Previous: 2018 Spring in Review – Final Thoughts

More of a mid-season review at this point but I delayed this a lot early on thanks to Shingeki airing so late in the 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. Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho [ 10.0 / 10 ]
01T. Yama no Susume: Third Season [ 10.0 / 10 ] (Summer)
03. Yurucamp [ 9.5 / 10 ]
04. Hinamatsuri [ 9.25 / 10 ]
05. Slow Start [ 9.0 / 10 ]
06. Harukana Receive [ 9.0 / 10 ] (Summer)
07. Uma Musume [ 9.0 / 10 ]
08. Citrus [ 8.75 / 10 ]
09. Comic Girls [ 8.5 / 10 ]
10. Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro [ 7.25 / 10 ] (Summer)
11. Marchen Madchen [ 7.0 / 10 ]
12. Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 [ 6.75 / 10 ] (Summer)
13. Hanebado! [ 5.0 / 10 ] (Summer)


Previous Year Pick-ups

Asobi Asobase [1 ep] – I found this quite excruciating.

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
Moeta “Kaos” Kaoruko – Comic Girls
Higa Kanata – Harukana Receive
Nonomura Manana – Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro
Kagimura Hazuki – Marchen Madchen
Aihara Mei – Citrus

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
Mihama Chio / Nonomura Manana – Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

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 100% import
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I decided pretty early on that selecting an AOTY between this and Yorimoi would be folly. Yorimoi is an intense and new experience that burst forth out of nowhere, while Yamasusu is the unlikely third(!) season of one of the most masterfully executed productions anime has ever seen. Yamasusu has already earned its place in my heart, and frankly all it needs to do is keep being itself to remain among the greatest series of all time. Most shows have to desperately claw their way to an elusive 10/10, but at this point that’s just Yamasusu’s default resting state.

Sure, so far “continuing to be itself” is mostly what it’s doing. Call it “playing it safe” if you like, but Yamasusu is fully aware of what it wants to be, and polishing that to the point of absolute perfection is something to celebrate, not criticize. It’s been given the treasured opportunity almost no other slice of life shows have: time. Time to deepen our connection with the characters, time to sync up with the series’ unique groove, time to see as much of their lives as is possible. True, it’s never been given full length episodes, and the runtime of all three seasons still falls short of a single two-cour anime. But one of the most striking things about Yamasusu is that it squeezes every bit as much and more out of 14 minutes as other anime do with 24. No other short-format show has ever made me feel, without fail, like I just watched a full length episode every week. That makes episode count even more important than runtime.

Like a lot of slice of life shows, the things that make Yamasusu great can be hard to articulate. Why does Aoi fretting over which hiking boots to buy make me cry? The emotions I feel make perfect sense to me in the moment, but explaining to others why I feel them is tough. But that’s Yamasusu’s magic: hundreds of seemingly insignificant interactions brilliantly elevated with the perfect expression, gesture, or emotion for that precise moment, through empathetic writing and beautiful animation. It all combines to make Yamasusu the unforgettable experience it is today.

From arranging a nighttime hike (coughdatecough) with Hinata, to picking out her first real hiking boots, to opening herself to new friends at school, to going solo hiking, and heck even trying coffee for the first time, the arc of season three thus far has been Aoi trying new things and expanding her horizons. She’s consciously trying to overcome her limitations and inhibitions. She’s doing everything she can to prepare herself once again for that challenge looming far off on the horizon. But she won’t have to do it alone. Not with Honoka, Konoka, Kaede, and most of all Hinata – ever supportive and loving – by her side. [6 episodes]

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Harukana Receive 100% import
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As a fan of the manga prior to the adaptation (something I almost never get to say, though hopefully it’ll become more common as I read more manga), I had really high hopes for the anime and I’m delighted that thus far it’s easily met those hopes. There was a bit of a scare with a disappointing first episode, full of dead air, a lack of music, slow movement and slower pacing. It felt a bit lifeless, and my heart sank by the end of it. But then the astonishingly excellent episode two aired and it’s been perfectly on point ever since.

The jazzy and tropical soundtrack and the gorgeous color work lend the series a ton of vibrancy, and while the animation during the matches tends to be played at fairly slow speeds (as if it’s going into slow motion for effect, but way too often) which sometimes lessens the impact of some really good cuts, there’s still a great deal of super expressive animation. It’s especially good at framing the action with striking angles that emphasize the athletes as towering over the court, or expressions that emphasize the impact of receiving the ball at high speed. Episode two is the real showcase, but episode six was truly excellent as well. Also, it’s quite gay. I mean I don’t have much to add to that, but it’s important!

Most of all, this show respects its characters’ passion for the sport and for each other without ever relying on exaggerated caricatures of either good or evil. As with the best sports shows, their opponents are characters you can root for almost as hard as you do for the protagonists. They’re all people with believable personalities and dreams. This is particularly evident in how Kanata and Narumi’s relationship is handled. There’s a touchy history there, but also a lot of genuine concern and emotion, feelings they both struggle to articulate in words but manage to convey in indirect yet no less meaningful ways.

Harukana Recieve isn’t a story about how Kanata comes to love volleyball again – she’s reminded of that quite early on. Instead it’s a story of how she takes that reinvigorated love and a new partner, and sees how far they can go together. I’m really looking forward to the second half of the show since we’ll be meeting maybe my favorite character, and I think I know exactly where in the manga the anime has to end, so that’s gonna be a load of fun. Harukana Receive is only going to get better from here on out. [6 episodes]

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Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro 5% import
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I had low expectations for this, based on its PVs. They seemed to depict a totally incoherent sequence of over-the-top set pieces with little in the way of character focus, the kind of thing that might entertain me for an episode or two before I get bored. But in reality, the majority of the show has been about two endearingly shitty friends being endearingly shitty to each other in terribly funny and fairly gay ways. Not what I expected, but very happy it’s what we get!

Not everything is great. The kabbadi-obsessed Kushitori went from “kinda funny but potentially problematic if not handled well” in her first appearance to outright “ergh, this is not good at all” in her appearance in the latest episode. This show is already pretty gay as is, it certainly didn’t need the most openly gay character to have an uncontrollable urge to grope girls’ butts. And I mean it’s not even particularly clever or funny about it, it’s just… bleh?

But even after penalizing the show for that misstep, everything else about it has been unexpectedly delightful. Chio’s solo adventures are pretty fun in their own right, but it’s Manana who absolutely steals the show. I adore Manana, the shitty little gremlin, and all the weird sexual tension in her interactions with Chio delights me to no end. Chio by herself is actually a fairly down-to-earth and considerate girl, but when she’s with Manana all her worst traits come out… and it’s beautiful to behold. They constantly throw each other under the bus, look for openings to inflict ridicule, and are ready to beat the stuffing out of each other at a moment’s notice… ahh, friendship is beautiful, isn’t it? [6 episodes]

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Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 0% import
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So far, Shigeki no Political Maneuvering And Succession Struggles has not exactly lived up to the better parts of what made its predecessors weirdly charming. It’s trying, as best it can, but a very loud very dumb show about huge naked babies eating steampunk spidermen is just not that well-suited to being a political thriller. It’s going for that “man is the real monster” vibe but frankly the truth about the titans already delivered that message, and in a more fitting manner for a show like this.

It’s not terrible or anything, but it is a tad, well, dull. Outside of Levi’s astonishingly badass antics in the second episode it’s not even been particularly action-packed. I’m the last person to value action very much, but we’ve gone a bit too far in the other direction at the moment. I know we have a lot of time for things to get more exciting considering it’s two cour, but I desperately hope that this story arc wraps up soon. I enjoy having Levi back, and I’ve been digging the increased screentime for Hange. And there’s maybe a nugget of something interesting to what it’s trying to do… but it’s not quite pulling it off. The source material it’s got to work with just seems far too dry.

I’m still totally on board to stick with this to the end, but if this arc takes the whole first cour that’s gonna be a slog. The fact that this started airing so late in the season doesn’t really help either. That makes it feel like it should be farther along than it is compared to the rest of the season, which may be making me a little more impatient with it than I’d be otherwise. [4 episodes]

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Hanebado! 0% import
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…Oh boy. I’ve already said so much about this show on twitter that I’m not even sure where to start here. This is, hands down, one of the most tonally incoherent pieces of fiction I’ve ever experienced. What started as a somewhat over-dramatic but promising sports anime has turned into an absolute narrative trainwreck of incomprehensible proportions. What makes it even more confusing is that there are still occasional flashes of the show it thinks it is, but they’re being drowned out by the total insanity of everything involving Ayano. And so we get this incredibly bizarre mix of shows crammed into one, with a Riko and Nagisa’s down-to-earth hard-working sports drama struggling in vain to salvage any screentime it can from Hanesaki Ayano’s Freak Show and House of Horrors (and then there’s this utterly tedious and inexplicable love triangle subplot playing out among the C-tier characters who literally nobody cares about).

It’s a truly bizarre feeling for me to be watching this, because most shows quickly fall into one of two categories for me: I really like them, or I drop them. There’s some middle ground of course (especially this season), but typically when I have half as many problems with a show as I do with this one, I’m out. And yet… I honestly cannot imagine dropping this. It’s too damn entertaining. For all the wrong reasons, of course, but entertainment is entertainment. I still don’t think I’d call this hate-watching, because I don’t hate watching it, but at the same time it’s impossible to take just about anything it’s doing seriously. This simply isn’t how I tend to interact with anime, so yeah, it’s… weird. Kudos to Hanebado for giving me a new experience I guess?

Hell I think I have less of a problem with the show itself than with some of the discourse about it being “Finally, a serious female sports show!!”, which is just the goddamn goofiest take at this point (in fairness, a lot of those takes probably didn’t survive episode three, but they’re not gone yet). There is no universe in which this ought to be considered a more serious show than Takkyuu Musume, Harukana Receive, or Girls und Panzer. Having a darker color palette, less bubbly character designs, and a ton of angst is not what “serious” is. For crying out loud, the ever-controversial Keijo handled its characters with more emotional consistency than Hanebado does.

And that’s why, outside of anything involving Riko (who I like a lot), I’ve really gotten to the point where I’m latching onto the parts that I find most amusing, even if they involve cheering on the objectively horrible people making Ayano’s life hell. Connie is a piece of shit, but hell yeah I ship her with her captain and want to see as much of them as possible. And Kaoruko is a monster, but by the end of her match with Zombie Ayano, frankly, I wanted her to win. Which is fucked up! But I don’t see why my emotional reaction to the show should have to be consistent or logical when the show itself is anything but.

Ultimately, I have to give this a really low score because it’s just so incompetently written, but at the same time it clearly does something for me. Truth be told, I enjoy my time with this more than I do with Shingeki thus far, even if I wouldn’t actually take it over Shingeki if forced to choose. So like, Hanebado is bad, but, y’know… at this point that’s kinda what makes it genuinely goo– …errr, watchable. (Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) [7 episodes]

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14 Responses to “2018 Summer in Review – First Impressions”

  1. Ikan Lele says:

    I just read some manga chapters of Hanebado and lol it’s really different from the anime. From what I’ve read (12 chapters manga, equals 5 episodes in anime), the manga is closer to Takkyuu Musume, even Connie managed to develop shounenish rivalry with Ayano after their practice match. I don’t know what they are thinking to make it ‘too’ serious. Still, I gotta praise their effort on the animation. I hope it will have some good episodes later.

    Yama no Susume 3 is great so far but maybe it won’t be as great as S2 if it won’t have an arc like mount Fuji. I agree with you that the ED is really great. I already forgot the ED song of previous seasons (only remember Natsuiro Present OP), but maybe S3 ED is the best?

    Btw, do you watch summer anime other than the ones you write? I would recommend Hataraku Saibou. It’s more of monster of the week format but it’s a pretty fun watch overall. Don’t know if it suits your taste or not though lol

    • something says:

      What I’ve been hearing about Hanebado is that the manga started lighthearted, but then got serious later. The anime then in turn tried to hit a serious tone from the start, but without swapping out the more outlandish bits (Kaoruko, Connie, Ayano’s mom being such a piece of shit). And thus we’ve ended up with this completely insane clusterfuck of moods shoved into one show. If nothing else, it’s… interesting.

      My guess is that Yamasusu s3 won’t have as emotionally charged an arc as s2’s Fuji arc, but that’ll be okay. Fuji was so intense because Aoi failed, and struggled to deal with the weight of that. Presumably this time she’ll succeed, and so it’ll be a lighter feeling overall – but frankly that’s exactly what I want. She’s put in the effort, and I want her to reap the rewards. She’s earned it, Yama no Susume has earned it.

      This list covers everything I’m watching. Hataraku Saibou looks modestly interesting (and seems to be the most popular non-sequel this season) but I’m not a fan of the way Aniplex subs their shows for the most part, so I gave it a pass.

  2. Arisa says:

    Totally appreciate your entry here, man. It was quite fun reading them. I don’t plan on typing so much though since I’m quite lazy but basically, I agreed with a whole lot of your sentiment, plus all those yuri shipping? I can’t say no to that.

    Regarding Hanebado, yeah, I was very dissapointed with the show and dropped it already since there were tons of angst, plus the trainer guy is being annoying as well and the friend of our main protagonist really likes to look for the D so much. You already got someone following you around, why not go down the yuri route? Smh. Seriously though, I think the show should focused more on making the sport fun like Harukana Receive and gave the girls a bit more room to, well, improved their relationship better but since apparently it’s not really interested in doing that at the last episode I watched it, down to the dumpster it goes. The animation was excellent and all but that’s not gonna do it if half the characters kept fighting, making as if badminton is a sport where people are playing to snapped at each other.

    Harukana is certainly my most favorite anime of this season and it is so gay that I’m literally in love! Really hopes it sell really good.

    Why you didn’t watch Happy Sugar Life or Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight though? Not enough time? Not actually forcing you or anything, just simply wandering. Those two are another “very gay” anime of the season.

    I’m really sad that I didn’t followed Yama no Susume properly back then and I wad planning on getting into it recently but life problems is just too much sometimes. I hope I still have the chance someday. Is it selling great, right? Also, heard there’s subtext in there too. Could you confirmed that, please?

    • something says:

      Hanebado: Even if it didn’t “make it fun”, it still could have gotten by being dramatic and angsty if it grounded it in believable human emotions. And it’s -sometimes- able to do that, like with Riko in episode 6. Or it could have gone totally wild and went even crazier with Ayano and Connie and Kaoruko and just focused on that. Instead, it’s tried to be both a serious drama and a wacky freak show and it’s just not a clash that works. At least not as intended, anyway… it’s still entertaining in a weird way.

      HSL/Revue Starlight: HSL went to Amazon and Starlight to Sentai and I dislike both services so I skipped both shows. I read some of the HSL manga a while back and will probably just pick it back up in manga form eventually. It was… uhhh… interesting… It’s sort of a Very Problematic Trainwreck, but sometimes that’s just what you’re in the mood for so I found it amusing in a horrified kind of way. It’s not a really high priority for me though, there’s plenty of other manga I’m more interested in reading.

      Yama no Susume: Well, it’s short, so catching up won’t take long! S1 is 13 3 minute episodes so you could literally watch it in the time it takes to watch like 1.5-2 normal anime episodes. Season two is longer (13min x 2 cour) but it’s still only the equivalent of a 1 cour full-length anime. s3 is a 13min x 1 cour season.
      s1 sold a lot for a short, while s2 sold a little above average. s3 will maybe do 2k at best I guess. But there’s more to a series than BD sales, and Yama no Susume seems to have a fairly small but very dedicated fanbase, along with an insanely talented collection of very passionate industry veterans and rising stars who adore working on the show (the entire production of s3 was completed prior to the first episode airing, so it’s very well managed too). Add in a production committee who seems to be getting enough out of the show to make it worth their continued investment, and it has somehow managed the rare feat of being a slice of life show that gets a third season.

  3. Anontastic says:

    Kindred spirits yet again~!

    Yep. This series absolutely oversteered in an attempt to be a “serious and dramatic” sports show, ultimately to its demise. Having a dynamic tonal range in your show is perfectly doable, and great when done well, but the way Hanebado attempts it results in spontaneous character-warping, supervillainous antagonists, and attempts at dramatic payoff that fall so flat, they genuinely feel like humorous attempts at parody. The handling of the actual sport is done well enough, but absolutely crushed beneath the shows faults. Honestly, I don’t know what to blame here. I tried reading the manga, and it has very similar problems with its tone, while also managing to feel completely different and even more incoherent. Did the director just try to adapt what was on the page, and succeed? Or did he try to liberally re-interpret it, and somehow make all the same mistakes anyway? I’ll probably never know.

    Harukana Recieve:
    What I think Harukana Recieve does impressively well is use aspects of beach volleyball that are specific to the sport as a means of facilitating character *relationship* development. The fact that it’s a competition between pairs makes the (often romantic) partnership theming the show uses entirely appropriate. Haruka and Kanata can’t just train and develop individually to improve their game, the way you see in a lot of sports series; they have to develop *as a pair*, constantly supporting each other and communicating in order to succeed. It’s refreshing~! And you know what? If get to gawk at the best booty I’ve ever seen in an anime as a side-perk, I’LL TAKE IT!

    Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro:
    I totally understand where you’re coming from with the aspects of this show that irk you, but ultimately, My extremely high affinity for cynical, mean-spirited humor overpowers the issue. Seeing Kushitori struggle against her own psychotically perverted and compulsive mind makes me laugh, even if I do have to agree that it’s kinda insensitive, and not exactly clever. I think the biggest thing this series has going against it is actually the production quality. There are some otherwise hilarious moments thrown off by poorly timed cuts or lousy animation. And not Konosuba-style “good-bad” animation, just… awkward.

    Also, I’m a little curious what you disliked about Asobi Asobe so much. It’s totally my style of humor, but I can understand of others find it really irritating.

    Also Also, I do hope you find the opportunity to pick up Starlight Revue sometime. It’s getting better by the episode, and I think you’d enjoy it, given your tastes!

    • something says:

      Yeah “irritating” was my impression of Asobi Asobase. Could not get past the voices they used and everything was just… really off-putting.

  4. Flushme says:

    Gotto second what was said so far about Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight – if you get a chance, definitely pick it up.

  5. Progeusz says:

    Surprised to see you aren’t watching Starlight as it would certainly suit your tastes but yeah, valid arguments. If I manage to find time once season ends, I’ll try comparing the fansubs to see if they might be tolerable for you but I do remember you aren’t very fond of watching shows this way. Oh well, who knows what will future bring.

    More than anything, I’m just happy to see you’re still making these posts. Always a pleasure to read and good to know this year offers some high quality shows as well.

    • something says:

      I’m already watching it, started yesterday and caught up today. CR went and ruined their site with a new player that makes getting clean screencaps a pain in the ass and doesn’t let you turn subs off, so I decided fuck it, if there are no legal sources I can fully rely on, then I guess I don’t care anymore. (Thank goodness for horriblesubs being able to get clean rips still. CR’s new player’s subs aren’t even technically hardsubs – they aren’t burned into the video – they’re softsubs with no ability to disable them.)

      • Progeusz says:

        How are you liking the show so far? I found many of interactions between the girls delicious and I love how well thought out the show is, with a lot of foreshadowing. I realize the director is friends with Ikuhara but I’m still impressed with how heavy the yuri undertones are in this series (can we even call them undertones at this point?). Directing style might not be as extreme but I can definitely say I’ve been liking its degree of intensity so far, perhaps even more than Ikuhara’s which is a bit over the top for my tastes.

        Wew, didn’t expect you to give in but there we go. I hope you are satisfied with giving the show a chance despite uncomfortable circumstances. As for the options. HorribleSubs is definitely the fastest and the only one to use if you want to discuss it with friends on release over twitter etc. but they use 8-bit encoding which means more banding and artifacts in general. The translation… CR’s seems a bit stiff and far too simple for a show where acting is actually important part of the plot/setting. Even for me as an ESL the vocabulary used in CR version was underwhelming and grammar choices weren’t the best, to say the least. I heard ACSS are the best and quick comparison seems to confirm that but I haven’t done extensive research. Both it and Chyuu-PAS are certainly better than HS/CR though. Definitely keep it in mind for archival/rewatch purposes until BDs come out or when you can’t watch the new ep ASAP (for example 08 from ACSS isn’t out yet).

        And damn, that’s awful to hear about new CR player. They never got close to highest tier of service but overall did quite fine most of the time so it’s a shame they’re going backwards now.

        • something says:

          Starlight isn’t Crunchyroll (if it were I’d have been watching it all along), it’s Sentai/HiDive (hence why I passed). I used Chyuu-Pas while catching up because they had 1080, and now that i’m caught up I’ll use whichever of them and StarlightSubs is out first. Definitely not using the HiDive rips tho.

          As for thoughts, that’ll need to wait until the show is done. Watching episodes in bulk isn’t how I usually choose to view anime so it’s hard to put thoughts together for now. How I react to watching it weekly for the last four episodes will be more telling. For now, it’s got a very good shot at being #2 of the season (Yamasusu is utterly untouchable) if it ends strongly.

      • Mk says:

        Fwiw, the Crunchyroll HTML5 extension still lets you switch over to no subs.

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