This week we are back on Irina’s blog so be sure to go check out our thoughts on this adorable little episode featuring the cutest yokai birds with ear wings. Granted, there isn’t a lot of competition for birds with ear wings but seriously this was adorable. Also some good plot development stuff and some great character moments.
Seriously though, for Irina and my complete thoughts on The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 11 head over to Irina’s. If you’ve missed our previous posts they are linked to below and be sure next week to catch our review of episode 12 right here.
With a lot of shows very strongly into their mid-season and some of the shine coming off those that started strongly and some of the weaker shows rallying and finding their feet, I decided it was probably time to take a look at the shows on my watch list this season and see how they were going. Unlike some seasons during 2018, there’s nothing on my watch list I actually actively dislike, which means even the anime vying for the bottom rung of my watch list are actually relatively decent shows even if they aren’t to my personal tastes.
That isn’t to say I’ve got nothing but golden shows on my list. In as much as there’s not a lot I really dislike, there’s not a lot that is making me sit up and take notice. Most shows this season I could watch or not and while I’m having fun part of me feels that as a viewer I was spoiled for choice last season with so many really great anime.
Right now I am following 15 anime and I’m going to count them down from the weakest on my watch list to the anime that might make it to the top for the end of the season. For each anime I’m going to give a brief impression so far and then my prediction for the rest of the season. These are all just my opinions and some of these anime are only 4 or so episodes in, so I’d love to know your take on the Winter Anime so far.
If you don’t want to read the whole post I’m going to try linking to the individual titles so you can check out the ones you are interested in. Hopefully it works.
There’s not much to say about this one. It isn’t a particularly good anime and the narrative so far has been told out of order for no reason that I can figure out other than to be annoying. The characters are pretty shallow and so far the exploration of the premise has been woefully underdeveloped.
I know, I said that I wasn’t watching anything really bad. And Grimms Notes isn’t. Watching it is kind of just numbing really. What kept it in my line-up at all is the fact that there is a potentially interesting premise at the core of this anime and if they get around to exploring it and the characters develop a bit and their motives are made clear, this has the potential to be really interesting. At the moment it isn’t, but it also isn’t unwatchable, so for now it can sit at the bottom of my watch list.
Prediction: This probably won’t improve and I’ll ask at the end of the season why I didn’t drop it.
Images from: Grimms Notes. Dir. S Shizutaka. Brain’s Base. 2019.
Number 14: Endro
This one was recommended to me by Cactus Matt. I’d actually passed on the first episode based on the art work and the basic write up as it didn’t seem like it was something I’d enjoy. In honesty, it isn’t really my kind of thing, but there are enough interesting points that I don’t dislike watching it, and I actually feel like it is getting more interesting as it progresses.
The main cast here are actually reasonably fun to spend time with when they are doing something (I’ll pass on anymore pyjama parties though) and the quests they go on are amusing enough. The fantasy elements are kind of fun and the comedy isn’t too eye-roll worthy. All and all, this one is actually just kind of pleasant but for me fairly forgettable.
Prediction: Either this will continue to be pleasant enough but unremarkable or we may take a downward turn if they up the comedy and slice of life aspects but minimise the adventuring. I guess we’ll see.
Images from: Endro! Dir. Kaori. Studio Gokumi. 2019.
Number 13: Boogiepop wa Warawanai
Frankly, Boogiepop wa Warawanai is a mess of frustrating narrative and bland visuals. But from a core concept point of view this one is something I should enjoy. Which is probably what makes it so frustrating is you can actually see a really interesting story bubbling underneath dull conversations and forgettable characters.
I’d really like to like this one more but at the moment I’m watching more out of hope for improvement than any expectation of it. Then again, even if it doesn’t improve noticeably, it is an interesting idea and one that I’m not going to regret watching (at least I hope not).
Prediction: I’ll be an optimist and hope this one makes my top ten by the end of the season because it just got that little bit better and utilised its strengths.
Images from: Boogipop wa Warawanai (2019). Dir. S Natsume. Madhouse. 2019.
Number 12: Kaguya-Sama Love is War
This one, I’m not loving the concept of. It is a beautifully produced anime, visually impressive, with a great score, but I’m just not feeling it. It doesn’t help that I’m not a comedy fan in the first place and that I find the central conceit of this anime ridiculous, nor does it help that so far most of the schemes have either been predictable or ludicrous.
Still, this one is actually getting a little better as it goes (something readers of the source have been insisting would happen since the start) and there’s a possibility of continued improvement. My main hope would be that the two main characters actually start to feel like characters and not caricatures and that would increase my enjoyment of this a lot more or less instantly.
Prediction: Again, I’ll be optimistic and hope that this one continues slowly getting better and maybe it will end up in the top ten by the end of the season.
Images from: Kaguya Sama: Love Is War. Dir. S Omata. A-1 Pictures. 2019.
Number 11: Meiji Tokyo Renka
Meiji Tokyo Renka has actually been rather surprising so far. I honestly expected something like Sengoku Night Blood or Libra of Nil Admirari neither or which was particularly noteworthy but both were watchable. However, Meiji Tokyo Renka has so far managed to make Mei, the protagonist, relatively interesting for a harem protagonist and I’m liking that they seem to be doing something with the premise.
Certainly this anime has its share of generic harem tropes and it isn’t exactly jumping to the top of my list, but I’m certainly actually enjoying watching it so far and it has the potential to get better as the season progresses.
Prediction: I think this one will sit right about here on the list. Even if it uses all its narrative potential the central premise here isn’t as interesting as some others and the overall production isn’t amazing. That said, I think it will stay entertaining.
Images from: Meiji Tokyo Renka. Dir. A Daichi. TMS Entertainment. 2019.
Number 10: Sword Art Online Alicization
I’m a little disappointed that this one is placing so low but realistically after a lot of set up in the first arc, this second arc has been trying to bury us under exposition and honestly the plot doesn’t seem to be moving anywhere very quickly and I’m not entirely sure I like a Kirito who sermonises more than hits things with his sword. All and all, Alicization isn’t really working for me.
There are certainly still moments of cool to be found in this series and that is what has kept it in the top ten (even if it is scraping the bottom). However we’ve come a long way from the Aincrad Arc and at this point I’m really convinced Aincrad was where Sword Art Online should have begun and ended. I really enjoy that story and while I like these characters, they’ve been suffering from increasing diminished returns ever since. Except Asuna who shone in the Mother Rosaria arc but she’s all but vanished from sight at this point.
Prediction: Disappointment? I think this will slide further down the list before it gets better. I’ll happily be wrong though.
Images from: Sword Art Online Alicization. Dir. M Ono. A-1 Pictures. 2018.
Number 9: My Roommate is a Cat
I do not believe I went in to this one with any expectations but for a slice of life story about a socially awkward author adopting a cat because he’s inspired to write a story despite no knowing how to look after a cat, this one is pretty adorable. The central gimmick of the cat getting to narrate the events of the episode from its perspective at the end each week works well enough and while this one isn’t exactly amazing, I’ve kind of found my relaxation viewing each week.
Alright, a lot of the draw for me is actually the author, Subaru. For some people they just find him rude and off-putting in the first couple of episodes but I actually kind of related to him fairly quickly and kind of saw his point when he was annoyed at his editor for dragging him out to a noisy place to talk when there really wasn’t any need to do so.
Prediction: This one is cute and relaxing but that’s about all so I’m doubting this will move any higher up the list unless something else seriously falls apart. That said, I’m not expecting this to really move down the list either as it has been pretty consistent so far.
Images from: My Roommate is a Cat. Dir. K Suzuki. Zero-G. 2019.
Number 8: The Morose Mononokean
Season one of The Morose Mononokean was kind of happy nothingness. I like yokai stories so I enjoyed it well enough but it wasn’t overly remarkable. Still there were a lot of potential plot points left unexplored and it has been an absolute delight seeing them being explored and expanded upon so far in season two. It is everything I could have hoped for from a follow up to this series.
I also think it looks a bit better this season though that might just be the distance between season one and two talking. Either way, so far season two of this has done an excellent job at looking at the characters and the lore of the underworld and I’m really curious to learn more about how everything works. Plus, more fuzzy.
Prediction: I wouldn’t have picked this one as a potential season favourite prior to watching it – more casual nothingness. However, if things continue to develop the way they are… This one has a lot of potential to rise up this list.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has been up and down for me since the beginning. I wasn’t a huge fan of it but it slowly won me over and built on its strengths. The mid-season point, so the start of Winter 2019, was actually really solid. But we’ve since had a lot of talking and meetings and its been awhile since anything really exciting has happened.
Realistically, this one isn’t going to be topping my must watches any time soon, but on balance it has remained pretty fun to watch and given the absolute lack of stakes or tension it is pretty relaxing to tune into each week. That said, it is also hard to really care about where it is going.
Prediction: This will hover around here for the remainder of the season and whether or not it manages another emotional highlight, like Shizu’s death or the defeat of the orc lord, may determine whether it goes up a few spots before the end.
Images from: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Dir. Y Kikuchi. 8Bit. 2018.
Number 6: Domestic Girlfriend
Really wasn’t expecting this one to place so high on the list and yes it is full of teen melodrama, enough to rival any soap opera, and no it isn’t overly logical and it does rely heavily on coincidence. What it does right though is make me actually care about the central trio (or at least two out of three) and want them to find some way to be happy at the end of all of this.
It kind of helped this along that it was nowhere near as trashy as the title and promo images made it look which automatically made me more favourable toward it (low expectations always help a show along). That and some of the characters have actually made some good decisions in amongst the melodrama that have surprised me. All and all, hardly a perfect anime but one that I’m kind of hooked on this season.
Prediction: One of two things will happen. Either this show will manage a beautiful emotional ending or it will completely implode. I’d love the former but I suspect the latter.
Images from: Domestic Girlfriend. Dir. S Ibata. Diomedea. 2019.
Number 5: The Price of Smiles
Of all the anime titles this season, this is the one I’m probably the least sure about. The first episode was interesting enough but relatively unimpressive. Since then, it has managed to really make me care about the characters despite the limited screen time some have had, and I’m interested in the conflict, but the anime as a whole is still a little bit rocky.
I think this one has a lot of potential but it all depends on where they take the story and if they actually get around to doing anything with the questions they are raising. Also, whether or not these characters actually learn anything at all from their experiences. It’s really hard to tell at this point if this anime has the strength of writing to get this right or not.
Prediction: I’d like to be hopeful but I suspect we may just have a show that kills off its characters toward the end in order to make for a tragic ‘war is bad’ kind of message rather than any actual narrative depth.
Images from: Egao no Daika. Dir. T Suzuki. Tatsunoko Production. 2019.
Number 4: The Rising of the Shield Hero
Well, this one certainly made a contentious start to the season. For me The Rising of the Shield Hero has done exactly what I expected having read the light novels. It isn’t great but it isn’t bad and so far the adaptation has it all the notes it has needed to even if it isn’t exactly the same as the source – though given how many versions the story has gone through all ready it would next be the question of which one.
Where Shield Hero is succeeding for me and why it is so high on my list is that it seems to have made Naofumi’s character a little more tolerable even in the early stages of the story, while still making him flawed enough that a redemption story is needed. Plus, Raphtalia is just kind of awesome. I’m having a lot of fun watching this one and looking forward to more.
Prediction: Not sure how much material they will cover in 25 episodes or whether we’ll end on a good resting point, but I do know that the novels meander a bit so this one may very well sink a little on this list despite generally thinking I’ll enjoy it.
I suspect already that this one is not going to last in the top 5 by the end, however I’m leaving it here for now for the simple reason that I’m glad an anime that is deciding to put teenage girls through trauma is then actually interested in examining how trauma affects people. Some of the things anime characters go through and just kind of shrug off with no lingering impact is kind of insane so dealing with the real ongoing trauma as Asuka tries to integrate into a normal life, was actually kind of great.
Though a single concept within a story can’t keep it as a must watch unless it does something else. Visually, this one is a bit hit and miss but there are some beautiful sequences. The characters have so far been the strength of the show but the villains are a little weakly developed at this point. There’s a lot that might be amazing about this and a lot that could go wrong so we’ll see where it ends up at the end of the season.
Prediction: I don’t think this will stay in the top 5 but I do think I’ll be glad I gave it a watch this season.
Images from: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. Dir. H Yamamoto. LIDENFILMS. 2019.
Number 2: The Promised Neverland
Such a promising, suspenseful and beautifully directed start to the Promised Neverland. While I will admit we’ve gradually been winding back the praise on this one, it was still a first episode well worth watching because so few anime manage that much characterisation, world building and intrigue in twenty minutes. Plus, the directions of this series has so far been really interesting though even that aspect seems to be winding down.
I’m definitely with this one for the season and in terms of genre it is doing a great job of keeping my interest. Now that the anime is far enough ahead I’ve read the first volume of the manga and my interest is even more piqued by the potential for this plot. Still, there’s been some shaky characterisation in the last couple of episodes and that gorgeous direction seems to be giving way to more pedestrian approaches. It will be interesting to see if this one can hold its nerve to the end.
Prediction: This one may not stay quite so high on my list but it would have to make a serious downward turn to leave my top 5. Very much recommend trying this one.
Images from: The Promised Neverland. Dir. M Kanbe. CloverWorks. 2019.
Number 1: Run With The Wind
I do not think I ever believed that a sports anime (other than Yuri On Ice) would be topping my watch list and yet Run With The Wind has managed to build from strength to strength over its season. I doubt it is going to derail now and it has been exception at building up the cast of characters despite the large number of them. Add in great sound design and some interesting visual choices and we have a very solid anime.
I like that this anime doesn’t seem willing to bite off more than it can chew. It knows what it is and it isn’t trying to be anything more than that. But it is working hard to deliver the story of these boys coming together as a team in an interesting manner and so far it has largely succeeded (though Kakeru’s back story dragged on a little too long). I’m very much caught up in this story at this point and hopefully it will nail the ending.
Prediction: This may not finish number one but it will definitely be up the top of my list. Consistent delivery of quality character work and competent narrative makes this an easy recommend.
Continuing on from last week where I looked at my top 5 favourite female yokai, this week we have my top 5 male yokai. I must admit, my first draft had a lot fox yokai on the list and even the revised version hasn’t really fixed that issue. Apparently I like foxes. Anyway, as always, I’d love to know who you would include on your list so please leave a comment below.
Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.
Honourable mention this week goes to Kappa from Nurarihyon.
Okay, I nearly chose Fuzzy from this list but ultimately had to go with Yahiko. Seriously, this fox is so cute and his desire to play hide and seek is adorable (okay, potentially deadly but still pretty cute). Admittedly, the fact that Yahiko was introduced as a potential big bad and then quickly degenerated into the little brother type character that just wants all the attention is probably the reason Yahiko isn’t further up the list.
Yeah, I know technically they want to say Kuro is a demon but I’m still including him as a yokai. There really isn’t much to explain with this choice. Kuro is my favourite character from Blue Exorcist. Fiercely loyal and yet definitely a cat, Kuro manages to steal pretty much every scene he is in.
Our fast talking, trouble seeking tanuki, Yasaburo had to be on the list. He’s just such a great character even before you consider the fact that he is a shape changing tanuki. As the third of four brothers he is pretty content to drift through life looking for things to make his days ‘interesting’. Despite that, he’s pretty loyal to his family when it matters and most of the time he cleans up the mess he makes (mostly). I absolutely adore spending time with Yasaburo.
Now, how could I overlook Tomoe, the fox who serves as a land god’s familiar. He is rude, occasionally foul mouthed, and extremely short tempered, but also incredibly loyal and ultimately a fairly lonely character seeking acceptance. Not to mention incredibly powerful and needs to be given how often his human-turned-god master Nanami gets herself into trouble.
So what beats a fox familiar, well a 9 Tailed Fox secret service member who uses a sword apparently. Told you there were a lot of foxes on this list. Seriously, the guy is adorable both in his normal suit and when he transforms into a yokai. If it wasn’t for his creepy stalkerish tendencies (I guess he calls that loyalty) he’s be nearly perfect. About the only thing he lacks is the ability to actually have a normal human interaction and eventually he might learn to get around that.
There is my list of my favourite male yokai characters. I’d love to know who you would have included.
Having covered some of the best from 2016 I kind of felt I should look at the shows that weren’t necessarily bad but ended up being disappointing before I move on to non-2016 specific lists. Actually, this was probably the hardest list to write because there were just so many shows that had so much potential and they just never delivered. My selection criteria this week was that the show still had to be functional as a show (so probably not one of my worst of the year shows) but due to execution it just hasn’t pulled off what it might have aspired to be. Some of these shows are actually pretty good as they are, but they had the potential to be better. Obviously this is a highly subjective list so feel free to list your disappointments in the comments below.
Please Note – There will be spoilers below.
Honourable mentions go to: Trickster, 91 Days and Joker Game.
Number 5: Food Wars Season 2
Okay, I already know some people are going to dislike this choice but honestly I found this second season a severe let down. Individual moments in season 2 still capture some of the fun energy of season 1 but the competition just drags on and on and to be honest I’m just not that interested in watching continuous cook offs with some of my least favourite characters from the show. It would have been great to spend more time with the support cast and more time just having character moments rather than watching an endless array of food preparation (which I know is a petty complaint given it is a show about cooking).
Number 4: The Morose Mononokean
I’ll admit, my disappointment with this show was entirely my fault. Right from the start it reminded me of Natsume but never quite captured the magic Natsume had and the comparison didn’t do this show any favours. Going forward though this show didn’t really manage to create its own identity and seemed content with being watchable rather than ever really striving for more. Key moments of tension were deliberately wasted and the characters never really got fleshed out beyond a few hints that there were other stories to be told. All and all, this show has a cool premise, is really pretty, is perfectly pleasant and watchable but is equally pretty forgettable.
Number 3: Flip Flappers
I’m surprised as well that this is only number 3 but I guess the reason this didn’t disappoint me more on reflection is because I kind of predicted from the start that unless this show managed to pull everything together it was kind of going to be pretty but not a lot else. When that ultimately happened I was still disappointed but not surprised. Flip Flappers, the early episodes, is fun, energetic and visually stunning. Unfortunately, eventually they have to try to explain why anything is happening and then they feel the need to introduce an antagonist who serves no real purpose and seems to undermine a lot of what they had built in the series. While there are definitely worse shows out there, the way this ends I just don’t see the point in watching it.
Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch
This one took me by surprise. I really expected this to be one of the shows I would recommend from 2016 after the first 2 episodes. Unfortunately from that point forward the show continued to slide into deep mediocrity. It wouldn’t be fair to say it actually becomes bad because if you compare it to something like Big Order or Taboo Tattoo, Izetta works as a narrative, is visually appealing, and has a range of semi-interesting characters who mostly serve their function. My disappointment again comes from my own expectations on the show but these were built by the first two episodes. It promised one thing and then stripped that away and gave us a watered down version of it. Also, I really didn’t like the introduced antagonist late in the series (so it has that in common with Flip Flappers).
Number 1: Kiznaiver
I really, really wanted to like Kiznaiver. A medical experiment on students to force them to share each others’ pain sounded like a great premise for a story. And there are some really good moments in Kiznaiver but the overall narrative kind of devolves into we should all make friends kind of thing and the experiment itself is mostly nonsense and serves no real purpose. Again, this anime is perfectly watchable and some people really enjoyed it, but I just kept wanting more from it than it was willing to give and so I finished this series deeply disappointed.
Ashiya Hanae picks up what he thinks is a bag on the side of the road, however it turns out to be a yokai who becomes attached to him (quite literally for awhile). Desperate to be free of it, Ashiya turns to an exorcist (who turns out to be a class mate). Now, Ashiya has to work to pay off his debt and in the meantime he is learning about the yokai who live in the world.
I reviewed this week to week so if you are after individual episode thoughts click here.
It’s never fair to judge a show by comparing it to others. Mostly because even if it is not as good as another show, that doesn’t stop it from being a good show. Unfortunately, right from the beginning this show reminded me of a cross between Natsume Yuujinchou and Ghost Hunt and it didn’t really do either of those shows justice.
So, other than my disappointment that The Morose Mononokean didn’t follow along with my predetermined view of what it should be, what is there to say about it?
Ashiya and Abeno are both kind of interesting characters. Ashiya’s a little shouty at times and suffers from that affliction that hits so many protagonists of having to have everything fit within their narrow view of the world or fight against it (leading to awkward apologies when they realise that not everyone who isn’t following their moral compass is actually doing something wrong). Abeno on the other hand is a little too stoic and needs to try communicating occasionally to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. That said, the two together kind of balance each other out nicely and if the show had only had one or the other it could have been a train-wreck right from the get-go. Both of these characters are needed.
The problem is that both of these characters keep being set up to have an interesting past or some sort of secret and none of this is ever dealt with. We get a little tiny bit of Abeno’s history but we are still missing a lot of pieces and any foreshadowing that Ashiya has some sort of hidden power comes to nothing (though would have been actually kind of cool). Admittedly, if the story continues in another season then there is plenty of places to go but if that is it (other then a read that manga kind of finish) then the characters really didn’t go far in terms of development.
The yokai that are introduced are all kind of entertaining in a monster of the week kind of way, however as the show is obsessed with not actually villainising anyone or anything there is little to no tension in the encounters no matter how bad they try to make a situation look early on. After the first two or three false alarms you just kind of expect that there is in fact no danger and that it will all solve itself no problem. That said, Fuzzy is one of the most adorable characters I’ve met for sometime.
There’s also a raft of support cast (including class mates, Ashiya’s mother, the Legislator, etc) who are introduced but have so little screen time that their overall impact is pretty negligible even though some of these characters might have been really interesting to learn a bit more about.
I know I said this a number of times during episode reviews but it always felt like this show was keeping us at a distance from the actual story. It was as though they wanted to give us a taste of this world but then wouldn’t really let us get into it.
From a plot point of view it is very monster of the week. There’s the overall relationship between Ashiya and Abeno and Ashiya working for Abeno but otherwise they take on a job, run around a bit, argue a bit, and then solve the case (usually making a friend) and then they move. This is a fairly standard plot structure for these type of shows and it works well enough but every now and then an actual sense of danger or drama might have helped.
Visually it isn’t anything special but I found it kind of pretty and I liked the character designs. The underworld particularly was quite striking and I enjoyed the scenes that took place there.
All and all, this is a watchable bit of entertainment but it isn’t particularly good or bad. My recommendation is to watch it on a rainy afternoon when you just want to relax and it will succeed at amusing you. That’s about it though.
The episode is called ‘The End’ and while it certainly ended the crisis with Ashiya’s vision it didn’t really offer any other insight or resolution. That and they kind of just gathered every character together and used their emotions to solve the problem. Really? Anyway, the final episode ends much the way the show has gone all the way along. It’s as if we are just continuing to skim over the top of a much more interesting story but at the same time being given enough that we keep coming back. I haven’t heard any news of a season 2 at this stage so I guess we’ll just have to be satisfied with a ho-hum story of two human boys learning to find the balance between human and yokai.