Summer 2016 Preview: Crunchyroll Edition

It’s another anime season, and Crunchyroll is at it again. Crunchyroll — those villains! — have launched an all out assault on my free time. How dare they offer such a huge amount of entertainment for such a reasonable price?

The pain is real-ish…

In all seriousness, Crunchyroll’s Summer 2016 anime season is a lot like its Spring 2016 season — filled with shows that are fun to watch. There are even a few that might turn out to be something special!

Here are the shows I’m watching as they come out:

Alderamin in the Sky

Igsem took exception to Solork's lack of respect when he tried to chide the princess for panicking. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Igsem took exception to Solork’s lack of respect when he tried to chide the princess for panicking. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Many of this friends think Ikta Solork is a good-for-nothing slacker. The empire his city’s part of, Katjvarna, is fighting another nation (the Kioka Republic), and soldiers from his city are actively engaged with the enemy. When Solork tells his friends that it’s only a matter of time before their soldiers meet defeat, they ridicule him. Yatorishino Igsem, eldest daughter of the Igsem family (famous for their service to the empire), knows better. She takes him aside and asks him how long they had. He doesn’t think long.

Solork and Igsem both attend the same school where they learn combat skills in preparation for joining the military. Boarding a ship to their next assignment, they meet Haroma Bekkel, a healer, who is so attractive that Igsem had to physically remove Solork from her side. They also meet Torway Remeon, also a knight in training, who shows admirable manners and humility. Of course, Solork hates him for his good looks and etiquette. Their last roommate, Matthew Tetridch, is touchy at his family’s lack of fame, but Remeon, Bekkel, and Igsem accept him warmly. Solork cares so little about things like family social standings that he treats Tetridch no better or worse than Remeon.

Their ship encounters a terrible storm at sea, and they have to abandon it. As they’re rowing their lifeboat away from the sinking ship, they see a young girl fall into the sea. Solork hesitates only long enough to remove his shirt before he dives in after her. They learn she’s Chamille Kitra Katjvanmaninik, an imperial princess, and Igsem and Tetridch in particular show her great deference.

They quickly learn their situation is dire: They’re within short walking distance from the enemy’s front line, and they’re on the wrong side of it. When a Kioka patrol comes close to finding the princess, Solork steps into view to distract them. In a voice-over, the princess remembers that time, saying, “This man, Ikta Solork, could later come to be known as the Invincible Lazy General.”

Did I mention most of the characters carry around cute little magical creatures that have little magical powers? Solork’s can broadcast a powerful beam of light, and he used it to locate the princess when she fell overboard.

The tone, animation, and characters reminded me a lot of Aldnoah Zero or Argevollen, though, of course, neither of those shows had little magical folks. But in terms of presenting a realistic set of characters in wartime, the three shows have a similar vibe. I hadn’t heard anything about this show until I read about it in Anime News Network’s Summer 2016 season preview. Theron Martin gave it 4.5 out of 5 starts, and though I enjoy most of their reviewers, I find that his tastes in anime and mine often overlap. So, here I am, watching Alderamin in the Sky!

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

Part of the fun watching this show is the over-the-top presentations of the judges. Here, a judge is trying to decide between <>'s dish and her competitor's. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Part of the fun watching this show is the over-the-top presentations of the judges. Here, a judge is trying to decide between Tadokoro’s dish and her competitor’s. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

If you’re looking for involved, intricate, and politically astute drama, Food Wars! probably isn’t going to do it for you. In no way do I mean that as an insult! The show is the anime equivalent of Food Network’s Chopped, if that show were set on the campus of Tōtsuki Culinary Academy, Japan’s most prestigious culinary school (in the anime, anyway) and if that school were run by the powerful and terrifying Senzaemon NakiriSōma Yukihira is our hero, and in the terms of the school, he’s an underdog. Most of the students come from internationally known families or schools; Yukihira comes from a family diner (though, as we found out in season 1, its chef was more than he appeared), and he’s been cooking since he was a child. After facing throngs of hungry customers, even the most arrogant and aggressive chefs don’t intimate him. He’s all about satisfying the customer.

Season 2 picks up right where season 1 ended. Yukihira is a competitor in the Autumn Festival, and he’s up against Nakiri’s granddaughter, Alice Nakiri. She’s a master of experimental cuisine. The crowd heavily favors Alice, not only because she’s the director’s granddaughter, but because she has a reputation of being unbeatable. Undaunted, Yukihira cooks his best, and they take turns presenting their meals to the judges. The judges, as usual, wax orgasmic about Alice’s meal, unable to imagine anything better. That is, until they taste Yukihira’s food. His down-to-earth sensibilities, plus his amazing cooking skills and experience, usually wins the day.

That kind of scene represents about 70% of Food Wars! And you know what? It works! If you have any interest at all in Japanese cuisine, this show is an absolute blast to watch. It doesn’t hurt at all that the characters are likeable. Yukihira is the lovable underdog. His dorm-mate Megumi Tadokoro is endearing as the student from a farming community who slowly builds confidence the more she embraces her roots. Then there’s Erina Nakiri, another granddaughter of Senzaemon Nakiri. She’s eternally at war with Alice, and she wants to hate Yukihira, but she can’t because his cooking’s too good and he’s so darned nice! She has a world-renowned sense of taste, and she ruthlessly wields the power that sense gives her — thought after meeting Yukihira, she seems to be mellowing. Just a little. The other characters contribute to the show’s charm in their own ways.

I loved the first season, and after watching two episodes of the second, I think the new season is on the right track. The biggest question in my mind is whether or not Yukihira will earn the top spot on the student council. The show can actually be tricky at times, so that’s not a foregone conclusion!

Sweetness and Lightning

Tsumugi relays the message that Lida can cook "super yummy" pot rice -- even though he was standing right there and saw the whole conversation! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Tsumugi relays the message that Lida can cook “super yummy” pot rice to her father — even though he was standing right there and heard the whole conversation! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

You can tell from my Caw of Fame winners Shikabane Hime and Chrome Shelled Regios that “cute” isn’t something that attracts me to an anime. You might have questioned that understanding after seeing Sweetness and Lightning on this list, but rest assured, cuteness was not what caught my attention.

No, it’s not cuteness. It’s endearing accuracy. I’ve never seen a precocious child portrayed with such vibrancy! It reminds me alot of my experience raising a daughter.

The first episode introduces us to Kouhei Inuzuka. He’s a school teacher, and he’s running himself so ragged that his colleagues are trying to find subtle ways to tell him to stop. He’s pushing himself so hard because he recently lost his wife, and now he has to raise his daughter, Tsumugi, whose hair is as wild as her energy is boundless. She’s a dear child, but she’s feeling a little lonely because her father’s too busy to eat with her, and his cooking’s not the best.

One day, when they’re taking a walk to look at the blooming cherry trees, they come across Kotori Lida, who’s quietly weeping as she sits eating lunch alone. Tsumugi runs up to her and, with a child’s complete disregard of etiquette (or is it with a child’s natural honesty?), asks why she’s crying. By the end of the conversation, Lida hands Inuzuka her mother’s restaurant’s business card and asks them to stop by.

They do stop by, but the restaurant’s closed because her mom’s shopping. Not wanting to let them go away hungry, Lida confidently begins cooking “pot rice.” Inuzuka soon catches her trying to reach her mother on her cell phone to get instructions, so his expectations for the meal are low. However, it comes out better than any of them expected, and they share an enjoyable meal together.

Tsumugi’s the star of the show. She’s as authentic a child as I’ve seen in anime. I thought her father was very sympathetic as he tries move forward with his job and keep things normal for his daughter — all the while not understanding that he wasn’t giving her more of his time, which is the one thing only he could give. I’m nots sure where Lida’s coming from yet. She blushes easily, and she often seems on the verge of tears. Is her mom really still around, and Lida’s in mourning? Or is her mom so busy that Lida’s left alone, and she feels abandoned?

Befitting its title, the show’s sweet and honest. I hope it stays on that track! Maybe Sweetness and Lightning will be the “feel good” replacement for The Flying Witch this season. It’s only been a few weeks since I had a dose of new Makoto Kowata, and I’m already in withdrawal…

Taboo Tattoo

During their fight, Bluesy almost killed Akatsuka. Holding back's not her thing, and she's not used to it. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
During their fight, Bluesy almost killed Akatsuka. Holding back’s not her thing, and she’s not used to it. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

As I said in my review of Taboo Tattoo’s first episode, I wasn’t sure I’d even watch Taboo Tattoo, much less decide to review it on a weekly basis. It has several strikes against it. First, the female lead’s named Bluesy Fluesy, which doesn’t inspire confidence that I’ll see a strong female lead. The promo videos and end titles show a large number of women, but only one lead main character, Justice Akatsuka, and frankly, I’m not in the market for a new harem series. One thing did look promising: the fight scenes. So, I gave it a shot.

In the first episode, Akatsuka defends a man from thieves, and the man gives him a present: an itchy and painful tattoo on his palm. It attracts the attention of Bluesy, who starts a fight with him to reclaim it. She didn’t count on his extensive martial arts training, and he held his own for a few moments — until she powered up her own tattoo and nearly killed him. Not knowing why herself, she decides to tell him that his tattoo was actually an experimental American military weapon that had been stolen. Several were now in the hands of various members of the Japanese underworld. Her job is to retrieve them.

Later, as he was coming home from school, he caught Bluesy tailing him. Another tattoo user, an American, attacks them and nearly kills Akatsuka. Then he discovers that his tattoo needs blood to activate, and he defeated his opponent before falling unconscious.

Will this show change the world? Nah. But it was fun to watch. The promos were right about the fight scenes. They were energetic and well-directed. And Bluesy’s no push-over; she’s strong and she seems to know what she’s doing.

Best of all? As I noted in my review, Bluesy’s chibi form might melt your heart.*

* Unless it’s old and cynical like mine. Then, it just produces a mild, barely perceptible warm feeling. But I’ve learned to associate that with melting is more healthy hearts!

Also Watching…

In Rewrite, this girl's ribbons are utterly lethal. Our hero finds this out the hard way -- several times! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
In Rewrite, this girl’s ribbons are utterly lethal. Our hero finds this out the hard way — several times! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

There are three (or four or five — I’m loosing count…) series that I’m watching in addition to the ones listed above, time permitting.

Orange is a slice-of-life show following a groups of friends and a new transfer student. Some of the posts I’ve ready about it suggest it’s going to get dark. The first episode, though, was a good representative of its genre. It reminds me a lot of Blue Spring Ride in terms of characters, art, and pacing.

Qualidea Code introduced me to the most annoying character character of the season: Ichiya Suzaku. He lives on an Earth that’s recovering from the intra-dimensional invasion by the Unknown (not the most catchy name). Suzaku and his peers have a power called World that manifests itself differently for each individual. About Suzaku, though: there are at least three major schools full of students with World, but Suzaku insists on fighting the Unknown alone whenever he can, saying he alone is enough. Of course, he’s powerful, but he’s astoundingly stupid if he thinks he can or should win a war on his own. Mortals perish — who will take up the fight after he dies if he doesn’t allow anyone else to gain experience? Just what’s driving him, anyway? One Twitter user, MianP (@miangraham) posted that “The three factions in #qualidea are Swords, Guns, and FREAKING TECHNOWITCHES, so it gets some leeway from me.” That description is why I’m watching!

Rewrite is… well, I’m not sure what it is. Kotarou Tennouji seems to be a normal enough student, but he has ongoing dreams about a small girl with a wild red ribbon that turns into a weapon and kills him — multiple times. At least initially, it looks like a dream, but then she begins trespassing in his room when he’s asleep. Maybe. He’s not sure because it’s so dreamlike. Oh, some dreams involve a dead city. Things take a terrible turn for the worse when he’s at school after hours trying to meet someone who might have insight into his situation. That’s when he begins seeing bizarre creatures literally coming out of the woodwork. The show has an ethereal feel that I like, and I hope it can present a narrative that can make sense of these strange happenings.

What are you watching on Crunchyroll this season?

Post Author: tcrow