Winter 2020 Mid-Sesaon Thoughts

If we at For Great Justice have anything to say about it, the world ain’t gonna end from freak viruses or pathetic presidential candidate discourse before we get through the upcoming stacked spring anime season, but even that’s getting a little too ahead of ourselves. It’s still winter, and winter has its fair share of gems to celebrate and duds to discard. It’s been about a month since we last chatted, so without further ado, Yata and Haru are back to update you on what we think about this season’s roster just past the halfway point.

A DESTRUCTIVE GOD SITS NEXT TO ME.
(BOKU NO TONARI NI ANKOKU HAKAISHIN GA IMASU.)

Harubruh:
Somebody please give this grumpy boy a break.

Piling onto poor Koyuki’s mental anguish, we’ve now been introduced to Hanadori’s equally puny and equally delusional understudy Hibiki and childhood-friend-turned-masochistic-samurai-wannabe Mogami.

For me, Bokuhaka’s massive entertainment value up to this point has been largely through the fantastic delivery by its star-studded cast of voice actors. Tsubasa Yonaga and Shinnosuke Tachibana turned out to be perfect fits for their respective roles as Hibiki and Mogami, and their performances have added a whole new layer to this show’s zaniness. How Jun Fukuyama’s vocal cords haven’t snapped from all of the abuse recording his lines from this show is a miracle.

The visuals have remained fairly consistent, with Koyuki’s annoyed and oft-exaggerated reactions still featuring prominently as he proceeds to die a little more on the inside with each of his reluctant interactions with his group of chuuni puppy dogs and the omniscient embodiment of pure evil with an apparent mom fetish. Seriously though, just like with Hanako-kun, there’s not a whole lot of actual animation going on here, but what we do get from Bokuhaka is adequately polished and relatively on-model, especially when compared to the handful of stinkers airing this season.

Bokuhaka’s kept me laughing out loud and facepalming in amused disbelief week in and week out, and with the stressful news coming out less than two weeks before my trip to Japan, I’m really in need of some good laughs right now, and this show keeps delivering.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

ASTEROID IN LOVE (KOISURU ASTEROID)


Summary:
After finding out she shares a given name with a star, Mira Kinohata makes a vow to discover an asteroid and name it “Ao,” after the boy she gazed at the stars with that night. Fast forward to high school, Mira reunites with Ao at her schools Earth Sciences club and is surprised to discover her friend is a girl.

Harubruh:
Bless you, Doga Kobo!

Though you’ve largely earned kudos from me for your knack for bombastic comedy shows, like Nozaki-kun or Love Lab, you’ve ended up making another Surprisingly Enjoyable Show for this season with a far less comedy-centric offering: Koisuru Asteroid, or Asteroid in Love

The primary aspect that’s kept me into Asteroid after its rather sluggish start was my nostalgia for my childhood obsessions with astronomy and geology. Back in elementary school, I possessed both a telescope and an expansive rock collection, and my old fascination with these subjects still lingers to a good extent even today.

Getting to see the Earth Science girls indulge in their varied interests such as Mari’s desire to become an astronaut, Sakurai’s expertise on geology, or Ao and Mira’s commitment to their childhood promise of discovering an asteroid already had my attention, but their creative presentation of what many regard as a pedestrian set of subjects in a tasty and fun light with their earth sciences-themed cafe for their school’s cultural festival was an element I enjoyed watching.

Asteroid in Love has turned out to be a simple, pleasantly comfy and chill watch for me this winter, and you know what? That’s good enough for me.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

BOFURI: I DON’T WANT TO GET HURT, SO I’LL MAX OUT MY DEFENSE
(ITAI NO WA IYA NANO DE BOUGYORYOKU NI KYOKUFURI SHITAI TO OMOIMASU.)

Harubruh:
When I first started on Bofuri, I really didn’t think I’d stick around all too long for it. Boy, am I glad that I was wrong!

Having blossomed into an extremely endearing watch the last few weeks, Bofuri handily became my favorite show I’m watching this season not involving volleyball teams or haunted toilets. So, how did it pull it off?

Well, how can one NOT love the aspect of “Two Girlfriends Have Fun Learning How to Break the Fucking Game and Have Fun Doing It?”

For all that I love the extended SAO universe, and its fellow video game-fashioned anime (and other media) comprising most of the so-called “isekai” genre, basically all have forgotten the basic point here for various reasons: Video games are supposed to be fun. Bofuri has been a blast to watch because it happily shows that despite the game master’s targeted nerfing of Maple’s ludicrous defensive abilities, she and her friends are still happily playing the game because it’s fun for them to play. They have fun (some it met with some exasperation by Maple’s pals) seeing just how broken this silly game (still) is.

What’s fun is good, am I right?

Speaking of fun, how about Maple and Sally’s battle against Definitely Not Articuno in the fourth episode? I was completely taken by surprise at how fantastic the action was handled by Silver Link. Them just going “fuck it, sakuga everything the girls do here” for the action cuts comprising the better part of half an episode was a thrill and a joy to watch. It’s pretty evident that a lot of love went into this bit, in addition to just the show in general.

I’m almost tempted to call this a borderline iyashikei show. Maple and Sally end up spending almost as much time basking in the beauty of the world of New World Online as they do besting opponents in a usually absurd manner. Bofuri initially hooked me with its fun broken battles, but the real treat has been our totally-not-girlfriends’ sightseeing dates. Whenever it’s not goofing off in the game-breakage, it’s actually become something of a cozy show to watch.

Bofuri has been a very pleasant surprise for me this season and one of my more anticipated watches this winter. I eagerly await more of our heroines’ shenanigans.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

CHIHAYAFURU SEASON 3


Yatahaze:
When I last discussed Chihayafuru, four individuals were going head-to-head to determine the winner of two regional tournaments and award eligibility to challenge for the titles of Queen and Meijin. Two elder statesmen of the game from the east took on two budding hotshots from the west and held their own just long enough to pull through. In the weeks that followed, Harada had his society’s disciples help him prepare for the Meijin match at every opportunity, and for good reason: Hisashi Suo, the reigning karuta champion, is an enigma. Sometimes strikingly brilliant, sometimes laughably oblivious, the soft-spoken 26-year-old is well-rounded and has a youthful stamina Harada-sensei desperately lacks. As for the Queen games, Haruka Inokuma, S-class Anime Mom and badass competitor in her own right, sought to steal away the title from its defending champ, the even more eccentric Shinobu Wakamiya. After well over a month of buildup, did the actual matches disappoint?

Short answer, no, of course not. Chihayafuru fucking rules, and one slim nitpick aside (how often in matches this close does a luck-of-the-draw final card scenario actually occur? It feels really frequent now, maybe to the edge of my suspension of disbelief unless otherwise explained), it’s not doing a single thing to shake my interest. I won’t deny that I kind of wanted the opposite winners to shock the hall crowds, but when all was said and done, Harada and Inokuma’s runs understandably came up a bit short. Much like the dynamics between its featured final four, the actual tournament was more an articulation of the franchise’s established strengths than anything new, but I’m not gonna go around taking that for granted. These episodes always fly by despite their simmering in-universe pace, and with several cours’ worth of momentum to capitalize on, Chihayafuru makes finding a way to put a smile on my face look effortless. That was true before matches this important, and it’s still true now. One more little arc here to go as we close out season three.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 20 episodes.

HAIKYUU!!: TO THE TOP


Harubruh:

It didn’t take long for Shoyo to make the most of his time as a ballboy for that Shiratorizawa camp.

Seizing an opportunity to observe the other players’ forms and techniques during his ballboy duties, he incrementally sharpens his volleyball intuition, even incorporating some observed elements of play into his repertoire. In typical Hinata fashion, this path he takes isn’t without some bumps, with him getting his usual spikes to the face, and in one particularly painful bit, a spike that gets him in the groin.

Who knew volleyball was so dangerous, am I right?

Tsukishima eventually takes notice of his teammate’s gradual improvement and gets restless with his perceived lack of improvement, eventually applying himself harder to his practice time on the court. Meanwhile, at the All-Japan camp Kageyama is attending, the setter undergoes a bit of self-doubt and evaluation after getting called a “Goody Two-shoes” by another setter at the camp, something of a contrast to his perception of his own play.

When the boys reunite with the rest of their team, their gears grind a bit as Kageyama begins to speak out as his team sputters against Date Tech’s formidable defense in a practice game. Right as he feels he’s cornered himself, Hinata and the rest of the Karasuno boys welcome the return of the old “King of the Court,” with some begrudgingly accepting Tobio’s rather blunt assessments. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of a winning team dynamic, in my own experience.

You may not like it if it gets put bluntly, but good teammates look out for one another. You probably don’t want to be bluntly told that you’re obviously gassed if you’re adamant you can contribute; sometimes you’ll get heated if your teammate points out an error you committed. Kageyama admonished Nishinoya for blocking a spiker’s path after diving to the floor for a save. Sure, Noya initially reacted angrily, but he instantly realized his error, acknowledged it. Even if a lot of it is due to being surrounded by excellent examples of teammates in his upperclassmen, Tobio’s somewhat clumsily growing into a good teammate himself, and To The Top’s 7th episode displays his maturation.

Haikyuu really is flying high right now, and it looks ready to kick things into high gear. We’re now well past the point that I’ve read the manga up to, so every spike and every block will bring a new surprise for me.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

HATENA☆ILLUSION


Harubruh:

Well, I made it this far, but I’m calling it quits here.

This may strike you as a vastly different tune from my usual sigh of “Well, I’m still here” that you’ve all probably grown used to hearing from me over the years.

Though Hatena Illusion did recover marginally from that tailspin in production quality that showed up on that second episode, it hasn’t shown much value to me outside of a “12-year-old me would watch the crap out of this show on Saturday morning” aspect. I mean, I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece at all here, but I still found myself underwhelmed by how predictably everything’s played out to this point. Notwithstanding that this is a mediocre adaptation of a mediocre story, I also have other reasons for dropping this show.

Over the last few months, my antiquated computer has become ever more uncooperative with both Funimation’s streaming system or just torrenting these shows, and with absolutely no way to log into their game console apps, at this point, I have no choice but to cut my losses here. This one ain’t worth it.

With the addition of a delay to the 7th episode due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, I really don’t feel the need to wait around for Hatena Illusion to not improve.
Final score: 5/10
Dropped after 6 episodes.

INFINITE DENDROGRAM


Harubruh:

I really wasn’t expecting Dendro to be the second-place MMO anime this season, but this is what a half-assed adaptation gets you. In this case, 2nd place doesn’t get a silver, it earns an unceremonious drop.

With any potential visual flair wasted on its still-lacking OP, Dendro has just come up lacking time and time again. Was the novel really as good as people led me to believe? I mean, there’s been a few interesting concepts touched upon here, such as NPC permadeath, the 3 day in-game penalty for a player dying, Rook, the token bishounen partner, taking up an in-game profession as a pimp with no elaboration as to why, or Ray’s borderline disillusionment with the game following him breaking up a virtual child trafficking ring, but those morsels of potential just aren’t enough to keep me from nodding off while attempting to get an episode in. Time and time again, Dendro’s delivery has kept falling short.

I used to buy into the the sunk cost fallacy that I’ve already wasted enough time on a certain show, so I might as well stick with it, but Dendrogram has really made me come to terms with just fucking dropping a show rather than clinging to a usually futile hope that it’ll improve. The fact that this also got hit with a delay due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is just more incentive to let it go.

As another lackluster offering on the increasingly difficult to access Funi roster, Infinite Dendrogram gets the axe, as well. No hard feelings, no regrets.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 6 episodes.

IN/SPECTRE (KYOKOU SUIRI)


Yatahaze:
After one episode, I had In/Spectre tabbed to rank among my favorites of this winter season. After a second, some doubts crept into frame. Kuro and Kotoko made a strong introduction together, but when separated, the former isn’t much of a presence and the latter is prone to prattling on and on, something made abundantly clear as she hypothesized to an insufficiently rewarding degree why a woman might’ve dumped a body in a snake god’s lake for two whole episodes. I had hoped that mini arc would be a one-off disappointment as the series got back on the rails with tighter writing or more character-focused drama, but I’m not pleased to report that after seven episodes, In/Spectre’s shortcomings have become the rule, not the exception.

Putting aside the fact that as a matter of personal preference, I would’ve liked the series’ mystery-isms to be a background element, In/Spectre just…isn’t very good at them. First and foremost, its complete inability to summarize itself concisely makes episodes drag. We’re now approaching five episodes (with presumably even more on the way) of this Steel Lady Nanase arc, and all the words-per-minute in the world couldn’t convince me that at its core, this is a dilemma that could’ve been solved in three episodes max in a tighter show. Sure, it’s used some of that time to look into backstories and ratchet concern up with a last-minute twist in the form of Detective Terada’s death, but equal if not more time has been wasted extending exposition to a tiring degree and retreading points of the investigation already well-established. At the very least, Kotoko is a character whose personality aligns well with that specific flaw, but that doesn’t make In/Spectre any easier to watch.

Well, except for when she’s making passive-aggressive romantic advances on Kuro in the vicinity of Saki, who thankfully returned to briefly give this arc a bit of tangible character drama to cling onto. Don’t you just hate it when you’re ghost-hunting with your immortal, cold hubby and his ex shows up? And she’s a cop? Even if In/Spectre doesn’t nail its more serious attributes, when it turns on its heels to give us goofy, flirty asides, it delivered just enough to keep me coming back week after week. I’m starting to wonder how long that’ll suffice, though; between the awkward timeskip and the general absence of Kuro’s internal voice, even those more carefree bits have begun to wear thin, all leading me to believe that while In/Spectre is an otherwise competent production and started off on the right foot, its writing has done no favors for the work’s individual highlights or overall vibe since then. It’d be a shame to say goodbye to the potential these characters have…but at this point, they’ve lived up to it so rarely, I’m not sure if that’s much of a loss at all.
Final? score: 6/10
Dropped after 7 episodes, I guess. I dunno.

TOILET BOUND HANAKO-KUN (JIBAKU SHOUNEN HANAKO-KUN)

Harubruh:
What a fun ride this has been!

Aside from the continued dearth of actual animation in the show, and a pretty conspicuous omission of a bit of Hanako’s backstory and characterization before our cast’s encounter with Tsuchigomori and the 4PM bookstacks, I still don’t really have any qualms with how the anime has proceeded so far after acclimating to Lerche’s motion comic style of adapting the manga. Most of my qualms with the anime come from nitpicking Funi’s translation of some important lines compared to Yen Press’ more considerate translation of the manga.

Though the earlier episodes incorporated more of a motion comic style, with some manga paneling included, more recent episodes have tended to opt for a more traditional look, but Hanako-kun has still retained most of its eye candy background work. Indeed, it has taken a little bit of adjustment for me, but I really feel like they’ve nailed it with the selection of the voice cast for this show.

Anywho, with Tsukasa and Mitsuba’s introductions, those of y’all unfamiliar with where the story goes from here: barring some potentially disastrous anime-only divergence, you’re in for a fun ride for these last few episodes.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF EIZOUKEN! (EIZOUKEN NI WA TE O DASU NA)


Yatahaze:
Eizouken is still a classic. Moving o-

sorry, what’s that? One sentence isn’t enough? It should be. More accurately, I’m honestly daunted to write about it, as I often am with series that lay bare their heart and soul and leave nothing unspoken. I can individually praise these characters, their magnificent voice actresses, everyone at Science SARU’s animation and production team, and the larger world molded together by original creator Sumito Owara…and I will, I’m sure. But Eizouken is so mesmerizing in part because it’s done nothing to shatter the synergy of a wildly talented and imaginative bunch of individuals operating at the peak of their craft. As far as stories about the creative process go, the way Eizouken regularly toys with tone and drops us headfirst into dream sequences is something not only well-suited to animation’s specific strengths, it incorporates a passion for every element of the club’s finished product, from sound design to acting to advertising and more.

Coming off the club’s grand premiere at a cultural festival just as zany as our lead trio’s brains, the weeks of slow, incremental progress paid off; Kanamori “negotiated” to create an ideal attendance situation and kept her two artists in check, while Asakusa and Mizusaki brought their all and pushed each other to achieve something worth taking pride in. For Mizusaki, the showing held extra significance⁠—her parents’ supposed distaste for animation was more a misunderstanding of financially-responsible parenting than any hardline close-mindedness, and seeing the sheer joy their daughter poured into this project got them to accept her craft with much less of a hassle than Eizouken could’ve opted for. I for one love that it didn’t play up that struggle to any sort of extreme; it didn’t rob Mizusaki of the celebratory fun, and with the unveiling such a success, the Eizouken now has their eye on finishing the film with less of an immediate time crunch and greater fiscal freedom.

Or so it seems. I can’t help but feel like another shoe will drop in order to give this final act some weight, but even if it coasts from here, Eizouken has already done more than enough to cement its place as one of the best TV anime in recent memory. I don’t have much to add in terms of personal remarks to set my commentary apart; the show speaks volumes more for itself than I possibly could in reverence to it. Just hop in if you’ve held out. Please. It’s so good.
Current score: 9.5/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

MY HERO ACADEMIA SEASON 4


Yatahaze:
It already feels like an eternity since the Overhaul arc ended, but we were right in the middle of it last time I commented about My Hero Academia at length on the site, and I had just started to tire of its offshoot backstory episodes before it kicked things up a notch and blew out in a blaze of glory. When our heroes⁠—those left after dealing with various mid-bosses and goons, at least⁠—finally arrived to take on Chiaki, the fight culminated in one of the franchise’s brightest emotional highs to date. I’m often hesitant to praise how art approaches emotional abuse and child trauma, and I won’t say HeroAca didn’t take an easy way out by having Midoriya and Mirio, two of the grade-A nicest guys in its cast, due her rescuing, but the spirit of the action itself, especially after seeing their guilt from letting her go the first time, was truly touching. Having removed her from immediate danger, the next step is getting her to acclimate to a non-threatening life, and progress with that will be slow, especially with a volatile Quirk. But a coincidental event on the horizon offers an opportunity for her to venture into the world with wonder instead of fear.

That’s right, it’s Cultural Festival time at U.A., and Class 1-A finds themselves in a weird pinch where a handful of the students were directly involved in that raid on Shie Hassaikai, powerhouses Bakugo and Todoroki had to re-apply for hero licenses (in an arc that completely went in one eyeball and out the other), and the rest were just chillin’ in their relative un-importance. The mood isn’t level, and the rest of the school still pins its insecurity complex against the “most significant” freshman class in their student body, so what to do for the Cultural Festival took some brainstorming. Some suggested performing for their peers, others figured they could let them take the spotlight for once, and other still…voiced throwaway ideas. Somewhere along the line, the notion of a concert gained traction, and that naturally shifted attention Kyouka Jiro’s way.

Don’t get me wrong, as far as background characters go, I like Kyouka. How could I not, as yet another hobbyist musician? (oh, and I’m working on an EP right now btw, should be a thing by summer). This arc hasn’t done a great job thus far articulating how she’s coming to terms with performing for performing’s sake, though, and it’s juggling a duo of new comic relief antagonists over the lingering trauma of the last arc too. HeroAca regularly prides itself on a highlight or two in each of its given seasons, but it also has moments that feel more transitory and meandering. Right now, I can’t help but feel like we’re stuck in one of those, treading water to ride out the episode count until its next big spectacle.

On the other hand, Horikoshi has dictated Mineta physically can’t play the guitar, so it’s difficult to say if he’s bad or n-
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 19 episodes.

SOMALI AND THE FOREST SPIRIT (SOMALI TO MORI NO KAMISAMA)


Yatahaze:
Two and a half additional mini-arcs in the books and Somali and the Forest Spirit hasn’t dramatically changed its formula. Like its opening episodes hinted, the series has focused more on the titular duo’s journey as they meet several friendly townspeople where they visit and share intimate father-daughter moments whenever Somali feels vulnerable. The arc where the Golem made extra dough while Somali played with a…thing…named Kikila was pleasant enough and showed Mr. Golem out of his depth trying to find medicine that could help a sick, human child. The following arc with a harpy, Uzoi, and her own disguised human traveling companion, Haitora, cut a little deeper, showing that cross-species friendship was far from impossible, even if humanity has to stay hidden and the past is thornier than it appears. And now in this latest arc, the duo continued onward to the Baghdad House of Wisdom, some witches’ library in search of clues regarding the rest of humanity’s whereabouts.

The first episode of this new chapter was mostly light-hearted, bridging the events of the last story to this one and taking down a book-eating creature as we got to know new relevant side characters, but arriving at a source of concentrated knowledge means Golem should finally get some harsh truths to the questions he’s looking to answer. I also wonder how the head librarian will respond to the broader goal of their quest; so far, most of the passersby our leads have bumped into were welcoming, but the Golem hasn’t had to explain himself within the means of a public institution before, and the more answers he receives with Somali by his side, the likelier chances he’ll eventually be forced to outline his limited timeframe to her. Worse yet, all it takes is one flip of a hoodie for a less than ideal bystander to realize that Somali is human. I’m amazed that gun hasn’t been fired yet.

Somali has emphasized the young girl’s desire to stay with “Daddy” forever, and every time she gleefully exclaims it, I can feel the spike twist in Golem’s side (and mine). I predicted we’d get a bittersweet ending, and between those options and more, I can still foresee one coming…but the series has given us plenty of fun distractions and cordial interactions in the meantime. Its background art, voice acting, and creativity continue to shine. Somali’s ultimate verdict rests on how it executes its final act, but it hasn’t done anything to dull my excitement in the first half.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

22/7


Yatahaze:
Come because The Wall demands it, stay because the show is actually pretty solid. That’s been my experience with 22/7 so far, and I don’t regret checking out the less-bizarre-than-meets-the-eye idol sensation of the season one bit, even if it’s tried to downplay the mechanism that sets it apart. After the initial Miu-centric arc, the series has gone down the episodic, “here’s this character’s backstory” road with results that range from fantastic to inoffensive. Nothing truly mind-numbing at any point, and the highs were great: Miyako’s “big family, no money” woes and Jun’s sickly childhood brought Big Moods for all, Reika’s discomfort with embracing the sex appeal dynamic of her job made for an unexpectedly tight piece of commentary, and Sakura remembering her grandma was…fine, I guess. Not a highlight, but far from a disaster.

In fact, even though the series isn’t overtly embracing the meme it spawned (or the meme that spawned it? Real chicken-egg debate there), I can’t say it’s any worse for just letting The Wall do its thing. Three more episodes for individual characters will leave us with two to go afterward, and I’ve honestly got no clue one way or the other whether 22/7 will use its gimmick to usher in the grand finale or let it stay in the background as the unit accomplishes some broader goal of their own accord. A complete lack of new conjecture about the thing every single week simultaneously makes its presence more intriguing and less of a point that “needs” to be addressed. I’d be equally fine with getting a monumental climax to explain The Wall as I’d be for getting no justification for it whatsoever.

If the latter happens, I can only imagine the fan theories that’ll emerge behind its metaphorical weight as a divine device or tool of the state in that regard, but whatever secrets it does or doesn’t hold, 22/7′s character vignettes have proven that as much as it’s an idol show about a group, it’s more importantly a series about giving the hopeless and trepidatious a chance to come out of their shells. I’m always down for those, and the general polish behind 22/7 hasn’t let its good vibes down yet.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.


And that’s all for this mid-season update! We’ll see you towards the end of next March to wrap up our thoughts on the above shows and prepare for the onslaught that lies beyond. Until then, what are your frontrunners and trash binners at the moment? As always, feel free to let us know in the comments below or over on Twitter. See y’all around.

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