September’s fading summer warmth is one my favorite times of the year. The cool nights are prime sleeping weather and the days are still warm enough to keep wearing shorts and t-shirts. It is also, incidentally, a good time to give my sinuses a break from all the stuff that the AC or heater like to kick up. This month also marks the last chance for the currently airing anime to grab our attention and hopefully stave off decent into the pit of oblivion that more than 90% percent of the anime will fall into – forgotten – as soon as the new season of anime starts up in October.
Best Episode of the Month
I understood that Made in Abyss was high quality anime, but, with a dull pair of lead characters and not much to the plot, I wasn’t nearly as glowingly positive as many other people are/were about this title. My interest had long since plateaued and I was only waiting to see if the last main character to be introduced would move the needle before filing the series into the decent category. Episodes 11 and 12, with the appearance of Nanachi, breathed new life into the show and filled several obvious needs the show had, but, going into the final episode, I couldn’t understand why the last episode needed to be double length. In hindsight, that thought looks really silly. Episode 13 was perfection. It was easily one of best episodes of the year and finally saw Made in Abyss not only meet but exceed the promise of greatness that the first episode made to viewers. Beyond the obvious reasons this episode was so great, I liked that Reg had to make a very tough decision about Nanachi’s request. He’s certainly less annoying than Riko, but, he’s done little in the show beyond being Riko’s get out of jail card and being there to have his body laughed at. So, this was chance to develop his character and make him feel more like a person. Without being more sure that there isn’t an artifact that could help or that reaching the bottom couldn’t change things – I don’t think I would have answered Nanachi’s request the way Reg did; however, I understand why he did it and appreciate the added depth that the events in episode 13 gave to Reg and to Nanachi. Season 2 needs to happen, promptly.
Best Anime of the Month
The only thing better than a great anime series is a great anime series with a satisfying ending that provides closure while celebrating the journey it took to reach the end. That, in a nutshell, is the reason why Sakura Quest was able to finish the month in front of several other worthy contenders. It didn’t take too long into Sakura Quest before I knew I was invested into the fortunes of cast and the town and began to wonder how it would end. I wanted something that felt like an uplifting conclusion, not one of those endings where it felt like the show was picking some arbitrary spot to just stop. It was precisely that type of ending, however, slice-of-life shows like Sakura Quest almost naturally ends up with. So, as Sakura Quest opened this month and played towards it’s final episode, that niggling worry over a proper conclusion never went fully away. It was only when they showed Yoshino leaving Manoyama and how the whole town came out to say good-bye to her that I realized I’d gotten my uplifting conclusion. My tears and near blubbering as I watched Yoshino leave were enough to convince me that they’d nailed the emotional side of a great ending. When the tears ended I realized they’d also nailed a proper ending from a story standpoint. Most importantly, Yoshino was able to dissolve much of the dysfunction that plagued Manoyama and their efforts at revitalizing. The community is much stronger and more connected and has a much better chance at surviving thanks to her. And Yoshino matured and grew in wisdom during the series.
Screenshot of the Month
Princess Principal paid a lot of attention to detail. One area that impressed me was how often the written English we saw in the show was completely correct. I certainly appreciated this minor detail – I think I might have taken a screenshot every time I noticed – but it was extraneous fluff to the target audience. Saying that, I’ve spent more than a little time this month looking at this screenshot to try to decide if the English here makes sense. It’s looks like a slightly older type of English that, to my untrained eyes, could be “Victorian” English. I keep trying to fill in the blanks to make it all make sense and have yet to satisfactorily do so. It almost looks like this is a passage from something but I don’t recognize from where. So, for getting me to spend so much time on it, I’m naming this the screenshot of the month.
Disappointment of the Month
It is with heavy heart that I find myself having to write this section. It’s tempting to say that I wish this second season had never been made because this second season was so far below the standards of the first season and because this second season also failed to live up to the story it seemed to be promising at the start of the season. I would have been more than perfectly happy if the second season had been the adventures of Favaro and Kaisar as they tromped through the country; but, introducing Nina as the main character was fine too. She was almost good enough to make me forget about Favaro and that’s saying something. I was fine with the more serious nature of the show. In fact, there was so much to like about this second season that it makes how badly done everything related to King Chris all the more incomprehensible. To take one aspect of the problems related to King Chris. If he was so truly obsessed with killing Bahamut because the dragon killed his Mom then that obsession should have leaked out somewhere in the 20+ episodes before everyone from the characters in the show to the viewers learned that was reason why he went on his reign of terror. For much of the show he was just a generically evil king with a strong desire for “power” and in need of being ousted and killed. I could go on, but, it’s not really needed. There are very few people who watched the second season that need to be convinced of the disappointing nature of this second season.
Head to Head
With most of the shows ending this month, I’m going to turn my attention to two shows that will continue into the Fall season for this month’s Head to Head. And to change things up, I’m going to focus on their respective main characters.
Personality – winner: Tatara Fujita. Mahmut is generally likeable, but, his obsession about ending war makes his character a bit one-dimensional and he’s a bit more whiny. Tatara has a long way to go before you could call him confident, but, being able to tell his class on the first day of high school that he likes to ballroom dance is gutsy. He also hard working, likeable, and doesn’t complain.
Skills – winner: Mahmut Tuğrul. Tatara can readily mimic dance steps that he sees, which will make him competitive long before he should be; otherwise, he’s a basic teenager. Mahmut has a trained hawk and can hold his own in combat.
Ability to hold Interest – winner: Mahmut Tuğrul. Tatara tends to fade into background at times, especially around the more interesting supporting characters. While we see less of his personality because of his obsession, Mahmut is always working towards his goal of ending war in some way and it’s interesting to see where his laudable but quixotic goal takes him.
Ability to drive the Story – winner: Tatara Fujita. Mahmut is a small cog in a very complex political situation. He might someday become very important and drive the overarching story but for right now he’s a captive of the events around him. Tatara is placed in a much smaller story which trades the interest of a complex political tale to one focused on Tatara’s efforts in becoming a successful ballroom dancer and how his efforts impact those people around him. Without Tatara there is no story to Welcome to the Ballroom.
So who is the winner?
Tatara Fujita. My bias are firmly on display here but I like his personality more and enjoy seeing him onscreen more and, as such, if both shows are in the queue to watch I have so far always picked Welcome to the Ballroom to watch first. Will this trend continue in the upcoming months? I think so. The latest episode of Welcome to the Ballroom aired on October 1st, so I can’t technically count it here, but the show seems to be finding a path around the problems of the first 10 episodes while still allowing Tatara to continue his growth into an interesting main character.
Tales From the Backlog
With only a single vote split between two shows I decided to watch the shorter series first. Amanchu! hails from the Summer 2016 season, ran for 12 episodes, and features a stellar group heading the anime production. Junichi Satou (director of Aria franchise, first 2 seasons of Sailor Moon, and Tamayura) acted as chief director. Kenichi Kasai (director of the first season of Honey and Clover and Aoi Hana) acted as director. Hitomi Mieno (series composition for Arakawa Under the Bridge, Noragami, and Nazo no Kanojo X) was in charge of series composition. It was a perfect thematic fit for JC Staff’s pastel animation style and, on this pedigree alone, I should have given this show a chance last year.
Amanchu! is about a painfully shy high school girl whose had to move from Tokyo to a small coastal town at the start of the school year, losing the only two friends she’s ever had, and the chance encounter with a local girl whose super outgoing and loves to scuba dive and yet seems to have no friends her age. The pair end up in the school’s diving club and the series focuses on the budding friendship between them and the shy girl’s efforts to become a licensed diver and being able to dive the ocean with her buddy.
I did not have the problem Artemis had over at Otaku Lounge. I found myself sucked into Amanchu! immediately and watched the whole series in about 48 hours. As great as being sucked into an anime is, it was also a real shame because I lost the chance for the show to be a weekly dose of sanity and peace I’m sure it would have been if I’d watched it as it aired. As a iyashikei-type anime it was just about a perfect example of what a “healing” anime can accomplish. As a slice-of-life show it was great with only a few minor issues preventing it from perfection. The additional of the brother-sister twins in the middle of the series and how this helped diversify the series points to probably the show’s biggest minor issue. Much like how K-On! needed a fifth main character in Azu-nyan, I think Amanchu! needs one more student in the diving club to reach it’s full potential as a slice-of-life series.
Final Score – 11/12 A+ , MyAnimeList Score – 9/10 Great
I have also started watching Macross – Super Dimension Fortress Macross. With all the caveats that would normally apply to watching a 35 year old anime, I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far. This series probably deserves more space than I can devote to it here, so, look for a stand alone post when I finish.
Now it’s time to cast a line back into my backlog and pull out another three candidates for the month of October. Remember, I’ll watch whichever title gets the most votes in the comment box below.
None of these titles were actually in my backlog, however, I feel inspired (thanks Otaku Lounge) to try some shows I will probably not like. So, I chose my least liked genre – ecchi – and looked at the most watched titles on MyAnimeList to come up with these three possible candidates.
1) High School DxD (Winter 2012, 12 episodes) – This ranks as the most watched ecchi title that I have not seen. I’m sure that means this is a great title that I’ve somehow overlooked. Animated by TNK whose only other tv series that I’ve watched and finished is 2001’s I My Me! Strawberry Eggs, I’m confident that the reason I don’t watch more of their series is some moral defect on my part.
2) Rosario to Vampire (Winter 2008, 13 episodes) – Hey, this was produced by Gonzo. I’m sure this will be a great series since Gonzo only does great series like Full Metal Panic! and Welcome to the NHK! and Last Exile.
3) Trinity Seven (Fall 2014, 12 episodes) – This is directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori who directed Azumanga Daioh and that means this has to be the one I should watch. I mean it’s not like he directed Futari wa Milky Holmes and completely ruined the series or directed the incomprehensibly bizarre The Melody of Oblivion or did such a good job with Toaru Majutsu no Index that we all forgot the clearly inferior Railgun spinoff.
Looking Forward to Next Month
October is the start of a new season of anime and there looks to be several sequels that will make this a fun season to watch. The one title I’m really, really, praying will turn out good is the remake of Kino’s Journey. They will be doing at least some new-to-anime content which excites me since I’ve wanted to see more of the journey’s of Kino for over a decade now. I’m also excited that Aoi Yuuki is voicing Kino; her range of talent is a perfect fit for Kino. From my reading it appears that Aoi Yuuki helped push this project into creation which is a cool thought. I wonder if she has an attachment to the show because her first time voicing a character in an anime was apparently in the original Kino’s Journey.
The other thing I’m looking forward to in October is the registration for this year’s Secret Santa will probably be occurring at Reverse Thieves. Over the years I’ve discovered many great series that were recommended to me this way and I’ve enjoyed reading the reactions from others who received my recommendations. So, to those reading, if you have a blog or YouTube channel or podcast then keep an eye out this month for when the registration opens for your chance to join; it’s well worth the time.