Spring 2017 – Week 10 in Review

After a serious dip in general show quality, the anime returned to something of a neutral setting this week, lifted largely on the back of The Eccentric Family’s terrific performance. Sakura Quest, My Hero Academia, and Re:Creators were all just kinda middle-of-the-road, though their particular brands of middle-of-the-road all gave me unique things to talk about. So in terms of this particular article, I guess you guys once again get to reap the benefits of less than stellar cartoons. This season isn’t ending as well as it started, but basically none of them do – it’s a whole lot easier to make a great first episode than it is to make a consistently satisfying full season narrative. Let’s start out in the weeds of Manoyama and run this week down!

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The Eccentric Family 2 – Episode 10

The Eccentric Family recovered and then some, offering one of the strongest episodes of the season to date. Splitting its drama across virtually every member of the Shimogamo family, it conveyed the impossibility of living with as much grace as ever. We are very lucky to have a second season of this extraordinary show.

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

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Chihayafuru – Episode 4

And we’re back with more Chihayafuru! Last episode brought us to what I assume is the end of the show’s flashback arc, with Chihaya and her two karuta buddies separating at the end of elementary school. The overall arc left me with some mixed structural feelings, as I felt that not only did this flashback kinda dampen the show’s dramatic momentum, but it also didn’t necessarily sell the depth of the bond between our leads. But even though I had a number of narrative structure concerns, the actual moment-to-moment execution of the show was still very solid throughout. Let’s see what high school brings!

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Tsuki ga Kirei – Episode 9

The hammer started to fall in this week’s Tsuki ga Kirei, as narrative convention more or less demanded. Akane’s potential move seems like it could strike a fatal blow for our young lovers, but I hope they at least manage to enjoy what they still have. That aside, this was a pretty excellent Tsuki ga Kirei in all regards, as my review attests. Let’s get to it!

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

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Natsume’s Book of Friends – Episode 11

Over its first ten episodes, Natsume’s Book of Friends has settled into a clear rhythm. Depending on your own mileage, it’d probably be fair to call that rhythm either “comfortable” or “stifling.” The show clearly knows the kind of stories it wants to tell, but it’d be hard to watch all that many of them in a row. It’s a consistently competent exercise in a genre space I’m inherently fond of, but even I have had some trouble getting enthusiastic about continuous stories of youkai and humans just barely connecting.

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Spring 2017 – Week 9 in Review

I guess I should have stopped talking about the anime being good! The cosmos apparently did not appreciate my joy, and so this week in anime was pretty friggin’ bad. The Eccentric Family had easily its worst episode of the season, Sakura Quest kinda fell into its lazy sitcom mode, and Re:Creators took a couple of turns so disappointing that I felt tempted to drop the show altogether. Not really a good showing for what had looked like a pretty bulletproof season.

Still, My Hero Academia had a fucking amazing episode, and one bad week isn’t really enough to shake anything I’m watching. Plus I know you guys love to read through my suffering, so I guess at least one audience gets to benefit from this week’s disappointments. Let’s start with the good news and run this week down!

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Sound of the Sky – Review

This week I got to review Sound of the Sky, which was just a friggin’ fantastic show in all regards. I’d heard vague rumblings about this one for a while, but didn’t expect it to be nearly this beautiful or well-written. I actually think I prefer this one to Haibane Renmei, which I’d consider its pretty close stylistic cousin. Great character work, rich ideas, consistently gorgeous execution. Always nice to find another hidden gem.

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

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Summer 2017 Season Preview

At this point, I’ve kinda accepted that season previews are more or less useless. Alright, that’s a bit harsh. As a way of pointing out promising staff, or a breakdown of the merits of source material, they definitely have their uses. But gauging shows based on their premises is basically pointless, and a first episode is a far more useful predictor of quality than pretty much anything a preview can tell you. I’m gonna be frank with you – I’m writing this preview mostly because I have a slavish dedication to routine, and also because readers just kinda seem to like them. I hope those reasons sound reasonable enough!

All that said, we’re sticking with my usual format here. I won’t be breaking down every single show that’s coming up – I’m just gonna be highlighting the shows I actually have some reason to be excited about. I also won’t be offering synopses, which are easily available elsewhere – instead, I’ll be focusing on the specific reasons I think some show has a shot at being good. With all that qualifying and justifying behind us, starting with my top choices, let’s preview some shows!

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Ojamajo Doremi – Episode 12

And we’re back with more Ojamajo Doremi! Doremi has always been a charming and well-constructed show, but its last couple episodes have felt like a step up even by its own standards. Having fleshed out its initial platform through the addition of Hadzuki and Ai and completion of the Level 9 tests, the show is confidently employing its wider cast to great effect. Managing an ensemble production is inherently tougher than juggling just a few central characters, but Doremi is consistently demonstrating the many strengths of the approach. Let’s see what adventures our terrible witches get into today!

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Natsume’s Book of Friends – Episode 10

Natsume’s tenth episode opens with a lovely forest shot and gentle piano, a picture of serenity before we return to Natsume’s daily troubles. Reflecting once more on how he’s kept his secret close, we first see Natsume once again navigating the difficulties of his isolation, as he plays off noticing a lost umbrella that none of his human friends can see. This umbrella isn’t actually lost, though – it’s harboring a youkai, the dedicated umbrella bearer Akagane. And along with Akagane is another youkai trapped in a small gourd, the gentle koto player Asagi.

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