Highlight: Spring 2018 anime season

HeroAca_header
“I have used up everything in me…You are next” — All Might

Welcome to the season of heroes and epic battles!

Half of the selections in Spring 2018 season are established franchises; cash cows that are almost guaranteed to be decent at the bare minimum. For the most parts, the cash cows met my expectations with one unfortunate exception: Steins;Gate Zero.

One problem with writing a prequel is that: it’s very difficult to raise tension when the outcome is predetermined. This is especially true for Steins;Gate Zero when even protagonist knew about his plot armor. I admit, I enjoyed seeing all these characters and their endearing quirks again, but the lack of tension made the story rather dull and all the unresolved loose ends didn’t help. I’ll still rate this “Excellent” for stellar production quality nevertheless. It’ll have a chance to redeem itself next season.

On the other hand, Grancrest Senki turns out to be quite a treat. The tactics were garbage compared to Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These, but the impact factor of each battle, especially the one orchestrated by Alexis, was still stunning. Not to mention, I’m impressed by the show’s contextual usage of ecchi elements. It’s one of the rare shows where fan service has legitimate meaning in the depiction.

Meanwhile, Darling in the Franxx took Studio Trigger’s signature weird factor to 11. There can only be so many innuendoes a show can make before I start seeing innocent lines such as “We should all link up” as an invitation to a spiritual, transdimensional orgy. The fanservice was detrimental to the story and the story was no good, to begin with.

Though trust me…Mahou Shojou Ore makes Trigger’s shows look tame in comparison. It’s crazy, I’m supposed to hate it but I can’t stop watching it!

SEASONAL SELECTION

Show Expectation Rating
Boku no Hero Academia 3 Cash cow Highlight (Pending)
Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These Cash cow Runner-up
ReLIFE: Kanketsu-hen Cash cow Excellent
Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan 2 Cash cow Excellent
Grancrest Senki Question mark Excellent
Steins;Gate 0 Cash cow Excellent (Pending)
Fumikiri Jikan Question mark Decent
Darling in the Franxx Star Decent
Mahou Shoujo Ore Question mark Mediocre
Persona 5 the Animation Question mark Mediocre (Pending)
Mahou Shoujo Site Question mark Nope

HIGHLIGHT: BOKU NO HERO ACADEMIA 3
MY HERO ACADEMIA 3

I have a policy against highlighting ongoing show because I have experienced masterpieces falling apart later on so many times before. Yet, here I am, writing the highlight for an ongoing show. The grand performance Boku no Hero Academia (HeroAca) has demonstrated in All-for-One arc marks the show a worthy exception.

Izuku Midoriya, a powerless boy in a world of superhumans, is bestowed the power of his life-long idol, the number one hero, the symbol of justice All Might. He is admitted into U.A. academy where talented kids are trained to become professional heroes. The setting leaves plenty of rooms for both slice-of-life character development and action-packed battles.

The show is produced by studio Bones. As one of the higher end studios, Bones delivers consistent production quality throughout three seasons. Background music is right on key and the camera work is stunning in emotional and action scenes. The mediocre lighting and the average level of details in the art style leave much to be desired, though the dynamic nature of the show gives the studio some leeways on the matter.

HeroAca_snapshot
Thou shall not pass!

What makes the show stand out is its incredible writing. Quirky as they are, each character in the show exhibits strong personal belief and carries out his or her part in driving the story forward. Each episode is driven by one character’s belief: Kota’s hatred toward superhuman society, Izuku’s admiration for All Might’s righteousness, Eraser’s trust in his students, Iida’s law-abiding nature, Kirishima’s frustration at his own powerlessness, etc.

Conflicting ideologies happen not only between foes but also between friends as well. One positive aspect of the writing is the conflict resolution between friends. Ideological conflicts between friends are settled quickly by speaking everything that comes to mind and by reaching compromises. This is the dramatic point of the writing and the actual fighting is merely the backdrop, the manifestation of these internal conflicts.

HeroAca_snapshot2
Mom of the year.

All Might’s final battle versus All-for-One is the test of society’s trust in heroes and what it means to be the symbol of justice. Heroes cannot save everyone, but they keep trying, throwing themselves in grave perils, standing up for the weak because if they didn’t, who would? The sentiment echoes Mumen Rider’s last stand in One Punch Man and the message is delivered even more spectacular, more bittersweet this time. It was truly a sensational performance that sent shivers down my spine and, like Midoriya, I felt an acute sense of loss at the second meaning behind All Might’s last words:

“You are next”.

The fight continues next season. Without the symbol of justice as the instant-win button, the stake has never been higher. From what I have seen in the last few episodes, the show will only get better from here. Both the villains and the heroes have lost their strongest fighters and the next generations have all the motivations to go further and beyond. I’m optimistic that HeroAca will continue to be worthy of the highlight next season, though as a matter of principle, I will not highlight it again. I give this show “plus ultra” recommendation.

RUNNER-UP: GINGA EIYUU DENSETSU – DIE NEUE THESE
LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES – THE NEW THESIS

Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These (GingaEiyuu) has a big shoe to fill. The original material is a novel series back in the 90s and there has been a successful anime adaptation of it that spanned over 100 episodes. To fit all these materials in one season is a maddening notion and I’m neither dumb nor zealous enough to expect that of the show.

Within the budget and time constraint, the diligent folks at production I.G did a great job introducing the setting and the characters. This is a wealthy studio known for their near national-defense-tier budget in key franchises such as Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan), Psycho-Pass, and Ghost in the Shell. They are very much capable of delivering top-notched production quality and they have vast experiences in the Sci-fi genre so the studio is a good fit for GingaEiyuu.

The graphic is a huge step up from the 16-bit graphic of the last century. For a show that focuses on epic space warfare and field tactics, graphic adds a great deal of value to the viewing experience. CGI technology also allows battles to be shown on such a scale that would cost an arm and a leg to draw by hand.

Story-wise, since I have neither read the novels nor watched the original series and only heard of it second-handedly from a friend, I’m spared from the disappointment hardboiled fans of the franchise experienced. In fact, I find the writing masterful and thrilling. It is like the classic Romance of Three Kingdoms and Foundation trilogy crossover and I love it very much!

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This is the Star Wars we need.

The point of tension is not only on the tactical aspect but also on the political, social and economic aspects. These various facets make the worldbuilding believable and logical. I have a strong inkling that there is no competent commander in the show beyond the main three characters: Wen-li, Reinhard, and Siegfried. This is somewhat disappointing but not entirely unbelievable.

Personally, I would like the main characters to fail due to their own flaws than to other people’s flaws but sometimes, there’s no helping it. I sure hope Reinhard and Wen-li will gain sufficient authority to get rid of these morons once and for all soon.

Overal, this is a solid show and the primary issue I have with the show is how it ends on a cliffhanger. I’ll just go ahead and grab the novels, of course, and I hope the English translation has gotten far enough to cover the missing epic battle. Definitely a recommendation for fans of witty characters and space battles.

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