Today I’ve got a new ANN editorial for all you lovely folks! This time I’m diving deep into questions of tone and authorial voice, discussing the difference between cynical characters and cynical productions, and offering my own very predictable take on this whole mess of concepts. I had a lot of fun with this one – authorial voice is an inherently thorny and fascinating concept, and character writing is something I’ll never get tired of talking about. I hope you enjoy the piece!
And so, another year of anime winds to its end. There have been surprises and disappointments this year, and my ultimate list doesn’t really look much like what I’d expected to find, but in the end, anime is anime. At the beginning of this year, I was looking forward to crowning two of 2014’s better series – Your Lie in April and Parasyte. Unfortunately, both of those shows kinda lost their way in their second halves, which was sad for everyone. Later on, at the year’s halfway point, I was again excited about my end-of-year list – I already had a good seven or eight shows I felt were top ten-worthy, and was beginning to think this would be a year to rival 2013. Unfortunately, the year’s second half only really gave me the last couple shows I needed, and so here I am, recognizing just enough shows to fill out a full list. This year didn’t end out quite as strong as I’d hoped, but ultimately I probably shouldn’t complain about any year that featured enough shows to fill a list plus honorable mentions.
And I actually do have an honorable mention, one I honestly feel a little bad not including on my list proper. Although not all its sequences were equally strong, Studio Khara’s Animator Expo definitely deserves a mention – you might have heard of it just because of Me! Me! Me!, but the whole thing is full of wonderful, creative little vignettes. If you’re interested in the visual potential of anime, or just want to see some cool short-form pieces, Animator Expo is a can’t-miss experience. The third season is still available online (here’s a particularly good one), so I’d definitely check that out. I should also probably mention One Punch Man, since I get the feeling not mentioning it means it will dominate the comments. Yes, I watched it, and no, I didn’t think it was that great. Strong animation, but everything outside of that felt pretty mediocre, and so you won’t see it here.
But that’s all preamble. You guys are here for the top shows, and top shows you will have – shows from a wide span of genres and creators, shows to thrill and shock and make you cry. Every year in anime brings new treasures, so let’s buckle in and run down the best in one more year of Japanese cartoons!
The final week has arrived! And there’s… basically nothing to talk about. With JoJo already over and Blood Blockade Battlefront resting up before its oversized finale, the only non-ANN shows I actually had to watch this week were Unlimited Blade Works and Ore Monogatari!! And I didn’t even watch OreMono! Sorry OreMono, I just couldn’t find the time/interest for you – as I’ve said before, OreMono isn’t one of those shows that fills me with desire to catch up when I’m not watching it, and considering the sort of static rhythms it’s gotten into over time, it’s just hard to muster up the enthusiasm. So we’ve got a mini-sized Week in Review this week, but don’t worry – with the summer season about to begin, there’ll be pleeenty to talk about soon enough. The preview guide is waiting. I can hear its call. Soon, soon, all will burn.
Alright, let’s run down what we’ve got!
Aaand it’s over. Season two of Oregairu, the season that handily elevated a show that was already one of my all-time favorites, has come to an end. And honestly, I don’t even really feel that sad; this conclusion worked perfectly, it resolved the critical dramatic arc-threads that were still lingering regarding Yukino and Yui, and it acted as an affirmation of everything Hikki resolved to work on back in episode eight. It was also one more precious episode of the main trio just hanging out and enjoying time together, which we certainly didn’t get too much of in this drama-packed sequel. Oregairu has come to an end, but it’s already given me everything I’d hoped for. I’m just happy it exists at all.
Here’s my full writeup for ANN. Plenty of notes below!
Spring season is nearly ending, bringing with it that seasonal terror of aging and a whole bunch of finales. Spring’s shows seem to be ending reasonably well on average, though this week had its stronger and weaker episodes. The big hit this time was Blood Blockade Battlefront, which rallied back from a weaker episode and a recap with likely its best episode so far. Sound! Euphonium had a stellar episode as well, though it’s hard to pick a favorite in that one. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure also had a fine ending, and Nagato Yuki-chan maintained its streak, though the staying power of its current trick seems like it may be running out. Other episodes were less strong, but nothing seems to be actually falling apart at this point – I’ve dropped too aggressively for that. Anyway, let’s get to ’em!
With the season cooling down, we got an episode of Oregairu that actually felt more like a season one episode – that same somewhat uneven mix of archetypal stuff and really smart, poignant character stuff. Haruno is basically a big mean-spirited wrecking ball here, who seems to more or less represent what Hachiman would become if he stayed bitter and insular and emotionally distant. If Yukino and her friends were older, they wouldn’t be made so insecure by her petty tricks, but they aren’t, and so insecurities abound. I’d honestly be fine with the final episode just being Sensei shaking Haruno by the shoulders and then telling her students not to listen to her, but I’m guessing things won’t resolve quite as simply as that.
Here’s my full episode review, and you can check out the notes below!
Alright, big ol’ essay time! This one’s all about Oregairu, and Hachiman more specifically. I could honestly write a piece about almost any of that show’s characters, but Hachiman sits at the center, and his issues are partially reflective of everyone’s. Where his attitude comes from, how it gets expressed, how Oregairu slowly drags him forward – we’re talking about ALL OF IT today. Let’s get right to it!
The lack of BBB made for a noticeably lighter week this time, considering I’m only watching seven shows, but JoJo stepped up to the action plate with one of its all-time best and also most ridiculous episodes. Those two things aren’t necessarily the same, either – there were plenty of Stardust Crusaders episodes that, while they were certainly ridiculous, simply weren’t that exciting. No sense of danger, and more just wacky and nonsensical than “goddamnit JoJos that solution is ridiculous.” Here, like with the best of Battle Tendency, the absurdity came from the contrast between the heavy, consistent stakes and the wild, ridiculous execution and solutions. It…
Wait, hold on, JoJo’s gonna get its own section anyway. Alright, let’s get right to that then, and RUN ‘EM DOWN.
This week, we finally got something that I’ve actually been hoping for for a while – a Hayato focus episode. Hayato’s a compelling character who’s very different from the majority of the cast, so it was nice to see him given some time in the spotlight. And I definitely made the most of it in my writeup – yeah, other stuff happened, but this was Hayato’s day goddamnit! Though I do somewhat regret not being able to also highlight Iroha’s top-tier trolling this time, from interrupting Yukino’s birthday part in order to ask her about rumors to doing that ridiculous slow motion arm-flip run towards Hachiman. Iroha is pretty good.
Here’s my Hayatotastic ANN review. Notes below!
Another very fine week in a very fine season. Oregairu and Euphonium both pulled off characteristically wonderful episodes this week, but the real surprises were JoJo and – I’m serious – Nagato Yuki. On the JoJo side, the Dio-Kakyoin fight managed to not only be exciting and entertaining, but genuinely beautiful. And on the Nagato Yuki side, an abrupt shift in tone resulted in an episode that was almost equally beautiful in its own way, slow-building and melancholy and just brimming with a compelling, deeply felt sense of atmosphere. Color me extremely surprised!
Alright, enough preamble. LET’S RUN ‘EM DOWN.