The year and the latest season of anime are coming to a close together. I haven’t been watching so much new stuff, though the sheer number of episodes is still high.

Sound! Euphonium — Smudge had been wanting to show this to me for some time, and then, just as we got through watching it, we discovered a second season was starting up; so our timing was excellent! It’s a very nice slice-of-life story revolving around a high school music club competing in the national contests, with drama and a dash of shojo-ai. Despite that, there’s no fanservice or other pandering, and it’s my favorite series of the season.

Haikyu — We were surprised to see this one turn up again. The entire season was spent on just five matches against one team in the tournament… and it still worked. The tension and pacing is nicely tuned, and there’s a surprising amount of character development going on. Still recommended, despite the fact that it should be ‘tournament hell’.

Natsume’s Book of Friends — This is always a good series, and this season didn’t disappoint. However, it was a bit more slice-of-life centric than usual, so I keep feeling like nothing really happened.

Izetta: The Last Witch — It’s an interesting premise, with a world that isn’t quite Earth (all the names are shifted around a bit) having a war much like WWII (including most of the equipment). Into this is stuck a small Alpine country (it’s about a quarter the size of Switzerland and just to the east of it) and magic. I would recommend it, as it was well done… but for the fact that almost every episode has entirely unneeded fanservice, and it really bogs the series down.

And then Pokemon. Lots of Pokemon:

Indigo League (aka ‘original’) — Thanks to the scattered availability of episodes, I’ve only seen up through about episode 60. I think I’m less annoyed by the characters than Smudge is. I think the biggest shame is that the calm head of the group—Brock—has become defined by what started as a one-off gag of being distracted by a pretty girl. Ash has a serious case of ‘impetuous hero’ syndrome, but at least he starts growing out of it.

Pokemon XY (and XYZ) — I just recently caught up where this is in American broadcast, which is months behind Japan (I’m so used to the simulcast services…). It’s a big jump up from the original stuff, and largely very good. Ash is at his best as a character here, and the supporting cast is very strong. My main problems come from pacing: too often an immediate goal would be set (fight at the next gym!), and then would get deferred for several episodes for other adventures, making me feel like the main plot was stalling.

And we’ve watched several of the movies:

Mewtwo Strikes Back (The First Movie): I’m iffy on this and several of the other movies. In this case, it kind of feels like an extended episode other than the ‘forget-me’ at the end which meant that it didn’t have to impact the series itself.

The Power of One (Pokemon 2000): Yes, Ash really is The Chosen One. And let’s face it: this is a world of sparks and kami. The action and plot actually gelled a lot better for me in this one. Lawrence III worked a lot better as a villain than Mewtwo did for me, and you really get to rooting for the heroes. However, the Required Movie Allowance of legendary Pokemon bugged me by not really showing as much intelligence as most of the normal ones.

Spell of the Unown (Pokemon 3) I think this is the best of the early movies, and really weaves together a more cohesive plot. Also, its the first one where the fate of the world isn’t really at stake, which is something that gets pulled out too often in the games, anime, and movies. Also, I really liked the opening credits, which do a good job of introducing Pokemon, Poke-fighting, and showing off some character, all in pantomime.

Celebi: Voice of the Forest (Pokemon 4Ever): It kind of tries to be a Miyazaki movie, complete with flying scene. However, the contemplative moments actually are in service to the plot. Another recurring problem of the movies is on display here: a deus ex machina ending. Apparently, this is one of the lower-rated Pokemon movies, though I liked at least as much as any of the other movies.

Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice: Okay, so Kyurem gets voiced by Vic Mignogna (Eric Elric), and… has a very similar personality. This caused all sorts of positive associations, and frankly, the movie is fairly good in its own right.

Genesect and the Legend Awakened: Another fairly solid plot concept, and a bit lacking in execution. Bringing back Mewtwo was an interesting choice, and it really does work with the plot.

Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction: This one was a lot of fun, and is one of my favorites, possibly just because the cast of characters was a lot of fun (notably including Diancie and her harried advisor).