Summer 2017 – First Half in Review

Hey all, and welcome back to the Week in Review. With the summer halfway over, it’s time once again for one of this blog’s more pointless traditions – ranking my overall feelings on the summer’s offerings at the point where it’s least useful to actually make such a ranking. The meaninglessness of this exercise feels even more pronounced this season, since the number of shows I’m watching can be counted on a single hand. I don’t think that’s actually detrimental here, though – if anything, it actually just plays into the general silliness of the system.

That said, considering how little I actually am watching, I’ll still be supplementing today’s post with thoughts on the latest Game of Thrones and all that. I may be struggling mightily to fill my other columns in a season with nothing to watch, but that doesn’t mean you guys have to suffer. Let’s get to it!

#1: Tsuredure Children

Tsuredure Children is easily this season’s all-star, offering more charm and wit in any of its four-minute segments than most romcoms manage in a full season. Marrying some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in anime to generally strong comic sensibilities and a surprisingly rich ensemble cast, it is basically the root appeal of romantic comedy synthesized into a dangerously concentrated drug. Though not all of its narratives are equally strong, the ratio of hits to misses is phenomenal, and no story lingers long enough to wear out its welcome anyway. Tsuredure Children feels like an instant classic, and slots handily among the few anime comedies that I’d unreservedly recommend.

#2: Made in Abyss

To be frank, Made in Abyss has been losing ground since the closing notes of its bulletproof premiere. The show slowed down significantly after that, and a combination of sketchy secondary characters, weird narrative digressions, and the show’s insistence on constantly portraying its child leads naked have all cast it pretty far out of all-timer consideration. That said, the show’s fundamental execution is so strong, and core conceit so engaging, that it’s still a fairly rewarding watch. Made in Abyss is turning out to have one of anime’s most enduring and frustrating issues – terrific creators doing their absolute best with somewhat questionable source material. Its vision of the abyss itself is gorgeous, and its experimental methods of monster animation make its more violent encounters uniquely chilling. It’s a bumpy ride, but I’m still enjoying it.

#3: My Hero Academia

There was never much chance that the adaptation of the Hero Killer arc would be able to measure up to the sports festival that preceded it, and my expectations weren’t really challenged on that front. That said, it still felt like this arc was significantly improved through animation, offering both welcome glimpses into other students’ internships, as well as a more tightly executed follow-through on Midoriya and friends’ fight with Stain. Stain embodies a type of ‘90s comic anti-hero that I find more tedious than almost anything else that exists in fiction, so the fact that I still managed to enjoy this arc is definitely a mark in its favor. Considering how strong the coming manga material is, I really can’t wait to see confirmation of season three.

#4: Classroom of the Elite

And down here at the bottom, we have the frustratingly mediocre Classroom of the Elite. Classroom of the Elite isn’t really “terrible,” and more or less succeeds in its goal of being a schlocky, superficial classroom melodrama. But the show’s pretensions of thematic depth are completely hollow, and the fact that it thinks it’s still a smart show is kind of irritating. In the end, Classroom of the Elite is simply mediocre, and I’m not really interested in spending my time watching mediocre anime anymore.

Moving out of anime, this week’s Game of Thrones marked the first time this season didn’t kill a major character or destroy an entire army of people in a given episode, making it technically the most reserved episode of the season. Instead, we finally got textual acknowledgment of something that’s been coloring my impression of the show for quite a while – the fact that Daenerys is a pretty garbage ruler. Her crisping of the Tarleys put her in direct Mad King territory, and I was glad to see the show acknowledge it as such – doubly so since that acknowledgment came in the form of a speech by Varys, who is very likely my favorite character in the show altogether. Varys obviously isn’t the most multifaceted of characters, but his honest championing of the common people feels completely earned. In a show that revels in demonstrating the impossibility of making unquestionably just decisions, it’s really nice to have at least one fundamentally decent man.

I also caught up on Rick and Morty this week, which… man, they’re really going for it this season, huh? Rick and Morty’s second season was essentially just “the first season, but more so,” but this season has abandoned the show’s generally episodic, comedy-focused mode, and instead become a direct investigation of how Rick’s emotional myopia and self-destructive tendencies poison every single thing around him. The show is really charting the edge of just how realistically horrible Rick can be while still technically playing as a comedy, and I’m personally loving it. Last week’s “emotional labor is just work” speech felt like a lesson I needed to hear, and this week had even less pity for Rick’s self-aggrandizing bullshit.

The show has historically fallen somewhere around “Rick may be an unrepentant asshole, but at least he maybe sorta has a core of love for his grandkids,” and I’d initially figured that was pretty much Harmon’s justification of his own assholish tendencies (I followed and then defollowed the guy after it became clear he’s kind of a monster personally), but this season is presenting an emphatic “that’s just not good enough, Rick.” Rick is unwell, but that doesn’t give him an excuse to be this person. I’m thrilled to see where this season goes next.

7 thoughts on “Summer 2017 – First Half in Review

  1. I think the nudity in abyss is passable because it isn’t there to be titillating. Like in the previous episode it had the effect of both further characterizing Riko as a character who just doesn’t care and also driving home that whole ‘Reg is just a robot to me’ thing. If Riko was with one of her human friends, she still might not have minded the exposure from what we already know about her character, but she probably wouldn’t have gone on to prance around half nude if Reg was, say, Nat. The fact that she essentially acts like she’s ‘alone’ in regards to her extended exposure really drove up that notion of Reg’s percieved abhumanity in Riko’s eyes in a way that might not have registered quite as effectively is she’d redressed herself quicker. This week’s inclusion perhaps wasn’t quite as agile, but it still had characterizing qualities. I’d challenge you to look beyond the snap-take of ‘why the hell are these kids naked must be pedo otaku pandering at it again’, especially seeing as you’re listing it as a fault alongside much more significant issues like characters and narrative.

  2. I’m way behind on Classroom of the Elite, but opening every episode with a quote from a classic thinker or author sets a high bar that few, if any, anime have any chance of attaining. This show is perilously close to a drop for me.

    In the ANN forums, I made a passing comparison of Tsurdure Children to Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun from 3(?) summers back. Maybe there’s more to it than just the fact they’re both pleasant summer-season surprises, with the obvious difference that TDC is rooted in the real world, while MGNK is all about shojo cliches and gender stereotypes.

  3. Seriously, dude. When was the last time a season wasn’t “mostly garbage” for you? You mention how shit this season is every single week, and it’s felt like your week in reviews have had that general vibe for a long time. Do you even like anime?

    • The last time a season wasn’t “mostly garbage” for me was last season, which I praised the quality of almost as often as I’ve been dissing this one. Good seasons come and go for me. Relax.

  4. “…terrific creators doing their absolute best with somewhat questionable source material.”

    Can I ask what about Made in Abyss’ source material you find questionable? As a general rule, I enjoy anime more than manga, but I still loved the Made in Abyss manga. I don’t see what changes the anime made to elevate the source material, outside of adding movement and music, which all anime adaptations – obviously – do.

    • He is most likely referring to what appears to be the sexual nature of certain shots coming from the source material. The main character is a child, so I would imagine Bobduh finds it a bit disturbing that the manga author and anime writers/directors or whoever are including these elements in the story. I personally think it detracts from the show. It seems like it’s unnecessary fan service… to some creepy fans.

      Otherwise, the show’s premise and story are intriguing so far.

      • While there is nudity, I wouldn’t call it sexual. It’s just ‘there’, not portrayed in a particularly alluring or fetishistic light. That’s just me though.

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