Seasonal Summaries: Winter 2020

bofuri 2

Now that everyone’s stuck at home due to coronavirus, I figure it’s a good a time as to start pumping out more posts since you should all have the time to read them.  With that in mind I wanted to touch on some the great shows of the previous season that I was too lazy to write a proper review for.  There will be spoilers.

 

railgun

I know every season chart now is gigantic and full of shit shows but Winter 2020 had 8 shows that I had a great time with, which makes it a pretty strong season.  Because it’s easy, I’ll start with the one that’s still going – To Aru Kagaku no Railgun 3.  Ever since I first discovered To Aru Majutsu no Index like 8 years ago I continue to love this balls-to-the-walls scifi-fantasy mashup.  But where I basically gave up on the Accelerator spin-off because he’s only great in small doses, the Misaka spin-offs have been a ton of fun and explored the world from someone more strongly rooted in the science end of this bizarre world than Touma, who is more involved with magical side.  It’s also nice to get away from some of the running gags of Index by mostly cutting Touma out of the story, and following a different close-knit group of friends.  This season of Railgun has been one of the most tense and action-packed of the 3 so far and I’m looking forward to where it will go with its 25 episodes.  All of the seasons have been consistently quality experiences and this one looks to maybe be the best of the bunch.  I especially recommend it now, since you presumably have more time to binge the 7(?) related seasons of Index, Railgun and Accelerator spin-offs.

 

JIbaku-Hounen-Hanako-kun-03-39

Moving right along probably the biggest disappointment among my 8 shows was Jibaku Shounen Hanako-San.  I love the artsyle and the color choices but I think it is unnecessarily slow by trying to be cryptic rather than address the main antagonist.  And while I enjoyed myself and was willing to let the show drag its heels, I do wish a little more had happened with regards to the inevitable Hanako vs Tsukasa clash.  The boundaries of the various School Wonders were especially interesting and I do like that show could be so playful before suddenly crashing headfirst into really dark shit but ultimately I do think putting off the main confrontation like Hanako-san did hurt the show a bit.  Still if you like the supernatural and ghost stories or are looking for an anime with especially striking/unique visuals Hanako-san might be worth your while.

 

kyokou-suiri-03-23

Kyokou Suiri was probably ranked 7th out of the eight shows I truly enjoyed this season.  One the one hand I like the supernatural elements, the bizarre characters and Iwanaga’s energetic dialogue and powerful deductive reasoning.  One the other hand, this show was really slow and basically centered around one small scale conflict.  It’s a shame because I really wanted to see these characters in a variety of settings and conflicts – maybe a contrast between scenarios where Kuro’s immortality or Iwanaga’s intellect was more useful.  But I did enjoy the ride, especially since this was a conflict where Iwanaga, who was by far the most interesting character, was at her best – using Bakemonogatari-esque logic to weave compelling a mesh of truth and lies that would undo the rumors that birthed a vicious ghost into rumors where the ghost wouldn’t exist for the purpose of erasing the ghost.  I think Kyoko Suiri is a bit guilty of trying to show off how smart it is being while not as being maybe as smart as it thinks it is but Iwanaga was a really fun character and she dominated the show especially as we went through her strategies in-depth one strategy per episode.  It’s a fun time and well worth it for anybody who likes the Monogatari franchise.

 

ishuzoku reviewers

Every season there is at least one anime you desperately hopes no one walks in on you watching and in Winter 2020 that show was Ishuzoku Reviewers.  And it was basically perfect.  It’s about a mostly consistent group of 4 guys going to whatever fantasy whorehouse strikes their fancy and reviewing their unfettered sexual deviancy for all the world to see.  You kind of have to love shows which are so unabashedly and unashamedly trashy and just give the audience what they know we want.  What really makes Ishuzoku Reviewers stand apart from other trashy fan service shows though is the detail.  The writer clearly sat down and thought about how different species would interact, what kinds of constraints or preferences they would have, etc.  The beastman guy was an especially good example since he often brought things like smell because his sense of smell was stronger than a human’s.  Honestly this show is exactly what it says on the tin and I’d be amazed if anyone reading this who would enjoy it hasn’t already seen it.  Moving on.

 

Eizouken

Eizouken was my sleeper hit of the season.  I initially overlooked it because while other critics I watch/read praised it, I’ve never really felt the need to delve into anime about making anime.  Then I saw Kamamori scenes and I marathoned half the show in an afternoon.  This show has a ton of heart and character, with a strong central cast who really capture the different aspects of creatives very well.  There Asakusa the director and concept artist, Mizusaki the key animator and Kanamori the best character who represents the production staff with her cutthroat, money-focused attitude.  Her backstory episode was one of the favorite parts of the show, where gives the store she’s working at a massive boost with her marketing schemes.  But Asakusa really carries the show with her detail-oriented, and highly creative brain and a passionate love the medium that makes anime seem almost magical as it brings her various visions to life.  Definitely a great time for any creative and/or anime fan.  Seriously if you love anime you owe it to yourself to give this show a watch.

 

Somali-and-The-Forest-Spirit-ep6-3-5

I don’t know if I would rate this next show 4th out the eight but the so-cute-it-hurts adventure of Somali to Mori no Kami-sama was one of the most heartwarming shows I’ve seen in a long time, despite the fact one of the core points of the plot is that Somali was a slave and humanity has been nearly genocided by the other creatures which inhabit this world.  That said most of the show follows the travels and father-daughter relationship of a Golem who’s reaching the end of his lifespan and the human child Somali.  It’s mostly cute and fun and despite being  a heartwarming tale of family and adventure it has the most unique and vibrant fantasy setting I’ve seen in ages.  No RPG game-based bullshit here, this is a bonafide fantasy world and my god is it a joy for a fantasy fan to see.  The world is strange and colorful, full of beastfolk and other mythical creatures of every imaginable stripe living in bizarre and exotic locations.  The artwork is absolutely stunning, especially when it comes to the fantasy backgrounds and cities.  Truly this is a must watch for fantasy fans.

 

ID Invaded

ID:Invaded is great.  The way it just hits the ground running, going all in on it’s special tech and giving you the details you need to understand what’s going without stopping for exposition dumps was quite impressive.  Moreover this was the first high concept show in a while to really stay consistently good.  I know a lot of people were hyped about Babylon and Kado the Right Answer before it, but while those shows started strong they both failed miserably as the story went along.  ID:Invaded makes no such errors, rather than trying to be really, extra intelligent it keeps itself more simple and more grounded and delivers on one of the best shows of the season.  This is first time since Psycho-Pass that I felt anime really nailed something in the near-future scifi genre.  It strongly reminded me of the Minority Report though with much stronger characters.  Narihisago in particular was a great lead, especially when we get the contrast between Narihisago and his brilliant detective counterpart Sakaido – though Hondomachi was quite good as well.  It’s a great show with the same kind of mainstream appeal as a Psycho-Pass, thoroughly worth the time it takes to watch it.

 

dorohedoro

 

Dorohedoro was another surprise this season.  See when it was first announced I was hearing rumblings about how good the manga was and “oh no are they gonna fuck this up?” so I binged the manga.  And when episode 1 and its CG rolled around I was skeptical to say the least.  But the sheer insanity that is Dorohedoro could not be held back even by CG.  The team behind this did a great job making the backgrounds highly-detailed and lived in like the manga and the vocal performances were amazing.  Seriously if the visual style is enough to give you some pause before watching the vocal performances make it absolutely worth watching.  Noi and Ebisu in particular are amazing and the baseball episode halfway through the show was the best baseball episode in anime history and I will fucking fight anyone who says otherwise.  The creative staff really knocked this one out of the park, powering through this strange story to keep us on our toes.  To quote one Youtube comment that I thought captured the appeal of Dorohedoro “how did they make this show manage to be so brutal and so wholesome at the same time?”  I was once a doubter back in episodes 1 and 2 but I have seen the light and I’m really glad I did because this turned out to be a ton of fun.  Shocking!

 

bofuri 1

However, as there is in every season, there can only be one best show.  And in Winter 2020 that was Bofuri aka Maple’s Bizarre Video Game Adventure.  As sick to death of RPG worlds and OP gamers as I am, nothing could have prepared for much fun I was going to have with the chaos and cuteness of Bofuri.  Maple is basically a perfect character.  Her strength comes from her being such a colossal airhead and such a noob gamer that she has no common sense when it comes to video games and therefore is free to throw convention out the window.  Like in the character creation, rather than make a balanced character build, she throws everything into health and defense.  Or when she loses her weapons in the hydra fight but gains immunity to its damage and then proceeds to nom the hydra to death.  It’s incredible because her character is given the freedom to be both innocently devious in a way the hardcore types consider cheap or to be as happy go lucky as she wants only have things randomly work out in her favor.  For example she had no idea if the Psychokinesis skill would in fact allow her to fly her giant turtle pet and thus make up for her naturally slow movement speed.  Or when she soaks the giant wool covering she gets from Wooly in poison to prevent people from hurting her because she’s immune to poison – and most damage – and hardly anyone else is.  Because Maple’s a happy-go-lucky airhead and the game she’s playing is so reactive to the player experience, she is essentially free to gather an ungodly messy and powerful set of skills.  Which is why by shows end she can summon a poison hydra, turn into an angel, equip a Gundam armor set and last but not least summon Xenomorphs and become Xenomorph queen.  It’s hilarious, cute and fun and there’s a bit during the first major game event where someone runs up and tries to bash her heap open with a mace and it just bounces off with Bonk noise while Maple just turns her head with an innocent little “Huh?” noise and it perfectly encapsulates the appeal of this utterly ridiculous show.  I mean I do like the other characters too but Maple carries this one big time and that’s ok because she’s amazing.  This is a must watch, some of the most fun I’ve had in quite some time.