The Wrap-Up: Winter 2018

If you go about doing a season preview, it is only obvious you also close off on a season review. In The Wrap-Up, all of our contributors get to shine a spotlight on the show they thought to be the very best of the past few weeks, as well as reflect back on the preview to see which shows let us down the most. When you watch currently airing anime or tokusatsu, eventually the question will rise which of these shows can rank amongst the medium’s true classics. Regardless of who covered what, this is where we single out the cream of the crop, and decide which shows from the past season deserve to stand the test of time.

The first season of the year was one packed to the brim with cuteness, so egregiously even we decided to dedicate an entire weekly feature to all things cuddly and cosy. It probably won’t come as a surprise, then, if I tell you that the official victor of our cute show battle royale is many a Glorio crew member’s pick of the season. Nevertheless, it’s an old favourite taking home the lion’s share of the rewards this time around — a blog mainstay some might even say would’ve won our Hunger Games of fluff if it had competed in the first place. That’s right, I’m talking about Pokémon Sun & Moon, of course. Anime of the year all year, every year.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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March Comes in Like a Lion

All fears at the end of season 1 about the show shifting focus to shogi were squashed with the fantastic season 2. Not only did we move the bulk of the narrative back to Rei’s relationship with the Kawamoto sisters, the shogi matches that do spring up are short and powerful mini-arcs that add more perspective to Rei’s journey. To have an anime series still firing on all cylinders after more than 40 episodes seems like an extreme rarity these days, and that is exactly what March Comes in Like a Lion has accomplished.

Honorable Mentions: In many other seasons, A Place Further Than the Universe would have been the best show. I also loved Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san’s relaxed-paced nostalgia. Final shout out Dagashi Kashi for its rather bold shift in format for its second season.

Which show let you down the most?

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School Babysitters

“Comedies with heart” is totally my thing and School Babysitters had all the ingredients to cater to my very specific preferences. The first few episodes strike a great balance between Ryuchi dealing with the loss of his parents and cute kids petting bunny rabbits. Trust me, it works! Sadly over the next few episodes the show detours into introducing a large cast of anime stereotypes, including one guy that “might” be a pedophile. So yeah… pretty disappointing.

Dishonorable Mentions: Violet Evergarden has flashes of brilliance that make its inconsistencies even more frustrating. I’d say Darling in the FranXX was a big disappointment but I also didn’t have super high expectations to begin with.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Devilman Crybaby

Hilariously unsubtle, unashamedly perverted, and predictably gory, Crybaby nevertheless vindicated Go Nagai’s decades old work in a way few would have thought possible. Powerhouse director Masaki Yuasa (aided as always by the marvellous Enyoung Choi) bought all of his incredible talent to bear on the production, resulting in a show that looks like nothing else, covered in lashings of hyper-stylized sex, violence, and disgusting monstrosities. Yet underneath all the pyrotechnics and bluster, Crybaby never lost sight of the heart of the story, the tragedy inherent in this tale of suspicion and paranoia gone rampant, and a hero hated by the people he is sworn to protect. The blood may flow freely, but the show always remembered how to use all of its explicit content for maximum possible impact, resulting in an incredibly dark yet unforgettable experience. No scalpel but a sledgehammer instead, it leaves marks long after the credits have rolled.

Honorable Mentions: A Place Further Than The Universe transcended its tired, cliched premise to deliver a wonderfully funny and moving tale of loss, friendship and adventure, and came incredibly close to being my overall winner. Takagi-san was a simple, sweet, and irresistible blend of comedy and romance, while GARO -Vanishing Line- restored the franchise’s honour with pulpish thrills aplenty.

Which show let you down the most?

Darling in the FranXX

I don’t think anyone was really expecting true greatness from FranXX but I’ve still been shocked at how lacklustre and sloppy the show has been overall. What’s especially frustrating is that it constantly tiptoes towards interesting ideas and then without fail takes the stupidest possible route to explore or ignore them. Couple that with its highly dubious gender politics and just all around scuzziness and you’ve got a rotten core beneath the sharply animated exterior.

Dishonorable Mentions: Violet Evergarden continues to prove that Kyoto Animation flatter to deceive outside of high school settings, while all the beauty and brave ideas of The Ancient Magus’ Bride couldn’t overcome lumpy, flat characterisation.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

March Comes in Like a Lion

I cannot overstate how much I love Lion. Even with two episodes yet to go, there’s no question this show was the best of the whole season. It manages to craft such wonderful and complex characters while providing light-hearted and cute moments to temper the moments of drama. It’s no question that if it was allowed to compete in the Cute Battle Royale that it’d be no contest. Continuing from last season, Hina’s growth showed that out of the trial of bullying she has become a strong, driven young woman. Equally inspiring was her affirmation of Rei and the real help and emotional support he gave her while she was under the greatest stress. “Healing” continues to be the best word to describe the relationship between Rei and the Kawamoto sisters. Finishing the season with Hina’s desire to stay close to the person who’s been such a stable support for her is the most perfect place I could think of to leave off. No doubt, I’ll be begging for more by the time we’re through.

Honorable Mentions: A Place Further Than the Universe really managed to make a solid show with great characters out of what could have been a bland school club premise for all we knew. Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san may have stumbled a little at the finish, but managed to deliver a consistent and enjoyable slice of life show with one of the most naturally growing relationships we’ve ever seen.

Which show let you down the most?

Darling in the FranXX

I didn’t have amazing expectations for FranXX going into it, but it managed to destroy even the tepid hope I had for it based on its flashy and enjoyable robot fights. Unfortunately, once you peel behind that thin veneer, what you find is a show of boilerplate characters who are living contradictions between the state of their world and the reality of the human person. Whatever drinking buddy this writer has that’s allowed him to stay employed needs to be found and terminated as quickly as possible.

Dishonorable Mentions: School Babysitters for failing to keep its momentum going by continuously adding extraneous and terrible characters.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

A Place Further Than the Universe

This is the new standard by which every “ensemble of cute girls do [X]!” shows will now be judged. Unlike its peers, this has fun dialogue, characters with actual depth and emotion, a concrete goal for the cast, and penguins. A Place Further Than the Universe exceeded every single one of my expectations in every single way, firmly establishing itself as an early contender for the year’s best.

Honorable Mentions: Violet Evergarden really picked itself up around the halfway mark; GARO -Vanishing Line- is a return to form for the franchise with some goofy, pulpy fun and great action; I skimmed the last few episodes of Dragon Ball Super and enjoyed them; and Lupinranger VS Patranger is off to a good start. And a special shout-out to Devilman Crybaby, doomed to languish in obscurity thanks to Netflix.

Which show let you down the most?

Darling in the FranXX

I had pretty low expectations for this show, and it still managed to fall short of nearly all of them. At least the robot fights are cool?

Dishonorable Mentions: Takagi-san never quite escaped its one-trick-pony status, despite high levels of cuteness; anytime Violet Evergarden focuses on the eponymous character, it immediately becomes less interesting; and Fate/Extra Last Encore continues the Fate trend of being completely impenetrable to newcomers and casual fans alike.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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A Place Further Than the Universe

With an elevator pitch that sounds like screenwriting suicide-by-cop, A Place Further Than the Universe solicited dismissiveness right out of the box. Not unlike its protagonists, it had to fight for its place in a season stuffed with interesting ideas — yet with Atsuko Ishizuka at the helm, this very ended up taking it so seriously it created an entire weekly feature just to witness its direct competitors pale in comparison week after week. Nevertheless, it merits considering if A Place Further Than the Universe counts as a cute show at all. Ultimately, its biggest strength is just how straight it plays its own premise, turning what any seasoned anime viewer would have recognized as the next step in the “cute girls doing cute things” genre’s gradual descent towards shark-induced irrelevance into a bona fide, character-driven road movie. With comedic timing, the likes of which the medium hasn’t seen since the original K-ON!, A Place Further Than the Universe paints an enthralling picture of female friendship against the legitimately fascinating backdrop of antarctic exploration, aided by excellent performances, strong directing and a whole helping of heart. There’re some things you can hold against it, sure, how it has to yet again be about cute girls and their teenage friendships, for example. Or you can lament the fact that this kind of low-stakes, character-driven dramedy seems to be the only damn thing anime is any good at anymore. Yet that still doesn’t change the fact that even in the most crowded anime subgenre this side of “isekai harem power fantasy” (blurgh), A Place Further Than the Universe managed to more than stand out.

Honorable Mentions: If it were the adaptation the original work deserves, The Ancient Magus’ Bride would have been up there. I also enjoyed Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san and GARO -Vanishing Line- way more than I probably should’ve.

Which show person let you down the most?

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Me

I mean, i’m pretty much disappointed in myself twenty-four seven these days, but in a season this jam-packed with interesting projects, my complete incapability to keep up with new anime got especially egregious. I never even started After the Rain or Devilman Crybaby, despite the positive buzz. I’m still way too behind on Violet Evergarden to actually find out whether I like or dislike it, and even though March Comes In Like a Lion sounds like my kind of jam, I haven’t seen an episode of that in over a year. With the upcoming season being as jam-packed as it is, I’m afraid this problem’s not going to get solved any time soon — but hey, I’ll try my best, and if there’s anything anime has taught me, it’s that trying your best is basically the same as succeeding.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

Devilman Crybaby

Despite how much of a mark it left on me, I found myself unable to write a proper final thoughts piece for Devilman Crybaby. It was just too powerful. Every time I think about Devilman Crybaby, every time I even try to write about it, a myriad of emotions swell up inside of me. I’m left in awe of its beauty, angry at its uncomfortably realistic human ugliness, I laugh at its sense of humor, left sorrowful for the inevitable tragedy of its characters, and in its closing minutes, drained completely of it all. Devilman Crybaby just demands so much from you but deals in topics and conversations so important that I feel it is imperative to watch it. Devilman Crybaby does a better job than any other anime of highlighting the extremes of the human condition. How ugly and hateful we can be, but also the unyielding power of our compassion and empathy. And that even if we cannot survive in our current state, the our sacrifices are not in vain. Devilman Crybaby likely would have been the talk of this whole season had it not been for Netflix’s release schedule but nevertheless, despite finishing the show in the first couple of weeks of the season, it is undeniably the one that has remained with me all the way through.

Honorable Mentions: In another world, maybe GARO -Vanishing Line- would be up there, but it’s still a wild ride from start to finish. Kokkoku is never going to get mentioned anywhere else so I might as well give it the shoutout it deserves for being so ambitious and weird.

Which show let you down the most?

Darling in the FranXX

Nobody had high expectations for this show and it somehow still managed to disappoint us. Watching FranXX every week is an exercise in disappointment as we await which interesting idea FranXX brings up next, only to cowardly pull back from it to return to the status quo. Even its well animated robot fights aren’t enough to save it.

Dishonorable Mentions: Violet Evergarden should have been much better considering the supposed talent behind it and the quality of its premise. I heard it gets better, but its poor first impression was too much for me to want to tolerate finding out. Honestly Violet Evergarden is lucky that FranXX aired this season and managed to take up most of my attention because otherwise these two shows would have switched places.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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March Comes in Like a Lion

This show deserves to be on the top of lists purely on the bullying arc alone, but there were also so many other great arcs this season. I personally enjoyed the shogi games from S1, though the show did rely on your having a basic knowledge of the game, but the shift the shogi in S2 from being less about the games and more about the players was absolutely the correct call. March excels in its character storytelling as this season is testament to that. On top of this, if you did want to learn about how to play shogi, they made a very good instructional video about it this season.

Honorable Mentions: I’m a little disappointed that A Place Further Than The Universe released this season because it otherwise would have been a shoe-in for the top spot. Violet Evergarden deserves a shout out for how it turns itself around after its dull start, even if it was too late for a lot of folks to want to dip back into it. I don’t personally mind when the show focuses on Violet, but the show really shines during its standalone episodes. It’s just a shame that this wasn’t the focus of the entire show. Similarly there’s Dragon Ball Super, a show that I actively despised while it was retreading the two most recent movies, only this time with plenty of dodgy animation. The final arc isn’t amazing or anything, but if you like watching Goku fire lasers at bad guys, this’ll still do it for you. Lastly, a thumbs up to Pop Team Epic for changing my mind on it. I’m still not the biggest fan of how it doubles up each episode, but there are enough quirks to make it worthwhile, and the voice actor changes are amazing. I’d like to see more ad libbing in season two, though.

Which show let you down the most?

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Citrus

It has been a long time since we’ve had a yuri anime, and an even longer time since we’ve had one that depicts a relationship that isn’t all fields of flowers and rainbows. It’s disappointing that after so long, the show ignites the relationship with one of the girls sexually assaulting the other. Instead of addressing this, the show does it again and again, explaining it away by claiming that the one doing it is just shit at reading the mood. After this stuff is left behind and the two girls start to acknowledge their feelings a bit more, we’re introduced to a character who basically exists to mess with other girls, to the point of blackmailing one of them into sex work so she can sexually assault the other girl herself. Don’t worry though, they all make up eventually. Fuck this show.

Dishonorable Mentions: School Babysitters had some great, adorable moments, but is let down by a largely insufferable cast of characters. My opinion of Mitsuboshi Colors perhaps changed the greatest out of all the shows I watched this season, going from a brilliant opening episode to dull and frankly irritating episodes thereafter.

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What was your favorite show of the season?

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March Comes in Like a Lion

As good as March Comes in Like a Lion is, I felt it was slightly overshadowed in previous seasons by the likes of powerhouses such as Yuri on Ice and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. This time around, there was nothing stopping it from easily taking the number one spot for me – although that’s certainly not to say the lack of strong competition was the only reason. While not every story arc in this second season of March was equally amazing (the depiction of Kyouko and Gouda’s relationship in particular struck a very dissonant tone for me, in contrast with Hina’s bully-centric storyline which was portrayed nearly flawlessly), the majority of the writing was superb, as was much of the art direction. All things considered, I don’t think the second season of March was better than the first per se, but I do think they were about equal – and given just how much I loved said first season, that shouldn’t be taken as anything other than a compliment.

Honorable Mentions: I don’t think After The Rain ever really got the attention it deserved, most likely because a lot of anime viewers refused to watch the show on principle given the subject matter. Suffice to say though, I firmly believe this series to have been well worth it; the artwork was vivid and stylish, the main characters were genuinely good and likeable people, and the writing – particularly the dialogue (or often lack thereof) – was very strong. No spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but if you’re worried about watching due to the romance/sexual aspect, don’t be. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend the show for kids, I would by no means label it as creepy or hyper-sexualized.

Which show let you down the most?

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Darling in the FranXX

I can’t pretend to be too cut up about this one since I never invested too much time into it regardless, but my reaction to Darling was largely disappointment right from the get-go. The potential to actually say something meaningful seemed completely squandered by what felt like an almost compulsive need for overly exaggerated fanservice. Essentially, the show took nearly everything I actively disliked from the more original Star Driver, mined a few bits and pieces from the likes of Evangelion and Eureka Seven, and mashed everything together in the hopes of being sexy and imaginative. Frankly though, I saw little point in the creation of an anime-original title that provided so little in the way of either innovation or creativity.

Dishonorable Mentions: Kokkoku lost me after the first few episodes, which was a shame given how much potential I thought it had. I should probably also mention that while much of the rest of the Glorio crew seemed pretty enamored with Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san, I was nearly bored to tears after just the premiere.

I don’t think our wrap-ups have ever been quite this unanimous. With A Place Further Than the Universe winning us over and March Comes in Like a Lion proving that second seasons of perennial favourites needn’t always be massive disappointments — looking at you there, Rage of Bahamut — fans of character-driven slice-of-life will have more than enough to take away from 2018’s cold beginnings. And if feelings aren’t your cup of tea, there’s always Devilman, ehm… Crybaby. You know what, scratch that.

Speaking of shows everyone forgot about because Netflix refuses to promote them, we sure do have some mixed feelings about Violet Evergarden, don’t we? Not quite so divisive is our last word on Trigger and A-1’s spectacular mess Darling in the FranXX, however, a show that managed to piss off pretty much everyone watching it. That’s kind of an achievement in and by itself, I’d say? Anyway, I’m glad I tapped out of that one while I still had the chance. I’m so over getting unreasonably angry at some anime, and I pledge to maintain this resolve going into the nightmare next season is shaping up to b—OH GOD NO SWORD ART ONLINE IS BACK!

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