Wasn’t really happy with the “top five list” format I used for the Fall season, so it’s back to the pseudo-season preview style for describing upcoming anime.
A new year is upon us and if you’ve been keeping up with anime in recent times, you’d know that the Winter seasons haven’t been a wasteland in terms of finding good cartoons to watch like they used to be. It all depends on personal taste of course, but generally there was always one really big show that appealed to someone during the snowy months from Noragami to Kemono Friends, and judging by the popularity rankings on Anichart, that trend isn’t going to stop anytime soon. The top nine shows alone have a good mix of big studio names, trustworthy sequels, and unique premises, and there’s always the off chance that one of the under-looked anime will be a cult hit.
So let’s take a look at some of these shows. I’m mostly going to highlight the big shows (with the production studio next to the name) since those are the anime people are going to care about, and I’m going to skip the popular sequels like Overlord 2 and Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of the Commandments since I don’t really know what anyone expects out of them besides more of the same. And like usual, unless it belongs to a genre I don’t have any interest in, I check out all the big shows regardless of personal feeling. Also, I got spoiled on some of the staff despite my best efforts to avoid that rabble, so I’ll make a note on directorial credit for some of the shows as well.
Violet Evergarden (Kyoto Animation)
Auto Memories Doll.
It’s been quite a while since that name caused a fuss. Originally invented by Professor Orland solely for his beloved wife, Auto Memories Dolls eventually spread out into the world, and a machine that allows people to rent out the dolls was also created.
“I will run as fast as I can to wherever my customer desires. I am the Auto Memories Doll, Violet Evergarden.”
A girl who almost appears to have popped out of a fairy tale with her blonde hair and blue eyes said this with her inorganic beauty and sweet voice.
Let’s be real here, how many of us aren’t excited for Violet Evergarden to come out? Sure there’s quite a few warning signs that it won’t be good (the hype alone is so large that the show would have to literally give you an orgasm within five seconds of watching to live up to it) and Netflix owning the streaming rights certainly doesn’t help. But in addition to the production values looking as movie-quality as people say, the setting depicted in those trailers just feels so alive. I think the huge acclaim of anime like Made in Abyss and The Ancient Magus’ Bride, as well as practically all the big anime films of recent times, has shown us that we want animation to depict the environments as its own character that develops along with the leads, and while there’s no guarantee, there’s a good chance Violet Evergarden will join that trend. I’m actually kind of glad Netflix is forcing me to binge-watch it on a later date. I’ve recently learned with MiA and Magus that I’m not very good at watching those sorts of shows on a weekly basis.
Fate/Extra Last Encore (Shaft)
Adaptation of the video game Fate/Extra.
The Fate series has been enjoying its own recent surge of popularity thanks to the many new games and adaptations, so naturally an adaptation of one of their games is going to get a lot of people hyped. Now I don’t know a thing about Fate/Extra, but according to the online reviews, the game was praised for its strong storytelling but earned a big fat F in terms of actual gameplay, so this might be one of the few video game adaptations that’ll benefit from leaving the interactive medium. And Shaft is a generally better studio than ufotable and A-1 Pictures, but they still have a bad tendency to phone it in at critical moments. I doubt I’ll watch this since I’ve never gotten into anything related to the Fate universe, but hopefully the fans are satisfied with this thing.
Yuzuko Aihara, a high school girl whose main interests are fashion, friends, and having fun, is about to get a reality check. Due to her mom’s remarriage, Yuzu has transferred to a new all-girls school that is extremely strict. Her real education is about to begin.
From day one, happy-go-lucky Yuzu makes enemies, namely the beautiful yet stern Student Council President Mei. So what happens when a dejected Yuzu returns home and discovers the shock of her life: that Mei is actually her new stepsister who has come to live with her? Even more surprising, when Mei catches Yuzu off guard and kisses her out of the blue, what does it all mean?
I’m guessing the reason this is high on the popularity charts is because it’s a yuri anime. Because gay romance really draws a crowd, doesn’t it? Fair enough, but I’m aware that Citrus is one of those trashy yuri properties that uses lesbianism as a fetish rather than something to see as romantic, and I honestly have no interest in watching that sort of exploitation. Oh and did I mention this is a Passione anime? Yeah, artistic vision isn’t exactly a noun that applies to them.
Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (Silver Link)
The story of the light novel series and manga follows a 29-year-old programmer who is on a “death march,” but one day he wakes up in another world after a nap. From a meteor shower he happens to gain vast riches, and he decides to go sightseeing. So begins his “heartwarming, occasionally serious, and harem” adventure in another world.
While it’s too soon to say for sure, this anime is set to be the popular light novel adaptation of the season with all the mass-produced ingredients needed to appeal to the otaku market (isekai, harem, relatable but not really protagonist), right down to Silver Link producing the show. Also, I looked it up, and yes, Shin Oonuma is the one directing this thing. Remember how I said before that ever since Watamote, the guy has just gotten plain lazy? Well try arguing against me after watching the above trailer. Holy hell. That is some of the worst animation I’ve ever seen from the dude, and it doesn’t help that the girls look way too young. Pretty sure I’m giving this one a hard pass since I can’t handle when the girls look like they’re ten, but we’ll see when it actually comes out.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen (Madhouse)
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card starts at the point where Cardcaptor Sakura ends, when Sakura Kinomoto starts junior high school alongside her friends, including her new boyfriend Syaoran, who had just returned to Tomoeda. After having a prophetic dream about a mysterious cloaked figure, all of the Sakura Cards turn blank and are rendered completely powerless, thus starting her quest to find out what is wrong. In doing so, Sakura and her friends, along with her guardians and protectors Cerberus and Yue, discover and capture the transparent cards using a new and much stronger mystical key and incantation.
Obviously I have no interest in watching this, but unless the original manga is bad, this doesn’t look to be a soulless continuation like most anime reboots tend to be. The trailer looks like Madhouse is going to be putting effort into it, and they put Morio Asaka in the director’s chair, so while you can expect the show to have pacing problems up the wazoo, his style has a tendency to really hook people so that they don’t mind. I believe the reception to the show’s premiere when it arrived at AX was good too, but I’m too lazy to bother clarifying that. Basically, if you like Cardcaptor Sakura, there’s a good chance you’ll like the sequel. And given how many people grew up with that show or have revisited it over time, I’m guessing it won’t have much trouble getting an audience.
Darling in the Franxx (Trigger)
The story is set in the distant future. The land is ruined, and humanity establishes the mobile fort city Plantation. Pilots produced inside Plantation live in Mistilteinn, also know as the “birdcage.” Children live there knowing nothing of the outside world or the freedom of the sky. Their lives consist of battling to carry out missions. Their enemies are mysterious giant lifeforms known as Kyōryū, and the children pilot robots called Franxx to face off against them. For the children, riding the Franxx proves their existence.
A boy named Hiro is called Code:016, and he was once known as a prodigy. However, he has fallen behind, and his existence seems unnecessary. Not piloting a Franxx is the same as ceasing to exist. One day, a mysterious girl known as “Zero Two” appears before him. Two horns grow out of her head.
There’s been a few discussions as of late regarding how the mecha genre has all but died out, and honestly it’s not hard to see why. Like Hollywood superheroes, robot anime have gotten really stale over the years, and a lot of the attempts to inject life into it like Knights of Sidonia and Aldnoah Zero have not turned out all that well. Will Studio Trigger succeed with their attempt? Can’t really say for sure since I don’t know what the story is about and nothing about the premise hints that the setting will be inspired in any way. The only thing that stands out to me is that the robots are female and you need a boy/girl pair to pilot a Franxx, which I’m sure will please the mecha nerds, but that’s not going to mean much if you don’t have the substance to back it up. And Trigger hasn’t exactly been the go-to studio for delivering on substance that matches their stylistic ambitions since their very formation. On a final note, I haven’t looked up who the director is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not someone recognizable.
Love is Like after the Rain (Wit Studio)
Akira Tachibana is a soft-spoken high school student who used to be a part of the track and field club but, due to an injury, she is no longer able to run as fast as she once could. Working part-time at a family restaurant as a recourse, she finds herself inexplicably falling love with her manager, a divorced 45-year-old man with a young son.
Oscar-bait noitamina anime. Yeah, this is going to be the show to watch out for this season. Mwahahahaha! Okay I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. While the premise is very sensitive, it’s also pretty ballsy for a romance anime. And you guys know that despite their problems, I like Wit Studio, and thus I trust them to handle these sorts of stories with care. Besides, do you know what I see in that preview? I see beautiful animation. I see cinematography that’s effectively conveying the mood and story without dialogue. I hear melancholy music that’s trying too hard. The character design on the main girl looks nice. Hell yeah I’m in for this.
And in case you’re curious, yes I’m aware it’s the director of Space Brothers who’s heading this show. Hopefully this thing becomes the one anime of his that I’ll like.
Record of Grancrest War (A-1 Pictures)
The series takes place on a continent ruled by chaos. The chaos breeds disaster, but the Lords of the continent have the power of “Crest” (Holy Seal) that can calm the chaos and protect the people. However, before anyone realizes it, the rulers cast aside their creed of purifying the chaos, and instead start to fight each other for each others’ Crests and to gain dominion over one another. Siluca, an isolated mage who scorns the Lords for abandoning their creed, and a wandering knight named Theo, who is on a journey to train to one day liberate his hometown, which is under tyrannical rule, make an everlasting oath to each other as master and servant and work together to reform this continent dominated by wars and chaos.
And while we’re at it, why don’t we throw in the next anime as well?
I believe in that smile. Even if you don’t have a soul. 2105 A.D. Japan The humanoid android hiE became part of people’s life and was handling the things human could and couldn’t do. Endou Arato, unlike his friends Kenko and Ryou who hate hiE, felt sympathy for hiE which are supposed to be just objects. One night, Arato suddenly gets assaulted by mysterious falling cherry blossoms that make hiE and machines run havoc. Will the cornered Arato be saved by the mysterious hiE Lacia…
This is the rest of the mass-marketed light novel adaptations and I really don’t know what to say about them besides “looks like generic JRPGs that you can’t actually play, which leaves you with shitty writing”. The designs don’t make the least bit of sense and both production studios are pretty damn terrible. Despite Grancrest War looking nice on a technical level, I’m not getting any sense that the fantasy world it’s depicting is actually alive. And Beatless just looks gimmicky as fuck. They’re not isekai shows, but honestly who cares? Isekai isn’t inherently bad as a concept (the Persona games all belong to the isekai genre for example). Light novel adaptations though? Yeah, remember what I wrote in my Kino review?
Kokkoku (Geno Studio)
Juri Yukawa lives with her NEET father and brother, her retired grandfather, her sister (a single mother) and her young nephew. One day, her nephew and brother are kidnapped for ransom. Having only 30 minutes to meet the demands of the kidnappers, Juri, who realizes there is not enough time to prepare the money, decides to head for their rescue by herself with knife in hand when her grandfather uses a mysterious stone passed on in the Yukawa family to stop time. In a world where everyone and everything are inert, Juri and her father and grandfather run to rescue the two. But at the kidnappers’ hideout, they soon realize they are not the only ones who can move about in this still world…
Now moving on to the cult stuff that doesn’t seem like it’s going to get much attention. Looking at the list, there’s two that stand out to me, although I should point out that Kokkoku doesn’t necessarily stand out in a good way. The trailer (which has awful music) and the premise makes it look like one of those anime that’s trying to appeal to a Western audience without bringing anything unique to the table, which reminds me of that lackluster 91 Days show. And while Geno Studio isn’t the worst of newbie anime studios, I’m not getting a sense that they see animation as anything more than an aesthetic from them. Also, is it just me, or does Kokkoku’s premise seem like it’d be more fitting for a movie? A movie that’ll most likely be forgotten over time, but a movie nevertheless.
Ito Junji: Collection (Studio DEEN)
Stories from both the 11-volume Ito Junji Kessaku-shuu series and the Fragments of Horror book will be adapted.
And here’s the final one. No trailer. No real hype beyond the cult fanbase who loves Junji Ito. I’m pretty sure it’s an episodic show. We’ve got Deen producing the anime, and you could definitely do a lot worse than them. I’ve yet to be impressed by Japan’s horror animation, but maybe this will change my mind? We shall see, won’t we?
Devilman Crybaby (Science Saru)
The protagonist Akira Fudou learns from his best friend, Ryou Asuka, that an ancient race of demons has returned to take back the world from humans. Ryou tells Akira that the only way to defeat the demons is to incorporate their supernatural powers, and suggests that he unite with a demon himself. Akira succeeds in transforming into Devilman, who possesses both the powers of a demon and the soul of a human. The battle of Devilman and Akira Fudou begins.
It’s a Masaaki Yuasa anime, so let’s jizz all over it. Never mind that I have no idea what the story is actually going to be about or whether Devilman as a property can still function in today’s world. Yuasa is doing this show, so obviously this anime is going to be amazing. Isn’t that right guys? Look, I like the guy as much as the next elitist, none of his anime have been bad even when they didn’t appeal to me, and the art direction in that preview looks awesome. But I maintain that director worship is a dangerous practice to have as a fan, especially if you don’t know whether the subject matter will appeal to you. Sure I can see myself enjoying Devilman Crybaby, but will I remember it after it’s done? Well if anything, I’m glad that Netflix’s first “actual” original anime series (I forget if Blame was made exclusively for Netflix or not, but it’s a movie anyways) stands out in a good way. Imagine if the show to take that specific virginity was a sequel to Rosario + Vampire or something.
That’s all the anime I’m going to highlight considering everything else looks too gimmicky to summon up any interest for (Killing Bites? WTF?), or is a sequel that you already know you’re going to watch (another Yowamushi Pedal?). I’m also not going to highlight movies due to the crapshoot of them getting subbed combined with the occasional US release and me being too lazy to look up the Japanese physical releases. I mean who knows when we’ll get to see Mari Okada’s directorial debut that has called into a lot of question how much input she actually had?
Anyways, I’m looking forward to sampling this selection and I hope you guys are too. It’s very unlikely I’ll look at anything outside of the shows I highlighted above, let alone the ones I said I wouldn’t watch, but nothing is ever guaranteed on this blog. I said I wouldn’t check out Ancient Magus Bride and Girls’ Last Tour in the last preview and that promise was obviously not kept (although I honestly have no idea why I’m watching the latter). What are you guys looking forward to seeing next Winter? Comment below if you’re interested in sharing.