Summer 2016 Overview: Not Just Time Travels

Summer 2016 Overview: Not Just Time Travels
This trusty girl swears Summer wasn't just madcaps travelling through time!

As some of you may remember, polyphoni.ca used to run an Overview of each anime season. For those who weren’t with us back then or simply don’t remember, the concept is simple: our writers pick shows from the past anime season to discuss, compose short impressions, and we publish the whole in this post! The goal is simple: give accessible but insightful thoughts for you to know what you may or may not want to watch from the past season, or simply gather different points of view on different shows. Some shows have up to three write-ups associated with them, so you’ll be able to gather contrasting ideas. Simple concept, isn’t it? Well, now we’ve introduced things, let’s jump right in!

Use this menu to find the show you want
[info_list font_size_icon=”24″][info_list_item list_icon=”none” animation=”pulse” title_font_size=”desktop:18px;” desc_font_size=”desktop:15px;”]

[/info_list_item][/info_list]

[info_list font_size_icon=”24″][info_list_item desc_font_size=”desktop:15px;”]

[/info_list_item][/info_list]

91 Days

Yamada II91 Days is a story of revenge. The MC’s family was killed by the present don of a mafia gang and he wants to avenge his family’s death. And the best way he finds to exact revenge is to join the mafia and gain their trust. 91 Days manages to give us a thrilling ride as we see Angelo’s plan to avenge his family unfold. We see him as a badass manipulator who uses everyone he can for the purpose of making his family’s killers pay: he doesn’t just kill them, he makes them suffer too. They also manage to build an environment fitting of a mafia story with wars between mafia gangs over the illegal alcohol business so defining of the period. Angelo makes his entry in such a situation and turns things in such a way that it favors his revenge. The TK opening song gives another reason to stick around.

The only thing worth watching here is Angelo being a badass, using everyone and everything in occasionally ruthless ways. The artwork takes huge downfalls from time to time and occasionally ends up being quite cringe worthy. The characters are pretty bland and uninteresting overall. You don’t feel attached to or sympathetic towards anyone – not even Angelo who lost his family, which is a large problem knowing he’s the protagonist. What this show has running for it is that the path to Angelo’s revenge is an exciting one. It manages to keep making you want to see how Angelo kills off more people or manipulates the situation to favor his revenge. Angelo’s willingness to go to any length for the sake of his revenge is another source of thrill.

In conclusion, 91 Days fails in making characters whom you would care about, and falls short of consistence in the visual department; but if the story of Angelo’s revenge manages to hook you in, then you’re in for quite a ride.

Alderamin on the Sky

TsukelhmAnother anime adaptation of an ongoing source material with great animation and an interesting story, by Madhouse: that’s what Alderamin on the Sky is. It narrates the story of Ikuta Solork and Yatorishino Igsem as they encounter many hardships on way to respectively becoming the best military strategist and the best sword fighter in their kingdom. The story is set in an imperialist-like world with fantasy elements that go hand-in-hand with the development of engineering.

The first thing that comes to mind when watching Alderamin on the Sky is how similar its narrative is to other shows like Akatsuki no Yona which also focus on a journey to a known outcome. The military strategy breakdown is reminiscent of Madan no Ou to Vanadis, another series which made a great showcase of battles and war. The engineering development and morality aspects are also strikingly similar to those of Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen, though they’re a bit lighter in tone.  Alderamin also benefits from some outstanding directing, with beautiful animation and fitting music, especially for Yatori’s fight scenes. This is particularly true of one scene in episode four that depicts her beautiful style as she slaughters a small squad by herself: her hair matches the spilling blood and the red-orange sunset in the background. Ikuta’s strategies are the main focus of the anime, as he’s the lazy commander who designs and carries on elaborated strategies to overcome the difficulties he and his friends encounter; he is the one doing most of the explaining, and is enjoyable to watch, being really different from the common “strong-willed but half-assed hero”.

Furthermore, the voice acting truly shines in this show. It makes the characters feel fresh and alive. Taneda Risa and Okamoto Nobuhiko stole the show, with their portrayals of Yatori and Ikuta standing out from the rest, even though the others weren’t bad either. The music was normal, not too nationalist but also not so fantasy-like, while the OP and ED were pretty much average.

In conclusion, there are few reasons to not watch Alderamin on the Sky despite it being unfinished; it’s an entertaining story with nice characters, a great work that is really enjoyable to watch. Finally, if you are keen on the aspects it shares with the other series mentioned above, then it’s definitely worth a shot.

Amaama to Inazuma

Yamada II: Amaama to Inazuma is the story of a father taking care of his daughter after his wife passed away. The series focuses on this single parent as he tries his best to keep his daughter happy.

Inuzuka Kohei is the parent in question, a high school teacher raising his five to six-year-old daughter, Tsumugi. Inuzuka has to juggle between his job as a teacher and his obligations as a father. The focus is always on Inuzuka’s desire to make Tsumugi happy, and how he manages to give her the love she needs. The show tackles the importance of a home-cooked meal together with one’s family, among other things. Inuzuka, an archetypal patriarch, rarely even picks up a knife. Because of that, Tsumugi misses the cooked meals her mother used to make. Inuzuka sees this and decides to learn how to cook. Each episode has Inuzuka cooking a dish with help from a student of his, Kotori. Inuzuka cooks like a true amateur at first –  cutting onions slowly, overcooking the eggs, failing at times and succeeding at others – and then slowly get the hang of things. Tsumugi’s delighted reactions to tasting food is a real source of giddiness during these moments. Which is really the show’s main point: bringing a smile to your face by seeing a little girl being happy. It touches upon different subjects took, but this is what these 12 episodes are all about.

Another thing this show deals with is raising a child. Even though Tsumugi doesn’t have a mother and needs all the happiness she can get, it doesn’t mean that Inuzuka can spoil her. Tsumugi has to grow up into a good girl who would be friendly with everyone, respect others, apologize when she’s wrong, and so on. One instance of this is Inuzuka teaching her not to be picky when it comes to eating. We see how he cares about his daughter and tries to do what’s best for her. Knowing that Tsumugi’s mother is gone, one will easily imagine the kind of emotions this particular element carries.

One standout aspect is the realistic representation of Tsumugi. For instance, she has dances and songs for different random stuff. Some might find her cute, some may find her annoying, but it is these feelings, apart from the fact that she’s voiced by a ten-year-old, which make her come off as a real child.

Amaama to Inazuma touches upon a variety of subjects and manages to pull them all off quite well. It doesn’t do anything earthshattering, but at the very least it manages to put a smile on your face with all its heartwarming moments.

Amanchu!

Yamada II: Amanchu is an adaptation of a manga by the author of the ARIA series. Anyone familiar with the ARIA series would instantly notice two major similarities: the super deformed big heads and the focus on the poor cats with poor anatomy (the main cat here is also named “ARIA” because why not). Make no mistake, however: this show is no ARIA 2.0, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Amanchu tells the story of a girl named Ooki Futaba. Futaba moves to a different city after middle school and has to start her life anew at a new school in an unknown land. The series’ focus is Futaba experiences. She has a fear of discoveries and tends to avoid doing new things entirely, running away from anything she thinks she can’t do. Despite this, the show gives her a new experience in the form of deep sea diving. Deep sea diving is one of those things a person not living near the sea wouldn’t even consider doing because they’ve never seen it up close. We see Futaba find an interest in diving, face her fears and go for it. The result of her struggle is one we can all expect given the setting.

The overall environment is less serene than ARIA or Flying Witch’s in that it comes off as busier than the aforementioned shows’. Because of this, Amanchu can get an audience other than those who prefer absolutely peaceful shows. And J.C. Staff did a pretty good job with the visuals despite having two other shows airing alongside this one (both of which also had rather good animation going for themselves).

In conclusion, Amanchu is a pretty nice, serene show with its relaxing environment, likable characters and solid visuals, all of which easily earn it high marks.

Battery

samui: Battery is probably the most obscure Noitamina show in years, and for good reasons. It is too moody for a sports series and it lacks anime stereotypes for lambda viewers. However, whatever good Battery did was negated by convoluted drama that was not neatly resolved later.

Battery could have been good if it took the approach it used for the first five episodes. Foundations were built solidly, such as the case of Takumi’s snotty but sheltered attitude and Go’s role in the story. Baseball was relegated to the sidelines in favor of exploring the world through Takumi’s eyes. There were also potentially good subplots like Seiha’s sickness or his grandfather’s backstory. More importantly, the show pretty much established Takumi’s blossoming relationship with Go as they aim to reach higher grounds with baseball. There were moments of bad melodrama but the show’s generally tame nature kept it good.

Battery could have been a good coming of age series if it kept the number of characters low and did not pursue a grander subplot.

The story became murky after the appearance of Shun and Mizugaki. It seemed like the two initially appeared as foils to Go and Takumi but their worth as characters was never fully realized. Perhaps its 11-episode run was not enough to further elaborate Shun’s obsession for Takumi’s skills or Mizugaki’s manipulative tendencies. Worse, all good subplots earlier disappeared for a contrived bishounen drama that never got anywhere in the end. Seiha, his grandfather and the coach were practically shoved aside. Shun and Mizugaki got more screen time but it’s hard to empathize with them when they’re paper-thin in terms of characterization.

For the actual baseball game? It occurs at the last minute of the show and not worth such a long wait. The final death blow is when you realized the OP is the most eventful thing in the whole show. Not all obscure series are good, just as proved by Battery.

Berserk

KawaiDespair: It appears Berserk can never catch a break, or well it actually catches too many when referring to the manga hiatus, but the recent adaptation has just proven to be too depressing to even acknowledge as a real effort of adapting one of the best tales of all time.

Although it would be appropriate to tackle the story and characters of this work, it is unfortunately impossible given how the directing and overall production values have crippled everything to the point it is hard to follow whatever is happening, or believe this was even allowed on air.

The visuals, needless to say, are horrendous, even more terrifying than the monsters that inhabit Berserk’s world. Everything, from the character designs, to the animation, to the camera work, comes off as nonsense, something that should be shameful yet is intriguingly bewildering, as it makes you wonder “were they actually fine with airing this!?”. Contrary to what many believe, even if the studios had planned to animate this in 2D, it would not have been any better – in fact, it probably would have been just as bad. Just add the fact that the two styles are literally juxtaposed in the most blatant manner (2D and 3D characters in the exact same scene, in the same foreground) and you have the worst use of 3D and 2D in one package that anyone could conceive. Of course, it would probably be hard to notice these issues anyway, given how ADHD and insane the directing is, making you feel like you are riding a roller coaster that never stops, nauseating you at every turn. This indeed is not meant for humans to consume, clearly it was not.

Is the music good you ask? Well, better than the visual department sure, but that is not hard to achieve as many may imagine. The show has another Susuma Hirasawa track in it that does not sound horrible at first, only to run it to the ground by using it in every instance it can and drain it of all of its potential charm, playing it at the most awkward moments and again making the viewers question whether a human had anything to do with this disasterpiece of a show.

Stay away from Berserk 2016, it is a disgrace to anime and animated features in general.

Mob Psycho 100

KawaiDespair: As another interesting show coming from ONE of One punch Man fame, Mob Psycho proves to be an exciting and moving tale that is even in many ways better than its more famed big brother.

The story, while rough at first with its awkward tone setting first episode, and the occasional jokes throughout that have a hard time grabbing any laughs, slowly starts to bring forth some hard hitting jests, while being surprisingly thought-provoking and tense at times. The straight-faced funny dialogue, and the disconnect between the general mood set by villains and the main character/Reigen’s assessment or reaction to them are excellent smile-inducers that perfectly satire the nature of the villains in the show, which tend to follow the archetype of most villains found in other shows. But not only do these moments make you laugh; they sometimes bring into question whether the main character’s reactions are valid or not, turning the situations into character studies and tense moments. Some of the jokes might turn those deeper moments on their head though, which is a shame, but the ones which are not affected by this remain amazing all around. An interesting tale involving psychic powers and ghosts indeed.

The characters, while mostly great, do fall a bit short when compared to how things are handled in the story department. Mob is the centerpiece of the insightful moments shortly described in the aforementioned paragraph, with his ambitious but yet very humble and reserved attitude, which fits his powers. That said, he can be a slog to follow given how emotionless he is, and despite this element being purposeful, he can feel sidetracked at times. Reigen, however, is near perfection. The gross confidence of this conman would require a much longer piece to appreciate fully, as he drives the show in nearly every moment after the mixed first episode. The villains are functional and a hilarity, in their own rights. With the exception of Gou, the rest of the cast are just fillings to serve whatever simple purpose they have to serve, which is fine. Ultimately, the characters are still an interesting bunch, despite some weird ones in the mix.

Now, the visuals are astonishing. The rough art style, combined with the highly fluid and detailed animation, makes for some unique and thrilling sequences that are truly a treat to behold. This is the aspect that carries the show beyond its flaws and makes it the best of its season. The soundtrack, while not as equally stunning, is quite a feat and fits the overall tone of the show.

Overall, Mob Psycho is this season’s winner. It is one of those few shows that manages to exceed expectations, and delivers on something that can only be achieved with 2D animation.

The Morose Mononokean

samui: Do not be fooled – its colorful promotional artwork isn’t reflective of any fun or fujoshi shipping between these two male leads the show has. The Morose Mononokean is somewhat competent, yet very forgettable for the mosr part. In its defense, the series did a commendable job in humanizing the ghosts, to the point where they became more interesting than the lead males themselves. No matter how one-note these monsters-of-the-week are, we got stories that are moving at best, and amusing at worst.

The colorful palette is also one of The Morose Mononokean’s strongest points. It does not boast grand animation but darn these nicely drawn and vividly colored background art, especially in the Underworld. Moreover, the monsters are given enough details for each to be unique. However, the background music is mostly generic throughout. It should also be noted that the OP and its ED can be grating to the ears thanks to the synthetic drum loop.

Nonetheless, this could have been an enjoyable series if only the humans were… interesting. The Monokean’s master, Abeno, surely lived up to his house’s “morose” adjective, but he does not have any other expressions. Worse, we were teased that how he became the current Mononokean would be shown; instead, we got this filler-ish monster of the week approach that went nowhere in the end. Ashiya fares a bit better thanks to his affection to the yokai but he also got zero development throughout the series.

That’s where The Morose Mononokean starts to fall apart. Without interesting characters to rely on, any dynamics between Abeno and Ashiya are sleep-inducing at best. There was one good moment near the end, but it was not enough to save this series. The Underworld is a visually interesting place but was underutilized after all.

If you simply watch The Morose Mononokean for the monsters themselves, this might serve as a good watch to pass your time; but the show’s many shortcomings in other areas keep it from being truly recommendable.

Orange

TsukelhmOrange is the story of Takamiya Naho, a young girl enjoying her adolescence with her friends until she receives a letter sent 10 years back in time by none other than herself. She learns that one of her friends will soon commit suicide and that she should save him if she wants to avoid experiencing the regret that is haunting her future self. It is thus that she starts her efforts to save Naruse Kakeru.

A common concept and straightforward sci-fi love story is what one gets when viewing Orange; it’s a sweet shoujo that plays just as it intends to. It doesn’t give too many explanations on the time-travel concepts and focuses on its story of love and friendship instead, supporting it with nice characters and decent animations. Some great music is also present: the OST usually fits in marvelously with the animation style, giving off the intended emotions with soft piano and sweet guitar tracks. The opening and ending are also really nice, fitting the show’s tone and being enjoyable enough to listen to every episode. As for the character designs, they’re pretty plain despite the great voice actors behind the cast. KanaHana did a good job, but her work as Naho was overshadowed by Takamori Natsumi (Murasaka Azusa), Furukawa Makoto (Suwa Hiroto) and Okitsu Kazuyuki’s (Hagita Saku) performances, which isn’t too great knowing she was playing the main character.

Overall, one can say that Orange delivered exactly what it promised as a common shoujo show. It didn’t have stunning drama or top-notch characters, but it was an enjoyable enough ride and a nice love story different from the rest of the shows in the summer season. Just don’t go into it expecting anything more.

KawaiDespair: Orange is a typical shoujo that fails to supersede mundanity even by reveling in it and being yet another show with shoddy time travel elements, something very common as of late.

While the story does tackle some hefty subjects such as suicide, and the weight of decisions that would otherwise seem standard and humdrum, it fails to tackle them in a meaningful and logical way, leaving a lot to be desired from a show going for these in the first place. As usual, the cheesy par-for-the-course romance is what takes the forefront in the occurrences taking place in this world, and everything surrounding the aforementioned themes feels tacky, with scapegoating, selfishness, or wishful thinking driving forward most of the events that deal with the issues. It may seem like the message encourages pre-emptive action and solidarity, but it furthers an escapist mindset at the same time, which comes off as pointless overall. There is also the fact that the time travel here works because “it just works”, but that is minor compared to the rest of the show’s faults.

Obviously, the characters are to blame for most of the previously mentioned issues. Our main heroine, although somewhat accurate in representation of shy and loving girl, has a hard time being anything but a bore to follow, and the rest of the cast, with the exception of Kakeru to an extent, feels like they are just there for comic relief or to advance the plot. Kakeru admittedly appears to be the sole human amidst the walking clichés in this show, and his struggles do really feel believable and deserve attention; too bad he is in the wrong type of show, though.

The animation, although admittedly “not bad”, has its really noticeable mishaps, with a particular episode suffering from the “Gurren Lagann episode 4” syndrome. As for the music, it is serviceable, nothing breathtaking.

In the end, this show is average at best, leaving much to be desired. Unfortunately, not much could be expected with it being a typical shoujo after all.

samui: When it’s not playing tired shoujo manga tropes or tackling dubious sci-fi explanations, Orange is one of most emotionally charged series this year. The theme around regret is a good source of drama and the show explores it nicely for the most part.

For once, we see an anime show that utilizes mob characters’ conversational powers to make an effective scene. Coupled with string-based background music, this allows you to immerse yourself in the show even before the feels truck hits you right in the face. Naho and her friends’ desperation to save Kakeru feels desperate, and even uncomfortable to an extent. Nonetheless, the show still reminds us that it’s aimed at the shoujo demographic as it drops the cliché ‘Will they, or will they not?’ at some point.

Beyond the romance, Orange’s emotional core is formed by these flawed characters trying to save a person on the brink of death. The approach it used is similar to ERASED’s, but more effective. Kakeru has a proper backstory, and there’s no stereotypical villain to morph the drama into uncontrollable laughter. Orange also tackled the topic of depression head-on although it took us three episodes before its ugly core revealed itself.

This specific aspect is not that well-explored but it’s still enough to produce damaging scenes on par with the classics. Sending Kakeru to a psychiatrist would be the most reasonable answer, but we as humans are way more complicated than we ought to be. The way it resolved everything is also neat with the message of ‘you are loved’ nicely rolled over our misty eyes in the show’s climax.

However, Orange is far from perfect. The emotional resonance it usually carries dwindled somewhere in the middle before recovering on a full swing from episode 10 onwards; its sci-fi element is mostly bonkers, a convenient tool with no deep explanation whatsoever; Naho’s dilemma was undermined in exchange for a grander plot. Furthermore, we were never able to get the full picture on how these letters got in their hands. And finally, the production values collapsed on episode 9, delivering one of the season’s worst visual spectacles.

Orange may never be the best, yet it excelled in whatever good it did as a show.

Planetarian

samuiYou might want to check Planetarian if you want a Key show but lack the patience to sit through 25-plus episodes. Being based on a kinetic novel, the anime only had a single story to present, thus weeding out any filler-ish interactions between our leads. This quiet series mostly relies on its melancholic atmosphere which embraces you right from the start. Fortunately, it excelled in that department throughout its run.

Perhaps it is the convincing character dynamics between Yumemi and the Junker that made this series work despite its limited airtime. Yumemi is stuck in time while everything else around her changes for the worse. The Junker, on the other hand, has his optimism sucked away because of the war which essentially reduced their world to a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Mind you, this aspect could have been overblown but the subdued approach worked in Planetarian’s favor. Episode 3, in particular, was the emotional highlight of the show: we were taken on a visually arresting planetarium trip with subtle hints to the Junker’s past sprinkled everywhere.

We also get to see the drama right away without first having to deal with any comedic quirks that might not suit its sad nature. The absence of cheap emotional tricks was much appreciated; we got raw emotions from the characters. If there’s one big flaw in this adaptation, it’s maybe that the drama was too low-key even where one may have expected waterworks. The finale, for instance, lacked tension despite its nature. This was but a minor drawback in this otherwise good anime series, though.

If you happen to share the majority opinion on Rewrite, do watch Planetarian to restore your faith in Key adaptations.

Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

TsukelhmBy now, the anime medium has had many takes on the isekai genre, with series that take some of said genre’s prominent elements and play with them in different ways. Re:Zero is one such series which has had significant impact in the anime community for the last two seasons. It’s given birth to many reflections and arguments on its story elements, the (possible and confirmed) subtext and some claims of its ‘actual genre’ and ‘social implications’ ; but aside from those rare qualities, what is it that makes this show different from other isekai series; what is it that makes it so worth your time?

Re:Zero starts as pretty banally: a self-proclaimed hikikomori, Natsuki Subaru, is transported to a new world without any guidance or support. His only aid is his “ability” of respawning on a previously earned “checkpoint” each time he dies without anyone else remembering the events after that point. The pacing is steady: it avoids flooding the viewer with information, taking its time to introduce every character and plot point one by one. As the story progresses, we start to form our own opinions of the cast, and immediately notice: it is precisely this cast which makes Re:Zero such an entertaining venture.

It is vast and vivid, filled with very different and memorable personalities to which the viewer can easily relate, many of which start developing early on… The dynamics behind the character interactions and the way their designs, both visual and ideological, develop further as the story progresses, make it an interesting watch. How said interactions are implemented in the plot and the way they slowly change, albeit within the limitations the show provides, is perhaps what made the community’s argument on ‘who the best girl is?’ so fiery. In spite of all these qualities, the story is not perfect, having left us with an open ending at the time these lines are written. Furthermore, its emphasis on mental degradation and dark undertones during the second half can also be a turn off for many people.

White Fox’s animation is also a noteworthy aspect, as they are one of the best studios out there when it comes to shows like this (see: Steins;Gate). The music is very well composed and implemented in such a way that it perfectly complements the series’ most memorable scenes; OPs and EDs, however, are average pieces saved by great animation sequences. Finally, the voice acting is brilliant despite being a mixed cast of young and well-known actors; Minori Inase, Masaoka Yoshitsugu and Kobayashi Yuusuke’s performances are among the best from the last two seasons.

It’s easy to talk about Re:Zero’s subtle economic and political references, the potential social commentary in it, the main protagonist’s mental capacities or who’s the girl that deserves most love; but what makes it really interesting and such an enjoyable journey is that it does what every fiction work should succeed with: make its audience fall in love with the characters and experience their different sides as they develop, all while following an enticing story.

KawaiDespair: Time travel is the craze of this year, and if there is anything that the shows partaking in this concept have in common, it is that they all fail to surpass the intermediate level of quality, which Re Zero even falls short of.

It is the typical “beta hero who will eventually turn OP is trapped in a fantasy world” story that many are either accustomed to or nauseated to see nowadays, with the slight twist of time travel. It does not have any concrete end goal or destination, akin to a Slice of Life (no pun intended?), except for trying to find torture porn scenarios wherever it can, even if some of them feel petty or meaningless. On top of this, the world itself also lacks solidity as we feel like we know very little about it, thus having no real reason to care for it or see it as anything but uninspired. The only positives are the torture porn, which can be entertaining for some wicked folks, and the way the tension and overall dread can get under the viewers’ skin as well.

But, surely the characters remedy the story’s faults right? Well, they do not. First off, to debunk the notion that Subaru is a flawed and unique character (or that he is a subversion of the usual heroes of the genre), look no further than the first time when he gets the power to come back from death, which is arbitrary and convenient as far as we have seen, especially with the “checkpoint” system that saves at just the right times. In addition, viewers might also notice that he is supposed to be a NEET with the best socializing skills around, or the best luck with characters of the opposite sex at the very least. Add to all this his development, which is situational and thrown out the window in episode 18 and you have another light novel main character who happens to wear jerseys this time around. The rest of the cast are just stereotypes that are not even worth mentioning, even Betelgeuse whom is entertaining solely for his maniacal mannerisms, but still one dimensional to the brim.

The animation is serviceable. The opening and ending themes are catchy and fit the tone of the series in their own right, and the soundtrack really accentuates the brutal moments of the show.

Ultimately, another time travel/manipulating show this year that turns out to be too blasé and stupid in spite of its efforts to be compelling. It might have started out slightly interesting, promising something grandiose, or at least good, and the violence can get some people going, but that will not be enough to make it a recommendable series.

ReLife

samui: ReLIFE has a very interesting premise about a man trying to find his place in society again. These kinds of show, as proven by the Welcome to NHK, can be stirring and funny at the same time. Turns out, ReLIFE is mostly stuffed with fluff. That isn’t a bad thing per se, since ReLIFE is a pleasant watch. However, do not expect anything groundbreaking or emotionally compelling. The show just coasted with its intriguing premise, and gave us jokes which are mixed at best.

While the artwork and animation are just average, it is kind of amazing to see this series never faltered in that department. The use of 90’s J-Pop music and the melancholic opening suit ReLIFE well. What it lacked in visuals was compensated by good background music and some nice voice acting.

There are only two instances where ReLIFE tried to peek at the darker side of human nature. Not surprisingly, these are also its emotional highlights, although they were mostly glossed over by its simplistic positivity. Kariu’s descent is particularly brilliant, since it showed how low we can stoop when cornered. Arata’s backstory is also good, yet the overly brisk pacing made this otherwise grim tale emotionally distant.

It feels like ReLIFE settled for being a middling series. You can never flaw its storytelling technique, but it never tried hard enough to make a lasting impression.

TsukelhmLife is short and unique, which is why people generally want to make as much of it as they can. They want to make the right choices every time so they can live without regrets. But obviously, it’s not possible to live perfectly; many take wrong paths and end up with dreadful lives and no way back in sight. ReLife digs into what happens to Kaizaki Arata when he perceives just that: a chance to relive his adolescence to get back what he’d lost and fix his life from there.

The show starts weakly, with the introduction of our 27-year-old protagonist who recently lost his job and the support from his family. As his life takes yet another downhill turn, he is approached by Yoake Ryo and offered the chance to rejuvenate his body by ten years via a mere pill. In exchange of paying for his living expenses and possible offering him a job, Ryo’s company will have Arata attend a high school where he’ll have to work on regaining his social skills and confidence. It’s an interesting plot, but the first episodes are filled with dialogue that can be a little hard to go through given one will not yet be attached to the characters who’re the focus. But after this rough start, ReLife gets way better as it explores typical high school drama through the lens of its wildcard: a developing 27-year-old’s point of view. The portrayal of the cast is neat and truly on point, each character (excluding two supportive kids) is given a fair amount of screen time and have their personalities as well as dilemmas explored in thorough manner. Not only Kaizaki and Ryo, but Chizuru, Kariu, Ouga, An and Honoka all become part of a solid cast that feels absolutely alive and lovely to see interact.

However, the voice acting is definitely what makes this show so special. Even though the animation and art style are average at best; the direction not all too smart in the first quarter of the show (although it improves a whole lot latter on, with detailed and concise shots and overall improvements through the scenes); the OST simple and sometimes lacking in consistency with the scenes’ tone; the voice performances are far superior to most out there and rightfully so given the amazing voice cast in charge. While Ai Kayano and Ono Kenshou did an amazing job with the protagonists, this anime benefits from some of Tomatsu Haruka and Ueda Reina’s best performances: their portrayals of Onoya An and Kariu Reina are by far the show’s best. The endings are also a really nice touch: they were different with each episode, and the songs weren’t modern ones but rather old hits from classic Japanese J-Pop/Rock artists such as PUFFY, Mika Nakashima, L’Arc~en~Ciel, I Wish, Sentimental Bus, Whiteberry, and many others. Songs like 「これが私の生きる道」, 「雪の華」 and 「There will be love there -愛のある場所-」match the show’s vibe perfectly and are nice tributes to each artist.

ReLife is not a common high school drama; it can be viewed from different perspectives and interpreted in many ways depending on how much the viewer can relate to the cast and feel for them as they develop. That said, it’s surely not a show for every taste as the comedy can fall somewhat flat for some, as well as the animation and bgm a turn down for others.  Nevertheless, it may be a great anime for you, so giving it a try might be a wise choice and maybe one you won’t regret.

Rewrite

samui: A colossal trainwreck devoid of any meaningful storytelling, the anime adaptation of Rewrite was a disservice to the complex source material. The show was supposed to be an interesting take on a three-way war between Gaia, Guardian and Kotarou. What we got was a pile of foreshadowing without any good payoff.

The most painful thing about watching Rewrite is its scant but very real goodness had it been adapted properly. The girls have backstories which are just as tragic as in other Key shows; yet, you can never feel compelled knowing they’re not on display for more than fifteen minutes. Kotarou is fun to watch, and is the vital reason for the show not feeling boring at all. Unfortunately, he went full emo in the final episodes. Rewrite’s plot is Key’s most ambitious to date, but it was marred by fillers. They say adapting this series is impossible in the first place, but the pacing made the end product even worse.

The biggest flaw of Rewrite is its inability to create a good setup for the next cour. A typical episode goes like this – a quarter wasted on Kotarou goofing around, the following half dedicated to dull comedic acts, and the last quarter spent on foreshadowing. Whenever a grand revelation comes our way, it’s mostly done in a pacing so brisk you need help to understand that the moment is actually important. Believe it or not, I ended up scratching my head when the final episode aired! It lacked any kind of good resolution for the next arc at all.

You still get some time tested Key quirks in the series. However, none of these are as entertaining as the jam (Kanon 2006), the bread (CLANNAD) or the sauce (Charlotte) from previous Key shows. Kagari’s fee-cof and her brand of moe solicited polite smiles at best. On the other hand, you might as well wonder why Yoshino existed in the anime adaptation aside from comic relief.

To say Rewrite is Key’s worst to date is an understatement. It is much more accurate to say that this adaptation shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

Shokugeki no Soma – Ni no Sara

samui: The second season of Shokugeki no Souma remains more of the same. If you liked the first season, you will probably like this too. Just do not expect that there will be new twists in the story. Souma remains a good shounen lead but he alone cannot sustain the parts that were dragged out.

Perhaps its tournament-style plot ran for too long. While still enjoyable, there are places you think Shokugeki no Souma has already been before. The quality of its episodes also depends on who’s competing against who. Episodes centered on Souma are good as always, yet the same cannot be said whenever he’s not on the screen. Without the stakes of season one, this season looks like a parade of cool kids trying to show off their skills against each other.

That’s where the main problem arises. These fights feel stagnant at this point. We get to see Souma’s character development but at the expense of setting aside ones we loved in season one. Megumi and Nakiri were poised as lead characters but relegated to the sidelines this time. Introducing new characters for a long-running shounen series is okay but not to the extent of shafting old ones without proper closure. Who cares about archetypical antagonist Mimasaka even with his backstory? He was there for about three episodes but his inclusion wasn’t justified enough despite Souma’s character development. Megumi’s loss last season is arguably one of Shokugeki no Souma’s highest points. Sadly, you will not find anything of that intensity here. The Stagiare arc was pretty good but the Autumn Elections ate a substantial amount of time from the show. As a result, the pacing in these episodes felt too rushed to savor.

Shokugeki no Souma – The Second Plate is neither better nor worse than the first season. It’s just that you won’t lose that much if you decided to skip this show and look for better ones instead.

Time Travel Girl

Yamada II: Time Travel Girl is the story of Mari, a middle school girl who, through a mysterious compass and an equally mysterious book about the histories of famous scientists, travels into the past to meet the different scientists involved in the field of electromagnetism. This is essentially an educational anime which teaches the viewers a bit about some of the famous inventors of the past and the connections between each man’s work. Apart from seeing these inventions and the basis of their function, Time Travel Girl also shows us elements of each period’s society: how the church was against many inventions, or how present day clothing would be frowned upon in past times.

But that’s where the interesting bits end. Most likely to attract a wider audience, Time Travel Girl has a story going on about Mari’s scientist father and those who invested in his work. Mari’s father has been missing for three years and is supposedly time traveling. So Mari’s reason for time traveling is to find clues about her father’s whereabouts by going to all those scientists mentioned in the book in order. The part about the investors trying to figure out what Mari’s dad did and then turning out to be villains is pretty boring and brings the show down. It doesn’t help that the overall cast is lackluster and the artwork just passable. If the show had stuck with just the scientists and Mari searching for her father, the show would have surely been slightly better.

But even in this department, there were some screw-ups. Some scientists got two episodes of spotlight on their work, the troubles they faced and how they overcame those obstacles, while others only had one episode which barely focused on them at all.

Time Travel Girl was never masterpiece material knowing its premise. At most it could have turned out to be an interesting educational anime. Its charm could have lied in its focus on the scientists, their problems and their time periods in general, but the story it attempted to carry forward, instead of helping it, did the opposite.

Find me

daysofsummer

Admin, Editor, Writer at Vox Artes
19-year-old French dude. I may or may not run this place. I'm a Love Liver who's obsessed with Kousaka Honoka. I also like to talk about pretentious books so I can pretend I'm an intellectual or something like that.
Find me

Related Posts

Leave a reply