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Zankyou no Terror

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What’s interesting and unprecedented about the summer season is that not only did we have the second half of Space Dandy, but we also had another Shinichiro Watanabe original work – Zankyou no Terror, or Terror in Tokyo. And while most of us came into the season feeling a bit lukewarm toward Space Dandy, the hype for Zankyou no Terror was pretty damn high. Shinichiro Watanabe writing a serious drama about two teenage terrorists in Tokyo is one of those things you can’t help get excited for, because it ticks off so many boxes on the “modern classic” checklist.

You have an acclaimed director, a serious, original (both in terms of not being an adaptation as well as having a distinct premise) story, the promise of post-9/11 reflections and themes (Eden of the East left everyone wanting more), and the potential for a lot of excitement, tension and drama. If Space Dandy was Watanabe unleashing his ridiculous, comedic side, then this would be the same for his mature, sombre, considered side. Needless to say, just the very announcement sparked a wave of excitement and anticipation across the fandom, and – much like Space DandyZankyou no Terror was destined to be memorable even if it bombed.

We figured it would explode in popularity

We figured it would explode in popularity!

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Space Dandy

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Shinichiro Watanabe directing is a good reason to be hyped for a show. Shinichiro Watanabe making another series about a bounty hunter (of sorts) bumming around space is a great reason to be hyped for a show. Shinichiro Watanabe saying that said series is essentially going to be 26 episodes of ‘Mushroom Samba’ is a perfect reason to be hyped for a show.

And thus, Space Dandy.

But the hype train doesn’t stop yet – this was also pegged to be a flagship title for Toonami, premiering in the US before even Japan, and made with an eye for western tastes. The English-speaking fandom, at the very least, could not fucking wait. This show was set to be a big deal, even if it failed hard.

Would it, though? Would this show about a professionally awful alien hunter and dandy guy in space, his cutie robot slash vacuum cleaner, and a cat (of sorts) being incompetent and traversing the wild wastes of the galaxies disappoint? Is our universe one where such a thing could happen?

Space Dandy wa uchuu no dandy de aru

Space Dandy wa uchuu no dandy de aru

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Barakamon

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The Yotsuba&! Manga and Usagi Drop anime are both beautiful, special series that leave almost everyone feeling soothed, happy and at peace. Both capitalise on a remarkably effective premise – young(ish) man takes in a very young girl with no extant parents and becomes her adoptive father. Yotsuba&! prefers to focus on the ‘slice-of-life’ aspect more, with the eponymous Yotsuba providing the primary perspective as she explores and learns about the world around her, enjoying every day; Usagi Drop puts more emphasis on Daichi, as he slowly figures out what it means to be a father in every sense of the word (let’s just ignore how that figures into the manga…). Tone and intent are obviously slightly different, but one could argue that they’re just the same thing told from two different perspectives; if we saw Usagi Drop from Rin’s perspective, we’d probably have a more comedic, heart-warming adventure in being a child, and if Yotsuba&! was more about Koiwai we’d undoubtedly hear more about the difficulties in raising a child.

Barakamon takes yet a different approach to this setup, starting with a shift to the synopsis; Seishuu Handa is sent to a remote, backwater island to rest and recuperate (slash be exiled in punishment) after he punched a famous calligrapher after his own calligraphy was judged harshly. He soon meets the precocious and wild Naru Kotoishi, but instead of taking her in and raising her he instead becomes something between a friend and a father-figure. In many respects Naru effectively takes him in! And with these differences we find a story about a young man learning from a child, as opposed to one learning as a result of having a child – a story that has no less potential for finding optimism and life-affirmation.

And don't forget the old man punching!

And don’t forget the old man punching!

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Hanayamata

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Oh hey, another cute-girl-ensemble show! This time, it’s about a bunch of cute girls dancing yosakoi, which is a rather boisterous and energetic traditional Japanese festival dance… or something like that. I’ll be honest, most of the history and explanation given on yosakoi went over my head as I was too enthralled by all the cute girls being cute.

The impetus for Hanayamata is that Naru, the main character, has always wanted to be ‘dazzling’ – not only to stand out, but to be remarkable and do and be something meaningful. Unfortunately, even though her friends all qualify, she’s just unremarkable average and unexceptional. One night, however, she meets a small, fairy-like golden-haired girl in a kimono, who invites Naru to dance with her. Naru pushes her away, feeling guilty as she’s not ‘dazzling’ enough, but the enigmatic girl shouts after her saying that anyone can be amazing if they try hard enough.

Transfer student klaxon! Turns out she’s an American called Hana, and is joining Naru’s class – and on top of that, she wants to form a yosakoi club with her! Gasp.

aaa

Everyone’s getting pulled into her little world

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Free!: Eternal Summer

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Free! returns exactly when it said it would with Free!: Eternal Summer. A small amount of time has passed since Haru, Rin, Makoto and Nagisa swam together again, and everyone has gone up a year in school – Nagisa and Rei into their second year, and Haru and Makoto into their third. Having let friendship and nostalgia take precedence over actually performing legally in the last inter-high, the guys are all focused on winning the nationals. But at the same time graduation looms for the third years, and they have to think towards the future and consider what they want to do…

So apparently I’m writing marketing blurbs for anime licensors now and not even getting paid for it. But what do you expect when there’s not exactly a whole lot to talk about – it’s a sequel to Free! that carries on from where it lets off and largely does what you’d expect it to. Rin has chilled out a lot, and a couple of new characters are brought in (most notably Sousuke), but that aside Free!: Eternal Summer doesn’t go out of its way to surprise or deviate from the direction it had set for itself.

Not to imply that that’s a bad thing though – in execution, it’s absolutely anything but.

Free! is back and it's like it never left

Free! is back and it’s like it never left

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How the hell was this actually any good?

I mean, the first season was not strictly bad, just weird, inconsistent and hit-and-miss. Incomprehensible, non-sequiturial nonsense that sometimes had a good joke but mostly just got mild laughs out of confusion. Somehow, though, Ai-Mai-Mi: Mousou Catastrophie managed to actually be half-decent.

I can’t tell if it had refined its sense of humour or if I’ve just become vaguely familiarised to it, but on some level it works better this time. There’s the vaguest resemblance of focus and even an over-arching plot, and that helps tremendously, but for the most part it just… has legitimately funny moments? That also rely on non-sequitur for surprise and unexpectedness as opposed to mere randomness?

Christ, one episode even managed to be creepy as all hell, and it was hilarious as a result. If that’s not indicative of them getting something right this time around, I don’t know would be.

6/10

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

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High school comedy anime with even the slightest hint of a sweet innocent romance is apparently fucking catnip to me. Seriously, just give me some slapstick, some cute characters and the merest implication that the main two might possibly be in love with each other and I will be all over that shit, shipping everyone, giving it fucking 9/10 for just existing and getting absurdly invested in the relationships despite knowing – knowing, because it happens every single time – that nothing while ultimately come of any of it.

Working!!, Isshuukan Friends, Servant x Service (ok technically not high school shut up), and god knows how many others all do this to me. They implicitly promise the world and then withhold it, and I know it’s going to happen every time and it is maddening and I fucking love it. Hell, even shows which are just straight up romances still manage to pull this off (looking at you, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!). And I will never stop watching them.

So anyway, here’s Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, a high school comedy about a girl (Sakura Chiyo) who’s in love with the eponymous Nozaki. She tries to confess to him, but gets so flustered she instead says “I’m your fan!”. Nozaki then writes her an autograph, with someone else’s name on it. Turns out, he’s secretly a shoujo mangaka, and before she knows it Chiyo ends up becoming his assistant!

Why do I always get so hopeful…

aaa

Chiyo and I, we’re alike in that regard

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