Holy crap we’re already at the halfway point. It doesn’t really feel like a halfway point – Owarimonogatari’s just finished its first larger arc-sequence, and Okada Gundam is still basically in its preamble, so it kinda feels like we’re just getting started. But apparently everything else is already half over, and the halfway point ranking thing has become one of this site’s many random traditions (look, routines help with my insecurities), so here we are again. As usual, this will be the one and only time I rank this season’s overall shows. Ranking shows when they’re only halfway done may seem like an inherently useless gesture, but I assure you, that is definitely the point. “But Bobduh,” you might respond, “you rank your favorite shows of the year anyway, so how can you say you’re making a point about the futility of rankings when you then proceed to buy into them in the same exact way everyone else does?” “Shut up,” I say to this. “Shut up, stop talking, your face is bad.”
With all that cleared up, let’s get right to the listing! What has risen, what has fallen, and what is just sort of staggering on? ALL WILL BE REVEALED.
Yeah, big goddamn surprise, the newest edition of one of my favorite shows of all time is right up there at the top. And I’m relieved to see it there, frankly – after Tsukimonogatari, I was a little worried the show had peaked in the second season. And it still may have peaked in the second season, because this season hasn’t been quite as good as Hitagi End or Suruga Devil – but “not quite as good as the show’s best arcs to date” isn’t the fairest of criticisms. Compared to Monogatari overall, this season has been a fine addition to the series, with Oikura making the most of all of her appearances and Ougi’s increased presence actually making Araragi far more compelling as a character. There have been a few nicely self-contained little dramas, some standout emotional peaks, and some great word-duels between all the characters. There’s even been tiger-striped Hanekawa kicking Ougi’s sinister spirit-being ass. The visuals haven’t been quite up to the standard set by Suruga Devil, but again, Suruga Devil is a ridiculously high bar. Overall, Owarimonogatari is proving to be a solid addition to the franchise.
#2: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Coming in right behind the heavy hitter, we have Okada’s remarkably consistent entry into the Gundam franchise. Iron-Blooded Orphans isn’t the shiny, wildly ambitious type – it’s just a very solidly composed drama, full of engaging moving pieces and steered with a strong sense of purpose and momentum. Orga and Mikazuki make for a compelling central pair, and Mikazuki’s growing relationship with Kudelia illustrates the classic disconnect of how war impacts society on different levels in a nicely personal way. I’m also just as interested in the Gjallarhorn characters as the orphans side, which makes basically every turn of this story fun to see. The show’s a bit visually conservative and sometimes steps a tad too far into exposition, but overall it’s demonstrating how much solidly composed storytelling can do all by itself.
#3: Utawarerumono: The False Faces
This one’s a bit tentative for a couple reasons. First, the latest episode seemed to lean largely on the audience’s familiarity with characters from the last series, and I didn’t watch that one – so if the show moves even further into direct sequel territory, I’ll have to drop it regardless of how much I enjoy it. And secondly, there’s a marked tendency towards standard anime crappiness here – a harem vibe, a girl that exists basically just to be the fujoshi type, etcetera. But aside from that stuff, Utawarerumono is pretty great. Most importantly, the show absolutely nails the chemistry of its two leads, which is a rare and valuable thing. Haku and Kuon are great both independently and together – they have distinct personalities with multiple sides, are genuinely charming, and bounce off each other with great energy. Not everything the show has added on top of those characters has been great, but a strong central pair can go a very long way.
#4: Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider
Five episodes in, I still don’t really know what to think of Perfect Insider. There’s certainly plenty of stuff I like about it – I like the ways it’s building up and contrasting Moe and Magata, I like the fact that the mystery is based in people more than narrative twists, I like the subdued aesthetic, I like the slow-burning pace. And there’s also stuff I dislike, from the show’s inconsistent treatment of Souhei (sometimes it seems like the show is self-aware about his nonsense, sometimes it buys into it) to the various canned mystery tricks (a robot! multiple personalities!). I get the feeling that it may take right up until the final episode to decide if I even like the show, based on how its various mysterious threads play out. But it’s certainly interesting, and I’m enjoying the ride so far.
#5: One-Punch Man
It feels a little weird to put what seems like the breakout star of the season down here at the bottom, but One-Punch Man is just not the strongest show. For roughly five to six minutes out of every twenty, One-Punch Man is phenomenal – one of the most beautifully realized action shows I’ve ever seen, brought to life through vivid animation and dynamic direction, fully demonstrating the power of anime as a medium to convey violence. But for the other fifteen, it can tend to drag. The show is mainly a comedy, and it feels like it’s run out of jokes; Saitama’s shtick can only last so long, and all the punchlines follow a similar deadpan formula. And attaching these gorgeous fight scenes to a comedy actually makes them far less compelling than they would be otherwise, since it means they’re “just” beautiful, and not elevated through any dramatic or emotional engagement with what’s going on. Ultimately, I kind of wish all this aesthetic goodness was attached to a show that actually wanted me to care about what’s happening – I’ll still watch it and enjoy the highlights, but it feels like One-Punch Man is kind of squandering one of the best talent lineups imaginable.
#6: Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigations
Beautiful Bones isn’t even that bad, or at least, it hasn’t been recently. It’s not good, it just… is. It’s a mediocre crime procedural, and mediocre crime procedurals are likely the most overproduced television genre in existence. Maybe if you hadn’t grown up with the background radiation of American prime time television, this would be more engaging – but I’ve just seen way too many episodes of better-written but still not particularly good versions of this show to muster much enthusiasm.
And that’s it for me! My season’s turning out so-so but not terribly disappointing, with a couple shows each that are impressing, entertaining, and disappointing. From the looks of my twitter feed, it seems the main show I may be sleeping on is Concrete Revolutio, but I find that show’s aesthetic way too abrasive to feel inclined to pick it back up. Other than that, this is looking to be another relatively quiet season, though I’d be happy to hear about whatever else you’re all enjoying!