Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Week 2 (Anime Power Ranking)

Second week is here, so which shows got cut cause I can’t stomach more of their badness, and what did I think of the other episodes? Read on to find out!

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst).

1) Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED Episode 2:

Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED anime Episode 2 Notes - Fujinuma Satorou and Hinazuki Kayo

This episode was really good. As good as the first one? Maybe it was, or the tiniest fraction lower, as this episode lacked the premiere’s “hook”, but had anything else. Strong direction and good shot composition were evident throughout, with many beautiful and/or impactful shows throughout. This was discussed somewhat back when Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resoannce) aired, but everything in an anime shot has to be drawn, someone has to consciously think of it, so seeing characters through metal bars as they speak is very much a conscious decision by the artists and director, even more than in a regular film where if you film outside, these things are usually present in the actual locale. So, a lot of thought went into this show.

It’s like what I discussed on rewatching Neon Genesis Evangelion and watching Sword Art Online season 2 – rather than relive his life, he’s watching himself relive it. But he’s also beginning to realize, or we are, that even as an adult, rather than live his own life, he watched himself live it, as if from a distance, because of the hole within him.

I really liked the visual touch of a film reel playing along whenever Satoru looks back on his memories, which brings us to dinner with his dinner, where he realized he’s been taking his daily life and memories for granted, but it also means he was looking on the life he’s living, and re-living rather than actually living it. A theme that was discussed was of how we fake in our lives, and the topic of masks – he’s definitely putting on a mask now, but perhaps he always did. I find this topic very interesting because it permeates our every interaction with others and ourselves, so it’s something I address a lot, such as in my OreGairu S2 write-ups.

Great episode, and while things aren’t moving forward as quickly, we had to re-establish the situation, and they’re still moving forward at a good pace, just not as fast as in the premiere.

Slightly longer post-episode write-up.

2) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 2:

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju anime Episode 2 - Sukeroku tells Yakumo to smile

This episode wasn’t as good, funny, or enjoyable as the first episode. But that one was like perfect, and double-length. But it was still good, funny, and enjoyable. I think part of it was the matter, in the way of people, this episode covered. Young Yakumo and Sukeroku don’t have the polish that Yotaro and older Yakumo have. They’re still half-baked, which is what it’s about. I did like how young Yakumo was abandoned, and how he grows to accept it and bond with his fellow apprentice. The show pulled their relationship off really well. And the focus on just how young Yakumo is the opposite of Yotaro, and how Yotaro and Sukeroku are similar were stressed – the passion, the ruffian-ness, willing to go forth, etc.

I also want to draw attention to how quickly those two just left behind their old names – as performers, adopting new personalities should come easily to them, but also leaving behind their old no-longer existing lives.

Of course, there’s what I noted last episode, that while Ishida Akira is good at the drama part, he lacks what makes for a good Rakugo presence. Which ironically enough, was helpful here. His performance was flat. But that’s the risk you run into. When you want to display a boring performance, it might end a tad boring. It was only a tad, because the director focused on his reaction, and the dismay of those around him, and it wasn’t all that long, but it was still there.

And yet, I smiled during the episode, and chuckled, and maybe even teared up once (you can’t prove anything!), and when it was over I went “Wait! We’re not done here yet! We’re only getting started on this tale of love and friendship (because yes, there’s clearly love here), this story of abandonment and making do, of passion and lack thereof! And after this tale is done we’ll still have Yotaro and Konatsu’s story! Where are you going?!” and here we are, when an episode ended where a lot happened, but it was over too quickly. I need more of this show.

I do wonder if the trip down memory lane will end up consuming the show’s majority, length-wise. It could happen, as it did in the Tenjou Tenge anime.

3) Akagami no Shirayuki-hime / Snow White with the Red Hair Episode 14 (S2 episode 2):

Akagami no Shirayuki Hime anime Episode 14 - Shirayuki too cute

Hnnnnng! Ahem, forgive me.

Super cute episode, full of “Hnnng!” moments, from Shirayuki with Obi’s pin in her hair, Zen hugging Shirayuki (when will we get a reciprocal hug?), Obi and Zen, Obi and Shirayuki… Yes, last episode I marveled over how we’re getting some plot going, woo! But I’m here for the comfy, and this episode was the comfiest. Also, only Fukuyama Jun was right for Raj with his gloriously overblown gesture of welcome, and he and his attendee are selling their scenes. I did do a slightly longer write-up on why Izana isn’t a real jerk here, if you’re interested.

4) Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Episode 2:

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash anime Episode 2 - Ranta crying and sputtered in blood

This episode still felt a bit slow and padded, but mostly for its second half, even as that 2nd half had done some serious work as the song played in the background and we saw the characters de-stressing from their hard day, and getting to live within the world, and with one another. I did wonder about how they all left Ranta behind, was it because they didn’t have words for him? Did they think he needed to be alone, or did they need to be alone, specifically from him? And the bath-scene should’ve been cut, but I guess they had 15 minutes of content for 20 minutes of airtime and had to do something with the final 5 minutes, and to show Ranta picking himself up again.

The fight scene. Well, that was really good, the tense music, the small moment after of Shihoru burying her face. The shaking hands, the tears.  And killing something like this? Those peaceful Goblins that only go about their days? The scene was very good about the visceral nature of the fight, not just its ramifications, and even before the goblin leaped up on Haruhiro and then tried to escape, and doubly after. I’m almost reminded of Gladiator’s fighting cinematography, though less jittery, heh. So yeah, something like that, but toned down, which is still infinitely more visceral than how “clean” most fights in anime are, regardless of how much blood spurts about – it’s not about blood, but about camera-work and emotions involved.

About the show as a whole – still entirely lacking in a hook, in an overarching “This is what happens next! This is the high stakes goal we’re watching for, to see how the characters operate!” Seems like we’re here for a slice of actual life/drama show, where we follow our characters about as they try to simply make do. I’m fine with that, but it does require a certain expectation-shift, and is not the best bet to capturing audiences of a newly airing show – works better when a show is marathoned or with a novel. But here we are, and I actually like this sort of show.

5) Dimension W  Episode 2:

Dimension W anime Episode 2 - Yurizaki Mira is cute with pigeons on her head

What’s interesting to me here is that the show didn’t take the direction I thought it would. I thought we’ll get a couple of episodes of low-key encounters, as Mira and Kyouma live together, take on some thugs, and get used to one another. Nope. We’re moving right ahead to a mystery, that’s introduced this week and will be followed in next week’s episode, judging from its title. The episode also felt a bit rushed, as if events followed one another super rapidly rather than letting a couple of interactions, between Mira and Kyouma, or Loser and Kyouma, breathe a bit more. Loser giving Mira the non-sequitur “I will have my revenge!” after she asks where illegal coils are manufactured felt weird, in the same way.

But, justice! flamboyancy! Mira constantly presented as a cute thing instead of a nuanced person! This episode was still solid, but it did feel a bit cold and lacking in emotional context, and while Kyouma is cold and gruff, it does make for a less involving narrative and character. It’s mostly “plot now” right now, and people running around. Solid, but not exciting.

I do like how they keep speaking of “brought to light”, as the shadows cast by the light-bringing company are hidden, as are those burnt by it.

6) Active Raid Episode 2:

Active Raid anime episode 2 - Kidnapper trying to escape

Solid episode covering material that had to be here, of how the straight-laced and harsh inspector turns and does exactly what she kept talking against. I expected it to take longer to get here, but it was a nice touch that part of the reason for her “downfall” was that in her self-assured manner she ignored others’ advice and requests for help, though they’re guilty as well, of not clarifying their position either.

I did like the “kowtow-walk of shame,” not just for the “red-tape hell” this show paints life as, but as the burden of middle-management. More than that, I liked, “It’s not our work to enforce subjective justice (as everyone’s is different), but to uphold the law.” A nice piece of realism and common sense that’s required. This episode was alright, but nothing special to talk about one way or the other. I didn’t care for the “evil mastermind” thus far though with his, “Oh no, I’m sounding like a villain!”

7) Haruta and Chika / HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru Episode 2:

Haruchika / Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru / Haruta and Chika anime Episode 2 Notes - Kamijou Haruta spouts nonsense on idolizing puzzles

This is how you grow up into Perfect Insider’s Saikawa Souhei, spouting this nonsense.

HaruChika has solid writing. The corny dialogue lines coming right, left, and center, as if we’re having a clearance sale of poetry slams were a bit much. But, there’s some good stuff going on on the basic writing level. There was also the subtle touch of presenting Haruta running away from his sisters versus one who was very attached to her brother.

But here’s the thing, and the scene where Haruta painted over the scrambled cube was emblematic of it, that scene fell flat. Yes, during the scene earlier where we heard of her dead brother I thought, “We don’t know her, and she’s a non-character, so we don’t care,” but the acting and framing and everything when Haruta painted over the cube should’ve been so much more impactful. But it was as if we watched someone throw a paper into the recycle bin. It was nothing.

If this show had been covered by the team behind Hyouka, I think it could’ve been really good. But it’s not. And it’s not really going to improve, because it’s not a question of giving the characters and story more time, but the script-author and director not pulling their weight.

Also, the oboe joining the background/band music towards the end was a nice touch. But that was about it. I don’t know if I’ll keep watching it or not – I like the basic groundwork of the show, but I’m constantly frustrated by all that it is not, and all the cheesy, so-called “deep” lines by Haruta keep pulling me out of the episode. This show should be dropped, and I’ll likely just forget watching it at some point, but not yet. To my frustration. Maybe.

8) Myriad Colors Phantom World / Musaigen no Phantom World Episode 2:

Musaigen no Phantom World / Myriad Colors Phantom World anime Episode 2 Notes - Sleeping Marchosias

This show has cute designs, but I can just watch the stills for that. But still, best thing in the show – Marchosias.

Here is this show summed up in a single screenshot. Exposition and fan-service, one big happy family. Afterward, or rather, as the exposition-dump happened, we focused on Mai, and it’s worse than focusing on a character’s breasts or crotch as they speak, cause it’s not even her talking. It’s just sort of there. That’s her schtick, to go with Reina’s “eating-focused” and Ichijou’s “annoying exposition,” Mai’s is fondling herself for the camera. This episode did make me disappointed in not seeing a peeping Phantom would arrive, because of course it would.

But I figured out why. You see here? In this entire scene, everyone’s eyes seemed vacant, not actually looking at the world in front of them, as if the people making this show couldn’t be bothered to lend it their soul. So, why fanservice? Because this episode was empty. Aside from Ichijou being constantly kicked out of the room (and out of the window) working through Shimono Hiro’s magical voice and the power of repeat humor, there was nothing of interest in this episode – no real character interaction, no real world-construction. Nothing. So fanservice is a cheap way to try and get some sort of reaction out of us, even if neither the writing nor the rest of the material merit it.

Even in the action portions however, everything looks “samey”, same style for everyone’s actions in how they manifest. And while the constant references to linguists and philosophers was to prime up the final “This world is constantly changing” punchline, it was really insufferable, both that this show of all shows would bring up Kant and Wittgenstein, and because the delivery, the endless exposition, were just bad.

I didn’t think highly of Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary), but it had better characters, better drama, and better action than this show. Dropped, cause there’s nothing good here. Except some cute character designs, and I can watch stills of those.

Overall Thoughts on the Week: Aside from Grimgar being much better this episode, most shows are being “more of themselves” this week. This isn’t surprising, since most of them had hooks presented in the premieres, or a direction they showed they’ll want to follow. I mean, I didn’t expect Dimension W to go in this route, but it makes sense. So, the bad stuff just doubled down on the badness (Phantom), or hammered in how incompetent it is (HaruChika), while the good remained good in the same way – BokuMachi (ERASED) with its careful direction and inside-head experience, and Rakugo Shinju with its human touches.

Dimension W and Active Raid felt weak, but it’s only because of how amazingly good and/or fun the top 3 shows on the list are, and how impactful Grimgar on 4th was, but they were both solid episodes. So, top 6 are all worthy of your time, while 7-8 aren’t, but 7 could’ve been, and is proof of why in my previews I focus on the people in charge, rather than on premise – it makes all the difference.

Notable absentees: Still not caught up with Durarara!!x2, still no real desire to watch Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.

Dear readers, I thought week 2 was every show being “more of itself,” but did your opinions on any of those shows changed in the 2nd episode?

14 comments on “Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Week 2 (Anime Power Ranking)

  1. prodef89 says:

    Yep, pretty much every show I watch had “more of itself” but mostly got a little better in the 2nd episode for me.
    Big exception here is Grimgar where I found the the first episode to be a decent genre piece but really liked episode 2 for the most part. So I’m looking forward to a more personal story that it seems to be going for.
    My rankings are a bit different than yours, but as always that’s to be expected.

    • Guy says:

      Yes, Grimgar is the one exception, though the second half did go there as well, to a degree, to the slower-paced, but I guess we all needed to calm down, heh. And will it be a more personal story, or more people-focused? We’ll see!

      And yeah, well, I do wonder what your ranking is, like, how different could it be? :D

      • prodef89 says:

        Whoops, I actually meant “people-focused story” when I said “personal story”, duh.

        It’s really not that different, just a few positions shuffled around. Like Dimension W above Shirayuki and Rakugo goes below Grimgar and above Active Raid (Rakugo is good, but not doing much for me just now). And I also have another show in the top spots that you don’t watch (Haikyuu S2).

  2. John Samuel says:

    Oh Izana IS a jerk all right, but mostly to ensure that Zen will properly function as the spare (as the dynastic saying goes you need the heir and the spare…)

    Mostly good, series building episodes this week which is fine just after the hook.

    Next weeks Shirayuki should be hilarious: Raj has younger twin siblings? Oh that can’t end well. For Raj.

    • Guy says:

      Yes, a jerk isn’t about your goals (that’s “evil”), but about how you go about it. But most people who call Izana a “jerk” use it to mean “He’s not well-meaning,” and I wanted to demistify that :)

      And yeah, I first raised my eyebrows and then chuckled at Raj’s siblings. But it can’t outdo his interactions with his attendee, surely! I do have to wonder about how we haven’t seen the parent of any character in this show. Did all the kings and queens die off in some mysterious accident or something? I did tweet about it last night, but the only other couple in the show we’ve even heard of are Shirayuki’s dead grandparents.

      • John Samuel says:

        The various missing parents are a bit of a worry. Then again, it may be that the kings/queens etc are even busier running the realms than the princes are.

        After all, Zen seems to spend a lot of time doing desk work.

        • Guy says:

          It’s just anime standard operating business. I mean, they weren’t even referenced, or their absence explained, or anything. But in anime-universe, not there parents is the status quo, sadly.

        • John Samuel says:

          True that – it’s partly why the resolution to From Up On Poppy Hill surprised me so much: it depends on parents taking action to sort out their kids lives. ;)

        • Guy says:

          Studio Ghibli, and a film! But yeah. More anime parents need to exist and matter some. Certainly exist though.

        • John Samuel says:

          Obligatory mention of Usagi Drop is obligatory at this point. ;)

        • Guy says:

          That’s why I said “rare” :P And the exceptions to the rule that prove the rule just paint it out even more, yeah. Which reminds me, I really need to read the last third of Yotsubato.

  3. Artemis says:

    I wouldn’t say that any of my overall opinions changed, but I actually liked the second episode of both Erased and Rakugo Shinjuu even more than I did the first. I already liked the first episodes a lot, but the palpably growing tension in the former and the flashback of Yakumo’s childhood in the latter in the second episodes packed a major emotional wallop for me.

    • Guy says:

      Well, there was definitely more emotional content in the second episode of Rakugo Shinju, so I can see liking it more. I can’t think of it as “better” myself though :D

      As for BokuMachi, I guess I can see that too, as tension always ramps up, and this episode had even more time for careful directing, as the plot took a turn for the slightly slower.

  4. João Carlos says:

    Grimgar will start to be less slow now, because the players are learning how to fight, so the combats will be faster. And they need make money soon or they will end like that two warriors sleeping at street, so they will try kill more than one goblin each day.

    At end of book 1 from LN the last chapter is named “Prologue” and it give the end objective the players will go after. But that will need a lot of time, each book is named for an level, so book 1 is “Level 1”, book 2 is “Level 2” and so goes. Seven books until now and if the higher level is 20, there is a lot of books before the end of story. The MC will not go for that objective soon, because the most important now is survive.

    Anyway, things will start to go more interesting next episodes. The bath scene was the last fan service of the books and now will be mostly action and drama.

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