Best and Worst Shows of 2017!

As the new year comes around the corner, we must adhere to tradition and sing the praises of the great shows we’ve encountered over the past year. And also spank the shows that we hated one last time.
Speaking of, let’s get those Worst shows out of the way first…

 

Top 3 Worst Shows of 2017

 

#3 – Hanasakeru Seishonen

hanasakeru_seishounen_ostThe political elements of this anime were actually decently interesting. Sadly the romance aspect was pretty horrid. Not just because it was slow, but also because I pitied the guy who ended up with her. The heroine is one of the most selfish creatures I’ve seen in anime without being a full on tsundere (those characters are a whole other can of hate for me) in a long time. The pendulum swing between her being strangely wise and insanely stupid was enraging to witness and I’m happy to leave this show behind me…

 

#2 – 18if

20150316chu_18p002_cs1e1_480xI don’t often watch entire shows and then land them in a WZ, but this is one of those titles that decided to wait until the second half to slap me in the face with excessive sexuality and violence. Not that I liked it before then either, mind you. This is one of the obnoxious shows where the villains are all women and a single guy, who is so average it hurts, comes along and they all fall in love with him while he “saves” them. Is it the worst show I’ve had to WZ? No, but it certainly wasted a lot of my time. Forgive me if I’m a bit bitter about that…

 

#1 Worst Show of 2017 – Your Lie in April

yourlie

This show made me see red. Each episode made me more mad than the last. But I still held out hope until the last, especially as the lead was really amazing and I really did want to see him rise from the ashes. But this show isn’t a romance. It’s a painful look into domestic abuse. The fact that not the show itself, but many of its viewers, see this title as a wonderfully sweet romance only made it all the more painful to witness for me. Hitting people for your own convenience, tsundere personality or not, is just straight up not ok. And when that person had a extremely abusive mother and deep guilt complex? Yeah, no. This show hurt to see and it never got any better. Definitely the worst show I watched in 2017.

 

Top 5 Best Shows of 2017

 

#5 – Tiger and Bunny

tiger_bunny_posterThis show is a bit on the older side now, but this year was the first time I finally got around to giving it a shot. And it really surprised me. Not only were the leads mostly adults, but the main lead is a wash out hero with a wasting relationship with his daughter. And those are elements of the show that do indeed get addressed. While the overall plot wasn’t very impressive, the characters themselves and their relationships with one another were pretty fresh and fun to watch. It was an entertaining show and had some truly heartwarming scenes between the lead and his daughter. It’s an easy top title of the year from me, although I’m not sure I agree with Japan that it deserves to be in the top anime slot of all time…

 

#4 – Voices of a Distant Star

hoshinokoe_8597_7851This is a stand alone animated movie that was crafted single handedly. And while the rough animation and movement might be telling of this, the elegant way emotion is conveyed is pretty stunning. It’s rare to see this level of detail in characters in science fiction, but it’s something I wish we saw more often. The pace is slow, but all the more powerful for it. And what beauty pushes through the older, rougher animation is truly amazing. It’s easy to see how this work landed its artist a more permanent job in the animation industry. It’s an amazing first piece that many studios today could learn from.

 

#3 – Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

moribitoAnother older title (I see a trend here), this show never got half the hype it deserves. Not only is the lead character well written and deep, but the world itself is crafted expertly. The blend of feudal and mythological elements is so tightly woven it feels natural and makes sense. We also see logical character progression and growth, which makes the ending that much more bittersweet and powerful. If there hadn’t been a strange out-of-character bump in the middle of the story’s script, I’d likely have rated this show even higher.
Seriously, if you still haven’t given this show a try, I highly recommend it.

 

#2 – March Comes in Like a Lion

march-comes-inThis show was beautiful to watch and moved like fictional literature put to screen, something we don’t often see in TV series (and is even becoming less common in OVA and film formats). And while this kind of story telling isn’t always my thing, this particular series was just amazing. It was a perfect example of showing, not telling. We are not told how to feel about anyone, but must come to our conclusions ourselves. There’s also no true villain. There are only obstacles for the hero to overcome, the biggest often being himself. It’s powerful and yet gently told. This was a show I loved every step of the way and recommend to anyone who loves literary fiction or is needing a break from typical genre shows.

 

#1 Best Show of 2017 – The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star

magus-bride

The full series that continues the story of this mini-series is just now wrapping up, but the three episode prequel is good enough to stand on its own. While not quite as artsy as March Comes in Like a Lion, it still follows the wonderful rule to show, don’t tell. It also takes its time showing the soft and slow healing of the emotionally scarred lead character. And while truly horrible and dark things happen to her in these episodes, the hope seen at the end is strong enough to make one leave this mini-series with a smile. It also creates a well deserved amount of hype for the full series. The strong world building and unique blend of various mythological creatures are just the cherry on top. If you like magic, mythology/folklore and don’t mind a few tears, this is a great show to jump into. And this mini-series is a great taste test for what to expect in the full series.

 

Well, that’s a wrap for 2017, folks! Thank you all for keeping faith in my blog and I look forward to another year of anime with you! 

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Merry Christmas! (+the “lost potential” shows of 2017)

christmas2It’s not often that this blog’s schedule lines up perfectly with Christmas, but here we are! And as this time of year is always scary busy, you’ll have to excuse my slightly lazy ideas for our last two posts of the season being recaps.
This year has been a crazy one for me. I got a new job, moved and made some very important life decisions that I can’t reveal quite yet. It’s hard to fit shows in these days. But I still enjoy analyzing and, occasionally, ripping the anime industry apart bit by bit, so thank you all for sticking it out with me this year!

As we get ready to finish up some shows for early 2018, let’s look back at some of this year’s biggest lost potentials… Because nothing says “Christmas” like a bag full of regret!

 

a18936-1382072408-1497548231Missed Opportunity #3 – Chronos Ruler 

I swear, it’s like this show was intentionally trying to fail. It had the most amazing set up for a great father/son dynamic. The two LEADS were a father and son. And they just…. ignored it. The show plays up their relationship as if they were classmates in high school more than a parent and their child. Which is a real shame as father/son relationships in anime are petty rare to see, where as the high schoolers getting on each others’ nerves thing? Yeah. That’s sadly common. Really common.

 

6f23cba5886611b854a147890757cdfa1475754586_largeMissed Opportunity #2 – Flip Flappers

This show was beautiful. There’s no way around that. The art was unusual, but lovely and some of the movement was great. Sadly this is one of those shows that had no idea what it wanted out of life until halfway through its run. And that’s sad as once it found what it wanted, it had a few good messages on sexuality. Buuuut, of course, we can’t have nice things in anime very much these days so even while we get those good messages we still got smacked in the face with the female characters being sexualized for an obviously male gaze half the time. It’s such as waste of potential as this series’ very setting of dream worlds was a perfect place to show, rather than tell, female and queer sexuality in a tasteful and deep manor. Sadly, that’s just not what we got…

 

yurionice-pngMissed Opportunity #1 – Yuri on Ice

Before you stone me to death, give me some time to explain. This anime was not bad (the top best and worst of the year post is at the end of this week), but it certainly could have been better. And by quite a bit. And it’s something that could have been fixed in the first ten minutes of the very first episode.
I’ll prove it.

What’s the very first scene we see with Yuri? He’s crying in the bathroom, right? While this is an interesting way to start a series, it also leaves a very unfortunate impression of Yuri as a character. Our first interaction with the lead shows him as an immature crybaby. Of course, this doesn’t prove to be true. We later find out that his dog, who had been with him for years and one of his few companions, had died while he was on tour skating. He never got to say goodbye. While it isn’t said right out that this causes Yuri to fall during his first world’s series (and thus end up in a bathroom crying), it’s heavily implied. And who could blame Yuri for being distracted? He lost someone special to him. But he had to keep skating anyway. He had to at least try. And THAT’S the important bit we didn’t get to see. Him going back on the ice, despite his pain and fear. We don’t see that extremely strong side of Yuri. So his failure and crying in those first ten minutes? The vast unfairness and frustration he feels? They feel pretty empty at best. At worst, they paint a very weak image of our lead, an image that doesn’t fit with his strong imitation of Victor’s skate only a few scenes later.
Considering this show is named after Yuri, it would have been far more fitting, and more engaging, to get a bit more of Yuri himself and his true struggles in those first few minutes. It would have given us a clearer image of both his strength and how painful his fall really was.

Of course, as always, the anime industry is a rough one and having the time (and staff) to go over scripts and scenes to make the most of every minute is a tall order. Still… I would have gladly sacrificed a few minutes of Victor’s naked butt to get a better picture of our hero. Though, as per usual, anime does have to think about what sells… and let me tell ya… the butt sells… It really does…

 

Well, anyway… HAPPY HOLIDAYS ALL!! Hope it’s bright and full of wonderful food and amazing anime! See you at the end of the week for the Best and Worst of the year!!!

Digital Fusion TIFF File

 

RRAR’s Top Shows of 2016

As this year closes with continuing technical issues (IT is now convinced my issues have to do with a space anomaly and I have no proof to the contrary), I’ve decided to look over this last year of reviews in an attempt to figure something out that’s been bugging me for months.

What the heck am I even looking for in anime anymore?

Last week Frog-kun posted a piece entitled My Tastes Have Changed and it mirrored many of my feelings on anime as of late. While I don’t share his fondness for Code Geass (lordy I gotta do a review, probably a WZ, for that one), I can completely understand how his feelings towards a show in his past are rooted in who he was in the past and thus how he would feel about it today would be wildly different. While I already mentioned my issues with Crystal, eventually I’ll need to tear into the first TV version of Sailor Moon, seeing as there’s no better picture for how my tastes have changed than my views on the first anime I ever watched.

Frog-kun also mentioned how he wasn’t sure what he was after in anime now, and I gotta say I can empathize. As I went over all the reviews I did for 2016, I noticed just how many I felt were mediocre. Or, more commonly, how many I enjoyed fine at the time, but I have no pull at all to see again. And that’s a big defining factor for me. Would I watch it again? It’s how I can tell the deference between a decent show/movie and a good one, at least for me. A great many shows I wouldn’t ever want to see again. Some I even regret having spent my time on at all. And when I was going over all my reviews I realized that these mediocre shows have a few very important things in common. One of the most glaring being lack of unique characterization and/or development. As a writer, I instinctively crave this element and it’s missing in a vast majority of shows I disliked this year. A great many also lacked the ability/desire, to break free of stereotypes, with not only the characters but also the plots and settings being such horribly bland tropes that the shows ended up blurring together. After a full year of reviews, only four shows stood out to me. And in the spirit of focusing on the good rather than the bad to close the year, as prescribed by Artemis’ Glorio blog post, I’m going to look over these four shows one last time before the year turns. Hey, how about we count down to the best of the year just for kicks while we’re at it?

RRAR’s Top Shows of 2016

Shirobako#4 – Shirobako

While I had some vague notions of what went into anime production, this anime actually busted open the door for me to see just how hellish of a system it really was. I gotta say I commend the studio for having the guts to visually show how exhausting and demanding the industry is, especially considering how little the creators get in return.
That said, these facts alone weren’t what made this show really interesting to me. What really stuck were the characters. While they didn’t appear at first to be wildly different from many other shows, they had one major element that set them apart out of the gate and it was the one element that kept me watching early on before the flow of the show could hook me: the main characters were all adults struggling in their chosen field. That alone was enough to set this show apart from the vast majority of anime cranking out of Japan. They were adults questioning their life choices, their career paths and their art. These were real issues being addressed and I really connected with that, despite the often over-the-top comedy elements that pushed through here and there.
You also got legit character development, with the main lead progressing from someone who became overwhelmed easily to someone who could handle large groups and projects on her own, taking responsibility for her errors and putting her foot down when necessary to get the job done, a feat she couldn’t have done at the beginning.

swr_keyart#3 – Snow White with the Red Hair

We really don’t get enough healthy relationships in anime, especially not in fantasy settings. Which is what made this show stand out so much in a genre that is flooded with similar titles. The old trope of prince character falling for ordinary-positive girl is so overused it’d be painful to see if I hadn’t already become so numb to such things already. But this show managed to do something very few shows have been able to do: maintain the unique identities of both romantic leads outside of one another. In other words, both characters can be pulled apart and remain interesting and continue to development without the other being there. This right here is a sign of strong writing. While you could still nit-pick a few personality issues (Shirayuki is a very cliche character, the always positive, everyone can’t help but love me because I’m a hard worker type), I found myself really enjoying this show during its air time and even now I wouldn’t mind seeing a few episodes again simply because I’m a real sucker for romances where the leads really are supportive and caring friends first and and lovers second. Very few shows seem to be able to get that right.

my love#2 – My Love Story!

Considering how well the relationships in Snow were (above), I didn’t expect to see anything that good again for quite some time. Which is why this was yet another show that caught me off guard completely this year. In addition to showcasing a very unlikely male lead, this show also blind sided you with a female character who wasn’t the shy and pure stereotype she appears to be early on. I could probably make an entire post of that little tidbit there, but for now I’ll just leave that be. This show also focused on an interesting angle for an anime. Instead of a show where we see hours of pining and whining all lead up to a confession for the grand finale of the series, this show has the love interests together as a couple right away. So we get to see what happens after the confession. We see them go through dates, introducing them to each others’ friends, and navigating difficult family and friend emergencies as a couple. These are topics rarely ever seen in anime and I was pretty overjoyed to watch them play out for once.
Also, the main lead’s relationship with his childhood friend is amazing and doesn’t get pushed aside when or while he grows in his relationship with his girlfriend. In fact, the couple have more than a few discussions on their relationship with Takeo’s friend Makoto and how they should include and support him together. As someone who is often the forgotten single friend in many groups, these elements meant a lot to me. This is definitely one show I wouldn’t mind owning. And I don’t say that for many shows these days.

amanchu#1 – Amanchu!

Speaking of shows I wouldn’t mind shelling out cash for, this anime was a pretty big shock to me this year. You always hear about “sleeper” shows that sneak up on you and let me tell ya, this one is it for me. The first episode really didn’t impress me too much, but thankfully the bar on this show rose quickly after that.
The real kicker for me was the second main lead, Futaba Oki, who suffers from anxiety. It’s rare enough to see characters who accurately portray mental illnesses in anime, but this show took it a step further and focused on Futaba’s growing relationship with her very first real friend. As someone who also has anxiety, I not only heavily identified with all of Futaba’s hangups, but I also deeply felt for her concerning her experience with friendship itself. Very few people understand or even tolerate anxiety laden behavior and thus finding support can be extremely difficult. It took me years until I met the two close friends I have now who have kept me going through some of the roughest patches in my life. Before I met them I was always feeling disconnected from those around me. The so-called “friends” I had would often either ignore or mock me when I would have attacks. When I finally met the friends I have now it was like the entire world had shifted. I could breathe. The feelings of love and gratefulness I have for these close friends are feelings I can never put into words, no matter how many times I try. Seeing those feelings of joy reflected in an anime character was nearly overwhelming, but also liberating.
While I think most people would agree that friendship is important, trust me when I say that having support, real support and love, after forcing yourself to “just deal” with the opposite for so long is one of the most amazing and wonderful things ever. As corny as it sounds, friendship really is magic. And this was a great animated depiction of just that.

h3And that’s it for 2016 folks! This year sure has been a hell hole of a ride and 2017 doesn’t look like it’s going to pull much better. Even so, I was blessed to encounter the above shows this year and I do have high hopes for some of the stuff coming out next year. So come what may, here’s to the anime of 2017 and another year of reviews!