"Love You!" Chroma's Roundup of 2016
So here we are again, facing the end of yet another year. Lots to see, lots more to do. Eagle-eyed viewers (and regular-eyed viewers, this was pretty easy to spot) will have noticed that the website has gone through loops and turns in its design changes, with a chunk of articles still adhering to an old layout. I'm definitely striking at the iron, constantly trying to condense and focus the presentation while keeping my creative juices flowing.
But enough about that, we're here to talk about the series I watched this year! Seasonal impressions are great, but opinions change throughout the year, and I found that a "looking back" impression can be a great alternate. So here's a massive roundup of all of my series, what stuff I personally liked the best, and what I didn't like as much. Hopefully I keep the tone of the article as a personal opinion, but just in case, remember that we've tossed out award badges and as much of the cemented fact terminology as we can to avoid bias. Try out anything that sounds interesting, because remember: "one man's garbage is another man's treasure".
Table of Contents
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
Hai to Genso no Grimgar
Ansatsu Kyoshitsu - 2nd Season
Musaigen no Phantom World
Durarara!! X2 Ketsu
Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru
Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko: Everything Flows
Yami Shibai - 3rd Season
Tekyu - 7th Season
Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
Kotetsujo no Kabaneri
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk - 2nd Season
Gyakuten Saiban: Sono "Shinjitsu", Igiari!
Zutto Mae Kara Suki Deshita.: Kokuhaku Jikko Iinkai
Tamayura: Sotsugyo Shashin Part 4 - Ashita
Shokugeki no Soma: Ni no Sora
Tales of Zestiria the X
Amaama to Inazuma
Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibogamine Gakuen - Mirai-hen
Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibogamine Gakuen - Zetsubo-hen
Love Live! Sunshine!
Hibike! Euphonium - 2nd Season
Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
Fune wo Amu
Tekyu - 8th Season
Favourite/Least Favourite Series
Favourite/Least Favourite Openings
Favourite/Least Favourite Endings
Murder mysteries are something I am a huge fan of (not murders, mind you). The thrill of a protagonist caught in something dangerous while still having to use logic and reasoning to find out a shocking truth has always appealed to me, and Boku Dake ga Inai Machi was a very, very stellar watch.
The key ingredient was the fact that while if you had a sharp enough eye, you could catch glimpses of the real murderer throughout the series, the show still utilized its time to really build upon the characters that it had killed prior. Getting another chance to save these people and ultimately thwart the plot of his own personal villain, protagonist Satoru showed us that with the right amount of knowledge, even a child could keep a murderous adult at bay. The cinematography, soundtrack, characters and story were just all so seat-edgingly fantastic for me, and I would certainly watch it again and again, even if I know "whodunit".
Fantasy RPGs are an enticing world in practice, offering grand battles, imaginative monsters and quaint little towns filled with shops to buy from. This is all so exciting because we separate ourselves from the reality of it all- the fact that at any moment, a "death" can come swiftly, and with no concept of respawn.
That is the fearful world that our protagonists live in. With little to no explanation of how they woke up in the world of Grimgar, the show does a great job of portraying what's important- the will to survive. There's nothing particularly exceptional about our heroes, and I really like that. It feels real, unlike the extremely overpowered Kirito from Sword Art Online (which to be fair, was aiming for something different), and I always felt concerned for the safety of the crew. It even delves into the life of the outcast, and what it takes to warm back up into the bonds of trust. The watercoloured backgrounds are beautiful, and against the popular vote, I really enjoyed its slower pace that took the time to let emotions seep in.
Assassins prefer the silent kill, completely unbeknownst to their victims. In that sense, training a classroom of high schoolers to take down an alien terror with a heart of gold is rather intelligent.
And that's the tough part, isn't it? The students really end up liking their weird teacher from another world, for he is legitimately a great teacher. However, they constantly battle between what is necessary versus what is best in their minds. I've made it clearly known that I'm not the biggest fan of Lerche's character designs, but the goofy/serious natures the show keeps flipping behind seems to fit them well. I initially thought an entire two seasons of the same gimmick would get tiring, but I was pretty complacent in finding new ways the show was keeping me having some fun. It's nowhere near my favourite series this year, but I don't regret having watched it all.
Kyoto Animation's been going down a strange road as of late. They've been delving into the world of recap movies and more blatant fanservice, but they've also been pushing out amazing things like Tamako Love Story and the second season of Hibike! Euphonium (more on that later!). It makes me unsure of what their next season's romp with Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon will hold.
Something is quite clear though, I'm not a huge fan of Musaigen no Phantom World, and I wish I could like it more. The concept of phantom hunting sounds like it could be more interesting, and the powers the characters use to fight with are pretty quirky as well. However, I can't get the taste of the in-your-face fanservice shots and the filler episodes that even seem to repeat themselves out of my mind, and it's sadly soured the experience a bit for me. It felt like the best parts of Kyokai no Kanata (the straight up action shots) mixed in with the worst parts of Amagi Brilliant Park (the fanservice), and I didn't find the package very strong.
Now that the initial culture shock of Ikebukuro has set in (namely, the headless spirit on a motorbike, the man who can throw vending machines and the girl who wields a cursed blade), Durarara!! reached its final anime arc.
As you'd imagine, this is a wild city to be in. Colour gangs run rampant, otherworldly spirits intervene on their own schedules, and in the midst of it all, a single information broker sits atop the law and the crime bosses, marking himself as a self-proclaimed king. For the first few seasons, this was actually quite an accurate title, but what was fascinating this final arc was to see the great Orihaya Izaya live amongst the commoners for the first time. There are a world of backstories that are developed, and the mystery of the headless rider is finally concluded. It really did quite bizarre by the end, but it's hard for me to say that I was ever bored watching this zany book unfold its entangled pages. Ikebukuro, I will probably never visit this dark version of your city, but colour me intrigued in your actual tourism industry.
The chronicles of "I-wish-it-had-been-great" saga continues. Picture a world where aerodynamic footwear is issued standard to students. Launchpads are strewn about like crops in a field, and if you want to get anywhere, you just...fly there. Sounds awesome, right? This world also utilizes that motion of flight for their own sport, Flying Circus.
Even the sport in concept sounds cool...for the most part. You get in a skintight suit that makes you look like a limp goose (that was the hesitation in my last sentence), don some rocket boots and battle in the skies to score points. What really baffled me personally was that the sport was so divided, allowing the opportunities to win through either dogfighting or racing. They offset this by mentioning multiple classes of fliers like "speed" and "combat" types, but I'm only further confused of the concept because of them. Why would anyone opt to be a combative fighter when they can be a speedy one and avoid combat while scoring points? The sport itself didn't feel too thought out to me, and the overall development of the characters felt like it fell in the same basket. I don't personally have many attachments remaining for this one.
In our constantly evolving world of modernism, filled with technology that can dazzle us in unforeseen ways, very few people have explored the old art of rakugo performance. The beauty of these theatrics is that it is performed solely by a performer's abilities to play multiple personalities while still pulling people out of the realism that it's one person sitting upon a stage, talking to themselves.
This series goes through the birth and growth of rakugo itself. In the present day, a recently released convict heads straight to a rakugo master who helped him see a path to his new life, the performing arts. Through flashback, you'll also get to witness how said rakugo master dedicated his life to the art, going through every sense of heaven and hell to earn his place. The series did a magnificent job introducing both the cool-headed lead and his consistently conflicting friend who much preferred the old ways change for his visionary take on rakugo. We still see this turmoil today, and I think it's a good look at how far we've come in some ways, but not so much in others.
Haruta and Chika are very different people. Haruta is decently quiet, cautious, calculating and at times, manipulative. On the other hand, Chika is loud, proud, and jumps headfirst into trouble. Somehow, these two have been friends for a while.
Entering high school, Chika's sole goal is to join the wind ensemble as the flautist to seem more "feminine". Unfortunately, she and Haruta are thrown into a series of crazy mysteries before any of that can come to fruition. These aren't your conventional murder mysteries, instead they're focused around the long-haunting troubles of the people our characters meet. We're talking Rubik's Cubes that leave people in grief, haunted dormitories inherited by pranksters, and a mysterious set of paintings that lead to the true reason why a divorce occurred years ago. Sadly, the P.A. Works show did not score too highly with people, and from peeking at the source material, my only guess is because it's so radically different. However, I quite enjoyed these bizarre cases, even if the majority of the side character cast ended up being blanketed over. It had a design that was pretty unique for P.A. Works, and I really didn't mind it one bit.
One cat, its daily thoughts, and the girl who lives alone in the center of it all. Director Shinkai Makoto has seen some unbelievable fame this year with Kimi no na wa, and it's great to see him receive such noted acclaim for the first time to this extent. Being the humble guy he is, his interviews about the movie are strewn about with his unfamiliarity with his extreme newfound fame.
In 1999, Shinkai produced his very first work, Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko. It was 5 minutes long, had no colour and it was also quite the emotional little short. Over a decade later, we're seeing the production comes into the world of colour. I find that while the original monochrome rendition was very sharp and emotionally pounding, this short takes its time allowing the cat's relations to his sweet master to be doled out more methodically. Both perspectives are interesting and hold their own values, and while I ultimately liked the original version more, I really found this update to be solid. It was even nice seeing Hanazawa Kana's character portrayed so much like her in-person character.
You know that sick feeling in your stomach when something you know was right in front of you disappears? How about when the lights unexpectedly go out? Sometimes you just need that stomach-churning feeling to rise again. Time for some more ghost stories.
Yami Shibai is in its third short season, featuring another 12 creepy little tales of the dead and other horrors. The series is presented in a strange paper cutout fashion, making movements unnatural but still somehow making the jump scares quick. Some of the stories I actually liked, others I felt like were composed just to have some insane monstrosity show up. The stories that really feel terrifying to me are the ones that revolve around human psychology, making me really feel like they can truly happen.
Quality? What's that? Logic? Realism? Don't understand. Tekyu? Ah, now that's more understandable.
I can't believe I've seen over 7 seasons of this and am still capable of typing full, composed sentences. This series is proven to steal about 2.3 brain cells per second, so perhaps it's the episodes' insanely short lengths I have to thank for still being able to spell the word "zamboni". Don't let anyone ever tell you that Tekyu is not a tennis show. It totally is a tennis show, and it must be watched by all fans of quality tennis progression stories. I'm 100% telling the truth right now, so please don't write in.
Easily the longest series I have ever indulged in, I have been sucked into the world of Aikatsu!. In my books, all idol series need to take several pages out of Aikatsu's wise tome.
I really didn't know what to expect jumping in. After a few seasons came up this year where I wasn't drawn in to as many series as usual, I finally decided to check out the recommendation that my friend had been suggesting for quite some time. "Idol Katsudo", or Aikatsu! refers fully to the magical system these starry-eyed idols utilize to work their own self-promotions and growth. At their massive school of Starlight Academy, they're granted a phone with some base dress cards, then everything else is completely up to them. I love the idea of self-promotion, paving your own path to your own success. At first, we're introduced to the amazing characters of Hoshimiya Ichigo and her incredible best friend Kiriya Aoi, who enter Starlight Academy together. Moving forward, they befriend a ton of other interesting friends.
There are a couple things I need to note for people interested in checking out what I consider to be the best idol series out at the moment. The first chunk of episodes have very awkwardly animated performance scenes. The series itself continues to slowly degrade in its storytelling prowess as its animation quality improves vastly, in my opinion. Don't be mistaken though, there was such a likeable polish to the series that I still had mass amounts of fun from beginning to end. Each season just unfortunately felt a bit less substantial than the last. But hey, we're not even talking about the best part to an idol series, and that's its soundtrack. Bless this incredible soundtrack, with its unforgettable background tracks and its vastly colourful list of insert, opening and ending songs. If you have no interest whatsoever in checking out Aikatsu! as a series, I beg that you at least take a look at its rainbow-coloured soundtrack.
Natsuki Subaru is a plain, dangerous, boring, lucky and foolish man. With little to no explanation of his fall into a fantasy world filled with bizarre creatures and magic, Subaru soon finds out he has a power to return to a certain checkpoint following his death. How will this power come into play?
Things start off pretty devastating from the get-go, only to force Subaru to progress in his story involving a vastly hated half-elf, a rogue thief, twin demon sisters and a flurry of other entities. There's a ton of political strain between kingdoms in this world, and the struggle for power makes it even more difficult for Subaru to ask for help whenever he is faced with danger. I had my big ins and outs with this series, getting really into the gruesome climaxes and then getting pulled back out during most of Subaru-specific scenes. Not many people like this guy, and I can give a few of my own reasons why I don't like him either. I don't think you should let just that fact deter you from checking this out though, as it still has some really engaging moments and its overall package is something I remember intensely. The cherry on top was Minase Inori killing her role as the sweet-as-pie to deadly-as-hell Rem.
All aboard the hype train, am I right? Well, I had hoped the hole in my heart from Shingeki no Kyojin could be pierced through with Studio Wit's essential spinoff (but not really) zombie series Kotetsujo no Kabaneri, but what I got was quite different.
Episode one kicks off right away with the hardcore action that Shigeki no Kyojin are accustomed to witnessing. The kabaneri (essentially zombies) attack, and we are introduced to both our inventive protagonist Ikoma and our ass-kicking standard badass girl Mumei. In this destructive world of survival, steam-powered weaponry mixed with katana was an interesting blend for the show. The refugees do their best trying to simply live by avoiding the kabaneri aboard a steam train, though it is quickly realized that this plan has its own risks. I give the series props for flashing its pretty closeup character portraits, but the experience felt like a leech off of Shingeki no Kyojin's success instead of telling a cemented story of its own. I still had a lot of questions by the end, and I didn't really feel rewarded much either. I think you could have a quick look if you're craving a fill for the titan gap into Season 2, but it does leave me disappointed in knowing that they could have given this steampunk setting some more variance and a more fleshed out story.
I admit that I was once again pulled in with another "mystery" potential series. Mayoiga explores the psyches of a group of social outcasts heading to a lost village to renew their terrible lives. Now, that sounded like something I don't see everyday.
Right off the bat, the camera slides into the bus taking its passengers to the village of Nanaki. Various characters ranging from completely defeated to wildly lost are inhabiting this bus, and the show didn't help me much in terms of personality traits, so I never got to learning most of their names. Once at the village, people start disappearing one by one, and the characters start to question if there's a village curse or a traitor in the group causing the disappearances. Once again, that would be somewhat interesting to me. However, while I won't give away the guilty party to this mystery, I was not impressed with it. The dreary nature mixed with constant drama between characters I barely got to know made every episode chug slowly, and it was like a bus stuck in mud for me. Personally, I don't mind Nanaki Village remaining lost forever.
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk was a series that rather caught me by surprise. The first season appeared to be another generic fanservice-laden harem series built around a school and some combat, but I found the fanservice to be quite tame and the show had some genuine romance elements tossed in to boot. Furthermore, the action was engaging and there was even a solid story holding it all together.
Season 1 had quite a bit of buildup, to be honest. It ended right around the time that the academy's massive combat tournament started, and this season uses that to kick off strong. Majority of episodes feature battles against unique opponents, while cutting away to allow side characters to venture outside of school grounds to unfold the story of our antagonists further. The designs are colourful, the soundtrack is engaging, and that ending song is still stuck in my head. So powerful.
What a simple title, which fits the theming of the show quite nicely. Makoto the Witch travels out to Aomori to live with her cousins while she trains her witchcraft. The adventures of the flying witch begin here.
Many tales of olde colour witches as nasty entities that curse unsuspecting people and utilize devastating spells to cause death and destruction. Flying Witch offers quite the opposite, with Makoto and friends' spells being used more for fortune telling, flying and other charming things. The show combines cute character designs with a really relaxing soundtrack to present its short adventures. This honestly should feel very slow, but I felt like it moved at a very steady pace, which should be a great honour for "healing shows" like this one. Oh, and if you ever wanted to hear what noise a living mandrake bellows, Flying Witch has you covered.
Based on one of my favourite video game series of all time, Gyakuten Saiban, this anime adaptation with a needlessly extended name failed to live up to its original source for me.
If I had to sum up what went wrong in one word, it would be "pacing". Gyakuten Saiban was originally based around a trilogy of games, introducing the titular spiky-haired defence attorney Phoenix Wright and his wacky world of bizarre cast members. Through meticulous crime scene investigation and careful detection of lies on the witness stand, players of the game ventured through a pile of mysterious crimes to ultimately provide a "gyakuten", or a turnabout. Partly, I think the fact that this is a set pace anime is to blame for the awkward feeling I got watching it, but the fact that the team opted to adapt only the first two games baffles me still. It's like making 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' and 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers', then packing up and going home. Not only do viewers of the anime not get the pleasure of solving crimes by themselves, but they also lose a massive chunk of important storytelling- if not from the abrupt ending, then from how much the anime tore out and changed from the first two games.
What do a socially terrified shrine girl and an astute talking bear have in common? Very little, as you'd imagine. That's why Kuma Miko is so much damn fun.
Set a little ways out of the metropolitan city in a shrine within the woods, Kuma Miko portrays the troubled adventures of Machi the shrine girl and Natsu the talking bear. When Machi turns 14, she wants to try venturing out to society and attend a high school in the city. Natsu is reluctant, and thus begins a series of ordeals that Machi must overcome to slip into her new experience in the real world. From trekking into the city to find whatever a "HEATTECH" is to starring in a village promotional video as an idol, Machi has a lot in store for her, and her blatant fear of anything in the city is both adorable and saddening. Couple that with her sweet relationship to Natsu and her other questionable relationships to the other visitors of the shrine, and I got myself a nice comedy with some unique traits.
From a series that has been renowned and reborn for over 30 years, Macross returns once more to protect its residents from invaders using the power of music.
There's quite a bit to like about the newest instalment of this series. Macross ∆ puts us in the shoes of pilot Hayate Immelman, now working labour jobs in mechs just so he can stretch his aviation muscles. His mundane life collides with a stowaway, the adorable Windermere girl, Freyja Wion. Having snuck into a crate to try and get to the audition to become the next member of the interstellar lyrical protectors Walküre, Freyja is about to get her chance as an unknown virus spreads through the air. It's inevitable that I compare this to the excellent Macross Frontier, and while this series still strongly excels in its music and space battle spectaculars, the story itself felt like it lacked that special impact. Possibly the worst crime of all, I haven't seen any continuous music releases planned postseason like Frontier did. At least with what I got, I had a pretty fun time and got my usual pile of great music to hoard.
It's a strange season when Tekyu stops appearing in the weekly feed and this little number takes its place. Yes, after a long bout with madness, Usakame drops in from a similar team to provide a still-zany, but decently more stable crew.
Much like Tekyu, there's not a ton to say here, as the episodes are blindingly short. The animation quality is considerably better here, utilizing pencil sketches on watercolour backdrops and actually taking the time to move at a sane pace. Of course, that in turn sort of made it feel less hilarious, which is not good for something aiming to add "comedy" to its tags. In fact, for the most part, I was a little bit bored, to be completely honest. Maybe some of you out there will take to it better than I did, but I think it was just okay.
I've never really had any experience with anything involving HoneyWorks before. As they were a band composed of many different talents from many different ventures, it's an interesting concept to build a series around their music. But hey, other series have dedicated a single band to the majority of their soundtracks, like 'nano.RIPE' actually showing up in Hanasaku Iroha, for example. When someone says "Hanasaku Iroha", I always think 'nano.RIPE'. When someone says "Zutto Mae kara Suki deshita.: Kokuhaku Jikko Iinkai" (what a mouthful), I will definitely remember 'HoneyWorks'.
The plot itself is quite simple, revolving around the romantic buildup between our main protagonists. Natsuki, in her infatuation of her childhood friend Yu, casually asks him to help her "practice" confessing to someone she likes. The problem is, can she ever escape this little false bubble she's created for herself? As the pretty visuals unfold and tell the picturesque story of teenage love, you get treated to HoneyWorks' mighty fine contributions to the film. Quite a charming little flick, I enjoyed it.
I actually never expected Tamayura to receive such love, but I'm glad it did, because it deserves it. Ending a series of 4 full length movies about our photo-loving protagonist Potte and her friends, 'Ashita' is yet another production that is just enlightening to watch.
Translating to "tomorrow", 'ashita' is a film that explores the concept of high school friends reaching that ceil where they begin to place potentials above safety. Potte's treasured camera from her deceased father sits in a repair shop, throwing Potte into the important train of thought that some things don't last forever. Her security with her friends, her carefree life and her tight attachment to her father's camera are sacrifices she would have to make to find who she really is. In the end, the message of the movie is that while materials break and farewells are unavoidable, your spiritual connections to these people and items are unbreakable. Truly a feel good series.
A strange premise for an even stranger release schedule. While at Anime Expo 2016, I noticed a giant banner hung with a rather plain image of characters and the title, ReLIFE. I had no immediate interest of watching it, and honestly, it was the very strange release of all of its episodes at once that pulled me in to take a look. Nothing more.
But wow, am I rather glad I checked this one out. ReLIFE touches upon the sad life of a man just cut off from his income supplied by his parents. At the prime moment, a representative of the ReLIFE project appears before him, promising a second chance through their program. After reluctant agreement, Arata takes the required pill and wakes up in the body of his 17-year-old self. He re-attends high school under the watchful eye of his contractors, perhaps gaining the chance to undo his mistakes from the time. What I really like about the series are the realistic, touchy subjects it covers. It doesn't shy away from conflict, and instead glorifies it as a necessity to take the first steps towards something better. The cast is actually quite memorable, not depending entirely on tropes, but playing more to a weakness high school students try and overcome towards becoming an adult. The quirky but catchy soundtrack is what binds it all together, including a new ending theme every episode.
Cooking is something that I really need to get better at. While I share this sentiment with the majority of the Shokugeki no Soma cast, they can actually cook well to begin with, only seeking this improvement to reach unthinkable heights.
Soma's first season was a very enjoyable experience, blending delicious food presentation with the more ludicrous "food porn" eating segments. One bite of food, and people erupt into a orgasmic explosion of juicy flavours. Clothes shred, screaming occurs, and generally, second bites are not even taken. It was kind of the one gimmick that I originally found funny, but it felt a bit offputting after a while, detracting from the show's intention to portray a realistic personal growth for Soma. That's what this second season did so well, in my eyes. It really cuts down on how overblown the "food porn" reactions were, put its head down and threw the colourful characters into a massive cooking competition to deliver their specialties. A big focus on the actual planning of dishes, studying of the foods' histories and learning the sciences behind how flavour works are things I think the show really benefits from. "Food orgasms" fan or not, I think this is a really great watch.
If you received a letter from your future self warning you of a certain outcome, would you be compelled to change it? What if changing it could save a life?
In Orange, Naho spots such a letter, giving her meticulous detail of her movements and actions into meeting her newest friend, Kakeru. As Kakeru slowly fits into his new school life and his subsequent new friend group, the companions start to learn more things about their newest addition. The series did a really great job of playing with the self-conflicts of the characters, flashing phrases from the letter and showcasing the turmoils of either allowing things to replay or to try and make a drastic change. While jolly good friends, they deal with heavy topics, one of which legitimately made me break down and weep at how relatable it was to my own life. Even with a few kinks in my preference for this series, I still think it was worth the watch.
The vast world of Tales games also has a moderately vast world of anime adaptations. Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Phantasia, Tales of Vesperia and now Tales of Zestiria with even a sprinkle of Tales of Berseria have felt the fresh air of freedom from their video game enclosures.
While never faltering in animation quality in these adaptations, Tales of Zestiria the X has the good fortune of being animated by ufotable, the company that brought the movie quality episodes of the Fate series to life. Backgrounds are lush, character models quality, and the amount of detail is just staggering. It's no understatement when fans of the Fate series say that ufotable's works equate to a movie per episode. Looking at the plot, Zestiria focuses on the rise of a Shepherd that has a spiritual connection to the holy entities that nobody else can see. With the help of their powers, the Shepherd must cleanse the world of its seeping malice. It's your typical world-saving adventure, but done so with the conflict of believing just what you see, or believing that there is a higher power you can't immediately see. As previously mentioned, even a few episodes are dedicated to Tales of Berseria, a newer game. This side of the story is focused on a powerful prisoner held in the deepest parts of a heavily guarded prison island. A second season is coming, but the first was definitely a good watch.
The topic of "lovable children" is not such a black-and-white one. On one hand, kids can be really cute, reminding us of how we grew up learning to read, write and walk. They are innocent, still unaware of the realistic elements of trickle down economics, average crime rates and the propaganda of politics, blissfully enjoying everything around them with wonder. On the other hand, they know little about their specific settings, and may lash out for anything that may upset them. Basically, a good parent attempts to balance out this tug-of-war whilst also teaching their children the right from the wrong.
Amaama to Inazuma does a great job of showing how kids are just kids. Tsumugi is quite a smart little girl, but still can immediately warp to the tendencies of someone her age. She loves eating, but misses the food of her deceased mother. She gives her widower father times of trouble, but returns heaps of love and understanding. Without actual motherly assistance, Inuzuka-sensei relies on one of his students to give him the opportunities to learn how to cook for Tsumugi. In a sense, it sounds strange that a teacher is spending so much time with one of his female students. On the other hand, the bonds he shares with his daughter prevent the show from ever bringing up that bizarre feeling in the first place. It's not always roses and daisies, but it is a show that very much fits its title, "Sweetness and Lightning".
Finally, a synopsis that doesn't beat around the bush AND is actually accurate to what the show presents! New Game! is a series about making games.
Aoba quite resembles an elementary school student, with her short stature and cutesy personality. However, when she walks up to the offices of "Eagle Jump" in a suit, she's not there to sightsee. She's here to work! This is a series that actually hit the nail on the head with what we did at our office job (for the most part), and that made it immediately relatable for me. I was putting big grins on my face and saying "Yeah! I've been late because of public transit before!" or "Oh man, I've stayed late because of project tweaks before too!". The difference is that the offices in New Game! featured a quirky cast that you wouldn't usually see in an enclosed space working environment. I suppose I can't skip out on mentioning the adorable designs and the even more adorable touchy relationships the characters share. Did I mention there are no males in this office? And here I thought office equality was at least somewhat sorted.
Prepare to be a little bit confused, at least for the first while. Does anyone remember the last Danganronpa series where a group of students were trapped in a school, forced to play a deadly game to escape? Danganronpa 3 features two separate arcs for the hope and despair that lead up to that terrible event.
So yes, we're taking a look at the future arc first. "But Chroma! Where then is Danganronpa 2?" It should be noted that Danganronpa 2 does exist in game form, set on an island with yet another deadly game of life and death. However, the anime adaptations were scrapped as the producers believed another round of forced student killing was a bit too depressingly gruesome. Trust me when I say you're not missing much going right to Danganronpa 3, where a headquarters of the council of hope is infiltrated, sending them into a battle royale to weed out a traitor amongst them. The combatants are all equipped with a deadly wristband that will inject poison into them should they fail to follow the rule glowing upon the bracelet. Consider this side of the story the more action-heavy side, featuring the characters actually plotting to ensure survival. If you want some more context about where this mystery infiltrating remnant of despair came from, that will be answered by following the despair arc.
Speaking of which, I hope you like hearing the term "zetsubo", because they're about the say it...a lot. This arc was definitely a much weaker one for me when compared to the Mirai-hen, spending a lot of time building up some random characters, then finally making the connections to the Mirai-hen to actually push some sense into the whole production.
Zetsubo-hen starts off a sketch style comedy series, with goofy slapstick and cutaway transitions every few minutes. This is to present the arc's classroom cast, along with their new charismatic teacher, Chisa. In my opinion, you could skip the entirety of the first 2/3 of this arc and not lose anything important. It was actually a bit frustrating to watch for me until it hit its most serious portions and matched what it was simultaneously doing on its Mirai-hen side. But hey, when all the pieces click and this show gets dark, it gets pretty damn dark. As a whole, I think I actually had some decent enjoyment with this rendition of Danganronpa, even though I was struggling at times to get through this arc. With a little patience and a tiny bit of sickly human satisfaction, there's probably something for you to enjoy here. Just make sure you watch the Kibo-hen final episode that brings the two arcs together for a true end.
"Oh Rewrite, you're just not quite there yet for me." A rather bizarre KEY work (I know, that's kind of a redundant statement), Rewrite is based around a world-threating "key" that is interpreted with conflicting regards between two factions, Guardian and Gaia. One faction wants to protect the key as a precious entity, and the other wants it destroyed once and for all.
Amidst all of this is Kotaro, our main protagonist who can basically "rewrite" his body as a special power. He begins to befriend members of both Gaia and Guardian, and they unknowingly end up together in the same high school club, leading them to feel friendly amongst each other. What I realized is that there is nothing substantial about this series, being mostly average in my eyes from start to end. A second season is coming up next season, so my current capacity's vote is that you should wait until season 2 finishes. If ratings go up for Rewrite, maybe go and check it out.
So yes, I have to make the idol show comparison with Love Live! Sunshine! and Aikatsu!. The difference to me is just night and day, and I have to make some distinctions into exactly why.
Love Live! Sunshine! is an extension of the original Love Live! School Idol Project that outsold every other series in its run by a long mile. While I enjoyed the original series, I never saw the mass appeal behind it. If anything, it was quite a bit too generic overall for an idol series, with a few of its characters being a bit more on the quirky side. Regardless of that, I have to talk about Sunshine, and brighten my day this did not. If you were to take my previous statement about the characters being the best part of the first season, this continuation was where I was swarmed with boring clones. Furthermore, it's established that these new girls are ranked pretty low on the popularity and skill list. As a result, the main cast is completely overshadowed by the more talented idols like 'Saint Snow', my one modicum of excitement in the show.
It's also quickly established that this new idol group was created not of their own volition, but driven by the fact that the girls want to copy the original µ's in every way. When they realize they can't do that, they retrace and come up with the much more realistic goal. The problem is, they basically do this right at the end of the show, leaving no time for the growth to occur. Quite the opposite happens in Aikatsu!, with a legendary idol duo to look up to, but every girl who steps foot into Starlight Academy is expected to pave their own path into the idol world. Their goals and visions are clear from the get-go, and even though Aikatsu! is infinitely longer as a series, I can point to an endless number of character building segments shorter than 12 episodes and feel satisfied. With Sunshine, I just never felt like I came close.
A season that absolutely needed to be nailed for me after its multifaceted start, this second season of Hibike! Euphonium has done just that. Character bonds are tightly explored, backstories given to accentuate previously made connections, and the drama doesn't feel as forced this time around.
If you haven't read it yet, my main problems with the first season was that a lot of time was used on making certain characters seem like terrible, inauspicious people, including the loudmouthed Yuko and the disagreeable Taki-sensei. Entire arcs were spent raising drama to bring characters from an origin point right back to where they started, and it didn't feel that strong to me. The final episode of Season 1 ended with a bang however, and that kickoff into Season 2 was something quite excellent, in my eyes. No opportunities are wasted in this season, giving every group of major characters their own unique opportunities to gain some much needed traction in the story. Something I really, really, really like is that the vocal tones of Kumiko and Reina have changed quite a bit, really allowing their seiyu to portray a wider range of emotional influences for them. If you were with me in feeling like Season 1 was missing a key component, I ask that you give Season 2 a chance and quite possibly join me in receiving that key component and much, much more.
You thought Working!! was over? Let's be real, you're never free from work. Let's just accept that and move on, shall we? *sobs*
So yes, this is an adaptation of a web manga, hence the URL-named title that would never lead you to a valid website. You had one job, Working!!, I can't even visit your site! Anyways, we're treated this time to a brand new cast in what is most likely another Wagnaria restaurant somewhere else in the country. Honestly, that fact sort of scared me at the beginning, as one of the strongest portions of the show was the well-established characters. After this side story ended, I'm glad to say that the fears were qualmed, but only barely. You see, WWW.Working!! is still decently funny, but its newcomer characters are really just...okay in my eyes. I can definitely appreciate that they didn't just recycle the characters of its predecessor like a certain other show from this year, but they just didn't give them enough vibrance to drive them past their one running joke. Overall, the restaurant is realistically still a madhouse to any normal person, and there are some fun moments tossed in here, but I don't think it's anything special enough to warrant a 5-star rating on Yelp.
No, I don't know what the (a) is. What I do know is that I quite enjoyed this show about a group of seiyu working in their natural habitats...for the most part.
Karasuma Chitose is one of those people. You know the type, the one that struts into a room after rehearsing how she'll present her persona in the room prior. She'll spend her entire day off work tugging down on the Twitter reload to see if she gained any new followers. Don't be like Chitose. As she joins the seiyu big(ger) leagues with some veterans, she immediately tries her absolute best to be a nihilistic pain, slowly learning that the industry is a tough world to face. That's what I think I like about this show. They don't really showcase any seiyu that are above the dirty side of the business, and it's interesting to see that so openly displayed here. For instance, one of the best voices in the show is forced to do an advertisement in a bikini, launching us into a short arc where she confronts her parents about her career choice. In fact, there's quite a few depressingly real and relatable looks into the anime industry as a whole, like how a company can skimp on budget and how audiences can flip their loyalty on a dime. It may look really sweet with its pretty character designs, but it really is a tough world for seiyu. I think I have a newfound appreciation for them.
"Gao!!!!". Isn't this series stupidly adorable? Isn't it? The answer is just simply...yes.
Akin to the likes of Barakamon, Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari features an everyday city protagonist coming into a quieter country atmosphere, uninterrupted by the buzz of modernism. The difference with this series is that Sota has been here before, returning to his family's udon shop after a lengthy time away. While the shop has been shut down, Sota finds that he's got a unique squatter in his abode, a tiny little tanuki boy that he names Poco. With no signs of a family for Poco, Sota's short visit into the countryside turns into a conflict with his web designer job to care for the little tanuki boy. I can't blame him, as Poco is heart-meltingly adorable. In his human form, he giggles for joy at the most innocent of things, and the way he clings to Sota for protection as if he were his real father is so sweet. Even in his tanuki form, he loves to give his puppy dog eyes and jump playfully into Sota's arms. But the series lives on much more than just Poco alone. If anything, there is more to develop with Sota and his friends and family, like with how one arc explores how much discomfort can arise between peers over obtaining a child to care for that isn't even yours by blood. Usagi Drop played around with this concept, and Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari does a good job with it as well. Even Sota's sister Rinko gets a great episode that unfolds how the oft-quarreled brother/sister relationship is so much deeper of a relationship than what is shown at face value. This was truly an enjoyable series for me, week after week. To top it off, it has a killer opening and ending song, the latter of which we've already featured this year on the 31 Days of Stargazing. Check it out!
Let me ask a question to you all. Does anyone still have a physical printed dictionary in your house? I'm not talking about a computer or an iPad with a Merriam-Webster link, but an actual dictionary. Probably not most of us, right?
Fune wo Amu is a tale about producing the greatest dictionary of the age, the "Great Passage". A tiny team working on the dictionary recruits Majime, a man who has a world of words in his mind, yet ironically has trouble expressing them in real life situations. The drama from the series comes from a mixture of Majime's life from when he meets a woman he is infatuated by, and the battles at work he faces with the publishing company believing that dictionaries are a massive money sink. Undoubtedly, the series runs very slowly, and it's not something I would recommend for people looking for constant movement in strides. For this show, you have to take a deep breath, really listen to what is said, analyze it, appreciate it and then move on. If you're able to do that, I think it has a lot of important things to say. You just have to listen closely.
And let's cap it off with the other season of Tekyu, because there's practically one every season anyways. Notice how they can skip a season entirely, replace it with a spinoff, and STILL have 2 separate entries of its own on this annual list?
There's not much to say that I haven't already said. The only thing I will say is that for the first time, Season 8 was the one that made me rank it a point lower than all of the prior seasons. It just wasn't as consistently funny, but it was still funny nonetheless. I just hope this isn't the sign of a starting decline.
The award for my favourite series of the year goes to Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. It was satisfyingly endearing, tear-jerkingly emotional and it had such a good (but terribly stressful) use of cliffhangers that I hopped on the opportunity to watch it again, week after week. The presentation, the characters and the atmosphere it creates was damn near perfect in my eyes. It just sort of faltered a bit by the end. That should not deter any of you that might want to check out a great murder thriller. Close contenders were Hibike! Euphonium 2nd Season and Aikatsu! (not chosen because its later season that was running through this year felt weaker than the earlier seasons).
Least Favourite Series: Mayoiga
Where did we go wrong? Mayoiga had such an interesting premise, but I honestly stand by my claim that both its characters and plot progression completely killed it for me. The series is presented in a sense where there are a massive pile of characters, each of which basically gets one flashback scene and a name flash to help us remember who they are. Well, it didn't help. Not for me, at least. I think the "twist" for the show was quite predictable and weak as well, leaving nothing really else for me to enjoy. Love Live! Sunshine!! was a close contender for its blatant use of the clone stamp tool and what I thought was a very generic soundtrack, but Mayoiga just had me confused and uninterested all the way through.
I'd like to mention that this section is for the opening sequence that not only had a memorable song, but also tied its visuals and theme together to actually elevate its representative series even further. For me this year, the Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibogamine Gakuen - Zetsubo-hen opening did it the best. The most gruesome parts of Zetsubo-hen tied into the ambient sounds of this song always gave me lasting sickly feeling in my stomach, and I mean that in the best way possible. Its use of flat visual presentation symbolized a very granular approach to what hope and despair are, which is exactly what the show tried very hard to achieve. It's always good to hear the haunting, echoey vocals of Yanagi Nagi used well, and it certainly was used well here, if you ask me.
Least Favourite Opening: Naked Drive - SCREEN mode
I'm not quite sure what to think. For a series that has pretty much little to no drama, is chocked full of slapstick comedy and some brief action scenes, why did they opt to use an opening that is essentially frantically paced rap? The visuals are speckled with filters, the pacing is madness, and it takes away from how pretty Kyoto Animation's work can look on the screen. Give me some time to breathe it in, damn it! This opening makes me feel like I'm rushing to the hospital because of a seizure.
Hands down, my favourite ending of the year. After every satisfying episode of watching the good-willed Sota and the downright adorable Poco bonding with their friends and family around them, the pace slows right down to tell its own story within the ending. The colouring book motif mixed with the spiralling of stars is beautifully simple, and I love how the song has so much atmosphere for being slower paced. Within this short time, you get to see into Sota's past, his losses, and the gains he receives in his new life with Poco. It's a lovely ending, and I hope you'll check out GOODWARP as well, as they are an excellent band.
Least Favourite Ending: Ima wa Mijikashi Yume Miyo Otome - Gi(a)rlish Number
You remember that line in 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!', where the narrator bellows "Noise, Noise, NOISE!" in a rising crescendo? That's what I feel like saying whenever this ending plays. I am not a fan. To start off, the song itself has no clear direction, sounding like 3-5 different songs blasted together in a sugar cannon. Following up, while a few of the initial visuals where the characters are superimposed upon recording equipment is cute, the rest of it feels so static for just an upbeat song. They don't meld with each other, and they don't meld with the best parts of Gi(a)rlish Number either. To cap it all off, it just drones with the characters chanting over and over. It sounds so awkward that I couldn't bring myself to watch the ending whenever it came up.
And that does it for 2016! It was a rather solid year with lots to enjoy for me, and hopefully you all found something to enjoy as well! We've still got a few more days of "31 Days of Stargazing" left, but I'm really looking forward to what I can do in the new year. Stay tuned dear friends, and thanks once again for reading my ludicrously long annual posts!