Brief impressions of the Spring 2019 anime season so far
As before it's well past time for my views on how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. A good part of why I'm only writing this basically half way through the season is that there has been something that I didn't really want to admit about my watching this season, and I kept hoping that I would get up the energy to change it before I wrote this entry.
- Fairy Gone: This is the most interesting show I'm watching this
season, although perhaps not the best made one. Part of why I like
it quite a lot is that it's simply different from the usual run of
the mill stuff we get every season, and since it's decently put
together it automatically gets positive points from me. It also
gets positive points for a competent female protagonist.
(The character names are amusingly terrible, but at least they're trying.)
- Demon Slayer: This is a quite well made and somewhat atypical shonen action vehicle, with pretty much all of the things that you would expect from the genre and only a few surprises. We had our training episodes, we had our 'prove yourself in this killer test' episodes, and so on, although we recently had what could be a major deviation from schedule (but probably isn't, because this is an adaptation of an ongoing Shonen Jump manga). I find it nice to watch but not compelling, and Nezuko remains tragically underused.
- Wise Man's Grandchild: This is mindless and not particularly great entertainment. I am enjoying the hijinks so far because I am easily amused and right now, I'm willing to spend some time watching this (often over actual popcorn). There is no real tension in the show; the only real question and most of the amusement is how deep a hole Shin is going to dig for himself this time around, and what crazy things are going to ensue. I do appreciate that all of the other significant characters are getting to power up too; this is not just the 'Shin is awesome and everyone else sits around' show.
- Sarazanmai (#2): I have a somewhat rocky relationship with Ikuhara shows; I stalled out on Penguindrum and ended up with divided opinions on Yurikuma Arashi where it didn't really connect with me. Watching Sarazanmai feels like something I should do and portions of it are perfectly entertaining, but after two episodes I haven't really connected with it and it has my Penguindrum problem (cf) where at least some of the people we are supposed to follow and like are actually currently kind of terrible people, which is hard for me to get behind. Perhaps I will like it more if I watch more, but so far I am many episodes behind and that keeps not changing.
In my current slow and relaxed level of anime watching, I'm thinking of this as a decently good season. I have one show that is outright interesting and two that are okay at different levels, and in theory there is some good stuff that I'm just not watching (right now).
Looking back on the Winter 2019 anime season
It's time (and well past time) for my traditional look back at what I watched this past Winter season, to follow up on my earlier impressions. I've been lazy about doing this entry, partly because there is not a lot to talk about.
- Kemurikusa: In the end, Tatsuki and his crew came through with a worthy follow on to Kemono Friends. The show started slow and had some early speed bumps, but it picked up as it went along and even ended up giving us a decent bunch of explanations for things and fully sold the love story that orbited through the show. This isn't flawless but it was unquestionably good.
- The Magnificent Kotobuki: The show remained perfectly entertaining on an episode by episode basis and the last two episodes were really something; they were compulsive and genuinely tense in a way that I hadn't expected at all. But the show's problems also remained, which is that it didn't really have a compelling long-term thread running through, although it did develop a plot for the climax. We did get a bunch of nice character moments, though, and maybe even a few things that could be called character development.
In shows that didn't start this season, I enjoyed That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime all the way through; it retained all of its good virtues as fine popcorn entertainment. However, it wound up ending with quite weird pacing, where it rushed through portions of the final storyline (dropping or significantly altering a number of plot elements in the process), then abruptly slowed down to a very leisurely pace and outright did a final recap episode. A show that both drops elements of the original story to save time and then does a recap episode is a rather odd thing, and I can't avoid some obvious speculations (although these speculations are often wrong; 'production problems' is an all-purpose idea that the fandom has and is usually not right).
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Spring 2019 anime season
As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).
- Fairy Gone episode 1: That was a solid introduction and first episode.
It had a certain amount of exposition, but it didn't explain everything,
it had a bunch of action and progression, and it did some nice
work. I'll watch the next episode.
- Apparently I was not in the mood for One-Punch Man S2's first
episode's story this night. I will probably take another run at it
another time, since I skimmed the rest of the episode to see where it
Spoiler: I did not try to watch the episode again, partly because in reading the ANN preview reports for it I discovered that there had been major staff changes (and a decided drop in the amount of interesting animation, which matches my vague feelings from what I did see of the episode).
- Wise Man's Grandchild episode 1: This was perfectly okay, but it
is no Slime or Knight's & Magic and this episode was all setup. I'll
watch another episode to see if it gets more interesting once it's
actually doing something.
- Demon Slayer episode 1: That was a strong, well done start that makes me
want to watch more even though I can pretty much predict it's going to
get mired down in the usual slow-paced way sooner or later. For now,
it's exciting and appealing, and that's enough.
- Sarazanmai episode 1: That simultaneously made perfect sense and
very little sense, which is probably more than I expected. I have no
other coherent short term reactions except that I'm definitely going
to watch the next episode.
- [...] In theory I could watch Fruits Basket, but in practice I saw the first version years ago and I don't remember loving it so much that I want to basically watch it again (although it was a decently nice show). ♯
By this point it seems unlikely that I'll watch any other first episodes. Carole & Tuesday has been getting some good reports, but it doesn't seem like my kind of show and my results with Shinichirō Watanabe's past shows have been decidedly mixed, with me bouncing off Kids on the Slope and Terror in Resonance.
Looking back on the Fall 2018 anime season
It's well past time for my traditional look back at what I watched in this past Fall season, to follow up on my early impressions and my midway views. This past fall season was unusual because I passed on Bloom Into You during the season and then became very taken with it when I watched it all just after the end of the year. Since I watched it so close to the season (and before I started the Winter 2019 season), I'm declaring it a Fall 2018 show for the purpose of this retrospective (and my eventual 'best N in 2018' entry).
(This entry has been delayed mostly because of laziness.)
Somewhere between excellent and amazing:
- SSSS.Gridman: The show started out being decently good and only got
better from there, climaxing as an excellent if not amazing
show. I had things to say in the aftermath of the last episode. Although Gridman starts out looking like
a giant robot/kaiju show, it almost immediately becomes really an
increasingly good character drama (interspersed with kaiju fights,
which become necessary for the character drama). And as a character
drama, it's excellent and affecting all through. The presentation
is top-notch, with great directing and very interesting sound
SSSS.Gridman is not flawless, but despite its flaws it's quite a lot my thing.
Excellent but effectively unfinished:
- Bloom Into You: This is a great show, beautiful, dramatic, full of
small touches, and many other things that drew me into it. It's that
rare thing, a high school romance that wholeheartedly works for me;
it's almost become my new gold standard for that (taking over from
Toradora). It only has one unfortunate flaw, which is that the
story is in no way finished and the show has to just stop abruptly.
Bloom is adopting an ongoing manga and apparently there is just no
good pause point so far; the show picks an okay one, one that shows
off character growth and so on, but it is forced to leave all of its
big plot threads just dangling. I finished the show very much wanting
a a second season (or perhaps to read the manga).
That Bloom Into You has to stop so abruptly means that it really isn't a standalone work in the way that SSSS.Gridman is. In my opinion Bloom is better and less flawed than Gridman, but Gridman tells a whole story and Bloom does not, and it turns out that I care about that too.
Good fun entertainment:
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Above all, Slime is a
cheerful, good-hearted show that is out to make us smile. If you want
conflict and challenged characters and so on, this is not for you;
it's all about Rimuru solving a succession of problems and running
over a succession of obstacles as they build a home and make friends
with people and various great character interactions go on. The show
fundamentally likes pretty much everyone, and almost every enemy
gets a chance at redemption. In an ocean of grim shows where terrible
things happen to people and certain sorts of characters are walking
cliches that are used only as the butt of jokes, Slime is a breath
of fresh air.
Slime is not flawless, and in a certain way it's boring. But I always enjoyed it and it reliably brought a smile to my face when I watched a new episode.
Not as good as the first season:
- Thunderbolt Fantasy S2: This was a good wuxia puppet show with
various sorts of interesting things going on (and one stinger in the
but I'm not entirely taken with some of the
things that Urobuchi wrote into the story (cf) and it can't
(and doesn't) measure up to the first season. The original Thunderbolt
Fantasy was amazing; this is merely a good adventure show with fun
dialog and some amusing things going on.
Looking back at the story structure in retrospect, I can't say that I'm entirely surprised by this; it would be very hard to duplicate the things that made the first season so special. We're unlikely to get that sort of revelations and twists and character developments again, because we've already had them once.
I feel satisfied with this season as a whole. Two shows were basically amazing (counting Bloom and ignoring the non-ending), one was solidly pleasant, and one was at least reasonably entertaining.
Brief impressions of the Winter 2019 anime season so far
As before it's time (and well past time) for my views of how this season has shaken out so far, following up on my first episode reactions. The short version is that it is not a good season for me so far (for various reasons) and as a result of that I am a week or two behind on the two shows from this season that I'm still watching.
- The Magnificent Kotobuki: This is a perfectly entertaining show on
an episode by episode basis; every episode is generally funny and well
crafted, with various subtle touches. However I have realized that one
of my problems with the show overall is that there is nothing there to
pull me from one episode to the next other than the pure entertainment
value. After the four episodes I've watched so far, there is no real
ongoing plot or continuing developments, just episodic shenanigans.
If I want to feel entertained, watching Kotobuki is a decent option. But it turns out that I have a lot of ways of entertaining myself and Kotobuki has often not been the most compelling one.
- Kemurikusa: On the one hand, there is some good stuff here (it's quite atmospheric, for example). On the other hand, after four episodes I continue to find the show to be slow moving overall and Wakaba remains irritating as the genki idiot (cf), and some apparent subplots involving him annoy me by their very existence.
I have dropped everything else from my first episode reactions for an assortment of reasons, including Boogiepop and Others (cf), which makes me a bit sad. I have decided not to write those reasons up because they'll just consist of me being grumpy.
(I have been watching people watch Endro! on Twitter and it seems like a pretty entertaining show on the whole, even if it didn't work for me.)
I continue to fully enjoy That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime as fine popcorn entertainment. The goings-on of Rimuru and friends never fail to bring a smile to my face and it's the only show I'm current on this season.
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Winter 2019 anime season
As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).
- Boogiepop and Others episode 1: That was okay, I guess; it certainly
wasn't actively bad, but I don't feel terribly inspired by what I
saw. Stuff happened. Some things made sense; other things might be
deliberately obtuse. There's a lot of mystery and little reason to care.
- Kemurikusa episode 1: That was a pretty decent start with a bunch of
solid stuff, but I would be much less worried about where it's going
if it had not added a boy. It's also pretty much all setup and lacks
the propulsive push forward that really compelling shows have here.
- Girly Air Force episode 1: That was generally decently fun and I
especially liked the research boss; he's an enjoyable character. It's
no Sky Girls, but I like the genre in general and I'm willing to watch
more to see what happens next.
- Dororo episode 1: That was perfectly well done and it definitely
believed in 'show don't tell', although maybe it went a bit overboard on
it; I would have been a bit lost if I hadn't known the premise. But it
may not be distinct enough to keep me; it feels pretty generic action.
- Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka episode 1: This could have been
interesting, but it has middle of the road aesthetics and mostly came
off as kind of ridiculous and over the top (not in a good way). There
were some decent bits but on the whole it felt entirely too lazily
- Endro! episode 1: That was reasonably decent and reasonably funny,
as people have said, but unsurprisingly it wasn't funny enough to keep
me watching the next episode. (Anime comedy almost never works for me,
so I expected this result.)
- The Magnificent Kotobuki episode 1: Now that's how you do a first episode that nails me to my seat. Not just fun and thrilling along with subtle storytelling that showed instead of told, but also decent introductions to a bunch of fun characters. →
I won't be looking at Kemono Friends 2, not after what Kadokawa did to the scrappy little team that completely unexpectedly turned dross into gold. Anyway, early reports are not positive, which doesn't surprise me at all under the circumstances (I'm sort of surprised that Kadokawa found anyone who was willing to work on KF2 for them). The creative team behind Kemono Friends (the original and only real version) is doing Kemurikusa this season, so watch that instead.
I liked Overlord's first season but I'm not watching any more
I skipped Overlord when it first aired, but then back in the summer season I started watching it for no particularly strong reason; as I said at the time, it's ridiculous and overpowered in a way that amuses me. At that point I'd watched up through episode 7 and stopped. At the end of the year, in the between-season doldrums, I finished off the rest of Overlord's first season (after being annoyed because it had moved from Crunchyroll to Funimation in their great split, and Funimation is a pit of annoyance).
While I pretty much enjoyed the first season of Overlord as a whole in much the same way as I enjoyed the first seven episodes, I will not be watching any more of it. The short version of why not is that starting with episode 8, Momonga is revealed to be an extremely unpleasant person; he is basically a cruel and casually murderous sociopath. Although none of the incidents involved are significant bits of the story (and they don't happen very often), all of them happen without the story so much as raising an eyebrow. For me, this irreversibly taints the show as a whole, because it is actually following a villain and getting me to cheer for him in his goofy, overpowered antics and so on.
It's to Overlord's credit in a way that it's possible to watch the rest of the show, enjoy the spectacle, and to root for Momonga in it. It's very easy to forget that a few episodes ago, Momonga had some perfectly decent people murdered because they were making his life inconvenient, and I'm relatively confident that in the future, the incidents of murdering and cruel killings and so on will be few and far between. In a way that's why I don't want to watch any more of Overlord; I don't want the feeling of the show persuading me to cheer on someone I know is actually a nasty person.
(And the revelation of Momonga's nature has destroyed my interest in him as a character.)
My tweets from watching Bloom Into You
Right at the start of 2019, I decided to try out Bloom Into You (which I had initially passed on) and wound up quite enjoying it. In the spirit of not doing all of my blogging on Twitter, I'm copying my tweets about Bloom to here.
Overall, Bloom Into You is the best high school romance show I've seen since Toradora. Romance shows almost never work for me (which is one reason I didn't even try out Bloom at the start of the Fall season), but Bloom completely pulled me in. The one caveat I have is that the show is not a complete story, because it's based on an ongoing manga (and one that doesn't have a good stopping point where the story conveniently pivots from one thing to another).
Bloom Into You episode 1: That was solidly fun and I quite like Yuu's voice. I don't know if the show will be my thing over the long term, but it's more than earned a second episode and I'm quite looking forward to it.
(I should have tried this out last season, when it aired.) ♯
Yuu's internal voice and out loud dialog were a treasure all through Bloom. Yuu's not a conventional protagonist so she has an edge and a different angle to her thoughts and words, and the actual spoken voice her seiyuu used is a great fit for Yuu the character. The show fit in Yuu's internal thoughts and narration quite well and they're an important part of the story as a whole.
Bloom Into You episode 2: This continues to be a good show, partly on the strength of Yuu's voice but the other people are good too. My experience is changed and probably improved by knowing a certain amount of spoilers, which illuminate various little moments and exchanges. ♯
There are a number of things about various characters which the show drops hints about before it actually tells you. Because I had seen other people watching it on Twitter, I had already heard about a number of those things, so I could pick up, understand, and enjoy the hints in early episodes.
Bloom Into You episode 3: And Nanami has her first moment of genuine emotional honesty (more or less), all because Yuu is actually pretty smart and aware of things. This show is actually selling all of this, which I definitely appreciate; too many romance shows work only by fiat. →
One of my little regrets about watching Bloom Into You (even without spoilers) is that I'm pretty sure that Yuu is eventually going to end up with feelings of love, and while I want her to be happy (& she's sad now), I do enjoy the puzzled, aromantic observer Yuu we have so far.
I would be totally down for a version of Bloom Into You where Yuu simply enjoys Nanami's company more and more without romance coming into it on Yuu's side, and perhaps with Nanami moving to appreciate the companionship as well without feeling she has to be 'in love'.
One of my peculiarities in my spate of tweeting is that I deliberately started out using Nanami Touko's last name to refer to her and later switched to her first name. I did this because in early episodes I didn't feel the show was putting us close enough to her to really think of her on a first name basis. Koito Yuu was always Yuu because the show puts us close to her (in fact in her head) from the very start.
Bloom Into You episode 4: I can't help but see Maki as a male more or less mirror image of Yuu, less self-conscious about how he's 'supposed' to be experiencing love. Also, things are moving and little moments of revelation are adding up (to things I already know from spoilers). ♯
Bloom Into You episode 5: Flustered Namami and more or less innocently whatever you want to call it Yuu is a powerful combo. Nanami has seemed so in control for so long that this is an interestingly different view. (Poor Nanami.) →
Bloom Into You episode 6: This is not a healthy relationship on either side, but then that is sometimes the messy nature of life. Perhaps in time it can grow into something more than two people sort of using each other, even if they're currently sort of happy with what they have. →
Bloom Into You is very good at being very good, and it is beautiful. These people, all of them can say so much without really saying much, and the direction and presentation of the anime is quietly so very good.
Bloom Into You has a mastery of character gesture, tone of voice, expression, how and when characters look at each other, and so on that communicates a whole host of things that lesser shows would have to handle in dialog or in far more obvious character interactions.
Bloom Into You episode 7 is beautiful (and sort of sad, on multiple levels), although I suspect I may be reading things into it about silent societal pressures and prejudices that aren't entirely intended. Such a powerful set of moments, though. Poor Sayaka. →
Given what Bloom Into You is about and what it's already shown us, the comfortable definite moment with the two adults is not unexpected, but it was still great. I admit the initial shot of their legs made me wonder if the show was going to be coy, but no, that was a fake-out. →
Bloom Into You episode 8: This delicate balance is already falling apart, whether any of you know it or not, and all three of you are each falling and lying to yourselves in your own ways. →
Bloom Into You episode 9's first half has such an important conversation. Maki is good for something (very) important after all, not just stirring the shit for his own amusement. →
Bloom Into You episode 9: This show remains absurdly good at illustrating all of the tangled emotions and drives of these people without actually having to spell anything out. Poor Touko, who did not get to feel wanted the way she wanted to be. →
Bloom Into You episode 10: Everything was going so well and then that epilogue AAAAA. On the everything going so well front, those dorks need to give in and see each other in person more. It makes them both so happy just to talk to each other. →
Bloom Into You episode 11: The tensions are stacking up and the illusions are crumbling (and in some cases, revealed as pre-crumbled, it's just that certain parties didn't reveal their knowledge). As great as always. →
Bloom Into You episode 12: And the tensions boil over and the crows come home to roost at last. Yuu gets the answers she implicitly wanted, and they don't please her. Also, I think Touko is balancing herself on a knife-edge even though she doesn't realize it. →
Bloom Into You episode 13: The aquarium overshadowed almost everything else in the episode except the heart-stopping moment at the train station. I have to root for Yuu being selfish for once and getting what she wants. →
Now we get into some of my overall views and quibbles.
I completely enjoyed watching Bloom Into You as a show, but unfortunately episode 13 doesn't end anything so much as it just stops, and I don't know how that makes me feel about it overall. There are a lot of big things left hanging over the story at this point. →
Also, I'll give Bloom Into You points for Yuu still arguably not being 'in love' with Touko, although she clearly likes her company and all of that. Perhaps the story is quietly crafting a message in the combination and contrast of Touko and Yuu here.
Touko is unambiguously 'traditional romance love' in love with Yuu, and shows it in tons of ways. Yuu is not ostensibly feeling this way, but she clearly equally has genuine affection and caring for Touko. I can imagine the show asking 'is this not love too, just different?' →
Quite possibly this interpretation of what Bloom Into You is doing is me thinking too hard.
(But I do so dislike the 'character X is in-love in love and just doesn't realize it' trope that shows up so often. I'd like it to be that Bloom Into You is different.) →
I don't know how I'd have felt watching Bloom Into You week by week during the Fall 2018 season, especially not knowing various spoilers. I'm absolutely sure that my experience was changed by marathoning the show, especially with some spoilers in hand. I suspect that I enjoyed the show more because I was marathoning it and could take it at whatever pace I wanted (which turned out to be a fast pace; I ran through the entire show over the course of a few days and found the last few episodes so compelling that I stayed up very late to watch them).
(Part of the pace was that Bloom wasn't competing with anything else in my anime watching or life at the time, because I was off for my work's winter break and there was nothing else airing. This lack of any activity was part of why I wound up trying Bloom out in the first place; I was plain bored and all sorts of people had said lots of praise about it during the fall season.)