I’m going to cut back on my blogging schedule this season. I really mean it this time.
Traditionally, Spring and Fall are the most varied and deepest anime seasons in terms of quality shows. 2012 was no different – Spring was the clear #1, and Fall was the clear #2. As always there are gems to be found in every schedule, but Winter and Summer typically lag behind – with Summer especially relying on formula and fanservice to try and sell a few more Blu-rays.
Going in, Winter looks about average to me, maybe a tad worse – though I don’t know just exactly what that means. I don’t see a lot on the schedule that reeks of potential greatness, but it’s a rather good season for sequels as far as I’m concerned. We have the 4th season of one of my favorite comedies, Minami-ke, and of course the much-rejoiced over second season of one of the very best shows of 2012, Chihayafuru. We also have the second season of the very enjoyable Haganai, and the TV airing of Seitokai no Ichizon Lvl. 2 (which is a lot better than some would have you believe).
Among the new series, it seems a fairly thin crop to me in terms of potential standouts, though a couple of shows look very interesting. We also have the “Episode 11.5” OVA of Hyouka in January and some notable big screen entries for TV series, including the Hunter X Hunter: Phantom Rouge film, and the AoEx film. What’s noticeably missing are “tentpole” cinema releases from big-name studios or directors, though they tend not to be released in the first quarter as a general rule.
Finally, as to that whole, “cut back on my schedule” (I really mean it this time) thing… It’s somewhat complicated by the fact that there are many series crossing over from this season – H x H, Uchuu Kyoudai, Sakurasou, Ginga, Shin Sekai Yori, Bakuman, Little Busters, Psycho-Pass, Robotics;Notes, Shirokuma, Zetsuen no Tempest… Well, slap me – that’s a lot, isn’t it? With the sequels already locked in, at most I can see covering one or two other Winter shows – something is going to have to really knock me out to break into the schedule, and a few of the weaker animals may be culled from the Fall herd.
As always, please vote for your most anticipated series in the sidebar poll!
With that, to the previews:
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – AIC Build
Director: Kitahata Toru
Writer: Urahata Tatsuhiko
Schedule: Thursday 25:55, TBS – Premières 1/10/13
First Look: No reason to expect much change here – we’re working with mostly the same staff, and still have source material to draw from. I wasn’t completely sold on the first season, but it mostly worked for me. There were some huge laughs and Sena was one of my favorite characters of the year.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – Shaft
Director: Shinbou Akiyuki
Writer: Takayama Katsuhiko
Schedule: Thursday, 25:25, TBS Premières 1/10/13
First Look: Anytime Shinbou and SHAFT are involved, it’s news. It’s certainly a quirky sounding story – a hikikomori girl and her slave-like brother who she spies on with cameras as he stumbles through romantic entanglements with three beautiful sisters. Frankly the premise sounds pretty inane to me, but Shinbou always the potential to at least be interesting, Takayama is a reliable screenwriter and the author of the LNs also did Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, which I rather liked. I’ll certainly give it a chance.
Chihayafuru Season 2 – Madhouse Director: Asaka Morio
Writer: Kakihara Yuuko
Schedule: Friday, Time TBA, Nippon – Premières 1/11/13
First Look: Is there any question that this is my most-anticipated series of the Winter? Chihayafuru getting a second season was a case of quality winning out – and a huge bump in manga sales didn’t hurt either. You have 25 eps worth of posts to look through if you want to know why this was one of the best series of 2012, and the second season should deliver once again in terms of quality. In brief – fantastic characters, beautiful art, and a winning combination of the best elements of shoujo, shounen, seinen and josei. Chihayafuru is special – it could be agonizing (in a good way) at times, the way only a special series can. If you haven’t watched the first season I highly recommend you do, because this is the sort of series that has to be watched in context to really work.
Minami-Ke Tadaima – Feel
Director: Kawaguchi Keiichiro
Writer: Kouno Takamitsu
Schedule: Saturday, Tokyo MX, 25:00 – Premières 1/5/13
First Look: And here’s my second-most anticipated series of the season. Three seasons and two OVAs later, Minami-ke is back with yet another studio and director – it’s Feel this time, with Kawaguchi-sensei in charge. I would call his record “mixed” in terms of quality, and I don’t think M-K has ever matched the level of the first season at Daume under comedy genius Ohta Masahiko. Still, there were many fine moments in the succeeding animation – and the OVA Feel produced was quite good. I have a huge sentimental desire to see this succeed as Minami-ke is one of my favorite comedy franchises, and as always, the world needs more Mako-chan. I’ll approach this under my general guideline: hope for the best and prepare for the rest.
Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru – A-1 Pictures
Director: Kamei Kanta
Writer: Urahata Tatsuhiko
Schedule: Saturday 24:00, Tokyo MX – Premières 1/5/13
First Look: Is it just me, or are anime titles getting longer and longer?
A classic battle royale between a childhood friend and a new girl over a teen boy who who’s sworn off romance? Doesn’t seem to be an original strand of DNA in this gene anywhere, but there are some elements that make this one look interesting. Ohsaka Ryota in a starring role is a good start. A-1 Pictures hasn’t attached themselves to anything really awful, and Kanta Kamei has some impressive cred as a director after Usagi Drop. The LN author “Yuuji Yuuji” has done nothing else as far as I’m aware, so this is a bit of a blind shot for me – but for some reason this feels like it might be better than it looks.
Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – Manglobe
Director: Igarashi Shishou
Writer: Inotsume Shinichi
Schedule: Monday 24:45, Time TBA – Premières 1/05/13
First Look: I’m always keen to give Manglobe shows a chance, as they tend to do difficult and interesting work that fails commercially. As a sequel this might be somewhat safer ground for them. It’s a “spinoff” rather than a straight sequel to the story of children with tremendous powers of ESP (after Shin Sekai Yori there might be some burnout for me). I wouldn’t say the original stands as a classic but rather a worthwhile series, so I have decent expectations. Director Igarashi was not involved in the original ZKC but Inotsume was the head writer, providing some continuity.
Mondai-ji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo? – Diomedea
Director: Kusakawa Kaizou
Writer: Kimura Noboru
Schedule: Friday 25:30, Tokyo MX – Premières1/11/13
First Look: Not only does this have Oro no Kanojo beat by three letters, but it has three dashes too – so you know it has to be great. It’s another LN adaptation is a season absolutely crawling with them, and superficially this is another one that doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend it – it’s the novelist’s first work and while Kusakawa has certainly been busy, most of his work falls in a broad range from standard exploitation comedy to just plain bad. That said, though, I like the character designs, and the lead looks like the antithesis of the standard pushover male lead. Can’t make much from the premise – “problem child” Izayoi, bored with the world, gets drawn into an alternate universe to help two bishoujo fight the devil – and this another one that amounts to a shot in the dark based on a hunch it might be fairly subversive.
Cuticle Detective Inaba – Zexcs
Director: Mitsunaka Susumu
Writer: Nakamura Makoto
Schedule: Friday, 23:30, ATX – Premières 1/4/13
First Look: This is strictly a case of chasing an interesting premise for me. Half-man half-wolf artificial being who runs a detective agency with the help of a reverse-trap secretary and a teen played by Irino Miyu? I’m in – to start with, anyway. The manga is the author’s first and there’s nothing special in the staff or studio, but it just sounds like it could be a lot of fun – I like offbeat detective series, and this one reminds me just a hair of a series I always thought was underrated, Mythical Detective Loki Ragnorak.
Tamako Market – Kyoto Animation
Director: Yamada Naoko
Writer: Yoshida Reiko
Schedule: Wednesday 24:30, Tokyo MX – Premières 1/9/13
First Look: With every new series from Kyoto Animation I immediately try and assess what I call the “postage rate”. In other words, just how much of this one is KyoAni just mailing in? Superficially, this one really doesn’t look like they’re trying very hard – the premise has classic KyoAni moe for its own sake written all over it, and the character designs are the studio at their most chipmunk-cute. Still – the studio’s last two offerings have been an often-superb near masterpiece (Hyouka) and a pretty solid youth comedy (Chuunibyou) so there’s no telling what Tamako Market will bring to the table. This is an original story – a good sign – but it’s basically the K-ON team so it’s not hard to guess what sort of show it might be. It’s a story about a girl and a mochi shop and it’s KyoAni – start the printing presses and let the yen roll in.
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – ARMS
Director: Takahashi Takeo
Writer: Arakawa Naruhisa
Schedule: Friday 25:00, Tokyo MX – Premières 1/4/13
First Look: It’s fair to say this is the non-sequel I’m most looking forward to this season. This property has seen many forms already – novel, manga, etc. – and it looks something like a genuinely fascinating mix of epic fantasy and “Settlers of Catan”. A sword and sorcerer, human and demon tale with serious geekery looking at the nuts and bolts of civilization-building in a genuinely good concept, and director Takahashi-san has some decent work in his folio (Spice & Wolf seems like a good comp for this one). I wouldn’t say ARMS as a studio is necessarily a positive – it’s fair to say their biggest his is the Queen’s Blade franchise – but it’s not a deal-breaker either. There are a lot of folks saying a lot of good things about the source material, and I have high hopes. Bring on the useless meat.
Koutora-san – AIC Classic
Director: Ohta Masahiko
Writer: Aoshima Takashi
Schedule: Thursday, 26:00, CBC – Premières 1/10/12
First Look: Simply put, I’m excited to see Ohta Masahiko back working with material that might actually be funny. I’d rather he were teamed up with Minami-ke again but any comedy he’s involved with gets a long look. Kotoura-san is a mind-reader who transfers to a new school and joins the ESP Club – beyond that I don’t know much, and there are no other manga from Enokids to draw on. The staff pedigree is excellent and there’s almost no chance this won’t be at least competent, and if the manga is any good it might just be the funniest series of the season.
Amnesia – Brains Base
Director: Ohashi Yoshimitsu
Writer: Machida Toukou
Schedule: Monday, Time TBA, – Premières 1/7/13
First Look: Production I.G. is having a terrific season, but I think Brains Base is probably my favorite studio of the moment. An adaptation of a VN targeted at the female demographic, this is the story of a girl who loses her memory and a spirit boy named Orion who helps to guide her. Really, this could be anything – but it’s Brains Base and their batting average in terms of picking quality projects to adapt is as good as anybody in the industry.
Will Definitely Blog: Chihayafuru, Minami-ke, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. Looking at it that way, it really does look like a thin crop of new shows, though I’m sure one or two will jump up and surprise me. With an unusually high number or shows carrying over from Fall, a mediocre lineup of new ones isn’t all bad from my perspective, though I’m always happier with a great season than not.
We have a few trinkets in the pile here, anyway:
ToLove Ru: Darkness (OVA) – 12/19: Three more uncensored soft-porn chapters from the surprisingly charming TLR stable.
Aruvu Rezzuru (OVA) – 1/2013: The mysterious sci-fi project finally sees the light of day, in OVA form.
Hyouka : Motsubeki Monu wa (OVA) – 1/2013: The pool episode finally gets a HQ release, bundled with manga Vol. 3.
Ao no Exorcist (A-1 Pictures) – 12/28: An original story featuring the cast of the popular Shounen Jump manga. The TV had mixed results with original material, but I like the premise and cast quite a bit.
Hunter X Hunter: Phantom Rouge (Madhouse) – 1/13: A new take on Kurapika’s blood feud with the Phantom Troupe, based on a story Togashi wrote 10 years ago which was just published in SJ this month. Everything H x H Madhouse has touched has turned to gold, so I’m really looking forward to this more than any other film of the season.
We also have To Are Majutsu no Index and Star Driver films on the way, for those of you so inclined.