As usual, before I get TOO stuck into the new Autumn offerings, I’ll be taking one final look at the Summer season’s series. My lineup is slightly different to what it was before, but hopefully that should make it a little more interesting!
Dropping one place since last time, Satsuriku no Tenshi originally appealed to me with its horror adventure game feel. But, at the end of the day I guess I’d prefer to get that feeling from a game I’m playing myself, rather than through watching boring characters rapidly find every item and solve every puzzle as though they’re using walkthroughs.
Zach feels like the only character who got any real development – we got to see the majority of his past, what made him the person he is now, and learned that he’s not just a cold-blooded killer… but I still can’t say I really like the guy. And everyone else, the inhabitants of the other floors and protagonist Ray, are just empty shells. The series does tease that we’ll finally get to learn about Ray, and the building’s other mysteries, if we watch three remaining web-based episodes; I’m just not sure I care enough to do so.
Once upon a time, I used to avoid sports anime, as I’m not a huge sports fan IRL. Nowadays though, it feels weird if there isn’t one in my lineup. Hence the late addition of Hanebado! I was instantly impressed by the animation quality, very fluid and with great camera angles.
However, there’s a reason most sports anime carry on for 24 eps or more. Everything felt so rushed! Rivals were introduced, side characters had their own issues to face, and all the while main character Ayano was going through rapid personality changes. The story of how her mother abandoned her to train another badminton prodigy could have been good, if said prodigy and said mother hadn’t shown up so early on. The matches themselves were cut very short, aside from the big finale. Just feels like wasted potential.
Dropping from #3, Angolmois only beats the other two because of its interesting setting and decent-enough action scenes. This series definitely SHOULD have had the time to develop its characters, there was a lot of standing around and talking… but with the exception of protagonist Jinzaburou, it just didn’t bother until right before a character was about to die, quickly giving us a reliable death flag!
The exiles were such a potentially interesting bunch – a merchant, a healer, a loud-mouthed pirate, a stoic archer… all under-utilized, as were the Mongol generals they were facing. It felt like they were prioritizing the historical accuracy above any excitement and engagement, which may well appeal more to some people, but left me feeling increasingly bored as the series progressed.
Jumping up from 8th place, this series told us what to expect right from the first episode, barely deviating from its formula save to introduce some new characters here and there. Jashin-chan wants to kill Yurine, extort Medusa, bully Pekola and generally be a selfish and mean jerk, but is constantly foiled and punished by Yurine. There really is nothing else to it. In this case, I even watched the online ‘bonus’ episode, which was literally more of the same!
This repetitiveness gave me fairly low expectations from the series… and it met those expectations, placing it above the other three, which failed to meet far higher expectations. Somehow, Jashin-chan Dropkick remained consistently entertaining despite its limited repertoire of jokes, and I don’t regret watching it.
I expected an anime based on beach volleyball to be mostly fanservice, but while there were skimpy outfits and ecchi camera angle choices, Harukana Receive did a good job of showcasing that beach volleyball is an actual sport, and how it’s different from regular volleyball – the unstable sand underfoot, the unpredictable wind, the blinding sun overhead etc. It taught me a lot more than Hanebado!, that’s for certain!
In fact, obvious animation quality differences aside, Harukana did everything better. We had proper character development, skill progression, and drama that wasn’t rushed. The cast was smaller, with the Thomas twins serving as friends, club mates, coaches and rivals – a complex relationship. The series’ climax, the final of the regionals, spanned two and a half episodes, and was really tense throughout. An overlooked gem, in my opinion.
Also jumping three places, Hataraku Saibou left some of its better episodes until last. The cancer ep was an interesting take on the disease; given the fact that he and the others were just regular body cells who didn’t turn out right, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for them in anthropomorphic form! But in order to keep the body healthy, anomalies must be dealt with… the body really isn’t the peaceful utopia it looks like at first glance!
The final two episodes were also brilliant, showing how quickly the body can shut down following a major injury and blood loss. Maintaining the educational factor while also ramping up the drama for our red blood cell protagonist and her new kouhai… and then, the hilarious conclusion. 😛 Overall, a fun and clever series, though some episodes did feel padded out a lot. Such is the curse of having a set episode length to meet.
2: Grand Blue
Still at #2 despite the fact that Shingeki no Kyojin isn’t in this list, Grand Blue remains the funniest series of the season in my eyes. All the moreso because I didn’t even plan on picking it up originally, I’m so glad I gave it a chance in the end! It brought hilarious comedy, lovely character designs, and occasionally a serious passion for diving to the Summer season.
As with Jashin-chan Dropkick though, there wasn’t a HUGE amount of variation in the jokes. 90% of the time it involved trying to get other characters drunk, or ending up naked, or often both. However, character relationships did change and develop as the series went on, there was real chemistry there that some of the season’s more episodic gag comedy series didn’t have. I’d definitely be up for a second series~
For the first time, a late addition to my lineup takes the #1 spot in my end of season rankings! Truth be told, I wanted to pick up Hi Score Girl from the moment it aired, but a lack of official release (getting permission from all the necessary copyright holders to use the titles, characters and game footage would be a nightmare, no doubt!) or even a named fansub group left me doubtful it’d be translated fast. Fortunately, Anon came through!
Haruo and Akira’s arcade game rivalry, starting in their primary school days in 1991 and continuing through to high school in 1995, was adorable. At times they were separated, and a love triangle developed, but Haruo’s single minded determination to get better at gaming so that he could finally defeat Akira was brilliant. And we got to see him mature as the series went along, limiting the time spent on his hobby in order to focus on studies and part time work… something I still struggle with to this day. 😛
Not only were the characters great, but of course the focus on 90s games and consoles also appealed to me… even if I myself missed out on most of them at the time, living miles from the nearest arcade, and having only a Game Boy for most of that decade. Technology advanced so rapidly back then; more recent generations’ graphical improvements and higher resolutions just don’t have the same magic to them IMO. But I digress. A wonderful series, and I’ll be checking out the OVAs for the real conclusion!