Summer is already here in Tokyo, even if anime still thinks it’s Spring.
It’s pretty much a given that Summer is going to be a step-down from Spring for anime. In fact, in any given year it’s most likely to be the weakest season, with a relatively smaller number of premieres and a higher than usual concentration of formula LN adaptations and brainless harem sex comedies. So how does 2013 look by that standard?
Truth be told, I’ve seen worse. It’s not great by any means, but there are at least a sizeable number of series that have the potential to be watchable – a decent number by Summer standards. I don’t see a lot here that seems to hold promise for being exceptional, but shows can always surprise you. There also isn’t a lot of “cream of the crop” caliber talent on display in the staff lists: the most impressive series on that score is probably the reunion of Nakamura Kenji and Ono Toshiya (Tsuritama) for Gatchaman Crowds. When the director and (especially) writer of the best show of the prior year get together that’s a show I’ll watch closely, though if it were no-names instead I wouldn’t see much in the premise that interests me. It’ll be an interesting one to watch.
That’s really the only A-list director/writer team on the schedule, though. I do consider Kishi Seiji pretty close to A-list when he’s doing something edgy, but he’s become such a regular with game adaptations that don’t do much for me that in that mode, he’s just another name (though Danganronpa does look slightly more interesting than most). There’s some star power on display on the source material list though, especially Morimi Tomihiko with Uchouten Kazoku and Arakawa Hiromu with Gin no Saji (marking the return of an abbreviated NoitaminA block).
On the sequel front, it’s a pretty unexciting batch, with the good but not great Symphogear and Rozen Maiden probably leading the list (Kingdom is a sort of “Spring and a half” series). On the plus side the ratio of LN adaptations is low enough that I can put together a preview with only two on there, the first time that’s happened for a while. That’s a positive trend for me, as the LN boom hasn’t served anime well in broad terms, though as always I’ll watch first eps of pretty much everything and hope something surprises me like Hataraku Maou-sama did. And what of the “sleeper vibe” that tipped me off to shows like Chihayafuru, Jinrui and Crime Edge? Well, read on – but the spoiler is, nothing really jumps off the page the way those shows did.
As always, please vote for your most anticipated series in the sidebar poll!
With that, to the previews:
First Look: Let’s be honest – it could hardly be less aggressive. This one just barely hung on the edge of the blogging threshold in the first season, and I doubt I’ll blog the second (though I’ll watch, at least to start). Tamayura is likeable, but just too sweet and positive to have any real substance – it’s one flavor and one tone, start to finish. I like Satou-sensei much better when he’s directing someone else’s material, or someone else is directing his.
First Look: Part of me thinks I might just be a bit nuts to be following this one. The romance manga is knows as “The Town Where You Rage” by its “fans” – who on-balance are some of the most negative you’ll ever see. Yet they keep reading, mostly, and it inspires a sort of curiosity in me that makes me want to see what all the hate is about. Plus there’s a sort of grim curiosity to see if Gonzo has any gas left in the tank, and I didn’t dislike the OVA. Extremely experienced writer and director here, for what it’s worth.
First Look: The mangaka and studio that brought us Working! delivers another manga adaptation about life in the workplace, though the early buzz is that the style is more Parks & Recreation. It’s always nice to see more anime about adults, and there’s no arguing with the track record of Takatsu Karino when it comes to workplace comedies. There’s not a lot to have confidence about in terms of the top staff, but the previews look good and the notion of a comedy about a local government office is so refreshingly different for anime than I can’t help but be optimistic. This is one of my most anticipated series of the Summer.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear G – Satelight
Director: Ono Katsumi
Writer: Kaneko Akifumi
Schedule: Thursday, 26:35, MBS – Premières 7/4/13
First Look: I liked the first season of Symphogear for its straightforward emotional transparency and its obvious love of anime. Newcomer Akifumi Kaneko (he’s back, though we have a new director) gave us what felt like an affectionate tribute to sci-fi and mahou shoujo anime made by very talented students. It was subtle as a kick in the teeth, plagued by occasionally spectacular animation collapses and sometimes almost incoherent – but there was a feckless charm to it that never failed to keep me invested. Satelight has officially taken over as sole production studio this time, so perhaps the back-end will be a little less erratic this time around – story-wise, I’m expecting more of the same.
First Look: After several seasons in development limbo, Blood Lad finally hits the airwaves, albeit with an abbreviated 10-episode run. Kodama Yuuki’s manga tells the story of a vampire who’s infatuated with human (specifically Japanese) culture, and the human girl who wanders into the demon realm. I don’t find the premise especially gripping but Brains Base still deserves a look, and the cast is terrific – Ohsaka Ryouta, Saito Chiwa and Yusa Kouji among others.
First Look: This would be another candidate for my most anticipated series of the season. While I didn’t love novelist Morimi Tomihiki’s Tatami Galaxy – merely liked it – it was undeniably a thoughtful and highly unusual anime. This time around one of my favorite studios is in charge, with longtime veteran Suga handling the series composition. We also have a cast full of big names – including the intriguing debut of Nakahara Mai playing a boy – and another Kyoto setting. It’s a wacky but intriguing premise, the story of a family of tanuki, living in a Kyoto split between tanuki, humans and tengu. As with Tatami Galaxy I expect a mix of humor and psychological trauma with a good dose of surrealism (though perhaps not so much without Yuasa Masaki directing). The margin for error for really thoughtful series aimed at adults is paper-thin this (and almost every) summer, so the success of a show like this one is crucial – I hope it lives up to the potential.
First Look: And here’s the third of the most anticipated list for the Summer. Probably the least surprising manga adaptation in the last few years, Arakawa Hirumu’s (FMA) semi-autobiographical tale of a city kid forced to adapt to rural life at an agricultural college has been a critical darling and monster hit since it debuted in 2011. It seems early for an anime, but there’s been talk of one virtually since the manga began. I liked Ito’s work on Occult Gakuin and don’t really blame him for SAO, and Kishimoto did a terrific job in bringing Usagi Drop to the screen. In all I think the consternation among some manga readers about A-1 is misplaced, and indeed this seems like the safest bet on the schedule in terms of sheer quality. Half a NoitaminA block is better than none, I suppose, and as we wait for the mysteriously absent adaptation of March-Lion this one will have to sate our appetites for character-driven award-winning manga.
First Look: As much as I love Kishi and Uezu when they’re at their best, their many game adaptations have never found them at their best. Danganronpa (the full title is long enough to be that of an annoying LN) does look somewhat more interesting than most of its kind, though, with a fair amount of wit and a seemingly anime-friendly storyline about a high school where the only way to graduate – and survive – is to get away with murder or catch someone else trying. Lerche’s track record with TV anime is paper-thin – only Majikoi before this one. I don’t have huge expectations, frankly, but on a soft schedule this one at least deserves a long look.
First Look: I don’t think I’d be covering this in the preview if it wasn’t Brains Base, but even if they’ve stumbled a bit of late they remain one of my favorite studios. However, their track record with otome game adaptations isn’t so hot, and while this was a novel before it was adapted into a game, the plot could hardly sound more like an otome game cliche. A girl moves into a mansion with 11 brothers, romance ensues, well… It’s Brains Base, and it gets two episodes minimum. After that it’s pay-to-play.
Rozen Maiden II – DEEN
Director: Hatakeyama Mamoru
Writer: Mochizuki Tomomi
Schedule: Thursday, 25:58, TBS – Premières 7/4/13
First Look: A very big name (and the series that got former PM Aso Tarou his nickname, “Rozen Aso”) from Peach-Pit is back after a long absence from our screens. I’m not a huge fan of the older anime in the series – I put them in the pretty good but overrated category – but I’m rather pumped for this. It’s Hatakeyama-sensei’s first series since Sankarea, with which he displayed great skill, and Ohsaka Ryouta has been cast as the older version of hikikomori MC Jun (with no major cast changes for the living dolls he hangs out with). But the big factor for me is the involvement of Mochizuki (Zettai Shounen, Sarai-ya Goyou) as head writer. He doesn’t work all that much lately but Mochizuki is one of the very best minds in the business, and I like the fact that so much of the talent behind the screen with this series has no connection to earlier versions.
First Look: Here’s another one with a title long enough to be a LN, but it’s actually a manga – and a pretty well-regarded one at that. It’s the story of a middle-schooler who’s insanely popular in the world of otome games, but not so in real-life – and the start of high school forces her first introspection in a long time. It’s an appealingly odd concept and the tone seems agreeably ruthless and dark. My biggest hesitation is that I really haven’t thought much of Shin’s work in the last couple of years – at worst he comes off as a Shinbou-wannabe (and Shinbou is hit and miss to begin with). His best series of late was probably Kokoro Connect, which while inconsistent had its moments – but he was “Series Director” and that one and it bore few of his usual hyper-stylized trademarks, which leads me to wonder how much he was really involved. There’s certainly a boom-or-bust feeling attached to this one.
First Look: At first glance this seems like an odd choice for the writer/director team behind Tsuritama. At pretty much every glance, in fact – a revival of a franchise not many people really seemed to miss, and wasn’t much of a commercial powerhouse to begin with. This hero saga wouldn’t really be on my radar screen with a different staff, but with Oono writing I certainly have to pay serious attention, especially as he’s re-teamed with Nakamura-sensei. This one, I suppose, will be the ultimate test of my supposition that staff is the most underrated part of any anime’s success or failure. I like to see Tatsunoko’s involvement as well – they’re very old-school and doing fine work with Namiuchugiwa no Muromi-san this season, and perhaps Gatchman will have something of the same post-Gainax feel to it.
First Look: Kyoto Animation always seems to make as much news “off the field” as on it, and even though Free! is technically produced by KyoAni offshoot Animation Do, everyone else considers this a KyoAni show. The controversy surrounding the genesis of this series – the massive reaction (positive and negative) to the KyoAni “commercial”, the outrage among KyoAni yuri/moe partisans that their studio would make a show so explicitly showcasing manservice – is frankly more interesting to me than the series itself. That doesn’t mean I won’t be watching, because anyone who isn’t curious to see what all the fuss is about and what the reaction to Free! will be isn’t much of an anime fan IMHO. The plot, such as it is, surrounds a boys’ high school swim team and their rival from another school who joins them. It’s easy to see why KyoAni changed the original manga’s setting from elementary school to high school, given the built-in publicity this show has gotten. I don’t know if the show will be interesting, but the after-effects are certain to be.
First Look: This one is a bit of a flyer for me, but there’s an interesting staff and combination of plot elements. There’s usually a gothic show or two on any schedule and this seems to fit the bill – I see traces of Dantalian no Shoka (there’s even a Dantalion in the cast) and Pandora Hearts embedded in the story of the scion of a wealthy family who returns home to restore the tarnished family name, only to uncover a demonic seal in the basement and summon a devil who tells him to has the right to choose the next king of the demon world. Director Kon is best known for the mixed bag that is the Higurashi franchise, but she has a proven ability to generate atmosphere at least. Writer Yokote has a long, long resume that’s likewise somewhat mixed, but with some excellent work to her credit.
First Look: I didn’t go into the first season of Hakkenden expecting much and never did blog it. But while it certainly wasn’t a masterpiece, this show exceeded my expectations by a comfortable margin. It was a very well-animated series with lovely art (not a given for DEEN) and spun a surprisingly sharp and engaging story around the humans, youkai and hybrids that made up its cast. I certainly won’t commit to blogging it this time around either, but if the season turns out to be lean enough for good series I might just consider it.
First Look: If you’re looking for a sleeper candidate this LN adaptation might just be it – though it’s almost by default. Konparu is a solid writer and it’s Madhouse, and the plot sounds agreeably strange. We have world abandoned by God where no one is born and no one dies, for starters. The heroine is a girl whose job it is to prepare graves for people who cannot die, and the male lead is a guy who shows up and randomly starts killing them. As premises go that’s one of the more interesting of the season. Cast looks strong as well. I can’t vouch for the LN, the first from author Irie Kimihito, but there’s enough here that isn’t straight out of the cookie cutter to make this latest “Kamisama” anime one to watch.
Will Definitely Blog: Servant x Service, Uchouten Kazoku, Gin no Saji, Rozen Maiden II, Gatchaman Crowds. I expect at least one more to come of the group of Symphogear, WataMote, Free! and DanganRonpa, with the usual couple of surprise choices sneaking in. H x H, GKMP, Shingeki no Kyojin and Uchuu Kyoudai carry over, with Kingdom 2 (already premiered) subject to the release schedule as much as anything.
OVA/Movie: The OVA calendar looks much better than Spring:
Chuunibyou (OVA) – 6/19/2013: The mini-episodes bundled together along with a full-length ep. The franchise also has a movie and a second season coming up. What a shame Hyouka doesn’t have more source material…
Seitokai no Ichizon (OVA) – 7/05/2013: Yes, the second season failed to measure up the first – but I still enjoyed it for the most part and I’ll check this out if anyone releases it.
Mirai Nikki Redial (OAD) – 7/26/13: Everyone’s favorite yandere queen is back in this alternate retelling of the series (bundled with a volume of the new Redial manga). This one is about the third world’s Yuno, who’s apparently normal apart from an overpowering crush on (second world) Yukiteru.
Minami-ke (OVA) – 8/6/13: Let’s vegetable! Studio Feel brings us another OVA to add to the Minami-ke catalog, and given what a great job they did with the fourth season I have high expectations. More Minami-ke is always welcome, especially when it’s as good as it was in Tadaima. As always, needs more Mako-chan.
Yowamushi Pedal (OVA) – 8/8/13: This well-regarded – and with good-reason – cycling manga has a TV anime due in the Fall. It would have been perfect summer material, but at we get this teaser OVA from Toho/TMS to whet our appetites for the series. This is an excellent manga and I’m looking forward to seeing it on-screen.
Shingeki no Kyojin (OAD) – 8/9/13: “Ilse’s Journal” prologue side story for the most bombastic (and commercially successful) anime of the year so far.
Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san (OAD) – 8/16/13: What a shame this very funny mermaid comedy is only 13 episodes, especially as it’s also a half-length show. It’s the most Gainax-like comedy since Gainax jumped the shark.
To-LOVE-Ru Darkness (OAD) – 8/19/13: Three short stories from the manga, as usual. We all know why you’re watching.
Kamisama Hajimemashita (OVA) – 8/20/13: Special ep bundled with the manga. This was a sleeper series from 2012, one of those “tortoise” shows that sneaks up on you rather than bowls you over. Very charming and funny work from shoujo legend Akitarou Daichi, and well-deserving of a second season.
Little Busters! (OVA) – 8/26/13: “Mask the Saito” chapter from the VN. Another show that was a slow build but finished very strong, and was generally deserving of far better than the abuse it got from pissy KyoAni loyalists and generally cynical curmudgeons. Refrain is already announced, but not the date, so this will have to tide us over till then.
Suisei no Gargantia (OVA) – 8/28/13: Bonus BD episode.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (OVA) – TBA: Bonus episode “Tonari no Gokudou-kun” side story (already adapted into a drama CD) bundled with manga Vol. 12.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise – 06/22/2013: One of Production I.G.’s biggest names, rebooted yet again. I’m not as big a fan of the franchise as some, apart from Stand-alone Complex.
Short Peace – 7/20/2013: Otomo Katsuhiro (Akira) brings together Morita Shouhei, Ando Hiroaki, and Morimoto Kouiji (OP) in this collection of four short films. The title is taken from Otomo’s collection of short manga dating back to the 1970’s. Otomo’s own “Combustible” has already premiered and won several awards. An interesting project, to say the least.
Kaze Tachinu – 07/20/2013: Whenever Miyazaki Hayao debuts a film, it’s the biggest story on the anime calendar. This looks to be his (and Ghibli’s) most adult-themed story since Princess Mononoke and allows him to indulge his otaku passion for aviation yet again. Adapted from Miyazaki-sensei’s own manga, it’s the story of Horikoshi Jiro, the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter used in WW II. Given Miyazaki’s politics it’s an interesting choice. As if all that weren’t enough reason to tune in, Horikoshi is being played by Anno Hideki, creator of Evangelion, whose most famous voice work to date is playing Miyu-Miyu in FLCL.
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai – 8/31/13: One of the best series of 2011 – and probably the most commercially successful NoitaminA show ever – returns with a theatrical release, told from the perspective of Menma. I’m not sure whether this film is truly necessary, but I don’t begrudge the Production Committee extending the life of such a worthwhile and profitable franchise as long as it’s tastefully done. Nagai and Okada return to write and direct.