Spring ’19 Round-Up

Back at the beginning of April, I had maybe three titles on my watch-list. I thought it was going to be a dull season. It didn’t take long for that to double, though. I can’t work out if it’s because some titles just didn’t make the most of their previews, or if some shows took a while to get going and I found them a few weeks into the season. But twelve weeks later, I feel like it’s definitely been a packed season, if nothing else.

Pleasant Surprises

RobiHachi was a last-minute addition to my list. ‘Guy goes on the run with his debt-collector’ never struck me as a stand-out title – it put me in mind of the sort of crime-caper films or macho action shows I usually avoid. I never expected it to be so much fun. While th animation is nothing special and the episodes felt a little same-y in the first half of the season, the characters were oddly endearing, even Yang. ‘RobiHachi’ was twelve episodes of brightly coloured planet-hopping adventure-comedy, with a nicely developed male romance friendship at its surprisingly tender heart. It’s easy to imagine Robbie and Hatchi continuing their days as space husbands adventurers for years to come, which I think is definitely a sign of a good ending.

Carole and Tuesday appealed to me from the start, mostly for the novelty of being a female-led show that wasn’t ecchi or about schoolgirls. But I wasn’t expecting the beautiful animation or the soft realness of the developing relationship between the two leads. I wasn’t expecting the range of musical and pop culture references (like Ertegun owning and displaying the shredded Banksy painting, or the ‘Breakfast Club’ moments in the music video episode). Even the minor characters, like Crystal and Pyotr, are a delight, and I hope we see more of those two in particular. 

If I have any complaints with this show, it’s with the way it treats its non-binary characters. Whether it’s the creepy Cybelle and her inappropriate behaviour towards Tuesday, Angela’s mother and her ‘Martian androgyny’ being treated as something suspicious by Tao, or just the Mermaid Sisters, who could have been a fantastic example of inclusion of NB folk, being treated instead as the episode’s gag act. Positive representation of w/w relationships shouldn’t come at the expense of other LGBTQIA identities.

Kimetsu No Yaiba was a show I went into with virtually no expectations. I was drawn in only by the quality of the art in the trailer, and in the beginning that was all I wanted from it. There’s nothing massively amazing about it, but it is a solid show – what it does, it does well. I like the mix of different art and animation styles, and I like that Tanjiro isn’t just a good hero but also a good person – kind, polite and hopeful, rather than a loud rowdy boy. While it’s not at the top of my list, it’s one I look foward to watching.

Could Have Been Better

Fairy Gone was the show I had high hopes for – an interesting premise, eye-catching effects-animation, and most of all, adult women who were competent, not sexualised, and allowed as much participation as the men. It could have been great and it definitely had its moments (such as the fight with the creepy Passepiere in episode 5). But the plot rambles, there are too many characters and factions to follow, and it struggles with pacing. I hope it picks up in the second cour.

Midnight Occult Civil Servants was another show that felt like it didn’t live up to its potential. At times it had the scope of an anime ‘American Gods’, showing us deities from myriad cultures all making a home for themselves in contemporary Tokyo. But a lot of things felt underdeveloped, and stories seemed somehow less dramatic than they could have been – there was never any real sense of peril.

I hope that, like ‘The Morose Mononokean’ (which this show felt like a more grown-up version of), this gets a second season and a chance to go deeper and darker than the relatively shallow material we’ve been given so far. On the plus side, it does have a decent English dub thanks to Funimation.

Finally, One Punch Man. What the heck was that damp squib of a finalé? After eleven episodes of me trying to give it the benefit of the doubt – attributing the pacing issues to the manga, praising the texture animation, being appreciative of any opportunity to listen to Yasumoto Hiroki – the final episode barely even featured the lead character. You know, the guy we all tune in to watch.

I get that it’s a sequel hook, and that with Garo being human, he’s not someone that Saitama can just punch a hole in. But where was Saitama’s reaction to seeing Centichoro? Could we not have had one hilarious reaction-shot of Saitama being confronted with a mile-long giant centipede? Were we supposed to be proud of King for being brave enough to show up and taunt it with a megaphone? 

What’s worse is that, when volume 17 of the manga comes out, I know I’m going to be spending my money on a story conclusion that has all the excitement of a sad blobfish. Not fair, people. Not fair.

Season Favourites

Fruits Basket was probably always going to be near the top of my list. Three months ago, I was more worried about it being better than the original than being a poor imitation. It’s added to the previous series in small, subtle ways and thinned out the filler material while keeping the most important moments, i.e. the ones guaranteed to have me weeping like an Oscar winner. I like both the new cast and (with one exception) the return of the original English dub cast. We’re already halfway through the old material, but there’s still plenty of new characters to meet and tons more plot once we’ve reached where the original story left off. I am both hopeful and terrified of how much I am going to cry when Kyo’s master shows up.

But honestly, Sarazanmai is hands down my absolute favourite from the Spring season. How could anything else compare? Directed by the same guy who did ‘Utena’ (one of my permanent Top 5), with a stellar cast, catchy songs, cute kappa designs and more layers than a Wall’s Viennetta. Miyano Mamoru’s performance in episode 10 deserves every possible award going, and Murase Ayumu in episode 6 wasn’t far behind.

Every week, the fandom came together to crack each new code, unpicking secrets and symbols and theorising about what would happen next. It was a whole experience. I haven’t enjoyed a seasonal show since ‘Yuri On Ice’. I am genuinely sad that I don’t get to have that anymore, even though I know there’s no way Ikuhara could have kept that up much beyond those eleven amazing episodes, not without slowing the pace or adding unnecessary filler. 

For now, I will be content with fanfiction (hey, did ya read mine?), and the distant hope that maybe there will be an ‘Adolescence of Utena’ style movie adaptation.

Next post will hopefully be my look ahead at Summer ‘19 and what I’m planning to watch. How’re you feeling about Spring? What surprised you? What let you down? What did you love most? Tell me in the comments!

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