Winter 2018 Anime Early Impressions

New series that look interesting so far:

After the Rain (Amazon) is a high-quality production with a potentially squicky premise. Akira, a quiet, serious high school girl, is being courted/stalked by a hapless classmate in whom she has not the slightest interest. She, on the other hand, has a terrible crush on the manager of the restaurant where she works. He’s a good-hearted, conscientious and totally clueless fellow who is more than twice her age. There’s clearly the potential for a trainwreck here but so far it’s been pretty innocent.

The Japanese title is “Koi wa Ameagari no You ni” (“Love is like the period after a rainfall.)

A Place Further Than the Universe (Crunchyroll) is a totally wholesome story about high school girls who finagle their way into an expedition to Antarctica. (The Japanese title is “Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho” which I would translate as “A place farther than the sky.”) Since this is from Madhouse the production values are quite high.

I already posted my impressions of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card (Crunchyroll.) TLDR: It’s probably a must-see if you are a fan of the classic original series. If you haven’t seen the original series you would do better to watch that instead. Crunchyroll–I suggest scrolling down to the subtitled version.)

Dagashi Kashi Season 2 (Crunchyroll) brings back the popular comedy that extols the wonders of Japanese junk food. I actually think I like the new season better. The format is now half-lengh (12 minute) episodes. I think this works better for such lightweight material.

Hakumei and Mikochi (HIDIVE) are two little girls (about 3 inches tall) who live in a quaint little house built into a hollow tree in a forest full of talking animals. Hakumei is boisterous and tomboyish. Mikochi is shy and introverted. The little people and the talking animals actually have a fairly elaborate quasi-medieval civilization with Japanese characteristics.

So far I think this is pretty wonderful but I can’t help noticing something. The tiny little people and the full-size talking animals all live together peacefully and don’t eat each other. However they are Japanese enough to eat lots of seafood. Am I evil for wondering whether the fish can talk?

Karakai Jouzu no Tagaki-san (“Tagaki-san who is good at teasing”) (Crunchyroll) is a lighthearted take on the awkwardness of adolescence. Nishikata, a first year middle-school student, is constantly pranked by Tagaki-san, the cute girl who sits next to him. Every day he plots revenge but she always outsmarts him. It’s very clear to the audience that both of them are attracted to each other but neither is willing to admit it. This is interspersed with short segments about the baka behavior of other class members.

Kokkoku (Amazon) is a taunt, rather violent fantasy thriller about people who can stop time. (It might be more accurate to say that they can rotate their personal timelines 90 degrees so that everyone else seems frozen from their point of view.)

The story pits a working class family whose members have long had the power against a bunch of thugs and cultists who have recently acquired it.

Laid-Back Camp (Yuru Camp) (Crunchyroll) is a feel-good anime about girls who like to go camping. One is quietly competent, one is an enthusiastic airhead and I don’t know much about the others yet. There’s not much more that I can say. Either you like this sort of thing or you don’t.

Mitsuboushi Colors (HIDIVE) seems targeted at fans of 2005’s Strawberry Marmallow, the original series about cute girls being cute. (The character designs seem almost identical, as does the type of humor, though this is supposedly by a different mangaka.) Like Strawberry Marshmallow this is very silly but kind of irresistible.

In this case the cute girls hang out in the vicinity of Tokyo’s Ueno Park and bother the adults who work there, particularly a long-suffering policeman.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card–Anime Early Impressions

It’s too early to judge how the new season of Cardcaptor Sakura (Crunchyroll) will turn out but so far it has neither confirmed my worst fears nor fulfilled my highest hopes.

The worst case would be if they turned this into something like Tsubasa Chronicle. There’s no sign of that so far, but it would be almost as bad if they diminished the brilliant original series by giving us an uninspired sequel that was unworthy of it. The jury is still out here.

In order to discuss this further I need to give some spoilers for the original series. So if you haven’t seen the original series, go watch it right now (Crunchyroll.) It’s long but well worth your time. Anyway I don’t think there’s much point in watching the sequel if you haven’t seen the original.
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2017 Anime Year in Review

2017 was like most years in anime: a lot of crap, some amusing but forgettable shows, some pretty good shows and a small number that seem like real classics. The surprising thing is that in retrospect the number of “classics” seems unusually high. Less surprising is that most of the remaining good ones are sequels.

Outstanding Anime of 2017

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Crunchyroll) is a near-perfect series with beautiful artwork, a meticulously constructed fantasy world, interesting characters and masterful writing.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Season 2 (Crunchyroll). The first season was good but felt incomplete. The second season hit the ball out of the park with a perfect conclusion.
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The Ancient Magus’ Bride Season 1 Cour 1 Ends

5 Stars
UPDATE (1/2018): I kind of got faked out here. After giving us a satisfactory ending the show continued in Winter 2018 with only a one-week break. I’m going to keep the 5-star rating up since the first cour stands pretty well by itself.

This isn’t the end of The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Crunchyroll) (previous posts) but I’m going to count it as the end of the season. The first cour wrapped up with as satisfactory an ending as could be expected from an adaptation of an ongoing manga. Then they showed us some scenes from upcoming episodes without making it clear when they will be broadcast. (Maybe Spring 2018?)

This season has been just about perfect in every respect, particularly in Chise’s character development. Starting out as an affectless PTSD case she has become increasingly capable and confident. She still has a lot of insecurity though and she longs for Elias to open up to her.
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When Politeness Isn’t Nice At All

One fascinating but sometimes frustrating feature of anime is that key facts about character relationships are often conveyed by the level of politeness in their speech. This often is not straightforward. A higher level of politeness can indicate respect and admiration. Or, since greater formality means greater distance, it could indicate resentment and hostility. (The latter is particularly common in women’s speech.)

Generally it’s a change in the politeness level that’s most significant. If a woman normally addresses her husband as “anata” she may switch to the less formal “omae” when she’s mildly annoyed with him. On the other hand her children will probably tremble in their boots if she addresses them using polite verb forms. (“Ii desu ka?”) That means they are in BIG trouble.
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More on The Ancient Magus’ Bride, or What the Heck is a “Sleigh Beggy”?

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Crunchyroll) is turning out even better than I hoped. The author has created an unusually rich and fascinating fantasy world, both beautiful and terrifying.

In my last post I said that Chise needed to get a grip and stop being so passive. She has done so. She has thrown herself into her new life as a magus’s apprentice, confirming that she has a great (though undisciplined) talent. More important, she has shown herself to be both brave and resourceful, something not really evident in the first few episodes. (Though one might argue that she needed to be both in order to survive her horrifying childhood.)
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The Ancient Magus’ Bride–Anime Early Impressions

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Crunchyroll) was one of the most anticipated anime series of the fall season thanks to buzz from fans of the original manga and a well-received 3-part OVA prequel (The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star, also on Crunchyroll.)

(Strunk and White say that it should be “Magus’s Bride” but I’ll stick with the official title. The Japanese title is “Mahoutsukai no Yome” or “Bride of the Magic User.”)

The series has a lot to offer including a rich, original fantasy world. The animation looks terrific (at a time when even Japanese animation all too often looks like crap.) The story has some problematic elements but I have reason to hope that they will improve as it progresses.
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Made in Abyss

4 Stars

In my opinion Made in Abyss (Amazon) was by far the best new anime of the Summer 2017 season.

This is nothing like the derivative by-the-numbers anime that we see too much of. This is a imaginative story that delivers a unique blend of cuteness, humor and terror. The high production values show a team that really wants to deliver something great.

One thing (so far) keeps it from being a true classic. The season ended at a reasonably satisfactory stopping point, but this is the sort of quest story that demands a resolution that shows the end of the quest. It seems obvious that the team that produced the anime wants to deliver future seasons that will complete the story. However given the economics of the anime industry and the fact that this is based on an ongoing manga there is no guarantee that this will happen.
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Cardcaptor Sakura Update

I finally got a chance to see the promised Cardcaptor Sakura OVA. Naturally as a devoted fan of the original series I had to watch it and nit-pick.

The OVA actually turned out to be a bit of a letdown since it is just a remake of the final episode of the original anime series, but with some minor differences. (Most of the differences involve who gives what to whom and where.) Though the differences may seem unimportant they have some consequences. For one thing they pretty much establish that the Sealed Card movie cannot be canon.
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Spring 2017 Anime Season in Retrospect

I can put a positive spin on this or a negative spin. If you count continuations and sequels then the Spring season was actually pretty strong. On the other hand if I look only at new shows this seems to have been an unusually weak season. This could be a bad sign for the future, but my philosophy is to hope for the best.

Notable Continuations

Little Witch Academia

4 Stars
(Started Winter 2017.) Little Witch Academia (Netflix) is basically a children’s story, clearly influenced by the Harry Potter series, but not nearly as dark or self-important. If you are willing to accept it on those terms it’s pretty darn good. It has a fine story (though fairly predictable) and the animation is outstanding.
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