As the 2016 Spring Season of anime gets underway, TV critic James Moore previews 22 upcoming shows to see what is worth your time
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable. (Recommended)
Everything is different in the world of Jojo now, new Jojo, new art style, new feel. So far it doesn’t feel quite right, but then I thought the same of Stardust Crusaders when it first started. Jojo is an ongoing manga that started in the 80s characterised by over the top poses and ridiculous characters, but with a strong core story backing it up and some of the most hyped up fights of all time. Most of the characters outside of the Jojos are named after things to do with pop music; for instance Robert E.O. Speedwagon, DIO, Dire and Straits. Each new arc introduces a completely new cast of characters, so the show is constantly reinventing itself. The first two arcs revolve around a power called ‘hamon’, or ripple, but later arcs have more variety with spirits called Stands taking their place. The protagonist Josuke might seem annoying at first, but so did Joseph Joestar, and he entually became more likable. Jojo always has to convince the viewer to care more for the new Jojo over the previous, and part 3 never quite got the audience to appreciate Jotaro over Joseph, especially with a more interesting character in Polnareff. Part 4 will have to work to make us care more for Josuke over Joseph and Jotaro. But then Josuke’s Stand, Crazy Diamond, is immediately more interesting than Jotaro’s Star Platinum, though the latter did develop. Definitely recommend so far, but only if you’re caught up, as it includes major spoilers for other parts off the bat.
Pan de Peace!
It’s a short involving girls who love bread. I mean… that’s it really. If you liked Wakaba Girl or just cute things in general what’s not to miss, after all, less than 10 minutes isn’t a huge time investment, and while I can’t see this taking the world by storm it is on Crunchyroll, and that makes keeping up with it much easier. This is a why not watch, rather than a must watch.
Re:ZERO- Starting Life in Another World (Recommended)
Generic medieval Europe fantasy realm: check. Japanese high school shut-in wearing a tracksuit brought into it randomly: check. Façade of self-awareness: check. The first half of this two-part first episode was disappointing. It was predictable, clichéd and far too reminiscient of the worst parts of this overused genre. It felt exactly like someone had ripped KonoSuba off but only took the parts that show was parodying, right down to the protagonist’s tracksuit and language. But then we got the second half, and things looked up, it was focussed, it had interesting unique characters and a direction it was going. Restarting after death really makes for a unique spin, and gives me that Majora’s Mask vibe. If you like the ‘stuck in a fantasy world’ genre, give this a go, and definitely watch the second half of that first episode.
Cute girls on motorcycles? Cute girls on motorcycles. The moe of this season, the ridiculous and stupid slice of life that just proves that if it exists there’s an anime of it. Bakuon follows a group of high school girls who are huge fans of motorbikes. Is it K-On again? Probably not, in any case that suggestion is reductive, let this stand on its own. On its own though Ba-K-on is far more fan service heavy than I’m comfortable recommending, and has shown it has no idea how to keep a consistent tone; because a jump cut from a scene where a child is crying at losing a parent to a scene of ass and tits is completely reasonable. Still, with a good voice cast and strangely extensive knowledge of bikes this is for the slice of life fanatics and motorcycle enthusiasts, not necessarily anyone else.
This is about as ‘anime’ as they come. It’s another fantasy setting, another loner protagonist, with SAO’s Kirito’s voice actor on top, plus loli. While it may be clichéd so is Re:ZERO and reusing tropes isn’t inherently bad, a show can just reuse them well. Has this proved it’s using them well yet: no. Has it shown it’s using them badly, no. Give a shot, but don’t have high expectations. Probably drop.
Space Patrol Luluco
Can you tell this is made by Trigger? With all the humour of Inferno Cop and that typical Trigger low framerate look, it’s only a short and charming enough. No reason to not give a look in if you like Trigger’s previous work. Luluco has a completely over the top yet totally nonchalant about it kind of insanity behind it. Of all the short shows this season I’d recommend this one above all the others, but that’s not a ringing endorsement.
The Asterisk War 2nd Season
Not the best battle shounen, actually kinda bad. No, in fact, this show is sad. I seriously question whether the protagonist has some major social development issues. Not because he’s awkward around girls, but because he’s incapable of dealing with that awkwardness. This show makes me cringe. Go in to this with incredibly low expectations. Expect awful harems, gimmicky fights, average at best animation and overused poorly exploited tropes. The first cour got away with its incompetence because it had very little competition in its season, this one has some big guns to compete with in Jojo and Kabaneri. The thing about Asterisk War is that it’s neither a serious action show nor pure fan service. It wants the best of both worlds, and just gets the worst.
From one kind of trashy harem to literal animated garbage. Just no.
Wagamama High Spec
Nothing to do with a certain noodle bar. Short but vapid. No substance. Fan service bollocks. Don’t bother.
Twin Star Exorcists
Sure are getting a lot of generic stuff this season. Another 14-year-old boy, who is totally overpowered but his power is a curse, meets an antisocial girl and together they fight monsters in a parallel world. Do you like generic as hell action shows? Give it a bash, it’s down for 4 cours apparently, so you’ll be entertained for the whole year at least. That’s the only thing unexpected here. If you want something original or aren’t fond of action, this is a miss. This is the first thing I’ll drop.
The Lost Village (Recommended)
After all that generic tosh it’s finally something different. Mayoiga follows a group of supposed geniuses who met online for a chance to restart their lives in a phantom town. Everyone’s got a reason, a secret to their being here. This show’s got atmosphere, a real tangible tension to it. As a creepy mystery character drama this looks promising, but it does introduce its cast in an awful manner. The village aspect gives it that Lovecraftian Shadow over Innsmouth or Higurashi vibe. There’s a variety of characters, like Danganronpa or Another, and I expect like those shows that we’ll see the cast thinned out by the end. Absolute must watch for this season straight away.
Crane Game girls
What even? The only people who can save the world from a meteor strike are 3 girls, so they are lured to an arcade under the premise of being idols, and made to play Crane Games. It’s barely animated, but that’s it’s art style. This is… I mean… it’s Inferno Cop level comedy. If that’s your jam. This is a little like watching a YouTube animated series. If you think of it like that instead of as a serious show it’s actually quite charming. Only 5 minute long episodes, at least worth a look in if you have a dumb sense of humour.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Recommended)
The sheer power of the production crew for this is insane. Wit Studio, of Rolling Girls and Attack on Titan team up again with the director of Attack on Titan, sound designer of Cardcaptor Sakura, scriptwriter of Code Geass, editor of Highschool of the Dead, animation directors from Ghost in the Shell, Jojo and Death Note, and a total of 6 animation directors working on the first episode alone, not to mention the character designer of Macross and Gunbuster. The character designs are straight up 80s, and I love that so much. A unique steam-powered look and a strong cast back up what could the anime of the season. This is zombie fantasy train focussed action from the best action director in animation. Sadly it’s only available on Amazon Prime Video, which is incredibly frustrating.
Concrete Revolutio: Superhuman Fantasy – The Last Song
It is spelled that way, don’t worry there’s not supposed to be an n on the end of Revolutio. The first season was bonkers. Bones’ latest gave us a non-linear 60s-esque story of super heroes, focussing on conflicts of morality. Revolutio has incredible visuals, with pop out pop art colours like no one else and high quality animation in all the right places. Sadly the story is ridiculously hard to follow, but hopefully this will be a Baccano situation where once we’ve seen everything it’ll finally make sense. You’ll need to catch up on the first season though. Available on DAIKSUKI, not Crunchyroll.
Given how fantastic Kill la Kill, Trigger’s first full length show, was Kiznaiver has a lot to live up to. Trigger is well liked because of their combination of veteran staff from classic studio Gainax combined with young upcoming animators. From the outset Kiznaiver is less ridiculous than you expect and the protagonist surprisingly droll. There seems to be an attempt at something serious, which really doesn’t suit these guys, they’re best at wacky and zany, which is why Luluco works. If this is a move toward a more grounded plot retaining some of the art style and flair in Kill la Kill it’ll be interesting to see if they can pull it off. Kiznaiver has a totally original concept and is absolutely one of the shows you should be watching this season.
My Hero Academia
Hailed as the next big thing, My Hero Academia has big shoes to fill. Straight away it’s pretty clear the target audience of this show is young. It’s encroaching on the markets of Naruto, One Piece, Pokemon and Dragon Ball, rather than the late night action shows like Asterisk War or Cerberus. And the Manga author has cited Naruto as his biggest inspiration, but this season it’s actually quite similar to Concrete Revolutio, both in theme and style, which is no surprise given that they’re the same studio. Still this show has a lighthearted less serious feel and its own aesthetic that’s more in line with popular shows. Go with it for the hype, but I don’t see it.
Tanaka is Always Listless
Every now and then an anime comedy is not insufferable. Generally they take that high energy approach, throwing jokes at you from screeching and shouting characters. Tanaka does not do this. As the name suggests this a comedy that takes a gradual steady pace, it doesn’t so much tell you jokes as yawn them. It feels a little like Aria, only a comedy, and that’s a really good thing. Topping off that the humour is pretty unique, with some charming characters and a nice warm colour palette. Interesting, but not unmissable.
Cute girls on warships? Cute girls on warships. And I thought Bakuon would be the moe show of the season. Then this comes along. It’s definitely weirder, with school ships, which seem to be becoming a thing for some reason. Probably down to the success of Girls und Panzer and Kantai Collection. You should not expect any real plot from a show like this. What you can expect is a fleshed out unique world. If that floats your boat you’ll enjoy it. Haifuri will have more substance than Bakuon, I guarantee that, but then again for its ambition it might sink. And if you want more convincing, this one has the scriptwriter for K-On and Tamako Market, while Bakuon has the director of complete flop Glasslip. A good place to start with this genre would be Sora no woto. But then, there’s a suspicion in me that this will turn into a Madoka or a Yuuki Yuuna, given that the show is anime original and kept its premise completely hidden until it aired. That possibility is all the more reason to keep an eye on it.
Shows that are pure chill out are few and far between. Flying Witch is total relaxation material. A delightful soundtrack and gentle visuals combine with a simple story to create a stress alleviating concoction. Absolute slice of life goodness. In fact the soundtrack is exceptional, worth watching just for that. The studio J.C. Staff has a reputation for adapting unusual source material, so their shows can be quite hit or miss. This looks about average, but not bad. And yes, it is about a Witch. Anyone can enjoy this.
Just play the game. I hate saying that, but it’s normally said of Visual Novels which don’t often have meaningful gameplay. Here the game is a real game, and the anime is a lousy detective show that doesn’t even look as good as the games – which first came out 15 years ago. Bust out your DS and pick up some Phoenix Wright titles somewhere second hand instead of this.
Macross Δ (Delta)
It’s hard to recommend Macross because it’s not officially released outside of Japan, owing to a copyright dispute over the original SDF:Macross in the 80s. If you can get a hold of Macross Δ on the other hand it’s well worth your time. When you hear Macross you should think three things: giant robots that transform into planes; music, normally j-pop; and love triangles. Delta does not disappoint on any of those. If you like action series with romance subplots and some of the best pop music and mecha fights in the business look no further. Oh, and did I mention giant robots that dance during the fights?
Haven’t you heard? I’m Sakamoto
Haven’t you heard of Sakamoto? The ultra-cool, super stylish and handsome guy here to steal your hearts? With a jazzy soundtrack and bizarre sense of humour this one’s going places. Men want to be him, women want him, but Sakamoto is just too cool for all of them. Sakamoto could be called a parody of shoujo works, but as one it’s inferior to Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki kun, still it stands alone as its own comic style. This one is awfully silly. Go for it if you like that, or at least check out the first episode. Available on Funimation.