Another season is drawing to a close, so once again, I’ll be looking over some of the anime from the last few months…
If you want to read my first impression of a series, click on the link in the titles.
Hands down: best anime of the season. Definitely the most excited I’ve been about an anime in a long time, I found myself counting down the days to the next episode. Even if ice skating wasn’t something I was particularly interested in, the fact that it was based in Kyushu and promised lots of gay tension was enough to get me hooked. The worst Yuri!!! On Ice could offer was low-tier queerbait, like several of its sports anime forefathers, so I went into the series prepared for that. But I was pleasantly surprised by the healthy representation of two men in a relationship. It wasn’t forced and didn’t fall victim to overused tropes. Yuri!!! On Ice is not yaoi and it’s not shounen ai, and to label it as such would erase the fact that it’s a regular anime where the main characters fall in love. It’s a non-issue that they’re both men, just like it should be. Ice skating is probably one of the hardest things to animate well as the studio has to capture complex motion but for the most part, they succeed. The plot was only predictable when I wanted it to be, giving me pretty much everything I hoped for. But that’s not to say it’s perfect. The skating programmes not essential to the plot were sidelined when it came to animation and it became easy to tell who wouldn’t be successful. A couple of continuity errors on top of that show that Studio Mappa weren’t intending for this series to be so popular.
If this series wasn’t released at the same time as Hibike! Euphonium 2, this could have easily stolen the title for Yuri-bait of the Season. Although it’s definitely handled better than some of the series I’ve watched, with barely any room for interpretation that Izetta and Finé care deeply for each other, complete with parallels to the legend of the White Witch. The world of Izetta is interesting, reflecting real history enough to have a sense of familiarity but fantastical enough to make the magic work alongside the wartime setting. As I said in my first impression, Europe’s experience of World War 2 isn’t really covered in anime (which naturally chooses to focus on Japan’s viewpoint) so it’s definitely a change to see it from this perspective. The fanservice did creep in a few times and the series probably could have done without it but there were enough genuinely sweet moments to compensate. The fact that Izetta couldn’t always use her magic was the Achilles heel the show needed, making the story more realistic and Sophie a more credible threat. Yes, Izetta did become overpowered towards the end but it was only through her desperation that she accepted the negative consequences and traded her own safety for the safety of Eylstadt.
This was probably the least comfortable anime to watch this season, but that uneasy feeling was what made it so effective. Rei is shown to feel isolated and out of place, so it’s not meant to be your average slice of life. His first family is gone, the siblings from his second family resent him, and his replacement family are trying desperately to welcome him with open arms, but old wounds don’t go away that easily. The worst moments were when his adoptive sister showed up, which just proved how much of a toxic influence she was. I honestly tried to feel sorry for her because I could understand why she hated Rei but I just couldn’t do it. Because of a week long hiatus, the series hasn’t finished yet, but I’m interested to see how they’ll finish the season.
Hibike! Euphonium Season 2 saw the long awaited backstory of Asuka-senpai, more sisterly drama with Kumiko and Mamiko, and unfortunately, more awkward teacher-pining from Reina. The side characters got their time to shine, with Kumiko helping the second years work through their differences just by being in the right place at the right time. Because it’s a series about an school orchestra, the characters outside of Kumiko’s friends need to be given life to really make the audience get invested in their journey, and it’s been successful in both seasons. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I dislike Reina’s infatuation with Taki-sensei, but I am thankful that he doesn’t pay it any attention. Seeing Asuka’s vulnerable side really humanised her, instead of showing her as the perfect student. Even though no third season is confirmed, the ending allows for a series continuation, with Natsuki and Yuuko taking the reins from the last committee and Kumiko filling Asuka’s shoes as the lead euphonium. The music and visuals have kept up the same quality I expect from Kyoto Animation, especially in Hibike!, so if they never revisit the series it’ll be a big shame.
While this season started off slowly, it still kept up the quality from Season One. The Port Mafia became more humanised in the face of a greater adversary, and despite the fact that they’re still ‘bad’, the lines started to overlap. The finale culminated with Atsushi and Akutagawa having to team up to defeat Fitzgerald and given that I’m a sucker for that kind of trope, I enjoyed it a lot, especially as they had chance to talk about each other’s relationship with Dazai. We got to see a flashback from Dazai’s past which explained exactly why he left the Port Mafia for the Armed Detective Agency, although I would have liked it to be a little clearer because I originally thought he’d defected back. In Fall 2016, no character creeped me out more than Lovecraft: whose ability transforms him into a Cthulhu-esque tentacle monster. Although his personality as an actual person compensates for that and he actually became one of my favourite Guild members. The whole concept of the show works well, and I hope that one day we get to see classic British authors join the gifted stage. I mean, how cool would a Mary Shelley character with a Frankenstein ability be?
Kiitaro’s Yokai Picture Diary
This series is a more interesting way of learning about Japanese folk creatures than reading about them, but it doesn’t do much else. The four minute format doesn’t leave much time for a problem to be resolved so nothing too dramatic happens. Although there is an overarching storyline, unlike many other short format anime which are self-contained sketches. This way, it would probably be better to watch in one continuous viewing, which would take less than an hour. The art style is cute and reflects the light hearted, comedic feel well. The character designs for Kitsunemen no Onna and Yukihaha would look good translated into cosplay, but with that many layers (and that much cleavage), it’s not going to be me who does it.
Technically not a Fall 2016 anime, it still deserves a place on this list. Released in October, this music video currently has over 11 million views on YouTube. This blog has covered music videos before, talking about daoko’s GIRL and ME!ME!ME!, and even if series like Yuri!!! On Ice and One Punch Man can achieve widespread popularity; they don’t get the same viral notoriety. The short length and the availability on free video platforms means it’s so much easier to share and like daoko’s videos, the involvement of famous studios definitely helps with the hype. Although unlike GIRL and ME!ME!ME!, there’s a lot less brain power needed to understand what’s going on in Porter Robinson’s video. Due to the format, the storytelling is mainly visual but it’s paced in a way which means that the world slowly unravels as the song progresses, only explaining everything as it reaches a crescendo. It’s less interpretive with a more solid plot, probably helped by the scarce pieces of dialogue. The animation is beautiful, especially with the contrast between the natural and synthetic. It’s reminiscent of A1 Pictures’ other work, Garakowa, telling the story of young girls immersed in a digital world.
For all Fall 2016 coverage, click here.