Summer 2016 Recap: Funimation Edition

I didn’t enjoy very many of Funimation’s shows this season. For whatever reason, only three of them looked interesting to me. And of those three, one went on hiatus! That being said, I looked forward to the remaining two shows — and I even chose one of them to review every week. Here’s my wrap-up of Funimation’s Summer 2016 season!

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

Yuinshiel "Yui" Asteria, the empress, is determined to protect her sister -- and her empire. Capture from the Funimation stream.
Yuinshiel “Yui” Asteria, the empress, is determined to protect her sister — and her empire. Capture from the Funimation stream.

By the fourth episode, I was starting to get into the plot that centered on, ruler of the Enastoria Empire, and her mysterious older sister Rena Asteria, who actually looks much younger. Without giving too much of the plot away, the empress finds herself piloting a very powerful mecha (Regalia Gear) on behalf of her kingdom. The fourth episode ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger as her mecha was in a tight spot. Then Anime News Network carried an announcement that the show was taking a break to remediate some quality issues. Takayuki Nagatani, the producer, explained that they wanted to up the quality.

To be honest, I had no qualms with the show’s quality. It wasn’t on par with something like Fate/Zero, but it was no slouch, either. Even when Anime News Network published an article comparing the two versions, I was underwhelmed with the difference. Could the quality in the upgraded version be said to be higher? Sure! Was it enough to begin the run, stop it, and restart it? Well, that’s the producer’s call, and he made it. The show’s only now up to episode 5. I haven’t had time to reacquire the series. Maybe I’ll have time this Fall! Though, based on the large number of shows I see queuing, I’m not so sure…

Amazon carries the soundtrack if you’re interested!

Planetarian

Hoshino was very happy to share the stage with Miss Jena, the projector. Capture from the Funimation stream.
<> was very happy to share the stage with Miss Jena, the projector. Capture from the Funimation stream.

This is one of those shows where you know, before it even starts, that it’s going to end tragically. The only question is: will the ending be genuinely tragic, or will it feel contrived?

It was the latter.

The show starts in a city that’s been dead and abandoned for 30 years. Kuzuya, a junker, is searching for technology that he can sell when guard bots attack. In his haste to escape, he loses his loot and ends up in an old department store. There he’s shocked to meet Yumemi Hoshino, a talkative android who looks like a young woman, who’s the curator for the broken down planetarium on the top floor. Calling him “Mr. Customer,” she tries to give him the regularly scheduled show. Unfortunately, the projector (Hoshino refers to it as Miss Jena, maybe as an homage to a German company that makes planetarium projectors) is broken and won’t power up.

The series only lasted 5 episodes, and each episode builds up Kuzuya’s initially reluctant relationship with Hoshino. The little details, like Hoshino trying to contact support to fix Miss Jena and not understanding why she didn’t receive any response, painted a portrait of an earnest and slightly damaged AI trying her best to fulfill her duty in a city whose inhabitants had abandoned her 30 years ago.

Like I said, this could have felt contrived, but the show never veered into the melodramatic. Instead, it let their relationship develop naturally to the point where the events at the end were almost inevitable.

It’s well worth the time to watch, especially since it’s only 5 episodes, which is about the length of a full-length movie.

Amazon has a distinctive mouse to commemorate the series:

D.Gray-man HALLOW

Some heroes are so "good" they're obnoxious. Allen's just Allen, and that makes him the perfect hero for D.Gray-man. Capture from the Funimation stream.
Some heroes are so “good” they’re obnoxious. Allen’s just Allen, and that makes him the perfect hero for D.Gray-man. Capture from the Funimation stream.

This is one of the series I reviewed each week during the Summer 2016 season. You can read my review of the first episode, named The Fourteenth, here. There are links to the other 12 episodes at the end of the first review.

I liked D.Gray-man’s first run. I watched every episode on Funimation; I even bought the series from iTunes. Some of you may know that only the first 51 episodes of its 103 episode run were available through normal and legal channels in the United States.

I still haven’t seen a high quality rendition of episodes 52 to 102. Sigh.

Anyway, I loved that the series wasn’t afraid to be dark and tragic. While Planetarian was sweet and emotionally tragic, D.Gray-man was “punch you in the gut, and when you try to get your breath, smash you over the head” kind of tragic. Even the lighter moments of humor were only brief respites designed to make the next soul-crushing revelation more poignant.

And then came Hallow.

Look. I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare. I’ve read a lot of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I watch the news. I know tragedy. Hallow took it to another level. Though this season was only 13 episodes, it packed a wallop. Allen Walker’s essential and almost inexhaustible goodness goes head to head with the Black Order’s unrelenting malevolence (and they’re the good guys!). Throw in a dash “oh, so that’s why Yu Kanda’s the way he is,” and you get one of the most brutally beautiful episodes of anime I’ve seen in years.

Seriously. I tear up just thinking about it.

The show may have suffered from rushed pacing, and sometimes the art quality fluctuated. But the story and characters were great, and so was the music. If you watch one anime series this season, watch re:Zero on Crunchyroll. If you watch only two series, make D.Gray-man the second one.

If you never saw the original, Amazon has the Super Amazing Value Edition (S.A.V.E.) for sale. It’s held up very well over the years. Treat yourself!

Post Author: tcrow