Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer 2015: What I'm Watching (Regular Viewing Slate)

It’s time for my seasonal rundown of all the shows I’m watching this season. This time around, I will split the entries into those shows which are set as part of my regular weekly viewing schedule, and those shows that are still competing as part of The Anime-zing Race series. As this entry focuses on my regular shows, expect lots of sequels, slice-of-life shows, and other shows that are ineligible for participation in the Race.

In addition to the shows below, I am continuing with three shows that started last season: Baby Steps Season 2, Food Wars - Shokugeki no Souma, and My love Story!!.

The shows that will be covered in this post are:

Castle Town Dandelion
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! Herz
Himouto! Umaru-chan
The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (2nd Half)
Non Non Biyori Repeat
Seiyu's Life!
Snow White with the Red Hair
Wakaba Girl/Miss Monochrome 2nd Season

Check out what I have to say about all these shows after the jump.

Castle Town Dandelion
Japanese title: Joukamichi no Dandelion

Where democracy meets entertainment.

The Sakurada family lives in a normal house in the suburbs. The children all go to normal schools and live relatively normal lives. Except for the part where the family is actually the royal family, with their father as the King, who has surveillance cameras all around town to monitor his children. And the part where the public gets to watch the nine children to eventually vote for which one will become the next king. And the part where all nine of the children have superpowers. So their lives aren’t really normal at all. Especially not for Akane, the fourth child and third daughter and gravity manipulator, who is painfully shy and hates all the attention she gets from the cameras. Forget trying to become the next king; can she even last until the election without dying of embarrassment?

With a premise that sounds like a cross between Big Brother and The Brady Bunch with some superpowers for kicks, you might be surprised (as I was) to find that the manga this show was adapted from is actually from the Manga Time Kirara family of magazines, best known for their cute-girls-doing-cute-things works; in fact, the original 4koma came from the same magazine as Sakura Trick and Koufuku Graffiti. While you wrap your head around that, this show features two or three skits per episodes that show Akane and her siblings getting into various hijinks because of their royal status and their powers. Behind all of those hijinks, though, is a charming show about a family that looks out for each other despite their squabbles and the competition between them, and what it means to be part of a royal family, even when living among commoners. Also, I can totally relate to Akane, as I also hate being the center of attention…

Castle Town Dandelion is streaming on Funimation.

(Bonus: Check out an article I wrote about this show on Beneath the Tangles!)

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! Herz
Japanese title: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya Zwei! Herz

Eat your herz out.

Sequel Alert: This is the third season of the Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya series, spun-off from the Fate/stay night universe. The reason it’s still “2wei” refers to how it adapts the second half of the “2wei” manga. At any rate, you’ll want to watch the past two seasons first, because this show is continuing the story straight from where they left off. As a spin-off, though, no prior experience with the Fate/ series is needed to start the whole series, though the more experience you have, the more references you’ll catch.

Ah, Illyasviel von Einzbern. A cute girl who sadly lives a rough life in the original Fate/ universe, this spin-off series gives Illya a chance at a happy life. Not that it will come easy, as various trials such as rampant Servant phantasms and clones will pose a challenge, and to rise up to that challenge, Illya must… become a magical girl? The show definitely has a lot of fun with itself, poking fun at magical girl tropes and referencing various things from the original Fate/ series. It also has its serious moments and moments of great animation, as well as some great comedic moments, and just overall serves well as a spinoff.

All seasons of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya are streaming on Crunchyroll.

Himouto! Umaru-chan

Model student by day, useless sister by night.

Umaru Doma is the perfect high school girl. She gets great grades, she is great at sports and music, and she is loved by (almost) all of the girls and guys in the school. However, that perfect image of hers only lasts until she walks through the door of her apartment, at which point she becomes a lazy otaku who spends all her time eating junk food and playing games or surfing the web or badgering and annoying the life out of her older brother. As she finds out, though, keeping up appearances turns out to be much harder than it seems, as various friends of hers come a lot closer to discovering her secret life than she’s comfortable with.

Umaru is quite the character. She’s selfish, she’s manipulative of her older brother, and she pretty much lives her life off of deceiving others. These sorts of characters are hard to write a comedy off of, because take their selfish tendencies too far and you get a character that is just plain unlikable. Thankfully, this show manages to find a way to keep things funny. That Umaru herself gets into various pinches because of her ways helps a lot, because comedic karma is always great. What really helps the show, though, are the addition of secondary characters and their own various quirks and play off Umaru in great ways. Overall, once you get past the first half of the first episode, this is a show that definitely works far more often than not, and is great for laughs.

Himouto! Umaru-chan is streaming on Crunchyroll.

The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (2nd Half)

The ball isn't over yet.

Sequel Alert: This is the second half of The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls anime which started earlier this Winter. The episode numbers haven’t even reset, so this isn’t even technically a new “season” as it goes right in with episode 14. You’ll definitely want to watch the show from the first episode if you’re interested. As for the show’s relationship to the original iDOLM@STER anime, it’s a spin-off with a completely different cast of characters (and very few references), so no prior experience with the franchise is necessary.

Cinderella Girls is back! The first half of the show did an excellent job of portraying a group of girls as they deal with the trials and emotional turmoils of becoming established musical idols. As for the second half, expect things to be shaken up even more with the addition of Mishiro, the new executive director with her own plans for 346 Productions. Unlike Kuroi of the original iM@S series, Mishiro is less cartoon villain and more no-nonsense boss determined to succeed, which I think works much better for the show, and I am definitely looking forward to how the girls rise up to this challenge to show that they can do things their own way.

All of The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls is streaming on Daisuki and Hulu.

(Bonus: Check out an article I wrote on this show for Beneath the Tangles!)

Non Non Biyori Repeat

Time to experience the power of the Nyanpasu all over again.

Sequel Alert?: This is the second season of Non Non Biyori; however, chronologically, its stories take place at various points between episodes of the first season, hence the Repeat in the title. Consider it a “fill in the gaps” sort of season. While you don’t have to watch the first season beforehand, I definitely recommend doing so anyway because this show is amazing.

Non Non Biyori was one of my favorite shows of 2013, and for good reason. It takes the cute-girls-doing-cute-things concept and puts it in a rural setting, then does its best to create an idyllic atmosphere that is highly relaxing to watch; it is slice of life iyashikei (“healing anime”) at its best. This new season looks to fill in some of the gaps in the first season, which works just fine for a slice-of-life show like this one. There are plenty of laughs to be had and plenty of heartwarming moments, and all in all it is simply one of the most pleasant shows to come out recently.

Both seasons of Non Non Biyori are streaming on Crunchyroll.

Seiyu’s Life!
Japanese title: Sore ga Seiyuu!

For those that wish Shirobako went more into the whole voice-acting thing.

Futaba Ichinose finally got her first regular voice acting role! …as a mascot character in the mecha series Boddhitsavon. But for a seiyuu, work is work, and as she steps into the recording studio, she meets up with two other seiyuu: fellow newbie Ichigo Moesaki and the somewhat more established high school seiyuu, Rin Kohana. Together, the three of them bravely challenge the daunting world of voice acting!

Fun fact: this show originated from a doujin (self-published) 4-koma written by seiyuu Masumi Asano, and illustrated by Kenjiro Hata, mangaka of Hayate the Combat Butler; the story itself takes place in the same universe, even. Not that you need experience with that franchise, as the only reference we have so far is Rin going to the same school and wearing the same uniform. What we do have is a charming show that looks at the various trials up-and-coming voice actors have to deal with, from part-time jobs to auditions to web radio shows to getting roles that consist entirely of mascot characters saying their name repeatedly. If you’re interested in learning more about the Japanese voice-acting industry, this is a great show for that, and it’s also a nice show for just watching three girls, two of which are adults, try to make their dreams come true. As a bonus, each episode features a cameo by one veteran seiyuu, and each episode’s ending has the girls singing a bit from different past anime themes.

Seiyu’s Life is streaming on Funimation.

Snow White with the Red Hair
Japanese title: Akagami no Shirayuki-hime

Though her hair be scarlet as crimson, her heart is white as snow.

Shirayuki is an herbalist with apple-red hair, something very unusual in the fantasy world she lives in. She catches the eye of the prince, Raj, who sets out to make her his mistress. Not being a fan of that particular fate, she escapes and meets up with the prince of the neighboring country, Zen, and ends up living in that country as she sets out on her new path in life.

Shoujo fantasy has gotten something of a revival lately, with this latest work being arguably more shoujo than fantasy, focusing more on strong characters and relational development than the details and workings of the fantasy world itself. The fantasy elements are definitely there, though, and help give the show very much a fairy-tale feel to it. I’ve heard comparisons of this show to the classic Disney princess stories, and I for one feel this show would not feel out of place among Studio Ghibli’s works. It’s overall a very heartwarming sort of show, and easily one of my favorites this season.

Snow White with the Red Hair is streaming on Funimation.

Japanese title: Working!!!

Workplace relationships very much encouraged here.

Sequel Alert: This is the third season of Working!!, known as Wagnaria!! in the US due to copyright conflicts. Watching the previous two seasons beforehand is definitely required.

A classic work-com revolving around a bunch of eccentrics (and one normal) working at a family restaurant. It’s absolutely hilarious, to be sure, as the cast play off each other expertly. What really makes this show work, though, is how it is not a static show with a status quo to maintain; slowly but surely, the characters and their relationships change. And this third season in particular seems to be pushing the characters toward a final ending. If you want a great comedy that is at times something just a bit more, Working!! should definitely work for you.

All seasons of Wagnaria!! are streaming on Crunchyroll.

Not-So-Short Shorts:

Wakaba*Girl: Wakaba is a rich girl who attends a normal school with one goal: live the ideal high school girl life. Good thing she has three friends in Mao, Moeko, and Nao to help her out. From the pen of Yui Hara, mangaka of Kin-iro Mosaic, comes another cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, this one coming at eight minutes an episode, which is still a good enough amount of time to enjoy the charm of a rich girl learning to enjoy a more down-to-earth life. This show is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Miss Monochrome: The Animation 2: Miss Monochrome, a colorless android character created and voiced by Yui Horie, is back to try once again to become a top idol. Compared to the first season, the episodes are twice as long, at about eight minutes each, and rather than being about random hijinks, they focus on a definitive plotline as Miss Monochrome gets ready for her first tour. There's still plenty of hijinks, though, in that off-the-wall way that Miss Monochrome specializes in. Both seasons of this show (plus an English dub of the first season) are streaming on Crunchyroll.


Next time, I cover the shows that have survived three episodes of The Anime-zing Race!

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