Will Spring 2017 be anime’s first step on the road to recovery? At this point, it’s too early to say.
The less we talk about the season in progress the better, probably – though it does seem to have escaped the doomsday scenario of being the worst anime season on record. On the strength of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu being an all-time great and a couple of reasonably good non-sequels, Winter 2017 may just eclipse Winter 2013 on balance – though thanks to a number of good sequels that season, this is definitely the smallest number of series I’ve ever followed.
That, if nothing else, seems likely to change. This season’s I’m previewing no less than 24 shows, twice what I did for Winter. Part of that is simply a function of spring nearly always being the year’s largest schedule, but with that many shows to sample from, the odds are pretty good that a decent number will at least be good enough to blog. That number surprised me when I totted it up at the start of this post, because in looking at the schedule it didn’t strike me as an especially promising one. Without a doubt, the uncertainty factor (partly driven by so many seeming sleepers being LN adaptations) is unusually high this season – other than the sequels, it’s dominated by shows which seem to have a lot of potential but might just as easily be dogs. We’ll just have to hope there’s safety in numbers.
The strength of Spring 2017 seems, on paper, seems to be sequels – it has a ton of pretty promising ones (there are three sequels to series that were on my year-end Top 10 lists). Stuff like Natsume Yuujinchou Roku, Boku no Hero Academia 2 and Uchouten Kazoku 2 are above as safe as anime betting gets, and that’s not to mention the rock-steady if rarely flashy Kyoukai no Rinne. The are a couple of “Shingeki” sequels, too, and one of them may be the most widely-anticipated one in years. I’ll be watching (and blogging, at least to start) both, but I wouldn’t say either the original “Kyoujin” or “Bahamut” ranked as classics in my view.
What about original (and in this context, I mean “non-sequel”) series? Here’s where it gets a little troublesome, because while there are a whole lot of interesting lottery tickets there’s nothing out there that strikes me as a safe bet to be excellent. If I had to single out it would likely be Kabukibu, Clockwork Planet, Sakurada Reset and Tsuki ga Kirei, but in truth that amounts to more than a larger than usual sleeper list than a group of elites. That’s the thing with lottery tickets – even if you buy a bunch of them, you’re not likely to hit it big.
What about thematically? For one, there’s a definite resurgence of light novels as a source (including Clockwork Planet, Kabukibu! and Sakurada Reset) which doesn’t do much to make me more optimistic. Broadly speaking, fantasy (including historical), magic and magical realism themes seem to be having a moment, as straight sci-fi takes a back seat. The rest of it is the usual smattering – a bit of shoujo, a bit of romance, a bit of comedy, a token seinen or two. Perhaps most disappointingly for me, there doesn’t seem to be a single new sports series (even a sequel) starting this season.
The sidebar poll is in the usual place – go get it. Without further ado, on to the previews:
Boku no Hero Academia Second Season – Bones
Director: Nagasaki Kenji
Writer: Kuroda Yousuke
Schedule: Premieres Saturday 04/01, 17:30
Episodes: Two Cour
First Look: For my money Horikoshi Kouhei’s Boku no Hero Academia may just be the consummate modern shounen. It’s a classic in every sense of the word – not a deconstruction of the genre but a full-on deep dive into it. It’s a marvelous work by a talented young mangaka with a bright future, and it’s no wonder it’s become arguably the most successful of Shounen Jump’s “next gen” properties.
As it usually does with its valuable franchises, Shueisha is treating BnHA with kid gloves. The material was given to a studio in Bones that was pretty much guaranteed not to screw it up (especially with Nagasaki Kenji on-board) and the first season a single cour so as to avoid burning through material too quickly. It’s been apparent since the first teasers that the sequel was likely to be two cours, and now it’s official. The path with this series is pretty much unidirectional – it only gets better, and the first season was merely a tasting course of what this series has to offer. This is as close to a slam dunk as it gets.
Shingeki no Kyoujin Season 2 – Wit
Director: Arali Tetsurou
Writer: Kobayashi Yasuko
Schedule: Premieres Saturday 04/01, 22:00
First Look: Anime hits don’t get much bigger than Shingeki no Kyoujin. From disc sales to manga volume records to Comiket to merchandising, this series pretty much owned the otaku community. As only the true blockbusters do, it appealed to both male and female audiences in almost equal numbers. And it arguably crossed over to the general public more broadly than any TV anime since Evangelion.
This sequel (maybe the most unsurprising ever) has been a long time coming, and the hype is huge. Is all that success and hype justified? Well, strictly in my opinion, no – Attack on Titan has some pretty glaring writing flaws as far as I’m concerned. But I do get why it’s so popular, and I respect it – the show is loads of fun, frequently hilarious (sometimes even on purpose), and a virtual meme assembly line. Even something as simple as seeing viewers go crazy trying to avoid spoilers was great entertainment (especially given how telegraphed the big “reveals” were). Buckle up and enjoy the ride, because there are going to be times when it seems like it’s all the anime world is talking about.
Tsugumomo – Zero-G
Director/Writer: Kuraya Ryouichi
Schedule: Premieres Sunday, 04/02/17, 23:30
First Look: I don’t know much about Tsugumomo, except that it’s supposedly pretty raunchy and the manga is surprisingly well-liked. The story sounds pretty boilerplate – a kid surrounded by beautiful older girls and a magical/Shinto element – and there’s not much to go on in terms of staff, original creator or studio. So basically a flyer, then – though for whatever reason this strikes me as a mild sleeper.
Warau Salesman 2017– Shin-Ei
Director: Ogura Hirofumii
Schedule: Premieres Monday, 04/03, 25:05
First Look: There’s quite a bit of history with this story of a sinister salesman who seems to make people’s problems go away, only to extract a terrible price. The manga was written by Doraemon co-creator Abiko Motoo, and it was already adapted way back in the late 80’s. It’s a total flyer for me since I know nothing of the material in any form, but I’ll give it a look at least.
Love Kome: We Love Rice– Encourage Films
Director: Yamazaki Yuta
Writer: Takabayashi Yuuki
Schedule: Premieres Wednesday, 04/05 – 22:50
First Look: The trend of anthropomorphizing everything into young girls has crossed over into boys as female otaku flex their purchasing power, and Love Kome is a reflection of that. I give the series credit for a clever pun in the title (I’m a sucker for puns), and a really absurd premise – five grains of rice as schoolboys trying to make rice more popular than bread. There’s something in this that makes me feel it could be 2017’s Boeibu, at least in style. But it lacks that series’ A-list staff – as far as I can tell this is a first-time writer and director. It’s another flyer, but might be fun.
Sakurada Reset – David Production
Director: Kawatsura Shinya
Writer: Takayama Katsuhiko
Schedule: Premieres Wednesday, 04/05, 23:30
Episodes: 2 Cour
First Look: Yes, Sakurada Reset is a light novel adaptation, and that’s usually not a cause for optimism. But there’s reason to hope this one might be an exception. The source material is pretty well-regarded, and director Kawatsura is fresh off a stellar performance with Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge. Plus it’s been given a straight two-cour timeslot – a rare vote of confidence in this day and age – which should allow a complete adaptation of the source material.
For me, it’s all enough to intrigue. I like the look here, which very much puts me in mind of old-school P.A. Works, and David is capable of solid work. The premise seems interesting too – a kind of “school-life superpowers” hybrid set in a seaside town where everyone has some sort of paranormal esper ability. The main pair are a girl who has the ability to “reset” the world – and everyone’s memories – by three days, and a boy who remembers everything anyway. Will romance ensue as they solve mysteries together? Hard to believe it won’t.
First Look: Speaking of P.A. Works, needless to say Sakura Quest is the new PAW show I have lesser expectations for. This smacks of being their “KyoAni” series – mailing it in, trying to be exactly what their fans expect them to be. I suppose cute girls being cute where the girls are actually women is progress of a sort, but this sure seems like low-hanging fruit for PAW. Not a lot of confidence in the staff, though writer Yokotani has done some decent work (and the writer is the key player with an original series). The plot revolves around five cute girls acting as ambassadors to try and revive tourism in a small Japanese town.
Clockwork Planet – Xebec
Director: Nagasawa Tsuyoshi
Writer: Sugihara Kenji
Schedule: Premieres Thursday, 04/06, 25:58
First Look: I must be getting soft, with three LN adaptations showing up my sleeper list, but Clockwork Planet is another one (with a stop-off in manga in-between) that looks intriguing to me. A hard sci-fi from Xebec (who know their way around sci-fi), it’s the story of a teen in a post-dystopian future who’s a mechanical whiz. One day a female robot crashes into his yard, and his life will never be the same. Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Yeah, that’s about as generic a sci-fi plot as you’ll find in anime, but there’s something about the look and tone of the preview material here that I like. Nagasawa (Haiyore! Naruko-san, Kyou no Go no Ni) is a rather stylish director as well. It’s a flyer to an extent, but my expectations are reasonably high.
Kabukibu! – DEEN
Director: Yoneda Kazuhiro
Writer: Nakamura Yoshiko
Schedule: Premieres Thursday, 04/06, 26:28
First Look: My God, it’s another LN adaptation I’m actually looking forward to – what’s the world coming to? Having tackled Karuta and Rakugo anime now turns its attention to Kabuki (can Noh and Bunryaku puppet theater be far behind?), and it’s DEEN who’s once again in charge, with designs by CLAMP. There are no translations of the source material that I know of, and no hard reason to suspect this is going to be anywhere near as good as Shouwa Genroku (or Chihayafuru) but this is a strong staff – we have Akatsuki no Yona’s director in Yoneda-sensei, and Nakamura wrote the Shounen Maid and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun adaptations.
Plot-wise, Kabukibu! focuses on a high school freshman who loves kabuki and struggles to get a kabuki club started at his school. Could it be generic? Yeah – but that’s not the vibe I’m getting. Deen has been pretty good of late about choosing well-written material to adapt, and about executing those adaptations. Kabukibu! seems like a good bet to be this season’s “that really good show nobody watches”.
First Look: Here’s a semi-interesting lottery ticket from Toei, whose ventures into original anime for grown-ups can prove interesting (see Kyousougiga). The premise sees a plane full of passengers kidnapped by a mysterious man who says he’s going top “intervene in Japan’s internal affairs”. This one could be anything from awful to great, but, but Murata is a solid, professional director and hopefully Toei deciding to make this one of their rare forays into mainstream TV anime indicates some sort of confidence in the material.
Kyoukai no Rinne Season 3 – Brain’s Base
Director: AIshidori Hiroshi
Writer: Yokote Michiko
Schedule: Premieres Saturday, 04/08, 17:35
Episodes: Two cours (presumably)
First Look: Anime comedies don’t get much more consistent – and underrated – than Brain’s Base’s take on Takahashi Rumiko’s Kyoukai no Rinne. It’s pretty much ignored in the Western fandom and doesn’t generate disc sales, though the TV ratings are pretty good (as witness it getting a prime Saturday evening timeslot for the third straight series). All Rinne does is deliver the laughs, week after week and season after season. It’s a comedy that never has to try too hard to be funny, and reflects Takahashi’s supreme confidence and ease in her own writing.
We received the interesting news that there would be an “important announcement” concerning Takahashi-sensei next month, and with the third season already on the schedule it seems very possible this could be that Kyoukai no Rinne is going to end its manga run. If so, that would man we’re likely to see some sort of definitive anime ending with this season (though there’s too much remaining material for a thorough adaptation in two cours).
ID-0 – SANZIGEN
Director: Taniguchi Gorou
Writer: Kuroda Yousuke
Schedule: Premieres Sunday, 04/09, 23:00
First Look: Now here’s an intriguing original series. It springs from the pen of Kuroda Yousuke, who delivered the “Onegai/Ano Natsu” triptych, and director Taniguchi is one of the true old-school workhorses of the industry. Precious little is known about the premise – a girl at a military academy ends up working on an excavation company’s spaceship after some sort of pirate encounter. But with names (especially Kuroda) like these involved, you certainly pay attention.
Uchouten Kazoku 2 – P.A. Works
Director: Yoshihara Masayuki
Writer: Higaki Ryou
Schedule: Premieres Sunday 04/09, Time TBA
Episodes: One Cour
First Look: In a season pretty heavily weights towards sequels, Uchouten Kazoku‘s may just be the one I’m most looking forward to (and among the most surprising). The first season placed #6 for me in a very decent 2013, and would have been even higher after about 9-10 episodes – the ending was a bit indifferent, but there are individual eps here that rank among my all-time favorites. Like most good anime “The Eccentric Family” tanked on disc, but it’s the popularity of Morimi Tomihiko’s novels that’s responsible for this sequel.
Given that there’s plenty of Morimi’s material left to adapt and that the staff is mostly unchanged (Higaki-sensei is new on series composition, but has an exemplary track record) there’s absolutely no reason to think this cour won’t be every bit the gem the first was. Uchouten Kazoku is at heart a love story about families, and I have a special weakness for those – and it’s been a good year for heart-driven tanuki anime already. This is also one of the best anime in recent memory when it comes to depicting the sublime magic that is Kyoto (a place native Morimi-sensei clearly loves deeply – as do I) This may just be my favorite P.A.Works series ever (it’s a dogfight with True Tears), yet it’s surely most unlike any other show they’ve done. PAW, tanuki, Kyoto, Morimi – what’s not to love?
Atom: The Beginning – Production I.G.
Director: Satou Tatsuo
Writer: Fujisaku Junichi
Schedule: Premieres Saturday 04/15, 23:00
First Look: This isn’t the Tezuka adaptation hardcore fans like me have been clamoring for (that would be Pluto), but any new Tezuka work on TV is a significant development. This one comes from the suddenly busy Production I.G. and features heavyweight director Satou Tatsuo (Nadesico, Ucchu no Stellvia).
It so happens that Atom: The Beginning is based on a manga (one of whose authors is Teuka Osamu’s son Makoto) that isn’t necessarily regarded as a modern classic. It’s an origin-story for the characters involved, more of an authorized spinoff than an actual canon Tezuka work. My expectations are relatively modest, but given the pedigree Atom is a series that requires careful consideration.
Souryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni… – Seven
Director: Araki Hideaki
Schedule: Premieres Sunday 04/02, 25:00
Episodes: Two Cour
First Look: Complete flyer here. From what I hear this story of a lusty monk and his childhood friend is pretty close to straight-up hentai material, but at least it’s not out of the cookie cutter so I’ll give it an episode or two. (Edit: Apparently, it’s a short)
Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – MAPPA
Director: Satou Keiichi
Writer: Ooishi Shizuka
Schedule: Premieres Friday 04/07, 25:55
First Look: This season’s “other” Shingeki sequel sees MAPPA revisiting their first hit. And a surprise hit Shingeki no Bahamut was, a mobile game adaptation that kind of snuck under the radar with an anime storyline that was almost entirely new material. I didn’t love the first season but I did like it an awful lot for what it was.
MAPPA has been pretty cagey about the new season’s storyline, but the promo material seems to suggest the first season’s protagonists will be de-emphasized and the focus shifted to the Joan of Arc character. That would not be a positive development in my book, at least on paper.
Alice to Zouroku – J.C. Staff
Director: Sakurabi Katsushi
Writer: Takayama Fumihiko
Schedule: Premieres Sunday 04/02, 23:00
First Look: Superficially, Alice to Zouroku has a whiff of moebomb to it. But it’s seinen, and we don’t get much seinen anime these days. Plus I rather like Sakurabi as a director (Flying Witch, Asatte no Houkou) and Ootsuka Akio as a grumpy old man is full of win.
The premise has a little girl escaping from a lab that apparently breeds girls who have the ability to materialize anything they imagine, and taking refuge with Ootsuka’s old man character. The manga doesn’t have any translations out there, so there isn’t a lot of English-language opinion on it to be found. But there’s enough in Alice to Zouroku to make it modestly intriguing.
Re:Creators – TROYCA
Director: Aoki Ei
Writer: Hiroe Rei
Schedule: Premieres Saturday 04/08, 23:00
First Look: You know, as I write this monster preview I’m struck by how many crapshoots we have this season – the range of outcomes seems especially wide this time around. And Re:Creators, another original sci-fi series, certainly fits the bill. The premise is opaque and vague, but seems to have elements of mecha, philosophy (characters in stories expressing their own will) and fantasy.
As far as I can tell, TROYCA is a B-studio for A-1 Pictures (B-1 Pictures?) and the only show they’re credited as lead on was the middling Sakurako-san (which did at least look nice). But the real interest here is sparked by the staff – Aoki Ei is obviously an A-list director. The concept and designs are from Hiroe Rei of Black Lagoon fame, and Sawano Hiroyuki (who sadly seems destined to be known as the composer whose music was the best part of a lot of mediocre anime) is doing the soundtrack.
Renai Boukun – EMT2
Director: Nigorikawa Atsushi
Writer: Takahashi Natsuko
Schedule: Premieres Thursday, 04/06, 26:35
First Look: To be honest, the main reason I’m including Renai Boukun in the preview is that I like the concept art (it reminds me a bit of Kamisama Kazoku). That, and the fact that as usual genuine comedy seems like a weak point on the schedule. The premise surrounds a “kiss note” (those whose names are written together will fall hopelessly in love if they kiss), and the cupid who accidentally writes down the name of a high schooler, convinces him to kiss his crush (he’ll die if he doesn’t, apparently) who turns out to be a yandere, and then falls for him herself. That’s just dumb enough to maybe work.
Natsume Yuujinchou Roku – Shuka
Director: Kotomi Deai (presumably)
Writer: Murai Sadayuki (presumably)
Schedule: Premieres April 2017, Time TBA
Episodes: One Cour
First Look: In a season where the uncertainty principle reigns supreme for the bulk of the schedule, there’s reassuring predictability in the sequels. And they don’t get much more reassuringly predictable than Natsume Yuujinchou. The sequels always come (sometimes they take longer than others), they always produce, and they always sell pretty well. I don’t necessarily watch this series because I want to be surprised, but I’m rarely so happy to get exactly what I expect.
There have been changes at the margins – Shuka has poached the series from Brain’s Base, and Omori Takahiro has ceded day to day control of the franchise to Kotomi Deai (though the “Roku” staff has not ben officially confirmed). And there’s no denying that the art and animation has slipped a bit with the change. But the content remains remarkably consistent, and even as the manga continues apace there’s a sense we could be somewhere in the final act of the story soon. My fond hope for S6 is that we at last get another Kogitsune episode – he was in the OP for S5 and even got his own high-priced figurine, so the producers are cruelly stringing us along…
Fukumenkei Noise – Brain’s Base
Director: Takahashi Hideya
Writer: Mieno Hitomi
Schedule: Premieres Tuesday 04/11, 23:00
First Look: Speaking of Brain’s Base, there’s life in the old war horse yet. In addition to another season of Rinne, we get this adaptation of a modestly well-regarded shoujo manga. It’s music-themed and built around a love triangle, so there’s certainly potential aplenty for shoujo cliche. There’s not much in Takahashi’s resume to inspire confidence, but Mieno has a very solid track record with adaptations. Put it on the flyer list, but towards the top of it.
First Look: Of all the original series premiering this Spring, Tsuki ga Kirei interests me the most. We don’t see that many character dramas centered around middle-schoolers, and frankly we should see more – they’re often more interesting than trope-driven stories about high school. Based on the premise this looks like a fairly serious look at the maturation of four friends, without a heavy focus on romantic drama. But it’s an original, so who knows.
A lot of folks are skeptical that Kishi-sensei is the right director for this project, but I think he’s unfairly maligned. Kishi is an excellent director, but not one who can rise above the material he’s given. When given solid, serious raw materials like Aura or Kamisama Dolls, he does extremely well. That pretty much lays Tsuki ga Kirei’s fate on the doorstep of writer Kakihara Yuuko, and her track record is long and generally very good – though it is heavily weighted towards adaptations. This is definitely sleeper material for me.
Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine – Bridge
Director: Kikuchi Katsuya
Writer: Ueno Kimiko
Schedule: Premieres Tuesday 04/04, 26:05
First Look: We close with another lottery ticket, this time a manga adaptation about a royal tutor to four eccentric princes. The hook is that the tutor is constantly mistaken for a little boy despite being a grown man. Despite the premise and general look, Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine is actually published in a shounen magazine, which is kind of interesting. Bridge has done well with comedies before (Mitsudomoe – though that had anime’s top comedy director on-board for that franchise). My expectations aren’t high, but I always want to give comedies a chance to capture my interest.
Will Definitely Blog: Boku no Hero Academia Season 2, Kabukibu!, Kyoukai no Rinne Season 3, Uchouten Kazoku 2, Natsume Yuujinchou Roku, Tsuki ga Kirei. Well, that already equals what I’m blogging for winter – and it would be a shock if at least a couple more series make the cut (though I suppose Kabukibu! or Tsuki ga Kirei could also flame out).
Sleeper Candidates: How much time you got? Tsugumomo, Clockwork Planet, Kabukibu! (yes, a show can be both a “WDB” and a sleeper if enough people are ignoring it), Re-creators, Tsuki ga Kirei.
OVA/Movie: Pretty crowded here, too.
Days (OVA) – 03/17/, 05/17/2017: A second season of the MAPPA soccer anime is due later this year (presumably), but in the meantime we have two OVAs to tide us over. Days is pretty close to the dictionary definition of a pretty good show, but the sports landscape is pretty barren this season so I’ll take what I can get.
Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Special) – 03/22, 04/26/17: Still more Natsume Yuujinchou, this time in the form of two TV specials. I haven’t seen any synopses, so as far as I’m concerned these are two more shots at a Kogitsune episode.
Hoozuki no Reitetsu (OVA) – 03/23/17: Happily, a second season of Hoozuki no Reitetsu was finally announced for this coming fall. It will be produced by Deen rather than Wit, as are the OVAs – and we have a new group of those starting this month. Being a largely episodic comedy, Hoozuki is ideally suited to the OVA format, and unsurprisingly there’s been no dropoff in quality with the OVA episodes.
Boku no Hero Academia: Jump Festa 2016 (Special) – 04/04/2017: This is the special episode of BnHA that originally showed at Jump Festa in December (if you’re ever in town, I highly recommend you go). As with most Jump Festa specials this is original material, but it was written by Horikoshi-sensei.
Ajin (OVA) – 04/07/2017: With no new films or seasons confirmed for Ajin, this third OVA could be the final animated take on the material. I rather hope not, as it’s a really strong story and I’m finally getting used to the CGI. This ep focuses on Samuel T. Owens’ (Satou’s) past, and that’s a rather appetizing prospect.
Theatrical: It’s a virtual one-man show here.
Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome – 04/07/2017: Yuasa Masaaki has not one but two films coming out this spring. I don’t know how that works exactly, but he’s a fascinating iconoclast of a director so it’s certainly good news for anime fans. Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome will likely be the more highly-anticipated film among anime fans, being as it re-teams Yuasa with Morimi Tomihiko. Not only that, it seems to be a crossover with the Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei universe. Trailer:
Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta – 05/19/2017: Yuasa-sensei’s other film looks just as interesting to me, and perhaps a bit more of a stylistic departure for him. It’s an original, co-written with Yokote Michiko. Story-wise, Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta gives us a middle-schooler (played by actual middle-schooler Shimoda Shouta) who has an encounter with a mermaid. Looks can be deceiving, but this one looks to be a bit warmer and more earnest than Yuasa’s normal emotional tone. Trailer:
Blame! – 05/20/2017: Sidonia no Kishi mangaka Nihei Tsutomu’s other series gets a film from Polygon, after a brief crossover in Sidonia and an ONA. Most of the Sidonia staff is present here, so I’d expect a look and feel pretty close to that series. I don’t know much about Blame! apart from the general premise of a dystopian future and a dark, surly anti-hero named Killy the Wanderer. But I do know that a good number of fans consider it Nihei’s better work, so I’ll be following this one with some curiosity. Trailer: