You know it, and I know it: 2020 has been absolute hot garbage. There’s no point in going into all of the little things that have happened this year because there are too many and also because it might just depress us even more bringing them up. I did have to cancel some events this […]
The post Nonon’s Best Anime of 2020 appeared first on TheOASG.
You know it, and I know it: 2020 has been absolute hot garbage. There’s no point in going into all of the little things that have happened this year because there are too many and also because it might just depress us even more bringing them up. I did have to cancel some events this year, plus other things I follow (Formula 1, Eurovision, esports, etc.) have all had to be reorganized. But yeah, instead of dwelling on that, let’s get back to some anime.
I had to take the summer off for real-life reasons, so I have had a heck of a lot of catching up to do. This year saw a lot of delayed releases as well, and even more sequel seasons. Then right at the end, we saw Crunchyroll being bought by Sony for $1.18 billion. We’ll see what this’ll do for anime streaming to the West in 2021 and beyond, but it’s easy to see that one big monopoly will largely be behind it all leaving the smaller streaming services in the dust. Also, in part because of my break, there have been some shows I’ve missed out on, but here are the top 5 I’ve been able to enjoy this year:
5. Tonikawa: Over The Moon For You
(Seven Arcs – available on Crunchyroll)
Tonikawa was a last-minute pick for me. I didn’t quite understand what a ‘Crunchyroll Original’ show meant, and to this day I still don’t really get it. Perhaps this is their way of calling it Crunchyroll exclusivity. Well regardless of that, this cutesy comedy show was an incredibly fun watch.
Nasa Yuzaki is quite possibly the nicest and most selfless guy you have ever met. On the day of his high-school entrance exams, he meets Tsukasa, the girl of his dreams, and it’s like destiny strikes…until he is hit by a truck. Tsukasa manages to save his life, and agrees to go out with him, on the condition that they marry. Nasa brushes this off, but it’s only until Tsukasa arrives on his doorstep after he graduates when it hits him.
This is a ongoing gag show, but because we grow to love everyone, from Nasa and Tsukasa, right to all the secondary characters, it goes on a level of its own. The journey of sharing an apartment, to getting new furniture, to getting family to approve of their marriage, and beyond, is something we get to see first-hand, and it grabs us straightaway. There are also some more serious parts that show the main characters at their best, like for instance when Kaname (from the bathhouse opposite Nasa’s apartment, and his kohai) confesses to Tsukasa that it was him that saved her family business from going bankrupt. Also, the part where Nasa’s father breaks down and thanks Tsukasa for saving his only child’s life. Too much lewd hand-holding though, but hey, that’s something that grows on us.
4. Adachi & Shimamura
(Tezuka Productions – available on Funimation)
Some people didn’t like the slow-burn this show had, and that was what ultimately turned them off from watching. They wanted these two to just get on with it already, like a lot of other favorite yuri shows (Bloom Into You, Sakura Trick, etc.) have all done.
Adapted from the long-running light novels (by the same guy who created Denpa Onna, one of my favorite weird slice-of-life shows), Adachi & Shimamura tells the story of two truants and how they build a budding relationship. A lot of the show was told from the lovesick Adachi, who begins to have dreams of kissing her new friend, but every now and then, we get to see Shimamura and how she wants to change her view of the people around her. Adachi lives a solitary life, with no friends at all and an largely-absent mother, but while Shimamura lives a regular schoolgirl life, she finds herself frustrated with how the people around her are so…dull and unexciting.
I really loved the conflict both Adachi and Shimamura were having with themselves. Adachi ended up feeling incredibly lovesick to the point where she was getting a little possessive of her new best friend, while Shimamura constantly thought about how she interacts with the people around her, and whether she should get close to them or not. She also knew that she was the only person Adachi considered a ‘best friend’, leaving her to think whether she should be just as loyal back. Also, the arrival of a third girl towards the end, Terumi, was something I initially didn’t like, but she warmed to me by the time the show ended, as it only added to Shimamura’s self-conflict…like she had to decide who to be loyal to the most. I knew that there would be no love triangle going on the moment Terumi arrived on the scene, and because of this, her character is still interesting to watch.
There’s more I can talk about here; I only wished that more people got the slow-burn this show had. Compared to other yuri shows like Bloom Into You and Sakura Trick, relationships don’t start straightaway – here in Adachi & Shimamura, it goes on a more steady and somewhat more understandable pace.
3. Assault Lily: Bouquet
(SHAFT – available on Funimation)
I personally think the reason Assault Lily: Bouquet didn’t get as much attention as it did was because people were too quick to compare it to Madoka Magica. It was something that I did mention in Otaku Theater; both shows have an awful lot of similarities when it comes to setting and characters. But outside of that, the two are still very different.
Set in the near future, where the world has been ravaged by an unknown enemy called the Huge, a type of magic is discovered (Magie) that can be attuned to teenage girls who go on to destroy them. These girls (Lilies) gather in military academies (Gardens) to train, do battle, and be…well, yuri girls. They even make the effort to make the setting as ‘yuri’ as possible, with lily flowers, elegant black dress uniforms, and constant tea drinking. Sorry if that sounded like me assuming yuri have these strict rules, and I know that this all sounds a pretty plain and unoriginal plot, but Assault Lily: Bouquet really does bring more than that.
Our MC, Riri Hitotsuyanagi, arrives as a first year, plucky and upbeat and very naïve. She soon meets the aloof second-year Yuyu Shirai, and makes it her mission to help her. It turns out that Yuyu is battling a lot of inner demons; post-traumatic stress from losing her own senior (Schutzengel) two years previously, and having to live with her own Rare Skill (ultimate power) which has a capability to kill anyone and anything in her way. As the Lilies in Yurigaoka Academy fight to protect humanity from the Huge, we get to see their everyday lives, and how they are both blessed and cursed as Lilies that wield great magical powers.
It mixes yuri, action and comedy with some very enthralling science-fiction, and that was a really big draw for me here…and not that it could have been seen as Madoka Magica 2.0. The story moves on into different directions, all linked and with one path: to defeat the Huge once and for all, and for the Lilies to live normal lives. These 12 episodes hooked me in so much, leaving me desperately wanting to know what happens next week. Assault Lily: Bouquet was another show that ended up getting delayed; it was meant to release in the Summer season but got pushed forward to the Fall. However, I can argue that this made a better show for the Fall than Summer, and also what made the show more interesting is that SHAFT had gotten a little help from some former KyoAni staff to help with the animation. It really shows too, where we see a lot of scenes (like the one below where Riri tried to get close to Yuyu) that look straight out of something KyoAni would make in a show like Violet Evergarden or Sound! Euphonium.
A hidden gem that I strongly recommend; being a SHAFT fanboy has nothing to do with that decision though…really it doesn’t. Some more on SHAFT and them working with other studios in 2020 later in this post though, but let’s move on.
2. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
(Science SARU – available on Crunchyroll)
From the Winter 2020 season, this show was on everyone’s lips, with it being the first TV show from Science SARU (Devilman Crybaby doesn’t quite count, as it was made for Netflix). This studio had a long history of making some quality movies like The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, Lu Over The Wall and Ride Your Wave, so we were all eager to see how their vision would be reflected in a regular TV show.
High-schoolers Midori Asakusa, Sayaka Kanamori and Tsubame Mizusaki all group together to create their own school club that revolves around animation. Because an anime club already exists at their school, they decide to focus more on the animation itself, and so put together shorts for their school. As we watch the show, a heck of a lot grabs us, often all at once. Some might argue that having too much in a show can confuse the viewer, but here in Eizouken, it works just fine because every little thing is so great to watch. From the wild visions that Midori has when she thinks of ideas on what to animate, to Sayaka’s ruthless negotiations that really are something to watch on their own, to the bizarre architecture of the city around them. Heck, even all the other little school clubs that exists at their school is something to laugh at.
I mean, did your high school have a Man-Faced Fish Investigation Club, or an Akihabara Culture Group & Fermented Foods Advocacy Club, or a Choju-giga Art Restoration Club? And they’re just three of the many assorted weird clubs in the show.
Science SARU really pulled this off well, and have created something that a lot of people will talk about for a good long while. As a studio that is more traditionally known for making feature-length works, they’ve shown in both the quality story and off-beat animation that they are capable of much more. I understand that Science SARU have signed a contract with Netflix, and so a lot of their future works (and maybe their back catalogue) will end up going there. Something some people might object to, but certainly not this anime follower.
I leave with this stand-out opening theme the show has; an opening theme by Japanese hip-hop duo chelmico that beats the others easily this year.
As I say, this was an absolutely amazing and bonkers show to watch, with so much to praise. The fight for the top spot was extremely tight between two shows, but ultimately it goes to…
1. Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2
(A-1 Pictures – available on Funimation)
I ended up watching season 1 of Kaguya-sama as an out-of-season show, as I had missed out on it when it originally came out. And I loved it so much that picking season 2 when it came out in the Spring season was a no-brainer for me, and like with Eizouken, there’s so much I can talk about here.
This second season carries on with the crazy gag moments that season 1 had, with student council president Miyuki and vice-president Kaguya fighting their own battle on who will confess to the other first, with the other characters Chika and Yuu providing excellent support and effectively being promoted to main characters. But this season brings in a new ongoing character, in the form of Miko. A straight-laced first-year and daughter of a high-ranking judge, Miko is committed to becoming the new Student Council President when the elections come around, introducing a lot of new rules to the school. As we later learn, this is something she has tried to do in the past school she attended, and is something that alienates her from other schoolmates.
The second season was made all the more interesting when we found out that A-1 Pictures had gotten a little help themselves, in the form of SHAFT. Yep, former SHAFT staff came in to assist A-1 Pictures here, and we can see how different this season is to season 1. Two plot points stand out for me, and ended up becoming my favorite episodes of the show. The first being where we see the election day from Miko’s point-of-view, with her manifesto of keeping the school strict and highly disciplined, and her fear of being hated by the entire school, and the second being where Yuu has to relive the time where he was blackmailed by a misogynist classmate at his junior-high school, leaving him to retreat into his own dark bubble, be shunned by teachers and schoolmates alike, and making him see classmates as faceless and dull individuals. Two things that go in a different direction than what season 1 had typically gave us, which was ongoing and hilarious comedy sketches. I think A-1 Pictures would have not had the guts to pull off something like this in a franchise that was well known for its comedy sketches, and so bringing in emotional drama like this was a real surprise, but a very welcome and entertaining one.
The gags from season 1 are the same quality here too, but I think that here in Kaguya-sama, it has become one of those rare instances where sequels end up even better than the originals. As I mentioned in my Spring review, this makes me think of other movie franchises like X-Men, Blade and Batman (the 1990s movies), where the first movie was great, but the second was even better. This is something that’s extremely rare in anime shows in particular, and so it’s very impressive to see the Kaguya-sama franchise pull this off. A new season has been announced too, and that’s a definite for me too whenever that comes out. This may well be the first big franchise I end up getting into since..well, forever.
Fair to say that most of these shows have been in the Fall season; by choice or coincidence, you decide. But I did watch other shows this year…honest. Honorable mentions for me include Asteroid in Love, My Next Life As A Villainess, and Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. Tamayomi was a Spring season show that was flawed, but still something I enjoyed immensely. Hey, maybe I should add the truly dire Interspecies Reviewers to this list as well, just for the heck of it.
Wandering Witch wasn’t something that made my Otaku Theater list, but it’ll be something I’ll be covering on its own as a review post. We’re all hoping 2021 will be so much better; I see some good anime that has been green-lit, and two franchises I’m not so fond of, Attack on Titan and Neon Genesis Evangelion, are ending for good – whooo! But on the flipside, we’re getting yet another season of My Hero Academia – booo!
One movie has caught a lot of people’s eye is something that came out in Japanese theaters on Christmas Day. Josee, the Tiger, and the Fish tells the story of the new-found relationship between college student Tsuneo and wheelchair-bound girl Josee, and their journey to find purpose in life. UK anime distributor Anime Limited recently announced that they acquired the license for it, and COVID permitting, plan for it to get a theatrical release here in the UK.
Hey…we’ve had some anime movies before the US/Canada have, so this is a sign that the UK anime scene wants to be taken seriously, and I definitely welcome that. 2021 will be a better year for us, and I know it. I’ll be beginning the year with the new seasons of The Promised Neverland and Yuru Camp, along with Otherside Picnic and A Lull In The Sea. What’ll be beyond that, though? Let’s see.
What have been your favorite shows and movies of 2020? What has kept you going while the lockdown has gone on? Feel free to hit that like button and air your opinions in the comments below!
The post Nonon’s Best Anime of 2020 appeared first on TheOASG.