Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Couples from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

This week’s top 5 list counts down my favourite anime couples from 2018. They don’t need to be canon, they don’t need to actually end up together, they just need to be super-adorable and make my heart melt. I’d love to know which anime couples you fell in love with this season so be sure to leave me a comment below.

And apparently I haven’t previously done a list like this at the end of 2017 or 2016, so this is the very first couples list for a single year. I’m definitely going to have to make this an ongoing thing next year because this list was super fun to write.

Honourable Mentions:

I never thought I’d see the day that Kirito and Asuna weren’t on my Top 5 couples list but with what little we’ve seen of Alicization and only one episode with the two of them actually together I just couldn’t justify having them in the top 5. The same goes for Okabe and Kurisu from Steins;Gate 0. I love those two together but they just didn’t show up that much together this year. The last honourable mention is Mitsuru and Kokoro from Darling in the Franxx. Those two were actually pretty adorable together despite my misgivings with the plot of Franxx.

Number 5: Siluca and Theo from Record of Grancrest War

As much as there are some big issues with Record of Grancrest War, and as much as I feel Siluca’s character progression hit the skids as soon as Theo and Siluca became an actual couple, this was one of the most adorable pairs from earlier in the year. Theo may have seemed like a passive protagonist, but he certainly didn’t waste any time or the opportunity to confess his love to Siluca. These two characters could have really carried a very different show if they had chosen to focus on their relationship a little bit more and it would have been fantastic to watch.

Number 4: Nanami and Yuu from Bloom Into You

Okay, Nanami and Yuu both have issues with relationships and I’m honestly not sure if I’m hoping for these two to get a happily ever after or not after everything that’s happened, but I cannot deny I love watching these characters together. The way they gently poke at each other, move the other to see things differently, offer comfort and support, as well as mock when the occasion calls for it, is just all kinds of adorable. I’ve really enjoyed watching their relationship progress even if it is progress of the one step forward several steps back kind.

Number 3: Syaoran and Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card

Another great couple from a not-so-great anime. Then again, Syaoran and Sakura have been one of my favourite couples for a very long time and Clear Card just confirmed why. Seeing these two together is truly a joy. Now if we could just stop Syaoran from trying to keep secrets from Sakura, and if Sakura could share her power more often because watching the two of them flying together was the single most squeal worthy moment ever.

Number 2: Takato and Junta from Dakaichi

It won’t be for everyone but I really enjoyed watching the relationship develop in Dakaichi. Part of the appeal is Takato as an individual character, however the longer you watch, the more you realise that everything that is great about how Takato changes as a character comes about because of Junta, and he’s no slouch either in the character development department. These two guys have found each other and while their relationship is riddled with issues and ego, it is an so much fun to watch and I just keep hoping for their happily ever after.

Number 1: Ash and Eiji from Banana Fish

This one isn’t going to surprise anyone who follows me on Twitter. Seriously, every Friday I’ve been spamming the retweets of fan art and screen caps of these two because they are so worth it. And you know what, they don’t need to kiss on screen, they don’t need to actually confess their feelings, and we don’t even need a ring exchange. Every scene with these two together shows their relationship and feelings and seeing them interact is the sweetest and simultaneously most heartbreaking thing to watch and most definitely gives this one every reason to top my list here. Ash and Eiji are beautiful together and bring out the absolute best in one another.

That’s my list, come to an end. Right now I’d love to know which couples made your list and why so be sure to leave me a comment.

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Interesting Anime from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

Continuing my lists of anime from 2018, I am now looking at the most visually interesting anime. Notice it does not claim the best visuals or animation. To be honest, as long as something is watchable I generally don’t pay a huge amount of attention other than to decide something looks pretty or not. For instance, Angolmois managed to have me complaining about how ugly it looked almost every episode so I knew it had to be pretty bad for me to pay that much attention to it (that and Devils’ Line – what was it with weird filters this year). 

Still, there are some requirements for an anime to be on my radar for visuals. I need to like the look it is going for. It needs to feel slightly different from the other shows I’ve been watching. Some good choices in direction usually help. And, let’s be honest, the animation needs to be pretty smooth. Now, some of my choices on the list won’t have all of those things, but that’s kind of what I’m going for. And that term ‘interesting’ is in the title for a reason. I need to have found the visuals interesting, as in I thought they were worth mentioning and discussing on more than one occasion because they grabbed my interest.

Which is kind of how 18if made it onto the top of the list for 2017 and March Comes in Like a Lion took out second place in 2017 and top place in 2016. These anime demanded that I pay attention to their visuals and gave me imagery that stayed with me well after the episodes had ended. So what made my list in 2018? 

Honourable Mentions:

This year I’m giving an honourable mention to Run With The Wind and Darling in the Franxx. Franxx’s animation was gorgeous and the character designs were really cute. Even if I’m not a big fan of Trigger in general, it is hard to argue with those visuals. Run With The Wind has moments of spectacular direction and aesthetics and then large stretches where it feels pretty ordinary. If it could harness those moments where visually it just nails the scene, it would definitely have made it on the official list.

Number 5: Cardcaptor Sakura – Clear Card

While there were many parts of this reboot/sequel that didn’t quite work out as well as I would have liked, visually this was everything I could have ever wanted. Cardcaptor had always been beautiful but the update to the look of the show was spectacular. The magical moments sparkled and did everything they needed to, but it was the attention to detail on the everyday aspects, trees, leaves, flowers, cooking, background characters, that really sold me on the visuals of this one. While the story ended up being kind of meh, there is no denying how pretty this anime turned out.

Number 4: Tsurune

I will admit, this one has some wavering quality with some sequences being outstandingly pretty and others being more ordinary, but it never looks bad. The archery has so far been beautifully animated, the characters are lovely to look at and differentiated enough that you don’t get confused, and there’s just a general care and attention to detail here that is truly pleasurable to watch. I accept that some of what makes this work is how the visuals and sounds are paired together, but ultimately this is one very pretty sports anime.

Number 3: My Hero Academia Season 3

Right, it would have been just plain wrong to leave this one off of the list. For all that I didn’t find season three as enticing as seasons one and two, this season really did bring some spectacular animation to the mix of the already fairly amazing character designs and general distinct look of the show. For all that My Hero Academia is pretty classic shounen, everything about the look of the show has managed to make itself feel unique and the ongoing impressive quality of the action sequences where it never feels like lazy or reused imagery means this anime remains one that should be praised for just how good it manages to look.

Number 2: March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2

So, yeah, this one is on the list for the third year in a row (because it is awesome). I’m kind of sad that once again it has lost out on first place given it is still a truly amazingly beautiful anime to watch. Even in its most mundane moments, March Comes in Like a Lion manages to use an impressive combination of visual symbolism and interesting direction to draw the viewer’s eye to whatever they wish us to focus on. They are crafting an amazing character journey and the reason it works so well is very much because of how they present each stage. However, what really impressed in 2018 was the scene where Rei returned to his foster parents’ house. The awkwardness of that scene and the emotions both characters were feeling came through beautifully. It was something really simple and yet it worked spectacularly well. Wait, why didn’t I put this at number one again?

Number 1: Bloom Into You

Oh right, March Comes in Like a Lion couldn’t quite beat this one for direction in its second half of season two (which is all that aired in 2018). Now, if you want to see something that feels like it has been carefully constructed with love and attention to detail in every single frame, Bloom Into You is the anime for you. I love the direction, the use of colour and contrasts, the character designs, quite literally everything about this anime is beautiful and it works to construct a story that emotionally takes the audience on a ride. It is a truly amazing thing to see in action and there isn’t a single sequence that isn’t worth rewatching just to think about how it has been put together and why it is so amazing.


And that brings us to the end of my list of visually interesting anime for 2018. However, as always, I am dying to know what the rest of you thought this year. Please share your favourites in the comments below.

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

Tuesday's Top 5

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.


Thanks for reading.

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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Karandi James

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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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