Four Anime Reviews is one of the most popular posts I’ve ever done on the site. Since then I have watched a lot – and I do mean a LOT – more anime, and enjoyed almost all of it (I will only actually watch something to the end that I enjoy).
In light of that, I have thought carefully and decided on four more anime to review. The rules: They must be an anime I have not written a review or article on already…and that’s it. This means nothing on Mob Psycho 100 or One Punch Man, even though Mob Psycho especially is probably my second favorite anime that I’ve watched since that original article.
I’ll also be sort of kind of breaking that rule for the final review, but that show NEEDS to be talked about.
The 10 star rating system is gone. I realized I would have to rank too many shows I really liked below 5 of 10 if I wanted to be consistent. So now it’s just thumbs down and thumbs up.
(I wrote a couple short articles on already airing anime, so my short conclusions on them: Cells at Work improved as the season went on, added real character development and intelligent world building, and ended on a high note. It is my easy winner for anime of the summer 2018 season. Steins;Gate 0 spun its wheels a bit in the middle and had some hilariously bad action scenes but the last four or so episodes were fantastic and it too ended on a REALLY high note.)
And without further ado:
1) Hinamatsuri – Yoshifumi Nitta is a high-ranking member of the Yakuza whose life is turned upside down the day a young, probably autistic girl named Hina with psychic powers inexplicably shows up in his apartment. Nitta pretty much has no choice but to adopt the little girl and wacky hijinx, as well as moving familial bonding, ensues.
Review – This was another show from the summer 2018 season, but I didn’t watch it until much later. It really took me by surprise how much I liked it. The characters are lovable, the jokes are consistently on point, and they do an excellent job juggling their surprisingly large cast of characters.
While the jokes are great, and the show really is very funny, where it truly shines is in its serious moments. The bonds formed between the characters – not just Hina and Nitta but several side characters as well – are consistently touching, and even some of the gags have a sweet edge to them that just makes you smile, like when Hina decides to throw a party celebrating Nitta’s promotion but somehow gets the idea that parties are supposed to look like funerals. It’s a great gag but it’s still touching that Hina makes the effort to go that extra mile, as well as an excellent character moment – the first time in the series Hina decides to do something nice with no ulterior benefit to herself.
Best girl is Hitomi.
Is it superversive? – Very! Not just in its main plot, but throughout its several subplots as well the story is consistently uplifting.
Recommendation – Two thumbs up. It isn’t a must-watch classic, but it is a lot of fun.
2) Last Exile – Claus Valca and Lavie Head are sky couriers on the planet of Prester, a steampunk style world where two nations are in perpetual war and flying machines known as vanships rule the skies. One day a dying courier asks them to complete a dangerous mission: deliver a little girl named Alvis to a flying battleship known as the Silvana. And our adventure begins!
Review – This is one of the classic anime of the early 2000s that helped anime boom in the U.S. Like Trigun before it Last Exile was more of a hit overseas than in Japan, perhaps due to the heavily eurocentric atmosphere, though the split was not nearly as extreme (you can go so far as to call Trigun a bomb in its home country).
The reputation is deserved. Last Exile is a fantastic show. The visual style and tone are reminiscent of Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, though with a more adult edge to it. The plot is intricate and complex but well written, and all secrets are revealed in the end.
The characters can sometimes come across as a bit two dimensional with one exception: Dio (no, not that one). Dio is probably the series’ biggest achievement, along with its revolutionary integration of CGI into the airship scenes. Introduced originally as a mysterious, androgynous, and rather creepy figure, he becomes almost a metaphor for the show as a whole as it progresses, as solving the mystery of who and what Dio also solves the mystery of what is really going on in the plot. He is by far the most memorable part of the story, which is a real compliment as the story itself is also engrossing.
Is it superversive? – Extremely so. Like Pazu before them Claus and Lavie are the sort of people to selflessly commit themselves wholeheartedly to a stranger – Alvis – despite barely knowing her, and this is presented as the correct and moral thing to do. Characters who start off looking like they’ll be threats become allies and the story ends on a high note.
Recommendation – This one IS ammust-watch classic. Two thumbs up.
3) Yu Yu Hakusho – Yusuke Yuremeshi is a young punk who spends all of his time fighting and going to the arcade. One day he knocks a boy out of the way of a car, getting hit himself and dying as a result. Then a cheerful young woman with a flying…paddle…informs him that she’s the grim reaper and that due to his selfless act, if he wants it, spirit world is willing to give him a second chance at life. After seeing the reactions of his sort-of-girlfriend, principal, and mother he agrees. On his return Yusuke is made the Spirit Detective of Earth, hunting down demons and punching out bad guys to save the world.
Review – One of the more influential shonen anime, this early 90’s show shows its age occasionally but for the most part holds up exceptionally well. In contrast to Togashi’s later and far inferior anime Hunter x Hunter (maybe the most overrated anime of all time), Yu Yu Hakusho is fast paced (almost no fight goes longer than two episodes, a trick My Hero Academia stole) and always fun. Togashi’s real strength, however, is in his exceptionally well realized characters. The main group of Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, and Hei is one of the most memorable and entertaining in all of anime. Not only are their personalities distinct and memorable, but each of them has an interesting backstory and goes through a TON of character development as the series progresses.
The Dark Tournmanet arc is, rightly, considered one of the greatest arcs in anime history. It goes on a little long but the high points of that story are so high who really cares? But the show isn’t perfect. The arc following Dark Tournament noticeably drops in quality and Togashi has a really, really big problem with killing off major characters even when it makes sense both narratively and metatextually – to spoil a scene, the revival of Genki was particularly egregious. This problem gets even more ridiculous in Hunter x Hunter, with the utterly absurd revival of Kite. Still, back to Yu Yu Hakusho, the show picks up again by the Three Kings saga and while I’m still five or so episodes away from finishing it completely it’s hard for me to think I won’t be satisfied by the time it all ends.
Is it superversive? – Yes. Just listen to the OP. How can it not be?
Recommendation – If you’re a fan of any modern shonen you really should see Yu Yu Hakusho and get a look at a lot of classic tropes used when they were still fresh. Two thumbs up.
Actually, you can see a lot of its DNA in My Hero Academia, leading to…
4) My Hero Academia – Young Izuku Medoriya is born quirkless – powerless – in a world where the vast majority of society possesses some sort of superpower. When Medoriya gets a chance to meet his favorite hero, the legendary Symbol of Peace, All Might, he convinces him he has what it takes to be a hero. Seeing his potential, All Might gifts him a special quirk that can be passed down generation to generation: One for All, a quirk that stockpiles power. But in order to harness this power, Medoriya, who takes the hero name Deku, needs to train at the prestigious superhero academy UA High, where he begins his journey to become the world’s greatest hero.
Review – This is the one I’m sort of almost cheating on, since I did write a review of the movie. Rawle already talked about season 1 and Nathan gave it a rec last year, but hoooooooly crap. We need to talk about how exponentially this show improved.
Season 1 was…okay. It was good. I liked it. I decided to keep going with the show on the basis of strong recommendations and the excellent final fight scene that ended season one. And then season 2 happened. And it started with a tournament arc.
And suddenly, the show was amazing.
Previously the show had focused on Deku, leaving the rest of its colorful cast in the background. Season 2 shifted focus, turning into a true ensemble show, with side characters – even side characters who weren’t the center of any stories – getting their own arcs and backstories. The sports festival reaches its climax in a fantastic battle with Deku and the fire-and-ice powered Todoroki, and this is the moment the show passed “really good” and became exceptional. The interweaving of Todoroki’s backstory in the middle of the exceptionally well choreographed fight, combined with the strong narrative being told by the fight itself, really cemented the series identity as a vehicle for both stellar action AND compelling drama without losing its optimistic, can-do spirit.
It is also not the best fight in the series.
The show isn’t perfect. Season 3 was arguably both the show’s best and worst season. The first half of the season, the training camp arc up to the unbelievable battle between All Might and All for One – one of the greatest fight scenes of all time – was clearly the highlight of the entire show to date, but the preliminary exam arc in the second half fell a little flat. The stakes in the prelim exams weren’t high enough to make the stories compelling by themselves and it lacked the strong interpersonal drama that drove the sports festival of season 2, though the arc did end on a high note.
Even so, how does anyone not love My Hero Academia? Literally every single person I know who gave the show a shot is now a huge fan. It is brilliant.
Is it superversive? – Oh, HELL yes. It’s probably the most superversive show on TV right now. Deku is seriously inspiring.
Two last things about the show:
Postscript: There are two honorable mention anime I really wanted to talk about but didn’t quite make it onto the list this time. Robotics;Notes came out of nowhere to surprise me with a well-written slice of life story about a school robotics club in an alternate history where robots are a much larger part of daily life. It takes place in the Steins;Gate universe but aside from a couple of Easter eggs this is incidental.
And Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is absolutely fantastic and maybe my second favorite shonen anime to HeroAca. They’ll both be on next list.