summer

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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Summer 2018 First Impressions

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another batch of seasonal first impressions! We’ve got a fantastic lineup for you all this time, with some of the most promising anime to debut in yea-

I can’t. I can’t say it with a straight face. Yata and Haru both concur: this is the weakest season of anime since FGJ began nearly four years ago, and our watchlists are in dire shape. It’s not completely hopeless, and a backlog season is always welcome, but prepare for a lot of disappointment below. We checked out a combined sixteen shows. We’re sticking with only a quarter of them. Which ones? Find out with this uncharacteristically harsh set of first impressions.

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Summer 2017 Final Thoughts

Welcome back, everybody! I think it’s fair to say it’s been a rough week or so in the anime community. Between Kemono Friends director Tatsuki’s unceremonious firing by Kadokawa, the news that One Punch Man 2 would be done by a different team at a different studio, and Hollywood once again deciding to adapt a certain little recently successful anime film in Americanized live-action, a lot of us were looking to find a headline deserving of our big Toblerones.

But we have good news too, fellas; the summer season came to a close this week, and while there were a fair number of late stumbles to cover, there were also some resounding successes. Which series stuck the landing? Which let us down when it mattered most? Yata & Haru are here to run down everything they finished, so find out what juicy takes of theirs await you below in FGJ’s summer 2017 anime season final thoughts!

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Summer 2017 Mid-Season Thoughts

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to a somewhat special mid-season update from For Great Justice. It’s not only time to run down what we’ve thought about many of the summer’s most popular shows since first impressions, it’s also mid-August, which means it’s time to celebrate the site’s third birthday! From the bottom of our hearts, whether you’re stumbling upon us now for the first time or go back as far as our clunky early days, thank you for your continued support and readership. It means so much.

Not gonna lie, all of us are a bit antsy lately, so this may be a quicker than usual batch. Yata and Catche are gearing up to head back to college in a week and Haru has been busy alley-crawling at Anime-Fest the last few days, so we’ve all got a bit on our plates, but that’s rarely stopped us from getting something out there before, and it sure isn’t going to now. What titles held up from earlier in the season? Which have let us down? And where are we drawing the drop line? Find out all this and more below!

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Summer 2017 First Impressions

It’s too hot.
Antarctica is peeling apart.
Don Jr. inherited more than just a name and spare Franklins to wipe his ass with.

And yet here we are complaining about anime, because if the world’s gonna end one way or another, we might as well appreciate some rapidly moving pictures in the meantime. There’s just one problem: this season’s not produced quite as many worthwhile ones as the last handful have. For Yata, that means a ton of bubble entries with few clear standouts. For Haru and Catche, that means virtually no standouts whatsoever and a lot of trash. But it’s not our job to remark about the industry as a whole right now. If you’re here, there’s a good chance that what you’re really looking for are our thoughts about each new production on its own merit, and we’re happy to provide! Which titles appear to be at least somewhat watchable? Which ones do we recommend never speaking of again? And can American democracy be salvaged? The answers to at least those first two questions lay in our summer 2017 season first impressions below. Jump on in!

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Summer 2016 Final Thoughts

Seems weird to call this the end of summer when we’ve just now started October, but better late than never! Sure, neither of us have watched Re:Zero or Jojo’s, arguably the two most-talked about series this season, but that didn’t stop Yata from playing with his food (shows) or Haru from finally getting some words in about something – and it might not be what you’d expect. Whittled down to less than 10 entries, we’re wrapping up summer with quality over quantity, but that’s life sometimes. What show took Yata’s seasonal crown? What show did Haru manage to write about? And what’s next up on the FGJ agenda? Read on to find out below!

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Summer 2016 Mid-Season Thoughts

Hey everybody, Yata here. We’re halfway through the summer season, and since circumstances have left me going this one alone (a.k.a. Haru’s emptying his wallet at AnimeFest), instead of running through each show alphabetically the way we’ve always done, I’m gonna try something different.

That’s right, I’m ranking this mother lode of a season.

I’ll be keeping my thoughts as brief as I can with a summation of what each show I’m still watching is doing right, wrong, and how likely I think it will improve or fall apart from here accompanied by our standard out-of-10 score and an episode count status update. Hopefully you can dig this format, and if not, oh well, things will likely go right back to the old one next time. The season is mostly staying strong and there’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

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Summer 2016 First Impressions

The conversation went something like this: “Man, I’m fucking exhausted. Work’s killing me this week, but at least I somehow got through all these promising-looking premiers. What about you, bro?”

“…oh, we were supposed to publish the article this week? I’ll uh…I’ll see what I can do.”
Things have not been smooth lately in the lives of your critic buddies Yata and Harubro.

It might be the worst timing too, because although it may not look like it at first glance, this summer’s lineup has gotten off to one of the best overall starts in years. A combination of the shitty shows being so obviously shit they weren’t even worth a speculative watch and about half the good shows being way above average has left us with a stacked watchlist to try and stay up to date with and catch up on respectively. Yata’s here for the majority of this article and Haru’s done what he can to still include his thoughts on personal season highlight ReLIFE as well as Konobi. Aside from those two, there are still 13 other (mostly fantastic) shows to cover, so let’s get these first impressions rolling, eh?

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 7.59.46 PM
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Yata’s Top 25 OPs of 2013

Hey, folks. Yatahaze here. In 2013, back in the pre-FGJ days when me and the crew primarily conversed through Facebook and forums, I made a list of my favorite 25 OPs from that year. At the time I thought – and still do think – that it was a spectacular year for anime openings, with several great entries nearly on par with each other vying for the top handful of spots. Since we’ve been a bit slow this spring (and also because those OP lists of mine seem to do pretty well for site views), I decided to revisit that old list and see if I could tweak some things around and write about them in more detail. This is the one that started it all, so it only seems natural to actually post it to the website where anyone can find it.

For those of you new to my OP ranking methods, here’s a reminder for what counts and what I consider:

  • The OP must have debuted in the year in question (so for this, 2013). It can belong to a show that started before then as long as the OP itself debuted that year. In other words, 2012 shows that carried over into 2013 and used an OP that only aired during that year are acceptable entries.
  • If an OP has multiple versions (either different animation set to the same music or different music set to the same animation) and all those versions are available online, I’ll choose the version I like the most. Multiple versions of what are otherwise the same OP won’t take up multiple entries. For entries with evolving credits, whatever’s available will be used.
  • If a show has multiple OPs, they are all eligible as long as they fit the above criteria. This never came into play for my 2014 and 2015 lists, but this old one will show why that rule exists in the first place.
  • I don’t need to have seen a show to include its OP, though shows I have watched are much more likely to be on the list, seeing as I’m more familiar with them and the in-show significance of their OPs’ contents. Doubly so for sequels or long-running series.
  • Unlike the many YouTube channels dedicated to ranking OPs based solely on music, I judge OPs on a sliding scale combination of their music, visuals, audiovisual sync, relevance to the show (when able), and my personal enjoyment, with regards given to what I feel the OP was trying to stress or accomplish most.

As always, don’t fixate on the exact numbers too much. The rankings are loose and (for this list especially) really close, meaning there are a couple solid OPs still absent here, but to stick with the precedent, I’m cutting this list off at 25 numbered entries and one honorable mention. If you’d like to see my lists from 2014 and 2015 first, you can go ahead and click on those. Otherwise, I hope you all enjoy this old but revamped and finally-published installment of Yata’s Yearly Top 25 OPs. Let’s jam.

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Yata’s Top 25 OPs of 2015

Header picWell, it’s that time of year again. The holidays will soon give way to the long dark days of winter and the start of 2016, meaning two things: One: I’ll finally have to learn how to consistently and safely drive through several feet of snow for the first time and two: I have to bring great justice to this past year’s best anime openings! In addition, a post like this offers the ability to touch on a variety of shows from throughout 2015 all in one convenient place, something I greatly enjoy doing to reflect on the year (you know, in addition to the 12 Days of Anime, which I think went well!). If you’re new to For Great Justice, you may not know how I judge anime openings, and if you’re really new to anime in general, you may not understand what exactly an OP is. I’ll sum up my main criteria below, but for a more in-depth explanation, see the start of my 2014 OPs post.

  • The OP must have debuted in 2015. It can belong to a show that started before 2015, just as long as the OP itself debuted this year. In other words, fall 2014 shows that carried over into winter 2015 and used an OP that only aired this year are acceptable entries. In slippery cases where an OVA or something used an OP the previous year once or twice but it was used for a full production this year, I’ll make an exception; just as long as the OP wasn’t counted in the previous list, really. That’s what this point is about.
  • If an OP has multiple versions (either different animation set to the same music or different music set to the same animation), I’ll choose the version I like the most. Multiple versions of what is otherwise the same OP won’t take up multiple entries.
  • If a show has multiple OPs, they are all eligible as long as they fit the above criteria. Both this year and last year it just so happened that no show which aired multiple OPs made it into the top 25 twice, though several shows came close this time, and if this list were extended to a top 30 or 35, series such as The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Food Wars and Durarara!!x2 may have indeed been on the list more than once.
  • I don’t need to have seen a show to include its OP, though shows I have watched are much more likely to be on the list, seeing as I’m more familiar with them and the in-show significance of their OPs’ contents. Doubly so for sequels or long-running series.
  • Unlike the many YouTube channels dedicated to ranking OPs seasonally and yearly based solely on music, I judge OPs on a sliding scale combination of their music, visuals, audiovisual sync, relevance to the show (when able), and my personal enjoyment, with regards given to what I feel the OP was trying to accomplish most. These rankings are very loose apart from the top few. Don’t fixate yourself on the exact numbers too much.

And just a reminder once again that rankings such as these are purely opinionated, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you disagree with what I’ve included or where I have or haven’t placed something, that’s okay. We can agree to disagree. If you want to start discussion, at least keep it civil. That’s the justice way!

Anyway, 25 of the best OPs 2015 has to offer plus one honorable mention lie ahead. Let’s get this show on the road.

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