The Best (and worst) Anime of Summer 2018
Break out the tasteful scarves and hot chocolate, because the fall is upon us - but before we say so long to the summer, it's time to decide which summer 2018 anime were the best—and the worst. We asked our critics to pick their favorite, their runner-up choice, and their least favorites of the season. Once you're done perusing their choices, head on over to our forums and let us know your picks for the best and worst anime of the winter. If you're already pining for the new releases of spring, our Fall 2018 Preview Guide starts on October 1st! Without further ado, here are our selections:
Best: GeGeGe no Kitarō 2018
Yes, this was my top pick for last season. It's still amazing. Not only does GeGeGe no Kitarō's 2018 reboot stay faithful to the spirit of the late, great Shigeru Mizuki's original manga, but it also manages to successfully update the story to fit our modern world. In a climate where the most we get in terms of updating older series is the simple addition of smartphones (Sailor Moon Crystal, Itazura na Kiss), Kitaro's inclusion of episodes on cyberbullying or referencing the #MeToo movement keeps the characters feeling relevant to viewers today. Almost more impressive, however, is the way that it does this while still reminding us that, as Terry Pratchett put it, the town we just drove through is still there in the rearview mirror. Kitaro tells us that we forget the past at our own peril, whether that's in violating sacred sites in the quest for more views and likes or revising history to suit our current needs.
That last one is what really makes this series special. I've read a lot of WWII books and very few have managed to be as effective as Kitaro's episode twenty, which blends the personal and the historical impact of war in a meaningful way. Mana's discovery of her family's lost love story and the subsequent discovery of her great-aunt's lover's body in a mass grave on a deserted island haunted by the ghost not just of the dead, but of the war itself is a triumphant exercise in making a case for why we need to understand the human cost of war. It makes the history personal, and for Mana – and the viewers of the show – to be able to see Kitaro, Cat Girl, and Rat Man all react to the sounds of war and realize that they lived through it drives the point home cleanly. Whether or not you understand that Kitaro is putting out the campfire because he doesn't want to attract enemy fire in the dark, his fear and quick actions are easy to understand.
At the end of the day, that's why this is still my top series. It doesn't talk down to viewers, but it doesn't overwhelm with horror. Its relatively understated take on the supernatural horror genre is easily accessible to kids and adults. It makes it simple to watch and to carry the episodes with you long after the credits have rolled.
Runner-Up: Phantom in the Twilight
I feel like we've been waiting for Ton for a long, long time. She's the heroine reverse harem fans deserve – she takes no garbage from anyone, she can defend herself with the best of them, and at heart she's still the nice girl the heroine's supposed to be. In this case, that means she's devoted to her best friend Shinyao and will stop at nothing to rescue her when she gets kidnapped. The guys are her allies and romantic interests, yes, but you get the feeling that Ton would probably be fine on her own. Add to this the fact that show doesn't indulge in the usual tropes, such as Ton freaking out if one of the guys is less than fully dressed, and this feels like the thinking woman's reverse harem. It isn't perfect – Shinyao is still a damsel in distress and her relationship with Chris at least starts out pretty creepy – but the story manages to be affecting and effective and exciting all at once. If you just watch one show about a semi-ordinary girl surrounded by lots of hot guys, this should be it.
Worst: Holmes of Kyoto
As usual, this is more “most disappointing” rather than something I actually hated. I'm really not a hate-watcher. But Holmes of Kyoto did manage to disappoint me mightily – it billed itself as a mystery series but turned out to really be a slow-burn romance with the odd unsolvable mystery thrown in. That's also fine – that's basically the entire cozy genre in a nutshell if you throw in a quirky animal – so the problem arises from the fact that the show doesn't appear to realize that it's really a romance. The focus on the little mysteries simply becomes tedious as Kiyotaka and Aoi dance around their feelings for each other. A little more attention to either plot would have done wonders for this, but as it stands, I'm actively hoping that this will be a one-season-and-done kind of show.
Best: Attack on Titan season 3
Back at the beginning of the season I definitely did not expect that this title would be topping my list for the season, as I've never been that huge a fan of the series. I was very dubious about whether or not the series could still deliver when most of the third season's story didn't involve the Titans at all. The show's technical merits were immediately apparent from the third season premiere – this may be the best that the series has looked to date, but could the storytelling hold up? To my surprise, it did. It still has some of the series' traditional tendency to stall and stretch some parts out (especially Eren's wallowing!) but it wasn't as bad here, and when the series delivered, it delivered. The third season succeeded in turning Christa/Historia into a far more compelling character, offered some tantalizing new hints about the backstory, and orchestrated a seismic shift in the politics of the setting, all while delving deeply into the backgrounds of characters not named Eren, Mikasa, or Armin. Even the opener “Red Swan,” which I initially labeled as an awkward fit for the franchise, grew on me to the point that I now consider it one of the year's best. (HYDE's vocals have a lot to do with that, but so do the choices of imagery in connecting past to present.) So yeah, this season's a winner.
Runner-Up: Overlord season 3
This was a harder choice, as I didn't feel that any other series I watched/am watching to the end especially distinguished itself. Happy Sugar Life surged in quality in its late episodes but I can't quite label it as one of the season's best without having seen its final episode (which hasn't aired yet as I write this), How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord was more an unexpected quality surprise than a truly top-shelf series, I ran out of time to keep up with the weird energy of Planet With, and the all-too-Ikuhara-like construction of Revue Starlight quickly turned me off, so Overlord's third installment is basically here by default. Don't get me wrong; it's still a quality series and a consistent strong performer, with a continuing uncanny knack for developing interesting, involving supporting cast members and some definite forward plot movement. It just hasn't quite had the “wow” moments that I would normally expect for something I'm calling the second-best anime of the season. One other show that I think could have been worth considering here if I'd had time for it: We Rent Tsukumogami, which had an utterly charming first episode.
A change in employer has left me with a tighter schedule than I've had in recent years, so I didn't have time this season to keep up with anything truly trashy. Hence I'm going with a series that didn't necessarily start bad but wound up being so banal and dated in construction that I stopped bothering to keep up with it after a few episodes. The writing actually hints at a compelling underlying story, but the era when a series can subsistent purely on moe designs while setting up some slow-moving grand mystery has largely passed for me.
Best: Asobi Asobase
My picks for this season weren't necessarily at the top of the heap in terms of telling heartbreakingly dramatic stories, but they found other ways to stand out from the crowd. Asobi Asobase really caught me off guard when I watched it for the Preview Guide; its premise, art style, and soothing opening theme all implied that this series would be a lightweight slice of life title, but all of that turned out to be an elaborate misdirection. After a few minutes, it was clear that this was a sharp, adventurous, and frequently filthy comedy masquerading as something far more innocent. It was also shockingly entertaining, and it found a nice little niche for itself between guilty pleasure and wicked genre satire.
Skirting the borders of bad taste on a regular basis, Asobi Asobase got an impressive amount of mileage out of a simple question: what if the girls from a cutesy school club anime were as dirty-minded and obnoxious as real teenagers? That basic setup was paired with strong comedic delivery, a willingness to charge headfirst into uncomfortable territory, and an art style that took full advantage of the contrast between its usual pastel colors and the occasional detour into hilariously horrifying facial expressions. While not every joke or storyline was a hit, each episode delivered a memorable experience as it devolved from the sugary sweet opening to the raging metal angst of the ending theme. While I love a good slice of life show, watching Asobi Asobase burn the whole genre down on a weekly basis was a unique delight.
Runner-up: Cells at Work!
As if to preserve the moral balance of my streaming queue, Cells at Work! quickly emerged as an endearing foil to the impish anarchy of Asobi Asobase. While this series also had its share of gleefully gross moments, there was something undeniably charming about its dedication to teaching us about all the crazy stuff that goes on inside our bodies. That noble attempt at mixing education and entertainment was backed up by plenty of creative design work, which allowed Cells at Work! to present a microscopic world that was compelling on its own merits. As much as I appreciated the information it offered, I stuck with the show all season because it was fun to watch.
Making an engaging story out of a complex and potentially dry scientific subject required a likable cast of characters, and while I enjoyed the antics of White and Red Blood Cell, it was the supporting characters that really won me over. The Platelets were adorable, the duo of Killer and Helper T Cell offered a strong comedic dynamic, and Macrophage stole just about every scene she appeared in. Cells at Work! also handled a brief, mid-season shift into more dramatic territory nicely with the Cancer Cell storyline, and while not every episode was as thrilling as it might have been, it was worth watching each week just to see how the series would visualize the latest illness or cell type. While many shows struggle to be informative and enjoyable at the same time, Cells at Work! made that balancing act look perfectly natural.
Worst: Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs
While it wasn't objectively terrible, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs made me regret sticking with it for as long as I did. It started off as a mildly entertaining, by-the-numbers harem comedy, but the setup hooked me with the prospect that there might be more to it. The ghost-exorcist pairing of Yuuna and Kogarashi, along with the dramatic potential of helping Yuuna move on to the afterlife, created the impression that there might be some narrative depth to be found amongst the mostly harmless fanservice. Then we hit the middle of the season, and the show failed across the board with its big attempt at introducing a villain and stirring up some drama. The result wasn't emotionally compelling, exciting, or funny; it was just dull. With some stronger writing, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs could have been more than just a vaguely serviceable genre title. Unfortunately, after such a huge swing and miss, it lost me completely.
Best: Planet With
For better or for worse, the summer 2018 season has turned out pretty much just how I expected it - in fact, my top two shows of the season are the very same ones I chose as most anticipated back in the spring. I even got the order right, which in this case means that Planet With was absolutely my top show of the summer. My experience with Satoshi Mizukami's manga Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer had me giddily anticipating Planet With, and in the end, the show has matched nearly all my expectations. Mizukami has an incredible gift for seemingly bizarre but structurally rock-solid storytelling, a profound sense of sympathy for the hurt we naturally inflict on each other, and a sense of narrative ambition that puts most other writers to shame.
Just within its twelve short episodes, Planet With has essentially run through three or four separate climaxes, each with their own clear factions, stakes, and genuine sense of urgency. And this rapid-fire storytelling hasn't undercut the show's emotional reach at all - not only do all of Planet With's conflicts ultimately resolve around a coherent set of questions regarding how people ought to treat each other, but the show's remarkable gift for efficient characterization mean it's also established a good dozen or so characters who are all worth caring for. From the poignant found family drama of Ginko and Soya to the bombastic, world-shaking theater of the show's action climaxes, every episode of Planet With offers a rich array of dramatic gifts, memorable lines, and charming weirdness. I get the feeling the show's so-so CG robots and generally bizarre designs kept a lot of people away from Planet With, but if you give it a shot, I can almost guarantee your effort will be rewarded. There are few shows that aim so high with as much heart and skill as Planet With.
Runner-up: Revue Starlight
While Planet With has consistently impressed me with the combined ambition and coherency of its narrative, Revue Starlight has dazzled in pretty much the opposite way. To be honest, Revue Starlight's overarching narrative still feels a little nebulously conceived to me - the actual end all of these auditions are leading to feels vague, even the motives of our protagonists feel a little undercooked, and too many scenes are dedicated to simply reiterating non-sentiments about Shine and Fate and whatnot.
That said, while Revue Starlight might not be fitting together into the most riveting overall drama, its individual episodes have stunned me again and again. Outside of our heroines Karen and Hikari, the rest of Starlight's competitors have all received compelling focus episodes that sold me on their own motivations, all while tossing off beautifully animated fencing duels and perpetually evocative layouts in the bargain. Starlight's layouts are frankly on another level from almost anything else I've watched this year - each scene is elevated through perfectly chosen camera framing, evocative lighting, and emotionally charged blocking, making the show a visual feast even when its narrative is faltering. And when the show is able to fully lean into some particular character's feelings, like in its later Banana and Hikari-focused episodes, its storytelling becomes as strong as its visual execution, leaving us with sympathetic vignettes as poignant as they are beautiful. Revue Starlight ultimately strikes me as a show that's a little less than the sum of its parts, but the brilliance of its individual parts make for a consistently gripping watch all the same.
Worst: My Hero Academia
As usual, I sorta dropped things too aggressively this season to really have a clear “worst” - I stuck with Angolmois through four or five episodes, but the show didn't really fail me in any way beyond not really keeping my attention. Of the shows I actually did stick with, My Hero Academia ends up as the worst of the season by default, and that actually feels pretty appropriate. While My Hero Academia is still a perfectly reasonable show, it's suffered an undeniable downgrade in tension and even aesthetic execution since last season's transcendent All Might fight. Not only is the provisional license exam just not that urgent of an arc topic, it also failed to offer any truly thrilling or visually impressive fights of its own. In the manga, things like Yoarashi's wind powers were able to impress through Kōhei Horikoshi's remarkable full-page spreads - but animation rewards movement, not beautiful stillness, and the anime thus struggled to translate this arc's highlights all the way through. I still greatly enjoy My Hero Academia, and it's been fun watching characters I'm already invested in grow both in terms of powers and personal journeys, but this season has felt like My Hero Academia autopilot a little too often.
Best: Harukana Receive
After I saw the first episode, I joked that Harukana Receive was like if somebody turned Top Gun's homoerotic beach volleyball sequence into an anime. But the appeal goes far deeper than that. This well-paced, breezy show was exactly what I wanted in a summer anime. For this volleyball anime set in tropical Okinawa, every episode is a beach episode. Our high-powered protagonist, Haruka, has an infectious enthusiasm for beach volleyball that gives the entire show an optimistic outlook, even when it explores slightly more serious emotional themes. A rhythmic musical score with island vibes accentuates a series of increasingly intense volleyball matches, while measured animation sequences make the action both urgent and easy to understand. Perhaps the show's greatest strength is its pacing, which feels neither rushed nor dull and tells its story well in exactly the amount of time it has. Its cliffhangers feel earned because the show never wastes our time with anything pointless. In a way, it's not only the bikini uniforms that serve as fanservice here, but the emotional payoff of matches, the mutual affection of relationship building, and the sheer joy that permeates this fun little show.
Runner-Up: Revue Starlight
Speaking of shows with great relationship building, Revue Starlight is the exceptional story of a group of Takarazuka performers in training. With a whimsy that feels like a nod to Revolutionary Girl Utena, this show blends fantasy and realism to showcase the unique mental anxieties that plague performers in particular. The beauty of the show is how the characters' strengths and weaknesses fit together in a way that helps everybody grow. The girls each have relatable teenage problems, though sometimes you want to shake them for their lack of insight: everyone is so focused on their own issues that they don't realize they don't need to be fighting one another, but instead a common enemy. Additionally, the ensemble cast is so well developed that I find the central characters, Karen and Hikari, to be the least compelling of the bunch. Rich colors, sonorous musical performances, compelling swordplay sequences, and an ever-present awareness of its role as a performance with an audience just slightly off screen make this a theatrical and ambitious production. Not all of the risks it takes pay off, but it's impressive how often it makes the attempt.
Worst: Gundam Build Divers
When it comes to disappointing anime, we were spoiled for choice this summer. However, this is the only one I watched to the end. I'm a huge Gundam fan, but not even the non-stop pandering to people like me was enough to save this show's second half. The major conflict of the cour comes from a jaw-dropping discovery: that MMORPG players' enthusiasm for Gundam model kits has given birth to a brand new digital lifeform. But rather than contact scientists or the government, players debate whether or not to kill it in order to reduce server load. This conflict, and its resulting solution, requires suspension of disbelief beyond what I was prepared to offer. Catchy music and bland, inoffensive characters make this show surface-level but forgettable fun. But with the weight of Sunrise and the talent capable of sustaining a nearly 40-year franchise, I expected a lot better from the latest Gundam show.
Best: Planet With
This was an interesting season, in that my two picks for best of the season were so dang good that their place on this list was essentially a tossup – depending on my mood, either one of these could easily be called the best anime of Summer 2018.
One of them has to win out at the end of the day, though, and I'm more than happy to have Planet With take home the gold, because my goodness was this series wonderful in just about every way. It takes about two seasons worth of giant robot smashup plot points and manages to cram them into a single twelve-episode cour, and it still manages to tell a supremely satisfying and emotional story. Soya, Ginko, and Sensei the Space Cat make for a charming and eminently likable band of heroes, and their battles with and alongside the Grand Paladins and the Nebulan Space Army have provided some of the season's best CG action sequences. Virtually every scene of Planet With was storyboarded by the series' creator, Satoshi Mizukami, so even though it's become something of a cliché to say, the whole series really does has the feeling of a colorful comic-book come to life on screen.
What really sold me on Planet With was the emotional core at its center. This is a story about growing up, learning to forgive those that have wronged you, and becoming a better and more empathetic person. Never once does Planet With falter in its earnest, optimistic mission to spread love and compassion throughout the galaxy. That's a truly admirable quality to find in any work of art these days, and I can only hope that more people give this criminally under-watched series a chance. You won't be disappointed if you do.
Runner-Up: Asobi Asobase
Asobi Asobase is the funniest anime I've ever seen, straight up. Hanako, Olivia, and Kasumi are at once a trio of loveable little dorks and disgusting gremlin monsters, a dichotomy that feels painfully and hilariously true to both my own middle-school experience and the friendships I see formed in my classroom every day. Over the last twelve weeks, I've bust a gut for hours watching these kids pass time by playing silly games and having some truly heinous conversations about everything ranging from poop, sex, dating, the birth rate crisis in Japan, the finer points of writing Harry Potter slash fic, ass lasers, and more poop. There's not a single dignified bone in any one of these kids' bodies, but they flaunt their horribleness in such creative ways, and at the very least one has to be impressed at how much time and effort has gone in to animating Asobi Asobase's sketches; they look about a thousand times better than they have any right to, and the show's comic-timing is pitch-perfect almost a hundred percent of the time.
The only reason that Asobi Asobase didn't nab my Best of Summer spot is because of how it's crass, vulgar approach to every one of its girls' social and personal deficiencies can sometimes make for humor that is gross in a sad way, instead of a funny way. There's one character who exists mainly to be the butt of transphobic jokes, all of which are ignorant and dumb, and bring the show's comedic momentum to a screeching halt whenever they pop up. Other characters, such as Olivia's creepy otaku brother, play into unfortunate stereotypes and jokes about preying on young girls that just don't work in this day and age. There's plenty of offensive nonsense in Asobi Asobase, but there are some occasions where it crosses lines that no amount of potty humor can justify.
If you can skip those sketches, and if you have a strong tolerance for dumb kids acting as terribly as they possibly can, then I implore you to watch Asobi Asobase. As far as I'm concerned, it's the funniest anime comedy to come around in years, and it's bound to go down as a classic. At the very least, Hina Kino needs to win every voice acting award for her borderline inhuman performance as Hanako. It's the stuff of legends.
Worst: Steins;Gate 0
This is one of those occasions where I didn't watch any series this season that I would consider to be outright terrible, so you can think of this more as a “Most Disappointing Series of Summer 2018” award, instead. I like the original Steins;Gate, for all of its foibles, and I was genuinely looking forward to getting a peek into the series' alternate timeline in Steins;Gate 0. Unfortunately, a combination of lame writing and terrible production values have resulted in a show that's an underwhelming mess on almost every level. Everything looks dark and smudgy, and even the most action heavy sequences are barely animated, so the show completely lacks any of the verve that I remember from its predecessor. We have whole plot threads about sentient A.I. and time-travelling, brainwashed clones that get picked up and abandoned seemingly at random, as if the whole point of making S;G 0 was to construct a repository for all of the half-baked and poorly realized concepts that weren't good enough to make it into the original series.
There are some redeeming individual moments that will satisfy longtime franchise fans – Mayuri finally gets something to do late in the series, and every now and then the group dialogue scenes recapture a little of the magic that made Steins;Gate Prime so easy to like back in 2011. It isn't enough, though, to hold together what is an otherwise unstable mass of bad ideas and cheap execution. If I had a time machine, I might go back in time and convince White Fox to forego adapting S;G 0 altogether. I can't speak to the quality of the game, but I think the franchise would be better off if the S;G 0 anime had never been made in the first place.
Best: Revue Starlight
Revue Starlight took a moment to really get going and prove itself the best thing I saw all season, but even right from the start I knew this was a show for me. Theatrical drama between aspiring actors? Musical swordfights dripping with subtext and symbolism? Portentous talking giraffes?! This show has it all, presented with all the flair you would expect of musical theater. The show was fun to watch right away - the first time Karen took her surrealist trip down to Drama Class Fight Club was one of more than a handful of attention-getting moments early on. Meanwhile, episodes like Mahiru's focal story or the now-famous Banana twist sported the type of dynamic, symbolic storyboarding I love to see in anime, bookended by thrilling fight animation..
But I think my favorite thing about this series is how much more ambition it had compared to what you might expect. This is a franchise-launching anime just askew of an idol-show setup, selling concerts and phone-games with its fresh-faced performers. But outside of the cynicism inherent in an industrial entry like that, the show itself has a lot of complexity going on. It makes cutting points about the vicious competition in the theater world, and the burnout you can be left with as a performer if you give it your all, only to see it not amount to anything. More than anything, I feel like this show understands theater: A major arc part-way through deals with the transitory nature of stage performances. No two productions can ever be exactly the same, and that's not a bad thing, it's part of the magic. Revue Starlight conjures up and stirs emotions tied to a specific art-form, and I wound up absolutely hooked on it for the whole of the season as a result.
Runner-Up: Planet With
It was honestly a toss-up between this and the second half of Lupin III Part V, but ultimately I've got to give it to Planet With purely to help with exposure. As much as our quips about “Why isn't anyone watching this show?” feel like we're doing a bit by now, the fact remains that this series seems criminally under-noticed. It's a pity, since Planet With is one of the best new mecha anime in years. The show's emphasis on ‘perspective’ as both a thematic element and storytelling device allows it to speed through exposition and world-building at a rate I'm not used to in anime. All the information we need about the various factions and their motivations are communicated clearly and quickly to us, so instead of trying to puzzle-box the plot out, we get what we need to know and go. That also ties into the series' overall theme of the various sides in the conflict not being necessarily good or bad, but rather seeing their issues from different angles. By letting the audience see everyone's motivations (rather than leaving dark twists waiting in the wings to upend everything) the story's message of compromise and understanding lands more clearly. Planet With is a show that knows exactly what it's doing, idea-wise, and between its terrific direction and surprisingly strong sound design, it's just a blast to watch as well. If you still haven't given it a shot, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Worst: Free! Dive to the Future
I've gotta quit jinxing my anticipated shows for the season. Back in Summer I was excited for how Cutie Honey Universe would turn out, only for that to implode into a low-effort mess. And now we have the third season of Free! (Fre3? FrThree?), which wasn't necessarily Cutie Honey Universe-level bad, but was definitely the most disappointing thing I saw. Bringing in so many extra new characters you'd think they were launching a tie-in mobile game, and spreading that cast thin across multiple locations and subplots, the show tried to do too much and felt like it was accomplishing very little. The over-reliance on backstory given in ancillary material that we haven't officially gotten here didn't help much either, it only exacerbated the show's issues with backwards-looking nostalgia. I have fond memories of the first couple seasons of Free!, but this installment was too focused on the characters themselves trying to sell me on the importance of past time together I hadn't actually seen, and I wasn't buying it. As such, it's no wonder this show took a dive and wound up in Free!-fall.
As the first season to open in the middle of an ongoing arc, this is arguably the worst possible entry point for new viewers. However, for longtime fans who have followed the wacky misadventures of the Odd Jobs crew and their friends for the better part of twelve years, Silver Soul's second act holds quite a bit of meaning. Although certain portions of the story feel very condensed, nearly every one of Gintama's strong points is on full display this season: edge-of-your-seat action, meaningful character development, and most importantly, the madcap humor for which the series is known. In the span of one cour, viewers are invited to cry, cheer, and laugh their butts off. Few other shows can wear this many hats this effectively.
The first half of the latest cour is a nonstop action extravaganza that culminates in a riveting battle against the most powerful villain to ever grace the franchise. None of the victories come easy, and each one feels genuinely earned. A bold move for any comedy, the latter half takes the story two years into the future. However, instead of serving as a tidy epilogue, this portion of the story subverts nearly every flash-forward trope found in shonen manga and delivers some of the funniest material the show has served up in a good long while. It quickly becomes clear that rather than a prolonged curtain call, this is essentially the start of a whole new arc—one that promises to take the franchise to bold new places.
Runner-up: Chio's School Road
Chio's School Road is not without its flaws, but it's one of the new series I most looked forward to each week. I loved how the setting was almost always the same: Chio's morning route to school. This somehow posed opportunities for all sorts of comedic situations, such as Chio accidentally being confused for a vicious bike gang destroyer, or her obsession with Western video games leading her to put her life in danger as she attempts to duplicate stunts she's seen. Her often-questionable friendship with classmate Manana is another amusing hallmark of many of the stories, as they show their love for each other in awfully disconcerting ways. Often oblivious classmate Hosokawa adds another dimension of humor, as her innocence and naiveté clash intensely with the less upstanding Chio and Manana. That's not to say she finds anything improper about her acquaintances, whom she sometimes joins on the path to school—that's left to Shinozuka, a member of the school's public morals committee. Then there's the journey of former biker gang leader, Ando, from delinquent to hard worker thanks to a misunderstanding between him and Chio.
The show sometimes strains taste when it comes to Kabaddi Club captain Kushitori's obsession with groping her classmates, and there are random moments of fanservice that don't always have anything to do with the story. (The segment where the girls go commando is an example of fanservice that doesn't seem obtrusive.) However, as a whole, the characters each bring something unique to the table, and it never suffers from repetitiveness despite the potential for such a limited concept to do so.
Worst: Holmes of Kyoto
I'm a fan of cozy mysteries, particularly when they feature Sherlock Holmes-like characters. The added promise of a budding romance and the antique shop setting made me interested in checking Holmes of Kyoto out. Unfortunately, my interest waned quickly and I soon tuned in to laugh at—not with—the show, which often turned melodramatic. Despite never straying into the paranormal, this series often strains credulity. Even the arch-rival who emerges for the titular “Holmes” (Kiyotaka Yagashira), a former monk and a genius forger, is one step shy of being a moustache-twirling villain, though their showdowns are usual simple “Can you tell if this is forged or not?” matches. Then there's Kiyotaka's blatant stated dislike for women (frequently stated but not really demonstrated) because of one romance gone bad, as well as main character Aoi's obsession with her own failed (high school) romance, both of which go on too long before they eventually clunk their way toward eachother. It's far from the dullest anime I saw all season, but between these poor story choices and bad characterization, as well as noticeably cringe-worthy art at times, it just stood out as lower in quality compared to the rest of the shows I watched.
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