Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Week 4 (Anime Power Ranking)

Another week, and since proper subtitles for a show I was awaiting began appearing, and as my docket keeps dwindling, I actually checked out another show! This season’s “average” shows are falling behind, but the new show might be a keeper.

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 4:

Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED anime Episode 4 - Fujinuma Satorou awaits Hinazuki Kayo in the snow

I’m melting!

My main reaction after each episode of BokuMachi is the same – “Why do I have to wait a whole week for the next episode?” Yes, episode 1 ended with a massive cliffhanger, and so did this episode, and episode 3 ended with a sort of ominous foretelling that was a bit of a misdirection, but it’s not really about that, because in my memory, episode 3 ended after Kayo and Satoru went to the tree. And yet, what I want, what I need is more of this show.

This episode in particular was optimistic, it kept swelling up with determination, with forward-momentum, with hope that Satoru will be able to make things right. There were obstacles, but he beat them down one after another. Even the cinematography, using a tracking lateral shot where he catches up on the frame, catches up on time played along with (you can see a variation of this in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, where director Itou Tomohiko was the assistant director).

And then it all came crushing down. Things are not so easy. The world will not allow itself to be changed so easily. And it will not allow us to skip the intervening weeks, as we wait for the next episode of BokuMachi, alas. Savour the sweetness, because like everything else, it does not last forever. Not even when you can travel in time.

2) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 4:

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju anime Episode 4 - Yakumo being taught about flaws


The big thing in this episode was Shin and Bon’s relationship. The yaoi mangaka tendencies sure come out. You could say that Shin is portrayed as extremely masculine, and constantly references his masculinity, and Bon is portrayed as feminine, and reserved, and collected. But more than that is that Shin-chan is presented as the unruly boy, the unruly son, with Bon not just as a woman, or as a parent, but as if he’s Shin-chan’s mother. Which of course gives another read to Shin’s reaction of Bon perhaps finding someone else to give his affection to – not as a would-be jilted “lover”, but as a boy seeing his mother finding a new husband, or another child. And Miyokichi referencing to Bon as an older brother is part of it – Shin still needs and wants Bon’s attention and affection.

There was also the talk of flaws, but the show addressed that quite clearly on its own. It’s nice when a show about art actually discusses art in a sensible manner, isn’t it? I did find the relationship with Miyokichi almost oedipal – she’s their foster father’s mistress, and yet the “sons” compete with their father, and with one another, over her affectations. This was the first time we’ve seen shin slightly colder with Bon, was it over jealousy, or over disapproval of going after their “father”‘s mistress?

Also, if we hadn’t known this would be over a woman, I’d have believed that this is a romantic relationship between those two. The BL overtones really are there. Then again, I know of close friends who are like that without there being any romantic or sexual undertones there, it’s just that this isn’t usually how most stories engage in these things – without turning it invariably into a romantic relationship.

Also, a small note, it really is the music holding this show together as a drama. I can’t really point out when and where as clearly as I’d like, but that’s what I feel watching this show. There was the music in the final scene, for instance.

3) Akagami no Shirayuki-hime / Snow White with the Red Hair Episode 16 (S2 episode 4):

Akagami no Shirayuki Hime anime Episode 16 - Prince Raj strikes a pose

Can’t you tell things are getting dramatic in here?

I was fine with the way this episode ended, but then, that preview for next episode. Welp. Seems those of us who wanted some more excitement and plot are going to get it. There is an interesting point here, is Shirayuki here to be saved? She was in need of external saving before, as was Zen in his childhood. But that’s the other part of the show’s morals, on one hand it keeps preaching about how one should be self-sufficient and better themselves, but on the other, it also tells us that we need to learn how to rely on those who wish to support us.

Anyway, this episode had more Raj growth moments, and the show being very clear about Obi developing feelings for Shirayuki. I wonder where they’ll go with it.

4) Ajin Episodes 1-2:

Ajin anime episode 2 - People are the real monsters

So, Ajin, a show without simulcasting, and who didn’t get proper fansubs from the get-go. This means that no matter how good it’d be, it likely won’t be all that watched as it airs. But is it worth watching? And how good are the fansubs?

Yes, and good enough, to answer your questions. There are “good enough” fansubs releasing a day or two after the episode airs, but if like me you’d rather wait for the good subs, you’re going to stay a week behind. Which is what I’m doing, even if sadly, it means this show isn’t going to be properly represented in discussions, or on the Anime Blogosphere’s Anime Power Ranking (which is showing signs of life once more!).

As to the show itself, I’m not fond of the CGI, and there’s definitely a case of “same-face” between it and Sidonia, but the show is quite solid. The premiere in particular was very good, very deftly handled, and is just a step behind Rakugo Shinju and BokuMachi’s master premieres. The 2nd episode wasn’t nearly as good, where it was mostly standard procedural detective/horror fare, and felt like it could’ve been slightly shorter, but it did work in setting up some of the other characters involved, and the encroaching horror.

But, if you care for horror stories of the sort manga often get, with a focus on “What it means to be human, and who are the real monsters?” then Ajin looks very promising indeed. Its use of soundtrack is also sublime and elevates the show in most scenes, and even in a season with Yuki Kaijura in BokuMachi, and Rakugo Shinju and Lupin both delivering nice jazzy tunes, this show’s use of its soundtrack is miles ahead of anything else currently airing.

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

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash anime Episode 4 - Manato on how parties cover their weaknesses

You can read my post-episode thoughts on the episode here. I speak of such things such as the show taking care to frame the goblins exactly using Manato’s terms, that a party is all about covering one another’s weaknesses. So of course, fans of the source material were quick to tell me how the original differed – in the original material, the goblins didn’t work like a party in this manner, and moreover, in the original, at least according to said fans’ read, what happened in this episode wasn’t something that happened, a tragedy, but something for which the party as a whole, and Manato in particular, were to blame. Having to blame someone like that feels like a pretty juvenile way to engage with one’s media. On both these counts, I feel as if the anime had done a superior job compared to its source material. Adaptations can elevate the material, don’t forget that.

Anyway, as always with this show, my feelings and take-away are the same: Good content. These people and their discussions feel like how real people would speak, but while that makes it realistic, and a solid drama, it actually harms it as a story, not only as a piece of entertainment. Pacing and focus are the biggest things stories can do that real life lacks until it is retold and thus transformed into a story, but this show is so very slow. So, as always, I trust the characters will react to this episode’s events in a manner that is believeable and makes for a good drama, but I’m not sure it’d make for an interesting story. As always, the question is where will they go with it.

The answer we have thus far is, that wherever they’d go, they’ll do so slowly.

6) Active Raid Episode 4:

Active Raid anime episode 4 - Kuroki Takeru and Sena Souichirou on stalking

Buddy cop shows gonna “frenemies”.

There’s not that much to talk about here. This was a pretty standard “(mecha) cop drama”, with the two cops who don’t get along, and how they do join forces when it matters, and more scheming from our “villain”, while politicians and bureaucrats continue to blame our hard-working policemen for no fault of their own while they hide information and risk civilians. In other words, the standard for these shows, without standing out in any shape or form.

7) Dimension W  Episode 4:

Dimension W anime Episode 4 - Introducing Elizabeth Greenhough-Smith

This is what this show has become, a collection of blonde tropey girls

The horror nightmare scene was good. The lighting, the colours… but it was mostly about composition. The problem with this episode was exemplified with the other notable scene, which was a long and protracted scene of Mira in the shower. The problem here is that this is tied to what I said of Phantom World back in the 2nd week – the problem wasn’t with the scene itself, but that by and large, this was the only scene in the last couple of weeks of this show where things felt energetic and vibrant, as if the people creating the show actually cared for it. This scene, and the introduction of Goth-Loli blond vampire drove home that aside from constantly painting just how cute Mira is, this show hasn’t really been doing anything lately.

That this episode’s case and situation are neither interesting nor introduced in a suitably clear manner, so you either don’t understand or don’t care for what you understand, isn’t helping much. This show is on shaky grounds. It’s not about the fanservice itself, which was better than most shows’, but the fact that this is what the show seems to care about, and that’s not nearly good enough for me.

8) Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! / Give Blessings to This Wonderful World! Episode 3:

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! / Give Blessings to This Wonderful World! /KonoSuba anime Episode 3 - Let me out

Me, during this episode.

So, this is how I am repaid, after saying last week that KonoSuba might not excite me, but it’s a solid enough comedy? This episode was concentrated rubbish. Bottom of the barrel anime material. This episode had panty jokes, girls covered in slime jokes, and that was fine. This isn’t just “anime being anime” which you sort of have to accept when you watch anime, especially of the Light Novel adaptation and/or comedy varieties, which KonoSuba is on both counts, but these gags weren’t too obtrusive, and followed some of the show’s logic and humor up to now, such as “Maxed out luck stat”, and luck governing what he steals, so he gets the panties.

Anyway, the real problem was Darkness. We got a new character whose shtick was she derives sexual pleasure from being hurt. She’s a masochistic tank. Does it sound like something a 6th grader would come up with as a really funny character concept in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign? Does it sound like the sort of humor that kids in grade school would keep sniggering about? Sure does, and it sure isn’t funny. While it can be clever, to have more than half an episode rely on it was bad.

And while the first two gags were sort of fine, this episode ended up being nothing but one long and never-ending sequence of sexual innuendo that isn’t subtle, nor funny. The one hope I have is that now that Darkness’s introductory episode is done we’ll just get a gag or two out of her each episode where I’ll roll my eyes and ignore it, as I did with Log Horizon’s Tetra in the 2nd season. But this episode was so shit that this episode is on notice, and if today’s episode isn’t, not merely tolerable, but good, then I’m dropping this show.

Overall Thoughts on the Week: The top 3 shows are pure joy for me every week, Grimgar is pretty good, even if its “enjoyment factor” isn’t all too high, and Ajin came out roaring, and seems very promising indeed. The last four shows on this list though are falling farther and farther behind. Active Raid and Dimension W aren’t actually doing anything with the time they’re given, they’re not advancing our understanding of the characters much, or the plot, and they’re not all that fun. It’s pretty standard fare for shows to actually be pretty episodic and semi-empty for their first halves and kick into gear later on, and since Active Raid is already confirmed as split-cour, that may very well be the deal there.

But, it’s different when you watch a show weekly without deriving much pleasure from its episodes, to when you can blast through them quickly, especially when you know the second half is better. But these shows aren’t really fun, or all that interesting. They’re not bad, but since I’ve been saying I’m going to cut shows that will only amount to “average at best,” these shows are on notice. And KonoSuba… that was just terrible.

Dear readers, any particular thoughts on this past week’s crop of episodes, or on my thoughts on them?

10 comments on “Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Week 4 (Anime Power Ranking)

  1. King Marth says:

    That awkward feeling of scrolling further and further down without seeing Dimension W… It deserved it, though.

    There’s a difference between “mysterious” and “opaque”. It’s interesting when everything is clear and something doesn’t add up, as you can then take guesses at what’s missing. If things don’t add up because the show does a poor job of explaining things, then it’s just wasting your time even if the resulting story does end up being interesting once you figure it out.

    Also irritating: How everyone specifies things are “coil-based” rather than “electric”.

    Nice to see ERASED and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju going strong, may pick up that second one. I just marathoned Death Parade, very glad I did.

    • Guy says:

      Your one per season comment? :D

      Anyway, Death Parade is indeeed a very good show. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. Consider giving Shigofumi a try. I recommend the show often, but especially when people mention Death Parade these days. Rakugo Shinju is very much worth a try, and every week I have to consider whether to place it or BokuMachi first, and BokuMachi usually wins because I enjoy it more and want or need to watch the next episode more.

      As for Dimension W, manga readers mentionned how all the other characters and setting were explained in much more detail in the story this arc covered in the manga, but is that a benefit? We’d probably enjoy more when the story and characters make sense, but if the story isn’t interesting, and neither is the show, and we’re spending time on characters that don’t actually matter, “well done, but takes even longer” might not be the right call. I have to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to remove even more, such as this whole segment.

      As for “Coil-powered”, we don’t know whether it actually is electricity they are using. It’s not Coil-energy used instead of water or nuclear power to generate electricity, but straight Coils, and we do say “Nuclear-powered” even when it is electric. Furthermore, there are non-Coil electrical tools, such as Kyouma’s phone.

      • King Marth says:

        I have seen all of Shigofumi, in part due to the recommendation here; looking back at the So You Want To Watch Anime list, I’ve actually seen them all now, though I don’t remember much of Genshiken. I did like the letters better than Fumi’s story, while Death Parade’s transition felt much smoother.

        I suppose Dimension W is in that zone where I like the premise enough that I’m frustrated at the story not coming together. This arc seems to be more about the weird capabilities of coils, and it may redeem itself if that information actually comes in useful rather than each coil breaking physics in some other random way. Still, information about the setting itself might be worth the time to me on its own; I really liked the scenes in Psycho Pass where Akane is in her little apartment with a virtual assistant casually using those futuristic touches that remind you this “dystopia” is actually a pretty great place to live for most people. The point-of-view character for Dimension W is described in-universe as not being part of the same story, so it’ll be hard to find out what it’s like to be part of the peace that is being threatened.

        Since Kyouma’s phone was modified to use a battery, I’d be surprised if coils power things by means other than generating electricity, but being surprised wouldn’t be a bad thing. Still, calling tech “signal jammers” or the like is more useful than “they’re using coils” on average. Skimmed the episode and failed to find an example, so this complaint seems unfounded.

        • Guy says:

          About Shigofumi, it’s interesting that early on people slam it for being episodic, but after watching, it’s very true – the episodic content is the best part, and Fumika’s story early on is just the glue to hold it together, and later when it’s focused on it it’s weaker, though the mid-section with her father is good. I’d say Death Parade doesn’t really “flow better”, because it flows less, it’s much more episodic and does less with the “continuing narrative”, and that’s actually a strength. It’s not that it flows better, but sometimes you need to realize that flow isn’t the goal, or even to your benefit.

          As for the Psycho-Pass comparison, a story with nice world touches is good, when the main story and character can actually hold it on their own, which they can’t here. Setting-driven stories can also work, such as Shinsekai Yori, but the world isn’t nearly as interesting or well-developed here. It’s just hard to find what this show is actually doing well, what it’s aiming for, because the delivery isn’t good. I think it’s going for the semi-episodic case structure, but it just bungles it.

          Oh yeah, premises are easy. In the end it’s all about how well it’s executed, which is why my preview talk more about the people who will handle it, and less about the premise – you can usually find plenty of similar-premise shows, and some are good, and some are not. Yes, you can have a well-written show that’s bad otherwise, but it’s the exception to the rule.

  2. Artemis says:

    I’m watching Ajin now as well. I definitely agree with you that the music is excellent and put to excellent use – it’s probably my favourite overall soundtrack of the season.

    • Guy says:

      It is a good OST, but it’s interesting how that can mean any number of things. Yuki Kaijura has good OSTs in that I think of the shows they’re from when I hear them, and they’re good pieces, so I enjoy scenes they’re in. But they don’t elevate their scenes all that much, quite often.

      Then you have Ajin’s OST, which isn’t unique enough to make me think of the show should I hear it after the show’s over, and the pieces aren’t good enough for me to enjoy listening to on their own, but the way they complement the show is superb. It’s not a good “OST” on its own, but it’s a better in-show OST than Yuki Kaijura’s stuff.

      Then you have Code Geass, which does both very well :D

      • Artemis says:

        I honestly don’t remember Code Geass enough to comment on the soundtrack (or much else). Maybe I should re-watch that at some point, it must have been about a decade since.

        • Guy says:

          Code Geass is my most rewatched anime series. Also, I’ve been listening to its soundtrack for years before I figured out “OST 1-2” are just for season 1, and then I doubled my Code Geass OST! :D But yeah, great soundtrack there.

  3. EatzAce says:

    Dimension W was a pretty big bummer. I actually liked the first part of the 2-episode murder mystery but it really fell flat when it delved into the details of it. Also that scene with the chains and nudity, while partially understandable, was still distasteful.

    Meanwhile, however, Erased, Rakugo, Haikyuu, Durarara and Gintama are the gifts that keep on giving.

    • Guy says:

      I’d be really surprised if people who’ve been enjoying Gintama up to this point would not find it still enjoyable all of a sudden. Then again, we’ve had the Fairy Tail studio change/reboot and it fell down the crapper, but that’s a pretty extreme change, heh.

      I think Dimension W could’ve been alright. The main problem with it isn’t the content, but how it’s delivered. Execution, not base material issues. Not much to do there. It also means that even if the biggest problems this episode had to do with the plot, that even if the following episodes don’t deal with it, we’re still going to be left with the biggest issue plaguing the show, that the handling of it is tepid. Same situation as HaruChika, just not as bad.

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