On paper, Spring 2012 looks like the best anime season since 2007. There are quite a few extremely high-profile projects, several niche series of interest, and a theoretical return to form for NoitaminA after by far its worst season ever. Full previews and detailed analysis are below the fold. As always, please share your most anticipated Spring series in the poll.
As good as the season looks, there is a cautionary note for me. I’ve long been an advocate of the notion that a director is extremely important to an anime’s success or failure, and probably the most underappreciated one. And while Spring looks great based on the synopses, it doesn’t look as great based on directors. The last couple have seasons have featured strong contingents of talented veteran directors, and their shows have predictably been among the best of the season. For Spring, we have a larger proportion of less-known directors, or those whose track record is less than stellar. Among the big guns it’s really Watanabe Shinichiro with Apollon – a question mark as he’s been largely inactive over the last decade – and Nakamura Kenji with Tsuritama, a question mark because his last NoitaminA series was a mixed bag at best. Outside of NoitaminA there’s not much in terms of name directors apart from Mizushima Seiji (who I rank a notch or two below the top level), and his Natsuiro Kiseki is a show whose premise is of very little interest to me.
As always, the preview isn’t comprehensive – it’s just the shows that catch my eye going in. Assume I’ll watch every new series at least once regardless of whether it’s in this preview or not, and assume I’ll blog at least one or two shows not in the preview. With relatively few multi-cour carryovers from Winter I’m going to be pretty open to blogging new series, at least in trial form. No firm plans for which shows I’ll be blogging at Random Curiosity (as you may know that site is making some changes at the moment) but as of now I’ll plan to once again simulcast those series at both sites.
And now, the previews:
I’m a bit worried that Motonaga – director of the abomination School Days – is in charge, but I’m inclined the blame the failure of that show more on the material as the show was technically quite good. Kuroda is a solid writer, White Fox aced it with Steins;Gate, and this story of Jonah, a child soldier who joins a memorable gang of mercenaries, is a really good manga – dark, edgy and difficult. It needs more than one cour to properly tell its story, which could be a real problem. EDIT: Second cour was just announced (3/19) for Fall 2012, so series length shouldn’t be an issue.
BONES revives arguably its signature property, and let’s hope more successfully than Gonzo did with Last Exile. E7 was a big series for me as an anime fan, flawed and overcomplicated but compelling as seemingly all classic BONES series were. The A studio is working on this one, with Kyoda and most of the staff back, though the absence of writer Sato Dai is worrisome. The first two manga chapters are out and I like them, though they don’t tell us much. Kudos to BONES for casting a real live boy as Ao. The fans are dismissing this one as a disaster before it even premières, but I see no reason for such defeatism – I’m hopeful this will be a multi-cour series that does the brand proud. If not, I’ll be almost as sad as I am about “Fam”.
Director: Nakamura Kenji Writer: Ono Tashiya Preview:
Nakamura returns to NoitaminA to try and redeem himself for C, and this looks like a very interesting series. A real departure for Nakamura, it’s a slice-of-life about four high-school boys in a fishing town, with a seeming ecological bent and elements of science-fiction. Terrific cast is lead by Miyu Irino and Sugita Tomokazu. Hopefully this portends a return to form for both the director and the NoitaminA block, and it’s great to see more of these type of shows featuring guys. It’ll be interesting to see how Nakamura-sensei fares with seemingly gentler and more wistful material than he’s used to.
Sakamichi no Apollon – MAPPA/Tezuka Productions (Thursdays 24:45, Fuji TV, Premières 4/12, Episodes: TBA)
Director: Watanabe Shinichiro Writer: Katoh Ayako/Kakihara Yuuko Preview:
When the director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo returns to TV, it’s news. I don’t know the manga, but it’s definitely a different vibe than the usual anime fare – jazz-themed, guy-centric yet Josei, with a retro look that reminds me of Taniguchi Jiro. In short, this is exactly the sort of thing that should be on NoitaminA – shows that otherwise wouldn’t be produced. I don’t know if Watanabe-sensei’s presence is enough to prevent this from failing commercially, but it’ll be interesting to find out. Rock-solid cast of unassuming but talented seiyuu.
Director: Ikezoe Takahiro Writer: Takegami Junki
LandQ’s first series as lead studio is an interesting one – a never-produced concept by industry giant Matsumoto Leiji, arguably the most important mangaka of the post-Tezuka era. We’ve got humans dying out in the distant future, clones, mecha, and dystopia. Anything attached to Matsumoto-sama deserves attention, though I’m the first to admit my expectations are fairly modest. 69 year-old stalwart Takahashi Ryosuke is on-board as supervising director.
Director: Watanabe Ayumu Writer: Uezu Makoto Preview:
I sense the potential for greatness here. Four cours, superb source manga, fantastic premise – two brothers see a UFO as children and dream of becoming astronauts as a result. This is a story with everything – sibling dynamics, chasing a dream, sci-fi… A-1 is a studio that can be relied upon to deliver solid production values, and the staff seems fine – Uezu has a striking mix of great and awful adaptations, which tells me he’s as good as his source material (in this case, great) and Watanabe is known mostly for Doraemon. This is going to be all-ages, family friendly material but don’t sell it short because of that.
Director: Uda Konosuke Writer: Yamada Takashi
I’m a sucker for sports anime, what can I say – even though they often disappoint me. I don’t know the source novel but the premise sounds interesting – middle-school boy is inspired to revive his disbanded soccer club after meeting a women’s professional footballer. There are hints that this could be better than boilerplate – Uda is the director of One Piece, and Yamada’s résumé is loaded with very, very good adaptations.
Director: Tada Shunsuke Writer: Takagi Noboru Preview:
I’m a sucker for… You know. In this case I do know the manga somewhat, and I rather like it. The story centers on Kuroko, a legendary middle-school basketballer who’s better than everyone on his HS team despite being small, scrawny and nondescript. With a studio like I.G. attached I have to be hopeful, though they’re not the guarantor of quality they once were. Takagi has a good track record as a writer. The stellar cast features three Onos, no waiting (Yuuki, Kensho and Daisuke) and it’s great to hear Ono Kensho again (as Kuroko) after he was so fantastic in Ghost Hound.
Director: Oonuma Shin Writer: Takayama Katsuhiko
If it’s Silver Link it must be Oonuma Shin, and that means this Shinbou protégé’s very distinctive style – which in my experience either works splendidly or results in disaster. It’s an adaptation of a manga about a dead girl haunting a school building, and the boy who’s the only one who can see her in ghost form. I hear pretty good things about the manga, and Takayama’s adaptation work (Mirai Nikki, Ef, Natsu no Arashi) is generally quite good. Possible sleeper material.
Director: Takemoto Yasuhiro Writer: Gato Shouji Preview
Anytime KyoAni ventures into series animation it’s news, especially as they’ve been so quiet as of late. And what’s this, a KyoAni school life series with a male lead and mixed-gender cast? Yes, that was a pig that just flew by your window. It’s KyoAni and the character designs by KyoAni stalwart Nishiya Futoshi are absurdly cute. Takemoto and Gato are KyoAni vets, and both worked on Fullmetal Panic as well. Based on a novel by Yonezawa Honobu, this looks like a lighter mystery theme set in the Classic Literature Club. The cast is full of KyoAni regulars too. In short, expect what you usually get from these guys – great animation, bright and detailed art and a KyoAni feel through and through.
A no-brainer. One of the most impressive shows of 2011 returns to finish its run, and I’ll be there. S1 was rock-solid in all aspects – top-quality animation, slick direction and a compelling story by Urobuchi Gen.
Director: Kanasaki Takaomi Writer: Uezu Makoto Preview:
I’m right on the edge with this one. I liked the first season, but progressively less as it progressed, and I was very close to dropping the series by the end. I don’t really see a need for this sequel, but I’ll give it a chance for at least a few eps to see if can reproduce the edgy yet oddly warm humor of the first half of the first season. Perhaps Uezu Makoto as writer (he did not adapt S1) will produce better results.
Director: Nagasawa Tsuyoshi Writer: Kimura Noboru PV:
An anime adaptation of a flash anime about a Cthulhu demon who saves a high school boy from aliens? No, I didn’t hit my head and I’m not drunk – and I pretty much do expect this to suck. But I have that morbid curiosity you get when passing a traffic accident, and I’m curious enough to see how badly Lovecraft is mangled this time that I’ll give it a couple of looks.
Director: Kanbe Mamoru Writer: Yoshida Reiko Preview:
No changes in the team for this one, so expect more of the same. And that’s generally a pretty good thing, as the first season got tolerably entertaining after Irino Miyu joined the cast as Chizuru. Daily Lives of High School Boys this isn’t – these are shoujo boys, non-threatening, and most of the material could as easily feature in a series starring girls as guys. Still, the humor took on an agreeably quirky tone in the second half of the season and that’s enough to make me think I’ll blog the second, in digest form anyway.
Director: Obara Masakazu Writer: Yoshino Hiroyuki Preview:
He’s baaaaaack… Yoshino Hiroyuki, fresh off the triumph of writing that is Guilty Crown, is writing the adaptation of Kawahara Reki’s popular light novels. I have hopes he’ll do better with someone else’s story as a base, and Obara has worked on some very good shows. I know these LNs are popular, and it’s an interesting premise – in 2046, a fat kid at the bottom of the caste system at his middle school becomes a Knight protecting a Princess through the miracle of VR. I may be crazy to say it, but I get sleeper vibes from this one.
Director: Watanabe Ayumu Writer: Akao Deko Preview:
I was wondering why this looked so familiar to me, as I had never seen the manga as far as I knew. Then I remembered – I bought a doujin of this from Toranoana in Akihabara a couple of years ago, having no idea what this was – I just liked the artwork. Well, I still like the manga art – and it seems to have survived the transition to anime remarkably intact. I’ll be honest, I find the central conceit – effectively, boy tastes a girl’s spittle and becomes her slave – rather gross. But I hear good things about the manga from a story and character standpoint, and I’m curious to see where this goes. Watanabe is also directing Uchuu Kyoudai – and he seems like a very odd choice for this material, indeed.
Director: Saeki Shouji Writer: Saeki Shouji Preview:
I’ll be honest, this looks pretty dumb to me – and as you may know, I find pretty much everything written by Nisio Isin to be insufferably self-aware and pretentious. But this is GAINAX, my anime first love, and Saeki-sensei is one of the last of the old guard left – and not only that, a very important contributor to FLCL, which is an anime I admire and adore almost beyond all reason. Out of loyalty to him and nostalgia for GAINAX, I have no choice but to check my distaste for Nisio at the door and hope this seitaokai story surprises me.
And let us not forget…
Director: Alan Taylor/Various Writer: George R.R. Martin Preview:
No, it’s not anime – but it’s damn good TV and I’ll be blogging it. At the time I watched S1 I hadn’t read the novels. It was good enough to make me read every page available (and that’s a lot) including the “Dunk & Egg” novellas, and I fear it may have ruined the TV adaptation for me just a bit. But be that as it may, I can tell you that the good stuff really hasn’t even started yet, and I expect lots of gory, smutty, fun in S2.
Will Definitely Blog: Jormungand, Eureka Seven Astral Ocean, Sakamichi no Apollon, Tsuritama, Uchuu Kyoudai, Kuroko no Basuke, Hyou-ka, Fate/Zero S2, Game of Thrones S2
We have an extremely interesting crop of theatrical and OVA releases to go along with the bumper crop of TV series. Here’s a rundown of a few I’ll be keeping my eye on, including a few from March.
- Nekogami Yaoyarozu (OVA) – 3/21: A real sleeper favorite of mine in 2011, I love this show and look forward to the OVA.
- Rurouni Kenshin Shin Kyoto-Hen Vol. 1 (OVA) – 3/21: Obviously. I’ve heard no reviews of the brief theatrical run of “WTF Were You Thinking Deen-Hen”, but this is RK so I’ll watch it and hope. It’s a big year for RK with the manga return and the live-action, and every true fan hopes this is all leading up to an adaptation of the holy grail of Rurouni Kenshin, the Jinchu Arc. Hopefully Okada Mari hasn’t totally trashed whatever dignity the anime had left after “Reflection” was done abusing it.
- Mirai Nikki Unaired Episode (OVA) – 3/30: No idea what this blu-ray bundled ep is, but of course I’ll be watching with interest.
- Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Theatrical) – 4/7: If you need me to sell you on this, turn in your anime fan card at the door.
- UN-GO “Episode 0” (OVA) – 4/20: The origin story at long last, and bundled with two new anime shorts to boot.
- Thermae Romae (OVA) – 4/20: An unaired episode of the brief but blisteringly smart and funny 3-episode NoitaminA series.
- Another (OVA) – 5/2012: Episode 0 of the stellar PA Works horror mystery, looks to be a very moe-fied take on the series. I’m thinking this might just be brilliant.
- Niji-iro Hotaru ~Eien no Natsu Yasumi ~ (Theatrical) – 5/19: Toei Animation brings us this tale of a boy who finds himself transported to the lost world of a village flooded by the building of a dam. I love the art I’ve seen, and the story feels like a classic Japanese heartbreaker.
- Deva Zan (Theatrical) – TBA: Not much is known about this film, written, directed and designed by Final Fantasy designer Amano Yoshitaka. But that alone makes it interesting.