What I’m Watching This Season (So Far)
As I’ve mentioned before, this year’s summer anime season marks the first time I’ve been watching new anime shows as they come out, and while I’ve been enjoying thinking up old shows to talk about it would be nice to change tack briefly and ruminate a bit on the here and now. So I’d like to briefly introduce the handful of summer 2016 anime that I’m currently making my way through. This is in no way an exhaustive list of what I’m going to be watching; my free time is limited and I’ve been doing a lot of gaming lately. These are just the shows I’ve gotten around to so far, but I think they’re an interesting enough mix to run through. So in no particular order:
If you haven’t already, then do check out my thoughts on the classic 90s Berserk adaptation right here. While both that and the recent trilogy of movies covered the popular Golden Age arc of the manga this new offering thankfully gives us a taste of what came next in Kentaro Miura’s skin-crawling tale of blood, demons and the darkness in man’s heart. Picking up pretty much where the movies left off (while skipping a couple of standalone stories from the manga), Berserk 2016 sees Guts, the wandering “Black Swordsman” traveling the war-ravaged kingdom of Midland while relentlessly pursued by demons who want to claim his soul for their enigmatic masters the Godhand. The series inherits the unusual semi-cel-shaded CG animation of the movies, which so far has been putting a lot of people off, but if you can mentally adjust for it and expect things to look a little awkward in places then Berserk is a gleeful throwback to the anime ultra-violence of yesteryear (unsurprising since the manga began publication in the 80s). If you like the grimdark sensibilities of Game of Thrones’ action scenes but think it needs more overt supernatural elements then this could be one to keep an eye on. One caveat however; the show seems to pretty much assume that you know the events of the Golden Age arc already, so you might find it useful to bone up on previous incarnations of the franchise.
Love Live! Sunshine!!
Did I ever mention that I have one of the widest taste in anime I know? A new chapter in the anime accompaniment to the Love Live! School Idol Project, Sunshine!! follows Chika Takami, a high school girl in a quiet coastal town who is inspired to try and put together her own school idol group after discovering µ’s, the group from the previous series. The new series definitely suffers a little from being connected to the previous one; a lot of character traits are recycled from the girls of µ’s albeit in new configurations, and the story is currently following a lot of the same beats as its predecessor. Standing on its own feet I also find that the characters are a little broader than before; so far a lot of the humour is derived from anime character stereotypes like the tech-illiterate bookworm, the increasingly-irritating girl-who-gropes-other-girls’-breasts that anime badly needs to grow out of, and an outspoken chuunibyou (incidentally is it really ok for a show to encourage delusional behaviour under the pretext of being true to yourself?) However, the broad character strokes do help to make each girl distinct and recognisable, what few songs we’ve been shown are of similar quality to µ’s output and the coastal backdrop is much nicer to look at than the city scenes of the first two series. Love Live! Sunshine!! is unlikely to win over new fans, but I’m sure followers of the original will enjoy another dose of idol goodness.
Cute High Earth Defence Club Love! Love!
Much like Love Live! Sunshine!!, Cute High season 2 is pretty much more of the same parodying of magical girl tropes by applying them to a group of overly-lackadaisical high school boys. After everything in the original series has been neatly wrapped up and finished off the school council leave to study abroad, leaving an opening for a new pair of villains to take the stage (literally) and prompting Wombat, the fluffy hybrid of Luna and Kyubey, to give the Battle Lovers new uniforms and magic spells because that’s what always happens in the second season. This show remains just as bizarre and, if I’m honest, brazenly stupid as ever, and while the premise is running thin in an industry where subverting genres is more popular than outright riducling them it still prompts enough incredulous chuckles from me that I’m willing to ride this one out and see what happens next. It also helps that the new villains are borderline-twincestuous idols.
Sweetness & Lightning
So far I’m only two episodes into Sweetness & Lightning so I can’t talk about it with any authority, but when it only takes one episode to get me hooked it must be doing something right! Unlike the fantastical or wish-fulfilment elements of the other shows I’m watching, this touching drama series focuses on real-world issues. This story follows Kohei Inuzuka, a recently bereaved teacher who struggles to provide his daughter Tsumugi with proper meals until a chance encounter with one of his students inspires him to try learning to cook. So far this show has a very sedate pace and really lavishes attention on Kohei and Tsumigi’s day-to-day relationship; he may only be able to provide her with ready meals, but it is very clear that Kohei cares for his daughter more than anything else in the world, and in return Tsumugi has an undying affection for her father that makes me well up even during perfectly happy scenes. The unique selling point of Sweetness & Lightning is that Tsumugi is voiced by a child actress, Rina Endo, which provides her lines with extra authenticity and greatly enhances the appeal of her character in a way that an adult woman putting on a sweet voice just couldn’t measure up to. I don’t know where this story is headed, but I can already tell that I will quickly become emotionally invested in the characters.
Last but not least, meet Bananya! A frankly bizarre short form anime series, Bananya is a… documentary of sorts about a group of tiny cats that spend their lives secretly nestled inside banana skins in an ordinary house, playing with innocuous items like TV remotes or the contents of a refrigerator. It’s weird, it’s cute, it’s strangely funny, and this write-up is as short as the show’s episode lengths because there’s really nothing else to say about it. It’ll only take up three minutes of your time each week, so give it a look some time!
There are a couple of other shows this season that I’m definitely interested in checking, particularly Orange which I gather is doing rather well at the moment, but these are my current ongoing shows as they stand in a season that seems to have some pretty strong titles starting up. What do you think of these shows? What shows are currently on your radar?