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!
Mob Psycho had a pretty fiery conclusion this week, one that actually arrived at a more or less satisfying thematic endpoint. ONE’s thoughts on society are clearly still deeply conflicted, but his analysis of Claw seemed pretty sharp here, and concluding on Reigen’s call for kindness felt like basically the only way to positively react to his view on the world in general. And of course, the big action highlights were as excellent as ever, and it was nice to check in with everyone before finishing up. Mob Psycho turned out to likely be the strongest show of the season, something I really wouldn’t have guessed coming in. Nice work, everyone!
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!
Reigen was ascendant in this week’s Mob Psycho, making the most of his reentrance from the first minute to last. I was very curious about how he’d actually fit into this arc, and having him start off by accidentally winning the loyalty of all the Claw also-rans was a pretty great start. This episode also had plenty of Mob Psycho’s usual pleasures – some visually creative reactions, some truly gorgeous highlight cuts, and a light sprinkling of emotionally satisfying reunions and conversations. Mob has really grown into a great character by now – I was skeptical for a while, but at this point, he can easily sell moments like his genuine relief on seeing his brother okay. Earned character warmth is an extremely valuable dramatic quality.
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!
I had a whole lot to say about this one! Episode ten really dug into the general societal concerns that seem inherent in ONE’s work, from his diagnosis of a callous meritocracy to his framing of the proles forced to work in such a system. It’s not the most complex of setups, but there’s still plenty to dig into there regarding ONE’s own perspective. Also a bunch of psychic people beat each other up!
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!
Mob Psycho 100 played it reasonably cool this week, letting the first few minutes of Mob’s rescue and Ritsu’s escape largely speak for themselves. That was fine, though – even in the absence of anything as visually thrilling as last week’s spectacle, we’ve still arrived at an exciting narrative with an engaging cast of characters. Mob’s complexity as a person means his one-sided battles still have at least a bit more intrigue than Saitama’s deadpan victories, and Ritsu’s relative vulnerability actually led to a tiny bit of Hunter x Hunter-style power-plotting this week. Overall, I’m still very much enjoying the Mob Psycho ride.
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!