Summer 2018 Final Thoughts

Welcome back, everyone! We here at For Great Justice had a busy summer that resulted in no Mid-Season Thoughts coverage, but we’re here to remedy that and wrap up the season with a bang. Not that we have that many shows to recap, but which ones did we love? Which ones have we cooled on? And what did this summer ultimately have to offer compared to the rest of the year? Find out below on this belated, tiny batch of Final Thoughts!


ASOBI ASOBASE


Yatahaze:
It’s not even close. Asobi Asobase was hands down the anime I looked forward to most every week this summer. While its slim competition occasionally edged out a more stunning highlight, Asobi was able to raise at least one skit virtually every week even higher above its already well above-average comedic baseline. It didn’t try to rival the feel-goody nature of Laid-Back Camp’s skits (nor should it have) and it didn’t have the underlying emotional weight that made Hinamatsuri such a favorite of mine, yet it easily claimed the title of Best Skit-based Comedy Anime this season, and while I ultimately still prefer those aforementioned other two shows when it comes to the 2018’s best in that genre, Asobi sets itself apart enough to be considered a worthy competitor.

Granted unlike Camp or Hinamatsuri, Asobi’s brand of humor is…notably more vulgar, seemingly intent on making the cute characters it presents morph into both physically and emotionally unflattering monsters. While the show begins with a core trio of oddballs—Kasumi, Olivia, and Hanako—it slowly widens its lens to reveal that their whole school is full of nutcases just as aloof and unpredictable as they are. A shogi club willing to risk life and limb to retain their club status? Two witchcraft wannabes who turn one of their teachers into a zombie? Whatever exactly Maeda is? It’s not just the Pastimers who are off their rocker.

The series’ expanded cast sets up a ton of entertaining gags, ones that elicited full-hearted laughter out of me with startling frequency, but what makes Asobi particularly impressive is how it retains continuity over the course of its run, adding new characters to situations that had seemingly already resolved and finding ways to escalate them to even more outrageous outcomes. Especially in the show’s final three or so episodes, several characters and unresolved plot points came back with a vengeance only to meet crazier fates than before. Nor did the show stop introducing new characters right to the last episode, so there was almost no way to predict what specifically would go on in Asobi Asobase each week other than the guarantee that it would be absolutely absurd.

And absurd it was…mostly. All gag shows have their weak spots, and Asobi’s middle stretch was more prone to forgetful and less climactic twists than many of the episodes at its start and end. But it delivered when it needed to with one key exception: the final episode’s final skit, which featured the Pastimers girls and Maeda playing a round of Paper Wars, literally making up gibberish until the game and episode came to an abrupt halt without a punchline. Did that leave something to be desired? For sure—yet this one felt fitting in its disappointment. This show was all about keeping the viewer shocked and then belittling that shock, for we should have never expected anything different. To sign off with no resolution is the last thing I imagined it would do…but in retrospect, of course it would. It played me hook, line, and sinker, just like the majority of its characters, and I’m not sure I’d want it any other way.
Final score: 8.5/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

BANANA FISH


Yatahaze:
In my original writeup for Banana Fish, I praised the series for having a premise with huge demographic versatility. Whether you’re a fan of crime dramas, romances, or political thrillers, I argued there’d be something for everyone here, and encouraged people to check it out on those grounds.

Lately however, I fear that’s actually been more of a curse than a blessing, as Banana Fish is now intertwining several gang plots with a national-level cover-up and growing increasingly convoluted as it goes through the motions to set more madness up. Events establishing connections happen too quick while key emotional scenes are in turn dragged out too long when it’s obvious from a dramatic standpoint what’s coming next. Eiji and Ash’s relationship still lends weight to the narrative, but as they (as a duo) become increasingly separated from the immediate action, Banana Fish finds itself in a lose-lose situation for me: does it continue to do what it’s been doing from the start; placing Eiji in dangerous situations and hoping that everyone makes it out alive? Or does it change things up a bit, even if that means the original cast gets sent in multiple directions and rarely interact together, something that drew me to the series in the first place?

See, It’s not that Banana Fish has had any production gaffes or is tonally inconsistent: rather, it’s that almost every incident is strung together with the same brooding atmosphere, the same lingering paranoia of conspiracy that it starts to lose its edge after a while. I understand it’s dealing with sensitive topics (child rape, murder, and bioterrorism aren’t exactly the sunniest of plot points), and it’s doing a fair job not overdramatizing much of the heaviness it introduces, but on the flip side, these characters are carrying serious emotional baggage that will either endear you further or just come off as over the top when piled on so intensely all at once.

For me, it’s the latter, but I’ll admit I have a fairly shallow misery tolerance when it comes to fiction, so if it’s still working for you, I don’t blame you. Ultimately I think I’ve seen enough Banana Fish to be curious how it ends, but I’m not compelled enough to want to keep up with it weekly for another three months. Unless I really love a show scheduled for two consecutive cours, I find it hard to remain enthusiastic when a new slate of titles I’m more excited about comes around halfway through. Such is the case here. I’ll give Banana Fish some breathing room and plan to marathon its back half at the end of the year once I’ve seen what fall has to offer.
Current score: 7/10
On hold after 12 episodes.

FREE! – DIVE TO THE FUTURE-


Harubruh:
Hot damn, this actually ended up being a fun ride!

Equally surprising, and yet not, I found myself getting a good kick out of watching Dive to the Future the last few weeks. The amount of growth these characters have undergone over three seasons plus the movies— with Haru beginning to branch out into swimming other strokes than Freestyle, or Sosuke going from having a figurative and literal chip on his shoulder to becoming a reliable mentor for his juniors, or Rin completely ditching the angsty act from long ago whilst becoming a mature and affable competitor—it’s all finally starting to really make this feel like a rewarding watch.

I found particular enjoyment in the race between the Kirishima brothers we saw in the final episode, with Ikuya racing against his older brother Natsuya, and the two having a good heartfelt brotherly moment after the younger sibling defeats the older to advance to a global tournament. I’ll absolutely admit I’m a sucker for good family scenes, but this was a strong one for me, seeing where they’ve come from in High Speed.

The series wasn’t without its hiccups, like Hiyori’s overall behavior prior to Haru and friends reconnecting with Ikuya, or the sudden appearance and disappearance of Albert and Kaede, a couple of foreboding competitors who the OP had me believing they were going to be some new major archrivals, but aside from one exhibition and one laugher against Asahi and Hiyori, there wasn’t much to be seen of either of them.

With this, I’m ready to go ahead and move on to the next KyoAni show around the corner, because Free will allegedly be back in 2020, just in time for Tokyo’s Summer Olympics. Hopefully Olympic Free will be as enjoyable a ride as Dive to the Future was.
Final score: 7.5/10
Completed after 12 episodes.

LUPIN THE III: PART V


Yatahaze:
First things first, I’m a newcomer to the Lupin the III franchise; the only prior series of it I’ve seen is The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, which I just watched for the first time this summer. And I enjoyed it—but I could tell from the commentary surrounding it that it was not the same sort of series that most of Lupin is tonally, and with a new part coincidentally airing right then and nobody telling me to see anything else first, I jumped right in, not really knowing what to expect.

If I’m to take Part V as indicative of the rest of the franchise, Lupin the III as a whole isn’t anywhere near as grim or protagonist-focused as The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and as much as I enjoy Fujiko and her backstory, I was very relieved about that. With the origins and dispositions of these characters relatively apparent from that part of the franchise alone, I didn’t feel helplessly behind with Part V, even if a few of the conflicts involved side-characters I wasn’t able to recognize the importance or motives of at first glance. It was an easy and fun enough ride to hop onto with minimal knowledge and sufficiently gave me a further understanding of everyone in the main cast. The lighter overall tone (best exemplified by the episodic “filler” pieces but not absent from the main arcs either) made Part V an inviting experience and enticed me to marathon it much quicker than Fujiko Mine did.

However much I enjoyed Part V though, I couldn’t help but feel like it was held back at several points by an identity crisis of sorts—not just due to the tonal discrepancies between the lighter and heavier episodes, but in how Lupin’s methods were so old hat against a series whose primary goal was highlighting the way technology makes your every action less covert. At first I wasn’t sure if it was just me having a hard time keeping up with what specifically Part V’s commentary was…but half the time, I’m not sure it was really saying anything, just using the omnipresence of mass media to thrust Lupin and co. into tougher situations to squirm out of, which they mainly do by…biding a lot of time and somehow fooling everyone with disguises that work on cartoon physics. The lighter tone may have made the show more fun to watch, and from what I gathered, that’s a very Lupin solution to the problem, but it did not help the show’s case from a dramatic viewpoint. This was especially true for the final arc, which featured an antagonist with a turn of character so abrupt it almost felt like two people had written his personality and not consulted one another about it between episodes.

Part V was full of little moments like that which just…didn’t mesh well together, sucking a bit of coherency out of what was otherwise an overwhelmingly fun set of adventures. It’s a grab bag, but while I would’ve loved for this series to focus a bit more on one thing well instead of several things to mixed results, the hits still outweighed the misses.
Final score: 7/10
Completed after 24 episodes.

MY HERO ACADEMIA 3RD SEASON


Yatahaze:
Coming off a slow start that led to a brilliant midpoint climax, My Hero Academia’s third season allowed itself to ramp up crazier and crazier until its extremely well-executed breaking point; All Might retiring from his job as the Symbol of Peace. In the wake of this, MHA’s world underwent a period of instability—and to a slightly lesser but still notable extent, the show itself did too.

Looking to fill the hole and reassure the public that everything is totally fine for the heroes still left, really, several schools rushed their younger classes into a provisional license exam which turned into an entire arc in its own right. That meant a handful of new characters, something this franchise has in excess, but in typical MHA fashion, it utilized them well, drawing the best (and in Todoroki and Bakugo’s cases, the worst) out of UA’s batch. The entire class passes besides those two, and it wasn’t easy nor entirely fair, but them’s the rules. Can’t be a hero to the fullest if you let yourself get frazzled by competition instead of maximizing your teamwork.

Unlike the sudden shock of All Might’s final fight, the second cour of MHA S3 may have offered a lot of new material—that exam arc, Bakugo and Midoriya’s rogue battle, and the last-minute introduction of the Big Three—but none of it was particularly surprising. Not that all action needs to be (and I’ve heard the upcoming fourth season will have plenty of surprises up its sleeves), but some later twists would’ve been welcome, as much like the first cour climbed to a centerpiece plateau, the second slowly decreased the tension, reveling in a month’s worth of overlapping mini arcs to round things out.

At this point, My Hero Academia isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we’ll likely see the story out to completion in years to come, rendering analysis of its individual seasons somewhat moot. The show levels a consistent enough approach with a linear structure that it’s not like Season 3 is really any worse for beginning and ending without much punch, but at the end of the day, I’ve still gotta give this thing a score on its isolated merit. Lucky for me, as the middle ground between season one’s rough potential and season twos constant stream of highlights, Season 3 both on its own accord and as an average of the adaptation occupies the middle ground. My Hero Academia is a fun ride with some misses and a solid batch of really memorable hits. Water is wet. I’m looking forward to season four.
Final score: 8/10
Completed after 25 episodes.

PLANET WITH


Yatahaze:
Planet With is…a lot. I don’t just mean that it’s eccentric or drops you into a clusterfuck of a situation with little information, though both those things are true. No, Planet With is practically three cours in one, if not three shows in one. Its arcs speed along with little breathing room but never quite feel rushed, even if there’s a sense that it’s left some refinement on the cutting room floor. But then again, Planet With has a lot to say—about idealism, about justice, about forgiveness—and it somehow manages to get all those themes across with a cast far more universally endearing than their awkwardly divided screen-time should allow. From a planetary holocaust to illusory breasts, well, like I said, Planet With is a lot.

But I’d like to focus on its strongest element: redemption. Not just that sought from others, but the personal redemption Soya finds within to forgive himself. Though he’s not a particularly multifaceted character, his fish out of water narrative as the final survivor of a lost, deemed “destructive” race immediately endeared me to his struggles of not only finding a place to belong, but allowing himself the peace of mind to accept that. Whether that takes the form of his initial vengeance against the Dragon that destroyed Sirius, his willingness to accept Earth as his new home and his family as a new family, or his resolve to sacrifice himself if it means saving all the people he brought together, Soya’s journey formed the backbone of Planet With and did so with a passion nearly unmatched in anime this year.

There’s a fair slate of things you can criticize Planet With for; obnoxious sound design, unfulfilling side character arcs (Nezuya and Yosuke’s in particular), and a borderline-cheesy faith in unity overcoming disarray. But for all its quirks, I never once questioned that Planet With’s heart was in the right place, and it somehow managed to pull off one of the most touching character arcs I’ve seen in anime this year. Whether the edges blur the center for you or not (and I won’t deny that during the show’s first half, they often did), Planet With’s foundation is a force to be reckoned with. Mightier than a clog.
Final score:
7.75/10
Completed after 12 episodes.


And that’s all for now! What were your favorite shows of the summer? Agree or disagree with these takes? Wanna yell at us for not getting to Revue Starlight yet? Leave a comment below or over on Twitter and let us know! As for next time, the following season is a little up in the air. We’ll still try to get some fall 2018 coverage going, but our offerings the next few months will be on the lighter side. Either way, we’ll see you then, and until next time, this has been Yata and Haru of For Great Justice. Thanks for reading!

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