Seeing as I didn’t write anything for three months, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I was unable to keep myself brief enough that a part 2 wasn’t warranted. Read on to see what I thought of the Isekai series that started in the fall and continuing through this season as well as see which series I name the best new series and best overall series of the season.
Diversity is Key
Watching anime from a diverse number of genres is one of the keys to avoid suffering from anime burnout. (And the continued health and creativity of the anime industry is reliant upon the continued production of a diverse body of work.) Of the works I’ve yet to mention, two particularly helped me ensure I watched a broad type of anime this season. The first was the thriller, The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Neverland) and the second was the romantic comedy, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War (Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen).
The Promised Neverland reminded me of Attack on Titan. Both introduced weird, cruel SF worlds and made the slow explanation of these worlds one of the draws to the series. Whereas AoT went much too slow to really keep my interest, Neverland is pacing themselves just about perfect. Much of the first season was done just about perfect; I particularly thought it succeeded as a thriller. The biggest detraction to this season of The Promised Neverland was how Sister Krone was handled. As an anime-only watcher I don’t know what the character was like in the manga, but, she really didn’t add anything to the series and probably could have been easily completely cut out. I’d heard the anime changed her character which is a shame because I thought she was going to be an interesting addition to the story. I don’t want to be told if I’m right or not, but, as an anime-only watcher I also want to go on record as saying that I think Norman is still alive; that final scene of his felt off to me and it would make sense to allow a few of the exceptional males to live so they could father the next generation of people. Since they’ve already announced a second season for 2020, I might get to find out shortly. Let’s hope the second season will be two cour in length.
Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen and they often need an interesting angle to push themselves up to being memorable. The shtick to Love is War is our two principal characters are the top students at a very elite high school academy and personal pride along with fear of losing the respect from their fellow students, faculty, and each other means they each try to get the other person to declare their love first so that they themselves can “win”. The addition of the other student council members helped keep the show feeling fresh and kept our main characters on their toes. They are a likable pair and I hope they’ll get over their embarrassment and fear and just proclaim their love at the same time. (Though, there’s a part of me that would enjoy, in an evil way, if they never get together because they never put their “pride and honor” aside.)
Ran Out of Gas
And tests like the three episode test fail to account for series that start with an interesting idea and then just kinda peter out after that initial idea is mined over-and-over or for series that convinces the viewer that maybe this time the creator of the source material has finally learned how to tell a story only for it to fall apart because all his worse tendencies have once again sent the series into a tailspin which is further harmed by allocating the best animators to animate, in excruciating detail, the scenes of violence against the female characters. I speak, of course, firstly of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken) and secondly of Sword Art Online: Alicization.
I talked earlier of the Isekai glut forcing newer entries to find an interesting angle to work with; Slime’s angle is it’s reincarnated-in-a-fantasy-world protagonist reappeared as a slime with a few key powers and the ability to gain new powers upon eating an organism that has a special power. It’s cute and different for the first couple of story arcs and then it becomes apparent the creator doesn’t have a second or third idea to continue the development of Slime. Instead, we fall into a cycle of potential threat appears, the Slime uses it’s arsenal of superpowers along with the help of it’s growing band of super-powered allies to easily stop the threat, we find out the people behind the threat aren’t all that bad and they become new friends of the Slime which makes the next threat that much easier to overcome. Rinse and repeat until, in a desperate bid to change things up, the series ends with the Slime deciding to become a school teacher for a few episodes without doing much actual schooling while leaving his now rather sizeable empire of monsters to run itself for an extended period of time.
I know there are people who enjoy SAO and that’s okay because there is something about the franchise that keeps me coming back even though I think it’s one of the worse anime I’ve watched. For me, I believe the show falls into a weird literary uncanny valley and I keep wishing it would push itself either one way to greatness or the other way towards mediocre genericness. Instead, I find myself unable to stop watching even though I often end up being infuriated by how some plot point plays out. This season of SAO – Sword Art Online: Alicization – is definitely the strongest the main series has been since the first part of the first season which made it’s eventual collapse sting all the more.
Never Had Any Gas to Begin With
Speaking of strange reactions to anime, my relationship with the Index franchise easily tops that of SAO. On one hand there is the main Toaru Majutsu no Index series which is a legitimately terrible anime with a strongly dislikeable main character; the character Index, who gives this series it’s name, is nails running down the chalkboard painful to watch; and the story is an incomprehensible pile of sludge. And then on the other hand there is the spin-off franchise Toaru Kagaku no Railgun which is quite enjoyable with a very likeable main cast and a solid story. To further add to this odd dichotomy is the upcoming release of a second spin-off franchise, Toaru Kagaku no Accelerator, which I’m quite excited to see because I want to see what happens with my two favorite characters in the entire franchise, Accelerator and Last Order. So, after suffering through two seasons of the main Index series, I knew not to expect this third season to be anything but terrible and yet they were able to finish this series below even my almost rock bottom expectations. They accomplished this by speeding the story up which resulted in the story making even less sense. And I can hear somebody wondering why I watched and finished this series so let me say that if I knew that nothing in this third season of Index was going to impact the upcoming seasons of Railgun and Accelerator then I wouldn’t have bothered. I also find it funny that in a season that featured the 20 year old Boogiepop franchise and the 50+ year old Dororo and GeGeGe no Kitarou franchise that it’s the merely 10 year old franchise of Toaru Majutsu no Index that feels outdated.
The Best New Series
I kinda tipped my hand in the last paragraph, but, this season’s best new series is Dororo. At the halfway point, Dororo is on track to becoming a modern masterpiece, not just of anime but something that transcends the medium. It features a cast of complex characters with complex and conflicting desires that seems to be effortlessly woven together to tell a tale that is meaningful and powerful. Sorry if that sound a bit pretentious or pompous, I find it more difficult to describe why I like something then why I dislike something. I could have just said Dororo features a great cast, a striking story, and told in an impeccable manner. Though, I probably don’t have to try to convince those reading this about the need to watch Dororo because it’s also a rare case where a high quality series is also a highly popular series. I am slightly worried about how the series will end since the manga apparently wasn’t given a very conclusive conclusion; I hope it receives the ending it deserves.
The Best Continuing and Best Overall Series
For a second time I am naming GeGeGe no Kitarou the best anime of the season. After a merely good Fall season which covered the Western Yokai story arc, this Winter season returns to the one-off episodes that the series wields with such deadly precision and, after leaving the viewers staggering, it went in for the kill with a dramatic K.O. punch in the form of a short arc that would have been a spectacular series finale if the series was ending after 4 cour. It’s not, however, and if it has a couple more seasons that are even close to this season then it’s a lock for the title of best anime of 2019. Not bad for a series that is technically a kids show.
I used to be daunted by the idea of watching a longer series because I worried about the potential time I could lose if I decide after a cour or two that I didn’t really like the show. I’ve come to realize that the payoff in watching a great series that also happens to be a longer series is well worth the risk. That feeling when you fall for a show and realize that there are dozens and dozens episodes yet to watch is a feeling that’s hard to beat. To those that haven’t given GeGeGe no Kitarou a chance when it began airing a year ago, I can’t recommend enough going back and giving this series a chance.
And that’s it. Did you agree with my assessment of the winter season or disagree? Which shows from the winter 2019 season should I have watched but didn’t? With a lighter-than-average Spring season, I might be able to go back and give a few series a chance. Finally, which new Spring 2019 anime series are you looking forward too.