Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime From 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

Alright, here we are. The last top 5 list of 2018 anime titles and it is the list of my favourites for the year. This list was brutal to make because as much as the Spring and Summer seasons didn’t really work out for me, 2018 started strong in Winter and the Autumn season is one of the best I’ve seen. Now, I haven’t included any anime from the Autumn season that are incomplete on the final list here so Run With The Wind, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and several others weren’t considered. Otherwise, anything that aired and finished in 2018 that I watched was considered and there were still a lot of strong contenders because there are shows that were technically amazing but not really my style and shows that were just great fun, but not technically impressive. Trying to balance it for a top 5 list was incredibly hard but I’m happy with the final list.

Previously I’ve just done my favourite anime as part of my best and worst of the season posts so this is the first official top 5 list of best anime from a year. No surprise though that Yuri on Ice took out my favourite anime of 2016 and March Comes in Like a Lion took out best anime of 2017.

On that note, I’d love to know what your picks for the year were so please leave a comment below.

Honourable Mentions:

For 2018 my honourable mentions go to two shows that I really loved and had great fun watching, but both are fairly riddled with problems in terms of visuals, presentation, pacing, and narrative. That said, that didn’t stop either one being fun. For 2018 my honourable mentions go to Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens and Spiritpact Season 2.

Number 5: Banana Fish

An emotionally wrenching journey this anime definitely knew how to hit its audience in the feels. Okay, logically nothing in this story makes sense and contextually it is dated even if they did do a patch job to move it into the modern era. However, these characters have charm and make it very easy to get behind them and want them to succeed. While seeing Ash do his Rambo act might be unrealistic it is certainly satisfying. The subject matter won’t be for everyone with sexual assault among other confronting issues taking a central role in the narrative. All and all though, this was an exhilarating ride to go on this year.

Number 4: Attack on Titan Season 3

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this one to show up on my best of the year list. And yet, Attack on Titan season 3 managed to give us some fairly solid character work and some pretty impressive plot development given how stalled both seemed during season 2. I ended up really enjoying what we got of Attack on Titan in 2018 and while I know the second part is coming out next year, this season was enough to get me interested in this franchise again.

Number 3: Bloom Into You

An anime I went into with very little expected of it. However after a fairly ordinary start, Bloom Into You very quickly won me over with its very solid direction and visual symbolism. It is an incredibly impressive telling of what is a fairly ordinary story but the amount of thought and care put into the execution of this one definitely makes it one well worth the watch. I’m still not a huge fan of Yuri and high school romance in general, but I would firmly recommend this one to anyone because it is fantastically presented.

Number 2: Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

No surprise that this one made the list. It took a lot of reviewers by surprise with its strong dialogue and clever writing. While not a flawless series, this one managed to balance its supernatural elements as stand ins for the normal stresses and anxieties faced by teenagers in high school in a manner that was both relatable and charming. With a cast of characters that were superbly written and thoroughly enjoyable to spend time with. Other than the animation used for characters running this anime can almost do no wrong and what few complaints I have about it definitely come up sounding fairly petty. It’s a wonderful story and one that you should definitely check out if you haven’t.

Number 1: March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2

Okay, anyone who follows my blog is not surprised by this. As much as Bloom Into You and Bunny Girl Senpai were solid late entries for 2018, they just couldn’t shake my love of March Comes in Like a Lion. It is every bit as visually impressive as Bloom Into You and the cast of characters are every bit as charming and relatable as those in Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. As tough a decision as these three made it, March Comes in Like a Lion season 2 comes out ahead because I just can’t imagine it being any better.

There it is. My Top 5 anime from 2018. Now I’d love to know yours.

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Karandi James
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TENSEI SHITARA SLIME DATTA KEN 1/6 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SHION SWIMSUIT GRAVURE STYLE

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Anime Characters from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

In 2016 the wonderful Allen Walker from D Gray Man Hallow topped my list – and yeah that was an incredibly biased decision because I just love Allen. 2017 saw Rei from March Comes in Like a Lion take the list (well deserved). 2018 had a plethora of fantastic male characters, though if you read my list of favourite female characters from the year you probably have a fairly good idea of who is going to end up on my list here. As always, I’d love to know who your choices are for best male anime characters from 2018.

Honourable Mentions:

It kind of hurts but Kirito from Sword Art Online Alicization has only gotten an honourable mention. While he still has plenty of episodes, his showing in 2018 was okay but not his best work (poor guy). The other character I want to give an honourable mention to is Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. He was great fun but not quite memorable enough to land a spot on the top 5.

Number 5: Okabe Rintaro from Steins;Gate 0

As much as Steins;Gate 0 didn’t quite click for me in 2018 one thing I did appreciate was seeing Okabe’s character after he had hit rock bottom and tried to rebuild his life. The Okabe who gave up on saving everyone and just tried to make the best of things. Seeing that Okabe finally find the motivation needed to fight back again despite the hardship it was going to cost was perhaps one of the most rewarding character arcs for the year.

Number 4: Takato from Dakaichi

Alright, if you’ve been following my collaboration with Arthifis on Dakaichi you will know I’ve been seriously loving Takato’s character since the beginning. While there’s a lot in Dakaichi that is easy to dismiss or would make you raise an eyebrow, Takato has been a highly entertaining main character. I love watching him when he is working as an actor and seeing him slowly get in touch with his emotions in his real life. For everything that doesn’t work in Dakaichi, Takato has been a shining character for the Autumn season (or at least one that I’ve really enjoyed watching).

Number 3: Sakuta from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Sakuta has been one of those characters who comes along who on the one hand I feel he’s pretty ordinary, on the other hand this is how you write an ordinary character and make him shine. Solid writing, great interactions with the support cast, and just enough personality and sass that he doesn’t just fit solidly into the nice guy forgettable role, and Sakuta is someone who has easily carried his show (admittedly with a bit of help from a fabulous supporting cast).

Number 2: Ash from Banana Fish

It was a hard toss up as to whether I was going to pick Ash or Eiji for the list, but Ash wins because I just love seeing him rise up time and time again. Ash may be incredibly overpowered given he’s ridiculously smart, strong, and shrugs off bullet wounds and being stabbed more or less instantly. He might be straight out of an 80’s power fantasy, but he is definitely fun to watch and when he’s with Eiji his soft and fluffy side comes out (as much as one exists). Really enjoyed spending time with Ash this year and while I might have wanted him to have more happy moments, I can’t deny that I was always entertained by his journey.

Number 1: Rei Kiriyama from March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2

It’s the second year in a row but Rei Kiriyama remains my very favourite male anime character in 2018. His interactions with Hina, his match against Souya, his support of Shimada, and just his own growth as a character, returning to his foster home to face some of the past, all of these moments have seen Rei moving from strength to strength. For a character who still has a long way to travel in regards to dealing with his own mental health, Rei continues to be inspirational and relatable and someone I just want to see more of.

That’s the list for 2018 but I’d love to know who you would have picked for your top 5 male anime characters.

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Karandi James
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CHARACTER VOCAL SERIES 01 HATSUNE MIKU 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: HATSUNE MIKU SYMPHONY 2017 VER.
CHARACTER VOCAL SERIES 01 HATSUNE MIKU 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: HATSUNE MIKU SYMPHONY 2017 VER.

Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Duos of 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

There’s only one thing better than a great character and that is a great duo. A pair of characters where the chemistry just works, the timing in their dialogue and reactions are spot on, and seeing the two interacting is enough to carry any scene they are in. This is my list of top 5 anime duos from 2018 and there are some incredibly great pairings here. My only real limitation was the characters in the top 5 couldn’t be part of my favourite couples from the year. As always though, I’d love to know your picks so please share in the comments below who some of your favourite duos were.

Honourable Mentions:

Honourable mention for Ash and Eiji from Banana Fish. After taking out best couple I couldn’t have them on this list as well, but let’s be honest, they really deserve a spot. The only question would be whether I think they could have beaten the number one on this list and that’s a tough question. Also, an honourable mention to Keika and Tanmoku from Spiritpact who were fantastic together, however the introduction of a third character into the mix in season two kind of disrupted the duo for a bit so they ultimately didn’t get a spot in the top 5.

Number 5: Ryuichi and Kotaro from School Babysitters

It is a slightly unusual choice for a duo list but these brothers are fantastic together. Kotaro is awesome as the toddler younger brother and Ryuichi is a delight as a concerned older brother. Neither of these characters comes off as too clingy but their scenes together are always sweet and heart warming and they are just adorable.

Number 4: Kirito and Eugeo from Sword Art Online Alicization

While Asuna may be left fairly high and dry this season, Kirito isn’t flying solo. No, he’s working side by side with Eugeo who has turned into a surprisingly fun character and the interactions with Eugeo and Kirito remain my favourite part of this new instalment of SAO. This is kind of what I think they should have done with Klein way back in the Aincrad arc but I can kind of understand why they didn’t. Looking forward to more Kirito and Eugeo moments in the new year.

Number 3: Banba and Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

Your typical odd couple, these two work beautifully and are an absolute delight in a show about hitmen and murder. Individually, both characters are fun enough and fine, but when you put them together with their opposing views and contrasting skills you get something really special. Banba brings out the best in Lin and Lin certainly helps to keep Banba fairly level. I know this anime flew a little under the radar for some viewers so if you haven’t checked it out, and you don’t mind a bit of violence, then this one might end up being great fun. It is certainly worth checking out for these two characters.

Number 2: Red and White Blood Cell from Cells at Work

Alright, you knew these two were going to make an appearance. They are adorable and every moment when they are together is delightful. Whether White Blood Cell is rescuing Red from a germ, Red is telling White about her day while they drink tea, or even seeing the young versions of them in training, these two characters are just pure bliss and they work perfectly together.

Number 1: Sakuta and Mai from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

They had to be the number one. From their very first episode together, the interactions between Sakuta and Mai charmed their audience and in an anime full of strong writing and interesting characters, nothing beats scenes with these two together. The back and forth dialogue, the give and take nature of their conversations and barbs, and just their general awareness of one another make these two an unbeatable duo from 2018.

That’s my list of best duos from the year and I’d love to know who some of your favourites were.

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Karandi James
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NENDOROID NO. 1053 MADE IN ABYSS: REG

12 Days of Anime Characters – Lin Xinming

12 Days of Anime Title Image

Onto day 8 of the 12 Days of Anime. While on Day 7 we looked back at  Shizue from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, today we turn our attention to the hitman with a sense of style, Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens - Episode 5 - Lin

Lin is one of those characters that you just come to love fairly instantly. The series never really addresses why he cross dresses, he just does, and it just becomes part of his character, like his frugal nature and distrust of others. I will admit though, that Lin is only as interesting and likeable a character as he is because of the connection he forms with Banba in the first episode. And what a greeting. 

Hakata Tonktsu Ramens Episode 1 Lin

Considering the situation Lin finds himself in he is a remarkable together character. He’s trying to save money to free his sister, he sends money to his mother, and all he has to do to earn that money is kill people for a boss he hates. However, when the boss refused to pay him because of a double booking, Lin decides it might be time to find new employment leading to a chain reaction of events and reveals (including that all his efforts to support his family up to now have more or less been for nothing). 

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 9 Lin

The thing about Lin is that he’s a character you can sympathise with but not really relate to. You haven’t been sold as a child, trained as an assassin and then worked as a hitman trying to support a family from back home that turns out isn’t being assisted by you in the slightest. So there’s no relating to the character, but you can be sympathetic to his plight and more importantly, he never comes across as pathetic. Lin’s a fighter through and through and has a great sense of humour considering the situation.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 12 Lin

However, it is Lin and Banba together that make a truly compelling viewing experience. Where Lin is cold and distant, Banba is very much in your face and intrusive. Lin is cut off from others whereas Banba has an entire support network. Where Lin is frugal and careful with his money, Banba is loose and fairly carefree. The two make a good odd-couple pairing and their contrasts work well. 

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 7 Lin and Banba

The only regret here is that we don’t have any word of a second season so we’ll just be left with the 12 episodes we have. And on that note it is probably time I gave the series another watch through.

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Karandi James
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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Red Rum / Murder Inc Card Case
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Red Rum / Murder Inc Card Case

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Series Review: Fun Times With A Group of Killers

For an anime I expected nothing from, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens delivered a fairly compelling story full of fun and interesting characters. What did you think of it or did you miss this during the Winter 2018 season?

Review:

There was no doubt that one of my favourite shows from the Winter 2018 season was Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. I really enjoyed the character interactions and the way each story thread and introduced element ended up being used in a meaningful way. There never felt like something just existed for the sake of it or that any loose ends were left out. While the subject matter might put some people off (there’s quite a bit of violence and death as well as assault), this one ended up being really interesting to watch.

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The opening theme really gets you excited for the episode and I thoroughly enjoyed it each episode. It kind of perfectly set the tone of the episode and introduced the characters and their relationships nicely without giving too much away. The jazzy music continued throughout the rest of the episode and generally was always kind of fun even if a lack of variety was noted at times.

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The character relationships, particularly the developing relationship between Banba and Lin, were definitely part of the draw of this show. Characters met and their meetings had impact on other characters. The character that had the largest character focus was Lin and his character ended up being quite interesting despite the fairly generic tragic backstory. This one is another case for generic not always being bad. While it was pretty by the numbers tragedy due to poverty leading to being trained as a hitman (okay, maybe not that standard but it felt pretty generic while watching the flash back episode) they timed it right when I had wanted to learn more about his character and it filled in some of the gaps while also setting up the final villain of the series. Again, everything was purposeful and used so even the less amazing story elements were pretty acceptable.

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The support cast are pretty awesome, with a range of personalities and roles and again, all of these are used. None of them feel unnecessary to the story as a whole and none of the characters feel repetitive or unused. The one exception is a character who sees to just be the one destined to have poor luck which is used for fairly lack lustre comedic effect a few times but fortunately isn’t an overt distraction from the story, and even then their presence is integrated into the greater narrative.

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Given this one is listed as an action, I should probably address that. If you are after epic battles and fight sequences, this one isn’t going to work for you. The action is fast and brutal with most sequences over in seconds. That said, it always injects some drama into the scene and each character has a unique approach to fighting that is visually distinct.

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However, this show does have some real downsides. One of those is the lack of danger or tension in the series. None of the villains, even the final one, present much in the way of a real threat and after the first one, very few are even built up to be threatening. The main cast don’t get injured, or their injuries are brushed aside even when they shouldn’t be. It all leaves you feeling a bit like none of the drama in the series will amount to much, so if you aren’t having fun with this series there isn’t a lot else to connect with. There’s also this weird visually effect with light that they use throughout the series that is kind of distracting but it isn’t a deal breaker, it is just kind of ugly.

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That said, I had a great time with this show and really looked forward to it each week. I wouldn’t mind another show like this one. While it isn’t perfect, it is definitely watchable and well worth giving a try provided you aren’t put off by violence.

Episode Reviews:


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Karandi James

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 12: They Set It Up And Bring It Home

This anime didn’t disappoint. As we went into the final episode it delivered yet another cohesive resolution to its plot bringing everything together in a highly satisfying manner.

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Of course we get plenty of Lin and Banba, which probably explains part of what I liked about this episode. But mostly it was that all the characters came together in a fairly natural way, we had a fairly big blood-bath of enemies with, once again, minor injuries for the main cast, but we also had Lin make his decision regarding Fei and that gave the episode just the right amount of drama.

Hakata12c
As close to a confession as we’ll ever get.

The Lin/Fei moment was particularly well handled. It didn’t drag out and their final fight lasted seconds but had suitable impact. I can’t say I had any complaints at all about how this ended up. Looking forward to writing a final review for this series, but I think I’ll rewatch it first.

Hakata12d

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Karandi James

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Finally, you can use the affiliate link to shop at Play-Asia.com ifPlay-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more you are interested in anime, soundtracks, figures or games. Should you use the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

 

Friday’s Feature: What Makes Something ‘Near Great’

As a self-proclaimed anime fan, it is sometimes hard to step back from something and really think about it. Aiming for some form of objectivity in reviews, which is never overly objective, compared with simply letting out my inner fan-girl and letting her scream “I love you anime” at the top of her lungs. Anyone who might know me in real life might scoff at the thought of me doing that, but I swear that inner fan-girl exists and sometimes she’s a real pain as she buzzes through my brain like a bee on a sugar high.

Small spoiler warning for The Ancient Magus’ Bride final episode in the images.

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And even then, some of you who have simply read my reviews will think, “Hang on a minute, weren’t you the one who gave such-and-such a scathing review or criticised so-and-so for some plot development?” And the answer would definitely be, yes. Because while that inner fan-girl exists and I sometimes love her exuberance, energy and optimism, the reality is that in any particular season of anime there are only so many good shows.

Once you eliminate all of the ones that are outside of your genre or personal preference, sometimes you are lucky to find one or two fairly solid shows within a single season. That doesn’t mean they are the only ones I like. Fan-girl me is happily laughing still at King’s Game and taking somewhat overly excited pleasure in how far Spiritpact has come since its abysmal first episode. If I only found one or two shows I liked, I’d hardly call myself a fan.

But inner fan-girl isn’t alone bouncing around inside my brain. She’s sharing the stage with a lot of different views and one of those is the cynic inside me who waits eagerly to pounce on anything fun and find the flaw (it doesn’t help that some of those flaws are even apparent to the fan-girl). This is the me that waits for things that are rising to fall, and was somewhat smugly satisfied with how KADO ended if only because it meant that inner fan-girl had to take a time out having been bitterly disappointed.

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Naturally I am speaking metaphorically and hopefully I don’t actually have multiple personalities streaming around my head for real (it’s crowded enough).

However, this post is about the ‘near great’ in anime and what I want to look at are two shows that have aired either entirely or partially during the Winter 2018 season that both stopped short of reaching greatness (despite the inner fan-girl willing them to be truly amazing). I enjoyed both in different ways and inner fan-girl was incredibly happy watching them. She waited eagerly for the episode to start and basked in the characters and the plot. For one of those shows she also basked in the gorgeous visuals while in the other she tolerated the odd lighting choices but found other things to enjoy. And yet, as the season comes to an end, and I start thinking about recommendations and what to say about these shows, the cynic in me strikes.

So why aren’t they great?

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I suppose you could ask that question of almost anything with just as much honest expectation of gaining an answer. “Why aren’t you better?” “Why don’t you match my ideals of what you should be?” “How could you fail there?”

For me though each show has one particular issue that is a sticking point that I cannot overlook. While everything will have its flaws, these are genuine concerns that, regardless of how great some aspects of the shows might be, they will never end up on my list of all time favourites even though they will end up on my list for favourite of the season.

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride

If you have followed Weekend Otaku and my collaboration series ‘200 Word Anime‘ you will know that for awhile now I’ve had some misgivings about The Ancient Magus Bride. Mostly petty nit-pickings of a show that is gorgeous to watch, has some excellent music, beautifully depicted magic and folk-lore and a reasonably compelling central couple. Okay, pacing is an issue and the whole cliff-hanger ending without really using it well in the next episode are things that have been minor irritations, but ultimately they aren’t deal breakers with this show and really come down to my own personal tastes.

No, what seals The Ancient Magus’ Bride in my mind as a show that isn’t going to achieve greatness no matter how much I wished it would is how the support cast are ultimately dealt with. That is to say, how they are not dealt with. In the race to bring events to their conclusion, characters are either entirely forgotten or become largely inconsequential. While the main couple get a worthy resolution, other characters still don’t even have a genuine purpose that has been explained. And one of those is a fairly important antagonist during the final episode and I literally have no idea what he actually wants from the confrontation.

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Any minor flaws I was over looking or putting down to taste paled in comparison with an ending that tripped over itself to get the main characters to their moment. Realistically, the show needed to move faster earlier on or needed to cull some of the characters when it adapted itself from manga to anime (assigning certain events to different characters to make it work). However, then purists would have accused it of butchering the source material and so this was a no-win situation. Ultimately people are still comparing the anime unfavourably against its source and people who never read the source just found the end a little bemusing even as it maintained the gorgeous quality we had come to expect from the series.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

As we move on, I will note this is not an exceptional show by any means. Yet it sits higher on my watch list than the Ancient Magus’ Bride and is one I’ve talked about a lot. The reason for that is I went in expecting nothing and got something wholly enjoyable. Fan-girl me went crazy for it and episode 4 which tied events of the first arc together beautifully really cemented this as one of my favourite shows of the season. But favourite of the season doesn’t mean I am blind to its flaws and while I will still most definitely recommend this anime as being worth checking out, to say it is one of the great anime of the year would probably be a lie.

Yet it isn’t the somewhat questionable visuals, the slight repetitiveness to the sound-track (awesome music, but repetitive), or even the heavy subject matter of hitmen and assassins being given a light comedic treatment that really stops this show from tipping into the realm of great. Realistically, it is the lack of tension and sense of danger this show has inflicted upon itself.

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I know, a show about hitmen and assassins lacks tension or danger? How did that happen?

Well, the anime never, and I do mean never, actually allows the main characters to actually be seriously injured, maimed or killed. No matter what happens to them or whether they are a more peripheral main character, or even if they deserve it. No, our happy hitmen will be back playing baseball in an episode or two even after being stabbed in the gut, so don’t stress or worry. Seriously. About anyone. Everyone will be fine. At least everyone you care about because the villains are totally forgettable and throw-away and treated as such (I’m hoping for a final episode blood bath but I doubt I’ll get it).

It makes for a fun viewing experience, provided the subject matter doesn’t rub you the wrong way, but it doesn’t make for particularly deep or something that is going to have a long lasting impact.

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Where to now?

The thing is, not every anime has to be great. While the great ones will awe you, blow you away, and eventually sit upon your shelf in DVD form and probably in other merchandise as well, sometimes it is enough that you have fun with what you are watching. The Near Great are the anime that keep me entertained and give me something positive to say each week. They are the anime I’ll chat about with friends and probably remember for a couple of seasons after they are done. They are anime I might even get the DVD of, once it comes down in price.  The Near Great are what keep me watching anime season after season as there are many of these and they come in many forms.

So I’ll ask you now, what are the Near Great anime you’ve been watching recently?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to see Patreon2more great content on this blog, consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month.

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Finally, you can use the affiliate link to shop at Play-Asia.com ifPlay-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more you are interested in anime, soundtracks, figures or games. Should you use the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.