I will be watching… (Summer 2017)

It’s almost upon us… Summer 2017! The most wonderful time of the year. I’m quietly cautious about this season as there’s not that much for me personally to get hyped for. Usually there are a few sequels or a few manga adaptations I’ve been waiting for (as was the case in the winter) but looking through the titles which will be coming out in just under two weeks I’m not sure if there’s too much for me to pick up. Alas, this is what I will be watching although I’m sure that after the first week I will have culled at least a third of this list.

  • A Centaur’s Life – This is one where I read the first three manga volumes of just over a year ago and completely fell in love with its charm. The series is like a blend between Demi-chan wa Kataritai and Oshiete! Galko-chan where it focuses on monster girls as they go through puberty and start thinking about their adult lives. I fully expect it to be a short series but I can’t find any information on how long each episode will be. Just like Oshiete! Galko-chan I can’t really find anybody else talking about this or see them paying much attention to it which is a shame.
  • Ballroom e Youkoso – A sports show? Sign me up. A sports show who’s sport is ballroom dancing? Sign me the fuck up. *Please be good please be good*. I have absolutely no doubt the only reason the manga got an anime adaptation was due to the success of Yuri on Ice but I just hope this show is able to bring something new to the table and improve on where Yuri on Ice went wrong. Also Production I.G is the studio behind it and I have complete confidence that they know what they’re doing with sports shows what with Kuroko no Basuke, Haikyuu, Diamond no Ace and Prince of Tennis all under their belt.
  • Dive!! – Look, I don’t have a sports bias I promise. A swimming show featuring cute boys. No, it’s not Free. I’m mainly watching this to see if it can provide a semi-decent story and beautiful animation. If it turns out to be a sub-par version of Free which is only marketed at fangirls then it’ll be an immediate drop. Plus I don’t like anything the studio has made so I’m not expecting perfection.
  • Isekai Shokudou – Seems from it’s synopsis to be a rather charming slice of life show about other worldly creatures coming to this restaurant, however I can’t find it being described as a slice of life anywhere. To my surprise and immense interest one of its genre tags is ‘mystery’. I would have picked this up for the slice of life aspect anyway but this has just made the whole series seem ten times more intriguing.
  • Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni. – Oh great, another one of the ‘oh no I’m trapped in another world and all these cute girls flock to me like I’m the second coming of Jesus Kirito’ shows. I’m told that the light novel is a lot more of a parody of the genre, like KonoSuba which in a way makes me a little more critical. It looks like a lot of the shows this season have only been made because of the recent successes of series which are like them. Again this is another one which I will have to drop if it doesn’t do anything unique or just becomes a poor man’s KonoSuba. 
  • Kakegurui – Okay so this is something I am genuinely looking forward to. The show is set in a strange school with very high stakes and teaches its students using a very unique curriculum (nothing unique about it so far…) which focuses on gambling. Think Food Wars but with gambling. The show has the potential to be something truly smart and, if done the way I think it will be done, could be in the running for anime of the season.
  • Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun – Look, I swear I watch things other than sports shows. It seems like a much more comedic show, however, and I think it will be more just about the titular character and his wacky personality. Optimistic for this one to deliver on its promise to be first a foremost a comedy show with the sports aspect as a platform for the comedy.
  • Koi to Uso – Simple romance anime in a school blah blah blah. What’s that? Once you turn sixteen the government chooses who your ‘mate’ will be? Sign me right up. I just hope it’s not melodrama. If it is a melodrama then it really doesn’t need to have such a unique and interesting plot like this. Please don’t devolve into the depths of shojo hell.
  • Made in Abyss – This wasn’t on my radar at all and to be honest I had no idea it existed until I watched the PV. Boy am I glad I watched that. It’s an adorable adventure story focusing on an orphan girl and the boy robot she finds in a cave. By god does it look charming.
  • New Game!! (Sequel) – Possibly the only ‘safe’ pick I have for this season. If this season of the show can capture even a sliver of what made the previous season so fun and charming then this’ll be a contender for anime of the season, especially with what little competition  it has.

 

Yup that’s it for TV series. I may pick up some new stuff depending on if they’re pleasant surprises or depending on availability in my country. Some of these series will definitely be dropped along the way also. Oh god did I name ten series. I did. Did I just inadvertently make a top ten list?
In terms of films I’ll be trying to look out for opportunities to watch the new No Game No Life movie and Mary to Majo no Hana which looks like something I would expect from Studio Ghibli.

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Who made me love anime?

Why’s there a picture of a frog? Surely a frog didn’t make me love anime. Well, for the unfortunate ones amongst you who don’t recognise who that is, I’ll give you an introduction: that little frog is The Gamma Planetary System, the 58th Planet, Space Invasion Army Special Tactics Platoon Leader, Sergeant Keroro (oh yeah, it’s one of those anime). And he is the reason I fell in love with anime.

You hear other people’s stories about anime start pretty similar with how they just accidentally started watching Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Dragon Ball, One Piece or any other of the big shounens. I think I must be the only person in the world who got introduced to the wonders of anime through a wacky green alien who would rather build his next Gundam toy than take over the world. The show wonderfully parodies the sci-fi genre and is honestly a breathe of fresh air when I watch it after experiencing a lot of these dark super serious creaturetakesovertheworld-type shows. Despite the show near the end of it’s run having 20-odd characters that appear in each episode the cast never feels overly bloated. The show really takes it’s time introducing each member of Keroro’s crew and the aliens and humans they befriend and each member of the cast shines whenever they are on screen. Even if all the episode focuses on is the supporting cast being shrunken so they can found out why Keroro has a toothache, it gives each character something to do that furthers their individual arc, show off their unique abilities and makes full use of the world it has built. Ever aspect of the show is fleshed out to it’s fullest and you never feel like you’re struggling to remember who a certain character is or what their relationship is with the other members of the cast.

Sometimes it seems like I’m the only person in the world to even have watched the show. It breaks my heart every time I see the number of people on MAL to have watched the anime or read the manga.

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The first experience I had with Keroro and the cast were in the manga, strangely. That seems like a bit of a cop-out to say that I got into anime through manga, doesn’t it? I’ll probably write another post about how I got into manga in that case. It’s more of an interesting story/love-hate relationship. Sgt Frog (the English name of Keroro Gunso) was one of the first manga I actually bought a hard copy of and kept on buying the volumes until Tokyopop’s shutdown in 2011 meant I couldn’t find it anywhere. My thirst for more Keroro was satisfied once I found out that there was a long running TV show adaptation which had been airing episodes since 2004. After I binge-watched the whole series (all 350+ episodes) I knew I had found a medium that was special: Japanese cartoons. It wasn’t for another year until I found out they’re actually called anime and that anyone in the community will skin you alive if they hear you calling them cartoons. My journey into anime continued as I watched Polar Bear Cafe (twice), Chi’s Sweet Home and Shugo Chara. Looking back these three were less than stellar series but I absolutely adored them and I still feel a bit of nostalgia just typing their names, even if I no longer watch magical girl shows like Shugo Chara.

I think it must have been a short while after watching shows like those that I realised what shounens, shojos, etc. were and the differences between them. I started to think back to what I liked the most about Keroro Gunso; comedy and action. Thus started my love affair with shounen series. I vividly remember going through the action category on Crunchyroll and randomly clicking series that looked cool from the poster art. Shows like Reborn!, Eyeshield 21, Kuroko no Basuke and regrettably (*sigh* don’t judge I was young and everything was cool back then) Uta no Prince-sama. I’m embarrassed to say that I still watch that last one whenever a new series airs (which is almost every year at this poin- wait, what was that? They’re doing a season FIVE? Oh for fucks sake. Yes, of course I’ll be watching it).

But it was Kuroko no Basuke that truly became my second love in anime and almost shaped my real life in a way I would never have expected. It inspired me to play basketball and there was a brief time where I considered trying to make basketball into a future career. Alas times changed, however the magic of the show is still present whenever I turn on a sports anime and wish to be inspired like I was with Kuroko. Unfortunately Kuroko and friends never reached the same heights as Keroro and friends did upon further inspection. Perhaps if, like Keroro, the show labelled itself as a parody of the sports genre, what it did near the end with it’s characters would be considered clever. Instead near the end of the show Kuroko no Basuke turned into a mess of flashy lights and superpowers.

Now, this isn’t to say that when I look back on those first few anime I don’t feel overwhelming happiness and nostalgia, just that I’ve matured as a viewer. I don’t try and look at everything through only a critical lens but I know what a show has to do by now to make me ignore its flaws. It has to make me immersed. If I am so attached to the characters and the world that I’ll even watch a shitty adobe flash remake of the anime (I’m looking at you Keroro 2014) then you know you’ve done something right.

 

Visual Comedy in Anime

Cromartie High School is one of the best comedy shows I have ever watched. Period. It isn’t particularly popular nor is it spoken about all that much. Whenever I see a discussion about recommendations for comedy anime it always flies under the radar and is rarely even touched on by prominent voices in the anime community. The show itself had an appalling animation budget (which is obvious just from seeing a few screenshots of it) and as such looks worst than some shows made in the 90s despite airing in late 2003.
So why make this grand claim? Why even bring it up at all? It’s because Cromartie is a perfect example of a form of comedy which is rarely done right in anime: visual comedy.

“But wait then what’s non-visual comedy? Anime is a visual form of entertainment how are all comedy anime not classed as this!” I get this, honestly I do. You’re right to think it – anime is a visual medium so surely every form of comedy anime is visual comedy, right? But that’s where something unique about anime comes into play: the language. Y’know, I’m gonna make an even grander claim than before: Visual comedy transcends language barriers.
There are people out there in the community who just don’t like comedy anime. And no, it’s not because they’re boring people with no personality or sense of humour. It’s just that the vast majority of anime comedies (like comedies in film, TV, etc.) get their laughs through jokes which the characters tell. The problem is that these jokes can be play on words which, once translated, make no sense to the English viewer. But even when the jokes aren’t playing on the Japanese language; subtitles still ruin comedic timing and in dubbed versions the voice actors sometimes don’t get the tone of the punch line right. Even if just reading the subtitles can make an anime funny there is still a feeling that we’ve been cheated. If we just wanted to read something funny we could have just read a book. The audio and visuals which come with the anime often are wasted as the viewer either doesn’t understand the audio, isn’t paying attention to the visuals, or the series is completely neglecting the importance of visuals in the comedy.

The comedic masterpieces are the ones which can take full advantage of the medium they are a part of and can tell a joke without any or little dialogue. In my part of the world (Great Britain) I can thank of the likes of Rowan Atkinson and Edgar Wright for introducing me to what smart visuals can do to a comedy. In terms of visual anime, alongside Cromartie are shows which are considered by the community as some of the best comedies the medium has to offer (which sort of proves my point in itself). These are the likes of Nichijou, Space Dandy, Golden Boy and of course Gintama.

Originally I planned this to be more of a focused look at what makes Cromartie in particular so great but somewhere down the line took a turn to become a more general post about similar comedy shows.

Seriously though, I highly recommend you go watch Cromartie High School (even though it’s near impossible to watch legally unless you buy it). It’s been classed as one of the strangest anime ever and while I think that’s a bit of a stretch, you can tell the amount of fun that went into making this show and how there’s not one frame that’s wasted. I can only praise Production I.G’s staff for using the show’s low budget to their advantage and creating a master-class in visual comedy.