from all sides, but it more or less works, especially when Sorey is opened to just what absorbing malevolence means for him. How much he has to absorb the nasty of humanity, especially if Alisha's country goes to war, has  bit of impact to it. Sorey thankfully gets a cast to play off of most of the time, including his seraphim bro Mikleo, who is a much cooler customer, and not just because he's a water elemental.

The star of the show is definitely the visuals. Yes, their 3D aspects still need a bit of work, especially the dragons, but I've seen Chaos Dragon. It could be many times worse. They can recreate every kind of rain from when Forrest Gump was in Vietnam, and it look surprisingly real as slides down a window pane. Clouds are painstakingly recreated to provide the perfect backdrop. Rivers shimmer gorgeously, town roads have characteristic gunk between the stones, and carpets seem extremely comfortable to walk on. It's like those super-realistic movies like Captain Harlock or Appleseed without the side effect of being dull and overly self-serious.

But say you've already played Tales of Zestiria or you really don't want to go through another one with a generic plot. There are two episodes that offer a preview to Tales of  Berseria, the one coming out soon in the U.S. I've sat through enough of these Tales games to know this one feels different. While time will tell if the final product plays out as something special, at least the concept seems like a refreshing departure. The main character is Velvet Crowe (I know, this series loves stupid names), an anti-hero who was dropped into a deep maze to kill daemons by the leader of a priesthood, and finds her way out of it with designs to slaughter the entire "benevolent" organization behind her imprisonment. The writing relies too much of awkward tossing in of proper nouns in conversations between people who know each other far too well to need it, and it may be trying too hard with the grimdark angle, but it sounds like the radical shift a franchise too bent on status quo needs.

First Cour Score; 7/10

This Art Club Has A Problem!
David O'Neil

I've always had this sort of special place in my heart for the anime romcom, whether it be the workplace hijinks of Working, the shojo satire of Nozaki kun and Ouran, or the ever eccentric Chuunibyou, it's a fairly recent realization of mine that I have a sort of special place in my heart for this sort of comedy series. Even when they repeat tried and true running gags, even when they tease the actual romance for ages without any fruition, even with the constant misunderstandings, I just love the charm of watching cute dorks being cute. And This Art Club Has a Problem fit the bill for this sort of entertainment perfectly.

As I'd mentioned in previous parts of this seasonal coverage, I actually had read a good chunk of the manga this series was based on, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into. Despite this, a good manga never guarantees a good adaptation, but luckily studio Feel pulled off a plenty good one in this case. The series does start off a little iffy, not bad, it just has trouble getting the manga's brand of comedy down. It has almost a rhythm to it, with drawn out comedy gags that lead to climactic punchlines, and in the earlier episodes the comedic timing wasn't quite there. Luckily, as the show went on it almost felt as if they started to get into a groove, as the jokes slowly got funnier and funnier, the character interactions felt more natural, and the comedic pay off of the various gags reached some incredibly hilarious heights. Even jokes I vaguely remembered from the manga managed to make me laugh a second time in the later parts of the series, just due to excellent use of visual comedy and waiting until just the right moment to get to the payoff. They also get a lot better at handling the "romance" of the series, which essentially boils down to Usami's unrequited love or Uchimaki. Later on it finds a great balance between subversion of the audience's expectations, and actual moments of genuineness between the two, which makes for some really heartfelt moments.

It also helps that the show is a treat for the eyes. Studio Feel is always good at making shows look pretty in terms of visual style, and generally having strong visual comedy. In addition to that though, the show has various scenes handled by Ryo Araki, the animator behind some of the best looking scenes of Romantic Comedy SNAFU's second season. It's only on occasion, but whenever he's in charge it's almost like a completely different show, as characters move with realistic weight and subtle expressions and character acting. It would've been nice if the show could look like that more often, but the little moments of beauty are still nice. The show doesn't really do all that much special, or set itself apart from the romcom crowd, but it's a good entry in the genre that's well worth watching for fans of that sort of show. It takes a bit to find its footing, and has occasional moments of iffy ecchi humor, but the show's likable characters and strong sense of humor more than make up for it.

Final Score: 7/10

Time Travel Girl
Andrew Lepselter

This was a curious little production. Simple premise and low-budget execution with a shockingly open presentation of history, science, and even a surprising amount of entertainment. I assumed this would be pretty dull and boring in terms of what it was, but it's kind of been the most surprising thing to me. It's a historical science edutainment type show with some real anime-esque character archetypes and some conflict thrown into the story, but mostly it seems like the goal of this little series was to entertain and educate, and it did a much better job in both areas than I expected.

Main girl was charming enough in that she was dumb but not an idiot, which worked for her to learn things that should already be common knowledge in her era but not understand it so the show can explain it. Cast of characters was generic but harmless enough, and I kind of found myself surprisingly hyped out by her dad as this weird action time patrol fighter. Also anime inventor personas were surprisingly fun too, particular favorites of mine being Edison and Ben Franklin. This was a surprisingly decent show that I expected nothing from but was kind of surprised. You can probably show this on PBS without too many problems (save for some blood and the usual Japanese cultural things) but really, this wasn't so bad.

Final Score: 6/10


Andrew Lepselter

This one's relatively uncomplicated to talk about and always has been nice and simple. It's a cute, adorable little way to pass the time and give you enough cute potassium filled fun rounding about under an hour's worth of content. A nice little appetizer that's quite fun and charming. Baby Bananya and Long-Haired Bananya being nice, early contenders for the Best Bananya contest. I don't think I fully understand WHY this show exists, what it's for, or even if there is any real rhyme or reason to it, but I can safely say that this is a comfortable show, nice popcorn entertainment that will last you some mild cutesy pleasure, and you can watch it with kids as a nice senile Japanese man narrates the lives and antics of these strange, peculiar mascot creatures.

Final Score: 7/10

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Joe Straatmann

They probably gave me the perfect choice for the first Shonen Jump animation for me to review. Not because the material appeals to me or because of its actual quality, but because it literally takes the one issue I have with most Shonen Jump and makes sure I can't complain about it. When I watch most Shonen Jump, I don't see characters and scripts, but formulas to sell to a mass audience. The trick with Saiki K. is it's a comedy literally about a self-aware genius psychic in a Shonen Jump anime trying to navigate his life through a handful of unaware archetypes that are purposely made to be as stock as possible. See, Joseph, the characters being completely cliche in a standard situation is the joke!

Them misadventures of Kasuo Saiki only made me laugh occasionally. There are characters whose insane methods of staying on their own trope rails never cease to amuse, like the kid who constantly believes he's the chosen one in an extremely convoluted action anime. More often than not though, everyone merely plays out their character type predictably within the four minutes. Also striking once again is Shonen Jump's greatest folly: The lack of brevity. Rabbits could take multiplying tips from Saiki K. as I can't even turn around without ten brand new episodes ready. Even at four minutes, the fact that there are over SIXTY episodes available in one season gives more than enough time for the material to wear thin. It's still all right and does make me laugh from time to time, but this is a parody where it avoids being smart most of the time and settles for making you feel smart for recognizing that it's a parody.

Rating after 64 episodes: 6/10

The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi
Thom "Tama" Langley

...Fuck this show. Summer tends to be a dumping ground for anything that didn't get finished in the equally lamentable winter slot, and goes on the general assumption that its audiences are usually outside or doing things other than watching anime. This show frankly doesn't even deserve to be aired, doesn't even deserve to be subbed, and frankly every single yen spent on this show is a yen wasted. It's an ugly unfunny stereotypical mess of a show that's entirely misjudged its audience aside from the 1Direction/5SOS/Castiel shippers that will doubtlessly not only see themselves in the ship-crazed no-homo-bro protagonist but take this as read that "OMG! Japan understands us." Japan doesn't understand you, you cretins.  Yet this show does for BL fans what the oft derided Big Bang Theory does for western Sci-fi and comic geeks-for all its unfunny jibes at the expense of awkward white men, once in a while it smashes the nail home like a jackhammer.  The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi is awful drek but it underpins the utter double-standards of being a BL fan, of the often creepy and cringeworthy way in which men are essentially thrown together in the sexual fantasies of otherwise homophobic people. This one glimmer of truth, however, does not redeem a slow, one-joke-overstaying-its-short-welcome, poorly animated, weak show. If I'm bored by three minutes of this, then this is a sign that a show sinply does not work. I would happily take this show outside, much as Young Master Coats does in Old Yeller, and put a bullet through the back of its head to put it out of its misery. Avoid at all costs.

Final Score: 1/10

Mahou Shoujo? Naria Girls
Jonathan Kaharl

Someone remade Who's Line is it Anyways with voice actors, animated it in Miku Miku Dance or some equivalent, and then threw in a super sad ending to a story that suddenly came into existence that dealt with sacrifice, family bonds, reincarnation, and endless tragic cycles.

This was the most baffling fucking show. Never before have I seen something so ...nothing. That includes JK Meshi. The voice actresses make a lot of terrible jokes and say random things with vague instructions, and nothing of interest actually happens on the screen. It's not funny, it's not anger inducing, and it's weirdly not boring? It's just nothing. This is the void in animated form. All reaction disappears into it.

Final Score: Physica/10

Megan "Queenira" Z

Seriously. Fuck this anime. Of anything I watched this summer this is the one that wasted my time the most. This series is nothing but piss poor, at best, fan fodder for Ozmafia game fans. I honestly don’t have much to say. Nothing gets resolved, everything is a bishonen joke and literally nothing happens. I’ve honestly gotten more investment out of the side stories in my Love Live School Idol Festival account than I did this. At least this show has one little thing going for it…AT LEAST ITS NOT A FULL ON ANIME. Seriously go watch like an actual anime or better out spend them time actually trying to find Ozmafia and play it. Now let’s all hope we don’t get a fuckin Mystic Messenger anime.

Final Score: 1/10

Show by Rock!! Short!!
David O'Neil

It was clear from the start Show By Rock Short was nothing more than a commercial for the second season of the full show, filling the gap before its premiere and trying to remind everyone that the series existed. It doesn't take any risks, it doesn't have anything new to add to the characters or world, and the humor isn't as strong as the show's ever was. That isn't to say it's without its entertainment, for anyone like me who was a fan of the original show and wouldn't mind blowing some time on a bunch of short bits of the show's characters being goofballs, it has its perks. Some episodes are better than others, in fact some border on being outright boring, but overall I think the good outweighed the bad. Still though, this show is basically anime junk food, and not even substantial junk food. Like, really small junk food that doesn't fill you up, and if anything leaves you hungry for more. Luckily, the second season proper of Show By Rock has started at the time of writing, so I won't have to worry about being hungry for more any longer.

Final Score: 5/10

Second Opinions

91 Days

Joe: Somehow, now feels like the best time to get into 91 Days. With every episode available at your leisure, this is as binge-worthy as it gets. I have not been as addicted to the nasty twists and turns of an anime since Monster, which is about as high of a compliment as I can think of. It goes about where you'd expect, but the journey itself is a wild ride of jaw-dropping decisions. Using American mob films as a foundation (Starting and climaxing with the Godfather franchise), it plays with expectations and does its best to place people into the most heart-renching choices they have to make. It's also not empty thrills, telling a story of people trying to secure their legacy and their future through violence, intimidation, and revenge, causing quite the opposite effect. Right down to the perfect final shot, this is a heavy duty drama well worth your time. If you are one of those people who begs and pleads for anime made for adults that they can show to friends as a shining example what the industry can do, watch this series. Final Score: 9/10


Joe: I'll go back to this one someday. I couldn't finish it due to time constraints, but maybe I've been watching it incorrectly from the start. This and the manga author and creative crew's previous work Aria took me five years to sift through three seasons and it's one of my favorite anime of all time. The laid back approach is not meant for fitting it into one's schedule whenever, but at a proper time for proper relaxation. On the other hand, Aria made me want to go to this wondrous world of terraformed Mars and Amanchu! did not really sell me on the greatness of scuba diving. Probably because I didn't get to the point where they actually go scuba diving. Stuck in training mode, the shows relies on the chemistry of its two leading ladies, who are definitely adorable in an opposites attract kind of way. It's a lovely series, but a little disappointing from what I've watched given how much of a fan I am of the previous work. Before the Internet comes after me, I would really recommend you watch Aria to see where I'm coming from. Also, it gives me an extra five years to RUN! Seven Episodes: 7/10


Obey Bananya. Final Score: 8/10


Joe: One of the things that makes fiction feel like fiction is how behavior and events move with clockwork precision and the moments that don't are the exceptions. Orange is an anime about regretful Naho sending a letter from the future to fix what went wrong with her past self that is fully built on the imperfections of the human soul. Even with a blueprint with how every day is going to go, she still wavers on what exactly she should do because her emotions falter and her heart is telling her something the letter isn't. The ultimate villain is deep depression, one of the most horrendous saboteurs of human beings, seemingly unstoppable in moments no matter what is done. Hell, the series starts with Naho receiving the letter a day too late to avoid one of main incidents her future self was determined to make right. It's that delicate wavering that makes me wholly buy and be involved with this low key, deliberately paced high school drama where it occasionally seems like the concept is barely there. The lovely music also helps make up for limited animation budget, even if the opening and ending themes are forgettable. Like many many of my favorites, it's certainly not for everyone, but if you have the patience and can dig a bit under the surface, this is a wonderful little title that hits well past the rib cage. Final Score: 9/10


  1. "Expect to see more proper articles on the site from writers besides Zach"

    I sure hope so! It's tiring holding up the fort nearly solo...


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