Doctorkev’s Autumn 2022 Anime Postmortem: Crunchyroll
2022’s final anime season has seen fit to bless us with an embarrassment of riches. At least as far as Crunchyroll’s offerings go, this may have been the strongest overall season of the entire year. My top 10 anime ranking for 2022 has had to be torn up and rethought completely (article about that coming soon…)
Although both HIDIVE and Netflix had strong showings this season, nothing compares to the breadth and wealth of quality in (most of) the shows discussed below. In no particular order:
Chainsaw Man: all 12 episodes
I was hyped for this one, as was seemingly almost every other anime fan on the planet. Tatsuki Fujimoto’s manga is a scatty, messy explosion of insanity that I consumed recently, probably far quicker than was healthy. Does MAPPA’s no-holds-barred adaptation do its highly-esteemed source material justice? Yes, it certainly does. Is it perfect? Of course not, and nor is it a flawless panel-by-panel remake, and I can’t understand why some fans seem to think it should have been. Chainsaw Man — the anime — is very much its own thing, while lovingly considering not just the manga source, but its creator’s intentions and influences, while adding stylistic flourishes possible only via the medium of animation.
Take the action scenes for example — yes, MAPPA employs CG, but manages to intergrate it with traditional 2D animation to the point that certain scenes that “upset” fans “because it was CG” were actually just extremely detailed, fluid, hand-drawn animation. The first episode does employ some slightly clunky CG and compositing work, but this improves exponentially by the final episode with its stunning, kinetic, blood-drenched fight between Chainsaw Man and his nemesis Katana Man.
Chainsaw Man’s subdued palette and earthy backgrounds certainly contrast with the manga volumes’ dayglo multicoloured cover artwork, and leads to perhaps more comparisons with the thematically similar Jujutsu Kaisen than it should, but in restraining Fujimoto’s scratchy (and at times downright ugly) art by re-framing it semi-realistically/cinematically, MAPPA enhances the absurdity of enormous demonic entities spewing their guts onto city streets that look not dissimilar to our own mundane world. By slowing the pace and adding beautifully-framed and animated slice-of-life sequences, MAPPA invites us to also slow down from our mad, breathless rush from panel-to-panel, page-to-page through the fast-paced manga, and to really consider the characters and their motivations. This never makes the show boring, nor exactly placid either — these characters are all emotionally damaged, traumatised individuals who battle ungodly abominations for a living — but I was surprised by how much I had forgotten, despite only recently reading the manga.
Even relatively minor characters are given time to shine in a narrative that continues to drive forwards but never seems overly rushed, each episode covers just the right portion of material, even if that means certain early events are skipped entirely. No character benefits from this more than Himeno, tragic eyepatch-wearing partner to Aki, who also is portrayed as more of a fully-rounded human. Denji and Power are of course wonderfully-drawn archetypes of seemingly-hapless protagonist and unhinged magic pixie murder demon dream girl, but that’s not all they are. Their (often twisted) dreams and desires are fully understandable, and usually very dumb (in a hilarious way).
My only real criticism originates from the source material itself. It takes too long to get started. These first twelve episodes don’t even reach the halfway point of the manga’s first 11-volume part, and at this point the plot is really only starting to kick into high gear. There’s nothing more frustrating than someone telling you “stick with it, it gets great later”, at least Chainsaw Man starts good, but come the surely inevitable season two, it’ll be one hell of a ride.
Do it Yourself!: all 12 episodes
I have zero interest in DIY — just ask my long-suffering wife, there are many things needing done in my house, but I prioritise writing about anime rather than putting up shelves or whatever other boring crap she wants me to do. Therefore a show about a school DIY club was a hard sell from the outset. However I loved Laid-Back Camp, and I’m hardly an avid camper. That’s the wonderful thing about anime and manga — they can cover almost any niche interest, and if done well, can still entertain and instruct those with no attraction to the subject.
For me, Do It Yourself easily equals Laid-Back Camp. It has wonderful characters who are both funny and empathetic, a facinating world with some light sci-fi/tech elements (rumoured to have been designed by Dennou Coil’s and The Orbital Children’s Mitsuo Iso). It deftly balances the tension between the use of labour-saving technology and the simple, fulfilling pleasure of working with one’s hands. Both approaches have value, and Do It Yourself demonstrates a healthy combination in the way the School DIY Club girls approach their tasks, using such tools as CAD and artificial intelligence in addition to hammers, nails and good old elbow grease. Human beings often define themselves by their work, their achievements, and interests — improved technology does not need to rob us of these identities, nor should we automatically shun the development and usage of new tools.
At the heart of the show is the clumsy, scatterbrained Yua Serufu and her somewhat strained friendship with her highly-strung technophile next-door neighbour and long-term best friend Purin. Purin is without a doubt my absolute favourite character from the show — a stereotypical tsundere with a squishy heart and spiky exterior who is desperate to maintain what she sees as a dissipating relationship with Serufu, while Serufu herself is adorably oblivious sometimes, while devastatingly perceptive at others. Serufu reminds me a lot of me, and Purin reminds me of my best friend growing up. I think I understand my friend’s at-the-time somewhat inexplicable mentality now, and wish we’d never grown apart as adults. It’s a really special show that’s able to evoke such thoughts and memories.
Mob Psycho 100 III: all 12 episodes
How could the final season of Mob be anything but emotional and spectacular? With these concluding episodes, Mob cements itself as one of the all-time-best anime, a spectacular mix of heartfelt emotion, tender, hard-won character development, goofy but heartwarming humour, and stupendously over-the-top action animation. Despite initial appearances, with its incredibly simple character designs, almost every episode this season features a tour-de-force of jaw-dropping animated excellence.
Mob is an anime about the human experience, about growing up, about success and failure, about accepting who you are, and working towards who you want to be, about recognising your limitations and relying on your friends and family to make up for what you lack. All this, plus it features floaty green ghostly spirits with rosy cheeks, massive city-dwarfing broccoli god-entities, moe-eyed aliens, psychokinetic battles with destruction the like of which not seen since Akira, and you have a recipe for what could be used a a dangerous gateway drug into the world of anime. It’s a shame that almost nothing else can quite hold up to the shining example of the entirety of Mob’s three seasons.
Bocchi the Rock!: all 12 episodes
Talk about anime that elevates its source material — much like what the (somewhat similarly musically-themed) anime version of K-On! did with its humble 4-koma (4-panel comedy) manga source, Bocchi the Rock takes from its own 4-koma the most basic premise, events, and character outlines and fills them out so thoroughly that it’s almost like a new work entirely. There was almost no reason for studio Cloverworks to go this hard, but I’m glad they did. Bocchi the Rock is a musical triumph and contender for anime of the year.
Pink-tracksuit-wearing Hitori Gotoh (nick-named Bocchi as a pun on the japanese word “hitoribocchi” which means “loner”) is terminally shy, with crippling social anxiety and a predisposition to overthinking to the point of terminal inertia. Her main emotional outlet is her virtuoso electric guitar playing, and she streams her musical performances (pseudonomously) online. Via various misunderstandings, she finds herself as lead guitarist of the four-person Kessoku Band, comprised of teenage girls, and also ends up working at a pub/music venue with her bandmates.
Bocchi gradually learns to… if not master her anxiety, at least allow it to become less disabling. She does this with the support and understanding of her new friends, a small group of loyal fans, and her loving family. Bocchi’s frequent emotional breakdowns are not only funny and artistically creative in their representation, they’re painfully realistic and a very accurate depiction of the seething torrent of emotions swirling inside the mind and body of someone who suffers panic attacks and social anxiety. Despite being a comedy focused on Bocchi’s anxiety, she’s not the butt of the joke — we will her to succeed despite her mental disability.
Culminating in Bocchi and Kessoku Band performing at Bocchi’s school festival, we witness our sweet pink-haired emotional mess of a girl shred some arpeggios and wow the audience, even managing not to panic when her E-string breaks. It’s a wonderful illustration of how her confidence has grown throughout the season, and proof that anxiety, even if it’s not possible to be fully dispelled, can be mastered. It also helps that the music kicks ass. I loved this a lot.
More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers: all 12 episodes
Sometimes listening to my degenerate fellow AniTAY weebs’ recommendations works out, and in this case it did. Despite a terminally stupid premise, I thoroughly enjoyed this extremely horny romcom, even if it ends without a proper resolution. I suppose that’s what happens when the source manga is ongoing. Geeky and introverted Jiro Yakuin is in love with his childhood friend Shiori Sakurazaka and hopes that they will be placed together in his school’s bizarre “married couples training” programme. This involves randomly selected teenage couples being forced to live together in specially-built apartments and instructed to act as a married couple while electronic sensors monitor their biological readings (presumably heart rate, blood pressure etc, hopefully not genital engorgement, but who the hell knows) to ensure they function properly as couples. This is apparently to prepare them for eventual marriage as adults, not a way to trigger an epidemic of teenage pregnancies thereby solving Japan’s demographic crisis while also providing perverted teachers with video material to jerk off to.
Unfortunately for Jiro, he’s matched with the outgoing, pink-haired “gyaru” girl Akari. Akari is in love with class hunk Minami, who is matched with Jiro’s love Shiori. Apparently after a few weeks of cohabitation, the top ten fake-married couples will be allowed to swap partners as a reward. No, this is not a swinging anime, there are no bowls of car keys, I suspect they’re all too young to be able to drive yet. Of course to reach a high score, the fake couples need to act like married couples, so of course that means getting physically close… (not too close, they are given separate bedrooms…) Though let’s just say that much of the show’s “action” seems to occur on the large sofa that’s conveniently just in front of the living room’s sensor device.
For such a stupid premise, the characters themselves surprisingly aren’t idiots, though as teenagers they have raging hormones. There isn’t any actual sex, though as Jiro and Akari get gradually closer and closer, there are a couple of incredibly close near-misses. Their feelings for one another gradually begin to change in fairly believable fashion, in this case familiarity breeding anything but contempt. Akari is more sensitive than her brash appearance would seem to suggest, and Jiro acts as much like a gentleman as his hormone-drenched teenage body allows him to. I really found myself rooting for Jiro to ditch his irritating childhood sweetheart and just admit his feelings for his pink-haired goddess co-habitee. Maybe I’ll need to read the manga to find out if he ends up with the objectively correct girl.
Spy x Family part 2: episodes 13–25
Surprising no-one, the second half of Spy x Family’s first season mostly equals the high quality of the first, this time with added Good Boy in the form of adorable family dog Bond. Borf! Anya and Bond’s psychic power-charged double act is an undeniable high point of a show filled with wonderful characters. Adoptive father Twilight/Loid Forger continues to be both a good dad and exasperated/exhausted spy, while the wonderful Yor Forger manages to be both terrifying murder-princess and adorkable anxiety-filled housewife. I really didn’t like the tennis-related arc in the manga, but the anime treats it like a hilarious cross between Prince of Tennis and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Spy x Family’s strength is in its synthesis of multiple disparate genres into one perfectly balanced whole. It mixes cold war spy intrigue with sweet and wholesome family scenes, school drama and screwball comedy. It almost shouldn’t work as well as it does, but the combined efforts of Wit Studio and A1 pictures keeps the pacing taut and the animation beautiful. The direction nails the comedy, particularly Anya’s childlike glee in mischief, with her eclectic range of expressions, and in Loid’s fish-out-of water bemusement at his inscrutable daughter’s antics. I’m beyond delighted that a second season has already been announced, along with an interstitial anime-original movie.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury: episodes 1–11 of 12
The final episode of this cour of the latest Gundam TV show was unfortunately delayed due to holiday scheduling issues on Japanese TV, and won’t be broadcast for another few days yet, as of writing this. After a season’s break, it returns for a second cour in Spring 2023. No-one seems to know how long it’s projected to run, but its immediate predecessor, Iron-Blooded Orphans (2016–2018) finished at 50 episodes.
I’ve enjoyed this a lot, mainly because of the fun characters, especially the central duo of ditzy but delightful Suletta Mercury and cooler but driven Miorine Rembran. The background political/inter-corporate intrigue plot leaves me cold because I’m struggling to follow it. Although much has been made of the potential yuri (girls’ love) aspect, I find this to be barely present, at best. Suletta herself admitted that she’d never even considered the concept of marriage between two women in the first episode, and she was thrown together with Miorine as her “groom” merely by circumstances.
Yes, Suletta is desperate to be useful to Miorine, to be valued and noticed by her, but I don’t read this as being particularly romantically motivated, at least for the moment. I’m not sure if the production committee is deliberately yuri-baiting here, or whether more will be made of the central relationship as the story progresses. Certainly there is a fairly significant shift in their friendship in episode 11 that’s very positive and encouraging, whether you view Suletta and Miorine’s relationship romantically or platonically.
Aethetically the show looks mostly gorgeous, especially the character designs and of course the mecha and the spaceships. It’s the first Gundam show I’ve watched in almost 20 years — the last was Gundam Wing, and that did not hold up to my recent attempts to rewatch it. I’ll certainly watch the second part when it returns later in the year. Hopefully the obtuse meta-story will become clearer by then.
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun season 3: episodes 1–12 of 21
So far this entire season has comprised of what I unfortunately view as a very throwaway side story that has not engaged me at all. Iruma and his friends have been told that they’ll lose access to their special classroom “The Royal One” if they don’t all succeed in progressing to the next rank in the demon hierarchy. I’m sorry, but what schoolkid actually gives a shit about their classroom? So I don’t care about the stakes at all. I suppose Iruma-kun has never really been a high-stakes show, but the rest of the season languishes in disjointed training sequences where every character is somehow abused by their assigned teacher, and then they’re all thrown into an interminable tournament arc/battle royale thing that has easily been my least favourite story arc so far. Amazonian demonic goddess Ameri Azazel has hardly appeared and my life is empty. I worry that the rest of the season will belabour under this dull, unfocused arc. Barely passable bubblegum entertainment at best.
My Hero Academia season 6: episodes 1–11 of 25 (English Dub)
As I’m watching this with my 11-year-old son who is apparently allergic to subtitles and foreign language audio, we’re a couple of episodes behind the sub version with Crunchyroll’s still excellent dub. We have very much enjoyed this intense, breathlessly action-packed season that’s been orders of magnitude more interesting than the preceding season’s opening arc. For once, it seems like there are real consequences to some of the fights, plus long-held secrets are finally revealed, demonstrating manga author Kohei Horikoshi’s fantastically well-planned plot. Villain Dabi’s true identity is properly shocking (though perhaps predictable in hindsight, but isn’t that the case with all the best dramatic revelations?) and the consequences for the top heroes and for hero society in general look grim.
Protagonist Izuku Midoria is mostly kept offscreen for the first few episodes that wisely focus on the the professional heroes’ struggles against the newly-organised villains. The more recent extended battle between reborn but All-For-One-possessed Tomura Shiguraki and a furious Midoria, desperate to protect his friends, is a definite highlight, as is flawed hero Hawks’ tragic fight against sympathetic Deadpool-esque villain Twice. Each victory is pyrrhic, every inch of ground gained bought with a steep price. My Hero Academia continues to maintain itself as my very favourite long-running mainstream shonen story.
To Your Eternity Season 2: episodes 1–10 of 20
Finally, the more-welcome-than-expected return of shapeshifting immortal orb Fushi. Although the first season started exceptionally well, it dropped off in quality in its second half with a ponderous story. Season two is much improved, adding multiple new concepts and wrinkles to Fushi’s abilities and some fun new characters. Even Prince Bon “Tasty Peach” has been more tolerable since Fushi faked his death and made him get a haircut.
As Fushi matures and grows, he develops more agency and looks ready to start actually driving his own story for once, rather than merely being reactive. His new abilities raise all sorts of new existential questions about the nature of life and death, and this is the kind of rich speculative fiction that I am here for.
In terms of production and animation quality, To Your Eternity is unfortunately very rudimentary, but I find this doesn’t detract too much from my enjoyment. I’m very interested to see where a newly-motivated and empowered Fushi will go next, as he continues his journey into 2023.
Thanks once again for reading to the end of my thoughts on recently streaming anime. I’ll be back again later in the week with my 2023 Postmortem where I’ll look back at the highs of the past year, and attempt to make some kind of ranking. (I’m coming out in a cold sweat now just thinking about it.)
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