It’s time at last. Time to run down all the highlights and lowlights, time to reflect on what was and what’s yet to come, time to talk about way too many god damn anime. As expected, this season’s new crop isn’t really able to measure up to the departing set – but when we’re losing Shirobako, Death Parade, Yurikuma, and Maria all at the same time, that’s probably to be expected. There are still new gems to enjoy, and new could-be heroes to watch with shining eyes as they rise only to incinerate in a cloud of their own wasted potential. The season’s beginning is always a fraught time, but don’t worry, I’ve got quick blurbs and links to all my friggin’ ANN reviews to guide you through it. Shows run from most loved to most reviled, with general categories of watchability marking each group as it arrives. And incidentally, the three I’ll be covering for ANN this season are going to be: SNAFU, Sound! Euphonium, and Nagato Yuki-chan. Alright, enough preamble, LET’S RUN DOWN SOME ANIME.
Go Watch These, They’re Good For The Soul
Blood Blockade Battlefront: Rie Matsumoto is back and holy shit is this show gorgeous. Just, goddamn. That shot composition, those beautiful framing devices, these colors and cuts and songs and just goddamn everything. The story’s fun enough too, and I’m excited to see more of this world, but mainly this show is just so, so, so well-composed. All the brakes are off the Matsumoto train, it’s time to PARTY.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!: Jeeez that English title makes me wince, but if I’m hoping to write about it for ANN, I better get used to it. Anyway, SNAFU (eeeegh) returns with an episode full of all the strong character work and wit that made the first season so good, with the added benefit of some actual animation this time. If you haven’t watched the first season, I strongly recommend it – SNAFU is basically the high school drama done right, with its characters’ antisocial tendencies both offering sharp reflections on the social realities of high school while also demonstrating they’re very young, naive people who really do want to connect to each other. It’s great, the sequel is great, I’m looking forward to following it to the end.
Sound! Euphonium: I don’t want to say it, I know I really shouldn’t say it, but yeah – I’m getting those Hyouka vibes here. Not that this is going to be the same kind of story at all, but this episode definitely possessed the same subtlety and beauty that characterized KyoAni’s masterpiece. The character work is understated and unique, the direction was stellar (though this was a Yamada episode, so we’ll have to see if that continues), and the whole production just seems confident and subtle and perfectly realized. KyoAni might have another great one on their hands.
Plastic Memories: Steins;Gate writer plus Dogakobo animation A-team equals perfectly composed drama, apparently. The premise here is obviously one that’d easily fall into too-transparent manipulation, and some people are already having that reaction, but the execution and richness of concept here are both top-tier. The show’s already exploring its “how do we come to terms with death” premise in a variety of ways, and the direction and animation make the humor actually work, which is a rarity in… well, anime in general. Plastic Memories is handling some heavy concepts, but they’re making it look easy so far.
MY love STORY!!: Few shows could ever hope to be as god darn likable as this premier. The leads are just extremely endearing people, with Takeo in particular offering endless comedy in his inherent skewering of standard shoujo beats while also just being a really put-together and fun guy to spend time with. The writing is strong, the aesthetics do the premise justice, and the show bounces along merrily on the strength of its cast and premise. Clearly a romcom to look out for.
Genre-Level Staples For a Balanced Breakfast
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: I really wanted to be mad at this show for taking Haruhi away, but it turned out to be too endearing and well-composed for me to stay angry. The characters are still funny and full of personality, the aesthetics are pretty strong, and overall this is just actually better than most anime romcoms, spinoff or no. It might get tedious, but it’s pretty damn endearing so far.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan: This premier couldn’t have been more of a boilerplate fantasy prologue, but as far as boilerplate fantasy prologues go, it told its story well, established a fine main character, and illustrated an acceptably engaging world. Whether you like this or not feels like it will come down 100% to whether you like fantasy adventure or not – this is What That Is, no frills or failings attached.
Punch Line: I’m not sure if Punchline is a bad show doing its best to make me like it or a good show doing its best to make me hate it. All I know is that while the panty theme is really stupid, the craft on display here is fantastic – it riffs on basically my favorite anime aesthetic (early 2000s Gainax) with wonderful animation and direction and just a really fun-looking world. It could easily just dissolve into dumb gags, but there are a lot of good ingredients here.
Show by Rock!!: Honestly, this one isn’t a genre staple at all, but it defies all other categorizations, so I might as well stick it here. Show by Rock!!’s first episode is a whirlwind of energy and CG and guitar solos and talking eggs that doesn’t make more sense in action than it does on paper, but sure is a lot of fun either way. I’m placing this down here despite my high score for the first episode because I feel maybe 85% confident that the rest of the show will just end up being dumb gags and monsters of the week, but I’d still recommend just seeing this episode by itself if you’re looking for a good time.
Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 2: This episode isn’t a particularly auspicious start to UBW’s second half, but I’m told it all gets pretty exciting from here, and the pieces are certainly in place for a dramatic road to the finish line. If you were enjoying UBW, here’s more UBW. Have at it!
RIN-NE: This one scrapes the bottom of this section, and I certainly won’t be continuing it, but there’s nothing truly bad about this show. It’s just a really uninspired Takahashi production – competent storytelling and well-crafted lead characters, but nothing to really draw you in and keep you watching. It’s serviceable media.
Why Watch These Shows When You Could Just… Not Watch Them
Seraph of the End: Looking for a bargain-basement knockoff of Attack on Titan? I’VE GOT JUST THE THING. Seraph certainly has its own premise and everything, but the intended audience here is clear, and “ham-handed shounen that demonstrates its seriousness by killing orphans” is not my scene.
Is It Wrong to Try and Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Look at that title. Imagine exactly what a show with that title would be like. Perfect, you’ve watched Is It Wrong to Try and Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Wish Upon the Pleiades: This show isn’t even extremely bad, it’s just not extremely… well, anything. It doesn’t have any personality, and it seems confused with what it’s doing, and the main hook is that the whole thing is kind of themed around Subaru cars. So I guess that’s something.
Food Wars!: The further away I get from this show, the more obnoxious it feels in my head. Hot-blooded shounen storytelling plus food porn with minimal animation and absurd boobs. Yep.
Your Parents Were Right, Anime Is Bad, Shut It All Down
Etotama: Etotama is such a default anime that its very existence seems like an open question. Did I even really watch Etotama, or was it simply the lingering burp-flavor of a thousand similar shows? Who can say.
Mikagura School Suite: The word that bests describe Mikagura is “shrill” – it grates on the ears, like a siren that’s dying out but still too close to your ears for comfort. Apparently this is actually a very popular form of comedy.
Gunslinger Stratos: This show is related to Gen Urobuchi in the same way your friend from middle school is related to a guy who works for Nintendo. The actual show is both bereft of new ideas and uniquely hideous. Some animator must have lost a bet.
Ultimate Otaku Teacher: This show is up there among “most obnoxious main characters” I’ve ever seen – in fact, if not for OreImo, this would be a real competition. As is, Ultimate Otaku Teacher will just have to settle for being completely unwatchable.