Greetings, and welcome to the last seasonal collab of a terrible year in almost everything but anime, so try to take solace in the following selection of above-average shows. The most popular series might come as no surprise given that Hell has frozen over (a phrase which remains perpetually amusing to anyone who has read Dante’s Inferno), and otherwise the roster contains the requisite amount of violence, depression, insanity and assholery. Perhaps new and welcome to the stable is wordiness, wrestling, manlove and asslove. I said perhaps.
The year is almost over, but don’t underestimate the last few weeks’ ability to pile on some more. Hang in there, everyone.
The 9 New Shows To Watch
Yuri!!! on ICE
Written by: MementoMorie
Genre: Sports, Drama, Romance
Spoiler-free Synopsis: After Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki suffers a major defeat and embarrassment at the international Grand Prix Finale, he finds himself at a crossroads in his career. At 23, he’s not the best or the youngest athlete, but he’s not ready to give up either. Yuri returns to his hometown to try and get back in touch with why he loves skating. After a video of Yuri practicing a routine from his longtime idol, prodigy skater Viktor Niforikov, is leaked to the web, Viktor is inspired to shake up his own life and mentor his fan. With Viktor as his new coach, Yuri is challenged to find his own, bold style after a career of living cautiously. But to come out on top, he’ll have to face another Yuri - 15 year old wunderkind Yuri Plisetsky - who isn’t too happy about someone else winning Viktor’s attention.
Why You Should Be Watching: Yuri!!! on Ice has the drama and rivalries that mark a great sports anime, but it has more in common with Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju than, say, Haikyuu!!. From both Yuri’s to minor characters in the figure skating scene, the show is a nuanced look at artistic motivation and the different ways people pour themselves and their vulnerabilities into their achievements. That’s not to say the skating isn’t a big draw! Director Sayo Yamamoto (The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, Michiko and Hatchin) has clearly done extensive research to make the skating world of the show realistic and immersive.The elaborate costume designs are often based on real clothing, and the team even consulted with champion (and possible real life Viktor) Evgeny Plushenko’s choreographer to create engaging and accurate routines.It’s detailed enough that many real figure skaters have picked up on the anime!
If you took those factors alone, Yuri!!! would be a fun and exciting show, but there’s something even greater at work. Yamamoto has never shied away from examining love and sexuality in its many forms and Yuri!!! is no exception. The story has been building the deep bond between Yuri and Viktor and as of the latest episode, it’s pretty unambiguously romantic and sexual in nature. The development of the relationship has tied in beautifully with both men’s own character arcs. It’s all coming together to create an intimate picture of how love can change us and affect our growth as people, partners, and professionals.
Recommended by: Dil, Gugsy, jonuiuc, Krakken_Unleashed, Koda, MementoMorie, Nomadic Dec, RockmanDash12, Shade, Thatsmapizza
Written by: Nan
Genre: FLIP FLAP FLIP FLAP FLIP FLAP
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Cocona is a reserved high-schooler who has good grades and attends a prep school, but doesn’t really have any friends. Papika is an unrestrained bundle of energy who hasn’t a care in the world. One day, the two suddenly meet, and are whisked away to the fantastical otherworld of Pure Illusion, where a treasure said to grant any wish lay hidden.
Why you should be watching: Because it’s a feast for the eyes, ears, and heart; vibrant color, fluid animation, and subtle sound design enchant, delight, and transport you to its many varied locations while its restrained, deliberate screenplay evokes and enthralls. Flip Flappers chooses to show instead of tell, and it does not hold your hand. We’re given glimpses of larger, ominous forces at play, but we barely know what (much less why) and it’s in no rush to tell us. It doesn’t need to. The broader plot paints a mysterious and foreboding backdrop to its world while its foreground is brightened by Cocona, Papika, their relationship, and Cocona’s gradual acceptance of her own desires. And what a painting it is! Each fantastic world feels almost like a separate work that emulates a genre, director, or even a studio —- all at no loss to its own identity, creativity, or forward progression. The mundane shines no less brilliantly, with locales you can almost smell.
Be it for the big picture or the small, it’s hard to take your eyes off of Flip Flappers; its canvas is at once tempestuous and tempered with color and love. We can’t yet know whether its many blank spaces are purposeful, imperfections, or hide yet more grandeur, but it’s spellbinding to think you may be watching a masterpiece develop before your eyes.
Recommended by: Dil, Gugsy, jonuiuc, Koda, MementoMorie, Nan, Nomadic Dec, Requiem, Shade, Thatsmapizza
Fune wo Amu - [The Great Passage]
Genre: Wordy, Slice of Life
Written by: NomadicDec
Spoiler-free Synopsis: The Great Passage is a unique drama that marries the romantic developments of its main character, Mitsuya Majime, with a detailed foray into the dictionary creation process. The result is spellbinding.
Why you should be watching: The Great Passage is a singular creation, not least for novel subject matter. Aside from deftly finding intrigue in what could easily be monotonous word selection, there is a strong thematic weight to the work: the unpopularity of dictionary-making is both a plot point and used as a vector to thoroughly explore the feelings of isolation and the sense of being obsolete.
Somewhat ironically for a series concerned with vocabulary, the crowning achievement of the series is the fluid animation. The partially rotoscoped details convey the complex emotions with subtlety, that, in tandem with clever direction, form part of an engaging character study. The Great Passage is one of the few slice of life anime series that really utilises the animation to create a fully realised, natural, world. This strong sense of location only heightens Majime’s struggles to find his place in it. He is not so much an anime character, but an empathetic and human individual, and his journey is absolutely something worth watching.
Recommended by: Exile, Gugsy, Nomadic Dec, Shade
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda - [Kiss Him, Not Me]
Written by: Nan
Genre: Comedy, Reverse Harem
Spoiler free synopsis: Kae Serinuma is a second year high-school student and diehard fujoshi. She ships characters in her favorite anime and she ships the four most handsome boys in school, eager to let her mind fill in the blanks whenever the opportunity presents itself, which it often does. She’s also fat. When her very favorite character in her very favorite anime dies, Kae’s so stricken with grief that she holes up in her room, barely eating. When she finally recovers, she emerges as a striking, slender young woman. The boys take notice and start hanging out with her, all the while everyone’s oblivious to each others true interests.
Why you should be watching: Everyone’s felt unattractive or awkward at one point or another in their lives, and Kiss Him’s conceit exploits this by exaggerating the dichotomy between who we think we should be and who we actually are. Kae is the same person thick or thin, but we expect her to be different because of how she looks, and so does she. Try as she might though, she can’t hide it, and much of the humor comes from watching Kae try in vain to repress her baser self, the boys’ reactions to her, and the boys’ own drives in competing for Kae’s attention.
One small wrinkle of note here is that Fat Kae has the stereotypical Fat Voice, at least in Japanese, presumably to exaggerate the conceit to further comedic effect. It missed its mark for me by a wide margin, but the good news it that it’s well worth powering through the short amount of time you do have to deal with it. Kiss Him, Not Me is a funny, lighthearted romp for anyone who’s ever felt like hiding their terrible, terrible self.
Recommended by: jonuiuc, MementoMorie, Nan, Nomadic Dec, RockmanDash12
Written by: jonuiuc
Genre: Comedy, Satire
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Talent, perseverance, mental focus, professionalism, the ability to connect with fans, and luck are all key attributes to becoming successful voice actor. Fledgling voice actress Chitose Karasuma might not have any of those things, but she does have plenty of self-confidence (which may or may not be justified). After beginning her career in relative obscurity, Chitose finally catches her big break and a chance to show everyone that she is a star. The path to the top of the voice acting profession may be beset with adversity, but Chitose intends to rush down that path avoiding as much of it as she can.
Why you should be watching: Gi(a)rlish Number is a simply hilarious satire. Wataru Watari of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU fame turns his sardonic humor on the anime industry, penning a mashup of Mean Girls and Shirobako. Depending on your internal tolerance, the sheer churlishness of the main character will either leave you in stitches or have you cringing hard. Chitose’s acerbic inner monologue and often deluded life view make her one of those characters that you hate to love. Diomedea studio has done an amazing job of animating the entire spectrum of bratty expressions that Chitose displays. Gi(a)rlish Number mercilessly skewers how the anime industry is adapting and marketing shows today and love or hate the protagonist, she will leave you laughing.
Recommended by: Dil, Gugsy, jonuiuc, Koda, MementoMorie, Nomadic Dec, RockmanDash12, Shade
Tiger Mask W
Written by: ShadowHaken
Genre: Action, Drama, Shounen, Sports
Spoiler-free Synopsis: When the master of the rookie wrestlers Naoto Azuma and Takuma Fujii is gravely injured by the Yellow Devil, a GWM wrestler and the Wrestling Company they are in is disbanded. It is up to both Naoto and Takuma to pursue their own separated path of revenge: Naoto goes to train with the former GWM Wrestler Kentaro Takaoka while Takuma goes directly to the Tiger´s Den in order to become a GWM Wrestler. Now 2 years later, the legendary Wrestler Tiger Mask has appeared again challenging the GWM Wrestlers while at the same time Tiger the Dark is rising through the ranking inside the GWM. The path of 2 tigers in persecution of the same prey has begun; and will inevitably cross!
Why You Should be Watching: Tiger Mask W is an anime that is both over the top and silly. Still, both elements make sense in the universe that has been presented to us where the wrestlers motivations goes out of the ring. The final match of both wrestler’s wills mixed with good action scenes where the movements are well choreographed alongside the special twists and challenges that each match represents for either Tiger Mask or Tiger the Dark; if you have always been curious or if you yearn for the 70´s and 80´s action anime like Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya or Gekko Kamen you will find a lot to love in here. From the fact that the Masked wrestlers never show their face (with the exception of our protagonists) to evil organizations whose objective is to conquer, in this case, the world of Wrestling; even some mix of goofy and charming humor regarding how the secondary characters acts between them while the stoic main character focuses on his task at hand and finalizing with a simple yet captivating story where the forces of good and evil will face at the predetermined arena that it is the wrestling ring. It is the own soul of Puroresu/Japanese Pro Wrestling… Finally, remember this: Red Dead Mask means the Mask of Red Dead.
Recommended by: jonuiuc, Koda, Requiem, ShadowHaken
Written by: Thatsmapizza
Spoiler-free Synopsis: With the recent bankruptcy of his father’s company, high schooler Daisuke Higashida is forced to decide between getting a part time job to continue to pay for his train pass or ride over 15 kilometers to school everyday. Daisuke sensibly picks the more pragmatic option of getting a part time job at a local family diner. Though his new job isn’t physically as demanding as a 15km bike ride, Daisuke’s new job is mentally taxing due to his quirky co-workers. To add insult to injury, the information about the bankruptcy at his father’s business was all an elaborate ruse to get Daisuke to pay for his own amenities.
Why you should be watching: Are you looking for a good comedy anime, but don’t really know what type of comedy you want to watch? Then look no further, as WWW.Working will be able to scratch your comedy itch no matter what you want. Whether it be slapstick or dark comedy, WWW.Working will have what you’re looking for in spades with its large and varied cast. Every character in the show is well rounded, giving each interaction between the characters its own unique charm and when a character’s quirk comes out, then the comedy gold is produced. Not to mention the comedic timing for this show is spot-on with all its jokes that it’s hard not to get swept up in the zaniness of the show. WWW.Working may not focus on one specific type of comedy, but it does so many different types of comedy well that it’s hard not to enjoy the show.
Recommended by: Exile, RockmanDash12, Thatsmapizza
Written by: Requiem
Genre: Historical, Violence, Action
Spoiler-free Synopsis: History says samurai Toyohisa Shimazu died in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. In DRIFTERS, the freshly dead Toyohisa finds himself in a mysterious corridor, facing a bespectacled man, who then sends him to a new world, populated by humans and Tolkien-esque races (dwarves, elves, orcs, etc). Turns out he is just one of several warriors (including famous historical persons, such as feudal Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga, ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) transported from our world to this new one, where they are known as Drifters. Their purpose appears to be to counter the Ends, also historical characters from our world who wish to destroy humanity. Toyohisa steps forth into this new battle...
Why you should be watching: My colleague, Koda the Crunchyroller himself, once described Drifters as “The grindhouse love child of Mortal Kombat and Fate/Stay Night”, and that’s a nearly perfect turn of descriptive phrase. Drifters springs from the mind of Hirano Kouta, the creator of the seminal series Hellsing, and it shares its predecessor’s feeling and tone of spectacular ultraviolence and a goofy, sometimes even bizarre sense of humor. Drifters makes this tone work with its diverse group of historical characters - including the Ends’ evil leader, the Black King, whose (probable) identity is a bit of a spoiler, but let’s just say he earned his stripes trying to save humanity and now he’s quite cross with mankind. It’s a weird idea for a show, but Drifters absolutely pulls it off. Come for the decapitations, stay for the...uh...other, decapitations.
Recommended by: jonuiuc, Krakken_Unleashed, Koda, Requiem, Shade, Thatsmapizza
Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemai - [Poko’s Udon World]
Written by: Gugsy
Genre: Slice of Life, Fantasy
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Souta Tawara’s father was a world-class Udon chef and their restaurant was very famous in their hometown out in the country. Souta, however, did not want to continue the family legacy and instead moved to Tokyo to pursue his own dreams. Years later, he returns home to his family’s old Udon place, now abandoned and in disrepair. Inside, he finds a young boy with a secret and Souta resolves himself to take care of the boy, who he calls Poko.
Why You Should Be Watching: While on the surface this premise might seem a little too similar to last season’s Sweetness & Lightning (single fathers raising children and learning about food), Udon actually has a lot more in common with Barakamon. Souta does spend his days parenting Poko and teaching him new things, but Udon is more interested in exploring Souta’s history with the town he left behind, his friends and family that are still there and also the nostalgia that comes from returning to a historic place. It’s a simply relaxing show with likable characters that’s also sentimental, with the art and music helping make it a cozy watch whenever you might feel stressed. And best of all, it brings out both fond memories from the characters of their younger days, but also from the audience’s own memories as well.
Recommended by: Gugsy, jonuiuc, Koda, Nomadic Dec, Shade
The 5 Sequels To Watch
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 2
Written by: Koda
Genre: Action, Drama, Mecha, Military, Science Fiction, Space
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Some time has passed since Tekkadan successfully delivered Kudelia Aina Bernstein to Earth so that she could speak to politicians about autonomous independence for Mars. Things are not as rosy as one would expect, though. In the wake of Tekkadan’s incredible success, particularly against Gjallarhorn’s military might, the usage of child soldiers from all possible organizations has skyrocketed. It is also a time of great unrest across the solar system, as Gjallarhorn is showing signs of infighting that threatens to break the once mighty group apart, and Orga’s leadership abilities are being put to their greatest test now that Tekkadan has a dedicated base on Earth as well, meaning his attention is divided more now than ever.
Why You Should Be Watching: Bucking the trend of Gundam sequels being weaker than their prior seasons, Iron-Blooded Orphans 2 is looking to potentially end up better than the first season. Already the stakes are high in this season, with events being more out of Orga’s control than normal. Because of the split in Tekkadan forces between those on Earth and those with Orga on Mars and in space, several of the more minor characters from the first season are finding themselves in bigger roles as the show switches it focuses back and forth between the two fronts. So far this season is paying far more attention to its child soldier aspect than the first season did, thanks in part to the increased focus on some of the side characters and the situation they find themselves in. Another big plus to this season is the new layers of political intrigue as a result of the fracturing in Gjallarhorn and everyone smelling the blood in the water and trying to carve out their own little piece while they can. The Gjallarhorn situation creates an interesting dynamic where you don’t really know which of the characters in the sub-plot you should be backing. This isn’t even including the action scenes, which are as frantic, tense, and exhilarating as before. In pretty much every aspect, Iron-Blooded Orphans 2 is one of those rare sequels that improves upon the first outing in substantial ways.
Recommended by: Dil, Krakken_Unleashed, Koda, Requiem
Hibike! Euphonium 2
Written by: Protonstorm
Genre: Music, Drama, Slice of Life
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Sound! Euphonium 2 is the second season of Kyoto Animation’s spring 2015 show about a high school concert band. The story follows Kumiko Oumae and her friends as they vie for the gold medal at the national concert band competition. Despite getting gold at the Kansai regionals, the challenge is not over; they still have to progress through the Kanto regionals before finally competing at nationals. Sound! Euphonium 2 picks up after the Kansai regionals and explores the relationships between members of the concert band as they struggle to come out on top.
Why you should be watching: Sound! Euphonium 2 is not, per se, “better” than its previous season. What makes the series so appealing is its ability to continue building upon the relationships from the previous season as the students struggle through both the obvious challenge of the national competition as well as their own personal conflicts. Kitauji High School has successfully navigated its way through the Kansai regional competition, but to advance further they must surpass far greater schools, and the stress and happiness resulting from this continue to play out. Many of the unknown factors from before, such as Taki-sensei’s past and the members from the club who quit the previous year, resurface. And through it all, the elements that made the first season great remain. Kyoto Animation’s high quality art, the competition music and emotions, and the calm slice-of-life feel that accompanies even the more dramatic moments of the series are all still present this season. By keeping the good and continuing to build upon it, Sound! Euphonium 2 makes an excellent addition to this season. If you haven’t yet seen the first season, now you can be assured that the second half of the story is up to snuff with the original.
Recommended by: Dil, Gugsy, Protonstorm
Lostorage incited WIXOSS
Written by: NomadicDec
Genre: Card Games, Cynicism
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Lostorage Incited WIXOSS is, much like the original series, about young children’s desires and insecurities being manipulated via a card game. Their attempts to overcome the resultant abuse and mental torture makes for disquieting, yet compelling, television.
Why you should be watching: The draw of WIXOSS is that the audience gets to see characters suffer. Indeed, the original Selector series kept people watching because of that dread and anticipation for far longer than the pacing of the episodes would have otherwise led to. The impact of story developments in the first season, Infected, were muted, because they were so drawn out that the shocking revelations became obvious and inevitable. The subsequent season, Spread, succeeded where Infected failed—the plot was far swifter—but both seasons were hampered by a bland main character. The fact that winning the game means your soul is trapped in a card and replaced by that of the previously trapped girl who will live out your fantasies instead ought to have been a conga line of trauma, but it is hard to make a character deteriorate and wither from the hellish rules of a malevolent card game when they have nothing to lose and no clear motivation to win. As such, Selector had unfulfilled potential.
Lostorage Incited WIXOSS corrects those flaws. For starters, the stakes of the Lostorage are more universally dire: you will lose your most treasured memories and eventually disappear from reality if you do not play. This is then applied to two main characters who live tenuous existences anyway: lonely Suzuko Homura who clings to the memories of her friendship with Chinatsu Morikawa, whose family’s financial ruin is causing her mental breakdown as she strives to keep them and herself afloat. Lostorage has a wealth of conflict to draw from, and it wastes no time in throwing its characters into battle. Similarly, you should waste no time in starting this series, because while there are some connections, Lostorage can be viewed independently.
Recommended by: Koda, Nomadic Dec, ShadowHaken
Bungo Stray Dogs 2
Written by: Shade
Genre: Action, Mystery, Seinen, Supernatural
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Sometimes, the police get cases that are simply too unusual and solving them is out of their league. This is where the Armed Detective agency steps in, using their supernatural abilities to take on whatever danger comes their way and crack the case. Atsushi Nakajima is the newest member of the group, and when he’s not tagging alongside his co-workers in said cases, he’s either getting used to their eccentric personalities at the office or carrying out his tasks as the designated errand boy. The Agency members might be a goofy bunch when they’re off the clock, but once it’s time to get working, no case will be left unsolved. Bungo Stray Dogs places famous literary authors from the distant past in a world where they are gifted with supernatural abilities.
Why You Should Be Watching: When I watched through the entirety of Bungo’s first season, I found it to be a mixed bag. On one hand, it had some very good action and likeable characters. But on the other hand, the use of comedy often resulted in some serious tonal whiplash and the narrative was keen on travelling in no specific direction until the last few episodes. Koda sums it up quite nicely: “The first season of Bungo was basically just a jumbled mess of episodes that you could probably piece a story together from if you cherry-pick the plot-relevant scenes and episodes.” With only the first season laid out, it wasn’t easy to sell Bungo to others aside from its premise. But with this second season, the series has improved by leaps and bounds, starting with the prequel arc. It’s these four episodes that signal a change for the better and shows the series at its finest.
The story, instead of beating around the bush and not progressing, is now more clear-cut than ever before, and this quality continues to be maintained even after the prequel arc. The comedy is still present, but now dialed down so as not to create the aforementioned tonal whiplash. And if you’re looking for action, Bungo has you covered with fights that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. The peak of the animation lies within the action. With the direction the series is currently heading in, you can expect fights in most, if not every episode of this season. By the way, do you want to see famous authors with superpowers fight each other? Because that’s what this anime is all about. The first season primarily focused on the Japanese authors at first, but now we have more familiar authors such as John Steinbeck, Margaret Mitchell, and F. Scott Fitzgerald thrown into the mix. Overall, this second season has benefitted Bungo tremendously, and I can now say with confidence that it is worth watching.
Recommended by: Dil, Krakken_Unleashed, Koda, Requiem, Shade
Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou Vs Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou
Written by: Krakken
Genre: Sports, Action, Shounen
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Having beaten their old rivals Aoba Jousai in the spring prefecture tournament semifinals, Karasuno finally has made it to the final match-up against the reigning undefeated prefecture champions Shiratorizawa Academy, known to be one of the top 8 teams in Japan currently with a team of exceptional powerhouses, captained by the nationally renowned Wakatoshi Ushijima. So if Karasuno’s dreams to make it to nationals is to come to reality, they will first have to face their longest, and most difficult match yet. Can these fledgling crows finally reach the heights they’ve all aspired to?
Why You Should Be Watching: Haikyuu has always been a top-tier Sports anime, and this climactic final season brings out the final matchup between Karasuno and Shiratorizawa in all it’s glory. It’s everything you want out of a final match with gripping set pieces, final last-ditch pushes, and some incredibly satisfying character arc climaxes as the two previous seasons of build up finally pays off in this winner-take-all finale. Haikyuu hasn’t lost its touch and proves that even in this (seemingly) final push, that it still has the chops to be some of the best sports anime out there.
Recommended by: Koda, Krakken_Unleashed, RockmanDash12, Shade
The 2 Shorts To Watch
Nobunaga no Shinobi - [Ninja Girl and Samurai Master]
Written by: Requiem
Genre: Short, Comedy, Historical
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Chidori is a young ninja in the warring states period. Her most fervent wish is to be in the service of legendary warlord Oda Nobunaga, who saved her from drowning in a river when she was a child. After 5 years of training, she and her friendzoned companion Sukezou are pressed into service! Now Chidori will do her best to help Nobunaga achieve his ambitions in this series of comedic shorts.
Why you should be watching: Nobunaga no Shinobi is a quick burst of amusement, a series of rapid-fire jokes with a fun cast of (mostly) historical characters from Japan’s Warring States (Sengoku) period. In fact, the show serves almost as much as a quick refresher on Japanese history as it does a fast & fun comedy. It’s entertainment and education, it’s edu-tainment! In a good way! The jokes fly fast and furious, with more hitting than missing, with the comedy being more effective the more familiar you are with the character’s real histories. Plus, Chidori herself is just the most adorable trained killer you’ve ever seen. It’s so cute how she slices open a jugular! Nobunaga no Shinobi is the season’s best short.
Recommended by: jonuiuc, Koda, Requiem, ShadowHaken
Written by: Thatsmapizza
Genre: Short, Comedy
Spoiler-free Synopsis: What if your entire future was determined by one test? Would you play by the rules and learn everything that might be on the test or would you work to circumvent the rules no matter the cost? These are the only two paths that children must choose from in the world of Cheating Craft: take the path of studying as a L-type or take the path of cheating as a C-type. Success on the test isn’t guaranteed on either path, but if a L-type and a C-type should team up, they will surely pass the test and achieve a successful future. Enter C-type Shokatsu Mumei and his L-type partner, Ou Koui, who have teamed up to pass the test to get the authority to free Mumei’s wrongly imprisoned father. Mumei and Koui have only one shot to save Mumei’s father and should they fail, not only will Mumei’s father’s future be destroyed, but so will Mumei and Koui’s.
Why you should be watching: How can you make something so mundane as taking a written exam and make it fun? Turn it into a shounen battle anime with strict rules. Cheating Craft turns written exams into battlefields where many students are trying desperately to cheat their way to an easy life using ridiculous methods from incapacitating the examiners with venomous bugs to trying to wearing body suits with mathematical formulas written in them. Of course, the proctors for these exams take extreme measures to make sure students aren’t cheating, like setting the exam in a polar ice cap or setting the test on an aircraft carrier that launches cheaters into the sea. It’s these insane extremes that the show goes to that makes it so fun to watch. Every new episode is a new pinata to crack open with something batshit insane to see. Plus, each episode is 10 minutes long, which is just the right amount of time before the novelty of the current episode wears off. Cheating Craft commits to its nutty setting and you would be missing something unique if you passed over it.
Recommended by: Nomadic Dec, Thatsmapizza
The AMV To Watch
Written by: Protonstorm
Genre: Anime, Music Video
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Shelter is a music video for the song “Shelter”, a collaborative effort of western artists Porter Robinson and Madeon. The story follows a 17 year-old girl named Rin who lives in a simulation. Each day she is able to create a world based on her imagination, and spends her time exploring her fantastical designs. Rin feels lonely because of a lack of human contact, but this all changes one day when the simulation taps into her repressed memories and reveals how she came to be in this world…
Why you should be watching: The surface purpose of Shelter is to serve as a music video for the song of the same name. However, the music and animation combine to create an extraordinary mode of storytelling that makes Shelter even greater than the sum of its base parts. Outside of brief dialogues before and after, most of the story is conveyed almost entirely through animation for the bulk of the video to create an immersive musical animated experience. The beauty of the animated worlds Rin creates every day and the ultimate bittersweet emotions her story evokes make Shelter an incredible short-form animated story. This, combined with the excellent collaborative work of Robinson and Madeon, makes for one of my favorite music videos of all time and a definite recommendation for anime and non-anime fans alike.
Recommended by: Exile, Protonstorm; Nomadic Dec; The Internet; Humankind of the Past, Present, and Future (assuming that the Future has Time Machines and has taken the video back into the past, altering the course of humanity); Aliens that we broadcast this video to; The Known Universe that is has become sentient thanks to this AMV; Dark Matter; People of all faiths, religions, doctrines and philosophies, except for Taoists experiencing a state of Wu; Agnostics; Even the Atheists are on board, but some are converting because this AMV is clearly divine; Artificial Intelligences; Superficial Intelligences; Lonely People; Not-Lonely People; Happy and Unhappy People; Narcissists finding something that they care about more than themselves; Polymaths; Polyglots; Polynomial functions realising that this the asymptote that they cannot reach; Discontinuities being filled in by this AMV; Rational People; Rational Numbers; Irrational Numbers; Rockmandash12; The state of melancholy; Shade; Off-licences (that’s liquor store to you Americans) thrilled that their sales are being boosted by people trying to drink away their pain after watching this AMV; Gugsy
Shuumatsu no Izetta [Izetta the Last Witch]
Written by: Rock, Nan
Genre: World War 2, Not World War 2, Military, Historical, Yuri, It’s Magic I Ain’t Gotta Explain Shit
Spoiler-free Synopsis: It is the year 1940 when the Empire of Germania invades Elystadt, a neutral country in a magical Alternate World War II. The princess of Elystadt Fine tries all she can to evade Germania and save her country, but ultimately gets captured by them, to be taken to Neu Berlin. This happens to be a fortunate event, however, as she becomes reunited with her childhood friend Izetta, the titular witch of the series. Now reunited, Izetta and Fine try all they can to fight against the Germanians, and we follow this duo in the their quest to save the country from invasion.
Why You Should Be Watching: How much can the premise and the world grip you as a viewer? Izetta is a show that lives and dies on these attributes, blending fantasy and reality in a way that makes the show truly great. Yes, Izetta is a show that has its fair share of issues (which will be detailed below), but with a fascinating alternate history world entrenched in magic, an interesting spin on a tried and true story, a solid cast of characters, and a fantastic presentation (that nails both the animation and sound to create a compelling atmosphere), Izetta has the aspects and the structure to be a great show. The blend of all these attributes, combined with a very strong introduction and moments of pure excellence (in execution of the aspects in war) perfectly draw you in, and it makes for an engaging watch. Whether the show maintained those emotions is another question. It’s definitely at least worth a shot if the premise itself interested you, though: it’s very hard to find a show that captures its world as well as Izetta does.
Why you shouldn’t be watching: The tragic thing is, it’s almost great. Izetta is set against the backdrop of Europe during the Second World War, only all of the countries have been renamed, often transparently, and the events have been sanitized; if there are any atrocities within the world of Izetta, we’re not told of them. It evokes the period of the war without acknowledging the gravity of it. This tastelessness could have been avoided had it further developed its alternate history beyond a reskinning of WW2 Europe, or had it taken place in a fictional world with a similar setting; it could even have worked had it been a supernatural fiction set in the historical WW2, as such tales exist, but Izetta does none of these things and it suffers for it.
Regardless of that, Izetta has a problem with total dissonance: its comedy meshes poorly with its otherwise somber tone to the degree that it’s increasingly difficult to take its narrative seriously; taken together with the aforementioned critique, it’s almost impossible to, and that’s a damned shame for a show that started off so strongly.
3-gatsu no Lion [March comes in like a Lion]
Written by: Dil, Rock
Genre: Slice of Depression
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Carrying the heavy weight of becoming a young professional Shogi prodigy, emotionally underdeveloped Rei Kiriyama isolates himself up in a bare apartment. Due to his newfound status setting difficult social barriers, the 17 year old chooses to avoid people in attempt to prevent more issues. Amidst his streaks and slumps, the hearty Kawamoto family opens their doors for meals with Rei. Used to the cold nature of those who crossed paths with him (namely those of his recently departed from adoptive family), the Kawamoto’s hospitality serves as a catalyst for Kiriyama to slowly break out of his shell. Filled with highs and lows for all involved, the drama March Comes in Like a Lion tells an introspective story in a competitive spotlight.
Why You Should Be Watching: By a show of hands, how many people here have heard someone or have compared this series to Your Lie in April?
Surveys room full of hands
That’s what I thought.
The quickest way to appreciate what is going on in March is to clear that one from your mind, trust me. When it comes down to it, the reason people compare the two is because the protagonists look alike and struggle with depression caused by their craft. If March came first (which, technically it did), I’m positive that people would be discounting Your Lie in April for trying to execute the same premise. They’re both outstanding so it is only a matter of time before the comparison happened, but it had to be said.
What March really is, however, is an artistic journey with subtle developments and a very calm cadence. We’re still so far away from the real payoff of the slow pace, but this prospect piece shows all the tools that make for a lasting experience. The backgrounds are drawn in beautiful detail, really bringing the most aesthetic boost to many of the scenes. Most of the characters in Rei’s support system all have charming moments that don’t overstay their welcome or overpower the others. We’re only into a small sample of the kinds of people antagonizing him, but the prodigy has some chilling individuals who want to knock him down and out in the scene- all accomplished by using some alarming psychological warfare. The game of Shogi itself is executed in a fresh way each time there is a match, really helping what might otherwise be dry or confusing scenes for those foreign to the game.
Ultimately, with so much in the arsenal and an evident sense of control at the helm, the best is yet to come for March. If you’re more for binging shows instead of following inch by inch, this might be a harder sale for a weekly watch. Look for about episode 14-16 to hop in and follow, as this one that is shaping up to be unforgettable.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: What is the purpose of a show? To move you, to engage you, to impress you, or something to that effect. We want our shows to do something to us, to provide an amazing experience ... but March comes in like a Lion, in its quest to be art, provides nothing to the viewer, even if it tries as hard as it can to do so. March’s effort, ironically, is its downfall: March spends its time trying to be artsy and trying to make you feel emotion, but because it forces the emotions it wants you to feel, the show feels entirely manufactured. If March didn’t try to make us cry about characters we just met, if March developed the characters, and if didn’t switch so rapidly from comedy to tragedy, it could be a great show ... but so far, it fails to be engaging. To put it simply, there are many issues that prevent this show to be an engaging watch, and because it tries to do certain things, it ignore the experience. The biggest is tonal dissonance: trying to be both a drama and comedy without knowing how to transition leads to issues, and March fails to do these well, making the show a frustrating experience.
Even though March has a lot more episodes to go, I personally can’t see it being that great, and definitely nowhere near what people were hoping it to be, another Your Lie in April. It’s done barely anything in terms of developing a story, and it’s not a compelling watch. Even shows that people called great but slow starting, were for the most part, engaging watches. March definitely has the base for a strong show, but it’s execution is so far very lackluster.
Written by (respectively): WhipKrakken, Koda, Thatsmapizza
Genre: Action, Ecchi, Sports
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Japan has a new professional gambling sport on the rise called Keijo where a group of women fight on floating platforms called Lands in a massive pool. The object of the game is to knock the other competitors off the Land into the water, but(t) the catch here is that they can only use their butts and breasts to attack and defend. Additionally, if any part of their body aside from the soles of their feet makes contact with a Land, they are also eliminated. It is this sport that gifted gymnast Nozomi Kaminashi decides to go pro in, in order to make enough money to get her and her family out of poverty.
Why You Should Be Watching: Let’s get one thing straight. Keijo is Stupid. Gloriously, hilariously stupid. The entire idea of turning that silly mini game in Dead or Alive: Extreme Volleyball into a fully fledged classic sports anime is entirely absurd, and yet it is precisely because it is absurd that it is so fun to watch. Keijo is at its core a bread-and-butter sport shonen series. On its own the sports drama would make for an exciting but unremarkable show on its own right, however when coupled with a sport like keijo in all its butt-and-bust slamming glory it becomes something far more. The serious heart this show has for its premise coupled with the bombastic inventiveness of the crazy body-based superpowers makes every race exciting and hilarious. It’s a show that I genuinely am excited to watch every week, and one that has me cackling with joy at its own self-aware absurdity. Keijo may not be the best show this season, but if you can get behind the premise, it will be one of the most fun.
Like Krakken said, Keijo!!!!!!!! is a wildly absurd show. To take a simple Japanese poolside game and turn it into an over the top sports anime where the sport is taken seriously despite how silly it is would be like if they gave the game of Marco Polo a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure makeover. Yet it is these insanely over the top, and admittedly rather silly and stupid, action scenes that makes Keijo!!!!!!!! such a fun show to watch. You never know what hairbrained off the wall move a character will literally pull out of their ass next. It’s the fact that the show takes such silly things seriously that really sells it to me. Much like how the aforementioned JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can make stupid things like a game of rock, paper, scissors, poker, or rolling dice to be an intense, serious experience. Additionally for a show that on the surface looks to have a ton of fanservice, it doesn’t have it where you would expect. Oh to be certain, the show absolutely has fanservice in it, but I strongly argue that when they actually show a match in the sport, it’s not actually fanservice, because there is just too much absurdity happening on screen for any of it to actually be titillating. Is Keijo!!!!!!!! one of the deepest, best written shows of the year? Oh hell nah, but it most certainly is one of the absolutely stupidly fun shows I’ve seen this year, so if you aren’t too bothered by fanservice, definitely give Keijo!!!!!!!! a shot.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: Imagine a nationally recognized sport where one must use their boobs or butts to push their opponents platforms floating on water. Sounds silly right, but interesting right? Keijo!!! runs with the concept and performs spectacularly on one end, but forgets an important component of what makes a good shounen anime.
Kejio!!! has one of the goofiest premises that I have encountered and I love how the show commits to the concept whole heartedly. The action is easily the best part of the show in that it revolves around combat only using parts of the body not normally used for combat. It’s fascinating how the characters swing their bodies around to shove each other using their boobs or butts. Plus, the show throws in some Dragon Ball Z style super moves to add to the spectacle of the show. Keijo!!! is incredibly fun when it’s focusing on the kejio matches, but once the show moves out of the keijo arena, things take a turn for the worse.
From the start, Kejio!!! was only interested in potential fun that could be made with its concept, but not how the audience could engage with the show. Keijo tries to pull the audience in by showing us how much the main characters want to become professional Keijo players. This is a fairly standard setup for most sports anime, but unlike most sports animes, Keijo doesn’t try to let the audience understand the characters. We only get one or two brief overviews why any of the characters would want to play this sport in the first place. This problem only gets worse as the series goes on because as the stakes get higher for the characters, but it doesn’t matter to the audience. It’s nearly impossible to take any of of the outcomes in the show seriously because the concept of the show is so wacky, while the characters aren’t compelling enough to make anyone care about their fates. Keijo is undoubtedly a fun show, but there are so many other fun and compelling sports anime out there that you could be spending your time on.
Contributors in Alphabetical Order: