The Wrap-Up: Spring 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.

Spring season’s always a weird one for me, because I’m usually away on holiday when the thing starts, so I end up missing a bunch of premiers and consequently never find the time to bother to catch up. A lot of this is due to the fact that not a lot of the stuff that aired this season I found to be particularly interesting. Luckily that wasn’t the case for my fellow GLORIO bloggers, however. Jel got a show that was seemingly made to cater to his tastes, Gee got to enjoy hand-drawn robots (kind of) for the first time in forever and our inner masochists gained a brand-new arch-nemesis in the wretched Darling in the FRANXX. It seems like everyone but me got exactly what they’ve been asking for! Except for me, but good thing there’s still next season, right?

Right?

jel_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Hinamatsuri

I’ll need some more time to pass to say for sure, but as it currently stands HInamatsuri is one of my favorite anime comedies of all time. The mix of black humor and heart felt moments feels custom made for my anime tastes, but I’m also impressed at the show’s consistency. There’s not a single bad episode, I’d even argue there’s no truly bad scenes. Just a constant stream of quality jokes set up in a very unique and unpredictable way. Really my only criticism is the final episode setting up a second season and not actually announcing one. Hopefully that will change soon.

Honorable Mentions: Real GIrl had its ups and downs both production and plot wise but managed to stay a net positive. Trying to guess what bizarre and possibly politically charged twist Last Period was going to deliver every episode became a highlight of my week.

Which show let you down the most?

Tada Never Falls In Love

It was basically a coin flip between this and Wotakoi but in the end I think Tada-kun’s pedigree made it more disappointing. Turns out reuniting the staff of top anime comedy Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and letting them create their own project just proved the real magic of Nozaki must have been in the source material. I guess to be fair Tada-kun does look nice and is well directed, it’s just so boring and predictable that I couldn’t stand to watch past the mid-point. I guess what I’m really saying is MAKE NOZAKI SEASON 2 YOU COWARDS! We have more than enough manga chapters now.

Dishonorable Mentions: Wotakoi took a great concept about adult nerds in love and clearly had no idea what to do with it. I want to respect Amanchu’s attempt to shake things up but they went way, way too far and kind of ruined the second half of the season.

marlin_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

MEGALOBOX

MEGALOBOX has a simple goal: to tell an underdog story about cyborg boxing. What elevates it above your normal sports show is an unerring sense of style that draws you in with an amazing soundtrack and striking design. Its dedication to the hood aesthetic is reflected well in its scrappy but endearing cast. Most of all, MEGALOBOX is a show about the triumph of the human spirit, and uses its raw physicality as the perfect metaphor. We know each episode is gonna end with Joe punching the guy out, but it’s how their fists do the talking that turns it into something special.

Honorable Mentions: Hinamatsuri is such a different, such a unique and charming show, that it was so hard to choose between it and MEGALOBOX on its merits alone. Wtih comedy that can range from lighthearted goofs to blacker than coffee, it had me laughing week in and week out, but I think it just didn’t quite stick the landing. My Hero Academia proves that even in divisive times, at least we can all cheer for the United States of Smash. Hopefully it’ll be able to carry on its momentum into next season.

Which show let you down the most?

Wotakoi

What started as a fun adult take on the romcom genre quickly devolved into an unfunny mess of poorly placed plots filled with terrible characters and Hirotaka. It’s like this show thought the strength of its premise could overcome any deficiency. Time gets wasted egregiously, and one of the couples quickly turns toxic while the show still seems to suggest we’re supposed to be okay with it. Even the gaming stuff got kinda pathetic. I get if they were going for the angle of “enjoy what you want, within reason”, but it seemed like most of the cast uses their hobbies as an excuse for acting immature. Hirotaka seems the only one to acknowledge that their age comes with responsibility, it’s probably why he’s the only character that remains enjoyable. Another one for the garbage pyre of potentially good romance shows.

Dishonorable Mentions: I didn’t keep watching Darling in the FRANXX like some of the more devoted members of the GLORIO crew, but just gonna go ahead and say it still lets me down by existing.

iro_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

MEGALOBOX

It’s easy to say something is “stylish”, but with MEGALOBOX, you feel it in your bones. It does not break new ground or surprise the viewer in any way, instead just doing the one thing it sets out to with utter self-assurance. There is no wasted time, no extraneous elements; even the soundtrack doesn’t have a single tune over three minutes, because there simply isn’t a need for a song that runs longer than a boxing round. This is a great show, it would have been great ten years ago, and it’ll still be great ten years from now.

Honorable Mentions: My Hero Academia nailed the moment fans had been waiting for; Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These is absolutely enthralling in its depth, and we’ll be checking out the original show soon; Lupin III: Part 5 seems like it’s nailed down an enjoyable format for the character; and Lupinranger VS Patranger is actually mixing up a 40-year-old formula while still being enjoyable.

Which show let you down the most?

Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan

This isn’t the worst show this season – or even really a bad show if you get down to it – but it’s one that disappointed me the most. It cannot be overstated how completely charming and fun Dragon Pilot is… some of the time. The rest of the time, everything is dragged down by some ass-backwards personal politics and bizarrely direct sexism. I understand that the military environment is classically a man’s world, and I’ll tolerate some level of casual shittery based on that, but at every turn the show seems to agree with the idea that women are weak and emotional and unfit for duty. Not once do the characters saying these things get any comeuppance. I kept waiting for HisoMaso to prove them wrong, and it never did.

Dishonorable Mentions: Gundam Build Divers has truly forgotten what made the show unique to begin with, Kamen Rider Build is a train wreck of epic proportions, Darling in the FRANXX somehow manages to get worse every single week, and Amanchu Advance! really could have ditched that weird magical realism aside.

aqua_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Aggretsuko

I first learnt of Aggretsuko not from one of those seasonal anime charts or previews, not from social media, not from this very blog or from the Internet’s number one anime news source, but from the unlikeliest of places: the morning broadsheet. Say what you want about what Netflix has done to the anime experience, it’s — oddly enough — helping the medium to break into the mainstream far better than any licensors who actually, y’know, promote their anime have ever been able to do. So how exactly did a show about an overworked, millennial red panda singing dead metal karaoke to vent her frustration end up earning the praises of a publication I normally only consult to fuel my rightful indignation regarding the miserable state of the world? Actually, wording it like that makes it look obvious. Underneath its cute exterior, Aggretsuko hides a vicious edge, dissecting Japan’s toxic workplace culture and institutional sexism with the same finesse it adopts it putting its main character through the wringer. This places it firmly in the same category as other vaguely cynical workplace comedies that have earned our praises over the last few years (Shirobako, Girlish Number, Sakura Quest), yet what ultimately sets Aggretsuko apart is how it follows Western comedy tropes far more closely than it does the usual Japanese absurdity. Smash cuts, anticlimaxes and cringe comedy are the tools of the trade here, which, aided by the excellent localization, often make Aggretsuko look more something you’d find on Adult Swim. Nevertheless, it always retains its distinct Japanese identity, pairing relatability with enough “otherness” to make it a perfect emissary for the medium in the West.

Honorable Mentions: The only other anime I’ve watched this season, Lupin III: Part 5 varies in quality, but the blue jacket episodes in particular are one of the most successful attempts to modernize a stalwart long-runner I’ve seen in a long time.

gee_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

MEGALOBOX

MEGALOBOX is just such a tremendous technical achievement by every metric that even in a season as good as this one’s, it’s hard to imagine anything else sitting at the top. Never let it be said that a show cannot shine purely on the merits of its style and presentation. Like a boxer in prime condition, MEGALOBOX is an exercise in perfect economy. No unnecessary punches, no excessive movements, no weight left to cut, it’s a show that is so economical in its pacing that it is in many ways exactly everything it needs to be. It’s a show that’s honestly difficult to praise because so much of it is just a, “feeling.” From its art direction to its soundtrack to its episode titles, everything about MEGALOBOX just carries so much personality with it. Time will never take away from its razor sharp focus or its flawless execution. These are the kind of stories that become classics.

Honorable Mentions: This season was unbelievably strong, maybe one of the best I’ve ever seen. Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These was a surprisingly compelling take on the old story that still felt not only timeless, but as socially and politically relevant as ever. Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory made its triumphant return, proving that the mecha genre still had some life left in it. Lupin III: Part melded technology and noir style in ways the franchise has never seen, leavings us with something both stylish and fresh. My Hero Academia’s third season showed no sign of stopping and rewarded its faithful with a long awaited moment its fans have been anticipating since the very first days of the anime’s announcement. Hinamatsuri was an excellent reminder that anime comedies can still be pretty good sometimes, with its eclectic mix of various strains of absurdist black humor.

Which show let you down the most?

Golden Kamuy

It is no exaggeration, Golden Kamuy’s anime adaptation literally broke my heart. In many ways, coming in with the expectations I had from reading the original manga, which I consider to be one of the greatest written in the last 5 years, to the bland and lifeless anime adaptation it got, was crushing in ways one can never truly recover from. This is less an indictment of Golden Kamuy itself and more a stab at the black heart of Geno Studio, who have irrevocably destroyed Golden Kamuy’s mainstream reputation with their shoddy facsimile of the Meiji era schlock western/wilderness survival/Ainu cultural primer/cooking manga hybrid. There is literally not an ounce of hyperbole in my words. Had Golden Kamuy received the anime adaptation it deserved, I guarantee it would be in our top 10 anime of 2018 list. I can say that with such a complete and thorough confidence that can only spring from a source material that is as great as Golden Kamuy’s. Literally every human being on the planet’s life would be improved by reading the Golden Kamuy manga. That is not to say the anime was the worst of this season, that title goes to Darling in the FRANXX, but is it the one that hurt me the most? Undoubtedly. The only way the announcement of the second season could ever inspire hope in me again is if they either switched studios or everyone who worked on the first season except for the voice actors were fired.

Dishonorable Mentions: Darling in the FRANXX is such a fucking trash fire I don’t even want to spend time talking about how much that show elicits a fiery hatred in me for its fundamental existence. Meanwhile, Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan would probably be my actual pick for this season just because it starts off so well only for its sudden and tragic downturn in its final stretch. It’s a show that still has some good spots but the writing staff seem singularly determined to stamp out all that goodwill with their overarching narrative.

chris

What was your favorite show of the season?

Hinamatsuri

It has been a long time since a show has made me laugh out loud on as regular a basis as Hinamatsuri. It’s an absurd show, but not in the chaotic way that shows like Pani Poni Dash and Nichijou are. Jokes aren’t rapid fire; believable scenarios are introduced and questionable decisions are made within them, building up slowly to huge payoffs. And it works, every single time.

Hinamatsuri is a brilliant black comedy, and because of that there are moments where you’ll sit there with your hand over your mouth, completely dumbfounded, because it went there, and you’re laughing all the while. Then you take a step back, remember it’s a show about a psychic girl being looked after by someone in the yakuza, and wonder how, after twelve episodes, that doesn’t feel strange any more.

Honorable Mentions: If it was any other season, MEGALOBOX would have been an easy winner. There’s just so much to love about it and I can’t wait for the finale. Aggretsuko, technically released this season even though it was dumped wholesale onto Netflix, is also surprisingly fun, if incredibly real for a show featuring cute animals. Dragon Pilot: Hisone to Masotan was good fun for the most part, and I fully advocate for an expanded universe of very good dragons. My Hero Academia S3 has been terrific so far, especially seeing All Might really showing what he’s capable of. That and the villains felt far more threatening this season than I feel they really have in the past. Finally, Captain Tsubasa has been good fun, though still just a HD remake of the original series with occasional hints of JoJo.

Which show let you down the most?

Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan

Futomomo is very good and my spirit animal but launch every man in this show into the sun.

Dishonorable Mentions: No really we could build a big cannon and just fire them into space.

artemis

What was your favorite show of the season?

Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan

This show never lost once lost its coveted spot as best of the season for me, even during its weaker (aka still pretty decent) episodes. Bones really outdid themselves with the art style and animation here, which is not only charming as hell but also impactful, and which I felt deeply suited Hisone and Masotan‘s general style of storytelling. More to the point for me though, I can’t even think of the last time I was introduced to an anime main cast and immediately liked each and every member, flaws and all. This goes doubly so for Amakasu, who’s just so personable and direct that you can’t help but love her – especially given how rare that combination is in any anime female lead, let alone in a military drama/comedy. My only major reservation about the series was how deeply sexist the men tended to be. Granted, this may well have been the point, given that all the main characters are women tasked with piloting dragons and potentially defending Japan/the world itself, while the menfolk apparently just aren’t (spiritually?) capable of such. If nothing else, it’s a bit of social commentary on how women in positions of power, particularly in the military, are very often treated. That said, the series never really went anywhere in particular with this, and as a result a lot of the guys are either trying to get their female counterparts in bed or constantly demeaning them by loudly discussing their supposedly overwrought emotional state. Sometimes both in the same sentence. And they just… kind of get away with that I guess, which was a bit of a disappointment. Otherwise, really great show, highly recommended.

Honorable Mentions: For all the flak it got over that damn bear, Golden Kamuy felt like a solid effort to me. My advice would be to think of it more as a strangely humorous (albeit often very graphic) wilderness survivalist series, rather than a particularly dark or overly serious action piece. Props also to the ongoing Lupin III: Part 5, which is a lot of fun and will hopefully maintain its general charm and ambiance in its second cour.

Which show let you down the most?

None

As usual, I very promptly dropped anything that didn’t appeal to me after the premiere episodes (and there was a considerable amount). As a result, I don’t have any show this season that disappointed me enough to warrant writing up a whole paragraph about it. But man, Magical Girl Site really was a shocker. I’d say you have to see it to believe just how bad it was, but that would imply a recommendation to at least watch the first episode, and I really can’t do that.

Dishonorable Mentions: Er… I was thoroughly enjoying Amanchu! Advance before it went all supernatural on us? I wouldn’t have particularly minded if this had been one of the recurring themes of the show all along, but the introduction of it was so abrupt that it just came out of nowhere (and I guess disappeared back into nowhere too). Plus, the whole storyline with Peter wasn’t even well executed, so I spent a good 3 episodes of this show bored and wondering when we’d finally get back to the scuba diving. Oh well, at least the first half was pretty good.

And so, this season Wrap-up wraps up, with the charming Hinamatsuri and the rambunctious MEGALOBOX emerging as the clear victors. Who could have seen that coming? The GLORIO Blog declaring an absurd comedy with heart and a grimy, hot-blooded underdog story its anime of the season? How truly unprecedented! Perhaps more surprising, then, is that none of us even bothered to give Darling in the FRANXX the light of day anymore. Has the fatigue settled in, or are we saving our bile for the eventual final thoughts post? Only time will tell! No, seriously, that’s just how unorganized we are. Speaking of chaos, the new season is ready to push off from the starting blocks, and you can expect full coverage of the impending animepocalypse right here on this very blog. In the meantime, check out our preview guide, and see you next season!

 

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