Winter 2018 Season Wrap: After the Rain, March Comes in Like a Lion, Marchen Madchen, & Overlord II

These series brought me so much sadness and joy this season, most from excellent writing and one from an ending no creator ever wants to see.

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

After the Rain

I can finally say that I very much like After the Rain now that I’ve seen it through to the end along with Akira and Kondo. My biggest fear, the fruition of a romantic relationship, never came to pass. Instead, they helped one another make it to the next step towards their own respective futures.

Before I get too into the meat of the story and characters, I do want to underline just how pretty this show is from start to finish. I was initially bothered by Akira’s large eyes, but quickly came around. The cliche phrase, “eyes are the window to the soul,” applies in this situation. Her eyes betrayed her emotions as well as reflected our own. Then there was the rain motif that draped over everything in the anime from the series title, to the episode titles, and on to every emotional high and low. I know Japan has a unique appreciation of rain I don’t usually see here in the West, but I felt like I could understand just a little of why they feature it so often in their works of art thanks to this anime.

As for the characters themselves, they turned out much more nuanced than I originally expected, particularly Kondo. Akira’s past with running came up quickly in the story, so it was inevitable that she would confront her former passion once again before the end of the season. Kondo‘s love for literature also popped up shortly after his introduction, which added to the melancholy tone. When we learned about his attempt to succeed as a novelist, his current career seemed all the sadder. The way he used past tense to discuss writing, his memories of his younger self when looking at Akira, the public knowledge of his divorce—they all pointed to a man whose dreams had shattered. I related to him more than I wanted to admit. I could understand his desire for Akira to socialize with people her age, to try once more to run. I also understood the temptation to give in to her affections. The end result was better than I could have asked for.

Rating: 2 dango

March Comes in Like a Lion

Yet again we have an anime in this season review I’m loathe to see finish. March Comes in Like a Lion was reliable these past seasons; I knew I could always depend on the show to bring a certain quality of writing and character to the table. That is not to say that it was perfect, or without need for improvement, but it still set the bar extremely high over and over again.

There was always more than one story in March Comes in Like a Lion, a show that treasured all of its characters no matter how seemingly minor to the main narrative. It’s not often I can count on a series to succeed in both side stories and the overarching one. Every one of the cast members were important to me, their words worth hearing. Notable favorites from this past winter included Hina’s trials at school, Nikaidou’s love for shogi against all odds, and Yanagihara’s impressive run as a professional player. On their own, they already enthralled me with their feelings. Connected to Rei as they were, their “endings” only made me love them and their relationships with one another even more.

On the screen, this anime looked as beautiful as its writing. I’m so, so glad SHAFT handled the show, and did so with a deft touch I often crave in some of their other more bombastic works. If a continuation is ever brought back to the screen, I hope they will again take up the helm, and that all of our characters are happier than we left them.

Rating: 2 dango

Märchen Mädchen

I’ll lead my review of Märchen Mädchen with the warning that this series has not yet finished, and maybe never will. It was originally scheduled for a single cours, but due to production and likely other unknown issues, the series stopped after ten episodes. There was no graceful close, just an abrupt end to a still ongoing conflict. Tragedy wasn’t new to the work, whose original creator for the light novels died before it was completed. A manga adaptation by others followed the next year. Now this anime will live with the regretful end note of cancellation.

At the start of the winter, I was hopeful that Märchen Mädchen would be a sleeper hit. The first episode alone was enough to excite me about the direction we might take. Another world where girls bond with our stories and take on powers to protect us from darkness? I was game. I can think of plenty of my own favorite books whose protagonists I would love to embody as magical abilities. The visuals and writing weren’t too bad, either. I laughed often, particularly in the battle with the Russian School.

Speaking about battles, the original intent for the books and their Users was to combat a greater evil. Once the show went down the route of an international tournament between schools with the pretense of saving the world, my interest began to wane. The tension dissipated. Then came episode nine, “Companions on a Journey, and Whimsical Traps.” The stilted script and poor art and animation felt like the result of a completely different series. I was almost relieved that the original writer wasn’t alive to see what his work had become.

If the remaining two episodes ever do air, I will watch them through to the end. I would like to see the result of the competition. That, or I’ll just read the light novels, which sounds like a better plan.

Rating: 0 dango

Overlord II

I’ve watched both seasons of Overlord now, and still cannot put my finger on what it is about this world that pulls be back each time. While the first season had a more unified front, this sequel jumped around from setting to setting, introducing us to new characters and motivations. Sometimes, I started to wonder if we would ever seen Ainz Oowl Gown again, or if we’d stick with the lizards forever. Of course, everything was connected, most of it tangled in a thread spun by Momonga and his followers. I delighted in the depth of their deception, and at other times begrudged them their meddling in characters whose lives I’d rather see free.

If you watched season one and were confused by the first half of season two and the lizard tribes, rest assured that the original cast did return. I’m not fully on board with the way the arc was handled, since it took me a bit to get used to not seeing any of the main characters. By the time I felt genuine affection for the lizards, Ainz Oowl Gown returned, and not as kindly as I had hoped. Of course they’re not the good guys, and of course they have a reputation to uphold. I just wish they could have gained the loyalties of the lizards in a way that prevented any bloodshed.

Then there was Sebas and his guise as a human. I enjoyed watching him interact with other humans and reveal his strong sense of honor and duty. How much of it was programming and how much was genuine after the birth of this world is impossible to say. I just hope that he’s grown a real sense of caring for life that Momonga and the rest of the guild still lack.

The anime may have ended, but the story is far from over. I’m hoping we will again receive another season so we can see where the many open paths from this winter go.

Rating: 1 dango

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7 thoughts on “Winter 2018 Season Wrap: After the Rain, March Comes in Like a Lion, Marchen Madchen, & Overlord II

  1. Honestly, I was on the verge of dropping Mädchen anyhow when the break hit… It wasn’t about the animation problems – but pacing and the increasingly rudderless storyline.

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    • The storyline definitely took a nosedive for me with the start of Hexennacht. I don’t have any strong feelings about tournaments in anime–if done well, they can reveal more depth of character. You see hints of that here with Hazuki’s character, but not much else.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I also stopped watching it in the first “battle” of the Hexennacht. It was ok when it was about Shizuka and Hazuki and the others, but battle tournament shows just really lose interest for me, mostly because they think that their battles are interesting enough, and they’re just not. Most of the time, it seems like tournament shows go to that because they have no other ideas, and try to fudge in some “character development” through “Now you and her fight.” And then this one layered the production issues, which were obvious even before the stop, on top of battles that just didn’t come up anywhere near acceptable in their plotting and blocking. It just stopped being interesting.

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      • For me, the pacing problems pretty much started in the first ep. They took 3-4 eps (IIRC) to establish Hazuki’s place in the magical world and her relationship with Shizuka, etc…

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  2. With After the Rain, I’m in the huge minority in that I don’t think that a long term relationship between Akira and Kondou is by definition a horrible thing, the position most people appear to have taken on the show from the beginning. The circumstances could have been bad, and I wouldn’t have liked that, but I think too many people just assume that there could never be an appropriate relationship from those starting circumstances, and I’ll disagree with that. But I also thought it would be rare if the show went that way from the very beginning, because it was using Akira’s crush on Kondou as something different than the start of a romance plot.

    But besides all that, I thought the show was a really good watch, with two people trying to find their self-worth when the thing they’d loved to do has betrayed them. Seeing Akira and Kondou just at different places on that path of moving away and then back toward the things they loved, with Akira showing the “distancing yourself through doubts and fear of failing” that we infer Kondou went through in years past, and then seeing him with the rediscovering of his enjoyment in writing, as we can imagine Akira might if she embraces running again after the show ends. It really helped to think of it as a demonstration of “everyone’s the main character in their own life”, I think, seeing that window into two people’s lives.

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    • Well, there’s the power imbalance between the two of them, as well as the gulf of life experiences. I don’t think a successful relationship between the two of them from this point is impossible, but I would consider it extremely selfish on his part. My 18-year-old self is almost unrecognizable from how I am now, my values and goals. If, however, she left for some number of years to see the world and better understand the kind of person she wants to be and still cares for him, then I’d encourage their relationship.

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