August was a bit of a slow month in Animeland; several of the better shows took a break when their TV slots in Japan were filled with some sort of competition. On the plus side, this gave the other series a better chance to be noticed before the season got to far along. Were these series able to take advantage of this opening or did the bigger name series continue to hog the attention?
Best Episode of the Month
Turns out I was wrong about the first episode of Princess Principal being the last chronological episode we would see. Starting in August the show gave us cases that would definitely fit into a second cour of the series. The sixth episode was called Case 18 – Rouge Morgue and it featured Dorothy and Beatrice being sent undercover to a morgue to intercept an item destined for the Duke of Normandy. The assignment goes sideways when Dorothy meets her abusive father who works in the morgue because the morgue is one of the few places that will employ a bitter drunk. Dorothy has been a favorite of mine because of how protective and caring she is of her spy team and also because of the gusto she shows at being a spy. This episode forced her to confront a past she wanted to forget and then it ended by twisting a dagger into the small feelings of hope she harbored about reconciling with her father. The writing was sharp and seeing Dorthy thrown out of her comfort zone made this episode particularly memorable.
Best Anime of the Month
Even if this month didn’t see many anime series take a break there was really no competition slowing Owarimonogatari 2nd Season from earning the title of best anime of the month. The Monogatari franchise has been a fascinating watch since Bakemonogatari aired during the Summer 2009 season and, as each entry has added to the story, I’ve become more and more anxious to see how things would be resolved. I worried that I’d be let down. If all the really great anime reside in a castle then the moat surrounding this castle is filled with the bodies of anime series that failed at the conclusion. So, up to when the final credit sequence rolled, I worried but I didn’t need to. The Monogatari franchise saw a very fitting and marvelous conclusion in Owarimonogatari 2nd Season. There’s a really good chance that I’ll end up putting the franchise into my all-time top 10 when I reach the point that I can fairly update the list. Beyond resolving who and/or what Ougi actually is, my favorite part of this series is we got to see Senjougahara and Araragi go on another date. Their first date was what made Bakemonogatari so memorable and it seems fitting that their date helps conclude things. For all the talk of this being a harem show, the two of them have been a couple for almost the entire franchise and so much of the overall story has dealt with the consequences of this. Before anyone comments to correct me, I realize there will be more Monogatari anime since the author continues to write and Shaft has promised to animate it all, however, this series marks the end of the main story. Only time will tell if a second main story will eventually develop or if fluffy extra stuff is all that’s left in this franchise.
Screenshot of the Month
I have caught several items that Princess Principal has cribbed for it’s use in constructing an alternative steampunk London at the dawn of the 20th century. This screenshot shows what might just be the most bizarre borrowing to date. My high school biology teacher will be happy that after all these years I realize the shape of that tea dispenser is that of a bacteriophage, a virus that attacks a bacteria. Here is the illustration from the wiki page.
Head to Head
For this month’s battle we have two of the latest anime series that are “sports” anime with the spotlighted sport being a non-traditional one. In the case of Nana Maru San Batsu (Fastest Finger First) it’s quiz bowl and, somewhat obviously, ballroom dancing with Welcome to the Ballroom. One of the biggest differences between the two series is that, according to MAL, the audience for Nana Maru San Batsu is slightly less than half the audience size of Welcome to the Ballroom.
Characters – winner: Nana Maru San Batsu. I like the main character of Ballroom; the problem is he’s surrounded by a cast that the show has not seen fit to properly develop into interesting and compelling characters. They are surpassed by FFF because it has a greater level of diversity in character types and motivations found in Nana Maru San Batsu which make the cast more interesting as they interact with each other and this helps tease out “depth” to the various characters. It also helps that most the prominent characters are likable in some way.
Story – winner: Nana Maru San Batsu. Being a shounen series, Ballroom feels like it’s pacing itself for a long run of episodes which is okay if we eventually get to see where the story goes in 20 or 40 episodes and if this story was worth the wait. Right now, the story for Nana Maru San Batsu is moving more briskly along as it focuses on developing it’s characters and challenging the main character to get better at quiz bowling (is that a word?). It’s also being better executed.
Animation – winner: Welcome to the Ballroom. This is a clear and easy win. The animation and animation style of Nana Maru San Batsu is good enough to not detract from the show but that’s its limit. There are people complaining about the amount of static shots in Ballroom. This hasn’t been a problem to me, because, after getting bored by the monotony of animating every performance in Yuri on Ice, I’m glad the animators are holding back for the more important dances later on. The animation style of Ballroom is perfect for the show and makes even the still shots interesting to look at.
Enjoyment – winner: Welcome to the Ballroom. This was a tough category. I probably look forward to the next episode of Nana Maru San Batsu more than Ballroom. Once I’m watching the episode though I find Ballroom a more enjoyable series. Then again, Nana Maru San Batsu takes quiz bowling more seriously and Ballroom seems worried people won’t stick around if the show wasn’t funny; so, this split seems about right.
Incidentals – winner: Welcome to the Ballroom. This catchall category is won by Ballroom because it has a better set of OP/ED, the directing is stronger, and the music is more memorable. The seiyuu work is about the same with both series featuring good performances.
So which is the better series?
With twice the episodes, Welcome to the Ballroom may become the better series in the future; however, right now I have to say that Nana Maru San Batsu is the better series. It’s close and I wouldn’t be surprised if many think Ballroom is the better series. For me, the edge in characters and story is enough to ensure the win for Nana Maru San Batsu.
Just One More
August saw me pick up one more currently airing series – Centaur no Nayami (Centaur’s Worries). I saw a screenshot that piqued my interest and I think I’m glad that I did. The main draw to this series – unless one can’t get enough of monster girl series – is the cognitive dissonance between the cute slice-of-life vibe the main characters give off and the totalitarian government that enforces “equality” among the various different monster races. I think I’m glad I’m watching because I’ve enjoyed watching how these two facets of the show play off each other; but, this will carry the show for only so long. Eventually, the law of diminishing returns will kick in and the series will need something more to carry it. Here’s an example of the humor found in Centaur no Nayami.
Tales From the Backlog
When I suggested Black Lagoon last month I did so without realizing the director was Sunao Katabuchi. His latest work is the movie In This Corner of the World which I’ve been impatiently waiting to see since it’s release last year in Japan. His other movies that I’ve seen are Princess Arete and Mai Mai Miracle; if you haven’t seen them, both movies are well worth watching. One characteristic I’ve noticed in both movies is, while they look like Studio Ghibli movies, there is a bite to the story that isn’t characteristic of a Studio Ghibli movie and this gives the characters an unexpected amount of depth to them. This characteristic is also on display in Black Lagoon. For all the sound and fury shown in this well-animated action packed series, the characters are the real draw to the series because there is depth to them that one doesn’t expect to see in an action anime. I will be getting to the sequels in the near future.
It was suggested that I watch Black Lagoon with it’s English dub. I looked over the list of Japanese seiyuu to see if one of my favorites voiced a major role. When I saw no one that would override this suggestion, I decided to give the English dub a try. I’m glad I just happened to start watching Black Lagoon with no one around because the dub is very profanity laced. In this day and age it feels weird to say this but I was shocked by the profanity in the dub. This isn’t a complaint. The profanity fit the characters and their situation and I eventually grew to enjoy the profanity. The reason I was shocked was because the setting and characters in Black Lagoon are so very different from typical anime and hearing that much profanity in an anime was a new experience for me. I wasn’t expecting something new after having seen over 750 anime series.
Final Score – 11.5/12 Near Perfect , MyAnimeList Score – 10/10 Masterpiece
Let’s dip back in my backlog and pull out another three candidates for this month.
1) Macross – Super Dimension Fortress Macross (Fall 1982, 36 episodes) – I watched Macross Δ last year and it seemed like a poorman’s AKB0048. I figure such a lauded franchise deserves a second chance and starting at the beginning is probably the best idea.
2) Corpse Party: Tortured Souls (Summer 2013, 4 episodes) – Not really my sort of show but gg subbed it and they were (are?) one of my favorite sub groups.
3) Amanchu! (Summer 2016, 12 episodes) – I kinda wanted to watch this series as it aired in 2016. I just never found the time before the next season started and now it sits there waiting for me to get back to it.
Looking Forward to Next Month
September sees the end of the Summer season and what I’m most looking forward to seeing is a thrilling conclusion to all those anime series that are ending. That probably won’t happen. The two shows I’m most hoping will get good endings are Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul and Princess Principal. Also in September, over on MyAnimeList, the registration for the Fall 2017 competition of the Fantasy Anime League should be going on. It’s been awhile since I’ve placed in the top 50.