Sorry for the...rather long delay. That’s what unfortunately happens when the perfect storm of being extremely busy at work and waiting for a certain show to finally end barrels down upon me and wrecks anything remotely resembling any sort of plans I had in terms of a timetable for getting this out before being *checks notes* four god damn weeks into the Summer season at the time of writing. In a funny twist of fortunes, while things weren’t anywhere near as chaotic out in the real world for me as it was in the Winter season, I ended up finishing fewer shows this season. It wasn’t a massive decline in numbers, only finishing 15 this season compared to the 16 last. Among those shows I finished was Violet Evergarden who was finally freed from her imprisonment on Netflix in the US at the start of the season, meaning that true to my word, the show is eligible for consideration this season.
This season also finally saw me starting to watch Amazon’s offerings seasonally again for the first time since Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress ended, bringing it up to a total of three streaming services I use to watch anime. Should HIDIVE actually make good on their plans to roll out a Roku app before the end of this year, that could end up being a ridiculous four streaming services at the same time.
So, cards on the table, with the sheer lack of free time I usually find myself with nowadays compared to years prior, I don’t think I can continue doing two full blown “talk about every show I saw” articles a season. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean the mid-season progress report article(which, shockingly I’ll be doing the Summer one at some point before August is over) is going anywhere. Instead I’ve decided to change up the end of the season one, because this one has a smaller window of relevance, and thus a tighter deadline, at least on paper. As such I’m going to do a kind of hybridization of the what was current format and the prior format.
Basically this is a very long-winded way to say I’m bringing back the genre awards and screw it the Anime of the Season award too while I’m at it(but not the character awards, unfortunately), because only having to talk at length about roughly 6 shows for certain instead of a full, in this case, 15 shows drastically cuts down on the production time. However, I’m not bringing the genre awards back exactly as they previously where, because I’m still gonna be incorporating that whole medal thing I’ve been doing this year. The winners will have their medals on full display in their respective genre award images, while I’ll also include a runner-up section where I’ll list all of the other shows in that genre I finished that season and also list their respective medals. Because of me using the medal aspect, though, that means the genre awards and AotS award will be restricted to only the shows I finished this season, as the shows still going in the Summer season still have their medals technically speaking up in the air.
Trust me, I really, really hate being so inconsistent with this, saying one thing, then completely changing it just a couple seasons later, but unfortunately I’m just subject to factors in my life that sometimes force me to make these changes or otherwise face not putting out anything at all.
So with that...mess...all out of the way, let’s start with my production awards.
Winner: “Winding Road” by MAN WITH A MISSION (Golden Kamuy)
It’s quite funny, really. Despite being a huge fan of MAN WITH A MISSION ever since they did the opening for Log Horizon(holy crap that’s a 5 year old song now...), they never actually had my top pick for an OP in a given season. The closest they came was the second opening in the first season of Seven Deadly Sins. That ultimately made my list of favorite OPs and EDs that year, but still. This, however, just wasn’t any kind of contest. All season long there was exactly one OP I kept immediately seeking out to listen to. Every single time I got the itch to just listen to the OPs from this season I liked, that little session always started out with this one, and just progressed from there. There’s no other way to put it, this is my favorite MAN WITH A MISSION song, and yet funnily enough out of all the MWAM songs I’ve heard it is probably the least MAN WITH A MISSION-like song they’ve done that I’ve heard. That being said, it was greatly helped out on its path to becoming my favorite OP of the season.
To be quite honest this season wasn’t actually a particularly strong one for OPs, in my opinion. In the Winter we were spoiled for choice, but this time it was very much a quality over quantity season. It kind of says things when one of the best OPs was a different spin of an OP from the previous season(talking about DARLING in the FRANXX’s second OP here). However, a rather weak season for OPs only goes so far with helping this take the crown, as my second favorite OP of the season, the OP for Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line, was always right there nipping at its heels.
What helped push this over the top to claim victory over the crafty biker bois was the combination of its great use of the credits(I’ve been a strong proponent that OPs and EDS, but especially OPs, should work with their credits more often, and this opening does an ingenious trick of transitioning in the credits via the famed tattoos on the bodies of the prisoners swiping across the screen) and some downright incredible shots, such as Asirpa leaning down with her hand extended to Sugimoto with the moon glowing behind her, a brilliant shot of Asirpa riding Retar across the screen with the moon, again, glowing in the background, an absolutely stunning shot that only appears very briefly of a group of Ainu people that looks like it easily could have fit in with any of the actual historical photographs of the Ainu we have, and of course the sequence at the start of the chorus where the camera moves around Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Retar fighting some unseen foe off camera. There are so many things I love about this opening, both musically and visually, that if I had the time, I easily could have written a full article about it.
Winner: “Seine no Kaze ni... (Adieu)” by Miyuki Sawashiro (Lupin the 3rd Part 5)
While I didn’t really feel most of the openings this season, the endings are a completely different story altogether. Sweet merciful Jesus was this tightly contested. So much so that I’ll gladly admit that I don’t actually think this was the “best” one I saw this season. Right off the top of my head I’d at the very least rank “Hibana” from Golden Kamuy and “Kakatte koi yo” from Megalobox above this in terms of sheer, “Man I kinda can’t wait for this episode to end so I can see the ED again”, and a few others I’d rank at roughly the same level as this. In fact, in terms of EDs I looked forward to seeing, I actually kind of dreaded this one, as it meant the end of yet another stellar episode of Lupin the 3rd.
However, thankfully this is for my favorite ED of the season and not the one I thought was actually the best. And in that regard there is no question why this is my favorite of the Spring season. It is basically a 1:25 long tribute video for Fujiko Mine, one of the best women to come from anime ever. We also get the somewhat rare treat of Miyuki Sawashiro singing, which is always a bonus, plus I love how this song, much like the OP of this season of Lupin, incorporates French instruments and music into the proceedings. It is just a very pleasant song to listen to, and much like with Golden Kamuy’s OP, there are a lot of just absolutely gorgeous shots included here. It is one of those things that is kind of easy to forget, because of the Fujiko sexy time at the beginning of the ED, which even that is actually rather artfully depicted.
Winner: A Mother’s Love (Violet Evergarden)
It says a lot when, in a season absolutely jam packed with numerous memorable moments, including some of the biggest moments in the medium recently, that my personal pick for favorite moment came down to arguably the two best scenes in a single show. Episodes 7 and 10 are my absolute favorite episodes in Violet Evergarden, in no small part because of their respective emotional climaxes, and they both mirror each other, involving a parent, their child, and one remembering the other after they had tragically passed on due to illness. However, I just have to give the edge to the scene from the tenth episode, for one because I can emotionally connect with it more, as I don’t have children. On top of that, the scale and scope of time this moment covers transpires multiple years via an emotionally charged montage.
As is what is quickly becoming a running theme this time around, yet again I have to point out my favorite moment wasn’t the same as what I felt was the best moment. Laying it all out there, if I had to choose based on what I thought was the best moment in the Spring season, it would probably be All Might vs. All For One in My Hero Academia, or at the very least the immediate fallout of it. That or the resolution to Megalobox. Kinda hard to choose because they were both really damn good.
*slow clap* Bravo, mabanua, bra-freaking-vo. The soundtrack in Megalobox is not only, in my opinion, far and away the best of this season, it is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. Each track is a great song in and of itself, and when mixed together you have this insane assortment of songs that feel unique yet at the same time like they belong together. This soundtrack manages to make an eclectic mix of hard hitting songs mesh perfectly with hip hop as well as a smattering of calmer songs. Much like the characters in Megalobox, the soundtrack is able to overcome all logical odds and excel.
Winner: Violet Evergarden
Being a KyoAni show, Violet Evergarden of course looks gorgeous, but for the first half of the series, I wasn’t fully locked in on giving the show the nod for having my favorite visuals in the season. I was actually favoring Megalobox’s dedication to looking like an HD upscaled old school series pretty much as much as I was enjoying this show’s visuals. But then episode 7 of Violet Evergarden happened, and we got the above scene, and that was that. There just wasn’t any doubt left in my mind as to what the best looking show of the season was. The kicker is that Violet Evergarden isn’t just a beautiful show, it is a particularly stunning show even by KyoAni’s ridiculously high level of quality. This is easily one of their strongest outings, and they should be proud of what they were able to accomplish.
I loved the writing in a lot of shows from this season, but nearly all season long this was basically a three horse race between Hinamatsuri, Golden Kamuy, and Lupin the 3rd Part 5, mainly for their abilities to use their entire casts to great effect and smartly executed arcs. All three shows also managed to make less than kosher people worth rooting for, as nearly everyone in Golden Kamuy and Lupin are some form of criminal or other lowlife, and a good portion of Hinamatsuri’s cast follows in this path as well, as a substantial portion of the characters belong to the yakuza. On top of that they were all able to perfectly balance when to be humorous and when to be serious. Golden Kamuy had the advantage of covering a lot of subject matter that I am interested in that we just never really see get covered in media, while Lupin was giving a fresh updated spin on a classic franchise.
However, I have to give the edge to Hinamatsuri for one really major reason, Hinamatsuri was able to routinely, and quite confidently I might add, maneuver its main duo of Hina and Nitta to the sidelines and allow supporting characters Hitomi, Anzu, and Mao take control over multiple episodes. Few shows are able to manage this to this level of success, and I’m not saying Golden Kamuy or Lupin can’t do this either, because we got a few episodes in Golden Kamuy where Sugimoto and Asirpa weren’t the complete and total main focus, and one of the best episodes in this season of Lupin so far was an episode focused on Goemon instead of the titular thief. It is just that they didn’t have anywhere near the amount of main character benching that Hinamatsuri did.
And with that, time for the genre awards.
Runner-up: Food Wars! The Third Plate Part 2 (Silver), Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online (Gold), Umamusume: Pretty Derby (Gold), Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line (Bronze)
The action genre easily made up the bulk of the shows I was watching this series, and that is in no small part due to it being one of the most plentiful of all the genres. The funny thing is this season the action genre was dominated by sports and sports-like shows for me. Even Gun Gale Online could technically count if you view it from the angle of the Squad Jam events being eSports competitions. This genre also had the largest amount of shows that genuinely surprised me this season.
Food Wars! continued to improve this season, thanks to furthering Erina’s development as a character, and while the villain(s) and their motivation are goofy as all hell, it fits the tone of this series perfectly, because this is just a silly show.
Speaking of silly shows, Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online realized just how ridiculous the franchise is, and just ran with it, taking potshots at the main series whenever it could, while also delivering a purely entertaining series that I just couldn’t help but enjoy. For some reason, seeing a bunch of gamers exploiting all the mechanics in a game to their advantage made for a far more enthralling experience than the super serious and oftentimes overdramatic tale of the main series, go figure. Having an actual end that was pretty satisfying all things considered also helped this show, finally getting it over the hump and into the gold medal tier.
The biggest surprise by far of this entire season was Umamusume. This show just should not have worked at all. And yet P.A.Works managed to make it work, against all logic. It was the right call, in my opinion, to scale back the focus on the idol concert aspect of the series and just solely focus on the races, because the show simply excelled once they did that. Turning it from a more comedic series into a series that was able to be both funny and engrossing, and sometimes emotional.
However, despite how much I might have enjoyed the other shows in the genre this season, there was just no question whatsoever. The king amongst the action shows was Megalobox. As entertaining and well made as many of the others were, this show was just in another league. If there is a weak episode in Megalobox, I didn’t notice it. I was all in on this show from bell to bell. The music, the unique visuals, even how effectively the show was able to play around with expectations at every turn. It may not be a super complex show or anything of the sort, but sometimes you don’t need a deep story to have a truly phenomenal show.
Winner: Golden Kamuy
Runner-up: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card (Silver)
It is rather funny that neither of the adventure shows I finished this season had conclusive finales. Obviously because both of their manga series are still ongoing, but like we didn’t even really get like end of an arc finales. They both just...end.
However, unlike Clear Card, Golden Kamuy has a second season eminently on the horizon, so this is less egregious. The way Golden Kamuy ended its first season is honestly the only reason why it is a gold medal and not a platinum medal, because god damn did I love the hell out of this show this season, to the point where the second season is instantly my most hyped show in the Fall. Yes, even managing to top my hype for JoJo’s Part 5. Clear Card is not a bad show by any measure whatsoever. I enjoyed actually watching each individual episode, it is just it is extremely clear(heh) that the show didn’t utilize its time wisely, as pacing, at least storywise, is glacial, taking nearly the entire show for them to even begin attempting to do anything with their myriad of plot threads.
As such Clear Card just couldn’t possibly hold a candle to the excellent execution of Golden Kamuy(infamously iffy at times visuals, aside). Golden Kamuy is a great melting pot of historical fiction with a good old fashion pulp treasure hunt adventure, and I need more of it in my life now. Hinna, hinna.
Runner-up: Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku (Gold)
Despite both shows being gold medal shows for me, and I did genuinely love them both that much, this is just an absolute curb stomping. When it comes to being comedy shows, Wotakoi is just inferior to Hinamatsuri. Wotakoi did get some legitimately laughs out of me, but for the most part it was chuckles and happy bemusement. The only reason this is even here instead of the slice of life category is because it is obvious just how much of the show’s focus is on telling jokes as compared to slice of life antics.
Hinamatsuri is just a pure laugh riot of absurdist comedy, often telling far out there jokes, and then taking them even further beyond, hilariously breaking all limits on logic in the process.
Winner: Violet Evergarden
Runner-up: DARLING in the FRANXX (Black), Lostorage incited WIXOSS (Silver)
Whoo boy, to be perfectly honest the drama category this season was pretty, pretty weak, and taking into consideration the medals the runner-up shows earned, this is probably the weakest genre award to actually have more than one show in it this season. In no small part because it has my first official black medal show, DARLING in the FRANXX. In hindsight, I absolutely should have probably stopped watching after episode 15. Everything after that I just did not enjoy, even the one or two post-15 episodes that were actually genuinely good still had some of the stink of the surrounding episodes. I’ve rarely seen a show just nosedive so badly in its back half like FRANXX did. It was truly a sight to be seen.
There’s really not too much I have to say about WIXOSS. It was a very solid conclusion to one of the most solid, if not under the radar, franchises from the last few years. I preferred the Selector seasons of WIXOSS more overall, but I do appreciate this season of WIXOSS for at least finally acknowledging who the real protagonist of the franchise really was.
Violet Evergarden is a damn good show, with the best stretch of episodes out of anything I saw this season. I’m talking about the insanely good episodes 7 through 10. The final 3 episodes after that stretch were pretty good too, just not up to the level of that for me. However, while those parts of Violet Evergarden are so phenomenal, they are kind of counteracted by the fact that it is genuinely a slough to get to that point. The first half of Violet Evergarden is just so damn slow, with a rather torturous stretch involving episodes 4 though 6 where I was feeling my enthusiasm in the show slowly get sapped away with each episode. And that’s ultimately why I had to settle on giving Violet Evergarden a gold. The back half easily is worthy of a platinum, but the first half was at best a silver(and that was mainly due to the stellar visuals), so they average out to being a gold.
The only category arguably weaker than the drama award goes to the shorts, as, well, the unfortunate slump anime shorts find themselves in since the end of the Ultra Super Anime Time block continues strong. However, the Spring season most certainly had a genuine gem of a short in the form of Aggretsuko. Coming in at the upper time limit for what many people consider anime shorts, Aggretsuko is just astounding. The show could have easily entertained me all the way through if it was merely Retsuko going around singing metal, but the people behind the show decided to go above and beyond the call of duty, making a layered series where nearly every character gets at least a little bit of development as the show goes on. On top of that, it is a great depiction of work life for 20-somethings who don’t exactly like their jobs. This is just an all around extremely entertaining and relatable show.
Winner: Comics Girls
Runner-up: Amanchu! ~Advance~ (Silver)
Amanchu! was able to thankfully recover from the brief slump in got into when it went all weird and fantastical and felt more like a wannabe Flying Witch than Amanchu!. But despite that, the fact still stands that there is just a solid chunk of this season where things just slam on the brakes and I just did not care what was going on in front of me. I’m glad Amanchu! returned, and I know shifts like that are a trademark of the creator, but if more stuff like that is in store for me in the future, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be continuing with the series.
Comic Girls, on the other hand, started strong and just kept getting better as it went on. As someone who quite frequently struggles with my own anxieties when it comes to the creative field, and many times suffers from self-doubt and questioning why people keep saying how “good” I supposedly am, I was instantly able to connect with Kaos-chan. Beneath the cute saccharine look and feel of the show and all the adorable “Abababababa”s that Kaos-chan often would say while stressed is a very emotional and enthralling series about facing these kind of issues that is a great example of why I love the slice of life genre so damn much.
I had a feeling heading into this season that Megalobox was going to be something special. Little did I know I would be walking into a legitimate instant classic sports series. This was an absolute treat to experience, and it probably should go without saying, but by virtue of being the only platinum series on the season for me, Megalobox easily walks away with the championship. I won’t be forgetting this show anytime soon and it will regularly be something I recommend to people.
So that’s my picks for my Spring anime favorites. In terms of medal breakdowns, a grand total of 9 shows received either a gold or platinum, which is up 1 over the Winter’s 8. While half of those in the Winter earned platinums, only just 1 got that this season. So basically that means, in my eyes, the Winter season had a higher peak in terms of the quality of its shows, while the Spring season had a more consistent upper tier of quality, which is a good thing in its own right.
Just for shits and giggles I also decided to pick the genre award winners as well as Anime of the Season for the Winter season, just for anyone curious(and in case I decide to actually make good on that whole “tournament” idea I was kicking around for the end of year awards for last year), and they are as follows. My favorite action series was Devilman Crybaby, my favorite adventure series was A Place Further Than the Universe, my favorite comedy series was Pop Team Epic, my favorite drama series was March comes in like a lion Season 2, my favorite short series was Kaiju Girls Season 2(by default, mind you), my favorite slice of life series was Laid-Back Camp, and my overall Anime of the Season was Devilman Crybaby.
To be quite honest I’m kinda happy with how this little hybridization worked out. A bit of a best of both worlds result for me. But what about you guys? Are you ok with this format for my end of the season article? Feel free to let me know in the comments below, along with your personal favorites from this Spring season. Until next time!