ANIME REVIEW | Winter 2023 Returning Series
Winter is all about embracing the cold weather, but when it comes to the returning anime series of this past season, there’s a plethora of warmth to discover. From pop idols collaborating to a senpai and kouhai’s bond growing stronger, there were plenty of shows and characters to cheer for in Winter 2023. Let’s take a look at the anime that made their grand return after a hiatus, and see how they fared compared to season’s past!
Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro: 2nd Attack
Oh Senpai! You’ve finally started growing a backbone. And you have your adorable teaser Nagatoro to thank for your progress. So naturally, that’ll mean you’ll go for what your heart desires and ask her out on a proper date, right? As Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro: 2nd Attack shows, it’s not so easy connecting with the humanoid wavy tube girl!
A lot of the second season focuses on how Nagatoro and Senpai evolve as a pairing. While the Queen of Mean still throws plenty of jabs at Senpai, Nagatoro finds herself softening her blows. Instead, we have Senpai actually helping Nagatoro out in situations, be it pep talk during judo or getting away from bothersome jocks. And seeing this side of Senpai gives Nagatoro plenty of reason to consider him dateable material.
Of course, it’s the wackier parts that make Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro a joy to watch. From relay races and skiing trips to a “practice” date at the aquarium, Nagatoro, Senpai, and even the other teasers have a ball of a time together. But it’s the romance element that helps make 2nd Attack a great second season, with the two becoming ever-so closer near its season finale. Yes, the animation isn’t as strong as the first season, but where it lacks in the visual department is definitely made up in the emotional one!
Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro can be viewed on Crunchyroll, and has been licensed by Crunchyroll.
Aggretsuko: The Final Season
Who would’ve guessed that the company behind Hello Kitty would create the most relatable anime for adults! Aggretsuko has been on fire since its premiere in 2018, with its take on office life, adult romance, shady business deals, and even the idol scene. But with Haida and Retsuko finally becoming a couple at the end of Season Four, was there anything else Aggretsuko had left to say? The short answer: yes. The long one: it’s complicated.
Season Five’s first half focuses on Haida trying to get back on his feet after leaving the company. It does a solid job showcasing the struggles of finding a new job, on top of the heaping amounts of trouble playing gacha games will do both romantically and financially. How everyone reacts to his bad decisions is both understandable and hilariously over-the-top, but it’s when we see the family Haida was raised into where we start seeing the dots connect to why he behaves the way he does. Sadly, that’s also where Aggretsuko starts losing its identity.
Just why did they have to make Retsuko run for office? There are certainly better ways to insert the fact that we’re all like her, but using politics is the weakest of the routes taken. Yes, there are so many great points made regarding too many old people being in control, but many other shows and comics have done this in better and surprising matters. Worse, the moment everyone was waiting for is shown in a quick flash, rather than the big explosive grand finale it should’ve been!
Oh well. I guess I can’t complain. After four solid seasons, it shouldn’t come as a shocker that making a perfect landing is a lot easier said than done. With that being said, there are some good moments in the final season of Aggretsuko, even if the political parts water down their importance. At any rate, I can’t say that my time with Aggretsuko was a waste by any means. I only just wish that it did a better job summing up the truest fact about this show: that everyone has a little Aggretsuko in them.
Aggretsuko can be viewed on Netflix.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? IV (Part Two)
Man, remember when DanMachi was just all about girls falling for Bell Cranel? Okay, there was the main plot of Hestia’s boy waiting to become stronger to impress Ais Wallenstein, but that really took a backseat this fourth season. When the first half ended, both Bell and Ryū found themselves separated from their friends in the most dangerous part of the dungeon. In its second half, we find out just how deadly the dungeon is, on top of how tenacious these two are.
Much of the second half of DanMachi Season Four is about these two surviving with little assistance. Although Ryū has some healing powers, using them too much causes her to become a burden in battle. Thankfully, Bell shows just how strong of an adventurer he has gotten, with him taking on every sort of monster and behemoth he comes across. However, it’s when the Juggernaut peers its frightening head when we see how powerful of a duo Bell and Ryū can be.
It goes without saying that this is the most brutally violent DanMachi has ever been. Ryū’s back story involving her time in the Astraea Familia has some pretty shocking and grotesque deaths, all of which leave very little to the imagination. The Juggernaut battles are also ripe with gore, with Bell being hit with one nasty attack after another. But throughout the blood and mayhem, Bell and Ryū show off just how strong both physically and mentally they are, even if doubt starts popping up in their heads.
Although DanMachi started off as harem adventure comedy, Season Four demonstrates how it can remove the comedic parts and focus on the terrors of the dungeon. And J.C. Staff manages to do all that while still keeping to the spirit of the series. Because of this, Season Four is without a doubt the best that DanMachi has ever been. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long for Season Five (or, at the very least, maybe reward Bell with a fun OVA for the time being).
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? can be viewed on HIDIVE. It has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks.
D4DJ All Mix (Season Two)
It’s amazing to think of how more evolved and well-rounded Bushiroad’s D4DJ series has become these last couple of years. Although its CGI animation is nowhere near the same levels as what Sunrise does with Love Live, there’s something about Happy Around, Lyrical Lily and the other idol groups of this franchise that click better. Perhaps one of the things that helps it stand out is how the groups’ songwriting process goes, which shows why their music just doesn’t magically come to fruition. For the second season, D4DJ literally mixes things up by having all of the groups collaborate on a massive project.
Lyrical Lily comes up with a plan to revitalize their town, which involves monthly concerts with all of their idol group friends. The process isn’t just a mere meetup; it’s also a way to tie in certain holidays and big events. As the groups work together, they not only demonstrate the power of collaboration, but also find ways to evolve better as individual groups. Most importantly, the likes of Merm4id and Photon Maiden rediscover the key element of performing live: having fun!
D4DJ isn’t reinventing the wheel or revitalizing the anime idol scene. But one can’t help but enjoy the musical performances and antics of each and every one of these groups. The likes of Love Live and The Idolm@ster may be the go-tos for your animated pop music, but if I were a betting man, D4DJ might have a good chance at stealing one of their crowns. If Bushiroad can continue making seasons as solid as D4DJ All Mix, then the idol stage will easily be theirs for the taking!
BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense.: Season Two
If there’s one thing BOFURI does right, it’s show how to have fun playing video games. While Maple has found herself to be the strongest player in NewWorld Online, she lacks any sign of ego for her accomplishments. Quite the contrary, she wants to share her achievements with Sally and the rest of her Maple Tree guild. In Season Two, the time for the rest of Maple Tree to shine finally arrives.
On top of leveling everybody up, the guild’s members find themselves with familiars of their own. New events give them the chance to earn new powers and skills, all of which fit well with their style of playing. Of course, it’s Maple who still gets the wildest of new powers, ranging from super-powered defense buffers to…tentacles?! Yeah, Maple’s new abilities are pretty damn crazy!
Although her actions frustrated the administrators of NewWorld Order, Maple certainly has helped it become a more popular game. Besides, it’s fun seeing a character like Maple earning one victory after another, with her smile and optimistic attitude being one of the anime’s biggest draws. BOFURI’s second season showcased yet again why it’s important to have fun playing video games, as it demonstrates the strengths of rewarding friendships and unifying teamworks.
Any series we missed? Have a different opinion? Comment below with your thoughts on the returning shows from Winter 2023!
Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.