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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12 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 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.

      • Makoto says:

        Admin edit: Amanchu stuff

        • something says:

          Just stop for a second and think about how your approach here looks from the outside. Giving warnings that were not asked for and then going “told you so” just feels petty. This doesn’t come off as you actually being concerned about other people’s viewing experience, it just comes off as you knowing some spoilers and feeling superior for it. I have very complicated feelings about balancing not wanting to be spoiled as a general rule vs being able to emotionally detach from something before it goes to shit. But those complicated feelings aren’t solved by someone being smug about knowing future events ahead of anime watchers.

          You’re hardly the only person I’ve seen do this, but it’s honestly never a good look. I’m all for being frustrated with the show (it’s hot fuckin’ garbage for sure), but don’t let that leak over into other people’s experiences. Especially because often when I’ve been “warned” about something, it ended being a baseless warning. So all it accomplished is putting me on edge about something I didn’t need to worry about. That’s why I’m skeptical of this kind of thing, even if, yeah, this particular time the series turned out to be trash. But if a show is going to crash and burn, then it’s gonna happen whether people drop hints about it or not.

          • Makoto says:

            The “told you so” wasn’t about a warning of Amanchu, it was about Comic Girls turning into first place and Amanchu the last one, because since the beginning I had a feeling Comic Girls would take the relationships more seriously and then episode 5 paid off and episode 9 delivered even more, basically I “told you so” the feeling I had for Comic Girls was right. That’s why I used two separate paragraphs, one for the thing I actually told you before and the 2nd one was an “also” I added. I never warned you about anything and my original post didn’t have any intention to warning you even if I knew what was gonna happen with one of the shows. I don’t feel superior about knowing the spoilers, if you want to run blindly into the unknown is fine for me, I’m just confused how you managed to avoid them during your whole experience watching the first and second seasons, that’s what I was trying to point out in the 2nd paragraph, my confusion. I wish you realized it by yourself sooner so you didn’t waste money on the BDs. I never pick up anything if there is a slight chance of it turning hetero at some point.

            And yes, I know I could have said “Told you so” since episode 5 of Comic Girls aired and it wouldn’t have come out like I was bragging about a warning, but it was best to wait until you knew what Amanchu really was, because knowing how skeptical you are about the yuri in Kirara (way more than you are about “warnings”, every time you posted about authors having “limits” I wish twitter had a downvote function), you would have still put Comic Girls below Amanchu back then.

            • something says:

              If you don’t see how what you said can come off as a warning, I don’t know what to say other than that you’re really not seeing it from the other person’s side.

              As for Comic Girls (which is just a very different kind of show), it did better with Koyume than I had expected (and that’s one of the things I’ll be praising it for when I do my Spring season post) but it’s still playing fairly safe within the limits of most Kirara-style slice of life series. With rare exceptions, even the stories that actively acknowledge one of the girls’ romantic feelings tend not to reciprocate them, and Comic Girls isn’t an exception there. So while I love how it handled Koyume and am decently happy with how it handled Tsubasa (compared to Sharo/Rize or Aya/Youko for example), it’s still got a long way to go. It only lightly scratched the surface of what could be developed there, at least in the material the anime has covered.

              • Makoto says:

                You’re right about the material the anime has covered in those shows, but one thing is the anime and other the manga, and I don’t believe the author of the manga has limits, saying the manga itself has defined limits, regardless if it’s a slice of life or not, is almost insulting to the mangaka. You have read Koufuku Graffiti, confessions aren’t out of the question and it’s not the only Kirara manga that has one.

                If authors like the characters enough together they’ll eventually make them end together in a way that makes sense, even if it takes multiple volumes to get there, because of two reasons: 1st. The fans that have been reading the manga for so long support characters like Koyume, Aya and Sharo and want them to just spill the beans and not stay silent forever, and 2nd. Her confessing eventually is part of her character arc that the author introduced for a reason, like Koyume and in a lesser way Ayaya. Just take a look at this: I know it’s not from the manga but if there were any “limits” that she isn’t allowed to cross she wouldn’t upload stuff like this to twitter. Everything is a matter of patience, just wait until our beloved characters are ready to confess, they’ll get there eventually, and don’t constantly tweet about authors surely getting close to those imaginary limits every time something super gay happens in an anime episode, you have no idea how much you alienate the people reading your tweets when you’re happy about the gay in the episode but then suddenly say you know it won’t get past a certain point and this is the “limit”, it’s a big turn off when you do that, no limit will stop a mangaka if they really want to write a confession.

                • something says:

                  If you want to be blind to the existence of genre conventions and editorial pressures that leave the vast majority of slice of life relationships ambiguous and incomplete, that’s your right. But please don’t expect feel-good talk like “if you’re patient, it’ll happen!” to get me to play along. That’s absolutely not in line with observable reality.

                  Also, I’d recommend you do yourself a favor and unfollow me. My twitter does not exist for your benefit, so I’m not concerned if you feel “alienated” by me voicing my feelings about what I consider a problematic trend in a genre I otherwise love. Nobody follows anyone on Twitter except by their own volition, so you have no grounds to complains about how I tweet. You’re voluntarily choosing to read it, so why not stop? I’ve never understood why people follow accounts belonging to strangers that they have a problem with. Life is way too short for that.

                  • Makoto says:

                    Such “problematic trend” does not exist. It’s all in your mind, you can say whatever you want about editorials and editors, and yet neither of them stopped the confession in Koufuku Graffiti, nor in any other Kirara manga you haven’t read or any other confession that will be written in the future. If the author wants it to happen it’ll happen because it was planned since the beginning.

                    And I don’t even follow you, I just go to twitter to search for different reactions to yuri anime moments, and yours would be perfect if it weren’t for those occasional comments about limits that don’t actually exist. It’s like you invent those limits just to bring yourself down. You don’t have to kill your own hopes, at least let the author do it themselves when they end their own manga in a way you don’t like, but don’t t try to predict that everything is lost before it’s over, you can’t predict it.

                    • something says:

                      Yeah I’m gonna just cut the conversation off here, because you are living in a wild fantasy dream world completely divorced from reality (and with, it seems, incredibly low bars to clear for what counts as meaningful relationships), and no actual conclusion is going to come from this. It’s honestly not important to me whether you agree with me – and you shouldn’t care about getting me to agree with you either.

  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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