Anime Apocalypse: Fall 2018 Retrospective and Wrap-Up

By: Michael Smith

 

Welcome back, weebs. In case you missed it I watched and gave an overview of every single anime that premiered this season in my previous article so if you were looking for a more general article on what’s worth watching from the Fall 2018 season I’d suggest you check that one out or listen to our podcast episode covering it. This article is a follow up in which I will be reviewing the shows I felt were worthwhile enough to continue watching all the way through (and Conception which I decided to continue watching for some inexplicable reason). Now except for JoJo, Run With The Wind, and Slime all of these shows have completed their runs this season and while this article will not contain anything I think would ruin your enjoyment of the shows, there will be some basic spoilers throughout. With that said let’s get started with a couple of stragglers.

Late Comers:

These are shows which premiered at the tail end of the Fall season, rudely, and so were not included in my first article. I will therefore be covering them here.

Hero Mask:

Watched: 4 Episodes

Anime James Bond, sorry I mean James Blood, and his assistant Sarah Sinclair must uncover a mystery surrounding the sudden appearance of bio-genetic masks which have imbued various criminals with mysterious powers. An action/crime drama through and through, this is another one of Netflix’s forays into an original anime series with the assistance of longtime veterans Studio Pierrot and unfortunately it showcases the worst aspects of both. The action is frenetic and hard to follow, the characters are one note and stereotypical, and the script is barely fit for a bad Bond flick. There’s nothing particularly objectionable about a fairly standard and cliched crime thriller but at 15 episodes this one is both longer and less fun than your average Mission Impossible movie so you’d probably be better off watching that instead, or just watch Double Decker or Release the Spyce which are similar shows but much more enjoyable.

You can watch Hero Mask in it’s entirety on Netflix if you’re so inclined.

Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho:

Watched: 3 episodes

Saint Seiya is a classic shonen franchise originating in the mid 80’s in which a bunch of hot anime boys™ don multicolored magic armors themed after various constellations in order to defend Athena and defeat the other nefarious Olympian gods. One could very well argue that Saint Seiya is the grandfather of all modern shonen fighting shows like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, etc. There are several tournament arcs, a variety of anime boys of every hair color, and yes, named special attacks. The series at this point consists of hundreds of episodes, multiple spin-offs, and several films.

Saintia Sho is the newest of these spin-offs, introducing new female Saints (called, creatively, Saintias) and focusing on the character of Shoko in her effort to defend Athena, defeat the evil goddess of discord Eris, and rescue her elder sister. Essentially Saintia Sho is vanilla Saint Seiya but with a more female focus, the series still clearly resembles it’s shonen fighting roots right down to the named attacks and visual style. This show would almost resemble something that came out in the 90’s if the artistic quality was worse. There are a lot of callbacks in this show to previous entries in the series which is either good or bad depending on your familiarity to the franchise but fortunately the show does not rely upon the viewer having a vast knowledge of the Seiya-verse so newcomers can get by just fine. Ultimately if you’re a fan of the franchise or of 90’s fighting anime in general you’ll probably find something to like in SS: SS (so many S’s this anime season), it doesn’t exactly break new ground in the genre nor are it’s themes particularly complex but it knows what it is and handles itself competently which is more than I can say for some of the shows inspired by the original show (looking at you Bleach) so give the first episode a try and you’ll know if it’s your type of show immediately.

You can watch Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho Mondays at 7:00 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

The Main Event!

Last Place – Conception:

Completed (Begrudgingly): 12 episodes

If you read my last article you might be asking “Wait didn’t you say this was the worst anime of the season?” and you’re right dear reader, I did say that, and I still stand by that review, this is in fact the worst anime of the season. Oh sure, some other shows had regressive rape scenes, pedophilia, and just really lazy writing and editing–and yes SAO premiered this season and of course it’s as bad as usual–however none of these shows are actively trying to be as patently offensive and terrible as this one. All of my previous points still stand: there’s still incest, completely skipped over fight scenes, pedophilia, incomprehensible narratives, women treated solely as objects of sex and childbirth, off-screen plot developments.. but in the proceeding episodes the show has somehow managed to add gay baiting and bestiality into the mix. Despite more or less attempting to parse what was happening on screen in every episode I still felt lost at several points when something just inexplicable happened, the animation never got better either, in fact it seemingly got worse as they added in more and more recycled scenes and still shots to hide the fact that they had spent their entire budget on sex scenes that you’ll never see because they’re all censored. The lead is still the least sympathetic harem lead I’ve seen in a long while, so much so that I conceived a head canon that he was in fact the true villain of the show.

“Why then, did you watch this show you proclaim to be so terrible?!” you might be asking, well dear reader, it’s probably because I hate myself, also most unfortunately it turns out that with the right company and in the right atmosphere, this garbage fire of a show can cause me to devolve into complete hysterics at watching the sheer wrongness unfold on screen. Do not take this as a recommendation though, the set of circumstances required to make this show an amusing, if never quite enjoyable, viewing experience are very narrow and if you attempt to watch this by yourself you will almost certainly have a bad time. Down to it’s very last, torturous breath, Conception embodies the truest sense of hedonism in anime, where animators simply add whatever comes to mind to a show simply because they can without asking whether or not they should, this is not the proper way to run a production and this show certainly suffers for their unrestrained id but it has produced a singular example in how not to make an anime and for that at least I thank them. Seriously though, don’t watch this, the lasting emotional and psychological harm visited upon you by this show are not worth it.

Overall Grade: F (only because there exists no lower grade)

14. Ms. Vampire Who Lives in My Neighborhood:

Completed: 12 episodes

Unfortunately Ms. Vampire really lost it’s luster for me by the end of it’s run. What started out as a cute, kind of gay, surprisingly amusing little slice of life just sort of lost steam as it went along. It’s still cute but that cuteness frequently becomes uncomfortable when our old nemesis “unnecessary fanservice” pops it’s ugly head up, a fact that is especially egregious in a show where all the main characters look maybe 13 at best. It’s still gay but in a year with actual LGBT representation in anime, and when even the cheerleader show manages to include an actual lesbian character, it all just feels like yuri baiting; hands are held, characters wink and nod at their feelings for each other, but nothing is ever made explicit. The quantity over quality style approach to humor also didn’t really pay off when it became apparent that the show was just going to recycle a lot of it’s old jokes; Sophie’s an otaku, Akari is really super into vampire girls, Ellie doesn’t understand social queues, etc. it really just boils the characters down to their basic qualities for most of the gags. Fortunately, other than the occasional fixation on the physical aspects of our decidedly too young cast, Ms. Vampire never delves into anything especially objectionable like some of the other shows that aired this season, but sadly this does not save it from becoming another average slice of life with some KyoAni style yuri baiting, and unfortunately KyoAni has already perfected that particular formula.

Overall Grade: C+

13. Banana Fish:

Completed: 24 episodes

Banana Fish is….a complicated show to talk about to say the least; the original manga was ran from the mid 80’s to the 90’s and was (and continues to be) highly regarded as a seminal work. Plenty of other actually queer writers have had much deeper and more nuanced discussions about the show than I could ever possibly write about so I’d highly suggest you check those reviews out for more context on why it’s so important, but from my personal perspective……well, it’s not great. There’s definitely plenty of heavy themes in this show from graphic depictions of murder and torture both physically and psychologically to the multiple examples of sexual assault and abuse and generally I’d say the show handles these topics in a realistic and honest manner. Unfortunately that’s about where the realism ends; every villain on the show is almost cartoonishly evil and they’re almost all invariably the same archetype, every time a new villain shows up you can almost bet on them being a pedophile, megalomaniac, sadistic, closeted gay man who is for some reason or another attracted to Ash and will no doubt underestimate him at every turn. The plot twists are soap operatic, you can predict every new development by asking yourself what could possibly happen to tear apart our two heroes and make their lives as miserable as possible, the ending itself is melodramatic to the extreme, and the stakes pit our lowly gangster friends against increasingly insurmountable foes until they’re literally taking on militarily trained forces. Women are almost a non-entity in this show or if they do exist are stereotypical and only utilized as objects of affection for the male characters, many of whom themselves are one-note and overly simple characters. Even the gay representation in the show feels outdated, Ash and Eiji hold hands and embrace and do almost everything to imply that they have deep feelings for each other on multiple levels but outside of a ploy by Ash in an early episode to pass Eiji information via a kiss, an event that is never touched upon again, their relationship is never made explicit. While it’s virtually impossible to leave this show without correctly assuming that the pair are, at least on some level, romantically attracted to each other, this is a year which has seen numerous examples of explicitly queer characters (see, several characters in Bloom Into You) and all the winks and nods to Ash and Eiji being gay in this series feels like something that was revolutionary back in 85 but feels very common in today’s anime. Ultimately I’m left with the impression of a show which modernized a classic series but perhaps stuck too closely to source material because other than the updated visuals, Banana Fish feels like something that was very fresh and exciting 30 years ago and is now something very standard and predictable.

Overall Grade: B-

12. Anima Yell!:

Completed: 12 episodes

Still the second best sports themed show this season, AY more or less continues to be the same show since it’s beginning, a cute little show about cheerleaders with some hit or miss humor. What sets this apart from Ms. Vampire is a few things; first it never feels as repetitive, it always feels as though every subsequent episode progresses our leads in some way towards becoming a better team. Second, the lack of unnecessary fan service, though our leads are frequently dressed in skirts and cheerleader outfits the camera never goes out of it’s way to focus on their physical attributes, every character dresses reasonably for whatever situation they’re in, even the beach episode simply presents the characters in swimsuits without perving on them, a remarkable feat for an anime. Third, the characters feel more like real people than thin caricatures dressed up to resemble characters.

This doesn’t mean AY is some triumph of the medium though, the jokes miss more than they hit and if you’re not here for the cheer antics there’s really not much to tether yourself to. Also, though it has one very great moment of representation with an explicitly queer minor character coming out to our leads being handled very well, the rest of the show is pretty standard yuri baiting fare, two of the leads have what are clearly unrequited crushes on two of the other leads but other than some jokes made at their expense this never really goes anywhere. This show very clearly wants to focus on cheerleading and comedy, and therefore everything else takes a backseat. In the end, Anima Yell! only briefly excels in the Slice of Life genre, but not everything has to be the next hit show and this one mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do

Overall Grade: B-

11. Golden Kamuy Season 2:

Completed: 24 Episodes Total (12 per season)

On a list that features slime boys, zombie idol girls, and magic ghosts named after hit songs; GK is a contender for the oddest show on this list. Every episode has little asides about Ainu culture or history lessons on early 1900’s Japan like it’s some kind of NatGeo or Discovery channel episode. They also frequently involve a hilarious level of violence which would be much more gruesome if it weren’t so absurd and treated so offhandedly by the cast. One single episode can feature an expose on how to properly hunt, skin, and cook a sea otter, followed by the characters engaging in a brutal shootout, which is then followed by more cooking montages interspersed with dick jokes. Betrayal and counter-betrayal follow one after another, and alliances are made and broken within a single episode. Several of the heroes approach parody levels, a recurring trait of one for example, is that he pops his buttons off his shirt in almost every circumstance, this dumb recurring joke is later used for dramatic purposes in a legitimately emotional scene! Pretty much every villain crosses the absurdity line immediately upon making an appearance, one of the more major antagonists frequently comes up with Moriarty level schemes one moment while drawing stick figures on his subordinates’ faces the next. Despite all of the caricatures surrounding them, the main duo of Sugimoto and Asirpa still manage to be fairly nuanced and complex characters and even the caricatures themselves have their own surprisingly deep backstories. Ultimately though, all of these wild and disparate elements somehow come together to make a show that’s surprisingly entertaining while also being somewhat educational, a peculiar cocktail of disparate themes that could only possibly work for this show. Golden Kamuy may not be the triumph of animation that some of the later shows on this list are, but it is fairly unique.

Overall Grade: B-

Honorable Mentions:

10. SSSS.Gridman:

Completed: 12 episodes

This is a weird show, half slice of life character drama, half tokusatsu/mecha nerd’s wet dream, and I’m not sure if those two halves ever actually came together in a coherent way despite the monumental efforts of the script to tie them together. It’s not that either show is bad per se, the tokusatsu work is lovingly rendered by Studio Trigger, combining their ridiculous action sensibilities with old school, man in a monster suit style character designs. The characters interactions are also pretty good, even if most of the heroes other than Yuta wind up being fairly archetypal, and Akane ends up as a surprisingly good villain with a lot of charm, gravitas and pathos. The narrative is surprisingly complex for what is essentially an upscale Power Rangers anime, with enough good twists to keep me invested in the overall plot and an…..interesting artistic choice in the finale, and the music is fine, the show probably uses the opening theme a bit too much but it’s a good theme so I can forgive that. The problem is, I just don’t think it all tied in particularly well.

There’s just too many moving parts really, scenes of slice of life school antics are interrupted by weird, trippy sci-fi nonsense, which then moves into fun, corny action scenes and all of it is interspersed with a surprisingly dark narrative.. Every time Gridman throws a kaiju through a building or blows something up with a laser while calling out named attacks instead of “wow that was awesome” I’m thinking “oh like hundreds of people just died” because that’s what one half of the show has set me up to think, meanwhile the dark, moving character drama half is hamstrung by the fact that most of the characters are one note stereotypes from a Saturday morning giant robot fighting anime and simply incapable of carrying the weight they’re being asked to carry. Some shows can certainly balance both a heavy plot with serious stakes, and “super cool giant robot on kaiju” action set pieces but this just isn’t one of them and I can’t help but wonder if this show might not have been more successful as two different shows instead of one mismatch. At the end of the day, “Trigger does Tokusatsu” was not what I expected it to be but then again nothing is ever as expected when it comes to Studio Trigger and SSSS.Gridman probably ends up more in the win column than the loss (which is more than I can say for their last production), and I continue to look forward to what the studio puts out next.

Overall Grade: B

9. Release the Spyce

Completed: 12 episodes

Another entry in the “wholly for entertainment purposes action/adventure” list, RtS lives up to it’s Totally Spies but anime descriptor. Despite some twists and turns thrown into the plot in the last few episodes this series is still basically a light spy thriller romp featuring a bunch of teenager anime girls. The plot is never really that complex, the central mystery resolves in a very stereotypical manner, everyone basically gets the ending you’d expect them to get. You start this show expecting to watch some spy girls fight weird villains and robots using fancy gadgets in zany circumstances to an admittedly rocking soundtrack with some yuri baiting and that’s basically what you get at the end of the day. Unfortunately RtS never really does much to set itself apart from the crowd; Golden Kamuy is much zanier in it’s comedic aspects, Double Decker integrates its plot, themes, and characters much more carefully, and JoJo has better scripted fight scenes and is simply more entertaining week to week. RtS never really loses it’s more problematic elements either, the main cast have the same basic character design to a tee compared to the radically variable villains, there’s still way too much fanservice in scenes where it’s simply unnecessary, and in the end none of the more or less implied romantic pairings ever actually go anywhere beyond heavy yuri baiting. Release the Spyce ends up being a fun but forgettable show in a season full of fun but forgettable shows, but it’s still a competently made show and if you’re in the mood for an action/spy thriller with anime girls then this is definitely your show, also the soundtrack really rocks.

Overall Grade: B

8. The Girl in Twilight:

Completed: 12 episodes

I feel like a theme this season is “shows with interesting concepts that don’t quite live up to their fullest potential” and this one exemplifies that trend. If this show had done more with its alternate reality shenanigans than it ended up doing it could potentially have ended up in the great category instead of just being good. However, evaluating the show on it’s own merits, it ends up having a surprising amount of heart; the characters’ themselves are fairly complex and their interactions together are fun to watch. Sometimes the show doesn’t seem to know whether to play into the silliness of some of the fragmentary worlds or to play up the character drama which lead to a bit of stagnation during the middle of the show where the two aspects just didn’t quite mesh all that well. In fact although I enjoyed the inherent ridiculousness of, say, the cowboy world, I don’t think the show really managed to weave the concepts of parallel worlds and tight character focused narrative in a particularly coherent way until the last few episodes of the show. This show really manages to find it’s footing in roughly the last third or so and showcases it’s true potential, it’s just unfortunate it never managed to really accomplish this earlier in it’s run. It also has the usual anime pitfalls like weird fanservice moments, and comedic gay characters but it does at least have a fairly clear confession scene. In the end if you’re looking for a fun female-centric action/comedy with a little more depth than the usual fare, The Girl In Twilight is a fun show to binge over a weekend, just don’t expect it to hit all the time.

Overall Grade: B+

7. That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime:

Ongoing: 13 episodes as of this review

Slime is an interesting show, most of the time it’s a perfectly watchable Isekai featuring a nice mix of action/adventure, some light comedic riffing on the nature of the fantasy genre and JRPGs, and some mostly wholesome slice of life shenanigans involving a bunch of monsters. That show is light and fun where the occasional joke or character beat lands well and I’m reminded of why Isekai used to be a genre of anime that I liked to watch before it was poisoned by a flood of mediocrity. That version of Slime is good enough that I’d continue to watch it, sometimes however, Slime is does something unexpected in a remarkable way. Occasionally this show deals with dramatic character arcs on a level befitting of a show like Bunny Girl Senpai  and it’s hard to tell when and how these will appear. The most emblematic of these is an arc roughly centered around episodes 6-8 which features and culminates with a character study on perhaps one of the best minor characters in any show this year. It’s not too hyperbolic to say that episode 8 may in fact be one the top episodes of all animation for this year, it’s just that good. Were this show as consistently great as that three episode arc and some other scattered moments throughout the series make it out to be, it would almost certainly be a contender for top spot this season and probably next season as well. As it is though, I’m content to accept That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime as good show sometimes capable of moments of true greatness.

Current Grade: B+

6. Run With The Wind:

Ongoing: 11 episodes as of this review

A very bro-mance style show, Run takes the best elements of sports anime (a love for the sport, a nice mixture of comedy and drama, impressive visuals) while leaving the worst (one note characters, endless tournament arcs, increasingly impossible and absurd feats). Basically if you’re going to do a sports anime you should either make one that’s so over the top and elaborate so that’s it highly entertaining or you should make it a very good show, Run is the latter. The reason it succeeds over every other sports anime this season is that at it’s core Run is really just a character drama that happens to be centered around marathon running; the various running scenes are animated beautifully and it’s clear that the author of the novel upon which Run is based has a real love for the sport, but the real stars of this show are, well, the stars. Every single one of the male leads feels detailed and real and, unlike most sports anime, highly variable from the African transfer student to the middle aged programmer. This is a very male centric show though, so if you’re looking for any particularly deep female presence you’ll have to look elsewhere, the one constant female character is thus far rather shallow in her characterization. If you’re in the mood for some male bonding, gorgeously animated running, and great character work though, then now is as good a time as any to catch up on Run With The Wind.

Current Grade: B+

Top Five:

5. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind:

Ongoing: 13 episodes as of this review

JoJo is still without a doubt the smartest dumb fighting anime currently airing. Boiled down to it’s basic essence JoJo is, as one friend put it, a horror themed Dragon Ball Z in which a bunch of manly men beat each other up with magic ghosts in increasingly nuanced and clever ways. while striking ridiculous poses. JoJo at it’s core is an endlessly entertaining show featuring incredible art direction on the part of David Production, ludicrously complex fight scenes, and so many references to music and pop culture that it gives foreign licencors nightmares just thinking about it. Golden Wind takes all of these to the next level, the characters, fight scenes, soundtrack, visuals and sheer entertainment value are the best they’ve every been in this iteration of the series. The plot is ludicrous, the female presence almost non-existent, the character designs bizarre to the extreme, the homo-eroticism that will surely never pay off is palpable, the depictions of Italy and the life of an Italian mobster are laughably stereotypical, and the poses are gloriously incomprehensible and I love it more than ever before. It’s virtually impossible to watch an episode of this show and not have a good time, the series rarely attempts to swing for fences but it also never misses and excels at what it does best. JoJo continues to be one of the most watchable shows on air whenever a new season comes out and Golden Wind does not disappoint long time fans, plus if you’re a newcomer this season is as good a place to start as any. I would highly recommend anyone who’s a fan of the typical shonen action fare to catch up on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind if for no other reason than to see the greatest dance in the history of animation.

Current Grade: A-

4. Double Decker! Doug and Kirill:

Completed: 13 episodes

Double Decker is essentially the anime version of the buddy-cop action/comedy genre but much better than both the average anime and the average buddy cop show. Like JoJo, this show was very watchable and entertaining while also included a good mix of diverse characters, a thing JoJo can struggle with quite often. The show had a lot of subtle socially aware themes throughout which ranged from low-key LGBT rep, to the dangers of the high school “physical attractiveness based ranking system”, to class warfare and prisoner’s rights the show really swung for the fences in a lot of different areas. It doesn’t always succeed in these aspects but the fact that it even tries in the first place is admirable for a show that’s ostensibly about cops fighting body horror monsters. Speaking of which the action scenes, while not outstanding, are fairly decent and one or two of them throw in interesting twists on the formula. The designs of both the characters and the city are sleek and stylish and you can definitely tell a lot of effort was put into some of them. The characters themselves are mix of standard tropes with minor deviations that make them stand out among the usual crowd of anime protagonists.

The main selling point of the show though is definitely it’s comedy. The meta narrator frequently contradicts the events as depicted on screen at times offering absurdly elaborate yet entirely plausible explanations for event and at other times throwing massive amounts of shade at our protagonists for their various quirks, our main hero both fails spectacularly in his various super hero stunts and also succeeds in a surprising number of regular instances to where it feels like he’s not just the butt of the joke but is genuinely learning how to be a proper detective, and of course the more elaborate plot points are treated with the right amount of irreverence they deserve, there’s even a Cops style parody episode. Ultimately I’ll remember Double Decker! Doug & Kirill as a highly underrated original concept in a sea of the same old boring sequels, adaptations, and remakes, and also for it’s amazing ending theme, which is very good.

Overall Grade: A-

3. Zombie Land Saga:

Completed: 12 episodes

ZLS is an idol show that also happens to feature zombies and I still maintain that this show could be better if it were the reverse. With that said, ZLS is the best idol show in years and totally revitalizes a fairly stagnant genre. Every single idol show follows the same basic plot point with the same basic cast and the same style of music, ZLS dares to ask what would happen if an idol show strayed from the same tired path and tried something different, a task it handles with zeal and gusto. Rather than making the zombie element merely an add-on, this show incorporates it into every aspect of the show be it comedic or dramatic. Idol tropes are both parodied and played perfectly straight, character backstories combine ridiculous and heartwarming in equal measure, there’s even stealth LGBT rep not handled terribly! Beyond the absurdist humor derived from zombie physics, the characters, and by extension the Voice Actors, are what really stand out in this show. Every single VA on this show seems like they’re having great time and none more so than Mamoru Miyano, an award winning performer, putting every ounce of his considerable career into the role of one of the best side characters all year, and the legendary Kotono Mitsuishi, the OG Sailor Moon, voicing the equally legendary character Tae Yamada. These two, as well as the rest of the cast, really give their all to make their characters memorable and it really shows. I’ll never know for sure if Zombie Land Saga could have been the zombie anime of my dreams, but I do know it’s the idol show I never even dreamed was possible, and that’s more than good enough for me.

Overall Grade: A

2. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai:

Completed: 13 episodes

This show features bunny girl outfits, vaguely explained sci-fi powers fueled by teenage angst, and a harem featuring the main character’s little sister, and it’s so much better than it has any right to be. First let’s get the negatives out of the way, there are definitely a few too many instances of unnecessary fan service which add basically nothing to the narrative and exist solely to attract certain viewers with the promise of skimpily clad teenagers; the show absolutely would be better without this aspect but this is unfortunately a common occurrence in anime so I’ve learned to more or less accept it when it’s not egregiously offensive and the show is otherwise good. Other minor nitpicks include the simply absurd attempts to explain the sci-fi powers using very well know philosophy and meta physical concepts, I literally roll my eyes every time the character of Futaba attempts to explain things “scientifically”. Also I still think the show would be better with a few less girls in the harem, more focus on the main pairing, and if Mai were the main character.

With all of that out of the way, this show is a triumph of writing and editing and really stands out from the crowd of the pseudo-harem genre. The male lead, while a bit too sardonic and holier than thou for my tastes, is leagues above every other harem anime protagonist by virtue of being a real character with real aspirations, he’s neither a complete dunce somehow lucking his way into attracting girls nor is he a completely flat board who no one could ever imagine falling for. Almost every female counterpart are somehow even better characters (Futaba is mostly a good character whenever she’s not ‘explaining’ things) each with their own thematic arc and problems to deal with. The sci-fi elements match up perfectly to the troubles of real life adolescence in the modern age from social media abuse, to dependence on popularity, to the feelings of jealousy among siblings. It’s almost impossible to find a harem anime in which the main character’s sister features as a major presence and not have it come across as creepy, and yet somehow the arc focusing on said sister is perhaps the best arc of the show, mostly due the strength of the phenomenal script. The chemistry between Sakuta (our male lead) and Mai has produced one of the best anime romances I’ve seen in a long time and every interaction between the two is a delight to watch. Honestly, this may be one of the best shows of the year, and I’d highly recommend anyone reading this article right now to watch it before the movie comes out next year because Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is going to be one of those shows talked about for years.

Overall Grade: A+

1. Bloom Into You:

Completed: 13 episodes

Bloom Into You is a triumph of yuri anime in a field normally dominated by trashy soap operas, gay baiting, and straight up hentai; it’s also the best show of the season. The core relationship of the series rivals that of fellow romance drama Bunny Girl Senpai as one of the best romantic pairings in all animation for the year 2018. As opposed to the fast paced whirlwind romance of Mai and Sakuta, Yuu and Touko have a much simpler, slower build up to their interactions with each other that is somehow no less fascinating to watch. Watching the pair open up to each other about their dreams and fears throughout the show as they come to understand their feelings about themselves as people and each other as partners is an exhilarating experience to watch in all it’s facets. Bloom is about more than just a romance, it’s a study in self-realization, a story about learning to love yourself as well as others, and it really shines in its character interactions. Beyond our central duo, two of the strongest leads in any show this year, Sayaka stands out as an surprisingly strong secondary presence as Touko’s childhood friend turned secret admirer, as well as the older female couple of Riko and Miyako as a fairly realistic example of living in modern Japan in a non traditional pairing.

This show has consistently put out some of the best episodes of the year throughout it’s run and while BGS may achieve higher highs in terms of it’s simply rock solid script, this show definitely maintains it’s pace better. The art style is very stylish and unique in a season of samey looking shows, and where it feels like almost every animation studio is trying to be the next Studio Mir, Troyca gives this show a much more memorable polish by going in it’s own direction. Also, the soundtrack is great: the background music is lovely, the insert songs work perfectly to a tee, the opening feels very thematic, and Hectopascal is one of my favorite ending themes of the year. It’s very rare that I get to watch an anime with stunning visuals and a great script that doesn’t also have something highly objectionable about it, and I’m so thankful that Bloom Into You is the rare show that I can unequivocally recommend to everyone without any cautionary fore-warnings (plus it’s the only show on this list to make it into the OVA-ies). I highly await the prospects of a second season.

Overall Grade: A+

 

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