Time to close out the Summer 2016 anime season for me! This season, like the Spring season, represents a heavy shift in my weekly viewing towards pretty much pure slice-of-life. Things have gotten busy for me, which has made it hard to keep up with anime, so I generally only keep up with the shows I can reasonably expect to maintain their quality and otherwise make for a good weekly viewing. As for other shows, if I hear that they ended up good (or at least something I would like), I save them for later to marathon or watch in blocks. (Just don’t ask about my current anime backlog…) I expect this to be how my anime viewing will work for the foreseeable future.
As for the Summer season, I find that Summer is oftentimes one of my favorite seasons for anime. This does seem to go against the general opinion of most anime viewers, which I attribute to how most of my moe/slice-of-life shows, which most people aren’t a fan of, seem to come up during the Summer season. This season is no exception, though I have found that unfortunately, this season lacks any utterly amazing, A+-level shows. Thankfully, there are plenty of extremely good A-level shows and plenty of other great, memorable shows, so it’s still a very strong season if you ask me.
Please check out my “About Personal Ranks” page for more information about how these shows are ranked. Otherwise, without further ado, let’s take a look at what I watched this season and how they stack up against each other.
- Amanchu– As a big fan of the ARIA series—it is my favorite anime of all time, after all—this was the show I was looking forward to the most, and thankfully it did not disappoint. While definitely nowhere near as amazing as ARIA, this second collaboration between Kozue Amano and Jun’ichi Sato still manages to take the spot of my favorite anime of the season. Honestly, comparing it to ARIA is unfair, since in many ways Amanchu is a very different show, with its present-day Earth high school setting and focus on scuba diving; if anything, it’s more like Tamayura, another excellent Jun’ichi Sato show.
So what makes this show—and pretty much any other show SatoJun works on—so amazing? Well, SatoJun is an expert in a few things: creating a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy a show in, pacing the story to match that atmosphere’s pace while still progressing character development, and just overall giving a greater appreciation for the various things in life. Indeed, all of these factors are in Amanchu, and they mix well with Amano-sensei’s story to create a show that is both peaceful and inspiring.
- New Game!– As much as I love the cute-girls-doing-cute-things genre, it admittedly is rather saturated, making it harder and harder to find those unique aspects about any one given show that makes it stand out among its brethren. Thankfully, New Game makes that job much easier by changing up the setting: make the “girls” working adult age and put them in a game-making company rather than at high school. This means that the subject matter of its comedy can retire from the usual high school hijinks and focus on office hijinks instead, with a bit of video game flavor.
So already we have a good light-hearted moe comedy with a more unique flavor to it, but where this show steps beyond just being light-hearted fluff is when it starts getting into the characters’ heads. There, we find some surprisingly deep characterization for the main lead, Aoba, the her supervisor Kou, and various other characters. Watching Aoba try her best at her dream job, even when said job is more of a slog than a dream, is actually quite inspiring, as is watching Kou try her best to be a good supervisor despite her personality not being very suitable for the role. Even side characters like Aoba’s friend Nene have surprising depth to them. Regardless of how much development they get, all the girls are lots of fun and help make this show even more of a joy to watch. It’s been a while since I’ve really gotten into a CGDCT show and if this show were to get another season (based on sales, there’s definitely a chance), I could see this show reaching that elusive A+ rank.
- Love Live! Sunshine!!—Aww yeah, it’s this one. I’ve been something of a fan of the Love Livefranchise since the first anime started. My love for the series rose dramatically when I got into the mobile rhythm game School idol festival, and while I don’t really play that anymore, I remain quite invested in the franchise and its music and characters. To say that I had been really looking forward to the anime for this second generation of girls is an understatement. But how did it hold up for me? Simply put: I love it, even more so than the original. This is one show I could really go into an in-depth analysis on everything that works for me (and some things that don’t), but, well, I’ve written an entire series of blog posts on Beneath the Tangles on that. For some quick points, though: the girls are all incredibly lovable, it uses more drama directly related to idol work (as opposed to the hit-or-miss interpersonal drama), and the music is absolutely amazing.
The big thing, though, is how does this show work as a successor to the original anime, and here’s where things get interesting. Many have claimed early on that the show is simply copying what the original did story-wise, and while I thought there were enough differences to keep that from being completely true, I can see where they are coming from. However, a turning point in the show causes the girls to not only face a different reality from that of the first anime, but also deconstructs the idea of trying to copy the past in order to find success. It really does take the story in a direction that is quite suitable for the franchise, taking inspiration from its progenitors but ultimately finding its own voice. All we need now is a second season for the show to fully make use of its new direction, and we could be looking at another A+ show here.
- Sweetness & Lightning– Food anime has become one of my newest favorite things in anime. Granted, I’ve always liked food, so that’s no surprise, but the surprising number of food-related anime to come up recently has been like being rescued from starving on a deserted island and returning to a full-course buffet. Mix that in with another type of show that is rather underrepresented and a personal favorite of mine—the show about a parent struggling to raise a child (not necessarily hischild, but it is in this case)—and we have a recipe for some great times. The parenting aspect is easily the best part of the show, though; unlike most similar shows, here we have some genuinely interesting conflicts between parent and child as the daughter, Tsumugi, tries her best to behave but still acts up in believable ways, making the father, Kouhei, think about the best way to help her out.
The extra ingredient here is one of Kouhei’s students, Kotori, who takes on an interesting role as she helps the two of them cook stuff at her restaurant. Thankfully, this show avoids going down any romantic paths to focus on a much more nuanced relationship among the three; Kouhei has that friendly but non-romantic teacher-student approach with Kotori, and while Kotori does have something of a crush on her teacher, which in and of itself is nothing unusual for a high school girl, even that is also affected by many other circumstances that make their relationship more complex. Oh, and the food. That delicious food. It’s all rather simple, with plenty of instructions on preparation, so maybe I’ll have to take a crack at some of it.
With the show performing well in TV ratings and online streaming, I hope we get more of this show. As a fan of the original manga, I know there is plenty more after all this that I would love to see adapted.
- ReLIFE– This one is interesting in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with its show: all of its episodes were immediately available at once. This means it was actually the first Summer 2016 show I finished. How did it hold up, then, as an easily-marathonable show? Quite well, actually. Taking an adult and placing him in a high school setting through de-aging hijinks sounds counter-productive for a medium frequently criticized for focusing on said setting too much, but while it wins little originality points, it thankfully nails the execution. The characters are all likable with a fair amount of complexity, and the story balances comedy and drama well. The relationships within are handled extremely well and the show throws in some twists to make things even more interesting. There’s even a nice little romance for that extra squee factor.
In fact, the concept of having an adult “de-aged” to return to high school is actually used quite well. Not only does it give a sense of “what would I do differently if I went back to high school” or “how would an adult address all of these crazy teenagers and their issues”, but it also allows the show to touch on some surprisingly serious adult topics. This becomes even more apparent as some of the show’s twists start appearing. Beyond that it might be just another high school drama/comedy but I think it has done enough to stand out as one of the better examples of its type. Hopefully we get more of this story at some point.
- Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma – The Second Plate– Remember what I said about food-related shows becoming my new favorite thing in anime? Well, here’s a second helping of the show that really turned that theme into a full-blown obsession.Food Wars is a full-on shounen combat series with battles performed in the kitchen rather than in an arena, and it works really well. The battles can get surprisingly engaging, the characters have plenty of development to frame and grow their cooking skills and motivations, and the food reactions are so ridiculous that, even in their more fanservicey moments, they came off as more silly than sexual. (That the fanservicey stuff happens to both girls and guys is nice to see for a change.) All this is combined with the cooking aspect, which takes more of an artistic approach while still addressing the roles food has in our personal and social lives. All in all, it is a really fun show.
That said, I didn’t enjoy the second season quite as much as the first. The focus was much narrower here; whereas the first season spanned a fair range of activities, the second focused a lot on the Autumn Elections main tournament with a short showing of the Stagiaire arc. With the smaller variety in this season, the pacing felt a bit slower overall. Add on a relative lack of my favorite character, Megumi (though the moments she did get were great), and it did feel like this season needed a bit more meat on the bone. What we did get was still great, though, with Soma’s battle against Subaru and the finals being high points overall, and the Stagiaire arc providing a nice change of pace as well. Whether we get any more remains to be seen, but overall,Food Wars continues to leave me hungry for food-based anime.
- This Art Club Has A Problem!– This show surprised me a bit; I knew going in that I would enjoy it as a comedy, but I did not quite expect to enjoy it as a slice-of-life anime as well. Certainly, this show works well as a comedy, with a fun cast of characters and plenty of antics to go around. However, it is in the softer moments that this show stands out: the awkward yet slowly developing relationship between Mizuki and Subaru, and the montages of the club members working together to make some kind of art, help give this show some extra charm. At the moment it’s not quite something I would consider as one of my favorites, but to say the least, I am definitely very pleased with how this show turned out.
- Momokuri– When my “least favorite” show still manages a very good B+ rank, I think that shows just how much I enjoyed this season. Momokuri is probably the fluffiest of the fluff shows on this list: a simple, cute story about the budding romance between an awkward, cute boy and the girl that is incredibly obsessed with him. And yet, once you peel away at the fluff, you find some surprisingly interesting themes in this show. The very fact that it features a couple already in a romantic relationship makes it a bit of a rarity, and it means the show touches on some topics not normally brought up in anime. In particular, the show provides some interesting looks at gender roles in relationships, which I go into more depth with in this Beneath the Tangles article. All in all, for a cute fluff show, Momokuri still manages to be something just a bit more and for that I am quite grateful.
Other Summer 2016 Shows I Want To Watch
As mentioned before, shows I don’t end up following weekly (or catch up on sometime within the season), I save for later. Who knows when “later” will be, but for now, here are the shows from this season I might check out sometime later, ranked from most likely and down. Note that “ongoing” shows will likely depend on how well I hear the show turns out to be at the end.
- The Morose Mononokean
- Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 3rei
- Mob Psycho 100
- Saiki Kusuo no Psi-Nan (ongoing)
- Time Travel Girl
- Alderamin in the Sky
- Tales of Zestiria The X
- Puzzle & Dragons X (ongoing)
- Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars (ongoing)
- First Love Monster
As a final note, be sure to check out the end-of-season reviews on Beneath the Tangles, where I give official “review scores” to a number of anime. These review scores are based on how much I would recommend the show to others, so there may be some discrepancy between those and how much I personally liked the show. You can also see how much others liked the various shows of Summer 2016, if you want a different opinion from mine. Links are below (shows in parentheses are the shows I reviewed in that part):
With that, the Summer 2016 anime season is officially closed out for me! Onward to Fall 2016 and everything it has to offer!