Winter 2019 – Week 11/12 & Season Reviews

Well, here are – it’s the end of another season.  Some good shows, some bad shows, some middle of the road shows.  Hit the jump and let’s run ’em down!

Run with the Wind - Prince

The shows that I am watching are in bold, shows my wife and I are watching together are in bold italics, strikethrough marks dropped shows and (*) marks shows that are watched but not regularly reviewed.

First, a note about ratings – I use a five point scale to match my ratings on Anime Planet. (http://www.anime-planet.com/users/DerekL) I’m not all that consistent about my scale though, but I am slowly getting more consistent and editing my ratings. A numerical scale doesn’t really convey all the nuances though… a 2.5 can mean very different things between different shows. One 2.5 might suck balls, another might be worth watching if you have the time to spare.  Thus most ratings are accompanied by a clarifying comment.

Endro~! Episode 12

endro-sliceoflife
Just…  Yuck.  The finale depended on a due ex machina/ass pull to makes its point.  I HATE that.  I HATE it with a dark burning passion.  After being so good for so long, it dropped the ball in the home stretch.

Season Thoughts:

Despite the deeply flawed final episode, I had a ton of fun watching Endro~!.  The characters were a little one-note, but that’s not a big problem in what’s basically a simple show.  I loved how it played with expectations and basically upended what you’d expect from a fantasy/adventure show.  It also played with being CGDCT, and smartly blended that aspect with the main fantasy/adventure plot.

Final Ranking: 2.5  Fun, but not great.  Could have been so much better had they not (IMO) blown the ending.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka / Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka Episode 12

You’ve seen ShirobakoAsuka‘s final episode is exactly how Director Kinoshita was afraid that 3rd Girls Aerial Squadron would end as if he couldn’t get through to Nogame sensei… An incoherent mess with an unsatisfying “our battle goes on, now go forth and read the manga” ending.

Season Thoughts:

Asuka started strong, but gradually lost its way.  It introduced a number of interesting themes… (Asuka’s PTSD, Mia’s source of strength) but never actually dealt with them.  When it ran out of other things to do, it dragged out a torture scene or gratuitous sexuality.  (And in the final ep, both in one scene!)

Final Ranking: 1.0  The only value in this show is that in future I’ll be able to point to it as about the purest example of a our battle goes on, now go forth and go read the manga” ending that I’ve ever had the misfortune to see.  On the other hand, at least it’s better than Masamune-Kun, which stopped literally in mid arc.  They ran out of episodes and just…  stopped.

My Roommate is a Cat / Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue Episode 11-12

My Roomate is a Cat - Haru and Subaru together.png
This was an awesome pair of episodes to round out the season!  Practically every story beat built on what had gone before – but it was all final polish, nothing repetitive.  When Haru went out into the storm to find Subaru, it was a gut punch to the feels…  and when Subaru found Haru, I could sense the onion ninjas stalking about outside my windows.

I don’t say this often, but it was a practically pitch perfect finale.  With Neverland‘s final ep, that makes two this season.

The only thing I was hesitant about was waiting for Haru’s POV portion of the episode, but that was handled deftly.  Especially in the second ep, they departed from the norm and interwove his story with hers rather than waiting for the end.  IMO a brilliant creative decision.

Season Thoughts:

In the beginning, I had my doubts about Roomate.  Haru’s segments seemed a bit heavy-handed, especially in the first ep.  (I should note, I’m not a cat person.  I’m only marginally a pet person…  Though you might doubt that watching me dote on my wife’s guinea pigs.)  But over time, as she and Subaru grew closer I grew more comfortable and indeed began to look forward to her segments.

It took a while to find its legs, but once it did…  It became a very good show indeed.  Well worth my investment of time.

Final Ranking: 4.0  I’m comfortable with putting it in the “on the edge of greatness” tier.  It’s a sweet show, and delivers the feels, but it’s lacking…  something.  Maybe it spent too much time dwelling on the annoying side characters and less one the ones that actually advanced the plot and developed the main characters.

Run with the Wind / Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru Episode 23

I went into the final episode dreading that they’d find a way to get our boys into the lead and winning the race.  I felt justified in this because of Wind‘s ongoing reluctance to actually have consequences of any weight or lasting impact.  In the end…  I think they handled it decently enough.  Kakeru beat that redheaded snotball and just barely beat Fujioka.  The team just barely squeaked into being seeded for the next year.

Haiji though…  As someone who lives with a permanently damaged joint, his knee going, his obvious throbbing pain…  those really hit home.

The final scenes…  The farewell party for the boys we’ve come to know so well, and Kakeru leading the new team…  Loved ’em.  A perfect farewell.

Season thoughts:

Wind is a difficult show to sum up neatly…  One on hand, it’s a very good character drama, with each of the characters growing and changing over the course of the show.  On the other, it’s a tale of individuals gradually growing closer, coming together as a team, and achieving the once impossible against incredible odds.  The latter has, of course been done many times…  But Wind does a deft job of making it feel realistic.

But.  It has one gaping flaw that gnaws at my guts.  Too many times it reached for cheap melodrama with cliffhangers – that were resolved without cost in the first few minutes if the next episode.  Other than Kakeru’s knee in the final episode, there were never any lasting consequences.

Final Ranking: 3.5  Wind really should be a tier up, trembling on the edge of greatness…  But that constant cliffhanger melodrama drags it down into the merely very damn good.  That being said, it’s a show I’ll be recommending for a very long time whenever the topic of sports anime comes up.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Episode 24

This episode was exactly what the series so far had led me to anticipate…  And no, this is not praise.  Nor is it damming with faint praise.  It’s outright scorn.  Too much exposition.  Unjustified victories.  Almost no weight to the fights, even though this time there finally were actual consequences.  But I was so tired of the mess that I couldn’t muster any feels.

Season Thoughts:

It’s no contest – Alicization is by far the weakest outing of the franchise to date.  I’d be more definitive if it wasn’t for the possibility of War of Underworld to surpass it.

Which leaves me puzzled…  For years, I’ve been hearing “just WAIT till you see Alicization” from readers of the LN.  What happened?  I haven’t seen able to find an answer to that question.

Final Ranking: 2.0 – well below its potential.  And leaving me wondering if I’ll be back for the next installment.

The Price of Smiles / Egao no Daika Episode 12

thepriceofsmiles-thepriceofwar.
First off – definitely check out Karandi’s evaluation of Princess Yuki.

As far as the episode itself goes… Smiles ended as it lived – desperately running from theme to plot point to concept trying to pack ten pounds into a five-pound sack.

Season Thoughts:

Looking at the series as a whole in the rear view mirror…  That was a basic problem right from the start.  Too much left unexplained, too much going on without much in the way of antecedents.  Smiles either needed two full cour, or a much tighter hand on the editorial helm to trim the scenario and script to fit into the one cour it got.

Final ranking: 1.5 – Well below average and far below it’s potential.

THE PROMISED NEVERLAND / Yakusoku no Neverland Episode 11

It was the best of episodes, it was the worst of episodes…

Not that this episode was actually bad mind you…  I’m just not fond of “everything you knew was wrong” type flashbacks.  Or maybe, in this case, “we’ve been holding out on you” type flashback?

I should also talk about something I forgot to mention the other week…  There’s something of a controversy going around over whether or not Norman is dead.  Unlike the others, he’s never shown as being unquestionably dead.  My wife’s theory is that he’s alive – and will be raised to stud the next generation of cattle.  It’s a provocative thought to say the least.

THE PROMISED NEVERLAND / Yakusoku no Neverland Episode 12

Oh. My. God.  That was beautiful…  I spent the entire episode waiting for the other shoe to drop and reminding myself to breathe.  I can’t think of a single beat they missed.

Promised Neverland - Emma's farewell
This sequence hit particularly hard…  From her scornful glare at Isabella, to her almost sad farewell to Mom, to turning her back on them both…  Yes, both.  In Emma’s mind, Isabella and Mom are two sides of the same coin.  Forever joined, but also forever separated and different.

(Side note:  All through the series Emma has gotten some of the best faces, and it was a tight race.  The character animation has been fantastic.)

Yes, Yes…  I know.  I know.  Up towards the top of this post I was scornful of “our battles go on” endings.  But Neverland shows how to do it right.  Tie up as many of the major plot threads as possible (they even finally explained Phil) and go out on a high note right at a logical ending/transition point.

I think I’d have been positive about even if I hadn’t already encountered the spoiler that another season is forthcoming before watching the ep.

Season Thoughts:

As far as a season review goes…  I can’t think of anything to say.  The series took a few episodes to really find it’s legs (I almost dropped it) but in the end, it all paid off.

Final ranking: 4.5  –  I agonized over the rating for a long time…  4.0 is usually my “trembling on the edge of greatness” tier.  5.0 is reserved for (IMO) true greats.  I finally decided that Neverland fell comfortably in the middle.  It’s great, and I enjoyed the hell out of it – but somehow it (and I can’t put my finger on it) falls short of being a true great.  (YMMV of course.)

The Quintessential Quintuplets / 5 Toubun no Hanayome Episode 12 – Crunchy (ANN)

Putting Futaro in bed with a cold was actually a neat solution to the dilemma of who he would dance with.  (And the whole “two identities” shtick I’ve been dreading.)  Having all the quints hold a finger as the final song of the dance played was just so sweet that I practically caught diabetes right then and there.

quintessential quintuplets devious nino
And now – the big question.  Who was the bride?  For my money, Nino.  The bride was wearing cloth things in her braids, as only Nino does.  And Futaro was shown wearing the “lucky” bracelet, which also only has significance with regards to Nino.

It’s interesting that in his post on the matter, WingKing gave Nino the highest odds of marrying Futaro…

But Yotsuba is Best Girl, no matter the outcome.

Season Thoughts:

I liked Quints because it avoided most of the usual tropes of the harem genre (particularly the reliance on fanservice and the accidental pervert trope). That the harem was unusually close (rather than being blatant rivals) also made it stand out.

Not a show for the ages, but nothing I regret watching either.

I know, that sounds like damming with faint praise – honestly, there’s nothing wrong with being a fun little romp.  At the end of the day, anime is a medium for enjoyment.  If you’re not enjoying it – you’re Doing It Wrong.

Final Ranking: 3.0 – The sweet spot for an anime that wasn’t great, but which defied genre expecations.

Dropped:

  • Girly Air Force (6 eps)
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War (10 mins)
  • Pastel Memories (2 eps)
  • Real Girl 2nd Season (10 mins)
  • The Magnificent KOTOBUKI (10 mins)

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There you have it!  Battle Winter 2019 is OVAH!

So, what are your thought on these or other shows that aired this season?  What are your thoughts on my thoughts?

Drop a comment and let’s chat!

19 thoughts on “Winter 2019 – Week 11/12 & Season Reviews”

  1. Yup never land really earned its stripes. It is the standout show so far. I’m going to give asuka another shot, run with wind is an interesting one. Same with quint.

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  2. With Run With The Wind, The Promised Neverland and My Roommate is a Cat all bringing home fantastic stories (and all quite different in tone and genre), Winter was a great starting season for the year. Really looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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    1. Yeah, didn’t look like much going in but turned out to be a real surprise. Especially Cat, which you’ll recall I was pretty down on in the first couple of weeks.

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  3. More than most seasons, this one was a war between my inner fanboy and my inner critic. My inner fanboy wants to rank the three shows I finished (Dororo being two-cour) in order of Quints #1, Kaguya #2, Neverland #3, while my inner critic wants to rank them the exact opposite way (Neverland #1, Kaguya #2, Quints #3). I still enjoyed all three shows, but the difference is that I wasted no time picking up the Quints manga as soon as the show ended, while I’m content to wait with Neverland for whenever season 2 comes out next year.

    I think, as of the end of the anime season, the only revision I’d make to my midseason Quints odds is to push Miku down the list. I think I got a bit too caught up in the fan hype and early momentum with her and overvalued her odds when I wrote that piece. I’m still keeping Ichika with the longest odds – despite her development I’m still not optimistic about her chances. Then I think I’d go Miku, Yotsuba, Itsuki, and the shortest odds on Nino (the fact that she instantly starts crushing on Futaro when she doesn’t know it’s Futaro says a lot, I think). That’s up to the point where the anime ended, nothing beyond that. That said, I am ready to publicly declare that Yotsuba is also officially my best girl. I’d been leaning that way over the last few episodes, but it wasn’t the anime that finally sealed the deal for me, it was chapters 37 and 38 of the manga. Which will probably be adapted in either the second or third episode of season 2, if we ever get one (and given the really strong sales of the Blu-Ray so far plus the massive sales boost the manga’s gotten over the last few months, you’d have to think there’s a pretty good chance of it).

    By the way, I remember there was a lot of discussion in the comments about the “first girl wins” trope when I wrote that piece, and a new interview with the author came out just the other day that was enlightening on that point. According to the person on reddit who translated the interview, Haruba said that he explicitly wanted to write a series that wouldn’t have an obvious main girl for most of its run (referencing Ichigo 100% as the kind of thing he was aiming for), so his original plan was to introduce all five girls simultaneously so that none of them would be saddled with the first girl/main girl mantle. Unfortunately he got overruled by his editor, who insisted that he have Futaro meet Itsuki first to make the character introductions easier for the audience. But his own perspective is that since he did introduce all five in the first chapter, they should still all be considered to have equal first girl status anyway.

    Moving on to Neverland, yes, that was a great ending for the series. Even if we never got a second season, you could watch those 12 episodes and feel like you got to enjoy a complete story. And apparently I heard from manga readers that the final scene with Emma and Isabella on top of the wall was anime-original. If that’s true then I applaud them, because it was a terrific adaptation choice and really helped to bring the whole climax together. The issue I had with Neverland, and why I think it ranks lowest on my “fanboy” list, is that I feel like all along I was more invested in the puzzle than I was in the fates of the characters. I was into in the mystery, and the ins-and-outs of the battle of wits between the kids and mama and trying to figure how the h-e-double hockey sticks they were going to pull this thing off, but the kids themselves, not so much. Even when Norman was taking his last walk to the gate, I was still feeling more curiosity than sadness.

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    1. That’s interesting about that interview. Editorial meddling? Still, it’s not entirely convincing because I feel like Itsuki is written like a first girl: the well-rounded template, without any of the gimmicks that make her sisters stand out. I still say either Itsuki or Nino, but I’m not likely to ever find out.

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      1. Actually, Yotsuba’s written a lot like a main girl too. It’s subtler since her relationship with Futaro doesn’t stand out quite as much, being a lot less cantankerous, but like Itsuki she also gets a lot of friendship-type moments with Futaro and she has a bond of her own with Raiha. I strongly suspect (based on post-anime developments) that she’s the girl in the photo too, which would be another main girl kind of thing – although that still doesn’t mean she’s the bride.

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    2. More than most seasons, this one was a war between my inner fanboy and my inner critic.

      I hear you… I fought that battle with Wind. The emotional fanboy really wanted to rank it higher than the more dispassionate critic. Discovering that dichotomy was one of the more interesting things about starting this blog.

      I think, as of the end of the anime season, the only revision I’d make to my midseason Quints odds is to push Miku down the list.

      I dunno about that. She seemed to gain a huge boost in self confidence right there at the end.

      That said, I am ready to publicly declare that Yotsuba is also officially my best girl.

      Whoa! You and I agree on Best Girl? That doesn’t happen often. :) :)

      Moving on to Neverland, yes, that was a great ending for the series. Even if we never got a second season, you could watch those 12 episodes and feel like you got to enjoy a complete story.

      It’ll be my example of correctly adapting an ongoing story for quite a while I suspect… Made in Abyss was my previous example, and as I type that it occurs to me that both have a lot of interesting similarities in their endings.

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        1. Has it been four years? I don’t even remember!

          That’s a nice one, really catches her eyes and smile. I need to find time to search out more fanart… And I wish Pixiv made it easy to embed art. (I hate saving and uploading it myself, that breaks the link to the original.)

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    3. Forgot to add, I did see your other reply… But I’ve been sick as hell for the last week and lacked the energy to get to it. I will in the next day or so.

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  4. @Endro~!: I don’t feel the ending was a deus ex machina, exactly. (I’d be more willing to accept the asspull.) Chibi’s been a pretty solid presence throughout the series, and during the Meigo scene, we even got a call-back to the evil-god-swallowing scene. That’s almost definitely not a coincidence; it’s played off as a joke, but the world building has been consistently joke like, and by that time we should have seen the consistency in that. What can swallow a god? A greater God. That’s what. So we do get a god interfering, but not out of a machine. It’s been there all along. It’s not the best ending ever, servicable at best, but it’s entirely consistent, in that world-changing events are downplayed as anti climactic, and that the show chooses to celebrate a happy-go-lucky attitude over any particular strictures or hard-work ethics. It’s IMO a servicable ending to a fun show.

    I dropped out of Asuka early enough, when it was clear that they were going down the fight-the-villains route. I’ve never regretted that decision.

    Cat, while not my favourite show of the season, is the one I’ll miss the most. It was just such a comfortable show. Haru running off and everyone helping look for her is a really good way cap off the season and give a sense of closure without finalising anything. Loved the show.

    I have little to add to what you said about Run with the Wind. Lack of consequences is pretty much exactly what drags the series down, but considering how high it’s with nearly everything else that’s forgivable. Loved the final episode.

    Neverland. Yeah, I, too, thought it was a decent penultimate episode, but an excellent finale. I’m not nearly as positive on the series as nearly everyone else. As far as shounen adventure shows go, I think this ones good avarage, but no more. The kids get along too well, the “demons” are looking to much like BEMs of the fifties, and then they bicker amongst each other like salarymen (and yet it’s not a comedy), and so on. It’s got its moments, it’s entertaining, but not a cornerstone of the genre, and certainly not a show that transcends the genre. On a five start scale with half-steps, a 3.5 at best, but probably a solid 3.

    Quintuplets: On the homestretch, I sort of started to lose interest a little. It was fun enough, though, and I’d watch another season.

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  5. @Endro Either way, it felt like a weak and cheap way out. I was OK with it eating “stuff”, but the whole “eating concepts” bit was just a bit too much.

    I dropped out of Asuka early enough, when it was clear that they were going down the fight-the-villains route. I’ve never regretted that decision.

    At several points I pondered dropping it… It would be this season’s “show I’d like to send a message back to my past self and tell him not to bother”. There’s one most seasons, and I never seem to learn my lesson. (Though in my defense, I did drop Girly Air Force when it started going south.)

    @Cat

    It was just such a comfortable show.

    Dangit. I was going to say exactly that in my review and completely spaced. By mid season It was probably my most anticipated show.

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  6. Yeah I think I held my breath through the whole last episode of Promised Neverland. It has been awhile for an anime to get that kind of reaction out of me.

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    1. Indeed… Final eps that can get that visceral reaction are few and far between. This one goes on my (very) short list of “Best Final Episodes of All Time”.

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    1. Indeed! One of the reasons I watch anime is that every so often we get an episode like this… Just rare enough to treasure, just common enough to not get frustrated.

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  7. The endings to both Run with the Wind and The Promised Neverland were awesome!
    I get what you mean by the lack or concequences in Run with the Wind. Aside from Haiji’s knee problem, there wasn’t any other lasting concequence. Still, the ending was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the watch. :)

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