It’s the start of February and you know what the means. Really cold weather! If you were unfortunate enough to be somewhere in the mid-west of the United States like myself then you’ve been subjected to some particularly cold weather recently with record lows across the board. But what better excuse to wrap up by the fireplace, warm up some hot chocolate, and watch some anime? The winter season is well underway and just like last time, the GoombaStomp anime crew is here to help in all your viewing pleasures. If you’re wondering what to watch next, then look no further! (This list is in no particular order)
The Promised Neverland
Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Main Voice Actor(s): Sumirie Morohoshi (Emma), Maaya Uchida (Norman), Mariya Ise (Ray)
Tension. There aren’t too many anime that can literally leave me breathless at the edge of my seat, but the stakes The Promised Neverland sets and its impressive cinematography did so masterfully. Part of the reason this works so well is because it completely subverts viewer expectations. If this is a show you think you might be interested in, I highly recommend you go in as blind as possible.
Grace Field House is an idyllic, isolated orphanage. The kids there lead happy lives from when they’re babies until they are cut off for adoption at age 12. Everyone looks after each other, stays fit from running around outside all day after tests, and are treated to nutritious meals regularly. The only thing even slightly out of the ordinary is the numbered tattooed on their necks and the gates they’re not allowed to venture beyond under any circumstances.
Hmm…that all sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?
The Promised Neverland hits where it hurts, and quickly. The show’s twist is both abrupt and horrifying in a deeply empathetic way. That said, nothing terrible beyond the twist happens immediately; this is a breathtakingly slow burn laid out at an expert pace. Character strengths (and potential faults) for the three protagonists are established early enough to give viewers room for endless speculation as to how later events might unfold. Wisely, the anime showcases both the children’s perspective and that of their opposition in tandem, constantly keeping the viewer thirsty for more knowledge of the world beyond the orphanage’s gate. The end result is a killer of a wait each week between episodes. Don’t miss out on this one. (By Brent Middleton)
Rating: Highly Recommended.
Boogiepop and Others
Director: Shingo Natsume
Main Voice Actor(s): Aoi Yuuki (Boogiepop), Saori Oonishi (Kirima Nagi)
A remake of the original 2000 anime, Boogiepop and Others is a story about things that go bump in the night. Mysterious disappearances and strange behavior are all par for the course in the distinctly unsettling show. While all the stories revolve around the grim reaper-esque Boogiepop, each case involves its own set of characters and Boogiepop is content with leaving it to the humans to resolve their own issues if possible.
In a rather unusual move, Boogiepop and Others premiered this season with two complete episodes at once… and boy is it a good thing it did! The first episode is a whirlwind of information with names being dropped left and right, time suddenly flashing forward and backward without warning, and just general instability. Without the second episode immediately available to help bridge the gap this would have caused quite a lot of reactionary frustration.
This definitely is not a show to watch passively. After getting over the initial shock it becomes apparent there’s a method to the madness and information is presented in this disjointed manner for a reason. All the pieces of the puzzle are there but the show does you no favors in putting them together. Completing that picture, however, is one of the most satisfying feelings I have felt with the anime medium, akin to finally figuring out the solution to a tough puzzle in a game.
Boogiepop and Others certainly isn’t an anime for everyone, but those willing to give it their full, undivided attention will find they are rewarded equally in turn. (By Matt Ponthier)
MobPsycho 100 II
Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa
Main Voice Actor(s): Setuo Itou (Mob), Takahiro Sakurai (Reagan)
Explaining what Mob Psycho 100 is about is easy. Mob is a psychic middle schooler whose intense paranormal abilities are only matched by his unwillingness to abuse them. Every so often he goes on an exorcism with his boss/mentor/conman Reigen. These exorcisms generally involve strange spirits and psychic battles that unfold in silly and imaginative ways. The two – a fake psychic mentoring the most passive, most powerful tween to ever live – set the stage for all manner of silly psychic shenanigans.
Explaining what Mob Psycho 100 is about is a little harder. It’s about individuality and exploring why people are special. It’s about being true to yourself. It’s about jealousy, power, emotion, desire, and so much more. Mob Psych 100 expertly hides an exploration into the human condition in the psychic showdowns between a wallflower human and an evil plant ghost.
It’s hilarious watching Reigen trick people into believing his imaginary psychic powers, but it’s provocative watching him nonetheless be an actual mentor and decent human being all the same. It might be a laugh to watch Mob awkwardly deliver the worst speech in history, but it’s important because it demonstrates his genuine desire to improve himself and not base his entire life around his power. Mob Psycho 100 has a lot of things to say, and only some of them are jokes.
If you can get past the sloppy, crude art style, both seasons of Mob Psycho 100 are well worth the watch. It’s as inventive as it is funny, and it’s got more heart than it has any right to. (By Paul Palumbo)
Rating: Highly Recommended
The Quintessential Quintuplets
Studio: Tezuka Productions
Director: Satoshi Kuwahara
Main Voice Actor(s): Inori Minase (Itsuki), Miku Itou (Miku), Kana Hanazawa (Ichika), Ayana Taketatsu (Nino), Ayane Sakura (Yotsuba), Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Fuutarou)
How do you make a good harem series? Simple. You try to make a good show. As reductive as that might sound, the truth of the matter is that harem series, by and large are… pretty bad. The Quintessential Quintuplets, known popularly as 5-Toubun no Hanayome, is anything but. It avoids so many of the terrible tropes and story beats that make most harem series fanservice trash.
The Quintessential Quintuplets follows Fuutarou Uesugi, a responsible high schooler whose intelligence is rivaled only by his frugality. Fuutarou’s given a chance to make a hefty amount of money as a tutor, which will help support his poor family living in meager conditions. The catch: his new students are a group of idiot quintuplets that want nothing to do with him or studying. It’s up to Fuutarou to win their trust and help them pass their exams, otherwise he can say goodbye to his paycheck.
While the premise certainly sounds like a typical harem series, Quintuplets goes to great lengths to be anything but. Fuutarou’s unique brand of no-nonsense snark and genuine effort to help the five sisters improve their studies make him endearing and effective as a protagonist. Over the course of the story, he gets to know each of the girls and what makes Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba, and Itsuki different and unique from the other four.
The only caveat is that the anime adaptation is… not amazing. Its art style can get overbearingly bright and fluorescent, some of the fanservice gags get played on too long, and the animation as a whole is nothing impressive. If you get around to watching the show and enjoy it, I can’t recommend the manga highly enough. (By Kyle Rogacion)
The Rising of the Shield Hero
Studio: Kinema Citrus
Director: Takao Abo
Main Voice Actor(s): Kaito Ishikawa (Naofumi), Asami Seto (Raphtalia)
Be summoned/reincarnated into another world, be gifted some overpowered cheat weapon and/or ability, and go on to save/conquer that world where everything just sort of works out. That is the tried and true formula of the isekai genre that saturates the anime, manga, and light novel mediums and there is surprisingly little deviation from it. Enter Rising of the Shield Hero, an isekai that differs from that formula in all but the fundamentals of being summoned to another world.
Naofumi is a poor soul called upon to be one of the four legendary weapon heroes to save the Kingdom of Melromark from the Waves of Catastrophe. The catch is that he happens to be the Shield Hero and this particular “hero of legend” is one looked down upon with disdain in the kingdom as the most useless of the four.
Naofumi is taken advantage of, dragged through the mud, and left with nothing but the clothes on his back and the shield on his arm to fend for himself in a world entirely hostile to him. Watching him scrape and claw his way up to “rise” from that rock bottom state is what makes Naofumi and his story so compelling to watch. Combine that with the vibrant color palette and detailed facial expressions of Kinema Citrus and the resounding orchestrated soundtrack of Kevin Penkin, and you have an adventure primed to be a memorable one. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
Director: Hideyo Yamamoto
Main Voice Actors: Aya Suzaki (Asuka)
There’s been no shortage morose magical girl shows ever since Puella Magi Madoka Magica took the world by storm back in 2011 and Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is the next on the firing range.
The story picks up in the present day after a deadly war against other-worldly demonic teddy bears has been brought to an end thanks to the efforts of a group of magical girls given powers to defend the planet. With the war a few years behind them, some of the magical girls still serve active duty with the military but our protagonist and previous leader of the squad, Asuka, just wants to have a normal high school life. It doesn’t take a seasoned anime watcher to tell that circumstances occur that prevent her from doing so.
Asuka is a surprisingly likable character. Despite her general social clumsiness and serious demeanor due to being removed from normal society for so long, she makes genuine attempts to interact with others. Her straight-forward and often deadpan nature leads to some heartwarming and comical situations.
It’s when the show focuses on the new antagonistic force and the threat they pose when the story dips dangerously close to “trying too hard to be dark” territory. Innocent bystanders are shot in cold blood, ripped to pieces, and crushed to bits so often it becomes gratuitous. The enemy faction is so stereotypically insane that they become boring. There’s still enough intrigue with the story as to be interesting, but as it stands it could easily go one way or the other depending on how much it leans into the psychopathic tendencies of its characters. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Wait and See
Director: Kiyoshi Matsuda
Main Voice Actor(s): Sayori Hayami (Yumeko), Minami Tanaka (Mary), Tatsuya Tokutake (Ryouta)
It’s tough to mess up the structure of a show like Kakegurui. Just like how One Piece consistently ups the ante by introducing more and more powerful foes, Kakegurui thrives on presenting new gambling opportunities with increasingly high stakes. In the first season, these stakes eventually took the form of millions of yen. The prospect of seeing the heirs of Japan’s most powerful families lose it all was thrilling, and made each showdown Yumeko had with the student council exciting in its own right.
Kakegurui xx boasts the same high-intensity gambling bouts as the first season, but this time the stakes don’t feel quite as dire. Instead of forcing students to wager a lifetime of debt or riches, Kirari Momobami is stepping down as student council president and offering her seat to whoever gets the most votes. The catch? Though every student gets a vote, these votes are represented by chips, and they can all be lost or won in official gambling challenges.
The repercussions of having each of the student council members fall to Yumeko in the first season are glaring. Though a new cast of top-tier gamblers has joined the school for this competition, they’re essentially just stand-ins who conform to the show’s tried-and-true structure. Because wins feel somewhat inevitable, the real joy of Season 2 comes from the gambling itself instead of the overarching plot (though that may change later in the season). Nonetheless, Kakegurui’s signature mind games and offputting camera angles shine as brightly as they ever have. If you’ve simply been craving more thrilling gambling scenarios, Kakegurui xx won’t let you down. Just don’t expect too much reinvention. (By Brent Middleton)
You can watch Kakegurui xx when it premieres on Netflix later this year.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Director: Mamoru Hatakeyama
Main Voice Actor(s): Aoi Koga (Kaguya), Makoto Furukawa (Miyuki)
The President and Vice President of an illustrious high school’s student council have the hots for each other and are pretty convinced the feeling is mutual. But because the act of confessing love is embarrassing and a little shameful, Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane have decided to trick the other into confessing first. Thus, each episode is a new trick, trap, or trauma one is using to corner the other into revealing their feelings. This is Kaguya-sama: Love is War.
It’s not violent or action-packed like the OP and title might suggest, but don’t let that deter you. It is an absolute delight watching the mind games and mental loopity-loops Shinomiya and Shirogane employ to wrangle a confession. Shinomiya might use her wealth to plan a trip to the beach; surely her gorgeous figure will be enough to prompt Shirogane to make a move. Meanwhile, Shirogane might use his new phone to get Shinomiya asking for his number. Regardless, the council secretary Chika will probably ruin both schemes with her naivete and unbreakable enthusiasm. These plans play out as both players frantically adjust on the fly in an endlessly changing battlefield until the day’s outcome is decided. It unfolds like a game of chess, with each move making it more elaborate and more endearing to watch.
Kaguya is laser-focused on this premise; each episode is three of these plans individually taking hold. It trims all the excess from the core shenanigans. This allows it to have a surprising pace and depth in a silly episodic slice of life about a bunch of teenagers too embarrassed to have feelings. (By Paul Palumbo)
The Price of Smiles
Studio: Tatsunoko Productions
Director: Toshimasa Suzuki
Main Voice Actor(s): Yumiri Hanamori (Yuuki), Saori Hayami (Stella)
Tatsunoko Productions is an odd duck in that it is a legendary studio within Japan as one of the oldest anime producers in existence, but not so much outside of the country. The Price of Smiles serves as part of their 55th anniversary celebration and is shaping up to be yet another divisive show.
The Price of Smiles’s hook is that is that it portrays both sides of its space opera war with its double protagonists. Yuuki Soleil is the, at first, bubbly princess of the Kingdom of Soleil who is forced to accept the harsh realities of war. Stella Shining is a soldier for the Grandiga Empire who always has a somber smile no matter the situation. The story is clearly going for the “no one actually wins in war” message and hasn’t done anything to push the envelope beyond that notion yet.
Stella’s segments are the more interesting of the two as she is a genuinely enigmatic character to go along with her diverse squad. The moral conundrums presented to her as an invading force have provided the most compelling moments in the show thus far. Yuuki, on the other hand, is a by the books naive princess who wants to save everyone even when not possible and we’re still waiting for her to show some sort of growth. Her segments also suffer from weird pacing issues, with entire weeks passing in between cuts without notice.
All in all, the story has potential but will ride on how the two girls’ stories intertwine and develop as a result. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Wait and See
Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed).
Studio: MAPPA, Tezuka Productions
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Main voice Actor(s): Hiroki Suzuki (Hyakkimaru), Rio Suzuki (Dororo)
Part revenge plot, part body horror, Dororo is a thrilling story of reclaiming what was taken from you. Set in the Sengoku Jidai era of feudal Japan, Dororo follows the wandering swordsman Hyakkimaru, and his young companion Dororo.
Hyakkimaru was born grotesquely deformed, missing skin, limbs, and major internal organs. This was the result of his father, a daimyo, making a pact with a horde of demons in order to rule the world. In exchange, each of the demons took parts of his son’s body, who only lived thanks to his mother’s intervention. Years later, Hyakkimaru wanders the countryside in search of demons to slay so that he might regain his body.
Dororo has a distinctly classical feel to it, both in the aesthetic and storytelling. Adapted from the 1960s Osamu Tezuka manga, Dororo captures a sense of overwhelming dreariness and despair. The show is drenched in a sweeping watercolor visual style, with forested, hilly landscapes painted in broad strokes of brown, grey, and green.
There’s a morbid mystery to Dororo that keeps you coming back for more. The fights themselves are often quick and brutally efficient, as much of the narrative focuses on the inhuman horrors of the Sengoku Jidai era. In a world where human ambition can be bought with blood and suffering, Dororo explores what it takes to fight back. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Watch on Amazon Video (subbed).
My Roommate is a Cat
Director: Kaoru Suzuki
Main Voice Actor(s): Kensho Ono (Subaru), Haruka Yamazaki (Haru)
At first glance, it’s easy to write My Roommate is a Cat off as a silly, low stakes slice-of-life. There seems to be nothing interesting going on beyond “This person and this cat just do not get along!” But the story of Mikazuki Subaru and his battle with isolation is a lot more than it lets on.
After the death of his parents, the already introverted Subaru has almost no connection to the outside world. When he then adopts a stray cat – which he only does to break free of his writer’s block – he begins the slow process of reentering the society he left behind. Not only does the cat give him some companionship, but Subaru is also forced to interact with his fellow humans while taking care of his new pet.
Watching Subaru struggle with basic tasks is done less with pity and more with classic humor. It’s a joy to watch him get flustered with the shop clerk at the pet store or his extroverted editor. These lighter moments are balanced just enough with his regret over the loss of his parents and his still active period of grief. There’s more going on in the story than just a goofball not knowing how pets work, even though that’s plenty of the runtime. The cat’s point-of-view segments are a little strange but amusing nonetheless and help to fill out the small cast of characters.
My Roommate is a story focused on the two main characters: A man and his cat. It doesn’t have a lot of high stakes or excitement, but it’s a playful slice-of-life that isn’t afraid to explore less pleasant sides when it needs to. (By Paul Palumbo)
Director: Shouta Ibata
Main Voice Actor(s): Maaya Uchida (Rui), Yoko Hikasa (Hina), Taku Yashiro (Natsuo)
“Just now, I… lost my virginity.”
With no fanfare or corny music, this is the very first line of Domestic Girlfriend and sets the tone for the rest of the show. Our high school protagonist, Natsuo, has hesitantly agreed to have sex with a girl he had just met in order to distract himself from the romantic feelings he has for his teacher. Soon after, his father remarries and, lo’ and behold, the daughters of his now stepmom are that very same girl and teacher, Rui and Hina, respectively.
While the setup sounds like something straight out of an ecchi harem on paper, that is not the kind of story Domestic Girlfriend is trying to tell. Within the first three episodes, it has become abundantly clear that all three characters house their own distinct insecurities. Reminiscent of show’s like Scum’s Wish, the story aims to delve into the irrational, and sometimes ugly, side of love and the struggles that come along with it. There’s a morbid fascination inherent to the story as it’s made very painfully obvious that things will not end well.
All that said, the plot can be a tad too convenient for its own good. Beyond the one in a million chance of a basic setup, there are numerous other events that occur that border on deus ex machina levels of coincidental. It takes away some of the impact of the narrative since the coincidences take away from its believability. Hopefully, those instances become rarer as the plot progresses as the potential for a stellar drama is there. (By Matt Ponthier)
WATATEN!: an Angel Flew Down to Me
Studio: Doga Kobo
Director: Daisuke Hiramaki
Main Voice Actor(s): Maria Sashide (Hana), Reina Ueda (Miyako), Rika Nagae (Hinata), Akari Kito (Noa)
The popular meme that “Anime is trash” is a bit harsh, but absolutely vindicated by shows like WATATEN! Yet, for all the garbage that this loli-loving show is, I simply enjoy the ever-loving hell out of it.
WATATEN!, or Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita!, is a comedy series about Miyako Hoshino, a shy college otaku. When Hinata, Miyako’s younger sister, brings home her friend Hana, Miyako is instantly smitten. With a fifth-grader. A fact that’s persistently brought up for laughs, feels, and everything in-between. The series follows Miyako in her slice-of-life (mis)adventures with her sister and her middle school friends.
Now, hear me out. Yes, it’s absolutely shlock. Yes, it’s a bit creepy. In spite of that, WATATEN! surprised me with how funny it could be. The gags are clever, the comedic timing is superb, and the characters are pretty fun and likable. Naturally, the sticking point of “this is a show about a college student being attracted to a middle schooler” raises all kinds of eyebrows. However, if you can buy into the premise WATATEN! is actually a lot of fun.
What certainly helps the show is that the wonderful studio, Doga Kobo, is animating it. Having done shows like Gabriel Dropout and Love Lab, Doga Kobo has excelled at heightening a material’s humor through excellent visuals and comedic timing.
WATATEN! is certainly not a series I’d recommend to, well, anyone. However, if you’re like me and enjoy moeblob slice-of-life’s, then you might just find this show to be up your alley. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Recommended (on specific conditions)