So, this season has turned out to be a much busier one than I ever imagined it would be for me. As a result, several things ended up getting delayed longer than usual. From the relatively easy to do Loot Anime unboxing articles, to my 2017 favorites article, to even what was going to be my slate of first impression articles from this season. Unfortunately, unlike the others, those last ones won’t be coming. I already push the envelope enough by calling opinion articles based on a show’s first 4 to 5 episodes “first impressions”, but I internally like to justify that with the excuse that most shows are still feeling their way around during that stretch. By the halfway point of the season, they’ve usually found their footing and it becomes a bit too late by then.
So when I realized I was going to be too late to those, I tried to think of something I could do for this season, so that the only thing I did all season wasn’t just the end of the season seasonal favorites. Then I had an epiphany. I remembered that in my 2017 favorites article I kept mentioning how several shows were in different tiers in my new medal system before they ended and settled into what they wound up getting. So I decided to why not just make that into an article in and of itself, so you guys can see the paths shows can take during this process.
That way even if I miss out on the window for first impression articles, I can still give some of my early thoughts on shows I am watching. Every season, at the halfway point(give or take a week), I’ll drop one of these articles showing where certain shows are currently on track with me. Since this is covering what I feel about the shows I am watching, that means it will include shows continuing into next season, and thus wouldn’t be part of the end of the season seasonal favorites. Conversely, this also means it doesn’t include shows that aired this season that already ended, such as Devilman Crybaby or the latest volume of RWBY. So with everything in place, here’s the current placements of the shows I am watching this season, starting with the dreaded black medals.
Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line
Oh Yowamushi Pedal, what the holy fuck has happened to you? Once one of the standard bearers for the new wave of sports anime series, this franchise has taken a sharp tumble down the pack. The first two seasons of Yowapeda would have effortlessly at least received gold medals(with the second season having a legit shot at a platinum). The third season, also the first of this “new generation” part of the series, was decidedly less stellar, ultimately ending up with a paltry bronze medal. The season wasn’t all bad, but it certainly peaked early, specifically about the halfway point when they were deciding on the final members to join Sohoku’s new Inter-High team.
It was once New Generation got to the Inter-High that things started falling backwards. The heroes were making idiotic decisions, the rivals, whom should be noted cycled out all but two of the guys from the previous year’s team, were being pushed too strong, and apathy wasn’t just growing in me, but several Yowapeda fans. Then we get to this season, Glory Line, which begins right where the last season ended, with the teams progressing to the finish line of the first day of the Inter-High. When we finally got to said finish line the winner is quite possibly the worst choice they could have picked out of the characters in contention, and I’m not alone in this feeling. The comment section for the episode on Crunchyroll was overflowing with salt from fans angry at the result.
Things get worse as the follow up episode gives a heavy focus on the former third years from the previous year and makes it abundantly clear just how uninteresting the new crop of characters are. The problem is, I know full well that I’ll still be watching this until the end, because of how much I love this series. And that’s basically the purpose of black medals, going to shows that are wasting my time, and I know they are wasting my time, but I can’t bring myself to drop out. Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line isn’t doomed to a black medal fate just yet, but it’s got some work ahead of it to be sure.
Junji Ito Collection
This one hurts me, it really does. I am a big fan of Junji Ito’s work, and I knew how difficult it would be to adapt his work to anime. The thing is, despite the expected lack of Ito’s amazing detailing, every now and then the show...works. They manage to pick some of his stories that work well in motion, and they are able to maintain the creepiness with the soundtrack and visuals.
The problem is just that, this show is just too inconsistent in its selection of titles. Junji Ito can do dark comedy, he can do psychological horror, he can do cosmic horror, he can do standard slasher horror, the works. The thing that really works against the show is that they are just grabbing tales from all these various types of horror Ito is capable of and then tossing them together. On paper this should be a celebration of Ito’s work, but in execution is just a jumbled mess of tales with clashing tones. I am all for episodic anime. Mushi-Shi and Kino’s Journey(the original series at least) are amongst my favorite anime of all time and I prefer Blood Blockade Battlefront’s episodic second season.
The thing is, good episodic anime tend to have some kind of focal point, a rock that everything revolves around. That’s how I can accept Kino in one episode going to a country where everyone are liars, and the next episode Kino is fighting sheep to the death(I am not kidding). This show lacks that focal point, that connective tissue, and instead just sends the viewer hurling through the vast expanse of Ito’s macabre creative mind.
Also, don’t get me started on the nonsense that is the Tomie episodes being OVAs, that’s a whole other discussion entirely.
Kaiju Girls Season 2
Now, there’s actually nothing really “wrong” with Kaiju Girls. For what it is, a short format series where the kaiju foes from the Ultraman franchise get reinterpreted as cute anime waifus, the show manages to do it fine. It just has the same issues as the first season. Such as how the show tends to dole its plot out incredibly slowly, and also how you pretty much need to be an Ultraman fan to get the most out of this series. It isn’t bad, it’s cute and visually well made, it’s just kinda...there. I’ll watch each season and then kinda forget it was a thing until the next season pops up.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
So, cards(heh) on the table, this one is basically just chilling here for now until the series actually does...something. Growing up, Cardcaptor Sakura, or at least the butchering that was Cardcaptors, was one of the early staples of my anime fandom as a child. That being said, Clear Card is in a really weird situation where it takes me a while to finally watch the episode(like I kind of actively put it off for a bit), but I’ve enjoyed every episode I’ve seen of this season, and yet at the same time functionally nothing of real note has happened so far. This has just been nothing but set up, mainly in the form of Sakura gathering an arsenal of the Clear Cards. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I’m just waiting for the show to finally play its hand before really deciding whether or not I’ll be upgrading this to gold or if it’ll just stay here in silver as an enjoyable and solid nostalgia trip.
How to Keep a Mummy
This show is freaking adorable, though in this season that kind of praise doesn’t carry as much weight as it could, considering just how many shows are cute and calm this season. Thankfully it isn’t all just adorable antics with supernatural critters, as the show does seem like it is building up some solid core themes, mainly around getting over your initial biases and/or fears of others. Whether or not the show ultimately goes anywhere with those themes remains to be seen, but even if it doesn’t, there is nothing wrong with this just being a solid and cute show.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride
So this is an interesting predicament. I don’t really care that much about either Chise or Elias. Sure there are some arcs in this show that I enjoy them in, but outside of those arcs it is kind a resounding, “meh”. The reason AMB is still on track towards getting a gold medal from me is basically everything else about the series. The music, the visuals(mainly the backgrounds, as the show tends to save its animation flair), the rest of the cast, the world as a whole. I just love the rest of the show way too much.
I’m always a sucker for Celtic and other British Isles folklore and mythology, and this show is just a freaking melting pot of the stuff. With the show being so steeped in these supernatural and magical creatures, plus the main character being a special redheaded magical teenage girl with a badass dog companion, it also heavily reminds me of my favorite webcomic of all time, Gunnerkrigg Court. It is just such an unusual experience for me to be this in love with a show whose main characters I sometimes don’t even care if they are there or not.
DARLING in the FRANXX
Even more perplexing than my love for AMB is my love for DARLING in the FRANXX. The show is as subtle and nuanced as a sledgehammer to the face, it sometimes dips too far into its questionable camera angles even for me(which...is saying something), it makes no logical sense sometimes, and this far in it still has many basic questions left hanging in the air that need answering just to lay down some baseline consistency in the show(for example, just how durable are those damn mechs?!). In an inverse of AMB, I don’t care for most of the characters either. The only ones I give a damn about are the “core four” of Hiro, Zero Two, Ichigo, and Goro. And yet despite all the very obvious flaws, I still enjoy watching this show week in and week out.
About the only actively positive thing I can say about the show, besides the action scenes being reliably entertaining, is that, much like Zero Two, the show just exudes this aura of confidence. I have absolutely no god damn clue where the show is going, but it does everything with this air that it knows what it is doing, or at least that it thinks it knows what it is doing. So, for the time being, I’m along for the ride. Time will tell if this confidence is well-founded or just false bravado.
GARO: Vanishing Line
If you ever told me that a GARO series would morph, at least for the middle chunk of the show, into a badass road trip adventure, I’d have smacked you for lying to me. Yet, that’s exactly what has happened in Vanishing Line. We’ve spent almost as much time following the heroes heading out West in search for the mysterious El Dorado as we have seen them in Russell City, the location for most of the first part of the series. This change in scenery wasn’t entirely unwelcome, either. During this road trip, all of the characters have had chances to grow as we learn more about them, and what drives them. This came with an interesting trade off, though, as the show tones down its focus on balls to the wall badass action scenes for most of this journey. We’re heading into the home stretch of Vanishing Line, though, and we should be in for some damn good times ahead.
By far the chillest show of the season, Laid-Back Camp is just a blast to watch. One of the best things going for the show is how it doesn’t really play into expectations. This very easily could have been a show about loner who is experienced at an activity being pulled into a club based around said activity, but it isn’t. The show has the diminutive, but experienced camper Rin on one end, and the more naive, but well meaning, Outdoor Activities Club on the other end. Bridging the gap between these two is Nadeshiko, who is a novice like the others in the Outdoor Activities Club, but is also friends with Rin.
Interestingly Nadeshiko seems to just kind of learn as she goes as Rin doesn’t go out of her way to teach Nadeshiko that much, even when the two go out camping together. I also really freaking love the show’s OP, and can’t help but bob my head in sync with the song’s rhythm. Lastly, if it wasn’t for another show still to come, this would have the most consistently beautiful backgrounds I’ve seen this season. This show easily could find itself upgraded to platinum, but for now I just really, really, really enjoy this calm, and sometimes adorkable, camping show.
Mr. Osomatsu 2nd Season
I must confess, I haven’t been enjoying this season of Mr. Osomatsu as much as I did the first season. There’s a few factors that can play into that, such as not knowing what the hell I was getting into in the first season, and it is entirely possible the material just isn’t as consistently hilarious as it was before. However, just because I am not enjoying it as much doesn’t mean it is bad, either. This is still a funny show, with the first episode of this season being probably the funniest episode in the series. In addition this season has shown once again that the series can handle more dramatic episodes as well. So here’s hoping this isn’t the end of the road for our shitlord boys.
Pop Team Epic
Ah, yes, the latest show to drive a sharp wedge into the anime fandom when it comes to whether or not people like the show. Personally speaking I enjoy the humor in the show. Even more than that, however, I enjoy the creative process and sheer creativity that goes into many of the show’s absurd sketches. For example, it is not surprising to me that for many people who like the show some of their favorite sketches are the “Let’s Pop Together!” music video tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove” and the recent Hellshake Yano sketchbook skit, some of the more unexpected sketches from the show that involve using actual physical props.
One of the cutest shows in the season of cuteness overload is surprisingly also one of its emotional and heartfelt. I love kids, I find them adorable, so I was on board with this show from the moment I saw the first key visual. However I did not expect to be so repeatedly jabbed in the feels with daggers and needles like I have been with this show. At the same time there are, admittedly, some problems with this show. Specifically two characters who can really annoy viewers, and certainly annoy me.
The more problematic of the two characters, a teen named Tomoya Yagi, often gets nosebleeds when he is around adorable children. He claims there’s nothing weird going on, but the other characters understandably are wary of him and his actions. The other character, however, is much more recurring, and while he isn’t as immediately off putting like Tomoya is, he’s still somewhat irritating. That character is Usaida, the only full-time staff member of the daycare that the series revolves around. He’s lazy, often falls asleep, and just routinely takes his eyes off of the kids and this regularly allows them to just wander off, sometimes into dangerous situations. It’s a miracle he’s still employed, let alone not facing multiple lawsuits. Those two characters aside, I really enjoy this show. Probably more than I should.
A Place Further Than the Universe
Sweet merciful Jesus did the year in anime get off to an incredible start when this is the first show to be dropped onto us. Every now and then we get a show so well constructed from top to bottom that the show itself knows it is a good show. This show is operating on a completely different kind of confidence than the kind DARLING in the FRANXX is working with. FRANXX has that, “All of you better duck, because I’m about to turn left and I don’t want to smack you with my dick” swagger step going on. A Place Further Than the Universe, on the other hand, has that more proud in yourself for the work you’ve done type confidence. The kind a confidence you get when after putting in a lot of effort into a project and you just..know that it came out great.
The show looks simply gorgeous, hands down the best damn backgrounds in the entire season with some of the best character animations too. Speaking of the characters, I love the way they all interact. Specifically the four main characters who, regardless of the combination, can easily carry a conversation between themselves. The writing and direction is impeccable. This show is so damn good that, despite the fact that it was completely built up and marketed around a group of cute girls going to Antarctica, I’ve ceased caring long ago that they still haven’t even made it there. It would require a colossal fuck up in the remaining episodes for this to not get a platinum at the end of the season as well.
March comes in like a lion Season 2
Holy crap, March comes in like a lion! The amount of shows I’ve seen to continuously improve as it goes on is an incredibly small number, and this the latest one to join that illustrious club. I honestly didn’t really care all that much for the first half of the first season. The second half of that season was good enough to make me do a 180 and become a fan of the show. Then we got this second season, which, god damn. Easily the most impressive arc in this show is Hinata’s bullying arc, which revealed that this series has some serious balls to it, for it to tackle such an uncomfortable topic head on like it did. On top of that great(but difficult to sit through at times) arc, many of the recurring characters have exponentially grown over the course of this second season. All I can say at this point is, bring on season 3, and screw the Olympics for depriving me of this show for 3 weeks.
And so there you have it, my thoughts on all of the currently airing shows that I am watching this season. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up landing, as well as the shows that already finished up that will join them in about a month and a half when I do my seasonal favorites article. Until next time!