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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!