Death to Anime Strike, Long Live the New Trash

In All, Anime by KeskelLeave a Comment

It was with a heavy heart that I learned of the end of Amazon’s Anime Strike service. While many in the anime community had their complaints about the service (double paywall, inconsistent airing schedule), it was a great sign for the mainstreaming of anime, and provided a lot of value, both as an alternative bidder to drive up the price of modern simulcast anime, and as a service that made some of the forgotten classics like The Garden of Sinners available to all.

The anime content is not gone, of course, and is now included to anyone with a Prime subscription. The Prime subscription anime shows still carry over some of the issues of the original Anime Strike. For one thing, there’s a severe lack good tagging or genre segregation. I had to double check via Amazon search that Anonymous Noise hadn’t been pulled from the service, because there’s not an easy way to look at all of the anime on Amazon Prime at the time of this writing. Also, there are some audio/subtitle issues. Amazon’s video service doesn’t allow for audio track switching, so legacy shows with both subtitled and English dubbed versions are listed as two different shows. Japanese-language shows re-use the subtitle settings for all Amazon video content, so if, like me, you’ve been alternating between Garden of Sinners and Jean-Claude Van Johnson episodes, you end up constantly turning subtitles on and off. These problems are, if nothing else, not improved by the end of Anime Strike.

Finally, in a non-anime related note, I liked (and still like) the promise of the Amazon Video platform. One of the great failures of streaming video (for anime and everything else) is that the current environment has become a confusoply of competing services with overlapping features and shifting content. I like that, under the Amazon platform, HBO, Starz and (previously) anime were all content options for purchase, and when I wanted to I could switch between Game of Thrones, The Americans, and Welcome to the Ballroom, without looking up which streaming service carried which show.

As for the future of anime on Amazon, the service’s anime tag doesn’t currently contain all of the anime on Amazon Prime, and we’ll have to wait another three months to see if Amazon continues to bid on anime now that it’s no longer running its own anime service. But for now, here are my top 10 recommendations for simulcasted anime currently available on Amazon Video. If you have not seen Garden of Sinners yet, stop reading this post and watch that.

1. Made in Abyss: I’ve recommended it before, but it is easily in the top five of 2017 and deserves its spot in the top 25 of MAL‘s anime list. Not only is it hauntingly beautiful, with one the finest scores in the history of the medium, but it does a spectacular job of exploring the idea of a descent into the unknown, the inevitability of death, and the importance of the connections we make in our limited time on the planet. Around the two thirds mark, there was a specific line that made my jaw hit the floor, and I wasn’t able to recover until the show was over. Made in Abyss succeeds in generating Clannad levels of manly tears in only 13 episodes.
2. Princess Principal: Speaking of great soundtracks, Princess Principal has a soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura. For those not familiar with her work, she is one of the greatest anime soundtrack composers in the history of the medium. Princess Principal is an exciting steampunk espionage thriller about schoolgirls that makes Moe Sameface a plot point.  While I was disappointed by the ending (the last episode feels like the writing staff decided to ask for a season 2 rather than conclude the work), the rest of the season is spectacular.
3. Re:Creators: While anime has become obsessed with the Isekai genre of generic Japanese teenagers who end up in a video game/anime/manga-inspired fantasy world, Re:Creators goes for a more interesting premise of anime, manga and video game characters coming to life and duking it out in modern Japan. While the core premise carries the first half of the show, the second half is one of the greatest explorations of the nature of artistic creation and the importance of fiction/media I’ve ever experienced.
4. Scum’s Wish: For a medium seemingly obsessed with putting scantily clad teenagers in sexually suggestive situation, there are few anime that actually deal with teenage sexuality in anything that resembles reality. Scum’s Wish doesn’t just feature teenage sexuality, it’s about teenage sexuality, with all of the awkwardness, broken hearts and embarrassment that that entails.
5. Anonymous Noise: In an age of deconstructions and subversions, it’s important to remember what made the original genres work in the first place. Anonymous Noise is a shoujo love triangle about pretty characters with enormous eyes who all use music to express how they feel about each other. The soundtrack works, the characters have consistent motivations, and the third act does a great job of showing that relationships for their own sake are not a healthy or appropriate goal for anyone, much less a teenage girl.
6. Girl’s Last Tour: Two girls wander around after the end of the world. Embracing and grappling with the existential nature of not just the death of every individual, but of the entire human race is a difficult task. Girl’s Last Tour has the courage to swing for the fences. I certainly feel it connects, but you should give it a chance to see if you agree.
7. Yuki Yuna is a Hero Season 2:  A long time ago I would have tried to convince you to watch the second season of this show without spoiling too much of the premise. In the post-Madoka world, I can say that this is a dark magical girl show for adults. That means this show has knowingly approached the mantle of one of the greatest shows in the history of the medium and succeeded at presenting its own interpretation. The first season was on Netflix for a time, but the best place to watch both seasons is now Amazon.
8. The Great Passage:  A very introverted man writes a dictionary. Before the announcement of Anime Strike, I wrote in the past about the conspicuous absence of Great Passage (Amazon got the rights to it as part of their purchase of the Noitamina block). It’s understated drama for adults, with none of the indulgences (giant robots, little sisters, etc) that have become synonymous with anime.
9. Inuyashiki:  The writer of Gantz wrote another manga. It’s good. I’m not lying. If you didn’t read Gantz (which has the strange distinction of being a manga with an anime adaption of a mediocre first act, followed by manga-only second [excellent] and third [unfathomably awful] acts), then all I need to tell you is that this an excellent sci-fi superhero story about a pathetic old man with cancer and a disaffected teenager who have their bodies replaced with alien-made combat cyborgs and explore their own ideas of heroism.
10. Land of the Lustrous: While I absolutely hate putting a show as a recommendation I haven’t seen yet, everyone else I respect on AniTwitter has convinced me that Land of the Lustrous is a great show and worth watching, if just to understand how cg anime can look good.
At the current rate of anime consumption, every barrier between a show and its prospective audience should give us pause. The loss of Anime Strike’s double paywall does not feel to me to be worth the risk of one less bidder for licensing rights (especially since Amazon, unlike Netflix, releases shows week to week). I hope that Amazon keeps bidding on new anime, rescues a few more classics (like Garden of Sinners), and that literally anyone gives us a better solution to the problem of “I have to keep a spreadsheet open just to know what app I can use to watch what shows.”

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