I watched and enjoyed less anime in 2019 than probably any single year in the past ten years. I’ve been constantly debating whether anime is just having a down year or if the problem is me. On the one hand, sure these shows are generally geared toward people half my age, what am I expecting? On the other, I feel like even the me from ten years ago would still think most of the shows I previewed were bad. I mean, I thought the past two years were pretty strong so it can’t be me, right?
That said, there were still quite a few outstanding series and there is never a shortage of individual moments I like to shout out at the end of the year. Here’s some of my favorites, and let’s hope for a better year in 2020.
BONUS: 90’s Flashback
YU-NO something something something
This anime sucked, but it did introduce me to the great soundtrack from the game. It’s a mood.
O Maidens In Your Savage Season Episode 1
Nothing fits the springtime of youth better than a Blue Hearts song. They make the perfect getaway soundtrack for Kazusa as she dashes away from an awkward encounter with her crush, her sex addled brain spotting innuendos all over town. It’s a hilarious moment, but also sweet and nostalgic in a way I wish they had kept up for the rest of the series.
Mob Psycho ???%
Mob Psycho 100 Season 2 Episode 13
The greatest strength of Mob Psycho 100 is how Mob grows as a character, learning that he needs to stand up for himself despite his powers blah blah… this isn’t really about that. Let’s be honest, we’ve all just wanted to see Mob snap since season 1 and we reach a point where he finally does. The final boss fight features amazing animation, tacky shonen anime power levels, and yes, eventually gets back around to the power of family and friends etc. I don’t want to downplay those things as I think Mob Psycho 100 does it better than anyone in the genre, I’m just saying… it’s a cool fight.
Kakegurui XX Episode 6
One of my favorite bits of our podcast this year was trying to describe how audaciously stupid Kakegurui can be. The acting showdown in episode 6 might be the most ridiculous moment of them all. I don’t even know if I can explain it one paragraph, you should just watch. Let’s leave it at Yumemi will do anything to win. Anything.
The Promised Neverland Episode 11
I should probably pick the death of a certain character for this, but I’m not convinced that person is actually dead… we’ll see in season 2. Instead I’m going to go with the aftermath of losing said person, and the moment when the kids triumphantly resume their escape plan. We all saw it coming as the plot demanded it, but to see that their spirit has not diminished in the slightest makes you want to get out of your seat and cheer.
Anytime Fujiwara Is On Screen
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
This will be the first of several cop outs on this list, but it’s my list and you’ll just have to live with it. Fujiwara steals the scene every time she appears on camera. She may claim to have an “IQ of 3” but she’s clearly the smartest person in the show, helping our two main idiots draw closer together as the series rolls along. Some personal favorites include beating Ishigami to death with a fan, helping Shirogane learn volleyball, and that time she told that one girl to rebel against society. With season 2 freshly announced, I’m mostly looking forward to more Fujiwara.
Redacted for Spoilers
Sarazanmai Episode 1
The premise of Sarazanmai demands the cast reveal their deepest secrets, but the first one is the most shocking since we don’t know any better at the time. It completely flips around our perception of some of the main characters before we can even get through the first episode. The series continues to do this almost every episode and while I’m not sure it was the best creative decision overall, it does make Sarazanmai exciting to watch.
Anna Fugo Did Nothing Wrong
Granbelm Episode 7
After somehow getting dragged into watching Granbelm, I join my GLORIO brothers and stan our queen Anna Fugo. She did nothing wrong, constantly got robbed throughout the series, and was validated when the rest of the episodes proved Shingetsu was not a good enough character to carry the show. Nope, no bitterness here. I am only speaking FACTS.
That aside, her big final battle is really, really cool. It’s not just a visual spectacle, they also managed to build up an appropriate emotional weight to the fight beforehand. Even if the series loses some luster in the final arc, I still think it was a success overall. I hope history does not forget Granbelm. It deserves better, just like Anna Fugo.
Maki Says Trans Rights
Stars Align Episode 8
We’ve been really critical of Stars Align in the podcast, but it’s only because we like the idea of what they are doing and want the show to be the best it can be. Our main character Maki’s superpower isn’t his natural talent for tennis, it’s his empathy. That kindness permeates the show as all the cast members deal with very real problems that could be experienced by any of us. I really love this concept.
Maki’s conversation with Yu about their gender identity is probably the best example of this, not just because of his sympathetic response to Yu opening up but the fact the show is tackling the topic head on. We’ve been creeping closer to this over the years, but even in 2019 it’s rare to hear an anime use the actual terminology regarding gender and sexuality. I couldn’t help but think of last year’s Zombie Land Saga taking on a similar topic, but still leaving it up to the viewer to put the pieces together themselves. Hopefully we will see more shows take the Stars Align approach in the future.
AND THAT’S CALLED JAZZ
I am shocked by how much I love Beastars. The unique characters, the themes, the amazing 3D animation, and the best directing of the year have blown away my apprehension about a show that… well, let’s just say you could accurately describe it as “Zootopia, but violent and sexy”. Wait! Don’t leave! Trust me on this one, it’s good! It’s such a complete package that I found it impossible to single out one best moment, so I’m going to mention the first thing that comes to mind when I think Beastars: the opening song.
The Beastars OP is one of my favorite “things” that came out in 2019, anime or otherwise. It’s one of those OPs that is entertaining on its own, but also does a perfect job of conveying the mood of the series. The stop motion animation, the choice of music, the ominous ending, it’s all flawless. Please check this show out, if not now then when it officially comes out on Netflix.
Given Episode 9
I find it fascinating that the band in Given technically only performs once in the entire series. I completely agree with this decision though as their song in episode 9 serves as a perfect climax for the series. Awkward and a bit flaky, lead singer Mafuyu is really bad at expressing himself. And yet when he finally does, pouring out the grief and pain he’s been bottling up for years, it’s a very emotional experience.
I think restraint is one of Given’s greatest strengths and something I really love to see in storytelling. Sure, the series can get pretty dramatic in some scenes, but most of the time it stays pretty quiet and understated. It makes scenes like the big song in episode 9 stand out as powerful punctuation marks on one of the best shows of the year.