For the first half of this episode I thought this was an absolutely brilliant way for this series to go out. Really was loving it. And then… well, then we got to the second part. See the whole way through this series I’ve really loved the moments where the characters have been allowed to just be characters and interact rather than the contrived matches between the main pair, so seeing Shinomiya genuinely upset by not being allowed to go to the fireworks and Shirogane and the others rallying to help her was really a great emotional moment with a lot of pay-off.
This was each of the characters at their best. No forced humour or awkwardly intrusive narration. Just a girl upset and the overly dramatic solution with her escaping her house and then her frantic rush to reach the wharf in time, only for it to end in failure. That was so incredibly sad and they held that moment just long enough before Shirogane turned up and delivered such an incredibly overblown line and yet it was utterly perfect for the moment.
Watching them run together, meeting up with Fujiwara and Ishigami and getting in the taxi. Even the taxi driver going all out and probably breaking multiple road rules in order to get them to their destination in time all just worked. It was a well paced, well executed, fun and emotional climax to a series that I’ve found very hit or miss.
And I haven’t even talked about how on point the music was during this episode or how beautiful the fireworks were.
Well then we go back to school.
The president is freaking out because he thinks that he acted foolishly in the moment. Shinomiya is all nervous because she wants to say thank you. The narration is back. The forced conflict is back. Its all just awkward and painful to watch and really about as far from amusing as you can get without actually just sitting in a room full of socially awkward people avoiding eye-contact for ten minutes.
For a brief span I thought episode 12 was actually going to be the episode that made me think overall I liked the series more than I didn’t. But that second half reminded me of everything I find irritating about the entire set up and mostly while there are some great moment overall I’ve mostly found this one misses the mark for me. I’ll be going back through my episode notes and thinking about my final review of this series a lot, but the bottom line is going to end up being that this just isn’t my kind of show.
Winter 2019 has had its ups and downs throughout but regardless of my final thoughts, I had a lot of fun this season. There was always something to look forward to and as some shows faltered, others rallied. While I know some shows are ongoing and some have not yet aired final episodes (and in the case of Boogiepop wa Warawanai I’m just hopelessly behind), this is my final standings for the Winter season.
In the listing I’ve commented on where the series was at the mid-season point in the list and whether it has moved or not but if you want to see my mid-season thoughts they are here.
Hopefully you enjoy and remember the results of the reader’s poll will come out later today.
Previously placed at position 13. It didn’t even deliver the little that was expected.
I was vaguely hopeful that this one would improve, but realistically I’m struggling just to convince myself to finish watching it. It has continued to be a meandering mess and while some have enjoyed the mystery I’ve mostly just found it frustrating.
Not aided by ugly visuals and characters that are pretty bland, there’s very little compelling me to keep going with this but I will finish it at this point. I kind of feel I past the point of no return a while a go. Still, if I wanted to pick the series on my watch list that I most regret watching, Boogiepop would be it.
Images from: Boogipop wa Warawanai (2019). Dir. S Natsume. Madhouse. 2019.
Number 14: Grimms Notes
Previously placed at position 15, Grimms Notes continued to underwhelm.
While it would be nice to say that it managed to pull its narrative and characters together, mostly I just felt this one oozed wasted potential until the very end. Not that there weren’t some fun moments along the way, but it just never felt satisfying to watch.
It isn’t all bad news with some of the character moments being cute enough and having a simple ‘save the story zone’ plot each week. Even if the main story line felt hopelessly underdeveloped and the themes unexplored, it wasn’t as if this ever became unwatchable.
Images from: Grimms Notes. Dir. S Shizutaka. Brain’s Base. 2019.
Number 13: Sword Art Online Alicization
Previously at position 10, how this has fallen.
I was disappointed when Sword Art Online Alicization was only managing position 10, and yet honestly I can’t say this has gotten any better. If anything, the faults with the pacing, character motives, exposition, and just idiocy have gotten worse to the point where I’m honestly wondering whether to keep going with episode reviews when it continues or whether to just let this one go and review it once they finally finish it.
An increasingly frustrating and underwhelming watch full of babble about things that barely make sense even in the context of the story, and characters who essentially break the rules of the world at will, it all just became fairly tiresome to watch this season.
Images from: Sword Art Online Alicization. Dir. M Ono. A-1 Pictures. 2018.
Number 12: Kaguya-Sama Love is War
Previously and still position 12.
For a comedy anime it wasn’t bad. It isn’t really my style and to be honest outside of the occasional moment where the characters really clicked there were a lot of times where watching this was just kind of empty. Still, the visuals, animation and sound design of this one were pretty fantastic so I can’t fault the production in the slightest.
However, ultimately, if I’d stopped watching this one it wouldn’t have mattered. There was no compelling reason to keep going and while I can see why it appeals to some, it really isn’t speaking much to me.
Images from: Kaguya Sama: Love Is War. Dir. S Omata. A-1 Pictures. 2019.
Number 11: Endro
Previously placed at position 14, this one actually was kind of charming fun.
Despite the pastel colour scheme and cute girl antics, I actually did find this one entertaining from week to week. There were some moments that really just shone for both the story and the characters proving you really can take something fairly standard and make it shine if you put enough love and effort into it.
Honestly, this isn’t going to be something I watch again but if you like cute girl stories or just want a fun slice of life/comedy that has an adventurers setting thrown in, this is actually really cute and entertaining. The only reason it didn’t get higher up my list is because I’m just not that into cute girls and some of the friendship sequences made me roll my eyes hard.
Images from: Endro! Dir. Kaori. Studio Gokumi. 2019.
Number 10: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Previously position 7 there’s just no denying the second cour was ordinary.
After slowly warming up to the show in the first cour, the second cour that aired during Winter 2019 of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime was overwhelmingly average. Now source readers will pull out the ‘it gets better’ cards as well as explain that some bits were skipped over, but none of that changes the fact that the anime is most definitely average.
There were some cute moments and character encounters and a few fairly awesome moments in the occasional fight, but a lot of this second cour was sitting around talking, or introducing characters we were never given a reason to care about who effectively had their problems solved with minimum effort. It remained light and fun to watch but had absolutely nothing to hook the audience or to convince me this would ever be worth watching a second time.
Images from: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Dir. Y Kikuchi. 8Bit. 2018.
Number 9: The Price of Smiles
Formally position 5. Okay, I was being optimistic.
It is almost scary how on the nose my prediction for this series was at the half-way point. I suspected we had a show that would simply kill off its characters towards the end and in the lead up to the final episode we had one prominent character death an episode all to serve the ‘war is bad’ slogan this anime seemed to want to plaster onto almost every episode. That doesn’t mean it was terrible. There was actually a lot of promise along the way. It just never quite delivered.
Still, there have certainly been worse mecha anime over the years and while the ending was foolishly optimistic and naive, much like the main character, I can’t say I’m upset with it. While The Price of Smiles never managed to break into being something truly good, it certainly skated along the edges of it and kept me hopeful throughout.
Images from: Egao no Daika. Dir. T Suzuki. Tatsunoko Production. 2019.
Number 8: Domestic Girlfriend
Previously in 6th position.
Right, so you get what you expect when you keep watching a melodrama and as the story progresses they have to push to increasingly forced and silly methods to up the ante. That said, there is a certain delight in watching this train wreck unfold and while I wouldn’t say I actually like any of the characters, I kind of am curious about where they will ultimately end up.
This one somehow manages to be trashy without actually being trash and while it isn’t great it is also something that is hard to stop watching. While the occasional scene pushes the sexual content a little further than I’d like and the basic premise and the idea of teachers and students dating isn’t something I’m thrilled about, I can’t say that this is actually a bad watch. Not really one I’d jump to recommend but one that I’d honestly have to admit I’ve been enjoying despite the many complaints I might muster about it.
Images from: Domestic Girlfriend. Dir. S Ibata. Diomedea. 2019.
Number 7: The Rising of the Shield Hero
Previously in position 4.
I’m honestly pleasantly surprised that this one has remained as entertaining as it has. With Sword Art and Slime both plummeting in the ranks during the Winter season it seemed isekai fantasy was taking a serious downward turn. While there are plenty of points against Shield Hero in terms of pacing and at times characterisation, I’ve mostly had fun watching it and continue to look forward to how it rolls out this story.
While this one might also take a downward turn as it moves into a second cour, I’m kind of hopeful of this one just keeping things moving. And while the fights remain fresh, the story doesn’t linger for too long on any one part, and Naofumi continues to be an interesting character to watch, I’ll probably keep enjoying this even though I would hardly call it great.
I kind of knew this one probably wouldn’t hold in the top 5 for the season but I was hopeful. A dark magical girl story that actually seemed willing to deal with the trauma a teenage girl would face if forced to fight to save the world and watch companions die? It is a good idea and at least provides some kind of grounding for the violence rather than just being opening gratuitous in killing off young characters grotesquely.
However, the execution both from thematically and in the delivery of the narrative have been somewhat lacking and once again we’re left with a show that is more concept than delivery. The over the top torture segments also don’t help to ground this as anything more than something trying to be sensationalist when actually there’s a reasonable attempt at exploring trauma and PTSD buried here but alas the show can’t give it the time or weight it needs between the other ideas it wants to cram in an a desire to imperil Asuka’s classmates. I didn’t mind this but I kept wanting more from it and by the final few episodes it was clear that it wasn’t going to deliver.
Images from: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. Dir. H Yamamoto. LIDENFILMS. 2019.
Number 5: Meiji Tokyo Renka
Formally in position 10 – nice climb.
While this one reeks of mediocrity in visuals and almost everything else, this is the anime I’ve gone back to again and again just to feel good and kick back and relax. There’s something incredibly fun and infectious about Mei as a character and the cast of guys surrounding her aren’t too shabby. The supernatural elements work well but it is Mei’s ongoing relationship with Ougai that really grabs your attention.
While I won’t say this improved as it went, it maintained its standard throughout and the characters are naturally charming enough to slowly make you warm to them and each episode feels just that little bit more fun than the last. Not one to be proclaimed a master-piece but for those who don’t mind the occasional reverse harem romp this one is certainly a fun time waster to fit into your viewing schedule.
Images from: Meiji Tokyo Renka. Dir. A Daichi. TMS Entertainment. 2019.
Number 4: The Morose Mononokean
Previously number 8 on the list – this one exceeded expectations.
Season two of The Morose Mononokean continued to far outstrip season one and advanced the plot and character development in a way I’d been wishing the first season to but it just never got to. There is very little to complain about with this second season with almost everything being better than season one and the balance between yokai of the week episode and episodes developing the world and characters being pretty well thought out.
With cute yokai characters, conspiracies, blossoming powers and generally more supernatural fun, The Morose Mononokean ended up being one show I began to look forward to each weekend. The chats with Irina around the episodes were also a factor as watching a show is always better with friends, but honestly this one was a delight this Winter season.
Previously number 9 on the list (that’s quite the rise).
If I was asked whether this got better as the season went on and whether that accounts for its rise, the answer would be a clear no. This isn’t a story that gets better. There’s a solid character journey for Subaru and one that I greatly appreciated which certainly accounts for a lot of its rise through the ranks, but what My Roommate is a Cat does brilliantly is deliver a fairly consistent performance. Tie in consistently meeting expectations week after week with concluding a character arc in a fairly coherent manner and My Roommate is a Cat might be decidedly average in a lot of ways but it was one that I found a very satisfying watch in the end.
This anime definitely demonstrates the power of simplicity in that it has a very simple gimmick with the cat narrating part of the episode from its perspective but otherwise the character count is low, the scenarios very low key, and things tie in together way too neatly for real life but in a way that makes for a fairly entertaining weekly watch. Not to mention, there’s a cat in it and apparently having a cat in it is something that makes a story recommendable.
Images from: My Roommate is a Cat. Dir. K Suzuki. Zero-G. 2019.
Number 2: The Promised Neverland
Remaining in second place.
I feel a bit bad for The Promised Neverland. Given the genre and style of story in almost any other season this one would have been a sure number one for me. Yet, opposite Run With the Wind that mostly didn’t rely on cliff-hangers to maintain viewer interest or suspense, I just can’t say that the gimmick filled Neverland is better even if I’m certainly enjoying it a lot.
The mark of a great story where I want to know what happens, where it keeps me guessing and theorising, and when the reveal is made it may not be what I thought but everything kind of clicks into place as all the anomalies and hints suddenly make sense even while a new mystery rises to be solved. The cast are charming, the setting thrilling, and all and all this one has been a delight to watch this season.
Images from: The Promised Neverland. Dir. M Kanbe. CloverWorks. 2019.
Number 1: Run With The Wind
Maintaining first position.
While I never expected to like Run With The Wind that much, even with a fairly strong showing from The Promised Neverland, there just isn’t any reason to not make this my number one of the season. I’ve fallen in love with the team and through the final episodes I cried, I cheered, I cried some more and then I smiled through those tears in absolute delight. It really helps that every character had a moment to shine in those final episodes and each character journey felt like it was given time to draw to a conclusion. It was a lovely viewing experience and one I’m really glad I picked up.
Whether it was Shindo’s absolutely heroic actions during his leg of the race, the general camaraderie and support each member showed for the others, or the feat they accomplished together, there were just so many moments to celebrate. This anime is gorgeous, well put together and has just the perfect number of episodes to tell its story. For all that I do have some minor complaints, they are just that, minor. This is definitely my pick for must watch of the season.
What is worse than two supposedly smart characters facing off on childish mind-games that seldom amount to anything?
Apparently episode 11 where the two don’t meet and we get a skit of Shinomiya moping about the house and learning to use Twitter, another one of those random stories where someone turns ramen eating into some kind of high art form which just goes on far too long, and then another story where both Shirogane and Shinomiya are moping and end up at the school but not at the same time.
If it wasn’t for the post credit sequence where Shinomiya was summoned by her father and clearly they are setting something up there I’d say this was an entirely skippable episode. Unless of course you really have some desire to watch Fujiwara eat ramen while some random side character narrates the ‘correct’ way to do so. Is it just me or are there too many of these ramen perfectionists scattered throughout anime? And do such people really exist that they feel there’s only one correct way to enjoy a bowl of soup and noodles?
Ramen philosophy aside, there’s little entertainment in watching Shinomiya mope and her attempts at using twitter are just this side of pathetic. I honestly wanted Hayasaka to just put her earphones in and enjoy her bath because watching a character sleep in the bathtub was honestly more entertaining (words I never thought I would type).
Summer holiday sequences are a staple of high school based anime, and while many fall back on the standard tropes of bikini clad girls playing beach volleyball before splitting a watermelon, at least there’s a little amusement to be found in that. I’m just not sure what, if anything, we were supposed to get out of this mope fest other than annoyed at both the main characters for continuing to be idiotically stubborn.
Though, at least visually it didn’t drop the ball toward the end of the season as a lot of other anime have. The visuals and animation (what little animation there was), were as on point as always.
Back to the three story format this week however the first two skits in episode 10 of Kaguya-Sama Love is War deal with the fallout from Shinomiya’s cold last week. Realistically though, I’m going to end up with Ishigami on this one. In the second story, Ishigami was forced to listen to Shirogane as he meandered his way through the story about the girl a friend of his had apparently offended. Ishigami just summed up the whole situation perfectly when he said it ‘pisses’ him off.
Realistically, we once again have two socially inept characters who after a minor misunderstanding spend one third of the episode squabbling over who will eat a piece of cake and then find someone who will listen to them whine about how misunderstood they feel. I’m certain the comedy is meant to be in how exaggerated and overblown it all is, but mostly I just wanted to push the cake into their faces in story one and in story two I really wished Ishigami had spoken up sooner.
Then we slide into story three where Summer vacation is coming up again. I almost groaned aloud thinking we were going to have to endure a rehash of a previous fight, but mercifully the story went in a different direction. For the first time Fujiwara ended up on the losing side and once again we have Ishigami to thank for actually sounding like a human and pointing out that it wasn’t fair for her to go off travelling but to expect that they wouldn’t go to a festival just because she was away.
Needless to say, if I took on the role of the narrator for a moment, I’m awarding Ishigami as the episodes MVP and literally just want all the other characters to disappear or grow up at this point.
Now, so that it doesn’t sound like I’m just throwing rocks at it for the fun of it and ignoring all the good in this series, the visuals this week were up to their usual standard. Story one used colour particularly well to show the duelling personalities and story two kept cutting between Shinomiya and Shirogane as each one was telling their story and it was actually really nicely put together even if the subject matter was frustrating.
So once again, this is a beautifully produced anime that is utterly missing the mark for me because I’m just not finding it particularly amusing. However, with two episodes to go I’m sticking through to the end of the season and hopefully next week I’ll find something to smile at.
Well, turns out Shinomiya is just another anime girl. I guess we kind of knew that already, but Kaguya-Sama Love is War have really worked at making her slightly different from our standard romantic heroine. But, here we go. She gets a little wet in the rain (okay, she got drenched) and suddenly she catches the most horrid of anime woes, a cold.
I will never fully understand the over-reaction anime characters seem to have to colds and fevers, nor the ridiculously fast turn around recovery. From death’s door to physically booting someone out of the room in about two seconds. That said, such is the plot of many an anime episode and it is almost as much a staple as the ‘beach’ episode or random fireworks moment.
So the question really becomes whether or not Kaguya-Sama manages to portray a fairly overdone plot in an interesting manner?
For the most part I’d have to say yes.
While the initial set-up with Shinomiya refusing to actually just ask Shirogane to get a lift with her was pretty much same-old-eye-roll-worthy antics, after Shinomiya gets soaked the plot decides to stick with this set up for a bit.
Jumping to the following day, Fujiwara is excited about visiting Shinomiya at home because apparently when she’s sick she gets super cute. For some reason that turns into a game of concentration to see which student council member will visit her and after Fujiwara is caught cheating once, and then outsmarted by her own trick, Shirogane wins the ‘privilege’ of visiting a sick Shinomiya.
Sick Shinomiya is kind of exaggerated to the point of insanity but it does lead to a couple of cute and almost honest moments before the episode draws to an end, she wakes from her fevered state and throws the President out.
Still, favourite moment of the episode comes early on when she describes Fujiwara as an ‘element of chaos’. That line actually did make me laugh because it is such a beautifully accurate description of the role Fujiwara has played so far in this story.
This might be a terminal case for this anime as Kaguya-Sama Love is War pushes another three skits our way and for once not one of them really stuck with me. While I’m not the biggest comedy fan and the premise of this one didn’t do much for me, each episode has given me something to enjoy, some exchange of dialogue or character moment that has hit its mark sufficiently to leave me with an overall pleasant feeling at the end of the episode.
That is until we get to episode 7. I’m teetering very close to deciding to simply drop Kaguya-Sama however there’s already another episode out so I’ll watch that before making a final decision. The main point being that 8 episodes in I’m unlikely to drop it regardless of what it does though this one is fast becoming the show I’m only really watching just to finish it.
What was wrong with episode 7? Nothing really. Visually it is every bit as impressive as every other episode. I still have no complaints at all about the presentation of this anime, or the sound for that matter. These are some real production positives.
Yet as I watch Shirogane given advice about hand-holding, hear an argument about club funding followed by a joke about a guy being overheard commenting on girls’ breast sizes followed by one of the girls smacking him around the head repeatedly with a fan that she took the time to fold, and it all gets capped with a run-on weiner joke that just gets run straight into the ground, I found almost zero reasons to laugh or even smile at this episode.
The Fujiwara moment with the fan could have been amusing. I was kind of reminded of Kaname in Full Metal Panic and her often repeated joke of slapping Sousuke with a fan at school when he did something really out there. But in those cases it was generally a well timed single smack and then the story progressed and moved on. Fujiwara’s careful folding and taping of the paper was a nice touch to the joke, showing her commitment to really landing one on the guy, but then the repeated swattings just proved that repetition does not always make a joke work better. It all just dragged it out, robbing the moment of comedic timing through a general lack of restraint.
As for the rest, it just isn’t the kind of thing I find overly amusing so mostly I just kind of watched and waited for the next skit hoping it would improve and then each skit seemed to get more worn than the last. I get some people are really enjoying this, and as I said, from a production point of view there’s almost no faulting it, but for me it just isn’t working and episode 7 more or less highlighted everything I dislike about the show.
Kaguya-Sama Love is War Episode 8 Review
Right, so episode 8 of Kaguya-Sama Love is War kind of picks things up a little bit from episode 7. While the first story of Shirogane’s sister showing up is kind of average, though she is pretty cute, the following stories of Shinomiya and Shirogane competing at the exams and then Shinomiya helping Ishigami passing his exams are both reasonably entertaining with some fairly good character moments scatted throughout.
That said, for once it felt like the build up was neglected. As Shinomiya and Shirogane both pretend not to be concerned with studying last minute for exams and play down how hard they are working, it kind of felt like this could have gone further as the two both secretly prepared for battle. The end result is amusing enough, with a nice exchange between the characters, but lacks any real bite.
The stand out story belongs to Ishigami as Shinomiya ‘helps’ him prepare for exams. Again, Shinomiya gets her best character moments when Shirogane is entirely absent and it was nice seeing her in this more natural role rather than in the usual antagonistic one. If we had more moments like this one and the one where she helped the girl walk to school, I’d probably enjoy her character a great deal more.
So yes, episode 8 has saved this from hitting my dropped list but realistically I’m still very much finding it pretty hit and miss in terms of a viewing experience.
This episode of Kaguya-Sama Love is War was definitely being dominated by a certain Fujiwara. While the first segment focused initially on Shinomiya giving love advice, Fujiwara swiftly stole the show right out from under her. The same thing happened in segment two with Shirogane and the third segment was lame to begin with so I was kind of happy when Fujiwara put a premature ending to the foolishness.
It is odd for a support character to be so much more interesting and charismatic but thinking back Fujiwara has been the saving grace of many a plot in this anime so far and so episode 5 seemed to put all her charm on full display. She’s so energetic and charming. She also seems incredibly air-headed but pulls out some amazing insight and sometimes it is hard to know if she is stumbling over Shinomiya’s and Shirogane’s plots by accident or if she’s actually just messing with them.
I did actually like the first two segments. The absence of direct head-to-head between Shinomiya and Shirogane did both their characters some good. Shinomiya out of her depth and trying to give love advice, to the partner of the guy Shirogane gave advice to, was a nice bit of closure on that storyline to know that the two did end up dating but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Plus this one earned a genuine laugh when Fujiwara admitted she was out of breath because she’d overheard the start of the conversation and gone running to the drama room for a costume.
The second story actually did Shirogane some favours by having him having to learn a physical skill and having Fujiwara teaching him. The over-exaggeration of just how bad he was, hitting himself in the head while trying to serve a volleyball, was kind of fun and seeing him actually improve was lovely (though I think they pushed that a little far given his domination by the time he had to play in class).
So a fairly pleasant first couple of stories. The final story however did pit Shinomiya and Shirogane head-to-head again over who would admit they had an umbrella and invite the other to share it on the walk home. It was incredibly contrived and pretty bland and as I said in the beginning, Fujiwara handing them an umbrella and ending the drama was probable the best thing that could have happened as an outcome.
This anime is still incredibly hit and miss for me, but there are moments that are genuinely enjoyable and I am really coming to appreciate Fujiwara at least, so hopefully this will continue to have more pleasant than unpleasant moments at least.