Is it Spring yet?
There’s no sugarcoating the headline here – this is the shortest preview post I’ve ever done. Eleven series, that’s all – and believe me, this was not the most stringent selection process I’ve ever used. If this preview wasn’t going to be one I could send out as a tweet, anything on the fence was getting in.
Shorter previews don’t always correspond with low anticipation, but they definitely correlate here. If this Fall season was in the running for the weakest on paper, Winter 2015 pretty much has that title uncontested. There are a few good series carrying over, thank goodness, but it seems as if I’m having to lean on that for consolation more and more.
Winter being a weak season isn’t news, of course – Winters generally are, and 2014’s was pretty poor. But given the overall trend in anime’s artistic ambition – and achievement – this season would normally be an ominous signal to say the least. The saving grace is that at least a few months out, Spring looks as if it has a chance to be pretty good. I don’t see anything non-sequel that looks like a slam-dunk for greatness, but there are enough interesting manga and novel adaptations to suggest it’s at the very least going to be much better than the last couple of seasons have been. It had better be.
But that’s then, and this is now – and Winter 2015 is not a pretty sight. It’s a small schedule to begin with – even by Winter standards (this is another trend in anime production – shrinking schedules). And among the shows on the docket there’s very little that stands out. The best bets seem to be sequels to several good but not elite series (Durarara and Kamisama Hajimemashita being the best). The LN adaptations (including the NoitaminA one) look uniformly dreadful, there’s nothing among the manga adaptations that excites me and the decline in quality of original series seems a good bet to continue based on what’s headed our way (if the return of the complete crapshoot that is Ikuhara Kunihiko is a clear standout, you know it’s a weak crop). Apart from that, it looks great.
This is the part of the preview where I normally talk about genre trends, but I really see only one here – formula. There are a smattering of oddballs, but the vast majority of the schedule is made up of exactly the sort of flavorless otaku-focused feed corn that’s been the only constant in recent seasons. There’s a tiny smattering of sci-fi, a bit of satire, a shoujo or sports show here and there. But the homogeneity which has been on the ascendancy in anime for the past half-decade has never been more firmly in control.
Once again I would expect this season to be a light one for me – not necessarily by choice or necessity, but simply as a function of there being very little I want to cover, even factoring in the four shows carrying over. My personal status – right down to what continent on which I’ll be living – remains in doubt, and it’s possible I would be unable to cover much more even if I wanted, but at this point that’s a secondary issue. If indeed I do have some time and the season is as bad as it looks on paper, I may even look to pick up a few more currently serialized manga for coverage.
But enough of all that pessimism – it is what it is, and all we can do is hope to be surprised. As always, please vote for your most anticipated series in the sidebar poll!
With that, to the previews:
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu – Lerche
Director: Kishi Seiji
Writer: Uezu Makoto
Schedule: Friday 25:20, Fuji TV – Premières 1/09/15
First Look: One of the two “next gen” power elite from Weekly Shounen Jump finally gets its adaptation. My gut feeling is that the other young turk, Shoukugeki no Souma – which gets its adaptation in the spring – will actually sell better on disc, though kill-the-teacher wish fulfilment fantasy Ansatsu is the better-selling manga (it was #10 in total sales in 2014). I like Assassination Classroom as a fun diversion, but I don’t think there’s anything especially distinctive or brilliant about it. Kishi and Uezu are obviously an up-and-down proposition, but this sort of zany and frenetic material seems to suit their aesthetic pretty well, so I expect this series to work just fine (though I did like the cast from the OAD better, as a whole).
Durarara!!x2 Shou – Shuka
Director: Omori Takahiro
Writer: Takagi Noboru
Schedule: Saturday, 23:30, Tokyo MX – Premières 1/10/2015
Episodes: Three cour (Winter, Summer 2015, Winter 2016)
First Look: In a historically weak season, a sequel to Narita Ryohgo’s Durarara!! is one of the highlights. I liked the first season a lot, though I thought it lost a lot of steam in the second cour – and my preference among Narita-sensei’s works is actually for Baccano! (one of the greatest LN adaptations ever). But DRRR is the one that had the better sales, so it gets the sequel – that’s the way the ball bounces. There’s no denying this series has a memorable cast of characters, and its particular sense of style has been very influential in anime – often imitated but very rarely captured. It’s also managed to cross over and be quite popular with both male and female buyers, which is even less common now than it was when the first series aired five years ago.
The other interesting angle with the sequel is that it has fled Brains Base and is being produced by new studio Shuka, founded by Omori Takahiro and producer Sato Yumi. This is a sad development for me as I’ve historically loved Brains Base, and seeing their top production unit depart makes me worry for the future of the studio itself. In addition to the lucrative DRRR they’re also losing the Yahari sequel and the new Ikuhara Kunihiko series (see below).
Tokyo Ghoul √A – Pierrot
Director: Morita Shuhei
Writer: Miksasano Chuuji
Schedule: Thursday, 24:00, Tokyo MX – Premières 1/08/15
First Look: Apparently the title means “Tokyo Ghoul root A”, for the record. While the first season of Ishida Sui’s horror manga adaptation sold only modestly well on disc, it saw one of the largest increases in manga sales from any recent adaptation (skyrocketing all the way to fourth overall in total volume sales) so I can’t imagine the production committee is regretting their decision (likely pre-airing) to make a second season of this series.
There were some hiccups along the way, but I generally liked that first season a lot – especially when it focused on the complex narrative surrounding the seemingly irreconcilable existences of humans and ghouls in modern Tokyo. Academy Award-winning director Morita and the staff are back, but given that Ishida-sensei “ended” the manga, it’s interesting to speculate on where the anime will go from here. That ending was a stunt, of course – Ishida’s sequal Tokyo Ghoul:re started almost as soon as the first one ended. It seems this anime is following Ishida’s original but never-published manga plot, and he’s also working on the storyboards, which all sounds pretty promising for its prospects.
Yuri Kuma Arashi – Silver Link
Director: Ikuhara Kunihiko
Writer: Ikami Takayo
Schedule: Monday, 24:30, Tokyo MX – Premières 1/05/15
First Look: One of anime’s most creative and difficult directors is back with a follow-up to 2011’s Mawaru Penguin Drum. Sadly, like Durarara!! and Yahari Yuri Kuma Arashi is leaving Brains Base, this time for Silver Link. Just about the entire MPD team is reassembled here, a story about a “man vs. bear” war that erupts after an asteroid explodes and rains meteorites down on Earth (oh, Ikuhara-san…). There will be yuri (it’s in the title), bears (ditto) and since it’s Ikuhara, we can assume outrageous dark comedy and massive amounts of symbolism that border on the inexplicable. There’s not much point in trying to dissect an Ikuhara series before the fact – you just have to let the insanity wash over you and hope it works.
Junketsu no Maria – Production I.G.
Director: Taniguchi Goro
Writer: Kurata Hideyuki
Schedule: Sunday, 22:30, Tokyo MX – Premieres 1/11/2015
First Look: This is one of those borderline shows that slips into the preview based on the level of competition. The premise – the story of the most powerful witch during the Hundred-Years War, who will lose her magic when she loses her virginity, and the angel assigned to watch over her – frankly sounds pretty banal to me. But it’s seinen, it’s Production I.G., features a highly experienced staff with some very good work scattered through their resumes, and the mangaka (Ishikawa Masayuki) also wrote the tolerably good Moyashimon. Given all that, it gets a look.
Seiken Tsukai no World Break – Diomedea
Director: Inagaki Takayuki
Writer: Yamaguchi Hiroshi
Schedule: Sunday, 25:05, TV Tokyo – Premieres 1/11/2015
First Look: See above. The reasons here are… Well – honestly just a shot in the dark. It’s a LN adaptation and the staff is nothing special. The premise? Typical as LN gets – a “savior” high school where all the students possess memories of their past lives, and dueling styles of magic (plus, of course, a guy surrounded by girls). I don’t know why this is even in here, to be honest, except the season really does look just that bad and, you know – eleven series in the preview.
Aldnoah.Zero 2 – A-1 Pictures
Director: Aoki Ei
Writer: Takayama Katsuhiko
Schedule: Saturday, 24:00, Tokyo MX – Premieres 1/10/2015
First Look: The return of Summer’s most talked-about series is certain to see passions flying high on both sides. I should know – I blogged S1 both here and at RC and took a lot of flak from both the haters and the fanboys (though mostly the latter, in truth) for charting a middle course. I liked a lot about that season, but there was a lot of stuff that just didn’t add up and frankly, some unintentionally comedic headdesk moments. And then there’s that ending…
Which, it looks like, is a big “never mind”. But come on, did anyone really expect otherwise? This is Aldnoah – no one important really dies here, and Asseylum is making a career out of bogus death scenes. So figure on the Princess, Saazbaum and everyone’s favorite Gary Stu to be back in some form or another – though the most interesting (unconfirmed) rumor has Slaine becoming S2’s big bad. It seems very likely that Urobuchi Gen will have even less involvement (read: none) in this cour than he did in the first. Frankly it’s going to be hard (er – harder) to take Aldnoah.Zero seriously once it invalidates its own ending by bringing everyone back, but if one can get past that, this is a sci-fi that was frequently among the most exciting and visually striking shows of the Summer so it should be taken at least somewhat seriously now.
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! – Diomedea
Director: Takamatsu Shinji
Writer: Michiko Yokote
Schedule: Tuesday, 24:40, TV Tokyo – Premieres 1/06/2015
First Look: In a season desperately starved for genuinely distinctive new series and in a time when the quality of original anime has been declining precipitously, Binan (title too long to type) looks – on paper – like a breath of fresh air. A full-on mahou shounen parody is a relatively rare thing in anime, especially one that appears to be going to distance with the concept as this one does. We have the excellent comedy director Takamatsu Shinji (Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, Gintama, School Rumble) and veteran writer Yokote Michiko (Hare Guu, Shinryaku Ika Musume) on-board as well.
Basically, a concept like this in an original is a crapshoot – it could be a disaster. But I think the key is commitment, and Binan seems to have it. Five high school dudes given special powers and charged with saving the Earth by a pink wombat (played by Mugihito, no less?) – the possibilities for not just spoof but also satire of the modern anime industry seem virtually endless. I don’t know what we’re going to get with this show, but I know it has serious potential – and for that alone, it’s one of the standout show to watch for going into the season.
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – A-1 Pictures
Director: Kamei Kanta
Writer: Maruto Fumiaki
Schedule: Thursday, 24:50, Fuji TV – Premieres 1/08/2015
First Look: Here’s another show that looks like a reach – it’s a LN adaptation, and the premise is pretty depressing – a regular guy high school otaku surrounded by a harem of VN routes. But it’s NoitaminA – though in truth that matters less than ever – and more importantly, author Maruto Fumiaki also wrote the nearly-great White Album 2. And like WA2, this adaptation is putting Fumiaki in charge of series composition. Add in a pretty good director in Kamei Kanta (Usagi Drop) and you have more than enough to earn a trial run. Hopefully this is the book that demands to not be judged by its cover.
Kamisama Hajimemashita ◎ – TMS Entertainment
Director/Writer: Daichi Akitarou
Schedule: TBA – Premieres 1/2015
Episodes: 1 Cour
First Look: The two sequels that most interest me this season could hardly be more different. With Durarara!! the question was “What took so long?” But with Kamisama Hajimemashita, it’s more like “How the heck did this show get a sequel (that, and “WTF does ◎ mean and why does anime keep using characters in titles that aren’t on my keyboard?”)? Don’t get me wrong, I thought the first series was one of the underrated gems of a very good 2012, but it didn’t sell many discs, and the manga is hardly a sales powerhouse. If it’d been a split cour I could see it, but this is two years later – to say this announcement was a pleasant surprise is a serious understatement.
Kamisama Kiss was one of those shows that snuck up on you – never flashy, it was nevertheless full of heart and frequently outright hilarious. Daichi Akitarou is of course one of the greatest shoujo directors ever – maybe the greatest – and his straightforward brilliance is all over this series. There were some hints at the end of the first season that the manga goes deeper and darker as it probes Tomoe’s past, and I suspect we’re going to see that impact the tone of the second season a bit – but it’s hard to believe Kamisama Hajimemashita will lose any of its simple charms. I’ve said in the past that the magic of this series is that it’s just serious enough when it’s funny and just funny enough when it’s serious, and in Daichi’s hands that perfect balance seems certain to continue.
Rolling ☆ Girls – Wit
Director: Deai Kotomi
Writer: Mutou Yasuyuki
Schedule: Saturday, 25:58, MBS – Premières 1/10/2015
First Look: In all honesty Rolling Girls looks pretty dumb to me. But it’s in here because the second preview hinted that the dumbness may be the good kind rather than the bad kind, and it reflects a pretty unabashed Gainax (in fact, I would almost say post-Gainax, as in Trigger) aesthetic. Besides, I originally thought it was going to be a roller derby anime and it turned out to be about mobs of motorcycle chicks (they literally call themselves mobs) in post-apocalyptic Tokyo kicking each others’ asses (which I suppose is marginally better). I don’t remotely get the massive hype that seems to be building here – the preview is pretty good but not that good, and the staff is a mixed bag – but parched in a desert, one isn’t choosy about where the water comes from.
Death Parade – Madhouse
Director/Writer: Tachikawa Yuzuru
Schedule: Friday, 25:58, NTV – Premières 1/09/2015
First Look: Well, that’s teach me to go to press early with the preview post.
Winter certainly just got more interesting (although part of me was hoping everything would fall into Spring and make is a truly elite season). In a flash Death Parade is easily the most interesting original series on the calendar, coming on the heels of the Anime Mirai 2013 one-shot Death Billiards, which I noted at the time could potentially make a great series. I’m very surprised this ended up being a Winter show after all – that’s one hell of a fast turnaround.
Tachikawa-sensei is an interesting figure, and the essence of what I figured Anime Mirai should be about – giving a guy who had an interesting track record their first bite of the directorial apple. Death Billiards was terrific – gorgeous visually and full of interesting ideas. Of course, until we see the results there’s no way of knowing if he’s developed the concept enough to make a compelling series out of it – that’s a lot harder than making a compelling OVA. But Death Parade is the epitome of what original anime should be – challenging, atypical, not cut from the same cloth as the adaptations that make up the bulk of the schedule. Needless to say, I have very high hopes.
Will Definitely Blog: Um… Durarara!!x2, Kamisama Hajimemashita ◎, Tokyo Ghoul √A, Death Parade. Aldnoah.Zero 2 would likely be listed here too, but honestly, I need to see just how much of an asspull the premiere is before I commit. Besides, it doesn’t have any funky characters in the title.
Sleeper Candidates: Gosh. Well – Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! And, because I can’t bring myself to list just one, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata. I guess.
OVA/Movie: The evolution of the OVA from creative canvas to TV series advertisement continues apace, but at least we have a few good ones:
Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara (OAD) – 12/02/2014: This past season saw the OAD for the comedy posing as a tragedy (Gokukoku no Brynhildr) and next sees the tragedy posing as a comedy join the ranks. The theme is a Christmas party at Quest Dorm, so expect something more on the comic side (as is usual for these sorts of things). Gaworare was a much-misunderstood, underrated series.
Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majo (OAD) – 12/17/2014: With a series announced for later in 2015, I’ll be checking out this OAD for Yoshikawa Miki’s comedy manga with some curiosity. It’s quite popular and pretty well-regarded, as it happens, so I have some hopes for the TV series at the very least.
Tari Tari (OAD) – 12/17/2014: I believe there’s a picture of Tari Tari next to “pretty good” in the Oxford English Dictionary. This show is for me the quintessential pleasant diversion, solidly in the middle of the P.A. Works pack in almost every way. While the way it marginalized its male cast members occasionally drove me crazy (in part leading to what remains, I believe, the most-commented post in LiA history) generally speaking Tari Tari is a fun show with a good heart that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Gugure! Kokkuri-san (OAD) – 12/24/2014: A series of shorts bundled with the BD/DVD volumes of this very smart and likeable comedy, starting with the first release on Christmas Eve.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (OAD) – 12/24/2014: Also dropping on Xmas Eve is a short beach episode from Gesshounoku, and this seems like the sort of series that can hit that gag out of the park.
Hoozuki no Reitetsu (OVA) – 2/23/2015: Hoozuki no Reitetsu was one of the genuine surprises of 2014. Not that it was so good (I had it pegged as my top sleeper of last Winter) but that it would be a commercial blockbuster – averaging almost 20K, it was the only series of the least successful season for disc sales in anime history to average 5-digits per volume. The humor is smart, alternately subtle and blissfully dumb and often very Japanese, but as anyone who’s been to Comiket on Saturday could tell you this show is much beloved by female fans. This is the first of 3 planned OVAs, shipping with the 17th-19th volumes of the manga. Why we haven’t seen a S2 announcement yet I’m not sure, but it seems certain to happen fairly soon.
Theatrical: Pretty depressing crop here too, again mostly disdaining original material for TV and manga tie-ins. If theatricals go as well, anime really is screwed blue.
Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199: Hoshi Meguro Hakobune – 12/06/2014: At long last, new Yamato 2199 material hits the big screen. Figures to be a pretty big hit
Naruto: Shippuuden Movie 7 – The Last – 12/06/2014: I’m not a Naruto guy, but it seems wrong not to plug the final film what with the manga recently coming to an end.
Psycho-Pass: The Movie – 1/09/2105: The second season of Psycho-Pass has been a disappointment because, frankly, it’s just not very good. This movie should be better, for two primary reasons: it’s back at Production I.G., and it’s being co-written by Gen Urobuchi (with P-P mangaka Fukami Makoto).