Can anyone even think of another spring season in recent memory as strong as this one? Spring 2018 will likely be a season to remember for years to come as providing a strong line-up of originals and continuations, and that’s even after a winter season almost as golden in content.
Today, we start with three endearing anime with a knack for combining comedy and drama. Buckle up—this is only the beginning of a long run of reviews!
- 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.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
There was an unbelievable amount of hype among fans of the original Cardcaptor Sakura series when the sequel, Clear Card, was announced. I, along with many others at Anime Expo last year cheered as we watched the trailer reuniting Sakura and Syaoran. Getting to also read a bit ahead with the release of the first volume of the manga was also a treat. Now Clear Card is finished, and I have so many more questions than at the start of the year. The show ended in the perfect spot for a sequel, yet one has not been announced thus far.
Clear Card brought us a Sakura much like before, but while Sakura herself is just as sweet and caring as always, she’s stronger and more confident in her actions. We see this in her apprehension of the new cards, and in the reactions of her friends around her. She’s grown, as have her powers, and now she must confront those changes before they spiral out of control. I was suspicious from the start about the origin of these new clear cards, and the explanation behind their transformation makes complete sense. As formulaic as these card scenes were, they also felt necessary.
The competing conflict surrounding Akiho and her butler, Yuna D. Kaito, however, was woefully underdeveloped. I don’t fault them as characters; they just didn’t have enough time. Clear Card needs another season to fully pursue their involvement with Sakura, as well as her own struggles as a powerful magician. We’ve started out on a strong foot with the familiar; it’s time now to push on to more daring paths.
Rating: 1 dango
There’s no question among long-time readers of my love for ARIA, the older sibling to Amanchu! and my favorite franchise of all time. Amanchu!’s first season didn’t resonate as strongly with me, as much as I liked the characters and setting. They were good, but not very memorable. Now the second season is finished, and my opinion has taken a complete 180 with the anime up there among my favorites of the year.
A big part of what catapulted Advance up the rankings was its more artistic approach to storytelling. Instead of the more straightforward layout of its prequel, we were treated to dreamscapes and alternate dimensions. I was reminded of ARIA the Natural’s supernatural episodes—it also wasn’t until ARIA’s second season when I realized I had fallen head over heels for Neo Venezia and Aria Company. Here, again, we meet Cait Sith in water-covered streets. We also witness Teko lucidly dream of flying through the sky on a broom not once, but multiple times. These overtly fantastical scenes make the “normal” scenarios underwater seem more magical and otherworldly.
I highly encourage those of you who watched the first season and thought it too bland to continue on to the second to give Advance a try. I have a feeling you’ll fall for it just like I did. Teko’s growth as a character, as well as the additional scenes with cast members old and new, had me imagining them as dear friends. I very much hope we’ll receive a third season, especially now that the Diving Club has new members!
Rating: 2 dango
There’s little question Hinamatsuri deserves best comedy of the year, and already stands up there among the giants of the genre with the likes of Nichijou and Daily Lives of High School Boys. The premise of a yakuza member and a telekinetic child sounds so outlandish, yet everything about the characters and writing slides effortlessly from one scene to the next. The cast members, no matter how brief their appearances, are memorable in their individual quirks. The jokes—often terrible, frequently borderline—hit you hard enough in the stomach to have you reeling for days. I still can’t get over Hitomi’s bar encounter with her teacher and classmates. I still can’t get the image of Nitta stuck in a barrel and praised by his fellow yakuza members out of my mind.
And if you think this show excels only at comedy, you are in for a lovely surprise. Hinamatsuri proves it also knows how to write drama. Anzu’s time with the homeless community was one of the most explicit and nuanced storytellings I’ve seen in anime or other media in recent memory. It’s not often a show geared perfectly for comedy can also render me to tears and conviction.
Then there’s Mao, pictured below, who only featured in three out of twelve episodes, two of which were short sections preluding or concluding half the full time. Only one week fully focused on her character, but it was enough to flesh her out as her own personality and made me want to see more. If we do ever receive the gift of a sequel, she better become a main character! Please, please watch Hinamatsuri if you passed on it this season.
Rating: 3 dango