New year new anime! Let's check out some of the shows we're most excited for in this first season.
Violet Evergarden (Light Novel)
Kyoto Animation’s epic anthology drama series about Violet Evergarden, a young girl and former soldier turned “Auto Memories Doll”, a helper who turns people’s thoughts into words. Through her work, Violet discovers the stories and emotions of many different people, and through them, learns more about herself and her past.
Marc’s take: Easily one of the most anticipated anime of 2018, the first episode of this show was screened several times at western conventions in 2017, creating a lot of buzz. It looks as if KyoAni could be breaking new ground in the world of 2D animation yet again, as some of the cuts from the first episode have made it into the world through PVs and other methods and they look positively mind-blowing. Under the watchful eye of director Taichi Ishidate, who’s worked on just about every KyoAni show since Haruhi in some capacity, I have no doubt that Violet Evergarden will meet and surpass everyone’s incredibly high expectations. Unfortunately, if you live in the United States, you’ll have to suffer Netflix’s repugnant lack of simulcasting and wait several months to watch this legally...but I’m not here to tell you what to do.
A Place Further than the UniverseYorimo (original)
An anime original by MADHOUSE, “A Place Further than the Universe” is about cute girls doing an amazing thing - namely taking a research trip to Antarctica!
Patrick’s Take: Anime original: check. A well respected studio and staff: check. Incredible cast: check. Wild-ass plot that only anime is silly enough to try to tackle: absolutely check. I was excited for this one just based on the striking visuals I knew director Ishizuka Atsuko (Hanayamata, NGNL) would be bringing. Now that I’ve seen the first episode I have no doubt that the strength of the plot and characters will be more than enough to keep me excited to watch the rest.
Devilman Crybaby (manga reimagining)
Akira Fudo, a meek high school boy, learns from his best friend Ryo Asuka that an ancient race of demons has returned to take back the world from humans. Ryo convinces Akira to become possessed by a demon himself, eventually leading Akira to be inhabited by the baddest demon of them all: Amon. With Amon’s powers and his soul still intact, Akira becomes Devilman: a supernatural warrior carrying the best traits of both demon and human.
Marc’s take: This is technically not part of the Winter 2018 simulcasting season, but it was released in full right when the season started so I’m counting it. Devilman Crybaby is one of the first of Netflix’s entirely original and exclusive anime series, released simultaneously worldwide and in several different languages. Animated by Science SARU (Lu Over the Wall; The Night is Short, Walk on Girl) and directed by the ever-stylish and weird Masaki Yuasa (Ping Pong: The Animation, the previously mentioned two films), this show is a loving and entirely messed-up homage to the hyperviolence and over-sexuality of 1980s anime horror movies and OVAs. Having already watched 5 episodes as of my writing this, I can’t speak to how accurate of an adaptation of Go Nagai’s original concept it is, but I can say this: it is fucking awesome. Go watch it, all of it, right now.
Laid-back CampYuru Camp (manga)
Hoping to be as laid back as its title suggest, Yuru Camp is about five high school girls who forge a friendship through hiking and camping near Mount Fuji.
Patrick’s Take: If I had to pick a word for this season’s crop of anime it’d be comfy, and Yuru Camp is leading the charge. While I haven’t been camping for some time, the muted pace and warmth that radiated from the first episode had me pretty much ready to pack my bags. It looks like this one will be more on the side of a classical Cute Girls Doing Cute Things style than shows with a plot like Yorimo, and I welcome it.
Overlord II (light novel)
The second season of Mahouse’s isekai pseudo-MMO fantasy anime.
Marc’s take: If you know anything about our podcast or YouTube channel, you’ll know that I am not that hot on isekai anime and doubly not hot on fantasy anime. That being said, I absolutely loved the first season of Overlord and am very happy to see that the same staff are returning to continue the story in season 2. The show has a bit of an interesting premise too, as it expands upon basic isekai tropes to show a world that once was a very rote virtual MMO that has transformed into a fully-fledged fantasy world that is very real for the main character Ains, a former player who must now play the role of his character if he wants to survive. The first season featured some very good use of CGI, as well as a stellar voice cast that I’m sure will only expand in the second season. Definitely catch up if you haven’t already, because Overlord is assuredly worth the watch.
Record of Grancrest WarGrancrest Senki (novel and rpg)
Studio A-1s latest fantasy series, Grancrest is a long awaited spiritual sequel to the famed Lodoss War series. Set in a world of magic and feudalism, it follows a young knight and his pledged mage (or is it the other way around?) as they grow their strength and compete with neighbors for dominance.
Patrick’s Take: It’s no secret that I’m a huge sucker for fantasy anime and this one comes with one hell of a pedigree. Record of Lodoss War is one of the most successful fantasy series of all time in Japan, and while I’ve experienced that anime I’m excited to see how Grancrest spins it in a new way for a new audience. No expense has been spared with the staff (is that the director of Rakugo?! Oh yes it is) or cast, and we’re getting a full two cour experience so strap me in and stuff it down my gullet. Also, Siluca is hot, in a lot of ways. Good ways.
Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of the Commandments Nanatsu no Taizai: Imashimi no Fukkatsu (manga)
The second season of A-1 Pictures’ shonen fantasy superhero show.
Marc’s take: One of the first victims of Netflix’s no-simulcasting policy in the United States, the first season of Seven Deadly Sins was about as good as raw superhero battle shonen can be but seemed to slip under basically everyone’s radar when it aired. Thankfully it seems like people have watched it and enjoyed it, but if you’re reading this and haven’t done so yet, I’d highly advise you to if you enjoy shows like My Hero Academia and Black Clover. The same staff are returning for the second season, and from what little I’ve skimmed forward in the manga, we’re in for a hell of a ride. In addition, the show’s massive star-studded voice cast, stellar battle animation and Hiroyuki Sawano soundtrack are the cherries on top of a colorful and ever-exciting package.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Arc (manga)
Kinomoto Sakura is back, 20 years later, to let a whole new generation know that everything will be daijoubu.
Patrick’s Take: The original is literally, no exaggeration, my favorite anime series of all time. The amount of love I hold for it knows no bounds. That having been said, I have to enter a revival, even if it is a sequel, with a certain amount of trepidation. One of the things the publishers said when asked “why come back, why now?” was that they never expected the original to stay so popular and so close to the hearts of its fans twenty years later - and that they want to bring Sakura and the gang to a new generation of people who need it. I can’t think of a better reason, and knowing that that is their goal makes me a whole lot less worried. The first episode was a perfect mix of a new look with callbacks to the original and teleported me right back into the world, I hope they keep it up!
Yuzu is a fashionable gyaru who is surprised to find that her new school is an ultra-conservative all-girls school, and that the school’s stuffy school council president is her new adoptive sister. Her imagined sweet high school romance now just a fantasy, she’ll learn that the hatred she feels for her new sister and attraction are more similar than she thinks.
Marc’s take: This manga is one of the more popular yuri manga of the past few years, and its associated anime adaptation has been a long time coming. Luckily, the fine folks over at studio Passione seem to be set up to give the source material the competent and colorful adaptation it rightfully deserves. Most exciting will be director Takeo Takahashi, director of the always warm and fuzzy Spice & Wolf series. Having seen the first episode I can tell you to expect a little more comedy and trash than you might be expecting, but given what I’ve already seen I’m confident that a passionate and compelling romance will play out. At the very least it’s nice to finally see a well-regarded yuri manga adapted for once.
Mitsuboshi Colors (manga)
Three young girls form a (wannabe) sentai group to protect their neighborhood from the forces of evil and corruption.
Patrick’s Take: I don’t think I’ve seen a show with this brand of humor since Ichigo Mashimaro! I’m excited for some good cute wholesome fun in Mitsuboshi colors, with some good slapstick comedy thrown in by director Kawamura Tomoyuki (Binbougami), and with Silver Link being the studio we don’t have to worry about crazy drops in animation quality halfway through either.
Darling in the Frankxx (original)
In the distant future, the Earth is ruined and humanity is confined to a mobile fort city called Plantation. Inside the city, there exists a segregated area called the “birdcage”, where children are raised to pilot giant robots called Frankxx. Their mission is to fight mysterious giant life-forms called Kyouryuu, and in this dystopian world, falling behind and not piloting a Frankxx might as well be the same as not existing. A boy called Hiro is resigned to this fate until he meets the girl that will change his life forever, called “Zero Two”.
Marc’s take: This is easily this season’s most anticipated show for me and probably at least one of them for Patrick. Darling in the Frankxx is a collaborative project between A-1 Pictures and Studio Trigger and boy oh boy is the staff absolutely stacked.On the A-1 Pictures side we have Gurren Lagann and Idolm@ster character designer Atsushi Nishigori in his first directorial position, and veteran Gainax animator Masayoshi Tanaka on character design and animation direction. On the Trigger side we have Diebuster and Star Driver mecha designer Shigeto Koyama on mecha design and Panty & Stocking/Kill la Kill director Hiroyuki Imaishi supervising action direction, which I am especially excited about because that is by far his specialty. Darlifra seems to be combining the strengths of A-1 and Trigger in the best way to create something the likes of which we probably have not seen since the Gainax glory days, and I could not be more excited for it.
The Ryuo's Work is Never Done!Ryuuou no Oshigoto (light novel)
The youngest Ryuo shogi tournament winner of all time (16 years old) is in the middle of a slump when a young girl (9 years old) shows up at his doorstep to become his disciple.
Patrick’s Take: This is almost guaranteed to be one of the most divisive series this season. It’s a light novel adaptation with a lot of loli characters, something pretty well frowned upon in the west - but at the same time it’s won the “This Light Novel is Amazing” award for the last two years, putting it in company with Haruhi Suzumiya, Spice and Wolf, SAO, the Index series, and many other well regarded (and not so well regarded) series. Personally, I’m looking forward to it… but I have a high tolerance for ~anime bullshit~. The character designs are attractive and it promises overpowered board game idiocy in the same vein as the Saki series so count me in.
After the Rain Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (manga)
17-year-old high school student Akira Tachibana is a girl who barely expresses herself. She harbors a secret crush on Masami Kondō, the 45-year-old manager of the family restaurant she works at part-time.
Marc’s take: I didn’t know anything about this show going into the preview, but the PV, studio and staff have left me pretty interested. Space Brothers director Ayumu Watanabe is directing at the always-quality WIT Studio (Attack on Titan, Ancient Magus Bride), and despite the voice cast filled with younger seiyuu and less recognizable names, the opening theme by Chico with Honeyworks and ending theme by Aimer will surely lend the show a bit of flair. The designs looks stylish and colorful, so at the very least we can look forward to the show being well put-together, as WIT Studio has climbed out of the rut of their early days to form a reputation as a consistent and visually pleasing studio. Color me interested.
Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san (manga)
Takagi-san is really really good at teasing Nishikata. And making it cute.
Patrick’s Take: This is one of my favorite currently running manga, and I’m excited to see it turned into an anime! It’s nice to see the two of them edge closer and closer to being an actual couple but still relentlessly trying to one-up each other every step of the way. My only worry is the episode length - most chapters of the manga are one-off jokes and the show has a full 20 minute runtime, although this may be alleviated by the Ashita wa Douyoubi crew bringing in the rear.
Junji ito Collection (manga)
An adaptation of several short stories from legendary horror mangaka Junji Ito.
Marc’s take: I’m always excited about Junji Ito’s work being adapted in a (somewhat) new medium because he’s one of my favorite all-time artists, but everything I’ve seen from the Junji Ito Collection so far has tempered my expectations quite a bit. In the director’s seat at Studio DEEN is Shinobu Tagashira, a longtime key-animator who is quite wet behind the ears in the director’s seat, having only directed the anime adaptation of Diabolik Lovers (a show that was...not great) to date. In addition, Studio DEEN isn’t exactly known for visually striking or unique productions these days, despite them animating my favorite show of the past two years (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu). This is unfortunate as “visually striking” is kind of the first thing a Junji Ito adaptation would need to do to do his work justice, and having seen the first episode (an adaptation of Souichi) I can tell you firsthand: they did not.
In the future AI finally surpasses human intelligence and with it ushers in creations beyond human understanding. One 17 year old boy meets Lacia, an artificial being created for an unknown purpose…
Patrick’s Take: I’m a bad person who’s been enjoying redjuice’s BEATLESS designs for years without ever knowing what they were for or from… guess it’s time to learn! While BEATLESS has some of my favorite anime-adjacent creators attached to it (redjuice on designs and kz on music, namely) I’m pretty worried for it as an anime. The plot seems like B-grade sci-fi and I haven’t seen anything from the anime that doesn’t remind me of Guilty Crown…. I’ll certainly give it a shot but I’m not expecting a lot.
Pop Team Epic (manga)
Two high school girls, the short and exceptionally quick to anger Popuko, and the tall and much more calm Pipimi, do insane things and swear like sailors in this absurdist comedy filled with references and meta humor.
Marc’s take: I don’t have a whole lot to say about this other than that it’s an adaptation of Bkub Okawa’s moderately popular surrealist comedy manga, and it’s kind of structured more like a clip show a la Robot Chicken than anything else (though with somewhat more original storylines). The first episode contains outright references to My Neighbor Totoro and Skyrim, and basically everything in between. You’re either gonna really like it, or really not.
Fate/EXTRA Last Encore (video game)
An anime adaptation of the PSP title Fate/EXTRA, Last Encore encompasses the virtual Holy Grail War with more masters and servants involved than ever before.
Patrick’s Take: Well the game was fun! I think at this point you’re either a fan of Fate or you’re not… so if you like Fate you’ll probably like this one. It is worth mentioning that this adaptation is being done by shaft, so it won’t be like the recent ufotable or Aniplex entries into the Fate universe. Also, Sir Francis Drake has titties. That’s important.
Sanrio Boys Sanrio Danshi (original)
A charming tale about high school boys who bond over their shared love of Sanrio characters.
Marc’s take: So this show seems like kind of a joke but apparently there’s a lot of material in it that deals with the rejection of gender expectations and fighting toxic masculinity? Which is certainly a lot more than I was expecting out of a show about bishounen who like Hello Kitty and Gudetama. If true Sanrio Boys looks good enough to round out a season already chock-full of fantastic-looking slice of life shows.
Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyou (light novel)
After a programmer finds himself teleported to a JRPG like world, he realizes he is ridiculously overpowered, able to summon meteor storms as easily as sneezing. Instead of abusing his powers, he decides to try to live a quiet life.
Patrick's Take: See, the thing about isekai is that I know it's a tired genre, I know there's nothing new about it, but I still can't help but enjoying ridiculously overpowered protagonists. As long as the world is somewhat interesting I'm sure I'll enjoy this in spite of myself.
Katana Maidens: Toji no Miko (original)
Since ancient times, shrine maidens who wield swords have been exorcising “aratama”, strange beings who threaten the human world. In modern times, these maidens are organized into a special section of the Japanese police force. The government has authorized them to carry swords in their day-to-day lives and attend one of five special schools set up nationwide in their capacity as government officials. Every year there is a tournament between schools, and each school’s representatives rigorously train themselves to win pride and glory.
Marc’s take: This is one of the shows Crunchyroll is pushing hard this winter because they’re sitting on the production committee, so you’ve probably at least heard of it. Studio Gokumi, who mostly specialize in standard moe or fanservice shows, is animating it, with first-time director Koudai Kakimoto at the helm. I’m not expecting anything special from this show, but it probably will fill a hole in a season with no other fanservice/girl-battle shows to speak of. Whether or not it’ll actually be fun to watch is, of course, yet to be seen.