Spring 2016 Anime Season Overview – Week 4 (Anime Power Ranking)

I actually had this write-up 90% written for 3 days, but just didn’t put in the last 10% and didn’t release it. My bad. Been feeling badly, so aside from not finishing the post, Kuromukuro, this week’s Joker Game, and Kagewani are missing. Enjoy! I’ll try to get to comments this weekend, on the Snow White with the Red Hair post as well.

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). This time ordered by “tiers”, in each tier most shows are about equal for me, organized alphabetically within tiers. Was a weird week in a way.

Tier 1) My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia Episode 4:

Boku no Hero Academia anime / My Hero Academia anime episode 4 - Midoriya Izuku is very cool

Can only punch once before he’s out ? The new One Punch Man, now +heart!

It seems as if My Hero Academia operates in “Tick-Tock” cycles, where we have an episode that’s mostly build-up and is slow, and the episode that follows cashes in on all that build-up, giving us cool action sequences, tearful thematic moments, and the desire to watch the next episode right away. Thing is, as good as those “uptick” episodes are, the time until we get to them is frustrating. I’m not sure whether covering these 4 episodes in 2 would’ve been workable, or if covering them in 3 would’ve had good stopping points for episodes 1-2, but there’s definitely an uneven quality to the show due to its pacing.

But this episode was cool, and I teared up (though just a wee bit, not nearly as much as in the second episode). But it didn’t do a lot of work to actually establish the characters, or the setting, beyond what we had already seen. It was setup that was somewhat drawn out, an action sequence that when you consider was just a single punch, somewhat drawn out, and denouement that was way too drawn out, banking on suspense that wasn’t quite there. More than that, what we’re drawing out isn’t whether Deku got into the Academy or not (since he told us as the second episode ended that this is the story of how he became the greatest hero, and well, we can just look at the show’s title), but what it’s drawing out is the time until the real story can start, the story of the academy.

So, I’ve had a lot of fun this episode, but I just hope I’ll get to have a lot of fun each and every episode. And I can’t shake the feeling I could’ve had even more fun this episode. But such is the fate of a popular Shounen Jump adaptation. And hey, if I’m complaining an episode was “Very Good” while it could’ve been “Great!”, then it’s the good sort of problem to have. I do think the show has untapped potential, and wish it attained it, alongside Deku.

Tier 1) Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress / Kutetsujou no Kabaneri Episode 2:

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri anime / Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress anime episode 2 - Ikoma is proud over his success

The more I actually think back about it, the less highly I think of this episode. That is actually imprecise. The more I think back of the show, the more its downsides rear its head. The episode had cool flowing action moments with everyone whirling around, but others were actually choppy. Mumei is cool and takes no nonsense from anyone, but is also a mouthpiece against emotional vulnerability and connecting to others. The protagonist continued his series of dumb moments, opening the people he sought to protect to the option of harm so he could show how cool he is, and later makes an internal speech on how he hopes everyone he saves curses themselves for leaving him to die. But the episode also had some good humor that was intentional, with sweet moments of dorky brotherhood between Ikoma and Takumi, and some nice moments of kabane assault, even as if they were somewhat hilarious pelting themselves against the iron train.

This episode was fun, but it was not just dumb, but stupid. Check my full write-up for more details on it all, and some genre musings on “”Seinen”” shows, shows that use GrimDark to appear mature as they rail against adults and the current social order.

Tier 2) Concrete Revolutio Episode 16:

Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou anime Episode 16 notes - Iwashita / Gamba left it all behind for success, for the country

This was as straightforward as episodes of Concrete Revolutio come, with not a single time-skip in sight, and a story that actually spells out some of its themes, this time it’s about how Japan is trying to move past its, well, past, and in so doing is betraying its old themes, and the people and culture that got it to this spot. It’s also talking about how the past can come back to haunt you. You can easily see it as commentary on Japan’s involvement in World War 2, but there’s also the meta-commentary on the show itself, which reminds people of the late 60s and early 70s period, and in general, on the value of, well, not merely tradition, but remembering where you’ve come from, and that it can’t be shaken off.

The episode was good, but it wasn’t as good as the spectacular first 2 seasons of this cour, and the last arc of the first cour. So I may be judging it a bit more harshly, but it was a fine clear-cut episode. It just didn’t go beyond, while other episodes did. Also, Kikko’s every act continues to backfire or reduce her to Fuurota-level comic relief. Still unfortunate.

Read full post-episode write-up, with updated timeline.

Tier 2) Flying Witch Episode 3:

Flying Witch anime episode 3 - Kowata Makoto speaking of the future

Just look at these real and comfortable clothes!

So, how much fun can you have while watching a bunch of kids chase a pheasant, then work on a fallow field so Makoto could turn it into a garden in the future? Quite a bit. I am constantly surprised by how much I enjoy Flying Witch, while how bored I am with most shows of its ilk. I find myself smiling at the episode, and this smile I have on my face is the best indication that I’m enjoying it, coupled with not feeling the need to constantly check Twitter, my email, or reddit to see if something more interesting is going on (I described watching Servant x Service as more boring than staring at a blank wall for 20 minutes in the past). I think it’s because the show isn’t really aiming to make me laugh much, but is instead content on just presenting me a bunch of characters who are smiling, and their smiles and spirits infect me, rather than me ending tired and groaning at all the attempts at humor that do nothing for me.

The episode also presented Makoto’s sister, the weekly “guest” and pursuant “Chinatsu makes weird faces,” and a bit of magic. It was a more active half, but somehow it did slightly less for me. Though it was nice to expand the world with yet another character who acts so naturally with the other characters. If there’s one thing I love about the show, it’s just how unaffected all the characters seem, how unstrained it all comes off as. On that note, I also liked how realistic and comfortable all the characters’ clothes were, the sort of jersey track suits and training clothes we all wear in our day to day life.

I’m not sure if I’d enjoy watching more than one episode at a time of Flying Witch, but that one episode a week? I enjoy it greatly.

Tier 3) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Part 4): Diamond is Unbreakable Episode 4:

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 4 Diamond Is Unbreakable anime episode 4 - Higashikata Jousuke with the horror

Horror atmosphere and shot-framing for justice.

I don’t have a lot to say about this episode that I haven’t said before of this JoJo. The attention given to geometry in this season is quite spectacular, with shots often framing the scenes at an angle, and seeing people framed by doors and houses. It’s almost as if we’re back to the first half of Stardust Crusaders, in terms of how the show evokes an atmosphere of horror, but here the focus is less on horror itself and more a spectacular set-piece with a slight tinge of dread and madness. I do like how Okuyasu is indeed working by the “Joestar morality”, find Josuke to be quite bland, and hope Koichi will start kicking ass soon. I did find it amusing how for the first time in the series, the “Speedwagoning” has been called off by a Joestar.

So, this was a reasonably fun and good episode, without blowing me out of the park. The production is as good as it’s ever been for a JoJo show, though.

Tier 3) Joker Game Episode 3:

Joker Game anime episode 3 - Jitsui and the partisans

All about loyalties.

This episode was episodic, and it wasn’t actually exciting, but it was really well done. I guess it depends on what you want out of the show. Spy game stories usually rely on tension, but since we don’t know or really care for the characters, and episodic content means we’re unlikely to grow to care for them, as individuals, there is no real sense of tension, and thus the story fell somewhat flat. But aside from the tension, this was a short and very well-done vignette. I just wonder if the show will try to tell something coherent through its entire run (likely about how you can’t trust anyone, and how the Japanese government was opportunistic? Judging from the three episodes up to now). But the tension point is a big sticking point for spy suspense story lovers, and there’s not enough drama just yet for anyone else. But if you want to see what spy stories are like, structurally, then definitely give this well made show a try. And yes, episode 3 is last week’s episode.

Tier 4) Kiznaiver Episode 3:

Kiznaiver anime episode 3 - Bloody Agata Katsuhira gives a thumbs up

I’m still not exactly sure what to think of Kiznaiver. The physical gag in this episode was great, and then the characters opened their mouths and ruined it. We have yet another show where the trope of “the masochist” is totally brought in as a gag, to be mocked. To understand why this is problematic, just think of a show like Gargantia, or all the other shows where feminine men or gay people are made a joke of. So what’s the solution? If you must have someone who’s a masochist in the show, don’t make him a non-human gag. This is especially an issue in a show such as this, where the concept of masochism could actually be something relevant. Does he want them dead because they reduce his pain, or is he thankful for having more opportunities to suffer? Who knows.

Sonozaki is still not exactly a character, and Honoka’s “just kidding” about last week’s reveal didn’t really matter to me, though who knows if it’s even true. The reason it didn’t land is because we are not emotionally involved with these characters, and most of them aren’t real people. Yes, the non-mains actually have more characterization given to them than most anime give their protagonists, but characterization isn’t the same thing as actually having character and being interesting people to follow. The show still needs to sell us on them, because it seems emotional investment is the key to this show’s success, and it’s giving us a continuous stream of scenes that’d work, if we cared, but don’t do much to build the resonance for me just yet.

Tier 4) Ushio to Tora Episode 30:

Ushio to Tora anime episode 30 - angry Aotsuki Ushio and beaten Tora

Best two dorks on the eve of fighting the Big Bad.

Time for a power-up! That was basically what this episode was all about, about our protagonists growing more powerful, and as Ushio has already reached the limit of what he can pull from the Spear, and as this arc seems all about bringing back all the friends he has made in the first season, we’ve had a reference to a defeated enemy, the humanity of the scientists’ restored, and an ally turning against them. The power-up armour was a bit funny, and the fight Ushio and Tora underwent to obtain it wasn’t exciting, but seeing the scientists help as they can was good, having Nagare turn rogue was chilling, and the episode was closed with Ushio and Tora re-enacting their first meeting, renewing their bond, and that moment, as Ushio and Tora moments tend to be, was heartfelt and reaffirming. They remember where they have come from, and they know what they need to do.

Tier 5) Re:Zero – Starting Life In Another World Episode 4:

re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu anime / Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- / ReZero anime episode 4 - Natsuki Subaru creeps Rem and Ram

Walking Tropes Man.

Your opinion of this episode is probably going to track pretty closely to how you felt about the premiere episode’s first half, and how you felt about Konosuba’s protagonist, Kazuma. Imagine the first episode of ReZero’s first half, now imagine that it had even less Emilia time, and more Subaru time, with him talking tropishly about and to everyone, and actually introducing several more characters, who only seem to exist as tropes (a pair of sarcastic loli twin maids who put Subaru down and are put down by him as they hold “witty back and forth banter”, a cold blonde loli (tsundere), and an eccentric clown-like rich lord), and actually go along with Subaru’s “jokes”. Non-stop Subaru all episode long.

And then he had a nice scene with Emilia, who is still boring, but at least they had some alright chemistry he couldn’t ruin completely with his terrible schticks. And then, we went back. So just like my complaints of Seitokai no Ichizon, all the “progress” made, all the time earned together, actually unearned. Of course, the story cheats and has Emilia accept Subaru much more easily than she should, so it’s not really unearned, but blech. I mean, we removed Felt who was cool and ignored Subaru’s nonsense, and Reinhard who at least played everything straight, and got more walking tropes and non-jokes. I hope it picks up, because I’m interested in where the show is going, but this episode was torture for me. And I know many people loved it.

And don’t tell me “It’ll change soon!” because right now it’s bad. And good storytelling isn’t giving me shitty jokes so I’ll be relieved when they’re gone, but skipping the shitty jokes part. I mean, bullshit, the jokes are there because plenty of people do like them. I’m just not one of them. So, as I said, episode 4 is even more Subaru than episode 1’s first half. Take it as you will. I’ll take it with  a gag-bag, personally.

Tier 5) Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto / Sakamoto desu ga? Episode 2:

Sakamoto Desu Ga? anime / Haven't you heard? I'm Sakamoto anime episode 2 - Sakamoto has no time to listen to your drivel

Indeed. Goodbye.

Sakamoto has always ridden a razor’s edge, because in a show such as this, either you find the one gag funny, or you don’t. And even if you found it funny, you might not find it funny in the future. More than that, Sakamoto is too cool, and the show is somewhat mean in how it doesn’t just have Sakamoto be cooler than anyone else, but it actively puts other characters down. Heck, Sakamoto puts other characters down. This episode wasn’t funny, and it was mean-spirited to boot. Sakamoto isn’t just someone who puts jerks downs, he himself is a jerk. And then after he’s being a jerk to characters, they melt in front of him and attribute their growth and success to him. He’s like the worst traits of a shoujo romance’s romantic lead. I had half a chuckle all episode long. Dropped.

Tier F(ailure)) Big Order Episode 2:

Big Order anime episode 2 - Kurenai Rin is tsundere to kill you

Anime please.

This episode was bad. Real bad. They’ve not only taken Kurenai Rin, the second most important character in the show (in terms of screentime and visibility on promotional material) and declawed her in terms of being able to fulfill her motivation, but they’ve actually gone and turned her revenge motivation, which she harboured for 10 years, into a petty, “I just don’t want to lose and back down.” I mean, Mirai Nikki had numerous situations of characters who hated one another and tried to kill one another working together, but here it’s all been just forced. Just as Eiji is forced to become a puppet-leader as he turns his subjugators into his puppets. We keep hearing from Rin how she’ll get him as she is rendered helpless, and we alternate between her grabbing Eiji’s balls (really) to constantly dying as she tries to kill him through a variety of traps.

There’s not the comic timing of Angel Beats! to the sequence, nor the physical gag humor of Akame ga Kill!. We don’t have the propulsive nature of Code Geass, nor the somewhat interesting situation of Mirai Nikki. This show is similar to all these shows, if you take out anything that actually made them good. The characters are ridiculous, the comedy doesn’t land, the visuals and acting are bland, and it’s just not fun. And that’s the biggest sin it can commit, that I just kept waiting for the episode to end. Nothing adds up, and while some stories can drive through that, this is a story that can’t work even if everything made perfect sense. The story actually deprotagonizes its characters. I can’t get over how bad this episode was. Dropped.

Overall Thoughts on the Week: Just so it’d be clear, I enjoyed the top 4 tiers. Tier 4 was just uneven even more, or didn’t move me emotionally when it should’ve. It was “fine, but unconvincing,” whereas Tier 2 was “Good/fun, but not great.” The drop from tier 4 to tier 5 is the drop from “I am enjoying this even if this episode didn’t rock my world to “make it stop, it’s burning!” while tier F is “I hate my parents for bringing me into this world and raising me so I ended up watching it.”

I wasn’t feeling too well this week, so that’s why some shows are missing. Though Kuromukuro is fine, I’ll likely put it on hold until the season ends. Even with the above shows I’m still at 11 shows, and almost all of them over the weekend, which is too much for me. At least out of “Hope it’d be good, might end up crap” I only really have Joker Game and Kiznaiver left. Oh yes, and ReZero, which is moving between “I hope it’d be good” to “This is awful,” in a direct correspondence to how much Subaru gets to talk. Introducing characters who actually respond to him in kind rather than just ignore him doesn’t bode well. But hey, dropping this will be good for my schedule.

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

16 comments on “Spring 2016 Anime Season Overview – Week 4 (Anime Power Ranking)

  1. Someone in twitter mentioned an interview where Mizushima says Jiro and Kikko are the most important character; didn’t look for the interview myself but if that’s true maybe they’re aiming for a lighter tone with Kikko now and she’ll get more important development later on?

    Not that I agree with what they’re doing with her, but there’s still hope the show is going to do better.

    • Guy says:

      I certainly hope so too! Would love seeing that interview if you come across it again.

      Emi is mostly reduced to talking about Jiro/snapping at Kikko as well, but at least she gets things done without being reduced to a joke.

      Remember when we thought Kikko would be the main character? Heh. I did know it’d be about Jirou since the manga’s listing made it clear, but man. Yes, she came to Earth to find a husband, but every scene with Kikko and Emi just makes me think of what we used to have.

      Then again, Kikko always played well off of Jirou on the thematic front as well, with her hope and idealism versus his trying to find himself and his growing cynicism, so it feels as if the writers just don’t know what to do with her now that she and Jirou can’t actually discuss opposing views :-/

  2. fgfdfh says:

    Thoughts: This season is perfect for me: two good mecha anime(macross, kuromukuro), an interesting original(concrete revolutio), a good slice of life(flying witch), a good trashy show(JoJo), a rare anime comedy that I actually enjoy( sakamoto), a show only I like(Ace Attorney). I haven’t watched that many anime in a season for a long time.

    Your comment about Sakamoto made me think though. Aren’t most successful comedies mean-spirited? They usually about laughing at other people’s suffering after all. For Sakamoto, I find it funny. Yes, it can be mean, but there’s still an amount of sympathy and kindness in it. Kind of like Blackadder, except Sakamoto is no where near as smart. However, I find most American comedies bad, since they are extremely mean-spirited and intolerably smug(i just watched Archer- god, it pissed me off). At what level is the mean-spiritedness unacceptable?

    • Guy says:

      I think the difference is who is the show mean to, and where do you feel the meanness coming from. Many mean shows make fun of their protagonists, and through them the audience. But it’s clear the show-makers are also targeting themselves. It feels we’re all in on the joke.

      Sakamoto is mean in mocking someone else, never Sakamoto, and it doesn’t feel as if the show is laughing with these people, but purely at them.

      And there is no specific level, it’s all about feel. I actually quite enjoyed the little I watched of Sabagebu, for instance. But it makes fun of everyone, and we’re all laughing at them, with them. Only a few times were it really mean.

      P.S. Are Kuromukuro and Macross Delta “mecha shows” or more like “shows that have mecha in them”, that aren’t the focus? Both strike me as being more of the latter group. Everyone’s saying good things about Delta, I might pick it up, or start Frontier, but some papers to work on right now take my time, and some other things I should be controlling better, heh.

      • fgfdfh says:

        Kuromu and Delta are mecha show. I’m pretty sure “shows that have mecha in them” is basically 90% of mecha anime in existence. Otherwise we’ll serious classification problems. For example:

        UC Gundam: war drama. Tomino’s original plan involved power armor, and it’s pretty damn obvious that you can remove the mech and barely anything would changes.

        Ryosuke Takahashi’s every mech show: political thrillers that also have mecha

        Eva, Rahxephon, Fafner and others: the teenage psychological problems. The mecha might be the focus, but what will change if they control the mecha from outside, or it’s actually a dragon, or it’s human sized?

        Zegapain: the matrix

        Macross: I don’t even need to explain

        Gurren Lagann: a battle shounen, really.

        I have watched over 100 mecha anime, and I still haven’t seen the mythical mecha shows that actually about the mecha. They invariably always about something else, mainly psychology and politics. Even when the mechs are important, it often because they have artificial intelligent, related to the main characters’ parents, or some super strategic weapons. In anime, you can replace 99% of the mechs with some kind of super weapons, and not a single thing would change. The mech exist only to provide a specific kind of action.

  3. King Marth says:

    I’ve found that animation vastly increases my tolerance for mean-spiritedness, giving a bit of distance from the characters. Making fun of live-action people sickens me. Another line I’ve personally noticed is whether or not people face consequences for acting like a jerk; Rumiko Takahashi’s perverted-old-man characters like Happosai in Ranma 1/2 infuriate me to no end, while Jayne from Firefly is rightly called on his actions. Rick and Morty also does a decent job of having enough consequences stick around to condemn being a terrible person, even if they aren’t the consequences you might expect. I haven’t seen episode 2 of Sakamoto yet, but if he becomes the aggressor I’ll also be dropping it as he certainly won’t be facing any consequences in-show.
    The whole point of the power fantasy to me is that you are so far beyond others that you have no need to hurt anyone. Assassination Classroom made this a focal point.

    • fgfdfh says:

      Sakamoto was, and will never be an aggressor. The anime just goes the Death Note route of making everyone else a dumbass. This can still be interpreted as mean spirited, I guess. If you tolerate AssClass, this should be fine.

      • King Marth says:

        I see what you mean, very shallow characters in Sakamoto. He was irritatingly harsh in that first half, but… eh. When I’m in the mood to see caricatures get what’s coming to them I’ll take another look.

        I like how everyone in Assassination Classroom is clearly having a good time, with the hints of drama coming in when they think a little too much about what they’re actually doing and realize how depressing it is. The villains, while caricatures, are also usually the ones who aren’t having fun (and frequently want to keep anyone else from enjoying themselves).

    • Guy says:

      I think part of the issue with Ranma 1/2 versus Firefly here is, well, there are two reasons: 1. Firefly is a drama. It’s also not entirely episodic. People’s actions carry weight and consequences. Ranma 1/2 is mostly episodic. 2. The characters in Firefly are people. The old man in Ranma 1/2 is a walking gag.

      I always appreciated The Office, the American version, even if watching it was sometimes incredibly hard. Because you know the show is banking on these moments as being “real”. Dunno, anime comedy usually doesn’t work for me, it’s not just the mean-spirited aspect, but when a show doesn’t really work for me and is mean-spirited in a “bad way” (read: That I don’t like)? Yeah, no.

  4. DaLadybugMan says:

    Interesting how you mentioned how much you loved the clothes they were wearing in Flying Witch, because I had a similar reaction to another small thing: the little idiosyncrasies and quirks the characters have. Not how Makoto has a poor sense of direction (gags like that are so tired), but things like her placing snow back into a drift, or how the brother plays with Chinatsu’s face when she’s pouting.

    It makes me think that Flying Witch is just very good at delivering subtle details that make everyone feel more real and alive.

    • Guy says:

      Flying Witch is all about the small moments. I could actually see it as a rare show I’d have been fine watching in 6-8 minute chunks :)

      And thus far, all moments in Flying Witch are pretty small. Even the Mandrake in episode 1 was overall a small moment, it just packed a loud punch, heh.

  5. edsamac says:

    I think you might like the fourth episode of Joker Game. I was a bit worried that a self-contained character vignette may become redundant, compounded by the fact that the spies themselves don’t have too much weight in them in terms of characterization to bring about any emotional investment, but the fourth episode changed things up a bit. It’s probably procedural for most people who watch spy/detective dramas like this, but I found it pretty smart and well executed.

    Also, I think we’re in agreement with Re:Zero. People say it’s funny, but I think it’s because they relish in the outspoken inner dialogues of Subaru resonating with them. Perhaps a part of them enjoys openly pointing out the inconsistencies of fantasy worlds, and this self-awareness in its MC is what serves as the comedic fodder to whatever trope it can ravish in its wake. It’s kinda like those people who make commentaries on the “mistakes” of movies like LoTR or the Hobbit, questioning the actions of characters and the seemingly unlikely patterns of fight scenes meant to focus on the MC, yadayada… I was only able to get through the episode by resonating with the people who had to endure his insufferable drivel — shrugging off his idiotic quips with a deadpan expression — move along.

    • Guy says:

      Well, humor is very subjective, so it goes.

      I should get to that Joker Game episode later tonight or early tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll agree!

  6. King Marth says:

    Deku is not a violent man… Looks like he’s going to need a lot of milk. Shizuo confirmed as alternate-universe All Might.

    Thanks for pointing out the odd pacing in Hero Academia, that did feel off but I couldn’t put the right name to it. I’m reminded of what you wrote about Parasyte where the episode cut lines were intentionally splitting stories to manufacture suspense, and I wonder now how these shows would be produced if they were allowed to shift around their animation-minute budget between episodes… like if a season was a 12/13-episode-long movie, with cut points drawn between those 12/13 story chunks where they naturally fell instead of every 23 minutes. Not that this would be realistic for production or airing, plus a nice property of shows is the consistent length allowing a quick measure of whether or not you can fit watching an episode into a given break, but there could be a lot less padding if a show was allowed to shorten some episodes to put more time into others.

    • Guy says:

      This is something I wonder often. With Parasyte, I suspect they actually tried purposefully to make the “mid-episode” moment happen at the end of each episode, with each actual airing episode’s mid-point “concluding” something. I also wonder how the viewing experience of these shows then shifts when you marathon them. Does this make you more likely to hit the “next” button immediately on finishing an episode, or if you watch 5-6 episodes at once anyway, it means you’re less bothered by the artificial cutting?

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