Somehow it’s already October and the summer anime season is in the books. This definitely wasn’t a great season for me with coronavirus delaying a number of shows to fall or beyond and not leaving a whole lot to choose from. Fruits Basket was unsurprisingly my favorite this season, but the anime original Deca-Dence wasn’t too far behind it. Third place is The Millionaire Detective, which grew on me over time, and an honorable mention goes to The Misfit of Demon King Academy for being shameless over the top fun. Biggest disappointment goes to My Teen Romantic Comedy, which I expected to love but nearly dropped.
I originally put this list together in July and ordered it by where I thought they’d rank sorted by favorite to least favorite. I’ve left them in that order so you can see who surprised me and who flubbed the landing.
Fruits Basket S2 – Ah, Fruits Basket. The show with the odd premise – 12 members of a family are cursed by the spirits of the Chinese zodiac and turn into their animal if hugged by the opposite sex – that looks like a fluffy romcom but is actually a drama about recognizing how adults aren’t always acting in your best interest and finding the people outside your messed up family who you can lean on. I do wish Tohru was just a little less perfect and self-sacrificing, but, man, the feels this show delivered each week. Can’t wait for season three next year, when all the ships set sail. 9/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu
God of High School – I went into this one expecting a fun, brain-turned-off orgy of fight scenes, and that’s mostly what I got, until the plot decided to do all the drugs and kill God around episode 10. All of the action was well animated, if you don’t mind a lot of 3D CGI, and I liked the three main characters and their friendship, but it was more like a physics engine demo than a story by the end of it. 7/10 Crunchyroll
Deca-Dence – This show gave me a good chuckle with how many anime fans panned it before it aired for looking like an Attack on Titan clone, only to then freak out after the twist in episode two because they thought the character designs were too weird. So, please be different, but also the same, lol. Anyways, this post-apocalyptic thriller was a delight to watch each week with no source readers to spoil you as you wonder what’s next for gruff, cynical Kaburagi and the young, idealistic Natsume as they battle the giant monsters that threaten their home. I don’t normally like flashy CGI, but it makes sense in context this time, and the regular animation is above average, with exciting fight scenes and expressive faces in conversations. The ending was a little anticlimactic, but it was an exciting ride with a great pair of protagonists. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu
The Misfit of Demon King Academy – On paper, this sounds like generic power fantasy trash, but it knows what it is and leans into it so shamelessly that I had no choice but to join Anos’ fan union. After sacrificing himself 2,000 years ago to end the war between humans and demons, Demon King Anos reincarnates himself and enrolls in high school, as one does, and plans his way back to the top. Along the way, he uses his heartbeat to beat a guy senseless, picks up a castle and throws it, says things like “Did you think killing me was enough to make me die?”, and gets himself a fan club whose singing gives him power. It’s never heard of subtlety and isn’t exactly deep, but it is an awful lot of fun. 7/10 Crunchyroll
Appare-Ranman! – Despite the vibrant color palette, the unusual setting of 19th century America, and some of my favorite voice actors, this story about a car race from California to New York never really got going for me. The American Indian kid and the Black driver were uncomfortable stereotypes, the villain was so bad for the sake of being bad that he wasn’t very interesting, and the 3D animation for the racing scenes looked lifeless and out of place. The slice of life buildup to the race in the first half was enjoyable, and I liked most of the characters, but once the race starts, it can’t keep the excitement going. 6/10 Funimation, Hulu
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU S3 – I thoroughly enjoyed seasons one and two and went into this fully expecting to love it, but I really struggled to get through it. The whole prom planning thing was such an annoying and unsatisfying way to work through the conflict in his relationships with the two girls. What was the point of that whole scene in season two where he tearfully declares he wants something genuine with them if you’re just going to have him play 4D chess again while spouting nonsense pop psychology? His whole character arc is supposed to be finding satisfying relationships with people and leaving his misanthropic cynical self behind, but he never manages a real, honest conversation with the girl he chooses. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted. 6/10 Crunchyroll, HIDIVE
Mr. Love: Queen’s Choice – Honestly, the best thing about this visual novel adaptation was the unnamed heroine’s dress collection. Our aspiring media executive had a fabulous array of classic shirt dresses and always looked super cute. Everything else about this reverse harem mystery/thriller set in a world where people have superpowers was just kinda so-so. The four main guys were inexplicably devoted to the heroine, the plot with the big bad shadowy organization stopped making sense two thirds of the way in, the names in the dialog didn’t match the names in the subtitles, and the art made people look so similar that it was hard to tell people apart. 6/10 Crunchyroll
The Millionaire Detective – This is so not the year anyone needed a buddy cop show where one of the cops is a billionaire, but the trailer was so stylish that I decided to give it a shot. While the first four or five episodes are perfectly entertaining, self-contained stories, they’re really just introductions for the characters, and the show doesn’t really take off until the halfway point when the big mystery plot gets started. It’s at that point that it stops being about rich boy Daisuke and working class detective Haru humorously failing to understand each other, and becomes a high-tech thriller as they race to solve an old murder case before it kills them. The art and animation were surprisingly good, with lots of fluid movement during the action scenes. I found Haru really interesting as an American, as I can’t imagine one of our cops struggling with guilt from shooting someone on the job. 8/10 Funimation
Fire Force S2 ep. 1-12 – I think a lot of people dropped this series early in season one after a particularly gross scene of sexualized violence, but I kept watching for some reason and started to enjoy in the second half. Season two still has the ill-timed, lazy fanservice I disliked in the first season, but mercifully there’s a lot less of it and the focus has been on unraveling the secrets behind their post-apocalyptic world. The fight scenes are as pretty as ever and the sound rattles my speakers in a really satisfying way. Despite its flaws, I’m still enjoying the characters and the world. 7/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation
Ahiru no Sora – This basketball series really could’ve become one of my favorites if another studio handled it. I loved the realistic treatment of the sport – nobody shoots lasers from their eyes and the ragtag group of reformed delinquents doesn’t magically dominate their way to nationals – and the slice of life drama about the characters’ lives outside of basketball really made them come alive. It’s unfortunate that this great story of troubled kids finding a positive way forward was weighed down by absolutely abysmal animation quality. Not only were the basketball action scenes slideshows of static images, one of the effects they layered on them to give the impression of motion was a blurry filter that just made it feel like someone smeared mayonnaise on the camera lens. The story deserved better. 7/10 Crunchyroll, HIDIVE
Bungou to Alchemist – I’m not entirely sure why I watched this when I know game adaptations are rarely good and I know basically nothing about Japanese literature, but the boys were awful pretty and the action scenes were kinda fun sometimes. Unfortunately, the plot didn’t make a ton of sense and I just never stopped snickering at the bad guys being named “taints.” 5/10 Funimation