Now that we’re finished the Spring anime review blitz, it’s time to rank the best shows of the Winter and Spring anime seasons. In Autumn and Summer, we had Trinity Seven, Sabagebu and HaNaYaMaTa taking the top spots while last year’s Spring and Winter had No Game No Life and The World is Still Beautiful in the top spots. What gems will this year’s Winter and Spring highlights showcase for us?
World Break – Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman
World Break is a show with some really fascinating elements that just weren’t quite delivered on well enough to land it higher in the list. But with a cast of relatively strong characters and some amazing action sequences, it’s easy to overlook the show’s flaws and enjoy what it has to offer.
My favourite part of this show was their take on magic. The runic writing and chanting made it feel really powerful and impactful – and an absolute joy to watch. It did have its flaws, but it overcame those flaws and broke its way into this list on the back of a few strong characters and great action.
Your Lie in April – Final Arc
Your Lie in April’s first half was nothing if not traditional. Boasting stellar music and interesting characters, it felt a little too reserved to really make waves. Stepping out of that in the second half, the show took a tragic turn and offered an unusual layering of hope and sadness.
It was through this dichotomy that the show became spectacular. By no longer seeming to be just another love story, it became a fascinating look at overcoming childhood tragedy and growing up. The oddly exuberant female lead Kaori took a step into the background and became a catalyst more than a character. This seemingly small change allows other characters to take the spotlight and show some real growth long-term, which led to the show’s seemingly miraculous improvement.
Unlimited Fafnir is a strange combination of magical girl, traditional fantasy, and harem that comes together far better than I could’ve expected. When I heard that the characters were known as ‘D-Girls’ I was really expecting this show to go complete lowest common denominator and be a disaster. And while it had its moments, it mostly showed much more promise than could’ve been reasonably anticipated.
Although a large part of why I enjoyed this so much was the fun of watching this with someone who possesses just as horrible a sense of humour as myself, that was far from the only reason. Through the solid visual effects, interesting premise, and a lot of rather unique fitting elements, Unlimited Fafnir is a show that overcomes the weaknesses most harem shows fall prey to and stands out as a truly engaging and enjoyable show. It’s no Trinity Seven, though.
Shows can appeal in a few ways – character development, action, world building, fascinating magic – but by far my favourite is by playing with my emotions. A good sad story, a well written happy ending, hope, tragedy, love… these are the primary attachments for me to my favourite shows. And Plastic Memories offers one of the best combinations of sadness and hope I’ve ever seen… one of the most well written bittersweet endings I’ve cried my way through.
These emotions were built off of the backs of a diverse and interesting cast, a fascinating premise, and absolutely amazing visuals and music. I cannot say enough about how good of a job this show did at highlighting the beauty in the mundane using those visuals or music.
Saekano – How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
Saekano is a show about a group of extreme otaku attempting to create the protagonist’s dream: the ultimate visual novel. This is a show that survives off of two key factors. The first is the intelligent writing. This show features some of the most well written conversations I’ve seen in an anime… but that isn’t all. They’re also adept at using literary devices to create a story and progression that will constantly leaving you both wondering what is next and how what you’ve just seen may come back. Saekano also does a good job of exploring the common anime tropes. There are numerous concepts that I’ve never really noticed… but this show brought them into the spotlight and made me not only recognize, but understand them. Without sacrificing anything to do so.
The second major component I want to highlight here is the strength of Saekano’s cast. This is what tropes are meant for. This is why anime characters always fall so cleanly into categories… the categories allow them to build characters without spending too much time exploring the basics of their personality. And they use that time saved to explore the depths of the character, refining them and creating interesting relationships and interactions.
Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
A wordy title, ‘Dungeon‘ features one of the most unique world premises I’ve seen in a long time, and it does a great job of building up the mystery. You’d think it would hurt the show a great deal for them to leave a world like that so mysterious, but the show manages to still feel complete despite that largely in part due to absolutely fantastic action and a few great side characters. The main characters, in general, are not the best you’ll see but there are a lot of great supporting characters that shore up this weakness. And the action… Dungeon features some of the most incredible combat that I’ve seen.
The biggest thing for me though, the part that shines above for me as a gamer and an anime fan is how well incorporated the feel of an MMORPG is within this game. It’s not like Sword Art Online or Log Horizon, but you get that craving for the social and gameplay experience of the MMORPG. It is really interesting how it was handled, and I can attribute watching Dungeon as a big part of why I decided to give Final Fantasy XIV a second chance. If you’re a gamer, you’ll probably enjoy the core of this show… especially if you like MMORPGs.
I won’t claim this as the strongest pair of seasons I’ve seen since I started reviewing anime, but it certainly had its gems… and especially Plastic Memories, Saekano, and Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? stood out from among the rest and deserved my praise. What were your favourite shows of the past two seasons?