Halfway There! Winter 2017 Anime Midseason Report

Winter is so much easier to get through when the weather remains pleasant, like it has around where I live, and the passing of an anime season hurts more when it contains interesting series, like this season does. We’ve reached the middle point of the Winter 2017 season and that means it’s a good time to reflect on the initial promises that this season’s series made, how well they’ve been able to carry out those promises, and what are the chances of a successful ending of these anime. For ease of organization, I’ve covered this season’s anime in a countdown format from weakest to strongest.

(#12) – Seiren

Episodes Watched: 1-5
Tentative Score: 4/12 C
Trend: Slowly sinking

gjm-seiren-01-089f6a7e-mkv_snapshot_04-30_2017-01-27_18-10-59Amagami SS was a legit fun series to watch, so, I was excited that the next work set in the world – Seiren – was getting an anime. That excitement has significantly cooled as Seiren has failed to bring anything new and noteworthy to the series and stumbles in the areas that made Amagami SS so entertaining; namely, interesting characters and decidedly odd events that brought a unique feel to the series. What’s left is boring characters going through the motions of a standard high school romance series.

(#11) – Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 4/12 C
Trend: Faint signs of life

horriblesubs-ao-no-exorcist-kyoto-fujouou-hen-01-720p-mkv_snapshot_03-10_2017-02-15_02-39-38I should explicitly state this, for the record, the tentative score is what I’d give the series at this midway point and it’s completely possible to see a big change in the final score. I say this because there’s a decent chance that this season of Ao no Exorcist will finish stronger than where it’s at right now. To this point, a more accurate description of this story arc could be “The Flashback Arc” since about 3/4 of the anime has been flashbacks to give the viewer information needed to understand what’s going on. I appreciate the desire to give the viewer enough information to understand what’s going on. However, the continued use of long flashbacks has almost completely destroyed the idea that I’m watching a story being told and not a bunch of scenes haphazardly thrown together which only approximates a story. Without knowing the source material, I can’t say who’s at fault here so I won’t dwell on this. Going forward, I think there’ll be little need for more flashbacks which gives me the hope this series will improve. Another reason this series has scored this low is the animation feels decidedly inferior to the first series and, even if I’m wrong on that point, the animation is below average when compared to other recent series of this genre and the animation can’t distract the watcher from the problems in the storytelling department.

(#10) – ChäoS;Child

Episodes Watched: 1-5
Tentative Score: 6/12 B-
Trend: A little up, a little down

horriblesubs-chaoschild-01-720p-mkv_snapshot_31-26_2017-02-12_19-41-07ChäoS;Child is a sequel to the Fall 2008 season anime ChäoS;HEAd and should end up easily surpassing last season’s semi-colon anime: Occultic;Nine. Then again, most anime can say that. It, however, will come not even close to Steins;Gate which I’m almost completely convinced now was the aberration in this line of semi-colon shows. Notice that I’m talking the anime adaptations and not the source material; I realize some of the issues that have plagued these series has been on the adaptation end of things. There are some interesting ideas to ChäoS;Child like the idea that visual images can hijack a person’s brain and the mystery behind the new string of murders in moderately engaging. Dragging the series down is the continued nonsensical reliance on high school characters (didn’t Steins;Gate disprove the need for this) and the heavy imbalance of male to female characters (and it’s not like I can even imagine a plausible romance developing between the male main character and any of the bevy of girls that have been introduced). I think, given what we’ve seen so far, that it’s entirely possible for this series to have a decent end – as opposed to the mess that Occultic;Nine made for itself.

(#9) – Little Witch Academia

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 6/12 B-
Trend: Checking for a pulse

asenshi-little-witch-academia-01-6a9d1e5c-mkv_snapshot_03-54_2017-01-27_18-42-42Here’s something I never thought I would say about this show – It’s boring. I was really looking forward to this series because I liked the idea of having the time a TV series has to explore a show’s premise and to develop the characters. It should have built upon the already great platform created by the original OVAs and pushed this series to being one of the top series of the season. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for this series to reach those heights. There should be plenty of great material that could be developed from having a witch high school as a setting. However, if the big overarching plot involves the school possibly closing because no one sees the use for magic, then, I’m really worried for this series because this is a really idiotic story line. How could anyone, with even minimal intelligence, not see the usefulness of knowing magic?

(#8) – Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 7/12 B
Trend: Struggling off it’s plateau

fff-kono-subarashii-sekai-ni-shukufuku-wo-s2-01-b50cebd7-mkv_snapshot_06-37_2017-01-24_19-57-00The season break made it easier to see that the upward trajectory for Konosuba has slowed considerably from it’s initial rush. And, with each passing episode to this season doing little to change things, has most likely completely flattened out to signify that the show has now reached it’s possible peak quality. It’s still a moderately amusing show that’s occasionally funny. How long before Konosuba begins to decline in quality remains to be seen; however, it becomes more likely the longer the series goes relying on a cast of characters that are generally abrasive and stuck to their one trick joke personalities.

(#7) – ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka

Episodes Watched: 1-5
Tentative Score: 8/12 B+
Trend: Slowly gaining momentum

horriblesubs-acca-13-ku-kansatsu-ka-01-720p-mkv_snapshot_09-21_2017-02-15_02-49-38There is so much going for this anime in terms of setting and story that I can’t help but be fascinated by it – an island continent nation made up of 13 semi-autonomous districts that has been at peace for 100 years and who might or might not be moving to political chaos as the long reigning king’s advanced age might give one or more districts the opportunity to declare their full independence or overthrow the monarchy and install a new leader. The reason it’s not being ranked higher is a result of the characters not being equally fascinating. All the major players are keeping their cards so close to their chest that it’s hard to even see their personalities and that makes it harder to get interested in the characters and become invested into how the story is going to affect them. I assume the whole series is not going to solely feature the characters watching each other to see if they’re planning a revolution or not. At some point, I want to see a revolution break out or something else that worthily uses all the plotting and characters that have been created in this anime.

(#6) – Onihei

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 10/12 A
Trend: Slicing through boredom

onihei-01-amazon-mkv_snapshot_18-35_2017-02-12_19-31-45Confession time: I love watching shows set in the past and this doesn’t just go for anime. There’s many series like Downton Abbey or the Pride and Prejudice mini-series from the mid 90’s that I have watched repeatedly which I probably wouldn’t have bothered with if they were somehow set in today’s world. So, I might have my rose-tinted glasses on when I say that I’m loving Onihei. It’s set in the late 1700’s and follows the chief officer, Heizou, of the Arson Theft Control force which is tasked with keeping Edo safe from criminals and thieves. In little bits it’s been shown that this leader lead a very colorful life before getting this job and that probably helps explain his very unconventional way of carrying out his duties. So far, the show has mostly featured one episode stand-alone stories, but, I think this is being done to examine Heizou’s character and he is shaping up to be an interesting character. If we’re working towards a more structured plot remains to be seen, but, I’d be happy with either direction.

(#5) – Kuzu no Honkai

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 10.5/12 Strong A
Trend: Chugging along

horriblesubs-kuzu-no-honkai-01-720p-mkv_snapshot_11-34_2017-02-13_03-06-04This is the one show I’ve already talked about this season, so, it’s probably not a surprise to see how close Kuzu no Honkai is to the top of the season. I was initially surprised how positive my first impression of this show was, since, I normally respond better to series that feature likeable characters and this series was making a point of how scummy it’s main characters are. I slowly realized that the English title is a bit of a bait-and-switch because, while, the main cast can be very mean to each other, they all have psychological scars that are warping their actions as they try to find happiness. And I do hope all the main characters in this show end up happier, better adjusted people. If we get to see the story progress to an actual ending remains to be seen and, at this point, is my biggest worry about this anime. A quick look online shows that the manga is slated to end this March which certainly implies that the anime intends to adapt the whole story.

(#4) – Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 11/12 A+
Trend: Almost firing on all cylinders

horriblesubs-kobayashi-san-chi-no-maid-dragon-04-720p-mkv_snapshot_06-11_2017-02-02_16-42-06One of the things I’ve noticed once I started blogging about anime so many years ago is that the closer a show gets to perfection the more I tend to zero in on the minor issues that are keeping it from perfection. Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon is very nearly a perfect show at this point. The strongest bits to this anime are the everyday family skits of the various groups of characters and there’s also several ancillary components that fill out the humor and entertainment of the show and it’s gorgeously animated and those backgrounds are so beautiful and I love the OP/ED and, yet, I want to talk about how Quetzalcoatl is pretty much a waste of space and Tooru needs some further work developing her character. Humans; we can never be happy. Moving on from this philosophical quandary, there is another small issue that is causing a bit of unsteadiness I have towards this anime and that is the question of the final main character that has not been introduced yet. In the past I’ve seen how important the final addition of Azu-nyan was to the overall quality of K-On!, so, until that final character shows up, it’s really impossible to get a fully accurate read on this anime.

(#3) – Youjo Senki

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 11/12 A+
Trend: Devilish fun

horriblesubs-youjo-senki-02-720p-mkv_snapshot_23-19_2017-02-09_21-15-21As opposed to Scum’s Wish, the English title – Saga of Tanya the Evil – skews closer to the truth. Tanya, with the reincarnated soul of a middle-aged Japanese salaryman inside of her, definitely falls into the lawful evil alignment as she uses all the knowledge of our world’s twin world wars to help the Super Holy Roman Empire win what will turn into a world war in an alternative 1920’s where magic exists. What is the soul of a middle-aged Japanese salaryman doing in the body of Tanya? Well, upon dying he showed such disdain to the god that showed up to reincarnate his soul that this god decided to force the guy to acknowledge the greatness of god by putting the soul somewhere terrible enough that he was forced to do so. Tanya is not going to let “Being X”, as she calls this god, beat her and, thus, slowly makes more trouble for herself. If I had to pick one element of this show to call my favorite then I think I’d choose Aoi Yuuki’s vocal work as Tanya. She tears through Tanya’s lines with such gusto that it’s impossible not to enjoy the time Tanya is onscreen. There are two possible problems that could sink this anime. The first is the production company – a recent start-up of another ex-Madhouse producer and given the funny name Nut – won’t be able to handle the logistics of animating a series this quickly since forming. The second is that “Being X” won’t be able to effectively check Tanya’s ambitions. If both of these problems can be avoided then there’s a good chance Youjo Senki will end up as one of top anime of the year.

(#2) – 3-gatsu no Lion

Episodes Watched: 1-16
Tentative Score: 11.5/12 Near Perfect
Trend: Poised for perfection

commie-3-gatsu-no-lion-01-a7bcd8c0-mkv_snapshot_10-50_2017-01-28_20-24-53Last season, Fall 2016, I only got to a few series to watch; 3-gatsu no Lion was not one of those series. A couple violently negative first impression posts stopped me from allocating my limited time budget to trying the show myself. With the new year, I looked back at all the 2016 anime series I should have watched – or, at least, tried – and decided to do something about it. One of the first trials was this anime because it was still running and, if I liked it, I could watch the ending as it aired. Outside of the Monogatari franchise it’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed a Shaft produced anime, so, I was really pleasantly surprised to see how much I instantly took a liking to this anime. The first episode as a bit rough, but, that’s been a bug (and not a feature) of many Shaft series over the last decade. Past that first episode, this anime has basically been perfect. Rei’s struggles to overcome the problems that being a shogi prodigy created for him and the problems that Rei hoped to fix by becoming a professional shogi player have made this series a riveting watch. To further solidify this series’s position is how all the supporting characters are interesting people, with sufficient depth to feel like real people, the vocal work is top-notch, the animation style and backgrounds are lush and beautiful, and there are talking cats which always makes me smile.

(#1) – Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen

Episodes Watched: 1-6
Tentative Score: 12/12 Perfect
Trend: Ever forward

horriblesubs-shouwa-genroku-rakugo-shinjuu-s2-01-720p-mkv_snapshot_11-06_2017-02-12_19-51-28Studio Deen used to have a certain reputation for being a bad animation studio. It wasn’t a wholly unfair reputation, but people – including myself – forgot that even a studio known for making poor anime is still a studio full of professionals. All it took for Studio Deen to start making really good anime was the right director with the right material. Studio Deen got that director, ex-Shaft employee, Shinichi Omata and they’re got the material with Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. This is actually the third series Shinichi Omata has directed at Studio Deen and the other two – Sankarea and Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen – were great series as well. I am intending to write an update to my top anime of all time list this year, but, to insure that it’s not immediately out-of-date, I need to hold off until I can finish a rewatch of these two seasons of Rakugo. (One of my requirements for the list is that I’ve watched it twice.) The best way that I can quantify my love of this show is to compare it to Natsume’s Book of Friends. Like Natsume, every single aspect of Rakugo has been meticulously designed to enhance the telling of a story and that story carries a soul-stirring weight that will stay with the viewer long after they’re watched either Natsume or Rakugo. A true treat and the early favorite to be the top anime of 2017.

Anyone still reading this far? Sorry, I wrote a bit more than I intended. Do you agree with my assessment of these shows? Did I not include a series that you feel deserves a mention? Did any anime series surprise or disappoint you this season? What series are you looking forward in the upcoming Spring season?

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3 thoughts on “Halfway There! Winter 2017 Anime Midseason Report”

  1. I’m only watching a small selection of these titles, but I do tend to agree with what you’ve said about them here. Little Witch Academia is sweet but boring (I’m most likely about to drop it), Onihei and ACCA (but particularly the latter, I think) are doing a decent enough job of things, Kuzu no Honkai is clearly the best brand new show of the season, and that, along with Rakugo Shinjuu and ESPECIALLY 3-gatsu no Lion, are the highlights of the anime week as far as I’m concerned. I’d be happy to argue that Rakugo Shinjuu is the better series of the two, but 3-gatsu no Lion is, for me at least, the more enjoyable one.

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  2. So good to see your blog getting regular updates again!

    I’m mostly out of the weekly streaming game right now, focusing more on catching up all the anime DVDs I’ve bought over the last few years that I hadn’t gotten around to actually watching yet – it’s one of my New Year’s resolutions to get through all of those by the end of the year. I only watched a couple of the Fall season shows, and 3-gatsu is the only ongoing show that I’m following at the moment – I always intended to pick it up, but didn’t get started on it until a few weeks ago. So far I think it’s a terrific series, although I’m still not that far into it yet (7 episodes). You’re not the only person I’ve heard say that it gets better as it goes along, though, so I’m eager to see how it unfolds from here. It definitely has one of the most evocative and effective depictions of chronic depression that I’ve seen in anime in a long time.

    I will get to Maid-Dragon and Konosuba 2 eventually, and probably Rakugo whenever I finally get around to finishing the first season.

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  3. Sorry for the slow responses, time just gets away from me

    @Artemis: It’s definitely arguable that 3-gatsu no Lion is more enjoyable than Rakugo Shinjuu and I probably even agree with that statement since I think one of the aims of this season of 3-gatsu no Lion is to work Rei out of his soul crushing depression and that’s being done by showing him the pleasant side of life.

    Also talking cats are always a fun addition to a show.

    @WingKing: That’s a laudable goal. I hope you succeed.

    I’ve got some series I’ve been meaning to get too for a long time now. One of them, Mouryou no Hako, I just realized yesterday came out in the Fall 2008 so I’ve been telling myself for almost 10 years now that I should find the time to watch it.

    I decided I prefer to watch anime series on a weekly basis because it gives my brain the chance to really ruminate on the good shows and I think I get the most out of a good series when it’s bouncing around my head for a quarter or half of a year – instead of over a one to three day marathon watching period. So, I’ll probably always try to watch the best titles as they air

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