Somehow I am still alive. This preview “week” was one of the most punishing I’ve experienced, spreading out an absurd number of shows across an untenable number of days. The silver lining on this whole affair is that this season actually seems to have a whole ton of worthy contenders. I’ve spent the last week and a half or so sifting through this absurd haul, dragging treasures to the surface and weathering the rest as gracefully as I can. My trials have been numerous, but suffering this fate has granted me a new perspective – at last, I am blessed with moderately informed opinions on basically everything coming out this spring.
Starting with the brightest lights and slowly descending into the depths, I will now share my vast wisdom and narrow opinions with all of you. As usual, you can check out the full list of reviews over at ANN, or click on any of the titles here to go to my full thoughts. If you’re frustrated that your new favorite was only afforded a toilet emoji here, just click through that name and check for Nick Creamer to see me try and justify that takeaway. In the end, I’m just one guy with my own specific tastes, after all. So without further ado, let’s get this boulder rolling!
Anime That Shimmer Like the Soft Morning Light
Ah yes, what a surprise that the sequel to one of my ten favorite anime of all time is sitting at the top of this list. Yep, turns out four years hasn’t really done much to diminish the power of this wonderful show. From its beautiful art design and expressive characters to its whimsical worldbuilding and thoughtful storytelling, The Eccentric Family is a terrific drama in basically all respects. The show is deeply attuned to the beauty of the bonds we share with family, both the family we’re born into and the family we choose. This season hasn’t actually brought me to tears yet, but hey, there’s still plenty of time. The Eccentric Family is a wonderful thing.
Jeez, P.A. Works are really nailing it this season, huh? Anyway, airing simultaneously with The Eccentric Family, we have one more story about young adults on the verge of terrifying responsibilities, muddling through a narrative that inherently celebrates the world around them. In Sakura Quest’s case, that world is rural Japan, a fading village whose obsolescence lends the show an inherent sense of poignancy and heart. The show is also very funny so far, and already commenting sharply on the plight of us friggin’ millennials. If you’re looking for thoughtful dramas, P.A. Works is apparently having some kind of clearance sale.
Alright, let’s get the heck out of my mopey drama wheelhouse. This season is defined by high-profile sequels, and Rage of Bahamut counts among the best of them. The first season married fun characters and a very loose fantasy world with strong blockbuster-style visual sensibilities and inconsistently strong animation. So far, Virgin Soul seems to be a solid followup – new lead Nina is great, the art design and animation are excellent, and the story moves quickly through adventure setup into action payoff. I’m happy to have this series back.
Anime With a Strong Bearing and Regal, Piercing Stare
We’re not getting an actual Kyoto Animation production this season, but it looks like Tsuki ga Kirei is the next best thing. Defined by fraught navigations of personal space, evocative body language, and understated characterization, the show is finding all the universality it can in its story of two dorks who maybe kinda like each other. Solid writing, strong art design, and an emphasis on moments of charged silence are all keeping it well ahead of the pack. So far, it’s a quiet and quietly excellent romance. I hope it holds up.
I’m kinda cheating on this one, because MHA 2’s actual premiere was frankly kinda lackluster. That said, its second episode was excellent, and gives me great confidence that we’ll be receiving a worthy adaptation of one of the manga’s best arcs. I already know the story we’re getting here is terrific, and so far the adaptation is keeping up its end of the bargain. If you want crazy superhero action married to poignant reflections on parents and children, MHA 2 is happy to provide.
So far, SukaSuka seems to be aiming for the Grimgar sweet spot of “a somewhat stereotypical fantasy world humanized through a slow-paced, slice of life dramatic approach.” That’s a very solid trick, and SukaSuka’s mix of compelling art design, endearing character moments, and confidently slow narrative movement are working out quite well so far. The leads aren’t quite strong enough to sell me yet, but the world itself feels real, and a strong grasp of tone can go a long way.
Boruto’s first episode offers a solid statement of purpose for the Naruto followup. Strong animation, colorful art design, and a speedy episodic narrative all make the story’s return something worth celebrating. I’m likely not going to follow this one myself, but it was certainly nice to see characters I’ve known for over a decade all grown up and stressing over their stupid kids. If you have any fondness for the Naruto franchise, Boruto seems to be keeping the faith.
Grimoire of Zero demonstrates it’s still possible to make a compelling traditional fantasy series, if you just, you know, make a compelling fantasy series. Its visual execution is kind of middling, but aside from that, Zero offers a propulsive first episode with a compelling world and an endearing beastman lead. The show seems like it may offer a slightly more nuanced take on societal oppression than we usually get, and this first episode moves quickly through setup and strong character-building beats. It lacks Bahamut’s endless energy and visual polish, but it’s still a fine pick.
Re:Creators seems to have actually found a reasonably fresh take on the trapped-in-a-fantasy-world trend, mainly by trapping all the fantasy characters in a normal world. It’s basically a version of Fate starring a bunch of stereotypical light novel leads as Servants, even down to its staff pedigree. The show’s propulsive and well-animated so far, but I have reservations about the writing – there’s some tired gags here, and it seems like the actual overarching plot might end up resembling the stories this one is cribbing from. Still, this first episode was an action-packed and relatively unique affair.
Anime to Sooth Your Genre Woes
So far, Alice & Zoroku seems to be half mediocre scifi spectacle, half endearing old guy/grumpy girl slice of life. The show is succeeding largely on the strength of curmudgeonly leading man Zoroku, whose interactions with both Alice and the general world around him offer a sense of novelty, charm, and lived reality. There are definitely weak points here (like the egregious CG objects), but the show is likable enough to overcome them so far.
There’s not much I need to say here – the first Attack on Titan was a loud and bloody action blockbuster, and the sequel seems to be carrying on in exactly the same vein. Personally, Titan’s style of everything-to-11 drama and execution doesn’t really do much for me, but if you enjoyed the first season, the sequel seems like a fine followup.
The Royal Tutor is similarly “not for me, but doing its thing well enough.” Its premise of four standoffish princes feels like a standard otome setup, but its pint-sized yet deep-voiced tutor centers the show on someone with confidence, competence, and a sense of humor. The drama probably won’t be strong enough to move its appeal that far beyond cute boys, but it is a fine cute boy emporium.
KADO feels more like a western primetime drama than an anime, from its focus on a variety of stern government employees to its emphasis on plot hooks over all else. The show raises a series of fantastical problems and then bureaucracies its way through them. Poor visual execution keeps this from being an easy recommendation, but if you’re looking for a fairly grounded thriller, it’s definitely an option.
Anime That Is Technically Watchable, I Suppose
Love Tyrant is basically a bargain-bin version of something like My Monster Secret. The show has plenty of manic energy and silly faces, but so far its cast is too weak to carry it, and its premise kind of inherently pulls against any sort of emotional investment. It’s a low-rung genre piece.
So far, Twin Angels BREAK seems to be a traditional magical girl show played extremely straight, held down mostly by its generic nature and its very bad visual execution. The show is watchable, but there are a million better shows vying for this exact spot (WATCH DOREMI), so I can’t really recommend it.
Tsugumomo is a magical girlfriend show from the mid-2000s that’s been mysteriously transported to the modern age. You can watch it for a nostalgia kick, or for its relatively reasonable animation, but it’s largely a mix of stale harem jokes and standard episodic plots.
So far, Anonymous Noise is pretty much nailing the “default shoujo melodrama” aesthetic without all that much distinction. Poorly constructed CG performance scenes and hamfisted dialogue bring down what would otherwise be a perfectly generic experience.
As has clearly become the trend for this bracket, Granblue Fantasy feels like a worse version of a million other shows. So far its fantasy storytelling is utterly by the book, meaning the main draw here is the compelling but disjointed visual style. The show actually looks much worse in motion than in stills – the detailed character art feels both jerky and completely out of sync with the backgrounds. Still, if you’re looking for yet another standard fantasy tale, it’s still a reasonable pick.
Alright, It’s Getting a Little Tough to Stay Positive
Armed Girl’s amusingly terrible “misandry is real” premise is probably the most interesting thing about it, but the show rises a couple inches above blank terribleness by virtue of its relatively snappy pacing and reasonable fight scenes. It’s not good, but it’s reasonably executed bad, and that’s about the point we’re at.
Clockwork Planet is a low-tier light novel adaptation with garbage visual execution. Apparently the secret to making a clockwork planet is to just glue a bunch of gears onto goddamn everything.
Hinako Note is a low tier 4koma slice of life adaptation, with nothing like Dogakobo’s lively animation to give its adaptation any life. This one almost certainly worked better in manga form, but if you’re looking for this season’s fuwa fuwa slice of life, Hinako Note is it.
Saekano Flat appears to be carrying on the precise “it’s a generic harem but look we’re aware it’s a generic harem that makes it good right” legacy of its predecessor.
A Distant Memory of Joy
The Laughing Salesman is an old-school series of monkey’s paw vignettes where the lesson is “don’t have problems or the laughing salesman will fuck you up.”
Sagrada Reset is a high school drama about emotionless non-characters who monologue adolescent philosophy at each other. It may be the most boring application of time travel I’ve seen yet.
“What if Strike Witches were dragged down by constant bad CG” is not a question that needed an answer.
And Then, Silence
This is the season’s regulation “garbage light novel fantasy high school adaptation.” Its twists on the formula are the main character is an overt dickbag and the female students all wear suspender-and-garter-belt fetish costumes. Anime is bad.
I don’t know which one of you assholes killed a goat to summon the OreImo author again, but I’d appreciate if you’d knock it off.
AND THAT IS ALL OF IT. I found time for basically everything except the sequels I wasn’t current on and Kabukibu (sorry Kabukibu, it was a busy day), so hopefully this provides at least a little direction to your seasonal adventures. There’s actually a ton of stuff to enjoy this season in a wide range of genres, so I’m sure something will strike your fancy. Let’s anime!