Winter 2017 End of Season Review

Well its that time again. The Winter 2017 season has finally (mostly) wrapped up. As anime seasons go it was pretty middle of the road. Not as bad as some people predicted, but generally just pretty ok. I ended up finishing eight shows, which is about what I normally shoot for. So what did I think? well, read on to find out!

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who Makes a Lot of Friends

Kemono Friends

Kemono Friends is, perhaps, the most unlikely anime success story in history. Its honestly hard to believe that its sitting here at the top of this list. Few shows truly “come out of nowhere”. Someone anticipates them. Someone sees the key visuals, or the PV and thinks “yes, this is the show for me”. Its hard to imagine anyone doing that for Kemono Friends. Even the pre-existing fanbase seemed an unlikely source of support. The game was so unpopular it shut down in December of last year.

[HorribleSubs] Kemono Friends - 09 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.26_[2017.03.07_18.11.14]

But here we are. As I type, the director has just released on his own Youtube and NicoNico channels a two and a half minute long “Episode 12.1“. The first volume of the BD release has sold out at least three entire production runs. All this for a show made by 10 people over the course of 500 days. Its hard to think of any show that has had this level of success coming from such incredibly adverse circumstances. Perhaps there is one, I’m not sure. But I’m happy so many people have been touched by this show. But why? What was it about this show? Well, lets briefly look at the final arc.

[HorribleSubs] Kemono Friends - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.19_[2017.03.28_21.04.53]

Many shows try to be shocking in their final arc, killing or seeming to kill a main character. Many shows try to bring the whole cast back for the final battle. Often they fail. The deaths seem forced or meaningless, the characters who show up for the final battle are long forgotten. Kemono Friends, this silly looking show about animal people who live in run-down ruins of human civilization, pulled it off. Amazingly so. The final moments of episode 11 are truly shocking. The Friends coming together in the beginning of episode 12 to save Kaban is earned, the cheesiness of the Owls’ dialog and everyone posing in front of the name of the show. Lucky Beast sacrificing itself to destroy the Colossal Cerulean. The party at the amusement park. There are shows that have tried to do all of those things, with a hundred times the art and animation, but couldn’t pull it off.

Because, of course; The True Kemono Friends Were the Friends We Made Along the Way.

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who Found a Family

Kobayashi-san Chi no MaiDragon

If Kemono Friends was the most surprising show of the season, in terms of how much I enjoyed it, MaiDragon is almost certainly the opposite. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I went in expecting it to be stellar and to love it and it was and I did. The only real surprise is that it isn’t at the top of this list. Though in fairness, Kemono Friends and MaiDragon are really tied for first. Anyway. This goddamn show.

[HorribleSubs] Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.02_[2017.04.05_18.36.45]

I don’t need to tell you its excellently produced, go read kViN’s production notes over on Sakuga Blog if you want more details on how good it was as a production. Suffice to say, its the best looking show of the season, and in the top 5 for the last year, easily. What I want to talk about is how utterly flawless it is as a story about a family. MaiDragon is generally billed as a “Yuri comedy about a dragon who falls in love with a programmer and becomes her maid”, which is basically correct. But its so much more. MaiDragon is really, truly, about a family.

[HorribleSubs] Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.54_[2017.04.05_18.17.23]

Honestly the “yuri” aspect is surprisingly downplayed. Its not hidden or anything it just…ceases to be important. Yes, Kobayashi and Tohru are both women. Yes Tohru loves Kobayashi (sexually) and yes Kobayashi is a lesbian. However that is not what is put in center focus. Its really the trio, Kobayashi, Tohru her Maid/Wife and Kanna, their daughter. Kanna is what brings everything together. Without Kanna this would be a much lesser story. Still enjoyable, but it wouldn’t reach the heights it does. So this goes out to the tiny dragon child, and hoping that she can find a relationship as fulfilling as the one her mothers share.

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who is Polyamorous

Urara Meirochou

Its hard to know what to say about Urara. I could just link you to Something’s end of season write-up, and say “read that”, but that’s a cop-out. (but do read it!) Urara is….Urara is one of the most unabashedly intimate shows I’ve watched in a long time. Not in a purely sexual way, though that is most certainly one aspect of it, but in a way that lowers the boundaries people build between each other.

[GJM] Urara Meirochou - 11 [F221E5DA].mkv_snapshot_08.02_[2017.03.17_18.54.06]

The four girls of Natsume-ya aren’t “family”, and they aren’t “lovers” but they have aspects of both. Over the course of the series they develop bonds that hold them tight, but also strengthen and support. None of them could have passed the 9th Rank exam alone. Only together were they able to overcome the obstacles and grow, as Urara and in their relationships with each other.

[GJM] Urara Meirochou - 12 [7422F0A6].mkv_snapshot_22.08_[2017.03.24_14.23.42]

Perhaps its appropriate that it rounds out my top three for the season. Blending the Friendship and Family themes of Kemono Friends and MaiDragon together into something distinctly its own. All three shows are about accepting others, about learning to trust and rely on the people around you.

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who is Bad at Their Job

Gabriel Dropout

Gabriel Dropout really shouldn’t have been as fun as it was. Its basic concept is solid, “What if Angels and Devils were friends and also very bad at their ostensible jobs”, but it really doesn’t seem like a premise that could hold a full length show for an entire 12 episodes. Yet, somehow, it worked. And its not because it really ever went away from that concept. The show has four main characters, each of whom pretty much has precisely one joke.

[HorribleSubs] Gabriel DropOut - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.50_[2017.03.27_19.17.27]

The reason it works is that all four of the girls (even Raphi) are actually very charming and likable. Sure, Gab is a lazy slob who’d rather play games than do anything, but she’s not actually a bad person. Vigne may be perhaps the nicest person on three different planes of existence, but she still gets frustrated and upset. Satania may have delusions of grandeur, but she’s also forthright and honest. Raphi may be somewhat predatory and take delight in watching her friends suffer, but she also knows when she’s about to go a little too far.

[HorribleSubs] Gabriel DropOut - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.33_[2017.03.21_13.26.55]

Putting these four together led to numerous different scenarios, each of which remained fresh, even if the same basic jokes were at work each time. Consistently funny and with a surprising amount of heart.

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who is Very Short

Nyanko Days

While definitely the inferior show about girls with cat ears this season, Nyanko Days knew what it wanted to do and was very good at doing it. The premise is pretty thin and falls apart if you look at it too hard, but it made for a fun 2 minutes every week. I could watch this show basically forever.

[HorribleSubs] Nyanko Days - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.58_[2017.03.28_13.24.36]

While of course the main point of the show was watching the adorable Nyankos be adorable, it managed, in its very brief run time, to also set up a very cute romance between the protagonist Yuuko and the rich girl in her class, Azumi. With any luck we’ll get more Nyankos someday!

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who Wants to Pass the Audition

BanG Dream!

Unlike the other shows on this list, BanG Dream hasn’t finished airing, having started late and then skipping a week on top of that, so its only at episode 10. But Its still part of Winter Season so deserves to be discussed here. Anyway. BanG Dream really really wants to be Love Live. Its not Love Live. However that doesn’t mean its not good.

[HorribleSubs] BanG Dream! - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.31_[2017.03.11_18.55.56]

So, the basic pitch of BanG Dream boils down to “what if Love Live but instead of Idols they are all girl pop-rock bands?”, which honestly is a pretty good pitch. How does it work out? Well, pretty good, all in all. But…its still not Love Live. What holds BanG Dream back from its aspirations is almost that its too well written. Love Live, especially the original two seasons, exists in a sort of almost-magic reality where things work out despite there being absolutely no way they ever possibly could. Sunshine is much closer to BanG Dream, in both the characters find themselves far more constrained by little things like, well “reality”. Though BanG Dream goes much further than even Sunshine.

[HorribleSubs] BanG Dream! - 10 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.54_[2017.04.03_19.06.44]

I don’t know if its because of the Series Composition by Ayana Yuniko (whom you might remember is the person who helped create the concept of a certain show) or if its just a happy accident, but BanG Dream most certainly does not take place in a world where the protagonist can yell the rain away and summon a musical number to clear the snow to their venue. Kasumi, to put it frankly, is annoying. She’s also overconfident and hyperactive and not nearly as talented as she thinks. All of these come together to make her one of the most interesting protagonists of the season. But that will be a discussion for a later time…

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who is Good at War Crimes

Youjo Senki

This show should not have been good. Everything about it made it look like the worst sort of jingoistic propaganda hiding behind a pseudo-historical setting. Its premise was ridiculous. A Japanese Salaryman dies and is cursed by god to be reincarnated as a little girl in an alternate version of Europe circa World War I. Where they then become a military genius at age 10 and lead the Not-German Empire to victory.

[HorribleSubs] Youjo Senki - 09 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.32_[2017.03.11_18.24.50]

Yet, somehow, the show was amazing. The subtitle/English title for the show “The Saga of Tanya the Evil” actually ends up being remarkably accurate. Tanya is evil, by most standards. She commits several clear War Crimes and is entirely motivated by her own desires. In her previous life she was a bad person who was murdered by someone who’s life they had destroyed without a single extra thought. They end up as Tanya because they spouted libertarian nonsense at God. Truly, Tanya earns our scorn.

[HorribleSubs] Youjo Senki - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.43_[2017.03.25_15.30.02]

Yet by the end you end up, if not rooting for her, then wanting to see where she goes. Despite her ridiculous appearance and distinctly Aoi Yuuki voice, she has an intense amount of charisma. Its easy to see why the soldiers in her battalion follow her. And why after an unhinged rant against God, they would still follow her into an almost certainly hopeless battle. Tanya may be evil, but she’s incredibly fun to watch.

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who Enjoys Biking

Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu

Just go watch Long Riders.

…ok fine. Minakama wasn’t a bad show by any means. It was in fact generally quite pleasant to watch. It just…doesn’t have much staying power. Even now barely a week after it ended I struggle to find things to say about it other than “it was ok”. I can think of worse shows to watch from this season, but I can also think of many much better ones. And if you just restrict yourself to shows about girls on bicycles, last season’s Long Riders was a much more solid show (if not nearly as nice looking most of the time).

[HorribleSubs] Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_23.42_[2017.03.25_11.35.48].jpg

Minakama is perhaps most notable as being effectively an advertisement for Kamakura, and on that note it succeeds. I certainly would like to go see Kamakura if I ever go to Japan. Though this is hardly the first show to prominently feature several well known Kamakura tourist spots. Ultimately, Minakama is a fine show that doesn’t do anything other shows haven’t done just as well, if not better. If it hadn’t aired right after the far superior in everything but art Long Riders, I’d probably have a better view of it.

Perhaps You Are a Friend Who Could Have Put In More Effort

Schoolgirl Strikers

Schoolgirl Strikers is the most generic anime ever created. It at times feels more like a fake anime inside another anime, something so utterly anime that it only serves as a representative of anime as a concept. The show has no new ideas, no interesting concepts and nothing visually unique. It is simply an anime.

[HorribleSubs] Schoolgirl Strikers - Animation Channel - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.48_[2017.03.20_13.00.09]

I finished the show two days ago as I write this and I can already barely remember details about it. Its just such a nothing show. It had flashes of good humor. A few episodes around the middle were quite funny and leaned into the quirkiness of the characters, but ultimately it builds to a climax that feels unearned and without any actual tension or stakes. Tsubame, the ostensible lead, is almost completely devoid of character. She just exists in the show, I don’t think I could name one distinct personality trait she has. The rest of the cast is similarly vapid. There are a few clever designs (the Kugimiya Rie twins were good) and the Io/Mana ship is nice, but I doubt I’ll remember any of them by the end of year.

[HorribleSubs] Schoolgirl Strikers - Animation Channel - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.05_[2017.03.31_21.52.14]

All in all the show is completely forgettable on every level, and the best you can say about it is that its not actually bad or offensive in any way. It just…exists. Barely. Go watch Ange Vierge instead.

Perhaps You Are Friends Who Weren’t Worth Finishing

Little Witch Academia

Dropped because it honestly wasn’t very fun or engaging. Not to mention that it wanted me to care about Akko’s feelings for The Least Interesting Man In the World. Trigger is bad, actually.

Demi-chan wa Kataritai

Someone give the Vampire her own show without the teacher.

Idol Jihen

No seriously just watch Aikatsu.

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7 thoughts on “Winter 2017 End of Season Review

  1. SGS being aggressively capital A “Anime”, used in the blandest most stereotypical way, is a very good way to put it. It is, indeed, An Anime. It showed that it knew how to land a joke and even be interesting, and seemed to *want* to dive into the absurd with Odile, but pulled back from ever actually delivering on these things because it had To Be Just An Anime. I mean, I don’t get it, does an adaptation like SGS really pull in more mobage players?

    And another LWA bites the dust. I really, really wanted that show to be more.

    Like

  2. Komi

    Both you and Something talk about the Uraras being polyamorous and not being exactly lovers, and while I agree the four of them ended being like a family in the end and love how intimate and close they are with each other to the point that it’s clear they have something special as a group, I think the possibility of all the 4 of them romantically together was dropped after episode 5 of the show, in that episode Kon fed Chiya and from that point the rest of the show established Kon and Chiya as future lovers, they even introduced Marie for Koume and other stuff. Episode 8 especially, with Koume and Nono getting in the way of Chiya and Kon’s moment, reflected how different is the relationship Kon has with Chiya, compared to with Koume and Nono. I feel that watching this whole show and calling these girls a foursome is like watching Flip Flappers and calling Cocona, Papika and Yayaka a threesome, when it’s clear who Cocona and Kon see as a lover and who they see as just friends.

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    1. Kelira Telian

      That’s definitely a very valid way of interpreting things! I don’t even really disagree. Kon and Chiya are on a different level from the others. Still, the four have a very intimate relationship that goes beyond the boundaries of just “Friendship”. I would certainly not be upset at a Chiya/Kon pair, of course.

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    2. I think we have more or less the same reading of the show actually. The poly aspect eventually took a backseat to furthering the Chiya/Kon and Koume/Nono pairings, and that’s fine. Most of the four-way intimacy I talked about in my write-up was more shades of friendship, teamwork, and family than strictly romantic love.

      That said, I think what separates these four from the Flip Flappers girls is that I don’t see future Cocona and Papika living with Yayaka, but I *can* see Chiya, Kon, Koume, and Nono all continuing to live together for the rest of their lives. They’re closer to the Yuyushiki girls than the FliFla crew. Chiya/Kon and Koume/Nono may be the ones officially dating in this scenario, but they’d all want to be together forever, and not just in a utilitarian “rooming together to keep the rent down” way either.

      I think what’s fairly unique about the Urara girls’ dynamic is the high level of comfort they have with each other’s bodies, despite their sheltered and solitary upbringings. Not saying it’d be a sexual free-for-all, but I doubt any of them would be too troubled if “their partner” was in a physically intimate situation with one of the other two (whether bathing, sleeping in the same bed, hugging, getting changed together, whatever).

      If anything, their natural inclination to pair off might make maintaining such a situation easier. A future Yuyushiki girls’ threesome could in theory develop strains if Yui starts to favor one over the other. The series even touches on this ever so subtly with Yuzu’s frequent feeling that she’s competing to overcome an osananajimi deficit resulting from Yui and Yukari’s much longer history together. Not that I at all want to ponder any situation involving strife among the Yuyus, but it is a situation that, I think, the Urara girls would be less likely to run into. They know who their partner is, and they know the other two are the same. Kon might be the most susceptible to a little jealousy, but I’m pretty sure that as she grew confident in her divination abilities she’d also gain a ton of confidence in her personal relationships.

      Of course it’s not like the manga will ever go into any of this, and we certainly won’t see more of the anime, sad to say. It’ll all have to remain in the realm of headcanon. Too bad nobody watched the show and we’ll never get much in the way of doujinshi to explore these ideas. =(

      Like

      1. Komi

        I definitely agree in everything about the Yuyus, Yuzu especially needs more confidence to keep their bond as strong as ever, forever with them. And the comparison with the Uraras makes sense too.

        But Koume/Nono? Even in Koume’s character song she sings about witches, so unless Nono becomes one further into the story, I can’t see her taking Marie’s place. And this little point is what makes the whole living together part difficult, though definitely not impossible because of your other points.

        If anything, Koume/Nono will be keep to doujins at most, while the manga, even if it doesn’t get to the living by themselves part, I can perfectly see it with Chiya/Kon getting together in the end, I mean, it’s published in the same magazine as Sakura Trick, so it wouldn’t be out of place at all, especially with everything already hinting towards it in just the first volumes of the manga.

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      2. @Komi

        Marie is a childhood crush for Koume. That kind of romanticized idolization of a significantly older girl will drive Koume to improve as an urara but I don’t see them actually becoming romantically involved. Nono has much more in common with Koume in terms of their day-to-day lived experience, while Marie is more of an aspiration or goal than someone who will be intimately involved in Koume’s future.

        As for being in the same magazine as Sakura Trick (Manga Time Kirara), I wouldn’t put too much faith in that unfortunately. A large majority of all cute girls’ slice of life shows are adaptations from Houbunsha’s Kirara family of magazines (see all of these for example: http://www.someanithing.com/1617), and virtually none of them are openly gay in the way Sakura Trick is. They all get caught in that “subtext and romantic coding out the wazoo but unwilling to *formally* commit” limbo. I expect Urara will be no different.

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  3. Komi

    I guess we’ll need to wait and see if Nono can become like that with Koume, I see the potential, but nothing concrete yet.

    And with same magazine, I mean Manga Time Kirara Miracle, there are a lot of Manga Time Kiraras, but only one of them, Miracle, is shared by Sakura Trick and Urara, both are published together so it makes sense to think they have the same target audience and can show similar things on both comics, and of course I mean at the end of the manga after finding Chiya’s mom and everything, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen in the middle, it’s for the conclusion/epilogue.

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