As you may have noticed, my seasonal anime reviews stopped at about this time last year.
2019 quickly became a much busier year than I was expecting, so I mostly didn't keep up with each new anime season.
I did watch some anime. So here we go. Lets call this list...
The 9 anime I happened to watch in 2019...some of which I finished watching in early 2020:
Premiere: Jul 12, 2019
Genre: Shounen Ai, Music, School Drama
Uenoyama is the youngest member of his indie rock band. They're in need of a 4th member, preferably a vocalist. One day, while trying to take a nap in the stairwell at school, Uenoyama meets Mafuyu, a shy boy clutching an expensive guitar.
Uenoyama assumes Mafuyu can play, but as it turns out, he can't. Impressed by Uenoyama's playing, Mafuyu asks if he'll teach him.
The situation feels strange, but Uenoyama agrees to teach Mafuyu, eventually bringing him into the band.
5/5 ⭐️: This anime got a huge bump in rating from me because Mafuyu's backstory was so impactful.
I won't spoil it.
But I'd like to mention that at the start of the anime Mafuyu feels like he's barely there, and I found myself wondering how this anime planned to tell a story about a main character who is so stuck inside his head.
The backstory answered that question & gave a reason for it.
I also enjoyed the pace at which Uenoyama sorts out his feelings towards Mafuyu.
But honestly, its a pretty slow anime.
Out of the four bandmates the older two definitely intrigued me more, and part of me wished this anime told their story instead.
Even with that harsh sounding critique, I'd recommend it.
2. Fruits Basket 2019
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Premiere: Apr 6, 2019
Genre: Shoujo, Supernatural, Slice of Life
Tooru Honda is living alone in a tent after a family tragedy leaves her all alone.
She'll do whatever it takes to get by. As fate would have it, she's camped out on the property of the ultra rich Souma Family. Yuki Souma being the most popular boy at her school.
Tooru, a determined do-gooder, refuses to stay with the Souma's when they discover her. But then a landslide crushes her tent and she finds she has no place else to go.
We follow Tooru as she meets the rest of the Souma clan and learns their family secret. They're cursed to transform into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
As the plot progresses we learn about the trauma each character has endured.
3/5 ⭐️: I think I'm missing the nostalgia factor to truly enjoy Fruits Basket.
I recognize it's telling an important story about life after personal tragedy and trauma.
Tooru is broken, and yet having a positive impact on the people around her.
My issue with Fruits Basket is that I can't seem to become immersed in this story. As the viewer, I always feel like an outsider looking in.
I think this could have been prevented if the backstory were presented to the viewer earlier. Then the slice of life scenes would be more meaningful.
Knowing character backstory explains why they've adopted certain personality traits, and clearly defines what inner demons they're up against.
Withholding that information might play on the viewer's judgements of the character, but at what cost?
For example, once you learn why Tooru apologizes constantly and cares for others more than she cares for herself, you might come to realize you judged her unfairly. But getting that backstory reveal so late also makes the story feel clunky.
As if the character expectations reset late in the game.
I wish I watched or read Fruits Basket back when it was first released 🤔. I wonder if I would have had a different opinion then?
Studio: Studio Gokumi
Premiere: Jan 13, 2019
Genre: Cute, Fantasy, Slice of Life
Four girls attend adventure school where they train to become the Hero & company. Their mission? To defeat the Demon King.
Only...haven't they done this all before? They have!
Classes, quests, dungeons, magical mysteries...The girls are carefree in their school days. Their ability to succeed despite much effort drives the comedy.
The Demon King was also sent back in time.
Newly transformed, and now a teacher at adventure school, he will take advantage of this opportunity to prevent the girls from graduating, and ultimately defeating him.
There's a cute twist at the end!
4/5 ⭐️: This anime was silly and cute, just like I expected it to be. I loved the color pallet and the world. It's just adorable 👌.
While the plot might be simple, it's a solid story.
The characters were lovable. The twist at the end might not be a major shocker, but it added more meaning.
There were a few moments of mature comedy that caught me off guard. This anime has the same vibe as Urara Meiricho (2017), in which the art direction and story are cutesy, but the comedy will stray into crude territory.
I'm not a fan of this combination, because it feels inconsistent.
It also sends me down a path of questioning the whole story against new criteria
Like wait, how old are these girls? Is this funny, or gross? It can't be satirical, because this isn't a satire.... Basically, if I thought I signed up for a cute story, I start to feel betrayed. lol.
I don't dislike crude humor. A fantasy comedy that does crude humor well is Konosuba (2016), because it fits the overall tone of the story.
But not everybody likes crude humor, or mature content, and I think those individuals could easily be disappointed in this anime, because nothing that it advertises would lead you to expect it.
4. Domestic Girlfriend
Premiere: Jan 12, 2019
Genre: Drama, Romance, School Life
Natsuo's teenage life has gotten complicated. He's hopelessly in love with his young teacher, Hina, so when a girl his own age, named Rui, offers him a chance to have casual sex, he takes it.
Natsuo's father is also getting remarried.
When they move in with his new wife their family of 2 becomes a family of 5, landing him with two new stepsisters: Hina, his teacher & her younger sister Rui
-- and suddenly, Natsuo finds himself in the middle of a domestic love triangle.
3/5 ⭐️: Speaking of crude... this story could be considered crude.
It's essentially rolling a bunch of taboos into one story. The opening theme song perfectly sets the tone, which is desperate, self sabotaging, and reckless.
Domestic Girlfriend is telling the story of how complicated life becomes after you cross boundaries you probably never should have.
Was it worth it? What were the repercussions? And how far do they extend?
This anime/manga is sometimes categorized as an ecchi, so it includes mature content. It did suffer from some gimmicky scenes that could have you rolling your eyes.
However, in general theres an emotionally complicated story being told.
I think this anime could be compared to Scums Wish (2017), but I enjoyed this one much more because while these characters are messy, they're still very worth rooting for.
If you enjoy complicated and mature stories, check it out.
5. The Morose Mononokean, Season 2
Studio: Pierrot Plus
Premiere: Jan 5, 2019
Genre: Supernatural Comedy
The high school exorcist boys are back for another season!
Ashiya is still working at the Mononokean to pay off his supernatural debt, but he's actually enjoying the job. After all the time spent helping Yokai, he's grown sympathetic to their troubles in the mundane world.
But that doesn't mean everyone in the underworld is happy about having a human exorcist.
5/5 ⭐️: This series has a strong plot. Once you start watching you'll want to know what happens next.
While season 1 focused on Ashiya overcoming his fear of Yokai, season two focuses to Ashiya's difficulty as a human navigating the supernatural realm.
He's always at the mercy of the yokai, he isn't liked by the political leaders of the underworld, and he REALLY needs to work on his supernatural abilities.
There's also a major mystery to unravel surrounding Ashiya's missing father.
6. Kono Oto Tomare!
Studio: Platinum Vision
Premiere: Apr 7, 2019
Genre: Shounen, Music, School Drama
The high school Koto Club needs new members or it will disband forever.
Luckily, there's two boys with important reasons to not let it fail.
Chika, a delinquent, is the grandson of a famous Koto maker, and Takezou, the club president, promised the previous members he'd keep the club alive.
At the start of this anime these two struggle to set their differences aside, but eventually, they team up and recruit a motley crew of Koto players.
Then! For some reason! The Vice Principal of the school hates them!
lol... this early plot point was honestly a little dumb, but I swear its a good anime!
5/5 ⭐️: It's major strength is its characterization.
Each character has more to them than what you see on the surface. Most of the characters have complex backstories that we learn along the way.
Much attention is put on how rumors and appearances shape the way we treat strangers.
Their club focus becomes equal parts music and strengthening their bonds of friendship --
which probably sounds boring, in a generically anime way, but it isn't because of the complexity of these characters. Think Blue Spring Ride (2014).
You will instantly feel for Chika, he's a guy to root for. And his potential romance with a Koto prodigy created some really sweet scenes.
The Koto performances were dynamic to watch, and they sounded great!
7. Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
Studio: White Fox
Premiere: Oct 2, 2019
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
In this fantasy comedy Seiya Ryuuguuin is summoned by the goddess Ristarte to save a world overrun by evil.
That's right. It's an Isekai... but it's also a deconstruction of an Isekai.
Ristarte isn't saving her world, she's saving 'a world' -- that was assigned to her. And by saving it she hopes to get a goddess promotion.
Our hero overly prepares, overly purchases potions, and ends every battle with an op flame attack because he's the overly cautious hero.
He's stoic, noncooperative, and has tunnel vision.
When Ristarte summoned him she had grand visions of an epic adventure and maybe even a forbidden romance.
What she got instead was soul crushing boredom.
2/5 ⭐️: It's good, but boring.
This anime was sold to me as the next Konosuba (2016), but I wouldn't make that comparison.
The comedy in the anime largely stems from Ristarte's exaggerated reactions.
The running gag, "the hero is overly cautious", is the entire plot.
And when we're suddenly hit with meaningful backstory for our characters at the very end of the anime, it feels too late. It's a good backstory 👌.
But I couldn't sympathize with the cautious hero throughout his journey, and ultimately didn't care what happened to him.
If the backstory was revealed sooner, I probably could have cared about the stakes.
8. Meiji Tokyo Renka
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Premiere: Jan 9, 2019
Genre: Shoujo, Historical, Supernatural
Mei Ayazuki is transported back in time to Meiji era Tokyo where she meets historical figures of the arts and sciences.
Having grown up in an antique shop, she's familiar with their accomplishments.
In the present day Mei is a high school girl who sticks to herself, because when she was a child she scared her friends away by telling them she can see spirits.
In the Meiji era, her ability to see spirits is valued, and she becomes the coveted Tamayori.
Then romance ensues. Allegedly.
2/5 ⭐️: This was just boring.
We get flat charters, no stakes, and a mishmash of sub plots.
Our female protagonist lives a seemingly boring high school life.
After she's transported back in time she doesn't face any danger, or hardship. She meets a bunch of men -- and they instantly become friends.
After realizing her ability to see spirits is valued here, she does the bare minimum to "solve supernatural problems."
Apparently she falls in love along the way -- its not explored in any detail.
In the end she decides to go back to her own time.
The ending scene was so weak, it felt like my punishment for watching this anime.
Let me set the scene for you:
All of Mei's new friends, including her fiancé, are at the big party waiting for her arrival. She's supposed to show up in her new dress, which was custom made for her, and is meant to announce her as a new member of society.
But then she shows up wearing her school uniform, signaling that its time for her to leave.
I know this was supposed to be a dramatic, and bittersweet, ending.
But because Mei seemed to have no struggle with her decision to leave, and made no mention of the pain it will cause the people she leaves behind, it falls completely flat.
I assume we're supposed to feel satisfied that she's going home to her own time. Where she belongs. And feel happy that she's going to be able to make her own friends now.
But because it missed its beats, it just looks like a dick move. Especially to the viewer who now realizes just how badly they wasted their time.
I wanted Kamigami No Asobi (2014) from this anime, but didn't get it.
Was it better as a game? Let me know!
9. Midnight Occult Civil Servants
Premiere: Apr 8, 2019
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural
A yokai anime set within a municipal ward office.
The midnight occult civil servants are part occultists, part paper-pushers, and part detectives.
Arata Miyako, the new hire, is thrust into the world of the supernatural on his first day.
He quickly learns he has inherited The Ears of Sand from his ancestor, which allow him to understand the speech of the supernatural.
Being able to understand the supernatural beings when others can't, he can sympathize with them. You'd think this highly specialized skill would help him advance in his career, but no.
There are agents who don't trust him. And the Mayan Chaos God following him around doesn't help his case.
4/5 ⭐️: I might have enjoyed this anime simply because I enjoy yokai anime.
Arata's conflict was intriguing. He often see's humanity in the yokai and strives for a peaceful solution.
Sometimes he's justified, sometimes he makes a mistake. Not all the supernatural beings can be trusted. Watching him learn to toe this line makes a good story.
The side characters are enjoyable as well. The plot was episodic to start, but built upon itself towards the end.
Unfortunately it's not a great looking anime. I didn't think it was ugly, but there is something dreary to it, as if you're really on the nightshift with them.
Would recommend to anyone who enjoys yokai anime, or anime about work life.
Did you catch any of these last year? Planning to watch any of them now? Let me know!
Thanks for reading!
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