It's been a great Women's World Cup. USA, Japan, Germany and England have all progressed to the semifinals. I'm fond of all these teams and nations so I couldn't ask for a better final four. In addition, they represent the #1, #2, and #4 ranked teams in the world so the best are directly pitted against each other in the finals. It's no fluke that we're seeing the best women's soccer from these teams on the field of play.
I can't wait for the semifinals coming in the next couple days. In a way, the women's world cup is more fun than the men's, because the USA and Japan actually win their matches in this tournament, instead of getting trounced early and going home every time. The USA has reached at least the semifinals of all seven Women's World Cups that have ever been played and won two of them. With a record like that, cheering for your home team actually pays off.
Meanwhile, there's only a few episodes left of the spring anime season. We're waiting on the latest Kyoukai no Rinne, the still unsubbed finale of Dragon Ball Kai, an episode of Princess Pretty Cure and the finale to Hibike! Euphonium. Just four episodes are left, in fact just four days are left until the highly anticipated summer season. This upcoming season has so many stellar entries that it's going to completely overshadow everything else that's come out so far this year. The winter season saw the entry of Assassination Classroom to my rankings, but all that franchise managed to do is hang on at the very bottom of the rankings because ultimately not much happened (or really can happen the way the story is set up, it's not like Koro Sensei can actually die or the story would just abruptly end). Hopefully the 2nd season of Assassination Classroom will be more interesting, but for now it was pretty ho-hum.
This spring season saw the entry of yet again just two more ranked series, Hibike Euphonium, which Kyoto Animation did a splendid job with like they always do. They too are stuck near the bottom of the list, though, because the show is more documenting a realistic 'is' than narrating an inspiring 'ought.' When you stick too closely to reality, there's really no place for fiction because people can experience all the reality they want in their own lives. Euphonium is really good at what it's doing, but it's not doing nearly as thoughtful or groundbreaking work as, say, Yuuki Yuuna or Akame ga Kill did, so it still feels a little hollow at the end of the day.
Meanwhile Kyoukai no Rinne is beautiful, charming, and funny, but like all Rumiko Takahashi shows the plot goes nowhere, so this show is also languishing near the bottom of the rankings. If not for its additional length it's receiving this summer I'm not sure it would have even managed to get into my rankings. The same for Assassination Classroom, which is relying on its upcoming 2nd season just to stay ranked, since the first season didn't amount to much of anything.
There were 16 new great series added to my rankings in 2014. So far 2015, which is halfway through, has only added 3 new great series, all near the bottom of the rankings. (Technically just 2 new series, since Assassination Classroom first aired as an oav in 2013. . .) Unless this summer season really blasts off, 2015 isn't going to be remotely a match for the quality of anime that aired in 2014.
The conclusion to Fate/Stay night Unlimited Blade Works was magnificent. Rin was gorgeous in her older form, and meeting familiar faces from other series in the franchise was fun. This was a nigh perfect anime from beginning to end. I'm amazed at how much better UBW was than the original Stay Night or the later Zero prequel. UBW was just as good as Kaleid/Liner, something I never thought mainline Fate would be able to manage. Anyone criticizing UBW after what we just saw from it is just an idiot. There's no possible justification for their thought process and they should really just be committed to an insane asylum and be done with it. The art and animation were the best any anime has ever produced. In virtually every role there was a star seiyuu cast who did a great job. The plot was riveting with a perfect balance of romance, mystery, suspense and action. The show leaned on a fantastic soundtrack that dates all the way back to the original visual novel. The menagerie of characters was enormous and attractive, to the point that even the villains were better than the majority of heroes in other shows. There is just no weakness to this show and nothing bad you could possibly say about it.
Rewatching Dragon Ball Kai in anticipation of the coming Super season, I'm struck by the rise and fall of quality over the course of the show. From Raditz to the end of Frieza is all great stuff. It's a continuous narrative arc and everything connects and makes internal logical sense from beginning to end. The power levels stay consistent and fair and the matchups are exciting and usually more complicated than just who is stronger than whom. But I don't agree with that stupid editor who said Dragon Ball should have ended there. After the Frieza arc, the story stays just as good up until the arrival of Cell, or even better than the average Frieza episode. Then the story somewhat derails and becomes more annoying -- like Goku giving Cell a sensu bean of all things. But after the Cell arc, the story again recovers in quality and the Gohan/Goten/Trunks/Videl interactions are both sweet and hilarious. Up until the actual revival of Boo, the story is again either at or above par compared to the Frieza arc. The fusion dance and the concept in general is ingenious, something we never would have seen had the series ended with Frieza. Super Saiyan 3 looks awesome, again something we never would have seen if the series had ended with Frieza. Piccolo locking Buu into the chamber of time was awesome, even though it didn't end up working the moment was still epic. So even after Buu is revived, there was still a lot to look forward to in the show, even if the boring parts of Gotenks acting like an idiot or Buu randomly destroying stuff became far more dominant than past arcs would have tolerated. Thank goodness for Dragon Ball's length. And thank goodness that Super is about to make it even longer. Good shows should be as long as possible, because good ideas are extremely rare, so milking the good ideas we do come up with for as much as they're worth is just common sense.