Today I reviewed the latest of JoJos, Diamond is Unbreakable! This one ultimately rose to be my favorite season, in spite of not really matching the continuous, breakneck entertainment of Battle Tendency. Diamond is Unbreakable just offered so much good stuff, so many great ideas and characters and battles, and all of it framed within the most strangely compelling premise the show has found. I’ve heard both good and bad things about the coming season, but I’m happy this one turned out so well.
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!
Welp, the year is coming to an end. 2016 has been a tough year for the world at large, and a stressful year for me personally, what with transitioning entirely to freelance work the year before. Fortunately, 2016 was also a pretty excellent year in anime – there wasn’t anything I loved on the level of a Shirobako or an Eccentric Family, but the breadth of the year’s top tier was pretty dang remarkable. This season in particular was a real standout, offering a substantial portion of the shows that’ll make up my final top ten. We’re arriving at final episodes now, which is sad, but I’m never unhappy to see good shows end strong. Let’s run these titles down, and get ready for whatever 2017 may bring!
Most of the shows I’m watching were pretty fantastic this week. Alright, I’m watching six shows, so we can more specifically say four of six. JoJo is nailing its final battle, Chitose is actually becoming a sympathetic character, Flip Flappers is pulling its story together, and March is drawing all possible pathos out of Rei’s anger and resentment. That’s a pretty good ratio! So yes, Euphonium may have dedicated a full episode to a nonsense conflict, and Yuri on Ice may still be a generally underwhelming sports production, but frankly, the standards are quite high this season. With all my shows having around two episodes left, this is still easily looking to be the best season of the year, and a season any year would be proud of. The coming winter may be a bleak wilderness, but let us remember: sometimes anime is good.Continue reading →
We’re coming to the close now. With 2016 ending on America electing its first Russia-approved candidate, it’s a little hard for anime to really shock me, and so I’m perfectly fine with embracing stability in my Japanese cartoons. The fall’s highlights all seem to be ending strong at this point – Euphonium has risen from a weak middle arc to some stunning Asuka-focused material, Flip Flappers is actually making a coherent transition into its more straightforward endgame, and Yuri on Ice is finally giving Victor the focus he needs. And if strong new episodes aren’t enough for you, I also made posts I’m happy with for fans at either end of the pool: a next step recommendation list for new fans, and a dive into Studio Pablo’s background work for regulars. But these posts are for celebrating the week’s anime, so let’s get right back to that and RUN THIS WEEK DOWN!
There are a lot of anime out there! Literally thousands, with over a hundred more being released every year. There are new hits every season, and old favorites that have slowly lost their topical sheen. Given all those shows, it can be understandably hard to pick what to watch next – anime, like every other medium, is full of stuff that will disappoint you, and everyone’s tastes are different.
My own tastes in particular are a little weird – I like arthouse stuff and intimate character studies and occasional cathartic message-focused shows. But fortunately, there is indeed such a thing as “normal” taste in anime, or at least the most common preferences shared by fans outside of Japan. And today, I’m hoping to help that audience – or more specifically, hopefully, You.
Turns out anime is good, everybody. Who would have guessed! As usual, nearly everything I’m watching this season operated at a level I generally just associate with my seasonal favorite, leaving me with a pile of cartoon riches to luxuriate in. Euphonium rallied from a weaker episode with possibly the strongest episode of the season, March continued to lay sturdy dramatic bricks in between episodic pleasures, and Flip Flappers steered itself right back towards the compelling bonds between the three leads. Even JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was acting like it had something to prove, working hard to give Hayato’s struggle all the manic energy it deserves. Anime will likely go back to being bad again soon, but I can’t say I mind having barely anything to complain about. But I’m not doing this critic shtick for nothing, so let’s start off with some complaints and then work our way to the fawning praise!
This week in anime felt a little lonely, courtesy of March taking a sick day, but the rest of our contenders did their best to liven things. Flip Flappers and Euphonium had unexpectedly ordinary episodes (at least for those shows’ definitions of ordinary), but Girlish Number continued to focus on strong character writing over industry commentary, which is definitely where the show shines. Kira found himself with yet another ridiculously specific serial killing-enabling power, and Yuri on Ice decided it was time to introduce a tragic incest narrative and make Yurio a catboy. All in all it was a pretty standard week down on the anime farm, but I still found a thing or two worth talking about. Let’s run ‘em down!
It was very clear this week that many of this season’s shows took careful notes based on my first half in review post, and adjusted their content accordingly. Normally it takes at least a few weeks for shows to shift gears based on my exact preferences, so I was happy to see the response time so accelerated here. Shows like Girlish Number and Sound! Euphonium clearly took my complaints to heart, and as we all know, being able to accept constructive criticism is an admirable quality. I’m glad we can all agree anime turns out better when it listens to me specifically.
Alright, impossibility of my writing affecting anime production in any way whatsoever aside, this week really did see many shows directly tackling some of my existing complaints. Girlish Number dug in to its cast, Euphonium emphasized the variables that had worked in the first season, Yuri on Ice offered its most well-earned and best-composed personal material yet, and Flip Flappers was just fantastic in all regards. The fall season continues to impress in new ways, so let’s start with those flip flaps and RUN ‘EM DOWN!
The season’s halfway point has arrived! Normally this is the part where I’d comment on how quickly time seems to be passing, and probably make some offhand gesture towards our inescapable mortality, but given we just concluded one of the most horrific and dispiriting political contests in my country’s history, it really doesn’t seem like time’s been passing all that fast lately. But if you wanted fatigued political commentary, you’d check my twitter feed – in spite of all else, the world keeps turning, and that means talking about cartoons!
This season has been offering us a terrific bounty so far, presenting close to half the shows that will likely star in my year-end list. The better shows get, the more small-minded and useless it seems to rank them in any kind of reductive list, but what’s the point of a tradition if it’s not celebrated far past the point of reason? So let’s once more do that thing I always do, starting at the top and running down my favorites of the season so far!