I like to say that every season of anime has a different character to itself then the preceding seasons but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such an extreme change as the coming spring season appears to herald.
For the record, that’s not a bad thing because I think keeping an open mind about what I watch is one of the main reasons why I have not gotten bored of anime.
One of the reasons this spring season already feels different is the lack of several prominent (or, at least, frequent contributing) animation studios sitting this season out – Kyoto Animation, Shaft, Bones, Diomedea, Silver Link, and Studio Deen – amongst others. Another reason is the noitaminA time slot will be re-airing Katanagatari instead of offering one or two new series as has been the case for several years now.
Then there’s the mix of genres of the new series versus the old. There are several mecha series this season, for instance, along with several more SF-themed series. There’s also a relative dearth of new slice-of-life (and slice-of-life/something else) series; this season has only Danchi Tomoo filling the space where, for example, last spring season was filled with Natsuiro Kiseki, Hyouka, Mysterious Girlfriend X, Sakamichi no Apollon, and Space Brothers.
Another interesting observation I noticed, not that it will necessarily impact the feel of the season, is there are three series being helmed by first time directors – Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, and Photo Kano. Normally there might be one series a season helmed by a first time director; so, it’ll be interesting to see how these series turn out and impact the feeling of this season.
Okay that’s enough rambling; let’s get to the list.
Below are my picks for the Spring 2013 season, sorted by how good I think the show will turn out and broken into 4 broad tiers.
- Platinum Tier shows are those anime that I believe have a virtually 100% guarantee of being good. Sometimes I’m wrong like when Shaft/Shinbou stretches out the plot of a sequel (Natsu no Arashi 2 and Arakawa Under the Bridge 2) to, presumably, do a third series. When that happens it’s always very disappointing.
- Gold Tier contains those shows that I think have a very good chance of being, at a minimum, “good” shows. Anime at this level usually miss out on being Platinum Tier because I don’t know enough about the source material or the studio animating it has been known for doing variable work or some other small thing that makes me less then fully certain.
- Silver tier shows still have a lot going for them but bigger potential problems start showing up. The problem might be in the source material, animation studio, or director and it’s a big enough one that I think the show could go either way.
- Bronze tier shows have something that makes me think it possibly could be a decent show but I’m not holding much hope. Sometimes there’s a surprisingly good show from this group.
The final item of business before moving to the Spring preview/watch list is to mention the anime series that are continuing into this season that are worth a renewed look.
Hunter x Hunter – The Greed Island arc turned out to be pretty good after all. Liberal doses of Hisoka helped, of course. The upcoming story arc is apparently the favorite of many of the manga readers so I’m getting excited.
Uchuu Kyoudai – Space Brothers is back for a fifth continuous season. Starting this season, it will have it’s time slot shifted to a more coveted and more watched spot which I hope signals this anime will continue for many more seasons so I can get my fill of astronaut-in-training Mutta and his already astronaut younger brother.
Chihayafuru 2 – Who knew an anime series about a group of high school kids that play a 1000 year old card game built around memorizing poems could so enthralling.
No series is such a lock to rank this highly.
Shingeki no Kyojin
Director: Tetsurou Araki – Death Note, Kurozuka, Guilty Crown
Studio: Wit Studio – Spin-off from Production IG
There is one thing that held me back from putting this anime into the top tier. If this is as surefire of a hit as it appears to be why is a new studio with no completed series under it’s belt the studio that’s handling it? This certainly looks like it’s going to awesome. Just the setting alone – humanity has been pushed back to living in a single city that has a wall large enough to keep the Giants, who are giant humanoids, out until one day a super large giant appears and tears down the wall – is something to be giddy about. With Psycho-Pass and Shin Sekai Yori finished up, I’m looking for something new to scratch my smart SF itch.
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai – Honey and Clover 2, Anohana, Toradora
Studio: JC Staff – Joshiraku, Little Busters, Zero’s Familiar, Shana, Index, Railgun, Milky Holmes, Potemayo, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Hidan no Aria
The much better half of the Index – Railgun shared world franchise is getting a sequel and I’m excited. I’ve always been mystified at how annoying and grating it is to watch Index and how merely changing the viewpoint character makes Railgun a thoroughly more enjoyable experience. One of the problems with most every JC Staff series is the anime series is only as good as the source material; they do not have the ability to improve upon or smooth over the problems when adapting from one media to another. Therefore, even though the first season was very good, this season will only be if the source material is very good which is why I haven’t placed this in the top tier.
For those that aren’t familiar with the franchise, this series takes place in a city designed to nurture the talent of kids who have developed super-powers and the main character here is one the most gifted with the ability to manipulate electrical forces. One of her favorite tactics in battle is to turn a coin into a railgun projectile and it’s always an impressive sight when she does. To catch-up for this series, the Index side isn’t necessary to watch the Railgun side but watching the first Railgun series will be needed to watch this series.
Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199
Director: Yutaka Izubuchi
Studio: AIC / Xebec
Origin: Anime original
If I wanted too, I could know if this series is good or not because it began airing last year in movie form and the BD/DVDs of the first several of the parts have been released; but, at this point, I’m just going to wait and be surprised. The set-up for this series shows the age of the original – an alien invasion has left humanity on the brink of extinction in the year 2199 AD when another alien race offers to help humanity if we can travel to them and pick up the offered weapons to save humanity and so humans build, then, send a space battleship by the name Yamato to do just that – however, as one of the most influential anime ever, there’s probably something good about Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 .
Director: Kenji Yasuda – Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Noein
Studio: Satelight – Noein, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Aquarion Evol, ½ of Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, AKB0048, Mouretsu Pirates
I’m disinclined to bet against an animation studio that’s on a hot streak and Satelight has been on a strong hot streak for well over a year now. I’m even more disinclined to bet against Arata Kangatari when the director last did Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, one of my favorite series from 2011, and the very excellent Noein. Which is the reason why I’m placing this as high as I am when the set-up for this fantasy/adventure series really could go either way. Speaking of which, the story for Arata Kangatari involves a boy from modern-day Japan getting swapped with a guy that has the same name in a fantasy world who has had to pretend to be the next princess in the line of succession due to “reasons” and has been blamed for the assassination of the current female ruler. Like I said, the story could go either way but I’m betting that Satelight and Kenji Yasuda will ensure that this turns out good.
Suisei no Gargantia
Director: Kazuya Murata
Studio: Production IG – Ghost in the Shell:SAC, Eden of the East, Kemono no Souja Erin, Sengoku Basara, Psycho-pass, Robotics:Notes
Origin: Anime original
Of the various mecha series this season this is the one that I believe has the greatest chance at being good and is also the one I’m most looking forward too. The reason is that the writer for this series is Gen Urobuchi – who shouldn’t need any introductions at this point but for those that don’t recognize the name, he was the writer for Psycho-pass and Madoka. I’m really curious to see what Gen Urobuchi will do with a mecha series. I’m hoping it’s something interesting because, truth be told, I’m not the biggest mecha genre fan. I would have placed this higher but the director needed to be a stronger pick. He’s probably competent but he hardly ever directs (of the three director credits, according to ANN, two were from the mid-90′s and the other was the original Eureka Seven); in a few weeks we’ll find out one way or the other .
Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san
Director: Tatsuya Yoshihara
Studio: Tatsunoko – C, Sket Dance
Gut feeling time – I think Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san is going to be one of the surprise hits of this season. This confidence doesn’t stem from the director involved (this is his second time directing) or the animation studio (it may have been around since the 1960’s but recently Tatsunoko has done the interesting failure that was C and Sket Dance which I dropped like a hot potato almost immediately) or from the positive buzz from people who are familiar with the source material (there isn’t anyway familiar with it) which is why it’s a gut feeling . If I had to point to something beyond a visceral liking of the animation style as the reason to expect something from this anime then I’d have say the writer’s prior credits of Ben-to and Milky Holmes is reason for my optimism. This past experience should serve as good preparation because this series is apparently a high-speed, crazy comedy about a boy that meets a group of mermaids who are behind such phenomenon as the Bermuda Triangle.
Red Data Girl
Director: Toshiya Shinohara
Studio: PA Works – Another, Hanasaku Iroha, Canaan, Angel Beats, True Tears, Tari Tari
I probably could have a more definitive read on this series if I cheated and watched the early streaming of this series but I wanted to wait. Which is probably just as well since I really haven’t heard very strong buzz in either a positive or negative direction and that probably signals that this series will be a bit of a slow burn. Of the six works produced by P.A. Works only two – Another and Hanasaku Iroha – were good. That’s not a good track record but Red Data Girl being a supernatural drama lands right in one of my favorite genres so I think there’s a relatively good chance that this will worth a watch.
Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai 2
Director: Hiroyuki Kanbe
Studio: A-1 Pictures – Shin Sekai Yori, Occult Academy, Tsuritama, Space Brothers, Working, Ao no Exorcist, Kannagi, Birdy the Mighty Decode
Origin: Light Novel
This anime’s reputation being what it is, probably everyone reading this already has their opinion about it’s merits or the lack thereof. I fall somewhere in the middle between the two opposing camps; I found enough to the first season that I’m willing to give the second season a try but I have no allusions about it’s less-then-savory parts. I am also curious to see how the change in the animating studio will affect this series. The first season was done by AIC Build but, apparently, they were too busy to animate the second season so it got moved to A-1 Pictures and the staff followed.
Aku no Hana
Director: Hiroshi Nagahama – Mushishi, Detroit Metal City
Studio: Zexcs – Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu, Chuu-Bra!!, Omamori Himari, Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi, Wagaya no Oinari-sama
In my readings Aku no Hana has received a very high level of good press from people familiar with the source material and normally when there’s this many people excited for an anime there’s a good chance it will be a winner but these same people seem to be pretending not to notice that Zexcs is handling the anime and Zexcs is synonymous with making mediocrity look like a difficult feat to meet. The director has the chops to make a good anime so it’s possible that Aku no Hana will turn out just fine. I’m hoping it does because watching a dark, psychological anime always nicely balances out watching the light and fluffy anime series and that gets me to appreciate the depth seen in anime.
Director: Ayumu Watanabe – Mysterious Girlfriend X, Space Brothers
Studio: Shougakukan Music and Digital Entertainment – apparently this is their first anime
Origin: Seinen Manga
Looking back at my past season previews there always seems to be a least one series from the Bronze Tier that turned out to be a hit. Last season it was Kotoura-san, for example. This season I think Danchi Tomoo has the best chance to be that surprise hit. At first glance this appears to be a kid’s show but a check of the source material reveals that it runs in a seinen manga and it’s been nominated for an award with Death Note, Hyouge Mono, and Moyashimon. That’s pretty good company. Also in this anime’s favor is the director because he was responsible for the surprisingly good Mysterious Girlfriend X and the utterly sublime Space Brothers. Saying that, I don’t have much to go on past that it’s apparently about a fourth grade boy who looks for adventures and gets into trouble a lot which makes me reluctant to place this higher. I will give it shot, in part, also because Danchi Tomoo appears to be the best chance at finding a new slice-of-life series to watch.
Devil Survivor 2: The Animation
Director: Seiji Kishi – Tentai Senshi Sunred
Studio: Bridge – Mitsudomoe
Origin: Video Game
A video game adaptation from the director that made the Persona 4 anime and animated by a company that’s only ever done Mitsudomoe is not the strongest way to pitch an anime but there are worse. In it’s favor it does have a bevy of top seiyuu so I should, at least, enjoy listening to the characters of this anime.
Director: Akitoshi Yokoyama
Studio: Madhouse – Death Note, Kaiba, Kurozuka, Rideback, Kobato, Rainbow, Tatami Galaxy, Btooom!, Chihayafuru
Origin: Dating Sim Video Game
Madhouse is one of the few animation studios that I will give all their series a chance, even when they look less then interesting. Photo Kano falls into the less then interesting category because it’s a dating sim/harem video game adaptation. On the plus side the original is made by the same company that made Amagami SS which turned out to be pretty watchable. I’m also interested to see how the first time director will handle being the director and writer for this anime series. And there appears to be several very good seiyuu attached to this as well.
Director: Naoto Hosoda
Studio: White Fox – Steins;Gate, Jormungand, Katanagatari, Tears to Tiara
Origin: Light Novel
I’ll be honest. The only reason this anime makes it on the list is that White Fox is animating it and their last three series – Jormungand, Steins;Gate, and Katanagatari all placed in my yearly top 10 lists. I don’t want to bet against them but a comedy series about a demon lord coming to our world and working at a McDonald’s knock-off and directed by the guy that handled the second season of Minami-ke (which is one of the two I pretend do not exist) does not instill much confidence in me. I would like to be proven wrong but I have the feeling this will turn out to be another one of those unfunny comedy series that rear their ugly heads every so often, like Godzilla come to destroy Tokyo.
Valvrave the Liberator
Director: Kou Matsuo – Kurenai, Natsuyuki Rendezvous
Studio: Sunrise – Code Geass, Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, Tiger and Bunny, Sacred Seven, Natsuiro Kiseki, Phi Brain, Binbou-gami ga!
Origin: Anime original
Like I said earlier, I’m not the biggest mecha fan, even though my all-time number 2 anime is Gurren Lagann, but Sunrise delivered several great series last year so I’m willing to give them the chance here as a result. A very solid seiyuu cast definitely helps. The setup for Valvrave the Liberator reads like a typical mecha series so the outcome of this will depend on the execution. As an aside, I’m curious if there’s ever been a mecha series that featured an old guy as the hero mecha pilot, instead of the very standard young male character.
There are a few more series that I feel have a chance at being watchable – Karneval, Hyakka Ryouran: Samurai Bride, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, and Mushibugyou – but I’m going to wait and see what the peanut gallery says first before spending the time to watch them.
And with that we’re at the end of my spring 2013 preview. Looking ahead, the summer season is looking very solid and I’m betting my excitement will get me to finish writing the preview quicker.
Filed under: anime, season preview