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Myles’ Anime Summer Vacation! Part 1

As many of you know, I watch a massive amount of currently-airing shows. But summertime tends to bring a bit of reprieve as every returning show is on its seasonal break. While a handful ofmy shows air during the summer (Orphan Black, Preacher),  I’ve found that this summer is particularly dry for me.

One of my constant complaints any time we do an anime challenge is that it’s the one medium I somehow seldom make or have time for. Sure, I’ll see the odd show or film here and there, but nothing compared to the degree of which I consume virtually every other pop culture medium.

So for this summer, while not watching live shows (or catching up on a couple I fell behind on), I’m going to try to just…consume me some anime. If any listeners or random stoppers-by  have suggestions, I’m open to them, but I do have a few things to keep in mind before sending suggestions.

I’m not really looking to dive into one of the long-running or never-ending series (Bleach, Naruto, Fairy Tail, One Piece). If possible, I’d like to keep it to shows with a dub. I tend to watch shows most when I’m working on things, so this makes it easier for me to consume as much as possible. Subtitled shows are not frowned upon, however, and there are some on my to-see list I’m really wanting to make time for if there’s no dub (The Lost Village). And yes, films are 100% encouraged! I only have a few on my list, and I’d like to add quite a few more.

My reactions are not going to be…official reviews pe se. Really. Just reactions, typically written almost immediately after viewing them. As someone who is an anime fan, but whose habits sadly line up closer to the casual side, I’m a little more interested in my reactions and what kinds of anime do and don’t work for me rather than to fully critique the anime in some sort of academic capacity (although I’m sure that may happen from time to time).

For example, I thought the “slice-of-life” subgenre would be my thing, not realizing it kind of means something differently in anime than how I would have defined it. I assumed it just meant realistic, character driven plots of regular people instead of hyper melodramatic situations akin to a more comedic soap opera.

More than anything, this is more a journal/log I’m keeping of the anime I watch this summer. One I’m just sharing with everyone!

For each anime I’ll offer a quick, over-simplified elevator pitch, my reaction(s), the completion level of the show/whether I completed it, and, finally, whether or not I’d recommend it.

Here we go!

 

 

 

 

 

Assassination Classroom:

Elevator Pitch:

A powerful octopus-like creature has destroyed 70% of the moon and claims that within a year, Earth will meet the same fate. However, he clandestinely  offers to teach the delinquents of class 3-E at Kunugigaoka High School, along with couple of hand-picked operatives, the ways of assassination. While allowing the students to make attempts to kill him, the creature, who goes by the moniker Koro-sensei, also takes particular effort to teach the children about life and growing up throughout the proposed last year of the planet.

Reaction?

This series balances an interesting line. I really expected, mostly due to Koro-sensei’s design and the somewhat wacky premise, that this show would often be extremely silly. Instead, though, Assassination Classroom fully embraces its fairly ridiculous premise in such earnest that the day-to-day life of the teenagers became equally as engaging as the central plot, a characteristic strengthened by the fact that Koro-sensei genuinely cares for his students and their education, which the show often brings to the forefront.

Nearly all the (many) characters are interesting with their own particular backstory (Not a single person should be shocked that Karma was generally my favorite). The world of Assassination Classroom feels fuller and alive with the number of fleshed out characters running around, the most surprising of which being Koro-sensei himself.

I found myself gradually rooting for an assassination attempt to fail (of which there are many in the first couple of eps) and genuinely respecting Koro-sensei’s character even before his true origins are revealed towards the series’ end. It gets to the point where you really and truly do not want Koro-sensei to die. Though he starts out presented as this doofy cartoonish villain type, the excellent storytelling weaving in and out of science fiction, drama, comedy, and a dash of slice-of-life crafts a memorable character just as lovable as the series itself.

The main problem I had with the series lies within one of its strengths. Assassination Classroom houses so many characters, particularly among the students, you often forget about some of them until they carry a sudden relevance to the story. Often, someone has a line or two dialogue to either refresh your memory and re-introduce the character, but it occasionally took me out of the experience. Because there are quite a number of main and supporting characters, some of the lesser known students suddenly getting screen time, while not a bad thing, did make things confusing and I found myself relying on a list of students to make sure I could keep everyone straight.

Completed/Completion?

Yes. It’s two seasons long for a total of 47 episodes. I completed the entire series.

Would I recommend it?

Definitely. Assassination Classroom utilizes many things I was looking for at the time with its engaging story, well-rounded characters, and general sense of fun that rarely spun into parody. Its unique style and wide array of characters, and satisfying conclusion  should contain something for everyone, and it certainly now holds a place among my favorite anime shows in general.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Lie In April:

Elevator Pitch:

A once renowned child prodigy that no longer plays piano finds his world changed when he’s introduced to a fellow musician who forces him back into the world of competition.

Reaction?
My initial reaction of “It’s really good but falls short of being purely excellent” still stands, but I think it’s the fault of containing everything in just one 22 episode season that causes the show to stumble for me (Yes, I’m aware there was one OVA after the series aired).

There are a number of underdeveloped and outright ignored characters, relationships, and events that stretching the story into two seasons would have done well with. Even one the main characters doesn’t really get too much development outside of “best friend” until the end. And while I appreciated the attempted humor to break up the drama and slice-of -life moments, the immediate cut to an exclamatory kawaii-style was extremely jarring (and a common issue I have with many anime shows, not just this one), particularly when the characters would immediately carry on as if nothing happened.

That said, the characters stay with you. They’re genuine, even the ones not fully developed, which makes all the difference. I found them all relatable, three dimensional characters that I reflected on even after finishing the show.

Stylistically, the show is a masterstroke, accompanied by an incredible soundtrack in both original tunes and interpreted classical compositions. I found animation of much of the piano playing was especially impressive. Just seeing how well they synced the notes to the hands playing the keys with such precision floored me. While the main plot points are nothing new to the YA familiar, it’s still done exceptionally well.

Completed/Completion?

Yes. It has one 22 episode season. I  completed the entire series.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. Despite some narrative and comedic shortcomings, I understand why the show gets such high praise, blending several types of anime storytelling genres to such success and would absolutely recommend it, but I still can’t help feeling that it falls just short of being the positively sublime anime it could have been.

 

 

 

 

 

Fuuka:

Elevator Pitch:

A group of unlikely high school friends come together and start a band. Somehow every girl likes this one idiot.

Reaction?

So remember when I said I discovered “slice-of-life” meant something a bit different for anime? This show exemplifies it. Every relationship moment is absurdly melodramatic to the point than when poignant moments do happen, the impact is severely softened.

This show also was one of many that use the “HEY! PERVERT! WERE YOU TAKING A PICTURE OF MY PANTIES?!” gag that half the shows on this list are guilty of. And this show used it multiple times, no matter what was going on, insisting the gag was funny. I assume this is a common trope/gag in similar anime? Because it’s something I noticed that has kept popping up. Like Your Lie In April, it, too, has these huge breaks in style for a screaming kawaii

Another trope that I don’t think I can get into is the harem-style story. Nearly every female character is at some point attracted to our dope of a protagonist. He’s indecisive, mopey, and the kind of aloof that comes off as exceptionally annoying. Sure, he gets better in the latter half of the series, but it comes with no real development. It’s as almost if the writer(s) decided “Hey, we should probably start doing something with our main character” and just started writing him more strongly.

Which brings us to one of the important central plot-lines: the romances. Oof. While there are some good tender moments now and again, the romances to me came off as hackneyed, melodramatic, and frankly, unsatisfying. Every single character continually makes poor decisions to the point that I simply did not care which girl the protagonist ended up with.

What makes this so incredibly disappointing is the fact that Fuuka‘s characters are…actually pretty great at their heart. You have a group of kids from very different (and woefully underexplored) backgrounds coming together and finding themselves in the band they formed. The potential for a great YA story was there, and there are spots sprinkled throughout the show that showcase the show’s potential in that regard. Sadly, the show just doesn’t deliver that consistently.

One thing about the show I have zero complaints about: the music. For a show about a band, I not only needed to care about the band members, but their music. All the music in this show is absolutely fantastic, and the soundtrack is definitely one the show can proud of. It’s definitely one I plan on adding to my collection. If only the story had been on par with the songs.

Completed/Completion?

Yes. It has one 12 episode season. I completed the entire series.

Would I recommend it?

Only for the music. Otherwise, no. It wasn’t for me. While several elements improved as the series progressed forward, I mainly stuck it out since it was such a short series and by the time I had really formulated opinions on the show, I only had about 5 episodes left. I adored all the music in the show from the fictional bands. And since music was a main plot point, that’s still pretty important.

 

 

 

 

 

No Game No Life:

Elevator Pitch:

Two reclusive siblings,  known to the gaming world as Blank, an unbeatable “group” of gamers, are transported into a fantasy realm where all conflicts are settled by games.

Reaction?

Maaaan. This one, I was constantly back and forth on whether or not to continue. On one hand, there are so many elements of this show that are…real dumb. On the other, many of those elements,  in addition to others, contribute to the show being real fun.

Let’s get the stuff that doesn’t work for me out of the way. The siblings’ relationship is…uncomfortably weird. I’m just going to leave that there, given the brother is 18 and the sister is 11. So whenever there was a weird implication, I cringed. Similarly, the “my panties!” humor pops up in this show as well. A lot. As does the the annoying, melodramatic kawaii outbreaks I didn’t care for in Fuuka and Your Life In April (and while those outbursts make much more sense in this show tonally than they did in the others, I still find them happening way too often). Yet again, about every female has a thing for the main character in a farcical manner, so the show was often the razor’s edge of my patience.

However, this show always knows EXACTLY what it is. And it makes absolutely zero apologies about it. There are many elements in this show that are genuinely funny, and the plot and general mythology as we know it are pretty interesting. Similarly, when they’re not being inappropriately weird, the siblings are a ton of fun. Their Sherlockian skill and arrogance plays to just the right amount of over-the-top, and while you rarely ever doubt they’ll lose a game, watching the overly complicated (and sometimes outright nonsensical) ways they overcome their foes makes the show exceptionally entertaining.

Another weird note. The series is only 12 episodes. Only one season, and the show just sort of…ends quite openly. No Game No Life is based on a series of light novels, three of which make up this season. A movie is being released this summer in Japan, however, it’s apparently based on the 6th light novel. So…I can’t say you’ll get a satisfying ending either way.

Completed/Completion?

Yes. It has one 12 episode season. I completed the entire series.

Would I recommend it?

It….depends. Probably not.  I know an equal amount of people who would enjoy and absolutely loathe this series. The show is definitely an acquired taste, and I can’t even guarantee those I think might like it would enjoy it. And I couldn’t blame either. I can say this show would not be on my immediate list if someone asked for, and probably would likely suggest it if they had nothing better to watch. I did have some fun with it though.

 

 

 

 

 

ReLIFE:

Elevator Pitch:

A 27 year-old with no direction is given an experimental drug to become a high schooler for one year.

Reaction?

When I first skimmed the premise, I assumed this show would be very similar to Fuuka in tone, leaning on loud comedy and the same gamut of “Pervert!” jokes. I certainly didn’t expect to fall head-over-heels for this show.

ReLIFE is science fiction in a similar fashion to a film like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. You have this non-existent technology to enable the plot, and everything from there is excellent narrative and character work,which is were the similarities between the two end. Please don’t go into this expecting Eternal Sunshine: The Anime.

Every single character is nuanced and authentic, and never a caricature. Youth is neither satirized, or really glorified, but depicted quite more honestly than I expected. While there are comedic moments, they are mostly as a lot less slapstick than any series discussed on this list, and almost never feels out of place or distracting from the narrative.

Initially, when I started this endeavor, as evidenced by Your Lie In April and Fuuka, I was looking for stuff that fit my definition of “slice-of-life.” ReLIFE ticked every single box of what I was looking for.

Honestly, I don’t want to say too much more about this one. I want you to discover this one for yourself. It’s worth it. I was utterly charmed from episode one all the way to the emotional finale.

Completed/Completion?

No. It has one 13 episode season. However, a four episode-finale is being released in March 2018. I completed the entire first season.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. 100% Absolutely. This has already shot up to my all-time favorite list, though it is a tad dependent on the direction the 4-episode finale goes as this season ends with a loooot hanging. Still, what an excellent anime and excellent, thoughtful piece of science fiction.


And that’s it for this time! Questions? Comments? Agree/Disagree? Care for me to elaborate more on a certain show? Just let me know. If you have an suggestions, feel free to e-mail me at themoreyounerd@gmail.com or tweet to me. I can’t promise I’ll get to everything, but I’ll certainly consider every suggestion thrown my way!

Hope you guys had fun with this, and I’ll be back soon when I finish my next batch of shows/films!

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