Highlight: Summer 2017 anime season

NewGame_header2
“Just as I was getting complacent, you reminded me that I still want to improve” — Kagami Kou

It’s been a long summer indeed.

Much to my dismay (or pleasure), I have the longest and most well-rounded selection ever this season. The new Owarimonogatari anime looks great as always though too many spoilers from the novel ruined it for me. On the list of things that were “ruined by spoilers,” this season were New Game!! and Fate Apocrypha, though they both escaped the fate in very different manners.

I haven’t touched New Game‘s manga since the spin-off and thus it remains salvageable. It is the highlight this season so I will save all my praises for later. As for Fate Apocrypha, A-1 Pictures messed up its directing is so bad that the spoilers couldn’t possibly make it worse. That’s just the normal flippant A-1 Pictures for you.

Among some of the more notable shows this season, there are two kinds of shows: the clever kind and the straightforward kind. The clever kinds are Sagrada Reset and Kakegurui; they have the smartest, most convoluted riddles and solutions ever. They emphasize the mystery element and keep the audience thinking about the solution; sort of like Spice and Wolf or Death Note.

On the other hand, straightforward shows like Made in Abyss, Boku no Hero Academia and Princess Principal have their own appeals too. For Made in Abyss, it is the loom of classic Lovecraftian horror in play. For Princess Principal, it is the Steampunk espionage premise (less Joker Game and more Totally Spies!). And for HeroAca…the combat is just awesome to watch.

There’s also Kantai Collection the movie but I shall not acknowledge its existence.

SEASONAL SELECTION

Show Expectation Rating
New Game!! Cash cow Highlight (1)
Tsurezure Children Star Highlight (2)
Sagrada Reset Star Decent
Owarimonogatari Cash cow Decent
Made in Abyss Question mark Decent
Kakegurui Question mark Decent
Boku no Hero Academia Cash cow Decent
Centaur no Nayami Question mark Decent
Koi to Uso Question mark Decent
Isekai Shokudo Question mark Decent
Princess Principal Star Decent
Fate Apocrypha Cash cow Decent (Pending)
Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni Old dog Mediocre
Vatican Kiseki Chousakan Question mark Mediocre
Re-Creators Star Mediocre
Konbini Kareshi Star Mediocre
Jikan no Shihaisha Old dog Nope
Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou Old dog Nope
Saiyuki Reload Blast Old dog Nope

HIGHLIGHT: NEW GAME!!

New Game!! is an anime about cute girls doing cute office drama. The story revolves around a fresh-from-school game artist Suzukaze Aoba and her daily mishaps at a game development studio. At first glance, it appears to be a slice of life, comedy show stacked with moe elements; in other words, the sitcom of the anime world. But, a dumb slice of life comedy show wouldn’t make the highlight, New Game!! is more than that.

For the uninitiated, this is the second season of the series. The first season, New Game! (with one exclamation mark), was ranked #7 in 13 shows last summer and I was clearly less than impressed by it. The first season follows Aoba’s greenhorn days in the company whereas the second season follows her interaction, now from a senior’s point of view, with the newcomers. Her growth and change of perspective are reminiscent of that of Yakumo the Eighth in Rakugo Shinjuu. There are rebellious youngsters, there is complacency from the elders, and there are also tearful farewells. However, that’s where the similarity ends.

New Game!! tries to show as many points of views to any given human conflicts in the workplace as it could and as simple and as complete as possible. Then, it gives solutions, ones that are noble, ones that are positive but ones not everyone has the courage (or bipartisanship) to take. It preaches humility, self-improvement, and initiative to both the newcomers and the incumbents. It masterfully exposes toxic situations in the modern workplace and how to defuse them.

New Game!! snapshot
You know, girl, you can’t fight nepotism like that. Been there, done that.

The strength of this show lies in its ability to reflect the audience. I could not help but see myself in Narumi, Yagami and Aoba’s shoes at some points in my career. In particular, watching Narumi lashing out at Nene is like seeing my muddy face in the mirror for the first time and hating it. It is shameful, eye-opening, and I’m grateful for it.

I absolutely recommend this show to anyone who has had at least some experiences working in an office before. A show is the best when it is relatable after all. The comedy element is also on point, played as a setup for more serious moments and never to undermine them. This, I feel is a big improvement from Doga Kobo studio’s previous highlighted show: Plastic Memories. They are doing very well for a (relatively) new studio and I can expect great things from them in the future.

Finally, as a postscript, the bear cannibals killed me.

Somebody, fund PECO, please!

RUNNER UP: TSUREZURE CHILDREN
UTTERLY CHILDISH CHILDREN

Tsurezure Children took this season by storm. It’s everyone’s favorite indeed. The show definitely deserves the highlight but the lack of focus and the short plot’s length makes it inferior to New Game!! in the final selection.

The show features romantic and comedic shorts from several student couples in a rotation. It did a magnificent feat showcasing their personalities and telling their stories in a minute or two. Every second of the show is silly, hilarious, surprising, heart-warming, frustrating, melancholic and endearing at the same time. It plays with the audience’s emotions and it does so masterfully.

TsurezureChildren_snapshot
Adorable, stoic, bold and emotionally insecure character. Can I keep her?

The greatest strength and also the greatest weakness of Tsurezure Children is its episodic and anthological format. Having so many couples, so many colorful personalities sharing the limelight means there is bound to be a favorite for everyone. Nevertheless, it also means there will be little time to explore these characters in any depth.It is a buffet of appetizers, as tasty as the meal might be, it could never fill anyone’s belly.

Even then, I believe it might have been inappropriate to stretch the stories longer than they are. Romance, like candy, is the sweetest on the first bite and the sour aftertaste is an essential part of the experience. Evidently, the impact of later episodes felt much less to my liking than the earlier ones; especially when the couples started to mingle. I feel having more than one couple on screen took away too much attention from the short’s central couple; thus weakening the short considerably.

Regardless of criticisms, the show manages to hold on quite well all the way to the end. I definitely recommend Tsurezure Children for romance seekers and comedy lovers alike.

WINNING FAILURE: KONBINI KARESHI
CONVENIENCE STORE BOYFRIENDS

Konbini Kareshi is a poor imitation of last season’s hit Tsuki ga Kirei. It has many strong elements of Tsuki ga Kirei that I mentioned in the last season’s review: “Show, don’t tell” storytelling, realistic character design, natural conversations, fantastic soundtrack, etc. But, like Fate Apocrypha, it suffered from a number of directing and visual issues.

On the directing part, some scenes, especially the dialogues in front of the convenience store, could have used better camera angles and cuts. The scene where Honda rushes to Mihashi’s side lacks energy and emotion; in contrast to a similar scene in Tsuki ga Kirei; due to disruptive cuts and poor camera placement. If anything, these are the climatic scenes where they should have gone all out with lighting effects, glows and whatnot, but they didn’t. They didn’t do that in any of the important scenes. Every scene is the same: plain, dull and unremarkable moving sketches.

There are too many still shots in the show that Konbini Kareshi made SHAFT’s powerpoint anime Bakemonogatari look rich in comparison. At the same time, there is too much time wasted on scenes that add nothing to the overall narrative; lunch scenes, walking scenes, sitting in the dark scenes, door opening scenes, swimming scenes, buying scenes, putting things in the fridge scenes, and so on and so forth.

What happened to Chekhov’s gun principle?

The visual is less than impressive, basic strokes and one shading tone, and the animation is jerking as though everyone has Parkinson. This show is so bad on all the technicalities that it makes Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni look good in comparison. And I actually enjoyed Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni a lot more despite its cornier premise.

The story here is good, though, so at least I should seek out the novel and give it a try.

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