The Fall 2016 Season’s Done — What Delivered? What Whiffed? Part I
The Fall 2016 season offered not only a wide variety of titles, but a wide range of performance within those titles! Here’s part I of my Fall 2016 writeup:
can find Part II hereNote: You .
The second season of Sound! Euphonium may not have had the narrative subtly of the first season (as discussed in this post on Unnecessary Exclamation Mark!), but it still had plenty of dramatic goodness to reward its viewers. The season focuses on Kumiko Oumae, a euphonium player, as she not only tries to navigate the normal challenges of being a high school student, but also to practice her band instrument hard enough to help the concert band make it to the nationals. There were plenty of great emotional moments, like (in the episode Awakening Oboe, beginning around 9:30) when Mizore Yoroizuka goes missing during school, and Kumiko finds her sobbing over the possibility that Nozomi Kasaki might rejoin the band. Kumiko assumed Mizore hated Nozomi; but it was the opposite. They had been best friends before, but during a shakeup in the band (referred to in the first season), Nozomi had quit, and Mizore had taken it as a dismissal of their friendship. The resolution hit the right notes.
The show was also dramatic. When delivering papers to the office, Kumiko saw the mother of one of my favorite characters, Asuka Tanaka, telling the band director, Noboru Taki, that she was pulling her daughter out of band (in the episode Station Concert, starting around 3:15). The argument gets so intense that her mother slaps Asuka. Asuka, her glasses knocked crooked, calmly takes her mother by the hand and leads the now confused woman from the office. The arc showing what happens to Asuka — will she stay in the band or not? Can Kumiko express her emotions to her? — kept me riveted.
There was a good dose of humor, too. Having overheard a conversation she should not have during summer camp, Kumiko tries to hide, but can’t find anywhere concealing. So, she just stands, facing the wall (in episode 3, Troubled Nocturnes, around 14:45), hoping Yuuko Yoshikawa won’t notice. She notices.
The art is as great as the first season. While it may have been slightly less vibrant, it was more detailed, showing movements like slight hand gestures or head movements to enhance our involvement with the characters. The voice acting, already strong in the first season, was even more natural and realistic — and I wasn’t sure that was possible until I heard it. The show has a reputation for quality, and it’s certainly easy to see why!
Amazon has some Sound Euphonium merchandise that you might be interested in:
Verdict: Delivered! Then whiffed! Then delivered!
This was one of two series I reviewed this season. You can see my review of episodes 1 and 2 here.
This story takes place in a parallel universe/alternate history. It’s the late 1930s, and the country Germania has begun a war of conquest to extend its territory. In an effort to keep her country free, crown Princess Finé travels to a neutral country to meet a representative from Britannia. The Germanians capture her before she can achieve her goal. As they’re flying her back to Nu Berlin to “meet” the Emperor, turbulence opens what looks like a cold storage coffin, and a bright red-haired young woman sits up. She’s a witch named Izetta, and she does not take kindly to the soldiers injuring her princess. She destroys the airplane, enchants an anti-materiel rifle, and saves Finé from falling to her death.
The first episode was fast-paced and exciting. It asked the right kinds of questions for an opener: who’s Izetta? Why is she so devoted to Finé? What’s the extent of her powers? Do Germanian officers from this timeframe, regardless of what universe they’re in, sneer that much? That’s why the first verdict (above) says Delivered!
Though the show did a good job answering the initial questions, the show seemed to wander towards the season mid-point. A combination of ill-timed fanservice during battles and mysterious/unrealistic decisions by some of the characters (Why not put more guards and alarms around the secret room? Heck, why even leave the secret room intact?) severely lessened that part of the series, and that explains the Whiffed verdict.
Fortunately, the last couple of episodes zeroed in on the key plot lines that needed to be resolved. The story spun up several interesting sub plots, like the true story of the White Witch who saved the country before and the involvement of Sieghard Müller’s family in that story. In parts beautiful and tragic, the story of the last witch wrapped up the series in a very satisfying way. It finally Delivered on the promise of the opener!
Amazon doesn’t have a lot of Izetta merchandise, but here are some items from Kill la Kill:
The original Wagnaria ran three seasons, and I enjoyed it so much that it’s a solid contender for a future Caw of Fame award. This version takes place in a different restaurant in the same chain, and it boasts a whole new set of characters. Given that the characters are what I enjoyed about the original, I was a little apprehensive about this season.
I need not have been!
The season sets an ambitious goal for 13 episodes: maintain the level of humor of the original series and feature the unusual romantic relationships between three sets of characters. The first couple is Daisuke Higashida, a high school student whose lackadaisical family drives him to distraction, and Hana Miyakoshi. Her cooking is so bad that it almost kills Higashida. But instead of dying, he ends up in a state of altered consciousness, where he meets a tiny version of Saint Valentine. Yes, he meets the real historical individual on whom Valentine’s day is based (though in miniature form). Higashida decides to start dating Miyakoshi in part to help her improve her cooking and in part to save the rest of the staff from her food.
The second couple is Masahiro Adachi, one of the restaurant’s cooks, and Sayuri Muranushi, who’s quiet but has an inexplicable tendency to see spirits who aren’t there — as far as anyone else (except her mother) can tell. Adachi lacks self-confidence and doesn’t know how to interpret his feelings for Muranushi. She rarely smiles, but one time she did, Adachi thought he was having a heart attack, so he thought she was trying to curse him. She used her understated sense of humor to get through to him, but even then, it wasn’t easy.
The third (and perhaps the most violent) couple are Yuuta Shindou and Shiho Kamakura. His father owes a huge debt to her father, so they’re already socially unequal. Even so, she treats him with a contempt and level of cruelty that a simple debt can’t explain. It was a lot of fun finding out why that was (hint: it involves a younger Shindou learning which grasses are edible and his willingness to offer some to Kamakura). How he began regaining his pride was also both bizarre and funny.
There are a number of secondary characters as well, and each contributes their own brand of eccentricity.
The show felt rushed in places, but by the end of 13 episodes, they developed the three couples to realistic and sometimes hilarious conclusions. Though I still don’t know if Higashida will ever be able to smile properly again…
Please check out some cool Wagnaria merchandise from Amazon!
Verdict: Delivered (despite an attempt to Whiff)
This is the second of two series I reviewed this season. You can read my review of episodes 13 and 14 (the first two for the season) here.
Despite the plot being a hot-mess, there was I lot I liked about the first season: the CGI animation looked fluid and detailed, the characters developed in interesting ways, and the action was interesting and realistic. Those things carried forward into this, the second season, and they brought friends.
The story picks up a few months after the first season. The main character, Azuma Kazuki, is stuck in customs while the rest of his team are visiting Taiwan. There, they meet Karoruko Kazuki, Azuma’s younger twin sister, and four team members she has “borrowed” from another heart user. This sets the stage for an escalating conflict with Guy Barville Abeille and his aim of destroying all Buranki (the large mechs) and their component, individual Bubuki (the limbs). Guy’s aided by the resources of Demokratia, the nation he founded.
The show had some engaging themes. For example, Guy’s goals were all autocratic. He wanted to eliminate the need for individuals as Bubuki so his chosen heart users like Maxim Arsenyevich Balakireva could fight directly. Even more, his goal was to himself directly control all of his forces; he didn’t want to rely on anyone other than himself. On the other hand, Azuma and his Bubuki users (Shizuru Taneomi with her pink rifle; Kogane Asabuki with her “rightie-chan”; Hiiragi Nono as the left leg; and Kinoa Ougi as the left arm) strove to fight better and better as a team. They also tried to be good friends to each other, and that consistently helped them in their battles.
We get to learn more about the Buranki’s back story, including how and why they came to Earth. While the explanation wasn’t extraordinary, it were sufficient to make the world a little more interesting and believable.
I almost declared the show a Whiff, though. At one point, determined to save his sister, Azuma heads out on his own, without his team — and without a map or a clear idea of how to get to Karoruko. He accepts a ride from a man he’d never seen before. That man was Guy, the main villain! How could Azuma be so dumb? After all the battle experience to date, how did he think he’d win Karoruko’s freedom? Why didn’t Guy just kill him there and then? Inane plot points like that can really kill enjoyment for me.
However, the show recovered with an exciting penultimate episode, with a contemplative finale that tied up the loose ends. So it earned a Delivered verdict!
Please consider checking out the Buranki merchandise from Amazon: