Spring 2016 Anime – Review Wrap-Up (Part 2)

That’s right, it’s time for Part 2 of my spring 2016 anime season reviews. Sorry for the delay, I got caught up in work (well kind of), The Evil Within, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. But, let’s suit up and take a look at some of the season’s more exciting anime: Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- and My Hero Academia.

 

Warning: Expect mild spoilers ahead!

 

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

On-going Anime (15/25 Episodes)
Current Verdict: Positive
Devin’s Favorite of Spring 2016

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Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

At its start back in April, talk of Re:ZERO exploded out of thin air around me. I had originally brushed it off as a generic SAO money grab, but between the buzz around it’s 45 minute-long first episode and my friend’s recommendation (who I would later find out never actually watched it…), I decided to gave it a chance because, at the end of the day, I’m somewhat weak willed. I pushed through the slog that was the first 30 minutes but by the end, I was hooked into what would become one of my new favorite series.

Notice: As of July 10th, Re:ZERO is 15 episodes into its 25 episode run but, I have decided to only speak about the first 11 episodes, covering the first and second arcs of the story. I felt this was a good stopping point to discuss the core points of the series but, I intend on doing a full review of the anime upon its completion this summer.

Re:ZERO follows the story of Natsuki Subaru, an abnormal otaku who finds himself transported to a fantasy world. Without any knowledge of how he was transported or the world he know find himself in, Subaru accepts the fate thrown at him, excited to be the protagonist of his own fantasy story. After being saved by “Satella” or Emilia, Subaru decides to follow her in search of her recently stolen pendant since, let’s be honest, he doesn’t really have anything better to do. Also, he owes her a debt, having saved him from street thugs (so there’s that). This all accumulates to what is the starting point of the series. The plot of Re:ZERO has no immediate aim or end goal, driven in its entirety through the character of Subaru. A mixture of coincidence and a speculated push from some all-powerful being has brought him to a new land, bestowing him with a single magic power, and we watch to see where it takes him and how he responds, unknowing what it’s all for.

Re:ZERO has its share of flaws. As much as I’ve come to love the show, I have my gripes with some of its uneven use of dark themes and Subaru’s scattered character. Subaru has the unique power, which he calls “Return by Death”, to return to specific point in time upon death. What I appreciate about the series can be seen in Subaru’s use of this power. He never abuses it. He could easily kill himself whenever something doesn’t go his way, but instead Subaru is mindful about his lack of information and fear of feeling his own death. Specifically, there is a bit of realism in the way the Re:ZERO treats it’s characters and the way they think. The first arc is all about Subaru realizing his power but once he comes to understand what he can do, the second arc decides to play with the mental strain it causes his character. We see a happy-go-lucky boy sink deep into fear, feeling alone in a world he doesn’t understand and coming to the realization he shares memories with those around him that are lost in different lives. So, you might be asking where are the flaws in this complex character-driven premise?

As Re:ZERO drives deeper into its dark themes, I can’t help but feel the overall experience is a tad erratic. The anime trips over itself by being, oddly enough, too “anime”. It tries too hard to add in light-hearted anime tropes to break tension, which taints the experience. I have a hard time taking the series seriously when it fails to commit and take itself serious. Between the otaku MC who is far too energetic, social, and athletic to feel like someone who wastes away their life on games and anime (let’s be honest with ourselves on this one) and the powerful mage who happens to be a drill loli (small girl with anime hair), I have a hard time accepting all the heavy themes it throws at me. The core is there and it’s beautiful. The surface, however, will ask you to suspension your disbelief more than you should.

Despite my gripes thus far, they don’t stop Re:ZERO from being one of my new favorite anime. Yes, it’s not perfect but there’s a hook to it. It’s a roller coaster of emotions that treads where few stories will. We suffer along with Subaru, hoping to find the light at the end of the road for him. It’s tropey, sure, but at times it’s self aware, turning the tropes on their head. Re:ZERO is, without a doubt, a spectacle. It’s roller coaster ride I don’t want to get off of. It deserves all the talk, hype, and love it’s been receiving this spring season because Re:ZERO is great.

 

 

My Hero Academia

Completed (13 Episodes)
Final Verdict: Positive

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My Hero Academia

The shounen genre (technically demographic but also a type of blanket genre) has always preyed on the adrenaline of viewers, slowly but surely building hype on a high impact moment until it explodes in a flurry of all-out power and friendship. My Hero Academia is no exception, but it definitely does it better than most.

My Hero Academia follows the story of Izuku Midoriya, or “Deku”, one of the few born into the world without a “quirk”, or superpower. Deku, despite the odds, still wants nothing more than to be a hero, aspiring to be like the symbol of peace and greatest hero, All Might. To an extent, I’m interested in knowing what this series could have been if it was left just like that. If Deku was going to be left fighting against the odds in a world where he doesn’t fit in. That isn’t My Hero Academia, though. It’s an origin story of how Deku became the most powerful hero, a student of All Might and inheritor of his power.

The My Hero Academia anime is a stepping stone, for both Deku and the viewer. We see him gain his powers and come face-to-face with the true world of heroes and villains. He’s a scared boy who has learned to overcome obstacles the only way he knew how, through observation and intellect. Now, we see him, a still jumpy and frightful boy, with unimaginable power. Where others have gained superiority complexes, Deku is humble. He’s the underdog, mentally. You want to root for him and you get excited to see him succeed where he otherwise couldn’t have if he was still powerless. The moments where Deku defies all odds and uses his weaknesses as his strengths is what fuels the greatness of My Hero Academia. It’s exciting. It’s an underdog story where the underdog has just been given his golden ticket.

My Hero Academia‘s pacing it probably it’s biggest flaw. The series is a slow burn. Adapting two chapter per episode bring little content to the table, something that’s hard to swallow in a series that keeps you high levels high. In a way, maybe it worked in it’s benefit, I was always left wanting more each week. It kept me engaged and eager. At a certain point though, too eager and I snapped. I broke down and read what happened next in the manga. I couldn’t wait a whole week. Each episode takes advantage of filling time in any way it can, usually rehashing some of the end of last week’s episode. It’s pacing isn’t poor, it’s just slower than we’d like but with a reason. My Hero Academia is a fairly newer manga, releasing it’s first issue in July 2014. As such, if season 1 blazed through the content too fast, we would be left waiting for another season for some time, even more for a season after that. Instead, Studio Bones went with a slower approach and the payoff for us all is a 2nd season already in production. If a slower paced, two chapter per episode anime means we can get a yearly season then I’m not too mad. But, I still envy people who get to binge watch this anime.

My Hero Academia is excitement. It strings you along and plays with your heart in a way you can only expect from a high quality shounen. The story plays it safe at times but it’s execution keeps you coming back for more. It features a grand cast of characters that all help play a role in this underdog story, even if they’ve only scratched the surface of their character arcs. All Might takes the secondary lead and is an overwhelming juggernaut, producing one of my favorite scenes in the 13 episodes (I’ve watched it about five times now). The show’s art style and directing are excellent, making me excited to see the series continue in the hands of Studio Bones. The future looks bright for My Hero Academia and it’s definitely an anime to keep your eye on. So for now until season 2, I’ll leave these parting words: Go beyond, plus ultra!

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