Mid-Winter 2021 Anime Ranking

Going into this season, aside from the obvious sequels, there were very few new anime that caught our attention based on description. Therefore, voice talent became a major deciding factor for the shows we checked out. That’s how we ended up watching almost everything that Umehara Yūichirō and Saitō Sōma, my current favourite and my sister’s favourite seiyuu, respectively, have roles in.

I had to bail on EX-ARM (starring Sōma) after 3 episodes, however. I never had any delusions that it might be good. More like I had hoped it might be so bad it’s good. But it was just bad.

Also because of Sōma, we picked up The Quintessential Quintuplets (Go-Toubun no Hanayome) in the middle of its second season, without bothering with season one. So yes, we are now following both the sextuplet-brothers anime and the quintuplet-sisters anime.

We started HIGH-RISE INVASION as well (Ume plays Sniper Mask), also with the expectation that it might be so bad it’s good. So far, that’s panning out fine. We’ve seen only 4 episodes, so it’s not included in the ranking below. Of course The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ isn’t included either because we started on episode 9.


01. JUJUTSU KAISEN (ep. 14-22) – Last cour, we fell in love with Nanami. This cour, Tōdō has stolen our hearts with his instant bromance with Itadori.

I really did not expect to like Tōdō so much when he was first introduced. It turns out he is incredibly talented, strong, smart, stupid, and funny. When he’s being serious, his thoughts are impressively organized. Like any good eccentric genius though, he’s got his quirks. Not only is he a zealous otaku who lives for his waifu, he also happens to have a hilariously over-active imagination. That whole elaborate shared history he spontaneously fabricates for himself and Itadori is priceless!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Final Season (overall ep. 60-72) – This is a very different show from when it all started. The setting has expanded; the characters’ understanding of their world has completely been altered; and the character art has changed too – I’m not personally a big fan of the new art.

Because we felt a bit lost after the radical developments at the end of season 3, we weren’t as keen for this final season when it started airing in December as we should have been. We actually put off watching until mid-January. But once we started, it was very hard to stop.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


03. SK∞ (SK8 the Infinity) (ep. 1-9) – Langa grew up snowboarding in Canada, so when he takes up the skateboard in Japan, that experience informs his style and natural talent. As he rapidly gains attention in the underground “S” racing circuit, how will that affect his relationship with his newfound skateboard buddy, Reki?

All of the characters are likeable, fun, and attractive. Well, I’m not sure I can say I ‘like’ ADAM that much, but he certainly makes an impression! Langa and Reki have a genuinely sweet friendship. And for some reason, I really like Cherry, including how his distinctly masculine voice is somewhat at odds with his very feminine appearance. Long, pink-haired effeminate dudes are not uncommon in anime. I’m serious: check out Mochizuki from Skate-Leading ☆ Stars and Kokoro from I★CHU from this list alone. However, I don’t think I’ve ever come across one as elegant and manly as Cherry.

SK8 is helmed by Utsumi Hiroko, director of Free! and Banana Fish. If you loved the heart and artistry of Free!, this gorgeous anime is definitely one I recommend.
(streaming at Funimation)


04. Dr. STONE: STONE WARS (ep. 1-9)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Horimiya (ep. 1-10) – I’m really particular about my romance anime. I find the usual tropes and melodrama tiring. Fortunately, Horimiya mostly hits the right notes for me. The characters seem like good, well-adjusted kids. I like that when the main characters get confronted by classmates about their dating status, the response is “Yeah, so?” instead of denials and lies.

That said, I do find Hori’s recent kink development to be problematic on multiple levels. It would not be an issue if they kept it very occasional and very private. Acting like that in public, however, can give their teachers and classmates the wrong idea and get them in real trouble.

Also, abusive behaviour could easily become real, as Miyamura has to change his mindset in order to act so differently from his usual nature.

Worst, their play-abuse normalizes that type of interaction for people who see them and makes light of those who may genuinely be victimized. So yeah, I know it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but I could do without that aspect of the show.
(streaming at Funimation)


06. 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team (Seiin Koukou Danshi Volley Bu) (ep. 1-10) – The early time skip was confusing to me. It wasn’t obvious how much time had passed and what went down in the meantime. Some of the characters seemed to be dealing with some past trauma, but that wasn’t very clear. And are Haijima and Kuroba actually close friends?

At least the Seiin team senpai, Aoki and Oda, are more likeable. Especially Aoki (Ume’s character); I love how bossy, manipulative, and clever he is.

Well, then the Fukuho team made their debut mid-series, and almost immediately, I was wondering, ‘Oh no, these are the rivals right? How come it feels so much like they are the protagonists of this story? I haven’t even warmed up to the home team this much yet!’
(streaming at Funimation)


07. Skate-Leading ☆ Stars (ep. 1-11) – This is a sports anime featuring skate-leading, a fictional group-ice-skating sport that’s part dance and part synchronized figure skating. Competitions have a short program and a long program like other figure skating divisions.

Ep. 6 kind of confused me. First Maeshima was criticized for being too sloppy, but then as soon as he tightened his performance, he got blamed for playing it too safe. I’m surprised he didn’t seem as frustrated as we felt watching it.

Sōma and Ume both have supporting roles, and both of them play to type here. Ume turns in another Non-expressive Dude, while Sōma continues to make Radiant Golden Boy his personal specialty. Kuonji (Sōma’s character) is actually a highlight of the anime. Because he apparently spent time in Canada, he regularly peppers his dialogue with (well-pronounced!) English phrases. Kuonji is just so obnoxious and in-your-face, he kind of bulldozes over the rest of the cast and steals the show. It’s awesome.
(streaming at Funimation)


08. Hortensia SAGA (ep. 1-10) – A fairly generic fantasy-adventure anime starring an extremely generic-looking male lead, with some pretty generically evil villains. Surely Marius/Marielle could do a better job at pretending to be a man. Anyone who didn’t already know she was supposed to be a guy would take just one look and assume she’s female!

Anyway, the king of Hortensia has been murdered and the church has taken control. It’s up to the hidden princess and her trusted companions to defeat the evil forces and save her kingdom.

But wait. Let’s put aside the evil pope and the war for a moment. Adelheid, ruler and military commander of the Principality of Olivier, ‘noticed’ Deflotte! Could it be? Here I assumed his romantic advances were only meant to be a clownish character flaw. Could it be he actually has a chance with her?

Not saying anything about the rest of the show, but in general, I like how they’ve portrayed this (Ume’s) character. For all that he’s made out to be a girl-crazy flirt, I have to respect that Deflotte had no eyes whatsoever for the likes of the pretty pop-idol princess-pretender who charmed dozens of male admirers, and instead set his sights way, way above his station! He also gets to speak up and complain whenever they have to do anything unpleasant, though that never stops him from doing his duty faithfully.
(streaming at Funimation)


09. Osomatsu-san (Mr. Osomatsu) 3rd Season (ep. 13-22)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. THE PROMISED NEVERLAND (Yakusoku no Neverland) Season 2 (ep. 1-9) – I had high expectations for this, based on how good the first season was, but it’s been pretty disappointing.
(streaming at Funimation)


11. I★CHU: Halfway Through the Idol (ep. 1-10) – It’s a common complaint of mine when it comes to these idol shows: too many characters. Even in their groups, I have trouble recognizing each guy. Once they are separated from their units? Forget it.

One of the groups consists of members from 5 different nationalities. I would think that would afford them the unique liberty of being able to incorporate a wide variety of styles into their music without worry of triggering cultural appropriation accusations; but they seem to play it safe. Of course, this is a show that has a walking, talking bear as a school principal, so never mind.

Credit where it’s due, the I★CHU performance segments appear to be more hand-drawn than CG, and they look good!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. WAVE!! -Let’s go surfing!!- (WAVE!!: Surfing Yappe!!) (ep. 1-9) – A dumb kid suddenly develops a passion for surfing. Then tragedy strikes (in a rather dumb way.) Then life goes on.

The CG surfing animation is not amazing, but I think it’s passable enough to service the story. The story itself is the real problem; I am pretty surprised at how it’s basically gone nowhere.

Right, and don’t get me started on that annoying synthesized soundtrack.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

(EX-ARM, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ are on Crunchyroll; HIGH-RISE INVASION is on Netflix)

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-Summer 2020 Anime Ranking


01. The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED (Fugou Keiji: Balance:Unlimited) (ep. 3-9) – The main feature is the odd-couple repartee between the 2 police detectives, and Millionaire Detective is probably worth watching for that alone.

Fortunately, the initial formula of Daisuke causing reckless, unnecessary damage and then paying huge amounts in reparations doesn’t last the entire run of the series. There is an actual mystery storyline here.
(streaming at Funimation)


02. APPARE-RANMAN! (ep. 4-11) – Like Millionaire Detective, APPARE-RANMAN! initially debuted in the spring season but got delayed due to the pandemic. It’s really nice to finally have these shows back.

Appare and Kosame are taking part in the Trans-America Race in their steamship-turned-racecar in hopes of winning the prize money and getting back home to Japan. More than the race itself, it’s fun to follow this motley crew of colourful and extraordinary characters on their adventure.
(streaming at Funimation)


03. DECA-DENCE (ep. 1-10) – Is this post-apocalypse? Sci-fi?… Isekai?

The second episode was a drastic departure from the first one; and it’s not until episode 3 and beyond, however, that we get a clearer picture of what DECA-DENCE is really about.
(streaming at Funimation)


04. AHIRU NO SORA (ep. 37-47) – Both of this and Fruits Basket (below) have hit a nice stride. They are reasonably enjoyable to watch every week; however, they’re still nothing to get super excited for either.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Fruits Basket 2nd Season (ep. 14-23)
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


06. Mr Love: Queen’s Choice (Koi to Producer: EVOL×LOVE) (ep. 1-9) – I quite like the MC in this otome game adaptation. She looks like a little girl, yes, but she’s smart and independent. It’s obvious she finds Victor intimidating, for example, but she isn’t afraid to speak her mind to him.

Unfortunately, I do find it weird and somewhat troubling that the subtitled names and spoken names in this series are not the same, especially in the case of Lucian/Simon.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. The Misfit of Demon King Academy (Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha: Shijou Saikyou no Maou no Shiso, Tensei shite Shison-tachi no Gakkou e) (ep. 1-11) – Instead of introducing characters and taking the time to get us familiar with them, the setup is often accomplished by characters standing around and explaining things. That does get us to the important part of the plot expediently, but we don’t know enough about the players to feel the weight of subsequent events. Because of that, the pace somehow manages to be too fast and too slow at the same time.

The story, and the humour, is passably effective, but I feel most of it could be a lot more impactful with some more skillful and graceful storytelling.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. JAPAN SINKS: 2020 (Nihon Chinbotsu 2020) (10 episodes) – I was expecting something along the lines of its thematic predecessor Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, but with how this show seems preoccupied with killing off its characters in the most ridiculously shocking and gruesome ways, JAPAN SINKS comes off as more of a B-grade horror flick than a disaster movie.
(streaming at NETFLIX)


09. Food Wars! The Fifth Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: Gou no Sara) (ep. 3-11) – While there has always been a fair amount of fantasy to Food Wars!, it has gotten plain ridiculous at this point. The members of Noir are literally clowns! And what’s with the authorities of this BLUE competition randomly turning a blind eye to illegal activities?

Worst of all, the show is also rushing through the cooking and food presentation, which was previously one of the main highlights of the series.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

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.