They’re the best Anime that 2020 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Maoujou de Oyasumi, Dorohedoro, Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!, and more!
10: Maoujou de Oyasumi
English: Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle
MAL Score: 8.01
The Demon Lord Tasogare’s castle is a dark and frightening place, filled to the brim with various monsters. Any soul unfortunate enough to be imprisoned here is sure to be terrified by the horrors within. However, the human princess Aurora Suya Rhys “Syalis” Kaymin is a different case. Rather indifferent to her situation, Syalis worries about one thing and one thing only—sleep. Ever since the demon lord kidnapped her from her kingdom, she has not had a single good night’s rest.
To alleviate her dozen dozing issues, the princess makes do with what she can find in the castle. Whether it be the fur of fluffy demonic teddy bears or the silky, blanket-like bodies of ghost shrouds, everything is but a means to ensure a peaceful slumber. With so many potential materials to craft items that can help her sleep at her disposal, nothing will stop the sleepy princess—not even death.
Well obviously in this situation, you will always try to find a way to escape from their prisoner. But for this anime, Princess Syalis is the most unique one. She rather sleeps in her prison bed despite the panicking situation that is happening in her homeland.
But there’s one problem! The demons only give her nothing but a low quality bed sheet and pillow. Dissatisfied, Hime-sama decides to go out and create the best quality for her to sleep even if it means murdering demons and destroying useful items. What makes the story even better is not just creating the the best pillow and bed sheet. Each of the episodes have unique plot with variety of quests for Hime-sama to achieve.
Many of us will think that the demons are really scary. Well in this anime, you’ll find out that the demons doesn’t look like what you see in most anime. The demon king might be seen as an antagonist at the start, but he has a kind heart and have no bad intention of hurting or scaring Hime-sama.
And not just the demon king, later series you’ll find more interesting demons with variety of traits and they all also have no intention of hurting or scaring Hime-sama.
Also the anime will not be complete without someone who will be there to save Hime-sama. Yuusha Dawner (also known as D-whatsit) decides to go on a journey to rescue Hime-sama. No matter how difficult the trial is, they’ll never give up and keep moving forward.
As expected, Inori Minase is a perfect VA for Hime-sama. Her voice is really calm and smooth which is perfect for her personality. The background musics are also fit with the current atmosphere especially when Hime-sama is feeling comfortable and go suyaaaaaaaa. The OP and ED songs are also great, the cheerful song makes me happy when listening to it.
The studio who creates this anime, Doga Kobo really did a great job of creating a colorful background which is befitting for the atmosphere of the anime. And also the character designs are really cute especially the teddy demons.
Overall, the anime relies a lot on comedy. Which is a perfect anime for us to laugh hard. And if you ever get stressed from the hard day of work or school, then watching this anime will make you feel better. And I also highly recommend this anime for comedy fans.
And that’s it for my review, I hope this anime have a chance to get a second season. Oyasuminasai everyone and have a good day!
(Quiet please, our princess is sleeping right now)
How far would you go for THE perfect sleep? It has been scientifically proven that a good sleep is very important for our body, but how can we achieve that? This is the most important thought of our princess Aurora Suya Rhys (or let’s just say Suyaaaaa~), she goes all out to get this achievement.
In a time when humans and demons were still hostile, our princess was captured by the demon king Tasogare. He locked her up and just gave her an old mattress and sheet to sleep on. How is our princess supposed to have a restful sleep with such cheap things? And so Suya risks her life to get the valuable items that make a sleep more comfortable: Pillows, blankets, everything that is important for a good night’s sleep. Regardless of whether ghosts, monsters or even the demon king himself, she spares no expense to achieve her goal and get those items.
The full name of our Hime-sama is Aurora Suya Rhys Kaymin (Amen). She was kidnapped by the Demon King to make the kingdom fear him. But because of her sleepy personality, she didn’t really care about the whole war between those two nations although deep in her heart she wishes that both sides could get along peacefully. She has the capacity of falling asleep everywhere she finds comfy at any moment.
The Maou-sama on the other hand, the main antagonist of the series, kidnapped Suya in her sleep. Although he is the demon king and is supposed to be terrifying, he has his heart in the right place. He’s a little naive, but never has bad intentions. How the princess sees him in her eyes is very important to him. The poor demon couldn’t stand it if the princess would hate him.
Besides our two main characters there are also other demons in the castle of course. Whether hedgehogs, vampires or even Hades himself even, everyone always only wants the best for the princess. They are friendly, polite and would never dare to do anything bad.
And finally, there is of course our Yuusha Dawner, who tries to save the princess. He is a bumbling, easily confused Yuusha. Yet he never gives up, no matter how difficult the mission is. Due to his almost non-existent presence, the princess calls him “A-Something-kun”.
The best thing by far about the entire animation are the “Teddy Akumas”. They’re just too cute and everyone would love to have a few of them at home. Although it should be dark and black in a demon castle, we see a variety of bright and bright colors here. You can feel the good atmosphere.
The sleep(over) party starts already with the OP song, which is also sung by our princess herself. The music is cheerful and happy. It’s so catchy that you can’t forget the song. Everyone is invited to have fun!
The ED song happens already in our dream, beautiful things will happen there.
Besides the songs, the rest of the sound is also well done. Even a “little” scissor sound has been adjusted well.
As someone who is also a big fan of sleep, I felt directly connected to the princess. I admire her courage and will to do everything for THE perfect sleep. The comedy part is on point as well, it is often hilarious and funny. It really makes you laugh a lot. There are cute teddy bears here, what more could you want?
I wish that we see more quests for our princess, which she masters with bravura! Suya definitely mastered the “sleep game”!
Once upon a time, people lived happily in the kingdom of Sleepland. A jealous demon king appeared, wishing to destroy the kingdom. He kidnapped the princess and said, ‘I am kidnapping your Princess and if she is dear to you, you will give all your lands to the demons.’ So, just like in any typical fairy tale: an evil and insidious demon king, in order to show these mongrels, who are called humans, who the real king is, kidnaps a young maiden and imprisons her in a cell in his sinister castle. The whole country, of course, is terrified: the princess is in grave danger. It is scary to imagine what the demons are going to do to her and how hard it must be for the poor thing! Brave heroes swear to save her, but their path is thorny and long.
And the princess truly is in danger. The cell is small, there is nowhere to go, and there is nothing to do. It is extremely boring in the castle, yet, the princess realizes that she can finally sleep all she wants and there is no need for her to do anything. She can just RELAX. Not yet. The problem is, demons have somewhat little to no understanding of what convenience is. Because of that, Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle tells a story of Aurora Suya Rhys Kaymin’s quest to find a perfect pillow, a perfect blanket and everything for one to enjoy sleeping.
I do not know, from all the anime from this season, I enjoyed Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle the most. It is just funny and unique. The anime never tries to use some dirty cheap tricks; the best word to describe it would be wholesome. Even though, many similar anime suffer after 1-3 episodes the same problem, they become boring because of the similar jokes that are being repeated over and over again. Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle is different, however. Every episode is a quest of the princess, there are many characters and the humor is just great.
Overall, Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle is not just a cute girl does cute things type of an anime, there is story, great humor and likeable characters. Truly, a gem that I am happy to have found. Do give it a try!
MAL Score: 8.08
Hole—a dark, decrepit, and disorderly district where the strong prey on the weak and death is an ordinary occurrence—is all but befitting of the name given to it. A realm separated from law and ethics, it is a testing ground to the magic users who dominate it. As a race occupying the highest rungs of their society, the magic users think of the denizens of Hole as no more than insects. Murdered, mutilated, and made experiments without a second thought, the powerless Hole dwellers litter the halls of Hole’s hospital on a daily basis.
Possessing free access to and from the cesspool, and with little challenge to their authority, the magic users appear indomitable to most—aside for a few. Kaiman, more reptile than man, is one such individual. He hunts them on a heedless quest for answers with only a trusted pair of bayonets and his immunity to magic. Cursed by his appearance and tormented by nightmares, magic users are his only clue to restoring his life to normal. With his biggest obstacle being his stomach, his female companion Nikaidou, who runs the restaurant Hungry Bug, is his greatest ally.
Set in a gritty world of hellish design, Dorohedoro manages a healthy blend of comedy and lightheartedness with death and carnage. Taking plenty of twists and turns while following the lives of Hole’s residents, it weaves a unique world of unearthly origin and dreary appearance not for the squeamish or easily disturbed.
Dorohedoro, based on the manga penned by Q Hayashida, for years has constantly been hailed as an example of “a manga that could never be adapted into an anime” in numerous lists/articles and threads online. Her sketchy, densely detailed art style has been compared to manga like Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! and while less refined than works like Kentaro Miura’s Berserk, falls into a similar category of manga so detailed, some feel it would be impossible to accurately portray frame for frame in animation. Interestingly, both of these properties have received anime adaptations, In Berserks case multiple. Disregarding the Berserk 1997 anime series, both Berserk and Blame’s more recent anime outings were made possible through the use of CGI character models…to varying degrees of success. So why am I going into this long winded break down of two completely different anime in a Dorohedoro review? Well, I think it’s obvious what everyone’s “hot takes” and opinions on this series are inevitably going to bring up the CGI models for the main characters, so I might as well get it out of the way at the top and bring up some cases for you to think about and compare.
There will be people who will go on and on about their disdain for CGI use in anime and that if a show uses it, it’s automatically terrible, makes their eyes bleed and is sending the industry backwards. So, a quick question and answer
Would I have preferred if the main character models were 2D? Yes certainly, of course.
How do the CGI models stack up to other series using them? Definitely above average, and their skill using the CG tools drastically improves as the series progresses. I only might put the CG work below something like an Orange production like Beastars or Houseki no Kuni, but those series benefit from having some entire shots and environments rendered in CG, allowing things to blend more easily. Dorohedoro on the other hand does a great job of blending the CG models with beautiful 2D art and backgrounds on a level I haven’t seen in a Tv anime, and only improves as the series continues.
Last question…Am I happy to get to enjoy an adaptation of the manga that has this level of passion and dedication to the direction, music, sound and art regardless of the sometimes iffy CGI models? ABSOLUTELY! I understand the hate and vitriol aimed at works using CGI, but it’s annoying and disheartening to see so many people completely shut down at the sight of it and make no attempt to judge a work on its other merits or actual use of the CGI. Besides that, I’m just honestly thankful to be able to see a manga I truly love come to life in an actually well executed and competent adaptation and have others be able to learn about and enjoy it.
So, now that THAT’s out of the way (at least for now) let’s get into what makes this series special in its story and characters, and what has been most noticeable as far as the production is concerned.
This story stands out for a lot of reasons and isn’t something I think most anime viewers are used to seeing. This is achieved through a bizarre yet strangely straight forward set-up, set in a very detailed and intriguing world constantly doling out more information. The basic premise is this, ‘A man has had his head turned into a lizard head by a magic user, he wants to find out who did it with the help of his friend.’ Bizarre enough as it stands but how does this man and his friend hope to solve their conundrum? Well, after detaining a potential culprit, he bites down on their head. They then enter a sort of parallel world where they meet another man inside of his head who tells them “you’re not the one”. Once our protagonist asks what the man inside his head says and gets his answer, they precede to mercilessly kill them, usually by slashing them to pieces. This is the opening scene of the show, and perfectly encapsulates what Dorohedoro is all about, both in the types of scenarios and violence to be encountered and also the very carefree attitude at which characters in this series meet these situations.
This is Dorohedoro’s tone, and it’s one of its greatest strength. While many anime series that use this level of violence and gore would simply come off as edgy and shocking for the sake of it, the creativity in the violence the author paints and the lackadaisical attitude most characters take to it pushes Dorohedoro into a sort of campy and fun dark comedy, while also remaining genuinely disturbing. If I could describe Dorohedoro in two words, it would probably be joyfully sinister. The characters constantly joke around and banter with each other, they love talking about eating food (mainly gyoza for Kaiman, our protagonist) and drinking beer, this applies even more so to the “antagonists” of the series. On the flip side they also love slashing people to bits, bashing heads in and murdering others in very graphic and morbid ways, but this also applies to our protagonists! It makes for some very interesting characters that you still root for because it isn’t that they’re “evil people” necessarily. It’s that everyone in this brutal and metal-as-hell world (well two worlds actually) just lives by the status queue which happens to completely revolve around the authors love and celebration of all things horror. These violent yet joyful characters are at the heart of what makes Dorohedoro so enjoyable. All of their designs are distinct and striking with many often wearing creative and freaky masks. Dorohedoro also features a bevy of well realized females, not only in their characterization but also in their more varied than body types than we see to be the norm of most anime.
For a little bit more of an elaboration on the “two worlds” comment and general trajectory of the story, Dorohedoro is mainly concerned with two major groups of characters that resides in said worlds. The world of Hole is a “shit hole” comprised of unfortunate citizens who’ve drawn the short straw in life. It’s a kind of urban/industrial post-apocalyptic setting, filled with an endless number of ruined buildings and factories. Here, people are constantly struggling to get by and also to survive attacks from denizens of the other world…the World of Magic Users. The World of Magic Users is where people who have the ability to produce magical black smoke live. This world is considerably more vibrant and the magic users tend to have it quite a bit better off. This smoke power they use can have any number of interesting effects and properties but many of them transform the target into something. Magic users can also produce doors with their magic that lead to Hole and many of them use these doors to experiment on and torment the citizens of Hole. The first of two groups the bulk of our story revolves around are the previously mentioned Kaiman (who had his head turned into a lizard by a magic user) his best friend Nikaido and a rag tag group of Hole dwellers. They are hunting magic users to find the one who changed Kaiman’s head and quickly find themselves caught up in the business of the second group, the most powerful magic user En and his family of hitmen. From then on, all sorts of chaos and shenanigans ensue. While the story can certainly move at a fast clip at times I also love its ability to slow down and meander at others, building up and showing us various aspects of Hole and The Magic Users World as well as taking time to show us more intimate moments with both the sets of characters. This balance of both forward momentum and relaxed character development and world building is something I think many people find a very endearing aspect of the show.
Compared to the manga, however, while we do have a lot of fun and relaxed moments with characters…some character development and world building is sacrificed in favor of a faster pace, something I have to grin and bear as a viewer but obviously something I DO have to bring up and hold against the adaptation. This first season received a 12 episode run and it seemed obvious heading into the last half/third in and around where they were planning on ending the season. Working on a time constraint and not knowing for sure if you will received a second season unless sales are good certainly leads a director to create what they feel is the most appealing version of a story they can fit into the time they have been granted. As a viewer who has read the manga, I’m left simply thinking to myself as I watch “oh, they made this a bit harder to understand” or “ah they skipped this line of dialogue”. While some of these things might go completely unnoticed by a newcomer, some certainly stood out as odd directorial decisions and some were more egregious cuts we could all agree the show would benefit from having in. An example I can think of for the former was when a certain character is visited in jail. When he explains why he is being sentenced to death he says it was because he was selling Devil Manjuu and is called an idiot. Unfortunately, unlike the manga we are giving no way of understanding why this would be considered a crime and only given a “Devil Manjuu can get you killed” from the “What we learned”. An example of the latter would be during the baseball episode, where Fujita and Ebisu share a moment alone. In this scene Fujita saying how no one cares about his plight of avenging Matsumura, breaking down in tears. We are then shown a somber looking Ebisu looking up at him telling him that she cares. It’s a small scene, but an important one that does a lot for Ebisu’s character (as she’s almost entirely used as comic relief) and also for her and Fujita’s relationship leading up to an arc that begins next episode. Besides cut content, the anime moves at a blistering pace that puts the already fast paced manga to shame. This was something I noticed brought up numerous times in discussions on the series as it aired, and while I can’t necessarily attest to it making the show harder to comprehend, you do have to pay quite a bit of attention to gather all of the information thus far and put it together in your head. Compared to the more relaxed paced manga you can read and flip at your own leisure, with more accompanying notes and explanations to reiterate things already explained in the chapters/volume (the anime does this somewhat with the “what did we learn segments at the end of each episode) It definitely can be difficult to digest at times.
When talking about how it would be near impossible to adapt the extremely detailed art style of Q Hayashida, that might have been true if we were talking about your average anime production and staff. This is where Shinji Kimura comes in as Art Director and we all gasp and say, “Well … I guess it would be unadaptable WITHOUT someone like him”. There is so much gorgeous background art in this series it could make your head spin, and Kimura san is definitely who we have to thank and who has really put his heart into this project. If you are unaware of who he is, he drew background art for Akira, My Neighbor Totoro, Angel’s Egg, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Tekkonkinkreet and many, many others. He’s one of the best background artist/at directors in the business and has now blessed us by working on Dorohedoro and allowing the shows artistic merits as a whole to totally outweigh the questionable CGI main character models. Whether it’s portraying the ruined cityscapes, dingy alleyways and smog billowing industrial shots or the extremely colourful take on the World of Sorcerers with its crazily detailed gothic architecture, you’re in for wallpaper worthy background shot after wallpaper worthy background shot. Reverence to the creator and many inspirations to the original work can be found hidden throughout various shots and again shows that not only do the staff respect the work, but also that they aree having fun fitting these Easter eggs into the show. Many shots will feature “9”s painted on the walls (a reference to the author, Q Hayashida). A shopping trip reveals Ebisu looking at the original Dorohedoro OST and even reading off track names. Another quick shot during a baseball game features some figures strung up that look suspiciously like a 90s metal band Hayashida references numerous times throughout her series. It’s these sorts of nods that tip this series over-the-top in terms of fan service, creating original shots and scenarios not even seen in the manga that will have any Doroheads head spinning.
You may also be wondering why I keep specifying “main character models” and that’s because there is still also a ton of 2D character art and animation throughout the series. If a character is only appearing in an episode or two they tend to be animated completely in 2D including Asu, Chidamura, Asuka and all of the various 1 off characters. Additionally, flashback scenes which feature characters in different costumes or a slightly different appearance are animated entirely in 2D such as flashbacks of Shin, Noi and En which sometimes take half an episode. Point being, for all the moaning about CG in this series, there is actually a SHOCKING! amount of great 2D material as well, even outside the backgrounds.
In addition Yuichiro Hayashi’s directing does a great job of adapting the original work and many of its more surreal moments that I assumed would be difficult to pull off (such as Kaimans memories or inside his mouth). His shot composition, use of 3D space and even first person perspective shots give the show a very lively feel and show he’s really not half-assing it. A major worry going into this series was if Hayashi would be able to maintain the level of graphic violence and gore the manga is known for and he gets away with a surprising amount. While it’s obviously not on the same level as the comic, he does a commendable job to the point I don’t really see a need for any uncensoring or scene changes come the blu-ray (besides an oddly blacked out brain in episode 2). Between Hayashi’s directing, Kimura’s art and Nomoto’s CGI directing (more on that next paragraph) the series really comes to life and shows what a passionate staff can accomplish, making almost every frame a quality one and every shot competently rendered.
While the choice of CGI models for the main characters is certainly mystifying and a knock against the show I certainly can’t ignore (I mean, I went into pretty great detail off the top of the review) allow me to elaborate a bit further here. Firstly, coming off my extreme praise of the background and 2D art, they certainly clash with them (sometimes more so than others) but they put in a commendable effort to draw over them and try to blend them into the environment. Kaiman in particular is a bit problematic for me, as the sameness in colour of his lizard face definitely makes him look less rugged and gritty than the manga and a little too smooth. I also felt the flap of his mouth when talking really stood out due to the CG (not that I exactly know how they could do it better). On the flip side other shots look surprisingly well good and really stand out as examples of CGI models that have then been coloured over and almost tricked me into thinking I was watching 2D animation. A particular scene of Noi removing her outfit/mask really stood out as some great CG work. They obviously use these CGI models during many of the action scene which can be a bit of a mixed bag. Kaiman’s and Nikaido’s detaining of Ebisu and Kaiman’s short encounter with Shin, for example, seem especially fluid and the camera work is quite good. On the other hand, while passable, scenes like Nikaido’s fight with Noi seem more janky and the use of slow-mo used to convey a “dynamic feeling” not easily conveyed compared to 2D animation sometimes works against it. It’s a mixed bag, but one where I genuinely feel the staff improved their technique with using the models as the series progressed. Just compare that Noi and Nikaido fight with Kaiman and Nikaido’s fight in episode 12, it’s like night and day! Another less action focused example is a close of shot of Shin’s face in episode 11, leaning in to give an intimidating look to Haze. The way the CGI modeler uses shadow in this shot combined with his vivid and changing facial expression showed a level of skill with the CG tools to create a level of menace not seen earlier in the series. While I don’t want this to come off as some kind of Stockholm syndrome, I actually really started to feel as though the models worked quite well and became accustomed to them fusing with the “style” of the series. While the CGI models are definitely one of the weaker aspects of the series, I can’t help but emphasize one last time how commendable a job the staff working on integrating them into the environments and aesthetic of the show did and how the fact that said environments and aesthetic are so stunning, it sort of “cover-ups” some of the weaker artistic aspects.
While we’re still fairly early in the story and the characters haven’t necessarily had to perform a large breadth of acting quite yet, they’ve all done a commendable job thus far. Wataru Takagi as lovable dopy/whiny Kaiman has been great (I especially loved his girly voice as Pie-man) and relative newcomer Reina Konda has done well realizing the lovable Nikaido. Episode 12 was likely their greatest challenge from an emotional standpoint and they did a great job pulling off their tender scenes together. Some other stand outs are the boisterous Noi, performed by Yu Kobayashi and the always hilarious and ridiculous Ebisu performed by Miyu Tomita. From reading the manga I think Kaiman and Ebisu were two characters that people were going to be watching if they got right and I believe they’ve nailed both. Besides them, En is his stern and powerful self, Shin is wild and intimidating. One character who I imagined a bit different in my head is Chota. While his voice is growing on me I always imagined him coming off a bit more aggressive and yelling more. It will take further story progression and events to see how well these actors perform more serious and emotionally charged scenes, but only time will tell. For now they’ve all been performing their characters to great effect.
Finally I’ll briefly touch on the music which is….what do you know…. also great! The manga of Dorohedoro actually had a companion OST commissioned by Hayashida, featuring various artists from six different countries. It’s very dark, industrial and grungy, and the perfect fit for Dorohedoro. The TV animes soundtrack doesn’t use these tracks, but almost all of the songs on that OST seem to be emulated in some shape or form in th TV anime OST. Standouts include the Drum and Bass tracks similar in style to VOODOOMs track from the manga OST and a song extremely reminiscent of Candie Hank’s Zombie Slushie that plays during an action sequence when Chidamura is introduced. Others like the horrifying track that plays when entering Kaiman’s mouth and confronting the man inside with terrifying screeches and squeals was a particular stand out along with the awesome call out to the song Transformations (Im sorry my ability to critique music isn’t great so I’ll save you me trying to make up words to describe them). The lighter tracks that play during the more comedic moments with En and the family perfectly encapsulate the goofy carefree vibe of the room and seemed like the most original to the Tv anime, not reminding me of anything off of the manga OST but still working as great additions. On top of the OST, the opening and multiple ending tracks are all great, and the accompanying animation for the OP of Nikaido cooking gyoza as opposed to your usual anime opening of character shots and story scenes is very refreshing. It shows the staff knows how to convey the unique vibe of the series as well as how important gyoza are to our main duo! They even manage to squeeze in a little anime original Jonson backstory which is a cute and welcome touch. The fact we received a new ending song and animation almost every 2 episodes was an unexpected and welcome treat. While some were weaker than others (such as Seconds Fly) the variety and fact we had a nice surprise to look forward to every 2 weeks was great.
All in all, Dorohedoro is about as enjoyable an adaptation anyone could have asked for. When the anime project was initially reveal, I think almost all fans tightened up with a fear of what was to come. When the early PVs were showcased revealing the CGI models for the main characters, many were disappointed, but at the same time, most expected as much. For those being attentive to the PVs however, they likely noticed the beautiful art and 2D animation and were then holding their breath in hope that the project didn’t drop the ball. I think with the shows release, all but the most cynical fans and 2D-animation-only purists were pleasantly surprised with the product we ended up receiving. Hayashida’s world is so unique in its rich lore, character and setting and the staff involved have given the tender loving care to take this “unadaptable manga series” and given a *GASP* commendable and well realized adaptation complete with actually well realized and ever improving CGI. Now, if you’re a fan, let’s try to support this series the best we can and get more seasons!! So……
What did we learn this time??
1. Don’t always base a book by it’s cover! When done right, you can actually become accustomed to even liberal uses of CGI.
2. Shinji Kimura is a godly artist.
3. Dorohedoro has single handedly reinvigorated my passion for anime and of buying tons of merch.
What will we from season 2? That is still a mystery
So this adaptation only covers part of the manga and so far the story has been engaging, unpredictable, totally crazy and entertaining. You cannot ask for more. The best thing is, as somebody that has read the manga, it will only get better.
The CGI is hardly noticeable and the backgrounds are phenomenal. I repeat the backgrounds are phenomenal and really establish the atmosphere of the world of Dorohedoro. The only (very minor) issue is that the CGI takes a bit of getting used to simply because it is not standard in anime.
The voice actors are all brilliant in acting out the larger than life characters they portray. The music is great. The OP and EDs (of which there are SIX!!!, with a twist on one of them) are great. Overall they knocked it out the park in this department.
Along with the story, the characters are the best part of Dorohedoro. There is no character that can be pigeon holed. There is no clear distinction between the good guys or the bad guys. The characters themselves have great dynamics and every character, including minor characters, brings something to the show. Along with the story, the best thing about Dorohedoro.
enjoyment 10/10 and overall 10/10
This is a one of a kind show that everybody should watch as soon as they get the chance. It truly deserves a sequel to cap off a brilliant first season.
The world of Dorohedoro is one of the rarest and most original I have ever seen, it’s violent, dark, confusing, with many strange things in it, without falling into the typical. All accompanied by a surreal and unpolished artistic style that gives you the feeling of being dirty and visceral, using elements such as magic, demons, curses, accompanied by comedy and dark humor, all with a steampunk aesthetic and that some might define like gothic-cyberpunk.
The concern of many fans to know that the manga would receive an adaptation, was if the studio in charge could do a good job trying to adapt Dorohedoro’s style, setting of the manga, possible censorship and in general to catch the atmosphere of the manga.
Luckily for everyone, MAPPA has managed to bring the atmosphere of the manga, with a very good direction that is perfect, achieving an authentic madness along with a rhythm that feels fast and being faithful almost completely with the story and a scenario very well accomplished. Clearly it’s not the same, since adapting the previously mentioned artistic style of Dorohedoro is a very difficult task, in addition the 3D animation or CGI is deficient in many moments, sometimes it manages to integrate very well into the scene and others not so much, but in general this happens unnoticed and it turns out to be a very decent CGI, which manages to look good in most of the moments.
Background art is one of the first things you can highlight, it captures that surreal atmosphere very well. On the sound/OST side the opening and the endings are incredible (moved, fun and colorful) The series has many Eds that change every 2-3 episodes, which seems incredible to me, each one of them turned out to be fun and very good.
The characters are the best thing of the show, each with their own goals or motives that move them: tough, strong, each different and all have an incredible charisma. The best thing about Dorohedoro is that there are no good or bad, there are no villains or heroes, rather they are groups with different objectives that end up crossing each other, it’s not a black or white world, everything is gray. It’s a gray world full of chaos and strange things everywhere, the two groups of protagonists (group of En and Kaiman) are interesting and with excellent chemistry, in the end you do not know who to support.
In conclusion, Dorohedoro is a bizarre and fun, super nice from start to finish with a plot of mystery and madness that makes you ask at all times “What the hell is going on?” along with a cast of wonderful and super nice characters that drive the story at all times.
Art and history manage to stay as faithful as possible to the original material. The series cut a few non-relevant things, but overall it did an acceptable job animating each page, the animation probably would have been much better if they had kept a full 2D animation, although the CGI fails at times, the emotion is similar to the manga created by Q Hayashida, so I think there is a lot of merit in this adaptation that, despite not being perfect, there is no denying the amount of effort and respect for the source material.
I hope MAPPA confirms a new season and can manage adapt the whole story, they done a great job bringing this world to anime.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Dorohedoro may not be for everyone as it’s a somewhat simple, grotesque, confusing and violent story, but it’s a fun story that I could easily recommend to anyone who enjoys the anime world.
8: Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!
English: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
MAL Score: 8.15
Midori Asakusa sees the world a bit differently. Always having her nose in a sketchbook, Asakusa draws detailed landscapes and backgrounds of both the world around her and the one within her boundless imagination. Even the simple act of doodling on a wall evolves into an emergency repair on the outer hull of her spaceship. She is only brought back to reality by her best friend Sayaka Kanamori. The pair are stark opposites, with Asakusa’s childlike wonder contrasted by Kanamori’s calculated approach to life.
After a chance encounter where the two “save” the young model Tsubame Misuzaki from her overprotective bodyguard, a connection instantly sparks between Asakusa and Misuzaki, as both share an intense passion for art and animation. Whereas Asakusa is interested in backgrounds and settings, Misuzaki loves drawing the human form. Sensing a money-making opportunity, Kanamori suggests that they start an animation club, which they disguise as a motion picture club since the school already has an anime club. Thus begins the trio’s journey of producing animation that will awe the world.
From the brilliant mind of Masaaki Yuasa, Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! is a love letter to animation, wildly creative in its approach, and a testament to the potential of the medium.
Eizouken: Hands off the Motion Pictures Club is about people who love anime. They love it so much. They spend the entire show making anime, talking about anime, and thinking about anime. The intricacies of storyboarding, animation, sound design, voice acting, and management get illustrated in detail. I learned a great deal about anime production by watching this.
Eizouken wanted to capture the magic of creativity and artists’ extraordinary minds, and maybe it did for a few moments. The rest is an unfulfilled promise that left me feeling robbed.
It introduces three likable comrades who are passionate about anime; Midori and Mizusaki are the two artists, and Kanamori, their business-focused manager. They have good chemistry with each other; The space-cadet artist, a teenage star and now an animator, and the strict—but kindhearted—money-hungry manager who can whip them into shape. Each of them has a distinctive character design that reflects their personality, expressive voice acting, and an endless supply of funny faces.
Throughout the series, the club struggles to earn enough funds to buy equipment and maintain their clubhouse. To alleviate this problem, they endeavor to make the best anime they can to prove they’re worth a bigger budget. The end goal is to make more anime, better anime, and prove to everyone they are worth watching. It would seem we have come full circle. Eventually, this became the show’s rhythm; the three friends worry about some drama that always appears as quickly as it disappears. Their obstacles get resolved much easier than the show makes them seem. They need to make a club, find an advisor, find a budget, the same formula every few episodes—and it never gets more exciting. The more significant conflicts culminate in a finished animated short made by the team. These parts got drawn with the best art in the series. There’s never really an arc for the club, the quality of their work gets noticeably better, but their popularity is always reliant on Mizusaki’s fame as a model.
The pacing plateaued after the third episode. It was no longer the adventurous and awe-inspiring anime I fell in love with. As the episodes passed by, I realized I was watching it to see the fantastic opening. Eventually, it lost its magic too. I realized everyone was talking about the opening, and no one was talking about the show. Over time Eizouken transitioned into a boring tutorial on how to make a good anime without being a model example itself. The background music was excellent—more specifically, three songs. But they were repeated ad nauseam every episode, promptly losing their magic.
About a third of this anime takes place in each character’s artistic imagination, and the other half is spent in the real world discussing the club’s project and maintaining their budget. The imagination sequences are drawn amateurishly with every sound effect voiced by the characters, it’s so charming. The charm starts to wear off when the third fantasy in an episode begins, and you have to witness the plain white background with chicken scratch art. There’s also the general question of how the three club comrades are dreaming the same dream simultaneously. It’s intriguing how Yuasa plays with diegesis here. A quick definition of diegesis: The visuals/audio that the characters can perceive versus or what is only perceivable to the audience (such as a narrator or background music).
When Mizusaki or Midori present their drawings to Kanamori, it’s clear they’re all imagining what’s depicted in the storyboard, so the jump cut to hand-drawn art makes sense. These sequences are sometimes awe-inspiring, and it truly feels like they’re three friends adventuring into the most creative corners of their minds. It is an excellent use of diegesis to develop the cast and thrill the audience without bending our suspension of disbelief. During the first few episodes, these sequences get used quite effectively. Unfortunately, Yuasa seems to forget the rules of diegesis, and he makes many of the fantasy sequences a confusing blend of diegetic and nondiegetic elements with no basis in reality. For example, Midori often gets lost in thought while walking down the streets with her friends, imagining the world is an exciting anime. We’ve all done it before as kids, it’s pointless to the show but entertaining nonetheless. She’ll visualize street lamps as rockets or picture a giant monster looming on the horizon, then suddenly her friends are part of it. It’s not clear whether it’s all in her head or if she is talking about it so that they dream with her. These scenes lost my attention. There is just no substance to them.
It’s a shame they wasted so many excellent components because Eizouken had the workings of a masterpiece. The real-world setting has a great aesthetic. Everything about the architecture is confusing but strangely beautiful. Buildings are a jumble of concrete in different shapes on a hill to make all of them visible. Rivers are all over the lowest level, inspiring Midori to dream of traveling the city on a boat. Every frame is colored with a washed-out palette, making every frame relaxing. If only this beautiful world were populated with something, anything, interesting. Mystery, lore, anything to make it worth exploring. As far as we see, there’s nothing cool about it other than how it looks. There were minor references to capitalism, socialism, and environmental degradation, but they were surface level, never explored in depth. I appreciated the references to Hayao Miyazaki. In that respect, I would call the anime a love letter, even though it adds nothing to the show’s actual quality. In the end, Eizouken’s emotional finale rung hollow, leaving the story incomplete. Likely, this will not receive a sequel, but if it does, I’ll be back with hopes it will utilize its characters and setting far more.
If you love anime, you should watch Eizouken. That’s not to say you will love Eizouken, but it is an essential watch for anime fans interested in the production of the medium we love. It drew me in with its child-like fascination with anime and its happy messages of aspiring to achieve your dreams, capitalizing on my nostalgia. Quickly it let my fondest memories fade away as it lost track of what made it special. Alright, that’s enough disappointment. I have said my piece. Now, Masaki Yuasa fans, I accept my fate. No, I will not resist. Take me to the guillotine.
Eizouken. This show gives the best answer to this question. Let me explain and prove why.
The main theme of the show is the anime industry itself. I’ve seen lots of anime, but I still didn’t know how it was made or produced. After watching this show, I finally understand its inner workings/structures. Making something can’t break through the difficulty easily. I realized it. Of course, I enjoyed Eizouken in terms of what it had to offer as a whole – it was entertaining and excellent.
The real value of the show lies in its three characters: Asakusa, Kanamori, and Mizusaki. They have totally different and very interesting personalities. Kanamori is especially solid. She knows the importance of money and business and isn’t just some random tall girl. While she always looks grumpy, she actually cherishes the club more than anyone else. She is what you would call a pure character. She isn’t a miser. She is a talented producer at club activities. Despite her not knowing much about anime, she is street-smart. She would definitely make a good adult.
Please don’t forget Asakusa’s attractiveness. Asakusa’s aim is to explore her own “Incredible World.” Truly full of curiosity. She has an extraordinary imagination. Monochrome animation during every episode is from her imagination. This direction is very well-made. In other words, awesome. Asakusa is a director who is thinking of the setting first. Yeah, the setting is an important element in terms of the story. Without this, opus isn’t possible. I’ll talk more about her attraction. She is very positive, cheerful, and can even be described as a clown. And cute. Once again, cute! Her behavior never bored me. Really adorable. I want her seriously.
Mizusaki is a stereotyped rich girl in a good way. She is dexterous and strong-willed. Thanks to them, the club is often saved. An indispensable existence. She has a meaningful past. You can understand why she keeps in mind anime so hard by watching this show. Mizusaki was never swayed by her family reasons. In this way, they’re making anime in different environments. Nevertheless, their souls are living in them. After all, youth isn’t so cruel. I can say this.
Did you think this is the end? Please bear with me. Visuals of this show are equally outstanding. Masaaki Yuasa knows anime should be like this. As I said before, monochrome animation is a wonderful quality. Those have unparalleled uniqueness. You will definitely be drawn into them. OP song is quite catchy and funny. We’re going to get hooked on that melody and choreography. The lyrics are also quite fitting for this show. Music is memorable. Some same music keeps playing during almost every scene. Needless to say, eargasm. World-view is expressing. Voice acting is great and a blast! Kanamori’s voice is one of my favorites. Too deep and an unforgettable voice tone. Genius. Asakura and Mizusaki’s voices are also splendid. This show is the first time to their perform. Despite Asakusa’s person is actually an actor, she did very well. Mizusaki, too.
My words are not enough to let you know how much I love this show. Nothing short of very nice. If you wanna know more definitions of anime and characters, I recommend this show. Interesting content. Worth watching.
Masaaki Yuasa is no stranger when it comes animating and storyboarding in his past projects. With decades of experience, he’s been progressively adapting and evolving his techniques in the field of animation. From unique sports show Ping Pong: The Animation to the wildly space odyssey of Space Dandy, he’s here to show the world once again that animation has an unlimited realm of imagination. Starting off, we meet Midori Asakusa, a girl who is fascinated by how animation is made. It doesn’t take long for her to form a trio with Sayaka Kanamori and Tsubame Mizusaki, two high school students with similar interests. As a club together, they are united under the passion of making anime, a dream they hope to share with others.
Despite the realistic idea of making anime, this show follows more of an artistic adventures together as the Eizouken Club. But know this, we are also introduced about the fundamentals of the anime industry. It’s something similar compared to P.A. Works’ Shirobako. However, Eizouken has enough confidence to be its own show. With our trio of and the right hands, they embark this journey to not just make anime but also learn about what it really takes to be an animator. It’s like following a boyhood dream together and see how far their journey takes them. Interestingly, the show’s setting offers a technological advanced setting, one that is believable but also not too farfetched to be unrealistic. What this means is the series can open many opportunities for the trio to experiment with whatever ideas they come up with. But for starters, we have to understand what making anime is not easy. It is a tedious job that takes expertise in the field, dedicated minds to create something unique, and knowing when mistakes are made. They’re humans after all and learning from mistakes is important so they can rise above them. The group makes mistakes early by setting expectations far beyond their standards. This creates tension in the club to the point where one of its members feels they may not be good enough. Plus, let’s not forget that making animation demands meeting timely deadlines so there’s no doubt the club runs into crunch time issues. Luckily, the club has support between themselves and this is thanks to Kanamori’s ability to compromise and create an environment where they can express ideas freely. And that’s the beauty of this show. It chooses to be free by using ideas of various genres and expressing them. Then, these ideas are created to become an anime project to showcase the world to see.
But like most animation projects, the group faces challenges that they must overcome together. These include budget funding and securing the resources they need to make their dreams come true. And sometimes, the trio realizes their club needs more help than they realize. For instance, making an animated work isn’t enough if they can’t promote themselves. Marketing is a new field that the group wasn’t equipped to handle given their lack of experience. Luckily, they receive help from the school’s secretary. Later in the show, Eiozuken is also joined by Parker Doumeki, a girl interested in their audio files but takes a role to help their sound department. Together, this club grows more and more as we witness their transformation from a dream to a reality.
Another important part of what makes this show special also refined to the close relationship between our three main leads. They start off as friends but by the end of this show, the trio looks more like a family. At the same time, each individual member has their own skills that are imperative for the club to succeed. This includes Kanamori’s business knowledge and negotiating, Asakusa’s talent for drawing, and Mizusaki’s skill of planning and observing. When you put these skills together, there’s immense potential to succeed with the right hands and tools. However, it’s also not to say to say that the trio does want to get some fame and fortune. A running gag in the show involves Kanamori’s love for money and hopes to make maximum profit. Other running gags in the show deals with how the trio runs into trouble with the law. If we talk about realism, this show sometimes negates that element as the problems the club runs into could’ve easily resulted in its destruction. But let’s get too far ahead of ourselves. This anime is designed to showcase the love of a club to fulfill their dreams rather than just showing the consequences of the anime industry. I’m sure the more fans watch this show, the more they’ll come to that realization.
Like some of Yuasa’s other works, he likes to experiment and adapt this free style of animation. In this particular anime, we get simple character designs and animation that can be deceptively complex. This is easily told through the storytelling and brainstormed ideas from our main leads. In some segments, the animation tosses common logic out the window and transcends into daydreams. The audience will notice this by the stylish art shifts and occasional picture frames that seems out of reality. It’s one of the positive perks about this show as it allows art to be experimented beyond its usual structure. So bravo once again to Yuasa for gracing us with his brilliant designs. Speaking of designs, the main character cast are distinctive such as Midori’s short height, Mizusaki’s fiery hair, or Kanamori’s buck teeth. It’s also noticeable the producers gave each of them the school type look to show that they are in a stage of growing up. Being at school means to learn and together as a club, Eizouken is eager to show their potential. Finally, I really want to give props to the unique animation of the OP song. It’s something you don’t see often inspired by pop culture but translated into anime medium.
I’m going to miss the weekends. I really am knowing that this show is over after gracing us with its fabulousness. When watching anime, you don’t often think too much about how it came together but every episode in this show convinced me a different story. And with 12 episodes, this is a type of anime that is inspirational as I’m sure there’s a little bit of Midori Asakusa inside all of us.
7: Diamond no Ace: Act II
English: Ace of Diamond Act II
Japanese: ダイヤのA[エース] actII
MAL Score: 8.24
The hallowed ground of Koshien Stadium is the “field of dreams,” where the ambitions of high school baseball players come true. After emerging victorious in the autumn tournament last year, Seidou High School baseball’s team has finally earned the right to compete there for the first time in seven years. Beyond the spring tournament looms the battle to decide who is the best team in the nation — the Summer Koshien.
With the third-year players due to retire after the summer tournament, the team has to integrate the experience of the seniors and the potential of the newcomers to overcome familiar and new opponents alike and win the coveted national title.
Meanwhile, pitcher Eijun Sawamura is as determined as ever to earn jersey No. 1 and seize the position of “ace” from his persistent rival, Satoru Furuya. As the team prepares for their greatest challenge yet, Sawamura and Furuya carry on their struggle to lead their team to glory and become the star of the game: the true “Ace of the Diamond.”
Jumping right into it, let’s talk about the art and sound. I’ve long said this about Diamond no Ace, but the animation in this anime blows me away. The fluidity in every motion is phenomenal. I won’t harp too much on it, but the art and the animation are absolutely gorgeous. As for the soundtrack, Diamond no Ace has got to have one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in anime, at least from my experience. The way it’s able to evoke emotion just from a backing track or character theme gets me every time, man. It really does.
Alright, characters. Holy hell, this season was pure joy to watch. This anime definitely doesn’t develop its characters lightly; it takes progression and improvement and failure very seriously, and this season was no exception to that rule. Actually, I found that this season in particular took special care in developing the characters, though maybe that’s due to the fact that a lot of time in this season was spent in practice games rather than actual games, which allowed for an interesting path on which these characters could develop. Though, we didn’t only see amazing personal developments this season from the characters, we got to see interpersonal developments as well. Especially considering the fact that this season added a new cast of characters in the new first years, it was absolutely lovely to watch these fresh relationships grow into the core of what this anime is.
Which brings me to the story. With new characters to develop, barely any official games on the records, and a story dedicated to pure advancement of the characters, was it a worthwhile season to watch? Hell yes it was. It was the best season yet. The story being so focused on team and individual progression as it was allowed me to connect with these characters in a new way. It felt like this season was the perfect setup to a future of Diamond no Ace while also being relentless with progressing the story. I absolutely loved it.
I can’t talk about much more beyond this point without spoiling the season, but let me just tell you, watching Sawamura– in all ways: on his own, with Okumura, with Miyuki, with Kataoka, within the team– grow this season was the most excited I’ve been since starting this journey. Thinking about where he was in episode one of Act II to where he stands now makes me so happy, and I’m counting the days until I can watch him pitch again. Personally, I can’t recommend Act II highly enough. Until the next one!
I would not say that the animation is flawless and great, but it will never disappoint you. All characters, while do look like somewhat similar, are unique. In addition, the moment a game starts, the camera work will never leave you disappointed, bored, or sleepy. Another fact you can commend this series for is the fact that this series also has an amazing OST (that adds to tension in games and makes this series quite epic to watch), as well as the great work the Japanese voice actors did voicing their characters. And while music is not needed for many series, it is a must for sport series to add the needed tension to the series and here, Diamond no Ace: Act II does not disappoint music wise and animation wise.
Diamond no Ace follows Eijun Sawamura, a left-handed pitcher, who also bats with his left. Sawamura was invited to join the baseball team of Seidou High School in West Tokyo on a scholarship. Under the coachship of Tesshin Kataoka, Eijun will need to work with the team to compete against other pro-teams. The new season starts with a brief flashback of Seidou beating rival Yakushi High School in the Tokyo Metropolitan Fall Tournament finals and got invited to the Spring Koshien. Long story short, Diamond no Ace: Act II continues truly high-quality storytelling and character development. It is what makes matches spectacular and characters interesting to follow. Each game is not just a stupid clash of the two teams: it is a unique story, which is being told by one, or two characters of a team; everyone has their own motives to win and something to put at stake. Not only do most of the main characters receive enough development, but also the supporting cast. You understand why all the players are trying to achieve the victory and you might even start to sympathize with any team.
Enjoyment wise, unlike some other sport series, Diamond no Ace is just enjoyable because it has nothing to do with super powers and some other out of ordinary things, it is just how sport should be, where players are actually having it hard, they are trying to get better to improve, where every win costs you a ton of effort to achieve the victory that you desire so much. That is how sport series should be made, it was quite interesting to follow the series and the characters, I have nothing to criticize this series for.
Overall, over the past few years, sports anime have been one of the most consistent, most entertaining genres, and Ace of Diamonds is yet another example of this. If you, however, have never seen the series and are afraid of watching it because of the number of series, do not be afraid, it is worth your time. Indeed, it is not a show for everyone, but it has interesting storyline and amusing characters and also provides some fascinating insight into Japanese baseball culture.
Art – 6/10
Although sometimes the anime can have its moments, I feel as if things were like really linear this time. Past seasons had better animation in my opinion, openings still had pretty good animation. A few episodes have good animation, but where its just training, the animation is kinda cheeks.
Sound – 7/10
I don’t really see any problem with it. Openings like I said above are pretty good, ending is also pretty nice. The OST over the past 3 seasons have become very nice to hear. They always have the correct time for a specific soundtrack to come in and some soundtracks have been an addition in Act 2.
Character and Story – 10/10
If you want more explanations, feel free to leave a comment on my profile. The character development is probably top class. Its not like some other anime where they just become overpowered instantly. This actually takes its time with each and every one of its characters. They make their characters have depth and its quite amazing. The main cast really shines and they give good screen time to other characters. How we have come this far and how I am still engrossed in the show is quite amazing. Seeing Sawamura and Furuya’s development is truly a treat.
Enjoyment and Overall – 8/10
While not as good as other seasons, this still has me watching just for the character development, story and repeatable soundtrack. If you are looking to get into this series and a good show to watch during the pandemic, I would highly recommend this show.
6: Great Pretender
MAL Score: 8.30
A series of unfortunate events has led Makoto “Edamame” Edamura to adopt the life of crime—pickpocketing and scamming others for a living. However, after swindling a seemingly clueless tourist, Makoto discovers that he was the one tricked and, to make matters worse, the police are now after him.
While making his escape, he runs into the tourist once again, who turns out to be a fellow con man named Laurent Thierry, and ends up following him to Los Angeles. In an attempt to defend his self-proclaimed title of “Japan’s Greatest Swindler,” Makoto challenges his rival to determine the better scammer. Accepting the competition, Laurent drops them off outside a huge mansion and claims that their target will be the biggest mafia boss on the West Coast.
Jumping from city to city, Great Pretender follows the endeavors of Makoto alongside the cunning Laurent and his colorful associates in the world of international high-stakes fraud. Soon, Makoto realizes that he got more than what he bargained for as his self-declared skills are continually put to the test.
How much of what I’m about to tell you which you find completely obvious is entirely dependent on how blind, deaf, and senseless you happen to be, because if you ask even such a staunch critic as myself, this is the hardest masterwork to overlook and the single most broadly appealing triumph of entertainment I can name. From the drop dead gorgeous artwork and animation to the surprisingly thoughtful, endlessly amusing storyline, and from the delightful cast of lifelike characters overflowing with charisma to the fantastic music which itself is just as charming and built with just as much personality as any one of the characters, every facet of the show is delivered with expert craftsmanship awarding its audaciously dedicated production values. Given just how expressive, experimental, and downright weird the roots of anime are, most of the standouts which you can find therein are just as esoteric, and Great Pretender stands to be an exception the likes of little before. Inspired by Western crime dramedies which it swiftly outclassed in a single debut episode of exceptionally clever episodic structuring and excellent visual direction, Great Pretender follows amateur swindler, Makoto Edamura, as he gets swept away by the real deal, a gang of con men with whom he exploits others and entertains himself all whilst reaping the seeds of trickery they’ve all sown together…which is what I meant by “broadly appealing.” Yes, I conveniently left out the show’s thought provoking themes, all its discussions and ideals on social injustice justifying an individual’s turn to crime, but my basic summary of the plot is no lie, and it is such a cliche setup as to be almost embarrassing, so the fact I can even get close to calling it the masterpiece which I nearly have already speaks to the brilliance of all involved in its peerless creation. Great Pretender is solid proof a simple concept can write its way to a classic. It’s exploding with life, love, and lavishness in every way it can, and anyone unable to appreciate the monumental effort and unrivaled talent necessary to deliver on such a beauty or empathize with the unflinchingly human psychological core behind all its scheming and hilarity is simply beyond my comprehension, or somehow just contrarian enough to deny it all.
If I had to oversimplify it, what makes Great Pretender so good in a single phrase is the tact with which each episode is handled and the way in which they are uniquely cared for by whichever member of the directorial staff headed its careful creation. Despite being an arc structured show which does not hesitate to grab you with low-stakes, hardly annoying cliffhangers, the true method to the narrative’s madness is every single episode feeling like an open and shut case nailing the finish and leaving you as gratified as you are dying for more, whether you be left hanging on the cathartic conclusion to a resonant character development, the satisfying resolution to an episodic or overarching plot point, or simply on the butt of an actual joke, landing yet another delightful punch line driving home the show’s damn funny comedic identity just a little more. Unlike most anime and, quite frankly, most entertainment in general, Great Pretender is self-aware regarding all its metatextual eccentricities and in-universe contrivances, so no matter how hysterically outrageous nor matter how artistically bold the story goes about presenting itself, it will always be tongue in cheek enough to come across as jest as opposed to being an irksome logical conundrum, and while not every episode is as perfectly balanced as the last, the show as a whole certainly is. Most anime which aren’t made for TV find themselves with the privilege to be as uncensored as they’d like, and by extension, they often end up leaning too hard on their freedom to finally incorporate vulgarity and nudity to their heart’s content, but Great Pretender stands as a complete and total exception. Accompanying its boisterous comedy and sensational personality is an incessant sense of realism offered by—yes, those brands of obscenity—but also by its deftly paced character time and nuanced characterization sewn throughout the hijinks. Comparable only to the best of Shinichiro Watanabe’s works from Cowboy Bebop to Space☆Dandy, Great Pretender has mastered the art of endearing and repulsing the audience with its duplicitous adult cast, the push and pull which invests viewers in the among the most human yet still the most entertaining on-screen individuals one can find in the most natural way one can find them.
What makes building a character such a delicate science is you want to make them worthy of the screen by having their actions be somewhat absurd enough to be entertaining, but you also want to keep their passions down-to-earth enough to be emotionally engaging as relatable human beings, and this is where Shinichiro Watanabe truly excels. No one just throws on episode one of Samurai Champloo immediately invested in characters as ostensibly ridiculous as Mugen, Jin, or even the comparatively normal Fū, but given how well-written and smartly characterized these misfits are over the course of the show—the show which itself makes a point to show them at their lowest, most vulnerable points in life and at their happiest, most unapologetically free spirited—even the most jaded among viewers will finish the journey completely immersed in their stories, assuming, of course, they weren’t cynical enough to drop the show before then. Great Pretender is not only a master of the exact same craft, but one which has just as handily mastered the accompanying craft of outstanding voice acting. Complementing the prepossessingly sharp character designs of industry legend, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, every character is deftly brought to life by a cast of talented actors and actresses who’s voices embody their respective characters to a tee. As Makoto and his compatriots march along the vibrant parade which the animation staff has made their lives, skeletons start falling out of closets just as you’d expect them to from the secret histories of real people, and the characters subtly progress in intimacy as they overcome problems of life and love alike. Be it Laurent, the mastermind fueling every fire under everyone’s asses; Abby, the blunt, stoic braun serving as the honest counterbalance to Laurent’s conniving brains; or Cynthia, the absolutely badass, electric heroine who you’ll be wanting as a best friend for life or desiring as a wife by the end of the show depending on your sexual preferences; every single one of the colorful personalities on screen has just as much to learn and love behind their beautiful faces as does the cover of the show itself. And speaking of having a colorful personality, Great Pretender is one hell of a feast for the eyes!
Great Pretender, visually, is straight fucking unbelievable. While you may get this impression immediately, credit to Takeda Yūsuke’s ever legendary background art, all facets of this anime prove themselves to be crafted to the perfection of a Production IG classic back from the days of the Kamiyama Team who shared the same art director. Be it the explosive yet expertly balanced coloration and its astoundingly consistent shading, the flawless character artwork and the intricately detailed linework required by those razor sharp designs, or the flowingly lavish animation elegantly weaving it all together, every frame of Great Pretender is laudable to some degree even at its very lowest points and worthy of a standing ovation at its mountainous heights. Everything is overflowing with personality and branded with an unforgettable artistic identity such that I can promise with complete confidence you’ve never seen anything quite like it at such a high production value, and I promise just as easily you’ll never see anything like it again outside the purview of Production IG. This is the first project handled by WIT Studio with the exception of their debut series with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa’s full involvement, and his intimacy with this endeavor is no secret given the amount of IG names inscribed on this gem. With Takeda Yūsuke having already been mentioned, Kyouji Asano, the now legendary graduate of Team Oshii and Animation Director for Psycho-Pass and the first two seasons of Attack on Titan, has made his return along with too many animators to count, and Ishikawa also seems to’ve organized the recruitment of the best of the best not already under the illustrious IG umbrella. From the criminally obscure genius color designer behind works such as Space☆Dandy and Redline, Yūko Kobari, to the industry veteran sound director who worked with Chiaki Konaka in bringing to life the brilliant soundscapes of Serial Experiments Lain and The Big O, Shouji Hata, Great Pretender is stacked with more talent than you could ever imagine, and somehow, every little bit of it shows. Great Pretender is the first time WIT Studio has fully lived up to both the technical perfection and unflinching consistency of their founders at Production IG, and it never ceased to take my breath away.
The introductory paragraph of this review is worded in such a way to mirror the first anime review I ever read, which I’d directly quote if not for having unfortunately forgotten the address of whatever blog I saw it on. I only remember the impression its wordage left on me. Sentimental, I know. It was a review for an anime equally ambitious and equally outstanding as Great Pretender which shocked as many critics as fans it elated. It was a work also made at the dawn of a new decade, relatively speaking, and much like this decade, it was a time in which anime as a whole was on a downturn. Studio Madhouse had just thrown out Masao Maruyama in the face of their ambition fueled bankruptcy, and now, a decade later, their only remaining holdout of talent is Director Natsume, who’s work is the only excuse optimists have left to not call the studio dead. Gainax had been exposed for their toxic business environment which drove away Hideaki Anno only to then lose its remaining creative leads, who now, nine years later, are thriving in their own limelight at studio Trigger whilst proudly carrying the creative torch of the Gainax of old before it all went sour. More positively speaking, Kyoto Animation was redefining the word “polished” and winning award after award for their work on genres most powerhouse studios would scoff at, yet now, nine years later, a fifth of their staff was horrifically massacred in an inhuman arson which has gone down in history as the second most deadly mass killing on Japanese soil since the end of the Second World War. So much has changed since that review was posted, so much, except the studio which pioneered the anime it was reviewing. That’s right, the studio was Production IG, and the anime was Psycho-Pass. The reviewer offered his thanks to the pantheon of artistic prowess and creative genius which had, in such an incredible fashion and with such an epic production, restored their hope in an industry they saw as stagnating, and now it’s my turn to do the same. The son has grown into the shoes of the father, as WIT Studio has finally, unequivocally matched their founders at Production IG, and with their achievement, my own hope in the anime industry has been restored just as those of the cynics before me.
Thank you for reading.
Nothing in this godforsaken anime makes sense. Every ‘plan’ is meant to show that our main cast is good at this, but everyone besides them are plain stupid so of course they’re gonna succeed without breaking a sweat, or are they? Well, we’re meant to believe that they’re trying really hard but the ‘challenges’ are never found. All of the outcomes are painfully predictable and you can see who is who and/or what she or he is up to based on their personalities alone. The supposedly villains are just there, often times without any reason and in the end they lose, as you would guess. What you don’t know is that all of this feels underserved. You don’t cheer for the main cast nor get to either love or hate the villains. You only feel empty. Like an emotionless humanoid who wanders in search of happiness. That empty.
Furthermore, some of the characters are so smart that often times distort reality. “Predicting the prediction one character has predicted once his prediction was predicted” is the whole anime in a nutshell. When these guys start doing something you know they’ll win, as aforementioned, undeservedly. Nothing can go wrong with them around and I don’t like how their “everyday life” is portrayed. You see them walk all over and yet, after everything they’ve done, they still live. How’s that possible? Because it isn’t. The ‘Great Pretender’ world is modern and considering the whole thing is full of cameras (and more) I don’t see any reason why the gang hasn’t been killed yet or at the very least put in prison. Is this anime really expecting me to believe that despite all of that they keep outsmarting everyone? Because if that’s intended to I don’t buy it for a second. It’s humanly impossible.
“Great Pretender” has a bad cast, a poorly written story with a immeasurable predictable results and even its ending song (which is best thing this anime has to offer) couldn’t save it. If you want to hear my advice, stay away from this. Just my two cents.
To sum it up, I loved this show until the last arc. I genuinely thought that it would go down as one of my favorites of all time. The art is fantastic–every scene looks like it could be a convincing computer wallpaper, the animation is super fluid, the music and sound design is exceptional. And, until that last arc, the character development and plot seemed just as good. I felt attached to the main cast, invested in their backstories and growth as they worked together in elaborate con jobs. The dialogue and pacing was great as well–it struck a delicate balance between funny moments and handling serious topics very well. There seemed to be strong foundations for a fantastic ending to this show.
That’s what I thought, at least, until I actually watched that last arc.
I don’t think there’s really a way to address the problems I have with Great Pretender unless I spoil some things, simply because I truly thought it was amazing up until that last arc. So, if you still are interested in watching it and don’t want to read on, a spoiler-free analysis of the show would be that it almost felt like the first 3 arcs and the last arc were from 2 completely different shows. In the last arc characters acted in complete opposite ways as they were built up, plotlines weren’t fully developed and, at times, did not seem to make coherent sense, pacing was extremely rushed, and all of the accomplishments and character growth established in the plot of the first 3 arcs seemed to be erased–especially in the last episode.
So, I would recommend to just watch the first 14 episodes, because they’re really fantastic. If you do feel some compulsion to continue watching after that (and, if you really like the show, you probably will, since episode 14 doesn’t really offer a satisfying conclusion), I would say go ahead, but just keep in mind that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and confusion.
SPOILER REVIEW BEGINS HERE:
I’m going to review the easily most consistently good parts of the show first–briefly, since I don’t really think there’s much to say other than that they’re really good.
EASY 10. As I said before, every shot looks like it could be screencapped and used as a photo or computer wallpaper. Animation is very clean, character designs are polished, and the color pallete is bright and creative. I am in love with the art style and direction, as both were inventive and made the anime really stand out.
I think all of it was great in terms of music–there was a variety of different music styles and variations of the theme that I loved to here recur throughout the show. The ED is fantastic because of course, it’s Freddie Mercury, and the OP is really fun and poppy big band, which fits the show perfectly. The only thing I took issue with was the fact that there were often many different languages being spoken in a scene, and it wasn’t clear what language people were speaking at times. This was mostly due to the fact that Japanese was established as being the substitute for English in the first episode to make it easier for VAs to actually voice act instead of speaking a foreign language. That distinction began to get muddled when scenarios started happening in Japan, where it became unclear as to who was speaking English vs Japanese since they all audibly were speaking Japanese in the show. It even got more unclear when one of the main characters actually started speaking English audibly, but the rest of the cast continued to speak Japanese while calling it English…it sounds confusing because it is. Overall though, it didn’t really interfere with the story, except for in that last arc…but there are definitely bigger problems with that last arc than just weird translations.
And now, for the parts that I feel extremely conflicted about–STORY and CHARACTER. I’m addressing them both at the same time because I feel like it would be impossible to address one without having discussed the other.
STORY and CHARACTER…I have no idea what to rate them. N/A?
I genuinely cannot decide on a number to give the STORY and CHARACTER sections of this show. If I were just discussing the first 3 arcs, my ranking would probably fall within the 9-10 range–again, I really believe it was great. I think the only arguable detriment of that first arc would be the “predictability” of the cons. I personally don’t believe that the twists were super predictable, moreso that the predicability came from audience always knew the outcome was always going to be in favor of the main characters, or else it wouldn’t feel satisfying. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing though–many shows thrive in the fact that you always know plots will resolve in a satisfying way. The interesting thing about Great Pretender’s first 3 cases was not how the case would end, but how the con was handled, and how the plot would change one of the main characters and increase our knowledge of and empathy for them.
Speaking of characters, all were likable and relatable in the first 3 cases. We got to see the backstories and growth from 3 out of the 4 main characters–Edamura, Abbie, and Cynthia. Each of the cases focused on something from their past that drew them to becoming conmen, and how that history related to the con at hand in the current case. Personally, I liked the first case (Edamura’s case) the best just because the novelty of the main cast and certain twists in the case, such as Abbie and Laurent “dying” and Cynthia being a conwoman the whole time, were well-executed (however the initial shock of these “deaths” and reveals for the audience is what made them great…boy, it would be a shame to have the writers recycle these plot details again in the last arc…). Each character’s traits and personalities are also explored well through the con–Edamura is kind-hearted and honest who is always kept in the dark about details of the con (acting as a lens for the audience to view the plot through), Abbie is rebellious and, to put it simply, a badass, and Cythia is the flirty, quick-witted and quick-tempered woman of the team (she reminded me a lot of Faye from Cowboy Bebop in ways). The only main character who isn’t explored is Laurent, the smooth-talking classic conman who recruits Edamura and acts as the de-facto leader of the group. He’s still good enough of a character to be likable while also remaining mysterious through these first 3 cases, which says a good deal about the talent of the writers up until episode 15.
Basically, I think the characters and story were pretty solid for the first three cases. I could go on about certain plot details, but what drove me to write this review was my feeling about episodes 15-23 (aka the last arc/case), so let’s just get right into that.
The last case focuses on Laurent’s past, which is certainly not a bad thing–his backstory is actually pretty interesting, and I thought the way they tied Laurent’s connection to Edamura’s dad was handled pretty well. I also think episode 15-middle of episode 18 isn’t horrendous–Edamura is shown to have compassion for the kids that are being trafficked, and the narrative is showing the toll that being an undercover member of the trafficking company is having on his mental health. He begins smoking in every scene, and, when it comes down to it, forces the kids out of their imprisonment at gunpoint, this scene being harsh but necessary to expand the audience’s perspective that Edamura spending a significant amount of time with bad people is wearing down on him, even though his intentions may be good. Judging by these actions, it seems like the plot is going in a direction of focusing on freeing those kids and absolutely destroying Suzaku (the human trafficking organization)…because human trafficking is WRONG. And anyone who participates in it is NOT GOOD. THAT IS THE PRECEDENT THEY ARE SETTING UP FOR THIS ARC. And, given what we know about Edamura so far and his actions in the past arcs, he seems to have a strong moral compass and will often do the right thing even in the face of adversity, even if it’s rash or not completely thought-out. It’s what makes you root for him, and the way others adapt to these actions during a con is what makes you root for them.
However, things take a turn in the middle of episode 18 that sets the precedent for the rest of the show to plummet into confusion and inconsistency. The part I’m specifically talking about is when Edamura’s father appears to have ratted out Edamura, Abbie, and Cynthia to the Shanghai and Suzaku trading companies while they attempted to free the imprisoned trafficked children, and Edamura, Abbie, and Cynthia are all facing seemingly certain death, as they’ve been taken to a boat and are being held at gunpoint over open water. Before this point, there are some minor red flags that have happened, mainly concerning Edamura’s father. In the span of about 1 episode, the audience’s perspective of him has flipped from being on the human trafficking side, to him conning the human trafficking side, to him conning Edamura and ultimately working with the trafficking side. It is a lot of side-flipping, which makes it kind of confusing for the audience, but not inherently self-destructive in terms of guiding the show’s plot. Another thing to mention is that the leader of the Suzaku company is portrayed as a stern and vicious old woman who has a soft spot for Edamura. This last aspect has not influenced Edamura’s actions so far because, like all of the audience, he understands that she is a BAD PERSON. Because she literally buys and sells children. So there should be NO SYMPATHY for her.
What changes everything is when Edamura’s father tells Edamura to kill Abbie and Cynthia to gain the respect of the Suzaku lady. When Edamura refuses, he “kills” them himself, which is a big no-no, because there are really only 2 options that this action creates for the audience to believe. The first option is that Cynthia and Abbie really have just died, which feels anticlimactic and disappointing, and, given that there are about 5 episodes left and so much work has been invested into their characters, probably not likely. The second, more believable (and yet somehow worse for the plot) option is that Cynthia and Abbie aren’t really dead, and that Edamura’s dad is actually working with THEM, not the trading companies (so…4 side flips within a single episode, at this point). This also feels unearned and does not bode well for the rest of the story because 1. they already used the “OMG someone just died!” trick during the first case, and 2. because of the frequent side-flipping, the audience starts to lose trust in the identities that have been established for characters.
It only gets worse from here, though.
The part that seals the deal (at least narratively for me, and seemingly for the rest of the case, given how everything proceeds from this point) is that as soon as Cynthia and Abbie “die,” the narrative immediately begins to push this idea that the Suzaku lady (who SELLS CHILDREN) is kind and compassionate. She takes pity on Edamura seconds after the people who she was most likely going to kill were just “killed” by giving Edamura the freedom to decide what he wanted to do with his father, giving him a gun and expressing her sympathy. Everything can still be fixed, though. At this point, the authors could still make it believable that Edamura’s father truly is a scumbag who just killed his friends, or they could go the other route (as they did) and make it turn out that he’s part of the con, and actually on Edamura’s side. All they really had to do was just make sure they represent that Edamura is still exhibiting his traits of compassion and kindheartedness by NOT KILLING HIS DAD, despite everything his dad seems to have done. It’s a little cliche, but it would allow the writers to show that, despite everything that Edamura has gone through, he will still make the morally right decision. This is something that has been accentuated in EVERY. SINGLE. CASE.
And yet, they decide to have him just shoot his father in the chest. Which, of course, the audience is less likely to believe, because now we just got 3 sudden main character deaths, and we have the knowledge that they can fake dying.
I think this choice was to accentuate the fact that being in the human trafficking business has taken such a large toll on Edamura, but I think the cost of doing this definitely outweighs the benefits in terms of creating an interesting story. For one, Edamura genuinely believes he is killing his dad in that scene. I don’t care if that’s just a ruse and his dad is actually fine (which is exactly what happens)–the sentiment behind that action cannot be taken back. If you’re going to make such a dramatic move like that, there should be no room for lighthearted reconciliation between Edamura and his dad when everything’s said and done (which is exactly what happens).
What I also don’t get is the real motive behind Edamura’s dad’s actions. He lies to his own son on the boat, “kills” Edamura’s friends right in front of him (potentially causing trauma for his own son), and for what? Dorothy? While again I’ll say I don’t really have a problem with the Dorothy-Laurent backstory, I think it doesn’t make sense that all the characters, which have been shown to be generally pretty reasonable, would go through so much to essentially just mess with Edamura while getting some kind of revenge for Dorothy. Seriously, why even bring Edamura into it at all if you genuinely want revenge for your dead friend, and why even go through all the trouble to deceive him and incite a possibly permanently broken relationship with your child? This is addressed a little in the end of the show when Edamura is yelling at his dad with the Suzaku katana to his dad’s chest (which, by the way, ends in Edamura getting killed…but not really, because, you know, faking your death is a great plot point when you use it 5 times in a row, right?) but the ending seems to show that they were working in kahoots the entire time…so was that even a real argument? The back-and-forth shifting of what “side” Edamura’s really on and who he’s fighting against from episode 18 onward, undermines all of the character development that was established for him before and makes the narrative feel like it’s aiming to be confusing for the sake of being confusing.
What’s more frustrating is that the focus of human trafficking being bad is essentially thrown out the window after the “deaths” of Edamura’s dad, Abbie, and Cynthia in episode 18. Edamura decides to throw out his conscience and LEGIT work for the Suzaku human trafficking business (which BUYS AND SELLS CHILDREN) because the Suzaku lady seems nice, and it’s heavily implied he reminds her of her estranged son, and she reminds him of his mom…which is so messed up for so many reasons. I get that they’re trying to humanize the villain, but this humanization is addressed so sloppily after setting this precedent that human trafficking is BAD and anyone who participates in it freely is a BAD PERSON (which is absolutely correct!). This, again, completely subverts the audience’s belief that one of the sole aspects of the Edamura’s character is that he’s compassionate and kindhearted and the fact that he serves as a moral rock for the rest of the conman crew. And yet, the narrative still seems to want you to sympathize with him and the Suzaku lady. Which, not gonna lie, kind of feels like they’re asking you to sympathize with human traffickers. I think a good story is capable of making you feel sympathy for anyone (take the Sopranos–the whole show is about making you feel sympathy for a mob boss that commits crimes and ruins lives on a daily basis), but completely changing the ideals of a main character to be sympathetic towards the head of a human trafficking company within the span a of a few episodes, after CLEARLY ESTABLISHING that this company is the ABSOLUTE WORST…that ain’t it, chief. That ain’t right.
Another thing to mention is that, when they introduced the Dorothy-Laurent plotline, they essentially shifted audience’s perspective of the goal of the conmen from being noble (destroying a terrible company that BUYS AND SELLS CHILDREN) to being vengeful (getting revenge for Dorothy). That second goal wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t completely overshadow the first, seeming to prioritize the importance of revenge over fighting against human trafficking. The children and the plotline the writers started about them feeling like they’ll “never be wanted” is completely forgotten as soon as that Dorothy plotline is introduced–the fate of the children is thrown in as an afterthought in the final minutes of the show. The main conflict at the end of the con isn’t about fighting THE BUYING AND SELLING OF ACTUAL CHILDREN–it’s about being mad about a friend dying because wow I can’t believe someone died while trying to infiltrate a company that BUYS AND SELLS CHILDREN AND HAS NO MORALS. The worst part about this is that it’s revealed that Dorothy isn’t even dead–she just lost her memories and is just chillin’ with an old couple on the beach–which means that the “revenge” plotline holds less weight than it even did before. No, actually, scratch that–the worst part about this is that all they do to get “revenge” (and fight human trafficking, I guess) is put the leaders and a few of the members of the Shanghai and Suzaku trading companies on an island and let them just vibe there. Like BRO you’re not even going to get them arrested?! They are either going to die on the island OR they’re going to make it back to the mainland, the second option being more likely given that at least one of them probably has a phone and will be able to call for help at some point. Regardless of whether or not they make it back from the island alive, it’s guaranteed that BOTH of those trafficking companies will be fine, unless they are so inept that they can’t figure out a new leader and are so crippled by the financial sacrifice that both companies seemed pretty okay with making in that deal that was supposed to take place in the final episodes. I think the show doesn’t make it clear enough that the company is “ruined,” unlike the other cases, where each villain was shown to have lost everything due to the conmen by either getting thrown in jail, losing all their money, or a mix of both.
Speaking of the outcomes of the villains from the last cases…the icing on the salt-filled cake that is the last case of Great Pretender is that it appears that all the people who were established as TERRIBLE people from the previous cases are in on the con. Edamura appears to just happen to have the contacts of all three of the antagonists from the last 3 cases, and he has them help him with the con for reasons that I believe are not fully explained. And these actual criminals, one who one of the main characters (Cynthia) has had a personal vendetta against for about 20 YEARS, are just chilling on the boat, explaining to the audience how they regained their status and were totally content. The main characters don’t even seem perturbed by these villains being involved with the con–the most surprising non-reaction is from Cynthia, who I would assume would be livid about someone who took advantage of her and her ex-partner’s lives for his own benefit just chilling and gambling on a yacht like nothing happened. This particular development seemed to just erase both the goals of the conmen, which were to bring down bad people (which they clearly failed at or didn’t care about, given that the three antagonists they had supposedly “brought” down seemed perfectly happy and content with their lives) and all of the deplorable acts that these antagonists were shown to have engaged in in the previous cases.
In other words, it felt like the show almost betrayed everything that it said it stood for, in terms of dealing with serious topics and actual crime. Judging by the rest of the reviews I’ve seen submitted here for this show, I think some other people feel similarly to me about this.
That’s not to say that all of the parts of this case were completely nonsensical and bad, however. If I am to say anything positive story-wise about case 4, I really thought Abbie was solid the whole way through, even though she had very little screentime. And, except for the last part where she just seems totally okay with that painter fraud guy just chilling on the yacht, I think Cynthia was fine as well–she provided some comic relief when her and the rest of the conmen gang were painting the fake Suzaku building…which I’m not even going to get into how stupid and convoluted that whole idea was, given that I’ve been writing this for approximately 2 hours straight and my exhaustion with just writing simple sentences is probably showing at this point.
ENJOYMENT (…no number again)
Once again, I don’t really know how to rank this section either. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 3 cases, I was utterly baffled and disappointed by the last case. I don’t know how any of that would translate to a comprehensive score of enjoyment without being completely biased towards my feelings towards either the first three cases or the last case. I will say once again that it really does feel like cases 1-3 were from a completely different show with completely different characters than case 4, so I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to group them into one score.
OVERALL CONCLUSION (TLDR) (4/10)
4/10 doesn’t feel like it’s a low OR high enough score when addressing this show. There are so many aspects that I absolutely adored from the first 3 cases that were just obliterated in the last few episodes from a few odd narrative choices that completely subverted the tone and our understanding of key characters. I am astonished by how plotlines were started and then just immediately thrown out and characters were just changed on a whim for shock value, and am just kind of awash in disappointment right now, as I really thought this show was going to go down as one of my favorite anime.
It feels like the last case of Great Pretender was the big reveal of a giant con that ran through the entire show. The first 3 cases served as the deception that Great Pretender was truly going to be (and end) fantastically, with a solid cast of likable characters, a good sense of humor and dialogue, and a coherent plot that would make you wish you could just erase your memory and watch the show again for the first time. And that last case served to show all of us that, like any great con, things that you thought were undeniably true could easily be undermined. If someone were to tell me that I would be ranting about how much I was disappointed and infuriated by the the ending of Great Pretender about a month ago, when I was excitedly waiting for Case 4 to drop after bingeing all 3 of the cases within a few days, I would’ve laughed. I just wouldn’t have expected a show that seemed to exhibit such sensitivity for establishing solid characters and understandable plots to completely throw everything out the window within the last few episodes of a show…and yet, here I am, ignoring the real-life work I should’ve done 2 hours ago, instead spending my time typing furiously at my keyboard, writing an overly long review that I’ll be lucky if one person actually reads through, feeling like I’ve just been duped.
5: Haikyuu!!: To the Top
Japanese: ハイキュー!! TO THE TOP
MAL Score: 8.35
After their triumphant victory over Shiratorizawa Academy, the Karasuno High School volleyball team has earned their long-awaited ticket to nationals. As preparations begin, genius setter Tobio Kageyama is invited to the All-Japan Youth Training Camp to play alongside fellow nationally recognized players. Meanwhile, Kei Tsukishima is invited to a special rookie training camp for first-years within the Miyagi Prefecture. Not receiving any invitations himself, the enthusiastic Shouyou Hinata feels left behind.
However, Hinata does not back down. Transforming his frustration into self-motivation, he boldly decides to sneak himself into the same rookie training camp as Tsukishima. Even though Hinata only lands himself a job as the ball boy, he comes to see this as a golden opportunity. He begins to not only reflect on his skills as a volleyball player but also analyze the plethora of information available on the court and how he can apply it.
As the much-anticipated national tournament approaches, the members of Karasuno’s volleyball team attempt to overcome their weak points and refine their skills, all while aiming for the top!
I am really dismayed when I regularly see some comments about this season. It is quite rare that I start with the technical aspects when I write my reviews but I feel forced to detail since some seem dissatisfied with the animation quality.
To begin with, I am tired of seeing that people are constantly confusing chara-design and animation. Chara designs are the models used to represent the characters. Animation refers to moving images created from drawings.
To compensate for the absence of a genius like Takahiro Chiba, the character designer Takahiro Kishida has slightly simplified the character designs. (You can notice the shading around their necks or the hairstyles.) But we must also note the evolution of the manga designs. Season 4 chara-designs are in fact very faithful to the new manga style. Personally, I am much more a fan of this new chara-design. The characters finally look like athletes and no longer have skinny legs as in previous seasons. If you don’t understand, I recommend watching the third ending when you see the whole team running.
Some viewers have criticized the so-called “bad” animation of the show. The artwork is very solid, it is rare to find off-models (unless you are insincere and you are going to make a screenshot of a character that can barely be distinguished in the background.) Takashi Mukouda’s style is unusual for the series. The way the bodies seem to stretch may give the impression that the animation has been failed but you must understand that this is deliberately done this way. His performance on Hoshiumi’s movements is simply breathtaking. It’s really the style that suited such an exceptional character like Hoshiumi. I also remind you that other talented animators are also participating this season, like Sachiko Fukuda when Hinata stops the ball with his chest (so hilarious!) or Yuki Sato’s sakuga during Azumane’s smash in this same episode. Faces also seem very expressive especially when Hinata introduces himself at the end of the first episode as a “ball boy” or when Kageyama will blow a fuse later.
(I remind you that the budget does not really influence the creation of an anime: Production IG has no less equipment or money than other studios/staff, right? You must above all check the staff and understand if their schedule is suitable so that they can finish their works on time.)
The soundtrack is still composed by the famous Yuuki Hayashi. This is one of the reasons that make me prefer anime to manga. Each track seems to suit the given situation so much. We find of course the old tracks like “Above” or “Breakthrough” which will always gave me chills. But we can notice some new tracks. I do not yet know the exact titles like the guitar track or the one that seems to be used to announce the Nationals (you can hear in the Land vs Sky OVAs endings). I’m also a huge fan of HoneyWorks’ ending. The last scene with Kiyoko’s smile seems to refer to what will be told about her.
Regarding the seiyuu, I was delighted to see that Mamoru Miyano would get Atsumu Miya’s voice, I could not expect better. However, I am not sure that a particular accent stands out in his voice. Hoshiumi is performed by Natsuki Hanae who aptly express Hoshiumi’s rage and motivation. For the other new characters, it seemed to go well with the personality, but nothing really exceptional. (Some characters don’t have enough screen time yet.)
Let’s go back to the story. (This is important too, I think) After several intense matches in the previous seasons, I think it was necessary for the author to give his characters a break so that they improve for the Nationals. This season offers much more training than the previous ones, and we can see the team evolving gradually.
This season actually focuses more on Hinata and Kageyama. The latter was invited to the training camp for future juniors of the national team. Hinata goes to another training camp alongside Tsukishima but unlike the latter, he was not invited. His presence therefore seems problematic and I must admit that even if Hinata did not act by being rational, he quickly recognized his error and therefore apologized. Quite frankly, in a lot of shounen, we get either fearful whiny characters or excessively cheeky or rude main characters as if there was a pride to be gained with this kind of attitude. Hinata seems to be very balanced as a character. He is overexcited, passionate like many shounen main characters, but he realizes that it is not by acting any old how he will achieve his goal.
Thus, he adopts the position of ball boy but despite such a boring role with the reprimands of the embittered coach Washijou, Hinata does not seem to be moving towards depression. In the end, this observer position offers him a multitude of competences to learn. Particularly in the reception which is one of the weaknesses of Hinata. Haikyuu!! is incredibly precise when it comes to describing the players movements and highlights the need to go back to basics when certain points do not seem to be acquired. Hinata has only been playing for less than a year. It is obvious that there are still many gaps that we do not notice during matches because other players are superb at reception. (e.g. Noya or Daichi)
Anyway, Hinata really seems to have evolved since the start of the series. He has an incredibly resilient temperament and despite his situation, he strives to work as much as the other invited players in the training camp.
On Kageyama’s side, he’s training with particularly competent players. Compared to Karasuno, it is obvious the level is higher there. This difference will generate some frustration at Kageyama when he comes back playing for his team, once the training camp is over. I must admit that since the end of season 1, Kageyama had stagnated a little. Let us not forget that setter is one of the “pivot” of the team. But unlike Oikawa who exploited his teammates’ skills perfectly well, Kageyama seemed to just adapt to his teammates to get along better with them.
Later we get a drama. To be honest, I am impressed with the evolution of Karasuno. Their altercations mainly involve communication. And although Kageyama seems very awkward to express himself, I am glad that we have avoided physical confrontations (a bit ridiculous) as we may have had in the previous seasons. (The Hinata-Kageyama fight in the second season, remember.) The resolution is progressive: Kageyama admits that he is not using the right words to address his teammates but also requests that they try to meet his requirements: make passes that can overcome blocks. This passage shows the importance of communication between humans. Sometimes you have to go through some disputes to get to know each other better, instead of running away from problems.
As a manga reader, I consider that the training arc has been well narrated. I regret, however, some pacing problems in the 3rd and 4th episodes for which I wanted more dynamism. (I think they didn’t need to go through an entire episode to show that Hinata is a great observant.)
Regarding the other characters, Haikyuu!! hugely highlights its secondary characters. We see some potential Karasuno’s opponents for the national tournament. Miya seems to have had some influence on Kageyama’s attitude but I guess he will get some surprises for the future. Hoshiumi seems to oppose Hinata especially and I must admit that this character is incredible. He seems to be competent in all positions and Hinata is definitely not indifferent to this new self-proclaimed Little Giant.
Some forgettable characters like Kinoshita (I checked his name before) get a bigger role for the team. He seems to get the same role as Tadashi, and we will see more later. But the most notable character is most certainly Kiyoko Shimizu. Until this last season, I found her too discreet to become attached to her. Unlike Hitoka Yachi who is more expressive and cheerful, Kiyoko seemed less interesting to me despite her legendary beauty. But behind her appearance, she seems above all to have a foolproof motivation. Thanks to Prod IG for not having missed the scene where she jumps over the barrier, it was masterfully successful. Until then, I had only retained her cute words “ganbare” that she had timidly addressed to her teammates. However, her flashback sincerely touched me and my vision of the character really changed.
Since this is a season with few games, we get more slice of life moments that I found very entertaining. For example, seeing the senpai during the New Year’s Day or Tsukishima accompanying our two silly main characters or especially the bath scene with Kiyoko and Yachi! (Please, I would like more bath scenes with cute managers.) I just regret that we don’t have them more regularly, especially since the interactions between the characters have been particularly well-developed from the beginning.
However, I think some people will disagree because I have read some complaints about the lack of epic actions, intense matches etc. It is true that for those looking for the intensity of the third season, you will probably be a little disappointed. That said, this season has some matches but the tension will not go up as much as the third season or the end of the second season.
Despite a tight schedule and a significant change in staff, we get a season with solid visuals and a different animation from the first three seasons but which is nonetheless excellent. The last episodes of this fourth season seem to reassure us regarding the animation quality for future games, and we can hope they maintain that quality (if not more) for the sequel(s).
You see, to make a sports appealing, one of two choices needs to be taken most of the time. Either let the human drama be the focus and use the sport as the way to channel the conflict, or go over the top with the sport to make it blood-boiling exciting. Haikyuu has neither of those. It just a bunch of high school guys playing volleyball. Neither the characters and their interaction nor the game itself is interesting. You might even say that it’s too realistic for it’s own good, as it really feels just like sitting on a bench in high school watching some randos play a match because you have nothing better to do.
And here comes this season’s special: training. Yep, most of the fourth season is training. Now I know some training is important as the most popular alternative to training is just straight out ass-pulls, but is most of the season really necessary? Watching the whole “Hinata accidentallies himself into the big boi training grounds” pretext is just painfully boring. I know the result will be “He got somewhat better at playing”, you know it, we all know it yet we’re all forced to watch a bunch of episodes to get the much predicted result. Nothing of interest happens during this part, though to be honest I couldn’t name you a single interesting scene in the whole season. I mean, stuff like “slice of life fans be like – bro the grocery store arc hit different” jokes become reality here as we get an episode that’s mostly about a dude forgetting his bag in a gym. This whole season could be condensed into 3 or 4 episodes and nothing of value would be lost.
The cast is pretty much basic action shounen cast just taken from battle and put into sport genre. Most of their personalities are “being really passionate about the game” and “causing ‘humorous’ scenes that will make the background simplified and everyone make a ‘funny’ face”. Some of them also possess the unique trait of shouting really loud. I’ve noticed that since this season offers nothing of interest anyway, the character designs were tweaked a bit so now almost everyone looks like the same person, just with a different haircut. Interesting artistic choice, but fitting.
The animation is still good, but not as good as the previous seasons. Considering the high quality animation was what made Haikyuu stand out and combined with the subpar plot of this season (even for Haikyuu standards) this easily makes it the worst season so far. One pet peeve I have about the animation through the whole franchise is the decision to make a hole in the volleyball net every time a character is standing behind it. Yeah, I get it, it’s so we can see the characters face, but really, would few lines of net hurt so much? Now it breaks any bit of immersion that could have been had every time it’s done.
The list ditch effort and simultaneously almost a sure-kill way to make a scene exciting is to throw in an epic soundtrack. You can make eating potato chips epic with the right choice of sound accompaniment. Yet, there’s no choosing from out of nothing and cool soundtrack didn’t really get an opportunity to show its qualities this round. Better luck next time.
Overall, this is just another dose of generic episodes of “fujoshi bait characters passionately slap sweaty balls, moaning about having to get better at it”.
Its characters have always been archetypical, its theming has always been modest, and its narrative has always been standard, but to regurgitate what I’ve been saying for years now, Haikyuu!! knows the good tropes and executes them flawlessly. Haikyuu!! doesn’t take one-note characters and make them deep, it just makes them the most consistently well-written and empathetic one-note characters you can find. It doesn’t take power of friendship, hard work vs talent storytelling and make it any more complex, it just delivers it with such hype and humanistic catharsis your heart can’t help but be affected. It doesn’t take the highschool sports inter-high plot structure and make it any more unique or interesting, it just executes the stock mold with such expert pacing and pointed purpose you still feel every step of the way is a culmination. And the cherry on top of it all is exactly where I started this gushing rant to being with, its ability to do what none other in its genre can do: not feel like a waste of my time.
I’m not old, but if you asked your average anime fan, they’d think I’m old. Frankly, I find it extremely and progressively difficult to give a care about highschool anime. Unless you have a crazy high-concept and a million things going on at once like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or incomparably genius writing and direction like Hyouka, I’ll probably drop you within five minutes. Haikyuu!! has an immediate advantage with me being a Production IG show, because it gets to be drop dead gorgeous, but I still just couldn’t help being anchored down by how good it made me feel. However, this was not nearly enough in the long run, and I figured I would just power through the first season and then respectfully refrain from continuing, but with the betrayal of expectations the first season ended with, the point became clear and I became invested. From that point on, season two delivered the most psychologically relieving and emotionally elating ensemble character arcs in any sports anime ever made, and season three delivered ten straight episodes of bracing sakuga and physically electrifying payoff after payoff.
And this is exactly why I thought it was the perfect time—to stop. I’m not about to sit here and spout pandering buzzwords and generalizations at you, like how long running series are destined to go downhill or any of that nonsense, because as I mentioned, I don’t interact with the community, I and don’t care about the trappings of their public consciousness. I just personally feel as if the concept is starting to exhaust itself. To no deep fault, mind you, but to exhaustion nonetheless. Season one felt aimless only in so far as it smartly played its cards close to the chest, but the moment it showed its hand, the series gained an alien sense of—not maturity, per se, but—reality, and seeing as I then instantly noticed the story hidden in the details which I had failed to appreciate, I was able to continue on in the correct mindset and consume it as the modest masterwork it was and always had been, plus the incredible animation and sharp design work it initially charmed me with. This season was the complete layered cake I described, only without that imperative cherry on top.
Simply put, it stayed as solidly constructed and consistently written as it ever was, but lost the subtle spark and fulfilling momentum which it had always enchanted me with. The characters have to regress to develop because they were so perfectly completed, the new principle antagonists feel random because those who came before them spent fifty to sixty episodes being built up, and the plot has to meander to progress because it was so perfectly concluded. Said regression fit said characters’ established mental hang-ups, and said meandering fit said plot’s logical stagnation following the tournament which season three ended with, but whether it makes sense or not and whether it’s competently made or not, the fact of the matter is it’s not nearly as gratifying as it has been historically, and that is a problem, no matter how picky. After all, just as a bad show can only change for the better, a good show can only change for the worse, especially if that good show is of the same nature Haikyuu!! is, that of an anime based on a manga pumped out weekly and with no time to improvise once the proverbial conceptual well ran dry.
And yet, what’s really the biggest hit to my own personal enjoyment is the downgraded directing and animation. The production values are just as kinetic and ambitious for the genre, but nowhere near as polished, consistent, and technically perfect as the prior seasons. You know it’s a dark day when Production IG themselves have to split-cour a production, whether it’s being done better by their B-Team than any other fullcore studio could ever do with their best or not. Haikyuu!! To the Top is by no means the “top” of what this series has to offer nor what this series has offered in the past, but it is still miles, miles, miles above the bottom, and any fan of the series will find themselves greatly pleased by its return. However, if you’re a crotchety old bitch like me or a sakuga nerd chasing that prepossessingly glorious shooting star of crafted brilliance, Production IG, you may find yourself somewhat disheartened, no matter how delightfully your favorite characters on screen can turn that frown upside down.
Thank you for reading.
4: Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan
English: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!
MAL Score: 8.40
Resolved to become a more independent person, Yukino Yukinoshita decides to smoothen things out with her parents, and the first step toward achieving that goal is to prove herself.
As graduation draws closer for the third-year students, Iroha Isshiki—the president of the student council—requests a graduation prom in collaboration with the Volunteer Service Club. Yukino accepts this request of her own volition, hoping to use it as a chance to demonstrate her self-reliance, but what lies ahead of her may prove to be a hard hurdle to cross.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan revolves around the graduation prom as emotions are poured into the preparations for the event. At the same time, a chance for the Volunteer Service Club members to better understand each other presents itself. And thus, Hachiman Hikigaya’s hectic and bittersweet high school life begins to draw to a close.
In episode eight of Oregairu Zoku, Hachiman made a life-changing decision. For the first time, he entered the club room sitting not aside, but in front of the two girls he has grown to be so comfortable with—to finally open up and speak his mind. Hikigaya’s request for something genuine was played out so much it became somewhat of an inside joke in the anime community. But its lasting impression is also a testament to the impact many must have felt upon witnessing that scene for the first time.
Fast forward five years later, fans finally get to witness a resolution to questions that the “genuine scene” has raised. Be it Hikigaya’s unfulfilled request, Yuigahama’s selfish wishes, Yukinoshita’s family and internal struggles, or the three’s respective expectations on their relationship, Oregairu Kan answered in striking fashion. Aided with snippets of perspectives other than those of Hikigaya’s, this instalment was made much more straightforward than the previous two. By getting into their headspace, viewers can better understand and untangle the perplexing plot threads that were laid down in previous seasons, giving this grand trilogy a fulfilling conclusion.
But that’s not all Kan has to offer. Setting up multiple red herrings, the beginning two-thirds of Kan was a little conventional, until the last three episodes started rolling. The plot twists surprising and the payoff huge, how the ending played out was honestly unexpected given how things were from the start. It won’t be the closure that all fans had hoped for, at least not me; but it is the ending’s ability to impress even when it goes against your wishes that makes it so much more astonishing. These displays of spectacular writing were made possible by covering only three novels instead of the usual five to six, for Kan can now skip less material and include a lot more details in this adaptation.
Which brings me to the one thing that they didn’t include in the previous seasons: fillers. In first season and Zoku, Oregairu gave viewers no time to draw breath, every episode is filled to the brim with information you cannot afford to miss. It was so packed and lacking in time that it skipped entire chapters just to reach a satisfying endpoint. This time around, Kan slowed down the pace, putting less narrative-relevant but engaging dialogue in between important plot points to let viewers some time to rest, giving it the best pacing among all instalments. Some might not find it appealing, and would rather have more plot progression and/or characterisation take place. But in any case, I believe those like me, who have followed along for two seasons and on for a third, would like seeing more relaxed moments from Oregairu’s endearing characters.
Speaking of characters, one might claim the game club members and Zaimokuza as nothing but glorified plot tools, there for the sole purpose of getting Hikigaya a few allies for his project. Nitpicking aside, these mistakes are not Kan’s fault whatsoever. As I have alluded to earlier, some crucial chapters were lost during the previous adaptations; the important ones here being those that feature the Volunteer Service Club’s visit to the game club in season one, and those where Zaimokuza was supposed to be featured in both seasons. What results is the degradation of Zaimokuza’s role in the anime-only story; while the game club became total strangers to both the trio and the viewers, even when they should’ve been familiar faces. To make up for that, Kan slightly altered a few scenes to make up for the missteps previous seasons have taken, and I think they did a great job of that. I think it goes without saying that it wouldn’t be fair to deduct points off of Kan because of other seasons’ problems.
Still, I would be lying if I say that Kan had done everything perfectly, with the most apparent oversight being the supporting cast’s development. Hayama, for example: a character very invested in the trio’s relationship, particularly Yukinoshita, rarely appeared. Having been hinted with great character depth, he didn’t get the screen time he deserved. In the same vein, while we can witness all the other characters’ growth (like Ebina, Yumiko, Isshiki and hell even the student council president of that other school) we were only ever shown a glimpse of what they have become; which is unfortunate given how closely tied they were with Hikigaya’s growth, but understandable because of the limited screen time.
Nevertheless, what Kan has done with characterisation is nothing short of amazing. Haruno’s intentions, something that was set up in Zoku and ultimately became a cornerstone in Kan, added a lot of humanity into both members of the Yukinoshita household. The trio’s respective wishes, told through Yuigahama and Hikigaya’s lens, were spectacularly presented, with their actions having a sprinkle of previously established personalities while breaking the mould and showing the growth each of the three had experienced. It is not far-fetched to say Kan handled the main trio and Haruno’s development brilliantly.
That said, animation is one thing I cannot give the highest praises to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s much better than the average show, with standouts like the detailed portraits, expressive facial expressions and the classic waving hair from studio feel.. And to Oregairu’s credit, there is a limit to how far animation in school settings can go other than your occasional Hyouka. But that isn’t an excuse for distracting scenes of looping animation, such as the rapping and prom preparation ones. Even so, given the gorgeous still shots and more than obvious improvement in animation quality from previous seasons, the animation can still be considered as very good indeed.
Up till now, every aspect I praise about Kan always has that “gotcha moment” that made it just short of perfect. But the one thing it nailed to a T is sound: OP, ED, OST, voice acting, you name it. The OP and ED are once again sung by yanaginagi and the two voice actresses respectively, somehow topping what Oregairu had offered in the previous two seasons IMO. OST is recognisable the instant you play it; the voice actors did a great job bringing the characters to life. All I can say is, the OST and voice actors did their job, so that the storyboard and writing can do their job.
Ultimately, to sum up the series as a whole, Oregairu demonstrated that a elementary premise would never limit a story’s potential. It started out simple with a teenager who despised social interaction and high school clichés. But with plot twists well written, characterisation phenomenal and themes echoing from start to finish, Watari had transformed a generic set up into an extraordinary tale. One that doesn’t end with “happily ever after” as its conventional start suggests, rather becoming an experience you could only ever see for yourself, something no words could accurately describe.
I hate Oregairu.
I hate its characters. I hate its themes. I hate its predictable outcomes. I hate how Yukinon always wins but others don’t. I hate how everyone doesn’t mind Yukinon for looking down at them instead of genuinely hating her. I hate how everyone’s okay with what Yukinon says but with others not. I hate Yukinon and this fucking anime.
But, I have good reasons to back up my claims. Alright then, shall we begin?
My biggest problem I have with Oregairu is its premise because it’s done in such a nuisance that favorite some characters more than anything. The two characters that get this treatment make everyone else look like shit because the author truly doesn’t know how to write a story without resorting to that, doesn’t he? I’m talking about Yukinon and Hachiman. Only these two can win. Only these two can do everything supposedly everyone’s not capable of. Only these two can get the love… undeservedly of course.
Part of the main characters is also Yui who is there just for the sake of a love triangle. Yui loves Hachiman, Yukinon will love Hachiman later on and Hachiman will be the classic average light novel protagonist to make the final decision. Have these writers ever thought of making the pair evidently since the start? Like, I don’t know, make Hachiman love a certain (Iroha) and make him end up with her without some superfluous drama? Yui is also a main character because she’s retarded. Just like in Steins:Gate, when you have a lot of “smart” characters as part of your story it’s imperative to add painfully stupid folk as well to balance everything out.
These characters are written to “help” others. I have to emphasize this because it’s something that per se makes no sense. “Help” what does that mean? Like, help? I see, why though? Why would anyone need these guy’s help? Why would they even accept to help anyone in the first place? Ah, I see because the whole concept of Oregairu is about adolescence. What adolescence has to do with any of this, anyway? Are you telling me that everyone going through adolescence has to get help? Why by people of the same age? Why can’t people specialized in the subject take care of this? Because they don’t understand them? Not true, they understand them, perfectly, but because everyone wants cute/hot girls instead we ended up with this abomination.
Oregairu is filled with a great amount of characters and among them all, only two are likable. We know that no one’s getting any development so the best one could do is to determine its likability based on their personalities. Iroha and Totsuka are the chosen ones. For what’s worth, they’re great. Everyone else isn’t. There’s barely any character besides these two that isn’t a dick. They all have been written in a douchebaggery way and it’s worth asking why. Is it because so they could change? Well Einstein, next time you write a story of this type make sure to not focus on one of the main characters 99% of the story, kay? In doing so you might give some other characters more screentime too, you know, to cool off.
Do you know what Oregairu’s purpose is? To change the two main characters’ points of view. Hachiman is a secluded folk and Yukinon this douchebaggery looking-down-at-people gal that both fail to socialize with others. In other words, they like staying alone. The problem I have with this is that no one has the right to intervene in their lives and for some reason, they’re forced to do this way without a single objection on their end. Even so from other characters whose the holy trinity tries to help. I also hate how the trio is so persistent when helping others. When someone says no, they don’t take it for granted but keep pursuing the case until they achieve it, which – spoiler alert, they always do.
A good example would be the bar scene that features Saki. Now look, everyone knows that just because you don’t finish school it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t find a job, whether a good one or not. I think this goes without saying. What you also need to know is that Saki’s “change” was unnatural and to prove it to you I will project myself as her and act as I would if I had been in her place; If I had been working in some part-time jobs and had seen these three mongoloids approach me, I would, of course, talk to them and perhaps answer some of their questions as well but never listen to them and quit everything because they were persistent and whatnot. I definitely cared of my family and was working for my brother. That my folks is awesome, perhaps the greatest thing ever. Do you really think some people I have barely talked to would change my mind? It’s not happening. No matter what they would have said I would have never quit any of part-time jobs. Everything would have worked perfectly nonetheless. The real version of Saki instead quit everything because Yukinon did talk better. Have you noticed this trend? It’s an awful trend but one nonetheless. Yukinon is so smart that she has an answer for everything. She can convince everyone because she talks better. She’s Ben Shapiro of Oregairu. Not matter whom she’s talking to, she’ll always win. Wanna know why? Dunno, ask the author. I’m sure he’s jerking off to her as we speak.
The premise to help other people is nothing new and neither interesting. Some anime (Mnemosyne) have a nice approach to the subject and most don’t. Oregairu is perhaps the worst of the kind as it shamelessly does everything whatever is convenient for Hachiman and Yukinon. I understand they’re the main characters but this is NOT the way to go about. They basically force everyone else to change for their own interests and everyone seems to fine with that, apparently.
Oregairu is also pretentious. You have Hachiman bombarding us with the supposedly “meaningful” quotes since the dawn of time. Yukinon from time to time does that too. “The society is bad, being secluded is better, being alone is comfortable, doing everything alone is the best solution” etcetera. These guys are stating some pretty obvious things. There’s nothing to learn about when the characters say stuff a 4yo kid should know already… Wait for a second, they’re 17+? Carry on!
The truth is I hate this anime with all my passion. The whole thing is the biggest lie ever. The fact that it has become so popular and lovable makes me consider life itself. Were we really created just to witnessed this piece of putrid? Is this is a sign of the end of the world? Hope so, at least we won’t be encountering it again.
Season 1 – Gets a 1
Season 2 – Gets a 1
Season 3 – Gets a 1
Season two is the worst followed by the third and then the first.
[in case you ain’t getting the drift this is a review of the entire series. All 3 seasons in 1 review. Don’t normally do this way but this is a rare exception because it features my most hated character ever – Yukinon] – [You’re welcome]
We all know the saying “The journey is better than the destination” but this is way off in Yahari. The destination is actually the good part and the journey was more like fodder placed just to reach it.
This season of Yahari felt like naruto filler arc most of the time, this is how every episode went:
1) Yui crying.
2) Hachiman doing his “deep” monologue about some random shit.
3) Some old joke from season 1/2 being thrown out there like the “Totsuka is cute” joke or the “you love me? I’m sorry, that is disgusting” joke by Iroha.
4) Best girl, aka Hiratsuka, asking Hachiman what he should do.
5) Hachiman then fixing everything because no other person can do anything apart from him.
It’s like we were watching an Isekai with an overpowered MC. The anime felt empty and the characters were just plot devices, anything that will happen must include Hachiman otherwise nothing will succeed. It was like every character was nothing but a tool used by Hachiman and the scenes of other characters were very few and most of it was just random with no point to it. I’m not sure how but even Iroha, who was the main reason I finished the previous season, was made as a boring character. How did that happen?!
The anime removed almost elements that made it interesting, added some really bad drama and decided to reach a conclusion that was very obvious from the very first episode. Some of the characters we didn’t even know anything about even though they were very influential through the first 2 seasons like Hayato, Kawasaki and Yumiko.
What was the point of the whole “codependant” drama?
Why did it take 11 episode to figure that the relationship between the characters is more than that?
Why did the confession scene make it seem like their relationship was actually a “codependant” one?
Why were most of the intriguing characters, let alone all the side characters, like sensei and Haruno treated as nothing more than plot tools?
Most importantly, why did it take Hachiman 2 seasons and 11 episodes to realize that his lack of communication is something that needs to be fixed?
I really was disappointed from how this season turned out to be. Most of the time, it felt like a drag to watch and I was sad how the great idea presented in season 1 had this disappointing development to it.
The ending was great and I loved the confession scene but I can’t really say I found much value in anything else in it. The anime going in a very random direction where you couldn’t even tell what it was trying to do at times was just very bad to see.
Overall, I would give it a 4/10. A real disappointment of what could have been an amazing classic. By the way, my ratings for season 1 and 2 were 8 and 7 respectively despite 7 being a generous rate.
I don’t really know if I would recommend the series to anyone anymore to be honest.
3: Haikyuu!!: To the Top 2nd Season
Japanese: ハイキュー!! TO THE TOP
MAL Score: 8.54
Once called a fallen powerhouse and known as “Flightless Crows,” Karasuno High School has finally taken flight at nationals. With a comprehensive performance against Tsubakihara Academy in their first match, the team is now facing its toughest opponent yet: the runners-up of the last Spring Tournament, Inarizaki High School. Furthermore, dealing with the formidable twin Miya brothers only makes things more difficult for Karasuno.
As soon as the match begins, Karasuno is overwhelmed by all the noise and jeers from the supporters of Inarizaki High but rekindles its strength thanks to its own loyal fans. Karasuno also gains some momentum by utilizing an attack centered on Shouyou Hinata, but the eccentric play of Atsumu and Osamu Miya delivers an unexpected blow that leaves their opponent astounded.
Things are bound to get intense as the match progresses between these two teams. Will Karasuno be able to defeat Inarizaki High and overcome the hurdles that threaten its pursuit to the top?
For the 1st half of the 2nd season of the 4th season, you were overwhelmed with boring expositions about some characters’ motivations and personalities that felt daunting. This season was building up these characters as if they were the key components to the overall narrative. But they weren’t. Almost none of the flashbacks had any purpose to the plot, and their mini-arcs were mostly resolved in one episode. Thus, making it feel like a bunch of unnecessary fillers. The only backstory that mattered was the Miya twins: Atsumu and Osamu Miya. However, the season fixed itself by modifying its focus, which was the match between Karasuno and Inarizaki Highschool. Once the attention was on the match, only then the story began to pick up its pace. It was like the series itself recognized it has been dragging its feet and got itself back on track. Throughout the second half, the season had episodes dedicated to characters’ mini-arcs that were set up at the beginning of this 4th season, like Tsukishima and Ruunosuke. Suffice to say, their moments were more entertaining and memorable than those in the first half of this second season. Perhaps because I was more attached to them since they’ve been established since season 1.
Similar to the story pacing early on in this season, the animation wasn’t at its best. Few shots of character movements felt stale and poorly animated, actions felt wonky, and character designs were sometimes disjointed. It felt like an unfinished product. But then again, much of these are fixed later on.
Haikyuu’s 4th season didn’t live up to the previous three seasons’ qualities. With its pacing issues, lack of focus on the plot, and mediocre animation, this season is easily the worst in the series. If the problems were to continue from the first half to the second half, this season certainly would’ve deserved a score of 4 or below. It’s a season that’s barely watchable and has a few good moments later on. It’s nothing revolutionary. It’s just below average.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the most mediocre and disappointing season in a stunning anime’s history; let’s take a look at what happened to our beloved Haikyuu.
Much of Haikyuu’s success this season is riding on the glory of its past 3 seasons. While Haikyuu did have it’s peak moments this year, they often didn’t stand out enough to compensate for inconsistencies riddling the entire season.
From pacing and animation to storyboarding, Haikyuu took a really hard hit compared to the last 3 seasons: even S4 Part 1, in retrospect, was wayyyyyy better than this one.
Ultimately, you’ll take this season in one of 2 ways:
1. You’ll love it for it’s ‘hype’
2. You won’t love it because it didn’t live up to its potential as being one of the best seasons to date.
Trigger warning below if you can’t handle another’s opinion; who would’ve guessed a REVIEW is an opinion and people can have different opinions? Shocking isn’t it?
Storyboarding and pacing were major issues for Haikyuu this season. In the past, you could get heavily invested in each episode. I remember watching the first 3 seasons, even Part 1 of the 4th season, and not once did I ever think “Gee, nothing’s really happening in this episode” or “Can we get to the good stuff already”. Every moment in every episode was enjoyable and felt truly meaningful.
This season? A lot of the time spent was hella residentsleeper. Sure, there were bright spots like Tanaka getting development, Hinata’s receive and taking it easy, etc. But there were plenty of sleeper moments created due to weird pacing/storyboarding, as well as wonky animation (more on that later).
Outside of the first 2 episodes (which were consistently bad imo), it felt like a fucking roller coaster honestly. Every other episode we’d get teased with greatness and blue balled the next episode with shit.
But I think my biggest pet peeve was not having other hype moments delivered. The Miya twins copying the freak quick for the first time (at least their last one was done pretty well), Kageyama’s godly 2 serves in a row, Nishinoya getting targeted by Miya, they felt rushed at times and it would seem like you weren’t fully able to absorb what had happened: they didn’t feel like game-defining, standout moments and more like an impressive but somewhat expected/ordinary play.
Speaking of hype moments not getting delivered properly, let’s talk art.
Maybe I’m reminiscing over the old art style, but man those roughly sketched lines for power serves and spikes were something I could blow my load over. And that was what I expected for key moments this season.
What do we get instead? Cookie-cutter figures with a bunch of random piss and shit palette oriented colors streaking by in the background as Asahi/Kageyama/Atsumu and others wind up for serves and spikes. Seriously. It doesn’t deliver on the hype at all.
Then there are times, especially in early episodes, where the entire Inarizaki team just looks so weird behind the net. Then there was that horrible outsourced episode. God forbid we talk about that. Also, did anyone else find the last rally/point, with the Inarizaki libero and hitter running to the ball look SO WEIRD? Guys looked like fucking titans running from AOT man.
I know, I know, they’re mid animation and whatnot, but that shit stood out way too much to be excusable, especially since there were other times where the animation was totally fine and quite acceptable.
Ultimately, the animation was just as inconsistent as the pacing and storyboarding. However, when the animation was bad, it was really fucking bad.
On the bright side, I hope most of this can be chalked up to the whole COVID situation and whatnot. Because if this shit continues in the future, Haikyuu is gonna suck a lot.
OP and ED were whatever, not really my type, but music, voice acting, and everything else was pretty good throughout the season. Not much to speak on here.
I think universally everyone can agree that character development was very good this season (although that’s mostly just from copying Furudate sensei’s good work in the manga). From Tanaka and Nishinoya to Hinata and Kenma, we got to see real development for some of the fan favorites. Could this stuff have been fleshed out a bit better? Probably, but when you remove the poor storyboarding and animation, character development did its work carrying the enjoyment level of the season.
Haikyuu’s still an anime I can enjoy watching, but I definitely don’t feel the same hype or appeal I had for past seasons. Especially with the super inconsistent animation. If you want a viewer to be able to watch something without getting distracted by flaws, you gotta be consistent. Shame I wasn’t able to enjoy the work of art that is Haikyuu compared to past seasons but it is what it is; not the worst thing I’ve ever watched but it definitely didn’t meet my expectations.
Was my disappointment immeasurable? Maybe. But was my day ruined? I’d say no. <- Haikyuu Season 4, Part 2 in a nutshell. [/collapse] [collapse title=“Reviews3:”]“Al—right!” One word. Just one, single word. Yet, Haikyuu!! manages to encapsulate thousands of indescribable feelings, emotions into it. There’s no need to fabricate it, choosing right inspirational terms, at all. When each and every player inside Karasuno hear that shout amidst the chaos, and look up to the ceiling that is almost blinding, eyeing the floating ball—they know, they don’t need a miracle. Haikyuu!! has always been the embodiment of unyielding friendship, unbreakable team-work, positive rivalry and adrenaline gushing down the veins of the players, and the non-players. But, ‘To the Top ‘arc changed that. Maybe it’s considered boring, monotone at first, but it has captivatingly achieved a turning point for the main characters, where they learned and discovered something more than themselves that changed their perspective forever. In regards to that, there are tons of changes and new insights, new characters to root for, but the one that amazed me is—which I’m going to strongly highlight here—Ryuunosuke Tanaka, the baldy. Depicted as the average, energetic member, he’s done more than his best; breaking out of the frame of not only his diffident but also his determination that proves he’s not just a great player, but a team player. Adding this with Hinata’s overwhelming abilities that he discovered as a water boy, and Kageyama’s willingness to wear his cape and pour his real feelings out, it’s almost a crime not to get excited over their match. The heart-thumping music that elevates the ambience of tension inside the match, the art—which to be frank here, outsourcing to save budge is understandable but is a downright terrible choice given the company that was chosen—is decent, the animation is great and fluid. You can dart your eyes around the screen and still catch a glimpse of where the ball is, where the motion starts and ends, and even feel the weight of each ball as it hits the ground. The climax itself, that last ball, that last serve, that last spike, and that last block are all on point. Enough for one to shed a bit tears at the journey they’ve come far to. Overall, ‘Haikyuu!!: To the Top’ arc ends here not with a perfect conclusion, but more to a satisfying one; it depends on which side you’re one, nevertheless. But after all is said, I dare to say that this part of the season highlights some characters and development that might seem insignificant, but it’s going to impact everything in the long run. And, it does, carve a wide smile on my face. So, cheers to Haikyuu!!. May it continues to reach to the top, and beyond; the anime, that is. [/collapse]
2: Fruits Basket 2nd Season
Japanese: フルーツバスケット 2nd season
MAL Score: 8.58
A year has passed since Tooru Honda began living in the Souma residence, and she has since created stronger relationships with its inhabitants Shigure, Kyou, and Yuki. She has also grown closer to the rest of the Souma family and has become familiar with their ancestral secret, having helped them with many of their personal issues. The closer Tooru gets, however, the more she begins to realize that their secret holds a darker truth than she first presumed.
Summer is approaching and Tooru is invited to spend her days with the Soumas, mainly Kyou and Yuki. Tooru wishes for an easy-going vacation, but her close relationships with the two boys and the rest of the Soumas may prove to cause trouble. As they grow more intimate, their carefree time together is hindered by older hardships and feelings from the past that begin to resurface. The Eternal Banquet also dawns on the members of the zodiac, and they must tend to their duties alongside the unnerving head of the family, Akito Souma.
With the banquet approaching and a plethora of feelings to be solved, will Tooru’s life with the Soumas remain peaceful, or will she find herself in a situation from which she cannot escape?
[collapse title=“Reviews1:”]I’m not the first to say it and certainly not the last. 2020 has been one of the worst years in modern history with natural disasters, the global pandemic, and social issues. Even the anime industry was hit hard by the various delays and production issues. But if there’s one anime that gave hope for a chance to rise up, a chance to be something special, something that connects to the audience, it’s Fruits Basket.
The modern remake has already graced us with a wonderful span of 25 episodes since its previous run. With the news that the anime would be a full adaptation, we are once again given the chance to explore the Fruits Basket universe at its full potential. Being another 2-cour show, Fruits Basket touches upon important elements such as dealing with character identity, emotional connections, and realizing one’s own mistakes. It’s a heavy show with emotional drama but exemplifies the best for what a shoujo can offer. This is why the Fruits Basket is still celebrated as a successful franchise to this day.
Back to the characters, it shouldn’t take long for the audience to get comfortable with the main cast again. Of course, we’re talking about Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki. As the core cast, these characters contrasts greatly between each other yet all can be identifiable by their vulnerabilities. No character in this show is perfect and some greatly suffers from events in the past that emotionally impacts their present lives. One of the most prominent example outside of the core cast is Rin, the horse Zodiac. When she first made her appearance in season 1, we are shown an emotional withdrawn character who isn’t keen on making friends with anyone. But in season 2, we also learn exactly why she behaves such way. The second season explores sensitive topics such as parent abuse that shapes the character that Rin becomes in the present. She is emotionally distant and in her past, only one character was kind enough to offer a helping hand. That would be Haru, the Ox Zodiac whom she falls in love with. However, love and relationships comes at price as viewers will find out with their connection to Akito. That being said, she represents a darker side of Fruits Basket and a character who had been mentally broken. Even on the human side, there exists individuals such as school council treasurer Machi Kuragi. As one of the recurring characters, she is emotionally distant as influenced by events of her past and mother. It would seem Fruits Basket balances the way parents treat their children and how much impact they have on their lives. On one side, we have the loving mother of Tohru and on the other, the overbearing guardian of Machi.
Speaking of Tohru, she has grown to be more and more confident this season. She’s still a compassionate girl who cares deeply about those who are close to her such as Yuki and Kyo. Even during their troubled times, Tohru remains optimistic and offers to help others with her selfless nature. Yet, in this season, she’s able to speak up for herself more. With every progressing episode, Tohru becomes less naïve and more of herself. It’s one of the strengths of her character, being able to speak her mind towards others without bias. Even during times of distress, she’s able to be honest about her feelings. Meanwhile, Yuki and Kyo still continuously deals with their own personal demons and the Zodiac curse. As one of the most prominent plot elements of the show, this curse plays a central role through family generations. It’s as if the Sohma family is trapped by destiny, which one cannot escape from. The story explores more details through the consequences of the curse and how it affects the Sohma family.
Watching Fruits Basket Season 2 also reminds me how relatable characters are. From the main cast alone, you can draw similarities to real life characteristics such as the selfless nature of Tohru or Kyo’s charisma. Like real people, the cast undergo changes. Kyo is one of the most prominent examples as he evolves from a brash individual to a calmer and more mature person thanks to Tohru’s influence. Rin’s change to becoming more accepting others is also due to Tohru’s kindness and showing that there is a light in the dark tunnel. This list goes on so you’ll see for yourself how the cast evolves. Fruits Basket’s ability to make us understand these characters is one of the most important draws of the show.
The ever expansive story of Fruits Basket continues to be more mysterious with the biggest culprit being Akito. Menacing and always seemingly being the root of trouble in the story, we continue to learn more about Akito’s relationship with others such as Yuki, Kyo, Rin, and other members of the Sohma family. Furthermore, Tohru’s encounter with Akito shows how much the two characters contrast between each other. As Tohru treats her friends with love, Akito treats those close with contempt, hate, and intimidation. It draws a line between how characters raised under different circumstances can be so different. Unfortunately, this season alone doesn’t conclude Akito’s full story so be prepared for a lot more thrown into our way.
Even as a show with so much emotional drama, Fruits Basket does know its lighter side with its innocence and charm. Remember Yuki’s fan club from the first season? Well guess what, they return full fold with their leader Makoto still fawning for their prince. Other main supporting characters such as Arisa and Saki makes their return as well. We are also introduced with new faces such as student council members Naohito and Kimi. The latter brings in a large amount of comic relief moments with her childish personality. Furthermore, let’s not forget that the show loves to often poke fun at its character interactions whenever it gets the chance. With Kimi antagonizing Prince Yuki’s club as her hobby, you can see plenty of comedy this season.
I’m not going to lie, watching this season’s animation quality feels like a cinematic experience. In particular, this season’s second theme song is among one of the most realistic I’ve seen, almost like a painting that came to life, like a poetry in motion. Character expressions carries a great deal of realism to make their emotions feel real, such as Rin, Machi, and Kagura. Ultimately, I believe this season’s animation quality not only improved but also able to show how exactly modern remakes should be made.
If you made it to the final episode of Fruit Basket Season 2, then congratulations. You just followed an emotional journey crafted from the brilliant mind of the author, Natsuki Takaya. Series director Yoshihide Ibata is also able to show us how the world of Fruits Basket can be so elegant with what it has to offer. But seriously, after 50 episodes of this modern remake, it’s a matter of time before we get to experience perhaps even the best of what’s ahead.
My heart is broken. I love the first season of Fruits Basket. Despite its flaws of incest romance and certain characters like Kagura and Shigure, I felt so many emotions seeing the backstories of some of the best shoujo characters in all of anime. When I think of the second season, my chest sinks. In this review, I will be discussing a few reasons why you should be appalled by what has been done to a fantastic shoujo: filler, poor directing, oversexualized portrayals, manipulative characters, and disgusting acceptance of pedophilia.
Many anime have filler. Action, adventure, and shounen, to name a few, are notorious for having completely unrelated episodes where the characters just do mundane activities unrelated to the overall story and usually show off fanservice. Fruits Basket S2 (FB2), thankfully did not overtly use fanservice other than 1-2 beach episodes which I don’t know why was included. However, that does not excuse the pointless 1st half of side character drama and slightly less pointless 2nd half of the ‘story’. Assuming that the romance built up between Tohru and Kyo or Tohru and Yuki is the most important aspect of the overall story, FB2 fails at its story for 3 reasons. Most noticeably, the 3 main characters (which is most of, if not the only good characters) do NOT get more than 5 minutes of screen time for over ¾ of the 1st 12 episodes. The second issue is that there are multiple subplots with the main ones involving 2 new characters, Rin and Kureno, that add to the already double digit number of cast members. Within these subplots, particularly Rin, we learn more about their backstories, their current romantic struggles with other nonessential main characters, and the main villain, Akito. While I am normally not against subplots as long as they provide thematic purpose, I will explain more about this issue in the last few paragraphs in the spoiler section.
The last reason why the FB2 story suffers is due to the poor directing. Even though we’ve seen great emotional backstories from Tohru, Saki, Uotani, and Kyo in the first season, this particular season was about Yuki who got cucked so hard that I couldn’t help but feel bad for Yuki fans. Other than some extremely rushed and poorly transitioned romantic moments between Tohru and Kyo, Yuki’s past was one that felt most disappointing to watch. The whole point of this season should’ve been a sad, heart-crushing telling of the trauma of Yuki, one of the best characters in Fruits Basket. It was supposed to be about how Yuki needed something more than romance: the ability to heal his scars through the acceptance of new, different people that he met. However, Yuki, in the present time, spends 90% of the season with the student council helping them deal with issues and making friends. Unlike other characters who got 1-3 episodes dedicated to their dark past, Yuki’s backstory was stripped into multiple pieces. I am not a psychologist, but I am willing to concede that in real life victims of PTSD may experience something in the way that Yuki did in terms of sudden flashbacks in unexpected moments of their life. However, as an actual anime, this felt incohesive and messy to watch. Since the organization of story chronology doesn’t exist, we see snippets of his life sometimes at the beginning of the episode, random moments in the middle, and even as cliffhangers. Especially with cliffhangers, the continuity of Yuki’s backstory suffered. Especially with cliffhangers, Yuki would get a very tearful flashback to Akito or his mother and the very next episode, we cut to some random cutscene with Kagura fantasizing over Kyo. I hated that. I wanted to cry while watching Yuki suffer but the scene transitions were terrible. One of the worst moments was when Yuki got locked in a closet, had an incomplete 1 minute flashback, and then fast forward to coming out of the closet and doing mundane school activities with the council like nothing happened. No matter how realistic this may be, I still don’t know where to cry or laugh at how hopeless I felt about this season after that particular scene. If I could say this was all the critique I had for FB2, I’d be able to slap a 5 on this and move on. But no. Now I must talk about why I can’t ever look at Fruits Basket the same.
There are many ways to fuck an anime. It is even harder to fuck up a wholesome anime as Fruits Basket but it is possible and it’s been done. Before I explain which characters are appallingly designed, I will now slap a SPOILER WARNING to 1. stop whoever is reading from being spoiled and 2. let you know that this might be sickening to read.
Feel free to read the spoiler-free section at the end. If you want to help prepare another Fruits Basket S1 fan from having to see their favorite show ruined, please click the ‘’ button.
I am about to describe the 2 of the most sexualized and 4 of most morally disgusting characters I’ve seen in an anime put together:
Kagura-The seemingly cute, yet most vile character in the entire franchise. Her only goal in both seasons is trying to forcibly create a relationship between herself and Kyo. She is a yandere that is obsessed with Kyo, who is never comfortable with her advances. However, it is simply brushed off as ‘comedy’. For an anime that tries to go for a realistic atmosphere and family themes, Kagura should not exist. Kyo and Kagura are cousins. Kyo rejects Kagura multiple times. Kagura still tries to make him go out with her. That’s fucked up. Worse of all, Kagura gets an episode explaining her feelings towards Kyo. When Kagura was a child, her parents argued due to Kagura’s zodiac spirit trait and seeing her mother cry made her sad, like every other Souma family member. She says, “I hated myself so much. That’s why, when I first met you, I was happy.” That actually sounds like a normal backstory. Then Kagura says, “It put me at ease. Because compared to the Cat, I wasn’t unfortunate at all. Because compared to this kid…I wasn’t pitiful at all. Compared to this kid, I wasn’t suffering or shunned…I always looked down on you.” “If I could fall in love with you, grow closer to you, if you fell in love with me, I thought that might negate the unclean me” who ran away from Kyo’s true form. “I never thought about your pain.” “[I]n the end, I was always only thinking of myself.” Kagura proceeds to cry, apologize, and admit she was using him and being a horrible person. This is such a ‘bittersweet’, self-pitying way of explaining why she forced her love and harassed a human being so she could boost her self-esteem and think of herself as Kyo’s savior. Kyo had to listen to her long monologue just so Kagura could feel better about the kind of person she is. Kyo says he won’t fall in love so there’s no need for an apology. Kagura then admits she just wants to confess that to him and that a burden has been lifted. Kyo thanks her in spite of her exploitation for still playing with him as a kid, and then Kagura says “I love you”. An unfazed Kyo has to comfort her while she is crying. This is so ingenuine that I feel infuriated. Kagura does not actually care about Kyo nor his feelings and never has because she is selfish. The proof is that she’s done nothing to truly make-up for it since she never left Kyo alone after. Kagura still keeps harassing him later which contradicts this entire episode. Kagura apologized to make herself feel better and to justify the same actions in the future. If an apology was enough to forgive even the most heinous of actions, almost everyone would apologize. The viewers of the audience are expected to sympathize for Kagura despite the emotional manipulation she pulled off. It’s as if a tearful sorry is a pretext for emotionally abusive behavior. This is single-handedly one of the worst moments in Fruits Basket I have seen. If this behavior isn’t considered deplorable I don’t know what is.
Rin-The story of this girl is a complex one. Or so I’d like to think. It breaks down to an incestual love between Rin and Haru being impossible because of Akito despite the romantic moments they shared. Once an innocent child, Rin was battered by parents (like almost every other Soma family member) who are evil and irrationally hate their child. However, her cousin Haru, is there for her. The bond they share becomes romantic. Even though this backstory has been repeated multiple times with numerous other characters, Rin also needed one so she got one. The directing and dialogue indicated Haru/romance would solve all of Rin’s problems such as when Haru forced a kiss onto Rin in the forest. Very uncomfortable to watch. It could’ve been a great romance if the story details were not a mystery for the 1st 12 episodes and if her romantic interest was not her cousin. Due to an incident in which Rin was shoved off a balcony by Akito and told to lay off of Haru, she became emotionally stunted. This development occurs to protect Haru from the same punishment she received from Akito. As a result, she’s also changed into someone different from who she was as a child. However, other than the character I will mention in the last paragraph, Rin has possibly become the most sexualized I’ve seen a FB character get depicted. Unlike almost every other FB character, Rin, for some reason, gets placed in quite a few compromising poses when she is in frame. This might not have been a big issue if this didn’t happen noticeably often. There are ‘a couple’ scenes where Rin is on her knees leaning towards another character, sometimes w/ her shirt strap falling down. Once again, I repeat, she is the one of the only two characters that gets portrayed in an overwhelmingly and unnecessarily sexual way. Finally, in order to protect Haru, Rin goes to Shigure, bending on all 4, staring at Shigure, and offers her body to him. Shigure smiles smugly and says “Now, what shall I do with you.” Shigure also acknowledges Rin as ‘his relative’. This never gets explained. A long, long couple episodes later, the scene continues where Shigure smiles and just ‘kindly’ rejects this gesture. He says something along the lines of “I can’t fulfill my end of the ‘offer’.” While Tohru eventually did help Rin sort out her feelings later on, that doesn’t change the fact that numerous people, including Rin herself, viewed Rin as a sex object for no reason. It was illogical as a plot device and disgusting to watch.
Shigure & Kureno-These characters are both pedophiles. Both are around 26-28 years of age. Shigure making jokes about dating Tohru, making disgusting comments towards Rin, and expressing jealousy toward other Somas in competition for love of the final person I will name in the next paragraph. Why? The original creator of Fruits Basket, why did you put this character in your anime? What purpose does he serve? Why does behavior get condoned? Why do you use ‘show not tell’ for Shigure’s attraction for a minor? Why is this pedophile never held accountable? If I could oust anime characters to jail, Shigure is one of the first that comes to mind. He came off as a somewhat funny pervert in S1 that was helping Yuki and Kyo heal through his interactions with Tohru, but now he’s revealed his true colors as a disgusting human being. Kureno does not seem as bad as Shigure, but the portrayal of relationships between an adult 28 year old man and Uotani, a 16-17 year old girl is wrong. She is in insta-love with this guy and he likes her back. The creator of the Fruits Basket manga is a staff member for the anime. The ages of Kureno and Uotani could’ve been the same age and all other details unchanged, but it is not so. This one detail changes everything. I don’t care that the age of consent is fucking 13 years old in Japan, this is not okay.
Akito-The final episode was about Kureno and Akito. Kureno broke the zodiac curse around 10 years ago and does not need to attach himself to the zodiacs any longer. However, he stays. Why? For the 10 year child at the time, Akito. Akito is now 20 years old yet Kureno still stays with Akito so Akito doesn’t feel lonely. The director wants you to feel bad for Kureno for having to do this, but I feel horrified. Akito, during this entire series, has been extremely touchy in not just a physically violent way, but also in a borderline sexual way. There are many ways to illustrate why manipulation and possession of other people are trauma-inducing. This does not pass. Akito has touched multiple Somas such as Yuki, Haru, Kureno, and Shigure in ways that are in a suggestive way and it is sickening to watch. Kureno does not have to do this. He could just leave since his bond to the zodiacs are severed but he chooses not to so ‘Akito is not lonely’. I think Kureno is full of shit. Akito is an excuse for pedophilia. Shigure is even worse. He actively admits to getting turned on by this since he was in love with Akito before Akito was ‘of age’. It’s morally wrong. What kind of villain is a minor who touches adults? So what if they’re now above 18? I don’t understand how this was approved in the editing process but it’s ruined the entire second season for me.
******END OF SPOILERS******
Whatever emotionally impactful moments, character developments, or romance between Tohru and Yuki or Kyo is ruined because so many of these emotionally manipulative, over-sexualized and pedophilic moments exist. To the director of the final season of Fruits Basket and original creator of Fruits Basket, if you somehow are reading this, please, never again allow such a scene to be aired again. Although I’ve nearly lost hope, I pray that you’ve realized Fruits Basket Season 2 is a mistake. As a fan, I’m begging you to just focus on the good ol’ romance between the main characters like in season 1. As much as I once loved, I cannot anymore and I hope just one other person understands why…
When discussing the Fruits Basket anime, I almost like to regard season one as a prologue. This is not because the story and themes shift heavily from where they begin, but rather due to a dramatic tone shift that occurs roughly a quarter into Fruits Basket S2. While S1 had its flashes of more sobering, dark moments, for the most part, the series maintained a comedic and lighthearted tone. S2, after a brief set of episodes designed to set up events for later episodes, essentially reverses this—Fruits Basket becomes a character drama, with flashes of comedy to relieve tension. If you enjoyed S1 for cute zodiac antics and are uninterested and uncomfortable with themes of domestic abuse and a whole lot of trauma, you probably don’t want to continue with Fruits Basket.
With that said, however, the tone shift does not come out of nowhere. As Fruits Basket is a character drama, it develops along with the characters, and strengthens the themes established in S1. It dives deeper into its complex and quite frankly beautiful characters. Excellent characters are complicated people who feel real and motivated—their goals are clear, and what they need to grow and change is evident to the viewer as they witness their arcs. Season 2 expands on these characters’ wants and needs as it begins to answer the series’ questions of family and the future. Tooru is perhaps the best example this. In Season 1, what Tooru wanted was to find a place where she is needed and to care for the ones she loves. Now that Tooru integrated into Shigure’s makeshift home, her motivations expand to wanting to hold onto that, in spite of everything that comes her way. This is also how we, the viewer, learn more about the inner workings of the Souma family and the motivations behind the cursed characters and their own familial ties. In this way, Tooru’s motivations contrasts the cursed Soumas—in them, she found solace and family, and yet, for the zodiac members themselves, such a curse ties them to their family and restricts their futures. This contrast is what creates the true conflict in Fruits Basket… Tooru working to maintain the life she loves against the familial ties that work to ruin it.
While Tooru’s arc continues, the cursed characters get a lot of expansion on their own characters as they approach their future as a cursed zodiac. Among the supporting cast, certain Soumas, like the briefly introduced Isuzu, get more of a focus than others, though all tie neatly together in a beautiful, complex patchwork that is the Souma family. In terms of the main cast, the show quickly gets to addressing Kyou’s own feelings directly after the True Form Arc that wrapped up season one, discussing how he contrasts his own role as the exiled cat with someone like Tooru caring for him. This results in some beautiful episodes and moments that were, for me, some of the highlights in an incredibly strong season.
In particular, though, most of the latter half of season two gives some much-needed development to Yuki. While Yuki was never a simple character, season one focused more on Tooru and Kyou than Yuki. Season two gets very deep into Yuki’s own perceptions of himself and his role as the “strongest” zodiac member. Yuki’s arc is excellent and filled with some incredible turns throughout. They really inform his character and even recontextualize his actions in season one. This arc introduces Yuki’s student council duties, as well as the four colorful characters who make up his staff, including the ever lovable Kakeru. Kakeru is a great new foil to Yuki, and seeing their relationship grow into one of the most likable and interesting dynamics in Fruits Basket was an excellent experience. In particular, though, what I really love about Yuki’s arc is the way that Fruits Basket addresses the age-old romance trope of the “flawless prince” character. It goes deep into how and why Yuki would present as such a person, and what it does to his own ideas of self-worth.
One thing I love about all of these arcs is Fruits Basket’s approach to link them all. Instead of covering one character’s growth before switching to the next, Fruits Basket opts to show bits of arcs between others, making one, connected interpersonal story. While this might bother those who prefer faster pacing or feel character moments must have instant gratification to be meaningful, Fruits Basket shows how strongly such characterization can work to expand the complexity of a story. In fact, I’d consider certain moments from this season to be a masterclass in setup and payoff—every important moment from the start of the season (and even things from season one!) return to inform the story and reinforce its themes. This makes the series feel incredibly gratifying.
In terms of visuals, Fruits Basket remains gorgeous. While its animation is nothing too complicated (there’s not many action scenes here to show off), the visual design is detailed and consistently great. Characters are expressive, and the show compliments its dialogue with great, subtle indications of emotion. The backgrounds remain stunning as well, and the show’s lighting and color design have some standout moments, like the numerous beach scenes in the first half of the season.
Music also remains well-utilized in the series, as it often serves as a means to cue and foreshadow upcoming events. The first opening as well is a great song, and one I highly suggest listening to all the way through! The seiyuu work is equally strong as last season’s, with Nobunaga Shimazaki’s Yuki and Takuya Eguchi’s Kakeru being particular standouts. The series also has a dub, and, as someone who tends to be quite lukewarm on dubs, I’m happy to say this dub is excellent. I was incredibly impressed with the quality as I watched it alongside the sub, and even prefer some dub performances to their sub counterparts. Laura Bailey’s Tooru comes to mind in this regard.
One unfortunate note I have add is that the main translation floating around, Crunchyroll’s subs, have a number of awful mistranslations that vary from removing character vocal quirks to blatantly rewriting lines. This changes their meaning and harms the characterization of the speaker. As dialogue matters so much to this series, this is incredibly upsetting. To emphasize how bad certain translations got, Natsuki Takaya, author of the original manga, found out about one particular mistranslation and commented on it. The dub, somehow (I’m assuming they work from a different, better translation?) managed to actually fix most of these issues, putting character quirks back in and fixing mistranslations. So, if you’re the kind of person who can stomach dubs, I would suggest it on translation alone as the more accurate version of the series. If you do opt for the sub, I would make note that if a character said something wildly out of character, it’s probably a mistranslation.
Overall, though, Fruits Basket’s ability to expand on its sweet, episodic first season into a complex character exploration is something you rarely see executed this well. The show’s combination of fully realized characters growing and changing over the course of their arcs set the stage for an upcoming bombshell of a third season that will (hopefully) live up to what’s established in season two. If you can handle the darker themes, I cannot suggest this series enough.
+ Excellent, fully realized characters who grow more complex as their arcs continue.
+ Strongly paced arcs that weave together naturally.
+ Great visuals, with good character expression and stunningly detailed backgrounds.
+ Well-utilized music with good OP and ED themes.
+ Excellent voice cast who add to their characters and a solid dub.
– Crunchyroll’s subtitles are horribly mistranslated at certain parts, harming characterization for a number of important characters. Dub translation corrects these.
– Transition from comedy-leaning to drama-leaning results in some much darker themes that might upset certain viewers who prefer their anime lighthearted.
1: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai : Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen
English: Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2
MAL Score: 8.67
After a slow but eventful summer vacation, Shuchiin Academy’s second term is now starting in full force. As August transitions into September, Miyuki Shirogane’s birthday looms ever closer, leaving Kaguya Shinomiya in a serious predicament as to how to celebrate it. Furthermore, the tenure of the school’s 67th student council is coming to an end. Due to the council members being in different classes, the only time Kaguya and Miyuki have to be together will soon disappear, putting all of their cunning plans at risk.
A long and difficult election that will decide the fate of the new student council awaits, as multiple challengers fight for the coveted title of president.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War is a freight train barreling through the anime season defying all expectations of the romantic-comedy genre. Like a Gatling gun, it infinitely fires off perfectly timed visual gags with an expert presentation. The entire show is a cacophony of over-the-top hilarity and manic energy, this is one hell of a ride. Frankly, if you’re not laughing you probably have a broken jaw.
Watching Kaguya-sama’s second season is like witnessing an elaborate symphony. The woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion all play in harmony. There’s hardly a shot that doesn’t utilize an imaginative technique involving the shot composition, editing, sound design, or staging. Kaguya-sama did not invent all of the tricks it employs, but it’s the only anime to use nearly every single one in the book. It’s a visual feast, from the mesmerizing transitions, the art style swaps, to the vast spaces conveyed through the staging. Director Shinichi Omata has an authentically genuine view of human behavior, which he expresses in crisp, introspective, and sometimes startlingly heartfelt close-ups. Omata’s signature technique is his well-timed close-ups, but his greatest contribution to this material is his storyboarding. Regardless of the punchline he adapts, he always turns it into gold. Each shot flows into the next connected with his unique aesthetic. From an eye to a cup of coffee, to a nighttime city landscape.
The thrill of seeing Kaguya and Miyuki’s mind games never ceases to excite me. This season, the secret conflict between Kaguya and Shirgane intensifies to the point of hysterics. Coupled with feverish voice performances, the eccentric soundtrack, and the murderous precision of the director and you get a picture functioning at maximum capacity. Yet it somehow one-ups itself with each episode. The real battles they wage are won by fighting dirty. Watching their smoldering spats devolve into mudslinging and bitter posturing is hilarious. Underneath the thin veneer of sniveling politeness for a public appearance lies pure rage between rivals. Ultimately both fighters become so wrapped up in their self-centered minds they stupidly destroy him—or herself. Both of them have tightly-plotted game plans, but they never go the way you anticipate. Kaguya is frighteningly stoic and exuberantly self-absorbed. Aoi Koga kills it once again as Kaguya. Her range is phenomenal, she sells her role like none other. Despite her inherent absurdity, she is believable. As we see during the election arc, she will stomp you to a pulp if you get in her way. Kaguya’s life is consumed in hyperbolic ambition to win over Shirogane. Miyuki is, as ruthless as ever, an overachiever striving to overcome his modest upbringing. Gradually they both begin to accept their feelings of love for one another, but neither can act on it.
Unlike your typical comedy anime, none of the characters are joke dispensers. They’ve been developed into real people with individual personalities, backgrounds, and senses of humor. For that reason, when Ishigami lands a cynical zinger, it doesn’t feel like the writers are using a B-plot character to tell their latest puns. He’s cleverly commenting on the harsh truth under his breath—a joke no one but him would tell. Ishigami’s delightfully deadpan personality distinctively sets him apart. Every other side-character is so unique they could carry an entire show on their own. The supporting characters are as vivid and vital to the show as the leads. During the election arc, Miko Iino joins the fray winning unexpected popularity with the audience due to her relatable struggles with anxiety and her willingness to overcome it. Her moments on stage hit close to home. The execution of her arc earned her a permanent spot on the cast roster. Hayasaka, once again, is the voice of reason. She earned more screentime this season and she devoured every second of it. She calls out Kaguya internally and plays games with her. It’s always clear what she’s thinking, this girl is crazy. Her idiosyncrasies are so bizarre compared to the others, her kind of humor is unpredictable.
Comedy is a highly subjective genre, as such Kaguya-sama gets a lot of criticism. Much of it is fair critiques which I respect. But some of the ‘criticism’ is just nonsensical whining from pretentious elitists who don’t realize comedy has evolved since the 1990s. Rather than responding to each negative review individually, I thought I’d give you a list of contrarian talking points and the arguments debunking them.
One common critique of Kaguya-sama is the use of a narrator, which baffles me. Oftenly third-person narrators are used as a writer’s crutch for exposition and explaining jokes, but here that isn’t the case at all. The omniscient narrator is like a sports announcer, perfectly complimenting the high stakes war games with his booming voice and over-the-top commentary. He creates a metatextual connection with the audience by giving instant reactions to the action and rapidly reviewing the battle’s results. You’d expect him to be a reliable link to reality for a breath of fresh air, but his perception of love is suitably insane.
To those who find the comedy repetitive, it continually iterates on its premise neverendingly. The second season maintains the same simplistic setup, but why make a drastic change when the creators can consistently keep it fresh and entertaining? I’ve heard many critics of Kaguya-sama say “The romance doesn’t progress,” but it does. The whole show revolves around their relationship progressing at an intensely slow pace, it’s the point. There are social lines Miyuki and Kaguya can’t cross such as sharing personal information, physical contact, informal conversation, etcetera. Throughout the series, as they cross these lines, their romantic advances become increasingly suggestive. Respective to normal relationships their romantic interactions are immeasurably subtle, but at the moment they feel larger than life due to the context. Anyone whose been in love knows the first move is always the most difficult. It is blisteringly painful to cross the line into unknown territory. This show captures that once-in-a-lifetime feeling on the precise line between youth and maturity.
In a normal rom-com, this ultra-fine progression would feel forced, but here it makes so much sense because of their complicated relationship. One of the central themes, class disparity, prevents Kaguya from acting on her feelings because Shirogane is in a lower socio-economic class, her father would never allow them to date. Being an affluent business conglomerate, her father wants her to marry someone powerful and wealthy. Shirogane explicitly confirms this in an internal monologue when backed into a corner, “This is a matter of pride. Shinomyia and I come from different backgrounds. I thought it was necessary to have her confess to me before we could date as equal.” This class disparity is visualized in incredibly minor ways, such as Miyuki’s sister counting how many newspaper deliveries it’d take to buy a shirt. Seamlessly we now know she’s a hard worker without being bogged down by exposition. Juxtapose this moment with Kaguya curiously wondering why due to her privileged ignorance, and you get a nuanced class divide between real people. Pair this nuanced character writing with stunning direction and you have a masterpiece.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War is a passion project. These days TV anime are quickly made on the assembly line to maximize profit, and I understand why many people are dubious of a series as popular as this one. The small studio that created this knew their time and budget limitations. They worked around them not with flashy sakuga, but by employing every creative filmmaking technique they could. Every episode pushes the limits of the TV anime medium further and further—it never ceased to amaze me. When those final credits rolled each episode, all I could do was sit back, inhale, and realize I had been smiling the whole time. Kaguya-sama is packed full of mania and true love. Every twist and turn adds more depth for the next time you watch it. I can safely say this is the most fun I’ve ever had with an anime. I’m ready for more.
Even after 24 episodes have aired, many of the characters are as bland as they were in the first episode of the first season. I was able to overlook this in season 1, because I don’t expect the author to be able to completely characterize and develop the personalities of four main characters in the span of 12 episodes, but I do expect that, or at least half of that, to happen within 24 episodes. If I don’t even know or understand the characters, and if I’m not even the least bit acquainted with them, how can you even expect me to give two shits about their romantic feelings for each other?
All the female characters (and I do mean all) are basically reskinned versions of various “-deres”. Kaguya is a tsun-dere, Hayasaka is a kuu-dere, Iino Miko is a baka-dere and Chika is an annoying-dere. The female characters have no personalities of their own, but have inherited their dispositions, if you can even call them that, from stereotypes. Chika’s character is just to be “cute”; I prefer the phrase obnoxiously irritating but whatever. The entirety of Kaguya’s character revolves around Shirogane; if we were to remove Shirogane from her life all that would be left is an empty husk of a high school girl. Indeed, if this is what the anime intended for her character to be, then I would’ve had no qualms with that, but that is definitely not the case. She’s supposed to be one of the leads, and all we know about her is that she loves Miyuki and has daddy issues. Do we know what caused her daddy issues after two cours? Nope.
Hayasaka has been Kaguya’s maid since her childhood, and that’s her character done for the series. I did feel myself liking Miko initially when she was introduced, because she was actually given a purpose, a purpose that wasn’t relied upon any other character, until that very purpose was daddy-daddy-dooed into oblivion. She was an interesting character and her struggles – public speaking and isolation – were well established. These are complications that I’m sure most of us could related to at some point in our lives. I was invested. I wanted a resolution for her character, not some sort of catharsis but something that would be satisfying and relatable, but all we got was a 5-minute scene where she overcomes it all through nakama power. I wish I was making this up.
A small pep talk from Shirogane is all it takes for her to overbear her fear of public speaking, fear that has cultivated in her mind since her elementary school days, and all it takes for her to overcome it is a debate about why boys in their school should shave their heads in order to conform uniformity. Yeah, BS.
That episode made me question something. Does this show want to be a comedy with serious moments, or does it want to be a serious show with comedic skits; because neither of the two seem to fit the show’s agenda, yet the show still tries its hardest to juggle the two topics. The comedy is more or less hit or miss. The jokes are predictable, 90% of them rely on some sort of misunderstanding between the characters, and frankly, though not a chore to watch, were a bit out of place at times. The joke about Shirogane being not very good at volleyball, and Chika having to teach him tirelessly worked in Season 1, but here that very same joke is repeated two different times; once with singing, and once with dancing.
There would be a moment or two where it feels like the show is actually trying to progress the characters’ relations, but then out of nowhere S Y K E, nothing happens because someone walks in on them.
I can’t go on berating the show as it does have some actual good humour. For example, my favorite in this season is when Kaguya, Ishigami and Shirogane are in a Shoujo manga parody. Now that was hilarious. Taking an already oversaturated genre and saturating it even more created some hysterical moments.
The actual witty comedic timings of the first season were lost somewhere and almost all the comedic moments in this cour are either forced, or mountains made out of molehills. For example, Shirogane approaches Kaguya in front of her classmates and explicitly asks her to PREPARE A SPEECH FOR THE STUDENT COUNCIL PRESIDENT’S ELECTION, but somehow the absolute donuts in the supposedly prestigious school for elites, mistake that for a confession.
The male main characters, are what carry the show because they actually have emotions and act like friends. The show WANTS us to believe that the main quad are friends but shows nothing to instate said relationship between the characters. Let me give you a rundown of how the characters treat each other –
1. Kauguya, with
a) Shirogane – lovey dovey
b) Ishigami – same joke about her being a cold af devil is repeated a million times
c) Chika – considers her a cancer to society and then immediately does a 180 and suddenly she’s her bff
Chika is the same with everyone because she’s got no personality. Shirogane and Ishigami are the only ones who show some sort of realism in their emotions. I know that it’s an anime and all and it doesn’t need to be that realistic, but what gets on my nerves is that the show tries to conceal the lack of depth in the characters and tries to swindle the viewer, using poorly constructed recurring jokes, into thinking that maybe the characters aren’t just ink droplets on a piece of paper.
There’s a scene in this season where the Student Council is disbanded and the characters may never get to spend much time together, but the only thing I could think about is how much I don’t give a shit. The author tries to employ various techniques in order for the viewer to feel sad, which include but are not limited to – crying characters, other characters joining in on the crying, walking into the sunset and more crying. The characters also keep reiterating about how “nostalgic” the past year was as if to convince the viewer to feel the same. If you need to explicitly ask the viewer to have a poignant feeling during a scene, then you need to redo that entire part from scratch.
Show, don’t tell. That’s one of the main philosophies in writing, but unfortunately the show believes in “Tell, don’t show”.
We are TOLD that Kaguya worked the hardest to defend Ishigami, even though we are SHOWN that Shirogane was the one to pull Ishigami out of his “darkness”.
We are TOLD how Kaguya planned something, but we’re never SHOWN how or when she did it. For example, we are told, through Hayasaka, that Kaguya planned for two of the students to go to different schools after they graduated from middle school, only for Kaguya to later state “masaka, I am not that cold”. Is this the author’s way of building up Kaguya? Or is this the author just trying to give Kaguya’s character some edginess? Because, neither of them particularly worked.
The highlight of this season definitely was the handling of Ishigami’s character. The way his character arc was structured is praiseworthy. All the foreshadowing for his character, in Season 1 and the first half of this season, are finally compiled into two episodes and they were magnificent. The resolution was fantastic, the build up was fantastic, everything was fantastic. If only the author cared as much about the female cast as he does about the male counterpart.
The animation is as fantastic as it was in the season prior to this one. There is a sense of fluidity in the characters’ movements which go hand in hand fantastically with the amazing lighting and directing of the skits. There is always something in motion, be it in the foreground or the background, and if we get a still shot it’s usually accompanied with ambient music and gorgeous lighting. In terms of animation, there are no corners cut and there is almost never a dull moment.
The music is great. I like the new Opening and Ending songs this season, though I wasn’t particularly a fan of the previous season’s OP and ED. The rest of the OST is good.
I said it at the start of the review, I’ll say it again, “Kaguya Sama wa Kokurasetai Season 2 is a disappointment”. It has its highs sure, but the time used up in the detours it takes and the meandering it does in order to reach said highs, could’ve and should’ve been used more deftly.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War was a great show and one of my favorites of the year 2019. It had an entertaining cast of main characters, a group of just as amusing side characters that made an appearance every now and then, and to freshen things up, a simple yet compelling tale about two geniuses trying to outwit each other in a totally contrasting way to Light and L from Death Note, with top tier comedy to top it all off. It had certain elements that we’d previously seen but the overall product of everything it offered was something very unique.
Now, take everything I said above and add a progressive plot, some more characters who’re just as delightful as the ones introduced last season and the previous cast getting development as well as becoming even more charming. All this executed so spectacularly that even the first season that I liked so much pales in comparison. Oh, and also, add sick animation, a captivating OP and OST, and you’ve got what Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2 offers.
In short, this season has all of what made the first season great and does it better. To me, Kaguya-sama S2 is almost a perfect Slice of Life/romcom. This season has taken Kaguya-sama to the top echelon of romcom or heck, even SOL anime in general, in my list.
The first season was an introduction to the characters, focusing more on telling the tale in an episodic fashion without a lot of story progression. This season instead, focuses on the plot moving forward. Instead of hilarious episodic stories, we get hysterical episodes with the plot progression every inch of the way. The academic year is about to end so tensions rise during the student council president election as a new foe appears, Shirogane’s family is explored more and Ishigami’s character is fleshed out in the latter half of the season. The anime is not about just making you laugh now. It’s about trying to make you cry before having you burst out laughing, rolling on your couch.
One of the (many) reasons why Kaguya-sama shines over other romcoms is because it’s not afraid of doing where most of them would falter. You want the main protagonist being called a manwhore for multiple episodes? It’s got you covered. You want a Monogatari scene reprised? Gotcha. You want a guy’s father saying how his high school son is still a kid and his hair down there hasn’t even sprouted yet to a girl’s father? Sure, it’s there. You want the female lead to think about all the intricacies of the male’s underpants? Oh, you’ll get that. Point to remember, Kaguya-sama is still rated as PG-13.
Misunderstandings are the source of a lot of comedy and that’s one thing that you’ll find in a lot of romcoms. Kaguya-sama though managed to create amusing moments not in spite of them, but because of them. I could watch entire episodes on the same jokes and still wouldn’t get bored. But no, we don’t get the same joke used over and over. You’ll have tens of new ones every episode.
In this season too, Kaguya continues in her quest to make Miyuki Shirogane confess his love to her. Same goal but the approach has changed. Or rather, evolved. She’s a lot bolder in this season using tricks as well as other people, to be put Shirogane into difficult situations. And sometimes, this puts her in situations that she loves yet fears. This is when, the best girl of the season for me, at least for the first few episodes, Hayasaka Ai comes to her aid. Oh, how I’ve loved every moment of watching her. She shows us a side of her personality that I didn’t think she had. And then turns into another character who’s almost unrecognizable. Frightening!
Now, let’s talk about Miyuki Shirogane. Out of all of the main characters in the series, he’s the least talked about and the most underrated. Ishigami-kun is everyone’s best boy while all the girls are contenders for best girl. But our protagonist just doesn’t get enough love from the fans. To me, he was the hero in this season. And he was the hero to the characters as well. He goes out of his way to help people; people whom he doesn’t know that well, and helping them in a way that wouldn’t really benefit him. When, in the biggest moment of her high school life, Iino Miko faces a problem that’s haunted her all her life, Miyuki comes to the rescue, disregarding the fact that it puts his own reputation and image on the line. When Ishigami can’t deal with his problems, current and past, Miyuki gives him a shoulder to lean on. And of course, he’s always there for Kaguya. His acts of selfless heroism made him the character I most enjoyed watching this season. Of course, the others had their arcs and moments but in all of those, Miyuki was the focal point at the most prominent moments. He’s the hero this world needs but doesn’t deserve. Truly a chad!
The character who got the most development was undoubtedly Ishigami Yu. As I said above, he’s best boy for a ton of fans and for good reason. The Ishigami arc in S2 had been hyped up by the manga readers and although I personally wouldn’t put it on a pedestal over the other arcs in S2 (to me, the entire season was top notch and I can’t put one arc over the other), delving into his past and exploring his character was fantastically handled. We not only get to see why he’s become so afraid of associating with people, but also him overcoming that and recognizing that the people around him are not as awful as he’d thought they’d be. There’s so much room for growth with him and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the same in the future.
The best aspect of the show? I was in quite a conundrum when I asked myself this question. The season is so well rounded that neither could I think of a real weakness, nor could I find something that I could put over the other aspects that easily. The clean and smooth animation, a deep dive into the characters’ past and personalities, the use of a pretty good OST, Daddy Daddy Doo and everything I’ve mentioned earlier were all so brilliantly executed. Even so, I can’t help but applaud one thing over all of these: the voice acting. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the other facets lacked in comparison. No, no. It’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever come across an anime or a show in general, in which I could so easily make out that the level of voice acting I was experiencing was exemplary.
The Japanese voice acting industry is brimming with talent and we see extraordinary performances from these guys all the time. But the level of voice acting from all of the people involved in Kaguya-sama S2 and the range that they exhibited just made me appreciate that what I was experiencing was the makings of something truly special. I feel that most voice actors are able to show their true talent in a show in which they’re able to convey a multitude of emotions and SOL/romcom have the most freedom in that regard. Some of my other favorite comedy shows have had superb voice acting like Saiki Kusuo, Grand Blue, Great Teacher Onizuka but I felt that the voice acting in Kaguya-sama S2 surpassed all of those. Could it be recency bias? Possible but I still can’t find any that I’ve watched that I can say has an undeniably better voice acting performance than this. The cast for Kaguya-sama is very young. For most of them, Kaguya-sama is like a breakthrough anime through which could take that leap which makes them one of the top names in the industry. And I honestly believe they’ve done that. The ones who impressed me most were Yumiri Hanamori and of course, Aoi Koga, the VAs for Hayasaka and Kaguya respectively. The range of tonal shifts that they displayed is fascinating and a treat to listen to. Just watch a video of them voicing Kaguya and Hayasaka and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
Kaguya-sama is easily my Anime of the year thus far. And right now, I can only see two anime, both sequels that could potentially take that title this year, for me at least. Oregaieru S3 and Attack on Titan S4, if it does indeed air this year, are the two. And if they manage to surpass or even equal what Kaguya-sama S2 did, then we’re in for something epic. I’ll miss watching Kaguya-sama every week until Season 3 comes out. It was an anime that truly enhanced the source material and turned it into something very, very special.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai : Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen
2. Fruits Basket 2nd Season
3. Haikyuu!!: To the Top 2nd Season
4. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan
5. Haikyuu!!: To the Top
6. Great Pretender
7. Diamond no Ace: Act II
8. Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!
10. Maoujou de Oyasumi