Winter 2018 Set Menu

Winter season is finally here and I’m sorry to say that, contrary to my expectations a couple months ago, my watch list is once again far too big. There were the predictable few I knew would catch my interest, and then there were the unknowns, the shows that caught me from the first week and convinced me to stick it out for the long run. Hit the jump to see which shows I’ll be following in the coming months (hint: they involve a lot of warm layers)!


Beatless

It’s too early to tell whether this show will pass inspection, but just the one episode interested me enough to keep it around for at least a couple more episodes. Beatless takes place in a future where A.I. has advanced to the point of androids called “hIE” looking almost exactly like humans. Publicly, hIE are hire-for-help: business workers, or aids for the sick and elderly. Everything from their physical appearance to their speech and mannerisms yells human, but people in this world seemingly have no problem differentiating androids from humans.

The first episode, “Contract,” quickly establishes a different series of hIE, ones that think and act independently. These models escape from their facility and not only evade capture, but actively attack their pursuers. Any sympathy I might have for the androids pauses when one of them manipulates a civilian hIE and an empty car to attack the main character. Whether or not this was intentional, there remains the fact that the one who caused the incident failed to protect a human life that was in danger.

The sudden appearance of Lacia, or “005,” happens much like expected—she shows up and saves the day right when Arato is about to bite it. And, just as predictably, she requests his ownership and goes home with him for some comedy skits with his little sister. This was my least liked part of the episode, though I did approve of Lacia quickly reminding Arato that her personality is nothing but programming. Any human feelings he projects onto her are nothing but his own interpretation. I’ll be curious to learn the intentions of the other escaped hIE and how Arato will factor into their story.

Correction after Episode 2: Beatless has jumped far, far down my list and may get dropped if it does more of what it did here. The entire episode was spent following Lacia around for a modeling gig meant to show viewers the powerful effects of analog hacking. It really just felt like a convenient reason to change Lacia’s outfits and ignore all the other characters around her as panning stills.

Watch on Amazon Prime Video.

Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card

Ever since Anime Expo 2017, I’ve been hyped about the new anime in the Cardcaptor Sakura franchise. I read the first manga volume as soon as it was released, and have been pining away for the next one which won’t be until next month. I find it odd that the manga and anime are happening at the same time, but it does give us the unique experience of comparing the two in real time.

If you haven’t seen the original series, then you should avoid Clear Card and go watch Cardcaptor Sakura first. Even after a re-watch, I still love the original and wholeheartedly recommend it. I am, however, hoping that Clear Card does away with the teacher-student/adult-child pairings. As much as I loved Rika’s character, I hated the romance between her and Terada-sensei. In no way, shape, or form was that acceptable. Then the original threw in a couple more similar relationships, and each time felt as creepy as the first. There’s no sign of that happening in Clear Card so far, other than the brief glance at Eriol and Kaho, and I’m expecting it to stay that way.

The return to Tomoeda and the Kinomoto household brings back with it all my feelings of delight and hope. Once again, Sakura is tasked with capturing a whole new set of cards, which seem to be blank versions of her previous set. Why this is happening all over again and why the people who should know won’t explain anything to Sakura are the obvious questions. For now, I’ll enjoy as much Tomoyo as I can get!

Watch on Crunchyroll.

citrus

Citrus was close to getting chopped from my list after a couple controversial scenes in the first episode, but scraped by after I gave it another week. If you aren’t familiar with the work, then know that Citrus is a yuri manga adaptation that includes multiple cases of sexual assault in just the first couple of anime episodes. These scenes didn’t progress beyond groping, a restrained kiss, and a stripped-off shirt, but they still left me feeling extremely uncomfortable.

The upside is that as voyeuristic as the scenes are, these characters show no pleasure in the act. They look miserable. Instead of arousal, there’s a distinct sense of emptiness in their approach. My hope is that as we go further into this story, Yuzu and Mei will come to a better understanding of the meanings and implications of intimacy. This looks like it will require some healing on Mei’s part, thanks to the toxic family environment we’ve witnessed so far.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Dagashi Kashi Season 2

Dagashi Kashi is a unique series in that few people went into the first season with the correct expectations. I saw several instances of viewers looking at the artwork and expecting a lot more focus on Hotaru and her antics with the rest of the characters. This isn’t completely incorrect, as she’s a constant presence, but the stars of this show are the snacks they eat. Savory, sweet, old-fashioned, and bizarre, Japanese snacks of every type imaginable are consumed by Kokonotsu, Hotaru, and Saya. Season two starts off in the same vein at half the previous episode length.

I thoroughly enjoy learning about different dagashi, just like I enjoy watching food documentaries on Netflix. It’s fascinating seeing where our food comes from, how they move from creator to consumer. The comedic tone of Dagashi Kashi also hits all the right notes for me, with puns and body language galore. My biggest concern right now is figuring out where I can find the Peperoncino snack Saya eats when I visit Japan this April. Is it something easily found at a convenience store? Do I need to go to a specialty snack store? Someone tell me!

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Darling in the FranXX

There was little doubt in my mind that I would be watching Darling in the FranXX. Everything from the involved studios to the promotional artwork had me convinced that I would love this anime. And after seeing the first episode, that conviction still holds firm. Darling is the only mecha show on my schedule this season, and it fills that emptiness to the brim with its intriguing setting. As individual parts, this show isn’t original. Describing it might sound like a mash-up of beloved works. But packaged together, Darling looks promising.

Of particular note is the character of 002, also known as “Zero Two.” Her appearance already sits her apart from the older child pilots; her red-rimmed eyes and horns give away her klaxosaur blood, the very same race of beasts that threatens human survival. Her infamous consummation of her partners only serves to cement her legend among the other pilots. I can’t wait to see how she will fit in, and whether or not we’ll meet others like her.

Zero Two’s partner, 016 (a.k.a. Hiro), fills the predictable role of protagonist with his gifted abilities and tragedy. Of course he’d feel just as isolated as she. Of course the two of them would be thrown together by circumstance. And of course they would prove to be compatible. Hopefully Hiro will develop into a more interesting character as the series progresses—that is, if Zero Two doesn’t gobble him up first.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Gakuen Babysitters

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again: babies scare me. I have little desire to have any of my own, and more often than not consider them a burden and liability. But! There are those rare few, the kids who make me laugh and worry and wonder if my convictions against them are wrong. My cousin’s kids are an example of this: they’re scary smart, asking questions about everything all the time, and they’re also respectful thanks to their careful parenting. These days I’m not so wary of children, and even smile sometimes when I see them.

When Gakuen Babysitters was announced, I actually found myself interested, excited even. A Babysitting Club inevitably reminds me of the book series I read growing up, only this one consists mainly of male students. The protagonist, Ryuichi, ends up caring for his baby brother after their parents pass away in a plane crash. With Ryu still in high school and Kotaro still an infant, a woman’s offer to take them in is their best option for survival. The catch, though, is that he’ll have to serve as the school’s babysitter as a member of the Babysitter Club. The daycare allows the school’s teachers to work as mothers and teachers, and gives Ryu and Ko the environment they need to heal and move on.

As dramatic as this all sounds, this is actually a pretty funny show. Much of the episodes are spent in the daycare, where the children differ greatly in personality and act convincingly their ages. Silly and surprisingly heartwarming, Gakuen Babysitters is a solid yes on my watch list.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

I’m always glad to have some crime and action on my seasonal schedule, and it looks like Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens may check both boxes. This stylistic show features many different characters with overlapping stories in an urban style reminiscent of Durarara!! and Gangsta. Most everyone is either a criminal or law enforcement, and the vast majority of them are assassins who might even kill one of their own. For now, all these open threads are fun to see and imagine how they might interact. I just hope the writing can keep up with everyone and give us a coherent and cohesive story.

One especially interesting character is Xianming Ling, a young man who likes to dress as a school girl and works as a killer-for-hire. All too often, cross dressing is used for comedic effect in anime. I would like it if Xianming’s wardrobe and character were taken seriously and meaningfully instead of displayed as the creator’s fetish or to make a joke. We already have too many other instances of that.

Also, what’s up with the title? I know I’m not the only one asking this and that this anime comes from a light novel. I wonder if the original work explains the title and how it pertains to these characters. Are the people of Hakata all chopped up pigs, fried up and served to the highest bidder?

Watch on Crunchyroll.

IDOLiSH7

I didn’t even know until I looked it up that Idolish7 hails from a 2015 rhythm game, which is fine by me since the anime’s opening episodes performed better than a lot of others of its genre. When it comes to idol anime, I often find myself staring at a buffet of singers meant to excite and entice. All too often, these cookie cutter characters fail to capture my interest. Either they feel like plastic, copies of the most popular physical characteristics, or they sound shallow, cheap imitations of what I consider good music.

While I’m not yet convinced of the musicality of Idolish7, I do like where we’ve started character-wise. Yes, all seven singers get thrown at us from the beginning, but their introduction and initiation into the group fits the setting. This isn’t a high school, or a well established idol company. What we have is a small, family-run agency and a group of idols scouted off screen and ready to make their debut. Much like The Idolmaster Side M, Idolish7 starts running early on, promising to fill us in on the members’ background later. Their fight to make themselves known, and the agency’s investment on their first and only group, establishes a easy direction for the series.

Then there’s the group’s biggest competition, a three-man group called Trigger. It’s obvious the two groups will clash eventually. I look forward to seeing how the already famous Trigger, with their professionalism and confidence, will fare against the raw and untested Idolish7.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san

I promise I’m not a bully, nor do I tease people…that often. But there’s an undeniable charm in Takagi-san, a girl who delights in turning around her classmate’s weak attempts at trickery. Both comedy and romance, Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san gives us students Takagi and Nishikata. Their back and forth teasing always results in Takagi’s win, with Nishikata either catching the teacher’s blame, or cracking under pressure into laughter or embarrassment.

As much as I enjoyed the first episode, I do wonder whether this show will be able to maintain its energy through the full season. I can see the style of humor getting old fast. Perhaps this will turn more into a romance as Nishikata realizes the affectionate tone to their interactions. Or, perhaps he’ll improve in his attacks and turn the tables on Takagi. I’ll stick around for now to find out.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni

Numerous alarms went off in my head while watching the first episode of After the Rain. This beautifully drawn show presents a love story between a high school girl and the 40-year-old manager of the cafe where they both work. Boiled down to the basics like that, it sounds sketchy. Even seeing the angle the opening episode takes, I still don’t like the idea of it. But I’m hoping that I’ll be proven wrong with a story more exploratory than a girl and man falling in love and ending up together.

The show starts off on the right foot with its visuals, boasting a smooth and saturated palette easy on the eyes. I’m not as thrilled with the character designs–Akira Tachibana’s neck is reminiscent of the overdone necks in Welcome to the Ballroom. Her eyes are overly large in an extreme almond shape, but I think I’ll like her eyes the more I see them. They easily express her emotions during silent scenes. I’m also a fan of restaurant settings in anime, since they allow us to not only get to see our characters in action with each other, but we also see how they interact with customers of all types. The reactions of a couple of young men make it immediately apparent that Akira is as pretty as she is gentle.

From what I’ve seen so far of her manager, Masami Kondo, he’s quick to appease coworkers and customers alike. He’s the type of person you might hear called a “doormat,” someone who allows others to walk all over him. While I don’t have a particular dislike of people like this, I don’t see anything attractive in the characteristic. I’d like to see Masami grow in self-confidence and know when to say “no”. It’s not uncommon for young girls to look up to older guys, and as weak as his character is, perhaps his initial kindness was all it took to capture her interest. I’m inclined to think her inexperience and naivety don’t know any better; perhaps she isn’t thinking about the implications and consequences of a relationship between a high school girl and someone old enough to be her father. If Masami is as decent as a person as I think he is, he’ll avoid taking advantage of her. I’m also fine with an open ending where he encourages her to go out and experience the world first.

Watch on Amazon Prime Video.

Kokkoku

Kokkoku was yet another anime this season that seemed to come out of nowhere. I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to seeing the first episode, and I was immediately turned off by the visuals and music in the opening credits. Despite this, I found myself intrigued by the setting and mechanics, and I’ll be sticking around for now to see where the initial conflict takes us.

Right from the start, it’s clear that the world in Kokkoku is far different than our own. We see strange apparitions interacting with the human world in a moment of stopped time. We also meet a young woman struggling to get a job so she can support her family. It’s later revealed that Juri’s family holds a secret to time; when her brother and nephew are abducted, Juri, her father, and her grandfather freeze time to go rescue them. But they’re not the only ones who can move through Stasis, nor was the abduction coincidental.

This frozen world and the people who manipulate it are interesting enough in themselves, but there’s also the added presence of a higher power. “Handler” or “Herald,” the entity punishes anyone who breaks the rules of Stasis. This means those with the power to move through time have a strong reason to not injure or kill those who are Stalled, one of the known rules. The Handler looks like the stuff of nightmares, a tree-like form without a face capable of descending anywhere. I want to know more about it, and about Juri’s family. How did they inherit their key to Stasis? Are there other bloodlines involved?

Watch on Amazon Prime Video.

Märchen Mädchen

If it weren’t for the books in this show, I probably would have skipped over Märchen Mädchen. I’ve seen so many isekai series in the past few years that I’ve stopped being intrigued by that premise. But! This series brings with it a protagonist suffering from what she dubs “Story Syndrome.” This really just means that Hazuki reads books to escape from anything stressful. Unfortunately, this includes talking to people. When we meet Hazuki, she has no friends and no interests other than reading. An encounter with a hooded figure draws her into another world, one where certain books choose their users and bestow magic upon them. In Hazuki’s case, the book is Cinderella, one of the most powerful Originals.

This isekai-turned-battle show looks promising in its angle; I’m excited to see just what kind of magic Cinderella will create. Maybe she’ll instantly change the clothes of her opponent? Or perhaps turn them into a horse or a carriage? One thing I do want to warn viewers of, however, is that Märchen Mädchen has strong yuri elements. Kuzunoha Magic Academy is an all girls school, and our protagonist already has a crush on one of her classmates. In the first episode alone, we see Hazuki stripped of her clothing with nothing but her book for protection.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Miira no Kaikata

Steel yourself from cavities, because How to Keep a Mummy will assault you with cuteness, sweetness, and everything light. At a glance, this anime doesn’t look like much. The title itself betrays the topic of this show: caring for a mummy. But what a mummy it is! Instead of the human-sized mummy grimy and decrepit from age, we have instead a perfectly white mummy no bigger than your hand. Sent to our protagonist in a deceptively large casket, “Mii-kun” will squeeze your heart and bring out the nurturing side you never knew you had.

I do wonder how long this show will maintain my interest over the full season with its full-length episodes. I’m inclined to prefer this kind of anime in short format, but I’m hopeful the cuteness will just keep on coming and entertaining.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Mitsuboshi Colors

When I think of my childhood, I recall lawless days roaming the neighborhood on bikes, swinging from tire trees in the nearby woods, and of knocking on doors offering to wash a car or rake a yard for money. I’d spend my summers almost entirely outside away from my parents’ eyes or any other adult supervision. These days, it seems like helicopter parenting abounds. “Safety first” trumps adventure, and any children seem walking around on their own usually are called in to the police.

Cue Mitsuboshi Colors, an anime that brings me back to my childhood and makes me laugh almost every minute. Colors introduces us to a trio of girls of unknown age who hang out in their fort and run around Tokyo. They talk and play in familiar, nostalgic ways, and love to torment the nearby police officer, Saito. He, in turn, takes pleasure in turning the tables on them whenever possible. There are times when I wince and wonder when the adults are going to show up and reprimand them. I fume at Saito sending Sat-chan and Kotoha off on an adventure unattended. Then I remember how often I did stupid stuff on my own, and how the resulting encounters and mistakes served as my teachers.

Do I condone letting kids run wild? Not really. Not unless these same children have a home environment where they can learn how to act around other people, the basic human principles they need to respect. If that foundation is strong, then I support their independence. I can’t wait to see what other craziness these kids get themselves into.

Watch on HIDIVE.

Overlord II

Let the lizard romance commence!

Seriously. We’re back for a second season of Overlord, and the first two episodes have largely been spent with lizard people. Perhaps I’ve forgotten too much from the first series, but I’m struggling to remember how these lizard tribes fit into Momonga’s plans. What I do remember is the strong likelihood of another former player like Momonga stuck in the same world with access to similar benefits.

But back to the lizards. If I treat them like their own story, they’re actually really interesting. We enter in from the Green Claw tribe, with Zaryusu as the main point of contact. The tribe find itself confronted by an malevolent force; they can either stay and fight, or try to run. With only eight days to choose, Zaryusu sets off to bring together the five tribes that not too long ago went to war with one another. His first visit is with the Red Eyes Tribe, and it’s here where we meet Crusch, an albino lizard with the gift of magic. Their meeting was easily one of the most endearing romantic encounters of the season to date, involving involuntary mating noises and thumping tails. I may want to know where the hell Momonga is and what he’s up to, but I’m also now fully invested in these lizards and their fight to survive.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san

Ramen has a long history and is widespread not only in Japan, but also across the world, and it’s no surprise that there are entire works based on the dish. Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen tells it like it is: each week, we follow Koizumi-san from ramen to ramen of different styles and locations. From a mountains of sprouts, to pineapple, and onto Carbonera, ramen of every imaginable kind is served up for Koizumi’s pleasure and our suffering. I dream of a day where we have televisions like in Wonka’s factory that allow us to reach into the screen and obtain reality. After seeing Koizumi and Misa eat spicy ramen together, I ate instant Korean ramen topped with cheese for my lunch. Suffice it to say, I am thoroughly enjoying the journey of ramen in this anime.

There is a catch. My biggest annoyance with the show is its main character, Yuu. Or is the main character Koizumi-san? Yuu harbors a scary obsession with Koizumi, repeatedly begging for her friendship despite numerous rejections. I’m more inclined to see Yuu as a stalker than as anything else. Also take into account that the star of this show is the ramen—not Yuu, not Koizumi-san—the ramen. Koizumi has proven herself thus far completely flat. She shows zero interest in friendships with other people, or with anything in life other than eating ramen. If character development is a must for you or you’re not that interested in food, then you probably won’t enjoy this anime.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Ryuuou no Oshigoto!

Pairing shogi with lolis, The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! sits in a precarious spot on my watch list. I was inclined to drop it after the first episode, but the second kept me reeled in to see if this show can improve. Just on the topic alone, shogi is enough to catch my interest. Series like Shion no Ou and the currently airing March Comes in Like a Lion go above their game aspect by including fantastic writing with complex characters. This show doesn’t look to be reaching to such heights.

Instead, Ryuuou no Oshigoto! follows 16-years-old Yaichi Kuzuryu—the youngest holder of his prestigious title as Ryuo—and his encounter with 9-years-old Ai. Her uncanny ability to read ahead in a match and act accordingly shocks and excites him. He agrees to take her on as his first disciple, one who looks up to him and may one day surpass him.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound too bad, right? Unfortunately, the first episode paints their encounter in the typical loli romcom way, complete with spousal humor and a fresh-out-of-the-bath clash. Ai’s obsession with Yaichi as a shogi master is in itself understandable, but the romantic angle disturbs me. If this show can turn away from this type of comedy and focus more on their growth as shogi players and their rival encounters, it’ll be much better for it.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Sanrio Danshi

Everyone knows Sanrio, and if they don’t know the brand by that name, they at least know Hello Kitty, the first and most popular Sanrio character. Sanrio Boys brings together cute boys with cute things and product advertisement, and does so in a way that I find completely acceptable. While I can see the way this anime successfully pushes Sanrio products like My Melody and Pompompurin, the brand doesn’t take over the heart of the story.

Sanrio Danshi starts off with Kota Hasegawa, a high school boy too embarrassed to admit his knowledge of and affection for Pompompurin, Sanrio’s golden retriever. His memories of the mascot are inextricably tied up with his deceased grandmother, and the story we see about her rivals the opening segment in the Pixar film Up. His memory of her and of the general outlook on Sanrio characters as appropriate only for children, specifically girls, prevents Kota from expressing himself. When he meets others who are able to openly show their love for My Melody and Hello Kitty, he is able to face his past. I’m excited this anime confronts gender stereotypes and how they are formed even from a very young age.

As a personal aside, I grew up a fan of Bad Badtz-Maru, the angry-looking penguin who I later found was one of the few mascots geared towards both girls and boys. Nowadays, I’m more fond of Pompompurin and his endearing love for pudding.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Slow Start

The yuri is strong with this one, and if that bothers you, then steer clear. I’m sure this joke has been made plenty of times before, but Slow Start does exactly what its title suggests and starts us off easy in the first episode. We meet Hana Ichinose, a girl both scared and excited to attend her first year of high school. We later find out her tension springs from the year-long break she took between middle school and high school, one forced upon her when she caught the mumps. Separated from her former friends, older than her classmates, and weaker than before, Hana would rather stay at home than face  embarrassment.

Cue Eiko, Kamuri, and Tamate, three girls who quickly befriend Hana. While I found their fast friendship more than a little suspicious at the start, that’s frequently how these type of anime go. Cute girls need to get to doing cute things if they’re going to snag the audience. I realize that’s an excuse, but sometimes I’m willing to let go if I like the characters enough.

Then came the second episode, and with it, a river of lewd jokes and suggestive pairings. Hana and Tama are re-imagined as the KanaeTamae comedy duo, and Eiko repeatedly cares for Kamuri like a proud parent. They refer to homemade soup as a sibling’s discharge, and tease Hana for the lunches made by her landlady cousin. As calm as I found the first episode, I was equally slapped across the face with the second. I was horrified, then shocked, then found myself laughing. Here’s hoping for a continuation of this downpour.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho

A Place Further Than the Universe is without a doubt one of my most highly anticipated series of the season. I didn’t know anything about it going into the first episode, which was the first to air this winter, and just that experience alone was enough to re-ignite my hope for the next few months. Visuals, setting, characters, story—this show has it all. If you only have time for a single show this winter, then make it this one.

The goal for our girls is simple: go to Antarctica. But this is about more than just the destination. As almost all good stories are, this is about the journey. We start out with Mari Tamaki, a high school student representative of so many kids her age. She wants to enjoy life, but is too afraid to step outside of her comfort zone. Then she meets Shirase Kobuchizawa, a girl with a singular mission to go to Antarctica and find her mother. They form an unlikely friendship and go about realizing their dream.

A Twitter friend pointed out that going to Antarctica isn’t as impossible these days as the anime makes it out to be. I, however, am inclined to think the general audience doesn’t view the continent as a viable travel destination. When we think of adventure, we might consider Iceland, or Malaysia, or Ghana. We think of places with other human beings, historical buildings that teach us about culture and the past. Antarctica certainly has a fascinating history, but the average human being isn’t going to go there for vacation. I love that this show sets the continent as our goal, a real place so close yet so far.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Takunomi

My second short of the season, Takunomi details the lives of four young women who live together and enjoy drinking. Twelve minutes is the perfect amount of time to sit down and share a glass of beer with these ladies. I’ve only seen one episode, but I had fun learning about Yebisu Beer, which is an authentic Premium beer by Sapporo. Since I’ll be going to Japan in the spring, you can bet I’ll be taking notes on the different types of alcoholic beverages I should try while I’m there.

If you don’t like shows mostly about food and drink, then know that alcohol is Takunomi’s main topic. Viewers will probably also feel like they’re watching a commercial due to the show’s blatant product advertisement.

Watch on HIDIVE.

Toji no Miko

I’m a little embarrassed to include this show on my winter watch list, but I have a hard time saying no to cute girls with swords. These ones in particular show off a variety of sword arts; whether any of them are real or not, I’ll leave to others to explain.

The “Toji,” or katana maidens, attend school and learn their art under the supervision of the government. While we see them fight tournament-style in the main part of the first episode, the opening minutes show us real enemies. The amorphous “aradama” are still an unknown. What they want, and why they kill humans has yet to be explained. All we know is that the katana maidens are tasked with growing strong enough to defeat them.

The conflict that brings together our main character, Eto Kanami, and her would-be rival, Jujo Hiyori, is an interesting one that throws into disarray everything we learned at the start of the show. I assume we will somehow return to the school setting since it’s too early in the season for a major showdown, but I’ve been wrong plenty of times before. They may continue to stay on the run together and tease viewers with hopes of a romance.

Watch on Crunchyroll.

Violet Evergarden

At long last, the darling of the winter season (or is that another show?) is here, one that has been hyped up to crazy heights ever since its premiere last summer. I missed out on Violet Evergarden’s screening at AX, but I remember the line leading up to the hall, and all the discussion afterward. Their praise lined up with the official trailer I later saw, one that boasted impressive animation with Kyoto Animation’s tell tale visual style. This was the show to watch. This was the one.

Well, it’s here, and it’s certainly worth your attention. But Violet Evergarden is not my favorite of the winter by a long shot. Those honors go to two other shows grounded in our own backyard.

Visually, the anime gets 5 stars. If you loved the art in Tamako Love Story, Sound! Euphonium, and A Silent Voice, then you’ll probably love the look of Violet Evergarden. There are some impressive time lapses, that familiar depth of field (warranting its own dispute among photographers), and a wonderful attention to detail for the Victorian-esque setting. I’m a fan.

Then there’s the protagonist, the namesake of this show, who suffers a painful past as a child of war, a weapon with no definition of love. There are so many angles the show could take on her fractured memories as a soldier, but the opening episodes have instead focused on her integration into the CH Postal Company. That gorgeous shot in the trailer of Violet’s machine hands pressing on a typewriter comes to life. We see her stoic way of speaking and looking at life clash with her coworkers. Their roles as Auto Memory Dolls, letter writers for hire, eclipse Violet’s past.

Perhaps we will get more insight into how she came to be a soldier at such a young age, and why she lacks human emotion. An anime highlighting PTSD’s effects would be exceptional in a show of this scale. For now, I’ll enjoy the visual rollercoaster and hope for some substance in story and character development.

Watch on Netflix.

Yuru Camp

If you made it this far, then congratulations! You’ve made it to the end, where we have one of the best series of the season. Laid-Back Camp is right up there with A Place Further than the Universe as my most anticipated series each week. The two share a wonderful hunger for the outdoors, showcasing real places in our own world.

Yuru Camp starts off with Rin Shima, a girl who loves camping and doesn’t hesitate to do so solo. Her quiet nature and solitary trips might seem an odd choice for the opening to an anime, but rest assured that she more than makes up for any low expectations. Rin’s adoration for nature comes out in everything she does, her preparedness for the task, her knowledge of the area, the look on her face as she takes in a view of Mt. Fuji. Reading a book and listening to music bring on a whole new level of pleasure with the mountains as our setting. There’s no watching this show without feeling an urge to go out camping yourself.

Nadeshiko Kagamihara—excitable, clumsy, and voracious of appetite—stumbles across Rin on one of her solo trips. Their shared moment of enjoyment for the view and a meal of instant curry ramen awakens a desire Nadeshiko hadn’t known before. The moment she attends her new school, she hunts down the Outdoor Activities Circle in order to plan more moments like the one spent with Rin. We meet two other girls who, along with one of Rin’s friends and Nadeshiko, make up the girls from the opening credits of the series.

I can’t wait to see what other places these girls will take us, the destinations I’ll add to my bucket list of hikes and views. There’s no one else I’d rather spend our time with; Rin is easily the most charming character this season with her head of hair piled high into a bun, her array of shawls to keep her warm in the off season, and her silent interaction with Mother Nature. Then there’s Nadeshiko with that infectious smile and way of eating that has me wishing she had her own food anime. I want to get to know them and go on trips together. I just bought new waterproof hiking boots the other day, and a decent tent and sleeping bag are next on my list. Adventure, here I come!

Watch on Crunchyroll.


Ongoing

  • 3-gatsu no Lion (Watch on Crunchyroll)
  • Boruto – Naruto Next Generations (Watch on Crunchyroll)
  • Garo – Vanishing Line (Watch on Crunchyroll)
  • Mahoutsukai no Yome (Watch on Crunchyroll)

Backlogged

  • Fate/Extra Last Encore (Streaming Platform TBA)
  • Yowamushi Pedal – Glory Line (Watch on Crunchyroll)
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6 thoughts on “Winter 2018 Set Menu

  1. Yorimoi is far and away the best show I’ve seen so far this season. A compelling story, great writing, great direction, fun animation, and terrific acting. Getting established talent VAs can bring up a poor show (see almost every Project No. 9 anime), but it can elevate a good show to excellence. And I just love the tone of the story. Their trip is important, but it’s not elevated to life or death or anything similarly overwrought. The attitudes of the characters work well, and I love in episode three that they deny being best friends, just friendly people who are together for a goal. It’s realistic and still aspirational.

    Slow Start I like, but found the reasoning for the main character’s slow start to be really ridiculous. There’s no makeups? No hardship protocol? No transfers? No any recourse besides “Sorry you have to wait until next year.” Seems like a trying too hard setup. The characters also totally remind me of Girls und Panzer, which isn’t bad, but is kinda funny because I can’t really find any commonality that would make them look that similar.

    YuruCamp is really nice, not much else to say about it. citrus I kind of wish would get somewhere, but that’s the nature of angst yuri (which I like, but hate, but like).

    The thing I like most about Mitsubratty Colors is that the kids are just brats. And not just to the police guy, they are to everyone. They aren’t bad kids, just kinda bratty. It’s nice and refreshing.

    Most of the other shows are kinda just all in the same level. Teasing Takagi-san I’m worried about them trying to stretch it out so much. The manga is a nice snappy thing with good timing, but the anime seems to be trying to do too much with it and fill time with Nishikata fretting. Plus, I just don’t like the choice of Yuki Kaji for Nishikata at all.

    Takunomi definitely feels like a commercial. They need to cut down on the name-dropping a lot (but then, it really IS a commercial, so I doubt they will).

    MiniMoeMummy, Babysitters, Sanrio Boys, Hakumei and Mikochi, Marchen Maedchen, Ramen Koizumi-san, Toji no Miko, Ryuuou, Dagashi Kashi, KoiAme, they’re all in my list, but none is really elevating itself. Some I’m not sure if I’ll continue, like Beatless and Death March Isekai (which I can’t help thinking is like Haruto from ImoSae’s books and anime). DarlingFRANXX might be ok, if it keeps on the good (Kiznaiver / LWA) side of Trigger and doesn’t go to the crap / garbage (Kill la Kill, Inferno Cop, or anything directed by Amemiya / Imaishi) side.

    Hopefully more stuff gets better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The understanding the girls of YoriMoi share about a common goal rather than an overly quick and shallow idea of friendship is really important. This is a common start to relationships that all too often gets overlooked in writing. While I do expect them to eventually become close friends, for now, the destination is what brings them together first and foremost. It’ll be interesting to see how Megumi fits into Mari’s life as she becomes more focused on Antarctica.

      I’m with you on Slow Start. I was appalled that the school didn’t offer a makeup exam. I’ve never experienced this kind of obstacle to school or known any friends who have, so the whole situation seems unfair. The closest thing I can think of is a friend going on a year-long exchange program and coming back a year behind everyone. She cried through our entire high school graduation.

      Mitsuboshi Colors reminds me so much of The Little Rascals and Ichigo Marshmallow. They get up to no good, but it’s entertaining because of how real their interactions with one another and other adults and kids are. It takes time to learn the social norms and rules, so of course children won’t get it right from the beginning.

      Since I’m not familiar with many VAs, I didn’t even realize that Takagi’s voice actor was a male, not that that bother me. I can see how the voice might sound too…adult? Mature? What is it about his voice that doesn’t fit the character for you?

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      • It’s Nishikata’s VA that I don’t like. Yuki Kaji is really famous for a lot of shows, and to me especially High School DxD (which I enjoy, because I actually do like the character arc of his character). But more than that, he’s 1) very distinctive and 2) kinda overused, although male VA’s tend to feel overused. Especially with his surprised / tricked voice, which is kind of his trademark (earlier in his career he tended to play . It takes me out of the show a bit more than I want.

        Takagi’s VA Rie Takahashi is someone that I really like, and I think she does a fine job.

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        • Whoops, I got Takagi and Nishikata mixed up in my mind, as silly as that sounds. I like it most when this series opts for no dialogue, with just their facial expressions and body language to give away their feelings.

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  2. Have a free moment here this evening and thought I would chime in. ^^

    One series I was surprised but not surprised to see mentioned is actually my fave series of the early part of the season, and one that might surprise you: Hakumei to Mikochi. It is a really, really well done adaptation of what I find to be a very interesting manga, but one that is interesting because of who the unexpected MC of the series is. No spoilers, but I really enjoy the manga, and was delighted to see it getting what I feel to have been an excellent adaptation thus far. Other top series of the season for me would include Mitsuboshi Colors (again, a very spot-on adaptation of the source manga so far), and Yuru Camp (which has a lovely ED to boot – always nice to see) Gakuen Babysitters is also just place warm hearted normality of the best sort and a good adaptation as well. These four are my most anticipated “top level” new series of the season. (Mahoutsukai no Yome and Sangatsu no Lion are understood shoe-ins for me.)

    The next level down is fairly extensive, and of pretty solid and enjoyable series: Sakura Clear-Card Hen (another good adaptation of the source manga); Kokkoku is a pretty interesting story premise – gotta admit, and the first few eps have been interesting; Dagashi Kashi s2 (different from s1, which I enjoyed quite a bit btw, but s2 is still good); Takagi-san (which is working for me quite nicely) and “The South Pole Girls” is a pleasant surprise. When I first heard of the series I was … skeptical, but it has actually done a good job for me thus far. The MiniMummy series is also a surprise … I tried the source manga and it did not really grab me, but the anime so far is … well, it is kinda working, but feels … sort of like waking up and discovering one has two left hands and not being quite sure what to think about it. It’s not “bad” per se, it’s just … I have no “folder” to put the series in yet and am both puzzled and giggling at myself whether I will find ever one.

    After that are series I am following and am still puzzling over or not as engaged in but still enjoying to a degree … the “on the fence” series:Violet Evergarden; Slow Start; Overlord 2 (and I like Lizard Men – liked them all the way back from the early 80’s in fact – long story … if anyone remembers Phoebus and/or Dunwater then props to them). Grancrest, Death March and Beatless are all … sorta just okay so far. Still trying to sort them out.

    As for series that did not work out of the gate that you mentioned … After the Rain, Citrus, Ramen Girl I knew of the source material before the adaptation and … none of them clicked with me. Toji no Miko for me was totally unremarkable as were Ryuu Oshigoto, Tonkatsu Ramens, Marchen Madchen AND Darling in the Franxx (well, mecha is a very hard sell for me almost no matter what the form, as you know).

    I am still waiting on the next season of PreCure: Huggto. KiraKira Patissiere was a HUGE, HUGE disappointment for me – a lot of potential and ideas that could have worked in the hands of competent writers, but so much of the series felt terribly sloppy and even written on the fly. Maybe even the lowest rank PreCure series ever for me. A pity after coming off of two strong series in Princess and Mahoutsukai too … hopefully Huggto will be back good things. ^^

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy to hear from you! And of course glad to see you’re still watching a bit of anime. Since you recommend it, I will go ahead and try out Hakumei to Mikochi. The art style in the promo didn’t really appeal to me, but I should honestly know better than to skip a work based on that. I’ll let you know what I think!

      I was disappointed with Violet Evergarden at the start, but I’ve started to warm to it more, particularly after this week’s episode with her the story of her classmate’s brother. I’m hoping that direction will continue to work on Violet’s own trauma and feelings.

      I’ll go ahead and admit that I have zero experience with PreCure. Every time I see artwork for it, I lose all motivation to get into what seems like a work aimed at a much younger audience. Any recommendations for where a complete newbie to PreCure should start?

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