Winter 2016 Season Preview

Boku Dake 2 Akagami Ajin Shouwa
Dimension W Haruchika Bubuki Working

Is there safety in numbers?  We’re about to find out.

I don’t know what kind of season Winter 2016 will turn out to be, but at the very least there’s a decent pool of shows to draw from.  I’m previewing 18 weekly series this season, which is definitely the most in a good long while.  Sure, most of the are kind of shots in the dark – but the law of averages says that the more flyers you take, the better the chance a few of them will turn out to be keepers.  Plus, there’s at least one series (Boku Dake ga Inai Machi) that figures to be no worse than very good.

Fortunately for 2015, Autumn turned out to be halfway decent.  In the process it lifted what seemed ticketed to be one of the worst anime years ever to one that was probably pretty close to average (which the winnowing process for the year-end Top 20 list has more or less borne out).  It would be very nice for 2016 to get off to a better start than this year did, and on paper at least that seems possible.

Unlike Fall, Winter has enough shows with potential that it’s not dependent on any one series to be a decent season (though Fall has had some pleasant surprises).  Baku Dake is the obvious candidate to be truly elite, but there are quite a few shows that don’t seem completely cookie-cutter.  We also have a couple of sequels worth looking out for (most especially Akagami no Shirayukihme) but on the whole this season isn’t as sequel-dependent as most.  As for carryovers, there’s Haikyuu, Gundam, Osomatsu-san and Diamond no Ace.

Genre-wise, my sense is that we’re pretty light on romance, comedy and slice-of-life – the focus is more on sci-fi (though not mecha) and action, with a dose of historical and mystery thrown in.  We also have a couple of original series that seem to have some potential, but as usual the bulk of the potential comes from manga adaptations.  In any event, the first couple weeks of 2016 are going to be busy ones for anime. As always, please vote for your most anticipated series in the sidebar poll!

With that, to the previews:

Prince of Stride

Prince of Stride Alternative – Madhouse
Director: Ishizuka Atsuko

Writer: Kishimoto Taku
Schedule: Premieres Tuesday 1/05, 23:00
Episodes: TBA

Preview:
MAL:

First Look: From my perspective as a fan, Madhouse has amassed the most impressive track record in TV anime over the past five years.  And from that same perspective, anime based on otome games have been less than stellar as a rule.  But there’s a bit more to me giving Prince of Stride a look than simply a “Madhouse pass” – first off, Kishimoto-sensei is one of the best writers in TV anime.  And while Ishizuka hasn’t necessarily made a fan of me as a director, she does have an interesting sense of style and flair for visuals.  The cute guy tropes playing extreme sports plot doesn’t inspire much confidence, but given the peripherals I have to give this one a shot.

Sushi

Sushi Police – KOO-KI
Director: Momen Tatsushi
Writer: TBA
Schedule: Premieres Wednesday, 1/06, 01:00
Episodes: TBA

Preview:
MAL:

First Look: We know very little about this series, as you can see from the information (or lack of it) above.  KOO-KI is a 3D CG studio that has won awards at places like Cannes for their humorous commercials, which is certainly an interesting icebreaker for a new series.  The plot surrounds three Japanese government officials who keep tabs on foreign restaurants labeling themselves as “Japanese” to make sure they really are – and believe it or not, it’s not entirely fictional.  This is the very epitome of a shot in the dark, but there could be some comedic potential here.

Boku Dake 2

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi A-1 Pictures                     

Director: Itou Tomohiko
Writer: Kishimoto Taku
Schedule:  Premieres Thursday, 1/07, 24:55 – Fuji TV
Episodes: 12

MAL:
Preview:                        

First Look: This is without a doubt my most-anticipated series of Winter 2016, and in fact may be my most anticipated for many a season.  The manga is, quite simply, brilliant – a work of true genius, one of the best and most emotionally powerful thrillers I’ve read in the medium.  Protagonist Satoru has a strange sort of rewind ability (don’t worry, that’s revealed at the very beginning), the rules of which even he doesn’t fully understand, and the narrative jumps back and forth in fascinating fashion.

I really think it would take quite an effort to mess this series up, and A-1 has generally delivered the goods when presented with source material like that.  The staff is outstanding – Itou helmed A-1’s adaptation of Gin no Saji, as mentioned Kishimoto is an elite writer, and the music is from Kajiura Yuki.  It feels as if the stars are aligned for Boku Dake ga Inai Machi to be the series that sees NoitaminA return to the very heights of anime greatness again.  My only concern, really, is the usual one we have whenever we see a one-cour adaptation of an ongoing manga – but that is what it is.  It will be a surprise if this isn’t a strong candidate for anime of the year.

Ansatsu

Ansatsu Kyuushitsu Season 2 – Lerche
Director: Kishi Seiji
Writer: Uezu Makoto
Schedule: Premieres Friday, 1/08 – Time TBA
Episodes: 26

MAL:
Preview:                                  

First LookAnsatsu Kyuushitsu is a huge hit by any definition, arguably the king of the new generation of Shounen Jump titles in terms of sheer popularity.  I like the manga and I like the anime, though I don’t think either is exceptional – just good, solid shounen entertainment with just enough of a twisted side to give it a bit of an edge.  The fit is always the key with Kishi and Uezu, and they’re a good match for the material I think – they play up that edginess factor, which does the overall package some good.

Divine

Divine Gate  – Studio Pierrot
Director: Abe Noriyuki
Writer: Takahashi Natsuko
Schedule: Premieres Friday, 1/08 – Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: This game adaptation features the experienced and excellent Abe-sensei at the helm.  The plot seem a fairly standard fantasy setup with gifted teens at the center of saving the world in a chaotic future.  I’m not seeing much that looks all that original here, but I get the sense that the execution of the familiar could be pretty good.

Sekkou

Sekkou Boys – Lidenfilms
Director: Takuno Seiki
Writer: Yokote Michiko
Schedule: Premieres Friday, 1/08, 23:00
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: Four gypsum statues as “Idols”?  This may be one of those so dumb it’s smart series, but if nothing else the idol industry itself is so ludicrous and vile that it’s pleasant to see it mocked so openly in a show like this one.  Yokote is one of the most experienced writers in the business, and it’s always interesting to see what she can do with an original series.  The casting falls pretty much under “round up the usual suspects” banner for a series like this one.

Shouwa

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – Studio DEEN
Director: Omota Shinichi
Writer: Kumagai Jun
Schedule: Premieres Friday, 1/15, 26:40
Episodes: 13

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: I’m not familiar with the manga (or even the OVA, I’m ashamed to admit) this series is based on, but I’m nevertheless quite interested – Josei is a relative rarity in anime these days, and this show seems very much a square peg in the modern anime landscape.  Omota-sensei (I have no idea why he works under two different names, but he’s good under either) is an outstanding director, too.  Rakugo storytelling is a fascinating element of Japanese culture, and here we get the interesting premise whereby a famous performer takes a just-released prisoner as his apprentice.  All things considered, Shouwa Genroku earns some of my highest expectations of the season.

DRRR 2

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – Shuka
Director: Omori Takahiro
Writer: Takagi Noboru
Schedule: Premieres Saturday, 1/09, 23:30
Episodes: 12

MAL:

First Look: If I’m going to watch Ketsu I have catching up to do, as I drifted away from this Durarara reboot somewhere early in the second cour.  I do intend to do so, because I never stopped liking DRRR, but whether it changed or I (or anime) did I just haven’t been getting the same thrill out of it that I did during the original airing.

Ajin

Ajin – Polygon
Director: Seshita Hiroyuki/Andou Hiroaki
Writer: TBA
Schedule: Premieres Friday, 1/15, 25:55 
Episodes: 13

MAL:
Preview

First Look: This full-CGI adaptation of Sakurai Gamon’s popular manga should be an interesting one to watch play out.  If you’ve got to go CGI Polygon has one of the best in the business in Andou at the helm.  The story follows “demi-humans” who cannot die (mostly high-school students, naturally) and are much in demand by those who’d like to “research” them and find out what makes them tick.

I do wish this was getting a treatment from somebody like Madhouse or Production I.G. – I haven’t read the source material but it’s been nominated for all the big awards (Manga Taishou, Tezuka, Kodansha) so it’s obviously well-regarded.  Seinen traditionally produces more top-shelf anime per capita than any other demographic, so if the CG doesn’t derail the train there’s a lot of reason to feel hopeful about Ajin.

Ao no Kanata

Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm – Gonzo
Director: Oizki Fumitoshi
Writer: Yoshida Reiko
Schedule: Premieres Monday, 1/11, 26:05
Episodes: TBA

Preview:
MAL:

First Look: I don’t se anything that essentially compelling in this premise about a world where bicycles can fly, and the sport called “Flying Circus”.  But VN from Sprite/Fairys (Koi to Senkyou to Chocolate) tend to be more interesting than average on the whole, so what the hell.

Musaigen

Musaigen no Phantom World – Kyoto Animation
Director: Ishihara Tatsuya
Writer: Shimo Fumihiko
Schedule: Premieres Thursday, 1/07, Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: KyoAni weighs in with another school life/fantasy hybrid, this time surrounding phantoms and the hyper-cute adolescents who fight them.  As always with KyoAni the postage rate will be the key factor, but at least this time we’re dealing with material adapted from a novel rather than a LN.  Ishihara is in the middle of the pack for KyoAni directors, but he does have the excellent Kanon under his belt.  Casting Shimono Hiro as the male lead isn’t an especially promising start, though.

Dagashi

Dagashi Kashi – feel
Director: Takayanagi Shigehito

Writer: Yokote Michiko
Schedule: Premieres Friday, 1/08, Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: Do I detect some sleeper vibes with Dagashi Kashi?  Yeah, kinda – who can say why, but I do.  The story surrounds a small-town boy who doesn’t want to take over his father’s candy shop, and the strange girl who keeps showing up and telling him to do so.  I get the feeling this might fill that Dandelion/Majimoji/Jitu wa niche this season – a sweet (no pun intended), silly comedy with a lot of heart.

Dimension W

Dimension W – Studio 3Hz/Orange
Director: Kamei Kanta

Writer: Suga Shoutarou
Schedule: Premieres Sunday, 1/10, Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: Now this is an interesting prospect.  A seinen manga adaptation with an A-list team behind it – Kanta Kamei (Usagi Drop) and Suga Shoutarou (Uchouten Kazoku).  The story: everything seems hunky-dory in a future where seemingly endless clean energy is derived from Tesla Coils.  But as you can guess that’s too good too be true, and there’s trouble in the title dimension.  The series is going to be a mix of traditional animation (3Hz) and CGI (Orange) but apart from that (which is quickly going to become the new normal whether I like it or not) Dimension W looks like one of the better prospects of the season.

Reikenzan

Reikenzan: Hoshikuzu-tachi no Utage – DEEN
Director: Suzuki Iku

Writer: TBA
Schedule: Premieres Saturday, 1/09, Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: The most interesting thing about Reikenzan?  In xenophobic Japan, it’s an anime based on a Chinese online novel.  That’s a rarity, and of course if the floodgates opened for Chinese and especially Korean material to be adapted as anime, that would be a real game changer.  As for the show itself, the plot surrounds a comet promising to bring calamity and a fated child heralded by its arrival.  Nothing inherently original or intriguing there, but the curiosity factor will buy me in for an ep or two.

Akagami

Akagami no Shirayukihime Season 2 – Bones
Director: Ando Masahiro

Writer: Mieno Hitomi
Schedule: Premieres Tuesday, 1/12, Time TBA
Episodes: 1 Cour

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: I don’t think I need to say much about why I’m following Akagami no Shirayukihime – you can read my posts on the first cour if you want the long answer.  Bones’ foray into shoujo fantasy (mostly the territory of Pierrot, it feels like) was a rousing success – a dignified, patient and understated love story with an appealing main couple and a great supporting cast.  It would have been a strong contender for the 2015 Top 10 list had it been eligible.

Bubuki

Bubuki Buranki – SANZIGEN
Director: Komatsuda Daizen

Writer: Ishii Jirou
Schedule: Premieres Saturday, 1/09, Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: SANZIGEN celebrates their 10th anniversary with an original sci-fi series that looks kind of interesting.  The plot concerns weapons with a mind of their own, the cast seems to consist of kids younger than the typical high school lot (perhaps 12-13) and the music and character designs are very striking.  SANZIGEN isn’t a go-to studio for me and I don’t see anyone especially noteworthy in the main staff, but I’m oddly interested.

Haruchika

Haruchika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru – P.A. Works
Director: Hashimoto Masakazu

Writer: Yoshida Reiko
Schedule: Premieres Thursday, 1/07, Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: It hasn’t been a great run recently for P.A. Works, which has long been one of my favorite studios.  They’ve had popular successes, but I haven’t really connected with anything they’ve done since Uchouten Kazoku.  In choosing to adapt a series about a high school music club, they seem uncomfortably close to following in KyoAni’s footsteps (especially when they’re compared far too often as it is).

I do see some reason for hope here, though.  In the first place we have a series being adapted from a novel series – not light novels – and a mystery series at that.  We have a mixed-gender cast.  The staff looks generally solid – director Hashimoto helmed the very competent Tari Tari and Yoshida has an outstanding track record.  I have reasonably high hopes for Haruchika, but there’s still a lot that could go wrong here so I’m trying not to let them become expectations.

Nijiro

Nijiiro Days – Production Reed
Director: Amino Tetsuro/Ookubo Tomohiko

Writer: Itami Aki
Schedule: Premieres Sunday, 1/10, Time TBA
Episodes: TBA

MAL:
Preview:

First Look: Mizuno Minami’s shoujo manga about four boys from the Go-home Club has a lot of fans, and Reed (a studio not well-known as a lead production house) has put together an interesting staff.  There’s still a pretty huge gender imbalance when it comes to school life series like this one, so hopefully Nijiiro Days can deliver a fresh take on the male side of the experience.  My main worry is that there are rumors this is going to be a 15-minute series, though as far as I know that’s never been officially confirmed.



Will Definitely Blog: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, Ajin, Dimension W, Akagami no Shrayukihime, Haruchika.  With this many above the preseason cut-line, I’ll be surprised if I don’t up at least a couple more.

Sleeper Candidates: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Dagashi Kashi, Bubuki Baranki, Nijiiro Days.

Akagami OVA KamiHaji Working

OVA/Movie: A fairly large crop on the home video front this season.

Kamisama Hajimemashita: Kako-hen (OVA) – 12/182015: The next chapter in Kamisama Hajimemashita’s “Past Arc”.  More KamiHaji is never a bad thing.

Working!!! Lord of the Takanashi (TV Special) – 12/26/2015: It’s not technically an OVA, but Working!’s grand finale certainly cries out for an entry.  The third season was excellent, but then they’ve all been excellent. And Working! as delivered up an awful lot of closure as compared to most of its peers.  I’m expecting very good things from this concluding chapter.

One Punch Man: Shinobiyori Sugiru Kage (OAD) – 12/24/2015: The first volume of the anime is accompanied by an original episode written by ONE himself (more to follow with subsequent volumes, most likely).  No word yet on the story or which characters will be featured.  This will certainly not be the last we see of One Punch Man in anime form.

Kidou Senshi Gundam: Thunderbolt (OAD) – 12/25/2015: Gundam fans get a Christmas present in the form of this four-part series depicting a fierce battle during the “One Year War”.  By the looks of it a very traditional and straight-up Gundam incarnation.

Tokyo Ghoul: Pinto (OVA) – 12/25/2015: There’s always more Tokyo Ghoul, it seems.  This time it’s a story from the “Hibi” novel depicting the meeting between Tuskiyama and Hori.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime: Nandemonai Takaramono, Kono Page (OVA) – 1/05/2016: In addition to the second cour of the anime Akagami fans are treated to this half-hour OVA, depicting three chapters from the manga, a mix of flashbacks and a date between Shirayuki and Zen.  With original material behind it, this one should be a high quality offering.

Theatrical: The cupboard is bare here – for the first time, I found no big-screen releases I felt like previewing.

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23 comments

  1. t

    boku dake fa inai machi got anime?!!! YATTAAA!!!

  2. G

    Its hard to dismiss an anime just because it has a theme thats not original and new. There are just so many genres and subgenres out there and sooner or later shows are gonna seem similar to other animes.

  3. m

    Definitely excited about Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, and intrigued about Dimension W. Prince of Stride gave me some Free! vibes and seemed like it will be commercially successful at least.
    I'm still a little upset about Ajin being a full CGI production. I watched the movie trailer and it definitely looks good, if not for the odd expressions CGI always deliver. I would understand if they used CGI for the Ajin monsters, but I don't think a full CGI production works well.

  4. M

    Just a small correction, but Ao no Kanata is being written by Reiko Yoshida.

  5. Duly noted, thank you.

  6. K

    I enjoy seinen quite a lot so Boku Dake ga Inai Machi and Dimension W are the series that I have big expectations for in 2016 Winter season. I'll definetely continue watching Akagami no Shirayuki-hime and Ansatsu Kyoushitsu. I also would like to know your opinion about Hai to Gensou no Grimgar. I know game or survival themed anime is becoming more and more mainstream but I don't mind watching a new one if it brings out something new.

  7. I was planning on watching the premiere, but I didn't see anything there that struck me as all that interesting. No one exceptional in the staff and as far as I could tell the source material isn't considered especially exceptional.

  8. m

    Enzo.I respect your opinion a lot. But, Don,t you find Ryousuke Nakamura excepcional?. Seriously?
    Is true that he hasn,t directed anything in a while other than Aiura, but he was the assistant director of Monster. his mouryou no hako and his story in Aoi Bungaku(the four one: Hashire Melos) are the closest thing to a masterpiece and the second coming of Satoshi kon than i can found in the medium.He is seriously amazing, he should be directing theatrical movies for film festivals more than light novels. The problems form Grimgar won,t come from the staff that is for sure.

  9. There's some good stuff there, though at the episode director level it's hard to know how much credit to give. I don't personally consider Aoi Bungaku or Aiura to be exceptional. Obviously opinions are just that, opinions.

  10. J

    Sushi police. Now that seems interesting…

  11. M

    Actually were you planning on watching this too…

    https://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=139290

    It's based on Romeo Tanaka's upcoming VN so I found it somewhat odd you didn't mention it.

  12. Uwah, for some reason I thought that was Spring. Yes, I will definitely check that out – I do like Tanaka.

  13. e

    LOL that statues idol biz announcement caught my fancy since I spotted it on ANN weeks ago and I'm still interested. — Could go any way but I'll check it out hoping for the best. Ditto on Sushi Police.
    About the rest I trust you on Boku Dachi. And then I'l probably have a look at the Shouwa rakugo series. That's it for me for now…

  14. C

    Any word when we'll see the next set of Arslan?

  15. Not as far as I know. Maybe Fall?

  16. g

    How far the Boku Dake manga had been in terms of plot/conflict resolution, and how much of it would be covered by the anime in your rough estimation?

  17. That's the $64,000 question, isn't it? I think there's already too much material for 11 episodes, so I suspect they're somehow going to try and end things at the end of the first major *** (I don't think I can say more without spoiling). That would be around chapter 27 or 28.

  18. E

    Looking at the list, I see a lot of shows with a big chance to blow up…

  19. E

    Definitely gonna give ERASED and Dimension W a chance. I'm gonna wait on Koukaku no Pandora, because it's a Masamune Shirow show and his shows tend to lend themselves to get improved on adaptation (see: Ghost in the Shell); though it depends on who's handling the job. There's also Active Raid for the "just watching for stupid fun and lulz" but that's only if the stupid fun and lulz are delivered. I'm a big Kamen Rider fan, so maybe there's a chance it's gonna be a little bit good.

    Ajin… No. Just no. I have no sympathy at all for "edgy as selling point" shows. Also, Polygon Pictures has never produced CG that I've liked – I can note their progress over time, but they're still very, VERY far away from my expectations.

  20. E

    Oh god, I just compared the PVs for Ajin and Bubuki Buranki. No contest, PP.

  21. C

    If only BONES or Madhouse had picked up Ajin… Anime CGI just isn't at a level where it can do justice to that work. I'm still mad that happened.

    BUT the good news is that BONES picked up ONE's Mob Psycho 100% and that alone is enough of a reason to not despair in 2016.

    Also, the first episode of Thunderbolt was great! It really makes poor IBO look very lackluster next to it, lol.

  22. s

    is it just me or is GAINAX going out of business they've only released web animes in recent years D:

    also Baby Steps just finished and I'm already craving a rewatch, there's just not that many good sports anime out there T.T

  23. J

    I wouldn't agree that Fall lifted the year so much as it had some shows I could actually watch. The sheer dearth of anything in pretty much every other season this year mean the damage was already done though. I've essentially lost all enthusiasm for anime and plan on taking at least the first half of the next year off and just seeing where things are at maybe sometime around Summer. It was just that bad and disappointing a year to the point where I'm starting to think I've just grown out of or totally lost interest in TV anime. Just I don't know, I was aware of a culture shift in industry and fan interest trends before hand but 2015 really seemed to have painted just how stark it is and just how much more I'm enjoying my other hobbies in comparison lately. I'd rather take a shot at a random Netflix movie these days than take a shot at the first couple episodes of an anime TV series lately because I figure the odds are it'll have better characters, better storytelling and hold my interest longer.

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