Around the time the AniTAY community began working on our seasonal Anime roundup for Winter 2019, it dawned on me I didn’t watch a ton of new shows last season. Fearing I wouldn’t have enough content, there were no plans to do another Anisong round up at the time.
With the season behind us, my interest was sparked again in a different direction. Reviewing my favorite shows (as well as my last round up), I realized one common thread that always seemed to be present whenever I thought about what I recall best about an individual show: emotion. Whether it tugged at my heartstrings, made me laugh, haunted my thoughts, or gave me something to reflect upon afterwards, I was moved in several unexpected ways this winter.
With that in mind, I’m trying something new to better reflect my thoughts. Today, I want to highlight some of my favorite moments from each show I finished. Much like my regular Anisong round ups, if it aired this season on any major streaming service or network provider (even if it is not its original run/simulcast; i.e. Toonami), it can go on the list. For those of you expecting Anisongs/soundtracks, fear not! I’m still planning to highlight music for each series as appropriate, but will focus more on the anime side.
For this format, while all five of these shows rank among my favorites of the season, my goal is to highlight some standout moments or specific episodes that stood out to me should I reuse it in the future.
As a courtesy, I will post the list ahead of time if you prefer to avoid spoilers, though I try to stick to the context of that episode/moment if possible.
- Boogiepop and Others (Episode 10 - 13, Boogiepop at Dawn)
- Dororo (Episode 5 -6, The Story of the Moriko Song, Part 1 & 2)
- Radiant (Episode 17, To Stop the Sound of the Wind -Serenade-)
- Mob Psycho 100 II (18 - 19, Poor, Lonely, Whitey & Cornered ~True Identity~)
- The Promised Neverland (Episode 1, 121045)
One of the most difficult and complex series of the season (I wrote about this one for our AniTAY seasonal roundup), Boogiepop and Others is a fascinating supernatural story covering several novels, stories, and various character perspectives. When the time came to cover “Boogiepop at Dawn,” an unusual decision was made to drop all 4 episodes at once during the simulcast.
In what amounts to a 2 hour film or OVA, the Boogiepop at Dawn arc is its own self contained story that serves as an origin story to the titular Boogiepop as well as providing connective tissue to the preceding arcs, specifically Nagi Karima and some of the other third parties working behind the scenes. Much like the previous arcs, each episode jumps from a different character’s point of view that ultimately form a cohesive tale with some rather dark and heavy themes/moments I wasn’t expecting for this prequel story.
Episode 11 introduces us to a Towa Operative named Scarecrow who hunts and eliminates MPLS (evolved humans). He ends up crossing paths with Nagi Kirima, and in a twist of fate, ends up betraying the Towa Organization to steal a drug to reverse Nagi’s “evolution” and prevent her from becoming a future target at the cost of his life. In his last moments, he meets the yet to be named Boogiepop, noting his frustration and regrets that he met his end in such a “lame way.” Though he succeeded in saving Nagi, he realizes his actions would have other unintended consequences.
Much like the rest of the series, there is a certain duality or contradiction at play. Scarecrow dies, oddly enough with a smile on his face despite his lingering regrets. His dream of becoming a superhero doesn’t play out, but he inspires two other people to take up the mantle in their own way (*hint, hint*). The story shifts again to three other characters, but it all ties back to this first story in some rather interesting ways I won’t spoil further.
Dororo (2019) is a retelling of the classic manga by Osamu Tezuka that follows the wandering swordsman, Hyakkimaru, and his traveling companion, Dororo, as the former fights demons to reclaim his stolen body parts. While the original premise and art style was enough for me to warrant interest, episode 5 - 6 was the exact point where everything “clicked.”
By this point in the series, the show begins to delve further into Hyakkimaru’s humanity or slow descent into “demonhood.” The Biwa-Hōshi (the blind unnamed priest who appears periodically throughout the series) is the first to notice hints of a red aura over Hyakkimaru. Following an encounter with a burrowing type demon, Hyakkimaru regains his voice; but loses a leg.
Still in physical agony along with having to adjust to his newly acquired sense of hearing, it is Mio who helps put Hyakkimaru’s soul at ease with her singing. The two are drawn in when he places his prosthetic hands on her face. Though each have their own personal struggles, the two manage to find something within one another.
While I would have liked Mio to stick around a little longer or at least let this story play out further (particularly after the fact), suffering is a way of life in the world of Dororo as evident by Mio’s backstory. Even so, “The Story of the Moriko Song” is one of the few episodes that gives Hyakkimaru a moment of vulnerability and a brief respite from his unforgiving journey. Though it was a given that both would part ways as Hyakkimaru continues down his bloodstained path, one can’t help but wonder what could have been had events played out differently.
I wrote about Radiant in great detail a while back, so it is no secret that it quickly became one of my favorite new series this past winter. Behind its over the top cast of characters and personalities, the world of Radiant is a conflicted one that tells the story about a boy who wants to end discrimination between humans and sorcerers and his personal journey through the people he meets along the way.
Though Radiant shares many similarities with other titles in the genre, there is a greater emphasis on interpersonal relationships and broader themes that immediately stand out. As the series begins to grow beyond its genre conventions, I found myself resonating a lot with these characters right as the plot takes an unexpected emotional turn towards the end of the first major arc. From watching Seth’s departure from his mentor to the intense beatdown he gives Konrad, there was no shortage of emotional or epic moments that I could have highlighted here. In the end, there was only one moment I kept coming back to.
Following the mastermind’s defeat, Seth sets out to stop Hameline from destroying the town. During their confrontation, he comes to realize a disturbing truth about the enemy he is fighting; and himself. Recognizing her true objective, it is Seth who reaches out first and rejects Hameline’s notion that the two are not the same.
As Sorcerers, both characters were traumatized and almost killed by people who feared their kind. While Seth was fortunate enough to have a parental figure in his life and learned to push back his anger, Hameline lost everyone she cared for and was consumed by it. Hoping to have found a kindred spirit, Hameline asks Seth if he had any reason to risk his life for the people. He openly admits he doesn’t have a good reason, and yet, he cannot bring himself to become the monster they believe he is. Following another obstacle with the Inquisition’s Thaumaturges arriving, Hameline decides to trust Seth and makes a final stand...
Episode 17 breaks a lot of ground and helps set Radiant apart from its other shonen contemporaries. In addition to humanizing Hameline’s role as a tragic villain, it marks a turning point for Seth and the events that follow as he starts to change and understand how difficult it is to reform the world. “To Stop the Sound of the Wind -Serenade-” is not only one of the best episodes of Radiant; it’s one of the best episodes of the season and a standout example of what makes this series so special.
The follow up to 2016's psychic fueled spectacle, Mob Psycho 100 II continues its global domination (pun definitely intended) with an impressive second season. After the fall of Claw’s 7th division, we once again follow the daily life of middle school esper Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama and his encounters with both the ordinary and supernatural. Much like the previous season, its sequel doubles down on the show’s previous strengths with even more world bending fights that would put even the heaviest action shonen fights to shame and a surprising amount of interpersonal growth I was not prepared for.
Mob Psycho 100 II rarely slowed down in quality, so it should come as no surprise I had a difficult time picking a definitive moment. There were plenty of supernatural elements and epic showdowns that could have easily made this list, I found a lot of my personal favorite moments came from watching the more routine aspects of Mob and company’s lives, though I should be giving ONE credit on that one. In the end, there was one character arc that ended on a rather touching note along with having some of the funniest moments of the season.
Reigen has always been something of a morally grey character, functioning somewhere between comic relief, con artist, and mentor/moral compass for Mob. With a newfound confidence and friends, Mob finally decides to ditch Reigen after feeling used from always being called last minute for work. In a two part story, we go through the saga of Reigen as he comes to terms with the empty state of his personal life and his redemption journey to go legitimate and become a real psychic.....
And then promptly destroys his newfound credibility on national TV after being exposed as a fraud. Forced on damage control, Reigen comes up with one last ditch effort to salvage his reputation with a live press conference. He returns to his old antics, only to come up blank when asked about his initial motivation to become a psychic. Thinking back to Mob, Reigen starts talking to him directly on camera. Episode 19 ends with the two reuniting at last in one of the show’s most emotional endings.
Mob Psycho 100 has always done an excellent job balancing its humor, characters, and larger themes that everyone needs a helping hand from time to time; even those with psychic powers. Though there was one other episode towards the season finale that best highlights this, Reigen’s character arc was one of the more personal stories I encountered this season that exposes him at his most vulnerable while highlighting how he and Mob inspire one another. For all of his faults and questionable ethics, in the end Reigen is “a genuinely good guy.”
One of the most talked about new shows both here and around the anime community last season, The Promised Neverland made a lasting impression and provided a variety of opinions with its unique approach to storytelling. Set in the distant future, a group of orphans live out their carefree days at the Grace Field House when their world is forever changed by a dark secret.
I’ve shared my two cents on the series in general alongside my fellow AniTAY colleagues, so at the risk of repeating the same points, I’ll refer you to that piece. Around the time I started writing my portion, I thought a lot about some of the season’s best kept secrets. In the end, I always kept coming back to what originally drew me into the series in the first place: the pilot.
121045 starts off as a general overview of the Grace Field House and our introduction of the major characters. Though the happy atmosphere and bright colors give a positive impression, the episode presents some subtle clues that something is not quite right. Numbered tattoos, no knowledge of the outside world beyond the fence, and daily tests, episode 1 quietly starts putting together the puzzle pieces for its inevitable reveal of what really goes on behind the scenes of their supposed home.
Since the twist is so central to the rest of the series, I’ll avoid spoiling it here and jump to the episode’s highlight moment. Upon returning from their close call, Emma and Norman are in complete shock and disbelief from what they had just witnessed. Having learned the truth about their home, Norman suggests they escape along with their friend Ray. Shaken, but true to her feelings, she expresses her worries over leaving the rest of the family to their fates. Seeing her sincerity in spite of her fear, Norman reassures her it is possible to save everyone. Thus they begin to lay the groundwork for their escape...
Episode 1 delivers not only one of the most chilling endings of the season, but some of the strongest characterization right from the start with Emma’s tearful reaction and Norman’s newfound determination. Through its masterful use of suspense, dread, and some clever misdirection, The Promised Neverland’s entire season run had a number of jaw dropping or heavy moments that could have easily spawned its own article. Looking past the initial shock, it was these smaller, emotional moments like the one in 121045's ending that ultimately stood out as the plot grew noticeably darker.
***End of Spoilers***
I know some of these had more than one moment that I could have opted to select (some of which could be argued had a more emotional impact), but I wanted to avoid spoiling some of those twists for those who have not had a chance to view any of the above shows.
Now it’s your turn. What were your favorite moments, highlights, or “feels” of winter 2019? Any favorite Anisongs I didn’t cover above? I know I skipped a lot this time around to fit the theme of this piece, so any feedback is appreciated. As always, thanks again for reading!
As a quick update for the current season, I’ll most likely revert to the old format for my next entry as there are quite a few Anisongs I really want to talk about from some of my favorite bands/artists. Also, with the SixTAY Day challenge coming up, I haven’t decided how to best incorporate that into my seasonal stuff, but that’s an issue for another day. Until next time, see ya!