Winter 2016 Anime Season Check-In

It’s about time to unleash my thoughts on current anime. Let’s get right to it with Dimension W, being a show I am considering parting ways with after the latest episode. Dimension W had a lot of potential right out of the gate. FUNimation co-producing this one was a big deal, and being essentially a buddy-cop mystery show tailor-made to the aesthetic preferences of western fandom meant that I was certainly going to give it a look. It never rose above being a decent entry in its genre, but the most recent episode ended up being pretty dreadful. The writing was bad and could at times be downright incoherent. The main characters have not really been given much personality. I can’t imagine anyone is very interested in the overarching plot at this point. I had decent hopes for Dimension W, but I suppose this dimension was not worth discovering.

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Now I should probably get on to the other show that took a noticeable hit in the most recent episode. Erased, or BokuMachi, or whatever you call it, quickly became of the biggest hits of the season. A tense mystery thriller that pulled off the execution rather well. Not only was the show incredibly good in both writing and aesthetics, it is in a genre space I tend to be fond of. As of episode 5 though a few more flaws are coming to light. This week the plot essentially halted, and the characters the show was trying to carry itself with are not very interesting. I don’t think this show is empty without the thriller pacing, but it has not built a cast effective enough to resonate by themselves. It also seems like Satoru is remarkably calm for someone who’s gone through what he has. That may seem like an observation I could have had many episodes ago, but it becomes much more noticeable since this latest episode becomes very slow once Satoru returns to the present, acting almost like a stopgap for the story. Ultimately, Erased has lost sight of its strengths, but it could very easily rebound. This was just one episode after all, and the previous ones show that there is a great show here. Hopefully it regains that greatness.

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On the flipside, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (which shall simply be referred to as Rakugo from here on) has been consistently wonderful. Being a character-driven period piece about an already niche artform, Rakugo has a pretty narrow audience to perform for. But anyone belonging to that audience will likely find themselves incredibly satisfied. The central characters have a great relationship, the story is effective, and the actual Rakugo is delightful to watch (when it’s not intentionally hard to watch for character purposes). The latest episode did an especially great job with the relationship between Kikuhiko and Sukeroku, with the two of them putting on a great performance despite the difference in their attitudes and feelings surrounding it. Spending time with the characters here just feels fundamentally worthwhile. Rakugo is a smart, well-crafted drama with plenty of heart and a good sense of humor. Definitely not one to be missed.

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There are also the shows returning for this season. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is as good as it has pretty much always been. The show has never done enough to rise to the level of being truly great, and it tends to repeat itself with themes or characters now and then. But this show’s biggest strength is its cast, and the characters are mostly interesting enough to feel invested in. They may not be very three-dimensional, but spending time with them always feels worthwhile. It also helps that the story has gained quite a bit of momentum in recent episodes. Iron-Blooded Orphans continues to be a fine watch.

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Assassination Classroom has also returned, but it is not one that leaves huge amounts to discuss. The oft-nicknamed AssClass is a fun watch that fulfills the job of comfort food. It may have an interesting thing or two to say, and many gags are genuinely funny (though assuredly not all), but it is not a must-watch by any means. I cannot say it would be an easy recommendation, but more often than not it is an enjoyable show, and sometimes that’s all you need. Similarly, Dagashi Kashi is a decent comedy that is comfort food in a more literal sense. Many of Dagashi Kashi’s best jokes revolve around all the characters being equally silly and involve candy. The cast is likable and wacky enough to push through the weaker gags. Not an outstanding show, but one that is fun enough. There is also the final entry in this trio of comedy, KonoSuba. KonoSuba is probably the one to have gotten the most laughs out of me, even if not every gag lands. The voice cast elevates much of the humor, especially when it involves silly or deadpan reactions to things. A band of merry idiots is always a fine comedic setup, though occassionally the idiocy is not evenly distributed. The show has had some cracks lately – the panty gag that every anime ever apparently requires was not terribly funny, and I am still on the fence about Darkness as a character and addition to the cast. But there has still been enough satisfying gags for me to say KonoSuba is enjoyable, and the genuinely funny gags are easily worth the low points.

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I would be remiss if I did not mention Tabi Machi Late Show, which technically is no longer an airing show, but was a fantastic entry in this season regardless. Four wonderful short stories that touched on the journey of life and the goodbyes we are faced with while living make up the rather short runtime. I’m saving more extended thoughts for a certain reason, but I implore any reader to check this one out.

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So there you have it. A decent season this far, but there are many twists and turns we could yet come across. Until then, enjoy this Winter!

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