Well, all good things must come to an end. This fall has offered us bountiful great anime in a wide variety of genres, presenting the strongest single-season crop that I’ve seen in years. From great romantic comedies like Recovery of an MMO Junkie to sturdy character dramas like Just Because!, from action highlights like Blood Blockade Battlefront and Juni Taisen to the all-in-one spectacle of Land of the Lustrous, this season has spoiled us utterly. And now, with only a few weeks left in this magical season, it’s time to look forward and acknowledge that joy is fleeting and disappointment boundless, and that next season probably isn’t going to be very good.
The pickings are definitely slimmer for winter, though there are still highlights worth mentioning. And on top of that, the fact that fall all-stars like MMO Junkie and Just Because! didn’t really recommend themselves on first viewing should also serve as a reminder that every season will have its own surprises. As usual, I won’t be going down the names and synopses of every single upcoming show – you can easily find that info on anichart, and I don’t generally find premises that useful anyway. Instead, I’ll be focusing on the shows I have some semi-meaningful reason to look forward to, and explaining why I think these contenders have a chance. Starting with my top prospects and wandering on down, let’s explore the winter season!
My top pick shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who’s followed this site for long. Kyoto Animation are easily my favorite anime studio, offering consistently gorgeous productions in a satisfying drama-comedy-slice of life range. All reports say that Violet Evergarden is poised to be one of their most beautiful productions yet, and the fantastical source material seems like a strong choice to expand KyoAni’s usual audience. The show is helmed by one of KyoAni’s less experienced directors, whose only prior work as director was the awkward Beyond the Boundary, but that show’s narrative problems extended far beyond any issues of direction. Violet Evergarden’s pedigree is strong enough that I’m actively avoiding info on it at this point, happy to let the show demonstrate its own strengths soon enough.
Here’s Violet Evergarden’s lovely PV.
I’ve had a somewhat uneven relationship with Studio Trigger, a new-ish studio formed by Gurren Lagann director Hiroyuki Imaishi and a variety of other Gainax ex-pats. Their breakout show Kill la Kill only inconsistently worked for me, and though I’ve enjoyed segments of many of their shows, Little Witch Academia is basically the only one I could wholesale recommend. The studio generally offer great character acting and dynamic visual worlds, but shakier narratives and often obnoxious comedy. That said, among the studio’s rotating all-star directors, Atsushi Nishigori’s work both at Gainax and on Idolmaster give me great hope that he can manage a show’s tone, and possibly even stop Imaishi from sticking in too many dick jokes. I mean, the robot has boobs, but this is Trigger we’re talking about. Compromises.
Here’s Darling in the FranXX’s PV.
Devilman is a classic property by Go Nagai, a pillar of horror and action manga whose hot-blooded aesthetic has never really appealed to me. This new Devilman also wouldn’t really cross my radar, if not for the fact that it’s being directed by Masaaki Yuasa. From Kaiba to The Tatami Galaxy to Ping Pong and beyond, Yuasa’s work speaks for itself: he is undoubtedly one of the greatest living animation directors, and it feels like his touch could turn anything to gold. Yuasa has earned my undivided attention.
Here’s Devilman’s already-impressive PV.
Setting its sights on the problematic fave trophy of the season, Ameagari’s manga is far more thoughtful than its exploitation-ripe premise might imply. The manga’s leads are both weirdly charming in their own ways, and this adaptation’s PV seems like it’ll capture the gentle, melancholic tone of the source material well. The anime is looking to be quite beautiful as well, so if you’re not totally repelled by the premise, it’s probably worth a look.
Here’s Ameagari’s PV.
I’m honestly setting my expectations pretty low for this one. Junji Ito’s horror manga are excellent, but the grotesque appeal of his art style feels almost impossible to translate to anime, and anime has a hard enough time pulling off horror successfully in the first place. On top of that, this collection’s director has only really directed the esteemed Diabolik Lovers and Diabolik Lovers Recap, which are mostly known for their meme-worthy gifs of heroines getting tossed in pools. I’ll give it a try, but I doubt it’ll compare to its source material.
And the source material roundup continues! Pop Team Epic is another property riding entirely on the strength of its adapted material, an absurdist 4koma comedy that is as rude as it is hilarious. Translating 4komas into anime can be a dicey proposition, but it certainly helps to have strong base material. If handled right, this could easily be the comedy of the season.
Atsuko Ishizuka has always struck me as a strong director in search of the right material. Her love of wild color made No Game No Life an almost exhausting visual experience, but her work on shows like that, Sakurasou, and Prince of Stride also demonstrate strong fundamental visual sensibilities. Her latest show, a slice of life focused on a journey to the South Pole, feels like it may be the marriage of content and creator she needs. Her work is certainly always worth a second glance.
You can check out the show’s PV here.
And finally, we’ve got the season’s fluffiest offering, a slice of life based around camping with friends. Director Yoshiaki Kyougoku has certainly proven his chops on esteemed slice of lifes like Usagi Drop and Yama no Susume (which specifically feels like the spiritual predecessor to this show), and the PV already looks quite appealing. If you’re looking for slice of life, this seems to be the place.
Here’s Yuru Camp’s PV.
And that’s it for me! …huh. That actually shakes out to be a pretty solid number of shows, all things considered. I’m sure a few of them won’t turn out so hot, but I think we’ve ultimately got the numbers to ensure a pretty reasonable season. I’m sorry for doubting you, anime.