Better late than never, it is time to check in on where the 17 shows I am watching week to week currently stand with me. I originally intended for this to be done within the last two weeks, but a very untimely back injury sidelined me during that time, preventing me from dedicating the time necessary to get this article out. Maybe instead of trying to time it to a rigid “6 to 7 weeks into the season” like originally planned, I should go with a looser, “sometime between weeks 5 and 8” aka the middle month of the season.
Anyways, if you are in need of a refresher, I’ve shifted from my usual seasonal awards method to a system of medals ranging from as high as platinum medals, given to shows I just absolutely positively love from top to bottom, the shows I can’t get out of my head and often go out of my way to watch, all the way down to the lowly black medals, a mark of shame signifying that I should have cut my losses and quit while I was ahead. The purpose of these progress reports is to show where the shows I am simulcasting on a weekly basis currently sit at the middle part of the season where the shows are often taken shape, but may not have fully played their hands yet. I exclude any shows that aren’t airing weekly at the time I write the article, so things like Netflix’s Violet Evergarden and Aggretsuko will not be appearing in this article. Their time to shine will be at the end of the season article. So with that out of the way, let’s start with the dreaded black medal shows.
Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line
I will admit that this cour of Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line has actually quite improved over the much maligned first half of this season. They even finally gave Hakone a checkpoint win that, plot wise, they actually deserved to win. Unfortunately, the damage the earlier onslaught of Hakone win after Hakone win made many people either not care who won this particular checkpoint, or had people actively cheering the person the Hakone rider was racing against despite, 1) the Hakone rider in question being one of the few returning Hakone riders from the previous Inter-High, meaning they were a character people actually liked, and 2) the person he was racing against was a creepy bastard with absolutely no concept of personal space.
That is why Glory Line is currently still on track for a black medal, because even though this cour has improved things, you have to sit through a whole bunch of bullshit to get to the good stuff. Add on top of that the unshakeable feeling that they still won’t be finished with this Inter-High by the end of the season(they are only now racing towards the finish line on Day 2 of the Inter-High), and it is very likely this season can end on a sour note.
The second season of the relaxing yuri diving show is currently parking here, because I honestly just don’t know what the hell to think about this season. The first season, which I absolutely freaking loved, was a straight forward tale about a shy, introverted girl who moved into a new town, met new friends, and took up a new hobby. This season, on the other hand, has been more...fantastical.
The prior season was grounded in reality, but this season has had an episode where large chunks of it were dedicated to a Flying Witch-like lucid dream sequence, and another episode based around a character that was a confirmed ghost. It looks like it is even going to dive more in depth into this ghost storyline. It still has several absolutely gorgeous diving scenes, and the series’ signature “muppet forms” are back in full force, so it very clearly is still Amanchu!, while also not fully being Amanch!, if that makes any sense.
DARLING in the FRANXX
Oh, DARLING, what the god damn hell happened? Where did you go wrong? Just a month ago, a mere freaking month ago, I was singing the high praises for you after the stellar three episode arc of episodes 13-15. And then this month rolled around, and each subsequent week my love for you just falters more and more. It is still a beautifully produced show, make no mistake, Trigger and A-1 Pictures are still putting in the work. The music is still good, too.
It is the writing that is failing the show. Between too many inconsistencies to count spread amongst the characters and the world building, shining messages I’m not too comfortable with loud and clear, and the fact that this far into the series and I’m still wondering what the actual fucking plot is, I’ve just lost all confidence that this show can work narratively. I’m not entirely ready to give this show a black medal yet, but if this downward spiral continues, I fear I won’t be left with much of a choice. If nothing else, this is certainly the most frustrated I’ve been with a show Trigger was involved with since Inou-Battle.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
“Tick tack, tick tack”, come on Sakura, you need to listen to the lyrics of your own damn ending theme! Time is rapidly running out on Clear Card, and so far, in the grand scheme of things, a whole lot of nothing has happened in this show. Well, aside from Sakura gathering a whole bunch of the Clear Cards. There are several little plot threads, and some of the plot’s future plays are pretty obvious, but there is just no real substance to this show yet. This show is like a dessert cake. It is sweet, fluffy, and not at all filling. Enjoyable while experiencing it, but not really memorable once you finish. The worries about where this season is going aside, the pure enjoyability of the show is why this is still lingering on path for a silver medal, instead of being demoted to bronze. That may change with how this show ends, however.
Food Wars! The Third Plate Part 2
This third season of Food Wars! has proven to be utterly stupid, but the good, enjoyable kind of stupid. The plans of the series’ new big bad villain, Food Aizen(come on, he even has the same voice actor), are ridiculous and instantly fall apart when you apply even an ounce of logic to it, but it also is highly entertaining. His introduction has also led to Erina, once one of the characters that annoyed me the most in the show, to grow significantly as a character and gain several more dimensions. The stakes are probably the highest they’ve been in the series so far, and thankfully the show has morphed into more of a true ensemble show, rather than just being the Soma Yukihira Show, occasionally guest starring Megumi Tadokoro. All things considered, The Third Plate is probably my favorite season of Food Wars! yet.
Lostorage conflated WIXOSS
It’s WIXOSS: All-Stars time, baby! While neither Lostorage season has quite matched my love for the two Selector seasons of WIXOSS, this is definitely the better of the two Lostorage entries so far. With it clearly looking like the WIXOSS animated franchise is gearing up for a conclusive ending, it is nice to see the franchise bring as many key players back into the fold as it can. The rules are quite different and even riskier than before, so each battle is more tense than usual. Here’s hoping my favorite card battle series in recent memory can go out on a much deserved bang, rather than a whimper.
My Hero Academia Season 3
The third entry in the franchise about hero sandwiches and macadamia nuts is as solid as ever. I make no bones that I don’t love MHA as much as many, many others do, nor do I hate it as much as many, many others do either. I enjoy it immensely, and can’t deny that Bones has done a hell of a job crafting this show. This season is easily off to the best start out of any of the MHA seasons in my opinion, though, being exciting and entertaining from the first(real) episode. The previous two seasons took a while to get going for my tastes, but not this one. If this season continues on this upward trajectory, who knows, maybe the franchise will finally break into the gold medal tier for me.
Ninja Girl & Samurai Master 3rd
The premier edutainment short about the Sengoku Jidai is back for another season, and I couldn’t be happier because of it. In a season where quality weekly shorts are at a premium, I will gladly cling to any I can get. The show is still cute and hilarious, but this season in particular has more of a somber edge to it, thanks to the fact that we’ve come to the part of Sengoku history where many of the show’s historical characters, well, start dying, giving an already quality show an extra punch.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
I am having an absolute blast with this show. Compared to the other seasons of Sword Art Online, this is a tad shallow, just being about Squad Jam events, battle royales between teams of players in the game Gun Gale Online from the second season of Sword Art Online, but that shallowness kinda works in the show’s favor. It’s nowhere near as overly dramatic as the mainline SAO tends to regularly be, and instead is just purely...fun. It’s actually some of the most fun I’m having out of any show this season. Honestly what is currently keeping this show in silver is I can’t quite tell yet if I am having all this fun on this show’s own merits, or if the fact that it is a less serious and not as badly written SAO. Out of all my silver medal shows, this is probably the closest to being upgraded to gold currently.
Cute girls doing cute things shows are a staple of the the slice of life genre, at this point being a firmly established sub-genre. Comic Girls is quickly becoming one of the better ones of its ilk. The show is managing a great balancing act of effective comedy and emotional pathos, both of which, surprisingly enough, primarily coming from the same source. That source being the struggles of becoming an artist, particularly a professional artist. At the heart of the series is Kaoruko “Kaos-chan” Moeta, a diminutive teenage mangaka struggling to catch her big break into the industry. She is both a hilarious and extremely pitiable character that drives the show. Kaos-chan isn’t alone, however, as her friends at the all girls mangaka dorm she lives in are also reliably amusing characters. This show manages to get stronger with each passing week, and I can’t wait to see what else it has in store for us.
Rather fittingly, the show about a treasure hunt for a large horde of gold is on path to be a gold medal show for me. While the show has had some run ins with some...questionable...visual choices, everything else about this show has just been phenomenal. I am always a sucker for historic shows, as well as pulp-y old school adventure shows, and Golden Kamuy manages to combine both into a loving package. The show takes place in post-Russo-Japanese War Hokkaido, while also giving us one of the most detailed and faithful looks at Ainu culture ever depicted. It also is an old school treasure hunt tale, where one of the main characters seemingly has Wolverine-like immortality(though not quite the same level of healing). Speaking of the main characters, I absolutely love the dynamic between Sugimoto and Asirpa. This is a relentlessly entertaining show, and I’ll be sad to see it go.
Arguably the premier comedy series of the season, or at least the best one airing week to week, Hinamatsuri is one of those weird and absurd comedies that just...works. The latest anime series to follow the formula of a show where a man becomes an unexpecting father figure to a young girl, shockingly enough, the best parts of Hinamatsuri don’t even involve the main duo of Nitta and Hina. Rather the true stand outs of the show are Hina’s classmate Hitomi(who I feel is the real MVP of the series, in a similar way to how Satania took over Gabriel DropOut) and Anzu, another telekinetic person from the future...or wherever she and Hina came from. Hitomi brings the laughs, being the source of the funniest parts in the show, while Anzu brings the feels, being the center of most of the emotional moments in the show. This duo of Hitomi and Anzu is so damn good that the show can effortlessly survive multiple episodes of Nitta and Hina being glorified extras.
I love Steins;Gate, it is one of my favorite anime and visual novel franchises out there. So when I caught word that they were adapting Steins;Gate 0 to anime as well, I was on cloud nine. So far the show is delivering on my expectations. I love the concept of Steins;Gate 0, showing us a timeline where things didn’t exactly work out for our heroes and we get to watch them live in the aftermath. Like the first Steins;Gate, though, this is a methodical series, and it is pacing things out in a way that keeps you dreading that other shoe inevitably dropping. Having been through the Steins;Gate ride before, I know that the show is playing with its cards to its chest, and I can’t wait for every twist and turn along the way.
Umamusume: Pretty Derby
Really? Yes...really. If you know me, then by now you’d know that I am always down for monster girl shows, if nothing else to see how each individual show manages its world building. To my surprise, Umamusume has some of the most detailed and in depth in the genre. Which is even more surprising when you consider the utterly ridiculous premise of the show. Initially combining aspects of both sports and idol anime, Umamusume is a show about a world where horse girls evolved in the place of normal horses, and in the present day of this world, horse girls participate in a form of horse racing that is more like a pro wrestling tilt on long distance Olympic running, as the girls don colorful and sometimes gimmicky outfits.
At the conclusion of each race, the horse girls that finish in the Top 3 then perform in an idol concert. As the series goes on, though, they significantly downplay the idol concert side of things, with the show eventually focusing solely on the racing aspect. It is here that the show truly shines, because like another silly yet also earnest sports anime, Keijo!!!!!!!!, Umamusume is silly and goofy as much as it wants to be, acknowledging how, well, stupid, the sport on paper is, but when it comes to actually covering the sport, to its credit it actually treats the sport with utmost respect and gravitas. Umamusume is one of those shows that absolutely shouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is, but it goes above and upon all expectations to be one of the season’s genuine stand outs.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku
I quite love this seemingly recent trend of romcom series following the lives of geeky adults we’ve been getting. Following in the footsteps of shows like Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Wotakoi focuses on a cast of relatable office workers in their twenties that happen to all be massive otaku, though they do focus on different fields of otakudom, such as one being predominantly a gamer, another is a dedicated cosplayer, and another is a doujinshi mangaka.
The show early on perfectly captured that feeling of finding out your coworkers are also fans of anime. Another strong point in the series’ favor is how it occasionally focuses on the characters’ anxieties about being in relationships and whether or not they are being good partners or if their partners simply are “settling” for them when they could probably “do better”. These moments give the show a nice edge to it so it isn’t just all comedy all the time.
Lupin the 3rd Part 5
Ho...ly...crap. This season of Lupin the 3rd has been just simply amazing. There has yet to be a bad episode this season, with the weakest so far being a masterfully done loving tribute to Lupin the 3rd Part 3, complete with the characters rocking their old color schemes and everything. This season has seen Lupin tackle his toughest foe yet, the advancement of technology.
This was the main focus of the first arc in this season, where Lupin and friends had to try to survive a lethal combination of gamification and social media after freeing a teenage wunderkind super hacker from her bondage and using her skills to steal a vast fortune of money from a deep web criminal ring. The second arc has Lupin going toe to toe with a foe who has the wits and skills to not only match, but surpass Lupin at every turn as they battle over a little black notebook whose contents could have devastating effects on France. The show is as gorgeous as ever, and the core Lupin cast is strong like usual, with newcomer Ami, the hacker, being one of the season’s genuine highlights.
If you are intimidated to partake in this season of Lupin because of that big ol’ “Part 5” in the title and you never watched Lupin before, you could just jump right in with this season, because each season of Lupin the 3rd, and in fact every entry in the franchise, are self-contained, and the overall simplistic nature of the cast is a huge advantage, because you get a great feel for them within seconds of being introduced to them for the first time. If you still aren’t convinced, you can always hop over to Netflix and watch the excellent Castle of Cagliostro, the first film from the beloved Hayao Miyazaki. It is a Lupin the 3rd film and has the entire core cast of characters in it, then you can pop back on Crunchyroll and watch Part 5 without any trouble.
The 50th anniversary project for the Ashita no Joe boxing franchise, Megalobox is a loving spiritual successor/pseudo-remake. Featuring new takes on the characters from the old series, but placed in a futuristic world where the sport of boxing has “evolved” to where boxers wear exo-suits called gear to aid them in the ring, Megalobox simultaneously feels fresh and familiar. The show runs on the mentality that anything worth doing isn’t easy, best examplified by its central character, Junk Dog, a relatively unknown fighter with no real identity who tries to work his way up to earning an invitation to Megalonia, the biggest Megaloboxing tournament in the world, where only the four best get to compete.
In a season loaded to the gills with sports anime, this is bar none the best in class. Each fight is brutal and intense. Every punch has pronounced weight behind it. The show’s aesthetic is also something that needs to be greatly applauded. Not only do the characters have old school character designs similar to the ‘80s and ‘90s, but they go to the ridiculous length of making the show intentionally look like it is an uprezzed HD release of a classic series. This show is in a class of its own, and continues this year’s trend of amazing new entries in storied franchises, joining the likes of Devilman Crybaby.
And that’ll do it for now. That’s currently where all the shows I am watching weekly stand as we get ready to head into the last month+ of the season. To find out where the shows among this group that will be eligible at the end of the season ultimately end up, as well as all those juicy Netflix shows and any other show I happen to pick up between now and then, keep an eye out for my end of season article around the end of June. Until next time!