Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2017 (Part II)

On the last exciting episode of Anime Taste Testing, Dive!! was awful, Konbini Kareshi was boring, and Katsugeki Touken Ranbu still wasn’t the decent game-to-anime adaptation we all dreamed about finally getting. That still left a few titles on my weekly watch-list though, including the new addition of The Reflection. Read on to see my latest impressions for seven different shows and then feel free to either laud or laugh at my opinions in the comments.

Hitorijime My Hero/My Very Own Hero
Original score: 5.5/10
Current score: 4/10 (Dropped)

Oh what a difference another episode or two (or in this case, another minute or two) can make. My only major complaint after seeing the premiere of Hitorijime was that it was a little on the bland side. I noted then that it felt completely unlike a BL show at all, and could easily have been mistaken for a generic, high school-centric slice-of-life series if you didn’t check the synopsis first. Unfortunately, episodes two and three dived straight into the creepy, manipulative, and downright abusive tropes that BL is so well known for. Not in graphic detail, mind you – this is still rated PG13, after all – but it was more than enough for me… and that wasn’t even counting the other, teacher/student ‘romance’ going on, which I can only assume went on to be the main focus of the series. One day I hope to watch some new and halfway decent BL again, but just because such titles are exceedingly thin on the ground doesn’t mean I need to watch stuff like this instead.

Princess Principal
Original score: 4/10
Current score: 4/10 (Dropped)

I cannot for the life of me figure out why this show is so popular. I actually dropped it after the first episode, largely bored and irritated with the schoolgirls-as-spies-in-loli-uniforms antics. However, after seeing the praise heaped upon it by plenty of other anime bloggers out there, I not only re-watched the first episode to try and work out what I’d missed, but also ended up making my way through the next couple, even though I was still considerably less than impressed. And frankly, I still don’t get it. The action is decent enough whenever there actually is any to be had, but the storytelling strikes me as average at best, bogged down by dumb anime tropes and suffering from one of my biggest pet peeves – thinking it’s a lot smarter than it really is. Princess Principal is far, far from the worst anime of the season, don’t get me wrong, but I honestly see little to genuinely praise here beyond the soundtrack.

Shoukoku no Altair/Altair: A Record of Battles
Original score: 5.5/10
Current score: 5/10 (Dropped)

I was inclined to go easy on this one since it differs so much from the norm, even for a historical fantasy piece, but I guess what I really wanted to see was something with a bit of subtlety. What I got instead was some bad attempts at world-building, a few unexceptional action sequences, and cartoonish villains of the “mwa-ha-ha!” variety – the latter of which you’ve got to admit is pretty weird for a show that also seems like it’s trying to be a relatively serious political drama. To be clear, I don’t necessarily think Altair is a bad series, and once again, I have to applaud it simply for standing out among many of the rest of the titles airing this season. But I gave it four episodes just to be on the safe side, and combined with the fairly lackluster production values, there’s just not that much here to make for an especially compelling story.

Ballroom e Youkoso/Welcome to the Ballroom
Original score: 6/10
Current score: 5/10 (Dropped)

Somewhere, buried under all that tropey shounen sports material complete with underdeveloped female characters, fanservice dressed up as comedy, and laughably portrayed dancing skills of the INCREDIBLE! NATURAL GENIUS variety, is a decent series. Unfortunately, it’s rarely given the chance to breathe, and all the genuinely good or entertaining material mostly just ends up as isolated moments in an otherwise weirdly generic show that should be anything but. I also have a bone to pick with the visuals. The artwork itself is fine – not really my thing, but undeniably distinctive and stylish – yet animation-wise, it seems oddly lacking. I have no idea what kind of budget Ballroom is working with, but you’d think an anime about competitive dance would want to show off the actual dancing, at least during the major moments. This isn’t just a matter of recycling scenes – it’s a matter of rarely animating more than a few seconds of dance and then just cutting to everyone’s reactions to prove how spectacular it apparently looks. It’s a shame, especially after a pretty competent premiere, but I’ve now seen up to the end of episode five and Ballroom just isn’t living up to its potential.

Kakegurui/Compulsive Gambler
Score: 6/10

I’m glad I watched more of this. In hindsight, the sick feeling I got after eventually getting around to the first episode possibly had more to do with the fact that I was already actually kinda sick that day, as opposed to the purposefully exaggerated and downright ugly visuals to which I then attributed my nausea. Granted, Kakegurui usually wouldn’t be my cup of tea anyway, what with its outlandish fanservice, completely over-the-top reaction scenes, and blatant style-over-substance approach to storytelling, but it’s also so intentionally campy that I don’t mind any of this anywhere near as much as I otherwise almost certainly would. The setup is ludicrous, the story (for lack of a better word) at times makes no sense at all, and every single character is either an objectively terrible human being, a complete and utter psycho, or both at once. I can’t pretend I’m not entertained though, even though I should most likely be just plain offended – and while I’m not sure what that says about my own character, I guess at least there are plenty of other anime viewers in the same boat?

The Reflection
Score: 7/10

I’m still a little on the fence with The Reflection. Partly that’s probably to do with the fact that I’m incredibly over superhero stories, and have been for the past couple of years now, and partly because while my impressions of the first episode were quite good, the following two felt quite a bit weaker in terms of writing. That said, I certainly don’t dislike what I’ve seen so far here. I’m no comic book fan but the idea of Stan Lee teaming up with the director from Mushishi is intriguing, and love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the choices with regard to art style are both bold and distinctive. Dismissing the show simply because it’s ‘not anime enough’ would be a really ignorant and immature position to take, especially since the story itself has the potential to be far more interesting than almost anything else airing this season. So while I’m not exactly sold yet, there’s no way I’m writing The Reflection off this early in the game.

Made in Abyss
Original score: 8/10
Current score: 8/10

Easily still the best new title of the summer season, Made in Abyss continues strong at five episodes in, delivering a solid dose of childlike wonder with its fantasy/sci-fi adventure outlook, alongside a fascinating yet unsettling undercurrent thanks to its surprisingly dark setting. The pacing so far has been fairly deliberate, each episode another step in the journey downward, but now that much of the world-building has been established, the main cast looks about ready to expand. I’m sensing there’s a lot that Made in Abyss is saving up to reveal at a later time, but given that the series hasn’t yet put any major foot wrong, my anticipation there hasn’t been soured. I’m still just as excited, if not more so than I was after the first episode, to see exactly where Made in Abyss is going to take us… and exactly what we’re going to be confronted with along the way.

Question of the post: How’s the summer anime season going? Now that we’re nearly at the halfway point, have there been any major changes for you since the premiere episodes?

Note: This will be my last post for the month since I’m now on summer break. I’ll still be around to reply to comments and such, but otherwise will see you guys in September. Have a good one!

20 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2017 (Part II)

  1. Well I see most of the shows in this lackluster season didn’t make it very far with you haha. All I’m still watching is Ballroom and Abyss and Ballroom is iffy for me. I like hearing about the rest though, and can’t wait to see your thoughts as we mosey along for the last few weeks of the season.


    1. Typically I don’t have a whole lot of free time to myself these days, so I’m picky about what I watch out of necessity. If I’m going to dedicate myself to watching something every week for 12 weeks or more, it better impress me from the get-go or I’ll move on to something else that will. Mediocre just doesn’t cut it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. PrinPal is basically made for me, from the jazz score to the spy heists and courtly intrigue to the focus on relationships between women (platonic and romantic). The moe sameface is an acceptable tradeoff. It’s stylish and sincere enough in developing its core relationships that the more ridiculous trope usage doesn’t bother me.

    Made in Abyss is a close second if it didn’t keep leaving me on edge with all of the nudity and general always-just-borderline fascination with its protagonists’ bodies in a way that is really, really creepy. But there’s enough good to keep me at it.

    Oh, and Aoyama-kun. Aoyama-kun is quality. And I don’t watch sports anime.


    1. I had wondered whether or not to try out Aoyama-kun. Half the anime bloggers I read seem to love it, the other half hate it. I may get around to watching the first episode at some point, if only to try and figure out why it’s been such a weirdly polarizing show.


  3. Abyss is my top show this season. Second is Tsurezure Children, only 15 minutes, without much animation, but the 3-4 scenes in every episode are little gems of awkward boys and girls trying to get together or forward with the ones they like. Quick, witty, and sweet scenes follow each other. Even after only one episode I was trying to figure out which is my favorite couple, and that changes each week.


  4. I’ve heard the new season of Jigoku Shoujo:4th Twilight is just as…emotionally hard-hitting as its previous seasons. Have you checked it out yet?

    Also, Stan Lee himself will be voicing his lookalike character for The Reflection’s English dub. I’m interested if he’ll be able to bring some acting gravitas to his role here.


    1. Yes, I’m also watching the new season of Jigoku Shoujo. As with the previous 3 seasons, I really like both the main idea behind the story as well as the core cast, although the execution on the individual stories can be pretty hit-or-miss. Subtlety really isn’t the show’s strong suit, and I think the series would be a lot more emotionally impactful at times if they’d just dial it back a bit.


  5. lol I haven’t seen ANY of these but honestly I don’t think I’m fairing much better so far. In fact, I think I’m doing worse. Chronos Rulers is still just ok, it still has that promise of more interesting and deep characters and world building but it keeps playing with it rather than committing to it. Aho-Girl still has an awesome straight man, but the fanservice is higher than I’d like. At least they threw in some fanservice for the ladies too so it’s an even playing field, I guess.
    Sadly, nothing has really grabbed me yet. That said, I’m still behind the air dates by about a week to two weeks depending on the show….


      1. At least there’s that! I haven’t attached to a live action in a loooong time. Although, to be fair, I don’t watch many of them to begin with


  6. About two shows that have been recommended:

    @Tsurezure Children: I’m with Peter S, here. It’s my second favourite, too, also after Abyss. It’s charming and affectionate and awkward. The good thing, here, is that what you see is what you get. You can try one episode (maybe even only one scene of the first episode), and you either click with it or don’t. There’s this one girl who’s so convinced she’s not worth spending time with that any approach from anyone is a sign of their kindness. She’s my teenage self. So, so much.

    @Aoyama-kun: Unlike TC, Aoyama-kun takes a while to reveal its hand. You’ll get a good feel for the general mood of the show; that won’t change. But it took me more than three episodes to figure out the show’s general conceit. I don’t think it’s a spoiler (since I’m revealing structure rather than content), but anyone who wants to go in blind better stop reading now. In the first episode, we’re introduced to Aoyama, the club, and the general concept. From then on, each episode focuses on a single character in the vicinity of Aoyama, and it’s about their point of contact with him. This way, the show never gets stale, and as we get to know new character after new character, we also get to know a new side of Aoyama, so there’s a loose arc connecting them. People compare it to the Sakamoto anime from a few episodes back, but it’s more focussed and has, I think, more affection for its characters. It’s a good show, but sort of hard to check out, since it’s not obviously unique, and it takes a while to reveal itself. It’s the sort of show that slowly builds the viewers faith, if you understand what I mean. If you dislike the mood or style of the show, that’s not going to change and you can stop right away. If you’re worried that it might make fun of, say, clean-freaks down the road, it doesn’t. But if you’re into it for characters or story, one episode’s not enough to convince, because it’s mix of episodicness and over-reaching arcs takes a while to figure out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the detailed recs! That does make both shows sound rather more appealing than they sounded just with regard to synopsis. If I have time, I’ll be checking both out at some point.


  7. Great post dear 😊😊 Aww how disappointing about Princess Principle. I haven’t watched it yet and I still will since I love steam punk so much. I had hope for another steam punk anime to be good since theres not many of them haha x x


    1. That’s true, steampunk in general just isn’t much represented in anime. I encourage giving Princess Principal a try anyway since so many people do actually seem to be having a great time with it. I’m just not one of them.

      Liked by 1 person


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