The Family: The Brotherhood
By Donte M McNeal

Based in Michigan, Donte's Playground is a blog by Donte M McNeal. His posts range from nonsensical ramblings about anime, in-depth reviews of books and television/film, to random spurts of philosophical babble.

Year's End Roundup Pt. 3: Anime

Year's End Roundup Pt. 3: Anime

I watch a lot of anime, and I mean A LOT, at least for me. I think I might have watched nearly 35 this year alone. Like I said, a lot. With that said, there were a few standouts for me this year, and that’s what I’ll be talking about today. I don’t think I’ll have to point out the list is in no particular order . . . wait, didn’t I just—never mind. These are the anime I enjoyed this year!

Sweetness & Lightning

I think it’s an understatement to say that 2016 was a rough year in general. Not the worst by far, but definitely rough compared to most others I’ve lived. That said, escaping with a relaxing and heart-warming anime is just what the doctor ordered. That is what Sweetness & Lightning was: my escape.

This series follows a single father raising his 5-year-old daughter (the bundle of cuteness that is Tsumugi), and Kotori, a student of the father (who’s a teacher obviously) who helps him learn to cook better dishes with his daughter. Every episode has laughter, parenting and food! This show even goes at the feels every now and then, which I hadn’t really anticipated in a slice-of-life show like this one. There were times where I’ll admit the feels train hit me hard. But the show is mostly the teacher, Kotori and Tsumugi cooking together, and the relationships they have with each other and the few other characters never failed to put a smile on my face . . . and a hunger in my belly! This was my go-to to unwind, and if you need a nice, laid-back and cuteness-filled anime to enjoy with the family, or just by your lonesome like I did, you’d do well not to skip this one.

Haikyu!! (Season 3)

Karasuno (top) & Shiratorizawa (bottom)

Karasuno (top) & Shiratorizawa (bottom)

I was a little hesitant to put sequels on this list (this and the next entry on the list), but I enjoyed this show too much to omit it. Haikyu!! is an anime about volleyball. Wait, come back! I promise it’s awesome. Okay, maybe that was just my initial reaction to this one. I wasn’t a fan of volleyball before watching Haikyu but once I watched the first episode of this show, I was hooked. The characters are all so unique and memorable that you can’t help but like them.

It’s about a volleyball club at Karasuno High School, made up of mixture of interesting characters, including our mc, Hinata Shouyo and his rival-turned-teammate, Kageyama Tobio. Their relationship throughout the show is one of the highlights, as is most of the other interpersonal relationships between the team members. They quickly become characters you want to root for, characters you want to succeed, and when they don’t you hurt with them, but when they do, boy does it feel good.

The third season is the shortest of the three, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it the most. It focuses on one game the entire season (our mc's team against powerhouse school, Shiratorizawa)—a game that determines who represent their prefecture in the national championship, and man is it an intense one! You see characters shine you had no idea could shine, you see two powerhouse team face off in a nail-biting game and you see progression from both sides of the court. It was a treat to see, and you know it’s a sign of a good show if you’re actually caring about the opposing team too (this happens every season, not just the third). This show had me hype all season, sweating and whooping along with players. Can’t remember the last time I was so invested in a sports anime, if ever. Bravo, Haikyu, bravo.

Bungo Stray Dogs (Season 1 & 2)

Bungo Stray Dogs is an anime about literary figures with supernatural figures. Authors and supernatural powers? Yep, right up my alley. It was one of my favorite anime to come out at the beginning of the year, and the sequel—which only just recently wrapped up—one-upped its predecessor in every way. In a good way, of course. We got backstory on a character that I enjoyed in the first season, but hadn’t really known had so much depth to them, we saw a darker storyline played out (which I’m almost always down for) and we saw people put together who I never thought would have willingly breathed the same air, let alone team up. This show did its drama well, tackled its mysteries expertly, and the comedy was good too. Not as funny as the next entry on the list, but funny nonetheless.


Konosuba was a sleeper hit for me. I had almost passed on it, due t it looking like a carbon copy of other shows I’d seen. That would have been a mistake if there ever was one. Konosuba is an anime about a protagonist who gets transported to another world (a common and frankly overused trope in anime), but this show did something you don’t see too often. It flipped it on its head. The mc didn’t have any hidden powers waiting to be awakened, he wasn’t uber-powerful, and he wasn’t the hero this world was waiting for so it could be saved. Konosuba had a colorful cast of characters, didn’t take itself too seriously and made me laugh out loud every single episode. No, that’s not an exaggeration. That’s how funny this show is. If you want a show to just turn off your mind, laugh and have a good time, Konosuba is the way to go. Hands down. Can’t wait for the sequel!

Alderamin on the Sky

In a total 180 in tone, we look at the fantastical military history anime, Alderamin on the Sky. In this one, we have a young man whose superior intellect make him a great commander, however begrudgingly he became a soldier in the first. You see, Ikta Solork, our mc is lazy, hates war and would rather spend his time admiring women, but after a turn of events, he becomes a soldier in his country’s army, a highly regarded one at that, at least in the eyes of his princess.

The anime follows Ikta and his small group of friends as they try their best to survive the war, led by Ikta’s intellect, along with the abilities each of his four friends bring to the table. Yatori, a highly skilled swordswoman, who is easily the most badass character fighting skill-wise, Torway, who is ringer with a sniper rifle, Haroma, who is a medic, and lastly, Mathew who . . . sorry, what do you bring to the table again, Matthew? Seriously though, comedy, action, gore, the reality of war, and the OP Ikta using his brains to overcome the countless obstacles he and his friends are faced with, as well as bringing out the best of his friends, this show was awesome, despite going under the radar for most. I’m glad I wasn’t one of them, because these elements combined with one of the best friendships (Ikta and Yatori’s) I’ve seen in anime this year, they missed out.

HM: Your Name

There’s a little movie taking Japan by storm at the moment, and it’s called Kimi no Na wa AKA Your Name. It’s a film about a young man and young woman who wake up one day having switched bodies with one another. Now with a set up like that, you’d think hilarity would ensue (and there laughs to be had here) but this film takes the high road and tells a beautiful tale of connections, friendship and pain. To say that I was moved by this story would be an understatement. You know when you just want a movie to end a certain way? That’s how I was with Your Name. I wanted, no needed it to end well. I won’t say whether or not it had a good ending, but just know: This movie was beautiful (especially visually), heart-breaking and amazing.

Till next time, stay golden Ponyboy!


Year's End Roundup Pt. 4: Books

Year's End Roundup Pt. 4: Books

Year's End Roundup Pt. 2: Movies

Year's End Roundup Pt. 2: Movies