Anime Preview Guide: Winter 2016, Part 3

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To round off our anime seasonal preview guide, here are the sequels and leftovers from the fall season that I’ve checked out so far.

Assassination Classroom 2nd season

Thursdays on FUNimation

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Synopsis: “Class 3E is about to begin their second semester! And while some things have changed, the class assignment is still the same: kill their teacher before the end of the year! Easier said than done since Koro-sensei has made it clear he won’t go down without a fight. Will these students be able to take down the tentacled monster that moves at Mach 20 before he can destroy the world?” –FUNimation

Starting off our sequel previews we have the pinnacle of what is lovingly called “stupid shōnen,” where nonsense and fast-paced comedy reign supreme. Like last season, the bulk of the story so far has been focused on individual characters and how they are developing themselves not only as assassins, but also as model students. This has always been what drew me to this series, much more so than the action or comedy, since both of those are as predictable as always.

I’ve recently adopted a mindset with shōnen that because the target demographic is young boys and teenagers, it should have at least a little notion of moral or educational underpinnings, however small it might be, and while it does feel extremely heavy-handed in AssClass, it makes sense since this is a show that is literally about school and education. I do still have some quarrels with the inconsistent tone of the series, but because it’s all for comedy I can let that go for the most part.

The animation is pretty much the same as last season: bright and colorful, but a bit on the lazy side when it comes to the cohesiveness of a frame; and the soundtrack of heavy rock and guitar riffs still works.

If you really enjoyed the first season of this one, then you’ll have just as much fun this time around, and with rumors of the manga ending in the near future, we may soon see the end of Koro-sensei.

First Impression: 3.5/5

Watch It

GATE 2nd season

Fridays on Crunchyroll

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Synopsis: “Second season of the Gate anime. Adapts Enryuu-hen, and Douran-hen arcs.” –MAL

It’s easy to recognize when you’re being shamelessly pandered to, but despite that, it’s also hard to not allow this pandering to continue because…well, it feels good. That is my relationship with GATE at this point. The pandering is blatant and shameless, but it becomes so pleasing and satisfying that you forget that you’re watching a soulless attempt to push a product that is nothing more than fan service.

When the first season aired last summer, I thought it had at least some potential with the politics and diplomacy that was being hinted at, but now that I know the next arc is just going to be a standard “go on adventure and slay dragon (literally)” story, I have very little hope that this series will ever be any more than pandering. In hindsight, it was fairly naive of me to expect this at all, and now that the characters are starting to make some really stupid decisions for the sake of genericism and “safe” writing, I think I’ve had enough.

The animation is about the same that it was last season, with character designs and set pieces that are fun to look at, but are also extremely generic, and about 80% of the main characters are girls…because think of all the figures they can sell! The soundtrack sounds like it was ripped right out of Stripes or MAS*H and is so horribly generic that it becomes annoying.

GATE is the perfect example of almost every bad habit in which the anime industry indulges. It is a blatant attempt to sell a product rather than create a story. True, I am guilty of indulging in this pandering myself, but I’ve reached the point where the story is so annoying that I can’t deal with it anymore. Perhaps I’ll tune in again the next time Kuribayashi goes full-Rambo and wrecks another platoon of pseudo-centurions.

First Impression: 2/5

Skip It

Yami Shibai 3rd Season

Sundays on Crunchyroll

Synopsis: “Yamishibai is a picture-story style of animation whose motif is surrounded and based off rumors and urban legends throughout the history of Japan.”

Horror anime are very slim in number, and good horror anime are hard to find, so I’m very happy I found the first season of this hidden gem a couple years ago. The pure essence of horror boiled down to 4-minute bursts of suspense and sheer terror makes this one of my favorite horror series.

Unfortunately, it’s also a very hit and miss series, with some episodes being so culturally distant or so generally bizarre that you can understand why it’s supposed to be terrifying, but in the end it just isn’t, and the picture-story style of animation will drive off a lot of viewers simply because of how it looks, though I personally think it works well with the tone of the series. The sound design, however, is absolutely immaculate when it comes to creating an oppressive horror atmosphere and drive your anxiety and fear through the roof.

If you’re looking for some good ghost stories to pass the night away, Yami Shibai has you covered.

First Impression: 3.5/5

Watch It


Snow White with the Red Hair 2nd Season (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2nd Season)

Mondays on FUNimation

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Synopsis: “Second season of the anime series Akagami no Shirayuki-hime.”

This one is probably my favorite sequel of the season so far and will most likely stay that way. The past year or so has seen some relatively solid shōjo (targeted at young girls) titles making a splash much like they did in the mid-2000s, and strong shows like Shirayuki-hime are leading the charge. The true strength of this anime lies in its very well-rounded cast of characters, as even those with minor roles are more memorable than the main characters of lesser shōjo works. Shirayuki as the female lead of the series is just as captivating as always with her sheer willpower having a major influence on everyone around her and shaping them into better people, and to actually see a romantic relationship be solidified on-screen is a huge breath of fresh air, with Prince Zen playing off of Shirayuki’s dialogue perfectly.

However, I do have some concerns about relying too much on tired tropes this season, though most of these concerns are unfounded at this point. Right now we’re smack dab in the middle of a separation arc where Shirayuki is away in another kingdom trying to help another prince with his egocentric nature, all the while an unknown group has some ominous plan for her, and it’s pretty obvious where exactly the plot is going so far. Still, there’s really nothing bad at all about the story so far, and I have very high hopes for where this romance can go.

Animation-wise, this season is just as breathtakingly beautiful as the last. Studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist, Ouran High School Host Club) continues to prove itself as my favorite animation studio with gorgeous landscapes and lighting, enchanting character designs, and a richness of color and vibrancy that gels perfectly with its fictional Medieval setting.

This series will easily make it into my favorite anime for this year if it keeps up the pace at which it’s going, and I can’t wait to watch even more.

First Impression: 4/5

Watch It


Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (continued from last season)

Sundays on, Crunchyroll*, and FUNimation* (1-week lag)

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Synopsis: “300 years after the Calamity War’s end.

The powers which ruled the Earth Sphere have been overthrown, giving way to new rulers of a new world, exhausted of battle. Meanwhile, far away on Mars, the sparks which threaten to ignite a new war have been struck…

Our protagonist Mikazuki Augus, a member of the private security firm Chryse Guard Security (CGS), takes on a mission as bodyguard of Kudelia Aina Bernstein, a young girl who agitates for Chryse’s independence from Earth. However, when the elite Gjallarhorn unit, charged with suppressing revolutionaries, raids CGS, its higher-ups deliberately use Mikazuki and the other boys as a decoy to cover their own retreat. Orga Itsuka, leader of the boys’ squad, takes this abandonment by the adults as motivation to launch a full-fledged coup d’état. With orders from Orga to hold back Gjallarhorn, Mikazuki sorties in Calamity War-era scrap that CGS had been using as a generator—the Gundam Barbatos…” –

Gundam is an absolutely massive franchise with dozens upon dozens of different TV series, movies, and more than make up its repertoire, and so in honor of the franchise’s 35th anniversary, we’ve been graced with a brand new starting point for this franchise so that non-Gundam fans can jump right into the madness. It has all the classic traits of a traditional Gundam series: epic mech combat, political conflicts, and a massive cast of characters that still manage to get fleshed-out just enough; while also removing some of the more stereotypical tropes of the franchise to make it more accessible to newcomers.

There is a heavy focus on the themes of family, bonds, and responsibility that forms the backbone of IBO and create some extremely compelling and powerful character stories, and even some of the sillier scenes add a nice touch to some of the more lighthearted moments. Orga is easily one of my favorite anime protagonists thus far with his determination to keep his family of orphans safe and secure; the soft-spoken and unusually mature Mikazuki swaps out the unsure and insecure mobile suit pilot archetype for one that shows no mercy whatsoever, yet also has some extremely complex emotions that come up during conversation; and Kudelia fills out the revolutionary princess trope quite nicely while also bringing her own distinct flavor.

The animation is very solid, as expected from Sunrise. It’s quite rare to see mecha anime at all anymore, and even rarer still are mechs not rendered with eye-bleeding CG. Sunrise, being the unrivaled master of mecha, is well aware of this and crafts some of the best 2D mechs and mech combat sequences that I’ve seen in a long time. There are a few stumbles here and there though with other parts of the animation, especially with draw distance and facial details. As for the soundtrack, Masaru Yokoyama, continues to sprint ahead as one of my new favorite soundtrack composer with an eclectic mix of spectacular songs circling about the main string and acoustic guitar melody.

If you have absolutely any interest in mech anime at all, then I absolutely recommend checking this one out as a solid starting point.

Impression Thus Far: 4.5/5

Watch It

Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 of my anime preview guide to grab a glimpse of some other solid titles airing this season.

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