This season was quite chaotic for me out in the real world yet despite that I still managed to watch 16 shows to completion, with another 3 shows that continued on to the Spring season on top of that. Now to be sure, a big part of that is thanks to Netflix’s massive anime push this year. I didn’t manage to see all the titles they put out, with a couple of their later March releases being held back for judgment in the Spring season, along with Violet Evergarden(because I’m a filthy American and we didn’t get the show here this season), but even taking that into account Netflix’s titles managed to represent 1/4 of the shows I finished this season.

Before I get to awarding the shows their medals, I’d like to start with my usual production awards for the season, sharing my favorites in things like the opening and endings, visuals, writing, etc.

Winner: “Deal with the Devil” by Tia (Kakegurui)

In a season with an incredible amount of impressive OPs, it became an insanely close and difficult race, with the ultimate winner...being an OP from last year...bwuh? Ok, so full disclosure, if I was going with strictly OPs from this year, my winner here would be “Shiny Days” by Asaka from Laid-Back Camp, because week in and week out that OP made me bounce around in sync with the rhythm.

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However, I knew this would be a situation I would have to eventually face when I decided to expand my seasonal favorites articles to include non-Crunchyroll legal sources, which means dealing with Netflix and sometimes when they grab a show from the Summer and especially Fall seasons of one year, they won’t be released until the following year given their usual timetable. The simple fact is I only watch legal releases and Kakegurui wasn’t legally released until this season, and it is perfectly eligible for every other production award, so it should also be fair game for its OP and ED, and as such, there’s no question, the beautifully animated, often extremely horny visuals combined with its accompanying jazz-infused track made this OP a damn treat. Now I know why people last year were so damn in love with it.

Winner: “I AM STANDING” by RUANN (March comes in like a lion Season 2)

Unlike the case with the OPs for this season, this was a much easier time deciding for me. Now don’t get me wrong, there were several EDs I enjoyed, and the EDs for School Babysitters and How to Keep a Mummy literally had me (badly) dancing along with the characters on the screen, but while those were enjoyable additions to enjoyable shows, this ED actually made me look forward to one of my favorite shows in the entire season ending each week. It is part of the reason I went into March comes in like a lion withdrawal during the 3 week break the show had to take due to the Olympics. And that is why this is my favorite overall theme for the season. I greatly look forward to hearing more OPs and EDs from RUANN in the future because she is only 14 god damn years old and is putting out songs like these already.

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Winner: Hellshake Yano (Pop Team Epic)

While some shows certainly had what I felt were better moments, they weren’t exactly “favorite” moments of mine (*waves at Devilman Crybaby*). Pop Team Epic, on the other hand, was home to several of the individual moments from this season that I enjoyed seeing, chief among them being the now somewhat legendary sketchbook/live-action hybrid skit from the studio AC-bu, who also contributed the bizarrely entertaining Bob Epic Team segments, about the concert that gave birth to the man, the myth, Hellshake Yano. It is an absolutely hilarious skit that still has me wondering just how long it takes you to plan something like this out, let alone how many takes they had to do to get a complete run where one of them doesn’t crack up laughing at the absurdity.

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Winner: Devilman Crybaby

So, it is one thing for me to listen to an anime soundtrack again and get hyped up because of the badass songs. It is another thing entirely when an anime soundtrack stabs me in the feels hard enough that it just drains me and takes me a bit to recover. That is exactly what Devilman Crybaby’s soundtrack does to me. That song up there in particular, “Crybaby”, is a song I have to listen to carefully, because it just absolutely wrecks me whenever I listen to it. This song is so strongly tied to two of the most powerful, incredible scenes from not just Devilman Crybaby, but the entire season, and I can guaran-damn-tee you the entire year, that I can’t not think of them when I hear this song, and it just brings the tears and sorrow flooding out. The same thing goes for its similar, but not exactly identical, sister track, “Pathetique”.

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This soundtrack has given me an experience I usually don’t get with anime. Most of the time I remember soundtrack songs because they are just flat out great pieces of music, or it is one or two songs that played during very specific key scenes in the show. I don’t often get a soundtrack like this where nearly every song has me instantly recall at least one scene that stood out to me in some form or another. Usually I could divorce a soundtrack from the show itself, but I just can’t do that with Devilman Crybaby. This soundtrack is just that integral to the experience.

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Winner: Devilman Crybaby

This season had a lot of visually impressive shows. Series like A Place Further Than the Universe, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and Laid-Back Camp had incredible backgrounds supplemented with some pretty great character animations. March comes in like a lion was just a visual treat all around and a testament to why Shaft is so beloved when it comes to visuals. Even several of Netflix’s offerings had a high polish to their animation and backgrounds and even in some of the more flawed shows they had on display, their visuals remained a strong positive. However, despite the spectacularly strong competition, there was little doubt as to which series would take this award for me in a season that features a new series from the legendary Masaaki Yuasa. His visual style as always was quite divisive with this show, but I am firmly in the camp that loves everything he touches, and Devilman Crybaby is no exception.

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Winner: March comes in like a lion Season 2

How do they keep doing it? Just how do they fucking keep doing it?! March comes in like a lion has this weird ass formula down where they’ll introduce a new side character, usually someone involved in the shogi side of the show(because let’s be honest, that is the easiest way to pull them into the story, via tournaments and whatnot), they seem like a fun, but rather one-note character, then they finally are granted character development, and all of a sudden you find yourself wishing they had an entire damn show to themselves.

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The show pulled this off last year with the introduction of Shimada. This year it is with Shimada’s opponent in the Kishou Championship, Yanagihara. Now Yanagihara was around for quite a few episodes, but he would appear so infrequently that it was actually easy to confuse him with the shogi chairman, a fellow elderly man who also appeared infrequently. Then, we got the Kishou Championship episodes.

If I had a Favorite Episode category, I honestly don’t know which of these two episodes I’d pick, but suffice to say, these were my two favorite episodes of both this show and this season. These two episodes skyrocketed Yanagihara up the favorite characters chart, and by the end of them made me wish he had a Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju-style spin-off series.

The thing is, it isn’t just characters like Yanagihara. Truth be told this entire season was mostly about furthering the development of the support cast in general. Now that’s not to say Rei remained static this season, he still definitely had character development of his own, but the majority of his development was in the first season. I have to say this decision worked out phenomenally, because everyone that received development just vastly improved as characters. I will admit though that, because this is a second season, it does have some massive advantages over the many of the other shows I loved from this season, because it didn’t have to lay all this ground work that those shows had to. But even accounting for that, I was so purely enthralled by what was happening that I often forgot that the main character of the show was playing second fiddle, which in and of itself an impressive feat.

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Now, time to award the medals to the show. First up, this season had no black medal shows, so we’ll start with the bronze medal shows for this season instead.

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B: The Beginning

Man, what a clusterfuck. Ok, so this is a promising, and honestly entertaining, series that is bogged down by some rather questionable decisions. B: The Beginning is a series with two completely different stories, from completely different genres at that, on a collision course with each other. On one hand we have a very intriguing and enthralling police thriller about chasing down serial killers and how they keep managing to maintain a step ahead of the cops.

On the other hand we have an Edgy McEdgerton chuunibyou action series plucked right from the halcyon days of the mid-2000's that, while incompetent from a narrative standpoint, features some gorgeous fight scene animations. And the two halves just don’t mesh. I wish I could say the show tries its hardest to make them mesh, but instead it ultimately picks the laziest way to tie all the major plot threads together. However, despite all that, I was never once bored with the show. This is genuinely entertaining, just a complete mess at the same time.

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Junji Ito Collection

So we got Tomie in the main series after all. That’s one of the few big name Junji Ito tales you’ll get in this series, though. The same complaints I had with the show during the Winter season’s progress report article holds up even stronger now. The show was just completely at the mercy of whatever Junji Ito stories they selected to use for a given episode. This results with an inconsistent as all hell show, with some halves of episodes being flat out boring, because they picked a weaker tale to tell. Also, as expected, the visual quality of the show degraded further and further as it went. It wasn’t a strong looking show to begin with, but by the end it got pretty bad, especially when comparing it to the corresponding images from Ito’s work.

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Kaiju Girls Season 2

Once again, there’s nothing really wrong with Kaiju Girls. It’s just really slowly drawn out for a short. I’d like to see them give the show a couple more minutes per episode if/when there is another season. Other than that it is a harmless, if a tiny bit forgettable, series with solid visuals and some catchy themes.

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A.I.C.O. -Incarnation-

This is a very consistent series. It is entertaining, an easy watch, and it looked great. I had a good time watching this, even with the...less than stellar dub. The only real complaints I have about this show are as follows. The show is insanely straight forward, the overwhelming bulk of the show is just getting the main characters from point A to point B. For what is apparently supposed to be a thriller, or at least I keep seeing people call it a thriller, it is incredibly predictable as well. Lastly, there is almost nothing to the characters. Barely anyone gets any real development at all. They are ultimately less characters and more like action figures being moved around, if that makes sense. But, again, I still really enjoyed watching this, because of how laid back of an investment it is. It is a great kick back and chill kind of series to watch.

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Now I know I had this on track to be a gold medal series back in the progress report, but, well, upon further reflection, especially aided by what the show did after that report came out, the roller coaster of liking and being indifferent or even disliking the main characters, Chise and Elias, is a pretty decent blow to the series. Like I don’t think I’ve ever seen another show where I’ve been so much in love with everything...except the main characters. The world building is great, the visuals are just stunning, the soundtrack is a perfect fit for the series, the support characters are amazing and well developed for the amount of screen time they get, and I am just all in on the Celtic and British Isles folklore and mythology on display here.

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It is just, I legitimately go back and forth on liking Chise depending on the arc, and as the show goes on I just end up disliking Elias. The only thing I had a bigger issue with than these two was the incredibly bad choices made with the visuals for the show’s OPs and EDs. Great songs, but the visuals sucked. There were several points where I was wishing this show was a Mushi-Shi or Kino’s Journey-type anthology series, rather than one big narrative comprised of several smaller arcs. So yeah, an otherwise phenomenal series that for me was dragged down by its main characters.

How to Keep a Mummy

So the show didn’t really do too much with the themes it was seemingly building up. Which is a bit of a shame, but nevertheless How to Keep a Mummy remained an adorable little show all the way through. Not really much else to say about this show. It is consistent, cute, sometimes funny, sometimes emotional. A fun little show that I don’t regret watching.

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RWBY Vol. 5

Aside from the overall improved visuals that came from the switch in animation programs being used, I have to say I’ve just not been that impressed with either Vol. 4 or 5 of RWBY. I mean it is still a show I enjoy watching, and I get that these two volumes have been mostly set up, so it isn’t fair to compare them with the juggernaut that was Vol. 3, but even comparing them to the other set up volumes, 1 and 2, these are lacking. As time goes on, just how much of a factor the late great Monty Oum was with this series only becomes more and more evident, and I am worried that RWBY will ultimately be a solid series that just never could reach its full potential due to the untimely passing of its creator.

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School Babysitters

So this was an interesting little case. In the weeks after the progress report, where this was on track to being a gold medal series for me, the show slowly, if not outright, stopped doing both the things I criticized and praised the show for. Tomoya Yagi, the pretty boy with a weird character trait where he constantly gets nosebleeds from cute things, particularly adorable children, barely appears at all, maybe like once or twice. Usaida drastically pulls back on being a dumbass as well. Now he still does some dumb things from time to time, but not to the extremes as before.

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On the flip side of things, the show eases up on its emotional jabs too. In some of the cases that it does attempt to prod you in the feels, it ends up just repeating earlier attempts. This doesn’t make the show bad of course, and I still recommend people to see it. It just, kinda mellowed out after a really strong first half.

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GARO: Vanishing Line

GARO is back baby! After the misstep of Crimson Moon left a bad taste in the mouths of many GARO fans, I am pleased to say that the anime side of the franchise is back on the right path and fittingly the latest journey of the Golden Knight gets a gold medal. The shift into a road trip adventure was a brilliantly unexpected move. While the overall visual quality may have taken some dips as the show went along, the fight scenes remained stellar. Most importantly, the cast was entertaining, and the core group grew over the course of the show, though Sword, the main character, had the least amount of growth. Despite that, Sword was always entertaining in his cheesy, over the top manime way. I personally still prefer GARO: The Animation just a bit more, but this was nevertheless a great success.

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Kakegurui

This show is excessive, over the top, horny as all hell, and I just love it. This is one of those shows where the tension isn’t in whether or not the heroes can win or get out of a sticky situation, but instead it is about how they do it(basically the kind of thing that was fueling No Game No life). The whole show has a ridiculously silly premise and it just goes all in with it. Yumeko easily steals the show, but she isn’t the only entertaining character in the cast. I love several of the support characters, with my favorite easily being Midari, who is just so extra that I can’t really put it into proper words. Midari is actually a prime example of why I love this show. It is just unapologetically fun. It may have taken quite some time for this show to appear on Netflix, but it was well worth the wait, and I am glad I got to see such a blast of a series.

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Mr. Osomatsu Season 2

As I said in the progress report, this season of Mr. Osomatsu wasn’t as consistently funny to me as the first season was, and that is ultimately what the end result is. Now I still greatly enjoyed this season, especially since it traded in being consistently funny for more character development for our little shit heel sextuplets and those around them. There are more “serious” episodes in this season of Osomatsu, and they were all great, with the last of the serious episodes being one I really wished had stuck, because it was some incredible growth for them, not just as characters, but as people. Nevertheless, I’m still on board for future adventures in this show, should it come to pass.

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Pop Team Epic

Ah, we’re finally here. The most divisive show of the season. The show with absolutely no middle ground. You either loved the hell out of this show or you hated it, and depending on how much of a dick you are, hated those who liked it. As you can probably tell, I fall into the former camp. To me this was a hilarious little show where I never knew what to expect next. Not only was several of the skits funny, but the show is also surprisingly visually creative as well.

There was the Hellshake Yano skit I mentioned earlier in the article. There were several skits involving puppets of Popuko and Pipimi, often set to musical numbers, with the crown jewel of these segments being the completely out of left field “Let’s Pop Together!” homage of the Earth, Wind & Fire song, “Let’s Groove”. The show doesn’t stop there, though, as there is a few skits involving sand art animation of all things. And that’s why I love Pop Team Epic so much. It wasn’t just funny to me. As a massive fan of the art of animation in and of itself I greatly appreciated the effort put into making the individuals skits.

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A Place Further Than the Universe

This show was simply phenomenal. Every now and then we get an original anime production that just...nails it. The visuals, the writing, the music, the characters, just everything works. The devil is in the details, such as practically any conversation the members of the main cast have with each other. It is just so organic feeling. The characters work off of each other insanely well. It took them quite a long time to finally actually reach Antarctica, but it was worth the wait in spades. I knew from the very first episode that we had something special on our hands, but I didn’t know just how special it was really going to end up being. This show was a fantastic tale of friendship, loss, and just trying to do something with one’s life. This is going to be a show I will remember for a long, long time to come.

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Devilman Crybaby

Where do I even begin with Devilman Crybaby? This show is just a pure force of nature that swept in across the anime scene like a tornado sweeps across the plains. While A Place Further Than the Universe got the year started off on the right foot, Devilman Crybaby took that foot and kicked down the door to the year and proclaimed loudly, clearly, and extremely violently, “I’M HERE, BITCHES!”. In a season otherwise mostly dominated by cute, calming slice of life shows, or character studies, Devilman Crybaby was a visceral and guttural change of pace.

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Go Nagai’s classic series was massively influential on the landscape of Japanese pop culture, with it influencing new creators to this very day, and it was rather refreshing to see in the wake of this show’s release the amount of people realizing just how vast the scope of his influence really is. Masaaki Yuasa did a simply impeccable job of adapting Nagai’s work here, and the rest of the year has its damn work cut out for it, because I can’t remember the last time an anime series evoked this kind of reaction in me.

Laid-Back Camp

Why is this show so good? Just, why? Laid-Back Camp on paper is a pretty simple show. It’s cute girls going camping. That’s it. That should have been all there is to the series, but it isn’t. This is the only one of the gold shows from the progress report to actually be moved up to platinum, rather than stay level or be moved down to silver, because unlike those other shows it continued to improve as it went on, rather than regressing or just staying course. Like most high quality slice of life shows, the cast carries this show. Thankfully it is a really enjoyable cast. While the characters do spend a lot of time camping, what makes this a special slice of life show is how the characters grow as friends.

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At the start of the season Rin is firmly in the camp(I’m sorry) of being an isolationist camper, allowing Nadeshiko to camp with her notwithstanding. By the end of the show, she’s softened up a bit and, while not exactly hanging out all the time with the other girls, she’s at least open to the idea of group camping sessions. Nadeshiko herself goes from being a novice about everything regarding camping to being competent enough to at least attempt solo camping.

This is just a super chill show that was a great way to relax, and occasionally laugh my ass off whenever the show did attempt to throw in some simple, but highly effective jokes(I can watch the loop of Rin chasing after various objects being blown away by the wind for longer than one probably should). I’m a massive fan of these kind of laid back relaxing shows, so I headed into this season excited to see this, and was happy not to be let down.

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March comes in like a lion Season 2

As I said in the progress report, I don’t often get to see a show that just continuously improves like this show does. This season of March comes in like a lion has been a masterclass work of animation and writing. It was an incredibly smart move for this series to focus on more than just Rei, because it got to show that he’s not the only one with massive mental health issues. The way this show manages to handle touchy subjects surrounding mental illnesses and anxieties is just...honestly I’m having difficulty finding the correct word to use here. If this is for whatever reason the end of the March comes in like a lion anime, then it ends on a massive high note, but screw that! I want more of this show!

So there you have it, the 16 shows I saw to completion this season. Funnily enough, Netflix managed to land a show into each one of the medal tiers. Which, by the way, was not intentional. I didn’t get around to finishing any of the Amazon shows this season because well I simply was just too damn busy to help fit them in. I only managed to get 4 Netflix shows in due to their binge release model. Interestingly enough, I am noticing more and more that, unless it is really god damn weak, the Winter season tends to be my favorite of the year. I mean I get why it usually isn’t the favorite for many others, because there usually isn’t that many hype shows released in this season.

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But for the kind of shows I tend to love, the Winter is usually full of them. And last year’s Winter season was one of my favorites ever! Yet somehow this one managed to even top that! Last Winter produced 6 gold medal shows and 2 platinum medal shows(easily the biggest chunk of the shows I included in my end of the year favorites article), while this year’s Winter resulted in 4 golds and 4 platinums, same number of shows, yes, but the two additional platinum shows is a big deal. Keep in mind I only had 5 total for all of last year, and yet I almost matched that amount already for this year. This keeps up and 2018 will easily surpass 2017 for me, and 2017 was one of my favorite years in anime! Anyways, the Winter 2018 season has thrown down the gauntlet and now it is time to see how the other seasons respond. First up is the Spring season, which we’ll be checking back in on the progress of in about 6-7 weeks. So until next time!