Mid-Autumn 2020 Anime Ranking

This Fall season has been a remarkably strong one, filled with more titles I really look forward to catching each week than any other cour this past year. Accordingly, it was difficult to rank so many great shows. I almost copped out and made my top 2 to top 6 a 5-way tie! At any given time, depending on the week or the episode, any one of them could have held the number 2 spot; heck, possibly even the number 1 spot.

To put the icing on the cake, this season has also turned out to be an amazing and very welcome travelogue of the Japan that I miss. It thrills me to see familiar Tokyo cityscapes in Ikebukuro West Gate Park, HYPNOSIS MIC, and the newest Love Live!; while AKUDAMA DRIVE offers a different yet recognizable take on Osaka scenery!


01. MORIARTY THE PATRIOT (Yuukoku no Moriarty) (ep. 1-10) – William James Moriarty, Arthur Conan Doyle’s notorious villain, is the star of this series, alongside his 2 brothers. He is a highly charismatic and cunning math professor/crime consultant who secretly strives to eliminate the evils of the ruling nobility.

Finally we have a mystery anime with some competent mystery-solving!

It gets pretty dark though. And I have to say, while I agree that criminals such as the child-killer in the first episode absolutely deserved to be killed (especially to prevent further murders), I personally find revenge-as-healing to be too simplistic. I’m sure that delivering bloody retribution to some entitled asshole who has no regard for the health and safety of those ‘beneath’ him would feel good momentarily, but it would not reverse the damage that’s been done, and I doubt it could ever make things truly seem right again.

The true hero, none other than Sherlock Holmes, makes an appearance in ep. 6, but doesn’t get to take centre stage until the eighth episode. At first I thought he was too goofy to fit the tone of the series, but after seeing him wallow in some angst, I’m warming up to him and look forward to his “L versus Light”-like matchup with William.
(streaming at Funimation)


02. AKUDAMA DRIVE (ep. 1-10) – AKUDAMA DRIVE is an absolute spectacle of a show. With its striking neon visuals and stunning action pieces, it practically exudes cool.

The larger than life characters are crazy fun; and their special abilities and fighting scenes manage to be totally awesome and ridiculous at the same time. Meanwhile, the dystopian setting makes obvious statements about the perils of a totalitarian government and corrupt police force.

It’s hard to know where this plot is going. Hopefully we’ll get some meaningful answers, but for now, I’m definitely enjoying the ride!
(streaming at Funimation)


03. Ikebukuro West Gate Park (ep. 1-10) – Considering that the source material is over 20 years old, it’s impressive how modern the subjects covered by the anime are. In fact, some quick research reveals significant differences between this and previous IWGP incarnations, with this anime version being much more wholesome in general.

So don’t expect a western-style gangland crime drama. IWGP is remarkably positive and heartwarming. For example, after the G-Boys’ rival gang is introduced in ep. 2, the two groups promptly work out their perceived differences by talking things over!

The show covers an array of timely topics such as gang turf wars, Chinese propaganda, and social media online dissing turning into real-life hostilities, but so far hasn’t come to guns and murder. This is a rose-coloured, rather Japanese take on things, and I love it! Though it may not seem very realistic by North American standards, it is consistent with Ikebukuro being stereotyped as the seedy, bad part of Tokyo; because by our standards, it is not very bad at all!
(streaming at Funimation)


04. JUJUTSU KAISEN (ep. 1-11) – The newest monster-fighting shounen is a lot better than I expected. Great character writing makes all the difference in this show. Despite the horror elements, it is a fun watch with an extremely likeable cast and a lot of humour. Just don’t watch during dinner if the sight of someone ingesting cursed fingers is likely to ruin your appetite!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. NOBLESSE (ep. 1-10) – The art in this looks low-tech compared to a lot of recent anime. But what it lacks in shininess and flashiness, it more than makes up for in its writing, likeable characters, and unexpectedly frequent humour. Somehow it never ceases to amuse me that Rai, the lead character of the show, hardly ever speaks; and he remains oddly disengaged while everything is happening around him.

I’ve seen complaints that NOBLESSE is just a rehashed vampire/high school story, and the criticism is understandable, but personally, I don’t mind that this is not a high concept anime. It is genuinely fun to watch and that’s enough!

Note: It is recommended to watch or familiarize oneself with the events of NOBLESSE: AWAKENING before watching this.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. IDOLiSH7: Second BEAT! (ep. 5-13) – After encountering gossip in real life and on social media, a few of the IDOLiSH7 guys grapple with feelings of insecurity when comparing themselves to the other members. I would think that this is a cruel reality of life as an idol, unfortunately, where popularity is constantly measured and is a primary determinant of success. It’s a sobering topic, a problem with no happy resolution.

While the main spotlight is on the Re:vale duo this season, I am happy to see that there’s a fair amount of screen time for the TRIGGER boys too. Tenn, Gaku, and Ryuunosuke are such strong characters, with well-defined personalities, that the drama and the comedy seem to flow especially naturally when they are around.

In all honesty, the show is always 100% better whenever TRIGGER appears. Probably IDOLiSH7 would not like to hear me saying that about their own show, but at least I am confident that they do not read this little blog, so no hurt feelings I hope!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. HAIKYU!! TO THE TOP (Season 4) (ep. 14-24) – Most of this cour features the play-by-play coverage of the matchup between Karasuno and Inarizaki. It sounds simple and drawn out, but Haikyuu!! is great at this and is always exciting to watch.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. MAGATSU WAHRHEIT: ZUERST (ep. 1-9) – Apparently this is based on a game, but it really is hard to tell!

A complicated government conspiracy, a corrupt military, a rebel group, and mutant monsters all figure into this fantasy-action story. Two main characters are on opposing sides of the conflict. Interestingly, neither of them stand out to me that much. It’s almost like they are just part of the greater ensemble cast.

Well, I didn’t have any particular expectations going in, but I’m mostly enjoying the series so far.
(streaming at Funimation)


09. Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle (Maoujou de Oyasumi) (ep. 1-10) – The Demon Lord and his staffers had no idea what they were getting into when they captured Princess Syalis (I’m sorry, but I always think her name sounds like Cialis.) Oh, the horrors of having a cute little human girl in their midst who has zero regard for anyone or anything but getting herself a good night’s sleep!

The show is full of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness and parody of adventure game mechanics. Some of the best parts, though, have got to be when the demon castle regulars delight in seeing newcomers get punk’d, when they encounter the princess for the first time and horribly underestimate her.
(streaming at Funimation)


10. Osomatsu-san (Mr. Osomatsu) 3rd Season (ep. 1-9) – Season 2 was a let-down compared to season 1. So far, I’d put season 3 in the middle. The sextuplets-tachi’s skits are always kind of hit or miss for me, but their absurd antics and cultural references are hitting the mark more often than not this time around.

There’s probably a bit more introspection too, as evidenced by Totoko’s existential crises and the totally serious skit in ep. 5, where the Matsuno boys just walk and talk after attending a wedding reception together.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. HYPNOSIS MIC: Division Rap Battle – Rhyme Anima (ep. 1-11) – The Hypnosis Mic franchise has been around and building hype since 2017 in the form of music releases, a game, manga, and stage plays. This is the first anime adaptation.

This stylish anime features an abundance of attitude, swagger, and profanity, which can be entertaining, but the overall plot seems a bit weak to me. It probably doesn’t help that I am not that into the titular rap battles either.
(streaming at Funimation)


12. Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club (ep. 1-10) – I watched the first Love Live! series back in winter 2013, but did not bother with its sequel or Love Live! Sunshine!!. So this newest iteration of Love Live! was not even on my radar. But then, we learned that it is set in Odaiba, and that proved to be the nudge that our Tokyo-travelsick asses needed to check this out. Satisfyingly, the girls go shopping at DiverCity, one of the big malls in Odaiba, twice in the very first episode.

Well, now that the narrative is focused more on the various girls and less on the scenery, the anime is also becoming considerably less interesting to me.
(streaming at Funimation)


13. TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION 2 (ep. 1-10) – Wow, this is so bad. The primary activity that these idol boys seem to engage in is sitting around, brainstorming for their upcoming events. There is really no plot.

Despite being advertised in the title, the ‘animation’ often doesn’t truly meet the definition of the word. In fairness, the more recent episodes do fare a little better. There are even instances where character movements are suddenly quite impressive, even if, ironically, the occasion doesn’t seem to call for it. Which tells me the production staff are capable, but the time and money are not there.

Anyway, my standards and expectations for this show are nearly rock bottom. Any episode that doesn’t involve brainstorming, such as the sudden cooking show that was ep. 8, now seems pretty darn good.
(streaming at Funimation)

Mid-Winter 2018 Anime Ranking

I haven’t started with one of these in some years, but there are actually a few decent theme songs currently, so let’s kick things off with my choices for best OP/ED songs this season:

1. The Perfect World, by Marty Friedman feat. Jean-Ken Johnny & KenKen (B: The Beginning ED)
2. KISS OF DEATH, by Nakashima Mika (Produced by HYDE) (DARLING in the FRANXX OP)
3. Treasure, by Narek (cv: Ishikawa Kaito) & Vino (cv: Umehara Yuuichirou) (Dame x Prince ANIME CARAVAN ED3)
4. Heavenly Visitor, by TRIGGER (IDOLiSH7 ED)
5. Ref:rain, by Aimer (After the Rain ED)

It’s the season of Sanrio and ramen. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty and My Melody, not only has their own anime airing right now, they also have product placement and tie-ins with the other 2 “cute” shows on my list, How to keep a mummy and SCHOOL BABYSITTERS! Meanwhile, ramen is featured in the titles and content of 2 (very different) shows.

To tell the truth, I’ve been procrastinating about making this ranking. The reason is that there are so many really good series this winter that it’s kind of a pain deciding which show is better than which! Anyway, I’ll do my best.


01. DARLING in the FRANXX (ep. 1-9) – Depending on how I feel about each episode week by week, any of the shows in my top 5 could easily be my favourite of the season. Ultimately I’m going with DARLING in the FRANXX because I’m most invested in the characters of this show. The ways they relate to one another are compelling and I’m curious to know more about their world, even if I’m not expecting to be blown away by originality.

The early episodes of this mecha anime presented the cockpit scenes as one elaborate, extended sex joke. I think it turned some people off. I, however, thought it was really funny! Well, I also liked Aquarion EVOL and STAR DRIVER, so apparently I’m not one to be easily offended by this type of material. (On the other hand, I do find a tad offensive the way we always see Futoshi eating something. You can always count on good ol’ anime to fat-shame the chubby kid whenever there’s an opportunity to do so.)

Since then, the focus has turned more toward developing each of the characters, and I’m enjoying that aspect too, since I really do care about these kids… Well, except for Mitsuru; I have a feeling even he might become sympathetic eventually, but for now I just feel really sorry for Ikuno, who has to partner with him.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. SCHOOL BABYSITTERS (Gakuen Babysitters) (ep. 1-10) – I love my sisters more than anything in the world, so I’m a super easy target for heartwarming stories like this that emphasize the bonds between siblings. Additionally, there is a big age gap between myself and my youngest sibling, just like Ryuuichi and Kotarou, so this brings back memories of when my baby sister was, well, actually a baby.

Ryuuichi and Kotarou are on their own in this world after suffering the loss of their parents. Naturally, they are very attached to each other. They get taken in by the Chairwoman of a private school, and Ryuuichi uses his experience in raising his brother to help out at the school’s daycare.

The anime is not as sombre as I’m making it sound. Most of the time, it’s lighthearted and sweet and funny. I laugh a lot while watching; and then afterward, I’m left thinking about the characters’ personalities and how different the various sibling relationships are.

Personally, I would never leave my child at a daycare staffed by guys, especially not if the adult in charge were someone like Usaida – he is disturbingly irresponsible! I think I enjoyed it too much when Kamitani whacked him on the head that time. Then again, I always enjoy it when Kamitani whacks people. Is that bad? – I absolutely do not condone hitting people (especially children) in real life!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. HAKATA TONKOTSU RAMENS (ep. 1-9) – This show depicts Hakata as a city teeming with killers-for-hire. It has a huge ensemble cast, and it’s really hard to keep track of who’s who and who is whose associate, but I can follow it enough to enjoy it a lot. All the double-crossing and personality quirks are a blast to watch, although I’m also glad we are finally getting some background on Lin.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

04. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. 2 (Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan 2) (ep. 1-9) – More Saiki K. goodness. It’s great to have Saiki and his friends and family back; their personalities and the situations they get themselves into are always hilarious. If you liked the first season, you will also enjoy this.

The current OP, “Psilent Prisoner,” by Psychic Lover featuring lead vocals by Kaidou (cv: Shimazaki Nobunaga), is very chuunibyou and kind of amazing. I wonder if I should have included it in my song list up top?


05. How to keep a mummy (Miira no Kaikata) (ep. 1-9) – So freakin’ cute. That’s pretty much all you need to know. This show, about a boy and his mini mummy, and his friends and their fantastical pets, takes the cuteness of something like SCHOOL BABYSITTERS and dials it to eleven. There’s no deep meaning, no complicated plot to follow; just sit back, relax, and let the warmth wash over you.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. B: The Beginning (ep. 1-6) – A mature investigative crime drama along the lines of PSYCHO-PASS and Terror in Resonance. Uploaded by NETFLIX in its entirety early in March, we haven’t had time to marathon it, but we did check out the first 6 episodes over 2 sittings and I’m intrigued by what we’ve seen.

In some ways, Lily, the female protagonist, kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. She has a more cartoony appearance than the other cast members and it’s obvious she’s there largely for comic relief. But I like her. B: The Beginning is dark, violent, and frequently disturbing. When Lily shows up though, it lightens the mood and makes things feel less horrifying.
(streaming on NETFLIX in its entirety)

07. Yowamushi Pedal: GLORY LINE (ep. 1-10) – We’re in the middle of the Inter-High and GLORY LINE (YowaPeda season 4) is once again as exciting and funny as the first 2 seasons. It’s nice to see the Sohoku boys back in the spotlight. Their team banter is always fun too, especially Naruko and Imaizumi. Now all we need is for Onoda to strut his stuff!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Dame x Prince ANIME CARAVAN (ep. 1-10) – This show is pretty dumb, but damn if it isn’t really funny too! It basically functions as a parody of reverse harem stories. The guys of DamePri are handsome to look at, I guess, but every one of them is a certifiable weirdo. Part of the joke is that our lead, Princess Ani, wouldn’t be caught dead dating any of them. Her reactions to the shenanigans are hilarious.

All along, there were hints that something shady was going on behind the scenes, but the anime has been fluffy and comedic for the vast majority of its run. Until now, that is; the tone suddenly shifted in ep. 10, and it seems like things will be a little more serious in the final stretch.

Funniest character: Prince Narek. He’s so ridiculously, obliviously full of himself that sometimes he only needs to show up and I already feel like giggling. Least-funny: Gurimaru. Mascot characters just don’t work for me.
(streaming at HIDIVE)


09. After the Rain (Koi wa ameagari no You ni) (ep. 1-10) – After the Rain is about a teenaged girl with a crush on her 40-something boss. As such, it tiptoes on some potentially problematic material. To its credit, the anime is sensitive and believable and not really weird at all, in no small part because Kondo, the boss, is a decent guy who doesn’t take Akira’s advances too seriously.

10. GARO -VANISHING LINE- (ep. 13-21) – Even though Sword and Sophie are the real main characters, it’s the episodes focused Luke that I’ve enjoyed the most. Also, ep. 16, a mostly stand-alone story about a chance acquaintance, proved to be a highlight. It was written well enough to make me care about this random guy. And it was refreshing to see that not everything has to be because of Horrors.

As previously stated, the action is great; and in particular, I am satisfied with the musical accompaniment during those scenes. A show like this is just crying to have some metal in its soundtrack; GARO gets it.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. VIOLET EVERGARDEN (ep. 1-10) – The animation looks absolutely stunning in this much-hyped KyoAni production. VIOLET EVERGARDEN tells the story of a former-soldier doll who starts a new life after the war as a letter-writer, while coming to terms with her past.

Disappointingly, the quality of the visuals far out-classed the rather unsophisticated narrative in the early stages. But then the anime apparently started following the source material more closely around the fifth episode and it was a huge improvement. My enthusiasm for the show increased dramatically.

Basically, VIOLET EVERGARDEN has taken the opposite trajectory of SANRIO BOYS (see below) in my rankings.
(streaming on NETFLIX weekly)

12. Record of Grancrest War (Grancrest Senki) (ep. 1-10) – This reminds me a bit of Lord Marksman and Vanadis (2014). Both have a political/fantasy setting, extremely fast pacing, and strong female warriors. Grancrest Senki is the less fanservicey and more respectable of the two.

The pace really is fast. There’s a war going on and there can be five or ten different things happening at the same time, with very little explanation. It is possible to enjoy it just from following the gist of it, though.

The series can also be terribly violent at times, but I feel the violence tends to be presented in ways that are more artistic than gratuitous. I also like that even doomed extras sometimes get decently animated fights before getting killed off. However, it’s kind of a shame that frequently, named characters with interesting personalities or backgrounds also just get killed off soon after their introduction.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. IDOLiSH7 (ep. 3-12) – The male idol anime of this season is fairly competent, though I don’t feel it particularly stands out among other shows of its genre. It’s realistic that IDOLiSH7 does not become successful immediately, and that in fact a couple of the members rise in popularity ahead of the others.

I kind of wish there was more focus on the rival group, TRIGGER. Two of the 3 guys have somewhat abrasive and rebellious personalities. They clearly have their own agendas, and I am genuinely interested in learning what their motives are. Plus, TRIGGER’s music is better; which isn’t actually difficult since the IDOLiSH7 songs are all terrible.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Ms Koizumi loves ramen noodles (Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san) (ep. 1-10) – While this is a cute and pleasant show, it really has no plot. Gluttony is the name of the game for ramen-addicted Koizumi and her friends. We usually make sure to get some ramen in us before watching, or at least have food in hand, because man, all that ramen on display looks sinfully good. It’s definitely given us ideas on where we want to eat when we next go to Japan!

It can be argued that both this and last season’s Love Rice are pro-carb propaganda vehicles, and I’m not sure I can really support that message. While I do happen to be staunchly pro-carbs myself, it’s more of a personal preference and not because I have any delusions that this kind of diet is balanced or healthy. Having ramen every day, several times a day may sound heavenly, but it can’t possibly be good for you!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (ep. 40-47) – The Byakuya Gang arc was actually not bad, in that it was fairly enjoyable to watch. I didn’t see the grey in the criminals’ ideology, though. They were trying to gain public favour by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, but I think Boruto summed it up pretty nicely right from the start, that “stealing is stealing!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Osomatsu-san 2 (Mr. Osomatsu 2) (ep. 14-23) – A clear improvement over the first cour, even if it still isn’t quite measuring up to the creative genius of season one.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


17. SANRIO BOYS (ep. 1-9) – SANRIO BOYS had a very promising start. The message of the first few episodes, that it’s okay to be yourself, even if you like Sanrio mascots and you’re a boy, was relevant and easily applicable to anyone who might feel they don’t fit in with the crowd for any reason.

Then, the show veered off into worshipping-Hello-Kitty-as-a-deity territory and they lost me. In ep. 7, the boys had a transcendent experience visiting the Sanrio Puroland theme park. I didn’t get it at all. I’m grateful I got to see it in this anime, though; now I know I don’t ever need to go there myself!

Now the new friends are putting all their resources into making a musical, even though it’s obvious none of them has any expertise in that sort of thing. It’s just not believable. All in all, SANRIO BOYS could have been so much better if it had continued to play out as a parable for the challenges of learning to accept yourself and to accept others who are different from you. What a missed opportunity.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)