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Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? September 2016

October 5, 2016

(This article will be spoiler-free!)

おっす! September has come to a close, and with it, not only the Summer season, but the accompanying anime season as well.
As a creative-minded person, the development of characters and worlds for them to exist in is something I find myself doing even without intending to. My head is constantly aflutter with stories which are born out of mundane everyday occurrences, as well as compelling (though of course I would say that) smaller moments or scenes which come from the strangest inspirations.
The anime industry is just that, an industry – a form of business – and there are irrefutably stories found in anime which are riddled with things included for the sole reason of marketing them to their audiences, but what sets the anime industry apart from other mediums, in my opinion, is the creative freedom beset upon the minds behind our beloved series. It is this creative freedom which draws me to anime, and it is the thing I cherish over any of my favorite characters or stories.
Life is short, and depending on the day you ask, quite meaningless I would say. While we get a handful of decades to live out the lives we’ve been granted, the idea of being lost to time after we’re gone is a depressing one. This is why the creative process is so compelling, and why it’s so important to me. I hope to one day create characters or stories which can faithfully represent the experiences or feelings I’ve had in the brief time I spent here, and outlast and carry forth my memory long after I’ve passed.
As for the Summer anime season, here are the series I watched:

 

54036Amaama to Inazuma-
Inazuka Touhei is a high school teacher with poor culinary skills, and a young daughter named Tsumugi who has an appetite.
Seeing as these two things don’t mesh, Inazuka-sensei enlists the help of one of his students, Iida Kotori, whose mother happens to be a famous cook, to help him prepare tasty meals worthy of Tsumugi’s taste-buds.
What follows is a warm modern tale about building relationships over a hot meal, and building confidence over its preparation.

What I thought- “Irresistible and endearing.”
Inazuma is, to stick to the food-related theme, both bitter and sweet.
While there is a heart-gripping undertone permeating the series, the interactions between the characters and the warmth of their relationships as well as the food they eat resonates superbly, thanks to nicely done production, down-to-earth characterization, and believable voice performances.
It would be easy to be emotionally abusive with the concept of a man trying to happily raise his daughter after her mother has passed, but Inazuma doesn’t trade in that. Rather, this is a slice of life series first and foremost, with liberal helping of food to warm the mood.
Thanks to lovingly realized characters backed by great voicework and tantalizing visuals, Amaama to Inazuma is a series sure to water your mouth as well as your eyes.

 

goods_pic1_54496353_20160620023846Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya: 3rei!!-
Prisma Illya 3rei!! directly follows the events of 2wei!. The battle is done, but the fight is far from over as Illya and her friends find themselves transported to a strange alternate version of their city, which beyond all reason, is enshrouded with cold despite the fact that it’s the middle of Summertime.
What is this world, how will they get back, and who is this family of unfriendly figures looming over them?

What I thought- “Back on track.”
Where the last couple of seasons of Prisma Illya got somewhat sidetracked by ecchi content, the fourth (having a 3 in the title isn’t at all confusing) season does well to restrain itself while leading Illya, Miyu and friends into a new story arc.
It isn’t going to leave you emotionally scarred or pumping your fist in the air, but things are done to try and flesh out some of the characters in this season in ways they haven’t been in the past. I wouldn’t call it at odds with the previous seasons, but 3rei most certainly feels different tonally and especially visually than what we’re used to.
This is a tough series to watch now, due to the unfortunate passing of Matsuki Miyu who voiced Magical Sapphire. The helm is taken up by Kakazu Yumi (who voiced Dita in Vandread), and she does a fine job, but it’ll take time yet for it to seem natural. You can never really remove a voice from a character.
I did like this season though. I hate snow and stories taking place in snowy environments typically, but the contents of this story, removed from the harsh weather, are enjoyable, and while the music within the action scenes is overused a bit, I loved both the OP and ED songs.
As a continuation of the Prisma Illya series as a whole, 3rei!! manages to bring more great action and a somewhat deeper narrative, while retaining some of the ecchi kookiness the series is at this point known for.

 

imageKono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru!-
All artists are romantics, or at least that’s how it would appear, should you step into trusty protagonist Usami Mizuki’s art club.
It is within these walls that the art club’s members each seek out their respective loves, be it the foreigner Collette’s love for all things absurd, the club president’s love for sleep, Uchimaki Subaru’s love for moe anime ladies, or Mizuki herself’s love for… Uchimaki?
Paint and emotions fly in this colorful slice of life comedy series.

What I thought- “Romantic slice-of-lifers rejoice!”
In an arguably overdone genre, you really need to nail your characters or your style to stand out, and while I wouldn’t call Konobi an especially stylish series, the characters and their interactions were a true treat.
There is little here which hasn’t been done to death at this point, but that goes to show how well written the dialogue and how funny the situations found here are. The Summer anime season was strong for slice of life, but Konobi in particular had the most focused cast of characters of the bunch. Their designs are great, and their personalities were equally as entertaining. The doofy foreigner Collette, in particular, was a highlight.
It is also worth noting that Konobi’s ED sequence also sports perhaps the catchiest music of the season.
Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru! won’t win any awards for originality or pizzazz, but for those who enjoy slice of life comedy series, this is a nicely produced entry filled with great gags, catchy music and lovable characters.

 

ckwbpbluoaa1tkThunderbolt Fantasy-
Seeking ultimate power, the Xuan Gui Zong clan riffles the world for sacred objects and weaponry.
The Tian Xing Jian is one such weapon of power; a sword protected by Dan Fei and her brother’s line.
After an attack by the Xuan Gui Zong, her brother is slain, and Dan Fei is left to defend the crossguard of the Tian Xing Jian which the two of them have sworn to protect all on her own.
It isn’t long before she crosses paths with the mysterious Lin Xue Ya and the brash swordsman Shang Bu Huan, who reluctantly agree to join Dan Fei in protecting her clan’s treasured weapon from the Xuan Gui Zong.

What I thought- “Visually striking but often slow.”
While it isn’t an anime, the style of story-telling and most especially action found in Thunderbolt Fantasy makes me pretty comfortable with talking about it in an anime article.
I feel like the folks who aren’t necessarily into anime and know little about it outside of the most mainstream of series, think and talk of anime as “just dumb over the top action”, which is kind of funny considering how over the top the action found in this series is, yet it delivers that action through both truly astounding practical effects, as well as computer generated ones.
It comes out of the wings swinging with it, too. Ornately designed Taiwanese puppets do battle with one another in scenes shockingly graphic and legitimately breathtaking.
Being unfamiliar with Taiwanese folklore, I’m unclear whether the tale told here of a traveling swordsman and a princess protecting her family’s secrets is a known story or whether it’s totally original, but regardless of which it might be, the story told here is solid.
I might say that front-loading the series with crazy action makes the middle of the story feel slow, as more time is spent on witty dialogue than on the field of battle, but this complaint is one of the few I might have.
The degree at which Thunderbolt Fantasy goes off the rails with its action scenes may dissuade some, but whether you love the contents of the narrative told here or are in it for the blood, this is a series that immediately feels like something unique.

 

bmk1rezAmanchu!-
While she holds dearly onto the pictures of her old life, high school student Ooki Futaba feels an inescapable loneliness now that she has started her life miles away from her friends.
Kohinata Hikari is a helplessly energetic young woman with a love for swimming who is attending the same school as Futaba, and upon crossing paths, Futaba finds herself swept up in Hikari’s antics.
It’s in this unexpected encounter with Hikari in which an interest in scuba forms, and through this new hobby, Futaba and Hikari’s bond grows exponentially.

What I thought- “Heartfelt and lovable.”
This series sort of came out of nowhere, but might be my show of the season.
“Scuba anime? Will it be some moe thing? I guess I’ll watch that.” I thought, and thanks to my hubris, I was more than surprised by how warm and effective Amanchu! turned out being.
There is scuba to be had, but while this series uses the activity as a bit of a backdrop, the tale told here of supporting your friends as well as finding the courage to move on from how things used to be is truly wonderful.
The sights and sounds are great, and this is a series with standout directing. In a genre of prolonged chatty scenes, it makes a notable impression when that extra effort is spent to make a conversation interesting to watch. Whether it’s subtle placement of characters within a shot, or keeping the viewer engaged by other means; this is a series with nicely written and well executed dialogue, but scenes surrounding that dialogue that are equally as interesting to watch.
It pains me to say it, but I feel as though this is a series which will fly under many people’s radar, but I genuinely believe Amanchu! to be something special.
A wonderful tone. Relatable characters. Doofy charm. Substantial production. Amanchu! might not look like much on first appearances, but give it the chance, and you’ll find a series with a warm tone and very little not to love.

 

momokuriMomokuri-
Kurihara Yuki is a little… weird.
She sort of has a thing for underclassman Momotsuki Shinya. Or rather… more than a thing. She’s helplessly obsessed.
Always lurking in the shadows, Kurihara takes every opportunity possible to snap pictures of Momotsuki, and she has even begun collecting odds and ends Momotsuki has interacted with, such as canned drinks or straws!
This obsession comes to a head when Kurihara works up the courage to ask Momotsuki out, and to her great surprise he says yes.
How might their relationship change now that it’s a two-way street?

What I thought- “Cute to the nth degree.”
Momokuri seems like the sort of thing that is very much for you, or very, very much not.
If moe were a pen, and cuteness were paper, this is what might be produced at their meeting.
As a slice of life series (sensing a theme here?), the plot is minimal, and even compared to the other series mentioned here, there isn’t much going on in Momokuri.
Despite that though, I loved this series. Sure it’s somewhat one-note, and the ‘cute’ is laid out thicker than molasses, but the characters and their interactions were helplessly charming. Kuriyama and Momotsuki’s antics are supplemented wonderfully by a cast of strong supporting characters, one of which has rapidly become one of my favorite characters in recent history.
 Momokuri may lack substance to its narrative, but thanks to an irresistible cast of characters and some solid situations for them to intermingle with one another in funny ways, it is a slice of life moe series that, if you can tolerate its cuteness, is endearing and hilarious.

 

769a9f1493a19fa441bc156e5fac74d11467144284_fullRewrite-
The high school years are important.
It is these years in which it is the mission of every young man to develop as many relationships with as many cute classmates as he possibly can, and Tennouji Kotarou has done well for himself.
Rather, one might say that when considering that after a bizarre encounter with a mysterious girl, Kotarou joins his school’s Occult Club, and finds himself surrounded on all sides by young ladies.
Seeing to make good on a deal made by the club’s president, Kotarou and his new club mates take it upon themselves to seek out and reveal occult happenings to the world, but what they find when seeking them out may turn out to be more than any of them had bargained for.

What I thought- “Great ideas lost in a muddled second half.”
Key has a fairly good track record when it comes to adaptations of its visual novel series into anime, with the heart-wrenching Clannad and the perfectly solid Little Busters! to name a few, and if you’ve watched Key series in the past, you may have an idea for the tone and style of Rewrite.
This is a series which builds the viewer’s bond with its characters during the first half, which plays out as a typical slice of life school comedy. It’s this comedy which Rewrite excels at. Thanks to hilarious delivery from Kotarou’s CV, Morita Masakazu, sharp dialogue and a few spins on what are at this point classic gags, the early going rarely failed to have me laughing aloud.
It’s the transition into the sci-fi tinged second half where this series falters, and mostly in part to its pacing. Where the main cast of characters were given the comedic first half to breathe and interact with one another, giving time for the viewer to get to know them, the second brings secret warring factions, bizarre magic, and a host of new characters, many of which come and go before you can so much as remember their names. If there is a redeeming aspect to this strange turn however, it would be the conclusion of the narrative. Whether it’s to be lauded or laughed at, it is undeniably something to bear witness to.
Aside from an often convoluted plot, Rewrite has a clean look and sound to it. Some of the character designs are terrific, and some of them are terrible, and overall I would say it is a series which in equal measure achieves and fails to hit the notes it’s tuning for.
Rewrite might have iffy aim, but despite missing the mark with its pacing in the later half, it is a series which somehow manages to leave a lasting impression despite its faults.

 

sadfasdfdsOrange-
If you could send a letter to yourself, 10 years in the past, wouldn’t you? What might you say? Would you try to steer yourself away from regret?
Takamiya Naho one day receives such an opportunity. When a lengthy letter from someone who claims to be herself from the future arrives in her hands, it is revealed to her that her class would receive a transfer student soon.
Shockingly, the letter is telling the truth, as a young man named Naruse Kakeru joins her class soon thereafter.
A broken clock is right twice a day, but the letter grabs Naho’s attention when it explains that Kakeru is suicidal, and that she and her friends 10 years in the future have regretted the way things went leading up to his passing ever since.

What I thought- “Spinning wheels and falling flat.”
Suicide is a difficult subject. It’s difficult to talk about, and it’s difficult to properly depict the frustrations and the heartache it causes in a fictional story, and “frustration” I feel, is a good descriptor for Orange as a series.
It would be easy for a story to use suicide as a shortcut to being abusive toward the viewer’s heartstrings, and thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case here, but while this series doesn’t insult the viewer outright with misuse of its material, this is a series which takes no risks and in turn reaps no rewards with its narrative or delivery.
A part of the issue with Orange is its cast of characters. Despite a winner here or there, their interactions and repeated flubs suck the air out of many scenes. This is the case with smaller insignificant ones, but also scenes which seem meant to be triumphant or cathartic which only manage to draw out a snicker due in part to their flat delivery. Inconsistent production quality adds to the issue.
Where a series may use downtime to build the relationships between characters or the viewer, much of Orange’s time is spent on the same hesitant scenes in which Naho misunderstands or fails to act upon some blatantly obvious thing. While she is voiced by the wonderful Hanazawa Kana, she is a severely uninteresting character, and her lack of common sense makes many scenes, notably early on, frustrating to watch.
A grand number of superfluous scenes, head-scratching character motivations and the inability to say anything meaningful about the topics it treads in save for “suicide is probably bad”, Orange simply didn’t do anything for me.
Orange might be a story coming from the right place, but it is a story which doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do with its premise, and save for a couple funny character moments, it is a difficult series to recommend.

 

Out with the old and in with the new! The Autumn season is absolutely brimming with promising looking series. From the European stylings of Mahoutsukai no Yome to the tried and true mesh of military moe and magical girls Brave Witches will bring, to a surprise second season of everyone’s favorite physical workout series, there are welcomed continuations of great series from the past, as well as new surprises. I wish I had the time to pick more than a handful to follow.
October brings the official start to shooter video game season. The release of Gears of War 4 (which I may or may not check out, depending on how potential coop folk turn out) is followed by the promotional beta for Infinite Warfare, then to be followed by Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 in the weeks thereafter. I’m excited to hop into the games mentioned, but I’m even more excited for the surge of shooters to pass, because my wallet is sure to be hurting.
I will be sure to post reviews or at least talky articles pertaining to most or all of these, and that new feature I’ve been dreaming up is still on the back burner. Stay tuned!
Halloween comes once a year, but your stories might get spoiled any time! Beware!
(Last year this month.)
終わりだ!

From → Anime

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