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)

Jacquie’s 2019 Year in Review

How’s this for procrastination? Check it out! Better late than never, right?

☆ Top 10 Anime

#1. VINLAND SAGA (24 episodes)

Aired Summer 2019 to Autumn 2019
(Streaming: Amazon)

#2. THE PROMISED NEVERLAND (Yakusoku no Neverland) (12 episodes)

Aired Winter 2019
(Streaming: Crunchyroll)

#3. The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second (Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These – Seiran) (12 episodes)

Aired Autumn 2019
(Streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. COP CRAFT (12 episodes)

Aired Summer 2019
(Streaming: FUNimation)

#5 Dr.STONE (24 episodes)

Aired Summer 2019 to Autumn 2019
(Streaming: Crunchyroll)

#6. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (26 episodes)

Aired Spring 2019 to Summer 2019
(Streaming: Crunchyroll)

#7. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Season 3 (22 episodes)

Aired Summer 2018 and Spring 2019
(Streaming: Crunchyroll)

#8. [given] (11 episodes)

Aired Summer 2019
(Streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious (Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore TUEEE Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru) (12 episodes)

Aired Autumn 2019
(Streaming: FUNimation)

#10. PSYCHO-PASS 3 (8 double-length episodes)

Aired Autumn 2019
(Streaming: Amazon)

◇ ◇ ◇ ◇ ◇

☆ Anime Songs TOP 7 COUNTDOWN:

Going in the opposite order now…

07. “MAYDAY” by coldrain feat. Ryo from CRYSTAL LAKE (Fire Force OP2)

06. “Iruimi” by JUNNA (BEM ED)

05. “Sight Over the Battle” by OLDCODEX (ULTRAMAN Theme)

04. “Gurenge” by LiSA (Demon Slayer OP)

03. “Touch off” by UVERWorld (THE PROMISED NEVERLAND OP1)

02. “Take On Fever” by OLDCODEX (Tokunana OP)

01. “MUKANJYO” by Survive Said The Prophet (VINLAND SAGA OP1)

◇ ◇ ◇ ◇ ◇

The following music categories are not necessarily anime-related, though they kind of happen to be.

☆ BEST FULL-LENGTH ALBUM


THE SIDE EFFECTS” by coldrain
Favourite tracks: SEE YOU, STAY THE COURSE
(Available on iTunes Canada, Spotify)

Runner up:
Anti” by HYDE
Includes previously released songs: Who’s Gonna Save Us, Mad Qualia, Fake Divine, After Light, Zipang, and his worthy cover of Duran Duran’s Ordinary World.
Favourite album track: Another Moment
(Available on iTunes Canada, Spotify)

Honourable mention:
LADDERLESS” by OLDCODEX
Favourite tracks: Sight Over the Battle, Deeply Mind
(Available on Spotify)

☆ BEST SINGLE (A-side & B-sides)


Take On Fever” by OLDCODEX (Take On Fever, Nasty, painting of sorrow)
(Available on Spotify)

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.

Masquerade KISS – The Boss Main Story

The main story for Masquerade KISS’s fourth and final suitor came out this summer. The Boss is the mysterious handler and long-time crush of our secret agent MC. She joins him on an undercover mission for this route.

If I didn’t already know that the MC had a thing for him, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in the Boss at all. Part of it is that I’m not into boss types; but also, in some of the other stories, he was not portrayed as someone she could wholly trust.

As usual, I read for free. In the other routes, I didn’t feel that anything significant was missing by taking the free options. In this one though, there were flashbacks to lines that you wouldn’t have seen if you didn’t spend the hearts for the Premium version of the story.

Overall, I didn’t get a good sense for what the Boss might be thinking during the story, or how he really felt about the MC.

There’s a scene in which he hurts “Akari”, and it’s pretty obviously implied that he had to do it in order to prevent further harm to her and the mission. But we don’t see him agonizing over it at all, and in fact, the whole thing seems to get swept under the rug as the story progresses. Honestly, I would have preferred it if he could not go through with it. As it is, I can’t help but get the impression that he didn’t cherish her as someone who truly loved her would.

Bottom line: I didn’t like him much compared to Kazuomi or Yuzuru. I might prefer him to Kei, but that’s because of my personal aversion to creepy types.

Mid-Summer 2019 Anime Ranking

A small anime load is going to be the norm now, as work and obligations continue to keep us busy. Also, I will confess that I recently caved and rescinded my One Game Policy™. I now play Ikemen Vampire as well as Ikemen Sengoku on a regular basis. They are fun and rewarding, but they do divert quite a bit of time and attention away from anime and life.

The anime series that we started and dropped this season numbered nearly as many as the titles we ended up sticking with. Some prominent shows that fell by the wayside include to the abandoned Sacred Beasts, FIRE FORCE, Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files, Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit, Multi-Target Attacks!, and Ensemble Stars!. Kochouki: Wakaki Nobunaga might be on the chopping block too.


01. COP CRAFT (ep. 1-9) – A fish-out-of-water, visible minority (alien) rookie cop gets paired with grizzled (human) veteran. Yes, we’ve seen this set-up a million times before, not only in anime, but in western entertainment as well. But even though there’s nothing special about the premise, or the animation quality, and everybody seems to be criticizing the show, I guess I don’t care about that stuff, because I still like it!

I believe it’s all in the execution. From the confident storytelling, to the impeccable comic timing, to the nuanced characters (side characters too!), and most of all the stellar script, COP CRAFT is really smart; and I find it to be highly enjoyable. I also appreciate the realistic way COP CRAFT touches on various social issues topics such as race relations, sexual orientation, and politics.
(streaming at FUNimation)


02. VINLAND SAGA (ep. 1-9) – Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Viking anime before. This one is a really well-written (and violent) tale of a young boy named Thorfinn losing his innocence and growing into a warrior obsessed with vengeance. I don’t know much about the events of the Middle Ages, so I’m learning a little bit of history from watching this show.

The first 3 episodes originally aired together, but we had to take a break between 2 and 3 in order to prepare ourselves for what was obviously coming.

I wonder that no one tells the whole truth to Thorfinn. I mean, Askeladd is clearly not a good guy, but he was more the weapon, not the rightful target for revenge. Honour had nothing to do with it, after all; Askeladd was hired to do a job, and he had to do it.

The opening for this anime is so good. Survive Said The Prophet’s melodic and metal “MUKANJYO” pairs beautifully with the dramatic character imagery, epic vistas, and constantly moving camera work to produce the best opening/ending credits sequence I’ve seen this season, and maybe so far this year.
(streaming: Amazon Prime)


03. [given] (ep. 1-10) – There’s a lot to like about [given]. As a band anime, it probably ranks up among the likes of NANA and BECK. The characters are all likeable, and the performance animation and music are quite good too. In addition, [given] is a sensitive and subtle story of the budding romance between the 2 leads, which gets a bit angsty, but not to the point of melodrama.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. STARMYU High School Star Musical Season 3 (ep. 1-11) – Hoshitani really, really wants to perform together with all his friends for the Opening Ceremony, which leads to trouble with the current Kao Council. That is actually the whole plot. And you know what? It’s stupid, but it’s enough. The magic of STARMYU is in the great cast. The characters are consistently loveable and funny (well, most of them), and true to their personalities. While I do miss Ootori and Hiiragi, STARMYU in general has not lost its charm, even well into its third season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (ep. 14-23) – The stunning sakuga and gorgeous art toward the end of the spider arc had social media all abuzz. While it certainly looked impressive, I was personally more entertained by the (filler) episodes which led up to that arc. That’s because Zenitsu and Inosuke are such great characters. I mean I kind of feel sorry for Tanjirou that he has to put up with these crazies, but they are funny! My favourite part was how upset Zenitsu got when he was forced to part with that kid he was supposed to have been protecting.

At the conclusion of the spider-demon arc, the show tried to humanize the villain by showing his past, a typical occurrence in shounen storytelling. But it was way too little, way too late. After all the evil we’d seen him do, there was no way to justify that, and his origin story fell flat.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. Dr. STONE (ep. 1-10) – Senkuu is undeniably wise, not only in his scientific know-how, but also in his philosophical worldview. However, I have to question his leadership skills if at only the third episode, when the world as they know it has a population of 4, he already needs to make gunpowder!

Anyway, it’s very easy to root for Senkuu to be successful in reviving the world because obviously, science is cool.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace): Act II (season 3) (ep. 14-24) – It’s been a really long time coming, but in the rivalry between Seido pitchers Sawamura and Furuya, Sawamura is consistently outperforming Furuya lately, and actually looking like the main character that he is! Coach Kataoka is even starting him in the important game against scary fast Hakuryuu High School. Let’s hope Sawamura continues to hold his own against their strong batters and audacious base-stealers.

It might not always be evident from the way he acts, but Miyuki is a remarkable captain for his team, passing on his knowledge to the junior members, and sadly, also preparing his pitchers for a future that won’t include him.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Fruits Basket (2019) (ep. 14-22) – We were getting a bit tired of the usual formula, which is: Tohru encounters the Souma-of-the-week.

Fortunately, eps. 21-22 shifted the focus to Tohru’s friend Hanajima, showing her past and explaining how she came to be the way she is now. Up until that point, she had been a pretty gimmicky character. This flashback story impressively and unexpectedly humanized her.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. BEM (ep. 1-7) – This is another 50th anniversary reboot project of which I’m not familiar with the original source or previous adaptations. It might be the fault of the dated franchise, but many of the villains are so cringingly ridiculous, they would have been right at home in the parody anime Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!.

Bem, Bela, and Belo are humanoid youkai who go around defeating evil monsters in order to protect humans. Their goal is to become human again someday.

So no surprise when, in ep. 7, Bem lectured Belo that he must not kill a scumbag who was experimenting on human and animal captives because it’s their policy to not kill humans. But then, Bem proceeded to release all of the creatures from their cages and allowed them to maul the guy to death. Umm okay, Bem, as long as your conscience is clear.

When it comes to gritty, dark, supernatural anime, COP CRAFT scratches my itch this season a lot better than BEM.
(streaming at FUNimation)

TIFF – Saturday Fiction

Released 2019

2 stars (out of 4)

This movie, set in 1941 Shanghai during the Japanese occupation, was too… advanced for me.

There were very many characters, each with their own allegiances, motivations, and secrets. Four languages were spoken prominently in the film (Chinese, Japanese, French, English); at least I had the benefit of recognizing each of them when I heard them, otherwise it would have been even harder to keep track of who was whom. In general, it was challenging to discern what was truth and what was a lie when the characters interacted with each other. That applied to the main character too. Great that she was a badass film star/undercover agent, but she remained as much of an enigma to the viewer as to her allies and enemies.

Additionally, there was a “play within a play” (the film shares the name Saturday Fiction with the play) which seemed to blend in to reality.

Based on the title, this blurring of fact and fiction might have been the whole intent, but for me, I could not tell what the movie was trying to say then.

The film was all in black and white, shot with hand-held cameras closely following the characters. With a period piece like this, I would have liked to have seen some historical scenery images, but there was not much to be found here beyond the inside of the buildings.

TIFF – No.7 Cherry Lane

Released 2019

3 stars (out of 4), having the benefit of the director’s preface. Likely less without it.

3D-animated to start, then redrawn to appear 2D on a rice paper canvas, No.7 Cherry Lane takes place during the political unrest of 1967 Hong Kong. The film was made in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Beijing; and the dialogue is a mixture of Mandarin and Cantonese.

Director Yonfan was in attendance and he provided an interview and comments before the screening – which was a really good thing! Apparently, he does not watch animated works himself, so he did not have preconceptions about how things should be done, and so the film might be seen as unconventional. He also warned that it would be a slow movie and advised us how important he thought the soundtrack was.

Indeed, No.7 Cherry Lane was pretty different from the anime that I’m accustomed to, which values “show” over “tell.” Some parts were so heavily narrated that it seemed more like reading a book, with the images on screen matching the narration. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as otherwise I might not have known to pay attention to the somewhat mundane details. Yet, for all the abundant exposition in those scenes, there were just as many that could have benefitted from further explanation.

Some parts were just plain weird. I still don’t understand the point of the ball-less tennis match (at first I thought it was an artistic choice to not show the ball, while my sister thought it was a budgetary choice – but apparently there was actually no ball!) And particularly, that hallucinatory sequence near the end had us wondering, quite literally, “What the heck is she smoking?”

The computer-graphic origin of the art was especially apparent in the characters’ movements, which was the “slowest” part of the film. The way they walked reminded me of zombies; and if I had been streaming this on the computer, I might have thought I had a connection problem with how laggy it looked!

This is not to say I completely disliked the film. There were aspects that worked for me. The music was beautiful, as promised. The historical Hong Kong backdrop was a treat to behold. Additionally, I did ship the May-December romance between the 2 leads, even if the love triangle seemed unnecessary and (at least for me) incomprehensible.

Masquerade KISS – Yuzuru Main Story

I started reading a couple of chapters of Yuzuru’s route a while ago, but it did not hook me enough to bring me back when I got busy. Recently, Love 365 held a 12-day special campaign where wait times between chapters were eliminated, and finally I was motivated to schedule in some reading time.

The route turned out to be really good! And it wasn’t because I personally liked the guy (I prefer more assertive, less tsundere types), but because the writing was great. The story had a good flow, and since Yuzuru was a man of such few words, it allowed “Mikoto” to really show some personality and sass. I thought their relationship felt more honest than the other routes, even though obviously, secrets and deception were part of the game. The ending (regular one – I did not shell out for the Super Happy End) rated high in the feel-good department as well.

This route had some nice, unique backgrounds. The music was the same as in the other 2 stories.

To sum up, I felt the MC and Yuzuru had enough believable chemistry in their fake-love-turned-real story that I’m willing to forgive the not one, but two coincidental meet-ups, and call this route the best of the 3 in Masquerade KISS!

Sound! Euphonium The Movie ~Our Promise: A Brand New Day~ (Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale)

Released 2019

This feature film, a direct sequel to Sound! Euphonium 2, stars Kumiko as a second year and introduces several new members of the Kitauji High School concert band club. It is lovely and will likely satisfy fans of the 2 preceding TV series.

But that, of course, is not me. As I have previously and recently stated, I watched, but wasn’t terribly excited about Sound! Euphonium season one. I never got around to watching season two. I enjoyed the side story film, Liz and the Blue Bird, somewhat. So keep in mind that my perspective might be considerably different from that of a true fan.

The first half of the film seemed to have an odd fixation on monikers. More than one character took issue numerous times about being called by surname instead of given name, or nickname instead of proper name. I found it a little weird that such a big deal was made out of it, and I guess I didn’t really understand the significance of it all.

The second half tackled the theme of talent vs seniority when selecting musicians for their club’s competitive performance, which is familiar territory for Sound! Euphonium viewers.

It’s obvious that a great deal of love, attention, and budget was put into the band’s final performance, which was easily the most impressive scene of the film.

Even though “finale” is in the title, the series is clearly not over; in fact, the ending teased a possible season 3.

Why did I go out of my way to see this, you might be wondering? The main reason is I believe in supporting anime screenings when they come to my local cinemas. The second is my sister is a slightly bigger fan of the franchise than I am (though not enough to get through season 2!) And finally, with the horrific tragedy that just occurred at the Kyoto Animation Studio, I’m especially keen to give the company some support right now.

The screening we attended was the English-dubbed version, which was rather a surprise to us in the audience. I’m not a dub hater, but it does take some getting used to; and some of the wording and intonations sounded awkward at times.