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Dated 13 August 2019: I might have delayed this Star☆Twinkle Precure entry because I wasn't sure I was using the correct ☆

Hikaru
Is it racist to refer to those aliens as bananafish?

Actually, probably the real reason I haven't written about Star☆Twinkle Precure yet is because it's fine. I've watched every episode of Pretty Cure. It's been running non-stop for more than 15 years now. That is, quite frankly, a LOT of Pretty Cure. Most of the seasons are reasonably good. Some are great. And even the ones on the bottom of the list aren't actually bad. So it's not as if Star☆Twinkle Precure isn't good, it's just that I don't have much to say about it. What I should have done was provide a end-of-series write-up for Hugtto! Precure, because that was bananas. No promises, but maybe I'll go back and eventually give Hugtto! Precure a proper sendoff. At a minimum, I've got to say that Hugtto! Precure ended in a totally unique way that differed dramatically from how every other series in the franchise dealt with its main antagonist.

Elena
Bonus secondary transformation in episode 27.

Seeing as how Star☆Twinkle Precure is only a little past its halfway mark, there are plenty of opportunities left for it to go off the rails. I mean, its squad of legendary warriors already includes actual space aliens, one of which has so many different personas that I'm losing track of which one is her "real" one. It's arguably the embodiment of the idea SDS applies to Cure Sword. At a minimum, it has a lot of diversity and no shortage of new ideas. However, through 27 episodes, I'm still waiting for Star☆Twinkle Precure to do something dramatic enough that I'll want to revisit it in the years to come. That's surely not a fair demand to place on the latest installment of a show intended for small children—one that's been running since 2004, but that's at least where I'm at in 2019.

Dated 1 July 2019: I'm watching Re:Zero because of Isekai Quartet

Emilia and Subaru
This is some compositing.

I tried watching Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-) when it aired during the Spring 2016 anime season. I made it five episodes before dropping it because I found the show rather irritating. Fast forward to the Spring 2019 anime season, and somehow Isekai Quartet finished at the top of my rankings, edging out Kono Oto Tomare! I did, in fact, expect this to happen. (The watching part, not the ranking part, that is.) I've made it through the first cours of Re:Zero so far, and do have to admit it improves quite a bit after the initial episodes.

Emilia
Partial eclipse.

I'm a little surprised how few spoilers I knew, and how many I had forgotten. That probably helped, by preserving the sense of mystery that pervades the second half of the first cours. I do 100-percent still remember the Rem and Emilia spoiler which is still to come, though. However, since I don't actually 'ship any of the characters, knowing this probably isn't going to matter much one way or another. In any case, my renewed curiosity in Re:Zero is probably a testament to the success of Isekai Quartet as a marketing ploy. Seeing as how Isekai Quartet is getting a second season, with the promise of unspecified newcomers, I suppose it's possible the premise will expand to include more than just four Kadokawa-affiliated isekai properties, although then maybe they'll need to call the sequel something like Isekai Octet or whatever. I think I'd be okay with that.

Dated 25 March 2019: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai is good, but I wouldn't call it magnificent

Kylie
Go on, Kylie, curse the bitch out.

The air battles in Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent KOTOBUKI) are consistently fantastic. Those alone managed to keep the show at the top of my Winter 2019 list all season long. However, I never got particularly invested in the story or the characters, perhaps with the exception of the flashback-heavy one with Kylie before she became a pilot. In contrast, Mizushima Tsutomu was much more successful with GIRLS und PANZER (admittedly a very tough act to follow), which has much more engaging characters complemented by the excellent tank battles.

Kylie
Somehow, Kylie wasn't a hellion as a kid.

With 11 episodes down and presumably only one to go, KOTOBUKI seems poised to hit its big finish. This would have greater significance if I cared more about the characters or the things they had at stake, but at least I'm confident the dogfights will be awesome. Incidentally, since my initial post included comparisons with Girly Air Force, I suppose I should note that my interest in Girly Air Force crashed and burned within four episodes. I don't think I've seen anyone else mention it on the Twitter in all that time either, so I guess it probably didn't have enough going for it even if Eagle was very American.

Dated 26 December 2018: Golden Kamuy and SSSS.GRIDMAN are among the best shows of the year

Asirpa
This is the sort of happiness you can only achieve by eating animal brains.

Some questionable publicity concerning some really jarring 3DCG got Golden Kamuy off to a bad start, but the strength of its source material pulled through. I'm one of those people who believe it's better to watch an anime first before reading its source manga, so basically all of the second cours was new to me. I'm told that the show truncated quite a bit of material in order to reach the second season's climax (and that it also cut out scenes that would have otherwise included more 3DCG animals). And what a climax it was. Basically, without going into spoilers, CRAZY SHIT HAPPENS, and there are real payoffs regarding characters that the viewer has gotten to know over the course of 24 episodes. With so many strong episodes this season, the second cours of Golden Kamuy is even better than SSSS.GRIDMAN.

Akane
It turns out Akane was the show's real protagonist. P.S. Spoilers.

Hopefully, word has gotten out by now that Studio Trigger did an excellent job with SSSS.GRIDMAN. I was a bit hesitant going in, since Trigger does falter somewhat frequently, and I was entirely ignorant of the GRIDMAN franchise. In fact, I'm ignorant when it comes to the entire genre, for that matter. Basically everything I know comes from posts by @TheIvanhobe on the Twitter. It turns out SSSS.GRIDMAN is satisfying even for viewers like me. I can only imagine how stoked people who recognized the various callbacks and references must have been. I should probably point out that while I put the second half of Golden Kamuy over SSSS.GRIDMAN, I find SSSS.GRIDMAN to be better if you compare its 12 episodes to the full 24 episodes of Golden Kamuy.

Shirase
That is one blue sky.

I should also mention that while I regard SSSS.GRIDMAN and Golden Kamuy to be among the best shows of the year, both were surpassed by five other shows from earlier in 2018. At the very peak is Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than the Universe), an anime that even The New York Times recognized as being one of 2018's best. I put Hinamatsuri not too far behind, and then (for pretty different reasons), Hanebado!, Yuru Camp△, and Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight. Overall, a pretty good year for anime. I can't claim that Winter 2019 looks ready to compare with Winter 2018, but maybe there will be some surprises coming up again as well.

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 8 January 2018: I don't know what to write about Mahō Tsukai no Yome, so here is Chise bathing

Chise
Chise in the bath in episode one.

The first anime season of Mahō Tsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus' Bride) was visually stunning from start to finish. I had some doubts the show would be able to maintain the same high standard all the way through, but I've got no complaints about the first cours. The second cours has also started in fine form, but I'm still somewhat at a loss as to whether this is a show I would recommend or not. At a minimum, Mahoutsukai no Yome offers a different sort of anime that we rarely get. Even though Chise is Japanese, she practically could have come from anywhere, since the ethnic and cultural parts of her background don't matter so much as her early personal life and hardships. The setting is ostensibly British, but it's "Magical Cotswolds as a launching point to other realms" British and not, like, "chip shops on High Street" British.

Chise
Chise in the bath in episode 12.

However, The Ancient Magus' Bride might be a little too consistent for its own good, in that there aren't a lot of dramatic highs or lows in the first half of the anime. I frankly have a difficult time imagining what the series must be like for someone who isn't already familiar with the manga. Would someone coming to the anime first be as impressed with it as I was with the manga? Rather than pursuing some objective which Chise strives toward each week, the series consists of seemingly unrelated stories that improve Chise's understanding of the magic world around her. There are occasional reminders that she'll face serious challenges ahead, but there's no corresponding sense of urgency. I have to admit it would be reasonable for viewers to simply dismiss Mahō Tsukai no Yome by saying, "It's fine, but not my sort of thing." Reasonable, but unfortunate.

Dated 2 January 2018: Two Car has a third wheel

Yuri and Megumi
Yuri > Megumi.

I was expecting Two Car to devote episodes to all of the various racing teams which it had introduced at the start of the series. In fact, while it did do this for a few of the groups (including the announcers), the show instead concluded by focusing on the lead pair. Specifically, it focused on the lead pair and their would-be love triangle rivalry over their coach. After the show's only male (and faceless, to boot) character skipped town at the end of the first episode, I thought for sure Two Car would simply finish with some vague promise of pursuing him to the Isle of Man where they would TT battle for his heart. But, in fact, he returned so Megumi and Yuri could compete for his affection once again. (At least he has a face now.)

Nene and Ai
The episode about these two was pretty good.

Based on the reactions I've encountered, it seems Two Car is somewhat niche in its appeal. I found this a little surprising, but possibly that simply means I'm part of that niche. In any case, I enjoyed Two Car quite a bit for what it is and its GIRLS und PANZER approach to ignoring the genuine hazards of its rather dangerous activity. I was also not put off by the romantic subplot involving the coach. It's obvious Megumi's and Yuri's feelings will never reach him, and none of the other characters have the slightest interest in him. In that respect, it's a lot less objectionable than, say, a harem comedy where Potato-kun obliviously stiff-arms overly eager girls by the helmet as they inexplicably pursue him for no Goddamn reason. In Two Car, he's mostly just an excuse for Megumi and Yuri to continue bitching each other out. I know this aspect of the show also aggravated the Bejesus out of some viewers, but I'm rather a fan of otherwise likable girls being horrible to each other for my amusement.

Dated 26 December 2017: Infini-T Force: Local girl finds hero inside her

Emi
Emi has an epiphany.

Infini-T Force is my surprise of the season, not because it was necessarily better than I was expecting, but rather because it got me to understand the appeal of its related superhero series and sentai-type antics in general. I typically have a very low tolerance for nonsense which I characterize as shounen jive. In particular, characters described as having "a strong sense of justice" irritate the Bejesus out of me and I usually avoid any such shows if at all possible out of general principle.

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