Here are my reviews for the anime I’ve personally watched in the Winter 2018 Season. Obviously, I hope to watch as much as possible from every season, but it’s not humanly possible. These titles are all notable in some way and you can read my personal opinion on each below.

Citrus

Score: 8/10

Citrus

I have to say that Citrus is an anime well outside of my comfort zone. It’s based on a “Yuri” or “girl’s love” manga that falls into the even more niche “sister love” sub-genre. I honestly never thought I would have to write that preceding sentence, but now it’s too late to take it back, I guess.

The main reason I started watching Citrus is due, frankly, to morbid curiosity. It’s the first time I’ve seen a Yuri anime so prominently streamed on mainstream services, and I don’t have much experience with them. While I can’t speak for the entire Yuri genre, I must admit that Citrus was a pleasant surprise.

It tells the story of Yuzu Aihara, who is exactly the kind of superficial girl – obsessed with fashion and her appearance – that I really can’t stand. That assessment turns out to be rather unfair, because Yuzu is actually a sweet, if simple, young woman with a bit of baggage. Her mother remarries and she has to move into a new home, where she now shares a room with Mei Aihara, her younger stepsister. Mei is a quiet girl with dark hair and an even darker demeanor. She’s president of the school council and a stickler for the rules. Nonetheless, Yuzu finds herself falling hopelessly in love with Mei – a bit of a shock since until now she’s thought her thing was boys.

While there’s plenty of contrivance and tropishness to be found here, I think the way the characters are depicted in dealing with this strange situation is quite wonderful. It’s not just a mindless form of titillation for those who want to see some girl-on-girl action, but a rather sophisticated look at the inner emotional lives of several young women going through confusing and sometimes traumatic times. It’s well worth your time if you like the romance genre in general and crave something a little different in particular. Just be warned, there’s already gratuitous french kissing in the title sequence.

Dagashi Kashi – Season 2

Score: 8/10

Dagashi Kashi

The Winter 2018 season brings us the second season of this breakout hit. While so much anime is rather derivative, every now and then someone comes out with a new idea and that breathe of fresh air carries it. With Attack on Titan it was a unique premise and some great monsters. With Dagashi Kashi it’s, er, cheap candy.

That’s literally what the title means and it refers to cheap, yet creative treats aimed at school children during the times when Japan’s economy was not doing all that well. For a lot of Japanese who are now in their 30s or older, Dagashi shops are pretty nostalgic, although few of them still remain these days. The show itself concentrates on specific Dagashi in each episode, teaching the audience about its history and nature.

What sort of narrative can you build around that idea though? It turns out you can write something pretty darn good. The main character of the story is a boy named Kokonotsu Shikada. His dad runs a Dagashi shop and they live on the second floor of the building. Kokonotsu’s dream is to one day be a manga artist, but his dad wants him to take over the family business. Kokonotsu is not too keen on this idea, but one day his future plans might be scuppered thanks to the arrival of a certain girl.

Her name is Hotaru Shindare. Her dad is the owner of a major snack food corporation and he’s sent her to this middle-of-nowhere town to convince Kokonotsu’s dad to come work for them. Dad agrees on the condition that Hotaru convince his son to take over the shop. So we have Hotaru challenge Kokonotsu’s knowledge of Dagashi in every episode.

You really need to watch an episode or two in order to understand what it’s all about, but Dagashi Kashi has a wonderful little story (with romantic subplots) wrapped around the author’s love for these creative snacks. The manga and anime have become so popular that it’s actually caused a minor resurgence in the Dagashi industry. Now that’s a sweet deal.

DARLING in the FranXX

Score: 9/10

DARLING in the FranXX

I make no secret on this site that I have an unhealthy love for Neon Genesis Evangelion, which probably explains why I have been a little obsessed with DARLING in the FranXX. Throughout the show I got consistent Eva vibes that really made me come back every week.

It’s created by Trigger (of Kill la Kill fame) and A-1 Pictures, which has too many titles to pick just one. The setting is a post-apocalyptic wasteland that was formerly the lovely planet we live on now. It seems that humans survive by roaming the planet on gigantic mobile habitats known as Plantations. These habitats need magma energy to work, but a strange species known as Klaxosaurs are attracted to this energy and regularly attack the Plantations.

Protection is provided by mechs called FranXX that are piloted by boy-girl couples known as Parasites. Our main character 016 “Hiro” is a unsuccessful pilot who failed to become compatible with his partner. However, a fateful meeting with 002 changes all of that. She’s not entirely human and no partner has survived more than three missions riding with her. Will Hiro be the DARLING she’s been looking for?

Look, it’s really hard to explain this show to someone who hasn’t seen it. It’s got plenty of mystery and deep elements that might never be explained. What is understandable are the challenges and tragedies faced by a group of children who have missed out on much of “normal” childhood and were brainwashed from birth to be warriors. The show also has plenty of symbolism when it comes to teenage sexuality and other aspects of the human emotional world.

Stylistically, the show is a little goofy. This is not a serious mecha show, but rather one that embraces silly design. That goes for the Klaxosaur designs as well. The show looks great, as long as you’re not looking for military realism.

Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody

Score: 6/10

Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody

This is yet another show in the “isekai”, or “another world”, genre of anime. Like Overlord below, it tells the story of a human who suddenly finds their game world becoming real. Also like in Overlord, the protagonist is incredibly overpowered, which means there are no real threats to it. There’s been a recent trend of shows with extremely overpowered main characters, but few of them do it well. Overlord and One Punch Man are examples of doing it brilliantly. In Another World with My Smartphone and Death March are examples of doing it poorly.

The difference is that the characters in Overlord and OPM have challenges that can’t be solved by brute force. Saitama is so powerful that his boredom might actually do him in. Momonga of Overlord might be one of the most powerful creatures in this new world, but his calm and authority are just a facade. Inside he’s a rather clueless salaryman who now has to lead an army of powerful loyal creatures. There are plenty of ways to bring him down outside of combat.

Overlord – Season 2

Score: 8/10

Overlord 2

I’m unabashedly a fan of Overlord. This is the second season of the show that tells the tale of a MMO guild leader who sticks around until the servers are finally shut down. Only now the game is real and he finds his guild house and loyal army of servants transported to an entirely new world. In the first season we saw “Momonga” come to terms with the realities of his new existence as an elder lich, but in season two his decision to conquer this world is finally set into motion.

Having already read the books, I was expecting this season to have a slow start. I think they used far too many episodes on the “lizardmen” arc, but by midseason the show catches its stride again, living up to the standard set by season 1. If you haven’t given Overlord a chance yet, now you have two seasons to work through. I’m almost envious.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Score:9/10

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

It’s hard to tell which shows are going to be classics in the future, but The Ancient Magus’ Bride is definitely one of the best shows of the season, if not of the last few years.

It’s set in England and draws on fantasy lore elements mainly centered on that part of the world, so it’s filled with fairies of all sorts. The story centers on a girl name Chise. She’s a “sleigh beggy”, which in the context of this show describes a magically powerful person, with a weak body and short lifespan. After her mother commits suicide and she can’t find a home where she can be accepted, she puts herself up for sale at an auction for magical creatures. Here she is bought by an ancient inhuman mage known as Elias, among other titles. He wants to understand humans better, and having a sleigh beggy to boot makes it the purchase of the century.

He takes Chise as his mage apprentice and bride. The series follows both their romantic relationship and the adventures that Chise experiences. The show is beautiful and haunting, and really feels more like an extended anime feature than a TV series. If you are going to watch just one series this season, let it be this one.

Black Clover

Score: 5/10

Black Clover

Black Clover is based on a popular new shounen manga that began its run in 2015. It follows two orphans who were left at a church orphanage together. Raised essentially as siblings, they are basically mirror images of each other when it comes to their respective personalities. That’s not the only big difference between these two, however. In this world everyone has some sort of magic they can do – a natural magical ability that is that person’s gift. Yuno is the one with immense, prodigious magical powers. Asta, on the other hand, is the first person (as far as anyone knows) who has no magic at all. Except, it turns out his magical power is something called “anti-magic”, which means he can cancel out the magic of others. Both boys join different units in a fighting force known as the Wizard Knights. Each of them dream of one day taking the title of Wizard King.

That’s the basics of the actual story and, as you can tell, it has many of the common shounen tropes built in there. We have young protagonists who are rivals. They are both special on some way. There is an overarching goal, which means one of them will get to be the best at something. In One Piece it’s a treasure, in Naruto it’s the title of “Hokage”.

Overall the story is pretty good, and if you like shounen stories then the manga will probably appeal to you. When it comes to the anime, however, there’s one glaring problem: the main character’s vocal performance. I have no idea what Studio Pierrot was thinking with the direction they took Asta’s portrayal, but he screams constantly. If you thought that Naruto could be a little obnoxious from time to time, be prepared for a character that is 1000 times more irritating. Everything that comes out of Asta’s mouth is some variation of this weird upwards-lilting scream. He’s usually screaming about how he’s going to be the Wizard King. If you turn the sound off completely and only read the subtitles then it’s possible to get through it, but otherwise you need the patience of a saint.

In addition to this awful acting, the show also suffers from awful pacing in places. From episode five and onwards it gets better, but this is not the adaptation that the manga deserved. You’d be better off reading the manga, waiting for a dub (that’s a first!), or simply giving it a skip altogether.

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