Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is the second most impressive new anime of this season, after ERASED. Both are serious dramas but with very different tones. ERASED begins on such a dark tragic note that it pretty much has to have a happy ending. Showa-Shinju has a much more whimsical tone, but we can be pretty sure that we are going to see some tragic events.
The story revolves around the Japanese art of Rakugo (traditional storytelling.) The artist, or rakugoka, sits on a bare stage and acts out the parts of all the characters in the story while remaining seated, using only a fan and a small cloth as props. The stories are long and whimsical and often somewhat bawdy.
The Winter 2016 anime season has several enjoyable shows but only a couple that might qualify as classics. The leading contender is ERASED (Crunchyroll). (I prefer the Japanese title: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, “The Town Where Only I Am Missing.”)
This is a murder mystery with fantasy elements. It is rather dark but very compelling.
At this point I’ve had a chance to see at least one episode of all the shows I think I might be interested in. That really isn’t enough to tell whether a show is good or not but it’s sufficient to rule out some of the real turkeys (as well as some quality shows that just don’t appeal to me.) Anyway, for what it’s worth, these are the shows that I’m still keeping an eye on.
ERASED (Crunchyroll) is my number one pick so far, a smart, insightful fantasy-thriller. (The Japanese title is Boku Dake ga Inai Machi “The Town Where Only I Am Missing.”)
The hero is 29-year-old unsuccessful manga artist. He has the unique ability, when he witnesses a tragedy, to pop back in time just far enough to possibly prevent it. But when his mother is murdered by a serial killer he finds himself sent back to his childhood with the implied mission to save all of the killer’s victims.
2016 was not a blockbuster year for anime but it was still a potentially good year for anyone willing to look for small gems. I noticed two interesting and generally positive trends:
- “Retro” shows that looked back in some way to great anime or manga series from the 20th century.
- “Super-sequels” that followed up a decent enough first season with something on a higher level, significantly enhancing the entire series.
Outstanding Anime of 2015
Noragami Aragoto (Hulu) is a super-sequel that adds a good deal of depth to 2014’s Noragami.
Rin-ne (Crunchyroll) is a farce with an old-fashioned feel, but still hilarious. (Retro point: this is from Rumiko Takahashi, the grande dame of manga, proving that she still has what it takes.
I didn’t bother to do an “Early Impressions” post for the second season of Noragami (Hulu) because I didn’t feel that I had much to add. I had already praised the first season. It seemed obvious that anyone who liked the first season would want to watch the second, and anyone who hadn’t seen the first season would find the second season incomprehensible.
Now, in retrospect, I find that I do have something to say. Although I liked the first season, the second season is a lot better and raises the whole series to a higher level.
So far this show has been one of the year’s biggest disappointments. When I wrote my initial review it seemed like a charming and fun fantasy adventure.
But once the party arrived at the capital city the “adventure” part vanished. Instead we got a sequence of fairly inane stories which served mainly to introduce a ridiculous number of new characters, most of whom are silly girls.
The Big Short by Michael Lewis is probably the best book (or at least the most entertaining book) about the origins of the financial crisis of 2008. But how would you go about making a movie of it, given that most of the audience will not be interested in a lesson on fixed-income derivatives? Maybe you could have Selena Gomez pop up and explain how CDOs work?
Actually this works surprisingly well. I found the movie version (IMDB) to be quite funny and entertaining as well as sobering.
The movie focuses on a few small-time fund managers who noticed a few years back that the economy had become increasingly dependent on a pyramid of complex financial instruments based ultimately on subprime mortgages (which had come to mean “loans to people who can’t afford to pay them back.”)
Dance with Devils (Hulu) is not a show that I can wholeheartedly recommend, but it might serve as a guilty pleasure for someone.
This looks at first glance like a standard otome vampire romance. The main difference is that this is a musical otome vampire romance. Naturally the heroine (brave but not terribly bright) is pursued by various handsome devils, vampires, an evil Pomeranian and a 17-year-old priest. But these devils, vampires, Pomeranians and priests can sing and dance!
Usually when a show confounds my expectations it does it in a bad way. Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation (Crunchyroll) was the opposite: I initially thought it was pretty good but it just seemed to get better and better as the season progressed.