Wicked Anime’s Must-Watch Summer 2017 Anime
Summer is once again upon us, and you know what that means. Time to beat the heat, stay indoors, and catch up on the latest season of anime. Your Wicked Anime crew is back with a list of the summer 2017 anime you MUST be watching!
Jonathan’s Pick: Gamers!
Keita Amano is a lonely high school student who loves to play video games. One day, Karen Tendou, the beautiful president of the video game club invites Keita to become a member. Keita is a dedicated gamer, but is also a very casual player. As a result, he finds it difficult to enjoy the club because of its competitive nature.
Why it’s Great
This show is easily the most satisfying, feel-good show of the season. Most gratifying is seeing so many slice of life tropes and clichés turned on their heads. It almost feels like anime writers are getting as tired of seeing the same thing over and over again, just like we are! This show has “hot girls” drooling over “undesirable guys,” cool guys defending the less popular, anti-social heroes…everyone is generally just really nice to one another. It’s like a weird, animated Breakfast Club.
This show pulls a lot of unlikely satisfying moves right out of the gate. For example, most anime waits for the season to end for characters to say how they really feel (even though the audience knows the answer). We get those problems out of the way right off the bat. So, what’s left for the rest of the season without all that build up? Well, that’s what makes this show so endearing.
One of my favorite characters, Tasuku Uehara, puts on a facade of being satisfied with his life in the “real world” but really, all he longs to do is chill out and play video games. The thing I love about his character is that he very well could have been the trope-filled villain of the series, which he does not turn out to be. Instead the tropes of this series fall onto our protagonist, Keita, Who is the run of the mill anime high school boy with a great lack of a regular social life. Tasuku could have taken every opportunity to bully or demean him to uphold his own social status among his classmates, but instead chooses to befriend him in order to make Keita’s high school life that much better.
The animation is nothing to really write home about, but I am totally in love with the character designs. While some of them fall into the “blank slate” category, the writing in the show eventually reveals a good reason for it. If there’s any reason for the animation to be underwhelming, other than there being no point in animating a slice of life anime like a Ghibli film, its because most of the show’s budget was thrown into the third party licensing.
Oh, I should mention that most, if not all, of the video games in the show actually exist. The posters, ads, arcade cabinets, and any game play you see in the show are all real! That’s kind of a cool aspect to getting to watch characters play and talk strategy about real games, although I’m suspicious that they got licensing for these games after the show was written, but that’s not really the point. It might have been more expensive to license material for the anime this way, but it’s advertising for companies (notably the studio Arc System Works), and it saves the animation studio time for not having to come up with and then animate footage for games of their own creation.
I really love this show, especially its characters. It’s a charming look at video game culture and strives to prove the point that everyone can get along with anyone no matter your background. It teaches us all to not judge a book by its cover, or as the first thirty seconds of episode 1 states, a game case.
Where to Watch
Andrew’s Pick: Kakeguri
“Hey, did you hear? Andrew isn’t reviewing a cute anime this season!”
“I don’t believe you. That’s just absurd! What is he reviewing?”
Kakeguri is an anime this season that I didn’t see coming. The story starts off with our main “voice of reason” (and not necessarily protagonist), Ryouta Suzui, talking about his school. This school hosts a tradition where students gamble away millions and sometimes even billions of yen for fun, in hopes of being on top with the best. However, they also run the risk of being so far in debt that they become lower than an animal and a slave to the rest of the student body.
Enter our main protagonist, a new girl, Yumeko Jabami. She seems flighty, aloof, and an easy gambling target to exploit. But in reality, she’s a high stakes gambler and possesses an exceptionally sharp eye for cheating. By the time the first gambling match starts, the audience is unexpectedly thrown into the craze and insanity of artistic direction and thrilling suspense of story-based gambling.
Why it’s Great
The sheer madness of the art direction, particularly in the faces, is enough to make this anime a masterpiece. It accomplishes the impossible task of allowing the characters to look as ridiculous as possible while maintaining the seriousness and insanity of mindset throughout each character’s gambling showdown. Some of the faces made are for intimidation, others for regret, and others for pure devastation. Nonetheless, these are only faces I’ve ever seen made in a comedy series… or ahegao hentai.
The main character is intriguing on her own right as nothing seems to bother her, no matter what kind of dire straits she is put into. She’s extremely self-confident, and that is very difficult not to love. Episodes in, I still can’t tell if she is calm and collected or just not right in the head. All other characters, mainly the villain-type characters, are depicted as gambling addicts who (and sometimes literally) get off on their bets.
The games that the characters play are fun and in a very different way than other game-based shows like No Game, No Life. You always get a rules rundown for each episode’s gambling session, but most of the games are fairly simple. Where it really starts to get interesting is when Jabami starts to analyze the other characters and their ways of cheating during the game. It always introduces some sort of tactic that has probably been used in history at one point or another.
The story throws you for a wild ride as you witness torment the characters who lose endure. Things eventually get so crazy that you can’t believe that people would just sit back and let this stuff happen to them. It’s exciting to see how characters win their way out of their horrible situations without resorting to violence, using their wit and cunning to win instead. With only a few episodes out and a long wait until the next episode is released, it’s suspenseful for me, the viewer, to have to wait to see how this already bizarre and insane story tops itself and put these characters in even more danger.
As a final thought on the show, I get excited to see what every episode introduces as a topic, the game the characters will play, and watching the crazy things characters do to get out of high stakes situations.
Though the more I think about it…Wait, when do these kids actually go to class? Where are the teachers?! Is any of this legal?? Do parents sign off for this stuff?!!
Evan’s Pick: Knights & Magic
Programming expert and giant robot lover Tsubasa Kurata dies in a car accident, and gets reincarnated in a parallel world as Ernesti Echevallia, the son of a noble family. In this world, the giant robots he loved in his previous life are real, piloted in the name of the king under the title of Silhouette Knights. Using his past life’s programming skills to craft magic items and advance in school, Ernesti aims to craft the greatest Silhouette Knight imaginable and pilot it himself.
Why it’s Great
Yes, it’s another one of those “guy gets transported into an alternate world” series. Even I’ll admit that this genre is getting tiresome, with the likes of KonoSuba and No Game No Life perfecting the formula. However there’s a draw to Knight’s & Magic that most of the recent anime of this genre don’t seem to have: whimsical perception.
Knight’s & Magic takes a bit to get things started, but when it does it pulls you fast into its world of magic and giant robots. The moment Ernesti creates a bazooka equivalent of a magical rod he kickstarts the true fun this series is capable of. You see Ernesti become so enthralled by the magic that swirls around him, and it will easily make you glow along with him. What makes Ernesti different from past incarnations is that he doesn’t gloat or show off; rather he takes every element of this new world, becomes enthralled by its mere sights, and does his best to make it better with a dose of can-do enthusiasm.
The cool part of the show is when you get to see Ernesti pilot a Knight in order to save his classmates and senior students. There’s a real comedic element to seeing a 12 year-old amazingly pilot a robot while the older soldier-in-training is hanging out in the back sobbing like a little girl reading a Nicholas Sparks novel. Once you see Ernesti battle against a giant demon beast known as a Behemoth, the real action begins. Watching it made me immediately think of the Monster Hunter video game series, where the object seems to be to simply keep on swiping and stabbing away as best as you can. Even the game’s teamwork aspect is there in this anime, with the beast finally being defeated when all the Knights in the vicinity work together to help Ernesti make that final fatal blow. (Those final moments in the second episode are quite exhilarating, to be honest.)
Knight’s & Magic has so far been a wonderful watch all-in-all, thanks to some great animation, fun storytelling, and a wonderful performance from Rie Takahashi (KonoSuba‘s Megumi) as Ernesti. If you can handle just one more of these sorts of alternate universe series, then by all means give this anime your undivided attention.
Where to Watch
Evan: Magical Circle Guru-Guru
Once again this side of the Pacific is getting a reboot of a classic series that originally didn’t reach our shores. Last season we saw The Laughing Salesman, which was both strange and wonderful. This summer we have been gifted with a series that appears to be one comedic gem in the works: Magical Circle Guru-Guru.
Originally from the early 90s, Magical Circle Guru-Guru takes place in a realm similar to that of RPG games like Dragon Quest and Chrono Crusade. It focuses on a kid named Nike, whose parents have pushed him to be the hero of Boreing Village. After literally being slingshot to his grandma’s place, he meets a magic apprentice named Kukuri, who joins Nike on a quest to defeat the Devil King. After proving to the ruler of the land that he is hero material — much to Nike’s dismay — the duo set off to face off against monsters, villains, and even a crazed old man with a love to dance creepily.
There are a few things I love about Magical Circle Guru-Guru. For starters, it looks like a classic anime from the 1990s. The characters aren’t even updated too much to make it look like the current animation style, especially in the face area. It legit feels like a classic show from two decades ago, only with a fresher coat of paint. Second, it takes its video game inspiration to huge strides, switching back and forth between the anime appearance and 8-bit visuals. There are even times when characters are zoomed in to reveal that they’re all made out of pixels.
Lastly there’s its fast-paced humor. This is the kind of show where there’s a joke every five seconds, be it spoken or physical comedy. There’s some great gags that’ll hit fans of RPGs right in the funny bone, with even a sprinkling of pervy jokes for the older audience members, as this is is more geared towards a younger audience. (A bit where Nike tries to remember what Kukuri looks like in Episode Two is both adolescent and knee-slappingly hilarious, with a punchline that I don’t wanna spoil here.) Even when Kukuri accidentally casts a spell and causes monsters to pop outta nowhere, the visual aesthetic of these beasts will make you cackle with delight.
If I was to compare Magical Circle Guru-Guru to anything, I would say it was a mix of Slayers, the original Dragon Ball, KonoSuba, and even a tiny bit of Shin Chan (especially when it comes to Nike’s attitude). This was a series that wasn’t on my radar, but it has had me laughing from its very start. Trust me when I say that this adventure with Nike & Kukuri is one I would gladly join any day! Fingers crossed that the reluctantly heroic duo will actually reach the Devil King, unlike its previous incarnations.