Oh my god this fall. I had a great time with this fall. The season was so strong! It felt like everything I picked up: “oh it’s good”, “oh it’s great”, “oh it’s amazing”. Almost nothing let me down. Everything I hoped to like, I liked! And then more on top of that! Some series did trail off over time, and of course I didn’t watch everything (that’s practically impossible), so I’m not gonna say literally every anime this season was worth watching — we still had the generic shounens, the edgefests, the Chinese co-productions — but we were served such a slate of quality by comparison that I do not mind in the slightest.

But before we get going, keep in mind I will only cover shows which ended this season, because those are what I’ll have a complete opinion on, which means I unfortunately won’t be talking about some very strong entries like Ancient Magus’ Bride, March comes in like a lion and more until next season. And while I do usually skip series I’ve already made videos on, in this case — for Kino’s Journey and Juuni Taisen — I’ll still cover them here because those videos were made mid-season, and I mostly said specific things about each, rather than my overall opinion.

So let’s get this roundup started with a holdover from last season...

Mahoujin Guru-Guru (Magical Circle Guru-Guru)

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Ah yes, poor Guru-Guru. It’s unanimously agreed to be awesome… among the five people that have actually seen it. I suppose it’s no surprise Guru-Guru didn’t make much of a splash among the western community; its childlike visual style alone would probably put off a lot of people, and it’s a re-adaptation of a manga from like the ‘90s, so it didn’t have much hype going for it either. Nonetheless, it’s a solid show. I don’t think I found it nearly as hilarious as many others, but it’s a pretty funny adventure series riffing on all sorts of JRPG (and general fantasy) tropes. And — I never hear this mentioned — I really liked the voice acting for the main couple, I thought they really helped to sell a lot of their scenes. At times I did feel the humor was a little too juvenile or just Japanese for my tastes, but I still had a good time and would recommend giving it a look if you are so inclined. Next, another summer leftover from Production IG...

Ballroom e Youkoso (Welcome to the Ballroom)

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A ballroom dancing sports anime by the studio that brought us Haikyuu and Kuroko no Basket. Does it reach that same lofty height? Short answer… n-no. Not really? I mean it’s fine, it’s a perfectly watchable series, but it lacked flair. The whole thing felt kind of rote, and that could’ve been assuaged if it looked good, but it only did at times. A lot of the dancing was either CGI or panning shots, with little to no animation. Usually well-drawn panning shots, but still panning shots, and the grotesquely elongated character designs certainly aren’t for everyone. There were a number of characters I liked, such as Chinatsu, and it did step up the production values when it absolutely had to, but overall in my opinion Ballroom is just a fine show. I know at the beginning I said I loved this season, and I haven’t seemed overflowing with love for these last two series, so let’s hit something I did think was great...

Net-juu no Susume (Recovery of an MMO Junkie)

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MMO Junkie follows a 30-year-old NEET (yes, a grown woman), who drops out of life to sit at home and play MMOs. While playing, she slowly comes to connect with other players, and some of those connections start to boil over into reality, culminating perhaps in a romantic situation. It’s hard to describe what makes this show so delightful just by reading off the synopsis like that, but I had a blast coming back to it each week. It’s a combination of the general charm and likeability of the characters, the surprisingly pointed way it presents MMOs and social anxieties, the relatively fast pace with which it moves — setting up misunderstandings or similar cliches only to resolve them within an episode or two — and the way it tangibly brings the main couple closer over time (even if some people were still left wanting by the ultimate conclusion; I was not one of them). If you’re looking for a fun romcom type show, and can tolerate a healthy dose of unlikely coincidences in your plot, this is one of my favorites of the year. Next we’ll go with another romance, but of the more teenage variety…

Just Because!

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Why should you watch this show? Just because! Ah hah hah — truly the height here. Where was I... right. If you liked Tsuki ga Kirei, I’d wager it’s a fair bet you’d like this too. Just Because has more of an ensemble cast rather than focusing on just the one couple, and it doesn’t so much deal with being in a relationship as it does the general fallout of graduating, but both have a similar grounded tone, school setting, deliberate pace, and shall-we-say lacking aesthetics. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary per se, so if a methodical teen drama is on principle not your thing, don’t bother with Just Because, but if you’re not yet tired of anime set in high school, this is a very respectable rendition of the genre. And y’know what, next let’s just get it out of the way and do...

Juuni Taisen

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Juuni Taisen throws twelve Zodiac themed combatants into a winner-takes-all deathmatch, and comes to us by way of Monogatari author Nisio Isin. In his usual subversive tongue-in-cheek manner, attentive viewers will be able to predict how the entire story plays out after only a couple episodes, which flies in the face of the usual “who will live, who will die” conversation that this sort of premise creates. My earlier Juuni Taisen rant — where I argued that this predictability is completely intentional and should not be held against the series — has become my most popular video ever, but it was also made in literally a day and came under some valid criticism. Namely, that I completely handwave what the series is trying to do in lieu of the standard death battle formula, so I’ll address that here.First, it goes all-in on subverting the battle royale premise (Ember Reviews has a great video on this I’d recommend checking out), then second, it’s a character study; an examination of the cast and a statement on how each of these individuals is shaped by the violence and cruelty inherent to their society. The battle doesn’t strictly “matter”, because it’s a vehicle for that and random senseless death is just the world’s modus operandi, within the context of Juuni Taisen.

So that’s what it’s trying to do, but with that video I was not trying to make the case that it necessarily succeeds at this. I was just trying to explain that you’re looking at the series wrong if you want Juuni Taisen to be a Fate/Zero, and should adjust your expectations accordingly. It’s perfectly valid to hold that the show is still a failure despite that because the animation quality collapses, or the fights are anticlimactic, or you feel that the character writing just isn’t very strong. I enjoyed the show, and even I couldn’t argue that everyone was compelling or well-written. Horse was weak, and Snake and Dragon barely warranted one focus episode, let alone two, but I was interested by enough of the rest that it held my attention from start to finish. If you felt differently, more power to you, and if you are looking for an actual Fate series from this season, I suppose there’s always...

Fate/Apocrypha

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As far as I can tell, the community has not been kind to Fate/Apocrypha. Outside of Episode 22, which was generally hailed as a crowning achievement of animation for the industry, the show’s been blasted for being derivative, boring and otherwise poor — which I don’t think is necessarily unfair, but I did get some enjoyment out of Apocrypha. The first half especially was a lot of action and spectacle, which I found fun in its own right, but things really took a dive in the third quarter, when it calmed down and started focusing on the characters, most of whom are not very good nor entertaining to watch. It picked up again in that same “explosions are fun!” way come the last bundle of episodes, but I don’t think I could go so far as to call it an actually good series. If you just want a bunch of people fighting and killing each other, you could do worse, but you could also do better. I don’t have any series that would make a good transition from that, so let’s do...

Shokugeki no Soma: San no Sara (Food Wars! The Third Plate)

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I felt that this was kind of a return to form for Food Wars after the good but not-as-good second season. It drives the stakes up higher than they’ve ever been, adding a sense of urgency to the story that hasn’t really been present to this degree before. In all fairness however, the animation was very shoddy, and I hope they brush that up for the April return, but otherwise if you’re a fan of Food Wars, no reason to stop watching these over-the-top cookoffs and orgasmically good food yet. Speaking of shoddy animation…

Shoukoku no Altair (Altair: A Record of Battles)

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One of three MAPPA shows airing this season, after two more ended last season. This is a rate of production that does not seem sustainable, and that’s very much coming through with how something like Altair looks. Altair is a political war drama show, which is right in my wheelhouse so I enjoyed it anyway, but it does feel like a poor adaptation, even to someone like me who has not read the source material. The pacing often felt unnaturally rushed, and the art is constantly poor, whether off-model, replaced by CGI, or just barely ever moving. It has inspired in me a desire to read the manga, because I’m always up for a tactical war story, but this doesn’t seem like the best way to experience it. One of the other MAPPA shows of the season, which looked better but far from great itself was…

Inuyashiki

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In Inuyashiki, two men are unknowingly granted godlike power by aliens, one a well-meaning old man and the other a sociopathic teenager. Doesn’t take a genius to know where that story goes, as one works to help mankind and the other tries to tear it down, with all this character stuff in between. I know someone in my position is expected to explain their opinions, but I find it hard to put into words why I enjoyed Inuyashiki as much as I did. It’s got action, it’s got characters — of admittedly varying quality — and it’s got violence. Quite a bit of violence. If you can handle large quantities of blood, and some god-awful CGI, maybe give it a try. On the topic of CGI...

Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous)

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I would give Land of the Lustrous the dubiously impressive title of “best 3D TV anime”. It certainly looks nice, and makes use of being 3D to do things that would be impossible or impractical in 2D, like highly active camera movements and the gem-like hair of all the characters. The show’s about a race of life forms, called Gems, protecting their home from invasion by strange beings from the Moon, assisted by an equally strange bald man whom they refer to simply as Sensei. The show is a manga adaptation, but its plot structure kind of reminded me of a light novel, constantly introducing new elements without taking the time to really resolve old ones, but in this case, it worked. The immediate plot and characters have enough intrigue that, rather than be annoyed by the unanswered questions, my thought process instead was “damn this is good, what happens next? I need to read the manga.” And I guess that’s exactly what a series like this wants to do, so well done. A very different series that also made me interested in seeing more was...

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Girls’ Last Tour)

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Your average slice of life, except for the fact that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic cityscape where almost nothing is still alive. I didn’t call it a slice of life as a joke though, that’s actually what it is. The series follows these two girls, Chito and Yuuri, living their days in a world very different from our own, passively observing their surroundings and occasionally putting the pieces together of the crumbled civilization around them, before moving on. It’s a uniquely dark series without ever really feeling dour, because these two don’t know life any other way, so the show’s basically just friends wandering a wasteland rather than, say, a survival drama or anything like that. It can be slow, and not all of its many anecdotes are equally interesting, but so many hit that right mix of cute and contemplative, that Girls’ Last Tour is also one of my favorites of the season. Another highlight was of course...

Gintama.: Porori-hen (Slip Arc)

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Back at it again. This time, rather than continuing the point-of-no-return drama that enveloped the last season, this chunk of Gintama turned back the clock, adapting comedy chapters from the manga that the series had previously skipped for whatever reason. I don’t feel there’s much I need to say here, it’s more of a 300+ episode series, and I’ve already made videos detailing my thoughts on Gintama in the past. It’s fun. It’s good. Watch it. The final arc’s starting this month. Get hype. And starting now, we’s going to blitz some shows about cute girls. Anime, am I right? Number one...

Love Live! Sunshine!! Season 2

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Over the summer, when I noticed there’d be a new season coming out this fall, I decided to check out Love Live on a whim. After years of making fun of it with friends… turns out, it was actually not that bad; dare I say, even good. Love Live is so energetic, it’s a very easy show to just turn on and watch, pulling you into its pace. While I do have my problems with Sunshine, in that I feel most of the characters are defined more by quirks than actual personalities as compared to the original, I’m certainly still enjoying it, and it looks better than ever. If you have any curiosity at all about Love Live, give it a shot! You might be like me, and have a much better time than you were expecting. Number two...

Konohana Kitan

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I think I need to learn that these all-girl slice of life series just aren’t my cup of tea, and stop trying to watch them. Girls’ Last Tour had the whole intrigue of the setting, and vaguely fatalistic themes that came with it, but something like this, fox girls working a hot springs inn… eh. The inn does exist in some sort of purgatory, and the episodes that leaned into that aspect did have some emotional punch, but overall I’m pretty lukewarm on Konohana Kitan. Apologies to fans. Number three...

Blend S

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Blend S is a workplace comedy about a maid cafe, where every maid has some put-on anime personality, like the tsundere or the little sister, and is a rare show I picked up in the middle of the season (rather than right off the bat) because I’d heard good things, that it was really funny. It really wasn’t. I… don’t know what else to say, its sense of humor didn’t work for me. Watching the show, I felt bored more than anything. Not to say you’re wrong if you love Blend S, but for me it didn’t click. The meme’s alright though. Number four...

Himouto! Umaru-chan R

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The perfect honor student at school is actually a deadbeat otaku at home. That’s the premise here. Now you might similarly expect me not to care for Umaru-chan, and I did go in with low expectations, since the show gets such a bad rap with the community — but frankly, I feel it’s undeserved. Umaru is a bit of brat, but the show’s not purely twenty minute chunks of Umaru making her brother’s life hell. Over time, she goes through a fair amount of growth, coming to enjoy and value the company of others, and feeling bad (to some degree) for her selfishness, and this season goes even further to flesh out the myriad side characters. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but I do find it enjoyable, and at times even heart-warming. Number five…

Yuki Yuna wa Yuusha de Aru (Yuki Yuna is a Hero) Season 2

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Ok, this’ll be the last one, as this already strays pretty far from the rest of the cute girl material, since Yuki Yuna is a magical girl show; this second season being 6 episodes a prequel and 6 episodes a sequel to the original series. I don’t love Yuki Yuna, and really only watched this ‘cause I’d seen the first, so figured why not? My problem with the original was that I felt like the show tried to be both a cutesy and dark magical girl series without really excelling at either. The slice of life scenes weren’t very funny or memorable, and the dramatic scenes were undercut by the writing’s refusal to attach lasting consequences to events. Now it just so happens that this time the second complaint isn’t as much of an issue, especially in the prequel, where tragic things happen with no way of undoing them. Still, I can’t say I’m really a fan of the characters and the overall trajectory of the story feels in my opinion erratic, so if they end up making another, I might drop out here. Time will tell. Next up, finally off the cute girls bender…

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond (Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond)

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I wouldn’t fault anyone who came to this season with some trepidation, because Rie Matsumoto (the director of the first season) was replaced, and she was great — but I think Kekkai Sensen made the transition just fine. It’s still a very high-energy and very fun show, a crazy whirlwind of action and superpowers in a New York City teeming with otherworldly beings. This season discards the building plot structure that the first favored, instead going almost entirely episodic and focusing on characters that were basically only a name and face in the original, which was fine by me. I didn’t think the main plot of the first season was really that great, so I don’t at all mind that this time it just cut loose with wacky nonsense. A different kind of wacky nonsense came to us from...

Hozuki no Reitetsu (Hozuki’s Coolheadedness) Season 2

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I want to like this show, but I’m just not Japanese enough. The series follows level-headed demon manager Hozuki as he does his work in Japanese hell, packed to the brim with Japanese folklore and pop culture references. That’s all well and good, but it just so happens that as an American, I don’t get most of those references, so my enjoyment mostly caps out at “boy these wacky shenanigans sure are wacky”. To be totally honest, I don’t feel I’m the right audience to make a judgment on this show, but I feel perfectly right passing it on...

Kino no Tabi (Kino’s Journey) -the Beautiful World- the Animated Series

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Like Juuni Taisen, I do have a video on the new Kino’s Journey, in which I basically outline that due to the way it’s chosen to adapt its stories, this series feels disjointed, composed of climax after climax, without much downtime in between. It’s a rote adaptation with no pizzaz, no thought given to the overall structure of the series, which oftens robs episodes of key context which could’ve pushed them from good to great. (It adapted Kind Country before Country of Adults. If you’re familiar with Kino, that says it all.) In the end, it’s a fine enough show, but it feels supported by its source material, as opposed to the 2003 series which sought to enhance it. Look, I know how that sounds. No one likes to hear “brrgh, the old series was so much better! the new version sucks!”, but (A) I’m not saying it sucks, and (B) that’s just honestly how I feel. But, let it be known that I do actually prefer the art design of the newer series. Ok, so before I’m lynched by new and old fans alike for all that I’ve said, our last series is…

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Children of the Whales)

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Really striking visuals. I like the style of this show a lot. It has a little of that Owari no Seraph thing going, where the characters clash with the backgrounds, but generally this is tolerable, and the setting is really cool too. It’s like this island floating through a sea of sand and all the inhabitants have psychic abilities. It starts off as a slice-of-lifey show with some slight intrigue, before suddenly going full action-drama. I don’t mind the shift (some do), but I can’t argue that the writing doesn’t struggle over time, which is disappointing because I loved the show initially and only liked it by end. I guess that’s just how these things go.

Whoo. And that is it. Probably my top season of the year. It didn’t have my absolute favorite anime, or even my second favorite, and some of its biggest standouts will have to wait until next season’s video (as I mentioned at the beginning), but the sheer quantity of goodness was something I haven’t seen in quite a while.