Winter Season 2018: First Impressions


The winter season is well underway, and most the new anime have finally premiered! Below is a list of the anime I’m watching this season (and some bad ones I just HAD to talk about) and my first impressions of each. This anime season has some great pinch hitters, and some- not so great additions to the anime universe.

All the below mentioned anime are available for streaming on Crunchyroll, Amazon, or HiDive, so you can get started today if anything piqued your interest by clicking the hyperlinks on the show titles.

A Place Further Than the Universecrlogo

660c6764c4cad0ee1c344a2dc2190a031514329409_fullMari Tamaki has a fear of failure. Driven by the hopes and dreams in her middle school diary, Mari decides her second year of high school should be met with adventure and fun. After she meets Shirase Kobuchizawa, Mari decides to travel to Antartica to help Shirase find her missing mother.

Though it seems little trite, but Mari wishes to follow Shirase to Antarctica after learning about her mother. Because Mari already attempted her own small adventure, I find it hard to believe she will be able to follow through with a trip “farther than the universe,” but the show will cross that bridge when it needs to.

I think Mari really wants to follow Shirase in an attempt to live her own dream of traveling. At first glance it would seem that Mari didn’t think twice about helping Shirase, but I really believe Mari isn’t taking the situation lightly and is using Shirase’s plight to her own ends, too. It’s all very genuine, and I’m glad these girls found each other.

The anime itself is really quite beautiful, and it presents a great contrast between the drab school life Mari and company find themselves in vs the colorful fun of the unknown that is Antartica. Besides the beauty in animation and coloring execution, the detail on the particular ship the girls are scouting is impeccable. It’s almost a little porn-y with how real the vessel looks on screen.

A Place Farther Than the Universe is a very interesting concept for a show, and I’m very excited to see how the girls make it to Antartica and if we ever find Shirase’s mother. This is one of the few anime I’ve ever seen about cute girls that seems to bridge the gap between moe and seinen storytelling.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card crlogo

85c65c8830225c9bbcbda0158511e61d1515000706_fullSakura Kinomoto is beginning her first year of middle school joined with Tomoyo and Syaoran, who has finally returned from Hong Kong after years away. The Clow Cards have been silent lately, but a recent dream featuring a mysterious robed figure turning all the crystal clear has come true rendering her Clow Cards useless as paperweights. As she begins a new journey to return the life to her cards, she discovers a new key and new magic to be collected in the clear cards.

I can’t describe how happy I am to see more Cardcaptor Sakura. A lot of twenty-somethings are excited to see Sakura again, and for good reason: this is a great story of sacrifice and romance – like most of CLAMP’s works.

The original anime ran from 1998 to 2000, which means it’s been about 18 years since we’ve last seen this little girl serialized (not counting the movies that immediately followed the TV anime).

However, instead of just appealing to old fans through the use to nostalgia, Clear Card is opening up for new fans to join the frey. The first episode reintroduces everyone important, with only a few callbacks to the first TV anime. The reminders work for those of us who haven’t seen Cardcaptor Sakura in years, and it helps new fans understand the basics of the world these people live in.

After re-introductions, the core of the arc begins, and we are thrust right into the problem of the clear cards. The clear cards are acting much in the same way the original cards did, so I have to wonder if we are going to keep with the format of the original show or take a different approach.

Keeping with the standard of CLAMP style we’ve all come to expect, this anime is really beautifully drawn. The art is updated just enough to mesh with our modern ideals of what looks good in anime (stepping away from the larger-eyed Shojo-era). The backgrounds are fanatically painted, and the cards look just as amazing as they always have. The intricate detail of every piece of the show makes Clear Card come to life in a breathtaking new way.

I’ll be working on this as a part of my Thoughts and Feelings Column this season. Check it out!


26b65bd12651ad9588731727fae840fc1515112511_fullDue to Yuzu’s mother remarrying, she is forced to transfer schools. However, going from a relatively open school to an ultra-conservative all-girl’s school is taking a toll on Yuzu’s gyaru lifestyle. Mei, Yuzu’s new stepsister, quickly becomes Yuzu’s rival, and both girls soon learn that distaste and romance can be two sides of the same coin.

The first episode does a great job showing us who Yuzu is as character: a shy gyaru. She has never had a sexual experience, let alone a boyfriend, despite what she has told her friends in her previous school. Yuzu attempts to put on a cocky air, but she is often undercut easily by the girls around her. She is also a devoted daughter who, as it seems, just wants her mother to be happy. In this first episode I find that I have fallen in love with all of Yuzu because she’s just such a sweet kid.

Throwing the contentious Mei into Yuzu’s life makes the entire thing uncomfortable, in a good way. Yuzu attempts to keep her chipper self and work with Mei, but Mei has none of it and even calls Yuzu’s sexual bluff at the end of the episode.

The look and feel of Citrus is utterly on point. The art and animation are beautiful, but not overly intricate, which means we will (hopefully) be able to keep this quality through the entire show. Citrus’ coloring choices is also great, showcasing the differences between the bright rooster that is Yuzu and the “sheep” around her.

I think this is the Yuri story I have been waiting for. So often I am disappointed in the execution of girls love stories because they are all just too gosh darn sweet. Citrus is bringing that Yaoi aggression I so desperately need in my girls love pieces.

Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody  crlogo

3b63ca8429c5bed4b645000eab5208921515627980_fullWhile working hard on the “death march,” Ichiro Suzuki aka Satou, falls asleep only to find himself in a virtual world similar to the games he helped make. Using his new in-game abilities, Satou defeats enemies and accumulates great wealth in a world that may or may not be a dream.

This anime isn’t very good.

The opening scenes set up the programmer life of Satou, then we jump right into the alternate world he begins to inhabit after asleep at work. Immediately after being launched into this game world, Satou is leveled up by over 300 levels and given millions of gold. It’s excessive and a little gross. There is very little, if any, struggle in Satou’s life at this point because he is relying on some newbie player mechanics to artificially level himself before he even really begins the game.

In the animation side of things, this show also doesn’t turn any heads. The art maintains a very basic light-novel-turned-anime feel, and the animation seems lacking and basic.

I actually don’t plan on continuing this story, but I did want to high light this more recent failure in the “stuck in another world” genre. These storylines are slowly going out of style, and the ideas for them are becoming less interesting as we go on. In particular, there is a stagnant lack of female protagonists or all-male casts. The harem aspect of the other world stories doesn’t pair well with the God-modding leveling that follows.

Darling in the FRANXX crlogo

e8e3c09f8450c3d8a90a03e2198688f61515484130_fullOn a ruined, Mars-like planetoid sits Plantation, a mobile fort city where the pilot headquarters , Mistilteinn, is located. It’s here that a group of children are raised and trained to fight as pilots of the FRANXX to challenge giant monsters bent on humanity’s destruction. Hiro, code 016, is a failure, but one fated day he meets a horned woman named Zero Two and together both become an overwhelming FRANXX force.

I’ve had my eye on this anime since the season was announced and I saw this was an A1 + Trigger (two famous anime studios) show. The pilot episode does a great job of throwing us into the FRANXX world without telling us too much information. A broad overview causes us to listen carefully and use context clues, which is invaluable in creating good entertainment.

This show retains a Trigger feel in regards to character design and coloring, and A1 comes through with the story-set up. The pacing is good, necessary information is given, and we begin calmly. Trigger’s true feel comes though during the last bit of the episode during the fight with the quick, erratic style that has made them famous.

We have an interesting set up with orphaned children being trained as giant robot pilots to fight alien-like monsters. Some of the scenes, especially a particular escalated scene, remind me of Evangelion, though that may be due to Trigger’s use of expansive backgrounds than homage.

The first episode does a great job. You get an overview of the world, meet your main character and empathize with him, feel a little distaste for his classmates, gets you curious about the politics, and makes you want to see more of that delicious Trigger-style fighting. A+ and I’m dying for more.

I’ll be working on this as a part of my Thoughts and Feelings Column this season. Check it out!

Hakumei to Mikochi download-1.png

HAM_01_KEY_1200x450At only a few inches tall, Hakumei and Mikochi manage in quite an adorable way: living a small tree home, riding bugs and birds, and bringing home dressers far too large for their entryway. Together, the small girls make a quiet and quaint life in the forest with occasional adventure.

This show has a really beautiful look to it with a soft animation style. Everything is created a watercolor-style that focuses heavily greens in the forest habitat. It really reminds me older storybook art which works great for this slow-life, tiny person anime.

The first episode told two stories, which I assume is the status quo. Both were relatively cute, but only the second one was interesting. This is an adorable entry in the anime season that is focusing more on art than story, at least in the first episode. 

Junji Ito Collection crlogo

3025f2a7a0017b257753a208b55068481514330222_fullAfter years in the shadows, Junji Ito’s infamous horror anthologies are finally getting the anime treatment. Tomie, Soichi, and Fuchi will all make appearances to showcase what made Junji Ito’s horror work so prolific.

The first episode of the anime features Soichi, from Sochi’s Journal of Delights, a kid obsessed with the occult. To his credit, Soichi, is able to use dolls in a voodoo-like way to cast curses on those he deems beneath him. It’s actually interesting that such a chuunibyo person is able to manifest his powers, and at the core of it all- that’s the creepiest thing. We also have a a beautifully drawn short at the end of the episode featuring a centipede-like doll that takes the cake in utter discomfort.

Seeing Soichi monologue to himself and others, and just seeing how he interacts with people in general, makes a bulk of this episode oddly funny and embarrassing to watch. One interesting bit about the first installment is a part where we see Soichi performing a particular act against a classmate, and this begs the question if Soichi has powers or if he is subconsciously attacking people in secret.

The episode is actually quite full of content that gives us an encompassing view of Soichi in a short amount of time. I never felt rushed during the execution, and the show’s quality is on point animation and coloring-wise. Considering the pedigree of content, this is a good creepy show to watch for the season. There isn’t a lot of truly good horror anime, and I’m thinking Juni Ito Collection may get added to the good pile at the end of the season.

Karakai Jozu No Takagi-San  crlogo

0ecc80ed74ddb2c26df3c0c8711cda671515201557_fullNishikata is constantly teased by Takagi, a girl who sits next to him in class, and though he attempts to get revenge, every day he is thwarted. Both kids share a mutual like, but neither of them are willing to admit it. Maybe the constant teasing by Takagi will clue Nishikata in before the end of the school year.

Karakai is the simple story of a girl gaslighting a boy. It’s so much a story about a girl gaslighting a boy,  that I wonder about the long term implications of her teasing/bullying. After some time, Nishikata may stop viewing the teasing as fun and start to resent Takagi. Just a thought.

I’m not sure how long this anime can keep interest, however. Since this is based off a gag manga that is set in a singular location, there isn’t much variance in animation needed. Other gag anime, Nichijou for example, works well animated due to quick cuts and animation reigniting the gags. Karakai doesn’t have quick gags or ones that involve much movement, so the animation team only has to work on faces. The facial expressions in this anime are great. They are perfectly squishy and silly for the odd topic that is the small scale teasing between two lovebirds.

This anime is a little slower paced, focusing more on the characters’ relationship than on the comedy. It’s great for a bit of comedy during the week, but the show would have worked far better as a short.

Katana Maidens ~ Toji no Mikocrlogo

2105c476cc451b036d920050ce59a2f11515106124_fullAratama have been plaguing society for centuries, and these creatures have been exorcised by priestesses using their Okatana, swords, since the Aratama first attacked. Now in the modern day, the priestesses, now known as Toji, are government employees tasked with the job of consistently fighting this threat to the natural world. The employees are typically teen girls who attend one of five different training schools in the county. Each spring, the top Tojis from the schools vie in a tournament for the top position in the task force.

If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have picked this show up to watch the first episode on if I had read the description. It’s really not a good premise, and you should never judge a show on it’s promotional key art.

Katana Maidens retains a sort of early 2000’s look to it which causes severe dating in the cute girl’s battle genre. There are even points where the animation and coloring are so flat that the legs look pasted on the background without any shading or semblance of realism. It basically looks like a flat colored drawing I made in Photoshop for most of the time.

The writing is terribly stilted. I have to wonder if the creators forgot the “yes and” rule of world and character building. The bulk of episode one is introducing our featured female leads, and I couldn’t be more disinterested in a pair of girls if I tried.

The key to a good battle school-type anime is good characterization, well that’s the key to most good anime, and Katana Maidens utterly failed at giving us interesting characters that don’t resemble a blank chalkboard.

Kokkoku download.png

xHaving the power to stop time for as long as you need is gift that can fall quickly into abuse. For that reason, it’s possible that’s why the oldest surviving member of the Yukawa family kept this power a secret for so long. Juri, her father, and grandfather have frozen time at 6:59 in a mad attempt to save Juri’s nephew and brother from a band of kidnappers. However, just as Juri and company are saving their family, a group of people who are able to move freely in the frozen time appear and attack. It’s still 6:59, and will remain so forevermore.

Much of the first episode is spent establishing characters and the world they live in. Juri’s family isn’t successful in any way, and they look to the youngest member, Juri’s nephew, as the last chance they have to raise of successful person out of their failed family. However, everything quickly falls apart when Juri’s nephew and brother are picked up by a group of kidnappers that apparently planned this escapade in advance.

Juri’s grandfather has a magic stone that allows him to stop time for as long as he needs, and he takes his son (Juri’s father) and Juri to save the nephew and brother. We see glimpses of strange creatures in the backgrounds, and at the end of the episode there is an Ent-like creature made real. While it’s not said what these creatures are, it’s clear they are a threat to anyone using this stone’s magic and should be treated with care.

While the group is saving the nephew and brother, a group of people who are also able to move attack Juri’s group. They mention a lot of key points like bloodlines and information about the grandfather, so the group obviously planned this encounter in some way.

The episode doesn’t resolve any questions, which makes sense since it’s only the first, and we are given a good idea for the feel of the show. I do wonder where this is going to go, what the time creatures are, and what will happen with time inevitably starts again.

This is a really cool idea for a show, and the haunting stillness of the “paused” world is brilliantly made in a way that is truly creepy.

Laid-Back Camp crlogo

5ac5fff410cb66c57ce0d2ea2617d08d1515076527_fullRin, an experienced outdoorswoman, loves to camp in the silent shadow of Mt. Fuji alone. She’s terribly adept at the camping craft, and the park rangers even know her by sight; however, Rin has never camped with anyone but herself. Nadeshiko is a transfer student who loves to cycle, but became too exhausted to make it to the base of Mt. Fuji, a dream she has had for some time. When Nadeshiko awakes from a power nap, Rin helps her understand the quaint simplicity of camping for moments before Nadeshiko goes home. The girls’ became fast friends, and their new camping adventures await.

Laid-Back Camp features adorable moe characters on beautifully painted backgrounds, camping until they drop. The consistent animation and art style, even when the characters are not the focus of the frame, have really made me fall instantly in love with this series. If you learn a little about camping on the way, that’s great, but Laid-Back Camp is here as this season’s premier “cute girls doing cute things” show.

Maerchen Maedchen  crlogo

ac12e55f9dab75f7e45136fe32eb72311515677911_fullThough everyone is kind to her, Hazuki Kagimura is unable to fit in with her new home life and the kids in school. She has always fought her anxiety with the fantastical worlds in books. One day, Hazuki sees a girl in a green cloak that no one else seems to be able to see. Hazuki follows this unknown girl through a bookcase into another reality where magic not only exists, but is taught for competitive purposes. It’s here that Hazuki’s next step in life begins where all her dreams can come true as she overcomes her anxiety and learns to stand her ground through the power of magic.

This is more of a personal pick for me. Maerchen has this soft, stylized moe art that I personally love- like in Saekano or Madoka Magica. The animation is smooth, but nothing terribly special at the moment. Since this is a magic competition anime, I’m really looking forward to seeing the animation in the fight sections of the show.

Honestly, Maerchen doesn’t look like anything terribly special, but it’s my cup of tea. Cute girls doing magic and finding friendship is the end all be all of my existence. It’s pretty cute, and if you like adorable moe girls, this is for you. And me.

Mistuboshi Colors download-1.png

MTC_01_KEY_1200x450Mistuboshi Colors follows the adventures of Yui, Sat-chan, and Kotoha, the three girls who make up the do-good team “Colors.” Every day they solve riddles, play games, and have fun while annoying one particular police officer. Armed with a panda-looking cat, Colonel Monochrome, and a friendly shopkeeper who can fulfill their every desire, nothing can stop the Colors from protecting their city from danger.

The first episode features two stories: one where the girls adopt a cat that looks like a panda, and another where they decode a safe for a cat food bowl. It’s all very cute and sweet, and you get the feeling that these girls really have no oversight in this town as they bother Saito, the local policeman, to the point of possibly gaslighting him.

Mistuboshi Colors is a middle ground between Strawberry Marshmallow and Non Non Biyori. Here, the girls has a concrete home base, but they have adventures in their town that bring just as much comedic taste.

The show has the typical “cute girls doing cute things” vibe to it, but there is one background in a shop that is so heavily detailed I would swear I was playing an Atelier game. Being choosy on what to focus on can really help solidify the girl’s wonder in an object. For example, showing the intricate details of a shop helps us understand how much wonder the girls find in it.

Like the rest of the CGDCT shows this seasons, there’s stiff competition. However, being a Strawberry Marshmallow girl, I expect Mistuboshi Colors to hit that part of me who just wants to see grade schoolers getting into trouble in pastel coloration.

Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles crlogo

059adbb19d193db985e97f1c5871a4911515055626_full-1The ice queen, Koizumi, is the talk of the class. As a terribly attractive transfer student, she draws a ton of attention, but her personality leaves much to be desired. Yu is on a quest to befriend Koizumi, and finds herself following the girl to the best ramen restaurants in town. Slowly, Yu grows closer to Koizumi through the power of delicious food and ramen education in this season’s “good food” anime.

At the end of the day, Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles is a “cute girls doing cute things” anime. Instead of just tooling around a town or sitting in a club room, these girls are eating an upsetting amount of ramen for their waist size. There isn’t anything terribly special here, but almost every anime season is in need of a good food education show. If you watch this, and are able to cognize what Koizumi is saying, you’ll likely learn a little bit about ramen through the eyes of metabolically blessed girl.

However, this show is not Gourmet Girl Graffiti, and instead of having characters that interact with and love food together- we are largely seeing Koizumi slurp noodles while Yu watches in sexual frustration. I don’t expect anything beautiful or wondering from this show, but it may be fun to watch while I play a game and relax on a weekend.

Pop Team Epic crlogo

bb673c0b1d84bd936c5819ed2b1e36701515252231_fullMixed studios, topical references, and distinct, differentiated art styles make up Pop Team Epic. Pipimi and Popuko are the centers, showcasing their world of obscene and outrageous circumstances.

4-koma anime typically make some of the best comedy due to their ability to maintain quick humor and push story along. Nichijou and Lucky Star are two great examples of cult classic anime that sprung from a 4-Koma, though Pop Team is on a different level. It’s very adult, in the way of Crayon Shin-Chan, and it’s very loud.

Each section of the short is created and produced by different anime studios, giving the episode a project-like feel. Some of the shorts are messy, other ones are 16-bit,  but most are relatively cleanly made. It’s a ton of fun to watch all these bits work in cohesion. Plus, it’s actually a little funny.

There are two “first episodes:” one featuring two famous male actors as the girls, and the second featuring the actual voice actors for the girls this season. I feel like this double booking put a lot of people off, but it’s pretty cool that these guys came in to do voices after the manga creator asked them to once in a book.

Pop Team Epic isn’t hugely funny, and I don’t think you should go into this one expecting to laugh until you pee. Because the humor is Japanese, we already experience a bit of a cultural barrier in regards to absurdist humor. The coolest thing about Pop Team Epic is the animation. It’s different, experimental, and we need anime like this to help us get away from the recent rise with “same face” character design and stifled, basic animation. Even if this is only 12 minutes of a reprieve.

Record of Gancrest War crlogo

322ad2bbe085d7ad53beea371af5e76f1515179616_fullAfter the union of two great and warring kingdoms in Atalan failed, the Lords who wield power of holy seals or crests, began to fight amongst each other for dominance. In the middle of it all is Theo, a knight in training, and Siluca, a powerful mage, who wholly hates what the Lords have become. Siluca forces herself on Theo after learning of his purehearted nature, and together the duo will manage their poor bond while attempting to save this destroyed nation.

Record of Gancrest War is based of a Light Novel and Tabletop Role Playing Game of the same name. The novel was released first, but the TRPG book came so shortly after, they were obviously accompanying mediums. You can feel the TRPG element in the first episode with the information download we are given over the first half. I’ve always hated information downloads, and they are a huge risk to use at the inception of a show. This one is particularly rough and long, but understandable and needed for the setup of the story. The plus side is that it’s pretty to look at.

The TRPG feeling doesn’t go away after we are finally free in the world, however. When we meet Theo, there is a quick battle that Siluca challenges Theo to in order to prove his mettle. It reminds me of so many first battles in D&D or even JRPGS where your player character demonstrates their sudden super powers.

The latter half of the episode features Theo and Siluca taking land and a magic crest from a crooked Lord. Theo seems like doesn’t care much for how the the story is going, but it’s more likely that he simply doesn’t care for Siluca. I do hope that we export more ground the next episode, though. This first episode slogged through introducing the world, and keeping that pacing could prove for a lethargic season.

Slow Start crlogo

16ab7fe3bf03bbd09f05321509cf5ac21515190148_fullIf Hana Ichinose seems old for her class, it’s totally because she is. Beginning high school a year late, Hana will be forced to give her studies her all while maintaining relationships with her three new friends.

Slow Start is another 4-koma gracing us with its presence this season, but instead of operating in shorts like most 4-Koma- Slow Start is attempting a continuous narrative. Having never read the manga, I’m not sure how this will work, but considering the first episode, I don’t think the show will be hindered by this alteration in comedic storytelling since we are focusing more on character building in the anime (or so it seems).

This is yet another “cute girls doing cute things” anime this season, so Slow Start has some stiff competition. There’s great movement animation in the show so far, especially in the first few minutes between Hana and her cousin, which makes up for the standard backdrop we are given for the world around the girls. I do enjoy the character designs for each of the girls, and they all fulfill a role in their relationship which is shown in their specific character look.

At the moment, Slow Start isn’t offering us anything fantastic, but I really am surprised by the animation attention to detail in the first episode. They have set a precedent, and as long as the animation keeps looking this good- I will keep watching the show.

Again, all the abovementioned anime are available for streaming on Crunchyroll, HiDive, or Amazon so you can get started today if anything piqued your interest by clicking the hyperlinks on the show titles.

I will be covering Card Captor Sakura and Darling in the FRANXX in my “Thoughts and Feelings Column” this season, so look forward to a look at episode one of each this week!

Please comment with any questions, or if you just want to discuss.

As always, thank you for reading!

2 thoughts on “Winter Season 2018: First Impressions

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