The Roundup: Winter 2016 Volume 1

roundup_winter2016_01-1

In this week’s installment…

The Winter 2016 Roundup starts off with a bang as we bring in a new block of shows as well as a few returning contenders. Dagashi Kashi, Ojisan and Marshmallow, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Nurse Witch Komugi R, and Rainbow Days all make their Roundup debut while Snow White with the Red Hair and Durarara return after a season off. Oh, and of course Mr. Osomatsu is still with us, thank the anime gods!

The Roundup is a weekly guide to all the “other” shows we’re watching this season. Check out our full coverage of:

BBK/BRNK (Bubuki Buranki) | Dimension W | ERASED | Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash | Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans

snowwhite

Snow White with the Red Hair
Episode 13: “The Red That Spins Fate”

Mondays 11:00 am EST on Funimation

Artemis: This episode left me with a big, dopey grin on my face. Actually, it didn’t just leave me with one – I had it the whole time I was watching as well. I’m not claiming that this is one of the best anime shows I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly one of the nicest, and as a result it’s pure pleasure being able to watch this every week again. If this episode was any indication though, the second season of Shirayuki-hime is going to be more plot-focused than the first was, for which I’m totally on board. I actually didn’t mind the meandering and very slice-of-life episodic content of season one, because characters have always tended to take precedence over story for me in any show, but that doesn’t mean I’m not welcoming of the change. I’m interested to see what Shirayuki-hime has up its sleeve, and whether or not it has what it takes to make me fall in love with it a little bit more in the process.

Marlin: Shirayuki is my favorite show to watch this season. Period. When it started in the summer, I had been starved for a traditional romance show ever since Golden Time ended all the way back in Winter 2014. It seems maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder, so to say I was absolutely stoked to see it come back this winter is no exaggeration. Shirayuki and Zen are so cute together, and it’s good to know that time has changed that little. With the leaps and bounds we’ve made in their relationship already, I’m perfectly fine with the show having that take a step back to the wider plot. I’m sure Zen is hardly going to cotton to Shirayuki being gone for too long, so I’m sure more adorable time are in store.

Mr. Osomatsu – ALL HAIL JYUSHIMATSU... and yes that is a spine in the background.

Mr. Osomatsu – ALL HAIL JYUSHIMATSU… and yes that is a spine in the background.

 osomatsu

Mr. Osomatsu
Episode 14: “We Caught a Cold / Todomatsu’s Line / Choromatsu-sensei”

Mondays 1:45 pm EST on Crunchyroll

Jel: Jyushimatsu is the MVP of all anime right now. He single-handedly took two segments that were doing OK and turned them into something amazing. “We Caught a Cold” was already pretty funny as the brothers one upped each other in their efforts to “help” but wow, when Jyushimatsu started dividing himself… I still don’t know exactly what happened but it was incredibly weird and hilarious. Same for the next segment, which was really about Todomatsu and was doing well on its own with Osomatsu’s patented brand of uncomfortable humor. Jyushimatsu’s one little line in the entire process really sold the segment though, driving home the point. The final, post-ED bit was mildly amusing but clearly the weak part of the episode. Not surprisingly, it did not have Jyushimatsu so… MUSCLE MUSCLE! HUSTLE HUSTLE!

Marlin: It’s pretty shameless how much Jyushimatsu has taken over this show, but you can hardly blame the writing staff. Almost every bit he’s a part of is better off for it, and this week’s cold segment was no different. I quite enjoyed most of the brother’s attempts to “cure” the others, but Jyushimatsu’s Fantastic Voyage really took the cake. It was interesting to see the Osomatsu style have this fluid of animation for a change as well, certainly a psychedelic nightmare that has to be seen to be believed. I have to imagine things are different when you are literally the same age and genetically the same person as your brothers, but it was really weird to watch the second bit, with every character overreacting to Totty’s life outside of family. I don’t hate my brothers but I also don’t feel the need to see them 24/7, so the idea that they need to know those kinds of things in their life is bizarre. Knowing what this family is capable of, honestly Totty has always had the best idea keeping them out of the loop.

Dagashi Kashi - Hot Babe Giving Blowjob to Candy Bar

Dagashi Kashi – Hot Babe Giving Blowjob to Candy Bar

 dagashikashi

Dagashi Kashi
Episode 2: “Kinako-bou, Namaiki Beer, and… / Fue Ramune, Menko, and…”

Mondays 5:00 pm EST on Funimation

Jel: Two episodes in we have a solid feel for what Dagashi Kashi is going to be and I have to say it is not the show I expected. That is a good thing. Rather than a sleazy romp through anime RomCom hell, episode 2 delivers a series of comedy segments in which the kids hang out and Hotaru explains the origins of her favorite junk food with weird, borderline hallucinogenic flashback sequences. Seriously, this girl needs mental help, but hey, it makes for an entertaining show! Probably the best part is having the main plot still in there somewhere, but it lurks in the background as we live through these small vignettes with the characters. Will Dagashi Kashi continue it’s laid back storytelling throughout or was this the exception to the rule? Tough to say, but for now I’m into it.

Marlin: My enthusiasm for this show is starting to wane. I feel like I should love this show. Off the wall humor, funny animations, and a subplot of cute romantic comedy, what’s not to like? For me, I just think its that the jokes aren’t hitting me. As I was worried about last week, my lack of snack knowledge makes a decent percentage of these jokes just fall flat. I didn’t much care for whatever powdered nonsense the first segment started with. I am too young for pogs, so I got no nostalgia fix out of that weird pseudo-pogs card game. Fake-drunkenness is one of my least favorite Japanese bits, so the Namaiki Beer bit totally lost me. The only segment I really liked was whistle senpai. Still, even that joke seemed to wear out its welcome as they kept going with it. I suppose I have the time to give this show one more chance, but that’s it.

Aqua: I wasn’t a big fan of the Dagashi Kashi manga to begin with, but the first episode of the anime did give me some hope that Feel were trying their hardest to turn its repetitive manzai routines into something worthwhile. Sadly enough, this second episode is starting to show the cracks. With its overreliance on cultural references for humour, there is, simply, very little reason for Western audiences to watch this show aside from Hotaru’s extravagant and pseudo-sexual antics. Dagashi Kashi may crank open all the slots in its attempts to illustrate its jokes with pop culture references, over-the-top flashbacks and frenetic action, but in the end, most of her shenanigans are absurd non-sequiturs for the sake of absurd non-sequiturs. Contrary to its entire setup, Dagashi Kashi is actually at its best when it isn’t all about candy. Saya’s chill attitude, actual depth and involvement in the vignettes focussed on the show’s interesting setting rather than its dull subject, make her a far more endearing character than Hotaru will ever be, for starters. Yet there’s no way in hell she can compete with such a force of nature, so I don’t see why I should keep on hoping.

Ojisan and Marshmallow – Is it possible to be a Marshmallowsexual?

Ojisan and Marshmallow – Is it possible to be a Marshmallowsexual?

 marshmallow

Ojisan and Marshmallow
Episode 2: “Rain and Marshmallow”

Thursday 2:30 pm EST on Crunchyroll

Jel: Is it worth writing about a show that is only three minutes long? I really don’t know, but we’re going to find out! This entire episode was basically one cheap sex joke, made funny by Wakabayashi’s completely unrealistic sex noises. As for Hige, maybe he’s not oblivious and he’s just not into women – he’s strictly into marshmallows? I mean he was unfazed when Wakabayashi mentioned her bra was showing, but became completely flush at the sight of the marshmallow bag. There’s no other way he could not understand her flirting, which is so obvious I’m not even sure we can call it that at this point. I think I’m on to something.

Marlin: This show is starting to worryingly be just Sexual Harassment: The Animation. It has some decent jokes, but I feel like if you gender-swapped any of the jokes that have been made in the past week it would just come out unbelievably creepy. I also don’t think this joke will remain funny if done week in and week out. It would be nice to see from some other people, maybe get an outside perspective on the shenanigans these two get into. I’m not sure about Jel’s conspiracy theory quite yet, maybe the dude really believes in the company’s coworker relationship guidelines.

rakugo

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Episode 2

Fridays 4:00 pm EST on Crunchyroll

Artemis: Rakugo Shinju might be a very character-based drama, but that doesn’t mean it’s wasting any time. This was in a sense a flashback episode – presumably Yakumo is explaining all of this to Yotaro and Konatsu – but there’s no pause for official narration and no flashforwarding back to the current Yakumo as he tells his tale, which feels very in keeping with what I know about Rakugo Shinju. It’s not interested in gimmicks, and it’s eloquence lies in its lack rather than surfeit of obvious details… which I guess is just another way of me saying that this is a series that strips away anything it doesn’t feel is strictly necessary in order to tell its story. In exchange, we got a tightly-scripted episode that felt very poignant without coming across as melodramatic, and a new insight into a character who I would have described as enigmatic rather than pleasant. I don’t know how long this story-within-a-story is going to last, but as I’m fangirling about as hard over the pre-war Showa setting as I did the post-war, I’d be okay with another episode of that.

Marlin: I liked this flashback pretty well up until the actual rakugo reared its ugly head again. Man, I know that sequence was supposed to be terrible, but it doesn’t make me want to watch your show more to hear bad rakugo for some five minutes straight. If I hadn’t been watching this show with Iro I probably would have quit out of the episode before it had even finished. Having Bansai come on at the end helped, as that actually was a decent rakugo bit, but it has thoroughly convinced me that portraying straight rakugo just wont work for this show in the long run. If something like this happens next episode I’m going to have to drop it for good.

Durarara!! - What's worse than fedoras? Straw fedoras.

Durarara!! – What’s worse than fedoras? Straw fedoras.

durarara

Durarara X2 The Third Arc
Episode 25-26: “Even a Chance Acquaintance Is Decreed by Destiny / Bell the Cat”

Saturdays 11:00 am EST on Crunchyroll

Artemis: I dearly love this franchise, but at this point I have to admit even to myself that it’s just not the same as it was. The writers seem to be mistaking sleaziness for quirkiness much of the time, but more importantly, the cast has just gotten way too damn big. The OP is a big hot mess (with a crap song to boot) trying to fit everyone in, and even with the kanji right there on screen I still can’t for the life of me remember everyone’s names – and frankly, I no longer care about at least half of them anyway. As first episodes go, I was pretty disappointed by the introduction of this final arc, with Celty appearing to echo my own general bewilderment at what the heck was going on. The second episode was a marked improvement, but I’m still pretty worried about how much screen-time is being meted out (or not) to certain characters, and how on earth everything is going to be resolved without the overall show turning into something as rushed and messy as that OP. Incidentally, my favourite part of either episode was when Erika threatened to use the soldering irons on Izaya’s eyes. She looked and sounded completely cheerful when she said it, but it was also pretty obvious that she meant every word.

Marlin: I liked parts of the first episode, even if it didn’t really go anywhere. The jokes were funny, and I had a good time. This is not to say I didn’t see the problems with shoving in our faces just how insufferable so many of these characters have become, or how bloated the cast is now. Come the second episode, my feelings really started to turn sour. Anri has always been the thirdest of third wheels in the main protagonist trio, so to have a whole episode mostly about her wandering through Ikebukuro feeling sorry for herself was really not fun to watch. Neither was it any fun to watch Erika, easily the least entertaining of the party van, and that’s including the driver nobody remembers. Every time she has to fondle Anri like some kind of sick otaku fantasy made sentient is another moment robbed from actually getting on with this oversaturated mess. The message it had about women in general was the worst. By the end it felt like listening to an old guy talk about how woman be crazy. You just have to cringe with every sexist thought and pray for it to be over.

komugi

Nurse Witch Komugi R
Episode 2: “Stalker?! Kokona-chan’s Close Call!”

Saturdays 3:25 pm EST on Crunchyroll

Jel: I’m still not sure if Komugi is a good show or not. At the moment, I’m leaning toward “yes”. I think it’s safe to call it a parody at this point, and I appreciate that it attacks its target material in subtle, subversive ways. Probably the best example is when Tanu-P is listing all of Kokona’s good qualities and casually slips in her “lovely navel” among her other harmless traits. It’s never directly drawn attention to, but still adds an appropriate amount of creepiness to the situation. There’s plenty of those subtle digs throughout the episode which makes me want to call Komugi clever, but I still can’t shake the fact that they might be a little too subtle. Komugi and the other girls’ desire to be top idols is still seen as a net positive despite the rest of the show underhandedly taking pot shots at the industry. Is that just taking a balanced view or is that poor writing? So far the show has been amusing enough that I willing to find out.

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Nurse Witch Komugi R – I REALLY hope she gets to be a magical girl.

rainbowdays

Rainbow Days
Episode 2

Sundays 10:30 am EST on Funimation

Artemis: It’s just occurred to me that Rainbow Days is basically my version of Dagashi Kashi – it’s the anime version of junk food, and I enjoy watching it despite the odd creepy moment. Said moment came right near the end of the episode, where Mattsun for some reason decided to go in for a kiss even though Mari gave him every indication that she hates his guts. Not that I’m a big Mari fan either – I support female characters telling it exactly like it is, but spitting isn’t civilized behavior in my books – but she’d be well within her rights to beat the ever-loving crap out of Mattsun after that little stunt. Other than that unfortunate scene, Rainbow Days continues to be light and fluffy, and I appreciate that all the guys have their own distinct personalities and little quirks as opposed to just being generic moeblobs that all women are instantly attracted to.

Aqua: Rainbow Days is one of these shows that seems to be a great adaptation of an utterly crap manga. While at its core a hurricane of clichés, in the end it is redeemed by strong pacing and a healthy injection of self-awareness. An example: Mari may be a generic man-hating clingy lesbian, at least she knows how to put Mattsun in his place after he tried creeping on her like a third-rate shoujo protagonist. On the other hand, the show doesn’t hesitate to mock her for her shrill hysteria and complete lack of tact, without turning her feelings for Anna into a punchline. Everyone in Rainbow Days is similarly just a little bit freaky, but in the end, not a single one of its characters is demoted to designated floor mop, nor given a free pass to be an irredeemable asshole. For what it is, it works, and like the best shorts it uses its length to its advantage rather than to its detriment.

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3 thoughts on “The Roundup: Winter 2016 Volume 1

  1. I enjoyed ep2 of Rakugo….I liked the falshback exposition et al. I can see why Marlin is hating the actual Rakugo, but its only a small part of the overall episode. And more than anything it’s trying to show us how how distinct each player’s rakugo is and how it’s evolved since the death.

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