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So, as Misk said before, this isn't about making an anime out of the Fairy Tail Wiki (although if it were, I'd love to be voiced by Tomokazu Sugita and dubbed by Crispin Freeman - cookies for everyone who understands this) but rather, a blog for us to discuss the recent Spring 2016 anime season.
Personally, I find that Spring tends to be one of the better seasons, with Fall being its closest contender. Even better though, I think this was probably the strongest Spring season we've had in years. Pretty much all the things I've watched were fun in some way and earlier this week, Misk told me on Twitter that I could post the seasonal review blog if I wanted, so here I am!
But hey, you guys aren't here for opening monologues. Let's just get right into it!
This is something that flew under a lot of people's radar as they were looking at the anime being produced by big-name studios like Trigger, Wit and Bones with huge names behind them like Tetsurou Araki or based on super-popular manga. It's not really a surprise that nobody was really talking about Flying Witch but it's honestly a shame that this didn't get more attention. I don't really know what to say other than I found this anime extremely entertaining despite nothing of note actually happening. It's a 12-episode anime and the premise is incredibly simple: a teenage witch leaves home and moves in with some relatives in a small town to practice her skills. As she spends time with them, she also interacts with a variety of colorful characters including other humans who live in the town, her older sister and creatures from the "other world". Some have even called it a spiritual sequel to Studio Ghibli's "Kiki's Delivery Service"- something I'm currently sad to say I've never watched.
On Twitter, I've constantly praised the simplicity of this anime and how it can manage to be so effective in captivating the viewer without relying on things like fanservice, fighting or craziness. To the contrary, most of the character's reactions to the supernatural ongoings are incredibly subdued. The ordinary reaction to finding out that your cousin is a witch would be to scream and develop an over-inflated anime head but on the contrary, this show has characters just take the revelation in stride and accept it. There's a refreshing lack of pretentiousness in this series: nothing is ever given more importance than it needs and any that it is given is only given the level that is necessary to suitably move the plot along without hovering on the details. As I was watching Flying Witch, I started thinking about 2014's Glasslip by P.A. Works and my feeling was that Glasslip was trying (and ultimately failed) to do what Flying Witch was trying: have a simple slice-of-life with a supernatural presence around. However, while Flying Witch executes it pretty much perfectly for what it's got (it's based off a 4-koma manga, I think), Glasslip attached a lot of importance to things that the audience was never really given any reason to care about. Characters in Glasslip were actually introduced via subtitles next to them as they appeared, which is probably the laziest way to tell the audience their name. It doesn't help that every main character in that series was pretty much only defined by whom they had a crush on rather than an actual personality. But I'd rather not spend more time talking about why Glasslip sucks, because that's a blog in and of itself. Anyways, Flying Witch on the other hand gives every character a personality and its approach allows you to relaxingly follow all of them and go on a kind of journey with them. A simplistic kind, that is, as we learn things as mundane as the history of hotcakes or do standard things like cooking dishes.
Visually, the show is pretty impressive, due to which my opinion of J.C. Staff has been elevated somewhat since I haven't really had great things to say about them ever since paying attention to the backgrounds of Maid Sama. Flying Witch's animation is simple for the most part but when it needs to do things like have the main character ride her broom or watch a flying whale made of stone, it goes the extra mile and basically puts out 24 frames-per-second. As far as art goes, there's nothing really to talk about. Designs are quite suitable but extremely simple for the most part- I would at times have liked some more detail or color in the scenes. Particularly in the opening theme, which for some reason has a weird green tint to it.
Overall, this is definitely an anime to watch for some laid-back relaxation. Definitely the type you could watch a few episodes of before going to bed and hopefully incurring good dreams as a result. I'll bet that this anime won't suit everyone though, as some viewers do look for more of a story and flowing narrative and that's completely fine (I'm certainly someone who does) but that's not what this anime is offering. I still enjoyed it because I saw what it was trying to do and not only did I appreciate its efforts, but I felt it pretty much succeeded in every area- aside from one. The adults of the household (the witch's aunt and uncle) don't really do much for the most part. They kind of just appear and disappear as the plot needs and give their consent for pretty much everything. Sometimes, I think that it would've been better to have them be more involved and not always be so accepting...like...just ask a few extra questions here and there. It's not that much to ask for, I think. In conclusion though, Flying Witch was a lot of fun to watch and pretty much hits its marks
Score: 8 out of 10
To be honest, as far as the story goes, I don't have a whole lot more to say about the series than I did back in April when it ended and I wrote on FTGM's talk page. As far as the adaption into an anime goes, I think Assassination Classroom had a great one overall. I was concerned at first about how they would adapt the last arc since it felt rather big but in the end, I didn't really have a problem. In particular, I like that they removed a character who was some kind of super soldier that the students ended up fighting. I never really liked that guy since I found him rather generic and didn't really see him as being particularly impressive outside his supposed abilities. The only real problem I have with the anime was the removal of Koro-Sensei teaching Karma a few lessons about patience and composure, which he then applied in the manga.
Overall though, Assassination Classroom was a great watch and I'd recommend it. Anime or manga, depending on your choice but either way, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
Score: 8 out of 10
Well, this was a hyped anime, if nothing else. Ever since Naruto ended, Boku no Hero Academia has been making the rounds as the next big shounen manga. Needless to say, it wasn't going to be long before an anime adaption was announced and sure enough, that's what we got. So, how does this anime stack up to the others in its genre? Well, based on its first outing of 13 episodes, fairly well. Izuku Midoriya is a shounen protagonist through and through- young, small and seemingly has the whole world against him but still has a big dream that he wants to achieve despite the overwhelming odds. He isn't anything to write home about but the character is actually well-written enough to make him appealing. Much like most shounen protagonists, there isn't a lot to him aside from his goals and interactions with some other characters but he manages to lead the series without turning off the viewer by having the overt brattyness of Naruto Uzumaki or the obligatory brooding of Ichigo Kurosaki.
Where the series lacks mainly is in characters who aren't main characters or in some cases, the main character. As far as side characters go, we have the uptight Student Rep and the obligatory love interest- neither of whose names I can remember unless I go look for them due to how their characters are written in the most unimpressive way possible. I hate to draw a comparison, but as useless as Sakura Haruno was for most of the Naruto series, she at least had a personality and memorable traits- both of which the main girl in this series lacks. But let's address the elephant in the room. The standard shounen rival here is Bakugo- the hotheaded childhood friend who became a douchebag as puberty got closer and closer and whom I could classify as a psychopath and not be wrong despite having next to no knowledge about psychology. At first, he just seems to be the typical class douchebag and an obvious rival for the main character and while that basically is what he is, unlike a lot of other rivals, he lacks a real motivation for doing what he does. His insane trigger-happiness only compounds this issue as his usage of power, combined with his personality, makes him more of a villain candidate than a student deserving to study at a prestigious school for people aiming to be superheroes. As one student pointed out: his behavior isn't exactly hero-like. Of course, that's an understatement.
I hate to draw direct comparisons, but at the very least Sasuke Uchiha and Uryu Ishida (terrible as their characters may have ended up) did have clearly-defined and relatively believable reasons for behaving the way they did. Bakugo on the other hand is written as having been shaped into the psychopathic douchebag with a huge ego that he is due to the way people treated him when he was growing up. The problem here is that nothing that happened to him is particularly unique or especially powerful. He was able to read at around the age of 4 and developed his powers around the same time- the power of explosions. Somewhat special, to be sure, but simple reading is nothing inherently outstanding for a person his age, nor do explosions seem like anything super special, particularly in a world where superpowers have become commonplace. As a result, his insane ego comes off as hugely inappropriate for what we've been given as far as his backstory goes and the show does nothing to make us think that this might be intentional and a set-up for future events. Not only that, but the rivalry he forces himself into with Midoriya also feels rather unnecessary, like the author just wanted one to happen so he made Bakugo hate Midoriya while Midoriya still tries to be his friend even after enduring about 10 years of his abuse. In this sense, Midoriya is far too hopeful for his own good. He tries to see the good in a friend he had when he was four years old but to any normal person, that goodness should clearly not be there anymore so his urge to be friends with him makes little sense.
To briefly discuss the other characters, All Might would be my favorite. I like how he can be a hero while still being probably one of the most human characters in the series. His dedication to his work at the risk of personal injury is very fitting and well-handled in my opinion. It goes to show that even superheroes who seem to be unreasonably powerful for whatever reason can still be written to be interesting and/or relatable. I've already discussed Ochako and Ieda (didn't bother to look up their names, sorry). For everyone else, there isn't a whole lot to say. The villains were pretty good as far as being a threat but not exactly memorable and the remaining school staff don't exactly get a lot of screentime. Overall, I guess I'd say that while Boku no Hero Academia is certainly worth a watch, it isn't something that I feel will stand out amongst its competition. Many have argued for it as being a deconstruction of the shounen demographic or superhero tropes but that honestly couldn't be further from the truth. It'd almost be like calling the original Star Wars movies deconstructions of Sci-fi for their use of a "used universe". Boku no Hero Academia is about as shounen as it gets without directly lifting characters or plotlines from Dragon Ball Z. It doesn't do anything to actually break the conventions of the demographic and is perfectly content with following them as far as we have seen. However, that's not a bad thing at all when those same conventions and tropes are used to good effect and create what is ultimately a good anime, as they have done here. Coupled with solid production values and suitable voice acting in both sub and dub, this is one anime I could definitely recommend to someone looking to get into anime as a whole.
Score: 7 out of 10
Honestly, I don't really know how to express what I feel about Kiznaiver. I mean, I definitely don't regret watching it, but at the same time, I feel like it feel really short of what it could have been. I think from the get go, one issue for me is the setting. Previous anime made by Trigger and their staff (you know what I'm talking about) had incredibly fleshed out worlds with clearly-defined social structures and a variety of colorful factions. Here, it's kind of just a generic high school setting with a secret government organization conducting experiments on people behind the scenes- it's very unremarkable, though I at least give it a little bit of credit for the fact that it's using children and teenagers as opposed to the usual young adults and middle-aged test subjects- even if the actual morality behind it is never really explored in any significant detail.
For the most part, the characters weren't really anything to write home about.
- Katsuhira is our main protagonist and is so unemotional he makes me look like a clown on prozac. Granted that's part of his character but by the end, he doesn't seem to have come particularly far- he makes an emotional reach-out to a girl but it comes off so uninteresting and bland that he may as well have been whispering. Granted, the animation felt rather stilted in this scene, so that probably contributed a lot to that.
- Chidori is our resident childhood friend and sure enough, she doesn't have much development, or character in general other than that she likes Katsuhira and has liked him ever since childhood- a childhood we know nothing about as she's not given a backstory outside of this.
- Tenga is our Kamina expy who fulfils the "best friend" character archetype after meeting (or rather, interacting more than he usually does) the main character in the first episode. To be honest, Tenga is probably the most fun character in the series. He likes Chidori for no clearly established reason but he's basically the tough guy and the most physical of the group and also has the biggest mouth, making him entertaining to watch.
- Nico is supposedly an expy of Kill la Kill's Mako but personally, I didn't find her as annoying as Mako. She's the "weird girl", she's rich and also the most childish, meaning that it's her who more often than not motivates the group to do something. She likes Tenga but this is so subtle (evidently it is there though) that most people are not likely to catch it without putting on their shipping goggles and going on a quest to hook up every character in the series with someone else by analyzing the most minute of details and doing a lot of guesswork.
- Honoka is our "megane bitch" and she probably the best character development in the series. Her backstory is well-written and relatively sympathetic and I openly give credit to the writer for the lesbian undertones behind handled in a mature manner and not being turned into a joke. By the end, she's pretty much the one who's come the furthest personality-wise and changes for the better as a result of her experience.
- Yuta is a formerly fat kid who's now a babe magnet and also has a crush on Honoka. Beyond that, he doesn't really have much of a personality aside from that and everything he does revolves around Honoka.
- Hisomu is basically the "sixth ranger" (though he's the 7th of 7 members) and is a masochist. For some reason, his masochism is treated a lot more like a sexual gratification, both with his verbal descriptions of pain and how the series chooses to depict it visually. This contrasts curiously with how I found Honoka's lesbian traits to have been handled nicely without actually being outright stated. Most of his character is about him basically getting off on pain but occasionally delivering some philosophical wisdom when the series needs him to even though nothing really suggests that he should be the one doing that. Overall, a rather below-average set of characters.
Weirdly, a lot of focus was given to the characters and their inter-personal relationships with one another as well as other characters from their past and present. While this is of course important to their development, it comes at the expense of the series' themes of pain and loss. These themes are addressed from time to time but barring a few occasions, seldom go into depth, as there is far more time given to romantic development and gags than to fleshing out the full concepts of the series. The central plot is that 7 kids are selected to be "Kiznaivers", people who share one another's pain so that one day, the world could share everyone else's pain and end conflict. Never mind the fact that the real-world applications of this are never actually discussed (relating to war, disease, terrorism, religion, border tension, crime, e.t.c.), what could have been a deep series really feels a lot more like a teen drama as a bunch of kids are brought together from the same class so they can bond, argue and just generally find out how they really feel about each other. It's also by the writer of AnoHana and it has her signatures all over it, right down to the parent of a dead girl hating the main characters for being alive while her daughter isn't.
As I write this review, I find my opinion about Kiznaiver growing increasingly negative. I hadn't originally planned to name it the worst of the season, but right now, I see nothing in it to change my mind. I liked the animation, art (mostly) and the music (the opening theme was pretty good) but there's just not enough for me to really feel positive about this series. Had it been a 2-cour anime, perhaps it could have addressed the problems I have. Perhaps a rewatch or a new perspective could change my mind but as it stands in my eyes, Kiznaiver comes up short.
Score: 4 out of 10
For some reason, I haven't really been as into this anime as I thought I'd be. I don't have any specific problems with it, but I find myself not really caring about it overall. There's nothing particularly bad about it but nothing that really draws me in either. In terms of technicals, it's quite solid and the acting is quite good as well. I'll likely get back to this anime later on, but for now, I predict by the end, I'd give it either a 5 or a 6.
KonoSuba is something from the Winter 2016 season. I finished it back then and I thought that despite its premise being cliche and its animation not being very good, it was still a good watch. Since finishing though, I found myself wanting to rewatch it for some reason. A few of the stories (lettuce, alligators) stuck with me and I found myself thinking about the characters from time to time. It was that memorability that made my up my MAL score for this anime from a 6 to a 7. So naturally, this OVA was something I wanted to watch and for the most part, I wasn't disappointed. Pretty much everything is in tact from how the series left itself off since this takes place after that (I know nothing about the light novels, btw) so I went in knowing that new things would be featured. The humor remained funny, the art was more consistent and the animation seemed to get a bump from what the series had. The fanservice was a bit more than what I remember in the series, but for the most part I didn't feel that bothered by it since I knew what I was getting myself into and the show's weirdness about that is part of its appeal- it seldom feels as shamelessly tacked on as Fairy Tail's.
As far as drawbacks go, the main drawback was the inclusion of Megumin's so-called "rival"- a character who was not in the anime series and was added in the OVA. Evidently, she was met by the gang offscreen between the OVA and the original end. For the most part, she doesn't really contribute anything to the OVA aside from participation in a Rock-Stripper-Scissors game and the entire OVA could have been pretty much the same even without her. My other problem with it was the ending. Not to spoil it but let's just say that the ending resolution was predictable and the attempt and playing off the aftermath as funny fell somewhat flat and left me wanting a bit more. Overall though, I still enjoyed this OVA and I'm looking forward to the second season debuting in the Winter 2017 season.
Score: 6 out of 10
I doubt it'll come as a surprise to anyone that I didn't particularly care for this OVA. For the most part, I was just rolling my eyes at it every little while. I originally did like the omake when it was released back in 2013 but so much has happened since then that I can no longer find myself to care about Fairy Tail content in a significant capacity. A lot of it goes back to how the forces behind it work- be they Mashima or the anime studio staff members. A lot of the OVA and the original Punishment Game omake actually had good moments in them but with the constant inter-splicing of fanservice here and there and that fact that I no longer find most of the jokes funny, it kind of kills any appeal for me that there could have been. Some of you may be wondering why I don't like the fanservice here when I don't mind it in KonoSuba but the reason is that KonoSuba never tries to be anything more than what it can be. Its characters are solid without any attempts at phony emotion and the absurdity of the world and the ongoings of the series are what make it appealing. On the other hand, Fairy Tail constantly goes back and forth between being silly and trying to be serious and while that isn't in itself bad, it's all about the execution that can make or break it. While KonoSuba has refuge in audacity, Fairy Tail doesn't because despite some people's claim that you can just have a laugh at it and be casual, the series isn't set up that way- that's just the way some people have come to take it in order to justify continuing it (not that I have a problem with them doing that- that's their choice). Anyways, I digress. The good moments that I remembered from the omake were very much present. I think the OVA did a great job with Wendy meeting the orphan children in particular and the GaLe moment wasn't too bad, even if I don't care for the pairing. But for the most part, this feels like an OVA strictly for the biggest of Fairy Tail fans.
Score: 4 out of 10
Choice: Male & Female
All Might - Shouldn't be much of a surprise here. All Might is this season's pinnacle of masculinity (sorry Tenga) and his series' symbol of peace. Despite being this figure of immense prestige with superhuman strength, All Might is probably also as human as it gets. He's not invincible, hence his predicament. He's smart but not such that everyone else looks stupid by comparison or that he can't be caught off-guard. His willingness to sacrifice his health for the sake of others and keep up the hopes of the people is the main reason why I give him "Male of the season". I really hope that next season, we learn more about him.
Female: Chinatsu Kuramoto -
The Flying Witch Wiki is in need of some serious work. So, Chinatsu is a young girl whose cousin Makoto is the "Flying Witch" and namesake of her series. After being with her cousin, Chinatsu decides to become a witch as well (apparently, that's possible) and at the end of the series, has her own witch robes. Children are rarely done well in anime because usually they're diminutive, overly mature for their age and have stupidly high-pitched voices. On the contrary, Chinatsu is well-designed, acts reasonably for her age and has a suitable voice. The reason I prefer her over the titular character is for her progression over the series. Sure, she doesn't change personality-wise but she's willing to go out and explore new possibilities and that's a definite plus for me.
What anime are you guys planning to watch in Summer 2016? Personally, I plan to check out the following:
- Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara - Naturally, since I follow the manga.
- Tales of Zestiria the X - I don't know too much about it, but if you also plan to watch it, check out Tales of Zestiria: Doushi no Yoake, the TV anime special.
For me, this was a great anime season. I hope to read all your thoughts about it soon.
I'm not really sure what else I want to watch next season, though. If you guys have any suggestions let me know below!