I started putting this list together about four months ago, but it took me a while to get caught up with shows I wanted to watch from the two seasons.
Honestly, the first half of the year in anime wasn’t the greatest for me – a lot of the shows were just okay (Hitoribocchi, Benkyou Dekinai) and others had promising starts but just ended up being underwhelming (Dororo, Kakegurui xx). But hey, I’m pretty sure that my excitement for the medium hasn’t dulled all that significantly, because I still have 10 shows that I like enough to talk about in this post. You could say this is my top 10 (completed) shows from the first two seasons… but this is in no particular order.
Attack on Titan S3 Part 2
I don’t think I will write a full-length post on this cour despite me liking it a lot because it’s been a while. Anyway, this ten-episode cour upholds some of the best aspects of the show – the pacing is as water-tight as ever, there’s rarely a dull moment. Even the flashbacks are layered-in aptly to produce some of the most emotionally poignant moments in the entire anime. I have been waiting for that Levi takedown to be animated for years, and I am not disappointed. The score is as grand as ever. And speaking of sound design, along with the use of silence and acting in episodes 54 and 55 – were essential elements to what I can say are some of my favorite anime episodes of the year so far.
The only thing I didn’t like about this installment of the show is the opening – it sounds like a lazy remix of the first one, and the color grading of the visuals look pretty tacky to my eyes. I loved how Levi’s humanity, Erwin’s resolve, and Armin’s heroism is put on display here, their moments are bulit-up smoothly. All things considered, it wouldn’t be a lie that this lived up to the hype the manga promised.
Mob Pyscho 100 S2
The second season of Mob Psycho has been my favorite show of the year so far. I have already written a post about how much more I love this over the first one, I don’t really have any criticisms for it. Loved the development between Mob and Reigen, the animation is as striking as ever, and the opening is even better than the first one. And if nothing else, the theming of the show resonated with me. I will leave this entry at that, and if you want more detailed thoughts – here it is.
The Promised Neverland
First of all, the opening is awesome – it’s interesting how the visuals remain engaging throughout the opening sequence despite it not featuring any big “sakuga” moments, and the song itself is hype and the “it’s on fire” vocal samples never get old. In my eyes, this show is a really interesting “shounen” – one that relies more on the unseen psychological battles than physical ones and they are pulled off in the most entertaining of ways. And I would attribute that to the ambitious directing of the series – there are some cool cinematic techniques showcased in the series where the animators play around with camera angles and movements and episodes are edited like a horror-thriller.
I love how the main trio bounces off each other with their personalities and ideas – the character chemistry is definitely something to remember the show by. Although the whole season felt like an introduction and a set-up of plot points to be explored later on, again, it’s done in the best way possible, the writing and pacing from episode to episode feel water-tight. The Promised Neverland is looking really promising.
While this anime thrives in its novel, formless visual style, there’s still some semblance of form in its theming and writing. The characters don’t have a lot of depth to their writing but they are entertaining whenever they are on screen, the anime is paced lightning-fast so the characters need to always have flair and exaggeration in their interactions.
The narrative is presented in the simplest of ways but the quick comedic interactions that are thrown to the wall stick more often than not. The ending sequence is one of my favorites from this year, the oji-san storytime segments rarely failed to give me that hit of dark comedy. I know this show has the narrowest of appeal compared to other entries here, but give it a shot, the entire anime is like 30 minutes. If it was longer, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
My Roommate is a Cat
I’m not a cat person at all (unless it’s anime cats – Nyanko-sensei FTW), whenever I visit my grandma and I see her cats being just selfish attention-seeking felines, my day is ruined. With that said, you are probably wondering how my cat-hating self bothered to watch this anime, which going by its title and poster clearly is about a cute cat doing cute things type of show – I don’t know either, but I’m glad I did. Because this anime is more than that… like the cat is portrayed as an actual character in the show. I think the emotional core of the anime is well-written, the character interactions between Haru and Subaru feel organic.
I don’t think there’s a single disposable character in the story off the top of my head, they all feel like they belong to the show in positive ways. It’s impressive how consistent the anime is with presenting both sides of the main characters’ (Subaru and Haru) inner dialogue for a scene and making them feel natural and equally engaging. The art is good, and the style is flexible enough to give that warmth to emotional scenes and hit the cute-comedic moments with hyperbole. Sure, the production isn’t top-tier with just pristine visuals and super-attentive sound design, but it does the job well. Overall, this is a pretty impressive show, it’s definitely a standout from all the SoL shows I’ve seen in the first two seasons of the year.
Kono Oto Tomare
Oh boy, the production aspects of this show feel unfairly cheap, the sound design is as barren as a desert, so many corners were cut in the animation department, only the art feels consistently done (the water-colored still frames are great). I say unfair because I really like the character writing and the overall setting of the anime. The plot progression at times felt kind of contrived but seeing that resulting in interesting character chemistry doesn’t really leave me any more room to complain.
I mentioned about the skeletal sound design before but whenever the performances spring up, the koto playing rarely feels artificial, I just wish the performances lasted longer in the first half of the series. All the members of the club are likable to some degree, and watching them support each other left me with pretty high expectations for the second season this fall. I am also hyped for this sports anime type of set-up to progress into more character-related development for the club.
I am probably shooting myself in the foot (haha) with this but… Miru Tights is unironically a good show. The softly outlined and glossy art style reminds me of art I usually see on pixiv, and it turns out it’s adapted from yomu’s work – who is a popular artist on that site. Thicc-legs-fetish aside, the anime is really well produced – the minimal sound design and color grading give off this comfy atmosphere I don’t see in many other erotically (or fetishistically) inclined anime – the only other show I can point to that has a similar “vibe” is Getsuyoubi no Tawawa where the show follows a similar SoL vignette-like structure with the fetishization being focused on big boobs, instead.
The character designs are some of my favorites of the year so far, the “fanservice” is “tasteful” where the show rarely boxes itself within cliched forms of fanservice – like most shows of the genre do by just framing them under a male gaze and the girls act/feel “helpless” – you know what I’m talking about; not saying that the show doesn’t pander to the male gaze – it very much does (I mean the show’s title literally translates to “See Tights”), but it does it in a less… uh, blatant and boring way. Anyway, the yuri moments are cute, and the ending song is actually sweet. I won’t deny this is the perfect escapist blend of iyashikei and ecchi with slight creepy-stalker vibes that an unsocial teenager would enjoy on a rainy afternoon. And I won’t deny that was me.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
I have already written a full-length post on this show. I am not the biggest fan, but I can’t deny how well presented everything is in this series. It’s funny, it’s alive and the couple’s character writing and development throughout the season were solid. Chika is definitely among my favorite anime characters of this year. I didn’t like how the ending “reset” everything, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed the anime.
Manifesting from the wild mind of Kunihiko Ikuhara, Sarazanmai serves up a dish of absurdist comedy and well-presented emotional character arcs of three protagonists. The anime shares a lot of thematic DNA with Mawaru Penguindrum (another show from Ikuhara), and I don’t mind. Sarazanmai has enough unique qualities going for it to stand out as a unique story. The kappa transformation sequences never lose their comedic edge and the musical numbers are well performed and they are catchy. Production-wise, the quality is near impeccable.
The story is concise episode by episode but the tail-end felt a bit rushed. Surprisingly, Sarazanmai has a clearer and more-straightforward narrative arcs than Penguindrum – so if you are going into the show expecting another epic and complexly structured story like Penguindrum, you might be disappointed. Sarazanmai doesn’t need to be as grand as Penguindrum – it’s a damn good story on its own.
It’s not just the show’s unconventional episodic structure that made me choose this for the post – it’s the way the interviews provided insight that one can’t usually find in regular episodes of anime, or outside of bonus episodes. I enjoyed most of the conversations the VAs and directors had, there were a couple of episodes where the back-and-forth between the director and VAs were uninteresting (like the POV one). The “main” episode is just a few minutes long, and not all of the three-minute sequences were great – there are some duds but I enjoyed the interviews afterward, anyway.
It’s cool seeing the show act as a petri-dish for the variety of artistic and narrative styles and different interpretations of the titular character. The main message of the show is somewhat alike to “there’s a form of Ekoda inside all of us”, and I did relate to the character in instances of throughout the show’s runtime (even though I don’t belong to the manga’s demographic). I know this format of anime is definitely not for everybody, but give this a try if you are interested in learning about the thought processes 12 different directors go through to make a 3-minute episode stand out.
I think that’s all I have for my favorite picks from the first half of 2019. Let me know your favorite shows from this year’s Winter and Spring in the comments – I haven’t watched every show from those seasons and it’s always good to get recommendations. Thanks for reading.