Winter 2018: Anime Worth Watching
This week marks the halfway point of the Winter 2018 anime season. It’s a perfect time to look back at what shows stood out over the last six episodes. Last week, Fionna shared her list of anime she’s watching this season. This week, I’ll be going through four shows that are worth picking up from the Winter season. Like most winter seasons, there aren’t a lot of exceptional shows (excluding the 2-cour continuations from fall). There are a few gems this season, though, including one of my favorite slice-of-life shows of the past few years.
This season has more slice-of-life shows than any in recent memory. Yuru Camp is definitely the breakout show of the crowded SOL pack. Yuru Camp follows five girls as they camp in rural Yamanashi prefecture in the offseason. Lead characters Rin and Nadeshiko take two vastly different approaches to camping. While Rin enjoys solo camping and getting as far away from others as possible, Nadeshiko wants to enjoy the experience with others, convincing her fellow club-mates Aoi and Chiaki to camp with her. Throughout the show, Nadeshiko is able to lead Rin to become more social and to camp with her and the other members of the Outdoors Club.
The best way to describe Yuru Camp is “comfy” – it’s one of the better examples of the feel-good subgenre of SOL. It also shows a pretty realistic view of camping. Instead of just being a background setting to explain why the group is together, we repeatedly see the cast learning about camping equipment and techniques. It’s clear that the creators wanted the camping aspect of the show to carry as much weight as the characters themselves. There’s obvious effort put into accurately portraying camping gear, campsites, and the scenic vistas that Rin and Nadeshiko find. Overall, Yuru Camp is a fantastic slice-of-life on par with any of the great SOLs by Doga Kobo or KyoAni.
I’ll be honest – I’m not sure why I’m still watching Darling in the FranXX.
The Trigger team’s “flagship” shows have always had moments of excessive sexual innuendo and visuals – for example, the somewhat excessive fanservice in Gurren Lagann, Ryuuko and Satsuki’s Kamuis (and the bath scene) in Kill la Kill, and nearly every frame of Sex&VIOLENCE with MACHSPEED. The saving grace of most of Trigger’s past works is they don’t take themselves seriously – the over-the-top sex and violence is almost always played off as absurdist for comedic value. With FranXX, Trigger has managed to push this farther than past shows, while also failing to play it off as a joke. The result is, at times, an uncomfortable mess. I nearly dropped the show during the first mech scene, where the creators made the two-person piloting system look as much like a sex act as they could and still have it pass the TV censors.
And yet, I’m still watching it. Like most other Trigger shows, FranXX is just fun to watch. The fight scenes are excellent. The characters have amazing designs and unique personalities. The animation quality is fantastic – which makes sense, since FranXX is a collaboration between A-1 and Trigger. The story is intriguing enough, even if it is a bit formulaic (teens pilot huge mechs to stop giant “evil” monsters that have inexplicably started attacking human colonies). I find myself looking forward to new episodes, even if I end up cringing every time they show the Parasites starting up a Franxx.
Takagi-san feels very similar to Tonari no Seki-kun, an anime short created by the same studio (Shin-Ei Animation) in 2014. Both feature a pair of students slacking off in “that corner” of the classroom, with one working to make the other laugh and get in trouble. In Seki-kun, it’s unintentional – Yokoi usually gets caught gawking at Seki’s absurd distractions. Takagi-san takes a more direct approach, with Takagi exploiting Nishikata’s personality to get a reaction. Both shows also weave a romantic storyline throughout the show, although it’s more pronounced in Takagi-san.
As romantic slice-of-life shows go, Takagi-san is enjoyable but not exceptional. It doesn’t push any boundaries of the genre, the show’s tropes aren’t new, and the animation quality (while good) won’t win an end-of year award. It is, however, a great example of this style of show, and is definitely worth watching if you enjoy romance or interaction-driven comedies.
Pop Team Epic is the essentially Adult Swim in anime form. It’s not surprising that the show is popular in the United States, while being widely panned in Japan. Pop Team Epic is a surreal sketch comedy following a Robot Chicken style of delivery – many short gags referencing pop culture (in this case, anime subcultures) with crude animation and intentionally subpar impersonations. The sketches are directed by different teams within Kamikaze Douga, giving each one a different feel. Each episode also features a longer (and higher budget) chapter directed by Space Cat Company, a studio formed by the two main directors for the show. The second half of the show is a repeat of the first, with gender-swapped voice actors and a few different jokes.
The main appeal of Pop Team Epic is the sheer number of anime subculture references crammed into every sketch, along with the biting self-referential and self-deprecating humor towards anime fans and the anime industry. Unfortunately, because of this, it’s not very accessible to casual anime viewers. The humor is also pretty hit-or-miss, with some jokes failing to land. For diehard anime fans, though, Pop Team Epic is worth checking out.
What are your favorite shows of the Winter season? Let us know in the comments!