It’s that time of year everyone dreads — final exams. Everyone? Yes, including teachers. Not just because we have to write and grade exams, which would seem to be a just punishment for giving exams in the first place. But also because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Every class is different, every semester is different, every student is different. Believe it or not, the vast majority of us really hope our students do well.
It is also another far less dreadful time, meaning the beginning of a new anime season. And as if he had been reading my mind, Jeskai Angel asks via Twitter: Is it just me or is this one of the most underwhelming anime seasons we’ve had in a while? Well, Jeskai-kun, if I had to give a one-word answer to your question, it’d be No. The reason is that I fully expect 80% of the shows that come out in any given season to be either catering to a group of fans that I’m not in, or just plain trash. In fact, I don’t think I’d be very far off if I suggested that a similar percentage applied to pretty much any other medium. However, I don’t think you were hoping for a one-word answer, nor am I going to leave you with one. (Spoilers might be ahead though.)
Trash aside, I am finding a few series to be noteworthy, including some continuing ones, and in particular one real gem that I can almost guarantee will change the life of everyone who watches it to the end. First, I’ll briefly mention the series that I considered, but didn’t make the cut. These would include Kimetsu no Yaiba, because after two episodes, I hated the male protagonist, and my favorite character was his demon-infested younger sister, who didn’t speak a word. Another show sharing its fate was Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin, of which I watched as far as the middle of the third episode. In the end, I just couldn’t handle the artwork, which looked as though I’d drawn all the characters’ eyes (and trust me, this is a bad thing), and which had significant problems with its script. I’m no expert, but I can’t help thinking they could have dealt with the main character’s ability to understand the speech of non-human creatures in a better way than they did.
SOME GUY WITH WINGS AND HORNS: I love her! I cannot live without her! Even our parents won’t keep us apart!
PROTAG’S BOSS: What did he say?
PROTAGONIST: He said he loves her, he cannot live without her, and even their parents won’t keep them apart.
The continuing shows I’m following, which may or may not interest you, include Ace of Diamond, though I am eager to follow most baseball anime whose characters have ear-shaped ears (sorry Charles), and of course WAN PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANCHI! And this series is delivering on its usual mix of action and humor.
New series I can recommend, at least based on my tastes, include RobiHachi, a show that drew me in because I’m even more of a space nut than I am a baseball nut. Do not expect great literature out of this show (though it is #anime after all, and any surprise, good or bad, can always happen), just an unchallenging good time watching the two title characters cut up, play off each other’s personalities, and not even pretend to avoid fan stereotypes. (I can’t think of any other way to characterize ten full minutes, after they have inexplicably managed to construct a giant robot, of Robi and Hacchi calling each other “Upper Half” and “Lower Half” respectively.) Another show I’m still in on, perhaps to some people’s surprise, is Shoumetsu Toshi. It is not my usual fare, but the characters have me interested in what’s going to happen next. Though I keep expecting the lead male character’s motorcycle to talk for some reason.
Let me end by suggesting that everyone who reads this column (and my Twitter account, where I expressed something similar) watch the remake of Fruits Basket. This show is allegedly a romance, with lots of boys losing their clothes at intervals, but don’t you believe for a minute that this is all there is to it. The manga version first came out to wide acclaim in 1998, with part of an anime adaptation coming out starting in 2001 — a time before some of you were born. It was the 23-volume manga that turned my life upside-down, which sadly had only its first seven volumes or so animated. The story in this manga, of a girl who “had to love everything” even at her own peril, of a terrifying family curse passed down for generations, and of the end result of the meeting of this girl with this curse, is one of the two best stories I have ever encountered in the anime world (the other being Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood of course). I have no better word to describe the events in the second-to-last volume of the manga than glorious. I have described it as a giant wave of blessing, crashing on and overtaking one person after another after another in ever widening circles, all thanks to an unseen and unacknowledged God who also breaks real curses in real human lives. Those of you who have missed the turn-of-the-millennium version have a unique opportunity to experience this anime as if it were new. So far, I’m very pleased with how the all-new cast is doing, and we are told that the creators intend to see it through to the end of the manga this time. For me, knowing the end from the beginning makes watching it all the more powerful.
I won’t mince words: watch this show. There’s a good reason it’s lasted over 20 years in spite of a half-baked first attempt at an anime adaptation. I don’t want any of you to miss this opportunity.
After you take your exams, that is. Then there will be plenty of time.
EDIT: As I eventually tweeted, it didn’t work out for me with Shoumetsu Toshi after all.