Winter 2023 Mid-Season Rankings

New year, new anime! And Winter 2023 has certainly delivered some good ones, enough that I picked up one more than originally planned. That plus the three ongoing from Autumn brings my lineup to a total of 14, and here they are, ranked as usual in completely subjective order:

14: Ars no Kyojuu

A young girl with unusual powers escapes incarceration. After fleeing to a nearby city, she purchases a ‘Ring of Promise’ from a merchant, a relic supposedly belonging to the person who will one day save their world… the ring glows, and fits her perfectly. Later on, while fleeing her pursuers, she meets a beast hunter named Jiro, who recognises her powers as those of a ‘Cleric’.

This one got off to a strong start, with its action-packed first ep and some great world building, but it quickly ran out of steam. Now, Kuumi, Jiiro and Myaa feel like they’re just aimlessly travelling, fighting giant monsters and picking up new party members as they go. Hopefully it’ll recapture my interest in its second half, as I want to enjoy some old-school non-isekai fantasy.

13: Tokyo Revengers: Seiya Kessen-hen

In the present, Takemichi’s ex-girlfriend Hinata is dead. The only way he can save her is by time travelling back to his high school days, and working his way up the ranks of the delinquent gang that eventually killed her. But no matter what changes he makes to the past, Hinata’s death seems to be unavoidable, set in stone in every version of his future.

Tokyo Revengers S1 was always dumb, but had a weird sort of charm, and likable characters. So far, S2 feels just as dumb, but with worse animation, pacing, dialogue, and pretty much everything TBH. Hopefully the showdown with Taiju and its aftermath will be worth it, or at least be followed by a more interesting arc.

12: Kyokou Suiri S2

A creepy noise in the apartment above bothers not only its human resident, but the ghost who haunts his home! That ghost turns to Iwanaga Kotoko, human and ‘goddess of wisdom’, for assistance, and she investigates the issue along with her reluctant partner, the immortal future-seeing Sakuragawa Kurou.

I decided to give this a second chance, despite my low ranking for the first series… but I think I like the idea more than its execution. Far too much long-winded dialogue, its light novel origins certainly show. And we’ve not heard much from Kurou in S2 so far either, his interactions with Kotoko are the best part, and I want more!

11: Blue Lock

I’ll keep my thoughts brief for the continuing Autumn series; the current (second selection) arc has had its moments, with characters developing new skills under pressure, both as individuals and as teammates. Liking the smaller, ever-changing teams, and the continued elimination of characters adds some drama. But, it’s up against some tough competition once again this season.

10: Ooyuki Umi no Kaina

Kaina lives high up in a canopy, supported by a ‘spire tree’. But the tree is dying, the other residents of his village are all elderly, and all other canopy villages have perished, leading them to fear for young Kaina’s future. Below them is the ever-rising ‘Snow Sea’, believed to be uninhabited… until a young girl floats up to the canopy in a basket, seeking help from a fabled sage!

This is definitely Tsutomu Nihei’s most accessible story – no technobabble here, just boy-meets-girl in a dying world, where wars are fought over limited fresh water supplies. Slow-paced but never boring; I appreciate its simplicity, compared with the over-ambitious Ars no Kyojuu. The 3D animation looks fine to me, and the backgrounds are gorgeous.

9: Nokemono-tachi no Yoru

Marbas is an immortal, unaging and invisible demon – and he is bored. One day, in 1800s London, he meets an orphan girl who can see and speak to him. The two outcasts meet at night, with Marbas telling her stories of his past, and slowly they start to form a bond. Unfortunately, the dodgy priest who ‘cares’ for Wisteria is in fact a slave trader, and he’s just found a buyer for her…

I LOVE the Victorian England setting, as well as all the demon character designs we’ve seen so far. I especially like Marbas’ relationship with fellow greater demon Naberius, I’m glad that he and Diana seem to be sticking with the lead duo for now! Decent action and drama, though the animation quality isn’t anything to write home about.

8: High Card

The series begins with an armed raid on a castle, but while the thieves make their escape, their target briefcase breaks open, scattering its contents to the winds: playing cards. Each grants its owner a super power – protagonist Finn finds one of these cards, using it to to ‘raise’ money to save his orphanage home from repossession… until he comes into contact with other card users.

High Card has a lot of potential, and has delivered a great mix of stylish action and cheesy comedy so far… though, the sudden switch from moments like ep 5’s brutal mafia killings to ep 6’s fun auction heist have been quite jarring, sometimes it feels like I’m watching a different series each week!

7: Kyuuketsuki Sugu Shinu S2

After a trivial falling out, Dralc leaves Ronaldo’s office… and on his way out, a poster saying ‘everyone welcome’ falls down. Without this invitation, Dralc (as a vampire) is unable to cross the threshold and return. Things escalate quickly from there, in the show’s bizarre fashion.

I’d forgotten how much this series made me laugh! The first three episodes of S2 in particular knocked it out of the park, for me at least; since then, the segments have been a little more hit-and-miss. We’ve had a few attempts at character development too, from glimpses of Dralc’s childhood to the sudden revelation about Ronaldo’s brother. Just good, cringeworthy fun~

6: Boku no Hero Academia 6

The huge hero vs villain war in the first half set the bar high; now, we’re seeing its aftermath, as the remaining heroes recover from physical and emotional wounds, while public support for them hits an all-time low. Deku looks like he means business – looking forward to seeing him take down more escaped villains in the episodes to come!

5: Bungo Stray Dogs S4

As with past series intros, Bungou Stray Dogs treated us to another flashback story, this time featuring Ranpo and Fukuzawa’s first meeting. The former is a super-observant genius, who can solve crimes instantly, but fails to realize that the other humans around him lack this skill. I liked the greyscale colour scheme used up until Ranpo was given his signature glasses – great arc all around!

Back to the present from ep 4 onward, with the focus remaining on Ranpo for a while; Atsushi and Dazai haven’t had much screen time yet! It feels like the power levels in this already OP series have been dialled up to eleven, with even reality and memories now being rewritten – exciting stuff! 

4: Revenger

Raizou is a samurai, deeply loyal to his clan, until the day he is tricked into killing his fiancée’s father, then hunted down by the same lord who gave him the order, keen to cover his tracks. Fortunately, the outnumbered samurai is rescued by a mysterious ‘odd-jobs man’ named Usui Yuen, who presents Raizou with an opportunity to take revenge.

Very edgy, very violent. The assassination techniques used are far from realistic, but it’s entertaining so I’ll let it slide! Everything from the bitten gold to the twisted Christian church in a shipwreck oozes style. Characters are a varied and interesting bunch, with Raizou himself making for an unusually stoic and awkward main character.

3: Buddy Daddies

Kazuki and Rei are two professional assassins, who live together. After accepting a job on Christmas Eve, Kazuki bakes a cake and dons a Santa costume in order to infiltrate a high security party… and all of a sudden, a young girl shows up in the lift with him. She’s looking for her papa. But she doesn’t know who her papa is. And it turns out they’re about to assassinate him!

Top of the new series for me! Lots of people have been quick to compare this to Spy x Family, but I think I may actually prefer Buddy Daddies – no super powers or hidden agendas, just two guys who suddenly become responsible for a child out of nowhere, and are struggling to give her as normal a life as is possible, around their dangerous line of work. Cute and heart-warming.

2: Vinland Saga S2

The first episode focused on a new character, Einar. Despite living a peaceful farming life with his family, he dreamed of becoming a warrior. However, war came comes to him, and he was not ready. His family is killed, and he is taken far across the sea, to be sold as a slave. Once he is finally purchased, he is sent to work on a farm – where he meets another slave, Thorfinn.

And so begins the arc that manga fans refer to as ‘Farmland Saga’; definitely feels like a different show compared with the action and adventure of the first series, but already the character development has been fantastic. Thorfinn is understandably depressed, going through the motions of life without meaning or purpose – hopefully Einar’s friendship will help change that.

1: Fumetsu no Anata e S2

I said in my end of Autumn rankings that S2 hadn’t gripped me yet… it certainly has now! Fushi has pushed his powers to their limits, replicating an entire city to fight off a full-scale Nokker invasion. And yet, there are things about his powers that even he doesn’t fully understand yet. The last few episodes have been a real emotional rollercoaster, the build-up was worth it. 😮


2 Responses to Winter 2023 Mid-Season Rankings

  1. Dawnstorm says:

    Not watching Tokyo Revengers (didn’t like season 1), Boku no Hero Academia, Blue Lock, or High Card.

    I had a different impression from Ars no Kyoujuu: I didn’t think it had a strong start, but I’ve warmed up to it… somewhat. It reminds me of a lesser Gran Blue Fantasy the most, and that was a good mid-tier show for me.

    I’m enjoying In/Spectre, but I wasn’t too fond of the first episode. I don’t mind the constant talking, but I agree that Kotoko/Kuro is the best thing about the show (and doesn’t get enough screen time).

    Oyukiumo no Kaina: For me, the star of the show’s definitely the world building. The simple story is neither a draw nor or turn off. The characters are likable but nothing special. I’m fine with the CGI, it works with the concept and helps the world building. I’ve heard people say it compares unfavourably to this season’s Trigun (the CGI animation), but what little I’ve seen of Trigun… well I prefer Kaina’s look, to be honest. But then I’m not the target audience for GCI…

    Nokemono-tachi: I quite enjoy it, but I’m not sure what to say about it. It doesn’t do anything special, but what it does it does well.

    Kyuuketsuki sugu shinu: Just like season one. Some of it is annoying (I don’t tend to enjoy shouty comedy; I prefer understatement), and some of it’s funny. But does any of that matter, when the show has John?

    I’m loving this season of Bungou Stray Dogs, though I probably should have reacquainted myself with the past seasons. My memory’s spotty at times, and we’re getting more and more factions. I keep forgetting who’s aligned with who.

    Revenger: It’s one of those shows that I consistently enjoy while watching, but I’m not particularly drawn to. I’m never quite motivated to click play on the show, but I never regret doing so. There’s about one show per season like this, and I’ve never figured out how this discrepancy arises.

    Buddy Daddies: It’s got its high points, but on the whole I don’t like it much. I find Mirrie annoying; the sort of anime child I could do without. Our two Daddies have good chemistry, though, and it’s possible that there’s something in the developing storyline that catches my interest… I *definitely* prefer SpyXFamily, however it’d never have occured to me to compare it to this. If it reminds of anything it’s Tiger and Bunny (which I dropped, so that’s maybe not a good comparison either).

    That leaves Vinland Saga and Fumetsu no Anata e, which both would no doubt top my list, too.

    Top of the shows you’re not watching would have to go to Benriya Saitou-san. Loved the show from episode one: I thought it would be a vignette style dungeon crawler slice of life isekai, then I thought it would be a wacky races style dungeon crawler show, but it seems to build to a multi character story of some sort. The show definitely knows what its doing, and it’s just lots of fun to watch.

    Hikari no Ou is getting better and more interesting (I initially preferred Kaina, but it’s overtaken that show by now – both shows thrive on world building for me). Ningen-Fushin… is also a pretty nice show to watch; it’s a show where people pay for what they do even if the show’s sympathetic towards them (which is rare in that type of show). And I quite the like the romance anime this season with Tomo-chan and Ice Guy being the best for me.

    It’s a pretty strong season for my taste I have to say.

    • The trailer for Benriya Saitou-san did make the characters look fun, but my dislike for most things isekai won out in the end, so I didn’t even check out the first episode. I should probably try and get over that, there has to be some gems amongst the 5+ that come out each season.

      I did watch the first episode of Hikari no Ou, but despite it looking great and having a good setting, it just didn’t grip me – I seem to get that a lot with any series where Mamoru Oshii is involved, I’m just not sure his style of writing appeals to me for some reason!

      Ningen Fushin just missed out on my list, and I fully intend to go back to it. Or I did, but now that it’s finished, I see that the scores and reviews on various sites aren’t great – curious to hear whether you’d still recommend it at this point?

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