With the exception of Fire Force’s twelfth episode, we’ve wrapped up our coverage of the Summer 2019 season, which is just as well since we’re technically in the second week of Autumn.
Between Braverade, sesameacrylic and MagicalChurlSukui we watched and reviewed eleven shows in all (plus additional coverage from Oigakkosan, not detailed here), totaling 132 episodes, or approximately 53 hours. Without further math, here’s how we ranked those shows, and why. Break out the thesaurus!
RABUJOI Score: 7.00/10 MAL Score: 6.83/10
Pros: Novel premise, colorful pastel palette, likable characters, generally witty banter, risque ecchi situations that never cross hard lines of decency.
Cons: Uneven at best animation, silly central mystery that drags on too long, “twist” resolution feels like a cheat.
Verdict: An enjoyable, fluffy guilty pleasure. I try to watch one per season.
10. Lord El-Melloi II Case Files
RABUJOI Score: 7.77/10 MAL Score: 7.44/10
Pros: Built-in goodwill from Fate/Zero, always intriguing setup for cases, sumptuous setting, production, and mechanical design, stirring score, bonkers magical battles.
Cons: Excessive magical technobabble can be exhausting, conclusions to mysteries can feel contrived/arbitrary, non-Fate fanatics will end up hopelessly lost by most cameos or name-drops.
Verdict: A pale shadow of the classic upon which it’s based, but nonetheless a fun and moderately clever detective series.
9. Fire Force (Episodes 1-11 of 12)
RABUJOI Score: 7.82/10 MAL Score: 7.75/10
Pros: Gorgeously bizarre alternate-universe setting, elegant world-building, virtuoso action sequences, powerful orchestral soundtrack.
Cons: And MC who is dull and cliched within an inch of his life, Characters who go from evil-to-good (or vice versa) at the drop of a hat, a tedious central conspiracy, the potential for character bloat, frustratingly uneven gender balance, pathetic bouts of fanservice.
Verdict: A stylish show primarily about spontaneous human combustion might’ve weathered news of the horrific KyoAni arson attack, but isn’t quite good enough to watching following into the Fall.
7 (tie). How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift?
RABUJOI Score: 7.83/10 MAL Score: 7.68/10
Pros: A fresh, original premise to which it remains totally devoted, marvelous comic timing in the rapid-fire, self-deprecating, fourth-wall breaking dialogue, lovable and believable MC, decent animation, one hell of an earworm OP.
Cons: Ecchi elements and a superfluous Russian chick don’t add much, some parody bits are too on-the-nose, the show loses momentum in the final couple episodes.
Verdict: The show that inspired me to get off my skinny, underdeveloped backside and actually join a gym for the first time in my life!
7 (tie). Cop Craft
RABUJOI Score: 7.82/10 MAL Score: 6.94/10
Pros: Cool reverse-Isekai-lite premise, Range Murata character design, toe-tapping OP and lively soundtrack, entertaining buddy cop dynamic, engaging fights and chases.
Cons: Lame villains, some odd narrative choices, inconsistent/unfocused direction, disappointing animation, underutilized supporting cop cast, lots of loose ends.
Verdict: A show with some good parts to work with, mostly used badly. A wasted opportunity that’s not as good as our episodes ratings indicated.
6. DanMachi II
RABUJOI Score: 8.25/10 MAL Score: 7.45/10
Pros: Appealing, charismatic characters you love to root for, amusing romantic polygons, tremendous score, superb utilization of twelve episodes to tell a variety of engaging stories with a beginning, middle and oh-so-epic end, culminating in a quiet finale that doesn’t forget its core goddess-child dynamic.
Cons: Villains’ barks prove far worse than their bites, a couple slower episodes between mini-arcs don’t really distinguish themselves, and that huge Amazoness Phryne…what the hell?!
Verdict: After the very lame Sword Oratoria spinoff DanMachi got a proper sequel, focused on the characters we cared about, full of emotion, excitement, and good old-fashioned fantasy ass-kickin’.
5. Fruits Basket 1st Season (Episodes 14-25)
RABUJOI Score: 8.50/10 MAL Score: 8.36/10
Pros: Impeccably-rendered characters and depictions of their various psychological issues, dark and poignant flashbacks, exquisitely cozy slice-of-life, a good balance of the mundane and the mystic, and hard-hitting cathartic scenes.
Cons: Some members of the Souma family are more interesting (and tolerable) than others, but even the less interesting ones get plenty of screen time, Tooru’s saintly selflessness can wear thin at times.
Verdict: A beautifully-crafted second half that rewarded patience by delivering some of the strongest and most moving episodes of the year.
4. Master Teaser Takagi-san 2
RABUJOI Score: 8.58/10 MAL Score: 8.40/10
Pros: Truly magnetic chemistry in the central pair, Deft use of subtle facial expressions and body language in the animation, superb performances by Takahashi Rie and Kaji Yuki.
Cons: Like the first season, the various teasing games can grow repetitive, as can Nishikata’s denseness and inability to see more than one or two moves ahead, the side stories involving side characters often felt like padding.
Verdict: Continues and refines the brilliantly simple teasing formula of the first season, while ever-so-gradually blurring of the line between teasing and flirting. A sweet and touching, slow-burn portrayal of young, awkward first love.
2 (tie). Vinland Saga (Episodes 1-12)
RABUJOI Score: 8.67/10 MAL Score: 8.57/10
Pros: Flawed but rootable MC whose character is more complex than it initially seems, his multi-layered antihero mentor, exemplary action and battle sequences, powerful score, compelling exploration of the hard old world, with enticing glimmers of a brighter new one.
Cons: That said mentor would keep a kid dedicated to murdering him around so long stretches credulity at times, those battle sequences sometimes feature individuals or groups doing superhuman things that detract from the otherwise naturalistic milieu.
Verdict: While not quite as big, loud, epic, or bonkers as Attack on Titan, or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Vinland Saga is arguably Wit Studio’s most balanced and human series. Looking forward to the second half.
2 (tie). Astra Lost in Space
RABUJOI Score: 7.77/10 MAL Score: 7.44/10
Pros: Very well done futuristic world- and space-building, a large-ish main cast that you steadily come to know and love, the sense of family that arises from the crewmembers’ experiences together, an optimistic spirit of exploration that isn’t constantly beset by mortal peril, creative planets and lifeforms, thankfully subverted expectations for a Lerche-style bloodbath.
Cons: “Character gets a backstory” formula to some episodes felt repetitive at times, the crew almost faces too little mortal peril considering their circumstances, they similarly rely on a lot of luck, some major plotlines and twists could have been left out and still resulted in a pretty strong show.
Verdict: Maybe the season’s biggest surprise hit, the ambitious Astra calls to mind some of the best of live-action shades-of-gray sci-fi (Firefly, Battlestar, Expanse) while maintaining an old school optimistic, exploratory outlook. It set out to do and say a lot, and was mostly successful in doing so.
1. O Maidens in Your Savage Season
RABUJOI Score: 8.58/10 MAL Score: 8.40/10
Pros: Fearlessly tackles tough social topics on adolescence, sexuality, gender roles, upbringing, and abuse, ably juggles multiple, diverse love stories and triangles at once, pleasingly drawn and animated, and despite all its serious themes, doesn’t leave out the comedy.
Cons: What seemed to be an irreversible dive into an abyss that would tear the five girls apart, they work almost everything out almost too easily for a tidier ending than expected; while the show dips a toe in LGBTQ themes through Momo’s awakening, her’s is one of the least developed arcs despite being one of the most interesting.
Verdict: A rare-for-anime honest and unblinking exploration of the awkward, painful, and sometimes savage emotional journey to adulthood all kids must face (and not always at the same speed). By the numbers, the best show I watched this Summer, and the one I looked forward too most from week to week.
Summer 2019 Big Board: