It seems impossible, but it’s now been four and a half months since the original Coronanime Recap. At the time, it was approximately day seventy of Pandemic Life™ in NYC, and for a brief moment, it seemed like things might be more or less under control, virally speaking, by midsummer.
So much for that dream! Just like in May, we’re still playing a lot of video games, eating a lot of dessert, and watching a lot of anime. Social distancing could certainly be worse.
Just like last time, here are my thoughts on nine animated shows (and a special bonus) that we watched at least a season of this summer and early fall. Eagle-eyed loyal readers will note the absence of Kill La Kill, referenced at the end of the first post, which we gave up on after five or six episodes. Happily, that means I can once again recommend every show on the list! Some with more caveats than others but still, not a dud in the bunch, thanks to the recommendations of friends, family, and Twitter. Send me your top picks for the autumn/winter edition, because who are we kidding, Coronanime is here to stay at least that long.
Season 3 and Season 4 Part 1
Subtitled on Crunchyroll
One Line Summary: The volleyball sons you wish you had soar to even greater heights, for the low, low price of you biting off all your fingernails and shedding a few tears of joy and pride
For fans of: finding humanity in your villains, pure emotional catharsis, the way of the ace
Theme song rating: Nothing will ever approach the gold standard of “Tobe Fly” from season two, so both of the new themes had big sneakers to fill. I actually really dig the season three opening animation (the electric crow vs. eagle at the end gets me hyped), and the season four theme has grown on me since CBB added it to our Anime Jams Spotify playlist, but unsurprisingly, these fall short of the high water mark. Season 3: 7.5/10, Season 4: 8/10
Superlative: Best Sports Entertainment Currently Available. Look, no disrespect to Major League Baseball or the NBA but Haikyuu blows their current pandemic offerings out of the water. The boys: wholesome. The stakes: never higher. The tosses, serves, receives, and kills: nice. It’s been months since I watched season 3, and I still get emotional thinking about Tsukki’s magnificent, game-saving performance to clinch a spot at Nationals. Don’t get me started on Kiyoko returning to her hurdler roots to retrieve Hinata’s shoes before their first game. If you’re looking for the rush of athletics but with an arc that won’t let you down, Haikyuu is a must watch. Even if you aren’t, it’s a must watch. We’re already enjoying the second half of season four this week!
Rating: A win in straight sets
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
Subtitled on Funimation
One Line Summary: The government you wish you had is back for another year, this time with 100% more sporty fun, “it’s not what it looks like” moments, and shojo manga boys.
For fans of: wholesome elections, pep squads, redemption arcs powered by friendship, unintentional 7 Minutes in Heaven
Theme song rating: Kaguya-sama sticks with the jazz theme for season two, and like the first season, it took a bit to grab me. This is not an all-time favorite, but bonus points for a credit sequence that is basically a mini-episode, and for the moment where the underclassmen bop down the halls as detectives to the chorus, which I imitate around the apartment whenever the mood strikes me. 7.5/10
Superlative: Most Likely to Leave Them Wanting More. Kaguya-Sama is one of the only anime series that we’ve watched week to week as it airs (the only other show that comes to mind is Psychopass season three), but this is a show that begs to be binged. The episodic structure of each installment means that it always feels like they could sneak in one more gag, a few more minutes of student council hijinks, another aside from the narrator.
Bonus: Most Likely to Make You Wish You Were on Student Council
Rating: Winner in an election night landslide
Avatar: The Last Airbender
One Line Summary: Caillou’s long-lost ancestor saves the world with the help of his friends, frenemies, and pets.
For fans of: cabbages, lionturtle ex machina, tea with a side of wisdom, getting bent
Theme song rating: A:TLA doesn’t technically have a theme song, but you know that opening sequence is as iconic as any tune. 10*/10
Superlative: Most Nostalgic. First of all, I realize that Avatar: The Last Airbender is not an anime. Still, it’s centered around an epic journey fueled by the power of friendship and over-the-top silly faces, so you can’t tell me the GAang wouldn’t fit in well with the Demon Slayer kids,Team Gurren Lagaan, or Yona’s Dragon Crew (see below). I didn’t watch A:LTA during its original run (with the exception of one random season three episode that did not exactly give me an accurate impression of the show), but it was one of my OG binge-watches when it became popular among my friends in high school Pretty sure my original watch was on DVDs from Blockbuster, yikes.
It was comforting to find the series holds up pretty well, with a few notable caveats. The aspect ratio takes some getting used to, the first few episodes are a kid-show slog, and the end is still steeped in heroic romantic entitlement. But “Tales of Ba Sing Se” is still a masterclass, and the whole series is a lot of fun.
Bonus: Despite Kaguya-sama literally talking about her nametwin under the night sky this season, Most Girlfriends Turned Into the Moon.
Rating: 4/4 elements
Subtitled on Hulu
One Line Summary: Delinquents of all ages, nationalities, and supernatural statuses get up to mischief in Ikebukuro, demonstrating the benefits and dangers of social networking, keeping secrets, and, uh, being a headless Irish lass.
For fans of: ROYGBIV, unconventional sushi, text-based communication, seeing things from all angles
Theme song rating: Durarara!! has some of my favorite under-the-radar earworms in both of its opening songs. Both have super hummable catchy choruses that get stuck in your head, and they capture the gritty-cool vibe of the show. Plus, for a show that has an intimidatingly large cast of plot-relevant characters, it’s a savvy move to give dumb people like me a reminder of all of their names and faces every episode.
Superlative: Most Remaining Loose Ends While Somehow Still Managing a Satisfying Plot. For the first half of Durarara!!, it seemed that the driving (motorcycle) engine of the plot was going to be Celty’s quest to regain her long-lost head. But Celty’s eventual acceptance of her headless state combined with the shocking reveal of mild-mannered protagonist Mikado as head of the mysterious Dollars gang, that thread pretty much just…disappeared. The second half of the show pivoted hard into focusing on our main trio of high schoolers. This worked better than it should have, all things considered. I’m a real sucker for stories about friendship, if that hasn’t already become crystal clear, and to be fair, Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri do literally run the city from the shadows.
But I have more questions remaining from this show that pretty much anything else on the list. What is Izaya planning next? Will Celty get her head back? Is Shinra in cahoots with his shady dad? Who is that police officer guy? Why were Shizuo’s brother and boss in the second opening when they literally didn’t do anything? Can someone just murder Izaya already? Thank goodness for Simon punching him in the face in the final episode or this show would have lacked any sense of closure. We haven’t returned for the second season because of mixed reviews online, but now that I’m thinking about all these loose ends again, I might have to give it a shot.
Bonus: Best incorporation of a recap into the title sequence. The drop going back into the song hits just right in both openings.
Rating: One Million Dollars
My Hero Academia
Season 4 Overhaul Arc
Dubbed on Funimation
One Line Summary: Professional crime-fighters bring together a team half composed of teenagers with learner’s permits to save an even smaller child from the anti-Kiryu.
For fans of: smashing the future, takoyaki, wearing a mask to prevent disease
Theme song rating: Over time, “Polaris” grew to be one of my favorite My Hero Academia theme songs! I always react badly to new ones on this show, and then it always takes me by surprise when I like them by the end of the arc. While I still think the opening animation is pretty paint-by-numbers meet all the characters, I dig that the song has a little more musical personality than some of its predecessors, plus a punchy ending to boot. 7.5/10
Superlative: Most wasted villain potential. You can read more of my thoughts about this on Split Screen, but I really believe there were two or three interesting characters inside Overhaul (even more he merged with his then-literal right hand man), and the writers just needed to make a few more strong choices one way or another.
Rating: One For All 70% Shoot Style!
Subtitled on Netflix
One Line Summary: Lizardman and his muscular personal chef-witch search for his lost identity while dark magic aristocrats search for the perfect work-wife.
For fans of: stylish masks, mycology, unconventional matryoshka dolls, fast-casual food stall pop-ups
Theme song rating: Dorohedoro‘s theme really captures the mood of the show, by which I mean that it is strange. The half yodel, half primal yell at the beginning and end really sets the tone. CBB mentioned to me the other day that this song felt less listenable out of context than many of the others on this list. I agree, except that we listened to it over breakfast the next day and I got a sudden craving for mushroom gyoza.
Like in Great Pretender (see below), the outros also deserve a mention here, because there are inexplicably something like six different animations and the song is a real bop. 8/10
Superlative: Most Shocking! We watched Dorohedoro because I had seen Emma posting about the manga on Twitter. She described it to me as mostly being about eating gyoza with your friends. This is not inaccurate, but is also incredibly inaccurate. Dorohedoro is weird. It’s bloody, grimy, and packed with world-building that does not wait for you to catch up, all of which points pretty strongly toward what should be a rough twelve episodes. However, there’s a ton of tenderness at the heart of the show, and its the way these strange characters genuinely care about each other that makes it all click. Now that they’ve laid the foundations for how The Hole and the sorcerers work, I’m excited to see where the journey goes in Season 2. The OVA that released this week was already a lovely taste of what that could be (and of gyozas, of course!)
Bonus: Most Powerful Animal Team Mascots, Beefiest Cast. I would watch a spin-off just about Jonson and Kikurage, but then I would be deprived of the sheer chunkiness of all the other characters.
Rating: 4.5 stars on Yelp (would give five stars, but it’s tough to ignore the health code violations)
Dubbed on Netflix
One Line Summary: Office worker embraces her inner rage
For fans of: F chords, rarepairs, custom merch, Youtube music tutorials
Theme song rating: The theme for Aggretsuko is as excellent as ever, but the real highlights this season come from Retsuko’s idol group OTM Girls. “I Wanna Be a Viral Star” is genuinely catchy, but “Aggressive Girls” really shines as the culmination of three years of Retsuko’s hidden talents. Now excuse me while I get in line to get my five seconds with the idols.
— ⚰️😈 The NXorcist 👻🔪 (@NXOnNetflix) September 2, 2020
Superlative: Least Most Relatable. Aggretsuko is beloved here at Talk This NYC HQ, both as the first anime Clickbait Boyfriend and I watched together and because it is inarguably a great show. A lot of the commentary online about the third season took issue with the lack of “relatable” office problems that had been the hallmark of the show’s first two installments.
Overall, I disagree! Even though idol life certainly isn’t part of the day-to-day for most of us, I actually found portions of this season even more relatable than previous editions. Retsuko’s stint as an unpaid business manager for an arts group trying to rein in the chaos there at night while balancing her full-time day job hit a little too close to home. Even apart from my unique personal resonance, I don’t think that Retsuko seeing some regional success as a metal girl group singer is less likely than her meeting and romancing a multimillionaire at her driving school. And although I never expected to hear the word “simp” in my Aggretsuko, the depiction of toxic fandom felt all too real to me.
On the other hand: who cares if it’s a little less relatable? You still get to hang out with new combinations of all these fun characters for a few hours and hear Retsuko scream “screw you capitalism!” That’s good enough for me.
Subtitled on Netflix
One Line Summary: Ocean’s 6ish pull off elaborate cons all around the globe, despite personal traumas and the newest member’s moderately bad English.
For fans of: edamame, nostalgia for the days of world travel, Animal Crossing‘s Jolly Redd, wealth redistribution.
Theme song rating: Nothing against the opening theme here (which nails the mischievous jazz mood of the entire show), but Great Pretender‘s defining musical selection is its outro. It’s tough to beat Freddie Mercury singing what might as well be an original song written for your show, it’s so on point. But to top that with adorable crooning kittens? Inspired. Outro: 9.5/10 Intro: 8/10
Superlative: Most Stylish. Both in terms of the casually stunning animation and the slick operation of our lovable band of swindlers (well, mostly of them are slick), Great Pretender has a lot of low-key swagger. The backgrounds in particular are drop-dead gorgeous. There’s a differently, slightly darker variety of Big Friendship Energy at play than the usual here, but even when backstories take a turn for the depressing, there’s the joy of a successful con to fall back on.
Bonus: Most Likely to Continually Remind You that Everyone is Not, in fact, Speaking Japanese.
Rating: First Place (but was the contest rigged…?)
Yona of the Dawn
Subtitled on Hulu
One Line Summary: Royal readhead and hunky childhood friend/bodyguard search the country for long-lost lizard buddies to oust the usurper to the throne and his luscious locks.
For fans of: beautiful boy geniuses, Avatar: The Last Airbender (see above), squirrels, Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Theme song rating: Yona definitely wins the prize for most wildly different themes. The first intro is pretty standard medieval fantasy orchestral stuff, and the second takes a sharp turn toward boppy, girl-power pop. The opening animation stays pretty much the same, and oddly, both work pretty much equally well. Slight edge to pop opening #2 here, because it is such an out-of-nowhere jam. #1: 7/10, #2: 7.5/10
Superlative: Most Unfinished! I’m aware that most anime is produced as an advertisement for its manga, but Emma recommended this show to me, so I was temporarily blinded to that reality. In all honestly, it did almost convince me to pick up some volumes though! The Big Friendship Energy is strong in Yona, and the show ends just as you’ve gotten the whole gang together. Plus, it features some juicy and, as Hak would describe it, cuddlicious romance. They say to always leave ’em wanting more but…not like this! They could have wrapped it all up by having Yona stab Su-Won but alas, no closure for me.
Rating: 5/4 Dragons, 0/1 Endings
Non-Anime Bonus: What We Do in the Shadows
Clickbait Boyfriend and I took a short break from our anime obsession for one live-action show this summer, and boy was it an excellent one. I highly recommend making some room in your viewing schedule for a few vampires from Staten Island. It’s got big ridiculous energy in spades, and I don’t think there was a single episode that didn’t make me laugh out loud multiple times.
I made space for it in this post because we all deserve a Jackie Daytona/Haikyuu!! crossover in our lives:
No doubt I’ll be back with another one of these posts this winter, so stayed tuned! Next up, of course we’re spending half an hour with our volleyball sons every Friday, but we’re toying with diving into some classics, starting with Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Got any recommendations? Leave them in the comments, or DM us on social media!