New Anime: Summer 2017
The sad thing is, I don't think I'll ever love recent anime as much as I loved anime that came out when I was just getting started as an anime fan. For me, this was the mid 00's. I'll never be able to recapture the pure love I felt for Trigun or Cowboy Bebop, but that doesn't mean I've given up on anime. (Well, obviously I haven't given up on it, because I'm here blogging about it, but anyway.)
Each new season, I dread the cutesy, immature, cliché nonsense that is the same every year. Every veteran otaku does. But, I usually find at least one show to like every season as well. And for a summer season, when summers are historically not that great, it's been pretty nice so far, as there are more than a few shows I might keep watching to the end. This surprises me, because I was kind of disappointed by Spring 2017. So here's my take on some of the new shows.
A Centaur's Life
This is your basic "cute girls do cute things" show, with the twist that all the characters in this show are some form of human-animal hybrid creature, or winged humanoid. It's sort of like Disney's Zootopia, in that a veneer of a diverse but tolerant society might be hiding something darker. But, I don't really expect the tone of this show to get all that dark. It looks like a simple slice-of-life comedy about a centaur girl doing cute things. Any social commentary about equality and accommodations they try to make aside, I'm guessing this is mainly just fluffy nonsense.
This is your go-to this season if you like "seriously, what the hell am I watching?" shows. 18if starts when a boy, let's just call him protagonist-kun, fights a witch in a dream world. It turns out that the witch's motivations in the real world for trying to turn everyone into adorable stuffed animals in the dream were sympathetic, but she was still kind of terrifying. Protagonist-kun is assisted by some kind of weird mentor figure who just shows up in the dream. I'm expecting a dramatic reveal later where it turns out he has some kind of personal relationship to protagonist-kun in the real world, like father or something similar. I liked this anime because it was thrilling, psychologically complex, and beautifully designed.
Classroom of the Elite
In the first episode of this show, a classroom of students are given an allowance equivalent to $1,000 a month, just for getting into their schools. This has to cover necessities, but whoa! Soon, the schoolkids have blown through their budgets and started acting like lazy brats, who are allergic to showing up and actually doing schoolwork. Then the next month rolls around and, say what? No allowances? Sh*t just got real. They got the first allowance for getting into school, now they have to prove their merits. This show seems to be a serious social commentary on money and incentives. The usual "will generic-face-boy mate with tsunderebitch-senpai" plot device is in there, but the interesting thing to me is not the characters so much as the overarching plot associated with how the school is run and how different characters will react to this merit-based points system in the future.
In the beginning of this anime, a princess in a fantasy kingdom is going to school. She shows up all dirty from riding there in the back of a farm wagon. She has a cute blue thing that is SO CUTE AND FLUFFY OMG I WANT TO PET. The first episode introduced a lot of characters, but I didn't care that much about any of them, or the plot, to be honest. I wasn't too into this one.
Love & Lies
Love and Lies was the show on this list that had the strongest emotional impact on me personally. It's set in a future where Japan has decided to just force government-arranged marriage on everyone, to combat their falling birth rate. Protagonist-kun is in love with Blankfacegirl-chan. His only interaction with her, ever, has involved lending her an eraser once. In elementary school. And he knows he's going to get his government notice, probably telling him he has to marry someone else, but he still asks Blankfacegirl-chan to see him in the park. The pair confess mutual love, and it's a very touching scene.
As predicted, he gets his notice that he has to marry. But what? His wife, according to a sketchy text message - none other than Blankfacegirl-chan! Whoopee!
Oh wait, no. A government worker comes to him with an envelope, explaining that the text message was an error. His real intended? Tsunderepigtails-chan. During the next episode, he meets Tsunderepigtails-chan, of course he accidentally sees her panties and embarasses her, and the show seems to be setting up a love triangle between Blankfacegirl-chan and Tsunderepigtails-chan. I also hope it will explore the mysterious text message thing, which it likely will.
It's sort of like a cliché romance anime, but what makes it interesting and fresh is this government conspiracy and arranged marriage angle. We tend to think of arranged marriage as a thing of the past, but it is possible that Japanese parents hoping for grandchildren and not wanting their kids to grow up lonely might start to get a little coercive in the future. It shows that time is cyclical, and if something existed culturally once, it could become the norm again.
Keeping up with new anime is hard. But I'm glad I put in a small amount of effort this season because, for a summer, we've had some really nice shows. My favorites were Love and Lies and Highschool of the Elite. Yes both of them have a few cliché anime tropes, but what makes both of them fresh is the unique setup of the plot. Both of them could have just been boring kiddie romances, but they also both make social commentary that I think is compelling and interesting.