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Doctorkev’s Spring 2022 Anime Postmortem: Crunchyroll

She’s mastered more than just golf — she’s ascended to a new plane of existence!

What a great anime season it’s been! Winter 2022 was comparatively quiet, but Spring 2022 has brought both quantity and quality. Mostly. Shield Hero spectacularly crashed and burned with an utterly abysmal second season, and you can read my verdict regarding its first couple of episodes here. I did not waste my time watching more of it, and from the general negative reaction even from its most rabid fans, I think my dismissal of the show as a lost cause was vindicated. I also covered the not-quite-as-awful-but-still-very-pointless Magia Record last time, along with the surprisingly decent Shenmue. I won’t cover them again as they both finished early in the season. If you’re looking for HIDIVE and Netflix shows, take a look at my other recent postmorterm article here.

Although HIDIVE’s lineup in particular was very strong this season, the newly Funimation-turbocharged Crunchyroll was no slouch, with some real contenders for Anime Of The Year amongst its offerings. Let’s get to them.

EXTREEEEEEEEME Ballet with indoor gunpowder explosions. It’s the only way to attract new kids to the art form these days.

Dance Dance Danseur: 11 episodes COMPLETE

I should thank fellow AniTAY author TGRIP for his unswerving devotion to this underrated anime about… ballet dancing? That’s so totally not my thing, but Dance Dance Danseur turned out to be one of the most compelling, compulsive watches I’ve experienced in a while. Based on a seinen manga, targeted mainly towards adult men, it follows a lot of the basic shonen sports anime tropes, but mixes them with an intelligent rebuttal of toxic masculinity — both overt and internalised — and depicts its dancing setpieces with some of the most incredibly fluid and exciting animation I’ve ever seen.

14-year-old Jumpei first experienced ballet as a very young child, entranced by the incredible acrobatics of the male lead dancer at a theatre performance he attended. Unfortunately, following the death of his stunt co-ordinator father, Jumpei feels compelled to channel his love for dancing into more “manly” martial arts in order to continue his father’s legacy. When a fellow classmate, Miyako, discovers his proficiency for dance, she encourages him to join her family’s dance school and reignite his dream of becoming a world-class ballet dancer.

In the early stages, Jumpei is incredibly hesitant and ashamed, facing not just ridicule and rejection from his shitty schoolfriends, but internalised negativity about whether someone like him should even try to succeed at something like ballet. Witnessing his abilities flower as he works hard to combat his deficiencies is emotionally affecting, as is the high-drama conflict bubbling under the surface of Miyako’s family, swirling around her fragile and jealous cousin, Luo — another gifted, but troubled dancer.

At only eleven episodes duration, Dance Dance Danseur isn’t anywhere long enough to be remotely satisfying — if only because it left me desperate to see more. Like a dance version of last year’s similarly incredible acting-oriented Kageki Shojo, it feels like this is only the barest beginning of Jumpei’s story. The original manga still seems to be running, and has reached 23 volumes in length so far. Please can we have some more of this, and as lavishly animated again? I don’t care if the motion-captured real-life ballet dancers who were an essential part of the production have to be hunted down and imprisoned in a dingy basement like Luo was by his crazy grandmother. They’ll understand they must do it for The Art.

Raidou-kun attempts to read Aharen-san’s mind. It’s likely he’ll get everything completely wrong. Again.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai: 12 episodes COMPLETE

In a season jam-packed with romantic comedies, I did wonder if I should bother continuing with this very chilled show about a somewhat inscrutable (and extremely short) schoolgirl and her prone-to-absurdly-overthinking male friend. I stuck with it though, and I think overall I’m fairly glad I did. Some of the running gags were more than a little odd, and didn’t always hit. (I found the weird teacher who constantly shipped her pupils together a strange mix of funny, obnoxious and incomprehensible.)

Although the romance aspects were initially very subdued, the final episodes leaned into this in a very typical way for the show, with what’s best described as “Shrodinger’s Relationship”, not only a stunning evolution of the well-worn “will-they-won’t-they” trope, but a new example of “are-they-a-couple-are-they-not-what-even-is-a-couple-anyway?”

I’m not sure I really want to watch another season as I felt the concept had run its course by the end, but the closing credits seemed to tease a new character, so maybe there’s more on the horizon? I think there’s only so much I can tolerate of such deliberately unemotive deadpan characters unemotively deadpanning one another before it gets tired.

Myne gets a new baby brother. Who apparently hates her. Oh well, she can be obnoxiously precocious sometimes.

Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 3: 10 episodes COMPLETE

At only ten episodes, I felt the climax of this arc was definitely rushed. Reports from novel readers seem to confirm this. I don’t know if the reduced episode count was down to budget, but Bookworm has always looked like it was produced on a shoestring. This is a shame, as it’s a very interesting story with well-constructed worldbuilding that deeply considers logic and law in a magical/medieval setting.

This time, main character Myne has less opportunity to be bratty because she’s got other people to be concerned about as she’s now in charge of the church’s orphanage. She also must learn to subtly navigate church politics and not make rash decisions that could harm her or the children in her care later.

I found the chief priest to be a ridiculous pantomime villain, and new noble character Sylvester to be very annoying, but the finale at least recontextualised some of his actions, so I’m not horrified at the thought of him hanging around in later installments. Although rushed, the ending was emotionally affecting, despite its well-signposted inevitability. I’m interested to see where the story goes next.

As there’s plenty more novel material to adapt, I hope they continue with a fourth season, though maybe they could let the story breathe a bit next time?

What a cute couple.

Love After World Domination: 12 episodes COMPLETE

I don’t even like Power Rangers-style Tokusatsu shows, but I adored this. In terms of recent romance anime, Love After World Domination takes second place only to Kaguya-sama, and that’s high praise indeed. Enemy combatant “Reaper Princess” Desumi Magahara is the cutest character this season (sorry, Anya from Spy x Family), with her huge expressive eyes and funny costume, and her relationship with adorably dumb “Red Gelato” Fudo Aikawa is delightful.

Their situation is truly ridiculous — usually they can only meet up during pitched battles between their respective factions. When everyone else is beating seven hells out of one another, Desumi and Fudo sneak off to have picnics somewhere nearby, like behind a tree, or a rock, or on top of a hill or something. Desumi also lives in her evil organisation’s female dorms, which leads to fun bonding time with her fellow “evil” princesses, and of course Fudo sneaks in to visit her while in disguise.

Desumi’s family are career evildoers, having been employed by evil corporation Secret Society Gekko for generations. Although Desumi is committed to her career with Gekko, she doesn’t seem to be a bad person, nor have particularly evil goals. She only wants to make her friends and family proud. It’s just in order to do so, she must aid them in their evil plans for world domination, plans that her hero boyfriend must foil! There’s never much of a serious discussion about the main characters’ diametrically opposed value systems, instead the premise is used to generate all sorts of daft hijinks that are usually very funny, in a completely ridiculous way. I’d like to see more of this.

Everything that’s happened so far has built up to this much-hyped finale… does it measure up? Of course it does.

Kaguya-sama Love is War Ultra Romantic: 13 episodes COMPLETE

Kaguya-sama remains one of my favourite ever manga, and now the anime has adapted up to almost the end of volume 14, which in some ways could be viewed as the climax — at least of the first part of the story. Having resolved much of the romantic tension, the manga then explores territory alien to most romantic comedies, so I’m desperate to see more.

The last few episodes cover the “School Festival” arc, which is intense and dramatic, and serves to further several of the ongoing plotlines. It’s adapted spectacularly well, with so much added directorial flourishes that enhance and elevate the already fantastic manga. Kaguya-sama appears to be a labour of love for everyone on the production team, there’s no other way to explain the myriad little details and extra efforts to spice up the visuals of what could have been a fairly pedestrian adaptation in less capable hands.

What started as “Death Note but a romantic comedy” has truly transcended that limited description. It’s a thoroughly intelligent, wise, witty, creative and human drama that just happens to be insanely funny, but also heartbreaking at times. Kaguya-sama’s characters are mostly privileged kids with rich parents and high class education, but many of them are emotionally broken individuals who struggle to understand themselves, let alone others. They grow and learn, make terrible mistakes, but also, sometimes, succeed so hard they make you want to cheer.

Nagi’s love life detonates in an explosion of harem anime tropes. I’m fairly sure he’s brought this on himself, somehow.

A Couple of Cuckoos: 1–11 of 24 episodes

I mainly started watching this to fill the Domestic Girlfriend-shaped hole in my life. I’m not sure why I have a hole shaped like that, it could be that I am very unwell. Anyway, in lieu of the utter trash that is Rent A Girlfriend (which returns next season. Yay?), I thought I’d try this comedy with a desperately contrived premise. Two children, swapped at birth (a boy and a girl — how??) are reunited with their respective biological families, who now want them to marry one another. Eh?

Main characters Nagi Umino and Erika Amano are the titular cuckoos, who as high school kids somehow end up being made to share a house together in the parental hope they’ll, I don’t know, constantly hook up instead of studying or something? Complicating things (of course) are other female characters — Nagi has a crush on the smartest girl in school with whom he has a rivalry, plus his younger (non-biological) sister seems to have a thing for him too. What the hell is it with anime and sister fetishes? I don’t care if they’re not “related”, they were brought up together as kids, it’s creepy!

Surprisingly, the show hasn’t leaned too far into full trash/dumpster fire so far (yet). We’ve not suffered too many stupidly contrived misunderstandings, the main girl isn’t getting all jealous, mainly because she doesn’t even seem that into the main guy, who doesn’t even seem that into her. Of course we can expect that they’ll eventually get together after all the surely inevitable complications and drama erupt.

It looks very good for what it is, I like the character designs, it’s genuinely amusing at times, and there seems to be some kind of weird underlying plot regarding Nagi’s biological parents (the ones who brought up Erika). The father in particular seems to be up to something, so this mystery is what keeps me watching. Let’s just hope his secret isn’t that he’s wired up the entire house with cameras so he can watch teenagers screwing.

Shikimori wants to be stereotypically cute and girlish, but finds herself taking on a more masculine “prince-like” role with her friends, and now within her relationship. This bothers her, but she’s really good at it. She needs to be easier on herself! You can be cute and cool at the same time!

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie: 1–11 of 12 episodes

Studio Doga Kobo’s 12-episode romantic comedy unfortunately suffered COVID-19 delays during production, which means that its final two episodes stretch into the Summer 2022 season. New broadcast dates were announced that confirm the final episode will broadcast on July 9th, thankfully avoiding an 86: EIGHTY-SIX situation where the conclusion is pushed back a full season due to unavailability of TV time-slots.

I’m still not sold on the extremely thin premise of the show: main boy Izumi is disaster-prone and takes a kind of mostly passive “damsel in distress” role in the story, while his assertive pink-haired girlfriend Shikimori is universally admired by all (boys and girls alike) for her effortless cool, uncanny athleticism, and stunning good looks. However, the supporting cast are fun, and later episodes have started to delve deeper into everyone’s personalities and motivations.

Rather than a gimmicky romantic comedy, it’s probably best to view this as a character-driven high school slice of life/comedy. In that regard, it’s suitably entertaining, gently amusing, rarely laugh-out-loud, but sweet and emotional in its own understated way. It’s grown on me a lot, especially in the last few episodes that have shown much deeper character work than I would have expected from the early parts of the show.

H-headpats! How lewd! Ban this filth!

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story: 13 episodes COMPLETE

I’ve never been happier at hearing a second season announcement than I was for Birdie Wing. It’s coming back early in 2023, and I can’t wait for it. If you’d told me at the beginning of the season that a golf anime would have been one of my top shows, I’d have hit you with a hockey stick.

Birdie Wing isn’t just any golf anime, though. It’s golf by way of Kakegurui, thrown in a blender with Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and drenched in barely concealed and dripping yuri subtext. I don’t know who the hell pitched this show, but they’re a mad genius. The latter section of the show switched from illegal underground fake France mafia golfers to Japanese rich golf girl school tournaments without batting an eye, and remaining as delightfully overwrought and insane as before.

Tall, blonde golf amazon Evangeline (Eve) is brash, single-minded, somehow knows how to speak fluent Japanese despite being European and doesn’t bother to question how. All she wants to do is to play golf with super-high-achieving and dramatic brunette Aoi Amawashi. The feeling is mutual. Aoi is clearly crushing incredibly hard on Eve, and Eve hilariously twists Aoi around her little finger with headpats and pecks on her cheek. They are a very fun duo, but I can’t help wondering if their early friendly honeymoon period may develop into a more serious rivalry later? Who the hell knows? Birdie Wing is completely bonkers and utterly unpredictable. I hope it runs for multiple seasons.

Waku waku!

Spy X Family: 12 episodes COMPLETE

I’m so glad to report that Spy x Family’s anime adaptation does not disappoint. Another great manga that I love, similar to Kaguya-sama, this version enhances and elevates the source with fantastic comic timing, wonderful voice acting and beautiful animation. Little pink-haired psychic Anya is adorable, with her frequent mispronunciations and strange flights of fancy. Frazzled adoptive father Twilight excels as a stressed secret agent desperately trying to succeed in this mission that unfortunately hinges on the academic performance of his peculiar little daughter. Super-efficient assassin but socially awkward adoptive mother Yor is the female anime character that doesn’t feel creepy to idolise this season, as she’s a fully-grown woman of 28, and not a schoolchild. Sorry, Desumi, but you’re too young.

A deft mashup of spy thriller, family slice of life and school comedy, Spy x Family manages to do something a little bit different every week. I’m not a fan of Yor’s annoying brother Yuri, nor his off-putting sister fixation, but thankfully he only appears in a couple of episodes. Anya’s school troubles are a definite highlight, but what I really can’t wait for is the introduction of the family dog in the second half of the show, due in Autumn 2022. That’s not too long to wait, but I’ll be counting the days.

Thanks for enduring with me through another busy anime season. I was hoping for something of a break for Summer, but it looks like there’s a lot of interesting stuff coming. I’ll be back mid-season to discuss what’s caught my eye.

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