Thursday, August 8, 2019

From Where the Sun Rises

At the time of this writing 2019 has been a good year for anime (with one tremendous black mark which anyone reading surely knows about) in regards to the material put out. It's been getting steadily better in Japan since 2015 and this year has been no slouch. It's been surprising, to be quite honest. If you're looking for something to watch on your television or monitor then you have no shortage of series to enjoy. Good times are here.

While I make no bones about enjoying classic anime that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the modern material. In fact, some of which is airing now will definitely go on to be known as classics down the road. I can bet on it. Some examples can be found in this post.

For today I'd like to share with you some of the highlights coming out of this year. There's a bit to go through and I've got a few I would like to highlight.

Of course it is important to note that we've barely started the third (out of four) season of the year. This means there are still series such as My Hero Academia which have not yet started which are sure to be huge. With that in mind one really doesn't have to stretch in order to find good shows to watch even without it. Options are crawling all over the place.

This means I will only cover the first half of the year here. I'll try to cover the rest around December instead of cramming everything in a mega mess of a post. With that in mind, let us begin.

First up is MAPPA's adaption of Osamu Tezuka's Dororo. This began airing in the winter season, which is usually the slowest season of the year (not the "worst", I should specify) where a few more measurably paced series tend to get the most focus since the explosive action packed shows don't begin until spring. But Dororo straddles the middle-ground between the extremes quite well creating a good action show with compelling drama along the way.

Dororo is the story of a baby whose body is stolen due to a pact his father made with a demon. He is supposed to be killed but ends up escaping and living a life without most of his body parts and much in the way of his senses as he grows to adulthood. Thankfully his adopted father builds him artificial limbs which allows him some semblance of normality and he can see and hear things despite his handicaps. Finally he learns that killing certain demons will give him back his body and allow him to become fully human again.

But will it?

In my opinion MAPPA might be the most underrated studio in Japan right now. They are composed of ex-Madhouse staff which means they know their way around dynamic direction and cool animation. They wrote an original ending to this series (Tezuka didn't really end the original properly) propping up the themes of forgiveness, friendship, and family, that almost makes you believe Tezuka was writing a series for Shonen Jump back in the day. But it can get pretty brutal at times despite this. However, the ending is worth it.

Suffice to say, Dororo is one of the highlights of this year. 24 episodes long and worth every minute (one episode with odd animation aside) I'm sure Tezuka would be proud.

Should you like romance the winter season also featured what might be the most enjoyable series in years with Kaguya-Sama: Love is War which is about two teenagers from an elite high school trying to get the other one to fall in love with them. It takes the on school comedy and romance genres in a balancing act that matches the central conflict with main leads quite perfectly.

While this would normally be an excuse to have two annoying characters be irritating for the space of half an hour it actually leads to very funny comedy and much character growth. Over 12 episodes you get to see how deeply our two leads might actually like each other, and how it might not be a game despite what they think.

At the same time the surrounding cast is just as interesting with their own issues and problems apart from the main pair. This is what makes me hope for a season 2 announcement in order to see more of them. Just like Saiki K or School Rumble much of the comedy comes from the relationships every character has with each other and their clashing and developing friendships and love lives. This series deserves more seasons if only for that.

But until then I can say this is a series worth watching and one of the best of 2019 so far.

And now for a few others. These are returning series with new seasons.

Mob Psycho 100 returned for its second season to continue where we left of last time. In case you missed it, this is a series about a teenager named Mob (a nickname) who is a psychic and learning what it means to be normal. If you've seen the first season animated by Bones and want to see more cray animation or just like the writer of One Punch Man's style then you've probably already seen it. If not then you're in for a treat. Here's hoping for another season to finish the story off.

Another one from this season was The Promised Neverland, animated by CloverWorks. This is a Shonen Jump series that doesn't feel like you would expect such a series would be. Orphans being raised as a giant group in an orphanage suddenly learn a secret about who they are and why they're there. That's when things get horrific and intense. If I said anymore I would spoil the reveal, but I can say this can be a dark series. However, it's not hopeless. Being Shonen Jump it refuses to be nihilistic and always finds a way to shine some light in the dark. I'm sure a second season will be out next year and I can say it will have a slightly different tone to this one. So if you want something unique then be sure to check it out.

Other series from the beginning of the year include yet more returning series as well. Karakuri Circus reached its conclusion after three seasons, Ace Attorney returned for a new season, the overlooked Hinomaru Sumo ran the second half of its season in winter, and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's new season continued. The new City Hunter movie also released on top of all that.

This a remarkable amount of material considering where we were a decade ago. It doesn't mean everything is great, but there is much to choose from. Not to mention more manga and light novels getting complete adaptions than ever before when before many would leave us high and dry and unfinished.

Then there was the controversial Rising of the Shield Hero which also premiered in January. It managed to maintain a loyal audience despite the notoriety. However, it's yet another series to watch despite that. There was no shortage of things to watch.

And all that is just the first season of the year.

For spring there was a new season of One Punch Man with decidedly average animation. Of course Attack on Titan returned with ten more episodes, too. There was also a new adaption of Fruits Basket in an attempt to apparently make it closer to the original manga. My Hero Academia was delayed until October but that didn't mean there was nothing else to watch in its absence.

But the best series from the first half of the year, in my mind, was Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba animated by Ufotable and adapted from the Shonen Jump manga of the same name. This is a series about demons who prey on humans and the swordsmen who fight them off. What you get is plenty of action, emotional bits, and character growth, along with some of the best animation and music this year. The action genre was made for series such as this. If this isn't on everyone's best of the year list by December I will be disappointed.

Anyway, that is only the first half of the year. There are still series running this very season I haven't talked about yet because that would be jumping ahead of myself. Nonetheless, there is still much, much, more to cover beyond what I have.

I'd also like to mention at the same time as this is happening more classic anime is getting released over here every day. We just recently had an announcement that the entire City Hunter franchise was licensed by Discotek. At the same time we still have releases such as Megazone 23 (the Kickstarter is incoming!) and Voltes V in the future. I also believe the groundbreaking Giant Robo OVA is  meant to be out by this Christmas season.

The train just doesn't seem to stop rolling.

Considering how bad things were a decade ago with weak selection, one should keep in mind how much things have gotten better. It's not perfect, but you can't argue it hasn't improved. Things can change. There is still quality being made, and there is still much to see. And the future still has much more promise left.

So go have fun with it!


  1. Good news on City Hunter. Even better that Discotek, who has the Lupin license, is the one picking it up.

    1. Discotek might be the best when it comes to classic anime licensing. I can't think of any others as good as them, though some do solid work.

  2. I'm in the minority preferring Demon Slayer to Promised Neverland...but man oh man, the animation and soundtrack of Demon Slayer. A++

    PN was good but not very well paced. The episode near the end where good buddy Norman takes a trip was not well done.

    1. TPN is a good series, and I like it, but I do feel it overshadows a lot of better Jump series simply because it's atypical of what the magazine runs.

      And yes, the anime was good aside from some missteps.

  3. Oh, and so far my favorite new show of the year is definitely Dr. Stone. Such a cool premise, expertly executed.

    1. Dr. Stone definitely gets weird, but it's enjoyable.

  4. I was definitely a bit disappointed by the new season of One Punch Man. Aside from the dull animation, I felt that the emphasis on martial arts took away from the fun of the superhero parodying.

    1. It gets right back to superheroes after that side-arc. It was originally written for one character that will appear again later. You can probably guess which one.

      Part of the reason I was disappointed with the anime is that it effectively cut the arc in half. Having to wait another two years or so to see if they can rescue that kid is going to get annoying.

    2. In the end I ended up enjoying it after all. My issue is that after season 1 I KNOW how much better it can be and that never stops nagging you. I was Flowers for Algernoned