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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Friday’s Feature: Romance in the Spring of 2018

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As always, it strikes me as odd that I’m writing about Spring as the temperature plummets and I am being plunged into Winter. Now Winter in Australia, particularly QLD, isn’t exactly chilling for most people, but when your Summer and most of Autumn days are hovering at the 35 – 39 degrees Celcius, a sudden and abrupt drop to the low twenties with nights dropping to frost levels is more of less like an ice-age swept through. Particularly when you live in a house designed to let heat escape so you don’t bake in Summer.

And that’s an incredibly long preamble to get to the point, which is Spring may have brought in a whole bunch of sequel and spin-off anime, but it has also given us some interesting, and less interesting, takes on romance. While there is one title I’m wanting to watch but can’t, I’ve still found more than enough sweet stories and stories of broken hearts, misunderstandings, companionship and the like to give me cavities this season and this week I wanted to take some time to look at some of these.

On that note, there will be some spoilers for the anime below so if you aren’t watching the Spring season you may want to check out one of my other posts instead.

The Frozen In Time Couple

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Carrying over from Winter, we have the adorably sweet relationship that is Sakura and Syaoran in Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. For fans of the original series, or fans of Tsubasa Chronicles, this is not a new pairing. These two are totally fated to be together and define cute and wholesome. One might suggest the two are in fact a little innocent and naive but when you consider the age they were in Cardcaptor and the time when the original anime aired, it kind of makes sense that their relationship wasn’t exactly flying into the R-rated territory.

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Clear Card continues to tone of their relationship and that’s probably one of its downfalls. There’s been no progress here at all. In the beginning of Clear Card Syaoran returned and Sakura was happy to see him. Since then he’s had some great moments where he’s actually gotten to be useful and protect Sakura and she’s continued to be the fairly independent and powerful character she’s always been and the two of them have had so many cute moments. But that’s more or less where they were when we left them twenty years ago so while nostalgia is a wondrous thing, realistically, if we wanted to see this phase of the relationship, we could just go back to where the original series and watch it through. Then we’d get to see them go through the rivals/friends phases again to actually becoming a couple which was by far the more interesting part of their story.

The Do I/Don’t I deserve Love Couple

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As much as 3D Kanojo: Real Girl has started to bother me, the initial phase of the story set up a fairly standard introverted nerd/otaku falling for the outsider girl who was brash and spoke her mind. It’s a dynamic we’ve seen before and done well can be a lot of fun. Early on there was some promise that this series was going to explore this dynamic however as we’ve entered the mid-season viewers might be struggling to see these initial characters. The introverted guy has a whole group of friends he talks to who like him and the girl who speaks her mind has suddenly become fairly silent.

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What that left us with were two fairly generic high school characters who keep butting heads because the guy keeps devaluing himself and the girl is still hiding something which also makes her wonder if she has the right to be in the relationship. It’s no wonder they aren’t making progress as a couple when both characters are trapped inside their own insecurities. Still, if done well, these characters could still deliver something of note in terms of an anime relationship, but at the moment we’re kind of lost in the maze of miscommunication and teenage angst and my hopes for it lifting its game are not so high at this point.

The She’s A Monster and So Am I Couple

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Yep, we’re back to Darling in the Franxx where the man devouring woman turned out to just be a misunderstood and lost monster who wanted to connect with her childhood friend. After which she becomes a teenage girl obsessed with how she looks, her guy, and suddenly becoming the perfect team player. Meanwhile, he may not have been devoured, but Hiro is definitely transforming into something other than human and the question will become how much he remains Hiro after the physical transformation is complete. Though, given how little exploration has been given to other themes in Franxx, I’m not optimistic on this one being explored either.

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While Hiro and Zero-Two are actually an undeniably cute couple and almost nauseating in their honeymoon period as they bond over drawing a picture book that Zero-Two apparently literally ate back when she was a child, this relationship kind of came at the cost of Zero-Two’s actual personality and character. She’s a far less interesting presence in the series now that she’s resolved her past with Hiro. As for Hiro, he seems to have lost any drive he had either. Previously he wanted to pilot the Franxx, then he wanted to be with Zero-Two, but now he just kind of is. There’s no real motivation pushing him any more so the relationship coming together has more or less cut the guts out of what story there was and left viewers wanting the next step but there’s no real clue as to how we’re going to get there.

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Of course, if we’re talking about couples on Darling in the Franxx, the undeniably adorable couple is Mitsuru and Kokoro. Now there’s a girl who knows how to get what she wants and yet she seems so unassuming.

The He’s a Monster and I’m Suicidal Couple

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Devils’ Line… There’s only so much you can write about this one. However, I’m giving this one props for having one of the stupidest female character from any of these anime relationships this spring. Forget the fact that her chosen partner is a vampire (devil). And forget the fact that they never actually had a conversation before he stuck his tongue in her mouth and somehow she fell madly in love with him to the point where she became obsessive. The sheer fact that she knows the sight of blood sends him crazy and hurts him as he tries to stop himself from killing her and that she still goes near him while bleeding just kind of hurts my head.

The Classic Hollywood Couple

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Tada and Teresa, you two kids are so cute. Of course, given the title is that Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love, I have to wonder if they are setting us up for an ending where Teresa does in fact return home at the end of the school year to face her obligations and they just have the photos of their year together to remember. That would be very sweet and very Hollywood from an early age, and yet somehow kind of annoying. It would make all the Roman Holiday comparisons for this anime fairly conclusive at the end of the day.

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That said, Tada as a protagonist has served the role of being perhaps the least interesting character in his own series. He does have good moments and interactions with other characters, but it is the other characters who seem to drive things forward. Teresa is also a little too over the top at times in her portrayal of a foreigner obsessed with Japan due to love with an old anime. It is adorable at times, but at others just makes her a little hard to take seriously. Still, the two of them together have undeniable chemistry even if that chemistry seemed to form in a near instant of sharing a shelter during a shower of rain.

The Action Couple

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Finally, we have the return of Kaname and Sousuke in Full Metal Panic. If you don’t know why these two characters are amazing already that’s probably because you haven’t seen the original series. Go and watch it. Both characters start out in a very stereotypical manner, but unlike so many other romance/action leads, they don’t allow those roles to define them. They grow and adapt and bounce off one another and their development individually and as a couple has been extraordinary with the first four episodes of Invisible Victory show-casing the incredible bonds between them, right before it ripped them apart.

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Your Favourite Couple

With so many relationships and couples on parade, and I’ve missed a huge number of them, I know, I’d love to know which couple have grabbed your attention this season. Or even which couple you find the least convincing. Sometimes we learn more through observing failure than success.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Plot vs Character and What is Darling in the Franxx?

There’s something of an ongoing debate going about whether stories are better when they are plot driven or character driven, or whether some sort of balance is needed in between the two. For me, it always comes down to what type of story it is as to what I prefer the focus to be.

For example, I loved Fruits Basket even though the anime has almost no plot. Tohru is living rough when she’s taken in by the Sohma’s and then she meets various Sohma’s and helps them out with various things but there’s no real driving plot. There’s the ongoing issue of the curse and some of the inner workings of the family that link things together as well as the characters themselves, but realistically it is the characters and their interactions that drive the audience’s engagement with the story. The plot itself isn’t really doing that.

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However, there are some anime that take the same approach as Fruits Basket and bore me silly. I end up wondering why the plot can’t get moving along. This is usually when I haven’t made any kind of a connection with the characters and so their interactions offer little of interest for me. Other people will find the cast perfectly charming and the story will work for them, but it ends up being very much about whether the characters work for them or not.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my overall preference would be for stories that had a clear and driving plot. A definite goal that is being headed for and an end point that can either be achieved or failed. I’ll put up with some fairly ordinary characterisation as long as I can see where the average characters are trying to get to and I’m interested in that journey.

But what do we do with stories that can’t seem to decide what they are?

And by that, I don’t mean character driven stories that actually have a plot (such as Baccano) or plot driven stories that put some time into their characters (Psycho Pass), but rather stories where the character development seems to be actively competing with and at times undermining plot development.

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Our current case study: Darling in the Franxx.

The first episode of Darling in the Franxx set up a real standard dystopian future with generic teens becoming mecha pilots and having to protect their city from some inhuman enemy. Certainly Zero Two as a character left an impression even back at episode 1, but the episode itself was very much setting up a plot driven story. At its core we had Hiro, the one who was being left behind having failed to become a pilot and having had to fight to overcome this, finally getting a chance to pilot with Zero Two, the rumoured pilot killer.

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As expected, the next couple of episodes focused on this partnership that allowed Hiro to overcome this weakness and gave some backstory on the main character. There were some diversions as other characters had a little bit of development to flesh out the world. And then they face a minor crisis, the third time piloting which was meant to be the end of the road.

All of this was pretty standard fare for the genre and while some of it was clearly exaggerated to a level that almost became self-parody, it was setting up what should have been a really interesting story.

From episode 7 on, however, the story has kind of flopped about and if the last two episodes are anything to go by, we’ve become strictly a character drama set to a back-drop of the dystopian world.

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Episode 7 of course being the infamous beach episode. While it did some world building and had some character moments, we all know why the super controlling adults let the kids spend a day unsupervised on a beach. The production team wanted an excuse to put the cast in swimsuits. It broke the logic of the world and just because they give us an explainer about one of the scientists being eccentric and trying different things doesn’t mean we need to swallow it.

We had progressive episodes after that which moved us through the support cast and gave them all more depth and interest. It was lovely and all but it started to feel like a totally different show. Then we had the blow up with Ichigo and Zero Two in episode 14 where fans went crazy and I honestly had to stop and wonder why they cared so much. Sure there had always been the whole love triangle going on but to me it had always been background to a story that kept getting buried and delayed. The only reason I cared about it at all was because the character relationships directly effected their ability to pilot.

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Then episode 15 hit us with a massive amount of plot points, utterly and completely buried under a thinly disguised teen melodrama.

Which made me think that maybe the entire time I had it wrong. Maybe Darling in the Franxx never intended to be plot driven. Maybe the robots and dystopian setting were all just background to a teen version of Days of Our Lives and it just took me 15 episodes to notice.

My problem with that theory is that the first episode doesn’t support it. Actually, the first three episodes don’t support that idea. The characterisation is very much background as the plot is being firmly established. It is just after the ground work was laid down, the story abandoned it in favour of character development.

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And that’s where we get this character vs plot problem.

This story isn’t delivering a satisfying plot because for chunks of it at a time the plot has been forgotten and when we finally had some plot development it was rushed through and not given the time and attention needed to have an impact.

And the character drama, while it is definitely a drama, comes in after the fact and just kind of starts taking all the attention but at the same time what it is offering isn’t really that unique. It’s just another teen romance gone wrong and if that was what the show was going to be about, I probably wouldn’t have signed up to watch it.

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What really gets me here, is that we’ve seen character driven mecha anime done right. Neon Genesis Evangelion all but wrote the book on teen drama and mecha pilots. And it was extraordinary.

The key difference?

Even in episode 1 of Evangelion, when they were definitely setting up the setting and the plot, the audience became aware of Shinji as a character and his short comings and the issues he would overcome. He wasn’t generic pilot protagonist who we might get to know later, as Hiro definitely was early on in the Franxx (though I guess people who like Hiro’s character will probably disagree with me on that). It kind of links to what I said at the start of this post. I enjoy character driven stories when I connect with the character and Evangelion did it right.

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Darling in the Franxx made me think I was getting a plot driven story and has since delivered more or less anything but, and the overall impression I’m left with is that it is just a bit of a mess that hasn’t quite figured out what it wanted to be. That isn’t to say that a lot of what has happened hasn’t been interesting. There are definitely things to think about and moments that have been pretty spectacular. But to look at the anime as a whole, my main impression would be that it is messy and a little bit problematic.

What do you think?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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