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.
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).
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.
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.
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):
- 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
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.
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!