The Backlog: Another Year in Review

It is anniversary season yet again. Two years ago to the day is when I finalized my anime backlog and began watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, a show which ended up changing my life quite a lot, primarily by making me a whole lot of new friends and briefly becoming moderately twitter famous. I talked a bunch about that last time, so no more on that here.

The biggest event in my personal life since the last anniversary post is, well, the end of my relative twitter fame via the suspension of my old account. Twitter serves as a pretty major art project for me, a vast, living, breathing document of who I am as a person, expressive in a way I struggle to be in my corporeal life. So losing that hurt quite a lot, and I’m still salty that eight months after losing my account I’ve only managed to get back half my follower count. Anyway, I documented my more in-depth thoughts on that subject back when it happened. It also sucks cause it deleted a lot of the threads I would otherwise be linking throughout this post, as especially for most of the Animator Expo shorts, it’s a bit difficult to rely on screencaps and memories to stand in for the actual observations I made while watching them.

The other big event in my life is my family’s time in the US has ended this February. It’s unlikely I will ever spend multiple months there again, which makes me a little melancholy. I have a lot of friends over there, and a lot of the land is among the most beautiful in the world. I’m more at home in the desert than in lots of other places these days. So I’m back in Europe for now. A few days after this post goes up, I’ll be headed to the UK, which I’m looking forward to a lot. There’s some people over there I really want to see. I wrote a thing about the emotional significance moving and letting go of people and places has for me back in January or February.

The final big thing in my life is, of course, anime, and that’s what this post is really here for. I have watched a ridiculous amount of shows over the last year, from extremely short things to extremely long things, and even franchises with multiple entries give me diverse enough feelings that I’m not too comfortable just grouping them together. There’s a lot of them, so I’ll try to keep the less important ones short.

91. Sex & Violence with Machspeed (watched in rotation 17/9/2018)

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Shrill, cartoonish, and highly obscene, Sex & Violence with Machspeed is probably the most offensive anime I’ve seen and the least fun I’ve had with any show since watching Akame ga Kill and Jormungand back in 2014.

90. K: Seven Stories – The Idol K (watched off rotation 10/6/2019 – 18/6/2019)

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K is a series with a lot of missteps, and The Idol K spinoff is the worst of them by being a hopelessly bland and feeble attempt at a gag comedy without any real jokes. It’s banking on its audience having a degree of affection for characters that simply do not deserve it.

89. “Ragnarok” – Hello from the Countries of the World (watched in rotation 22/11/2018)

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One of my great anime sins is finding mecha to be completely uninteresting on their own: even as war machines go, I find conventional military equipment infinitely more stylish and interesting. Ragnarok is seven minutes of international robot fighting. Yawn.

88. Comedy Skit 1989 (watched in rotation 28/10/2018)

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Comedy Skit 1989 has a lot of upsides to it and falls this low exclusively because its humour isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s very classic slapstick the whole way through, and for me that unfortunately means only every fifth joke is going to land for me. In as rapid fire a comedy as this though, your mileage may vary.

87. Tokio of the Moon’s Shadow (watched in rotation 26/9/2018)

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Tokio feels simultaneously too busy and frustratingly empty, trying to cram several storylines into it’s minuscule run-time and leaving everything frightfully undercooked. It’s not incapable of charm, and the bits with Tokio and the Dreaming Girl are quite lovely, but they take up way too little of the film’s run-time.

86. Mei and the Kitten-Bus (watched in rotation 10/1/2019)

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This one’s low placing actually has a lot less to do with the actual film and a lot more to do with it’s availability: literally the only way to watch it without going to the ghibli museum is via a shoddy camrip, which makes it a frustratingly unenjoyable experience. After Totoro itself was pretty disappointing for me, I wasn’t exactly expecting too much from Mei, but I still hope I can revisit it in a form that does it justice one day.

85. Peaceful Times (F02) Petit Film (watched off rotation 14/9/2018)

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Peaceful Times is an unofficial part of the Animator Expo and a half-animated music video. It’s both musically and visually pretty messy and doesn’t do all that much to stand out from the Animator Expo’s more polished MVs. And that’s about all I have to say about this.

84. Making of: Evangelion: Another Impact (watched in rotation 12/10/2018)

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As the Making of video to an entry slightly further down this list, Making of Another Impact is pretty neat as a curiousity but offers little on its own merit, unsurprisingly.

83. Me!Me!Me! Chronic feat. Teddyloid/Daoko (watched in rotation 12/10/2018)

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Me!Me!Me! Chronic is actually musically more bearable than its source material, but is significantly lesser as a narrative. That may seem a strange demand from a music video, but Me!Me!Me! sounds so terrible that its narrative ideas are easily its strongest aspect.

82. K: Seven Stories – R:B – Blaze (watched off rotation 10/6/2019)

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R:B, the first movie of K Project‘s Seven Stories series, suffers from one major issue. It’s boring as hell. The first half of the movie is mostly a long conversation about topics the series had already covered in detail, and the second half is a long fight that doesn’t lean into the series’ strengths enough to justify being half a movie’s length. It’s not good.

81. Kimetsu no Yaiba (watched off rotation from 7/4/2019-???)

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The good thing about Kimetsu no Yaiba is that its effects work is absolutely gorgeous. The problems start to arise when you stop looking and start reading, because the writing is about as barebones and stereotypical as an action shounen can get.. and that’s in the better parts, the parts where we aren’t hypnotizing the female lead or arbitrarily putting her to sleep for entire episodes. The groundwork is there for this story to be decent: the action shounen formula has existed for as long as it has because, for the most part, it works. But I’m probably going to drop Yaiba before I see it reach its potential.

80. K Project (watched off rotation from 7/3/2019-15/4/2019)

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K Project‘s first season is basically what I wrote about Side R:B but stretched over a much longer time, admittedly with more entertainment value. It’s first half is shockingly low-key and surprisingly comfortable and domestic, and then episode 6 starts dropping twists, the vast majority of which are incredibly terrible decisions. It’s an unabashed disaster and is less entertaining than that sentence might make you think, but also more watchable than it should be.

79. Carnage (watched in rotation 27/8/2018)

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Carnage is dark and brooding and has a western hint of cool to it that should be more entertaining than it is. Unfortunately, though, it’s not. It does look pretty cool throughout, but outside of the brooding, grim atmosphere, there’s just not all that much to get invested in if you’re not a fan of grim revenge stories.

78. Evangelion: Another Impact (watched in rotation 14/9/2018)

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Another Impact is primarily a technical showcase, and as that it succeeds. If you wanted to see an eva launch and rampage in glorious 3D, this is the film for you. That’s also just about all there is here, though. As far as narrative goes, the only thing to talk about here is “oh, NERV fucked up again, huh” and that’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but there’s more than enough of that in the actual series.

77. until You come to Me. (watched in rotation 29/8/2018)

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until You come to Me is another short set in Neon Genesis Evangelion, and unlike the entry above it, it’s not so much a spectacle as, well, whatever the opposite of that is. Its visuals are gorgeous and they’re backed by a mostly gentle orchestral score and through it all I really never figured out what the hell it’s actually about (possibly because I haven’t seen the rebuilds yet), but that doesn’t stop it from being an experience.

76. Me!Me!Me! (watched in rotation 25/8/2018)

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Speaking of experiences, Me!Me!Me! is a harsh one. The rather infamous music video became popular for a reason: its scathing critique of Otaku- and Incel-culture’s misogyny is hard to miss, and as a narrative experience it actually works pretty well. The downsides are both simpler and more complex. The simple one is that the music absolutely sucks. This is a pretty major deal-breaker for a music video in the vast majority of situations. The other major issue is that in its efforts to show how disgusting the protagonist’s worldview is, the film decides to go all out in showing it off in a miserable and uncomfortable parade of off-kilter objectification and erotica. Me!Me!Me! is interesting, for sure, but it is a highly unpleasant experience.

75. The Ultraman (watched in rotation 5/11/2018)

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I am not a fan of Tokusatsu flicks. The appeal, unfortunately, is mostly just lost on me. This always meant The Ultraman would have an uphill battle to land in my good books. Does it manage? Well.. not quite. As my tokusatsu experiences go, it is actually one of the better ones I’ve had, and one of the action scenes towards the end is actually pretty damn cool. My investment in the actual story, however… is mostly ambivalent. An almost neutral experience.

74. K: Seven Stories – Side Blue: Tenrou no Gotoku (watched off rotation 10/6/2019)

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Side Blue is Seven Stories’ second episode and actually manages to be a significant improvement over the first, by virtue of focusing on characters who only had minor roles in the main series if any role at all. It’s still a lot more boring than it has any right to be for a series that prides itself on being a flashy, stylistically unique action show, but hey. Getting better.

73. Pokemon: Mewtwo Returns (watched in rotation 1/2-2/2/2019)

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Mewtwo Returns is another entry here which is just less fun than it should be, with the exception of one absolutely amazing line of Brock’s. Throughout the movie it’s just bogged down by numerous issues it really shouldn’t have: its plot points are half regurgitated from Mewtwo Strikes Back, and the other half are about to be reused in the slightly more impressive Pokemon 4ever, which would be released half a year later. The leading villain, Team Rocket Agent 009, is rather charming but underutilized, and there is just not enough plot to fill the run-time. Pokemon is a series with over 20 movies at this point, and I’m sure not all of them meet the mark (I’ve only seen maybe eight of them myself at this point), but never do they feel so much like an overextended TV episode than this one does. You can read my thread on it here.

72. On a Gloomy Night (watched in rotation 22/10/2018)

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On a Gloomy Night is frustrating. A story of a revolution hijacked by corrupt leaders, feeding into cycles of despair and violence, is far from an uncompelling subject, and the cinematography and direction are frequently excellent. My greater issues lie in the cynicism presented. The world of On a Gloomy Night is unjust at the outset. The fact that it is still unjust at the end feels like a condemnation of attempts to change things. Yes, it can go wrong. Often it will. But does that really mean we shouldn’t try to fight for a better world? Fuck that. Injustice does not go away by itself.

71. Mobile Police Patlabor: Rebot (watched in rotation 1/12/2018)

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Patlabor Reboot is my only contact with the esteemed Patlabor franchise so far, and while I can see a basic appeal in the whole “Police Procedural with Mecha” thing, I can also see why this particular attempt didn’t do much to revive the series. The artistry of Mamoru Oshii, who made the original movies as big of a deal as they were, is sorely missed, and overall Reboot just fails to bring anything particularly unique or interesting to the table. Here’s my brief thread on it.

70. Sailor Moon Sailor Stars (watched in rotation 11/5/2019-???)

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Sailor Stars is the grand finale of the legendary Sailor Moon series, and while I haven’t finished it yet, it’s unfortunately my easy pick for my least favourite season of the show unless something changes soon. Stars has a hang-up on already told stories: it starts by letting new director Takuya Igarashi redo the previous season’s finale, but does nothing with the themes and ideas that made SuperS function, and with significantly less interesting direction to boot. Even after making its mark on the directly preceding storyline, Sailor Stars isn’t willing to let the past go: the Sailor Starlights are mysterious allies which the established cast views with suspicion, just like Uranus and Neptune were in Sailor Moon S. Chibichibi is a small pink child Usagi meets only to find the child has invaded her home and brainwashed her family, just like Chibiusa did in Sailor Moon R. Seiya and Usagi’s budding relationship is a mirror image of Usagi’s relationship with Mamoru in Sailor Moon Classic. There might be a reason for this! Maybe it all builds to something really spectacular. But for now it feels like little more than a retread with lesser artistry than its previous directors brought to the show, and with lesser tonal coherency as well (Sailor Stars is both significantly darker ~and~ significantly goofier than its predecessors, and that usually within just a few minutes of each other). On the upside, minor villains Sailor Aluminum Siren and Sailor Lead Crow are some of the most lovable characters in the entire series. I will be sad when they are inevitably defeated. Here is the first of my threads on it; later ones can be found in the Livetweet Archive.

69. Robot on the Road (watched in rotation 27/11/2018)

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While I’m already talking about shows that frustrate me, Robot on the Road is an incredibly beautifully animated film with a charming female lead that unfortunately for some reason tells the story of a horny robot hitchhiker who sneakily photographs, blogs about, exploits and exposes the women he meets on his travels. Watching it is agony, but the moment she shuts him down is one of pure satisfaction and worth watching for. You can find my increasingly angry thread here.

68. Electronic Superhuman Gridman: Boys Invent Great Hero (watched in rotation 31/8/2018)

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Boys Invent Great Hero has some really good shots and its first act is honestly just really good anime so why is it ranked all the way down here? Because the vast majority of this short film is built around a long and really boring tokusatsu fight full of endless power-ups and finishing moves with no dramatic set-up. It’s always pretty sad when the action parts of an action show feel like the weakest link, but from what I hear of the same director’s recent SSSS. Gridman this seems to be a problem endemic to his vision of the Gridman franchise.

67. Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Sekai (watched off rotation 7/4/2019-???)

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Hitoribocchi is insanely cute and I laugh several times an episode and I absolutely adore Honshou Aru (pictured above), who is one of the most lovable characters I’ve encountered this year. Unfortunately, the show gets weaker with every character who joins the central cast, and with a new character doing so almost every episode in the first half, the immediate charm the near perfect debut episode had is mostly gone by episode four or so. I’m not sure I’ll finish this one.

66. K: Seven Stories – Memory of Red – Burn (watched off rotation 18/6/2019)

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Memory of Red‘s first half presents the bold concept of “what if we took this cast of gangsters and cops and other weirdos and forced them to plan an eleven year old girl’s birthday party”, and that’s a pretty damn strong concept. The second half unfortunately once more retreads all the same things Side R:B retreaded from season one, so it’s unfortunately not all good stuff for Seven Stories‘ fifth part.

65. Yoshikazu Yoshihiko & Ichiro Itano: Collection of Key Animation Films from Mobile Suit Gundam (watched in rotation 27/8/2018)

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As someone who has never seen the original Gundam and cares very little to its successors I’ve seen to this point, of course I’m not exactly the target audience for this collection of production materials from the original Gundam. That said, seeing things translate from storyboard to final cut is always a fascinating process (in no small part cause most of the time I find the sketchy art of the storyboards more aesthetically appealing in the first place), and as a purely academic experience, this one was worth watching.

64. Katsudou Shashin (watched off rotation 1/1/2019)

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On the topic of academic experiences, anime appreciation doesn’t get more academic than watching Katsudou Shashin, the true neutral of all anime. As the oldest piece of japanese animation known to us, it’s a pretty fascinating historical artifact; as a piece of art, well, it’s a four second long clip of a boy writing the kanji for Moving Picture on a board. I don’t think it’s possible to have a real emotional response to that unless you’ve never seen animation before. So, true neutral it is. Everything ranked above this is negatively tinged to bad, and from here on out we venture, slowly but steadily, into the good.

63. The Diary of Ochibi (watched in rotation 9/10/2018)

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The Diary of Ochibi is a short, cute and incredibly joyful short film that doubles as a wonderful technical showcase for stop motion techniques, as the boy Ochibi experiences the seasons made of several entirely different materials. Experiencing life as a bento in spring, on the paper fans of summer, the leaves of autumn and ending up as a pencil sketch on a mug in winter. It’s a very sweet experience, if a little emotionally insubstantial.

62. Endless Night (watched in rotation 31/10/2018)

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Sayo Yamamoto (of Yuri!!! on Ice fame)’s first venture into ice skating anime does one thing exceptionally well, even as most of it left me pretty indifferent, and that is its use of colours. Endless Night rarely features anything but monochrome shots, one colour and nothing else but white black and grey, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I wish I cared more about what actually happens though.

61. K: Seven Stories – Circle Vision – Nameless Song (watched off rotation 18/6/2019)

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Circle Vision is K Project‘s grand finale, and they could not have chosen a stranger story to cap everything off with. Forced to confront a world in which the power of Kings is gone (caused by the acts at the end of season 2, the original finale of this weird-ass show) a mysterious power catches the entire cast in a time loop of one perfect, peaceful day, so that the cast doesn’t have to brave the end. It’s like the show itself acting in denial that it’s really over, and it is so weird to watch that I just can’t hold its weaknesses against it.

60. Starship Troopers – Uchuu no Senshi (watched off rotation 7/1/-9/1/2019)

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Starship Troopers 1988 is another thing that mostly works for me from an academic angle, but it’s undeniably an interesting show. My brother has been obsessed with Starship Troopers for years: he was a huge fan of the movie from childhood, and went on to be a huge fan of the book and of Heinlein and of classic sci-fi in general, and journeying through this original film adaptation of the material with him was really interesting to find out just how much of the characterization and world-building the movie actually took from here instead of from the book. It’s fun.

59. Koyomi History (watched off rotation 28/11/2018)

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Koyomi History is a part of the Madogatari exhibition and is kind of difficult to place into Monogatari canon, despite being a short story written by Nisioisin himself. It’s mostly Koyomi talking to himself, thinking and processing the events and people of Bakemonogatari, in a tone that implies quite a lot of time has passed. It’s a little weird-feeling, but if you bonded with Monogatari as much as I did, you should probably give it a watch.

58. Twin Star Exorcists (watched in rotation 9/1-10/6/2019)

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Twin Star Exorcists is an ordeal. One of the most unbalanced and haphazard anime I’ve had the (mis)fortune to watch in recent years, its core strengths (that is, the two protagonists) are so incredibly good that despite the last 30 episodes featuring maybe 8-10 mostly good episodes I just can’t make myself dislike the show. Rokuro and Benio deserve better, and I hope they eventually get a new anime adaptation that doesn’t fall apart on them as hard as this one does. The good parts (that is, most of the first 20 episodes, episode 21, 30, 40 and 44-47) are just genuinely good, and there’s hints of goodness throughout the rest too because the fundamental chemistry of these characters is so strong, but they’re just horribly let down by a production that had to pad its length endlessly. You can read my threads on it starting here; the others are in the livetweet archive.

57. Bubu & Bubulina (watched in rotation 28/10/2018)

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Bubu & Bubulina is weird. From an odd artstyle to a strange, bouncy style of animation to weird characters and narrative. But when the character of Audrey, the dancing girl is introduced about halfway through, it also gains a sense of serene beauty that feels shockingly in sync with all off the oddity around it, and rounds off into a wonderful and cohesive whole.

56. K: Return of Kings (watched off rotation 5/5-6/5/2019)

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Return of Kings greatly improves on the first season by ditching the first season’s main trio of characters for the majority of the show and instead focusing on our fascinating new villains from the Green Clan, who want to erase the concept of Kings in general and spread the power to everyone. They’re instantly more interesting than anyone outside of the Red Clan and having a villain with actual goals and ideals (which are arguably considerably better than those of the heroes) helps the show immensely.

55. Sailor Moon SuperS (watched in rotation 30/11/2018-2/5/2019)

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SuperS is an odd one. On the one hand, the direction and general artistry is the peak of the entire Sailor Moon franchise, on the other, one of its central narrative pillars is the uncomfortably romantic relationship between Chibiusa, an elementary school girl, and Pegasus, the ageless corporeal manifestation of youthful hopes of the future, who is also a horse. Now, I’m hardly unconvinceable on stuff like this. This won’t be the last girl x corporeal manifestation of more or less abstract concept relationship you will see on this list, and power balances are kind of inherently fucked in those anyway. No, the reason Pegasus is a problem is because of how incredibly one-sided the flow of affection and trust is. Until the last few episodes, Chibiusa isn’t even privy to Pegasus’ actual name. He literally sits in her head, and convinces her to bare her soul for him, and he can give nothing back but a promise of future love. Chibiusa deserved better. You can read my first thread on it here; the other is in the Livetweet Archive.

54. Tonari no Totoro (watched in rotation 10/1/2019)

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Totoro is a beloved children’s classic and watching it it’s incredibly easy to see why. The opening moments, as the sisters first explore the house, up through that first stormy night, capture the absolute magic of childhood innocence in a way few other movies even approach. The issue, then, is that the movie doesn’t end there. As the movie goes on, it steadily continues losing focus, rendering many of the genuinely magical scenes considerably less magical than the mundane ones which preceded it. A last ditch effort to pull the movie together for its final plotline, while much appreciated, just isn’t enough to rekindle the magic that made that opening act so special. I imagine for an actual child watching it, all the encounters with the magical creatures would probably end up being the memorable parts, but for me, they ended up diluting the movie’s real strength: the sheer beauty that is already inherent in human life. You can find my thoughts and reactions here.

53. Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen (watched in rotation 22/10/2018)

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Truth be told, I don’t remember all that much about Amorous Gentlemen. What I do remember is it being a wonderfully moody and atmospheric edwardian gothic drama about a sex worker and the men she meets up with. This may be inaccurate. But the tone is right, and the tone is the thing that stuck with me most, so..

52. Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back (watched in rotation 29-30/1/2019)

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Revisiting movies you liked as a kid is often difficult, as they will inevitably be flawed in ways you weren’t prepared for. Mewtwo Strikes Back is no exception to this, and the biggest surprise for me is that its issues are just about the opposite problems that its sequel has. Where that one felt like a horribly drawn out and padded TV episode, this one struggles to get as many events as it can into its limited run-time, and a lot of scenes end up feeling, well, rushed and underwritten. This is especially visible in the prologue at the laboratory, where the direction is actually genuinely good, but the movie struggles to really create any strong emotional pull because it can’t hold a bit and let the scene breathe. Of course Mewtwo is hyper intelligent, but they’ve literally just been born and they tear down the lab in spite of their “parents” because they already know it’s bad? It just doesn’t work. Nothing can sink in because everything is going so fast. It’s a shame. Read my in-the-moment thoughts here.

51. I Can Friday by Day (watched in rotation 9/10/2018)

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I Can Friday by Day is Kazuya Tsurumaki’s take on late 00’s Eddie Murphy flick “Meet Dave”, if Dave was a cute girl and every single shot of it looked stylish as all hell. “Stylish” is probably generally the best word to use when describing it. Everything looks awesome, moves awesome, flows awesome. I did have some trouble getting emotionally engaged, but that’s not for lack of cool. It’s also accompanied by an amazing Neko Jump track, and is worth watching for that alone.

50. Aria the Avvenire (watched in rotation 30/12/2018)

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I’ve been pretty vocal about how Aria as a whole seems to do less for me than for most people I’ve spoken to about it. This is a disclaimer. The Avvenire is the weakest link of a series which left me unsure about the strength of its individual links for months after finishing them, and which I honestly for most of the time I was watching it had what I would call a love/hate relationship with. So the fact that its weakest link ended up in the top 50 here surprised me quite a lot. The Avvenire is an OVA with some serious issues, the greatest of which is, for me, its hesitation to commit to its new, expanded cast. Obviously I can understand the desire to dabble in memories; after all, the original series ended six years before it came out. But the result is that the new girls feel like undeveloped ciphers instead of like the actual new generation of undine’s they are, and that’s a tragic shame, because the rest? The rest is pretty good. You can read my in-the-moment thoughts and feelings here.

49. Hill Climb Girl (watched in rotation 25/8/2018)

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Hill Climb Girl is the very simple story of a girl who wants to race bikes. It’s short as hell and lots of fun. There’s really not much else to say.

48. Attack on Titan Season 2 (watched off rotation 15-16/1/2019)

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I do like Attack on Titan a good deal more than most of my friends. Their grappling hook belts are just way too cool for me not to be immensely into them. I admittedly have been avoiding the supposedly deeply fascist secrets I’ll eventually learn in season 3, but I’m not there yet, and for now Titan is loads of fun.

47. Power Plant No. 33 (watched in rotation 10/9/2018)

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Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s style of sci-fi always takes one very fantastical concept and grounds it in very thorough, beautiful machinery. It’s visually dense and cluttered breaking through into a remarkable clarity when the narrative commands it, and Power Plant No. 33 is no exception. As a cautionary story about the dangers of nuclear energy, it draws on that same cluttered energy to elaborate the mundanities of this world without spending much time on them, before rising into that classic Japanese symbol of the dangers of nuclear energy: kaiju battles. It’s a fun time, facing bravely forward into a world on the brink of collapse.

46. Senki Zesshou Symphogear (watched off rotation 7-11/11/2018)

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The legendary Symphogear is a show with an interesting first chapter. A lot of the time I was asking myself why I should care about these characters at all, since Miku was the only particularly strong or likable person and she doesn’t even get to join the fighting. My perception only started to change after a certain scene towards the back half of the show, which in fact impressed to the point I felt compelled to write about it. Most of my more in-depth thoughts are better explored there than I could do in this blurb.

45. Asagao to Kase-san (watched off rotation 30/4/2019)

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Kase-san is sweet, fluffy sugar, and I watched it with my girlfriend whom I’m in sweet fluffy love with, and it was a really sweet, good experience and I recommend everyone else to do that too. With your own girlfriends. Not with mine.

44. Cassette Girl (watched in rotation 27/11/2018)

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Cassette Girl is supposedly an homage to Studio Gainax’ famous Daikon IV short films, but as I haven’t seen those, I can’t really speak to that. So instead all I can say is that it’s a very fun sci-fi magical girl romp and if you can stand some questionable CG in spots it’s genuinely good. This is one of the three Animator Expo shorts where my thread actually still exists so here’s actual definitive proof that it is fun.

43. Iconic Field (watched in rotation 12/10/2018)

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Iconic Field is a war story with flying giant robots and it’s probably heavily inspired by Gundam. Most of it is pretty well-directed and some of the most fun I’ve had with Mecha but I feel like I can’t recommend it without putting the massive disclaimer on it that it is one of the most bizarrely boob-focused things I have ever seen, to the point that it even makes someone like me feel a bit weird about it, even though the story doesn’t need it at all. It’s just a thing we have to live with I guess.

42. Aria the Animation (watched in rotation 27/7-19/8/2018)

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Aria the Animation, the first season of the Aria experience, surprised me quite a lot. This is because Aria has a reputation for being “comfortable” and “healing”, and yet Animation has a surprisingly strong comedy dynamic and ends up feeling more like K-on! than you’d expect it to, though this aspect will be softened and largely filtered out as the series progresses. Here in the early parts, it’s going strong.

41. K: Seven Stories – Side: Green – Uwagaki Sekai (watched off rotation 13/6/2019)

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Side: Green, the third episode of Seven Stories, was another big surprise for me. Following on the heels of the overwhelmingly dull R:B and the only slightly better Side: Blue, I was shocked to find not only did Green have some pretty sweet new visual tricks in store to separate it from the rest of K, it also managed to tell a story with some genuine emotion attached. And all it needed to do for that was to ditch all attachments to season 1 and embrace the new characters. Side: Green is legitimately pretty good.

40. Aikatsu Stars! Hoshi no Tsubasa (watched in rotation 22/2/2019-???)

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Hoshi no Tsubasa is one of the best shows I will ever have the privilege of calling a disappointment. I have not reached its endgame yet, so there’s a chance it would crash into the low numbers like a meteor if I were writing this a month from now, but unfortunately it followed up it’s absolute wham-episode debut with a terrifying lack of urgency given the situation they’re in. This is the season with the actual Aikatsu Nazis, who are here in pursuit of absolute control of idoldom and to eradicate diversity and freedom of choice. They’re a big deal. But we spend so much time palling around with them as if nothing’s going on, and this goes on for over 20 episodes. It desperately needs to raise the stakes, and soon.

39. K: Missing Kings (watched off rotation 4/5/2019)

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Missing Kings, the original K Project movie and the bridge between seasons one and two, boils the entire series down to its essence and finally manages to stop stumbling over its own feet. And wow does it explode when this show starts getting things right. Missing Kings focuses on the Red and the Green clans, its two strongest casts, and is one giant firework spectacle. It rules.

38. Obake-chan (watched in rotation 17/9/2018)

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Moving away from action spectacles, Obake-chan is an adorable little gag comedy in an absolutely adorable artstyle making very cute jokes. There’s not much more depth to it than that but it’s so enjoyable how could I not have it this high? Oh, also it has a recorder cover of Komm Suesser Tod.

37. Hammerhead (watched in rotation 25/10/2018)

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And from Obake-chan we leap right back into action-spectacle. Hammerhead is a grim parade of violence starring a man who cannot die in his endless quest for death and the government who wants him to forfeit his humanity for the common good. A story without true villains but with suffering to spare, it’s a very strong film.

36. Three Fallen Witnesses (watched in rotation 26/9/2018)

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Three Fallen Witnesses is a bit of an odd one out among the shows that impressed me last year. A short film about a pair of detectives investigating a murder that seems not to have happened yet, it consistently toes the line between mundane and surreal, calm and tense. It’s just.. really unusual and intriguing.

35. Yamadeloid (watched in rotation 10/9/2018)

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Yamadeloid is a sci-fi samurai music video and.. look. It’s not deep. It’s just really loud, flashy fun. It’s a good time.

34. Sailor Moon R (watched in rotation 30/5-17/8/2018)

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Sailor Moon R is one of the rare entries to feature both on this list and on last year’s one (the others being Aria the Animation which I talked about earlier, as well as Aikatsu! 4 and Koyomimonogatari which were included in their franchises). R is unique among those in that it was the only one which I had almost finished at the time. R‘s best sides are unfortunately mostly contained in its first arc: Doomtree is the rare time that Sailor Moon‘s incessant goofiness never feels at odds with the story that’s going on; the villains are just kids themselves and only harming people at all for survival reasons, and they (especially Natsumi/An) are some of my favourite characters in the entire franchise. Their arc also includes what is probably my favourite fight in all of Sailor Moon, as a fight against a cherry tree spirit ends up being Sailor Moon‘s equivalent to Evangelion‘s Leliel episode. The stuff after Doomtree is far more spotty overall, but still has some excellent content with the introduction of Chibiusa and the Ayakashi sisters, and of course Sailor Moon R the Movie is one of the series’ greatest artistic achievements. R is good.

33. Rapid Rouge (watched in rotation 25/10/2018)

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I adored Rapid Rouge instantly for it’s colour scheme. Rendered almost completely in greyscales with the exception of the deep, dark red of our heroes’ armour, the film documents a paramilitary strike force attempting to bust their leader out of jail, and it goes all kinds of wrong. The short was intended to be a pilot for a series that never was, and I will forever suffer for it.

32. Minami-ke (watched in rotation 27/6/2019-???)

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Premature rankings hoi. I am three episodes into Minami-ke at this point, but its comedy fundamentals are so incredibly strong I can’t see it falling much lower than this. I am incredibly partial to casts who share about three braincells between themselves, and this family is trying their hardest to get by on them. I love them. You can find my in the moment thoughts and screams here.

31. Aikatsu! 4 (watched in rotation 26/7-31/8/2018)

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The grand finale to over 150 episodes of Aikatsu! is a little odd. A shorter season than usual, the entire first cour proceeds with a lack of urgency that even stands out among other Aikatsu! seasons. It proceeds as two separate stories: odd episodes are from Luminas’ national tour, and are almost wholly inconsequential, introducing characters who don’t really matter in any way and proceeding to just waste a whole lot of time, unfortunately. Even episodes are stronger, documenting the meteoric rise of Nono and Risa to top idols. This is the important part, because the second cour is the great Starlight Queen Cup, and it is fantastic. Between Risa grasping for Mizuki’s power, Akari’s glory and Sumire’s desperate courage, Aikatsu! 4 is every bit the grand finale this story deserves.

30. Pokemon: Pikachu’s Vacation (watched in rotation 29/1/2019)

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Pikachu’s Vacation is pure joy. The 4kids dub gives it the gift of Vitamin C’s incredible summer anthem Vacation that really just sets the tone for the rest of the way. It’s really silly, really energetic, intercut with some incredibly trippy interludes, and just extremely fun the whole way. Read my in-the-moment thoughts here.

29. Tsurezure Children (watched in rotation 2/12/2018-1/1/2019)

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Tsurezure Children is one of my all-time favourite manga, so the chance I wasn’t going to love the anime adaptation was pretty low. And yet, just short of love is where it ended up. Most of this isn’t an indictment of what the show did, but rather of what it omitted: Tsurezure stars dozens of individual love stories that gradually weave into a rather complete tapestry of love and friendship. It’s lighthearted but it packs a real emotional punch too, and it’s incredibly easy to get emotionally involved with these kids. So the anime’s choice to focus on just five couples leaves many scenes feeling emptier than they should, lacking the social and emotional context sidelined characters’ stories would have given them. If you can forgive the omissions, Tsurezure Children becomes a must-watch property. For me, I’d rather recommend the excellent manga. You can read my in-the-moment thoughts on the show here.

28. Keifuku-san (watched off rotation 1/2/2019)

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A short film and baby of Kemono Friends and Kemurikusa creators Tatsuki and Irodori, Keifuku-san shows the lives of a girl and her transparent flying manta ray as they scavenge an abandoned city for energy. It’s a wonderful little showcase of atmosphere and levity, and I hope that, like Kemurikusa before it, it will make the leap to a full series soon.

27. GIRL (watched in rotation 5/11/2018)

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GIRL is yet another Animator Expo music video, but it is so evocative and beautiful it deserves the top 30 spot. It’s a trippy deluge of colours and emotions, telling a story of loneliness, rage, jealousy and guilt. It’s beautiful.

26. Sarazanmai (watched off rotation 11/4-20/6/2019)

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Sarazanmai is Kunihiko Ikuhara’s long awaited return to TV anime and lo, once more, it is good. A very heartfelt story of three very gay boys and two more very gay cops, its only real flaw is a lack of run-time to explore everything as thoroughly as it would like to. There’s a lot of fun, cryptic and artsy bullshit running throughout and it touches on about a dozen different topics, and ends up leaving all but its most central components a little undercooked. Those central components though? Are damn strong. Welcome back Ikuhara. Please stay a little longer this time.

25. Fruits Basket (watched off rotation 17/4/2019-???)

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Fruits Basket is a story about kindness, of the lifeline love and kindness are to people in need, and it is one of the most consistently moving stories I am aware of. I’m only about halfway through this first season, and Tohru is one of my all-time favourite protagonists, a girl who goes through incredible hardships over and over again and fights forward with a never-ending love for others. Although she still has to learn a thing or two about self-esteem. But that’s an actual plot point, so I’m not too worried about her. I just want to see her grow, along with her newfound family.

24. Da Yu Hai Tang – Big Fish and Begonia (watched off rotation 17/10/2018)

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Da Yu Hai Tang has the big ghibli energy, and tells a magical story of a girl from the realm of gods trying to save the soul of a boy she accidentally got killed during her travels on earth. It’s frequently spectacular and yet contains its emotional reach to a very small, contained story of mutual self-sacrifice. It’s really good.

23. Aria the Natural (watched in rotation 19/8-25/10/2018)

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The Natural is the most frustrating chapter of Aria to me, but it’s also arguably my favourite. The reason it’s still this low is that watching it was an actual challenge for me. I would try to watch an episode, and immediately be met with an overwhelming desire to go to bed. I considered dropping it at times. It was difficult. And yet. And yet, there are so many amazing moments in Natural that nothing else captures similarly. The entire Cait Sith saga is one of my favourite stories in all of fiction, and its great climax, Natural‘s episode 21, is a masterpiece for all-time. For every episode that threatened to put me to sleep, there’s another moment in Natural that strikes me with such intense beauty that I’m overcome with emotion just thinking about it.

22. Bureau of Proto Society (watched in rotation 31/10/2018)

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Bureau of Proto Society documents a messy debate among the titular bureau of a futuristic underground civilization as they try to understand what happened to their ancestors that led to their bunkering themselves away. It’s a tense and serious experience.. until you understand what’s really going on. And then it’s a riot. It’s really good.

21. Urusei Yatsura Season 1 (watched in rotation 6/2/2019-???)

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Urusei Yatsura gets off to a rough start. Its early material is rough-looking, and almost everyone is a callous prick 90% of the time. But.. as the show goes on, it starts to develop a greater understanding of who these people really are beyond their most surface characteristics, and once it does, it starts to not only be a great comedy, but actually manage to get some genuine pathos out of its stories. Its influence is felt on so many newer shows, for me most notably in the Monogatari Series, where Koyomi really feels like he would be Ataru’s son. I struggled with this show early on but it’s genuinely turned into one of the shows I look forward to most in every rotation.

20. Kanon (watched in rotation 14/9/2018)

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Kanon is a rare adaptation of Karel Čapek’s Adam the Creator, a theatre play about a man deciding to destroy the world and his efforts to rebuild humanity by his own vision, and struggling as humanity runs off on its own course yet again. It’s a wild and vivid vision, and worth every moment.

19. The Dragon Dentist OVA (watched in rotation 23/8/2018)

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The Dragon Dentist OVA is actually an adaptation and expansion of another entry on this list, but Kazuya Tsurumaki spins the story into a far grander scale. In doing so, it does lose some of its philosophical edge, and crucially ends up occasionally sidelining protagonist Nonoko in her own story, but the core is intact and the adventure is a truly excellent one.

18. Nerawareta Mahou no Aikatsu Card! (watched in rotation 1/11/2018)

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The first but far from the last anime on this list to make me cry, Mahou no Aikatsu Card! is a victory lap, and it’s generally unnecessary, but… If you’ve spent 178 episodes with these characters, and then you’ve spent a few months away from them, and then you get to spend one last half-hour with them in which the show pulls out all the stops and goes wilder than its ever been before.. it’s hard not to be affected. I was crying tears of joy. It’s absolutely fantastic.

17. Sailor Moon S (watched in rotation 18/8-25/11/2018)

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The undeniable peak of the Sailor Moon franchise, S finally upgrades Chibiusa to be a core part of the team, finally goes a full season without sidelining Mamoru with dumb bullshit, and introduces three of its very best characters in Hotaru (the probably best-written character in the entire show), Michiru (a welcome adult influence), and almost-deuteragonist Haruka. S doesn’t really make any great changes to the previous seasons or anything, it’s just the season where finally almost everything clicks, with Ikuhara’s developing directorial style adding small flourishes accenting the package rather than defining it, and almost every writing decision paying off.. until the last two episodes, which are almost entirely superfluous, but what can we do. It’s fantastic until then.

16. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 5 – Golden Wind (watched off rotation 3/1/2019-31/7/2019)

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure had a lot to live up to after the frankly magnificent second half of Diamond is Unbreakable, and Golden Wind doesn’t quite live up to it. There simply is no replacement for the sheer tension that comes with Kira’s home invasion. That unfair comparison, Golden Wind still has both its share of up and downsides. For me, the biggest downside is that stand-powers, especially those of protagonist Giorno, are defined more loose than ever, which greatly reduces the tactical play which makes all of JoJo‘s greatest fights so tense. On the upside, part 5 is paced better than any part before it. It canonically takes place in roughly a week’s time, and it definitely doesn’t drag its feet a single time. Once again, it’s a great ride.

15. The Dragon Dentist (watched in rotation 23/8/2018)

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And here’s the title the OVA from earlier built on. The Dragon Dentist is a short, mostly philosophical piece about accepting one’s own mortality and embracing one’s duty in life and in death. Nonoko’s path to her destiny as a dragon dentist involves her directly staring down the soldier whose bullet is destined to end her life, and accepting that fate is inevitable. It’s both grand and beautiful and very, very focused.

14. K: Seven Stories – Lost Small World – Ori no Mukou ni (watched off rotation 17/6/2019)

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In Lost Small WorldK gets it right. It does fail to land the ending, but everything else is a surprisingly personal story about kids who thought they could take the world on by themselves and find themselves overwhelmed by how big the world turned out to be. Throughout the main series, Misaki and Fushimi feel like Naruto and Sasuke: one continuously reaches out to the other and the other gives back nothing but scorn; here, we finally get some insight into both why Misaki bothers and why Fushimi is like this. The scenes with his family are surprisingly real. The whole film is surprisingly real, from the youthful magic of the two and their mutual not-quite-friend Aya hunting the Silver King’s airship through the entire development of their friendship. This is unquestionably the most personal story the franchise has ever attempted, and likely the most personal story Studio GoHands has ever attempted, and it doesn’t land every single beat, but it gets everything that matters.

13. Carole & Tuesday (watched off rotation 8/5/2019-???)

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This is another grossly premature ranking, but that’s okay. Carole & Tuesday has been pretty amazing so far, and that’s including the Mars’ Brightest arc, which was only okay compared to the rest of the show. It’s effortlessly one of the most visually beautiful anime productions I’ve ever seen, and its characters are just truly lovable. I think the show still has higher aspirations than it has shown so far, too, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

12. Aria the OVA: Arietta (watched in rotation 28/10/2018)

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Did I say the Natural was my favourite Aria? Well, that’s an inaccurate statement. While Natural does contain almost all of my favourite individual episodes, including the entirety of my favourite storyline, my second-favourite storyline, the deep, sisterly love between Akari and Alicia, only starts afterwards, and Arietta is one of that storyline’s most beautiful moments. A visit to a lonely place, just the two of them, reveals in stunning beauty the closeness between them and starts the clock on their eventual parting. It’s incredibly moving.

11. 20min Walk from Nishi-Ogikubo Station, 2 Bedrooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 2mos Deposit, No Pets Allowed (watched in rotation 29/8/2018)

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Backing away from the moving stuff for a little bit, 20min Walk succeeds with an absolutely gorgeous sketchy art style, lovely animation and a surreal adventure of a girl waking up as a cockroach. There’s not all that much more to say here, it’s just this high because it’s that good.

10. Koyomimonogatari (watched in rotation 30/7-7/8/2018)

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Koyomimonogatari is largely shrugged at by the Monogatari fandom as being largely pointless and inconsequential, which certainly isn’t wrong. To me, the starkly limited scale of it all does a lot to elaborate on the rules of Monogatari‘s world, and in doing so, ends up changing your perspective on a lot of past events and characters. It also gives many characters a chance to act in truly mundane situations, which is also something I have a lot of fun with (my favourite arc is Karen Bee, go figure). I really love Monogatari, and Koyomimonogatari offers an entirely new angle on the series; one far divorced from the high stakes and drama which accompany these kids at most times, and the result is a joy.

09. Kemurikusa (watched off rotation 27/1-29/3/2019)

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Kemurikusa is the great return of Tatsuki, Irodori and Studio Yaoyorozu to TV anime after being publicly scammed out of their jobs on Kemono Friends, and it is amazing. A post-apocalyptic thriller that manages to keep its atmosphere light through the power of its delightful cast, it revels in world-class worldbuilding, with only subtle hints to the nature of this world dropped, gathering clues to the existence of the world, its rules, the nature of its inhabitants, the existence of these people. It’s an incredible show balancing mystery with tense desperation as our protagonists search for water in their dead environment. Everything this team does is gold, and Kemurikusa is their best work to date. Go watch it.

08. Mirai no Mirai (watched off rotation 2/7/2019)

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At last, we’re back in “shows that made me cry” territory. I presume that for Mirai to resonate with you, you probably need to have a certain kind of relationship with your family; a deep love for your parents, an understanding of the complicated relations and love that inevitably exist between similarly aged siblings.. and probably a tendency to love the sentimental. If you have all that, and I do, you should probably watch Mirai. I wept for this family and their bonds, I wept thinking about my parents, and I wept thinking about what I could possibly pass on to my own children someday, as I owe my parents so much for the wonderful childhood I had. If that sounds like something you might relate to, go watch it right asap.

07. Aria the Origination (watched in rotaton 31/10-22/12/2018)

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Continuing on the trail of my own tears, Origination continues what Arietta started. As the time keeps on ticking to Akari’s final exam and Alicia’s subsequent retirement from Aria Company, everything gets wrapped up super nicely and between thinking about this and thinking about Mirai I actually am crying again, almost as much as I cried in the last episode of Origination during Alicia’s retirement ceremony, just go watch Aria already. You can find my increasingly tearful in-the-moment thoughts here.

06. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (watched off rotation 17/10/2018)

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Speaking of crying. Mari Okada’s debut feature is one of the most powerful tearjerkers I have ever had the joy to encounter. It feels a little clumsy at times, some elements feel a bit superfluous until you rewatch and catch more of the thematic connections, but it all comes together so well. It leaves you with an impression of a life well lived, a life full of love and happiness and hardship and joy, and at the end, you cry. And if you’re like me, you’re probably going to be crying for the next 15 minutes or so, because you don’t cry very often and really need to embrace the release when you can. Every moment is a treasure, because that’s just how life is, and Maquia knows to celebrate that.

05. Whisper of the Heart (watched off rotation 19/7/2019)

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Whisper of the Heart is maybe the best ghibli movie. Maybe. After Spirited Away, maybe. Either way it’s a gorgeous exploration of young love and growing up, and the suffering and joy brought by art itself, and it’s just plain beautiful.

04. Tomorrow from There (watched in rotation 31/8/2018)

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Tomorrow From There is also a story about growing up, but in a different sense. Tomorrow From There dares you to challenge the mundane trappings of young adulthood and chase your best self. Dream your dreams and step forward. And the way there is stunningly beautiful. Tomorrow From There is less than ten minutes long and one of the most beautiful little stories of self-actualization I’ve ever seen, and likely ever will see.

03. Owarimonogatari 2nd Season (watched in rotation 10/8-19/8/2018)

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The grand finale of the Monogatari Series is every bit as great as the show’s most devout followers tell you. It’s first arc, Mayoi Hell, is the most visually bold and beautiful the show has ever been. The second arc, Hitagi Rendezvous, bookends the story by finally truly wrapping up and affirming the series’ central love story, bringing everything back to Senjougahara. And the final arc, Ougi Dark, wraps every single plot thread up in an almost upsettingly perfect conclusion, as well as delivering a resounding emotional message about self-love and self-sacrifice. It’s perfect. It is really and genuinely perfect.

02. Neon Genesis Impacts (watched in rotation 22/11/2018)

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As one might guess from my twitter handle, Neon Genesis Impacts is something truly special. Haruka and Izumi’s friend is moving away, and so they suddenly find themselves without the last member of their band, the thing that gave them purpose and motivation to keep on going in their dying world (for reference, this short takes place before and into Evangelion episode 19, i.e. well into Eva‘s “everything is fucked” phase). The rest of the short deals with Haruka’s desperate search for a reason to keep on living. She wants to have a reason. She really, really desperately wants one, but the world keeps taking things away from her. And it’s heartbreaking, and it makes me feel so many things, and it’s relentlessly cruel, but she refuses to give up until the very end, and that’s why I will always stan Haruka Ishii. By the way, their band has a song, that plays in the short, and it rules. I’m tempted to link it here but I can’t find it without footage from the short, so you might as well go watch the short. Please. I’m begging you. It will hurt your soul, in the good way.

… *drumroll*

 

 

 

… and finally…

 

 

 

01. Aikatsu Stars! (watched in rotation 10/9/2018-20/2/2019)

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Taking the win away from Neon Genesis Impacts was far from easy, but if any show qualifies for the title, it’s Aistars. After 178 episodes of Aikatsu!, which I loved quite dearly, I was absolutely shocked to see Stars walk in and effortlessly sweep me off my feet. Where Impacts is exactly the kind of show I know will always impress me (I’ve been workshopping a series of posts with the title “Searching for Meaning in a World Beyond Hope” for over a year before I saw the short, and that’s quite literally what that short is about), Aikatsu Stars gave me what I never knew I wanted: it toned down Aikatsu and grounded it, giving a place for genuine drama to develop. And the payoff is tremendous: the rivalry between sisters Mahiru and Yozora is incredibly real, frequently loving and frequently bitter, as Mahiru’s elder sister always seems to be shining just beyond her reach; Rola’s rivalry with Yume and her incessant defeats despite her superior efforts breeds real despair for her; at the same time, the two share a love story so powerful and beautiful they had to make an entire movie about it. Finally and, to me, most importantly, Yume herself and her resolution to leave the power that raised her to prominence behind, to shine on her own merits, brought on by a meeting with someone who was in her exact position once and burned out and failed, and yet is still out there as a happy adult, someone who lived to tell the tale of life going on after your initial dreams don’t work out.. I have never in my life felt more euphoria than I did watching Aikatsu Stars! episode 36. Never.

“Yume no miru mono ja nai, kanaeru mono dayo” – Dreams aren’t meant to be dreamed, they’re meant to be fulfilled. Go fight for them.

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