And suddenly, six weeks have passed. Fortunately for me, it’s actually hard to pretend the winter season has rushed by; not because the shows themselves have proceeded slowly, but because I live in goddamn New England, and so every day is an interminable march of suffering through sub-arctic temperatures and mocking snow. I hate winter, and I’d rather live in a place where it doesn’t exist, but for the moment I’m stuck here. As far as anime goes, this has actually been a perfectly reasonable season.
This seems like one of those seasons where, to an even greater degree than normally, the show quality just drops off a cliff after the second tier. In an ordinary season, there are a decent number of shows I’m not watching that people in a general sense are still enjoying – things that don’t appeal to me genre-wise, or whose writing or art style don’t gel with me, or some other quirk of preference. But this time, it seems like nearly everyone I know is watching the same shortlist of anime, and then there’s just a vast desert of nothing. But this actually doesn’t affect my viewing habits at all – I never tend to find more than half a dozen or so shows watchable, and as far as that small crop goes, as long as I have two to three shows that seem genuinely good, I’m satisfied. But it’d be far too mature of me to just say “I’m enjoying a fair number of shows for a variety of reasons,” and besides, we’ve got traditions to uphold. So let’s start at the top and ruthlessly rank this season’s claimants to the throne!
I hate to say it, but this was not a good week in anime. Everything beyond Rakugo Shinju and ERASED has been kinda iffy this season, but this week, not only did ERASED put out its worst episode by far, but both Dimension W and KonoSuba were so bad that I’m probably dropping them until further notice. I was already sort of on the edge with both of those shows, and it honestly wouldn’t take that much to convince me to give KonoSuba another episode, but when half the shows you’re watching disappoint you, it’s not a good scene. ERASED in particular was a real disappointment – the show’s existing issues of overselling dramatic peaks and just being too much of a boilerplate thriller took over entirely this week, leaving me with an episode that felt more silly than dramatically effective. But that said, there were also highlights to make up the difference, and I can always use the time saved to work on more Current Projects! Let’s start at the top and RUN ‘EM DOWN.
Things are still settling to some extent here in the fourth week, largely due to the fact that a full third of my current watch group consists of comedies. Comedies are tricky, and comedies are inconsistent, and comedies have much less of a tendency to settle into a reliable groove than most genres. So while Rakugo and ERASED continue to be excellent week after week, this time Konosuba was pretty terrible, while Dagashi Kashi was actually consistently funny. Other than that, I’m beginning to lose patience with Dimension W – the show is reasonably watchable, but absolutely nothing beyond that, possessing virtually no personality and being more interesting as a demographic artifact than an actual piece of media. Grimgar, on the other hand, is all personality, personality to a fault, and that actually makes it my third-favorite show at the moment. All that and more in this week’s Week in Review! Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!
The season’s shows are still jostling at this point, jockeying for position and demonstrating which of their early strengths they can maintain and as-of-yet not quite imploding. Rakugo Shinju and ERASED are the easy top contenders, but beyond that, it’s a mixed field of shows that are either imbalanced, lacking in ambition, or somewhat inconsistent, but all still more or less worth watching. It’s probably not the generally strongest member of this pack, but Grimgar is actually the one I have the highest hopes for. The show’s weaknesses are loud and frustrating and obvious, but its strengths are very unique, and that appeals to me more than something like Dimension W’s straightforward but somewhat flavorless polish. But the overall crop still makes this easily the best season since last spring, so I’d say this is a good place to be. Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!
And with preview week firmly in the past, it’s time to return to our scheduled week in review. So far, this season is actually turning out better than I’d hoped – I didn’t really expect most of the shows in my own preview post to actually end up doing well, and having two legitimately excellent shows in a season is basically all I can hope for from any season. Between Erased and Genroku Rakugo, we’re already there – both of those shows impressed with strong premieres and followed through with consistent second episodes. And even beyond the highlights, there’s a reasonable crop of middle-tier shows as well, depending on your own genre tastes. The season is strong enough that I’m currently deciding to be truly ruthless, and cut off both Utawarerumono and Iron-Blooded Orphans until I feel compelled either personally or through general fan noise to pick them back up again. There are too many good shows in the world to waste time watching things I’m not enjoying.
All of our new shows have turned in their final assignments, and the testing period is over. Who will rise, who will fall, who will entertain us mightily for a few weeks only to slowly sink into a mire of mediocrity and disappointment – all these questions lie ahead, but for now, we can already viciously judge the labor of thousands of animators based on our first impressions of their new creations. I knew from before this season even began that it would be a relatively light one, but with that in mind, the haul here is actually pretty solid. We had a couple truly great premieres, a few more shows that demonstrate either potential or reasonable genre chops, and The Rest. There’s always going to be a The Rest, but as long as anime continues to produce just a couple shows that justify our nostalgic Stockholm Syndrome every season, this unhealthy relationship can keep chugging merrily along. Let’s start right at the top of the list and RUN ‘EM DOWN!