Here we are once again, ready to dive right into another potentially exciting anime season. This may only be me, but I�ve felt that the past couple of seasons have provided anime viewers like me with plenty of solid entertainment, but very few series that I�d classify as �excellent.� Whether or not this season aims to change that is anyone�s guess, but there are several series that look promising to me from a glance.
Before I get started, here�s a refresher on the purpose at these pre-season posts. It�s my goal to divide this season�s series into high, medium, and low-priority for the purposes of review. Sequels (to series I haven�t watched), series with short run-times, series meant for children and one-shot series (OVAs and films) are lowest-priority, and will get tackled on an �as time allows� basis. Low-priority series are those which strike me as being the least interesting and potentially most offensive of the lot. Medium-priority are those for which I don�t have a very strong impression or which seem at first glance like they could be entertaining, if not groundbreaking. High-priority are series which I�ve been actively anticipating or am excited about for one reason or another.
One reminder: These are pre-judgments based on what I perceive in terms of potential. I�m willing to entertain quality arguments either way if anyone believes I�ve missed some important information about one series or another. Understand that this isn�t meant as the final word on any of these series, these are just some initial impressions based on limited research and knowledge. People are welcome to discuss this post or offer personal opinions in the comments section.
Links are directed towards My Anime List, since other information (like the ANN Encyclopedia links) will be included in the reviews proper.
On to the post!
Sequels of the unwatched, Short-form series, Shows for Children, One-shots.
As the header says, this spot is reserved for the sequels of series I haven�t watched, series with short episodes (less than ten minutes), kiddie entertainment (by which I mean series for kids that would be of little value to adults, not all series aimed at childred) and one-shot OVAs that hold little interest for me. Unless their opening episodes are fairly impressive, they will most likely all be included in one large summary post that�s updated as required. There are quite a lot of these this time around.
Koi-ken � This was mistakenly listed in some charts for Winter 2012, but since there seemed to be so little information about it, I assumed that it would be a late-comer to that season. In any case, as a cell-phone animation, it promises to be relatively short, and its subject matter (a school club about the study of romance, populated mostly with moe girls) does not strike me as being very interesting.
Shiba Inuko-san � The part of my brain that enjoys cute things is telling me that this might not be a huge waste of time, but the more logical, down-to-earth center of my gray matter has tempered that reaction by reminding me that this series has two-minute episodes. Two minutes is just about the right amount of time to pull a stupid gag and not much else. The goofy premise screams loudly of �trying too hard to be weird.�
Pabu & Mojizu � Well, this series is a great mystery to me. My cursory perusal of my normal information haunts has turned up next to nothing on the show, except that it�s 20 minutes long and for children. The animal characters have a cute Animal Crossing look to them, but that�s about all I can comment on.
Gon � Somehow Gon, a small dinosaur, managed to avoid extinction, and how he interacts with mammals and other creatures from the Paleolithic era. I could see this being sort of fun if the show focused on adventure rather than the characters just sitting around acting like goofballs, but I�m not really sure what type of atmosphere to expect from this. I�m also not that big a fan of CG animation, so it�s difficult for me to feel very enthusiastic about it.
Kimi to Boku Season 2 � I actually had somewhat positive feelings toward the first episode of this series, but I was never motivated to watch beyond the first couple of episodes. I�m mildly curious to know whether or not the character dynamics were ever explored much, or whether it was mostly just a lot of nothing about a group of boys doing random things together. I�ll be interested to see whether the beginning of the new season prods me to go back and watch more, or whether I�ll simply lose interest entirely.
Yurumates 3D � The adventures of a �ronin� (someone studying for college entrance exams after a failed first attempt) and the other veteran ronin who populate the home she shares. I�m sort of mildly intrigued by this. This property has gotten a couple of OVA adaptations already, and while I personally haven�t watched them I�ve heard some positive things about them. Of course, once again this is a gag comedy with short episodes, which doesn�t really bode that well for it being able to achieve anything beyond stupid humor.
Zumomo to Nupepe � Hey, another oddly-named series with anthropomorphic animals that doesn�t have any information available! Meaning, of course, that there�s very little likelihood that I�ll end up watching any of this.
Gakkatsu! � A five-minute comedy focused around classroom debates. Hmm. I like that this series seems to have a premise that would work well in the short-form style, and the character designs are stylized in an amusing way. This might be mildly interesting.
Ribbon-chan � Inspired by drink manufacturer Sapporo�s mascot, named Ribbon-chan (imagine that!). I�m very wary of stuff like this that�s so obviously commercial, and I�m not particularly interested in in a show that�s just going to be shilling for a product.
Kuromajo-san ga Tooru!! � A girl accidentally summons a black witch and finds that she needs to put forth extra effort to keep her from getting into trouble. With seven-minute-long episodes, this is definitely on the �longer� end of the shorts this season. I like the character designs and the premise seems sort of cute.
Recorder to Randoseru 2 � Hey look, more uncomfortable antics with siblings of mis-matched appearances! The first episode of this show creeped me out, and the illustration for this season makes me uncomfortable. This does not bode well.
Himitsu Kessha Taka no Tsume NEO � I can�t read the title aloud without thinking of Ke$ha. Another incarnation of the long-running Eagle Talon net animation, about a secret society with plans for world domination. An early-ish example of what I consider to be a plague of crummy flash-animated anime series. I�ve seen at least a couple episodes from this franchise and remember them to have been unfunny.
Jewelpet Kira Deco! � Kids and their magic pets. Like Pok�mon, only with several extra helpings of doe-eyed cuteness. Of course, along with that cuteness we also get some heaping spoon-fulls of �obviously selling toys to little kids.�
Baku Tech! Bakugan � And here�s yet another toy advertisement. Gosh there�s a lot of that this season.
Cardfight!! Vanguard: Asia Circuit Hen � It appears that the poorly-animated adventures of Sendo Aichi and his card-playing buds have continued into another year. More toys for kids, this time a collectable card game.
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle 2 � I was kind of vaguely interested in this series, but I didn�t go through the trouble of watching it. I think that my shounen sense was tingling too obviously to ignore. I heard that the first season had some rough spots, but that ultimately it turned out fairly well. I personally found myself a little bit bored by the ridiculousness of the puzzles that the main character encountered.
Saki: Achiga-hen � One scene in particular sticks out for me in the first episode of the original Saki series. One of the characters is standing outside in the rain, and the camera jumps to a shot that happens to show the area between her legs. The way the rain poured from her clothing looked a little bit too much like moisture dripping from her vagina, and I couldn�t take anything seriously after that point. I suspect that this follow-up season will maintain its predecessor�s fondness for fanservice.
Beyblade Zero G � You know a franchise is just going through the motions when most plot summaries amount to �the new Beyblade series.�
Inazuma Eleven Go 2: Chrono Stone � Time machines, alternate worlds� I thought that this show was supposed to be about kids playing soccer? It is based on a video game, I guess.
Low-priority series are those which give me the impression of being offensive or which appear to be largely rehashed or simply �not trying.� Anything that seems likely to make me angry gets tossed into this pile. First episode impressions of these series are also collected into one post that�s updated when needed.
Queen�s Blade: Rebellion � Why is this not relegated to �Sequels of Unwatched Series� you ask? Well, that�s because I actually watched both previous seasons of Queen�s Blade and so I have some idea of what�s going on in the series. I�m not proud of that fact, but there you go. My main issue with this franchise is that it�s just so darned disappointing; the story is actually fairly good and it has nice production values (I really like the soundtracks), there are lots of different kinds of interactions between female characters, and the characters all have their separate stories and goals. Then it all gets mucked-up by the fanservice overload. Since anime tends to keep pushing the envelope as far as T and A is concerned, I fully expect that this new season will outdo its predecessors in the grossness department.
Naruto SD: Rock Lee no Seishun Full-Power Ninden � So we�re at the point now where even long-running shounen anime, many of which I consider to be the pinnacle in �phoned-in� entertainment, are spawning uninsired gag comedy series. It�s always debatable whether an anime series can and should be described as unnecessary, because most of them really are. But this is just so obviously a cash-in that I feel entirely justified in giving the creators the figurative stink-eye. Seriously, just stop.
Acchi Kocchi � School romance stories are a-dime-a-dozen, but there�s something seriously wrong when several descriptions of a show come right out and describe the female lead as a tsundere. When there�s literally no better term for a character than a flat, overused moe character archetype, the likelihood of the production not being completely bankrupt of genuine character development is next to none. On a shallower note, the cutesy character designs make the characters (especially the girl), look like elementary school students.
Sengoku Collection � Because what we really needed this season, after already suffering through Samurai Girls and Battle Girls: Time Paradox, is another show about historical figures from in-and-around the Warring States period of Japanese history turned into pretty young and/or bouncy moe girls. Thank you, anime creators, for proving once again your willingness to repeatedly rip off even the most silly of bad ideas.
Upotte! � Instead of �girls with guns,� we�ve been reduced to �girls who are guns.� I guess that removes the middle-man of the equation. This type of moe-fication seems to be along the same lines as Strike Witches, which essentially turned its characters into personifications of not only notable pilots, but also notable piloted aircraft. I imagine that people who are very invested in studying and appreciating various firearms might be excited about this, but it looks to me like just another premise pasted-on as an excuse to show little girls in skimpy outfits.
Haiyore! Nyaruko-san � Well, a crappy flash anime about moe characters based on the Cthulu Mythos has now become a TV anime about the same thing. Notice how the last couple of entries on this list are variations on the �let�s see if we can inject some moe into this� theme? Right. I think it�s just highly uncreative at this point to anthropomorphize any old thing, especially frightening beasts/demigods from 1920�s literature.
AKB0048 � I read a description of this anime and could barely contain my laughter. What I expected was an idol series along the lines of Idolm@ster, what I got was some goofy sci-fi premise about an idol group putting on �guerilla performances� (of what�s most likely some of the most vapid, brainless music available) in opposition to some entertainment regulation law of the future. Oh my goodness, I can only hope that this will fall under �it�s so bad, it�s good.�
Hiiro no Kakera � If there�s something that interests me almost as little as harem anime based on dating games, it�s reverse-harem anime based on dating games. On one level, I�m usually glad when anime aimed specifically at girls and women is produced, but the subject matter and quality of most of these productions leaves a lot to be desired. Though I can�t see this becoming the type of entertainment that�s vile and exploitive (which is why it�s not bottom-tier), its obviously-pandering character designs don�t leave me with a whole lot of hope.
Ozuma � Well, it�s been a while since I�ve watched anything involving creator Leiji Matsumoto (I saw Interstella 5555 a couple of years ago, and before that it was one of the Captain Harlock series), so I�m interested in this primarily as an example of the creator�s body of work. It�s also only 6 episodes, which makes it kind of a bite-sized property, for whatever good or ill comes of that.
Saint Seiya Omega � On the one hand, I�m not all that interested in this property as a shounen series, despite watching and enjoying the first half of Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas. On the other hand, there are those stylish Yoshihiko Umakoshi character designs that might make watching the show somewhat more worthwhile (hey, I watched a good chunk of a Pretty Cure series for the same reason). Eye candy isn�t really a valid reason to recommend a series, except in very specific cases, though, so I don�t really know at this point how much to expect from it.
Zetman � My reserved amount of interest in this series stems primarily from having seen a very cool Manga Music Video (it�s like an AMV, only with manga) that used this manga as a source. Otherwise, I know very little about it other than that it has kind of a dark, violent look to it. It�s also created by the character designer of Tiger & Bunny, which is kind of a plus since I like his art style. My fear, though, is that this series will be full of whiny brooding dudes who are just so sad about having to fight all the time.
Ginga e Kickoff! � I haven�t had a lot of luck with sports anime recently, but I think that the premise of this show sounds pleasant, if not entirely compelling. The downside, as always, is that this is a sports anime starring children, which means that most of the characters will not be all that relatable to me. Still, I suspect that this might be kind of heartwarming, if not stellar.
Kore wa Zombie desu ka? of the Dead � I had some free time at one point and watched the rest of this series� first season (I think the Crunchyroll license was about to run out, and it wasn�t the type of thing that I expected to want to buy on DVD). The first season, despite at its heart being yet another harem anime, does have some moments that are better than others. I really liked the mid-season climax, which was actually a fairly intense affair and rather dark for this mostly-comedic show. I was not a big fan of the character who became the protagonist�s accidental wife, though, and I�m afraid it�s stuff like that which will become even more prominent in the second season.
Medaka Box � On one hand, this is based on a manga written by NisiOisin, and I tend to like his chatty written dialog (if not all the adaptations of his work � see Nisemonogatari). On the other hand, the titular character, a high school freshman, has a custom school uniform that features a ridiculous boob window. Guess I know who the intended audience is! Unfortunately, having Gainax on for animation production doesn�t really mean much to me at this point, since the company is essentially just a shell of its former self.
Sankarea � Well, part of me expects the very worst from a show about a boy who loves zombies who then meets a girl who�s an actual zombie. Another part of me is mildly amused by a silly premise that could be very amusing if executed in a decent manner. I suspect that the former scenario is how things are going to play out this time around, but stranger things have happened.
Natsuiro Kiseki � I had sort of a knee-jerk reaction when I learned that this series also features the voice talents of a pop group, but unlike the AKB48 anime featured above, this series appears to have a much more down-to-earth story, even if it turns out to be equally silly in the end.
Accel World � Well, the �socially-shunned teenage boy who has secret talents� aspect of the series doesn�t really endear itself to me and the fact that he gets in with the �most popular girl in school� sounds a lot like rehashed wish-fulfillment entertainment, but I�m intrigued by the promo artwork and think that the science fiction elements of the plot might have some potential to be entertaining.
Nazo no Kanojo X � This one is really up in the air for me. My mind interprets the setup alternately as both a dark, quirky romance and a series where yet another form of moe archetype is presented as desirable. Of course, there�s also the �drool factor,� which is literal; the two are connected by the male lead�s addiction to the female lead�s drool. The very thought of this is very gross to me, no matter how the show�s other bits and pieces fare. I�m not sure if it�ll be a deal-breaker for me.
Kuroko no Basuke � As with Ginga e Kickoff!!, I feel like this series might also be too focused on younger sports players for me to be really interested in it, though at least these young characters are older� younger� well, they�re not elementary school students, I�ll just say that. Slam Dunk is one of the best sports anime in my opinion, and that�s about middle school students, so I suppose it matters more how well the story is told than the age of the characters. In any case, the series� main hook revolves mostly around one player, so I�m wondering if the teamwork aspect will get pushed to the side in favor of featuring one over-powered newcomer.
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia � A creepy school, a mysterious ghostly girl� I would love this to be the spooky series that it sounds like it could be from the description. I am not a big fan of Silver Link�s other forays into animation, but I will say that their production values always seem pretty high, so the visuals could be really nice when applied to more serious subject matter. How �serious� this series turns out to be remains to be seen.
Jormungand � I saw a trailer/commercial for this show, and it looked like it could end up being kind of a fun action series about a black market arms dealer. Shady business deals, a female protagonist� I�m trying to temper my hopes here because I don�t really know the tone of the original work but I�m kind of interested at this point.
Eureka Seven Ao � I�ve had plenty of opportunities to watch the original Eureka Seven series, but I�ve never taken any of them. I�ve heard all sorts of mixed things about the series, including that it�s �Xam�d done right,� or that its pacing is �too slow.� I imagine that, judging from personal tastes, I�d probably enjoy it quite a bit, but longer series tend to be harder for me to swallow. In any case, while this is supposedly a sequel to the original, I�ve heard lots of talk that it would be difficult for that to be entirely true, at least as far as a direct sequel is concerned, so I�m hoping that I�ll be able to jump in here and maybe get inspired to check out the original.
Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan � Okay, so this looks like a pretty pointless series, and the character designs feature such mainstays as �cute nun� and �boob window,� but I�m primarily curious to see whether Production I.G. can make a show that�s at least pleasant-looking and well-animated, at least for its subject matter. I don�t expect this to show up on my top ten list or anything.
Hyouka � This sounds like it could be an interesting show about an �accidental� mystery-solving club. I won�t deny that, as with the previous entry above, my interest in this one is mostly curiosity about its technical merits. While I�m not a fan of all of Kyoto Animation�s series by a long shot, I do enjoy watching the ways in which the characters move and articulate in the shows that they animate.
Here we are, among the potential elites. As with every other category, series that appear here are subject to change, but they�re all anime I�ve been actively anticipating and which I hope will turn out to be entertaining.
Space Brothers � A near-future space-based series starring grown adults? Based on those qualities alone, I�m already excited for this. I�m hoping for some excellent character drama to come from the brothers� relationship and perhaps Mutta�s quest to do right in a life that hasn�t always been as successful as Hibito�s. Bonus: the promo artwork appears to feature a very cute Pug or Boston Terrier. Cute animals, they are my weakness.
Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna � Well, the jig is up: I�ve already gotten myself into a spat on the internet while trying to discuss this series elsewhere (I�m �belindabird� in case you weren�t clear on that). The fact remains, though, that the staff of this most recent Lupin III incarnation has got my heart all atwitter, and what I�ve seen of the show so far has me salivating for more, in spite of the fact that some of the subject matter is a little bit too gratuitously sexual for my personal tastes. The fact that the series is directed by a woman (who also directed one of my favorite series, Michiko to Hatchin) helps too.
Shirokuma Caf� � Not only does this anime feature cute animals, it�s also based on a josei manga. This is a perfect storm as far as �series that appeal directly to me� are concerned. I�m really digging the realistic look of the animal characters in all of the artwork I�ve seen so far. While I don�t really expect anything groundbreaking to come of this, I do expect that it will be delightfully satisfying to watch.
Fate/Zero Season 2 � As much as I didn�t care one iota about Fate/Stay Night, I really enjoyed the first season of this prequel series. I�ll be the first to admit that a good part of that was due to the delicious, delicious eye-candy it featured, but I also liked the serious tone and found some of the characterization really unsettling (in a good way). Now I�m invested and want to see what happens as the story continues.
Tsuritama � �A series about science-fiction fishing,� um� �directed by Nakamura Kenji� OKAY! I�m a big fan of anime-original productions, even more so when the person at the helm is someone with whom I�ve had several good experiences in the past. Even a mediocre Nakamura Kenji series is better than a lot of other stuff that�s floating around out there. The only thing that makes me worry a bit is that I feel like the Indian character might be treated as a racial stereotype (hey, you can�t blame me after watching the first ep of Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere). I hope, though, that this will turn out to be as quirky and charming as it seems.
Sakamichi no Apollon � Watanabe Shinichiro and Yoko Kanno partner once again to bring this story of jazz in the 1960�s to life. I see no way in which this could not be an awesome series. No, seriously.
Well, that took about three days longer than I expected, so you should be seeing some extended thoughts on these series soon. Feel free to talk about what you�re anticipating in the comments.