It’s not easy to forget all the crap we here at Glorio subject ourselves to every year. From the merely unoriginal and incompetent shows to come out in 2018 like Dances with the Dragons and Bakumatsu, to the outright painfully bad like Devils Line and Magical Girl Site, we undeniably watched a lot of shit. But tempting as it is to compile all these kinds of shows into one yearly Anime Post of Doom and talk about how anime is slowly killing us, I think I’d rather once again take the opportunity to talk about those anime of the year which, while not necessarily the strongest of the year, actually exceeded my expectations – the titles I naturally assumed would be average at very best (and quite possibly psychologically harmful at worst), yet somehow managed to prove to me that sometimes, you really can’t judge a show by its synopsis.
After the Rain (Winter)
What I expected: A thinly-veiled excuse for a middle-aged man to have sex with a high schooler.
What I got: A surprisingly nuanced story about a one-sided romance that a high schooler has for her boss at her part-time job.
It really helps that the fanservice is next to zero, the vast majority of the story is told from her POV, and that there’s no sex – or anything even close to sex – going on between the pair. Not only is Kondou totally obvious to Tachibana’s feelings for a good portion of the series, but once he does figure out her intentions, he does his best to dissuade her from the notion that they’d be any good as a couple. Nonetheless, Tachibana’s crush on her boss is portrayed quite sensitively, and while her obviousness (to the audience at least) provides a few cringe-worthy moments, After The Rain is, despite being labelled a romance, much more a bittersweet coming-of-age story than anything else. On a more technical note, some of the artwork is really quite lovely, and I absolutely adore the ED song – one of Aimer’s very best.
A Place Further Than The Universe (Winter)
What I expected: Cute Girls Doing Cute Things.
What I got: Cute girls with actual personalities doing cute things to a genuine and achievable purpose.
As you might be able to tell from that description, my main problem with ‘cute girls doing cute things’-type shows isn’t the cute factor in and of itself; it’s the fact that the characters are usually one-dimensional moeblobs sitting around gossiping and eating snacks. If said characters have a meaningful or measureable goal to begin with, they usually get quickly side-tracked by culture festivals or sleepovers or whatever, and never end up achieving much beyond a standard cutesy, sparkly high school life. A Place Further Than The Universe breaks the mold by having a bunch of girls with ostensibly little in common come together, eventually cooperating in realistic ways to achieve something truly significant. Their reasons for doing so make sense, as does each of their emotional journeys – and it still ends up being a satisfyingly sweet story with a happy ending in spite of, or perhaps even because of, what it took to get there in the first place, family tragedies and all. Now that’s what I call a great spin on a cute girls doing cute things show.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online (Spring)
What I expected: An even worse version of Sword Art Online.
What I got: A gun-focused action show that didn’t need to be labelled a part of the SAO franchise at all for any of the characters, or the plot, to exist or make sense as a story.
To be clear, I’m not at all surprised that, as a spin-off of SAO, Gun Gale Online was indeed labelled as such. Much as highly vocal segments of the English-speaking anime fandom may despise the franchise, it’s still thriving in Japan, so not calling it what it is would have been a huge waste of an ideal marketing opportunity. And while that may have put off quite a few of you readers, Gun Gale Online turned out to be a surprisingly fun little series. Deep? Not even a little, but then, I never got the impression it was trying to be. Personally, while I didn’t love the show, I was nonetheless quite impressed by the fine line it walked between genuinely enjoyable action (it did focus on an in-game, gun-centric battle royale after all) and gore (no more than actually necessary, and mostly in pretty good taste). Overall, Gun Gale Online managed to remain entirely inoffensive, and was relatively entertaining to boot. I’d call that a win.
What I expected: Robots punching each other in the face.
What I got: Robots punching each other meaningfully in the face.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m not much of a mecha fan. Those few shows in the genre I do really like tend to be highly character-driven and not particularly focused on big fights and loud explosions (e.g. Evangelion, Eureka Seven, Bokurano, Gargantia). So why do I like SSS.Gridman so much when there does seem to be a decent amount of emphasis put on its robot and fight scenes? Probably because the show is proof positive that just because a mecha anime places a goodly amount of significance and/or excitement on its action sequences doesn’t also mean that said anime can’t be smart, well-directed, and above all thoughtful. Moreover, the robots and fights themselves in SSS.Gridman have clearly been crafted with a lot of love, so while they’re still not my favourite aspect of the series – what can I say, I’ve always enjoyed the quieter, introspective moments of any show a lot more – I can genuinely see the time and effort that’s been put into them, and therefore respect this particular title all the more for it.