Welcome to The Cart Driver Dot Com’s World Famous (in that at least one person on each continent has heard of it apart from maybe Antarctica but if you are on Antarctica let me hear from you) Anime Season Preview, Winter 2015 Edition. Let me ask you: Have you liked an anime in the past? Because if so then you are probably going to like an anime from this season, if only because it probably has a sequel airing this winter. There are like a billion sequels this season. But one of those sequels involves a man throwing vending machines at another man wearing a jacket with fur on its hood which is actually code for “I want your dick” so it’s not all bad.
Maria the Virgin Witch
The new anime I’m most excited for, which may raise an eyebrow or two from the readers, but let me explain. Maria the Virgin Witch is a manga by the author of Moyashimon about a witch during the 100 Years War between England and France in the middle ages. Maria wants to stop the war so she makes a succubus to fuck each army senseless in the vain hope they stop fighting. Considering anime’s usual approach to raunchy content is a guy walking in on a lady changing and her yelling “kyaa ecchi”, I love this author’s work because he knows how to write raunchy material that’s genuinely funny. The succubus walking in on Maria trying to chat up a hot young soldier boy and complaining about her hips hurting after a long night working is legitimately funny.
The other exciting thing is Goro Taniguchi is finally back directing. One of my favourite directors of all time, the guy who did Code Geass, PlanetES and Infinite Ryvius, is back! His last work as director was Geass R2 and given how angry he was about how he was forced to change the story due to Geass changing timeslots between seasons, I was worried he would never direct ever again. But he’s back and adapting a genuinely good manga. Sure it’s not a big sci-fi epic, but a talented director adapting really good source material is still really exciting. Let’s just hope it’s closer to Moyashimon’s first season than its damp squib of a second season.
Assassination Classroom sounds great on paper. An alien is planning to destroy the planet after blowing up half of the moon, but in the meantime he’s going to teach a class to assassinate him as well as teach them other less exciting things like maths and English and general life lessons. Think Great Teacher Onizuka except with a tentacle monster instead of Onizuka. Which sounds great and the manga is a real top seller, running in Shounen Jump. Which is why I felt incredibly disappointed when I got around to reading the thing. The plot description outlines the first 20-odd pages and the rest devolves into repetition and bad writing. Every chapter he repeats the same plot outline. Every chapter someone says he can move at Mach 20. It gets very boring and repetitive very fast and isn’t anywhere near as funny as the plot description would have you believe.
When you take into account Seiji Kishi is doing the adaptation, the guy responsible for Dangaronpa, Devil Survivor, Hamatora and so on, I really start to lose interest. To be fair to Kishi he has done stuff like Tentai Tenshi Sunred, but it feels like his good anime came earlier in his career and he’s been getting lazier with each adaptation since then. Maybe I’m a weird outsider when it comes to this popular manga. It does run in Shounen Jump and the bad writing and repetitiveness could be put down to it being for children and I just don’t get on with children’s manga. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when your original excitement dissipates remarkably quickly for this title.
Yuri Bear Storm
When Kunihiko Ikuhara’s name is attached to an anime, it becomes an auto-watch for most people, including myself. The auteur director of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Penguindrum makes some of the most bizarre and imaginative anime around. Plus his anime come around so infrequently that a new one is quite the event. So I will watch Yuri Bear Storm because his name is attached (and he brought along all the staff that worked with him on Penguindrum), because if it wasn’t him…well, I would be way more wary at the very least. The character designs are super generic cutesy girls. Their character artwork proudly displayed upskirt shorts for each of them, and someone introduced Ikuhara to boob mousemats before this anime and now he’s super excited to incorporate them into Yuri Bear Storm. It does however have a lawyer dude called Life Sexy who in his character artwork has him quoted as saying “That’s the sexy shaba-doo!” so maybe there’s reason to keep hope yet.
How to Train the Ordinary Girl to be a Heroine
Based off a light novel (no way, how could you ever have guessed that with that plot-description-as-title) by the same author who wrote the VN for White Album 2. It’s yet another high school comedy romance psuedo-harem in that it’s not a harem because not all the girls are desperately asking to chomp down on his juicy cock but rather they all exist as pretty girls to surround the guy as a sort of halo of prettiness so we can argue over which is The Best. The story is about some dude trying to write the most cliche visual novel ever and asks a bunch of girls with incredibly short skirts for help. It’s pretty awful and full of references to how tired and rote all its actions are as a replacement for actual humour. Perhaps the only notable point is that it’s airing in Noitamina. I know it shouldn’t be surprising anymore that Noitamina are hosting LN adaptations (this director also did Bananananana’s Buried Treasure, another Noitamina LN adaptation) but even the original animation-free trailer for this asked why the hell they were in Noitamina and wasn’t that for more mature anime and not otaku-bait. It reminds me of the Cross Ange next episode previews. When your own promotional material talks about how crap you are, maybe you should concentrate on improving your own product?
The Rolling Girls
Post-apocalyptic moe motorbiking. Yeah really. There’s a real visual dissonance when you see the cutesy moe girls promo art and trailers followed by a plot description that starts with “10 years after the Great Tokyo War”. The plot appears to be these four biking chicks travelling across the country to mediate battles between clans created after the war fallout. If it was a western graphic novel the front cover would have some badass woman dressed tattered black leather with one boob hanging out who is also probably a lesbian. But since this is Japan it’s a bunch of cute girls with sparkly eyes and are also probably lesbians. I’m honestly not sure which version I prefer.
Staff are a little less exciting. I like the animation studio, Studio Wit, because in their short lifespan they’ve taken to choosing some really different titles with their own unique visual flavour with Attack on Titan, Hozuki and Hal. Although how much that name actually means is probably quite little, given none of the same people who worked on any of those titles is working on Rolling Girls. The director is a relative newbie but did do the second half of Silver Spoon which was pretty good. The script writer is less encouraging though. I can overlook him having done the screenplays for Bible Black, City of Sin and Body Transfer, but Deadman Wonderland? That’s easily the worst of the lot.
Happy Cooking Graffiti
When I do season preview research, the director, series composition and scriptwriter are the most important names to look at. However these names are not just Good Directors and Bad Directors. You have to look at what type of series they do well. For example, Tsutomu Mizushima is a personal favourite director of mine who is really good when it comes to light comedy anime like Girls und Panzer or Shirobako. However when you see his name on a horror anime, like Blood-C or Another, you get the fuck away. Right, you got that? Let’s do the same thing for Happy Cooking Graffiti.
The scriptwriter is Mari Okada who you may have heard of if you’ve read any of my season previews in the past. I’m not a fan, but mostly because she’s brought on board to write that awful melodrama in things like Nagi no Asakura or AnoHana. The one thing I do like from her was Aquarion EVOL, where they took her overwrought melodrama and turned it into the funniest, dumbest comedy around. Happy Cooking Graffiti is not melodramatic. It’s a 4-koma about girls making suggestive faces while eating and the promo material proudly boasts “slightly erotic meal scenes”. So far so promising. The animation studio is Shaft with our boy Shinbo directing (although ‘directing’ for Shinbo means he runs into the production office once a day to yell “MORE CLOSE UP SHOTS OF THEIR EYES”). Shinbo has in the past done a scene involving someone putting something that naturally goes in your mouth but somehow turning that into the most erotic scene imaginable: The infamous toothbrush scene from Nisemonogatari. Happy Cooking Graffiti will be an entire anime of Nisemonogatari toothbrush scenes.
Anime of the Year.
Isuca is one of those high school romance action harem ecchi mangas for horny young teenage boys. The kind that the anime and manga industry have been trading on for its entire lifetime. It has a maid, a cat girl, a shrine maiden, a Yuji Everylead the Bland with absentee parents and a teacher who by all right should really not work in a school considering the amount of times she sexually harasses her students. It is the oxygen flowing through the veins of this industry, reliably pumping out interchangeable title to interchangeable title year after year after year. Nobody will remember this in 20 years time. Nobody will remember this in 10 years time. Barely anyone will remember this in five years time. A tiny fraction of people will remember it in one year’s time. It will be included on anime OP quizzes where people scratch their head, unable to come up with the title before saying when they see the answer “huh, never heard of that one”. It will be that anime that one young guy will watch as one of their first anime and then look back and laugh at the crap they used to watch as a new fan. It’s the anime that the person who watches every single anime in a season and claims to like them all will say is “pretty good” but then forget its name a year later.
The IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
IdolM@ster might not be particularly big in western fandom outside a few idol weirdos in that one forum you frequent, but in Japan it’s nothing short of a phenomenon. You may have heard the stories about how the author of Berserk delayed the latest volumes of his manliest of manly manga because he was too busy playing Idolm@ster. Cinderella Girls is a spin-off for mobile phones but still has over 4 million players, earns over a billion yen per month and its songs chart in the top 10 in Japan. And again, this is just the bloody spin-off. The anime has a lot of the same staff who did the previous Idolm@ster (no not Xenoglossia). It’s basically a bunch of KyoAni staff chumming it up at A-1 Pictures, which may explain why I don’t like the series. Along with the fact that it’s, you know, about bloody idols.
Speaking of Japanese phenomenons: Kantai fucking Collection. Technically this is the second time I’ve written about this since it was supposed to air a few seasons ago but got pushed back. KanColle is a moe battleship WW2 computer game that has dominated the male Japanese doujin and fanart scene in a way that puts even Touhou to shame. It’s another one of those things that hasn’t really penetrated western fandom, mostly because it doesn’t allow anyone outside of Japan to play the game (there’s workarounds obviously and there are plenty who do play it, most notably The Cart Driver Dot Com’s own Inushinde, but it’s a lot of work to play what appears to be a pretty average strategy game).
As for the anime, judging by the trailer they seem to be trying to take a leaf out of Girls und Panzer’s book. Even the music felt like it dropped right out of Girls und Panzer. Which is fitting given both Girls und Panzer and KanColle demonstrate Japan’s weird tendency to completely gloss over the atrocities of a war where they were fairly clearly not on the right side and focusing instead on weapon-wank and cute girls. But anyway, Girls und Panzer was great so by all means trying to emulate that isn’t a bad move. Problem is Girls und Panzer had a very talented director while KanColle has the director of Campione and Ro-Kyu-Bu, so I can’t say I have much faith it will turn out anywhere near as good as Panzer did.
Yatterman of the Night
Yatterman, and the Time Bokan series it was originally part of but has now kind of outgrown, is an odd franchise. It’s one of those super sentai anime except acts more like a complete nonsense parody of the genre and is packed full of pop culture parodies and references. Just to give you an idea, they made a TV series in 2008 (which was tragically never subbed into English) which had one episode featuring child Obama-kun and Hilary-chan arguing about something because they both secretly loved each other. No really. Throw in the sexiest anime character ever with the female comic villain Doronjo who was probably the reason dads agreed to watch the children’s show in Japan when it first aired and yeah, Yatterman. It’s an odd franchise. I hope Crunchyroll picks it up because otherwise I can see this dropping off the face of the earth like the last season did with English speaking fans.
Handsome High School Earth Defence Club Love!
I’ve been doing some early preparation for The Cart Driver Dot Com’s 2014 Anime of the Year awards and some of the categories are proving quite open. Biggest Disappointment I was sure would belong to Terror in Resonance but Psycho Pass 2 has been making a strong case. Best Worst Anime of the Year usually goes to the latest iteration of Symphogear but there is no Symphogear this year so that award is wide open (possibly Samurai Flamenco?). However I think it’s safe to say that 2015’s Best Worst Anime of the Year might already be won. This anime is about a bunch of guys who bathe together until they are visited by a pink ‘wombat’ who tells them all to save the world and then I’m pretty sure they all turn into magical girls.
Like…I can’t even begin…everything about this…Look at the fucking picture! I genuinely thought first time I saw it that there was only 1 male character in the picture. That one guy has dashing pink hair tied up in a hairband! The animation in the trailer is absolutely shockingly awful, and that’s the trailer you put up to show off the highlights of your work. It’s an anime original so they can do whatever the fuck they want. Also in case you think this might get boring and not be funny, bear in mind we have the director of Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, School Rumble and Gintama directing. He’s a genuinely great comedy director. This looks like it might reach that special kind of amazingly, deliberately awful that means it could be magical.
I feel bad now for wasting my “everyone will forget this” spiel on Isuca. While Isuca might be the kind of thing anime has been producing for the last 50 years, I can see a new fan saying “I thought it was all right”. Or the kind of people who watch everything in a season saying “yeah I like Isuca” but their opinion is meaningless because they like everything. Unlimited Fafnir meanwhile is the anime that even the person who watches everything says they think is bad. It’s the anime a new fan might lose their ‘dropping anime’ virginity. Fafnir is definitely a product of light novels today. Its plot synopsis includes one guy at a school for ladies with magical powers to control dragons where he walks in on a girl naked and then meets his long lost younger sister. It’s like something light novels spontaneously generated when you piled too many of them in a corner at once. I’m not even going to bother with the staff since I mostly just feel sorry that they have to work on this. You could resurrect Satoshi Kon and convince Miyazaki out of retirement to adapt this and it still probably wouldn’t be worth watching.
The Testament of Sister New Devil
The story is about Yuji Everylead suddenly getting two new step sisters who are a devil with large breasts and a succubus with small breasts and then-LIGHT NOVELS!
Seiken Tsukai no World Break
There reached a point 2 years ago when there were so many K-ON knockoffs that previewing them became increasingly pointless as there was nothing else to say. I was reduced to writing blibble blibble blibble repeatedly since they were all basically the same. I’ve reached that point with light novel adaptations now. Admittedly the K-ON knockoff genre was worse because in those there was literally no plot so I couldn’t say anything at all, but when these light novel adaptations are just the same collection of magical school, harems and little sisters, they might as well have no plot. So if you’re worried about the amount of light novel adaptations, don’t worry. We moved on beyond the K-ON knockoff phase. We will move beyond this light novel phase eventually.
There’s some children’s anime I skipped, such as new Precure and Transformers. There’s also some short flash things that nobody will sub, and a few overly long advertisements for upcoming video games disguised as TV specials. Nothing really worth covering.
Let me break rank for a second to say that this season has the most sequels of any anime season quite possibly ever. 10 TV sequels and 2 OVAs sequels. There’s also Cinderella Girls and Yatterman from existing franchises. There’s even two short series this season of 5-min episodes that are also technically sequels. Part of this is due to the increase in the number of split-cours series, where anime that would usually run continuously instead take 13-week breaks for the staff to rest and regroup. Stardust Crusaders, Tokyo Ghoul, Aldnoah Zero and Shounen Hollywood all fall into this category. This is generally fine because they barely count as sequels so much as a continuing series. But there’s also a whole bunch of sequels to series that are well over 3 years old, not all of which were crying out for sequels. Sure, you could hardly blame Durarara or Kuroko for coming back as they were both hugely popular anime with existing source material still not adapted, but Fafner? Dog Days?
I wouldn’t say this is a negative trend yet. Split-cours anime are certainly not a negative thing. If those 13-week breaks means the studio can be more consistent with their animation and not have to rely on recap episodes to catch their breath, that can only be a good development. Two of my favourite anime from last year, Attack on Titan and Psycho Pass, had uninterrupted 2-cours runs and both had some serious production problems in the latter half, problems that you can’t put down to budget given how big both of those series were. If split-cours could have solved those problems, then I’m all for it. Only the most impatient bastards could find this to be a negative trend.
I can understand it being a little disheartening as a newer fan of anime though. I was like that once and seeing a long string of sequels in a new season for anime I’d never seen wasn’t welcome. To those people, use this as your opportunity to go back and watch the first season of these anime. Durarara is a really good anime. Now would be a great time to check it out. If anything you have the advantage over people like me who saw it when it first came out because you don’t have to wait 5 fucking years for this sequel. If we start seeing multiple seasons of there being more sequels than original material then yes, anime may have a problem. But for now let’s just be happy fans are finally getting sequels. Both of those Fafner fans have been waiting a long time for this.
Well that ended up way longer than I originally intended. Let’s move on.
It’s been a long time coming. Durarara’s lack of a sequel was one of the most baffling in the anime industry. The anime was hugely popular, both in Japan and abroad. It had a lot more source material left to adapt. Most of what I’ve heard about what happened here is some real second-hand, insider baseball material that may all be complete tosh, but it sounded like the publisher of the light novels simply had no interest in a sequel because the novels were selling just fine anyway. It took some entrepreneurial producer to get sick of the deadlock, grab all the original production staff and set up a brand new just so they could get this project off the ground. This is why the new studio is called Studio Shuka rather than Brains Base, but it’s all the same staff so it doesn’t really make a difference. What’s a little unfortunate with Durarara is in English-speaking fandom the announcement of a sequel was met with lots of replies of “that’s nice…what about Baccano?”. Unfortunately despite its huge western acclaim (and frankly being a better anime), Baccano never caught on in Japan the way Duararara did. That ship unfortunately has sailed. But hey, new Durarara. Fucking finally! I’ll gladly take it.
Dog Days used to be a real bugbear of mine. It was the most inoffensive anime ever, made to be as safe and lacking in conflict as you could get. And something about that really got on my nerves in all that I held as being important when someone creates entertainment. Perhaps this speaks to a much broader approach to how we view escapism. Many people view entertainment as a way to temporarily escape their everyday life. Some people want something that is not challenging. For me though, with something like Dog Days, it doesn’t work as escapism because it is so unengaging due to a lack of challenging content. I can’t escape in something that light. It’s like asking me to sit on a chair made of styrofoam.
I think Butch Gen has reached the same position as Akiyuki Shinbo has on his productions. Where as Shinbo runs in every now and then to demand they include more close-up shots of a character’s eye, Gen runs in and demands something awful happens to Slaine. Anyway, if this Aldnoah Zero sequel starts out by revealing they completely chickened out on what happened in the last episode from the first season, then I might just stop there.
I never did watch the first season of Tokyo Ghoul. I liked the first episode, but I decided to hold off for the home video releases due to how distracting the censorship was. For an anime where the visceral fear created by seeing blood and gore is so central to the story and themes, censoring that felt like an unacceptable compromise, especially when I could just be patient and wait a few months. At this stage, I could probably wait for both seasons to come out uncensored and then marathon them both.
Tantei Kageki Milky Holmes TD
I’ve never seen Milky Holmes, not even the first episode which is pretty rare for me with anything from this decade. However I do know that it’s a dumb-as-fuck comedy about what would happen if you gave moeblobs any responsibility whatsoever (result: total disaster for themselves, everyone around them and possibly the entire planet). Which is why those fans were distraught with the latest season which decided to take itself seriously, completely destroying all appeal the franchise had. Their question for this season is will it follow the earlier seasons, or continue down the awful path its predecessor set? I tried to do some research but only came across references to toys and idols and got afraid of the world I was walking into. So I don’t know. Go watch for yourself and find out.
Sokyu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor: Exodus
I may have alluded to this earlier in this preview, but a friggen Fafner sequel? In 2015? Yeah there was a movie for it 5 years ago, but does Japan really care that much about this show that it deserved a sequel? Admittedly Genesis of Aquarion got a sequel recently too, as utterly bizarre as that was. And it’s not like I should complain when Aquarion EVOL was one of the best anime this decade and I will keep banging that drum until more people watch it. Unfortunately this Fafner sequel appears to be a direct sequel rather than the 12,000 years in the future, let’s barely pay any attention to the original and even retcon elements from it that was EVOL. Also Fafner is not silly like EVOL is, despite it having the very silly Hirai faces. It was one of the many post-Evangelion clones with lots of serious angst and the like. The few people I could find who had watched the show seemed to mostly have positive things to say about the original (which again was far cry from what people said about Genesis of Aquarion, which mostly was just “the OP was good”). So you know, maybe it’s a good thing there’s a new Fafner. Anime stopped producing Evangelion clones in the mid-00s so it actually sticks out this time around.
Shōnen Hollywood – Holly Stage for 50
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc
In which the characters finally reach Egypt to go trick or treating at Dio’s house. One of my problems with this season is Dio isn’t nearly as interesting as he was in the first season. Back then he was a tragic character. In Stardust Crusaders he’s basically just Sauron. A big all-seeing, all-evil eye that sends brainwashed minions after our fellowship. Except with steam rollers.
Kuroko Plays With His Balls
No I will not stop calling it “Kuroko Plays With His Balls”. Considering the actual translation is something dumb like “The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays” or some shite like that, I think my translation is more accurate.
When there’s this many sequels in a season, it’s hard to keep writing things below their respective pictures. What do you want me to say? Hey if you liked the first season of Kamisama Kiss, then maybe you’ll like the second season? If you haven’t watched the first season then maybe you shouldn’t watch the second season.
As per usual, movies are covered on a ‘when it’s out on home video and dirty foreign pirates can watch it’ basis.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Release date: 3 December
Possibly the last Ghibli movie from one of the original two founders we will ever see (if you really believe Miyazaki won’t run out and make yet another movie after yet another false retirement). This time from the forgotten one of the two, Takahata. Forgotten probably because he didn’t crank out movies anything like as regularly as Miyazaki. He’s done Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko and My Neighbours the Yamadas. This was his latest joint, based off a folk tale about a tiny princess hatching from a flower or something along those lines. It’s got a very unique artstyle which I’ll admit I was a little wary of when I first saw it because it had an unfinished look I’m not too keen on. However that trailer quelled my fears as it looks closer to The Snowman than anything. Reviews from what I’ve seen have been positive without critics falling out of their seats in praise. I can’t say I’m falling out of my seat in anticipation either, but hey it’s Ghibli. I sorta like Ghibli.
Expelled from Paradise
Release date: 10 December (actually technically already out because they sold BDs outside theatres)
On paper this sounds fucking amazing. Seiji Mizushima, director of Full Metal Alchemist and Un-Go, directs an original anime movie written by Butcher Gen, that Madoka, Fate/Zero, first season of Psycho Pass guy. And then I started watching the bajillion various trailers the studio have been putting out and all my enthusiasm seeps away. It’s not just the CG animation, as bad as a lot of it looks. I think it might be the awful character designs. Specifically the main girl and her droopy boobs in that ridiculous outfit. Then they managed to make it even worse when Kugi Rie’s voice spouted out of that thing. I don’t even dislike her voice that much but hearing it come out of that thing was the cherry on the shit cake. I’m sorry Shirobako, I want to like CG animation. I really do sir. I really liked some of the CG I’ve seen recently sir like the mecha battles from Code Geass Akito sir. But not this garbage sir. [sigh] I’ll watch it anyway. Maybe I’ll get used to it. Maybe the story is good enough.
Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary
Release date: 5 December
The main reason I’m including this is because this CG movie costs like 4 billion yen to produce. I know all of South America goes nuts for all things Saint Seiya but still.
OVAs and TV Specials
Release date: 31 December
I was about to launch into my usual Monogatari spiel where I try to explain where this latest addition falls into the franchise canon as a way to demonstrate how unwieldy and impenetrable the whole thing had become, before I had a sudden realisation. We, the people that watch Monogatari, are going to be like those weird fans from previous decades who were really into Tenchi Muyo or Slayers or Marmalade Boy or Urusei Yatsura. We will be the ultimate products of our time. Fascinated in this anime franchise from the 2010’s that nobody outside of that generation can even comprehend why it was so big. Any time someone 20 years from now wonders about getting into the series, they will just stare at the wall of entrants and bail. Even if they watch the first episode of Bakemonogatari, a sense of utter confusion as to what the fuck is going on and why does it seem to assume I know about these other characters will probably drive them away. They’ll end up trying to justify by saying it was just “a product of its time”, which isn’t really true either since there’s nothing else like Monogatari. I really like the series but when it finally ends and we move into the next decade, I can’t help but feel this will be the series people laugh about and say “boy remember when people were really into Monogatari”.
Ikki Tousen: Extravaganza Epoch
Release date: 21 December
I wasn’t going to include this originally because it’s just another Ikkitousen OVA and I was going to skip it under my “it’s basically just hentai” rule. But then I wrote about yet another addition to the Monogatari franchise and that gave me second thoughts. Are Ikkitousen and Monogatari so different? Long running franchises of multiple TV series and OVAs where it’s difficult to understand the appeal from the outside when all you see is a variety of anime girls and pantyshots? So here’s to your longevity Ikkitousen.