Previous: 2018 Summer in Review – First Impressions

One masterpiece, two solid shows, and two… well, two mistakes. I guess that averages out to an alright 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
01T. Yama no Susume: Third Season [ 10.0 / 10 ] (Summer)
01T. Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho [ 10.0 / 10 ]
03. Yurucamp [ 9.5 / 10 ]
04. Hinamatsuri [ 9.25 / 10 ]
05. Slow Start [ 9.0 / 10 ]
06. Uma Musume [ 9.0 / 10 ]
07. Harukana Receive [ 8.75 / 10 ] (Summer)
08. Citrus [ 8.75 / 10 ]
09. Comic Girls [ 8.5 / 10 ]
10. Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight [ 8.25 / 10 ] (Summer)
11. Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 [ 7.0 / 10 ] (Summer)
12. Marchen Madchen [ 7.0 / 10 ]
13. Hanebado! [ 4.75 / 10 ] (Summer)
14. Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro [ 4.5 / 10 ] (Summer)

Shorts
n/a

Previous Year Pick-ups
n/a

Dropped
Asobi Asobase [1 ep]

Top Characters (no sequels; new shows or new characters only, 15 max)
Kobuchizawa Shirase – Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho
Aihara Yuzu – Citrus
Tokura Eiko – Slow Start
Anzu – Hinamatsuri
Shima Rin – Yurucamp
Miyake Hinata – Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho
Kagamihara Nadeshiko – Yurucamp
Momochi Tamate – Slow Start
Silence Suzuka – Uma Musume
Saijou Claudine – Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight
Moeta “Kaos” Kaoruko – Comic Girls
Higa Kanata – Harukana Receive
Kagimura Hazuki – Marchen Madchen
Aihara Mei – Citrus
Nonomura Manana – Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

Top Pairings (no sequels; new shows or new pairings only)
Aihara Yuzu / Aihara Mei – Citrus
Kagamihara Nadeshiko / Shima Rin – Yuurcamp
Tokura Eiko / Enami Kiyose – Slow Start
Special Week / Silence Suzuka – Uma Musume
Higa Kanata / Oozora Haruka – Harukana Receive
Tendou Maya / Saijou Claudine – Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

Top OPs
Ne! Ne! Ne! – Slow Start
The Girls Are Alright! – Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho
Make Debut! – Uma Musume
Chiheisen Stride – Yama no Susume Third Season
Azalea – Citrus
Shiny Days – Yurucamp
Harukana Receive – Fly Two Blue
Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 – Red Swan

Top EDs
Irochigai no Tsubasa – Yama no Susume Third Season
Fuyu Biyori – Yurucamp
Koko Kara, Koko Kara – Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho
Grow Up Shine! – Uma Musume


Yama no Susume: Third Season Imported
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Yama no Susume has come a long way, propelled onward to an improbable third season by the immense love, talent, and attention to detail put forth by the staff. It’s passion that’s pervaded every frame of this series since its humble beginnings in three minute shorts.

The fact that we’ve now been blessed with three seasons of this outwardly unassuming story is a slice of life miracle only maybe surpassed by the four seasons and multiple OVAs of Hidamari Sketch. And even that is arguably a lot less surprising, given that Hidamari was a modest phenomenon with a popular artist and strong anime sales. Yama no Susume, meanwhile, seems to go largely unnoticed even while it’s airing. The only groups that seem to pay it outsized attention are the animators, directors, and other creatives who flock to the franchise and pack it with the obscenely talented staff lists we see it boast over and over. But however it happened, Yama no Susume somehow got a chance to follow up its masterpiece predecessor. The only thing more astonishing is that, somehow, it outdid itself.

It’s always been impressive just how well Yama no Susume uses its limited runtime, but this season was particularly well paced. It wasn’t necessarily obvious at first, but in retrospect there’s a very clear approach to how this season was structured: we spend six episodes primarily on Aoi, six episodes with Hinata, and then the finale.

It flows together flawlessly, but it is worth noting that this season’s focus comes with a few casualties. Kaede is the most obvious cutback, and the difference feels particularly stark for me as someone who has been rewatching season two and recalling why she was my favorite character in the first two seasons. In season three she’s shackled to her upcoming exams under the watchful eye of Yuuka. She’s still great when she shows up of course. Her handling of Hinata in episodes 11-12 is reminiscent of the reliable and sensitive mentor she so often played in season two. But her scenes are nonetheless very few.

Kokona fares a bit better, but hers is clearly a support role. Circumstances often separate Aoi and Hinata in season three, and it’s Kokona who ends up keeping them company. We see her during Aoi’s solo hike in episode three, she winds up Hinata’s partner for the awkward split outing in episodes 8-9, and she accompanies Aoi on a sleepover before the group climb in episode 11. In each of these cases, her being there is a stark reminder that half of our leading pair isn’t.

I’d guess that Honoka actually gets more screentime this season than last, and the introduction of her absolutely hilarious and endearingly dorky older brother actually gives her scenes more impact than before. Between the group outing in episode 5 and her joining Aoi in episodes 8-9, I do feel like we know Honoka better now. Still, she too is largely in the background.

I never considered any of this a flaw, not even as I was acutely missing Kaede. Not every character needs to be equally prominent every season, particularly when you’ve only got the runtime equivalent of half a cour. Yama no Susume may use its runtime more efficiently than perhaps any show that’s ever existed, but it can’t possibly fit five equally satisfying character arcs in during that time – hell, neither could a full length show. And supporting roles are worth celebrating too! Hinata and Aoi have always been the core of this show, and I fully embrace season three’s decision to focus almost entirely on them.

The other reason I’m not torn up about this is that some of the time those three paid out was reinvested back into Hinata and Aoi’s classmates: Mio, Kasumi, and Yuri.

They’re far more central to both major character arcs than they realize. To be honest, I don’t have much to say about them purely on their own terms. They’re cute, friendly classmates who Hinata has been friends with for a while now, and while we’ve seen them in the background they’ve not been particularly relevant before. But I do quite enjoy recalling how Mio is the very first character to speak to Aoi in the first episode of season one, after which the poor girl had to wait two sequels, five years, and forty-three episodes before Aoi was finally able to hold a conversation with her. (The girl next to her is probably supposed to be Yuri, but she’s much too tall – interesting to see how she went through a design revision before becoming a significant character.)

The reason these three matter is that that they played an unintentionally vital role in this season’s primary conflict: Aoi’s growing confidence and Hinata’s severe anxiety over feeling left behind. Rather surprisingly, this season isn’t about Aoi conquering Mt. Fuji. It’s a necessary step in that direction, but the sudden pivot to Hinata in the second half of the cour serves as a reminder that this isn’t just Aoi’s story. Hinata is her own person, not just a source of motivation for Aoi. Not only does Hinata have worries all her own, they’re arguably even harder ones to deal with. She’s so used to being the helping hand that she has no idea how to begin asking for one.


                                                                 ← Yukimura Aoi, S3e12 / Kuraue Hinata, Omoide Present →

This isn’t the first time we’ve been given a glimpse of what Hinata’s insecurities look like. In the Omoide Present OVA that came out before season three, we’re shown Aoi and Hinata’s reunion from Hinata’s point of view. The two versions of the scene couldn’t be any more different – the original is a quick gag in a three minute episode. The latter is an emotionally raw look into just how much Aoi means to Hinata. This isn’t the Hinata that slammed her hands down on Aoi’s desk with nary a care in the world. It’s a Hinata who dreamed of this moment repeatedly, it’s a Hinata who rehearsed how she’d make her introduction, it’s a Hinata who probably knew she’d need to do most of the heavy lifting, but bared her heart to her precious childhood friend anyway. It’s a Hinata who has to stop and calm herself before setting in motion the events that birthed this masterpiece.

The theme of Omoide Present is “memories are a treasure”, and having that message delivered from Hinata’s point of view for the first time was in retrospect a sign of what was to come.this season. But before we get into Hinata’s arc, it’s worth looking at Aoi because it’s with her that we spend the first half of the season, and it’s her arc that directly precipitates Hinata’s.

Because Hinata cherishes the warmth of happy memories, she’s always sought to encourage Aoi to open up, try new things, and meet new friends. And while Aoi had started climbing mountains and made friends with Kokona and Kaede, she still hadn’t quite managed to do any of that independent of Hinata. So when Aoi finally manages to hold a conversation with Mio all on her own, Hinata looks on momentarily surprised but also proud of Aoi’s progress.

Every episode of this season pushes Aoi a little further towards independence. She proactively sets up the late night mountain climb with Hinata in the first episode, shells out for serious hiking boots in the second, goes on a solo hike in the third, finally breaks the ice with the Mio Trio at karaoke in the fourth, and exerts her competitive side against Hinata in a mountain coffee drinking challenge in episode six. (The fifth is pretty standalone but is also the cutest thing in the universe so that’s cool.) It’s in episode seven that the transition from Aoi to Hinata begins, as we see how much Aoi has grown into her role at Susuki while Hinata wanders the city solo.

Aoi’s ultimate goal is to conquer Fuji, and everything she does this season is, in big and small ways, directed towards that end. She’s making friends, gearing up, training her body, and stockpiling the reserves of self-confidence that will send her to the summit. And so I don’t think anyone expected this season to end with anything other than her achieving that. But as Aoi singlemindedly worked on improving herself, she had no idea how that was making Hinata feel. And to its credit, Yama no Susume was not going to prioritize a mountain climb over its characters’ hearts.

In fairness to Aoi, for the longest time Hinata didn’t know how this was making Hinata feel either. She didn’t give off clear signs of anxiety at first, because she didn’t even understand it yet. So even if Aoi weren’t so preoccupied, she probably wouldn’t have noticed the signs right away.

We spend the second half of the show following Hinata through a heartbreaking emotional gauntlet. At first she’s excitedly happy for Aoi’s progress. Then she papers over the occasional pang of loneliness by telling herself what a good thing it is for Aoi to have other friends. She makes light of the embarrassing moments in which she catches herself calling out Aoi’s name when she’s all by herself. When that doesn’t make the hurt go away, her emotions get the better of her and she gets passive-aggressively petty, going out of her way to make plans that don’t include Aoi. She finds herself excitedly expecting Aoi to come crying back to her for guidance, and of course this just makes Hinata even more miserable as she chides herself for being selfish. Finally, the dam of feelings bursts, and she lashes out at Aoi with a ferocity that catches Aoi totally off-guard. Aoi and Hinata are used to sparring and getting moody at each other, but this is different.

It’s not an easy thing to watch. It’s in turns frustrating and lonely and painful, but every moment of it is genuine. Every moment of it builds directly on what we learned about Hinata in Omoide Present. Indeed, every moment of it builds on this moment way back in the second episode of season one, where Hinata opens her lonely heart to Aoi for the briefest of seconds before putting those emotions back on the shelf and becoming the cheerful friend determined to make happy memories with Aoi.

While everything climaxes in episode 12, the most heartwrenching part of Hinata’s story is episode 10. This episode is an stunning artistic achievement on every level. It is the crown jewel in a series already defined by its outrageous collection of talent. In a series that gave us the legendary S2E13. It is in many ways not only the pinnacle of the art form in 2018, but one of the greatest single episodes of all time.

Episode 10 is melancholy incarnate. Endlessly expressive character acting in even the smallest of moments brings life to every scene, whether awkard or lighthearted or painful or contemplative.

After a day spent mostly alone, with her belief that Aoi will come running back to her shattered at every turn, Hinata runs into Aoi and their classmates. She tries to call out to her, but to her surprise, can’t. She doesn’t know why her voice won’t come out, because she doesn’t understand what she’s feeling.

Some shows look gorgeous but don’t have anything meaningful to say. Some shows are well-written but struggle through mediocre production. Yama no Susume, particularly here, is a virtually unparalleled example of technical excellence and outstanding characterization reinforcing each other. I tend not to focus on production quality in these posts in part because there are people infinitely more knowledgeable than I about such things, and partly because it tends not to fit into the flow of what I’m saying about a show. But for Yama no Susume it demands a mention. There is genuinely nothing else quite like it.


It’s official.

“I think mountains have a way of making people honest.”

As thoughtful and kind and powerful as Hinata is, she was never going to overcome this without opening up to Aoi. And this is where Aoi’s growth throughout the season finally pays dividends to Hinata. While Hinata injures herself during the outing to Mizugaki and Kinpu, a direct result of the recklessness born of her frustration, a stubbornly upbeat Aoi refuses to abandon her. The self-confidence and stamina that Aoi has built up gets the injured Hinata off the mountain, and convinces her to come clean about what she’s feeling. Finally, Hinata voices her fears – she fell apart when she thought that maybe Aoi was going away again. And that’s where it all comes full circle. Their parting as children, their reunion in high school, and everything we’ve learned about how important this relationship is to Hinata.

The emotional foundation to this scene is extensive, but the delivery is so simple, almost plain. And yet, it’s so perfectly in-character. They air grievances, offer reassurances, and just like that it’s time to get back to normal. There’s something delightfully real about all this. And that’s how they’ve always been. I’ve thought it often in the past, but I know it now: there is no character dynamic in anime I love quite as much as this one.

We do get a more explicitly emotional send-off in the final episode, and it’s one that feels truer to the characters than if, say, Hinata had sobbingly embraced Aoi and spilled her heart on Mt. Kinpu. It’s touching, but playful. Utterly sincere, but still cheeky enough to leave the audience out of the secrets Hinata and Aoi trade back and forth.

Thus we end, with Aoi and Hinata stronger and closer than ever. And off in the distance, waiting with the infinite patience that comes with living on geologic time, stands Mt. Fuji.

One hopes that we will be granted a modicum of that patience (and longevity), so that we too will last until Aoi triumphantly reaches the summit. Until then, trust in the words of the wisest of philosophers:

Mata ashita, yahoo!

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Harukana Receive Imported
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Rise up on your feet when you’re falling
Over and over
We rise up for the things we believe in
Over and over again

If you want a sports anime that deftly balances intense rivalry and healthy relationships all while treating its characters’ shortcomings and fears with respect, Harukana Receive would be an excellent choice. When “Rise”, the song that bookends the series, talks about getting up “over and over again” it’s not referring to the unhealthy obsession with winning at all costs that defines some sports stories. It’s exhorting you to never give up on yourself, to believe that you can come back from past failures. Beach volleyball can be a source of temporary pain and sorrow for these girls, but such is the nature of any endeavor that you pour your heart into and yet sometimes fail at. And that pain in and of itself is never portrayed as a virtue.

Harukana is both joyfully fun and completely serious about the girls’ athletic passions, because there’s no reason why those two things should be in opposition. I’d have found this to be a thoroughly pleasant show in any season, but considering the other women’s sports anime airing in summer, a show like Harukana became positively essential.

I was particularly surprised to hear that Harukana Receive was getting an anime, partly because I’m still not used to manga I’ve read getting adapted but mostly because Houbunsha has never adapted a sports anime from its Kirara lineup before. I think it shows, because Harukana is considerably less slice-of-lifey than other Kirara adaptations. The focus on the sport itself is ever-present, and a huge amount of time is spent on the court. They’re either in a match or practicing far more often than not.

It’s not that we don’t get time off the court, it’s just that that time is used pretty economically to either learn about beach volleyball, discuss the characters’ past history with beach volleyball, or in lighter moments decide what kind of swimsuits they’re going to wear while playing beach volleyball. This isn’t the kind of club anime where the actual club is an afterthought – it’s central to nearly every moment.

School also plays only the tiniest role on this show. Technically the beach volleyball club is an offshoot of the indoor volleyball club. But other characters are always surprised to hear the club exists, and the fact that most of the girls’ practice happens on the beach in front of Kanata’s house sets them even further removed from the school. There’s no arc about having to pass supplementary exams to avoid getting kicked off the team. There’s no new student recruitment arc, and there’s no quest to find an advisor. There’s no team manager until a ways into the series, and there’s no coach. Haruka’s training happens at the direction of Kanata, then the Thomas sisters, and then their mother Marissa.

Both on and off the court, Harukana Receive excelled at compelling character arcs and emotionally rich relationships. And while Haruka is more or less the protagonist (a transfer student who comes in and learns about beach volleyball along with the audience), most of the character relationships run through Kanata. It’s Kanata who Haruka moves in with, and it’s Kanata who has the history with Narumi and the Thomas sisters. Haruka’s role is herefore to act as a shake-up that reinvigorates a web of relationships that had grown cold and brittle as rivalry and regrets pulled everyone apart.

At the time, I was pretty disappointed with the first episode. It looked good and I was already a big fan of the characters from the manga, but the tone felt way off, with too little music, long pauses between lines of dialogue, and a general awkward slowness that left me pretty worried about the adaptation. In retrospect I feel like it was stretching a tiny amount of material into a whole episode for lack of a good stopping point, but the spectacular second episode put any fears I had about the anime to rest. Still, it’s a shame that episode one felt so off because parts of it are actually excellent – particularly the quietly awkward interplay between Narumi and Kanata. Without it spelling out their past relationship, it’s clear that 1) the split created a lot of regrets and 2) they’ve never once stopped thinking about each other since.

Unlike a certain other sports anime, an unhappy parting isn’t the defining antagonistic force behind the story. It is the starting point, and Harukana Receive wastes no time in enabling Kanata to make positive improvements towards renewing her love for volleyball and regaining her self-confidence. The tension with Narumi remains very important, but consistent progress is how it’s handled, not ever-looming dread to be exploited for melodrama.

The entire arc of Kanata and Narumi’s relationship is handled wonderfully, and this despite the fact that they never share more than a few words with one another across the entirety of the series. Flashbacks contextualize their current situation, and their lack of interaction in the present day still works because we wind up seeing their relationship through the eyes of their new friends and partners.

While “pair” and “partner” are just terms of the sport, the double meaning of romantic subtext is not accidental. Haruka repeatedly and explicitly frames Narumi as Kanata’s relationship as ex-girlfriends, we’re always reminded of how much the girls love each other, and the sexual tension between the various pairs (minus the sisters anyway) is palpable. This isn’t a romance anime by any stretch, but its character dynamics are romantic.

Given this subtext, Kanata and Narumi’s relationship is something quite rare: two exes who not only recover from a breakup with the help of their new partners, but who rekindle a friendship as well. Haruka and Ayasa may get very slightly anxious at times, but ultimately they understand that Kanata and Narumi’s reunion isn’t a threat. In finding peace with each other, they only strengthen their relationship with their current partners. Kanata becomes more self-confident and better at letting others into her heart. Narumi learns to grow past her guilt and stop living in the past. And they both know that the only reason they’re in a position to face each other in the Nationals is because their precious partners are with them every step of the way.

But there are two other vital elements: long-time rivals Claire and Emily, and newcomer Akari.

While Harukana avoids unnecessarily dragging out the tension between Kanata and Narumi, their ultimate reconciliation can only come on the court. With Narumi living off in Kyoto and Kanata in Okinawa, that’s not happening until the Nationals. And there’s no way Kanata gets there if she doesn’t both get back in shape and ensure Haruka can play on her level.

Enter Claire. For every bit that she’s a lovable goof off the court, she’s a fierce competitor on it. With Narumi living far away and Kanata having quit, Claire has been left with a wound that won’t heal over until she’s taken on her old rivals again. No matter how many other trophies and accolades she wins in the meantime, this is the one thing she’s wanted more than all the rest. And so she takes it upon herself to train them up, taking a particular interest in, and forming a tight bond with, Haruka.

While she and Haruka have compatible personalities and both play the attacker role on the court, Claire also sees in Haruka a chance to revive the old Kanata she’s longed to face off against. Claire rigorously trains Haruka, as much for herself as anyone else. She does this knowing full well that she’s going to have to beat her own disciple to proceed on to facing Narumi. But she’s not just prepared for it, she relishes the idea. When Harukana and Eclaire meet at the finals of the Okinawan qualifiers, Claire spares a moment to reflect on the time they’ve all spent together. Because she knows that now, finally, the old Kanata is really back, and her dream is within reach.

Ultimately however, Claire is overcome by the reinvigorated Kanata and by Haruka, a monster of her own creation. Claire is more responsible for Haruka’s progress than anyone, Kanata included. And as frustrating as it is on some surface level, an even bigger part of Claire is proud, even thankful. When Claire confesses to Haruka that she never thought she’d lose, Haruka cheekily points out that she wasn’t too worried, because after all it’s Claire who taught her how to block. And in that moment, the overriding emotion Claire feels is… gratitude. Gratitude for the degree of faith that Haruka had in her, a faith she’s now determined to reciprocate.

While Emily is invested in the rivalry as well, she’s also focused on proving to herself that she’s a worthy partner to the big sister she idolizes. Her personality shift during matches is much more subtle than Claire’s, but it still noticeable. Off the court she’s the put-upon younger sister always scolding her flighty onee-chan, similar to the support role she plays on the court. The difference is primarily in her demeanor. She becomes a paragon of poise and composure, a rock that Emily can tether to when the emotions of a match get overwhelming.

There’s a moment during the match that Emily and Claire lost to Kanata and Narumi that really stuck with Emily. As Claire boasts once again at being the ace, Kanata offhandedly dismisses the bluster, noting that beach volleyball is a team of two and there’s no place for an “ace”. We see Narumi lecture Haruka with these very same words when they first meet, but the sentiment had a powerful effect on Emily too. As she watched in shock at her once seemingly-invincible older sister sobbing, she vowed that she would become strong enough to stand next to Claire. And so the shy and timid Emily became the powerful, unflappable partner – not just admirer – of her beloved sister.

There is an unsung hero in all this, and her name is Akari. (Bias alert! Akari is my favorite character in the manga, and second behind only Kanata in the anime) We only get to spend about half the show with her and she doesn’t play volleyball competitively, but given the team has no permanent coach it falls to Akari to be the one to watch over everyone.

This is not even remotely what she had in mind as she called out to Kanata to introduce herself. We meet Akari as a somewhat vain ex-child celebrity who sees volleyball as little more than a ticket back to stardom. The top class women in volleyball (Marissa, Eclaire, Narumi/Ayasa) are glamorous in her eyes, with their tall stature and attractive bodies and adoring fans, and that’s exactly the kind of girl she thinks she needs to be. So when Emily shoots down her proposal Akari sulks away, apparently alone once again.

As a minor celebrity, Akari hasn’t really had friends and doesn’t understand how to make them in an organic way. Her “beach idol project” is reminiscent of Yuzuki’s “friendship contract” in Yorimoi. They both only know how to interact with people through the language of showbiz, growing up surrounded by relationships of convenience rather than deep interpersonal connection. Thankfully, just like Yuzuki, Akari has the good fortune of running into a great bunch of girls who are intrigued enough by the awkward first meeting to chase after and befriend her.

Eventually the kindness wears down Akari’s prickly exterior and reveals a girl who really just needs some genuine friends. From then on she throws herself wholeheartedly into supporting them. When everyone realizes that a change to the rules means that only one of the pairs can get through the Okinawan regional tournament, Akari takes it upon herself to stop things from getting too awkward. She’s finally found a place where she belongs, and she’s deeply grateful – and she’s going to do everything she can to protect it.

Deciding how to do that isn’t easy, particularly for someone with little experience in friendship like Akari. But with a hint from Ayasa and inspiration from the local flora, Akari settles on distilling her emotions into something physical: flower-themed scrunchies.

Born of Akari’s feelings of gratitude and affection, these small bits of elastic and cloth bind friendship together against the strain of rivalry. They’re the most honest sign of Akari’s feelings. They’re visual focal points that keep us fixated on what matters most. They’re the the vessel through which Claire sends her and her sister’s feelings along with Haruka to the Nationals.

As the show comes to a close, “Rise” plays once again, and Haruka delivers the exact same monologue that she opened the show with. Only this time, the song, the words, and yes even the fact that she’s wearing multiple scunchies all mean so much more. It’s perfect bookending.

We rise up for the things we believe in
Over and over again
Over and over again
Over and over again

(P.S., the OST is phenomenal)

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Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight Import decision pending…
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This is one of the more difficult shows I’ve tried to write about of late. While this is largely because my reservations about it are hard to articulate clearly, it’s also partly because the juiciest thematic meat comes from evaluating its critique of takarazuka culture. And while I can get into some of that, I’m not knowledgeable (or interested, necessarily) enough to dive as deep as it deserves. I’d rather leave that up to people who are both more familiar with that culture and also more enthusiastic about the show overall than I was (see Atelier Emily for that).

It’s not that I was unenthusiastic, and I liked quite a lot about this show. Starlight is thematically powerful and technically excellent, but for me it’s somewhat less than the sum of its excellent parts. It’s a show for which my intellectual respect outweighs my emotional attachment. There’s a lot I understood more than felt. And if you know anything about how I watch anime, I value the latter far more highly, which is why my feelings about this show are so tricky to pick through.

So I’m left with a collection of very contradictory feelings. The visual symbolism defined a stunning and bold aesthetic, but sometimes left me feeling emotionally detached (maybe not shocking given the director is an compatriot of Ikuhara). The cast was so large as to leave some characters poorly explored, but a smaller cast might have failed to convey the spectacle of the Revue. Some of the character dynamics were significantly undersold (most egregiously, Nana and Junna), but the satisfaction I’m getting out of fan work related to those same characters clearly came from a foundation within the show. And I found Karen to be one of the weakest links, but also acknowledge that she was front and center in nearly all of the series’ most emotionally poignant moments. Very little regarding how I feel about this show makes sense. But the difference between a good show and a great show is always personal and arbitrary, not objective or logical.

It is worth noting that I came into this pretty late – I watched episodes 1-5 one day and 6-8 the next. Binging is almost never an ideal way for me to experience a show. But while this did not work in Starlight’s favor, I also don’t think it was a deciding factor, particularly as I was able to catch up entirely spoiler-free.

So if the show worked better thematically than emotionally, what were those themes? Even if you remove the specific takarazuka context, there’s a lot that works on a universal level. To oversimplify, Revue Starlight is a rejection of dominance-based relationships and the social pressures that enable such injustices. The specific dynamic it’s critiquing is the politics of takarazuka celebrity, but the theme works all on its own.

This underpins all of the relationships to varying extents. With Junna’s help, Nana realizes that her obsession with being Top Star in order to protect her friends only ended up imprisoning them for her own satisfaction. Kaoruko learns to reimagine Position Zero not as a throne from which to look down on her inferiors, but as motivation to improve herself enough to be worthy of Futaba, her first and biggest fan. Mahiru overcomes an unhealthy desire to possess Karen, and only in ceding her privileged position by Karen’s side does she finally discover herself. Maya and Claudine’s relationship is the most explicit critique of takarazuka power dynamics, and these combative rivals find true satisfaction only through recognizing other as equals. And of course Hikari and Karen’s desire to become Top Stars, plural, brazenly challenges the entire premise of the Auditions.

Not all of these dynamics worked quite as well in action as they do on paper. Junna and Nana only superficially interact before the end of Nana’s arc, with a rushed resolution that leaves no time for Junna to convincingly process the enormity of what she learns. Nana’s revue against Karen also feels largely superfluous and anticlimactic, existing primarily to justify Karen’s rise into the top four to set up and final arc.

Mahiru’s episode is thematically solid, but the execution left me conflicted. Her pining for Karen was established from the start, but the speed at which she devolves into a jealous, possessive, stalker-ish mess over the episode felt awkward. I also have a personal beef with characters in Mahiru’s position being portrayed this way because it opens otherwise sympathetic characters up to a lot of criticism I don’t think they ultimately deserve. It’s only through some very cute fanart that I’ve really come to embrace the “Mahiru, doting mother to two silly gay girls” dynamic. Ultimately Mahiru’s story is less about her romantic feelings than about how living vicariously through Karen was just a way of coping with low self-esteem. That’s great, but the way the episode was framed overshadowed that message for me.

Kaoruko and Futaba’s episode was solid, but they suffer from being easily the most disposable of the pairings story-wise – as much as it hurts me to say that, considering I’m quite fond of Kaoruko.

I was thoroughly satisfied by Maya and Claudine, however. Perhaps it’s because they’re the clearest articulation of the show’s takarazuka critique, which is really its bread and butter. Perhaps it’s just because Claudine is the goddamned best and I absolutely adore her. But her arc from here to here cuts right to the heart of what Revue Starlight is about. Claudine works because she’s a case where the show’s themes and its characterization succeeded with equal intensity.

It was also brilliant to reveal that Maya wasn’t actually unbeatable in the auditions even before Hikari’s arrival. The fact that she’s dominated by Banana, a Stage Girl who doesn’t want the prestige that comes with Position Zero (in fact, she prefers being behind the scenes) irreverently undermines the sanctity of the Top Star. When Maya and Claudine lose the doubles match against Karen and Hikari, Maya’s fall from on high is complete. But it’s only once she’s fallen that she’s able to appreciate that which is most important: Claudine’s love.

Which brings us, finally, to Karen and Hikari. Nothing in Revue Starlight illustrates my conflicted feelings better than these two. They are at once the most emotionally intense aspect of the show, and also the most obfuscated by symbolism. They are the strongest embodiment of Starlight’s themes and ambitions, and also the ones that I found myself actively rooting against in some of the revues. Again, the feeling is impossible to explain coherently.

To be fair, I should say that most of this isn’t Hikari’s fault. She did much of the emotional heavy lifting while Karen coasted through nearly the entire show without anything resembling a character arc. It’s not until the penultimate episode where she evidences any significant sign of struggle. The last deeply human moment I can recall from Karen before this point is the absolutely gorgeous episode 4, when she finally breaks through Hikari’s defenses and they join hands and hearts together once more. Most of the time in between those two episodes, I felt at best apathetic about her. As with everything regarding this show, it’s hard to say why. I’m usually pretty fond of the genki female protagonist archetype, all other things being equal. But I just wasn’t feeling it with Karen.

And despite all that, the origin, renewal, and conclusion to Hikari and Karen’s relationship in episodes 8, 4, and 12 respectively were deeply emotionally satisfying. The cell phone chase Hikari leads Karen on in episode four was one of the most masterfully written scenes of the entire year. And the finale, particularly in the second half, was a rousing and satisfying emotional climax. Like the conclusion to Maya and Claudine’s relationship, the finale backs up thematic brilliance with emotional weight.

This is not least because Revue Starlight is a joyous rejection of tragedy. It is particularly and openly disdainful of the trope wherein tragedy befalls two women in love. All throughout the series I cringed at what an lame “bury your gays” tale the in-universe Starlight was, with the inevitability of Claire and Flora being punished for seeking happiness together. And to its extreme credit, Revue Starlight unapologetically obliterates every last trace of this trope. There is no cruel sacrifice, there is only mutual love. And so as the girls wrap up their new take Starlight, we see Claire and Flora reach once again for the star, as we have countless times throughout the series. Every previous time has ended in sorrow and eternal separation.

But this time they aren’t reaching for a mirage. The star they desired is standing right by their side. In each other, they’ve finally found that happiness, and no capricious whims of fate will ever break them apart.

So yes, Revue Starlight was a curious experience. Often I found its ambition greater than its ability to execute, and I’m not the kind of person who gives a lot of points to ambition for its own sake; a simple story honed to perfection will always be my preference. But ambition is worth something, and I feel like Revue Starlight’s themes are of particular importance. I’m glad this is a story that’s been told, regardless of its shortcomings.

(P.S. I couldn’t find any way to work it into my comments, so I’m going to awkwardly tack it on here: the fourth wall break in the finale was spectacular. The giraffe, the auditions, everything was ultimately a red herring. It’s you, the audience, who has historically perpetuated the systems these girls have to struggle against. And it’s you, the audience, who have been given the option to celebrate and support their liberation from those systems. Yes, in the end even liberated Stage Girls still need an audience – you are the only reason Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight exists after all – but you can choose to be a kinder, more understanding audience. Revue Starlight is imploring you to consider that.)

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Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3
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Shingeki is two cour, so it’s continuing into next season and I’ll write up my thoughts when it’s done. For now, all I want to say is that while the first five or so episodes were a bit dull and failed to play to any of the series’ strengths, it’s been on fire since then. This is largely due to Historia, who has rocketing up the rankings and is now by far my favorite character. Her arc is just genuinely excellent, and was accompanied by all the goofy titan shit that is this show’s bread and butter. I’m fairly excited to see how the rest plays out.

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Hanebado!
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Nagisa and Riko, pictured above, suddenly realizing this smouldering hellscape of a show cares not for their dreams and hard work.

Hanebado is a bewilderingly bad show. For a time it was bad in an engaging way. A wacky sort of bad, with comic villains like Kaoruko and Connie and hilarious stylistic choices like Ayano’s demonic expressions, plus a genuinely strong production from an animation and art perspective at least. It was “so bad it’s good” in that fun trainwreck way. And it even sprinkled the occasional moment of genuine human feeling here and there, like a flame desperately trying to stay lit in a hurricane.

But the last few episodes (primarily 10, 11, 13) really doused that flame, offering a limp, soggy ending to a show I at one point actually anticipated each week. Hanebado stands as a cautionary tale regarding what happens when a show that’s “so bad it’s good” lacks the self-awareness to know it’s bad, and attempts to wrap itself up as if it were good. That’s exactly what happened here. I could see it coming a mile away, but held out some hope it’d throw another curve ball when it needed it most. Alas, no such luck.

There’s a lot that was wrong about Hanebado before the final arc. The most fundamental problem was that while this is a sports anime, I wanted nothing more than for Ayano to quit badminton. It became a source of emotional torture at the hands of well-meaning but disastrously incompetent friends like Elena, indefensibly oblivious teammates like everyone on the team (except maybe Nagisa), and the over-the-top villainy of Kaoruko and Connie.

And this could have worked if Ayano did, ultimately, step away from badminton. If she found some other passion and abandoned a deeply toxic situation that turned all her friends into blithering morons and her mother into a run-away deadbeat (oh we’ll get to her later). It could have been a subversion of the “victory at all emotional and physical costs” mantra that underpins most sports anime to some degree. Certainly, the story went out of its way over and over to show what a damaging experience every single episode was for Ayano, so it could have been that kind of show.

…Hanebado is not that kind of show, it turns out. It’s something so, so, so much incomprehensibly dumber.

Ayano spends the majority of what is ostensibly her show under the sway of what may as well be demonic possession. She becomes unadulterated hatred and spite incarnate, shitting on her teammates at every turn and obliterating all previously recognizable personality traits in favor of being a tremendous asshole to everyone who comes within line of sight. For the better part of about eight episodes of a one cour series, she ceases to engage in anything resembling sane human interaction.

Again, this could have worked if Hanebado had any coherent message at all to impart to its audience. But this is one of the least coherent works of fiction I’ve ever seen through to completion. Almost no major character has a consistent personality, seemingly relevant plot threads ultimately vanish into thin air, our alleged co-protagonist Nagisa spends most of the show trying to be the lead in a story that Hanebado has not the slightest interest in telling, and the tonal whiplash is so intense that it could perform beheadings.

So we end up with a show that performs violent character assassination on its primary protagonist, sets her up for something wildly different from a traditional sports anime, and then utterly bails out on saying anything meaningful in the end. It sputters and putters its way through a pedestrian “discovering friendship and teamwork and happiness” ending, in the single most ludicrous “crowd spontaneously shouting encouragement at a character” scene ever conceived.

But like I mentioned, for a time I was pretty excited by this show, even though I knew it was disastrously written. How is that possible based on what I’ve been saying? Eh, I just started rolling with the fact that it would never be the serious drama it fancied itself to be, and went all in on the goofy dumb shit. And nothing was goofier or dumber than Connie and Kaoruko, the inexplicably cruel villains who make Ayano’s life hell.

Kaoruko is the less important of the two, but the inanity of her backstory with Ayano – as a child she literally tied Ayano up and coughed in her face so they could both be ill for their match – exemplifies what cruelly petty little shits many of the characters in this show are. That match ended up being the origin of Ayano’s eventual death spiral, given that her mother abandoned her after the loss. And when Kaoruko returns in the present day, she’s just pleased as punch to exploit what she’s done to Ayano. Anything to score a psychological edge in their next match, I suppose.

In any other show it would have been a no-brainer to root for Ayano over Kaoruko. But Hanebado was well and truly off the rails and actively plowing unholy carnage through a crowd of orphans by this point, so I actually went into the match wanting Kaoruko to win. Somewhat ironically, sure, but I was completely done with this show’s mind-numbingly stupid handling of Ayano.

And so when Kaoruko does lose, in the most humiliating manner possible, I felt bad for her. Not, mind you, in a way the show had by any stretch of the imagination earned, I just felt bad for her in the way I felt bad for any mere mortal, deserved or not, who got on the bad side of Elder God of Unfathomable Cosmic Rage, Hanesaki Ayano. Kaoruko having a very cute sidekick who tearfully encouraged her during the match and gently embraced her after her loss only further reinforced how ass backwards this show’s priorities are.

Then there’s Connie. My precious angel who did nothing wrong (except for all the things she did wrong). In a preposterous stroke of unintentional brilliance, Connie somehow winds up with the most satisfying character arc in the show (yes, it’s a low bar to clear). We’re introduced to her as a player for a rival school who seems determined to cause Ayano the worst possible emotional trauma. After playing 1-on-2 and still crushing Ayano, she reveals the big twist: she’s Ayano’s little sister. She’s the girl Uchika has been raising instead, halfway around the world, after abandoning Ayano years ago.

Admittedly, Hanebado puts a lot more work into Connie than it does with Kaoruko. But that only makes her thoroughly evil introduction all the more bewildering. After two separate occasions on which Connie tries to mindbreak Ayano, she shows up to invite Ayano out to a theme park where she can confess her desire to live together as one happy family. She’s sweet and bashful and incredibly sincere about this. And Ayano leads her on all day while acting the playful older sister… all so she can turn around and stomp the love out of Connie’s heart in the cruelest way possible.

This moment is phenomenal for all the wrong ways. It had me cackling because the sheer lack of thought that went into the entire sequence of events was wild. Connie’s apologetic olive branch to Ayano comes out of nowhere, skipping what by all rights should have been half a cour of intense character work to reconcile the two. Meanwhile, Ayano’s reaction is on brand for the hateful gremlin they’ve decided to make her, but she’s been such an evil shit about literally everything for so long by this point that there isn’t anything new or interesting going on here.

So it they really wanted Connie to feel this way about Ayano, and if they really wanted Ayano’s rejection of those feelings to be a shocking sign of how far Ayano had fallen, then they would never should have had Connie come on so villainously in their first meeting. It’s completely fucking incomprehensible how this ever got beyond a first draft.

As with Kaoruko though, the totally accidental silver lining is that this run-in with Infinite Void of Murderous Sadism, Hanesaki Ayano does more to make Connie sympathetic than anything the writers could have intentionally dreamed up. As with Kaoruko’s sweet little sidekick, Connie also has someone who cares deeply about her – Yuika, Connie’s team captain and 110% gay lover. In the end, we’re treated to the most emotionally competent scene in the entire show as Connie returns from her disastrous meeting with Ayano and is greeted by her teammates, who welcome her back despite the jerk she’d been lately.

There’s an argument to be made that Hanebado was contrasting Kaoruko and Connie’s support networks to Ayano’s lack of one, but that would give Hanebado far too much credit. It’s not that Ayano lacked a theoretical support network, it’s that they were all god-fucking-damned-useless morons. I lost count of the number of times a teammate would watch Ayano do something monstrous and go “golly gee, Ayano is kinda weird lately, huh?”.

Nagisa, while not helpful per se, did at least take an understandable and consistent approach. Ever the the protagonist of a show that doesn’t exist, she had a very idealistic “we’ll settle this on the court, my fellow athlete!” view of Ayano. It’s hilariously at odds with the tone of the show, but I can at least respect it. After all it’s not her responsibility to be Ayano’s therapist. Yeah Nagisa was a little bit of a jerk to Ayano at first, but she did earnestly apologize. She’s had her own struggles to deal with. For example: fighting for relevance in a show that cared little for her existence until it needed a final opponent to last-second redeem Ayano.

The character who challenges Ayano most often on her behavior is her childhood friend, Elena. But her own guilt over getting Ayano into this situation prevents her from accomplishing literally anything at all. Elena’s challenges consist of her going “Hey, Ayano, that was kinda mean!” and Ayano countering “You made me this waaaaaay~”, after which Elena shrinks away until they repeat the same flaccid exchange an episode or two later.

But then near the end, Elena finally gets a chance to shine. An opportunity lands right in her lap! Surely this is what all of her abortive attempts thus far have been leading up to: Uchika returns, and Elena decides to confront her about abandoning Ayano. If Elena can stand up for Ayano here, she’ll go from zero to hero.

Instead, Hanebado takes this opportunity to complete its grotesque metamorphosis into the dumbest turd of a story you’ve ever seen.

See, Elena can’t meaningfully challenge Uchika… because Hanebado doesn’t think Uchika was wrong!

Uchika enthusiastically fostered Ayano’s adoration for badminton from a very young age. But after a particularly rough loss for Ayano, she abandons her sick and distraught daughter without a word, turning an ice cold shoulder on tearful pleas not to leave. At this point, Ayano is a literal child who can’t possibly interpret this as anything other than “I lost, mom doesn’t need me anymore, this is my fault, I am bad and deserve this”. Uchika moves to the other side of the world, enjoys fame and success, and adopts a new badminton daughter. There’s no indication she once makes an effort to return to Ayano. Uchika is a worthless, abusive mother.

So you have to imagine she’s got an extremely good reason for doing what she did that we just weren’t privy to.
> she does not
Well, she finally realizes what grievous harm she caused and strives to make amends?
> she does not
Okay fine, but she at least gets massively chewed out for this by people who care about Ayano.
> she does not
Alright, fuck, I’ll settle for her getting any real pushback at all.
> she does not

What. The. Fuck. Ultimately, Hanebado’s message is: Uchika was right. She abandoned her daughter, left her with deep emotional trauma, made no attempt to apologize, doesn’t really think she didn’t anything wrong (“I guess I’m a bad mom, hyuk hyuk, but its for the best” does not count!), and worst of all the show validates her approach by immediately transitioning from Uchika’s outrageously defiant conversation with Elena into Ayano falling in love with badminton again. We get this unbelievable exchange with Elena where Uchika spouts some shounen sports tripe about “honing your body” and “seeing how far you can take your skills” and whatnot. And SHE LITERALLY SAYS SHE HAS NO REGRETS.

The only thing I can possibly see the writers citing as pushback against Uchika is Ayano rejecting the offer to move to Denmark with her. But if that’s their idea of critique against Uchika, they are out of their goddamned minds. It’s not exactly a shock for Ayano to choose not to turn her life upside down and move halfway around the world even if her mom wasn’t complete filth. Ayano doesn’t reject it harshly either, she really cushions the blow and makes sure to call Uchika “mom”. And can I remind everyone that at no point does Uchika ever consider moving back to Japan to be with Ayano?

Uchika is one of the worst-written characters in all of anime, and Hanebado trips over her and breaks its neck by refusing to criticize her actions. We can’t even write this off as “but, ongoing manga!” because regardless of what the manga does, the anime doesn’t leave us with any sign of unfinished business here. It’s to be taken at face value.

What could it possibly have done to salvage this? Well, probably nothing that late in the game, but if it wanted to bridge the gap between Uchika and Ayano, there was one character who could maybe have served that purpose (with a much more competent writing staff, at least).

C-O-N-N-I-E

A character who could have understood Ayano’s reverence for Uchika, because she’s felt it herself. A character who could have spoken to Ayano as another girl of the same age with the same athletic passion. A character who could have had some leverage to get Uchika’s attention and tell her what an awful thing she’d done to Ayano. A character who had actually had something resembling a satisfying character arc and really deserved a chance to cap it off in a meaningful way.

A character who, unbelievably, never returns after her soul-crushing encounter with Ayano in episode 9.

Instead, it’s the emotionally sterile cheers of people who have literally no knowledge of why Ayano is so fucked up in the first place that somehow rouses Ayano to regain her humanity and love for badminton and ugh I’m going to gag.

I don’t know why Hanebado exists. I don’t know who it’s for. I don’t know how any show goes this deeply wrong.

And yet, I somehow don’t truly hate it in the way I hate a genuinely offensive show. It’s bad, it’s so so very bad, but that badness managed to be just endearing enough for just long enough that I don’t actually regret watching it or even writing 2.5k words about it. Why? I don’t know. Life is weird.

And hey, if nothing else, it gave us Connie.

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Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro
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What started with an unexpectedly solid first half really shit the bed in the second half. It’s not even that the show changed radically, because the formula was fairly consistent. But in a lot of small (and some big) ways, it thoroughly wore out its welcome. By the end it’s only Manana that kept me coming back, and I really don’t think sticking with it was time well spent.

As a comedy, this show generally fails what I think of as the “Gabriel Dropout test”. In my eyes, a good comedy takes the viewer on a journey from laughing at, to laughing with, to genuinely caring about its characters. The biggest payoff comes in the moments where it doesn’t even need to tell a joke, because the characters have become more than ingredients in a punchline. I’m not saying every comedy needs to do this, but the ones that want me to stay engaged probably do. I’m fine with comedy that’s fundamentally about flawed people being kinda shitty to each other (like Hinamatsuri or GabDro), but if you can’t also convince me that they ultimately like each other (like in Hinamatsuri or GabDro!) then I’m going to emotionally disengage. Chio-chan had a brief, sweet segment in episode 8 involving Momo, an unusually honest bit of dialogue from Manana strongly implying feelings for Chio in episode 9, and… not much else.

In fairness, the relationship between Chio and Manana had the potential to be exceptional, and sometimes even managed it. In a twisted sort of way there’s a lot that feels entirely legitimate about their constant attempts to one-up the other. They beat each other up, humiliate each other in front of friends, and prod mercilessly at any sign of vulnerability. But it’s so mutual that it doesn’t feel mean-spirited… uh, doesn’t feel overly mean-spirited. The fact that neither ever gets mad at the other for any length of time does a decent job of selling the idea that this is just how they are, and it’s even fun for them in its own perverse way. The occasional hints that they have feelings for each other (even if it’s primarily on Manana’s end) also blunts the sharp edges a little.

Ultimately however, this didn’t save the show. It was sunk by a litany of iffy decisions that, while perhaps surmountable as one-offs or in isolation, combined to make the whole experience a lot more frustrating than it had to be.

After some genuinely great “Bloody Butterfly” skits, the biker Andou ends up badly overstaying his welcome. His whole gimmick is the fact that he’s got a huge crush on Chio. It’s never made clear how old he is, but he looks like he’s at least in his late 20s, which means we’ve got this adult man trying to get with a first year high school girl. And really, that’s it. That’s most of his appearances – finding awkward ways to try to impress Chio, who non-committally blushes while Manana looks on in disgust. It does none of the characters any favors. It also doesn’t help that some regrettable “gay panic” humor is exploited a few times between Andou and one of his male friends. Ugh.

Then there’s Kushitori, an awful “lesbian predator” stereotype, complete with bestial lustful panting, unwanted groping, and overly forceful personality. She’s a total mess of a character, and I dreaded every time she showed up. Just to make things worse, she ends up living in the woods training in the ways of groping under a creepy homeless man who lost his job after molesting girls on a train. And this fucker shows up multiple times. Gag.

My issue isn’t at all that I think that fanservice itself is bad, because I don’t. But Chio-chan’s approach too often felt like a sweaty, balding middle-aged salaryman masturbating in a dirty convenience store restroom with a pair of vending machine panties. It wasn’t like that all the time, or even most of the time, but the stink that started out on the fringes eventually built up to the point where I wanted vacate the room by the end.

I had intended to include a section where I gush over how much I adore Manana (and I DO), but ultimately I just can’t be bothered. Yes she’s great, but I just don’t have it in me to type more about this series.

Look, I’ve definitely seen much worse shows. Hell, Hanebado is arguably much worse from this very season. It fails so profoundly at what it’s trying to do, whereas Chio-chan is pretty true to itself (even if that self is sometimes slimy). But I was able to get something out of Hanebado’s badness, even if it wasn’t what was intended, whereas Chio-chan ultimately leaves me feeling empty. And that feeling only gets stronger the more I sit here and type, hence the unusually low score. This show simply wasn’t worth my time.

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5 Responses to “2018 Summer in Review – Final Thoughts”

  1. Usagi says:

    If you feel like you didn’t feel certain couples in Starlight, you should read the Overture manga:

    https://dynasty-scans.com/series/shoujokageki_revue_starlight_overture

    It’s canon, takes place a year before the anime and explains so much about the couples that the anime couldn’t fit in. And at least one chapter will help you appreciate Karen a bit more.

    It could also help as a bridge to end this season and start the new one, Zombieland and Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san are a must watch.

    • something something says:

      Yeah I heard the Starlight manga is pretty good, so I may read it at some point. Wouldn’t change my issues with how they’re handled in the anime really, but seeing as how I enjoy the fanart so much, it might be a good complement for that.

  2. Chad O'Dell says:

    A shame you missed Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sou. It turned out way better than I thought it would.

  3. basior says:

    Well, I can tell you have a completelly different anime taste than me.
    Currently struggling to go through Yama na Susume S2 (S1 wasn’t a biggie bc of 5 min ep lenght) and not sure if I’m gonna finish it.
    Revue Starlight… well, I admit just checked few of their eps skipping forward and since I didn’t see anything appealing I didn’t watch it.
    But how on the earth you could drop Asobi Asobase?! That was one of the funniest anime I’ve ever seen, even though last 2 eps were a bit weaker than the rest of the eps.

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