The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. A rich yet depressive fantasy epic spanning multiple nations plagued by monsters and war. It’s a story about prejudice and choosing between greater and lesser evils. Amidst all of that, it remains a world that players couldn’t help but get lost in.
After the release of the live-action Witcher series on Netflix, the game saw a resurgence in interest from fans new and old. I should know, I was replaying it too. It was a quirky and often epic show that had its highs and lows, but despite it all, I loved it. News of new spinoffs and films were only natural, but was the franchise biting off more than it could chew?
If I had any concerns, they were minor, because Nightmare of the Wolf, the first of these spinoffs, was a film I highly anticipated. It came from Studio Mir, the studio behind Legend of Korra. Everything looked in place for this to be an enjoyable prequel centered around Vesemir, Geralt’s mentor.
And somehow, this film surpassed every expectation I had.
I’ve spoken about my thoughts on LGBT anime in the past. I’ve grappled with my thoughts on how homosexuality is portrayed in Japan and my feelings with shows that I’ve loved in the past that had queer-coded elements or queer-baiting. But in the last year especially, I’ve started to look on the brighter side of things. I’ve started to appreciate what my earliest exposures to queerness in anime gave me, regardless of any flaws.
Representation can only get better with time and with more diversity in the room when stories are being crafted. With studios like Blue Lynx producing higher quality gay cinema, gay representation in anime reaching new heights. And after delaying it for FAR too long, I’m happy to say that Studio Hibari’s The Stranger by the Shore is the best gay romance I’ve seen yet, but for very particular reasons…
Seldom is a movie so addicting that I find myself rewatching it within a day. Even most good films hit the spot just right that I can give it at least a while before a second watch. But some movies, whether they’re short or just incredibly well-paced, get me coming back almost instantly. The kind of film varies, but they have something in common: spectacles that I can’t get out of my head.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is one such movie. Director Shukou Murase, the man behind Gangsta, Ergo Proxy, and Genocidal Organ – among others – brings this story to life, from novel to film. It’s the first of a planned trilogy from Studio Sunrise, and it might just be the most gorgeous film to look at in 2021.
The more that time passes, the more that I look back fondly on 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN. At first, it was strange, but then again, a lot of the shows that I love are strange from the outset. Perhaps my threshold for weird is expanding but more likely, I just need something obtuse to keep me on my toes these days; something to truly surprise me.
Gridman was a show about Yuuta Hibiki, a boy with amnesia, finding himself embroiled in a mission to save his city from kaiju with the help of his friends. The catch was that every time the kaiju was defeated, the world was reset the next day. The buildings were rebuilt and anyone who died suddenly had their histories rewritten so that they died of unrelated causes. Only the main characters remembered anything.
There was a mystery. There was also a tangible sense of realism to the way characters talked, especially the high-school protagonists. In an interview with SakugaBlog, director Akira Amemiya confessed that schools were visited to collect data for the show’s production, yet there wasn’t much conscious thought put into making the dialogue more realistic. That almost makes it more impressive that it came off so natural.
CG robots and monsters were used to create a disparity between the character-driven story and the spectacle, similar to how miniature cities and actors in costumes are used in tokusatsu. The villain was complex and one of the best written I’ve seen in years. The reveals were shocking and the scale of the show ended up much larger than it first seemed. And little did we know all that would only be the beginning of a new universe.
From returning director Akira Amemiya and writer Keiichi Hasegawa comes the sequel to 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN, SSSS.DYNAZENON.
I won’t lie. I mean, I wouldn’t be a good critic if I ever did lie, but especially in this instance, I can’t pretend that I wasn’t worried. Season three took some bold leaps to make a story much bigger than just Dracula. For the most part, it paid off. But the finale was mixed. It could feel jarring, and not every story was particularly captivating.
Then came the official trailer for season four, along with the big reveal: this would be the last season. How in god’s name were they going to bring together all of the separate stories together into one 10-episode season? After watching it, it begs questioning why I ever doubted them.
And then, Crow from Crow’s World of Anime jumped on the bandwagon and I figured, “why not? This looks fun.”
I mean, sometimes I feel like I’m too positive about shows and don’t write enough negative reviews. What kind of garbage is that?! I shouldn’t look to hate things! And god willing, I do my very best to be optimistic about whatever I’m looking to watch for a review or analysis.
So I’m more than happy to try – however difficult it may be – to find the good in some of my lowest-rated things on MyAnimeList. For many that shared the same score, I had to try to determine which of the 3’s were bad enough to earn their spot on the list. Otherwise, I had to determine if a few of them truly qualified. Like, if it was some low-budget 10-minute ONA on YouTube that I thought was trash, should that be on there over a show or film I spent more time with?
After hopefully not too much overthinking, these are the five worst shows I’ve seen and the best things about them.
How many shows have you passed on because you figured they “weren’t worth your time?” What were the factors that contributed to that impression? Was it a lack of interesting marketing? Was it the style? Or did you buy into the narrative being thrown around that a show was “trashy”?
In 2015, I watched YouTuber Demolition D+’s video on the Spring 2015 anime season and delighted in his humorous appraisal of that quarter’s entertainment. The headliner for the video was Is It Okay to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, or, DanMachi as it would come to be abridged. Demo called it an SAO clone and I didn’t so much as bat an eye because I was laughing so much.
But then the second season aired in 2019 and friends who watched it told me about the show’s world and how it was actually pretty fun and that I should give it a chance. By this point, I’d already accepted that SAO wasn’t as bad as we all thought it was, so who was I to turn down an opportunity to prove my misconceptions wrong.
After watching all three seasons of DanMachi, not only am I shocked as to how anyone could have compared this to SAO beyond the leads sharing the same VA, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. The art styles aren’t even that similar. More than anything, I’m angry that I didn’t watch this sooner.
The following is my review of Cases 1 through 3 of The Great Pretender that I wrote for Anime Quarterly back in September. If you like what you read and are interested in reading more by the AQ crew and me, be sure to bookmark AnimeQuarterly.com and make it your next frequent stop for anime news and reviews. Also, help us grow by supporting us on Patreon.
My heart has belonged to Kyoto Animation for a long time. And their shows have always looked good – that’s not even a faintly nuanced observation. The 2010s was the advent of an in-house style that helped forge their identity without ever feeling like a stagnant or limiting trait of the production house. Be it the character work by Miku Kadowaki, Futoshi Nishiya, or others, the character art is something that hasn’t quite been matched by another studio.
Even before their in-house style became synonymous with their identity, their artwork was rarely a sore spot in the final product. However, how well do we regard the actual “animation” of Kyo Ani’s works?
Pretty well as a matter of fact. Consistently. From Liz and the Blue Bird to Silent Voice, I’ve praised the subtle character movements and facial twitches that create the small reveries of human pathos. Occasionally, these dramas or slice-of-life comedies might even present an action scene. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid had ridiculously bombastic action and even Clannad had a pretty dope fight scene. However, I get the feeling that when people say that Kyoto Animation has great animation, they actually mean “great artwork.” It’s worth distinguishing between the two.
I don’t think any show from the studio has consistently reminded me of how great their animation talent is more than one particular show. If you would permit the generalization, the average viewer may not stray close to offering a critique of actual animation outside of shows or genres that incentivize consistent motion in their presentation. Hence why most people, regardless of their inclination to media criticism, often praise the animation of the hottest shonen/action series.
Following that line of logic, this week’s review is an action show with plenty to gush over. Beyond the Boundary – Taichi Ishidate’s directorial debut – is one of my favorite works by Kyoto Animation, and what I believe to be their best-looking show. Or rather, it is the most consistently upfront with what the studio is capable of, both in TV and film.
As frequent readers know, in addition to running this blog, I am the Associate Editor of Anime Quarterly, a new site that just started back in July. There’s been some pretty cool stuff written over there and to round out 2020, I want to highlight some of what we’ve got over there for you.
Recently updated on account of new updates, this timeline might be one of my most thoroughly researched pieces yet. In this post, I lay out the nine-year tale of Evangelion 3.0+1.0‘s production, from the tiniest updates to the most painful delays. The goal was to paint a picture of just how long the wait really felt for those who’ve been with it since the start. I also give my two cents on why I’m still in love with the Rebuilds despite the stumbles.
What started as a desire to rip apart a bad-looking show turned into a biting critique of Crunchyroll’s most ambitious endeavor yet. In this essay, I explore the project thus far, assess its fundamental goals, analyze its successes and failures as such, and then offer my thoughts on how Crunchyroll can improve.