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The Best and Worst Anime of Winter 2022

Best: The Case Study of Vanitas Part 2

I really liked the first season of Vanitas, mostly because it was practically made for me. A hyper-dramatic, indulgently gothic period fantasy with immaculate direction and storyboarding was basically everything I could ask for in a junk food show. But somewhere along the way, the series managed to be not “just” an indulgent exercise in gothic tragedy, but a genuinely compelling, character-driven story with a lot of worthwhile things to say. Characters who started off as simple jokes slowly developed an earnest, engaging pathos. Personality traits that at first seemed like broad charm points metamorphosed into tragic, effecting pieces of their larger, complicated history.

And in this second half all those elements came to the forefront while also supercharging the original charm of its gothic imagery and decadence. The result is a show that goes down smooth as butter with its high-concept steampunk action, but still lingers in your heart as you start to recognize the hidden meaning behind each character’s quirks. But it’s also a show that can stop all that on a dime and turn into a Victorian-era romantic comedy straight out of my high school fanfiction.net bookmarks, delivered with the same confidence and passion that made its serious elements compelling. It’s a full package that is always compulsively watchable, and I seriously hope we can get more eventually.

Runner-up: Sabikui Bisco

Entirely on the other end of the spectrum, there’s nothing particularly deep about the characters or world of this Mad Max-inspired rollercoaster, but there doesn’t really need to be. Sometimes a show is just good because it’s constantly, infectiously entertaining, and that fits Sabikui Bisco to a T. There’s the cartoonish monster designs that the cast approach with totally straight faces. The wild action sequences that turn mushrooms into WMDs. The way every single drawing of Pawoo is the coolest thing ever put to screen, only to be one-upped the next time she shows up. It’s just a blast from start to finish, and is absolutely worth everyone and anyone’s time.

Worst: Platinum End

Let’s not mince words here. Platinum End was guaranteed to be the worst thing I watched this season before this season even started. The series’ first cour was a sloppy mess that flailed around with its poorly-structured death game like a confused toddler writhing in a pool of fake blood. But the second act of this squandered mess lost even that energy as it somehow found new depths of incompetence to spelunk once its main villain was out of the picture.

The back-half of Platinum End isn’t so much a television show as it is an animated simulation of showing up to a 7 am university lecture with a splitting migraine, where you slowly realize the TA delivering it is hungover and ad-libbing the entire thing. It’s at once long-winded and totally vacuous, gesturing vaguely in the direction of interesting or controversial topics without ever saying anything of substance about any of it. Religion, existentialism, geopolitical strife, inequality, and a dozen other heady subjects that a good show – or even an ambitious bad show – could turn into something complex and dramatic; all of them taken out, set on the kitchen counter, and then forgotten after the creator got distracted with a phone call, returning days later to find they’ve rotted or gone stale in the interim.

Then there’s the finale – an ending so infamous it was likely the only reason anyone stuck around through this interminable failure of a narrative. And it is indeed a worthless conclusion that only functions to make the already miserable story preceding it even more meaningless. It’s the kind of baldly stupid ending that writers and viewers alike mock on instinct. Rocks fall, everyone dies? Try God kills himself, everyone dies! It’s a thoroughly lazy attempt at the kind of haunting nihilism that made Devilman‘s original ending so famous, but all it manages to do is insult anyone who might have actually been invested in its story, and admitting to everyone watching ironically that it never had anything worth saying from the start.


Best: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc

I just managed to catch up with Demon Slayer before this season ended and I’m glad that I did so I could finally join everybody else on the hype train. I wouldn’t call Demon Slayer my favorite shōnen series but there is a lot of charm in its overall simplicity. Cute, likable characters overcoming difficult hardships has always been a classic yet endearing narrative and a part of me is disappointed that we seem to be moving away from that for the sake of glorious spectacle. But what a glorious spectacle it is! The setup and execution might be simple, but it’s led to some of the most gorgeously-animated fights I think the community has seen in quite some time. This was my dose of adrenaline during a very drawn-out and difficult few months. While I do think the overall pacing of The Entertainment District Arc feels a bit more sluggish compared to the previous arcs, it still manages to keep the tension building and make me all the more curious to see where all of this leads!

Runner-up: My Dress-Up Darling

A lot of people have a lot of thoughts about My Dress-Up Darling. Some found its fanservice to be too blatant and uncomfortable, while some felt that the show’s coverage of its subject matter is rather limited in scope, especially when factoring in other cosplay cultures outside Japan. All of these are valid opinions of the show, and my biggest complaint is that it didn’t really expand upon a lot of the ideas and worldviews about cosplay that it brings up. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that this anime embodies some of the best qualities that I think the slice-of-life genre has to offer. Not only does the show look beautiful with creative shots and fluid character animations that properly highlight the emotions of the characters involved, but when it comes down to those individual character relationships, there is quite a lot of strong writing on display here. And even when they do touch upon some uncomfortable territory at times, the actions of the cast almost always come from a believable character place, with a romance dynamic that prioritizes individual character growth alongside romantic progression. It doesn’t push the limits of the slice-of-life or romantic comedy genres, but it definitely has a strong enough heart that a lot of people can resonate with, even if the details might not be able to reach everybody. At the very least, it’s that beating heart that has endeared me to the show, and all the other details like its cosplay subject matter and the high production values are just added bonuses.

Worst: In the Land of Leadale

When I first started watching The Land of Leadale, I admittedly came to the realization that the show wasn’t fitting into the mold of what I expected it to be. Upon realizing this, I did my best to figure out what the show was trying to do so that I could judge it on its own merits. The problem is, I’m not sure if the show itself even knows that: it couldn’t seem to decide if it wants to be a suspenseful mystery, an over-the-top power fantasy, a weird reactionary comedy, or a touching narrative about self-discovery and family. All of those are interesting ideas that the show could’ve easily leaned into, and based on some of the responses to my reviews that I’ve gotten in the past couple of weeks, the original source material actually expands upon those ideas rather well. But in the anime, plot points are introduced without much buildup and most of them are dependent on information that’s only implied at best. All of this is spearheaded by a main character that comes off as directionless as the show’s narrative about her newfound life. She shifts from generic fantasy trope to generic fantasy trope only for everything to get dropped just for the sake of sitting down and having a quiet peaceful life with an adoptive daughter that we barely know anything about. After sitting through 12 episodes of this rather mundane isekai, I was forced to accept that basically none of it really mattered in the end and I’m left with this overwhelming feeling that I wasted my time.


Best: My Dress-Up Darling

On its surface, My Dress Up Darling appears to be a cute little love story between a socially awkward guy and a popular, outgoing girl. However, what sets it apart from the standard manic pixie dream girl fare is that it’s not about Kitagawa “fixing” Gojō. Instead, it’s about how they help each other get closer to reaching their respective dreams and grow as people in the process. Kitagawa gets to transform into the characters she loves through his costumes and Gojō learns more about tailoring, make-up, and hairstyling—all things that make him grow as a doll maker.

But what’s really great about this show is its fantastic moral: It’s okay to like the things you like, no matter your gender, age, or body size. You can be a young man who thinks dolls are the most beautiful things in the world, or you can be a beautiful girl who likes hardcore porn games. What’s important isn’t finding people that share your interests as much as it is finding those who respect them. Gojō is traumatized as a kid when his best friend rejects him for his hobby. Kitagawa, on the other hand, has found friends who don’t share her interests but do accept them. Now, she is being the same kind of friend to him despite not really caring about doll-making. And in the end, what draws the two together is the simple fact that nothing is more attractive than being passionate about something (which is another excellent moral in itself).

Runner-Up: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc

Coming off the events of Mugen Train, the heroes of Demon Slayer are at their lowest point. But no sooner have they recovered physically than they are thrown into an equally dangerous situation. Plotwise, this season is all about giving the heroes the win they so desperately need—though that’s not to say it isn’t filled with numerous twists, turns, and sacrifices along the way.

But what’s exceptional about this season is how it develops Tanjirō and Nezuko through the arc’s villains. Daki and Gyutaro are basically twisted versions of our heroic siblings, an example of what would have happened if they had both become demons. But the more fundamental difference between the two pairs is that Tanjirō and Nezuko had a loving family to support them before tragedy struck. It is her memory of them that lets Nezuko retain her humanity despite her demon form, and the same pushes Tanjirō on even when he has nothing left to give. The reason anyone survives this arc is solely due to the bond between the Kamado siblings, and the compassion Tanjirō and Nezuko share with the mass-murdering pair in their final moments reaffirms their bond in tear-jerking fashion.

Worst: She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man

As usual, I need to start by mentioning that this is not the worst anime of the season by a long shot. (Judging by the first episode alone, I’d think that Rusted Armors would win that title easily). However, this is the worst anime I continued watching. Out of the several OP protagonist isekai anime out this season, She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man was the one I was holding out hope for. Frankly, I liked the twist on the formula: a person used to RPing as an old man is reincarnated in a game world as a young girl. There’s a lot of story potential here, between Mira’s sudden sex change and the mystery of why she and other players have been reincarnated in the game world.

Unfortunately, the show never really lives up to that potential. Beyond shallow comedy (like a young girl talking like an old man, or an old man learning how to pee as a girl), very little is truly explored about Mira’s new situation. The plot mostly involves Mira simply overpowering any enemy she comes across while everyone around her is starstruck by how cool she is. In the end, it’s just another in a long line of surface-level power fantasies—and with its premise, it could have been so much more.

Best: The Case Study of Vanitas Season 2

I feel like I’m always in the position that my pick for the best is one episode away from being finished
before this deadline, but in this particular case, it would have to screw up in the most epic of ways to
destroy everything that has come before it. The Case Study of Vanitas‘ second season does what every
good sequel should: follow up on the previous storyline in ways that enhances both what came before
and the current actions. Previously we knew very little about Vanitas himself, and that was very much by
design; Vanitas has been remarkably dedicated to keeping his own past under wraps. This contrasted
nicely with Noé, who is much more of an open book, wearing his emotions and his trauma on his sleeve,
not because he enjoys wallowing, but because that’s how he best copes with them, but remembering
and embracing what has come before. Now in the second season Vanitas’ reasons for taking the
opposite approach come to the fore in ways that don’t always appear to be happening – long before the
showdown with Mikhaïl, we’re learning about what Vanitas’ reasons might be for hiding things through
a beautifully realized journey through a closed time loop created by Chloé, a curse-bearing vampire. In
Chloé’s sadness and need to hide in the past from the present we can see that Vanitas’ hourglass earring
is symbolic of his own treatment of time. His bottom glass is mostly (if not entirely) full, indicating that
his time has run out, which is how Chloé sees her life from the moment she became a vampire in the
distant past. And while Vanitas is willing to fight Naenia and Charlatan for Chloé’s time to begin moving
forward again, that’s not something he’s willing to do for himself.

In the ending theme for this season we see Vanitas and Noé sitting in different bulbs of an hourglass,
Vanitas in the top looking down at the running sands and Noé in the bottom looking up to Vanitas.
While this would seem to be contrary to the imagery the rest of the story sets up for them, it actually
isn’t, because Noé is watching time as it moves, while Vanitas is unable to see anything but the
ostensibly stationary sand beneath him – until it runs out to the point where he can’t ignore it anymore.
This dovetails with the Mikhaïl storyline, where we learn about Vanitas’ inability to move on from his
past with Dr. Moreau and the original Vampire of the Blue Moon, or even the horrors of his father’s
death in his childhood. Vanitas isn’t even aware that time is passing, instead devoting himself to others
while ignoring the toll on himself. He’s his own Louis, which is why he has such a difficult time accepting
that Noé and Jeanne could actually like him – because in his own mind, it’s already too late. The way all
of this comes together is exquisitely done in a combination of actions and symbols, and even if it has its
moments of unevenness, it is absolutely worth watching. Vanitas and Noé aren’t quite two sides of the
same coin, but they are two people who are better together than by themselves – if only Vanitas can
accept that he doesn’t have to remain frozen in a hell of his own mind.

Runner-Up: Waccha PriMagi!

Unlike my first choice, my second isn’t symbolic or particularly deep. But few things have brought me as
much joy as this series this season, and in its second cour Waccha PriMagi! has continued to be a delight
that’s also just a little bit more thoughtful than you might expect. Now that Matsuri is firmly established
as one of the top five PriMagi Stars, the focus shifts to getting the girls to work together for reasons that

are starting to feel increasingly suspect. No one’s really said anything about what’s going on, but
Jennifer’s reaction to the whole thing – plus the fact that she’s barely performed in quite some time –
indicates that there’s a lot more going on than anyone wants to admit to their lovely little waccha
factories. Only Hughie seems to be remotely interested in the girls’ wellbeing, and even if it wasn’t a
delight to watch him attempt to be besties with Touma (and it absolutely is), it’d be easy to see that he’s
keeping a close eye on what’s going on to the point of whisking them away to a special “training camp.”
Add in more excellent character development, this time mostly for Miruki (poster child for the curated
online life) and Amane, plenty of sparkle, and a story that doesn’t talk down to its intended audience,
and this is just a good time – more than I ever expected it to be.

Finally, I do just want to mention Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy
Knockout
. I was down on its first episode, but when my twenty-year-old cat decided that she wasn’t
getting off my lap for hours, I ended up watching more, and I am happy to say that I was wrong about it.
I ended up really enjoying it, for which I have one clingy kitty to thank.

Most Mediocre: Futsal Boys!!!!!

On this one my cat was considerably less kind, because this is the other one I ended up following after I
ran out of the other show on that day. Terry Pratchett made a variety of pointed and unkind remarks
about the overuse of exclamation points in his novels, and I’m sorry to say that this series kind of proves
him right, because its apparent enthusiasm for its subject matter does not extend into creating an
actually good show. It isn’t terrible, but it does feel a lot like a bunch of people sat down in a room,
brainstormed a list of things ladies like in all-male casts, and then tried to throw as many of them into
the series as humanly possible. So there’s a team sport, tragic pasts of varying degrees, familiar
character relationships, fancy schools with fussy uniforms (for both regular AND sports outfits), foreign
blond guys, and a team made up entirely of entertainment professionals who all go to the same high
school. Then the story madly dashes ahead to try and fit everything into twelve episodes, including two
tournaments it really doesn’t have time for, resulting in decent ideas that just don’t have the room to
breathe and grow. Futsal Boys!!!!! really could have used fewer characters and more directed focus on
them, but as it stands, it’s kind of a mess, the anime equivalent of garbage salad – a salad made by
throwing everything in the cabinet and fridge into a bowl of lettuce and calling it “dinner.”

Best: My Dress-Up Darling

A good hobby series communicates the feelings of enjoyment for the activity it’s created in
service of. That could be accomplished by running down the interesting details or technicalities
behind the efforts, hoping the audience latches onto appreciation for the work and all that goes
into it. Alternatively, you can just show us some cute kids getting adorably excited about this
thing they’re into. My Dress-Up Darling definitely knows how to showcase the technical craft of
cosplay, to be sure, but it was the scene of its main heroine Marin giddily hopping up and down
with happiness over the prospect of pulling off her dream costume that made me realize this
was going to be one of those ‘special’ shows that communicated its joys with sheer, infectious
enthusiasm.

Of course, a visual medium like an anime series depicting the designs of a visuals-based
activity like cosplay means a whole lot of the appeal here is communicated…visually. And that’s
another reason for My Dress-Up Darling‘s success, that the army of animators working under
CloverWorks on this project were so up to the task. Marin’s outsized emotions like that
aforementioned bouncing-around are easily-notable standout moments, but the show also
succeeds on the smaller, more concentrated examples of character emoting. It allows you to
feel the energy underscoring Gojo’s efforts at cosplay-craft or notice the personal details of the
characters that come through as they’re ‘acting’ as other characters while posing for costumed
photos. It also lets the series simply show off, in the case where the animators delivered
lavishly-produced tributes to late-90’s magical girl series that did an effective job of convincing
me why all the people in this story thought it was the coolest thing ever. ‘Joy’ really is the feeling
I keep coming back to with My Dress-Up Darling, and the show’s ability to consistently
communicate and instill it made it easily the best thing I watched this season.

Runner-Up: Sabikui Bisco

There is so much going on in Sabikui Bisco. It’s a light-novel-based series that feels more like it
sprung from a shonen manga. It has a wild array of twists and turns and upheavals over its run
despite this cour adapting only the first volume of the story. It has a giant crab named Actagawa
that the characters ride around on! I don’t know what more I could ask for. Okay, I suppose I
could just ask for ‘more of this show’, since that single-volume adaptational status means there’s
still plenty more story to cover even with this season finished. And for a setting that seems
rather inexplicably obtuse at the start, I think I’ve actually grown quite engrossed by this odd,
mushroom-based world. To say nothing of the endearment I’ve developed for good boys Bisco
and Milo themselves. The pair end up with an extremely unique, complex relationship over the
course of the series and a couple of genuinely shocking swerves along the way, which feeds
into what I think I most appreciated about this anime. I consistently thought I had figured out
where a given plot point or setup was going, only for the show to surprise me with a switch
which still worked perfectly for what it had prepared. That’s the strongest recommendation I can
give for Sabikui Bisco: If you still haven’t checked this series out, it’s a great one to go into as
blindly as possible.

Worst: Tokyo 24th Ward

Sometimes I can tell from a mile away what the worst show I’ll be watching in a given season
will be. Being on the review beat means I usually ‘get’ to follow at least one obvious loser I
wouldn’t watch all the way through otherwise. But other times, the forthcoming failure is less
obvious. Tokyo 24th Ward had some compelling, if ham-fisted, concepts it was putting forward to
explore, with the more immediate potential issues being borne out of the tightrope its production
was publicly walking. But even amongst some dodgy art QC and having to take multiple weeks
off, that ended up not being the most damning aspect of the show. No, Tokyo 24th Ward‘s issue
is another all too common affliction: It is a very stupid story that thinks it is very smart. So it goes
that we have to endure weeks of the writing trying to articulate political horseshoe theory about
anarchy against a surveillance state being just as bad as the government oppression itself. It’s a
world where unknowingly receiving backing from agenda-driven elites for anti-government
graffiti is posited as being as bad as shoving your daughter’s corpse in a tube to power the
world’s most idiotic anti-crime algorithm. It’s a series that throws characters into enactments of
the trolley problem, then has someone point out that it’s a trolley problem, like nerds in an isekai
series constantly exclaiming which particular RPG or anime reference they’ve happened upon.
Of all the track-switching fates Tokyo 24th Ward has entertained, maybe a full-on production
meltdown would have been the kinder tragedy to befall it, as that might have managed to
distract from how mind-numbingly agonizing its conceptual storytelling is.

Best: My Dress-Up Darling

It’s not often that a romcom earns my top honors for the season, but My Dress-Up Darling is just that
fresh and fun a take on the genre. While its charming leads and varyingly horny spelunking into the
world of cosplay fashion are great hooks in and of themselves, the darling devil is in the dress-up details.
The series takes an extremely earnest look at both the minutiae of piecing costumes together and the
experience of geek culture, and the result feels authentic without any cloying aftertaste. Marin, with her
cluttered bedroom shrine to anime bosoms of all sizes and mile-a-minute explanations of depraved
visual novels, is one of the most authentic personifications of otaku culture I’ve ever seen. Of course,
she’s also an orbital laser cannon armed with desirable girlfriendly qualities aimed right at the target
audience’s most vulnerable spots, but she’s so real. I know Marins! I have a Marin inside of me ready to
explode at the slightest mention of a particular set of series. She walks among us.

Gojo, however, is the more easily overlooked glue holding the show together. If he were a generic self-
insert, My Dress-Up Darling would never have risen beyond middling. Instead, he’s a compelling
character in his own right, with goals and anxieties that intersect and resonate with Marin’s in colorful
ways. He’s also plenty attractive himself, and Marin knows it. Her teenage infatuation slathers on an
additional layer of butterflies and charm to the season’s second half, deftly side-stepping common
romcom will-they-won’t-they woes with further earnestness. Anyone who’s ever had a crush in high
school can relate to her going gaga over everything Gojo does, from his handsome smile to his dead-
eyed all-nighter stare. Their chemistry is beyond precious.

The show has its shortcomings and blind spots—most egregiously with how it broaches the subject of
Marin darkening her skin for a midseason cosplay, seemingly oblivious to the controversies of the
practice. A story so adamant about extolling the broad appeal of cosplay should have been able to do
better. But on nearly every other front, the adaptation slays with its emphasis on its creators’ visions
and frequent embellishments upon the source material, towards ends both sentimental and depraved.
The manga is fantastic to begin with, and the anime somehow manages to improve on it. For me, it’s
winter’s runaway winner.

Runner-Up: Ranking of Kings

Honestly, I don’t think the second half of Ranking of Kings completely fulfills the setup and promise of its
first half. However, that’s a difficult complaint to not make when the first half was a nearly perfect
concatenation of mind- and world-expanding concepts tracing the show’s evolution into an ambitious
and heartwarming take on fairy tale adventures. Sensitively written and impeccably animated, Ranking
of Kings at its best is up there with some of the best anime to ever air. And it’s certainly the best anime
with a shadowy fried egg sidekick.

Unfortunately, ending stories is a lot more difficult than starting them. I’m sympathetic to some of
Ranking’s woes, because tying so many story threads together into a coherent conclusion is an
unenviable task. Some slowdown was inevitable, and even then, Bojji’s story still manages to paint an
uncommonly beautiful picture. I’m less sympathetic to the thoughtless evocations of colonialist
mindsets, especially ones that hew so closely to a history of horrible imperialism this is not as far
removed, neither temporally nor effectually, as we’d like to believe. Like with my number one pick
Dress-Up Darling, it sucks to see these blemishes on otherwise kind and generous series. Overall, though, they each possess too much of a surfeit of good for me to ignore. They are flawed masterworks, yet masterworks all the same.

Worst, and It’s All You Guys’ Fault: World’s End Harem

I mean, I couldn’t possibly choose anything else. I can foresee Platinum End usurping this rank once I
catch up on the turgid nihilism of its second half later this week, but nobody should be upset with me
digging World’s End Harem back out of the dumpster for one last textual whipping. This is an anime that
prompted me to use the phrase “maidenless behavior” in a professional critical setting. It’s bad.
I had hoped, when I received the assignment you all so graciously voted for in the beginning of the
season, that it would at least provide me with some ironic enjoyment. And it certainly did have its
moments. The intersection of absurd porn setups, even more absurd speculative science fiction, and the
crème de la crème absurdity of the censorship made for some hilarious episodes. I gave a select handful
high marks, and I meant it! Overall, however, World’s End Harem has a really nasty misogynistic riptide
that pulled my best efforts to enjoy myself into the deep trenches of nerd entitlement. That is to say,
Doi’s material sucks. It starts miserable, picks up a bit when the entire gaggle of schoolgirls are vying to
jump his witless bones, and the nosedives into navel-gazing nausea. It’s not like the other story threads
are good, because they’re not, but Doi soaks up half of the runtime with his staid high school harem
hedonism—both too vanilla to be actually, entertainingly hedonistic, and too embittered to be anything
but the ravings of a born loser. It’s a great show to hate, and that’s probably the nicest thing I can say
about it.

Best: The Case Study of Vanitas Part 2

You ever watch the first half of an anime and then you’re like “Alright, that was pretty good.” but
then you get to the second half and the production values drop and the writing quality dips, and
it makes you feel like a wet blanket for investing your time in the first place? I’ve seen it happen
several times, especially in the COVID years. Which makes me extremely relieved to say that
The Case Study of Vanitas doesn’t do that, and the only disasters that appear are loveable but
humanly flawed characters, all of whom I stan. Studio Bone’s adaption of Mochijun’s
gorgeous historical fantasy vampire manga stays strong from the first half. The second half
perfectly expands on the premise of the first, expanding the major plot and the characters and
presenting the story with dynamic, cathartic, and most of all, an extremely entertaining
performance. I loved seeing the growth of Vanitas and Jean, and I even ended up cozying up to
some of the recent arc’s antagonists and side characters. Throughout both cours Vanitas
delivers a plethora of haunting gothic imagery, fun character beats, heartbreaking tragic
backstories, thrilling action, even a little romance *wink* (Ooh La La!) It’s a crème de la crème
for classic anime-enjoyers who seek a little bit of everything, and it really feels like it’s being
slept on by a wide audience who might get a kick out of it. Crawl out of your coffins already, why
don’t you?! The night’s still young.

Runner-Up: Sasaki and Miyano

Speaking of romances, this is a really great time for fans of romance anime of all stripes and
colors. Maybe too good! I had extremely tough time deciding between this anime and my other
favorite romance this season My Dress-Up Darling, another anime I also
love a whole lot. Picking between them felt like trying to pick favorite children, but ultimately
what made me pick Sasaki and Miyano was how well it captures the slow day-to-day life
moments. Its acknowledgement of both internal and external roadblocks towards our personal
feelings, especially queer ones. At first Sasaki and Miyano might feel rather modest in both
production and story. And in some ways, it is, but it’s able to nail the atmosphere and timing in a
way that feels intimate. It’s a slow-burning story but warm and comforting that makes it the
perfect anime to snuggle up to with a mug and a blanket after a rough day and unwind
as you watch the boys struggle with all their fuzzy feelings. It was exactly the anime the doctor
ordered to soothe my chronic anime burnout syndrome. I found recognition in Miyano’s struggle
with his feelings, and I admired Sasaki’s respect to give Miyano the space he needed to figure
himself out. Even if it created a lot of classic romance frustration and Yearning™ along the way,
all that build up caps off in its extremely satisfying final episode. Making it a great singular watch that anyone can jump into.

Worst: Tribe Nine

Writing this one hurts. I’ve always been a big fan of noted Danganronpa game franchise‘s
creator Kazutaka Kodaka‘s writing. His work hits a sweet spot for its fun, trashy humor, over-the-top characters, and cerebral world-building. While not everyone’s cup of tea, I can’t say his
work has ever been dull. But for an equally long time as I’ve been a fan there’s
been a struggle to translate what makes his work interesting in adaption to anime format. I
found the anime adaption of the first Danganronpa game to be underwhelming, underbudgeted,
and underdeveloped. Then the Danganronpa 3 anime never lived up to
its ambitions and came off as unfocused. It wasn’t until the release of the wholly anime
original Akudama Drive that I thought that I’d never see one of my favorite writers succeed in
fully animated glory, landing itself as one of my favorite anime in recent years. (I even ordered
the Blu-ray for my birthday.)

So, despite past disappointments, for a brief spell, I had felt the curse had been lifted and so I
had high hopes for the adaption of this latest mobile RPG featuring urban extreme baseball.
Like how you could you make such a ridiculous premise such as “Danganronpa Cyberpunk
Baseball Anime” and make it feel stiff and boring?! Well first you can give it the budget of half a
sandwich, throw it on the ground, followed by stepping on it for good measure, and that’s how
you recreate the formula for how Tribe Nine was made. It’s production is extremely limited for a
sports anime. Linden Films flattens Rui Komatsuzaki‘s original volumetric art style and never
unifies the popping colors of its characters and world. It might actually be uglier and more stiff
than previous disappointment Farewell, My Dear Cramer. But even if it could barely animate a
ball hitting a stick, I’m not sure if it would’ve delivered any homeruns. The characters are quirky
but they and the world of XB feels barebones with not much to push the premise into being
engaging even for a more standard sports anime. The other teams don’t fare much better. And
most of all, I couldn’t really enjoy them. I found most of the jokes one-note, or unfunny, even if
some would get an occasional laugh out of me. It’s not the complete worst, if anything I’d overall
describe it as “mid,” but compared to everything else I was watching, Tribe Nine struck out.


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