Loading...

Follow The Josei Next Door on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

Throwing back the curtains on a bright new season.

I didn’t write any premiere reviews for AniFem this season, so I thought it’d be fun to pop in here real quick and offer folks some bite-sized first impressions. It’s a relatively light season, but its standouts sure do shine. So let’s dive right in, shall we?

Locked In
  • Fruits Basket: The Furuba manga wasn’t as formative for me as it was a lot of folks, but I do have a lot of fondness for it and am excited to see how they handle a full adaptation. While I’m already bracing myself for the conversations surrounding its more troubling elements (mostly age-gap relationships and crummy gender politics—the manga did begin running in the late ’90s, after all), it’s still an emotionally sincere story about self-worth, trauma, and healing that I think is worth the telling. Caveats notwithstanding, I look forward to it emotionally wrecking me in a new medium.
  • SARAZANMAI: Director Ikuhara (of Utena, Penguindrum, and Yurikuma fame) is back and I could not be more hype. This premiere slams on the gas from the first minute and never lets up. It is buck -freaking-wild, packed with rapid-fire imagery and thematic breadcrumbs about consumerism, human connection, queer identities… and, of course, butts. Butts for days. I spent most of the premiere delightedly applauding the sheer, unbridled brazenness of it all. I have no idea if Ikuhara can weave all these ambitious threads together into a satisfying whole, but I’m stoked to watch him try.
Guaranthreed
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: Next to Sarazanmai, this was the most technically impressive show of the season, full of gorgeous wintry cinematography and beautifully staged fight scenes. Its focus on family and empathy sunk its hooks into me as much as its historical-fantasy premise did. This premiere very much had the feel of a prologue, so it could lose me once we get into the actual meat of the story, but right now I’m here for this kindhearted protagonist and his demonic little sister.
  • Fairy gone: Oof, they sure did cram a lot of world-building into this first episode. Fortunately for them, that world is thoroughly My Jam. Urban early-1900s fantasy featuring two female leads on opposite sides of a criminal underworld? GIMME. It’ll need to spend the next couple episodes endearing me to its cast and expanding upon its central story, but I’m more than willing to give it time to do so.
  • Hitoribocchi no Marumaruseikatsu: This school story about a socially anxious girl trying to make friends was surprisingly sweet (and, at times, delightfully on-point). If the premiere is any indication, it’s also geared more towards a preteen audience, meaning you could enjoy it with your younger relatives if you wanted. I’m not sure its gentle comedy can hold my attention for a full season, but it’s got me for a trio of episodes at least.
  • ROBIHACHI: Maybe the most straightforward fun I had all premiere season, Robihachi‘s art is bright, its pace energetic, and its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek. The two leads will need to be fleshed out in the coming weeks to make this odd-couple space comedy fly (and it could really stand to have some actual female characters instead of a string of 2-D con artists), but I’m here to be entertained for as long as they can keep me. Besides, there’s a 1000% Done Robot Rabbit Butler (robbitler?) in it. That alone would keep me coming back for more.
On the Fence
  • Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life: A series about a koto club is right up my alley, but the premiere rushes us through a bunch of character backstory and doesn’t take the time to earn its emotional beats. It has a good heart, so I’ll probably give it one more to see if it can slow down and even out, but no promises past that.
  • Mix: A competent premiere that neither hooked me nor drove me away. It’s fairly light on conflict or concrete story beats, but given that it’s adapted from a baseball manga by Mitsuru Adachi, “slow burn” is kinda the name of the game here. Adachi’s Cross Game built into a fantastic character-driven sports series, so he’s earned at least one more episode from me. We’ll see how it goes.
Donezo
  • AFTERLOST: A neat SF idea that collapses under washed-out art and wooden dialogue. The last five minutes are a kind of frenetic, so-bad-it’s-good explosion of plot points and Quality! production values, but everything leading up to it is a snooze fest. Bummer.
  • Cinderella Nine: I’ve never had a costume decision ruin a show for me before, but boy howdy those baseball skirts (SKIRTS! to play! BASEBALL!) took me right out of this one and I never recovered. I don’t want to come down too hard on it (fellow AniFem staffer Caitlin quite liked it), but as a former softball player I just… can’t, y’all. I’m sorry. I just can’t.
  • Midnight occult civil servants: I have a fairly low bar for urban fantasy series, so it’s pretty damning that Midnight occult couldn’t clear it. There were a few moments where it nearly entered the realm of “glorious trash” (those CG angels flapping across the sky, muah), but flat storyboards and a cliche one-off conflict left me more bored than anything. If I hear folks hollering about it, I could be convinced to return, but I’ve got Bungo Stray Dogs for my paranormal pretty-boy fix this season, so I’m prob’ly good out here.
Sequels and Carryovers

Bungo Stray Dogs is the only  one. (Igarashi and Ikuhara directing in the same season, oh what a time to be alive!) The only other eligible series would have been One Punch Man, but I was fairly lukewarm on the first season (outside of that phenomenal premiere) and have even less interest if it’s not going to feature the same all-star animation team. I might try it if I hear good things, but it’s not on my watchlist at the moment.

If you thought some off-the-cuff first impressions were worth a hoot, you should see what my colleagues and contributors can do. Help support them by becoming an AniFem patron today!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The lovely, charming origin story.

The Team Rocket trio have never been your typical villains. With a tenacity only matched by their incompetence, an enduring love for one another, a closet full of exquisite crossplay, and enough puns to sink the St. Anne, they’re about as charming as “bad guys” can get.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that their special backstory episode defies as many conventions as they do, taking the classic team origin story and turning familiar gendered archetypes cleverly on their heads.

Click here for the full article on Anime Feminist!

Want to see more articles like this one? Please consider becoming an AniFem patron for as little as $1 a month to support both me and my fellow writers!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The kids are (probably gonna be) all right.

The Escaflowne Rewatchalong comes to its plot-packed conclusion! Revelations are had, families are reunited, and we can finally, finally, talk about Dilandau.

Click here to view the show notes and download the SoundCloud file, or find it on iTunes and Stitcher by searching for “Chatty AF.”

If you like the dishes AniFem is serving up, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The weather outside may be frightful, but some of these winter anime are pretty darn delightful.

While I left the premiere reviews to my capable teammates this season, I did join for the three-episode check-in post. From time-traveling mediums to teen disasters to furocious kittens, it may be a messy season but it sure ain’t a boring one.

Click here for the full post on AniFem!

If you like the dishes AniFem is serving up, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Everything happens so very, very much.

We’re back with more Escaflowne chatter! With dream ghosts, cat twins, and literal fanfic machines, it’s the show’s wildest stretch to date—and that is saying something.

Click here to view the show notes and download the SoundCloud file, or find it on iTunes and Stitcher by searching for “Chatty AF.”

If you like the dishes AniFem is serving up, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The Josei Next Door by Josei Next Door - 3M ago

Hang on to your hats, it’s an action-packed ride.

Caitlin, Peter, and I look back on the Fall 2018 season! We touch on the licensed shows we watched this Fall, including sequels, shorts, and a few Netflix latecomers of note. A busy season calls for a busy podcast—and plenty of spirited debates.

Click here to view the show notes and download the SoundCloud file, or find it on iTunes and Stitcher by searching for “Chatty AF.”

If you like the dishes AniFem is serving up, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Leave it to the last season of 2018 to keep us on our toes.

The Fall went and dropped a variety of colorful anime into our laps, with plenty of surprises along the way! I recommend a show nobody even knew I was watching, eat delicious crow over Bloom Into You, and find another excuse to shout about puppets.

Click here for the AniFem recommendations for Fall 2018! 

If you like the dishes AniFem is serving up, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The lovely, charming podcasters!

Amelia, Caitlin, Peter, Vrai, and I got together to answering questions from readers and talk about our recent fundraising efforts. Please enjoy our grumbles about how inaccessible academic writing is, our excitement about returning contributors, and our recent decision to make Team Rocket the site ambassadors. Oh yes. I have that in writing, folks.

Click here to view the show notes and download the SoundCloud file, or find it on iTunes and Stitcher by searching for “Chatty AF.”

If you like the dishes AniFem is serving up, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month!

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Gather ’round for a flock of faves!

Did you miss out on Part 1? Fear not! You can click here for the bottom half of the Top 10, including honorable mentions. Or, if you’re ready to check out the cream of the crop, hit the jump and read on for more.

The Rankings

As a reminder, all seasons that ended in 2018 are eligible for this list, including sequels, even if they began their run in 2017 or earlier. Ongoing series (like Run with the Wind) will be eligible in 2019.

So here we go, my five top (read: favorite) shows of the year! Drums rolled? Fingers crossed? Angry comments about the series I didn’t include typed and at the ready? Perfect. Let’s do this thing.

5. Sirius the Jaeger

Series Episode Count: 12
Studio
: P.A. Works
Season Director: Masahiro Ando

In a Sentence: When supernatural hunter Yuliy Jirov travels with his team to track down a murderous vampire in 1930s Tokyo, it sends him on a collision course with his past and the brother he’d long thought dead.
Content Warning: Violence (some graphic); depictions of genocide and slavery; some revealing costumes (though the camera doesn’t leer)

It’s been a week since I finished Sirius the Jaeger and I already want to rewatch it. I also can’t seem to stop thinking about it. That one-two punch is the reason it squeaked into my Top 5—while I enjoyed some shows more and others provoked deeper analysis, few did both with as much flair as this one.

This series is three things rolled into 12 episodes. First, it’s campy paranormal pulp, with thrilling fights, endearing heroes, chortling villains, and a treasure hunt-style plot that feels right out of an Indiana Jones flick. Second, it’s a heartfelt family tale of orphaned brothers torn apart, trying to save each other despite the powerful forces against them. And third, it’s a period piece about the lone survivor(s) of an indigenous tribe fighting back and finding a way forward.

Sirius uses its supernatural metaphors to bluntly reject imperialism and xenophobia, ideologies that were on the rise in its 1930s setting and are all-too-relevant today. Better still, it does so in a way that both pushes for different communities to find common ground and acknowledges that sometimes you have to stab the shit out of a few slave-owning supremacists before you can get there. I wouldn’t say its metaphors are ironclad or wholly successful (and it’s not my place to make that claim anyway), but I personally found it pretty darn satisfying.

Is it messy, simplistic, and overly idealistic? Hell, yes. Does its supporting cast deserve more screen time, especially its very cool female characters who are ultimately sidelined so the wolf brothers can take center stage? Absolutely. Do its silly supernatural elements distract too much from the story it really wants to tell? Maybe so.

Sirius is by no means a perfect anime, and its semi-open ending suggests the creators were either hoping for a sequel or weren’t quite sure how to see their ideals realized (especially for a story set on the eve of WWII). But it’s also wildly entertaining, desperately earnest, and taking a clear stand at a time when we need it. Flaws and all, I still think that’s worth a lot.

Sirius the Jaeger is streaming on Netflix. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

4. Revue Starlight

Series Episode Count: 12
Studio
: Kinema Citrus
Season Director: Furukawa Tomohiro

In a Sentence: Karen Aijo, a student at Seisho Music Academy, finds herself diving into a surreal world of musical battles where she and her fellow students duke it out to determine which of them will be the school’s next “top star.”
Content Warning: Theatrical violence

The Revue Starlight premiere flew out of nowhere to gobsmack me with gorgeous cinematography, surreal staging, and beautifully animated Takarazuka-inspired musical battles. While the series as a whole has a few hiccups—the cast was a few members too large for a single-cour series, creating some truncated arcs during the middle act—it’s still a standout lady-led anime, and one of those shows I’ve come to appreciate more over time.

In addition to being an all-around terrific production (every battle is a visual feast), Starlight also offers two layers of narrative for its audience. On one level, it’s a fantastical story of rivalries and relationships between talented, driven female performers. This includes queer romances both implicit and explicit, as well as a central love story that builds in appropriately epic fashion, given the anime’s musical roots.

On another level, Starlight is an exploration and critique of some of the practices of the Takarazuka Revue, particularly the narrowly defined concept of a single, masculine-performing (otokoyaku) “top star.” I highly recommend reading along with Atelier Emily’s weekly writeups as you watch this one, as they provide a lot of valuable information about the Takarazuka theatre and how Starlight interacts with it.

Because of its short length and somewhat clipped pacing, Starlight works best if you’re willing to give in to its musical bombast, allowing choreography and songs to sweep you along in a rush of grand archetypal characters, conflicts, and emotions. If you can’t, this one will likely leave you cold. But if you can, Starlight will prove an ambitious, stylish, and even moving experience well worth your time.

Revue Starlight is streaming on HiDIVE and VRV. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

3. Laid-Back Camp

Season Episode Count: 12 (Season 2 coming soon)
Studio
: C-Station
Season Director: Kyougoku Yoshiaki

In a Sentence: Transfer student Nadeshiko learns the joys of camping after she meets solo camper Rin, leading her to join the Outdoor Club and grow closer with her fellow classmates.
Content Warning: Mild nudity (not sexualized)

When I reviewed the Laid-Back Camp premiere, I described it as “the anime equivalent of sipping tea under a fuzzy blanket. It cured my headache and dropped my blood pressure 10 points. I wouldn’t be surprised if my doctor starts prescribing it to me.” That first impression held true for the entire series, developing into the year’s best comfort food.

While Laid-Back Camp is first-and-foremost an iyashikei (healing/soothing) series, it’s also a delightfully off-beat comedy, featuring a cast of girls whose good-natured teasing feels natural instead of mean-spirited or cloying.  It’s a “cute girls do cute things” show, to be sure, but one that doesn’t fall into the trap of fetishizing or infantilizing its characters. In fact, it actively promotes independence and adventure, depicting its female cast striking out into nature both individually and as a group.

This is the pinnacle of  the Nice Comedy, right up there with personal darling Tanaka-kun is Always Listless. Fortunately I’m not the only one who thinks so, as Laid-Back Camp has earned itself a second season. I can’t wait to cuddle up with it for another cour.

Laid-Back Camp is streaming on Crunchyroll and VRV. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

2. Bloom Into You

Series Episode Count: 12
Studio
: TROYCA
Season Director: Kato Makoto

In a Sentence: Feeling isolated from her peers because she’s never felt “love” the way everyone else does, Yuu thinks she’s found a kindred spirit in upperclassmate Touko—at least, until Touko confesses that she’s falling in love with Yuu.
Content Warning: Mild sexual content; depictions of homophobia

Real talk, dear readers: I was totally lukewarm on Bloom Into You at the three-episode mark. I only stuck with it because nobody else on AniFem was watching it and it felt like a show we should be following. Thank goodness for occupational obligations, because holy cow did this build into an impressive series.

Strikingly storyboarded and gracefully narrated, Bloom Into You follows its cast of queer teens as they grapple with their sexualities, identities, and shifting relationships with one another. It would be notable for that alone, but Bloom also directly engages with cultural norms, acknowledging harmful “just a phase” ideology and actively rejecting it by including a healthy adult lesbian couple. Much like Yuu’s relationship with Touko, each week I fell for this series a little more.

If there’s one caveat I need to mention here, it’s that there’s a fine line in stories about teenagers between “late-bloomer/repressed” and”ace/aro,” and while Bloom initially feels like the latter, it eventually turns into the former.  It wound up not bothering me because (1) the series does a fantastic job depicting Yuu’s arc and (2) there’s a supporting character who actually is ace/aro, so it’s not “erasure” so much as “showing a variety of experiences.” That said, I know there are folks who’ve felt hurt by that shift, so it’s worth mentioning for incoming viewers.

If you go in knowing what to expect, though, Bloom Into You is an exquisitely directed, beautifully animated slow-burn yuri romance that engages with queerness in a way that’s sometimes devastating, often comforting, and always thoughtful. Even if you’re hesitant at first, I urge you to give it a try. Your patience will be well-rewarded.

Bloom Into You is streaming on HiDIVE and VRV. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

1. A Place Further than the Universe

Series Episode Count: 13
Studio
: MADHOUSE
Season Director: Ishizuka Atsuko

In a Sentence: Four teens with very different goals make it their mission to travel to Antarctica, spurred on by one girl’s desire to find her missing mother.
Content Warning: Bereavement; an isolated joke about a parent threatening to hit their child; mild nudity (bathing scenes; not sexualized); discussions of bullying (not shown)

What is it about the Winter season constantly providing the best anime of the year? You’d think they’d wanna build up to it ‘stead of spending the rest of the year futilely trying to match it…

Anyway, A Place Further than the Universe is making everybody’s “best of” lists, even publications that barely know anime exists, and I’m more than happy to jump on that bandwagon. Expressively animated and skillfully written, Place Further weaves together four separate coming-of-age stories into one travelogue that packs a heck of an emotional wallop. I think I laughed out loud and teared up at basically every episode.

Similar to Laid-Back Camp, this is a series wearing the veneer of a “cute girl” show that’s not about typically “cute” qualities. These gals are messy, goofy, brash, and blunt, and much of the series is devoted to nudging them towards independence and self-actualization. Through a production that relies on dynamic character animation and spoken dialogue, they feel realer and more fleshed-out than most characters who get whole scenes dedicated to their internal monologues.

One-part adventure story, one-part character drama, Place Further is a triumph of visual storytelling, sincere and heartbreaking and hopeful in equal turns. It’s the kind of series I’d happily show to just about anyone, even people who have no interest in anime. Keep your eyes on director Atsuko Ishizuka, folks—I have a feeling this won’t be the last time she impresses us.

A Place Further than the Universe is streaming on Crunchyroll and VRV. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Bringing a little color to the end of the year.

Is it just me, or was 2018 kind of a down year for anime? Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the avalanche of quality we’ve gotten over the past 2-3 years, but while I’m usually agonizing over what I’ll have to drop from a list, this year I was agonizing over what I was going to put on it at all. I’d worry that my sense of whimsy was fading, but I’ve spent literal months rolling around in the Twitch Pokemon marathon, so that can’t be it…

Whatever the case, the weird year resulted in me having two Top 10 lists with relatively little overlap: one was of shows that I knew in my head were good but had left me cold, and one of shows that I knew weren’t as technically sharp but I sure did care about them.  I wrote up the first list… and then threw it in a fire and published the second one instead. So, please enjoy the Top 10 Shows That Made Your Stressed-Out Blogger Feel Things.

The Rankings

As a reminder, while I tend to play this list pretty free-and-easy, there are two rules I do keep: (1) Shorts aren’t eligible for the Top 10, and (2) while shows with 2018 sequels (like ClassicaLoid) are eligible for the list, carryovers and split-cours that are scheduled to finish in 2019 (like Run with the Wind) are not.

And now that we’ve gotten the boring explanations out of the way…

Honorable Mentions

A few fun bonus awards, where I can highlight some non-eligible gems and also show off my questionable taste.

Best Short:  Aggretsuko by a wiiiiide mile (although Skull-Faced Bookseller Honda-san made a solid case for itself as well). I almost broke my own Top 10 rule so I could throw it on the list, because it’s just that good. Funny, insightful,  and biting, this show nails the feeling of being a young professional into the wall and out the other side. I wrote about it for the AniFem Spring 2018 Recs post, so check that out for extra gushing.

Best Show Late to the Party: Little Witch Academia. Netflix’s weird release schedule meant I didn’t get to this one until 2018, but it definitely deserves some love. This energetic, family-friendly series builds into a fist-pumping tale of self-confidence, teamwork, and girls kicking butt, and I’d happily toss it to anyone at any age. I took part in a podcast retrospective about this one, so I’ll direct you there for more praise if you’re so inclined.

Best Anime That Isn’t Technically an Anime: I created this award two years ago specifically for Thunderbolt Fantasy, so you’ll be shocked to learn I’m resurrecting it for Thunderbolt Fantasy: Sword Seekers. Because, as always: PUPPETS! You can read my AniFem recommendation write-up for details.

Best Shows That Aren’t On This List Because My Taste Is Bad and I Should Feel Bad: A shortlist of technically excellent series doing ambitious things that missed the cut-off:

  • DEVILMAN crybaby: A visually stunning story about cultural outsiders and mob mentality that I can acknowledge as a work of art even though I viscerally disliked it.
  • Planet With: A jam-packed sci-fi series that challenges common ideas about “justice,” which I can also acknowledge as quality even though my personal reaction to the last half of the series was a big ol’ “meh.”
  • SSSS.Gridman: A clever mecha series that overcomes some early fanservice to become a psychological exploration of social isolation and anxiety, and it didn’t make my Top 10 because… I flipped a coin between it and HisoMaso and HisoMaso won. Look, I told you this was a weird year.

And now with those reputable series left in the slush pile, let’s move on to the fluff and trash that actually made my list!

10. How to keep a mummy

Series Episode Count: 12
Studio
: 8 bit
Season Director: Kaori

In a Sentence: This cute, soothing comedy follows high schooler Sora and his friends as they do their best to raise their adorable supernatural pets.
Content Warning: Brief scene of an adult coming onto a minor (played for comedy, never brought up again); some violence toward children and (supernatural) animals

Spot #10 on this list is always reserved for “a show that may not have been amazing but I had a lot of affection for it,” and I’m genuinely surprised it went to Mummy. It wasn’t a huge standout for me as it was airing, but looking back over the year I found myself regarding it with a ton of fondness, even more so than many of the other Nice Comedies that peppered my watchlist.

Mummy has some undercurrents about balancing newfound responsibilities with a willingness to ask for help, and it sometimes touches on more difficult subjects regarding animal cruelty or the stress that can come from taking care of another living creature. This makes it more than just fluff, but… well, mostly, it’s fluff, focusing on cute supernatural critters and their nice owners getting into heartwarming scrapes.

Everyone is well-meaning and ultimately kind, and even when the series delves into darker subject matter there’s always a sense that things will work out okay in the end. It’s iyashikei (healing) anime, pure and simple. But’cha know what? Sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

How to keep a mummy is streaming on Crunchyroll. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

9. Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan

Series Episode Count: 12
Studio
: BONES
Chief Director: Shinji Higuchi

In a Sentence: Directionless and blunt Hisone Amakasu joins the air force, where the “OTF” (a.k.a. dragon) Masotan chooses the hapless young woman as his pilot.
Content Warning: Depictions of sexism in the workplace; mild fanservice of adult women; death of a queer character

As noted above, I flipped a coin between this and SSSS.Gridman to see which would make the list, and HisoMaso won. It was on the edge because, while I think it’s trying to do a lot of worthwhile things with its story and I want to encourage other people to try it, I’m still not 100% sure I actually liked it (even if it does have hands-down the best ending theme of the year).

It’s a tricky show to talk about without giving away all the plot twists, but suffice to say it’s directly engaging with workplace sexism, particularly ideas held by the ruling power (i.e., men) about how women define themselves and whether they  can/should continue to work after marriage. There’s a frustrating stretch in the second act where it’s hard to tell where HisoMaso is going with all these concepts, but it does more-or-less solidify by the end into a progressive message.

That said, you have to wade through some mud to get there, and the threads are still woven somewhat haphazardly. HisoMaso is textbook “ambitious but flawed.” There’s some great stuff in here, especially in the first half, and I do think it’s ultimately worth your time (it wouldn’t have made this list if I didn’t). Just don’t be surprised if you leave it with as many mixed feelings as I have.

Dragon Pilot is streaming on Netflix. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

8. Violet Evergarden

Series Episode Count: 13
Studio
: Kyoto Animation
Season Director: Haruka Fujita

In a Sentence: At the end of a years-long war and after losing her commander and both her arms, child soldier Violet begins a new life as a professional letter-writer to help her understand both her own and others’ emotions.
Content Warning: Violence; depictions of war, death, and PTSD; bereavement;  some revealing costume designs (though the camera rarely leers); one episode features an age-gap romance

Two common elements on this year’s Top 10 list are “emotionally driven” and “sincere,” and… well, that’s Violet Evergarden in a nutshell. It’s a gorgeously animated, perfectly scored series that wants to explore life after loss for both soldiers and civilians: what the world looks like after the barricades fall, and how people can move forward from traumas and tragedies. It is ultimately hopeful, but oof, does it drag its viewers through the ringer to get there.

The series received understandably mixed reviews—either the constant barrage of grief-and-healing narratives resonated with you or they didn’t, meaning you either found it moving and cathartic or sappy and manipulative. While not every story hit home for me, an awful lot did (particularly the ones about parent-child relationships); so while I can acknowledge Evergarden‘s sentimental groundwork, I also found it earnest in intent and accomplished in execution.

The central story about Violet’s own arc of recovery, empathy, and self-discovery is a similarly mixed bag, with a conclusion that’s largely satisfying but leaves a few troubling points regarding her burgeoning independence. Still, though, with as complicated as her tale of mixed grief and guilt is, perhaps it’s best that the series doesn’t try to wrap everything up in too neat a bow.

There are a lot of flawed, messy, and sincere anime on this list, and Violet Evergarden fits right in with them. I’ve become a total sap, and I’m at peace with that.

Violet Evergarden is streaming on Netflix. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

7. IRODUKU: The World in Colors

Series Episode Count: 13
Studio
: P.A. Works
Season Director: Toshiya Shinohara

In a Sentence: Isolated high schooler Hitomi’s monochrome world is given a surprising shock when her grandmother sends her back in time 60 years, leading her to meet the members of the Photography Art Club and find a young artist whose work allows her to see color for the first time since childhood.
Content Warning: Discussions of grief and depression; child neglect; ableism

Probably my happiest surprise of the year, this little time-travel school story develops into a gentle tale about healing through the help of a community (family, friends, and romantic partners); mutual support of each other’s talents; and the importance of knowing one’s art has a positive impact on others.

It’s another of those sincere, guileless series that follows its heart and asks its audience to do the same, which results in some inconsistent fantastical elements that may be off-putting for some viewers. Time-travel paradoxes aside, Hitomi’s inability to see color fluctuates between “metaphor for trauma/depression” and “literal physical disability.” This leads to a few lovely scenes that positively engage with improving accessibility, but also to some accidental ableism, given that the metaphor ultimately takes precedence and recovery is the end-goal.

Similarly, while I found IRODUKU‘s depiction of grief, depression, and healing to be emotionally resonant, it’s also arguably over-simplistic. It’s not so trite as “romantic love will fix all your problems” (thank goodness), but it leans into the idea that an accepting community and personal self-worth are all you need to get better. They are important, of course, but are often pieces of a larger, longer process, so I can also understand why the series might not sit right for some folks because of that.

I feel like I’m criticizing IRODUKU a lot here, but that’s because my Critic Brain is warring with my Viewer Brain. It’s a series that engages with difficult subjects via metaphor in a way that my head knows has a lot of holes in it, but it’s so genuine and well-meaning that my heart doesn’t give a damn.

The show’s blend of melancholy and hope is right up my alley; its undercurrent about finding fulfillment by bringing joy to others via one’s art rang keenly true; and its bittersweet ending left me audibly making “mmm!” noises. I wasn’t even planning on watching it. Now I’m so glad I did.

IRODUKU is streaming on Amazon Prime. Check to see if it’s available in your region.

6. ClassicaLoid – Season 2

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview