The fall is here and that means once again I have a whole batch of anime to check out. I park my butt in front of a screen and check out the first episode(s) of all the anime I can and give you the what I think will be be some of the top stuff. Many other places will make there picks based solely on the hype and promotional material, but I find it better to view the actual product before endorsing it. The goal is to give as well informed an opinion as I can and encourage folks whether they’re already anime fans or just somebody casually looking for something new to watch and enjoy.
As always, the ground rules remain the same:
1. Only new anime seasons/series currently available legally allowed. The show being an adaptation is fine, but no previously released material that’s been re-edited for television will be considered.
2. Only new shows or existing shows with minimal required effort on time and finances for the viewer to get into said show. I’ve nothing against longer series, expanded franchises, and shows behind pay walls of lesser known or used services. It is just how things are these days. However, I want to keep the initial investment for the audience at or next to nothing so that they can check out the shows without worry.
3. All adaptations are selected on their own merit. I’m judging the show, not the work that inspired the show.
This season came with a few easy standouts but a lot of the rest sat firmly in the realm of middling to okay. The painful shows were at a minimum this time, which came as a relief for your boy, but it is hard not to lose all hope for humanity when you realize Love Rice is not only a thing allowed to exist, but it is on its second season.
If you want an almost complete list of everything I watched, you can find one here.
First some quick honorable mentions!
Truth be told, I’ve never been that into Blade Runner. I appreciate the movie and marvel at the visual design, but it never took hold of my imagination like it did with so many other people. I would haven’t even bothered with the short if it wasn’t for one name, Shinichiro Watanabe. Watanabe is my favorite anime director and I will always make time for one of his projects.
This fifteen minute short, which was both written and directed by Watanabe, is set years after the original film but before the recently released, Blade Runner 2049. It follows a few replicants out to destroy a data instillation so that they will be able to more easily slip into regular society without being detected and live out their lives as they see fit. This collaboration between Alcon Entertainment and Cygames gives Watanabe the chance to use multiple animation styles to tell this quick and enjoyable story. You don’t need to see it to appreciate the new movie, but it well worth a watch. Give it a look over on Crunchyroll.
Food Wars! The Third Plate
Ever since I got back into anime, I’ve been a fan of Food Wars. Based on the manga by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki comes to us from the fine folks over at J.C.Staff. Soma Yukihira is a young teenager out to be the best chef in the world. While already damn good due to the training he received under his dad at their restaurant, when his dad takes a new gig requiring him to travel the world he pushes his son to join the prestigious Totsuki Culinary Academy, a place that’s so hardcore that it has only a 10% graduation rate. Ultra-competitive by nature, Soma relishes this chance to challenge himself and grow and learn about all the different sorts of food out there in the world. If you have any love for culinary competition shows, you owe it to yourself to give Food Wars a shot. The third season just started and it is already fun as hell. Get your grub on at Crunchyroll and Hulu.
5. Konohana Kitan
I was really worried about finding something for the number five slot, I almost gave it to Black Clover, a show with a lot of potential, but had a pilot that was more annoying then awesome, then it almost went to Garo: Vanishing Line, but that is part of a larger series with multiple iterations so it didn’t meet the criteria to make this list. Then I hit on Konohana Kitan, a show that was was charming, peaceful, quaint, and yes, totally kawaii. It’s based off of the manga by Sakuya Amano and animated by Lerche.
A young overeager fox-girl named Yuzu comes to work at the hotel, Konohanatei. Along with her other co-workers Yuzu meets the stubborn and reserved Satsuki with whom she feels an instant connection. Could this odd friendship grow into something more? There isn’t some big reveal or crazy plot hook here, it is just a show about cute girls crushing on each other in a Japanese fantasy setting. It is lighthearted entertaining fare that brings a smile to my face, and that is reason enough for it to make the list. You can find it over on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
4. Juni Taisen: Zodiac War
Juni Taisen: Zodiac War is from the animation studio Graphinica and is an adaptation of the light novel by Nisio Isin. It follows a series of competitors who each are dressed and address each other as animals of the Chinese Zodiac who swallow poison gems which the others must retrieve by whatever means necessary before they all croak, at which point the winner will receive the antidote and and any one wish they desire.The mysterious organization running the tournament has emptied out an entire city for the warriors to battle things out, giving everyone carte blanche to get as nuts as they like.
This is far from the most original plot in an anime, the hook here is the characters. You want to know more about them, what drove them to this competition, how do they represent their zodiac sign in mentality or fighting style, and what other secrets may they be hiding. Using the Chinese Zodiac to quickly give these characters some personality goes a long way in helping this show as it gives the audience an easy and immediate shorthand to understand the characters and then can work to lay on the action or deeper character work.
End of the day, it’s bad people doing unpredictable violent things to each other for a big reward. If that’s your cup of tea you’ll find a lot to like here. Find out who survives over on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
3. The Ancient Magus’ Bride
Wit Studio, the same guys that brought you the anime adaptation of Attack on Titan are back to bring us the adaptation of Kore Yamazaki’s popular magical fantasy with a dash of slice of life manga.
Chise Hatori has had a rough life, to the point where she thinks selling herself into slavery will at least get her a home. She also been plagued by visions of monsters that no one else can see. At great cost she is bought by an inhuman magus named Elias Ainsworth to be his apprentice and hopefully one day, his bride. Also turns out that she has great magic potential and all those weird beings she has seen all her life are real.
If all this sounds a little creepy, that’s because it is. The show is quick to call all this out in the first two episodes. Elias, while tactless and boneheaded when it comes to dealing with people (pun intended), is a pretty good dude and takes care of Chise. He makes clear that she can leave if she wishes and isn’t going to push her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. Despite having been bought, she’s his apprentice, not his slave. The show is quiet and paced for the most part and the world and characters suck you in and get you wanting to know more. It knows how to be haunting and beautiful, and it also knows when needed how to tell a joke. There was a three part OVA that was released that serves as a bit of a prequel to the story, but it is nothing you have to watch to get into the series. Get swept away over now on Crunchyroll or wait for the Oct. 30th release over at Funimation.
2. Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
New York has gone to hell. You see, a few years back a portal to “beyond” opened up and things went a little sideways. Now a place where humans, monsters and whatever the hell else reside, NYC has been re-branded Hellsalem’s Lot. Enter one Leonardo Watch, who has gained a bunch of weird ocular powers, the dowside being that this came at the expense of his sister’s sight. Leo joins Libra, an organization dedicated to keeping the most nasty and dangerous humans, beasts, and the aforementioned whatever the hells in check.
Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond is that perfect blend of comic insanity I so enjoy. I was so sucked in by the madness I was seeing, it felt so wild and strange, but the character design and pacing felt all too familiar. Everything snapped into focus when I did a little digging I found out this was based off of a manga by Yasuhiro Nightow, the creator of Trigun. Things started to makes sense, well okay they still didn’t make sense given how nuts this show is, but knowing the man behind it and his former works did give a good bit of perspective. Add the top quality animation of Bones and you have one damn fine show!
To try and explain this show and why it’s so good is a little counterproductive. It’s like trying to explain an extremely complex flavor, words get you part of the way, but it needs to be experienced to be truly understood. It’s an action/drama/comedy/sci-fi, supernatural/semi-political/superhero show. This is the follow-up show to a 2015 series, but that is a quick twelve episodes you can knock out in a sitting or two. Get into the crazy over at Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Funimation.
1. Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World
I love Kino’s Journey. I love everything about this franchise and am so excited to get to experience a new interpretation of Kino. This anime has no connection to any previous show or film (other than being about Kino, obviously), this is a new series introducing Kino to a whole new generation in its own particular way, and so far, I dig it.
Based off the light novels of Keiichi Sigsawa and brought to life by the team at Lerche (look, they made the list twice!), the series follows the adventures of a traveler named Kino. Using a talking motorcycle called Hermes to get around Kino travels the world. A diverse assortment of cultures, countries and philosophies can be found across the land and Kino wants to see as much of it as possible despite how dangerous or cruel that journey may be. While far from a saint, Kino is a generally agreeable and pleasant despite being overly stoic person who is usually adverse to violence, but brutally efficient when the situation calls for it.
Kino’s Journey isn’t something you binge, you’d miss so much that way, this is a franchise that encourages you to pace yourself and to take your time and think. Kino, like the audience, is an outsider, able to see the faults, eccentricities, horrors, hypocrisies, ridiculousness, and yes, even the beauty of the cultures and societies presented. The trick is to then look and see how all those things are reflected in our real world history, and even ourselves. It is about how silly and outright messed up humanity is, but also about how despite all that there something to be valued and cherished. Kino’s Journey is the term ‘beautiful melancholy’ in its purest sense and its tagline “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.” couldn’t sum the franchise up better. Begin your journey at Crunchyroll or on Hulu. The series will also be available at Funimation on Oct 26th.