Summer 2018 Anime Watch List

mananacchio

Yes, I’m back. I’m just gonna pretend that you missed me, or at least noticed I hadn’t posted in a while (read: 4 years). My friend justbeingamos gave me a hard time convinced me that I needed to give my blog another go, so we’ll see how long this lasts. I have a few ideas, but for now I think I’ll get things started with what I hope to make a recurring feature, that being my watch list for the current anime season.

I’m too slow a writer and too inconsistent to review shows episode by episode, especially since some episodes – like filler or beach ones – are both hard to write about and hardly worth writing about to begin with. So I opted for this format instead.

I believe it was Shakespeare who said, “To watch or not to watch, give it three episodes.” That’s the general anime community rule of thumb in any case. Once upon a time I may have followed that rule, but I can’t be bothered with that anymore. If a show looks terrible or isn’t in my wheelhouse, I don’t see the point in wasting my time watching it.

So that’s where this article comes into play. I’m going to present the shows I’m currently watching and give them a rating. Since I mentioned the rule of thumb motif, let’s determine their fate in true gladiator style. A thumbs up means I’ll be watching until the end, thumbs down means it’s been dropped or will likely be dropped before the season is through and thumb sideways(?) means I’m still on the fence and it could go either way  (also, let’s just call that last one ‘The Jury Is Still Out’ because thumbs sideways sounds weird). If your tastes align with mine, maybe this post will help you avoid wasting your time.

Alternately, maybe you can suggest a show from the current season that maybe I dismissed or that didn’t initially pique my interest. Try to keep my tastes in mind, of course, but I’m certainly open to checking something out if its worthwhile.

And I certainly hope I don’t need to say that if you do leave a comment, let’s keep it civil. Opinions will likely differ, but in no way am I telling anyone what to watch, so I would hope others would extend the same courtesy when making suggestions.

Thumbs Up:

Steins;Gate 0

steins;gate0 anime

This is technically a continuation of last season but it’s still very much on my must-watch list. I’ll be the first to admit that so far the episodes from this season have been mostly filler and not up to the standard set by the first half of the season or the original Steins;Gate. That said, having played the original visual novel, the current focus has thus far been on my least favorite and somewhat unnecessary aspects of the story, that of Kagari and the Daru/Yuki relationship.

Unfortunately the characters Rintaro Okabe, Maho Hiyajou and the AI Kurisu Makise, Amadeus, have mostly been relegated to the background in the latter half thus far, which is a shame because these characters and their various interactions are easily the strongest elements of Steins;Gate 0. Okabe has great chemistry with both ladies, and Maho herself is the greatest edition to the series, as combination best friend, co-worker, and rival to the now-deceased Kurisu; the Salieri to Kurisu’s Mozart, as she sees herself. It actually makes me sad to think about re-watching the original series without her physical presence.

maho excite

“Aw, cheer up, senpai!”

That said, having played the game, I know that the story is about to kick into high gear very soon and, so long as it stays true to the source material, it should be awesome. It may take liberties along the way – the fantastic episode where Okabe jumps to the Alpha line and interacts with Kurisu is only a brief conversation in the game but is a highlight of the season thus far – but I’m optimistic it will hit all the right notes in the end. It may be the Salieri to the original Steins;Gate’s Mozart, but that’s pretty damn respectable of an accomplishment in its own right!

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

chioschoolroad

aka, Chio’s School Road

The concept behind this comedy is pretty straight-forward: Every episode is made up of two segments that follow the (mis)adventures of high-school girl Chio Miyamo as she makes her way to school in the morning.

From taking a shortcut by climbing buildings and parkouring from rooftop to rooftop a la Assassin’s Creed to (accidentally) beating up and intimidating a biker gang-member blocking her path to trying to look cool while modeling for photos with a used cigarette, this show is hilarious and an absolute gem. Chio is your typical socially awkward high school girl who plays video games late into the night and tends to overthinks things. Mostly she just wants to keep a low profile though.

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Low profile, Bloody Butterfly style

Often she’ll walk to school with her kind-of-sort-of-not-really friend, Manana, who may be borderline sociopathic, or run into the popular sports ace from her school, which kicks her social awkwardness into high gear. More often than not, however, she’ll try to use video game logic or skills to escape her morning predicament. Whatever the situation, this is definitely one to watch. All hail, Bloody Butterfly!

Asobi Asobase

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I’m going to tell you right now that I have a feeling this series will be very polarizing; either you’ll love it or you’ll hate it. I’m not sure there will be very much middle ground. At first glance it looks like just another slice-of-life, girls bonding while enjoying club activities show complete with a pastel-like shoujo filter. Look deeper and you’ll find a gag comedy with somewhat selfish and mean-spirited primary characters.

Bespectacled Kasumi is studious but is terrible at English but a natural at games, though she doesn’t like them since her older sister made them into punishment games and Kasumi always lost. Olivia is American but has lived in Japan all her life, and though she pretends to be terrible at Japanese, she actually can’t speak a lick of English. Hanako is the cheerful airhead who desires popularity and though she like observing or playing games, she sucks at them. When Kasumi beats Olivia in a hand game in exchange for English lessons, the three girls form a pastimers club in order to study English and play games. Guess which of the two does not happen.

The most polarizing aspect of this show will probably be the facial expressions. The surrealistic reactions and exaggerated faces are prominently on display and come a mile a minute. Thankfully so do the jokes. While overstated faces are usually not my cup of tea, I find it really works here.

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The many faces of Asobi Asobase

This show is absolutely hilarious, and the girls’ eccentricities and personalities are charming, even if they are slightly terrible human beings. Not gonna lie though, I still don’t know what the deal with the butt lasers are…

The Jury Is Still Out:

ISLAND

ISLAND

The opening scene of the first episode is an implied sexual liaison involving a clearly under-aged girl. I suppose the idea was to pique our curiosity as to whether it really is sex or if the visuals and dialogue were all just a tease. After 5 episodes, though, this scene has not been put into any sort of context or mentioned since. It’s a little unsettling, and could mean the entire difference in how this series is ultimately received.

As for the rest, the mystery behind the story is intriguing. An amnesiac wakes up on an island’s beach remembering only that he traveled through time to save a girl and kill someone, possibly named Setsuna, in order to prevent a tragedy. When he meets Rinne, he comes to believe he is Setsuna. But is he really? Did he actually travel through time? Is he ultimately supposed to kill himself?

As I stated, these are intriguing concepts. Unfortunately the show has squandered its mystery angle with typical harem and beach shenanigans. We’ve been offered a few clues, but more often than not we just end up with more unanswered questions and odd plot points. Karen wants to escape the island to join her mother who left years ago, only to have that all be resolved in a single episode. Rinne believes she has the soot blight syndrome that would kill her if she was exposed to sunlight, only to have that claim be quickly rebuffed and her immediately acknowledging that she doesn’t actually have it. Sara seems to believe that she is supposed to travel into the past to become her own mother, though I can’t fathom how that could even be physically possible.

Admittedly the artwork is crisp, the colors are vibrant and the girls are super-cute, so it has a lot of appeal. I am especially fond of Sara.

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This is Sara. She’s her own mother…maybe.

If the show can manage to get back on track with its mystery plot, it has a lot of potential. Of course, its scenario and the inevitable twist could also wind up being completely lackluster or go completely off the rails. More than likely its odd pacing and trope-filled scripting will do it in first though.

Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou no Holmes

kyotoholmes

aka, Holmes of Kyoto

When I read the description for this show about an antiques dealer with a Sherlock Holmes-ian power of deduction and the low-key mysteries he solves along with the girl who works part time at his shop, I had hoped for something similar to Hyouka. That’s not at all what I got, so I’ve been a little disappointed by it. Admittedly that’s not the show’s fault so much as my own expectations.

That said, I’m not sure I’m completely sold on what this show actually is. Each episode thus far has been a stand-alone mystery, but even then the pacing is very slow. On top of that, we as the audience aren’t often given enough clues to feel like we can play along. Instead we just watch as Kiyotaka Yagashira, the titular ‘Holmes,’ solves the puzzles and explains his process. So mileage can vary in that regard. I personally like to feel like I have a fair shot at being able to solve the mystery when I watch this genre.

Visuals can be hit or miss sometimes, as the character designs often look like they could have come out of a Clamp artworks book. By that I mean the characters are all tall and lanky, and in some frames their torsos seem elongated and other times arms are overly-long like a gorilla’s. It’s a bit disconcerting to look at.

The leads and their interactions are genuinely captivating enough to hold my interest, though. Kiyotaka is thoughtful and friendly, but he can also have a barbed tongue at times. He’s no pushover, which is often refreshing in anime. Aoi Mashiro, his partner-in-crime/possible romantic interest is the genuinely curious sort, but having been betrayed by her ex-boyfriend and former best friend, she’s also a realistically petty teenager (she wants a job so she can pay for a trip back home to tell them both off).

There’s been build-up of a counterfeiting ring that seems to be targeting our lead, but given the way it’s been played so far – borderline mustache-twirling – I’m a bit worried about how it will play out. I think that will be the primary challenge that this show faces as to how it is ultimately received.

Yuragi-sou no Yuuna-san

yuunahotsprings

aka, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs

This show is a throwback to the ecchi shows of yesteryear. It wouldn’t feel out of place among the fanservice offerings from ten years ago. The fanservice isn’t overly gratuitous and comedy is mostly mined from the protagonist inadvertently catching a sneaky peek or copping a feel, followed by the expected shriek and cartoony violence. Personally I find this more aggravating than funny, but to each his or her own.

If you’re a fan of shows like Omamori Himari or So, I Can’t Play H!, then you’re likely to enjoy this. Personally I find that in this fanservice-heavy era, this genre is a bit played out but I do appreciate an ecchi show that isn’t blue-balls inducing with naked girls trying to have sex with a weak-willed protagonist every five seconds.

What the show does have going for it is that the primary leads are quite likeable. Kogarashi Fuyuzora is a stand-up guy willing to fight to save Yuuna’s soul from becoming corrupted the longer she stays in the mortal realm, even though as an exorcist he should just exorcise her and be done with it. He’ll also take full responsibility for trouble caused by Yuuna, whether warranted or not. Yuuna herself is cute and ditzy enough that you can totally understand why Kogarashi would want to protect her.

The other characters are mostly tropes at this point. Sagiri is a morals-obsessed demon-slaying ninja who blames the male protagonist for everything even when it’s not his fault and metes out an unwarranted punishment. Nonko is your typical drunk and flirty/grabby “old maid” character with large breasts and Yaya is a cat-girl drawn to warmth, so expect to see her pop up in the male’s bedroll uninvited quite often. There’s also Chitose, the strict landlady who looks like a child and Chisaki, the typical school idol character, so don’t expect anything new or deep characterizations.

Do expect some occasional comedy and stuffed-animal punching, though, so for now that’s what’s keeping me around.

Thumbs Down:

Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu

summondemonlord

aka, How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord

I had great hopes for this show up until I saw the fanservice-filled trailer. Then I had a feeling this was going to be trash. Sadly, I was correct.

Other than cute female characters (although Elf-girl’s breasts cross the line between attractive and unsightly), this show really only has one thing going for it, and that’s the dichotomous nature of the socially awkward protagonist who only knows how to interact with others through his haughty and condescending demon lord persona, while his internal monologue shows him freaking out over his current predicament. Everything else is stereotypical isekai fare – and of mediocre quality at that. Otaku/Neet protagonist pulled into a video game world? Check. Wish-fulfillment main character so overpowered that nothing poses a threat? Of course! Harem? That’s kind of a pre-requisite. Ecchi fanservice? You betcha! Accidental groping? Haha, as if you need to ask.

The show doesn’t do itself any favors either by creating a bond between the protagonist and the two primary female characters with slave collars. The girls both summoned him to their world to be their slave, only he possesses a deus-ex-machina reflect ring that causes the enslavement spell to bounce back onto them, thus making them his slaves. I hopefully don’t need to tell you how problematic the notion of slaves is. On top of that, there’s a very uncomfortable scene in the first episode wherein the demon lord protagonist essentially sexually assaults the cat-girl indentured servant only to have that be the event that brings her to trust and open up to him. This. Is. Not. Okay!

Elf-girl also seems to be on the sexually naïve side, but that doesn’t prevent her from intentionally flopping all over the protagonist with barely anything on. So yeah, it feels a tad icky.

In fairness, though, with the exception of those discomforting aspects, it’s not a terrible show; it’s just not a very good one. If you love isekai shows then you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Satsuriku no Tenshi

angelsofdeath

aka, Angels of Death

For a show that supposed to be based on a horror game, it’s really not scary in the least. There’s no sense of suspense or worry in one’s gut that something bad might happen at any moment, and the lead doesn’t help matters by never reacting to any of the events around her. It’s really hard to feel scared when the characters aren’t. It isn’t even all that interesting or entertaining either. So it really does beg the question as to what the purpose of this show is and who the targeted audience is.

The story follows a young girl named Rachel Gardner who recently lost her parents in an accident. One minute she’s in therapy and the next she’s waking up on the bottom level of an underground building. When she proceeds to the next floor up she discovers that she is a target for the murderous denizens of the building, with each floor belonging to one particular crazy with their own distinct aesthetic and killing motifs. Why she was placed here and who leased the floors to the crazies is as of yet unknown, but what’s clear is that she’ll have to survive each floor one by one in order to escape. An added wrinkle is when Zack, the mummy-wrapped psychotic scythe-wielding resident of the first floor breaks the rules by murdering another killer in their personal territory, thus becoming a target himself.

Where things don’t really add up is with Rachel’s motivations. Zack clearly wants to escape at this point, but he needs Rachel in order to do so. Rachel just wants Zack to kill her because she believes it’s blasphemous to commit suicide. Why she doesn’t just let the other killers do the job for her, I still don’t fully understand. Additionally, Zack is highly annoying. He spends the whole time yelling and trying to smash things with his scythe like it’s a hammer. Rachel could be interesting if we could learn what happened to her parents and understand her mindset as to why she wants to die, but she doesn’t ever really react to anything or show any sort of emotion, so it’s difficult to get invested.

On top of that, the writing is lackluster, characters aren’t very bright and each killer is eye-rollingly over the top with their obsessive predilections, complete with maniacal laughter and drooping lizard-like tongues. There is zero subtlety to be found here. If you’re really interested, just play the game as I’m sure it works better in that medium.

Jashin-chan Dropkick

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aka, Dropkick on my Devil!

Human witch Yurine summoned the selfish serpent-demon Jashin from Hell, and now the only way for Jashin to return to Hell is if Yurine were to die. Queue plot of Jashin trying to kill Yurine, only to be constantly thwarted instead. Because Jashin can regenerate, this plot can be repeated ad nauseam.

This series is very much in the vein of Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan or Magical Witch Punie-chan, with the old-school cartoony visuals and lots of bloody and mean-spirited slapstick violence. Unfortunately it doesn’t do anything different from those shows and is nowhere near as funny.

That’s essentially the problem. Characters are barely introduced and there doesn’t seem to be a linear order to anything. On top of that, each episode is nearly identical, just played out in a slightly different order. Jashin makes an elaborate plan to kill Yurine only to stupidly give herself away so Yurine kills her and/or chops her up to eat her meat; Jashin takes advantage of kind-hearted Medusa; Jashin picks on a yuki-onna (snow woman or ice devil) only to get frozen and shattered; halo-less angel Pekola wanders around starving. Seriously, that’s it. Switch up the order and there’s an episode.

You’d do better spending your time on something other than this show.

But… But… What About…?

Attack on Titan Season 3 – I liked the first season but I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the second season, so I’ve pretty much lost interest in this show. If you liked the first two seasons, though, you’ll probably like this one too.

Persona 5 The Animation – The game was better.

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