2016 In Review – Our Favorites, Biggest Disappointments, and Guilty Pleasures

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Favorite Show: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 1

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Best Episode: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 16

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Biggest Disappointment: GATE 2

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Guilty Pleasure: Qualidea Code

I ended up reviewing the fewest shows among my comrades, but Gundam was so good (and so, well, long) that it made up for the lack of shows I was really interested in. I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed in both the last cour of Durarara!! and with Macross Delta in general, which I, perhaps misguidedly, believed would at least be as good as Frontier was.

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Favorite Show: ReLIFE

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Best Episode: Orange – 03

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Biggest Disappointment: WWW.Working!!

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Guilty Pleasure: Momokuri / Hundred

Both of my GPs offered good bang for the buck; there’s not much to either of them, but I was always excited to watch both; Momokuri to see how much farther the couple would progress that week, and Hundred to see what stupid thing they’d do (or fail to animate) next. WWW.Working!!, on the other hand, I just couldn’t get through.

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Favorite Show: Hai to Gensou no Grimgar

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Best Episode: Re:Zero – 15

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Biggest Disappointment: Mayoiga

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Guilty Pleasure: Sousei no Onmyouji

Well, SnO was my GP until I realized it wasn’t really going anywhere and wasn’t really good enough to keep around once I fell behind due to other obligations. In a way, it replaced Ushio to Tora as my GP, and I really didn’t need two such shows back-to-back. SnO’s 50 episodes proved too many. As for Mayoiga, woof.

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Oigakkosan

Favorite Show: Boku dake ga Inai Machi

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Best Episode: Re:Zero – 01

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Biggest Disappointment: Mob Psycho 100

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Guilty Pleasure: Haikyuu!! Season 3

If not for the super unpleasant mid-point and throwaway section introducing the battle for the throne, I would gladly have given my top slot to Re:Zero, which was surprisingly unique in a year filled with ‘in another world’ AND ‘time travel mystery’ shows. Regardless, the opening episode flew me high and caught me by surprise with its dark twist and sealed my favorite single seating for the year. ReLife and Flying Witch both deserve honorable mentions too.

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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!

End-of-Month Rundown – April 2016

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Stats

Most Popular Shows (by MAL members)

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress 126,818
My Hero Academia 111,307
Kiznaiver 92,308
Bungou Stray Dogs 91,983
Re:Zero (1-13) 90,996

Least Popular Shows (by MAL members)

Sansha Sanyou 13,950
Macross Δ 15,507
Bakuon!! 18,984
Haifuri 19,363
Kuromukuro 21,288

Highest Positive Scoring Discrepancies (compared to MAL)

Space Patrol Luluco (S) +1.54
Flying Witch +0.89
Macross Δ +0.87
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress +0.85
Kuromukuro +0.79

Highest Negative Scoring Discrepancies (compared to MAL)

Hundred -0.91
Bungou Stray Dogs -0.42
Ushio to Tora -0.42
My Hero Academia -0.41
Haifuri -0.12

Closest Scores to MAL

NetoYome? -0.01
Sousei no Onmyouji -0.03
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk +0.09
Sansha Sanyou +0.12
Haifuri -0.12

End-of-Month Rundown – March 2016

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Click to view full-size

These seasons seem to come and go faster and faster. Before we knew it, there were only two episodes left of our Winter 2016. We whittled our watchlist down to just ten (an ambitious feat for the upcoming Spring that probably won’t be achieved), not counting Zane’s bitty 4-short She and Her Cat reboot.

Overall, it was a very good season. The presence of four shows in the 8.5-9 range are proof of that, but even the lesser shows had their charms. Let’s break it down into bullets:

  • ERASED wavered a little near its end, and did not stay long in MAL’s Top 5, but that’s not to say it’s not an all-time great, and easily belongs in the Top 15-25, with strong climax and finale
  • Few anime have so artfully and sensually chronicled a life’s worth of artistic and interpersonal struggles of a single talented yet flawed individual like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. Every week it’s transported us to a staggeringly vivid and realistic world full of rousing performances and complex emotions
  • Gundam gave us two things: an excellent, action and character-packed ending, and the promise of more to come, which is fine with us, as there’s a lot more stories to tell
  • Grimgar was achingly beautiful, joyful, tragic, and redemptive fantasy fare. It featured above-average RPG combat and way-above-average character work and drama, all at an deliciously unique, leisurely pace
  • KonoSuba was the anti-Grimgar, but just as successful due to the thoroughness with which it lampooned the genre. It wasn’t as polished or cohesive as, say, Amaburi, but it delivered more than its fair share of hearty laughs and ridiculous situations
  • Shirayuki-hime was often the Winter’s feel-good show, unless of course the titular character was being held hostage. Tthis Bones show soared as an earnest, richly-rendered romance/adventure tale, just as good at high-seas swashbuckling than it was quiet scenes between to young people in love
  • Things got a little hectic and hairy near the end of Durarara!!x2, but it delivered a decent, moderately satisfying finale that turned the page for many of the show’s major players. A Durarara!!x3 hasn’t been confirmed, but nor has it been ruled out
  • GATE wasn’t the most subtle show, and often got bogged down in teriary plotlines and dull political wrangling. But there’s not arguing that it also could deliver one hell of a fist-pumpin’ action set-piece when it wanted to, be it the fire dragon showdown, the paratroopers, or the final rescue op
  • Dimension W turned into an inter-dimensional mess, fast. It was one of two shows we could have done without altogether this Winter, and Zane regrets not dropping it in the midst of that bizarre haunted mansion arc
  • Dagashi Kashi has its sweet moments, but is ultimately a take-or-leave proposition. If Zane hadn’t picked it up, he probably wouldn’t have missed it

Oigakkosan’s Winter 2016 Rundown

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I’m only following Erased, IBO, Grimgar, Konosuba, Dagashi and Haikyuu this time around (but too busy until after April to write reviews for any of them).

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ERASED is by far the best show. The narration has a very specific pacing and language. The occasional spoken narration and moments of sincere humor keep it fun and lite. (without resorting to anthro-character/boob jokes most shows would use and ruin the atmosphere) – it may be worthy of the heritage list because I suspect it would be worth watching again.

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Grimgar is lovely. It’s oddly unique in its treatment of a completely generic topic. The final 4 eps will make or break being a classic because the plot may sputter out OR try to pack too much in. Either way, it’s my second pick of the season.

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IBO is everything that Gundam Zeta, Double Zeta and Req-G were not: a retread of Gundam but with better graphics, contemporary/more believable characters, and a twist of expectations. Being semi-outside UC’s setting, it also escapes the mire of cameos and baggage narrative that choked Unicorn to death. I would argue that War in the Pocket tells a more original, complete and more compact Gundam story and that Thunderbolt may eventually do similar, but I’ll agree with Hannah that IBO deserves a top 5 slot in the franchise*.

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KonoSuba is great wife & popcorn watching. Like Coffin Princess and Dungeon Dating in seasons past, the colorful cast, action, and RPG setting are easy to get into. Unlike those shows, this is a comedy and side steps any plot building issues because the plot, ultimately, doesn’t matter. More impressively, it uses the harem structure, without the protagonist wanting any of the women nor feeling like a spoiled jerk for not wanting them. “Life in an RPG would be annoying and sacks of loot largely worthless!” “A Harem would be annoying and largely worthless!” great twists on convention — certainly not enough to be a classic but a very clever show all the same.

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Dagashi’s novelty as a history/cultural lesson and a soft romance side plot were fun for a while but there’s just not enough there. The characters are simple, not designed to develop, and the humor wears thin. Last weeks festival episode demonstrated this clearly: dagashi was barely in it as a topic, there was little context given for the non-dagashi items/food and festival, and the romance part that occupied the majority of the run time was generic. Nothing offensive but watch and forget to be sure.

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Haikyuu S2 has dragged its heels from summer training to 2-episode mini arcs of Korasuno beating another good volleyball team in the prefecture’s high school tournament. Giving 2 episodes to each team the Crows defeat lets the show explore different group dynamics, motivations for playing, and responses to challenge (and losing) but it also introduces 2-5 new characters every 2 episodes (and then shelves them forever, presumably) which just feels distracting. This season was always about the Crows finding their feet as a team, rounding out the second string players backgrounds, and having revenge on the Emperor of the Court. The middle games don’t need to be here at all, let alone as 2-episode arcs. It just distracts from the central cast’s growth and makes the viewer feel like he’s wasting half an hour each week/could just binge the whole thing at the end.

*We disagree over Macross Frontier for the exact same reason. Like IBO, Frontier is a solid ‘new take’ on the franchise formula but the full series length and some of the cast-size and drama bloat that entails, makes it less impactful than tighter (and shorter) narrative of Macross Plus. (M+ having the best music and visual styling of the entire franchise) In nerd-war terms, the question is more ‘is IBO superior to 00’ (aka is Macross Frontier superior to Macross Zero) in a battle for 2nd-3rd place ;-)

End-of-Month Rundown – February 2016

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Click to view full-size

Weather-wise, it’s been a kinder, gentler Winter here at RABUJOI HQ. This past Sunday in particular was unseasonably warm and lovely. Spring is on the way, and with it at least 20 new shows to check out and vet, with hopes of whittling that collection to a dozen or less.

Since dropping Phantom World, we’ve been happy with the group of ten Winter shows that remain. Here’s where those shows currently stand with one month left:

  • ERASED continues to be a revelation; easily the best show watched by any of us since Steins;Gate, which is oddly enough an opinion shared by the FMA and Gintama-loving MAL community, who have elevated the new show to 5th all-time
  • Speaking of superlatives, Hannah is willing to go ahead and declare Gundam IBO the finest and most complete Gundam series she’s seen (though she’s watched a lot less than some)
  • Grimgar rose to dizzying heights this month, progressing in Preston’s mind from curious SAO facsimile at the start to a emerging classic that stands on its own
  • Zane has been pleased as punch with SGRS and its mature, sophisticated and witty storytelling in a postwar Japan bursting with the promise of hope and redemption
  • Snow White with the Red Hair went Full Swashbuckle with pirate kidnappers, stormy seas, hidden bases and a daring rescue.
  • There are times when it feels like KonoSuba’s male protagonist protests too much when it comes to his new life, so it’s good he learned he liked that life a lot more than he thought when it almost came to an end
  • Hannah is hoping Durarara!!x2 will sort out the sometimes imposing tangle of personalities and motives both human and supernatural in the final installments of an epic 36-episode run
  • GATE delivered a hell of a dragon battle to save Tuka’s sanity, then gave us more of the underutilized Lelei. Sherry was a pleasant surprise, but the likable core cast always seems to be competing for time with the wider political issues of the two worlds
  • Dagashi Kashi is a competent diversion, with glimmers of a sweet romance and sporadic laughs, but the detailed history lessons can drag, as does Hotaru’s statically eccentric personality

End-of-Month Rundown – January 2016

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January ended with a snowy bang in our parts (over two feet in some areas) so it’s appropriate several shows that failed to make the cut were subsequently buried.

Those who came here to read reviews of the likes of Norn9, Divine Gate, or Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya, etc. may be disappointed, but we’re committed not to waste our or anyone else’s time with shows that just don’t do it for us.

We’ll probably be sticking with eleven shows you see above; all have passed the 3-episode test.  It’s not a huge list, but that’s fine; we can maximize our attentions and memories far better with a small group than the huge ones of past seasons. The smaller sampling also means a sharper drop-off.

Quick observations:

  • There is an undisputed King of the Winter, and it is Boku dake ga Inai Machi, which blows every other Winter show out of the icy water. It’s cracked 9 on MAL and continues to rise (good for 11th all-time) with the most voters of any Winter show we’re watching, which is a very rare thing.
  • Preston is confident that quality can be maintained or even surpassed, but a slight regression on the back end wouldn’t be the end of the world. Her second pick Grimgar, while not quite as excellent, is also breaking conventions in its ostensible genres and providing its fair share of emotional punch.
  • Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has only a small fraction of Inai Machi’s audience, and it’s not for everyone, but it’s engrossing enough to be Zane’s top pick. Dimension W is proving the best of recent shows that are about “A Lot of Stuff”, but it’s not guaranteed to stay as good as it started.
  • As for Hannah’s shows, they’re all second seasons or sequels, with Gundam, Durarara!!x2 and GATE all plugging away nicely, in that order.
  • Zane has not committed to finishing Prince of Stride, but the recent racing has been enough of a distraction from the bland characters to keep him interested. As for KyoAni’s latest effort Phantom World, Preston is taking a similar ep-by-ep approach.

Anyway, we hope you’re enjoying our reviews. It’s always better to write and be read than to simply write. Please keep up the thoughtful discussion, but be sure to clearly mark spoilers if you absolutely must include them in your comments. And as always, thanks for reading!

—RABUJOI STAFF

 

End-of-Month Rundown – December 2015

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Average Episode Word Count (AEWC):

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: 931
Prison School: 859
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: 750
Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai: 683
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto: 639
Ushio to Tora: 634
Noragami Aragoto: 652
Subete ga F ni Naru: 637
Owari no Seraph 2: 594
Owarimonogatari: 591
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk: 587
Atack on Titan: 558
One Punch Man: 555

Stray November Observations:

  • The Top 5 remained the same from last month’s EOMR
  • Hannah’s Gundam IBO episode 13 review was the most wordy of the Fall at 1,209, but Zane’s Prison School episode 5 retro review went for 1,278
  • The final three Prison School retro reviews didn’t quite make it to this chart; they’ll be published next week.
  • Subete ga F and Asterisk finally got 9 ratings due to strong finishes
  • One Punch Man and Owarimonogatari remained the only two shows with average RABUJOI ratings below MAL’s (0.38 and 0.12 below, respectively)
  • OPM was the third highest-rated show despite having the lowest AEWC; Taimadou was the second lowest-rated despite having the second-highest AEWC. So word count doesn’t always correlate with show quality…just usually
  • Total Fall 2015 review word count (Including Prison School and Attack on Titan): 106,165, or 212 single-spaced 12-point pages

Hannah’s Top 10 Anime of 2015

See Preston’s List Here. See Zane’s List Here.

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Honorable Mention #2: Cross Ange – Winter (7.32) – A brash, audacious, ambitious, subversive, and above all polarizing feminist alternative to Gundam, but also a roller coaster of dizzyingly-awesome heights and embarrassing lows, resulting in its unimpressive average rating

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Honorable Mention #1: Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – Spring (7.91) – Somewhat parallels Saekano with its richly detailed harem scope in which each girl gets her just dues, but in a sweet fantasy-action-military setting, and featuring a soundtrack so good it elevated the show’s rating at least half a point

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10. Ghost in the Shell ARISE – Spring (8.10) – A very cool, slick, and competent (if not groundbreaking) re-imagining of a classic. Reignited my passion for the awesomeness that is Major Kusanagi

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9. GANGSTA. – Summer (8.25) – The title needs a little work, as did the ending, but the fallen world setting, complex relationship between the two male leads, and the arc of the female lead transcended the usual crime-action fare

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8. Durarara!!x2 Shou – Winter (8.25) – With two cours down and one to go in its sequel triad, the first was slightly better than the second, with particular focus on single episodes that best expressed the franchise’s sprawling spirit

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7. OverLord – Summer (8.38) – Quickly set itself apart from SAO with a style and a comic swagger all its own, featuring some of the best overpowered battles of the year, along with some of the biggest laughs

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6. Attack on Titan – Retro Review (8.40) – Not a 2015 show per se, but that’s when I finally cracked it open, and I instantly got the appeal. It’s often dark, brutal, and merciless, but the action is righteously addictive

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5. Aldnoah.Zero 2 – Winter (8.58) – An exciting, immersive, technically impressive space opera that could have benefited from a less perfect protagonist and a better sense of humor.

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4. Sidonia no Kishi 2 – Spring (8.83) – A dark, gritty, sexy, terrifying, gorgeous and impeccably-rendered sci-fi milieu that left me wanting more

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3. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – Fall (8.85) – Only halfway in and I’m prepared to declare this the best Gundam I’ve seen (sorry Seed, 00, and Recon in G). Bold, gritty, complex, and immensely fun

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2. Fate stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Season 2 – Spring (8.92) – A powerful conclusion to a show I started last year, which backed up its world-beating visuals with compelling, even iconic clashes, with a nice romance on the side

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1. Steins;Gate – Retro Review (9.38) – Also far from a 2015 show, but one I watched in 2015, and one that blew everything else away to become one of my all-time faves

Zane’s Top 10 Anime of 2015

Click here for Preston’s List.

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Honorable Mention #2: Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – Fall (8.38) – The best of the three Fall “Magical School/Harem” shows, due in large part to a likable couple with a extremely solid and credible central romance

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Honorable Mention #1: Owarimonogatari – Fall (8.42) – Really a tale of two shows; IMO Sodachi Lost was superior in terms of emotional resonance than Shinobu Mail, which felt like it dragged a lot more

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10. Shokugeki no Souma – Spring (8.58) – Food. Comedy. Romance. Rivalries. Everything I love in one show! Inspired me to cook a lot more than I usually do when I was watching it. Deliciously awesome

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9. Oregairu 2 – Spring (8.58) – Brilliantly written drama driven by a cast of wonderfully well-rendered, emotionally struggling young people trying to find out who they are and where they fit in the world and in each others’ lives

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8. One Punch Man – Fall (8.67) – Brevity is the soul of wit. This show’s title is its premise, and it’s gushing with both wit and bodaciously awesome – and typically howlingly funny action

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7. Hibike! Euphonium – Spring (8.75) – Turns out there was room for another high school music romance in my life – one with less psychedelic visuals! And some moments ended up matching and even surpassing Violin Girl

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6. Gakkou Gurashi! – Summer (8.83) – Don’t let the bright, cheerful beginning fool you, this bold and uncompromising show is a lot more than meets the eye, and it went places I never thought it would

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5. Ore Monogatari!! – Spring (8.92) – Huge nice guy, tiny nice girl, and a regular-sized, nice best friend. The quality that unites them all is kindness, earnestness, and selflessness. Even when they faced inevitable conflicts, the trio was always an absolute joy to watch

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4. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Winter (9.05) – Even when we knew tragedy would befall the protagonist, and the childhood friend lamented her lot in life for the umpteenth time, I still couldn’t look – or listen – away. A show that truly brought out all the feels without fail (though its slapstick comedy often clanged on the floor)

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3. Prison School – Summer (9.08) – No show since Aku no Hana has so effectively weaponized adolescence and sex. Only where that show was dark, this one is mostly hilarious, though also tense and occasionally sweet

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2. Saekano – Winter (9.15) – A smart, funny, sexy, cute harem rom-com that’s a send-up of harem rom-coms, having its cake and eating it too. Featuring one of my favorite characters of the year: a boring girlfriend who’s anything but

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1. Yuri Kuma Arashi (9.17) – There are multiple ways of watching YKA – Gorgeous eye (and ear) candy on its surface, but deeper analysis of its characters, themes and iconography comprise a harsh critique of Japanese society. Not quite as good as Penguindrum, but still petty damn great

Preston’s Top 10 Anime of 2015

As is standard practice at the end of the year, the three of us are presenting our Top 10 lists for 2015. I’m up first —MagicalChurlSukui

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Honorable Mention #2: Parasyte – Winter (7.88) – Far from perfect, especially in its second half, but definitely worth watching for the creepy horror factor

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Honorable Mention #1: GARO – Winter (7.88) – Amidst all the yelling, armor-donning and monster-smashing came one of the year’s best and heartbreaking episodes

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10. Subete ga F ni Naru – Fall (8.00) – An all-consuming, intimate, claustrophobic little murder mystery that really got the brain cells churning

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9. Ushio to Tora – Summer (8.04) – It’s an old story – A Boy and His Youkai – presented in with throwback style and earnestness but a modern, self-deprecating edge – plus a lot of badass girls

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8. Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – Winter (8.17) – One of the most consistently sweet romances of the year, without ever descending into the saccharine

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7. Sakurako-san – Fall (8.25) – An unconventional tentative romance is borne as the gorgeous genuis detective/osteologist investigates cases involving rare-for-anime themes

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6. Owari no Seraph 2 – Fall (8.33) – The family of demon gear-using soldiers that stays together survives together, along with one vampire who never wanted to be one

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5 (Tie). Kekkai Sensen – Spring (8.36) – One of the weirdest, wildest, and most visually and thematically ambitious show of the year, as is be expected from the creator of Kyousougiga

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5 (Tie). Yamada-kun no 7-nin – Spring (8.36) – A surprisingly poignant and complex romp set in a school where seven distinct magical powers are handed down to students who need them

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4. Re-Kan! – Spring (8.38) – The biggest surprise success of the year, full of wonderful moments of love and kindness that had me in tears more than once

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3. Tokyo Ghoul 2 – Winter (8.67) – A sequel that surpassed its predecessor by further developing its core (and tossing them into depths) while presenting a compelling supporting cast

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2. Noragami Aragoto – Fall (8.69) – Another sequel better than the original, balancing the growing bond of the core trio while challenging them and their friends with fresher, more complex villains

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1. Charlotte – Summer (8.77) – P.A. Works fully redeems itself with a brilliant blend of fantastical superpowers, down-to-earth romance, and an epic scale with heavy stakes

End-of-Month Rundown – November 2015

Click to View Full Size
Click to View Full Size

Average Episode Show Word Count (Words per review):

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: 906
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: 748
Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai: 702
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto: 649
Noragami Aragoto: 642
Ushio to Tora: 616
Owari no Seraph 2: 601
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk: 594
Subete ga F ni Naru: 593
Owarimonogatari: 589
One Punch Man: 568
Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen: 398

Stray November Observations:

  • Gundam IBO remains the best Fall show, with Noragami, One Punch Man, Owarimonogatari, and Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry rounding out the Fall Top 5
  • Zane’s review of RKC episode 9 was 1,196 words, tops among Fall ’15 reviews, edging out Hannah’s IBO episode 1
  • Hannah is continuing her Retro Reviews of Attack on Titan, but is quitting Utawarerumono due to declining interest
  • Among shows we’re still reviewing, only Subete ga F and Asterisk have yet to be awarded a 9 rating, and only those two shows and Taimadou have average ratings under 8
  • One Punch Man and Owarimonogatari are the only two shows with average ratings below MAL’s
  • OPM’s MAL rating (8.88) seems over-inflated, while Taimadou’s (7.17) seems oddly underrated (both, probably, due to source material reader opinion…which is just as valid as anime-only watcher opinion)
  • No Fall shows are experiencing any significant second-half fall-off; it’s been a pretty consistent season
  • To reach the rare 9 average rating, the final four episodes of IBO’s first cour will have to average 9.5 (or two 9s and two 10s)
  • So far, the writers of RABUJOI have written 73,281 words (including 7,377 for the first 13 episodes of Attack on Titan
  • If we printed those words out in single-spaced 12-point type on standard letter stock (~500 words per page), it would be about 147 pages