The Top 15 Anime We Watched in 2016

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In 2016 the staff of RABUJOI watched 101 shows and reviewed 42 of them to completion (and yes, that’s the answer to life the universe and everything). When all was watched and reviewed, these fifteen shows comprise the cream of the crop, based on our average ratings.

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15. Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

Spring – 8.17

Tanaka-kun is one of only two shows from a pedestrian Spring that managed to make this list, despite its relatively modest rating. Call it an honorable mention. It’s here because few shows this year were funnier, made better use of silence, or possessed better comic timing. It was a deliciously witty high school comedy that made the classic “boring lazy protagonist” to the extreme and made him not boring. Tanaka wasn’t the only star of this show; the entire eclectic ensemble was imminently likable, and they attended a Shaft-esque, architecturally elaborate school in a mundane yet beautifully-rendered, often luminous town. And it wasn’t all comedy; there were some nice relationship moments too.

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14. Flip Flappers

Winter – 8.58

Flip Flappers shares this year’s title for most visually creative, dynamically animated show with Space Patrol Luluco. Beautiful and light, FliFla’s mysterious world exudes a storybook quality that should be inviting for most audiences. Unfortunately, as the mystery made way for a more anime-conventional conflict and a convoluted backstory, which FliFla’s weekly one-off adventures could not possibly set up, those dreamy visuals lost their luster. In the end, it remains worth a watch, if only for the first four episodes.

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13. ReLIFE

Summer – 8.46

Don’t let the average looks, gimmicky premise, or goofy title fool you: ReLIFE combined young adult regret and ennui with solid high school drama that really captured the undue importance young people place on their personal affairs and entanglements at that age. While not as dense or sophisticated as, say, Oregairu, the intensity with which ReLIFE presents the joys and trials of youth is plain to see, and every character is well-rounded, rootable, and just plain fun to watch. This show was also released all at once, Netflix-style, making it perfect for a midsummer binge.

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12. 3-gatsu no Lion

Fall – 8.55

Though not quite half over, March Comes In Like A Lion nevertheless earns a spot on this list. Its title may call to mind Your Lie in April, and features an emotionally stunted prodigy with shaggy black hair and Issues, but it stands on its own merits: one of the year’s more lovable families and coziest homes, a gorgeous watercolor palette, unique character design, and a toned-down but still interesting, often striking direction from Shinbo Akiyuki. I daresay the show succeeds in spite of its protagonist and his interminable inner dialogues, thanks to the care taken with the people and world around him.

11. Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara

Summer – 8.62

While lacking the same novelty, inventiveness, and pace of its excellent first season, I still had plenty of appetite for Food Wars 2, which aired as a single Summer cour. Even matches and face-offs we knew were coming became thrilling in the heat of battle, and the culinary lessons learned (or confirmed) and ideas gleaned are a nice bonus. I’ve gone on record as saying the best part of this season, and a big reason it’s on this list, was the Stagiaire mini-arc, and watching characters outside of the arena and school applying their trade in real world situations. Food Wars is above all comfort food, and is always welcome as long as quality doesn’t dip too far (cough cough WWW.Working!!).

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10. Alderamin on the Sky

Summer – 8.62

Fantasy military shows seem like a dime a dozen, and on the ‘cover’, this ‘book’ looked like it had all the makings of another fun, if anonymous, low-fantasy romp. Further perusal of its ‘pages’ revealed Alderamin had two things that distinguished it as a rewarding, worthwhile viewing experience: an abundance of Gravitas, and a phenomenal core friendship. Ikta and Yatori made this show. For the first four episodes, we immediately learn the unique and complex nature of their relationship, then the fifth episode provides firsthand context and deepened my devotion to them all the more. While the show sometimes attempted (and failed) in its attempts at slapstick humor, I never tired of the witty – or serious – banter between these two.

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9. Hai to Gensou no Grimgar

Winter – 8.67

Grimgar draws you into its beautiful, brutal world and doesn’t let go. A pristine textbook lesson on the importance, and the spoils, of careful preparation. World-building, character-building, conflict-building; Grimgar’s first seven episodes prepare the audience for an electrifying reckoning in the eighth. The show could have ended right there and still been on this list – higher up in the rankings – but its final third still ended strong, for the same reasons the first two, only in a more compressed, less impactful form.

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8. Amaama to Inazuma

Winter – 8.83

I own and maintain a small child, about Tsumugi’s age and together we watched this show wrapped in our proxies’ worlds. AtI nails the specifics of a small child, for the most part, and the nature of being an adult living with that child. It’s earnest, charming, and the recipe of the week nature makes it easy to drop in and love. All it was missing was visual variety (almost always taking place in the wood toned kitchen) and a long term goal or purpose. Regardless, this is a thoughtful, insightful slice of life about people, food and loss and you should go back and watch it if you did not.

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7. Hibike! Euphonium 2

Fall – 8.85

Even though the vast majority of the cast are elite teen musicians, Euph remains the gold standard for the genuine depiction of relatable young people as they amble gingerly towards the responsibilities and (relative) emotional stability of adulthood. And there are few characters this year as inscrutably effective in getting things done as Kumiko, nor are there BFF duos with chemistry as good as Kumiko and Reina. The second season has seen Kumiko not only put out a number of potentially cohesion-killing brush fires among the band, but also mend fences with her estranged sister. And just when you thought all these dealings had her drifting from her beloved Reina, the two have a thoroughly touching reconciliation. Sure, Hazuki, Sapphire, and especially Shuu are pretty much background characters this season, but who cares?

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6. Orange

Summer – 8.92

The best romantic dramas (or comedies, or dramadies) preclude the viewer from asking questions like “why is everything so damned dramatic?” or “yes, but why should I care?” From word go, I never considered those questions, so immersed was I in the drama and suspense of the events in Orange. The show only stumbled when it got to granular about the mechanisms of its time-travelling correspondence, but while the ideas it presented were hardly new, their serious application in a shoujo romance made for compelling viewing; sometimes intensely so.

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5. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Winter – 8.92

The number of TV anime series we watched this year that depict wartime and postwar life in Japan as rigorously as Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu can be counted…on one finger. It’s a prickly space to work in, but Shouwa manages to thrive in a narrow corner with the very specialized vehicle of rakugo. It avoids being overly clinical in its explanation of the highly refined and deeply Japanese variant of oral tradition thanks to the powerful portrayal of its complex characters, two of whom approach their slowly waning craft from opposing directions. Once they get into a story, and that fantastic jazzy score kicks in, you can’t help but be swept in. I frankly can’t wait for the continuation of their story this coming Winter.

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4. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

Winter – 8.96

The score above applies to the first twenty-five episodes of IBO, ending in March of this year. Yes, half of that season began last Fall, but it ended this Spring, with a lot accomplished and a lot of promise for the still-ongoing second season (which is also pretty damn good). From the start, it was clear this was going to be a gritty, low(er)-tech Gundam, packed with complex players who populate every possible shade of gray. Motivations and loyalties shift with time and circumstances. Battles rage to varying degrees of completion, and the stakes continue to mount as we become more invested in the combatants. There are characters who were born with everything, and some who were born with nothing. There’s the struggle between rebellious youth yearning for freedom and a stubborn over-class of adults of various levels of nefariousness, looking to cling to old systems. Finally, the gritty, rusty, brutally physical nature of the mobile suit battles themselves match the overall tone of the show.

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3. Boku dake ga Inai Machi

winter – 9.00

Prior to the Fall, Re:Zero and ERASED were pretty closely matched as Franklin’s favorite shows of 2016 and both have a time travel element. Of the two, ERASED is more tightly paced (as it must be with half the eps) and consistent in emotional impact. In ERASED, we ultimately know there is only one villain and one hero, with a small cast of friends to save along the way. This makes ERASED focused but it also means the world building largely works because it is our world, with recognizable structures. This also means that ERASED’s post-villain showdown payoff, that its protagonist finally has manga worth making and ‘gets the girl’ is somewhat unrelated feel-good gravy. But that doesn’t discount the quality, or the intensity, of the buildup that preceded that payoff, which is good enough to land ERASED in our 2016 Top 3.

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2. Re:Zero

Spring – 9.04

Re:Zero‘s gut churning mid-arc, where Subaru burns many of his bridges, was the boldest narrative decision made by any studio this year. Breaking Subaru into a sputtering, unlikable and emotionally raw character risked turning off viewers, but gave us a fantastic, rounded hero to cheer on by the end.

Yes, it is frustrating that the conflict of the moment all but crowds Puck, the Dragon and the Witch’s stories out but, by playing the exact nature of those mysteries close to its chest, and implying that those mysteries may not be knowable as they can be changed dynamically by Subaru’s actions, Re:Zero almost gives us something better.

What held Re:Zero from top show was, ironically, several elements that leave so much mileage left in its tank. Priscilla, Anastasia and Felt ultimately feel tacked on only to make the battle for succession bigger. Felt in particular feels like a genre cliche, with her “I’ll break the nobility system” yo-yo to/not to participate. While her response may have emphasized Subie’s downfall, it was mostly cringey and, since she wasn’t in the rest of the series, felt like a needless thread. That false thread also emphasized the needlessness of others like the blank letter and the exploding stones.

Similarly, Reinhard, Priscilla’s bare-chested knight and Otto each came off as plot-movers and not real characters. This would be more acceptable if each had functioned like a traditional NPC and appeared across a larger number of episodes. Otto in particular feels under explored or over exposed, since his magic drag racing ability wasn’t necessary for Subie’s final showdown with Sloth-chan.

However, at the end of the day, Re:Zero is packed with expectation-breaking moments, great highs, and deep lows. Subie writing an end to Sloth-chan’s book of prophecy (in his blood) was just one from the finale. Packed is how I would describe this show in general, as it regularly stuffed narrative into the opening and closing credits and, even at 25 episodes, rarely felt like it was ‘dragging its feet’ for the final battle.

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1. Yuri!!! On Ice

Winter – 9.42

In purely technical terms, Yuri on Ice!!! is the best-crafted show of the year. From color pallete, to gesture, to camera moves, to variable focal depths and character stylizations being used to control the viewers focus, it nails everything with a master level. But YoI is more than that – it builds a relatable world with dozens of characters, each with an intricate network of relationships, motivations and goals.

However, what truly elevates YoI above is what it is not. It is not a time travel show. It is not a mecha/scifi show. It is not a grim-dark drama with fate on the line. It has no story gimmick or genre familiarity or topical hook or magical spin on the visuals for the audience. It barely has stakes at all. Like Hibiki, this means the show must carry the audience’s attention entirely on its own merits, and boy did it.

Congratulations anime of 2016, you just got schooled by a quasi-boy love show about ice skaters!

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 13 (Fin)

WE’RE SO SCREWED

As expected, the final Hibike! Euphonium 2 of the season is an epilogue; it even has ‘epilogue’ in the episode title. The third years are given a proper sendoff with lovely musical performances accompanied by montages of both this season and the last.

Yoko and Natsuki take up the mantle of new president and vice president, and the former can hear the loss of the third years.

Really nice lighting effects in this scene
Really nice lighting effects in this scene

So can Taki-sensei, who acknowledges that every year school bands essentially take a big step back due to the outgoing talent. That experience must be replaced with the remaining members plus the rawer talent of incoming first years.

The same band that made it to the Nationals no longer exists. The one that intends to make it back will be an entirely new one: new leadership, new composition, new style.

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Since Kumiko and Reina are first-years, they have not one but two more years to achieve their goal of National Gold. And they seem as optimistic and determined as ever to get there, despite their bronze finish this year and the loss of so much talent.

Their problems going forward are the same problems all school bands face, and secondary problems — such as Yoko and Natsuki clashing — are sure to crop up.

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The key (no pun intended), I suppose, is to avoid really big dustups such as the ones that took place before Kumiko and Reina arrived at Kitauji; the kind of conflicts that actually hindered the band’s performance, and the wounds of which have now all but faded.

And so we get a nice, long, heartfelt goodbye as all the seniors play for their juniors, then vice versa. There’s a commencement ceremony, where the goodbye hugs and wishes continue. And throughout this epilogue, Kumiko is sad and upset, all because Asuka is leaving.

Ah, so THAT'S where the show's title comes from. HUH!
Ah, so THAT’S where the show’s title comes from. HUH!

She runs all over the school grounds, increasingly desperate to find her. As usual, Asuka is trying to avoid “these kind of things”, but Kumiko won’t let her escape her, or her true feelings. Kumiko thinks she might have hated Asuka at first – but now all she feels is love. Romantic love? Perhaps it hews close to that, just as you could read her feelings towards Reina on top of that mountain last season.

But whatever specific kind of love it is, she’s got it, when she didn’t have it before. Asuka is someone she let into her life and personality, while continuing to hold back from Shuu (poor Shuu). Asuka is someone leaving, whom she doesn’t want to go. She has eyes for no third-year but Asuka.

And now she’s the chief euph, and her bandmates even remark how she sounds like Asuka. Like Mamiko, Asuka has helped shape and progress Kumiko’s musical development and identity. I’m unsure if there will be a Euph 3, but there’s plenty of great material to continue with.

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Fune wo Amu – 11 (Fin)

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Last week restored my faith in Fune wo Amu’s ability to engage and pull its audience in with an up-against-the-wall crisis that requires a tremendous group effort to pull off. But that same goodwill didn’t quite carry over in the show’s eleventh and final episode, which only reinforced a problem I’ve had since the eighth episode pushed us forward so many years without warning.

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I understand how the show basically needed to show us the ultimate payoff of a published Great Passage, but I maintain that it didn’t have enough time to tell that story, nor would extending the effort across, say, a full 26-episode series would have been possible before getting stale, monotonous, or over-contrived in an effort to stoke up some drama.

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Before the dictionary officially goes on sale, Matsumoto suddenly succombs to esophageal cancer he only told his comrades a day or so before his death. His death has been telegraphed so much, it didn’t elicit a shock in me so much as a shrug. Again, his death only underlines the problematic nature of leaping so far ahead in the dictionary’s timeline to a point where most people only look slightly different, but suddenly Matsumoto is at death’s door.

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The missing words episode was a temporary diversion from the fact the development of the dictionary didn’t feel as epic as it should have because the show skipped too much time.  Ditto Matsumoto’s death. He seemed like a nice guy and all, but he was a character with a tendency to spout flowery philosophy and little else. Post time-jump, it was hard to get a handle on the characters were; spending so much time with the new hire didn’t help matters.

So yeah, Fune wo Amu was, to me, the definition of “watchable,” but I won’t lie: I’m glad there’s no twelfth episode, because I’ve been mostly checked out since episode 6, when Majime’s attainment of Kaguya was sold as the Most Important Thing going on in the show, without ever really getting into why the two liked, let alone loved, each other.

The show had glimmers of greatness, but couldn’t help but feel either too drawn-out (earlier in the story) or too rushed (after the time jump). And there’s only so many ways you can present the metaphor of a ship lighting the way.

Considering how carefully the dictionary at the heart of its story was planned and prepared, Fune wo Amu too often felt unsure of itself and random in where it chose to focus its attention. That made it hard to stay involved.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 11

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We’re halfway through 3GL, and I’ve been remiss in mentioning Hashimoto Yukari. Who is Hashimoto Yukari? She does the music for 3GL, and it’s been fantastic throughout, but never more so than during Rei’s post-shogi season descent into bedridden delirium. The watercolor aesthetic has always given the show a dreamlike aura; Rei’s fever dreams are that much more dreamlike.

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I’m willing to entertain the fact that Rei’s mention last week of a “beast within him” that feeds on victory in shogi hasn’t been exaggerated. Here we see the beast being starved from lack of competition (since the shogi matches for the year are over), and what such a deficit does to Rei’s body. It stands to reason that someone for whom “shogi is everything” would cease to have anything when the shogi stopped.

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But Rei does have more than shogi going in his life. There’s a lovely Ghibli-esque quality to the manner in which the Kawamoto sisters spirit Rei away to the doctor, then to their home for proper convalescence. In his state when they found him, it was clear Rei was incapable of taking care of himself or lifting his fever in a timely fashion. The sisters basically save him.

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But when he thanks the Kawamotos profusely for saving him and apologizes for interfering with their end-of-year festivities, Akari demurs. After all, she wanted Rei to come and be part of their family; otherwise she says she’d be “cleaning alone and crying”, the hole her lost family members left still raw and festering.

Rei takes her mind off that, and for that, Rei has her thanks. Rei was, as he says, too preoccupied with his own loneliness to recognize the loneliness of another, but that failure to recognize it is now over.

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So despite starting out the episode feeling absolutely miserable in his dim, sparse apartment, Rei ends up not only warmly, cozily ensconced in the Kawamoto residence, feeling much better, but also is perfectly comfortable and at peace in the house—weird bathroom addition and all.

The stickers on the chest of drawers remind him of his life with his mother and sister. That family may no longer be with him, but he has a new family that helps him a lot, and lets him sleep more soundly.

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Flip Flappers – 12

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The Gist: Papika and Yayaka trudge through the ‘greatest hits’ of Pure Illusion, getting pummeled by Mimi along the way. Yayaka learns to transform during the sand-world fight, Bu-chan is upgraded with the M.U.S.C.L.E. satellite, and Salt makes it back to his father’s lab in search of the original machine that made his father crazy.

In the ends, a splinter of Mimi saves the day by convincing Cocona it’s okay not to know what you want or how to get it as long as you have a little courage and try. So Cocona and Papika mega upgrade and demolish bad Mimi’s monster. Roll credits, for now…

The Verdict: It’s not terrible but it’s no longer good either. What began weeks ago feeling like important building blocks of story were missing has morphed to pure contrivance for narrative sake (Splinter good Mimi) or completely disposable (everything Salt and crew have been up to)

At the end of the day, Flip Flappers remains a very pretty, energetic show, with fun characters devoid of believable character traits and scenarios. The story, which has become more and more shallow as it’s gone along, is just happening in a conventional way with our heroes down one moment and then up, along with climbing music the next.

It’s effective but, compared to the open ended mystery about a world of shared mental scapes that knit the whole cast together, and the stories that could be told through the consequences of helping (or changing) those characters, Flip Flappers’ broken mom uses magic to control her daughter plot is a tremendous disappointment.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 12 (Fin)

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“If you retire now, I’ll make you regret it for the rest of your life” – Yurio, snatching Gold from Yuri by .12

The Gist: 6 skaters give 6 performances, marked with their own narration of objectives. The many competitors and supporters who we’ve come to know watch along as the scores come in. JJ seals third place by growing stronger emotionally and in performance as he goes, just shutting out the Khazak skater. But the first big upset is Yuri, who blows the crowd — and the judges — completely away with a world record setting performance. Above even Victor’s world best.

But Yurio is having none of it. Frustrated that ‘beating Victor’ is good enough — that just retiring after only one good year — Yurio puts on 3 minutes of beautiful animation plus flashbacks that add to our understanding: that he was in that bathroom all the way at the beginning of the series because he was intrigued by Yuri’s footwork, but disgusted by the emotional damage he saw.

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Yurio wins by .12, entirely due to his advantage going into the second round but the result is the same. Yuri holds a silver at the end and finally comes to realize he never wanted to give up skating. Nor does he have to worry about Victor, who too will rejoin next year’s rotation.

After a lovely duet preluding the next season to come, Yuri find himself training with Victor and Yurio the way they had before, but as truer, closer friends. Their feels out in the open.

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The Verdict: That was a fantastic conclusion for all the obvious reasons. Animation, character, world building, sport, and above all else, enjoyable characters that bounce off of each other. Yurio’s reveal was especially fulfilling, as it gave his tsundere personality the final rounding we needed, following last week’s friendship growth with the Khazak skater.

Another fun trick was undermining Yuri’s first episode narration, in which he says this would be his last year as a skater, to retire on a gold. It totally played with our expectations all the way to the end, but gave him a believable reason to stay.

I can not stress how good this show is and how completely un-boy love too — despite the obvious bro-mancing between Yuri and Victory. There’s no date side episode or quiet ‘they did it’ episode. The sexuality isn’t part of the story at all, even if you can imagine it being part of their lives. If that changes your mind about giving YOI a watch, dive in. You will not be disappointed!

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 12 (Fin)

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The Finale: Cockroach-chan’s showdown with Kaya, Maya’s abuse-fueld alter-ego is intense but ultimately morphs back into a duel with Maya, after a rousing pep-talk about wanting to be proud of the fight. Cockroach-chan wins, of course, having been upgraded by her team mates and having unlocked the full power of the vacuum butt cannon.

But all it well that ends well and the girls have a lovely banquet together afterwards. Despite their on-land meanness, team evil is all puppies and kittens now, and quickly becomes friends.

Final Verdict: This was pretty terrible. I get the point is exploitation backed by friendly non-objectifying girls who love (and take seriously) a sport but… nah this is just nipple-less T&A wrapped around generic fighting tourney tropes. There was no charm at the end, no humor to balance the final fight, and Team-evil never had a chance, nor was there 5 episode arc built up enough for it to have weight or stakes.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 38

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This episode teases us a bit by jumping from the beginning of Mika’s battle with Hashmal to “One Month Later”, but thankfully Orga’s talk with McMurdo is a vehicle for rehashing that battle, which is one of the more vicious ones we’ve seen.

For perhaps the first time, an opponent is able to keep up with Mika, push him back, and do a ridiculous amount of damage, such that Mika truly has to pull out all the stops (and borrow Isurugi’s ludicrously huge sword) to get the job done. And he does: it’s immensely satisfying to hear the smash of Hashmal finally hitting the ground, out for the count.

McMurdo, like Naze before, gives Orga a polite — for now — warning not to let his interests clash with Teiwaz’s, because his life won’t be the only one to be forfeit. With each battle, it becomes more and more impossible for Orga to deviate from his forward path to dominion over Mars, as more and more alternate avenues close around him and Tekkadan.

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In another satisfying scene, Master Rustal all but drops his alliance with an increasingly chaotic Iok Kujan, and in doing so, gains a lot more respect from me. Rustal wants to rid himself of McGillis, but he’s not going to operate, or continue to allow someone like Iok, to work outside of the established ideals of Gjallarhorn; i.e. to protect order.

This is why Rustal gives Iok the cold shoulder at the meeting of the Seven Stars, congratulates Fareed for his hard-won victory, and bides his time. Like Iok, Julieta wants to act and act fast, but she’s at least able to take dierection from Rustal better.

What he wants from her isn’t mere brute strength like Mikazuki Augus; he wants something more; perhaps something that will endure longer than a bright-yet-brief flame. Julie is willing to try to find out what that is.

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As for Mika, he continues to sacrifice pieces of himself, almost exclusively for Orga’s sake. One could argue Orga has the power to stop him, but he simply can’t say the words, perhaps for fear it would undermine their relationship and Mika’s faith in him; perhaps simply because he knows Tekkadan would likely have fallen many times by now were it not for Mika’s singular contributions.

But Mika’s whole left side is paralyzed now. He needs (a very willing) Hush to carry him around, and is constantly asking if Barbatos is repaired so he can get back into the cockpit and be able to “move” again. In exchange for its Calamity War-ending power, Barbatos is exacting a heavy cost upon Mika by making it increasingly difficult for him to function without it.

There isn’t even any discussion about whether such effects can be reversed, so it certainly isn’t looking good for Mika long-term. This upsets Kudelia and Atra alike, who are also worried that all the gains Tekkadan has made hasn’t really changed Mika at all; he still sees himself as a blade; Orga’s blade, and only lives to serve him in any way he can, until his body and mind and soul are utterly spent.

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This compels Atra, likely too bashful to consider herself for the job, to beg Kudelia to have a baby with Mika, so that, if the worst happens and Mika doesn’t come back one day, they’ll still have a part of him to love and care for. It’s very in-character for Atra to propose such a thing, but I doubt it will go anywhere, since I don’t see Kudelia ever being able to propose such a thing to Mika, even if Mika could well simply say “ok, sure fine” about it.

But for now, Mika is focused on one thing: continuing to fight, kill, destroy, for Orga. For Tekkadan. For the Kingdom of Mars. He considers his current position “not that bad” as it “simplifies things.” Kudelia wants to create a world where he doesn’t have to fight. Now he can no longer move, let alone fight, without Barbatos, so as far as Mika’s concerned, there is no going back until Kudelia’s dream is attained. The only other outcome is death.

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Again, it makes sense for Mika to be so obsessed with Barbatos’ status; it is literally the machine that keeps him alive and able to be useful. When Orga visits him, thinking he’s asleep, he refuses to apologize for what happened, but Mika isn’t asleep; he hears him.

And he agrees: Mika chose to do what he did, and he can live with the consequences. He is also willing to keep going, and keep giving up pieces of himself for the cause. He won’t let Orga apologize, because there’s nothing to apologize for.

As McGillis considers Gaelio’s apparent return to the field of play, and Julieta aims to emulate Mika in her unswerving devotion as her master’s blade, Mika stays the course. With Orga, he believes he can go anywhere. In the final dozen episodes, we’ll see how far that is and how much more it will cost.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 12

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And so Kiss Him Not Me comes to an end, with the ending pretty much in the title all along. Mutsumi’s sudden realization of his romantic feelings for Kae make her other four suitors scramble to keep him away from her, but he eventually outsmarts them with a P.A. announcement calling Kae to the school roof.

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Mu, however, does not discourage the others from joining him on that roof and letting their feelings be known. With everyone saying they like her, clearly, and asking if she’ll go out with them, the onus is on her to choose.

Kae flees to A-chan with her predicament; A-chan is understandably frustrated with Kae putting everything in fujoshi terms, but the solution they come up with is for Kae to do things dating-sim-style. The scene is another hint that Kae simply isn’t ready for a 3D romantic relationship.

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She goes on dates with each of the suitors, and has a wonderful time with each of them, as each of their charms are laid bare before her. But it doesn’t make it any easier to choose among them; indeed, it only make the choice harder and more confusing.

All five are great, they’re just lacking that special something that would compel her to choose one over the others. Which is why, in the end, she chooses no one. The status quo prior to their confessions is the situation at the end, for Kae doesn’t “love” any of them the way she loves Shion, who may be resurrected in a new season of his anime.

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So there you have it. Kae has never subscribed to the notion that the princess belongs with the prince, or even that the princess belongs with another princess. She’s all about 5×7, tops, bottoms, and lords. Furthermore, she lives a full and happy life not with a boyfriend or girlfriend, but with her sixteen waifus.

“Sorry, that’s how it is,” she says to her shocked, former suitors. And I can’t really feel that bad for them. They’re all still friends, both with her and with each other. Hopefully they can get over the fact she’s not the kind of girl who’d date them, and never was.

It’s a fitting end to a satisfying, if not perfect show that centered on a genuine ‘unconventional’ girl (whatever that means) who may be a bit naive when it comes to romance, but in the end knows what she wants and what she loves, and isn’t about to conform.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 10

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Another week, another weak opponent with a sad story Rei must face, another dose of caustic venom from Kyoko. Remembering back to a Christmas where Kyoko’s dad gave him a shogi set instead of her, Rei admits he wants to hear the poison from Kyoko.

He must believe on some unconscious level that he deserves punishment for the pain he caused her. Kyoko is all too happy to oblige, but her shtick is getting a little old, and not just with me.

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Predictably, Rei defeats Mr. Yasui. It doesn’t even take that long. He can tell Yasui is trying his best to bring a victory home to his daughter on the last Christmas before his divorce. But Rei sees Yasui’s mistakes before he does.

That means he can see more moves ahead, which means Yasui never had a chance. Throughout the game, Rei feels like he’s walking on eggshells around the faintly alcohol-scented ol’ bastard, and doesn’t feel particularly good about dispatching him so easily.

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When Yasui slinks away without the bag containing a gift for his daughter, Rei tries to be a nice guy and gets the bag back to him. Yasui pretends it isn’t his at first, but Rei presses the issue and Yasui angrily snatches it away before continuing off, probably to get drunk.

All the while, I was thinking about how unwise it was for Rei to involve himself in the personal lives of the sadsack opponents he beats. They’re not your problem, dude. You gotta focus on winning matches so you can eat and pay the bills.

Turns out…he listened!

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WRONG, Trump, WRONG! Not everything is Rei’s fault! It’s his opponents’ faults they lost, because they weren’t good enough to beat him. He realizes there’s a “beast” inside of him, fighting for his survival, that will elicit no mercy once the battle has begun.

No matter how he became a shogi player, the fact of the matter is, he’s a Shogi Player, and a damn good one. He’s sick of feeling like shit for beating people…and allowing Kyoko to keep that river of shit flowing. Could this be a turning point?

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 12

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Shuu Sighting! Shuu Sighting! Kumiko and Shuu can’t sleep the night before the Nationals, and end up having drinks together by the vending machine. As always, they talk about mundane things. Shuu gives Kumiko a belated birthday present: a cute hairpin. Scene.

It’s these two in a nutshell. Here, in the middle of the night, the two are able to at least have a moment. It’s not a bit dramatic moment or anything, just a cordial acknowledgement of their history together, without any kind of indication either one of them know what to do from there. Sometimes I think the show revels in always teasing these two.

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Oh yeah, the Nationals! Kitauji fails to win Gold. They fail to win Silver, too. They end up with Bronze. Bronze, after all that! I guess they aimed too high, huh? Ah well, like the band, I had carried unreasonably high expectations, and while it stings to seem them essentially crash and burn, they didn’t do badly for a group so young, and the second and first years aren’t out of opportunities. Just getting to the Nationals was a goal they successfully achieved, and that’s nothing to sniff at.

When Taki-sensei is awarded on stage, the band doesn’t have a cheer arranged. Enter Reina, who yells out “I LOVE YOU!”, which Taki and everyone else hears, but not necessarily as a confession. Later, when Taki thanks Reina and expresses his worry no one in the band liked him, she piles on the praise, then makes it clear she “really does like him” – to which Taki is flattered, and walks away without a formal response. Hang in there, Reina!

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In better news, Asuka’s father, and judge in the competition, heard her, and through Taki-sensei, compliments her play as “beautiful” and is glad she kept at it. Frankly, I’m not sure why he couldn’t tell his daughter in person, but it seems to be enough for Asuka, who has to embrace Kumiko before completely breaking down with happiness.

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And finally, after a lot of looking around and chasing, Kumiko tracks down Mamiko, who did attend after all, to tell her she loves the Euph and loves concert band because of her, and she loves her. Mamiko yells back that she loves her too, and that’s the ep.

It was a bit odd not to hear any music, but it was always going to be hard to replicate the atmosphere of previous performances without seeming repetitive. Similarly, the Nationals didn’t feel any more “special” than the Regionals this time or last. It ends up being kind of a bronze episode (if a 9 is Silver and a 10 is Gold).

It felt more like an episode full of loose ends being tied up. That made for some enjoyable moments, but they felt isolated and disjointed. Still, the feels were felt on numerous occasions; oddly enough no more so than when Mizore fist-bumped Kumiko and looked so pleased about it.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 12 (Fin)

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Whoops, miscounted: here I was thinking for some reason there’d be two episodes left, but this turns out to be the finale. And you know what? I’m fine with that, even if the epilogue was a little rushed.

The epic final battle between Ripple and Swim Swim goes on while Fav continues to verbally torture Koyuki, who doesn’t want to be a magical girl anymore. The damn cyber-bird-thingy finally broke her spirit.

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But then, when she finally hears the truth she probably should have known for some time now — that this was nothing but a deathmatch for Fav and Cranberry’s shared entertainment — she transforms once again, hoping not to be too late before Ripple and Swim Swim kill each other.

This is Koyuki finally focusing her grief over the patently unfair, grisly ordeal she’s been through into action. It’s very satisfying watching her smash her terminal in rage, even if we know it’s not yet the end of Fav.

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The battle between Ripple and Swim Swim, pockmarked as it is by cuts to Snow and Fav, at least shows Ripple has learned a thing or two, both from her own first fight with Swim and from others who didn’t quite get her.

Ripple uses light and sound to disable Swim Swim, pulling her out of her magical girl form. This is when what had been a satisfying battle between a super-strong kunoichi and a super-powerful magic-user stops being fun.

That’s because Swim’s transformation back to normal shows us that Swim Swim was only a small child, and a deeply troubled one at that. She was doing what she thought she needed to do to become her idol, Ruler, and Ripple takes no joy in finishing the tyke off.

That being said, things got satisfying again when Ripple puts Swim Swim’s magic spear through the Master terminal, which takes Fav off line for good (cue grumpy cat GOOD pic). I also liked the cleverness of Koyuki being able to hear that Fav was in trouble, and that the spear would indeed do him in.

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Snow was too late to save Swim Swim (not that she would have listened to reason if she were still alive when she arrived), but she does end up saving Ripple by inspiring her. With Top Speed avenged, Ripple wants to go back to being a magical girl in the vein of Snow White; that is, someone pure and righteous, not someone who ends up having to stab children.

In the aforementioned speedy epilogue, Koyuki abandons her normal life, and for six months, toughens her mind and body — with Ripple’s help — and pulls off increasingly big, flashy feats — having come a long way from doing little kind deeds here and there.

Going big picture as she does, and rejecting the selection process and the raising project, is likely Koyuki’s way of making up for all the other girls whose lives were lost so that she could, as Fav put it, rise to the top without “dirtying her hands.” Now she’s a little less bright-eyed and naive and more world-weary and wise. And she’s determined to do everything she can to make the world a better place.

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Other than Fune wo Amu, which was handed off to me by Zane, MGRP was the last show standing on my Fall ’16 watchlist. A big part of that was that it was an elimination show that kept me involved right to the end, despite almost never properly developing characters in the right way or at the right time. (A notable exception being Alice).

Anyway, I’m glad I stuck with it, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Madoka. It wasn’t nearly as good, but it was a fun ride.

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