Unpopular Opinion: My Top 50 Anime of Decade

On the one hand I’m kind of excited to do this because this was the first decade of anime where I was really into it.  I’ve watched plenty of older shows but I didn’t really dive head first into anime fandom until 2011 so this is the first time I get to make such a list.  On the other hand I’m pretty terrible at coming up scores and rankings so I’m going to totally half ass this by just going in alphabetical order because sorting them any other way is a huge pain in the ass outside of the top or bottom 3-5.  As for the rules of this list, I’m not including any sequels unless they’re sequels to shows who haven’t had a sequel/season since the last decade, and for any shows which started in this decade and had sequels and/or spin-offs those are included when discussing the show listed.  As far as what this means in a practical sense is that Gintama, which I’m hundred of episodes behind on anyway, and the Monogatari franchise will not be on this list despite the fact I’m a huge Monogatari fan.  Let’s get to it and there will be spoilers.

 

1 – Aggretsuko

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I’ve always found anime shorts to be very hit or miss and Aggretsuko hit me at just the right time.  I had recently moved and was several months into a job I utterly hated but needed to stick with for the paycheck when I stumbled upon Aggretsuko, sitting there conveniently on Netflix alongside the few normie shows I watch.  And goddamn was Aggretsuko satisfying.  It was like Dilbert (I’m a fan), Hello Kitty (not a fan), and Detroit Metal City (huge fan) all had a baby.  The episode 7 climax, which frankly should have been the end of season 1 because the short romance arc sucked, was the most cathartic moment in anime for that year.  Retsuko just going full ham on her boss after his own surprisingly impressive battle rap, was glorious and perfectly encapsulated how I was feeling towards my own management types at the time.  Season 2 actually went more on the romance side of things but gave it time to breathe and gain some depth, making it much more dramatic, interesting and emotional than the weak, short romance arc of season 1.  I personally still prefer season 1 episodes 1-7 but it was a good time overall and a must watch it if you’re feeling at all fed up with your job and/or management at the job.

 

2 – Arslan Senki

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I’ve already written about both seasons of Arslan Senki before but for a an overview it’s something pretty rare in anime, a good history/historical fantasy not set in Japan.  It’s got a very believable world full of different nations, ethnic groups, religions, social systems, internal and external political struggles with just a hint of fantasy elements.  It maintains a large cast of memorable characters with mostly striking designs and spends a good time developing some of them with significant character arcs.  It also has a fair amount of action to break up the long periods of travel and political intrigue (which means standing around and talking) and while the action is usually nothing special there a few fights that are genuinely impressive.  The political gambits of all the characters and factions make sense and are believably messy and Arslan in particular grows in interesting ways while still maintaining the generally soft-spoken and compassionate nature which rests at his core.  It’s an all around solid choice for anyone who enjoys historical anime and is sick to death of Nobunaga and the Shinsengumi.

 

3 – Back Street Girls: Goku Dolls

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Jesus Fucking Christ.  For anyone who hasn’t heard of or watched this one it’s about 3 yakuza guys who fuck up and are forced to undergo a sex change and plastic surgery before forming an idol group, the Goku Dolls, to make their boss money.  And it’s hilarious.  The animation is deliberately hideous with some truly disgusting facial expressions and unusual tricks, like overlaying the inner man face on the outwardly girly head, to add shock value and overdramatic tension to the scene.  What really makes it work though is that our hot blooded yakuza guys are just as, if not more emotional and dramatic than actual teenage girls.  This leads to some great running gags, like the anti-Goku Dolls club, the ridiculous American gangster who visits from time to time, or anytime the Goku Dolls are on TV or Radio.  Their boss is flippant and casually cruel but in a way that’s darkly funny rather than edgy.  This show always has me dying of laughter with it’s genderbent comedy and cruel and ridiculous antics.  Well worth your time if you can handle the ugliness of the show and fucked up humor.

 

4 – Bakuon

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I’m hardly much a cute girls do x fan most of the time but Bakuon was one of the few that really connected with me.  It’s about a bunch of cute girls into motorcycles and while I have no serious interesting in motorcycles, they capture the kind of people who make up any fandom with consummate skill.  There’s the idiot who get roped in and ends up loving it, the hardcore fan of the off brand/brand that the majority looks down on, the elitist snob, the rich kid who’s somewhat interested before diving in, and the die hard fan who’s fucking great at the hobby.  In Bakuon’s case it’s girl equivalent of the Stig and she’s great because she appears to be an unaging immortal figure who hardcore motorcyclists and mechanics all over Japan know about and revere.  It’s cute, it’s fun, it occasionally slides into fanservice but mostly stays in a comedic lane, involving such bizarre scenarios as a sentient bike that can communicate with the rider telepathically, the genius young racer who basically can’t drive outside of racing scenarios, and meeting Jesus and fighting for the existence of motorcycles against a theoretical timeline where humanity decides motorcycles are more dangerous than they are valuable.  It’s great fun without being as extreme as most of the comedies that I really love.

 

5 – Beelzebub

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I imagine that for most anime fans the action/comedy go to is Gintama.  And fair enough Gintama is great, but I got started with Beelzebub and it’s my go to for this genre.  It’s a battle comedy set in school full of cartoonishly delinquent punks with a main character ending up as the host of the devil’s second son, the baby Beelzebub.  It’s biggest weakness is that the gags in the earliest episodes are the most repetitive and the story takes a couple episodes of bullshitting around to get going but once it gets going it’s well worth the short wait.  The scenario’s and enemy characters are ridiculous, the cast is enormous and highly memorable with a ton of unique designs.  Most of the characters are hilariously dumb or otherwise so quirky as to constantly make fools out of themselves, while the straight man is constantly shit on.  Beelzebub is the show that really endeared me to the ultra aggressive attitude and specialized speech used by punks and yakuza characters.  I don’t know why but I really do love Japanese punk-speak and the attitude that goes with it.  Beelzebub is a great juxtaposition of the cool and the utterly ridiculous involving awesome battle scenes with people who can shatter concrete with a wooden sword and punch people so hard they get stuck in walls, and in perhaps my favorite scenario, a bunch of punks, most of know are total video game noobs, all trying to work together in a CoD knock off to find the location of a demon.  There is a special kind of joy that can only come from the stupid and the absurd and Beelzebub is one of the titans of stupid and absurd.  If that sounds at all up your alley you should watch it.

 

6 – Binbougami ga!

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I swear I’m not only talking about comedies on purpose, it’s not my fault most of my favorite comedies start with the same couple of letters.  Yet another especially stupid comedy this one is about a girl who is unfathomably lucky and constantly draining the luck of everyone around her – thus a goddess of misfortune is sent to take away her excess luck.  Hilarity ensues when our girl’s luck is in fact so strong she can compete with the goddess of misfortune on equal footing and does her damnedest to prevent her luck from being stolen.  Unlike with Beelzebub, Binbougami ga! actually has a surprisingly strong emotional side with character backstories and surprise scenarios that are more serious and severe than the tone of the show would usually suggest, with a strong underlying focus on family, fortune and isolation.  There are a ton of references to other anime and a strong pinch of perverse and potty humor, like the masochistic dog god who can transform based on how much pleasure he feels.  Whereas Beelzebub is almost pure absurdity, I think what makes Binbougami ga! special is the mix of absurd moments that make up most of the show and the serious emotional moments that are given all the more weight by straightforwardly the show handles them in comparison to its usual ridiculous self.  This is definitely one of my favorite comedies.

 

7 – Boku no Hero Academia

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And the normie in me finally bursts forth.  Not a relatively obscure comedy this time, no this is one of the big franchises that has dominated the decade.  One of the most beloved shounen anime, because no filler or any of the other problems that plagued the Big 3, this has been a smash hit all across the anime community.  It’s easy to get into, the characters have great or otherwise instantly memorable designs, this a show that took the well worn path and tropes of almost every major shounen series and then polished the fuck out of them.  For the most part I don’t think there are any unique ideas or character stories Boku no Hero Academia has in comparison to other shounen stories, but it has such a strong grasp of the fundamentals and executes them so well that it basically doesn’t matter.  There’s a large cast of lovable characters, some truly standout characters among them like Stain and All Might, great character stories about kids struggling with themselves and their idea of what it means to be a hero when confronted with the reality of what heroes often do, strong rivalries and some truly epic fight scenes.  Ironically season 1 of Boku no Hero Academia is probably the weakest with only 1 really hype battle scene and a lot of time spent establishing the characters and basics of the world.  Season 2 has one of the best tournament arcs in recent memory with excellent key battles in Deku vs Todoroki and Uraraka vs Bakugo.  And Stain is far and away the most interesting and intimidating villain in the show despite his relatively weak superpower.  His 3 episode battle arc with is some of the best Boku no Hero Academia has to offer.  And then we get to season 3 and *breathes deeply* the greatest shounen battle of the decade.  Make no mistake this is not an easy call to make between the Stain battle, Netero vs Merum and other HunterxHunter battles but for my money All Might vs All for One reigns supreme.  All Might is one of the greatest shounen characters ever made and one of only a handful of characters who really has the gravitas to capture the full appeal of the “legendary older figure” character that so many shounen shows feature.  Despite it’s relative brevity and total lack of complex tactics or powers the sheer passion, emotional impact and weight delivered in this fight are so overwhelming I’m literally tearing up as I write this particular bit.  I would be willing to bet no character ever created in any medium has ever done a better job epitomizing the idea of the traditional superhero – unbending spirit in the face of adversity, immense self sacrifice, victory against an overwhelming enemy, and a pillar in hearts of people everywhere.  This fight and All Might’s dialogue at the end is the pinnacle of what shounen has to offer.

 

8 – Date A Live

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There’s a special place in my heart for the rare harem show that isn’t the old To Love Ru style of harem nor the modern light novel, main gets all the girls with no effort harem.  And it so happens Date A Live is one of those harems.  I do not expect this to be on most people’s list especially since the genre’s main appeal leaves out quite a large portion of the anime fandom, but I love it and you’re looking at my list so deal with it.  Date A Live is genius in that all of it’s fanservice is a natural extension of story not a forced panty shot or accidental groping.  The whole point of the show is that our boy Shido has to woo the various Spirits so he can then seal their powers because if he doesn’t they will be targeted by a special branch of the military.  Let’s back up for a second.  In Date A Live there are Spirits, always girls, and wherever they come from when they come to and from Earth they cause what are called spacequakes, which function like balls of anti-matter that annihilate whatever they touch.  Their existence is not public knowledge and because of the spacequakes a specialized military unit is tasked with hunting down any Spirits that appear.  Spirits meanwhile have strong magical powers and are all but impossible to put down or even capture by conventional means.  Shido with his power to seal Spirit powers by kissing Spirits offers up a unique solution and the secret organization led by his adoptive sister wants to make use of him.  Because of this Date A Live has a lot more emphasis on romance and working through emotional and trust issues than it does with traditional misunderstandings and accidental pervert scenes or OP dudes winning girls over by being strong and usually nice.  Not to say that there isn’t the occasional swimsuit episode or ecchi scene but those are much rare than in most harems.  I prefer this approach and the Spirits look phenomenal both as humans and in their Regalia.  Best of all even after 3 seasons the story is nowhere near finished as malevolent human forces and certain untamed Spirits have added new dimensions to the story.  For all my dudes out there, if you wanted a harem show with something to get invested in besides anime tiddies this show is for you.

 

9 – Dororo

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Dororo was the undisputed king of the Winter 2019 season for me and it still was the show I looked forward to most each week as it continued airing into the Spring 2019 season.  A 50 year anniversary reboot of a classic Tezuka property, Dororo follows the story of Hyakkimaru, a young man of a noble lineage whose body was almost entirely sacrificed to demons in exchange to prosperity in his family’s region.  He’s on a quest to slay these demons and regain his bodyparts and is joined by the titular Dororo a young thief who helps him navigate the world and make a living while he hunts down the demons.  Dororo does not hold back on gore or violence with baby Hyakkikaru shown in full horrific detail, a baby with nothing but a skinless head and torso.  As for the drama, it writes itself especially once we meet Hyakkimaru’s little brother.  See with every demon he kills, Hyakkimaru gains back body parts, but also weakens the contract between his father and the demons, causing sudden calamities or otherwise weakening or eliminating usual blessings that have allowed his family’s region to prosper despite the harsh and chaotic time period.  The show poses you the following question, do you support Hyakkimaru, knowing that if he succeeds he will bring an entire region to ruin and hardship or do you support the family, who sacrificed their son and took his future away from him for the sake of the people?  Personally I sided with Hyakkimaru but I could easily see how some people who go against him because he is ruining the greater good.  Plot and drama aside, the action is intense, kinetic, brutal and well choreographed; some of the best action animation of the decade.  And a return to the older style of backgrounds  and characters with more a painted and hand-drawn look was a welcome breath of fresh in the face of the ever expanding use of CG to cut costs.  This is another great historical fantasy, genuinely one of the coolest shows I’ve ever watched, I highly recommend it.

 

10 – Fate Zero

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This is weird one for me to include because I’ve come to basically hate the Fate franchise even as it grows ever further in popularity, but it stays on the list because this is the only Fate show which really captures the conceptual appeal of Fate, before it gets ruined by visual novel harems, alternate roots and a million genderbent characters to make more waifus.  At this point most of Fate is much better as fap material than it is to capture the awesomeness of the Heroic Spirits, the Noble Phantasms and the Holy Grail War, i.e. the parts of Fate which are actually interesting when the hentai browsers are closed.  Fate Zero is one exception because it takes the good parts of Fate and the Nasuverse and cuts out Nasu’s character writing and replaces it with Urobuchi Gen writing.  It’s full of adults making adult decisions with a tons of strategy, secrecy, and dishonorable schemes in the face of the mostly honorably and proud Heroic Spirits themselves.  There’s plenty of dark bits and the whole conflict is ultimately a tragedy, a titanic struggle for a prize that was tainted and rendered useless but the journey to get their is the important part. It also features a much stronger ideological bent than any other Fate work, with the iconic Banquet of Kings scene, where Alexander the Great, Gilgamesh, King Arthur discuss their views on what king should be, being the prime example.  The Heroic Spirits are generally well done and present interesting pairs with their various Masters.  It has some pacing problems but it’s visually stunning without being overdone the way I thought the Unlimited Bladeworks tv anime was.  The effects from the magic and magical weapons are especially good.  If you’re interested in Fate but don’t know where to start, start with Fate Zero and never watch another one.   The lore is also least confusing in Fate Zero so that’s another plus.  All said I do think this show has dropped pretty sharply in my estimation from when I first discovered it, but it is the best of a now very popular franchise and it’s still strong enough to merit being on this list.

 

11 – Gakkogurashi

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This is Madoka Magica of “cute girls doing x” shows and far and away the most interesting thing to happen to that particular sub-genre in the entire decade.  It takes place during a zombie apocalypse that is so traumatizing to one of the main girls’ mind literally breaks down and she lives her daily life under the delusion that everything is fine.  Surprisingly though this is kind of saving grace for the other girls because it allows them to find non-stressful, non-serious tasks, rules and objectives to pad out what would otherwise be a bleak if not utterly hopeless future.  The show delivers on cuteness, shenangians and some of the scariest and most traumatic zombie scenes I have ever seen.  The teacher zombie in particular is fucking terrifying, made all the more so because of just how much she meant to some of the girls.  There does also seem to be something of a larger game afoot as one of the girls details but that doesn’t really get addressed in this season, this is mainly about surviving with their sanities mostly intact and making the most of their now restricted and dangerous lives.  All in all an excellent dark but not grimdark spin on the usual cute girls show, well worth your time.

 

12 – Gatchaman Crowds

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I talked about this in a different post but I cannot stress enough how, despite Boku no Hero Academia being a hype machine and a beloved show, I still believe Gatchaman Crowds and it’s sequel are the most interesting superhero anime in existence.  I did previously say best superhero anything but I have had to amend that because I read Worm and now stop whatever you’re doing and read that, then come back here.  Gatchaman Crowds takes a very different approach to superheroes making the central thrust of it’s character and story arc less about how to be a good hero and rather asking some pointed questions about what it even means to be hero and what kind of heroes would be best for society.  Likewise the villains of the show are less conventional supervillains and more reflections of humanity’s or perhaps societies’ own worst impulses.  It also features Hajime, who is just heaps of fun and a deceptively sharp and dedicated character for someone so openly air-headed, playful and bubbly.  I dig the Gatchaman transformations, they did put me off at first but they’ve grown on me a lot especially with how distinct each is.  The colors and character designs completely leap of the screen and visually it’s quite impressive.  Again though what really sets Gatchaman Crowds apart has more to do with it’s approach and questions posed regarding heroes, villains, society and human nature.  Most superhero properties don’t ask a lot of the viewer besides a suspension of disbelief, Gatchaman Crowds goes a lot further and expects the audience to keep up.  It’s advanced and heady without being overly difficult to follow or ever going up it’s own ass in an attempt to be clever.  Both seasons are very well put together with solid character arcs, tight stories and interesting themes.  A seriously good time, cannot recommend highly enough.

 

13 – Gi(a)rlish Number

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This is every anime cynic’s secret delight.  A fun show that mocks how some of the shittiest anime in existence get made while the fools behind all of the terrible decisions cackle away as they hatch their next cashgrab scheme.  There’s also plenty of  not so veiled criticisms of the anime industry itself, as well as the portrayal of the sad truths about how marketing often does not get along with or give a flying fuck about the art it’s using to generate revenue.  It’s mostly funny because of just how much of a terrible, entitled brat our main girl Chitose is, in comparison to the other characters and how the anime being made in the show is so obviously terrible and ultimately a failure.  There’s also a strong dramatic element to the show with certain character arcs peeling back the curtain to show the frustrations of the people trying to make a living in the anime industry and how difficult that can be both from all kinds of angles.  Chitose herself is not forgiven for being a lazy, entitled piece of shit (I mean that in a good way, she’s great fun to watch), and the show really leans into the drama later on.  I think it ultimately has the best of both worlds with large chunks of the show being funny, mocking and biting for anyone frustrated with various aspects of the anime industry, breaking up the serious dramatic arcs that really get you invested in the characters long term.  Gi(a)rlish Number is great fun, a must watch for any anime cynic.

 

14 – Golden Time

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There comes a time in every anime fan’s life when they want to see a good romance, and most of reviewers point to Toradora as a good place to start.  Fair enough, I liked Toradora quite a bit – then I saw Golden Time and it redefined what a good romance anime was for me.  Seriously, I kind of find Toradora insufferable now because Golden Time is that much better.  Our lad Banri here is a college student and though it’s not immediately apparent he’s actually suffering from amnesia after he got hit by a motorcycle upon graduating high school.  And this will be a factor later especially since it turns out the girl he was hella crushing on in high school is now senpai at his college (he’s a grade or two behind because of time spent in the hospital).  Our lady Koko meanwhile is so obnoxious in her displays of love that she would, and does, drive most men up the wall, and it’s really only by the grace of Banri being such an unflappable go with the flow kind of guy most of the time that he ends up being a good fit for her.  The fact that these characters are in college instead of high school is a saving grace for the show because they aren’t treated like children.  They can get drunk, they can go to sketchy clubs to make a quick buck or do stupid things, they can drive and they actually have reasons to be mostly living alone.  When parents do get involved they don’t treat the main cast like kids except as a means of insulting their lack of maturity or bad decision-making.  There’s a lot of freedom that comes with being a college student as opposed to a high school student and Golden Time makes the most of it.  Ironically what makes it such a good romance though are the strong emotional and dramatic thru lines of Banri’s character and his amnesia and what that means for his various relationships.  To this day I haven’t found a romance I liked more than Golden Time, I strongly recommend it to everyone, fans of the genre or no.

 

15 – High School of the Dead

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Two words, Matrix Boobs.  For that scene – which I will never in my life forget – alone, HOTD had to be on this list. It’s a goofy, fun zombie show where everything seems ridiculous and over the top to the audience but is played seriously from the perspective of the people in the world.  Also HOTD milked the shit out of hot anime girls with big anime tiddies  and uh… no man has a right to complain about that.  In all seriousness HOTD is very fun, it has kinetic, frantic action, the mass death that all zombie films are famous for and a solid cast of fun characters with various hang ups they have to work through during the zombie apocalypse.  I consider this show something of an anime  right of passage, make it through HOTD with a smile on your face and you’ll find a lot to enjoy in anime, if it’s too crude or perverted and the like for you this may not the medium you’re looking for.

 

16 – Hoozuki no Reitetsu

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I don’t expect this to be many people’s lists but this was a go to for me when it came time to just chill and have some laughs.  The story, not that there really is one follows the cold, ruthlessly efficient secretary of the king of Hell as he goes along dealing Hell’s various problems.  It’s generally funny but not laugh out loud funny, maybe more of snickering or snorting funny.  There’s a massive cast of characters with pretty excellent designs, good use of color and just random bizarre demon shit like the big fish flower things you see all over the place.  I have great deal of interest in folklore and mythology and while I don’t consider this show an at all serious take on Japanese folklore, having the folklore creatures as characters and Hell as a backdrop added a lot of flavor to a show that was mostly very relaxed.  For most anime fans the relaxing stuff are moe shows or something along the lines of Flying Witch, for me it’s Hoozuki no Reitetsu.  It’s fun but not too fun, there’s lot of characters and random shit to keep track but not an overwhelming amount of details and nothing’s ever confusing.  I adore the overall look of the show and some running gags or characters (Zashiki Warashi ftw), but I’m mostly here to relax and enjoy the random happenings of demons going about their day.

 

17 – Houseki no Kuni

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Certainly one of the more interesting anime of the decade with its use of, wait for it, good CG and unique setting I found Houseki no Kuni to be utterly fascinating.  The gems all have great designs, the world is mysterious and memorable, and the entire show really pops of the screen with it’s excellent color choices.  The fights are solid, with lots of emphasis on movement as opposed to heavy impact hits and the enemies are some of the strangest you’ll find in a given anime.  The story and it’s main character Phos though are what really makes Houseki no Kuni shine.  Phos is one of the most fragile of all of the Gems and unlike the other fragile Gems she doesn’t have a lick of combat ability.  Despite the fact she unarguably the weakest and most useless amongst all the Gems she still has a strong desire to help but can’t get any of her fellow Gems to really guide her.  However she has two great strengths as a character, she’s by far the most inquisitive of the Gems and her very weakness allows her to evolve the fastest.  The Gems are largely creatures of permanence, they can live seemingly forever with aging, they can’t actually die even if their entire body is shattered, and they have only one predator to worry about.  Because Phos is so very weak anytime she loses a part of herself she can replace it with almost any mineral or metal, whereas most of the Gems can only be connected with their old parts.  This does have a cost as every time Phos loses part of her original form she loses memories, but her core character doesn’t really change.  Even as she gets strong enough to fight alongside the other Gems she remain highly inquisitive, and is the driving force of any change in the story.  It’s a very unique show well a great main character and an entrancing setting, well worth you’re time even if you’re dubious about the CG.

 

18 – HunterxHunter (2011)

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One of the most highly praised shounen series, HunterxHunter is definitely a cut above most of its contemporaries.  Despite being among the longest running shows of the decade it has none of production issues we all remember from the Big 3 and is unique in it’s approach to it’s main characters, who rather than aiming to become the best there is are kind of exploring for it’s own sake with simple goals in mind.  Gon and Killua are usually treated more like side characters in any given conflict, they play a role, they’re present but they are rarely if ever the deciding factor in the conflict.  Even as they get substantially stronger over the course of the show they always have a long way to go with enemies who remain light years ahead of them in strength.  Nen is arguably the most in-depth and creative power system ever made and I absolutely love it with all of it’s individuality and nuances.  Beyond the qualities that make it unique HunterxHunter is much like Boku no Hero Academia in that it’s mastery of genre fundamentals is part of what makes it so good.  It too has hype tournament arcs, impressive battle scenes and one of the biggest individual battles of the decade in Isaac Netero vs Meruem.  HunterxHunter also hold nothing back, with sudden and brutal deaths, injuries and crushing failures shown as early as the first phase of the Hunter Exam, which was an impressively long introduction to the colorful, varied and highly detailed world of HunterxHunter.  If you haven’t watched it you should, don’t be intimidated by the episode count, this is absolutely worth your time.

 

19 – Katanagatari

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This ranks as one of my favorite shows of all time.  It’s historical fantasy anime set in a theoretical timeline of Japanese history where certain forces which supposedly could have existed in our own history are pushed into existence by a shadowy figure known as Shikizaki Kiki, who incidentally created the 12 magic swords our heroes need to gather.  The art style is literally my favorite in all of anime, with excellent character designs, color choices and a stylized world.  The various locations our characters visit are distinct and exciting, from isolated mountain temples, to frozen wastes, to lands destroyed by desertification.  There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.  Unlike typical anime Katanagatari takes place over 12 45min episodes and features a lot of dialogue as the basic routine of each episode is that Togame, who was tasked with collecting Kiki’s swords, first tries to negotiate for them and when that inevitably fails the bodyguard she had to travel to a remote island to recruit, Yasuri Shichika, fights the owner for the sword.   Shichika is particularly fascinating character in that he’s grown up on an island with only his sister and father for company and been taught to think of himself as a weapon not a person.  This is because his family has the unique Kyotoryuu, a martial art that mimics swordsmanship allowing him to cut people and parry blades with his bare hands.  I think his sister is actually the most interesting character in the show as I detailed elsewhere, but for the sake of brevity I won’t discuss her.  For a show with such a focus on an inevitable between highly skilled foes and their uniquely unusual weapons the fight scenes are often quite brief.  They are awesomely well animated and highly impactful but if you came here for lots of action, you might be disappointed.  Katanagatari is very much a character study with a focus on how our main characters change over the course of their year long journey, how they view each other, what ideologies they encounter among their foes and what parts of themselves they can’t actually let go of.  The season finale is one of the best episodes of anime ever made.  Katanagatari probably isn’t for everyone but for those it’s for, you will not find anything else quite like it and you owe to yourself to give it a try.

 

20 – Kekkai Sensen

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Kekkai Sensen was some of the most fun I had with anime this decade.  It’s world is absolute chaos as humans, aliens, demons and every kind of creature you can think of are all crammed into a portion of New York.  In direct contrast to Katangatari, Kekkai Sensen is a show for whom dialogue means fairly little and instead survives on lots of bombastic action and just the sheer craziness of the setting.  The characters are generally goofier but there are some surprisingly emotional and dramatic stories interwoven into what is usually a dumb action show with an emphasis on fairly unique visuals.  Kekkai Sensen’s biggest downside is that the season 1 climax is not very good and when it was currently airing we had to wait long after the season for said climax.  Season 2 mostly swept that under the rug though and continued Kekkai Sensen as usual.  This is mostly wacky, goofy and fun but there are some truly legendary frames as the team behind Kekkai Sensen tried all kinds of visual tricks – personally the thermo-vision cut of Zapp’s boner when he hears about this chick he’s been hitting on being interested in him, as he wipes out a particularly dangerous monster takes the cake for me.  And if that doesn’t get your interest/attention maybe Kekkai Sensen isn’t for you.  You should try it though, it’s great fun.

 

21 – Kill la Kill

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Every couple of years or so there comes a show, which while not being quite the big tent pole show that dominates the decade, is nonetheless massively influential and often more beloved by hardcore anime fans than the tent pole shows.  The first of these I remember popping up in the 2010s was Kill la Kill.  I love Kill la Kill, I love it so much I think it’s better than Gurren fucking Lagann regardless of the fact the general consensus is the other way around.  Ryuuko is in the running for my favorite anime girl of all time, not that Satsuki isn’t impressive or Mako lovably adorable, but Ryuuko’s attitude, look, style and general approach to life is just about the greatest thing since sliced bread and her synergy with Senketsu makes it probably the best pairing in the entire show, the hilarity of the Mako and Gamagoori shipping be damned.  When Kill la Kill first aired there was a lot pushback because of the “fanservice” and inconsistent animation, but I believe those have been rightly argued down at this point.  Nudity as authenticity and vulnerability is a major theme throughout Kill la Kill – of course the girls will end up nearly naked as a result, and honestly if all you can focus after the first few transformations is the amount of skin showing maybe that’s a you problem not a show problem.  I like fanservice as much as the next guy but there’s so much going on visually in Kill la Kill, and so many half naked fight scenes that at some point you kinda stop caring about the fact the girls are half naked and focus on what’s actually happening.  Likewise the sudden and bizarre animation shifts are indeed stylistic choices to make the show pop off the screen and be all the more memorable.  Suddenly shifting styles to capture the unique voice of many different animators also happens to something of a penchant for the director, Hiroyuki Imaishi.  As for what makes Kill la Kill so damn good?  Well the action is some of the most gloriously over the top, kinetic and well animated you’ll find.  The characters are likewise insanely over the top in pursuit of their various ideals and everyone has some of the most memorable designs in anime history.  The music is absolutely amazing and you will find nothing else like it visually.  That is to say you can really see how much heart was put into this and it paid off.  Kill la Kill is one of the greatest anime of all time and if you’ve somehow missed it, go watch it – like right this second if possible.

 

22 – Kimetsu no Yaiba

Kimetsu no Yaiba

I’ll be honest I was really struggling about whether or not to put Kimetsu no Yaiba on this list.  Between Zenitsu and it’s relatively weak position compared to HunterxHunter and Boku no Hero Academia, I wasn’t sure it merited making the list.  Then I remembered two things, Nezuko and Episode 19.  Nezuko is probably the greatest little sister character to ever exist, with her adorable bamboo muzzle, cute little grunts and pats, the simplified eyes during some scenes to maker her extra cute, the fact she’s carried around in a box or basket most of the time, and her ability to change sizes and achieve peak meme status as smol Nezuko are all in her favor.   The fact that she can kick demon demon heads off and turn her blood into striking pinkish red fire is just a bonus.  To be slightly more serious for a second, it’s both the focus on and depth of the familial bond between Tanjiro and Nezuko that give this show wings beyond it’s generic premise and indeed what makes the climatic battle of episode 19 so powerful.  It’s all about the power of family, it takes of all Tanjiro’s skill, Nezuko’s Blood magic, their father’s technique, their mother’s subconscious urgings – all of it in concert to deliver a seemingly impossible and decisive blow against a demon who should be, and thankfully is, too strong for them to handle at this point.  Still episode 19’s fight was one the biggest anime moments of decade and that helped push Kimetsu no Yaiba onto the list.  I also generally like the stylization of the various techniques and breathing in contrast the show’s normal look, which itself is not bad all.  I do find the brisk pace of the show somewhat surprising given the genre and when he isn’t asleep Zenitsu is utterly insufferable – but on the whole it’s a good show.

 

23 – Kingdom

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Kingdom fans might surprised I put the anime on the list considering how much more beloved and detailed the manga is but I actually got my start with the anime before checking out the manga and I have to say, get past the CG and there’s really quite a lot to like here.  For most people in the know the Kingdom anime has been unfavorably compared to the currently airing Vinland Saga but I honestly think that not only is Kingdom better overall, it actually looks better much of the time.  I know that sounds ludicrous because the Kingdom anime is famous for the shitty CG but hear me out.  First off Kingdom does start switching to beautiful traditional animation during non-battle scenes fairly early on and the use of CG becomes very limited in the second season.  When it’s traditionally animated Kingdom looks miles better than Vinland Saga, with much stronger colors, linework on the characters and attention to overall detail.  And while the CG is godawful it’s usually all awful together.  One of the worst parts of Vinland Saga’s visual look is how it’s perfect willing to mash up hand-drawn backgrounds and characters with a bunch of CG models or CG longships which actually looks worse than a scene made up of nothing but bad CG.  This comparison will only get worse once we get away from the visuals, Kingdom absolutely curb-stomps Vinland Saga on the audio end, with huge swelling tracks that take full advantage of the sheer size of the battles going on or are used to maximum effect in conveying a characters dominating presence.  I also find Thorfinn’s screaming to be really fucking irritating while the same can’t be said for Shin’s constant yelling.  If there is one reason to try the Kingdom anime, manga fan or no, it’s for the sound.  The music is amazing, the voice acting is solid, and the battle-noises are quite good, with a great of attention to detail put into the types of sounds  made by characters using different types or strengths of hits.  The story is also great, set during Warring States period in China (3rd century BC, I think) with a war orphan who wants to be the become a mighty general paired with a young king who wants to go full Alexander the Great on China, complete with a huge cast of excellent side characters from every strata of society.  Kingdom is also the show which most successfully capture the “legendary older figure” characters I mention when discussing All Might.  The major generals of the previous generation come off as absolute legends, with utterly titanic presences be it during a simple conversation or on the battlefield.  The action in Kingdom is very satisfying but not especially well animated most of the time because of the heavy use of CG during battles, it’s much better in season 2 where they use traditional animation for many of the fights.  Kingdom also has a penchant for a kind of heroic military romanticism that seems very much like the Homeric traditions of ancient Greece.  This makes the actual fighting and troop numbers wildly inaccurate to but it also really heightens the tension and highlights the dramatic fight scenes between characters of particular import.  I consider it a must watch for anyone who has the same obsession with history, especially ancient history, that I do.

 

24 – KonoSuba

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Megumin, that is all.  Jokes aside this is by far the most entertaining isekai property of the decade.  It’s cast of almost total incompetents somehow stumbling their way to victory in fights against the most powerful enemies the world can throw at them while struggling to defeat a single giant frog is barrels of fun.  Megumin is my personal favorite because she could be totally competent but has such idiotic obsession with only using the strongest attack magic that she knowingly turns herself into a one and done artillery piece.  Darkness is probably the least interesting because her masochism overrides basically everything else about her but the way that everyone else misinterprets her kink on the battlefield is pretty fun.  The designs are often deliberately wonky in a way that is pretty charming if not traditionally good looking. The character chemistry among the main cast is pure gold and there are some truly amazing running gags that pop up across both seasons.  That KonoSuba manages to finagle a few genuinely impressive fight scenes in just makes it all the better.  It’s not the most ridiculous comedy on this list but it is one of the most consistently fun shows of the decade.  Well worth a watch.

 

25 – Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?

kore wa zombie

What happens when you combine a Necromancer so strong she can’t talk because she can kill with her voice, magical girls, vampire ninjas and your average Japanese high school boy?  You get a story about a guy who becomes a zombie that transforms into a chainsaw wielding magical girl.  Yes it is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds and yes you should absolutely give it a try.  It even has a magical girl who is cursed to look like a middle aged man except when she’s drunk and then assumes her original form.  Kore wa Zombie is about as absurd as anime comedies can get and while there are a few dramatic narrative thru lines it’s mostly a show about stupid fights against random, bizarre monsters, truly goofy uses of magic, hot chicks and the kind of violence based humor which only a zombie, or maybe a harem protagonist, can survive.  Thoroughly recommended.

 

26 – Koutesujou no Kabaenri

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In that 4 year gap between Attack on Titan seasons 1 & 2 the studio which made it was somewhat panned for creating an AoT clone in Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.  In yet another zombie apocalypse humanity is reduced to living in isolated walled settlements where the only viable mode of transportation is by train because the world doesn’t have aircraft yet and the Kabane, vampire-zombies with glowing, nigh-unbreakable hearts, would eat anyone on foot or horseback.  But whereas AoT came out hype and then had a serious slow down in the middle, the shorter and more tightly written Koutetsujou no Kabaneri had no such problems.  It came out hype, stayed pretty hype, and then latched onto to short narrative which ended the season.  Visually it remains among the prettiest shows of the decade with highly detail, heavily shaded artwork in the close ups and stills.  Even in it’s normal state it looks very solid.  The Kabane are perhaps the most threatening zombie I’ve come across as they are not only fast and aggressive but they are extremely difficult to put down, killing them requires specialized weaponry, and short range to melee combat – the place you don’t want to be when a single bite from a horde of zombies will turn you into one.  There are also special variants of Kabane who can use combat skills they had in life or who can morph together and become a giant corpse pile monster straight out of a Fromsoft game.  What really sets Koutetsujou no Kabaneri apart from AoT is that the greatest threat doen’ts come from external source like the Titans but the poor decision making of understandably cautious or paranoid people trapped in relatively small spaces, it’s story where most of the humans matter, as opposed to AoT where only the monsters and few human outliers matter.  Good action, good visuals, good zombies, good time.

 

27 – Log Horizon

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Whereas KonoSuba is the most entertaining isekai of the decade, I would propose that Log Horizon is the best isekai of the decade – and possibly ever.  It’s much slower and more toned down on the action front compared to most isekai shows but it more than makes for that with the most in-depth isekai world building in anime and a plot that revolves more about creating and managing a livable society in a world full of people who can’t die, while trying to unravel the mystery of how everyone got here in the first place and how they can get back.  There’s a lot focus game mechanics, character class interplay and eventually even flavor text and how these things manifest now that the game has changed and become reality for a large number of people.  There is a focus placed on depth in almost every facet of the setting and the major interactions between the most powerful players – now leaders in this world.  This leads to a show full of lots and lots of dialogue and build up, so it can seem very slow if you’re not paying attention to just how much is going on in any scene.  Concepts that will become pivotal can be introduced many episodes in advanced, allowing everyone paying serious attention to be on the lookout for what details to track.  Unlike most anime Log Horizon expects a lot from the viewer and you will get left behind just turn your brain off and drink it in.  I don’t want to overstate how smart this show is, nor do I want to be a pretentious little shit saying *fake poncy British accent voice* that this is an anime for smart people – but relatively speaking it is the thinking man’s isekai and there’s a lot to engage with if your willing to put in a little more effort and muddle through the headier parts of the show.  It’s definitely not for everyone, but I do think everyone should give it a try.

 

28 – Made in Abyss

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One of the few downsides to the absolute flood of isekai shows released this decade was the almost complete loss of bonafide fantasy worlds.  While some shows put in the effort to make the video game based worlds interesting a ton of shows defaulted to generic RPG concepts and monsters and called it a day.  And while doing so these game-based settings replaced more traditional fantasy settings.  Made in Abyss however was one of those rare shows which not only featured a true fantasy setting but one which was striking in just how unique it was.  There’s a colossal hole in a small island in the middle of the ocean and the hole is full of unique treasures and fantasy monsters found nowhere else in the world.  So the people who found it first set up a gold rush town where the entire society revolves around delving into the abyss, and returning with it’s unique treasures to study and sell to the outside world.  Our begins in an orphanage where we follow the child of a renowned explorer who has allegedly made it to the bottom of the abyss and she wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps to meet her in person despite the fact it’s something that is incredibly dangerous even to explorers far more experience than her.  Joining her on her suicidal journey is a robot boy who can fire lasers and extend his arms like grappling hooks who seems to have some connection to the girl’s mother.  The setting is amazing with all kinds of unusual terrain, monsters and eccentric characters.  And don’t let the cutesy designs fool you, Made in Abyss goes hard in the paint when it comes to terrible injuries, darker plot points I won’t spoil.  It’s an interesting show like nothing else I’ve ever seen and a must watch for any fantasy lover.

 

29 – Magi

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Magi is one of the other great fantasy shows of the decade.  But unlike Made in Abyss Magi has a much more involved narrative in a vast world that its two seasons have had more time to flesh out it detail.  One of Magi’s strengths is the sheer sense of adventure it conveys, with our cast visiting vast deserts, island kingdoms, port-cities, fantasy Rome, fantasy China, steppe tribes and so on.  There’s also all kinds of interesting fantasy kingdoms and races like the superhumanly strong Fanalis who have been mostly enslaved, the beast riding Amazons of Artemia and the blue haired half Norse and half Inuit giants of Imchak.  It’s easy to get lost in the sense of wanderlust that the characters have especially in the early parts of the show before the over-arching plot is introduced.  It also helps that the colors are especially vibrant, really adding a lot of life and vibrancy to the setting and it’s inhabitants.  The overarching plot sort of resembles FMA Brotherhoods and Magi follows of similar trajectory of assembling a gigantic cast to face the lurking enemy threat that looms over all of them, despite the large divisions between the major political powers and characters in the world.  Magi has an interesting magic system where all magic grouped into 8 broad types which have varying levels of resonance with each and differing magicians.  This is a fast and loose rule set that results in many mages with different specializations but leaves lots of room for overlap and creativity for more advanced spellcasters to work with.  Then we get to Djinn and the Djinn Equips and that alone was enough to get me on board.  The Djinn may all be blue giants but they look and behave pretty differently and their Equips allow humans to assume an approximate form of their Djinn, resulting in outfits and weapons which are often totally impractical but also classic high fantasy.  The main characters Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana are all quite solid though Alibaba is undoubtedly the weakest on the character front just as Aladdin is the most interesting.  There’s plenty of action, political intrigue and wide and well developed world to explore.  It’s even a good entry point for non-anime fans or anime casuals in my own experience – give it a try if you haven’t already.

 

30 – Mairimashita! Iruma-kun

iruma

This is one of the most wholesome anime of the decade and I fucking love it.  It’s cute, it’s lighthearted, it’s fun and it warms my bitter cynical heart.  There’s honestly not that much else to say.  It’s Rosario + Vampire meets Hayate no Gotoku with a big focus on kindness and friendship.  It’s not serious, not heavy, it honestly feels a bit like a kid’s show and it’s wholesome approach is a such a breath of fresh compared to the endless edgy light novel bullshit or my usual more violent and/or though provoking shows of choice.  It’s a much needed break from the rest of anime and it brings a warm smile to my face.  Also Clara is adorable.  Watch it, it’s a great pick me up.

 

31 – Medaka Box

Medaka's_Speed

Medaka Box is written by NisioisN of Bakemonogatari fame and is the work of his that delves in one of his narrative penchants, the nature of geniuses, more so than any other work of his I have seen/read.  The anime regrettably lacks the fan favorite arc, Minus, ending just before that arc begins but nonetheless a very solid anime.  It has personal favorite design style with regards to to anime faces, using a wide array of artistic tricks from multiple styles of iris, heavy lines to frame eyes and strong use of color, vibrancy shifts and changes in shading to create what I consider the best anime faces of all time, which results in some truly excellent character designs.  The cast is memorable, full of characters who are at once living memes and are also either struggling with or utterly consumed by the differences in talent between people.  The show has almost more focus on quirks than Boku no Hero Academia, and features some truly bizarre students who need help with a wide variety of problems.  There’s also a strong action element to the show though that doesn’t really rear it’s head until late into season 1.  This is again one of the shows that’s honestly pretty stupid but is willing to run with it’s stupid ideas full steam ahead and I have severe soft spot for that kind of approach.  I seriously hope it gets another season to deliver the Minus arc and even if this doesn’t sound up your alley I encourage you to try it.  Partly because it’s a show that does much better in the moment than in dry reviews but also because I’m curious as to what most other people think of the character designs.

 

32 – Mob Psycho 100

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Easily one of the most interestingly animated shows of the decade Mob Psycho 100 did very well among the anime community for both its visuals and its message.  The story revolves around a kid with ungodly strong psychic powers, and this matters not so much because Mob then goes to exorcise ghosts or fight other psychics but because in direct contrast to his crazy powers Mob has basically no physical or social ability and is setting out to improve on those fronts.  He does this by joining the Body Improvement Club and working for Reigen, who have top tier bodies and charisma respectively.  Most of Mobs opponents meanwhile are people who have convinced themselves that their psychic powers makes them better than everyone else and can’t understand why Mob isn’t using his powers for personal gains but seeking to improve everything but his powers.  There’s some great psychic action which no doubt drives much of the show’s fandom and popularity, but I also like to think it’s positive attitude and focus on self improvement resonates with a lot of people.  If you haven’t seen it already you absolutely have to give it a try.

 

33 – Monster Musume

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And the harem genre strikes again.  Much like Date A Live, Monster Musume marks itself out among its genre contemporaries for having a bit more of an emotional side and an approach to fanservice that comes not from accidental slips or a sudden burst of wind but the nature of the various monstergirl species and their own individual desire for our protagonist.  I honestly can’t remember his name because almost every character introduced so far, which is quite a few at this point, calls him by a different nickname – I’ll probably just call him Darling for ease of reference.  Monster Musume’s main difference in comparison to Date A Live is the amount of fanservice.  The monstergirls either by dint of their species or by their own thirst for the d, give us a lot more fanservice than the Spirits of Date A Live – which is mildly ironic considering the Spirits are basically human once you get past the magic, and the monstergirls have similar trust issues/worries about discrimination in the wider world.  The cast is highly memorable and mostly great fun, and while there isn’t really much of a story per se, the moment to moment experience is very enjoyable.  Even some of my non-anime fan friends were into Monster Musume so to my fellow weebs of culture, let us celebrate the anime that gave us a new and confusing boner, or ladyboner, for monstergirls.  Amen.

 

34 – My Little Witch Academia

my little witch

This was basically cute anime girls Harry Potter, if Harry could barely use magic, Ron spoke to spirits, Snape cackled at the thought of making poisons and Hermione merged with Draco Malfoy to become an upper class blond bitch (at first anyway).  Having thoroughly enjoyed both My Little Witch Academia movies, I had high hopes coming into the tv anime and it did not disappoint.  It was so much fun to watch, with sequences like Akko firing herself out of a cannon to catch the world’s fastest flying broom so she could win the broom race, Sucy’s dreamland and of course the Gurren Lagann bit.  But for every moment of comedic gold or irresistible cuteness, My Little Academia also delivered on a satisfying moments of drama and character development, revealing truths that added whole dimensions to pre-existing characters and their relationships.  Akko and Diane’s character arcs were particularly good, especially when they really get to know each other and then join forces for the finale – which was also awesome.  This is a show that’s super easy to get into and a must watch for any fan of the movies or Harry Potter.  Y’all should watch it.

 

35 – Nobunagun

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As much I am sick to death of hearing about Oda Nobunaga, I have to say Nobunagun was one of my surprise favorites.  Utterly stupid, featuring fights between the descendants of heroes and alien Kaiju was so much fun.  I was a big fan of the stylized weapons or abilities of the various characters and especially a fan of the sudden color shifts during the action.  The normal look of the show is pretty bland and generic but during the battles the color scheme radically changes, not only making everything really pop off the screen, but giving it a unique look and feel.  There’s honestly not much else to say about Nobunagun, either you’re like me and fell in love with the show’s brazen idiocy by the end of episode one or you didn’t and you probably think I’m crazy to put it on this list.

 

36 – Non Non Byori

non non byori

Welcome to the pinnacle of anime memes.  Other than JoJo shows I can’t think of any other shows off hand that have such a meme following.  Nothing happens in Non Non Byori – serious, literally nothing happens.  It’s about cute girls living in such a remote country town that there’s only one teacher and she teaches all 5 students at the same time despite the fact they’re all in different grades.  Highlights include going to the beach, building an igloo, walking to the candy store and going to feed the rabbits – that’s how much nothing is going on here.  That being said the interactions between the girls are cute and hilarious, with the undisputed queen of Non Non Byori being the one, the only – Ren-chon.  Renge, to use her actual name, appears to be a genuine genius in many regards but is hiding her power level by thinking so outside the box that the others can’t even understand her galaxy-brained ideas.  They have no choice but to simply roll with it as asking the mysterious deadpan loli for her reasoning brings forth answers which only madmen and eldritch horrors could possibly comprehend.  To be a bit more serious for a second, this show’s appeal hangs almost solely on Ren-chon, not that the other girls are bad but she’s what will really invest you in Non Non Byori.  Either you will recoil from this loli in confusion or bow down to her majesty and be drawn into the show by her magnetic presence.  It all depends on you.

 

37 – One Punch Man

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This is one the shows that will be on probably everyone’s top 50 of the decade list.  It’s well animated (well, it was in season 1), the characters a good, it’s funny and it does an excellent job at making it’s central joke – that Saitama kills every awesome unbeatable bad guy in just one punch – except when he doesn’t to make the fight cooler.  I think the visuals are what really made One Punch Man so beloved, because if the whole thing looked like season 2 it probably wouldn’t be on this list.  That said because the visuals got so many eyes on One Punch Man and, in my case at least endeared me to the characters I was able to solider in Season 2 because the characters and their interactions were as good as ever despite the massive visual downgrade.  Watch it if you haven’t, but seriously who hasn’t seen this by now?

 

38 – Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

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Of all the many anime comedies I’ve seen Panty & Stocking is basically guaranteed to be the raunchiest.  It looks like a western cartoon from the Dexter’s Laboratory era aka my childhood but this one is not for kids.  This is all about sex, sweets, shit and sisterly infighting.  Which is hilarious because the two are supposed to be angels but they’ve literally been kicked out of heaven for their bad attitudes and have to do a bunch of good deeds and earn enough goodwill from the divine to get back in.  They do this grudgingly and with mild interest preferring to bone as many people or eat as many sugary delights as possible along the way.  Almost all of the ghosts they have to slay inhabit things like shit, vomit, sperm and buggers.  The art style changes all the time to suddenly look more gorgeous and realistic or hideous and blobby from scene to scene.  And while there is an over-arching story it not only does the show has perhaps the most controversial Gainax ending of all time but it will do whatever the fuck it wants with at all times.  Some diversions include, a half episode Transformers war between the two angel sisters, a minutes long scene where the camera never leaves the room or ever changes the angle of the shot and Saving Private Ryan scenes played from the perspective of sperm.  There also some great fight scenes and the overall feel of the show is incredibly dynamic with all kinds of overkill in every conceivable way, with lot’s of movement and attitude that takes advantage of the simplified art style.  This is definitely worth your time and one of the only shows that I think has a decent dub, I still prefer it subbed but if you have no other option the dub is one the better ones you’ll find.

 

39 – Psycho-Pass

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This may be perhaps the only show in this list which is wholly serious.  It has no comedic elements whatsoever and is instead a tight, tense and gripping police procedural set in a near-future Japan which has been completely transformed by a mysterious advanced network called the Sibyl System and the implementation of the Psycho Pass; a score which not only quantifies your mental state but also is used to match any given individual with jobs they will fit into best and so on.  There’s also a great deal of hologram tech which is mostly useful in how it gets used to disguise murders or to interact in some kind of VR social media.  The setting is very fleshed out especially regarding all the implementations of the new technology and the flaws, boons and workarounds therein.  This show is very interesting because one of the central themes is the merit of the Psycho Pass.  From the show’s presentation and some of it’s larger reveals it appears to be presenting a dystopian future.  There are all kinds of problems with system, and it generates behaviors which probably wouldn’t appear in a society without the Psycho Pass because they are specific methods of coping or failing to cope with the use of Psycho Passes.  That said, all other details point to the Sibyl System and Psycho Pass bringing about massive improvements to overall society – lowering crime, increasing productivity and so on.  It’s difficult for us as viewers to agree with because we are accustomed to having way more freedom and the idea of a machine, even one that may do a better job than we will most of the time, being used to guide/dictate our lives is untenable.  Whatever your answer to the questions posed there’s no doubt it’s one of the true titans of the decade in terms of craftsmanship (not season 2 though it was made by different people and fucks everything up), and I’ve yet to come across a similar anime.  Definitely give this one a try.

 

40 – Quan Zhi Gao Shou

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I really struggled between putting this or Mo Dao Zhu Shi on the list, as the latter is visually more impressive and involves more of a historical fantasy story and setting, but it also has some pacing issues and a focus gay romance that I have literally no interest in cause I don’t swing that way.  Quan Zhi Gao Shou, or The King’s Avatar is a more modest production about video games and pro-gaming that is ended up really being really good.  It settles on the basically undisputed best pro-player of a very popular RPG getting fired due to the team’s faltering performance and concerns about his age, he’s 26 which is old by pro-gaming standards.  And because they hammer this part in immediately it’s very easy to invested as to how our main guy with stick it to the man.  The character side of the story is pretty great but what Quan Zhi Gao Shou really delivers on is something of every gamer’s power fantasy and really capturing the kind of passion that the deeply hardcore fans of certain games have for their game of choice.  Our main guy has been playing this game for a decade and rather than lash out when he’s suddenly dropped from his pro team he immediately starts up a new account, experimenting with a playstyle he and his best friend had started on conceptually many years ago.  There’s lot of flashy action and solid understanding of RPG mechanics along with a focus player action speed versus depth of knowledge.  Quan Zhi Gao Shou is very easy to get into, with a tone that is mostly, light brisk and fun with occasional currents of a more serious struggle going on.  It’s a great watch for anyone who has picked up any RPG before – and while the show has modest production values the 3 OVA sequels are fucking jaw droppingly well animated, a good reward for those who make through the first season.  There was also a recentish movie release prequel, so this franchise does seem to have some legs and we will hopefully get a second season soon.

 

41 – Re:Creators

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Re:Creators is unfortunately a show with some problems and an ending that is so meta it’s a bit up its own ass but generally I really loved watching it.  It played around some very interesting story concepts both in a meta sense to resolve the main conflict and for use as character building.  The differences between how characters from more simplistic settings developed in contrast to characters from darker or more nuanced settings was really cool, and the interplay between characters from totally different mediums and settings using their various power against each other was awesome, resulting in scenes like watching a giant magical girl heart slam a flying heroine into the ground with explosive force – where else will you even see something like that?  I know that a lot of people hated the main guy but honestly I think he did his job exceptionally well and filled more of a Shinji from Evangelion role than that of a typical hero and thus had many similar flaws and criticism that Shinji himself suffered from.  I think what really sold it for me though were the parts that delved in the various artists and writers and the creative process.  I thought the show’s commentary on that front was fucking spot on and resulted in some of may favorite low key interactions and bits of dialogue, with the crowning achievement being the battle of wits between Blitz and his creator – who basically proves to him that he hasn’t developed at all and is frankly immature in his thinking when compared to the other fictional characters who have invaded our world by predicting his every line and move.  That said there is a bit in the middle where show slows down massively while building up to the final battle and I could easily see that being a problem for some.  I personally was fine Altair’s design and abilities but I did find her motivations to be pretty pathetic and her nigh-invincibility sometimes utterly ruined the awesome powers of the characters.  All told I think it’s still a good show with interesting ideas and an excellent commentary on creatives and the creative process but it’s on the lower end of this list.

 

42 – ReLIFE

ReLife

This is actually one of the best romances of all time, at least in anime.  It’s about a guy who seems to have no real prospects because he quit his first job as a means of protest against his boss and co-workers, who in fact drive his mentor to suicide with their bullying.  Because of this he obviously didn’t get any kind of recommendation and is struggling to find a serious career since he has no reliable references and every interviewer will of course ask why he left his old job, or call his old boss and presumably be told that our lead is a shit worker.  While he struggles he is given an offer by a mysterious government agency to take a drug that reverts him back 10 years (I think) and redo his senior year of high school as a means of rehabilitation, with the promise of a job afterword.  With little else going for him he takes offer.  Part of what makes ReLIFE great is that our lead is not fumbling his way through school like so many high school romances, he’s done this before and while there are many jokes at his expense because of his adult outlook and him having to readjust and relearn old material, that same adult outlook lets him cut through usual high school bullshit and misunderstandings with ease, allowing him to quickly make some friends and even guide these young people when some of them are having trouble.  His main focus is the super emotionless girl in his class who we will later learn went through the same program he did but didn’t change at all during her year and is now doing a second year unbeknownst to our male lead.  But it’s because the secret ReLifer is so inept at personal interactions that our male lead spends extra time helping her, and thus the groundwork for a serious relationship is laid.  ReLIFE has some decent comedy, solid drama and – once all the various secrets are revealed – one of the best anime romance stories of all time.  You really owe it to yourself to give it a try though I think older viewers may like more since it’s much easier to connect with a male lead closer to our age.

 

43 Shokugeki no Souma

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I think what really sells Shokugeki no Souma, in addition to the fact they went all in on the foodgasms, was the attitude.  Souma and many of his various rivals have the same highly arrogant, confrontational and fiery attitudes of characters from battle manga.  Like if these kids had huge muscles instead of major culinary skills they would fit right into something like Baki.  And I love the attitude, it really is the heart of the show because it’s that same attitude which leads to the intensity and stakes of challenges.  The various characters make massive bets with all their pride and skill on the line and it’s only be dint of the overall attitude that this makes any sense at and is indeed fully sold.  The fact that show does a really good job making the actual cooking matches and recipe research engaging is to it’s credit but it’s kind of just a bonus – it’s the attitude and characters which really keep me invested, especially since the story gets increasingly off the rails as it goes on and the production values start to take noticeable hits in later seasons.  And speaking of the characters, this show really does nail the kind of giant memorable and interesting casts which are a staple of the shounen genre, and even some of characters who only appear in a few scenes are among the most memorable side characters I can think of, Hojo and the witch girl in particular.  There’s also a huge focus on talent vs hard work and perhaps even more importantly, confidence.  Megumi is one of the best characters because she is a talented cook who is so lacking in confidence that it almost sees her expelled and it’s not until she meets the brazenly competitive and outright arrogant Souma that she really finds the inner strength to make something more of herself.  Her big moments in the season 2 tournaments were probably my favorite parts of the show.  That’s really all there is to say, if you want some food porn, with a side fiery attitude and a full course of interesting cast members, Shokugeki no Souma is the dish for you.

 

44 Shuumatsu no Izzetta

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This is one of the shows on this list that most people will probably be scratching their heads at as it didn’t have great critical reception nor was it especially popular when looking at the decade as a whole.  But I have a deep affection for fantasy and history and this was yet another solid historical fantasy not set in Japan.  This was a fantastical WWII story, though the politics of the world is much more reflective of WWI where royal families exist as serious political factors in much greater numbers.  Overall I don’t think the story or writing is especially good, though the episode where Nazi (not actually a nazi this is just for ease of reference) infiltrator into fantasy Switzerland (which is where the main characters are from) discovers that he really likes the kind people of fantasy Switzerland and concludes his side might be the bad guys in this scenario since fantasy Germany is invading fantasy Switzerland was great.  That being said I do love the overall focus on patriotism, heroic myths, the clever use of propaganda and the magic vs WWII tech battles.  The politics were also good, with all of fantasy Germany’s enemies celebrating the rise of Izetta as a weapon against fantasy Germany while also becoming very concerned about what Izetta and magic represent.  Fantasy Germany has some very capable men who put the titular Izetta in danger multiple times and while I wasn’t much of a fan of how her final opponent came to be, I do like the thrust of her enemy’s story and how she interacts with Izetta, as a pair of witches who have similar power levels and played similar heroic roles for fantasy Switzerland but had a world of difference in their treatment.  What really gets me though are 3 things.  The music, the depth and intimacy of the friendship between Izetta and Princess Fine, and last but certainly not least Izetta’s solution to end the conflict and the truly humbling levels of self sacrifice required to enact this solution.  The climax is something that’s going to be etched in my mind forever, between the swelling music, the way it cuts between the actual fight scenes which in and of themselves aren’t that impressive to the momentous political events which Izetta’s immense self sacrifice is going to pave the way for, with multiple tensions builds which are put on hold by flashbacks or exposition before resuming with exponential intensity before we get to the big earth shattering moment where the entire nature of the world is re-written and the age of magic passes forever.  It’s something out of an epic or a saga, and it’s the kind of story beat which cuts right though to the core of my being.  For whatever reason it’s the scenes like these, the big swelling moments of legendary feats be they Izetta’s climax or something like the Ride of the Rohirrim, these are the scenes that connect with me deepest, which make my tears flow most fiercely.  Many of the shows I enjoy have a lot more of “the journey is more important than the destination” vibe but every now and then there comes a show where, though the journey is perhaps not as striking or memorable or as well written as many other shows on this list, the destination is so phenomenal that it eclipses all other factors.  Shuumatsu no Izetta is one such show.

 

45 Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

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This is another of the best anime romances in my book, though this is much more of a traditional shoujo story than Golden Time.  It takes place in a very simplified fantasy world where all the countries are named after random climatic and topographic features like Rain, Sun, Sea, etc.  More important than the milquetoast fantasy world though are our main characters, Livy and Nike.  Livy is a genius young king – who looks like he’s only a kid but is supposed to be a pre-teen I think – whose reign is nonetheless stained by his own internal demons and the heartlessness which he steeped himself in to take power.  Nike meanwhile comes from a poor as shit country at the ass end of the world, the Rain Country, where royalty doesn’t really behave all that differently to average citizenry.  In fact when Livy demands a Rain princess for his bride – because he wants power over the weather to combat the sun for which is own country is named – Nike is sent because she lost the 4-way rock-paper-scissors match between the princesses.  What really makes these too such a great pair is that while Livy is a man above the people in many regards, both in his own attitude and in his understanding of greater political movements or complex problems, Nike is definitely a woman of the people.  She struggles with expectations of royalty and formality but thrives on interpersonal relations, rapidly making connections with anyone be they royalty or peasant.  Nike also has weather altering magic which is why Livy wanted a Rain princess to begin with, and she uses her powers mostly to teach Livy about the importance of his emotional development and doing the right thing for the right reason – in contrast to his old approach of doing the right thing for the wrong reason or vice versa.  Both Nike and Livy are great characters in their own right, which is why this show manages to break into this list despite the shoujo label.  Most of the time I find shoujo stories to be pretty insufferable because the characters are fucking boring so I have no reason to be invested in the drama and the romance.  That’s not the case here, this show could probably be about anything and so long as Livy and Nike were in it I’d have a good time.  Definitely worth a watch, especially for anyone starving for good romances.

 

46 – Steins;Gate

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Steins:Gate is, in my opinion, the greatest time travel story ever made (if we discount all that Zero garbage).  As someone who generally finds time travel annoying as it’s almost always used for narrative convenience, I fell in love with Steins;Gate right away despite my reticence about the subject matter.  Part of this was due to the unusual presentation of the early episodes but it’s mainly because of the characters, with Okarin in particular getting me super invested early on.  The actual tech involved in the time travel is basically a random stroke of bullshit but the mechanics of time travel are simple but interesting and used very well in the story.  The fact that the time travel was very important to the story and used for serious character development rather narrative convenience was a huge breath of fresh air for me and really helped keep me working through the slower parts of the story, where we get to know the characters, who we absolutely need to love for the drama of the later parts of the show to really hit home.  Luckily the characters are fantastic and do a great job of drawing you in.  If you haven’t seen this already you should absolutely give it a try.

 

47 – Suisei no Gargantia

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I’ve never been a big fan of Mecha shows but Suisei no Gargantia won me over right away with it’s pretty unique premise and totally unique environments.  For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a about a young soldier, Ledo, who has been cast adrift by a wormhole travel error after a major engagement against alien forces and arrives at, of all places, Earth.  The humans of Earth are significantly more primitive and live on giant clusters of ships, and while they technically have mechs, their mechs are more like forklifts in a humanoid shape than a proper Gundam.  Ledo meanwhile comes from an advanced space-faring branch of humanity, who believe Earth is either a myth or long since frozen over, and has the only mech worth considering for 90% of the show.  Rather than this being a giant battle of mechs, the show is really about Ledo learning how to adjust to a life without combat, where there isn’t much if any war and conflict avoidance is the first priority.  I personally love this kind of character, the soldier who is either so consumed by war or started fighting so young that it’s all they really know and so struggle to adjust to peace.  The mass of interconnected ships, especially with the locks, cranes and rust make for some of the coolest and most striking environs of the decade and while the characters and story beats are generally quite simple, they are nonetheless compelling and make for an easy digestible story so you can focus on all the detail poured into the environments, society and culture which are the backbone of the show.  It’s very memorable and a solid show if not one of the true greats of the decade, definitely still worth a watch.

 

48 – Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen

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This show was certainly one most surprising treats of the decade for me, seeing as the original Utawarerumono came out in like 2008 and remains one my favorite shows of all time.  Sadly the sequel, Itsuwari no Kamen is noticeably weaker than the original – with a bunch of jokes that feel more like meta appeals to fans than in-universe culture and a much slower story.  To it’s credit Itsuwari no Kamen does cram in a ton of story compared to most anime without ever feeling rushed, and it has room to dedicate entire episodes to let us bond with the various individual members of the large cast, but since the original Utawarerumono was for my money the most content-dense 24 episode show of all time Itsuwari no Kamen definitely takes a hit in this regard.  Another bizarre change is the toning down of realism and the sudden changes in power levels that requires. While all the people with fake masks having knock-off versions of Hakuoro’s powers makes sense, why can a swordsman like Yakutowaruto level a city block with his technique?  He’s not from the same race as Karura, who were the only group were aware of having the super strength.  And hilariously it means when Yakutowaruto has to fight Kuro, who by the end of the original is basically the weakest of the main characters, and gets his ass handed to him, Kuro has to be way more badass in Itsuwari no Kamen than he was in the original, by doing things like shrugging off an explosion.  There are other minor details like this but overall the show is very good.  It has a large and mostly lovable cast, multiple wars from the various beastmen cultures, expands the world building laid out in the original and great visuals to boot.  It’s not on the original’s level but it is still a very good show, far better than most anime you’d find in any given season.  Give it a try it’s well worth your time.

 

49 – Youjo Senki

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On the one hand this is an anime with a serious visual problem, it looks quite terrible and even the movie sequel sets the bar about as low as I’ve ever seen for anime movies.  That being said I don’t give a shit because this definitely one of my favorite shows of the decade.  The WWI but with magic and emerging WWII tech makes for a great setting and there are all kinds of nods to historical events such as the Romanian invasion in utterly failing.  But as much as I love the setting, I think it’s the prevailing attitude of the show which really makes it a winner.  Tanya is just the right blend of ruthless sociopath, corporate asshole and incidental heroine to make her an incredibly fun character who makes all kinds of seemingly crazy choices based on her prior life’s knowledge of the events of WWI & WWII.  It also gives her a ton of room to maneuver in the story, she can work with  logistics and organization, develop new tactics, and still have time to get in dogfights with planes and bombard poor infantrymen stuck in the trenches.  The show is also just a great deal of fun, allowing you to revel in Tanya’s evil qualities when she succeeds with ease but to also appreciate their genuine heroism and patriotism of her men when the going gets tough.  Moreover while the in-universe events are taken seriously by the characters, the show does not take itself overly seriously at all, adding to the fun.  The anime is quite ugly but everything else makes up for it so well I’d be mad not to recommend you give it a try, this show is way too fun to pass up.

 

50 – Zombieland Saga

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Of all the shows to come out this decade, Zombieland Saga would be my number 1 surprise hit.  Zombie idols was possibly the best thing to ever comes out of the idol show genre despite other strong contenders like Gokudolls coming out at roughly the same time.  But where Gokudolls was basically just funny, with very limited character development, Zombieland Saga puts a lot more focus on the characters.  How talented were they in life?  Can they square their new existence as zombies or will they wallow around in a funk forever?  Will the Legendary Tae-chan ever regain her ability to speak and function like a human being?  The show tackles all of these difficult questions and more in a story about a bunch of girls with terrible luck getting a second chance at well, existing and maybe pursuing happiness.  Also they do a whole bunch of random marketing shit like mud runs, fast food commercials and mini-concerts sponsored by new products.  Personally I found all the characters to be really interesting or otherwise enjoyable, and some of them had seriously powerful story beats like Lily getting to sing a love song for the father she left behind, Junko’s and Ai’s differing philosophies as idols from different decades and how they clash before eventually supporting each other, Saki getting to help out her best friend’s daughter and – though the presentation was a bit heavy handed – Sakura’s total transformation when she regains her memories.  The concerts are also a treat, because despite the frankly terrible visuals, the songs cover a wide variety of genres and are full of random yet awesome incidents.  We have death metal idols with neck-breaking headbanging, improv rap battle, the sudden techno remix made possible by lightning strike and other hilarious events.  The show is a ton of fun with occasional segments for heavier, more dramatic story bits which only add to the overall story and presentation.  Well worth your time, go watch it.

Unpopular Opinion: Babylon

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This will contain major spoilers for episodes 1-7 of Babylon.  You’ve been warned.

Babylon is an interesting show, arguably one of best of the season, despite it’s relatively low profile.  It’s a mystery, thriller, cop procedural with a lot of strong elements.  The presentation is solid and the characters are believably human though several of the main characters either feel especially strongly about certain things or have very weird ideas regarding how society should function.

The backdrop to the mystery, thriller is a great idea in concept as well.  A new city called Shiniki is being developed in part of Tokyo, in an effort to revitalize the economy.  This is just a cover though, the real aim of this new city is that it’s a new Special Administrative zone with a great deal of autonomy – and the politicians running for Shiniki mayor want to use it as a testing ground for new laws, and potentially even systems of government.

Enter our protagonist, Seizaki Zen.  His jobs looks like a portmanteau of police inspector and criminal prosecutor, with him going in person to seize evidence but also reading through all the evidence to build a legal case against the suspects.  He gets involved because of an unusual suicide, a noteworthy pharmaceutical researcher, who is backing one of the main candidates for Shiniki mayor.  The sudden suicide causes Seizaki to investigate the political party in question and finds evidence what looks to be a prostitution ring set up to gather votes.  However a few things don’t add up, like certain groups involved seem to backing different candidates and so on.

This is all basically a giant misdirection however.  It turns out at the very least, the current lead candidate – a former high level politician – and a few other keys officials, notably Seizaki’s boss, have hatched a plan to make the most of Shiniki’s secret function, the testing ground for laws.  The lead candidate is going to back out so that a young man, unaffiliated with any political party can win the race, allowing the old political veterans to run things from behind the scenes.

This is brings me to my first issue with the show, though it is a very minor one.  First of all, this definitely a lesson in the “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” handbook.  As soon as our young candidate wins the mayoral election, he fucking disappears with all the necessary documents, throwing everyone else into disarray as they still have to elect the rest of the city council.  I sort of question why the older politicians didn’t just take charge and run this themselves.  I see the appeal in pretending to let the new blood run things, while managing the real power behind closed doors but anyone with  half a brain should know better than to hand someone significant power on a plate, especially when there is no guarantee you actually control them.  Maybe it’s about reputation, maybe it has more to do with Japanese culture and I’m missing something, or maybe the older politicians just thought working behind the scenes would be more efficient – I can’t say for sure.  All I can say is that you have to be careful when setting up a figurehead, and they did a terrible job on that front.

The story is further confused as not only does Seizaki’s partner suddenly commit suicide before the election, but after Itsuki, the new mayor, disappears a whole bunch of people jump off the new city hall building – including the cop who was with Seizaki when he interrogated one of the suspected prostitutes.  Turns out all of the “prostitutes” were one woman and far from being a prostitute she was apparently crucial to making Shiniki’s secret function possible.  I’ll get back to this mystery woman later.  Following the group suicide Itsuki proposes that Shiniki institute a new law making suicide legal.  This understandably causes an uproar since it looks like it’s tied to the group suicide.

Seizaki is put in charge of a task force to build the case to arrest Itsuki, so that the older politicians can take charge.  This effort ultimately fails so instead the entire task force prepares to kidnap Itsuki after a debate he has with 4 city council candidates about the suicide law.  This too is thwarted when almost the entire task force commits suicide, including one of Seizaki’s close friends.  As the friend describes it, all it took was a whisper from the mystery woman and he wanted to kill himself.  Technically he describes this overwhelming sensation of overflowing but I’m less interested in that and more focused on the practical results, a lot of people die and Itsuki evades capture.

Maybe it doesn’t come across this way as I describe it but for the most part Babylon is a very gripping and interesting show.  There are however two major problems I have and they are basically the fulcrums around which the entire story revolves.  Let’s start with the suicide law.

Just to set my own bias down, I personally think suicide it ultimately an act of weakness and cowardice.  Living is difficult, for all the joys of life there many struggles and hurdles as well, and while it takes more than a little effort to overcome our biological imperative to stay alive, ultimately I think dying is much easier than living.  So obviously I’m against the proposed suicide law, but that’s not really my problem as far as the show is concerned.  My main problem was the debate about the law and fucking failure that it was.  Big concept stuff like this always risky especially in a tiny package, with a lot of other material to cover – i.e. this anime.

The suicide debate was a joke, the character who was supposed to have the strongest against it had a garbage argument about how we can’t be rational about death.  Meanwhile the other 3 against who argued from the moral, potential increase in suicide due it being legal, and economic sides of the argument were basically brushed aside by one-liners from Itsuki.  The fact that the show – via Seizaki and Co. – was like, “Nani!  He knocked down all the arguments against the suicide law!” was retarded.  Itsuki didn’t refute jack shit, he gave them one line responses about unrelated, or at best tangentially related topics, like weed usage and suicide during the Roman Empire – and he backed none of it up.  This is one of problems with anime digging into new social, moral and legal concepts, these concepts need to be thoroughly fleshed out to be convincing/interesting and most anime are too short or have too much else to cover to flesh them out.

The way I see it there are three arguments for the suicide law that hold any merit whatsoever.  Euthanasia, which I believe is legal in many countries.  Let’s say you’re old and dying or have late stage cancer and would rather go without anymore pain – you ask the doctors to put you down and die in peace.  I’m actually for this because I don’t see why you should have to suffer when there is no hope of recovery.  Also rather than be a potential financial burden on your family in your old age you can die before the medical bills really start racking up as you degrade due to old age.  I think we’d need to set fairly strict stipulations on its use in practice but in principle I’m ok with euthanasia for people with no hope of recovery.

The second is a liberty argument.  Basically do you have the right to die whenever you want to you, by whatever means you want to?  Suicide is a weird thing to be illegal in the sense that you can’t charge a corpse with a crime.  However people can be convinced of things, so presumably the law is mostly there to punish those who might convince others to commit suicide rather than the suicides themselves because there’s not much you can do to the suicides.  If suicide is not illegal, can you be punished for convincing someone to commit suicide?  Hard to say, and this will be a major issue with the suicide law since our mystery woman apparently has godlike charisma and can cause anyone to commit suicide with nothing more than a whisper.  My guess is that this part of the law is what Itsuki is trying to subvert because it advances the mystery woman’s agenda because she can make anyone commit suicide, and if the suicide law passed, presumably she could do so without any legal repercussions.

The third argument for the suicide law is one that appears after the debate is already over when a kid, who made a viral video asking everyone to fight against the suicide law because his dad was going to kill himself, is brought on stage.  Turns out it’s actually Itsuki’s son and he apparently has some kind of heart condition.  Itsuki seems to be framing his desire for suicide as a means by which to facilitate organ transplant to save his sons life.  This to me is by far the most interesting argument for a suicide law, whereby someone who doesn’t want to live, dies and gives up their organs to those in need.  It’s messy because if the suicide were expressly for the purpose of organ donation then it seems moral, even heroic in a sense, to sacrifice your own life for someone else’s.  At the same time though the suicide law does not stipulate that you have to donate your organs, so while it could be used for a moral cause there’s no way force everyone to be moral.

If I were to support a suicide law, not the one the show proposes but one for the real world, I think euthanasia and suicide for the express purpose of organ donation would be just about the only things I could support.  And frankly it’s a shame that this isn’t addressed in more depth because I think Babylon could have a been great on this front if the show were basically about nothing but the suicide law debate.  If this show had the political maneuvering of the early episodes and then built up to a major debate on the topic of the suicide law, the climax of the show, with in-depth, nuanced arguments backed by relevant data as well anecdotal stories and fully realized character motivations and backstories – then it could have not only made the concept interesting but would have made for one the best political shows of all time.  Instead I think Babylon will fall apart because of major problem number 2, the mystery woman – Magase Ai.

In fairness to the show I think the focus of Babylon will be on juxtaposition of making suicide, and by extension persuasion to commit suicide, legal and the malicious magical suicide inducing whispers of Magase Ai.  Magase is a character who I think is fairly interesting in concept but I’m very worried about the execution.  For starters how does she even exist?  Let’s assume for a minute that her charisma is natural, that she has a naturally overwhelming presence and such awareness and command of her body that her ability to persuade and make others feel things with verbal and non-verbal cues borders on magical.  How can she appear as so many different women?  This setting takes place on earth and no fantastical powers are in play, at least that’s how things have been presented.  Magase is not a secret agent and the differences between her various appearances are too great for it be a disguise, and by the way if they explain her away as having a bunch of different disguises that would kill the mystery for me.  How in the fuck is she a shapeshifter to the degree that she can be mistaken for Itsuki’s wife?  How?  Does this not fly in the face of all the grounded realism of everything else in the show?

Moreover what worries me is that her character is consistent, in the sense that she appears to be Chaotic Evil by D & D standards.  Not only does she enjoy doing bad things, she does them for their own sake and wants to communicate to Seizaki, a person who is just, that evil has a purpose.  Which she does by dismembering a woman, presumably Sekuro his new partner, and causing the task force to commit suicide.  We know that Seizaki has a family and they now have a giant death flag as well.  So my worries are two fold, one this show will degenerate into an edgy, shock value story that survives on you not understanding how anything works and only being invested in how much damage Magase wants to do to Seizaki for her own twisted ends.  And two, that the reason Magase has the shapeshifting power is so Seizaki doesn’t do the logical thing, put in ear plugs and gun her down as soon as he sees her.  Because he totally could, if she couldn’t shapeshift.  I REALLY don’t like it when people are given abilities they shouldn’t have because the plot basically demands that they have them.

I am still going to watch the show, but putting my thought on paper has really helped me pin down my overall feelings on it.  I’m seriously worried this will fall apart.  It’s been very good up until now, but the suicide debate, which should have been a major event, was a joke and the story has become much less about the suicide law and more about Magase Ai.  And while I’m interested conceptually in a thriller centered around someone who is essentially a malevolent shapeshifting succubus, I’m worried about the execution.  Frankly I think Magase would be a much more interesting character if she were a literal succubus in a fantasy setting.  Imagine if Magase was in a Game of Thrones kind of setting, where a whispered word could cause suspicious political deaths and she could charm the influential to do her bidding.  Not only would she fit better into that kind of setting with the powers she seems to have but I think you could make her far more dangerous in a medieval fantasy world, where there would be fewer records of her behavior and people with any kind of authority to go after her would be few and far between.

Heil Tanya the Evil: A Masterclass in Film Sequels

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Word of warning this review will totally spoil the shit out of Youjo Senki aka Tanya the Evil, both the tv season and the recent film sequel.  If you wish to avoid spoilers don’t read it.  Also if you want to get an idea of where I’m coming from this post summarizes my thoughts on the tv season pretty well.

Man it’s good to be back.  In the off chance you read the review linked above, know that my love for this show has only increased in the time between its initial airing and the film.  It’s the perfect blend of goofiness, edge, historical accuracy and historical fiction, and it always puts a giant dumb grin on my face.

To quickly sum up my thoughts on the tv season, it was great.  The setting, an alt-universe early 20th century world with limited magic and a world war brewing was a great backdrop, especially with our main character basically walking into this by successfully arguing with God that faith is much more prevalent in hardship.  And if for some reason you’re reading this without having seen any of Youjo Senki, yes I know the premise sounds stupid beyond belief.  But as something of an expert on stupid, this show is definitely the best kind of stupid, it does not take itself seriously, at least not in how it’s presented to the audience and just runs with it’s crazy ideas.  Which makes it all the more surprising that the narrative is also able to portray how gripping and intense this war is to the characters.

Make no mistake this show, despite how OP the main character appears throughout most of the tv season, Youjo Senki presents one of the most tightrope tense war scenarios I’ve ever seen.  Because the tech is a weird blend of real world WWI & WWII, in addition to magic troops, the war plays out much more dynamically than most of our WWI that it technically is representing.  WWI was a slow war where the defense was utterly dominant because most of the generals had not adjusted their tactics to the capability of modern tech.  Hence why some WWI armies still had honest to God cavalry units, and one Russian general in particular even believed large cavalry units could not be surpassed even by tanks… let’s just say he’s still blushing from embarrassment in his grave.  WWI was a serious paradigm shift and the tv season did a really solid of job of portraying that.  Dakia was the most blatant example with the imbecilic military of this fictional Romania fighting in unit squares, not using any air power or encrypting communications.  However it proved true as well in the attack on the Orse Fjord, where the Empire used a combination of newer troop types to create tactical breakthroughs that saw the Empire crush a vital naval defense that was considered unassailable.

The tv season is peppered throughout with accurate historical details, like the horror of trench warfare, the incompetence of certain militaries and the growing pains of armies going through major new technological developments.  This holds true in the film sequel as well, in particular regarding it’s portrayal of Communist Russia.  In the film, there’s blatant party corruption, messages passed on to leadership are often falsified to appear more positive, poor or lacking equipment plagues the army, troops who run are shot by their officers and the signature “quantity has a quality all of it’s own” approach that has been a staple modern Russian armies all make an appearance.  Perhaps the most interesting detail though was that all of native Russian mage units were gulaged because of communist ideology.  This at a time when mages were proving to be vital units in the conflict as shown primarily through Tanya’s strike force and the huge impact her small, but elite, highly mobile and well armed troops have proven to be.

This leads to arguably the best part of the film, Tanya’s attack on Moska (alt-universe Moscow).  After spotting Federation (Russian) troop movements at the eastern border of the Empire, followed swiftly by a large scale attack across the eastern front, Tanya decides the best way to aid the defenders is by attacking Moska.  This would cause a panic internally, be a huge blow to morale and all but necessitate withdrawing some forces back – thus easing the pressure on the front lines.  The attack is much like the one in Dakia during the tv season, but where the raid on Dakia was a brief bombardment with some hilarity on the side, the raid on Moska is the same thing taken to the next level.  The raid is punishingly successful, because Moska has limited air defenses and no mages to counterattack Tanya’s wing (50ish man unit).  This leads to long minutes of satisfying scenes of explosions and one-sided dominance, as Tanya and Co. not only attack strategic targets but make a complete mockery of the Federation, knocking down a giant statue of Stalin, planting Empire flags all of the city, and singing patriotic music while filming their exploits.  That’s winning so hard you can’t help but laugh.

However the Federation’s incompetence and lack of mages leads to the other big draw of this film, Mary Sioux.  Mary was hinted at the very end of the tv season and boy does she make her mark in this film.  The daughter of one of Tanya’s toughest opponents from the tv season, Mary has the right blend of youthful idealism and justifiable grudges against Tanya and the Empire to be a character you can totally sympathize with.  In a relatively short span, she’s lost her country, her home and her father – and Tanya played a decisive role in this, though Mary does not know that.  What she does know however is that the Empire has to opposed for what they’ve done – which is mildly ironic considering all of the nations it subdued during the tv season attacked the Empire first but never mind – and that Tanya killed her dad and stole his machine gun, her parting gift to him; which she finds out when Tanya slams the fucker butt first into Mary’s gut.  This understandably upsets Mary and triggers an influx of divine power so massive Tanya is visibly shaken and starts firing full auto at a girl she had dead to rights in the hope of immediately destroying the threat.

In a very real sense Mary is the heart of this film and the creators knew it.  Tanya is still much the same as she was during the tv season, a twisted but intelligent person who uses her knowledge of our WWI & WWII to her and the Empire’s advantage.  She gleefully mocks her opponents, makes edgy faces and wrecks shit – at least early on.  What the second half of the film captured was something almost entirely absent from the tv season, save for the final duel with Mary’s father, Tanya and Co. being pushed to their limits or even overwhelmed.  Part of what the tv season fairly goofy, in meta sense, was just how dominant Tanya and her men were.  In the film they start off much the same way, crushing their foes, destroying important targets and laughing it up as the pwn all enemy noobs.  But Mary flips the table.  In a personal sense she far outshines any other mage, even Tanya, who is only able to beat Mary by taking advantage of Mary’s rage and lack of experience, but also in a macro-sense.  Mary’s awakening for lack of a better word is followed by a major offensive from the Federation on Tiegenhoff, an isolated but superb defensive position, that was cut off during the Federation’s large scale advance.  The local soldiers and Tanya, who reinforces the locals, have to face off against enemies who outnumber them between 4-9 to 1 and that’s just the ground troops.

The sheer size of the offensive means that Tanya and the locals have to face a full on assault for more than 24 hrs straight, culminating in a final infantry push, accompanied by a mage wing attack aiming to crush the local General Staff and a some bombers with a large escort of fighters.  Mary is of course a major factor as well, as she has recovered from her wounds in Moska and is now the single most powerful mage on the battlefield.  And while Tanya and the Empire do win, it’s not like the wins from before, either in Moska or in the tv season.  This is not a decisive victory with lots of celebration afterwards.  This is a win by the skin of their teeth, managed only by the heroic resistance of the local troops, the quality and experience of Tanya’s men and Tanya being able to effectively tie up Mary, significantly reducing her value as a military asset.  Mary’s great weakness is that she’s still raw and emotional, she doesn’t have the maturity or experience to set her emotions aside and fight tactically.  If she had then Tanya and the Empire would have lost.  Instead consumed by her righteous rage, she engages in a tense and frenetic duel with Tanya, with both girls pulling out all the stops and in the end both take significant wounds but are unable to kill the other.

The bits where Tanya’s troops split their forces is desperate bid to destroy the bombers was also fantastic.  The major members of her wing have been made memorable during the tv season because of how vital and competent they are but this is their crowning achievement.  For once they are bereft of their commander’s dominant strength as a mage, and they have to fight their way throw a horde of fighters to bring down the few but far more important bombers.  Honestly watching the guys struggle so hard, while doing their best to show their bravado and tactical acumen was really fun and it was punctuated by some really satisfying moments, like when one of the captains charges a plane with a his ensorcelled bayonet and chops the the wing off, or when a ragged squad just barely makes it high enough to shoot down the bombers in the nick of time.  The action in this film was top tier, the best of what Youjo Senki has to offer.  It’s mastery of the fun violence early on and the tooth and nail struggle in the latter half made the film a total blast.

Just about the only thing the film lacks in comparison to the tv season are the longer tense strategy meetings, because it just doesn’t have the time to develop giant game changing strategies like the attack on Orse Fjord or the encirclement of the entire Republican army.  Instead it shows and discusses great tactics but it their just isn’t enough to time to really go all in at the strategic level (for those not all that into military history, tactical level and strategic level are totally different, tactics are the means by which you win battles while strategies are the means by which you win wars – that’s a very crude way to put it but it should get the difference in scale across).  One other mark against the film is that is one of the worst looking films I have ever seen.  It looks about the same as the tv season, maybe a little better considering the amount of detailed city environments, but considering that films are generally supposed to look way better than tv anime, it has to be said that the Youjo Senki film sets the bar pretty damn low.  Personally I didn’t mind because I like the show enough to get past the lacking visuals but I can see how it could be a major point of contention to some people.

In conclusion this film is fucking great.  It fully delivers on the best of the Youjo Senki experience from the tv season, in a short, concise package.  It has moments of levity and even comedy contrasted with long, tense battle scenes.  Mary made a phenomenal debut, bringing an largely unseen emotional intensity to the series.  Seriously I think they did great job with Mary, especially balancing the parts of her character that easy to sympathize with the contrast to her almost bestial rage and boundless hatred towards Tanya.  She was someone it was easy to get behind on the one side but easy to root against because of just how consumed by anger she was in combination with her clear advantage in power.  Plus finally having Tanya face someone who wasn’t just a challenge but an implacable and almost totally overwhelming foe really added a new dimension to Youjo Senki, and it was welcome break from the big, mostly one-sided winning streak that preceded Mary’s arrival.  If you’re a fan of Youjo Senki, this film is a must watch.  If you’ve not seen any Youjo Senki and still made it through this review, go watch it.  The show is easily a 9 in my book, not that I’m fond of numeric ratings but whatever it gives some perspective to those who like scores, and the film is at least a 9 as well.  I highly recommend them both.  See you in the next one.

Understanding Pacing & Potential: Featuring Shield Hero

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Shield Hero is one of the most frustrating stories I’ve ever come across and that’s not just true of the anime.  In prior posts about the show my main complaint is that the anime deliberately tones down some of the darker aspects of the story which made the manga so appealing.  And while this is true even the manga has a serious flaw – it blows it’s load way too early.  There will be MAJOR SPOILERS, you’ve been warned.

The thing which drew me to Shield Hero in the first place was that the story went out of it’s way to make Naofumi a pariah.  He wasn’t the OP swordsman, winning the hearts of girls everywhere with his gamer skills or otaku knowledge – instead he’s so ostracized and so limited by his own power that he’s forced to buy a slave to fight for him.  His story was not a glorious one, told from the perspective of a typical hero.  It was a bitter, resentful and angry tale about a man who has been screwed and isolated by the world he needs to protect – but it’s in this very crucible from which his strength is forged.  So far so good, the story checks out, it hits all the right notes.  There’s just one problem, this part of the story is basically over by the end of the second wave and it will be completely over by the end of the next arc, as the remnants of the forces which have persecuted Naofumi from day 1 struggle desperately against his growing fame.

By the end of the second waves though, Shield Hero takes an important, and ultimately detrimental turn, it makes everyone else look like a joke.  By this point Naofumi isn’t just stronger than the other Heroes, he makes them look like total chumps.  Even Raphtalia and Firo are portrayed as far more competent.  In addition, Myne and the King are no longer even vaguely threatening as villains, many of the local people adore Naofumi thanks to his work and to top it all off this gap between Naofumi and the other Heroes will only get wider.  What started out as the harsh, abrasive story of a man struggling against the world he’s been forced to protect eventually gets really close to a typical light novel hero story about an OP guy.  It’s honestly a bit depressing.  Thank fuck the manga at least made Naofumi so bitter and resentful early on that even when the story calms down he can get darker than does now in the anime.

The goodwill earned by the early portion of the story has kept me and others around to see where the story goes but I think the author made a giant fucking mistake in having the tables be turned so quickly.  The world of Shield Hero is not even remotely interesting, the cities, people and monsters are generic and what mysteries there are behind the plot to captivate us take so long to get anywhere that’s it easy to lose interest.  The magic is boring as shit and is terribly named even by light novel standards so that can’t be used for anything either. What made Shield Hero appealing is the struggle, the regular good guy side of Naofumi struggling with his inner demons, brought to the fore by the powers that be and their persecution of him.  The Naofumi who scraped by, the realist who did good deeds when he could, for a price – that guy was way more interesting than you’re average hero.  It was even better when you consider his need to maintain a sort of balance with the other Heroes, if he never interacted with them he would be perpetually out of the loop, but obviously due to their mistrust of him and his justifiable rage at them and the situation he finds himself in, he can’t be around them often.

What Naofumi had in the early part of the story, and what he’s basically about to lose in the anime, is that he had a very Guts-esque slant to his character.  He was on his own against powers that terrorized the world and the authorities that benefited from his deeds were not on his side.  And much like Guts does in his own story, had Naofumi been kept in the same position narratively speaking, he would’ve run the risk of becoming too monstrous in his isolation.  Berserk is a fantastic manga and while I would never even think of putting Shield Hero in the same class of storytelling, here’s a ramble about what I mean.  In Berserk, quite possibly my favorite arc is the Lost Children arc.  It’s also arguably the most brutal arc of the entire manga, or at least it’s the arc where Guts is at his most brutal.  Unlike later chapters where managing the Berserker Armor is a major concern, in the Lost Children arc Guts is always in control of his own actions.  There are countless individual panels in this arc that striking in their brutality, that illustrate just how far down the rabbit hole of hate and vengeance Guts has gone.  It gets to the point that the main villainess of the arc basically asks who the real monster is here, and it serves a vital turning point in the story.

It’s basically the last warning to Guts that he’s become so single-minded, so consumed by his hate that he’s lost sight of his other goal, protecting/restoring Casca.  What I found so damn awesome about the Lost Children arc is not just it’s narrative significance though, it’s what it depicts that I find truly fascinating.  It shows us someone driven to their absolute limit, someone who doesn’t balk at the horror and carnage he brings in his wake, who relentlessly and ruthlessly destroys all who stand before him no matter the cost.  Lost Children poses a terrifying answer to the hypothetical question “how far will you go?”  It doesn’t really matter what the goal is, it’s the means by which you achieve it and Lost Children depicts Gut’s boundless rage, his need for the fight and his drive taken to a logical extreme in the worst possible direction.  What does all this have to do with Shield Hero?  I want to see Naofumi treading this path longer.

Mind you I never want him to be Guts or go nearly that far, but I do want him to spend more time as the pariah.  You could even leave the Second Wave arc mostly unchanged.  Instead of it serving as a shift from Naofumi’s dark days to his future glories it should be a wake up call to the other Heroes.  Imagine how much more interesting Shield Hero would be if, rather than Naofumi being indispensable while the other Heroes seem more and more useless, by the third wave the other Heroes have gotten serious and suitably beefed themselves up enough to manage mostly without him.  What would he have to do to catch up, how would he prove his worth all over again?  Does he even fight with them anymore or has the persecution gotten so bad that he ditches this kingdom and only serves one of the demi-human ones?  The possibilities are endless.

Naofumi is at his most interesting when it’s him and his crew on their own.  He’s at his best when he’s torn between being a good guy for his companions’ sake or giving the world the finger because of how he’s been treated.  Why?  OP light novel heroes with girls aplenty are a dime a dozen, they’re incredibly boring unless you do a fantastic job making one.  But Naofumi as he was in the beginning of Shield Hero, that was the glue that held the story together.  Because early Naofumi is not an archetype, he’s much more unique and his situation has us explore themes and ideas which most of these light novel isekai stories never touch.  In blunt terms, early Naofumi deeply resonated with people, because he was more like a person.  He wasn’t as likable, he wasn’t as heroic, he probably even drove some people away for being too messed up but he also didn’t feel like the hero of a story, he felt like real dude in a fucked-up fantastical situation.

Ultimately one of Shield Hero’s greatest strengths is the tightrope Naofumi has to balance on.  His instinct is to be good, the political situation and his own financial one forces him to be realistic and yet there is clearly great power available to him via the Curse Shield if he indulges his darkest urges.  Naofumi in that stage of the story is a character who can go a lot of different places.  I feel like Naofumi could have become a truly amazing character if the author was willing to keeping him living life as the pariah for longer, he just has so much more to do.  He can try to be a better person and fail or get sabotaged – or he can descend into further bitterness and risk being consumed by his Curse power.  And importantly he can journey to and from either of these ends.  He doesn’t have to be good all the time, or bad all the time, he can shift in one direction or the other from arc to arc, based on the challenges ahead of him.  And just as importantly, the other Heroes will get a chance to shine as well.  Instead of basically being total jokes as the story goes, they too could develop into important and complex characters as they have to square their weakness with their feelings toward Naofumi, and how much their attitude shifts as Naofumi changes both in strength and character.  That’s a story that sounds way more interesting than what we will get – which is basically Naofumi’s victory lap until the end of the third wave, and after that the other Heroes are so fucking useless they basically don’t matter.

RWBY Volume 6: A Return to Form (Mostly)

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RWBY Volume 6 is a welcome step forward from the mess that was Volume 5.  Volume 5 was juggling a lot of interesting threads and unfortunately tried to tie them all together in one place, but because some of these threads are quite complicated and take a lot of time to resolve the whole season felt slow as shit.  Volume 6 is very much like Volume 4, my personal favorite among the Volumes, the destination is simple and it’s the journey which is interesting.  That being said I do think Volume 6 lags behind Volumes 3 & 4, the high water marks of the show.  There will be spoilers ahead.

I can see Volume 6 being a favorite for a lot of people.  It has not only the biggest plot twist in the entire show but the most world building of any Volume, finally addressing some of questions that have been looming over the series since at least Volume 3.  It turns out that this Remnant’s second go at life.  There are a pair of gods who created the world and all it’s inhabitants and they left Remnant behind.  Moreover humans in the past wielded far greater powers than they do now but they were ultimately wiped out because they rose up against the gods who created them.  The exceptions are Ozpin, reincarnated as Oscar Pine in Volume 4, and Salem.  The two were lovers in the days before humanity was wiped out, with Ozpin being a renowned hero called Ozam, saving the princess locked in a tower – Salem.  This fairytale romance abruptly ground to a halt when Ozpin suddenly falls ill and dies.  In her grief Salem begs the gods to resurrect him, temporarily turning one against the other, and thus begins her downward spiral.

The gods reconcile and punish her with immortality, that she might learn the error of her ways, but the lesson she takes home is that the gods are fallible.  She then uses the very immortality she was granted to convince humans far and wide to rise against the gods, thus leading to humanity’s temporary extinction.  The gods conclude this world as something of a failed experiment and leave, but before they do they leave behind 4 Relics and make Ozpin their herald, sort of.  Ozpin, who is reincarnated and will perpetually reincarnate, has been tasked with uniting humanity  and bringing about harmony, and then using the 4 Relics to call the gods back when he has made humanity worthy of the gods.

More important than this information though is the means by which it is discovered.  Namely, that Ruby, up to this point the teen who was most loyal to Ozpin, disobeys Ozpin’s desperate pleas (after they catch him lying about the Relic of Knowledge) and uses the Relic to discover the history of the past, who Ozpin and Salem are and most damning of all, the fact there is no way for Ozpin to kill Salem.

Naturally this wealth of information almost causes the entire mission to collapse.  Since the events of Volume 3 most of the teens have gotten warier and warier of Ozpin, with Raven’s bird form reveal being a sort nail in coffin for Yang and Weiss.  Ruby was the main exception and to some extent she still is.  Everyone else is about ready to call it quits.  Why should they fight a foe that they can’t kill?  Why should they have to suffer and struggle for nothing?  It’s Ruby more than anyone else who believes in continuing the mission.

It’s after this point that Volume 6 becomes very reminiscent of Volume 4, the team finds a ruined settlement to camp in and has to deal with the whirlwind of emotions the information revealed above causes.  Qrow is by far the most interesting in this light as he was Ozpin’s most trusted agent.  He naturally feels betrayed and used like everyone else, but in addition he enters a downward spiral of self-loathing.  Because of his Semblance, the ability to passively cause bad luck to befall those around him, he felt he had no place to belong to – and that Ozpin gave him that place.  With everything revealed to be a lie, Qrow feels that he’s wasted his life and that he really doesn’t belong anywhere.  Of all present members, they got split up when the train they were on got attacked, Qrow is the closest to quitting outright, followed by Yang.  I do sort of wish the show had a moment when Yang and Qrow said, in some form or another, that Raven was right all along.  One of weaknesses of the Volume is that it doesn’t let the characters stew in their negative feelings, their doubts long enough.

Unfortunately this problem is kind of exacerbated by the coolest part of the Volume.  After the big reveal Ruby and Co. have to take shelter and find an abandoned farming settlement.  Unlike prior ruins they’ve visited, there is no evidence of violent destruction, everyone seems to have died in their beds.  It does a great job of raising the tension, and convincing everyone that they have to leave the next morning.  However, because of the as yet unknown presence of Grimm, this plan is complicated.  The fact that some of the characters feel drained enough to not want to leave is a big red flag for the viewers and for Ruby, the most active and alert member.  Feeling drained is understandable, but it’s way out of character for these guys to want to stay in a village full dead bodies, cluing us in that Grimm are the cause.  Then we meet the Apathy.

The Apathy are fucking awesome, I would rate them as the second best Grimm in the entire series.  Unlike most Grimm they don’t rely on physical power, they are slow-moving pack creatures with spindly, twisted frames and long, delicate claws who cause humans around them to become tired.  They’re fucking terrifying as there’s a horde of these things in the dark, cramped tunnels beneath the town and their massed screams can cause the Huntresses to weaken or even black out in an instant.  If not for Ruby’s silver eyes there was a very real chance of the team dying here.  And the fact the leader of the settlement deliberately led the Apathy into the tunnels, hoping to use their nature to stem complaints from workers when the farm was struggling was a great touch.  The Apathy are awesome as monsters but they’re sort of a mixed bag for the show on the whole.

They help bring out the worst in a group of characters already wracked with doubt, hopelessness and betrayal.  This where the characters reach their lowest point since Volumes 3 and 4.  Yang is basically ready to quit.  Blake and Weiss have serious doubts about what to do going forward.  Oscar is being ostracized for being the host of Ozpin and is struggling internally with the idea that may his personality may consumed by Ozpin’s.  And Qrow is drinking himself into oblivion, wallowing in his own negative feelings and letting himself sink lower than he’s ever gone before.  However because so much of these negative emotions are brought to the fore by the Apathy, as soon as the Apathy are dead and the team reunites with the rest at Argus, most of these emotions are never seen again – save for Jaune’s enraged outburst and Qrow’s lingering doubts about getting to Atlas.

It’s a damn shame because these doubts coming to ahead is one of most interesting part of the story.  This could break the mission altogether and they probably should have dedicated a lengthy episode to having the characters seriously arguing their respective positions on what to do next.  There’s even a way to resolve any disagreements in Argus, Pyrrha.  Pyrrha was a native of Argus and there is a statue in her honor in the town.  Jaune even runs into one Pyrrha’s family members, I assume thanks to the red hair and green eyes, there.  Think about it, you could spend an entire episode having everyone really going at it, arguments so passionate and positions so different that it threatens to break apart this adhoc team apart and ruin the quest before Ruby and Jaune see the statue of Pyrrha and try and refocus the quest.  “Forget about Ozpin and his bullshit, these bastards killed Pyrrha and they’re gonna pay for it,” or something to that effect, you could win most everyone over on that alone.  You could make it this heavy, emotional, dramatic and even painful episode and still resolve it – and that would be fucking amazing.  Instead the concerns are few and brief with Ruby gathering her determination, powering through and getting everyone behind her because that kind of her shtick.

The final portion of the Volume is probably the most contentious and it mainly has to do with Adam.  I think a lot of people are disappointed with Adam, or already were based on his lackluster performance in Volumes 4 & 5.  In Volume 3 he was a powerful, menacing figure – the demon in Blake’s past that she struggles to face.  Since then his character has been kind of a shambling mess, bitter, angry, power-hungry and oddly obsessed with Blake.  I can totally see why people kind of hate the direction Adam goes and to be honest as of Volume 5 he looked pretty shit.  Personally though I think he sort gets redeemed in Volume 6.

After the prior Volumes Adam will never be the mysterious, menacing badass he seemed to be in Volume 3, but I think Volume 6 does provide the details which patch up the character he has become.  From his character short and Blake’s earlier observations, Adam is someone who feels wronged and wants to vent on the world around him, to make them suffer as he did.  When he makes controversial decisions it’s usually on the basis that he feels he owed things.  He feels he deserves to be the leader of White Fang by now, so he kills the leader.  There’s also a sort cult leader vibe to much of his character, he wins over the soldiers left and right by virtue of his skill, power and rhetoric, which is what allows him to take power in the first place.  And this characteristic that best explains his obsession with Blake, that I can see many would argue ruins his character.

My best guess is that what people wanted out of Adam was to more zealot than cult leader, for him to be this aloof, menacing figure who can’t be reasoned with and who punishes and threatens Blake as he does in Volume 3 due to her being an apostate, she was believer who abandoned the cause and for a zealot there can be no greater failing than this.  What we got instead is a man who channels his bitterness and pain into dominating others, whether this be by the power of his words and deeds or by defeating them in battle.  Either way it makes him feel powerful and in control and he revels in it, at least internally.  The scene that most cements this is when he takes the mask off and you can see the brand over one eye.  If we take Blake at her word and Adam does indeed wish to inflict unto others what was inflicted upon him, the brand is a symbol of ownership, and obviously a painful one given it’s placement.  He feels the urge to brand others in his own way, not with hot iron but with fiery rhetoric.  Alternatively you could see his obsession with Blake as a sort of marker of success.  In the past Blake abandoned her father and his way of running the White Fang  to join Adam, and thus retaining her loyalty is sort of symbol that Adam and his way are superior.  Either way I feel like the brand solidifies Adam as a deeply resentful and bitter person who feels he has no other recourse but to dominate others so that he might never again feel weak, someone much less intimidating and mystifying then guy he was in Volume 3, but not a poorly crafted character.

Not all of Adam’s developments are positives for me though.  For starters how the hell did he get here?  It’s implied that various members and former of Salem’s team have used info brokers to follow certain targets but Adam has not been implicated in this.  Nor has been shown having any real contact with Salem, he seems to have gone rogue and just stalked Blake.  While this feeds into his obsessive need to control her, it seems odd that he would be able to do this without anyone noticing.  Also Blake’s travel plans were literally derailed so that makes things more complicated.  The real shame was revealing that his Semblance mirrored Yang’s, partly because it was kind of lame but more so in that it leads to a lot scenes of him blocking bullets.  It would have been much better if Semblance was more along the lines of being able to infuse his attacks with concentrated aura to make them stronger at the cost of making him more vulnerable.  That would give him all kinds need to be skilled without also having a ridiculous number of my-sword-blocks-bullets moments.  I’d also bet many are unhappy with his death but I don’t really care, I think they’ve done about all that they can without making him descend into madness and also his death was something a show writer could feasibly have him survive, much like Cinder’s was.

As for the battle against Adam it honestly wasn’t that good, because again the whole I-constantly-block-bullets-with-my-sword thing is dumb and it was just a really bad example of how loosely the team at Rooster Teeth is playing with Aura.  The fact that humans have Aura is not a problem but they should put more focus on it in fights, rather than having it break whenever they deem it convenient.  Characters should be basing some of their decisions on the amount of Aura they have left, it should factor into their general planning.  The battle with the mech on the other hand, that’s what I’m talking about.  It’s a chaotic clash where multiple parties of relatively fragile combatants use mobility, numbers, and tactics to battle against a huge, sturdy and well-armed foe.  This was the kind of combat that Volume 5 sorely lacked, one where the Hunters and Huntresses take full advantage of their weapons and skills, to take on a challenge.  Barring Nora taking a super-cannon of lightning head on there was not much else they could have tried.  They use multiple distractions, aim for the shield generator, target any weakspots they can think of and in the end they still barely win.  It’s only by the grace of Ruby’s crazy brand of bravery and brains that they prevail.

Ultimately I think Volume 6 is welcome step forward from Volume 5 but not on the level of Volumes 3 & 4.  It has some excellent world-building, a great new Grimm and a good battle – but it unfortunately clips what could have been one of the most interesting threads of the entire show frustratingly short.  There really should have been a lot more emotional development going on and honestly the greatest challenge from this Volume should have internal not external.  The fight with mech was good but a battle for the heart and soul of the team, with best friends and siblings pitted against one another when faced with the mind-boggling secrets that have been kept from them and the seemingly insurmountable challenges ahead – now that’s a battle for the ages, even if weapons aren’t involved.  Volume 6 was good but not great, hopefully Volume 7 – which was being set up in the background all along – takes after Volume 3 and not Volume 5.  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.

 

Unpopular Opinion: Baki

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I decided to watch the 2018 release of Baki with practically no knowledge of the source material nor having seen anything beyond short snippets from earlier anime adaptations.  I tried it on a whim.  And having watched the entire thing, the first thing that comes to mind in terms of reviewing and/or recommending Baki is, well it’s complicated.  There will be spoilers.

Stepping out of my own shoes for a second, I think one could objectively argue that Baki has a very high bar for entry and not in an intellectual way.  The character designs are some of the most ridiculously over-muscled physiques in all of anime and they are NOT conventionally attractive.  That alone could be enough of turn some viewers away, but not only that, right away Baki is asking you to REALLY REALLY suspend your disbelief as the death row prisoners make their escapes in episode 1.  Two of them survive tried and true methods of execution.  One swims out from a submarine to reach the surface without taking a breath or being affected by the change in pressure.  One crawls out of a missile silo using nothing but rusty spots, seams between metal plates and his bare hands.  And one uses the martial arts equivalent of an air pump to break rocket-proof glass.  Also we are told that all the world’s nitroglycerin crystallized around the world simultaneously because of the borderline magical event known as synchronicity, which is what caused all five inmates to escape their various prisons at the same time for the same reason.

If you’re already acquainted with the source material then the sheer absurdity of Baki’s world is well known to you.  But if you jump in cold turkey, then Baki asks a lot from you right out the gate.  And that’s setting aside the fact this arc of Baki is 4 YEARS into Baki’s story.  There are a ton of established characters from prior arcs who appear in Baki 2018, and some of them have about as much screen time as our titular Baki.  In Baki’s defense it is peppered with very brief flashbacks that shed some light on who these characters are and how they came to be involved with other characters in the story.  But these flashbacks also make it clear to anyone checking out Baki 2018 that there is a considerably longer story they are missing out on.

If all that wasn’t enough, the sheer level of violence in Baki is enough to drive people away, both in terms of the damage dealt and how unrealistically people recover from the damage they take – assuming they do in fact recover.  The violence on display is even by anime standards, especially brutal.  The are no blood pinatas, people don’t just go down with slash and bloodspurt.   Here’s an example, one of the death row inmates uses a small explosive he has hidden under his skin to totally bow the face off one of the marital artists, and the show does in fact show the skinless face.  Bodies get broken and twisted, combatants get covered in vicious scars.  This a show which is not only incredibly violent but one which displays the damage done as realistically as the scenario dictates.  Long story short it can be a lot to stomach.

To make matters even worse, the narrative, if you can even call it that, is a meandering mess.  There is little in the way of structure, linear progression or even satisfying resolutions between characters.  For example one of the death row inmates is killed by Baki’s dad after fighting a character who only shows up for 5-10 minutes in the entire show.  The only battle which is resolved in a remotely traditional way, after the challenge is posed between Baki and the other top 5 martial artists against the top 5 deadliest death row inmates, is the first battle between Speck and Hanayama Kaoru.  Hell a bunch of characters get beaten multiple times by different members of the enormous cast of Baki, which seemingly calls on all of Baki’s former opponents-cum-friendly acquaintances to make an appearance.  Even the ending of Baki 2018 is literally the intro to a new tournament arc.

Having said all that against it though, I still can’t condemn Baki outright, at least not completely.  Keeping in mind that I have a very high tolerance for unbelievable anime bullshit so long as it’s cool, I admit that Baki strains the limits of my tolerance – especially because the whole meandering nature of the conflict.  However I can’t deny that I also found Baki incredibly captivating.  So much so that I immediately began to voraciously devour the manga as soon as I had finished watching it.

There’s a charm in the absurdity of Baki, a delightful goofiness that evolves into something fascinating in the over-the-top characters, personalities, bodies and fighting in Baki.  It feels like pro wrestling, something which is at once goofy, obviously fake and so macho that it’s cheesy, while at the same time being badass enough to draw a crowd.  The way the Baki is so willing to lean into the obviously fake parts of it’s story and just run with them is kind of endearing in it’s own way – it shows an almost naive kind of sincerity that most media can’t portray, because the creators of most media won’t let their own properties run wild with such reckless abandon.   Baki has a heart to it that most shows, no matter how much more tightly constructed they might be, just lack.

The anime also rocks one of the most aggressive and energetic OSTs that I’ve ever heard and I love it.  It makes the fights more badass, the standoffs more intense and the goofiness even goofier.

All things considered though I’m not sure I can really recommend Baki 2018 as a standalone show.  Even of you’re the kind of person who digs the violence, who can look past the so-macho-they’re-almost-grotesque character designs and is willing to ignore or even buy into the ridiculous world of Baki – there is no satisfying story in Baki 2018.  The whole conflict feels pointless, with Baki spending so much time off screen and characters from prior arcs coming in at random to curbstomp half of the death row inmates anyway.  And look, I’m all for pointlessly over-the-top action with a scant story, but Baki 2018 is too loose with it’s story.  It’s not interesting for such a direct 5v5 challenge to be so  thoroughly undercut by pre-existing characters who we haven’t spent any time with.

For Baki fans this presents no issue, they already know these other characters and are probably thrilled they made an appearance.  But Baki 2018 fails as a self-contained story arc, in fact I think it fails so hard in that department that it really mars the experience.  Which is a shame because as ludicrous and violent as the world of Baki is, I bought in to it.  I was captivated by Baki in all it’s insanity, so much so that I did go check out the source material and have considered watching the older anime adaptations.  It’s just a shame that Baki 2018’s inadequacies were part of the driving force to do so.

Ultimately I know Baki 2018 is not for everyone and I don’t really recommend it to most.  If my description of Baki 2018 sounds interesting then by all means check it out, but to me it basically serves as a hook to draw newer anime fans to the manga, the show by itself is not satisfying enough to merit being more than that.

It’s OK to be Dark & (a little) Edgy: Shield Hero Eps 2-3 Review

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In my last post about Shield Hero, my main concern was that while the anime would add valuable details that the manga glossed over, it would not lean into the darker aspects of the manga hard enough.  And this would be a shame because it was the darkness, the severity of the discrimination against Naofumi and his own bitterness and vitriol towards this world that screwed him out the gate, that made the early chapters of manga fucking awesome.  The anime is unfortunately apparently trying to be the kid friendly version of Shield Hero – and so they fucked it up.  There will be spoilers.

One of the details added to the manga almost immediately after Naofumi gets the false rape charge which is apparently triggering SJWs because they can’t just let a story be a story is that he gets these bags under his eyes which immediately make him look a hell of a lot meaner.  It gave him a perpetual glare that consistently scared Raphtalia before the two had their big bonding moment after killing the demon dog.  Most importantly though the bags which caused Naofumi to have his perpetual glare really helped sell his bitterness.  They enhanced his dialogue, when he made a threat he really did look like the kind of guy who would fucking act on it.  In the anime the only scenes that sort of get this are when the merchant tries to screw him in Ep 1, when the bandits want to mug him under the guise of joining his party in Ep 1, and when he almost lets the guards die in Ep 3.

But as important as the bags and the resulting glare are as visual enhancements of every scene it is ultimately the attitude which matters.  Can the anime tap into the core of Naofumi, the man unjustly branded a criminal and hurled out of proper society, with the dark shift in attitude such a life style entails?  The answer seems to be no.  Not only is this a problem in the current episodes and episode 4 soon to follow, it’s going to be a major problem down the line and anyone who has read the manga knows what I’m talking about.  Naofumi will eventually gain a power which is entirely birthed from his hatred of the world and the assholes who have tried to keep him down – and importantly this power is a major fucking plot point on several occasions.  Obviously the anime will give him the power in question anyway because there would be no way the story could continue without it.  But that begs the question, if this power is so vital to the story going forward shouldn’t the anime do everything in it’s power to make it seem like something Naofumi really deserves, that the darkness from whence it came seems as intense as the story can manage while hitting the right story beats?  I obviously think so, hence why I’m annoyed at the anime.

Here’s an example.  In Ep 3 just before the wave hits Naofumi and Raphtalia go and buy some better gear.  In the anime the only options for Naofumi are barbarian armor (it was called tribal armor in the manga but whatever same shit) which is ultimately what he ends up getting and plate armor.  They kind of jokingly bypass the plate armor saying it would rob Naofumi of his individuality, and settle on the barbarian armor.  In the manga the options are the barbarian armor and a set of chainmail.  Raphtalia is super pumped about getting Naofumi the chainmail before he yells “I’m not wearing that fucking thing!” or something to that effect because it’s a legitimate trigger of his.  Remember he had bought chainmail before when it was just him and Mein, and she stole it and gave it to Motoyasu the Spear Hero.  He quite reasonably has bad associations with chainmail and thus doesn’t buy it even if it’s the better armor.  This scene matters in the manga not just because it reinforces Naofumi’s bitter attitude, it plays into the next scene where the other heroes confront Naofumi when he visits the magical hourglass to see when the wave is coming.  By comparison his decision not to buy plate armor doesn’t really make sense beyond an aesthetic preference and/or a general misunderstanding of how plate armor works.  Plate armor is commonly presented as though it’s too heavy to use unless you’re big and strong but it’s not even remotely true.  You can sprint and do flips and shit in full plate armor because it’s designed to distribute the weight to hinder the wearer’s movements as little as possible.

Point is the anime scene is a dumb joke, the manga equivalent is genuinely important both as it’s own scene and in how it flows into the rest of the chapter.  Because following the blacksmith scene the heroes have a confrontation by the magical hourglass as Motoyasu first hits on Raphtalia before he starts to tell she won’t be safe with Naofumi because he’s a rapist.  Naofmui interrupts him and storms off with Raphtalia but the darkness again a decisive factor in how both the manga and anime turn out so differently.  In the anime even when Naofumi is giving his best glare the whole scene makes him feel impotent, which it was supposed to, but afterwards the anime cuts to a scene of Naofumi quietly grinding herbs while Raphtalia tries to ask about the rumors but Naofumi brushes her off.  In the manga Naofumi looks like he’s straight up about to attack Motoyasu, he looks berserk enough to do it if pushed any further and while ultimately he still leaves the scene feeling impotent, in the manga he storms out into the fields and when Orange Balloon demons attack he tells Raphtalia to stand back because “I really want to hit something right now” and then he proceeds to spend the entire evening punching the demons to death while swearing like a sailor at the top of his lungs to vent his rage.

Look at the difference here.  Not only does the darkness within Naofumi in the manga make each individual scene better than it’s anime equivalent but it gives the chapter a very strong buildup with each scene and the emotions they bring flowing into each other flawlessly as Naofumi, who was becoming a bit nicer as his trust in Raphtalia grew, is thrust right back down to his emotional nadir.  He’s confronted by the armor that he wore and which was later stolen from him when he was betrayed, he has to see the other heroes who hate his guts again (and Mein too because she’s Motoyasu’s companion), he’s made to feel impotent because the system is rigged against him during his confrontation with Motoyasu ,and then when his hatred and rage reach their peak Naofumi finds an outlet, weakass monsters he can spend hours beating to death, before he faces the wave the next day.  By comparison the anime scenes flow into each other from stray lines of dialogue, specifically when the blacksmith tells Naofumi about the magical hourglass and when Motoyasu mentions the rumors about Naofumi.  In the former case Naofumi obviously just goes where the blacksmith tells him to go, while in the latter Raphtalia tries to ask about the rumors Motoyasu mentioned but Naofumi won’t give her an answer.  But there is no flow of emotions, no buildup of tension, no cathartic release.  It’s just kind of flat.

Look if you think I’m being to hard on the anime or whatever, I think the anime is fine.  If it were a totally original IP I would not be complaining, and as a standalone experience the anime is decent.  I’m just annoyed because the manga is better than decent and I want the anime to be too.  I want the manga to spring to life and improve in the anime, not for the anime to be a family friendly, milquetoast version of the manga – which sad is what we seem to be getting.

Personally I think part of the problem is that Naofumi is ultimately too nice anyway, even in the manga he rarely goes harder than looking menacing and speaking of the world and inhabitants with scathing venom.  He’s not really a bad guy even when he’s mad enough to be.  Maybe the anime is toning it down because the director sees that and wants Naofumi to never seem all that dark to begin with.  But to me this feels like a marketing decision.  It feels like the producers said to tone it down, to make Naofumi a more sympathetic character, to drain the darkness as it were so that product will appeal to wider demographic and sell more blu-rays – not understanding that the darkness is not just integral to the story in an artistic sense but also that was the darkness that drew many of us in the first place.

I will probably keep watching Shield Hero but as it stands I don’t see how it will ever live up the manga so long as they keep toning it down.  And that sucks because I prefer anime to manga in a general sense.  I would rather watch a good anime than read a good manga.  But in Shield Hero’s case it looks like the manga is the way to go.  See you in the next one.

The Devil is in the Details: Ep 1 of Shield Hero vs Manga

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Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  Why the fuck am I comparing the manga adaptation of a light novel to the anime adaptation of a light novel instead of going back to the source material?  Simple, I don’t read light novels so the manga is the only other thing I have to go on.  More to the point I quite like the manga and some of the differences between how it’s chapters were handled as compared to episode 1 of the anime are noteworthy enough to mention in terms of how to write and direct scripts and their relevant scenes.  There will spoilers for episode 1 and the corresponding manga chapters only.

For those who’ve not seen the episode nor read the manga, here’s a brief explanation.  Naofumi is warped from Japan into another world via a fantasy novel he starts reading.  When arrives he finds that 3 other Japanese boys of roughly the same age range have been summoned as well to save a fantasy kingdom from the incoming wave of monsters.  All of four Japanese boys, the 4 Heroes, are locked into using a sacred weapon and in Naofumi’s case it is a tiny shield.  They are then given companions so they can go out in separate groups and level up from the coming wave.  For reasons he doesn’t know Naofumi is discriminated against very early on by the upper crust of the fantasy kingdom and he is falsely accused of rape by his only companion and is cast out in shame in short order.  From there he will have to find his own way.

The main difference between anime and manga thus far are the degrees of extremity.  The manga is much more heavy handed in regards to the condemnation of Naofumi, our titular Shield Hero.  The discrimination against him is both more blatant and the details justifying any of it are scant.  By comparison, in the anime there much more mild discrimination against him until the rape charge and most of it has some circumstantial evidence to justify itself on, like the fact the other Heroes seem more familiar with the mechanics of this world because they experienced gamers.  Likewise the manga frames Naofumi as an actual rapist whereas the anime makes his crime an attempted rape.

By and large I like that the anime added extra details.  The kingdom spying on the Heroes to find out about Naofumi’s lack of knowledge, which they then use as a pretext for not helping him is n especially good touch. But there other details which do add to the experience as well.  In the manga it is not spelled out until much later that the fantasy kingdom holds women in higher regard than men, while that is made clear in episode 1 of the anime.  This is important because it means the punishment for Naofumi is heavier and that his accuser’s claim is given more weight.  Having the guards plant a torn nightgown was also an excellent touch as it makes the overwhelming shift of everyone condemning the Shield Hero more believable.  Perhaps most important though, the anime establishes that the other Heroes not only come from different Japans (i.e. worlds/times/realities) but it showcases some of their weakness of character from the beginning without making them assholes.

One of the weaker parts of manga was that the other Heroes, who otherwise lacked any apparent flaws, were so condescending to Naofumi from the beginning, it did make his hate more justified but all the same it was almost cartoony in just how heavy handed it was.   By contrast in the anime the other Heroes have more entitled attitudes, as later manga chapters would detail, right from the beginning but they are not total dicks to Naofumi until the false rape charge.  They might tease him a little because he was stuck with the shield or doesn’t have as strong a grasp on RPG mechanics but on the whole they treat him as one of the guys.  And while that obviously shifts when they believe the quite believable – in the anime – rape charge, it does make the other Heroes stronger characters, with more nuance, adaptability and true to life behaviors and attitudes.

That said I vastly prefer the extremity of Naofumi’s response in the manga.  In the anime he gets pissed and wants to leave, and when the fantasy king explains that he can’t until the 4 Heroes defeat all the waves, he says ‘fine I’ll fight the waves on my own/my own way.’  In the manga his hatred of the fantasy kingdom post-rape accusation is much more pronounced, he says to himself ‘this world can burn for all I care’ and laughs when he finds out that the other Heroes are stuck with him before storming off to do things his own way.  I felt that Naofumi’s reaction in the manga was way more appropriate considering the false rape claim and the fact that word of his crime was spread throughout the kingdom.  Moreover the way the manga leans so hard into his anger and bitterness, in his dialogue, attitude and in the artwork, was what really caught my attention.

There are also a few edits which baffle me.  The worst is that when Naofumi first wakes up he looks like he fell asleep playing a goddamn MMORPG, whose mechanics he is later shown to have virtually no grasp of.  In the manga he described himself as an otaku who didn’t play games and his exposure to this world was from a book while the other Heroes were sucked via their respective games.  This is super important especially in the anime which bases a number of it’s best changes on the conceit that Naofumi didn’t know things the other Heroes did, in this case RPG mechanics.  Given that, why in the fuck would ANYONE ok a scene where he’s playing any kind of game at all, let alone one which looks the part of an RPG or MMORPG?  Setting that blunder aside I thought the merchant scenes were clumsy.  In the anime Naofumi sells worthless monster drops to a merchant who tries to screw him, pulls his own fast one on the merchant and then sells healing herbs without a problem.  In the manga they forgo the monster drops and have Naofumi sell the herbs to the merchants who tries to screw him before Naofumi pulls his fast one on the shady merchant.  It just seems so much more elegant in the manga and more efficient as well.

All told I think Shield Hero got off to a strong start with mostly good changes from the manga, though I worry the anime will not lean into Naofumi’s bitterness and rage hard enough if episode 1 is anything to go by.  I do hope I’m wrong on that count though. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.