Well, the first season of the new year has come to a close, and what a season it was! With two shows that are easy contenders for best show of the year it is a heck of a way to kick things off.
So lets go camping at the ends of the universe!
Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
What a surprise this show was! It had high expectations going in, but it absolutely blew those out of the water, delivering one of the finest, most grounded dramas about friendship that anime has seen in years. Ishizuka Atsuko is easily one of the best directors currently working in anime, and hopefully the clear success of Yorimoi will allow her to work on more original projects.
There is so much to say about this show. How it centered the girls and women it revolved around, without any fanservice or sleaziness. It didn’t eliminate men from its universe the way shows like Love Live or New Game do, but it made it clear that they just weren’t relevant to this story. That this was a story of four teenage girls, and a few adult women and how they deal with the joys and traumas of their lives.
On perhaps the other end of the drama spectrum is another show about girls, friendship and the great outdoors. This one however doesn’t involve any trips to Antarctica, just some campsites. And not ones that don’t have access to certain facilities either. That being said, Yuru Camp is only second this season because of how fantastic Yorimoi is, on its own its still one of the best shows of the last year, and deserves plenty of praise for its own delicate manner of handling friendships.
The biggest surprise of Yuru Camp is its main character. Not the perky, bubbly Kagamihara Nadeshiko, but the reserved, quiet Shima Rin. Several articles have already been written about how well Yuru Camp respects Shimarin’s desire to camp on her own, while still integrating her into the larger group. She also serves as a firm flagstone for the show. Its better when she’s around, even if she’s not saying much. Not saying Nadeshiko isn’t a joy to be with, though her times with Shimarin are by far the best. The other characters are fun, but when the outclub is doing their stuff, it doesn’t quite grab the magic as reliably. There is still a significant amount of manga left to adapt, so hopefully we will be hearing more from the laid-back campers soon.
Ah, Citrus. Citrus is probably not the most controversial show to air this season, but it sure made a go at that award. Its also not the most controversial yuri show to air recently, or to air this year. However it is quite polarizing, and has been ever since the manga started quite a few years ago. If the initial setup doesn’t put you off (and there is nothing wrong with that!) then you are in for a well produced, energetic romp through one girl figuring out she’s in love with her step-sister, and that she’s apparently a locus for lesbian-related absurdity and drama.
Yuzu is, of course, the high point of the series. She’s an absolute joy to watch, easy to root for and easy to love. She’s the sweetest girl possible, even when done up in ridiculous gyaru fashion. Her heart is on her sleeve, and while that makes her sometimes a little too easy to take advantage of, she’s also not a fool and won’t suffer fools. At least not once she’s realized what is going on. The show ended right at the end of volume 4 of the manga, having adapted those four volumes essentially exactly. It was as good a stopping point as they were going to have, in the episodes they had allotted.
Hugtto has turned out to be, at least eight episodes in, a very strong entry in the Precure franchise. The baby was, of course, worrisome, but has turned out to be surprisingly not very annoying. This is in large part because the girl’s really aren’t being positioned as “mothers” to Hugtan. Instead the show treats them more like older sisters, who help with Hugtan, but are not primary caregivers. That role goes to Harry, who has turned out to be one of the more consistently entertaining and not annoying mascot characters. Even turning into a hot dude hasn’t been a problem, since he’s firmly placed as an adult, even if he’s a somewhat dopey and irresponsible one.
The mini-arc that brought Homare onto the team was very well executed, and showed a willingness to be dark, and not end every episode on an upbeat note that is a little unusual for Precure. The show has also introduced Lulu, an apparent Android girl voiced by Tamura Yukari, working for the villains. Almost certainly going to swap sides later in the series and become a Precure. We’ve waited nearly 15 years for Yukarin to be a Precure!
Slow Start is, pretty much, a standard Manga Time Kirara show. Its got cute girls who attend school together and have mildly amusing interactions over events that don’t really amount to much. Within that space its quite competent, if not the engaging version on its own merits. However where Slow Start stands out isn’t in its premise, per se. Its in, well, its characters. To put it bluntly, this show is incredibly gay. Even for a genre that pretty much peddles in lesbian subtext and providing reasons to ship the characters together, Slow Start is on an entirely different level.
Tokumi Yuiko, the mangaka, is no stranger to lesbians, being best known as the doujin circle “Hakka-ya”, which cornered the market in “BuCap” Saki doujins. However she brought a level of explicitness to this series that is quite unusual. The most notable example being Eiko, who is a natural lady-killer, whom virtually every woman or girl who she interacts with seems to be attracted to. However she’s also the central part of the biggest caveat of the show. Eiko herself has a crush, on her teacher. The teacher for her part does not seem to reciprocate at the moment, but the show pushes it fairly heavily, and they have several quite sexually charged interactions. Anyway, the show is generally very pleasant, and if you like this sort of thing, and are ok with the age-gap semi-romance.
Oh this poor show. its been plagued by production difficulties, which is to say its production has been a complete disaster. Please read this write-up of the situation on Sakugablog, its important that people understand why things like this happen to anime. Production woes aside, Marchen turned out, at least through episode 8, to be a remarkably fun and pleasant show. After Hazuki finally transformed using her origin, the show quickly transitioned into its tournament arc.
It at times almost felt like Garupan or Saki, where the opposing teams would be just as colorful and fun to watch as the main characters, to the point where you’d start to want to root for them. We only really got to see the Russian team in action, but their two episodes were an enormous amount of fun, and showed some great creativity with the medium. The concluding episodes have been indefinitely delayed, and episode 9 is deeply unfortunate, but hopefully the show can somehow pull itself together.
Toji no Miko
Somehow this show is continuing into a second cour. In all honesty it could have ended with episode 12 and been fine. It would have been a tad abrupt, but it wrapped up its core storyline and none of the dangling subplots are particularly interesting. But, no. Its continuing.
That sounds really negative. The show is actually fine. More than fine even. When watching its actually quite fun. Its main problem is that it doesn’t really do anything special enough to be memorable when you aren’t watching it. Thinking about it, the main thing that comes to mind is “why not just watch Symphogear?” Which is a little unfair, but true. Maybe the second half will be amazing?
This show hasn’t quite wrapped up yet, and its in an interesting position. On the one hand, when its good its really good. Episodes 7, 9 and 10 are easily three of the best episodes of the season, rivaled only by Yorimoi’s strongest showings. On the other hand the episodes that aren’t those are generally only ok, and some are downright bad. Episode 11 in particular was an extremely poor showing, coming off the highs of 9 and 10.
Honestly, the show should have ended at episode 10. Episode 9 basically tied up the story regarding Violet’s past, while episode 10 showed how much she’s grown. Episode 11’s vignette of her being airdropped behind enemy lines, scaring off soldiers by being the well known little girl super soldier, then bringing a soldier’s dying letters to his family was…not good. Conceptually it was fine but it just did not work at all in execution. There are still three episodes left, so maybe it will bring back the high points it had before.
Hakumei to Mikochi
Pop Team Epic
Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san
It refused to show any sort of growth or development for any of its characters, leaving episode 3 as the show’s high point.
Not bad, just stopped being interesting enough to keep up with.