Summer 2017 premiere rankings

Another season of premieres watched and reviewed! Now that we’ve gone through every premiere, it’s time to line ’em up next to each other and see how they compare.

Which shows do you review? 

We don’t review shows that are sequels, shorts, or for young children. Anything not licensed and immediately available is off the table as well (lookin’ at you, Netflix titles). This left 26 eligible premieres in 22 days.

A short-haired girl in a school uniform is asleep at her desk, drooling, pencil in hand, open notebook on table, math notebook open in front of her
Secret footage of our crack team of reviewers immediately after the premiere deluge ended.

How do you write the reviews?

This time Vrai tackled the majority of the premiere reviews (like a rock star) with assistance from Dee and Amelia. We don’t always like or dislike the same shows, or to the same extent, but we respect and support one another’s positions and critiques.

Once we have more funding, we aim to set up our own version of ANN’s Preview Guide, to give our readers a range of explicitly feminist views for each premiere. We’re a long way off that funding goal, but it’s been a personal wish of ours since launch and we hope to make it happen someday.

A girl stands at the mouth of a cave with a pickaxe over one shoulder, smiling
Secret footage of our crack team of reviewers mining the season for noteworthy titles.

What do your reviews focus on? 

This varies by writer to some extent (some of us are more focused on visuals, others on narrative, and so forth), but as a feminist site it’s of course essential that we raise any issues of feminist interest. When you read an AniFem review, you’re likely to learn about female character designs, queer representation, analogies to real-world marginalization, and so on. If you think we missed something, please comment under the review and let us know!

A girl wearing a ponytail points forward with a glowing kanji character in the foreground. Text: "Kin"
Secret footage of our crack team of reviewers helping to exorcise titles from your watch list.

Why rank them?

As always, the purpose of these reviews is simply to give our readers more information so that you can decide for yourselves whether or not to watch a show. There is greater access to anime than ever before, and we want to help you find anime you can truly love, without wasting your time on a show which contains an automatic deal-breaker, be that fanservice, homophobia, the sexualization of children, and so on.

Individuals can find value in the unlikeliest of places, and we will never lead a boycott of a particular show, but we want to make it easier for you to get the most out of your limited time. In our rankings, feminist merit takes precedence, with overall narrative quality coming second and personal preference a distant(ish) third. Shows containing feminist themes are at the highest end and those containing anti-feminist themes are at the lowest. We expect some disagreement and welcome debate, so if you have any objections to the order of this list then by all means let us know in the comments!

Ernesti and his two friends in their school uniforms
Totally not-secret footage of our crack team of reviewers encouraging you to try out some cool new shows!

SUMMER 2017 PREMIERE EARLY RANKINGS

Normally our rankings only consider the first episode of each show, but since premiere “week” stretched out to three weeks (thanks, The Reflection), we’ve continued to watch several (though not all) of these shows and had the opportunity to see if they improved or stumbled over a 2-3 episode span. In the interest of keeping our readers as informed as possible, while our reviews only provide in-depth information on the first episode, we WILL be considering later episodes in our rankings this time around. So if you see a show with a positive premiere review surprisingly low on the list (oh hey there, Welcome to the Ballroom), that’s likely why.

 

Feminist themes

1. Princess Principal : (2 episodes) Focuses on relationships between women; female characters are clever and capable without being sexualized.

2. Made in Abyss : (3 episodes) A coming-of-age story about a well-rounded, adventurous female lead with a focus on her following in her mother’s footsteps. Loses a few points for brief (non-sexualized, but also unneeded) nudity in the second episode.

3. Action Heroine Cheer Fruits : (2 episodes) All-female leads inspired by female heroes; hard to tell if its yuri elements are sincere or a crass marketing grab at this point, but Vrai is hopeful.

Feminist potential

4. Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun : (4 episodes) Gentle and affectionate toward its cast of weirdos; doesn’t mock or belittle the protagonist’s germaphobia. Stumbles a bit in the third episode due to a “fake assault threat” sub-plot, but the execution helps mitigate the damage.

5. 18if : (3 episodes) Weekly “witch” characters are complex and sympathetic girls often struggling against societal boundaries. Too bad their problems keep getting solved by the boy protagonist (although a girl is the one guiding him on these “rescue missions,” and he himself may not be “real,” strictly speaking? It’s unclear at this point). This one could go either way, but the potential is very much there.

6. THE REFLECTION : (1 episode) Promises to deal with themes of discrimination; features a lead female character and possibly a sympathetic female villain. Really hard to tell this early, honestly.

Harmless fun

7. Elegant Yokai Apartment Life : (3 episodes) Mostly male cast with a friendly, talented female exorcist character and a focus on loss, healing, and found families; mild fanservice centering around an adult ghost in the second episode.

8. Restaurant to Another World : (2 episodes) There’s some fanservice featuring an adult dragon, but the focus on the father/daughter relationship between the two main characters, along with a fairly gender-equal cast (including a cool lady adventurer in the 2nd episode), helps balance it out.

9. DIVE!! : (1 episode) Mostly male cast; teen characters are drawn to appeal to viewers who like looking at abs, but the series avoids framing them in a sexual manner; might explore the protagonist’s dismissive behavior toward his girlfriend.

10. Battle Girl High School : (1 episode) Over-stuffed cast and generically staged magical girl series, but benign enough.

Yellow flags

11. GAMERS! : (2 episodes) Gender-balanced cast of awkward, sympathetic teenage dorks (all of whom Dee would very much like to adopt); the camera does occasionally follow the protagonist’s gaze as he ogles the female lead.

12. Vatican Miracle Examiner (a.k.a. “Vatican Bros”): (3 episodes) Over-the-top, campy murder mystery; might be homoerotic; pretty dismissive of the few women around. Content warning for child abuse and assault in later episodes.

13. Altair: A Record of Battles : (1 episode) Only lady thus far is set dressing–but more to the point, why did they make their fantasy action show about WWI and their Turkish lead blonde and European-looking?

14. Knight’s & Magic : (2 episodes) Rings a few alarm bells, particularly the female characters who seem to mainly exist so they can admire the male protagonist and likely form a love triangle, but remains mostly harmless.

15. Convenience Store Boyfriends : (1 episode) Bland people blanding blandly at each other; female characters’ only real purpose is to fall in love with boys.

16. Welcome to the Ballroom : (3 episodes) Female characters with diverse personalities and body types, but they lack motivation unrelated to the male characters. There’s also a lot of fanservice and sexualized shots of the women in Episodes 2-3, along with an assault “joke” in the third episode.

17. Classroom of the Elite : (2 episodes) May decide to use its premise to explore oppressive social structures, but it’s dull, predictable, and heavy on the fanservice in its second episode.

Red flags

18.  Chronos Ruler : (2 episodes) The time-manipulating premise and familial focus sound great on paper, but clumsy narration, disjointed animation, and grating characters (one of whom implicitly threatens to sexually assault one of the others in Episode 2) kill the fun fast.

19. Love and Lies : (1 episode) Dull and pedestrian when it’s not totally tone deaf (it’s a show about straight couples being persecuted by their government, so… yeah).

20. In Another World with My Smartphone : (2 episodes) Despite a charming first episode, it turned to fanservice and harem stuff pretty much from the first frame of Episode 2.

21. Fastest Finger First : (2 episodes) Doesn’t just sideline but relentlessly sexualizes its main female character, particularly in the second episode; also included a transphobic “joke” in its premiere.

22. Fox Spirit Matchmaker : (1 episode) Honestly, all we can remember about this one was some bouncy kitsune boobs in the first scene and nigh-incomprehensible narrative pacing and framing.

Pit of shame

23. A Centaur’s Life : (2 episodes) Fanservice, queerbaiting, and an unironic use of the phrase “reverse discrimination.”

24. Hitorijime My Hero : (1 episode) An adult high school teacher is going to fuck his 15-year-old student.

Anime was a mistake

25. Angel’s 3Piece! : (1 episode) Sexualizes actual fifth graders.

26. My First Girlfriend is a Gal : (1 episode) Dehumanizes women, contains relentless fanservice, and features a lengthy monologue about how hot grade schoolers are.

The highs have been hit and the barrel has been scraped. Sounds like another season of anime has well and truly begun. What are you enjoying so far? Any happy surprises? Or maybe some not-so-happy ones? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Editorial Note: Minor edits were made to this article to clarify if something happened in a later episode and not the premiere itself.

 

Comments are open! Please read our comments policy before joining the conversation and contact us if you have any problems.

Dee and Vrai wrote this together! Yay teamwork! When they’re not working for AniFem or rolling around in the pulpy goodness that is this season’s Vatican Bros, Dee (@joseinextdoor) writes about anime and manga at The Josei Next Door and Vrai (@writervrai) writes about anime, American cartoons, and quality trash vampire fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories.

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  • Justice

    Couldn’t agree more with most of these, but it’s worth noting that Love & Lies third episode revealed that one of it’s leading characters has gay feelings for another. This doesn’t necessarily relieve my fears that it’s going absolutely fail dealing with them or have serious issues with queer erasure, but it’s at least a hint that it might be aspiring for more, I sincerely hope our early assessments are proven wrong.

  • j____l

    Thank you so much for doing this! (And by „this“ I mean the rankings in particular but also the site in general. And the podcast!)

  • Dawnstorm

    Centaur no Nayami is a confusing case for me. I’ve read the manga and enjoyed it. Although I have to say it’s treatment of social issues isn’t the most subtle, it’s at least subtle enough to make a distinction between itself and the in-world fiction. I didn’t have the same interpretations of first-episode content as Vrai, but I didn’t reply because couldn’t get handle on what exactly the difference is. I don’t normally read manga, so knowing the source is a rarity for me, and I can’t tell whether my differing interpretation is due to having read the source. I since went back to the manga and tried to find the scenes to do a comparison, but many I couldn’t find. I don’t remember the very first scene (the play) at all; other people seem to remember it, but it’s the sort of content my auto-filter would eliminate from memory. I can’t find it in the manga.

    I remember the lecture, but I don’t remember government agents watching. I do remember government agents in school, one to be precise, but that was due to an event and the presence caused mild curiosity. I can’t find the lecture scene to compare. The lecturer in the manga came across to me as a naive and hopeful academic type selling a personal theory; the anime lecture came across as a deliberate government sell.

    I did manage to compare the running scene, and that one felt slightly different in the manga, to the extent that I thought Kyouko was deliberately exaggerating (with the unease being there). Later manga scenes and comments by other people seem to suggest that my interpretation may have been too generous. Maybe that was a general trend in the manga? I missed too much?

    I’m not all that fond of the adaptation. There was plenty of nudity and voyeurism in the manga, but it was more tied into worldbuilding and thus easier to take. I don’t remember the more straightforward fanservice type as the pantyshot during the karate kick (but then I don’t remember the entire scene, so…) from the manga. Also, the anime re-arranges scenes with an eye to thematic bundling. This has a number of effects: (a) re-curring themes aren’t re-curring so much, as they are in your face, (b) sometimes there are framing effects: lack of knowledge of in-between scenes, or re-sequenced material leading to an escalation that’s not in the manga like that (e.g. the mermaid’s chidhoodfriend and the shooting down of the mermaid’s independency dream felt a lot more personal in the manga; in the anime it’s easier to see it as a statement on “community over technology” with an unreflected casual sexism as background radiation), and (c) it weakens the feeling that the worldbuidling is organic, by bundling all the ideas in one place (a lot of side stories I read as personal stories become poster-book examples for world-building because of that).

    Episode 3 was the first episode that pretty much gave me the same feeling that the manga did (the good, the bad, and the clumsy). It’s also the episode that very clearly establishes a lesbian couple without directly saying so – by showing them sharing a kiss on the mouth, while later explaining to present children that kisses on the mouth are special in a way that kisses on the cheek aren’t. The couple aren’t main characters, and the maincharacters present are uncomfortable throughout the scene, but while that discomfort allows homophobe interpretations, I personally like to think its just general embarrassment with sexual topics (in the presence of children).

    I’d have slotted the show into the yellow card territory, and I could see a red card in a pinch, but my personal interpretation doesn’t allow for a pit-of-shame categorisation. I’m still re-evaluating the manga, though, and I already have evidence that I might have missed stuff/been too generous on my first reading. So ultimately the jury is out. (Does anyone know where in the manga I can find the lecture about evolution from episode 1?)

  • Violet CLM

    Action Heroine Cheer Fruits is a weird experience… most of the time it feels really sweet and earnest and not-even-trying-to-pretend-it’s-not-Love-Live-with-superheroes, but every once in a while the shipping stuff gets _so_ over the top I’m really not sure I can trust it. Maybe if those interactions weren’t so isolated and actually showed up outside of specific moments, but for now it does feel pretty marketing-focused.

    Also one girl lives in a train car and has sentient robot train car friends? And there’s absolutely no indication this is supposed to be a big deal???

  • Elvenqueen

    Made in Abyss was pretty much what I expected (which is good! I had high hopes) but Princess Principal and Isekai Shokudou exceeded my expectations. I was especially happy when a spy in PP planned to use fanservice to get what she wanted (classic female spy trope, which I “ugh”ed at), but it didn’t work and the other spy used a different, more intricate plan to achieve their goal. It was kind of a little thing, I guess, but idk it kind of overthrew a trope and I thought that was nice. As for Otherworld Restaurant, the dragon fanservice was a bit hard to swallow but episode 2 was amazing!!! Both female characters featured in that episode (I’m bad with names, lol sorry) made my gay heart beat, and it was all just so, so pure.
    Sad to hear about Ballroom, I’ve only watched the first episode and it seemed alright, not as great as I expected though, I must admit. Darn, I wanted it to be best of season, but it probably won’t get there at this point. So far, probably goes to PP or MiA.
    Also, no mention of Kakegurui, or did I miss it? It’s my guilty pleasure this season, and I was wondering which problematic section it would fall under (because it is problematic, but I just want to see where it all goes)

  • I like this format for ranking anime… like how it has short summaries that tell what to expect, what things to be warned about, etc.

    I definitely want to try Made in Abyss, but I don’t know about the Ballroom anime anymore, as I want to avoid female sexualization/male-gaze as much as possible, even if it means avoiding shoujo/otome/bishounen/whatever anime made “for women”.

    Maybe it sounds Hedonistic, but this is just how I deal with the stress. I want to keep anime as completely stress-free as possible because I don’t want to come to hate it completely.

  • alecksis

    I’m loving GAMERS! so far but the second episode has me a bit worried for the rest of the series. I watched the premiere twice and found it very endearing. The second episode was so sweet that I was actually in tears BUT there were some red flags that made me think this series is going to be more male-centric. Namely, the title cards in the middle with very sexualized video game + T&A imagery, and the treatment of the female characters in the second episode.

    (SPOILERS FROM HERE)

    Karen has very few lines, and she spends the entire episode stalking Keita and lusting after him…. for like no reason??? I assumed a love triangle was imminent, but I kind of also thought the girls would have a better reason to fall for the main character besides his main character status.

    Also, while the cute pink-haired girl’s relationship with Cool Dude (I’m horrible with names) was a big part of why I loved the second episode, I was also disappointed that she basically crafted her whole personality to be someone that Cool Dude would want to date. I’m hoping that from here on out, their relationship can evolve into liking each other for who they really are, but from the direction that Karen is heading I have lowered my expectations of the rest of the series. I’ll still be watching, I’m just sad that it may turn out to be another video game show trying to appeal to the male demographic.

  • Dawnstorm

    Thanks for your reply (especially for the clear chapter references). It seems I missed a lot the first time round. (It’s always interesting to see how your inner filters work.)

  • Kenna

    what about kakegurui and netsuzou trap?

    • Kakegurui isn’t available to view legally in any of our countries yet, and Netsuzou Trap is a short, so neither is eligible for review.

  • GreyLurker

    Is anyone else watching Magic Circle Guru Guru? It’s kind of a silly fun spoof on JRPG games with a couple of kids out to defeat the demon king.