2019 Winter Anime End Of The Season

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.

Number 15: Boogiepop wa Warawanai

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.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episode 10 Nagi

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.

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.

Grimms Notes Episode 8

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.

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.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23

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.

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.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 6 Shinomiya

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.

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.

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.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 19 Rimuru and Milim

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.

Number 9: The Price of Smiles

Formally position 5. Okay, I was being optimistic.

It is almost scary how on the nose my prediction for this series was at the half-way point. I suspected we had a show that would simply kill off its characters towards the end and in the lead up to the final episode we had one prominent character death an episode all to serve the ‘war is bad’ slogan this anime seemed to want to plaster onto almost every episode. That doesn’t mean it was terrible. There was actually a lot of promise along the way. It just never quite delivered.

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

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.

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.

Natsuo and Hina - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

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.

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.

Number 6: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

Down from position 3.

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.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

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.

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.

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.

Number 3: My Roommate is a Cat

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.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 8

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.

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.

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.

Run With The Wind Episode 22 King hands the sash to Kakeru

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.

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Karandi James
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Top 5 Anime Characters With Wings

Tuesday's Top 5

There are plenty of anime characters out there with wings and for whatever reason they always look pretty adorable. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much The Rising of the Shield Hero and Filo just reminded me how much I enjoy anime characters that have wings, but I decided that counting down my top 5 anime characters with wings seemed like a great idea. How did I rank these characters? Mostly on how much I like their look with wings. It isn’t exactly deep or objective. That said, I’d love to know who your picks would be so feel free to leave me a comment below sharing your favourite winged anime character.

Honourable Mentions:

This week I’d like to mention Filo from The Rising of the Shield Hero because in her human form with her two little wings she is just too cute. But, I’m also throwing it over to Ryuk from Death Note because he is just very cool and those wings of his are scary looking.

Number 5: Holy Bell from Ah My Goddess

When Belldandy calls upon Holy Bell the viewer is treated to a really spectacular visual. This is one of the reasons that I absolutely loved Ah My Goddess despite the fairly silly plot at times and the fact that it ended up very formulaic as they repeated more or less the same drama over and over again. Still, seeing Belldandy and Holy Bell do their thing is well and truly worth it.

Number 4: Jibril from No Game No Life

She loves books and she has beautiful wings? Wow, if Jibril wasn’t quite so crazy she’d almost be the perfect character. Seriously though, she makes an impression when she spreads those wings and descends. I absolutely loved her entrance and wished we saw more of her using her wings in the anime.

Number 3: Kurama from Kamisama Kiss

A cloud of smoke, the playing of his own theme song, and Kurama knows how to make an entrance. As a tengu who has descended the mountain to attend a human school and be a singer, he’s got some really gorgeous wings that he knows how to take advantage of.

Number 2: Tachibana from Angel Beats

This one is a bit of a cheat because despite being called an angel, Tachibana doesn’t have wings, until she uses a computer program to make some. They are nearly entirely cosmetic allowing her more to slow a descent than fly and she only really uses them once, but they are just so gorgeous. I really couldn’t leave this one off the list.

Number 1: Yue from Cardcaptor Sakura

I will admit, I totally had a crush on Yue when I was younger and seeing him with his wings was always a joy. It definitely made me squeal happily inside just having him turn up on screen and that was something that continued even with the return of Clear Card. More Yue please and let’s see more of those wings.

There’s my list for the week and as I said, I’d love to know your favourite anime characters with wings so please give them a shout out in the comments.

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Karandi James
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NO GAME NO LIFE 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SHIRO TUCK UP VER.
NO GAME NO LIFE 1/7 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SHIRO TUCK UP VER.

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.

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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Karandi James
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THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: SUMMERSET [DIGITAL COLLECTOR’S UPGRADE EDITION]
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: SUMMERSET [DIGITAL COLLECTOR'S UPGRADE EDITION]

In Case You Missed It 2019 #2

My it was a busy week with lots of first episodes to try and a few I just decided to put on hold for now because there doesn’t really seem to be any point in trying them. That said, some of the stuff I did try ended up being… ‘interesting’. Still, there’s certainly variety this season. However, as the rest of the anime for the season premiere and reviewers choose their watch lists below I have some great posts from the community covering a wide range of anime old and new as well as games, rebuttals against other articles, and characters in general. There are also links to my posts for the week so hopefully you can catch up if you missed anything you were interested in.

As always you are welcome to give a shout out to an anime related post in the comments below if there is one you think deserves some attention and if you think there’s a post I should include, send me a message via my contact or a DM on twitter and I’m always happy to check out great content.

Posts from the Community

L-Zerb has an interesting post discussing why it is Koroko no Basket and not Kagami no Basket. It’s an interesting discussion about Koroko’s character and his change throughout the series. A great read.

Crow’s World of Anime brings us something of an unusual list with six examples of female armour in anime that might actually protect the wearer (I know, who knew there were six). I love reading lists with explanations as to why certain things were included and this was an interesting list with some great characters on it.

Prattler’s Paradise has a post about the long titles that seem to be the trend for light novels and anime series in recent times and why they need to stop (because we’re just going to shorten them anyway). While I don’t necessarily agree or disagree that long titles are a problem, it is a great post to read with some good examples given as well as some points about what makes a title interesting or good.

Amari Sali gives their first impressions of The Rising of the Shield Hero. This is a nice detailed breakdown that looks at what happened, what the positives are and what didn’t work so well and wraps up with an overall impressions. If you were curious about whether Shield Hero was for you, this post will give you a pretty solid idea about what you are about to watch.

JekoJeko from UEM also looks at The Rising of the Shield Hero but they look more at the way it was reviewed by ANN and some of the problems in how views were presented. In a time when so many anime seem to be getting criticised for having views (or simply presenting material) that may not align with some viewers I think this is an important article to read, though it is very critical.

Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 1 Naofumi

C S Radical has a rebuttal piece on an article written about diversity in gaming. I would suggest reading the article they are responding to (which is linked in the post) but this is a great piece for getting gamers thinking about what is important in gaming and what diversity actually means in gaming. Definitely a post (and an article) worth reading and considering for gamers.

Jessi shares a final series review of Skull Face Bookseller Honda-San and looks at how this comedy manages to set itself apart from a lot of others that came out last year. It’s a pleasant read about a fairly pleasant anime and one worth checking out if you have the time.

Skull Face Bookseller honda San Episode 6

Arthifis shares three reasons why the first episode of the Promised Neverland was perfect. It was a strong premiere episode and it certainly got the community talking and this post does a great job of highlighting some of the strengths of the episode as well as a message Arthifis took from it. That said, this post does have a few spoilers for episode 1 so if you haven’t watched it yet, maybe do that first.

Mr Flawfinder has a review of Banana Fish and while he does point out some of the narrative flaws, this was a fairly positive review of a series that I kind of fell in love with at the end of last year. If you’d like to read a non-gushing but fair review of Banana Fish then this one is actually pretty solid and very specific in its examples of why things do and don’t work in the series (though, fair warning it does spoil the ending).

Banana Fish Episode 17 - Ash and Eiji.

Pick of the Week

Kapodaco provides us with an interesting post asking How Dense is Too Dense For An Anime Protagonist? and looks at the motivations behind dense anime protagonists as well as how they impact on the narratives they are in. It’s a great post and one which all anime fans will be able to weight in on because we’ve all come across that far too dense protagonist far too many times. n

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Karandi James
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RESIDENT EVIL 2 [DELUXE EDITION]
RESIDENT EVIL 2 [DELUXE EDITION]

What To Do When The World Turns Its Back On You?

The Rising of the Shield Hero Post Title Image

The Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 1 Review

Well, we’ve got this season’s Goblin Slayer with divisive rhetoric already being thrown about and once again it comes down to subject matter with rape sitting at the centre of the controversy (or in this case a rape accusation without grounds which for some viewers links too closely with women in the real world getting accused of lying about sexual assualt). Though we’ve also got slavery, a matriarchal society apparently ruled by a king and a general focus on a character who is ultimately going to hate pretty much everybody. So yes, this one rubbed some people the wrong way particularly in light of current social contexts. I’m less put off by it, though having read the light novel and already dealt with my issues with the subject matter there, the anime actually came more or less as expected so I’m just kind of riding this one out.

I mentioned in my review of the first light novel of the Rising of the Shield Hero that Naofumi is not a particularly likeable protagonist. Neither before he is betrayed nor after do I feel much in the way of sympathy for him though he does produce a number of cringe worthy moments. That said, the anime kind of captured him perfectly as he initially comes off as super generic, then super naive, and finally super angry. And that’s probably the problem with Naofumi. We don’t really get a middle ground. We get a forgettable introduction to a character who is fairly quickly thrown in over his head and then his personality is warped and if the books are anything to go by, he’s going to stay warped for a fair while.

The Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 1 Naofumi

It isn’t that he doesn’t have room for complaint. Honestly, the Kingdom summoned him and then treated him like dirt from the get-go with petty snubs, whispers and rumours, and finally outright taking everything from him, including what little reputation and moral standing he had, and more or less leaving him to die. For a Kingdom in dire need of heroes you would think that someone would have more sense and yet these characters act in a perpetually stupid manner that is kind of later explained through politics and religion but to be perfectly honest that doesn’t really justify the blatant idiocy of snubbing the guy you summoned to save your world. And yes, I get there are three other guys there but clearly you thought you needed all of them.

The Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 1

This first episode is double length and runs about 45 minutes, and it is kind of needed. There’s a lot of set-up to get through and by the time we’ve summoned the character, met all the heroes, established their personalities and parties, dealt Naofumi his fall from grace and then managed to portray the new Naofumi trying to cover all of that in twenty minutes would have been madness and ending the first episode without covering all of that would have been close to pointless. So there’s a great choice from the beginning.

The Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 1 Spear Hero

Another fairly solid choice is in the voice casting for Naofumi. Kaito Ishikawa really brings him to life in this first episode and while some of the lines and moments could have fallen really flat, the performance managed to really keep my attention. I knew going in I didn’t like Naofumi’s character initially, and yet this first episode managed to keep me more or less on board with him and the vocals had a lot to do with that.

Visually it is so far neither particularly impressive or poorly done. I don’t actually recall if there was an OP or not (that’s pretty terrible), and honestly don’t remember any of the other music either.

Rising of the Shield Hero Episode 1 Naofumi

Realistically, The Rising of the Shield Hero is more or less exactly what the synopsis makes it out to be and while the story will certainly get more interesting later (provided it follows the source) for now it is reasonably generic isekai fare with a slightly more hostile protagonist. That said, because it is pretty straight forward with just a little bit of edge, it will probably be enjoyable enough, provided the subject matter doesn’t throw you off.

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Karandi James
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The Rising of the Shield Hero Clear Folder
The Rising of the Shield Hero Clear Folder

The Double-Edge Sword of a Misanthropic Protagonist

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If you’ve watched any amount of anime, there is no doubt at one time or another you have come across the misanthropic protagonist. Most recently we’ve had our streams graced by the ever charming Naofumi who actually started out as quite a nice and optimistic guy but after betrayal and injustice lost his ability to trust pretty much anyone.

shield8c-1

While they aren’t as prolific as the ‘nice guy/girl’ protagonist or the ‘wanna-be the best’ protagonist, they are a breed of protagonists that crop up from time to time, though they are often met with mixed reception.

Evangelion

And it is no wonder. Having a character who openly hates or looks down upon the other characters is a reasonably hard sell when not done for the sake of comedy, to set up a situation where the protagonist can be reached out to by others and grow, or where the protagonist is just the villain of the piece. As much as people might find the average edgy misanthrope character amusing for a few episodes, or even find them endearing as a supporting cast member, to try to carry the plot and the audience’s affection for an entire season is quite the ask.

However, when done well, this type of character has a few advantages right from the beginning. Firstly, they tap into the cynicism that seems to be the current trend of the day. That isn’t to say that people who like misanthropic protagonists are actually all cynics who hate the world and want global warming to raise the ocean levels and drown all puppies (though there might be some of those in the target audience). It is more that there is a growing feeling of discontent across populations in the world that things aren’t going well and a general feeling of wanting to do something but feeling ultimately powerless. The misanthropic character appeals by pointing out the worst humanity has to offer, usually in a mocking manner, and for a moment the audience is given some kind of release to the mounting negativity.

Banana17c

The second reason this type of protagonist works is because they aren’t fighting for recognition amongst a thousand other faces. While I said in the beginning they crop up from time to time, they are still very much in the minority when looking at protagonists in anime.

It isn’t really hard to know why when you consider that they generally promote social disharmony, point out the follies of those in charge, and generally go about solving things in fairly socially destructive manners. You can kind of understand why Japanese anime doesn’t exactly promote these types of protagonist as the everyday hero.

For instance, when we turn our attention to Naofumi in Shield Hero, even though he continues to do a lot of good in the world he has been summoned to he charges a steep price for his services with the common people so that they won’t try to take advantage of him and he openly disrespects the nobility and regards the royal family with open hostility. For all that his involvement with Raphtalia and Filo has softened his initial hating the world and everyone in it stance, Naofumi is still very much an angry person who just doesn’t like others.

Shield5a

Where the misanthrope is more normally seen is in the reluctant love interest or support character and generally speaking the nice guy/girl protagonist ultimately heals whatever dramatic back story lead to their social discord and they ultimately learn to make friends again, or whatever. This is the more normal character arc for a misanthropic character and one that serves a valuable purpose but isn’t exactly compelling.

But, while there are advantages to this particular character archetype, it isn’t without its risk. Too negative and you risk depressing or alienating your audience. Too anti-social and you create a situation where your protagonist is literally sitting in their room without interacting with others. Or every interaction is barbed, strained and painful. There’s definitely a balance that needs to be had with this type of character. They need to express misanthropic ideology while at the same time they need to be fairly socially nuanced. So today, I want to look at just two examples.

hachiman

The first, and most obvious example of a misanthropic protagonist, is Hikigaya Hachiman from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong As I Expected. Now, his misanthropic tendencies are clearly on display from his opening monologue. The audience sees him as a keen observer of others, someone who analyses the situation around himself and draws conclusions that have sufficiently wrapped themselves is rationalisations to hold a glimmer of truth. It is a truth that most audience members can find themselves to relating to, on some occasions. And that is the mastery of Hachiman as a character.

He isn’t the person who an audience member might always agree with. He takes things to extremes. His self-destructive tendencies are counter productive even to is own goals of basically slipping through school without drawing undue attention. And yet, every now and then he says something that makes the audience sit up and take notice. He’s someone who has perfectly phrased a sentiment or a fear that has dwelled inside that member of the audience and how it has been given voice.

hachiman3

The other reason Hikigaya Hachiman works so well as a character is that he is not stagnant. He makes steps toward becoming more social and open and then another scar is added as life happens and he retreats. This pattern continues again and again and we see Hachiman wall himself off, terminating the inroads that other characters have made. While it would be nice to believe that in the source material maybe Hachiman gets to his happy ending, ultimately the anime leaves him hanging perpetually in a limbo of his own making, and to be honest with a title like ‘My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong As I Expected’ I kind of suspect that there is no happily ever after to be found for this protagonist. But I’ll be okay if when I finally get to reading the light novels to find that I am wrong.

But while I have spent the last three paragraphs talking up Hachiman as a character, I am now going to point out the obvious. He isn’t universally loved by the audience. While many people connect with this apathetic and cynical bundle of adolescent edginess, other find him grating, defeatist, and needlessly negative. I wish I remembered which blog I read one particular post on that essentially tore Hachiman’s character apart from the ground up because it really did summarise the opposing viewpoint on the character quite well.

By using a misanthropic protagonist, the writer’s have tapped in to one audience and touched a nerve, managing to make them connect and relate to a character who exhibits many negative traits. However, they have equally managed to put off other members of the potential audience who just find it an exercise in futility to listen to a character who ultimately isn’t going to overcome the chip on his shoulder and save the world from all the wrongs (okay, that was a little bit more condescending a line than I intended, so sorry about that). However, maybe the issue isn’t that Hachiman is negative in his view on people and his solutions are destructive. Maybe the problem is that Hachiman didn’t go far enough.

Yagami Light Death Note

And that leads us nicely into the final example I’d like to discuss, Yagami Light from Death Note, the original anime series and not the movie. Now, Yagami Light is as misanthropic as they come and he is that way long before he ever finds the Death Note. He looks down upon those around him and feels the whole world is rotting. The only thing he lacks is the power to act upon his desires and then the Death Note literally falls into his hands.

As a character, Yagami Light is intriguing, and yet he is never put on a path of redemption. He hates the world and decides that the only way to save it is to become its god and essentially create a new world in his own chosen image. Admittedly, misanthropy may be the least of Light’s issues when you consider he’s also a mass murdering psycho with delusions of potential divinity. His arrogance is almost limitless as is his ultimate ambition.

light-vs-l

Yet Light is a character who regularly comes in on people’s favourite male character lists and is generally fairly beloved by the fan-base. Some of the heftiest criticisms of the Netflix movie was its depiction of Light and the fact that fans were very unhappy with how the teen was altered.

Unlike Hachiman, Light does not doubt his course of action. He has almost no moments of hesitation. He doesn’t open up to others tentatively and hope that maybe this time it will end differently. Light’s walls are absolute and people fall into the category of criminal, victim, obstacle, or potentially useful and he uses them as such. That said, Light ultimately frames himself as someone fighting for, or even creating, justice. He believes that truly and his actions for the most part are not those of a villainous character but the actions of a protagonist seeking to change the world, though many will disagree with his course of action.

Though perhaps that is why he is brilliant. He is not a character who is wavering and second guessing himself, but a pure embodiment of the rage and anger almost everyone feels at some point in this unfair world. Where others are powerless, Light lashes out at the injustices that everyone can see, though in the process he creates a new form of injustice and a new kind of terror. And ultimately his end is in-glamorous and his goal unrealised.

Light

So the question becomes has Light gone too far or did Hachiman not go far enough? What appeals about these characters and what turns audience members away? How did you feel about the arrival of Naofumi as yet another protagonist full of hate for the world? And more importantly, what do you think about misanthropic protagonists in anime? Be sure to leave me a comment below and let’s get the conversation going.

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The Rising of the Shield Hero 3 Light Novel Review: New Enemies and Conspiracies But Was It Fun?

Overview:

Naofumi is still trying to prepare for the coming of the waves but now finds that the church is also blocking his path by denying him access to levelling up his party. It isn’t any wonder he has difficulty trusting the young Princess who has come to his party insisting she wants to try to reconcile the Shield Hero with the King.

Review:

This continues to be a really enjoyable series, though this books is starting to stretch the basic premise a little bit. Naofumi was starting to make some progress making friends and allies and this book throws the church and entire army at him adding in the notion that maybe he has a brainwashing shield and everyone who has started to trust him has fallen victim. It is such a shallow ploy and yet the fact that it works seems slightly insulting to the other heroes and to the entire population of this fantasy kingdom.

The premise wearing thin or not doesn’t change that this was a pretty enjoyable ride. We do get some more wandering around and attempts to gain more levels and strengths before the wave. We also meet Melty, who turns out to be the younger sister of the Princess who really caused Naofumi all his initial problems and it also turns out is the actual heir to the throne (sibling rivalry much). Melty is an okay addition to the cast, or at least might be once Naofumi stops distrusting everything she says on principal (though some caution is probably advisable because she is certainly up to something).

However, the highlight of the book,  and it isn’t the climax, is the next wave. Naofumi has gained the support so some soldiers and they help him protect the villages nearby until they are evacuated and then he goes to find out what is taking the other three heroes so long to actually end the wave. Naofumi can’t really attack given he is the shield hero but he finally gets an ability that allows him to do some serious damage and it momentarily looks like he may have turned the tide of the battle. It is a good moment for Naofumi as a character.

Rising3b

And that is when we are introduced to Glass and for the first time get an idea that there is something more to these waves than just a natural disaster. While her appearance is brief, she leaves a definite impression and gives us a reason to want to see the next wave happen sooner rather than later as getting to know more about her would be fantastic.

However, I then have to address the weakest part of this book and that is the climax. Naofumi and the others were trying to cross the border into another country to attempt to level up there when pretty much everyone on the planet with a weapon comes at them. While it works well enough as a climax, the descriptions get very messy and at times it is hard to remember where the characters are or who is involved in which fight or why someone isn’t fighting at that moment.

Still, for those who have enjoyed Naofumi’s adventures so far, volume 3 is a good follow up and seems to be leading us further into the politics of this world. I kind of want Raphtalia to get a bit more attention in the next book as she seemed a little overlooked at times in this one and she’s my favourite character so far.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts on this book.

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If you’re interested in reading The Rising of the Shield Hero Volume 3 it is available on the Book Depository.

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