Spring 2016 – Virtually Every First Episode Retrospective

This season is incredibly dangerous, you guys. I know first weeks are always misleading, and that at least a few shows generally fall apart soon after a strong premiere, but there are just so many good shows in so many genres that I feel I’m finally going to be buried in cartoons. There are tons of great action shows, plenty of diverse comedies, dramas and slice of lifes and Concrete Revolutio besides. It really does feel like there’s something for everyone this season – not only is it a diverse crop, but the best shows are scattered across a wide range of potential tastes.

That said, there are certainly both winners and losers among this group, and busy anime consumer that you are, I’m sure you don’t have the time to sift for the best of them. So as usual, I’ll be breaking down this season’s premieres into distinct, precisely calibrated categories, starting with the shows to celebrate and moving on through to the shows that punished me for daring to live. All the links on the show names lead to the ANN preview guide pages, where you can find my more extensive thoughts on every single one under Nick Creamer. I’m sure you’ve got a lot to do, so let’s cut the preamble here and RUN ‘EM DOWN!

Rejoice, Anime Is Good Again

Flying Witch: Look, I know you kids love your zombies and explosions and horrific pasts and whatnot, but seriously, Flying Witch is so friggin’ good. Both in terms of atmosphere and in terms of actual humor, I was astonished at the consistent strength of this premiere. Most anime have real tonal problems when it comes to humor, either overselling jokes or just barely making them at all, but Flying Witch consistently nailed its comedy beats throughout. And the show is already making strong use of its premise, what with the quiet wonder of its flying sequences and the complete insanity of its final mandrake gag. If you have any room in your heart for a laid-back slice of life story, Flying Witch is so far as good as it gets.

Flying Witch

Concrete Revolutio: Though it was beaten to the top spot by Flying Witch’s bulletproof execution, Concrete Revolutio is still Concrete Revolutio. I loved the crap out of the first season, and I loved this first episode, too. The show’s complex moral questions and resolute, ideologically bound protagonists are already crashing together in a variety of ways, and Raito Shiba, the detective who wants to believe in the rule of law, finds his values viciously tested through this episode. If you’re looking for a superhero show that actually engages with both the general complexity and historical context of the pursuit of power and justice, Concrete Revolutio remains one of the sharpest and most poignant shows around.


My Hero Academia: My Hero Academia is textbook shounen, demonstrating through its stellar execution why that textbook exists in the first place. The show is crisp and upbeat and generally charming, introducing an engaging new world while also working hard to respect the interiority of its somewhat unusual protagonist. I’ve read the first several volumes of this one already, so I know we’ve got a fun ride ahead, and so far the direction, animation, and even music have been doing right by the source material. My Hero Academia is unlikely to surprise you, but if you’re in the market for classic shounen done right, it’s hitting all the right beats.

My Hero Academia

Continue Rejoicing, We’re Still In Great Shows

Kiznaiver: Kiznaiver is probably one of the most speculative picks here, because there were legitimately bad things about its first episode. The writing so far, courtesy of the questionable yet inescapable Mari Okada, is outrageously over-the-top, full of melodramatic thoughts on death and various other lines you couldn’t really imagine any human saying ever. But in spite of that, the episode was also beautiful and strongly atmospheric, reflecting a talented director who seems hungry for his breakout production. The premise and characters seem interesting enough, so if the writing can hold together, Kiznaiver likely has one of the highest ceilings of the season.


Twin Star Exorcists: I didn’t have high expectations for this one, but the premiere legitimately impressed me. The premise is fairly typical shounen dark fantasy stuff, but the visual execution is excellent – the monster designs are uniquely creepy, fight scenes very stylish, and even everyday scenes funny and full of good expression work. You probably won’t be wowed by the writing, but if you’re looking for another action pick in this action-stuffed season, check it out.

Twin Star Exorcists

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable: JoJo is back and as stylish as ever. In fact, it seems like JoJo’s actually received style lessons in between arcs – the chiseled man-mountain aesthetic of Stardust Crusaders is gone, replaced by something more rounded and infinitely more funky. Diamond is Unbreakable’s suburban horror aesthetic and great color design already puts it miles ahead of Stardust Crusaders visually, and I’ve heard this arc is where Araki really gets the Stands figured out, so I’m excited to see where it goes.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: Kabaneri is basically peak Tetsuro Araki, he of Attack on Titan and “I’ll take a potato chip… AND EAT IT” fame. From its steampunk zombies premise to its loud and bloody execution, it’s the clear action blockbuster pick of the season, consistently acting in exactly the way you expect it to. The production so far is gorgeous, and the pacing is relentless, so if you’re looking for Araki’s style of grim action, Kabaneri has got you covered. I’m guessing the production’s going to slope down kinda significantly, and Araki’s abrasive style isn’t really my thing, but it’s still a notable premiere.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

And Now Some Fine Genre Flavors For All Palates

Joker Game: Joker Game is basically all potential so far – its first episode was slow and somewhat overwritten, but the period spy thriller premise is strong, and the visual execution is excellent. I’m guessing it’ll be less politically engaging than just plain tense and exciting, but if it continues to find fun ways to execute on its den of betrayal premise, it’ll be a strong change of pace from this season’s more punch-oriented theatrics.

Joker Game

BAKUON!!: Leaning more towards the comedy end of club shows, BAKUON!!’s first episode is loud and ridiculous, but in a way that actually consistently nails its jokes. There’s enough variation in the sources of comedy and character personalities that it seems possible the show could stay entertaining, though I’m personally not holding my breath. But still, if you’re looking for a club comedy, BAKUON!! hits its mark.


Haifuri: Haifuri is leaning pretty hard into the Girls und Panzer “girls do military things as sports-styled high school activity” mold, and so far it’s paying off. The first half of this premiere is pretty slow, but by the time its cast are situated on their actual boat, things start getting funny and exciting and stay there. There’s an inherently engaging absurdity in the ways all the characters in these shows just accept this is how the world is (“of course all high school girls dream of manning traditional warships!”), and when you couple that with intelligent dramatic execution, you have a show that has a strong, naturally fun platform to work from.


Three Leaves, Three Colors: Three Leaves, Three Colors is Doga Kobo doing what they do best – make pleasant school club shows elevated by great friggin’ character animation. Seriously, the animation in this show is just so, so good, from the little incidental bits of character acting to the big visual gags scattered throughout. The show isn’t really my scene, but the physical comedy is strong and the cast is charming enough. If you’re a fan of this sort of thing, the show’s a fine pick.

Three Leaves, Three Colors

Look, Making Anime Is Hard, You Gotta Give Them Credit For Trying

Mayoiga: Mayoiga’s first episode is a total bullshit mess, but it’s such an entertaining bullshit mess that I’m probably going to keep watching it. Its director Mizushima is the man responsible for Shirobako, Girls und Panzer, and Another, and teaming him up with Mari Okada seems to have resulted in both of them leaning into their most ridiculous tendencies. The show spends ten minutes introducing its incredibly oversized cast before shaking them so thoroughly one of them ends up throwing up on the bus driver. It’s definitely madness, but Mizushima knows how to keep madness entertaining.


Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto: Sakamoto is basically just one joke, but the show definitely does get mileage out of that joke. The aesthetics are reasonable and music is very strong, so if you’re down for watching Sakamoto be excellent at things for roughly twenty minutes a week, Sakamoto is here to please.


And you thought there is never a girl online?: No Girls Online is a perfectly respectable execution of an absolutely garbage genre. If you’re looking for this season’s semi-harem about an otaku dude who just keeps tripping over women who want to bone him, No Girls Online will certainly scratch that particular itch!

No Girls Online

Endride: As far as shows based on smartphone games go, this one’s pretty okay!


Cerberus: This one is slightly less okay, but still not the worst!


Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless: Sakamoto sadly beats Tanaka-kun in the “comedies based on one joke being repeated over and over” genre, but if you’d like a more slice of life-oriented version of that show, Tanaka-kun is prepared to always be listless for you.


Some Anime Should Probably Just Stop

Bungo Stray Dogs: Bungo is a proud entry in that school of anime comedy predicated on wild overreactions and lots of shouting. Next.

Bungo Stray Dogs

Anne-Happy: Alright, I’ll give Anne-Happy credit – in contrast to Sakamoto and Tanaka’s one joke, Anne-Happy has one joke for each of its main characters. These jokes could potentially be a great asset to the show, but tragically, none of them are actually funny.


Kumamiko: The girl doesn’t have sex with the bear, but they do talk about it. There, your one question about the show is answered.


Ace Attorney: Ace Attorney’s actual content isn’t any worse than the other shows in this category, but man, this execution could not be more lazy. Some director really lucked out on this one.

Ace Attorney

That’s Right, I Watched These. That’s Why They Pay Me The Big Anime Bucks

Re:Zero: Whoever out there who’s been waiting for the cross between “insufferable otaku lead comments on everything being like an anime” and “regular person gets transported to fantasy world,” congratulations. Your chariot has arrived.


Hundred: I wonder if there could be a show about a character who gets amnesia every three months, and thus finds every new “super talented boy attends magical high school” show as fresh and inspiring as the last one. That show would have to be at least slightly more entertaining than Hundred.


Super Lovers: Ah, I see. I’m dead actually. And this is hell.

Super Lovers

AND THAT ABOUT COVERS IT. This season is a friggin’ embarrassment of riches, full of so many promising shows that I’m not actually sure how much I’ll be able to watch. Last season, my retrospective jumped from “great” to “good” after two shows – here, I think all of the top seven are easy keepers, and the next couple brackets are reasonable as well. We’ve got some great weeks ahead of us!

27 thoughts on “Spring 2016 – Virtually Every First Episode Retrospective

  1. Kiznaiver looks so great! Everything I expected from a Trigger product down to the dodgy writting.. I like how they keep the KLK touches here and there though I wonder when it’ll get old. I do hope it maintain it’s energy, that hospital sequence was wonderful. But yea the writing will probably be an issue it was already a bit much this episode.. I actually liked the Cicadas talk because of how he dismissed his own ramblings in the end ahah. If the show keeps on with this writing it might has well remains self aware even though so many shows do it now..

    Is it just me or would Kabaneri be actually good without it’s protagonist? That guy was so loud and annoying. The over the top situations would feel a bit better without his inner screams.

    Really enjoying My Hero Academia though I felt like the characters were repeating themselves just a bit in the 2nd episode.

  2. I think you’re overselling Hundred.

    I have the most overwhelming suspicion, based on everything I know about the manga and the creative staff, that Kumamiko is going to wind up being shockingly good as it goes along, but no one will share the pleasant surprise with me because everyone will drop it at the first episode. This happens at least one show every season.

    • I’m actually gunning for Kumamiko. The humor is definitely oriented towards a Japanese audience, and they picked a very sensitive topic as their comedic fodder. It’s an honest mistake I think, but you can’t blame people for finding the show a bit repulsive as a result of that hiccup.

    • I take it back. The 2nd episode is worse than the first. It’s both NOT FUNNY and OFFENSIVE. Kumamiko really blows. I don’t normally say things like this outright, but I think the second episode really pushed me.

      • Yeah 2nd episode got exactly one minor chuckle out of me after she gets off the bike till before she stands from the chair is pretty decent but I can only blame that on the key animator I suspect and even it was only decent. The rest of the episode was just really really bad. It is nearly never funny, it is rarely cute, the pacing is terrible, there is no story, and the scenarios are bad. Aside from the premise I can find almost nothing good about this anime.

  3. Not incidentally, Flying Witch, My Hero Academia, Twin Star Exorcists, and Jojo part 4 are all great adaptations of their respective manga.

    The others (on a manga adaptation standpoint) are mostly OK. Kumamiko doubled down on Machi’s cuteness, but the slow pace kinda messes with the comedic timing. Bungou Stray Dogs doubled down on the comedy (the comedic scenes are there in the manga, but the reactions are amplified), but its main appeal has always been similar with Black Butler (still not your thing).

    On another note, No Girls Online is better than I thought it would be. I read forward a bit, but it doesn’t turn into a quasi-harem later on. But it’s still not good, as the main conflict is centered around Ako (she can’t differentiate between internet and reality), and she is the worst character of the bunch as she is the most “anime” (be prepared for a lot of yandere jokes).

    I guess you have no plans to check out Big Order and Adventure of Sinbad? Sinbad can work as a stand-alone story as it’s a prequel spin-off. I think you’ll find it decent, but I don’t think it’s your thing since it’s pretty close to shounen action adventure genre. Big Order is pretty much Future Diary 2.0 (intriguing beginning, goes off the rails really fast) so I kinda wish it had premiered earlier so I can see more people’s reaction.

  4. Macross Delta? Are you telling me you didn’t watch Macross Delta? D:

    Anyway. But yeah, my top three are the same as yours! Just wondering though if you’re being a little too harsh on Re: ZERO. I’m still on the fence with it myself, but I don’t think it really warranted a garbage placement. It had good aesthetics in spite of the dicey premise.

    Also, I noticed that people are being a little harsh on Mari Okada. The Lost Village is definitely sorta trashy so far, but I think Kiznaiver could be a good pick. I’m surprised that only you gave it a fairly positive rating compared to everyone else. I can’t help but call out bias, but then again this IS the first episode premiere we’re talking about.

    Regardless, this season really is pretty intense. My list was supposed to be chopped down to at most five shows, but now it still stands at a strong fourteen. Weee….

    • It’s that she has a story of writing in this sort of emo-teen-jotting-down-pretentious-pseudo-philosophical-fanfiction way and she doesn’t really seem to be ready to stop any soon. Perhaps because that stuff actually sells. I still cringe at the memory of her Madoka-meets-Yu-Gi-Oh show WIXOSS.

  5. Speculative Picks.

    Ah, speculative picks. I try to make less and less of them, and drop them earlier, because when they fail, they often fail hard (looking at you Rolling Girls and Perfect Insider), and if they succeed, one could always pick them up after they end (Looking at you with your return to ConRevo :P), but this season I find myself sticking with shows that are pretty speculative in how they’d turn out, and unlikely to turn out great. Exactly the sort of shows I’m trying to not pick up/stick with, but this season I’m weak.

    This season these shows for me are:

    Bungo Stray Dogs – I just want to see what they actually do with it. First episode didn’t even really get to the actual premise of the show with them going around as a group and solving cases, and him becoming part of the group. We’ll see.

    Re:Zero – Classic case of liking the premise and hating myself… episode 1, especially the first two minutes and last 20 minutes had some solid direction with regards to atmosphere, and some good character interactions whenever the MC shut up. Episode 2 wasn’t as good as episode 1’s highlights, but was respectable, and a far cry from episode 1’s insufferable first half. But I doubt the show will be great. But, I guess I’ll let you all know if it does become great, provided I’m still with it.

    Kiznaiver – Very speculative. Mari Okada? And even without her influence it’s the sort of show that can do well or fall flat. Reminds me of Plastic Memories, that was great in its first episode, but then again, it was mostly great for its comic execution, and less for its ideas. I somehow feel with Mari Okada the sci-fi idea premise will not get the development it could deserve. Yes, yes, it’s all about humans anyway, but sometimes interesting ideas help 😛

    Other stuff.

    You know, I can’t believe it each time they say JoJo part 4 is in Japan. The house architecture, the colours, the people walking in the streets… it feels more like reading Archie, more like some form of an idealized Americana. It really creates some tonal mismatch. And the punks Josuke fought against in the premiere made me think of Back to the Future!, heh.

    Joker Game is interesting to look at Twitter discussions about. Yes, we only got half of the premiere, and the actual hook wasn’t delivered yet, but the way it was quickly abandoned makes me think of ConRevo. It’s a spy film. Spy films are all about atmosphere, and this one nails it thus far. Surprised people are so quick to cast it off.

    Hai Furi surprises me because it’s really not what I expected from the premise. I hadn’t watched it, but the premise made it seem like it’d be about a bunch of girls at school, a silly slice of life drama-comedy, not a sports-like show. But I’ll wait and hear what people think of it, because neither of these things, what it was sold as and what it apparently is are really my thing. It’s also the director’s second work, and most people (you included), hated his first work – Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai (A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd), so I’m curious how it’d turn out.

    But yeah, crazy season. Not a lot of stuff I’m blown away with, but a lot of stuff I’m enjoying. Too much? Borderline, but it’s not spread around well in the week, so some days are definitely too much.

    • Oh yeah, the more people speak of Twin Star Exorcists, the more I think of Ushio to Tora, which also has creepier than usual monster designs, heavier hitting drama, and some A-level face game. Ushio to Tora is great.

    • I actually really like JoJo 4’s Americana vibe. It seems very deliberate, and I think it works really well with this season’s atmosphere so far. As for Joker Game, in retrospect, I felt that the conversations everyone had around the poker table were just outright badly written, and so I’m pretty skeptical. But a good second episode could certainly change my mind.

      • Oh, I don’t have complaints with the Americana vibe, it just pulls me out each time they mention it’s actually in Japan. I wonder why it’s not actually portrayed as being in America. Maybe because then it’d be clear it’s anachronistic, where here they can go for “wonderland”? I wonder.

        • That’s an interesting thought. The color scheme and other stuff makes it more apparent, but even originally in the manga the vibe IS more of a fictional American small town than a Japanese small town. But Jojo was always set in some kind of bizarro (heh) world.

          None of the other parts (part 1-3, 5-7) are set in Japan, but they also don’t feel set in their actual respective place either, but in that bizarro Jojo world.

          That still begs the question why Araki sets Part 4 in Japan specifically though… Maybe there’s some editorial reason there considering it’s Shounen Jump but we can only speculate without some solid information.

  6. If you don’t have Shounen Maid listed because you haven’t watched it, then you probably should. The premise is a setup for terrible and I expected it to be one of my few insta-drop shows like super lovers turned out, but in fact it was really good and there was nothing morally questionable either. This one surprised me even more than twin-star exorcists though while it is hard to compare different genres it probably is still weaker in the end.

    I actually found Tanaka’s first episode to be better than Sakamoto’s (though it was the one anime original scene in sakamoto that dropped it a bit for me). It definitely is a more low-key giggle inducing comedy though rather than a laugh out loud one. I do have reservations with both long term though being such single joke shows, and think they probably would have been far better as shorts. Space Patrol Luluco you also missed mentioning is a short, its more the completely absurd / gag comedy style though. It isn’t really my genre but it did seem to do what it does reasonably well.

    Attack on Kabaneri : don’t see why this is as consistently rated as high as it is, if you watch it just don’t try to think about it though that is probably where I go wrong. It does not have plot holes, it has plot chasms and lots of them. It does give you trains jumping those chasms and spewing a zombie apocalypse all over you though if that is your thing, and admittedly visually it is very good.

    I really do enjoy your perspectives on a lot of these though I rewatched a couple after reading some of your reviews and caught a few things I missed that made them more enjoyable.

    • I’m not really a big fan of the genre to begin with, but how do shows like Cerberus and Hundred keep getting made, does anyone working on them actually think they are good? I for the sake of thoroughness suffered through the second episode of each, and they got significantly worse than the first episode if that can be imagined.

        • I guess that makes sense as a reason, too bad there aren’t more decent adaptations like Fate, Steins Gate, or even True Tears.

  7. That’s an interesting thought. The color scheme and other stuff makes it more apparent, but even originally in the manga the vibe IS more of a fictional American small town than a Japanese small town. But Jojo was always set in some kind of bizarro (heh) world.

    None of the other parts (part 1-3, 5-7) are set in Japan, but they also don’t feel set in their actual respective place either, but in that bizarro Jojo world.

    That still begs the question why Araki sets Part 4 in Japan though… Maybe there’s some editorial reason there considering it’s Shounen Jump but we can only speculate without some splid information.

  8. Where does the line of ‘shows you would have watched if they had aired during the winter’ get drawn?

  9. I’m so sad you didn’t enjoy Bungou Stray Dogs, it was my favorite premiere of the season. If you didn’t find it funny stay away from Ouran as well, the style of humor is almost identical.

  10. Are you planning to watch PA Works’ Anniversary show as well?
    I believe it’s airing this season.

  11. on haifuri: i’ve only seen you describe haifuri as ‘fun’ or ‘GuP-esque’ and while I’d love it if it were just GuP with warships… I think that when the stakes go from ‘losing a competition’ to ‘getting sunk / sent to prison / executed because you’re a mutineer’ the show is probably going for something more serious than GuP. for me, the most intriguing aspect of the premiere was the OP, which is intense and optimistic rather than happy/carefree like GuP’s ‘I JUST FEEL MY SHINE’. some guy did a rough translation of the lyrics. I usually don’t pay attention to OP lyrics, but these ones add to my intrigue; the last stanza implies that the show’s going to investigate the history of its world, which may or may not have something to do with real life events. for the rest of the OP lyrics, I can’t tell if they’re terribly ominous or hopeful.

    i would encourage you to take a look at them. they really are interesting.http://i.imgur.com/322Tblc.png

    i certainly don’t expect it to become grimdark, completely flip the tone set in the 1st episode, and kill everyone. however, I do think that haifuri’s going to be more ambitious than you give it credit for. I’m really excited to see where haifuri’s going to go from here on out.

  12. I haven’t picked up Re:Zero, because I’m actually catching up on older anime and have no time for seasonal ones. But weren’t people saying it’s good? It’s rated high on MAL too, though I’ve learned that the website is not always to be trusted.

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