Anime Reviews Done Quick #2

More shows that I watched in 2017 and have thoughts about:

Made in Abyss

I will always remember Made in Abyss as being the series that got a very angry self-described “elitist” fan in my Twitter mentions because I made the mistake of saying it’s one of my favorite shows that I watched in fall 2017 show when it is actually, technically, a summer 2017 show. Oh, anime fans.

The show itself is pretty solid, with a great world and cool lore. The Abyss is an enormous cavern that stretches endlessly down, and is full of monsters, magic, and old relics from past civilizations. I did find myself cooling on the show after about the midway point, when Rico was temporarily sidelined and the POV switched over to Reg, a dismally boring robot-sworn-to-protect-the-girl-no-matter-what. (I guess at least he doesn’t go through the usual existential “What does it mean to be human?” crisis that every other robot show has.)

The first season ended on a cliffhanger and I liked it enough to want to stick around to see what happens in the next, though maybe not in such a rush that I’ll bother with the manga.

Land of the Lustrous

Before the first episode, I was bracing hard for this show to suck. It’s got CG animation, there are lots of leggy pre-teens dressed in what look like school uniforms, it had this whole vibe of being a harem show. But it wasn’t! Actually it was pretty great! Also, I need to start having higher standards than “It wasn’t as gross or harem-y as I expected”!

Land of the Lustrous is about jewel people fighting off attacks from the moon people who come in on giant Buddha-like arrays to shoot bits of their body off to take back to the moon as decoration. Got it? Good. There’s a lot of great big action scenes that actually work well with the CG style, and there’s a lot of great moments of reflection mixed with gag humor for relief. Protagonist Phos’ transformation from lighthearted kid to no-nonsense warrior was heartbreaking to watch, and the show ends on a cliffhanger promising even darker events on the horizon.

My only quibbles are with the two grimdark characters Cinnabar and Bort who drag down every scene they’re in. I’m not really sold on the Phos/Cinnabar relationship either to be honest, considering how little they actually interact and how Cinnabar is just really hard to like. I’ll watch Season 2 but it’s not a high priority.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki Kusuo

One of the worst things about 2017 was watching Gintama slide further down the crapper with its awful serious story and completely abandonment of the gags that made it so famous in the first place. On the other hand, thanks to the vacuum, Saiki Kusuo’s quick (and I mean QUICK) gags can stand out that much more.

Saiki Kusuo’s art is half-assed and junk, its characters literally tropes that the main character dully rattles off. The gags sometimes don’t even really land that well, but they go by so lightning quick that you are too surprised to realize that what you’re laughing at doesn’t even make much sense. It’s not a good show, unless you are like me and have an appetite for gag anime. If you are though, man… I’ve never seen a show this fast without flying totally off the rails into incomprehensible gibberish. It’s tight, it’s fast, the jokes rain down so fast and never let up. There often isn’t even much time for setups, it just whisks you away to the next joke the instant one lands.

Unlike Gintama’s raunchy comedy with heavy use of mosaics and winking knowledge about what goes on in Kabukicho, Saiki’s is a bit safer and conventional, and more about the weird people you meet in high school. It is all very fast, very strange, and, if you’re into gag shows, a pretty good stand-in for Gintama… at least, until they get their act back together and start making gags again, dammit.

March Comes in Like a Lion

I want to like this show. It’s about a depressed high schooler turned pro shogi player. There’s a duality to the show: one side is when he’s by himself, alone with his thoughts and memories, vulnerable, and ever brooding. The other side is when the Kawamoto sisters or Harunobu appears, and the temperature of the show immediately warms up.

I should like this show more than I do. It’s got all the right ingredients! But I just can’t. Rei spends wayyy too much time talking to himself about everything. There are so many great atmospheric scenes of him looking out over the bay, for example, but instead of just letting the sweeping art (which is great, by the way, amazing animation) do the work, we have to have Rei’s endless inner monologues over it. There is far too much “show, but let’s also tell just to really hammer it home” going on. Too many brooding moments or character interactions that don’t really need commentary are almost always weakened by Rei talking over it. Ugh.

I’m only partway through the first season, and I don’t know if I have it in me to keep pushing on to Season 2. Shinji Ikari you ain’t, kid.

Welcome to the Ballroom

This is basically every sports anime ever. You’ve seen one, right? Okay, then you’ve seen Welcome to the Ballroom.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. It’s every sports anime ever, but with the twist of it being ballroom dancing, which require partners instead of teams. So instead of building teamwork and camaraderie, it’s… uncomfortable, sometimes creepy metaphors of dancing partners being like married couples. There’s a lot of blushing-and-turning-away and making wayyy too big a deal out of who’s partnering with whom. It also doesn’t help that the dance teacher is a grade-A asshole who does stuff like rip the dress off the main girl character and shout at her to use her sex appeal to win the judges over. (SHE IS A THIRD-YEAR JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT, WTF.)

The art and animation are stunning, especially when they’re dancing. Everything else is okay, I guess? But MAN. This show gets very squicky at points, so uh, hmm. Watch with caution.

And that’s a wrap! I watched more shows in 2017, and could probably write about all the shows I gave up on. But I’ll probably put that on the back burner for now and try to shoot for stuff I’ve been watching in 2018.