This seems to happen every time, just when I’m finally feel like I’ve got used to the season’s mix of shows, a new season comes along and offers a completely different set of shows to watch.
At the start of the spring season, I was unsure if there’d be as many quality titles as the past several seasons had. As a result, I looked at the early previews of the summer season with a bit of longing because it looked like a much stronger mix of shows. Going through the spring season though, I discovered many great shows this season and now the summer season doesn’t look as strong as it did. For example, the spring’s high concept show, Production I.G.’s Eden of the East, turned out very good but will summer’s apparent high concept show, Bones’ Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, be able to match. Or will either of J.C. Staff’s two new summer shows be able to match the great characters and storytelling found in the superbly entertaining Hatsukoi Limited – the spring offering by J.C. Staff? I don’t know but I looked over the entire season’s offerings, found all those shows that I think have the potential of being good shows and will display those choices below, ranked roughly by how excited I am about the title and how likely the show will a great show.
My criteria for picking shows is the same as last time. I’m looking for which animation house is doing it, if the summary/source material sound very enticing and if one of my favorite seiyuus will be involved. This won’t turn up all the good shows of the season; Cross Game is an example from the spring season that I missed until it’s great character driven story was pointed out to me – but, using this criteria, I normally get most of the shows that are worthwhile to watch.
This first group is made up of the shows I’m really excited to see as well as being very good bets at being great. There’s a total of three shows in the first group. These are the ones I’m most looking forward to because I feel these are the surest bets of the season.
Taishou Yakyuu Musume
Director: Takashi Ikehata
Studio: J.C. Staff – Hatsukoi Limited, Toradora, Potemayo, Shana
Seiyuu: Mai Nakahara, Kanae Ito, Mamiko Noto, Kana Ueda
The trailer for this has been floating around since the wintertime and as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to see this show – call it a hunch, I think this will be a hit. It’s set in 1925 Japan and follows two high school girls as they decide to start a baseball team. The problem being is that at this time girls didn’t play baseball and they don’t even know how to play baseball or how to find enough players.
There are so many reasons to get excited about this show, I don’t know where to begin. As a lifelong sucker for historically set shows and how you can learn a bit of the history that drove the events of the time, I love the idea of watching a show set in 1925 Japan. Another plus of watching a show set in 1925 Japan is this should dramatically change the backdrop of the show which will give the show a unique feel to it. Another reason is because J.C. Staff is behind this. Which means that it’s almost an ironclad promise that the show will look pretty and be animated well. Less of a sure thing is quality of storytelling because while J.C. Staff has a history of doing really great character driven shows (Honey and Clover, Toradora, Potemayo, Hatsukoi Limited), they also have a history of very underwhelming shows (parts of Shana, Zero’s Familiar, Index). If Taishou Yakyuu Musume falls into the first category, this’ll be one of the best shows of the season; if it falls into the second category then it’ll struggle with just being worth the time spent watching it.
The one possible negative I might have had with this title was how I don’t really like sports anime but since falling for Cross Game, this is no longer a problem. For those that don’t like sports anime, I originally felt, from the trailer, that not much time will be spent on the actual game of baseball; instead, this will be a slice-of-life, character driven show about characters that happen to play baseball. Much like how Bamboo Blade was a great character driven show about characters that happened to members of the kendo club – no actual experience with the sport is needed to enjoy the show.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
Director: Masaki Tachibana
Studio: Bones – Soul Eater, Xam’d: Lost Memories, Eureka 7, Full Metal Alchemist
Seiyuu: Yumiko Kobayashi, Satomi Hanamura, Yuko Kaida
Next up is an original production by Bones called Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. The producers of this show have taken the 70% chance that Tokyo will be hit with a magnitude 7.0 earthquake within the next 30 years and have kicked it up a notch. Instead of the 7.0 earthquake, they’re going to accurately portray what happens if Tokyo is hit with an 8.0.
Before I going into why I think this will be an awesome show, I’ll mention the one caveat I have which dampens my enthusiasm a bit. For all the awesomeness that often accompanies a Bones anime only Soul Eater, out of the many shows I’ve watched of theirs, had a truly satisfying ending – the other ones have endings that feel rushed or get odd and as a result my opinion of the show is much lower then it should be.
But I think this will be an awesome show and be well worth the time. There’s only a handful of original productions in anime in a given year and that’s because it’s easier to assure that money will be made off of an adaptation then a new idea. As a result, any time an anime that happens to be an original production comes along, I become very interested since a bunch of people had to be convinced that this would be worth the money spent on it and not on a safer bet like adapting the latest 4 panel comic or light novel or manga that already has a built in audience. Another reason is that a Bones show will assuredly have only the highest animation quality and look very cinematic to boot. Then there’s the premise; there’s just something about disaster and mayhem shows that humans can’t get enough of. The story is supposed to focus on a brother and sister (Yutaka and Mirai) that get stranded on an artifical island in Tokyo’s harbor when the 8.0 earthquake strikes. I’m assuming the backbone of the show will be the pair’s attempt to get back home but I could be wrong.
I can’t envision that Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 will not be worth the time watching it; the only question I think that will need be answered is how well will Bones develop our main characters and can Bones give the show a good ending.
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo
Studio: SHAFT – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Maria+holic, Natsu no Arashi, Hidamari Sketch
Seiyuu: Hiroshi Kamiya, Chiwa Saito, Emiri Katou, Kana Hanazawa
The first of two Shaft/Shinbo shows this season (the other being the third season of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei). Our main character is Koyomi Araragi, a mostly human high school aged boy who has recovered from a brief spell of being a vampire. The title of this one, Bakemonogatari, is made up of two words that mean “monster” and “stories” so, as you might guess, the story centers around Koyomi’s adventures as he meets many different monsters.
From what I’ve read in other places, the light novels this is based off of are light-hearted and comedic but the art style and the little bits of animation we’ve seen fits better with a more serious show. So maybe as we work into the show, it’ll become more serious; that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with a straight light-hearted comedy. After watching Natsu no Arashi’s ability to be both comedic and serious, coupled with the straight comedic series Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei – I don’t think Shaft/Shinbo will have a problem doing either. I am a bit worried that Shinbo will have trouble doing two shows at once, especially since his creative vision is impossible to just phone in; Maria+holic being an example of a Shaft/Shinbo show that was by-n-large a disappointment because it felt so restrained and lacked bite.
Saying that, I still think this has a good chance of being a great series.
This next group of shows rank a bit lower in my expectations but I still think these shows have a real possibility in being good shows.
Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo
Studio: SHAFT – Maria+holic, Natsu no Arashi, Hidamari Sketch
Seiyuu: Marina Inoue, Hiroshi Kamiya, Ai Nonaka
The only reason why this title didn’t make it into the top-tier of shows is that after 2 seasons and a 3 episode OVA, I’m starting to get the feeling that there’s not much original stuff that this title can do; after all, there’s only so much you can parody and satire before you’ve run out of things to do.
If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about a high school teacher who finds many things in modern life and about humans in general to despair about and this causes suicidal tendencies in him. Surrounding him is a group of very unique students that often personify a personality quark. My favorite continues to be a girl know as Kafka who looks at any situation in an extremely positive way. So if she sees her teacher trying to hang himself, she figures that he’s just trying to stretch his spine out to grow taller and attempts to help him.
Chances are, by now, you either know if you like Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei or not. And if you do know, you also probably fall into one of the extremes (really like or really dislike) because there aren’t many people that fall in the middle with this title. For a sub watcher this is an extremely hard show to watch because of how much you have to keep track of – the subs, the visual and written comedy in the background, and the Japanese context to some of the comedy and satire. I find that it’s worth it though, since there’s nothing else like it in anime.
Spice and Wolf II
Director: Takeo Takahashi
Studio: Brains Base – Natsume Yuujin-Chou, Kamichu, Kurenai, Baccano
Seiyuu: Ami Koshimizu, Jun Fukuyama
I have a rule about not watching sequels to shows that I haven’t watched the earlier seasons too. It’s a sensible rule but one that I think I’ll have to break in this case. The problem was that I didn’t watch the first season of Spice and Wolf because it ran during a season that I didn’t have time to catch any new series and I’ve never gotten around to it. That’s all fine and I’d easily resist the temptation to watch the new season if it wasn’t for the fact that Brains Base have been put in charge of the second season. If you want a slower paced, character driven, slice-of-life tv show; they are arguably the best out there.
The story follows Lawrence, a merchant, who travels from town to town and what happens when a local god of the harvest, by the name Horo, decides she wants to travel away from a particular town and tricks Lawrence into taking her. Reading reactions from around the blogosphere, I guess there was a very amount of economics to the first season which some people liked and others disliked.
While I wished this season would have had the third season of Natsume Yuujin-chou, another slice-of-life show by Brains Base will probably be just as good. If Spice and Wolf can display the same level of awesomeness found in Natsume then this could be one of the top titles of the season.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni
Director: Chiaki Kon
Studio: Studio DEEN – Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Hetalia, Fate/stay night, Maria-sama ga Miteru
Seiyuu: Daisuke Ono, Marina Inoue, Sayaka Ohara, Yui Horie
The translated titled – “When the Seagulls Cry” sounded an awful lot like Higurashi’s title and I found out that it’s from the same people (07th Expansion) who did Higurashi. I giggled in glee because if the similarities in title means that we can expect a very similar feel to the show as what we got from Higurashi – I’ll be a very happy camper. Various circumstances prevented me from watching Higurashi past the first season but what I saw, I loved.
The story this time follows what happens when members of the rich Ushiromiya family become stranded on a secluded, private island by a typhoon and people start turning up murdered. Not overly original, certainly, but if it’s executed well then it should be a very interested watch. Once again, 07th Expansion sets the story in the past, 1986 this time. I have a feeling that they do this so they don’t have to come up with reasons why it’s impossible for the trapped people to contact civilization and escape. In this day-n-age, I highly doubt that a person could become cut off from society if they wanted to stay connected so this setting will make the show a bit more believable.
Like I said earlier, I highly enjoyed the first season of Higurashi and hope this new show can retain some of what made that show good as well as delivering an interesting murder mystery. If it does, this should be a very good show to watch. One last thing, I forgot to mention the voice cast; both Daisuke Ono and Marina Inoue are in it so that alone makes the show worth catching an episode or two of.
Director: Kenichi Kasai
Studio: J.C. Staff – Hatsukoi Limited, Toradora, Potemayo, Shana
Seiyuu: Yui Horie, Ai Takabe, Yuko Gibu, Chiemi Ishimatsu
The other new show by J.C. Staff for the season. Aoi Hana is about two first year high school girls that were childhood friends that have not seen each other for 10 years. As they work to reconnect, they’ll help each other with the problems of high school including their romance problems.
If it sounds like there could be a yuri undertone to the show, you’d be correct from what those familiar with the source material are saying. This alone will probably either get you very interested in watching this show or not interested in this show. For me, I’m not innately for or against a story like this but I think it’s probably much harder to write this type of story and make it be believable. If, however, there’s good characters in a well written story that logically advances then this could be a good title. Reading around I’ve notice someone mention that they did not think the manga was that great but then on the other hand, Fuyumaiden’s preview over at her blog Simplicity, mentions reading the manga and thinking it’s good on a legitimate level. If this is the case then this could be a very good title since the director of this has helmed other great shows in the past.
However it turns out, with J.C. Staff doing this show, it’s worth watching a couple of episodes if for no other reason that it’ll be pretty.
The third group of shows are ones that I think have a decent chance of being good shows but there’s too many variables involved to get really excited about them.
GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class
Director: Hiroaki Sakurai
Studio:AIC – Bamboo Blade, Oh! My Goddess, Asu no Yoichi, Ga:Rei – Zero –
Seiyuu: Haruka Tomatsu, Ai Tokunaga, Miyuki Sawashiro, Yui Horie, Kaori Nazuka
With the only information I could find about this title – that it’s a slice-of-life story about 5 girls in the high school art club – it’s difficult to really guess at how good it will be.
The reason why I’m even a bit interested is because AIC is doing this. In both cases of Asu no Yoichi and Ga:Rei – Zero –, they took very weak source material and created a far superior anime. I’m not saying that this show has inferior source material but only that if this is the case, there’s a good chance that the anime will still be worth watching. Another plus with AIC doing this show is in all four shows I mention above, the show was full of likeable characters and in a slice-of-life show this is important.
How this title turns out is something only time will tell but I will make sure to catch a few episodes to see.
Director: Masayuki Sakoi
Studio: Madhouse – Death Note, Kaiba, Kurozuka, Rideback
Seiyuu: Aya Endo, Eri Kitamura, Takehito Koyasu
I’m not exactly sure what an action gag manga is but that’s what Needless is being based off of. Set in a 2130 Japan that World War 3 has left ravished; the polluted areas have been walled off but people continue to live inside these dangerous areas. They develop strange powers and are known as Needless by those living in the clean areas.
This could be a very interesting show but the promotional art is really off-putting. I wouldn’t even bother except Madhouse is making this and they’ve had a pretty strong track record of late.
Director: Masahiro Ando
Studio: PA Works – True Tears
Seiyuu: Maaya Sakamoto, Miyuki Sawashiro
I recently got around to True Tears and while I wasn’t really impressed with the story, I was impressed with the animation quality. As a result, PA Works’ next work Canaan interests me a bit but not as much as it could. It’s set in contemporary Tokyo and involves a mystery that starts off with a simple kidnapping before spiraling into something more complicated and dangerous.
I’ll assuredly tune in, even if it’s just to figure out if the main character in red is a boy or girl. I might stick around if the mystery is interesting and the show remains intelligent. However, this set-up reminds me of Chaos;Head so I can’t help but worry that the ending will be done poorly as well.
The fourth group of shows are the real wild cards of the season. There might be a winner in this group but these titles will probably just struggle to become watchable.
Cobra the Animation
Director: Osamu Dezaki
Studio: Madhouse – Death Note, Kaiba, Kurozuka, Rideback
Seiyuu: Nachi Nozawa, Yoshiko Sakakibara
Having never even heard of the original show, I’d have almost no interest in this ifMadhouse wasn’t doing it but they are. It’s about a space pirate named Cobra and features curvy women and treasure and space adventures. I’d hate to dismiss it because it’s an old series so instead, I’ll watch a few episodes.
Director: Junichi Sato
Studio: Zexcs – Wagaya no Oinari-sama, Chrome Shelled Regios
Seiyuu: Yui Horie, Kana Asumi, Minako Kotobuki
This title has to win some sort of award for most interesting source materialbecause it’s based on a popular range of Japanese pachinko gambling machines.
I don’t normally watch magic girl shows as this appears to be what the title will be but I’m mighty curious to see how the anime turns out. It would probably be at least watchable if Zexcs could do a good job with the animation but I’m still waiting for it to happen.
Sora no Manimani
Director: Shinji Takamatsu
Studio: Studio Comet – School Rumble, Suzuka
Seiyuu: Yui Horie, Kana Asumi, Minako Kotobuki
If the studio doing this was one that I knew and liked or if the promo art was a little better, I might be more interested in this. From what I gather the story is about a two childhood friends that get reunited in high school after a time apart but this time it’s a boy and girl and the girl runs the school’s astronomy club. Slice-of-life, romance comedy ensues.
Not terribly original but it it’s done right, it could be a good show and I do like astronomy a bit but Studio Comet has pretty big shoes to fill in the area of drawing the night sky if they want to impress.
Director: Shigehito Takayanagi
Studio: Feel – Nagasarete Airantou
Seiyuu: Rie Kugimiya, Aya Endo, Aki Toyosaki, Eri Kitamura, Kaoru, Ryou Hirohashi, Yui Horie
The final title on the list is Kanamemo. The reason it’s here is because it has a pretty good voice cast. It’s supposed about a female middle school student that has to live at a newspaper delivery office because all of her relatives have died. It doesn’t particularly grab me but the voice cast does make at worthwhile to at least a couple of episodes to see.
If you can call 3500 words short, then this has been a short look at the upcoming season. Two titles I didn’t mention yet but will be airing this season is Hetalia Season 2 and Haruhi. Hetalia has slowly become a very funny show to watch but I didn’t mention it because this second season will start right as the first season is ending so it feels more like a continuation then a new season. As for Haruhi, who knows exactly how many new episodes of Haruhi will air in the future; I can’t believe Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody was the only new episode but without a clear indication of what’s in store for the show – I won’t give it’s own listing.