With Winter 2016 pretty much over, it’s time to look back on the anime that was showing this season.
To see my first impression for each series, click the links on the titles.
Sekko Boys didn’t have as much character development as anticipated. Miki Ishimoto quickly settled into her role as the ‘mother’ of the group, without much focus on her overcoming her dislike for statues. The majority of the drama came from the media coverage of the idols, with popularity rankings, talk shows and scandals being big topics. The series may have been better had there been more emphasis on the group’s internal relationships, for example, how the boys interact with each other and Miki learning how to manage them. Even though this is found later on, the beginning feels a little bit rushed as she doesn’t seem to encounter very many issues. It’s almost like she’s been working for a while by the start of the second episode. However, the short episode duration doesn’t allow too much time for a full, in-depth plot. Thankfully, each idol’s personality manages to shine through regardless. The stand-out character in this anime is Mira Hanayashiki, the superstar responsible for a lot of the group’s popularity. With her love for bugs and rocks clashing with her kawaii appearance, she could very easily carry her own mini-series alongside her own manager.
Oshiete! Galko-chan started life as high school anime full of bawdy, inappropriate humour. Twelve weeks later, and it’s stayed largely unchanged, with the same format consistent throughout. Occasionally, the location was switched up, finding Galko, Otako and Ojou at home, the shopping mall and a water park, but the majority was restricted to the same classroom. So by pretty much offering the same kind of thing week after week, the series really surprised in the last episode. It really found its heart in episode twelve, by flashing back to the day that the girls met, and revealing that their names were actually nicknames given to each other. It shows that girls can be friends regardless of their interests and background. A gyaru can be friends with an otaku, and they can be friends with an airheaded rich girl. It also contradicts stereotypes of gyaru girls, for example, all the boys think she’s tired because she’s out all night, when she’s probably just been reading a good book. If you can sit through an hour of dirty jokes, the underlying theme of friendship does start to shine through, but it may just be too little too late. However, at approximately 6 minutes per episode, the run time totals to less than an hour and a half, so it’s definitely manageable.
Like Sekko Boys and Oshiete! Galko-chan, it’s kind of a given that any five-minute anime is not going to do itself justice. Sekko Boys and Oshiete! Galko-chan could potentially expand its episode duration and still have enough plot to cover (Just look at Lucky Star– basically nothing happened and it still filled a relatively enjoyable season). However, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case for Oji-san and Marshmallow. If you’re looking for a series where the main love interest for the girl isn’t typically handsome, then Ore Monogatari is a much better choice. A lot of the time the anime went overboard, making it harder to empathise with Wakabayashi because sometimes it felt as though her feelings for Hige were more obsession than actual love. The marshmallow theme was a good enough gimmick, and the two factory workers are the best supporting characters, but the rest of the anime just fell flat.
Surprisingly, Phantom World escaped the trap of turning into a harem anime. Even if there are one too many visual gags with Haruhiko touching Reina without her permission, his relationship with Mai is closer to that of an older sister, especially in the episode where he reverts back to a child. Romantic relationships take a back seat, and even though there’s a lot of fanservice, none of the girls actively chase Haruhiko. Unfortunately though, this is far from KyoAni’s best work. The artwork is still beautiful, but there’s very little substantial plot to carry the series. One advantage of that is that you can choose a random episode and not have to know what happened before, but it makes it much harder to stay engaged with the plotline because there’s no over-arching story. The concept was interesting enough, but unfortunately it falls short of its full potential.
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, or Erased, has been the clear stand-out anime of this season. Based on the manga by Kei Sanbe, a combination of A-1 Pictures’ animation and Yuki Kajiura’s music has brought Satoru Fujinuma’s story to life in a big way. The art-style is amazing, and the visual representation of Satoru’s timeline as a film reel is a recurring theme that works well. In any series which covers things such as child abuse, kidnapping, and murder, it’s important that such serious topics are treated with respect. But they’re not brushed off easily, with multiple attempts to save Kayo from her mother proving that it’s not easy to catch an abuser in the act. Also, the beginning of episode 11 proved just how much impact a small alteration can have. By removing Satoru from the opening animation, it links back to the title (The Town Where Only I Am Missing) and foreshadows what is about to happen. And after watching ten episodes with the standard opening, it’s enough to unsettle the audience just after they’d started to get comfortable. Even if I had suspicions about who the murderer was pretty early on, I still had doubts because the whole murder mystery subset of stories has a habit of including red herrings. The last episode tied up every loose thread of the plot, and given that everything was resolved, it could stand alone as a single series. Although, if there was to be another season (which is likely due to its massive popularity), there is still enough potential to carry on the storyline.
[to be continued]
For an anime about comedy theatre, it’s been unexpectedly serious. While the rakugo scenes work well to lighten the mood at well-timed opportunities, the majority of the plot is a long flashback in which Kikuhiko remembers his life with Sukeroku, so naturally it’s bound to get emotional at times. There are direct parallels between the 8th and 9th generations, with Kyoji’s enthusiasm mirroring Sukeroku’s, and Konatsu’s inability to make it in the rakugo world because of her gender perfectly reflects Kikuhiko’s struggle with traditional dance. The opening’s theme song and animation is almost reminiscient of daoko’s GIRL in places and given that the series is about young people trying to find their place in the world, the similarities have not gone unnoticed. But the similarities stop there. The main series is quite subdued, with earthy colours and toned-down music and it perfectly sets the mood for such a melancholy anime. Despite the fact that the audience already knows that Sukeroku is going to die, the plot remains engaging enough and it’s bittersweet as the relationship between the two men develops. At time of posting, the series is still in progress so it’s hard to tell which direction it’ll take, but so far it’s been a great introduction to the world of rakugo. Even though it feels timeless at certain moments, quite a lot of the plot needs its historical context (for example, Sukeroku and Yakumo going to Manchuria to perform for the troops). The combination of history and culture makes for a very interesting anime.
Durarara!! x2 Ketsu
[full review coming soon]
My personal Top 3 of this season:
- Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
- Durarara!! x2 Ketsu
- Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
For all of my Winter 2016 coverage, click here.