2018 was another big year in anime however looking back there just weren’t that many anime I’d rewatched. Still, there were enough for the list and I have a great variety of titles here. When looking at choices for my list of anime 2018, I found it hard to narrow down.
Unfortunately the super cute and education Cells at Work didn’t make the final list (Platelets!), no did Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (which has less impact on a rewatch). Tsurune was the other anime I considered but unfortunately it went head to head with that other sports anime I liked from 2018 so didn’t quite make the cut.
No. 1: No sequels of any kind.
No. 2: Only one anime from each season which gave me 4 picks from each year.
No. 3: Other than 2019 anime, no matter how brilliant an anime was if I hadn’t rewatched it since it aired then it didn’t make the list. If I don’t like it enough to watch it more than once then it doesn’t deserve to be on an anime of the decade list.
Incidentally these anime are not the technical best anime of their seasons but are the ones I would pick if I could only watch one anime from that season. They are anime I loved, for whatever reason, and felt deserved to be remembered.
Favourite anime 2018 edition.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens in the story of a group of characters who are all involved in the dark underbelly of Hakata city where apparently the majority of people are hitmen or similar (it makes no logical sense for that many to be in one city but let’s just go with the setting). In the first episode we meet Lin who is hired/coerced into killing Banba but instead ends up offering to protect him until his boss coughs up more money and so the story begins.
This one is a mix of dark subject matter and murder with an overly upbeat and jazzy tone over the top so it won’t work for everyone and it isn’t as zany or fun as stories like Baccano that came out the decade before. Still, I definitely appreciated what this anime had to offer.
The ensemble cast all bring something to the table, the weird mix of professional killers and hobby baseball team kind of works, and the music is great. The story is broken into a couple of distinct arcs, some stronger than others, and that makes it very easy to digest. Definitely not for those who don’t like blood or violence as why it isn’t horrifically gory, there are some confrontational images.
Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori
I wonder if two titles could be any more contrasting. After Hakata Tokotsu Ramens, Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori with its slice of life/hang out with handsome anime guys serving great anime food vibe couldn’t be any more different. Everything about Rokuhoudou is soothing and relaxing. These guys make coffee or tea and serve an assortment of customers in the gorgeous setting of their cafe. They do go to another location at one point to promote their services but by and large you are going to get to just bliss out in one of the prettiest anime cafes ever.
This anime is my comfort food and I’ve watched it more than once since it aired when I found myself stressed out as it is really impossible to feel stress while absorbed in this anime. This one isn’t going to change the world but it is definitely an anime I was glad I came across when I did.
Banana Fish is one of the few anime I went out of my way to watch despite it not being available on the services I normally use. By and large that was because everything about the write up to this anime appealed to me and honestly it didn’t disappoint. While the overall narrative is logically implausible and despite efforts at updating certain elements of the story there’s clear issues where the story has become dated in places, this one was a great watch. Okay, it was also a fairly emotional viewing experience and not for the faint of heart with its core of sexual abuse, gang violence and drug development.
What makes this anime more than just a sensationalist splash in amongst so many anime that want to tackle dark subject matter is the relationship that develops between the protagonists Ash and Eiji. Watching the two grow closer together, the mutual trust they place in each despite the situation they are in, and the way they look out for one another is a truly beautiful experience and one I wouldn’t have missed.
Run With The Wind
I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion on this blog that I’m not really into sporting anime. Run With The Wind is the only sports anime that made the final cut for this list as I look at my favourite anime from the last decade. It did this because it developed some really solid characters with the teammates, had some fantastic visual and sound direction (seriously, the sound direction deserves recognition), and gave us a solid and satisfying conclusion at the beginning of 2019. The only criticism I’ll lob at this one is that it is a slow burn initially. Worth it but definitely slow going in the early part of the season.
While Run With The Wind gives us a different kind of team dynamic to the usual sports club story it really gave us the time to get to know the ten members of the team and what ended up driving them whether they joined up for the team willingly or not. This slow development of character comes to fruition in the final handful of episodes where we see the ‘event’ they were training for in full and each character has a moment to shine and conclude their character arc. It is well worth the time to check out this anime.
For those who followed my episodic reviews you will already know it took me awhile to get into this series. The opening episodes, while there were some really pretty animations, didn’t really grab me as we set up a fairly standard team sport anime. We had Haiji, the pushy driver of the group getting the team together with his vision of them running some marathon, and then we had the assortment of motley characters who would ultimately come together as a team. It was all very ordinary and I didn’t really like Haiji as a character, but something kept me watching.
I’m really glad for whatever that something was. Run With The Wind ended up being an extraordinary emotional experience and by the end I was smiling and crying and just wanting to cheer with these boys. It isn’t that this anime broke any new ground or did anything a whole pile of sports anime haven’t done before, it was more the execution of its elements. Giving this anime its two cours to develop these characters and the team and leading us to the race that they had been training for and giving that race the episodes it needed to play out so that we could see how each character had really grown throughout the series really paid off and while it might be just another sports anime, this one really hit me where it needed to.
It is unusual for me but I want to start reviewing this anime by discussing the sound design. I specifically discussed this in my episode 11 review, but really Run With the Wind was a standout anime for how it used sound. Whether it was music or ambient sound the choices were always extremely fitting for the scene and highly effective at conveying the tone or emotion of the moment. It is very rare for me to pay that much attention to the sound but Run With The Wind is one anime where it pays off and while it might be a little heavy handed it is a major contributing factor in explaining why I was so swept away by events in each episode.
Equally, Run With The Wind new when to put its effort into the visuals. While it wasn’t used in every single race, there were several moments throughout the series, particularly when Kakeru was running, that the anime went all out to visually represent the beauty of his running or his connection with the wind. They are scenes that just draw you in and leave you breathless but they aren’t overused or intrusive. It would have been tempting to put such visual effects over each runner or to use it every time Kakeru ran but the restraint shown meant that each instance really stood out and had impact.
For the rest of the visuals, these are adequate with each of the ten boys having an interesting enough character design and the animation being on point. I was impressed by the races where most of the characters still seemed suitably animated even if a little too regular in their movement but there weren’t a huge number of still shots and panning which a lot of anime would have done rather than animating the crowd of runners.
All and all, the production is pretty solid for Run With The Wind and that complements a narrative that is basic but well paced and delivered and characters who each have an arc that works and ties in nicely with the story.
I’m not going to argue that this story or the characters are revolutionary or something we haven’t seen before. If you watch a lot of sport or club anime you’ve seen everything here before. However it is delivered competently and ultimately the experience is fairly rewarding.
Haiji was perhaps my greatest surprise. Starting as a character archetype I find quite grating, by the end of the series, while I’m still not thrilled at how he enlisted the others, I found him a fairly charming character. His leg of the race was one that really made me smile and I celebrated with him, which is something I wouldn’t have believed early on in the story. It wasn’t that Haiji changed all that much throughout. It was more that the anime took the time to flesh him out and make him feel like a real person. Sure he was pushy at the beginning and they never try to pretend that didn’t happen, but they give him a motive that makes sense and allow even him to second guess his own actions and to consider where he’s really going. It helps to really begin to appreciate what he was trying to do and why by the end.
Equally, Kakeru begins as your fairly standard character archetype. The highly talented runner who has quit due to some trauma from his previous club. He initially clashes with everyone. Haiji because he doesn’t really want to run with the club and with everyone else because of their inexperience with running and their attitude toward it. His character journey is also pretty standard and honestly drawn out too long. While I like where he ended up, I feel they could have resolved some of his arc a bit sooner than they did and that’s probably my main complaint from this series.
However, each character needs to be looked at individually. Where they all start as just background noise and additional numbers for the club, by the end they have each become a character in their own right and one that for whatever reason the audience has become attached to. It is an extraordinary effort that Run With The Wind has taken to give each character sufficient moments that there is a connection formed before the final race and then each character concludes their character arc as they run their leg.
Honestly, if you didn’t give Run With The Wind a go when it was airing, this is an anime that is well worth the time. While it is slow to really get going it is a journey that is rewarding and with great sound and visual design it is an anime that is truly worth watching.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
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.
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.
There are very few anime that know exactly how many episodes they need to tell a story. That makes for dry middle stretches, rushed openings, dragged out sequences, non-endings, rushed endings, or series that just kind of limp along until they fall over in the final episode. Run With The Wind has happily ignored that trend and managed to tell a story about a team of ten characters and only in minor parts felt like it was belabouring a point rather than moving along at the needed pace to keep things from getting too dry.
While I’ll look more at the overall pacing and tone of the series in my full series review, a review I am very excited to write, I will just note here that 23 episodes is exactly what this story needed and it used its time wisely. While there were the occasional segments or sub-plots that were either a little stretched out or characters that didn’t quite get the focus they needed, considering the vat cast, this anime managed to accomplish a lot and maintained excellent quality of presentation while it did it.
But none of that reviews this specific episode which gives us everything we’ve come to love from Run With The Wind as well as absolute closure on the boys journey to run in Hakone and what happens next for the team. The final leg of the journey is run by Haiji and it is right that he brings the race to a close for the team given he’s the driving force behind it.
However, that doesn’t take anything away from Kakeru’s amazing achievement in this episode. As the second last runner of the team he caught up an enormous amount of time and even broke the section record that had literally only just been broken. For Kakeru’s personal journey to find a reason to run and to enjoy running again it was such a great moment.
And great moments were to be found in abundance as we had the team cheering as Haiji finished. Finding out the outcome of the race and were they ended up overall. Seeing the team coming back together and a montage of what they went on with after the race. Seriously, the episode does everything it needs to do before quietly, and beautifully, coming to an end.
There isn’t much more I could have asked for in this final episode and I’m very please to say that I’m glad I gave Run With The Wind a go. I’m not huge on sports anime, a team of ten seemed a little excessive in terms of trying to characterise, and watching characters run seemed less than thrilling as a prospect when this first started. How wrong I was and I am very happily proven wrong.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
I was surprised that nearly half of this episode of Run With The Wind ended up being devoted to King and flash backs of King entering the house. Other than his job hunt, King hasn’t had much characterisation within the story and is one of the characters that I didn’t think had a lot to offer.
To a point that is true with little being really revealed. On the other hand, this is kind of a good reflective moment for the audience seeing King accepting his failures and himself while he runs, doing something for the first time really since entering college and doing it with a team of people who are depending on him. it is also a nice calm moment before the sash gets handed over to Kakeru.
Sorry to say to King, but he was a character that was destined to be fairly forgettable out of the group of ten, and it would have been really cruel to have Shindo’s arc and moment directly followed by Kakeru because no matter how great the moment that came before it, Kakeru’s leg of the race was always going to overshadow the bit that came before it. So King played his role well, and that ten minutes didn’t feel dragged or wasted, but it did make the start of Kakeru’s leg even more exciting because of the build up to it. Haiji’s comment on the phone to Kakeru that he was already the best runner was just kind of perfect and to be honest set up some big expectations for the next leg.
And Run With The Wind delivered. Kakeru running has always been kind of compelling to watch, and I don’t even like running. This is always achieved through some visual gimmicks that have been used just enough that it isn’t bizarre when they start occurring in this race, but not often enough to overpower the fairly realistic tone the anime has gone for in most other elements. I really liked the visual effect where it was like Kakeru shed a layer of ice or snow from around his body.
However, more impressive than Kakeru just running is the improved mental state we find this character in. Finally he’s running for the sheer love of it and has found a team he wants to run with. He wants to push himself to go further and faster. While I’m not convinced there won’t be a hiccup at the start of the next episode, this start to Kakeru’s run was truly impressive and everything you could kind of have asked for given the journey so far.
Run With The Wind remains an incredibly impressive anime in how it has put itself together and how it seems to understand its pacing and characters so well and seems to make the best choices for putting them on display.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
So hard to review this episode because the emotional punch of episode 20 obviously wasn’t beaten, nor did the anime try to do so. Run With The Wind hasn’t been big on continuous melodrama beats to keep us watching so after giving us that glorious moment in episode 20, sensibly toned it down but didn’t retreat from building toward the climax of the series.
This episode we had Yuki taking the downhill stretch of the track and I loved his character moment. As the most reluctant (other than Prince) to join the team and the one who fought Haiji hard, to see him tearing down that hill and giving it all he had was a truly amazing thing. What I liked as well was they built in a family moment for him, which tied in neatly with a previous comment he’d made about his relationship with family, but it wasn’t a bit deal or huge drama. It was just there and a moment for the character and something that helps to make all of this feel grounded in reality because all of these characters have other things going on, but they didn’t make a spectacle of it. Anyway, really loved it.
Yuki passes the sash to Hirata (or Nico) who then runs and realises how much he loves running. This is probably the most back story we’ve seen from this character but it ties in beautifully with all the quiet moments we’ve seen previously with him worrying about his size and his weight. Again, not over-dramatised, fit beautifully with what we knew about the character, and gave us just enough to flesh him out and round out his character story as he finally runs his leg.
The sash is passed to King though we don’t get much of this because we hop over to Kakeru who is pretty much declaring he’s going to beat a section record and yet for Kakeru he seems to actually be enjoying running again and friendly competition.
I find it amazing that this anime has managed to build up a team that feels like a team and the camaraderie and all the points that go with teamwork as a theme, but each character has gone on an interesting personal journey. Some of these journey’s have been happening quietly in the background but they’ve been there and as the final stretch shows each character finally running their leg we get closure on each of these personal stories.
It really is a remarkable story and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting caught up in. I’m going to be very sad to see this one leave my watch list at the end of the season.
There’s a definite trend for anime that start slowly or have a lull in the mid-section to be defended by staunch lovers of the source material using the phrase ‘it gets better’. Usually with a ‘trust me’ thrown in there as well. This is “the Promise of Later” and I’ve kind of used it myself with Saihate no Paladin because such an epic story needs time to get up and off the ground.
So often times it is actually quite correct in that the story does find its feet and pick itself up. However, does that actually make the story any better in the first place if the only way to defend it in the early days is to argue that something better is coming?
I guess we could point out that viewers these days are fairly impatient beings and with so many anime available to them each season it is easy enough to simply not want to play a waiting game. Why wait for one title to ‘get better’ when another title simply is ‘better’?
Now, I know I am an impatient person. Given I’ve suggested things like skipping the first 100 pages when reading To Kill a Mockingbird as you won’t appreciably miss any of the plot by doing so, though you will lose a lot of character and world building. I guess it depends why you are reading the story in the first place and whether you really get immersed in all that set up or just keep turning pages to see when the ‘plot’ might appear.
But yes, that book tried my patience to no end and even though the trial and the message in the second half of the book are actually pretty solid, I really felt like I wanted the time spent reading the opening act back.
However, I’m perfectly happy to wait a reasonable length into a series with an interesting premise for it to find its feet even if the opening act isn’t exactly blowing me away.
Does the promise of later sway your decisions?
Of course, that results in me watching quite a number of anime that just never find their feet and end as boringly as they started, or worse, they go in weird directions and just kind of implode. Caligula would probably fit into this category. I didn’t drop it even though there were plenty of poor episodes early on and plenty of warning that it was going to be a mess. However, I wanted to give it time to find its way and finish its set up. Too bad it never got any better.
Yet there comes a time during a season where you have to wonder if the time being sunk into watching is actually going to be worth a later payoff. In the case of Sakurada Reset, it turns out it really was. Now, I still don’t fully recommend Sakurada Reset to any but the most avid anime fan given there’s a lot of set-up time and I very nearly walked away from the anime mid-season. But…
See, there’s that ‘but’.
It gets better.
The ending of Sakurada Reset was one of the most satisfying narrative conclusions I’ve seen in anime and while it isn’t the best, by any means, I felt that all of the set up time, the weird stilted dialogue, the seemingly disjointed stories, and the general frustration felt while watching individual episodes of the story, were worth it for that ending. Everything came together in a way that so few shows manage and it just felt like reaching the summit of a mountain and getting the most gorgeous view imaginable.
Still, if someone else were to watch the first few episodes and tell me they dropped it, I would fully understand. I would try to argue that they should be more patient and give it more time because it is quite the slog to get through and I remember how tiresome some of those mid-season episodes were.
There’s also Run With The Wind, that has built up to a second half that is truly unmissable. Yet would I blame anyone from walking away in the first half? When I hated one character entirely for a large chunk of the first cour, didn’t really connect with a lot of the others, and found the training sequences less than compelling and it was really only direction, visuals and sound design that really kept me hooked (and Prince as he has some of the coolest lines imaginable).
I really can’t say that everyone is going to think that the ending is worth it (particularly as we aren’t yet at the end). What I will say is I am super glad I kept watching because wow that has been one of the best emotional payoffs in a long time from anime.
But I’ll turn my attention to Sword Art Online Alicization. I was really looking forward to more SAO, and not a spin-off without Kirito, but genuine SAO. Alicization as an arc has been talked up by those who have read the source so much so even though I tried to go in with reasonable expectations, there was this sense that what was coming should be amazing.
First few episodes had their moments. They got me into the story and established characters. There were sufficient cool and nostalgic moments sprinkled in. Yep, this was SAO and I like SAO and Kirito was back doing his thing. It wasn’t like Aincrad which hooked me from episode one and dragged me into a story that I ended up loving, but it was certainly a promising beginning.
Then we just kind of meandered along. Stuff has happened to be sure but if the recap episode after episode 18 was anything to go by, not enough to justify 18 episodes worth of viewing. And as more and more chinks in the poorly paced and exposition heavy narrative become completely impossible to ignore, the defence that is being mounted is ‘it gets better’.
How much better and will it be worth the time commitment? Well only time and personal judgement will answer that.
Will I drop Sword Art Online Alicization? Probably not. I like Sword Art Online and much like Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card, nostalgia will get this show a lot of life-lines and keep me watching and hoping.
But if I was asked whether or not someone should start Alicization, would I actually recommend it?
Right now the answer is absolutely not, unless you happen to be a huge fan of SAO and just want more. There are significantly better written and better executed shows airing right now and while Sword Art Online Alicization remains a watchable experience there is very little I could point to that would be something I could recommend to anyone who isn’t a Kirito fan already.
The argument ‘it gets better’ just seems a little hollow here.
Ultimately, each viewer is going to make their own decision about how much time they are willing to give something. Whether they will stick with something for the long haul or whether they will cut their losses early. Each viewer will decide whether the promise of something better later is worth what they are watching right now. But I am interested to know from my readers how you feel about the ‘it gets better’ defence and whether you feel it has merit as a means of recommending someone continues to watch something or whether you are someone who drops things fast when they don’t deliver.
Leave us a comment below and lets get the conversation started.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
I seldom throw the word ‘perfect’ around when describing an anime. Or even a particular episode of an anime. Mostly because there’s usually something that could be improved. And that is true here as well with episode 20 of Run With The Wind. Jota’s opening part of this episode was quite weak, as is his character in general, and yet… when thinking back on the episode as a whole… Perfect.
Anime has given us the new face of determination. Of never giving up or surrendering. And it isn’t some shouty shounen protagonist or overpowered fighter who will win the day regardless of how many buckets of blood they just left all over the ground before they picked up their sword again.
No, the face of determination, the most inspiring character I’ve come across since Winter last year when Hina and Rei blew me away with their character arcs in March Comes in Like a Lion, is Shindo from Run With The Wind. A quiet achiever and support character who isn’t the best at the sport, but was one of the first to decide to give it a go and try. One of the hardest workers at collecting support for the team and keeping the website going. Someone who has quietly supported each and every member of the team at one point or another.
A character who despite having a fever ran twenty kilometres up a mountain range and never gave up. He lost ground and time, was over taken, nearly collapsed on more than one occasion (and I think he did collapse at one point) and yet he had made a commitment to his team mates so for him giving up was not an option.
Shindo, your moment was absolutely perfect in every way. This episode reduced me to tears. Not a single tear or just glassy eyed, but full on sobs. While the episode itself won’t do it, watching the series to this point and realising the character journey to get here and then seeing that strength come shining through, it just hit me so hard.
Yeah, Run With The Wind is definitely going to be my anime of the season.
Run With The Wind continues to be the impressive front runner for the season for me, which surprises me immensely and yet is incredibly satisfying. The race begins for real this week and we watch Prince, Musa, and then Taro as each completes their part of the journey. Each character has had wonderful growth, not just as a runner, and that is impressive given the cast of ten main characters with none of them left feeling neglected.
Still, Prince was the standout, at least for me. He remains the character who gets the best lines and moments, and his request that Haiji not apologised to him for dragging him into running but that Haiji encouraged him the way any of the characters from his manga might be encouraged was just adorable. Seeing Prince make the finish line at all, and to do so in relatively good time (okay he was last but he barely qualified in the first place) was one of those moments that nearly moved me to tears. Then we got the reaction from the rest of the team, cheering on Prince’s achievement and yeah, there were tears to the point I had to pause the episode.
Despite Prince’s excellent showing, Musa and Taro didn’t let themselves be outshone and I think I love that the most about this show. Each character plays their part and steps up to lead the episode when they need to and steps back when it is time for someone else. Both were reflecting on their journey and I must admit I really enjoyed Taro’s run and learning more about his relationship with his brother. And then of course there was Hana showing up in the final stretch.
But, I will warn you if you haven’t already watched the episode, don’t watch the preview. It just sets your heart hurting and there’s a whole week before we’ll find out what happens. Save yourself the pain and just enjoy the episode and then hope against hope that everyone in the team finishes their leg next week.
We caught a little of Haiji’s backstory at the start of this episode of Run With The Wind. They kept it short but gave us enough detail. Part of me wished they had taken a similar approach with Kakeru but that shipped sailed already. It is interesting to note how much I disliked Haiji early on. While I can’t say I approve of him coercing his teammates into joining him to achieve his vision, I must admit Run With The Wind has done an excellent job of giving him motive for acting that way so while I still dislike the action I just can’t bring myself to still dislike Haiji.
We also get a small newspaper scandal this episode dealing with Kakeru’s past. This leads to a fairly angry phone conversation as well as the actual running coach having to do some coach like work to smooth things over. It isn’t a big focus but is rather one of a number of events peppering this episode in the lead up to the race.
There was also a marathon practice in there where we established that the twins and Haiji were kind of making up.
We also celebrate Christamas and New Years with the team through a montage before we finally move to the morning of the race. However, even then, we flash back to Haiji telling the runners where they will be and what leg of the race they are taking.
It almost seems like this episode was frantically packing everything in before beginning the race (though given we’re at episode 18 and there are meant to be 23 episodes I wonder how many episodes of running we’re about to watch). Yet this episode never felt rushed and none of these events felt undervalued. It was the natural culmination of what had come before and the feeling of things moving faster as we got closer to the race itself was really well portrayed by this episode and how they chose to convey these events.
Of course, they can’t just let us enjoy the triumph of finally getting to Hakone. No, Shindo seems to have woken up with the dreaded cold but it looks like he’s determined to get to the race. I can’t imagine the team not finishing the race. At this point I’d suggest that they either finish it despite Shindo’s cold and Haiji’s leg, or it will be Haiji who doesn’t make it to the end rather than the race stopping midway along because one of them doesn’t turn up. Still, they might surprise us.
All and all, this has been a nice dramatic build up and now I’m ready to see this team in action.
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