A Look Back At Spring Season 2017

It’s already time for this post, huh? Feels like I wrote the Winter Season summary just a few weeks ago and yet somehow I’ve spent twelve weeks watching new shows of varying quality and content. Well, let’s get to it as we have a lot of stuff to cover.

This season was a strange one. Appearing to be a particularly weak one going in it ended up being full of very strong surprises from genres many of us had begun to simply brush aside as not worth paying attention to. We even saw fantasy light novel adaptations dare to try new things and succeed at it quite brilliantly, starting with the spectacular Grimoire of Zero that got ignored by far too many viewers thanks to Sentai Filmworks putting the series out on services like Anime Strike who continuously mistreated the release with irregularly timed delays almost every week.

But the series itself was a very strong one, giving us a lovable set of main characters in the witch Zero and her beastman mercenary. The novel series by Kobashiri Kakeru initially started as a submission into a writing contest that she won and has now grown popular enough to spawn multiple volumes, this anime adaptation and even a mobile game set in the series universe. Kobashiri‘s approach to characters in the traditional medieval fantasy setting feels rather unique and refreshing from a lot of other series which is part of the series charm as it avoids falling into the usual trappings of the genre.

Though not a revolutionary piece of work or a series that will change anyone’s life, Grimoire of Zero is an extremely solid anime from start to finish that shows just how well paced an adaptation can be by never wasting or rushing a single scene. It feels like the story was written to perfectly match twelve twenty-minute episodes and for that alone the adaptation deserves a lot of praise. The action is also very solid and the humour never failed to make me smile. Despite its unfortunate distribution method in the west I highly recommend watching Grimoire of Zero as it’s sure to not disappoint.

On the other side of things we’ve got Hinako Note. A promising anime that in terms of subject matter and genre should have appealed to me a great deal as it’s a slice-of-life comedy about cute girls in a theater troupe. Yet I hate to admit that Hinako Note did nothing but disappoint me in the end with its constant reliance on fan service that just clashed with the tone of the series as well as repeated jokes that just fell flat. I liked most of the characters of the series but they rarely ever got to do anything either fun or interesting, leading to a series I just couldn’t bring myself to finish. The one episode that stood out to me as particularly solid was an episode actually dedicated to performing theater. Maybe if they had kept a stronger focus on that I’d been more on board with it all.

Another series that fell flat for me in the end was Twin Angels BREAK, the magical girl anime that I think maybe five people in total watched. There’s really not much to say about the show itself, it was just so very mediocre that around halfway through the series I forgot to watch it and never bothered catching up. It seems most people I follow did the same on that note. Sorry Twin Angels BREAK, you did have redeeming qualities but you just weren’t interesting enough.

So let’s talk about something good. Let’s talk about What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?, aka. Sukasuka or WorldEnd. This series was my first pick for anime of the season back in April and while it does not keep that title by the end, it still soars high as one of the best things I watched over the last three months. I could talk about its problems relating to pacing, gender politics, odd visual quality drops, reliance on rather forced emotions at times but i don’t really want to. I just want to talk about how neatly it all came together in the end.

Sukasuka starts with a scene taking place at the end of the series and spends the coming episodes building up to that moment. You know what’s coming and you will probably figure out how it’s set to end rather fast. Despite this the series has one of the strongest final episodes I’ve seen, making you want to forgive every misstep the series has had up to this point for the sake of how well the characterizations and outcomes fall into place. Chtholly was an amazing character to follow and while Willem left much to be desired in the end after his initial promise as a lead, the two worked together perfectly in the finale. I recommend the series a great deal for that final episode alone.

After such high praises, let’s look at my worst anime of the season. If you recall, none of my impressions posts this season were of a negative nature, though some questioned where things might be going. One such impressions post was the one I wrote for Seven Mortal Sins, the softcore erotic series about demons. My initial thoughts were that as long as the series stuck to just being a kinky as hell show with sex and didn’t move into shitty territory like certain shows like it had done, I was going to enjoy it greatly. Unfortunately, my enjoyment did not last long.

This is where I issue a warning as I’m about to talk about rape. In the second episode one of the main characters are raped by another main character while yet another main character secretly watches. That’s a thing that happens. In the third episode that same main character is raped by one of the villains, the same villain later rapes the third main character mentioned above in the same episode. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the third episode tries to spin said scene into one of sexual liberation by having a main character talk about how sex isn’t shameful, as if that had anything to do with the events that transpired. It’s disgusting.

On top of this, it’s telling how little creativity the people working on the series has when despite featuring a cast of cis women, all three of these rape scenes featured phallic penetration through the means of magic, be it through living water tentacles or other things like it. When you can’t make sexual content without turning to rape and standard penetration ideas, you’re not just offensive and disgusting but creatively bankrupt. A grotesque series who hopefully will be forgotten into obscurity soon enough.

It wasn’t the only series dealing with the subject of sexual assault in disgusting ways this season however. The critically panned Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor had an infamous scene in its early episodes where the main character “jokingly” leaves a rapist alone with his victim with a “didn’t mean to interrupt” line. He returns later to stopt he event, but it doesn’t change just how messed up that entire scene was. There was also Love Tyrant whose entire concept is being a Death Note parody where names written in the book force people to either kiss and fall in love or die. Why yes, this is used for involuntary sexual advances as well as homophobic gags. All three of these shows are available on Crunchyroll by the way, if for some reason you feel a need to claw your eyes out.

A series that surprised me by being rather decent was Frame Arms Girl, although even that one couldn’t stay away from jokes regarding sexual assault at times. Despite that, the slice-of-life comedy about living figmas with model kit mecha armors was surprisingly charming when it wanted to be and had some really solid action as well. It’s by no means a spectacular show, but it was far more entertaining than its premise suggests. Another surprise was BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS which despite being a sequel to two series I really didn’t like overall has turned out to be a solid standalone story worth checking out.

There are a few series left but I want to get to my favourite show of the season right now. That show is Alice & Zoroku, which managed to only improve more and more every week from its already solid start. The strength of the series comes from its ability to change genre at any given turn. Going from a mystery action series to a slice-of-life drama and then returning to a very different mystery series void of any action. The story follows Sana, a being known as a “dream of Alice”. She’s able to manipulate reality with magic powers but she doesn’t know anything of the world until she meets an old man, Zoroku, who takes her in.

It’s the most heartwarming story of the year so far with Sana being my favourite protagonist of the season by quite a huge margin. Her curiosity and conflicted mind feels properly childlike in a way many writers struggle to convey. Never once does Sana feel like she’s acting too old or too young, she’s always on point. Zoroku himself is a great character as well, as he always comes off as a good person with no evil bone in his body. He can get angry or upset, of course, but he’s a genuinely kind person and the show never wants you to think otherwise. The supporting cast is great as well, including Zoroku’s grand-daughter, Sanae, and the other dreams of Alice who appear in the story.

I can’t recommend Alice & Zoroku enough. It’s a show that everyone should give a chance no matter what their anime interests may be, that’s how good it is. And if you find that the series is heading in a direction you’re not on board with, keep in mind that it will change directions in an instant when it feels like it and might be leading you astray on purpose. Much like Grimoire of Zero, it feels like a story perfectly fitted into its episodes despite being an adaptation.

The series I have left to talk about are all series that are continuing into the next season, so let’s get them over with despite not being able to give any final thoughts! First of, My Hero Academia is back for a second season and is better than ever. A strong cast has grown even stronger and the action has gotten more entertaining as we had a focus on the sports festival at UA High School, making for a very different experience compared to the first season. I’m very much looking forward to where the story is heading in the episodes to follow.

Then there’s Idol Time Pripara, the sequel to my favourite kids anime of all time, which just finished its first cour. At first I was very down on Idol Time Pripara as it failed to rekindle the flame of the original series and suffered from not having a clear sense of direction, both wanting to play sequel and reboot at the same time but failing at both. The addition of Danpri, the male Pripara, has been nothing but annoying as well as it adds nothing except for pointless “girls can’t be idols” talk that doesn’t make any sense when you consider that the 140 episodes of the original series are all still canon and constantly referenced.

This is a series founded on an actual religious truth of girls becoming idols over millenia and somehow they’re now trying to play it up as something people don’t get? It’s just awkward. But with that said, the series has come into its own in recent episodes. Once Nino, the second new idol character for the series, debuted in episode ten it’s been a constantly enjoyable ride and I hope it only keeps on getting better. It’d help if they stopped relying on short cameos and just established a set cast as well. But hey, the last episode that aired had my favourite character cause the actual destruction of the original series’ setting thanks to being fashionably late to stop a bomb from going off, so at least it’s still incredibly silly fun.

While we’re talking about kids shows I can gladly say that Kirakira PreCure À La Mode is still frustratingly good and worth checking out. The villains are entertaining, the new character introduced in recent weeks are fun and you won’t believe this but… They used the word “koibito”, meaning lover(s), to reference two girls. No, really. They did. PreCure is daring to be more gay this year and it’s making me so very happy. Of course, just like with Pripara, there is no official distributor of Kirakira PreCure in the west.

I hate to say it but Sakura Quest has lost me a great deal since it’s incredibly strong start. While it’s not gone bad, its been losing focus from the things it does well to the point where I find it hard to care about the story any more. It’s very good with setting up problems but very bad at resolving them, almost making every single solution too easy and shorthanded, which undermines the problem to begin with. On top of that they keep focusing on side characters with little to no development and it’s just not very interesting. I’m not sure I’ll be watching this next season at this rate.

Finally, the big one, the series that would be my anime of the season were it not set to air for one more… Re:CREATORS. When I was first told this series was good I refused to believe it. It sounded like it’d be impossible for a series that’s essentially a Fate/ clone but with all the characters being from fictional stories anime rather than history to be anything but cringeworthy. Yet here we are after twelve episodes and I just keep loving it more and more thanks to how well it writers its characters and events.

The concept of Re:CREATORS is that fictional characters have found their way into the real world and have to deal with the fact that they’re fictional as well as the fact that the world is about to end because of them disturbing the balance of reality. You have characters from all sorts of stories and settings, including main character fantasy heroines, an NPC librarian, a magical girl and more, all colliding in the real world while trying to figure out what’s going on.

Narratively, it goes beyond just a simple battle royale however, becoming a government drama as well as a story about the horrors of online harassment, all while dealing with these amazing characters having been made real before the eyes of the world. It’s very heavy on exposition, with one character in particular being used almost exclusively for it, but it works thanks to the way the characters are given reason for said exposition to happen. Every interaction feels like the characters are acting as they would in said strange situations and it’s commendable just how much confidence the series holds in its ideas.

In my original impressions post I gave a warning about how the series starts with an onscreen suicide. It took many weeks of episodes for the series to start explaining what that scene was about and why it started with it. Having now seen the first half of the series I absolutely understand why it started the way it did and I think it has one of the better depictions of a suicidal mindset I’ve seen in anime. I say this as someone who have attempted suicide in the past. I still issue this warning because the warning sould be issued, but I now issue it knowing that the inclusion of said scene is what I consider necessary.

And that’s my impressions for Spring Season 2017. It’s been quite a ride of ups and downs despite a very positive early start but I’m glad that so many solid shows are following into Summer Season, which I’ll start covering in just a few days. Let me know what your favourite series this season was in the comments!

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