Summer’s here, and it’s brought a wave of animation goodness with it!
Frequent visitors will be well aware of our dislike of the last cycle – Spring ’17. It was probably the worse cycle we’ve seen since we started these reviews! However, the dud has bloomed into the beautiful Summer ’17 cycle! A perfect blend of series, from major continuations to anticipated new series and a few unexpected successes, has left us watching almost too many to review in this list! Here’s some of the highlights we’ve been watching in this cycle, starting with the two major continuations from Spring:
[Note: We are not writing these reviews all at the same time, so we might be at different points in the series compared to where it is at the time of upload!]
KEY: Title (Season, episodes watched/total episodes [approximate] x episode length)
My Hero Academia (S2, 18/25[App}x23mins)
The continuation of the second season of MHA, following the UA students as they leave the classroom behind and begin their internships with professional heroes. The Hero Killer known as Stain (above) continues to prowl, and Lida, his brother stricken by the villain, is determined to find him.
Personally it feels like My Hero Academia has been running forever! When the second season started last cycle was when I started the show as a whole, meaning I was playing catch-up for most of season one. I’ve been a huge fan of this series since I started watching, and I’m pleased to say it has kept the pace despite what looked at first to be a tricky plot. I’ve seen many shows – RWBY S3 is the first that springs to mind – that have almost collapsed when the plot dictates that all the characters be separated like in this internship arc. However, a clear and powerful story with a good balance of switching between people and focusing on the main means that My Hero Academia continues to excite!
Sakura Quest (S1, 18/25x23mins)
Slice of Life
The continuation of the first season of Sakura Quest, following Yoshino Koharu (front and centre) as she, along with her new friends, continues trying to revive the countryside town of Manoyama.
Honestly, I’m struggling to get through this now. This was one of my favourite series of the previous cycle, with its idyllic and honest nature along with beautiful animation. However, there’s only so much interest you can take in their plain little town, and with a lack of deep and meaningful character development it’s getting to the point now that it’s a struggle to continue. However, given that this is by the same team that delivered Shirobako and has everything in place for an emotional ending, this is definitely a series worth sticking with.
New Game!! (S2, 5/12[App}x24mins)
Slice of Life, Comedy
The second season of New Game, following Aoba (above) and her friends as they embark on a new videogame development at Eagle Jump.
I was not really expecting anything from this second series – I actually had no idea it was coming out until days before it did! New Game was a solid, enjoyable little series following game developing, but was never going to set the world alight. Now, though…
Season two has started fantastically, keeping the cute characters and comedy of the first season, but there seems to be more focus on strong storylines and character development, which is enriching the kawaii foundation it built up from the first season! I can already feel the inevitable drop-off waiting in future episodes, but there’s no denying that this series has started really well and is definitely worth a watch.
And now onto the new series…
Kakegurui (S1, 5/12[App]x24mins)
Psychological Drama, School
Kakegurui takes place at Hyakkaou Private Academy, an elite school for the most prestigious and wealthy of children. To prepare them for their successful futures the school permits and promotes gambling between and after classes. Gambling is taken extremely seriously, with millions wagered on a multitude of games, and a clear hierarchy separating those who are successful from those who fall into debt, labelling them as housepets and subjecting them to intense ridicule. Ryouta (bottom right) is a housepet with no future, until a new student named Jabami Yumeko (front and centre, right) transfers in. A seemingly cute and naive girl, Jabami throws herself head first into the gambling world. However, when she knocks one of the top players out of her own game, she quickly attracts the attention of the student council.
With seemingly very little fanfare going into this, Kakegurui has quickly emerged as the frontrunner for the Summer ’17 cycle so far. This is an incredible series, possibly the best series I’ve ever watched as it was released. There are psychological thrillers, then there are shows that are simply psychotic – Kakegurui falls in the latter, and it is so exciting! It has everything you could ask from the genre: there’s clever, high-stakes games with cheats that are intelligently solved by characters that are nothing less than insane, and that’s enough on its own, but it’s the nuances that take it to the next level. For example, there’s plenty of sex, but it’s to such an extreme that it dodges the awkward area that most high-school anime fall into and jumps straight into Sin-City levels of criminality. So far Kakegurui is hardcore beyond comparison, and with such an exciting cast and excellent direction the sky’s the limit right now!
Saiyuki Reload BLAST (S1, 6/12x23mins)
Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Follows a band of heavenly warriors traversing a land known as ‘Shangri-La’, as they head to India in search of the root of all the evil that has shadowed the land.
My favourite out of the two major ‘heavenly warriors’ anime (see below), Sayuki Reload is a really solid fighting anime, with a group of main characters who are not only interesting people but are beautifully animated, like the rest of the show. I’m not completely sold on the story, a situation not helped by three of the six episodes so far having been backstory, but this is definitely a series with potential.
Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU (S1, 6/13[App]x23mins)
Set in 1860’s Japan, the series follows a group of spirit warriors – historical weapons manifesting into human form – as they work to protect history from the evil Time Retrograde Army, sent from the future to alter it.
Despite being more impressed with the first episode in this series than in Reload BLAST, my allegiance has switched as the series’ have developed. Touken Ranbu – originally a popular free-to-play online game – is clearly a respected name in Japan, as this series, the second anime of the name after ‘Hanamaru’ in 2016, has a beautiful high-end production gloss about it. The enemies are beautiful and the colours are deep, but unfortunately the characters do not match up to it. I’m not sure I will finish this series, especially when there’s a similar series running alongside it.
The Reflection (S1, 4/13[App]x25mins)
The Reflection, a mysterious catastrophic event that killed many and gave superpowers to some of the survivors, has left the world in turmoil. Under threat from a multitude of villains, heroes rise to protect the world.
This is a really series, and certainly one of the most anticipated series of this cycle. Something of a cultural exchange, The Reflection is a Japanese animation produced by famous American comic creator Stan Lee (Marvel), featuring a very American superhero story with a unique American comic style of animation. While the Animation itself is interesting, it is a big change from traditional animation – Japanese and otherwise – and is very hit and miss, while the story itself feels a bit simple-minded. It’s interesting enough, and I’m sure it will be popular with fans of Marvel and other american heroes, but for the general anime fan it feels like more of a cultural experiment than genuinely exciting series.
AHO-GIRL (S1, 6/12[App]x12mins)
A title that can be translated as ‘Idiot-Girl’, Aho follows the adventures of Yoshiko (top), a genuinely moronic high-school girl, and her childhood friend (bottom) who is often forced to clean up the mess she leaves behind.
The first of two mini-series we’ve been watching in this cycle, AHO-GIRL is a really simple but really funny series. The story is really simple, and the characters fill out the clichés they are built around, but it’s all vehicles for what is 12 minutes – which are split into 3/4 ‘parts’ each episode – of strong, unrelentingly loud and slapstick comedy. At only 12 minutes per episode,this is a solid show that is worth your time so far, although I do worry whether the stupid nature of the comedy will begin to annoy after a while.
Tsuredure Children (S1, 6/13[App]x12mins)
School, Romance, Comedy
A mini-series following the romantic relationships of a selection of high-school couples, through all the awkward and wonderful moments that come with teen romance.
This is a seriously good series! Tsuredure is a genre of romance story in Japan. Meaning something along the lines of ‘cold/warm’, Tsuredure stories generally follow romance couples that involve one of the parties being cold at the beginning, only to be be won over by the other, and that’s the pattern most of the couples in this series follow. Tsuredure is really fun to watch in many of the same ways as AHO-GIRL – the characters do little more than play out comforting clichés, and the short runtime makes it easily accessible, a sketch-show almost where you are constantly swapping between classic scenarios. This reminds me of those cheap, easy romance films that always come out during Valentines or Christmas, the ones with b-list celebrity actors looking at each other on the poster, just like above! There are a handful of couples who have long, flowing stories, but the appeal of this show is that it’s like bingeing on five/six rom-com movies, but with all the character development and stupid comedy taken out, leaving only the punchline, the awkward ‘I love you’. This is an awesome series for fans of anime romance, and with its simple nature I can’t really see it dropping off either.
Not only is this cycle full of fantastic shows – we even had to miss out Classroom of the Elite, because the article was getting too long – but it’s also a cycle full of subplots. My Hero Academia carries on pleasing its established fan base, while Sakura Quest, a new series, is starting to drift away slightly; meanwhile, New Game re-emerges bigger and better than ever! You have the Battle of the Warriors in Reload Blast and Touken Ranbu, while Japan responds to the recent influx of Chinese-backed mini-series with two fantastic ones of their own!
Anyway, here’s our mid-season rankings:
9. Katsugeki Touken Ranbu – A series that’s good to look at if nothing else.
8. Sakura Quest – Still looking solid, but bland setting is beginning to drag.
7. Aho-GIRL – Really funny, but can its slapstick humour survive the distance?
6. The Reflection – An interesting idea with untapped potential as of yet.
5. Tsuredure Children – Simple but effective rom-com, but will it stay fresh until the end?
4. Saiyuki Reload BLAST – A series ticking many boxes and still has room to develop. Could be a unlikely stand out from this cycle.
3. My Hero Academia – Still going strong from the last cycle, MHA is blazing its own path in the action genre!
2. New Game!! – Probably the surprise of the cycle, the small-time comedy has turned into a strong, well-rounded series well worth attention.
1. Kakegurui – Setting the standard in the notoriously challenging psychological-thriller genre, this hard-hitting series looks set to tread all over this cycle!
We would love to know what you’re watching right now! Anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments, or follow us on Instagram and join the debate!
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