Winners of The Winter 2018 Anime Season
When we started the winter anime season, I wasn’t expecting that much. I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the non-serialized content over the last couple of seasons. The last year of my anime consumption has been nothing but Jojo and My Hero Academia, which was a crying shame because one of my favorite things about anime is finding new series to latch onto. Thankfully, a friend talked me into watching some that he recommended this season, and I am frankly blown away. So we’re going to talk about what I’ve been watching this season and why it’s so gosh dang amazing.
I’m going to break everything down into the categories that helped to sell me on a series, in hopes that it helps you to decide whether or not it’s something you would be interested in. These categories are as follows: the World (environment, etc.), the Characters, the Plot, and the Flaws.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
I have to admit, this one shocked me. I didn’t expect to love it this much. Something about this show just captivates me, be it the art, the bright saturated colors, the general lack of turbo-depression — it’s honestly just a refreshing and happy good time. That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime (goofy slime Anime) is honestly one of my favorites this season entirely due to that fact. The world has enough doom and gloom, so let’s follow a murdered man turned into slime, as he tries to get out of doing his work for a little bit each day.
Life in another world (isekai) animes tend to be something I avoid, as a lot of them do not do the whole “main character needs to have flaws” thing well. I’m not sure if this is due to a deep-seated dislike for Kirito, or how it seems like a large chunk of isekai anime feel compelled to make their protagonist some god-like being surrounded by beautiful women. The fact that our hero, Rimuru, is just an overall unremarkable guy stuck in a slime body is refreshing. He doesn’t want to fight, he doesn’t want to play the hero, he just wants to exist peacefully. He has no real ambitions beyond this– a peaceful, sustainable existence in this new world.
Speaking of the world, it’s worth noting that the world is shockingly rich given the whole isekai thing. Things are just kind of happening around the world that just so happens to intersect with our heroes. Although the world does follow some video game tropes, with power being a tangible, measurable thing, named skills that can be learned and equipped, it never feels like it wants to be a video game. Demon Lords are always in constant machinations around the world, in a perpetual war with the greater races and their city-states.
The world is populated not just by Elves, Dwarves, Humans, and the stock affair of Tolkien races, but by a myriad of rich beast races. Orcs, Goblins, Stormwolves, Dryads, and of course, slimes. The world has a lot of premade history, all based around the pacts between city-states, demon lords, and giant boss creatures that could end the world if they’re so inclined. Every City State has its own politics and way of dealing with and creating allies. Each comes complete with its own architecture and culture. The world is scary, so the fact that we always return to our Hearth in the form of the Goblin Village gives it a very, very cozy feel.
The culture of the city-states and all of their pacts is half of what shapes the characters and how they interact in the world. Rimuru, our beloved slimy protagonist, is shaped emotionally by the culture he was ripped from when he died, which leads to him being a fish out of water in a majority of situations. His whole powerset and body were inspired by jests he made at himself after his fatal stabbing, which his ability, the Grand Sage, then translated into his new body.
I thought, thanks to all the skills he had tacked onto this goopy body, that Rimuru would be some kind of unlikable god character. Thankfully I was wrong — it becomes apparent very quickly that he doesn’t want to fight and violence doesn’t always have to be the answer. Rimuru’s real strength lies in the fact that his form is so cute that it allows him to talk it out with everybody, be it an imprisoned tsundere storm dragon who really just needs a friend, to a demon lord having a temper tantrum.
And that’s just our titular slimy boy — we’re not even talking about the sheer variety of supporting characters. The Goblin Villagers may have possibly my favorite spread of personalities once Rimuru gives them names, an action which allows them to evolve into Hobgoblins. They go from being meek, shy creatures, to being these conventionally attractive green people, some having a bit more of a… dramatic change, appearance wise. Personal favorite has to be the village elder, who goes from a weak, frail old man, to this bombastic, bodybuilding grandpa.
The process of giving names to monsters is something that always gives the creatures strength, sometimes changing the very core of who they are. The goodest boys, the Storm Wolves that Rimuru tames, all evolve into loyal protectors of the Goblin Village. The ogres that encounter Rimuru and have names bestowed upon them all become more dynamic personalities, leaving behind their old tropes. While I do not feel compelled to talk much about the ogres, as they only really come into factor in gags about their stoic nature and in combat, it’s worth noting that they had a personality shift upon getting names.
This all feeds together in the plot which follows our boy Rimuru after he becomes a slime. He quickly discovers the imprisoned Veladora (the aforementioned storm dragon) who merely wants a friend. Dragons need to hoard things, friendship most of all. Rimuru vows to help Veladora become free, and consumes the great storm dragon, prison and all, using one of his slime abilities. This is the catalyst for the entire show, this one display of intense friendship between a stranger to this world, and one of the world’s most powerful creatures. Veldaora is the first to show us that names have power and puts Rimuru on his path.
The power vacuum that Veladora’s absence creates causes plans to be set into motion. Which brings us to the main driving factor of the whole series: Rimuru has no real drive to fight, no real cause to seek out trouble, he just wants his village to be prosperous, and to live a peaceful life. Of course, with Veladora gone, trouble seeks out the forest — which requires our hero, his goblin friends, his stormwolf allies, and whoever else gets snowballed into this slimeball to rise to action.
I don’t want to spoil too much past that as far as the plot goes. There are fun fights, despite Rimuru’s extreme hesitance to hurt anybody. There are fights that Rimuru literally cannot win through force, causing his kinder, more gentle nature to be the thing that saves the day. Diplomacy, traveling, and creative thinking are the real stars of the show. If you’re looking for a Shonen Slaughter or anything of the sort, you’ll probably want to skip this, but if you want a light-hearted, kind of uplifting series, I’d throw my hat in for goofy slime anime.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT
But this brings us to the flaws, which may not be flaws by your measure, but they are by mine. The biggest one I have thus far is the Demon Lord Milim — she wasn’t included in the paragraph when I originally wrote this draft, but she showed up recently, and I felt the need to warn you. She’s regarded as childish, commonly throwing temper tantrums when things don’t go her way. All of these are exceptional characteristics, as they give room for growth. But please, give this girl some pants. She’s got a bad case of female armor syndrome. The female ogres are also a cause for slight concern for me, because they began to form a small harem around Rimuru, which was thankfully only for gags and isn’t a major plot point. But since I haven’t read the light novel, I can’t really tell you if it comes up again. Other than those two points, I have no real issue with slime anime. It’s a good, goofy time — watch it.
Mob Psycho Part II
Like most of you who watched One Punch Man, I’m a big fan of One’s work. His weird, amateurish yet well put together art style speaks to me in ways that I didn’t know an art style could. When put into motion it’s got a somewhat chaotic, almost crazy and kinetic feel to it, and it gets to me. Mob Psycho is one of my favorite animes — just, period. I wasn’t planning on putting anything that wasn’t wholly new to me on this list, but then Mob Psycho happened and well, how could I not?
Mob Psycho follows our boy Mob, a socially uncomfortable, emotionally unstable psychic who honestly just wants to better himself to impress a girl he thinks is pretty. Unlike Johnny Bravo, who needs to better himself personality wise, Mob is a young boy who acknowledges his flaws and seeks to correct them. Improving oneself is a theme I’m very much on board with, and the adversity that Mob faces in his quest is for the most part, kind of grounded — kind of.
The world of Mob Psycho is just reality — but there are psychics. There’s really not much else to say about it. The characters are rich, there’s a lot of weird, chaotic things happening in the background, but as far as world-building goes, you learned most of it in history class. Instead, I would like to take this paragraph to quickly talk about the animation (not a category, I know, but I’m going with it), because I feel as though it’s the heart of this anime. The style that One uses in his Manga is very crude and simplistic. But this is actually to its benefit. The crude style allows for some insane and kinetic fights, as well as some creative camera angles.
The characters themselves are what truly makes Mob Psycho Part II shine. Everybody is the same from Part I, except for Mob. In the first part, Mob is afraid of his emotions, he doesn’t know how to really process the world around him, he’s subservient, and the world takes advantage of him. His boss at Spirits and Such Consultation Offices, Reigen, used this to a significant degree in the first season. However, in Part II, Mob finds himself a spine and begins to voice his views and opinions, however slightly. Mob has gained confidence. To this end, characters around him, such as his boss Reigen, and his spirit companion Dimple, show him more respect and give him more authority.
Reigen I feel gets a bad rep because he is clearly profiting off of how naive Mob can be. But it can’t be overlooked that Reigen is trying to raise Mob to be a good human, often making examples of people he deems to be unredeemable. He also makes a point to try and help Mob process and understand the things going on in his life — he might be a con man, but he’s a con man with a heart of gold.
Beyond Mob and the crew, the supporting cast is as colorful as ever, my personal favorite being the Body Improvement Club. They’re just a bunch of buff dudes who want to see Mob be the best he can be, as they try to raise him up with their support and friendship. These buff dudes are so incredibly wholesome. The world could use more people like the Body Improvement Club. The only character we’re getting new information about is Mob’s love interest, Takane. Although we haven’t seen much, we’ve seen she at least cares about Mob’s well being– even if it’s not romantic.
The plot of each season varies, although the opening speaks to a lot of what is going to happen this season. Mob Psycho is mostly a slice of life anime, focusing more on the growth of Mob as a character, his interactions with his friends, and his dealings with spirits. Mob’s rejection of his powers in favor of other means of coveting confidence and friends is fun to watch. It seems that with each episode our boy is growing and rejecting himself less. Maybe one day soon we’ll see him finally able to fully voice his opinions proudly (that’ll be the day). There’s just something comforting about watching Mob and Reigen do their work at Spirits and Such, trying to decipher what Mob’s powers are truly capable of.
The overlaying mechanic of each season is Mob’s rage, which he tries to keep in check. Since Mob doesn’t know how to really process, it slowly builds, and since he rarely talks it out, it just rises and rises. This isn’t healthy, but I won’t spoil you on what happens when he holds too much rage for too long.
The flaws list is pretty small for Mob Psycho, as I’m struggling to think of anything. Everything is really on point– there’s no real male gaze, there are no demon lords in underwear, it’s just a fun, wholesome show where occasionally a young boy gets the snot kicked out of him in amazingly animated fight scenes.