Well folks, it looks like we’re somehow halfway through the spring season. Things have been insanely busy on my end, as I’ve been scrambling to deal with a bunch of work-related backend stuff that’s altogether far less exciting than watching cartoons. Fortunately, the cartoons themselves have been as strong as ever – this spring has an extremely sturdy lineup, so stuffed with watchable shows that I’ve essentially had to shave off an entire second tier of contenders. Keeping up with my Current Projects means I don’t really have the time to watch nine airing shows a season anymore, but I certainly can’t complain about having too much to watch!
As usual, this is the point where I vaguely rank the shows I’m watching in some kind of descending order. Also as usual, these rankings are essentially meaningless – I like making ranked lists, but I don’t think they have any meaningful value, and establishing this hierarchy while none of these shows are actually completed only underlines that. So sit back, relax, and let’s have an enjoyably pointless time!
#1: The Eccentric Family 2
Unsurprisingly, the sequel to one of my all-time favorite shows has managed to secure the top spot this season. The Eccentric Family’s second season hasn’t quite been the equal of its predecessor so far – there have been fewer transcendent moments like the rooftop date, and the weight of continuity has kept the show from feeling quite as carefree as the original. That said, this is still a gorgeous show full of rich characters and charming ideas. Yasaburo’s recent trip to hell was a strong highlight, as was Benten’s big defeat, and both Nidaime and Gyokuran have proven to be strong additions to the cast. The Eccentric Family 2 is mostly a case of “not screwing up a good thing,” but when that original good thing is one of the best shows of all time, well.
#2: My Hero Academia 2
I knew this was going to be a sequel-heavy season from early on, but I can’t really complain about old favorites showing up in such force. My Hero Academia 2 has proven to be a marked improvement over its predecessor, doing a much more graceful job of avoiding the padding that plagued the original. There are still too many flashbacks and whatnot here, but the fundamental material of this season is just too strong to keep down, and the show is doing a solid job of making sure the most impactful moments really stand out visually. The sports festival’s tactical shenanigans strongly remind me of Hunter x Hunter, and you really can’t ask for a better reference point than that. Every episode of My Hero Academia leaves me hungry for the next.
#3: Sakura Quest
My feelings on Sakura Quest vary wildly depending on the episode, but on the whole I’d say it falls somewhere in the middle of my seasonal experience. At its best, the show’s rural world and meditations on young adulthood come through as bracingly real, offering a punch in the jaw and a pat on the back at the same time. At its worst, it’s basically just a charming but inconsequential comedy-drama. The best thing I can say for Sakura Quest is that it has not squandered any of its potential – it’s still a very enjoyable show that feels like it earns its more quietly savage moments. I’m not expecting it to eventually rise to consistent greatness, but I’m perfectly happy with the show we have.
#4: Tsuki ga Kirei
Who would have thought Seiji Kishi of all people could do a pretty okay Kyoto Animation impression. Tsuki ga Kirei has turned out to be a pretty excellent little romance, consistently meeting its own dramatic goals with relative, if not perfect grace. Shows like this really benefit from direction, art design, and animation that can bring small moments of character drama to life, and I’d say Tsuki ga Kirei is only about 60% of the way there, but that’s honestly still pretty good. Moments like Akane huddled alone after failing at her track meet, or Kotarou punching his lamp light after successfully sending a text, more than make up for issues like the show’s awful CG golems. Romance just doesn’t get much cuter than this.
Even though Re:Creators is at the bottom of this list, I’m actually still having a great time with it – this season has just been strong enough for me to drop anything I have any reservations about. Like pretty much all of Ei Aoki’s shows, Re:Creators is burdened by too much exposition – but fortunately, the constant monologues in this show are actually pretty interesting, and are generally conveyed by characters I really do care about. The show has managed the neat trick of establishing a broad stable of cliche anime characters who actually all feel worth investing in, from the thoughtful and quietly badass Meteora to the earnestly heroic Alice and Mamika. Re:Creators’ narrative slowness doesn’t really bother me, because it’s choosing instead to focus on basically all of the things that make this premise interesting – how the Creations come to see their original worlds, how the philosophies of Alice and Mamika might intersect, etcetera. As Monogatari proves, I’m perfectly okay with a show about people standing around and talking if you can keep their talking interesting!