Dive In! Chroma's Summer 2017 Impressions!
Here we are yet again, at the end of a warm season that pulls us towards a chillier future. However, did the summer leave us with some amusing series to check out? Time for a closer look.
If only more people could experience just how damn cute and fun this show is, the world would be a better place. Because of its lengthy nature, Aikatsu Stars! continues onwards with seemingly no end, but it continues to be one of those insanely rare series where I just anticipate its adorably soothing encapsulation, week after week.
After the "Venus Ark Arc" (that's a strange uttering) that was honestly a bit underwhelming as a plot point, we still did continue to get many surprise goodies. From protagonist Nijino Yume's ridiculously cute angel-wing hairdo to the world-smashing crossover episodes with the original Aikatsu! cast (it was so damn good to see them again), there's still something to love every episode. I know that as a whole, we've come about 240+ episodes into the Aikatsu world now, but I would certainly recommend this series to anyone. It has an incredible range of unforgettable music, excellent CG and performance scenes that can top most popular idol series today, and is just pure, sweet eye candy at every possible turn. I adore it, I truly do.
Studio Gokumi attacks our senses yet again with a new, shorter episode length series about a school full of quirky, lovey-dovey "children". The show presents itself in a sketch style light comedy, giving us a range of pairings that have these hilariously tragic interactions with each other. Despite its shorter length, it still provided me with some genuine humour, sweet romances and so many face-slappingly awful misunderstandings that it's actually somehow funny. Probably the best character in the whole show is the big old "THE END" sign that gets slapped onto any spot that is incredibly awkward.
I still have many questions. However, Tekyu has officially hit "that point" with me. It has barraged my brain so relentlessly for so long, that I'm actually starting to get a bit bored with it. I continue along with it because it's very short and purely because I enjoy listening to Hanazawa Kana reading lines at an uncomfortably furious speed. Just as iPhone has reached its X (or 10th) point, let's maybe have one more and cap it off at the fabled "Tekyu X".
But seriously, I don't know how much more I can actually take. Why does this 4 minute show now have an opening AND an ending theme? The episodes themselves are just ludicrously shorter now.
Big, big, BIG hearts. Much love. I'm instantly a sucker for this series because of its really sweet character designs, but also for its focus on an industry I appreciate, relatable workplace situations and a soundtrack I am unbelievably thankful for.
New Game!, if you didn't see it, featured the starry-eyed Suzukaze Aoba nabbing her dream job as a character designer at Eagle Jump, the games production company that released her favourite series of games. It was a solid season that I had a decent bit of fun with. New Game!! (using the second exclamation of olde to indicate a second season) only improves on the formula, giving us closer looks at Aoba's really cute and sometimes quite quirky workmates. While the story itself is really nothing big, the presentation itself is genuinely grin-inducing, making its characters fun to watch. As mentioned, the soundtrack itself is absolutely magical, clearly overseen by Hyakkoku Hajime of K-ON! fame. Seriously, take a listen to the soundtracks of these two series and tell me you can't tell the similarities. For me, it threw me right back into the magical days of when 5 high school girls took the anime world by storm with their lovable charm and super catchy light rock/pop music. If you enjoy the art style, definitely give the original mangaka some love too, as his artwork is just gorgeous.
Yami Shibai - 5th Season
More traditional style Japanese ghost stories. Kind of like Tekyu, this is a series that is growing old for me as well, unfortunately. There was quite a bit of repetition in theming this season, utilizing a lot of lost children and even somewhat predictable outcomes as the big story clinchers. I miss the earlier seasons, where many of the stories had this stomach-churning sense of growing dread, as a man boards an elevator and slowly realizes it's getting darker and people are disappearing around him.
Once again, because of its short length per episode, it's not like I really mind watching these. They're a weekly look at something completely different to most, if not all of the stuff on my seasonal list. However, I would be far from complaining if they decide to spice up the formula once again and give me back that true sense of discomfort.
Boku no Hero Academia - 2nd Season
So, we're still on about this quirky hero thing, huh? Yes, Boku no Hero Academia gives us its second season, focusing yet again on the development and struggles of these bizarre kids who have discovered their own strange superpowers.
To start off, the series is still a lot of fun, no doubt. There's a healthy mix of cute, tough, alluring and just plain hilariously stupid characters, balancing out the oddity of the premise and making it a lot more relatable to the everyday plebeian like myself. Something fun to do is to go occasionally to the MyAnimeList page and just see which characters rank up at the top of the popularity charts, it's a good chuckle (genuinely, I don't mean that to be rude).
Now, while the series itself is just plain turn-on-your-brain fun at times, it bothers me a bit to look back at the season as a whole. Without spoiling too much, the end of the first season and even a chunk into this season gave us a pretty big shift in the severity of the plot. However, the majority of the remaining content really, really felt like filler to me, doing more competency tests and developing much less of what they first set off to accomplish. It's a fair path they tread, because the manga is still ongoing and has over 170 chapters, but I wish I could just look back and think we came a lot further than we really did. I know more seasons are inevitable for this popular show, so I will more than happily continue to tune in.
Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni
If I may intrude in my post for a second (and I can), I'd like to talk about this film that I was originally planning to watch at Anime Expo, but could not manage to find time for. Luckily, living in one of anime's best Western metropolitan cities, our most developed cinema corporation often brings in timely releases of anime movies, and they once again pulled through for this.
Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni is a mixing pot of emotions, offering glimpses of hope, tradition, vision and tragedy. In the more traditional era of 1940s Japan, Urano Suzu moves to Hiroshima to to be wed off to a young naval trainee. The marriage development is brutally blunt, giving the couple barely any time to do all the modern steps of getting to know each other, dating and all that other stardust-sprinkled fun times. Though a bit clumsy, Suzu gains her place in her new family's home through hard work and perseverance, taking up a widened artist's view of the world as she enters this new world. Quite often, the film places Suzu and her family under the fear of attack from the U.S. military, but takes the clever approach to keep it from becoming a mindless action focus. Even with the frightful sounds of the fighters flying overhead, the gunshots are intertwined with spliced shots of Suzu splatting bright colours onto a canvas to portray the monstrous beauty that is our world. The message is simple, but very well illustrated.
There's no dancing around it, we all know what happens to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and hopefully you are prepared for the sad moments as well. Minus the obligatory obnoxious moviegoer placed strategically about one row and three seats over from us, I could hear lots of other people giving tiny gasps of genuine concern over the progression of events. Despite being about a touchy subject that is still very relatable today, it gave a glimpse at a perspective that no matter how destructive the most vile of people can be in this world, the world and its people always give back. A beautifully written film, in my eyes.
'Tis a quest indeed, friends. Maybe not the epic "grab your sword, let's slay monsters" quest, but a noble quest to save a dying town from economical collapse. As Manoyama continually closes down historically rich businesses to stay alive, it revives its strange tourism program built around a fictional mini-nation known as the "Kingdom of Chupakabura".
Protagonist Yoshino is brought on as the lead (official title "Queen") of the programme through a series of unforeseen events, but with her positive attitude, decides to stick with it and push through. Slowly over time, she grows to appreciate the people and culture of Manoyama and becomes fully invested in its survival. Sakura Quest utilizes a myriad of great ideals and life lessons to portray the importance of the things we take for granted, like my prior article on how one can easily mistake their opportunism for optimism and actually reach a completely different conclusion. Being set in a small town as well, it always has this culture-rich atmosphere that is both serene and inviting in its presentation, and P.A. Works nails this as always.
But as much as I constantly praise P.A. Works, the true stars of this show for me are the composers of basically the entire soundtrack, (K)NoW_NAME. Sakura Quest has an unforgettable soundtrack, brought to us by the team that was previously known through the equally pretty Hai to Genso no Grimgar. It's also fun how they named all of the songs after flowers, like 'Lupinus' and 'Freesia', because the songs are just as beautiful as their titles. This show's slower pacing may not be for everyone, but it certainly drew me in and gave me something to remember.
Made in Abyss
You knew this was coming, and yes, I saved my favourite of the season for last. Before the season started, a friend at work mentioned that Made in Abyss was a series that I definitely should check out. The thing is, he neglected to tell me why I should. Regardless, after reading the synopsis that I can never trust to give me an accurate description to begin with, I thought it'd still be a neat show to check out.
So if you haven't seen it before, the "abyss" the series mentions is literally a massive, enigmatic pit that our protagonists live around and descend into to explore. Riko and Reg are forbidden to delve deeper than the first of many levels of the abyss, as there is a frightful curse that strikes humans as they reascend. Even at the first level, ascending gives untrained explorers mild nausea and headaches, but deeper down, there are terrifying symptoms like "bleeding from every orifice", "loss of humanity and disfiguration", and even "certain death".
The pull of the series is a really solid combination of intrigue from the abyss itself with the tenacity of the very young delvers themselves. Tomita Miyu and Mariya Ise perform some absolutely praiseworthy voice acting, capturing the true joy, intrigue and absolute fear of what the abyss has to offer its unsuspecting visitors. You'll likely get really attached to their charming personalities, then realize that they have to go further down this pit than even the best explorers have gone, facing the dangerous critters and the curse itself along the way. It's sort of this beautiful canvas of gorgeously intriguing landscapes that defy science, yet also a shelter for the things we fear the most. That's the reason I keep coming back to this series with anticipation, and I hope you'll check it out as well.
And please god, if you like the voice work of Riko, you owe it to yourself to check out Aikatsu Stars!. Tomita Miyu has over 70 episodes of voicing one of the cutest go-getters in anime today.
Thanks once again for tuning in! I had a bit of mixed season, but I'm glad there were a handful of shows I was excited to see every week. What were your favourite shows this season? Let us know!