It’s the end of 2019 and I’m not dead yet. As always, please make sure to check out everyone else’s posts over the coming days, for they’re all much smarter than me, and definitely check out our long-term podcast project Legend of the Glorio Heroes, which is actually coming to a close. Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on the past year in the form of highly irreverent and inconsistent awards. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Best Old Thing I Watched in 2019 That Wasn’t LoGH
I attended a limited-run theatre screening of this film in December and enjoyed it immensely. My love of Tomino’s more recent Reconguista in G is well documented, and I got a lot of the same vibes from Char’s Counterattack. The beauty of Tomino’s directing is that everyone is just constantly fucking up all the time. Hardly anyone, no matter how competent or capable they actually are, is able to function perfectly. They act irrationally, foolishly, and one might even say realistically; bumping into things, missing their grip, changing their minds in ways that real people do but “characters” don’t. Seeing this in hindsight of how it has influenced the Gundam franchise up until now was deeply fascinating.
Best Old Show I Watched in 2019
Frankly I think I’ve covered just about everything I have to say about Legend of the Galactic Heroes in our recap and reaction podcast, Legend of the Glorio Heroes (which you should listen to!), but hopefully it will suffice for this post to mention that LoGH is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in any medium. It’s excellent in just about every way and it’s personally taught me quite a bit about storytelling, politics, and how I relate to the world I live in. An absolute must-watch.
Show That Most Deserved Better
Honestly this should go to Cop Craft (which will be getting some dues a few scrolls down the page here) but I needed to shoehorn in some way to give The Magnificent Kotobuki a shout-out. This show deserved to be made in the bubble period when any old random-ass OVA got a kaiju-sized budget; instead it’s one of them all-3DCG anime, and it’s not oozing with style in the same way Beastars is. Even so, it has perhaps the most realistic and lovingly rendered propeller plane dogfights ever committed to the small screen and manages to deal with some interesting sociopolitical topics with its plot without either overstaying their welcome. Questionable character models and bizarrely fast dialogue aside, I can only respect its moxie.
Best Single Episode
Episode 8 is probably a better episode when you get down to it, but Episode 5 is what fully and completely sold me on Granbelm. I’d already been pleasantly surprised by its entertaining sensibilities and its surprisingly strong mecha action, so I wasn’t expecting all of that to get turned up to 11 with almost an entire episode’s runtime of nonstop action and excitement. Where I was previously merely hopeful, I was now convinced that the staff knew what they were doing with Granbelm, and vindicated in my early advocacy.
Best Fate Franchise Moment
Fate has become an absurdly huge property over the past decade, and on some level it’s completely insane to me that I can even do something like this with a straight face, but upon reflection we had at least three different Fate anime in 2019 alone. But the third episode of Case Files showed the key appeal of its main character and the spinoff as a whole, lampooning the overly self-serious nature of the setting’s magic. Waver solves the mystery not by fighting it out with Servants and Noble Phantasms, but by looking up public records and proving the culprit’s guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt, a course of action that no stuffy old magus could have conceived. Our boy is still kind of a dumb little nerd, but the superpowers of common sense and basic human decency make him a force to be reckoned with in this farce of a franchise.
The Zeppeli Award for Best Music at the End of the Episode Moment
We covered this episode in Legend of the Glorio Heroes Episode 27, but for those of you who are not normal listeners: while LoGH will occasionally skip the OP/ED on important episodes, rarely does it actually play the vocal versions over show footage. Episode 76 is an exception, ending on a montage of the residents of Iserlohn fortress preparing for the inevitable war with their own specific brand of resigned foppery and whim. It perfectly punctuates the grim inevitability of their fates, and is an unforgettable moment in a show that’s over 100 episodes.
The Love Lab Award for “Where Did That Come From?”
This isn’t the first or last time Granbelm will be taking home an award from this post, but hell if it doesn’t deserve it; let the record (and the podcast tapes) show that I was the first proponent of Granbelm around these parts. Sharing a screenwriter with last year’s winner – A Place Further Than The Universe – was enough to give me reason to at least check out Granbelm, and I’m so glad that I did. It consistently exceeded our expectations and was the rare show where I needed to tune in each week. I can still pick ’em sometimes, I guess.
The Amnesia Ghost Award for Worst Person
Oops I couldn’t think of anyone else outside of LoGH so I went with a character from 2004 because they were technically still in an anime that happened in 2019. Zouken is just every single creepy grandpa trope you can think of, except it’s even worse because he’s literally made of horrible flying penis worms that will eat you. He is a completely irredeemable individual and an easy villain to hate in the absence of the villains from Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes. On the bright side, he… wait, there is no bright side. Get this guy outta here.
Coolest Mom of 2019
This is another “couldn’t think of anyone else so I came up with an easy winner” award, if you couldn’t tell. The main strength of Pokemon Sun & Moon is that being tied to a relative single location allows for deeper character interaction despite a larger core cast. One consequence of this is that Ash spends more time with his surrogate Alola-based parents than I think he ever did across 20 years with his actual mother. Thankfully, Professors Kukui and Burnet are nothing less than perfectly loving and kind to Ash (who always was and always will be a bit dull). She even squeaks by on another technicality by being shown as visibly pregnant in the final episode, so she’s an “actual” cool mom.
Biggest Gut Punch
As much as I love the absurd twists and turns of Granbelm‘s final third, I will admit that they probably pulled the trigger on Anna Fugo too early. For a character who starts the show with utter burning contempt for one off the protagonists and only gets angrier and more unhinged as time passes, her motives come off as surprisingly sympathetic. You cannot help but be (at least a little) on her side as she gains such glee from savagely beating her adopted sister and former best friend, finally getting the catharsis she desired after having her entire identity slowly torn down over the course of the tournament. And regardless of whether Anna Fugo did or did not do anything wrong, we can all agree that her final fate was undeserved. The eternal nexus of all magic is a cruel and vengeful god, it seems.
The Mondo Misao Award for Best Overacting
When the protagonist’s main personality gimmick is “he’s a former comedian and makes really terrible puns all the time” then you really need to make sure that A) the jokes are genuinely terrible, and B) the actor can sell how terrible they are. I think the screenshot says it all for this one honestly, though it does help that so far I am genuinely enjoying Kamen Rider 01. Hopefully it won’t drop the fucking ball like, oh, every single Kamen Rider I’ve seen other than Gaim?
Most Unexpected Twist
It’s been 20 years! I knew in my heart of hearts that it would never happen. But it did! He actually won! This was a big enough event that it actually got picked up by various websites and news outlets that otherwise would never have anything to say about Pokemon (to the point where I, a person who actually watches the show, got spoiled early), which speaks to how completely unexpected it was. Considering the new season is a bit of a soft reboot, Ash finally achieving victory is a great way to send off the show’s old era, and was wonderfully gratifying to me as a long-time viewer.
The Bubuki Buranki Award for Hottest Mess
Cop Craft is a complete mess of a show, barely holding together at the seams most of the time and occasionally just plain bad. Maybe the best thing I can say about it is that it made me reminisce about Blood Blockade Battlefront and Double Decker, last year’s winner of this award. Despite the way it gleefully abused every buddy cop trope in the book, Cop Craft had an undercurrent of realism to it, giving villains understandably petty motives and even getting into race politics in a surprisingly understated fashion. This is a show where the heroes shoot the evil pimp wizard dead and then immediately discuss the pros and cons of their mayoral candidates on the basis of how well they’ll protect democracy. I can’t call it anything other than a hot mess, but I did genuinely enjoy watching it.
From a director whose shows have always been inextricably linked with the quality of their soundtracks, comes a show that… has not that great of a soundtrack. Not that I listen to much popular music to begin with, but Carole & Tuesday just never really impressed me. The same goes for the plot and characters; the best episodes were the handful where the show became an episodic comedy, not when it clumsily attempted to handle serious topics. Carole & Tuesday seemed to confuse mentioning ideas (ICE! Immigration! Automation! Influencers!) with actually examining them, coming across as toothless and occasionally self-congratulatory. When even Cop Craft is handling its immigration allegory with more nuance, you might want to go back to the drawing board.