Mid-Spring 2020 Anime Ranking


01. My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta…) (ep. 1-10) – A 17-year old girl discovers she’s been reincarnated as young Catarina Claes, the villain in her favourite otome game, so she does everything in her power to avoid her pre-destined bad end. The hilarious result being that she becomes the sweetest, most adorable idiot ever.

Yes, it’s an isekai set in an otome game, of all things; and the protagonist isn’t an overpowered MC, but the doomed villain. It’s pure comedic genius.

Out of Catarina’s rapidly growing harem, I have to say I feel especially sorry for Geordo. While I agree with most people that he doesn’t have much chemistry with Catarina compared to Keith or Alan or the girls, he is her fiancé after all, and he really seems to love her so much, and so unconditionally!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Wave, Listen to Me! (Nami yo Kiitekure) (ep. 1-10) – A curry restaurant waitress suddenly finds herself contemplating a new career as a late-night radio host after her drunken rant about her no-good ex-boyfriend is recorded and played on air by a radio station producer.

Minare is a great character – smart, imaginative, cynical, a little crazy, and surprisingly vulnerable too.

Interestingly, this is the first of 2 shows on my list that is set in Hokkaido. (The other is Agonavis.)
(streaming at Funimation)


03. ARTE (ep. 1-10) – A young noblewoman abandons her cushy but restrictive life at home in order to pursue a career as an artist. However, painting as a profession is very much a man’s world in 16th century Italy, and Arte struggles greatly to earn respect and acceptance among her peers and from her superiors and patrons. As the setting changes from Florence to Venice, Arte realizes that her circumstances (class and gender) can work to her advantage too, but she finds that just as frustrating.
(streaming at Funimation)


04. AHIRU NO SORA (ep. 25-35) – Apparently, basketball is the sport of delinquents! At least the Kuzuryuu High teammates are starting to resemble serious athletes now, and it is gratifying to see how Sora has inspired them and gained their trust and respect.

One thing I do appreciate is that these anime characters change clothes and hairstyles regularly, sometimes even within a single episode. That uncommon attention to detail is a really nice touch, especially as the art in this show is generally unattractive otherwise.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Argonavis from BanG Dream! (ep. 1-9) – There are aspects of this anime that feel like a convincing portrayal of what it’s like to start a rock band, but the presentation is inconsistent and plot points are pasted together somewhat sloppily. Overall, I’d say it’s passable, if you’re not taking the details too seriously.

The characters are reasonably attractive, with distinctive personalities. The CG animation also looks above average.

The music, composed by veteran musicians (from the likes of UNISON SQUARE GARDEN, SID, ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D) and performed by the voice actors of the band members, is also pretty good. Although, rival group GYROAXIA sounds so much better than Argonavis, in my opinion.
(Argonavis and GYROAXIA singles are available on Spotify and iTunes Canada)


06. Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2 (Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai?: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen) (ep. 1-9) – The cast is bigger now, but their antics are just as amusing as ever.

While it’s lovely that they actually reciprocate each other’s feelings, as I’ve said, if Kaguya and Miyuki are still this dishonest with each other on a systemic basis, it really does not bode well for any future relationship for these two.
(streaming at Funimation)


07. KAKUSHIGOTO (ep. 1-10) – The manga-making humour is kind of hit and miss for me, more hit than miss I guess, but still.

It’s a bit of a sticking point, personally, that I don’t totally understand the necessity of, or approve of, Goto-sensei lying to his daughter about his occupation.
(streaming at Funimation)


08. SING “YESTERDAY” FOR ME (Yesterday wo Utatte) (ep. 1-10) – There’s no singing in this anime. Music is not part of the story at all.

Rather, there are love triangles, squares, other geometric shapes. And unfortunately, I find the relationships a little tedious and lacking in chemistry, but that’s me.

On the plus side, the artwork is very nice, especially the backgrounds. There’s also some genuine development for some of the characters. For instance, I’m personally glad the main romantic lead, a college graduate, does not remain a convenience store clerk for the entire series!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Fruits Basket 2nd Season (ep. 1-10) – All of the Sōma members have been introduced, so we’re finally getting to the meat of the story. Which is good, but my god, Akito sure talks a lot.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


10. PLUNDERER (ep. 12-20) – This cour starts with the revelatory and mostly serious time travel arc. However, the gains achieved are almost completely cancelled out by whole episodes, bookending that arc, devoted to drinking, fan-service, groping and other forms of sexual assault, and body-shaming.

You know, all this time, I’ve felt bad for Lynn. Not only does she have to put up with her organization’s sexist uniforms on a regular basis, but she’s so starved for affection that she falls madly in love with the first loser who pays any attention to her romantically, even though he’s a lech and obviously isn’t really that into her. And then Pele, the guy who is dropping hints that he might actually like her, is also gross not much of a gentleman.

Were it not for Jail, acting like the true hero of the series, I would not have made it this far.
(streaming at Funimation)


11. WOODPECKER DETECTIVE’S OFFICE (Kitsutsuki Tanteidokoro) (ep. 1-9) – One of the leads is a conscienceless scumbag who shirks responsibility and exploits his friends and lovers for money. The other main is a gullible doormat.

Too many of the show’s female characters are prostitutes or murder victims or both.

Particularly in the beginning, it feels like they are shoehorning the authors’ historical quirks into the story instead of, you know, having an actual plot. And for an adult detective story, I’m surprised and disappointed that these characters rely on speculation as much as they seem to.

If the show ultimately leaves an impression on me, it’s for all the wrong reasons!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Winter 2020 Anime Ranking

The season is already over, so this is more of a season-end ranking instead of the mid-season ranking it’s supposed to be. It is also unfinished, regrettably. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things have been hectic at my essential service day job and quite different at home as well, leaving me with no energy or ‘alone’ time to think about writing.


01. CASTLEVANIA Season 3 (10 episodes)
(streaming on NETFLIX)


02. ID: INVADED (13 episodes)
(streaming at FUNimation)


03. Chihayafuru 3 (ep. 13-24)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Blade of the Immortal (Mugen no Juunin: IMMORTAL) (ep. 13-24)
(streaming on Amazon)


05. Uchitama?! Have you seen my Tama? (Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasen ka?) (11 episodes)
(streaming at FUNimation, Crunchyroll)

06. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace): Act II (season 3) (ep. 40-52)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Haikyuu!! TO THE TOP (Season 4) (ep. 1-13, expected to continue in summer)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. AHIRU NO SORA (ep. 13-24, ongoing)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. number24 (12 episodes) – One thing you can’t criticize about this rugby anime: it definitely does not have a generic milquetoast lead! Natsusa is not even one of the players on the team, at least not anymore. Personality-wise, he’s very friendly, but he’s also surprisingly pushy and manipulative when he wants to get his way.
(streaming at FUNimation)

10. Smile Down the Runway (Runway de Waratte) (12 episodes)
(streaming at FUNimation)

11. The Case Files of Jeweler Richard (Housekishou Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei) (12 episodes)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Kabukichou Sherlock (Case File nº221: Kabukicho) (ep. 13-24) – The final arc was dark, rather disturbingly so; but Kabukichou Sherlock was actually much better for it. No more problematic, tone-deaf, mean-spirited attempts at humour at least. It’s a shame they didn’t cut all that filler out from the beginning. This didn’t need to be a two-cour show.

In the end, I was unable to muster as much sympathy for the villain as the story seemed to demand. I’m a known bleeding-heart pacifist, but even I believe some people are beyond saving.
(streaming at FUNimation)

13. PLUNDERER (ep. 1-11, ongoing) – There’s a decent story here somewhere, probably, but first you have to get past the staggering amounts of sexual harassment/sexual assault (mostly perpetrated by the main character no less) and other filler. If the girls are not all being groped for half an episode, then it’ll be a nonsensical drinking contest that lasts half of another episode.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Mid-Autumn 2019 Anime Ranking

There are so many good shows this season, it’s been impossible to stick with a short list! Unfortunately, that means we’re quite behind on several of them, but I’ve slotted them in for the ranking anyway as long as we’ve seen at least 5 episodes.

Other than the usual sequels and sports anime, the notable trends for Autumn are isekai stories and police dramas, with at least 4 or 5 offerings apiece. We picked up just one isekai, but decided to follow all of the cop dramas!


01. VINLAND SAGA (ep. 13-20) – VINLAND SAGA is an epic tale with really great storytelling and exceptionally strong characters. As long as you can stomach the violence, I can’t recommend this enough. Askeladd in particular, and now Canute, seem to have taken the lead away from Thorfinn. Both of them have complex personalities and are fascinating to watch.

This is one show (of several this season) that seems to come down hard on God/religion, despite also presenting a pretty positive and informed view of Christianity. But seriously, some of the things that happen in VINLAND SAGA are hellishly brutal. How could anyone possibly keep their faith in the face of all that?

The new opener is a big step down from the first one, but I’m gradually warming up to it. The closer too, is nicely evocative in a melancholic way, even though it’s not a song I actually like per se.
(streaming: Amazon)


02. The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These – Seiran) (ep. 13-23) – This second season picks up directly from where the first ended, with the episodes mostly alternating between the Alliance side and the Empire side. The story is interconnected and touches on contrasting concepts of leadership and politics, all while remaining highly engaging and entertaining.

You know, I can’t recall ever seeing so much foreshadowing, so many episodes in advance, of a character’s death as in this show for this one person. It isn’t as if I can’t understand the reasoning, though. As one who cried out in protest at the very first hint of a tragedy, it was probably a good thing I had that much time to prepare myself!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. Chihayafuru 3 (ep. 1-9) – Season 3 finds Chihaya thinking about her future, while Taichi is taking karuta more seriously than ever. Chihayafuru is simply a great show and I’m so happy to catch up with these characters after 6 long years!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. PSYCHO-PASS 3 (ep. 1-6) – There’s a mostly new cast of characters in this sequel, but the show does an impressively good job of fleshing them out very quickly and getting the audience invested.
(streaming: Amazon)


05. Stars Align (Hoshiai no Sora) (ep. 1-9) – This is the soft tennis anime. Or is it the child abuse anime? It seems like every one of the members on the team has at least one problematic parent, ranging from dysfunctional relationships to outright physical or mental abuse. You don’t usually have to worry about your sports anime turning into a blood bath, but I feel some dread that a tragedy could happen here.

The animation is high-budget; the tennis scenes are great; the opening sequence is gorgeous. Some of the verbal exchanges seem slightly above the maturity level of middle-schoolers though.
(streaming at FUNimation)


06. Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious (Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore TUEEE Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru) (ep. 1-9) – Out of this fall’s bumper crop of isekai titles, this is the one I cherry-picked. Why, you ask? First and foremost, it is funny, and that is reason enough.

Secondly: Ristarte. It is unusual for the goddess character to be the point of-view role in this type of show, and it turns out to be really effective, partly because it is a decidedly female point-of-view. Even though her outfit is revealing for obvious fan-service purposes, she doesn’t actually get objectified for her looks as much as the male hero, Seiya, does. Also, I have to mention that Ristarte has the very best reaction faces!

Finally, the titular hero is hot and intelligent and is voiced by Umehara Yuuichirou, so you know I’m so there. Well, it turns out the guy is also an asshole with some major personality problems, but you can’t win them all, right?
(streaming at FUNimation)


07. Blade of the Immortal (Mugen no Juunin: IMMORTAL) (ep. 1-6) – Like Dororo earlier this year, Blade of the Immortal is an updated reboot of a classic story. I watched the live-action film not long ago, but that’s my only prior familiarity with the material.

While this is basically a revenge tale, there is some thoughtfulness exhibited and it is not all blind vengeance. Rin, a young swordswoman, seeks to kill the men who brutally murdered her parents, including the torture and rape of her mother. What happened to them, right in front of Rin’s eyes (but off-screen for the viewer, thankfully) was very disturbing, and honestly made me feel a bit sick. It’s easy to understand why she would feel compelled to exact revenge, but she also knows her limits; so she enlists the help of Manji, a bloodworm-infested immortal samurai. He takes on the job because Rin reminds him of his lost sister.

Despite her youthful appearance, Rin sounds like a woman, not a girl, and I appreciate that. She comes across as smarter and more capable than her counterpart in the live-action film. As a whole, Blade of the Immortal, the anime, is still a very violent and dark affair, but I’m finding it to be more thematically interesting than the movie was.
(streaming: Amazon)


08. BABYLON (ep. 1-7) – I hope I’m not giving this anime too much credit, but the feeling I get from Zen’s struggle against Magase Ai is akin to Dr. Tenma’s struggle to take down Johan in MONSTER, or Ichirou vs Hiro in INUYASHIKI. In all 3 stories, the good hero, who plays by the rules, suffers horror and despair at the hands of a formidable opponent who definitely does not.
(streaming: Amazon)


09. Special Crime Investigation Unit – Special 7 (Keishichou Tokumubu Tokushu Kyouakuhan Taisakushitsu Dainanaka: Tokunana) (ep. 1-8)
(streaming at FUNimation)


10. Fairy Gone (ep. 13-20)
(streaming at FUNimation)


11. Ahiru no Sora (ep. 1-8)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. Food Wars! The Fourth Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: Shin no Sara) (ep. 1-7)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


13. Africa no Salaryman (ep. 1-5) – An absurdist workplace satire starring a lion, a lizard, and a toucan. It’s exceedingly hard to rank this show since it is so very different from everything else that we’re watching. It’s sort of like Aggretsuko, except even more crude, offensive, and out-there.

Toucan, an unapologetic road-rager and repulsive skirt-chaser who doesn’t think twice about taking advantage of his co-workers in order to benefit himself, is truly an awful person. Not a terrible character, mind you; his shamelessness is morbidly fascinating. But as a person, he is the absolute worst.
(streaming at FUNimation)


14. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace): Act II (season 3) (ep. 27-33)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


15. Stand My Heroes: Piece of Truth (ep. 1-5)
(streaming at FUNimation)


16. Kabukichou Sherlock (Case File nº221: Kabukicho) (ep. 1-6) – This show is kind of a disaster. The detective of the title is a weirdo who explains his deductions using rakugo and does bizarre things like sniffing people’s armpits.

Mrs. Hudson could be a good character, but she’s in the wrong show. Obviously, she sees herself as female, despite the misfortune of having a very masculine build. Why would she sport a full beard except to be a joke for the audience? Same goes for Lucy, who isn’t threatening until people discover he is actually a she; then all of a sudden: scary! What the heck.

Kabukichou Sherlock isn’t a complete write-off, though. There are some random things that do work for humour, such as that client who was named Pu (Bear).
(streaming at FUNimation)

Also still watching: DR.STONE (streaming at Crunchyroll), but as I don’t have 5 episodes from this cour under my belt at this time, it has not been included in the above list.

Mid-Spring 2019 Anime Ranking

It’s a very light season for me this time. (Spoilers below up to the stated episodes for Demon Slayer, The Rising of the SHIELD HERO, and Ace of Diamond.)


01. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Season 3 (ep. 50-55) – All the years of buildup has led to this. We are finally getting some answers to the ongoing mysteries, many of which date back to the very first season, which aired in 2013. Our main group of characters is front and centre for the action now and every episode is concise and riveting. We are really going places – even to the Basement!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (ep. 1-10) – The very best gory shounen series avoid falling into grimdark by balancing the heavy stuff with healthy doses of smart humour. Demon Slayer follows in this tradition, making it a fun show to watch despite all the tragedy and violence and horror. Incidentally, Attack on Titan is another great example, even if it hasn’t been very funny lately, for obvious reasons.

Though the art style is a bit of a departure from recent ufotable productions, the animation quality is reliably stunning.

What’s more, the characters are well-written and the family bond between Tanjirou and Nezuko is touching. When, in one of the early episodes, eldest brother Tanjirou expressed his desire to give to his sole-surviving sister all the things he would never be able to give to his other siblings, it just broke my heart.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 5: Ougon no Kaze) (season 4) (ep. 25-33) – Bucciarati and co. are getting closer to uncovering the Boss’s identity, but the price they pay is steep. As for the new villains, Doppio is insanely nuts while Secco and Cioccolata are insanely frightening.

Can we give a medal to Mista’s stand, Sex Pistols? Those hard-working little guys are big heroes!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. The Rising of the SHIELD HERO (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari) (ep. 13-22) – Pacing-wise, a couple of the battles dragged on a bit too long this cour. And asking the Heros to get along and work together is still like pulling teeth.

At long last, it was nice to see Naofumi finally get some vindication, while Malty was exposed as a liar and schemer. Not sure it makes sense she’s still allowed to roam free and continue attempting to harm people though…
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Fairy gone (ep. 1-9) – It’s a little slow-moving and convoluted at times, but I’m still enjoying the show and its fantastical post-war European-like setting. Some of the characters have laughably weird names, though, such as Free Underbar and Bitter Sweet!
(streaming at FUNimation)


06. Dororo (ep. 13-21) – Still kind of hit or miss for me. Again, the underlying family drama and nice-looking art are great, but the monster-of-the-week episodes, such as the ones featuring the shark demon and the creature that caused people to speak in opposites, still leave something to be desired.


07. BUNGO STRAY DOGS (ep. 26-34, or Season 3 ep. 1-9) – It would probably have been better if the events of the previous seasons were fresher in my mind. As it is, it’s a little difficult to keep track of the now huge cast of characters and all their motivations. In spite of that, I’m enjoying it okay.

Kudos to the show for producing yet another amazingly attractive opening sequence, again featuring stunning plays on light and shadows.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace): Act II (season 3) (ep. 1-10) – Admittedly I am no expert in sports nutrition, but I do have some general background in health, and I wonder about the dietary requirements for the team members. Of course it’s important that they eat enough even if they’re too tired to feel hungry, but can choking down 3 bowls of rice really be good for anyone?

Anyway, Act II has been less interesting to me than some of the previous material because of the early focus on new characters rather than our leads Sawamura, Furuya, and Miyuki (although it’s getting better – Sawamura gets to pitch!) Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of recap, but that’s not really anything new.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Fruits Basket (2019) (ep. 1-10) – Honestly, I was never a super huge fan of the original anime, but I remember enjoying it enough to be curious about this new and improved reboot. I’m maybe a little less tolerant of plot contrivances than I used to be (of course, there’s always a reason for Tohru to accidentally turn the Souma guys into their zodiac forms), and I still find Kagura to be annoying as heck, but on the whole, the show is fine as light shoujo entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

MY HERO ACADEMIA: TWO HEROES

Released 2018

3 stars (out of 4)

The recent North American theatrical run of the MY HERO ACADEMIA movie proved to be a resounding success. The original screenings in September were so popular, additional dates were added in early October, eventually earning more than $5.7 million US and ranking the film in the Top 10 of highest-grossing domestic anime films of all time!

So how was it? Well pretty good, actually. It was generally a lot of fun; familiar characters were true to their personalities without it feeling tired; the new girl was cool; and a nice plot twist kept the story from being as predictable and simplistic as it could have been.

The film might have had too much recap, though, enough to be a little tedious for someone who’s been following the anime series. But I can understand that they needed to make the movie accessible to uninitiated viewers, so that’s kind of unavoidable.

What did confound me was the totally unnecessary coincidence that practically all of Deku’s class was in attendance at I-Island for the I-Expo for various reasons and Deku didn’t know about it. It should have been common knowledge that the winner of the tournament was invited. And absolutely no one talked about their holiday plans? As far as I could tell, it had no bearing on the story whatsoever; if Deku had expected them, it would have all been the same. So I’m just scratching my head at that narrative choice.

I was also surprised at how the college-aged voice and middle-aged voice of All Might’s friend sounded completely different! It seems rather odd to hire 2 different seiyu to voice 2 adult versions of the same character. (The screening I attended was in Japanese with English subtitles. The English dub might not have this peculiarity.)

THE EMPIRE OF CORPSES (Shisha no Teikoku)

Empire of corpses

2 stars (out of 4)

Released 2015

This animated adaptation of late author Project Itoh’s zombie novel takes place in a steampunk 19th century Europe in which “corpse reanimation technology” has been accepted by society as a way to provide laborers to serve the living. However, these undead never retain their souls.

Medical student John Watson secretly reanimates the body of his friend and research partner, but becomes obsessed with finding a method to return his soul as well. He gets the opportunity to search worldwide for the records of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s work when he teams up with the British government, who also want the notes for different reasons.

First of all, the movie looked great; the art and animation were absolutely top-notch. That would be the one good reason to watch it.

The plot itself was all serious and philosophical, but it honestly didn’t make much sense to me. While it was simple to follow what was happening from scene to scene, understanding why was something else entirely. It’s kind of a failure if the audience can’t reasonably tell why the protagonists made the choices that they did, or how the villain was doing whatever he was doing (re-creating GUILTY CROWN’s Lost Christmas?…), or even what governed the behaviour of the zombies.

The name-drops of famous literary figures didn’t seem to add anything to the story either. And it was not that clear whether the ending had anything to do with Watson’s initial goal.

I confess I’ve never understood the romanticism of zombies; this film didn’t help to enlighten me.

Anyway, after watching The Empire of Corpses, my sister and I also went and re-watched the fourth episode of Space Dandy. It covered similar musings of achieving world (or universal) peace through mass zombification – except that it was conveyed much more succinctly and enjoyably.

Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji): Book of the Atlantic

Black Butler Book of the Atlantic

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

Ciel and Sebastian board a luxury liner in order to investigate a suspicious medical society rumoured to possess a treatment that prolongs life. It’s a mixture of business and pleasure for our duo, as they have friends who are also on the ship for vacation.

Anyway, disaster ensues. Double disaster, actually – think Titanic, with zombies.

I had read criticisms beforehand that the animation was not of the highest quality, and I’d have to agree. The CG rendering of the ship and its passengers looked really stiff. The action scenes seemed all right, but characters were roughly drawn when not shown in close-up. (Close-up art looked great.)

I didn’t find Snake that amusing here (I can’t remember: did I ever?), but otherwise, the absurd humour worked most of the time. Several of the gags were laugh-out-loud funny even.

Often, movie installments of popular franchises will tell a standalone story, and the villains are introduced and taken care of during the film’s runtime. In Book of the Atlantic, it’s more complicated than that. There are revelations about established characters that will affect the rest of the series, including one person who turns out to be deeply mixed up in the raising-of-the-dead scheme. Of course, that also means that some loose threads are left hanging at the end.

Today’s special screening was in Japanese with English subtitles. The film will screen one more time on Wednesday in English.

Your name.

your-name

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017 in North America

The hype surrounding this film has been phenomenal. Following its release in Japan and other regions last summer, it has racked up massive box office success and rave reviews. I read as little about it as possible all this time and tried not to expect too much, lest the movie should fail to live up to its reputation. It turns out there was no need to temper my expectations.

The story begins with 2 teenagers randomly waking up in each other’s bodies several times a week. Mitsuha and Taki cope by leaving notes for each other so they will know what happened while they were away. As they explore their counterpart’s life, the audience is treated to wonderful views of big-city Tokyo and a small town in the countryside. Seeing it in the theatre, it is almost like being there, and really makes you want to visit. That’s just the beginning.

Your name. is beautifully animated. It is in turn immensely funny and very sad; and in a departure from previous Makoto Shinkai works, it is also surprisingly hopeful. You don’t have to be an anime fan or a Shinkai fan to enjoy this film.

FUNimation is presenting your name. in subtitled and English-dubbed versions. We watched the sub. Go see it while you can during its limited cinematic run. It’s a fantastic movie and it deserves to be seen on the big screen!

Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Anime

As I sat down to contemplate the series that I felt were the best of 2016, at first I thought I might be looking at a 3-way tie, maybe even 5-way. Only after checking my scoring on MyAnimeList did it become apparent that one series received a higher grade than everything else. The other shows settled in behind it then. The top shows were really close, though; and it doesn’t help that they were all so different in terms of setting, genre, tone, and subject matter.

In the end, the top 4 were basically my highest ranking picks from each season. I’m not actually going to rave about these series again right now; please follow the links if you wish to see the previous write-ups.

☆ Top 10 Anime:

#1. 91 Days (12 episodes)
91-days-wallpaper
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#2. Yuri!!! on ICE (12 episodes)
yuri-on-ice-06
Aired Autumn 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (13 episodes)
shouwa-genroku-rakugo-shinjuu
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) SECOND/FINAL SEASON (25 episodes)
Assassination Classroom
Aired Winter 2016 and Spring 2016
(First season of 22 episodes aired Winter 2015 and Spring 2015)
(streaming: FUNimation)

#5. AJIN (26 episodes)
ajin-season-2
Aired Winter 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: NETFLIX)

#6. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (24 full-length episodes)
saiki-k
Aired Summer 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

#7. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (12 episodes)
Kabaneri - Mumei
Aired Spring 2016

#8. Thunderbolt Fantasy (13 episodes)
Thunderbolt Fantasy - Lin Xue Ya
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (12 episodes)
ERASED
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll and DAISUKI)

#10. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (12 episodes)
cute-high-earth-defense-club-love-love
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Favourite Guilty Pleasure Anime:

Scar-red Rider XechS (12 episodes)
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Aired Summer 2016

I watch most of my anime with my sister. Scar-red Rider XechS was bad or boring enough after 3 episodes that she dropped it. I persevered however; and before long, I found myself looking forward to each new episode with an enthusiasm that was out of proportion with my generally low opinion of the production’s quality.

One of the reasons was that I started to love the characters. Yosuke and Takt (more on him later) in particular were well-written and well-acted, but the rest of the cast were also entertaining and endearing in weird ways.

The other reason was my gradual belief that the absurd plot developments and dialogue were intended to be comedy, and weren’t just bad writing. Just as how The Lost Village didn’t make it clear to its audience if the plot was supposed to be funny or not, SRX sometimes presented a similar predicament. Well, I like my personal interpretation of these shows; after all, I seem to have found a lot more enjoyment from both of them than most viewers did!

Anyway, I will always remember the “western-style restaurant” conversation of ep. 5. It literally had me giggling for days, maybe weeks, afterward whenever it came to mind.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

☆ Sequels that significantly outperformed their predecessors:

Active Raid 2nd – With all the goofing around they did in the first cour, and much of the second too, who would have imagined that Active Raid was in actuality laying down the groundwork for a serious, even thought-provoking, storyline all along? But that was what we got! The payoff was a whole lot better than I expected, infinitely better, since I don’t think I ever considered that a show like this would arrive at such a coherent, meaningful outcome.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 – Even those of us who were not won over by the meandering first cour of BUNGO STRAY DOGS had to sit up and take notice when this second season started. Suddenly we had a brand new protagonist and a mature, plot-heavy flashback tale. I, for one, was in no hurry to return to the present timeline. When we did, it was predictably a bit of a disappointment, but by then the show had secured my interest and my goodwill.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Biggest Regrets:

Dimension W and KIZNAIVER. These shows had some potential, but managed to squander it completely and go in the opposite direction. I ended up hating them.

BATTERY the Animation similarly went completely off the rails and turned into a huge disappointment. However, it didn’t incite the contempt that those two shows did.

Other shows that were simply a waste of time: GARO: CRIMSON MOON, Bloodivores, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, OZMAFIA!!, and Sekkou Boys. It was my own damn fault for continuing to watch most of them, though.

☆ Favourite Characters:

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#1. Kirisawa Takt (cv. Miyano Mamoru), Scar-red Rider XechS

Obviously, the leader of LAG’s 6th combat unit and frontman of Odd I’s is pretty and has a nice voice. And it’s easy to sympathize with him as the straight man in a show full of eccentrics.

Beyond that, I like him partially because I can relate to him on a personal level. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me, but as a fellow skinny, height-challenged, long-haired idealist with a discerning taste for rock music and a preference for black platform boots as everyday footwear, I guess this anime character and I have a few things in common! Naturally, I also share Takt’s opinion on the topic of shiitake mushrooms as an ingredient for food preparation.

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#2. Oda Sakunosuke (cv. Suwabe Junichi), BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2

He was only in 4 episodes, but those 4 episodes, which told a dark, tragic prequel story, were so good! I loved Odasaku in the lead role; he was badass, principled, and extremely sympathetic.

As mentioned, that early segment of season 2 totally blew me away and changed my opinion of the whole series up till that point.

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#3. Kimishita Atsushi (cv. Ono Daisuke), DAYS

Abrasively bossy characters with a habit of pointing out other people’s faults because they themselves are so smart and/or skilled are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I seem to have a soft spot for these types, though. MACROSS DELTA’s Messer had this kind of personality as well, albeit with less anger than Kimishita, and I liked him a lot too.

There are the rare occasions where Kimishita reveals that he is actually a nice guy. However, those moments of kindness could also be interpreted as a backhanded way of expressing his impatience at others’ incompetence, whereas normally he is just way more upfront about it.

It is entirely thanks to Kimishita and the other senpai, especially Ooshiba and Mizuki (ie., not the main characters), that I made it through all of DAYS and ultimately gave the show a somewhat decent score. I even intend to return for the sequel.

☆ Best (Funniest) Single Episode:

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Osomatsu-san episode 16: “Matsuno Matsunan / The Ichimatsu Incident.” As if the “Mad Max” parody featuring F6 wasn’t gratuitously over-the-top enough, it was then followed up by an incest sketch!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Best Finale:

TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION – I can’t actually recommend most of this idol anime. But if you’re inclined to watch, make sure you continue to the end, because the last part of that concert-themed final episode was the most stunning and feel-good finish of any series that I watched in 2016.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

As far as shows I do recommend go, I applaud ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM for its emotional yet heartwarming and hopeful ending.

I was also very satisfied with 91 Days’ ending, including the way it left some things open to interpretation.

☆ Best OP/ED Sequence (music & visuals):

BUNGO STRAY DOGS season 2 OP: “Reason Living” by SCREEN mode, version 2, which appeared in the middle of the third episode (or overall ep. 15). It occurred once only, but we may have watched it more times than we do most regularly occurring OPs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to share here; if you’re interested, you can find it at 11:52 to 13:22 of ep. 15.

Honourable mentions: Yuri!!! on ICE ED “You Only Live Once” by Hatano Wataru, and 91 Days OP “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure.

☆ Anime Songs Top 20 Countdown:

As with last year, this is a list of the best anime songs of 2016 according to me. The songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs, not the TV-size versions, that are being considered.

20. old revelation, by Mutsuki Hijiri (cv.KENN) (Scar-red Rider XechS ED)

19. RUSH, by GALAXY STANDARD (cv: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Ono Yuuki) (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

18. Shounen no Hate, by GRANRODEO (Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS 2 ED)

17. The Experience, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Soushuu-hen: Namida no Saki e Main Theme)

16. Kaze wa Yokoku Naku Fuku, by WALKURE (MACROSS Δ ED8)

15. Reason Living, by SCREEN mode (BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 OP)

14. Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE ED)

13. Kokoro no Arika, by Heshikiri Hasebe(cv:Shingaki Tarusuke), Souza Samonji(cv:Tai Yuuki) & Yagen Toushirou(cv:Yamashita Seiichirou) (Touken Ranbu -Hanamaru- ED2)

12. ninelie, by Aimer with chelly(EGOIST) (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS ED)

11. You’re My Courage, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

10. Through My Blood <AM>, by Aimer (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

09. Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Highlights -Shadow and Light- Main Theme)

08. Yoru Ha Nemurerukai?, by flumpool (AJIN OP1)

07. Ao to Aka no Forzato, by Komae Christoph Yosuke (cv.Suzuki Tatsuhisa), Kirisawa Takt (cv.Miyano Mamoru) (Scar-red Rider XechS OP)

06. HOW CLOSE YOU ARE, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN ED1)

05. The Birth, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN: Shougeki Main Theme)

04. Signal, by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (91 Days OP)

03. Hikari aru Basho e, by May’n (Izetta, The Last Witch ED)

02. Warcry, by Sawano Hiroyuki feat. mpi (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

01. Deal with, by OLDCODEX (SERVAMP OP)

☆ In closing, some Notable Quotes:

“If you look even half-decent, you’re considered hot.” – Choromatsu, considering the voice acting profession, in Osomatsu-san ep. 20.

“Your stupidity can’t be cured even by your death. So you might as well live.” – Julieta to suicidal Iok, in Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS ep. 37.

“Well don’t lose heart. Girls are as plentiful as stars in the night sky… and just as unreachable for you.”
– Saiki to freshly rejected Toritsuka, in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. spec. ep. 50, or full ep. 10.

“There’s only one carbonara!” – Yosuke to dumbfounded Takt, in Scar-red Rider XechS ep. 5.

Mid-Autumn 2016 Anime Ranking

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01. Yuri!!! on ICE (ep. 1-10) – For much of its runtime, Yuri!!! on ICE exists as a sports anime about competitive figure skating. As such, it stands just fine, more than fine actually. The narrative and detailed animation is as good, or almost as good, as a top-tier production such as Haikyuu!!. The professionally-choreographed skating is brilliant and gorgeous to look at. There’s plenty of humour throughout. And it’s easy to cry and to celebrate right along with the well-written characters.

The best sports shows can be really excellent at handling sports drama, but, and I’ve said this before, I often want to know more about the athletes’ personal lives. This is where Yuri!!! on ICE goes above and beyond. I wasn’t originally rooting for the characters to get together (apparently I’m not much of a shipper in general), but I really like the casual way in which the romance has developed, interwoven with the skating plot. Having a love story tie everything together adds so much depth to the overall picture.

Plus, the fact that it happens to be an unconventional romance, taking place in a widely popular anime, is very unexpected and makes for a momentous social statement.

Sadly, the positive and tolerant environment of this anime is not the real world that we live in, but Yuri!!! on ICE shows us how the world could be if we just live and let love. And that’s beautifully inspiring.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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02. AJIN (ep. 14-23, or Season 2 ep. 1-10) – If anything, I think the CG animation and the facial expressions have improved this season. The theme songs are kind of crap, though, especially compared to the first season’s offerings.

As an intellectual action story, it doesn’t break any new ground; however, everything AJIN does, it does exceptionally well. So in terms of sheer excellence in pacing and logical yet thrilling story progression, AJIN 2 probably surpasses Yuri!!! on ICE. However, Yuri!!! is my number one, because it is well rounded and truly groundbreaking.
(to stream on NETFLIX)

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03. BUNGO STRAY DOGS (ep. 13-23, or Season 2 ep. 1-11) – The first 4 episodes were amazing. No offense to Atsushi, he’s fine, but I greatly preferred Oda as the main character. The flashback storyline was darker and more serious than anything in the show beforehand. Plus, there were 2 jaw-droppingly cool temporary versions of the OP (which were both superior to the actual version of the OP, by the way). And, it was the only time I can recall hearing my 3 favourite seiyuu, namely Miyano Mamoru, Suwabe Junichi, and Miki Shinichiro, all in the same show, in significant roles, and in the same episodes together. That was some incredible ear candy!

The rest of the season covers the 3-way war between the Armed Detective Agency, the Port Mafia, and The Guild. Honestly, the Guild members haven’t really captured my interest. Dazai, however, continues to be a fascinatingly nasty yet loveable character.

Incidentally, Mamo is starring in all 3 of my top favourite anime this season. Since Dazai and Nagai Kei are both pictured above, I was almost tempted to put a picture of JJ at the start of the post, instead of Yuuri. How wrong would that have been?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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04. Haikyuu!! 3rd Season: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou (ep. 1-10 complete) – Yes, this whole season is about Karasuno’s one match-up against Shiratorizawa.

It’s also very good. The plays are riveting, the animation continues to be top-notch, and there’s character development too. It’s really satisfying how Tsukishima has become a major force for Karasuno.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (special ep. 66-100, or ep. 14-20) – Still highly enjoyable week after week, even if this cour has so far not been quite as crazy imaginative as the first one. Of course, a certain plot twist that I have been expecting (due to a spoilerific casting announcement back in early October) is still to come.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

06. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 27-37) – For a long time, I had my doubts about Rohan; I thought it was creepy the way he would try to buddy up to Koichi. But what do you know, I genuinely like the guy now! He’s smart and analytical, definitely a good asset when the rest of the team consists mostly of idiots and the villain you’re up against is an over-powered genius psychopath. The best part is his awkward and antagonistic relationship with Josuke; it’s so real, and so funny.

We’re finally nearing the climax of the Yoshikage Kira story arc which was being built up all season long. I’m kind of lukewarm about what’s happening right now, since I’m not sure all that time travel stuff actually makes sense.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 26-34) – This is shaping up to be one super-complicated war/politics story. There are so many different factions in play that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Tekkadan, which now has ties to a number of these groups, including Turbines/Teiwaz, McGillis/Gjallarhorn, and Arbrau, is caught in the middle of it all. If they play their cards right, the potential rewards could be great, but there’s no telling if their “allies” can be trusted or how great the costs might be.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

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08. Izetta, The Last Witch (Shuumatsu no Izetta) (ep. 1-11) – Pseudo-WWII-themed Izetta, the Last Witch is pretty impressive most of the time. The episodes focused on the war battles, the tactical strategy, and politics are well done; and the narrative is presented in a way that’s reasonably easy to follow. Finé is a great depiction of a strong and proactive leader who happens to be female.

Unfortunately, the occasional down-time episodes have been consistently cringe-worthy at worst, yawn-inducing at best. In those interludes, we get to see the female characters grab each other’s boobs, feel insecure about their bodies, and have tea-time with cake, because that’s what girls do!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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09. DREAM FESTIVAL! (ep. 1-10) – At first, I was not very impressed with DREAM FES; it looked like it would be just another second-rate idol anime. Mostly, I hated the Dorika (Dream Card) time stuff. The anime is pretty grounded otherwise, so the transformation sequences, in which the idols not only change clothes magical-girl style, but also transform into CG versions of themselves, are just weird.

But once I got past the Dorika Time and CG performances and unnecessary recaps, the characterizations and personal drama were actually pretty solid. The music is also nothing special, but it does come across as being slightly above average for an idol program.

I actually really liked the KUROFUNE rival duo introduced in ep. 7. I can see how their personalities would make them popular. I think I would totally be rooting for them if not for my awareness that Kanade is the main character and he and his group-mates are really hard-working!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. DRIFTERS (ep. 1-9) – DRIFTERS is graphically violent and loaded with potentially offensive material. For example, one respected, competent female character is constantly referred to as “Boobs.” There are also significant hints that the hooded leader of the villains is none other than the Son of God. Nevertheless, it can be pretty entertaining.

What the show does an excellent job of is illustrating Nobunaga and Toyohisa’s battle strategy and goals. In particular, Toyohisa’s methods of building loyalty while amassing troops are very smart; it’s no wonder so many people will take his side and fight for him voluntarily.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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11. Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Legend Star (ep. 1-10) – I was half-dreading this sequel after the terrible third season, but thankfully Legend Star has been way, way better than Revolutions. There is some purpose to the narrative and the dialogue is much improved. UtaPri is the granddaddy of idol shows, and it proves to be as much a pro at storytelling as at dishing out the tropes in this incarnation.

It’s nice to see some of the STARISH guys’ backgrounds expanded on finally, as they individually participate in duet projects with the members of their new rival HEAVENS, almost all of whom have a screw or two loose.

The theme of the season seems to be “kizuna” (bonds), so many of the stories, although varied, come back to the members having to re-evaluate whether or not they belong in their boy band; and that does get a little bit tiring.

One of the highlights for me was seeing 2 of QUARTET NIGHT’s meanies turn on each other in the second episode. It always annoyed me whenever Camus or Ranmaru bullied Nanami or Reiji, so getting to see the two of them rip into each other was really satisfying.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Kiss Him, Not Me (Watashi ga Motete Dousunda) (ep. 1-10) – You know? In this show, it doesn’t bother me much at all if the guys only like the main girl for her looks. Because what else is there to like really? She’s a diehard fujoshi who only cares about her BL. She isn’t personally interested in any of the guys except to ship them together. Other than that, Kae’s a reasonably nice, decent person, but not in any way that particularly stands out. If they want to be with her, they will constantly have to accommodate her otaku tendencies. So if she isn’t at least hot, what’s in it for them?

I do give the series credit for its honest, self-deprecating portrayal of the obsessive insanity of a raging otaku. Despite some occasional offensive content (such as Kae’s fat voice and sexual harassment-sensei), it is a very funny show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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13. DAYS (ep. 13-22) – I still don’t care much for Tsukamoto, or Kazama for that matter. It’s Kimishita that keeps me coming back to DAYS; I love his angry personality and I enjoy his interactions with all the other cast members. Now that he has been playing a bigger role in the series, it’s no wonder my opinion of DAYS is also improving.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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14. NANBAKA (ep. 1-10) – For no reason at all, this show has more sparkles than Magic-kyun (see below). It is ridiculously shiny and blindingly colourful, which is especially confounding as NANBAKA takes place in a prison.

There isn’t a lot of substance or depth here, but it is pretty fun to watch. You certainly don’t need to worry about tiring any brain cells in the process.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. Bloodivores (ep. 1-10) – It is really hard to say if this Chinese-Japanese co-production is good or bad. A lot is going to ride on how well the ending ties the pieces of the mystery together. So far, all I can do is give it the benefit of the doubt and trust that this vampire/monsters/survival game series has a plan. We will see.

(End of season edit: The naysayers were correct after all; it is bad. Bloodivores continues to raise questions right to the final episode and ends with nothing resolved.)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Magic-Kyun! Renaissance (ep. 1-10) – While this anime is supposed to be about exceptionally gifted artistes, the actual art produced is decidedly lacklustre. Of course, talent in Magic-kyun! is not measured by aesthetics; rather, it is all about the obscene amounts of sparkles that each artiste can produce. It’s hard to just take that on faith as a viewer, though. One standout fail for me is Ichijouji’s music. I would have expected an elite singing prodigy such as himself to have a deeper, more classical-sounding voice. Somehow the lightweight pop songs don’t get across the depth of emotion the show seems to want to convey.

Most of the characters are likeable enough, I guess, but Magic-kyun! will likely prove to be just another forgettable confection.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. ALL OUT!! (ep. 1-9) – I don’t really get rugby, and muscled guys in skin-tight uniforms are not my kind of fanservice.

As a sports anime, it has some similarities to DAYS, as they both feature a diminutive first-year main guy who is a newbie to his respective sport. By comparison, ALL OUT!! comes off as a more realistic portrayal and a more competent production overall, although it’s arguably a bit more boring from its lack of stand-out sympathetic characters. (Which is not the same as stand-out hairstyles – ALL OUT!! has those in spades.)

The soundtrack might be my favourite part of the show. They’re doing a good job with the frequent rock music as well as the lovely piano pieces.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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18. Nobunaga no Shinobi (Ninja Girl & Samurai Master) (ep. 1-10) – The first of 2 shorts on my list, Nobunaga no Shinobi is a cute, comedic take on the events of the Warring States Era starring a cute ninja girl named Chidori. Some of the episodes are pretty funny, but often they’re too short or quick to get that much out of. The more familiar you are with the events of the time period, the more likely you are to appreciate the gags presented. My knowledge of Japanese history is only so-so.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

19. GAKUEN HANDSOME (ep. 1-10) – It seems kind of unfair, yet obvious, to put this one last, as its charm lies in the fact that it is intentionally bad. GAKUEN HANDSOME is a willfully low-budget, horrendously drawn BL anime full of supposedly hot guys who don’t actually look anything remotely like handsome and a main character who doesn’t even have eyes. It is a series of 3-minute shorts parodying probably every trope in BL/harem/highschool anime, and your enjoyment level may vary. I know mine does.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

~ Well, I think I’ve pictured all the characters voiced by Mamo in the shows I’m watching. I can’t possibly forget about you, JJ. Representing Canada: Jean-Jacques Leroy!
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