The Summer 2016 season is just kicking off, so it’s time to look back on the last season.
Anime is no stranger to crude humour. In fact, a lot of its more negative reputation is because of overly sexy and sometimes distasteful content. Series like Oshiete! Galko-chan blatantly admit it, which actually works in their favour because the audience knows what to expect. But Bakuon!! initially pretends to be a regular high school comedy focused on an extra-curricular club. It’s not until a couple of episodes in that you see its true colours, with a talking motorbike making innuendos about men riding her, drunk teachers making moves on their students, and Biker Jesus looking at naked pin-up girls. It tries too hard to be funny and it crosses the line way too many times.
Joker Game is one of those series which needs a lot of concentration to keep up. The plot jumps between different agents and different missions, and needs focus to know what’s going on. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really engaged with the series in the first few episodes so it felt like playing catch-up every week. Production I.G.’s animation is good quality, but the character designs just don’t seem different enough. The agents tend to merge into one, especially because they don’t use their names very often, and when they do, they’re aliases. While it works in the espionage business, it doesn’t translate well into TV. The historical, political, and cultural aspects are the most interesting parts of this anime, and quite often, I was more interested in the side characters because they were the best insight into that side of the story.
If anything, after the finale of Durarara!! last season, it feels like I’ve spent Spring 2016 trying to fill the void it left behind. While I was happy with the way things ended, it felt a little bit like a break up, and I ended up rebounding with its slightly less attractive cousin. Both series toe the line between gang warfare and the supernatural, and both have a large network of characters. Even though I still prefer Durarara!!, Bungou Stray Dogs was one of my favourites this season. The cast is diverse, and the art style is very watchable. The pop-up captions link back to the literary aspect of the show, and remind me of Ouran High School Host Club. Each character is based on a classic author, and while I don’t know much about Japanese literature, it’s interesting nonetheless. Their gifts may save the day in the end, but they don’t cross into ‘overpowered’ territory. It’s a seinen that feels almost like a shounen, but it still retains that little bit of maturity which takes the edge off the silly moments.
Haifuri was the series that most surprised me this season. While I’d already felt it was similar to Bodacious Space Pirates (which I loved), the almost post-apocalyptic element caught me off guard. Germ warfare, global warming, and girls wearing sailor fuku don’t sound very compatible at all. But somehow, they make it work. The environmental aspect was only brushed over, but it sets the stage for the entire series, because Tokyo is now nearly underwater due to rising sea levels. This lead to nautical careers becoming more popular, and explains why so many young girls want to become Blue Mermaids. The mystery behind the virus spreading across the ships was a main driving force for the plot, but letting the adults handle it behind the scenes made it seem more realistic. The crew of the Harekaze were struggling enough just learning how to handle the ship, and allowing the Principal to step in shows that she fulfils her responsibility to look after her students. Although, she didn’t overshadow them, and letting them take charge in the final battle was the perfect metaphorical ‘passing of the torch’ to the next generation of Blue Mermaids.
This series was a definite slow-burner for me. It wasn’t until I’d allowed myself to fully relax into Flying Witch that I grew to like it. With the over-saturation of cutesy slice-of-lifes on today’s anime scene, it had originally seemed to be dull and monotonous. But despite the fact that it’s basically following in other series’ footsteps, I had the realisation that not every anime exists to be fresh and innovative, and this one in particular is great to just de-stress and chill out. It’s not particularly dramatic, but that’s okay. I would have preferred to see a bit more of the supporting characters, like the café ghost and the Harbinger of Spring, but given that it’s only a 12 episode series, there’s not a lot of space to fit them in. However, we see more of Akane and Inukai, so the screentime could have been more balanced. One of my favourite parts of this series is Chinatsu’s enthusiasm for witchcraft, especially because she was so uncertain at the start. We get to see the supernatural through her eyes and it makes the series that little bit more magical.
Tanaka-kun is another series initially seems to have absolutely no drama. But with every episode, the drama starts to unfold, lying mainly in the quest for a drama-free life. Tanaka tries exceptionally hard to stay chilled out; putting in so much effort it’s counterproductive. The side characters really got their chance to shine, especially Miyano and Shiraishi, and they steal the spotlight several times. They’re often more interesting than Tanaka, because their personalities are much more pronounced. I’d have liked to see Miyano and Echizen’s relationship explicitly defined, because one episode they’d be confessing their love for each other, and the next Echizen would be considering dating one of the boys. But obviously being a more mainstream anime, it can’t really get away with blatant yuri. However, it’s still an enjoyable series, with plenty of visual gags and self-aware humour to fill out the episodes.
I found Aggressive Retsuko really cathartic to watch. Even though each episode is only a minute long, it’s very relatable for people in their 20s. It works well to relieve stress, and even if you don’t like your job, there’s always a cute red panda who knows how you feel. Retsuko is handling adult life the best she can and things do go wrong along the way, but as long as she has an outlet to channel her anger it’s alright. Death metal karaoke may not be the first thing to spring to mind when you think ‘Sanrio character’ but that’s exactly what makes it funny.
Pan de Peace is is different to last season’s short omake-style anime, in the fact that it’s much more ‘wholesome’, or family friendly. Oshiete! Galko-chan, Oji-san and Marshmallow, and even Sekko Boys to some extent, fell back on risqué humour a lot of the time. While I have no problem with slightly sexualised comedy, the fact that there was so much means that a series that doesn’t rely on it tends to stand out. The yuri undertones weren’t forced, or played off as sexy, which really fit well with the overall ‘cutesy’ atmosphere. The competition over Noa was heavily reminiscent of Yuru Yuri, with both bakery heiresses fighting over who was her favourite. Even if resolving the show with everyone becoming friends and bonding over their love for bread is extremely cliché, it wouldn’t make sense for the storyline if they didn’t.
What did you think of this season’s anime? For full Spring 2016 coverage, click here.