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.

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.

Unpopular Opinion: Medaka Box

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Ok so in my last post I argued that Nanbaka was just a crappy version of Medaka Box.  So now I figured I may as well talk about Medaka Box and what I think makes it way, way better than it’s current 7.2 MAL score.  But before I get to that I’ll do a nice spoiler free summary about the show because it came out in 2012 and was therefore doomed to be overshadowed by the likes of SAO and AoT, which is a shame really since this show wipes the floor with both of those shows.  Here’s the spoiler free version.

Medaka Box takes place in a high school, I know big surprise right?  It follows the story of Medaka, the student council president, who could’ve guessed?  As well as her childhood friend Hitoyoshi Zenkichi, who at least looks like a delinquent punk so yay we filled the delinquent archetype too.  As they work solve the various issues of their students via the a suggestion box, which quickly is given the nickname of the Medaka Box, hence the show’s title.  As you might expect from such a bland and generic concept of a show, Medaka is mostly a slice of life comedy show with sports, seishun and stupid shenanigans.  However, what I’ve yet to mention is that Hakoniwa Gakuen, the school setting of the show, is utterly fucking nuts and it’s students are likewise a bunch of quirky oddballs.  That may not sound like the kind of saving throw a generic high school bullshit show needs but trust me it’s more than enough.

Tweaking the setting like Medaka Box does turns the entire nature of the show and it’s style of comedy on it’s head.  Medaka Box is neither a generic battle high school anime, like the Asterisk War nor a boring student council comedy like Seitokai Yakuindomo. Yes Medaka Box has a lot of club-based conflicts but almost every conflict in the show is less about solving the problems of an individual or a club but instead about examining and improving the psychology and human nature of the people involved.  Which isn’t such a surprise when one considers that the author of Medaka Box is none other than NisioisiN of Bakemonogatari fame.  However Medaka is far more accessible than the Monogatari franchise in that it has a lot less of NisioisiN’s obtuse word play and is generally more straightforward than the Monogatari franchise.  That said the examination of geniuses, a common theme in NisioisiN’s work is central to the story of Medaka Box, as Medaka herself is quite possibly the most perfect genius NisioisiN has ever created.  Medaka is about as close to a literal goddess as a human being can come, she’s stunningly beautiful, inhumanly intelligent, a master of anything she tries her hand to and totally unconcerned by most, if not all, social norms.

Actually to interrupt my own chain of thought for a minute, I just realized that Shokugeki no Souma is a great parallel to Medaka Box when it comes to the setting and characters.  Medaka Box doesn’t have Shokugeki no Souma’s fiery shounen attitude but it does have a crazy, huge campus full of students ranging from total normies to unmatched geniuses and both shows place a lot of emphasis on the differences between people with and without inborn talent as well as the different levels of talent.  Hell both male leads even fall under the same basic characterization, they have no special talent whatsoever but by dint of experience and hard fucking work they prove themselves worthy to stand along side with and go toe to toe with geniuses.  So if you liked Shokugeki no Souma you might like Medaka Box as well, though it’s not the place to come for cooking battles because that’s not Medaka Box’s entire deal.

Personally I love the kinds of examinations into the nature of humans and the various levels of talent or genius and how said talents affect people that Medaka Box provides.  Of the NisioisiN stories that were made into anime I like Medaka Box’s commentary on people and talent the best, and that’s coming from someone whose seen almost every story of his put to animation.  And speaking of animation, Jesus Christ Medaka Box looks phenomenal, both in the stills and in motion.  Medaka Box’s character designs are not particularly complicated, with a few exceptions, making it easier for the animators to make them flow well in motion.  The character’s also have high stylized designs with mostly realistic bodies and most of the design attention being given to the eyes and hair, the hair of course being most likely to be unrealistic.

It’s the eye work however that I find most fascinating.  Medaka Box schools um, EVERYONE, as far as I can tell when it comes to animating expressions where the eyes are concerned.  There’s generally a lot of extra line work around the eyes and they change in appearance and texture to enhance a characters expression.  The most common visual tricks in the anime industry with regards to eyes is to either make them blank to indicate surprise or airheadedness, fill them in with red when a character’s angry to make them seem intimidating or to make them look flat and lifeless, usually to show mind control or depression.  Medaka Box has lot more tricks in the bag and it doesn’t even use the common ones.  Perhaps the most noticeable trend is the change in eye shape, when Medaka Box’s characters are having a good time a lot them will have sort of moe eyes, large rounded eyes with irises that seem to have a lot shine to them.  But when it’s time to get serious, not even mad necessarily but whenever a character is taking a serious earnest approach to something the eyes will inevitably become more angular and smaller but they’ll still be large enough that it doesn’t actually look like the character is narrowing their eyes in response to the situation.  It’s a nice subtle trick that works like gangbusters in combination with the extra shading and line work shown around the angular eyes to really emphasize their expressions.

Additionally characters eyes do tend to lose their shine when they get more serious, but rather than looking flat and dead the way the normal animation trick works Medaka Box’s character just look more serious because the eye still keeps a lot of color and their expressions convey a lot of character, whereas dead eye characters tend to be totally expressionless.  Medaka Box also uses what I’m now coining as Rinnegan-lite, where they make certain characters’ eyes, mostly the villains, have a couple extra circles in the irises to make them look more shark-like and menacing.  Some of the rarer tricks used by Medaka Box include character’s whose eyes change color and characters whose eyes are lack pupils entirely and instead just have a big colorful iris.  Undoubtedly the best part about all this though is that all of the design elements and tricks feed into each other beautifully.  When a villain has the Rinnegan-lite irises, in angular eyes surrounded by heavy shading and framed by the thick eyelash-outline thing (for a point of reference on what I’m talking about check Tanya’s eyes in Youjo Senki, it’s a similar style but Medaka Box does it better) and pointy hair common to just about everyone, he looks like a fucking badass before he’s even done anything.  All in all it’s a style of character design I’ve never seen in any other anime and it’s quite possibly my favorite design style, it looks fucking awesome is what I’m saying.

And as mentioned in that Nanbaka post, Medaka manages an excellent transition from lighthearted comedy show to intense battle show, the pacing stays tight, characters stay in character and we get real, meaningful character growth, some intense battles between a bunch of geniuses with a wide variety of intelligent techniques and crazy powers.  I will say though that I don’t think Medaka Box is particularly funny, even during the comedy focused arc, it draws some laughs here and there but where the comedy arc succeeds is that it really endeared me to the characters.  I liked the whole student council and the recurring side characters long before they hulked up and did some badass action scenes,  they might not be a hilarious bunch of goofballs but they are very likable and fun goofballs.  And they only get better as they get serious, because unlike Nanbaka I’m invested in these people, I want to see them grow or stand their ground in the face of impossible odds, I’m backing them 100%.

So as far as the spoiler free section is concerned, the art is super fucking good, the characters are good and the execution of the story far surpasses the surface of what the plot summary and setting would imply at first glance.  It’s a great time and you should watch it.  Now it’s spoiler time.

As anyone whose watched the show knows season 2 ends on major cliffhanger, where following the collapse of the Flask Plan, Kumgawa aka the most popular character in the manga has wrecked like 12 people whom had already been established as badasses and is clearly set to challenge Medaka once again like he did in middle school.  The final episode then adapts what I believe was a short Kumagawa spin-off manga where we meet Ashin’in, a super important character in the long term, and we get to see Kumagawa’s power All Fiction in action.   Now let’s not beat around the bush here, I want to see Medaka Box Minus, you, fans of Medaka Box want to see Medaka Box Minus, everyone wants to see Medaka Box Minus (they just don’t know it yet).  I think it’s safe to say that the Minus arc is by far the most hype arc of the manga, not surprising since the most popular character in the manga is the central villain of the arc.  Like, I know there’s no such thing as a sure bet but as far as sequels go that seems like as close as you can get.  Everyone who cares about Medaka Box will be on that shit in a heartbeat, and in an industry where all kinds of new shows get split cours and sequels, why don’t they try Medaka Box Minus?  I fully admit I know nothing about how much the prior seasons of Medaka Box made in terms of profit, but I guarantee it has a better shot of success than something like the second cours of Nanbaka, which most people I’ve talked to or heard from haven’t even seen.

For those of you who’ve not seen Medaka Box but went into spoiler territory anyway let me guide you through a tale of fucking awesome shit.   Three ideas which do not appear in say the Monogatari franchise, whose main focus as far geniuses are concerned rests solely on Hanekawa, are how different levels of genius interact, the desire to artificially create geniuses (which has happened in the real world, it’s called eugenics) and the opposite end of the spectrum, people so broken and dysfunctional that they are doomed to be outcasts.

In Medaka Box there are 4 kinds of people, well there’s more like 6 but only 4 matter for the purposes of this post.  These types are Normals, which is self-explanatory.  Specials, who are people with a lot of talent but are still fairly normal, they can be quirky and weird but not cripplingly so.  Then there are Abnormals, who have inhuman levels of talent and usually some kind of accompanying super power but have proportionally stronger quirks to the point most of them don’t attend school because they wouldn’t function well there.  Both Specials and Abnormals sort of align with austistic savants, Specials have the generally more limited talents of savants but have lesser degrees of social problems, while Abnormals have a much broader range of talents, and literal superpowers, than most savants but equal or greater degrees of social problems.  The last group is the Minuses, those born with crippling degrees of bad luck and ineptitude, generally resulting horribly warped personalities, twisted minds and bizarre powers of their own.

The Flask Plan is an experiment run by the principal of Hakoniwa Gakuen wherein the principal, working with a group of Abnormals called the 13 Party attempts to create artificial geniuses, however this plan could end up costing thousands of lives so Medaka sets out to stop it.  Medaka is a fascinating case study where the Flask Plan is concerned because if you remove her morals and personality she objectively judges that it could be used to perfect her, and the only reason she has a personality which would oppose the Plan in the first place is because when they were toddlers Hitoyoshi convinced her that someone with her overwhelming talents existed for the sake of making other people happy.  Yes btw, at 2 Medaka was struggling with literal existentialism, that’s the level of genius she is.  She’s so far above, and by extension removed from, normal society she wondered why the fuck she was even around at age 2.

Anyway, long story short, Medaka and friends stop the Flask Plan in a series of cool battles and as they are on their way back to the normal part of the school the defeated villains turned quasi-friends in tow they run into Kumagawa, after he defeated a mix of 12 Abnormals and Specials fighting each other.  Kumagawa was previously established as this twisted bastard who did a lot of emotional damage to Medaka and Zenkichi in middle school and as the only person Medaka was never able to reform into a better person.  The Minus arc is essentially a second battle arc where Medaka and Co. fight Kumagawa and his fellow Minuses for control of the school via a brutal series of contests based on archaic rules.  It has tons of cool set pieces, great battles, interesting new characters and some of coolest powers in the entire series.  And it introduces Ashin’in, who I think is arguably the coolest character in the Medaka Box universe.  It’s HYPE is what I’m saying.

What I’ve been trying to say in last almost 2500 words is that I love Medaka Box.  It has great battles, cool powers, interesting themes, a good narrative, endearing characters and amazing art.  And I want a third season.  And I really want more people to watch it and enjoy it so that it’s more likely to get that third season.  It’s a show I feel is worth fighting for, so God fucking dammit that’s what I’m doing.  Hope you enjoyed the rambling gushing review of Medaka Box, do check it out I highly recommend it, and I’ll see you in the next one.

Unpopular Opinion: Kuzu no Honkai

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You know I usually like to wait for an anime to finish before I review it, but the latest episode of Kuzu no Honkai has convinced me it’s not worth the wait.  I still maintain my earlier statements about the show, namely that’s the most interesting romance anime I’ve seen in years, but that interest is no longer particularly positive.  It’s not all that negative either, mind, but compared to before it’s a downgrade.  There will be spoilers, you’ve been warned.

Kuzu no Honkai had two major selling points, it disregarded all the usual anime romance baggage and skipped straight to the bedroom, and it returned to the bedroom with surprising frequency, and most of the main characters were either terrible people or in the midst of very self destructive behavior.  For this the show still has my attention and I do hope other romances learn from Kuzu no Honkai and get some couples in bed.  But honestly I’m bored with whatever narrative Kuzu no Honkai was trying to tell, and given the aimless rambling of the show overall I’m not sure it ever had much vision or direction to begin with.  But before I dig into that I want address certain me-specific complaints have nothing to do with technical skill in writing or animation, because context is important despite what morons on the internet may think.

Kuzu no Honkai is not for me.  Even disregarding any technical problems it has I have a hard time rooting for anyone in the twisted love tree filling out the series.  Ecchan has my allegiance more than anyone but she’s hardly given the time needed for to be really interesting as a person instead of just being the hottest girl and also a lesbian, making her best girl by default.  Ostensibly I should be projecting myself on Mugi but fuck that guy.  I don’t get him at all, his only characterization that I have any connection with at all is how he doesn’t want to fuck the blonde girl with twintails who wants his D because they’re childhood friends and he doesn’t want to ruin her purity or special-ness, for lack of a better term.  I get that.  But loving broken, weak and manipulative girls, loving someone even more after see how they cynically use their assets to fulfill their shallow lifestyle?  Get the fuck out of here.  I’m not just disconnected from Mugi’s desires, they actively turn me off in a big way.  Likewise I sort of like Hanabi and vaguely want to root for her but the love of her life is totally boring.  Kanai is abysmal, he’s a bland boring fuck who can be boiled down to generic good guy A, and the fact he serves as a big brother figure to Hanabi makes the whole thing one step removed from the incest romances popularized by OreImo, and fuck that garbage.  At least she actually likes a good person, that’s a step up from Mugi.  That’s enough ranting for now, let’s get technical.

Kuzu no Honkai is kind of balls at pacing.  The passage of time is largely unclear, for example I had no idea Mugi and Hanabi hadn’t seen each for months because until Hanabi said so in a random cafe scene, there were no details establishing that at all, and it’s common for episodes to suddenly cut to dramatic or emotional moments out of nowhere without always explaining how the characters got to that point.  As a man who struggles with getting from point A to point B in a story despite having really well defined points in his own narratives, or rather attempted narratives, I feel this in particular is a weakness.  I appreciate the desire to just cut to the scene you really want to show, but if I thought that was good enough I’d have finished a fucking book by now.  But what exacerbates the problem is that feels like the show isn’t going anywhere.  Characters have random sexual encounters and some make deliberate moves on other people but a lot of the time they just seem to be listless and directionless.  There’s too much going on that never goes anywhere meaningful.  It’s like watching filler if filler looked decent and was low key.  This isn’t helped by the characters.

Most of them suck.  They generally range from boring to deplorable, and not deplorable in the fun if dark sense employed by Youjo Senki, but deplorable as in people I really don’t like for their shallow or twisted values.  The twin tail girl is obnoxious and serves no purpose, she poses no threat to Hanabi, let alone Akane, where Mugi is concerned and she has nothing to teach either main character about themselves.  Likewise Ecchan has that weird cousin who wants to bone her (gross) and has a persistence that is outright annoying making him come off as a pain in the ass if not a creep.  Again he doesn’t pose any threat to Hanabi’s relationship with Ecchan and he teaches Hanabi nothing she hadn’t already figured out for herself.  Then there’s the random dude who used to fuck Akane and wanted to fuck Hanabi, again almost entirely useless and a total waste of time.  He was only interesting in so far as Hanabi considered trying to win his affection to get back at Akane, but that didn’t happen so what’s the point?

I suppose you could argue the directionless, listless feel and story are reflective of how confusing teenage and young adult romance can be, but it’s fucking boring.  Like if the Hanabi actually made a serious move regarding the random guy I was just talking about and it had some kind of impact on her as a character and to the narrative, it would be good, but nothing happens.  Which is where episode 11 comes in.  Episode 11 has more character development on it’s own than the lion’s share of the show and it really got me thinking that Hanabi and Mugi were the wrong people to cast as main characters.  I mean it’s pretty simple what happens, Kanai clumsily bulls his way forward and somehow, perhaps because he’s the first saintly good guy to go for her, wins Akane’s heart.  For Mugi and Hanabi all that does is put an end to their crushes, which is something Hanabi has already gone through at this point.  I guess Mugi and Hanabi can hook up for real now but why bother?  They haven’t been romantically involved for months and Hanabi seems to have zero passion for Mugi at this point.  And unless this season is a split cour or double cour, then they’d only have one episode to get together anyway.  Seems like a weak romance story to me.

Kuzu no Honkai should have been about Akane.  I mean given how much screen time she has I think you can already argue that she’s more of a main character than Hanabi, but that’s what the show should have been.  What if Kuzu no Honkai was presented from Akane’s point of view?  What if it was about her fucking all these guys over the years in her aimless attempts to feel good and find some sort of human connection, which she somehow finds in Kanai?  You could even have Hanab still play a substantial role, this time as someone actively trying to keep Akane away from Kanai because she think’s Akane isn’t good enough for him.  I think you’d have a far more interesting show, one where all the sex is relevant to character growth rather than a gimmick.  Because that’s how I think it’s been used by and large.  It’s new and I’ve no doubt many others are happy to see characters with functioning sexual relations, but outside of a few rare exceptions it seems more like eye candy than anything else at this point.  However in a story about Akane, told from her perspective, the fucking would be extremely relevant to the narrative and to her character.  And I say all this with extreme confidence because Kuzu no Honkai has slowly and steadily declined for me since episode 2 when Hanabi and Ecchan get in some lesbian action, with episode 11 serving as the only exception to that trend.  It’s the best the show has been in months and possibly the best it’s ever been.

Setting Akane aside, what assures me that Kuzu no Honkai will be end poorly is that where the fuck else can it go at this point?  As discussed before Mugi and Hanabi have drifted apart, and I can’t see them hooking back up for an episode as anything other than failure.  Moreover it’s annoying to have Mugi get so much screen time in last few episodes compared to Hanabi, because I’d rather root for her and I like her more and I think her story could have been much more interesting if we weren’t forced to follow Mugi’s hopeless twisted love story.  I think another thing Kuzu no Honkai fucked up was the Ecchan summer house episode, that should’ve happened after Mugi went off to chase Akane for months, because then maybe, just maybe, Ecchan and Hanabi could’ve justifiably become a couple, something I’m far more interested in than any other relationship in the show, and not just cause gay girls (though that is a bonus), because they’re the two people I like most in the show as people.  Hanabi could have her expectations dashed by Mugi, who flees the intended plan to try and keep Akane being a shallow, manipulative slut (for the record that’s how the describes her, I’m not hating on her right now, I think she’s actually had the funniest scenes and lines the show)… because for whatever reason that’s what he’s into.  And in having her plan with Mugi ruined, Hanabi could have sought shelter in Ecchan like she did earlier in the show, but this time it could’ve developed in something genuine and lasting, not a one night stand.

All this is to say that Kuzu no Honkai has been a total mess.  It threw all kinds of bedroom scenes at us to keep us distracted from the fact the story has been pretty shit.  It’s had it’s moments from time to time but overall it’s been a boring, aimless little tale.  Also the soliloquies have gotten especially awful in later episodes and some of the dialogue is similarly terrible.  So few of the characters are given time to be interesting and of those with time most of them squander it on pointless scenes and sideplots which never amount to anything.  As a general rule I don’t like to complain about wasted potential very often.  By and large I find it a misguided criticism that attacks a work for not being something rather than judging what it is.  But Kuzu no Honkai has been so directionless as a narrative, so vague in it’s intent that I feel this is a good case for the “wasted potential” complaint, because more so than anything else what this show needs to succeed is some kind of vision.  Kuzu no Honkai is little more than a jumble of characters and ideas with nothing binding it all together, nothing making a narrative out of the disparate narrative elements.  This really is the essence of wasted potential, it’s a show that does nothing with the tools it’s  been given, rather than a show which just didn’t do what I wanted it to do.  And for that reason, I’d be fucking floored if this series ends on anything other than a “meh” note.  I’m certainly out of fucks to give for the show.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

Understanding Tone Shifts: Why Youjo Senki is my Top Anime of Winter 2017

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I know what you’re “supposed” to do is wait until the end of a season to tell everyone what you’re favorite show was but fuck rules, or even guidelines, because I already have my winner.  And I don’t say that lightly, this is a pretty fucking solid season of anime we’re talking about here and I fully expect that most people will totally disagree with me.  Hell I’m inclined to disagree with me, considering I’m pitting Youjo Senki against KonoSuba season 2, which is the most consistently hilarious show I’ve seen in a long time.  The following will be full of spoilers for a bunch of currently airing shows, you’ve been warned.

Like I said this is a solid season of anime.  Masamune-kun no Revenge is a cut above you’re normal slice-of-life romcom.  KonoSuba is fucking hilarious and even Gabriel Dropout has been pretty funny even if it’s been pretty inconsistent.  Kuzu no Honaki is the most interesting romance drama I’ve seen since Kimi ni Todoke season 1.  Little Witch Academia is a constant source of feel-good charm that I can hardly find anywhere and we’ve even got the low key but stylish as fuck ACCA.  However I think the crown jewel of the season is undoubtedly Youjo Senki.  Youjo Senki episode 8 is definitely the episode that heralded the sudden upsurge in my interest in my opinion of the show, but looking back the thing which made that episode stand out so much, a radical tone shift, was already present throughout the show albeit to far lesser degrees.  What this means, in short, is that I think Youjo Senki is probably the most well rounded show of the entire season, and going by episode one you’d never fucking guess that would be the case.  Let me break this down in more detail.

For those who haven’t seen Youjo Senki, it’s about an alternate world’s WWI with a few major differences, the most obvious being magic.  The lead character is a 12 year old girl named Tanya, or at least that’s what they look like.  In reality our main character is a 30-something (I assume) asshole of a man from our world who was reincarnated in this alternate world as a 12 year old girl as a trial from God or Being X as our main character calls him.  Our 12 year old girl, who has incredible magic power, with the brain of his former 30 year old self signs up for war to get a comfortable life as an officer and thus defy God because this trial was meant to convert him into one of the faithful by putting him in dire circumstances.  If you made through the last couple sentences without going “huh? or WTF?” then consider me impressed, this is a pretty fucking weird premise.  However as I’ve explained before premise is cheap, execution is what really matters and for the most part Youjo Senki has been able to pull it’s unusual premise off well.  And almost none of this present at all in episode 1, barring the interesting setting, episode one makes Youjo Senki look like an edgy action show that relies on shock value and explosions to sell itself.  Now it is that in part, but there’s so many other elements woven in that the edginess is a side note and doesn’t distract me in the slightest.

The main reason is that Youjo Senki includes a wide variety of scenes and tones, so much so that many of the worst ones easily get lost amid the all the shit happening, a trend made possible in part by the fact that the good scenes far outnumber the bad.  The biggest detractors from Youjo Senki are that it’s edgy, the art is definitely on the uglier side and episode 3 with the mad scientist was a goofy mess.  But Youjo Senki gets past it all.  Because it also delivers on major battles, solid strategic theories and discussion and even some fascinating changes to WWI.  In direct opposition to a show like Kuzu no Honkai which  consistently drives me insane by providing me with things I love and hate next one another with every episode, Youjo Senki is perfectly content to jump around and tell whatever kind of story it wants.  Because for all edgy action of episode 1, the action almost disappears completely until episode 5 with only one major exception.  On the whole though Youjo Senki is mostly fun, thanks to it being violent, funny and utterly insane.  Remember Tanya not only has had the mind of thirty year old from modern era since birth, she’s had the mind of thirty year old without a scrap of empathy for other people.

Jumping over to Masamune-kun no Revenge for a minute, what makes it more fun than the average high school romcom is that the main couple are both deplorable.  Masamune has devoted himself to being fit and becoming a hot guy just so he can date then dump Adagaki Aki.  He basks in the attention he gets for being hot but his behavior is decidedly shallow and his goals, while somewhat satisfying, are spiteful.  Adagaki on the other hand is horrible because she’s a bossy bitchy girl who humiliates any boy who comes her way.  She makes this even worse when shes says something to Masamune about how it hurts to get rejected (he had just rejected another girl’s advances) despite the fact she goes out of her way to reject people in the most painful way possible and somehow doesn’t see the dissonance between her actions and her sentiments.  Youjo Senki takes the deplorable main character thing and the goes to it’s extreme end point, someone who doesn’t give a fuck about anyone and will condemn people to miserable lives and later thousands of innocents to death for the sake of efficiently getting the next promotion.

Tanya’s shtick in both her current and previous lives is that she finds the easiest way to get a comfortable life by following and exploiting rules, first corporate rules and later military rules.  And she does a great job of showing how fucked up ordinary humans can be if they just follow the rules without injecting their own moral and emotional judgement into a situation.  What makes this interesting though is that Tanya is not punished for behaving this way.  Sure we know she’s a psychotic piece of shit, and she hasn’t gotten the easy life she wants, but she has swiftly risen up the ranks and garnered the attention of her ultimate superiors.  What’s more her ruthless approach works, her unit has been instrumental to several fronts already and her thesis on how to attack cities without holding back while still conforming to international law has already drastically altered tactics on both sides regarding cities, I’m sure the Republic (France) won’t attempt to use a city as a shield to delay the Empire (Germany) again.  Again and again Tanya proves that her ruthless tactics and exploitation of the rules are effective especially because she has knowledge about world wars that no one else does.  However amid all of this I have one problem with the label of “the Evil” for Tanya.

That may surprise you because Tanya is almost cartoonishly evil, she’s a ruthless murderer, has no empathy for other human beings and has no qualms condemning thousands of noncombatants to die.  But while all those things make her a criminal and villain she’s not evil in the sense that she’s working with the “bad guys,” because that implies that one side in the conflict is the morally superior.  There is no such side though and that brings to one of the biggest problems I have with other people talking about the show.  The consensus I’ve seen thus far is that the Empire and Tanya are representative of the Nazis and therefore are evil.  I disagree. Vehemently.  Remember this is WWI, not WWII and the Empire’s behavior has not at all resembled that of the Nazis (hell they even have the same gear and spiked helmets of the Prussian troops in WWI), the closest they get is when bomb Arene thanks to Tanya’s thesis but even that was clearly an outlier and surprised people on both sides (and that wasn’t even a Nazi thing so much as paradigm shift all sides adhered to in WWII).  In fact in this world, the Empire was invaded by the Republic and save for the invasion of Norden and the Entente Alliance, the Empire’s strategy is defensive.  In fact it parallels the Late Roman Empire’s strategy during the Hunnic invasions and subsequent barbarian migrations, to set up weaker border forces which would delay enemy invaders who would then be crushed by an elite mobile force.  The idea that the Empire is somehow the “bad guy” of the war is ridiculous, the only country which could consider them as such is the Entente Alliance because the Empire was the aggressor on that front.

In fact if anyone is evil it’s Being X who is actively fucking with people’s minds and free will to accelerate the war and put more pressure on Tanya.  I think the main reasons people think of the Empire as evil is because, it’s Germany, Tanya is on their team and they’re winning.  But even in episode 1 when Tanya kills an entire company of mages, she did that in response to the fact said company had just wiped out the people she’d been sent to save.  Tanya personally handled things the way she did to get a promotion, but with the exception of Arene the Empire is having the same things done to it as it’s doing to others, it’s not the bad guy here because their is no bad guy here.  And if you examine WWI history it’s the same story.  Most of what caused the war was just momentum created by a complex web of alliances and all the major powers trying to maintain a power balance that was beginning to crumble.  Almost none of the highest authorities on any side actually wanted WWI to become the enormous conflict it did, things just spiraled out of control.  I hope that when Anson Sioux re-enters the conflict this dynamic will be shown better, that regardless of whether the individual is a good person like Sioux or a total bastard like Tanya, both sides are by large doing the same terrible shit to each other and the Empire is not representative of the Nazis and is not evil.  That said so long as you understand that, I think it’s fine to call Tanya evil.

Because yes Tanya is awful but for the most part she’s awful in entertaining ways.  One of my favorite scenes was at the end of episode 5, when after defeating the invading Dakian army (props for having them mirror the pathetic performance of Romania in WWI), Tanya talks like a five year old while informing Dakia that’s she’s going to blow up their weapon’s factory, a move that disguises her attack as a prank while still conforming to international war laws.  It’s fucking hilarious and utterly effective, no one bothers to evacuate and everyone working at the factory perishes as she and her men blow it to shit.  And the attack on Orse fjord was a blast to watch because of the rigid tactics and strict deadlines outline to pull off the ambitious amphibious assault.  Watching people kick ass and take names is generally a fun time, the fact we’re focusing on a character who is so awful just adds a little spice to mix.  She’s curb stomping everyone who gets in her way and it’s pretty cathartic because sometimes that’s what we all want to be able to do, just crush whatever annoys us and get onto enjoying an easy life.  Sometimes we all want to be assholes so long as we get away with it.

But despite how blatant Youjo Senki can be, see Tanya for details, it can be surprisingly versatile.  Youjo Senki rarely has long battles, instead most battles are payoffs to previously tense strategy briefings as Tanya has to navigate the desires of superiors as much as possible while still being mindful of the supply situation and benefits of any given strategy.  Many of the strategies involved are complex military maneuvers and it can be a satisfying to see these complex plans come together.  In addition the show includes people who even Tanya hates to work with, mainly the mad scientist Dr. Schugel, and how she behaves when she isn’t allowed to just beat the shit out of this person she doesn’t like.  The show’s tone shifts frequently to match the wide variety of scenes and scenarios Tanya finds herself in. But the real clincher was episode 8 because it takes the most drastic tone shift of the series.  In episode 8 it looks for a bit like one of her troops killed himself.  I admit I was a little disappointed that that didn’t end up being the case because it seemed like a great tone shift especially with the change to a more haunting ED following a shot that looked like the gun switching to face the shooter.  However this was still a great shift in that this was the first time Tanya’s soldiers balked at her orders and the sudden change in war doctrine brought on by her thesis, and they didn’t even know it was her thesis which caused Arene to burn.

Soldiers who had previously made defeating enemies a sort of informal sport among the group were suddenly horrified enough to confront Tanya about it, or at least were so distracted by the implications of what they were doing in Arene that they made mistakes they usually wouldn’t.  This once again shows that the Empire is not evil, most of the soldiers are just people fighting for their homeland and in the process they have to do evil work.  Tanya is the only one deserving of the title the Evil.  And for the first time multiple soldiers under Tanya’s command really have to grapple with that.  Ironically though Viktoriya, in the very next episode, uses the same kind of heartless rule-centric logic that Tanya thrives on to assure her comrades that all responsibility for the evils of Arene lie with Tanya.  I find this comment especially interesting because it hints at the potential punishment for Tanya later down the road, that her own reliance on the rules and exploiting them may be used against her, and the dangers of that mindset which has thus far only been shown to be effective if entirely fucked up.

Another great contrast is last season’s Shuumatsu no Izetta because that show shares many similar elements but focuses on main characters who are selfless and idealistic, people who fight to change the status quo regardless of the hardships endured.  That show also showed the dangers of that mindset, specifically that the political reality of a situation might lead a country to betray and kill it’s own hero and how a betrayed hero may come back with a vengeance.  I know this isn’t that relevant but I think it’s a happy accident that both these shows came out in such close proximity and have been great, as they do provide an excellent contrast to each other.  Let’s wrap this up.

Put simply Youjo Senki does a lot of tone shifts.  Sure there are edgy scenes scattered throughout the current nine episodes but they are mashed in with a ton of goofy scenes, cool action scenes, lot’s of strategic talks about war and military theory, political intrigue, and even some scenes which are just really fucking funny.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like you’re cup of tea, maybe it sounds too inconsistent or chaotic or whatever.  I disagree.  I think what Youjo Senki has managed to do with all of it’s myriad tone shifts is soften the rough edges of it’s worst parts while gaining the strengths of most of the other shows I named up above.  It may not be KonoSuba funny but there are a few scenes that come close.  Episode eight had more drama than Kuzu no Honkai.  It’s got more action than any other currently airing show I’m aware of.  It has world building and political intrigue on par with (and in my opinion surpassing) ACCA.  Youjo Senki is for my money the best show of the season because it does a little bit of almost everything and in most cases it succeeds at whatever it’s doing.  Sometimes it does edgy scenes of Tanya smiling like a lunatic while sending off uncooperative subordinates to die while making it look like an accident.  And sometimes it communicates how traumatic war can be for soldiers, even the ones that are winning.  The show has it’s problems but they are so small and brief and the show moves past them so quickly that they have hard time marring the overall experience.

Youjo Senki has, I think, made some of the key traits of many of the other good shows of the season into it’s strengths and mitigated it’s weaknesses through it’s willingness to change tone so frequently.  It has the versatility to be a popcorn flick in one episode and startlingly powerful drama the next episode, all while being a very interesting take on WWI with regards to the changes in politics and tactics during the war.  I love it, and after reading this, hopefully you do too.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.