Updated: Jan 19, 2018
The Winter 2018 anime season has begun. Just like with any other season, there are some hits and there are some misses. Let's take a look at a few of the season's offerings.
Violet Evergarden is one of the most hotly anticipated anime of the season. It focuses on the titular Violet Evergarden, a former soldier whose identity hinged on her usefulness as a weapon. Now that the war is over, she is trying to understand the last words that her former commander said to her by working as an "Auto Memories Doll", or someone who transcribes the feelings of others into words.
The Good: So far, Violet Evergarden is bringing us stunning art, goregeous animation, and a solid concept that it seems fully capable of exploring. Violet herself may be the first female character I've seen seen who has to adjust to life after war. For that reason alone, I'm interested. Besides that, her new job as an Auto Memories Doll seems rife for character development. On a shallower note, Claudia Hodgins looks like an older, hotter version of Rin Matsuoka, so, y'know, that's cool.
The Bad: There was a brief moment of tiresomeness where Violet starts stripping in front of a male co-worker because she somehow doesn't know any better. It's brief, but the Born Sexy Yesterday trope sexualizes innocence and it's creepy. Hopefully, this doesn't become a recurring theme.
Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card
After twenty years, Card Captor Sakura is back with an all new story. Sakura Kinomoto and her friends are starting middle school, but that doesn't mean that her days of capturing cards are behind her. After a strange dream about a hooded figured, all of her previous cards have turned transparent, and are now powerless. She has to solve the problem - but how?
The Good: The first episode of Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card was, simply put, adorable. We have the start of an exciting new plot that promises to continue what was fun about the first series, and we also have some changes that are appropriate to a middle school story - in particular the deepening of Sakura and Syaoran's relationship. The art and animation retains the charm of the original, but it's clear that the studio is taking advantage of the new technological possibilities at its disposal.
The Bad: Despite the helpful refresher at the start of the series, there's a lot that won't make sense if you're not familiar with the original. I saw the dubbed version of Cardcaptor Sakura on TV 10 million years ago. I get the basic idea, but I found myself pausing the episode to look this up characters and concepts that the first episode breezed through. Given that the original Cardcaptor Sakura aired a full twenty years ago, I would have appreciated a little bit more backstory - but I get that there's a limit to what's possible in a single episode without bogging down the narrative.
Mari Tamaki wants to lead a more exciting life, but she's always been too scared to try new things. When she meets Shirase, a girl who wants to go to Antartica to search for her missing mother, she decides to go with her.
The Good: I did not expect to love this show as much as I do. The protagonist's conflict feels so real - stopping yourself from achieving your own dreams out of fear is something that many people go through, but which isn't always expressed so succinctly. Meanwhile, Shirase's conflict is far more dramatic, and while it's "out there" it's more in line with what one expects of anime. Combine the two and you have a fantastic premise. The execution remains to be seen, but as of Episode 1, I'm smitten.
The Bad: For some, the pace may be a little slow, especially before you know about the plan to go to Antartica.
Yuzu is a fashion-conscious teenager who transfers to a conservative all girl's school when her mother gets remarried. Her bubbly personality and need to accessorize put her at odds with the ultra-strict student council president, Mei. In a shocking twist, it turns out that Mei is her new stepsister.
The Good: It's a well animated series with a main character who tells you who she is from the first scene that she appears in. Also, it's great to see queer characters appearing in anime.
The Bad: Whatever else this show is, it's a yuri anime, which means that it's going to adhere to certain tropes. I watched this first episode hoping for queer representation, and while Citrus has that, it also has a lot of other things I didn't enjoy. I didn't enjoy watching Mei grope Yuzu publicly against her will under the guise of confiscating her phone. I didn't enjoy watching Mei forcibly kiss Yuzu after ignoring her. I didn't enjoy watching Mei make out with her teacher with sparkly lip close-ups and alluring lighting.
Exploitation and non-consent are very present in this first episode, so bear that in mind when making your viewing decisions.
Pop Team Epic
Pop Team Epic is based on a 4-koma humor manga of the same title. Rage-fueled Popuko and relaxed Pipimi go on a series of disjointed, wacky adventures in a show that's half drug-trip, half endless stream of meta references.
The Good: Some of the jokes are genuinely good - I definitely laughed at the scene in the middle where a nefarious team of evil masterminds plot the show's success. Also, this is a unique format that hasn't really been tried too much, so if nothing else, it's innovative.
The Bad: Unfortunately, many of the skits just aren't funny. Popuko dressed up like Ash Ketchum and trying to choose between three Pipimis dressed like different Pokemon isn't a joke, it's just happening. Even the jokes that are funny lose their lustre when they're repeated in the second half of the episode - the second half is identical to the first half except that the voices are different.