Spring 2016 – First Half in Review

The halfway point is here! I’m not the only one who feels like this has been a really fast season, right? I mean, it’s obviously going to feel like I’m running through anime faster if I’m enjoying it more, but it feels like Flying Witch and The Lost Village and My Hero Academia just got started a couple weeks ago, and suddenly here we are. As has at this point shifted from “it’s cute to say some silly blog thing is ‘traditional'” to “wow, this really is a tradition, I’ve been doing this crap for a substantial portion of my adult life,” I’ll be running down my current schedule from best to worst as your seasonal reminder that rankings don’t matter, we’re all going to die, the only truth is the abyss. I’ve got a lot of very fun and very different shows to get through, so let’s not waste any more time in preamble. From top to bottom, here are this spring’s very best cartoon contenders!

#1: Concrete Revolutio

To the surprise of no one, my easy top pick this season is the show that’d be an easy top pick in most seasons. In spite of having a broad collection of fine shows, there’s actually very little this season I’d consider classic-level, but Concrete Revolutio is the one clear exception. Its second season has lacked the central focus I was hoping for, but has replaced that with something that may actually be even better, or at least more fitting for this particular show.

With the Shinjuku riots several years in the past, Concrete Revolutio’s new vignettes take place in a world where much has changed, but far too much has also stayed the same. The world wasn’t fixed by the student protests, and in fact, their earnest efforts now stand as the strongest weapon the government can use against superhumans. Concrete Revolutio’s heroes have not won and not lost – they’ve simply continued to live, gaining experience and fatigue as they continue to pursue their diverse ideals. It’s a more realistic approach, fitting for Concrete Revolutio’s very grounded narrative, and when you couple that central idea with the fact that this season’s vignettes have been better in general than the first season’s, you arrive at something that continues to inspire me every week. Concrete Revolutio is a remarkable show.

Concrete Revolutio

#2: My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia is frankly not as good as it could be. The manga is being adapted far too slowly for it to match the engagement of the source material, and beyond that, the show simply lacks the dynamite animation you’d hope for in an action anime. But in spite of that, the material being adapted here is just so fundamentally good that it’s really hard to keep it down. My Hero Academia gets heroes in a way few modern anime do, or at least are willing to express. It is joyous and cathartic, every episode offering new fist-pumping moments and more great interactions between its utterly charming cast. The superhero shounen was a great concept waiting for a great take, and My Hero Academia absolutely fits the bill.

My Hero Academia

#3: The Lost Village

It’s inherently difficult to place a show you’re enjoying because it’s so hilariously terrible, but having been convinced The Lost Village is intentionally hilariously terrible, it seems right to just judge it on how much I enjoy it. And I enjoy The Lost Village a whole lot. The show’s riffs on audience expectations regarding genre movements, narrative beats, and characterization actually make it a weirdly intelligent comedy compared to most anime, and the show’s characters are endearing as devices even if they’re impossible to take seriously as people. I legitimately cannot think of another anime that has made me laugh as consistently as The Lost Village. It is a remarkable feat of trainwreck engineering.

The Lost Village

#4: Flying Witch

In contrast with My Hero Academia’s missed opportunities, Flying Witch is exactly as good as it needs to be. The show lacks the top-tier aesthetics or utterly consistent humor of the best slice of life shows, but it’s only a short step below that group, and manages to charm in new ways every week. Flying Witch lives in its wide array of well-observed details, as well as the way its sense of understatement makes its jokes much stronger. Chinatsu and Chito feel more like a kid and a cat than virtually any other kids or cats out there, and Makoto’s blase attitude towards her own powers creates just the right tone of offhand wonderment. It is an excellent piece of work.

Flying Witch

#5: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable

I feel a little guilty putting JoJo down here, because for what it is, Diamond is Unbreakable is a real feat. This third season has done away with most of the issues that made Stardust Crusaders such a slog, matching far more compelling characters and Stands with infinitely superior visual execution. The animation is actually less impressive here than Stardust Crusaders’ big highlights, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest – the upgrades in direction and color work make Diamond is Unbreakable a constant visual feast. On top of that, applying Araki’s continuously improving grasp of his own premise to a suburban horror template was probably one of the best places he could take it. JoJo is back in peak form.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

#6: Kiznaiver

Only down at number six do we finally reach shows I have seriously mixed feelings on, which is as sure a sign of a great season as you could hope for. Kiznaiver is a messy and imbalanced production, sometimes leaning into cliche romcom devices or ugly jokes, other times pulling out surprisingly nuanced conversations between its strong central cast. The stuff that is great in Kiznaiver is exactly the kind of stuff I look for in anime, and the visuals are always a treat, but the show’s best moments are separated by wide swathes of pretty mediocre material. It’s a show that I enjoy well enough as-is, but can’t help but feel could have been truly great with another few revisions.


#7: Space Patrol Luluco

Space Patrol Luluco is a very charming thing, but it’s frankly just too quick and insubstantial to rank any higher. But for what it is, I actually think Luluco is the ideal Imaishi show. Its female lead and high school romance premise means it’s too pleasant to dip into his tendencies towards juvenile poop and sex jokes, and all of the actual jokes are charming, creative, and, most importantly, fast. Anime comedies have a tendency to slow down and overplay their jokes, which is likely why shorts are often the best comedies – they don’t have enough running time to ruin their jokes, since they have to immediately rush onward to the next thing. By tethering Imaishi to a premise with some class and condensing his style into six minute fragments, Luluco makes the most of a talented but extremely lopsided director.


#8: Macross Delta

Sorry Macross, you drew the short straw this time. If it makes you feel any better, you’re still eclipsing the vast majority of this season’s shows, in a season where it wouldn’t be hard to tack on another handful of streaming anime. But in the end, Macross Delta just has not lived up to the promise of its standout first episode. There are good elements in this show – Freyja is a faces treasure, and each episode tends to have at least a couple moments that lean into a fundamental sense of wonder characteristic of many of anime’s best productions. But Macross Delta’s plot lacks momentum or even a sense of clear stakes, many of its characters are one-note, and co-lead Hayate is an often aggravating presence. It’s still enjoyable enough to watch, but Macross Delta is straying dangerously close to the Ikenai Borderline.

Macross Delta

17 thoughts on “Spring 2016 – First Half in Review

  1. Gotta say for all it’s fault Kiznaiver is still the show I enjoy watching the most this season and by far? The cast interactions are mostly great and I seem to just really like stories about a small group of people learning together. Can’t help but feel people are harsher on it because they have higher expectations for it.

    Jojo lost a few point for me cause while the last episode had some nice directorial choices I thought it was kinda just really gross and boring. Plus I can’t help but feel that it’s still lacking a lot of the energy to reach what made battle tendency so great.

    And while I enjoy concrete revolution 2nd season stand alone episodes on an idea level they felt boring to me in execution.

    And thanks for introducing Lost Village, not something I thought I would have enjoyed. Love how the characters are starting to abuse the MC shitty good guy attitude.

  2. I read, and then after Macross Delta, I thought to myself, “Now let’s see the shows Nick doesn’t enjoy!” And there were none. And I was taken aback.

    But it makes sense, why watch shows you don’t enjoy? Doubly so when there are so many that you do? Heh.

    • Yep! In a season this strong, I don’t really have any compulsion to watch stuff I don’t want to. It’s a good feeling!

  3. I’m surprised Hero Academia is so high in your estimations, its pacing isn’t too much of an issue for what is likely to be a long running Shounen however it has left many of the characters to be relatively one note, Uraraka is still just a Genki object of affection for Deku and Iida is an uptight class prez type. And that’s ignoring the vast majority of the cast who are either ignored so far or simply punchlines, Mineta and Aoyama come to mind.

    I’m also pretty surprised Macross is in such low regard, the cast have great chemistry and the stakes are clearly laid out from the beginning, the Vars outbreak and the Windemere declaration of war are the clear focus of any narrative momentum. If you meant emotional stakes, I suppose the show hasn’t done much beyond outlining relationships between the cast, but we still have Mirage’s struggle to live up to legacy, Freyja’s struggle with why she wants to be a part of walkure and Hayate’s struggle with being a clown. Which brings up one of the most contentious parts of the show, Hayate is a bit of an ass. he’s willful and quickly shuts down mirage, however when he took the valk out for a joyride it was out of selflessness, he just wanted to clear Freyja’s head (and his). I don’t really think the show frames his as being in the right, they’ve just been reluctant to shed some light on the Messer and Mikumo as the older mentors. In the last episode we even got some moments where we could understand Messer and even see some vulnerability. He’s being a hardass because his charges don’t yet know the true weight of the war. And judging by what happened in that last episode hayate and Mirage are learning, slowly but surely what the reality of their situation is

    • “however it has left many of the characters to be relatively one note, Uraraka is still just a Genki object of affection for Deku and Iida is an uptight class prez type. And that’s ignoring the vast majority of the cast who are either ignored so far or simply punchlines, Mineta and Aoyama come to mind.”

      Well, keep in mind we’re only in the first volume of material so far, from what I’ve heard. I haven’t read the manga or had any knowledge of the series prior to the anime, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the media devoted more time to fleshing out characters as the tale goes on thus far and we cover future volumes material.

      • Having read the manga, it does flesh out some of the cast members and their interactions do improve. However, I would assume a ‘first half in review’ would only cover the 6 episodes without any consideration for later volumes, and man have the first episodes stretched content. A lot of the characters are barely present aside form being background noise

        • Isn’t it because they’re still just background noise that they’re being given a pass? To be frank, at this point in the story Mineta and whoever are not actually characters at all, they’re visual jokes in the background. And there’s no reason to expect them to to become characters yet either; maybe the show just wants to focus on an extremely small core cast of All Might and Deku. It’s only through the lens of future knowledge that these background characters will become more important later that this complaint is even cognizable.

          • I would then question calling them a wonderful cast if they’re barely present, especially when the Macross cast is so undervalued despite being far more present and presenting some great character interactions. Then again, like most people my bias is showing.

  4. I know that you can’t watch every show, but Re Zero is a show which has slowly gone up in people’s estimations, unlike some other light novel adaptations cough Hundred cough. I’d at least try it after the season ends if you can.
    I get your feelings on Tetsurou Araki and Kabaneri, but would you consider trying Re Zero?

    • While ReZero has indeed mostly gotten better as it keeps going (one episode aside), I think it’s still not good enough to really recommend to people, and I really don’t think it’s be a show Nick enjoys. Maybe if it continues its upward trend, by the time it finishes it would be, but I really don’t see him enjoying most of it right now.

  5. It’s funny how Trigger’s Evangelion parody was thought up by Okada, while Okada’s “really large group of young people act dumb and emotional together” parody was thought up by Mizushima.

  6. Need to catch up on your articles after finishing Moonlight Sculptor.

    Thanks for these articles!

  7. Love the articles! Man, I’d forgotten how much emotional range JoJo could have (that is, emotional range that it induces).

  8. “straying dangerously close to the Ikenai Borderline.”
    hahaha I died.
    Not sure how much Japanese you know/if it was intentional, but “ikenai”(いけない) also happens to mean “that’s not gonna work”/”that’s impossible/not allowed”, so it works with double meanings there.

  9. Am I the only one that thinks Kiznaiver is borderline on being a ripoff of Kokoro Connect (my top show)? Great show otherwise, though.

    • It’s got a similar premise (cast of teens forced to confront their emotions together by vague sci-fi nonsense), but I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near a rip-off. The tone and execution and characters themselves are all quite different. If people were never allowed to do different takes on the same premise, I don’t think art would have gotten very far at all.

      • Maybe I was too focused on Nico, which I think is pretty similar to Iori Nagase. But now that I think of it, the other six Kiznaivers aren’t similar to any of Kokoro Connect’s characters, and Sonozaki isn’t similar in the slightest to Heartseed.

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