Now that the Spring 2019 season has established itself, general trends suggest that anime fans have already forgotten all of the previous season’s shows, right? Well I’m here to extricate you from Sarazanmai’s moist orifice to turn your gaze pastwards to what may have been the best season for anime in the past couple of years.
As opposed to my previous mid-season article (here), each of these shows will be ordered in ascending rank. This season, everything I watched, I finished. (Or in the case of ongoing shows I watched up until the winter season’s end.) I’ll use the English titles for each. Also, as I’ll be discussing the ending of some of these shows: OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING.
Shows I hoped to watch but did not have time for: Run with the Wind, Karakuri Circus, Kemurikusa, My Roommate is a Cat, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, Kakegurui XX (I’ll wait until it’s on Netflix in the UK).
11: Domestic Girlfriend
In last place comes everybody’s favourite relationship dumpster-fire. What started off as a fun guilty pleasure became a real drudge by the end. I had to force myself to finish this. As soon as main character Natsuo got together with his deeply irritating school-teacher crush Hina, the storytelling quality nosedived. Look, I know it’s meant to be about emotional, self-obsessed people making bad choices, but Hina acts like a stupid child. She’s meant to be a professional. I don’t believe anyone could possibly work in such a responsible role and be so dumb. Hard pass from me if they make any more of this. What this did leave me with in the end was a new favourite singer. Check out the full version of OP singer Minami’s Crying for Rain in the YouTube link above. Her other songs on YouTube are great too.
10: The Price of Smiles
I only watched this because some folks in the AniTAY chat said it was good. Hmmm. It started off… kind of ok, I guess? I was unconvinced by Pop-Idol Princess™ (seriously - she even lip-syncs during the OP) and how everyone tip-toed around her obliviousness in regards to the war raging at her country’s borders. Thank God that was resolved by the third episode after her annoying childhood friend got murdered. The mecha action scenes were not too bad and I liked the counterpoint between the princess whose smile got wiped off her face and the other main character Stella, a soldier on the opposing side whose smile was an empty rictus monstrosity to hide her deep emotional constipation. I hoped that it might go somewhere interesting. It didn’t. It ended in ridiculously rushed and contrived fashion and had nothing worth discussing. A shame, it looked like it had potential.
9: JOJO’s Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind
Oh JOJO’s, you used to be one of my favourite things. What happened this season? The same demented violence and bonkers action is still there but I don’t care about any of your characters. They’re all horrible people, they act like morons and the last couple of episodes with Narancia’s tongue being replaced by a stand did it for me. The characters were so stupid! How am I as a viewer meant to get invested in the fates of these guys when the world would probably be a better place if they were all killed horribly? I’m not sure I’ll even bother watching into the third cour of this show. Does it get better? Please tell me it gets better.
8: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Slime started off so well, with a neat premise and an adorable main character. After the first cour it forgot to have a plot. Stuff just sort of… happened. There was no narrative drive, no real consequences to anyone’s actions, it got boring. And what the hell was the idea of having a clip show as a final episode? Poor. I’ll probably give the inevitable second season a look in the hope that it finds a purpose somewhere.
7: The Quintessential Quintuplets
An AniTAY chat recommendation that wasn’t a disaster. I don’t normally tolerate harem comedy at all. I hate the repetition and lack of plot progression, the main characters tend to be bland and the stories never end. QQ bucks this trend in a couple of important ways. Uesugi for one is a bit of a jerk. He also doesn’t seem to have much romantic interest in any of the girls. At the beginning the girls don’t have much interest in him either. This is believable, unlike most other harem junk where the girls are inexplicably attracted to the main character who is as bland and manly as damp cardboard.
I wonder if it is also making some kind of meta-commentary on the harem genre as a whole as this time the girls truly all have the same face (being identical quintuplets), and are only distinguishable by their hair colours/styles/accoutrements. Finally, the story is working to an endpoint - Uesugi marries one of them, it even shows her on her wedding day. Because they all look alike you can’t tell which one she is! Genius. My money is on the girl with stars in her hair - they met first and isn’t that how this is meant to go? Maybe the story will invert that trope too. Anyway, I’m glad I watched this - it was lightweight fun even if every episode did not manage to hold my full attention.
A violent fantasy set in Japan’s warring states/feudal period, Dororo is based on Osamu Tezuka’s 1960's manga. This wasn’t the first anime adaptation of the story - the first was in 1969, but the modern version has already deviated from the original in terms of some details. I also have the PS2 game - released in the west as Blood Will Tell - Tezuka Osamu’s Dororo, but I never played more that 2-3 hours of it. From the Wikipedia description, its story also deviates from the first anime and the manga. If I recall correctly, the manga was cancelled by the publisher so had a rushed/incomplete ending, so I expect this to have an anime-original ending/resolution. The opening couple of episodes of the 2019 anime cover the same section as the first part of the game though, and it was weird watching scenarios I remember playing through over a decade ago.
Apart from the main character Dororo’s cutesy character design, there’s not a lot else to tip the viewer off to the show’s Tezuka origins. None of his stock “actors” make an appearance and the character designs are much more modern. The tone is as grim as I remember it from the manga, and as fits such a war-torn period in Japanese history, it does not shy away from depicting the brutality of life for the poor common people. Their lives were frequently cut short by disease, famine, mutilation and violence. Tezuka’s manga were often surprisingly adult despite his cute and cuddly art style - this is definitely not a kids anime. The story is interesting, and although mostly episodic it does appear to be building to something. I’ll definitely keep watching into Spring 2019.
5: Boogiepop and Others
After 18 episodes, I’m still confused. What, exactly, was all of that about? In the end, it almost doesn’t matter - none of the characters understand what’s happened to them either. I’d struggle to describe what this even is. A high school drama? A metaphysical horror? Anachronic puzzle box? All three or maybe none? Whatever, this show was stylish and compelling, with a fantastic OP and transcendent ED. There’s plenty of the original light novels left to adapt, I hope they make more of this. I’m not sure if they will enhance my enlightenment though.
4: The Rising of the Shield Hero
Ok, so I understand the hate that this has received but I have thoroughly enjoyed this ridiculous Isekai revenge fantasy. It’s pretty rough around the edges, some of the storytelling decisions don’t appear to make much sense and princess Myne is a stereotypical moustache-twirling villain (unfortunately without the moustache) and I can’t understand why no-one else sees through her act. Naofumi’s grumpy persona is understandable considering his experiences and Raphtalia is a great supporting character, despite my deep discomfort in regards to her role as a slave. Bird/girl/angel-thing Filo is fun, though I’m not emotionally invested in her as a character yet. I plan to continue with this through into the spring season.
3: Mob Psycho II
In any other season this would easily have been my favourite show, but it had so much competition. Mob is the kind of character that you can’t help but will to succeed. At times he seems clueless and wet, but bless his pure little heart, he only wants the best for the people around him and the thought of causing anyone deliberate harm causes him emotional pain. Just as well he is the character with nigh-God-like powers, and the responsible attitude to using them. Reigen his con-man sensei is also a delight - he’s such a mess of a man, yet he makes an excellent role model for Mob - whether deliberately or by fluke, his actions tend to bring out the best in him. The remaining supporting characters are funny, sympathetic and varied. This is not one of those shows where you can hardly tell the characters apart. I believe the blu-rays have not done well in Japan. Even so, please make more of this!
2: The Promised Neverland
I already discussed why I loved this adaptation in my mid-season assessment, and more latterly here in AniTAY’s recent collaborative review. I won’t repeat myself - go read it. Then if you haven’t watched this tense, rewarding anime, do so. You won’t regret it.
1: Kaguya-sama: Love is War
I also contributed to the recent AniTAY collaborative review for this show. Common with some of the other reviewers, this was my favourite show of the season. It was clever, hilarious and treated its flawed yet sympathetic characters with surprising pathos. Go read about it here. And then watch it. And read the manga, which is also hilarious.
Thanks once again for reading my humble thoughts on recent anime. I’ll be back later in the Spring 2019 season to offer opinions on a few of the ongoing shows.