Mid-Summer 2023 Anime Ranking

It’s more of an end-of-season ranking this time, partly because many of the series ended earlier than usual, and partly because I’m compiling it later than usual.

01. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers (Ep. 1-10) – Ōoku re-imagines what Japanese history might have been like if a virulent plague had wiped out the majority of the male population. Ironically, the story is still mostly about men, specifically the kept men who serve the female Shogun.

Even though Ōoku was already available in its entirety immediately at the start of the season, we made a conscious decision to watch week by week (along with My Happy Marriage, a weekly-release Netflix show.) I’m glad I experienced it this way, because it allowed me to really give thought to the story, and the characters, and especially to Arikoto’s plight.

(Streaming at Netflix)

02. Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan (2023) (Ep. 1-13) – Unfortunately, having previously watched the 1990s anime series, watched the live action movies, and read the manga, this new anime doesn’t quite deliver the wow factor for me that a new experience might have. That said, I definitely did have some complaints about the old series, and especially about the films, so I do love that this new iteration hews very closely to the best version of the story, the original manga.

Well of course, we wouldn’t miss anything that stars Saito Sōma, and I stand by my initial opinion upon learning of the casting, that he really is perfect for the role of Kenshin.

(Streaming at Crunchyroll)

03. AYAKA: A STORY OF BONDS AND WOUNDS (Ep. 1-12) – We went into this expecting it to be generic fantasy fluff, but right off, it was clear that AYAKA was a cut above. Something about the characters and the way they got along with each other, and the world-building, grabbed our attention.

The show left me contemplating how all of Yanagi’s disciples had internalized his ideals of self-sacrifice, whether he had expressly intended to teach them to be like that or not. The unfortunate corollary of bearing such a martyr mindset was that they didn’t know how to handle being the one who got protected, and that messed up their psyche.

True, parts of the story were predictable – I know some viewers anticipated Yukito’s true nature from the start – but the reveal played out really nicely in the final stretch, which was funny and heart-breaking and heartwarming.

(Streaming at Crunchyroll)

04. UNDEAD MURDER FARCE (Undead Girl Murder Farce) (Ep. 1-13)

(Streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. JUJUTSU KAISEN -SEASON 2- (Ep. 25-34) – The sudden flashback story line was a bit disorienting at first, but once things got going, this cour served as a powerful explanation of how Getou became so disillusioned.

I did learn something very important though. Apparently, “revealing information about your ability increases its fundamental strength.” That one nugget of wisdom did so much to enhance my appreciation/tolerance for shows such as BLEACH, for example, in which the characters are constantly explaining their abilities out loud. Naruhodo!

(Streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. Sugar Apple Fairy Tale (Ep. 13-24)

(Streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. My Happy Marriage (Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon) (Ep. 1-12) – The setting and scenery are totally gorgeous, and sure, it’s effortless to root for Miyo against the abuse she’s had to put up with. But in my opinion, the characters lack nuance. Miyo is just a blob of soft-spoken, innocent goodness; Kudou is a protective hero she happens to get matched up with; while her evil stepmother and evil sister are evil. It’s kind of like Cinderella in a lush, historical Japanese setting, with supernatural abilities. The only character that makes me feel anything is Miyo’s friend Kouji; he’s a decent guy who definitely gets the short end of the stick.

(Streaming at Netflix)

08. The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen: From Villainess to Savior (Higeki no Genkyou to Naru Saikyou Gedou Last Boss Joou wa Tami no Tame ni Tsukushimasu.) (Ep. 1-12) – It’s another entry in the villainess isekai genre, and by now I have completely lost track of how many there have been. Anyway, I had a good early impression of this series. I was impressed with the way Princess Pride handled the ambush crisis, and especially the subsequent meeting with the knights. But it lost its momentum after that.

(Streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Horimiya -the missing pieces- (Horimya -piece-) (Ep. 1-13) – I get how Horimiya fans would be thrilled to see previously cut content fully animated like this, and some of it is suitably amusing. But let’s face it, many of the clips are basically filler, and it seems obvious why those scenes were passed over in the first place.

(Streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War – The Separation (Sennen Kessen-hen – Ketsubetsu-tan) (S2 Ep. 1-11) – This was kind of interesting at the start, with the reveal of the internal workings of the Quincy group and their second assault on Seireitei. But then it all devolved into fight-of-the-week shenanigans between random opponents that didn’t add much to their character development or the overall plot development. In fact, I think the part I liked best was the quiet showdown of Shunsui and Nanao against Jugram as the three of them seemingly just stood and watched the invasion at Seireitei headquarters.

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)