Tuesday’s Top 5: Reasons The Anime of Spring 2018 Have Been a Bit Disappointing

I normally try and keep the top 5 posts pretty upbeat, but I can’t deny I’m a little disappointed with the last season of anime. No, it isn’t a sign that modern anime are dreadful or that seasonal watching is the problem. It is just that there were a lot of anime that just didn’t live up to their potential or deliver. As the season comes to an end, I’m reflecting on reasons why I was so disappointed this season.

Whether you liked the season or not, I’d love to know your thoughts on the anime from Spring 2018 so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Number 5: Sequels and Spin-offs That Just Didn’t Land

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Whether it was the debacle that was the continuation of Tokyo Ghoul (reverting to the story in the manga without providing explanation for anime viewers) or the disappointment of SAO Alternative: GGO where viewers were asked to watch a pink bunny girl play a game without much in the way of stakes and were expected to care, the Spring 2018 season has definitely had its share of mis-fires with sequels and spin-offs. Even if we look at the ending of Cardcaptors, most people are expressing a general sense that it just didn’t manage to live up to its predecessors and My Hero Academia took a fair while to get going (though fortunately it has now gotten going and it has certainly stepped up).

Number 4: Scattered Viewership

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Normally with seasonal viewing there’s the couple of shows that everyone is watching. Spring 2018 hasn’t had one of those unifying shows that has ignited the entire community. Instead we have small groups of people proclaiming a love for Megalo Box while older mecha fans have been rejoicing over the return of Full Metal Panic, some people praising SAO Alternative: GGO for not being SAO and a few who have gone for one romance or another. But there’s been no single show that has gotten everyone really excited. With so many big titles out that would seem really odd and yet nothing has really captured the masses this season.

Number 3: Controversy and Fan Idiocy

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While I like to avoid the fandoms are toxic debates, some of the stories going around this season really do emphasise that sometimes people just go too far. Death threats to writers and voice actors just should not be a thing. I know I don’t want someone coming into my workplace and threatening my life just because they disagree with how I go about doing my job, or spamming my email or twitter feed for the same. And then of course we have the issue of post plagiarism sweeping the blogosphere with quite a number of bloggers impacted. The last few months have not been great for community spirit and like it or not, it does impact on the enjoyment of the medium when the community is very much focused on some of these more negative aspects.

Number 2: Recaps, Fillers and Gaps

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How many shows this season have done recap episodes or fillers? And how many have skipped airing one week or another due to some event of the like? It has made following shows more challenging than normal as episodes are delayed or skip a week, or worse they put out a recap episode four episodes in as if the entire community suffers from short term memory loss. While I get production delays happen and that sometimes schedules do go awry with broadcasting, the Spring 2018 season feels like it has just been one interruption to the schedule after another making it even harder to get into some of the shows on offer.

Number 1: Broken Narratives

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Whether it is Record of Grancrest War, Darling in the Franxx, or even the abomination that is Devils’ Line, there are so many anime this season that just make no sense in terms of how they have structured and delivered their story. Maybe they are trying to avoid the label of generic but we’ve got time skips, random characters dropping in and out, reveals that make no sense, themes that get built up and then abandoned, and all and all its just a mess. This hardly makes for a satisfying viewing experience. There’s a reason narrative structure is almost identical in every culture, and that’s because people figured out a long time ago how to deliver a story in a way that made it interesting. A lot of these shows need to go back to basics and just figure out what they wanted to be because honestly Spring 2018 has definitely been a bit of a miss in terms of delivering anything resembling a compelling story line.

So those are my reasons for feeling a bit disappointed. I’d love to know if you were disappointed with the season and why, or whether you ended up loving the season and why. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also you can vote for your favourite and least favourite anime of the season below.


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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Series Review: Characters We Love, Magic That Thrills, And A Plot Totally Unfinished

As a child and teen of the 90’s I grew up with Cardcaptor in my life, and even with the terrible English dub and the butchered theme song this anime was close to my heart. How does the reboot/sequel of 2018 match up to nostalgia’s fierce hold?

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Review:

Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing sometimes. As much as I believe Cardcaptor Sakura is a must watch magical girl series, even I have to admit that when I look at it episode by episode, the original is no longer really to my taste as an anime watcher these days. For every truly brilliant moment in the series, it offers a lot of banal day to day activities of cute girls and their friends just going about their lives. And how many times did we watch Sakura prepare her roller blades for school?

What that means is, a lot of the criticisms I have of the new Clear Card series, aren’t really all that valid. Because Clear Card is a genuine successor to the original. The technology is updated with the kids now having smart phones and the equivalent of a go-pro, but this really is a direct follow up of that original series. And in that sense, it could be counted as a success, though I have to wonder if a few opportunities weren’t missed here.

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In 22 episodes, we see Sakura capture a fair number of cards. However, most of these captures take less than a quarter of the episode they appear in. Some of them lasting mere moments before we’re back to cooking, or eating lunch, or flower viewing, or talking, or brushing hair, or any of the hundreds of ‘filler’ activities Cardcaptor finds for the heroine to do. And I get that for those who love the slice of life feel of Sakura living her daily life that there is a real appeal here because the group of friends are always charming and at least it is clear what Sakura is seeking to protect. And yet, for me, these are the moments that are tolerated as a setting, a background and a motive, while waiting for the actual ‘meat’ of the series. And the meat here is very lean.

Part of the problem comes from an as yet unresolved story. We still have so many questions about what is going on and what significance certain things have (such as a gift Sakura receives in the second last episode), and that means that what little there is of the story about magic is completely unfinished. It makes it hard to evaluate the story on its merits when it is served out in tiny increments inbetween activities that don’t really appeal and then the final act is completely absent. The only thing I can really say is that the plot was probably the most disappointing aspect of this anime.

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Even if it had finished, essentially this feels like a third iteration of a story we’ve seen and enjoyed more when those of us who are fans of the original were actually the target audience and when anime options were a little harder to come by. Oh no, the cards have all turned clear and now Sakura has to capture weird powers again to make Clear Cards. How odd. How bizarre. How identical to the capturing of the Clow Cards and then the transition into Sakura Cards.

Speaking of, doesn’t it feel like a step back for her to not have Sakura Cards now?

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However, with so much down time in the plot, it did give the audience ample opportunity to appreciate how much prettier the visuals were this time around. So much attention given to falling flower petals, gusts of wind, and girls’ hair. Don’t get me wrong, it is gorgeous, particularly the magical aspects of the show, but really some of the attention to the aesthetics could have been given to the pacing and story-line and I’d have been doubly impressed.

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The other part of the anime that does shine quite brightly are the characters. Admittedly, they work better when you have nostalgia working in their favour. During Clear Card they do not develop or have any kind of noticeable growth. But if you enjoyed where they ended up at the end of previous seasons, spending some time with Sakura, Syaoran, Tomoyo, Toya, and the short cameo by anime original Meilin is actually pretty fun. And probably the stand out moments of Clear Card are getting to see Sakura and Syaoran in a relationship. Not learning who they are or finding out about the other, but just in an actual relationship. Now if they could just learn to communicate and not keep secrets from one another we’d make anime history.

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New comers to the cast are adequate though their roles become obvious fairly quickly and like the plot in general, not quite enough time is given to developing these. The end result is that you feel like these are great characters who’ve been more or less abandoned by the script and left to their own devices and you feel just a little bit sorry for them. They had so much potential to be memorable and interesting characters but never quite get beyond their introductions. At least Kaito looks fantastic.

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But what it comes down to is that Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card tries to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to appeal to the nostalgia factor and the fans of old. The call backs to the original series and the parallels in many of the stories certainly scream that they want us to recapture the magic of our youth. Whether it is the upside down penguin or the date at the aquarium, the memories are there but the problem is it just makes me want to go and watch the original rather than continue along with this.

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At the same time, the anime seems to have wanted to reach out to new viewers but it doesn’t offer them anything really to go on. Sakura is who she is because of everything we’ve seen her go through. And as mentioned before, none of the characters really learn anything or grow during this season. So for new viewers you are seeing an already fully developed character go through the motions of her daily life and for the most part it isn’t very compelling. If there was a decent enough threat or villain, you can get away with it. Not ever story needs to be an origin or coming into power story. But if you have an already developed hero you have to give the audience something to anticipate and in this case the only thing that could be is Sakura learning something as she would strive to overcome this latest challenge, and yet there’s nothing. She simply goes about her business and collects the cards when she needs to.

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It makes it difficult to recommend this series. While I didn’t dislike it, looking back I wonder if my time would have been better spent on a retro viewing of the original series as I still haven’t actually reviewed it and I’d probably have enjoyed that more. As cool as Syaoran is in his handful of scenes that he gets, I don’t know that it provides enough mileage to make up for everything else this series seems to lack.

But I’ll turn it over to the readers and ask you how you felt about Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card.

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 22: It’s a Final Episode, Let’s Spend Half Of It At School

Quite literally there is nothing final about this final episode. Other than the reveal that the cloaked figure is in fact, well the person we all knew it was, nothing is revealed and nothing is actually finalised. And yet, that is the end of this season with no announcement for when a follow up might occur.

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Anime that don’t end are a dime a dozen, but Cardcaptor had previously given us some fairly epic endings even when the story was ongoing. Clear Card throws that trend to the wayside leaving us completely without satisfaction. Unless you are satisfied by watching yet another lunch with friends, some pensive musing, and then a fight sequence that gets time reversed out of existence.

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Of all the things that could have happened in this final episode, leaving me feeling like we were totally cheated out of an ending wasn’t one of them. I hadn’t expected everything to be tied up neatly knowing there was no chance of that after last week, but I expected something more than this. Instead Eriol is still out of contact, Syaoran still hasn’t actually had a conversation with Sakura or substance, Kuro and Yue are keeping secrets from Sakura, we still don’t know what Toya is up to, and other than the villain wanting to activate some taboo magic (something we already knew) nothing is confirmed in this episode at all.

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Considering they froze time on this image, I’m thinking they could have made it a little bit prettier. 

I guess we get a pretty light show at least.

Anyway, series review will be up next week and maybe we’ll find out if there’s more of this to come.

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 21: Only One Episode Left

With a 22 episode count (according to MAL), this is the second last episode. And while it certainly seems things have gotten climactic, there seems to be far too much left for this to all fit into one more episode.

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The villain has been established, and help from Eriol firmly cut off. We’ve done the standard steps leading up to a final confrontation with the protagonist holding something the villain wants. And while we still don’t know exactly why he wants the cards or why he wants to use the thing he stole from the magicians, we all know it is clearly tied to Akiho and that it is likely he’ll turn out to not be that bad a guy after all. Besides, it has been a firmly established truth that villains don’t make good tea (there’s a compelling argument for you).

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Meanwhile, this episode finally answers the question of whether Sakura’s father has a clue what his children get up to and it does it in a slightly adorable way. In fact, its so cute the conversation between the father and Toya, that you almost forget that Sakura’s father decided his daughter could handle whatever it was when she was in grade four and left her to her own devices. There’s parenting with style for you. While it might have worked out due to the magic of sweet protagonist plot armour, there are so many ways this approach could have backfired.

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We also get a super adorable moment with Sakura and Syaoran. And that by itself could make this whole season worth watching because who hasn’t wanted to see Syaoran with butterfly wings?

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 20: Getting Closer

While Sakura goes to meet someone from the past, the rest of the gang get together to figure out what is going on in the present. Things are looking grim (or exciting depending on your perspective).

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This week Sakura is about to go on a date with Syaoran when a phone call gives her an unexpected interruption in the form of her great-grand-father wanting a meeting to give her something (which the giving her something doesn’t actually happen this episode unless the tea was the prize). However, while visiting Sakura wanders into her mother’s old room and uses Record to look back at the room’s past. What I don’t get is why every image had her mother in it given the room would have been empty more often than having her in it (maybe the card was editing out the boring bits).

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Meanwhile, the guardians are getting together because there are plots afoot and it is almost time for the reveal of the season so everyone needs to be super ambiguous with their words. It is pretty standard Cardcaptor without a capture this week, and yet it is fairly solid set-up for a final hurrah.

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 19: Down Time With Story Time

After things really heated up last week, this week brings us a more relaxed episode of our favourite card-capturing heroine as she goes to read to children. You could almost forget about the magic in this episode except for one discussion right at the end.

Cardcaptor19c.JPGWhile this episode brings some cute moments between Sakura and her friends and Sakura and Syaoran, let’s call it what it is; this is a lull. The quiet space before things get really climatic. The down time for the characters. And honestly it isn’t thrilling unless you were desperate to hear a story about a fox buying mittens.

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I’d almost say this was an entirely skippable episode except for one minor use of a card right at the end of the episode where Sakura inadvertently reveals something about her magic to Kero. She doesn’t notice a thing but it sends him flying to Yue and it seems like a fair set-up for the end of the season. However, twenty minutes for that reveal is probably a little much.

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The other highlight of course is Syaoran’s phone conversation where his sister’s are listening in. We don’t get much of Syaoran interacting with his family so it was a nice interlude. Not to mention, Syaoran and Sakura early in this episode are at their adorable best as she emotionally manipulates him into assisting with the reading. Still, not a lot going on this episode.

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 18: Things Are Getting Hot

Things are heating up in the Cardcaptor anime and not just because Sakura is fighting a fire based card in this episode. So many plot points seem on the edge of being revealed and everything seems read to come together.

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I wonder how he managed to make this line seem so ominous?

Sakura’s school friends are starting to question the disappearing cake decorations, Kaito is being even more mysterious and yet seemingly slightly sinister, Toya is confronting Yue, and Syaoran is definitely hiding something not so great from Sakura; yep it looks like we’re getting close to a season ending for Cardcaptor Sakura. And if previous seasons are anything to go by I doubt we’ll be disappointed by the end result.

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If anything, the biggest negative of this new series has been that it hasn’t really done anything new. A lot of the events have parallels in the previous stories and while visually this has had a fantastic upgrade fro 1990’s Sakura, from a plot point of view it hasn’t done much and the main cast (Sakura, Syaoran, etc) have already done their growing up and overcome a lot of their issues. What that means is there’s been limited character development as they haven’t had the steep learning curves they faced early on.

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Still, it is very hard to watch Syaoran and Sakura team up to take down a giant fire bird and not be impressed. And any scene with Toya and Yuki/Yue is pretty awesome. As such, episode 18 was great to watch even if I’m still wondering if this returning series was actually necessary.

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 17: The Convenience of the Sleep Card

While Sakura always had a few favourite cards that she relied upon, this second part of Clear Card seems to be fairly heavy handed with the sleep card. How many times can classmates doze off before they start asking questions even in anime land?

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While the sleep card is probably a better option than pretending to have a sick stomach every time Sakura needs to get out of class, I have to wonder why people aren’t starting to wonder what is up given they are losing time and roll cakes in the interim. Still, Sakura isn’t the first school aged hero who has faced the challenge of not getting busted by her friends and the narrative needing to make said friends really dumb to keep them from finding out the heroine’s secret.

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By the way, if you think I’m using a lot of screen-caps of Kaito, you would be right. Given most of the other characters are returning characters and other than Sakura and Syaoran I’m not all that interested in them, Kaito is kind of the one new character to Clear Card who I am finding pretty fascinating even as it seems his plot line is going to be pretty predictable. We’ll see given we’re starting to close in on the end of this season as to whether they do something interesting with him or not.

Still, another fun episode of friendship, cooking and card-capturing.

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 16: Farewell Meilin

We knew we’d be saying goodbye to her given she isn’t in the source material for this anime but I’m going to miss Meilin? How about you?

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The cliffhanger from last week ended up being resolved pretty quickly and mostly unspectacularly (though I have to wonder how that card represents ‘swing’) and then the girls all go home. This leads to two interesting developments. The first I’ll get back to, but the second, and what we spend the bulk of the rest of the episode on, is Meilin nostalgia. Of course she doesn’t leave without getting a moment to shine and so Cardcaptor rolls out the nostalgia with an enemy that looks very familiar and just in case we missed the reference be prepared for a classic Sakura flashback mid-episode. The upshot is that Meilin and Sakura officially cross the line and Meilin leaves for the airport after asking if she can refer to Sakura by her first name. She also takes some time out to call Syaoran and issue a warning about upsetting her friend by doing something stupid like getting hurt.

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However, the other part of the story that seems somewhat more important going forward is the interaction between Akiho and Kaito. Now we knew Kaito was up to something, but I didn’t expect him to reverse time whenever he said something that made Akiho suspicious. This sequence was pretty impressively done and gets me excited for what is coming in a way this anime hasn’t much managed. While the show is always pleasant and the nostalgia is great, this is an actual plot development that makes me want to see what is coming next.

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 15: Memories – Definitely A Lethal Blow

The girls reminisce about old times before the anime ends on a cliff-hanger. How cute were Syaoran and Sakura in the film?

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What happens when you get the girls together on their day off? Well, if you leave Tomoyo in charge of the entertainment, you get to watch Sakura perform in the play and learn to dance with Syaoran. This was much to the delight of Akiho and Meilin and nearly a deadly blow to Sakura’s self-esteem as she seemed at one point like she was trying to literally crawl into her chair and disappear.

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There isn’t much more to say as there’s a lot of down time with the girls before we finally get to a card related threat. While this looks potentially interesting, things have barely started moving on that front when the episode ends leaving us with a shaking house and Sakura showing us how pretty she looks with butterfly wings (she should seriously have these all the time).

For those enjoying the friendship/slice of life aspects of Clear Card, this will work wonders. For those who love the nostalgia of the moment, you’ll have a great time. In terms of an actual plot and characterisation in this episode, that’s possibly questionable.

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Karandi James

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