Spring forward, Fall back? Not so much in 2012 – while Spring mostly lived up to its billing as one of the best anime seasons in the last five years, Fall - while a notch or two below that on paper – looks like it has a chance to be very good as well.
At the very least this coming season should be a big step up from Summer – but there’s nothing unusual about that, as Spring and Fall are traditionally the most diverse and interesting seasons for anime. Previews of the shows on my radar are below the fold: as always, please take a moment and vote for your top picks in the Fall Season Poll in the sidebar.
One encouraging element of this coming season is that it looks to be fairly balanced, on paper anyway. We have several shows that seem to have major commercial appeal and might just be good series as well – Little Busters and Magi top that list – an interesting if enigmatic NoitaminA block and a smattering of less commercial “artistic” series. There are a few original series mixed in with the adaptations, and we have some sequels for shows that actually deserve them for a change – like Jormungand, Seitokai no Ichizon and Bakuman. All of the major studios are well-represented and there should be at least one series that meets anyone’s tastes in terms of genre.
With that, to the previews:
Jormungand Season 2: Perfect Order – White Fox
Director: Motonaga Keitarou
Writer: Kuroda Yasuke
Schedule: Tuesday 25:30, TV Tokyo– Premières 10/2/12
First Look: No reason whatsoever to expect anything different here. White Fox’s adaptation of the Jormungand manga was almost note-faithful in the first season, and there are no significant staff changes for the second cour. If you enjoyed the first season you should enjoy the second, and I certainly did – I’m a big fan of the manga and I was surprised that the anime made so few concessions to try and make this quite difficult work more mainstream.
Bakuman Season 3 – JC Staff
Director: Kasai Kenichi/Akitaya Noriaki
Writer: Yoshida Reiko
Schedule: Saturday, Time TBD, NHK-E = Premières 10/6/12
First Look: JC Staff has a huge schedule this season, and one of the highlights is this third (and presumably final) season of their adaptation of the popular Shounen Jump manga. Not possessed of flashy animation and criminally underappreciated, this adaptation has consistently gotten better over the first two seasons, and has tremendous appeal both as an inside-the-beltway study of the manga industry and a universal story of youth of the power of dreams. The manga just finished its highly successful run, and while there’s probably more than enough material to go beyond 25 episodes, my feeling is that JC Staff is going to wrap up the anime with this season.
Kamisama Hajimemashita – TMS Entertainment
Director: Daichi Akitaro
Schedule: Monday, 26:05, TV Tokyo – Premières 10/2/12
First Look: Though Suzuki Julietta’s manga has been licensed for quite a while (as Kamisama Kiss) I’ve never gotten around to reading it. But Daichi Akitaro is an important director, having delivered high-quality works like Fruits Basket and Bokura ga Ita (and the delightful 3-minute series Poyopoyo) and that’s enough to get a long look from me. The premise has echoes of Fruits Basket too, with a bit of Inu x Boku – a teenaged girl left homeless when her deadbeat Dad runs out on a gambling debt ends up sheltering at a Shrine with a fox deity. Nothing about the plot or the art wows me, but I enjoy Shinto-themed shows when they’re done well, and there’s ample reason to suspect this might be a solid series.
Ixion Saga DT – Brains Base
Director: Takamatsu Shinji
Writer: Yamataya Akatsuki
Schedule: Sunday, TV Tokyo, 25:05 – Premières 10/7/12
First Look: Generally speaking I’d be lukewarm to an adaptation of a MMORPG. But I always preach “the staff is critical” – and here we have the director of Danshi Koukousei and School Rumble. As if that weren’t enough it’s also the product of Brains Base, which has produced as high a percentage of good to great anime as any studio out there in recent years. The setup itself looks pretty standard – alternate world, young hero and a Princess to rescue, swords and sorcery – but with BB and Takamatsu-san involved, plus an all-star (and one Kaji Yuuki) cast it’s definitely worth a look.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – A-1 Pictures
Director: Masunaru Kouji
Writer: Yoshino Hiroyuki
Schedule: Sunday 17:00, MBS/TBS – Première Date TBA
First Look: No question, this looks to be one of the commercial giants of the season, and one that could run for several cour. Ohtaka Shinobu’s hit manga runs in Shounen Sunday, where things tend to be a little quirkier than in SJ. A re-imagining of the “Arabian Nights” saga, I like what I’ve read – and it seems as if A-1 will pour a lot of budget in, based on the previews. Kamichu creator/director Masunari Kouji (who also directed the theatrical Welcome to the Space Show) inspires great confidence, and stalwart Sagisu Shirou is in charge of the music. Cast is still unknown (apart from their silhouettes) and we’ll just have to hope the property is good enough to survive Yoshino Hiroyuki.
Robotics;Notes – Production I.G.
Director: Nomura Kazuya
Writer: Hanada Jukki
Schedule: Thursday 24:45, Fuji TV– Premières 10/11/12
First Look: Production I.G. owns the whole NoitaminA block this season (though there’s still talk PSYCHO-PASS could officially come from their satellite studio) but that doesn’t mean quite as much as it used to, given their inconsistent track record of late. Both shows are about equally hyped, and seem to strike a good balance between commercial and artistic – I suspect P-P might end up being better, but this adaptation of a VN from the team behind Steins;Gate certainly merits interest (there’s reportedly some crossover). Kazuya’s only previous directorial effort was the meh Sengoku Basura, though he has worked in lesser capacities on some classics, and Hanada Jukki is one of the most experienced writers in the industry.
PSYCHO-PASS – Production I.G.
Writer: Urobuchi Gen
Schedule: Thursday 25:15, Fuji TV– Premières10/11/12
Preview: Preview 2:
First Look: The involvement of Urobuchi Gen with PSYCHO-PASS has been rumored for a while, but was confirmed this week. That, combined with I.G. and NoitaminA, immediately makes this one of the most eagerly anticipated series of the Fall. The premise has a bit of Philip K. Dick to it – a near-future where a person’s mental state can be spontaneously measured, with the focus on the cops tasked with keeping the peace. Kana Hanazawa and Seki Tomokazu are the leads, but apart from The Butcher’s involvement very little is known about the staff yet. It goes almost without saying that this one will be dark, psychologically brutal and full of great dialogue – what remains to be seen is whether Gen can achieve the emotional resonance that often eludes him.
Chousaku Henkei Gyrozetter – A-1 Pictures
Director: Takamatsu Shinji
Writer: Satou Dai
Schedule: TBA, TV Tokyo
First Look: So why am I previewing a show about a kids card trading game, where cars turn into robots? Simple – Takamatsu Shinji and Satou Dai. Gyrozetter tests two maxims that I frequently preach: never discount a show because it’s about kids, and always look at the staff. Takamatsu directed School Rumble and Danshi Koukousei (among others) and Satou wrote the original Eureka Seven. This may very well turn out to be kids stuff, but I’m sure as hell going to give it a chance.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – Brains Base
Director: Kaburaki Hiro
Writer: Takagi Noboru
Schedule: Monday 25:35, TV Tokyo – Premières 10/1/12
First Look: It’s a pretty good season for shoujo, but the two shows getting the most buzz seem to be Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and Sukitte Ii na yo. There are some similarities in the premise – 16 year-old girl enters into an accidental relationship with a boy – and I’d even go so far as to say there’s a bit of a rivalry between the fanbases. I haven’t read much of either manga but they both seem quite interesting, and Brains Base is as close to a reliable quality engine as any studio going. Kaburaki-san directed Kimi no Todoke, which I found quite dull, to be honest, but Takagi-san wrote the adaptations of Baccano!, Durarara and Sankarea. My sense is that this is slightly edgier than Sukitte, but that’s just a guess.
Sukitte Ii na yo – ZEXCS
Director/Writer: Satou Takuya
Schedule: Saturday 25:30, Tokyo MX – Premières 10/6/12
First Look: ZEXCS doesn’t have the cachet of Brains Base, but we do have the director of Steins;Gate and Seitokai no Ichizon steering the ship (F/SN too, but we won’t talk about that). I really have no idea how this will stack up next to Tonari (pun intended) – or if it even matters – but since both are featured in the shoujo magazine Dessert, the comparisons seem inevitable. This one seems a little more reflective and mature to me, and I’ve heard comparisons made to Bokura ga Ita, one of the best (and most infuriating) shoujo romances ever. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how both shows play out.
Little Busters! – J.C. Staff
Director: Yamakawa Yoshiki
Writer: Shimoda Michiru
Schedule: Sunday, Time TBA, Tokyo MX – Premières 10/7/12
Episodes: TBA (2 cour)
First Look: In the time I’ve been an anime fan, I can think of few series that have been as anticipated, discussed and pleaded for as Little Busters. Instead of being thrilled with the news, though, many fans chose to focus on being disappointed that J.C. Staff was chosen to adapt the KEY VN rather than Kyoto Animation. KyoAni does a remarkable job with visuals, it’s true, but J.C. Staff is unfairly derided as a second-class studio when in fact they often do very good work – and their most recent promotional video and art has been quite impressive. Whatever happens, it’s inevitable that LB will be the subject of endless argument and debate – with expectations as high as they are and the wait having been so long, this is going to make the kerfuffle surrounding SAO seem like Zen meditation. I’m not sure which is going to be more entertaining, the show or the reaction – but I go in with a clean slate, as I did with SAO (apart from my knowledge of earlier KEY adaptations). Truth be told there’s nothing that noteworthy about the staff and cast apart from a rare Horie Yui appearance as a boy, but I know J.C. Staff is going to make LB a top priority, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to do otherwise.
To LOVE-Ru Darkness – Xebec
Director: Ootsuki Atsushi
Schedule: Friday, Time TBA, Tokyo MX – Premières 10/5/12
First Look: There’s not much pretense about To LOVE-Ru, but that’s one of the things that makes it tolerable. This is about fanservice to the point that it borders on hentai, but it’s hentai with good production values and great art. I’ve always liked manga artist Yabuki Kentarou’s style, and Xebec has always done a good job bringing it to life. Once upon a time there was a halfway-interesting romantic triangle here, but I don’t think anyone’s much worried about that at this stage. Darkness shifts the focus off Rito, Haruna and Lala to side characters Momo and Yami, and new girl Mea.
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – Kyoto Animation
Director: Ishihara Tatsuya
Writer: Hanada Jukki
ScheduleWednesday 24:30, Tokyo MX - Premières 10/3/12
First Look: More than any studio, KyoAni is like a private club. They very rarely go outside their tiny circle, and Chuunibyou is no exception. Ishihara-san directed Kanon, Clannad and Haruhi, Character Designer/Animation director Ikeda Kazumi is all over the KyoAni catalogue. But you can bank that any KyoAni show is going to look great, and this one looks to be the most adventurous material they’ve tackled in a while. It’s based on Torako’s LN series about chuunibyou – “second-year middle school disease” – basically the belief that the world revolves around you, but here exaggerated comedically to the belief that one has superpowers and can save the world. The previews have been a hoot, and this looks potentially quite strange and, by KyoAni’s normal “cute girls being cute” standards, pretty risky. They’ve also gone outside the KyoAni stock cast for the four seiyuu that have been announced.
Seitokai no Ichizon 2 – AIC
Director: Imaizumi Kenichi
Writer: Yoshida Reiko
Schedule: Saturday, Time TBA, NicoNico – Premières 10/13/12
First Look: I loved the first season of SnI, and waited patiently for two years for this sequel – but there are some troubling signs. Foremost, this is being streamed on NicoNico like Ebiten rather than broadcast, which may mean only LQ raws and trouble finding a subber. We also have major changes – studio change (DEEN to AIC) new director, new writer, and two major cast changes. Still, presuming they stay close to Sekina Aoi’s source material things might be fine – because this is very funny, smart and original character and situation comedy. The cast if full of memorable characters, my favorites being “Taicho” Sakurano Kurimu and one of the best male leads in comedy, Sugisaki Ken.
Zetsuen no Tempest – BONES
Director: Andou Masahiro
Writer: Okada Mari
Schedule: Thursday 25:55, MBX – Premières 10/4/12
First Look: BONES’ entry in the Fall sweepstakes, this one features Sword of the Stranger director Andou-sensei. It’s a manga adaptation but with Okada Mari writing, all bets are off. It’s certainly an interesting premise – a teenager’s family is murdered, and he and his friend team up with a witch who’s been marooned on an island by her acolytes. There’s also a rather unusual twist in that the series is a homage to the works of Shakespeare. From what I’ve seen this is pretty violent, dark and emotionally intense – it’ll be very interesting to see how this material works in combination with a strong director and loose cannon writer.
Code:Breaker – Kinema Citrus
Director/Writer: Irie Yasuhiro
Schedule: TBA, MBX
First Look: I wasn’t familiar with Kamijyou Akimine’s manga before the anime announcement, and to be honest I wasn’t blown away by the first couple of chapters. But his Samurai Deeper Kyo is a noteworthy series, and Irie-san directed the excellent Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood adaptation for BONES, the frequent collaborator of Kinema Citrus. Solid cast includes a too-rare appearance by Miki Shinichiro.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – David Production
Director: Tsuda Naokatsu
Writer: Kobayashi Yasuko
Schedule:Friday 24:30, Fuji TV - Premières 10/5/12
First Look: Araki Hirohito’s legendary shounen manga has been the subject of many incarnations and adaptations over the decades – though never a full TV series - and makes an odd and interesting choice for a 2012 remake. The manga has a massive 106 volumes and has been running since 1987 (though is took a break in 2003 and transferred to a seinen monthly in 2004). The chronicle of the Joestar family spans the period from the 1880’s to the present, and cycles through many main characters, though it looks as if the anime will focus on original MC Jonathon Joestar and villain Dio Brando. It’s hard to know just what to expect but I’ll be watching with great curiosity – I’m a fan of David Productions’ adaptation work (they did brilliantly with another elderly shounen manga in Level E) and director Tsuda-san did quite well with the very unusual Inu X Boku SS.
Shin Sekai Yori – A-1 Pictures
Director: Ishihama Masashi
Writer: Sago Masashi
Schedule: Tuesdays, time TBA, TV Asahi - Premières 10/2/12 (webcast 9/28)
Preview: Preview 2:
First Look: It would probably be too much to call it a sleeper, but if there’s one series on this crowded schedule that isn’t getting enough attention, it’s Shin Sekai Yori. I tend to enjoy adaptations that come from novels (as opposed to LNs) which can often develop a richer world and characters without being slave to the conventions of the light-novel medium, and this looks like a really detailed and compelling fantasy/sci-fi premise. Kishi Yuusuke’s story spans two time-skips and starts when the five child protagonists are 12, so it’ll be interesting to see where A-1 chooses to focus the adaptation. I love the setting of a tranquil Eden hiding dark secrets, and young protagonists on a dangerous quest to save the world – it has “classic” written all over it. Ishihama-sensei hasn’t directed many shows, but has worked in various capacities on a striking number of classics. The previews and art are beautiful, and despite not being as big a name as some other Fall shows, I think Shin Sekai Yori has a chance to be the best show of the season.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – J.C. Staff
Director: Ishozuka Atsuka
Writer: Okada Mari
Schedule: Monday 24:30, Tokyo MX– Premières10/8/12
Episodes: TBA (2 cour)
First Look: It’s Okada Mari again, with another adaptation. This time it’s a LN series about a high-schooler forced to moved into the Sakurasou apartments after he’s kicked out of his dorm for having a cat. His new pet is a classmate who also happens to be a famous artist – and completely lacking in common sense. The concept of a fish-out-of-water guy in an apartment full of eccentrics reminds me a bit of Mahoraba, a show I liked a lot. It’s Ishizuka’s first time in charge of a series, and it’s great to see a young (30) and female director getting a chance. Really though, it’s Okada who will be the story – and based on her track record over the last two years, that makes this a crapshoot, though my gut tells me this might be the better of her Fall series.
K – GoHands
Director: Suzuki Shingo
Schedule: Thursday 26:25, MBS – Premières10/4/12
Preview: Preview 2: Preview 3:
First Look: K has been something of an odd duck since the first preview showed up months ago. A somewhat mysterious project, it inspired a lot of speculation based on the dribbles of information in the short clips – was it a fujoshi show? BL? Shounen? One thing’s been clear from the beginning – the production values in the previews have been off-the-charts great, and a quite justifiable buzz has surrounded the show as a result. Truth be told we still don’t really know much about what K is about, except that it’s full of bishounen and a couple of kawaii girls. My sense is that this show is going to be more about its sense of style than its story or characters, and I’m highly skeptical GoHands can come close to maintaining the God-tier animation and art of the PVs – but I’m certainly going to be watching with keen interest to find out.
Btooom! – Madhouse
Director: Watanabe Kotono
Writer: Kuroda Yousuke
Schedule: TBA, Tokyo MX
Preview: Preview 2:
First Look: Well – it’s Madhouse, it’s sci-fi, and it has an anime newbie as the male lead. Plus, Inoue Junya’s manga is quite dark, touching on themes like domestic sexual abuse and online gaming addiction. I’m not that crazy about the art and character designs, but I like the diversity in the cast and I sense an edge here that could separate this series from the pack. It’s also nice to see another female director get a chance to make an impression.
Will Definitely Blog: Jormungand, Bakuman, Magi, Robotics;Notes, PSYCHO-PASS, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Sukitte Ii na yo, Little Busters!, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, Seitokai no Ichizon (if it’s subbed), Zetsuen no Tempest, Shin Sekai Yori, K. Wow, seeing it written out like that, that’s a lot – and there are other shows on the “maybe” list that could be excellent. Hunter X Hunter, Ginga e Kickoff (as released), Shirokuma Café, SAO and Uchuu Kyoudai will carry over too – though that’s less carry-over than this season – and there’s Doctor Who as well. Realistically, take that “Definitely” list as written in pencil – there’s no way I’m going to be able to cover that much. That’s the curse of a good season I guess – and while I don’t see as much potential for greatness at the top here as I did with Spring, this season has a lot of depth. On the plus side, that means I can set the bar pretty high for a show to make the cut.
I don’t see this as a great OVA crop, and as usual Summer was the peak for theatrical releases. Here are the titles I’ll be keeping an eye on:
Accel World (OVA) – 9/13: Comedy-centric.
Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean (OVA) – 9/20: Also a comedy-centric OVA, featuring trap Ao dressed as his mother.
Haganai (OVA) – 9/26: Unaired Episode 13 of the TV series. We also have a second season to look forward to next year.
Inu X Boku SS (BD Bonus) – 9/26: Unaired episode of the charming series, one of the pleasant surprises of 2012. A second season seems very likely based on strong BD/DVD sales.
Amagami SS+ Onsen Special (BD Special) – 10/03: Self-explanatory, no? Lots of Haruka, please.
Minami-ke (OAD) – 10/05: Out first chance to get a look at how Feel does with Minami-ke in advance of their 2013 Winter TV adaptation. I adore this property, but it’s never been the same without Ohta Masahiko directing.
Sankarea (OAD) – 11/08: Another OAD from the best looking DEEN series in years. Second season is iffy, so pray we get a few threads resolved or else we likely never will outside the manga.
Tiger & Bunny Movie 1: The Beginning (Sunrise) – 9/22: First of a planned two-film series. More Kotestsu is always a good thing, and T & B was a successful series that seemed to lend itself to further exploration.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Movie 1/2: Hajimari no Monogatari/Eien no Monogatari (SHAFT) – 10/6,13: By contrast, Madoka Magica seemed to have wrapped itself up naturally, and this looks like a pure cash-in. The first two movies appear to be recaps for the most part, with a third film to be released next year.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Part III (XEBEC) – 10/13: Again – obviously.
009 Re:Cyborg (Production I.G.) – 10/27: I’ve never been a huge fan of Cyborg 009, but the presence of Kamiyama Kenji (Seirei no Moribito, GiTS: SAC) as writer/director and music by Kawai Kenji instantly makes this a project of great interest. Based on the PVs I’m not impressed, to be honest – but in Kamiyama I trust.
Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo (Khara) – 11/17: Anno Hideki’s reboot of the Eva franchise continues. I liked the second film a lot better than the first, and I see some subtle and interesting changes that I think are for the better (they seem to reflect Sadamoto Yoshiyuki’s manga influence). OTOH, Mari is pointless. But it’s Eva – I can’t possibly ignore it.
Nerawareta Gakuen (Sunrise) – TBA: The concept art for this one is really lovely. The story of violent school politics and psychic powers doesn’t look especially transcendent or original, but it’s worth a look.
Asura (Toei) – 9/29: Tiger & Bunny director Satou Keiichi brings us an “unremittingly dark” tale of a boy who’s mother tries to eat him during a famine in medieval Japan (really – unremittingly dark?). Could be a real sleeper – the art looks fantastic.