Like a boxer going for a full knockout, this season just kept delivering hit after hit until we, the audience were left passed out on the floor, exhausted from the barrage of quality anime we were getting. And if you think this intro is a Segway into my talking about Megalo Box, well…sorry to disappoint you.
I did however a good deal of other noteworthy shows though. Starting with the two big surprises for me this season: Sword Art Online – Alternative and Dances with the Dragons. Two shows for which my expectations were rather low. In the case of the former because SAO does not have the best of reputations and in the case of the latter because it honestly just didn’t look all that exciting.
However, Sword Art Online – Alternative, or Gun Gale Online as you will, proved to be a thoroughly entertaining action romp with stellar production values and a terrific lead character making up for its lack of depth and paper-thin story.
Dances with the Dragons on the other hand ended up being a truly impressive series. The story takes place in a unique setting that’s equal parts fantasy and cyberpunk and sees two down on their luck bounty hunters traverse an incredibly complex web of intrigue and deception. This show was exceptionally well written with an intricately crafted plot and incredibly fun characters. So why did almost the entirety of the anime-community ignore this exceptional series? Well, the only reason I can think of is its awfully jarring opening and lackluster production values resulting in the vast majority of action scenes falling flat on their face. Even so, this show was easily one of the most fun times I’ve had watching anime this season and a definite favorite of mine and if you’re the kind of person who prefers a well-crafted story and compelling characterization over flashy visuals then I cannot recommend this one enough. Also, while it is very unlikely, if they ever do decide to make another season of this I will be first in line to go watch it.
Moving on, I also got a bit of a nostalgia trip this season, courtesy of Amanchu Advance. The first seasonw as one of the first anime I watched on a weekly basis. And while the second outing of the gorgeously animated iyashikei anime wasn’t quite as good as the first, it was still a deliciously sweet desert at the end of a long day that would, without fail, get me to relax and unwind. Just…don’t ask me about episodes 7 – 9. I don’t know what happened there either.
Next up we got a wonderfully relatable romance comedy with Love is Hard for Otaku. Depicting the lives of a game otaku and his fujoushi co-worker who decide to become a couple. Needless to say…hijinks ensue. At times sweet, at other times laugh out loud funny and always relatable. This was an absolute treat for any otaku above the age of 20. Just er…make sure you’ve seen plenty of anime first as the vast majority of jokes consist of anime and videogame-references and they will fly right over your head if your anime knowledge is still fairly limited.
Then there’s Dragon Pilot. This show is very much a sore point for me because while the first two episodes clearly gave me the impression that this show is amazing and probably best of season, after having taken a look at the vast amount of other anime I wanted to keep up with I quickly decided to put this series on hold and watch it when Netflix releases it in its entirety. So while I can’t give it a full on recommendation I will say that the first two episodes were fantastic enough for me to at least tentatively suggest checking it out.
Now we finally get to my favorite anime of this season and the only series I never skipped a week of: Golden Kamuy. The show got off to a rough start with an embarissingly lackluster first episode with amateur-hour production values and awful visual direction. Luckally though, the show quickly got its act together and before long ended up being the show that by far gave me the most joy and pleasure to watch each week with only a few minor dips in quality every now and then. (Bears are not this show’s strong-suit) The show’s breathtaking action sequences and comprehensive depiction of life in early 20th century Hokaido as well as its in depth look into Ainu culture made this easily the single most engrossing anime of the season for me. It’s not for everyone though, showcasing a level of graphic violence that will make even the most ardent guro lover blush and having a relentlessly gritty tone with few characters being spared from the harsh nature of this unforgiving environment. Though sprinled throughout were moments of laugh out loud funny absurdist comedy as our lead trio often found themselves in the most stranges of situations. It's not for everyone but for those looking for a more mature and realistic historical action series this was a rare treat. Also…"Winding Road"
On the other hand of the spectrum we have Comic Girls. A show I gave up on after merely a single episode. It’s certainly not a terrible series but I personally did not care for its overly simplistic and idealistic depiction of the manga industry. It’s just a matter of taste I suppose.
The final show I want to bring up was also one of favorites this season and one of my favorite comedy anime to date: Hinamatsuri. I am not an easy person to please when it comes to comedy. The vast amount I just find too crude or mean spirited. So, when I say that I enjoyed the hell out of Hinamatsuri and could’ve easily watched another 12 episodes of it, that should tell you something. It’s got razor sharp dialogues, incredibly witty comedy and characters and situations that are as bizarre as they are hilarious. One again, this is not a show for everyone as its style of comedy does lean heavily towards absurdism. But if you like your comedies a bit more mature and sophisticated while still being balls to the wall insane then there’s very few shows I would recommend more than this one.
Looking back, it’s honestly mindboggling just how many excellent series we were treated to over the last twelve weeks. Summer 2018 really does have enormous shoes to fill and I personally doubt it will manage to do fill them. That being said, there are still quite a few shows that I think might be worth your time. But that’s for another article.