SpaceWhales’ Top Components & Moments of Anime in 2019

With the top anime of 2019, overall, out of the way, let’s look a little closer at the bits that made each anime what they were, shall we?


Best in Writing


Top Pick: Boogiepop wa Warawanai
Original Review from Winter 2019

boogiepop2019.jpg

Every time I talk about Boogiepop, I bring it up, but here it goes again: I was, honestly, a little disappointed with Boogiepop wa Warawanai. A show with writing this eloquent should be a masterpiece, but tired delivery of the fundamental plottings, layered characterisation and intriguing chronology holds it back. Peak underneath the hood, you can still see the greatness of what that the story has achieved, blending psychology and philosophy to tell tales of humanistic empowerment, but it’s not as striking as it really should be.

Boogiepop is far from easy entertainment, requiring a great deal of effort from the audience to see its ideas through to the end. The show failed to garner that interest regularly, but it’s a testament to the influential light novels from the 1990s that the show still managed to be successful.

Runner-up: Given
Original Review from Summer 2019

given.jpg

Given was on my radar for quite some time, as a Boys Love story that refused to bow down to the genre’s harmful, toxic tropes. That in itself is impressive, because BL is, generally, particularly interested in the more complex loves than the anime medium is typically willing to explore. Given, then, is a glimmering future of what the genre can – and, in the future, will offer: deep romances, rife with development. And this show’s writing is particularly strong, with a substantially researched backbone in late-teen musicianship, and a thorough examination of ‘moving on’. Yet the show still finds time to be cute and amusing in a natural manner, with some solid joke timing to boot. Perhaps its writing got a little overly interested in its side-characters at the wrong times, but that doesn’t stop Given’s epic performance in the romance genre.

1. Boogiepop wa Warawanai
2. Given
3. Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue
4. Manaria Friends
5. Meiji Tokyo Renka 

 


Best in Dialogue


Top Pick: Hoshiai no Sora
Original Review from Fall 2019

hoshiai.png

While it is a little overbearing to the point of melodrama, Hoshiai no Sora has crafted an atmosphere true to life. Each episode has a genuine air, with the gentleness of each teen’s adolescent hesitation for thought, the immature but feisty retorts of youth and the honest introspection laying dormant and striking like fire. This is, almost entirely, because the dialogue is so well thought out, giving each character not just an identity, but a sense of purpose, dreams, and an unmistakably teenage personality. Unforgettably brazen moments like Tsubasa and Shingo’s out-of-the-box strategy to unnerve their opponents would not work without such subtle, reinforced developments, and that’s all thanks to strong scripting and really thinking the inner personalities of the cast through. I think a certain coming-out scene will be the greatest take-away from Hoshiai no Sora in future generations, and that’s a wonderful thing – it’s just a carefully crafted heart-to-heart that it deserves to be one for the history books.

Runner-up: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai
Original Review from Winter 2019

kotobuki.jpg

Sadly rendered one of the more forgettable shows of the year, Kotobuki lacked a sense of drive. Much like its wasted but awe-inspiring aerial combat choreography filming, the editing and brusque pace of dialogue was another fantastic addition to the show. It regularly gave me a small smile with how biting and snappily paced the exchanges between characters were, but I have to reel back to the sad fact that the overall writing was too shallow for this to mean much. Characters were not developed much beyond their gimmicks, so the wit or insults  rarely had a personal or meaningful drive for that extra oomph. But the eloquence of dialogue direction is absolutely worthy for Kotobuki to be placed highly on this list!

1. Hoshiai no Sora 
2. Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai
3. Tejina-senpai
4. Cop Craft (Discussed in Retrospective Post)
5. Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy


Best in Visuals


Top Pick: Sarazanmai
Original Review from Spring 2019

sarazanmai.jpg

Sarazanmai is, in every single facet, out there. Nothing about it is half-thought out. While none of its episodes were as supremely animated as its first, they all continued to dazzle with the vast array of colours, thought-provoking designs and sharp cinematography to extrapolate excellent planning. The show blended a range of rotoscoped live-action images into the fold and used really creative lighting, creating a visual design language that could never be mistaken with any show but this weird anally-bound social-satire.

Runner-up: Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV
Original Review from Summer 2019

xv.jpg

Over the year, I reviewed all 4 seasons in preparation for the finale of Symphogear, and noted the increasingly impressive animation on show. From its green roots, a first season with a handful of sakuga scenes that were decent and other scenes that were disastrous, Symphogear turned into a consistent animation tour de force as it progressed, with XV an incredible affair. No, it never had the same kind of inspiring visual language of something like Sarazanmai, but the action style was just so cool, and the animation backing that up frequently jaw-dropping. The entire concert scene, including the blooddrunk aftermath, stick out in my mind as one of the most mesmerisingly animated long sequences of animation of the year, and the only show that could really match such prolonged animation prowess was the excluded-from-this-list Fate/Grand Order.

1. Sarazanmai
2. Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV
3. Manaria Friends
4. Beastars (Review Soon)
5. Yakusoku no Neverland


Best in Sound


Top Pick: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai
Original Review from Summer 2019

kotobuki planes.jpg

That serene, evening breeze was cut, like a knife through butter, by that iconic bassy rumble of the Kotobuki squadron’s fighters revving up. No music played for their opening battle: the sound of the engines whirring, up, down and whooshing past was orchestrated in its place. There was quite the attention to detail paid, too, ensuring the heavy metal reverberated with a clunky twang, or gracefully through precision engineering. Each plane was characterised firmly through the tremendous sound design. Perhaps, sadly, moreso than its shallow cast.

Runner-up: Sarazanmai
Original Review from Spring 2019

keppi.jpeg

It’s probably a relation to the history of Sarazanmai’s director, working on shows like Sailor Moon, that the sound effects are as they are: iconographic. Timed to precision for laughs, poignancy, emotional gut-punches, and resounding within the profoundly weird atmosphere that Sarazanmai crafts so readily and nails personality. There are so many standout moments in Sarazanmai’s soundscape that the show’s identity is found as much in its soundscape as it is in its visuals and plotting. KA KA KA, KA-PAH!

1. Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai
2. Sarazanmai
3. Granbelm
4. Boogiepop wa Warawanai
5. Manaria Friends


Best in OST


Top Pick: Lord El Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo
Original Review from Summer 2019

Yuki Kajiura is a composer that needs no introduction. Her style itself is iconic at this point, with female vocals, harpsichords and middle-eastern scales dominating her works to the point of… sameyness, dare I say it. Lord El Melloi II, despite being a sequel soundtrack that references Fate/Zero’s pieces, has the most recognisable musical hooks of the year. Lord El Melloi’s personal theme is powerful but carries a gentle introspection into his hollowness, demonstrating his pride’s facade; Iskander’s theme speaks to the ghost of Waver’s childlike innocence that he carries, but buries deep inside. This OST intertwines so snug with the show’s themes and writing, and is an unendingly resonant album.

Runner-up: Azur Lane
Review From Fall 2019: Soon

Azur Lane’s soundtrack, however, is a bit more straight forward, but I love its simplicity. While its hookiness is perhaps not as domineering as other soundtracks, the weaving in-and-out of its simple ideas is effective and punchy. That recurring snare drum, beating with Western militaristic fury, is the stalwart of the entire series, with a wide range of different instrumentation coming in to decorate the pieces with the colour of traditional Japanese strings or the bluntness of hard rock’s distorted guitar, or even a lat guitar! But it’s when the timpani hits that I think Azur Lane’s OST really drives home the thumping, beating war drum that Azur Lane is so interested in deconstructing. Present ominously, ready to dominate scenes and yet subdued to respect the actors, the Azur Lane OST represents an impressive war soundtrack.

1. Lord El Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo
2. Azur Lane (Review Expected in March)
3. Beastars (Review Soon)
4. Boogiepop wa Warawanai
5. Fairy Gone (Season 2 Review may be on the cards)


Best Performance


Top Pick: Granbelm: Yoko Hikasa as Anna Fugo
Original Review from Summer 2019

annafugo.jpg

O, how much fun it must be to play a villain who has absolutely lost it. Dredging through so much hurt and unleashing it must be quite the catharsis, and Yoko Hikasa’s lungs still haven’t forgiven her for those impassioned screams. Make no mistake: Anna Fugo’s timbre and tonality were very binary, switching between a pompousness that hides low self-esteem and a jealous, suicidal rage, but it is testimony to this commanding performance just how many emotions and how much sympathy were bestowed orally. Yoko Hikasa didn’t just empower one of the villains, but became the anchor of the whole show, crafting a compelling character whose arc is dominating the show on the back of sheer acting talent.

Runner-up: Shinchou Yuusha: Aki Toyosaki as Ristarte
Review From Fall 2019: Soon

ristarte.jpg

Ristarte’s personality swings from side-to-side, going from sweet and kind to insulting at the drop of a hat. And, for some reason, this is oddly compelling! I ascribe much of this to her cartoonish facial expressions, but it’s also very true that Aki Toyosaki did a tremendous job bringing the shallowest Goddess of them all to life. As a one-woman-comic show, her huge dynamic range and multiple personality disorder ensured that Shinchou Yuusha, even in a few of its less creative jokes, breezed by with hilariousness.

1. Granbelm: Yoko Hikasa as Anna Fugo
2. Shinchou Yuusha: Aki Toyosaki as Ristarte (Review Soon)
3. Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu: Chisaki Morishita as Hitori Bocchi
4. Tejina-senpai: Kaede Hondo as Tejina
5. Kakegurui xx: Saori Hayami as Jabami Yumeko


Best Opening


Top Pick: BEASTARS’ ‘Wild Side’
Review From Fall 2019: Soon


BEASTARS is a CGI anime with very little traditional 2d animation – even its OP goes an unorthodox route, using stop-motion! Not only are these models brilliantly detailed, but the animation is fluid and creative, with the dance at the centre being a particular highlight. The symbolic visual imagery adds an unnerving tinge to the show, too, pushing this fun and creative opening into one of the most memorable 90 second music videos in recent history. Throw in the song’s undeniable coolness, and it wasn’t really a contest.

Runner-up: Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru?’ ‘Onegai Muscle’
Original Review from Summer 2019


This muscle junky show tries to make working out infectious, and the opening really sells that. The plea for muscles is, in itself, a catchy tune, and the colourful visual imagery sells exercise as something fun and exciting. An entire cast are demonstrated with big grins and visual puns, too, and there’s really no shortage of energy on this one.

1. BEASTARS’ ‘Wild Side’
2. Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru?’ Onegai Muscle’
3. Lord El Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo’ ‘Starting the Case’
4. Boogiepop wa Warawanai ‘shadowgraph’
5. Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka’ ‘KODO’


Best ED


Top Pick: Hoshiai no Sora’s ‘Kago no Naka no Bokura wa’
Review From Fall 2019


While I’ve got some choice words to say about the plagiarism of the choreography, the fact is that these kids have sick moves, and Ryouma Ebata’s animation brings the dance to life with incredible kineticism. Each character’s failure to keep up with the beat is undeniably charming, and it’s impossible not to watch this without gaining a little bit more love for the medium of animation. Perhaps a little jarring after some of the episode’s more dour final moments, this lovely piece is undeniably my favourite ending of the year.

Runner-up: Lord El Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo’ ‘Hibari’
Original Review from Summer 2019


If the bold opening of Lord El Melloi’s anime represents Waver’s faux pride and introspective arrogance, then the much quieter, folky ending represents Gray, his apprentice, and her existential meandering. Like a quiet observer, she watches the world go by, and moment by moment, takes in that little bit more of the world and the characters within. Gray is a constant in the series, willing to act for those that act for her, and her adventure to self-respect mirror Lord El Melloi’s, and it is painted vividly in this ending.

1. Hoshiai no Sora’ ‘Kago no Naka no Bokura wa’
2. Lord El Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo’ Hibari’
3. Kakeguruixx’ ‘AlegriA’
4. Dororo’ ‘Sayonara Gokko’
5. Given’ ‘Marutsuke’


Top 5 Scenes


5th: Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru ‘they felt the presence of God’
Original Review from Summer 2019

machio.png

This dumb muscle show kept finding ways to up the ante, all while keeping it educational. Barnold Shortsinator (cough) enters the fray, and gets everybody’s favourite Muscle Bro to join a muscle posing competition. Of course, this is a great opportunity to show the workout that is possible with different poses, listing pros, cons and health concerns in the same energetic way that never got old. But its real life demonstration took things to the next level, with an explosion so bold that I had to stop and catch my breath. This was, definitely, the best punchline of the year.

4th: Sarazanmai ‘The First Sarazanmai’
Original Review from Spring 2019

saraaaa.jpg

During the climax of Sarazanmai’s episode, I stood up, and took a break, for I had now seen everything. After gaining a second to recompose myself (by loudly proclaiming ‘what the fu…’), I sat back down, rewound a few minutes, and started afresh. All these metaphors need analysing, and I needed to slow down my laughter, dry the tears from my eyes, and get to work.

Sarazanmai had already determined that it was an odd anime, with the gimmicky idol setting a precedent for bizarre that only got more and more exponentially weird as the two leads started munching on cucumbers and doing sumo wrestling poses. When the climax comes, they’ve been turned into frogs Kappas, and are fighting a zombie, who is sat in the doggy position, by singing at it, entering its anus, and removing its shame. The gall of this scene is eye-catching enough, but throw in the well-articulated metaphors on societal oppression, and you have a show setting its targets on Anime of the Year and refusing to give up.

3rd: Meiji Tokyo Renka ‘Goodbye’
Original Review from Winter 2019

1e9b82fe4f6ea38a6c6fb864c747ea5f.jpg

No matter how whimsical, all stories must come to an end. Meiji Tokyo Renka delayed its storytelling for a good long while, indulging in the episodic wonder of its show and letting Mei, a terrific protagonist, lead the show with aplomb. But Mei is not from Meiji era Tokyo, but from 2019, and she has to decide, before the Full Moon is up, whether she must go back.

What ensues in this final episode is an impassioned goodbye that reiterates those huge steps she has made as a character. What started as a timid girl’s quiet footsteps became a confident young woman’s waltz through time. Each goodbye is difficult, as she passes between the various suitors, and it only gets more and more painful until she finally lands in the arms of Shunzou. As she departs from Shunzou, Meiji Tokyo Renka becomes a tearjerker in the arms of Ougai for one, final lingering note of empowerment. The epilogue, then, is imperative, making sure that ideas are set in motion to ensure that Mei’s choice was, not necessarily right, but giving her a future, and Mei boldly steps forth into that future with a smile and thick, layered characterisation.

2nd: Kakegurui xx ‘The Tower of Doors’
Original Review from Winter 2019

lesbiab

Kakegurui is not a show regularly defined by its contemplativeness. Characters violently jump between extremes as gambling dominates their lives, and that’s why we love it: it’s so ridiculously intense, all the time, and the shouting is mesmerising; the expressions are disgusting, and the defeats are soul-cleansing. But towards the end of its second season, Kakegurui xx experimented with a character who does not gamble, and deconstructs her feelings in the heartbreaking arc of healing, The Tower of Doors.

Kakegurui uses all sorts of game theory to construct its gambles, and while Tower of Doors is essentially a maze, spiced up with maths riddles, it is still an interesting concept. Sayaka battles with Yumeko in a turn-based battle of wits as she attempts to get to the bottom and bring a white lily back to the top, all to prove to Momobami her love as she can best the seemingly unbeatable Jabami. Sayaka’s backstory is depicted across these two episodes, showing her childhood and growing fondness for the student council president, and her unsaid feelings need no explanation as the visual metaphors of lilies and imprisonment make it clear enough that she is homosexual. What transpires is a furious fight, not against Jabami, but against her own fear of coming out and admitting her feelings, and Kakegurui xx’s solution to this problem is about as profound as you can expect from the aggressive-shouting carrousel that Kakegurui has embodied since it began – but, really, is that not the exact answer the world needs today?

1st: Lord El Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo ‘You were my king’
Original Review from Summer 2019

302501d8dcb93fa063c03828b32a9189.jpg

Hardcore fans of the original Fate/Zero OST will notice a slight change to the track name here. Yuki Kajiura reprises the original piece, ‘You are my king‘, moving its uplifting strings into something to pluck at the hearstrings as the tense moves to the past in ‘You were my king‘; this, in itself, represents the irony of Waver. As he waved goodbye to the physical Iskander, he found his best smile and moved his chin-up, but now he must wave goodbye to the shadow of his king that has harrowed him for a decade since. It’s time to say goodbye, both Waver and El Melloi II. It’s time to heal.

A most graceful direction captures this pained goodbye in Lord El Melloi II’s dream sequence, as he comes face to face with all of his past selves and the man he wants to see more than anything. On the tides of a sea that Iskander could never reach, Waver reaches out to a man he will never see again and pushes him away. It’s time to put a stop to this endless chasing of a dream that can’t be obtained, and to live for himself, and continue to bask in the achievements of his students and his own magical proficiency. Lord El Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo used its finale to tie the loose ends on the most compelling character of the humongous Fate franchise. Thus ends one of my favourite series of the years: with potent character drama.

Because I couldn’t exclude it:
Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia ‘Running Towards The Future
Original Review of Fate/Grand Order Episode 0-1

7df2f09f78eff5864f0a7ea27783410c.jpg

Doctor Romani Archaman has spent all of his life running. He doesn’t know how, but he knows that all of human history is approaching at breakneck speed. He runs, desperately, away from destiny, powered by fear.

Mash does not live a normal human life. As an imperfect baby of science, she is destined to die sooner or later, with the good doctor Romani working tirelessly to prolong that. However, she doesn’t run from the future – she runs straight towards it.

The culmination of the most impressively handcrafted anime episode of the year is a montage of Mash’s journey – up until Camelot, where the anime is poised to take over. It becomes clear that, unlike Romani, she spends her life embracing her destiny, because there’s so much life left to live and so much life worth living. Her courage in the face of literal and existential peril manifests bewitchingly in this musical segment, and it worms its way into the soul.


Those were my top moments & components of the year 2019. It’s been a great year for anime, and there are many times in this list I wanted to talk about more show’s achievements, but decided to keep the word count down!

What have been some of the best moments & components in anime this year for you?

2 thoughts on “SpaceWhales’ Top Components & Moments of Anime in 2019

    1. Yes! Kotobuki was a weak show, but that was almost entirely because it couldn’t sustain itself with depth. The way it was made was very impressive in lots of aspects, and I think it would be sad to forget that just because… the rest of the show is kinda forgettable…

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s