Tuesdays Top 5: Disappointments from 2016

Having covered some of the best from 2016 I kind of felt I should look at the shows that weren’t necessarily bad but ended up being disappointing before I move on to non-2016 specific lists. Actually, this was probably the hardest list to write because there were just so many shows that had so much potential and they just never delivered. My selection criteria this week was that the show still had to be functional as a show (so probably not one of my worst of the year shows) but due to execution it just hasn’t pulled off what it might have aspired to be. Some of these shows are actually pretty good as they are, but they had the potential to be better. Obviously this is a highly subjective list so feel free to list your disappointments in the comments below.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to: Trickster, 91 Days and Joker Game.

Number 5: Food Wars Season 2

Okay, I already know some people are going to dislike this choice but honestly I found this second season a severe let down. Individual moments in season 2 still capture some of the fun energy of season 1 but the competition just drags on and on and to be honest I’m just not that interested in watching continuous cook offs with some of my least favourite characters from the show. It would have been great to spend more time with the support cast and more time just having character moments rather than watching an endless array of food preparation (which I know is a petty complaint given it is a show about cooking).

Number 4: The Morose Mononokean

I’ll admit, my disappointment with this show was entirely my fault. Right from the start it reminded me of Natsume but never quite captured the magic Natsume had and the comparison didn’t do this show any favours. Going forward though this show didn’t really manage to create its own identity and seemed content with being watchable rather than ever really striving for more. Key moments of tension were deliberately wasted and the characters never really got fleshed out beyond a few hints that there were other stories to be told. All and all, this show has a cool premise, is really pretty, is perfectly pleasant and watchable but is equally pretty forgettable.

Number 3: Flip Flappers

I’m surprised as well that this is only number 3 but I guess the reason this didn’t disappoint me more on reflection is because I kind of predicted from the start that unless this show managed to pull everything together it was kind of going to be pretty but not a lot else. When that ultimately happened I was still disappointed but not surprised. Flip Flappers, the early episodes, is fun, energetic and visually stunning. Unfortunately, eventually they have to try to explain why anything is happening and then they feel the need to introduce an antagonist who serves no real purpose and seems to undermine a lot of what they had built in the series. While there are definitely worse shows out there, the way this ends I just don’t see the point in watching it.

Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch

This one took me by surprise. I really expected this to be one of the shows I would recommend from 2016 after the first 2 episodes. Unfortunately from that point forward the show continued to slide into deep mediocrity. It wouldn’t be fair to say it actually becomes bad because if you compare it to something like Big Order or Taboo Tattoo, Izetta works as a narrative, is visually appealing, and has a range of semi-interesting characters who mostly serve their function. My disappointment again comes from my own expectations on the show but these were built by the first two episodes. It promised one thing and then stripped that away and gave us a watered down version of it. Also, I really didn’t like the introduced antagonist late in the series (so it has that in common with Flip Flappers).

Number 1: Kiznaiver

I really, really wanted to like Kiznaiver. A medical experiment on students to force them to share each others’ pain sounded like a great premise for a story. And there are some really good moments in Kiznaiver but the overall narrative kind of devolves into we should all make friends kind of thing and the experiment itself is mostly nonsense and serves no real purpose. Again, this anime is perfectly watchable and some people really enjoyed it, but I just kept wanting more from it than it was willing to give and so I finished this series deeply disappointed.

Those are my 5 biggest disappointments from 2016.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Opening Themes in 2016

One of the things most of us remember about an anime series is the opening theme. Whether we loved it or hated it, listened to it every time, or reached for the remote (mouse) to hit the skip. Opening themes set the tone for the entire viewing experience and yet it is another element I seldom take into consideration when ranking my favourite anime on my weekly lists. This week’s top 5 gave me a chance to reflect on some of the themes of 2016 and to realise it was not one of my favourite years for opening songs.

My criteria for top 5 opening theme is mostly that the song could be listened to as a song by itself and still sound good without the visuals, though also had good visuals to go with it, that it matched the tone of the show, and that it got me ready to watch the episode. Also, it had to be an opening I didn’t want to skip because listening to the song was part of the experience. They also had to be in an anime that aired at some point during 2016 (either continuing on from 2015, completely in 2016, or at least started before the end of 2016).

For patrons there is a list of the 5 openings of 2016 that didn’t particularly impress over on patreon.

Please Note – There probably won’t be any spoilers in this list.

Honourable mentions this week go to: Cheer Boys (because it was fun) and 91 Days (because it set the tone of the show so well). Also, special honourable mention to Raise Your Flag from Iron Blooded Orphans because if that had been the theme the whole way through the show it would have been absolutely perfect.

Number 5: Coolest from Sakamoto Desu Ga

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This is the weirdest choice on this list because this is an anime I didn’t even finish watching. However, this opening gives you more or less the entire concept and is fun, bright and over the top which is everything the show itself is trying to be. I probably would have ditched the show and kept watching the opening if that was a viable option really.

Number 4: Bye Bye Yesterday from Assassination Classroom Second Season

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Assassination Classroom has continued to have excellent openings that nail the tone of the show and manage to convey the overall emotion the characters are feeling at that point in time. From that point of veiw, Bye Bye Yesterday is the perfect opening during the second season because our characters have moved on from who they were and they are at a critical transitional point. The visuals throughout the song are pretty awesome to with a lot of looking back on where the characters have come from and the events that have shaped them in the series. The fact that the song is still upbeat and energizes you in preparation for the episode is perfect because Assassination Classroom still has that weird back and forth between comedy and real drama so a song that makes you feel sad and nostalgic while getting you energised is exactly what was needed.

Number 3: Lay Your Hands on Me from Kiznaiver

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I know I didn’t end up thinking much of the show but this song was amazing. Actually the entire opening sequence is just an overload on the senses. The song is full of energy and drama and yet you aren’t sure whether it is trying to be optimistic or poignant and overall it just makes you feel like something is coming. Unfortunately for me, most episodes went downhill after the opening but at least I never skipped the song.

Number 2: Re:Re from Erased

Erased.jpg

During the first few episodes, while I enjoyed this opening, I couldn’t figure out why this show had such an up-beat and happy little opening. The visuals hinted at darker ideas but the song itself felt like it belonged on some coming-of-age high school romp rather than a mystery with potential supernatural elements. Turns out the song wasn’t lying as the mystery part of the show falls short and it is the coming-of-age and the finding out who you are that dominates the show thematically in the second half. So great song in and of itself and once you’ve watched the show through you realise just how apt it actually is.

Number 1: History Maker from Yuri On Ice

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That was probably obvious from the get-go given the theme to Yuri on Ice was probably the only one I commented on (more than once) during my weekly reviews of a show. I couldn’t help it, the song just swept me away each and every time I listened to it. It is one of the few themes that I actively looked up and played just by itself without any intention of watching an episode of the show. And please, hit repeat. Then of course we have the beautiful animation that accompanies it. I also liked that it didn’t really sound like an anime opening. That kind of made it stand out. All and all, this was the perfect opening song for this particular story.

Alright, over to you. What opening themes made you pay attention in 2016?


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Friday’s Feature – High Expectations

This one is going to be a super short feature because I’ve been on holidays and I’m just catching up with everything now and I nearly decided to pull the feature this week. However, with the summer anime season starting up it seemed like a good time to talk about one of the biggest issues with new release anime – high expectations.

Yes, this could carry over to any new release as the hype wagon gets going and then the haters get on board and the war of words and gifs and memes takes hold and eventually you forget that you haven’t actually watched or read the story but you already know everything about it (or everything that people have said about it). It kills stories dead in their tracks and turns you away, or worse, gets you expecting something amazing when what you get could have been okay but since you now have to swallow it with disappointment all you remember is feeling let down.

Sometimes the distributors have only themselves to blame for generating false hype, but the internet is definitely something to be feared when it comes to this.

I tried really, really hard to not get my hopes up for the D Gray Man series that was starting this summer but when I finally saw that Anime Lab had it I was all but jumping for joy. I can’t even blame internet hype for this one. D Gray Man was one of my earliest anime that I watched as an adult. It’s up there with Bleach, Death Note and Evangelion for cementing my love of anime and when I realised it had stopped way back when I was devastated (or at least really annoyed). Even then, I waited a day before watching the episode and told myself that I wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t live up to my memories of the show or to my overblown expectations. (Fortunately this story had a happy ending and I’ll write up my review of this episode later).

Last season it was Kiznaiver. There was so much hype about that anime and the promotional videos and the characters and how pretty it was and then what we got was kind of a decent anime but it in no way lived up to the expectations that had been built around it. I think if I’d watched Kiznaiver without any of the other stuff, I’d probably have enjoyed it more. And while that may not be fair, that’s the way it goes.

So what anime were you let down by after the hype machine got going? Or rather, what anime do you wish you had watched without any of the hype?

 

Kiznaiver Series Review

Overview:

Katsuhira can’t feel pain and doesn’t know why. This apparently makes him the target of bullies and an obsessive child-hood friend. However, Katsuhira and six of his classmates are used in an experiment to join their pain and begin a journey of emotional self-discovery.

I did review this week to week so if you want to know thoughts on individual episodes, click here.

Review:

I’m going to admit, there are moments of Kiznaiver that are amazing. There are some superb emotional moments for the characters where the audience  really feels for the character and everything just hits that absolutely perfect note where you are blown away by the power of that moment in the story.

These are framed by utter and complete moments of rubbish.

The first two episodes of this series introduces most of the cast. Another group member is introduced late seemingly because the writers couldn’t think of anything else exciting for their plot twist of the week other than sending the characters on a scavenger hunt for a missing member. While some people quite like these characters, I find the majority of them too stupid for words and generally don’t care enough about them to be caught up in whatever personal drama they are currently experiencing.

That said, it shows the strength of Kiznaiver when it gets it right that it managed to bring me back into the story and the characters for those moments when it really mattered. The two episodes that focus on Honoka and Yuta remain my favourites of this series.

I’m going to just break the rest of my points into the positives and negatives of this series.

Positives:

  • It’s beautiful.
  • At times the emotional payoff is worth the effort.
  • The sound track is fantastic.

Negatives:

  • The science and the nature of the experiment are complete gibberish for the sake of a plot device. There is no way this experiment would be run (and if it was it wouldn’t be left in the hands of a damaged test subject).
  • The revelation that we can just make friends and connect that way really makes you wonder who was confused about this point. It seems like a revelation to the characters and that just makes me think they were even dumber than they looked.
  • The entire final episode.

I know some people have really loved this series and it actually does work as a story and a character piece. However, it didn’t really click with me so even though I’ll acknowledge there are some good moments in this show, that final episode has firmly placed this in the list of anime that I have watched but will now move on from.

What are your thoughts on Kiznaiver?

Kiznaiver Episode 12

Review:

Well, I will be doing a full series review on this soonish but this final episode was every bit the mess I expected after last week. The real issue being that everything that was resolved this week could have been resolved last week with about two lines of extra dialogue and none of the events made sense. Where did all these black Gomorin come from? Why are they blindly following the whims of a clearly crazy Nori? Nori’s plan doesn’t make any sense even in weird anime logic and really, someone should have slapped her about half-a-season ago and just explained the concept of making a friend. Touching hospital scene at the end or not, this episode was simply a waste of time.

Oh and Tenga calling someone stupid is hilarious. Pot-Kettle anyone?

Kiznaiver is available on Crunchyroll.

Kiznaiver Episode 11

Review:

Right, so we were on track for a fairly good episode. Katsuhira finally started using his head and actually developed some real growth rather than being artificially prodded along. The facility being closed down has become more inevitable than ever and the others in the group have been doing some self-reflection as well. Great. Enjoyable to watch. Bringing closure to a lot of the story. You would think we would have one more episode to consolidate what we learned from all of this and then go on about our lives. And then there is Nori-Chan. I’m not going to reveal what happened but those last few minutes of the episode essentially make me believe that our animators would like a more action based conclusion than heart-felt and I have some grave concerns about the direction this is going to take. Let’s hope they pull off a good finale.

Kiznaiver is available on Crunchyroll.

Kiznaiver Episode 10

Review:

With two episodes to go they are desperately filling in back story (most of which has already been hinted at, seen in flashbacks or easily able to have been guessed prior) and the various characters are trying to find closure on their summer in various ways. While the Kiznaiver experiment is a farce, no matter how you look at it, if we ignore the motivation behind the system and simply look at the journey our characters have taken and how they have dealt with it the last two episodes, we’ve had some fairly powerful character development (even if it came about in the most contrived manner possible). I am concerned with how they are going to fill two more episodes though.

Kiznaiver is available on Crunchyroll.

Kiznaiver Episode 9

Review:

This is more or less impossible without spoilers. I feel that every member of the group needs a bowl of ice-cream and a serious day in front of the TV, which is more or less where anyone would end up if they were sharing pain, emotions and now thoughts with others. Misery loves company people. The home room teacher pushed the relationships to their limits and they broke. That’s what this episode was and it is every bit as depressing as that sounds and still completely mesmerizing (which is not a word I would have used to describe this series up until now). And in case you didn’t follow the episode, as always Kiznaiver feels the need to over explain and have every character say out loud what is already completely obvious. Thanks.

Sidenote: I didn’t think it was possible, but this episode actually made me feel sorry for Nico.

Kiznaiver is available on Crunchyroll.

Kiznaiver Episode 8

Review:

It’s been a problem throughout this series but episode 8 takes it to new levels: over explanation of the mundane while failing to actually tell us anything useful.

Did we need nearly 3 minutes of this episode devoted to the researchers explaining their views on the romantic relationships evolving (given they haven’t exactly been subtle in their development)? The answer is probably not.

Then, do we need the characters psycho-analysing each other as they wonder around an abandoned building in a typhoon? Definitely not.

And then there’s the big reveal by Nori only everybody saw it coming a mile away which essentially makes this episode pointless. Not unenjoyable, just without purpose.

Kiznaiver is available on Crunchyroll.

Kiznaiver Episode 7

Review:

We continue to learn about Honaka this week and the story continues to be much stronger than the random mission episodes earlier in the series. These last two episodes have actually made me feel something for the characters beyond idle curiosity and I hope that the show continues to build on this emotional strength. We also got a two for one cliché moment with fireworks on the beach and then a random swimming scene where my major question was why didn’t any of them take their shoes off. Most surprising of all, both Nico and Tenga actually make some sense in this episode and feel more real because of it, rather than feeling like the comic relief characters.

Kiznaiver is available on Crunchyroll.

As a side note, on weekends, when I have a bit more time, I’m updating twitter while watching new episodes. If you happen to live in a similar time zone you can always check out my twitter feed. During the week, it really only gets used to announce when a new blog post is up.