I’ll say it now - this season is not as good as the previous, Winter 2019. You can see both of my write-ups for that season here and here. There is some good stuff this spring, but it’s mostly sequels or ongoing series from previous seasons.
This time there are only 2 new full-length series on my list. I’ve had to resort to watching anime shorts, dammit! And some of them are even worthwhile! (Don’t watch Why The Hell Are You Here, Teacher? I made the mistake of watching the first episode and had to scrub my eyes with bleach afterwards.)
Shows I’ve not got round to yet:
Senryu Girl: This is a short anime about a girl who communicates only via haiku-like poetry. Sounds like an odd concept but apparently it’s executed very well. I’ll check it out eventually.
Carol and Tuesday: Damn you, Netflix. Can I wait until this shows legally, or do I need to search it out via other means...?
Demon Slayer: Ufotable-produced slickly-animated monster violence? Sign me up. Hopefully I’ll have time to watch this soon.
JOJO’s Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind
I was rather hard on JOJO’s in my previous articles. Once we got past the ridiculous Narancia tongue-replacement episodes I’m glad to say things got better. The episodes in the aeroplane with the super-creepy dead-Stand thing were tense and well-paced, and now - thank God - Trish has developed a personality, drive and a Stand of her own. The perfectly named “Spice Girl” (Spicy Lady in the English translation) has an awesome power and acts like the voice of her subconscious. It is so cool that it urges her on to be stronger and make better decisions. We get more information on ultimate bad guy Trish’s Dad, and of course his situation is more complex than initially thought - he shares his body with another consciousness - the adorably dumb Doppio. The way the two personalities converse with one another is ridiculous but funny. Also they murdered one of the main characters in an incredibly gutsy and unexpectedly swift, brutal way. Ok, JOJO’s - you have reeled me back in. I’m with you until the (inevitably violent and tragic) end.
Dororo continues to be an excellent adaptation of Tezuka’s manga. It has now mostly passed the original story, and has introduced a more complex, nuanced morality to Hyakkimaru’s quest to restore his body. Dororo herself has called out his actions as motivated by selfishness and she worries about the consequences of the poor people who are left without the demons’ protection after Hyakkimaru kills them. Of course that protection was brought about by child sacrifice. Nobody really wins in Dororo, there is always a steep price. No-one can make happiness through hard work alone - there must be sacrifice, someone else must be made to suffer. It’s a dark and morally ambiguous world and I hope there is some semblance of happiness for the main characters at the end. Also you can never have too many psychotic man-eating sharks.
The Rising of the Shield Hero
Naofumi continues to scowl his way through the generic fantasy world where everyone hates him, aided by his loyal slave fox-girl Raphtalia, girl/angel/bird-thing Filo and now also the hilariously-monikered Princess Melty. Recent episodes have upped the conspiracy content, as it appears the church has been manipulating everyone behind the scenes - including the hateful Princess Myne. Now the Shield Hero is no longer the only target - they’ve denounced the other 3 heroes (Sword, Spear and Bow) as fakes and in a particularly satisfying scene, Naofumi finally gets to set the record straight, reveal how he was framed and confront them on their poor decisions. He has spent most of the series cleaning up their mess and now they get to feel bad about it. As they should. I wonder where the story will go now that all this is out in the open? I really like this series, probably a lot more than it warrants. The episodes, despite some technical shortcomings, predictable outcomes, idiotic characters and dumb writing, fly by in what seems like a matter of moments and I’m always left wanting more. The McDonald’s Happy Meal of Spring 2019 Anime? I’m calling it now - there will be cheap and malformed grumpy plastic Naofumis, squishy plush Filos and snuggle-able furry Raphtalias in loss-leading cardboard-packaged kids meals at a fast-food joint near you soon.
Attack on Titan S3.2
I love Attack on Titan. There, I’ve admitted it. I’ve been waiting such a long time for this section of the story to finally be animated and so far it has not disappointed. There’s the usual fluid and fast action, the comically haunted/horrified expressions on every character’s face, the sheer ridiculousness of the premise and the overblown music. It’s a shame they didn’t make this (and season 2) three or fours years ago instead of now. Oh well, even if the momentum built up by the first series has long-since dissipated, I’m still here in 2019 watching this. Attack on Titan is a great gateway to anime. I’ve shown it to several non-anime-fan friends and they have enjoyed it enough that they’ve sought out other anime to watch. The fact that it doesn’t even look Japanese and appears to be set in a very European-esque country makes it much easier to sell to a Western audience who may be more wary of anything that looks too “weird” or “foreign”. Though there is very little more weird than naked grinning giants munching down on screaming child soldiers wearing mechanical Spider-man gear.
One Punch Man S2
It’s been such a long time since I saw season 1 of this, that if there hadn’t been such fan outcry online about the change in studio, I probably wouldn’t noticed the difference in production quality. Sure, it’s not got spectacularly awesome animation sequences, but that was never why I watched the show in the first place. I like the story of this one dude who wanted to be a hero so bad he trained and trained until he became an unbeatable Übermensch. And now he’s bored. That is a great concept, and it is written with such heart and emotional wisdom that it could be animated on cardboard cutouts and I’d probably still watch it. (Mark my words - Season 3 of One Punch Man will be produced like old-style South Park.) The last couple of episodes have been weirdly paced, with a clumsy jumble of competing storylines that don’t mesh well together - a shonen-esque tournament arc plus the ongoing monster attack across several cities. The storytelling has been unfocused with strange segues between scenes that don’t quite work. This could be a weakness of the original material, or it could be uninspired direction and series composition. It may hold up better to binge-watching.
What more could be said that hasn’t already been said online about “Moist Anime Bum Boys”? I don’t even know where to begin with this. The gay subtext isn’t even text at this point. It’s a size 50 capital font in screaming, pulsing, throbbing red “THIS IS ABOUT GAY BUTT STUFF.” So if that’s your thing, you’ll probably already watching Sarazanmai. That’s not my thing, but the show is still entertaining in a What the hell are they thinking/smoking/snorting/injecting kind of way. You might enjoy it too, as long as you can get over the lovingly animated gloopy anal fluid leakage. That is not a sentence I thought I’d ever need to write.
Beneath the lurid appearance, there does seem to be more to this story in terms of concepts regarding self-worth, family, belonging, interpersonal connection, guilt, love and desire. It’s kind of hard to parse exactly what it is trying to say this early on though. Perhaps it will become clearer later. Episode 6 has already started to break the established mould, and provided some more clarity on the backstory. I’ve never seen any other of director Ikuhara’s other anime, though I did read the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga when it was translated and published in Animerica Extra magazine many years ago. I’m unsure if I want to seek out any more of his work at this point. I’ll hold judgement until the inevitably gloopy end.
The original Fruits Basket anime and manga passed me by back in the early 2000s. I was aware of its existence, and the fans had a reputation as rabid animals. It’s weird approaching this material now - it seems like a show out of time. Not that that is a bad thing, I’ve enjoyed this weekly time-warp - it’s gently humorous and (so far at least) entirely wholesome. Tohru Honda is an appropriately air-headed and innocent protagonist and so far all of the “boys” in her extended reverse harem fit well-stablished genre tropes - quiet, aloof Yuki who is socially anxious, red-headed firecracker Kyo who starts inappropriate fights yet has a heart of gold, older brother-type Shigure who is vaguely mysterious and also exasperated by the nonsense around him. I expect this will be one of those shows where the cast keeps growing and growing. I particularly like the two weird school friends - tall blonde ex-gang-member Arisa Aotani and creepy “wave-sensing” Saki Hanajima - they can always provoke a laugh from me. At the moment it seems like cookie-cutter anime romantic comedy material, but I suspect it must evolve into something more to have gained such a passionate fanbase. The last couple of episodes have started hinting at a deeper backstory and emotional core. I’ve not read any spoilers so I’ll look forwards to experiencing the story week by week.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru
Does this even count as anime? YES. Ok, now that debate is over, go and watch this delightful series. Right now. Every other show this season will have to work damned hard to surpass this perfect, relaxing, funny and warm show. Kaoru, a single twenty-something Japanese lady lives with her highly-strung little yellow bird and two random bears. Why does she have bears? Where do they come from? Why does one of them wear bear onesies? What is underneath? This series will answer almost none of those questions. What it will do is make you grin from ear-to-ear at the gently absurd stop-motion-animated sequences where Rilakkuma and friends get into increasingly weird scrapes. I want my own lazy bear to hug when I get home from work.
Ao Chan Can’t Study
I cannot believe I am watching this. Legions of AniTAY chat people recommended it, so like a sheep I started watching this short anime about a High School girl whose father, an erotic fiction novelist, named her after a lurid porn term. Ok then. It isn’t nearly as creepy as I feared it would be, and the opening sequence has a hilarious moment with a quivering tongue. I know I’m not selling it that well, but at least go watch it once - I almost spat out my drink the first time I saw it. The opening song itself is really catchy - perfect bubblegum pop. I do feel somewhat guilty laughing at the mishaps of this poor, mentally and emotionally damaged girl who attempts to have normal friendships despite her morbid fear/obsession with all things sexual. Main love interest Takumi’s patience and dedication is very sweet, and I hope Ao will get over her (myriad) hangups and they can develop a healthy relationship. Creepy dad should be locked up in a sex offenders institute though. He reminds me of sex-pest Happosai from Ranma 1/2 (but with a mohican for added weirdness).
Isekai Quartet - up to date
So this is a weird one. A comedy short that is a mashup between 4 different Isekai shows: Konosuba/The Saga of Tanya the Evil/Re:Zero/Overlord. Although they all belong to the same broad genre, in content they are almost nothing like. Part of the joy of this series is watching the unexpected pairings between the characters - Nazi-like Tanya and “evil overlord” Ains Ooal Gown bond over the leadership of their minions. Violent maid Rem and eternally horny Albedo bond over their unrequited loves. “Teacher” Roswaal is up to... something. Mostly this is pretty dumb, broad comedy. It helps if you already know the characters from their individual shows. The only show I was unfamiliar with was Konosuba and a quick watch of the first couple of episodes was enough to 1) give me an idea of the tone and premise and 2) confirm that it was not for me. This mashup however is a fun, low-effort diversion.
Thanks for reading my thoughts and let me know what you think of any of these shows that you’ve watched. Also if you think there’s anything else out there this season you think I’d like, feel free to leave me a recommendation. I’ll be back once the season is ended to give a final opinion on all of these shows and probably more.