Happy Feast of the Epiphany! Here are my reviews of the six shows I watched this season. Usually, I review some over at Beneath the Tangles but did not get around to it because of my hiatus. (Feel free to read my fellow bloggers’ opinions in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.) To my surprise, my break from my column on BnT was longer than I imagined with the last post of “Examining Light Novels” seeing the light of the interwebs on October 26, 2016. Readers of the series will be happy to know that it shall return on January 18th with a topic from volume thirteen of Spice and Wolf.
Anyway, let me get on to some general observations about Fall 2016. The general quality struck me as quite high. Many other bloggers were very enthusiastic about the season’s shows, and I myself rated one of the six below four and a half stars–not every season has a show which reaches that level! May you recognize two or three of your favorite anime below or in part two.
6) Bloodivores – ★★
This show counts as the biggest disappointment of Fall 2016. I barely got through the last couple of episodes, and played Rummy 500 through the finale. (Consequently, I understand the end even less than those unfortunates who gave it their undivided attention.) Bloodivores began with an awesome scenario and wasted it. The plot moved at a glacial pace: I think that it took six episodes for our exiled convicts, among whom our heroes find themselves, to leave the monster-infested warehouse where the authorities dump them. It felt as though hardly a square mile of their penal colony had been explored before season one ended. It does have some great fights, but these fail to compensate for the dull characters and slow plot.
Concerning the characters, I am tempted to claim that Cho Ifen stands out as the most interesting for her physical attributes alone. But that would be unjust: Cho Ifen had an interesting personality and past, while the assassin Lee Shin and the convict boss Lou Yao also struck me as interesting. What unites them is that they all have serious moral shortcomings. The writer perhaps understood villainy better than heroism and should have created more villains.
5) Trickster – ★★ 1/2
Making a good episodic anime is hard. The main thread tying the the episodes together seems to be trying to turn the suicidal Kobayashi into a real human being. Kobayashi is filled with self-hatred and hatred of neighbor. If not for his gift of invulnerability, he would have killed himself long before the events of Trickster. The other characters are likable and have interesting backstories which are nicely tied into the series.
Still, without Kobayashi, I doubt this show would be worth watching. His extreme depression makes him easy for people of our melancholic times to relate to. How many of us feel depressed because we lead lives dedicated to comfort, ease, and selfish pursuits? It’s hard to find a millennial so sanguine as never to have wished to end their lives at one point. We all know the penalty for free and deliberate suicide, yet God’s grace must needs be more active than ever during these times to keep people from destroying themselves. I found it interesting that Kobayashi grows vulnerable whenever he acts to help his friends at the detective agency or their clients. It is almost as if he will only be allowed to die until he has been made perfect, which rescues the anime from falling below the level of mediocrity.
4) Bubuki Buranki: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy (aka BBK/ BRNK 2) – ★★★★
Both the original season and this sequel proved to be a lot of fun. This ranks as the third CG anime I recall thoroughly enjoying. (Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova and Knights of Sidonia are the other two.) This sequel proved to be somewhat darker, which helped color the villain, Guy Barville Abeille, as particularly sinister. Some new characters were fun, especially Azuma’s sister Kaoruko, who provided comic relief like no other character. All in all, this was a fun mecha anime which gave interesting food for thought.
The main theme might be described as man as the measure of all things vs. man as the steward of the earth. For a while, I wondered whether the show leaned towards a more extreme environmentalist message; but, it never goes off the deep end of valuing nature more than man. Instead, our villain elevates man so highly that he wishes to eradicate the Bubuki users and the Buranki race of mechs. (The Buranki remind one strongly of the Transformers.) Guy ends by imagining himself God, and is rightly punished for it by our heroes.
(Since this article is long enough, the other three anime will be covered in a Part 2.)