Anime Fall 2018 Recap

This is a brief recap and review of the anime I watched during the Fall 2018 Season. Note this does not include anime I started a few episodes of before ultimately dropping. So far it seems that my limit is about 6ish concurrent running shows. I don’t yet have a rating system in place for completed shows, but the fact that I bothered to at the very least see them through to the end (or in the case of two of them, continue on into their future cours) speaks highly of them.

Goblin Slayer

Simultaneously one of the most hyped shows of the season as well as one of the most controversial. For those not in the know, the first episode had a pretty gruesome rape scene as one of the . Personally while I’m in no way shape or form condoning rape (I can’t believe I have to say that, but it is the internet after all), the act has had a long standing literary history as being a tool of both characterization and world building, and it was certainly effective here in showing just how evil the goblins in questions are. I’ll leave it to the internet mob to determine if Crunchyroll was right or not in not including a content warning when it first aired, but that’s the last I’ll talk about that

Controversy aside, I had binged the entire manga (or what’s been released so far) before the season aired due to it’s hype in the manga side of reddit and while it is set in the protoyptical medevial fantasy RPG type world (played straight without the video game mecahnics), the real draw is the eponymous Goblin Slayer. My favorite interpretation of the show is that it is run as a DnD campaign with a player who cheeses the DM with their unique tactics to deal with their Favored Enemy: Goblins trait. This is even referenced multiple times in the show as he is one who does not let anyone roll the dice for him. His single minded focus on slaying goblins may get old, but it works due to the multiple and creative ways he gets it done, as well as how that focus causes him to have unique interactions with otherwise straight adventurers which makes for both cathartic release in seeing him slay goblins as well as in the humor in his social interactions and character development, with a touch of heartwarming toward the end.  I also appreciate how they changed the order of events in the manga to better suit the anime’s pacing for a better payoff at the end.

Production wise, I was honestly a touch disappointed, but that is only because the manga source material has such high quality art that honestly would be hard to totally capture in color with the same effect that black and white has (though it got close).  While there aren’t any particular stand out Sakuga moments of animation, that may make some sense due to the nature of the show – Goblin Slayer isn’t meant to be the flashiest skilled fighter who dazzles you with his swordplay, but rather a blue collar worker adventurer who does what is necessary to get the job done, even if it isn’t the prettiest. The moments when he was a CG character did stand out to some degree, but not in a super negative manner. The music was pretty effective as well when it comes to building hype. Overall I’d put production at an average level against its peers, even though I wish it were higher just given the source material.

Overall I’d say Goblin Slayer was great fun throughout – maybe not for the whole family, but if you enjoy Dungeons and Dragon or other roleplaying games, you’ll get a kick out of this one. When you want to just watch some small green monsters get killed in creative ways, nothing else will scratch that itch.

Sword Art Online: Alicization

Ah Sword Art Online. My guilty pleasure anime in that while I can’t objectively say you are a super great anime, I still love you nonetheless if only because of the themes repeated throughout of the value of online / digital relationships and experiences relative to those of fleshspace. In this case we have a long-awaited Alicization arc which by reputation is the best arc of the series thus far as that is when the original light novel author really leveled up. And I’m inclined to agree here.

I think my biggest complaint with Sword Art Online was that the motivations of the characters, while present, don’t really feel earned. While the concept of fighting for your right to live a happy life in digital space and for your digital life to be valued as much as your fleshspace life is one I can get behind, it just wasn’t written so convincingly – great concept, poor execution. This especially came true after the “die in the game die in real life” nature of the game after the first cour was no longer applicable. The other issue was the wish-fulfillment Gary Stu-ness nature of Kirito. It makes sense why he was so popular – he’s basically a wish fulfillment of loner nerds who can kick ass by being good in video games while wearing all black and somehow getting all the girls to fall for him. In order for that to work, Kirito by definition needed to have a relatively blank personality, as well as seemingly out of nowhere prodigious skills, either by contrivance or by deus ex machina (cough Yui cough).  

Alicization solves both those issues by granting Kirito an actual personality, and motivation outside of saving his original waifu (whos relationship I don’t ever feel was truly earned by the narrative), as well as leveling off his skill cap so that he is not automatically the strongest person in the room by merely breathing. Having him trapped in the Alicization world and trying to figure out what is going on and the rules of the world brings back some tension from the original season. And separating him from Asuna semi permanently allows him to develop other relationships, with Eugeo specifically which Klein aside (who sadly never got any real screentime) is the only other really well developed male personality with a compelling background. The 45 minute opening episode went a long way to grounding both his character and motivations for later episodes.

Of course one thing I can never flaw SAO for is its production quality, as the animation and music both are top notch for the genre. I also appreciate the care that went into this world’s magic and swordfighting system, which is a bit mroe fleshed out than in previous incarnations.  Looking forward to the rest of the season, I can see the action ticking up now that a lot of the basic world building is done and we are back to ascending a tower fighting bosses (spoilers), but if you’re here for dope fights I think SAO will deliver.

Regardless of if you liked the original Sword Art Online (and any of its subsequent seasons) or not, I think Alicization is worth checking out (though obviously moreso if you were a fan starting out). Overall, I’m happy that SAO is finally delivering on the promise it initially offered – some great action, high production while also proposing (if not fully answering) questions about humanity and how we relate to our ever evolving technology.

Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken (The Time I Reincarnated as a Slime)

So taking the last two entries, combine goblins with video game isekai and what do you get? Well this time the goblins are your friends and instead of a MMORPG you’re playing Civilization. Slime is currentely a close runner up to my favorite isekai of all time, Log Horizon, for similar reasons. While Log Horizon played up the game elements of its narrative moreso than Slime does, both do deal with the questions of how a player character would influence and shape the lives and worlds they are transported on a macro, rather than a micro level.

Honestly I don’t really have any flaws to point out in this series, only positives. The characters are all diverse and well developed, the animation is solid throughout (with some standout moments as applicable), the world building is thorough (especially true since that is the main appeal of the show, though this also applies to the micro magic and combat systems), and the writing and pacing are solid. If anything was to be nitpicked I’m guessing that there are things form the original Web and LIght Novels that I’m missing on that were cut for pacing sake, but there haven’t been any burning holes or gaps of knowledge that I wouldn’t otherwise get. Super happy to be following up with this into the next season.

SSSS Gridman

So initially I was on the fence with this one. On one hand, Studio Trigger (and its predecessor Gainax) have always impressed with their zanier series, especially if they involved giant robots and crazy fights. On the other, I had never seen the original Gridman show, and only had a passing knowledge of tokusatsu genre shows that this so heavily draws from. The initial episode definitely left a ton of questions and honestly felt a bit power rangers “monster of the week” but I was willing to give it a shot since I’m a sucker for giant robots. And I’m super glad I did. What initially started in that monster of the week vein eventually led to a great and deep character study of depression and self doubt that really resonated with me. All wrapped up in the frame of giant robots punching kaiju, so really I fail to see any significant flaws in this that are worth mentioning. In fact I would go so far as to say this was my favorite show of the season. Of note is episode 9 which was a masterclass in storyboarding. 

Also Rikka > Akane. Fite me irl if you disagree

Skullface Bookseller Honda-san (Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san)

Finally my sleeper hit and short of the season Honda-san. While I never have worked in a bookshop, or even retail to be honest, the adage “write about what you know and people will follow” really holds true here. Honda san was able to perfectly convey the frustrations and joys of working in such an environment by also relating it to just common everyday emotions – the fear of not doing a good job or not coming across clearly, the quirky fun of working with a diverse group of people, the satisfaction of a job well done and wanting to do your best. All while also being wrapped up in a behind the scenes semi-educational component. The simple animation style lent itself to the over the top reactions mixed with perfect comedic timing (not too much, not too understated), leading to this workplace comedy being all too relatable and yet refreshingly so.

 

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