I disappeared this season. Yeah, I know. But I was still watching animu. You can never stop watching animu. But regardless of how dedicated you are to watching (or undedicated to writing), this season felt like a chore to get through. Not really because the shows weren’t any good to begin with, but because their best moments really only took place in the last few episodes. That said, anyone who lacked the patience might have skipped out on a legitimately good show had it not been for a mix of odd pacing, boring plot flows, and wishy-washy animation. For whatever reason you had in dropping a show mid-season, you might want to think about picking it up again after reading the season end ranking. Because frankly, quite a number of shows I would have dropped out of frustration (or boredom) actually turned out pretty well. Good things come to those who wait, apparently, and that was no different for this season’s batch of misfits. So how did they do? Let’s run ’em down, from worst to best!
#12 – Active Raid 2nd
Though I enjoyed the first few episodes of this second season, it fails to deliver anything sensible in terms of conflict. Its villains are as unintelligible as the massive tangle of politics that thwart the show’s plot, making this more a satire of bureaucracy than anything else. Look past that and it’s a fun way to waste time. Either way, it’s just that – a waste of time. Final Rating – 5/10
#11 – Orange
I had high hopes for this title, even if its premise was far-fetched to begin with. It had a couple lovely vignettes that really homed in to the claustrophobic nature of depression and the way it affects not just the victim, but the people around him as well. Unfortunately, Orange flounders about with inconsistent production notes and sometimes overly dramatic cues that tend to overpower to the underlying narrative. Issues in presentation aside, this was an interesting story whose point isn’t in its plausibility, but the values of friendship and acceptance. Final Rating – 7/10
#10 – Food Wars! ~ The Second Plate~
The first half of this second cour was pretty much “leftovers” (pun intended) from the previous season, which made for a rather slow and uninspiring first half. For many reasons, I find the Autumn Elections to be a rather boring arc, and even the most awe-inspiring moments of this event weren’t really translated as effectively as I would have hoped in the anime rendition. But the Stagiaire arc was a welcome change of pace, filled with wonderful bits of truth that zone in on the continuous process of self-discovery and mastery. Soma has always been a wonderful character archetype that inspires the best in us, so it’s a shame to see this second season overlook focusing on its characters in exchange for simply moving the plot forward. I really hope the third season would do its characters more justice, and hopefully focus on the more exciting arcs to come. Final Rating – 7/10
#9 – NEW GAME!
I have to give it to Animation Studio Doga Kobo. They did a pretty darn good job in terms of animation. The characters were cute, key animation was superb, and (though somewhat unnecessary) there were lots of lovely bits of motion animation that were so brilliantly executed, they brought out a wonderful subtlety and flavor to the idiosyncrasies of the show’s characters (check out episode 6). Production notes aside, there isn’t really much to say about NEW GAME! other than the fact that it’s adorable. Though the comedy doesn’t always deliver the punch that it would have intended, or perhaps the easter eggs aren’t as numerous as would have been hoped, the whole show is just so fun and relaxing I don’t really even care anymore. Final Rating – 7/10
#8 – Tales of Zestiria the X
Though I love the fact that this show really portrays a classic sense of the fantasy adventure genre with UFOTable‘s ability to illustrate grandiosity and scale, the whole plot seemed overly dense for a 12-episode run. And it didn’t help either that two of these episodes were spent advertising Tales of Bestiria with a side story prequel for Velvet Crowe. Recurring elements of fantasy adventure and a pretty much straightforward narrative means that this show is more about the experience of watching an epic unfold – even if I’m forcing myself to believe that the premise is even close to what I’d call an epic. Grandiosity of scale is one thing, but it’s another to create a cohesive worldview that doesn’t seem like a rehash of previous Tales of series… or any fantasy RPG for that matter. Final Rating – 7.5/10
#7 – Alderamin on the Sky
The biggest beef I have with this show is its terrible pacing. Much of the middle episodes pretty much drag things along, and the show fails to capitalize on the ingenuity of Ikta as a brilliant tactician. But most of this probably boils down to the fact that the source material isn’t that far off in terms of story, so much of this season was trying to buy time. Despite the droll content, the relationship of Yatori and Ikta really is an intriguing one, and their acute understanding of one another goes beyond that of a simple platonic one. Lastly, the show decided to place the revelation of Princess Chamile’s true intentions at the end, unlike the source which placed it before the Northern invasion, which I think was a pretty smart move to segue into a sequel. Despite the flaws in execution, the story remains to be an intriguing one, and one I hope to see a follow-up to some time soon. Final Rating – 7.5/10
#6 – Thunderbolt Fantasy
Hey, that isn’t anime! Yeah, sure. Go suck on a brick. Thunderbolt fantasy was epic in every sense of the word, full of wonderful ideas and a classic sense of irony and deus ex machina. Gen Urobochi has always questioned the notion of status quo and does a pretty good job at jabbing villainy and even heroism. This was a good show through and through. If you ever feel like watching something different, pick this up. Final Rating – 8/10
#5 – Mob Psycho
I was honestly surprised at how well this show did. Though I was a little skeptical about ONE’s views on “strength” vis-a-vis “heroism” and the format he chose to present it (i.e. messy art style), the final episode really tied in the themes quite well with the use of con-man Reigen, who drives home many significant points on the matter. The entire show actually felt pretty darn acute, using all of its characters effectively to portray both the societal demands on adolescence as well as the lifelong curse of self-discovery (and even self-renewal). ONE doesn’t hold his punches in this show, and the raw nature of its animation makes for an exhilarating spectacle. Final Rating – 8/10
#4 – Sweetness and Lightning
Sweetness and Lightning is perhaps one of the only shows in this list that sorta slowed down as the weeks went by, but that didn’t mean that it lost its charm. Instead, the established sense of warmth and familiarity permeated the show, leaving us with wonderful vignettes of familial values and pretty much kids saying the darnedest things. Slice-of-life is always one of those genres that needs to justify itself if it really wants to earn a spot in anyone’s hearts, and boy did this show deliver. Final Rating – 8/10
#3 – Planetarian
I’ve said it before that Planetarian can easily be dismissed as one of those shows that banks on “robot love” fetish and whatnot, but there’s a wonderful contrast to be had when this is placed in a post-apocalyptic setting. Though I wish there was less exposition by the MC, Planetarian brings out a beautiful yet sorrowful depiction of what it means to pursue dreams in the midst of an alienating, almost hostile environment. In a world where survival precludes all else, this show reminds us of the beauty of dreams and the transformative power that they hold. It was only 5 episodes short, but boy did it contain a lot of feels. Final Rating – 8.5/10
#2 – 91 Days
I don’t know what to say. To be honest, I was half convincing myself to drop this show mid-season since it was feeling a little draggy, but the latter episodes really started to get things rolling, and the final episode was just so beautifully executed. Revenge stories are always destined to end in tragedy, but the brilliant use of mirrored scenes in the last episode that contrasts to earlier scenes just makes the whole production seem well-thought. I won’t spoil it for you here, but if you ever dropped 91 Days because you thought it was just a run-off-the-mill gangster revenge flick, think again. This was a brilliant show – one I don’t think I’ll be forgetting any time soon. Final Rating – 8.5/10
#1 – ReLIFE
To be honest, I’m not a RomCom fan, but boy did ReLIFE make a believer out of me. There’s a very mature nuance that permeates this show, bringing about a very acute introspection into the nature of self-loathing and depression and how it creates fear and aversion towards risk. Arata’s journey back to adolescence homes in on the root of such fears as he mirrors his experiences with a socially inept Honoka. And even when romance filters in to the picture, it’s depicted with a strained nuance that does little to pander to hopeless romantics – which I think is a good thing. This show feels more like it’s out there to teach a lesson rather than give us some good feels. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this is probably one of a few RomCom’s I’d recommend outside of ToraDora and Oregairu, and is this season’s top show! Final Rating – 9/10
So it appears the shows this season did better than expected, but only to the extent that you actually stick with them till the end. I’m one of those guys who tries to do that, so if you ever dropped any of these shows because of a lackluster mid-season, then by all means try and give them a second chance. You might actually just come to enjoy them.
Macross Delta and Re:Zero also finished this season, and both were somewhat “okay”. The former pretty much stepped off stage without much incident while the latter kinda blew up like the fourth of July – which is a good thing.
So yeah, next season is coming up. I only have five shows on my list, so I don’t think I’m going to be doing a season preview. To be honest, the next season looks a little dull save for a handful of sequels. There’s also the prospect of watching Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no Na Wa this November, so I’m pretty psyched for that. Expect me to write something up about that.