In which everybody hates Tarou.
We’ll get to the power rankings soon enough but I’d like to start by directing those of you who aren’t already aware of it to Sekai Project’s CLANNAD kickstarter. I’m not generally one to shill for donations for myself or anybody else and this particular kickstarter doesn’t seem to need much help. (It’s past $120,000 of its $140,000 goal as of this writing 12 hours after the project went up. It’ll probably be funded by the time you read this) That said, CLANNAD is very near and dear to my heart so I thought I’d give the people at Sekai Project a shout out for putting in the time and effort to get an official English release for my favorite visual novel. The CLANNAD visual novel was a huge part of me discovering my love for anime and I certainly wouldn’t be here writing this post if not for the visual novel. As you might be able to guess, the TV anime version of CLANNAD will be making an appearance in my top anime list so I’ll save a more thorough review of my history with the franchise for that post. For now, I’ll encourage anybody already familiar with the franchise who is interested in the game to go back the kickstarter and reserve your copy. If you aren’t familiar with CLANNAD but are curious about the game, keep an eye out for it on Steam sometime next year. And now, on with the rankings.
1. Sora no Method (Episode 5)
It was at episode five last season when Glasslip relinquished its spot at the top of my power rankings meaning we’d have to wait at least one more season for a wire to wire number one. I didn’t know at the time how hard Glasslip was going to crater but it was still a somewhat disappointing moment. Sora no Method’s fifth episode on the other hand turned in a solid conclusion to its first arc and shows no signs of giving up the top spot anytime soon. It’s still early but all signs point to Sora no Method being my favorite anime of the season and possibly of the year. For a more thorough breakdown of the episode itself, check out my full post here.
2. Yama no Susume (Episode 17)
Sora no Method is refusing to give up its grip on the top spot, but that hasn’t stopped Yama no Susume from doing its best to take over the throne. This episode would probably have ranked number one almost any week last season but it has to settle for number two here. Despite being an episode with no actual mountain climbing, the process of Hinata helping Aoi get over her fear of heights still made for a great episode. I love the way we see Hinata caring for Aoi and helping her work her way up to being ready to take on the ropeway and ski lift on Tanigawa-dake. Coincidentally I watched this right after writing about KimiUso handling a similar situation badly (more on that later) and seeing Yama no Susume handle this so effectively was like night and day. It never felt like Aoi was being forced to do something against her will even as she struggled on the edge of her comfort zone. It was clear that Hinata had Aoi’s best interests at heart from the beginning and this allowed the episode to come together for a heartwarming conclusion at the end. This blend of friendship and overcoming fears is Yama no Susume at its best.
3. Shirobako (Episode 5)
This episode was all about Tarou being terrible and boy was he ever. This certainly could have flamed out in a blaze of Tarou hatred but it actually held up very well despite how much I wanted to shake the guy until he came to his senses. It worked due to Tarou being written realistically (the director has said that Tarou is based on himself when he was younger) and the narrative being keenly aware of how terrible Tarou is and not forgiving him for it. While you’re frustrated with him, you still have some level of recognition given most people have worked with somebody similarly incompetent. Even as he’s seemingly picking the worst possible thing to say time after time, he doesn’t prevent the show from being believable which has been a key point in its favor thus far. Aside from Terrible Tarou, I enjoyed the subplot of locking the director in a room and making him write storyboards even if that did strain the realism a bit. The conversation about the director’s failed dreams was a nice touch and worked to humanize somebody who’s been pretty ridiculous thus far. Solid work from a show that’s really growing on me.
4. Parasyte (Episode 5)
I never expected I would rank Parasyte in my top five coming into this season but here we are with a horror anime clocking in at number four. I’m still not in love with the horror elements, well executed as they may be, but the personal drama of Shinichi struggling to prove he still is the human he thinks he is really works for me. It was frustrating and almost painful to watch him get repeatedly beaten up but at the same time you understood that he was doing this not out of some naïve idea of fighting for justice, but rather because helping somebody at the expense of himself was the only way for him to prove that he’s actually still human. The struggle between the animal survival instinct and human empathy in Parasyte is wonderful to watch and I hope the show can continue to build on this idea. And this is before we even get into the cliffhanger at the end of the episode. Parasyte continues to surprise me and I’m really happy about that.
5. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru (Episode 5)
This was a strange episode since it felt like a finale but was actually only episode five. The battle had some tense moments but a lot of the way it progressed felt pretty convenient and pointless. Then again, that’s how I feel about most action sequences so I was more focused on it looking pretty and offering up a healthy side of yuri. Yuri or not, dumb action isn’t going to be able to keep this show in the top five for long. I’m disappointed that the battles continue to not have any real cost to the characters or their world and instead all the potential for disaster is merely implied. Still, I’m curious where they go from here given all the enemies are defeated and while action with some yuri might not be top five material it will keep me watching for better or worse.
6. Selector Spread WIXOSS (Episode 6)
First rule of WIXOSS is: everybody suffers. Even after being freed for your duties as and LRIG and fulfilling the wish of your selector you still have to suffer because WIXOSS wills it. The only one not suffering seems to be the white girl who might be enjoying all this a little bit too much. If Ruko’s grandmother as the final boss is my first choice for where WIXOSS goes, my second choice would be for the white girl to turn out to be evil. Or maybe the white girl is Ruko’s grandmother and is also evil. That would be awesome.
Second rule of WIXOSS is: the show is better when insane Aki Lucky is involved. I enjoy her fawning over Ulith as much as the next person (probably more if we’re being honest) but there’s nothing quite like it when she goes full on insane girl and tries to ruin Ruko’s day. WIXOSS might not be the most thematically dense show around but if nothing else it’s a very fun ride.
7. Amagi Brilliant Park (Episode 6)
I had been trashing Amagi for not being funny in the past so it’s only fair that I give props when it’s due. This episode’s jokes actually landed for me and that combined with KyoAni’s high production values and great sense of timing worked wonders for the show. The entire interviewing sequence was almost perfectly executed with none of the gags overstaying their welcome. More like this please, Amagi.
8. Girlfriend Beta (Episode 4)
This actually wasn’t a great episode of Girlfriend. It ends up climbing two spots more because other shows were bad than based on its own merits. That said, in typical Girlfriend fashion it was a pleasant experience even if it was an insubstantial one.
9. Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works (Episode 5)
I’m starting to wonder if the Shirou I’m seeing in the UBW anime is actually the same Shirou that annoyed me so much in the original game. Some of it is likely the lack of baggage carried over from the Fate route where he’s at his most insufferable but I think the separation provided by experiencing him from a third-person point of view rather than having him as your player character makes a world of difference. Sure, he still has his overinflated sense of justice but at least it isn’t also my overinflated sense of justice. The show is still good but not great and it’s certainly not my exactly cup of tea but it’s much better than I had expected.
10. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Episode 5)
I said in the Yama no Susume capsule that the way it handled a group of friends working to help somebody overcome their fears stood in stark contrast to how KimiUso was handling the same issue. I continue to have serious problems with how the show treats its main character and the way his constant abuse is treated as acceptable. You can check out my full thoughts on the episode and its flaws here.
11. Daitoshokan wa Hitsujikai (Episode 5)
We’ve now reached the “dumb but fun” portion of our rankings and Daitoshokan leads the way. The show’s still nothing special, although the slowly leaking details about some of the characters’ histories is intriguing. Mostly the show is just an agreeable story about a group of friends hanging out in a library. There are worse things to be than that.
12. Ore Twintail ni Narimasu (Episode 5)
OreTwi is running out of steam as it seems to have exhausted its supply of good jokes and is instead relying on much weaker ones to keep things going. The introduction of a new big bad (with glasses!) might right the ship but things look pretty dire for OreTwi at this point.
13. Grisaia no Kajitsu (Episode 5)
At times I think Grisaia just can’t help itself with the fanservice. No moment is off limits as a chance to show panties. In addition, the more story-focused episodes feel incredibly rushed, especially for an adaptation that’s supposedly going to be two cour. If that wasn’t enough, the drama, such as it is, comes off as incredibly cheesy. The cat puking blood into Michiru’s hand was supposed to be a heartbreaking moment (I think?) but I had to resist the temptation to laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing was. Top it off with the absurd sequence of Yuuji burying Michiru alive for some reason and you have a perfect mess of an episode. I’m entertained so I supposed Grisaia is succeeding, just not at all in the way it’s trying to.