Spring 2011 is an interesting season for a couple of reasons. For starters, we have 46 new shows (47 if you count Moshidara, which I count as part of Winter). That represents a sizable jump from the last couple of spring seasons. Does that mean a new renaissance for the anime industry – a financial spring after a long winter of contraction and financial problems? The financial numbers don’t support that hypothesis, so I’m skeptical that it’s anything more than a blip. It does mean a wider variety of options to choose from, but I find myself looking at this season as outstanding in terms of quantity rather than quality. There are a lot of shows that merit a look, but very few that really look exciting.
It’s an interesting season for me as well. As of now my plan is to be in Japan from 3/30-4/11, so while the blog should see a lot of first-hand reports from the trip, it’s going to make it a bit challenging to log first impressions (and series reviews from the winter shows) on a timely basis. I’ll just have to wing it – and due to the other odd factor about this premiere season, that could be unpredictable. With so many winter shows delayed by anywhere from a few days to week due to the tragedy in Japan, it’s still a crapshoot when many of these new shows will actually premiere. Like I said, I’ll wing it…
With that, here’s a quick look at the new season. I’m not going to do a comprehensive run-down of all 46 shows – there’s plenty of excellent wiki out there if you want to check that out. I’ll limit this to the shows I’m likely to review or at least watch, though there are always a series or two that sneak onto that list out of nowhere. This blog is strictly a one-man operation, and it occurs to me that covering a dozen or more shows – as I am now – is a bit much. So hopefully we’ll settle on eight or nine this time, but if the season turns out that great, I’ll find a way to cram a few more onto the roster somehow.
Deadman Wonderland – Manglobe
Right off the bat, here’s a series that could be impacted by the quake. The entire plot is set off by a massive earthquake, so I wonder if that might be changed for sensitivity issues. In any case, it’s an excellent manga and I like the casting choices. New director, but Koichi Hatsumi did some episode direction on the spectacular Moribito.
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai – A-1 Pictures
This is probably my most anticipated series of the spring and – big surprise – it’s NoitaminA. The previews of have been spectacular – great visuals and music. Casting looks excellent and A-1 has been a reliable quality engine for these last couple of years. Director Tatsuyuki Nagai has worked on Toradora and Honey & Clover.
C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – Tatsunoko
Not a studio whose work I’m intimately familiar with, but it’s the other NoiraminA offering and they haven’t whiffed in a long time. I love the concept art. It’s sci-fi, too, which is always a plus – a futuristic melange of intrigue and violence that sounds as if was written by a cross between Phillip K. Dick and Ashirogi Muto. Direcor Kenji Nakamura has some good cred with darker-themed anime.
Lotte no Omocha! – Diomedea
How many studios can say they have a 1.000 batting average? Diomedea can – Shinryaku Ika Musume being the sum of their work as lead stuido. On that basis I’m giving this odd-sounding comedy a chance. The premise – an alien child princess needs to consume semen in order to survive – probably wouldn’t have hooked me otherwise.
Ao no Exorcist – A-1 Pictures
A-1’s other spring entry, this is a manga adaptation about Satan’s 15 year-old illegitimate son and his decision to become an exorcist to avenge his foster father. I like the casting of Fujiwara Keiji and Nobuhiko Okamoto and I hear good things about the manga. Plus, it’s A-1. Director Tensau Okamura (Darker than Black, Cowboy Bebop Movie) is a rock-solid veteran.
Hen Zemi – XEBEC
I haven’t seen the OVAs, but I have a morbid curiosity about this supposedly off-the-charts ecchi adaptation of the story of a college sexual perversion seminar (which, regrettably, did not appear on my electives lists). I take no comfort in the behind-the-camera staff, but I’ll watch at least a few just to see what all the fuss is about.
Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san – Production I.G.
My favorite studio has been less active in TV of late, and hasn’t hit a home run for a couple of years. This gag manga adaptation about a detective and his demon servant doesn’t look like the series that will break that streak, but I.G. always gets a long look from me on principle. Director Tsutomu Mizushima (OoFuri, Hare Guu) has a good track record with comedy and character-driven material.
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – SHAFT
It’s SHAFT, it’s Shinbo, and it stars Irinu Miyu – ’nuff said. None of these things are a clincher on their own, but together they make this one of my most anticipated spring series. It’s the story of a boy named Makoto and his very weird cousin Erio (Nanoka Ai) who thinks she’s an alien. You never know with Shinbo but this sounds like an agreeably insane premise and the casting is golden.
Hyouge Mono – Bee Train
I don’t know how this happened, but this series is getting three cours. It’s an adaptation of an award-winning manga about a retainer of Oda Nobunaga who becomes a legendary tea master. I can see this on the cover of Newtype real soon… It figures to be reflective, smart, subtle and almost unnoticed.
Sket Dance – Tatsunoko
Tatsunoko, you sure are busy all of a sudden. This a well-known manga, a long-running weekly Shounen Jump series about a high-school club that fixes problems for the other students. There’s nothing anywhere in the premise, casting or staff that seems especially exciting but I’ll check it out based on the popularity of the manga.
STEINS;GATE – White Fox
This is another studio I’m not much familiar with, and arguably the most anticipated series of the spring in terms of sheer numbers. From the creators of CHAOS; HEAD. It’s another sci-fi with futuristic, big-brother themes and time travel elements. A manga adaptation, it’s a two-cour series – rare enough these days – and figures to be one of the most popular shows of the year.
Hoshizora E Kakaru Hashi – Dogakobo
Dogakobo has been around almost 40 years but has almost no record as a lead studio; director Takenori Mihara has never manned the big chair for a series. So this adult dating sim adaptation is definitely a mystery. I’ll check it out given the interesting game adaptations we’ve had lately and the relative lack of romance this series this series, with my expectations fully in check.
Ore-tachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai – NOMAD
NOMAD has done pretty ecchi stuff (Kampfer, Chocotto Sister) along with the masterwork Sola. It’s another dating sim adaptation, but with an interesting angle – three protagonists and three heroines, so no harem angle apparently. If I get one keeper between this and “Hoshizora” I’ll be quite satisfied.
Showa Monogotari – Wao World
A couple episodes of this series have leaked out but were never subbed, though it’s officially a spring series with a movie to come as well. Marketed as “the first ever anime aimed at seniors” it’s the story of a fifth-grader and his family in the era leading up to the Tokyo Olympics. What I’ve seen looks interesting and this could be a sleeper. I hope someone subs it.
Hanasaku Iroha – P.A. Works
Masahiro Ando (Sword of the Stranger) directs, with heavyweight scripter Mari Okada on-board as screenwriter. It’s the story of a 16 year-old girl who leaves the city to live at her grandmother’s onsen resort in the mountains, and the odd cast of characters she meets there. It’s an original series and two cours, and has the feel of substance to it. I have high hopes.
Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise
This one looks very, very odd – corporate salarymen and women who have superhero alter-egos and pick up bonus points by appearing on a superhero TV show. This is a weird choice for Sunrise, one of the titans of the business, but that alone piques my interest. It should look great, anyway – we’ll see if the bizarre plot goes anywhere.
Dog Days – Seven Arcs
The staff – studio, director, writer – from Nanoha is back in this intriguing story of a 13 year-old boy summoned into an alternate world to serve as a hero for the Republic of Biscotti. So much of this sparks interest – is this going to be a real Mahou Shoujo series, a rarity? The female lead is my waifu Horie Yui, and all of the characters of Biscotti are named after pastries. I don’t know just what this will be, but I hope it’s light-hearted and a satirical look at the mahou shoujo genre. Definitely one of my highlights for spring, going in.
We’re definitely not hurting for options here – the sheer volume of series is pretty staggering. To my eye, the tone is shifted more towards drama, action and sci-fi, with romance, comedy and moe a bit less dominant than they have been. In principle I don’t have a problem with that trend, though the quality of the individual series is obviously more important in determining the quality of the season. I look forward to sharing a lot of first impressions – please don’t hesitate to comment.