Easily the most heartwarming romcom I watched this year, Skip and Loafer lingers in my memory like a fuzzy blanket for the soul. The emotional intelligence and nuance of the source material find a perfect pairing with Kotomi Deai‘s effervescent directorial hand, and the kids are all profoundly lovable scamps. That’s not to say the series is devoid of drama—a couple of the characters are former child actors, after all—but to me, it’s at its best when the stakes are lower, and the characters are goofier. I fell in love with our heroine Mitsumi the moment she capped the premiere by puking on her teacher. You can’t write a more charming introduction by that. Her nexus of anxiety pairs well with Shima’s breezy demeanor, although she’s more put-together, and he’s more haunted than either of them would admit to each other. That contrast, however, is the thread stitching Skip and Loafer together.
4. Birdie Wing -Golf Girls’ Story- Season 2
I felt tempted to give into the Birdie Wing Sweep and grant the show top honors for the second year in a row. I had a fantastic enough time to justify it, and the proof lies in all the blood, sweat, and tears shed by Aoi and Eve over the cutthroat world of professional golf. The second season has everything that made the first one so bizarrely compelling: golf crime, intergenerational melodrama, Gundam references, and the powerfully sapphic rivalry at the story’s core. I think, however, it’s fair to argue that it doesn’t quite attain the absurd apotheosis of the first half. There’s less emphasis on the mafia (nary a bazooka in sight), and the slightly rushed ending doesn’t quite satisfy the long litany of expectations I had for it. Nevertheless, these are quibbles compared to all the magic Birdie Wing exudes out of every pore, hole, and dimple. It’s the only good thing to ever happen to golf.
After the second season of In/Spectre aired this past winter, I thought my thirst for supernatural mysteries solved by short women had been sufficiently slaked. Little did I know, Undead Murder Farce would drown me in style, sensuality, and sass. The misadventures of a caged head detective, an artificial oni thespian, and a lesbian-magnet maid gave me some of the purest enjoyment out of anything I watched this year. It’s pulp done to perfection. Mamoru Hatakeyama‘s visual direction turns the Victorian setting into pop art, and the voice actors all have fun drolly one-upping each other in their verbal joustings and macabre pun competitions. While it’s not too thematically deep, the dialogue is as sharp as the blade that beheaded Aya, and the mysteries are as madcap as one of Tsugaru’s rakugo yarns.
Heavenly Delusion is a mixed blessing. It’s the most compelling slice of speculative science fiction I watched this year. The story balances unassuming characters with a labyrinthine network of mysteries woven deftly between its two parallel storylines. It combines the long-form complexity of a Naoki Urasawa serial with the offbeat weirdness of a more transgressive narrative. Usually, this works well. Week to week, the anime left me transfixed and eager to see which clue I had missed or which tragedy had been hiding in plain sight. I loved the dumbass camaraderie between Kiruko and Maru. I couldn’t wait to see the kids in “Heaven” break their chains. And on a technical level, Heavenly Delusion has one of the best animated adaptations of the year, with invigorating battles, subtly heart-rending storyboards, and gorgeous overall composition that leans into the awful beauty of its post-apocalyptic cityscapes.
It’s unfortunate, then, that Heavenly Delusion also ends its season on its most needlessly cruel plotline. Kiruko is the best part of the whole story. Their confluence of gender, sexuality, identity, and incest crises, compounded with all of the other violence and trauma found throughout the dying world, makes them a consistently fascinating character. There are so many more interesting ways to probe them than the route the last couple of episodes take. Still, that doesn’t undo all the good the series does. Its unapologetic strangeness is exactly what I like to see in my science fiction, and that’s what keeps it my second favorite anime of the year.
To paraphrase Anon Chihaya: it truly is MyGO. No other 2023 anime locked me into an emotional chokehold as violently as these girls did. This is THE anime of the year for everyone who laments the lack of authentically messy and multi-faceted female characters in fiction, because when it comes to terrible women, MyGO is an embarrassment of riches. Every major player in this band suffers from some problem or issue the anime explores in earnest (except Raana, who’s more like a stray cat they can’t get rid of). There’s too much to mention here, so let me reiterate how much of a game-changer the third episode is. Tomori’s struggles to connect get an avant-garde first-person treatment that comes together as one of the most captivating depictions of a person on the autism spectrum that I’ve ever seen. It’s sensitive, not sensational. This is also a situation where the 3DCG production probably aided the execution of the unusual camera work. It’s just so smart and ambitious; I can’t praise it enough.
While it takes the hard work of many artists to craft a melodramatic tour de force of this caliber, I’d like to call out lead writer Yuniko Ayana for being MyGO‘s cornerstone. If you squint hard enough, the overall story arc still fits into the mold you’d expect from a mobile music game tie-in: a collection of girls overcomes hardship and forms a band. Hooray! The devil, however, is in the details, and Ayana ensures that those details are delightfully devilish. These girls lie, cry, scream, gaslight, manipulate, scheme, fight, and taunt their way to eventual reconciliation and success, but the subtler character writing is MyGO‘s ultimate weapon. Each girl feels distinct and authentic, and even when they undergo their respective character arcs, they remain true to their fundamental personality flaws. Anon’s still kind of a narcissist in the end. Soyo’s still kind of a bitch. The difference isn’t that they’ve turned over a completely new leaf. Rather, they’ve found a group of fellow misfits they can feel comfortable being their authentic selves around, and they can write music that speaks to the other lost girls wandering out there in the audience. That’s the nuanced triumph at MyGO‘s core, and I can’t wait to see how much messier it can get when the Ave Mujica sequel drops.
2023 was a bit of a weird year for me. Due to an avalanche of personal circumstances, both bad (i.e. caught COVID) and good (i.e. two and a half weeks of honeymooning in Italy), I missed out on a lot of series I know I would have been very into. So, before we get started, I just want to throw a quick nod to the series that very well may have deserved a spot here, had I the time: “Ippon” Again!, My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999, Skip and Loafer, Insomniacs After School, and who knows what else. Also, due to my self-imposed limitation that I’m only including completed seasons (because you never know when something will fall apart at the last second) the exemplary The Apothecary Diaries and Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End are ineligible.
When I was brainstorming this review, I was asked, “What genre is The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons?” I had to stop and think—there’s not enough jokes for it to be a comedy, but it’s so low-key that calling it a drama didn’t feel right either. I ended up landing on calling it a gentle slice-of-life, since it basically sets up a premise—four brothers, some close in age and some far apart, who recently lost their parents—and lets it play out naturally. I think a lot about moments like the time Hayato put off his former classmates at his high school reunion by word-vomiting about his brothers like a proud mother. It’s a total natural consequence of everything he’s been through, forced to act as a single father before he was even out of school, and unable to enjoy his twenties the way his peers are. Or Gakuto realizing the old man across the street bought children’s DVDs so he’d be ready to babysit Gakuto when he found out their parents had passed away. These small gestures are so deeply human—such a natural part of growing up in their unique situation.
If anything, it’s a bit too gentle, because grief is messy and can manifest in unexpected ways. Still, with its soft character writing, keen eye for human relationships, and gorgeous animation, The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons really set itself apart this year.
4. Oshi no Ko
I read the first volume of Oshi no Ko ahead of the anime coming out, and then ended up watching the 90-minute premiere three times over. Every single time, even though I knew what was coming—even though I had last seen it a few days or weeks ago—I wept.
There’s a lot of challenging character work required to make a story like Oshi no Ko come together, and Aka Akasaka pulls it off. He needed to sell us on Ai’s charisma, her twisted worldview, the transformative power of her love for her children. He needed to sell us on why Ruby would still be drawn to a career as an idol, even though she knows it’s what killed her mother. You have to sell us on Aqua, who isn’t a man in a teenager’s body so much as a teenager who went through something unbelievably traumatic and had to grow up too fast. Akasaka does all of this while examining the entertainment industry as both a source of abuse to vulnerable young adults, and also a source of joy and fulfillment while most similar series go all in on one or the other. Every single step is along a narrow ledge, and this stupendous balancing act cements the series as one of the best of the year.
Well, kind of… Oshi no Ko, as masterful as it may be, is still messy. It makes missteps, including a “ripped from the headlines” subplot that ended up hurting those affected by the very industry the story seeks to criticize. Aqua is a deeply unlikable protagonist—though I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing—and his relationship with Ruby certainly walks the line between normal twin closeness and something more taboo. But also… I love messes, and a series like this one should be messy, because the subject matter is messy.
I’m going to be quick and straightforward here, because I’ve already written a full-length review, a Best of Fall entry, and recorded a podcast about Scott Pilgrim Takes Off and I’m a little tired of talking about it. So, here goes: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is one of the best anime of the year because it’s a fresh and unexpected take on a comic and movie that is very near and dear to my millennial heart. It recontextualizes and reexamines the characters I care about in a way that resonated with me, courtesy of an older and wiser Bryan Lee O’Malley. The animation by Science SARU is stunning, and the needle drops are consistently clever. The Japanese track is excellent, while the English is weaker but does have Will Forte singing “Kon’ya wa Hurricane” so really, who can say which is better?
2. Vinland Saga Season 2
During its first season, there were two kinds of Vinland Saga fans. The first were ones who loved the first season for its combination of a historically accurate setting and wild, stylized violence—as the protagonist, Thorfinn, sought revenge for the murder of his father, Thors. The seconds were ones who looked to it for the way it was never totally uncritical of the violence, contrasting the unending bloodshed of the first season with Thors’ words to Thorfinn in the first season, “You have no enemies. There is no one who is okay to hurt.” Then the second season came out, and instead of fighting, we got farming. The first kind of fan declared it boring and stomped off, while the second kind lauded the strength of Makoto Yukimura‘s vision.
It should be abundantly clear by now which kind of fan I am by now, right? The second season of Vinland Saga finally makes good on the promise of the first season as Thorfinn, robbed of his opportunity for revenge and broken in spirit, works as a slave on a large farm in England. Rather than a flashy gore-fest where the audience can easily ignore the deeper themes, the second season of Vinland Saga turns into a slower meditation on the roles of both violence and nonviolence in peace, the inherently oppressive nature of slavery and subjugation, and other ideas that popular entertainment shies away from exploring. At times it can get a little overwhelming—Arnheid’s storyline was easily the most heart-wrenching subplot of the year—and the few moments of brevity and relief are welcome. Still, all that suffering is purposeful and serves to reinforce what the story is truly about. I can’t wait to see what awaits Thorfinn in the next stage of his life.
1. Undead Murder Farce
If you ask me who my favorite anime director is, I’ll answer in an instant: Sayo Yamamoto. If you then ask me instead who my favorite anime director is who has gotten work in the last five years, I’ll go cry for two hours, then come back with a new answer: Mamoru Hatakeyama. Undead Murder Farce is my pick for top anime of the year because it encapsulates everything I love about the man’s work: whip-smart dialogue, engaging characters, and some of the most visually creative animation and storyboarding the medium has ever seen.
The series begins in an alternate version of Meiji Era Japan, where yokai are real but are being hunted to extinction as part of the modernization effort. Tsugaru Shinuchi, a young man who was forcibly turned half-oni, makes his living in an underground sideshow/fighting ring with the knowledge that someday, his oni side will overtake his humanity and turn him into a murdering beast. He has accepted that fate, even looks forward to it, until he is approached by Aya Rindo, an immortal disembodied head in a birdcage, who recruits him to help her find the man who she suspects did this to both of them.
Undead Murder Farce is a perfect showcase for Hatakeyama’s skills as a director: as a mystery series, it brims with witty dialogue exchanges begging to be jazzed up with dynamic camerawork and little bits of character animation that can make or break the clues dropped in a scene. The 19th-century European setting offers endless excuses for sumptuous backdrops and historical costumes, and the public domain literary characters that litter the cast gives opportunity to have some fun with expectations. The action comes in short, infrequent bursts—but hits like an oni’s kick to the chest when it does happen. Summer may have been a weak season overall, but Undead Murder Farce absolutely made up for its shortcomings.
5. Spy×Family Season 2
This is definitely the easiest anime to put on this list because I don’t need to explain myself compared to all of my other entries. Spy×Family took the anime community by storm with its lovable characters, top-notch animation, and generally quirky premise. Both parts of the first season were great but this season was a stand out compared to those thanks to the continued development of what was laid out before alongside new developments from additional character perspectives.
I am of course talking about how a good chunk of the season focuses on Yor and her relationship to everything going on. One justifiable complaint about the series is that Yor faded into the background after her early introduction despite a lot of potential as an assassin trying to juggle a normal life. This season puts her front and center and the series is all the better for it. While Twilight is by and large the main character that gets the most development throughout the series, the season did a good job of properly balancing everyone’s growth into their family roles while also bringing up the conflicts that come with their respective professions. That has always been the overarching theme of the franchise and while it has done a good job of balancing the drama with the comedy, this season did a good job of balancing the development with the comedy. As someone who is ahead in the manga, the drama is only going to increase so it’s good that this foundation was laid here. I cannot wait for when the movie officially comes out in the West.
The way children are written in anime can vary. Either they’re in no way shape or form like children or writers will bring the more obnoxious and frustrating parts of childhood to the forefront, which of course can hinder the viewing experience. My Clueless First Friend strikes a good balance between focusing on children that actually feel like kids while also giving them just enough room to properly develop as characters in their own right.
The story is a cute and simple slice-of-life anime focusing on a boy named Taiyō who becomes enamored with the shy and reclusive Akane due to the bullying nickname given to her by their classmates. While the series never really loses its carefree and childlike demeanor, it does go to some surprisingly dark and interesting places. It deals with ideas of bullying, loss, and what the concept of love looks like to kids in the early throes of discovering what it means to be affectionate towards another. The friendly dynamics feel healthy and believable with a comedic timing that didn’t make me fall out of my seat laughing but genuinely left me with a smile on my face after each episode. I like the chemistry between our two leads and even the development from some of the side characters felt welcomed. For a year that felt very dark and cynical, this was a good escape from all of that without making me lose sight of why the connections I have with others are so important.
3. Insomniacs After School
Almost everything that I think about The Dangers in My Heart (which we’ll get to soon) can apply to Insomniacs After School as well but in a slightly different way. This show was arguably presented with a more unique setup with two adolescence bonding over their mutual suffering from insomnia and wanting to find a quiet place to sleep. That simple goal leads them down a wild goose chase to restore the Astronomy Club, learn about photography, and slowly unravel the traumatic experiences at the core of their insomnia. Along the way a genuine romance blooms. Everything that was covered in this first season felt so genuine and well-paced to the point where I honestly don’t think I need any more material from this series even though the manga goes on well past the point where the anime ended.
This is a story about teenagers trying to find their place in the world. Both of their experiences have justifiably made it difficult for them to feel good about themselves and yet they manage to find seemingly the only person that genuinely understands their predicament. As someone who suffers from insomnia myself, I found it relatable on a very basic level but once you get to the nitty gritty of those traumatic experiences that inform our characters actions and personalities, it hits you on a far more emotional level. This show is not the most well animated nor does it have the strongest presentation compared to the other shows on this list, but the writing and directing are so strong that I still ended up walking away two or three times from episodes with actual tears in my eyes. Sometimes those tears were from the beauty of it all and sometimes they were from the sheer tragedy of it all. The pacing is a little slow and it’s possible the staff could’ve cut a few episodes out to make the story a lot tighter, but overall this is a beautiful show that I could recommend to just about anybody, whether you suffer from insomnia or not.
2. Oshi no Ko
Oshi no Ko took the internet by storm but I wasn’t part of the hype when it first came out. It’s been a very overwhelming year for me so I wasn’t able to catch a lot of shows as they were airing but thanks to some quick dub release turnarounds, I was able to watch some anime in the background while working. I decided to give Oshi no Ko a try a few months after the hype died down. This might sound like a joke but the show deserved its hype because it’s such a unique idea executed in such a dramatically enticing way.
I didn’t find the first almost hour long episode as gripping as everybody else did when it first aired, but everything after that left me choking with anticipation. An idol anime that actually shows genuine background insight into the entertainment industry framed as a murder-mystery with supernatural reincarnation elements? That sounds like it shouldn’t work but not not only does Oshi no Ko stick the landing, it made me want to drop everything and figure out what’s going to happen next. The dramatic progression of everything is just so good. Even the side characters have just the right amount of over-the-top antics mixed with genuine intellectual pathos. Everyone has an angle an agenda which makes you wonder how it’s all going to tie into the larger narrative of this murder-mystery. Combined with the superb production values, I’m almost upset that I didn’t watch this at the same time as everybody else to join in on the hype. Then again, I was able to let the show truly speak for itself without having the internet scream at me about how good it is—even though all of that praise was certainly well deserved.
1. The Dangers in My Heart
We’ve all been awkward teenagers at some point in our lives. If you say you haven’t, you’re lying. Adolescence is like growing pains when we start transitioning away from thinking that we have everything figured out to realizing that life is all about figuring out what you don’t understand—whether it be internal feelings or external people. The Dangers in My Heart is a very simple slice-of-life story about a boy who is trying very hard to make it seem like he has skipped those awkward growing pains, when in reality, he is swimming through one of the most genuine portrayals I have seen.
Kyotaro is a character that reads horror and mystery novels to differentiate himself from his peers due to some past experiences—and he uses that obsession with murder to justify his infatuation with one of the prettiest-yet-goofiest characters in his class. However, that façade gets dropped very quickly and by episode three we get one of the most gradual-yet-satisfying slow-burn romances I think I’ve watched in quite some time. Every episode has some sense of dramatic weight or importance to it—in a world where most romances do everything they can to stretch out that inevitable outcome to meet a twelve episode runtime. Slice-of-life romances and romantic comedies have always been my favorite genre and this series literally embodies everything that I love about them. We get thoughtful perspectives, poignant character growth, justifiable drama that doesn’t overstay its welcome, etc. All of it is wrapped in a beautifully presented package with thoughtful directing and superb sound design. I just rewatched the show again in dub form to get ready for season two and I genuinely cannot wait to see how much further the lovable goofballs will go.
The Best Songs of 2023
Rather than being a fan of individual singers, I often find myself more of a fan of certain composers—which is most certainly true of Hiroyuki Sawano. Thanks to his way of combining his unique sound with awesome vocalists, his work on Aldnoah.Zero, Re:CREATORS, Kill la Kill, and Promare remain regulars in my most listened-to playlists to this day. So, you could say I am predisposed to love this song.
“FAKEit” starts with a dark and ominous verse. It’s made mostly of bass notes from various instruments with only a synthesizer in the treble range. Laco‘s singing increases in speed as the songs build to the chorus—until her voice suddenly starts coming out only in syncopated, staccato notes. Then it breaks into a powerful chorus—only to be followed up by a second, even more rebellious-sounding one. It’s a fantastic song that fits both the unsettling and awesome aspects of Fate/strange Fake -Whispers of Dawn-. But honestly, why are you reading about this song at all? Just go and listen to it yourself.
There were a lot of good choices for this category, but I ultimately decided on this one because of just how much of an uphill battle it had to win me over. Making a great OP for a show I love is one thing. It’s another entirely to make an OP so good it materially raises my opinion of a show I have remained highly skeptical of all season. Because honestly, I don’t like Undead Unluck very much. Much like the source material, something about it just does not click with me, and while there are parts of it I respect or appreciate, the whole package is something I could happily leave.
Yet every week, I was back to watch, and a big reason for that was “Zero Ichi” and the dulcet tones of Avu-chan. Queen Bee‘s vocalist delivers a killer performance, capturing the moody angst and building the desperation of the lyrics beautifully. It is backed by an inspired guitar riff that centers the whole sound while giving it the perfect backbone to build second-to-second. It’s complemented by the brilliant visuals, which smartly abstract the show’s supernatural elements into evocative and striking imagery. Put together, it’s got an electric synergy of beautiful sound and visuals working perfectly in sync to get you hyped in a way that only a truly great opening can. I know very well that I don’t love Undead Unluck and probably never will – yet for these 90 seconds, I can believe that it’s one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. That accomplishment should not be understated – this is undeniable and unbeatable.
Watching this opener without breaking into a goofy smile is impossible. Yes, that mostly comes down to the adorable little dance that Mitsumi and Shima do, which is so beautifully animated that you can see how awkward she is while they both look like they’re having a blast, but the entire thing is simply charming. The lyrics make sense with Shima’s character (Mitsumi gets the ending theme), the images pay homage to the manga covers, and the entire thing is really well put together. It’s a case where the whole package is what’s important, because while each element is fine on its own, together, they become an outstanding whole, kind of like the characters and story for Skip and Loafer. It’s just the perfect piece for the show, which makes it even better.
“Zero Ichi” by Queen Bee (Undead Unluck)
This year, when I finally got around to seeing Masaaki Yuasa‘s 2022 musical fever-dream, INU-OH, I realized something that I should have learned a long time ago: Avu-chan, the lead singer of Queen Bee, freaking rules. So, imagine how excited I was that Queen Bee contributed their song “01” to one of my favorite underdog anime of 2023, Undead Unluck. The show itself wasn’t quite able to make my Top 5 List for the year, so allow me to take this opportunity to plug two great things simultaneously. As an anime, Undead Unluck is an infectious dose of pure, unadulterated fun that gets injected straight into your eyeballs every single week, and you should definitely watch it. As a song, “01” is an infectious dose of pure, unadulterated fun that gets crammed right into your eardrums every single week. Seriously, I haven’t been able to stop playing it ever since the show premiered earlier this fall. Avu-chan‘s coarse-but-somehow-still-buttery-smooth voice makes me want to get up and dance like an embarrassing chaperone at a high school dance whenever I hear it, and it will probably do the same for you. I apologize in advance for any of the loved ones you alienate with your enthusiastic boogieing, but I do not apologize one bit for spreading the Good Word of Avu-chan to the masses.
“HekitenBansou” (BanG Dream! It’s MyGo!!!!!, episode 7)
The best stories about music can effectively portray both good and bad performances in equal measure. BanG Dream! It’s MyGo!!!!! proves its escalating abilities by demonstrating both extremes in a single performance. The struggles of the at-this-point-unnamed band were extremely apparent leading up to this. Anon has barely practiced, and it takes three tries before she can pull off the song’s intro. Tomori is the socially terrified wreck she’s always been and winds up inaudibly mumbling through the song’s first verse. The audience stares in abject, awkward uncertainty. It’s agony. But then, a glimpse of what she previously lost flips a switch in Tomori, and she begins to scream. She, the band, and the presentation of the anime roar to life in portraying the remainder of the song. It’s still technically not an amazing performance, Anon’s amateurish guitar chords backing Tomori’s lyrics that are more yelled than sung. But it’s still perfect. It’s MyGO excels in rendering this band’s raw emotion, free of artifice. This performance of “HekitenBansou,” like all of Tomori’s songs, is a scream from the heart of her and the story itself. The anime has several other superlative performances, including Tomori’s incredible turn to slam poetry as she rebuilds the band in the tenth episode. But as a deafeningly loud declaration of what music could and would be in BanG Dream! from now on, this was the one that left the most impactful ringing in my ears.
You have no idea just how close Onimai came to making my top five, so consider this an honorable mention of sorts. And just like Onimai itself, “Identeitei Meltdown” is a fitting exhibition of contrasts. The show’s artistry wrestled a funny and compelling trans narrative out of its skeevier elements, and this song manages to be catchy as heck both because and in spite of how obnoxious it is. It’s a stylistic throwback to the Denpa songs of yester-decade, and an infectious one at that. Considering the ascendence of hyperpop in the Western sphere, I suppose the appeal of breathless musical maximalism never truly went away, but I still found it oddly refreshing to hear that call-and-response layered over a loud electronic fanfare at 160 bpm. It also helps that the anime pairs the song with one of the year’s standout opening animations. Mahiro’s lack of adequate clothing aside, it’s a good match for the energy of the music, and it helped this track embed itself in my brain for going on a full year now.
It was a close competition between “Idol” and “Crack – Crack – Crackle” by CLASS:y, but I had to pay respect where it was due. YOASOBI‘s chart-topper was inescapable this year, from an appearance on America’s Got Talent to topping the charts on Spotify and Billboard Global. The song is incredibly catchy, pairing an angelic chorus with fast-paced verses. The result is something that carries foreboding while still presenting a poppy exterior, not unlike Ai herself. If you haven’t checked out the translated lyrics, they go for the throat; the song discusses the manipulative nature an idol needs to get ahead in the industry and all the work that goes into appearing “perfect.” Most of us aren’t entertainment professionals, but the song strikes a chord if you have experience masking in any context.
“Mephisto” by Queen Bee (Oshi no Ko)
YOASOBI‘s “Idol” may have been Oshi no Ko‘s big breakout hit, but the one that gets stuck in my head most consistently is the ending theme “Mephisto” by Queen Bee. Lead singer Avu-chan‘s sonorous voice is beautifully textured, and every time she hits the jump in the chorus, shivers run down my spine. The lyrics are also softer and more melancholy than the acerbic “Idol,” a love letter from Ai to Ruby and Aqua, who she’ll never get to see grow up. Oshi no Ko was a flawed show, but one that hit hard nonetheless, and “Mephisto” capped off each episode perfectly.
“Mephisto” by Queen Bee (Oshi no Ko)
This is honestly one of those rare times where I listened to an anime’s ending song more than its opening. Don’t get me wrong, the opening for Oshi no Ko is addictive and chaotic in a way that perfectly encapsulates the world of a Japanese idol. However, the ending song, “Mephisto” by Queen Bee, speaks more to the personal issues that the main characters are going through in the series. The visuals of Aqua walking in the rain and seemingly drowning as he digs deeper into the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry is palpable while his sister unknowingly is framed in the light. The vocals swell in a way that feels both ambiguously hopeful and tragic at the same time. Very rarely have I come across a song that I think embodies such contrasting ideas but I think that’s a perfect way to describe the relationship that both of our twin protagonists have to the entertainment world. One sees it as a means of bringing happiness and joy while the other is using it as a tool to get to the bottom of something horrible.