The spring season has already begun, but today I’m here to take a look back at the season past. This winter... wasn’t all that great. For me, most of the truly noteworthy series were known quantities, either fall leftovers or sequels to stuff I already liked. The new stuff could in my opinion be mostly described as boring, generic or physically painful, but nonetheless, let’s get into it.

Keep in mind I will only cover shows that ended this season, because those are what I’ll have a complete opinion on, which means I won’t be talking about Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation or Little Witch Academia until next season. (This time I’ll also hit on any newly released movies or OVAs I saw, because why the hell not?) Lastly, there will be no full reviews for anything this season, partially due to my hiatus, so this will cover everything I saw this winter. Starting with…

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon (Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid) 

The latest from good old Kyoto Animation, telling the story of a single Japanese programmer whose life and apartment is invaded by a cheerful, infatuated dragon maid. I had been skeptical of Maid Dragon before the season began, not only because Phantom World shook my faith in the studio, but also because I’d heard it would be pretty ecchi and that’s not my scene, but thankfully the series more or less delivered on typical KyoAni goodness, with sweet characters, funny jokes and gorgeous aesthetic design combining to create a simple but heartwarming package. My biggest complaints would be that not all characters are equally entertaining, and that my pre-season ecchi scare was unfortunately not entirely off-base (with one dragon in particular embodying both of those issues), but overall it was still a light and fun series that I would have no trouble recommending. Next up, continuing the trend of cute inhuman girls…

Demi-chan wa Kataritai (Interviews with Monster Girls)

Just hearing the phrase “monster girls” could set a lot of different expectations. Many would likely think of something along the lines of 2015’s Monster Musume, but you would be almost entirely incorrect. While both do have their harem leanings, with a single male main character and otherwise female cast, Monster Musume leans much closer to the fanservice side of the equation, while Demi-chan is a surprisingly low-key, grounded slice of life. What I (and I think most) found most interesting about this series was how it handled the monster girls. It took an almost deadpan view of these supernatural creatures, like dullahans and vampires. A lot of thought was given, not only to how these beings would interact with others, and any barriers they might face conversing with normal people, but also simply how they live, the struggles and differences of integrating into “normal” society when you have to carry your own head around or when your mere touch has an aphrodisiac effect on the opposite sex. It didn’t shoot for the stars, but it didn’t need to, content to be a warm, friendly series that just tries to put a smile on your face. But that smile would probably be dashed if you happened to check out...

Fate/Grand Order: First Order

A spinoff of the Fate series, Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night, that adapts the iOS game Fate/Grand Order... and it is just terrible: info dumps, one-dimensional characters, incoherent plot twists, very lackluster production values, and incomplete to boot, to get you to try out the game. It’s a real winner all around. It’s only a single special, a little over an hour in length, but even if you’re a big fan of Fate like myself, I cannot recommend watching this mess. Another game adaptation this season was...

Chain Chronicle: Haecceitas no Hikari (Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas)

I was a little surprised by the fact that I heard almost literally zero discussion on this series, in any capacity, if only because its premise is kind of a fun one. What would happen, if at the end of a big fantasy game like Fire Emblem, what would happen if at the final boss fight, the hero lost? Where would the story go from there? Well, Chain Chronicle tells that exact tale, in a manner that I would describe as shallow but entertaining. I am always an advocate of the belief that strong execution trumps a generic or unremarkable premise, but that does not preclude a fairly strong premise from overshadowing lackluster execution. While most of Chain Chronicle’s characters were only names and a single trait, if that, and it pretty much just throws you into the setting with very little setup or worldbuilding, I found myself interested by its story ideas, even if they weren’t always articulated all that well: how the people scorned the hero after his defeat, how his forces succumbed to in-fighting and despair, how even the hero himself was stricken by depression and self-doubt, fearing that he could never measure up, because he just had his chance and completely failed. I don’t think it’s a series that anyone else will remember, but I at least will not forget it as a passably okay time. We may as well continue the video game streak with...

Tales of Zestiria the X Season 2

I’m going against my own rules here because technically Zestiria’s finale doesn’t air until later this month, but for better or worse this is a series with enough consistency that I can guarantee my overall thoughts won’t change, those being pretty much ditto my thoughts on the first season. The plot is straightforward, and the characters simplistic. This is only a show to watch if you’re an ufotable mega-fan, like myself, in awe whenever they flex their digital muscle. As much as I love looking at pretty pictures, I do hope that soon ufotable tackles a project with a little more meat to its story, because at this point their work is practically just a showcase for their effects and animation team. Speaking of which...

Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale-

I almost didn’t want to cover Ordinal Scale, because I really had no desire to poke the SAO beehive, but in the end decided to hell with it. You should know that, excepting stray episodes of Pokemon on Cartoon Network as a kid, Sword Art Online was my first anime ever, so while I can sympathize with the series’ many many complaints, I do have an extreme soft spot for it. So, given that, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I enjoyed Ordinal Scale. It still has the classic SAO problems of shaky writing and poor pacing, but the music rocked and the action animation was awesome. It was something to enjoy for the spectacle, not appreciate as a “work of art”, and as far as that goes, I think it did well enough. (And yes, I am excited for the upcoming Alicization adaptation, which the post-credits teased in no uncertain terms.) Man, sometimes it pays to be a fan of the mega-hits, because they’re not going to stop cranking ‘em out. Another A-1 production this season was...

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen (Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga)

A sequel to the original adaptation all the way back from 2011, telling the tale of a boy who discovers that he is the son of Satan, and then joins an organization of exorcists to defeat his father’s demons. I thought the first season of Blue Exorcist was kind of lame and boring, the whole way through, not just the anime-original stuff, but I decided to hop on for this second season because I heard oh-so-much from manga readers about how great this arc would be, but now that we’ve wrapped up, I can say without restraint… no, it is still very much the same old Blue Exorcist. It’s as milktoast of a shounen as I can imagine, inspiring neither praise nor scorn, but mere ambivalence, which in some ways is almost worse. Arguably, this season was actually even worse than the first, because say what you will about the original Blue Exorcist, but it at least understood that deliberate character writing was outside the scope of its strengths. It is then especially irritating that this season devotes so much of its runtime to that, making things actually pretty boring in what’s supposed to be a shounen action show. Speaking of boring...

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.)

ACCA follows Jean Otus, an inspection agent in the kingdom of Dowa, who over the course of the series one-by-one audits the nation’s 13 districts, all the while catching hints of a coup d’état against the monarchy brewing beneath the surface. I’ll probably catch some flak for this one, but I don’t care. Look, I can deal with “slow”, methodical shows. Mushishi is one of my favorite anime of all time. Rakugo was my favorite anime of 2016, and probably 2017 too. But ACCA, for most of its runtime, I just found boring. It’s a whole show of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and to be fair, it eventually does, but it’s only after hours of basically just vague suspense and nothing actually happening, with such a languid, lethargic attitude that I’d be checking the time wondering how many more minutes this episode could possibly have left. It picked up in the last quarter, but that doesn’t just forgive the tedium of the prior majority. The decent visual presentation helped, but it wasn’t nearly inspired or technically impressive enough to interest me in its own right. However, another show that supremely impressed me with its aesthetic was…

3-gatsu no Lion (March comes in like a lion)

From studio Shaft. March revolves around high school student Rei Kiriyama, who at his age is already a professional shogi player. Rei lives on his own, and tends to neglect himself, but he finds some solace in a friendly trio of sisters, whose bright presence helps guide him down life’s narrow path. Don’t be fooled, despite the setup, there is nary a hint of harem in this show, and there are in fact just as many (if not more) male characters than female. Where March excels is in how perfectly it expresses the dichotomy between Rei’s introspective depression, when he is alone, versus the happier, friendly world he is forced into when he interacts with others, underscored by all sorts of memorable Shaft-isms along the way. The characters are a treat, the music solid, the humor... a little hit or miss, but otherwise, it’s a fantastic show that leaves me eagerly awaiting season 2. Another series that left me impatiently waiting for more was...

Gintama.

What can I even say? If you don’t know what I think of Gintama, I have a whole review, but the short version is: I love it. And just the same, I love this season, although it was not my favorite season. There was some overlong exposition and a few questionable turns of the plot, but when it was firing on all cylinders, Gintama always knows how to deliver a hell of a time, never entirely forgetting its comedic roots even when the plot is now more serious than ever. The final season cannot come soon enough. That was brief, I know, but that’s all I need to say. It’s more Gintama. Check out my review for a whole 15 minutes of thoughts if you really want ‘em. Next up...

Masamune-kun no Revenge (Masamune-kun’s Revenge)

To set the stage, our main character Masamune-kun was once a fat little boy, but in his teenage years he has trained himself into a state of personal health and fitness, becoming near-unrecognizable in the process. This is exactly his plan, because his goal in life is to make a certain girl fall in love with him, and then dump her, to get revenge for her own rejection when they were kids. *sigh* This is a series I could have seen myself somewhat enjoying if I watched it like two or three years ago, when I was still pretty new to the whole anime thing and every experience was a new experience. Today though, the absolute dearth of creative, interesting, or even funny ideas in a series like Masamune-kun is mind-numbing. There’s nothing here. I am by nature a positive person, and very rarely outright hate an anime, but Masamune-kun is one of the lucky ones. No character is likable or interesting, every plot development is predictable, contrived, or both, and even the production values are terribly flat. I detest what the series represents: a hollow, generic harem high school show with no ounce of its own merits or ideas. Thank god I didn’t watch Fuuka, because from what I hear, it was even worse. Next, we might as well go to another high school romance series, but one that handles itself very, very differently...

Kuzu no Honkai (Scum’s Wish)

Hanabi Yasuraoka in in love with her childhood friend Narumi Kanai. There’s just one problem: Kanai is her teacher, and completely oblivious to her feelings. Another classmate, Mugi Awaya, is similarly in love with his own teacher, Akane Minagawa. With both of them lost to the vice of unrequited, forbidden love, the two decide to find comfort in each other. Scum’s Wish was my favorite non-sequel of the season. It’s the polar opposite of the idealized, lustless romance you’ll see in something like Clannad. Instead, Scum’s Wish refuses to shy away from the intimacy, awkwardness and physicality of relationships, and populates its cast almost exclusively with broken, melancholic individuals who either hate themselves or everyone else. If you couldn’t guess, it’s not the cheeriest time, but I was captivated nonetheless, as this train of misery barrelled on, with no one losing but no one really winning either. It helps that the show is also very pretty, in an often subdued kind of way, which helps contribute to the suffocating atmosphere. Next up, the season’s breakout hit (in Japan at least)...

Kemono Friends

Kemono Friends isn’t much to look at, for good reason. It was produced by like 10 people on such a shoestring budget that they couldn’t even animate a car’s wheels spinning in the opening. But somehow, it managed to capture an audience anyway. Not so much here in the West, but in Japan, Kemono Friends was hands-down the season’s biggest phenomenon, even leaking into Twitter’s worldwide trends by the end. As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t a bad show, but I struggle to see the appeal. Basically it’s a kids show, as cutesy anthropomorphic animals help out other cutesy anthropomorphic animals. There’s some interesting subtle stuff going on with the world itself, in that it is very heavily implied they are in some sort of post-apocalypse, but it’s not like a Madoka or a School-Live where those dark undertones rear their head in a big way. It’s kind of always just background fluff, at least for now. Another project for the series has been announced, but honestly I think it’ll just be more of the same. If someone saw Kemono Friends and liked it a lot more than I did, comment below, because I am legitimately curious as to why. Another show that I don’t love as much as many others seem to is...

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

Ok, I’ve said my controversial, very-much-in-the-minority piece on KonoSuba before, but here we go: I don’t especially care for it, because I generally find its sense of humor a little mean for my tastes, but on the rare occasion it does make me laugh, it’s usually hard. So keeping all that in mind, and since I try to keep up with the most popular shows of the season if only to have an opinion on them, I did watch Season 2 and I mean, yeah, it was about what I expected. Some people complained that this time around the art and animation got a little worse, but I didn’t really mind and I’m not sure I’d even agree, but again more importantly the comedy on my end was still a very hit or very miss experience. I don’t hate it, and I find just enough to enjoy that if they do make another season, I’ll probably check it out, but I’m not itching to read the light novels or anything. Watching KonoSuba is just an experience I have had that I have no strong feelings on one way or the other. However, another comedy I did enjoy this season was…

Gabriel DropOut

Near as I can tell, Gabriel Dropout slowly fell out of favor with the community over the course of the season, primarily with accusations of the humor being shallow, recycling gags and repeating jokes. I can certainly see where these complaints are coming from, but I can’t say I feel the same. DropOut is about a top-tier angel, named Gabriel, who is sent to the human world as part of her studies. While there however, she is corrupted by the vices of the human world, particularly MMO video games, ultimately living a life of decadence and laziness. Aside from the concept itself being a riot in my opinion, there was something about the characters in this show that I just found endearing, even if their jokes were admittedly a little samey. Everyone had their own special relationship with each other, and it sold the idea of these guys being good friends that just gave each other a hard time. The next series also stars a small blonde-haired girl, but that’s just about its only similarity...

Youjo Senki (Saga of Tanya the Evil)

In an alternate WWI era Germany, one of their fastest rising military leaders is no grizzled veteran, nor an old, skilled tactician, but a little girl named Tanya Degurechaff. In stark contrast to her childlike appearance, Tanya’s methods are ruthless and her actions decisive, almost certain to bring victory to her fatherland... but that’s not all. This is technically an isekai show, as Tanya is a visitor from another world. However, she is not the usual quote-unquote “otaku NEET”, but an accomplished Japanese salaryman, reincarnated in this world after angering “God”, or a being calling itself something to that effect. Tanya is a lot more entertaining than one might fear, especially for a new studio without even a single prior work to its name, and actually manages to engage on two levels. Firstly, there’s the dumb fun in watching a cunning antihero at work. Secondly, in its second half, the story takes some subtle but surprising turns, casting a spotlight not only on Tanya’s actions, but the inherent horror and tragedy of war at all. All in all, while not a perfect show, it exceeded my expectations. Next, we have...

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 2

At this moment, Iron-Blooded Orphans is the only Gundam anything that I’ve ever seen, and I now want to change that because I really liked IBO. I couldn’t call anything it does wholly original, but it didn’t need to be. It’s just a fairly well put-together mech drama, laced with enough action, politics, romance and tragedy in just the right proportions for no one aspect to overwhelm the rest. It’s not without its issues (the animation isn’t always the best, the story can occasionally come off as preachy or spend too much time on somewhat irrelevant tangents), but on the whole I have no regrets with this being my first Gundam anime. I’d very much like to check out the series proper, just as soon as I can find the time. Moving along, a series that I really heard no one talking about…

Classicaloid

Underwatched and underrated, I’d say. I kind of picked up Classicaloid just on a whim back during the Fall season, but it was actually a pretty fun time. The titular Classicaloids are great musical composers resurrected into the modern day, such as Mozart and Beethoven, but exaggerated versions of themselves because, y’know, this is anime. The Classicaloids live in a mansion with a couple normal humans and use their Musik to solve whatever problems crop up, in the meantime occupying themselves with all sorts of insane and wacky antics. Classicaloid’s strength, I think, is that the creators seemingly cut loose and used the inherently silly premise as as excuse to tell whatever stories they wanted. In one episode, Schubert turns into a fish and he has to avoid being eaten by the rest of the cast. In another, grilled oranges turn half the characters into zombies, and it’s basically a spoof on the horror genre. In a third, Beethoven is on a quest for the best cup of coffee, and by the end, he’s somehow arguing with little kids on the playground over a spot on an animal rocker. It’s goofy, but it’s amusing, and I wish it had been given more of a chance by the community at large. But, make sure you don’t give a chance to...

Chaos;Child

I didn’t like Chao;Head, but I went into Chaos;Child in good faith that, as I’d been told, Chaos;Head’s faults were almost exclusively those of its adaptation, not the source material itself... but either the Chaos series just cannot get away from bad adaptations or maybe it wasn’t actually very good in the first place, because Child is no better than Head and arguably worse. The show is rushed and nearly incomprehensible, with characters that I could hardly be bothered to care about and occasional dips into extremely dark territory that probably would have been a lot more impactful if I felt like prior I had gotten to know anyone involved, compounded by asinine twists and stupidly ridiculous villains. The semicolon series continues to be such a mixed bag. I should probably get around to Robotics;Notes one of these days, just to complete the package. This next OVA, you should probably check out if you’re a fan of Danganronpa...

Super Danganronpa 2.5

Were you unhappy with the end of Danganronpa 3? Did you think it pulled things out of its ass for the sake of a happy ending, and backpedaled on some great developments from Danganronpa 1 and 2? Well, this probably won’t change your opinion, but if nothing else it tries to bridge some of the leaps in logic that plagued the series’ finale. It doesn’t change the actual events that took place, but does flesh them out a little more, as much as it can within the span of only 20-some minutes. If you’re a diehard enough Danganronpa fan to care, you’ve probably already seen this, but if not, feel free to check it out. And we’ll wrap up with what was, to the surprise of no one, the highlight of the season...

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)

The sequel to my favorite anime of 2016, I never had any doubt that this second season of Rakugo would be great, and lo and behold, it was. Shifting into the present after the first season’s extended flashback, Rakugo continues to weave a mature and compelling drama that not only asks questions about the nature of art and storytelling, but double downs on the emotional crux of our characters with new insights and revelations into their stories. The direction is as superb as ever, ensuring every rakugo performance is not only a joy to watch but almost always critical to the character that is performing, illustrating their passions and struggles with refreshing subtlety. Believe it or not I don’t use this phrasing lightly, but in my opinion Rakugo is a masterpiece, and you should watch it as soon as possible. Please.

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And that’s it! At the end of the day not a completely lost cause, but outside of the very high points like Rakugo and March comes in like a lion, definitely not all that great of a season. Luckily, it looks like next season will be picking up the slack in a big way; at least, if you’ll be watching most of the sequels like myself.


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