Well, another year come and gone, so it’s time for me to give some thoughts on my favorite shows of 2019 that I’ve seen. The keyword here is that I’ve seen. There are plenty of great shows this year that I missed, whether because they’re sequels to earlier seasons (Symphogear), or they just slipped under my radar, so I’ll need to come back to them later. As with all of my lists, these are in no particular order, so don’t consider a lower spot in the list, nor an absence from the list, as a slight against that work.
2019 was the year of anime that you really wanted to watch with good speakers or headphones, and ideally a solid subwoofer – and probably the best example of that, outside from currently airing series like Azur Lane and Fate/Grand Order, was The Magnificent Kotobuki. Kotobuki was a show where while the animation could be hit-or-miss when it came to the CGI implementation (to the point that some more expressive shots were switched to hand animation – like the Pancake Rant from episode 2).
However, the fighter dogfights throughout the show cannot be questioned in terms of their quality. The choreography of the fights is stunning, and the sound design around those fights is amazing, and really gets across the way these airplanes would sound like.
One of the things I’ve really liked about anime in this past decade is a sort of renaissance of the Young Adult Space Adventure story, with the concept being reimagined for the 21st century, with modern ideas like “People being homosexual is a perfectly normal thing and not Weird Future sexuality” – and the same thing in this series with a character who is intersex.
Also, from my admittedly cursory research, it is something of bucking a trend of YA Science Fiction at present. While YA SF is still not in the same territory as Hunger Games and Divergent – YA Space Opera is still a little hard to come by – the current trend appears to be something closer to cyberpunk fiction (in keeping with our current cyberpunk dystopia).
Speaking of the old school, 2019 had a new revival of one of Osamu Tezuka’s classic works – Dororo. The series did a tremendous job of on the one hand strongly capturing Tezuka’s style, while also making sure the look and feel of the work fit well with the actual tone, including carefully pruning some of the extraneous humor.
The animation of the series was tremendously fluid, and I also appreciated that the series did give us time in the finale episode to give us something of a denouement – something that a lot of other anime series are not necessarily great at.
Dororo is available on Amazon. (Referral Link)
4) Vinland Saga
This series is still currently airing, but considering that the manga is still ongoing, I’m relatively confident that when the series wraps it will be by concluding this arc with a side of a “Read the Manga” ending – which is fine.
As someone who was part of the SCA as a kid, and who read a boatload of the Cadfael novels (which are set considerably later), I really appreciate the attention to detail in the work. Yes, there are plenty of moments where the “anime” shows through in the work – Thorfinn doing a Naruto Run, a few very jokey reaction shots, some of the over-the-top feats of strength performed by characters – but the series still retains a sense of grounding in a particular period of history, and it keeps the characters very compelling – even the historical figures who have plot armor like Canute (and Thorfinn himself).
I dug this show a lot, and I’m really wishing that I had taken up the offer on one of the previous manga Humble Bundles that included Vinland Saga.
Vinland Saga is available on Amazon. (Referral Link)
O Maidens In Your Savage Season was a show that kept me hooked in and engaged through a great mix of hilarious comedy and truly heartfelt, sincere emotional drama, in a way that didn’t necessarily have the familiarity coming into it that something like another similar drama, and the other revival of a classic anime series to come out in 2019 – Fruits Basket – did.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Furuba – this isn’t a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Nor is this a case of me going with O Maidens due to novelty. It’s more a case of O Maidens 12-episode runtime making Mari Okada much more aware of what time the show has, and not leaving a single moment to waste. The series is a masterwork of conservation of storytelling in a character drama – where to a degree more time in a series can work better than less because more time gives room for the character relationships to meld.
This is character drama in a pressure cooker, and done exceptionally well, in a way that allows all the character development and all the narrative themes (particularly when it comes to a fraught topic like adolescent sexuality) to be presented flawlessly.
O Maidens In Your Savage Season is available on Hidive.
So, my completed list at AniList is here. Is there’s anything not on that list (or not on my currently watching list) from 2019 that I left off? Let me know in the comments!