Spring 2018 Final Thoughts

It’s that time of year again; the time of year where we try to wrap up our thoughts on whatever shows we stuck with this past spring…except like clockwork, no one’s listening because our audience is having a blast at Anime Expo without us. It’s cool, we get it, we only have…virtually nothing to be excited about next season. Even if it’s purely for indulgent, self-reflective purposes, spare us a few minutes and join Yata and Haru in taking one last trip down memory lane, covering whatever they’ve caught up with or completed from the latest season in the books.


ASAGAO TO KASE-SAN


Yatahaze:
Better short than never adapted at all, but I’m so bummed the Kase-san series only got an hour-long OVA. I know the source material isn’t very lengthy itself and a full TV cour would’ve needed a bunch of extra filler to work, but I dunno, a standard 90-minute movie might’ve done the trick.

Not that this effort isn’t commendable in its own right—the Kase-san manga warmed readers’ hearts with its sheer sweetness and empowering, optimistic romance. As far as recreating it goes, this OVA does an absolutely phenomenal job, bringing the series to life with exemplary animation, storyboarding, and sound direction among other merits. It’s exactly the kind of material you’d expect from…

[checks notes]

Studio Zexcs? Holy shit. Nice job, fellas. Even though it’s only about an hour long, Kase-san deserves to be a serious contender for the title of Best Production 2018. It breathes extra emotion into this already joyful and charming love story, and regardless of whether or not you like yuri, romances in general, or slice-of-life shows, if you enjoy a simply stunning artistic experience, Kase-san will deliver.

All that said, while its narrative is far from subpar, the series’ short length does lend itself to a couple issues in manga form that are only exacerbated by the OVA’s super crunched pacing. At some points the relationship feels like it’s progressing too fast, at others, too slow, and the characters don’t have the most unique internal voices. But in a way, that’s refreshing, especially for an LGBTQ+ series; Kase-san doesn’t exactly shy away from the fact that Yamada and Kase’s relationship isn’t heterosexual, but it also emphasizes that the two of them don’t care much about what others think of them, ‘cause they’re normal people in normal, youthful, starry-eyed love.

And by the end of Kase-san, I can practically guarantee you’ll be rooting for them too. This isn’t a romance with crazy love triangles or oppressive families or anything of that sort—the biggest obstacle Yamada and Kase face together is what to do with the next step of their lives post-graduation, a predictable but still compelling dilemma for kids of their age. Even though Kase-san ends with the cheesiest of tropes and their relationship could’ve been developed in this OVA with smoother pacing, I still wholeheartedly enjoyed this adaptation and all its sugar coma-inducing bliss. Sometimes you don’t need a revolutionary story to stand out, and Kase-san’s visual excellence more than makes up for whatever bumps it encounters.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 1 OVA.

CARDCAPTOR SAKURA: CLEAR CARD ARC (CLEAR CARD-HEN)


Harubruh:
It’s been a minute since I wrote about this. Did you guys think I might have dropped it? Nah, I simply thought that Clear Card made for better marathon material than weekly, but at this point, I’m not so sure still.

Twenty-two episodes have come and gone, with my marathon to the “finish” starting after the ninth episode. I think the sheer amount of enjoyment I got out of Clear Card’s first half was largely derived from nostalgia power, because things…sort of started dragging out after that point.

With the exception of Sakura’s brief skirmish with the mysterious veiled figure very late in the run, Clear Card has mostly been an anticlimactic rehash of the original, with even Yue and Kero noting at times that many of the new Clear cards resembled the old Clow cards. Aside from a few little heartfelt embraces, there really wasn’t anything new to develop between Sakura and Syaoran, nor did we ever get all that adequate of an explanation for some of the latter’s actions and slight angstiness earlier on in the series. We also got the “big” reveal concerning Yuna and Akiho right at the end, but nothing really came of that bit, either.

All of this culminating into a big fat non-ending leads me to believe that there will obviously be more of this to come in the future—as for when? Your guess is as good as mine, as I have no idea how far into the manga the Clear Card anime got up to. When that time comes, I’ll surely find myself watching it hoping for a proper ending.
Final score: 6.5/10
Completed after 22 episodes.

DRAGON PILOT: HISONE AND MASOTAN


Yatahaze:
Dragon Pilot looked to be one of the season’s strongest shows during its first half, and while there weren’t any major production gaffes or deathblows in its second, I increasingly found it hard to fully buy into what it was doing. I suppose a series whose premise is “the government keeps dragons disguised as planes, piloted by human partners” lies well beyond a casual suspension of disbelief already, but the reveal of the D-Pilots’ true purpose—performing a sacrificial ritual with a group of shrine maidens inside an even larger dragon—just felt underwhelming. Dragon Pilot did all it could to make this climax feel grandiose. As far as its artistic depiction of the event goes, it was, but Dragon Pilot’s earliest strengths were in how it coalesced a quirky, down-to-earth cast’s problems with eccentric realities. In pursuit of sheer spectacle, the show lost some of what made it so intimate, and in turn, so endearing.

I say “some,” of course, because even with all that noted, Dragon Pilot remained one of my favorites this spring. Though a firmer stance on the tug-of-war between love and work would’ve been nice, Amakasu simply refuses to let one overthrow the other and persuades Natsume, Okonogi’s childhood friend and longtime crusher, to give up her role as the sacrificial miko and live by her own urges as well.

And sure, it’s very Mari Okada to write a character inspired by the notion of being in a love triangle, but I’m ultimately left unsatisfied by many of the romantic developments in the show’s second half. Okonogi and Amakasu never quite had the chemistry I expected from them, and while I appreciate a good love triangle as much as any rom-com fan, Natsume and Amakasu’s rivalry sometimes felt like a distraction from Dragon Pilot’s core themes. In the end, Amakasu somehow finds a way to complete the ritual without dying, and she and Masotan survive off in the hills for 3 months before Okonogi makes his way out there and discovers them again. By that time, the D-Pilot squad has been officially disbanded, their work complete for another 70-some years, and the pilots prepare to move back to their home bases. It’s a sweet epilogue, even if the buildup didn’t quite go the route I was expecting it to.

And I know this all sounds primarily negative, but it’s only because Dragon Pilot was soooo strong out of the gates. I was still wholly entertained from start to finish and the series’ production—the voice acting and character animation especially—remain some of the best I’ve seen this year. Its writing does get a bit convoluted in the second half, but the show still has a heart of gold and I’d enthusiastically recommend it to anyone seeking a funky and touching cartoony experience.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

FOOD WARS: THE THIRD PLATE – TOTSUKI TRAIN ARC
(SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA: SAN NO SARA – TOTSUKI RESSHA-HEN)


Yatahaze:
It’s not the only show this season to cut off at an incomplete moment, but Totsuki Train Arc’s abrupt ending feels like the biggest offender of them all, and also Food Wars’ least satisfying cour finale to date.

Not that the content otherwise slipped up at all, though. In fact, on the whole I’d say Totsuki Train Arc is one of the series’ finer offerings. Its escalation of the fight against Central is superb and the way it intertwined that conflict with long overdue character development for Erina was tremendously rewarding.

I’ve said since day one that Food Wars’ greatest strength is how it lifts up the efforts of these rebels as a team, emphasizing not only their chemistry together but also their faith in each other’s skills. While it’s a bit disingenuous to say that ego plays no role on their side or that Team Central doesn’t get along at all, it’s clear which team is more prepared for the Team Shokugeki from a cooperation standpoint. Even with about half the rebels momentarily expelled and caged, those who remain and the help they enlisted made quick work of Azami’s less creative goons so far. It’s exactly the kind of payoff I’d expect from an arc that more or less sought to hone in on what makes Food Wars such an appealing series to begin with.

That is, it would be if it actually finished anything it started here. Normally a little break doesn’t kill a long-running franchise’s momentum too hard—The Third Plate’s first cour took a nicely-timed bow before a one-season hiatus and coming back here. But not only did Totsuki Train Arc end at a bewilderingly unresolved point, there’s still no official confirmation yet of a Fourth Plate in the works. I have to assume it’s only a matter of time before we get some sort of announcement, but as of this writing, I can only comment on what information is currently available and judge the series up until now on what’s actually come out up until now. If this is the end of Food Wars’ anime adaptations for a longer period of time than we’ve seen yet, it’s a poor spot to end on, and actively kills much of the momentum this cour otherwise produced with ease.
Final score: 7.75/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

GOLDEN KAMUY


Yatahaze:
Man, this…sure was a month of Golden Kamuy, eh? I’m so thankful that Studio Geno immediately promised a second season later this year, because this season’s closing stretch felt nothing at all like a closing stretch; up to the final two episodes, new characters were still being introduced, loyalty was still shifting, and none of the parties were anywhere close to obtaining the Ainu gold or getting into direct contact with Nopperabo.

All that said though, I’m honestly kind of glad Golden Kamuy backed off its more straightforward ambitions and indulged in its comedic elements for lengthier sequences than before lately. It admittedly wasn’t always a well-executed strategy; Henmi’s arc was sloppy and felt like a huge digression, while many of the show’s most recent attempts at dramatic reveals (the identity of Asirpa’s father, for instance) didn’t mesh that well with the less serious adventuring going on lately. But all adventure shows are in part defined by their longevity, and one of the easiest ways to keep viewers hooked (aside from enticing characters and dialogue, which Golden Kamuy’s got down pat) is by making what’s essentially filler feel like a series highlight, or at least bizarre enough that it sticks with people just as much as the series’ core content.

Your mileage will surely vary here, but I for one love how the series is only doubling down on Shiraishi’s near-uselessness despite his position, caught between several groups who want his insider info despite the fact that he’s everyone’s weakest link. Add to that his central role in blowing Inkarmat’s fortune-telling trickery and his panic during Ienaga’s hotel episode, and he’s really come into his own as one of the characters I can’t wait to see when I tune into Golden Kamuy each week. The same of course still applies for Asirpa and Sugimoto, and while their dynamic as a trio has been disrupted in lieu of frenzied action from all sides, their goofy antics never fail to leave me chuckling every time they’re on screen.

So while I think it’s safe to say Golden Kamuy has been a bit messy and unconcerned with racing its narrative along, it’s developed its unique personality even further. With a second season confirmed for us, my only real gripe is the three-month wait we’ve got on our hands in the meantime. This show was a huge sleeper hit for me so far and I’m certainly looking forward to more of it.
Final score: 7.5/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

HINAMATSURI


Yatahaze:
It isn’t even close: Hinamatsuri was my favorite show of the season and will almost surely remain one of my favorites all year. Every week, I’d laugh aloud to it, contemplate life with it, nearly weep from joy because of it, and then laugh aloud again to chase all the other emotions down. As a comedy, Hinamatsuri felt borderline effortless, only let down by how it frontloaded a lot of its most bizarre material. But as an empathetic portrayal of a strange but mostly content community, I have virtually no qualms with it at all.

The best “human experience” stories bring people together, and the fact that Hinamatsuri did this with yakuza grunts, restaurateurs, grade-school children, the homeless, and more just makes it feel all that much more special. Hinamatsuri has a communal heart that realizes some of the funniest territory out there can only be found by breaking boundaries and acting like nothing’s wrong. If no one’s there to call it out, who’s to say anything is wrong? There comes a point where that strange reality—you know, the kind where your telekinetic adopted child disappears in the mountains and you’re just like ‘oh, alright then’”—stops feeling strange and starts making sense. I love how quickly and consistently Hinamatsuri treats viewers to these sorts of unorthodox situations and relationships, bending standard expectations to the cast’s whims. They say the element of surprise is one of the cornerstones of comedy, and I generally agree, but Hinamatsuri didn’t even need to try forcing the unexpected. The unexpected is the show’s backbone, and it just rolls with it to near-perfection.

For a while, that “near-perfection” was straight-up perfection, though it ultimately couldn’t sustain its momentum all the way to the end. From what I gather, there were a few chronological deviations from the manga, and they became pretty apparent in the final few episodes, which felt jumpier and less essential than many of the series’ earlier highs. But while Hinamatsuri didn’t necessarily sign off with the craziest of climaxes, the show overall offered little to be disappointed about and much to take comfort in. I’m gonna miss it.
Final score: 9/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

LAST PERIOD: THE JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE DESPAIR (LAST PERIOD: OWARINAKI RASEN NO MONOGATARI)


Harubruh:

Well, this sure was… something.

I’m honestly pretty glad that Last Period realized its strength was in its (at times) completely unhinged zaniness, because it made for a pretty entertaining popcorn watch this season.

I mean, how could I not love an anime adaptation of a gacha game unflinchingly rip to shreds the concept of genre its very own source material is based on? Then there’s stuff like the insane overall non-sequitur that was the tenth episode, where Haru and his friends are transported to other worlds by a call gone awry. The catch? These worlds are other games under the umbrella of Happy Elements, the developers of the Last Period game. “The Happy Elements Episode,” as it’s literally titled, ended up kind of successfully tapping into a surreal sense of things. It’s just a shame that Haru’s (and the others’, for that matter) situation never gets resolved and everything is just suddenly back to normal the next episode.

Which, I guess, is to be expected. At the very least, it’s because of this complete randomness that Last Period thrived for me. Part of the humor was that there was literally no way to predict what was going to happen next. Was Choco the Meme Girl about to pop off another fourth wall-breaching comment? Was Wiseman going to barge in and make a mess of things again? Maybe Gajeru was going to start perving over his favorite idol again. What crossover was going to happen next?

Last Period‘s unpredictability kept me coming back to a show that was adequate entertainment the whole way through. I can accept that. Oh, the OP is still really good, too.
Final score: 6/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

MY HERO ACADEMIA 3RD SEASON (BOKU NO HERO ACADEMIA 3RD SEASON)


Yatahaze:
I don’t know how My Hero Academia manages to only get better as it goes, but after this third season’s slow start, the franchise reached what’s arguably its peak so far; a raid against the League of Villains that left All Might so depleted of strength he effectively retires from his position as the Symbol of Peace. It seems inevitable in retrospect; in giving Midoriya One For All, the kid’s idol sapped himself of most of his power, and it wouldn’t be a very rewarding superhero story if Midoriya only continued to act as All Might’s apprentice.

But at the same time, Midoriya’s not quite ready to jump into the spotlight yet. All Might’s near-defeat came as a shock; the Symbol of Peace shouldn’t be able to fall so easily. Especially right after extensive media outrage regarding U.A.’s vulnerabilities, the last thing the public needed was to see their beloved #1 hero in such dire condition. All Might’s final stand was one of outright awe, exemplifying everything so exciting and empowering about My Hero Academia: the will to sacrifice, the ability to inspire, and the dedication to live up to those we promise to protect.

Taken to their extremes though, those can all be dangerous things, and when I say Midoriya’s not ready to take All Might’s place yet, I don’t just mean in the public eye. He still sees All Might as a vision of justice more than an imperfect person, and this vision of justice he’s idealized has lent him to dangerous ideas he’s only just learning to grow out of. To be an even better Symbol of Peace, Midoriya can’t get ahead of himself —he needs to take care of his body, learn how to strategize without relying on his own destruction, and continue to grow as a student. To that end, there’s no immediate talk of Midoriya coming out in the open as All Might’s successor—that’d be too risky under the current circumstances anyway—but we all know that’s the ultimate endgame, and after All Might’s standoff with his arch rival All For One, he got a closer look at the legacy he’s inheriting. It was almost more terrifying than uplifting.

As for the aftermath of that standoff, all the U.A. students were recovered, though the League of Villains also escaped unharmed aside from All For One’s arrest. Setting both sides back with their figureheads out of commission, it’ll be interesting to see how all those seemingly positive traits I mentioned earlier will play out on the villains’ side. All Might was already in for a shock and a half when he discovered that Shigaraki Tomura, All For One’s apprentice, is actually his own mentor Nana’s grandson, coddled by evil after feeling abandoned by his family.

And then there’s the matter of what to do with the students to guarantee their safety in the eyes of the public going forward. The school’s temporary solution is to have them live in (pretty damn nice) dorms to keep a closer eye on them, though this serves an additional purpose: trying to determine the source of a suspected leak. Most of the students’ parents signed off on the policy quickly, showing trust that U.A. still knew what they were doing, but Mrs. Midoriya was hesitant. A mother’s worry coming back to the forefront is right in line with My Hero Academia’s widening scope, and I can’t blame her for her skepticism. Times are tense and unpredictable, and so far U.A. has mostly offered momentary fixes to larger problems. Whether they attack these problems at the source or continue to play catch-up for a while longer, I’m once again hooked on My Hero Academia.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

SWORD ART ONLINE ALTERNATIVE: GUN GALE ONLINE


Harubruh:

Speaking of something unhinged and zany…

GGO‘s Squad Jam 2 arc was just that, and as evidenced by our selected cap, perhaps a tad more than that. With Pito gone off the deep end, having sworn to take her life if she loses the SJ, it was up to LLENN and Fuka to knock (or shoot, I dunno) some sense into the completely crazy girl.

I genuinely think that the absolute insanity of the SJ 2 arc was a for-shits-and-giggles thing between Kawahara and Sigsawa, because this was downright crazy. There’s Pitohui’s singlehanded massacre of the 7 team cabal, the assault on her safehouse (upon which she gets a brief lecture about playing a fucking PvP game the right way as she goes on an offensive with a lightsaber that almost calls Vader’s scene in Rogue One to mind), and let’s not forget the absolutely batshit insane Humvee chase that led to Pito and LLENN’s final showdown, or the ending to said showdown, with Team “Daft Punk on Literal Bicycles” T-S mercilessly gunning down everyone, bringing a close to SJ 2 after being a practical non-factor and not spitting even one line out the entire arc.

The insanity didn’t stop there, with Karen and Miyu having an in real life meeting with Goushi (a.k.a. M) after the SJ, a meeting in which we all learned how fitting his online handle actually is. He takes them to see a concert performed by their favorite musician, Elsa Kanzaki, who, lo and behold, is none other that Pitohui. Color us all shocked.

The great thing about this final arc is we all finally found the true reason why Studio 3hz were the ones in charge of GGO’s anime adaptation: Girls kissing girls. Whether it was our new Lord and Savior Clarence’s five minutes in the spotlight towards the end of the ninth episode, or Elsa’s surprise at the end of the finale, everything suddenly became clear.

This was a fun ride. Fancy that, a Sword Art Online series was Actually Good. Of course, I have found myself warming back up to the whole franchise in the recent months, but even with that, I truly think that GGO deserves more. Also, this featured my very favorite ED of the season. Even if you didn’t buy into this series, I think the ED alone merits a view on its own.

Watch Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online.
Final score: 7/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

WOTAKOI: LOVE IS HARD FOR OTAKU (WOTAKU NI KOI WA MUZUKASHII)


Yatahaze:
Love is indeed hard for these otaku, but even after putting the series on hold at the midway point and marathoning the remainder of the episodes last week, my gripes with Wotakoi persisted up until the end. The show’s comedy often felt limp and predictable and its more serious elements never held control long enough for us to be able to dissect these characters as very complex people. The final two episodes also introduced Kou, a companion to cancel out Naoya’s odd man out status, but she barely got any screen time, to the point where I’d almost rather have not seen her introduced at all so that we could focus more on the lead quartet.

But in the end, I’ve just got to face the fact that was probably obvious all along: Wotakoi is not trying to be much more than a pleasant popcorn show about two couples of working otaku, and at that, it succeeds, though not remarkably. I’ve seen a lot of people in love with it and I don’t wanna be the guy who rains on everyone’s parade, but it was simply hard to separate the show I felt like Wotakoi could’ve been at its best with the show it often was—too restrained to leave much of an impression, too tame to do much more than vaguely hint at deeper content, and too predictable to be particularly excited about. Putting it on hold and marathoning the second half was a move for the better, but even that didn’t stop Wotakoi from feeling adrift within itself.
Final score: 6/10
Completed after 11 episodes.


And that’s about all we’ve got this ti- oh shit, please don’t shoot, I know this final thoughts rundown was sparse and we skipped a few hit series this season, but we’re gonna cover FLCL Progressive along with Alternative later in the year and we’ve got some more articles in the works, so don’t worry. In addition to them, we should have our regularly scheduled summer first impressions post up in a few weeks too. ‘Til next time, this has been For Great Justice. Thanks for reading.

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