The Best of Summer 2015!
So nearly everything from the Summer season (that isn’t continuing on) has aired its final episode now, which means it is list time! This summer season ended up being one of the most entertaining in recent years, so entertaining I ended up watching 22 shows. Yes. Twenty-two shows. I know, I have problems. I definitely didn’t expect to watch everything I picked up to completion, since I’ve been getting better at dropping stuff, but weirdly shows seemed to improve on whole this season, so I didn’t really want to drop much!
Anyway, lets move on to my top 10, which wasn’t really all that hard to pick despite the massive pool I had to choose from.
Predictably I really like Ushio to Tora. It is pretty formulaic and had a bit of a monster of the week thing going on for a while, but I’m really enjoying the 90s shounen vibe the show has. It’s super nostalgic despite my never actually reading the original manga or watching the 90s OVAs, the series is just easy and fun to watch. I enjoy the character dynamic between Ushio and Tora – watching their relationship develop has been one of the shows strongest aspects, and the excellent action animation doesn’t hurt either. The show is going starting to get going, so I’m definitely looking forward to watching more.
It took me quite a while to warm up to Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, mainly because it lacks a strong central narrative to get your teeth stuck into. The series is much more s’life-y and most of the drama is derived from Shirayuki and Zen’s struggles to overcome their class divide. It is a nice show. The characters are nice. The animation is nice. The voice acting is nice. I can’t really think of anything truly bad to say about it, but I also can’t really get too excited about the series.
I will say that I was pleased that Shirayuki is a much more proactive shoujo heroine than many others of her type. Even though she is a frequent victim of kidnapping, Shirayuki always tries to work her own way out of things and her expertise as a herbalist is valued by all. Shirayuki, even though she is a commoner and a foreigner, does stand on equal footing with Zen as person, and they rely on each other quite a lot, which makes watching their relationship blossom from friendship to love that bit more compelling. Still I do wish there was a bit more action to get my teeth into, I guess I’ll never be fully content watching such nice, placid shows.
8. Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai (A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist)
I never expected to like this show. I actually dropped it after the first episode and only picked it up again about week 5 when I heard positive things about it. Shimoseka does have lots of problems, (a very weak middle section and nearly everything to do with Anna) but can also be absolutely hilarious and has some interesting things to say about censorship and society’s infatuation with purity – I was really surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the show. There is no denying that it is a trashy series, what with its light novel roots and all that, but the trash is presented with so much energy and bite that you can’t help enjoying the ride. Definitely a flawed series, when it is bad it is absolutely horrid, but over all a very entertaining and strangely thought provoking show. One of the biggest surprises of the season for me.
Well Gangsta. ended up being a good example of all style and very little substance. It felt like the main story was only just being introduced when the show suddenly ended! However saying that, this kind of show with all its stylised violence and cool characters is pretty much exactly my kind of thing, so I enjoyed Gangsta. anyway. Still it is a shame there was no real story to grapple with, the majority of the time was spent exploring our main duo’s back-stories and getting a handle on the day-to-day adventure of life in this crime riddled town, we’re only just comfortable with the setting & characters and starting to pay attention to the plot being introduced when the show ends. Clearly a second season is needed, and I do hope there is one, if not this just serves as a rather stylish advertisement for the manga series.
Classroom Crisis was another show that I didn’t really expect to enjoy as much as I did. This was a workplace drama filled with backroom deals, political wrangling, revenge plots and budget crises with a rather grounded sci-fi setting. I even came round to the fact the cast was made up of genius high-schoolers after a while (although still feel this would have been better with working adults or university students at least). The show was consistently interesting and I was genuinely invested in the characters struggles to keep A-TECH going.
I really could have done without those shoe-horned in beach/hotsprings and school festival episodes though, they really added absolutely nothing to the show and only really served to irritate me with their utter genericness. I also don’t think the show fully utilised its setting – there was a lot more scope to really play with the sci-fi elements – the show didn’t really have to be set on Mars since they didn’t really make use of the location much. But yeah, apart from a few issues Classroom Crisis was a very solid and interesting series – glad I stuck with it!
Prison School is a brilliant example of how to do trashy right – just go all out and be the trashiest trash you can possibly be. The exaggerated art-style and voice acting, the ridiculous physical comedy, the way it embraces bodily fluids of every variety and always commits 100% to being the grossest, most unrepentant sex comedy going, make Prison School a joy to watch – something I was very doubtful about going into the show. I can see how this can be a Marmite show, you’re either going to really enjoy it and fully get into the type of low-brow humour it revels in, or you’re not going to like it at all – there isn’t much room for middle ground with Prison School. After the first episode I wasn’t sure what side of the fence I was going to fall on, but by the end of the season I was fully on the side of loving this ridiculous series. Fingers crossed for another season!
I still like Durarara!! but it doesn’t make it easy for me. This season introduced even more characters, brought back folks we haven’t seen since season 1 and fully expected us to remember who knows who, and where their allegiances lie. Even with a pretty good memory for characters it is hard work to keep everything straight! This run of episodes saw the colour gang situation in Ikebukuro start to snowball again, with the Dollars finally attracting the dangerous attention of the yakuza and the Yellow Scarves start to reform in direct opposition to the Dollars once again as Kida returns to town. It’s business as usual in Durarara!! and every episode has some sort of snippet of information that gives us another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is the bigger picture.
The main thing of note in this season is that Mikado’s character had become fascinating to watch. His sense of justice, thirst for adventure and IT talent all warp dangerously under the influence of the mini-Izaya wannabe Aoba, but for all his badass aspirations, it is still amusing to see how he utterly sucks in an actual physical fight. The other important thing is the increased presence of the Yakuza and the great characters they bring to the table – Akabayashi and Shiki have this unnerving, dangerous edge to them while still behaving like completely civilised human beings most of the time.
Durarara!! has always excelled at crafting fascinating, unqiuely crazy characters, but it doesn’t seem to know how to hold back. There are now so many quirky people in the show and they’re all fighting for space to tell their part of the story – it is getting really difficult to keep everything straight at this stage! Still, I do enjoy being immersed in the wacky goings on of Ikebukuro, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next season in Winter.
Now here’s another show that really surprised me. I already knew the show was going to be a mash-up of the cute girls s’life genre with the zombie apocalypse from reading the preview summaries, but I honestly didn’t expect it to strike such an interesting balance. Gakkou Gurashi isn’t about surviving the zombie apocalypse, it isn’t action packed and isn’t relentlessly grim. It is a show about living through having your world turned upside down and making the best of a very, very bad situation. These four girls (and their teacher & dog) are perfectly ordinary people in a dire situation and the show is about showing how they cope and find simple joy in trying to continue their ordinary, every day lives.
There is real love put into Gakkou Gurashi, the team working on the show went to a lot of trouble to change shots in the OP & ED to fit the increasingly dark developments in the show as the girls start running out of resources and uncover details about the nature of their school. It isn’t a perfect show though, there are some episodes that don’t really add much to the series (hello random pool episode) and I did find Yuki’s relentless genki-ness grating (she’s exactly the kind of character I like least, but I do acknowledge that she is necessary). However I did like it enough that I picked up the manga (which I think I like more). Very pleasantly surprised by Gakkou Gurashi.
I was very impressed by Rokka no Yuusha – it completely defied by initial expectations by switching from a standard fantasy adventure to a mystery thriller quite early on. I really wasn’t expecting to be so completely pulled into the mystery of the seventh Brave, but the show really kept you guessing right up until the final reveal (although less said about that sequel bait final twist the better). Rokka no Yuusha did an excellent job of teasing us with titbits of information about our seven Braves, making us constantly re-evaluate who we thought was the nefarious seventh – I really enjoyed trying to piece together the clues, it made for a very satisfying watch.
The shows unique setting also helped sell the show – it looks great. Well, it looks great whenever Passione had enough time & money to make the show look good, which wasn’t all the time unfortunately. The series is plagued with dodgy animation and severely off-model characters – it’s probably a good thing the series switched tracks from action adventure to mystery early on. The bad animation quality would have killed an action show, but it was only a bit distracting in a mystery series. So yeah, Rokka no Yuusha is a great series, definitely recommended.
In terms of what I was consistently most hyped for watching on a weekly basis, Gatchaman Crowds Insight wins by a clear mile. No other show appealed to me quite like Gatchaman did – it just has a style that really attracts me. I’m not going to sit here and say the series is perfect, because it most certainly isn’t. It has a very simplistic view of politics and doesn’t really allow for the most complex nuances of social interactions, but it is still refreshing to see a show even attempt to address the idea of mob mentality and media influence. Gatchaman has a lot of great ideas, and it does a fine job of telling the story it wants to in an entertaining fashion, but it is a rather whitewashed, simplistic tale that doesn’t really reflect all the various reactions different groups of people would have to these kinds of circumstances.
Still Gatchaman Crowds Insight does a lot of things I liked. In addition to being just very appealing aesthetically (I love the art style and music), the additions to the cast were interesting, Tsubasa and Gel Sadra forming a nice counterpart to Hajime and Berg Katze. However I think more could have been done with Rui & Rizumu Suzuki’s part of the story, they got a bit sidelined very early on.
Overall I loved this season of Gatchaman Crowds and I would definitely be up for another season (although it really isn’t necessary).
So those are my top 10 picks for the Summer season! Honourable mentions go to Working!!! S3 for actually moving the story on and Charlotte for not being as absolutely terrible as I had expected.
So the Autumn season starts in earnest in a couple of days and I’ll once again be sampling everything going. First impressions posts will be up when they’re up!