I think I can, I think I can. After a few misfires, for the first time since the Summer 2011 season, I’m finally back with a seasonal anime preview. 🙂 The purpose of this post has always been twofold. The first is for those reading this so that they might watch a series that might not otherwise. The second is for me because when I don’t make this post I always feel a little lost when the new season comes and I haven’t made any decisions on what to watch and what to definitely not watch.
The Fall season was a very strong season and many of these most excellent anime series are continuing into the Winter season so even if there was nothing new that will be good, there’s still plenty to watch; but, there’s going to be at least a few new hits. Read on to see my picks.
Below are my picks for the Winter 2013 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.
The final item of business before moving to the Winter preview/watch list is to mention the anime series that are continuing into this season that are worth a renewed look.
- Hunter x Hunter – after starting slow, this shounen title got really good but with a new story arc how this season plays out remains to be seen
- Uchuu Kyoudai – I’m excited to see the antics of astronaut-in-training Mutta
- Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – The pacing for this feels like a one season series so I’m curious to see what this slightly uneven, overall decent anime has up it’s sleeve for it’s second half
- Shinsekai Yori – The first half was really awesome but I think we’re just now getting to the meat of the story and if that doesn’t disappoint then this series will be an early contender for best anime of 2013.
- Psycho-Pass – Another anime that I think is just starting to get to core of it’s story, I think Gen Urobuchi will confirm his place amongst the top creative big-wigs of anime if this ends as strongly as I think it will.
- Robotics;Notes – This anime keeps dropping clues that, when it’s ready to get serious about the overarching plot, it could be as good as Steins;Gate but the first half was a bit of slog because the characters just aren’t as interesting as those in Steins;Gate.
- Zetsuen no Tempest – The story on this one also feels like it’s a one season anime so I hope there’s somewhere to go with the second half of this pretty good anime.
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – David Production keeps finding these weird anime series that fit their weird, vaguely ugly animation style but, as much fun as this has been, I wonder how they’ll handle the continued oneups-menship component to the story.
- Magi – I wish these shounen series could just start good and not need some time to get through their introduction part before getting good; it’s only been in the last couple of episodes that it feels like we’re actually getting somewhere with the story – I’m hoping the second half continues to get better.
Chihayafuru Season 2
Director: Morio Asaka
Studio: Madhouse – Death Note, Kaiba, Kurozuka, Rideback, Kobato, Rainbow, Tatami Galaxy, Btooom!
The first season of Chihayafuru will be finishing near the top of my best anime of 2012 list because it did a few simple things correctly – create interesting and fantastic characters, allow these characters to organically drive the story, make the story about all the characters and not just a couple main ones, avoid the pitfalls of relying on a set of genre clichés, make it look good, get a great vocal cast, and make the sport of Karuta interesting. The only problem I see is that I’m going to have to see this end again and not know if I’ll see a season 3.
AKB0048 Next Stage
Director: Shouji Kawamori
Studio: Satelight – Noein, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Aquarion Evol, ½ of Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, AKB0048, Mouretsu Pirates
Origin: Anime Original inspired by idol group
The first season of AKB0048 will finish near the top, probably just behind Chihayafuyu, of my best anime of 2012 list because it took an absurd premise and courageously went all-out with it. It probably helped that I didn’t expect much from this series and was pleasantly surprised when it did good. The first season left enough questions that need answers like – just what is Sensei-sensei and what happens to the idols that disappear – that there should be plenty of surprises to make this another great series of AKB0048.
As an aside, the pickings this season are kinda thin so, to those readers who haven’t watched either Chihayafuru or AKB0048, I really recommend giving the first season of these a shot before the winter season starts. There’s still plenty time to get caught up on what most likely will be the best new series of the season.
Director: Akiyuki Shinbou
Studio: SHAFT – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Maria+holic, Hidamari Sketch, Bakemonogatari, Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Origin: Light Novel
Yeah new material from Shaft. If Nisemonogatari taught us anything, it’s that Shaft/Shinbou can make pretty much everything watchable. So even when the premise sounds a bit meh like with Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – hikikomori girl has a brother who tends to her needs like doing her laundry and making her meals and she uses technological means to spy on her brother and his love life with a trio of sisters he knows from school – it’s basically guaranteed to be at least watchable. I do like the apparent change in style this series will be using, at least that means the people at Shaft are still willing to experiment.
Director: Naoko Yamada
Studio: Kyoto Animation – Hyouka, K-On!, Chuunibyou, Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nichijou
Origin: Anime Original
This marks the fourth consecutive season that Kyoto Animation will be airing an anime series and each of the three series that aired during this run had a different director. I’m hoping this increased output is continued in the future because maybe then finally we’ll get more Full Metal Panic and Haruhi. Before then, we have the latest work from the director of K-On! – Tamako Market. Apparently this will be a more laid-back story centered around a high school girl whose parents run a mochi shop in the local business district. I love when anime uses a local small business as a backdrop because it seems so quaintly old-fashioned when compared to the mega-stores I’m used to seeing. I’m a little leery about this; though, while it can be argued that Chuunibyou was about 70% original material, Kyoto Animation has yet to make a good anime original series. I hope they do it but it won’t be easy. If it was as easy to make this type of series as some would condescendingly suggest, every studio from J.C. Staff to Gonzo would be doing it and seeing similar sales figures.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT
Director: Toru Kitohata
Studio: AIC Build – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Ore no Imouto, Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
Origin: Light Novel
I wanted to really like the first season of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai and it did have many things going for it like an excellent vocal cast, very nice character designs coupled with good animation, a storyline about a group of people that never had friends coming together to become friends with each other, and a few interesting characters. However, the story suffered from intrusions caused by fan-service (nothing inheritantly wrong with fan-service but it should either tie into the story or, at least, not interfere with it) and there was a couple really annoying characters. Now that there’s been a director change to the guy that did Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate and a writer change to the original creator, a chance exists for the second season to outdo the first season.
Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi
Studio: Feel – Dakara Boku wa H ga Dekinai, Mayo Chiki, Yosuga no Sora, kissxsis, Kanamemo, Nagasarete Airantou
After a second and third season that I try really hard to forget ever existed, I don’t hold out much hope that this season of Minami-ke will be a worthy successor to the first season, especially since Feel is the animation studio doing it this time. The sole hope I see is that the director is the guy that directed the only good season of Hayate – the very first one – and is currently making the stupidly long named Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne! funny enough to be somewhat actually watchable. If they mess another season of Minami-ke up I think I need to go over there and knock some sense into these people; properly handled, Minami-ke would be widely considered the funniest anime franchise ever at this point.
Yama no Susume
Director: Yuusuke Yamamoto
Studio: 8-Bit – Infinite Stratos, Busou Shinki
About two girls who are friends and into mountain climbing until one of the girls develops acrophobia, Yama no Susume will focus on the efforts of the one friend in getting the acrophobic friend back mountain climbing to fulfill a promise to see a sunrise at the top of a certain mountain together. The story has potential; if the mountain climbing aspect is made interesting and the characters fleshed out beyond cardboard cliché. What pushes this up to the silver level is the director has previously directed B Gata H Kei, NHK ni Youkoso, and assisted on Aquarion Evol.
Director: Masahiko Ohta
Studio: AIC Classic – Ebiten
Origin: 4-koma Manga
Oh look, the director of the first season of Minami-ke and the reason why I’m looking forward to this. Since the first season of Minami-ke Masahiko Ohta has directed Mitsudomoe and YuruYuri; two series that I think had problems with their source material and both never got better then being sporadically funny. How funny Koutora-san ends up being will probably also depend on the quality of the source material. It sounds like it could be good – the main character can read minds and joins the ESP club at her new school.
Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman
Director: Ogura Hirofumi
Studio: TMS Entertainment – Zetman, Kamisama Hajimemashita, Lupin the Third:Fujiko
Origin: Pachinko Game
Monkey Punch apparently likes the idea of thieves because after creating Lupin the Third he was tapped to work on a pachinko game that this anime is based on and it features a phantom thief that lived in a historical time period. For the anime they’re shifted the time period to the Bakumatsu which if I remember my anime is during the Kenshin-the-Manslayer time period. I think there’s a good chance this will be watchable and probably the best chance of any in this low-tier of turning out great, assuming an high enough animation budget, because the published artwork seems enticing and it shouldn’t that hard to string together a few interesting heists for our thief to do.
Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited
Director: Shishou Igarashi
Studio: Manglobe – Sacred Blacksmith, Samurai Champloo, Hayate the Combat Butler 3, The World God Only Knows
After finishing the first season of Hayate, Synergy SP animated a 52 episode anime called Zettai Karen Children. It had potential but ended up being pretty average and I don’t remember actually finishing it. Fast forward several years and a spin-off has been made centering on the villain from the original series and is supposedly more dark and edgier (neither of which characterized Zettai Karen Children at all). I’d be more looking forward to this if Manglobe wasn’t the one animating since their last great work was Samurai Champloo.
Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru
Director: Kanta Kamei
Studio: A-1 Pictures – Occult Academy, Tsuritama, Uchuu Kyoudai (Space Bros), Working, Ao no Exorcist, Kannagi, Birdy the Mighty Decode
Origin: Light Novel
This season’s long named anime is not about a brother/sister relationship but the more traditional love triangle between a boy, his childhood friend, and the newcomer. Hardily a unique premise but I’m betting on the studio and director that this will be at least a bit better then it would seem on paper. The anime character designs looking better then the original light novel is always a good sign.
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Director: Takeo Takahashi
Studio: ARMS – Queen’s Blade, Ikkitousen, Elfen Lied, Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls
Origin: Light Novel/Manga
Take a director that has done one good work – Spice and Wolf – along with tons of junk, mix in a studio that also produces a fair amount of junk themselves, season with a story that sounds a bit similar to Spice and Wolf and bake at 350 degrees for 2 and a half minutes to leave just enough time to watch the nicely animated trailer. The result is a muddled mess that might turn out good or completely inedible; only time will tell.
Director: Yoshimitsu Ohashi
Studio: Brains Base – Kamichu, Baccano, Durarara, Spice &Wolf 2, Kuragehime, Dororon Enma-kun Meramera, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Ixion Saga: DT
Origin: Otome Visual Novel
I’m probably making a big mistake thinking this has even a remote chance of being watchable because even though it’s from Brains Base that’s no sort of guarantee when they were the ones who made Akikan. The director inspires no confidence when the last work from Yoshimitsu Ohashi is Sacred Seven. This will probably turn out just being a better animated Studio Deen-style pretty boy anime.
Also don’t forget that the next chapter of -monogatari franchise (Nekomonogatari: Kuro) from Shaft/Shinbou is coming out on December 31st.