Tuesday’s Top 5: Things I Learned From Anime Last Year

Tuesday's Top 5

It’s been an interesting 12 months as an anime reviewer and I love thinking back about all the shows I’ve watched and the lessons I’ve learned, or at least been reminded about. These are the top 5 things I learned from anime last year but I’d love to know if anime taught you anything, or reminded you about something you shouldn’t forget.

Please note: There may be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Don’t try and take on the mafia alone: Banana Fish
  • When summoning a demon lord from another world, be sure to read the label properly otherwise you might end up with an otaku gamer or a loli and neither one is exactly what you would be after if you decided to summon a demon lord: How Not To Summon a Demon Lord

Number 5: How my immune system works from Cells At Work

This one is pretty obvious when you think about it, but watching Cells at Work each week reminded me about all that high school biology stuff that I promptly just stopped thinking about after graduating. I also learned about a couple of cells I’d previously never heard of. While my primary reason for watching anime is not educational, when an edutainment like Cells at Work comes along that is informative and fun and adorable, you just can’t pass it up. The only problem is every blood test I get now I worry about the millions of Red Blood Cells that just found themselves torn from their home.

Number 4: Longer running stories need to work harder to keep me interested

I kind of already knew this with Bleach being the only really ‘long’ running anime I ever fully completed. My Hunter x Hunter watch has stalled so incredibly close to the end and yet I just haven’t finished it, and otherwise Soul Eater and D Gray Man are probably the only other two long anime I’m a massive fan of. But last year this became really clear to me as Black Clover got cut from my watch list thirteen episodes in (though it may have been the shouting and not the episode count that lead to that), GeGeGe no Kitaro was abandoned even though I didn’t dislike the show, Attack on Titan was on notice until it delivered a fairly strong third season and even My Hero Academia that I’d previously really enjoyed just felt a bit tired.

It probably says more about my attention span than the anime, but the larger episode counts seem to make me want more from the anime and expect more from the story and when I don’t find it I seem to lose interest. Then we have the new Sword Art Online series with its mammoth four cour run announced before we even started and while initially excited I’m finding that it feels like they’ve stretched out content to fill those episodes rather than having enough content for it to begin with (though we’ll see what they do next with it). Either way, last year very much reminded me that I prefer my anime with 11 – 13 episodes and a conclusive ending.

Number 3: In relationships communication is key.

Again, this is something I already knew but we certainly had a tonne of examples of why this was important last year. Just looking at the Autumn season we can see that Nanami and Yuu would have been better off if Yuu had been more open about how she felt early on and even after she resolves to do something, she still doesn’t actually talk to Nanami about it directly instead taking a round about route (Bloom Into You). Takato and Junta from Dakaichi could have solved their break-up drama in a heart beat if either one had actually consulted the other before taking action. Then we have Sakuta and Mai (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai), the one couple that mostly communicated beautifully and managed to navigate around so much relationship drama and yet Mai still didn’t tell Sakuta it was her birthday and he had to find out second hand from her younger sister. If anime taught me anything last year it was definitely to talk to your partner, whoever they may be.

Number 2: Heroes come in all shapes and sizes

While not from a specific anime, there were so many different kinds of heroes from so many different shows last year. My personal favourites included traditional heroes such as All Might from My Hero Academia, but also encompassed characters such as Hina from March Comes in Like a Lion and Yuu from Bloom Into You. Big or small, saving the world or reaching out to a friend, there were so many different heroes to choose from that surely there was someone a viewer could look up to last year.

Number 1: Definitely ignore the pre-season hype and judge shows for what they are

Whether it was going in with too high an expectation, possibly considering passing on something because of no expectations, or just not enjoying something because I wanted it to be something else, last year taught me the value of taking things as they are and not as I wanted them to be. Then again, even going into Darling in the Franxx with no expectation would not make me like it anymore. But perhaps Clear Card would have been better received if I wasn’t endlessly comparing it to the nostalgia fuelled image I had of Cardcaptor Sakura. And consider some shows I ended up really enjoying, such as Rokuhoudou Yatsuiro Biyori that wasn’t even on my radar and from the description of it doesn’t seem like my kind of story I really just need to try each show on its own merit. So this year I am as much as possible going into shows without expectations, watching the first episode (or as much as I can stomach) and giving them a go. That said, W’z still isn’t getting more than 5 minutes of my time.

Right, so what did you learn last year while watching anime?

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Karandi James
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GeGeGe No Kitaro Episode 19: Return of the Already Defeated Bad Guys

I’m going to stop weekly coverage of this one, but I’ll probably watch for a bit longer before deciding whether to completely drop this or not. Basically, we finally got back to the ongoing story in this, but it was hidden under the tired trope of defeated bad guys return.

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This issue with that trope is simple: we already know how to defeat these bad guys. They weren’t interesting enough the first time to really hold my interest and the second time around just makes them look even sillier given they clearly learned nothing from their last defeat. If we throw in Kitaro’s sunglasses disguise it makes for a wholly unsatisfying plot really.

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Though, there was just enough in here indicating that maybe the larger narrative we saw a few times in the first cour was going to get moving again. Just enough that I probably will watch some more, but I’m not going to keep this on my episode review line up for the simple reason that I feel my reviews of this show are getting repetitive.

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Karandi James

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GeGeGe No Kitaro Episode 18: Cat-Chick Is Always Fun

Despite a pretty ordinary story, I had enough fun watching Cat-Chick this week. Though, that said, this is yet another pretty basic episode following on from quite a few pretty uninteresting stories. I really think next week is going to have to pull off something pretty good to keep this on my watch list any longer.

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This show has really become fairly flat since the end of the last anime season when we had quite an epic fight. But even before that, the individual episodes all had something about them. There was a clear message, a bit of energy or polish, and occasionally a sense of childish danger. Now we just have yokai of the week shows up and characters meandering about until the problem is solved.

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To make it clear, this episode spent more time with Cat-Chick worrying about her outfit and Kitaro finding out than it did on dealing with the yokai. And really nothing happened. No danger, no perils, nothing for Kitaro to do. His turning up merely propelled Cat-Chick into enough of a rage that she chased the other yokai around until we realised he wasn’t all bad after all. And that’s all she wrote for this episode.

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Karandi James

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GeGeGe No Kitaro Episode 17: Yokai and Riddles

Still on vacation, Kitaro and the gang stumble upon a problem when the people in town are being turned into bronze. What follows is a pretty ordinary kind of story but it works for the most part.

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I will admit this episode struggled to hold my attention. Even with Kitaro being taken out of the action early on, the villain this time around never even felt vaguely threatening or like someone I was supposed to care about. Mana’s uncle getting turned to bronze equally had little impact because with so many people turned it was obvious they were going to reverse it and the situation wasn’t going to be permanent. With little reason to worry about the outcome the actions themselves needed to carry the show and they just couldn’t.

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Even a visit to a mountain tengu clan didn’t shake things up enough to really get me engaged and by the time the villain was vanquished (or self-destructed) it was all a matter of wondering if that meant the episode was over. I hate to say it but this one might have started to suffer from the repetitive nature that plagues a lot of episodic shows. There just isn’t enough carrying over from week to week to make it feel like there’s a purpose here.

That said, I’ll give it a few more episodes given we’ve had weaker stories before and then this has bounced back.

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Karandi James

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GeGeGe No Kitaro Episode 16: A Ladle Seems Like A Slow Way To Sink A Ship

Mana takes a vacation in this episode of GeGeGe no Kitaro but wouldn’t you know it, Rat-Man is also on a ‘vacation’ and soon we’re going to have yokai trouble again.

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It’s probably a testament to how light-hearted this show is that even an episode that focuses on a yokai dragging sailors under water isn’t enough to make me flinch when normally any potential drowning has me on edge and reaching for the mouse to skip a scene. I actually had no emotional response at all to this episode which concerns me a little for the future of watching it. Previously I’ve had a lot of fun with this show, but I will admit to feeling very detached during the more recent episodes.

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Still, there’s nothing actually wrong with this episode. Mana visits family and one of them doesn’t return home from his fishing work. When seeking to rescue him, they realise that there’s a yokai that is claiming sailor’s and using them as yokai to bring up his treasure (though no one ever seems to really pin the blame on Rat-Man which is where it belongs given earlier in the episode he’s the one who opened the pot letting the yokai out).

I think where the episode may have dropped the ball a bit was in the town’s response. It is obvious they were using the yokai threat as a reason to unify a town that was being torn apart by opposing ideals on how to run a festival, but other than a bit of exposition early on the audience didn’t really have any connection to the plot about the festival so it didn’t really have much impact when they all came together to play tug-of-war with the ghosts.

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Ultimately, this episode works but for me it was kind of functional without being particularly interesting.

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Karandi James

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GeGeGe No Kitaro Episodes 14 + 15: Dreams and Faces

Monsters of the week abound with episode 14 giving us a dreamland that you can’t escape from and episode 15 asking what price you would pay to be pretty.

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This pair of episodes are both pretty cute and both pretty pointless as anything more than just another encounter with yokai. There isn’t even any real character building within the main cast, save for a small moment of cool from Daddy Eyeball in the dreamland where he imagines himself in a body so that he can save Kitaro. That said, both episodes work well enough as they introduce our human victims of the week and then overcome the problem.

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Interestingly enough both episodes very much seemed to point the blame for misery at the human world rather than the yokai with the fired salary man escaping to dreams because he couldn’t overcome his daily challenges and the school girl changing her face because of mercilessly being ostracised due to her appearance. This isn’t a new theme for GeGeGe no Kitaro, but it has been awhile since that theme has been the only focus of a story.

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Perhaps the most disappointing thing from these episodes is Mana. She used to be quite an interesting character and in episode 12 she definitely stepped up only now the show seems to be determined to simply have her as a hanger-on. It would be nice to see her returning to being something more than an intermediary between whoever the victim of the week is and Kitaro.

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Still, if episodic yokai stories work for you, GeGeGe no Kitaro isn’t doing too much wrong on that front and remains pleasant viewing even while it isn’t exceptional.

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Karandi James

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GeGeGe No Kitaro Episode 13: And We’Re Back To How Things Were

And after the nation changing events of episode 12, we’re back to exactly how things were before as if someone hit the reset. That was disappointing.

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Last week:

I wonder if the fact that everyone now knows about yokai will remain a thing or if people will go back to their ordinary lives after this episode?

While I get that episodic shows are prone to resets, it seemed like episode 11 and 12 introduced what could have been a very interesting element into future events by having the ordinary lives of people seriously and publicly disrupted by yokai. And yet,  GeGeGe no Kitaro chooses to abandon dealing with that plot line and instead we’re back to Ratman scheming and Kitaro doing his hero thing with everyone else just back to their ordinary, oblivious lives.

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While this episode was still pretty solid for this series, the let-down of what might have been a really fascinating story path being ignored weighed heavily on me and I found myself just a little less engaged. It didn’t help that the moral this week was about as subtle as a brick to the face. That said though, the episode isn’t any worse than any of the earlier ones and taken by itself, quite enjoyable.

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Karandi James

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