I managed to watch a lot of anime this season, even though I sadly wasn’t able to blog many of them. Here are some round-up reviews from the 2017 winter anime season!
(I know this round up post is late and smack dab in the middle of the spring First Impressions… you can blame the Dragon Maid anime for that)
Interviews with Monster Girls: (minor spoilers in this review)
I was sadly unable to fully blog the remaining episodes of this series, but I am glad to say that it remained a pleasant anime until the end. In episode 9 we had some more focus on Sakie (which is always great), in episode 10 we had some focus on Machi (also great), in episode 11 we had some heartwarming moments, and in episode 12 we had a fun episode. Can I just say that I am super glad that Interviews with Monster Girls didn’t go the “bittersweet ending” route? This seems to happen in far too many slice-of-life anime (looking at you Poco’s Udon World) and worst of all tends to be written only for the anime, generally because the manga is still ongoing.
Anyway, this was just a very pleasant and sweet series. The characters are all fairly well-developed, and have much more to their personalities than just their demi attributes. I think this series handles the concept of demi-humans very tastefully. I’m probably repeating myself here, but in far too many other anime, the girls would have just been fetish material. However, in this series they’re actually treated like real people. Sure the demis still face some problems in society, but no one in this universe actively despises them. It’s just nice to have a series where little-to-no discrimination exists.
That said, this series isn’t perfect. My main criticism of this series is the minor side-characters. Why are they so odd? I guess it was done to show that humans can be weirder than the demis, but it just threw off the tone of the series too much. Ugaki turned out to be alright (even if his personality type isn’t something I’m fond of). However, Kurtz and Souma were just… too over-the-top. Kurtz is well, Kurtz; but Souma is literally a guy whose facial expression never changes. What the hell. I think it says a lot that a character like that is what breaks my sense of immersion, rather than a girl who’s basically a dullahan, but whatever. At least Souma actually served a fairly important purpose. I’m still not entirely sure what Kurtz contributed to the series
other than being annoying. Fortunately these side-characters don’t show up too much.
I’ve also seen people rag on this series for its animation—they usually point to Takahashi when they mention this. Admittedly, Takahashi is drawn in a very different style compared to the female characters (heck, all of the older male characters tend to fall into this). I don’t mind this too much but this is a matter of opinion/preference, obviously. Other than Takahashi’s somewhat simplistic facial features, I think this anime actually has some pretty decent animation.
Some people also despise this series because of Takahashi’s casual relationship with his students, and all the ship-teasing stuff…. Which I get. The first two episodes seem to be shipping Takahashi with his students, which is extremely squicky to many. Fortunately, any crushes that the girls have on Takahashi are one-sided; and the only character he truly seems to be shipped with is Sakie, who’s close to him in age. Some people still really frown on Takahashi having such a casual relationship with his students, especially since he keeps making mention to more sexual topics. Other than the sexual topics stuff, I do appreciate that an anime can portray student-teacher relationships without making it creepy (for the most part).
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good series. How much you enjoy this series will hinge on a lot of factors. Still, I’d recommend this series if only because it portrays demi-humans in a way that isn’t fetishy or cringeworthy.
Out of five, I rate this series:
Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid:
Even now I’m somewhat baffled by why people held this series up as an example of everything that was wrong with anime. To be fair, this series is still pretty anime. But it’s not as bad as many people made it out to be.
I’ll get my criticisms out of the way first. There can be quite a bit of fanservice in this series at times. One character exists to just basically be Ms. Fanservice (I think you know who I’m talking about). And there were also some pretty skeevy scenes in episode 6 involving underage characters.
Other than that, this series is rather charming—it can be cute, funny, and heartwarming. Thankfully scenes like these outnumber the scenes I mentioned above. Even though Tohru is uh… sexually infatuated with Kobayashi, I like the family-like dynamic between Kobayashi, Tohru, and Kanna. And I’m so, so glad that Kobayashi is a female lead (and a pretty great female lead to boot). This series would have been much worse (for obvious reasons) if Kobayashi had been male.
Although I like some characters better than others, I never outright hated any of the characters in this series. Even the minor characters have interesting personalities. Admittedly, some of the mini-plots in this series are kind of predictable and cliched, as far as anime goes. But the real joy comes from watching the characters interact. Also, for a cute “comedy” series, this show can really hit you in the emotional gut when you least expect it. When the series wants to be poignant, boy can it be poignant.
Overall, this is essentially a slice-of-life series with some more fantastical elements and pretty high-end animation. If that sounds like something you’d like then you should definitely check this series out.
Out of five, I give:
With each episode being only two minutes, I didn’t have to expend much effort to watch this series. As the series is called “Nyanko Days” with most of the promo material being focused on the cat/catgirls, I expected the series to heavily center on Yuuko’s three cats. But strangely, that wasn’t the case. The series actually focuses far more on Yuuko and Azumi (the human owners), and how they become friends. To be honest, I found the human characters far more interesting, so I didn’t mind this. But boy did a lot of other people mind.
Anyway, I struggle to say anything else about this series, because two minutes is a ridiculously short run-time for any anime. Heck, all 12 episodes make up a “normal” anime episode (coming in at 24 minutes). And it’s technically even less than that because of the 30 second ED in every single episode. Still, it’s got pretty nice animation, and it’s a fairly inoffensive series. There’s just not much substance to it.
Out of five:
Piacevole – My Italian Cooking:
Despite being two minutes longer than Nyanko Days, with episodes coming in at four minutes; Piacevole somehow manages to suffer from all the bad things that plague anime shorts. This series features some low-end animation, terrible pacing, and rapid-fire speaking from all the characters. Having actually read the manga that this series was based on, this anime is an absolutely atrocious adaptation of the manga. I have no idea what kind of anime format would suit this series best, but being an anime with this short of a run-time definitely didn’t help matters.
The characters all talk like there’s some kind of competition to see who can talk the fastest. There are almost no pauses when characters are talking; one character starts talking right away after another has finished. The pacing of this series is also ludicrously fast, which renders what are meant to be sad or heartwarming scenes totally null. There’s no way you can establish any sort of atmosphere in the series when characters transition between like three different moods within the span of a minute or two. There’s not even enough time for the jokes to sink in!
The anime does at least try to add in some new jokes to better suit the anime format, which is… admirable? I still don’t understand why they re-wrote the story, though. Surprisingly, the manga does feature quite a bit of drama, including a cooking contest that got entirely cut out. I guess there just wasn’t enough time for that arc…
The animation for this show is disappointingly on the lower-end of the animation spectrum. You would think that for a series this short there wouldn’t be too many animation shortcuts used, but… there is. And boy is it used liberally. Maybe the budget should have been saved up for better animation rather than for a badly animated new ED every episode.
Overall, I’m just disappointed. I’m biased because of my prior experience with the manga, but even without that knowledge I think I’d still be disappointed in this series. Piacevole deserves a better adaptation than this. Also, that ending was terrible. The last episode at least adapted one of my favorite chapters from the manga, but the placement of that chapter in relation to the rest of the series was bad. It was definitely one of the worse chapters to end a series on.
Out of five:
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Second Season: (minor spoilers in this review)
It took a full year for the second season of this series to come out, and man was it worth the wait. Like its predecessor, the second season of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu continued to be an amazing and beautiful series.
Some people found the second season lacking, because of the transition to Yotaro as the main character, and a mostly new cast. Some claimed that Yotaro was a boring protagonist, because his character is relatively simple compared to Kikuhiko. However, I greatly enjoyed having Yotaro as the protagonist—it was refreshing to have someone so optimistic be the main focus for once. I also felt that, despite Yotaro being the designated “main character,” Kikuhiko himself still played a big role throughout the second season. If anything, the second season brought a close to Kikuhiko’s story, while at the same time setting up the beginning to Yotaro’s. It was essentially a “passing of the torch” for the art of rakugo.
While there is still a lot of drama in the second season of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, as a whole I think the second season has a much more uplifting tone than the first. Because of this, I did greatly enjoy the second season far more than the first. I also feel like there weren’t as many rakugo performances in the second season, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on how much you enjoyed the rakugo stuff.
I enjoyed this series immensely, but this series wasn’t free of some… criticisms. Not from me, but from the fandom. Episode 11 caused a bit of a stir among the fandom because of reasons that are too spoilery for me to really talk about. But that was nothing compared to the amount of sheer outrage that episode 12 caused. Boy was there fandom drama. There was… A LOT of fandom drama. Again, I won’t go into specifics because of spoilers. I personally didn’t mind what was implied in episode 12, because it felt realistic rather than being forced; compared to other anime that use that particular story trope. I definitely don’t condone it, but it didn’t ruin the series for me. *shoulder shrug*
Overall, I felt that this was really wonderfully crafted series. The animation wasn’t always perfect, but it was decently good most of the time. Once again the VAs for this series were amazing. I’m really glad I was the person who FI’d the first episode of season one a year ago. I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching this series if it wasn’t for that. And man would that have been a shame.
Out of five, I give: