2019 Winter Anime Half-Time

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Fireworks

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.

Number 15: Grimms Notes

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.

Grimms Notes Episode 2 Ex

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.

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.

Endro Episode 2 Leader

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.

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.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episode 2

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.

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.

Kaguya Sama Episode 2 Shinomiya

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.

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.

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.

Sword Art Online Episode 15 Alicization Kirito

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.

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.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 5 Haru

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.

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.

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 4

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.

Number 7: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

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.

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.

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.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Stella

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.

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.

Number 3: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

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.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - New battlefield

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.

The Promised Neverland Episode 3 The Kids Train

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.

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 12 Kakeru

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.

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They’ll Need Teamwork If They’re Going To Make It To The Top

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Review

I’m going to start with Eugeo and Asuna before dealing with the bulk of this episode which was Alice and Kirito. Basically we don’t know what Eugeo is up to until the final couple of minutes and then we see him slinking around and entering the 90th floor a little worried that he’s on his own for literally the first time ever and then we set up a fight with a knight for next week. Eugeo’s role this week finished. Asuna equally gets sidelined though at least we see her for the first time in episodes. She’s eating and spots a ship that acts a bit weird and I guess this is set up for later but we’ve seen so little of Asuna, have no real clue what she is up to, so there’s just not enough context for me to care about this very brief sequence with her this week.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Eugeo

However, primarily this episode focuses on Kirito and Alice hanging off the side of the tower. Thinking about it logically, the scene makes no sense as Kirito is hanging suspended by one arm from his sword and holding all of Alice + Alice’s Armour’s weight and then later we see him flipping around rods he creates like a champion gymnast before hauling Alice up one level at a time. But, they are in a video game, strength is entirely numbers based, and let’s just not try and care if it fits any version of reality. It was cool enough to watch so let’s just go with it.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Kirito and Alice
If Alice has time to count how many times she’s been insulted, maybe she should try doing something.

He also manages to talk her into a truce for the duration of their time outside the tower. Of course, Kirito winning over yet another girl isn’t a new thing, but considering Alice is brainwashed this seems like a pretty impressive feat and it didn’t really take all that much.

Of course, I guess everyone realised you can’t just have two characters hanging off a tower for an episode and so midway during their climb they encounter some minions who fly around for a bit and then get turned into sushi because Alice and Kirito… Not sure what else anyone was expecting.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 17 Kirito

I did actually enjoy the dynamic between these two and they refrained from any massive exposition dumps, so all and all, this wasn’t a bad episode. More time with Asuna might have been nice (at any point during this series) but I guess that might happen later. Meanwhile, I’m now waiting to find out how Eugeo goes on his first solo fight against a knight.

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They Came, They Rode An Elevator, Now They’ll Fight

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 16 Review

Kirito was warming up his ultimate move last week and this week starts with him unleashing it. I’m going to be honest, for the build up, and given how pretty Eugeo’s skill was, I’m kind of disappointed with black light reaching out across the distance and just kind of brute force overwhelming the opponent. Even more wondering why said opponent flew upward and hit the ceiling given the direction the two forces opposed to each other were pushing (just kind of seemed a little physics breaking). Still, the fight comes to a suitable end just in time for Kirito to sermonise.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 16 Kirito and Eugeo

You know, Kirito was a lot more fun when he was a solo player. Because he helped people but he didn’t bother to explain his reasoning or motives, he just kind of did things and offered very little in the way of justification. Kirito in Alicization is endlessly explaining himself to Eugeo and trying to justify his choices and while it makes sense from the point of view that Eugeo really hasn’t had a lot of exposure to other ideas so kind of needs it, it makes Kirito a really dull and preachy character. We get it, the knights are humans so even though they are enemies you don’t want them to die… blah, blah. Tell us again. Sure, why not.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 16 Eugeo

We then move on to an elevator ride up to the eightieth floor to really hammer home the point that the 100 floor thing was an entirely pointless conceit given we’ve seen exactly 3 of these floors. And guess what, they found Alice.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 16 Elevator

I think this is when I realised that finding Alice had long since moved from being the central goal of this anime. The problem is, I have no attachment to any of their other goals of defeating the administrator and preparing for some upcoming war. For me, the only goal I’m attached to is Eugeo finding Alice and realistically, mission accomplished, you know except the part where she’s still trying to kill them and all.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 16 Alice

Realistically, Kirito’s finishing move on the fiftieth floor didn’t impress but got the job done. The fight with Alice was visually a lot cooler and the cliff-hanger ending works at making me want the next episode now, but as has become usual when watching Alicization, I’m increasingly wondering if the payoff will ever be worth all the set up and I’m finding myself more and more not really caring whether they actually succeed or not. Still, pretty lights, clashing swords, and hyped up music so it works well enough.

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Sword Art Online 9 (light novel) : Alicization Beginning
Sword Art Online 9 (light novel) : Alicization Beginning

Tuesday’s Top 5: Male Anime Characters from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

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

Honourable Mentions:

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

Number 5: Okabe Rintaro from Steins;Gate 0

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

Number 4: Takato from Dakaichi

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

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

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

Number 2: Ash from Banana Fish

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

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

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

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

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Harsh Comparison Of Experience and Naive Ignorance in Battle

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 15 Review

Episode 15 continues directly where the last episode of Alicization left us with Eugeo and Kirito encountering two girls in the tower. Now there girls, like so many people we’ve met in recent episodes, are a little bit messed up in the head due to a tragic and very short back story (yay for not another multi-episode exposition dump). Still, when they drop on the audience that 28 kids were slaughtered in the attempt to perfect resurrection and these two nut-jobs are the only survivors you kind of think that maybe this is an issue the story should actually expand upon.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 15
Wait did you just casually mention kids exploding and this is all the time you are giving this idea?

But no, in the same episode with multiple other issues including a really weird and pointed comment about gender and feelings of inferiority that Sword Art Online does not have the narrative strength to carry off and feel like anything other than a patronising nod at gender politics. Seriously, if they want me to take SAO’s commentary on gender even vaguely seriously they should give Asuna a sword again and let her fight side by side with Kirito. Then I’ll start taking some of this messaging a little more seriously (a little bit, it’s SAO so I’m not exactly looking to it for gender politics).

However, neither of those points, both fairly big points, were what I walked away from the episode wanting to discuss. Instead, my focus is very much on the Eugeo and Kirito dynamic. It was something very early in the episode that shifted my attention to this and despite all these other distractions I never really got off of thinking about it.

Sword Art online Alicization Episode 15 Eugeo, Zel and Nel

At the beginning of the episode, when the two sweet girls on the stairs are introducing themselves, Kirito taps Eugeo on the shoulder, tells him he’s not good with kids and that he should handle it, and then places himself behind Eugeo. This seems like such a weird move for Kirito. You know, Kirito, the guy who picks up every cute girl and gets involved in their business until they are smiling and happy even though he acts like he doesn’t want to get involved. Not to mention, he adopted a program as his and Asuna’s kid. So not being good with kids is a major flag going up that something was going on. I actually replayed the scene to see if I could figure it out and I was really pleased later in the episode when I realised I had pin-pointed what had made Kirito act weirdly. There’s a line that girls say that warns Kirito not all is as it seems and he appropriately takes action (admittedly, he does seem to figure out not just that something is up but just what nature of attack he’s about to face which seems a bit far-fetched, but hey, Kirito).

And that really highlighted something for me between Eugeo and Kirito. During the last episode, Eugeo was the one who ended the fight after Kirito acted as the diversion. Kirito’s role was the more risky one because he had to be able to defend against a full attack while Eugeo prepared, but Kirito managed. However, in all of this, Eugeo has been seen as a fairly solid swordsman in his own right.

Sword Art online Alicization Episode 15 Kirito Fighting

This episode splits the two characters very solidly not on their talent with the sword but on their experience in actual battle. We’ve seen more than once a situation where Eugeo has become emotional in the midst of conflict and we see it again in this fight. We also see that Eugeo isn’t on guard against the two girls even though they are in enemy territory and they are fighting their way to the top. It is here that Kirito’s past, his knowledge and experience, allow him to shine. Even though once the fight begins in earnest, Eugeo plays a critical role, again it is Kirito leading the pace and direction of the battle.

Sword Art Online Episode 15 Alicization Kirito
I wonder if we’ll actually see this attack or if they are just faking us out?

The dynamic between the two characters and Eugeo’s changeable nature as he is new to this environment make for some of the more interesting moments that Alicization has brought to the franchise. Must admit, I really ended up enjoying this episode even with the sheer amount they tried to cram into it and as a result ended up doing a pretty ordinary job of.

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Fire Meets Ice Before The Tower Climb

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Review

A new opening, new outfits, same old story. Kirito and Eugeo recover their swords ridiculously easily but immediately find themselves locked in combat. It’s an improvement from the exposition dumps but still not sure this hit the mark.

The ease with which Kirito and Eugeo get to the armoury and recover their unguarded swords is absurd particularly when they are confronted by a solitary knight immediately on trying to leave the armoury. Seriously, he couldn’t have attacked them before they were armed? And why send just one knight? We learn later there’s a whole bunch of knights waiting on the 50th floor so why not send a couple of them down to take care of the problem before it becomes a problem? And just because Kirito and Eugeo are told there are knights waiting on the 50th floor, why aren’t they at least looking at the other floors to see if there’s anything useful. If we’re not going to even pause on these floors why do they exist?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14
Two things: One, if you are right outside the door why didn’t you stop them getting their swords in the first place? Two, have you never heard of overkill? What is with all those arrows?

This whole set up is so frustrating!

And taking a breath.

Outside of incredibly brainless plot developments resulting in characters acting in idiotic ways, this episode was actually better than the last two (not hard mind you). Still, the fight between Kirito, Eugeo and the Knight was actually pretty well handled and injected some much needed excitement back into the show, and the following conversation didn’t feel too much like yet another exposition dump.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Kirito and Eugeo
I’m glad you two are impressed, now do you plan to actually fight that thing?

We also had a fairly solid character moment from Eugeo. Since he’s been freed from the Taboo Index he hasn’t really been faced with too many moral choices and now he’s confronted by the knight who took Alice away all those years before. While it wasn’t the most nuanced scene ever, seeing Eugeo weighing up his options and make a decision was a fairly interesting moment (though probably would have been more interesting if Eugeo hadn’t chosen the goody-goody route that Kirito follows). So much potential exploration if Eugeo unleashed decided to take the knights out.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Eugeo strikes
I think literally everyone will have this screen cap, but so what. It was a great Eugeo moment.

One final nit-pick though before I let this episode rest; how is it that every time Eugeo and Kirito change outfits they managed to find a pair of perfectly colour coordinated outfits? Here they just raided the armoury and changed clothes and yet Eugeo still has his bright blue and Kirito his standard charcoal. It would be nice, just once, if they through Kirito into red and Eugeo into green or something just to shake things up.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Duos of 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

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

As always though, I’d love to know your picks so please share in the comments below who some of your favourite duos were.

Who were my favourite anime duos of 2018?

Honourable Mentions:

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

Number 5: Ryuichi and Kotaro from School Babysitters

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

Number 4: Kirito and Eugeo from Sword Art Online Alicization

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

Number 3: Banba and Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Karandi James

SAO Now Presents: The Information Dump To Defeat All

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13 Review

For all the readers of the light novels heralded Alicization as the arc that would ‘save’ or ‘fix’ SAO, I have to say 13 episodes in and the anime is not impressing. Mostly because where exposition dumps occurred in earlier seasons of SAO, due to the limited number of episodes given to a particular arc, conversations had to wrap themselves up and get to a point. However, Alicization being given a massive episode count from the beginning, is really just stretching out fairly thin subject matter and delivering episodes like this one that you could literally just fall asleep during.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

If you think I’m exaggerating, I hate to disappoint. Almost three quarters of this episode is given to Kirito listening to the Cardinal whatever as she drones on about the Administrator and her failed attempt to beat her that ended up with her trapped in the library. Admittedly, they do show some of the action, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the events are being narrated to us which kind of takes any kind of excitement out of the sequence.

Wait, I forgot she also states that her plan is to destroy all the copied souls inside underworld except for like ten that Kirito can pick and then she asks for a hug in the most awkward manner possible made only more awkward by Kirito’s continued lack of ability to pick up on the cues of those around him.

Sword Art Online Episode 13 Kirito the collaborator

This episode is SAO at its absolute worst including absolutely everything that I do find tiresome about the franchise in one twenty minute episode with no relief to be seen. Even Eugeo and Kirito dramatically walking side-by-side through a door into a hallway at the end ready to start their climb up the tower couldn’t save this from being an absolute snore fest because to be honest I’m getting a little over waiting for things to actually kick into gear. It feels like Alicization has been making me wait a lot and now the pay-off is going to have to be huge if it is going to undo some of the general apathy I’m starting to have toward this series.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

I won’t drop Alicization. I know that. I loved Sword Art Online and I will stick with this franchise no matter where it goes at this point. However, I would be lying if I said I was actually still enjoying Alicization at this point. My enjoyment kind of peaked at episode 4 and given how many episodes we still have to go, that might be a very bad thing unless the anime starts turning things around.

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Short Battle Followed By Attack of The Exposition

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 12 Review

Sword Art Online Alicization continues to do what it does best – give us a short but reasonably interesting action sequence followed by a lot of sipping tea and talking. Oh boy.

It isn’t that the information conveyed in the second half of this episode isn’t important. It kind of explains the fundamentals of how Underworld got to the state it is in and why it is a little messed up. Though, to assume that only one of the original four humans passed on the idea of ambition and that no soul after managed to just figure out it wanted more is kind of overly simplistic and we could open the whole nature vs nurture argument on this one but let’s just shrug and go along with the logic here that whatever you are taught as a kid sticks.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 12

The problem is more that once again Sword Art Online looks at the most boring method of delivering information to its audience. First the episode sends Eugeo away to have a bath because he got wet during the fight and that means Kirito doesn’t have to worry about keeping any secrets about not being from Underworld and can have an open conversation. That’s fine and fairly necessary if we’re going to learn what we need to learn. But why then do we need to watch Kirito and the Cardinal whatever sitting drinking tea while she slowly narrates events? Surely they could have shown the audience what happened and let us experience it rather than just telling us that this happened.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 12 Kirito in the library

Admittedly, it would have needed multiple episodes to show us that kind of flash back. If only they had some more time in this series. Oh wait, they wasted half of last week on a conversation between Eugeo and Kirito that added nothing to either character and just delayed the fight until the end of the episode. And previously… well we could trim minutes more or less everywhere from this series.

Sword Art Online Episode 12 Alicization Quinella

It isn’t that I’m not interested in this story. I actually really like the ideas so far. It is more that the execution and the pacing have been lacking. Even the brief moments of action haven’t been enough to break this up or make it overly exciting to view. There’s a lot of potential in this story, but I’d struggle to recommend this given 12 episodes in and it still feels like we’re setting things up and unless you are already a big fan of the series, listening to all that exposition isn’t going to be high on a viewers list of priorities.

Why More Time Isn’t Helping This Story

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode Review Title Image

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Review

There are so many anime that cram a million ideas into eleven or twelve episodes and fans end up saying, ‘that was good but I wish it had more time’. When Alicization was announced we also got the announcement that it was going to run for four cours which is a massive length of time in seasonal viewing. That was kind of exciting. Having that much time meant the story didn’t need to rush through things and the story could be planned out and paced well.

Unfortunately, eleven episodes in and I have to concede that it isn’t what we are getting. While I have no idea what happens in the source material or what needs to get covered (nor do I really want to), as an anime viewer, Sword Art Online Alicization is missing the mark over and over again. There are exciting moments but they are scattered far and wide and the narrative in-between is anything but exciting. Not even the nostalgia of being reunited with Kirito (a character I actually quite like) is enough to keep me from starting to wonder if maybe they could have given this story a much tighter edit and produced something far more engaging to watch.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito and Eugeo

Episode 11 is a great example of what this series has consistently done wrong. It starts with Eugeo getting knocked down by Alice which is a fine enough transition for us given he was all stunned that he was seeing Alice, so no problems there. Then we see Eugeo and Kirito chained to the dragon mount about to be flown to the citadel. No issue. However, let’s delay the journey we started so many episodes ago yet further by having a tearful farewell from the pages who also hand their swords over to Alice.

You know, they could have just had the swords already strapped to the mount, handed over by the school, if they really needed viewers to know that Eugeo and Kirito would in fact get their swords back. This whole sequence was more amusing than emotional and to be honest I’m not sure how invested we’re supposed to be in the pages given they’ve been used strictly as plot devices up until now and with the scene change it is hard to know whether we’ll ever see these characters again.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Kirito

The sequence in the cell works well enough though just when they are about to escape, Kirito decides to question whether Eugeo is ready to go against the church. Again? Really? Hasn’t this issue already been clearly established and put to rest? It really feels like a rehash at best and bloat at worst and it adds nothing. 

Jump a few minutes later to the boys pausing in the rose garden for a heart to heart. Again, it adds nothing to either character. It adds nothing overall to the plot. Every part of this conversation feels like we’ve heard it before and it is neither interesting at this point or particularly relevant to the current situation.

Finally, we get to the end of the episode where they encounter a knight who has apparently been waiting for them in the garden and they all get ready to fight.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Knight

So all those overly long pauses and conversations were just trying to time it so the episode could end on this cliff-hanger rather than getting to this fight this episode. Seriously? And while it wouldn’t be a problem if they had kept the conversations fun and interesting, instead we just feel like we’ve heard it all before.

The cut to Asuna was also pretty bland and while we did gain some new information from that, again it was given in the least interesting way possible outside of text scrolling across the screen so no excitement to be found there either.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 11 Asuna
Have they actually told us why she can’t go into Underworld?

There isn’t a lot more to say. Sword Art Online Alicization has a potentially very interesting premise that it has so far managed to drag out the execution of to the point where it is almost actually distracting and even as a fan I’m finding myself losing focus mid-episode because not enough is happening. While early on this could be forgiven as setting its scene, we’re now nearly one cour through the show. There’s no excuse at this point for still feeling like we haven’t even finished setting up.

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