Winter 2016 Anime Impressions – The 3-Episode Test

28 Jan , 2016,
Panther
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KonoSuba - Aqua

And after an extremely long break of not doing this due to life, games, and other reasons, I guess it is time I bring back some of my impressions in order to let you know how things stand for the season. This season has certainly been more of a surprise with regards to the quality of the series with respect to what I was expecting, so it has been pretty good so far. Read on to find out how each series stands after the usual 3-episode test.

All the shows are divided into tiers, with S being the top, and C being the lowest. Any dropped shows will be shown first under their own heading. Spoiler: I only dropped one, which was quite a surprise. I also picked up more shows than I mentioned in my preview, especially regarding the two short shows which you will read about later.

Remember that all of this is based on my personal opinion, and does not reflect an all-purpose intention to rate the shows for everyone’s well-being. You are advised to take my personal ratings with a pinch of salt, or at best, a guideline with which you can then decide for yourself if you wish to pick up the show, or continue watching it. Further, these ratings are based on just a mere 3 episodes; shows can and have gotten better after the third episode. Do keep all of that in mind.

Let us jump right into it then.

*****

Dropped

Active Raid

Active Raid

Despite the supposed sentai setting of the show and all, the show just did not catch my attention as much. There seemed to be too much going on behind the scenes that was not being shown properly, and a lot of the plot looked like it was patched together from various people. A mish-mash of what can only be called rather average action combined with a poorly thought-out plot and this show was a goner for me. While it might still interest people who like the setting as well as the apps and sci-fi side and all, I would advise that unless you intend to finish this show in a marathon, have a love for the setting, or just in general want some low-end fun, you should not be picking this show up.

*****

C-Tier

PSO2 The AnimationPhantasy Star Online 2 The Animation
Rating: C-

I originally thought after the second episode of this that I would honestly just be dropping it, but the third episode came along and boy did it bring back even more memories. I played PSO2 back in the day on the Japanese version, before the English/SEA versions came out, and it was at least a great time, if nothing else. Back then I could not even type Japanese in the game, I remember. Seeing all those animations be brought into the anime, including the way emergency quests came on and all, hit me with a wave of nostalgia.

The plot, of course, as expected, was pretty low in intelligence. At the very least, it did not go the way I thought it would. They kept PSO2 itself as a game, and the drama that surrounds the game is akin to how it might really work in real life rather than show off a fantasy setting that might have drawn the protagonist and the viewer into PSO2’s world itself. I find that fine, though the execution has, as been expected, rather sloppy. Still, it is a fun watch for me, and personally, I find that not having to think too deep about a show helps too sometimes. This definitely is not for anyone though, it really is a niche show and should be treated as such. Thus, if you are not at all interested in the Phantasy Star universe, or have not at least played PSO2 itself, then you might want to really stay off this series.

Oji-san to Marshmallow

Oji-san to Marshmallow (Middle-aged Man and Marshmallow)
Rating: C

One of the shorts I thought I would not pick up at first, Oji-san to Marshmallow has proven to be a slightly entertaining ride at the worst. The antics of Wakabayashi as she tries hard to gain the favor of the dense “Hige” (nickname, meaning “Beard” or “Moustache”), whose love for marshmallows knows no bounds. She, of course, knows this, and always tries to use his favorite marshmallows to entice him into doing things that he would otherwise be unwilling to do. A rather light-hearted, short episodic comedy that you can try catching on the side if you feel like you might be into it. Each episode lasts about 3 minutes.

Oshiete! Galko-chan

Oshiete! Galko-chan (Please tell us! Galko-chan)
Rating: C

Yet another short I thought I would not pick up, I was alerted to the fact that Noto Mamiko was narrating the rather lewd titles. Aside from the light touch of obviously perverted jokes and the like, the series mostly revolves around the three stereotypical girls’ friendship. As a short though, this probably appeals to less of an audience than Oji-san to Marshmallow, and is certainly not for those who are not interested in stuff that high school girls and boys would normally talk about. Each episode is about seven-and-a-half minutes long.

Koukaku no Pandora

Koukaku no Pandora (Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn)
Rating: C+

The C-tier is certainly full of shows I did not expect to pick up at all. While K-Pandora certainly appeared in my sights for a bit, I did not bother picking it up at first even though I knew there would be Numakura Manami, one of my current favorite voice actresses, in it. She voices the cat-eared character you see above, Clarion. I must say though, the cuteness overload of the series between these two girls have been quite the thing to behold. Unfortunately, aside from that, the plot seems to be thin and the execution is below average at best, so it would appear that my first guess regarding the series was right after all. This is not a show that most would bother picking up for the sci-fi part; if you are going to be watching this, it would be for the cute girl-meets-girl action.

*****

B-Tier

Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm

Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm (Four Rhythm Across the Blue)
Rating: B-

The visual novel being animated by the supposedly revamped GONZO, it has so far been a pleasant but rather low-key ride. While the aspects of the flying sport are certainly intriguing, the story and its characters have been run-of-the-mill types and have thus far not produced much in the realm of excitement. It still is what I would say an average show, but if you are not interested in the visual novel setting and the probably romantically inclined elements, and/or the flying part of it, this one is most likely not for you.

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu
Rating: B

Into its final season, Durarara!! is wrapping up on some loose ends. The problem? It is doing it in its usual way, which can be really convoluted for anyone who has caught all seasons of it as they aired, instead of finishing it in a marathon. There are just too many connections between the characters and their intertwined stories, and it does take a while for everything to sink in. Thus far, they have been doing a good job this season as usual, but even then, I feel that this series really needs to be wrapped up. I hope, with some confidence based on how it has handled everything so far, that the ending will be a smashing good one, though it could still turn back to the good old “the extraordinary becomes the ordinary, and life goes on” phrase the series likes to use.

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu S2 (Assassination Classroom)
Rating: B

Interestingly enough, this season of Assassination Classroom has actually been weaker thus far compared to the first. I mean, the latest episode showing Itona and the class, and the resolution that followed, seemed to be more like a patchwork of plot points and ideas rather than one flowing form of story. While I still like the show, it just comes to me as odd that after the first episode, it seemed to take a slight downhill turn. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed the first season and/or the premise, the show is still pretty much a keeper.

GATE

GATE Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri S2 (GATE: And So The JSDF Fought)
Rating: B+

The second season of GATE arrived in truly GATE-esque fashion, with some slower turns here and there before we finally reached our main objective of the Fire Dragon arc that was supposed to be the crux of this season itself – facing the Fire Dragon. While that will only happen next episode, thus far GATE has shown some already possibly controversial issues, which I shall not go into detail about. Even so, the show is pretty much a combined list of tropes from various anime series and genres, so it might take quite a bit for someone to want to pick this up other than the tropes. Still, the second season has been a welcome addition to the winter season, and I hope it keeps going with its momentum that we might have an entertaining time throughout the series’ remaining air time.

Reikenzan

Reikenzan: Hoshikuzu-tachi no Utage (从前有座灵剑山; Spirit Sword Mountain: Banquet of Stardust)
Rating: B+

Reikenzan being a Chinese webcomic, I had my doubts as to whether or not it would carry over well as an animated series. I know that the Chinese themselves have actually been pretty successful in recent years for their comics and animated series. Comparisons between both Japanese and Chinese animated series, as it were, are not what I am bothering with here. What I have been impressed with so far is the amount of effort put into the Mandarin dubbed version of this show. It seriously is so much better than the Japanese version, with jokes that only those who understood Mandarin would get. Seriously, if you understand Mandarin, I highly recommend watching it on the official Youtube channel for the show, WIS Animation. It is also out earlier than the Japanese version. In all, the ride has been pretty fun, but we are only getting into the meat of the show at the end of the third episode, so we will have to see where it continues to go.

*****

A-Tier

Koyomimonogatari

Koyomimonogatari
Rating: A-

The series of shorts that spans the entire continuum of the famed -Monogatari series, this particular series requires you to have watched all of the animated stories. It progresses in chronological order, which can be confusing considering the series has never done that. Each episode is seven-and-a-half minutes long or so, and focuses on small side stories with the cast that our protagonist, Araragi Koyomi, runs into as they bring to him possible tales of oddities on the small scale. An interesting look once more from the -Monogatari series from various angles at various subject matters, the series itself has so far really been entertaining, as all -Monogatari shows tend to be.

Dagashi Kashi

Dagashi Kashi (Sweet Treats Candy)
Rating: A

One of the more anticipated shows of the season for me, this show had a lot going for it before it aired, and did it deliver. While Hotaru, the female character you see above, and her eccentricity has driven the show so far, I find that the side characters are no less funny in their interactions with Hotaru. Truly, the comedy in this show, even if it revolves around traditional candies and sweets that only the older Japanese candy stores have now, is really good. I highly recommend this show for a light comedy of the season.

KonoSuba

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (Blessings upon this Wonderful World!)
Rating: A

KonoSuba, as it is better (and more easily) known, has been another MMORPG ride, but with a huge twist – the characters are hideously incapable at whatever they do. Through 3 episodes, the main cast of 4 has finally been assembled – the useless goddess Aqua, the arch wizard who loves and therefore uses only explosion magic, and the masochistic Darkness (above: Aqua, Darkness and Megumin from left to right). Honestly, even the protagonist can only foresee nothing but hardship and trouble in the future with this rag-tag band of misfits, and I have to agree with him in full. This comedic party and its series may not blow many out of the water with anything original, but the cast certainly more than makes up for that aptly.

Dimension W

Dimension W
Rating: A

A sci-fi show about a fourth dimension, W, that humanity has learned to tap in order to obtain unlimited energy, seems almost too perfect to be true, and it is. The series itself explores the dark side of using such unlimited energy, or rather, the effects of it when misused. It further taps upon an android girl that is, aside from her android body, simply human, partnered with an unwilling “fossil” of the past who refuses to get mired in the technological advance of the coils used to provide unlimited energy. So far, it has been a truly good watch, though more for Mira’s antics than anything related to the plot. The first three episodes set a nice tone for the show to follow, so I hope it will keep going like this as we move along the winter season.

Ajin

Ajin (Demi-Human)
Rating: A+

Like Knights of Sidonia, Ajin is a fully 3D-CG pick. The art style is reminiscent of Sidonia’s characters, though not entirely. The only show in this entire list to have only aired 2 episodes, Ajin has already been quite gripping for its illustration of the demi-human protagonist as he struggles to face the reality that he is now hunted by what he once thought to be his fellow humans. Aided by a friend who refuses to see him as an Ajin, he must now escape the clutches of his pursuers while learning more about the form he is…and the one he brought out.

I would say the psychological part of this show is certainly going to show up very often, considering how the portrayal of our protagonist’s relationships thus far, aside from his one real friend, has been more like a summary of the number of friends he has, and a really dysfunctional family focused only on results. Aside from that, I am fine with the 3D CG, which I know a lot of people have issues with, for some reason. Still in its early stages, we will definitely be learning more about the ajin, and seeing more of the good and bad side of both humankind and demi-humans as we move along the plot, and I for one cannot wait to see where this goes.

*****

S-Tier

Grimgar

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar (Grimgar of Ash and Fantasy)
Rating: S-

Few shows work up this much of a deal in just three episodes, but Grimgar certainly has. While it has all the makings of an animated MMORPG, it shows the really tough part of a fantasy world that none of us wants to admit – the life-and-death situations, struggling to survive as newbie adventurers, and just trying to get through day by day with all you have. The art color, the painting-like backgrounds, and the exposition of the series so far has been nothing short of something worthy of a fantasy novel, but for some reason I find myself trying to distance myself from it. Perhaps it is difficult to admit that this would likely be how we, if thrown into a similar situation, would react and be like, something that certainly leaves a bitter taste on the tongues of our minds.

Nevertheless, the reality of it all for the characters, the animation quality and the presentation thus far has been astounding enough to make this certainly among the top picks of the season.

Boku dake ga Inai Machi

Boku dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED)
Rating: S

I have not given such a high rating to a show for a long time, but ERASED (I have no idea why they chose this translation as the official one) has certainly been the top watch of the season for me thus far. The presentation is even better than Grimgar’s, and the plot thickens when we move along the past as our protagonist tries to unravel the mystery and stop the murder of his classmate 18 years ago from his present time. It is a show best watched rather than explained as to how it just seems to flow so nicely and how the anime seems to really pull you in. If you only pick up one show this season, make it this one.

*****

And there goes the 3-episode impressions of all the shows I have decided to pick up. There were a lot more shows with better impressions than I expected, and in fact, I thought there would only be one show in the S-tier ranking at first, but it seemed just such an injustice to place Grimgar in the A-tier. Ajin itself might have gotten S, but having not yet seen the third episode (because it has yet to air), I can only judge based on the first two.

So there you have it. I hope there are some good shows, or at least one or two, that will make you feel better about the winter season, and perhaps make you pick it or them up to see where the series might go from here on. I, for one, certainly did not expect to be catching this many shows that will definitely be ones I will follow till the end. I guess it was not a mild winter after all.