Fall 2016 Season Preview

With just over three weeks left to go in the summer season, it’s time to once again look forward to next season’s potential bounty. In spite of my initial pessimism, the summer season turned out to be very solid all around – not only did expected favorites like Love Live Sunshine and Sweetness & Lightning perform, but Mob Psycho 100 turned out to be far, far more compelling than I’d anticipated, and Thunderbolt Fantasy essentially doubled the season’s JoJo-style theatrics. We’ve had two strong seasons in a row now, full of compelling shows in a variety of genres. The only thing the year’s really been missing so far is a full complement of truly Great anime – anime I feel no hesitation about putting on my end of the year list, and at least some temptation to add to my all-timers. We’ve had Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and Concrete Revolutio, and Mob Psycho will certainly make the top shows of 2016 cut, but I could use a couple more clear standouts. Fortunately, fall looks pretty stacked as well, so I’m eager to get to it.

As usual, my list won’t be covering every single new show. If you want the full list with synopses, you can easily check out anichart or a similar site – I’m just going to be covering what I think is interesting (in rough order of interest), along with the specific reasons I’m looking forward to it. Good staff, good source material, good studios – those are the things I can rely on, beyond the unreliable allure of any kind of cool premise. So let’s start right at the top and run this upcoming season down!

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Orange – Episode 9

Orange is still meandering its way towards a conclusion. There were good moments in this episode, but that’s all I’m really expecting from the show at this point – even beyond its slowly drowning production, there’s just not enough substance to Naho’s feelings to really support an entire TV anime. A story can feel true to life without being good storytelling, and that’s basically what we’ve arrived at here – yes, Naho’s the kind of person who would let her feelings run in circles forever, but unless the show can articulate new truths in those feelings over time, that’s not really meaningful from an audience perspective.

Anyway! You can check out my full review over at ANN.

Orange

Why It Works: Tsumugi’s Great Adventure

Today I got to write a piece on Sweetness & Lightning for the first time, which was nice. The show honestly doesn’t offer that much to dissect a lot of weeks, but the Tsumugi-focused episode was a clear standout, so I had plenty to talk about. Hope you enjoy the piece!

Why It Works: Tsumugi’s Great Adventure

Sweetness & Lighting

The Dramatic Layer Cake of Inside Out

It’s interesting how fan communities often lionize the idea of “thematic depth” in stories, as if fiction with an underlying philosophical message is somehow more worthy than works that are largely concerned with having a good time. It makes sense for a few reasons – we see complexity as an inherent good, we see works that are trying to change the viewers’ minds as more challenging or morally profound, we more deeply connect with the works that taught us something new, etcetera. But it’s also a little funny to me, since there’s no type of art more prone to sermonizing than family entertainment.

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Nichijou – Episode 3

The Nichijou train continues, as I fire off a series of staid, thoughtful reactions to three girls dunking on each other and a robot with a giant key in its back. This episode was framed from the perspective of Nano and the professor’s cat, and cats are good, so this was a good episode. I also spend some time rambling about the various dramatic roles played by the three high school characters. There’s lots of jokes to laboriously critique today, so let’s get right to it!

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Charlotte, Part One – Review

So yeah, it seems I’ve found myself reviewing Jun Maeda’s latest production. And so far, Charlotte has proven to be… well, Jun Maeda’s latest production. The same broad character roles, the same hysterical dramatic peaks, the same fundamental lack of narrative foundation. Charlotte is far from the worst show, but it certainly isn’t a good one, and Maeda really does seem to be one of the least talented superstar writers out there. That said, Charlotte actually seemed to be getting more entertaining as it fell off the rails, so here’s hoping the second half is a beautiful disaster.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!

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Summer 2016 – Week 8 in Review

Dear lord it’s week eight. We are almost three quarters of the way through the summer season. August is practically over. What the hell is going on.

Well, anime is going on. Outside of our communal existential dread at somehow being yet another week older, things haven’t changed much in anime land – Aqours are still doing their best, Urobuchi’s puppets are still being delightfully ridiculous, and Tsumugi is still hungry for new snacks. This was another placeholder week in anime, with its various low points being balanced out by some unexpected highs. So let’s start with the good news then, and get right into Love Live Sunshine’s big episode!

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Mob Psycho 100 – Episode 7

Mob Psycho finally had a weaker episode this time, after a fairly consistent streak of excellence. The way this episode was weaker makes me think the show is trying to hit some later arc in the manga, but either way, it resulted in a somewhat unsatisfying middle phase of Ritsu’s current arc. ONE isn’t the most insightful of social scientists, and speeding up his stories only emphasizes that – Ritsu and Shinji were both shortchanged by this episode’s pacing, and the conclusion suffered for it. Hopefully we’ll be back on track next week!

You can check out my full review over at ANN.

Mob Psycho 100

Mawaru Penguindrum – Episode 8

Episode eight starts with a crack of thunder, as Ringo drags her creepy self up from beneath the floorboards. Framed in jolts of lightning and hideous shadows, Ringo’s attempted consummation is anything but romantic – and of course, that’s the only way it could work. By framing Ringo’s actions as a horror movie, Penguindrum both clearly demonstrates that it doesn’t agree with her actions, and also somewhat stylizes and thus softens the dramatic impact of Ringo actually trying to rape someone.

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Orange – Episode 8

Orange has achieved new heights of “will they or won’t they” assholery, following up last episode’s mutual confession with the reveal that Kakeru doesn’t want to date Naho because he might eventually hurt her. As simultaneously infuriating and true to his character that was, it wasn’t really my big problem with this episode. The real issue here is that Orange’s production has at this point entirely sunk, meaning it’s shifted from occasionally attempting to portray the illusion of movement to just kinda sequencing still shots in a row. It’s a shame when a show that so desperately needs strong animation is so entirely bereft of it.

You can check out my full review over at ANN!

Orange