Spring Season anime is in full bloom, and I’ve snuck a peak at each and every available episode to get a sense of what’s hot and what’s not so much. Not including sequels to great shows like Baby Steps, Nanoha, or Danna ga Nani, and notwithstanding the yet-unaired Ninja Slayer, which seems to be some kind of net exclusive series, I’ll be listing off the ten shows I’m most likely to watch a second or third episode of in the coming weeks, by order of how excited I am for each.
Kekkai Sensen, otherwise known as Blood Blockade Battlefront, is an adaptation of a manga by Yasuhiro Nightow, previously famous for creating the Trigun series. It sees studio Bones very much in their comfort zone, animating high-intensity action sequences with a deftness that makes them look effortless, with additional visual splendor brought by director Matsumoto Rie, in her sophomore effort after directing the 2013 buried treasure Kyousougiga.
Its colorful band of rogues have a great habit of looking and sounding like Guilty Gear characters, and emit little sparks of personality which leave me hoping to see some interesting plot and character setting emerge. At present, however, the main guy is kind of a boring sod, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be willing to wait to see him grow into a badass. If you’re down for nice-looking characters and very well-directed action sequences, without the overwrought drama of something like Owari no Seraph, then give Kekkai Sensen a watch, but if you’re tired of wimpy male leads and action isn’t a strong selling point for you, then maybe hold off on this one until a few episodes have passed and others have formed an opinion on it.
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku is a show about a cute lesbian otaku, and that’s about as much as I could figure out from watching the first episode. There’s a hyperactive mouth on this girl, and the gags come quick, but aren’t particularly funny, so unless some more interesting story developments or character growth happens in the next episode, I probably won’t be watching this one for long. Still, I like seeing a main female character who drools constantly over the pretty girls around her, in a show that actually doesn’t have much in the way of fanservice. There’s a kind of innocent, fun-loving spirit to the show, and the opening scene had hints of nicely-animated action sequences, so there might be something to this in the long run for those who find themselves enchanted with the tone and characters already. Doga Kobo has been on kind of a roll with modest but entertaining shows for the past year or so, and I could see this being one of those, but I hardly see it turning into anything I’d rush to recommend.
Plastic Memories is a quaint sci-fi melodrama with just the right balance between self-aware comedy and overwrought heartstring-pulling to keep it from being obnoxious. Once again, Doga Kobo seems to shoot for modest enjoyability, but in this case pour a noticeable amount of flourish into their animation in a way similar to how they did with Engaged to the Unidentified last year. Taking place in a world full of androids who only live for nine years, the story follows a team who collects the memories of androids right before their deaths; and faces resistance from the owners of those androids who don’t want to see them go. Our main man is partnered up with an android near the end of her lifespan, gripping with her loss of functionality as she realizes that she’s no longer capable of being the best at her job.
I can’t say this is the smartest, best-written, or most exciting show of this season, but its willing to tackle some pretty heavy themes right from the get-go, and does it while keeping up a high dose of levity and likability, so I could actually see this turning into a sleeper hit. Worth a look at least if the concept sounds interesting you, or if you think the characters are cute.
Arslan Senki is a high-concept historically-styled fantasy series, based on a manga from the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist and Silver Spoon, which is itself an adaptation of a novel series from the creator of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Pedigrees don’t get much better than that, but the first episode admittedly didn’t give me the impression that this would live up to that pedigree in a big way. It’s nice-looking and quick to get into the themes of why war is terrible, but its directing and staging felt very flat and unmemorable, and left me feeling that it would really have to stand on the weight of whether its story and characters can hold the show together. Neither grabbed me in this episode, which mostly acts as a prelude to the main story, but I’m very willing to stick it out for a while and see where this one goes. This could easily turn out to be a massive hit, or a curious mediocrity–but either way it’s worth having an eye on.
Kyoukai no Rinne is the latest manga adaptation from Rumiko Takahashi, famous for creating Inu-yasha, Ranma ½, Urusei Yatsura, and Maison Ikkoku, among other things. While I’ve found every Takahashi series to be a roller coaster of great and terrible spots, I’m willing to give another of her’s a try for as long as it can hold my attention. So far, Rinne seems to focus on light-hearted comedy with its typical shounen ghost-busting story backdrop, and the jokes have been making me laugh with modest success, so it’s doing its job. Studio Brains Base can usually be counted on to keep a show looking decent, and I dug all of the voice acting choices. If you checked out the insanity that was the first episode of Punchline, then watch Rinne afterwards and wrap your head around the fact that Marina Inoue played both main characters.
Ore Monogatari is a very old-school, traditional-feeling romantic comedy series from studio Madhouse whom, in spite of a pretty rocky track record over the past few years, are still one of the best anime studios out there. Likewise, director Morio Asaka is in my opinion among the best and most underappreciated anime directors alive, having impressed me constantly with his work on Cardcaptor Sakura, Gunslinger Girl, Chihayafuru, Galaxy Angel, Aoi Bungaku, etc. This team brings their talents to an imminently likable shoujo manga adaptation, distinguishable by its unlikely shoujo manga protagonist, in spite of feeling every bit like a typical shoujo series in its execution. If you’re into cute anime romance, then you probably can’t go wrong with this one.
Show By Rock is some sort of acid fever dream by Studio Bones that I’m still trying to fully process. Based on a rhythm game for mobile phones by Sanrio, it stars a ludicrously cute girl who’s watched way too much K-On, and gets teleported into a crazy phone world where everyone can transform into adorable CG mascot characters and fight enemies with pop music. It’s spastic, densely-packaged madness with no hint of an overarching plot as of yet, but the design work alone had me hooked by the teeth from square one. The CG sequences look incredible and were a blast to watch, and the ridiculous slapstick comedy bits in the later part of the episode had me laughing at just how bizarre they were. This one has me excited not out of the possibility that it will be great, but merely out of getting to witness where it goes from here.
Shokugeki no Souma is a manga adaptation by J.C. Staff following the tale of a kid whose cooking is so intense that it makes people orgasm. The first episode is a near frame-by-frame translation of the manga, but with ridiculously intense music and imagery to bring the orgasmic eating scenes up to a place of transcendence. There are signs that the adaptation may be overdoing it a little to kill time, and indeed the show will have a hard time staying interesting if it stays at the pace of this first episode, but it’s hard to begrudge a concept this amazing, when the music alone had me on the edge of my seat for much of it. I’ve heard great things about this manga for years now, so I’m quite excited to see where this thing goes.
Hibike! Euphonium is the latest outing from Kyoto Animation, who still somehow seem intent on raising the bar for anime visuals beyond what any other studio seems capable of. This is seriously several fathoms above what anyone else is doing this season, and the best part is that it’s got the writing to back it up. While K-On is my favorite anime series of all time, I feel I should clarify that I’ve been a fan of very few KyoAni shows, and that I haven’t liked the majority of output from this director. My favorite KyoAni shows were both directed by Yamada Naoko, who’s got the role of “series production director” on this one, which is a bit out of my depth to explain. Still, this one actually feels pretty unique from any other KyoAni show, and carries a lot of their best attributes, from the subtle character acting and writing, to the use of ultra high-detail settings. This was the only episode of new anime that I watched this season in which the writing and characters grabbed me right off the bat, and I’ll be extremely happy if the entire series can live up to any aspect of this episode’s quality.
That only leaves the best new anime of Spring 2015: Gintama. Okay, it’s actually the third season of a show with nearly three-hundred episodes, but I’ve been trying to finish season one for like six years, and at this point I’m like fuck it, I’ll just watch the new one week by week, since it’s an episodic series anyways. Gintama is far and away the funniest anime series ever made, and the new season starts off completely on-point. I don’t care if you have no idea what a Gintama is or why you should care, just give this show a watch. If nothing else, it’s already been proving for nearly a decade now that it’s the most consistently fantastic long-form television series in human history, so get on the boat while the getting is good.
That’s all folks, see the description for a list of all the shows and where to watch them, and see the comments for an explanation of what the hell you just watched.