Better late than never! Welcome friends once again to the AniTAY Recommendation Collaboration Fiesta, Winter 2018 edition! If this is your first time with us, this is where our fellow AniTAYers and I have gathered together to select some of our favorite shows we are currently watching this season. You may not agree with all of our picks, but hopefully there is a show or two that you may not have had on your radar but you now do.

Thankfully, our format hasn’t changed from last time. We’ve included Amazon and Crunchyroll shows together, as well as one show that makes its living on the service HiDive. All Netflix shows are once again excluded, due to being illegal to watch outside of Japan, except for one, our most curious entry on the list. Because that show is available outside Japan but not in the USA, we’ve decided that it should be included for our members who are not ‘Muricans. And just like last time, there will be no sequels included in the following list. We don’t need to tell you to watch the sequel of a show you already liked or didn’t like. We think you’re smarter than that. Hopefully.

If you are really really desperate to know about those sequel shows, you can find them here.

OK, enough talk. Let’s get to the list!


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Darling in the FRANXX
Written by:
Protonstorm
Genres: Mecha, Sci-Fi

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world where humans are forced to live in cloistered moving cities, the only force protecting the adults from the roving “klaxosaur” monsters is a collection of mechas called “FRANKXX”. Each Frankxx is controlled through the cooperation of two teenage pilots, whose roles are referred to as pistil and stamen. Hiro is a prodigy among these pilots, but after failing an important test he seemingly loses his ability to pilot a FRANKXX. However, this changes when he meets Code 002, a particularly gifted stamen who has a reputation for killing her partners within three outings. Is 002 Hiro’s chance to become a proper pilot? Or will he simply die and be discarded?

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Why You Should Be Watching: Darling in the FRANKXX is one of the more bizarrely-named shows of the season, but once you watch the first episode, the meaning behind the title becomes about as subtle as the rest of the show’s thematic symbolism. That is to say, FRANKXX beats you over the head with it. The “stamen” pilot (a role filled by females) essentially melds with the robot skeleton and acts according to the commands of the “pistil” pilot (a role played by males), a process that only works if the minds of the two pilots are able to remain in sync with each other. Good communication between partners is essential due to the precision with which the pilots need to work together both mentally and physically if they want to move the complex machines. If this already sounds sexual, then you’re already starting to grasp thematically what’s going on here.

That’s not to say that such heavy symbolism is necessarily bad; DARLING in the FRANKXX is simply getting the initial details out of the way so that it can quickly move into the more complex and interesting stuff. The intimacy inherent in piloting a FRANKXX is the battleground for the relationships between and the sexuality of the characters. The post-apocalyptic society of FRANKXX is mysterious in its function and in the way it seemingly has absolute control over the pilots; their every action is monitored, and while they are willing participants it is definitely clear that they have little choice in the matter. The odds of everyone surviving in the face of the very real and dangerous klaxosaurs depend heavily on the ability of a group of stressed, hormonal teenagers to keep their emotions in-line. Although anxious teenagers fighting impossible enemies in robots for the sake of a mysterious government may sound familiar, so far the show has done a good job executing its premise, and the refreshing dynamic of the two-pilot robots creates a surprisingly fresh and enjoyable experience for fans of dramas and mecha shows alike.

Recommended By: Grex, Koda, Nomadic Dec, Protonstorm, Requiem, RockmanDash12, Shade, Stinolez, Thatsmapizza

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Violet Evergarden
Written By:
Shade
Genres: Drama, Fantasy
Where to Watch: Netflix (Only outside the US, US streaming is not available yet)

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Once upon a time, Violet Evergarden was a military soldier who served in a grueling war. During her time spent in this paramount battle, she lost both of her arms and was ordered by her superior officer, Gilbert, to leave him behind after witnessing him gravely injured and unable to move. Violet recalls the memory and his last words to her: “I love you.” Now the war is over, and Violet has no job. Lieutenant Colonel Hodgins picks her up at the hospital to have her work at his post office. Violet decides to become an Auto Memory Doll, a ghostwriter for people unable to write, in order to find out the meaning of Gilbert’s last words.

Why You Should Be Watching: Violet Evergarden is a character-focused narrative with the titular protagonist as its centerpiece. It is about the society of this fictional world, its recovery from the war, and the struggles of its inhabitants to regain their footing in life. But it’s mostly about Violet’s quest to find the meaning of love while learning more about herself in the process. It is her growth as a character that makes the series a treat to watch. The series’ strength lies in its episodic nature that, while introducing and fully realizing new characters and their struggles, ends up helping Violet slowly blossom into a more expressive and empathetic person.

And speaking of expressive, KyoAni’s animation accentuates that expressiveness in how Violet is portrayed. There is more to see beyond the lush backgrounds and nearly-seamless movement. Violet’s tendency to not express emotions through words is instead directed to her eyes, and by doing so, we get a subtle yet effective projection of her character and thoughts through multiple scenarios. Violet Evergarden is not just a pretty face—it is also heartwarming and created with much love on all fronts of the production. It is absolutely worth your time.

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Recommended By: Grex, Nomadic Dec, Protonstorm, RockmanDash12, Shade, ShadowHaken, Stinolez

A Place Further Than The Universe
Written by:
Stinolez
Genres: Adventure
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

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Spoiler-free Synopsis: Mari Tamaki is second year high school student, who never did anything memorable in her life. Her fear of failure prevented her to do anything out of ordinary. When she decides to change it and do something she won’t forget, Mari meets Shirase, a girl who’s considered a weirdo by the rest of her class. Her nickname is “Arctic” since it’s all she ever talks about. Mari listens to Shirase’s story and is moved by it to the point, where she decides to join her in her pursuit of going to Antarctica, despite it’s nearly impossible for high school girls to achieve it.

Why You Should Be Watching: Probably the first thing which strikes you while watching A Place Further Than The Universe, is the beautiful art and fluid animation of cute girls doing cute things. If you look a bit behind this cover, you can see an adventure story of friendship and determination to achieve something, which seems to be impossible. You’d see four girls, each with their own character, backstory and reason, why they are together trying to get to Antarctica. Mari wants to do something memorable in her high school life before it’s too late. Yuzuki is going partly because of her celebrity status and because this is the perfect opportunity to make real friends, something she’s never had before. Hinata is going because why not and lastly Shirase is hoping to find her mother, who was lost there in the last expedition. Having this rich background make it easy to be emotionally invested, while the subtle comedy ease the atmosphere and conjure up a smile on your face multiple times each episode. This series is pure love, determination and passion and I promise you won’t regret trying it out.

Recommended By: Grex, Gugsy, Koda, Nomadic Dec, Protonstorm, Requiem, RockmanDash12, Stinolez, Tenshigami, Thatsmapizza

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Devilman Crybaby
Written by
: Thatsmapizza
Genres: Action, Supernatural, Modern Day, Horror, Drama, Tragedy, Mature Audiences
Where to Watch: Netflix

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Akira Fudo is a good kid, but is unremarkable otherwise. So when Akira’s childhood friend, Ryo, suddenly reappears and asks Akira for help, Akira immediately offers to help him, no matter the danger.

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Ryo asks Akira to help him combat an emerging demon invasion, but on the pair’s first encounter with demons, Akira is possessed by the demon Amon. With his strong heart, Akira is able to overcome Amon’s influence and is endowed with with new demonic powers.

With his new power, Akira must fight to protect humanity and his loved ones against this demonic force. But can Akira protect his loved ones while controlling the beast inside him or will he have to face a more human foe should his powers be discovered?

Why You Should Be Watching: Let me get this out of the way first, Devilman Crybaby is for mature audiences and even then some people may be turned off by the level of sex and violence in the show. Still, you probably won’t find another anime so ambitious or fun. With that out of the way, Devilman Crybaby is a drug filled fever dream of an anime that spares no convention in its attempt to tell its tale of humans fighting demons both externally and internally.

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Initially, Devilman Crybaby feels like a monster of the week show that has tinges of emotional exploration mixed into the blood and gore of the action scenes. As soon as you get comfortable with this formula, Devilman throws you a curveball by suddenly expanding the scale of the conflict to a global scale and the way this twist was done will keep you on the edge of your seat for the rest of the anime’s run

Devilman Crybaby is a visual feast to behold. Director Masaaki Yuasa, brought his signature loose animation style to Devilman, which made the action of the series into a veritable funhouse of uniquely animated scenes. The way the characters stretched and melted gave weight and power to each action scene, while also giving very emotional scenes a visceral quality that makes you feel like you were punched in the gut. Even if you don’t like the story or characters of Devilman Crybaby, the animation of the show alone is enough of an excuse to check out this anime.

If you decide to get on the wild ride that is Devilman Crybaby, you’ll come away with your pants blow right off on how awesome it was.

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Recommended By: Grex, Gugsy, Koda, Nomadic Dec, RockmanDash12, Shade, Thatsmapizza

Laid Back Camp
Written by:
Requiem
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Super Chill, Cute Girls Doing Cute Things
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

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Spoiler-free Synopsis: Rin is a young high school girl and solo camping enthusiast. While winter camping at a spot with spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, she runs into new transfer student Nadeshiko, who knows nothing about camping but IS an adorable goofball. Nadeshiko then catches the bug and joins the schools Outdoor activities Club. From there we get the charming camping and camping related adventures of Rin, Nadeshiko, and the Outclub.

Why You Should Be Watching: Laidback Camp is a study in sublime simplicity. In its basic elements, it’s really just a show about high school girls who like to camp. But it takes such a simple premise and elevates it to greatness. It’s characters are endearing, its world alluring and it’s funny as hell. Is it slice of life and cute girls doing cute things? Sure, but its execution of those genres is nearly flawless.

Rin and Nadeshiko are the standouts, but every character who get a screen time brims with charm. This is back by excellent animation, including great, detailed backgrounds(every campsite looks and feels different) and fantastic attention to detail on everything from the camping gear to the clothes of the characters. They all look so damn comfy! It doesn’t hurt that the show also has the catchiest OP of the season.

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In short, Laidback Camp takes camping and makes it look like the greatest thing on earth, because who wouldn’t want to spend time outdoors hanging out with these fantastic characters? This show produces more GIFs per minute than seems possible, because it’s so loaded with great, small moments. So, pull up to the fire (following all campsite rules, of course) and join Secret Society BLANKET in Laidback Camp.

Recommended By: Gugsy, Koda, Nomadic Dec, Protonstorm, Requiem, RockmanDash12, Stinolez, Tenshigami, Thatsmapizza

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After the Rain
Written by:
Grex
Genre: Romance
Where to Watch: Amazon

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Akira Tachibana is a 17-year-old former track star, forced to quite the team after an unfortunate injury. Just when she is nearly consumed by solitude and despair, an act of kindness from a total stranger captures her heart — regardless of the fact that this stranger was a 45-year-old diner manager, Masami Kondo. Unperturbed by the age gap, Akira takes a job at Kondo’s restaurant, eager to get just a little closer and maybe even profess her feelings. But how will Kondo react to her advances? And will he reciprocate her love?

Why You Should Be Watching: After The Rain has turned off many would-be viewers with its potentially thorny premise, which is perfectly fair. A relationship between two people of such wildly different age conjures to mind creepy old perverts, messy power dynamics, and a host of other unhealthy possibilities. However, the actual execution has been anything but, treating the characters and their understandably complicated emotions with a grace and respect that anime romcoms are rarely afforded. The series is rife with subtle directorial cues and creative visual setpieces (many of which involve rain, aptly enough), establishing a palpably but not overbearingly wistful atmosphere, and allowing audiences to infer as much from the characters’ actions and surroundings as what they actually say — especially, critically, in the case of Akira herself. After The Rain is not so much a simple romance as it is an exploration of these two characters, not only because the two have yet to enter into an actual relationship, but because it is more concerned with how they see themselves, and each other, than just tossing them into possibly problematic lovestruck shenanigans. Fear not, interested parties; After The Rain has been impressively tactful and mature with just about every step it’s made.

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Recommended By: Grex, Gugsy, Nomadic Dec, Shade

Teasing Master Takagi-san:
Written By:
Nomadic Dec
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Mild Romance, Psychological Torture
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

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Spoiler-free Synopsis: Nishikata has a problem. Takagi, the girl sitting next to him in class, relentlessly teases him. In every match of wits, tricks, and challenges, he is beaten. She appears everywhere he is, and always seems to know what he’s thinking. And worst of all, she makes him blush every day! For the life of him, Nishikata cannot understand why she’s in his head all the time, but he knows he is going to outsmart the fiendish Takagi and make her blush instead. One day.

Why You Should Be Watching: Teasing Master Takagi-san draws strength from inevitability. It is inevitable that Takagi will win. It is inevitable that Takagi will know precisely how Nishikata will react. It is inevitable that Nishikata will overthink everything. It is inevitable that Nishikata will realise he’s falling in love (eventually). It is inevitable that Nishikata will need years of therapy from the slow psychological breakdown he has suffered at the hands of the cutest girl in the class.

Inevitability is the enemy of comedy. Usually. Teasing Master Takagi-san is an exception, because the audience is there to see Nishikata slowly drawn into the spiderweb of Takagi’s affections. It is the small changes in their relationship that makes the series a pleasure, and seeing how they care for each other balances out the teasing. The inevitability manages to eschew the other issue of romance in comedy. Romance in comedy is so often mined because it is a strong bond forcing conflicting characters together. The comedy stems from that tension. And once that tension is gone when a couple’s together, it is usually never quite as funny as when they were apart. The inevitability of Takagi and Nishikata’s shifts the tension from “will they or won’t they” to “when and how”. The growing closeness between the pair, while maintaining comedic potency, is a sweet experience worth seeing. Takagi will inevitably win over Nishikata, and her audience as well.

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Recommended By: Nomadic Dec, RockmanDash12

School Babysitters
Written by:
Koda
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

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Spoiler-free Synopsis: After his parents die in a plane crash, Ryuichi Kashima and his little brother Kotaro are taken in by the elderly chairwoman of a prestigious academy who lost her son and his wife in the same crash. She decides to let the Kashima brothers live at her elaborate estate and even attend her school for free on the condition that Ryuichi becomes a member of the Babysitter Club, and helps work at the school’s woefully understaffed on-site daycare center meant for the children of the school’s faculty.

Why You Should Be Watching: In a season absolutely filled to the brim with adorable anime series School Babysitters is easily pound for pound one of its cutest. It isn’t merely just a sickenly sweet show, however. The series is also amongst the season’s most heartfelt shows, with every episode managing to sneak in a least one feels blade right between your ribs and deep into your heart. Not only do we get to see the emotional struggles of Ryuichi and Kotaro, but all the children in the show get their turn at manning the feels ride. Though arguably the strongest character in the show has to be the chairwoman herself. Despite her hardened, bitter outer appearance, she time and again proves she is a caring old woman just trying to help some kids, and herself, cope with tragic loss. The show isn’t a perfect one by any means(each passing episode will make you wonder how Usaida, the only full time staff member of the daycare, still has a job, for example), but the good aspects of the show greatly outweigh any of its negatives. If you want to see a cute show that has the potential to make you cry from time to time, then School Babysitters is a series you shouldn’t sleep on.

Recommended By: Koda, Nomadic Dec

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How to Keep a Mummy
Written by
: RockmanDash12
Genres: Comedy, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Streaming Site: Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Sora Kashiwagi is a pretty run of the mill high schooler, but his father, a self proclaimed adventurer is far from normal. As Sora’s dad travels the world, he occasionally sends random packages to sora: these usually turn to be terrifying, but this time… Sora’s dad sent him a tiny mummy? Entertaining antics ensue, as Sora tries to live a normal life with this tiny mummy and as time passes, he and his friends find other supernatural creatures similar to this tiny mummy like dragons and oni.

Why You Should Be Watching: There’s nothing that makes a day better than a sweet snack, and if you’re an anime fan, How to Keep a Mummy might be that sweet snack you’ve been looking for. While it’s premise is pretty out there, How to Keep a Mummy is one of the many fantastic slice of life show that this season has to offer, and is basically the Puppy Bowl distilled into anime form. It’s a show all about watching cute little animals/supernatural beings do cute things, and because of that, Mummy is the most adorable anime ever. Mummy is always entertaining, filled with little moments that are just so precious you can’t help but watch, and it’s very easy to get attached to the fun and adorable characters with their eccentric quirks. The show’s soothing nature makes it a light and easy watch, but surprisingly, Mummy can teach you a lesson about aspects of life like overcoming fears that one might not have expected from a show like this. While other slice of life shows might specialize in being chill or wacky, it’s very rare to find a show overtly sweet, and if that sounds like your cup of tea, you’re gonna really love the show. Mummy might not be the most epic or best show you’ve seen, but with it’s fun and adorableness, it’s definitely worth your time and serves as a refreshing palate cleanser or energizer you just might have been looking for.

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Recommended By: Koda, Requiem, RockmanDash12, Stinolez

Mitsuboshi Colors
Written by:
Gugsy
Genres: Comedy, Slice of Life
Where to Watch: HiDive

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Spoiler-free Synopsis: The Colors are a trio of elementary school girls who all play together and work to “protect the peace of their city”. They have fun on their little adventures and also with the other citizens of their city.

Why You Should Be Watching: There are a number of incredible feel-good shows this season that exist to put a smile on your face and get you to laugh on them. While other shows might be getting more attention, Mitsuboshi Colors is one of the best of them. The Colors are all adorable kids just having fun with each other and the many other people that they deal with on a daily basis, but they also are some of the most realistic acting children in anime as well. Yui is the leader of the group but she is also the most innocent of the trio and easily prone to crying fits. Kotoha is an avid game player, hat connoisseur and the stoic one of the group with a hint of a sadistic streak to her. Finally, Sacchan is the wild and crazy tornado that drives the three forward, even if forward is into a store cheerfully asking about poop for no reason. And this show is funny, very funny. The art is bright and lively, the music is happy and cheery. Basically everything is conspiring together to put a smile on your face, as the Colors clash with police officer Saito in hilarious segments, or go on adventures created by shop owner “Oyaji”, or even mess with each other. Colors is in the same vein as Non Non Biyori and as widely loved as the latter show is, I’d highly recommend you check out this one for similar feelings.

Recommended By: Gugsy, Nomadic Dec

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Katana Maidens
Written by:
Requiem
Genre: Action, Supernatural, Cute Girls Fighting Cute Girls
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: To protect Japan from creatures known as aradama, the government utilizes special religious combat units, made up of girl known as Toji, or Katana Maidens. They have permission to carry swords to carry out their duty to say the aradama. The country set up 5 schools to train the Toji, and they come together for an annual tournament between the schools’ best students. At the final match, Kanami of Minoseki Academy meets Hiyori of Heijou Institute. What happens next changes all their lives and launches the two girls on a journey for justice, vengeance, and the truth.

Why You Should Be Watching: The action scenes. It’s as simple as that. Katana Maidens has fine execution of many elements, but its standout feature is the excellent action sequences. Whether a fight against one of the monstrous aradama or a duel between two girls, the fight scenes are really great, making good use of CG where needed but not overdoing it. They’re often too brief, but always fun to watch.

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Katana Maidens is a bit of a surprise. It does itself a disservice with a less than stellar opening episode, which appears to be a bog standard magic high school show. But when the real plot gets going it becomes quite a bit more. The story isn’t epic but it is engaging, and at all points it’s supported by those stellar fight scenes. The show is also bolstered by several standout characters, like Kaoru, the tiny kuudere with the gigantic odachi. In short, Katana Maidens is more than it appears and more than the sum of its parts, and comes recommended.

Recommended By: Gugsy, Requiem, Tenshigami


Honorable Mention:

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Pop Team Epic
Written by:
ShadowHaken, Nomadic Dec
Genres: Comedy
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Meet Popuko and Pipimi, two 14-year old girls that talk like sailors and who go along life and the bizarre, extremely bizarre situations alongside other kind of things or stories about…Something.

Why You Should Be Watching: Pop Team Epic is an absurd comedy that changes from joke to joke, making it for truly moments of brilliance, aligned with some truly bizarre moments and a weird feeling that while you are laughing, you aren´t truly sure why you are laughing. At the same time, the fact that the anime is made from various sketches helps so that no joke will feel repeated or grow old fast. If you find a joke not funny, there is always hope that the next one will surely make you laugh.

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Another point is the funny and interesting feeling that both protagonists, Popoku and Pipimi, in any situation are going to be bizarre, and in a very fun way! These two girls are likeable and one can be sure that whatever they do they will be amusing to see.

At the same time, Pop Team Epic uses a wide variety of Japanese pop culture references to stars, anime, manga, dramas and much more, making it entertaining what can one can see and detect the various references that will come your way while you enjoy the show.

The series also has 2 dubs, one regular with both Popoku and Pipimi voiced by female voice actors, while the other is featured by changing male voice actors and slightly different dialogues. The male voices change from chapter to chapter also so if one wanted to hear Eren from Attack on Titan or other prominent voices in anime saying dumb stuff it can be rather amusing too.

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All in all Pop Team Epic is an interesting niche comedy since there is no clear topic around the jokes given in the chapter or the theme of the series, which is just a bunch of funny sketches and a very bizarre feeling that either if you don´t find funny one or two jokes, you can be sure that some of them will put a smirk in your face while you watch it.

Why You Should Not Be Watching: Pop Team Epic’s commitment to cramming in as many different scenarios as possible per episode does not obfuscate the notion that the series is a middling comedy at best, and flat out unfunny at worst. Though stemming from a Japanese comedic heritage, there is a certain universality to comedy that transcends borders, especially in the slapstick that is the bread and butter of Pop Team Epic. Therefore, while comedy is subjective, it is possible to reasonably talk about some of Pop Team Epic’s failings from a Western perspective.

Firstly, there is a misconception, which Pop Team Epic takes to heart, that a flurry of randomness equates to good absurdist comedy. There are no absolute rules on comedy, but generally, absurdist comedy works when there is escalation of a premise. Repetition adds to that escalation, with even the seeming non-sequiturs sharing some internal logic with the scenario, but construed in an unexpected, surreal way. Pop Team Epic ditches a premise so rapidly that it has no time for repetition nor escalation. Ironically, it therefore follows the stylings of a conventional comedy in spite of its superficial lunacy, but to successfully execute that, one needs joke punchlines to accompany set-ups. Pop Team Epic lacks punchlines, and it desperately hopes that a quick-change of scene will permit it to present set-ups as the jokes. A set-up alone is not a joke, no matter how promising it might be (and with Pop Team Epic, it rarely is). The profound lack of actual comedic inspiration is most evident in its running gags, which never end with a satisfying culmination of a concept. When Pop Team Epic’s perverse inability to finish jokes overwhelms itself, the series resorts to attempting to elicit laughter with referential humour and milquetoast parody.

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In short, Pop Team Epic is not a brilliant exhibit of absurdism. Its conventional, barren joke-telling is only matched by its lacklustre references. Pop Team Epic’s most admirable qualities are that it has a vast quantity of joke attempts and has the audacious confidence to believe that those attempted jokes are worth watching twice in a row.


Contributors in Alphabetical Order:

This article was a collaboration by several people of the AniTAY community on Talk Amongst Yourselves. You can join the fun by posting your own articles on Kinja with the Ani-TAY tag.

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