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 looked at the divisive continuations of Psycho-Pass, both the second season and the movie. The latter marked the end of what I consider the first phase of the franchise, one bookended by two solid stories by Gen Urobuchi, held back by an abysmal second season and some missed potential with the film.
In 2018, a new trilogy of films set in the Psycho-Pass universe was announced for a 2019 release date called Sinners of the System. The three short films, each about an hour in length, take place at various points throughout the timeline. It would be the first new entry in the series in about four years. In the same year, a third season would be announced and released in the fall.
Psycho-Pass was back, with original director Naoyoshi Shiotani’s involvement being a major selling point. They wanted us to know that the series was returning in good hands. Even so, with such a long delay and the second season still a sore spot for many fans who felt the film didn’t make up for it, how well would this new phase fare?
The only thing worse than a bad show is a bad sequel to a great show.
Last time, I gave a resounding review of Psycho-Pass‘ first season, hailing it as one of the best science-fiction series of the last decade. When I first caught wind of a sequel, it was right after the premiere had aired. I had no idea that it was coming out and suddenly got super hyped to watch it. After all, it hadn’t been that long since the summer when I first binged season one.
I watched week-by-week, admittedly impressed for the most part, before reaching a conclusion that seemed to come far too soon. As time passed, I started looking back on it with more disdain. Psycho-Pass had hit a rough patch and I wondered if it could recover.
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.
How in the hell did Attack on Titan Season Three, Part 2 become #2 on MyAnimeList’s all-time top anime list? I was already a little surprised when Your Name dropped to #6 after Hunter x Hunter 2011 (makes sense), another iteration of Gintama (meh), and Steins;Gate (how have I not watched this yet?). However, for Attack on Titan to take #2, particularly in its third season? Now that threw me for a loop.
Granted, I’m not pretending this list is the be all end all, as it is merely determining the best based on the average score given by the users who have rated it on their lists. None of these shows are perfect. Both Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Your Name are arguably overrated and flawed, even if I think they are great. However, this list does give a sense of the nature of certain show’s fanbase and the cultural discussion surrounding a work.
I’ve never seen Gintama, nor does it look that interesting, but for this show to consistently score this highly tells me that the fanbase must be one of the most committed ever. Likewise, Hunter x Hunter 2011 is one of the most highly scored Shonen’s out there. Steins;Gate to me is the equivalent of that popular Emmy nominated show everyone says to watch but that I’ll take years to sit down and enjoy. The list says a lot more than just which anime is the best.
As such, my goal today is not to argue whether or not Attack on Titan is deserving of this status, but to understand why the fanbase is reacting so strongly and now of all times. Especially because, to me, season three is the weakest of three admittedly solid seasons.
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.
Sequels can be risky. This is true in any medium, but to many, Anime has a particular reputation for dodgy sequels. Some shows see changes in production staff that rob the sequel of what made the first so great, such is the case with Psycho-Pass 2. Other times, we may never even get a sequel due to low Blu-ray sales and miss out on the closure that any good story needs.
Thankfully, some of my favorite shows have gotten worthwhile sequels, but often I just hope that whatever 12 episode show I watch ends conclusively enough that I won’t be heartbroken should it not get renewed. So it’s with great pleasure that I say that season two of Kekkai Sensen manages to continue the show strong, sticking closer to the source material without disregarding the Anime-original story that made me fall in love with season one.
It’s been two years since the end of Blood Blockade Battlefront, arguably the best show of 2015 and one of my personal favorite Anime of all time. You can check out my review of season one here.
Now, I won’t act like I didn’t have my doubts going into the currently airing sequel. I was cautious after hearing that Rie Matsumoto would not be directing this time around. The loss of one creative mind can mean a big difference in determining whether the ship will sail or sink. Thankfully, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond has not just sailed in its first three episodes, it has soared.
I think I may have been a little too harsh on the first season of Darker Than Black. Sure, the story’s structure was a bit unusual, the stories themselves weren’t always that enjoyable and there was a conflicting tone that wasn’t well balanced, but it pulled through for me because the action and characters were very well done and the themes of the story, while open for interpretation, filled me with a sense of real satisfaction at the end of the series that I don’t often feel when analyzing a show. I ended my review of season one calling it average, but after watching season two I almost want to give the first season higher praise.
If you haven’t read my season one review, check it out here…
When we get sequels to popular Anime, the results can be mixed. You either get a sequel like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig or you get a sequel like Psycho Pass 2. The former expands upon the original’s premise and delivers an altogether superior product while the latter is a mess, plagued with new additions at the cost of what made the original so enjoyable. Sadly, Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is the latter rather than the former.
After four years, several fake sequel announcements, 5 OVA’s, a weird middle school spin off and two crappy live action films, Studio WIT has finally delivered us the long awaited sequel to one of the most internationally successful Anime of the last decade. Is it burdened by having only 12 episodes this season? No. Does it answer the questions we were left with at the end of season one? Kinda. Does it improve upon the first season’s flaws? Absolutely. Continue reading