I think we’re gonna make it through, everybody. I was a little worried for a while there, as the first half of this season’s premieres made it seem like I wouldn’t hit even half a dozen potential shows. But the second half rallied with a few very necessary surprises, and so now I’m at the point where it should take me a good three or four weeks to determine that anime is terrible once again.
The season’s highlights slot into a solid variety of genres, leaving us fans with at least one thing to enjoy regardless of whether we’re fans of drama, slice of life, idols, or Toonami, the four core pillars of anime. Last season’s lack of a strong character-focused show will hopefully be made up for by this season’s Orange and ReLIFE, and it’s great to see that Sunshine actually seems to be improving on the Love Live formula. As usual, I’ll be breaking this season’s premieres down into flawlessly objective tiers for your perusal, and including links to all of my longer reviews over at ANN. We’ve got a whole lot of anime to fight through, so let’s get right to business and RUN THIS SEASON DOWN.
Most of this season’s anime came to a close this week, leaving just those two oft-compared highlights, Rakugo and Dagashi Kashi, to finish the season alone. ERASED pulled itself together to end with as much dignity as it could, given the circumstances of its villain, while Active Raid similarly felt hamstrung by its own weak antagonist. I almost feel tempted to write an article specifically about antagonists now, because the problems with both those shows were so specific and so centered on the ways they handled their villains. Though of course, that article would then end up spinning out into how an antagonist shouldn’t be something you design independently, and should instead reflect the core themes and conflicts of your narrative, and then we’re all the way back at storytelling step one again. Anyway. Some shows ended this week, some shows didn’t. Let’s crack those knuckles once more and RUN ‘EM DOWN!
Active Raid is over! The show ended about as well as it could have – that is, it’s a mediocre show that will be forgotten in a week or two, but it tied its threads together and concluded with relative grace. The ultimate reveal of Mythos’ motivation was as underwhelming as you’d expect, but Mythos has always been the show’s weakest element, so what are you gonna do. I liked the banter between the Unit 8 leads, having that friggin’ Clippy app actually be evil was perfect, and the last fight was pretty okay. Not much point in yelling at a show for not being a very different one.
Anime was pretty great this week! Basically anything would feel like an improvement after last week’s tragic slate of episodes, but this week’s selection was about as strong as you could hope for. ERASED didn’t magically fix the heavy fundamental damage its last episode caused, but it recovered as well as it could with an episode that mostly rediscovered the concept of subtlety. Dagashi Kashi had one of its best episodes so far, and Rakugo made up for its relatively grounded visual storytelling with some of the most endearing character moments of the season. Things are looking pretty okay in animeland at the moment. This may have been a relatively underwhelming season, but with Rakugo on track to become a legit classic, you can’t really call it a letdown.
Active Raid had a relatively successful but also kinda bland episode this week, moving its pieces towards the end without much flair or energy. But that’s kind of the deal here – Active Raid has very rarely been an actually good show, it’s basically always just been a reasonably competent one. I never mind watching it, but also never feel legitimately invested in it. The giant robot episode was quite good, most of Rin’s material has been excellent, and that episode focused on Miho was also solid – outside of that, it’s just kind of a thing you can watch. Hopefully next season offers enough legitimately strong contenders that something like Active Raid’s bare competence wouldn’t put it near the top of the pack.
Well I guess some weeks have to be disasters. A couple of the shows I’m watching were fine this week, but there were some real terrible episodes in there, and one in particular… I don’t even know what to say. It’s pretty rare that a generally excellent show completely sets itself on fire just a few episodes before the end, but here we are. This is what we got. So let’s get right into it.
Active Raid had a uniquely disappointing episode this week, and that was pretty much the only unique thing about it. This was basically the platonic ideal of “phoning it in” – there was no personality or creativity in any element of this episode’s construction, it was just one hundred percent an episode designed to get the characters from one narrative point to a different one. I’m a character person, so I don’t generally watch the kinds of shows that traffic in nothing plot beats like this, so I guess that at least made it a somewhat novel experience for me? Crap episode, though. Real bad.
Anime stayed pretty respectable this week, offering up reasonable episodes all around. It seems like Rakugo’s going to the only show I can call truly great by the end of this season, though. ERASED just has too many moments where its thriller mechanics drag down its more compelling variables, and though Grimgar is quite interesting and unique, it’s also a very uneven production. The season’s second tier is also somewhat questionable; Konosuba and Dagashi Kashi both regularly gesture towards jokes that don’t work in the slightest, and Active Raid is pretty much just an average crime procedural. The season has managed to hold together to the point where I’m not actively disappointed, but I’m still very ready for the much richer spring season to begin.
That said, at least Rakugo continues to knock it out of the park every week. So let’s start right there as we run ’em down!
And Active Raid gets another notch in the Good column. The show’s actually developing a pretty good ratio at this point – there have certainly been some weaker episodes, but the greater majority have been solid ranging to excellent, and it seems like the show will actually be pulling together well. It’s still “just” a procedural police drama for the most part, and lacks the vivid strengths in character, themes, or aesthetics that might make it truly shine, but it’s a competent and often very engaging slice of what it is. Not every show needs to set the world on fire.
Anime was good this week! Basically every show I’m watching had a solid episode, and some impressed with legitimate highlights, too. Both Konosuba and Dagashi Kashi have now established their character relationships firmly enough that they can often just coast on audience investment, and ERASED pulled off a real stunner this week, focusing largely on Hinazuki’s feelings for the first time. Grimgar executed a major action sequence with characteristic emotional grace, and Rakugo Shinju continued to be just as great as it always is. This season has a fairly light spread of shows, but you don’t really need catalog depth if the first couple tiers are holding strong. Let’s get right into this week’s highlights and RUN ‘EM DOWN!