Fall 2018 ended two months ago, yet it is only till this week that I can find time to write a review for it. Thankfully, I have already written the seasonal selection since the end of the season, and therefore I didn’t have to do much soul-searching my rusty memories for the best shows to rewatch.
There are only a handful of good picks this season. The most anticipated show for me this season was Radiant for the fact that the story was written by a French mangaka. My expectation was betrayed. It was horrible and I dropped it like hot potatoes. I’ll get back to that in the addendum at the end.
Moving on, the two natural top picks are Goblin Slayer and Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara, which are produced by White Fox and P.A.Works studio respectively. These are among the list of great studios to look out for. Most things in their hands will boil down to the quality of the writing rather than production. Safe to say, I was not disappointed.
|Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai||Question mark||Runner-up|
|Gaikotsu shotenin Honda-san||Question mark||Excellent|
|Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara||Star||Excellent|
|Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken||Question mark||Excellent (Pending)|
|Toaru Majutsu no Index 3||Cash cow||Mediocre (Pending)|
HIGHLIGHT: GOBLIN SLAYER
The Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) vibe is strong in this one. And I like it.
Goblin Slayer is essentially a D&D campaign turned anime. This testosterone-pumped show features a MacGyver protagonist whose questionable morality and grimdark childhood shout out to…Batman. The setting is a classic medieval fantasy world where magic exists and adventurer is a full-time occupation. The world is filled with dangerous beasts and dark dungeons. Evil overlords and undead armies threaten the land’s inhabitants. Among these creatures, the goblins, commonly viewed as non-threats, are the focus of our protagonist’s extermination.
There is one main quality that sets Goblin Slayer apart from other run-of-the-mill fantasy adventure stories: the limitless supply of lampshades it’s throwing at popular fantasy combat tropes.
The combat mechanics employed in Goblin Slayer leans toward the logical end of the spectrum. Bikini armor exists there but one stab at the midriff with a poisoned dagger and off you go to the netherworld. Why use an expensive sword when one can just bludgeon giant rats to death using a cheap club? If the dungeon is an impregnable but flammable elven fortress, just barricade the exits and set the whole place on fire. Heck! They even talked about kiting an unmoving beholder guardian!
All these outside-the-box tactics combined with valid criticisms of fantasy tropes tingled all my nerdy hair. The equivalent craftiness on the goblins’ side and the hard magic system really bring out the heroes’ resourcefulness and world building’s depth. It is a brutal war they are fighting and Goblin Slayer does not hesitate to show the ugliest. The brutality, gore, and the nauseating consequences of defeats lay bare from the get-go. And since losing an arm and becoming a plaything are among the possibilities not covered by the plot armor, every fight comes with an emotional stake higher than any “save the world” final battles.
If there was a lesson to be taken away from, it would be to never show mercy to enemies; for they will show none.
This is the lesson the priest took to heart. and later acted on it. It was her growth as a character from a maiden in distress to a reliable partner. It is refreshing indeed to see a sidekick who doesn’t end up dragging the protagonist down one way or another, who finds enough autonomy to make her own decisions and save the day in doing so. In any case, I’m just very glad she didn’t turn into a dead-weight, stuck with the MacGuffin role in a kidnap or romance subplot.
Goblin Slayer too begins to rely more on those around him. I can’t say this is a good thing or a bad thing for him as an adventurer but I’m sure it is a step forward for him as a person.
Writing aside, the soundtrack and animation are top-class; coming from one of the industry leaders: White Fox studio. Really, sometimes it feels like a waste of time praising how good the production team of these industry leaders are so I’ll just leave my comment at that. Strongly recommend the show for those interested in seeing combat system done right. Not recommended for underaged viewers or anyone who cannot stomach gore. Definitely looking forward to the second season!
RUNNER-UP: SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI
RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI
This long title can be condensed down to “Bunny girl senpai” because, let’s be realistic here, there isn’t going to be any other show daring enough to put this kind of fetish in the title.
Ironic enough, the show is not about those so-typical-Japan fetishes as the title suggested. It is, in fact, a tamed young adult fiction sprinkled on a bit of supernatural phenomenon based on popular keywords from a theoretical physics textbook. Even more ironic is the fact that the dialogues and interactions between characters in the show are extremely organic and believable in spite of the ridiculous concept.
Not that I’m saying the butt-kicking thing is natural, it’s not. Still, the rule of funny applies.
For the most part, the show bears a strong resemblance to Bakemonogatari series: the main character is a guy who goes around the town meeting girls with themed supernatural problems, solves their problem, and adds them to his growing harem in the process. Except, the protagonist is not the useless-but-lucky coward Araragi but the deadpan minimalist rascal Hachiman Hikigaya from Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru (Oregairu), who always comes up with the most elegant yet borderline socially suicidal solutions to the girls’ problems.
Beyond the snarky back and forth between the characters, the show, unfortunately, offers nothing radical from the well-established Bakemonogatari formula. It is a great show to watch for fans of either of the aforementioned series.
In terms of production, the soundtrack is a huge plus for Bunny girl senpai but the whole show is held back by its mediocre animation. Even in key scenes where the studio went all out on the lighting and the glow effects, the characters simply don’t blend well in the background and the level of details remained below the industry average. This much is what I expected from a new studio with a limited budget.
WINNING FAILURE: RADIANT
If anything, the successes of No Game No Life (written by a Brazillian mangaka) and Shelter (produced by a pair of American and French artists in cooperation with A-1 Pictures) have paved the way for future works from western artists in the–otherwise traditionally Japanese–animation industry.
I felt betrayed and ripped off of my time watching Radiant. The tropes, the cliches, and the design employed in this show are as old as the original Dragon Quest manga. They are dated styles that have since fallen out of fashion. It’s as bad as the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card remade a few seasons ago but alas that was Madhouse–one of the industry leaders–and they somehow made it watchable.
Not very much so for Radiant. Nope, no amount of animation wizardry can save this show from something as cringey as Don Bossman.
It truly feels like the author has not read or watched any of the modern works since the turn of the century. Then, it dawns on me that it might as well be the case. Unlike the aforementioned titles, Radiant was written to appeal to French comic readers. The original material targets a whole different audience. It simply doesn’t work for anime viewers
I should have seen how it’ll end like that certain Japanese Spiderman live-action before putting this waste of time on my watch list.