Three-Episode Test: Alex's Spring 2017

Solid sequels and a promising spiritual successor to Shirobako.

Welcome to the Three Episode Test, where Ani-Gamers contributors give you the low-down on what they're watching (or not) from the current simulcast season and why.


Attack on Titan (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
While I wasn’t salivating in anticipation for the long-awaited return of Attack on Titan like many others, the plot threads left hanging at the conclusion of Season 1 kept me curious enough to come back after three years — eager to find out what new horrors await Eren and company in Season 2.

After a brief recap of what has already transpired in the titan-infested world, the second season dives right into the action with an introduction to the “Beast Titan” — a mysterious new threat whose presence opens up more questions than answers. Likewise, the discovery of a titan encased within the walls which protect humanity opens up its own can of worms.

While I’ve enjoyed these new mysteries, answers for which hopefully won’t require another three years of waiting, it’s the time taken to further develop the cast that has me sticking around to see how it all plays out. I especially appreciated the followup to the Season 2 premiere, which slows down the pace considerably to flesh out Sasha’s backstory. During this time, we finally get the necessary context to feel emotionally invested in the potato-loving country girl, and I only hope more of this kind of character development finds its way in amongst all of the brutal action that undoubtedly lies ahead. With only 12 episodes and a whole lot of story to tell, Attack on Titan’s sophomore season promises to be a briskly paced thrill ride that I’ll most definitely be watching every week.

My Hero Academia (sequel)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
Spring 2017 is home to another highly anticipated sequel, though the wait for My Hero Academia’s second season has been considerably shorter than that of Attack on Titan. Ever since I watched the credits roll on the MHA Season 1 finale last June, I’ve been dying to find out what’s next for Deku and his peers at U.A. High after the League of Villains’ attack on the academy.

My love for this show is intrinsically tied to My Hero Academia’s incredibly diverse and wonderfully realized cast of characters, especially its underdog protagonist Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. Season 2 continues his story of becoming a hero after inheriting a Quirk (a.k.a. special ability) from the world’s greatest hero, All Might. While the premiere drags it feet in progressing the plot, thanks in large part to one too many flashbacks, the pace picks up in the subsequent two episodes, which deliver a thrilling, action-packed start to the academy’s annual sports festival.

It’s clear the festival will serve as the primary focus for the duration of Season 2, and if that means more jaw-dropping animation work from studio Bones, I’m all in. Who am I kidding? I was all in from the very beginning! I’m far too invested in these characters to back out now, and Season 2’s early hints at new budding rivalries between classmates only strengthen this sentiment. You can bet I’ll have my alarm set for 5:30am every Saturday to ensure I don’t miss a single episode as soon as it arrives.

Yowamushi Pedal New Generation (continuation)

Streaming on Crunchyroll
The third season of TMS Entertainment’s cycling series got off to a solid start this past winter, and I’m pleased to say the first three episodes of Yowamushi Pedal New Generation’s latter half are even better than the twelve that precede them.

The bicycle club of Sohoku High has bid farewell to its former captains, welcomed in a new batch of eager freshman, and heads off to camp to prepare for the Inter-High. The seven-episode training arc of Yowamushi Pedal’s first season includes some of my favorite episodes of the entire series, so I was indeed thrilled to see Onoda, Imaizumi, Naruko, and the rest of the gang back at camp as they readied themselves for the big race.

While Onoda has been pulled out of the spotlight, New Generation makes valuable use of that time to develop the rest of the cast. Seeing the club’s cocky new freshman, Kaburagi, crippled with anxiety upon learning of the camp’s 1000km challenge was priceless. Plus, the surprise arrival of Koga, a senior who was the club’s equipment manager the year prior, and his attempt to usurp Teshima as the team captain was every bit as nerve wracking as I could have hoped. While I’m a bit disappointed New Generation’s training arc concluded after a mere three, albeit spectacular, episodes, I’m equally excited for the Inter-High to begin. So yes, like New Generation’s first twelve episodes, I have every intention of keeping up with the show on a weekly basis.

Sakura Quest

Streaming on Crunchyroll
If you’ve been looking to fill the Shirobako-shaped void in your heart ever since that series concluded two years ago, your search has come to an end. P.A. Works is back with another original comedy about a group of young women who band together in the workplace to overcome whatever challenges may come their way. However, instead providing a window into anime production, Sakura Quest offers a look at what it’s like to work at a travel agency for a struggling town out in the boonies.

While the series is about a group of five girls, Yoshino is the star of the show. In an effort to escape small town country life for good, she desperately searches for a job in Tokyo, but her attempts are futile. After getting rejected a demoralizing number of times, Yoshino is offered a job to serve as the “Queen” of a struggling village and work with the tourism board to reinvigorate interest in the town.

In the first three episodes, we see Yoshino’s “need” to be a city girl slowly dissolve as she and four other gals develop a friendship working together to save the village. It’s a cute, light-hearted coming of age tale that is elevated by its cast of well-written characters, clever comedy, and expressive facial animations. Even if Sakura Quest ends up feeling like a reskinned Shirobako when all's said and done, I’m invested enough in Yoshino’s story to commit to watching each new episode every Wednesday.

Tsuki ga Kirei

Streaming on Crunchyroll
For me, spring simply wouldn’t be complete without at least one sappy romance anime, and Tsuki ga Kirei does an excellent job of filling that role. The story centers around the budding romance between third-year junior high school students Kotarou Azumi and Akane Mizuno. Kotarou has a bit of a crush on Akane and, fortunately for him, the feeling is mutual.

Unlike many romance anime about two young kids, the awkwardness between Kotarou two and Kotarou is portrayed in a way that feels genuine and all too similar to some of my own relationships as an immature middle school kid. They’re fairly typical teens, each with their own set of friends and hobbies, and while the two are quite sociable with their peers, they’re incredibly shy around each other, relying on LINE as a safe and comfortable means of communication.

While at times Tsuki ga Kirei can come off as a glorified LINE advertisement, seeing Kotarou anxiously check his phone reminded me of my own awkward years as a middle school student, which were often spent on the family computer conversing with classmates over the messaging relic that is AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). Sure, the animation isn’t much to write home about, but Tsuki ga Kirei’s adorable and somewhat nostalgic appeal, coupled with its beautiful, watercolor-esque art, makes for a promising new series that I intend to stick with all season long.

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