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.

Notable Sequels

The Eccentric Family Season 2

5 Stars
Uchouten Kazoku 2 (Crunchyroll) continues the story of a carefree young shape-shifting tanuki who’s just trying to enjoy life and stay out of the stewpot in a world full of hot-tempered tengu, untrustworthy wizards and even-less-trustworthy ordinary humans. Not to mention his family who are all of course shape-shifting tanuki and thus trouble.

I loved the first season. The second is, if anything, even more brilliant and hilarious. My only warning is that you really need to watch the first season (Crunchyroll) first for this to make any sense. That’s only 2 cours in total so it shouldn’t be much of a burden.

Natsume Yujincho 6

5 Stars
It’s hard to believe that Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book of Friends) (Crunchyroll) has run for 6 seasons. (And it probably isn’t over yet!)

This is a sensitive, intellegent, atmospheric fantasy about a boy who can see youkai and his struggles to deal with youkai (who generally want to eat him) and ordinary humans (who tend to think he is weird.) Like most shoujo stories it relies more on characterization than action, though it does have some rather scary moments.

It’s episodic so you don’t necessarily have to watch the whole thing in order but it probably would be a good idea to start with the first few episodes of the first season (Crunchyroll.)

Rin-ne Season 3

While The Eccentric Family is high fantasy, Kyoukai no Rinne (Rinne of the Boundary) (The Anime Network) is low farce. But it is still hilarious after 5 cours. It takes unusual talent to keep a comedy going this long without it getting stale, but mangaka Rumiko Takahashi is up to the job.

The main character is a part-human part-shinigami boy who struggles to balance the demands of the often irrational and unfair human world and the even more irrational and unfair afterlife. As is often the case with Takahashi’s stories the viewpoint character is a human girl who is smarter than he is but secretly loves him.

This is even more episodic than Natsume Yujincho but once again it would probably be a good idea to start with the first few episodes of the first season (Crunchyroll.)

My Hero Academia Season 2

Shounen superhero stories are not my favorite genre but as these go Boku no Hero Academia (Crunchyroll) is about as good as it gets. This is an original take on the idea of a superhero. It manages to be clever without being snide. In fact it seems totally sincere in its premise: if there were such a thing as a superhero, this is what one should be like.

(Incidentally, between this and Little Witch Academia it really seems that a lot of Japanese writers think that “academia” in English means something like “exclusive private school”, equivalent to “gakuen.” The word they are looking for is “academy.”

Notable New Series

Tsukigakirei

5 Stars
Tsuki ga Kirei / As the Moon, so Beautiful (Crunchyroll) is by far the best new series of the season. This is about a middle school romance, a common subject in anime but rarely if ever treated with such intelligence and sensitivity. Maybe Miyzaki’s Whisper of the Heart comes close, but this is done straight, with no fantasy elements. This is well worth your time.

Tsuki ga kirei” is literally “the moon is beautiful,” but it’s apparently a reference to a classic poem which presented that as a suitably refined way to say “I love you.” So my guess is that the English subtitle “as the moon, so beautiful” is from a translation of that poem. Normally when there’s an English subtitle the English-language release will just use that, even if it isn’t an accurate translation of the main title. But instead they’re streaming it as “Tsukigakirei” with no spaces. Don’t ask me why, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they change it for the BD/DVD release.

Alice & Zoroku

3 Stars

Alice to Zouroku (Crunchyroll) is a decidedly uneven series but it’s original, entertaining and never boring.

It starts out looking like a run-of-the-mill story about little girls with special powers being tormented by evil scientists in a secret laboratory. Then it swerves into heartwarming territory. Then it swerves a few more times and I won’t say that it always makes sense, but the bottom line is that it’s basically heartwarming.

The key to the whole thing is the relationship between Sana, a spoiled raised-by-wolves magical girl, and Zoroku, the crusty but upright old man who takes her in.