And so the winter season draws to a close. With the majority of my airing shows coming to an end this week, I’m ready to call the time of death for Winter 2017. This was far from a great season – Rakugo was pretty much the only unqualified recommendation, with my followup picks like Dragon Maid and Kemono Friends all coming with a variety of caveats. And even Rakugo seemed intent on tripping over itself a little at the end. Still, winter seasons are always pretty lean, and I certainly got through some powerful backlog – after all, I got to finish both Planetes and Nichijou this season. But let’s give this season’s airing contenders the round of applause they deserve, as I run down the winter season one last time!
And so the winter season approaches its end. We’ve got one more rough week after this, but the season’s shows are already beginning to turn out the lights at this point, starting with the scrappy March comes in like a lion. Other shows have a bit more life left in them – Rakugo is certainly tidying up, but Tanya’s narrative shows no sign of ending, and Dragon Maid is as lively as ever. This was definitely a lesser season, but as always, there were odd pleasures to be found here and there. Watching anime on a seasonal schedule means you’ll probably end up watching a lot of crap, but that’s all part of the experience. Let’s take a look at this week’s contenders and RUN ‘EM DOWN!
The anime was very cheery this week! I mean, I expect that from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, but even sadsack productions like Rakugo and March comes in like a lion turned in remarkably optimistic performances. I certainly didn’t mind that – frankly, it feels like all of us could use a little sunshine as the winter trudges to its end. And these were certainly well-earned strokes of positivity, given what the characters in both of those shows have recently suffered. With all that on top of this week’s wonderful episode of Dragon Maid, this was a pretty alright week in anime land. Let’s start with those reliable dragons and RUN THIS WEEK DOWN!
The winter heavyweights were both firing on all cylinders this week. Fresh from directing what’s apparently the most perfect anime film ever, Yamada turned in what was likely Dragon Maid’s most technically accomplished episode yet. And over in Rakugo land, the final act continued in fierce fashion, as Bon struggled mightily against his own obsolescence. Seasons aren’t necessarily defined by only their best shows, but Winter ‘17’s top tier is making a strong argument in that favor. We only ever remember our favorites from any given year, anyway – even if nothing else stands out, as long as they shine bright, anime will keep. Let’s dive right into those and the other shows of the week!
Anime was perfectly alright this week! No ridiculous highlights to report, but also no dramatic failures, with pretty much all my trusted shows turning in reasonable performances. Tanya apparently spent its week off meditating on the true ugliness of war, which was nice to see, while Dragon Maid recovered from last week’s missteps with a perfectly satisfying beach episode. Seiren wasn’t great, but Seiren isn’t great, so that’s not really news. And most importantly, I caught up on all of Kemono Friends, and even wrote an article over at Crunchyroll about one of the show’s various strengths. It’s been a satisfying week over here in anime land. Let’s take a look!
This week in anime was… not so good. In addition to Dragon Maid making its first legitimate missteps, there was also no Tanya, and apparently a week without Tanya pretty much instantly demonstrates that this season is resting on the thinnest of ice. There’s nothing like Flip Flappers here for me to constantly gush over – Rakugo is great, but it doesn’t really enchant or speak to me in the way my true favorites do. In the absence of Tanya (and with me having dropped ACCA for the moment), I’ve been forced to watch a bunch of Kemono Friends, the show about cute animal-girls who clip through their surroundings because their CG is so bad. It’s a rough time out there. Stay safe, everybody.
Alright, enough doom and gloom. Let’s get right to it and run this week down!
The season halfway point has arrived at last! In spite of early speculation by certain disreputable parties, the winter season hasn’t fallen on its face, and is actually turning out to be stronger than last winter. It’s still certainly a weaker season, but for some reason that’s just how winters tend to be – and given I’m supplementing this season’s offerings with regular injections of unfair additions like Planetes and Nichijou, I can’t really complain. But today, it’s all about the winter shows, as I commence the seasonal tradition of ranking everything I’m watching at the exact point those rankings are least likely to be meaningful. Theoretically, this is supposed to reflect the fundamental pointlessness of constructing hierarchical rankings of art in general – in practice, it’s more like most other traditions: I do it because I started doing it and I’ve been doing it for a while and goddamnit if I’m gonna stop now. So let’s start right at the top and run this season down!
And here’s my review of the winter season’s clear star, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. Rakugo is clearly a very impressive show, and its direction couldn’t be better, but I still found myself with some misgivings about the overall production. It’s weird, because I’ve seen plenty of people talking about how emotional the show’s final episodes made them, but Rakugo just did almost nothing for me on that level. I tried to sort out my feelings in the review, but it’s still something that leaves me a little stumped.
Most of this season’s anime came to a close this week, leaving just those two oft-compared highlights, Rakugo and Dagashi Kashi, to finish the season alone. ERASED pulled itself together to end with as much dignity as it could, given the circumstances of its villain, while Active Raid similarly felt hamstrung by its own weak antagonist. I almost feel tempted to write an article specifically about antagonists now, because the problems with both those shows were so specific and so centered on the ways they handled their villains. Though of course, that article would then end up spinning out into how an antagonist shouldn’t be something you design independently, and should instead reflect the core themes and conflicts of your narrative, and then we’re all the way back at storytelling step one again. Anyway. Some shows ended this week, some shows didn’t. Let’s crack those knuckles once more and RUN ‘EM DOWN!
Anime was pretty great this week! Basically anything would feel like an improvement after last week’s tragic slate of episodes, but this week’s selection was about as strong as you could hope for. ERASED didn’t magically fix the heavy fundamental damage its last episode caused, but it recovered as well as it could with an episode that mostly rediscovered the concept of subtlety. Dagashi Kashi had one of its best episodes so far, and Rakugo made up for its relatively grounded visual storytelling with some of the most endearing character moments of the season. Things are looking pretty okay in animeland at the moment. This may have been a relatively underwhelming season, but with Rakugo on track to become a legit classic, you can’t really call it a letdown.