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!
The season well and truly ended this week, offering conclusions to Orange, Mob Psycho, Love Live, Thunderbolt Fantasy, and… well, JoJo is apparently eternal, so Not JoJo. Oh wait, Thunderbolt Fantasy also didn’t end, it’s still got an episode left. So I guess this week was actually just a clusterfuck of endings and non-endings, and we’re not going to get a break between seasons after all, and we’re just going to have to live with that. Either way, I can conclusively say that episodes of anime did in fact air this week, and I had at least a couple things to say about several of them. SO LET’S DO THAT!
Oh god it’s happening. We’re already halfway through September, final episodes are beginning to broadcast, and the season is well and truly ending. While I’ve gotten somewhat used to the seasonal panic of the preview guide, I certainly haven’t gotten used to the fact that we’re all that much closer to death. Fortunately, that’s exactly what anime is good for – frittering away the idle hours with cartoon entertainment to avoid the lurking specter of our own inevitable mortality. So let’s set aside our dreary, perpetually fraying existence for a while, and RUN DOWN SOME SHOWS!
Surprise surprise, another fine friggin’ week in anime. With this season leaning so heavily into pure entertainment shows over emotional or thematic blockbusters, it can be easy to take weeks like this for granted – I laughed and cheered throughout, but wasn’t truly surprised by anything. But as I said in this week’s Love Live editorial, the craft of fun should never be taken for granted. This season’s shows have worked hard to keep me entertained, and the fact that basically every show this season fits into the “goofy good time” slot doesn’t make it any less impressive of a collection. So let’s run down this season’s silly shows once more, as another strong season begins to come to a close!
Time for a new ANN editorial! I’m diving into Love Live this time, talking about the specific and very noteworthy strengths that make this show so compelling. Love Live embodies a fair number of the qualities that make anime appealing as a medium in general, so I was happy to have a chance to discuss some of its major accomplishments. I could easily talk about camp or communal engagement for far longer than one editorial (and I have before), but for now, I’m happy to have a semi-reasonable excuse to write the phrase “Nico and Maki’s potato marriage” in a critical context. ANYWAY!
Well heck dang it’s Wednesday again. Anime was pretty alright this week – a couple clear standouts, a couple weaker entries, an overall par performance. JoJo’s fundamentally great art design is unfortunately still trembling under the weight of several consecutive seasons, and Orange is beginning to lose me with its circular conflicts, but Love Live pulled off a spectacle that was just as funny as last week was successfully dramatic, and even if JoJo wasn’t prepared to be top JoJo, Thunderbolt Fantasy certainly was. It frankly makes me a little sad that I have to scroll all the way down the streaming titles page to reach Thunderbolt’s spot on Crunchyroll – I can kinda understand that its inherently camp nature makes it less appealing to many fans seeking action shows, but it’s seriously so, so much better than 9/10 of the shows in its genre. Surely one day the Thunderbolt Fantasies and Lost Villages of the world will get their due!
Alright, now we’re actually three quarters of the way through the season. That generally tends to align with shows’ second-to-last dramatic peaks, and this season was no exception – both Mob Psycho and Love Live had huge episodes this week, and the JoJo/Thunderbolt Fantasy pairing had pretty key turning points as well. Orange is starting to look a little long in the tooth at this point, but other than that, I’d say the season’s crop are holding together quite well. I’m perfectly happy to have two seasons in a row conclude with dignity intact!
Dear lord it’s week eight. We are almost three quarters of the way through the summer season. August is practically over. What the hell is going on.
Well, anime is going on. Outside of our communal existential dread at somehow being yet another week older, things haven’t changed much in anime land – Aqours are still doing their best, Urobuchi’s puppets are still being delightfully ridiculous, and Tsumugi is still hungry for new snacks. This was another placeholder week in anime, with its various low points being balanced out by some unexpected highs. So let’s start with the good news then, and get right into Love Live Sunshine’s big episode!
We’re in the settling now. Shows have established themselves and fallen into comfortable rhythms, massive narrative changeups are either far in the past or waiting in the last act, and most productions are just doing their best to pretend scheduling and creating twenty minutes of animation is just as easy the seventh time as it is the first or second. There are highs and lows, but they’re smaller bumps – Love Live has a somewhat weaker episode, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure tries on a new style hat, etcetera. These are the dog days of summer, where we’re all more concerned with the fact that global warming is now a lived reality than we are with which waifus most recently prevailed. But anime endures, and like a barnacle on that great cartoon vessel, so does the Week in Review. Let’s run ’em down.
It may be mid-August, but the summer anime season is convinced we still have half a summer to go. I appreciate that kind of optimism, and appreciate even more just how sunny this season has been in general. While this summer has lacked a character drama with the poignancy of Rakugo Shinju or a message show with the complexity and spirit of Concrete Revolutio, it’s made up for that by being stacked with shows that are just damn good entertainment. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Thunderbolt Fantasy are both excellent camp-action spectacles, Mob Psycho 100 is consistently elevated by solid writing and terrific execution, Love Live Sunshine is consolidating everything that is fun about Love Live, and Sweetness & Lightning is a consistent dose of heartwarming family moments. It seems silly to rank a set like that – they’re all so different, and all such positive experiences, that classifying them as “better or worse” than each other seems pointless and inherently jaded.
Of course, I’m gonna do it anyway. That’s what traditions are for! As usual, I’ll be ranking the summer’s shows for the first and only time here at the halfway point, where it should be inescapably obvious that any sort of ranking is an entirely meaningless gesture. Like a series that makes its point in the first season and then just sort of staggers on through mediocre renewals for a while, the halfway point season rankings will proudly continue. Let’s start at the top and RUN ‘EM DOWN!