Sven's Thoughts on Anime 2016

Two month has already passed since the new Anime season has started, but here am I still catching up with some of my backlog from last year, especially for Summer 2016 anime. What’s wrong with my life. Looking back at the list though, 2016 had quite a lot of interesting shows going on so I thought might as well drop my thoughts here now that I’m finally getting some free time.

Personally, I feel that there aren’t any universal rating scheme for the entertainment value of a series so I’ll just be giving an overview based on my personal impression. That being said my opinions will kinda take into consideration of the nature and limitation of the medium (original/adaptation) which has become my common habit.

Also, as an early disclaimer, there are other impressive anime over the year, so if I don’t mention it along the way, it’s probably waiting readily in my backlog (especially Slice-of-Life genre). Some that come over my mind and may significantly change my ranking include: Flying Witch, Boku no Hero Academia, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, JoJo, Mob Psycho 100 and Flip Flappers.) 

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Before moving onto some shows from 2016, there’s actually one series that’s a continuation from 2015 which I enjoyed a lot:

Assassination Classroom

Pretty weird to start off with a Season 2 from previous year, but out of all the shows I’ve watched, Assassination classroom definitely topped my anime experience this year.

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Continuing from its previous season, Assassination Classroom highlights the school life of Class 3-E whereby the students have to overcome their usual highschool life while being assigned to eliminate Koro-sensei, a mysterious being that’s currently their teacher. While this unique chemistry between Class E and their target offers a decent amount of humor and action throughout the series, the show never forgets to emphasize the coming-to-age of young adolescence. The writer took into account of the common dilemma or issues faced by high school students in Japan, which is actually highly relateable over here in Asia. Pressure of living up to the society’s norms and expectations, bias based on aptitude and track records, just to name a few. Although the series does increase the drama in some of the scenarios, I can’t help myself but to relate to and sympathize with the characters. That theme and setting was what sold Assassination Classroom to me at the first place.

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Assassination classroom definitey has a large cast of characters, with main emphasis on Class E. Koro-sensei being multi-talented yet clumsily flawed (the weakness handbook by Nagisa), Kasuma being the usual badass, Irina being a bitch (RIP) and the whole class of students that weren’t just there for filling up the numbers. Each of the students are pretty well developed with most of them having short arcs revolving about their background and lives. But if you’re not particularly favorable with the introduction/SoL arcs during Season 1, rest assured because the plots and actions kicks in during Season 2. I won’t deny the manga could have elevated my experience with the series (since I started it before the anime seasons being announced), but it’s definitely a lot better than a series that randomly spawns 30+ characters with most of them being forgettable. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Mayoiga).

In comparison to other anime in 2016, this show is also one of the few which manage to keep consistent with the direction of the plot and wrap up the story with a satisfying ending. It didn’t go for a cliffhanger/rushed ending or pulled a anime original just for the sake of appealing to the fans, but rather completed the story of Koro-sensei with the class as it should be. Almost every character gets a decent closure to their dilemmas and personal life. I thoroughly enjoyed myself over the course of 47 episodes of the two season (or 180 chapters of the manga).

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With that out of the way, let’s move on to shows that are aired and concluded in 2016. And let’s start off with the most common topic: what’s my favourite anime?

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ERASED

A show that probably many had forgotten, ERASED was aired during the 1st quarter of the year featuring the story of Fujimura Satoru trying to solve a serial kidnapper of cases happened in his childhood when his time-resetting ability triggered after a murder.

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Quite a lot of people get confused or frustrated because of the genre tags, so I’ll get this out of the way: the supernatural ability that our MC has is there mainly as a plot device. So is the random SF tag that some people used solely because of the term time-travel. I had seen people comparing this to Steins;Gate

This anime gave me a great impression with how the show is handled (for most of it). It managed to remain faithful and perhaps surpassed its source material (for most of it) with how the drama was presented. I’ve did a comparison between the anime and manga before, but in short, the anime did a pretty good job with how some of the emotional scenes are handled. A solid example of good adaptation (for most of it) based on my personal experience.

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That being said though, this show does has its fair share of flaws. The show does offer a decent suspense with how the events unfold but there are parts of the mystery which turns out to be rather expectable, especially for those who are familiar with the genre. And you’ve been noticing the way I phrased the show, it succeeded only for majority of the part (9 episodes covering about 30 chapters worth of content). Perhaps due to the limitation of the number of episodes, the show messed up with the pacing so far and kinda ruined the last two episode. Essentially, they rewritten the events in the last 2 episodes which was supposed to be another long arc (or one and a half arc). This inevitably butchered the characterization of the villain (whether or not the person is a good villain is another topic of discussion) and the final showdown between Satoru and the villain. So, if you enjoyed the anime up until episode 9, you may want to take a look at the “future/present” arc in the manga which starts after chapter 32. It’s a direct transition from the incident before, so you’ll have no problem catching up from that point onward.

TLDR, I’ll recommend ERASED for its share of drama, and it’s quality until the last 2 episodes. While the ending does come as a trainwreck, I think what the adaptation achieved before the finale does deserve it’s praise and thus it’s still up in my recommendation list.

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==========Intermission========== 

Now, pretty sure some of you will be making comparison with your own selection for favourite anime of the year. And if that happens to be KonoSuba, well... I do have a deep impression of the show, but...

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My Honorable “Disqualification” - KonoSuba

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Now to be fair, KonoSuba has a clear advantage of utilizing its comedy to parody the travel-to-fantasy-world genre, which honestly appealed well to general audience nowadays. Well, this has become one of the most hated genre for normal viewers hasn’t it. I myself enjoyed a fair share of comedies and parodies, but somehow this series made me dropped it on episode 1 (only time from last year). Towards the end of the airing, my friend managed to somehow convince me to watch it again and I finally finished it. And it left a relatively bad aftertaste for me, especially after realizing why I subconsciously avoided the show.

Now, I’m used to the Fantasy-world-ish genre, and I enjoy parody and comedy shows a lot. KonoSuba does achieve a rather high score in my opinion, if my enjoyment is solely based on those criteria without considering it’s an anime. I found out my reason for wanting to drop the series towards the later half of the show: the animation. There are shows who are not well animated or have occasional janky animation (classic DEEN?), and there are shows that uses unique and recognizable styles for its animation. But KonoSuba did a miraclous feat of making me question where does the show stands between the aforementioned two scenarios. Surely, the shows does have the capability to deliver good-looking art as seen from the EXPLOSIOON and the Skill-up/DNA sequence animation, yet the character designs looks awkwardly unpolished in comparison to some background or object arts. Considering this anime is supposed to joke about the fantasy genre, many people think that this half-ass animation is a good compliment with the comedy, with a lot of comments centered around “It’s so bad it’s good”. To me, visual presentation plays a really important role in Japanese entertainment media, to it be generic design, outstandingly detailed animation or just bizarre art-style. And KonoSuba Season 1 presented me with many instances throughout the show that makes me think if DEEN had been using that as an excuse to cover some lazy animation.

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It may sound like I’m too bias on the animation in comparison to what it’s suppose to deliver. I’m just feel KonoSuba’s comedy was overhyped because of general distaste with Fantasy-harem genre. I’m definitely giving the credits to the author for what he did with the LN, but the anime’s selectively adaptation of the appealing humor while neglecting some other aspects aren’t a thing for me (eg time-skip and info-dump on new character was done towards the end of the anime). So it stands currently, KonoSuba’s anime seems to be a weird mix for me. While it does excel in delivering humor, it doesn’t really settle in for me to become a good anime (mainly due to its adaptation decisions). This is just my personal opinion for now so hopefully Season 2 can change my opinion on it.

The OVA had already killed my hope once again with another butchering of character into a laughing stock.

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==========END OF INTERMISSION==========

So, with KonoSuba our of my list, which shows will takes its place in my favourite in Fantasy and Comedy genres?

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Fantasy Department: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

Grimgar is my close candidate for favorite anime of the year, weirdly because it took a rather realistic approach to tell the story of teenagers being actually trapped in another world. Without having any MC-advantages or plot-armor which has become a trope in the genre, the cast starts off in the world Grimgar being actually unprepared and foreign. At the beginning of the story, they didn’t instantly gain favor or help from any of the residence of this new world, and the plot didn’t just randomly allow them to settle down with the rest of the community. The characters have to actually learn about battles and tactics, gain insights to the environment and community, and worry about even simplest daily necessities like food and rent. And viewers were constantly presented with the casts’ hesitance and concerns throughout the show. Pretty sure general audience will complain about the show being slow (which sadly has been the usual negative take on slice-of-life), but that’s actually one of the main appeal of the show. It does not rush these newcomers into the plot but rather allows them to gradually get out of their comfort zone like it should have been in reality. Apart from a certain Dark Knight, the characters came into terms with some of their personal dilemmas over the course of the shows.

It’s also worth mentioning that this show was famous with its water-color artstyle. If you took a look around the anime community during its airing, you had probably saw a lot of beautiful wallpapers originated from different scenes in this anime. That alone with the slice-of-life approach of the genre makes this show an interesting pick if you want a break from the usual fantasy-genre anime because most viewers nowadays hate generic stuff right.

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…..I better pick up my riot shield in prepare of the bashing. Calm down folks, because my honorable mention for this category is....

Honorable Mention: Re:Zero

Coming out of the blue, Re:Zero became the one of the hottest topic of the year with the grandest waifu war and the most divided reception among the anime community. Thanks to the special one hour-ish airing time of the 1st episode, the show manage to grab the audience attention with the tone/setting of the show completely without risking it with normal episode length. Well, many people will just assume it’s the normal trope again and dropped before things get down serious in episode 2. Proclaimed to be the new deconstruction of the genre (=_=), the series gained it’s popularity overnight with how the MC’s character, plot-armor and relationship are being handled.

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For me personally, I wasn’t exactly excited with the plot in the beginning apart from the twists and DESPAIR because it still follows the genre’s usual pattern. Despite common hype for Subaru, my call for him to be more “unique” were only answered in arc 3 because he still was having the mindset of regarding himself as “the protagonist” prior to that, making him rather indifferent from other similar MCs. Countless debates rises at this point whether Subaru is a relate-able or hated character, or how well or badly design was him as an individual. To me, Subaru was the author’s re-imagination of otaku/neet/internet-troll/whatever sails your boat. Many reviews have brought up the fact about Subaru’s poor personality or even his flaws as a fictional character, but that’s the point of the series. In this fictional world, the author tried to project his idea of a flawed individual as blatant possible without unnecessarily tailoring him with qualities that appeal to the readers/audience or fit into the shoes of a protagonist of a story. That is why there are people rooting for him as a refreshing character while equal amount of people hated him for being the trash he is.

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…...and I’d probably continue to support this line of thought if I had not watch the second half of the whale hunt. Because by then things did revert back to what you’d expect from fantasy anime... Haha, guess in the end it’s still bounded by the tropes... But I’d say give the first few episode a try if you’re curious about the hype and have yet to watch it (which is impossible at this day and age). Well, the saving grace is that the anime ended at a happy conclusive point even when I was 99% certain shits gonna get real if following the foreshadowing of the show. BUT ATLAS, THE LIGHT NOVEL PROVED ME RIGHT!!! GOODJOB NAGATSUKI-SENSEI!!

Others in the category: Tales of Zesteria the X, GATE Season 2, Kabaneri, Izetta

Also, I do realize I have a weird taste of looking for realism in anime, which highly affected my preference above.

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Comedy Department: Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto?

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Sakamoto desu ga, a series that I wasn’t expecting to be animated by DEEN wait what? considering it has only 24 chapters. A show about a genius guy doing cool, or most of the time, bizarre stuff. Unlike KonoSuba, it takes a different approach with its humor by having the protagonist taking over-the-top actions for simplest goals, and it managed to catch me off my guard frequently. Interestingly, while the main highlight of the show is Sakamoto himself, the character developments were all aimed towards the support characters, eg. his classmates.

Remember my complains about KonoSuba’s animation earlier? For this anime, DEEN didn’t went way broken with the characters expression and design, and yet it was still able to deliver an enjoyable comedy. Yeah yeah, I’ll stop trashing KonoSuba from here onwards, but just why DEEN....

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Others in the category: (backlog)Dagashi, Tanaka-kun


Unfortunately, many anime for Slice-of-Life genre are still in my backlog, so I have to skip my favourite department for this time.....


Up next:

Well, Shonen tag often overlaps with shows in other categories, but I just feel like noting two of them here. (Jojo, Mob Psycho 100 and Boku no Hero Academia not listed but definitely recommended, just that I’ve yet to catch up.) 

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Shonen Department: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans

Wait, wrong show
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Considering the multiverse and franchise of Gundam, it has more or less become the definition shonen mecha anime, though the question here is whether the new releases manage to deliver something more than being Gunpla promotion anime. Good news is that Iron Blood Orphan has Mari Okada and that alone has made the show rather promising (no.....I’m not destroyed by what happened in episode 40 - 41…...). Other than the usual mechs warfare between nations/organizations, the series moves away from the perspective of military into the eyes of mercenaries and those caught between power struggles. Right off the bat we were introduced to the young casts which had been modified as disposable labors, raised with the purpose of being cannon fodder in battles they’ve contracted to. And of course they will gain a superior Gundam and start out-powering their enemies but that’s not the point here right? Although being involved in a series of revolutions, these young mercenaries have no other life goals but to continue fighting under their peer and leader Orga’s order. While some characters (Orga, Biscuit, Kudelia) strives to put an end to Tekkadan’s constant strive, others especially Mika don’t really understand the concept of “normal life” and would rather spend their life fighting until their last breath. Themes like the mafia underworld, the awkward love triangle, and the oppression or prejudice (Earth and Outer Sphere residences, “space-rat”, the girls pre-Turbine) are welcoming addition to the plot.

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That being said though, I personally feel like nitpicking something I’ve seen from Season 2 (currently airing), which built upon the relationship and connections established from before. There are several promising side characters who have been put to the sidelines despite being capable to add interesting dynamics to the plot. But overall, Iron Blood Orphans have my full recommendation for anyone interested in shonen in general. But if you’re not interested with mecha, here’s something else:

Honorable Mentions: Bungou Stray Dog

And you are, Odasaku-kun
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This manga adaptation takes on a twist by changing famous writers into individuals with supernatural powers tying to their known works. The show is a mix of action and comedy with subtle references to the authors’ writings or their real lives, though the constant tone shifts may turn some people off. For me, the highlight of the anime so far would definitely be the first 4 episodes of season 2 which is a standalone flashback arc. Sadly, the later half of the show wasn’t on par with that and there’re signs of rushed plot towards the middle of the season. (Haven’t do a source-adaptation comparison myself since my friend was already in progress with that). Nevertheless, it’s not a bad Shonen anime so feel free to give it a try.

Also, Tanizaki, you’re one lucky onii-chan aren’t ya.
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WTF Department: Occultic;Nine

Every once in a while, there will be shows that left you flabbergasted and pondering what in the world had you been watching. for me, that is Occultic;Nine.

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Written by the same author of Steins;Gate (though not set in the scientific adventure world), one could already expect something different from our usual anime. Though I should note that for whoever haven’t watch it, Occultic;Nine it shouldn’t be compared to Steins;Gate because the delivery of the story will be very different. The show started off informing viewers of the popularity of occultic topics in Shibuya and given short moments of every main characters within one episode. And then the main plot begins without our usual exposition, leaving behind so many questions, which some were never explained by the end of the series. Backgrounds of characters, the underlying conspiracy within the city, their connection to the main plot, etc... All these were gradually and rapidly(?) tossed in as either flashbacks or info-dumps. Oh yeah, the pacing of dialogues and info-dumps were unbelievably fast to the point that many might need to pause the video just to read those strings of subtitle texts or just to process what’s being tossed in.

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As for the main plot though, I would say it reached the quality on the level of Robotics;Note anime if using the writers’ past works as references. Interesting setting which has potential to be utilized better, eg: the characterization of the antagonist, pacing of character development and even the ending that kinda leaves the story open-ended. And also what’s with Myu-pon’s “tail”·. The series’ presentation is something I found rather refreshing, but definitely not suited for general audience’s taste. Proceed with caution if you’re going to give it a try, but do refrain from using Steins;Gate as a benchmark, just cause.

Special mention: Danganronpa 3 series

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With general spoiler, the basic premise of Danganronpa for both games is that talented students from a prestigue school (dubbed Ultimates) were forced into a school life of killing, with the mastermind instigating despair and distrust among the survivors. Danganronpa 3 are anime specials with Hope/Kibou arc set after the events of Danganronpa 2 while the Despair/Zetsubou arc set before events of Danganronpa 2 (also DR1). The finale for these 2 anime is a combined special episode called Furure/Mirai arc, acting as the closure for current Hope’s Peak Academy story. The games were highly appraised for suspense and mystery surrounding the student while being presented in a bizzare artstyle and interesting game mechanics. However, suffering from the same fate as Danganronpa the Animation, the experience in solving the mysteries was less emphasized in the anime, resulting in a weaker plot which more inclined towards psychological horror (ahem, ZETSUBOU DA!). Future arc was an OK for a survival game, but Zetsubou arc gets my WARNING alert for general audience as the later part of the story gets rather gruesome for faint hearts. It’s not exactly that visually gore, but it had disgusted a large portion of DR’s fanbase (apart from some contradictions/controversies with the story’s background setting) .

However, I personally can accept Danganronpa 3 as an OK epilogue to Danganronpa’s story so far, solely based it being an anime original content. While it does have a huge transition from the experiences from previous works, I do find it interesting in their way to intertwining past and future arcs. You see, the episodes are aired in the sequence of Kibou ep1 > Zetsubou ep1 > Kibou ep2 > Zetsubou ep2 ... A rather unusual way of writing, but they manage did some interesting episodic tie-ins between the two different arcs, with two episodes sharing similar theme or similar characters. Indeed, similar effect can be achieved by using flashbacks appropriately, I do feel like this deserves a special mention.

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Before I wrap up my thoughts on anime recommendation, here’s one special mention

Your Name.

Not much introduction needed from me considering it’s one of the hottest topic in anime community. But in case you’re really unfamiliar with it, allow me to summarize it with these few words: A beautiful love story that transcended physical and logical boundaries between two strangers. Coming from Makoto Shinkai whose works are known for its outstanding animation and art-style, a large majority of the movie are wallpaper-worthy with its vibrant and detailed scenes. While I’ll be frank that the plot isn’t over the top, it serves as a pretty decent story for the movie with rather enjoyable characters. It manages to use many common settings or tropes in similar genre to present a rather refreshing experience, which is boosted significantly with soundtrack that nails the scenes perfectly. If you’re looking for something that can give you an memorable emotional ride, Your Name. is definitely your cup of tea.

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There’re some details I’d like to go into further about the movie, but I’d probably do so only after I’ve finished reading its novel(s). If you do want some thoughts on it though, this review on by kinja’s anime community probably will be more than sufficient to give you an idea of the movie.

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Just something I’ve heard of:

Shinkai commented that while the novel (not the sidestory novel) came out earlier than the movie, the movie was the intended media for the story. Though writing of the novel did help him improved some of the later part of the movie production, eg how the characters are being handled. Just extra info for anyone wondering about which of the medium being “source material”

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Ok, enough with the good stuff, time for some rants. I’ve always think myself to have relatively high tolerance for “poor” anime but 2016 proved me wrong my having multiple debatable series aired throughout the year. Unlike KonoSuba which just wasn’t my cup of tea, here’s a cancer that I made me wish I wasn’t that optimistic with my usual expectations:

Big Order

No, it’s bound by the idiocy of the series itself isn’t it
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An anime that I have been bashing for more than half year, this was adapted from a manga series by the same author as Mirai Nikki (which I honestly enjoyed). With an unconfirmed manga ending by the time the anime aired, I had already expected it to have questionable original finale. Agreeing with a request to do an adaptation comparison, which I fully regret now, my impression of the show plunged from being a “meh” anime to downright disappointment. (Thank you, K*, you lucky bastard). Here’s a breakdown of my thoughts with minimum spoiler as possible:

The show revolves around ability/Order users (…notice the trend nowadays....) in a post-apocalyptic world with our protagonist possessing possibly the one of the best abilities. Alleged to be the cause of a major destruction years ago, the young guy lived with his sister while hiding his ability from everyone around him. Then a group of ability users intruded their daily life, revealing his identity and forcing him to partake in a world domination. It started off with an interesting premise but the protagonist is constantly being manipulated by almost everyone else. Regardless of that, my disappointment with the series was the changes they made (by which my suspicion was confirmed after reading the manga). They skipped several events in the manga without proper transition, resulting in weird missing gap that failed to connect the scenarios. In returned, they chose to add in more forced fanservice...... Then it crossed the line when they changed the siblings relationship into incest. Yes my friend, there were no indication of such interaction in the source material, and somehow the staffs decided to make this changes which caused the disgust of majority of the viewers. My only relief was that they decided to end the story at the anime ending because who knows how much of the trainwreck the series would become if they decided to continue beyond that plot (by which was kinda only the half-way point of the manga). Again, this is only my opinion, but stay away from this show unless you wanted to join the shittalking of how bad it was.

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Funny story, there was a guy ranting about SAO was the worst anime ever existed with his “experience with variety of anime over the decades”. Well, he suddenly stopped his shitposts mid-argument and disappeared from the rest of the discussion when I asked him how was Big Order better than SAO. The thread was dead since then.

Honorable Mentions: Mayoiga

I went in this show hoping for another Another, and the setting was perfect for a horror/supernatural plot. But it started off introducing 30+ characters in episode 1, with everyone apart from the main characters being bland and forgettable. Everything spells poor writing from the plot to characters, and it’s worse if you considered the fact that Mari Okada was writing it. There was even a time when we have info-dump on 3 character’s background within a single episode, and that’s all for that 3 said characters’ development. The suspense of the show gradually become a weird supernatural story with a confusing climax. And because we aren’t really given enough reason to care for majority of the casts, the ending seems like it resolves little to nothing apart from personal dilemmas of the few active characters. My final thoughts: Mayoiga is just another anime that you can watch if you really have no other anime to watch and you’re ok with “turning your brain off” as many people would describe.

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To round of my opinions on 2016's anime, I personally find a lot of interesting entries that didn’t really reach their full potentials. Many of the highly anticipated shows didn’t manage to keep up with the hype/expectation while some have very divided reception among the viewers. Perhaps slightly weaker compared to what I’ve got from 2014. And I am really excited for 2017 which seems rather promising with announcement of shows like Steins;Gate 0, Yuuki Yuuna, Fate franchise (yeah, I’m a sucker for Nasuverse), OP-Man 2 and Attack on Titan S2 (though...for “different” reason).

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This is a casual sharing by a random anime fan. Feel free to let me know your thoughts about these or any other shows. In the time, let me resume a shitty game called “reality”. 

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