Spring 2016 Anime – Review Wrap-Up (Part 1)

Despite my ambitious anime list found in Spring 2016 Anime – First Impressions I ended the Spring 2016 season completing just four anime. The series that didn’t make the cut were either dropped early on or just never made it to a legal streaming platform (“cough” Sinbad “cough”). While I won’t say there was anything inherently bad with them, I, ultimately, felt there wasn’t enough appeal early on to make me believe it would be worth my time. For the four final anime, I’ve prepared short reviews and thoughts, split into two posts. Overall, spring was not the anime season of dreams I had originally though it was going to be but there were a few stand-out definitely worth talking about (for better or for worse). For Part 1, let’s take a look at Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress and And You Thought there is Never a Girl Online? (Netoge Yome).

 

Warning: Mild series spoilers ahead!

Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress

Completed (12 Episodes)
Final Verdict: Negative

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Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress

At the beginning of the season, I wrote up a piece saying how pleasantly surprised I was with Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress (article found here). I had high hopes that it would take what Wit Studio learned from their Attack on Titan adaption and create something truly spectacular. Now that the series is over, I can see the full picture and yes, it is as I feared. I’m here to tell you that I was wrong.

For its first six episodes, Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress was a great show that explored the fear found deep within us. Each episode had a sense of tension that gnawed at you as you knew the protagonists were slowly being backed into a corner by blood-thirsty, relentless monsters. The show gave you a sense of high stakes, knowing that at any moment everything could fall apart. But then, quite abruptly, those stakes didn’t matter anymore. The crazed beasts we had learned to fear became nothing more than cannon fodder. Half-way through, the series switched gears with the introduction of its one-dimensional antagonist, Biba. The story became less about humanity’s survival and more about the how powerful it was to be a Kabaneri, a half Kabane (a zombie-like creature with an iron membrane around their heart), half human. At one point, one of the kabaneri even shot out a laser beam, a complete immersion-breaking moment for the series. With each episode in the second half, the Kabaneri spiraled more and more out of control until it was barely even recognizable. The antagonist was out for revenge upon a character who didn’t receive any characterization or backstory for us to understand their motivations. Biba was shown as evil for the sake of evil while Ikoma, the main protagonist, became a ball of rage who’s main goals were summed up as: kill Biba and protect Mumei, the other main protagonist. By the end, the stakes that brought the series together were gone. There was no sense of danger for any of the characters and the Kabane were no longer relevant. As I had feared, Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress eventually tripped over itself and blew up in our faces. I only finished the series to see it through to the end but I can’t say it was worth it.

As naive as I am, I wrote in my post, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: A repackaging of Attack on Titanthat its steampunk/imperial Japanese style and high production values were enough to watch it for visual appeal alone. While the art-style is unique and appealing at first, it eventually lost its luster as the overall animation quality diminished, common in anime as they hits the mid-way point due to costs. Overall, quality substance is what matters and Kabaneri and the Iron Fortress‘ second half is definitely lacking in that area. It’s a show that is ultimately half-baked, bringing down the awesome first six episodes.

 

And You Thought there is Never a Girl Online?
(Netoge Yome)

Completed (12 Episodes)
Final Verdict: Positive (but with issues)

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And You Thought there is Never a Girl Online?

I’m extremely surprised with how much I enjoyed And You Thought there is never a Girl Online? despite the few glaring issues we knew the series would have. That being said, it was one of the most fun anime I’ve seen in quite some time. I cannot (in good faith) give it a general recommendation but if you are someone who can stomach ecchi, sometimes tropey anime then you may want to hear me out.

Netoge Yome is a fun “junk food” harem anime that, at times, can even be a bit charming. The story revolves around a group of high schoolers who dedicate their lives to an online MMO called Legendary Age. Main protagonist, Hideki Nishimura a.k.a. Rusian, is down on his luck after confessing his love to a girl in the game who tells him she is a man, ultimately becoming jaded towards online girls. Much to his chagrin, he is eventually wore down by a girl in his guild named Ako into getting married in the game, leading to the start of our story. Little do they know, both Nishimura and Ako actually attend the same school. Unable to tell the difference between the game and reality, Ako is convinced she is truly married to Nishimura, causing him and his other guild-mates to work together to help Ako understand that the game and reality are separate.

Where the series shines the most is in its characters. The main protagonist isn’t a dense generic harem character who can’t see the women falling all over him. He is able to come to terms with his feelings and himself, acting on emotions while trying to show Ako what he wants to build outside of the game. Ako is cute yet crazy, obsessing over Rusian whenever she can, and, while she’s more a symbol of self-serving fantasy than a depiction of a real girl, she brakes the norms of harem female anime characters in interesting and unique ways. In contrast to Ako’s over-the-top personality, is my favorite character Akane Segawa. She initial comes off as a generic “tsundere” character but as the series progresses she shows that she’s sincere and a true friend to those around her. At times, I found her to be the most realistic character among the group, afraid of showing her true colors but still willing to due what makes her happy. The characters are driving force of Netoge Yome that keep you coming back for more.

Unfortunately, Notoge Yome is ultimately poisoned with anime tropes that keep it from becoming great. Never really committing to some of its dark themes in favor of comedic relief is to be expected but extremely disappointing when your characters show such promise. The story manages to hit its peak a little more than mid-way through due and is never able to recapture the viewer like it did in the beginning. We don’t get a lot of advancement in the main objective of the plot (bring Ako into reality) until it is pushed in our face in the final episode. The anime is an enjoyable watch that breaks common character anime tropes in exchange falling in-line with common story tropes. If you’re a gamer (like myself), especially one with experience in MMOs, and enjoy an occasional ecchi harem anime, then And You Thought there is never a Girl Online? might very well be worth your consideration. I, personally, enjoyed it quite a bit but can help but feel it had so much more potential.

 

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for Spring 2016 Anime – Review Wrap-Up (Part 2), featuring My Hero Academia and Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, coming soon!

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