It’s the end of 2020… nearly. For December, I’m taking another hiatus to do some fiction writing. While I wouldn’t call it a grand finale, given how rough the year has been for many, it’s still worth celebrating that it is still ending. To celebrate, why not shout out the stories that know how to conclude the best.
Glass Reflections on YouTube often has said that “the ending is paramount” and despite my disagreements with him, I can’t disagree with him on that one. The ending of a story can make or break it. The conclusion of SAO: Ordinal Scale made the plodding narrative leading up to it all worth it. On the flip side, the last five minutes of Black Butler II ruined an otherwise exciting season in retrospect.
So here are a few of my favorite endings that left on a high note, redeeming lesser qualities or acting as the culmination of greater ones. They made me cry, they made me giggle uncontrollably, or they left me without the will to speak.
HBO Max is the newest and hottest service to make us ponder the costs and benefits of paying for another streaming subscription, and boy I am excited. Not because I plan on buying it myself for the foreseeable future, but because I know a lot of other people will and HBO Max just so happens to have a fair selection of anime.
Not only does it have a library of 21 Studio Ghibli films, including my personal favorite, The Cat Returns, but it also has a hub of select shows from Crunchyroll. 16 shows in total, which seems low considering how expansive their library is, but the selection they have brought over is… rather well-refined.
I’m excited about HBO Max’s anime selection for the same reason people are excited about some of DC’s content being on HBO Max. In the case of DC, many are happy that some of the better DC content recently such as Doom Patrol will possibly get more attention now that it is on a service that stands to be more popular than DC’s service, DC Universe.
Of course, I say this right after DC up and took some of those very same films used to hype up HBO Max off of the service right after it launched. Let’s just pray the same doesn’t happen with HBO’s Crunchyroll library and therefore invalidates this entire post.
Despite that, I’m hoping that this smaller selection of shows will gain traction and popularity. In that same vein, I want to name just a few anime from HBO Max’s selection that I think should be your top priority. I’m only going to name shows that I have watched though, so don’t be mad if I don’t hype up Konosuba like everyone else in the world has.
How does one sanction evil?
The end goal of any traditional story of good versus evil is to battle to a point at which good has triumphed and evil has been defeated. The setting returns to or discovers a comparably peaceful status. From there, it can be assumed that peace will persist for as long as it can after the curtain has closed.
But what happens when a story paints that perpetual conflict between good and evil not as a disturbance or ongoing plague, but as the goal? Furthermore, what if a story progressively affirms it to be preferable to another, worse turn of events. While it may not be clear at first, Bungo Stray Dogs is the very thesis of this notion.
On the surface, this show is about the conflict between the simply named Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia, set in modern-day Yokohama, Japan. Every main character is named after and based on a popular author or poet, each possessing supernatural abilities based on their works.
Beyond the first season, the story evolves slowly into something far grander in such a way you might not notice it. It’s the kind of stylish show that could be unfairly criticized as lacking, narratively. My purpose in writing this is to parse the purpose of a story that I consider to be the very essence of character-driven storytelling.
[Spoilers for Bungo Stray Dogs Seasons 1-3 Ahead]
While not necessarily in vogue among anime critics lately, it isn’t hard to find rankings of very specific subjects within the community. “Top 10 Strongest Anime Characters”, “Top Ten Anime Villains”, “Top Ten Anime Couples”, etc. And of course, who could forget the perpetually memed “Top Ten Anime Betrayals,” which I don’t think I’ve ever seen created unironically.
However, while overdone, it has never felt like the kind of thing that anime critics do begrudgingly out of some unspoken tax as per the job. After all, anime has a lot of cool shit and fights are no exception. It’s only obligatory so far as such a thing is relatively easy to create and an ample excuse to ramble about things we like. That’s half the reason people like me become critics anyway.
So in no particular ranked order, here are a few my favorite anime fight scenes.
Last week I raved about the best film of 2019, Penguin Highway. Initially, I wanted to get a head start on a new multi-part series of reviews but things take time. January tends to be a time to reflect on the previous year anyhow so why not keep the ball rolling. I watched more shows this year than I have in a while and there are still more which I missed, but for now, here are my top five TV anime of 2019.
Recently I enthusiastically wrote about Bungo Stray Dogs as it was in the middle of its third season. In the middle of writing it, I remembered that somehow I had avoided reviewing any of the series prior. In that same post, I also realized I have a lot of positive things to say as it turns out. Three seasons and a movie may seem like a tall order for one review, but I’m nothing if not a man of (too) many words.
For a series that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to my friends, the first season of Bungo has a few more problems upon second glance. This happens a lot with good shows I feel. There is a first season that catches your attention with some elusive quality you can’t quite put your finger on. Next up, the sequels build on the formula, turning the show into something even grander than you first envisioned.
The real tricky part is getting people into it without over-hyping it purely on the grounds of how good it gets later on. I’m sure if I kept watching Breaking Bad season four I would love it, but I don’t wanna watch Skylar try to buy a God damn car wash for half a season. Where was I? Oh yeah, allow me to start by giving you an honest look at this show’s humble beginnings.
Some months back I went on a whole tirade about finding my “perfect” anime and ended up determining my three favorite shows of all time. One of them was Kekkai Sensen, an episodic action series by Studio Bones, which remains to be the closest to perfection I have found. However, when making that decision, I had a significantly difficult time picking between that and one other show: Bungo Stray Dogs.
Bungo Stray Dogs follows the Armed Detective Agency, a group of superhuman detectives who keep order in the port city of Yokohama. Meanwhile, they frequently face off against other supernatural organizations such as the aptly named Port Mafia. All major characters are named and based on real literary authors.
They are somewhat similar in premise. Both shows follow a team of sometimes serious, sometimes whacky superhumans keeping the peace in their respective towns. Kekkai Sensen captures the packed insanity of New York City while throwing in aliens and monsters. Bungo favors a more comparably peaceful and modern Yokohama. Both shows are episodic with a through-line narrative, both straddle the line between dramatic and comedic and they are both produced by Bones.
Eventually, it was no contest that Kekkai Sensen won the battle for being a bit more put-together throughout, whereas BSD was mixed in the first season. It helps that the former has the single greatest season finale I’ve ever witnessed, putting at least the first season comfortably among my top three.
That being said, Bungo Stray Dogs rides much the same line that Kekkai Sensen treads in winning over my heart and could easily make my top 10. It has managed to continue strong, with a feature film and a currently-airing third season. Six episodes in, it doesn’t seem to be losing stride.
This season alone we have received the long awaited sequel to Attack on Titan and the sequel to one of the best shows of 2016, My Hero Academia. This has gotten me thinking about what other sequels are coming soon. After all, there are so many new and great shows each season, but every once in awhile, we get a sequel to an acclaimed series, an old classic or even an obscure gem. In the spirit of sequels, here are a few sequels I am interested in or would like to see in the future. I highly encourage you to check out each of the shows I will be addressing and to share them with others. Enjoy!
If the consumption of Anime related blog content on the internet has taught me anything, it is that there is never an opportunity where you can’t blog about what characters you think are the absolute hottest. Anime has given us so many female characters to idolize, and hell, even long-running Anime blogger/YouTuber Digibro posted his list of the 10 hottest females in Anime just earlier this week after 10 years of blogging about Anime. Now, while I have not been blogging nearly long enough to make this age of tradition seem original in the way intended by Digi, I am an anime blogger and a gay one at that… So screw it, here is my list of the five hottest dudes in anime.
At this point, it is pretty clear that Bones are masters of choreography and even clearer that I am a HUGE fanboy of their work. Last time I showcased fight scenes from the Cowboy Bebop movie, Sword of the Stranger, Darker than Black, and Mob Psycho 100. The quality of those fights truly speak for themselves but fights alone aren’t what make Bones special. It is their reputation for constantly creating new, imaginative works across genres and demographics, and still managing to approach each project with love and care. In that respect, today I will talk about consistency and variety, two qualities that make Bones one of the best in the business.