The Wrap-Up: Spring 2017

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.

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. That means you will not be seeing Sakura Quest, My Hero Academia, or Rage of Bahamut ranked as anyone’s favourite, but as usual, for disappointments, anything goes.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Little Witch Academia

My real answer is Sakura Quest but I’m going to be good and stick to the rules. To be honest, I’m only picking LWA because all the other eligible shows I watched failed me – I’ll watch Eccentric Family before our top 10 of the year vote, I promise! It’s not that LWA is bad per se, it’s actually quite good. The fun and charm of the OVAs shines through in most episodes. Some of the stand outs, like the ones focused on Sucy and Constanze, are among the best episodes we’ve seen all year. Stretching Akko’s single minded goal over 25 episodes and adding a bit of dramatic, serious plot definitely misses the mark though. Again, I can’t say the TV adaptation was bad but when your last memory of the series is the flawless Enchanted Parade, it’s hard not to feel some slight disappointment.

Honorable Mentions: As noted, I loved Sakura Quest’s small town adventures, movie arc notwithstanding. As much complaining as we’ve done about the slow pace, Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul still sucks me in every week. Please don’t ruin the second half!

Which show let you down the most?

Tsukigakirei

In a surprise twist to regular readers who thought I would pick Atom: The Beginning, I’m going with the show that made me more furious than anything I’ve watched in a long time. It’s particularly disappointing because Tsukigakirei was probably the best show early on with it’s sweet, nostalgic reminders of what your first big crush was like. Unfortunately, beyond the adorable LINE chats and awkward meetings we see some troubling implications. Our male lead’s moping and pouting leads to some jealous, possessive, even reckless behavior that he never has to answer for. I understand he’s supposed to be a really young, emotionally immature boy, but he shouldn’t have been able to get away with it by simply writing a story. If they had the guts to break the two up in the final episode as they were all set up to do I might have changed my mind, but as is the last couple episodes left too much of a bad taste in my mouth.

Dishonorable Mentions: I’m not going to let Atom: The Beginning off the hook: they somehow managed to make ROBOT WRESTLING boring and I will never forgive them. I’d mention Eromanga-sensei but I can’t say I was disappointed when my expectations were so low to begin with.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Little Witch Academia

It lacks some of the compressed charm of the original OVAs, but it’s still hard to beat Trigger’s delightful mix of wacky comedy, magnificent rubber animation, and good old-fashioned down home storytelling. At its best LWA offered big laughs, superb eye candy and the sort of good clean innocent fun that’s far too rare in the anime industry today. It exuded charm and character, and in a sea of me-too harem shows that’s always something worth celebrating.

Honorable Mentions: Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul might have been a little slower than its breakneck predecessor but it retains the gorgeous world and terrific characters of that previous outing, while building on the mythology which it established. Let’s hope it can finish strong in the upcoming season. Sakura Quest is probably the best of yet of PA Works’s ruminations on small-town life, adding some bite its previous efforts occasionally lacked.

Which show let you down the most?

Little Witch Academia

As strong as it was at its strong points, LWA was ultimately a disappointment to me. Not just because the show itself often fell into mundanity, but because it showed a worrying inability from Trigger to defy patterns of storytelling that we’ve seen from them before. LWA was great when it focused on the lighter, sillier side of Akko’s journey but fell apart into boring cliché when any semblance of a plot took over. Character development was weak to non-existent in the back half of the show, and the story failed to adequately build out the fun yet limited stereotypes that were established in the OVAs. When it soared it was magnificent but LWA increased my worry that there’s little substance behind Trigger’s undeniable style.marlin_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Tsukigakirei

I’m willing to overlook this show’s lackluster ending because it really does portray a very real and for the majority of its time endearing romance. The main pair are young and do make a lot of mistakes, but there’s an earnestness to their relationship that is very refreshing. Every time you think that it’s just gonna hit all the old shoujo cliches it turns around and delivers. Its characters start out unsure of themselves, but they become emboldened in confidence by their own growing self-esteem as well as the growth that comes from getting to know each other better. It also is the most adorable thing I’ve watched in a long time, as we said before watching the two of them awkwardly flirt is like the eavesdropping version of a dad anime.

Honorable Mentions: My Hero Academia keeps me coming back week after week, and I’m sure if it keeps up this level of quality it will earn the top spot once the new season runs its course.

Which show let you down the most?Eromanga-Sensei

As Jel said, yes expectations were low going into this show to begin with, but I don’t think anyone could have really anticipated just how terrible this show would be. It let me down on a basic human decency level and will forever be immortalized with the clusterfrock that is the nightmarish header i kept disfiguring week after week until Jel lit it on fire. It’s shows like this that really make me hope anime goes through some catastrophic market crash so that people will stop making this virulent trash.

Dishonorable Mentions: I wasn’t keeping up with enough shows to really be disappointed by them. I wasn’t able to keep up with The Eccentric Family or Rage of Bahamut like I wanted to, but that wasn’t because they disappointed me but more that I had to make the cuts somewhere as my schedule got busier.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Little Witch Academia

It’s been a bit of a sparse season, and most shows are continuing and are thus ineligible, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that LWA brought me some of the greatest joy I’ve had in a while watching anime. Certain episodes, anyway; I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that this show had a few dips into pretty iffy territory. But the highs were truly high, and as time passes those are the episodes we’re going to remember. A believing heart is your magic.

Honorable Mentions: Sakura Quest, or at least what I saw of it; Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, but only sometimes; and My Hero Academia keeps bringing the old-school shonen heat, albeit slowly. Also, special mention to the old-ass show Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which I’m forcing Dragonzigg and Aquagaze to watch for the first time.

Which show let you down the most?

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

Slow, slow, slow, slow. What drew us to Bahamut‘s first season was its breakneck pace, its swashbuckling action, its lovable cast of characters ripped right out of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Virgin Soul arguably has the cast, but loses out on the other two to an utterly infuriating degree, spending almost the entire first half of the show on ponderous wandering and tedious romance. There are flashes of brilliance, but too few and far between. I can only hope the second half gets into gear, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Dishonorable Mentions: Re:CREATORS, for being plain bad; Little Witch Academia‘s frequent low points; Atom: The Beginning, for somehow being even duller than Virgin Soul.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

The Eccentric Family 2

The Eccentric Family remains a truly unique show in how effortlessly it excels. It’s an artistic marvel, beautifully shot and masterfully directed, but not in a way that strikes as immediately noteworthy. Its characters are charismatic, but it’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly why. It’s clever and insightful on a level that even casual viewers can enjoy, and even manages to get away with being up to its neck in Japanese folklore without ever giving off the impression that we – filthy foreigners – are not its audience. It’s stunningly universal for a show so specific. While this second season was undeniably less about telling a coherent, thematically sound story than its predecessor was, and more about fleshing out the complicated weave of relationships spinning out of Yasaburo’s continued tryst with the mysterious Benten – feeling a bit scattershot as a result – it more than made up for the lack of a coherent narrative with its excellent character writing. While the story behind the death of Souichiro Shimogamo may not have needed a sequel, the story of his progeny could have a dozen for all I care.

Honorable Mentions: Once again providing an excellent mix of millennial angst and vaguely absurd shenanigans, Sakura Quest is another hit for P. A. Works. Also, unlike most of the crew, I’m quite enjoying the more character-driven focus of Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, and when Little Witch Academia was good, it was very good.

Which show let you down the most?

Little Witch Academia

Let it first be said, Little Witch Academia is a good show, a worthy adaptation of the modern classic OVAs, and my favourite Trigger series to date. But it’s also just a tad bit too banal to truly live up to the magic of its predecessors. The arc plot is bloated and unwarranted, the new additions to the cast distract from the joyful spirit of adventure that has become the series’ trademark and the whole trope where the main character learns next to nothing aside from at the very end is one characteristic of western cartoons Trigger shouldn’t have bothered bringing over to anime. This last flaw wouldn’t be as egregious as it is if Little Witch Academia hadn’t elected to so firmly put Akko front and centre at the expense of everyone else not named ‘Diana Cavendish’. Amanda, Constanze and Jasminka get far too little screentime for their fan favourite status, and Lotte and Sucy, in spite of some very entertaining focus episodes during the show’s early run, are phased out almost entirely during the second half. Luckily, Akko proved more than charming enough to carry the entire show on her own, but it’s hard to deny a bit of the magic has been lost. If the OVAs were a Disney movie, consider this the saturday morning spin-off cartoon.

Dishonorable Mentions: Though it pains me to say, I believe I’ve about finally given up trying to get into My Hero Academia. With its glacial pacing, constantly regurgitated shounen platitudes and the persisting blight that is Katsuki Bakugou, it’s simply not my cup of tea.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Little Witch Academia

When Little Witch Academia was at its best, it offered some of the best animated entertainment of this year. It’s what makes its inability to consistently maintain that bar of quality such a shame. Still, the highs outnumbered the lows and I’m more likely to think fondly of the time Akko helped build a giant robot or participate in a broom race than the 3rd time she failed to learn any lessons from her misadventures. I don’t want to prop up Little Witch Academia as some special unique hallmark of the medium, but if more anime could learn from its sincere energy and sense of wonder, maybe I wouldn’t have to.

Honorable Mentions: My Hero Academia continues to bring the reliable shounen hits while Sakura Quest continues to be a quaint little thing that manages to be mostly good, if a somewhat lacking compared to its spiritual predecessor Shirobako. And when it’s good and/or Favaro is on screen, Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul.

Which show let you down the most?

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but when you compare what Rage of Bahamut achieved in its debut season to what its sequel has, you’re forced to accept some terrible truths. Like that spending the entire plotline in one location is not a great idea for the kind of swashbuckling adventure Rage of Bahamut made itself famous for. Or that the show isn’t equipped to handle morally complex political and sociological issues. Or that maybe 24 episodes is just too long for the story they’re working with. With the reintroduction of Favaro, I’m hoping things pick up from here, but so far the first half hasn’t given me a ton of faith. None of this is to day Virgin Soul doesn’t have its moments, but its best moments are the ones that remind you of just how great the original Rage of Bahamut was.

Dishonorable Mentions: For better or worse, Little Witch Academia also belongs here. It missteps just a few too many times to be forgiven as Trigger’s usual antics. And if you thought LWA or Virgin Soul were a little slow, let me introduce you to Atom: The Beginning.

chris

What was your favorite show of the season?

Better Call Saul Season 3

Admittedly, I’m not watching nearly as much currently airing anime as I used to, but as far as shows that ended this season go, nothing really stood out. I should also caveat that by saying I’m still halfway through watching Little Witch Academia, so even though that ended I wouldn’t feel okay judging it before finishing it. Instead, the show that span off from anime’s greatest achievement, Breaking Bad, gets my vote for best anime this season.

Honorable Mentions: My Hero Academia has been great fun so far, and I’m glad we’re have another cour to go. Pokemon Sun & Moon continues to be genuinely enjoyable too, so expect that to top my lists in, like, a couple of years or so when it ends. I’ve also caught up with post movie recap Dragon Ball Super, and while it’s very good at swinging from dull to enjoyable on a whim, it’s been a rather enjoyable romp on the whole.

Which show let you down the most?

Nothing

When you’re not watching much anime, it’s hard to keep up with the shows that look like a waste of time. It didn’t technically air this season, but my vote goes to the Zamasu arc of Dragon Ball Super for seemingly forgetting how to make a villain interesting, and subsequently relying on deus ex machina to resolve the situation.

Dishonorable Mentions: Eromanga-sensei looked like hot trash. It gets a dishonorable mention purely based on the state of the #HATEWATCH 2017 headers.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Natsume’s Book of Friends Season 6

Six seasons in and this show continues to be one of the single most charming, nostalgic, and yes, ultimately magical anime I’ve seen to date. I’ve seen a lot of people saying that season six isn’t quite as good as last year’s season five but in all honesty, it’s pretty difficult to judge with a series as highly episodic as this one. What I can at least say is that Natsume continues to deal with some fairly heavy issues – loneliness, abandonment, death – with the same kind of sensitivity it always does, making the show at its core a very comforting and heartwarming experience. It’s iyashikei at its finest, and still by far the best slice-of-life/supernatural title out there.

Honorable Mentions: While I have to admit it didn’t draw me in with the same kind of weird intensity that the first season did, the second season of The Eccentric Family is still pretty enjoyable overall. If you like the former, I can think of no reason why you wouldn’t also like the latter.

Which show let you down the most?

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

For what it’s worth, I have nothing against our MC. Personally, I think it’s pretty great to see another female character take the lead in a fantastical action/adventure title like this one; a genre in which the menfolk tend to steal the limelight. No, my main issue with Virgin Soul is that it’s slooooow – and this is coming from someone who usually prefers the deliberately-paced, character-driven titles. Virgin Soul, however, drags the chain so damn much that I’m amazed I even made it to the halfway point. Obviously I haven’t seen the climax yet, and to be honest I probably now never will, but I still think it’s a classic case of a 12-episode show being strung out into 24 episodes purely because of the success of its predecessor. As a result, what should once more have been a rollicking, swashbuckling good time turned into a heavy slog of pointless dialogue, drawn-out background shots, and precious little else.

Dishonorable Mentions: I actually loved what the first few episodes of Tsuki ga Kirei had to offer, and overall I still don’t dislike the show. But I can’t lie, several isolated moments, plus episode 10 in particular, left a bad taste in my mouth. And given how much the series had going for it otherwise, that’s an enormous shame.

With its charming characters and labour of love animation, Little Witch Academia takes home the cake, be it not without a couple of blemishes on its records. Meanwhile, the second season of Rage of Bahamut ranks as the disappointment of the season, with many fingers crossed the swashbuckling charm of the original will return for the show’s second half. It’s one thing to look forward to in the otherwise somewhat underwhelming looking upcoming season, but with titles such as Welcome to the Ballroom and Kakerugui, at the very least we shouldn’t be worried this feature will turn up empty next time around. See you then!

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