First of all, I’m not writing for MyAnimeList anymore. They stopped their featured articles thing because I guess it wasn’t bringing in enough hits. So now I need to get back into the habit of blogging frequently again (unless anyone else wants to hire me to write articles for them *hint hint*) and not let my mostly-formed articles sit in my brain, never to be written. In an attempt to get back to writing regularly again I figured now was a good time to bring back the old monthly roundup posts since there are a bunch of shockingly good anime this season and I wanted to say something about them.
Tanya the Evil
I had my doubts after the first episode because, while it was very well made, it gave me the uneasy feeling I was watching every neo-nazis new favourite anime. That changed quickly after episode 2 when they revealed the true story about a sociopathic libertarian’s ongoing duel with almighty power to understand faith. It’s bizarre and unique and it has completely taken me in 4 episodes in.
The biggest shock of all for me is how well made it is. Imaginative cuts and use of angles to show inner thoughts or changing of expressions, or even just for amusing jump cuts. The strength of writing and the wit of the free-flowing conversations, from the witty back and forth between the mad scientist and Tanya, or the philosophical debates between the Nutcracker Being X and Tanya. For a first production from a studio, it’s one of the strongest first impressions I’ve ever seen. Even if the story might go off the rails into some kind of neo-nazi territory (which it doesn’t look like it will do now but you never know) I’d still keep an eye on the studio for the strength of their directing.
Shouwa Era Rakugo Shinjuu
I have a few niggling issues with Rakugo that’s preventing me from calling it ANIME OF THE DECADE THEY DID IT AGAIN, mostly in regards to the pacing. However a little voice in my head keeps pointing out to me that these were all problems that existed last season and you didn’t really care about so much because you were so enthralled by the full-length rakugo performances that the pacing issues didn’t bother you. Which all sounds like I’m being a little harsh so I suppose here I should stress that boy do I still love this anime to bits and almost feel privileged that I get to watch it.
The strength and depth of the character writing is where I find myself most enamoured with it. Yakumo has made the evolution to thoroughly miserable old git with grace and charm, as though he was born for the role. He remains the most fascinating character of the story, with his misery demanding he drags the art form with him to the grave. The new charmer kid is kind of hilarious in how he can win everyone over with his puppy eyes and sweet talking (even Yakumo, who I didn’t think anyone could ever win over). I even like their wealthy patron bloke who is trying to write new rakugo. If anything the one character I’m not super fond of is the ex-convict pseudo-lead character because he seems a bit simple-minded compared to the rest of the highly complex cast. Also his screechy voice gets on my nerves sometimes.
March Comes in Like a Lion
Maybe it’s because I’ve known people recently who have struggled with it, but stories about people with depression issues have gotten to me more recently. Rakugo has a bit of that, but March is centrally about this kid with a highly depressive psyche who is struggling to let people make him happy and he knows it. Not that I was ever the type of person that demanded my protagonists to always be stoic badass action heroes, as even teenage me didn’t bitch at Shinji to get in that damn robot. But watching March and seeing the same symptoms pop up as I’ve seen people experience in my life makes the story and characters feel more real for me.
Even without that though, it’s still a fantastic show. I feel confident in saying right now that I like it a lot more than I did Honey and Clover and a huge part of that is down to the directing. While I like Shinbo generally, even I raised an eyebrow when he was put on this show. But it’s been truly fantastic, particularly when it comes to sound design. The use of silence in stressful moments where the main character just wants to curl up on himself, or the relentless noise in the sister’s house, or the rushing noises when a depressive attack hits. I gather it has sold really well too, which is great and will hopefully move Shinbo and Shaft to making more anime like this instead of some of the pedo-bait he has made in the past. With the Monogatari series basically done now, I hope we get more stuff like March from them.
Little Witch Academia
There aren’t many anime this season I think are any good, but those I do like are nearly all fantastic. The one really noticeable thing is how well made they all are, frmo animation to directing to style to dialogue and so on. It makes a nice change from my favourite anime from a season coming with a huge caveat of “it’s not that well made BUT I like what they’re trying to do here”. Little Witch Academia is the kind of joyously produced wonderful piece that you can feel like the creators just had fun making. I want to run out and show it to everyone because I feel anyone can like it.
I am, of course, watching it illegally due to Netflix picking up the rights and sticking to their binge-watch model. However I find it hard to resent them for this because it seems like the perfect kind of show for a family audience once it gets that English dub and I could see it becoming a breakout hit far outside anime fandom. Just sell it as anime Harry Potter. It has the wonder of early Potter books where the world of magic is so fantastical and captures your imagination so thoroughly. The one downside at the moment is the lack of depth or overarching story. Akko’s love of that one circus performer she saw isn’t much of an overarching story to hang your series on.
Acca does a lot of things right. It sets up a fascinating little world with a complex political structure with intriguing developments happening below the surface. It has a variety of complex characters with different goals and a keen sense of style to everything. It’s just so low key about everything I find it really hard to stay engaged. I know that’s this author’s style, but I have never particularly liked their style and this only helps to reinforce that. Everything scene seems to happen either in a stuffy board meeting, over a cake testing session, a gruff smoke break, or a polite dinner party. I’m still watching it because I’m interested in the story and it’s one of the few anime I can watch on public transport without feeling embarrassed, but on those early morning commutes it definitely has a sleep-inducing effect.
There’s a lot going on in Blue Exorcist with characters not trusting each other based off prior engagements, or grudges and memories held that occurred last season. Which is all very difficult when it’s for a series that happened 6 years ago for a show I only thought was OK originally. What’s actually happening this season isn’t bad or anything and is in the process of setting up an interesting storyline, but I find it really hard to care when the basis for my caring was set up based on a series that happened that long ago. I barely remember who half of these characters are, let alone where their little green plant buddy went. Also a word on Boobzilla, who I know looked ridiculous last season, but I feel she’s gone a step in an even more ridiculous this time around. She’s wearing fishnet stocking, denim booty shorts, and a leopard-print bikini top, complete with some of the most intense jiggle physics that would make her a monster at Keijo. Everyone else is dressed so conservatively that it looks so bizarrely out of place and I can’t get over that.