I caught up on all the winter series I decided to follow as simulcasts. Below are my (mostly) one-sentence impressions thus far. I publish a year-end top six anime series list annually over at The New Leaf Journal, so I will note which series I view as potential candidates for 2024 based on how they compare to one another and also to series that have made my top-six in previous years.

  • 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy: It is much better than the ridiculous (somewhat misleading) title and it has had some good episodes, but cracks started to show in the writing and setting with the introduction of a certain sibling.
  • A Sign of Affection (thru 8): This is a solid effort all around and one of the better shoujo series I have seen in recent years — it should be a solid year-end top-six candidate with a good finish. (Note: I may be somewhat biased due to its exemplary attention to hair color detail.)
  • Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun: 2nd Stage (thru 8): This has erred on the disappointing side with its odd pacing and sometimes-shaky writing, but it has had its moments — episode 8 was its best episode of the first 8 and delivered what should stand as one of the better moments in 2024 anime.
  • BUCCHIGIRL?! (thru 6.5): A trashy delinquent comedy that feels like it is from a different era and stays watchable by not forgetting what it is.
  • Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (thru 24): It has had some genuinely excellent moments and seems like a near-lock for best aesthetics of 2024, but episodes 18-24 have been shaky (read: boring and very uncomfortable depicting action) to put it generously. It is still a likely top-six prospect but any chance it had to be in the series of the year mix have gone by the first class mage exam wayside.
  • Metallic Rouge (thru 7): It’s a convoluted mess but I’ll watch to the end for some unknown reason.
  • The Apothecary Diaries (thru 20): Its generally strong start has been underminded by its unsatisfying mysteries (a problem for a mystery show) and its passion for using Maomao’s (or Xiaomao’s) long, winding monologues to advance the plot.
  • The Dangers in My Heart (thru 7): The class of the season and the only anime of the year caliber show of the winter bunch.  I expected it to improve over last year’s season one, but not go go from borderline-top six candidate (it missed my 2023 top-six list but would have made 2022) to potential series of the year.
  • Sengoku Youko (thru 7): This is admittedly not my cup of tea but it built up to an excellent episode 7 and has done enough to keep me around so far.
  • Shangri-La Frontier (thru 20): I respect this series for turning the sort of dumb premise that usually makes me run for the hills into a genuinely fun, excellently-animated show that makes for a good watch on Sundays.
  • The Demon Prince of Momochi House (thru 8): I am in a strange place with Momochi where I find it slightly boring but also find myself looking forward to it. So long as the ambulatory daikon (I thought it was a turnip, but it is a raddish) keeps appearing every episode, we have an unexpected borderline top-six candidate with a solid finish.
  • Urusei Yatsura [S3] (thru 9): There’s an animation cut toward the end of the new OP that is about as pretty as anything you will see in anime (AS FOR THE ACTUAL SEASON THEY STILL YELL ALL THEIR LINES SO IT IS STILL VERY MUCH URUSEI YELLSURA).

All in all, winter 2024 has been solid and certainly better than winter 2023, which ultimately yielded no top-six entries in my final 2023 ranking. Dangers in My Heart is a genuine series of the year caliber production through 7 episodes and despite its dull mage exam arc, Frieren is still a strong more-likely-than-not year-end top six candidate. Sign of Affection and Momochi both have top-six ambitions.  I’m still not entirely persuaded by Sengoku Youko, but it is long enough that it may be a good prospect for 2024 if it keeps improving. Tomozaki, 7th Time Loop, and Apothecary Diaries are outside candidates for top-six contention but they would need much stronger finishes than what the episodes which have aired thus far suggest they are capable of.

I did not get around to publishing a review of episode 2 of season 2 of Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun after publishing a brief review of the first episode. The second episode had a dramatic tonal shift — segueing from the social game shenanigans that began in the first episode to bullying. I had some issues with most of episode 2. It was oddly paced. I did not mind the fact that none of the main characters (save for Tama) acquitted themselves well, but the whole production felt rushed and a bit heavy-handed. My biggest concern was with the main character himself, Tomozaki, whose views on the episode’s bullying situations jumped around without the changes being fully developed. Bullying is a subject that requires good writing (see e.g., my anime series of the 2011-2020 decade, March Comes in like a Lion). Even the best anime in the broader high school drama/comedy genre that Tomozaki is in, Oregairu, struggled a bit in its one season one arc that focused primarily on bullying. However, while episode 2 was one of the weaker Tomozaki episodes overall, it ended on an intriguing note with Tomozaki and the second bullying subject, Tama. I complained about Tama being underdeveloped and used to highlight the annoying tendencies of a more important character in my season 1 review, but depending on the writing, it can use her well here. I will see what I think when I watch episode 3 this evening.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki 2nd STAGE (Ep 1) by Project No.9 from Crunchyroll
As the second term begins, Tomozaki's first task (courtesy of Hinano) is getting popular girl Erika Konno motivated for the school sports tournament.

I re-watched the first season of Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (after having watched it as a simulcast in 2021) for two reasons. Firstly so I could write a review and secondly so that I could refresh my memory for the second season. I watched the first episode of season 2, titled The best games make reconnaissance fun, a few hours after it went live on Crunchyroll. Five quick thoughts below.

  • The overall aesthetic is the same but the production values were better than most of the first season. For example, I noted that the character models were very consistent. It did reuse a few cuts, however.
  • The episode did a good job of depicting Tomozaki’s new-found confidence in his coaching sessions with Hinami.
  • A good part of the episode was spent effectively re-introducing the characters. This is understandable since I assume many viewers did not re-watch the first season in the last week of December like I did.
  • It introduced one new character in Tomozaki’s lethargic co-worker (another girl, of course). She seems to be set up for a advice role but time will tell.
  • Speaking of advice, I complained that Tomozaki’s friend/pushed love interest, Kikuchi, was used too much as an oracle in season 1. In this episode she gives advice that reasonably followed from things she and the audience observed happening in Tomozaki’s class.
  • Speaking of advice, I do not find Tomozaki’s initial challenge, to get the unpleasant Erika Konno motivated for the sports festival, to be particularly interesting. However, his approach to completing the task, relying on others, does highlight his character growth (namely that he can rely on others) and give the first episode a way to help all the characters shine.
  • Speaking of shining, I like what this episode did with Yuzu Izumi. I mentioned in my review of the first season that I thought she was a good character but somewhat underused. Her late-episode resolution was well-done and I hope she continues to play a meaningful role in the second season.
  • In my review, I opined that the series would ultimately depend on its exploration of Hinami’s characters and motivations. Perhaps the most encouraging point of the episode was an early monologue wherein Tomozaki considers the difference between him (trying to enjoy each step of his self-improvement journey) and Hinami (looking beyond the moment at something distant). I will count it as a good early sign that this is something Tomozaki is thinking about.
  • Finally, in my season 1 review, I complained about the camera’s tendency to fixate on Hinami’s and Mimimi’s legs. Positive sign: Only one weird Hinami leg shot in episode 1. Progress!

I expect to see this first arc wrapped up in episode 2 next Wednesday. All in all, the first episode was a solid start to the second season and I am interested to see how it develops after we finish the first arc.