Summer has been a good one, especially by summer standards, and Fall looks pretty decent going in. There are an inordinate number of sequels, but many of them are from series I like – so I’m somewhat ambivalent about that. In principle I always prefer new series to sequels, but I can’t complain when a show I love gets another season.
As usual, I only preview the series that interest me going in – and as usual, a couple I don’t preview will likely end up surprising me and being keepers. If I preview it, you can assume I’ll watch the first few eps and fo a “First Impressions”, and may blog it if time allows and I like it enough. I only count 29 shows total (though I’m sure I’m missing a few) which is a very light count by Fall standards – considerably less than Summer, in fact. By the simple law of averages less series means less good series, theoretically, so Fall might be a little lighter for bloggable show than Summer was. There are also only two multi-cour series carrying over from the Summer for me, which is a decline from last season. Does that mean I’ll be blogging less shows? Too early to say, but it might not be a bad thing for me if it did…
Without further ado, Fall 2011:
Guilty Crown – Production I.G.
Director: Tetsurou Araki Preview:
Without question, this NoitaminA series is one of the most anticipated of the Fall season. It’s been a while since I.G. has done a big, sci-fi epic and since NoitaminA has done a two-cour series. Tetsurou is a big name, having done the good (Death Note) and the bad (HSotD). Though I’m not wowed by the director or premise this is a definite blog for me, unless it shockingly disappoints.
UN-GO - BONES
Director: Mizushima Seiji Preview:
NoitaminA and BONES, so another default blog for me. Mizushima in a veteran of BONES (FMA) and beyond (Oh! Edo Rocket) and has proved he can do brilliant work with the right material. Based on the novels of Ango Sakaguchi, this is an interesting near-future mystery series with eye-catching character designs from Pako and Kouga Yun. Scripter Aikawa Shou is also a rock-solid veteran. My early bet is that this will be the better series than Guilty Crown.
Hunter X Hunter 2011 – MADHOUSE
Director: Koujina Hiroshi
A reboot of one of the most popular shounen titles ever, based on a long-running Jump manga and 1999 TV series. I didn’t watch the original but my recent experience with Hikaru no Go has taught me not to dismiss well-regarded shounen chestnuts. The cast and staff are new (doesn’t concern me) and there are early indications from MADHOUSE that this is going to be a more “family-friendly” version (concerns me very much). I don’t like sanitized material on principle, but I’ll certainly watch. Koujina’s track record is surprisingly sparse for a 48 year-old, so not much to go on there. If nothing else, it’s nice to see MADHOUSE doing something besides mediocre American comic book adaptations.
Chihayafuru – MADHOUSE
Director: Asaka Morio Preview:
Based on a josei manga by Suetsugu Yuki, this one looks like a potential sleeper. Seems like an interesting coming-of-age story, which also follows an old Japanese game called Hyakunin Ishhu. This seems to be the season of veteran directors, and Asaka has done some interesting work – Chobits, Rozen Maiden, NANA, and CCS among others. I like the character designs and art as well.
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon – Sunrise
Director: Ono Manabu Preview:
Yet another sprawling sci-fi epic from Sunrise. The plot is complex and even convoluted – population flees a devastated Earth and starts over from 10,000 BC on another planet, eventually forced to return to an Earth where they’re not necessarily welcome. It’s definitely Sunrise – it looks “fabulous” and a bit tiresome and self-important. I’ll give it a chance but my instincts are this might not be my cup of tea. Nothing too exciting in director Ono’s dossier. Big name cast (Fukuyama Jun, Morinaga Rika, etc.).
Persona 4 – the Animation – AIC A.S.T.A.
Director: Seiji Kishi Preview:
I don’t quite get the fascination with the Persona franchise, which is a powerhouse spreading across many mediums, incarnations, and years. I tried the Persona 3 anime and just couldn’t get through it. But I’ll give it a chance on the assumption that I’m missing something, and the fact that I quite like director Seiji’s work – he’s hitting it out of the park with Kamisama Dolls this season.
Shinryaku? Ika Musume – Diomedea
Director: Yamamoto Yasutaka Preview:
Yay – Ika is back, ~degeso! The original series was an absolute charmer, coming out of nowhere to be one of the best series of 2010. Very silly, constantly inventive and often quite touching, last year’s adaptation of Anbe Masahiro’s manga was a complete win. The only concern is the change to Yamamoto, a real unknown, as director, but I’m reassured that Mizushima Tsutomu returns as Chief Director to oversee the second season. I fully expected this sequel, as this was one of the surprise hits of 2010 and probably Diomedea’s biggest success ever, but it’s still nice to see it come to pass. One of my top picks for Fall.
Maken-Ki – AIC
Director: Ohata Koichi Preview:
Based on a romance manga by Takeda Hiromitsu. No cast announced yet, this looks like a pretty standard premise – boy enrolls at elite magic/combat school, harem (with all requisite character tropes) forms around him. It might be a throwaway, but character designer Yuuki Nobuteru (Wings of Honneamise, X, Escaflowne, etc.)is a true industry legend and series writer Kuroda Yosuke has done some good work.
Kimi to Boku – J.C. Staff
Director: Kanbe Mamoru Preview:
Based on a manga by Hotta Kiichi. Just on principle I’m rooting hard for this one – after a cavalcade of increasingly banal and derivative “four girls” school life shows, we finally get one about four guys. Already announced for two split-cours, with the second run of 13 episodes to air in Spring 2012. I’m hoping this works, because really good series about teenaged males that avoid the normal clichés and deal with the real issues about boys and adolescence and speak from the male perspective are rare indeed. A strong cast features actual young males Irinu Miyu and Kouki Uchiyama. Not much to go on with Kanbe as director, and it’s J.C. Staff – always a worry. Why isn’t this Brains Base or A-1, dammit?
Mashiro-Iro Symphony – Manglobe
Director: Suganuma Eiji Preview:
Director Eiji (Kodomo no Jikan) brings us an adaptation of Palette’s adult romance game. Boy becomes one of the first male students at an all girls school? Been there, done that. Nothing exciting here in the cast or crew or premise, really, but Manglobe can be interesting and I’ll give this an ep or two to capture my interest.
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam – GONZO
Director: Chigira Kouchi Preview:
I absolutely loved Last Exile – it was one of the series that cemented me a hard-core anime addict. So why do I feel strangely ambivalent and uneasy about this sequel? GONZO has been through the ringer, for starters, and after nearly folding they haven’t done much of note. I’m disappointed that they’ve succumbed to the flavor of the week and switched to what appears to be an almost entirely female, moe-driven cast. But at least we have impressive continuity behind the scenes, and a very strong seiyuu cast. Let’s say I’m extremely hopeful but a little uneasy – I don’t want to see one of my dearest anime loves tarnished by an unwise updating.
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – Sunrise
Director: Sato Junichi Preview:
Sunrise again, this time with a quirky premise about a high-school freshman nicknamed “Phi Brain” for being a genius at solving puzzles. Two cours (25 eps), there’s clearly a supernatural element involving an underground “unsolvable” puzzle and a mysterious GPS of some sort. Director Sato is yet another heavyweight with a huge résumé, including Aria. Writer Mayori Sekijima has mostly done adaptations, so no clues there. Slight sleeper vibes from me.
Bakuman Season 2 – J.C. Staff
Director: Kasai Kenichi
Pretty straightforward – the return of Bakuman after a six-month break, with the same cast and director. If you liked the first season – and I did – you should like this one. While some complained about the pacing and animation, I thought this was one of J.C. Staff’s better adaptations and I really enjoyed the nuts and bolts look at the manga industry, and the fairly deep emotional study of the characters. Rumors abound that Shounen Jump is planning an adaptation of one of the fictional manga from the series, to be chosen by fan vote.
Boku Wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – AIC Build
Director: Saito Hisahi Preview:
For many this represents their most anticipated series of the Fall. Character designer Buriki (Denpa Onna) is justifiably praised for his gorgeous creations, and they look spectacular here. I don’t know Hirasaka Yami’s LN series, but it seems to be quite well-liked. Director Saito’s major work is the sometimes hilarious but uneven Sora no Otoshimono adaptations, but series writer Urahata Tatsuhiko (Monster, NANA, Aria) has a very solid track record. Big-name cast includes KanaHana. Half-Japanese/half-British blonde delinquent boy transfers into a new HS, scares people, then forms a club for kids with no friends? I’m in.
Shakugan no Shana III (Final) – J.C. Staff
Director: Watanabe Takashi Preview:
Same cast, same director, same studio. I’ll watch, but “Shana” hasn’t done all that much for me since the first season, and even that was closer to very good than great. My worry is that Shana’s arch-typical Kugimiya Rie tsundere has burned me out for this series, but I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. You’ll watch anyway, so don’t mind me.
C3 – CubexCursedxCurious – Silver Link
Director: Oonuma Shin Preview:
I tend to like Oonuma Shin’s work better than his mentor, Shinbo’s. When he has strong material he can be great, as witness the first season of Baka-Test. Based on a LN series by Minase Hazuki, the premise involves a HS boy named Yachi who receives a mysterious black cube from his father, traveling overseas, out of which pops a naked girl. Ooookay. Where it gets interesting is that character designer Sasorigatame is a noted hentai artist (including lolicon and shotacon) and the LNs supposedly include tons of graphic violence and gore. Series writer Michiko Yokote can be great – Shinryaku Ika Musume, Oofuri, Hare Guu, Rurouni Kenshin. This screams out a show that will either be great or a disaster to me, and I’m way too curious (heh) not to watch.
Ben-To - David Productions
Director: Itagaki Shin Preview:
I have a little Japanese market by my house that marks all their bentos and sushi/sashimi half-off every day at somewhere between 6:10 and 6:20 PM. I’ve been there and it reminds me of the running of the bulls at Pamplona, or a feeding frenzy by Piranhas – so a show about the “supermarket survival battle for half-priced bento” is a winner in my book. David Productions haven’t done much, but what they’ve done has been very interesting.
Mirai Nikki – Asread
Director: Hosoda Naoto Preview:
I wasn’t blown away by the short OVA from this same team that basically acted as a teaser for a possible anime, but I’m still pumped for this one. This is absolutely a terrific manga by Sakae Esuno – scary, hilarious, fearless, tense and wonderfully paced. Director Hosoda has only been the boss on the controversial second season of Minami-ke – “Okawari”, but writer Katsuhiko Takayama has done some terrific adaptations like Natsu no Arashi and Soredemo (as well as shotacon porn, oddly). I desperately want this to live up to the manga, and unlike the last adaptation I felt that way about – Deadman Wonderland – this one is confirmed two cours, so should be able to get the job done.
WORKING’!! – A-1 Pictures
Director: Ootsuki Atsushi Preview:
I adored the first season of this almost as much as Shinryaku Ika Musume, so this is a definite no-brainer follow for me. Slight worry is a change in director, and with Kanokon being the big name in Ootsuki’s résumé that’s a legit worry. Series writer has changed too, and all of this is a bit baffling considering how successful S1 was. I loved the zany, frequently hilarious profile of young adults in menial jobs – it was stunningly accurate in many ways. Of course, the one flaw in S1 was overly focusing on the least likeable character, Inami, and playing up the romance angle at the expense of the other characters and storylines from the manga – so maybe that will actually be better this time around.
Fate/Zero – UFOTABLE
Director: Ei Aoki Preview:
EDIT: OK, I know I left some popular choices out because they just aren't my thing. But this is Urobuchi Gen, directed by the director of Hourou Musuko, and has 800 posts on AS so I guess I can't ignore it. Some people hated the first series and some loved it, but I know nothing about F/SN or Type Moon and I don't have time to study. Do I need to know all that before I watch this? Someone convince me why I need to follow this show!
Will Definitely Blog: Mirai Nikki, Last Exile, Shinryaku? Ika Musume, WORKING’!!, UN-GO, Guilty Crown, Bakuman
A relatively busy quarter on the OVA front. In addition to shorts for many series such as Ikoku Meiro and Baka Test, we get full-length Higurashi (two - may they be better than the last one), Hakuouki (two OVAs), Yozakura Quartet (an excellent OVA so far), and Infinite Stratos among others.
On the theatrical side, we have a fairly slow Fall. New Prince of Tennis, Mardock Scramble and Suite Precure don’t set the pulse quickening for me. The most exciting release looks to be Brains Base’s Hotarubi no Mori e (trailer), from the writer (Yuki Midorikawa) and director (Takahiro Omori) of Natsume Yuujinchou. It centers around a young girl who gets lost in a mystical forest, and the magical boy who appears before her. Looks like classic Midorikawa – heartwarming, sad, and lovely to look at – and Omori is one of the best in the business.