Whew. Sorry for the long break from blogging but we’re back to wrap up last season and then shortly to move on to Summer. So lets see how spring shook out.
Hinamatsuri (12 Episodes – Complete)
In what was probably the biggest surprise of the season, Hinamatsuri continued to be an absolute delight for its entire run. The only negative I can say about it is that it sadly had to stop. Not end, it almost gleefully didn’t have an actual ending, it just…stopped. But thats fine. Hopefully we will get a season 2.
Hinamaturi’s core strength was how it took situations that should be utterly horrifying to witness, considering the people involved, and turn them into absolutely heartwarming explorations of its characters and show how even in the face of the most extreme adversity, happiness can be found. This is most apparent in Anzu’s arc, her transition from aggressive rival to the sweetest angel ever to live feels completely natural, even while looking at the start and end points would make you think its absurd.
Hina herself was probably the least interesting of the main girls, though she had the most consistently funny segments. Her becoming the “straight man” in most comedy scenes worked amazingly well. Hitomi’s continued rise to power never stopped being amusing. Nothing can stop her from taking over the world. Especially not Hitomi herself. And finally Mao had the least screentime, only two half-episode segments, but she was a lot of fun and one of the big hopes of a season 2 is seeing how she gets along with Hina, Anzu and Hitomi.
Hugtto! Precure (22 Episodes – Ongoing)
For not even being halfway over, Hugtto! Precure has somehow managed to become one of the greatest Precure series of all time, in part by just being extremely well done in every way. Even its fluffiest and least consequential monster of the week episodes are fun and exciting, and never feel like they are wasting time, a problem more than a few Precure shows have battled with in the past. But more importantly, its had what is almost certainly the best arc for adding new Cures to the team, espeically when one of those Cures is a former villain.
The addition of Emiru and Lulu, as Cure Ma’cherie and Cure Amour, respectively has been the driving force in the show for the last two months or so. Adding two new Cures at once is unusual, but Hugtto has pulled it off in a way that makes it seem almost effortless, but also inevitable. The march of events from Lulu infiltrating Hana’s family, to her meeting Emiru, to the inevitable conflict between Lulu and the Cures, to Lulu and Emiru’s quest for the miracle that would let them become Cures together. Its a sequence of events that spanned most of the runtime for a regular late-night anime, but one that most of those shows would require a miracle of their own to pull off so effectively.
Oh yeah and Cure Black and Cure White showed up because Hugtto refuses to do anything in the way a normal Precure series would. What a show.
Aikatsu Friends (13 Episodes – Ongoing)
Bringing its first cour to a close, Aikatsu Friends finally does the thing its been setting up for since it started. Aine and Mio becoming Friends. They also decided to team up to do Aikatsu together. Jokes aside, the episode where Mio finally pulled herself together and asked Aine to be Friends with her was excellent, and exactly what the show needed. It was also unbelievably gay. Like, this is a pretty gay show all around but that episode just took any subtext and shredded it.
Speaking of which, Mio continues to be the strongest aspect of the show. Aine is a very nice lead and she’s just different enough from Ichigo to not feel like a rehash of the original series, but Mio is the standout. Mio being presented early on as an accomplished idol, someone newer idols like Aine looked up to was quickly contrasted by the revelation that Mio is kinda a disaster. She lack self-confidence in anything not directly idol related, she has trouble making friends and obsesses over minor problems. It makes her really refreshing and unique to follow. It’ll be interesting to see where she goes from here now that she has a
Comic Girls (12 Episodes – Complete)
Coming off of a winter season with very strong slice of life shows, Comic Girls had a lot to live up to and it actually pretty much pulled it off. Probably the biggest surprise was just how unapologetically gay it was. Having Koyume admit her feelings for Tsubasa, and have them if not reciprocated, but treated as valid and not something she should be ashamed of is extremely unusual even for this kind of show. Similarly, Kaos’ constant, obvious lusting for girls and boobs was treated as a joke, but the joke wasn’t ‘haha she’s into girls’ but ‘Kaos, please contain yourself’.
Speaking of Kaos, she’s almost painfully relatable, far more so than most protagonists of this sort of show. She’s not just a little clutzy or anything, she suffers from almost crippling self-confidence issues. Seeing her literally paralyzed by her inability to believe she can accomplish things, despite having a supportive network of friends was harsh. Even when comedically exaggerated, it really did feel like something that was drawn from the mangaka’s real-life experiences (which it was). It would have been nice to have seen a bit more come from Kaos’ clear crush on Ruki, but all in all, it was a fun show.
Sword Art Online Alternative – Gun Gale Online (12 Episodes – Complete)
So it turns out that all a Sword Art Online show needs to do to be good is reject literally every aspect of Sword Art Online and repudiate the fundamental underlying concepts of the franchise. Pretty daring for them to make a show that does that and have it be an actual Sword Art Online show.
That pretty much says everything you need to know, but its also worth pointing out that the show has multiple queer women characters. Several who are explicitly bisexual and the lead, Karen/LLENN appears to be lesbian. The relationship between LLENN and Pitohui is almost hilariously problematic, but also heartwarming, in a weird and messed up sort of way. The most important thing the show does is explicitly frame Gun Gale Online as a game. Not that things done and said in the game aren’t important, but in the end its just that. Its not life or death, its something you do to have fun.
Toji no Miko (24 Episodes – Complete)
What an unexpected journey this show was. Coming out last season with a strong, if not exactly groundbreaking first half, it seemed there was nowhere to really go in the second cour. The main plot had been resolved and while there were a few dangling plot threads, none seemed firm enough to hang an entire second half on. However the show delivered a second half that was even stronger than the first. It tied up all its major plot threads and did some surprisingly strong character work.
Its a shame more people didn’t watch the show, its not groundbreaking or anything but a super solid show all around and treats all its characters with the respect they deserve, even ones who probably don’t deserve that much respect. The CG fights took some getting used to, but they allowed for some stuff that probably would have looked even worse in 2d outside the most spectacular productions, and it used hand animation for key moments. All in all, a solid show well worth checking out.
Uma Musume -Pretty Derby- (13 Episodes – Complete)
Uma Musume turned out to be shockingly better than almost anyone expected it to be. Quite a few people expected to enjoy it, but for it to take its utterly absurd concept and turn it into a fantastic sports show on its own merits was completely unexpected. The core of the show was of course the relationship between Special Week and Silence Suzuka, which was a delight the entire show. Their growth as friends, rivals and possibly even more was the backbone of the show.
The arc with Suzuka’s injury is particularly notable, as it incorporated events from real life (the highly unfortunate injury that ended the career of the real horse Silence Suzuka) and as a catalyst to prompt both Suzuka and Special Week to move out of their comfort zones and really strive for their dreams. The only downside is a recurring gag involving the male trainer character who otherwise is perfectly fine, but having him grope the girl’s calves multiple times just wasn’t funny and did nothing but make him a worse character. Outside of that he was actually a great guy and was nothing but helpful and respectful to the girls.
Amanchu (4 Episodes – Dropped)
To be quite honest I don’t want to talk about this. It probably deserves a full article but that would also necessitate actually watching the rest to give it its due and I just cannot bear to do that. In short, the magical realism aspects were horrendously out of place in this story, but if that was all, it would just be unfortunate. However absolutely everything involving Kokoro, their relationship with Pikari and how the reveal of Kokoro’s gender was handled and the assumptions that came with it vis-à-vis gender role expectations ran contrary to almost everything the series had established up to that point.
Hisone to Maso-tan (6 Episodes – Dropped)
I just sort of stopped caring after episode six.