Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Winter 2018 Anime Roundup

The Winter 2018 anime season has come and gone, and while we warm up for spring (and hop aboard the hype train for My Hero Academia season 3), let's do a little reflecting on the good, the bad, and the Killing Bites of this last season.

A Place Further Than the Universe - Best Anime of the Season

Darling in the Franxx - Slow and Steady Lost the Race (Dropped)

Arguably the most popular show to come out of the Winter 2018 anime season thanks to both the studios behind it (Trigger, A1 Pictures), the genre it's in (Mecha), and the fact that apparently Kim Kardashian looks to Zero-Two as an inspiration for her hair.

Makes you wonder if wears headbands to hide tiny inhuman horns on her head, too?

In yet another apocalyptic mech show, we see this one has a bit of a twist  to it, as humanity now lives on various, mobile Plantations that can "kiss" and transfer goods and information between them. However, the Earth has been besieged by some kind of robot dinosaur monsters and the only defense against it are home-grown teenagers not given the opportunity to fester emoti
ons beyond a supreme desire to save humanity.

Darling in the Franxx does a pretty good job of building the world we're in and settling us into what is at stake, but it never gives us much of a reason to care. In Gurren Laggan, we see Simon and Kamina as people who want to break free, who are actively, desperately searching for a way to the surface world, to the world beyond their own. Here? Hiro isn't good at being a pilot because he had a bad time with it, apparently, except Zero-Two makes him good at it because she's absolutely insane. Or he's the chosen one.

Zero-Two, the weird, pink-haired alien girl, is the best part of the show and is sadly not used too much in the opening episodes, instead ramming home the not-so-subtle implications that these are a bunch of horny teenagers that don't know what hormones are or how to properly express them. It's an erotic show in imagery, not necessarily style, save for the first time that Zero-Two kisses Hiro and it literally turns his power suit on.

Did I mention this show isn't subtle?

It's just boring. Characters aren't interesting and there are way too many of them for me to really find investment in. Ichigo and Hiro present the possibility for being a good duo, but Zero-Two just overshadows them completely with her mysterious backstory. If the show had been squarely focused around Ichigo's inability to lead the teenagers to rise up to the occasion that'd be one thing, but the show constantly beats us over the head with the fact that Hiro is the best, and Zero-Two is just so much better than any of them. It doesn't do a good job of building any tension when we know Zero-Two and Hiro will easily save the day.

The mech designs are cool and unique, yes, but it comes at the cost of literal impact. In Gundam, you always feel the impact of a blow between the Gundam and the thing it's fighting. There's a sense of definite weight that most other mech shows have that this one doesn't. It was great to see 2-D drawn mechs (or if they're 3D then they're brilliantly rendered) but they were too sleek and small to be fighting monsters that had no set size or scale.

Devilman Crybaby - Best Netflix Anime

It's very late in the game to be properly reviewing Devilman Crybaby, since it's been out in full since the first week of the year. By now it's likely that anyone relatively interested in the show has already seen it, and it's passed out of public memory by now for anyone trying to remember what exactly the show is. 

Well, for starters: GREAT. It's a show with a lot of ups and downs, but also a show that has one great constant: animation. The animation in Devilman Crybaby is absolutely fantastic, and it works in every instance. Normally an anime will have great fluid animation but when characters are standing around it's nothing to gawk at, or characters look amazing when standing and talking but it all falls apart when they actaully have to be, you know, animated. Here we get the best of both worlds, and with such a visually intensity. 

It's hard to not watch Devilman Crybaby. Sometimes you can just have a show on in the background and check in every now and then, but with this show you need to be paying active attention the entire time or you're going to miss key details, or just miss out on some jaw-dropping visuals. 

This is another major breath of fresh air for aime, as it was a major risk to both run it exclusively on Netflix as well as let the director and animators just go nuts with what they wanted to do. Obviously they had to adapt the Devilman manga, but they modernize the story and characters incredibly well. While they aren't super realistic, the things that they have to deal with are, like social media and information spreading about very personal things at a breakneck pace. 

It's also a show structured in a unique way; the rappers that come in and out of the show play a major part in that, and definitely serve as something of a Greek chorus, which is an element we don't really see in almost any visual medium nowadays. And while they outwardly express the turmoils of the world around them, our characters do so brilliantly. 

It's been months since Devilman Crybaby premiered but I still have Miki, Ryo, and Akira ingrained in my brain. They are unforgettable characters thanks to this show. They're all just so raw, so fitting for the story. Even other supplementary characters like Taro or Miko are incredible, too. 

The story, and the sudden shift it takes about halfway through, is obviously the thing that everyone is going to be talking about for a long time. It is a jarring shift, but it's part of what makes the show so unforgettable. This is a relentless series, and it is NOT for everyone. You'll know exactly what you're in for, for the most part, by the end of the first episode. If it doesn't seem like your thing by then? It probably won't get better for you. 

Oh but you should look up the soundtrack, even if you haven't seen the show. It's easily the best of the entire season and maybe one of the best anime OSTs ever. 

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens - Too Much of a Good Thing (Dropped)

A city full of hitmen and one of them is a cross-dresser? Sounds great, right? Well, it's greatly forgettable, unfortunately. It's another example of a ton of information and characters that aren't well established with redeeming qualities being thrown at the screen all at once. 

This is an anime that is perfectly serviceable. It's "just fine," as it were, with nothing overtly bad but nothing all that great to stand out, either. It's a great mix of interesting ingredients that are fighting for time over one another. What we get is a bit of a jumbled mess in terms of narrative and characters that aren't that interesting because several of them are basically just tropes. Again, the only interesting character is the crossdresser, and then the one that hangs out with the Avengers. 

I'm sure they get more development beyond the first few episodes, but the show is a bit slow-going at the start to really make me want to see more. I dropped the show after the baseball episode because I felt as if I'd gotten just about enough out of the show as I was going to get. I didn't care for the characters and the action wasn't that great compared to some of the other shows from the season. 

It's just good. Nothing more, and nothing really less than that. I'll probably have forgotten about it once the Spring 2018 season starts. 

Killing Bites - "So Bad it's Good" the Anime

Man, Killing Bites rocks. It's the dumbest, most pure form of fun. Is it smart? No. Is it absolute trash? Um, YES. But it's that sweet kind of garbage where you just savor it; it's a nice heaping cake. It tastes great but if you eat too much you'll get sick and die because of it. I'm not sure if Killing Bites has a lethal side-effect to it, we shall wait and see. 

This is another show where, if you watch the first episode, you'll know the show you're getting. And, honestly, it only gets better...or worse. This is a show where there are more severed limbs, people cut in half, and absurd screaming on a cruise ship than I thought I could handle, but it paces it well enough for me to enjoy on a week-by-week basis.

The score, done by the same guy who did Naruto Shippuden and Fairy Tail masterfully matches the tone that the show wants to set. Think you're getting a moment of dread? Not when that heavy electric guitar kicks in!

My one fault with the show has nothing to do with the content of the series, but more with the release. Amazon Prime has done a terrible job of getting episodes out to the United States on time and it's really shaken my faith in them as a platform for distributing anime. I'm going to approach every new Amazon series with skepticism that I may get to see it have an ending, and not just be forgotten halfway through.

I had no faith in this show, but that's because I was going about it all wrong. It's just a show to turn the brain off, grab some snacks, and enjoy an onslaught of violence, mayhem, and awesome music unfold before you, with some pretty funny, cute bits after the credits to tie things up.

Also Cheetah is best girl FIGHT ME. 

Laid Back Camp - Favorite Anime of the Season

Pop Team Epic - When the Memes Become Real

I mean, how do you even talk about Pop Team Epic? There's not much to say. It's absurd, surreal comedy for 10/20 minute bursts and then...it's over. It's a bunch of sketches, often parodies, that are over and done within a matter of seconds. 

The show began to thrive and use longer sketches at the beginning of episodes to somewhat decent effect. The faster-paced gags were what hooked me at the start, although the first episode does have a great long-form gag that incorporates dozens of quick jokes all on its own. The best episodes are probably the first, second, seventh, and final (twelfth) episode. It has the best overall jokes and has some of the most inspired segments of the entire series. Every other episode has sketches that made me chuckle, but not seriously laugh like the others. 

I love the designs of Pipimi and Popuko. They're just so adorable, so kawaii as it were. They fit so well within the realm of the show, whatever that may be, and I do love how the show actually makes reference to this in its final episode (the more I think about it, the final episode may actually be the best of the entire series, one of the funniest episodes of the entire Winter season!). 

It's a show that we rarely see on television anymore, and will probably have a long life on YouTube in a catalog of "Best Pop Team Epic" compilation videos, or in GIFs. If you're looking for a good laugh, maybe don't watch the entire series, just check out some of those clips on YouTube. 

Record of Grancrest War - Who...Wait...What? WHAT? (Super Dropped)

There's little worse than a generic fantasy series in any medium, but in particular anime, because it always seems that a generic fantasy anime will bring out the worst, most dull tropes it can. 

This show was just so insufferably boring, and so much of it just made no sense. So, just because some low-ranking knight defeats a lord in single combat he gets his castle? And then from there he continues to conquer various lords without even an army? What is even going on? 

I'd get it if this were some sort of literal power-fantsay, but no, apparently this is based on a RPG. So, in the original game, did the player get to just conquer castles by beating someone else in one-on-one combat. Those are some seriously high stakes! 

Again, one of the more interesting characters was the mage that surveyed all of it, whose name I do not remember because she was basically just a discount-Saber leading around discount-Shiro from Fate/Stay Night

Apparently this is going to run for twenty-four episodes and I do not see how it can get any better. I dropped it after the first three episodes because I could not care less for the plights of these characters. They were so dull and I couldn't keep up with the complex magic system and rules and the apparenty political manueverings that would be over and done with in a single episode. 

God willing we won't have another one of these types of shows for a while, and God willing it'll actually be decent like Maria the Virgin Witch

No comments:

Post a Comment