Three-Episode Test: Jared's Winter 2017

A little bit of everything.

Welcome (back) to the Three Episode Test, where contributors give you the low-down on what they're watching from the current simulcast season and why.


Fuuka

Streaming on Crunchyroll
Yuu Haruna, a shy kid more comfortable communicating online than in real life, moves in with his sisters when his parents move overseas to work in America. While adjusting to his new school and life, he (his face, really) has a chance encounter with a spirited girl named Fuuka (her knee, actually). From this meeting, a story of love and music begins to unfold that could have been interesting if it were better written.

Based on Kouji Seo’s manga and a sequel of sorts to Suzuka, Fuuka could sound compelling due to some of its attributes (all of which appeal to me): music, romance, love triangles, and people discovering the joy of a creative outlet. Having read the manga (available on Crunchyroll Manga), I felt like a fun, teenage rock 'n’ roll romance could be carved out of the mediocre source material if the right director got their hands on it. Sadly, the show quickly squanders any chance it could have had in favor of forced fanservice and poorly executed melodrama. The only thing good about this show: Megumi Nakajima of Macross Frontier fame sings the ending theme. Thankfully, that's on YouTube, so you can go straight to it and skip the anime entirely.

I can’t recommend Fuuka. Kids on the Slope does this so much better.

Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
The end has become the beginning. We return to the stage where Yotaro has been dutifully waiting for us as if nothing has changed, but in reality, everything has. We return to the story in a time where the future of rakugo seems uncertain. I will forgo going into any details to spare my editor and partner Ink from reading anything that might spoil his viewing experience, but any fears I harbored that the second season would be unable to match the first season’s dramatic force seem silly now. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju could surpass itself with this new season and story. No doubt you will hear more about this wonderful show from both Ink and myself on Oldtaku No Radio or on the pages here at Ani-Gamers. I highly recommend both this show and its prequel.

Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has no rival this season.

Yowamushi Pedal New Generation (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
After the long, dragging, but ultimately rewarding Grande Road, we’re treated to a new season that feels rushed along at a breakneck pace. Following their victory at the Inter High, Sohoku must say goodbye to its third year leaders and make way for a new generation to carry forward their spirit. Oddly enough, the “new” generation hasn’t introduced that many new characters yet. The sole exception is a new racer at Hakogaku, the bitter rival of our heroes. The departure of third year climber Makishima has greatly affected our main hero Onoda, who can’t seem to get motivated to race despite having a fancy new bike.

YowaPeda hasn’t changed its formula much at all for good or ill. If you liked the first two seasons of the show, you will enjoy Yowamushi Pedal New Generation for all of those reasons. By the end of the third episode, you’ll already be back at the races for more plot twists and shounen sports heroics. I’ll be interested to see where the road takes me.

Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll, Amazon’s Anime Strike
After watching the original Blue Exorcist series for 2016’s Anime Secret Santa, I looked forward to seeing the spawn of Satan in action again. From the first episode, I found myself immediately confused by the setup. Helpful people on Twitter informed me that the end of the first season went beyond the manga and therefore would be retconned by this new season. After learning that, I decided to set my confusion aside and give it a shot. As of this writing, I’m still not sure where the show it trying to go. The first episode seem strong enough, but the last couple feel like they meander a bit. Most of the cast from the first season has taken a backseat to introducing a host of new people I have little reason to care about — particularly in light of the tension between Rin and the rest of his classmates.

The show seems to have received a coat of fresh CGI to enhance its shading and coloration in places, and I’ve enjoyed the show visually so far (when there’s been action enough to show off the animation, at least). I’m going to keep watching weekly for the time being, but I’m beginning to think this may be one I end up binging later.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 2 (continuing)

Streaming on Daisuki, Hulu
The curtain has opened on the final act of Iron-Blooded Orphans, and after three heartbreaking episodes, the show has entered its “Zeta Gundam” arc. If you’re not already watching this Gundam series by now, I’m not sure what else I can do to convince you. Most of the real character development takes place outside of the mecha, and I appreciate that aspect of the show the most (despite my avowed love for giant robots). I also find the level of intrigue and political maneuvering to be well done in comparison to most other shows in the Gundam franchise. Mari Okada seems to understand the tropes that make a Gundam show and how to breath new life into what frequently becomes a stale formula.  I also continue to be smitten by the mecha designs as evidenced by the growing number of gunpla I keep finding myself owning.

Child soldiers have long been a staple of Gundam dating back to the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. The stark realities of that plight been never been confronted as head-on as they are in Iron-Blooded Orphans. I hope Mikazuki and the kids of Tekkadan will find a path from the lives of war they’ve been forced to live, and I look forward to following their journey…no matter how much blood remains to be shed.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Streaming on Crunchyroll
Further proof that going on a drinking binge can lead to life-altering consequences, Kobayashi ends up freeing a dragon and inviting said dragon to come live with her. The next day, in the midst of her hangover, Kobayashi answers her door to find the dragon ready to honor her life debt by becoming her maid. Gag anime ensues.

Dragon Maid actually got a little flak from me in our recent bonus episode of Oldtaku no Radio, but it's turned out to be pretty entertaining. Kyoto Animation does a masterful job of elevating what could have been a mediocre comedy into at times beautifully animated show with well-timed comedic delivery. Even if I wasn’t reviewing the show on a weekly basis for Wave Motion Cannon, I’d probably still watch it because I’m a sucker for good comedies. Throw in superlative animation cuts like the “roughhousing” scene in Episode 2, and I’m going to watch it as soon as I can.

Scum’s Wish

Streaming on Amazon’s Anime Strike
Hanabi and Mugi look like the perfect couple from the outside, but they both love other people that they can’t have. So they use each other. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Manga-ka Mengo Yokoyari’s darkly erotic exploration of teenage unrequited love reminds me of Flowers of Evil in how much it wants you to be uncomfortable. That spirit has transferred rather nicely to the anime, and director Masaomi Ando (School-Live, White Album 2) has a solid grasp of how to transform the manga into what could be a hit show.

My only misgiving about recommending this show stems from the fact that there’s no legal way to watch the show without both an Anime Strike subscription AND the prerequisite Amazon Prime subscription. The double paywall Amazon has in place to get to this show (and the rest of its Anime Strike catalog) feels like a cash grab and is not fan-friendly in any sense. That aside, Scum’s Wish has shown thus far to be a solid show with an excellent visual sensibility, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this fake romance leads.

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