Autumn 2020 Mid-Season Rankings

Mid season anime thoughts time! And we’re back up to sixteen series, as was always going to be the plan for 2020 until COVID delays made that impossible. Though maybe sixteen is one too many…

16: 100-man no Inochi no Ue ni Ore wa Tatte Iru

One day, main character Yusuke gets dragged into a game-like fantasy world, along with two classmates who’ve been there before. The three must complete quests for the mysterious Game Master, recruiting a new classmate after clearing each one, until they have the 10 people needed for their final mission. If one of them dies in this world, they respawn after 30 seconds… but if they all die, then they die in real life.

This is by far the worst show I picked up this season, though to be fair, I did drop three others before settling on it. I prefer ‘realistic’ fantasy worlds to RPG-inspired ones with levels and respawning, for starters. The characters aren’t likable, or even memorable. Animation quality is lacking. The current quest is dragging on. All that might be of interest is the mystery of the game world itself, but with the manga ongoing, I’m not expecting answers.

15: King’s Raid: Ishi wo Tsugumono-tachi

100 years after the kingdom of Orvelia sorted out their demon problem, rumours start to spread that they have returned to the forest just outside the capital. A group of scouts are sent to investigate… And after only one survivor returns to the capital, a young squire named Kasel (our main character) decides to set out to the forest in hopes of finding and rescuing his friend Clause. 

King’s Raid has one of the most generic fantasy settings I’ve seen in anime in a LONG time… and I welcome it, because there’s no isekai element, no gimmicks, just a party of adventurers smashing skeletons with swords and sorcery. That’s plenty! And it’s also a rare 26 ep series – the pacing feels so relaxed compared to everything else I’m watching, with time for ‘side quest’ episodes and character development. Just don’t expect a masterpiece. 😛

14: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou

A blast from the past! The 2006 Studio Deen adaptation was one of the first anime I watched, and I was so proud of myself when I finally mastered saying the full Japanese title… all 10 syllables of it. 😛 Anyway, more of the same short arcs, where a group of school friends end up going insane and killing each other, over and over again for eternity. I love that they kept the original soundtrack, and the use of the original OP in ep 1 was fantastic.

Apparently this is a sequel and not a remake, featuring subtle differences in how each arc plays out compared with how the similar fragments went in earlier adaptations… I’ll take their word for it, but unfortunately 2006-07 is too long ago for me to remember and appreciate these small twists. This first arc and a half haven’t done much for me either – maybe my tastes have changed, or maybe Gou just isn’t as good at building a creepy atmosphere.

13: Taiso Samurai

Aragaki Jotaro is an olympic gymnast, who has struggled in recent years due to injury and age. His coach encourages him to retire, and he agrees. But, he struggles to break the news to his young daughter, who loves to watch him perform. He decides to take her to an Edo period historic village, planning to tell her about his retirement afterwards… only to have one of the ninja at this park follow him home and hide in his bathtub. 

From the trailer and synopsis, I was expecting a serious drama about an older athlete’s last shot at glory! And I guess the show is still delivering on that, just with a weird bird and a Western ninja thrown in! Hopefully Leo’s backstory doesn’t disappoint, he’s clearly important back in his country, and a skilled gymnast in his own right. I’m enjoying the other varied inhabitants of Ikebukuro as well, more than I did for IWGP at least!

12: Majo no Tabitabi

Elaina was obsessed with travel from a very young age, after reading the adventures of the witch Nike. And so, she aced the witch exams at a record young age of 14, but developed a sense of superiority in the process. Unfortunately, the next stage was to train as an apprentice under a fully-fledged witch, and none wanted to take on the child prodigy… until Elaina sought out the eccentric Fran, whose methods taught her some humility!

This series is reminiscent of Kino no Tabi, focusing on Elaina’s travels to different towns, cities and countries, most of which have some ridiculous situation on their hands – a spell forcing their inhabitants to speak only the truth, for example. The main difference is Elaina herself, with her bratty personality and powerful magic, who is far more willing to get involved in those issues (and even causes a few). Eps are varied and interesting.

11: Iwakakeru! Sport Climbing Girls

Konomi is a former hardcore puzzle gamer, who gave up her hobby after it started impacting her grades. Now looking for a new pastime, she is drawn to her new school’s climbing wall, and proves to be a natural at it, using her puzzle solving skills to plan the best route to the top. Fellow first year and experienced climber Jun doesn’t take kindly to her viewing the sport as a game, however, sparking an early rivalry!

I wanted this to be good, having previously worked in a leisure centre with a climbing wall, and developed an appreciation for the sport (even if I sucked at it myself) – thankfully, the series has had far less focus on boobs and butts than its trailer did, and actually provided a good intro to the basics. Now that we’re into the obligatory competition arcs, I look forward to seeing how far Konomi’s approach will take her!

10: Haikyuu!! To the Top: Part II

The second half of the fourth series of Haikyuu!! is here~ The show resumed exactly where its previous half left off, not only part way through a national tournament, but part way through a match! A painful place to leave things hanging (especially with the wait being longer than planned due to COVID delays!), but jumping right back in at that point did make for one of the most exciting first eps of the season, so I guess I’ll forgive it. 😛

The production values are as exceptional as ever, blowing Iwakakeru’s cheap animation out of the water… and there’s something about team sports that you just don’t get in the more solo, time/score focused rock climbing and gymnastics – Haikyuu!! is certainly the most dynamic and exciting to watch. Helps that I’ve had several years and past seasons to get to know the characters as well, mind!

9: Magatsu Wahrheit: Zuerst

Young transport worker Inumael and newly recruited solider Leocadio meet at the delivery office, where Leo helps Inu load cargo onto his truck… unfortunately, Leo loads some extra parcels that weren’t on the delivery list; these turn out to be a shipment of illegal weapons, that a smuggling ring had arranged to pick up from the office. Inumael is now a wanted criminal, and Leocadio’s first job is to track him and the smugglers down.

One of the least viewed series of the season according to Anime-Planet stats, and unfairly low rated too in my opinion. Though the animation is nothing to write home about, I’ve found the story and world building fantastic so far, and it’s been interesting not only having a main character on each side of the conflict, but for both those characters to be so completely out of their depths, just going with the flow and (often reluctantly) following orders.

8: Osomatsu-san 3rd Season

As with each Osomatsu-san series so far, S3 began with an attempt at rebranding and reimagining this ~60 year old franchise for the present day audience. This time the sextruplets were replaced by new, bishounen brothers, and sisters, and a diverse global group of main characters. Plenty of references and parodies of anime and other media, though not as over the top as that original banned episode. Still worked 3rd time around!

After that, we’ve had plenty of the same short gag segments, most of which have been hilarious. Alongside these, we’ve also had two new recurring characters introduced to the Matsuno household, in the form of the two ‘riceball robots’. Their attempts to be of use to the sextruplets, and the varying levels of acceptance and rejection by each brother, have provided the show’s first ongoing plot – who sent them? What is their true purpose?

7: Kamisama ni Natta hi

One day, a girl in a nun-like costume appears out of nowhere before school boy Youta, and declares herself to be an omniscient god. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t believe her at first, but as he spends the day with her (waiting for her to get bored and go away), it becomes apparent that her ability to predict the future is too accurate to be simple guesswork… and one claim, which she repeats more than once, is that the world will end in just 30 days.

This series seems to be following the usual Key format: ordinary boy meets supernatural girl, hilarity ensues, drama follows. So far, we’re still in the hilarity part, though the couple of eps following the mahjong tournament haven’t been quite as good as those early highs IMO; meanwhile, the clock ticking down to the end of the world has reached 6 days, and neither Youta or Hina seem worried! Presumably the main plot will kick into gear soon?

6: Munou na Nana

Kids with supernatural powers are sent to a remote island, to train their abilities in order to fight a foe known only as ‘the enemy of humanity’. ‘Oh, another super hero school anime’, I thought – but then, the bait and switch. In this world, super-powered kids are themselves considered ‘the enemy of humanity’, and apparently the most efficient way of dealing with them is to have one assassin with no powers infiltrate and kill them one by one?

Bizarre methods aside (and to be fair, it has been implied that there might be more secrets going on that neither side is aware of), I’m enjoying seeing ‘Talentless Nana’ learn about her classmates’ super powers, then come up with ways of taking them out, without raising the suspicion of the other classmates – Onodera in particular should be an interesting challenge, an L to her Kira, who also happens to have the power of immortality!

5: Jujutsu Kaisen

Itadori Yuji has unusually high physical strength, but refuses to join his school’s sports clubs, instead opting for the Occult Research Club. And that club has found a fantastic object to research: a mummified finger, wrapped in paper talismans to ward off curses… the kind of thing that you should definitely not unseal. Bad stuff happens, Yuji swallows the cursed finger (as you do), and is now possessed by Ryoumen Sukuna, the ‘king of curses’.

My low rating here might surprise some people – not only is this currently one of the highest ranked shows of the season (and of all time), but it’s also a ridiculously high budget action show, which I love! Characters are great, comedy is also on point, and it also has one of the best ending themes of the year. All true, but I’m finding the pacing a *little* too fast for my liking – a very minor quibble, there’s not much separating my top 5 this time.

4: Yuukoku no Moriarty

This series reimagines the Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame, almost having him switch roles with the great detective himself. The first episode for example saw him investigate the abduction and killing of several young boys, all of different backgrounds and professions – despite this, he immediately spotted a link between them, and soon identified a prime suspect.

Where this Moriarty differs from Holmes is that he acts as a ‘criminal consultant’ – his idea of justice is to empower the victims or their families to take revenge… through illegal and bloody methods, which Moriarty then covers up. He sees this as fixing injustice, in a class-based society where law and order repeatedly fail to protect the poor and vulnerable. He makes for a great anti-hero, and I’ve really enjoyed the 1-2 episode arcs so far.

3: Maou-jou de Oyasumi

Syalis is a young princess in a fantasy world. One day, she is kidnapped by a demon king, who keeps her hostage in the dungeons. The kingdom weeps, and a brave hero sets out to rescue her. As for Syalis herself, her main concern is getting a good night’s sleep. And so, she decides to upgrade her bedding, using whatever resources she can find, steal, or harvest directly from the bodies of her monster captives.

A great parody of the usual captured princess trope of old fairy tales, where in this case the hostage is the real terror in her quest for comfort. This show immediately won me over, though I did wonder how long it could compete with the season’s best, seeing as it only has one real gag… seven eps in, and it clearly still has enough different takes on it, or ways to push the princess’ tyranny to new levels, that it’s not come close to running out of steam.

2: Akudama Drive

In a dystopian future Kanzai, our nameless main character gets arrested for a minor crime following a misunderstanding. Meanwhile, several major criminals (known in this world as ‘Akudama’) receive messages promising a huge reward: all they have to do is storm police headquarters and rescue the most dangerous Akudama of all, Cutthroat. Ordinary protagonist gets mixed up in the chaos, but convinces the Akudama that she is one of them.

Akudama Drive is perfect… well okay, it’s lacking in the character development area, but that makes sense given that this bunch of highly dangerous criminals (plus one ordinary girl and a minor hoodlum) have barely had the chance to catch a breath between one dangerous jail break and another raid on a high-security train. It has been non-stop action, brilliantly paced. I like that it’s willing to kill off its cast members too.

1: Golden Kamuy 3rd Season

It should come as no real surprise that my #1 of the season is the continuation of a franchise which holds two places on my all-time Top 50+ anime list. So far this third offering is no weaker, if anything the animation is better than in those dodgy first episodes of S1, and story-wise it benefits from S2 only having been a couple of years ago – I can remember a lot more of that then I can about Higurashi!

Golden Kamuy has given us fun characters (many of whom are now getting much appreciated backstory) and wild comedy moments, while also having a really unique plot, and managing to sprinkle in plenty of history and cultural facts about the relationships between Russians, Japanese, Ainu and other minority groups living on Sakhalin in the early 1900s. And also feels like it could turn into full blown Bara at any moment. What’s not to like? 

Agree or disagree with the order, or with my comments on any of the shows? Or perhaps you have suggestions for what else I can pick up once I finally rage quit 100-man no Inochi? Leave a comment and let me know!

4 Responses to Autumn 2020 Mid-Season Rankings

  1. AK says:

    Sorry to hear — Higurashi was the only show I was planning to watch this season. I need to start it myself. I’ve heard great things about Golden Kamuy but I haven’t seen any of it, maybe someday.

    • If you have a better memory of the original Higurashi arcs (or watched/read/played them more recently), you may get more out of Gou than I have. The only issue I have that’s actually the show’s fault is the shinier animation and more moe character designs – doesn’t quite work when they try and go full crazy horror.

      • AK says:

        I also saw Higurashi a long time ago, so I might have the same problem. I’m also a big fan of the show’s character designer, but maybe his style doesn’t work for this show as well. I guess I’ll see soon!

  2. Dawnstorm says:

    By this time, I can’t say I’m surprised by your number one spot. I fully expected it to be there. It’s just as good as it always has been. And the show’s actually growing on me even more (I’ve not been as hot on it as most others), so I’d say it’s definitely one of the best this season has to offer.

    I’m mostly fine with your order. Moriarty would be further back, and so would Akudama Drive, but they’re really enjoyable.

    I dropped Higurashi; I thought it’d be re-make, so when I started it I was unsure to begin with whether I shouldn’t just quit, and go back to the original, but when it turned out to be a sequel, I found I really had no business starting with this, when I could be watching the original.

    And I had to drop the Sports Climbing Girls, because the show’s camera murders me via intense motion sickness. I haven’t had a show affect me like this in forever. It’s really bad. I’d be fine for stretches, and then suddenly there’s this strange camera swerve at an extremely uncomfortable speed. I can’t watch this.

    And finally, I dropped Kamisama. I tend to like PA Works, And I sometimes like Maeda’s stuff. But the combo of both has always proven lethal to my enjoyment, and I can’t figure out why. I finished Angel Beats to a dismissive meh. I fairly quickly dropped Charlotte, and I got further into this than I thought I would, but in the end I just can’t buy into the comedic aspects of the “route-shenaningans” (what should I call this, since it’s not a game adaption?), and it ends up cumulatively annoying. I’m mildly curious what’s going on with the end-of-the-world stuff, and that strange hacker kid, but not enough to stick with it. I’ll read reviews.

    I’m disappointed with Majo no Tabitabi. I was looking forward to this show the most, but it presents lacklustre stories, with a main character who seems more interested in how pretty she is, and sees the entire journey in terms of what she’s already read. What’s the point of travelling then? But the show is really, really pretty, so it doesn’t matter much that I can’t get into the story. It’s just fun to watch the pretty pictures.

    Munou no Nana is good fun to watch, as long as I don’t start thinking. Luckily, it’s well-paced enough that I’m not often tempted. The back and forth between our two leads is fun, and it’s started to break up the murder of the week pattern just a little to suggest there’s going to be more to it (though we’ll probably get a read-the-manga [novel?] ending).

    I think of the shows you’re watching Magatsu would come up front. I’m really enjoying this dystopia. I’ll see where this goes. I tend to enjoy SF shows more during the set-up than during the wind-up, and it’s entirely possible that that’s the case here, too. I already see the signs. But even if diminishing returns set in, it’s going to be somewhere in the top 5 this season no doubt.

    And the sleepy princess, too. It’s such a fun show, with the chhunibyou demon lord and his wacky underlings. I also really like the opening of this show.

    Among the shows you’re not watching the best are, IMO, Tonikaku Kawaii. After episode 1 I was kind of worried that the girl would be the stoic perfect ideal, but really we have a fairly balanced relationship between two geeks (with all the standard anime embarrassment, but I expected that). They’re really good with leading in from the rote comedy moments to the cute romance moments, too.

    And Adachi to Shimamura is probably my faveourite show of the season. It’s not flashy, but there’s a lowkey and plausible development the core relationship here. The show started with a chibi astronaut floating down the river, which clued me in that the source is from the guy who wrote the Denpa Onna novel; nobody told me or the show’d have been higher on my expectation list. It’s not gotten better since the first episode, but it’s kept the same high standards all the way through. Some 3d effects I don’t much care about, and the astronaut antics don’t always work as they should, but on the whole it’s just such a cute watch.

    Oh, and I wasn’t going to watch Jujutsu Kaisen, but pretty much everyone talked highly about it (and not only the shounen jump fan crowd), so I opted in after episode 4, and I’m really having fun with it. I like the way they’re naturally expanding the setting and introducing characters. I don’t find the pacing too fast; if anything, I’d probably get bored more quickly if they went any slower (I don’t have a good track record with long runners… I say in a season where I’m still watching Haikyuu, but well…).

    I was a little bored with anime last season, but this one’s back in full swing with lots of fun watches.

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