I watched eight anime during the Fall 2018 anime season (why did I watch so much I am filled with regret) and I’ve now written full length reviews for each of them (except one)! So here my personal rankings of what I watched from weakest to strongest. Each anime title links to my in-depth review of said series, so feel free to click! For all the reviews at once, please see my anime overview tag here.
And remember, this is just my personal take, your mileage may vary.
The story of a special police force that deals with cases involving a dangerous drug that grants superpowers. It starts out promising as a fun buddy-cop romp with a colorful cast, but the series’ clumsy, half-hearted attempts at engaging with social issues and completely nonsense plot paired with a lack of attention and care towards its characters bring it down. It just began to drag at the end, and was a bit of a chore to finish.
The story of mild-mannered Eiji forming a close bond with dangerous gangster Ash while vicious enemies hound them concludes. I reallydebated whether to rate this the weakest just because there are SO many poorly done elements, so much yikes, and ending is so dumb, cruel and meaningless, but I have to admit it did a better job keeping me engaged than Double Decker did- I was never bored watching it and I wanted to see what was going to happen next. There are a couple resonant moments, but this is not a story that has aged well in a lot of ways, and the half-hearted modern paint job just rendered it a complete mess.
The adventures of a mild-mannered vampire, the human girl in love with her and friends. This show is pure cutesy fluff and not much more. It’s definitely nothing remarkable or even all that funny, but it was something to relax and turn my brain off to. There’s occasional light fanservice and a couple jokes that cross a line, but it mostly remains sweet and chill.
(Adaptation of the third wacky lawyer game. This wasn’t so much an in-depth review as a short post from my perspective as someone who’s a big fan of the games, I’m just including it because I’m a completist. Basically, it’s been fine, the flashback episode is good, I haven’t caught up with the current arc because it was boring).
Pretty much exactly what the title says, a series of shorts about the trials of working in the manga section of a bookstore, narrated by a talking skeleton trying his best. A fun look at the inner workings of a bookstore and retail hell in general, deals a lot with international customers, fully shows the ridiculous things booksellers have to deal with but is always gentle and affectionate in its humor.
The story of a Japanese war veteran and young Ainu girl encountering a lot of weirdos as they hunt for lost Ainu treasure continues. Golden Kamuy remains as wacky and compelling as ever. Though this season was very rushed and you could tell huge chunks of the manga were cut out, it does still manage to be entertaining and has a pretty explosive finale. Its far from perfect, but it’ll do during the interminable wait for the licensed manga volumes to drop.
An anime where a girl wakes up one day to discover she’s died and become a zombie. Even weirder, a mysterious man wants her and other zombie girls to form an idol group.
This is a wacky comedy with a lot of (rotting, half-exposed) heart that celebrates the weirdness and individuality of its loveable cast of characters. It’s a ton of fun and I look forward to seeing more of these good zomnbie gals. The show is uneven at times, with the final arc in particularly having some holes in it, and I do have some concerns about directions it could take in the future. But it was a very nice time overall.
This anime focuses on Yuu, a girl troubled by how she fails to feel the romantic passion that seems to come so easily to others. When another girl suddenly confesses love to her, she ends up being pulled into a very complicated relationship.
A gorgeous and heartfelt drama that explores identity, relationships and the trials and triumphs of being a teenager, especially a queer teenager. It takes an honest look at the messiness and insecurities of young wlw without objectifying or fetishizing, and also includes adult wlw. Just a top notch production all around and easily one of the best anime of the year.
Double Decker! Doug and Kirill follows a special police force devoted to dealing with cases involving “Anthem”, a highly dangerous super-drug that can be both fatal and grant uncontrollable superpowers. The squad is divided into three pairs of partners. The eponymous Kirill is a enthusiastic newbie who partners with a deadpan, “kind of an asshole” veteran named Doug.
It’s hard to say when a show crosses the line from “dumb in a fun way” to “just mind numbingly dumb” but I’d say Double Decker crossed that threshold around about the midpoint of the series. Which is a shame, because I was rooting for it. It seemed like an anime with a lot of potential- it was humorous, irreverent and bombastic, it seemed fun and colorful with a varied cast, it had a nice variety of ladies in the squad, and two of the ladies, Max and Yuri, were heavily coded as a couple right off the bat-
-with Max (on the left) in particular going putting off some Impressive Lesbian Energy with her aesthetic…and early on Doug announced that his life goal was to “eliminate poverty and class”, indicating the series intended to deal with social issues.
It IS possible to be a cheesy, fun show that is also inclusive and deals with social ills, but Double Decker’s clumsy, simplistic attempts to balance this with the larger goofy plot ultimately meant it fell short of being an truly entertaining romp AND was utterly disastrous at being socially aware.
Double Decker acts like it wants to say something about tolerance at points, but is ultimately gutless, toothless and halfhearted, sometimes verging on offensive. It became apparent the show wasn’t going to be truly LGBT inclusive with a character’s uh, “gender reveal” scene midseries that is a just…a mess. Some characters reactions to the “revelation” are just blatantly transphobic (thinking its hilarious, saying the character in question should “tell the truth” about their sex, etc) and this was never called out or challenged. It’s finally explained (baffllngly late in the series) that rather than actually being trans, this character is a cis man who just disguised himself as a woman for flimsy plot reasons, it doesn’t make how the reveal scene was handled and how it was painted as being “funny” any better. It’s not my lane so I won’t really go into it, but this article at Anime Heraldcovers the whole mess in detail. The whole thing is SO stupid and honestly there was no reason for it to be a plot at all.
If that “reveal” episode had me feeling wary about the show, the episode following sunk any hopes I had for it. Double Decker didn’t even have the guts to have Max and Yuri be explicitly romantically involved, instead just giving vague, baity hints. What’s worse, the episode focusing on Max was boring as sin. It was painfully bland and on the nose “critique” of high school proms SO rote it even had the girl who wanted to be popular transform into a literal “queen bee” (GET IT). The only thing we actually learn about Max in her supposed focus episode is that she hates proms because a bunch of kids rejected her trans friend at one which caused her friend to turn to drugs and disappear forever. Yep, not only can the show not bother to give us actual lesbians, trans people are just tragic props (and the attempt to say a thing about how trans people are treated badly would have felt a LOT more sincere if transness hadn’t been treated as a joke in THE EPISODE JUST BEFORE THIS ONE).
Doug also only became aware of poverty existing because of a tragic prop- his backstory amounts to a dead little shoe-shining street girl so one dimensional and cliche I’m surprised she wasn’t found frozen in an alley clutching a book of matches, and that one incident made him realize Poor People Shouldn’t Be a Thing so now he’s, uh….well, he’s not really doing anything about it, but he says he wants to, and that’s good enough right?
Yeah, that’s about the level of nuance we’re dealing with here. It’s nice that Double Deckertried, I guess, but if this was going to be the level of its effort, I wish it had just stuck to being a goofy sci-fi show. As it was, even the “goofy buddy cop” aspect felt really hollow because the show didn’t give us a reason to be invested in these partnerships or these characters.
I wanted to be invested! I was SO ready to appreciate the punk butch and her robot girlfriend, but instead we barely learn anything about them or see them interact. I was READY to be tremendously invested in the straightlaced office girl and her vulgar pink haired partner, but we didn’t learn anything beyond their surface personalities- nothing substantial about what drives them or where they come from or anything. Doug had his eye-rolly dead-little-girl backstory and admittedly sometimes amusing snarky asshole personality, but he spends so much time being insincere there wasn’t much to latch onto with him.
Kirill was pretty much the only one in this show who felt like an Actual Character, and I did find him extremely likable- he was utterly sincere in everything he did, full of heart, dumb and enthusiastic in a fun way, and incredibly sweet and supportive to his friends and loved ones (he was also the only one who was chill and accepting about the not-really-trans character too so that earned him some points) but all the stuff going around him was so empty it didn’t matter.
(ending spoilers here)
The show didn’t put the work into making you connect with these characters, but it DID still expect you to be invested in them. One of the kinda-lesbians appears to have died at one point in the show, but it makes zero impact because you knew basically nothing about that character anyway- it instead just feels annoying, like “wow, you’re just gonna kill that gay without bothering to develop her huh” but the show clearly expects you to be devastated. Then when it’s revealed at the end “PSYCH she’s alive for this ridiculous jokey contrived reason haha really pranked you huh” it’s just even more annoying. Just because I’m relieved you didn’t actually bury the gay doesn’t mean you pretending to bury her wasn’t insulting and pointless. All you did was bring my attention to how little you bothered to develop this character and how willing you are to use her and her kinda-girlfriend’s pain as a plot device, so thanks?
The humor of the show basically followed “you thought THIS thing was gonna happen but instead WACKY TWIST haha now the narrator makes a snarky comment about it” and while that was fun at first it just got old without anything going on besides that. And as for the plot, it’s…generous… to call it a plot. At the end it jumps straight to “AND SUDDENLY THERE WERE ALIENS” with almost zero foreshadowing and it just gets stupider from there. Such a ridiculous development would work on a show that was either a) a pure farce or b) something super wacky but with enough heart, drama and character to keep you invested, but DD was neither of those things. It was an anime that wanted you to care, but gave no fucks itself.
(Also this show is supposed to be related to Tiger and Bunny but I honestly have no idea how these two anime are connected in-universe. Is this a prequel? sequel? Are they happening at the same time? WHO KNOWS, THE CREATORS SURE DON’T)
The animation was also nothing to write home about, with a lot of awkward CGI shots and pretty ugly clothing designs- it was colorful enough to distract from it a lot of the time, but definitely not winning any aesthetics awards.
So yeah, Double Decker is far from the worst anime I’ve ever watched, and I like the concept I think it was GOING for- but what we ended up with was something completely mediocre. The first couple episodes were fun, but by the end it was a chore to watch. I finished it because “well I’ve come this far might as well” rather than any real investment in the show. It wasn’t painful (except for the clumsy attempts at dealing with trans issues), but it was so completely stupid and forgettable, which is sad, because it seemed like it had so much potential at the start.
Banana Fish (13-24)
Again, if you read my review for the first half of the show, you can basically expect more of the same, both with the good and especially the bad parts. We do get more downtime with Ash and Eiji’s relationship, and they continued to make me think this show would be so much better if it focused more on these quiet scenes rather than on piling as much trauma on Ash as it possibly can.
(This is gonna be messy and loooong, because I have a lot of feelings. Someone on the last post noted my “rhetoric blows” and I will freely admit I’m not really trying for coherent “rhetoric” here, I’m just venting my frustration so I can get it all out of me and move on).
Yes, it wasn’t solely the premise that drew me and so many others to Attack on Titan and its potential. There were a lot of unique and exciting elements with the way this shonen manga handled its characters.
I said before that Isayama never cared about his characters, but that was a bit of a exaggeration. I think he did start out caring about some of them…it’s just he quickly got bored with them and started treating them solely as tools to serve the “plot” and the screwed message he wanted to impart.
Isayama does have one strength as a character writer- he excels at showing characters who are messy, flawed and selfish but nevertheless sympathetic. Nobody in Attack on Titan is a classic unselfish “pure” hero, they are all deeply flawed. Isayama’s characters were compelling in the beginning because of that. He allowed his characters to exhibit cowardice, he allowed them to fail spectacularly, and that made Attack on Titan stand out. Despire the melodrama of their situations, actions and personalities, there’s a rawness to (most of) his characters that fits the horror of the setting.
Even the protag Eren, who a lot of people dislike or find easily the most boring character (honestly I found Levi the most boring though), has this ugliness to him that makes him distinct from the billion other teen boy protags in shonen. He is genuinely unstable and honestly a bit disturbing, as this collection of weird murderfaces he makes shows (behold my post popular aot post, ah memories).His obsession with killing Titans was unsettling, it was the classic determination of a shonen hero through a screwed up horror lens, this kid ain’t all right.
Historia especially resonated me because she was TRYING to be that classic pure heroine- but she was selfish like everyone else deep down. She just wanted to be SEEN as an pure-hearted martyr who sacrificed for others, when really all she was doing was giving into her suicidal urges. It was criticism of the very concept of the “immaculate woman”, and that’s pretty cool. So was the fact she was seen through by Ymir, someone who embraces selfishness in all other aspects of her life but is ultimately selfless when it comes to her love for Historia…that’s some good shit. It’s fantastic as a character concept, and Ymir and Historia’s initial character writing and backstory will stick with me because it was genuinely good in all its melodrama.
Historia and Ymir were nuanced queer characters whose relationships were fleshed out well. I do believe Isayama put care into crafting their initial arcs and developing them.
But then we run into a problem. A problem that eventually we run into with every character in AOT. Isayama stops caring about them. After their initial big arcs or moments in the spotlight or backstory reveals, he just doesn’t know what to do with these characters anymore. So they completely disapppear from the manga or fade into the background only to matter again when he decides to kill them off for some cheap shock moment. Either that, or they just exist to further the narrative of how the military is cool and we have to exterminate all our enemies and blablabla.
Because he ultimately cares about that narrative far, far more than he does giving these characters the full stories that resonate, make sense and are effectively paced. He’s completely willing to undo all the character work he did previously if it means he can be edgy or impress his ideals on the reader.
That’s why Ymir and Historia have this dramatic parting that gets the audience pumped to see what happens to both of them and when they’ll reunite…only for Ymir to just completely disappear from the narrative, then be killed offscreen without even really re-entering the story again. That’s why Historia has this whole big arc about reclaiming her agency, resisting her abusive family and learning to live for herself…only to be intimidated into becoming Queen even though she’s not super into it, because she needs to serve the military and NOT live for herself after all, I guess? And oh, now she’s numbly accepted her duty to endlessly make babies for the sake of the nation! Turns out her real purpose is to be something for the other characters to be sad about.
Isayama got bored with Historia’s arc and Ymir’s arc and their relationship. He may have fun coming up with characters backstories and the big dramatic moments, but once those are over? He doesn’t care enough to do the work to conclude their stories. He gets distracted by his next plot point, his next action scene. The characters are toys he discards or breaks for the sake of either some edgy ‘anyone can die!’ moment or to push forward whatever new stupid plot point he’s thought up for his fascist narrative. (Links to evidence of Isayama’s views in this post).
I’m so happy to be able to do an overview of this mangaka’s fascinating career and works. I don’t think enough people know about her, so if this could spread awareness even a little, I’d be extremely happy. The way Tsubaki messes with and lampoons gender roles in a comic fashion is an endlessly interesting and complex subject, and I wasn’t able to fit in a lot of things I wanted to, but hopefully this serves as a good introduction to her work.
Words can’t describe how happy I was to be able to contribute an article to Anime Feminist. I absolutely love the work the website does and have been following their articles and podcasts with enthusiasm. Working with them was one of the most pleasant and professional experiences I’ve had as a freelance writer. Actually being communicated with about the process, having an editor care enough to work with me directly and discuss things that really improve the article, being paid a fair wage for my work…well, it’s unfortunately a rare experience in this business. I was glad to be able to have it for once.
If you haven’t heard of the website I encourage you to check out their content and support them- they make a real effort to run an honest, transparent business and provide an interesting range of content to boot. It’s very rare to have online businesses that treat writers with the respect we should have as professionals, so we should definitely support the few that make the effort.
I hope I can work with the site again soon!
As for this blog, I’ll try to update it a bit more often. I’ve done a lot of writing over on Tumblr I should at least organize on here!
This is the first volume for the hard-cover re-release of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. It’s called “the Fullmetal Edition” and seems to be based of the “Perfect Edition” that was released in Japan. The price is $19.99 though it’s currently on sale at around $16.24 on Amazon.
The physical quality of the release is very nice, as could be expected of a hardcover. The title and alchemy symbols are done in nice shiny letters and there’s a clear imprint of the Flamel symbol transmutation circle (aka Ed’s transmutation circle) on the back cover, which you can see when it catches the light. The inside of the book is Ed’s favorite red, as is the content’s page. There’s a full-color full-figure pic of Ed with a white background on the first page- it may have been done specifically for this edition, as it certainly looks like Arakawa’s later work.
The paper stock is pretty nice quality- it’s semi-gloss paper and thicker, bigger, shiner and much sturdier than the cheap newsprint stock of the original release and three-in-one editions. The font is also slightly different and clearer looking.
As for new content, a big plus is the color intro pages and covers actually being in full color. For this volume that meant we got three page color intros to chapters 1 and 6. There’s also a 2 page spread or Arakawa’s original character concept sketches for Ed in the back, which her notes translated (one version looks like the older Ed we’d see later in the manga, while another version is super cutesy). There’s some new sketches used as in-betweens for chapters- one of Gluttony and one of Roy trying to be cool while Riza sighs at him.
Viz claimed this re-release came with an updated translation, but so far everything is word-for-word the same, with a few minor name changes. “Hakuro” is now “Halcrow” (fine? I guess?) and they left the “h” out of his son’s name. I wasn’t surprised by this, as I figured the “updated translation” would mostly updating names so they’d be more consistent with the official translations in Brotherhood, etc. Hopefully “Cselkcess” will become “Xerxes” and so on.
Then we come to the biggest downside of this whole volume, which is that despite claiming to be a “deluxe” edition, a TON of content is missing that was in the original release. The biggest loss is the omakes/extra gag comics. I have no idea why they would leave these out- Arakawa’s omakes are top tier and it’s clear she loves doing them. Also missing is a ton of other stuff from the original- including Arakawa’s intros to each volume that are always coupled with a comical self-portrait and the old in-between sketches.
This REALLY disappointed me, because my plan after getting these was to sell or give away my original collection so I could introduce some lucky soul to FMA. But now I can’t, because these are missing content. I know this is par for the course, but it’s deeply irritating that the so-called “deluxe edition” REMOVED content.
So, for new fans, I unfortunately have to recommend the original release rather than this. The omakes are an ESSENTIAL part of the FMA manga experience and should not be missed. What this edition is good for is either a) fans who are willing to forgo the omakes and other content and 2) super fanatic collectors who don’t mind owning two versions of the manga- a high quality color release that doesn’t have the extra comics but has a few new sketches and a low quality black and white release that does have those comics.
I love the omakes, so I’d have to be 2. But I’m going to have to figure out if I am QUITE that much of an FMA manga fanatic to have two versions. The answer is likely yes, but I sure am grumpy about it.
I was a regular on the entertainment website Epicstream for about two years, churning out article after article weekly. I wrote well over 200 articles for them (Maybe over 300 or 400…), covering reviews, list articles, news pieces and so on. I also created quizzes for them. I eventually got extremely burnt out and had to stop being a regular and turn my attention to other career paths. I still do the occasional article for them these days, but it’s rare.
Working there was hard. I learned a lot about the field and what my limits were. The commenters were predominantly very typical fanboys who didn’t like my progressive views and would often completely flip out at me for very silly reasons, so I came to stop reading the comments and it made me sad I couldn’t engage with my readers more. The job was more time consuming than it was profitable, and some of the stuff I did there was when I was completely exhausted and not my best work. I realized that this was not the right job for me- if I do ever turn my fandom blogging into a regular job/ source of income, it will have to be on my own terms, my own schedule, with my own audience that I cultivated.
Nevertheless, I think I did some good work there and there are some articles I did that say some really important things that I am really proud of. There’s some I put an incredible amount of research and time into. There’s some that are just plain fun and full of trivia I find interesting. I look back on them fondly, thinking of all the things I learned.
So here’s an overview of my favorite Epicstream articles out of the hundreds I did- the ones I think were the most informative and solid, the most important ones and the ones I was most passionate about. I hope people who read this post enjoy this look at my past work and get something out of these articles that I put my heart and soul into.
THE ARTICLES I’M MOST PROUD OF
Out of All the articles I ever did for Epicstream, these are the ones I’m most proud of.
This was my first feature article for Epicstream and it dealt with a subject near and dear to my hear: magical girls. It delved into the influence the magical girl genre has had on the West, talking about shows like Steven Universe, Star vs the Forces of Evil and Miraculous Ladybug and it talked about the positive things this means for Western media. I love seeing a lot of girl-positive things about Magical Girl works carrying over to Western media and the way the tropes are played with through cross-cultural exchange and I think my article does a pretty good job capturing all that. The companion piece, 6 Essential Stories for Understanding the Magical Girl Genre talks about some important series in magical girl anime.
This was a shortened and more accessible version of my thesis that I did for grad school. It examines the way sci-fi and fantasy uses magical races and aliens/tales of the future as metaphors for racism, sexism, anti-semitism and homophobia- the works of J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler and the abysmal Save the Pearls book are my examples. I talk about the pros and cons of fantasical allegories and how they can go horribly right or horribly wrong. I also talk about the “reverse-opression stories” (stories that show a world where the oppressors and the oppressed are flipped) and the unfortunate implications of them, as well as the rare well-done example. I’m proud of this one, as I think it covers a lot of ground and gives a fair overview of the subject and this presentation even made my professor say I should go into teaching!
This was a piece I’d been intending to do for a long time. I’d often heard shoujo manga being dismissed, stereotyped and denigrated because it was media by women aimed at women and it really ground my gears, especially after looking into the history of shoujo and seeing how revolutionary and groundbreaking the women who defined the multigenre were. This article rebuts ridiculous claims like “action and sci-fi shoujo aren’t a thing” and gives a quick, simplistic overview of seminal shoujo artists and how they impacted anime and manga as a whole- many of your favorite shonen anime wouldn’t exist without them. It may not be perfect, but I think it says some important things and that the call to respect the women behind shoujo manga is one that needs to be answered. The companion piece 13 Action-Packed Girls’ Manga with Awesome Leading Ladies shines a spotlight on shoujo that contains lots of action alongside dynamic, strong-willed female leads.
This is an article I’m really proud of because I have seen the overview I gave of the scammer Andy Blake’s history being praised as a resource and being used to warn potential victims about him- for example, in this tumblr post– and I am really glad to some I wrote doing some good and helping people protect themselves from a dangerous person. I put a ton of work and research into this article and that section especially because I wanted to be fair and accurate, so I’m glad to see it was worth it.
It’s also pretty notable because it’s the only piece someone threatened legal action on- that’s why there are only four pages despite the “5” in the title. There was a section of the article about an artist who was allegedly impersonating someone else and well…that artist got mad, and sent a copyright notice accusing me of plagiarism of her words and unfair image use. The image use is a gray area (and a rookie mistake on my part), but the plagiarism claim was definitely not true, as all I did was paraphrase what she wrote (I did not copy anything) and linked back to her words as a source. However, Epicstream naturally has a “better safe than sorry” policy so the whole section was deleted. I’m fairly sure I would not have been threatened with legal action had the article been complementary to the person in question.
SOCIAL JUSTICE EXTRAVAGANZA:
I believe representation and examination of social biases in media is important, so naturally I did a few articles in that vein. As you can imagine, the internet was not happy, but I think most of them were pretty solid.
This blog is a repository for my reviews, analysis and thoughts on media. Right now, I’m mostly crossposting things on tumblr- I intend to post the things I posted on tumblr I think fall under that purview and are worth posting on here for easier access.
As you can see, I have labeled these posts two ways:
Ancient History- A blast from the past!Posts from Tumblr I wrote more than a year ago, but which I think are worth preserving on this blog for easy access.
Recent History: Posts from a while ago that are nevertheless from this year which I thought were worth preserving on this blog for easy access.
Of course, I’ll soon start crossposting stuff from Tumblr as soon as I write it and won’t bother with those labels.
I also intend to post directly to this blog once in a while, of course. For instance, I think I’ll do a linkpost talking about my favorite articles I did for Epicstream soon.