Sunday, December 16, 2018

Helen's 12 Days of Anime 2018: Winter 2018 anime round-up

Hi again y'all, it's been even longer than I thought and I gotta say, grad school has been kicking my ass and this past fall semester was the worst so far. I'm still doing some manga blogging over at The OASG but that's about all I can manage these days, especially since I'm about to gear up for job hunting.

So! For this year's 12 Days of Anime I'm going to try and talk about a lot of the anime I was able to watch this past year to semi-make-up for that. I might not have had the time to put together a lot of reviews and blogs but half-hour anime episodes still fit into my schedule so I did watch a far amount of stuff this past year! 

Starting from the beginning then, let's run down everything I saw and finished in the Winter 2018 season from my favorite shows to, um, things that I at least finished in a given season. For shows that lasted more than one cour (including split cours) I'll talk about them in the season they ended which is why this one is a bit short to start things out!

Laid Back Camp: I've come to accept that I am a sucker for "cute girls doing cute things" types of shows so naturally a show whose premise was "cute high school girls go camping" was right up my alley! I loved the visuals for the show, so many wonderful knit pieces of clothing, and it was nice to have a show where I could genuinely unwind while watching it every week. Best of all, Laid Back Camp's depiction of its cast as rather silly teenagers felt like one of the truest to life depictions of teenaged girls I've seen in a while. Many stories understand that teenagers can be very mad but most forget that teens are also very silly. The way the girls would suddenly break into jokes or skits at the drop of a hat, especially when texting each other, reminded me very much of my own high school days and how I communicated with my friends. I've been reviewing the manga over at The OASG and I can't wait for the second season, movie, shorts, and future manga volumes to come!

A Place Farther Than the Universe: This show has been one of my biggest surprises of the year, mostly because I disliked it so much at first! I dropped it one and a half episodes in because I just couldn't connect with Mari or Shirase at all, their personalities reminded me of some character traits I dislike in real-life people and I wondered if they would ever travel to Antartica at all or if that would remain just a bit of symbolism throughout the show.

Well, to my surprise, they did go to a place farther than the universe! I did warm up to Mari and Shirase by the end but I connected much more with the other two main characters, Hinata and Yuzuki, and once those two appeared the show was much smoother sailing for me. I especially connected with Yuzuki and her worries over forming friendships with these girls; one of the things that feeds my anxiety so much in real life is "I'm sure my friends would tell me if I was bothering them but, that said, why am I always the one to message them first? The one who always has to reach out?" I don't have a good answer for this and I never will but seriously, I chatted with someone about grabbing brunch this year and a week later she came back to me with a date and location in mind and I felt like I was in another universe, that follow-up has literally never happened to me before!

Plus, the part where the girls train for going to Antartica and then actually arrive and thrive was fascinating and really made me double down on my conviction that nope, I never want to visit!  And I loved how most, if not all, of the important adult cast members were also women. Even though I knew that a major plotline going into the show was going to be Shirase coming to terms with the death of her mother in Antartica several years earlier (and traveling there with her mother's old team) I was still taken aback at just how many female characters were in the cast and how easily the show seemed to create and define their individual relationships. I truly think that A Place Farther Then the Universe was one of the strongest anime to come out in 2018 because of these really interesting character studies and I hope that director Atsuko Ishizuka has a show in 2019 as well.

Garo -Vanishing Line-: After a great first animated Garo show (Garo: The Animation) and a super lackluster second show (Garo: Crimson Moon which I dropped pretty early on) I wasn't sure what to expect going into this third iteration, especially since it seemed to be set in "stereotypical America" with an overly muscled, not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-box lead. "Well, maybe that girl from the promos will actually be a main character and not a fake-out" I told myself and lo and behold Sophie was in fact a main character and a pretty good one as well. I'm really looking forward to the follow-up film since I realized part-way through this series that they were setting Sophie up to possibly become a makai alchemist and I think that will be a part of the film. Overall the series didn't have the same visual flair that Garo: The Animation had (which was part of the reason I liked it so much) but by the end it had told a really gripping story with the right amount of surprises, agonizing choices, and awesome moments for the characters. The show was a total darkhorse for me and I'm pleased it turned out so well.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens: Initially this series wasn't on my to-watch list, it sounded a little too inspired by Durarara!! so I was, well, only a bit surprised when I found out later that the author (of the original light novels) had actually written a canonical cross-over between the two.

But! Despite the loads of material HTR raced through that wasn't covered and I honestly enjoyed it's face-paced, slightly-out-of-order stories of a bunch of weirdo criminals and murderers for hire. It had just the right amount of charm to it, even if some of the characters backstories were a bit too "edgelord" for me to take seriously at all. I've read some of the fan translations of the novels and I hope those get brought over, the anime had to really trim down a number of them to fit as much as they did into one season and I'd just like to read the full story. Not that I think this adaptation was a bad one, I think it made smart choices but since I doubt it'll get a sequel (because really, how many anime actually get proper sequels these days?) these novels are likely to be my only chance to see/read more of the adventures of these misfits in Hakata.

Kokkoku: This show started off with a really cool premise, what if certain people are able to "freeze" time and be the only ones still moving around and the conflict, what if other people want to steal the key to this ability, was a natural conflict. However, boy did this show start dragging by the halfway point. It's based on an existing manga which is eight volumes long and since this anime was only 12 episodes long they must have cut out some parts and condensed others and I am baffled at the mere idea that the original story must be even longer in parts. The show ended up spinning its wheels as people were kidnapped, people were forced out of Statis and others were suddenly brought, and plenty of alliances were formed and broken. Perhaps it's appropriate that a show set in a frozen setting would move so slowly but I really wanted a snappier re-write, maybe condensing it all down into a movie would have been a better bet than even a one-cour tv series.