A Look at 10 Non-Sequel Anime from Summer 2017

A look at 10 Non-Sequel Anime from Summer 2017
This lovely crossover fanart is by Pixiv ID 6645145

Summer 2017, what many people labelled as the weakest season of the year. While I agree with that statement to a certain extent, the season wasn't that bad when you consider the non-sequels (fairly average, but not bad). Everybody is already aware of Made in Abyss' success as it is comfortably sitting on the top charts everywhere. But there were some shows that were worth looking into. Most of them were under-watched because they were experimental with their premise and the payoff wasn't that great. An excellent example would be studio Gonzo's 18if, which experimented with it's unique premise by switching directors and sometimes artstyle every other episode. A commendable effort, though it fell apart towards the end because of the writing. On the other hand, Mahoujin Guruguru's remake by Production I.G. went (or is being) heavily under-watched because of the promotional art. People thought it was an innocent show for little kids. Well, it's not. In fact, it is a great show.

In this post, I'll be taking a look at some of the non-sequel anime from Summer 2017 and sharing my thoughts on them — whether or not I recommend them, what they did right, what went wrong, the usual stuff. So, let us start with studio Gonzo's 18if, a brave feat and a noteworthy experiment, which, sadly couldn't achieve what it set out to do.

18if
Episodes : 13
Studio : Gonzo
Genre : Mystery, Supernatural

Watching 18if is like having a bizarre dream - you're in a strange place, with no idea about what is going on but weird interesting things keep happening one after the other, the scenery changes wildly with every passing minute and then you wake up - with a strange sensation and barely any recollection of what happened.

So a guy wakes up in a dream world with a strange scenery. He opens his cellphone and a woman pops her head right out of it. She tries to drag him into the phone but is stopped when another girl intervenes. Our main character then follows her through a yellow door which ends up on a cliff where he is eaten alive by what appears to be a giant alligator monster. Cut to black and now we're back in the same room except this time, there is a strange red door there. Enter and you find yourself walking on space. The girl from before is hanging upside down telling you how you were interrupted earlier. You look back and the door vanishes into thin air. "Hey! The door is gone!" but there is no one to answer the question. The girl is gone too. And now a herd of sheep (yes, sheep) is charging at you. Just what the heck is going on?
I apologize for the long introduction but if I were to tell you that the story is about a guy saving some girls from their dream worlds, it wouldn't paint such a picture. At least the one I'm aiming for.

Anyway, when you consider the premise - a guy venturing into different dreams, the decision of having a different director for every episode sounds excellent. Each director will bring their own unique vision to the table making the transition feel more, let's say, organic. And it certainly works well for the show. The problem, however, is the content of those dreams. It is often, really weak, and doesn't evoke strong emotions. It covers a wide variety of themes, with every episode focusing on an individual issue, but it can't fully expand upon them because the theme changes after the episode is over. Not to mention the sometimes jarring animation quality. But I will hand it to them, they did a good job with what they had (episode 7 is a good example). It is difficult to portray something so abstract and vivid as a dream in moving pictures.

But in spite of all these praiseworthy imaginative ideas, I would describe the final impression of the show as satisfactorily dull. It had some moments of brilliance and it was an excellent experiment to watch, but it wasn't successful. And that's what my recommendation is, that if you are going to watch it, remember, that it is an experiment. Not very helpful as a recommendation maybe, but I think that's what suits it best.

Aho girl
Episodes : 12
Studio : Diomedea
Genre : Comedy, Romance, School, Shounen

Stupid girl doing stupid things.

Recently, I've noticed how it's becoming more and more normal for anime characters to do absolutely ridiculous things. Powerups, shouting attack names and a weird running pose are fine because it's normal given the context (well somewhat normal), but the medium just loves to push the limits of absurdity. For example, the whole little sister routine has gone way out of hand lately. But hey, we've had some good results out of all those nonsensical experiments.
So, this time, the experiment is about a stupid girl, a true master of the art of stupidity, a girl so stupid that if you were to tell her "Oh look, there's a flying banana!" 50 times in a row, she would fall for it, every single time. The rest of the cast has their hands full trying to deal with her antics. But she can be so over the top that the male lead has to often use violence to stop her.

While some of the gags in this show are quite funny, and I liked that they made the opening into little skits, it suffers from one big flaw in the character department. If you remove Yoshiko from the equation, the rest of the cast is fairly dull without any remarkable distinguishing quirks. They are not memorable and their purpose is mostly to explain her actions or be dragged along with them (an example of quirky support cast would be the last year's Saiki Kusou no Sai-nan. Every one of those whackos were amusing on their own). Not to mention, there are times when Yoshiko's stupidy can get on your nerves instead of making you laugh.

In short, this was fairly average if I were to judge it with my standards of a good comedy. But then again, it's my, somewhat twisted, sense of humour. So, give it a shot. Three episodes should give you a good idea.

Ballroom e Youkoso
Episodes I've watched : 13
Studio : Production I.G.
Genre : Comedy, Sports, Drama, Romance, School, Shounen

A show about everything related to ballroom dancing... except the dancing part.

An anime about dancing. When I saw the title for the show on the upcoming charts, I was quite excited. I love these kind of shows that give us a perspective on these "professions" from the inside. But Production I.G.'s take on ballroom dancing is so close to the actual thing and yet so disconnected that it is disappointing and often, borderline frustrating.

Now, I'm going to start with some "nonsensical" and "ridiculous" statements to make my point so please bear with me here. Ready? First — dancing is not a sport. At least, not in the context of how the anime medium looks at sports. There are no clear cut rules for winning - nobody is rushing to the finish line or trying to get the ball across the court. The opponents in dancing don't interact directly, because even if the stage is same, both parties aren't necessarily playing the same game. On top of which, the winning conditions are rather abstract and the judgement is fairly subjective. My point is, an anime about dancing should not be given the same treatment as a sports anime. Because if you do, and try to focus on certain "important" parts, the whole presentation would fall apart. How does that happen in Ballroom? The answer to that is my second point.

Which is this — the most important part and the whole point of dancing, is the dance. To let it sink in further, I'm going to take the example of music, since dancing and music are nearly inseparable. Plus it makes it easier to explain. Suppose I asked you to listen to a musical composition, but I only let you hear bits and pieces from the whole thing because those are best parts. Or just the end, because the finale matters the most. What would you enjoy more - the whole musical piece or just some bits and pieces or just one crashing chord at the end?

Ballroom e Youkoso is exactly like that, listening to bits and pieces of music rather than the whole thing. You can use such techniques if the show is about music — have some stills rotate on screen as the music keeps playing with carefully placed small comments in between (for example, Nodame Cantabile). It works because the main point — the music, is still there. In ballroom however, it does not. And that is why it is disappointing.

But that's not why it hurts so much, my gripe here is that Ballroom does so many things right, that for them to get the dance part "wrong", is just frustrating (I don't mean wrong technically, but the above issue). They have done an excellent job at portraying the emotions of the characters, the tension before the dance, the excitement during the heat and the payout afterwards, with excellent use of music and metaphors. They even have some excellent, well animated scenes here and there. And yet, and yet, and yet, you have scenes where a character points out faulty footwork in a dance, but the camera never goes near their foot. Close ups after close ups, with detailed shots of Tatara's smiling face but the act that is making him so happy, that he is immersing himself in, is nowhere to be found. Just a slide-show of stills with the occasional speed lines thrown in on top of some exposition. And so I can't feel it, I can't relate to his emotions at all. I feel like a blind guy in the ballroom who can only listen to how great the dance was.
Recommendation is a yes by the way.

Isekai Shokudou
Episodes : 12
Studio : Silver Link.
Genre : Mystery, Comedy, Fantasy

Restaurant to Another World. The title here perfectly describes the show.

So there's this guy who got reincarnated as a restaura— actually, Isekai Shokudou is about a restaurant whose door appears in different places in a fantasy world every seven days and beings of all shapes, sizes and races enter it to sit down and enjoy delicious meals.

For a simple food show, it puts a surprising amount of effort in building this fantasy world on the other side of the door — how interconnected it is, and how the appearance of the restaurant impacts the beings living in that specific area. The races compose of pretty much every fantasy race you can find - dragons, demons, beast men, humans, elves, half-elves, sirens, mermaids, dwarfs, fairies, etc, and with some suspension of disbelief at your side, you will come to enjoy the dynamic the show creates among all these races.

Furthermore, the narrative does not center itself on the quality of the food or the foodgasms (so it is nothing like Shokugeki no Souma), but instead focuses on the circumstances and the lifestyle of the person before they walk into the restaurant and how this encounter changes them. There is no one best selling dish either. Every character has their own reason for liking a particular dish and over time it has become an important part of their life. So, while there is no overarching story to keep you hooked from start to finish, you have these short moments of wonder as a small story wraps itself every episode.

I feel that the tags for this series on MAL are not justified. Firstly, it is missing a slice of life tag, and secondly, the comedy tag is also a bit of a stretch as the humour in this series is quite stale and not a focal point. My recommendation here is that this show is not for everyone. It does not have a main story, it follows the same formula for every episode and the main characters barely get any development by the end of the series. But the show delivers exactly what it promises — small stories about people, how they stumbled upon this restaurant and how they keep coming back for more.

Kakegurui
Episodes : 12
Studio : MAPPA
Genre : Game, Mystery, Psychological, Drama, School, Shounen

Initially, before the show aired, I had three reasons to watch Kakegurui —
1. It was about gambling.
2. It was being animated by MAPPA.
3. It had Miyuki Sawashiro & Saori Hayami as VAs.

Now, when I think about the reasons why I should recommend this, only reason #3 comes to mind.

So you have a high school which basically serves as a gambling den for rich kids. Everything is decided by gambling, and it even has a pecking order. A new student rolls in and disrupts the entire student hierarchy with her "amazing" gambling skills. Eventually, the student council steps in and several of its members "play" with her one after the other in order to put a stop to her madness.

The show seems to be centered around this idea of "madness" in gambling. It often points to humanity's irrational nature, it's attachment to taking risks and how humans madly pursue the dangerous in order to get that thrill. And it reflects that in it's setting. To begin with, the whole idea of a gambling school is ridiculous as the habit is usually frowned upon by society in general. Then you have the complete lack of supervising adults and moreover, the students can do whatever they want (like bringing in and using firearms for starters) and are basically treating the lowest members of the hierarchy like livestock. Millions and even billions are being put at stakes making it look like they're using pretend currency. Almost everybody cheats. And yet, they all keep on playing. Basically, the show has "madness" oozing out of its every orifice. So, why doesn't it work?

I see people bringing up Kaiji when they talk about how Kakegurui failed but I think those two shows are quite different from each other. Kaiji was much more focused on survival, the protagonist was forced into situations where he had to win. And that made his struggle, the thrill and the suspense much more enjoyable. Kakegurui, on the other hand, I think, is more about the madness associated with gambling rather than gambling itself. Our main protagonist, Yumeko, wasn't forced into this setting, she came here by choice, because she is mad, mad about gambling and addicted to the thrill associated with it. She loses sight of everything once she smells it. And she would do absolutely anything to get the next high. Not to mention how every other character seems to be sprinkled with various degrees of "madness" as well (and ooh the faces).

I suspect that the series wanted to aim for something close to an "organised chaos" - where everything, from the setting to the characters and the games looked like a mess at first but the characters knew what they were doing. Instead, it ended up as a mess because the games weren't executed properly (e.g, they always explained how Yumeko won after the game was over), the exposition painted Yumeko as a super hack, and the characters had a bit too much "madness" sprinkled in them. I accepted Yumeko as a completely insane person at the start (props to Saori Hayami for the voice acting) so her nonchalant behaviour in the face of high stakes didn't bother me, but the games really screwed up her character. The show had the madness factor going for it, but it failed on other important fronts. I can go ahead and keep adding complaints to this but I think I will wrap it up with this — Kakegurui is full of "madness", but it is just that, it does not strive to achieve something beyond it. It certainly could have, but it didn't.
And so my recommendation is that you check out a couple episodes first if you are interested. And please do note that this is not the same as Kaiji - Ultimate Survivor.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu
Episodes : 13
Studio : ufotable
Genre : Action, Samurai, Fantasy

Man, ufotable really needs to stop adapting video games titles.

First it was God Eater, then we had two seasons of Tales of Zestiria the X. While the former was a complete mess, the latter was, in many ways, somewhat tolerable and sometimes even commendable. And so this season, we have Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu — a show about animated, famous Japanese swords who travel back and forth in time to stop an army of goons from changing history.

The biggest problem with Touken Ranbu is that it never expands its story beyond that single sentence. From start to finish, it is just some stylish handsome men fighting a vague enemy over and over and over. The motives of the enemies — the Time Retrograde Army, are never explained, we don't know why they are doing it, what their ideals & values are, what triggered the event or why our heroes are trying to stop it. It makes them look like a very plastic, apathetic enemy. So you have characters who are constantly telling us that protecting history is the paramount concern, but the people who are trying to change it come off as pre-programmed bots or dummies. They could have at least given us something, something that could justify their pursuit in some way — either twisted or reasonable. But there is absolutely nothing for me root for. The only thing this show has going for it (besides ufotable's superb animation), is that it presents it's main characters with an interesting yet cruel moral dilemma (the details for which are in spoiler territory).

I think a significant amount of entertainment was hindered by my lack of information on Japanese history. Since the setting of the show involves key incidents and personalities from Japanese history, a good chunk of the sense of urgency and wonder was lost on me. And while the character designs are quite interesting, the premise doesn't provide them with much room for growth. I guess if I knew about the swords and their masters beforehand, I'd have a better understanding of their nature as the animated swords take after their masters. But even if we exclude the historical aspect, the show does not have anything to chew on. The action is great to look at, but that's it.

So, I'll be concluding this section with this analogy — Touken Ranbu is like an incredibly good looking dish. It looks absolutely delicious and appetizing. But when you take a bite, you realise that it has no taste at all. You might as well be chewing on cardboard.

Episodes I've Watched : 13
Studio : Production I.G.
Genre : Adventure, Comedy, Magic, Fantasy, Shounen

An RPG parody with Chibi-ish art style that oozes innocence. Doesn't look like much does it?
Wrong. This right here is a comedy gold mine.

So the evil Demon King has awakened from his long slumber and now the world is in dire need of a hero. The King of Ainshent has summoned all the Hero candidates promising a huge reward to whoever gets the job done. News of this reaches Boering Village — yes, you read it right, its called "boering", on how starting towns in RPGs are always boring, wait, why am I explaining a joke here. Anyway, the news reaches the village and now our young Hero's family is all excited to ship him to the frontline. Heck, they even prepared a giant bloody slingshot which they do use to launch our reluctant Hero across the forest. And it gets crazier from there.

Mahoujin Guruguru isn't your average parody show with random referential humour thrown on top of a sloppy story. It is much more than that. It has an innocent charm to it, thanks to the artstyle, and it makes full use of it for gags, light hearted & cute moments. It cleverly weaves it's story underneath the humour and regularly introduces interesting quirky characters while keeping the plot moving. It has solid animation quality, by which I mean how there is so much movement in this show, all of which is fluidly animated. And above all else, it has that most essential element that every good comedy has — it makes you laugh. While the majority of the humour revolves around the nuances of old RPGs, it is not an absolute requirement as it is not blocked by any cultural gaps (it would certainly help if you were acquainted with the general fantasy RPG lore). The jokes are mostly original, on point and the delivery is amazing.

Without going much into the details as that could potentially spoil stuff, I would tell you to just go and enjoy the show. It is sad that this show went so underwatched even when you had people complaining about a dry season. But that's just how it is sometimes.

Princess Principal
Episodes : 12
Studio : 3Hz & Actas Inc.
Genre : Action, Mystery

An ambitious work which, sadly, fell short because it couldn't carry it's momentum to the very end.

As I've said before on several occasions — "The thing about original anime is, you never know what you're gonna get. There's no source material to give you a heads up. And since the studio and it's staff are in control of things, the director can freely present their perspective." While that mostly works in their favor, original anime rarely get to enjoy the luxury of having sequels. They have to wrap up their story in the time they have and that could sometimes force them rush things. Princess Principal suffers from this because the show is too ambitious for it's own good.

The problem with Princess Principal is that it tries to be everything even though it only has enough time to barely wrap up half of the stuff. What do I mean? It is a show about a bunch of girls playing spy right at the heart of a divided, politically unstable nation. Now those two are already conflicting elements considering I said "girls" and not "women". The show tries to put on a serious air by doing things like victimizing it's cast, showing us people torn by civil war, poverty, disease, murder, assassination and a TV-MA certificate (wait what?), but at the same time you have a loli samurai jumping around and slicing people left and right. And did I mention the tea parties?
Not only that, it introduces some interesting plot points, the highlights being - the delicate political condition of the country, it's Royal family and the Commonwealth, a rare material called Cavorite which can alter gravity and the relationship between Princess and Ange, but by the end of the season, only one of those were sorted out. My point is, there was so much going on in the show, but so little mattered toward the end that it was disappointing.

Now, this does not mean that Princess Principal is a bad show. It sports an enjoyable cast of sassy looking characters, and while it may not have the sophisticated nuances of the spy trade, it does have that cool suave air about it in how it carries itself. It presents an interesting, peculiar world, has a stimulating soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura and some well animated action scenes. What it does not have, is a solid conclusion that ties up all the presented plot lines in a neat little bow. But it is not a bad show. Maybe it is the disjointed narrative, maybe it is just me.
So, this recommendation comes with an advice — watch it if you are interested, but it is probably not the kind of spy thriller you are looking for.

Tsurezure Children
Episodes : 12 (12 min per ep.)
Studio : Studio Gokumi
Genre : Comedy, Romance, School, Shounen

Typically, short anime can range across being endearing, heartwarming, ridiculous and/or funny. Tsurezure Children falls in the heartwarming and funny category. It takes a number of eccentric high school couples and, across its 12 episodes, has them go through the nuances and various stages of a romantic relationship. From confessions to covering the bases and everything in between and after — fights, teasing, jealousy, misunderstandings, breaking up and making up , the show has everything. It is short — i.e., every episode focuses on multiple couples, and it doesn't beat around the bush using the usual rom-com cliches. Furthermore, it has some relatable moments thrown in here and there. It's a quick, excellent, quality source of entertainment.
Since this is a short anime, I think this is all that needs to be said.

Episodes : 13
Studio : Kinema Citrus
Genre : Sci-Fi, Adventure, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy

Made in Abyss has to be one of the most stimulating, gripping and riveting shows I've watched this year. It's also the one with the most instances of urinary incontinence on screen (let us not talk about that).

The thing that excites me the most about this show, is it's worldbuilding. Now, I am extremely fond of shows that put a ludicrous amount of effort into building their world or a certain aspect of it, to the point that I'll readily ignore their flaws. A good example of this would be Mahouka's magic and One Piece's ever expanding Grand Line. Made in Abyss does a brilliant job introducing us to it's world — the Abyss.

Situated in the middle of an island, the show introduces it as a big hole in the ground, then it goes from being mysterious and hopeful, to an unforgiving and horrible place. It is vast, fascinating, more than 20 kilometers deep, and filled with different life forms. It is divided into several sections, each having it's own environment and ecosystem with unique life forms (there are some great monster designs here). The show introduces these layers in a way that makes the abyss an exciting place that's full of adventure and hidden treasures. But of course, everything comes at a price. And the price the Abyss asks, is what makes this show special. Obviously, the deeper you go, the more difficult, unforgiving and rewarding the place becomes (with more intelligent and dangerous monsters), but at the same time, coming back up becomes more and more impossible. And after a certain point, returning, means death.
Now, the mysteries of the Abyss don't end there but I'm going to stop for the sake of spoilers.

So you have this amazing environment all set up. Now, the question now is — What does the show do with it? What kind of characters it throws in? And, what do we get out of it?
Now this is where things look a little... fishy. If you've already seen the poster or the promotional video, then you know that the main characters are potato faced kids. Combine that with the description of the Abyss and you are probably thinking that this is one of those torture porn shows which showcase innocent characters going through hell for the sake of emotional manipulation. I was skeptical too and I had my guard up when I approached this. But, surprisingly, Made in Abyss manages to make it work by not giving false expectations and blatantly foreshadowing the nature of upcoming events. And it manages to have the desired impact because of the excellent execution of those events. The show has some brutal, gut wrenching scenes, and they do not feel forced at all.

As for the kind of characters, that's one department where this show failed to satisfy me. It's not that the characters are badly written in general, but relative to the other aspects of the show, they don't measure up. Especially the main characters — Reg and Riko. While Reg has the excuse of amnesia to compensate for his unlikable traits and awkward character, Riko's naivete gets on my nerves. I can understand her drive to go deeper into the Abyss, I can understand her unwavering optimism as the show gives some solid reasons for them, but even the mighty Abyss couldn't chip off that naivete. She's had multiple brushes with death over the course of the show but she did not change respectively. The side characters on the other hand, are great. Especially Ozen and Nanachi.

I suppose the biggest drawback of this show, is that it is incomplete. We only have a part of the whole thing. And since the manga barely gets a couple chapters per year, we probably have a long way to go before we see a sequel. Otherwise, the show is well put together and thoughtfully executed. Something that I will often recommend in the future. A must watch from this season.
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And so with that I'll be wrapping up this end season post. And as always, I have no idea what to write in this part so let's just go with something random. NieR : Automata is a bloody good game. Go play it if you have the chance, along with the prequel (if you can't get the prequel, Youtuber Clemps has some amazing analysis videos on his channel which will bring you up to speed).
Also, thank you for reading this post. Feel free to talk about any show from the summer season (or from the current fall season), I'd be delighted. Also, have a great day.

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