The Wrap-Up: Summer 2016

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If you go about doing a season preview, it is only obvious you also close off on a season review. In The Wrap-Up, all of our contributors get to shine a spotlight on the show they thought to be the very best of the past few weeks, as well as reflect back on the preview to see which shows let us down the most. When you watch currently airing anime or tokusatsu, eventually the question will rise which of these shows can rank amongst the medium’s true classics. Regardless of who covered what, this is where we single out the cream of the crop, and decide which shows from the past season deserve to stand the test of time.

Like last season, the summer of 2016 excelled in cutesy, fluffy slice-of-life comedies and… not a fat lot else. While Mob Psycho 100, Orange and 91 Days managed to diversify the Roundup lineup, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has come close to being the blog’s bread and butter, the hype has been fairly low key these past few months, as is symptomatic of the season. While Thunderbolt Fantasy whipped up some hype with its mindblowing production values, the show failed to make the same impact as Gen Urobuchi’s earlier works, and shows like Days or Battery unsurprisingly didn’t manage to engage a blog populated mostly by people allergic to physical labour. On the other hand, the general calm may also have something to do with the fact that the most popular show of last season, Re:Zero, has barely even been mentioned on this blog, which is definitely because it is secretly a bad show and not because we’re lazy assholes who can’t be assed to watch shows unless Jel tells us to.

As usual, we need to mention that a show can only be listed here if we’ve been able to watch it in full, so only shows that ended this season can be nominated as show of the season. Luckily, no one gives a toss about any of the shows continuing into next season, so you can just ignore this entire paragraph.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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Sweetness & Lightning

While perhaps not the deepest or artistically compelling season of anime, this summer season was still very good and this was a tough choice. I had to give the nod to Sweetness and Lightning for consistency more than anything, as well as what was probably the best individual episode in Tsumugi’s grand adventure. Week after week the show delivered a needed dose of, well, sweetness in these dark times and struck a nice balance between heartwarming idealism and the challenges of being a single parent. Definitely something anyone, anime fan or not, could watch.

Honorable Mentions: This Art Club Has a Problem was arguably my favorite but more on that in a second. Amanchu packed great life lessons in a really soothing, pretty package. 91 Days told a serious story without getting too melodramatic… most of the time.

Which show let you down the most?

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This Art Club Has a Problem

If you’ve been reading our weekly Roundup you’ll know I actually love this show and I want more people to watch it. In fact, I was really close to choosing it as my favorite show of the season. So what makes it more disappointing than say, the train wreck that is Macross Delta? It kind of shoots itself in the foot. The premise, in which a normal girl is in love with a boy who is only interested in 2D GIRLS, is a big enough hurdle for discerning anime fans to being with. Then the show dips into some out of place fan service very briefly and pretty much only in the first two episodes. Just watch the OP and you’ll understand.

As a result, instead of everyone praising an incredibly cute and well made story about a girl learning about self-respect, Art Club will probably be ignored by a lot of people that would otherwise enjoy it. If only someone had told the production committee we’re in the post-Osomatsu world and you don’t need to pander to the hardcore otaku crowd anymore. I do wonder if there were arguments about that internally, but what’s been done is done, I just hope I can convince other people to look past it.

Dishonorable Mentions: Oh I’m not letting Macross Delta off the hook, but it became apparent that lazy, mediocre trash heap wasn’t going to live up to expectations shortly into the second half. So it was not much of a shock to see it end poorly.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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Mob Psycho 100

Celebrated far and wide for its truly magnificent visual stylings, Mob Psycho 100 proved itself more than just a visual stunner. Author ONE’s trademark sly, offbeat humour feels perfectly at home with the kooky weirdness of Mob’s world, and the narrative dives surprisingly deep into adolescent confusion, the fear of standing out, and the tension between siblings Mob and Ritsu. The result is a wonderfully complete story that bares it uniqueness as a badge of pride, yet still finds time to be relatable and touching to anybody who’s ever felt slightly out of step with the world. Final score – 100%.

Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure continues to get weirder and weirder with each passing episode, yet also functions amazingly well as the deranged small-town murder mystery it purports to be, while Bananya nailed the short format perfectly by making its title star an unbelievably adorable asshole. Sweetness & Lightning was a glorious ray of sunshine every week, and probably came closest to taking the top spot.

Which show let you down the most?

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Kamen Rider Ghost

It’s always something of a crapshoot as to how good any given Kamen Rider series is, given it’s mostly a case of recycling the same tropes in a different way. Still, it’s hard to deny that Ghost was a serious step backwards for the franchise, especially given it followed up a pair of excellent seasons in Gaim and Drive. Lacking energy, a compelling villain, or a unique hook or gimmick, this very much felt like one of the occasions that the actors and writers were simply going through the motions. Only Takayuki Yanagi’s deranged Onari really raised a few laughs, but bogged down in an overabundance of powerups and a complex yet bizarre plot, Ghost never really had the chance to soar.

Dishonorable Mentions: Nothing really, it’s been a season which has largely exceeded my expectations.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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Mob Psycho 100

From Mob’s first couple episodes I thought the show would quickly run itself into a wall, mostly just showing Mob steamrolling everything without much stakes. That quickly changed as his brother came into the picture, and the shows real message started to shine. No doubt, it helps that the show had an insanely good animation budget, but I was quickly surprised with how much i was invested in these characters, and how they quickly became engaging to watch. There was enough comic relief from characters like Dimple and Reigen that it felt balanced with the deeper story of self-loathing turning into self-acceptance that came from Ritsu’s story arc. You could also replace esper powers with any small thing that someone latches their ego into to show how grasping onto your “specialness” is really a way of being childish, and accepting your limits is one of the true measures of adulthood. Reigen coming in at the end to deliver that final message was pretty great. Obviously he is still a scumbag, but he acknowledges that as an adult he has that responsibility to stop Mob and his brother from making that kind of mistake. All in all, a really enjoyable, fantastic bit of animation that shows ONE’s legacy is strong… as long as it’s backed up by boatloads of cash.

Honorable Mentions: Sweetness and Lightning was the only other show this season that I finished to the end. The most adorable show you’ll ever see until Kiyohiko Azuma dies and someone finally gets permission to make a Yotsuba anime. Diamond is Unbreakable is also going strong into its final season, I would put my money on it making a strong showing at the end of the year festivities.

Which show let you down the most?

Just as Gee is coming down from his year long training arc, I’m kinda starting one of my own. Part of that meant I quickly lost the time to keep up with some of the shows I actually did enjoy. Long gone are the days of me sticking with something like Love, Election, and Chocolate to its trainwreck end.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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Amanchu!

Amanchu!‘s protagonist Teko is one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever seen, a a girl trapped in the depths of clinical depression, wandering aimlessly through life. Whether by design or not, it lent the show emotional depth that I wasn’t expecting. Speaking from experience, the most important thing for someone like Teko is to be reminded why the world is wonderful and to be surrounded by loving friends, and that is exactly what Amanchu! supplies to both her and the watcher. While something like Sweetness and Lightning is a more conventional feel-good sort of story, it wasn’t able to completely fuck me up with direct, earnest, and pertinent life advice nearly every week, and I have to award Amanchu! for that.

Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Bananya, Mob Psycho 100, Sweetness and Lightning, 91 Days, Animal Sentai Zyuohger. Wow, this season was better than I thought!

Which show let you down the most?

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Macross Delta

I haven’t seen any Macross beyond the Do You Remember Love? film, and even I could tell Delta greedily gathered the franchise’s legacy only to bury it under the dog house. While it started goofy and fun, Delta‘s increasing insistence to be taken seriously made it impossible to do so as it abandoned nearly every element that made it charming to begin with. What a disappointment.

Dishonorable Mentions: Active Raid 2

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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Sweetness & Lightning

I’m honestly starting to feel a bit ashamed about naming these unambitious and frankly, rather repetitive shows as my favourites of the season, but the sad truth is that the safeness of the slice-of-life genre usually guarantees a level of quality that more ambitious projects usually lack. Shows like Sweetness & Lightning generally work because they have no incentive to shoot themselves in the foot, needing to tick way fewer check boxes to give audiences exactly what they hoped for. That doesn’t mean Sweetness & Lightning exists only be the merit of its genre, however. It’s a solid combination of two lazy Sunday television staples – the cooking show and the bumbling-dad-versus-adorable-kids-comedy – further strengthened by its subtle, lifelike characterization and Rina Endo’s excellent performance as the adorable Tsumugi, master of ad-libs. While it might lack the sheer imagination and profundity I usually look for in my anime, Sweetness & Lightning brought joy throughout my summer, which is about all I needed in a season dominated by Love Live! Sunshine!!

Honorable Mentions: Amanchu!, for being one of the most disturbing portrayals of clinical depression I’ve ever seen. Animal Sentai Zyuohger, for being one of the most disturbingly hilarious portrayals of manic depression I’ve ever seen. Love Live! Sunshine!! for its occasional bouts of brilliance in an ocean of ‘eh’.

Which show let you down the most?

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Thunderbolt Fantasy

Granted, a show about a generically gritty lone wolf, an entirely disposable woman and a chainsmoker who can communicate only in the vaguest of proverbs hunting down a Sword of Legendariness already doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing in the world. But now consider that 95% of their adventures consists of talking, 50% of their talking consists of generic fantasy proper nouns and 100% of the generic fantasy proper nouns are in Chinese, and you’ll pretty much get why Thunderbolt Fantasy is a flash in the pan. Bearing none of Gen Urobuchi’s strengths but all of his weaknesses, Thunderbolt Fantasy teaches the somewhat disturbing lesson that if you translate the Madoka scribe’s bombastic, otherworldly dialogue to a similarly bombastic, otherworldly setting, it loses every scrap of its appeal. The characters are flat as cardboard, the exposition is repetitive, the plot basic yet somehow incomprehensible, the bombastic Hiroyuki Sawano soundtrack bloated and tiring, and even the impressive wuxia action is marred by constant banter and tired clichés. Urobuchi has never not been a hit-or-miss kind of writer, but after elaborating on all of his pet tropes to near perfection in Kamen Rider Gaim, the man has been searching for something new to say ever since. Thunderbolt Fantasy is anything but, and makes me wonder if it isn’t time for Urobuchi to say goodbye to genre fiction overall. How about a family drama or something? That’s something I’d like to see.

Dishonorable Mentions: Despite a decent presentation and little flaws in its storytelling, 91 Days failed to gel with me for some reason. Perhaps it’s a bit too dour for my likings? Mob Psycho 100‘s first episode was so drab and unfunny not even its phenomenal presentation could save it. The final episodes of Love Live! Sunshine!! belong here too, if only because that show had given me the false hope it could actually be more than I’d expected it to be. Kamen Rider Ghost deserves a mention as well, despite us dropping it ages ago.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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Mob Psycho 100

With a reputation preceding it due to sharing the same author as last year’s fan favorite, One Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100 had quite the expectation to live up to. Starting out, I had initially accepted that Mob Psycho 100 was simply an enjoyable, but overall redundant work that was retreading similar ground. You had your unassuming overpowered everyman, your charlatan conman taking advantage of said everyman, and your shadowy organizations and ranking systems. But as it progressed, Mob Psycho 100 proved it had a real heart to its story, making it far more relatable than anything that happened in One Punch Man. Ritsu’s feelings of inadequacy and Mob’s struggle to maintain his humanity resulted in a story that for all its comical nature, proved to be very real. Throw in some absolutely stunning animation and perhaps one of the most stylish presentations of the year, and you got your anime that stands above all the rest this season.

Honorable Mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable is still proving itself to be one of the best JoJo arcs, Sweetness & Lightning is just really nice to watch, even if it’s a little predictable.

Which show let you down the most?

Nothing! (Gee has been off on his special training mission and does not have time for bad anime -Jel)

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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Sweetness & Lightning

Sweetness & Lightning was, by quite some margin, my favourite show of the season. Towards the beginning of the run I was made redundant from my job, one I’ve had for four years and really enjoyed. That led to weeks of job applications and the looming fear that I’d have to leave my flat if I don’t find money to pay the rent with, so you can probably understand that anything that cheered me up would be greatly appreciated.

This show was exactly that. I love the relationship between the characters in this show, I love how devoted Inuzuka is to Tsumugi, and I love that the show doesn’t feel the need to ram the tragic circumstances behind the death of Tsumugi’s mum down our throats. It was the show I looked forward to the most each week, and I’m sad it’s ending. More please!

Oh, and I’m a few weeks into a new job and the flat situation is okay, so it all worked out!

Honorable Mentions: JoJo: The Pompadour Adventures isn’t eligible yet anyway, but it deserves a mention for being consistently great and for the phenomenal twists we’ve seen lately. I get a feeling it’ll be topping a few of our lists at the end of the next season. Mob Psycho 100 has also been amazing, and under different personal circumstances could easily have topped my list.

Which show let you down the most?

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Battery

Battery easily takes the prize for the most disappointing show this season. I’ve found myself enjoying sports anime quite a bit lately, watching Days (which I’m sure I’ll have something to say about at the end of the next anime season) and the original series of Captain Tsubasa. As for baseball shows, I’ve seen Cross Game (which was a fantastic show) and One Outs (which was basically the baseball version of Kaiji, and therefore also fantastic). This show isn’t really comparable, and I’d argue it’s not a sports anime at all.

There isn’t anything wrong with that, of course, but it’s worth mentioning that this is a slice-of-life featuring sport and not the other way around. It focuses on Harada, a teenager who doesn’t listen to authority and who gets unreasonably angry when anyone suggests he might not be as perfect as he thinks he is. Oh, and he can throw a mean pitch.

I remember dropping Linebarrels of Iron back when it was airing due to the protagonist being an insufferable shit, but later heard that it got much better. I gave Battery the benefit of the doubt and finished it, but no, the protagonist does an incredible job of sucking the fun out of the show. The show even doubles down and introduces a character on a rival team who is just as bad.

Admittedly, there is something about Battery that has kept me coming back each week. The art, pacing and struggles are definitely reminiscent of something I’d expect from noitaminA, but while it felt like it was building up to a big payoff, it simply didn’t materialise.

Dishonorable Mentions: Shout-outs to D.Gray-Man Hallow for not having a recap and putting me off the show entirely. I am very curious to know how many people genuinely remembered what happened in the previous show. Beserk’s awful 3D animation also deserves a mention, and perhaps would have taken the top spot here had I worked up the motivation to watch the second episode.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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91 Days

It was a real toss-up between Orange and 91 Days for me. The former was by far the more emotionally gripping but had pacing issues and was sometimes patchy in terms of production quality, while the latter was a much smoother ride but a little more difficult to get into. If forced to pick between the two though, then I think I’d have to go with 91 Days. I’m normally more of a heart over head person, but I honestly think 91 Days was the better show all around – and besides, it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen a decent gangster anime that remained consistently good from start to finish. The show had a few weak spots, mostly notably with its overwritten villains like Fango, and it’s also not a series I’d call particularly subtle or even original. Nonetheless, it was thoroughly enjoyable, Shakespearean predictability and all, and even the OP really grew on me. Solid stuff.

Honorable Mentions: Orange, as I’ve already mentioned, earned my respect for its gut punches to the heart and overall emotional realism of the piece. I also want to mention Sweetness and Lightning and Cheer Boys. The first was blatantly adorable, if a little too on the nose at times, and the second ended up being astonishingly down-to-earth and completely lacking in any kind of fanservice or pandering. Unfortunately it was also lacking in a decent budget, but the show was by no means the kind of sparkly bishounen sports bit I had initially imagined.

Which show let you down the most?

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The Morose Mononokean

I want to be clear that this was by no means a bad show, but I’d be lying if I said The Morose Mononokean wasn’t at least something of a disappointment. I really loved that first episode – as I recall, it was actually my favourite premiere of the season – and then I ended up losing nearly all passion for the series within the next couple of episodes. I don’t know why, there was nothing wrong with the show that I could put my finger on, and I did in fact end up watching right through to the end. I suppose I’m just sad that what started off in my mind as a great anime finished up just as a fairly average one.

Dishonorable Mentions: I don’t think I watched anything else terribly disappointing or awful this season. There were a number of shows I dropped but as I mostly only watched an episode or two of each of them, I can’t talk about these in any detail. But for what it’s worth, Berserk, Tales of Zestiria the X, Handa-kun and Battery all got tossed into the discard pile very early on.

In case you’re still alive after watching the above video, that about sums up our word on this season’s slate of anime. Though our picks ended up quite varied this time around, Sweetness and Lightning got the clear majority of the votes, with Mob Psycho 100 and Amanchu! coming in second and third place respectively according to my entirely arbitrary calculations . After Death Parade, Yuzuru Tachikawa’s newest project seemed like a shoe-in for the title, but as we all seem to have traded in our youthful taste in big and loud for yearning after the mature bliss of fatherhood, Tsumugi and friends swooped in to claim this feature for their own. Less fortunate were our official duds of the season: Battery, Kamen Rider Ghost and Macross Delta, the latter once again showing that in the year of Our Lord 2016, it’s become pretty much impossible to make a 24-episode mecha anime without thoroughly shitting the bed halfway through. So, who’s hyped for that second half of BBK/BRNK, huh?

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3 thoughts on “The Wrap-Up: Summer 2016

  1. wow lots of Mob Psycho 100 picks. The first episode left me so utterly underwhelmed I didn’t even bother catching ep2 (totally breaking w the 3 rule episode). I thought 91 days was overall an excellent show. People tend to forget how good a straight forward revenge plot can be. The final spin at the end, I thought, was unexpected quality.

    Aside from 91 days I really enjoyed Amaama to Inazuma. There something about small, rambunctious protagonists that always hit me right in the ticker (Yotsuba, Barakamon and the like). Anyhow it was a dissapointing summer for me with regards to anime, hopefully fall get shit back in gear (that’s looking iffy with all these mahou shoujo show).

    • I will say the last episode of 91 Days made my choice a lot harder. I loved how they handled the final scenes, not what I expected at all.

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