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Monday, December 5, 2022

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Midsummer Anime Roundup

With this week, the anime summer 2017 season has officially reached its midpoint. When it comes to picking out the shows I want to watch each season, I tend to be fairly conservative. I’m a man about town with things to do, or at least I like to pretend that I am, so the number of shows I watch in a season rarely reaches double digits and they usually consist mostly of adaptations of manga I’ve read or continuations from something I’ve already seen. That being said, it’s not too late to help others expand their horizons, so I’ve put together my thoughts on the series I’m watching this season so far: two that started this season, two that started the previous season and are still going, and one honorable mention that is kind of in this season.

New This Season

Made in Abyss

This is a series I’ve been looking forward to for a while, since I enjoy the manga that it’s based on. Usually an adaptation of something you already like is a pretty safe bet, but as the recent Berserk anime reminds us, its quality isn’t guaranteed. It’s a story about a young girl and a mysterious robot boy trying to find the girl’s mother at the bottom of a big hole filled with monsters, curses, and unfriendly delvers. The cute character designs of the kids, the alien but breathtaking landscapes of the titular Abyss, and its unnerving  and creepy denizens constantly contrast in an interesting visual design, and the action sequences that have been shown so far have been pretty solid. The music is also very good at highlighting the disparity between the mysterious Abyss and cute everyday interactions like making meals, although I was surprised at how cutesy the ending theme is despite showing horrible monsters popping out of every corner.

There is fairly noticeable censorship when compared to the manga, but I’d say that choosing not to show the nipples of a twelve-year-old girl doesn’t detract much from the enjoyment of this show since it’s done more in the vein of putting hair to conveniently block things instead of, say, blocking out half of the face of a minor smoking. That being said, the anime has yet to reach some of the graphic violence and gore that should make an appearance before the season ends, so how it handles that remains to be seen.

Speaking of gore and the more creepy elements of Made in Abyss, the reveal of the corpse-weeper was really well done, and I’m interested to see how some of Ozen’s scenes are handled. I’m also holding out hope that we’ll see a certain masked scientist from the opening in action before the season ends. Either way, this is one of the better adaptations I’ve seen, although as usual I would still recommend reading the manga.

 

Princess Principal

I actually wasn’t watching this show at the beginning of the season, and just dismissed it as another “cute girls doing cute things” show until I saw the OP, which sounds like something that comes right out of Persona 5. Instead, I was treated to a story about spies in a steampunk version of London, who go around killing people, stealing technology, and protecting secrets in a civil war between the Commonwealth and Kingdom of Albion. It has a lot of enjoyable action and espionage, and the steam punk aesthetic actually contributes to the plot with technologies like clockwork cyborgs and mysterious anti-gravity crystals. The soundtrack is pretty good, especially the opening and ending themes, and the non-linear storytelling adds yet another layer to the interweaving plots.

One other weird thing about this show is its language. Since it takes place in an alternate version of England, all of the characters are supposed to be speaking in English, but of course all of the characters are speaking in Japanese for the convenience of the (intended) audience. Aside from Beatrice being shortened to “Beato,” it only becomes a bit surreal when characters who are from Japan become involved. There are times when Chise doesn’t understand a word which is assumed to have been spoken in English, and she makes comments about things like not knowing how to count the brush strokes in “their” alphabet, not to mention the entire recent episode when an emissary from Japan visits the country. I know that it’s just one of those unavoidable situations where I have to deal with the side effects of not being the intended audience for anime, but it still comes off as a bit strange.

Despite that, as an anime-original series it really came out of left field for me, and I’m liking what I’ve seen so far. I hope we’ll get to see a bit of Dorothy’s back story before the inevitable focus on Charlotte and Ange. If you don’t mind some fantastic elements in your spy shenanigans, this is a good choice, but you could check out Joker Game for a fairly recent spy show that’s more true to life and just as good.

 

Continued from Last Season

Re:Creators

This is another anime-original series, which funnily enough is about other anime series. Various characters from popular anime, games, and even visual novels are summoned to the real world by a mysterious girl who wants to destroy it.

While the action sequences are pretty nice and involve a characters of different genres coming together to duke it out, that’s about the only thing that brings me back to this show each week. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most recent plot point involves the protagonists organizing an anime event for fictional characters of different series to fight as an excuse to let those characters fight in the “real” world. As far as the story goes, I feel more like I should see how it ends because I’ve gotten this far into it and committed so much time rather than because I’m excited to see what happens next. The statements the show tries to make about the anime industry also come out as a bit corny; creators being “gods,” showing how hardworking writers and illustrators are and how dedicated they are to their characters, the perils of cyber-bullying, and even a comment about how the audience/consumers are the true source of “creation” in our world all fall flat. The animation and soundtrack are decent, and as I’ve already mentioned the action is good, but the story just drags the whole thing down.

Even though I’m going to sit through more episodes of Meteora somehow knowing everything and taking most of the episode to explain it to everyone, I wouldn’t recommend that you do it too. It’s not worth the effort of going through two season of what is essentially a Fate rip-off, which isn’t helped by the fact that the director, Ei Aoki, also worked on Fate/Zero. If something drastic happens to turn this show around and deliver a great finale, I’ll make a public apology, but I sincerely doubt that anything of the sort will happen.

 

Shingeki no Bahamut – Virgin Soul

Oddly enough, this is an anime series based off of the card game Rage of Bahamut, although it seems to only have the characters in common. Virgin Soul takes place ten years after the events of Shingeki no Bahamut – Genesis and the defeat of the dragon Bahamut, and follows the story of a girl who travels to the human capital to find that their king has stolen a forbidden power to enslave the demons and war against the gods. The events that happen in this series are directly related to the last one, and most of the characters are recurring, so I wouldn’t recommend watching Virgin Soul before Genesis.

For a series loosely based off of a card game, almost everything is great about this series, although the first one may have been a bit better. In an industry saturated by plots involving being reborn into another world and JRPG mechanics, it has a refreshingly straightforward fantasy adventure plot, and MAPPA continues to deliver the kind of animation and action sequences that impressed me when they were in charge of the Garo anime. A lot of the characters are genuinely funny as well, especially the ones that appeared in the previous series. The soundtrack has the kind of enjoyable orchestral arrangements that one would expect from an action-packed fantasy series, but I have to confess that I have a special place in my heart for any opening that has screaming and guitars.

While in the beginning of the series it was a bit tiresome to hear from some characters about how unfairly the human king is treating a race of beings that dedicate all of their time to killing humans when there isn’t something else threatening them, the focus has shifted a bit more to King Charioce being aware that he’s doing horrible things for his (as of yet) unrevealed goal and to the main character Nina trying to understand him. If you have the time, I’d highly recommend going back to watching the first series and continuing on to this one if you like what you see.

 

Honorable Mention

Monogatari

The most recent incarnation of this series, which is a continuation of Owarimonogatari, is scheduled to air on August 12 and 13, but considering that the Blu Ray for the third movie of Kizumonogatari also came out in July, I think that the series as a whole should get an honorable mention as something I enjoyed this season. The story generally involves a high school boy running into monsters/spirits that either are directly involved with cute girls or are cute girls themselves. This is another series with non-linear storytelling, so that Kizumonogatari takes place before the anime series that was released first (Bakemonogatari) and the upcoming parts of Owarimonogatari take place after the last part of Koyomimonogatari.

The dialogue and storytelling, from the writer behind Katanagatari and Medaka Box, are definitely the high points of the series, and are consistently amazing. Combine that with some of studio Shaft’s best visuals since Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and an incredibly catchy soundtrack and you have a winner in my books; I even have one of the openings as my ringtone. I will note that the series is infamous for some of its fan-service scenes, a fact that dissuaded me from watching it until I found out that the writer had written other series I’ve enjoyed. If you enjoy fan-service, then you’re in luck, but if you’re not a big fan of it, the scenes in this series are mostly tolerable and for the most part happen at the same time as dialogue that is relevant to the plot or the characters. I also have to concede that at times there is more reading than watching, with some parts that come close to being little more than reading a paragraph with some nice visuals behind it, but in my opinion what is being read is worth it. There are also excerpts from the light novels which flash across the screen faster than is humanly possible to read without pausing, but anyone familiar with Shaft will tell you that’s nothing new.

If you’re going to experience any PowerPoint presentation this summer, I’d suggest watching this one. Waiting to see what happens with Snail is tough, but I guess it’s not quite so bad as the wait for Kizumonogatari to end, so I’ll probably manage.

 

Considering some of the past seasons, having three out of the four shows I’m watching be good, with another promising one on the way, isn’t too bad of a ratio. It’s still a bit early to be talking about the Fall season, but I will say that there are some exciting continuations coming soon (and some that aren’t so exciting, like Umaru).

Am I missing out on the anime of the season? Do I have bad taste, and you have a burning need to let me know that I do? Feel free to leave a comment!

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