Winter 2017 – Week 6 Update and Impressions

About a month ago, a group of redditors announced that they were putting together their own end-of-year anime awards for the r/anime subreddit. As part of their awards system, small juries would choose a winner for each proposed category as a separate award from the popular vote winner, and so the group setting up the awards invited anyone who was interested to apply to join in the jury voting process. I’m not that involved in the anime community on Reddit, but I figured it’d be enjoyable to share my own unique voice and be a part of that process. So, I chose to apply to become a juror, and after about a week of waiting I was accepted as part of the juries for Best Drama, Best Deuteragonist/Non-Main Lead, and Best Supporting Character.

What followed after that was a crazy three weeks of deciding nominees for each category (or what the qualifying factors were for each category, even), catching up on any show missed in a category, and then FINALLY deciding on our final rankings for each nominee. There were many long debates (like, day+ long debates) and I personally had nearly 50 episodes of anime to power through in just 2 weeks, a tall task for someone like me who doesn’t tend to binge watch a single show for more than 2-3 episodes at a time. But after a long period of discussion, each awards jury summarized their opinions, joined in the document editing process, and finally posted our combined thoughts and winners for each award this past Sunday evening. It was a fantastic moment for us as we were finally able to share our decisions with the r/anime community after weeks of hard work.

…and yet it ultimately came to a final, abrupt conclusion – less than 24 hours after all our hard work was presented to the r/anime community, the post was unstickied from the top of the subreddit by a bot and disappeared from the minds of basically everyone not directly involved with the project.

It would appear that 2017 has an early contender for the “Anticlimax of the Year” award.

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Although this conclusion to our work was a bit disappointing, I still had such a great time being a part of the awards process – my opinions on anime tend to differ wildly from many redditors on the subreddit, and getting to discuss and listen to views that were far from my own was a refreshing experience. Even though I don’t like the tendency of some redditors to trend towards absolutes and mindsets like “I will state my opinion on things like melodrama or shows or characters as if they were fact”, debates were generally productive and nearly everyone came away feeling like they understood the views of others better. And I think all of us are still proud of our awards rankings and the work we’ve done, even if it was only a fleeting thought in the minds of many. If you’re interested in the decisions made by the awards juries, you can find the full results here; and I’ve also put my own (very rough) opinions/rankings for the three categories I judged here. Feel free to check them out and let me know what y’all think!

Moving on, my participation in the awards jury did have effects elsewhere, of course. I had less time each week to watch new episodes of airing shows, and as of this writing I still have quite a few shows that I’m more than 2 episodes behind on. I also felt like I didn’t have much time to blog in those three weeks, although I did have some time here and there to think of blog ideas. This radio silence isn’t something I feel particularly happy about, but I’ve also recently had to deal with writer’s block making things difficult too. I can’t be too hard on myself since it definitely hasn’t been for lack of effort on my part, but it is a bit frustrating to be unable to convert a great post idea into words on paper.

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One of the things I’ve realized though is that I find it easier to write when I can mentally match up and combine a completed story arc with the themes and plot threads I naturally notice while watching a show. This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for me to do writeups with a wider (full series) or narrower (single episode, or even less) area of focus, but it’s easiest for me to identify threads like Bakemonogatari‘s themes of weight in Hitagi Crab or The iDOLM@STER’s question of “what does it mean to be an idol?”. Recognizing and playing around this feels important – if it’s easier for me to write and share my own opinions on a show by doing per-arc writeups rather than per-episode, then I absolutely think that I should be doing that instead. Plus, it gives me more ways to develop my own personal writing style – I’ve already been really happy with this style of post (a wide array of short, succinct thoughts – see my post from Week 3 of this season or my Winter preview), but having a style that felt like my own for my essay writeups (instead of just these list-heavy posts) would go a long way towards my own motivation and drive to write more.

For now, we’re nearly halfway through the Winter 2017 season, which is crazy – how in the world are we already about to start the second half of this season? It’s already almost halfway through February and 2017 is showing no sign of slowing down. Like my Week 3 post, if you want to see the full list of what I’m watching currently (both airing and non-airing), feel free to check out a summary at the Current Watchlist page, or check out my Kitsu for a full list with frequent updates to what I’ve been watching. And keep reading below for more detailed thoughts from me on what I think is trending up or down this season and on other shows I’ve watched recently!

 

Trending Up

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This season’s top-tier shows – All 3 of my “Trending Up” shows from my last season update – ACCA, Kuzu no Honkai, and Gabriel Dropout – have continued to be far and away be my favorite shows from this season. ACCA is an absolute blast, filled with scheming and intrigue and still this wonderful underlying feeling of style – every episode immediately leaves me wanting the next. Kuzu no Honkai continues to be devastatingly emotional with its tale of adolescence and self-discovery and self-loathing. Although I think the show is overall hurt by its weaker comedic moments, the drama of the show still shines as melancholy and somber and still maintains that key sense of delicacy. Notice how the above picture shows the subtle detail of the red, swollen bottom eyelids – it’s a small detail, but it conveys a deep sense of sorrowful feelings in this scene. And finally Gabriel Dropout has simply maintained its place as my favorite SoL/comedy of the season – its characters are likable and hilarious (I will never tire of Raphiel trolling Satania) and I’ve yet to find any of its heaven/hell related jokes stale or tiring. It’s not the best CGDCT show I’ve seen, but it’s definitely right up there with some of the best shows I’ve been watching this season.

 

Trending Down

Konosuba S2 – I admittedly didn’t have high expectations for this second season of Konosubasince I had already begun to grow tired of many of the first season’s antics by the end of its 10-episode run. Unfortunately, the show has done little to convince me that the show is broadening its comedy – Yunyun’s introduction in episode 2 was fun, but she has yet to reappear; the show’s fanservice-y content was never that great; and honestly I’ve just found many of the jokes to be tedious, stale, and/or boring. I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll drop the show at this point, but I’m not holding out much hope that the show will improve past my already low expectations.

Urara Meirochou – From what I’ve seen, not many people stuck with Urara past the first episode, which while understandable given issues with the content felt to me like a lack of trust in the show’s potential. But I’m at a point now some more episodes in where I can tell that the show’s atmosphere is quite similar to Is the Order a Rabbit? – a major negative for me given that GochiUsa is one of the few SoL shows I found too boring or tedious to watch. Part of this perception carried over onto Urara might be from watching the show late at night where I’m more prone to losing focus (or just straight up falling asleep while watching) but even outside of that the show hasn’t really done much to grab my attention. It’s frustrating, and I hope that the show finds a better groove in the coming episodes.

 

Recently Finished

(Note – all of these for this update are shows I had to watch for the awards judging I mentioned earlier in my post)

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Amanchu! – I can’t really explain what I consider good pacing in a show – it’s one of those things that I can only really elaborate on by describing how it feels. But I do know that I’ve liked very few shows with slower pacing – Flying Witch from Spring 2016 is one of the few I can remember enjoying. All of this is to say that Amanchu! passes the “slow-pace bar” with ease, taking its time in working through Teko’s growth as a character and enjoying the time spent along the way. Amanchu‘s cast is varied and sorta out there at times, but I loved how much the cast seemed to care about each other, picking each other up and living life to the fullest together. It helps that Amanchu‘s visuals were often gorgeous – from the floating petals of the sakura blossoms to many, many shots of the ocean and coast, Amanchu was a visual delight. Though I had issues with some characterization aside from Teko and the limited overall scope of the plot, I’m quite pleased for my time with Amanchu and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys other iyashikei (healing) anime.

Fune wo Amu – Fune wo Amu’s story of passion, romance, and dictionary-writing was filled with moments that felt graceful and measured, lifted through animation that seemed surprisingly detailed and fluid in small, natural moments. I’m not sure if there’s any way to describe it beyond simply as an “experience”; it really felt like something unique and not typical to anime. Unfortunately, I felt that the overall plot suffered from scattered pacing that didn’t give enough space for character development – it rushed through many plot developments that betrayed the patience and grace given to individual moments. Most notably, a plot choice that occurs partway through the series felt like it undercut many of the show’s own plot threads – both the dictionary and romance plotlines felt like they lost significant emotional weight as a result of that decision. While I did enjoy Fune wo Amu overall and would recommend it to others, I can’t help but feel that the show was disappointingly incomplete, missing a critical piece of story that could have made it something truly special.

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Mob Psycho 100 – I realized fairly early on while watching Mob Psycho 100 that it really just wasn’t the show for me. I can get that people loved the characters or the story, but I never personally found much to like in either of those things – they simply didn’t stand out to me that much. Many of the show’s jokes fell completely flat with humor that didn’t mesh with what I consider funny, and while I do think the animation in the show was strong I found the art style that permeated every part of the show uninteresting at best and flat-out unappealing at worst. I don’t think my view is necessarily the definitive opinion for Mob Psycho 100, but after watching the show I’m neither surprised by how I felt about it and nor disappointed that I did feel that way. It simply was never a show I was going to like.

Re:Zero – Back when this show was first airing, I made the decision to drop the show at episode 11 after counting numerous personal negatives towards the show. At the time, I felt the pacing of the show was dreadfully slow, the characters not just unlikable but unpleasant to watch, and the show’s story in general quite boring. I wasn’t incredibly thrilled about needing to revisit the show for judging purposes, but I did watch through the 14 episodes I had remaining. Having now finished the show, I don’t feel as if my opinions have changed much – the pacing of the show was still far too slow in my eyes (I felt at least 4-6 minutes could have been saved each episode through a more streamlined pacing), and the characters remained uninteresting or unappealing. Worse still, the show’s poor treatment of its characters (especially compared to the aforementioned Kuzu no Honkai, which as I’ve noted in the past treats its characters with empathy and respect) made me actively dislike the direction the show was taking. Although the later arc did redeem the show slightly in my eyes, I can only help but feel that decisions on the story (a source material issue) and pacing (a direction issue) made a show with a strong premise far less than what it could have been.

 

Current Focus

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Catching up on airing shows – As much as I’d like to focus on many other non-airing shows for the next few weeks, I have to confront the fact that I am many, many episodes behind on more than just a few shows this season. I’ve fallen massively behind on Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, which could easily be competing with the top tier of shows I mentioned above. I’ve also been neglecting Tales of Zestiria‘s second season for weeks, and every Saturday adds a new Sangatsu no Lion episode to a list stretching back to last season. I do like these shows and want to catch up on them (and other shows I’ve been watching this season), but it’s tough knowing that doing so means temporarily setting aside non-airing shows that I’ve had more desire to watch over the past few weeks. Still, without award judging eating up my time and having recently worked on being more productive during the week, I hopefully should be all caught up sometime in the next week or two on nearly every airing show I’ve been watching.

Others I’m hoping to start/continue soon – I recently watched the 8th episode of Symphogear GX and was reminded that Symphogear is a ridiculously fun show, so I’m hoping to finish the final 5 episodes of that show sometime soon. I’ve also been looking to work through more of both Shaft shows I’ve been watching (Koufuku Graffiti and Sasami-san@Ganbaranai) – of those, I’d likely prioritize Sasami-san since I have fewer episodes remaining, but I think at this point I can safely say that Koufuku is my favorite between the two. For shows I haven’t started, I’ve been getting a lot of pressure to watch Kyousougiga from maaaaaaaany people on Twitter and elsewhere, and so I don’t think I can pass on that one for much longer. I’d also like to watch the first season of The Eccentric Family, given that a second season is coming very soon and it’d nice to be able to watch that as it aired. Finally, as my twitter avatar of Ranko plus my earlier writing indicates, I highly enjoyed the first season of iM@S Cinderella Girls and would love to watch the second season as soon as I can reasonably add it into my watching schedule.

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If there’s a show I haven’t seen that you think I should be watching, feel free to let me know in the comments below and I’ll take a look to see if it’s something I’d be interested in starting soon. And as always, let me know what shows have stood out for you guys this season – I’d love to hear more about what anime you all have been enjoying as well!

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