Checking in on the Winter 2016 anime season part way through
Once again it's time for a 'midway' (or much of the way through) update on my early impressions of the season. This one is kind of delayed, which is convenient because in the past week or so I've gotten more to talk about. Sadly it's in a bad way, as a couple of shows actively fumbled things and got me to drop them.
- ERASED aka Boku Dake ga Inai Machi: This has been somewhat erratic,
with some unfortunate dips in the middle as the show returned to the
modern age and dropped into cliched thriller territory, but it's back
to the past and its strengths. This has led me to the straightforward
realization that where the show's strength and power is in its depiction
of Satoru in the past; in retrospect, even the first episode's modern
era work was not all that compelling. I hope that we stay in the past
from now onward to the end of the show.
- Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: I did not expect this at all, but the
show has turned into a great character piece; rather than being a
fantasy adventure, it's become a drama. Our protagonists feel like
fallible real people existing under fraught circumstances that put
them under terrible pressure. It's not always pleasant to watch but
it's often powerful, and while Grimgar has stumbled periodically
its successes more than make up for that.
- Akagami no Shirayukihime: The show has recently done some things that I didn't like but it came through in the end and has now returned to form. I continue to enjoy it a lot in a low key but affecting way. The show doesn't do high-key, capital D drama, but it does excellent low key drama that works very well, where we simply see people having quiet conversations with each other that show real feelings.
- BBK/BRNK aka Bubuki Buranki: This has turned out to be better than I expected (there's a theme here). The plot remains relatively straightforward but the execution has been raising it up, and the show is doing some interesting things with its 3D CG (the characters are quite expressive, for example). We are probably not going to get anything deep in the end but it's solidly exciting and solidly well done in its genre.
- Dimension W: In the end this just doesn't have the writing quality
that it needs in order to really stand out. It's a decent implementation
of its genre (and it's a genre we don't get too much of any more),
so I'm enjoying it for that, but it's not much more than that and I've
lowered my expectations as a result. I also believe that the show
made a strategic mistake when it let coils basically cause anything. If the
show did not have a collection of adults as its major characters,
I might not still be watching it.
- Active Raid: The show is pretty erratic. At its lows it's kind of boring; at its highs it's genuinely affecting with things to say about its underlying themes of adult life, getting the job done, and so on. I continue to feel that the presence of Logos and their plotting mostly brings the show down, and that it would be better if the show fully committed to its Patlabor style 'slice of police life with Willwears' take on things.
It's hard to score AR against DW. AR's high points are much better than DW, but on the other hand I feel that DW is more consistent and doesn't feature anything quite as irritating and jarring as Logos. If I had to pick only one to still watch, I would probably stay with AR after debating about it a lot.
I'm still watching:
- Luck & Logic: The show is a perfectly competent execution of its
fundamental genre, which is more or less 'LN teen action show' (yes,
I know, it's not actually based on a LN). It doesn't have anything
particularly spectacular there and it undershoots, say, Asterisk, but
on the other hand it mostly doesn't fumble anything and the execution is
competent. This leaves it as watchable but not particularly thrilling.
To put it only somewhat unkindly, it passes the time while I have a cup
- Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!: Some of the comedy works for
me but often a lot of it doesn't really. The show has had only one
episode that fully held my attention while I watched it, which
is okay because it's generally split up into a bunch of little
sections. Darkness is and continues to be the worst character; she
does very little besides bring things down when the show bangs on its
one-note jokes with her.
On the other hand, sometimes the show is great. I'm not going to forget shell-shocked Aqua refusing to come out of her shark cage any time soon, for example. And the cabbages. And so on and so forth. The show can be funny and fun, sometimes very much so. I guess that's what keeps me watching.
- Utawarerumono - Itsuwari no Kamen: The show recently took a plot
turn that was already questionable but could have led to affecting
drama and turned it into an action show plot about characters that I
have little interest in. Also, it's apparently time for the show to
start killing people off for drama. The show was always on the edge,
kept watchable by charming derping around, but that charming derping
is mostly gone and I find that I have no interest in following along
for the rest of the ride.
(When the only reason I can think of to watch more is 'but I'm so close to the end', I need to stuff my completist nature in a closet and drop the show.)
- Myriad Colors Phantom World aka Musaigen no Phantom World: This
kind of fumbled along as a watchable and kind of entertaining show,
and then episode 8 happened. Dropped.
(Commentary I've seen on subsequent episodes suggests that I'm not missing anything. Even people who are fans seem down on it lately.)
- Koukaku no Pandora: As I put it on Twitter, this show has neither enough animation nor enough energy. The first episode turned out to be an anomaly in an otherwise relatively flat and plain show.
Not for me:
- Maho Girls Precure!: I gave this three episodes and while it's a
perfectly good show with solid writing for its genre, there's basically
nothing in it that hooks me and too much that quietly turns me off.
The story beats are well crafted and perfectly competent, but you can
also kind of see them coming from a mile off. This is (quite well)
written for its target audience, and it shows. It's also a real magical
girls show, complete with a basic enemy of the week, fight of the week,
extended stock footage transformation scenes, and so on. It's charming,
though; just not enough so to charm me.
On a side note, I've periodically read praise of the whole Precure series as featuring good fights. All I can say to that is that in the first three episodes I was not particularly taken with the fights. This is probably not surprising, but it did come as kind of a letdown. Call it me coming into this with elevated expectations.
(I may watch an episode or two more just because, but probably not.)
This is a pretty solid season for me. There's shows that are thrilling, shows that I actively look forwards to, and plenty of stuff to keep me entertained. I've been disappointed in a few shows, but that happens basically every season, and most of the letdown has been in shows that didn't start out strong in any case.
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Written on 05 March 2016.