Well, I never did a mid-season review this season, mostly because I’m not watching much and I was really busy around that time. But now that the season is drawing to a close, lets take a look at the good and the bad(o).
Also there will be Revue Starlight ending spoilers.
Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight
What to even say. A strong contender not just for anime of the season but anime of the year, Revue Starlight managed to not just exceed its high expectations, but blow them away entirely. Its tempting to just say “go read everything Emily Rand wrote about the show”, which you absolutely should do after watching it. Revue Starlight is a show mad about precisely two things, and it spends twelve episodes not only explicitly laying out how mad it is, but showing that there are alternatives and things don’t have to be this way.
What is it mad about? Well, the Takarazuka Revue Top Star system is the first and most obvious. This is something Emily discusses at length, and I also suggest checking out Andrearitsu’s video’s on the subject. The short version is, the Takarazuka Revue encourages extremely cutthroat competition between the women competing for the position of top star, and it has led to some highly toxic attitudes all around. Revue Starlight, and Aijou Karen in particular, believe that this system is unnecessary, and equal brilliance can be achieved cooperatively.
Revue Starlight is also mad about gender norms and the highly unfortunate fate often assigned to lesbians in media. The “bury your gays” trope as it is often called. This is related to the first aspect as well, in that the Takarazuka Top Star is always an “Otokoyaku”, or a woman who plays male parts. “Musumeyaku”, women who play female parts, cannot be the Top Star at all. Revue Starlight directly confronts this, by having some characters be obvious otokoyaku or musumeyaku, but then subverting the stereotype (Futaba being too short to be an otokoyaku) or showing how the distinction can lead to musumeyaku effectively sacrificing themselves for their paired otokoyaku (Maya and Claudine).
The other part of this is the Bury Your Gays aspect, and that is extremely bluntly confronted in the finale, where the ending to the play Starlight is rewritten to show that this ending is not the only possible one. Flora and Claire meet once more, and are able to confirm their love. As do Karen and Hikari, Futaba and Kaoruko, Maya and Claudine and Nana and Junna.
Yama no Susume
Despite lacking the (literal) highs of season 2, Yama no Susume demonstrated that it is still top of the mountain in what it does. And what it does is give some of the best, most emotional interpersonal drama in media, in half the time most shows do half as much. The core drama this season between Aoi and Hinata has in some ways been building since season 1, but the way it all came together here was sublime, and the ultimate resolution was as understated as it was cathartic.
Hopefully season 4 will return Aoi to the site of her only defeat, and see her finally conquer Mt. Fuji, but until then, she still has all her friends, and in particular she has Hinata. And Hinata has her.
Aikatsu Friends continues to be extremely Aikatsu and extremely Turning the Word Friends Into a Synonym for Lesbian Lovers. Which is an interesting tack for a kid’s show to take, but its hard to complain! Otherwise its fine. Aikatsu is, as it always has been, an extremely easy watch.
In a season with two girl’s sports anime involving sports where an object is tossed back and forth across the net, Harukana Receive is the clear winner. While its not going to win any awards for sheer originality, its an excellent execution of a strong base concept. Haruka and Kanata’s relationship is of course the core of the story, Haruka’s boundless enthusiasm and Kanata’s experience makes them a lot of fun to watch. Off the court, their relationship grows ever closer, and you can really feel how strong their feelings are.
However, the rest of the cast should not be disregarded. The twins Claire and Emily are fantastic friends and rivals to Haruka and Kanata. Being both friends they trained with every day, and rivals they have to overcome to reach their goal was a tight needle to thread, but resulted in one of the most compelling sports matches in quite some time. And then, of course, there is Akari. Introduced late in the show, she quickly became the emotional core. Without her, the bout between ‘Harukana’ and ‘Eclair’ could have ended their friendships. But Akari was always there, cheering on all her friends, ready to be the support they needed as both winners and losers.
It feels as if there isn’t much to say about Hugtto! Precure, its still fantastic and its still Precure, but on the other hand there is so much about it that is just fascinating. From the amazingly random cameo from Cure Black and Cure White, to its most recent episodes dropping all pretense of subtext and establishing that not only are Lulu and Emiru in love, but Emiru’s brother is clearly in love with Henri, and it seems to be mutual. On top of that, bringing up how the march of time is going to make it much harder for Henri to continue with his aesexual aesthetic appeal, and how Criasu can tempt him with that, all things most ‘adult’ media shy away from, much less kid’s shows.
And its still just really damn good Precure!
This was just a disaster, if interestingly not for any of the expected reasons. A full rundown of all of Hanebado’s problems is worthy of a post in and of itself. Suffice to say, it has no coherent themes, characters who’s characterization varies wildly from episode to episode and a final arc that hinges on emotional beats the show never even began to properly establish. It did, however, look very good.
The standout flaw was the entire character of Uchika, who may just be the worst parent in anime this year (always a highly competitive award), and whom the show can’t quite bring itself to condemn, Ayano’s ‘rejection’ of her in the final episode lands with all the conviction of a wet noodle. The real standout characters ended up being Connie and Kaoruko, both of whom were introduced as comically over the top villains but eventually ended up with the closest thing to real pathos in the show. They played no role in the final episodes, of course. Connie being essentially forgotten entirely despite her being a key connection between Ayano and Uchika. Just a disaster, on every level.
Happy Sugar Life (1 Episode)
Hataraku Saibou (3 Episodes)
Not bad by any means, just after episode 3 I found no desire to watch any more, and by the time I was three or four episodes behind I wasn’t interested in catching up. But a fun show in general, worth checking out if the idea interests you.
Ongaku Shoujo (1 Episode)