Previous: 2018 Winter in Review – Final Thoughts

We’re not going to come anywhere near the heights of Winter, but I’ve at least managed to find a couple shows worth watching this season.

[ Standard disclaimer: Spoilers! Lots of spoilers! ]

All of the following are loosely grouped in tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier 4. Click on a title to jump to the comments.

Completed or Airing
01. Amanchu! Advance [ 8.75 / 10 ]
02. Hinamatsuri [ 8.5 / 10 ]
03. Comic Girls [ 8.25 / 10 ]
04. Uma Musume [ 7.5 / 10 ]


Previous Year Pick-ups

Fumikiri Jikan [2 ep] – Episode one: Super cute yuri love confession skit. Does what super short (3 minute) shows should do – take one very small scene or gag and spend time refining that. I was impressed! Episode 2: Some obnoxious boy yammering on about how sexy some girl is. …Oh. I guess the first episode was just a fluke. Sucks. Bye.
Tachibanakan To Lie-Angle [2 ep] – What if To Love Ru (ugh), and only 3 minutes (ugh), and gay (…yes?). Well, if you need proof that I don’t automatically like anything yuri, here you go. In addition to being completely bland and emotionless fanservice, it also tries to cover like half a dozen scenes in 3 minutes and the whole thing is a rushed disaster. I’ll still probably check out the manga one day since it was on my radar pre-anime anyway, but this adaptation is just worthless.

Amanchu! Advance 99% import
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The very fact that Amanchu has a sequel is mind-boggling, but here we are! There was some concern early on because the s1 director wasn’t returning, but I’d say to put those fears aside. This is unmistakably Amanchu, and it captures the first season’s feel in every way.

I’ve got two primary reactions to the first three episodes, one that causes some hesitation and one that I’m super happy about.

I’m really not sure what to think about Kokoro, a younger girl who Hikari befriends while Futaba is away. Part of that hesitation is simply that I don’t find Kokoro particularly engaging by herself, but the bigger issue is that Amanchu simply doesn’t work as well when Hikari and Futaba are apart. Episodes 1 and 3 were outstanding, but Kokoro’s episode 2 just didn’t hit as hard. The thing I’m super happy about is that, from what I’ve heard, the anime is owning Futaba and Hikari’s feelings for each other in a way the manga does not. For this show to not only get a sequel but also to use it to go out of its way to double down on the confession that ended season one is wonderful.

While I’m iffy about Kokoro, she does fit into the sequel’s core theme: Futaba has gained a lot of self-confidence, but she’s afraid that if she loses Hikari that confidence will be lost as well. Fear of what happens if they part is Futaba’s antagonist this season. As the third party in a pseudo-love triangle Kokoro does have a thematic place in the show, so I’m not writing her off entirely. But I’m not yet convinced that having Futaba worry that Hikari is in love with Kokoro is the right way to go about this. At the moment that’s the only thing holding this back from another 9/10.

Episode 4 will probably clarify a lot – it appears to be another episode where Futaba and Hikari are separated. Hikari will be with Kokoro, and Futaba will meet one or both of the other two new girls in the OP. I’ve got my fingers crossed that everything works out in a way that respects Futaba and Hikari’s repeatedly stated love for each other, while finding the new characters a fitting role to play. [3 episodes]

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Hinamatsuri 90% import
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Picked this up after a recommendation and god. damn. it is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a very long time. On the surface it sounds like a lame “magical girlfriend drops from the sky” story, but a better frame of reference is Alice to Zouroku, if it learned much more heavily on comedy than emotional drama. Like Alizou, Hinamatsuri realizes that this formula works so much better when the male lead is an adult and the mysterious girl is more like an adopted daughter, not a girlfriend. Once again, evidence that male characters only work when they’re adults.

Hinamatsuri is beautifully animated and has an exceptional grasp of every facet of comedic timing. But one thing that really stands out is how it seems to absolutely revel in setting up situations that could and probably would go disastrously awry in many other shows, and then bringing them to hilarious, wholesome conclusions. Hina drops naked into an attractive Yakuza dude’s apartment? All pervy jokes are eschewed and she takes the place over while he scrambles to keep up. Hitomi finds herself playing impromptu bartender all alone as a drunken middle aged man arrives at the bar? He helpfully teaches her how to mix drinks. Anzu ends up at a homeless camp surrounded by half a dozen gruff-looking old men? They bond over shared struggles and give her a place in their community while she gets back on her feet.

Hina and Nitta are great, but Hitomi and particularly Anzu have really stolen the show so far. Just like Yuzu last season (what is it about fruit-based names?) Anzu hits dead center in my “I want her to be happy forever and ever no matter the cost!” strike zone. Hinamatsuri has a super solid foundation right now, and I’m confident it’ll just keep getting better. [3 episodes]

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Comic Girls 99% import
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The comparisons to Hidamari Sketch are unavoidable, but all in good fun – Kaos is like, “what if Yuno, but even more hopeless and also very horny?” and yo that’s a pretty good sales pitch if you ask me. The premise is that a struggling young mangaka ends up in an artists’ dormitory with one other newbie and two published pros, and libido ensues. As Kirara adaptations go, this is definitely on the thirsty end of the spectrum, and the spectacular character art serves its purpose well.

The other strength is the awesome layouts, which convey a ton of depth. It’s not just an occasional thing either, every episode has had a ton of these and it really elevates the scene every time we get it. With that, the creative use of “manga panels” inserts and the great character art, this is a damn pretty show to look at. A slice of life show doesn’t need a strong technical production in the way an action show might, but it sure benefits from it all the same, like Yurucamp did from its environmental art and Slow Start from its kinetic animation.

If I have one reservation it’s that the show’s interest in developing any of the ships seems in no way on par with its thirstiness. Thete’s no Nadeshiko/Rin or ::insert one of many Slow Start pairings here:: in Comic Girls, and unlike Yuyushiki (a comparably thirsty show) it doesn’t have a clear emotional component backing up the teasing. Koyume sorta has a crush on Tsubasa, but Tsubasa is a bit of a bland character so I don’t see that going anywhere. There’s some slight hints that it could shake up the expected pairings and maybe have something between Kaos and Ruki but… ehhhhh again, not expecting anything. I’m just setting my expectations low in this regard, which is kind of a shame.

All in all, it’s shaping into a well-produced mid-tier Kirara show, wihch means a virtually guaranteed import from me. Its biggest failing may simply be having to follow Kirara’s godly Winter slate with the top-tier Yurucamp and Slow Start. [3 episodes]

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Uma Musume 50% import
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Even if we’ve got horse girls born through magical impregnation by some racehorse deity, it’s still a sports anime. Take away the ears and tails and it’s not terribly different from a normal track and field show. So far, it’s pretty good – nothing exceptional to say about it, but it nails enough things to keep me interested: good faces, nice character designs, solid production, large and varied cast. I’d say Suzuka being such a sweet, caring friend to Special Week is my favorite development because I fully expected her to be a cold primadonna-type. Everyone just being so darn nice in general has been great. Good friendly rivalries >>>> bullying the new girl or whatever.

Downsides so far are the intentionally bizarre audio mix during the racing scenes and a few out-of-character moments where it tries to cast the male coach into a “perv” role that doesn’t fit him. It’s super bizarre because he’s genuinely a good character in every instance except the three times they’ve tried to make pervy jokes with him. The one in episode four was particularly inexplicable. I don’t want to harp on this too much because it’s such a minor aspect of the show but the fact that he’s actually totally fine 98% of the time makes falling back on these gags a dumb unforced error. It’d be like taking the Idolmaster Producer and shoehorning in similar gags. It just does not fit the character, who is a professional just interested in doing his job. [4 episodes]

Update: Damn episode 5 was good! I initially didn’t wait to include it in my comments because I didn’t think it’d change my impression much, but it was a super good mid-season climax sorta ep. A more emotionally and physically proactive Suzuka also switched from cheering Special Week on quietly from a distance to getting a lot more direct and intimate. Really happy about how this episode went.

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4 Responses to “2018 Spring in Review – First Impressions”

  1. Makoto says:

    I can see you switching the places of Amanchu with Comic Girls by the end of the season. But let’s see what happens.

    • something something says:

      That seems pretty unlikely. Amanchu would really have to tank relatively badly and Comic Girls would have to treat its relationships much more seriously than it’s going to. The only thing I can maybe see happening is Hinamatsuri taking #1 but it’s gonna be hard to top Amanchu.

  2. MK says:

    @Something, So HisoMaso’s going to pass you by? It’s a show you’d probably really enjoy. :/

    Amanchu Advance is more of the same – in a very good way. I picked up the first series on recommendation from a friend and liked it, and I think I’ll like this second season even more watching it on a weekly basis.

    Comic Girls wasn’t a show I expected to like at all going into the season – and I’m still longing for some more in-depth insights into manga creation, plus the whole setup of teenage girls being manga authors doesn’t pass the level of plausibility for me – but still, this is a solid example of the genre and the visuals are nice. One thing that stands out is how well the characters fit into their

    Hinamatsuri is a joy to watch every week and lives up to what manga readers have said about it. The mix of absurd comedy, excellent character animation, and the refreshingly non-sexualised father-daughter dynamic is potent. While not discussed that often, studio feel. has put up some great work in the last couple of years, and I look forward to their two other shows airing this year.

    Umamusume is pretty all right for what it is, but it struggled to keep my interest and I dropped it by the 3rd episode. I have a few friends who unironically really like this show and have it as one of their current favourites of the season though, fwiw.

    Overall this is a compelling season for me – the most shows I’ve ever watched in one season actually (atleast Summer is looking somewhat less busy so I can focus on making a dint in my light novel collection), though many of the new shows still haven’t quite hit their stride. My current breakdown is:

    Top tier: Lupin III part 5, LotGH:DNT*, WotaKoi, Hinamatsuri, Megalo Box, HisoMaso

    Good: S;G 0, MHA s3, Comic Girls, Amanchu Advance, Captain Tsubasa

    Mediocre: Tiramisu, TadaKoi, Golden Kamuy (the quality of the adaptation not the story itself is dragging it down), Magical Girl Site, Magical Girl Ore, Piano no Mori

    Bad, but still watching: Alice and Alice, Gunma, Crossing Time, Tachinanakan Triangle (all shorts), Cutie Honey Universe

    Dropped: Caligula, Real Girl, Devil’s Line, Umamusume, Dorei-ku, Gurazeni

    * This show is actually going to be the first time I’ve imported a BD/DVD release from Japan (Yuri on Ice would have been first if they didn’t place that ban on imports so now I’m just waiting for a UK release), want to play whatever small part I can in making sure this surprisingly great new adaptation can adapt to the end.

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