Spring 2018 Season Wrap: Hisone and Maso-tan, Umamusume, Food Wars! The Third Plate, & DARLING in the FRANXX

Don’t judge me; this has been a very busy year so far! I finished these shows quite a while go, but never got around to reviewing them thanks to the bulk of new summer shows and a whole lot of real life stuff. But here I am now, and only one series short of my expected spring season wrap. Tokyo Ghoul:re will have to wait for a rainy day.

As much as I enjoyed all of these shows to varying degrees—they were all interesting, never boring—I felt only one of them truly pushed past mediocrity into leaving a lasting impression.

*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.

DRAGON PILOT -Hisone & Maso-tan-

This time around, we start with the best: Dragon Pilot -Hisone & Maso-tan-. This show leaped out like a kid at a surprise birthday party, full of excitement and color. I knew very little about the premise other than it being an anime-original story featuring dragons [cosplaying] as fighter jets. I’m still not sure where their inspiration came from, but I’m grateful to have been a part of it. The art, animation, and music all came together to provide a reliable and delightful canvas for the storytelling. As a notorious skipper of opening and ending credits, this was one ending theme I watched every single time without fail, dancing and singing along as well I could to the lilting French lyrics.

I found myself fascinated by the notion of these girls becoming pilots not due to skill or any other visible attribute. The explanation given to us is one of loneliness—each one of these girls is innocent, as heroines in anime usually are, as well as lacking something within. That something or, more specifically, that nothing is where the dragon comes in. Dragons have always had this reputation of greed, a need to horde as much as possible whether or not they can make use of any of their wealth. That concept is displayed here to a small extent, with the dragons choosing their pilots as the perfect receptacles of their love and devotion. The girls, in turn, can place their trust in a partner who will never betray their feelings as long as they remain true.

Sometimes playful, at other times uncomfortably patriarchal, and always spinning on its toes, Dragon Pilot always knew how to keep me at attention. I will miss Hisone’s penchant for licking Maso-tan’s nose, his little yodel of pleasure, and even Nao’s grumpy face.

Rating: 2 dango

(Available on Netflix)

Umamusume: Pretty Derby

I have a confession: I used to be a bit of a horse girl: reading fictional series about them, going to horse riding camp, and, yes, dreaming of one day owning a horse of my own. But that day never came to pass, and I haven’t ridden a horse since my early teens. What better way to revisit that passion than to get together with a bunch of anthropomorphic horse girls for a journey to becoming Japan’s number one? Anime has already proven many times over it can make just about anything entertaining, and Umamusume adds to that long tradition with spunk.

The great thing about this anime is that it brings together many different styles into a story that works well. We have a high school setting, sports template, and even a dose of idol visuals (this I could have done without). Another fun fact is that the characters are based off of real racing horses in history, and some of the journeys in the anime reflect those in reality. Herein also lies the show’s weakness: while there isn’t anything the show does bad, there also isn’t anything it does better than anyone else. Nothing but the horse girls themselves are memorable; they’re novel, but not that novel given we have plenty of other examples of cute girls coming from other monsters or objects. In the end, Umamusume will please you for a short while, but won’t top anyone’s list for best of the season, or even within its own genres.

Rating: 0 dango

(Available on Crunchyroll/VRV)

Food Wars! The Third Plate: Totsuki Train Arc

Another season down, another season of Food Wars! completed! As the title states, this “fourth season” is really a continuation of The Third Plate, part of which aired as a separate series the previous year. Despite the break, Totsuki Train Arc still feels like a direct continuation of the third season, starting with the big reveal about Souma’s father. Now with Erina and her father in the know, the show finally feels like it’s heading in a direction more meaningful than the standard throw down between students. There’s a whole ideology of cuisine at stake here, which we saw a glimmer of with Erina’s character from the very beginning of this journey. We see where her beliefs began, and then even further to where her father’s ideal grew into conviction. As usual, everything begins and ends with Souma and his father.

If your main complaint with the past seasons was the invincibility of Souma and his friends, then you’ll be happy to hear that this is not the case with the Totsuki arc. They lose, and lose again, and expulsion is a real threat by the time the final arc plays out. While I’m not too worried about the crew fighting for their place, it was refreshing to see them hit a wall for once.

Probably my favorite part about this arc was the focus on Saiba, not only as a father, but as a student chef during his Totsuki days. He felt less like an unreachable ideal and more like a legend in the making. So much of his character feels familiar thanks to his son, but there’s plenty more there that sets him apart as his own memorable character. Unlike Souma, Saiba shoulders a reputation both gold and frightening. Everyone looks to him to push cuisine’s boundaries, no matter how wonderful the present. For more on my thoughts on this topic, check out my OWLS post on the theme of mentorship.

Rating: 0 dango

(Available on Crunchyroll/VRV)

DARLING in the FRANXX

If you were to try and tell me the course this show would take at the beginning of the season, I would have scoffed. Not only did the hype of the studio and staff predict this would be another darling of anime fans, so did the artwork and other promotional material. DARLING was likened to Neon Genesis Evangelion, which just by itself was already a heavy burden to carry.

Instead of the groundbreaking story we expected, we received a barely disguised warning of a future suffering from the liberal ideals of the past. The search for better health and longevity turned into a selfish platform for immortality. Independence of the individual, regardless of sex and gender, resulted in isolation and the loss of fertility. The hunt for a renewable energy source sucked the planet dry of its lifeblood and protectors. It was difficult to watch DARLING in the FRANXX and not draw comparisons to the current sociopolitical climate: the progress we’ve made thus far, and the emotions and beliefs asking us to hold back. So many of the problems present in this fictional world are the results of exaggerated interpretations and bogeyman scare tactics.

Yet as objectionable as I found the content of this show, I could not help but feel for the characters whose circumstances are not fault of their own. They are a product of the generations before them and the corrupt officials in power. They don’t know any better, being birds in a cage. As we watch them grapple with their changing bodies and beliefs, you can’t help but want to see them push past their boundaries. Unfortunately, too many of the characters are never given the chance to pursue their own happiness, like Ikuno and Futoshi. Even Mitsuru’s situation feels synthetic, rewritten in such a way to allow for Kokoro’s entrance and their later pairing.

Despite all my complaints, I don’t regret watching this show. It may have been memorable in some of the worst ways, but I still feel like I made a journey with its characters and survived to face better days.

Rating: 0 dango

(Available on Crunchyroll/VRV)

 

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