ACCA : 13-ku Kansatsu-ka | Winter 2017 Wrap-up

Studio : Madhouse
Genre : Police, Drama, Fantasy, Seinen
Episodes : 12

A season with Madhouse is a season to look forward to.
ACCA was one of the shows that caught my eye in the winter 2017 lineup because of two reasons :
1. Madhouse
2. A character with blue hair (they're fascinating, don't judge me)

But I am glad I got a lot more out of this show that I thought I would. The Seinen tag surely had me interested. And even though I tend to dislike police dramas (because I believe that anime isn't the right medium for it), this show turned out surprisingly well. Don't get me wrong, ACCA is a 'dull' 'boring' show for all you thrill seekers. But if you're into slow paced, dialogue oriented dramas with subtle characters, this will be a treat.

Here's a quick synopsis :
Long ago, after a civil uprising, an independent civilian organisation called ACCA was set up to unite the 12 states under the Dowa family rule. Headed by the five Chief Officers, the purpose of the organisation is to provide autonomy to the individual states but at the same time, keep everything working together. Furthermore, to keep the peace and to keep all the individual states in check, the ACCA inspection branch regularly inspects every state. Enter Jean Otus, Deputy Chief of the inspection department at ACCA. His job is to go and audit all 12 state branches. Meanwhile, as Dowa family's monarch's 99th birthday approaches, a devious plot is unwrapping itself and Jean is smack in the middle of it.

The thing that makes ACCA stand out for me is the presentation and the world-building. ACCA takes it's sweet time to give us the details of its 13 states. How every state is unique in it's scenery, it's way of operation, it's residents and how it contributes to the nation (it's produce). And all of this isn't done in one big info-dump. We follow along Jean on his audits and get a tour as he does his routine. And with every next audit, the mystery thickens and with it the balance in tone shifts towards the darker side. Of course all of this is balanced with sprinkles of light-hearted moments at regular intervals.

The way ACCA manages to keep everything interesting, despite lacking in action scenes or thrilling music, is commendable. It's got just the right balance of light hearted moments and serious ones, characters that keep you wondering whether they have a hidden side to them or not, a plot that keeps the mystery up until the very end, and a kickass opening and chill classy jazz background music to top it off. Since I feel I have showering this with more praise than necessary, let me balance it with some sober words.

And I will start with the characters. While the main characters - Niino and Jean, get a substantial amount of development, the supporting cast doesn't get the exposure it needs. Especially Director-General Mauve and Chief Officer Grossular. I feel that these characters needed to be fleshed out a bit more so that their involvement in the plot would have had more impact. I really wanted to know more about these characters, to be more invested in their world, but sadly, I was left wondering. And the same goes for some of the characters closely involved with the show's plot, who don't get any exposure at all. All of this can be attributed to the show's 12 episode run-time, but since this is an important aspect, it does take away from the overall enjoyment ration.

Overall, I feel that ACCA is a series which could have used a bit more 'flair' in the character department. It's lack of memorable characters is a drawback, especially because the series relies so much on character interactions. But it's presentation, excellent production quality, and intriguing plot make it hard to just pass over. While not everyone's cup of tea, this is a show I recommend from Winter 2017.

Don't know what the rating means? Check out the Rating System.

Kuzu no Honkai - Hanabi’s Turmoil

NOTE : This post contains spoilers.

We're always taught to be good. Starting with our parents, to teachers, relatives, sometimes friends and especially by the religious authorities. Everybody knows they should be good, but hardly anyone knows how. Or even what "good" is. So we start with imitation. As a child, you're thrown into this cruel ugly game where you're expected to behave a certain way. You're told stories about Kings, warriors, Gods and hermits. Pointing out their good deeds to you, they tell you to be like them. To grow up to be a good man/woman. And this behaviour, this urge, this need to be good is further hammered down into us by establishing a set of rules and then conditioning us using the reward and punishment system.

"Good vs Evil"

As a child, you don't wonder 'which' side to pick but 'why' pick a side. "Why be good?" "Because if you don't be good, you'll be sent to hell." (basically, God will smite your cheeky ass down if you don't do as he says). But that's not even the best part. To make the game further shitty, this is what we're told - "Now listen. You are a good person. And you must do good deeds because that's what good people do. Not because they're told to, but because they are a good person deep down."
So, you're required to behave a certain way which would only be acceptable if done voluntarily. See the paradox?

Of course, as a child you have no way of criticising that statement. So you grow up, cultivating this ideal of good inside you. An image, of how you should act and of who you ought to be. But then reality steps in. And you witness acts of evil first-hand. If they don't concern you, then you simply dismiss them as "the evil of the world" (because you were told there is evil in this world). But when it happens to you, that whole concept (the ego) you have cultivated in your head, starts to tear you apart from the inside out. "Why me?", "What did I do wrong?", "Why is this happening to me? I don't deserve this!" "The circumstances make no sense! It's ridiculous! What is wrong with this world?", "Why do bad things happen to good people?" And you just keep falling deeper and deeper into despair. Thinking that nothing is right in this world, nothing is fair. That it's not worth it. After all, you didn't ask for this in the first place.

And to make things worse, you see that the very people who taught you that discipline, aren't holy saints themselves. And you don't know what is what anymore. You don't know what to do, or how to deal with this feeling of betrayal, anger and frustration. "How can a person be like this?", "Why is he/she being that way?", "How can someone enjoy doing that to a person?", "This is just sad and pathetic!"
So. Now that that 'idol of who you ought to be' is shattered, nothing is left. The dreams, fantasies and scenarios you imagined yourself in, acting that way and getting what you wanted, are gone. And you're empty. What do you do?

Hanabi Gif

I think Hanabi's turmoil over what she is experiencing resonates with this. Except, instead of the idea of "being a (good) person", her ideals of "love" and "morals" are 'shattered', tearing her apart (I think it starts from that chat with her classmates about "love interests" and "specs"). Of course there are other factors involved - especially her father leaving and the guilt that was shoved onto her by her relatives. And this 'breakdown' never happens in that straightforward linear fashion as I mentioned. But it feels similar to it.

And I like how it is presented. How she didn't just go bat-shit insane after the teacher's "remark" (like you'd normally see in most anime). But she's still 'sane' and knows she's going down that path of self-destruction but she just doesn't know what to do or how to deal with the situation. Yes, the obvious and simple answer of "just rip the band-aid off" is there but she doesn't want to go there. The child 'self' who she talks to, knows all too well that this is not the path to take and her monologues affirm that. And that is interesting.

I wonder which way they will take it from here. On one hand her realisation that "everyone is sad and lonely" (i.e., in a way, suffering) is a step that can lead her out of this mess, but at the same time she can just keep falling deeper and deeper into the spiral if she keeps holding on. I'm excited to see which way this goes.
I don't want a forced happy ending for this, but an ending with scarred characters.

Hanabi Gif2

Now, one last thing.
Do any of you feel that way? I don't mean just the show but about being frustrated and angry growing up as a teenager because of all that shit "they" shoved into our heads. I don't mean they in a way that is like pointing and blaming 'them'. It's not their fault, they were brought up that way too. That paradox was handed down to them. They couldn't help it.
I was pretty naive growing up, so that whole "good" thing screwed me up when someone took advantage of my nature (and it happened again and again). Thankfully, I pulled myself out of it by adapting to a broader perspective on my life (there are a lot more 'demons' left to fight though).
Have you experienced something similar?

Top 10 Anime of 2016 [Non-Sequel]

Top 10 Anime of 2016

2016 was an amazing year filled with all kinds of surprising events. Trump got elected as President, Scientists detected gravitational waves, Eddie Hall pulled 500kgs on the deadlift, some celebrities died, harambe died, more random memes got famous, more people did stupid stuff, and a guy punched a kangaroo in the face. What a time to be alive!
On the other hand, in the world of Anime, the number of titles released this year surpassed the last. No surprises there, they just keep chucking them one after the other. While movies like Koe no Katachi and Kimi no Nawa created a lot of buzz, the shows also put up quite a performance. Here are my top 10 picks of 2016.

Disclaimer : This list does not include sequels, unless the whole series aired in the same year (example Ajin). So, no Durarara, Jojo, Haikyuu, Assassination Classroom, Hibike! Euphonium or Natsume's Book of Friends or anything else I forgot to include. Also, this is my list, an opinion on what I think are the best shows of 2016. It doesn't have to agree with your opinions. I'm sure you already know how the rest of this dialogue goes.
So, without further ado, let's begin.

#10 : Boku no Hero Academia

Studio : Bones
Genre : Action, Comedy, Super Power, Shounen
Episodes : 13

Putting My Hero Academia on the number 10 spot was a hard decision for me. After excluding the sequels and picking my top 7, the shows that I was left with were good in some aspects but they had some glaring flaws that I just couldn't ignore. After an extensive, thrilling elimination round of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, I was left with 91 Days and My Hero Academia. And here we are.
The reason I didn't pick 91 days is because, to me, mafia shows (or shows related to gangs and violence, e.g., The Wire) have always been about strong memorable characters. And 91 days lacks that. Majority of the characters don't develop beyond their initial impressions (thanks to the short run time) and towards the end, the show questions the morality of its main characters' actions, something which I think is absurd. Anyways, let's move on.

My Hero Academia is a very conventional shounen anime, as conventional as it gets. It's the good old underdog story, about a guy who goes from zero to being a hero. The main character wants to become a hero because he really wants to, from the bottom of his heart. There's no "I'll be a hero and save this world" scenario. He wasn't born a hero, and he wasn't forced into it thanks to an accident (radioactive spiders or gamma ray exposures) or a tragedy. The job of a hero isn't thrust upon him by someone, it's what he wants, because superheroes are cool (I totally agree on that).

One thing I liked about the show is that it wasn't all about the war of good and evil. Instead, it was more about our main character, his past, how he deals with his powerlessness, then his newly acquired powers and his relationship with his "idol" All Might and his "friend" Bakugou. And towards the end, it incorporates some themes involving the hypocrisy when it comes to using violence, and about symbols and society; it's there and you are free to analyse (or over-analyse) them, but it isn't something to be taken too seriously. Despite the lack of "actual content" and sluggish pacing, the show has some quality moments in it. And it's fun to watch. So, you can pick this up if you want to see the old conventional superhero story, but don't expect to be blown away.

#9 : Ajin

Studio : Polygon Pictures
Genre : Action, Mystery, Horror, Supernatural, Seinen
Episodes : 26 across two seasons

So, a species of seemingly immortal beings appear and they are being hunted down by different groups from all over the world. A huge reward is put out and whoever helps the government catch an Ajin gets hundreds of millions. You are an average Japanese high-schooler, and listening to all the buzz and gossip about Ajins and catching them makes you a little uncomfortable. So, you're walking back home, thinking about all the things you should and shouldn't do, and out of nowhere... BAM! Plot hits you in the face and splatters your guts all over the asphalt. And it turns out, you're an Ajin. Congratulations! Better start running.

Actually, Ajin is a little more than just our peace loving protagonist running around for his life. It's got torture, inhumane experiments, politics, media, terrorism, a little bit of supernatural and lots of blood and violence, all in shiny full 3d animation. It's a great watch if you aren't bothered by the full CG art (you know the whole, sometimes it's cool, sometimes its like playing a game on ultra when your GPU can barely handle it on medium). It's got two seasons - the first season is amazing and while the second season takes a different route from the manga, it's still entertaining enough. I would recommend this if you are looking for a serious action series which incorporates the aforementioned themes in its story.

#8 : Fune wo Amu

Studio : Zexcs
Genre : Drama, Romance, Seinen
Episodes : 11

Now there's another profession I have deep respect for.
Getting to know what really goes into making everyday things is a delight for me. Especially things where humans do majority of the work and their character plays a huge role (so, episodes of How It's Made wouldn't count, probably). I get fascinated by watching other characters get fascinated by what they do. Usually, shows that feature such premises tend to have characters with fiery burning passion and 'intense' personalities. This is where Fune wo Amu steps in and shows us something different.

It's a show about making a dictionary - what it is, how it's made, what it means to it's creators and what purpose it should serve. Usually, shows with this kind of premise will have a very tense atmosphere with a lot of chaos among the characters (in the form of a competition or a deadline, or both). But Fune wo Amu is very calm and laid back, almost too laid back for it's own good. And this lack of "intensity" shows its effect in the character department. The main character, who really loves words and carries the word "serious" (or seriousness) in his name, is really bad at expressing himself. He is always introverted, doesn't actively participate in conversations, and would seem like a shy reserved person from the outside. Which is not bad, because his job requires him to be a very calm, collected person with monumental amounts of patience & dedication. But here's the thing, I still can't understand or relate to his passion for words, especially how 'intense' or deep rooted it is. And instead of providing us with more material to further his character, the series just constantly throws the ship analogy in our face.

I feel that the series could have done a lot more, but the creators just, sort of, didn't bother. Despite all that, it certainly gets it's message across, that making a dictionary is no easy task. This series is not a must watch for everyone and it certainly wouldn't get your blood pumping or keep you on the edge of your seat, but it'll show you how amazing humans are. So, if you are interested, go give it a shot.

#7[Tie] : Sakamoto Desu ga

Studio : Studio Deen
Genre : Comedy, School, Seinen
Episode : 12

#7 on the list is a tie between Sakamoto Desu ga and ERASED. Why? Well, because it is. Actually, I just want more anime on my list. Don't take it too seriously.

I like comedies, they're quite simple. You either laugh, or you don't. And Sakamoto Desu ga is one of those shows, where, you'll either like it from the first episode, or you'll just hate it because it's stupid. The story is about Sakamoto, a guy so perfect that compared to him, even Usui Takumi has flaws. We, the audience, get to witness his miracles as he goes about living an overwhelmingly cool and stylish high-school life. Popular guys, popular girls, average guys, average girls, bullies, seniors, teachers and even the birds and the bees can't keep up with him and are left in awe of his otherworldly godlike swag. Impossible situations? They're just everyday phenomenon for him, and he just glides through them gracefully. Not only that, his actions, directly or indirectly, end up helping others.

Point is, majority of the show's comedy is centred around Sakamoto getting out of impossible situations, most of which involve some kind of bullying. While not every gag is gold here, the kind of humour presented (suave humour) was refreshing because of it's ridiculousness and it's something quite different from the usual slapstick comedy you see in anime.

#7[Tie] : Boku Dake ga Inai Machi

Studio : A-1 Pictures
Genre : Mystery, Psychological, Seinen, Supernatural
Episode : 12

It's been a year since I watched this show but I still can't get over the frustration of that ending. The whole reason I watch mystery shows is to enjoy the rush of the reveal. When all the knots untie one after the other, when that one linchpin surfaces and all the dots connect to reveal the picture, when the curtain is finally lifted and our minds are blown away by the truth and the sheer genius of the deduction. That's what I wanted from this show, but what it delivered didn't even come close to a "surprise".
So, why is this show on #7?

Well, as much as I hate to admit it, up until the point where the reveal became "obvious", I enjoyed every moment of this show. The fact that we were going to solve a murder mystery by travelling back in time was fascinating, the protagonist's 29 year old psyche trapped in a child's body and all the monologues were amusing, the relationship between him and Hinazuki was cute and developing in an interesting way, the direction was on point and the animation really set the mood and pulled me in. But then....
Long rant short, I expected way too much from this anime. It's like Tokyo Ghoul all over again. And, considering the best moments of the show, it is more like a slice of life-ish show with a not-so-mind-blowing mystery on the side. Maybe I shouldn't have put this on #7. Oh well.

#6 : Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Studio : White Fox
Genre : Psychological, Drama, Thriller, Fantasy
Episodes : 25

Perspective. It's interesting how people can have such varying points of view about the same thing, all justified in their own right, influenced by who they are.
After reading all the different opinions on Re:Zero and considering my own, I'm having a hard time presenting this show. I can't label all of it as bad because there were some amazing moments in the show, but I can't label it as a masterpiece because there were an equal amount of frustrating moments and nuances. What to do?

Re:Zero is a show that takes the old trusted formula, actually, several variants of it, adds some new things, slaps a new dress on it to hide all the patchwork and presents it to the audience. It's got blood, violence, moe, time travel, romance, drama, all in a fantasy world with cute characters, evil characters, cool characters, narcs, heroes, witches, elves and whatnot. It starts off really good, sets up the premise in an interesting way with a double first-episode, but as things go on, everything turns to mush. Into a sort of situation similar to when you turn up a big rock and there's all that going on underneath. But thankfully, it's entertaining. Cliffhangers at every episode, characters dying in painful ways to the point that its not overkill to call this a torture-fest, characters doing a 180 on their personality, lots of second hand embarrassment, an ever-present evil with no clear motive - you name a popular troupe, it's there. The downside? It's a mess. But it's fun.

#5[Tie] : Flying Witch

Studio : J.C. Staff
Genre : Comedy, Magic, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Episodes : 12

Always wondered if flying on a broom in that position hurt. I was convinced that the wonderful feeling of flight greatly overshadowed the agonizing pain of your privates getting crushed under your own weight. Glad I was wrong.
Flying Witch, a show by J.C. Staff that features a teenage girl by the name of Matoko Kowata who just moved to Aomori as part of her journey towards being a professional witch. Hearing the words "magic" and "witch" probably paints a very flashy, colourful picture in one's mind, one with transformation sequences, eccentric characters and bizarre phenomenon. But Flying Witch takes a modest and subtle approach to this premise. There is no great evil - external or internal, our characters have to fight against, no big dream or goal they are out to accomplish, there is no tension, no pressure on the characters. It's a slice of life show to the core. And it delivers.

The series has a calm atmosphere, complimented by serene, beautiful background art and soft loveable characters. The enjoyment comes not from eccentric over the top actions of the characters (as you'd expect from a typical slice of life show) but from subtle things like a child's reaction to seeing magic for the first time (like the fact that the witch can talk to her cat), or how the world of magic and witches is introduced to the audience. It's the kind of show you'll watch to unwind and relax, not to get a rush of adrenaline. So be mindful of your current mood if you do decide to watch this and you'll have a great time.

#5[Tie] : Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

Studio : Silver Link
Genre : Slice of Life, Comedy, School
Episodes : 12

Me : "Hey, these two shows aired in the same season and belong to the same genre of SoL. Which one should we put on the list?"
Other me :"I don't know, which one's better?"
Me : "For that we'll have have to analyse both of these shows and based on factors like humour, direction, animation, execution of the jokes and overall character development, decide, which one is objectively a better show."
Other me : *Yawning* "Just put 'em both on the list!"
Me : "Wow! You're a genius man."
Aaaaaaaaaand, here we are.

Actually, Tanaka-kun is always listless is a delightful show. You have your lazy main character who has mastered the art of listlessness to the point that he can erase his presence. Not only that, the people around him are a peculiar bunch. Coupled with your everyday situations, this mix turns into a pleasant experience. Now, I'm generalising here but what Tanaka-kun does is it gives each of it's side characters a quirk that doesn't fit with their character at all, hence, turning them into characters "who aren't what they seem like". The most common overused example of this is the tsundere. But here this "method" isn't applied with a romantic interest in mind. For example, you have Miyano. A petite vivacious girl, who is always active, motivated and full of energy. But she gets fascinated by Tanaka's way of listlessness and decides to become his apprentice so that she can master it herself.
Or take Ohta - a tall, well built guy who looks nothing short of a delinquent (to the rest of the people in the show, I don't see it). But he is actually a pretty nice guy with a sweet tooth.

And here's the thing, it's not just Tanaka's listlessness and the side characters' peculiar personality which drives the show, the characters also share interesting relationships with each other and it contributes plenty towards the show's overall entertainment quota. The downside is that as the show progresses into the latter part, it's initial charm falls off. Not because it gets boring, but because the show starts to lean towards the romance aspect (trust me, it's not as bad as it sounds). Either way, the show is a notable addition to the genre, just like the other show it shares this #5 spot with.

#4 : Mob Psycho 100

Studio : Bones
Genre : Action, Slice of Life, Comedy, Supernatural
Episodes : 12

How does a show about a grade-schooler with super powers get on the #4 spot? What is so good about main characters with no drive, who only do something when they're "triggered"?
Well, if you think about it, that is unusual. But Mob Psycho 100 isn't about our main character trying to find motivation in life. Or how to utilise these awesome superpowers he was born with. It's more about how to deal with... life. I know that makes it sound like it's something grandiose, but it's not like that. Our main character isn't like your typical cool grade school kid who sits by the window seat in the corner and has all the pretty girls falling for him for no reason. He's socially awkward, has trouble making conversation, doesn't know what he wants most of the time, isn't good at sports or studying, and he's always dazed. On top of all that, he has these psychic powers that he can't fully control and doesn't know how to deal with them. He has grown up, watching people around him, with no super powers, lead perfectly fine, happy, ordinary lives. And that's what he wants. So, the conclusion he's arrived at is that psychic powers are completely unnecessary to live a life.

Now, there's a lot to look into if you sit down and analyse every bit of this show's aspects. Like the duality between the Kageyama brothers, how the show has cliches like the evil organisation but calls them out as "a group of children who never grew up", Mob's emotional outbursts and all the jokes and satire. But if you don't want to pick this show apart and just want to have fun, then you can do that too. There's tons of well-animated action, albeit, it's not your everyday animation with smooth contours and "beauty", it's a bit messy. But it's good. And there's some nice comedy with some of that second hand embarrassment that we all love.
Point is, this show is on #4 because I said so. That's all.

#3 : Saiki Kusou no Psi-nan

Studio : J.C. Staff & EGG FIRM
Genre : Comedy, Supernatural, School, Shounen
Episodes : 120 [5 min per episode]. 24 if you count them as 20 min compilations.

Being born with psychic powers sucks.
The reason we think that psychic powers are so amazing is because there are a lot of things we ordinary humans can't do. So, it's only fair to think that for a human to be able to do impossible superhuman feats would make their life awesome. In the case of someone obtaining superpowers, maybe yes. But being born with psychic powers means living a different kind of hell. Because when you're born with superpowers, the whole context of "I can't do something" disappears, and all the superhuman feats are just natural for you. And as you grow up, you realise how much of a pain those powers are. There is no sense of achievement because everything is a piece of cake. No surprises for you since you can see everything coming. You have to control your strength so you don't accidentally obliterate everything in a 10 kilometer radius. And if people find out about your powers, they won't stop nagging you for favours.

Saiki Kusou no Psi-nan is about a guy who is in a similar situation. Saiki Kusou was born with every imaginable psychic power - superhuman strength, psychokinesis, pyrokinesis, mind reading, telepathy, teleportation, power to change the very DNA make up of humanity, you name it, he's probably got it. He just wants to live a peaceful life and eat coffee jello everyday. But sadly, he is the main character of the show, so, life ain't easy for him.
The kind of comedy this show has, is the type of comedy I love. It consists of short, absurd gags filled with snarky remarks, references, fourth wall breaking and sarcasm. The characters are just the most ridiculous whackos you'll ever see and their interactions are just hilarious. Instead of talking more about how good this show is, let me put it this way :
The only reason KonoSuba is #2 on this list is because it was a much needed parody of the "trapped in a fantasy world" setting. And it did a good job. If it wasn't for that, this show would be my comedy of the year. No, wait, it is.

#2 : Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!

Studio : Studio Deen
Genre : Adventure, Comedy, Supernatural, Fantasy
Episodes : 10

The fascinating thing about comedy is that you can never quite explain why it's funny. It just is. If you've ever tried explaining a joke to someone then you know what I'm talking about. You can pick apart the whole thing and analyse how the joke is put together, how it's structured with a premise, how it draws you in and then how well it utilises the element of surprise to get that laugh out of you, but if you do that, you'll just end up killing the joke. Besides, the whole point of the joke is to make you laugh, and if you did laugh, there's no need to probe further and you move on. And even if you didn't laugh, you move on anyway. There's no point in trying to criticise a joke for not being funny.

Point is, KonoSuba is funny, I laughed a lot while watching it, and I said all that above because I don't want to explain why. I could tell you all about the whacky characters and how the show does an excellent job parodying the "trapped in a fantasy world" setting, but your experience with the show will depend largely on your sense of humour. Also, telling you about the characters sort of spoils the funny bits. So, just go watch the show. If you laugh, good. If you don't, don't force yourself to watch the whole thing, just move on.

#1 : Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Studio : Studio Deen
Genre : Drama, Historical, Josei
Episodes : 13

*Drumroll.....* Yay! Here we are, Anime of the Year.
I guess that whole drum-roll thing doesn't work when you write it. Not to mention, "Anime of the Year" just sounds.... lame.
Anyways, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is #1 on this list for obvious reasons. One, it was about a profession I didn't know anything of. Two, it had really interesting characters which developed throughout the show; and we saw the influence of not just Rakugo in their life but of other factors as well (take love for example). Three, the presentation was brilliant. And last but not the least because I said s- oh, I've already used that one.

This is a slow paced show about two people involved in the traditional Japanese 'art' (add an internal *ugh* as you read that word) of storytelling called Rakugo, where a guy sits in front of the audience and 'performs' a story. It's about how those two got into Rakugo, the difficulties and challenges they had to face to become a better performer, their relationship with each other, their personal lives - everything your everyday guy in that era would go through.

So, then, what's the big deal?
It's not. Yes, the show is different, an outlier, and it is put together well, and on your average scale, whatever that is, the show performs well above the threshold. But, in the end, it's a show about a guy 'performing' a story. Not everyone is going to go bonkers over something like that. And even in the show, the guy performs in a small theatre which isn't bursting with people (at least most of the time). Point is, the show is going to be boring for a lot of people. So, if you don't enjoy it, it's okay. Just remember, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder (whatever that means).

Honorable Mention : Yuri on Ice!!!

Studio : MAPPA
Genre : Comedy, Sports
Episodes : 12

Ah! This show.
If you've read my first reaction/review then you already know how I feel about this show. I thought this anime was gonna show me the beautiful world of ice skating - from everything that goes on in there to why the skaters love it so much (each with their own reasons). But what I got was something entirely different.
Since this is supposed to be an honorable mention and not a rant, I'd like to stop and say few words of praise.

Yuri on Ice is a good show.
There. I said it. That'd be all.
Okay, I know that's rude but any kind of praise I give to this show is bound to turn into a rant after a few lines. Because of how badly it screwed up the opportunity it had. It's as if you sent a guy into a cave full of treasure. And he walks out holding a rock saying "Hey look. I found this interesting rock. Almost looks like a penis." I don't know if that makes sense, but that's how I'd describe what I felt. So, my advice is, don't go in expecting a breathtaking show, or something crap. It's not THAT bad, it's just frustrating to see what it did with what it had.

Honorable Mention : ReLife

Studio : TMS Entertainment
Genre : Slice of Life, Romance, School
Episodes : 13

Oh god that smile.
I swear, that is the sole reason I've put this show here.
ReLife is one of those shows where you feel giddy that the main character is going to live his high-school life again, but at the same time it's kinda sad that he doesn't have anything in his present to be happy about. It's got your usual high-school cliches like the slippery stairway where girls trip and fall on our protagonist, and characters with their usual self doubt and guilt over being good or bad at something, characters who don't fit in because they're too awkward and just don't know how to deal with people all in your usual high-school ecosystem with all of it's phenomenon of tests, festivities and whatever. The twist here is that our main character is a 27 year old guy whose outer appearance has been altered to look like he's 17. It's an experience similar to when you replay that super hard level from a video game.

The show has some fun moments that got a good laugh out of me and I find Chizuru's awkwardness adorable. There's also your usual life lessons of treasuring your present and all that, along with adding a little weight to your usual high school stereotypes (take the whole talent and working hard 'argument' for example). The problem is that the show isn't complete and all we got was the setup of sorts - of how our protagonist influenced other people's lives and what we didn't get is how it changed him and what he does with that feeling/lesson to make a difference in his current life. Still, I liked it.

And with that, I wrap up this late-as-usual post. What were your favourite shows from 2016?

Yuri!!! on Ice - First Impression cum Review

Yuri!!! on Ice Review

Studio : MAPPA
Genre : Sports, Romance(?)
Episodes Aired : 10
Status : Not what I was looking for. And I don't mean the "Yuri" part.

Ever since I watched Chihayafuru, I've developed this bad(?) habit of comparing every sports anime to it. Not only that, my philosophical pursuit has changed the way I see any sport/game/work/activity and people involved in it. To me, it is no longer about being the strongest or the best, having a rival, competition, or winning the cup. It's not about self-aggrandising anymore. I no longer get that rush when two destined rivals face each other, or the guy finally wins and gets to the top. It's boring now. What I love to watch is when that person is playing (the sport, or an instrument or their work, whatever it is) because they thoroughly enjoy doing it, when nothing - the rivals, the fame, the attention, winning or losing matters and they just... play. I'm sorry I don't have a better way of explaining this but it is something I've felt and something I love.

So, when I watch a sports anime (or any show with 'passionate' characters), I try to look for that moment. Now, I know that my view on this is subjective and that everyone sees/feels things differently, but characters playing a sport just to claw their way to the top is not appealing to me. I don't mean their motivations, their desire to win or why they started, it is what they do, think and feel when they are playing that matters to me. I don't enjoy a guy/girl saying "I'm going to show/destroy you", "I'll be the best", "Watch me", or "This one's for you" when they play (at least not all the way to the end of the game/performance), I enjoy when they are just completely immersed in that activity and they reach a point where they just don't care about anything except playing (they love it because they can't help it). I guess a short way of saying it is when their ego gets out of the game.

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Now what does Yuri on Ice have to do with this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yuri on Ice isn't the kind of show which will get you interested into Ice Skating, or show you what it's like to have that burning passion & love for a sport or an activity.
It's about a guy named Yuri Katsuki, a young Japanese figure skater. He ranked last in the World Grand Prix due to his consistently inconsistent performances. And now that he has suffered a humiliating defeat, he comes back home disappointed in himself and maybe 40 pounds heavier, thinking whether he should continue his career as an ice skater. So far so good, right? But here's where things get a bit ridiculous. Enter five time world champion and our protagonist's idol, Victor Nikiforov. After watching a video of a fat Yuri doing his routine, he decided to abandon his skating career and fly down to some unknown village in Japan to be Yuri's coach. And from there, the rest of the show is about their relationship with each other (just with each other and not ice skating, in case you were wondering).

How does this dynamic play out?
Well, to begin with, I don't like Yuri Katsuki's character so far. The main reason being the fact that whenever he is skating, the last thing on his mind is... skating. Not only that, his thoughts almost always have something to do with Victor. He's either thinking about 'seducing' (I mean impressing) him, or about what a terrible person he is according to the world because he "stole" Victor from them. The rest is just your everyday fear of failure (something along the lines of learned helplessness).
As for the coach Victor, I like his character (design and "personality"). I like that he isn't all "serious" and "aggressive" when it comes to his role as a coach, rather he is just sincere. He is aware of his shortcomings and incompetence as a fresh coach and he doesn't act like he knows everything. He gives Yuri space to breathe but he is also there when he needs him. As for all the hugs and kisses and "engagements"... no comment.
The secondary cast, doesn't play that big of a role as you'd expect, especially our protagonist's family. There's the cliche "Rival" guy with the "rival tsundere" syndrome, who is always aggressive and pissed towards everyone and not just the protagonist (for no apparent reason). And all the other skaters that show up, fall into your usual tropes.

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Now, I'd be okay with the tropes, the cliches and the lame gags if they didn't mess up the most important part - the skating. There aren't any eye-candy 'sakuga' moments, nothing moves except the skater, shots often don't show the skater's feet, and the resulting lack of motion is compensated by camera movements and erratic zooming, which is off putting and ruins the beauty of the skater's movements. Even if you let that slide in the name of budget restrictions, no one, I mean not one skater thinks/talks about their feelings towards ice skating when they are on the rink. I know they're trying to show us that the emotional state of the skater has an impact on their performance, but everyone seems like they just want to be done with it, trying their best just to get to the end of their performance without failing jumps (or to one up the guy that performed before them).

And it's not just the characters' nature towards the sport, the sport itself isn't presented in a way which would get you deeply interested in it. It never discusses the jumps - the quads, axles, salchows, lutz etc, or break things down for the audience to understand. One might argue that the characters are at the top of their sport, so there's no need to discuss the basics. And they're right, but at the same time, these characters do fail these jumps, and its a regular occurrence. For example, our star Yuri Katsuki can't land a quad from the start of the show. And even after 6-7 episodes of him continuously missing the same thing, the show never discusses it. It never breaks it down, or discusses the mechanics of the movement, or any of the mental cues or even why it is so hard and what the guy needs to work on. Instead the reason we're given is, "Yuri, you tend to flub your jumps when something is on your mind". So it's not an incredible feat of strength and balance which requires a butt-load of hard work, just don't get your panties in a bunch and you'll be fine. How am I suppose to appreciate that?

Yuri Gif 3

And that's my point. After watching 10 episodes of the show, I don't have an appreciation of or for the sport. Because I have no idea what it takes and the show never takes us there. It shows us how important Victor is to Katsuki, how emotional state affects performance, what the requirements are for competing in World Grand Prix, the scoring system and why Yuri should get drunk more often, but we are never shown the magnitude of the hard work which is required to excel at the sport or why the characters love it. Just don't let things get to you and you'll win. Is it really that easy? (Maybe I'm just too conservative when it comes to sports anime)

Anyways, I don't really hate the show, but I don't like it either. While the Yuri-Victor dynamic is the highlight of the show, the way they butchered everything else evens it out. So, should you watch it? Not if you're interested in ice skating (despite the references/homage to real life skaters). But if you're looking for some bromance, you're in for a treat. I guess. Don't quote me on that.

Occultic;Nine - First Impression

Occultic;Nine - First Impression

Studio : A-1 Pictures
Genre : Sci-Fi, Mystery, Supernatural
Episodes Aired : 8
Status : The plot sure is thick here. Watching.

Let's say you want to present a mystery to your audience. Where do you start? How about the usual - The crime scene?
Bodies, lots of dead bodies, floating on water. What happened? Where did they come from? Let's go back to where it all started. How many people are involved? Let's introduce them all in one episode, connect them to a key point, establish some of their characteristics, give hints about the upcoming events, crack a few lame jokes, throw in giant breasts & a cheeky Shiela for fanservice, a bloody scalp with hair for the creeps and finally a murder to act as a cliffhanger (and there's a Sherlock wannabe too). Overwhelmed yet? If not, then there's the forced fast dialogue.

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Occultic;Nine seems like one of those high-school experiments where you have to perform a controlled reaction by slowly adding the chemicals in several steps, but you're out of time, so you just take a big cauldron and pour every chemical in it at once. They react vigorously, producing lots of colors and odors, and as time passes, the mixture turns gooey and smelly but you keep stirring it anyway thinking that in the end it will all come together to produce the desired result. But sadly, it all ends with the professor smacking you on the head giving you an F. If only you had more time.

If you disregard the bad presentation and the giant tits, then underneath those you'll find a good puzzle. I'll give the show credit for how much content it tries to cram into an episode, just to make the game more fun. There are all sorts of clues thrown in every episode and in the opening ending sequences, foreshadowing a part of the upcoming events. And the overall mystery itself seems to be a big puzzle with lots of connected strings. But sadly the show's approach spoils everything for me.

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The biggest sores are the pacing & the dialogue (and the sudden "creative" camera movements). The show has a lot of dialogues and conversations are carried out at a ridiculously fast pace. Now, this isn't a bad thing usually, it's what a lot of shows do. You see, most of the time when characters talk really fast, it's either when they are overwhelmed (panicked, excited, passionate etc) or they know almost everything about the topic and/or the person they are conversing with (think the usual monogatari banter or when someone's stating a fact or explaining their theory). If done well, it acts as a character trait and adds to their personality. But here in Occultic;Nine, every single character talks fast in almost every situation, whether its your everyday chat in a cafe, or about 256 dead people or finding out that you're *spoilers* and your daddy's a *spoilers*. It's as if they've been holding it in for hours and they really need to go to the bathroom (heck, there are scenes where even the pauses are cut).

In short, a huge amount of exposition/dialogue hits you at an overwhelming pace, which somewhat destroys the character dynamics and the mood of the story.
So, why am I still watching this? You see, despite the painful frustrating headache-inducing dialogue, erratic pacing and overwhelming titties, the show is interesting. And as long as the puzzle is interesting, I'll stay for the answer. I'm glad I didn't go into it with high expectations (because of it's relation to Steins;Gate and the references etc), so I don't hate it as much. I appreciate that they are trying to put so much content from the novel, but they just don't have the runtime to execute it properly and it's doing more harm than good to the show.

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So, should you watch this? It depends on how much you like puzzles (mysteries), and how far will you go to find the answer, because, this show will test your patience. As for me, I'll see it through.

P.S. The last one on the list for this season's first impression parade is Yuri on Ice. Let's see what all the hype is about.