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.)

Spring 2016 Anime First Impressions

I haven’t seen every new show–I don’t have time for that and anyway some shows haven’t even started yet. This is just a brief look at some new shows that look interesting.

Bungou Stray DogsBungo Stray Dogs (Crunchyroll) is a stylish fantasy-adventure-comedy. A luckless orphan falls in with a group of quirky detectives, each with a quirky super-power. He finds that he fits right in.
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2015 Anime Year in Review

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:

  1. “Retro” shows that looked back in some way to great anime or manga series from the 20th century.
  2. “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

Mayu Tenjin and YatoNoragami Aragoto (Hulu) is a super-sequel that adds a good deal of depth to 2014’s Noragami.

Sakura Rinne and 2 ghostsRin-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.
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Rinne–Anime Midseason Review

Rinne with wheel of fire
Rin-ne a.k.a. Kyoukai no Rinne (Crunchyroll) is a somewhat old-fashioned but very funny new anime series from one of the greatest living old masters of manga.

Rumiko Takahashi was the first woman to succeed in the hotly competitive world of shounen manga without using a male pseudonym. She was responsible for 4 previous popular long-running anime series: Urusei Yatsura (1981-86), Maison Ikkoku (1986-88), Ranma ½ (1989-92) and Inuyasha (2000-04, 2009-10).
Ghosts on wheel with Rinne
If you’re familiar with Rumiko Takahashi’s earlier work, the main point I want to emphasize is that this is not like Inuyasha. Rin-ne is closer in spirit to her earlier farces Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½.
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Manga Simulcasts?

The latest trend in anime is to offer English-speaking fans legal access to subtitled versions streamed on the Internet starting at approximately the same time that the episode is first shown in Japan. (Example: Crunchyroll.)

Now VIZ Media is doing something similar with Rumiko Takahashi’s new manga Rin-Ne, posting English translations of each chapter every Tuesday, more or less simultaneously with their release in Japan. Fans of Inuyasha will probably want to check it out.