Arcane’s Final Thoughts — 2020 Long Shows
While 2020 did end up eventually being pretty dang good for seasonal, one-cour shows, it didn’t quite deluge us with their longer counterparts the way the previous year did. 2020 didn’t really have a Shield Hero or a Demon Slayer, but it did have a ton of sequels (…most of which I did not get to, because I had already dropped them) and the end of a few notable long-runners (Ahiru no Sora went on for a full year, and Ace of Diamond Act 2 and Gegege no Kitarou even longer).
Since this is my first of these unusual lists on a new platform, I may as well explain my rules for what shows go where — normally, any show that starts and ends in a single “season” (winter, spring, summer, fall) goes on that season’s wrap-up list to be compared to the shows that aired at the same time. Netflix shows get their own list because they are delivered to the US audience differently than shows that are simulcast and usually much later than the ones they actually aired with, and “long shows” are any show that airs more than thirteen episodes in a span of six months (extended to nine this year because the second half of Haikyuu! To The Top was delayed due to COVID) and get their own list because they have much longer to impress/disappoint me, and also waste much more time if they turn out to be trash in the end.
22 shows running for more than one cour within nine months (rules adjusted for COVID delays) ended their run in 2020, and of those, I…
Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath of the Gods, Chihayafuru 3, Radiant Season 2, Ace of Diamond Act 2, Cardfight!! Vanguard: Shinemon Arc, Cardfight!! Vanguard Gaiden: If, and A Certain Scientific Railgun T, all because they are sequels to shows I haven’t watched or dropped outright.
Gegege no Kitarou, because by the time I had a chance to actually watch it it had been going on for a long time and nobody was talking about it anymore.
Case File nº221: Kabukicho, Phantasy Star Online 2: Episode Oracle, and Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front — Babylonia, all because I failed to notice their existence in time, oops.
Worst Long Show of 2020: Plunderer
In a world absent of Demon Slayer and Shield Hero, Funimation co-produced this nightmare and then marketed it relentlessly, tweeting about it constantly despite the fact that people weren’t watching it. And then they got themselves into the nightmare situation that was the choice to remove Interspecies Reviewers, a show that is mostly a consent- and sex-positive show that was just a bit too risque for the platform, from all non-Japanese streaming services…and then keep Plunderer, a show whose protagonist is a self-described pervert who constantly tries to sexually harass and assault women. Even if the show hadn’t been total dogshit, it would have earned its place at the bottom of this list out of pure spite.
Ahiru no Sora
I mean…while I got initially annoyed at people saying this show sucked because the protagonist was too short to play basketball and he could literally never hope to achieve anything, I eventually realized that eight episodes in, I was still not sold enough for what was already announced to be a show that would run for fifty.
IDOLiSH7: Second Beat!
I’m sorry, you guys, whatever it was that finally got the first season to click with me at all faded in the time it took to get the second. I don’t understand the hype behind this show at all, and I’m gonna leave it at that.
Ascendance of a Bookworm (6/10)
While I enjoyed the first “season” well enough, by the end of Bookworm’s second, it became very clear that the show was going to continue gesturing in the direction of being a commentary on classism and social hierarchy without ever actually committing to being one despite the obvious undertones. Main/Myne is a selfish brat who ought to know better than she does, and while there was still some charm to be found, I was beating my head into the wall by the end.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth/Fifth Plate (8/10, 5/10)
The really irritating part about having sung this show’s praises for so many years now is that the fourth season finishes with what really ought to have been the series finale, wrapping up basically all the plotlines and ending with an emotional montage. And then, The Fifth Plate barges in as an unneeded postscript story that rehashes the previous arc with a dumber villain and nobody telling the author how to make food. Just pretend that last cour doesn’t exist.
My Hero Academia Season Four (7/10)
2020 was the year I finally threw in the towel on My Hero Academia ever becoming a show that can follow through on its own potential instead of just aping what it saw other shounen properties succeed at. It’s still not bad by any means, but it’s been frustrating to watch season after season as the most interesting characters and plotlines are tossed aside to bring in even more cast members to be juggled and the quality continues to rollercoaster up and down every single time. I finished this season, so it goes in this category, but I’m ready to be done here.
Fire Force Second Season (7/10)
Fire Force started its second season with incredible strength and a huge step up in its comedy and its self-awareness…but by the end of it, the plot had barely moved. Ohkubo has such a talent for character writing and art, but the train could have pulled into the station with this season if they’d just waited a bit longer to make it. As it is now, the pacing and difficult-to-follow plot held it back from being as good as the first time around.
Fruits Basket 2nd Season (8/10)
Fruits Basket has a lot going for it, and its characters are still among my favorites of the year, but the thing that holds it back is that the story is a very drawn-out slow burn. While it is very clear that we’re wrapping things up with the next installment, if you aren’t totally invested in the cast, I can see why people could get bored and fall off of it. Hopefully I’ll have a lot more to say about the ending, though, because the “reveal” that this season ends on is…underwhelming.
Major 2nd Second Season (8/10)
Major 2nd kinda came out of nowhere to surprise the hell out of me this year. I found the first season an enjoyable and promising start to what could be a whole sequel franchise to one I wish we’d gotten in the States…and then the second season increased the budget, moved the setting up a grade level, and hiked up the dramatic elements, particularly in the final few episodes, which left me reeling with a twist that took several episodes for both myself and the characters to process. I really wanted to put it in my Hall of Fame, but unfortunately it also had the habit of letting the camera leer on the (fully covered) butts of its middle-school-aged female cast in many, many episodes, to the point that I was getting uncomfortable with it. Still, a huge recommendation — Major 2nd is a mattress, and people are sleeping on it.
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun (9/10)
An extremely charming little surprise to lighten the dark days of the early COVID-19 pandemic, Iruma-kun quickly proved that despite being made for about five dollars an episode, it could make up for a lack of budget with an abundance of memorable characters and hilarious jokes. This one has also been hugely slept on, though word of mouth has finally begun to give Iruma-kun the justice he deserves. Crunchyroll had better take notes for the next Anime Awards with the second season coming up shortly.
Best Long Show of 2020: Haikyuu! To The Top (9/10)
If there’s one thing we all know I’m a sucker for, it’s my boys. And my boys finally came back to me this year with a (I’m assuming) penultimate season that put it right back on top of the sports genre and demonstrated a continued mastery of developing characters and hitting emotional payoffs. Haikyuu! is still the reigning king of sports anime, and as long as its final stories don’t totally fall off a cliff, it has a strong chance of securing a perfect score from me in its final season.
And that’s it for the second year-end list of 2020! Still a couple more to go, but this was the one that actually held me up since I was trying to wait for the Fire Force dub to finally finish up (and got impatient two weeks early).