Highlight: Winter 2017 anime season

“This is what you want, isn’t it?” — Yurakutei Sukeroku

Winter 2017 plays all the right tunes for a fantastic year ahead of us. I’m very pleased with the selection this season; a great deal of above average and top-notch shows. There are no mediocre shows this season but there are two bad shows. But even the bad ones are entertaining in their own ways.

Before I go into the winners and losers this season. I want to give ufotable a nod for their efforts this season. They flood a poorly written material in production value and pull off a decent adaptation out of Tales of Zestiria. Kudos to the studio.

Without further ado, let’s get to the highlights.

Seasonal Selection

Show Expectation Rating
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen Cash cow Highlight (1)
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 Cash cow Highlight (2)
Kobayashi-san chi no maid dragon Star Decent
Demi-chan wa Kataritai Star Decent
Gabriel Dropout Star Decent
Youjo Senki Star Decent
ACCA Kansatsu-ka Question mark Decent
Sangatsu no Lion Star Decent
Tales of Zestiria the X Old dog Decent
Rewrite ss2 Old dog Winning failure
Masamune-kun no Revenge Question mark Nope

Highlight: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
(Shouwa & Genroku Era Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo Descending Stories)

The winner this season is Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Rakugo Shinjuu). The name is a mouthful and it encompasses all the elements that make the show great. It is a historical story spanning across multiple eras, about a traditional Japanese storytelling art–rakugo. It is also about love, death, and descendant; all the intricacies of a human’s life in the flow of time.

It is necessary to watch the first season in order to grasp the context of Rakugo Shinjuu. The story centers on the childhood, ascension, and decline of eighth generation Yurakutei Yakumo. The first season covers his relationship with the art of rakugo and Yurakutei Sukeroku–a man of talent and a brother-in-trade to Yakumo. The contrast and conclusion of the first season leading up to the second season in which Yakumo in his dwindling age now have to deal with end-of-life regrets and traumas.

As far as the sequel is concerned, the main character remains the eighth generation Yakumo but the narrative is placed on his apprentice Yotarou. Season two mirrors many events in season one. The story forces both the viewers and the characters sit through one deja vu after another. In a true descending story fashion, old characters who are thought to be long gone take the stage in new, younger characters.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu snapshot
I know nothing about this person, not even after his death.

It truly highlights how little I actually know about these people; even the ones whose entire life and even after death I have been shown. It is not a lack of character depth. No, it is quite the opposite. The characters here are simply too complex and too multi-dimensional. They are as real as fictional characters can get. This is definitely a strong point of Rakugo Shinjuu.

And don’t get me started on the bone-chilling voice acting, the amazing camera cuts, the masterful execution of the plot devices, or the craftiness of narrative, dialogues, and audio-visual cues. There are so many things done right in this show, one post is not enough to cover them all. Hence, with the bitterness of heart, I’ll stop here.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Rakugo Shinjuu for those who can appreciate a good, thought-provoking book. I advise against watching it for those who just want to sit in on the comedy, the action or the fanservice; there is none of these in Rakugo Shinjuu. Finally, romance lovers, be warned. While romance exists, it’s not very prominent and, naturally, the only things that come out of Shinjuu–a double suicide–are grieves and broken hearts.

Runner-up: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2
(KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! 2)

The runner-up this season is another Studio DEEN’s show: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Konosuba 2). Yet another mouthful of a title, the show is a fantasy comedy that runs on absurdity, quirkiness and the glorious Micheal Bay’s explosion meme (he’s not among the staff, mind you).

Konosuba 2 takes on the “new fantasy world adventure” theme in a cheerful, optimistic approach. There is no dark twist, no tragedy, no deep political powerplay. Everything here can be taken at face value. The new world is simply wonderful and it is one heck of a time to be alive. The plot is non-existent, plot devices are few and far between, characters are portrayed at gag level; they are walking satires of the cliches and archetypes they represent; and the jokes, oh the jokes, are taken to the next level.

Konosuba snapshot
Oh, the things I’ll always remember about this world…

Unlike Rakugo Shinjuu, storytelling is not the focus of Konosuba 2. The entirety of Konosuba 2 hinges on its crazy, seemingly out-of-the-blue conflicts that have equally insane causes and over-the-top resolution. It is basically Gurren lagann on crack; ramping up the hilarity and toning down the insanity just slightly. Since there is little I can say about the storytelling other than acknowledging its damn funny jokes. I’ll focus more on the studio and their animation for this show.

It takes me a while to get used to Studio DEEN’s miraculous comeback this year. Their track record prior to 2016 has put them in the lower bracket; two knots below the likes of Madhouse, ufotable, and KyoAni in production quality, and on the same level as J.C. Staff. I remember when Little Busters! came out, there was the rage from Key Visual Arts fanbase; oh how the adaptation would not stick without KyoAni’s all-star team. And the punchline of a bad joke at the time was:

“At least it’s not DEEN”.

Yes, this is to show just how negative the studio used to be perceived.

But behold! They have two highlight shows this season, raking in praises and critical acclaims everywhere I go. It is almost as if they’re trying to make a statement, that they are capable of greatness in both serious and non-serious shows. I believe after this season, they have successfully acquired the attention they sought.

There are a few things I notice that have been improved since Fate/Stay night (2006) and Sakamoto desu ga (2016). For once, the backgrounds are much more detailed these days. Camera angles and placements are also much more professionally done. CG effects such as blur, flare, soft light and fish-eye lens are now employed by the studio better than before. These elements are subtle but integral to the viewing experiences.

As an adaptation of a light novel, the credits for all the awesome pose and countless of meme-worthy reaction faces in Konosuba 2 go to the animators. They did a good job on the animation and poses there.

However, the quality of character art remains lackluster and so is the lighting. Compare DEEN’s art to any of the top-tier studios and the differences will become quite obvious. They have fewer stroke count, ergo, fewer strands of hair on the character’s head. The coloring for DEEN’s characters consists of base color and a shadow. KyoAni, in contrast, colors their characters in at least three tones: base, mid-tone (or highlight) and shadow. Some shows will have even more tones for each color.

And those are just the basics.

In the end, their poor character art quality is hidden behind the new background, atmospheric and animation techniques. The viewing experience is fantastic and I’m willing to put them in the same tier as the current White Fox. There are still rooms for improvement but for now, I’m happy with what I’m seeing.

So, the recommendations for this show. This is a fun, fun show in all regards. Anyone who can enjoy good ‘ol Tom & Jerry will enjoy Konosuba 2. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Winning failure: Rewrite

Welcome to the part where I award a dunce’s cap to the worst of the worst writings in anime. The first winning failure award goes to…Rewrite!

This show panders too much to novel readers. Good luck understanding what is going on without reading the base novel. The main character is a Marty Stu by the book, who then, in moon’s arc, becomes God momentarily for no reason. The only thing good in earth’s arc is the side plot in a not-Afghan battlefield, the rest of the main plot devolves to circle-jerking.

Without spoiling the mind-boggling mess of irrationality, I give my honest summary of the plot as follow: “This is a story of a young girl’s overly complicated suicidal, genocidal and selfcest turns twincest relationship involving the planet earth, the moon, and a harem of strangers.”

This anime seriously needs a rewrite.

2 thoughts on “Highlight: Winter 2017 anime season”

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