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Dated 26 March 2018: Sora yori mo Tooi Basho and Yuru Camp△ are the best shows of Winter 2018

Rin
There's also the matter of Rin's excellent hair.

Yuru Camp△ finished its 12-episode run last week with an open-ended conclusion to its deeply satisfying season. As far the actual narrative goes, I can't exactly claim Laid-Back Camp was particularly eventful, but the show's real strengths came from its pleasantly relaxed mood and its freakishly endearing lead character, Rin, anyway. I do like the other characters as well, though, and I'm particularly relieved Nadeshiko turned out to be a lot better than I initially feared, but Rin basically carried Yuru Camp△ for me. She did, after all, clinch the Girl of the Quarter crown in week 10 by racking up most of my Girl of the Week awards. If you place any stock in B.S. numerical ratings, I did score Yuru Camp△ in first place for most of the season before Sora yori mo Tooi Basho passed it.

Hinata
"When angry count four; when very angry, swear."

There's actually one episode of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho left, but I'm all but certain to subjectively regard it as this season's best show regardless of how it actually plays out. Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (see this post for more about the show's name) is exceptionally well done. I'm particularly impressed with how it pays off the numerous little heartfelt investments it made during the course of the series. Also of note is the astute directing which has juggled comedy, drama, and even a little horror with skillful touches of emotional resonance in the right amounts and at the right times.

Violet
Mission top secret, destination unknown.

Speaking of emotional resonance, compare Sora yori mo Tooi Basho with the much hyped Violet Evergarden for example, which turned out to be a hot mess of wildly disparate levels of quality depending on the episode. I felt nearly all of them were clumsy and overwrought, with the exception of two episodes (both of which credit Sawa Shinpei as the episode director, incidentally). In particular, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho has made much better use of its music than Violet Evergarden has, as I've mentioned before. All in all, I'm very impressed with Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, and I'm looking forward to its creative team's future projects.

Dated 6 November 2017: Net-juu no Susume shows it's not easy being an elite NEET

Morika
I don't know if it's better or worse that she's not just having everything delivered.

Net-juu no Susume (Recovery of an MMO Junkie) is about a woman who voluntarily drops out of the rat race to become, as she calls it, an 373370 N3370. Well, she says it instead of typing it out in 1337, but you get the idea. She starts playing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, gets herself a bigger monitor for her PC, and basically lets herself go. She doesn't even bother to clean herself up a bit before heading to the convenience store for food. It's a miracle her solar-powered cat gets any light at all. Through five episodes (of only 10, apparently?), the show is not so much about why she's done this, but rather more about the characters and players she interacts with and some of the difficulties she encounters trying to keep her real identity separate from her game identity.

Morika and Yuuta
At least she still cleans up good.

Ultimately, my main draws are Noto Mamiko voicing Morioka Moriko and Ueda Reina as Lily, one of the video game characters. Netojū has moved reasonably quickly when it comes to setting up the video game characters and having their players meet. This is definitely the sort of show which would suffer if it dragged out the corresponding revelations, particularly since all the players seems to live remarkably close to each other. Ultimately, I'm not expecting anything too grand from Net-jū no Susume. It's sufficient to me that Noto Mamiko and Ueda Reina are in it, since I genuinely enjoy their performances here. It's also noteworthy that all the characters in the show are adults, even if their judgment at times might not be particular mature. It certainly feels a lot more genuine than, say, Inuyashiki, which I had prematurely expected to be this season's "adult in the room." [Spoilers: It was not.]

Dated 8 May 2017: Alice to Zouroku sure has a lot of hairy arms

Sana and Zouroku
Nice hat.

Alice to Zouroku (Alice and Zouroku) is about a little girl with essentially magic abilities who escapes from a secret facility where people with flexible morals study kids with superpowers. She then takes up with a crotchety old man and various cute things happen. Well, between periodic bouts of trauma, that is. It's a neat concept, albeit one that's been done before in various ways, but making the male lead an elderly man instead of a teenage spud is a nice change.

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Dated 31 August 2016: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable is MAMIKORE

Yukako
Domesticity Is Unbreakable.

I am enjoying Diamond Is Unbreakable quite a bit more than I enjoyed Stardust Crusaders. This is not to say Stardust Crusaders wasn't good, but rather its strengths involved a lot of shounen jive. I got my fill of that pretty quickly. On the other hand, Diamond Is Unbreakable does not seem to involve inflated power levels or a bunch of stalling with mini-bosses. Rather, it seems to be more about the Bizarre than it is about the Adventure or even the JoJo.

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Dated 7 June 2016: Surprising no one, GIRLS und PANZER der FILM is awesome

GIRLS und PANZER der FILM Blu-rays
The OVA epilogue is also pretty good even though it's not wall-to-wall tank battles.

If you watched the GIRLS und PANZER television series, then you've probably been anxiously waiting to watch GIRLS und PANZER der FILM. Since its release in November 2015, this movie continues to print money for Japanese theaters even though the Blu-ray came out at the end of May 2016. Now that I've finally gotten to see it, the reasons for the film's success and unflagging popularity are obvious.

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Dated 29 April 2016: This Monster manga has grown so big

Monster and Full Moon wo Sagashite
Monster Perfect Edition volumes compared to standard Full Moon wo Sagashite volume.

Monster is one of my favorite anime, but its DVD release was doomed to fail. If I remember right, the R1 release was a Viz license. Viz at the time already had a reputation for abandoning shows partway (e.g., Full Moon wo Sagashite) and even optimists didn't like the odds of a full Monster release. With replacement music for the ED and rumors of interlaced video, fans of the series were trapped by a Catch-22: They had to buy enough of the early discs to ensure a successful full 74-episode release, but the likelihood of that happening was so low that these fans would almost certainly suffer the same fate as FMoS fans. As you may have guessed, the DVD release as a whole did not go especially well.

Cardcaptor Sakura and Monster
Not quite as big as the Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus volumes.

Thankfully, the manga release appears to be in much better shape. Although also a Viz release, all 18 volumes did get releases. The last of these volumes came out in 2008, and I'm pretty sure they're out of print now, but Viz currently publishes the Monster manga in large double-length compendiums with the final (ninth) volume due out in July 2016. I haven't actually started reading these yet, thanks to my ever-prodigious backlog, but picking these up is a no-brainer, even if the manga lacks the anime's MAMIKORE voice acting.

Dated 29 February 2016: My favorite shows of winter 2016 so far

Cure Miracle and Cure Magical
Get pumped, witches.

As you can see from my per-episode chart, it took a while for Dagashi Kashi to secure the top spot I predicted, but it's in good company. Konosuba is my current number four show, but its rating is higher than what I gave my top show, One Punch Man, autumn 2015. I certainly disagree with people who claim this is not a very good season. Besides, there are at least three "NOT KID'S STUFF" serious shows worth watching1 in addition to some entertaining lighter fare, so I'm pretty deaf to most complaints.

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Dated 26 July 2015: Gangsta. dropped

Alex
Hey, Alex owns more than one dress.

I started watching Gangsta. because of Noto Mamiko. The "hooker with a heart of gold" is an old trope in American television and film, but somewhat rare in Japanese anime. Mamikore heart-of-gold hookers are even less common. Through four episodes, Mamiko's character, Alex, hasn't had a lot to do and unfortunately isn't particularly interesting. Making matters worse, I don't find the two lead characters interesting either. Frankly, my eyes glazed over when the show started explaining the power levels and the dog tags used to identify skilled fighters.

Nicolas
Maybe they're actually like blood-type fortunes.

Really, Gangsta. strikes me as something cobbled together to appeal to anime fans who are desperate for any shows that don't contain "moé shit." I've seen a couple of comparisons to Samurai Champloo, and I suppose they are similar in the sense both shows are about two men and one woman, but that's really about as far as it goes. Besides, Samurai Champloo is vastly superior in terms of entertainment value. Gangsta. unfortunately doesn't have much in its favor; well, except that it's not "moé shit."