Winter 2016 Anime First Impressions

      Comments Off on 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.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Almost equally promising is Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (Crunchyroll), a very well-written story about rakugoka, traditional comic storytellers. You may remember Joshiraku, the fast-paced 2012 gag anime series about Rakugo. The new show is a serious drama, and much easier for non-Japanese viewers to follow. It is enlivened by actual traditional Rakugo stories so if you like that sort of humor, this is for you.

Translating the title might count as a spoiler: Show ▼

Dagashi Kashi Dagashi Kashi (Hulu) will probably not be to everyone’s taste but I find it pretty amusing. This is basically an off-the-wall slice-of-life show centered on a traditional candy store in a rural backwater.

What may make this problematic is the character of Hotaru, a bossy girl with crazy ideas. She treads a fine line between being hilarious and irritating. (Think of Haruhi Suzumiya, but less evil and with no supernatural powers.)

Dimension WDimension W (Hulu) is a stylish noir science fiction series featuring a world in which energy is free as long as you buy “coils” from the mega-corporation that owns the patents. The hero is an alienated loner who hunts down criminals who use illegal pirate coils. He is joined by an android girl whose creator was killed by the corporation.

Haruchika Haruchika – Haruta & Chika (Hulu) looks like a Kyoto Animation series, but isn’t. Specifically it looks like a cross between two KyoAni series. Members of a struggling band club (as in Sound! Euphonium) solve mysteries that are complicated but inconsequential (as in Hyouka.)

What has attracted the most attention on the Internet is that the male lead is openly gay and this is treated as no big deal. This is notable only because it is a shounen series where gay characters are traditionally used as comic relief (while shoujo manga has featured sympathetic gay characters for decades.)

Myriad Colors Phantom WorldMyriad Colors Phantom World (Crunchyroll) really is from Kyoto Animation but doesn’t seem quite what I would expect from them. On the face of it, it looks like lightweight fluff with more blatant fan service than KyoAni usually gives us.

The premise is pretty routine: teenagers fight troublemaking supernatural monsters (more mischievous than scary.) It’s amusing in a slapstick-heavy sort of way. But since its from KyoAni and is a novel adaptation it’s possible that it will reveal more depth as it goes along.

GrimgarGrimgar of Fantasy and Ash (Hulu) is yet another story about Japanese teenagers thown into a world that is set up like a D&D-style role-playing game. (Japanese title: Hai to Gensou no Grimgar.) The production values are very good but the only reason I’m still watching is that I hope it turns out to be a black-humored deconstruction of the whole overused trope.

The kids are (of course) told that if they don’t want to starve they must kill monsters and take their treasure. But what catches my eye is that the goblins they are hunting seem to be just sitting around the campfire minding their own business. They don’t seem to fight with humans unless attacked. Will the kids get wise and rebel against the whole brutal unjust system?

KonosubaKONOSUBA -God’s blessing on this wonderful world! (Crunchyroll) is another example of the same genre, but this one is played strictly for laughs. (Japanese title: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!.)

An otaku dies in an ill-considered attempt to be a hero. In the afterlife he is met by a goddess who tells him that because he was sort of heroic he can choose to be reborn with all his memories in an RPG-style world where he can fight the demon king. She tells him that he can take one thing with him: a weapon or special talent or whatever he chooses. He chooses to take the goddess.

The first episode was pretty funny. The question is whether they can keep it up. This is the sort of comedy that features the interplay of two bickering losers. The hero is a screw-up and a bit of a jerk. The goddess is a real piece of work. This kind of thing can be funny but only if it is done very skillfully.

Girls Beyond the WastelandAt the bottom of my list is Girls Beyond the Wasteland (Hulu), based on a visual novel about teenagers who decide to make a visual novel. (The Japanese title, Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu, would be better translated as “The Girls Head for the Wasteland.”) The main reason I’m still watching is that so far the satire of otaku culture has been pretty spot-on.