Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooosh! This post celebrates 5 years of doing the November Challenge! A massive undertaking, I go through each, and every year where I watch 5 anime(Doing six this year again to commemorate the 5 year anniversary!),  in a head to head competition in the month of November. It always takes a toll on me mentally with how much I watch in such a short span of time. This is normally the time of year when work is busier than ever. I really have to get down to crunch time to squeeze in each and every series before time runs out. This year I managed to finish with two days to spare! A feat I have yet to accomplish! All in all, it was an eventful month full of anime, and full of opinion. Which series this year, was the all mighty champion!? Only time and the end of this post will tell, but let me explain the November Challenge once again for those who aren’t in the know.

The way this mega-post will work is as follows: I will talk about the shows in order of when I watched them, there will be two splits of non-spoiler & spoiler, and you will get an idea of how I felt about them all through that. Afterwards, I will present individual awards for several hand-picked categories. Then the final part comes. I will give the official order of how they all ranked this year, and deem the winner of the 2018 November Challenge! It should be fun, but it will be a lot to read. I will have a large spoiler picture above each section that talks about well…..the spoilers, for people to avoid if they wish.

Before I begin, I would inform the readers outside of Kitsu, what the rules of this tournament are generally when people sign up. Aside from a first come first serve sign up unsaid rule, these are the following rules I use.

THE RULES
-The show’s length must be between 10-30 episodes. No less, no more.
-It must be have full length episodes.
-No shorts, OVAS, ONAS, films, or anything else aside from standard format shows(Exceptions can be made with a proper discussion!)
-No adult content like hentai
-You must have seen it to completion
-I must have not seen any of it.(Even a single episode seen by me disqualifies it)
-Season 1’s are allowed, but not multiple seasons at once unless it fits in the 30 episode overall rule above
-You get to choose if I watch it dubbed or subbed if both languages are available

Other than that let’s get into talking about the challenge!

2014 Winner: Shinsekai Yori

Other Shows: No Game No Life, Shiki, Bokurano, & Kyoukai No Kanata

2015 Winner: Berserk(1997)

Other Shows: Donten Ni Warau, Princess Tutu, Mawaru Penguindrum, & Master Keaton

2016 Winner: Oh! Edo Rocket

Other Shows: Planetes, Katanagatari, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, & Haibane Renmei

2017 Winner: Fune wo Amu

Other Shows: Kino’s Journey, Aishiteruze Baby, Cuticle Detective Inaba, Food Wars, & Hanada Shonen Shi

 

2018 November Challenge!

                                                                       

Show: Mob Psycho 100

Year Aired: 2016

Studio: Studio Bones

Episodes: 12

Source: Webmanga

Watched For: KNO108

 

A type of anime/manga that often gets overlooked is the smaller work of a well-known creator. If I say One Punch Man, you will know what that anime is, and more than likely seen it, talked about, and shaved your head to cosplay for it. However, the show Mob Psycho 100 is far more under the radar than the zany creator One’s big flag-ship series about a guy who is really destructive when he uses his fist. Sometimes I find this to be a god send because the anime in question can breathe without being constantly compared to the creator’s other, more well-known piece of media. However, other times it disheartens me ever so much, and simply due to the fact that no one wants to give it the time of day. Mob Psycho falls into the group of shows that very few individuals pay attention to in comparison to most other modern anime. It isn’t built to be some multi-million dollar entertainment property, no it was just meant to be a creative piece of heart and flair.

Mob Psycho follows the adventures of a boy named Shigeo Kageyama, but he is commonly called Mob. Our titular character is seemingly ordinary in almost every way to the everyday onlooker. Mob is short, not particularly good-looking, non athletic, lacking in smarts, and really doesn’t do anything that makes him stand out. Like most guys he wants to be more popular and have his happily ever after with that one beautiful popular girl that everyone knows and idolizes. Mob is essentially the average joe. HOWEVER, Mob is more special than almost anyone knows. He is a psychic and has the mental powers to control the world around him in various, and fantastical ways. He is more powerful than most spirits that haunt others, or even most other psychics. He is absolutely extraordinary in raw untapped potential. Mob is the normal guy with the ability to change the world.

Most of the series focuses on Mob’s desire to grow as an individual. Through his two major outlet’s in life. One is school, the other is his part-time job as a hired helper to his sensei who exorcise’s spirits for those in need. Pretty much all of Mob’s noteworthy events correlate to one of these two places. The club he wants to join, the girl he wants to impress, the cult he inadvertently gets in the way of, and so much more are all linked to his relationships to school and his sensei Reigen. While everything that Mob tends to deal with it something beyond the realm of the mundane world, the show’s heart and focus is on him as a person and his emotions. Everything in Mob Psycho 100 is all about the world’s relation to Mob.

The show uses the distinct art style of ONE to try to stylize things as much as possible. The series is purposefully an artistic mess. To try to convey the inner and outer workings of Mob, just about everything hinges on this stylistic choice to make the show look as wild as possible. The classic gag faces, and experimental drawings of ONE are displayed in their full glory through the creation and TLC of Studio Bones. A series that depicts the raw gravitas of emotions through the art like almost no other anime that exists. It’s something worth paying attention to, and hopefully as season two draws near more folks will take the time to sit down, and understand why purposeful direction is something to be amazed by.

 

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The Good: Since I was going so hard on the art style there at the end, I might as well call it out first. I adore the ugly turned into beauty approach. Mob Psycho looks like crap to the untrained eye. It’s sketchy looking, things don’t look consistent, and the show bounces all over the god damn place. Yet, this is all intentional! It’s the type of brilliance only certain studios could hope to achieve. On top of that, this show is dripping with the same turn genre on its head commentary that made One Punch such a massive hit. I love the little split snippets of showing the building of Mob’s emotions as they get close to their breaking point. It builds a world of anticipation that you can’t help but be hyped for as they draw near. The one thing that really stands out from this show is the comedy. ONE really is good at making stuff incredibly funny. I’d say this is one of the funniest anime I’ve seen in quite a while. Some of the humor derives from clever writing, and some is just priceless animation gags. The series is consistent at making you giggle like a little kid. I won’t disconnect the success at drama either though. This series knew how to bounce between the two seamlessly, just like One Punch Man. I don’t want to compare them too much since they differ in quite a lot of ways, but it’s clear that the author’s brain and the creative musings he makes are what makes both shows widely loved by those who see them. Mob Psycho is a great meld though of all the things that make me glad I do watch anime. I for one will be making time for it next year as the second season airs to see how things progress.

The Bad: You know, this is something I will say about Jojo as well when we get to it, but the show suffers from beginner’s trauma. The series is in the midst of taking so much time to introduce you to all these concepts, and characters that a ton of run time gets used up just setting the ground work. This isn’t bad necessarily, but it does show the issues with growing pains. The fights aren’t really interesting yet, and we spend a lot of time getting to know people, rather than be super attached to who we know. It’s a format that creates a strong sense of communion and world building the longer it goes, but from the get go it makes most interactions between the opposing sides rather dull. In a typical fashion, one of the only fights that really brought out true intrigue was the finale, and that was because they did something unique with it. Otherwise most of the fights were similar to ONE’s other series where it is really short and amusing, or really long to lead to a punch line. While the comedy is strong as can be, the drama lacks the punch because of the absence of complexity or worry in almost all fights. This is a problem with almost all shonen series, and it is present here as well. My only other issue is that the story ends right when things start to pick up, and god do I hate it when seasons of anime do that to me. Making me want to watch more of what isn’t here yet. I’ve got my eye on you Bones!

Random Fact: The Ending theme animation was all done on glass.

                                                                       

Show: A Place Further than the Universe

Year Aired: 2018

Studio: MADHOUSE

Episodes: 13

Source: Original Work

Watched For: Dr. Broli

 

I have really grown out of watching seasonal anime over the past few years. I’ve gotten way too busy, and less and less modern stuff has been catching my eye. I try to keep a mental note of what people like a lot, and what looks interesting for the future, and what shows might be hidden gems, but outside of that I barely touch the seasonal anime catalog nowadays. One series made by Madhouse that I know many a folk had a good time with was A Place Further than the Universe. A show I knew virtually nothing about aside from: moe, penguins, and Antarctica. Not a whole lot to go on, heck I didn’t even know the esteemed Madhouse was behind the reigns until I was watching the opening! I was really in the dark on this little slice of life drama about four girls going on an adventure to the coldest place on the planet.

To keep it shorter I will call the show APFTU or better said Apuuftooo! The show centers on four adolescent girls whose paths, all for very different reasons, converge to go to Antarctica together. The girls are: Mari, the girl who just wants to seek something more exciting in her life before high-school, Hinata, a free spirit who wants to do something special before she aces her entrance exams, Shiraishi, an actress chosen for the expedition for publicity but who finds her own reason to see the trip through, and last and most importantly Shirase, the daughter of a woman who was lost on an expedition in Antarctica, and who desires to find her more than anything else. All four have far different expectations, and reasons for their travel, but together they travel to a world unknown to see if they can accomplish their own dreams and desires.

The show takes about 2/3rd of the episode count to build up the main cast, and give motivation behind their actions. They didn’t want a simple, here is a trip without context, type of story. They wanted an equal weight to be put on each girl’s reasons for wanting to go, and also the show highly focuses on the friendship between the 4 of them. It’s something I wasn’t expecting for sure. From most of the gifs and promotional art, I assumed like 90% of the series was gonna be spent goofing off in Antarctica playing with penguins, and running off of moe gags. I mean it is the era of moe anime, so my expectations wouldn’t be far off with most series I would think. Things however are not always what you expect them to be.

APFTU is a dramatic anime first and foremost. The story of Shirase is one of the most important, and the show tends to focus on the heart of matters more often than not. Things like bullying, jealousy, resentment, death, and several others are tackled by APFTU. It’s not your typical moe blob, nope, this is a real actual story about character’s who seem fleshed out, and have things that weigh them down like anybody else. The stress of expectations, the exploration of what it means to be a friend, and much more are the backbone of what will make this show stand out far more than most of its brethren that it shares some style with. This series has a lot of care put into it, and it creates something truly unexpected.

 

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The Good: So I want to start with animation again, because WOWIE ZOWIE! Madhouse really blew my damn mind with how much polish they added with lighting effects, and attention to detail. The one section in Australia specifically was phenomenally true to life, and hard to not just take a bow for. On a more important note though, this show really surprised me with how much depth it actually had. I was a little weary at first going into it. I know I typically am a skeptical and old man who is overly harsh on moe anime, but I know a good one when it hits me in the face. APFTU sure as hell did just that. The series is dripping with passion. It’s very much in the same vein as many fantastic PA Works anime, where the style is quite modern and popular, but it hold much more than face value. I was genuinely invested in all 4 girls, and their individual story-lines. I was moved by their plights, personal growth, and what was lying beneath their surfaces. They were all very real girls with typical high school personalities, but they had actual character. Insecurities that the show explored past them being just a simple character trait. This is a pet peeve of mine with how many shows lack the extra layer that is needed to make their world’s cast feel fully realized. A true shame most modern series drop the ball on this but APFTU really nails this in terms of execution, and created a wonderfully sentimental drama. On a small side not, the comedy was pretty good too!

The Bad: Not enough penguins. Not enough seals. Not enough time.

So what I mean by the last one(since the first two are petty wants that aren’t actually required), is that this show should have been longer. Similar to the series from many years ago Donten ni Warau, I felt this show had a solid foundation all around, and it gripped me thoroughly, but it was too much stuff in a short span of time. You know how most anime don’t do enough with their run time, well very few select shows do too much in their 12-13 episodes. The series spends almost 3 hours of run time on building the road to Antarctica. A lot more groundwork and heavy lifting than I expected, or you would have thought was necessary, yet they made it all quite essential to the journey. No wasted time or filler nonsense. All of this build up and the payoff was lackluster in a way. I mean don’t get me wrong, seeing the continent in all it’s glory was a sight to behold, and Shirase get’s a proper resolution to her arc, but god damn we get all of this time to be prepared for this place and what happens? We barely spend any time in the actual place at all. This show could have been double in length and really explored all the caveats if the frozen land mass that we had so much anticipation to experience. There was a ton of untapped potential here, and for me is the largest grievance I have. Sure I want some more seals outside of the opening sequence, but more than anything I want more of what they built me up to.

Random Fact: Antarctica is the coldest place on the planet and has the record with a whopping -89 degrees Celsius! 

                                                                       

Show: Tamako Market

Year Aired: 2013

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Episodes: 12

Source: Original Work

Watched For: Futatsu

 

Throughout the years I have had a very turbulent time with Kyoto Animation. Without a doubt they create some of the most beloved animated works, yet they tend to always be lacking for me. I have major exceptions to that rule with things like Clannad or Nichijou, but most of their catalog that they have made really always just don’t do it for me. Their series are full of fluff and no substance. With each passing year, I normally avoid shows made by them, or stylized to copy what they do. They are the king of moe with no real punch outside of the cute factor. This has made their shows sell unbelievably well, and why so many companies are clearly trying to cash in on their success with similar attempts. On the other hand, Kyoto Animation puts a level of craft in their animation that none of the copy cats could ever hope to replicate. They are lauded as the lords of scenery porn, and I can’t take that away from them.

Tamako Market was one of their few offerings, that I still had fairly high on my to try out list. It was of course cute in design, but more so I was intrigued by the overall concept, if only a little. The series follows titular character Tamako, and her daily life in the market place she inhabits. Her family, and the one directly across from them are long storied mochi makers. They are a small part of the larger picture that makes up the Usagiyama Shopping District. Every shop owner, and every store itself are all part of a community together. They help one another out, and as a group often discuss potential ways to benefit or help the district expand in bigger and better ways.  Some of the notable places include: a croquette shop, a florist, a butcher, and a bath house amongst many more. The whole district is like one little family that gives and takes from one another to create an environment where they can be one big support system similar to a family.

Things get shaken up when a talking bird suddenly appears one day, and is discovered by Tamako. His name is Dela, a self-important and gaudy bird, on a mission to find a princess for his prince. However, due to the fact that he becomes overweight from mochi over consumption, he is now stuck, and his life is intertwined with Tamako. From this point on, the show really is just a slice of life comedy that mixes a bit of bizarre with Dela, and a majority of cute fluff with Tamako and crew. You get to see all sorts of festive events throughout the shopping district over the course of a year. The series spans about a year in the lives of the characters throughout tons of notable holidays, and school events.

The series is very much in the vein of most other Kyoto Animation shows. It looks splendid, it sounds delightful, and it’s pretty stinkin’ cute. I mean Tamako is just adorable in most aspects, and as is the majority of the rest of the cast from her little sister to her pining neighbor Mochizou. It’s a very wholesome show about a very small part of Japan. The little shopping districts, where little communities are born, and how they survive each trial they face as a team. Mix in an almost supernatural bird that creates a slight sense of oddity to the world, and you pretty much just have your standard moe comedy fest with light-hearted events throughout. If you love the fluff, this is for you!

 

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The Good: So this show was given to me by my girlfriend this year around. She isn’t even particularly in love with it, she more wanted to share something with me, and if she got in, wanted to create an opportunity to watch the movie haha. Something she always mentions that she hates is Dela. I actually don’t hate the big dumb bird myself! Sorry honey! I found Dela to be a nice contrast to the main cast. Why yes, almost all of his personality traits are that of a pompous detestable douche, they normally use him as the one to throw under the bus. It’s a common trope to do with mascot characters, and I think it was a fairly solid comedic gag. My true favorite thing about this show though was Tamako herself and her home of Usagiyama. I really wish I could visit there, have croquettes, try some mochi, and buy some flowers for my love. It was such a pleasant little slice of love and communion. Tamako herself is just precious too. I love everything from her messy hair, to her strong desire to always innovate and make the market rebrand itself to stay popular. She is always hard at work thinking of new mochi designs, and her devotion to what she loves made her so admirable. She was easily the center of the show, and made for an easy to love main lead. The little side story about her mother was also a nice touch as well. The show took time to flesh out the mom, the dad, and the little sister, and it made Tamako’s family feel quite real.

The Bad: You know as much as I loved the comfortable air of sitting in a music cafe just chatting away the everyday troubles of life, this show really doesn’t do a lot of anything. It doesn’t really focus on one thing all the much. Aside from the fact that almost all the events can be strung together as important mundane moments for the market, nothing really creates a sense of cohesion for the series. Dela’s mission is mostly under cut with making fun of him. The potential romance between Tamako and Mochizou goes typically nowhere at all. The series even just sorta randomly ends. It doesn’t cap off anything in particular, it just says the end after one last joke with Dela. The series really is very much why I can’t say I love Kyoto Animation works rabidly. They often don’t even create that sense of fantastic comfort most slice of life shows do, because they meander so much with trying to be cute or tell silly jokes. Which why of course are necessary for the benefit of the main experience, always seem to be absolutely detrimental to the series as a whole. Their shows have little identity because they don’t spend enough time crafting one. I like the main cast plenty enough, but in a year’s time I won’t remember but like two or three of them because they are just there and don’t really do anything to be remembered. That is the Kyoto Ani curse, it looks nice and it’s like a person you vaguely recall, but you don’t remember even a lick of what you two talked about.

Random Fact: An event called Mochitsuki takes place every year between December 25-28th to help ring in the New’s Year festivities. 

                                                                       

Show: Emma: A Victorian Romance 

Year Aired: 2005(Season 1) 2007(Season 2)

Studio: Studio Pierrot(S1) Ajia-do Animation Works(S2)

Episodes: 24(2 Season of 12 episodes)

Source: Manga

Watched For: Feethebunny

 

Romance stories are such a controversial thing in anime, no? We often get a ton of build up, and really nothing substantial to stick our teeth into. The “chase” is the common term that I use, and I’m sure many others do as well, when describing this phenomena. We do, however, sometimes get an anime that is complete in form, and that takes the leap to make the actual romance solidify into something worth talking about. Emma is such a show, set in the time period of lords and nobles, it focuses on the scandalous romance created between a maid and a man of the gentry. Though Pride and Prejudice is not nearly as controversial to the public eye with the romance that builds in its world’s story, I like to think of this anime is the same type of vision, if only simply due to one fact. It has that regal era of England that only some stories really cover.

Things begin like any story would. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl falls in love, and society scorns their feelings. Ah just like high school for so many people I bet. Emma isn’t the type of series that is full of twists and turns. It is very much the type of story you could imagine seeing somewhere before. The classic divide between classes that love tries to bridge is not a mind-blowing aspect. I’ve always been under the impression that most folks are annoyed by stories just taking a classic route, and taking their own spin on it. I personally don’t mind one bit. This allows me to see how an old concept can be re-imagined with new fresh blood put into it. Just not the literal kind!

The bulk of Emma really center’s on how William and her really do love another, but neither is particularly good at expressing themselves. There is no haughty lover here folks, these are two good-natured people who are perfect for one another, and the biggest things splitting them apart is society itself, and all the judgement it creates. For those who don’t know, this time period in England was the era of vindictive snobs. If you didn’t meet the standards of the noble, then you were just looked down upon for being lower. A very short-sighted and in many ways reprehensible way of treating your fellow-man. Yet, it was the norm for quite sometime, and many cultures have experienced their own variations of this. Emma strives to focus on the importance of both equally though. Williams’ father’s story is a prime example of showing how you, yourself can change the foundation of all of this, but it is not an easy road by any means.

We have two people who just want to make what seems impossible happen. A noble man who cares nothing for these statures that demean what he feels. A woman who considers herself troublesome despite all of her amazing qualities that people respect her for. It’s a wholesome love between two, and the burn is slow that leads to the finale of their world’s colliding, but it surely is one that I think any lover of romance would have to appreciate. Fighting for what you want despite the world telling you to quit is a hard thing to do, and when fiction inspires to show  you what self-action can create, well it’s hard to not be a bit in awe. Kind of like one of those noble ladies with a fan, who exclaims at the dumbest things.

 

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The Good: You know, I debated a while where to place my feelings on the brown muted animation. It certainly aged from that mid 2000’s period, but that isn’t necessarily a fault is it? I mean England is a drab place(I blame the overcast clouds!), so I would say even if it looks a bit old, it sort of enhances Emma due to when it is set. I found it to be charming even if it’s pretty much the ugliest show of the ones I watched. Now to what I really loved was William and Emma. What strong focal leads this series had. William especially was a standout with how much bravado, and unabashed childlike wonder he carried. I think having a friend like Hakim was a good idea too for contrast’s sake. He was the person William could bounce off when he needed to rebound from the pressures of illogical English society. Emma on the other hand is about as tranquil and lovely a person as anyone who exists. Absolutely gorgeous, hardworking, and full of respect for all living beings. She is a total package lady! The rest of the cast was well implemented too, and it made the world of England feel like I was watching a classic film at times. The romance payoff was good good stuff too. I rather loved how they set up the finale to be at the same place their first romantic encounter had happened. I’m all for circle of events type of storytelling. The love was why I was excited to see it at some point, and Emma truly delivered in that regard with a super adorable main couple. Their battle against the judgement of society, the love of other’s who were never in the wrong(Poor Eleanor!), and themselves was provocative to the very end.

The Bad: So, this may just be me, but I was fairly frustrated with the second half of Emma. I don’t know if this anything to do with a new studio picking up the reigns or not, but the writing did not sit with me quite as well in some ways. Mostly it had to do with Emma herself. A strong, thoughtful, and powerful woman who barely ever expressed herself. In the back 12 episodes of Emma, there is a very very large portion of the series where she just looks sad, and never gives a reply. I don’t mind if it’s her being shy, or bad at talking out her feelings, but man she really never had a place that was an outlet for the viewer to get some insight. The series is very much one of those that doesn’t spell everything out for you. Which I do appreciate the respect for the viewers intelligence, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little insight on to what the main female lead is feeling. She spends like 80% of the last 12 episodes never saying how she actually feels, and often contradicting her own self. Which in turn made her shell up more due to being confused with how she felt. I was seriously clamoring for a bit more of what made Emma tick, but more often than not she was not the one talking, she was the one listening. I wanted to hear Emma, and feel Emma, but she just wouldn’t let me in.

Random Fact: The Crystal Palace no longer stands. Most of it was destroyed due to fire, and then during WW2 it was chosen to be demolished in fear of being a bombing target. It still holds a place in English history though as important. 

                                                                       

Show: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

Year Aired: 2012-2013

Studio: David Production

Episodes: 26(Season 1 Only)

Source: Manga

Watched For: NinjaMushi

 

Is this a motherfucking…..oh the memes are strong with this one. This is precisely what made me wary to try out Jojo for the longest time. The fandom of Jojo is one that frankly scares me. They are an odd sort, as any large fandom is, and they are so meme reliant I can’t help but want to stay away from them. I know Jojo is a long running manga/anime series that is beloved by many, but you know it’s hard to want to dip your feet in the water when all the fans are so god damn weird. I mean that must be how most Berserk fans feel too. There is so much expectation, and so much to try to wrap your head around before you even watch a single episode or read any of the manga. However, finally after years of debate, I have had my hand forced, and me and Jojo will have our destinies converge headlong right into one another!

This was the series I was most worried about going into. Would I like it a lot too, or would I be in the small dissenting crowd of folks who hate it? I had so little to base myself on. All I was familiar with were memes out of context, and vague general knowledge. Season 1 of Jojo is comprised of two major parts. These are respectively called Part 1: Phantom Blood, and Part 2: Battle Tendency. For those who don’t know, each major part focuses on another member of the Jojo family. More often than not, the main character is part of the Joestar family and their first name begins with some variation of Jo. This in turn creates the famous nickname of Jojo! The first two Jojo’s are Jonathan and Joseph Joestar.

Jonathan’s world is in that same type of setting as Emma. A Victorian England, but with a lot more style. This is kind of the main caveat of Jojo, a ton of style and a large reference to music throughout history. These two factors are what make each time period in Jojo a little more unique than just a simple time piece. Part 1 is focused on the feud between Jonathan and his adopted brother Dio Brando. Dio is a man of many talents and wants nothing more than to destroy his adopted family. He is a schemer, and will throw himself into reckless abandon to make his dreams come true. Part 1 is a very typical good versus evil storyline that really doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before. Well aside from the surprising ending that makes part 1 end quite abruptly. Outside of that Jonathan and Dio really sit neatly into their roles, and while interesting characters, don’t get a whole lot of time to shine outside of fighting.

Part 2 removes the gentleman of Jonathan, and inserts the brash and cocky Joseph Joestar. A very calculating, and emotional man, who is far less predictable than his late grandfather, and far more interesting. The villains this time around continue the storyline of part 1, but are far scarier and have more of a deep reason for their motivation. Everything in part 2 is basically an improvement that built upon the foundation set in part 1. It’s just all around more creative, and full of flair compared to the humble beginnings of the series. If you are curious though, before I go into the spoilers section, no Jojo is not nearly as strange as most fans make it out to be. Eccentric yes, stylized very much so, weird beyond enjoyment it is not. Jojo is very much a shonen through and through, just with more adult storylines, and characters. Death can happen at any moment, and it’s clearly a massively inspirational series to many a mangaka. Even to this day it’s one of the most referred to series in Japanese anime culture, so you know it is doing something worth talking about.

 

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The Good: I did not expect part 1 did just end with such a gruesome and painful death of the main character. Jonathan may have been lacking, but geez what a way to go. It really set new stakes for Jojo as a whole, and made going into part 2 such a blind experience. I had really no idea what to expect. Then we get the best part of Jojo season 1, part 2, and Joseph Joestar. This is how you create a funny, flawed, charismatic, hero type that is equal parts likable and not. It made for such a more dynamic series of events. His reactions to fellow comrades, villains, or just events in general were far more fun to watch because he kept the viewer on their toes. Jojo is not just style no substance either. There is a lot of fun things to sink your teeth into.(Anyone else think the vampires were odd with how they just absorbed stuff and didn’t use teeth?) Jojo part  2 especially makes this apparent with how much more layers of depth are added to the characters who are introduced. Things in part 1 just sort of happen with no real developments between, but part 2 takes time to really dive in to make things more fleshed out. Sugita as Joseph is easily one of the reasons he stands out so much too. He is a comedic genius with his work, and he makes what is somewhat funny 10x more amusing. Part 2 is also full of fights that are quick and concise, but also full of their own little tricks and turns. I appreciated this more than the 100% straightforward nature of the first part. Part 2 is definitely the saving grace of season 1 of Jojo.

The Bad: It’s not like part 1 is bad persay, but in comparison to part 2, and the rest of this challenge it really doesn’t hold up as well. Similar to what I said about Mob Psycho but in a far worse manner, Jojo part 1 is completely hindered by growing pains. That beginner’s trauma of playing it way too safe to the point that almost everything in part 1 lacks flavor. It’s something you’ve had before, you definitely enjoy the way it tastes, but this meal is done so much better by the restaurant down the road. Jojo part 1 is weak in most regards. Jonathan is a boring gentleman with no other real qualities outside of being manly and chivalrous. Dio is the perfect villain that is only held back by his own pride. The romance and fights are all severly underdeveloped and lacking in any true memorability. Part 1 is that beginning of ever shonen where things just haven’t picked up yet. The totality of it sets the groundwork for the more interesting parts to come, and in the end it makes the start of the journey the least enjoyable. It just needed to do more, and didn’t. The deaths had little impact, the fights were easy to read, and the main leads didn’t carry the story very well. That and most of part 1 takes place in a single night that is just lots of predictable bouts. Part 1 is the part that holds Jojo season 1 back from true greatness.

Random Fact: Jojo and Dio’s big bulky frames are a byproduct of the time it was created. Big men such as Arnold Schwarzenegger & Sylvester Stallone were so iconic they inspired the massive men of Jojo heavily. 

                                                                       

Show: Kyousougiga

Year Aired: 2013

Studio: Toei Animation

Episodes: 10

Source: ONA/Manga/Original Work

Watched For: HitsuWTG

 

For many years this show has been on my radar, simply because oh how recommended it is. I had no other inclinations about it though outside of that. It was liked, and that was it. It was made by Toei, and that was it. What on earth was this zany work that no one really ever talked about in length? I suppose there is a decent subgroup of anime that exist that fall into this category, and it creates initial intrigue, but it doesn’t outright sell the series as something that is a must watch. These types of anime that don’t have an easy and identifiable way to recommend them outside their apparent goodness that lies within.

So what is this little work then? Kyousougiga is a series about a family! In the simplest sense at least. The start of the show has this little bit that talks about a time where humans, and gods and their worlds were blurred and mixed together, and this is the story of a family who is set in that time. There are six major players in this family. The parents, and their four children. They are connected by a deep relationship of love, but none of them truly understand each other as well as they could. The first half of this shorter anime focuses an episode at a time on the family. The pilot for the parents, and the next four for each kid. Giving each character the spotlight to show how they view the world, and their family within it. Their wants, and desires, and why they feel the way they do.

The show definitely beats to the sound of its own drum. It’s pacing and story structure are not what you would call standard fair. Lots of segments are broken up between past and present, and one character is the one taking center stage, but outside of that, the show is a blitzfire of abnormal. The main cast isn’t normal in most senses of the word, but neither is the plot of the world they inhabit. They live in a world that is attached to ours. It’s called The Looking Glass City, and it was a sanctuary created for their family to protect them from the outside world. Each of the main cast has a different opinion of this place, and being locked to this realm, and the show takes the time to show us how they feel on it.

I wouldn’t say most folks would enjoy this anime, if simply for the fact that it’s sort of artsy. Things are very rarely spelled out for you, the series jumps around at will to show whatever it wants, and things escalate and slow down at breakneck speeds. Kyousougiga is one of those shows with a ton to offer. It’s highly stylistic, it covers many types of ideas in complex ways, and it really is a bit about family too. Those type of relationships that run deeper than blood. Kyousougiga is a series that even, I, myself, find it hard to sum up, because I feel it would spoil a lot of what it tries to do. A lot of little set up is crafted to produce something that is wholly unique, and if anything outside of the norm of the typical tropey anime we see 25 of every season.

 

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The Good: This show commits to itself hard. It doesn’t care if the viewer doesn’t quite get what is happening, it just goes with the flow. The pilot was especially bombastic and erratic with pacing that it  was hard to follow at times. The series slowly gives you bread crumbs to munch on, as you learn the evolving mystery as to why the parent suddenly disappeared from their kids lives. I also found myself quite invested in the individual story-lines of the 3 original kids, and how they felt about being trapped in the Looking Glass city for such a long time with no explanation. And of course to shake things up the fourth kid, and the newest character who takes almost center stage for the series, really helps make things a tad more interesting for them all. She literally creates the events that lead to the finale without trying to, and all because she was just curious in her own way to find her mother. I also liked the unique character designs, and style of the show a good deal. It was oozing with pizzazz, and color that was incredibly pleasing to the eye. I always mention that I’m a whore for colors, and I liked these colors a lot!

The Bad: Similar to APFTU this show crammed a little too much in a short amount of time. It was pretty hard to get invested in the events of the series because things just happened so fast. 10 episodes is not a lot of time to create a compelling world if you make your story complex with themes, and characters. I feel Kyousougiga has a lot of enjoy, especially for those who like to think hard on series, but it also just could have once again…done more. The cast is intriguing, but I found myself never really being overly invested in anyone. Well maybe Myoue, but even him, I felt I could have enjoyed a lot more time spent on his inner pain he was suffering from. Things were far too abridged for my taste, and I felt like Kyousougiga is another one that would have excelled even more if the length of the overall narrative was at least a few more episodes in content. It’s a bummer I had at least two shows this year that felt lacking because they tried to over-stuff their run-time with tings, but that really can be a detriment if I’m being honest.

Random Fact: Like many other Japanese works, Kyousougiga gives a nod to Alice in Wonderland. The city of The Looking Glass is a direct homage to the sequel novel of the original work. 

Awards!                                                         

Favorite Character

William Jones : Emma: A Victorian Romance

 

This was a tough call between William, Mob, and Joseph Joestar. They were really the big 3 standouts for me this year. A ton of great characters were in all these shows from Tamako to Shirase, but no one came close to those 3 overall. William gets the nudge for being the character who really makes Emma as a series shine as much as it does.

Least Favorite Character

Viscount Campbell: Emma: A Victorian Romance

 

Dude is a straight up cunt.

Best Cast

A Place Further than the Universe

 

I almost put Mob Psycho here, but I really like the main quad of gals from this show the most. They all get a lot of screentime and attention to their character. We had some fun ensembles with shows like Jojo, Tamako, and Kyousougiga as well, but for me these four made their cast stand out the most.

Favorite Visuals

Mob Psycho 100

 

Something about turning the sort of ugly into gorgeous work is hard to not be impressed by. While pretty much everything this time around vied for this award, outside of Emma, the splendor that is Mob Psycho can not be ignored.

Favorite Music

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

 

This was a toss up between Mob Psycho’s unique tracks, Emma’s classic tunes, and Jojo’s varied ost. I decided to go with Jojo because it was the most fun for me, and this is an arbitrary award after all!

 Favorite Drama Scene

The E-mails: A Place Further than the Universe

 

Hoo boy! Now Tamako has the song revelation, Emma had the amazing finale moment at the Crystal Palace, Jojo had the sinking ship of surprise, Mob Psycho had several 100% moments, and Kyousougiga had Myoue’s backstory over come. Yet nothing moved me this time around quite like this scene where Shirase reads the e-mails. I won’t spoil it, but it’s incredibly moving.

 Favorite Comedy Scene

Reigen appears!: Mob Psycho 100

 

Honestly Mob Psycho had this category easily won from the outset. It’s by far the funniest of all these shows. As much as sun burned Mari makes me grin, the abuse to Dela gets me good, the engrish silliness of Joseph makes me bawl, or anything else these shows had to offer comedy wise, they came no where close to Mob Psycho. Reigen appearing in the compound and lying his way through is just comedy gold, and had tons of great moments with it. His special moves are also quite noteworthy as well.

 Best Fight

Joseph vs Wamuu: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

 

I think it was clear Jojo had an edge here being a battle shonen. It doesn’t have that many good fights, but Wamuu stands out as the best villain of season one by a long shot, and his fight with Joseph is a great capping off point for his character. It starts with a chariot fight, and finishes with its own little surprises. Truly the best fight of this tournament.

Worst OP

Just a very lacking opening for a beautiful track. I think what harms it so much is the far better second rendition of it, and the fact this version plays constantly throughout the show. It runs it’s welcome through the ground, and also there is no Emma in the first opening at all, just the normal places her and William frequent.

2nd Worst was Kyousougiga

Worst Ed

A very pretty song, but it again doesn’t have anything with Emma herself, and it really ends up being a boring way to end each episode. The second ending theme is also superior, funny enough.

2nd worst was Emma’s 2nd ED.

Best OP

I mean come on, what even had a chance against this opening?  It’s better than the rest by a country fucking mile. It’s so filled with symbolism, and the song is absolutely addictive. Nothing, I mean nothing this time around had a chance when pitted against this opening theme.

2nd best was Tamako Market’s with Jojo part 2’s edging nearby

Best ED

I could have put Yes by Roundabout but god it feels like cheating to put a show that is using classic music that is loved by so many already(myself included). So I choose Mob Psycho over it for having a solid song and a gorgeous ending theme visually. Truly something to behold I say!

2nd was indeed Jojos

Well that ends the mini award section! This year it looks like Mob Psycho and Emma respectively took the most categories, although Mob took more positive ones, so it wins the overall awards section!

And the winner is….                       

6. Kyousougiga

Two years in a row I watched six shows, and it gets harder to rank them the more you have to set up. This year especially was difficult with how much I liked most of the series. This was a year of all good series. None of them were bad, and I had a good time with all of them in their own ways. I could find reasons to go back and rewatch each and every one of them. Sadly though Kyousougiga fell the flattest for me. I just had a really hard time caring for the main cast despite it being an intriguing series overall. It’s a superb piece of art, and I know some folks who would eat this stuff up, but me, it just sorta was good enough. It needed more, and I didn’t get it sadly. I am glad I finally got around to seeing it though after all these years. It was worth a sit down if anything. I just had the least to say about it, because it was the show I was the most lukewarm on. Thanks for sharing it though Hitsu!

5. Tamako Market

As Kyoto Animation tends to be, this show was lacking in something. Most of their shows look like this amazing burger of the gods, and then you take a bite and realize they forgot to season the meat! Tamako is a good time, and I was endeared by the market place, and the people who live there. I would love to spend my days like Tamako does earning my points by trying out all the stuff Usagiyama has to offer. But alas I can not, and that is most of what makes Tamako good. The show lacks depth, and a lot of things went unresolved in the end. Thankfully a movie date is awaiting me with my girlfriend so I can hopefully get the closure I so sorely want. See you soon honey, and thanks for the share!

4.  A Place Further than the Universe

Seriously where are the penguins and seals!? I will always say it was missing those fine goods, but mostly this show was a ton of build up to a place that I wanted to explore heavily, and not much time actually spent in the place they talked about all the time. I really felt burnt by the show because of that. I was so ready to sit down, and just eat, breathe, and live the anime version of Antarctica, but I only got a small piece of that. It covered the basics, and the trip was over when I was just getting started. A cute show with a lot to offer, but the thing I was looking forward to most that it was telling me about, just didn’t live up to it in my head. Thanks Dr. Broli for participating, it was great to have some new blood and to experience a show I more than likely would have skipped over.

3. Emma: A Victorian Romance

Hurray for actual romance that goes somewhere!!! Sadness for all the meandering the second half of the show spent not letting the main characters actually interact with one another. Mopey Emma, and not enough of her and William together in scenes in the back half really dragged this show in the mud a bit for me. I was having a blast, and really looking forward to how they would go about overcoming their obstacles, but I got sorely wronged! Thanks Fee for this little gem. I’m glad you gave me the chance to see it, and I hope you can be back next year as one of the few people to participate each year!

2.  Mob Psycho 100

Just like One Punch Man, Mob Psycho was an utter delight. From the distinct art style, to the gag humor that ONE specializes in, this show once again displays the talent he has at creating fun worlds to watch. This series is much more down to earth with the focus on the human psyche and emotion rather than super heroes. I think it makes it ultimately a more relatable anime than One Punch Man, and it has a bit more heart. We can all understand that feeling of being in a battle against our self due to our emotions taking control, and this first season of Mob Psycho did a wonderful job of showing that off. I am eagerly ready for the follow-up season of this well made piece of art. Thanks sis for another good show, that I definitely should have seen earlier!

1. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

After all the years of avoiding this show like the plague, it ended up being a really fun time. After the first two parts I wouldn’t say Jojo is a landmark series for me by any means. It has plenty of issues, but what doesn’t right? The second part of the first season with Joseph Joestar was exactly my type of thing. I grew up on Shonen, and it still holds a more special place in my heart than almost any other genre. Things like One Piece and Yu Yu Hakusho are some of the finest stories I’ve had the pleasure to behold. Jojo is a more mature shonen like them too. Of course it has its silly ass humor and juvenile bits, but all in all, it focuses on adults dealing with issues in very adult ways. It’s stylish as all hell thanks to David Production, and it hits all the right notes with me. I thought Jojo was going to be a pain in my ass to watch, and be too weird to enjoy, but lo and behold it was my favorite of the bunch this year. A super solid shonen series dripping with style, fun characters, exciting fights, and tons of deft balance between comedy & drama at the drop of a hat. Like I said above, I could very much recommend all 6 of these shows, but for Jojo specifically, even though everyone does so, I think you should give it a try if you are afraid to take the leap. If you enjoy shonen type series, then I think more likely than not you will be graced with a potential new favorite, or at least something fun to sit down and experience for the first time. I’m so glad I finally got a chance to watch Jojo, and just like I did last year with Food Wars, this coming year I will more than likely slowly work my way through the rest of the series to get caught up. Jojo is more than just a collection of memes, it was a wild ride that told me how I was going to feel right before I did just like Joseph did to almost everyone he fought against.

Wrap up:

Well Not Marvin or better known as NinjaMushi on Kitsu, congrats to your win! Whenever you get around to reading this, I will get in contact with you and we will work out what type of prize to give you. Other than that, I will see you next year as the defending champion, and will eagerly await your challengers as you attempt to defend your title!

Congratulations! You made it to the end of this behemoth of a post! As always it was quite the undertaking to make it all come to fruition, but in the end it was well worth all the trouble to see these 6 wonderful anime. I thank everyone who participated, and hope to have just as good a time next year. I know this post is rife with mistakes, and what not, but bear with me, I’m no expert editor, and mine for this blog was part of this competition so she can’t fix my mistakes until after the fact! Otherwise, I wish you all a happy holiday season and….

Until Next Time!

See ya My little Wanderers!