The Wrap-Up: Summer 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.

The summer season was one of pleasant surprises and punishing disappointments, and the result is a Wrap-Up with both one of the clearest winners in Glorio Blog history, but perhaps our biggest disappointment as well. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you probably know which is which already. Are you ready to read the same opinions about the same shows over and over again? Of course you are! So without further ado, let’s delve deep into the Abys— I mean, The Wrap-Up.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

GAMERS!

So how did we get to the point where I’m choosing a light novel adaptation about a bunch of nerds who are obsessed with video games as my favorite show of the season? Well, the first reason is I didn’t finish Made in Abyss which is probably the best thing that aired. From there I have to ask myself, what show was I most excited to watch every week and GAMERS! wins. It defies expectations at every turn, eschewing the obvious harem setup for more of an ensemble cast. And get this: several of these dorks not only like each other, they actually date! There’s even a well developed platonic friendship between the main character and his male friend’s girlfriend! What is this madness?!?! So if you want to watch a bunch of lovable losers awkwardly flirt while occasionally playing video games, this is a good one to watch. Just pretend the last episode never happened…

Honorable Mentions: I nearly chose Kakegurui for it’s stylish, over the top entertainment value, but its complete lack of substance leaves something to be desired. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sakura Quest had some fantastic moments and good life lessons but lacked the “wow” factor to make it truly memorable.

Which show let you down the most?

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

This is not just the biggest disappointment of the season, it might be the biggest disappointment in Glorio history. Virgin Soul took the sense of freedom and adventure of Genesis and traded it for a poorly written soap opera, tossing important things like “character motivation” or even “basic plot” out the window. While last season’s episodes were boring, they were at least competently made and held out promise that the series could right the ship once the cast settled in. Instead, we got a second half that felt like they fired the staff and a group of interns had to scramble to put something out. The writing was bad, the directing was bad, the animation (the only thing that had been consistently good) was bad, the show had zero redeeming qualities by the time it reached its end.

Dishonorable Mentions: Can I just pick Virgin Soul again? Seriously, they expect you to sympathize with a tyrant who approves of genocide and slavery, it’s that bad.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Made In Abyss

Though a great deal of attention was focused on the contrast between its cutesy designs and its highly violent content, to talk only about that is to do Made In Abyss a serious disservice. Instead let’s talk about how it built one of the most intriguing, compelling fantasy worlds we’ve seen in anime in quite a while, a rich and entirely unique setting that felt at once lived in and developed, and also a forbidden frontier, full of mystery and danger. Blessed with an incredible level of production, including a magnificently orchestrated soundtrack, Made In Abyss successfully captured both the thrill and danger of the unknown, building a tale that covered wonder, terror and everything inbetween. Fewer dick jokes next time though, please.

Honourable Mentions: In any other season the raffish style and surprisingly well-fleshed out story of Princess Principal would have taken top my top prize. Marrying slick spy action with unusually good character insight and an enjoyably daffy steampunk world, it’s further evidence of Studio 3Hz’s growing talent. My Hero Academia built on the obvious promise of its first season to deliver a superior sophomore effort and build out its setting and characters in fun and interesting ways.

Which show let you down the most?

Kakegurui

It’s not a disaster, but I was disappointed Kakegurui couldn’t maintain the pace of its immaculately crafted garbage fire. While never less than amusing it quickly became bogged down in the overt complexities of some of the games played, and the result was that a lot of the tension and almost all of the gleeful goofiness was lost in the process. What remained was a solid gambling show with some delightfully dumb faces, but also an air of scuzziness that was never quite knowing enough to be in on the joke.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Made In Abyss

Made in Abyss will continue a time-honored tradition of anime which are fantastic but whose small blemishes require an asterisk before recommending. In this show, it’s pretty clearly the unnecessary amounts of child nudity. In the context of the show it is fine, but I think that any work of fiction needs to understand that it has to keep its readers in mind just as much as its plot. There’s a reason Daenerys Targaryen is not 13 at the start of the HBO series like she is in the books. However, it is quite easy to overlook that negative because of just how much Abyss knocks everything else out of the park. It manages a story with an amnesiac character that feels justified and has a strong protagonist who remains optimistic despite the obvious dangers surrounding her. The scenery is splendid and gorgeously animated. Its depth of atmosphere is something that needs to be seen to really understand just how impressive it is. The show lays a foundation for a story of mystery. Like the religion of the Cave Dwellers, the watcher quickly buys into the mythos of the Abyss when its depths have only just begun to be peeled away. I eagerly await this show’s return.

Honorable Mentions: My Hero Academia continued to prove itself as the true successor to the great pillars of Shounen Jump. Fantastic fights, an endearing main cast, and a greater devotion to emotional complexity went a long way in making what on the surface continues to be a cool story about super powered teens into a show with much more punch in its narrative. For a shounen show it already blows its contemporaries out of the water, and on its own it stands strong. Also a shoutout to GAMERS! for continuing to look like it was going to play into tired misunderstandings tropes and for the most part navigating around them. Also, pluses for lampooning gaming’s worst tendencies instead of celebrating them, and showing that guys and gals can be close friends, even if their significant others get a little jealous about it.

Which show let you down the most?

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

I came back to catch up to about two episodes past last season and it was pretty terrible, so I dropped it fast. Destroying established characterization, introducing way too little fighting and way too much irrationality, there isn’t a whole lot more Virgin Soul could have done to leave a bad taste in my mouth compared to the excellence of its predecessor. It’s only my hope that bad sales convince cygames that they need to rehire whoever did the work on that first series.

Dishonorable Mentions: After Heroman, I was all pumped to hear about another anime collaboration with Marvel, but The Reflection‘s weird flash style is just too jarring for modern tastes. This would have been fantastic if it was a Newgrounds cartoon from the last decade, but people expect more these days. I’ll give them that it had some cool visual direction, but that can only go so far.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Made in Abyss

Anyone writing this show off as just “it’s all cutesy and kiddy and then gets DARK and EDGY and BADASS” isn’t giving Made in Abyss enough credit. Instead, the show walks right up to the line of going too far, forcing the viewer’s gaze squarely on what it means to live in the world. This is the reality of the hellhole called the Abyss: it’s deep, dangerous, full of blood and suffering. You will surely die. At the same time, it’s full of mystery and wonder, amazing creatures of all stripes, breathtaking vistas, moments of joy when you finally overcome. It’s not a perfect show (sigh, you know what I’m talking about), but I think it’s the best this season.

Honorable Mentions: Princess Principal would have won this at any other time, with it’s solid production values and surprisingly good writing across the board; we should be keeping an eye on Studio 3Hz. My Hero Academia continues to be a solid adaptation of a good manga, and I’d by lying if I said I didn’t overall enjoy watching Digimon Universe: Applimon every week. Kakegurui is some hot trash.

Which show let you down the most?

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

We asked for more Rage of Bahamut, the Best Fantasy Anime of 2014. The first finger of the monkey’s paw curled. Then the next. The next.

“Is that a fist?” you wonder, right before it shoots up and decks you in the face.

Dishonorable Mentions: Fate/Apocrypha is everything wrong with the franchise with hardly any of the good bits. Kakegurui is some hot trash.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Princess Principal

This season gave us two shows that completely blew me out of the park with excellent production values, talented directing, strong worldbuilding and clever writing. You can probably guess the other one, but the one that personally appealed to me the most was Princess Principal. Here’s a show that presents itself as something just a few giant robots short of some kind of hackneyed parody of modern anime — Poorly researched pseudohistory! Hypercompetent schoolgirls! — only to end with our quirky heroine coldly shooting the purported male lead in the face. Princess Principal is a rollercoaster ride of clever ruses, intense action, surprisingly solid character work and sheer guts, graciously vaulting over the many, many pitfalls filled with the rotting corpses of the approximate gazillion of prior pretenders its particular subgenre is rife with. How refreshing it is to see an anime in which information is shown in stead of told, interesting plot beats get their proper pay-off, surprises aren’t taken for granted and characters are blessed the same level of insight and competence it dares to ask from its viewers. Whether it’s developing its picaresque arc plot or its characters in some of the strongest episodic writing anime has seen since 2015’s Death Parade, Princess Principal is ever entertaining, ever surprising, ever endearing. After this and Flip Flappers, it’s only a matter of time before Studio 3Hz deliver a stone cold classic.

Honorable Mentions: Both look gorgeous, both are well-written, both have endearing characters and an excellently developed setting — in any way this pick was a toss-up between Princess Principal and Made in Abyss. The deciding factor that gave the former the edge over the latter? It contains less naked children. Speaking of sleazy garbage, Kakegurui deserves a spot here for making me enjoy watching people gamble, something I abhor more than very little else.

Which show let you down the most?

Fate/Apocrypha

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I had no hopes for this thing in the first place. But is it too much to ask for some basic storytelling competence? Fate/Apocrypha is the logical conclusion of the Fate franchise’s obsession with breaking its already ridiculously elaborate rules, a cacophony of nonsense spiraling into a free-for all of bombastic sound and fury. The laws of the land are out of the window, the Servants barely even resemble historical figures anymore, the Masters are pretty much out of the picture entirely, and the entire thing is a 24-episode time sink wasting far too much money on what is essentially a ridiculously contrived fan fic scenario. Characters are either annoying, boring, pointless, or all three combined, and any semblance of tension of climax disappears as soon as Noble Phantasms are tossed around like flashy sound effects in an utterly vexing orgy of vapid self-gratification. Fate/Apocrypha bends itself backwards so often it must have crawled up its own ass and dug its way out three times over at this point. Whatever redeeming value this franchise might have still had at this point, is now about as scant as that Jack the Ripper’s fashion sense. Ugh.

Dishonorable Mentions: I had hopes for The Reflection, being created and directed by Hiroshi Nagahama, but then it actually aired. Oh, and sorry, Gee, but Welcome to the Ballroom is yet another uninspired shounen sports anime, except this time with more creep.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss will probably get a lot of traction for its shock value, but taken as a whole, it’s a fine adventure story that goes far beyond such crass distinctions. Like the titular abyss itself, Made in Abyss lovingly renders both the light and the darkness of the majestic, mysterious, but ultimately dangerous abyss. Its characters possess pathos without veering into being overwrought, and no matter what situation our heroes find themselves in, they never lose their conviction to traverse the unfamiliar land beneath them. To be able to portray the depth of its tragedy without coming off as melodramatic or unintentionally comical is a high achievement in and of itself. Throw in some gorgeous artwork and a hauntingly beautiful OST, Made in Abyss is as close to a perfect adaptation as you could get. It is all the more a shame that the finale was unable to reach the first true climax of the story. As a fan of the manga, there are moments I eagerly await on baited breath to see animated, and with the possibility of never seeing it happen, makes Made in Abyss a bittersweet adaptation.

Honorable Mentions: Welcome to the Ballroom would be my default pick for the emotional strength of its storytelling, but Made in Abyss was the better adaptation. My Hero Academia as always, remains the reliable shounen romp.

Which show let you down the most?

Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis was probably one of the biggest surprise hits of 2014. After news of its poor sales came out, most of us resigned ourselves to a world where Genesis would go down in history as a quirky outlier. The gap between our initial jubilation and the crushing disappointment of the reality might be the largest The Glorio Blog has ever seen. If it weren’t for the burning wound that Gundam Build Fighters Try left in my heart, I would instantly say that Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul is the biggest disappointment I’ve ever witnessed. And it wasn’t even enough to simply be bad, it had to so thoroughly poison the well that at this point, I never want to hear of Rage of Bahamut ever again.

Dishonorable Mentions: The Reflection still has a fantastic theme song but that’s about all it had going for it. And I am forced to admit that the Welcome to the Ballroom adaptation has been an ultimately flawed rendition of the jaw dropping manga.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Made in Abyss

Even though this was always a story about two cute kids going on an adventure to the bottom of a monster-infested hell-pit, the show did a phenomenal job in the early episodes of persuading you that everything would be okay. Even when Riko is attacked at the beginning of the show by a monster that shouldn’t have been around, Reg was there to protect her. This curious duo would be smart enough to reach the bottom and reunite with Riko’s mother, no problem.

When we reach the first major stop on their journey and meet Ouzen, we start to see a little of what this show was really going to be like. Her motivations were unclear, she was impossibly strong, and our heroes could do nothing about it. Yet somehow, the subsequent reveals and Reg and Riko’s week-long supervised camping trip managed to make things seem okay again. So suffice to say, everything in the last quarter of this show has hit me like a goddamn truck. And I’m surprised. How on Earth am I surprised that things would get dark in a show about two cute kids going on an adventure to the bottom of a monster-infested hell-pit?

Season two soon, please.

Honorable Mentions: Restaurant to Another World was an interesting show that focuses more on the restaurant’s clientele than it does on the owner of the establishment. It reminded me a lot of Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, but with much lighter stories and more food porn. I would like to have seen more of the restaurant’s patrons interacting with each other (and to be fair, we did start to see this towards the end), but if you’re looking for a slow, chill show, this is worth a go. I also really enjoyed My Hero Academia 2nd Season, even if it was slow at times.

Which show let you down the most?

Made in Abyss

Sorry Abyss, I dropped all the bad shows early on so you get to be down here too. I still adore this show, but what really disappoints me is how hard it is to recommend it to anyone who isn’t used to putting up with anime and this nudity shit.

Dishonorable Mentions: Oh right, the Netflix Death Note adaptation. Does that count?

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Made in Abyss

I stand by what I said back when the season had just begun: Made in Abyss is, by far and away, the best title of the summer line-up. Granted, the show has one or few fairly obvious flaws – chief among them, an annoying fondness for repetitive dick jokes and a more worrying fondness for unnecessary nudity – but the storytelling is nonetheless incredibly solid. It’s the constant undercurrent of danger and buried secrets that really do it for me, I think; that lurking sense that, no matter how bright and cheerful a personality Riko is, and no matter how strong and durable her companion Reg, something unspeakably awful is waiting to ensnare them both. This is all conveyed not through exposition but through true action (i.e. the time-honoured “show, don’t tell” method to which so many other anime titles seem to be allergic), and some undeniably excellent world-building that’s both unique and detailed. Made in Abyss may have had little competition this season, but that doesn’t make its story any less compelling. I can’t wait to see more.

Honorable Mentions: Kakegurui is Best Trash.

Which show let you down the most?

​Literally everything else I watched

I don’t claim to have given every title a shot this season – there are a few things people recommended that I just never quite got around to trying out, like Aoyama-kun and Tsurezure Children. But I didn’t exactly skip over a ton of promising titles either; I sat through several episodes of Welcome to the BallroomShoukoku no Altair, and Princess Principal, all popular shows in the anime blogging circuit and all of which I felt had decent potential. Turns out all of them rubbed me the wrong way, particularly Ballroom. I don’t feel I can nominate any one of these titles as the most disappointing, seeing as I didn’t even make it to the halfway mark, but what I will say is that I found the entire season a major downer.

Dishonorable Mentions: Again. Pretty much everything. Titles that I did not mention above but either bored me to tears or annoyed the everloving crap out of me include The Reflection, Dive!!, Konbini KareshiKatsugeki Touken Ranbu, and Hitorijime My Hero.

It was written in the stars, but yes, Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul will go down in history as our biggest letdown of not only the summer of 2017, but possibly of our blog’s entire history. Turns out turning a gorgeous, swashbuckling fantasy adventure into a drawn-out, poorly-produced soap opera expecting us to empathize with a genocidal tyrant is a terrible idea, who’d have guessed? On the other hand, Made in Abyss is the clear winner of the season — the rare adaptation that got all the love and attention it deserved, with gorgeous visuals and a wonderful soundtrack supporting a plot that delivers adventure and optimism and shocking brutality in equal measure without ever resorting to depressing violence for it’s own sake. Could we have an anime of the year on our hands here? Chances are likely, but we do still have a full season left to go. I mean, I’m not making any premature judgements until I’ve seen The Ancient Magus’ Bride.

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3 thoughts on “The Wrap-Up: Summer 2017

  1. While I understand the affection for Made in Abyss, and it was certainly incredibly well-crafted, something about it just left me cold. Yes, the unnecessary nudity and boner jokes were flaws, but more than that, I just felt like the show was constantly keeping the audience at arm’s length, in part by Riko’s ongoing play-by-play, descriptive world-building of every plant and creature she and Reg came across. I kept thinking, “How can I suspend my disbelief if you won’t let me?! You’re kids! Isn’t a sense of wonderment more in order than an encyclopedic knowledge of the flora and fauna?” I just found it off-putting.

    Admittedly, though, this is clearly a minority position!

    • I found Riko’s borderline obsessive knowledge about the Abyss to be a form of worldbuliding in itself. She’s a Delver who wants nothing more than to become the best and reach the bottom; wouldn’t it be stranger for her to NOT know anything about the Abyss?

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