Fall 2020 Check-in

4 weeks ago 29

As I noted in the preview, Fall 202 looked a lot like what passes for a normal anime season these days going in.  And while that’s hardly a cause for exultation given the creative malaise of TV anime, it was a welcome change from spring and summer.  The world is still gripped by the pandemic, but anime production has – for now – returned to some semblance of normalcy.  I can assess series that are airing as scheduled and that, at least in this context, is progress.

That means, among other things, between 45-50 series on the docket, basically the current non-pandemic norm for a spring-fall anime season.  It also means an overload of isekai LN adaptations and cute girls meanderings, but pandemic or not that’s not changing anytime soon.  At least we have volume on our side, relatively speaking, and the result has been a season with several shows that are at least watchable.  The one you knew would be stellar – Golden Kamuy 3 – has been, and we’ve had a contender from the sleeper ranks start to make its case for the year-end lists.

We’ve seen some interesting developments in the news in recent weeks which suggest both the short and long-term situations in anime are still fluid.  The global pandemic is raging unchecked and showing signs of worsening again as winter approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, just as many scientists predicted.  Netflix’s interest in anime as a meaningful part of their portfolio seems to be growing, with deals inked with several more Japanese studios (and one Korean one, Studio Mir) and a huge spate of series announcements for 2021.  But as always, the purpose of the check-in post is to reflect, not project (much).  So let’s turn our focus to the season in progress.

Onward then to Fall 2020:

The Elite

None

Outstanding

Golden Kamuy 3rd Season 
Episodes Watched:
4
Grade:
A-
Comments:
I wouldn’t say there are a lot of surprises with Golden Kamuy at this point, but that’s to be expected with a show in its third season.  In point of fact this series has been remarkably consistent over the course of its run.  If anything the animation has improved over time, which is unsurprising since it’s proved to be a bigger commercial success than I’ll wager most of its financial backers expected.  The bombast, the lowbrow comedy, the violence, the gravure, the historical commentary – it’s all still here, and working as well as ever.  And even if its only because the competition has gotten weaker, Golden Kamuy stands out – and is to be appreciated – more than ever.

Very Good

Yuukoku no Moriarty 
Episodes Watched:
3
Grade:
B+
Comments:
Yuukoku no Moriarty was my sleeper pick going into the season – my only one in fact – and it hasn’t disappointed.  It was damn close to cracking the above tier, in fact, and may get there before it’s all said and done.  There’s a lot that can still go wrong, but the first three episodes has been pretty impressive.  Overtly political anime are quite rare, especially ones that tackle classism, and the premise here is a fascinating one.  William James Moriarty makes for an intriguing- protagonist, hero, anti-hero, call him what you will.  I’m quite interested to see how Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and the Baker St. Irregulars fit into the mythology – will Holmes be cast as Moriarty’s foil, defending the old Victorian class system?

Tonikaku Cawaii 
Episodes Watched:
4
Grade:
B
Comments:
Tonikaku Cawaii is not a great romantic comedy.  There are simply too many niggles – the supporting cast isn’t appealing enough, for starters.  But it has the one element a good romcom absolutely must, an appealing main couple.  The series takes its time ambling into the details of the plot, but all the while Nasa and Tsukasa are an enormously emdearing pair at its center.  Hata Kenjirou isn’t the most groundbreaking writer in manga, but he does the familiar very well, and that – along with the chemistry of the protagonists – is the core of Tonikaku Cawaii’s appeal.

Worthwhile

Haikyuu!! To The Top 2nd Season 
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: As with Golden Kamuy there really aren’t too many surprises with Haikyuu at this point.  On balance this season hasn’t started off in great form for me.  The Inarizaki match has been fine if hardly one of the series’ most gripping, and I’ve never cared too much about Nekoma in any of their appearances.  But it’s still Haikyuu, and the baseline for this series remains pretty high.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou 
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: Higurashi’s return has been welcome, and in the hands of Studio Passione the series has been well-executed and entertaining.  No one, not even the VN veterans, seems to know just exactly what we’re getting here – some hybrid of the various “When They Cry” iterations plus original material, it seems.  But that uncertainty is part of the fun, and it’s nice to see the gap between anime-only viewers and gamers narrowed for a change.

Still Watching

Osomatsu-san Season 3
Episodes Watched:
3
Grade:
B-
Comments:
Matsubara Shuu and Fujita Youichi keep repeating this “why are we making a season 3?” gag so often that it seems like a cry for help.  I think we all know why, but that’s not a real motivator as far as creativity goes.  I have no doubt S3 of Osomatsu-san will continue to offer up some good laughs, but there wasn’t much in the first two episodes to really suggest it has a compelling artistic reason to exist.  The third and most recent, however, was fairly brilliant – and this series has a habit of winning me back when my faith in it starts to wane.

Jujustsu Kaisen
Episodes Watched: 

Grade:
B-
Comments:
 Jujutsu Kaisen is pretty clearly Weekly Shounen Jump’s next big anime franchise, and with the ending of stuff like Yakusoku no Neverland, Haikyuu, and of course Kimetsu no Yaiba they certainly needed one.  I don’t quite get what all the fuss is about to be honest, as this series seems more competent and approachable than genuinely engaging, but what do I know?  Shounen action series often require some extra patience, but with the best ones you can usually see the noble genes asserting themselves even during slow starts.  I don’t with Jujutsu Kaisen but I like it well enough to keep watching, at least for now.

Noblesse
Episodes Watched:
4
Grade:
B-
Comments:
I find the characters more likeable with Noblesse than Jujutsu, and the unpretentious, goofy tone works for me.  It looks pretty cheap, especially by Production I.G. standards, and I’m not sold that the basic premise is really compelling.  But so far at least Noblesse is as much a slice of life as an action series (and better at it).

Ikebukuro West Gate Park
Episodes Watched:
4
Grade:
C+
Comments:
Probably the biggest disappointment of the season for me.  Not because it’s the worst show I’m still watching, but because I had reasonably high expectations for it which haven’t been met.  IWGP just isn’t written very well, at least in anime form – it’s broad, moralistic, and generally unconvincing.  That said the third and fourth episodes were the best so far – especially the fourth – so maybe it’s trending in the right direction.

Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken
Episodes Watched:
4
Grade:
C+
Comments:
Dai no Daibouken is entertaining enough, but so far hasn’t shown much to elevate it above a standard kids anime.  Nothing to see here in blogging terms.

Hanyou no Yashahime: Sengoku Otogizoushi
Episodes Watched:
3
Grade:
C+
Comments:
Yashahime is operating pretty much at the well-crafted Inuyasha fanfic level.  The franchise has already suffered through too much anime filler to be subjected to an entire series of it, much less one so transparently trying to be trendy, but at least this reboot avoids being abjectly terrible.

Kami-tachi ni Hirowareta Otoko
Episodes Watched:
3
Grade:
C
Comments:
Is it only me who thinks the cast here smiles way too much?  Kami-tachi is inoffensive and cheerful to the point of almost being likable, but it would be generous to call it fluff.

Dropped:

Taisou Zamurai, Kamisama no Nitta Hi, Maoujou de Oyasumi, Majo no Tabitabi, Akudama Drive, Munou no Nana, Hypnosis Mic

Here, then, is this season’s blogging prospectus:

Whenever Time Permits: Hyouge Mono

Monday:
Definitely Blogging: Yuukoku no Moriarty
On the Bubble: Noblesse  

Tuesday:
Definitely Blogging: Golden Kamuy 3rd Season, Osomatsu-san Season 3
Who the Hell Knows: Shingeki no Kyoujin Final Season 

Wednesday:
On the Respirator: Ikebukuro West Gate Park

Thursday:
On the Bubble: Noblesse

Friday:
Definitely Blogging: Higurashi no Naku Kori ni Gou

Saturday:
Definitely Blogging: Major 2nd Season 2, Tonikaku Cawaii, Haikyuu!! To The Top 2nd Season
On the Bubble: Jujutsu Kaisen  

Sunday:
Definitely Blogging: None

Manga: Otoyomegatari, Hunter X Hunter (hiatus)

Watching For Now: Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken, Hanyou no Yashahime: Sengoku Otogizoushi

One more thing before I wrap.  Of course you’ve heard me say it before, but the need for financial support for LiA is greater than ever. Everything has gotten more expensive again this year, and it gets more and more difficult to justify the time I have to put in to make the site one I feel proud of.  I know times are tough right now but if you’re inclined to consider helping out, please visit one of the links in the sidebar. Patreon patrons, Paypal subscribers or one-time contributors  – you all have my everlasting gratitude.

Also, please check out the Notaku podcast if you can – links in the sidebar and in the Notaku posts!

Read Entire Article