Winter 2018 Season Wrap: Violet Evergarden, Dagashi Kashi 2, Kokkoku, IDOLiSH7

We’ve finally made it to the end of my Winter 2018 Season Wrap—many thanks to those of you who stuck with me until now. I hope I didn’t save the worst for last! And if you just now jumped in, make sure to go back and check out my short reviews of other winter shows. I look forward to our discussion in the comments!

*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.

Violet Evergarden

I came to the train late on this show, missing out on the premiere at Anime Expo the year prior, then forgetting about it until recently. Blame that on my dislike of lines or on the fact that Netflix holds only the U.S. back from weekly releases, but I’ll consider it a blessing in a way. I noticed fairly soon after the first couple of episodes officially aired some viewers felt disappointed. Their expectations ran much higher than reality, and some dropped the show, unwilling to see where it would all lead. While certain aspects of the story frustrated me—like the deception about Gilbert’s fate—I still think of Violet Evergarden as a beautiful study of humans and their capacity to love.

At the start of the season, Violet is still unable to express her feelings to both herself and others. Her past as a child soldier and confusion about the fate of her superior officer hold her back from approaching civilian life head on. She continually looks for the one person she could trust, and aims to understand the last words he spoke to her. Each episode tells a new story. As she improves as a Doll and encounters more people, the more human she seems. And as is the nature of episodic anime, some arcs are stronger than others,  making it easy to pick out favorites.

One particular experience that jumps out to me is episode ten, “A Loved One Will Always Watch Over You.” By this point, Violet is already well known as a skilled Doll. She perceives others as clearly as she now knows herself. We watch her write several letters with her customer, a dying mother. It’s easy to guess the recipient of those letters, but knowing doesn’t make the ending sequence of scenes any less powerful.

On a completely different note, I was fascinated with the way Violet used her brooch as a bolo tie. Her style of wearing it around a scarf turned the Western look into a more delicate, Victorian approach. This show and Magus Bride sent me down a rabbit hole to figure out the history and origin of bolo ties.

Rating: 2 dango

Dagashi Kashi 2

Very few, if any, of my peers seemed to watch Dagashi Kashi this season. This might be because the prequel turned many people off with its constant discussion about Japanese snacks (never mind the title), especially since they were often seen through a historical lens. It wasn’t enough to see Hotaru lose her mind over ramune; she then proceeded to explain the beauty of its form and conception. I found all of it fascinating. It felt like my podcast preferences had found their way to anime.

Season two, in turn, looked to address issues of pacing and content. Neither felt like a problem to me, but I kept watching in hopes of seeing Hotaru once more. The episode length was chopped in half, and less time was spent on discussing dagashi history. Instead, we watched Kokonotsu agonize about never seeing Hotaru again, gaped at the new convenience store across the street, stood in disbelief as he hired a woman I wouldn’t trust to keep a cactus alive, and despaired at the thought of Kokonotsu succeeding as a mangaka and leaving Shikada Dagashi for good. As entertaining as they all turned out to be, I still missed the original antics. As if to answer Kokonotsu’s wishes, as well as my own, the ending reunited everyone—albeit not without a bit of teasing. There’s room for yet another season, but manga readers will have to tell me whether or not there’s enough manga material to cover.

Rating: 0 dango

Kokkoku

My last complete series of the winter season, Kokkoku surprised me with its originality and tension.The anime knew just where to drop us at the end of each episode to make me hungry for the next, and thankfully since I waited until all the episodes were out I was able to do exactly that. Kokkoku lends itself easily to marathoning, and might have been a good addition to the standard Netflix formula if not for Amazon Video.

While there are plenty of time travel stories out there, I can’t name any that focus primarily on frozen time. Called “Stasis” in this world, the Yukawa family shares a special relationship with its existence. This makes them the victim of those seeking to exploit Stasis under the guise of saving the world. Once time stands still in the first episode, we spend the rest of the season in that same space, learning along with the rest of the characters about the rules and exceptions of a world similar yet foreign from our own.

Among the many mysteries of Stasis are the “Heralds” who patrol unseen until they sense murderous intent towards a frozen human, called “Stalled.” They respond immediately and without mercy. If you die in Stasis, there’s no going back to the regular flow of time. Then there are the superhuman abilities gained by a select few. At first it seems like only those from the Yukawa family are gifted, but this is eventually proven false. Teleportation, expulsion, summons—the powers are random and hard to understand, much less control. All of these unknowns build stress upon stress; I often found myself yelling at the screen.

One complaint I do have is with the resolution, which connected immediately to a scene from the beginning. While it was fun to finally understand the why, it still felt like a Deus ex Machina. I wanted to see Juri figure out a path on her own. Not only is she saved, but we also get a handy explanation for her family’s involvement.

Rating: 1 dango

IDOLiSH7 (still airing, 1-month delay for last 2 eps.)

Yes, you see correctly. IDOLiSH7 isn’t actually finished yet; there are two more episodes to go, but they’ve been delayed a full month for unknown reasons. The show does have an awkward number of episodes for a single cours: seventeen. Regardless, the delay doesn’t seem to have had a negative effect on the structure and quality of the narrative. I found IDOLiSH7 to be one of the most likable and nuanced idol anime to date.

It’s almost immediately apparent that the male idols are more than their pretty faces and public personalities. They display weaknesses of body and character, and go through much more trial than I’m used to seeing in anime of this genre. Take, for example, Mitsuki. There’s no denying his lack of talent compared to the rest of the group, particularly his younger brother, Iori. He himself considers his acceptance into the group as part and parcel with his brother. Despite this, he works harder and dreams higher than the others. He still isn’t the favorite of most fans. But it’s clear to the viewers, his group, and those who hired him that he has more than just talent. He’s a light for the others to follow with his cheerful attitude and motivation.

When the final two episodes do come out in May, I’ll be there cheering along with IDOLiSH7 fans and hoping they make it past all the drama and setbacks. I’ll also edit the rating in this post accordingly. I’ve got the spring anime season to get to! Also note that there’s a spin-off YouTube Original series called IDOLiSH Vibrato slotted for 17 episodes. Although they’re each only 14 minutes long, the first episode is already available.

Rating: TBD

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2 thoughts on “Winter 2018 Season Wrap: Violet Evergarden, Dagashi Kashi 2, Kokkoku, IDOLiSH7

  1. It was a bit tough for me to get over the jarring art style in dagashi, however I found myself enjoying it. Best line though: “a woman I wouldn’t trust to keep my cactus alive”.

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