Q1 2016 Anime Review
Hey folks, it’s that time again, we’re about midway through the new anime season and shows have had enough time to give us a look at what they’re really about. If anyone is wondering why there wasn’t one of these for Q4 of last year… well go look at what the releases were. I won’t say they didn’t have a couple of bright spots, but overall it was a pretty luke-warm line-up, and with nothing grabbing my interest I didn’t feel motivated to do one of these. Luckily, this season is presenting a more interesting offering, so let’s get right into it:
GATE (Season 2)
I’ll be honest, Season 1 of this show was on when I did my first one of these, and it didn’t make the list because I hadn’t given it enough of a chance. I watched the initial couple of episodes, thought I knew what the story would be, and tuned out. It was only after a friend brought it up in conversation that I gave it another try, and holy shit am I glad I did.
Simple synopsis is that a gate in Japan opens and mythical creatures pour out of it. They tear shit up and wreak havoc until the military responds, at which point it turns out bombs and guns trump bows and monsters. From there, they invade the new world and establish a base camp, easily kicking the shit out of any of the other-world inhabitants that try to attack them, because yeah that’s what guns do. It was here that I jumped off ship, assuming it would a war-themed show about endless conflict, and that’s my misassumption.
What it turns out to be is an interesting look at diplomacy, tense relations, and the extent of sovereignty. Also, rocket launchers vs. dragons. I have to say, it does a good job of mixing in light-heartedness amidst very tense, serious situations, and the treatment of the situation is thorough and as realistic as possible given the parameters. GATE doesn’t shy away from the hard truths of what such a conflict would be, but it also shows that both parties involves are made up of people, most of whom just want peace and safety. It’s a fascinating anime that I’m glad I checked out again, and happy to say is now airing a second season on Crunchyroll.
Look, I don’t have any grand analysis to defend this one, it’s just fun. It’s very self-aware and pokes fun at so much of the anime and fantasy genre that I can’t help enjoying it, even if there is more fan service than I generally prefer.
The premise is that a guy dies trying to knock someone out of the way of a bus, eventually discovering that they would have been fine (nice nod to Yu Yu Hakusho off the bat) and is brought before a goddess who offers to send him to a fantasy style world in need of heroes, along with some power or tool to help him on the way. She’s also kind of shitty about it, so he drags her to the world with him out of spite, and from there it’s a RPG-style romp about slaying monsters, amassing gold, and gaining levels.
Hardly ground-breaking stuff, but I feel like that’s probably intentional. So much of this series seems to be about satire and making fun of the tropes these genres normally embrace. It’s heavily invested in situational comedy more than drama, don’t expect there to be much tension even during the tough fights. The line this show walks is a tenuous one, and it might not manage to keep it on the right side of humor for the whole run, but as of episode 6 (when I’m writing this) so far they’ve pulled it off well, which is why this one made the list.
In Case You Missed It: Angel Beats
I’ve referenced Angel Beats before, as it is a fantastic example of how to blend comedy and light-heartedness with serious subject matter, but I don’t think I’ve ever flat-out recommended it, and that’s a failing on my end. Angel Beats is probably one of the better animes ever made, in terms of story, character, and art. It is genuinely compelling and powerful, often coming at you in ways you didn’t see coming.
I can’t really tell you much about the plot of Angel Beats, because a central theme of the series is discovery. The protagonist begins with no idea of what’s happening, and you the viewer are in the same boat as him. That slow uncovering and understanding of the world around him is what drives things forward, at least in the earlier episodes.
Here’s the thing you do need to know about Angel Beats though: it is an emotional ass-whupping. Aside from discovery, there are big themes of loss and regret, and holy fucking shit do they drive those home when they get the chance. It’s good, but it’s good in the same way that the first ten minutes up Up! are good, you’re going to feel that shit right in the heart muscles. Make sure to have some tissues or allergen excuses on hand if you watch around other people, because as carefree as it starts out, by the end of episode three you’ll see what I’m talking about.
That’s all for this quarter, but hopefully I’ll see you all in three months if we get a good season in April.