Winter 2017 premiere rankings

Another season of premieres reviewed! I have never found a season as disheartening as this one. It was five painful days before I finally found something to enthusiastically recommend, and I credit Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju for reminding me in that time of the heights anime can reach. It felt like a constant process of my bar for quality being lowered and lowered again, then occasionally spiked back up to where I had forgotten it could be.

Which shows do you review? 

To keep the workload manageable and target my efforts where I believe they are of greatest use, I don’t review shows that are sequels, shorts or for young children. This left 19 eligible premieres in nine days.

A girl with long, dark hair and glasses in a school uniform stands outside on a spring day. Subtitle: "Yikes. This might be difficult."
Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club

How do you write the reviews?

In what I think is quite unusual, I go into reviews as cold as possible. I don’t look up background information, watch trailers, or even read synopses. An eligible show pops up on ANN’s Preview Guide, I find a legal stream and watch it. I want as little outside information as possible to influence my evaluation, for better or worse.

I’m as subject to unconscious bias as anyone; there is a chance I could review a problematic show more positively if I know a woman directed it, or review a feminist-friendly premiere more negatively because I know it’s got anti-feminist plot lines ahead. Also, as a viewer I like to be surprised! I enjoy speculating, and it makes it more fun for me to know nothing and discover the merits (or demerits) of a show as I watch.

There are a number of skilled reviewers out there who watch an episode once and swiftly put together a smart, insightful review. I can’t tell you how much I respect those reviewers. I usually watch each episode twice in a row plus dipping back in for specific screenshots. I’m so worried about missing things, or remembering a scene one way when it looks very different after the final episode twist. Perhaps most importantly for me, the second time through is usually when I come up with positive things to say about a show with a premise or characters that repel me.

In part because of this and in part because I’m an obsessive editor, the total review process takes me an average of four hours. It takes longer if I hate it so much I decide to livetweet my rage (hi there moe cycling stupidity), shorter if it completely sidesteps any prospect for feminist discussion (looking at you, manzai idol boys).

Three boys sit cross-legged in a line by the door in a dark room, the one in the centre speaking with conviction. Subtitle: "But thinking that that's normal is wrong!"
Marginal #4

What do your reviews focus on?

I try to make it clear that my reviews are very personal. My concern is always story and character, and I will rarely comment on other aspects because they’re not my specialism and not a priority to me. At some point I hope that we, like ANN, can pay reviewers to provide a range of perspectives. In the meantime, please bear in mind that these reviews are from my own limited perspective, by their nature biased to my own preferences, knowledge and experience.

For that reason, after finishing a first draft of my own review I will skim ANN’s Preview Guide review of the episode to make sure I have missed nothing huge. These reviews do not affect my opinion; this is just a content check to ensure that no important topic of feminist commentary slips through the net uncommented upon. Most times I read ANN reviews I discover that I have discussed things they have not, or that I hold very different opinions to the reviewers there. There are also occasions when ANN reviewers make feminist observations which I kick myself for not noticing, but do not include because it’s not my work. I recommend reading the Preview Guide reviews to get the benefit of those yourself, there are some great insights in there.

However, I do endeavour to consistently document any issues of feminist concern in each review. If you are particularly put off by, say, fanservice or non-consensual contact, I am likely to have mentioned in reviews where they show up. If you’re particularly keen to watch shows which incorporate, for example, queer characters, I will probably have mentioned that too. One important purpose for AniFem’s existence is to make it easier for people to find anime they can love, and I try to write the reviews with that in mind.

Two girls sit at desks in a classroom during breaktime, one girl eating a sandwich while the other speaks to her. Subtitle: "Sounds kinda complicated, but okay."
Schoolgirl Strikers

Are you paying yourself for these reviews?

No. I will not invoice for any of these review posts, including this one. The money saved from these couple of weeks will go into the general fund to cover our running costs and outgoings in the future.

An otaku man with swirly glasses shouts. Subtitle: "Here it comes!"
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

WINTER 2017 PREMIERE RANKING

To reiterate: this is a very personal list and reflects my own taste and tolerances. With that in mind, this is the order in which I would recommend this season’s shows to friends of mine, providing a little detail on their feminist merits (or lack thereof):

Outright recommendations

  1. Interviews with Monster Girls : Marginalisation as a topic addressed with respect
    2. Scum’s Wish : Nuanced representation of a young woman’s sexuality

Recommended with caveats

3. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. : Working women treated equally and in positions of power
4. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid : Representation of unfeminine women and queerness
5. Saga of Tanya the Evil : Main relationship between two professional female characters
6. Gabriel DropOut : Relationships between four very different young women (and trash)

Problematic but might improve

7. Seiren : Girls can be bullies too
8. Fuuka : Love triangle between overbearing, besotted, and bland
9. Masamune-kun’s Revenge : Revenge through romance and orthorexia
10. elDLIVE : Reserving judgement until the girl-centred episode two

Little to no feminist merit, largely through the absence of female characters

11. Marginal #4 : Fujoshi idol comedy, no girls allowed
12. Onihei : Dark samurai drama, no women allowed
13. Spiritpact : Women are terrible and men’s personalities are “annoying” or “none”

Inherently anti-feminist in premise and/or major characterisation

14. Hand Shakers : Women are for hand-holding, crotch-stomping or unnatural feats of boobflesh
15. Akiba’s Trip : Defeat the cute girl aliens in cosplay by removing their clothes
16. Schoolgirl Strikers : Relationships between schoolgirl warriors who just happen to fight in bikinis
17. Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club : Girls are infuriatingly stupid
18. Urara Meirocho : Sexualising 15-year-olds who look like adorable 10-year-olds

Worst anime of the season

19. Idol Incidents : A story of women in politics which includes the line “An idol’s main asset is her body”

Idol Incidents gives the worst of all possible takes on both politics and idols with consistently dislikeable characters and ample opportunities for satire disregarded. There was a lot of competition for this spot, but it’s hard to be more anti-feminist than “sexualised child underboob” so I had to give Idol Incidents exactly the credit it deserves for that.

Two boys stand together talking. Subtitle: "I don't know what she's thinking."
Seiren

Disagree with any of my rankings? Think I missed something important that would push a show up or down a list? Want to put in a good word for sequels, shorts or children’s shows that won’t make the list but you think people should know about? Please let us know, and have your say in the comments!

 

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  • John Clark

    And here I was hoping that Idol Incidents would be this great ambitious anime reminiscent of the West Wing with Social Justice Idols. Maybe next time.

    • Someday anime will start catering to that niche!

  • Peter Kovalsky

    Unrelated to this season in particular (though I look forward to checking out your recommendations), I just went back and watched Re:Zero. It was kind of a remarkable experience, because the show has a surprising amount of subtlety and really a lot of merit, but exactly 0% of either of those things are to be found in the main character who, aside from a couple of kakkoi~ moments, is an unlikable, selfish, entitled jerk. If we could remove him from the show and just keep the generally compelling and emotionally sophisticated (except insofar as they’re into Douchebag McProtagonist) lady characters, that would be grand.

    • I became friends with both Peter and Frog because of Re:ZERO, it’s really quite a show. There are elements I can’t stand, but I’ve rewatched it countless times.

      • Peter Kovalsky

        I think I first checked it out based on a mention somewhere on Anifem or the Patreon. I’m glad I watched it, for sure, but damn if I didn’t want to just shake Subaru almost every time he opened his mouth. I don’t know if more of that show is planned; his obnoxiousness might be redeemed (narratively, anyway) if he really is the embodiment of pride, as this would jibe well with his constant, urgent, and utterly indefensible wanting.

    • SimoneNonvelodico

      I think the bit that is most unlikable about Re:Zero is less the personality of the characters itself and more how that personality is *expressed*, namely through pages of absolutely forced and unlikable dialogue. I think Subaru is supposed to be just that kind of awkward guy who tries too hard to look friendly and outgoing because they actually have a hard time opening up to people, feel lonely and are desperate for company but feel like they’d be a bother if they actually showed their flaws. Which could be sympathetic but is expressed mostly through absolutely cringe-worthy, eyeroll-inducing lines of dialogue.

  • I’ve very much enjoyed your reviews even if the results are so disappointing for potential anime’s to watch this season. Thank you for writing them!

    • I’m glad this was useful to you! What do you think you will be watching this season?

      • when I sit down and start watching I’ll be giving a good few a go at least. currently my list has ACCA, Hand Shakers, Interviews with a Monster Girl, Little Witch Academia, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and Scum’s Wish. I might go through the list of this seasons stuff again at some point and try more too.

        • Hand Shakers is an interesting choice, not seen a lot of fans of that so far but very interested to see what those who stick with it end up saying about it!

          • tbh since adding it to my list I have totally forgotten why so if I do get round to it I’ll be going in blind. might end up dropping it instantly but I’ll let you know XD

  • Belaam

    Reviews could do with the addition of a “where to watch” section. Scum’s Wish, for instance, is AWOL fromCruchyroll, which is often the go to source.

    • Peter Kovalsky

      I think this has been discussed (maybe on the Patreon?) and the conclusion was that because there are readers all over the place (and not just in the US), it would be either unfair (listing only the places you can watch stuff in the US) or prohibitively long and resource-intensive (listing everything everywhere).

      I’m definitely with you in principle, though.

      • Anime Feminist

        This is correct – even on the team we are based across three continents and not all of us have access to the same shows through the same outlets. If you’re in the US, Canada, New Zealand or Australia you can find the answer to this question at the excellent because.moe!

        • Peter Kovalsky

          Or the UK!

          • It’s actually only US, UK, Australia and Canada, not New Zealand!

  • Fair enough! For what it’s worth, I said I warmed to Akiba’s Trip because it was the first premiere of the season and I completely despised it then saw things I hated worse, not because I ended up liking it more. I’m very open to people disagreeing though – where would you have put both of those on the list?

  • I didn’t watch or review Little Witch Academia because it has previous source material which gives people an idea of how feminist it is, but I’ve heard a lot of good commentary about it that makes me want to pick it up as a viewer now!

  • 0utf0xZer0

    I know these rankings are based on the first episodes, but I do want to let it be known that Urara Meirochou’s second episode is much better than the first. (That, and I can’t say I agree about the characters looking ten)

    • Ten may have been an exaggeration, I guess I could go as far as 12. Frankly though, even if they looked 15 (or 25 or 50) the in-built rationale for women to display underboob and submissive poses like an animal don’t get any better. The fact that they look so young just emphasises the ickiness of the concept for me.

      • 0utf0xZer0

        The underboob was a bit much, the rest of the gag didn’t really bother me despite that fact that stuff like the infamous dress fitting scene in Izetta did. I can’t pinpoint what the difference between the two scenes is either.

        It’s been exceedingly rare for me to think characters look younger than they’re intended to be as far back as I can remember – which is pretty much back to when I started watching moe anime in the first place. I kind of get why other people do, but it’s like my perception of characters ages more or less ignores art style.

  • That’s so good to hear, I really hope the reviews are useful to you for finding anime you want to watch!

  • Lori P

    Hm. I’m surprised Fuuka isn’t ranked lower by fanservice alone.

    Yes I’m one of those feminists who thinks panty shots and upskirt views have no place in anime whatsoever. Even a show that shows these things and makes you feel guilty about it are basically just Ironic Sexism at this point.

  • Mizuho

    I would really like to say your recommendations make sense but. They dont. As a really avid anime watcher, you can never tell how an anime will be until the third episode. That why I usually skip these types of reviews they are usually shallow and often times wrong or misleading.

    MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

    As for spiritpact as an example, the first main female characters that comes into the fold, ends up being a gamer girl.

    As for Tanya. Well her back story is well, complicated to say the least and frankly if you didnt know her past you would just thing she is an evil badass. Her relationship with the other officer has nothing to do with what you think it does. Tanya is literally 10 when you see the first episode. A 10 year old girl.

    I get this is a first impression type of thing but … like I said. Unless it blatent ecchi harem stuff it usually takes till the third episode to decipher if its trash these days.

    • Your point relies on the idea that we have so much control over our readers that they will only watch things I personally recommend and will flatly avoid anything I personally disliked. I can tell you that isn’t the case. Plenty of readers – and members of the AniFem team – are enjoying things I didn’t care for. Even I have continued watching some things with premieres I couldn’t stand and have come to really enjoy them. These are reviews of the premieres only, not the full shows, and they are only intended to give our readers more information, not make their decisions for them. Our feedback so far has been that they fulfill that purpose. If you don’t like this kind of format you are very welcome to skip these posts in future and wait until we post our actual recommendations at the end of the season.

      • Mizuho

        I get the format, but like I said above your information is jumping to bad conclusions that you dont even get in some of the premieres.

        And thst example is further displayed in how you perceived my comment. Like with the Tanya point.

        They might go in expected a type of relationship, when there really isnt one to be seen.

        I am not saying your readers only watch what you recommend. Never once did I even lean towards that.

        But whatever makes you feel better.