Hello all you wonderful people! I’m back on KawaiiPaperPandas again! At 11am Eastern time I had no idea what I was going to write for you all today, but I think I finally figured something out. I had been thinking about what I watch as a whole and what I actually enjoy watching (as some of what I watch I don’t actually tend to enjoy all that much). Now, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean I won’t watch it. I have a hard time dropping shows that I start because I feel like I just committed to something and I need to see it through. I will admit, though, that I don’t watch as many shows per season as most of current followers and readers on my blog (I guess that would extend to here, too) because my attention span and memory aren’t all that great. But what drives me to finish a seasonal anime?
To give you an example, during the Autumn 2018 and Winter 2019 seasons I started around sixteen shows per season. I think I finished with about five each. And that wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the shows I started, it was simply because I forgot what days they aired, fell behind a few weeks, and then forgot about them completely until the next season started. I had a few moments where I went “Oh, X show! Wait, I never finished that did I?” I had a friend yell at me every time we saw each other because I hadn’t finished “How Not To Summon a Demon Lord” (And I still haven’t finished that…a show that aired Summer 2018. Perhaps I should finish that? Maybe…) So, with that I’ll list a few of the shows I watched during the Winter 2019 and Spring 2019 seasons (because I feel like staying in 2019) and go into why I finished a few of them.
The Rising of the Shield Hero; The Promised Neverland; Domestic Girlfriend; Kaguya-sama Love is War; Kakegurui xx; The Quintessential Quintuplets; Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka.
Is there anything about these shows that have anything in common, or is it a more balanced viewing on my part? While I will say that comedies aren’t on my usual watch-list, Kaguya-sama and The Quintessential Quintuplets were real treats for the comedy/slice-of-life-esque shows. Asuka was a total letdown in a vein of shows I have tried to get into over and over each year (the magical girl shows, just to analyze them) as the progression was blindly advancing with no real motive; and Domestic Girlfriend was my trashy anime for the season (which I loved! It was so odd and ridiculous I couldn’t stop watching).
However, the two shows that garnered the most response from me were Shield Hero and The Promised Neverland. Both were amazing in my eyes as we got to see true progression from the main cast of characters. There was a solid idea of what the characters were trying to accomplish, and villains that seemed to truly test our protagonists. Other than that, though, there wasn’t much in common with any of these shows that I can see of the top of my head.
Naofumi’s progression from a cast-aside, hate filled, Devil of the Shield character to someone who was one of the most compassionate, trustworthy, and well-rounded characters I’ve seen in a while was one of the main reasons I continued watching Shield Hero week after week (with some Raphtalia awesomeness thrown in there as well). And then there was Emma, Ray, Norman, and the rest of the children from The Promised Neverland. Each of them had their own skill set, each of them had brains and an ability to connect with the viewers in some way because of who they were, what they did, and how they acted. While I will say that later in the manga I didn’t like Emma’s character as much (I grew to like Ray more), this season of The Promised Neverland was well done in both the animation and art departments and the storytelling. Character progression made these two shows for me, and that’s saying something (as that’s primarily what I look for in watching shows) as they’ve only been around for a short time.
Bungou Stray Dogs; Attack on Titan; Kimetsu no Yaiba; Wise Man’s Grandson; Carole & Tuesday; Midnight Occult Civil Servants; We Never Learn; and some shorts…
The Spring 2019 season didn’t have as much going for it in my book as compared to the Winter 2019 season, but we did get some decent to good shows this time around. Attack on Titan came back with a bang and didn’t let up; Bungou Stray Dogs ramped up their second season with a thrilling third season that is looking to be my anime of the year contender (we’ll see how that plays out); the comedy show Wise Man’s Grandson was decent in a way, but eventually fell flat in my experience; Carole & Tuesday continued to impress me even though it was slower than the others I was watching; and Kimetsu no Yaiba…how can I put this…burned out after about ten episodes for me. We Never Learn was decent for what it was, but really it wasn’t what I expected it to be considering my friend was amping it up to be a great comedy (having read the manga).
In looking at all the shows I have listed here, is there any common denominator that kept me interested? I don’t see a solid genre of shows, so that can’t be it (although watching only a single genre in a season seems ridiculous). No, what I think kept me watching each of these shows was, for the most part, the progression we got throughout the weeks the shows aired. While I know some of the shows didn’t have as much progression, there was still some. The most interesting progression in my eyes came from The Rising of the Shield Hero, Attack on Titan, The Promised Neverland, and Bungou Stray Dogs.
What can we surmise from this list? Character progression is the key factor in making a show worthwhile for one or multiple seasons. Attack on Titan had great character development through its third season, giving us backstory we anime-only viewers didn’t know, connecting dots and going all the way back to the basement that had been denied us since season one. With the thunder spears leading off the second half of season three, we got a look at just how far the Scout Regiment was willing to go in order to take the threat of the titans away from humanity. We got a look at the history of Grisha Yaeger, the family history of Eren, and how this whole titan business started. Marley and Eldia, the political structure of the Marleyans (is that how it’s spelled?) and what they were doing to the Eldians.
Okay, and here, I do want to take a small tangent and talk about the historical aspect of this Marley vs Eldia thing. Yes, it is full of Nazism. It’s true. The Marleyans were subjecting the Eldians like they did the non-Aryans which included Jews–even German Jews; homosexuals; Blacks; communists; Gypsies; Slavic peoples in the Balkan states and Russia; and Muslims. Is the inclusion of that a bad thing? People complain that Attack on Titan has hints of Nazism, and I’d say it has pools of Nazism. However, is that really a bad thing to add into a story if it progresses the story and gives it life? The Nazi regime and their persecution of the groups above was a true and terrifying thing, and I think Attack on Titan has every right to base a story line off it to show a newer generation just how terrifying such a thing can be. If we bury the past we’re sure to repeat the past, so Attack on Titan throwing these historical aspects into our faces is, in my opinion, a good thing.
With everything relating to the historical aspects of Attack on Titan, it grabbed my attention even more than it already had through almost three complete seasons. I’m a huge history nerd, and my grandfather was even forced into the German army to fight in Stalingrad (he was born in 1927, so he was 14-15 years old and was seeing a Jewish girl at the time) and then again at the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes in Belgium in 1944-1945, so the fact that Nazism was that prevalent in Attack on Titan grabbed my attention in a matter of seconds. (Oh, and before attack me, fuck Nazis. Fuck Nazis. They forced my family member to be a pawn in their game at a young age–which is a personal hatred–and have no moral standing in the world at all because they’re sick, twisted, and subhuman. Fuck Nazis…) I also studied the political time frame of German history between 1918-1950 in school, so it’s something I sort of enjoy.
Anyway…on a topic other than Nazism and Germany, Bungou Stray Dogs was simply one where the story continued to surprise me. The different abilities of the Armed Detective Agency and Port Mafia, the character progression in how they all used their abilities, the undermining and backstabbing that went into each group prevalent in the show, the relationships each character had with another cast member (it was almost like you could match them up with one other and be like “yeah, they’re opposites”) and having to work together to take out a common enemy? Everything about Bungou Stray Dogs made me want more as the season progressed. And let’s not forget Akutagawa working with Atsushi again…because that was epic as can be.
In Bungou Stray Dogs, I think it was the detective aspect and the way that the different groups went about trying to outsmart each other with their collective minds that sealed the deal for me. We had so many intelligent cast members vying for control of Yokohama, different plans being set in motion, and everything coming together to derail what was an uneasy alliance between two hated groups that realized if either one was going to survive they needed to work together. Plus, the fight scenes are top notch.
I will say that Bungou Stray Dogs and Attack on Titan were my favorite shows for the Spring 2019 season, and I think the reason behind that is how much progression we ended up getting. Each of the shows that I saw this last season had some progression, but none could match the depth of these two shows in their third seasons. Is that a fair metric? Probably not as the characters have been around for years while the newer anime have just started, but still. I think there’s an ability with Attack on Titan and Bungou Stray Dogs to make us care so much about the characters and their well being that none of the other shows I watched cared to dive in to.
Character progression is the main reason I watch an anime. If there is nothing going on between the characters and the plot to drive it forward then what’s the point of watching? Characters drive plot and plot drives characters. It’s a balancing act that demands each portion’s attention. If the characters are failing but the plot is progressing and seems like it should be great, then is the anime good? If the plot is failing but characters are great and interaction between them is fantastic and enjoyable, is the anime worth watching? Some might say yes, as one can outperform the other and make for a good anime, but the truly phenomenal anime are ones were the characters and plot are driving each other through conversations, through group actions (Attack on Titan), through flashbacks (Bungou Stray Dogs), and with a villain that is pronounced and well-rounded in itself.
I do believe that without character progression a show is not worth my watching. And that’s because I’d rather not get a progressing story with a stagnant character. Now, I will be fair here and say that what I mean isn’t like the isekai genre’s level-up thing where the character progresses in skill points and abilities or whatever, but as a character. Is she a hard-ass who finds a soft spot for a younger boy and raises him to become just as badass as her? Does she free slaves and take out slave owners? Is she helping to protect a group of people from a tyrant? If the lead does not grow emotionally then I do not see a point in watching a show that could have been touted as an adventure story, or action story, or whatever.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what drives me to finish seasonal anime. The progression of our characters.
Thanks for reading!