It feels strange to be sitting here thinking about the Winter 2020 simulcast season. Originally, I wasn’t planning on watching any of the airing shows as I expected to be ridiculously busy with university coursework. However, when my health took a turn for the worst in October, it shoved all of my plans for the foreseeable near future into a frustrating waiting room with no indication of escape. Suddenly, I found myself with too much free time as I lay about in mandatory long-term bedrest. Feeling mind-bogglingly bored, I desperately needed a distraction of sorts. Naturally, I turned to anime as my saviour.
When I flipped through the catalogue of new titles, there were very few that jumped out at me as something I wanted to invest in immediately. Most of the interesting things I came across were continuations or additions to pre-existing franchises, or they had very strange and seemingly convoluted premises, which I knew my brain wouldn’t be able to focus on given the stress of everything else that I was preoccupied with. So, I focused my list down to the anime that sounded fun and light-hearted. I’m very happy that I followed my instincts because these serials ended up becoming some of my absolute favourites within their respective genres.
There are four anime series that I naturally keep gravitating back to without any prompting or poking from friends and reminders on my phone or computer. These are shows that I have grown to look forward to with each passing week with stories and characters that I know I can rely on for comfort or baskets of laughter and heart-warming fluff. Out of the stack, one of them came as a humongous surprise to me as it’s a TV short series. I don’t typically watch TV shorts because they always come off as supremely lacking to me, however, this one is just so perfect for my current mood that I’ve grown very attached to it. The rest of them do a good job of tugging at the heart strings, which is another element that I seemed to be craving this season.
All the anime titles are organised in a list that goes from least to most emotionally evocative, as well as in order of what I find to be highly relatable to me this season thus far.
I’m going to start the list with the anime short series that I had mentioned above, called Room Camp. This is a spin-off series that follows the shenanigans of three characters from the franchise Laid-Back Camp, which aired in the Winter 2018 season. These three girls explore various local hiking and foodie spots while sharing memories that relate to the respective episode along the way.
Each segment is approximately three and a half minutes long, and it’s so darn cute with its camaraderie and yummy dishes that it became a Winter favourite by its second episode. Normally, I’m not a fan of moe humour, yet due to the small doses that it’s offered in, I find it much more digestible. Additionally, I love the scenery, the local folktales, and the vibrantly pleasant presence of Nadeshiko Kagamihara, who was one of my favourite characters from the original Laid-Back Camp.
You can find this series over on Crunchyroll on Thursday mornings, along with the completed parent title.
This was one of the anime that I was most-looking forward to when I first looked over the catalogue. It just seemed so different from the rest of the offerings that I found it instantly enticing. It’s about a dapper jewellery appraiser named Richard Ranashinha de Vulpian and a local Japanese college kid named Seigi Nakata. They meet with clients and other individuals to help them in learning more about the gems and jewels that those clients bring into the store.
Anime that revolves around obscure topics or has a very unique premise are a bit of a weakness of mine. I love that it can teach me about a subject that I may know very little to nothing about, and it’s also an excellent way to see some narrative creativity being flexed within the medium. Aside from those things, the continuous appeal of The Case Files of Jeweller Richard arrives with Richard’s clients. Their individual stories and histories can be simultaneously heart-touching and heart-breaking with some bittersweet aspects for good measure. It highlights the fact that one can never truly understand another person completely. People have many burdens or experiences in their past that they keep so marvellously hidden that it can be almost impossible for others to discover them all. That’s why it’s so important not to make rash and inconsiderate judgements about others. Plus, the anime also showcases very yummy sweet treats, which I’m a die-hard addict of.
Overall, this is comfortable series that doesn’t require me to think too much or have to worry about divulging too much of my feels into, and I’m supremely grateful for it.
It airs over on Crunchyroll on Thursday mornings.
The next two anime on my list are actually tied for my number one favourites for the season, but for differing reasons.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is about a forest golem who comes across a human girl that has stumbled into the forest one day, seemingly without a family of her own. Golem adopts her temporarily and then goes on a lengthy journey with her in order to find other humans and possibly even her family so that she won’t be alone in a realm where supernatural creatures may try to harm her or consume her. As they embark on this quest, they end up formulating a very special bond with one another.
Speaking of an anime that completely blew me away, Somali and the Forest Spirit was a shock to my system that I never saw coming. My unpopular opinion is that this show is one of the best serials in the last couple of years. There are so many fantastic facets to it that I’m not entirely sure which ones to begin with. It has beautiful animation that’s subtle with its use of computer enhancements while having stunning use of diverse colours and intricate details. The musical score is almost cinematic and complements the mood and emotions being evoked splendidly. The pacing is natural and doesn’t rush through key plot elements or drag on just to cover screen time.
Even with all of these great things, the best part of Somali and the Forest Spirit is its incredible focus on the complications of having loved ones that we would go to any lengths to protect, even from themselves or us, depending on the situation. It also has an exquisite exploration of father-daughter relationship dynamics, particularly where adoption and artificial intelligence is concerned. This isn’t a trope that is explored very often at all in Japanese storytelling, so seeing it here and being executed so well is a superb treat! Overall, the show is beautifully character-focused and driven that it’s very easy to become taken with it. Lastly, it’s one of the few anime where I’ve cried at least once in every episode to some extent. As someone who’s not normally prone to tears easily, it definitely speaks to the emotional suggestiveness of the narrative.
This one also airs over on Crunchyroll on Thursday mornings.
This show is seriously a bit of a sleeper hit as I haven’t seen much of anyone really talking about it and it makes me super sad because it’s got great spirit to it. Smile Down the Runway is about a couple of high schoolers named Chiyuki and Tsumura. Chiyuki has always dreamt of being a supermodel that walks Paris’s infamous Fashion Week, while Tsumura has a strong passion for clothes-making and hopes to become a fashion designer one day. After constantly being told that her dreams are unrealistic and utterly unattainable, Chiyuki forms a friendship Tsuruma—who feels like he must work to support his family rather than pursue his passions—with the hopes of working together so they can achieve all their aspirations.
This show is definitely a comedic slice-of-life more than anything else, but it really hit me in the gut with its themes of having to fight the world, so to speak, in order to make your dreams come true. When the whole world is telling you that you don’t have what it takes, how do you find the strength within yourself to keep fighting and keep striving? That’s the soul of this series and I’m living for every second of it.
I have wanted to become a published author ever since I was a child. My dream for as long as I can remember has been to write stories of all sorts; stories with brown-skinned characters and characters who don’t fit the gender binary, and people who fall in love outside of the heteronormative boxes. Narratives of fantasy and science and horror and so much more. Yet, lately with my health being inconveniently stubborn, I have been faced with intensely strong feelings of inadequacy. Plus, I’m terrible at building a social media presence, which is necessary, it seems, for successively finding an agent or garnering attention for one’s works. All of these things have been making me feel hopeless and the difficulties that go into trying to achieve my dreams in the face of such adversity is excruciating at times.
Smile on the Runway does an amazing job of dealing with similar struggles and doubts and that’s what hit me very hard, and that’s one of the main reasons that I just love it and look forward to it every week. It shows us that people can always surprise one another, including themselves, so long as they can hold on to hope and have the willingness to work their asses off to achieve their goals, even if it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done. In that sense, Smile on the Runway is charmingly inspirational and uplifting. I know that a lot of it is fantasised fiction, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of those messages. I also really enjoy the comedic elements. Laughing and smiling from cheek to cheek on a week by week basis is a marvellous form of self-care.
You can watch Smile on the Runway over on Funimation on Saturdays.
Slice-of-life and feel-good anime that make me contemplate the meaning of life, especially with pursuing the things that set my soul on fire, seems to be the themes for Winter 2020 that are hitting close to my heart. I find it fascinating that this is what I’ve been craving and needing without even realising it. Yay for following instincts for once rather than ignoring them.
The season has also taught me that I’m perfectly capable of sticking to simulcasts as long as I can do it in small doses that doesn’t stack on the pressure. For example, four serials are comfortable enough for me to watch with regard to pacing and making time in the week without it becoming a chore or feeling daunting.
Anyhoo, these are my pickings for the Winter 2020 simulcast season! Please, come chat with me in the comments and let me know if you’ve seen or heard of these titles, and what you think of them. What are some of your favourite titles from the current season thus far?