Winter 2016 Anime First Impressions

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.

BokuMachi 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.
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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju–Anime Early Impressions

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo ShinjuShowa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (Crunchyroll) 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.

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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.
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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Ends

4 Stars
Final announcementAccording to the announcement at the end this is “Act 1” of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (Crunchyroll.) But they didn’t give a date for the second season and the wording of the announcement suggests that they haven’t lined up funding for it yet.

This is a high-quality show. In American terms it’s sort of like the anime equivalent of a BBC costume drama. But is there enough of an audience to sustain that? That’s not clear to me. (For renewal purposes the only audience that matters is the one in Japan, especially the number of fans willing to buy expensive Japanese DVDs.)
It makes a big difference whether we get a second season. The first season was fascinating (at least for anyone interested in traditional Japanese culture) but it doesn’t make a fully satisfactory story. It ends with the central tragedy that the title refers to, followed by a brief epilogue in the 1970s that leaves more loose ends than it resolves.
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Winter 2017 Anime Early Impressions

Let me state right from the start that the two best anime series this season are continuations of existing series.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: Descending Stories (Crunchyroll) should wrap up the story that I praised here and here. This is a sophisticated drama, well worth your time. (If you haven’t seen the first half, be sure to watch it first.)

This will probably be the final cour of March Comes In Like A Lion (Crunchyroll.) This is a smaller-scale story without the grand historical sweep of Showa but it’s an effective personal drama that is sometimes chilling but often heartwarming. See my post here.
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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju S2 Ends

5 Stars

This completes the series Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (Crunchyroll) which turned out to be everything I could have hoped for. I can only urge everyone who hasn’t seen it already to watch all 24 episodes from the beginning.

OK, it won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s not anime with catgirls. It’s a serious drama, anime as high art. Attempts to do that fall short more often than not. This one doesn’t. This one is witty and warm and poignant and wise.
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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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