As with every season of anime, there is always that one show that everyone’s talking about. For this year, Winter had Boku Machi (you can check out my review of that here), Spring gave us Re:Zero and Summer brought Mob Psycho 100. While those shows indefinitely deserve the spotlight and fans will flock to greatness, more often than not this results on this concept of hidden gems. Shows that garner a small yet dedicated fanbase that are sometimes pushed aside in the multitude of “Top 10” lists and “Season Spotlights”. As of writing this piece, we’re roughly halfway through the season so I’ll be giving my thoughts on some of the shows this season in no particular order.
|All anime mentioned in the article (Click to skip to their section)|
|Flip Flappers||Magical Girls Raising Project|
|Izetta: The Last Witch||Bungou Stray Dogs (S2)|
|Yuri on Ice!!!|
Mystical worlds, gorgeous animation and subtle storytelling
13 Episodes | Comedy, Sci-Fi, Adventure | Animated by Studio 3Hz | Dir: Oshiyama, Kiyotaka
Flip Flappers: an intriguing fantasy adventure following teenage girls Cocona and Papika. Wielding a gateway into parallel dimensions known as “Pure Illusion”, the girls embark on a quest for the “Shards of Mimi”, a mysterious crystal said to grant any wish. Interacting with many friends and foe along the way, the dysfunctional but loving pair explore a lot more than a bunch of alien realms. Now, if you’re a follower of this blog you might know that I rarely use animated GIFs in my articles but for me to do that with a show like Flip Flappers would seem criminal. The artistic style and animation in this show is stunning, a sense of adventure is conveyed so effortlessly by making everything in the frame look so fluid. Not only that, but the background art is absolutely gorgeous, fans have gone as far as comparing the show to the work of Studio Ghibli. You really can’t argue with them either, just look at this!
So far in this piece, going by what has been presented you might believe that Flip Flappers is a rather easy-going experience, the Non Non Biyori of Sci-Fi/Fantasy anime if you will. However, as always with this show, there’s another feature that will blow your mind. They’re magical girls. Well with such a capable animation team and an eccentric main character, upping the ante was kind of a given. In the Pure Illusion dimensions, our two lead roles have the power of “Flip Flapping”, it sounds dumb when you hear it surrounded by English but it sounds better in the show, trust me. With this power comes tremendous abilities, and the inevitable elaborate costume change sequence. While providing a wonderful aesthetic for tumblr blogs around the world, this is also a fantastic way of integrating the madness into the story.
Magical Girl Raising Project
Magical Girls Death Battle Royale, but less fun than it sounds
12 Episodes | Fantasy, Supernatural | Animated by Lerche | Dir: Hashimoto, Hiroyuki
While the topic of Magical Girls is still fresh let’s quickly talk about this show, seeing that I don’t really have much to say about it anyway. Magical Girl Raising Project tells the story of a widespread mobile app that lets anyone become a real authentic magical girl at the tap of a button. Himekawa, Koyuki having dreamed of this exact thing for years caves in and sees what all of the fuss is about. However, the show reveals its true colours when “the administration” announces that there are too many magical girls and challenges must be completed to weed out those unworthy of the title. Turns out, the show is a lot darker than you would have initially thought as the challenges evolve into a battle royal of murderous survival.
Not going to lie to you, that premise sounds pretty cool to me. Taking the cutesy, fluffy archetype of magical girls and literally making them fight to the death is certainly a new spin on things. Unfortunately, the Mayoiga effect came though. For everyone that is lucky enough to not know what Mayoiga is, you can check out my full review of the show here. In short, the show suffered to the effect of bad writing. Recently, there have been quite emotional episodes where characters have taken a turn for the worse but the combination of predictable death setups and lacklustre character development left it feeling flat. Maybe I’m just desensitised to the whole experience and “You’re a guy so you wouldn’t get it”, but this is one of those shows where the hype is kind of lost on me.
Izetta: The Last Witch
World War II the Anime: Now with Witches
12 Episodes | Action, Military, History | Animated by Ajia-Do | Dir: Fujimori, Masaya
Continuing the trend of Fall 2016 being the season for gay characters, Izetta the Last Witch is a period show set in early World War II. Taking place in Germania, fighting against the nations of Europe the era spirals into war to which the people Germania can only hope for a miracle. Legends of a White Witch bringing redemption and protection to the nation have been passed down for generations; a mere fairy tale told to children. However, in a world dominated by science and industry, the last witch known as Izetta and childhood friend of Princess Ortfiné of Elystadt takes on the momentous task of defending all of Germania.
In the slew of confusing names and fantasy elements, there is a genuinely entertaining show here. Following a supernatural witch in a militaristic era is interesting to watch as years of science and engineering is blown to pieces with unimaginable power. That being said, the animation is great yet giving off a somewhat manufactured style with the CGI tanks and so on. While I personally keep watching for character development with action sequences spliced in, these moments where Izetta takes to the front lines to take on complete battalions by herself is a sight to behold. Speaking of sights to behold, be warned that this show has its fair share of fanservice. It’s tacky and can ruin some of the more serious scenes but isn’t frequent enough to detract from the show itself.
“If I am promised to the princess, then I will fight for her sake.”
The relationship between Izetta and Ortfiné is a loving and heartwarming one that gives the audience a reason to cheer for Germania. Izetta’s devotion to the princess is utterly stunning at times, charging into seemingly impossible fights for the sake of Ortifiné. Thankfully, this goes both ways as Ortifiné is often seen on edge observing the battle and preventing Izetta to take part in any needlessly dangerous situations. While clearly not my favourite show of the season, it’s definitely one to keep in mind and has earned its current MAL Score of 7.3/10.
Bungou Stray Dogs Season 2
Solid start and a darker tone to the first season
12 Episodes | Mystery, Supernatural | Animated by Bones | Dir: Igarashi, Takuya
Bungou Stray Dogs, the show that took my passion for the mystery detective genre and combined it with supernatural elements. For those of you that didn’t watch the first season, the show is essentially telling the story of a gifted detective agency where all members have some sort of supernatural talent. Whether it be physical or mental, these detectives cannot be classified as human and wrestle rival gangs for control of their area. This second season holds a much darker tone than that of the first and from this point on, readers should skip this section if they haven’t seen season one.
Beginning with a three episode arc following Osamu Dazai‘s life before leaving the Port Mafia, the style and grittiness of the show has noticeably increased. All of the lighting is more dim and the story being told is much darker than that of the first season which, to me, is a great thing to have happened. My only real gripe with the first show was that its lacklustre attempts at humour often pulled me out of the immersion and almost belittled the writer’s best efforts to craft an engaging plot. However, in a 12 episode season, this arc is short lived and the format quickly returns to its roots which is fine but leaves less than to be desired in my opinion.
Truth be told, I am aware of my bias towards this show. Although, I’m not quite sure why I love this show so much given its average (and justified) reception. Credit where credit is due, I am a big fan of how they changed things up for the second season with the introduction of “The Fellowship of the Guild” – pictured second above. With this, the clean cut antagonists of the first season are receiving well deserved development and in some cases are the clan that I’ve been rooting for. If you’ve seen the first season and enjoyed it then it should be a no brainer to watch the second season which is a huge improvement on the first.
More Teekyu is best Teekyu
12 Episodes | Comedy, Sports, Short Episodes | Animated by Millepensee
Teekyu is more of a tradition for this website than it is actually worth talking about. The two minute long episodes of wacky fast paced antics of the tennis club haven’t really changed since the fourth season but it would be wrong to stop watching the show when I’m currently 90 episodes in. If you ever feel restricted for time and want to test your quick reading skills, Teekyu is the show for you.
In all seriousness, nothing much has really changed since I last talked about the show in the season of Winter 2016. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, drastically changing the formula this deep into such a stylised and eccentric show would most likely lead to its downfall. On the topic of this, season eight is the first to waste time on still eye-catches which is a shame given that it breaks up the notoriously fast pace that gave the show its fifteen minutes of fame. Teekyu is love, Teekyu is life.
Brutal, Bloody and Barbaric: The Three B’s of Japanese War
12 Episodes | Action, Samurai | Animated by Hoods Drifters Studio | Dir: Suzuki, Kenichi
From the team that brought Hellsing Ultimate to the world, the now renamed Hoods Drifters Studio charge onto the scene weapons drawn and ready to spill some blood. Following Shimazu Toyohisa, a ferocious warrior in the Battle of Sekigahara, he finds himself critically wounded and awakes amongst a corridor of doors. Being forced into one by a seemingly mute receptionist, he is sent to an alternate realm where discrimination is prominent and the mighty feast upon the weak. In this world he meets other great warriors like him who have been transported as well, to be part of a group known as “Drifters.”
This show is dark and not afraid to include all of the gory details of war. Taking place in an era of samurai swords and cavalry battalions, the conflicts are up close and personal which is quite a jarring experience as someone who rarely watches such intense shows. As you would expect from such experienced staff, the animation quality is top notch and mimics the style of their previous works under a different name. While the blood looks like ketchup and the half-assed attempt at comedy is painful to endure, Drifters is a solid show.
I am finding the concept to the show’s plot quite engaging so far and can appreciate the references of authentic Japanese warriors. That being said, one of the main cast is Oda, Nobunaga which you may have seen from, every historic samurai show in existence. Splicing in the obligatory fan-service is a given which can be distracting at times but isn’t as bad as the humour. Often consisting of puns or “haha, they don’t understand us” (because nobody in the alternate universe speaks Japanese), the humour falls flat and detracts from an otherwise great show so far. Looking forward to how it progresses.
Yuri on Ice!!!
Quite easily the best show of the season, maybe of 2016
12 Episodes | Sports, Drama | Animated by MAPPA | Dir: Yamamoto, Sayo
The show that everyone is talking about: Yuri on Ice!!!, but is it as good as everyone says it is? Yuuri Katsuki is a twenty-three year old Japanese figure skater whose career fell short following an embarrassing defeat on the main stage. Cracking under the pressure and being eliminated from the tournament, a disheartened Yuuri returns home. Feeling lost and in the dark about his future, he takes to his local ice rink so that he can be alone with his thoughts. Performing a routine akin to his figure skating idol Viktor Nikiforov, one of the locals records the sequence in secret and posts the video online. Having seen the video and sparked a fire within him, Viktor travels to Japan to resign as a professional figure skater to revitalise Yuuri and become his coach.
Taking the audience on Yuuri Katsuki’s figure skating journey, not only does this show demonstrate a plethora of excellent storytelling features, but also develops an incredible bond between the main cast and viewer. Defining Yuri on Ice!!! as a sports anime really doesn’t do it justice because there is so much more than just the performances and training. This show completely envelops you in Yuuri’s mind, everything he feels the audience feels and is most likely why fans love Viktor so much.
There is a recurring joke among anime fans that “This show should be called Yaoi on Ice” given the show’s prominent themes and play on the whole Yuri/Yaoi labels. As a viewer that welcomes these kind of relationships with open arms, the connections between characters serve to enhance the show as a whole and are an integral component to its success. However, I am fully aware that those kind of tropes are not for everyone but I urge any sceptics to try it out first. I truly hope that those of you that are on the fence for this show will really give this show a fair chance and soon enough you’ll be shouting in a library because the performance got really intense and you forgot you’re watching the show on your tablet.