Summer 2011 Anime Preview and Watch List

One of the reasons I like to blog about anime is that it helps focus my thoughts about the anime I watch. This extends to doing these seasonal anime previews; not only do I hope it helps some people out there to try anime they might not have otherwise, I also discover series that I should try and other series I should pass over.

This season is shaping up to be potentially a very strong season, though the lack of a new Shaft series is kind of a disappointment.

Below are my picks for the Summer 2011 season, sorted by how good I think the show will turn out and broken into 4 broad tiers. Platinum Tier shows are those anime that I believe have a virtually 100% guarantee of being good. Sometimes I’m wrong like when Shaft/Shinbou stretches out the plot of a sequel (Natsu no Arashi 2 and Arakawa Under the Bridge 2) to, presumably, do a third series.  When that happens it’s always very disappointing. The next level is the Gold Tier. This level contains those shows that I think have a very good chance of being, at a minimum, “good” shows. Anime at this level usually miss out on being Platinum Tier because I don’t know enough about the source material or the studio animating it has been known for doing variable work or some other small thing that makes me less then fully certain. Silver tier shows still have a lot going for them but bigger potential problems start showing up. The problem might be in the source material, animation studio, or director and it’s a big enough one that I think the show could go either way. Bronze tier shows have something that makes me think it possibly could be a decent show but I’m not holding much hope. Sometimes there’s a surprisingly good show from this group.

If you want a second opinion about the upcoming shows try out the previews by Star Crossed Anime Blog and The Cart Driver and if you want the most complete coverage of all the new Summer anime go to hashihime’s always most excellent preview when it’s up (edithere it is).

The final item of business before moving to the Summer preview/watch list is to mention the anime series that are continuing into this season that are worth a renewed look.

  • Blue Exorcist – a fairly typical shounen series that has retained my attention
  • Hyouge Mono – the subs are so slow but I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far
  • Steins;Gate – I keep telling myself the ending is probably going to stink like Chaos;Head but it’s been really interesting so far
  • Hanasaku Iroha – Still entertaining but the story is wandering a bit right now. Supposedly the second half introduces a more cohesive plot.
  • Nichijou – After a few episodes this comedy has really dialed in on the laughs and leaves me in stitches week-in and week-out
  • Tiger & Bunny – So far the plot’s been pretty decent and it’s well animated and been very entertaining

Two shows I’m not covering are Baka to Test to Shoukan­juu Ni! and Nur­ari­hyon no Mago 2 because they are sequels to shows that I didn’t watch (the later) or didn’t finish (the former).

Platinum Tier

Natsume Yuujin­chou San

Aka Natsume’s Book of Friends 3

Director: Takahiro Omori
Studio: Brains Base – Kamichu, Baccano, Durarara, Spice &Wolf 2, Kuragehime, Dororon Enma-kun Meramera

On my mental list of anime that I’d most want to see a sequel done, few shows rank higher then Natsume Yuujin-chou. In fact, only, FLCL, Kino’s Journey and maybe Haibane Renmei finish above and the chances are very slim that any of those three will ever get a sequel, sadly.

Natsume follows the adventure of Natsume, a high school student that’s struggled with the “gift” of being able to see and communicate with spirits (youkai). His grandmother had the same abiltiy and when she passes on at the beginning of the series, her “Book of Friends” is given to him as her last living relative. The book contains the true names of the many spirits that the grandmother fought and defeated during her life – a powerful artifact many humans and spirits would covet for the power it gives. Natsume, on the other hand, has no such desire; he merely wants to live a peaceful life without bothering those around him because of his unique ability. Which is near impossible and some of the dangers Natsume faces are quite deadly; so he’s lucky that he has a booze-drinking, grumpy, talking cat – Nyanko-sensei – to help protect his back.

The first season was light on plot and heavy on the mono no aware slice-of-life vibe with a pleasant dose of comedy. The execution was perfect; it was even able to work in that late summer/early fall melancholy feeling into the show by syncing the events of the episodes with when they first aired on television. The second season introduced the first hints of a real plot which explained why many people thought the second season felt different. This unresolved plot was one of the driving reasons for wanting a third season (and because it’s an all-around awesome show). I’m hoping the third season will pick up where the second season left off and delve deeper into the plot of the show. Natsume Yuujin­chou San is not to be missed.

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Usagi Drop

AKA Bunny Drop

Director: Kanta Kamei
Studio: Production I.G. – Ghost in the Shell:SAC, Eden of the East, Kemono no Souja Erin, Kimi ni Todoke, Sengoku Basara

Usagi Drop is about a 30 year bachelor who decides to take in the six year old illegitimate daughter of his grandfather after the grandfather dies and no one else in the family wants her. And then they go on Jerry Springer – just kidding. Between the studio, the trailer, it’s placement on the Noitamina timeslot, and it’s premise, this series has excellence written all over it. My gut tells me that this will be another winner of the season so I’m ranking Usagi Drop as high as I am. Though I haven’t checked out the source material like Scamp advises blog writers to do before writing a season preview. The only potential fly in the ointment is the director and other staff don’t come with the longest pedigree but I think the positives vastly outweigh the negatives here.

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Gold Tier

Kamisama Dolls

Director: Seiji Kishi
Studio: Brains Base – Kamichu, Baccano, Durarara, Spice &Wolf 2, Kuragehime, Dororon Enma-kun Meramera

Brains Base normally only does one series a season so it was surprising  to see them suddenly run three series this season. Not that I’m complaining, the chances of a random Brains Base series being good is much higher then just about every other studio.

Kamisama Dolls follows Kyouhei (he’s old enough to drink so he’s probably college age) who’s moved to Tokyo to get away from his hometown and his past but discovers a simple move is not enough when he finds a dead body and learns that the killer was someone he knew from his hometown and that his younger sister is on the murderer’s tail. To make matters worse, since every small town in Japan harbors some sort of dark secret – the people from his hometown worship some sort of weird gods that manifest in giant, creepy humanoid forms known as kukuri that people can command.

This earns top-billing in this section because the director, Seiji Kishi, did the first season of Tentai Senshi Sunred – one of best comedies of the past couple years, Seto no Hanayome – another funny comedy  and Angel Beats – whose only real problem was the scenario writer created a 48 episode anime and tried to shoe-horn it into 13 episodes.

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Neko­gami Yaoyorozu

Director: Hiroaki Sakurai
Studio: AIC PLUS+ – GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Asobi ni Iku yo!

Trying to keep track of which subsection of AIC did which anime can be quite a chore but it does help gauge expectations. Neko­gami Yaoyorozu is a product of AIC Plus+ which has produced two previous works: GA was a fun slice-of-life series about a group of high school art students that was somehow able to feel different then both Sketchbook and Hidemari Sketch and the other, Asobi ni Iku yo!, was a fun SF romp involving first contact with aliens. Both series really could use a sequel but instead we have Neko­gami Yaoyorozu which is a comedy series about a cat god that hangs out at an antique dealer’s store and presumably causes trouble.

I’m especially looking forward to this series because AIC has been a roll of late with a string of shows that have been well-produced, entertaining and often including just the right amount of ecchi fan service and their absence this season after a steady release of a couple series a season for the last couple years was clearly evident. (I’m guessing that AIC was working on the movie for Sora no Otoshimono which comes out this June and they didn’t have the time to do a TV series or two.)

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Mawaru PenguinDrum

Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara
Studio: Brains Base – Kamichu, Baccano, Durarara, Spice &Wolf 2, Kuragehime, Dororon Enma-kun Meramera

With essentially no real information about this anime except it’s director is Kunihiko Ikuhara – director of Revolutionary Girl Utena – that it’s being animated by Brains Base and is 24 episodes long, there’s no good reason why I’m putting this so high on my list outside of a gut feeling about it being good. I haven’t even actually seen Utena to know if being the guy that directed it means something good for the chances of this anime. On the other hand my gut is telling me this is going to be a good series and I agree. :)

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Silver Tier


No.6

Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Studio: Bones – Soul Eater, Xam’d: Lost Memories, Eureka 7, Full Metal Alchemist, Heroman, Star Driver, Gosick

The other Noitamina series of this season. A SF series set in the near future, No. 6 is about a boy that’s lives the golden lifestyle that being an elite student allows until he happens to rescue a boy that’s escaped from the under-city where all society’s rejects live and his life is forever changed.

As awesome as the potential for this to be an intelligent SF anime series there are two things that worry me. The first is this only appears to be 11 episodes long which isn’t exceedingly long to balance world-building, character development, and delivering a decent story. It can be done and in the right hands that’s no problem, which leads me to the second worry. Bones often has a problem with pacing and with it’s endings. So, I’m not very confident that they can make No. 6 into a good and successful anime. Though, as a minimum, it will be well-animated.

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Blood-C

Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Studio: Production I.G. – Ghost in the Shell:SAC, Eden of the East, Kemono no Souja Erin, Kimi ni Todoke, Sengoku Basara

Normally I’d pass on a sequel to a franchise I’m behind on but apparently prior knowledge isn’t imperative with this series. The only experience I have with Clamp series to this point is the recent Kobato, which was an all-around decent series, but I know they’ve been around a long time and they’re well-liked by many people. So, it’s difficult to really rank this as high as psgels did for Star Crossed Anime Blog but with Production I.G. and a talented staff, Blood-C will probably be a very watchable series.

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Ikoku Meiro no Croisee

Director: Kenji Yasuda
Studio: Satelight – Kiddy Grade, Guin Saga, Basquash, Fairy Tail

I love anime series set in past, it doesn’t matter the time period or the location. Half the reason I’m currently watching Gosick is for the setting (and the other half is Aoi Yuuki’s superb vocal work as the main character). I don’t think I’ve every completed or watched an anime series from Satelight; so, I don’t have that easy gauge of expectations like I have for other series. The trailer, however, looks like the animators aren’t skimping on the animation – an important consideration when watching a series for it’s setting. Therefore, I can pretty much guarantee that I’m going to be watching Ikoku Meiro no Croisee to the end, even if it’s not the best.

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Dantalian’s Library

Director: Yutaka Uemura
Studio: Gainax – Gurren Lagann, Hanamaru Kindergarten, Evangelion, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

On one hand this is Gainax, a name synonymous with epic awesomeness but on the other hand it’s only with original projects that Gainax really shines. On the other hand the premise (guy inherits grandfather’s mansion and the equivalent of Index from Index) could be interesting but on the other hand the source material is from the guy who wrote Asura Cryin’. And this isn’t first string Gainax or even apparently second-string Gainax and it’s only 13 episodes long which means capable hands are required to develop a good story in that span of time. It’s still worth a look but I’m going to hold my expectations down and hope they announce their next original series soon.

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R-15

Director: Munenori Nawa
Studio: AIC – Ore no Imouto, Amagami SS, Hourou Musuko, Sasameki Koto, Mayoi Neko Overrun, Strike Witches 2

To be clear, if anyone other then AIC was doing this series I almost certainly wouldn’t bother because the premise – high school student who writes ero novels but must hide this fact from his classmates – is very stupid sounding. However, as I mentioned earlier, AIC’s been on a streak lately, turning even a show like Ore no Imouto into something watchable, and I’m guessing there’s a decent chance they can do it again with R-15.

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Sacred Seven

Director: Yoshimitsu Ohashi
Studio: Sunrise – Tiger and Bunny, Code Geass, Gundam

I pay attention to any series that is an original production like Sacred Seven is. It’s where you find much of the very best anime (and also the worse – cough*Fractale*cough). I’m currently enjoying Tiger and Bunny and if this show can entertain on a similar level then it’s definitely worth watching.

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Bronze Tier

Kamisama no Memo-chou

Director: Katsushi Sakurabi
Studio: J.C. Staff – Hatsukoi Limited, Toradora, Potemayo, Shana, Index, Railgun, Milky Holmes

I still have a residual like of J.C. Staff based on some really great previous work but they’ve seem to sunk into a rut of late. It’s like they’re just going through the motions. For example, when was the last time J.C. Staff actually wowed anyone with their animation quality?

Kami-sama no Memo-chou is about a NEET detective girl (though wouldn’t being a detective count as employment, thereby invalidating being a NEET??) and a high school boy that’s her assistant. If there are decent mysteries to solve or they get to meet the Harlem Globetrotters then this could be a very watchable series. More then likely this’ll turn out to be just a meh series.

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The IdolM@ster

Director: Atsushi Nishigori
Studio: A-1 Pictures – Birdy the Mighty Decode, Ao no Exorcist, Occult Academy, Working!!, Sora no Woto, Kannagi

This is another case of being aware of some part of anime/manga/etc. fandom without being familiar with it. The IdolM@ster is based off a game where you manage the careers of 10 wannabe female idols. Yawn. The only redeeming feature is A-1 Pictures is animating this; so it’ll look good and theirs a chance that the content of the show will be at least entertaining.

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Itsuka Tenma no Kuro-Usagi

Director: Takashi Yamamoto
Studio: Zexcs  – Wagaya no Oinari-sama, Chrome Shelled Regios, Umi Monogatari, Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (The Legend of Legendary Heroes)

There are actually worse studios then Zexcs to see attached to the production of an anime series but the chances of that series being anything higher then just “watchable” are very, very slim. (The chances for it falling below the line of “not worth your time”, however, are very high.) I’m guessing with such a crowded summer season, it’ll be very difficult not to drop this series but I wouldn’t mind being wrong.

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Mayo Chiki

Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi
Studio: Feel  – Yosuga no Sora, kissxsis, Kanamemo, Nagasarete Airantou

At this point I feel like I’m really scrapping the bottom of the barrel but the last show I’m going to cover is Mayo Chiki. I like reverse-traps-hiding-their-genders-while-being-a-butler as much as the next person but it’s going to be tough for this show to convince me that I shouldn’t drop this after the first episode. I’m an open-minded guy; there’s always that chance. :)

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There’s my list. If I missed something that you think I’d like then, by all means, post a comment to suggest it. I still remember having Cross Game suggested to me in a comment on this blog and discovering one of my favorite shows of the year. I’d’ve never picked it up since it was technically a sport anime, a genre I don’t normally like.

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13 thoughts on “Summer 2011 Anime Preview and Watch List”

  1. I hope Hyouge Mono continues to get subbed.

    I don’t really see the new season the way you do, which is fine. I am curious about Natsume Yuujinchou-san, but every time I try it, it doesn’t really click. Maybe I should just skip the first season, and see if the plot you mention is the trick for grabbing my interest.

  2. I’m looking forward to the third season of Natsume Yuujinchou the most. I enjoyed the previous seasons very much, and I have high hopes for this one as well!
    As for Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, I hope that the story will be solid, but I do believe so, since it’s based on a manga and that usually is a good sign for a consistent plot. I’ve watched the trailer and I love the art, so no problems there :)

    I agree with you that the summer anime season seems to be very good!

  3. I do think summer’s shows look to be a cut above what we usually get during typical anime summer seasons, so to feel excited does feel a bit odd (to me anyhow). But with two Brain Base shows, a (hopefully enjoyable) slice of life in Ikoku Meiro no Croisee (with music by ko-ko-ya!), and the hopefully usual decent Noitamina lineup, I’m looking forward to it!

  4. I still have a mountain (yama) of anime in the backdrop. I don’t have the attention span or available time to watch the new stuff yet.

    Btw, mangagamer and JAST have been releasing visual novels translated into English. Were you ever planning on reading one and seeing where all the original VN ideas came in when adapted into anime?

    If you ever wanted to find out the real ending to Chaos;Head, the VN has it for sure.

  5. Funny, I thought J.C. Staff’s visuals (perhaps not animation, but art) always ranked among the most pleasing, and its falling out was merely in their repetitive, repetitive, cliché’d plots, which even KamiMemo seems to be falling into. Oh well.

  6. @Mushyrulez: It seems like J.C. Staff hit a plateau a couple years back and they no longer try to improve their animation work. It’s certainly still better then say Studio Deen or Zexcs but there are a growing number of studios doing better work then J.C. Staff.

    I just hope we’re not seeing the slow slide into bankruptcy by J.C. Staff.

  7. Baka to Test is pretty funny. I easily went through all of the episodes. There was no general story arc presented or expected by me, so I took the show as an episodic comedy. I don’t usually watch ecchi comedy, so they don’t tend to have much competition. So the good ones can always catch my interest and full attention.

    Testo is a pretty broad spectrum parody. It makes fun of a lot of different elements. The Japanese have a habit of transfering the Warring States Era to school classrooms when doing fantasy warfare. Testo isn’t the first to do it, but their approach of making a joke out of it was fresh and interesting. Testo also makes fun out of the main character in shounen series who always power up when the going gets bad. Well, Testo’s main male protagonist doesn’t power up so much as increases in baka.

    For depth, long lasting value, and intellectual rigor, one would be wise to read the visual novels. That’s just based upon an assumption that the more interesting details are always going to be left out of an anime given the brainpower required to process it. So far, the anime of the first season had an interesting premise and brought out interesting scenarios and relationships between people. I especially like the fact that they focused all the romanticism and put it between a yandere and the main character’s best friend. I thought that was a very balanced relationship mix. While the main character searches for love, the side characters can play different jokes about it. I was afraid the second season would get too boring, so didn’t watch it. I found out that it was based upon a light novel, so I began the series armored in doubt. The possibility of the plot crashing in on itself due to continuous infinite breaches of logic, however, goes up the more episodes they produce. Another reason why I didn’t immediately start season 2. And my comedy quota had burned up by then. I like a good mix of drama, comedy, life and death sadness, and science fiction wonder. Too much comedy gets boring and too light. Too much sadness gets too depressing. Too much science fiction and eventually one forgets about the humans vs the technology. Although that’s never actually happened in my favorite SF series. That’s why they are favorites.

    Because the episodes were enjoyable, a base of 80% or 4/5 was already warranted. Half a star was awarded due to a successful execution based upon a light novel: not something all too common, somebody must be improving. Another half star was provided given Testo’s philosophical and moral emphasis on a successful (academic) school life. They sneaked that in through a few episodes, one at the end, but I detected them. I’m also a firm believer in competition and the free market, so the fact that the successful ones get such interesting status awards… is something I both agree and disagree with. To produce such a complicated reaction out of me towards a light comedy series on eccho, deserves a worthwhile note. Arakawa was more funny, but Baka to Test was more interesting and novel. I, and my iconoclastic pref, will always prefer the strange over the orthodox. The fact that I deem Arakawa more on the normal side, just goes to show.

    One thing I cannot do is marathon comedy series or romantic comedies. Just something about it wears me out. Too much funny, is no longer interesting. I’ve found that if I watch tragic scenes or depressed characters and sad events in anime, I receive jokes a lot better.

    For the success of making a high school, Testo’s students get higher attack power for their summoned creatures. For the success of adapting a light novel so that it isn’t a train wreck in logic or plot development, Baka to Test gets a promotion to 5/5 stars.

  8. Correction: That should be “for the success of making a high score”. I also read the first volume of the light novel series. In it are hilarious “questions” and how different people in Class F answered them. A very interesting slant on a “high school comedy”.

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