The halfway point is here! I’m not the only one who feels like this has been a really fast season, right? I mean, it’s obviously going to feel like I’m running through anime faster if I’m enjoying it more, but it feels like Flying Witch and The Lost Village and My Hero Academia just got started a couple weeks ago, and suddenly here we are. As has at this point shifted from “it’s cute to say some silly blog thing is ‘traditional'” to “wow, this really is a tradition, I’ve been doing this crap for a substantial portion of my adult life,” I’ll be running down my current schedule from best to worst as your seasonal reminder that rankings don’t matter, we’re all going to die, the only truth is the abyss. I’ve got a lot of very fun and very different shows to get through, so let’s not waste any more time in preamble. From top to bottom, here are this spring’s very best cartoon contenders!
#1: Concrete Revolutio
To the surprise of no one, my easy top pick this season is the show that’d be an easy top pick in most seasons. In spite of having a broad collection of fine shows, there’s actually very little this season I’d consider classic-level, but Concrete Revolutio is the one clear exception. Its second season has lacked the central focus I was hoping for, but has replaced that with something that may actually be even better, or at least more fitting for this particular show.
With the Shinjuku riots several years in the past, Concrete Revolutio’s new vignettes take place in a world where much has changed, but far too much has also stayed the same. The world wasn’t fixed by the student protests, and in fact, their earnest efforts now stand as the strongest weapon the government can use against superhumans. Concrete Revolutio’s heroes have not won and not lost – they’ve simply continued to live, gaining experience and fatigue as they continue to pursue their diverse ideals. It’s a more realistic approach, fitting for Concrete Revolutio’s very grounded narrative, and when you couple that central idea with the fact that this season’s vignettes have been better in general than the first season’s, you arrive at something that continues to inspire me every week. Concrete Revolutio is a remarkable show.
#2: My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is frankly not as good as it could be. The manga is being adapted far too slowly for it to match the engagement of the source material, and beyond that, the show simply lacks the dynamite animation you’d hope for in an action anime. But in spite of that, the material being adapted here is just so fundamentally good that it’s really hard to keep it down. My Hero Academia gets heroes in a way few modern anime do, or at least are willing to express. It is joyous and cathartic, every episode offering new fist-pumping moments and more great interactions between its utterly charming cast. The superhero shounen was a great concept waiting for a great take, and My Hero Academia absolutely fits the bill.
#3: The Lost Village
It’s inherently difficult to place a show you’re enjoying because it’s so hilariously terrible, but having been convinced The Lost Village is intentionally hilariously terrible, it seems right to just judge it on how much I enjoy it. And I enjoy The Lost Village a whole lot. The show’s riffs on audience expectations regarding genre movements, narrative beats, and characterization actually make it a weirdly intelligent comedy compared to most anime, and the show’s characters are endearing as devices even if they’re impossible to take seriously as people. I legitimately cannot think of another anime that has made me laugh as consistently as The Lost Village. It is a remarkable feat of trainwreck engineering.
#4: Flying Witch
In contrast with My Hero Academia’s missed opportunities, Flying Witch is exactly as good as it needs to be. The show lacks the top-tier aesthetics or utterly consistent humor of the best slice of life shows, but it’s only a short step below that group, and manages to charm in new ways every week. Flying Witch lives in its wide array of well-observed details, as well as the way its sense of understatement makes its jokes much stronger. Chinatsu and Chito feel more like a kid and a cat than virtually any other kids or cats out there, and Makoto’s blase attitude towards her own powers creates just the right tone of offhand wonderment. It is an excellent piece of work.
#5: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable
I feel a little guilty putting JoJo down here, because for what it is, Diamond is Unbreakable is a real feat. This third season has done away with most of the issues that made Stardust Crusaders such a slog, matching far more compelling characters and Stands with infinitely superior visual execution. The animation is actually less impressive here than Stardust Crusaders’ big highlights, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest – the upgrades in direction and color work make Diamond is Unbreakable a constant visual feast. On top of that, applying Araki’s continuously improving grasp of his own premise to a suburban horror template was probably one of the best places he could take it. JoJo is back in peak form.
Only down at number six do we finally reach shows I have seriously mixed feelings on, which is as sure a sign of a great season as you could hope for. Kiznaiver is a messy and imbalanced production, sometimes leaning into cliche romcom devices or ugly jokes, other times pulling out surprisingly nuanced conversations between its strong central cast. The stuff that is great in Kiznaiver is exactly the kind of stuff I look for in anime, and the visuals are always a treat, but the show’s best moments are separated by wide swathes of pretty mediocre material. It’s a show that I enjoy well enough as-is, but can’t help but feel could have been truly great with another few revisions.
#7: Space Patrol Luluco
Space Patrol Luluco is a very charming thing, but it’s frankly just too quick and insubstantial to rank any higher. But for what it is, I actually think Luluco is the ideal Imaishi show. Its female lead and high school romance premise means it’s too pleasant to dip into his tendencies towards juvenile poop and sex jokes, and all of the actual jokes are charming, creative, and, most importantly, fast. Anime comedies have a tendency to slow down and overplay their jokes, which is likely why shorts are often the best comedies – they don’t have enough running time to ruin their jokes, since they have to immediately rush onward to the next thing. By tethering Imaishi to a premise with some class and condensing his style into six minute fragments, Luluco makes the most of a talented but extremely lopsided director.
#8: Macross Delta
Sorry Macross, you drew the short straw this time. If it makes you feel any better, you’re still eclipsing the vast majority of this season’s shows, in a season where it wouldn’t be hard to tack on another handful of streaming anime. But in the end, Macross Delta just has not lived up to the promise of its standout first episode. There are good elements in this show – Freyja is a faces treasure, and each episode tends to have at least a couple moments that lean into a fundamental sense of wonder characteristic of many of anime’s best productions. But Macross Delta’s plot lacks momentum or even a sense of clear stakes, many of its characters are one-note, and co-lead Hayate is an often aggravating presence. It’s still enjoyable enough to watch, but Macross Delta is straying dangerously close to the Ikenai Borderline.