Spring has arrived with a merry o’ band of freshly blooming flowers, melodious birdies, horny kitties, and all of the pollen that the world can spit out! While I may not be thrilled for the literal season, I am looking forward to the simulcast offerings for the next three months or so. I’ve started on a few of them and thus far they’ve all been promising in their own ways and that makes me pretty damn happy.
With the arrival of spring comes the closure of Winter (excuse me while I sob ferociously). Initially I didn’t feel like I had watched very many things at all during the last three to four months. However, when I sat down and wrote them all out, I was pleasantly surprised with myself! I suppose all that post-op bed-resting did me quite a bit of good with regards to chopping down the leaning tower of unwatched anime titles. With the exception of two to three titles, the rest were all fresh new experiences, most of which were rather awesome all around.
Anyhoo, check out my wrap-up down below! I have included links to AniList pages via their titles, and any write-ups relating to the specific anime will also be within their individual sections. Out of this list of completed goodies, I have reviews planned for about three or four of them, which shall be going live through April and a little bit into May (I like to take my time with planning out and writing reviews as it’s more fun for me that way).
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) [HBO]: A family-friendly fantasy film that’s written and directed by the prolific Hayao Miyazaki, and produced by Studio Ghibli, the anime follows a young, hard-working girl named Sophie that finds her life turned upside down when she’s literally swept off her feet by the dashing and super charming eccentric wizard named Howl. Jealous of the friendship that ensues, the cunning Witch of the Waste puts a terrible spell on Sophie. In order to break the spell, Sophie embarks on a grand adventure taking her to the wizard’s gloriously enchanting flying castle.
When I was feeling quite blue one evening, I ran a poll over on Twitter to determine what anime film I should watch to lift my spirits and this one was the winner by a decent margin. I had never seen this before, so I was half excited and half nervous (it’s a rather hyped film). Of course, the first thing I did was swoon over Howl like everyone else. He’s just too damn handsome and kind for his own bloody good. But then slowly everything else about the anime really won me over including the theme on friendships, even towards one’s enemies and those who are deemed as less than kind, the sweet romance, the ridiculousness that is Howl, and so many other things… especially the music! Suffice to say that I’m super thankful to everyone for picking this! I’m actually looking forward to re-watching it over the summer with my nephews. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Kanon (2006) [Funimation]: A 2006 adaptation of a shōnen romance visual novel that was produced by Kyoto Animation and directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. The anime follows a dude named Yūichi who moves into a home with his cousin and aunt after not having seen them for a handful for years, and begins to attend the local high school there. He doesn’t remember anything from the last time he visited them due to some strange sort of amnesia. The more that he resides in town and the more people he bumps into, the more of Yūichi’s absent memories start to come back to him in bits and pieces.
I watched this for a season of #AniTwitWatches, hosted by Jon Spencer Reviews, and overall the experience wasn’t a bad one. There were many parts of this that I thoroughly enjoyed, such as the themes on facing one’s fears in order to move forward in life or risk being stuck in a toxic cycle. However, the timing for my watch though was probably poor and it contributed to some mixed reactions to Kanon as a whole. I was dealing with a big dose of survivor’s guilt and a great sense of confusion after my heart surgery (when I picked this up) and the more intensely evocative aspects of Kanon hit me pretty fucking hard. So while I’m glad I saw it and appreciated the various elements of contemplations it provided, at the end of the day, it just wasn’t a show for me on a personal level. With that being said, I do think it’s a strong story and should be seen by folx who enjoy adaptations of visual novels, as well as watchers that like seeing the depiction of various themes via alternating characters. RECOMMENDED.
Natsume’s Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 (2008) [Blu-Ray]: A shōjo, supernatural, slice-of-life series that was originally a manga written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa. The series follows the everyday life of a young, fifteen-year-old boy named Natsume Takashi who inherited the ability to see and interact with yōkai, or spiritual and supernatural beings, from his late grandmother Reiko. It was produced by Brain’s Base and Shuka, with direction from Takahiro Omori.
This was a re-watch for me. I originally picked this up because I wanted to plan a really awesome collab with relation to it, however, when my health became worse that collab was placed on the back-burner for a bit. My goal is to try and revive that collab later in the year. But another reason I picked this up was because I needed a reminder that just because life is harsh and seemingly unbearable, there is way to make it to the other side. Nothing truly emphasises this better than Natsume’s Book of Friends, especially as a practising Buddhist. It doesn’t matter what kind of anime watcher you are; this is an anime that should not be missed at all if you haven’t yet had an opportunity to check it out! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I watched it on Blu-ray but it’s currently streaming over on Crunchyroll.
Chihayafuru Seasons 1 & 2 (2011) [Blu-Ray]: A josei, slice-of-life, sports (karuta), romance anime adaptation of the original manga series written by Yuki Suetsugu, it’s about a young high school girl named Chihaya Ayase and her ardent love of the traditional Japanese sport Karuta. Karuta is a game centred on the One Hundred Poems, which is one of the most important contributions of classical Japanese literature. We follow Chihaya in the first season as she starts her high school career by attempting to pursue competitive Karuta in a day-and-age where the sport is dwindling into obscure niche-dom. The series was produced by Madhouse and directed by Morio Asaka.
Another re-watching for me, Chihayafuru is up there as one of my favourite anime serials of all-time. Between the breath-taking focus on an aspect of Japanese culture that I’m obsessed with, along with the stunning visuals and plethora of themes on relationships and loss—there’s a ton here that shan’t be missed. In addition to wanting to re-experience all of these lovely characteristics, I also wanted to refresh my brain on the series before picking up the third season, which I haven’t seen yet. But now that I’m caught up, I’ll definitely be watching it during the Spring season. You can check out some of my mutterings on Chihayafuru here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I watched this on Blu-ray, but you can stream it on Crunchyroll and HiDive.
With a Dog and a Cat, Every Day is Fun (2020) [CrunchyRoll]: A shōjo comedy short anime that’s based off a manga series that shares the everyday shenanigans and anecdotes of living with a dog and a cat for the mangaka Hidekichi Matsumoto. Production was done by TAKAROT with direction from Seiji Kishi.
When I was seeking feel-good anime recommendations, this was dropped in the comments and, honestly speaking, it was the best fucking gift I received. This show made me laugh my ass of on multiple occasions as I correlated so much to the kitty-related theatrics (I don’t own a doggo, so I didn’t relate to that bit too much). It’s adorable, feel-good, wonderfully funny, and it comes in sweet, small doses (episodes are approximately two minutes in length) making it super easy to binge the entre thing within an hour. If you’re a pet owner or you just enjoy animal-related comedy shows, you’ll definitely get a kick out of this one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Jujutsu Kaisen (2020) [CrunchyRoll]: A shōnen, supernatural, dark fantasy anime adaptation of the original manga written and illustrated by Gege Akutami. The series was produced by studio MAPPA directed by Sunghoo Park. It’s about a teenage boy named Itadori Yūji who’s a typical teenager that tries to be free-spirited while caring for his ailing grandfather. One day while visiting his gramps, tragedy strikes, leaving Yūji to ponder the nature of life and death. Meanwhile, the two members of his occult club from school end up falling into a spot of shady shite when they unknowingly release an ancient and deadly supernatural entity. In order to save his friends’ lives, Yūji will have to undergo a formidable and treacherous Cursed power, placing his own existence in wretched jeopardy.
I had my doubts about this series when I first began it, mostly because I was worried it would end up having super annoying characters that would detract from the narrative quality (a big issue that I had with Demon Slayer). But JJK never had anyone remotely close to being that much of a frustration. Instead, it provided marvellously written characters, badass action that was as wonderfully animated as it was choreographed, funny yet endearing friendships, and the hottest masked motherfucker since Kakashi Hatake, Gojō Satoru! Oh, and don’t even get me started on the wicked handsomeness that is Sukuna… It’s definitely safe to say that this was one of my favourite new serials of the season! It’s great for people who love supremely animated action titles with supernatural twists and cheesy yet wholesomely brilliant camaraderie. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Dr Ramune -Mysterious Disease Specialist- (2021) [CrunchyRoll]: A seinen, fantasy about a highly energetic doctor living in the city who takes on patients with unique and mysterious illnesses that normal doctors cannot diagnose or even see the existence of. I’m a sucker for anything to do with medical-type elements, so I became curious about this title. What I wasn’t expecting was to laugh so much. The anime is being produced by Platinum Vision and it’s directed by Hideaki Ōba.
Dr Ramune was a pure-hearted treat of a series that had just enough of a splash of strangeness to make it intriguing and entertaining to take the edge off the more evocative topics explored. The show in a nutshell is about self-care, particularly where strong negative emotions and toxic environments are concerned. It depicts the terrible consequences of ignoring our own pain and suffering and how it inevitably impacts the people and world around us. Dr Ramune is an idiot, but a very caring one and his bond with his more aloof apprentice was crafted with excellent chemistry. The two personas balanced each other out well. The animation is rather average across the board, which I think works for this specific brand of narrative. Overall, I’d recommend this for people that like supernatural stories about helping others or medical-related traits. RECOMMENDED. My first impressions can be found here.
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (2021) [CrunchyRoll]: This is a shōnen, romantic comedy anime series about a guy named Tomozaki who’s a badass online gamer. However, in reality, he’s an introverted, anti-social, loner geek. He absolutely loathes the game called Life since most people tend to have it easy with either their looks or personality or other superficial characteristics, and these same individuals make harsh judgments on anyone who isn’t quite like them. Then one day, his gaming rival asks to meet him in person. After meeting up, he realises that she’s one of the most popular girls in school. They end up having a huge difference of opinion that leads her to challenging him to make the effort to actually “play the game” of Life rather than complain about it being too hard. The anime was being produced by studio Project No. 9 with direction from Shinsuke Yanagi.
I had a bit of a mixed relationship with this anime. Initially, I was intrigued by the idea of someone that works hard to change the things about themselves that they don’t like or that doesn’t bring them joy. Yet, in the first episode the manner of which he’s spurred into taking action really bothered me a lot. You can read about it in my First Impressions post as I don’t want to give spoilers here. Nonetheless, that exchange that occurs left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth for the whole season. Even so, there were other redeeming qualities in Tomozaki-kun that I wasn’t expecting and that ended up making the experience far better than anticipated. In general, I feel a lot of people will like Tomozaki-kun for the inspiration it gives in bettering oneself. Plus, it’s a rather standard high school romcom for the most part, and while I hated the delivery of the main message (from the pilot episode), I did appreciate the amity that ensues in the second half. Nevertheless, my personal rating for Tomozaki-kun as a whole is INDIFFERENT.
Witch Hunter Robin (2002) [Funimation]: An original seinen, occult detective anime series produced by Sunrise and directed by Shuko Murase that follows a half-Italian, half-Japanese craft user that was raised by the Roman Catholic Church. She is trained to use her craft to help hunt down witches. When the Japanese organisation that deals with witch hunts has an opening, Robin is sent from Italy to Japan to join the task force and investigate strange happenings surrounding witches. While in Japan, Robin gets intertwined in a bigger conspiracy where she realises that her role is far more significant than she could have imagined.
In my humble opinion, Witch Hunter Robin is such an underrated gem of an anime, especially with respect to mystery crime narratives. I first watched it back in 2006-07, and I loved the grittiness, the mature tones, the witch-related world-building, and the intrigue that veils Robin from start to finish. The anime does have a bit of a slower start to it plot-wise, and things don’t really kick into the high-risk category until the midway point, but everything that occurs henceforth is brilliantly done. Craving a darker crime series, I decided to re-watch this when a fellow blogger chatted about their thoughts on the first four episodes of it. If you’re an individual that likes darker, occult-related anime then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Witch Hunter Robin to you. (Detailed recommendation to come)
Laid-Back Camp Season 2 (2021) [CrunchyRoll]: A seinen, slice-of-life anime series that’s all about cute girls doing fun camping things and eating yummy grubs while they do it! It’s being produced by C-Station and directed by Yoshiaki Kyōgoku.
Three years ago, I watched and fell in love with the first season. Even though I’m not necessarily a fan of moe-type things, the gorgeous scenery and the precious friendships of the all the girls really won me over. The opening song was also such a fun and upbeat melody that it would get stuck in my head for days at a time, without complaint. So, naturally when the second season aired, I jumped on the happy bus for it. The second season has everything the first did, but it doesn’t shy away from centring on more of the minor characters. Plus, it exhibits the various sorts of pleasure that comes from both solo camping and group camping. Additionally, it provides many breath-taking places in-real-life that’s great for some winter and early spring camping shenanigans. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this for people that need a spot of light-hearted and feel-good comfort in their lives, more so if you drool over anime food the way that I do (in gross abundance). (Detailed recommendation to come)
SK8 the Infinity (2021) [Funimation]: A shōnen, sports anime that follows a guy named Reki who loves skateboarding yet still has much to learn. After losing a recent race, he tries to figure out some strategies to help him win the next one. Then one day while he’s tinkering around with his skateboard, the new transfer student, Langa, shows a mild interest, which gets Reki super excited to meet a fellow (potentially) skater. Together, they end up getting into some racing mischief and discover a kindred bond and a kick-ass friendship in the making. SK8 the Infinity is an original anime series created by studio Bones with direction from Hiroko Utsumi.
So, think of Initial D but with skateboarding and much queerer. Welcome to SK8 the Infinity! This series was bloody brilliant from start to finish. There isn’t a single thing that I could really complain about. I’ve tried. The animation is gorgeous. The racing sequences are fun and creative and outrageous in the best of ways (Initial D fans will understand this quite well). The pop punk rock and Indie rock music gives it the perfect ambiance, fitting in with the visual and narrative aesthetics fantastically. The various friendships, especially the unlikely ones, the bromance hate and the bromance love and canonical queer crushes—oh, my wee little heart bloomed joyfully at it all. My favourite duo are definitely Cherry Blossom and Joe. I love to watch them love to hate each other. It’s purest entertainment. SK8 is a character-driven anime that shines a light on a sport that I normally wouldn’t have cared about (I can’t ride a bike, let alone skate on anything that’s not my socks in the a spotless kitchen floor), but made me pretty fucking interested in. It’s excellent entertainment and would make a lovely one-sitting series. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Horimiya (2021) [Funimation]: This is a shōnen, romantic comedy anime series about two unlikely individuals who end up coming together due to peculiar circumstances. As they realise they’re classmates that are, in fact, quite different in reality versus their student personas, they formulate a platonic kinship which blooms beautifully with the potential for much more. The anime adaption is being produced by CloverWorks with direction from Masashi Ishihama.
Horimiya is a superbly charming, lively, and uplifting series about the comforting pleasures of platonic intimacy and how said platonic intimacy creates a strong foundation for long-lasting romantic connections. It’s one of the few romcoms that I’ve seen where the relationships—in all forms—are depicted with healthy, honest, and humble representation. Miya and Hori make the cutest fucking couple and seeing how their bond develops across thirteen episodes is deeply touching and refreshingly enchanting. The impact that they have on their chums around them is also magnificently bolstering to the spirit. If anyone out there is searching for a superb romantic anime series to watch that shall appeal to folx of all genders and most older (13+) ages, Horimiya is definitely the anime for you! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Yashahime: Princess Half Demon (2020) [CrunchyRoll]: This shōnen adventure, fantasy series is the direct sequel to InuYasha: The Final Act and picks up fifteen years after the events of its predecessor, following the daughters of Sesshomaru and Rin, and InuYasha and Kagome as they protect the realm from demons while trying to learn the truth about who they are and where they come from. It was produced by studio Sunrise and directed by Tesuo Sato.
Oh boy… I saved this one for last because this is the only anime that I’m going to rant about vehemently. The only reason I picked this up is because InuYasha is one of my favourite fantasy anime serials of all-time. I love it with my whole damn heart, especially Sesshomaru. So, when I saw that there was going to be an anime dedicated to his daughters, I screamed. While I am still very much screaming, it is no longer from excitement, but unimaginable loads of frustration.
During the middle of the winter season, I had to question why the fuck I kept on watching this hot mess of a fucking catastrophe. I even dropped it for a short while. Even so, my InuYasha loving soul just couldn’t accept not finishing it, to my dismay. A few of things that irked me about Yashahime include: every single character is literally labelled in every single episode—there are 24 of them—and it’s so painfully unnecessary (I know this is a minor thing in the long run, but it still drove me batty). Then there’s the plot. It didn’t exist for about ninety percent of the series. The progression towards resolving all of the conflicts that come up are so outrageously ignored and slow-paced that it makes me strongly question the decision to not only make this a 24-segment title, but to have a fucking sequel for it. If it was better written with more cohesive exploration of plot elements, one season would’ve been plenty for a good, rewarding experience. As it stands, I feel like these episodes were being pumped out on a machine just for the sake of having episodes; like it’s trying to milk a successful franchise for all it can. For me, that’s a grave disrespect to said franchise.
Even though I marked the second season as “Planning to Watch,” I really must ask myself if I want to continue to put myself through this poor fucking hot mess of a series. It’s such a travesty that it turned out the way that it did. If it’s not obvious yet, I very much DO NOT RECOMMEND Yashahime.
Okay, this became much longer than I had planned for it. Oops. A part of me wants to say, “Don’t worry, my Spring wrap-up won’t be nearly as long,” but I also know that’s total bullshite considering the sheer amount of simulcasts I’m trying to keep up with this season. Nevertheless, I promise to give a “Grab a beverage and snack” warning for that one when it inevitably comes around in a few months.
Anyhoo, all in all, my winter season shenanigans were quite pleasant all-around, which makes me smile like a fool. I still have a master list of all the recommendations y’all gave me for feel-good titles and I’m going to making more of an effort to get through them during spring and summer. I’m just a slow anime watcher so it’s taken me longer to get through things. But I don’t mind at all as it makes me appreciate and love them on a more intimate level.
What were some of your favourite anime serials and/or films from the Winter season? Is there anything that disappointed you?