Doctorkev’s 2020 Postmortem: A Year in Anime Dismembered

DoctorKev
DoctorKev
Jan 4 · 12 min read
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My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising

Here’s a fateful quote from my 10-month old My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising review: “The first part of 2020 has certainly been great so far for cinematic anime… I hope the rest of the year can keep up with this relative feast of theatrical Japanese animation”.

I’m sorry. I jinxed it. 2020 was my fault. A little pandemic cancelled all subsequent theatrical anime releases in the Western world and directly contributed to Demon Slayer: Mugen Train becoming the highest-grossing cinematic release in Japan, outperforming even Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Shinkai’s Your Name. I’m sure it’s a perfectly serviceable, entertaining, standard shonen action production (much like the preceding TV show), but in no normal world would that be the most successful anime film ever.

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Ride Your Wave

2020 started so well, with a local (to me) re-run of October 2019’s Scotland Loves Anime lineup in January. I couldn’t believe my luck as within the space of a few days I was able to binge such delights as Psycho-pass: Sinners of the System, Children of the Sea, Birthday Wonderland, Ride Your Wave and Weathering with You. Follow this up with February’s aforementioned MHA movie… Obviously I had too much fun and somehow Karmic Balance needed to be reset.

I had my tickets booked for Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul at my local cinema in early April. By then we were deep into lockdown and every cinema in the UK (sensibly) closed its doors. Eventually I watched it via the Eventive service in the comfort of my own home… over 5 months months later. Is this the future of cinematic anime, at least in the West?

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Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul

In the UK, within two months of the pandemic’s advent, Anime Limited launched their Screen Anime service — a very handy way to watch a rotating selection of both new and old anime movies via browser/mobile app/set-top box. I’m hoping and praying that in 2021 they show Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel III. spring song, otherwise it’s going to be a looooong wait for those blu-rays…

So how did seasonal TV anime fare in this most bizarre of years?

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Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

First off, every show in the Winter 2020 season completed broadcast unscathed, with excellent highlights like Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! and Somali and the Forest Spirit, alongside a welcome re-broadcast of Re:Zero Season 1 as a director’s cut along with its OVAs. Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia completed its run with some spectacularly animated action scenes and Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun! cemented itself as one of my biggest anime-surprises in that a magical high school comedy anime was actually funny. I can’t wait for season 2. My Hero Academia Season 4 continued its great work in elevating its source material. Amazon Prime’s 2019 crime procedural Babylon finally concluded after a prolonged delay, in January 2020. Most of us wished it had ended with the infamous episode 7, so poorly conceived was the conclusion.

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My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

Spring 2020 was where the pandemic started to bite, with multiple shows either postponed (Re:Zero season 2) or abandoned partway through, only to be rebroadcast in full later (Appare Ranman). Despite this, Spring’s slim pickings were filled with some great quality shows, most notably My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, an interesting twist on the tired old Isekai/reincarnated-into-a-video-game trope, Gleipnir unmasked the furry meat-socket fetishist in us all, Kaguya-sama’s second season came out swinging — the original was 2019’s number one show for me, Wave — Listen to Me! was an entertaining, offbeat comedy, and Sing “Yesterday” for Me brought grounded, melancholy romance. Despite the reduced number of shows, Spring was far from a washout.

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Re:Zero season 2

Pandemic restriction consequences really piled up for Summer 2020’s season. Re:Zero season 2 finally showed up almost 4 years after the end of season 1, delayed past its initial Spring time frame, and split into two cours with the concluding half not airing until 2021. Just as well it was bloody fantastic. Deca-Dence surprised everyone who dismissed its vague summary and ridiculed its stupid name — against all odds it was one of the very best shows of the year. Trigger’s Brand New Animal was finally unleased by Netflix for a fun TV-budget thematic rehashing of their 2019 movie hit Promare. Netflix also released the first part of Wit Studio’s Great Pretender to widespread acclaim. Less successfully for Netflix, Japan Sinks 2020 kinda… sunk… New shows were few and far between on the other anime streaming services. Not even a dearth of new content could get me to stick with that polished turd The God of High School though.

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Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

With Japan’s swifter apparent recovery from the pandemic, anime production returned to more or less full capacity in Autumn 2020, leading to a massive glut of high quality anime. Even Attack on Titan’s final season sneaked in a few episodes before year’s end. Jujutsu Kaisen was a promising new shonen supernatural action show that will continue into 2021. TONIKAWA shocked everyone by being an actually good Crunchyroll Original, Talentless Nana snuck up on unsuspecting viewers as an inspired mashup between My Hero Academia and Death Note, Moriarty the Patriot encouraged devotees to murder/devour the rich and Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle instructed viewers how to slaughter hapless monsters and get away from it, primarily by being cute. The Day I Became a God wasted everyone’s time and Wandering Witch was a charmless, frustratingly inconsistent and poorly written yet pretty fantasy travelogue. Higurashi returned for all you deformed murder poppets fans out there. By far, Autumn 2020 had the densest concentration of quality shows (with a few real clunkers in between.)

Finally: Doctorkev’s horribly bloated “top 10” anime for 2020

So, last year in my equivalent 2019 Postmortem I chose the top 10 shows of that year. It was difficult, but not absurdly so. I watched so much anime this year, and so many of them were so good (or at least notable) that it felt wrong to miss them out of this final appraisal. Therefore, instead of killing myself writing more blurbs, here’s a ranked list including the most succinct, appropriately descriptive quotes from my earlier articles about them. I imagine if I looked at this another day, I could order everything very differently.

Note: I’m using “top 10” in the loosest possible sense, i.e. I lied.

25) Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Season 3: Crunchyroll

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Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Season 3

“Danmachi is a fun fantasy romp in a D&D-trope-saturated world. What would improve my experience would be if I could remember who more than 20% of the many, many characters are.

24) My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!: Crunchyroll

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My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!

“SNAFU is a show where the climax outshines everything else. It also contextualises everything that went before… Finally I can appreciate how sharp, detailed and intelligent the character writing is.

23) Gleipnir: Funimation

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Gleipnir

“…if you like moist furry boys with gaping meat entrances and the dripping scantily clad busty sociopathic girls who penetrate them, then Gleipnir will be right up your orifice.

22) Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 2: Crunchyroll

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 2

In our 2020 nightmare end-stage crumbling materialistic corporate dystopia, we need someone like little Myne to weaponise the power of science and education to recalibrate society and destroy the selfish, incompetent ruling political classes, preferably by grinding all rich fat cat politicians, sociopathic CEOs and amoral corporate lobbyists into fertiliser paste.

21) BNA: Brand New Animal: Netflix

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BNA: Brand New Animal

…it’s hard to get a sense of what Trigger is trying to say with this other than “beast girl cute, colours nice, explosions good, war bad.” It’s best to check out your brain, let the insanity wash over you without questioning it too deeply. It’s as bright as a rainbow but shallow as a puddle.

20) Kakushigoto: Funimation

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Kakushigoto

“Kakushigoto’s tone walks a fine line between warm sentimentalism, cool melancholy and screwball humour that it mostly navigates without stumbling… This is an anime you could probably watch with your parents or grandparents, and everyone would find something to enjoy.

19) Dorohedoro: Netflix

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Dorohedoro

…it has an odd grimy aesthetic that means it isn’t particularly pretty to look at, but the breadth of imagination and sheer number of “what the hell just happened?” moments make this a must-see.

18) Appare-Ranman!: Funimation

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Appare-Ranman!

This is a great, brightly-coloured and fun period piece… in places surprisingly heartfelt. I’d watch a second season of this in a heartbeat.

17) Toilet-bound Hanako-kun: Funimation

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Toilet-bound Hanako-kun

…mostly fun and lightweight, though with sometimes surprisingly dark and emotional sequences …much better than I was expecting. Bonus points for impeccable style…

16) Akudama Drive: Funimation

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Akudama Drive

Pure, adrenaline-infused popcorn movie fun… Effortlessly cool, always over-the-top, achingly stylised and mesmerising… truly spectacular set-pieces, heartrending sacrifice and even some fittingly thematic comeuppances.

15) Wave, Listen to me!: Funimation

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With creative direction, hilarious facial expressions, frequent off-colour or even black humour, this was an unexpected hit of the season for me.

14) Sing “Yesterday” For Me: Crunchyroll

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Sing “Yesterday” For Me

Shinako and Rikuo’s relationship almost had me screaming at the screen in frustration, but that’s a mark of skill on the writer’s part and is not a negative criticism. Sometimes this show is uncomfortable to watch, but it is never lurid or sensational — it treats its characters with respect and allows them to make bad decisions for understandable reasons.

13) Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun: Crunchyroll

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Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun

I guess this is best described as a lighter-hearted Harry Potter with more horns… even the comedy characters are drawn with deep pathos unusual for this genre… You will not regret watching this delightful show.

12) Somali and the Forest Spirit: Crunchyroll

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Somali and the Forest Spirit

…wholesome and heartbreaking in equal measure, with intermittent brutal interludes that illustrated the horror of a world where human beings were hunted to extinction… It’s best to view this as a journey without a definitive destination — as long as you don’t expect an ending, it’s a wonderful series.

11) Hi Score Girl II: Netflix

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Hi Score Girl II

For a show about something as ephemeral as arcade gaming, this will stick with you for a surprisingly long time afterwards …maybe you’ll fall in love with her (Akira Oono) as much as Haruo (and I) did.

10) TONIKAWA: Fly Me to the Moon: Crunchyroll

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TONIKAWA: Fly Me to the Moon

This is a delightful show. Placidly paced with gentle, warm humour …such a sweet, feelgood story… It prioritises quiet character beats and lovable romantic interactions.

9) Moriarty the Patriot: Funimation

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Moriarty the Patriot

Never has an anime been quite so timely …the themes of disparity between rich and poor remain as important as ever …an important call to arms, and perhaps a warning to those in their gilded towers that the phrase “eat the rich” exists for a reason…

8) Talentless Nana: Funimation

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Talentless Nana

Always tense and tautly written, with a fantastic, conflicted main character, the final episode will have you screaming for more. It really will be a crime if they don’t review this for a second season.

7) My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: Crunchyroll

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My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

“…apart from a couple of throwaway fillers in the middle, every episode of this comedic harem/isekai show is a delight …this comes highly recommended for a good laugh with adorable characters.

6) Great Pretender: Netflix

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Great Pretender

With twisting, turning plots and some truly despicable antagonists, I enjoyed this far more than I expected.

5) Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2: Funimation

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Kaguya-sama: Love is War Season 2

My top anime series of 2019 returned with a practically flawless second season… If you haven’t seen this hilarious, intelligent show, please just stop reading now and go do so.

4) Deca-Dence: Funimation

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Deca-Dence

…a practically flawless anime. Spectacular animation, breathlessly-directed action sequences, an engaging story with twists and revelations nearly every episode, sympathetic characters and a bonkers setting all combine to make a well-paced, ingeniously-structured and worthwhile whole.

3) Re:Zero Season 2 part 1: Crunchyroll

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Re:Zero Season 2

Wow. I already loved this show, but season 2 has made me love it even more… With episode 13, we take a break until January 2021. I’ll be counting the days until you can die repeatedly again for our entertainment, Natsuki Subaru, I suppose.

2) Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle: Funimation

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Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

“…my number one show of the (Autumn 2020) season, my heart will now forever belong to my sleepy murder-princess Aurora Syalis Goodereste. Without fail, each episode would trigger hoots of laughter…

  1. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Crunchyroll
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Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

…this amazing show about the joy of (and limits to) creativity surpassed all others this (Winter 2020) season. What a showcase of imaginative world-building, concise character work and holistic storytelling. Every single component of this show built on the others to construct a tight, emotional and coherent narrative about the three main characters and their dreams and ambitions.

And that’s it for 2020. Let’s hope 2021 is as great a year for quality anime, but orders of magnitudes better in terms of everything else. Stay safe out there, and I’ll be back soon with more random anime reviews and thoughts.

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DoctorKev

Written by

DoctorKev

Physician. Obsessed with anime, manga, comic-books. Husband and father. Christian. Fascinated by tensions between modern culture and traditional faith. Bit odd.

AniTAY-Official

A Community Blog dedicated to East Asian Culture

DoctorKev

Written by

DoctorKev

Physician. Obsessed with anime, manga, comic-books. Husband and father. Christian. Fascinated by tensions between modern culture and traditional faith. Bit odd.

AniTAY-Official

A Community Blog dedicated to East Asian Culture

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