Q2 2016 Anime Review
It’s that time of the quarter again, time to talk about the new season of anime, the highlights we got, and the glory of those past. While there were few truly amazing shows this season, I felt like there a fair few passable ones, which made the season enjoyable in it’s own right. There were, however, two that really stood out to me from the moment they premiered. First, the one that most of you have asked me about.
My Hero Academia
Most of you know this by now, but as a rule I don’t read or watch anything too close to what I’m doing here on Super Powereds. The reason for that is simply that a series running this long leaves me open to source memory mistakes, meaning I could see something done, forget where it came from, and think I’d come up with it myself years later. So when I saw a superhero school anime, I wasn’t going to watch it. Then a few friends told me I had to check it out, assuring me it was different enough that it would be okay, and I decided to roll the dice and give it a whirl.
And holy shit am I glad I did. This anime, focusing on a person without powers (or “Quirks” in their world) who pursues a Quirk of his own to become a superhero like the ones he looks up to is witty, fun, and interesting on all accounts. But more than that, it has heart in a way I’ve seen very few pieces manage to pull off. The characterization of this thing is top notch, and it’s very cleverly balanced to keep the relative powers in competition strong, yet capable of growth. Most amazingly of all, problems have so far been solved by wit and planning, rather than the classic anime trope of just digging deeper or unlocking hidden potential. That stuff is fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s never as surprising or delighting as seeing a solution found within the system.
With strong writing and cool visuals, My Hero Academia is all around enjoyable, and easily takes the spot as my favorite of the season. I hope it continues for a long while, because I find myself looking forward to every episode in a way I haven’t experienced in a long while.
Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World
This one starts off with a guy getting pulled into a magical world and meeting a pretty half-elf, so really not breaking new ground from the outset. In fact, the entire first episode plays out like so many have before it, albeit with an MC who is a little more self-aware and funny than what we generally see in these types of shows. And then (minor spoiler for first episode) it goes completely off the rails when the MC, along with his pretty half-elf friend, are violently killed.
His mind jumps back to a point earlier in the day, and we now have the concept of the series: whenever he dies, he goes back in time to the same place and begins the day over again. Using that ability alone, and nothing else, he has to try to make it through the next day without losing his life or seeing any of the friends he makes killed by the murderer.
Rather than stretch this one iteration through the whole series, we get to see success after a few episodes, though of course he ends up in a new perilous situation. It’s hard to pin down exactly what I like about this one. Breaking the genre by not giving him uber useful skills is a nice twist, and I love that he has to find solutions by using his do-over lives to investigate and learn about people so he can get them into the right position to try and survive. I’m actually impressed that they took a concept like this and managed to balance the humor, drama, and terror so well, but damned if they don’t. Also, seeing the same people in the same day over and over again really allows for more in depth character development as the MC discovers more and puts pieces together. It’s a surprisingly fun, strong entry in the season and has potential to go for way more than twelve episodes.
In Case You Missed It: Log Horizon
Now while I’ve said before that the first arc of Sword Art Online (pre-fairies) is about as close to perfection as any show I’ve ever witnessed, in terms of a series as a whole, I actually think I like Log Horizon better. It’s one of the many “people stuck in an MMO” animes out there, although in this case no one knows what transported them there.
While SAO was a look at the survivalist mentality that such a situation could create, Log Horizon examines it from a community perspective. If players were suddenly stuck in the game world, with death no longer a real issue, how would they react to it? Would they rejoice? Despair? Give in to the violence of the world or try to find a place of peace? We see all of that play out in different cities and through different characters in the show, all mostly from the POV of a master strategist trying to keep everything on track.
It’s a lot more light-hearted than SAO, with a big emphasis on fun and comedy over the gut-wrenching moments; however, they do manage to still surprise the viewer with tension and high stakes. I feel like this is one that truly appeals to those who’ve spent a lot of time on MMOs instead of just using it as a backdrop, because many of the issues and solutions they face are well-thought out and rooted in the framework of MMOs themselves.
Although I am a fan, I will say the first season (~25 episodes) of this was measurably stronger than the second, but it’s all still worth watching as a whole. This is one I’ve come back to many times, simply because I find it so unceasingly enjoyable. And if you took my advice about watching Angel Beats last quarter, you probably need something to make you smile.