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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2016 Anime Year In Review

I feel like I have to say this every year but…No, 2016 was not a terrible year for anime. You have to keep Sturgeon’s Law in mind: “90% of everything is crap.”

When fans look back on 2016 in the future, they won’t be remembering the 90%. It’s the other 10% that determines how successful a year is. So based on the 10%, 2016 wasn’t the best year ever, but it wasn’t all that bad.

Outstanding Anime of 2016


ERASED (Boku Dake ga Inai Machi) (Crunchyroll) is a superbly executed fantasy thriller with crisp plotting, edge-of-your-seat tension and a fine ending.

Last year I called Rin-ne (Crunchyroll) an “Outstanding” comedy. With the second season we’re at 48 episodes and if anything it’s funnier than ever. It’s incredibly hard for a comedy to keep up the pace for this long. (Consider the enormous drop-off in quality between the first and second seasons of Squid Girl, one of the few anime series to reach comparable levels of hilarity.) Kudos to the legendary talents of manga giant Rumiko Takahashi.

Notable Anime of 2016


The year’s best iyashikei anime was Flying Witch (Crunchyroll), a charming story about a young witch who goes to live with her cousins in a small rural town.

I see only one example of a good traditional shoujo series: Orange (Crunchyroll.) Aside from the fantasy premise, this is a smart and fairly realistic story about the difficulties involved in preventing teen suicide.

I’m not giving Natsume Yujin-cho 5 (Natsume Yuujinchou Go) (Crunchyroll) an “Outstanding” award because its the fifth season of a long-running series which doesn’t break any new ground. Still this series about a boy and his encounters with the spirit world remains consistently good.

Charming/poignant story with a cute kid #1: Sweetness & Lightning (Amaama to Inazuma) (Crunchyroll.) A young widower wants to learn to cook for his daughter and gets help from a lonely high school student.

Charming/poignant story with a cute kid #2: Poco’s Udon World (Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari) (Crunchyroll.) A lonely bachelor begins to come to terms with his past when he takes in a lost little boy (who is actually a shape-shifting tanuki.)

At last! Girlish Number (Crunchyroll) finally gives the anime industry the treatment it deserves!

Was this the year that the isekai genre finally wore out its welcome? We had a brutal deconstruction in Grimgar (Crunchyroll). Konosuba (Crunchyroll) was a trashy parody of the genre. And of course Girlish Number told us a little too much about the people responsible for foisting this stuff on us.

However Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (Crunchyroll) goes a long way toward redeeming the genre by giving it a Groundhog Day twist. The nebbish hero doesn’t somehow become heroic when transported to a fantasy world. He acts like an immature teenage otaku, the results are horrid, and he actually learns from his mistakes.

Special “Eat Your Vegetables” Award


What do you get when some talented people get together to make an anime series that is inspiring, educational and morally uplifting? Something like The Great Passage (Fune wo Amu.) Really I don’t have anything bad to say about this series about the hard work and sacrifice that goes into creating a new dictionary. It’s totally admirable. It just doesn’t excite me much.

Still Watching

You may be surprised that I didn’t give an “Outstanding” award to Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (Crunchyroll.) It’s been excellent so far (my take here and here) but it’s really a 2-cour series in which only the first cour aired in 2016. By my rules judgment must be withheld until 2017.


March Comes In Like a Lion (Sangatsu no Lion) (Crunchyroll) has also been excellent so far, but a lot will depend on the second half. Our talented but emotionally-scarred young Shoji player really needs to grow up and get a grip. (He’s had some terrible breaks but he’s also lucky in some ways and he doesn’t fully appreciate that.)

Fall 2016 Anime Early Impressions

This year had a promising start last winter but the rest of the year has been uninspiring. There have been some watchable shows but the best ones have been sequels. What’s missing are those special shows that feel new and exciting.

That aside, this season still has some new shows that seem interesting enough for me to recommend as “possibly worth your time.” Here they are, with the most promising first.

natsume-yuujinchou You can’t go far wrong with Natsume Yujin-cho 5 (Natsume Yuujinchou Go) (Crunchyroll). This is the fifth season of the critically-acclaimed series previously called Natsume’s Book of Friends in English. The writing remains as excellent as ever. If you are a fan of the earlier seasons then you shouldn’t miss this.

If you aren’t familiar with the series it’s worth checking out, but I’d recommend that you watch at least the first season before watching this. (That’s the first 13 episodes here.)
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Natsume Yujin-cho Shi–Anime Early Impressions


So far the 2012 Winter anime season has been rather disappointing. It’s not that everything is terrible, but nothing strikes me as truly new and outstanding. The two best new shows are actually sequels.

Natsume Yujin-cho Shi (Natsume’s Book of Friends 4) is the fourth season of the long-running supernatural drama series. There’s really not much more that I can say about it at this point. It’s still excellent low-key storytelling. Since the stories are pretty self-contained you don’t need to have seen the earlier seasons (though it wouldn’t hurt.)

Crunchyroll is streaming all the Natsume Yujincho episodes in a single channel. The fourth season begins with Episode 40.

2011: The Anime Year in Review

I’m going to go about this in my usual biased way, ignoring anything that didn’t interest me and selecting the shows that were great, the shows that were good, and the shows that might have been good were it not for some serious flaw. Ongoing series that have not completed a single season will have judgement deferred until next year. (Too often a promising show is ruined by a bad or missing ending.)
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Natsume Yuujin-Chou San–Anime Early Impressions

Natsume Yuujin-Chou San “(Natsume’s Book of Friends 3”, playing on Crunchyroll as Natsume Yujincho) is actually the third season of a successful series. Thus I feel confident in saying that it is well-drawn, well-written and well-acted.
However it is a low-key shoujo series (though with a male protagonist.) It is more interested in characters than in action sequences and it has no fan service. Thus it is unlikely to ever get a North American DVD release. Crunchyroll deserves praise for its willingness to license this sort of show.

If you are interested it isn’t absolutely necessary to go back to the beginning. The first episode of the third season (listed as Episode 27 on Crunchyroll) does an adequate recap of the premise, and the individual episodes stand by themselves well enough that they can be enjoyed without knowing everything that happened before.
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