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The Summer 2016 anime season has begun, and here are the results of the series I’ve sampled so far.

  • Looking Forward To: 3
  • Probationary Watch List: 9
  • Dropped: 9
  • Dropped and I hope Pedantic Perspective Watches: 2
  • Dropped and oh dear god no: 1

As with the Spring 2016 round up, here they are more or less in order:

1.      Orange

16 year old Naho receives a letter from her 26 year old self about her regrets from high school, and what to do to fix them. It seems that rewinding life or revising history is part of the Japanese Zeitgeist at the moment. There was Erased last season, Orange this season, and also ReLIFE this season.

Orange seems to be the best of the genre, possibly because the shoujo aesthetic works better for me than the murder mystery of Erased, or the creepy overtones of ReLIFE. Orange has a bittersweet, slightly poignant, feel to it that is resonating with me far more than I expected, and leaving me wanting to see more.

Orange is a beautifully designed show that looks great, and doesn’t have excessively moe character designs. So far this is the best of the season.

2.      Days

Days is an anime about high school soccer that I expected to either dislike or be bored by. Instead it is surprisingly charming, and I’m looking forward to the next episode.

The dynamic between the natural star Jin Kazama, and the inexperienced but enthusiastic Tsukushi Tsukamoto is probably what’s going to carry this show. In some respects it reminds me of All Might and Deku from My Hero Academia, which is no bad thing. It helps that Jin, despite appearances, is a genuinely nice guy.

3.      sweetness & lightning

This show is just adorable. Kohei is a high school teacher whose wife died six months ago. Kohei is struggling to raise his daughter Tsumugi, and really can’t cook at all. Along the way he meets one of his students, Kotori, who gives him the address of her mother’s restaurant.

Alas, on the night when Kohei and Tsumugi arrive looking for properly cooked food, Kotori is the only one there. It turns out that, despite putting a brave face on it, Kotori can’t really cook either but does her best with pot rice anyway.

sweetness & lightning[1] is one of those gentle shows that tends to do well with me. My only concern is the possibility of the show heading towards a teacher/student romance, which I wouldn’t be comfortable with. We’ll see how it goes, but for the moment I’m really looking forward to this one.

4.      The Morose Mononokean

It is said that no good deed goes unpunished, and for Hanae Ashiya that’s certainly the case. Hanae can see (and accidentally steps on) a yokai, but initially thinks it’s a stuffed toy that’s been lost. He puts the furry critter where she can be found, only to be glomped by her as she starts draining his life energy.

This disrupts the beginning of Hanae’s happy high school life until he manages to find the exorcist Haruitsuki Abeno. Alas, the exorcism is expensive and Hanae winds up working for Abeno.

The Morose Mononokean had a surprisingly charming opening episode The Beginning. My major concern at the moment is whether Hanae will be The Chew Toy, or The Woobie who can Earn His Happy Ending.

The former is a bit too mean for my tastes, the latter can be well worth watching[2]. Because of the risk here, this one is on the probationary watch list.

5.      Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

To be honest Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars opens in an fairly standard manner. A disaster 12 years previously, segueing to cute girls who happen to be sisters, a callout by a mysterious girl, and oh look a giant robot fight in the docklands. The elder, but smaller girl, Rena actually is one of the giant robots, and her “sister” is needed to pilot it effectively.

Despite the description, Regalia is actually a fair bit of fun, with a strong “the family you choose” message. The post-credits tag reveal that Yui is actually the Empress of Enastoria which introduces some interesting possibilities.

This is a show that could easily go off the rails, but if it keeps that sense of fun and the surprisingly good character work, it will work its way from probationary watch list to looking forward to.

6.      Amanchu!

I really wanted to like Amanchu!. Based on a manga by Kozue Amano, the mangaka for ARIA, this was a show I was really looking forward to. Alas, Amanchu just didn’t feel quite right.

Akari in ARIA may have been something of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander but the rest of her character was mostly endearing[3]. Her most obvious equivalent in Amanchu, Hikari[4] has this trope dialled up to Flanderisation levels, and it was a bit off putting.

The other concern was the, to me, excessive use of the SD expression faces. This was throwing me out of the story[5] a bit.

On the plus side, the shy, withdrawn Futaba Ooki is a character I had a lot of sympathy for early. Futaba has been forced for some reason to move to a new city, and found the class introductions to be particularly terrifying. I can relate to that reaction, and some of Futaba’s solo scenes were particularly effective as character moments.

When it focuses on the ocean (scuba diving is a key theme for Amanchu!), the show looks beautiful, and I can see it delivering huge amounts of Scenery Porn in future episodes.

Alas, however much I wanted to like this, the problems with Hikari and the overused expression faces, have dropped it down into the probationary watch list.

7.      Thunderbolt Fantasy

A wuxia puppet show isn’t anime but is unusual enough to have drawn my attention. In terms of story, it’s drawn in very broad strokes: the villains are blacker than black, the heroes are larger than life. Albeit that one of the heroes is a little reluctant. The mix of physical and special effects creates an odd viewing experience.

For the moment sheer curiosity will keep me watching, but I’m not sure how long that will last.

NB: It’s worth clicking through to the larger version of the key visual just to appreciate the craftsmanship of the puppets. Some beautiful work there.

8.      Alderamin on the Sky

A light novel adaptation, Alderamin on the Sky has an interesting premise with the usual flaws of excessively fanservice oriented character designs. The core premise is a group of young cadets sailing to an island for officer exams prior to commencing training. There’s a mix of nobility, military families, and an orphaned commoner in the bunch. Disaster strikes and the group winds up behind enemy lines with a 12 year old princess in their midst.

One nice touch is the explicit acknowledgement of the fog of war, via a suggestion that playing chess isn’t actually good training for an officer. The suggested remedy is to play chess blindfolded to reflect incomplete information, and to develop the imagination needed to visualise the battlefield from limited information.

This is clearly heading towards setting up the male lead, Ikta Solork, as a Belisarius and/or Nobunaga[6] style military genius. It’s even foreshadowed in the episode previews by describing him as the future “invincible lazy general”.

The key visual shows the characters in fairly reasonable uniforms. If they get into those outfits fairly quickly the fanservice content will drop sharply, and this is more likely to get off the probationary watch list.

9.      The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi

I truly did not expect to like this one. It’s a short about high school student Sakaguchi who claims to be het but is also a fudanshi (aka a fan of boys love manga). First episode was actually funny so I’ll see where it goes from here.

10.  New Game!

I want to like New Game!, but there’s so much fanservice in this show I’m not sure if I can. Aoba Suzukaze is 18, and just starting work for the first time at the computer game company Eagle Jump. Poor Aoba is also tiny, mistaken for a middle schooler, and very uncertain of herself.

Aoba applied to Eagle Jump because the company made her favourite game Fairy Stories, and is thrilled to find herself working on the third instalment. The all-female staff of Eagle Jump are a mixed bunch, and serve to introduce the perils of working life in an interesting way.

Between the all-female cast[7], and the excessive fanservice, his show isn’t going to be on the level of Shirobako by any stretch of the imagination[8], but there’s still some hope that this show will have some things worth saying.

It is, however, a probationary watch item for the moment, and may well get dropped quickly.

11.  This Art Club Has a Problem!

Yes, yes it does.

Actually, it has many problems but that’s where the comedy comes from I guess. 🙂

Despite some fanservice driven humour, I did wind up feeling a bit sorry for the clearly long suffering Mizuki, and amused overall by the antics.

There’s a risk that the humour, or general tone, of This Art Club Has a Problem! will be overly mean to the characters. If that eventuates I’ll run in the other direction very fast indeed. For the moment though, this is a probationary watch item.

12.  Scar-red Riders XechS

It would be nice if the content of Scar-red Riders XechS made more sense than the title or the official blurb:

The Blue World, a world symbolizing reason, is under attack by fierce creatures known as the Nightfly O’Note sent from the Red World, a world symbolizing instinct. Elected to lead the Blue World, 17-year-old researcher Akira Asagi will take charge of the combat unit “IS”. These six riders, also called the Scared Rider Xechs, will fight at the Ryuukyuu LAG to protect their world and each other.

Still, there are explosions, hints of dark conspiracies, the occasional murder, and so on. It might improve given time, and so this is right at the bottom of the probationary watch list at the moment.

13.  Taboo Tattoo

The biggest problem with Taboo Tattoo is that it has an interesting premise shackled to clumsy infodumping and utterly gratuitous Gainaxing.

I suspect this won’t survive the edit wars[9] but the Wikipedia page for Taboo Tattoo describes the main character’s best friend as “Touko, Seigi’s classmate and token childhood friend who clearly loves him. Has great plot.

Emphasis added, and it’s exactly a euphemism for what you think it is. By the way: Boobs don’t work that way. They just don’t.

Based on the OP/ED this is going to be a harem show. The idea of tattoos that are supernatural weapons is interesting, the fight scenes in the first episode are impressively choreographed, but the gratuitous elements are just too much. Borderline but dropped.

14.  Hitori no shita – The Outcast

Hitori no shita – The Outcast is a potentially interesting title if only because of its origins. The Outcast is adapted from the Chinese web comic Yi Ren Zhi Xia (aka Under One Person) by Dong Man Tang. The premise seems to involve zombies and Chinese magical systems, and is set in China.

The anime is a co-production and is apparently being simulcast in both Chinese and Japanese. The character and place names are all Chinese.

Like Qualidea Code below the male lead isn’t particularly sympathetic, but he mostly just wants the weird stuff to go away. This might have potential, but I’m not a zombie fan at the best of times, and there’s already too much on the watch list anyway.

Dropped, but I may keep an eye out for positive reports on this.

15.  Qualidea Code

Qualidea Code isn’t bad per se, it’s just… meh. The opening scenes of an apocalypse with mentions of kids being put into cold sleep segues neatly into the superhero teens defending a rebuilt world. The setup is well done, I’ll give the show that much.

Alas, the main character is an arrogant jerkface. If I kept watching it would primarily be to see him get the arrogance smacked out of him. That’s not enough of a reason to keep watching, so dropped.

16.  OZMAFIA!!

This is a short that made even less sense. Pass.

17.  Servamp

Apparently vampires turn into cats in sunlight. Then, if you rescue one, name it, and say the name out loud whilst it’s in human form, that’s a contract between the human and the “servant vampire”[10].

If that makes any more sense to you, take a look at Servamp. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

18.  ReLife

The good news for anyone who wants to watch ReLife is that the entire first cour dropped at once on CrunchyRoll. Binge watching ahoy if ReLIfe is to your taste.

The premise of ReLife is that a 27 year old NEET is offered a “societal rehabilitation program” that will pay his living expenses for a year if he takes part in the experiment. The catch is that the program involves a drug that de-ages him back to 16 or so, and he has to go back to high school.

The problems here are that the main character, Arata Kaizaki, didn’t engage me in the first episode, and that the premise involves putting an adult male into a high school setting. There’s creepy overtones there that I’m not comfortable with, so this goes onto the dropped list.

19.  Momokuri

Momokuri is a high school romance which starts with the confession, and then starts looking at the actual relationship that grows from that point. In that sense Momokuri is refreshing, if only for avoiding the Can Not Spit It Out trope.

The character designs are heavily in the moe direction, but on the basis of the double opening episode (which I didn’t finish) don’t seem to be heading towards fanservice. That’s the good news, and I suspect that will be enough for many to keep with this show.

The bad news is that the setup for the characters is a little too stalkery for my tastes, and it’s being played for comedy. There’s also a double standard here, in particular Stalking is Funny If It Is Female After Male.

I’m not comfortable with this, so this one is dropped.

20.  Hatsukoi Monster / First Love Monster

Uncomfortable age differences seem to be a theme at the moment. Hatsukoi Monster (First Love Monster on AnimeLab) is about a spoiled rich girl who moves to Tokyo to improve herself. Kudos for trying, but promptly falls in love (at first sight no less) with a huge boy… who turns out to be in primary school and living in the same boarding house. Leaving aside the issues with the age difference[11], this just seems full of tropes rather than characters. I suspect it was supposed to be funny but was just falling flat.

21.  Tales of Zestiria the X

If I wanted to watch an extended Cutscene from the Tales of Zestiria game, I’d play the game first. This has some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in a while in terms of being intrusively obvious, and there wasn’t enough of an engaging story or characters to overcome that.

In essence the visuals threw me out of the story that I was snarking about it on twitter without even bothering to pause it[12]. Well and truly dropped.

22.  Rewrite

What is this, I don’t even? OK, it looks like a trope-a-licious harem show with some supernatural thing or other going on. I think. Double length episode that I abandoned once I started wondering what Pedantic Perspective would make of it.

This post on Insignificant Thought identifies Rewrite as a visual novel adaptation, and more or less acknowledges that the show is confusing as a result. So this is a Sometimes More is More situation, and I tend not to be happy with those.

23.  Ange Vierge

Ange Vierge might have an interesting story. But when I lost count of the censor steam clouds and light bars that will, no doubt, be removed in the BD releases, it was time to stop. This one is down in the Pedantic Perspective watches category because they probably will keep count. 🙂

24.  Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia

I think I just managed 20 seconds of Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia. I shouldn’t have watched that much[13]

No. Just No. A whole world of No. Look up the premise if you must, but I’m not going anywhere near this thing.

The Snarky Bits

[1] The lower case isn’t a typo. That’s how the title is presented on CR.

[2] As a side note, and in retrospect, that’s one of the things that Kantai Collection did right: Fubuki is one of the best recent examples of a Woobie done right. She has to work for her successes, and (mostly) does so without complaining.

[3] Although Alice will always be my favourite in ARIA.

[4] Note the similar name with the equivalent root meaning of “Light”.

[5] Such as it is, and such as there is of it. This is clearly intended as an Iyashikei after all.

[6] Belisarius is the comparison that immediately comes to my mind, Nobunaga is a more likely inspiration for a Japanese author.

[7] None of the characters listed on the Wikipedia page are male.

[8] Shirobako generally avoided fanservice, and had a mixed cast large enough to be believable for an anime studio.

[9] Or just hasn’t been noticed by the editors yet. Take your pick. UPDATE: It didn’t survive. The text currently reads: “She’s rather well-developed for her age.”

[10] Hence the abbreviated series name of Servamp from Servant Vampire.

[11] The age difference isn’t handled well here, but it can be done, see The World Is Still Beautiful for a good example.

[12] Which is unusual. If you see me livetweeting a show you can generally assume that I’m pausing playback between tweets so I don’t miss anything.

[13] It’s a full length (i.e. 23 minute) series, and yes I’m regretting watching 20 seconds of it.