OVAnime: Winter 2019 Recommendations

By: Michael Smith

 

(Image Source: Five Centimeters Per Second)

Santa Claus has come and gone again dear readers, and it looks like he’s left a whole lot of anime in your stockings this year! Whether this equates to a pile of presents or a lump of coal is exactly why I’m here. That’s right, it’s time for another round of anime recommendations. This will be part one of my Winter 2019 anime season reviews in which I will watch (almost) every anime airing in January through early February and provide a brief summary to help you determine what’s worth watching and what’s better left in the gift return box. Later on towards the end of March I will return to review the series which I found to be good enough to watch all the way through as well as any late-comers which premiered late in the season.

As per usual, although I endeavor to cover as many shows as I possibly can, there will be some exceptions. Firstly, I will not be covering any shows primarily marketed at young children, obviously most anime has a younger demographic but there are certain shows with a wider audience appeal and some which simply have no value to a viewer above the age of 12 and I do not feel the need to cover such shows. Second, I will not be covering hentai for what should be fairly obvious reasons. Third, although anyone who’s anyone in the anime community no doubt has a myriad of methods with which to watch anime, I will only be covering shows which have a legally and easily available method to watch, if a show happens to be good enough to cover and also does not have a readily available method of streaming I may consider covering it anyways but it has to be well worth the effort required to watch it. Finally, I will not be covering any OVAs or specials, for a show to qualify it must put out more than 5 episodes. With all of the minutiae out of the way, let’s get started.

For reference, shows will appear in alphabetical order and times are in EST.

Continuing Series

These are shows which premiered in an earlier season but are still airing during this season, this includes both new shows and sequels. Since I reviewed most of these in earlier articles I will usually just refer you to read those unless I have something new to say.

A Certain Magical Index Season 3:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review

The third season of a show about magicians and espers who fight each other, but somehow much less interesting than that premise sounds, now with knights or something. As with some other shows this season, ACMI 3 became even more generic and unnecessarily bloated, the plot is still incomprehensible and if you can’t have good fights when you’re only limitation is “magic and psychic powers” then what are you even doing? Even the average shonen battle shows this season are more entertaining that this one and most of those aren’t in their third season so they’re easier to catch up on. This show has too many things happening in it to jump in at Season 3, even if most of it is nonsense. Definitely for fans of the series only.

You can watch A Certain Magical Index Season 3 Fridays at 10:30 am on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and VRV

Ace Attorney Season 2:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright is back to repeat the plot points of the far more entertaining game series he also stars in. If for some reason you were too lazy to actually play the AA trilogy this exists as a way to experience the story I suppose. I still maintain that playing the games is a more valuable use of your time, this show isn’t bad per se, it’s just not the best medium to experience this story. If you’re a fan of the series I guess this is a faster way to re-experience it than replaying the games again.

You can watch Ace Attorney Season 2 Saturdays at 7:00 am

Black Clover:

Premiered: Fall 2017

Watched: 5 episodes, throughout the series

Loser, no-magic boy Asta turns out to be the most powerful guy in the world. Sort of a mix of ACMI and Fairy Tail, Black Clover is the recent hit shonen battle show and it’s……fine I guess. It doesn’t really do anything new or interesting for the genre but it’s not terrible and it’s easier to catch up on than some other shows, plus it has the occasional moment of good fight choreography and animation. Unfortunately, it also has some truly awful pacing problems at parts, especially in the early goings, which is almost the kiss of death for a shonen action series, whether it recovers from these stumbles later on in the show is a matter of debate but I would not begrudge anyone for deciding to just stick with the manga.

You can watch Black Clover Tuesdays at 6:25 am on Crunchyroll, Funimation, or VRV

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations:

Premiered: Spring 2017

Watched: All of the original series, 5 various episodes of the sequel

Ninja fights but like, newer. Once upon a time there was a show called Boruto’s Dad, or as the Wikipedia informs me, Naruto. At some point that series ended and a new author decided to capitalize on it’s success by…..doing it all over again. Despite the obvious recycling of tropes, character archetypes, and basic name structure (seriously, Boruto?) this show is more or less of a similar quality as it’s predecessor but updated to reflect a more modern animation style. This show exists solely so that people who never watched the original wouldn’t have to watch hundreds of episodes to be in the know and that’s fine but I think the genre has moved past Naruto since it’s heyday and Boruto doesn’t really do much to stand apart from the crowd.

You can watch Boruto: Naruto Next Generations Sundays at 4:00 am on Animelab, Crunchyroll and VRV

Detective Conan (Case Closed) Season 27:

Premiered: Originally 1996, Season 27 – Spring 2017

Watched: 10 episodes over the course of several years

Kid Detective solves a mystery, week after week. Usually my chief complaint with overly long series is that they’re simply not worth the time investment necessary to watch them, fortunately for DC/CC, despite being quite possibly the longest continuous anime series in existence, it’s also extremely episodic so you can basically jump in at any point and not feel particularly lost. This does of course mean that the show starts to feel highly formulaic after a certain point but if you’re in the mood for a classic “whodunit” style mystery you can always throw on an episode of this.

You can watch Detective Conan (Case Closed) Saturdays at 7:30 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

Fairy Tail: The Final Season:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Overly long metaphor about the power of friendship disguised as a magic fighting show. FT is unfortunately not an episodic show like Case Closed, even though it is highly formulaic. At 300+ episodes of content the only people who should be watching this are the true fans because it’s simply not worth the massive time investment necessary for newcomers to catch up on when there are much better (and much shorter) shows in this same vein currently airing this season.

You can watch Fairy Tail: The Final Season Saturdays at 5:30 pm on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and VRV

GeGeGe no Kitaro:

Premiered: Original – 1968, Current-Spring 2018

Watched: 3 episodes

The most recent adaptation of a classic anime series in which Kitaro, a yokai boy, who strives to protect humankind from malevolent yokai (essentially supernatural creatures from Japanese folktales). It’s essentially a monster of the week type show where Kitaro fights a new yokai in order to protect humanity and yada yada. The show is somehow both cute and somewhat charming while also maintaining a surprisingly dark atmosphere and horrific tone and if you’re a fan of the previous incarnations you’ll probably like this one. If you’re a newcomer this one requires no knowledge of the previous versions to watch and enjoy so give it a try I guess.

You can watch GeGeGe no Kitaro Saturdays at 9:30 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Hinomaru Sumo:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Still a bunch of guys in thongs wrestling with each other with their manly fighting spirit and also their manly muscles. If you like sumo this is your show, if not that’s all this is so don’t bother. Unlike Run with the Wind this show doesn’t really manage to divulge itself from the genre of “shonen sports show” so I really must maintain that you won’t like this show unless you’re coming for the sumo or the shirtless musclebound guys of various body types.

You can watch Hinomaru Sumo Fridays at 11:00 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Reviewed in both of my articles for Fall 2018 for more details.

Watched: Every episode as of this review

Men much younger than their appearance would suggest fight each other with magic ghosts named after popular music icons and songs while striking glorious poses. Still the best pure shonen battle anime currently airing, JoJo is relentlessly entertaining while providing just enough substance to keep viewers hooked. Also it looks and sounds amazing, David Pro has really hit it out of the park with this iteration. Newcomers to the franchise will find this as an easy jumping in point for JoJo and longtime fans should already be watching.

You can watch JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind Fridays at 12:05 pm on Crunchyroll or VRV

Karakuri Circus:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Thunderbolt Fantasy but more animated. This show has somehow become even more incomprehensible since I last saw it, the kid and the puppet lady (aka two of the three main characters) have basically all but vanished as the plot has now centered around the martial arts guy and a bunch of randos who just showed up out of nowhere. I gather that this development is the result of the anime attempting to adapt over 100 chapters of the manga into about 10 episodes. Normally anime adaptations tend to have pacing issues where they adapt too little of their source material per episode thus leading to a lot of boring filler episodes as they try and pad things out (see the beginning of Black Clover) but this show has the rare distinction of moving way too fast through it’s plot. It seems like a completely different show from the one I watched barely a month ago and it’s not even half way finished yet which does not bode well for the long term arc of this show, if the puppet fights were better it might be worth the baffling narrative but they’re not so no dice.

You can watch Karakuri Circus Thursdays at 8:30 am on Amazon Video

One Piece Season 19:

Premiered: Originally 1999, Season 19 – Spring 2017

Watched: Several episodes throughout the run of the series, a handful from the current season

One Piece is the last remaining of the “Big Three” Shonen Jump series which consisted of itself, Naruto (which now has a sequel in the form of Boruto), and Bleach (which thankfully has not received a sequel). OP has always had the distinction of remaining as true to it’s original concept as any show with over 800 episodes could possibly be, it has and always will be a fantasy road trip style adventure series about a wacky crew of pirates exploring a wacky series of islands. All of my basic problems with recommending long-running serialized shows applies to this one except they’re ten-fold, unless you’re already a fan, this show simply isn’t good enough to be worth the massive time investment needed to catch up on and it feels fairly dated in the current world of shonen series.

You can watch One Piece Season 19 on basically every streaming service Saturdays at 8:00 am

Radiant:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Ni no Kuni meets Black Clover but with more airships. Radiant has really leaned into it’s “fantasy racism isn’t cool” messaging as the series has gone on, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing I suppose. The fact that it’s based on a French comic makes it stand out a bit from the other generic shonen fair but otherwise it seems fairly typical, which, if you’re a fan of magic hi-jinks and airships means you’ll probably like it. It currently has far fewer episodes than any of the other shows like it on this list so it also has the distinction of being the easiest to catch up on but I don’t know that it’s necessarily the best option either.

You can watch Radiant Saturdays at 7:15 am on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and VRV

Run with the Wind:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Reviewed in both of my articles for Fall 2018 for more details.

Watched: Every episode as of this review

College guys run marathons while bonding. The best sports anime on this list, Run is at it’s core a highly detailed character drama with a lot of depth for a show with 10 lead characters. There’s a lot of male bonding and basically zero female presence in this show so know that before diving in but this was a surprise hit for me last year and remains as such this season. It’s also basically one-upping all the idols shows this year by proving that expansive casts don’t need to sacrifice good characterization just because they have a bunch of people in them. RwtW is one of the few shows that manages to elevate itself from being a great show for it’s genre to being a great show period.

You can watch Run with the Wind Tuesdays at 2:30 pm on Crunchyroll or VRV

Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my second Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Saint Sieya but with more girls this time. An inoffensive throwback to the old days of Sailor Moon, and another show with too many S’s. This is more or less a straightforward magical girl show and if you’re a fan of those you’ll probably like this one, there are a lot of callbacks to the previous series but they’re not integral to the core narrative so newcomers can jump in on this one just fine. You can watch Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho Mondays at 7:00 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

Sword Art Online: Alicization:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Another season has come and gone and yet we’re still stuck with SAO, a fact that shall likely remain true for another two seasons at least. I might as well subtitle this review “an effort in futility” for all the good it will do but if I can prevent just one person from ever watching this it will be worth it I suppose. If you know anything about SAO you’ll know it’s one of the most divisive works in the medium, from fans calling the greatest show to grace the face of anime, to critics reviling it as a disgrace to the very nature of animation. You also might have heard people calling this season “the best season of SAO” or declaring that “SAO is good again”. These people are quite possibly correct, SAO, is known for it’s frequent moments of sheer absurdity and offensive plot twists, but this season has mostly eschewed it’s aggressive mediocrity and active disdain for both it’s characters and it’s viewers in favor of repetitive fights scenes interspersed with long moments of tedious exposition.

Oh don’t worry though, there are still the occasional moments of truly stupid plot twists that are sure to kill a few brain cells and various female characters are still treated as objects to either be obtained, protected, or defeated by our bland protagonist and his equally bland off-model doppelganger. However, it seems that in stretching out this season to run almost a full calendar year, SAO has merely elongated the time between the next dumb as nails plot point and replaced the lost time with more nonsense words and fake science than one could possibly hope to find at a Scientology convention, and yet despite all this I’m left not with a feeling of despair, nor mind numbing boredom, but instead overwhelmed by ultimate pointlessness of it all. You see, the reason this review is almost meaningless is because there are really only three types of people who continue to watch SAO three seasons in at this point.

The first believe it to be the best show on earth, naively tethering themselves to a tyranny of low expectations, but hark dear readers, do not castigate these poor lost fools for it is they who shall suffer the most when the proverbial rug is pulled out from under them and their manufactured world comes crashing down around them; it is to this group I offer my pity though for they shall need it in the times to come. The second are those who accept the show, warts and all, and acknowledge its various faults, but continue to enjoy it regardless, to these I offer my congratulations for love is a force far more powerful than hate and they live in a better world than I. It takes a spirit stronger than I posses to admit to liking a show they know is bad. The third, and by far the most wretched, are those who truly hate and revile this show as the scum of the anime world and yet continue to watch it anyways out of some perverse sense of self-flagellation and misplaced duty save others from paying a similar price. To these I offer no sympathy for they have taken this assignment upon themselves willingly and openly, but I do offer pity as one might pity a Tantalus or a Sisyphus.

The problem therefore, is that this review is simply wasted upon these groups: the first will ignore it as more baseless accusations, the second may accept it as factual but will likely continue to enjoy the show, and the third will only be encouraged to continue their path of self-destruction until either they or their mortal nemesis is finally put to rest, and everyone was never going to watch it anyways. In the end I suppose, this review, like the show itself, has been reduced to merely going through the motions, and with that all said, see you again in three months!

TLDR: It’s still bad, don’t watch it.

You can watch Sword Art Online: Alicization Saturdays at 11:30 am on literally any streaming service, even though you shouldn’t.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Reviewed in both of my articles for Fall 2018 for more details.

Watched: Every episode as of this review

A guy dies and wakes up as a slime monster in a fantasy world, heartwarming antics ensue. Slime remembers what made the Isekai genre great to begin with and continues to be a fun, pretty wholesome little show about a bunch monsters living life together with the occasional gorey fight scene. The show has mostly settled into it’s pattern by now which is somewhat disappointing considering it somehow produced three of the best episodes of the year in 2018, but it could always do so again this year so don’t count it out of the running.

You can watch That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Mondays at 11:30 am on Crunchyroll, Funimation, or VRV.

Tsurune:

Premiered: Fall 2018 Originally reviewed in my first Fall 2018 article, refer to that for a full review.

Watched: one more episode for this review.

Hot anime archery boys shoot arrows and act pretty gay but not explicitly. Some classic KyoAni “gay but not actually gay” bromances in this show, really living up to it’s “Free but archery” moniker. As with many KyoAni shows there’s more to see here than just the sports (although if you’re into archery this is a very beautiful showcase of that particular sport) and really that just serves as a backdrop for the male bonding. As with Run with the Wind this show is more of a character drama but unlike that show the overall narrative just isn’t as interesting and the plot points are a little more generic. I’d still suggest RwtW as the superior show, but this one has more gay baiting I suppose.

You can watch Tsurune in it’s entirety on Crunchyroll and VRV.

Yu-Gi-Oh VRAINS:

Premiered: Spring 2017

Watched: 5 episodes throughout the series

A show about children’s card games on flying wave boards in VR. VRAINS is the latest incarnation of the Yu-Gi-Oh anime which is ostensibly a vehicle to get people to invest real world money into the card game. The joy of watching any given series of Yu-Gi-Oh is largely dependent on what you’re looking to get out of it and everyone has a different favorite season accordingly so if you’re a longtime fan you’ll either love or hate this one based on your personal preferences, a feeling which will become solidified within the first few episodes. Newcomers can basically jump into any season they want except for Arc-V which relies on a certain level of nostalgia for previous seasons so feel free to give this one a try to see if you enjoy it.

You can watch Yu-Gi-Oh VRAINS Wednesdays at 6:55 am on Crunchyroll or VRV

New Shows:

The remainder of the anime covered in this article either premiered or started airing a new season in Winter 2019. I have divided them into various categories based on their relative quality and my own personal interest.

Anime was a Mistake:

This category is reserved for shows that are either so aggressively mediocre and slipshod in their construction that they make a mockery of the entire medium of animation, or shows which such a uniquely awful premise that I hesitate to even cover them for fear of encouraging even one reader to watch them however briefly. It takes a significant amount of work to be in this category while a show like SAO is airing concurrently and yet I simply must conclude that, for various reasons, the following shows are worse than that aforementioned one and therefore deserve their own separate section so as to shame them for daring to exist. In terms of a grading system these would be D or F tier show, either too low quality or too incredibly clumsy and stupid in it’s plotting and themes to be worth anyone’s time in the already over-saturated anime market. In general I respect the right of others to have different opinions on anime than I do and usually I would encourage readers to watch a show for themselves if they have even a hint of interest in the concept, but I strongly discourage anyone from spending any amount of time on these shows.

How clumsy you are, Miss Ueno:

Watched: 3 episodes, which was honestly 3 too many

An 11 minute comedy featuring various vignettes in which Ueno, our titular heroine, invents various “scientific” devices in an attempt to flirt with her oblivious crush Tanaka, allow me to recap two such “experiments”. The first one involves a scheme to get Tanaka to literally drink her own filter piss and the second is an attempt to get him to look up her skirt and her naked privates. The rest of the series follows a similar pattern in which our female lead (and I must point this out again, who looks like she’s 12 at max) invents more and more contrived and perverse ways to get our male lead to throw himself at her sexually, why this girl can’t just say “hey do you want to go out sometime?” is beyond me. More to the point this show is just super gross, gross out perverse comedy is certainly a niche that appeals to some people and I’ll be the first to admit to chuckling at some truly childish humor sometimes, but when these concepts are applied to characters who look like they just graduated from elementary school it crosses the line from funny to disturbing and this show positively revels in how degenerate it is.

You can watch How Clumsy you are, Miss Ueno Sundays at 11:45 am on HIDIVE and VRV and then wash your mouth out from the number of times you physically gagged while watching it.

Real Girl Season 2:

Premiered: Season 1 – Spring 2018

Watched: 3 episodes of the first season, 1 of the second, a very taxing experience

High school shut-in/otaku boy finds real girls intimidating and hard to interact with until a popular girl at school decides to go out with him. Oh boy, another show about a poor oppressed nerdy guy who just doesn’t understand why real girls don’t like him because he’s such a nice guy, but oh look the popular girl at school understands him and like him for who he really is; a giant creep who insulted her, looked down of her for superficial reasons, publicly rejected her, then stalked her so that he could learn more about her. Even without the rampant misogyny present in this show it’s just not that good, the main pair are bland stereotypes and yet somehow still the most expressive characters in the whole show; the plot recycles tired romance tropes one after another in a effort to inject some kind of drama into the story but they all feel forced and random because they are, there’s really no reason put forward as to why these two would even be together in the first place other than that’s just how these types of stories go.

Not even the production values can save this show from it’s place in the pile of shame as it combines shoddy animation, uninspired sound work, and frequently off model character designs to produce a show that looks about as mediocre as it’s story reveals it to be and let me be the first to tell you that Season 2 emphatically does not improve enough upon Season 1 to be worth the mind numbing sensation you’ll achieve from watching it. At it’s core, beyond even the basic level terrible romance tropes and blatant misogyny, this show is just so boring to watch, it’s so easy to guess what will happen in any given episode and the minute by minute interactions between the leads are so devoid of any real chemistry that I truly could not be bothered to watch even one more episode if you payed me to watch it.

You could watch Real Girl Season 2 Tuesdays at 6:30 pm on HIDIVE and VRV, or you could watch paint dry and derive the same level of entertainment value, your choice really.

The Rising of the Shield Hero:

Watched: 4 episodes because I was informed I that “context” would make things seem not so bad, spoiler alert: still bad

Loser otaku Japanese guy gets transported to a fantasy world, saddled with a “lame” magic power, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and generally reviled by everyone for things beyond his control; he determines to become the greatest hero and avenge himself on those who have wronged him. Man where to start with this one, I guess we’ll just go top down and start with the false rape accusation, a “timely” subject for 2019. To make a long story short, it’s weird to center the premiere of your show around a thing that very rarely happens in the real world when the opposite, women who are actually sexually assaulted is much more common and relevant, but ignoring that let’s just look at it in context, what exactly is the point of this? First our lead was already denigrated for being “the shield guy” so it’s not like we need yet another reason for everyone to rag on him and if we did, why not just use the tried and true “framed for murder” approach? They treat him raping someone (appropriately enough for once) like the crime it is but he doesn’t go to jail or anything because he’s “a hero” so why make that crime “false rape” a thing which rarely happens in real life (and in fact a thing which our male protagonist would likely get away with scott-free in real life) instead of ‘framed for murder/any other crime” which is a thing that happens frighteningly often in real life? It would accomplish literally the same result, our hero is ostracized from society for a crime he didn’t commit, achieve some real world salience with a much more common problem in society, and wouldn’t immediately turn off a large portion of the audience; this is especially noticeable because absent the false accusation, Naofumi is still kind of a misogynist jerkwad who just sort of casually ranks women based on their sexual attractiveness.

Speaking of which, the overarching narrative of this show only works because basically everyone else in it are enormous douchebags, Myne (the woman who framed our lead) is seemingly evil just for the lulz, the other three “heroes” seem like idiots, and everyone immediately dunks on Naofumi even before he’s ostracized just because he’s the “shield guy” even though three of these fools are from actual MMO worlds where the “tank class” is a time honored tradition and eminently useful and the rest of them were brought up with the idea that this guy is one of four golden gods destined to save their sorry lives. Unfortunately if the show is attempting to get me to feel bad for Naofumi it also does a poor job at that because he’s just not that sympathetic. Sure he saves people who are in danger and is generally a helpful guy but that’s literally the baseline for every anime protagonist ever conceived. If the show made an honest effort to portray him as the least evil guy in a world of vicious, stupid idiots that might actually be interesting, a genuine anti-hero or outright villainous protagonist can be fun if done well but instead the show consistently portrays as the victim of circumstances outside of his control instead of as a result of his own, rather frequent, mistakes.

Of course it wouldn’t be TRotSH without yet more unforced errors which is where we come to our hero owning a young slave girl who grows up rapidly over these few episodes so as to be an appropriate age to ship with our lead. To start we get into the problem where our hero owns slaves but is still portrayed as generally heroic despite the fact that owning slaves in and of itself is an evil act regardless of “how compassionate of a slave master” one is. Compounding this is the obvious romantic feelings slave girl Raphthalia is developing for Naofumi which are are disturbing on a number of levels. First, having someone fall in love to another person who quite literally owns them like property is a very dubious prospect, second having that person be a literal child is yet another level of disturbing, as mentioned earlier, the show handwaves this by magically aging her up but it remains very unclear to me whether this is purely physical or also mental. The larger point here though is that it’s yet another pointless failure in the narrative; there’s no reason our hero should own a slave girl who then falls in love with him if at the end of the day he’s still supposed to be largely sympathetic, also, if you still wanted her to fall in love with him why not have her be the appropriate age to begin with and thereby save yourself from some of the creepiness and also from needing to invent a nonsensical plot point about how some people magically increase in age as they level up.

So, at the end of the day when we strip away all the needlessly edgy and stupid plot points we’re left with…..another generic Isekai show? Sure the show looks fine, but so does SAO, or Slime, or basically every generic anime nowadays which all share the same basic character design and animation, there’s nothing exciting about it stylistically. It doesn’t really do anything new or innovative with the genre: the video gamey aspects range from nonsensical to seen it before. The characters don’t really stand out either; persecution complex heroes are a dime a dozen in mediocre anime and some of those have the guts to actually portray their leads as the deeply flawed characters they actually are instead of “woe is me” woobiees, not to mention the various antagonists who are cartoonishly evil in their motivations. None of these are handled egregiously poorly, but neither are they handled with particular grace; ultimately the show comes across as yet another in line of average Isekai shows with a number of seemingly unnecessary errors in judgement on the part of the author. What I’m left to wonder therefore is whether these are in fact rookie mistakes which hold back an otherwise unremarkable work, or whether they were intentionally crafted for shock and awe in order to draw in a certain audience with it’s sheer audacity on the principle that all publicity is useful in it’s own way. The former implies (ala SAO) a fledgling author propelled through lowest common denominator popularity to a level beyond their writing capabilities, the latter foreshadows a troubling lack of respect for the audience and in fact an antagonistic bent towards encouraging outrage and counter-outrage in a cynical effort to gain views.

However, since I cannot comment on the true intentions of the author I will only say that in my most generous approach to this show, it would barely scrape by as one face in a crowd of others, some far worse, some far superior; if not for it’s numerous egregious errors in judgement and storytelling which severely handicap it. I’ve really no idea why anyone would feel the need to check out such an obviously mediocre show not even attempting to hide how average it is when there are so many better options to watch. Unfortunately the general anime community is filled with undiscerning masses who probably see this (not unfairly) as the next coming of SAO, a similar show that is wildly popular despite being aggressively average, so it will probably receive a couple more seasons somehow, which means I’ll probably be back to review S2 sometime where we’ll see if this show has managed to overcome it’s various faults. Until such a time though, I cannot in good faith recommend anyone watch this show when literal dozens of better versions currently exist.

If somehow you’ve watched every single other Isekai in existence and find that you cannot live without one more under your belt, you can watch The Rising of the Shield Hero Wednesdays at 10:30 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

WATATEN! an Angel Flew Down to Me:

Watched: 1 episode, cringing through my fingers the entire time.

College girl Miyako falls in love with a fifth grade girl who’s friends with her little sister. Between this and last season’s UzaMaid! Doga Kobo is really making a bad name for themselves, you’d think after that debacle maybe there would be some introspection but instead they’ve double down on the lesbian pedophilia genre it seems. I suppose pairing a college student with a child is…..somewhat better than the grown adult that was in UzaMaid! but we’re just arguing semantics and degrees of awfulness at this point. This show is bad, it doesn’t really matter if the production values are good (they’re average at best), it doesn’t matter if the comedic potential is high (it’s not), it doesn’t matter that the yuri genre is so underrepresented in anime (there are still far better shows in that genre); the premise of this show is a romance between a college student and a fifth grader, AND THAT’S NOT OK! Watching this actual adult creep on this little kid is just so disturbing I felt like was somehow complicit in this crime upon animation by merely watching a single episode, and I guarantee that this show will get even creepier as it goes on. If you just want to watch cute moe girls being cute there are literally hundreds of better options that won’t make you nervous that the FBI is going knock down your door or something for watching it.

You can watch WATATEN! an Angel Flew Down to Me Tuesdays at 10:00 am on Crunchyroll or VRV and then feel ashamed of yourself for ever considering making such an exceedingly poor life choice. I seriously cannot stress enough that you SHOULD NOT watch even a single episode of this show, don’t even pirate it, you’ll regret it and Chris Hansen will probably escort you to the police.

W’z:

Watched: 3 episodes of the original, 3 of this one

Teenagers with the power to transport themselves to an alternate dimension via holding hands do battle in just terrible CGI. Back in 2017, GoHands created a little show called Hand Shakers which was terrible in basically every aspect and universally reviled among the anime community, and yet somehow they decided to make a stealth sequel to that show with an even worse title. All of the sins of it’s predecessor are on display here; terrible CGI animation which meshes extremely poorly with the mostly 2D backgrounds, shaky cam fight scenes which are impossible to follow at points, (although, thankfully, less nausea inducing than the other show), highly repetitive sound design (they repeat the same song multiple times in the first episode), increasingly nonsensical narrative arcs, and some of the worst, entirely unnecessary padding I’ve seen in any show this season. It also constantly references Hand Shakers basically any chance it gets so it’s practically impossible to watch this show without having seen that one, and since HS is one of the worst anime ever produced that’s a very hard stop for most people. Perhaps the worst part about W’z besides it’s dumb as nails name (pronounced Wise for some reason) is that it’s actually not the worst version of this show, Hand Shakers is, so even if you were morbidly curious to watch an objectively terrible anime you would still be better off watching the prequel instead of this show, so it even fails at being the worst.

You can watch W’z Saturdays at 12:30 pm on HIDIVE, however this might be the one show I have to add an actual Health and Safety Warning to because while this show is much better than the prior one in this regard, it still has occasionally induced real life feelings of illness in me at certain points so watch with caution, or don’t watch it at all which would probably be better.

The Big Winners!

The opposite of the previous category, these shows are that define themselves as not merely good shows in the anime medium, but good shows in any medium. These shows are so good that I immediately decided to commit to watching them for their entire season run after just one episode! Think of these as the A tier shows, I would highly encourage anyone who is a fan of quality animation in general in anime in particular to give these shows a shot.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War:

Watched: Every episode as of this review

Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya are the most elegant, popular, and intelligent students at Shuciin Academy, they both serve of the student council and make the perfect couple, the only problem is: neither one wants to be the first to confess their mutual attraction. The basic formula of this season’s best romcom, two incredibly smart teenagers to awkward and  and stubborn to just admit they like each other, would be positively infuriating in a show that didn’t execute it as perfectly as this show does. From a tense battle of wits surrounding a potential school vacation to framing a game of 20-questions as a western shootout the director of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Shinichi Omata, brings all of his considerable talent to bear to elevate this show from being a one trick pony to a show that’s unafraid to expand beyond it’s premise. At their core, Miyuki and Kaguya are nice kids, and the show is willing to take some time off from the gags to establish their characters as well as their interactions outside of being potential romantic partners. Beyond the excellent production and solid character work, this show is really fun to watch, and the jokes hit a lot more than they miss. Ironically this is one of the few shows this season who’s premiere is probably it’s worst episode thus far, and the successive episode assuaged my concerns that the show would rigidly stick to it’s gimmick and unlike the other two shows in this category I think this one does actually take a few episodes to grow on you, still having seen four episodes as of this review I think it deserves its spot among the greats.

You can watch Kaguya-sama: Love is War Saturdays at 11:00 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

Mob Psycho 100 Season 2:

Watched: Every episode as of this review

The best returning anime of the season, Mob Psycho 100 stars Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama, a high-school student who also happens to be the most powerful psychic on the planet, and his attempts to come to grips with the unimaginable power he views as a hindrance while simultaneously improving himself as a human being. The brain child of One Punch Man creator ONE combines beautifully with the sheer talent of the animators at Bones studio (led by series director Yuzuru Tachikawa) to produce a stunning tour de force of animation that makes every concurrent anime airing alongside it look like children’s crayon drawings, and given the fact that the animation team has used probably a dozen different styles of animation by this point I wouldn’t be surprised if crayon art didn’t pop up at some point in this show. Where some shows struggle to be as realistic as possible, Mob consistently strives to push the medium of animation to it’s absolute breaking point from the very first scene of the series. Mob actively tries to be as weird, loud, and maddeningly complex whenever possible and the fact that it succeeds so often at what should honestly be a completely impossible to follow franchise is exemplary of the monumental efforts of its staff to produce a show that gives 100% to everything it does.

I could honestly just make an entire full length article on the animation work on the opening theme of this show alone (and I might eventually) but there are already plenty of articles and videos on this subject already and just because Mob is the best looking show of the season is not necessarily a selling point for everyone. Fortunately, Mob is also one of the best written shows currently airing and this season takes that aspect to a whole new level and propels the show from “one season wonder” to “all time great” status. The ability to weave mind bending psychic action set pieces with down to earth slice of life humor has always a strong point of this show but Season 2 adds a new layer of heart warming (and sometimes heart breaking) empathy to mix as Mob begins his path to express himself more and achieve some honest emotional maturity. This is mostly accomplished through a series of interactions between Mob and an ever expanding cast of side characters who themselves are given a surprising amount of depth and focus for what would normally be nothing more than a comedic bit part in any other show, and the non-conformist art style allows them all to emote in ways that simply couldn’t be achieved with realism. Also everyone’s favorite best boy/scumbag/memelord/sex icon Reigen is in top form this season as he really leans into his “con artist with a heart of gold” approach to life in some surprising ways. I suppose the only real downside to Mob is that so many things happen it’s impossible to background watch Season 1 in order to catch up for this season, but at 12 episodes that’s a much easier binge than basically every other continuing series this season and it’s definitely a more enjoyable watch than all of them.

You can watch Mob Psycho 100 Season 2 Mondays at 11:30 am on Crunchyroll and VRV, and you really should.

The Promised Neverland:

Watched: Every episode as of this review

Orphan girl Emma and her fellow orphans turned impromptu family spend their halcyon young lives at Grace Field House under the loving gaze of a caretaker they only know as Mama, and life is great until it very suddenly isn’t. The best new show of the season, The Promised has one of the most satisfying premieres I’ve seen not just in anime, but in animation, in a long time which of course is what makes this such a hard show to write about. More than any other show on this list, I must encourage all of you to go into this show with as little knowledge about it as possible, in fact just stop reading this paragraph and go watch it right now. If you still need convincing, this show expertly blends the in-depth character work typically present in most slice of life shows, a complex yet remarkably well written narrative, the emotional intensity and anxiety of a good psychological thriller, and ties it all together with a bone deep, knuckle biting dread lurking just under the surface of every scene which builds and builds until it erupts into overwhelming horror at exquisitely chosen moments. This series is most assuredly not for everyone and could very easily be nerve wracking for some people but I would still encourage everyone with even a basic tolerance for horror to check out the pilot at least to experience a true gold standard for how to start a show. Horror anime fans eat your hearts out because this show has recaptured the fear absent in all the low grade blood and gore fests of the world, also it has some great faces.

You can and should immediately go watch the first episode of The Promised Neverland on Crunchyroll or VRV, and then if you like it you can keep watching it Thursdays at 12:35 pm.

All the Rest:

A self explanatory category, these are the shows that aren’t immediately terrible enough to be in the first category but also not quite good enough to warrant a spot in the second category. That doesn’t necessarily mean these are bad or good shows but merely that it takes longer to fully appraise their quality as anime. I have divided them into B tier shows which show a lot of potential and C tier shows which struggle to stay above the sea of mediocrity. In general I’d recommend checking out the B tier shows if you’re interested but only check out the C tier shows if you’re really into the niche they represent.

B Tier:

Dororo:

Watched: Every episode as of this review

Premiered: Original series – Spring 1969

Young thief Dororo assists disabled ronin Hyakkimaru as he roams the countryside of Sengoku era Japan slaying various demons in order to regain the missing body parts they stole from him. The latest adaptation of an original work from Osamu Tezuka, the 2019 version borrows from the original “The Godfather of Manga”‘s more cartoonish style while also modernizing it to produce a more realistic aesthetic appropriate for it’s dark tone and setting. This show doesn’t shy away from depictions of violence and it’s muted color palette combines well with it’s quick and brutal action scenes. Starting one of your two leads out with the inability to see, hear, or talk provides a significant challenge for telling a compelling narrative given Hyakkimaru’s inability to express his feelings or thoughts in normal ways, but the addition of the rambunctious Dororo and rotating cast of side character provides enough colorful commentary to propel the plot and Hyakkimaru’s struggle to overcome his circumstances ties together the show’s overall theme: everyday people battling with adversity in a harsh time. The visceral nature of this show may prove to be too graphic for some viewers but it’s commitment to it’s unique aesthetic, it’s deeply fascinating setting, and it’s diverse array of characters provide an intriguing enough backdrop over a rather straightforward concept to keep me coming back.

You can watch Dororo Mondays at 2:00 pm on Amazon Prime Video.

ENDRO!:

Watched: 3 episodes

Four moe girls go on adventures in fantasy land in an attempt to become heroes and defeat the Demon Lord. This show starts with a very strong gag that I do not wish to spoil so I’ll only mention that it really commits to the bit in the best way possible and you should all go watch the first five minutes of this show if nothing else. The show from there more or less settles into a standard slice of life comedy show that both lampoons fantasy rpg elements while also playing them straight; it’s kind of like KonoSuba but less irreverent and starring a bunch of cute anime girls. The jokes and the character interactions are actually a little above par for what a typical show of this type might do and there are a couple notable gags that work very well due to the show’s commitment to following them to their ultimate conclusion. Mostly though this show is just a lot of scenes of cute anime girls hanging around in fantasy land, and if that’s your jam this show is right up your alley.

You can watch ENDRO! Saturdays at 1:30 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Forest of Piano Season 2:

Watched: 3 episodes of season 1, 2 of season 2

Kai, a poor boy from the red light district plays an abandoned piano in the nearby forest, eventually his latent talents are discovered by transfer student Shuhei and music teacher Ajino who convince him to perform on stage. Originally an award winning manga, Forest of Piano was originally adapted into a fairly successful and acclaimed feature length film featuring performances by world renowned pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy. Unfortunately with such a pedigree the anime adaptation leaves some things to be desired. It’s understandable given the significant budget difference between the movie and the show, but the fact is the animation work, especially during performances, feels particularly shoddy and off model and the rest of the show doesn’t do much to improve upon this fact. Unlike the film however, the series is given much more time to develop the characters of Kai and Shuhei as the grow from adolescents to young adults and the character moments between the two are given some needed breathing room. The performances themselves are somewhat hit or miss depending on one’s love for classical music: if you’re a fan then this show handles the material with a good amount of depth and knowledge that might impress even the musical historians in the crowd, if you’re not the show only rarely attempts to do anything remotely innovative with it’s aesthetic during these scenes. Season two features more or less the same story and production, so if you’re not interested after the first few episodes of Season 1 you’ll be unlikely to care much about the follow up, but if you’re looking for a good, pure music oriented show with some decent character work and you don’t much mind the animation quality then this show will likely do it for you.

You can watch the entirety of Forest of Piano Season 1 on Netflix and Season 2 whenever they get around to uploading it, probably when the season ends if I had to guess.

Grimms Notes The Animation:

Watched: 3 episodes

Four people with the ability to transform into fairy tail characters band together to stop the machinations of the “Chaos Tellers” who are attempting to rewrite all the fairy tale worlds. Based on a mobile RPG game, Grimms Notes “loosely” adapts a new classic story for each episode which it labels as a “fairy tale world” in a sort of pseudo Kingdom Hearts style but with works of literature instead of Disney movies; these can range from actual fairy tales like Red Riding Hood to……less applicable works like Don Quixote. Seemingly the only qualifier is that a story is relatively old and fictional. The concepts set up in this show are admittedly interesting. Other than our main quartet everyone in the world has a book which predetermines their destiny based on their role within their respective story, The show draws from a very large and rich well by mixing traditional fairy tales with religious allegories and even mythology, and the fact that the main characters can transform into both male and female characters regardless of their original gender could present an interesting tale of gender fluidity. Unfortunately, the actual narrative of the show seems less interested in exploring these topics than it is in being a sentai/power rangers show with a new villain and backdrop each week for our heroes to defeat. The action scenes are decent and the production quality is par for the course but ultimately I’m left with the impression of a show whose parts are greater than it’s whole.

You can watch Grimms Notes The Animation Fridays at 11:30 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

Kemurikusa:

Watched: 3 episodes

In a post-apocalyptic world dominated by a mysterious and deadly red fog, three sisters with supernatural powers stave off attacks by monstrous “Red Bugs” until they come across a strange boy with amnesia. Based on an ONA from 2012, this ironically feels like the actual sequel to Kemono Friends since it’s helmed by the same team that worked on the first season of that show, and just like KF S1 it has similar qualities and problems. The animation is still very shaky and if that fact turns you off immediately then no amount of narrative complexity will keep you going. The show throws it’s audience into the middle of the action with little in the way of setup to anchor yourself to and exposition mostly comes from amnesiac newcomer Wakaba serving as the audience surrogate while also being responsible for most of the light-hearted elements of an otherwise melancholic and dark world. Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, Kemurikusa blossoms in it’s character interactions which feel very natural and it’s aesthetic which paints a beautiful picture a world in desolation. If you were a fan of the first season of Kemono Friends this show will serve you much better than the rather soulless second season of that show and if you missed the original zeitgeist you can jump in on this show with zero expectations and just see if you like it. The animation is still really subpar though and ultimately this show isn’t breaking any new ground so you can be forgiven if it just doesn’t grab you.

You can watch Kemurikusa Wednesdays at 1:30 pm on Amazon Prime Video

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka:

Watched: 3 episodes

Former magical girl/military operatives must return to a life they tried to leave behind with a new threat emerges that only they can stop. A new year means a new dark magical girl show, a genre that was more or less kick-started by Madoka which has since been followed up by a series of pretenders that frequently pale in comparison. Asuka certainly isn’t the next Madoka but it fairs a good deal better than most in this arena, mostly. Sure there’s the usual brand of nonsense, scenes of ultra violence are often followed up with long shots of the female characters’ water balloon breast physics which can lead to sever tonal whiplash, but mostly the series uses it’s darker tone to explore the concept of what life would be like for the protagonists of a dark magical girl show after they saved the world. It turns out that answer is a metric ton of PTSD which the shows handles surprisingly well as it goes through the processes of exploring the numerous physical and psychic harm inflicted upon it’s namesake lead. It really all boils down to a “war is hell” theme but applying it to the magical girl genre is novel enough to still be interesting and if the (probably excessive) violence and (definitely excessive) fanservice don’t immediately turn you off this show might be worth a look.

You can watch Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Fridays at 2:10 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Meiji Tokyo Renka:

Watched: 3 episodes

Mei is an lonely high school girl ostracized for her ability to see ghosts, one day she’s transported back in time to Meiji era Tokyo where she meets several historical figures disguised as hot anime boys™. The reverse harem show of the season, MTR knows exactly what it is and leans into the genre in way that works pretty well, the story beats are pretty standard but the various male suitors are distinct (partially due to being based on actual people) each having their own particular quirks and charms, and yes of course they’re all stupidly attractive. Mei for her part reacts about as realistically as one might expect a modern girl suddenly sent through time would react and steadfastly ignores the advancements of her potential suitors in favor of more practical concerns like eating more delicious food and trying to figure out what exactly is happening. The comedy is also pretty on point, nothing side splitting but the premiere elicited a few chuckles from your notably hard to please author here. All in all if you’re looking for the breakout hit of the season you’ll need to look elsewhere but if you’re a fan of the reverse harem niche then this is a very serviceable show.

You can watch Meiji Tokyo Renka Wednesdays 12:00 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

My Roommate is A Cat:

Watched: Every episode as of this review

Antisocial novelist Subaru takes in stray cat Haru in an effort to improve his writing, in reality Haru helps him open up and become more accustomed to everyday life. This anime appeals to me personally as a somewhat introverted cat owner but I think it has a lot of appeal to people not in that specific life configuration as well. The narrative each episode is split into two parts, the first focuses on the Subaru as he learns to be less weary of society and comes to terms with his own emotional turmoil from losing his parents, Subaru comes off as a real jerk in the beginning who lashes out at the people trying to keep him going but he comes by his emotional damage honestly and you can tell he has a good heart buried somewhere under all the grumpiness which comes out much more as he learns to take care of Haru. Speaking of which, the second half of every episode takes place from said cat’s perspective which presents an amusing an heart warming approach to the language barrier between pets and their owners and how animals interact with their surroundings, there is also a surprising amount of melancholy in some of these moments as Haru reflects on her past as a stray struggling to survive. There’s no big action scenes and the twists are fairly predictable but this show is at its heart a healing anime about two lonely, damaged creatures learning coming together and introducing a little happiness in each other’s lives and every episode leaves me feeling happier after watching it. Also there are a lot of cute animals in this show and if watching cute animals doing cute things isn’t a better use of your time than watching anime boob girls then you’ve got your priorities mixed up and I feel deeply sorry for you.

You can watch My Roommate is a Cat Wednesdays at 12:00 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

The Magnificent Kotobuki:

Watched: Every episode as of this review

The Kotobuki squadron, an all-female team of air mercenaries, take flight to protect the skies. First and foremost this is another show with an iffy mix of CGI and 2D which becomes especially noticeable at points when the 3D modeled leads interact with some traditionally animated background characters, however this somewhat wonky animation is all in service to the truly spectacularly detailed aerial combat scenes. The plane animation in this show is a work of art, from every lovingly rendered piece of machinery to the gorgeous sound design it’s obvious that director Tustomu Mizushima really, really loves planes and it pays of in spades in this show with tightly choreographed dogfights and frenetic action set pieces. The character work, while lacking in the pilot, has improved greatly in the ensuing episodes  and the series provides a nice of blend of humor and real world commentary that lands surprisingly well. Also the dry, run down, almost western scenery blends nicely with the equally old-timely fighter planes and zeppelins. If you’re looking for a high-flying, lighting quick, technically impressive action/adventure type show full of distinctive female characters then this is definitely your show.

You can watch The Magnificent KOTOBUKI Sundays at 9:00 am on HIDIVE and VRV

The Morose Mononokean Season 2:

Watched: 3 episodes of season 1, 3 of season 2

High-schooler Hayae Ashiya and his boss/classmate Haruitsuki Abeno (the aforementioned “Morose Mononokean”) help exorcise people and guide yokai back to the Underworld. This show is a lot like Natsume’s Book of Friends and other such “supernatural slice of life” anime in that there’s not a lot of action or plot progression. Basically this is a much slower paced version of GeGeGe no Kitaro, it’s……kind of boring to be honest: some of the yokai are cute, some are interesting, most are pretty dull. There’s some comedy and some heartwarming elements but that’s part and parcel for every SoL really and a lot of them do it better than this one. Basically come to this show if you want to watch some hot anime boys™ mess around with some pretty cute demons and occasionally some not cute demons or if you just want some good old fashioned gay baiting male bonding.

You can watch The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Saturdays at 8:30 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

The Price of Smiles:

Two girls on different sides of a planetary conflict from different backgrounds attempt to find their own paths to ending a war. As with many other shows this season, this show trades very heavily on the surprise factor of it’s first episode as it presents itself like a low stakes slice of life with mechs show before it turns into the high concept “war is hell” action mech show it actually is. In fact a lot of the first three episode are spent turning audience expectations upside down (even the Opening Theme gets into a certain level of trickery as it outright lies to the audience at some points). Some twists work better than others but on the whole the show is probably for the better because of them. The anti-war messaging is a little more shaky as the show sometime veers into soapbox territory with some heavy handed dialogue but on the whole it also handles this section surprisingly well and the dichotomy of rooting for two people on opposite sides of a war that has already had meaningful casualties really helps to sell what a pointless waste of lives the business of war really is. The knockoff Gundam fights are pretty decent though nothing too exciting.

You can watch The Price of Smiles Fridays at 11:00 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

The Quintessential Quintuplets:

Watched: 3 episodes

Impoverished high schooler Futaro is convinced to tutor a well to do girl who’s failing all her classes, however it turns out that he has actually been hired to tutor her and her four sisters, RomCom hi-jinks ensue. A very straightforward harem show throughout, the series even starts with a wedding scene between the male lead and an unidentified sister thus confirming the eventual outcome of pretty much every harem romcom anime in existence. The titular quintuplets all fall neatly into the standard archetypes for potential romantic interests, although the differences between the siblings feels superficial at best. The fanservice is plentiful with even the opening taking generous opportunity to show of the physical attributes of it’s female leads. The comedy is rather predictable and the animation does nothing to really help the series stand out much. Overall if you’re a person interested in prototypical harem anime then this will likely fill that niche in your life but if you’re looking for something to break the standard mold and excel into something greater you’d be better served by last season’s Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai.

You can watch The Quintessential Quintuplets Thursdays at 5:00 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

C Tier:

Rainy Cocoa Season 5:

Watched: All of season 1, 2 episodes of this season

Premiered: Season 1 – Spring 2015

A group of girls run a coffee shop, comedic situations abound for approximately 1 minute. Another incredibly short comedy/slice of life show, Rainy Cocoa revolves around a chain on coffee shops and the various hot anime boys™ that staff them except this time it’s girls instead. There’s not much to say about this one because every episode is 2 minutes long and the opening theme takes up almost half of that length, I guess this is trying to be some kind of serialized sketch comedy show or something but when one entire season is less than 30 minutes long there’s not much time to take in the jokes. I mean you could literally binge the whole franchise in under 2 hours so I guess it’s not that much of a time sink but honestly I still think you could spend that time more productively by doing something else.

You can watch Rainy Cocoa-Side G Tuesdays at 1:00 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

BanG Dream! Season 2:

Watched: All of season 1, 2 episodes of season 2

Premiered: Season 1 – Winter 2017

BanG Dream! is multimedia franchise primarily focused on advertising several all-female JPop bands via several anime and manga series and spin-offs, a mobile game, and multiple live shows featuring the VA’s. The vanilla anime focuses on “Poppin’ Party”, an all girl band consisting of five high school students playing guitar, keyboard, and drums and also singing. If this all sounds familiar that’s because it’s the exact set-up for K-On!, Kyoto Animation’s (hereafter referred to as KyoAni) seminal anime series from 2009 which has since inspired numerous imitations. This is not necessarily a bad thing, personally I think the more people inspired by K-On! the better and it’s not as if failing to be as good as that show is unique among these types of shows, it just happens that BD doesn’t exactly do anything novel with the genre. Season 2 doesn’t really change things that much, in fact it probably makes things worse by introducing even more new bands for the show to focus on instead of our main five, and the whole thing basically turns into a 13 episode music video. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly adequate idol/band anime with some catchy songs and decent animation, but it really feels more like an advertisement for the live shows or the CD’s than an actual show. Honestly it all just feels too produced, like it’s intentionally trying to ape a certain style than organically arriving at one, and the characters feel like they’re trying too hard to fit into certain archetypes. There may not be a better “girls band/idol” anime this season but there certainly are better choices from the bygone days of anime past, not even that far back as it happens because Zombie Land Saga premiered last season and is unequivocally a more original and frankly more entertaining show than this one while still fitting into a similar genre. You’d be better served by listening to the occasional single from this show than watching it.

You can watch BanG Dream! Season 2 Thursdays at 9:00 am on HIDIVE and VRV

B-Project: Zecchou*Emotion:

Premiered: Season 1 – Summer 2016

Watched: 2 episodes of each season

Mega boy band groups sing and dance together and separately but everyone’s just here to watch them get shirtless occasionally. All the problems inherent to BanG Dream! are present here, the genders are just reversed, there are still too many characters, still not enough story, and the whole thing still feels like a giant advertisement for the CD’s. I literally can’t tell the difference between any of the guys which seems like a problem considering Run with the Wind exists, has a similar number of male leads, and is much better at distinguishing them. There’s really not much more to say here, if you want to look at a bunch of vaguely defined hot anime boys™ sing, dance, and occasionally get shirtless then this is your show. If you’re looking for some substance to go along with all the cheesecake maybe look elsewhere.

You can watch B-Project: Zecchou*Emotion Fridays at 12:30 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Bermuda Triangle: Colorful Pastrale:

Watched: 2 episodes

Rather off-model mermaid girls hangout and do basically nothing for 23 minutes every episode, according to several sites, this is also somehow a spin-off of Cardfight Vanguard a Yu-Gi-Oh-esque show which I am only somewhat familiar with and therefore could not begin guess at the connection between the two shows. This show is literally what all the trolls of the anime community used to say K-On! was, a nothing show about nothing characters who sit around and do nothing all episode, except that even if you took that minimalist (and wrong) approach to K-On! you’d still have a show that looks nice and has good music. Beyond the face melting looks of every character in this show, it treats it’s underwater atmosphere as though the characters were just swimming around in air, there’s no effort given to explain how characters do things like: drink hot tea, eat cake, or do anything that involves easily water degradable substances and the architecture seems clearly designed for creatures who don’t primarily get around by swimming everywhere. The “plot” such as it is might as well be non-existent, the “characters” are indistinguishable from each other, and the moe cute factor is severely hampered by the very low quality production. Honestly, if you just want to watch cute mermaid girls hang out under the sea there are better options.

You can watch Bermuda Triangle: Colorful Pastrale Fridays at 9:00 am on HIDIVE and VRV

Boogiepop and Others:

Watched: 4 episodes

The eponymous Boogiepop, a death god, attempts to defend humanity from a series of dark supernatural threats attempting to subvert the natural order. This show uses a very strange conceit to tell it’s narrative, rather than telling one continuous story it switches point of view between the various characters in the show and simple tells the story from each of their perspectives. This leads to an asynchronous plot structure which jumps back and forth through time depending on which character is the focal point of any given scene which can be very confusing to say the least. Unfortunately, while ambitious, it also falls flat on it’s face by the end of episode three when it becomes apparent that, rather spend any amount of time going in depth on the numerous characters and themes presented, the show is more content to blaze through it’s plot at a lightning pace leaving everything feeling rather shallow. Characters, themes, and stories are introduced and then ignored in the same episode, the asynchronous structure feels more like a gimmick, and the entire climax of episode 3 hinges on a character with maybe 6 lines of dialogue who dies in the very episode she’s introduced. Unfortunately Boogiepop comes off more like a sophomoric attempt to replicate the works of David Lynch than a real show which is rather disappointing for a show that had such potential.

You can watch Boogiepop and Others Fridays at 9:00 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

Date A Live Season 3:

Watched: 3 episodes of season 1, 2 of this season

Premiered: Season 1 – Spring 2013

Date A Live is originally a light novel series adapted into several anime, manga, video games, and a movie in which a kid saves the world from magic superbeings who take the form of hot anime girls by getting them to fall in love with him. Yes that’s right it’s another harem show and it’s about as by the books standard as one could get. The jokes are recycled, the characters arcs rather rote, the fanservice plentiful and predictable; in fact just about the only thing that stands out is the animation which is actually below average in several places. The prospects of watching 20ish episodes of a mediocre harem show just to get to a third, equally mediocre season are not great and I would not recommend this for anyone but the most devout of DAL fans.

You can watch Date A Live Season 3 Fridays at 9:30 am on Crunchyroll and VRV

Dimension High School:

Watched: 3 episodes

A quartet of high school boys and their teacher are transported to an anime world by a magic flying rock where they must solve puzzles presented to them by an evil Sphinx monsters. This show lives and dies on it’s split real life scenes and animated CGI segments and that’s a fun gag that works for exactly the length of the first episode. After that the novelty fades quickly and it becomes apparent that this is a sort of an edutainment type show where the boys apply lessons they’re learned in the real world to help the solve the puzzles of the poorly designed Sphinx. The CGI is probably even worse than Kemono Friends level bad animation. The show acknowledges this fact but self-awareness doesn’t make it look any better. This is probably worth a quick glance if only for the novelty of the live-action to animation gimmick but there’s just nothing to keep one invested beyond that.

You can watch Dimension High School Saturdays at 3:00 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Domestic Girlfriend:

Watched: 3 episodes

Highschooler Natsuo is infatuated with his teacher Hina, in an attempt to move on he ends up having a one night stand with a girl his age named Rui, in a twist that could only happen in anime or porn parodies his father ends up marrying Rui’s mom and his teacher/crush Hina is Rui’s older sister: vaguely incestual but not actually incest shenanigans and melodrama follows. This is essentially an anime soft core porn parody that treats itself very seriously and the step-siblings love triangle is merely the tip of the iceberg of the ridiculous romantic melodrama in this series. To be fair the show treats these with more appropriately than the average show of this type would, but let’s get real for a sec. The premise of this show is ridiculous and I don’t need to do much research to tell you that the main kid and his teacher turned step sister crush are absolutely going to hook up at some point which has all sorts of unfortunate power dynamics involved. At it’s core this is a trashy romance drama that has just enough tastefully hidden nudity to avoid being outright hentai. If that’s what you’re looking for the more power to you but don’t come looking for the next hit romance drama.

You can watch Domestic Girlfriend Saturdays at 4:00 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Girly Air Force:

Watched: 4 episodes

A mysterious alien invasion can only be repelled by the aid of fighter planes who manifest as cute anime girls and also a somewhat hapless male harem lead. Unfortunately while “planes who are also cute girls” sounds like an entertaining concept this show doesn’t really deliver in a satisfying way, the plane girls thus far are very one note and stereotypical and the romcom situations that arise from their interactions with the male lead feel forced and pointless overall. For most of it’s run this show has functioned as a very dull slice of life show with occasionally interspersed moments of high flying CGI combat, which while competently executed more or less, do nothing to really “wow” the viewer with any kind of technical mastery or choreography. The jokes aren’t even that funny which is really all I’m asking for out a pseudo harem show about planes who are also anime girls. GAF doesn’t stand out as a failure in any noticeable way but the moments where it crosses the threshold of being a replacement level show are few and far between; if you’re looking for a pure harem show you’d be better served by The Quintessential Quintuplets and if you were looking for exciting air combat with cute anime girls The Magnificent Kotobuki excels over this show in every aspect barring perhaps it’s usage of CGI, but I’ll take pure entertainment factor over visuals any day of the week.

You can watch Girly Air Force Thursdays at 11:30 am on Crunchyroll and VRV.

Kakegurui XX (Season 2):

Watched: 3 episodes of season 1, 2 of season 2

Premiered: Season 1 – Summer 2017

Kakegurui is a darkly comedic high school show practically dripping with sex appeal and littered with just some of the best ridiculous anime faces, oh also I guess it’s about gambling but that part is mediocre, basically you should only watch this for highly sexualized high schoolers acting obscenely towards each other because there’s really nothing else here. The gambling is entirely formulaic: villain of the week introduces some new game, Yumiko (our gambling addict heroine) figures out how they’re cheating, then somehow wins using pure luck; rinse and repeat. Even the few times she actually “loses” are all part of a larger ploy to gamble more and she seems to have an infinite supply of monetary assets so there’s really no stakes involved in any aspect and the few games that actually do involve stakes are subverted in the end. Secondly the characters are all absurd parodies, none of them feel like actual people, they’re just hedonistic vehicles for whatever weird game will be played in this week’s episode and that includes Yumiko who has apparently just put all her life stats into luck because she basically always pulls a win out of nowhere when she really needs to. In the end this show has some good production values and if you just want to watch Yumiko punk on the latest villain of the week while she makes a bunch of highly suggestive facial expressions or you just want a show with tons of sex appeal and yuri bait then this is your show, but don’t come here expecting to get anything else out of this show because it’s all style and no substance.

You can watch Kakegurui XX on Netflix whenever it decides to release it

Katana Maidens ~ Mini Toji:

Watched: 2 episodes of the original, 3 of this spin off

Katana Maidens is a show about high school girls wielding swords and fighting demons and whatnot, Mini Toji is a short comedy spin-off of that show, the Chibi version if you will. This show is basically for fans of the original series and I wouldn’t really recommend watching it if you have’t already seen the original, a fact the show itself makes clear in it’s introductory episode.

You can watch Katana Maidens ~ Mini Toji Saturdays at 2:00 pm on Crunchyroll or VRV

Kemono Friends Season 2:

Watched: 3 episodes of the original, 2 of this season

A peculiar safari park named Japari Park, is filled with numerous animals both real and fictional who have become anthropomorphized into moe anime girls because Japan, and together with their human friend (also a moe anime girl) they have fun adventures throughout the park while making new friends. This show does not look great, the contrast between the drawn backgrounds and 3D CGI characters is quite bad as is most of the animation for those characters. Most of the show plays like an Animal Planet series with each episode introducing a new species of Animal Girl and discussing the various traits of their real-life counterparts. Its remarkable popularity then is due to a combination of subtle world building, surprisingly good characterization, and an abundance of anime meme culture. It’s a very simple show that winds up having a unusually deep story which is rather impressive given it’s……less than stellar animation work and humble beginnings. Unfortunately parent company Kadokawa fired the original director and studio of the first season and appear to be capitalizing on their new found cash cow franchise by……just doing Season 1 again. Although I was never quite as  enamored with the original works as other parts of the anime net it’s still quite disappointing to see that interference on the behalf of higher ups has ruined any chances of Season 2 following up on the success of the original. Season 2 has all of the problems of Season 1 with none of the things that made it stand out.

You can watch Kemono Friends Season 2 Mondays at 2:35 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Mysteria Friends:

Watched: 4 episodes

Human princess Anne and Anthropomorphic Dragon Princess Grea bond at magic school despite their differences. This is apparently a spin-off of the Rage of Bahamut anime which themselves were spin-offs of a mobile card game so the original premise is a little diluted by this point. This show is a essentially a slice of life in miniature, each episode is about 13 minutes and has a new magical mishap for our heroines to solve in between gratuitous fanservice and a heavy amount of yuri bait. The color scheme feels a bit…..off to me in some scenes but the show is generally competently animated and executed, unfortunately it’s not very interesting which is the kiss of death for most SoL. It’s certainly not the worst SoL this season though and it’s a quick enough watch, personally I’ll probably be keeping an eye on this show if only to see if the yuri bait turns into actual yuri at some point but probably not on a weekly basis.

You can watch Mysteria Friends Sundays 12:00 pm on Crunchyroll and VRV

Pastel Memories:

Watched: 3 episodes

Cookie cutter anime girls, who’s only real defining feature is their excessively large breasts (which the anime goes to great lengths to advertise) must reverse the decline of anime/manga/otaku culture by transforming into equally prototypical magic girls and fight monster of the week creatures in various manga worlds. The premise of “what would happen if otaku culture just suddenly disappeared” is intellectually fascinating, but the first episode of this show is one of the most boring slice of life shows I’ve ever seen only to pull out the “surprising twist” that actually this is a magical girl show, except the real surprising twist is that it’s an equally boring magical girl show. This is honestly one of the worst premieres for a show I’ve had the displeasure to watch in a long, worse even than offensive shows because at least those elicit an emotional response from me. This just has a whole lot of nothing for 20 minutes followed by an uninspired (and frankly out of nowhere) twist. The real show doesn’t fare much better but at least the tired repetitive magical girl tropes provide a facsimile of a entertaining show.

You can watch Pastel Memories Mondays at 5:30 pm on HIDIVE and VRV

Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan:

Watched: 3 of the mini segments, a few minutes of the interviews

A twelve episode comedy series following the daily life of an adult Japanese woman who spends most of each episode’s 3 minute run time entirely nude. Some other key facts about this show, while every episode is about 3 minutes long the rest of the episode is a 20ish minute interview with the director because all 12 of them have different directors utilizing a different style. This is an interesting process in concept but not so much in execution given the short length of each animation segment and the fact that the subject matter tackled in each episode is so devoid of any substance. I suppose the interviews could be an interesting delve into the minds of Japanese animators but this so barely qualifies as an animated show I considered whether it was even worthwhile to include this show.

You can watch Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan Tuesdays at 1:30 pm Crunchyroll and VRV

What I’m Following:

Shows that I am personally watching for the entirety of their season, mostly due to personal preference so if you don’t see your favorite here it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, it just means it didn’t interest me. Unless it’s in C tier or lower in which case yeah it wasn’t great. I will be reviewing these shows more in my second article on the season wrap-up and would encourage people to give these a look. Ordered by least to most interesting to me personally.

  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
  • Dororo
  • The Magnificent KOTOBUKI
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
  • Run with the Wind
  • My Roommate is a Cat
  • Kaguya-sama: Love is War
  • The Promised Neverland
  • Mob Psycho 100 Season 2
 

One Comment

  1. John February 11, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Will give Meiji Tokyo Renka credit for getting me interested in learning about Meiji Japan outside of what the show offers. Usually this stuff gets a passing nod in high-school history class if even that.

     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *