Another season, another tsunami of anime to watch. Don’t worry because we’ve got your lifesaver to keep you afloat with our seasonal viewer’s guide! So after you’re done picking flowers from those spring showers come take a gander on what the season has to offer!
(List in no particular order)
One Punch Man Season 2
Studio: J.C. Staff
Director: Chikara Sakura
Main Voice Actor(s): Makoto Furukawa (Saitama), Kaito Ishikawa (Genos)
The world was worried approaching One Punch Man‘s hotly anticipated second season. A change in staff brought animation orientated consequences, but luckily they’ve been minor thus-far. So with doubts (mostly) quelled, how’s part two of Saitama’s story shaping up?
Pretty darn good actually! In these early days, all manner of newbies are joining the cast, super-douche Garou is running amok, and Saitama’s entering a fighting tournament. The same wild ideas and humor from the preceding season are back in force, and whilst production quality has dipped a bit, author One’s writing is as ‘punchy’ as ever (pun totally intended).
Where One Punch Man will go is anyone’s guess (unless you’ve read the webcomic/manga), and that’s part of the fun! Checking in with this unpredictable spectacle each week is a treat, not to mention it’s a decent starting series for those new to anime. (By Harry Morris)
Watch on Hulu
Kimetsu no Yaiba
Director: Haruo Sotozaki
Main Voice Actor(s): Natsuki Hanae (Tanjiro), Akari Kito (Nezuko), Takahiro Sakurai (Giyuu)
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba marks ufotable studio’s departure from game adaptations to instead animate a long-running Shounen Jump manga series, and they have spared no effort in making this project just as memorable as their others.
The story picks up after our protagonist’s, Tanjiro, younger sister, Nezuko, is turned into a “demon” after being attacked, a being with immense strength that survives by eating humans. Tanjiro manages to sedate and calm his sister’s hunger fueled frenzy with the help of a passing swordsman but the question remains of how/if he can return his sister to normal. And so he enrolls in the Demon Hunting Corps to search for the answers he seeks.
The setup is rather refreshing for the shounen genre. Stakes are established immediately with an sense of urgency that is omnipresent. Tanjiro isn’t your typical hot-blooded protagonist and prefers to analyze the situation to use anything at his disposal to come out on top, similar to Deku from smash-hit My Hero Academia.
This is all wrapped up in the jaw-dropping presentation that ufotable is famous for. Dynamic camera angles abound lend fight sequences a tumultuous tempo to go with the buttery smooth animation. The dream team combo of Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina elevates the score to soaring heights that emphasize the crests and lulls in the action. Tanjiro’s Water Breath sword style flows vividly like a work of art with its bright colors to contrast the subdued palette of the show overall. If you’re looking for a new shounen series to get into, this is it. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Studio: Studio Puyukai
Director: Minoru Ashina
Main Voice Actor(s): A lot.
What is this, a crossover episode?
Well, yes. Many of them, in fact.
Isekai (or “another world”) is a word that’s well known among anime and manga fans, oftentimes with some negative connotations attached to it. For good reason; there are so many isekai series out there with very few of them actually being good or even enjoyable.
Isekai Quartet, however, takes four of the most popular of these shows and puts their casts into a series where they’re forced to have a “normal school life” together. While that’s a rather basic premise, the strength of Isekai Quartet lies entirely with the fantastic characters. The titular quartet pulls from Re:Zero, Konosuba, Overlord, and The Saga of Tanya the Evil, letting the unique quirks and personalities clash and collide as everybody tries to make sense of the odd world they’ve been transported to.
As one might suspect, Isekai Quartet is really only a show for fans. That’s not to say it’s bad, far from it. The writing does a fantastic job of using a diverse set of characters and creating hilarious interactions. However, some of the impact might be lost if you’re unfamiliar with the cast, as the show wastes no time to get straight to the gags.
If you’ve seen at least two or three of the shows in Isekai Quartet, I can safely recommend it to you as a fun romp.
Really though, the best part is just seeing the Konosuba gang at their usual shenanigans. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Recommended (if you’ve seen the shows)
We Never Learn: BOKUBEN
Studio: Silver, Arvo Animation
Director: Yoshiaki Iwasaki
Main Voice Actor(s): Ryota Osaka (Nariyuki), Haruka Shiraishi (Fumino), Lynn (Mafuyu Kirisu), Miyu Tomita (Rizu), Sayumi Suzushiro (Uruka), Madoka Asahina (Asumi)
Nariyuki Yuiga is a high school student who managed to get great grades in all subjects through pure hard work and determination. Hoping to take care of his rather poor family after his father’s passing, Nariyuki strives to get a special VIP recommendation (essentially a full ride scholarship) to college. He’s right on the cusp before the principal calls him in and says it’s all but assured…on one condition. That condition is helping the two school geniuses—literature expert Fumino and math expert Mafuyu—get passing grades in their weakest subjects.
Though the premise isn’t wholly original, it’s really Bokuben’s execution that makes it such a comfy watch. The show’s generally upbeat nature is absolutely contagious, and each of the characters introduced so far are fun and likable. The girls’ motivations for wanting to learn their weakest subjects are flimsy at best, but they’re never focused on long enough to become an issue. Instead, this is primarily all about tropey situational humor and Aho-Girl levels of stupidity (especially where Uruka, a personal favorite, is concerned).
While Bokuben definitely hits the mark in regards to laughs, it undeniably misses it when it comes to animation. Character faces lack depth and detail, and the models in general consistently look washed out and too bright. Whether intentional or not, the end result is something that never quite looks as good as it deserves. That said, this is still a worthwhile watch for those looking for a good laugh and a feel-good atmosphere. (By Brent Middleton)
Fruits Basket Remake
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Director: Yoshihide Ibata
Main Voice Actor(s): Manaka Iwami (Tohru), Yuuma Ichida (Souma), Nobunaga Shimazaki (Yuki)
Nearly two decades after its original run, we have a remake of Fruits Basket that proves, much to my own relief, that it truly is a timeless classic.
For those unfamiliar with the story, we follow Tohru Honda after certain circumstances brought her to live with a rather special family. Each member of this family represents one of the twelve zodiac animals, including the left out cat, and when they are hugged by someone of the opposite gender, they turn into their respective animal for a period of time. The setup is ripe for comedy and all of the early 2000’s anime humor, from needlessly extra gestures to over-the-top “every day” fights, still holds up in the present day.
Where Fruits Basket truly shines, however, is in its ability to use its characters to connect with the viewer. Tohru is innocent, honest, and genuinely kind to a fault, unrealistically so. The characters surrounding her, however, are believably flawed in each of their own unique ways, with insecurities that are easily relatable. Through their interactions with Tohru those flaws and insecurities, which are quite possibly your own, are viewed through the eyes of someone who believes in you unconditionally, and that has an incredibly positive healing effect that is much needed in a world that is all too often dreary.
This remake captures the heart of what makes Fruits Basket such an important piece of the anime medium and amplifies it to the nth degree. If you have any interest at all, give it a shot; you may walk away with something precious. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Director: Takebumi Anzai
Main Voice Actor(s): Chisaki Morishita (Bocchi), Minami Tanaka (Nako)
Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu follows in the same vein as series like WataMote and Komi-san. It follows the titular character, Bocchi Hitori, a girl with severe social anxiety who’s only had one friend throughout elementary school. When Bocchi learns that they’ll be split up after graduation, she makes a promise to her friend: “By the time of my middle school graduation, I’ll make friends with everyone in my class.”
That’s easier said than done. Bocchi is, to put it bluntly, socially incompetent. She’s gullible, naive, and woefully bad at conversation. Before her friend-making plan completely falls apart, however, she meets the easygoing Nako, a tough-looking girl in her class who ends up being Bocchi’s biggest supporter and a close friend. With her help, Bocchi overcomes her personal anxieties and slowly finds her new circle of friends expanding.
Hitoribocchi is exactly what it says on the tin. Nothing more, nothing less. Much like every other school-based slice-of-life, the episodes are based around mundane things: going to class, walking home together, and hanging out. However, Hitoribocchi has a wonderful sense of humor and genuinely endearing characters. Much of that humor does rely on Bocchi’s awkwardness, but the fun cast of characters gives it plenty of room to play around.
If you’re looking for this season’s cute, fun, and easygoing show, look no further. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Watch on Crunchyroll
The Helpful Fox Senko-san
Studio: Doga Kobo
Director: Tomoaki Yoshida
Main Voice Actor(s): Azumi Waki (Senko-san)
You’re being worked to the bone at your company. You’re tired of working 70-80 hour weeks. You get home and you barely have the energy to heat up an instant meal. What if you had a helpful fox deity to help you out? Oh, and the deity looks like a child… but she’s 800 years old, of course.
Coming from Doga Kobo — a studio known for their esteemed moe blobs like last season’s Umaru-chan and last season’s WATATEN! — The Helpful Fox Senko-san seemed like it was just going to be more of what they do best. Much to my surprise, though, that isn’t completely the case.
This isn’t a spazz-fest of slapstick comedy but instead a very calming and healing show. It emphasizes how simple acts like eating a meal with another person or not coming back to an empty home can have such an incredible effect on those who are worn out. Kuroto is practically a walking corpse at the show’s start but seeing him gradually return to being a living human is pleasant to watch. That’s in part due to just how endearing and competent the titular Senko-san is as a caretaker, complete with her lovingly animated fox ears and tail. Meanwhile, subdued music reminiscent of lullabies accentuate the cozy atmosphere the two create. Even the usual awkwardness of a bath scene is stripped clean away, just leaving good feels in its wake
The Helpful Fox Senko-san is simply a relaxing show. Try watching it after a stressful day at work, and you’ll find yourself feeling much better. (By Matt Ponthier)
Studio: P.A. Works
Director: Kenichi Suzuki
Main Voice Actor(s): Kana Ichinose (Marlya), Tomoaki Maeno (Free)
There was quite a bit of anticipation leading up to Fairy Gone. P.A. Works is a studio famous for utilizing real-life locations to great effect in their large catalog of shows that spans numerous genres. Fairy Gone is the first series where P.A. Works is building a world up from scratch and, unfortunately, it shows.
The story takes place on an unnamed, industrial era European continent that is currently in a post-war period. The war was mainly fought with Fairy Soldiers, humans that have had a “fairy organ” transplanted into them to allow them to summon said fairy to fight. Our main duo, Marlya and Free, are two Fairy Soldiers that are part Dorothea, an organization that investigates any fairy related affairs.
The operative word to describe Fairy Gone is — vague. From the who, what and why of the war that started this all, to the specifics of how Fairy Soldiers actually fight, to the paper thin motivations of each character; all the details of this world feel half-baked. It doesn’t help that the story jumps between countries, cities, and people of interest without ever giving the viewer a chance to internalize their importance, leading to an even further disjointed world and narrative.
When Fairy Gone isn’t busy turning your head in confusion, it’s busy being aggressively boring. It doesn’t capture the imagination as P.A. Works’s other series have and it’s painfully clear that the studio isn’t used to building their own world. I applaud them for trying to branch out, it’s just a shame it didn’t work out this time. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Not Recommended
Watch on Funimation
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world.
Director: Tetsuo Hirakawa
Main Voice Actor(s): Yuu Hayashi (Takuya), Rie Kugamiya (Mio), Maaya Uchida (Kanna)
Takuya is the son of a deceased(?) researcher who was studying the possibilities of time travel and the effects thereof. One day, Takuya receives a package containing an odd relic that allows him to set “save points” in time and leap back to them at any given moment. Soon after, strange occurrences and incidents begin to happen in Takuya’s town and he uses his newfound ability to get to the bottom of them and prevent the worst case scenario.
Comparisons to the break out hit Steins;Gate will be inevitable for this kind of time travel story and in fact, YU-NO is presented in a very similar manner with a colorful cast of characters interacting in fun slice-of-life moments punctuated by heavy drama. The truth is, however, that the original YU-NO visual novel predates Steins;Gate by more than 10 years, so calling it a copycat would be unfair.
That said, the first few episodes of YU-NO are relatively slow, setting up the setting while spending maybe one too moments ogling its many needlessly lascivious female characters. More recent episodes have seen the story really come into its own, though, with stakes being raised and a palpable sense of urgency permeating throughout.
The story’s age does show at points, though, as some of the developments can come across as heavy-handed by today’s standard. Even so, the core mystery is enticing enough and the characters entertaining enough to maintain interest once the ball really gets rolling. (By Matt Ponthier)
Watch on Crunchyroll
Ao-chan Can’t Study!
Studio: Silver Link
Director: Keisuke Inoue
Main Voice Actor(s): Azumi Waki (Ao), Junta Terashima (Takumi)
The potential of Ao-chan Can’t Study! was there. It’s broken into a series of quick 12-minute episodes that center around Ao, a high school girl who has an incredibly popular erotic author for a father. Growing up reading his stories has left her with a totally skewed (and often perverted) perception of how guys think and feel. Convinced that all men are pigs, she tries her best to avoid them and focus strictly on her studies.
Enter Takumi, an athletic, popular guy who has girls fawning over him left and right. Though he has the makings of a player, it turns out that he’s only really interested in Ao. So begins a rather bland and awkward story of dealing with first loves and dating from the perspective of a girl who’s been tainted by her father’s mischievous teachings.
As far as romantic comedies go, Ao-chan is pretty by the numbers. The wrinkle of having a cartoonishly tiny and perverted father is interesting in concept, but the execution doesn’t quite hit the mark. His off the wall jokes and observations are rarely enough to make up for the show’s lackluster writing and largely one-dimensional characters. Ao-chan shines brightest during several awkward interactions between Ao and Takumi, but those brief moments of genuine fun only left me wishing that the whole show was like that.
All of that said, Ao-chan isn’t necessarily bad—it just isn’t consistently funny or engaging. And with so much of the season behind us, I doubt things are likely to make a major change. (By Brent Middleton)
Rating: Not Recommended
Watch on Crunchyroll
Director: Odahiro Watanabe
Main Voice Actor(s): Yuuma Uchida (Souichirou), Yuki Kaji (Touma), Maaya Uchida (Otomi)
With promotional material emphasizing a baseball story and a simplistic art style that isn’t necessarily the most eye-catching, Mix is destined to be overlooked by many this season, and that’s a damn shame.
We follow step-twin-brothers (that’s right) Soichiro and Toma Tachibana as they strive to reach the Japanese Koshien high school baseball tournament as their younger sister, Otomi, cheers them on; it’s a rather straightforward premise on paper. The thing is that baseball isn’t actually the primary focus of the story, at least right now. It serves more as a complement to a narrative that carries subtle tinges of themes such as familial bonds and coming to terms with loss despite the levity of the show’s tone.
Soichiro and Toma make quite the dynamic duo, both on and off the diamond. Both carry themselves in a nonchalant manner that belies a bubbling frustration towards the unfair treatment their coach gives the team, leading to some truly relatable moments. Yet the show does a good job of differentiating the twins in subtle not so subtle ways such as Soichiro being a bit of a lady’s man or Toma just being a tad bit more hot-headed. Moments when these traits are brought to the forefront lend to the believability of the pair and provide the more memorable scenes in the show. (By Matt Ponthier)
Mix is a show you watch for its heartfelt character interactions; any baseball surrounding them is just a nice bonus.
Rating: Highly Recommended
Studio: MAPPA, Lapin Track
Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara, Nobuyuki Takeuchi
Main Voice Actor(s): Kouki Uchiyama (Toi), Shun Horie (Enta), Ayumu Murase (Kazuki)
Kazuki, Enta, and Toi are all middle schoolers who live in Asakusa, a bustling city that reveres kappas as gods. Through a series of events that become wilder the more light is shed upon them, these three find themselves tasked by the city guardian kappa Keppi to become kappas themselves and defeat Kapa-zombies by grabbing the shirkodama from their anus and exposing their hidden desires. This is all the more fascinating because it’s actually steeped within real Japanese folklore about kappa.
For as incredibly unique as Sarazanmai is, though, it’s a slow burn. Its first episode is a bewildering (albeit gorgeous) explosion of color and sound with loads of kappa symbolism and idols thrown in for good measure. It’s clearly obscure and disjointed by design, but I suspect many first-time viewers will be turned away after being thrust head-first into the thick of Sarazanmai’s absolutely bizarre structure. If you can stick with it until to episode 2, however, you’re in for a real treat.
Each of the three protagonists have truly shocking secrets that get revealed every time they make a synchronized sound and perform a “sarazanmai” to defeat Kapa-zombies. These quickly become a treat to look forward to at the end of every episode; they’re seriously that interesting and vital to character development. They’re also all the more necessary considering the fact that portions of every episode recur with only slight alterations à la Code Lyoko.
If you have the patience and can stomach some super radical imagery and themes, there’s a lot to love in Sarazanmai. Just give it a couple episodes! (By Brent Middleton)
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Director: Susumu Kudou
Main Voice Actor(s): Unknown according to MAL???
One of the three baseball anime airing this season, Cinderella Nine is exactly what it looks like. Cute girls, doing cute things with that “thing” being baseball. It’s the kind of show, unlike Mix, that you can take 100% at face value.
The show does try to deviate from the trend slightly by having a protagonist, Tsubasa, that is already highly skilled at the sport and is instead pulling other newcomers in to form a team. Beyond that, though, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy to see here. Members’ reasons for joining the team can seem flimsy at best or just flat out non-existent at worst; character eyelashes have enough shading in them to make even Lady Gaga cringe; and there are girls abound with strange speech quirks and patterns.
All that said, that doesn’t make Cinderella Nine a bad show. It knows what it is and, chances are, you already know if it’s a show for you or not. If cute girls playing baseball doesn’t interest you, then move on. If you need a moeblob per season, then hey, there’s been weirder concepts than this one. It just doesn’t really push the envelope at all. (By Matt Ponthier)
Watch on Crunchyroll