The Wrap-Up: Summer 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 summer season was a mostly average affair, with some stuff we’ll carry into our hearts forever, some stuff that spectacularly shit the bed and, as usual, a lot of stuff that warranted an asterisk or two. That said, I do think this has to have been one of the most consistent seasons in The Glorio Blog’s history, with most of us watching pretty much all the same shows and feeling the same way about them, too. Will that make this Wrap-Up a slog to sit through. Of course it will! It’s just that our egos require us all to write individual bits about the same show instead of summarizing our collective opinions into a single strong statement, y’know, like how sane people run their serious media. Good thing we only deliver honest and objective anime journalism!

jel_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Asobi Asobase

Despite the off-putting art style, mundane concept, and a slow start, Asobi Asobase ended up being one of the best anime comedies… ever??? That may sound like a bold claim, but from a comedy perspective the show is nearly flawless once it finds its footing. I could go on about the technical things like comedic timing, but I think my favorite aspect of the series is how it presents the bawdy, unfiltered egos and ids of teenage girls without the slightest attempt at sexualizing the cast for the audience. This is an extreme rarity for anime comedies, and I think if you had to pick one thing that makes the show special, that would be it.

Honorable Mentions: I could put Planet With and Hanebado in both of the good and disappointing categories this season. They were both good shows that could have been great had they lived up to their full potential. Planet With in particular is worth watching as it embodies the spirit of the classic Gainax shows of the 90s and early 2000s that we love so much, to the point where it may be the perfect antidote for anyone that bothered to watch Darling In the Franxx the past two seasons.

Which show let you down the most?

Chio’s School Road

You can draw a lot of parallels between Chio’s School Road and Asobi Asobase as they are both essentially trying to accomplish the same thing comedy-wise. But while Asobi Asobase thrives on fantastic execution and avoids falling into the pitfalls of playing to typical anime nerd fantasies, Chio fails miserably in both areas. Many episodes get bogged down with repetitive jokes and segments that drag on past their welcome, and there’s plenty of random, out of place fan service that hurts the overall experience. There are certainly funny moments and the show has a good core with Chio and her dirtbag friend Manana’s relationship, but ultimately I think the show fails more often than not.

Dishonorable Mentions: As noted, both Planet With and Hanebado could also be considered disappointments since they had such high upside and yet failed to deliver. Planet With could have used another season to let the story breath and let’s be honest, was not the best looking show this season. Hanebado tried to be an ambitious mix of Sound! Euphonium and Ping Pong and sometimes delivered, but the plot and pacing were a total mess as the show randomly bounced around and didn’t focus on its main themes as much as it needed. Also, Ayano’s mom should be in jail and she is not, so that’s disappointing.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Lupin the Third Part 5

It’s incredibly tough to bring anything truly new to a franchise that’s over 40 years old, but Part 5 pulled it off with aplomb. Indeed, it managed the tricky balancing act of both homaging and paying tribute to the lengthy history of Lupin, while at the same time both bringing him forward in a series of truly 21st century plotlines. Part 5 beautifully aligned the old-school adventurous roots of the franchise with a more post-modern examination of how and why the Lupin myth works, and whether there’s any place for him in 2018. Their conclusion is of course that Lupin is eternal, and TMS proved it with this show, redefining the master thief for another new generation of viewers, and propelling him to possibly the greatest heights he’s ever scaled.

Honorable Mentions: Planet With struggled mightily against time constraints, budgetary restrictions, and the boundless ambition of author Mizukami, yet still managed to deliver an imperfect but lovable tale crammed full of heart and humour. Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger Vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger has continued to go from strength to strength and is posed for a truly great back third.

Which show let you down the most?

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

The spectacle and majesty of Revue Starlight‘s battles and visual flourishes were only matched by the crushing boredom and cliche of its ongoing character plots. The comparisons to the work of Ikuhara were not unjustified in the purely visual sense, but Revue Starlight fails to present anything meaningful under the surface of all the flash, instead falling into tiresome bog-standard idol show trappings. It never uses its much vaunted connections to the world of Japanese musical theatre to say anything important or interesting, and never expands its story beyond the very most basic tropes. It’s a shame because I do truly appreciate the attempts at magnificent flair and surrealism, but they mean nothing without strong narrative or themes to anchor them.

Dishonorable Mentions: Kamen Rider Build attempted serious sci-fi drama, then attempted entertaining out-of-control trainwreck, and finally attempted the very barest minimum of coherent story ending, and ultimately couldn’t achieve any of them. It was clear for a while that it wasn’t going to end well, but it was still a shame to see it fall so far. Cells at Work! meanwhile found out there’s only so far pure charm will get you before boredom sets in.

marlin_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Lupin the Third Part 5

I remember when I first watched Lupin the Third Part 2 back in middle school. I had just found Adult Swim and reveled in the fact that I could watch the kind of shows I loved on Toonami even at night. I’ll never forget it for introducing us to the now iconic Lupin leitmotif as well as a fun globetrotting rogue, planning heists with his sharp wits and escaping by the skin of his teeth. In many ways, the structure of the Lupin story doesn’t change in Part 5, but its willing, almost eager desire to engage with the changes of modern culture brought a fresh take on the old formula. The introduction of a stellar new character in Ami was a gamble that paid off. Her journey of self-identity and desire captures the heart of the viewer as they get to know Lupin in a new and charming way. Lupin always adapts to his surroundings because Lupin transcends times and fads. Describing Lupin will always be more about what he does than who he is, and nowhere is this exemplified than in the bombastic finale. If Lupin were to end here, I would have limitless questions and zero regrets.

Honorable Mentions: Asobi Asobase cannot get enough praise from me for being a side-splitting comedy with a heart of coal. While no hard-hitter like Lupin, the value of a good chuckle can never be overestimated.

Which show let you down the most?

Planet With

I think Planet With does contain the kernel of a great story. I don’t think we got to see it. Much of this can be blamed to pacing. I don’t even really care about the bad CGI animation considering I think it only really gets ugly when we’re talking about the Dragon. It actually helped the eerie quality of the Sealing Devices in the beginning arc. We can’t ignore just how much of the depth of this story had to be gutted out due to the amount of episodes it was given. Just one or two episodes giving investment into Soya’s life on Sirius, or more explaining the philosophy of these intergalactic beings would have done wonders to not only make this an enthralling story, but also one that could delve deeper into themes of grief and morality. Unfortunately, all we’re left with is a “what if”, and forced to move on past it.

Dishonorable Mentions: Chio’s School Road started slow, showed a brief flash of promise, and then squandered its good will as soon as it attained it. Mediocre comedy and egregious fanservice, as well as the rise of Asobi Asobase‘s stock, quickly made me ditch this like dishwater. Hanebado started with plenty of promise, but its lack of follow through, as well as an inevitable comparison to the far superior Ping Pong, made me lose hope in a satisfying conclusion.

iro_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Lupin the Third Part 5

When it first started airing, we were praying that Lupin III would stay good. I’m happy to report that it not only stayed good, but became one of the best shows of the year. Part 5 does that rarest thing of bringing an old character into modern relevance while also staying true to their past, and does both with style to spare. Viva Lupin III.

Honorable Mentions: Planet With hits all of the notes I’ve come to expect from Mizukami’s work, and I’m glad more people are being exposed to it; My Hero Academia is still going strong; and Sirius the Jaeger is an unexpectedly good action show out of PA Works.

Which show let you down the most?

Kamen Rider Build

We’ve said it a ton, but Kamen Rider Build is a fucking mess, failing to payoff basically any of its own tangled knot of plot threads. Its ambition was worthy of begrudging respect at the start, but each confusing new element or baffling swerve only dug the show deeper. Rare is the show that I’m actively upset about watching.

Dishonorable Mentions: I love Planet With, but it never once looked good; Cells at Work! failed to keep up momentum by having a big climax at the midpoint for some reason; and Kamen Rider Zi-O already belongs here after only two episodes.

aqua_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Lupin the Third Part 5

I hardly get excited about anime anymore, and I’d be lying if I said each new episode of Lupin the Third Part 5 had me desperately refreshing the Crunchyroll home page, but at its best, this show did something very little other anime have ever managed — it managed to be truly post-modern. By combining all-new stories with episodes homaging the older incarnations of Lupin the Third — easily identifiable by their jacket colours — Part 5 did not just release a new perfect entry point into the character to the world, it also provided him with a clear ending, a reflection on the character that would never have existed without the show presenting it being as polyvalent and all over the place as it is. Unfortunately, that means that not every single episode of Part Five is good. Lupin has worn a lot of faces over the years, and not all of them are worth looking at. Nevertheless, whenever the dashing gentleman thief has his blue jacket on, his foray — nay, rebirth — into the 21st century is an effortless victory lap, a complete reinterpretation of the character that turns the swashbuckling escapades of one of anime’s oldest stalwarts into a gripping meta-narrative about modern myth-making. Don’t miss out.

Honorable Mentions: Asobi Asobase was one of the rare anime comedies I enjoyed, if not for making me laugh out loud, than certainly for its sheer absurdity. Sirius the Jaeger and Planet With also deserve a shout-out here for being perfectly cromulent popcorn entertainment, and complementing each other perfectly, the former making up for the latter’s visual shortcomings, while the latter provided clarity and heart where the former only offered clinical spectacle.

Which show let you down the most?

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

How much of a chance do you have to give a show that makes no effort to deserve one? The Internet’s been ablaze with fans venting their frustrations about people being poorly informed about its themes and subject matter, and while I fully understand how frustrating it must be to see something you like get criticized for reasons you cannot agree with, there is a line that needs to be drawn. Despite how allegedly essential intrinsic knowledge of the Japanese musical theatre tradition is to see it as anything more than a vapid cavalcade of clichés, Revue Starlight makes no effort to educate its viewers, let alone draw them in. It is a a show that is as impossible to dismiss as it is impossible to like. It’s exciting, stimulating, visually stunning and completely empty — stuffed with hollow platitudes and flat characters, ostensibly about something but ultimately wasting all of its symbolism and directorial efforts on regurgitating the same twee bullshit every other idol show farts out. Look, I understand why so many people relate to this show. It’s a softer kind of deconstruction, a show that tries to avert expectations about a certain genre without utterly mangling it like the shows Revue Starlight aims to stand alongside. Yet in its refusal to truly engage with, truly criticize the tropes it indulges in, this show eventually fails to register as anything more than yet another idol anime. Feel free to drag me through the mud for calling it that, but I’ve seen, read, heard, studied, opened up my mind and eventually felt guilty enough to say that Revue Starlight ultimately is a flash in the pan.

Dishonorable Mentions: Continuing the grand and heartbreaking tradition of Kamen Rider being an unmitigated disaster whenever Super Sentai rules, Kamen Rider Build started out decent, turned into an entertaining trainwreck after just a few episodes and ultimately ended up being a repetitive mess. Speaking of repetitive, Cells at Work! never truly managed to actually educate with its dull information dumps, and probably would have worked better as a 15-minute short. By the way, did you know that Grand Blue Dreaming aired this season?

gee_700

What was your favorite show of the season?

Lupin the Third Part 5

Lupin the Third Part 5 is a grand achievement for the long running franchise. It somehow manages to both wield its newfound premise amazingly well while also incorporating all of the classic elements that make Lupin III so fun. The concept of Lupin versus technology of the modern world seems so simple yet effective, it’s a wonder it took this long. It’s a fresh take on the character that manages to posit some interesting questions about the nature of the character and the franchise itself, its place in the world, and where it can possibly go from here. Throw in an excellent soundtrack and some top notch presentation and it’s a fantastic all-rounder of an anime. While meta commentaries can often fall flat, Lupin the third Part 5 executes it so well that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Part 5 an excellent capping point for the franchise. While I’m confident Lupin III will be around for years to come, this series has felt like a truly definitive bookend to the character should he ever need one.

Honorable Mentions: Sirius the Jaeger is a fun and inoffensive anime action spectacle. That might not sound that impressive but these days, it’s in surprisingly short supply. Satoshi Mizukami’s anime debut Planet With deserves a shoutout for managing to evoke all of his narrative hallmarks. It’s a show with a lot of heart, if not much else unfortunately. And despite my many conflicted misgivings about it, Hanebado probably deserves to be mentioned for its ambition in spite of its many stumbles. Cells at Work! isn’t the kind of show that really warrants critical acclaim but it sure is a fun little thing for what it is.

Which show let you down the most?

Hanebado

Hanebado is by no means a bad show, and it’s by no means the worst I watched this season (that goes to Gundam Build Divers) but in terms of what it ambitiously tried to be versus where it eventually landed must be mentioned. By its very nature, Hanebado must be held to a higher standard because it had the ambition to try and be something greater. That effort in and of itself is admirable, and the destination the show eventually reached is broadly a good one. That said, the journey itself was a lot rockier than it should’ve been. A bloated cast and a lack of focus really hurt the show’s ability to maintain what should have been its most interesting aspect, that being the dynamic between Nagisa and Ayano. For better or worse, it invites comparisons to Ping Pong, arguably one of the best sports anime ever made. Now don’t get me wrong, the fact that we’re talking about Hanebado, a show we all initially assumed was just going to be tits and badminton (not that it doesn’t have those as well) to being spoken of in the same weight class as fucking Ping Pong is kind of amazing in and of itself. Still, Hanebado simply lacked the time or willingness to focus on its core dynamic and it hurt it in the long run. Nagisa and Ayano’s final confrontation should’ve been the culmination of well-earned character arcs instead of just its obligatory stopping point. Despite enjoying a lot of what the show does, I can’t help but feel sort of unsatisfied with how little it actually concludes. I doubt Hanebado is getting a sequel anytime soon so instead we’re sort of left in a limbo that will likely be its end. Nonetheless it’s a show I have a lot of respect for because of what it attempts to be, so here’s hoping they nail it next time.

Dishonorable Mentions: Look, let’s be honest, Planet With deserves to be in this category too. It might have been my pick for most disappointing on a different day of the week depending on my mood. For all the highs it reaches, it is undeniably handicapped by its short length and its mediocre production values. If a show like Sirius the Jaeger proves how much just good technical production can improve a show, Planet With is a lesson in how disastrous of an effect real world limitations can have on what is otherwise an extremely solid narrative. It’s all the more a shame because I genuinely believe that had Planet With received the resources and time it truly deserved, it would have been a mecha anime we’d be speaking of in the same breaths as Gurren Lagann. So it’s not that Planet With is bad, but it could have been amazing. Also Chio’s School Road I guess? Watching the anime made me realize that as much as I liked the manga, it’s a lot easier to overlook how uneven it can be in manga versus anime form.

chris

What was your favorite show of the season?

Asobi Asobase

Remember the PV for this show? It looked like trash. But here I am twelve weeks later, about to sing its praises. Asobi Asobase is a very funny show, one that manages to do so much with its rather trite setting and appearance. The main trio are terrific, especially the impressively unpredictable Hanako and her voice actor Kino Hina, who puts in an extraordinary effort voicing her, with a range that truly makes me worry about the current state of her vocal chords. The supporting cast are just as loopy, and for the most part they don’t rely on tropes to be funny (with an exception to Olivia’s older brother). I do have a problem with how the show handles Aozora, even though it admittedly could have been a lot worse, but besides that there’s very little else to dislike about it. It’s right up there with Hinamatsuri as far as I’m concerned, which is easily one of my favourite anime comedies in years.

Honorable Mentions: Grand Blue wasn’t perfect but was quite good fun in general, with the latter episodes really hitting a stride in balancing wholesome friendship and douchey but hilarious fraternity. My Hero Academia S3 was another good instalment, and I’m very curious to see where the show is heading if the upperclassmen are going to be more involved. Hanebado deserves a mention for being my most anticipated show each week, even though it really fell apart in the middle there. I liked the ending, even though I think it lets Hanesaki’s shit mum off too easily. Captain Tsubasa continues to be a terrific show, and has truly gone to town with its special moves and JoJo-esque moments in recent episodes. Pokemon Sun and Moon continues to be the secret best show, so look forward to that showing up here when/if it eventually ends.

Which show let you down the most?

Cells at Work!

Cells at Work! is fun and educational, but it doesn’t quite do enough to make it a show worth recommending. Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell are a terrific combo of characters, and the extended cast are genuinely interesting and surprisingly well developed considering the episode structure, but I found it to be a difficult show to watch each week. It’s fine, but the nature of what the show is about makes it tricky to build storylines to pull you in with. That’s not to say it didn’t try either – there’s a two-part story in the middle of the series that tries to invoke a bit of drama, yet fails because none of the main characters in this show are ever going to be at risk. Ultimately this is the kind of show it was aiming to be, and if you’re looking for a little fun with some cute characters, maybe this’ll do it for you. But as cute as these darn platelets are, they weren’t enough to get me to watch an episode while there were more exciting things to watch.

Dishonorable Mentions: Hanesaki’s mum from Hanebado.

artemis

What was your favorite show of the season?

Banana Fish

This is perhaps going to be an odd choice given all the issues I regularly point out about this show, and I certainly wouldn’t call Banana Fish the best title of the season. That said, I do think it was one of the most interesting – an important distinction – which usually made it the one I most looked forward to watching each week (of course, whether or not it’ll stay that way throughout its second half remains to be seen). Funnily enough, I think a lot of the issues I have with Banana Fish probably wouldn’t exist in the first place if the series had stuck with its original 1980s setting. There’d certainly there’d be far less inconsistencies with regard to some of the intricacies of its plot and actions of its characters in that case, particularly those revolving around child sex abuse and the like. However, I’d be lying if I said that Banana Fish wasn’t such an interesting study precisely because of these issues, at least in part, and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing how exactly the show navigates – and fails to navigate – the rest of its journey.

Honorable Mentions: It should come as no surprise that this season’s instalment of Lupin III seems to be a firm Glorio favourite. I wasn’t sure at first whether the show could keep up the momentum throughout its second cour, but I was also extremely happy to have my cynicism prove unfounded. Great start, great conclusion, and an only occasionally rocky episode to an overall very smooth series.

Which show let you down the most?

Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion

While not a major standout of the season even during its earlier episodes, I was left with quite a favourable impression of Angolmois’ premiere. A historical drama/action piece set during the late 1200s (a departure from the now probably hundreds of anime set in the Edo Period), the opening episode impressed me with its solid pacing, stylized fight scenes, and good balance between gore and taste. Sadly, although never devolving into an outright bad show, Angolmois lost a lot of points with me particularly during its second half, largely thanks to it falling into the same old traps many action-centric anime series often do; lots of drawn-out speeches before the inevitable death of literally all its side-characters, every single character failing to undergo any significant development and instead being reduced to tired archetypes, and apparently, all of the budget being blown on that first episode – because boy did the animation look patchy after that. In all, a potentially decent series that ended up being entirely average and ultimately fairly forgettable.

Dishonorable Mentions: The third season of Free! likewise started out pretty strong and seemed to lose a lot of its impetus over the course of the story. It probably didn’t help in the slightest that, likely knowing right from the start it was going to return for a fourth season within the next year or so, didn’t even attempt to arrive at any real conclusion for most of its characters. It just sort of… petered out somewhere around the halfway mark, possibly assuming that the fandom itself would make up the slack. And that just strikes me as lazy storytelling.

And so, this season Wrap-up wraps up, with Lupin the Third Part 5, ahem, stealing the victory. If you’ve been following our podcast, you should have known the writing was on the wall for our favourite gentleman thief, and seeing as to how his show aired for six whole months, could we possibly be looking at our anime of the year here? With its sprawling, exciting and surprisingly woke narrative, stylish presentation and timeless spirit, it certainly has the makings of one — but wait! Not so fast, Lupin! There’s one more season of anime to go before then, and of course, 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!

4 thoughts on “The Wrap-Up: Summer 2018

  1. Is it sacrilege to admit that while I really liked this latest season of Lupin, I actually preferred Part 4 a little more?

    I think this season, taken together, was definitely more cohesive, but for me, at least, the highs of Part 4 were just a bit higher than those in Part 5.

    As well, while I certainly enjoyed Asobi Asobase, and acknowledging that taste in comedy is pretty personal, as long as Astro Fighter Sunred exists, ain’t no way Asobi Asobase is the best anime comedy ever!

    • Technically it’s not even the best comedy this year since Hinamatsuri exists, but I did put the “one of” qualifier on it so I’ll stand by that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.