The Backlog: a Third Year in Review

I apologize for not writing in so long. A few months back I had plans to use the dawn of quarantine to force myself back into writing, but personal matters threw me, my life and future plans, and significant parts of my self-concept into disarray, and recovery has been slow and difficult. The year of 2019-2020 has had some of the sharpest peaks and the deepest valleys of my life. It’s been a long time since I was as broken as April, May and June of 2020, but I had also never in my entire life previously been as happy as I was in the Summer and Autumn of 2019. Maybe things aren’t really getting better or worse, maybe I’m just feeling things more.

You’d think that feeling things more would mean I have a lot of things to gush about this year, for all the things I’ve seen: in terms of episodes consumed, this was once again my most successful year of anime to date. That said, compared to last year’s crop, the peak is a little slimmer. There’s no show in this year’s group that can parallel the sheer power of something like Neon Genesis Impacts or the first incredible season of Aikatsu Stars, and the breadth of shows I feel kinda indifferent about is greater this year than it was in the last anniversary post. Nevertheless, I do have a lot to talk about. Bear with me for a bit, cause once again, we’re starting at the bottom.

I also want to apologize for some awkward formatting in this post. Since the last time I published anything on wordpress, they have introduced a new editor which I am not entirely used to using yet. I will do my best to get up to speed on it before the next time I post something.

77. Pokemon 4ever (watched in rotation 25/2/2020)

My experience revisiting the Pokemon movies of yore has continued to be a kinda frustrating experience. Having watched each of the first 4 feature (and one special) movies of the series in the last three years and finding that only one of them really holds up is disappointing enough. Pokemon 4ever, though, is the icing on the miserable cake. I can’t even call this one disappointing, exactly; even as a kid I knew that Celebi’s movie was notably worse than the previous ones. That it would be this bad, though, still came as a surprise. Where previous movies had their fair share of ambition and craft, usually hamstrung by a need to make things punchy and fast-paced for a children’s audience, 4ever has no such silver lining. It’s incredibly stupid narratively and emotionally, and the rather pretty backgrounds and 2D animation are betrayed by one of the ugliest CG monstrosities in the center of the movie that I have ever seen. You can find my increasingly frustrated thoughts on it here.

76. One Piece: Stampede (watched off rotation 13/10/2019)

Having watched this one in cinemas, my negative thoughts on it aren’t as developed as my thoughts on Pokemon 4ever were, and at least visually, this one was a big step up. Unfortunately, that’s about all the good I feel I can say about it. It looked good at times. Narratively and emotionally, it’s about as undercooked as you would expect from the fourteenth movie in a two-decade spanning series to be. Maybe if you’re already an established fan of the series, you might find something to love in here; as an outsider, there is nothing.

75. Hacka Doll the Animation (watched off rotation 8/1 – 7/2/2020)

Well, the Shirobako episode was good. Beyond that, unfortunately, Hacka Doll is pretty lackluster, a little obnoxious, and simply not very funny. I don’t want to rag on it too much. I don’t have many hard feelings or anything towards Hacka Doll, it simply isn’t for me.

74. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: I Cannot Let Summer Break End (watched in rotation 18/7/2020)

Unlike Hacka Doll, I absolutely will rag on Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, and especially on it’s OVA finale, which somehow manages to drive home all the flaws of its main series without presenting any of the things that elevated a solid chunk of it. I debated long and hard whether I should include the OVA as a separate entry at all, given that it really is just the final episode of the story, but it enraged me enough that I felt a need to single it out specifically as unusually meritless. This is a bad TV show.

73. Birthday Wonderland (watched off rotation 12/10/2019)

The beginning of our long, long trek through things that are too good to be called bad but also not good enough to warrant any real praise, Birthday Wonderland, an adaptation of a book most famous for accusing Hayao Miyazaki of plagiarism when he made Spirited Away, is staunchly and unflinchingly generic. It has a share of nice moments and nice set-pieces, but as a story, just kinda fails to generate any real momentum or tension. Birthday Wonderland follows on the heels of 2017’s Mary & the Witch’s Flower as a movie which feels very ghibli-adventuresque, while also making it incredibly clear why that studio passed these stories up all these years. It’s simply… not very good.

72. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan (watched in rotation 3/6 – 13/7/2020)

So, with most of my rage at the show vented out at the OVA, let’s talk briefly about why the main Nagato Yuki-chan series rates higher than it. Reason number one for that is the surprisingly natural rapport between Haruhi and Asakura, characters who never interact in the main Haruhi canon but who go very quickly and very smoothly from antagonists to friends to… something quite intimate and real. The other notably good thing about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is the arc it’s named after, a series of four episodes towards the end of the show in which the hapless moeblob Yuki is replaced with a new Yuki more akin to the one from the original Haruhi series. With her in as the protagonist, the show suddenly shows depths of thought and sensibility the rest of the show cannot touch, and for the duration of those episodes it is actually really quite good. If it had just ended there, I would have had much fonder feelings on the series… but the insistence on tacking on two more episodes in which the show settled back into the old status quo pissed me off so much that I just can’t be more charitable to it. You can find my thoughts on it (and the OVA mentioned earlier) here.

71. Minami-ke: Betsubara (watched in rotation 12/12/2019)

Minami-ke is a very solid comedy series with the critical flaw that there is far more of it than what its style of story-telling warrants, and the peak of “was this necessary” comes in the Betsubara OVA. There’s nothing egregiously wrong with it, it’s just a middling episode of Minami-ke, but a middling episode of Minami-ke that got released as a standalone title instead of as part of a season makes me raise my eyebrows and shake my head. We did not need the Betsubara OVA. You can find my (rather limited) thoughts and commentary on it here.

70. BBK/BRNK & BBK/BRNK: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy (watched in rotation 12/2 – 26/4/2020)

When I started watching BBK/BRNK, I had pretty high hopes for it. I’m used to watching “bad” shounen action shows (like Twin Star Exorcists, from last year’s write-up), shows with production issues, shows with writing issues, as long as they can get a smidgen of good character moments together I am not difficult to please at all. BBK/BRNK, unfortunately, does not succeed in that. Or, rather, it constantly changes its narrative from the ground up, shifting from what started as a strong successor to the dumb action shows I love to something completely unrecognizable starting in episode 7 of the first season. The problem with these changes is that it constantly undermines every emotional beat it tries to present. The original plot about kids trying to overthrow the tyrannical ruler Ryoko falls apart when, as the series progresses, Ryoko’s reign of terror is increasingly swept under the rug and her and her squad join up with the main kids without any of the groundwork necessary to make such a turn work. This lack of fundamental grounding for literally any of the show’s narrative turns prevents any of its emotional beats from working, and the result is a frustrating and disappointing show. A few positives still remain: The main group of kids are really quite likable; the show loses track of this emotional core as the cast starts rapidly expanding in the second half of the first season, but the original group are good. The final episode of the second season, while admittedly another narrative turn lacking any kind of build-up, is also a surprisingly strong and thoughtful episode on life after war. The rest of the show, unfortunately, is an unsalvageable mess. My threads are here.

69. Minami-ke: Natsuyasumi (watched in rotation 18/1 – 19/1/2020)

Similarly to the Betsubara OVA, the Natsuyasumi OVA suffers from feeling somewhat superfluous. As one more final episode after the last season’s finale, it is, for the most part, completely fine, and the scene before that final credit roll is actually genuinely better as a finale than the main series ending, a largely unnecessary post-credits scene breaks the tone the rest of the episode had worked to attain, and leaves it feeling.. well, unnecessary. My thoughts.

68. Welcome to the Space Show (watched in rotation 3/2 – 4/2/2020)

Welcome to the Space Show has very sturdy emotional core about kids and growing up and taking responsibility for each other, and it really should be better than it is. Its problem is that it wants to do too many things; its plot twists distract from the character things that actually work, and its need to be a fantastical, world-saving adventure feels rather at odds with the low-key nature of all its best scenes. Above all else, Welcome to the Space Show is Too Damn Long and wants to be too many things to actually live up to the sum of its parts. My thread is here.

67. Minami-ke: Okawari (watched in rotation 20/9 – 5/11/2019)

Okawari is the rare exception in Minami-ke canon; it’s absolutely not one you could look at and say “this is just more Minami-ke” the way you can say about the OVAs or even the third and fourth seasons. Okawari is different. Unusually ambitious for this show, it actually has dramatic ambitions and a clear narrative vision. Unfortunately a whole lot of it simply doesn’t work, and is, in fact, in large parts extraordinarily dull as it manages to somehow mismanage it’s precarious position on the precipice of comedy and slice of life drama every bit as often as it hits. It’s a shame, too. Due to its far more cohesive vision of itself, the episodes that do land work surprisingly well. The trash collection episode manages to be gentle, warm and quite full of character; the pool episode is genuinely one of the funniest in the entire series; the onsen episode that starts the season, while a mixed bag overall, has some of the more biting and humorous observations on gender performance I’ve seen in a while; and the finale is the only one in the entire show which has some actual emotional build-up to it. Tragically, when it isn’t on point, Okawari is very, very off. My thread.

66. Redline (watched off rotation 11/10 – 12/10/2019)

Redline is somewhat of a cult classic in anime fandom, and I get why. The animation and polish is absolutely ludicrous. And the racing… wow, the racing. Unfortunately, Redline is the Phantom Menace of anime: yes, the race is pretty awesome, but virtually everything else here ranges from kinda obnoxious to really fucking terrible. When our heroes are so unlikable that I end up sympathizing with the nazi-analogue culture whose planet we’re ravaging in our pursuits of glorious racing and freedom, you’re doing something horribly, horribly wrong. A frustrating movie.

65. Kimetsu no Yaiba (watched off rotation 7/4/2019 – 12/1/2020)

Kimetsu no Yaiba’s record-breaking popularity is, well, frankly baffling to me. It’s not an unentertaining show, but it suffers from an unusually bad cast for a long-running action shounen; Tanjiro himself is pretty likable and his sister Nezuko is quite cute (though she is completely and utterly sidelined throughout the show, badly enough to make series like My Hero Academia or Naruto look like paragons of feminist literature), but later companions Zenitsu and Inosuke are insufferable at the best of times, and very unfortunately for this show, it doesn’t really learn how to make the best of its action and drama until after they are introduced, so as the series gets better, the journey gets worse. A disappointing series.

64. Minami-ke Okaeri (watched in rotation 6/11 – 2/12/2019)

After the surprising tonal, stylistic and dramatic shifts of the previous season (which, it seems, seriously dented its popularity), something had to change. What changed in the end, was, well, the tonal, stylistic and dramatic shifts of the previous season, which were all hurriedly backpedaled in an attempt to regain the feeling of the first season. It worked, kind of. Okaeri is undeniably a better show than Okawari was. It’s much, much funnier, for a start. But ultimately, Okaeri feels somewhat inconsequential. The fact that director Kei Oikawa has since denounced his work on it also speaks volumes. My quickly disillusioned thread here.

63. Bananya & the Curious Bunch (watched off rotation 14/12/2019 – 3/1/2020)

Bananya is a curiosity more than anything else, and it’s sequel/stealth prequel is an even greater curiosity than the entire project really warrants. Remember when Bananya was a cat that happened to be in a banana? New Bananya is an alien species on an unknown Moon of Earth who dream of travelling to space. The Curious Bunch is not exactly what I would call a funny show. It’s curious. It’s certainly interesting enough to keep you watching it, as short as its episodes are. But beyond vague senses of “cute” and sharper senses of “huh?”, you’re not getting too much here.

62. Princess Connect! Re:Dive (watched off rotation 15/4 – 29/6/2020)

Contrary to its name, Princess Connect’s greatest flaw in my view is, well, the lack of any real connection I feel to it. It’s an eminently watchable show, the production is rock solid, the cast is quite likable, the atmosphere is cozy and fun. And that, alas, is all I really have to say about it. I just stop caring about it the moment I stop watching.

61. Cencoroll (watched in rotation 9/2/2020)

Cencoroll has a really cool, washed out visual aesthetic, some really cool animation, and some really neat ideas. Unfortunately for it, they don’t really come together all that strongly here; Cencoroll’s emotional core is just kinda undercooked. The characters start the film as a boy with unusual alien powers who wants people to leave him alone and a girl who’s interested in them and won’t leave him alone, and end the film as basically that too. Well. She gets his alien, but their dynamic changes little. They do feel like realistic teenagers, but they also just don’t do much for the dramatic narrative. Fortunately for Cencoroll, it would eventually get a sequel that gets most things right. You can find my thread on it here.

60. Pikachu’s Pikaboo (watched in rotation 24/2 – 25/2/2020)

Far superior to the movie it was coupled with, Pikachu’s Pikaboo’s first act is frankly rather magical, and fully leans into the joy good Pokemon content should have: there’s a wonder to seeing Pokemon out in their world living their best lives, and the game of Hide and Seek the short is named after is that to a perfect degree. Unfortunately, slightly more than half of the short is Not That, and is instead occupied with an extended chase sequence between the Pokemon and a ridiculous weaponized Lawnmower, and it’s just… it’s just not that great, and it lasts far too long, and it was so good until that came up that my enthusiasm is dampened too much to rate Pikaboo any higher. My thread’s here.

59. Sailor Moon Sailor Stars (watched in rotation 11/5 – 5/10/2019)

The final season of Sailor Moon (and one of the handful of shows to appear both on this list and on last year’s list) has some negatives holding it back. Ditching Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask, the most consistently entertaining part of every previous season, was a pretty big mistake, only somewhat ameliorated by the introduction of Seiya, a good boy whom I’m very fond of and a huge hamfisted idiot in romantic terms who nevertheless is the only character who manages to have any good rapport with Usagi in this season. Redoing the Nehelenia arc in the first six episodes of the season was an even bigger mistake; the all-stars approach presented leads to an unusually unfocused story even by Sailor Moon standards, and the fact that it carelessly tramples on every piece of imagery and artistry that let SuperS work despite its narrative flaws only makes its own lack of real message more apparent. All of that said, it’s not all bad for Sailor Stars. As said, Seiya is quite good, good enough to balance out the complete waste of time and space his companions are, and Sailor Stars has some of the richest villains the show has had in a while: Sailor Aluminium Siren and Sailor Lead Crow are far and away my favourite characters in this show since An and Eiru way back in R, and while Big Bad Sailor Galaxia gets far too little attention until it’s too late to really save the show, her turmoil at being the only one who could carry the burden of protecting the world and the way the burden itself corrupted her make her the effortlessly most complex villain in the series. There’s definitely some good things about Sailor Stars. It’s just not enough to be anything but the worst Sailor Moon season. Find my threads here.

58. Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun (watched off rotation 15/1 – 7/4/2020)

Hanako-kun straddles a very unusual line in animation, in that its greatest strength is its visual presentation, despite the fact that the show is seriously underanimated. You’d think that would hold an anime back, but Hanako is so beautifully directed that it hardly matters, a credit to director Masaomi Ando, who will show up on this very list again later with a better show. Beyond its visual splendor, Hanako is never spectacular, a relatively solid action-y shounen series that rarely surprises but never really disappoints. Just a very solid show.

57. Princess Jellyfish (watched in rotation 6/6 – 6/7/2020)

Princess Jellyfish is a show I find myself wishing I had liked more. Generally regarded as one of the more insightful and influential shoujo works of the last century, as well as one of those rare and valuable anime to actually focus on adults, it unfortunately left me somewhat cold. A relatively poor, repetitive sense of humour and a wealth of cast members who don’t really contribute anything to the narrative distract from its good parts a little too often, and the way the story cuts off somewhat early in the manga’s run leaves it feeling a little unsure what it’s trying to achieve in parts. The place they opted to close on at least does feel like a worthy climax, even if the character development necessary to get there on protagonist Tsukimi’s part feels a little sudden and unfinished. It’s only a little off, but it’s simply not where I wish the show was. You can find my thread here.

56. Spell of the Unown (watched in rotation 20/2/2020)

The most generally acclaimed of the Pokemon movies, at least among the people who vaguely remember watching them in their childhood, might also be the one impacted most negatively by the pacing flaws seemingly inherent to young boys’ anime. Spell of the Unown is easily the most ambitious of the original series’ movies, trying to step up and tell, for the first time, a truly emotionally driven story. I have a lot of respect for Spell of the Unown and what it tries to do… but I don’t think it really succeeds. The need to keep things moving strips most of its key scenes from breathing, limiting the emotional impact they end up having. What few moments really, truly do land come down to some excellent direction, good writing and good acting letting things work despite the film’s awful pacing. It’s a real shame too, because Spell of the Unown is a considerably smarter movie than, say, Mewtwo Strikes Back or the Power of One were, but its greater ambition makes its limitations all the more apparent. You can find my thoughts here.

55. Lupin the IIIrd: Fujiko Mine’s Lie (watched off rotation 16/11/2019)

Gonna be entirely honest here. I don’t really remember much of anything about this movie. It was a better movie than Goemon’s focus movie, but it just wasn’t very memorable. Certainly nowhere near Jigen’s movie. Given how little I remember about it, its place on this list probably says more about the shows it’s ranked above than anything else.

54. Aikatsu Friends! (watched in rotation 17/10/2019 – 27/2/2020)

Aikatsu has been a mainstay of my life going on four years now, with both of its previous series securing prominent spots both in my previous anniversary posts and in my top anime of the 2010s list. It’s a franchise I have a lot of feelings for and about. Aikatsu Friends admittedly started in a tough spot: Aikatsu Stars is one of the greatest shows of all time in my opinion; there was next to no chance I would have a similar love for its successor. Despite this, I still ended up finding Aikatsu Friends rather disappointing. Lacking Stars’ dramatic ambitions and, most unfortunately, peaking in the first cour, Aikatsu Friends simply never really felt like much more than, well, more Aikatsu. An attempt to rehash the original show’s strengths without really capturing what made that show work. You can find my threads through here.

53. The Relative Worlds (watched off rotation 12/10/2019)

As the new work by the creator of Neon Genesis Impacts, The Relative Worlds is a bit disappointing. Impacts is one of my favourite pieces of art ever made, after all. Thankfully, Relative Worlds falls comfortably into my newer wheelhouse of clumsy off-mainstream action shounen, and honestly, it’s a really good time, at least once you make your peace with the fact that the girl presented as the female lead and romantic interest is absolutely not the female lead in the movie (the battle maid is the true female lead. She’s good, too). Relative Worlds is delightfully goofy yet quite self-serious in that teenage way. It’s not the work I wanted, but it is one I enjoy.

52. Hand Shakers (watched in rotation 20/11 – 22/12/2019)

Speaking of clumsy off-mainstream action shounen, Hand Shakers is one of the most important shows in the field released this last decade. From its utterly unique visual aesthetic over its surprisingly charming characterization efforts to its frankly baffling narrative decisions, Hand Shakers is somewhat of a perfect storm. It definitely seems like the kind of show where you’re either on board or not from the get go, but as someone with an established weakness for its genre-space, I had an absolute blast with it. There are simply not enough shows which can force the two leads to have to hold hands in the bathroom while almost simultaneously venting with righteous fury about corporate corruption. There are so few shows which would take one of the more delicate and nuanced sibling bonds I’ve seen in fiction and decide “you know what would make this better? Burying everything under two tons of incest vocabulary”. Hand Shakers is utterly unique, utterly baffling, and a simple joy to experience. My thread here.

51. Afterschool Dice Club (watched off rotation 5/10 – 21/12/2019)

Dice Club is a show that mildly surprises me with the simple fact that it exists. The show is something like 40% comfy slice-of-life shenanigans, 40% board game let’s play, and 20% out of the blue, surprisingly heavy and amusingly overwrought melodrama, and the result is a pretty nice time all around. Aya best girl.

50. Minami-ke: Tadaima (watched in rotation 19/12/2019 – 18/1/2020)

While the fourth season of Minami-ke still suffers from the same “did we really need this?” sensation that every Minami-ke entry after season 2 suffers from, Tadaima, to its credit, is a much better show. A wholly revamped visual style, the introduction and/or elevation of a couple of the show’s more charming characters in Miyuki and Hitomi, and a scattering of genuinely magical moments (like the day in the rain in the attached shot) raise Tadaima far beyond the capabilities of the middle seasons, and while a few skits lack quite enough of a punchline to feel worthwhile, that shouldn’t diminish just how much of a return to form the season is. My thread is through here.

49. Somali and the Forest Spirit (watched off rotation 6/1 – 3/4/2020)

Somali is primarily a series of vignettes mulling over the meanings of family and ephemerality, and I think I ought to like it a little more than I do really because those absolutely are topics I typically invest heavily in. As it stands, the show is still a good time; it’s sweet, poignant, and its side characters breathe a ton of life into the world. My greatest complaint with the story is that it’s rather unfinished. The entire story is set in motion by the specter of Golem Dad’s death looming over him, and the journey is specifically to bring his daughter to a place where she will be taken care of when he’s gone. By ending the season without actually reckoning with that inevitable moment, Somali robbed itself of a bit of impact it might have had otherwise, and I’m not sure it can drag that plot point out over another season without getting stale. It’s unfortunate.

48. Pikachu & Pichu (watched in rotation 20/2/2020)

While it’s not on the level of Pikachu’s Vacation or Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure, its excellent predecessors, Pikachu & Pichu is still a very charming time. Its biggest issue is, as with most pokemon stuff, some awkward pacing, with things happening at such a rapid pace that by the time the drama of the playground’s impending collapse is established, it’s already over. The choice to not include any of the regular pokemon besides Pikachu in the action is also a choice that doesn’t really work in the short’s favour. Pikachu & Pichu is good, but it could be a lot better. My thread is here.

47. Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu (watched off rotation 7/4/2019 – 17/2/2020)

I already wrote about Hitoribocchi last year, when I was writing with some uncertainty whether I would even finish the show. The good news is I finished the show, and actually ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. The not so great news, the statement that the first episode is the ideal microcosm of the show and will never be improved upon remains tragically true. The rest of the show is blessed with the presence of the delightful Honshou Aru, who is truly wonderful and the only great thing about the show not featured in the first episode already, and is a pleasant time throughout… even if I wish it managed to be more.

46. Urusei Yatsura – Season 4 (watched in rotation 14/7/2020 – ???)

Extremely premature ranking, I have currently seen exactly six episodes of the fourth and final season of Urusei Yatsura, which is certainly not a representative sample of a 46 episode show. The episodes so far have had some hits and some misses, though the pendulum doesn’t swing too far in either direction anymore. The good episodes haven’t been all-timers, the bad episodes have only been mediocre. The best parts of the new season so far have all revolved around the delightful Mizunokoji Asuka, whose bizarre upbringing may only lend itself to variations on a single joke, but there’s enough room and nuance around that joke that her promotion to series regular has been a very welcome one. My thread has only barely started, but you can find it here.

45. Tesagure! Bukatsumono Spin-off: Purupurun Charm to Asobou (watched off rotation 4/5/2020 – 7/9/2020)

In the final season of Tesagure! Bukatsumono, the show makes the questionable decision to more than double the size of its cast by, uh, crossing over with the manga Minarai Megami: Purupurun Charm, and it doesn’t really pan out all that well. The new girls are simply not as fun as the old ones, and the new double length episodes lose some of the show’s energy. All is not lost, however, as a handful of episodes stand out as among the most inspired, creative and fun the show has ever had: The Yuriwolf two-parter, where the whole gang simply plays werewolf for two episodes straight, is absolutely incredible. Even better is the episode where they simply redub a lot of older scenes with challenges for the voice actresses, be it putting on unusual voices, randomly overenunciating things, or mimicking series regular Ayaka Ohashi. More than ever before in the series, Spin-off has the show playing away from its strengths; when it’s on point, though, it is still a force to be reckoned with.

44. Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (watched in rotation 12/7/2020 – ???)

While I haven’t watched enough of Yozakura Quartet yet to really give any kind of definitive review, it’s had a very fun start. While the show has largely lacked a central drive up to this point, an excellent cast helps it get through the first few cozy episodes before the show pretty much explodes into some of the most hype action spectacle I have seen in anime in episodes 5 and 6. Now.. I haven’t watched past episode 6 yet. If the show reverts back to that relatively driveless state of the early episodes, I will be disappointed. As it is, though, I’m looking forward to the rest. You can find my thread here.

43. Urusei Yatsura – Season 3 (watched in rotation 26/2 – 8/7/2020)

Urusei Yatsura’s third season is to the second season what the fourth season has been to the third: a step towards stability, swinging less wildly to less high highs and less low lows. That said, while the standout episodes of season 3 are rarer than those of season 2, when it is on, it is hella on. The episode I took the screencap from, number 143, has the unique distinction of being the final wholly anime original episode in the entire series, and also bears the unique quality of being one of the most impressive episodes in the entire show, dramatic, nuanced, and absolutely beautiful. Season 3 also introduces Mizunokoji Asuka in an excellent two-parter, and the two episodes focused on an infatuated young fox are infinitely better than you’d think. There’s a lot of mediocrity in season 3’s catalogue, but its good episodes definitely make up for them. My thread’s here.

42. Aikatsu Friends! Kagayaki no Jewel (watched in rotation 20/5 – 28/7/2020)

The most difficult show on this entire list for me to place, Kagayaki no Jewel manages to fix just about every problem I had with Aikatsu Friends. It’s ambitious, it’s dramatic, its new characters are phenomenal; it’s basically the Aikatsu Stars to Friends’ OGkatsu. The problems then, are twofold. For one, its connection to Aikatsu Friends actively drags it down: Aine and Mio are even more ineffectual protagonists than before, feeling rather emotionally removed from all the biggest narrative points; Ema and Maika, the best characters of the first season, are sidelined to laughable degrees; and Mirai and Karen get very little new to do, and what they do get largely involves some very nasty manipulative behaviour. The only character from the first season who really gets to shine is Kaguya, whose sisterly relationship with new cast member Wakaba is one of the strongest emotional through-lines of the season. The other issue that complicates my feelings is, well, how the season approaches conflict resolution. The story that dominates Kagayaki no Jewel is the complicated story of Hibiki and Alicia, partners who broke up five years ago with A Lot of unresolved feelings between them. Hibiki still actively pines for Alicia, and her behaviour hits extremely close to home watching someone whose heart is fixated on a dead relationship and knows neither how to move on nor how to even try reaching out to her ex again. This is obviously a difficult topic for any show to handle deftly, but in its handling of how Hibiki and Alicia act and feel, Kagayaki no Jewel sets very few feet wrong, and is frequently deserving of commendation. The problem, then, lies in how this plot thread integrates the old characters, and boy, does it not work. Aine, Mio, Mirai and Karen all get rather involved in trying to take the decision whether Hibiki and Alicia should get back together again out of their hands, climaxing in an utterly disgusting resolution in which the gang lies to Alicia’s face and leads her to believe that her entire nation will be wiped out if she doesn’t take to the stage, moving towards Hibiki in the process. While the emotionally vulnerable Hibiki’s complicity in this is disappointing but understandable, the others act nothing but contemptible throughout the arc, and the fact that the show never really reckons with this, acting as if such cruel manipulative behaviour is acceptable and consequence-free really rubs me the wrong way. You can find my very dramatic thread here.

41. Zoku Owarimonogatari (watched off rotation 8/10 – 15/10/2019)

Zoku Owarimonogatari feels, well, extraneous. Superfluous. Disconnected. All those things people say about Koyomimonogatari, which ended up being one of my favourite parts of the show, ended up being more true for Zoku Owari than for anything else. I guess that makes sense, since it is specifically set after the end of the story told to this point; it’s a bridge chapter, ensuring that more can come while reinforcing that what’s in the past is in the past. What ended up annoying me was that it showed that Koyomi learned much less about his friends than I had thought from the main story, and by dealing exclusively with reflections of other characters rather than the characters themselves, this leads to some frustration as Koyomi feels even denser than usual here. Nevertheless, even underwhelming Monogatari is significantly better than the majority of other shows out there, and so it finds itself comfortably in the middle of the pack here. My thread.

40. Minami-ke Omatase (watched in rotation 12/12/2019)

Omatase breathed new life into Minami-ke, getting released a few years after the rote and superfluous Betsubara OVA. It doesn’t really do all that much that is truly special; after years of subpar content in the middle seasons of the show, all it really took was a visual overhaul and a bit more energy, and suddenly the show that has dominated the lower rungs of this list goes all the way up to the middle. Omatase on its own is nothing special, but when you’re watching the entire show, the OVA feels like reaching a mountain top; suddenly you can see into the distance, and you know that the hardest parts are behind you. It’s a good feeling.

39. Spice and Wolf (watched in rotation 25/7/2020 – ???)

Undeniably the most premature of all the placements on this list, as I have watched just two episodes of Spice and Wolf so far. Those episodes though were sharply written, provided an interesting world to explore, and gave us a solid introduction to its characters. While at this point I am significantly more invested in one-off (?) character Chloe from episode 1 than I am in the leads, both of them have proven themselves interesting enough to carry my attention for a few episodes to come. I have expectations for this show, and so it lands at the half-way point of this list. You can find what I’ve written on it so far here.

38. Kamisama Hajimemashita (watched off rotation 30/11/2019 – 16/2/2020)

Due to personal reasons I’m choosing to keep this one short cause I have a lot of memories and feelings I don’t want to dwell on attached to this show. It’s dreadfully underanimated, but if you can stomach that it is an incredibly charming series, and one that deserves to mark the beginning of the upper half of this list.

37. Promare (watched off rotation 13/10/2019)

Promare is a pretty fun movie bogged down mostly by how horrendously overhyped it was. It’s unquestionably a great action romp, and I appreciate its attempts at social commentary (though the decision to have the villain be one of the persecuted race himself is, uh, bad). Galo is a great protagonist, kind and considerate himbo power. I’d like the movie a little more if I hadn’t seen about half a year of very gay fanart only to find that the relationship between the two leads is No Homo friendship at best, but that’s not the movie’s fault.

36. Dorohedoro (watched off rotation 15/1 – 3/4/2020)

Trying to form a single coherent thought about Dorohedoro is remarkably difficult. Ultimately I’m still not sure how I really feel about it. Drafting this post I had Dorohedoro placed everywhere from the high 50s to the mid 20s, and I suppose the middle of that spectrum would then be the most accurate place to put it. While watching it, Dorohedoro is remarkably easy to get invested in. Its characters are really charming, the world is bizarre and interesting, and it has a strong drive to the narrative. When I’m not watching it in the moment, though, I rarely if ever want to watch it. It’s just kinda… gross. There’s a visceral sense of grime about the show that feels so strong you could get your hands filthy just watching it, and as fun and engaging as the narrative is in the moment, it rarely offered me any real hook for the next episode, at least not until well into the second half. Dorohedoro is far from a bad show, by any means. Somehow I just don’t want to associate myself with it.

35. Digimon Adventure (Rewatch) (watched off rotation 17/4/2020 – ???)

Revisiting my childhood favourite for the first time since 2015 it’s nice to be able to say that Digimon Adventure is still pretty dang good. It has its issues, for sure: like Pokemon, pacing, especially in the first cour, is incredibly wonky, as it tries to rush around to keep things exciting, undermining a lot of potential emotional impact. As the show progresses though, it gradually begins to seriously catch fire, and by the time you reach the peak of the Vamdemon arc around episode 35, I’d be surprised if anyone wasn’t engaged in this story. Digimon Adventure is simply good.

34. Koisuru Asteroid (watched off rotation 7/1 – 28/3/2020)

For the sake of this review, I will be pretending that a certain character in this show (Suzu) does not exist, for Suzu is very bad and a bizarre outlier. The rest of KoiAsu is remarkably sweet, remarkably grounded, remarkably fun and remarkably lovable, with some occasionally outstanding visual work and some excellent character work all around. KoiAsu isn’t memorable or flashy the way some shows are, but it’s a rewarding watch.

33. Joshiraku (watched in rotation 1/5 – 1/6/2020)

Joshiraku is an exhausting show. Zipping at what feels like 50 jokes a minute sometimes, a sizable handful of which need extensive cultural and lingual familiarity to comprehend at all, forget about enjoying them. By virtue of flinging so many gags at the wall, though, we find a shocking number that stick, and the dialogue in Joshiraku is sharp as a knife, laden with political and social commentary, puns of incredibly diverse quality, and some very charming characterization, especially in the case of Marii, who is just wonderful in every respect. What a good girl, and also maybe transrights. I love her. You can find my thread here.

32. Urusei Yatsura – Season 2 (watched in rotation 15/9/2019 – 21/2/2020)

In the last two Urusei Yatsura blurbs I wrote about how they each were less extreme than their predecessors. Well, here it is at last, Urusei Yatsura at its most extreme. Containing the majority of my all-time favourite UY episodes, a horrendous amount of the worst of them, and a bunch of the most daring and experimental episodes in the series, all of which are scattered throughout the season with little rhyme or reason and very little flow whatsoever. Season 2 is messy as hell, with movie productions taking up a lot of directorial attention and animation time, and a lot of what comes out the end is less than it could have been, but the peaks are immeasurably high, high enough to eclipse most everything else on this list. It is worth your time. You can find my thread here.

31. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006) (watched in rotation 3/3 – 17/4/2020)

Speaking of series with peaks and valleys, Haruhi Suzumiya is a standout of the category. Its content is divided into the very good and the very awful, and there is, frankly, very little in-between. Chief issue number one is Haruhi’s own personality and the torrent of abuse she unleashes on everyone else, but mostly on poor hapless Mikuru, who is so utterly helpless and pathetic that there are times I genuinely wished she wasn’t in the show for how little she added and how she brought out the worst in everyone. On the brighter side, the show is also home to some of the most successful episodes I have seen in anime: The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina is an absolute riot from start to finish, Someday in the Rain is stunningly minimalist and atmospheric, Melancholy part 1 shows how you do the classic “normal boy meets wild girl” just right, and Melancholy part 6 is one of the most fist-pumping, cheer-out-loud climaxes I have ever seen. If only it wasn’t so bad when it’s bad. You can find my thread here.

30. Minami-ke (watched in rotation 27/6 – 17/9/2019)

And so, at last, we arrive at the main reason there’s so many Minami-ke’s on here at all. The original season of Minami-ke, is, frankly, rather excellent. While little in Minami-ke will really surprise you if you’re familiar with slice-of-life skit comedies, Minami-ke’s rapid fire pacing, two-braincell cast and occasional moments of great inspiration (especially where Hosaka-sempai, force of nature, is concerned) make it one of the better entries in the genre I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. When I placed it at number 32 on last year’s list on the strength of its first three episodes, I wasn’t really expecting to keep such a high opinion of it over time, but here we are a year and 70-something new shows later, and it’s even managed to move up a few spots. Cheers to you, Minami-ke. You can find me losing my mind here.

29. Tesagure! Bukatsumono & Tesagure! Bukatsumono Encore (watched off rotation 22/2 – 24/4/2020)

Tesagure Bukatsumono is a show about putting its voice actresses on the spot with a prompt and no script, created by my beloved Studio Yaoyorozu and Irodori. It’s hard to really summarize it any more than that, but the show is a wonderful time and has some of the most inventive and fun ideas I have had the joy of witnessing in anime.

28. Kiki’s Delivery Service (watched off rotation 1/9/2019)

I also had the joy of expanding my knowledge of the Miyazaki canon this last year, and while Kiki certainly isn’t a movie I would declare a favourite of mine any time soon, I certainly understand why it is as popular as it is. With one of the most powerful opening scenes I know as Kiki takes off for her night flight and the irresistible Rouge no Dengon plays, the movie’s mellow atmosphere and coming-of-age via identity crisis all make for very compelling material. While I would consider it one of Miyazaki’s weaker movies, above Totoro, Howl and the Wind Rises and not much else, it absolutely deserves a top 30 spot here.

27. Uchouten Kazoku (watched off rotation 9/4/2020 – ???)

So I watched half of this and somehow forgot to get back to it in a few months so consider my opinions on the show incomplete at best, but what I have seen so far has shown Uchouten Kazoku to be one of the more beautiful and rich stories I’ve seen in a while. I don’t want to write too much more about it in my current position: look forward to more and better thoughts on next year’s list.

26. Urusei Yatsura – Remember My Love (watched in rotation 22/6 – 25/6/2020)

Urusei Yatsura’s third movie is probably the most conventional one I’ve seen to this point, but a few sequences elevate Kazuo Yamazaki’s theatrical debut above the average episode of the show. Most impressively to me, the events that dominate the late middle of the film, in which the departure of Lum instates a sense of reality to the world which has never been present before. It presents such a major shake-up that I was practically vibrating in my seat throughout, and left me suitably impressed and ready to give the film as prominent a spot on the list as this one is. You can find my thread here.

25. Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! (watched off rotation 6/1 – 31/3/2020)

Eizouken has the questionable honour of being arguably the weakest of all Yuasa directed things I have seen so far. So, naturally, the fact that it’s still an easy pick for the top 25 of this list of every show I’ve watched over the last year should tell you everything you need to know about how I feel about Yuasa’s work. He does not miss. On Eizouken, he doesn’t miss either: while the narrative as a whole suffers from a slight lack of drive, it is peppered with such vision, creativity and visual invention that the simple act of watching it is a joy, and the cast is just good enough that you can’t help investing in them. And then the standout episodes like episode 4 roll along and simply blow you away. Eizouken is good.

24. Urusei Yatsura – Season 1 (watched in rotation 6/2 – 15/9/2019)

The original season of Urusei Yatsura doesn’t have quite the crazy highs of the second, but is a far more complete package all around. While the very early, first 20 episodes or so are very rough, once it finds its footing in the middle of the season it gets so much better so quickly and so steadily that it is frankly incomparable to most other shows. I’ve never seen another story be so episodic and yet still progress with such an incredible sense of internal momentum as it just gets better and better from episode to episode. Urusei Yatsura is a very rewarding show. You can find my threads here.

23. W’z (watched in rotation 3/1 – 9/2/2020)

W’z owns my soul. I enjoyed Hand Shakers a bunch, but could never shake the sensation that it was, well, a bad show with fun elements. W’z, on the other hand, is a very good show with just a few bad elements, and is honestly some of the most fun I have ever had with any show. The last two episodes kinda shit the bed a bit, and that’s why this is as far down as it is, but until then: it owns. Haruka is a phenomenal character, Yukiya is a likable dork and a solid protagonist, Yukiya’s parents, elevated from a bit part in the original Hand Shakers, come into their own and are absolutely amazing. Watch W’z. It rules. You can find my thread here.

22. The Girl from the Other Side (watched off rotation 12/10/2019)

I have owned the manga for the Girl from the Other Side for quite some time now and still haven’t read it. I should probably give it a go though because if the anime is anything to go by, It Is Gorgeous. Told entirely without words, the Girl from the Other Side conveys its story of found family on the verge of disaster entirely through music and colour, and it really doesn’t need anything else. It is wonderful as it is.

21. Carole & Tuesday (watched off rotation 8/5 – 9/10/2019)

I have actually kinda soured on Carole & Tuesday since watching it, mostly because the ending wasn’t really satisfactory to me, with the show’s belief in the power of music not really being reflected in the actual story, as our heroines, as interesting and engaging as their personal journey is, end up feeling utterly dwarfed by the geopolitical events of the show’s second half. As dispiriting as that summary sounds, C&T is up this high for a reason. It’s one of the most visually beautiful TV anime productions I have ever seen, and it really isn’t until the very end of the story that the divide between the individual narrative threads begins to overshadow the strength of those same narrative threads. Until then, it’s an extremely good ride.

20. Cencoroll 2 (watched in rotation 14/2/2020)

After the first Cencoroll’s emotionally distant, kinda bored attitude left me a bit cold, it came as a very welcome surprise to find that its decade younger sequel would fix just about every problem I had with its predecessor. Just as beautiful and every bit as intriguing as its predecessor but far louder and more open about its feelings, Cencoroll 2 owns. It’s loud, it’s aggressive in that very specifically teenage way, and it is really satisfying. You can find my thread here.

19. Ride Your Wave (watched off rotation 11/10/2019)

Another of Yuasa’s legendary “lesser” works, Ride Your Wave is a story about coming to terms with loss and figuring out how to navigate your life after your hopes and dreams become impossible. While a lot of the film feels a tiny bit awkward, once the karaoke montage in the first act kicks in, you’ll probably feel your heart open and be on board with just about everything else the movie does (or not, if you, like a certain close friend of mine, can’t deal with all the “allo bullshit”. Your mileage may vary after all). As someone to whom the general topic of loving and letting go is deeply personal though, the movie clicks pretty well, and the climax is one of those perfect Yuasa moments of theme, emotion and visual splendor all coming together into something truly beautiful. Ride Your Wave is good.

18. Natsunagu! (watched off rotation 17/1 – 11/4/2020)

When I had initially finished Natsunagu, I didn’t expect I’d end up giving it such a prominent place on this list, but I honestly don’t think I can justify putting it anywhere else. Natsunagu enjoys the many benefits of brevity, not having to say a single thing more than it needs to convey its central message of extending kindness to and understanding to everyone you meet, and to treasure your friendships deeply. It is an incredibly sincere and gentle series, it has one of the loveliest art-styles I have ever seen, and for a show whose ostensible purpose is to be a commercial for an area, it sure manages to show off the region’s beauty without ever feeling like its trying to sell you on something. Natsunagu is lovely.

17. W’z Special (watched in rotation 9/2/2020)

If you watched the first episode of Hand Shakers and told me the bizarre opponents our kinda bland heroes face would end up not only being the highlight characters of the sequel show, but even get their very own prequel special, I would call you a liar, but here we are. The special is, of course, amazing and delightful, because that’s what happens when these characters are given a little room to live and breathe. I’m struggling to find the words to express how much joy this special gave me. Just read my thread instead.

16. Urusei Yatsura – Only You (watched in rotation 24/9 – 25/9/2019)

Only You has a reputation of being more like a very long TV episode than a true cinematic work, and given Mamoru Oshii himself reportedly loathes the film, I understand why that is said about it. However, I don’t really think that gives Only You the credit it deserves. From its stunning opening sequence over some of the best Lum material in the entire show to the surprisingly touching story of our “villain”, Lady Elle de Rosenbach, who was forced to watch the hopes and expectations she had built her entire vision of the future around from childhood fall apart (and whom I still intend to write a blog post on at Some Point™), Only You is consistently more ambitious than you would expect from it, and its strengths are more than enough to compensate for a degree of structural wonkiness. You can read my in-the-moment thoughts here.

15. Itai no wa Iya nano de Bougyoryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu (watched off rotation 13/1 – 28/3/2020)

The show known as BOFURI (though I remember it mostly as Itai Iya cause searching Bofuri on nyaa doesn’t give the desired results) is probably the most surprising entry in this top 20 for me, and certainly the one I was expecting the least from before watching it. Bofuri is, in a word, fun. More than it should have any right to be. A low-stakes show about a group of friends playing an MMORPG and our heroine increasingly breaking the game to more and more absurd degrees, the fact that the show manages to be perfectly engaging throughout its entire season is almost baffling to me. The fact that it managed to be the best full-length show of its season, even overshadowing the Yuasa production, even more so. But here we are. Bofuri is really good, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether the upcoming second season can retain its charm without getting stale for another cour.

14. Princess Mononoke (watched off rotation 1/9/2019)

Princess Mononoke has always had a reputation as being The Cool One of Miyazaki’s movies, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Princess Mononoke is an epic two-hour fantasy featuring a hell of a lot of warfare. I wouldn’t be surprised if it drew comparisons to the Lord of the Rings trilogy back in the early 2000s. This is not to shy away from the many, many other parts of Princess Mononoke’s appeal: its environmentalist message is loud and clear, but interwoven so comfortably into the narrative that it never comes across as preachy, and its style and scale keep it engaging and engrossing for the entirety of its run. While not as emotionally engaging as most of the other works surrounding it on this list, it’s very much a classic for good reason.

13. Oregairu Kan (watched off rotation 23/7/2020 – ???)

In its third and presumably final season, Oregairu has decided to turn up the suffering, and I Am Living. The emotional linchpin of the show, Yui has had more focus than almost any other character this season, almost more than Hachiman, and her gentle agony as she begins to realize that she is the third wheel in this central friendship is heartbreaking. Hachiman himself has been running at peak performance too, being more likable than ever and having visibly grown out of most of his worst, most self-destructive tendencies of the past. If that isn’t enough to sell you, Iroha is also here, and every bit as perfect as she was last season. I’m not sure how this show will end. I’ve been waiting for five years to find out, and now that I’m almost at the end, I’m as invested in Oregairu as I ever have been. It’s exciting.

12. Kanojo, Okarishimasu (watched off rotation 12/7/2020 – ???)

On the other end of the Suffering spectrum from Oregairu is Kanokari, or Rent-a-Girlfriend, which has been cringe-inducing and agonizing from the very first moment, and which has been far, far more engaging than it has any right to be. I have a suspicion the high esteem in which I currently hold the show won’t last to the end, because it’s walking a very dangerous line with protagonist Kazuya, who is an absolutely insufferable moron but just barely relatable enough to keep the show working in his inevitable fuckupitude, social incompetence, romantic patheticness, and awkward pining for every girl in his vicinity (and especially his ex). In short, he sucks. A lot. The show and the story it tells, though, does not. While I’m not exactly holding out hope he will ever receive any real consequences for his actions, I have hopes he will grow up a bit by the end of this. You’ve probably noticed that I’m struggling to really justify Kanokari’s placement on this list, but I find myself looking forward to it quite strongly every single week, and that’s a rare enough trait that it deserves this spot.

11. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya 2009 (watched in rotation 22/4 – 22/5/2020)

So, opinion on Haruhi ’09 seems to be somewhat split, between those who think more than half the season being variations on the exact same events is a bad thing, and those who think it’s both a cool artistic thing to do and leads to one of the biggest fuck yeah cheer out loud climaxes in TV anime history. As you can imagine, I am firmly in the latter camp, and the finale of Endless Eight is the single best thing I watched in the last year. The rest of the season has its up and downs: season opener Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody is interesting, but is elevated mostly by context you only receive afterwards; while I enjoyed most of Endless Eight, some of its episodes really didn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table; and Sigh, the back end of the season, has Haruhi the character at her absolute worst (though thankfully the show feels more aware of her badness here than in any episode of season 1, which makes it more the good kind of anger and frustration than it would otherwise have been). For all of its flaws, Haruhi ’09 absolutely deserves its fame. You can find my thread and all my in-the-moment thoughts here.

10. Fruits Basket 2019 (watched off rotation 17/4 – 23/10/2019)

When I was writing up Fruits Basket’s blurb for last year’s anniversary post, I didn’t really expect that by the time I finished the season I would not only significantly favour it over its seasonal rivals Sarazanmai and Carole & Tuesday but that it would nab a good spot on my top 30 of the decade list and now a top 10 spot on my yearly recap, but here we are. Fruits Basket is a show that starts strong and just keeps getting better; while I haven’t watched the second season yet due to personal reasons, I have no doubt whatsoever that it will be able to keep that trend of improvements going. The first season alone is one of the better shows I have had the privilege to see, and its story of strength through kindness is one of the most resounding and moving stories I am aware of. If you have not yet taken the time to check out the Fruits Basket reboot, please do yourself the favour.

9. Katanagatari (watched in rotation 6/3 – 13/5/2020)

Talking about any NisioIsin work is kind of difficult, mostly because so many people have already talked about them, and most people are both more observant and, more importantly, far more eloquent than I am in discussing what they observed, felt and thought about. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a bit of a try. Katanagatari is a story about history and about legacy, about dealing with where you came from and… depending on who you are, having it define you til your end, or try to rise beyond it. While Katanagatari never reached the same heights as the Monogatari series did for me, it’s an excellent show on almost every level, and some of the characters (Nanami!! Konayuki!!!) will stay with me for quite a while to come. You can find everything I thought and experienced on my journey through this epic here.

8. Hentatsu (watched off rotation 3/2 – 13/4/2020)

No show Tatsuki has ever worked on could ever be described in a negative sense, and while Kemurikusa is his masterpiece, the short Hentatsu, in which two voice actresses play out more-or-less real life conversations held between Tatsuki and his colleagues, is probably his most fun. Yes, even more so than the phenomenal Kemono Friends and the comedy whirlwind of Tesagure! Bukatsumono. Never overstaying its welcome by even a single moment, every episode of Hentatsu made me laugh, and I ended up rewatching the entire thing when I was looking for a screenshot to put here. Hentatsu rules.

7. Aikatsu Stars: Hoshi no Tsubasa (watched in rotation 22/2 – 5/10/2019)

To quote my own words from last year: “Hoshi no Tsubasa is one of the best shows I will ever have the privilege of calling a disappointment.” This holds true. The sequel to the phenomenal Aikatsu Stars tries to up the stakes even more, but awkward pacing and a lack of urgency (in sharp contrast to the plot twists revealed in the first few episodes) leave the first half of it relatively hamstrung, which is a real shame just because I know it could have been so much better. When the training wheels come off in the second half, Aistars once again returns to form, and holy fucking shit, it is a sight to behold. Aikatsu Stars is one of the greatest works of art ever made. Hoshi no Tsubasa isn’t quite as good, but its highs are absolutely incredible.

6. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (watched in rotation 26/5 – 29/5/2020)

Disappearance was the most daunting task I took on in the three years I’ve been livetweeting anime. As the single longest anime movie made to date, Disappearance is almost inherently exhausting and probably would have taken me two sessions even without livetweeting it, but instead turned into two marathons that would take me a combined 10 hours total. Thank goodness, the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya made almost every part of that those 10 hours worth it. The rare story which does the alternate reality with new versions of everyone exactly right (compare, for example, with Zoku Owarimonogatari, which mostly succeeds through the strength of Nisioisin’s writing but otherwise feels completely unnecessary), Disappearance is a powerful movie that brings out the best of the entire Haruhi cast. It deserves every bit of its fame, and you can find my thread on it here.

5. Urusei Yatsura – Beautiful Dreamer (watched in rotation 5/2 – 6/2/2020)

Usually when you hear that the creator of the source material hates a movie adaptation of it, you might be on your guard. Surely they, after all, would have pretty good insight as to what is good or bad about the content they’re tied to. Alas, when the original creator is Rumiko Takahashi and the adaptation is Mamoru Oshii’s Beautiful Dreamer, such conventionalities go out the door, along with every other conventional thing you might think of. They have no place here. Beautiful Dreamer released just weeks before Oshii walked out on the production of Urusei Yatsura to create Angel’s Egg, and is probably the first time the sheer scale of his creative vision became clear. It’s a worthy classic, and you can find my thoughts here.

4. Children of the Sea (watched off rotation 13/10/2019)

In his short story “The Thing that Drifted Ashore”, Junji Ito describes a deep, primal, existential terror stemming from the sheer vastness of the ocean and its unknowable nature. Children of the Sea is about much the same thing, but instead of terror, Children of the Sea gazes on the scene with awe, reverence, and a fair share of ecstasy. The result is probably the most beautiful movie ever to be animated, and one that will absolutely sweep you away if you let it. Its grandness and its daring projection of an internal, philosophical story onto a cosmic scale make Children of the Sea an almost completely unique experience. The closest thing I can think of is End of Evangelion. If you liked that, but think it could do with a few more whales, check out Children of the Sea. It is phenomenal.

3. Japan Sinks 2020 (watched off rotation 9/7 – 11/7/2020)

Masaaki Yuasa doesn’t miss, even on an off day, and Japan Sinks 2020 is the most on-target he’s been since Ping Pong back in 2014 (with the caveat that I still haven’t seen Night is Short and Lu Over the Wall, and Night is Short is almost certainly going to make me eat these words, but still). The show bears little semblance to Ping Pong though; that one was a flawless, focused work with barely a single step off its central points. Japan Sinks, on the other hand, is almost an entirely new show every couple of episodes: from an absolutely gut-wrenching disaster film in episode 1 over a dystopian travelogue for most of the first half, some absolutely absurd shenanigans in the middle, right back to one of the most life-affirming survival stories in the last three episodes or so that I have ever seen. Episode 9 in particular has some absolutely stellar moments, the likes of which you only get to see every couple of years. Japan Sinks is probably the most divisive work Yuasa has made to date; but to me, it’s also certainly one of his very best.

2. Laputa – Castle in the Sky (watched off rotation 31/8/2019)

The first Ghibli movie has a pretty good claim to be the best of them. There’s really not all that much I can say about it either. You know that prototypical adventure story? This is the best version of it. A platonic ideal. It turns out that when an archetype is executed to perfection, the results are pretty amazing, regardless of how often its template has been reused. Laputa is pure gold, and certainly is the finest Miyazaki movie this side of Spirited Away. If you haven’t seen The Classic, go catch up now.

1. White Album 2 (watched in rotation 18/10 – 12/11/2019)

And, at last, after two months of chipping away at this damn post, here’s number one. The most painful show I have ever had the joy to experience is unquestionably the best thing I’ve watched in the last year. A show so powerful it gives you a month-long anxiety complex is a rare thing indeed, and that anxious tension runs deeply through the entire fabric of this story about kids trying and failing really really badly at balancing their wants with the needs of their friendships. White Album 2 rockets out of the gate at the end of episode 1 and doesn’t slow down at all until it has built up and torn down every bit of your soul. It is one of the best anime of all time. Follow my breakdown live here.

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