Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2018 (Part II)

10 shows came in, only 5 of them came out the other side with another possible drop on the horizon. Yes, we’ve made it to around the halfway mark for the winter season, which means it’s time to check in with the titles that were still standing after their premiere episodes.

Note: As of this writing, all anime listed below are now either 5 or 6 episodes in.

Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

This title was already skating on thin ice with me. While I definitely appreciated having a female lead in a serious drama/psychological mystery anime (much more of a rarity than you might think), I was pretty leery given the ED sequence, and not at all a fan of the execution. To be fair, I watched up until episode 3 of the show and didn’t note anything in the way of creepy fanservice… said ED aside of course, and the series just couldn’t seem to avoid suggestions of rape – because what other option could there possibly be in order to make kidnappers seem appropriately bad-guyish? More to point though, the tone and pacing struck me as really off a lot of the time; the former because it kept shifting back and forth between family antics and sensationalist violence in the weirdest of moments, and the latter because there was a ton of expository dialogue and very little actually happening in the way of plot progression. The shoddy animation sure didn’t help with my first impressions, but ultimately it was the presentation of the content itself I couldn’t look past.

Sanrio Danshi/Sanrio Boys
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 5.5/10

Honestly, I’m still kinda weirded out by the fact that I’m still watching this thing. I don’t know if I’m going to make it all the way through to the end, but then, back when I first started watching I didn’t even think I’d make it all the way through the first episode, so there you go. Yes, the show is very heavy-handed in terms of execution and yes, it’s still just one giant advertisement for Sanrio (though the liberal use of manservice throughout is doubtless also a selling point among certain audience demographics). Occasionally, watching Sanrio Danshi is little more than an exercise in unintentionally hilarious awkwardness. That said, I genuinely think its heart is in the right place, and I like that the series seems legitimately sincere in dealing with some very real issues regarding what is and is not deemed socially appropriate. Why exactly is it considered unacceptable and even perverse for a high school guy to like Hello Kitty? Highbrow art this definitely ain’t, but its core messages at least are constructive.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho/A Place Further Than The Universe
Original Score: 6.5/10
Current Score: 7/10

My biggest fear with this title was that it would devolve into one of those “cute girls do cute things in a school club that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual club” kind of shows. Having decided one way or another to make their way to Antarctica, would the cast then spend the majority of the rest of the series drinking tea, having sleepovers, and only chatting about their hopes and dreams? Weirdly enough, no. While not my favourite anime of the season (it’s still a tad too lighthearted and cutesy for my tastes), I’ve been pleasantly surprised not only by the focus, determination, and genuine hard work of our main characters but also by the focus of the show itself. Somewhat unrealistic as the story may be, it’s basically certain now that despite the inevitable road blocks, our characters will indeed fulfil their mission and make it to Antarctica. Moreover, it’s clear that the series has no intention of just stopping there, but will instead keep going to reveal what happened to Shirase’s mother and (hopefully) focus on how Shirase is going to deal with that revelation.

Violet Evergarden
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 7/10

The main criticism of this title seems to be that Violet’s character is exaggerated to the point where her very roboticness and tendency to take everything completely literally comes across as comical, when tonally the show clearly wants to go for serious and heart-wrenching. While I agree with this assessment, my enjoyment of the show regardless isn’t something I’m trying to hide. Sure, I prefer KyoAni show some damn subtlety for a change and yes, the whole thing would indeed be more emotionally impactful if Violet wasn’t portrayed as so ridiculously socially inept and inexperienced. On the other hand, my bias towards post-war settings, psychological battle scars, and the gradual healing of said scars via slice-of-life vignettes definitely comes into play here, so I just don’t feel the urge to complain all that much. (It’s also not my problem if other people were expecting actual robots to make an appearance based on the show’s synopsis. Come on guys, those things should always be taken with a healthy pinch of salt.)

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni/After the Rain
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 7/10

I’m not looking to argue with anyone who isn’t watching this show on principle. It’s creepy that Kondou is dating Tachibana – not necessarily because he’s 45 and she’s 17, but because he’s her boss and she’s a high school student (whose crush on him probably borders on the unhealthily obsessive). It’s more the power gap than the age gap I’m concerned with. On the other hand… Kondou isn’t actually dating Tachibana. Thus far, she’s dragged him on a date (which he clearly wasn’t comfortable with), there’s been no suggestion he thinks of her in a romantic sense let alone a sexual one, and his own daydreams are far more concerned with a nostalgia for long-lost youth than anything else. In other words, I’m not sure I’d consider this a love story at all and in terms of writing, I continue to be impressed with what this series has to offer. The moment Kondou and Tachibana do end up dating without some kind of significant time skip first, Koi wa Ameagari no You ni will be gone from my weekly watch-list. Until such a time, the obvious quality of this title still wins out for me.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen
Original Score: 8/10
Current Score: 7.5/10

Cardcaptor Sakura is still a delight, with my only complaint – that the show is a tad too sweetness and sunshine – being somewhat redundant given that, particularly in regards to Sakura and her female classmates, everyone was always absurdly cheerful and polite 100% of the time. It could probably also be argued that the plot here doesn’t have the same amount of heft to it that the original series did, since every romantic relationship has already been firmly established and the magical mayhem doesn’t seem to pose quite the same risk factor this time around. However, the former couldn’t really be helped without introducing some more new and likely unnecessary characters, and the latter isn’t an annoyance so much as it is mostly a matter of me not being a teenager anymore. Sakura may have only aged a year, but most viewers have aged one to two decades. That doesn’t in any way prevent my enjoyment of the series though, and I much prefer this than I would any ill-advised attempt to ‘age’ the series by intentionally making it darker or trendier.

Question of the post: Now that we’re roughly at the season halfway point, have there been any major surprises or shows you’ve totally changed your mind about?

8 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2018 (Part II)

  1. Re Violet Evergarden, the episodes are largely anime-original and have yet to cover the LN’s stories. However, the segments featuring Violet’s past are taken (and adapted) from the LNs. There’s been some viewers who’ve cried foul over Kyoani’s approach, saying they’re doing the novels injustice by not being directly faithful to the source and instead padding it out with “lacklustre” original content (“very liberal IP adaptations” seem to be Kyoani’s forte).

    Kokkoku seems to be the type of series that is better binge-watched, given its pacing. At least it’ll have an ending, given the source manga’s finished.

    Did you get the chance to watch Devilman Crybaby? I’ve heard praises of it on the net but haven’t had the chance to watch it yet.


    1. Since I very rarely read manga or light novels, even of the anime I really love, it doesn’t particularly affect me when an anime does or doesn’t stick to its source material. So I honestly don’t care whether Violet Evergarden follows the LNs or not – I care about whether it’s well-directed and well-written regardless of what stories it chooses to tell.

      I watched the first episode of Devilman Crybaby and can say with confidence that it’s just not my kind of thing. I respect that other people dig it, and that the show has some interesting things to say, but that’s about it for me.


  2. @Kokkoku: It’s okay. I’m sort of curious, and I like that each character (even the thugs) have their own personality and motivation. It’s the sort of show I’d normally hate, but this time it works for me. Not nearly my favourite of the season, but pretty good at keeping my attention considering that this type of show normally isn’t what I’m looking for in anime.

    @Sanrio Boys: I like it, sometimes more, sometimes less. The purple haired boy (My Melody) is my favourite, so centring on him or giving him a role is an advantage. I’m starting to respect Sanrio as a producer/sponsor (?) of anime. They seem to be good at finding people who love what they do and then letting them do what they want (impression from watching shows like this one, or Show by Rock, and maybe even Ringing Bell; no knowlege of the production process whatsoever).

    @A Place Further than the Universe: I’m liking this show more and more. It’s energetic and joyful without ignoring the not so nice parts of life. It’s still an escapist fantasy, but it’s pretty good about it.

    @Violet Evergarden: It’s the sort of KyoAni show I can’t get into. It feels too… melodramatic? It’s the sort of show where I sit down marking how often they emphasise watering eyes to show emiton. (Note that I’m not saying that’s a bad thing to do for anime, just that I’m not drawn in, and thus start to notice this sort of regularity. So far, I liked episode 2 best – I’m not sure whether that’s because I think it’s the best episode so far, or if I haven’t yet falling prey to the aggregate effect of the show.

    @Koi wa Ameagiri: It’s a very pretty show with great character work. I’m not sure what to make of the premise yet, though. It’s both intriguing and creepy and there are both troubling and encouraging elements in the meta-game. I’d totally except a straight-forward fantasy, but the characterisation is too subtle and complex and for that. At the same time, for a character piece, there are too many markers for some fantasy-play in the meta-game (the confession scene, the creeper-foil to Kondo, the look-under-the-table scene – none of which is conclusive on its own, but in aggregate…). I think it’s best to take the show as a character piece with some fantasizing sprinkled on top. I do really like the show, though.

    @Sakura: I’m not quite as into it as I thought it would be. I’m wondering whether this has anything to do with the parts I missed, or whether it’s just diminishing returns (which I often get with long-runners). The fun thing is that the two interpretations have opposite implications on whether I should watch season 3 or not. Heh. I do really like the production values, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen it all before. That sounds pretty negative, but I actually really like the show. It’s still its charming old self.

    My undisputed favourite of the season is Hakumei to Mikochi, which is both more varied and more hands-on than I expected. The show’s clearly a pastoral in nature, but I didn’t expect them to actually run with the work-is-rewarding motif, too. I thought they’d be just goofing off. It’s also probably the last show I’d have expected to include re-animated skeletons (it’s science!). I did, sort of, expect the stoned-sounding beetles. It’s good fun.

    Similarly, I really like Miira no Kaikata – it’s like a cross between Pokemon and Chibi Devi, but only taking the best aspects of both. It’s really cute and little else, but I’m not asking for more.


    1. Surprisingly, I have quite a bit of respect for Sanrio Boys, but I don’t think the writing is particularly good either (which is the same reason I stopped watching Show by Rock back when that aired, though I’ve never tried Ringing Bell, which I imagine is quite different from the other two titles given its age and that it’s a film).

      Violet Evergarden is definitely melodramatic at times – I won’t argue with that. I like it plenty enough on a personal level to watch the whole way through, but I can certainly see why other people don’t appreciate it as much.

      I don’t think it’s the premise per se of Koi wa Ameagiri that’s creepy. As a lot of people have pointed out, a young woman developing a crush on an older man is fairly natural and happens a lot in reality. The danger, of course, comes in when said crush becomes more than that and is reciprocated/acted upon; not because of the age gap exactly but because of the huge disparity of power and maturity levels. Since I haven’t seen that happen yet in Koi wa Ameagiri (and it’s possible it may not happen at all), I’ll keep watching. In terms of writing and direction, I honestly think it’s one of the best shows of the entire season.


      1. @Ameagiri: It’s not the premise itself as much as its treatment. For me, it’s not even whether they get together or not; it’s more how they frame it, and even then it’s not just a matter of “approving” or “disapproving”. It’s hard to explain, especially, since I’m unsure myself. I’m not quite sure what “mode” I should activate while watching (that sounds more deliberate than it is; I’m sort of just unsure) I agree that the writing and direction is great. The characters make perfect sense to me.


  3. “Why exactly is it considered unacceptable and even perverse for a high school guy to like Hello Kitty?”
    I have to agree. Cultural ideas of masculinity and all that blah blah blah. Just because a boy is drawn to cutesy stuff does NOT mean he’s going to be an effeminate homosexual! If a boy wants to play with dolls instead of GI Joe, fine let him! He may just so happen to turn out with good fathering skills instead of having murderer skills. Just because a guy can field strip and reassemble a machine gun does NOT mean he can change a baby diaper. Who’s the more useful man in the family there? Yeah, that would be a super cool for some anime to explore this concept. I’d also ask the reverse of your question: why is it considered socially appropriate to prime boys to think about mowing down “bad guys” with machine guns?

    I’ve been accused of being gay because I go out and pick berries each year. Why does that make me less of a man? Is it only manly for a guy to go out and kill an animal to bring back to the house to eat? I’m only not-gay if I’m dragging the corpses of dead animals back to my house? I can’t make wine with dead animals! Yes, I certainly question such social/cultural assumptions.

    What I’d like to see are more male characters who try to be beautiful people fashionwise, characterwise and so on. I’m tired of the swaggering cool guys… Put a guy in a flowered robe, give him long hair with a couple braids or so, make him be educated and speak eloquently and have all girls swoon all over him, while all the disheveled thugs scratch their heads in confusion and speak in monosyllabic utterances. I’d love to see it.


    1. As far as I’m aware, nobody questions the main character’s sexuality in Sanrio Danshi, but the reactions he gets from some is more along the lines of disgust than laughter – as though he’s not only somehow lesser of a man because he likes cute characters but is also a paedophile or something equally as abhorrent. Needless to say, I was happy that the core message of Sanrio Danshi itself took pains to point out how wrongheaded such a reaction was.

      “What I’d like to see are more male characters who try to be beautiful people fashionwise, characterwise and so on. I’m tired of the swaggering cool guys… Put a guy in a flowered robe, give him long hair with a couple braids or so, make him be educated and speak eloquently and have all girls swoon all over him, while all the disheveled thugs scratch their heads in confusion and speak in monosyllabic utterances. I’d love to see it.”

      You’re in luck then! I highly, highly suggest you try out the anime series Kuragehime if you haven’t already – one of the main cast basically fits this description down to a tee.



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