Summer Season 2016 Review - Part 1

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Summer, is the season of suffering...[Obligatory Re:Zero joke]
Okay, maybe not. But the heat sure as hell can be annoying. So, to escape from the scorching sun you can either go to the beach and get a tan or if you're like me who lives thousands of kilometres away from the coastline, you can enjoy the comfort of staying at home, lying under the fan, half-naked, with your tongue out like a dog, munching on some ice cream from time to time.

So, while I was busy being sloth reincarnate (okay, that's the last one), I decided to check out the summer anime line-up, and oh my! So many hopes and dreams were right before my eyes, in the form of posters and promotional videos. Mafias, time-travellers, veteran cooks, amateur cooks, divers, exorcists, espers, wannabe kings, wannabe baseball players, otakus; and Handa - Sounds like one hell of a party doesn't it? Let's find out. Starting with Studio Shuka's mafia drama, 91 days.

91 Days

Studio : Shuka
Genre : Drama, Crime
Episodes Watched : 7
Status : Watching

The whole genre of Mafia dramas is something that is alien to anime. It's not that there haven't been any anime which focus on the mafia, it's just that these kind of settings (the serious kind) heavily depend on the character's expressions and the subtle mannerisms of the characters (Now that's just my opinion). How the head of the family, the Don, carries himself, the environment his presence creates and the pressure a subtle change in his expression generates (not to mention the direction); there are things that are best expressed by a human actor playing the role. And while the anime medium is really good at expressing a lot of things, I feel that this is an area where it lacks severely. Still, they gotta start somewhere, right?

So, Studio Shuka brings us 91 Days. A mafia drama setup in the prohibition era, featuring the three families - the Orco, the Vanetti and the Glassasians. The first two are at war with each other while the latter one intervenes to stop the feud. And amongst all the chaos, our main protagonist is out to exact revenge on the Vanettis for killing his family. And the story follows him as he worms his way into the company of Nero Vanetti - the son of Don Vanetti, and cleverly manipulates him to get close to his goal of annihilating the Vanetti family.

Since revenge stories are the norm for mafia dramas, I don't see anything special worth mentioning here. Besides the main character, and the ruthless way he carries out his plans, the other characters haven't left much of an impression. Nero is just getting thrown around all over the place like a ping pong ball, Fango is just crazy for the sake of being crazy, the Dons of both the families seem more like corporate VPs than Dons, protagonist's friend seems like he is just going to be bait later on, and there is no female character for any romance angle (which is a good thing... maybe?). The tone is serious, accompanied by the dull washed out vintage look thanks to the animation, which builds up a nice atmosphere. There are no unnecessary comedy skits or any funny faces. And the characters' wardrobe suit the show and the era it's setup in. But all things considered, it's far from being extraordinary.

Still, the show isn't a bad watch. Sure, if you're expecting a Hollywood level experience, then this would be utterly disappointing. But from an anime only perspective, this is something you should be a able to stomach.

Amaama to Inazuma

Studio : TMS Entertainment
Genre : Comedy, Seinen, Slice of Life
Episodes : 7
Status : Watching

“The soul is healed by being with children.”
This quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky pretty much sums up what this show is about. At least, what it's trying to show us (in my opinion).
After losing his wife, high-school teacher Inuzuka Kouhei is trying his best to bring up his little daughter. With the absence of the mother, "What's for dinner?" is now a dreadful question as daddy doesn't know the first thing about cooking. But as any other brave man, he tries, and fails miserably. So, in the end, packaged meals from the convenience store save the day. But, how long does a child last on those meals before they go from "this" good to "maybe this" good? Fortunately, Kohei meets a high-school student from his school, who invites him and his daughter Tsumugi to her family restaurant. After a moment of hesitation; motivated by the desire to provide his daughter with some good home-cooked meals (and to bond with her), Kohei takes up the offer. But, instead of walking in and ordering, the father-daughter duo ends up in a situation where they have to cook their meals. And from there on out, the duo, with the student Iida Kotori, often get together to enjoy the act of cooking.

Now, while this setting sounds terrific, there is a big hurdle that comes with a child as a protagonist. Depicting children is never easy, you can't project calculated fantasies and mindsets onto them. Not to mention their wacky activities and the amusing things they often say.
For the most part, Amaama to Inazuma has done a splendid job with their child protagonist. Tsumugi is quite the adorable ball of cuteness. And since they got an 11 year old to voice her, she seems even more like a real kid. That being said, the next hard part is to fit her into the cooking activity. "Kitchen and children don't mix", would be one way of putting it (if it makes any sense). I mean, no parent would allow their child in the vicinity of sharp objects, not to mention the flames, boiling liquids splattering everywhere and a multitude of other potential hazards associated with cooking. And even if you do get them in there, what does a child understand about the complexities that go into the art of making delicious food? In the end, you can maybe get her to roll the dough, or do the fillings, or some other mundane task. And there lies the problem. It gets old pretty fast. While all the other activities involving Tsumugi are nothing short of delightful, when it comes to cooking with her father, the show gets boring after episode 4. I'll say it again, everything else is lovely and I immensely enjoy Tsumugi playing out her fantasies, or learning how to make friends or whatnot, but the cooking part is a little underwhelming.

Now, that does not mean that you shouldn't watch this show. Even if you are very sceptical about this kind of setting, I'll still urge you to give this a shot. It's not extraordinary, but it's not everyday that you get to see such an adorable character.

Amanchu!

Studio : J.C. Staff
Genre : Comedy, School, Slice of Life
Episodes : 8
Status : Watching

J.C. Staff, doing a slice of life, about scuba diving, setup in a coast-town. Sounds like a treat, right?
After their superb performance last season (in Flying Witch), J.C. Staff decided to take things to the next level with Amanchu! Created by Kozue Amano (the same guy who created Aria), with Kenichi Kasai (Director of Bakuman, Hachimitsu to Clover, Nodame Cantabile, etc.) and Junichi Satou (Director of Tamayura, Princess Tutu, Aria, etc.) in charge of directing, the studio is pouring a lot of resources into this one (I think so..?). Then, where's the popularity? Why isn't everyone talking about this?

Amanchu! is a story about a girl who moves into a coast town from the city, where she finds one heck of an eccentric oddball as a friend, who drags her around and gets her interested into scuba diving. And so, with the start of their first year of high school, they join the diving club and our main character starts her journey to become a professional scuba diver, so she could go diving with her buddy. It's a simple concept, and it works, in theory.
The first few episodes of the show are little slow and thanks to the rather unusual funny faces of the characters, it takes a while for you to get used to it. On top of that, the oddball Pikari's eccentricity can be little too much. Not only does she do "Whoop!" way too much, her funny face can be straight up creepy sometimes. Thankfully, with the introduction of three more characters later on, the show picks up momentum and starts getting better.

The animation quality of the show is superb, with everything looking nice and bright and pristine. The character designs are something that I prefer (they have the similar tall slender build from Aria). Also, there is no in-your-face fanservice, there are no giant boobies dangling in front you, everything is kept PG as far as I know. And most importantly, it's fun to watch. Even though I wasn't sold after watching the first 3-4 episodes, I'm glad I kept watching because the show grew on me slowly. There are some good moments in the show, some genuinely hilarious situations and in the recent episodes, we also get other characters' point of view and their monologues. Heck, even Pikari isn't so creepy anymore.
So, if you love slice of life, superb production quality and you don't mind a largely female cast, this show is for you.

Arslan Senki

Studio : LIDENFILMS
Genre : Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Historical, Supernatural
Episodes : 8
Status : Done

"I have an army."
"We have a Daryun."
Continuing it's physics defying stunts from last season, Arslan Senki enters into season two with our fabulous "Denka!!" moving forward in his journey and encountering some unexpected circumstances. The story continues with Arslan and company stationed at the Peshawar Fortress, where they are suddenly assaulted by the Turan Kingdom. After preventing that assault, they are barely able to catch their breath before an even bigger problem comes knocking on their door. Once again, Arslan must set out with his brigade and gather an army to take back his kingdom. On the other hand, in the Lusitanian camp, a different kind of trouble is brewing, in the form of inner conflict and a power struggle. Not to mention, our "Silver Mask" Hermes has finally kick-started his own agenda into full gear. Now, where does it all lead to?

While reading the announcement that Arslan Senki was getting another season, I was pretty excited, but after they made it clear that it was only gonna have 8 episodes, those expectations changed drastically. Given where the story ended in season one, mere 8 episodes weren't enough to wrap it up, and it seems like Lidenfilms made the right call here. The main focus isn't on the main story. I don't mean this is just one long OVA, the main story (regarding the status of the Pars Kingdom) does move forward, it's just that Arslan and company "have to" take a detour and fight the pirates in a coast town, which lasts for a majority of those 8 episodes. So, if you were looking for a face-off between Daryun and Hermes or Pars vs Lusitania, you'll be disappointed.

Now, that doesn't mean that these 8 episodes are bad. They do offer something. Arslan seems to be slowly growing out of his naivete and moving towards maturity. On the other hand, we see a side to Hermes which pushes his character outside the "mad dog out for revenge" stereotype (though he's as angry as ever). Also, Etoile is now pushed pretty close to Arslan *eyebrow raise*.
Point is, the show is still interesting, though I think it would be fair to say that it's a downgrade from season one in terms of the content of the story. And to top that, it ends on a cliffhanger, with no guarantee that we'll be seeing a season three. So, if you're looking to get into the Aslan Senki 'series', I'd tell you that this isn't the best time to do that, unless you are dying to see a medieval era war setup.

Fukigen na Mononokean

Studio : Pierrot Plus
Genre : Comedy, Supernatural
Episodes : 9
Status : Watching

Ghosts, youkai, and the supernatural. There are multiple ways of approaching a setting involving them, and anime, mostly tends to be on the lighter side. Often presenting the youkai as an existence that is a part of the huge circle of life. Next, you have a character that can interact with the youkai and already has or grows the feelings of compassion and love towards them. He then goes on to help people who are 'troubled' by those youkai and helps the youkai pass on to the underworld (basically, exorcism, but without any of the scary bits). Our character grows in this process, learning tiny life lessons with every encounter and the show usually goes on like this with an episodic format. Several characters make occasional appearances, or maybe a youkai sticks around till the end as either a mascot or a teacher.
If you are familiar with the above formula, and it is something that you fancy, then Fukigen na Mononokean would be a nice little treat for you. And if you're not. Well, read on(?).

So, on the evening before the start of high-school, our main character Ashiya, encounters a strage white creature on his way home. Thinking that it is a lost stuffed animal, he picks it up, puts it in a plastic bag and ties it to a pole on the side of the road. Just as he was about to leave, the creature comes to life and laches onto his back. And that starts a whole slew of problems for Ashiya. He feels drained, nauseated, dizzy and pained with a pulsing headache. So much so, that he couldn't even make it to the school gates on his first day. This goes on for a week after which he ends up consulting a "Mononokean" who is looking for exorcists. And from here on out, he gets involved into the world of supernatural and gets "hired" by the Mononokean's owner as an assistant.

That's basically your first episode, and from there it's more or less an episodic/youkai of the week scenario. There's no overarching plot as of now (though there are a few interesting facts which point towards one). The relationship between Ashiya and Abeno is interesting, though I must say that not every youkai scenario is likeable. Some of them do come off as boring and uninteresting (maybe it's the cultural gap). What I'm interested in, is the Underworld. I think they presented it in an interesting way (with the artstyle and everything) and I would like to see more of it.
My recommendation for this, is a maybe. I don't hate this show but I won't give it a definitive "good" either. At least not yet. So, I'd say check out a couple episodes to see if it's your thing.

Handa-kun

Studio : Diomedea
Genre : Comedy, Shounen, Slice of Life
Episodes : 9
Status : Watching

Misunderstandings, could be a pain to deal with. Especially when they don't work in your favor. Comedy gags involving misunderstandings are a recurring event in most comedy harem anime. Generally, the extent of those misunderstandings is kept to a minimum. But, what happens when you have a whole show centred around nothing but misunderstandings? How far can you push it before it loses it's flair and you start breaking your characters?
Handa-kun features the high school life of Seishuu Handa, the protagonist of the famous slice of life anime Barakamon. Reading that name, you might be wondering if this is going to have similar themes. But sadly, the protagonists' name is the only thing that's common here. Handa-kun has absolutely nothing to do with Barakamon.

For a moment, let us consider that Barakamon never existed. Now, with that perspective, the show Handa-kun is about a high school student and an aspiring calligrapher Seishuu Handa, who, is vastly misunderstood by everyone at school (except a couple or so people). While Handa might just be your ordinary high school guy with a passion for calligraphy, everyone else believes that he is this great benevolent wise cool "man" who has graced them with his presence (basically they think he's Sakamoto). On the other hand, Handa believes that the whole school hates him and all of their acts of praise/worship look like bullying to him. So, the gag goes like this : Something happens, Handa reacts according to his perspective (that everyone hates him), and then that reaction is misinterpreted by everyone else in a way that ends up putting Handa on a pedestal. And at the end of every gag, usually more and more fanboys/fangirls get added into the Handa fandom. While poor Handa remains lonely and scared.

The thing with the gags in Handa-kun is that they are just your usual hit or miss type. Nothing that will get you rolling over the floor with laughter, but there are some which might get a good chuckle out of you, while the rest will just be "meh" and will leave you feeling sorry for Handa. That's about all there is to it.
So, I'd say you should check out at least 3 or 4 episodes to see if this kind of comedy is your thing. Also, don't be fooled by the weird first segment of the first episode, just skip the whole diomedea handa-force anime stuff at the beginning. Only Gintama can pull off something like that.
And with that, I end part 1 of this Summer Season 2016 First Impression cum Review post here. I wasn't planning on being this late but life just kinda happened and I had to devote my time elsewhere. Not to mention, this time I'm doing a total of 18 shows. That's the most I've ever done for a first impression. Anyways, part 2 is going to cover Alderamin on the Sky, Battery, Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga aru, Mob Psycho 100, New Game and Orange. So, look forward to it. And lastly, thank you for reading this post.

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