I might be a tad late to the party for this one, but after I spent all of that time that could have been spent doing significantly more worthwhile ventures, it’s fair that I weigh in and reflect on what this past anime season has brought us. It started off as slow as a snail taking a stroll on a piece of weather strip, but there were quite a few series that I would go as far to say were…worth watching.
Quite frankly I’m a lazy piece of shit, and to help save the precious time and attention span of those of y’all who are reading my 1000 word-long cry for help, I’m going to tweak the format of this a bit. I want this to serve as a guide for those who want a little more insight in what this particular season had to offer, so I’m going to separate all of the anime discussed in this post into three simple tiers—must watch, worth watching, and don’t. The first and third don’t need much of an explanation, and the second simply refers to series that were not great enough to push people to watch them, but not bad enough to lament all the bad decisions you’ve made in life that led anyone to watching it. They’re the odd ones caught in the limbo that deserve a chance to be checked out for yourself.
SO LET’S BEGIN
Prince of Stride
If only I could go into detail about the bodily fluids that leaked out of me in anticipation for when I heard that Madhouse was working on a sports series. Given the amazing year that Madhouse had, to say that my expectations were high is the understatement of the century, so it’s only natural to assume by Prince of Stride‘s placement in this tier that I was more disappointed than a housewife lusting after Anderson Cooper. With the focus being shifted almost entirely on introducing the audience to this fictional sport instead of developing its cast of disgustingly flat characters and premise, Prince of Stride had the depth of a dried up kiddie pool. Even the sport itself left more to be desired as it came off as nothing more than organized parkour relay races.
Musaigen no Phantom World (Myriad Colors Phantom World)
Why KyoAni, why? KyoAni has proven time and time again how hit-miss they can be with every passing season. This was most certainly a miss. I want to believe this anime was a product of a bet within the studio to see who could come up with the most generic piece of shit premise and cast of characters. Watching the first several episodes made me feel like someone took the tropes and archetypes used in every KyoAni anime ever made, chewed them up, and then vomited it back up onto my face because it was that tough to swallow. Every aspect of this series was uninspired and boring as fuck, and the only noteworthy areas of this series were the great animation and decent voice acting, but even those typical and consistent KyoAni production values weren’t enough to salvage this trainwreck.
Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue
Fuck this show. Watching the first episode alone dragged me to the bottom of the very abyss of my self-loathing. There’s absolutely nothing of value presented here. I may have been ripping a new one into Phantom World for being an uninspired and generic piece of shit, but this sets the bar on a completely different level. Look elsewhere for a better investment of your time.
This series was for a lack of a better word interesting. It draws some parallels to Darker Than Black in terms of its episodic nature and composition of its cast of characters, but its novel factor doesn’t offer much else to compensate from the fact that the series suffers from a severe lack of direction in the story. It’s still worth watching and won’t be an absolute waste of your time.
This may very well be the funniest series I’ve watched this entire season. This is one of those series of shorts that’s all the rage these days. The episodes are only around seven minutes in duration, so it’s a very low commit series to watch. I don’t want to risk spoiling anything by describing the plot because a lot of the comedy is derived from the absurdity of its novel premise. Just watch the first episode. No matter how much you prepare your body, it won’t be ready.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba)
If Sekko Boys was the funniest series I watched this season, then KonoSuba is a very close second. Easily being one of the most popular series to come out, I was pleasantly surprised by its clever satirical take on the virtual RPG genre. It shamelessly pokes fun at many tropes and archetypes through a cast of characters with lovable and hilarity ensuing quirks. Most importantly though, it’s a series that knows what it is and doesn’t try hard to be anything more than a comedic parody of its genre. KonoSuba is not exactly a series with much quality or depth, but it was a fun ride from beginning to end that disappoint.
Dagashi Kashi was interesting to say the least. It’s a series that revolves around the culture of cheap candy children would buy with their pocket change called “dagashi.” It’s somewhat like the Japanese equivalent of buying butterscotch candies or lollipops at a cornerstore. However, there’s an entire culture surrounding this that has much more depth than their American counterpart that we’re familiar with given the immense variety they come in along with an armada of mascots that have ingrained their very existence into pop-culture.
Despite the very niche subject matter that at first glance would deem it inaccessible to foreigners not having grown up within that culture, Dagashi Kashi serves as an adequate window to peer into the world of established Japanese candies and snacks. It was certainly interesting to learn about the crazy variety that exists and a certain part of Japanese culture that usually gets overlooked in many other anime. However, apart from this and the occasional laugh, this series doesn’t bring much else to the table. It’s clear that the story pushes all of its chips into the center of the table in hopes of making its mascot heroine a memorable icon in weab culture.
- Very distinctively dressed
- Loud and quirky personality
- Fanservice magnet
Her existence is a blatant attempt for the series to pole vault itself into the realm of relevancy by using her artificially driven popularity, which I certainly didn’t appreciate. However, the manipulative nature of the creation of the main female character shouldn’t be the sole reason to not give this series a chance.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
An alternate reality RPG anime that didn’t make me want to choke on my own vomit as I watched it? Tell me it ain’t so! Grimgar was a very pleasant surprise this season. It delved into its own genre from a realistic angle that was as refreshing as it was gritty. The first several episodes did an impeccable job at illustrating how helpless our main characters were in face of the cruel and indifferent Catch-22 mechanics and rules of the world they found themselves in. Watching our heroes struggle as they tried to beat even the weakest of monsters to make ends meet only served to paint a very convincing portrait of the reality and significance of death—something that Sword Art Online attempted to do, but failed miserably before degenerating into yet another shitty harem action series.
To illustrate how Grimgar spared no detail in describing the struggle bus our cast was riding, the main character even talked about his lack of clean underwear in his narrative monologues as an example to explain how destitute they were. No clean underwear. When was the last time you even watched an anime that mentioned underwear as a necessity and not a sex-related garment? Can you even imagine the unsanitary cruelty of not having any clean underwear? Scenes like that made it impossible to not grow attached to the main cast as they eventually grew, experienced and overcame tragedy, and slowly embraced the reality presented to them. The pacing towards the second half of the series suffers greatly compared to the excellent direction of the first several episodes, but it still remained to be a very enjoyable watch from beginning to end.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
This is my pick for most criminally underrated series of the season simply because I haven’t heard a lot of noise about it compared to the other names on this list. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a realistic drama that revolves around the art of Japanese traditional storytelling known as ‘rakugo.’ Stories are told by a single storyteller on stage who plays the role of all the characters in addition to sound effects while using only a paper fan and cloth as props. The stories told are often comedic in nature, but can also be scary or erotic. It’s truly a brilliant and beautiful performing art to witness as storytellers, or rakugoka, breathe life into stories that captivate their audiences despite the seemingly limited nature of them.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is an excellently mature tale about two close friends growing up together in post-war era Japan who desperately try to keep the flames alive of this dying performing art. The writing and direction of the story is very intellectually stimulating. It doesn’t spoonfeed its audiences anything as it immerses them with knowledge about an underappreciated piece of Japan’s rich traditional culture. The unapologetically serious take on this unique and interesting subject matter only made it more exciting to watch the two main characters grow together in their struggles as they try to find themselves in performing rakugo. Anyone genuinely interested in Japanese traditional culture or history absolutely needs to check this series out. Easily one of my favorites of this season.
Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi (Erased)
This is my absolute no-brainer pick for this spot. I’m a firm believer of the three episode rule when it comes to passing any initial judgements on anime, but this series hooked me and its entire audience from episode one. Its creative use of time travel put together with its captivating drama and mystery elements created the perfect storm that demonstrated some of the best writing I’ve seen in any anime series in a long time. For what it excels in its writing and direction, the production quality doesn’t slack either. The animation is beautifully fluid and did a brilliant job complimenting emotional scenes that will drown your entire neighborhood in feels faster than FEMA can find New Orleans on the map.
The quality of the writing and pacing does take a very noticeable nosedive towards the end, but the inconsistency in quality wasn’t significant enough to take away from my golden impression of this series as a whole. Erased could have definitely benefited from having at least a few more episodes to help develop the end game of its story in a more satisfying way. It proved to be a fun—albeit predictable—ride that engrossed everybody from the casual fan to the hardened anime veteran to the crowd of people that typically don’t even watch anime. Watch it.