Oh my, oh my, here we are again folks! Another year, and another challenge down! I won’t lie though, this year was exhausting to complete. Most of the series I saw were in the two cour range, and I had to watch over 57 hours of content while working a ton, and trying to manage a bit of levity in my sanity. On the other hand, it is always a blast to have so much anime to actually sit down and watch. I haven’t gotten around to watching a lot of anime this year, and this challenge really helped pad my list out a bit. So before I talk about all my individual experiences with them all, I suppose I should once again explain what the challenge is to new readers, and old alike.
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. Afterward, 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 2019 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” to sign up unsaid rule, these are the following rules I use.
-The show’s length must be between 10-30 episodes. No less, no more.
-It must 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 episodes 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 Winner: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 1
Other Shows: Mob Psycho 100(S1), A Place Further than the Universe, Tamako Market, Emma: A Victorian Romance, Kyousougiga
2019 November Challenge!
Show: Silver Spoon
Year Aired: 2013-14
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Episodes: 22(2 Seasons of 11 episodes)
Watched For: NinjaMushi
For many years, I’ve been an avid fan of the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise. The manga and anime were both some of the earliest and best stuff I’ve still experienced. I particularly enjoyed Brotherhood for actually doing the story to a complete close rather than the hijinks of 2003 that I could save for another post. So naturally, I wanted to see what other works Arakawa had produced or was going to make. Often in her author notes in the physical copies of FMA, she would mention her love for farming and background with it. Enter Silver Spoon onto the scene, and you get a series that seems almost personally driven by life experience from this incredible creator. You then may ask, well why did I wait so long to even try out the anime, and a challenge was the catalyst to it finally happening? Well, I’ve got a history of playing the long game, and was hoping the anime/manga of the series would get to completion before that time, so I at least could finish the story in some capacity if the anime did not do so. As the month started, this held true still even, but as these challenges usually go, a weird spark of hope was created in the universe and the final manga chapters have now been confirmed to be finished, and soon delivered to all the hungry readers out there. I guess the timing couldn’t be better huh?
So, Silver Spoon is about the school ventures of a young boy named Hachiken. He attends this farming-based institution with the hope he can find something easy to do as he has no real aspirations he is working towards as of yet. This, of course, backfires hard into his face, as he soon realizes this is no slouch of a place, and the world of agriculture, farming, and livestock upkeep is all very very hard work and requires the utmost diligence. Then over the course of the two seasons he befriends many students, reflects on what he truly wants, and becomes far more enriched with a wealth of knowledge he wouldn’t ever come across without his initial choice. Silver Spoon is a coming of age story to its core, and the focus is mostly of Hachiken getting perspective on this world he was ignorant of, and his very own place within it. A story you have seen a lot, but not in this context, and with the Arakawa flair that made characters like Edward Elric so beloved.
I think if you like slice of life stories or inspirational pieces, Silver Spoon is for you. As someone who is currently still trying to fully figure out what the hell I want to do with my life in the grand scheme of things, the show is certainly one I feel a lot of viewers could strongly relate to. I know many people who fall within the anime watching demographic are constantly unsure of what to do next, and Hachiken is a vehicle to take us on a journey of discovery. Silver Spoon teaches a lot about a world most people probably have limited or fairly close to zero actual insight on, yet I feel that is only a part of what makes the show have the appeal it does. It is a story that is humanized with the struggle of our societal condition to told we have to choose now what we want. People will think you are terrible, or misguided and foolish if you don’t have a plan, or at least that is what societal expectations spring onto a large number of young minds. It’s a pressure-filled sword that helps and destroys at the same time. Some people need that extra push, yet many of us despise being so relegated to a goal without much personal thought or actual input. Hachiken is a character broken down and tired from these very expectations, and Silver Spoon is an anime that puts on a full showcase that a little introspection and time taken might help slowly give clarity to what you truly want in life. It reminds me of another show I love Barakamon in that aspect, but where Barakamon is about reevaluating an already made course, Silver Spoon is about creating one that only you can. I’d say it’s an anime many people will resonate with, so if that calls to your inner pathos, or you just want to see a cute pig or two, then maybe check it out.
The Good: If my sales pitch above to try and get the average anime watcher didn’t make it clear, I thought Silver Spoon was a good inspiration piece of anime. I sort of expected this going into it to be fair. I loved FMA, and when you watch a few episodes of this, the care of her character writing shines through once again. Hachiken is one of the most “real” anime characters I can think of. The things he feels, complains, lauds, and gets exasperated by are all just so easy to say to yourself, “Ah, yeah I have felt that before.” The series steadily, and impressively weaves a compelling world based on his growth as a person at the center of everything. That is a great way to tell a lot of stories, but if you fail to make the main lead a convincingly empathetic one, then you are doomed to fail. I loved learning and seeing Hachiken grow, it was easily my favorite part of the whole series. The ensemble cast of students and teachers really felt like they coexisted in a world where they were all moving towards their futures, and it was incredibly awesome to see it all in motion. Obviously, one of the best characters to see Hachiken help influence their growth though was Mikage. The chemistry built between the two was the top tier sort of relationship-building you want to see in two characters. Their hopeful future romance is something I crave desperately to see, so I will clearly have to go read the manga soon to get those answers. I would assume the average viewer learned a great deal as well from the information aspect of the series. A lot of information is fed to the viewer describing general farming practices, and specific animal handling techniques. I am an avid lover of animals in general, so even though I already knew a good chunk of the things they taught, it was fun to see all the little tidbits they did toss out. The love for the world of farming is clear, and you can tell that there is an aspect so deeply rooted to Arakawa. Silver Spoon was a delightful time, and if they made the 3rd season I would gladly watch it now. I will though instead wait a few weeks and binge read the mange to completion when the time comes. Glory be to Arakawa Sensei!
The Bad: While I did have a great time with the series overall, just like anything, it wasn’t without personal faults. Season 1, in particular, is where most of my largest gripes came with. And honestly, I think it is more of an individual thing that most people might not even care about. As I mentioned above I love animals, so being put in a place where I had to accept that animals were going to be put down was upsetting to me. It’s mostly why I always decided to not be a vet. My compassion for animals is so high it would emotionally take a large toll on me to do surgery, and put animals who are suffering down. I understand the reality of the farming industry quite well, and that is what is going to happen, but man I was really hoping the series would at least salvage that first baby pig that Hachiken loved and raised so tenderly. That would go against the general idea of the series though, so I understand completely why it happens the way it does. Still, though a small part of me gets a little sad every time I look at pigs from the gifs of the series now! The only other major component of the series that really rubbed the wrong way is going to be the most obvious one. The series isn’t over! We get left mid-story arc for so many parts, and I sorely wanted more. One of the worst feelings any anime can give you is the desire to see more, and more exists out in the world, but it isn’t going to be animated ever likely. I truly am invested in this world now, and to be left cold turkey in the middle of the story burns just a little. I guess you know what that means it is time to do!
Random Fact: A “silver spoon” is a saying in regards to wealthy born people who are either unappreciative or undeserving of their spot in life. In the anime, this is meant to hold the reverse sentiment that all of the students should always work hard towards something they are proud of as to never be complacent of their status, and only proud of their accomplishments.
Show: Big Windup
Year Aired: 2007
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Watched For: BYtheHorns
If you know me, you know I really like a lot of things. I like cats, games, beautiful people, chocolate, and well a lot of other specific things as well. One of my cornerstone hobbies I enjoy investing copious amounts of time into though is watching and reading about baseball. I somehow got incredibly lucky that Japan as a country loves it as much as the USA so I get to watch lots of anime about the sport as well! If I’m being on the lowkey end of reactions, I would have to say this was maybe the anime I was most eager to watch this challenge because of my longstanding adoration for the sport of baseball. I love it in real life, and I love it in anime. I even have a goal at some point to try and completely watch every anime centered around baseball during my lifetime. That very well could be a death sentence in the works, but hey at least I can enjoy America’s greatest past-time in animated glory!
Big Wind-up really doesn’t shy away from being about as prototypical as you get for a premise of a sports anime. Especially when you consider it’s one about the ole base and balls. What’s the goal here? The team wants to form a strong communion together to try and make it to Koshien. Koshien for those who are unfamiliar with it is the massive baseball championship tournament, and if you win your region you can play on a national level and get all the renown you can imagine. It’s a national event in Japan during the summer, so it really isn’t a surprise that every highschool anime with baseball leading the charge has this as the end goal. However, Big Wind-up isn’t like your Ace of the Diamond, or Major, where the main character is just got an innate talent that is what is going to set themselves apart in the end. This is a story of a bunch of ragtag kids trying to make it big with good old fashioned hard work.
If you love baseball this show is a given, but I do think this series takes the pace at a level that non-fans would get something out of it. I even know that for a fact since the two people who wanted to talk to me about it first(and the one who gave it to me for this challenge) really aren’t that into the sport but adored the series. Big Wind-up in as involved as I have ever seen an anime get into a game of baseball. Where most anime focus on key at-bats and slow the pace to a crawl to make specific events stand out before zipping through a few innings, Big Wind-up takes a far different approach. The second half of the season is about 13 episodes long, and 10 and half of those are a single game. While that seems exhaustive(and it might be for some folk), the reason it is this way is just about every single at-bat is shown in some capacity. Something most anime gloss over in favor of keeping the game about the highlights, Big Wind-up is focused clearly on how every single moment of the game influences the outcome in some way. The author studied for years before making this series, and it shows. This series reminds me of Yuri on Ice in how the ambition for showing how involved the sport comes before trying to sell the series. Big Wind-up doesn’t have gay relationships to compensate for this though. So, I would say the average anime viewer has slept on this series because of that fact. If you like anime like Haikyuu, or Kuroko, I really feel this anime deserves to be given a shot because it also is quite driven by a love of the game. And as a baseball fan, that is something I can appreciate.
The Good: You know for this series being really invested into making the baseball game, not about homers, and perfect games but how each small moment defines the outcome, it really was quite impressive. I always talk about with my sister how sports anime really ignore a lot of smaller things and rules in favor of being more exciting first and foremost. Which, you know I totally get. No one is gonna buy the shit you make if you can’t keep them invested. And most people would see a ten-episode game as an excuse to not watch this series. But you know while their shorter practice game lingered a little too long, the big game that defined the second half was brimming with just pure baseball. They delved deep into pitcher fatigue, pitcher tip-offs, pitch counts, batter recognition, field condition, player condition, adjustments, and so many other things. It isn’t the best game I’ve ever seen in an anime simply because the emotional weight isn’t on par with some other things I’ve experienced, but from a simple point of the most accurate game I could think of, I feel this wins by a mile. I loved how involved the series was. This creator clearly loves baseball and wanted to show what goes on in the minds of the players throughout the course of the entire ballgame in each situation small or big. Because that is the thing, in a game like baseball, it is a real team sport. If a player keep striking out but using up lots of pitches then he informs his teammates which made lead to their own success. Every part of the game leads to the eventual win or loss the teams suffer, and to really encapsulate that fact is the largest compliment I could give to this series.
The Bad: However, well your series delves so hardcore into one thing, other factors fall to the wayside. I do think the general cast is likable enough, but there is a lot of dead weight being tossed around. The series is like 75% just two single games, which leaves little to no time for players to actually evolve as people off the field. Mihashi is also problematic as the main lead. I love the fact that he isn’t the most talented person in the universe, and that he excels with a Greg Maddux styled pitching of control. He is fun to watch play, but god damn is he the most non-commital personality I’ve ever seen in an anime. I understand his trauma fine, and how it dictates his negative mindsets, and lack of confidence, but in general he rarely ever actually communicates properly with anyone and it gets tiring when the main character only seems to have to mindsets. One where he is down on himself and making life terrible for everyone(not really but they believe they are), and the other just frantically excited but with no actual words giving us a proper explanation to their feelings. He is the weakest link by far. The outer and inner parts of other characters like Tajima, Hanai, and Abe are shown with how the dichotomy exists. They don’t always say what they feel, but we get an understanding of their thoughts as well. Mihashi doesn’t really give much on either aspect because he is consistently a negative nancy and it really makes it hard to root for him when he doesn’t seem to believe in his teammates supporting him. The lack of proper character moments is easily the largest detriment to the series overall. I loved the games and how they played out, and they really shine brightly, but the cast barely evolves in the 25 episodes and I would be lying if I wasn’t disappointed by that. I also thing the cinderella story of them winning was cool but I will be in disbelief if they continue to never lose with a team that lacks the practice than others do. I will for sure proceed onto the following content though to see how the story and cast move along. I just solemnly hope what is lacking shows up in the future.
Random Fact: The longest continuous baseball game with no breaks was in 1974 between the Cardinals and Mets and would last for 25 innings and a whopping 7 hours and 4 minutes.
Show: Dennou Coil
Year Aired: 2007
Source: Original Work
Watched For: Greebo
In the anime industry, it is extraordinarily rare for original works to come out surprisingly enough. I would wager this most is due to pre-established works are a more likely successful venture to sell than something no one has any idea what it is. Even more regular in occurrence is an anime original just not getting any real exposure and being forgotten as the years trickle by steadily. Dennou Coil is a perfect example of this actually. I would confidently say the average modern anime fan has neither seen it nor really heard of it unless they are the well-researched type. Unless an anime makes an explosive force into the industry similar to the likes of Gurren Lagann, after a few years it is likely to be nothing more than a memory of that year. So, what on earth is this forgotten relic of….oh my it has only been a little over ten years? Boy howdy, does the medium forget so quickly.
Dennou Coil is a sci-fi story that blends parallel worlds, technology, and mystery into one package. If I could give it one simple description to a non-anime viewer it would probably be something like this. I relate the feeling of the story to that of something akin to a Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys novelization. They normally focused on a younger group of intelligent and resourceful people trying to solve a mystery that wasn’t being delved into by adults or the general population. You get this mixture of young adult spunk, and clever narrative structure to keep the reader invested. Dennou Coil approaches its world in a similar vein, and the main group of kids from the school are at the forefront of the mystery trying to unravel the secrets before them. Now that I think about it a little harder, there really are a lot of proper mystery anime out there are there?
The premise of Dennou Coil starts unassuming enough with a young girl trying to find her lost dog, and then slowly she gets caught up in this multi-layered mystery about a death, and so much more. There is a parallel world tied to the normal one where these dark beings called illegals come from, and everything seems tied to finding a way to open a path to their world. It’s dangerous, and often unexplained to keep the viewer constantly in a state of mystery. Through these advanced glasses that most people, and especially kids use, they can view a digitized world, and see things that the naked eye can not. Through means engaged through the glasses, many things can be discovered but there is even a risk at splitting your normal body from a digital one and being forever lost. The main cast throws themselves headlong into trying to save someone precious, regardless of the incredibly perilous circumstances. As things slowly become more clear, you start to unpack lots of little things that make you have the classic AH-HA! moment. If you really like a dense mystery with a ton of symbolic messages sprinkled throughout as it all comes to an emotional head, then I would be remiss not to recommend this series to you. Also, this show has a best doggo, so keep that in your mind as well!
The Good: This series is imaginative in scope, and idea execution. We often get questions posed in media on how technology could change our daily lives drastically, and some stories do a better job than others explicitly showing this. I feel Dennou Coil understands it well. The way makes the glasses seem so required to everything and anything the kids are doing is expertly shown. There is even a point where there is a mass exodus on the glasses, and all the parents confiscate them for the children’s protection. They all then look and feel so hopeless in their situation. It is so much like cellphones and computers today. If you take that away from the average kid or teen, or even young adult, watch how they don’t seem to know how to function anymore. I also thought the mystery aspect of the show found that nice blend of being slightly eerie, and also rather captivating to see how it would turn out as more information was fed to the viewer. This is mostly helped by the majority of the cast like Amasawa and Haraken having personal stakes in the mystery that they wanted to find answers for. Which in turn, creates those attached to them to get dragged further into the mystery. The story does a nice job of slowly unpacking all its boxes so as not to overwhelm the viewer because there is a lot of made-up world jargon you have to put up with. I love little stories though, where you have these kids being so flipping heroic, and hell it’s such a cool concept for the main character to have a literal digital dog that they see as real as the cat laying next to me right now as I type this. Reality is such a fragile and malleable thing when presented with items that can bend and distort the very meaning of what it means. All in all the best hero moment goes to that doggo Densuke. He literally sacrifices himself to save the others, and even after he is gone continues to guide them to safety. That is the goodest of bois. Without his doggo love, a lot of the story doesn’t get kicked off or solved either. It’s the little things sometimes you have to note as being more important.
The Bad: You know how I mentioned jargon above? It’s a real problem in this series. They are constantly using abstract terms and ideas to describe their plight or weapons, and it really makes you kinda just shrug and roll with it since they aren’t gonna bother to explain it in concise and pragmatic terms. It’s such a large hurdle that it created a massive detriment to the series overall for me. I rather like how the mystery plays out, and how both Yuko’s are literally linked to one another, but jargon-filled series are a problem. There were so many times where something about the Other Side, or their glasses were brought up with some term, and it wouldn’t be explained for a long time afterward or it would never be made more clear so you had to use context clues to kinda grasp how everything worked. The series is so rooted in being mysterious that I feel sometimes it gets lost in its own complexity. It didn’t help that there were a few episodes that totally detracted the pacing of the story into one-off individual stories that really while enjoyable(Like the Denpa Nessi one!), didn’t really help do much for the overall narrative or character growth. This same issue is present in another show from this event, and it’s not something I like to gloss over really. When you are building a compelling and interesting story, most people don’t like being interrupted several times to go see the sights of the town. Stop giving me a tour, and use that time to further elaborate on what some of your terms and rules of your world are. The show respects the viewer’s intelligence which I love, this is something that some creators don’t do like Ikuhara, but in a similar stature, it also refuses to explain complex ideas that only exist in the fantasy world being presented to us. I don’t want to be spoonfed, but when it takes me a dozen episodes to get an answer to a common term being used because no one was explaining it because its commonplace knowledge for them, well then I have a problem.
Random Fact: The closest we’ve gotten to a real digital world of power in glasses form is the Google Glasses. Maybe by 2026 we will see something even similar to Dennou Coil, which would make it a fairly accurate depiction of modern tech growth.
Year Aired: 2017
Studio: Silver Link
Source: Light Novel
Watched For: Myopicfirework
If there is one thing that is universally enjoyed and needed by the masses it is food. We all love it, crave it, and daydream about the most delicious things our imaginations can come up with. In the past decade or so, we have started to see a slight increase in anime with food as the focus. There are the mega-popular shows like Food Wars, and smaller nick nack titles like Gourmet Girl Graffiti. I normally enjoy this type of series for the hunger level they produce within me. I usually don’t know what other expectations to set in my head, and while Big Wind-Up was the series I was most eager to see how it would turn out, this was the show I felt had the largest chance to be a flop. This was basically on the basis of the moe girl on the cover of everything plastered for it, so I assumed it was more focused on the cute element of her and little else. I enjoy when I’m wrong and just to the wrong conclusions, because then I get surprised by something unexpected, and altogether comfy.
Isekai Shokudou is about food. I know I already said that above it was a food-centered anime, but I mean this show is actually just about the wonderful and scrumptious world of food. Every single episode is split into a segment of a short story regarding a patron of the Restaurant Nekoya. This magical door attached to this restaurant in Japan that once a week creates dozens of doors in a fantasy universe filled with knights, magic, and all manners of beasts. So, each episode one of these residents of this world either discovers this door or go through it again to introduce someone else to the Restaurant. The menu is mostly focused on Western Styled gourmet food with small Eastern influences mixed in from the chef. They offer a variety of main courses, desserts, and free soup/bread refills throughout the meal. Each and every story of the Nekoya is tied to the customer, and their connection to the food they are eating. Usually, it brings up some sort of dormant memory of their past or gives them a spark of inspiration for their future. Regardless of the attachment, the food is the star of the series, and how it affects every person who consumes it.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t an easy sell on something like a simple concept like, here look at how this yummy food makes this person happy! It’s hard not to share empathy and desire your own future meal when you see things cooked in anime form so deliberately well. Most of the dishes are on the simpler side so it makes it actually easy to envision ordering it somewhere or going out to buy ingredients to prepare it at home. It’s always been a big complaint of mine that most anime that love talking about food or showing it off, use incredibly involved recipes that would take tons of time and practice to make even remotely well. Cooking is an art form, and anime likes to show off the result but forgets that the more complex it is, the less likely anyone will ever make it without lots of repetition and time. Isekai Shokudou really does feel like it understands general food that people love, and it keeps things simple and smart. Food doesn’t have to sound like its off of a 3-Star Michelin Star Restaurant to be appetizing, and anime like this excel at showing it off. So, if you just love food, and I think most of us do, I would give this series a top general recommend to most anime fans.
The Good: This was the series that caught me off guard by and large. I really didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The series does have some slight issues, but it is so comfy and relaxing to watch. I ended up getting a snack or making food to have while watching it several times because of how hungry it was making me. I date a food fanatic, so I often discuss and hear all sorts of fun food ideas. And one of the most common things me and her do is talk about food memories and how amazing they were. This show is basically a collection of people having a fantastic meal they adore and wanting to experience it time and time again so they do. I’ve talked about the food aplenty, but one thing I’ve hardly mentioned I really enjoyed was the small world-building of this fantasy universe with the varied and interesting colorful cast of characters we were getting introduced to every episode. We have folk like a stunning beefcake of a lion warrior to waifu material treasure hunters to old wizards who enjoy a nice pint to gorgeous sickly princesses who love ice cream. The myriad of different people was impressive, and really helped create a unique diverse world of people. The best part too was despite their own opinions of separate races, or areas of the world, they all shared one thing in common they could bond over. The power of food transcends normal conventions of race, age, or power, and it shows that we all need and desire a nice delectable meal. This is genuinely a series I would have been fine with it being 50 episodes of this sort of content. I learned more about these characters and their entire world in 12 episodes of them enjoying some good grub then some series ever manage to do in their entire runtime.
The Bad: Of course the show isn’t without any faults. One of the most notable things from any person would be that the series is basically a one-trick pony. It uses the same concept every episode and that is what is solely relies on. This repetitive nature could easily burn out most people if they tried to binge the show in one to two sittings. This factor, on top of not having a real end goal to the story, makes it feel like it will either be endless or just a collection of short stories with no overarching goal. This isn’t really a terrible thing per se, but it would nice if there was so sort of small goal it reached towards if it were to continue. However, as a person who enjoys a nice short story, maybe I’m blowing smoke and it is fine just being a simple collection of fuzzy food time. This series doesn’t do a lot out of its established comfort zone so it really is hard to fault it on too many fronts. I guess I just love food too much.
Random Fact: Michelin stars are a rating system that defines a restaurant’s quality. 1 star is good, 2 is excellent, and 3 is exceptionally worth trying at least once in a lifetime.
Show: Outlaw Star
Year Aired: 1998
Watched For: JoAnnetheRed
The 1990s was quite a time to be born into. There is something every decade of media tends to do, and this was the fact once again in the ’90s. There always tends to be a wave of creative movement that pretty much defines parts of the decade with an unique style and distinct flavor. If we were to look at 90’s anime, one of the outstanding categories you would see a good bit was the Space Western. Futuristic stories that held a rustic wild wild west feel when they were on the actual planets. It was like a mixture of the popular mecha influencing space ship battles, and the desire to make snappy shooty combat on the more terrestrial areas of the story. Outlaw Star falls squarely into this little meld alongside series like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. You bring the science to my western and I raise you so guitar riffs. Everyone pull out your glock, and get locked and loaded for a rootin, tootin, 90s anime shootout!
Gene Starwind is a humble bounty hunter who alongside his young and talented partner Jim are just trying to make ends meet. While they are staking their lives for that, Jean is pretty much just enjoying the high life of partying until he hits it “big” someday. Suddenly a new job comes up, and it is more than he bargained for. Suddenly space pirates are after his head as he salvages some cargo which just happens to be…..well I wouldn’t want to spoil one of the first real surprises of the series. Let’s just say this is the kick start for the whole narrative, and Jean from this point is on a track for a completely different life. He ends up eventually a captain of a space ship, trying to track down clues for his past and his fellow crewmates. The moment the ignition really fires up, the series becomes a proper space western with all sorts of hijinks and colorful cast members to boot. Everything from a very forward homosexual business partner to a deadly female samurai who never misses her mark. You have all the proper recipe for a classic of the time period.
As things progress, Outlaw Star sort of bounces between the main story and side content. I feel this was also a common trope of the time to want to differentiate the feel to keep things fresh. Outlaw Star basically never wants to settle on a single area for too long, in turn wanting to keep the pace fast, and hectic for a more rambunctious ride. Thankfully, as we get close to the end of all the plot points, the show does properly focus on a conclusion to it all. So, no you do not have to worry about being left in the dust for answers to basic questions the main cast are looking for. If you like high octane action of the 90s, I feel Outlaw Star would fit that vibe well. It is a vulgar, gun filled, babes galore, space ship action supplied the 90s filled time, that hits all the boxes for people who love that sort of thing. If you like guns, boobs, or/and or space and don’t really want an anime to make you think too much, this is a good choice to fill that void.
The Good: This series has all the charm of the anime I grew up with. A lot of the classics I mention that really defined that period of anime are things I either grew up watching or got back to later. There are some really fun parts to this series. It also has distinct and memorable cast members. Something I find anime of today lacks are actual memorable character designs in a general sense. A lot of people are trying to bank off of the actual good stuff, and once again make their product forgettable as all hell. This happens all the time sadly in every decade, but Gene, Jim, Melpheena, and crew are easily recognizable and are characters I doubt I will forget. I mean Gene Starwind sounds like an action star for goodness sakes! There are also some pretty good episodes to fill in the overall catalog. Some of the most notable ones I enjoyed most were the race, and the prison break. Those are kind of cliche is action stories, so part of it might be my pension for old school tricks being used to cater to me, or maybe they were just too fun not to have a good time with. I felt Outlaw Star was its best when it was doing something that was built around that idea too. If the storyline happening had something more energetic or cool it was usually the standout part. The wrestling segment, for example, was super fun, and it actually gave Aisha a decent character moment for once. These small parts of what I will remember most fondly of my time with Outlaw Star.
The Bad: What I will not remember happily is how unengaging and poorly paced the main story is. For so long it feels like the series is just meandering without working towards a purpose, except we already know what the goal is. So, while a lot of the one-off storylines were some of the most enjoyable to watch, they were also rather detracting from the already weakest link of the whole shebang. Outlaw Star literally starts off with a bang when it introduces Mel, and they go salvage the ship as well, and then we get an early character death right afterward too. It’s fun, exciting, and surprising how the story is keeping up on our toes. Then we kinda get stranded to them just never having money to do anything or make any progress until it basically falls straight into their lap, usually by accident. It really makes most of the plot revelations feel unearned if anything. And similar to Dennou Coil, when you constantly pull the viewer out of the immersion by not staying focused on what really matters, when it does come back around it’s much harder to actually care. Sadly though, unlike Dennou Coil, this show doesn’t really give a satisfying ending to the totality of the events the occur. We get another classic anime trope that is usually meant to be like shocking wow cool and is really just confusing and style over actual writing substance. We get this metaphysical being who is attached to Mel who is the core of the Galactic Leyline, and like most of the other otherworldly shit in this series is so vague is the explanation it really doesn’t give you much to be satisfied with. I hate when we are just told, this is some all-powerful thing that exists, but we don’t care to really give more depth to it from that point so deal with it. I don’t mind when the series is full of mystical nonsense but they try to pragmatically explain it all. I, however, have a general distaste when the series is mostly normal but these random magical things exist without much actual discourse going into how it all works or where it originates from at least. Outlaw Star excels in general small scale things, but it fails hard in the big story department. Oh, that and Aisha is one of the most grating anime characters I’ve ever seen, I could have done without her.
Random Fact: Episode 23 did not air originally in the West due to a large amount of nudity in the episode. Which is why most anime sites incorrectly list it as a special instead of what it really is.
Year Aired: 1978
Studio: Nippon Animation
Watched For: Fukuchi
There are few greater legends, if any, in the anime industry than the one and only Hayao Miyazaki. He helped craft many of the most influential and important worldwide accepted anime content ever made. He, Takahata, and Suzuki would later go on to make the beloved Studio Ghibli, who most every anime fan has at least one movie from them they love. However, before that time, Takahata, and in this case, Miyazaki, were like any other anime creator. They helped support in their own ways and worked their way slowly into the director’s chair. Anne of Green Gables is Takahata’s big work before Ghibli, and for Miyazaki it was Future Boy Conan. And in his classic style, this series is one of heroics, nature versus man, and the fallout of their collision head-on.
Future Boy Conan was originally a novel that was adapted into anime, and Miyazaki really had to clean it up. Because this book is not for children, unlike the anime counterpart. Which is really interesting when you think of how this story starts regardless.Conan is set a few decades after the world fallout of a proper World War 3, and how Nuclear Weaponry dropped all over the planet annihilated almost every living species on the planet. The only survivors were a small group of people who escaped into the atmosphere via space ship and who crash-landed back down onto an uninhabited and destroyed Earth. We pick back up with the story several decades following this event where the only two people left seemingly are an old man and his grandson Conan. Suddenly a girl washes up one day as Conan is fishing, and she tells the grandfather that more people do in fact still live. She is being chased by a group of people who proceed to capture her and wreak havoc on this tiny island. The result causes Conan to embark alone into the world to rescue this girl named Lana, and find out what remains in this wide-open desolate world.
Similar to most Ghibli works, this anime is an adventure series through and through with tons of overtones of nature needing to prevail over the weapons of machinations created by man’s folly and greed. If you have seen Nausicaa, Laputa, or Mononoke these themes are true blue Miyazaki to his core. Some of the early characters are even quite reminiscent in behavior to many of his lead characters in his films. If you love Ghibli, then you will no doubt have a really good time with this series. It builds slowly, and deftly to create a world of characters that are easy to love or hate depending on how they meant to be. Conan is a work that stands on its own as a fine piece of storytelling even 40 plus years. It’s a testament to how people like Miyazaki, Takahata, Tezuka, and many of the other super important creators didn’t just define anime for generations to come, they damn right made timeless works worth revisiting.
The Good: Most people who know me even a little know I’m an avid fan of the works of Ghibli in general. I do have favoritism towards Miyazaki’s work, but outside of a few stinkers most of them are excellent. This works in favor of Conan because of most of the finest elements of what makes Conan well….Conan are the same devices used in the best of the best early Ghibli works. Excellent heroic characters, ruthless evil villains, a sense of beauty within destruction, stubborn inspiring female leads, and so many more things are all present here like most of his works. I know it feels lazy to not mention the specifics, but in the general sense, this feels like a Ghibli television series is why I want to bring it up so much. A lot of what makes Conan, Lana, and their adventures to story Industria from trying to take the small world by force are the same elements that make Ghibli films such a fantastic romp time and time again. On the specific side, I love how Conan is just a beast of a boy. The feats he manages in this show are not just incredible sometimes, they are like spiderman spectacular. He is such an energetic lead who doesn’t let anything get in his way. Want to try and sink him to the bottom of the ocean with magnetic locks? He will swim with them as hard as he can for minutes until rescue comes. Want to see if he can be locked to a steel wall? He with the force of his might break the bolts and wall to set himself semi-free. He is one who makes a difference, and it’s hard to not see how Lana believes in him so. When he was handing from an airplane wing by just his toes, I knew he was made of a different meld than the average hero. The story has a nice setup, rising action, and the pay off to the end is gloriously wonderful and charming. This series understand what is wants in the end and claims it fully. This really makes me realize I need to watch more classics of the 70s-80s because a lot of things just don’t get talked about these days anymore that are deserving.
The Bad: You know, I don’t have a lot to say in this portion. This show is excellent in most regards. There are some parts of dated humor, and animation at parts, and sometimes the story just gives a win to the heroes because well they need one, yet those are mostly fine with me. If you wrote a story 40 years ago, more than likely some things will not age perfectly, and this holds true with most stories. There is a different landscape for what the general consensus feels versus back then. Stuff like Dyce clearly having a bit of a crush on Lana is a bit creepy but when you think of how few women exist in that world, especially young and cute ones, in a post-apocalypse, it’s hard to not assume most men would be willing to desire that. It was common in medieval times so why wouldn’t it be in the future where most of man is gone. Outside of a few humor pieces though, and plot conveniences that work out in perfect favor, I can’t say much really irked me with Conan. It has small faults, but no show is without those. I feel it does an admirable job with the content it produces, and for it being a work older than me by over 10 years, I can only tip my cap to the effort put in. I didn’t even mention how impressive it was that this show was several minutes longer than anime of today, and back then it was harder to produce!
Random Fact: The show fell way behind schedule at one point and when at the brisk of disaster NHK to help the team out aired a special program to allow extra time to finish the series. Without them doing so, the show might have fallen into pieces midway into production.
Hachiken: Silver Spoon
There were a chunk of wonderful characters who could have filled this spot, but Hachiken has the most growth and he is the one I would easily want to see more of as his life progresses. He is a prime example of how you create a lead character who can carry their series in so many factions.
Least Favorite Character
Aisha: Outlaw Star
Damn, what is it with the 90’s an annoying catgirls. Aisha is a literal ear scratching pain in the ass for the majority of her screen time. She is a running montage of causing troubles and complaining. I would have been fine if she wasn’t even a part of the series.
In the same vein that Hachiken is an amazing lead, the rest of the cast is just as worthwhile. Arakawa is no slouch to impressive world-building, and her skills are on display in full once again with the lovely student body of Silver Spoon.
While it might not technically be the best animated of the bunch, I really do love two things this series does. One, the food is impressively appetizing as anime often does, and the character designs are varied and very colorful. That alone made it my favorite to watch from a purely visual standpoint.
Future Boy Conan
MIyazaki seems to have a knack to finding people who help create good music to support his envisioned anime works. A lot of solid tracks that made the fantasy world of Conan feel truly realized.
Favorite Drama Scene
Hachiken’s hard work isn’t unnoticed
I won’t delve into spoilers, but this scene has such a level of payoff that I would be a fool not to pick it for the award here. Hachiken has been working towards a goal, and when he thinks he fails, he gets a reprieve from his fellow friends that he isn’t being taken for granted.
Favorite Comedy Scene
Conan & Jimsy Try to One-Up the Other
Conan has a lot of silly scenes, but the initial meeting of Conan and Jimsy and their showing of skill is just goofy in the best of ways. It cements their lifelong trust and friendship in just a few minutes and creates a regular gag greeting they give each other.
Nishiura v.s. Tosei
I said it above, and I stand by it, this game is utterly fantastic in how it depicts the many details of a baseball game. Truly something to be proud of.
Now to be fair I don’t think the opening is even bad. I actually like most of the openings in general and thought I had a great selection. However something had to be put here, and this one lacked the most for me in just the slight touches.
2nd worst: Restaraunt To Another World OP
Every year I somehow get at least one anime with just atrocious ending themes that are about as interesting as watching flys fuck. Outlaw Star wins the award without any contention from me. Just boring to watch. Not engaging to listen to, and the visuals have almost zero to do with the actual series.
2nd worst Outlaw Star Ending 1
This was tough to choose, but I settled on the rocking beats of this OP. Where the ending themes are as bad as they get, this opening is 90’s swank anime at its finest.
2nd best: Dennou Coil Opening
Picking my poison with two amazing ending themes from the same series to win it out. One is by the charming and fantastic Sukima Switch, but Goosehouse won me over once again. The watercolored art style plus the pep to the song just edged out the first ending by a small amount.
2nd best: Silver Spoon ED 1
And the winner is….
6. Outlaw Star
There is a part of me that always hates this part. I genuinely didn’t hate anything this year, so ranking the shows is far harder than it normally is. However, the bottom spot this time goes to the action crazed Outlaw Star. It has some incredibly fun parts, and I love the style to it all, but the main narrative kinda fell flat on its face for me. I had a hard time connecting to the main cast, and really felt like most of the explanations for the weirder side of the story wasn’t all that coherent or enjoyable in the end. I do wholeheartedly believe the average fan of action and 90s anime goodness would have a delightful time with this series though. It is chock full of the stuff that some of the most legendary anime from that time period also share. Well, Gene better luck next time alright?
5. Dennou Coil
Dennou Coil is a show that I probably admire the most out of all of these. Original works with ideas unique to their world are the types of stories I crave to see more of. I love a fine adaptation and all, but nothing is more enthralling than the brainchild of a creator in the works. This show has a fantastic mystery and the pay off is well worth admission alone. I do think the pacing is a little stumbled which makes it harder to stay consistently invested though. That on top of these made-up terms that take several episodes to even get a proper handle on what they mean and how they function makes for a divisive time. I really think mystery anime that excel at telling a proper story are rare in anime, so if you haven’t thought about checking out this series, and really love sci-fi then I implore you to give this a shot. Where some parts felt disjointed to me, I feel in general this series is a hidden gem in the rough.
4. Big Wind-Up
Baseball is a lifeblood of mine that really sells me hard on most things. Big Wind-up has it in spades too. It manages to tell an exhaustive game detailing the majority of the at-bats, and it really never bores during the course of it either. I certainly will be continuing my time with the series for the baseball alone if the other parts of the anime don’t improve enough to my liking. Because that is the major crux here I feel. Big Wind-up is fantastic when it goes into the baseball, but the character writing and development takes a backseat to it most of the runtime. Mihashi and crew have specific traits, feelings, and worries that don’t evolve in the course in the slightest. This is mostly because how little time actually evolves in the actual world of Big Wind-Up from the first game to the ending of the season. People don’t change that quickly, but it also makes the show lack that quality that really helps define other sports anime. Too bad most other sports anime don’t have the loving detailed craft to go into their games like this one. If we could take from both then that sweet spot would be perfection.
3. Restaraunt to Another World
Outside of this show being full of more waifus than your average series, this show is just so damn wholesome. It’s hard to see for an outlooker I bet, but if you delve into the nitty-gritty you might get surprised like I did. This show just goes broke telling stories of food fueled passion, and I adore it for that. Comfy anime are some of the ones I enjoy the most. The two types of anime that really speak to me are ones with amazing stories to tell, and ones that make me feel incredibly relaxed with an atmosphere of homeliness. This show came in the middle of the challenge and was the perfect palette cleanser for me to just have something small and sweet to munch on while I ventured forth. I honestly had low expectations for this, but this was the series I almost want to recommend the most out of all of these. It is just a fun time filled with food time. And if you don’t love big cool lizard men eating omurice with glee, then what are you doing with your life?
2. Silver Spoon
I had a suspicion Silver Spoon was going to hit well with me. It has to do with animals, and the world and characters were penned by Arakawa herself? Yeah, that seems like a match made in heaven too. It nearly won the whole competition from the start because of just how superbly told it all is. Hachiken evolves so much in the course of 22 episodes, the romance being built is the biggest ship I’ve seen in some time for me, and the series is just full of adorable animals! This series has little faults with it, and it gets better and better as it proceeds along. I know for a fact I only held off reading the rest of the story because it was unfinished and I didn’t want it to impede my ratings here accordingly. This show is full of passionate people trying to build their futures, and it is the most proper coming of age story I’ve watched this year. The only reason it didn’t have a chance at winning is the top show was just as excellent, and the lack of a proper conclusion really left a bad taste in my mouth. Some anime can get away with it, but when I’m doing one of these big face-offs, you best know that leaving me with an open-ended story filled with a half dozen plot threads is gonna drive me absolutely nuts. But hey, if you love FMA, or just love good anime, I really do give this show a true shoutout as worthy of your time.
1. Future Boy Conan
And with that, Future Boy Conan is the 6th champion of the November Challenge! What a wild ride it all was. From the first show leading in my mind to being beaten out at the last second. I wasn’t sure of my rankings until almost two days afterward because of how well everything did this year. Conan just hit that sweet spot with me that some of my favorites movies like Laputa and Nausicaa have done prior. It’s a simple adventure that gets the job done. I’m a deep lover for adventure and stories that really capture that idea fully, and Conan does it expertly. I praised it pretty fully above, and I don’t really feel the need to retread the same thing again here. It is just made up of all the right elements. A world that is interesting. A cast of characters that make me laugh at them, love them, and root for them in hard times. Music that sweeps you away in a world of pure imagination. And just an altogether world filled with adventurous times for the viewer from start to finish. I said it before, and I will say it again, great storytelling will always triumph for me before all else, and I feel Miyazaki is one of the finest the industry has ever had. Conan was a special time for me, and I would wager quite a lot on the fact, that this is, a prime example of why anime is a wonderful medium to tell stories in.
One more year and one more challenge completed! This was easily the most burnt out I’ve ever gotten during one of these. I finished with two days to spare, and no energy or motivation to watch anymore when all was said and done! The winner of this year is Fukuchi, and you now will hold that title until next time when you defend your honor. Thank you, everyone, who did participate, and to everyone who reads this post riddled with my classic typos and mistakes and still manages to support me and enjoy it. I really do appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.
Until Next Time!
See ya My little Wanderers!