Running a little late on this one. What shows did I think were the best of the season just ended, half a season ago? In my postview I listed, briefly, how my predictions went. But which of those were really worthwhile?
First of all, a disclaimer. Erased and GenRaku (on Crunchyroll) and Grimgar (on Funimation) were all critically acclaimed. I liked the first episodes. I just was never in the mood to follow-up, so I can’t include them here. Maybe this summer. Herewith, the four:
Gate, Season 2: Fun premise, mediocre ending.
I called Season 1 An Akihabara Otaku in Emperor Augustus’ Court, after the Mark Twain novel. Season 1 was last Summer, so it’s a split-cour program.
Magical gate opens up in downtown Tokyo, leading to a land of dragons and elves and a Roman-style (down to the armor) empire. JSDF establishes bridgehead there, and proceeds to wipe the floor with the natives, while an otaku recon force leader establishes good relations with the elves and wizards and loli-goddesses. Season 2 focuses on internal politics of the empire — peace factions, war factions, scheming crown princes, upright crown princesses, Rasputainical rabbit-girls, and so forth. Some continuing coverage of otaku-san and his harem, but those episodes feel a lot like filler.
JSDF to the rescue!
The original web-pub and manga were panned as overly militaristic and nationalistic. I don’t think the anime was, because it was in a long tradition of what if modern x went back to the past stories. Not just Twain, but de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, The H. Beam Piper / John Carr Kalvan series, Eric Flint’s 1632 series, Frankowski’s Cross-Time Engineer, and the film Final Countdown, to name a few.
Only at the end, with bombastic music and heroic vignettes does it live up to its jingoistic billing. Combined with the rushed, Shakespearian (well, Elizabethan)-style tying up of all the plot threads, where everybody gets married to everybody else and our otaku returns to Akihabara, the ending is where the anime falls severely down.
A lot of that going around this season
There’s more to the source manga, and the ending leaves room for a third season, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
The ‘trapped in a fantasy world’ trope is now mature enough that programs can enjoy playing off established plotlines, knowing that viewers will get the joke. in KonoSuba, the hero dies in this world and is offered the opportunity to be born in a fantasy world, with one artifact from this one. The artifact he chooses is the very goddess who is offering him the choice.
The goddess can’t hold her liquor
The world has the typical RPG accoutrements — guild hall, quests, adventurers, and so forth. Our Hero assembles a team of incompetents and mental cases to fight their battles with hordes of flying cabbages and herds of giant frogs.
And the rest of the team is incompetent
Fortunately, the minions of the Demon King are just as incompetent as Our Gang. It’s only a ten-episode cour, and the ending is a set-up for a possible second season, so that could happen.
But so is the opposition.
Myriad Colors Phantom World
This is Kyoto Animation having fun. No great depth. Monster of the week. Bit of drama at the end. Gorgeous artwork.
Reality is what you make of it
Unreality starts to bleed over into the real world. Specially talented highschool students are recruited to fight the phantoms. First episode sets the scene by requiring the busty lead girl to out-limbo a bunch of dancing telephone poles. Male lead can summon up demonic monsters for assistance, and we find that Cthulu looks like a cute beach toy, and Marchosias, the hell-hound, is a puppy with angel wings.
The Elder Gods Awake!
Each of the haremettes gets an episode of her own, including the Tinkerbell-sized Ruru. Or maybe it’s Lulu.
Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue: No, I don’t know what the name means, either.
A typical “going to Koshien” highschool sports story, only in this case, the ‘sport’ is two-person flying competitions, using special antigrav shoes. There’s the usual sub-plots of the former champion who can’t bring himself to fly again, and the team that has a new, but unsportsmanlike, tactic. The first sub-plot never gets resolved (leaving space for a second season) while the resolution of the second, and the winning of the regional championship, form the exciting finale.
Mano a Mano
First of all, I really like flying anime — Porco Rosso, Strike Witches, Last Exile, Princess and the Pilot … OK, not Pilot’s Love Song. AoKana is a well done flying anime, that doesn’t use aircraft. Instead, they wear flying shoes, like the god Mercury, only without the snakes. Game tactics are some combo of block your opponent, tap the turn pylon, or slap your opponent’s back. The sport is a series of 1v1 encounters, so flying skill is more important than teamwork (although there is a ground controller, who says useful things like go faster!).
And Second, they really make you feel like you understand what’s going on. You can’t, because the action is twisted to fit the plot, but you think you know.