It’s that time of the year again, so enjoy our Final Thoughts of the 2019 winter anime season that just came to an end~
Ever since we heard of Namori’s involvement with Endro~!, yuri fans were hoping we’d get a little something something from this show, and now that it’s finished, I can confidently say that it does indeed have a little bit of subtext. Not a ton, but it’s probably somewhere in the 3 range in our patented YuriReviews rating system. It’s definitely less than that other anime that got some help from Namori, Release the Spyce, but it’s better than nothing. 😛
There aren’t enough cute girls doing cute things anime that have a fantasy setting, so this is a nice, little treat we have on our hands. I would have liked the show to play up the fantasy a little more though, because it did it in the goofiest of ways. Quests are ridiculous, tropes are numerous, and this ended up being quite a bit of fun, so I wanted more of that type of stuff. It’s nothing exceptional, yet I think fans of the genre will still enjoy Endro~!‘s brand of humor, and I also think they’ll take a liking to these characters. Yusha, Seiran, Mei, and Fai ended up being quite charming, even though they’re definitely fitting very snugly into established character types. Despite her showing a little bit of interest in Yusha, Rona was definitely my least favorite character, and I honestly, I’m glad she didn’t play a bigger role. While I’m at it, Mao was someone I wanted to see more of, since she’s so cute and funny (and she kind of reminds me of Satania from Gabriel DropOut). Anyway, they’re all very cute (Mao, Rona, and Chibi included), and together, they form a pretty solid cast of characters.
Overall, I think Endro~! was a slight upgrade over Release the Spyce (not a very impressive feat, I know), and fans of cute girls doing cute things stand a good chance of being entertained by what this anime has to offer. It’s super cute and colorful, and even though it doesn’t have as much subtext as fans would prefer, it’s still an entertaining little show that I wouldn’t mind seeing get a second season.
Let’s be honest, for every one romcom anime that’s good, there are like seven that are complete crap. Luckily, not only is Kaguya-sama good, it’s actually really good. You see, this isn’t your typical romcom. It’s not lovey-dovey at all, and (thankfully) there’s no harem to be found here. It’s just about a boy and a girl who like each other, but they can’t possibly reveal that information, so they scheme and try to get the other to confess, often with hilarious results.
This anime is definitely more comedy than romance, but in a roundabout way, a lot of the situations Kaguya and Miyuki find themselves in involve their complicated relationship. As much as I wanted one of them to just confess their love already, I was enjoying how varied and calculated their battles were far too much for it to happen so quickly. Each episode had 3-4 segments, and they did a great job of showcasing the four characters, who were perhaps the best thing about this anime. As the main characters, Kaguya and Miyuki are equal parts brilliant at academics… and clueless at most other interpersonal affairs. However, they’re perfectly suited to engage each other in a battle of wits, and even though they’re not the most conventional pairing, I was definitely shipping these two.
Not to be outdone, Chika and Ishigami prove to be great characters as well, despite Ishigami only appearing midway through the season. Seeing Ishigami’s paranoid delusions and overall awkwardness was great and all, but for me, Chika was the real MVP of this show. She’s just so dman adorable, and her tendency of finding ways to inadvertently throw a wrench in Kaguya and Miyuki’s plans was always amusing. Thus far, she’s my favorite character of the year, so maybe we’ll see her again in our Anime/Manga/VN Awards at the end of the year. Anyway, I really enjoyed this unique take on a well-worn genre. It had the comedy, the characters, and the ingenuity that made this anime one of my favorite romantic comedies of the last few years~
Just when you thought that Kakegurui couldn’t get any crazier, the second season comes along, and with new games, the show was really looking to turn the crazy up to 11. However, there may be more competitors, more wicked games, and higher stakes, but for some reason, I wasn’t enjoying this as much as I did the first season. Perhaps it’s because the element of surprise is largely gone, and the payoff of seeing Yumeko at her best/craziest is not as entertaining as it once was, or maybe it’s just that Yumeko has seemingly been toned down this season and there aren’t as many opportunities to see her be that diabolical Yumeko that we saw so often in the first season.
The games are still interesting (though I’m not sure they’re as interesting as what we saw in season one), and the power struggle involving the student council presidential election was quite a shake-up, yet so much of my entertainment from the first season was due to Yumeko, and with her not having the same impact that saw her become one of our Yuri Anime Legends, some of that entertainment is gone. For me, none of the new characters can compare to Midari and Kirari—who’ve also had their roles reduced—so that’s another reason I didn’t enjoy this season as much.
Overall, Kakegurui×× definitely ended up being a disappointment to me. The new characters didn’t add much, the old characters that were pushed aside weren’t able to have much impact, the thrill of gambling isn’t the same as it was before, and “Yumeko Lite” feels so wrong. In case you’re wondering if this season has any yuri, it technically does, but it’s not Yumeko x Mary, Yumeko x Midari, or Yumeko x Kirari. It’s Kirari x Sayaka, Kirari’s secretary. That’s underwhelming, and you have to wait until episode ten for them to have their little moment, so I don’t think it’s really worth it for curious yuri fans, and they might as well just enjoy the ED instead. With the way things ended, there’s probably more Kakegurui on the way, but my interest has waned considerably, so maybe I’ll sit the next season out.
It may have taken a few years for Manaria Friends to finally exit development hell and see the light of day, but it’s a really good thing that this anime didn’t get canceled, because the finished product is subtext to the max. Back when I watched the first season, Shingeki no Bahamut didn’t exactly strike me as a franchise that yuri fans could ever take a liking to, yet this spin-off gets rid of a lot of the excess stuff from the main series (like boatloads of action and a man with exquisitely coifed hair screaming “FAVAROOOOOO!”), and it managed to shake things up and do exactly that.
This may be a lot lighter than the other Shingeki no Bahamut series, but I think this turned out to be just fine. At around fifteen minutes per episode (and only ten episodes), it’s not too surprising that this anime doesn’t have much of a story, though, all I was really hoping for was some yuri moments between our two princess protagonists, and oh, we got a lot of that. This turned out to be really fluffy and cute, and even though this may not be a yuri anime, it sure did feel like one. After all the little signs of affection and hints that Anne and Grea are totally into each other, we still are left with nothing more than subtext, yet it’s a ton of subtext, so all of these sweet moments between the two girls mostly made up for the lack of actual substance.
All in all, even though Manaria Friends would’ve been much better served as a full-length anime, I think yuri fans will be pleasantly surprised by how this anime turned out. It looks good, sounds good, has a decent amount of fanservice and is really easygoing, but more importantly, this anime seems tailor-made for yuri fans. Anne and Grea make for a really nice pairing, and given how meh the rest of this year is looking, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up being one of the better yuri pairings of the year. Now let’s make a second season happen!
Going into this winter season, the only sure thing we yuri fans knew about was Wataten!, which was another one of those anime that deals with an adult falling in love with a child, but unlike Happy Sugar Life, I think the focus on comedy makes this concept a little more palatable. To be fair, I think Wataten! is a bit more tasteful than UzaMaid! (let’s just ignore the whole “giving sweets to a child in order to make them more obedient” part :P), but despite the lipstick on this pig, it’s still a pig, and not everyone will buy what this anime is selling.
As you’d expect, Yamada, Hana, and Noa are insanely cute, and despite the questionable nature of the premise, this comedy is actually not bad at all. There are things going on besides Miyako’s love of Hana, and one way or another, Miyako ends up being the butt of nearly every joke, but she brings it upon herself, so I’m okay with that. She isn’t the raging lolicon that Tsubame was, and you get the sense that the show could manage just fine if she were no longer in the picture, yet it’s definitely better with her and her unique relationship with the girls. Eventually, Miyako also gets her own admirer (that she doesn’t exactly embrace with open arms), so she comes to know how Hana must feel, and that adds a little bit to the entertainment value.
Wataten! won’t make anyone forget about some of the better comedy anime out there, yet it’s an amusing title that’s not as sketchy as it might sound. The girls are super lively, adorable, and have a lot of charm, there’s more to the comedy than just Miyako being a perv, and all in all, I think this is a fun cute girls doing cute things anime that yuri fans might find pretty enjoyable.
Back in our winter First Impressions post, I was already declaring Yakusoku no Neverland to be one of the best anime of the year. Flash-forward three-or-so months later, I’d say I hit the nail right on the head. After a first episode that did a great job of getting you hooked, the remaining episodes continued to build the suspense in a very methodical way, so even though this wasn’t the most action-packed series, it was still a pretty damn good thriller.
I think there’s pretty much nothing more evil than harming kids, so the plot being what it is definitely sets this show up to be really unsettling, and that it is. The high stakes game of cat and mouse between the kids and adults is fascinating, and with every little story development, things get more and more interesting. The story of this anime is far too good to spoil, so just know that it’s very well-done, and if you’re into psychological horror or thriller anime, you’re probably going to love this. Aside from the story, the characters are also pretty awesome. The trio of Emma, Norman, and Ray turned out to be great protagonists, and their combination of ingenuity and vulnerability made them incredibly easy to get attached to and root for. Every great protagonist needs a worthy antagonist, and this anime definitely has one, even though there’s a lot of mystery involved and you don’t know exactly what is going on with the bad guys.
Overall, I think Yakusoku no Neverland absolutely lived up to expectations, and it’s great to see that a second season has already been announced for next year. There are still plenty of things to sort out, so I absolutely can’t wait for more. This anime is dark and cruel, and the prospect of cute kids getting hurt is going to undoubtedly going to turn people away, yet I have a really hard time believing that you’re going to find a better anime this year, so Yakusoku no Neverland is absolutely worth your time.
Anime dropped: Boogiepop wa Warawanai (2019), Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka