And somehow, another year has come to a close. This has been a strange year for me – as my first full year of wholly anime-related employment, it’s been often terrifying, sometimes uplifting, and always exciting. I’m not sure it means anything that my move to freelance coincided with the world catching fire, but hey, things happen. At least I also write for Crunchyroll now!
As far as anime itself goes, this has been a very solid year in general. The industry is currently at a somewhat unsustainable level of production, and though foreign streaming and other forms of revenue are putting the industry in a more stable place financially, that still hasn’t adjusted the workflow mechanisms that keep animators so terribly underpaid. That will have to change eventually, but as far as the actual shows go, there were plenty of anime I had a great time with this year, and solid hits in a wide variety of genres. In fact, this year’s crop was so good that I even have some honorable mentions! That’s honestly kind of unusual for me – I generally struggle getting to ten shows without including stuff I’m not totally sold on. So let’s start right there, and run down the shows that just barely missed the list before we count off the final ten!
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!
ERASED finished with the remains of its dignity intact, forcing us to survive through just one final scene with Satoru’s supervillain nemesis before heading towards the end. Most of the show’s thematic threads were at least nodded to here, and there were a number of pretty scenes to counterbalance the weight of Yashiro’s ridiculousness. The show fell apart fairly close to the end, so it’s kind of ending on a low note, but in retrospect it’s obviously a reasonable production – it just hit its highs very early and its lows very late. In the end, the biggest lesson I find myself drawing from ERASED is to stop letting myself trust fans of source material. The fans always lie!
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.
ERASED was definitely much better this week, though a performance like last episode isn’t something a show can really recover from. I get into it in my review, but ultimately, it feels like ERASED would have been better off just not having a serial killer at all. The cat and mouse stuff in both timelines is almost uniformly worse than the rest of the show’s material, and the show doesn’t actually need a killer for this story to work. But either way, this episode was relatively low-key and full of nice character moments, so it falls in the good column even if it also included a speech about murdering hamsters. You take what you can get.
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.
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!
Another fine episode of ERASED this week. This one was more plot-focused than the last (I know, gross), but it had plenty of individually strong scenes, and even some nice character moments with Mr. Yashiro. I don’t really know how I’m supposed to take those scenes, really – the show just doesn’t have enough characters for him to not be a reasonably likely choice to be the killer, and so it’s hard to fully engage with bonding scenes between him and Satoru. But awkward narrative mechanics aside, the scenes were well-constructed enough, so I guess I can’t really complain.
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!