Welcome to The Cart Driver’s Legendary Anime Season Preview, winter 2016 edition. The new season doesn’t air its first anime until tomorrow so it’s all good, I’m still on time. This is officially the latest I’ve ever gotten a preview done, with the last one being way back for the winter 2009 season back when I wasn’t even writing at The Cart Driver so the formatting is all wrong and I get so much wrong I can feel myself physically retract inside my body in pure embarrassment. I have matured since then though and I totally won’t get any of these predictions wildly incorrect and be proved wrong within a week of this going up as the first episodes all air and my enthusiasm is dashed against the rocks of disappointment. Fun fun fun!
Active Raid: Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault Eighth Unit
Yes I am going to give this it’s full name because if I do that for light novel adaptations, I should do the same with original mecha anime by the director of Code Geass. Yes, Goro Taniguchi is back! The guy who directed Code Geass, Infinite Ryvius, Planetes and…errr, Gun X Sword, is back! I thought he had gone forever after the experience he had with Code Geass R2 where he was forced to change content after the show changed TV timeslots, but he came back this time last year with Maria the Virgin Witch. Which I liked a lot, don’t get me wrong, but for the guy who has made some of my favourite mecha anime ever, it was odd to see him make an anime about medieval European warfare with a dose of religious criticism and society’s hangups about female sexuality.
So, Active Raid then. It’s about a police force in the near future that uses robots to assist them with their duties. Not a gritty cyberpunk crime drama ala Ghost in the Shell or Psycho Pass. More a group of misfits get into hilarious hijinks, considering the original promo material featured the tagline “Goodbye Common Sense”. So more like Patlabor I guess? That’s the closest comparison I can think of. Hey I could get behind Goro Taniguchi doing Patlabor, especially with the expressed goal of being ridiculous. I would really like this to be good. I like Taniguchi a lot and him making an original, 26 episode mecha anime is incredibly exciting. I don’t like the character designs at all, but considering Ryvius had bloody Hirai-face, I don’t think that will be too much of an issue.
This is always disappointing. I’ve been looking forward to an Ajin anime long before it was ever announced. It’s a seinen manga that’s been getting rave reviews. It’s closest comparison would probably be something like Parasyte. The main character gets some kind of supernatural power which starts to question humanity and what makes a human, specifically in this case about mortality. Then they announce the anime aaaaaaand it’s a full CG anime. With that awful, emotionless-looking faces and lack of textures. It might still be real good. It’s by the team that made Knights of Sidonia and that was still decent. Just…we are making strides with CG anime, but this look they keep trying to push just doesn’t do it for me.
The Town Where Only I am Missing
The Noitamina offering of the season. It ticks a lot of Noitamina boxes. It’s based a thoughtful, high-concept, award-winning manga with more adult characters, although in recent years that hasn’t been as much the case. It’s about a struggling manga author (write what you know I guess) who is finding his place in the world. Then ‘Shit Happens’, including some time travel that I don’t have a great grasp on. The press release calls it a sci-fi thriller which seems odd from what I read. But hey, maybe it gets more frantic later on.
The staff are…OK? They made Sword Art Online which was probably about as good as an adaptation of Sword Art Online could be. They also did Silver Spoon and Bunny Drop, so they’re Noitamina regulars. I do hope this is good, and not just because I want every anime to be good, but because Noitamina had such a woeful 2015. I can give a pass to The Perfect Insider because it’s the kind of thing I want to see Noitamina make, but asides from that. I think it may be the first year since Noitamina existed where one of their TV series didn’t make my top 10 of that year.
Each season there’s a token decent, perfectly harmless, shounen sitcom/romcom. Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches, Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa, etc. This appears to be that show this season. It’s about this kid whose arsehole dad leaves him to run a sweet shop in a tiny village when all the kid actually wants is to draw manga (write what you know again). As he’s trying to figure out how to escape, this strange girl comes in and demands he keeps the sweet shop open. Studio Feel are doing the adaptation, who are pretty garbage, but they’re rarely given more than shitty harem adaptations. It’s says something about what they’ve been given so far that Gagashi Kashi is one of the strongest source materials they’ve had to work with so far. I did laugh at what I read of the manga and, in what looks like kind of a weak season, I may find myself sticking with this.
There’s only really one thing keeping me from getting excited by Dimension W and that is the complete lack of fanfare the manga has so far, because everything I’ve seen so far looks great. It’s your cyberpunk future where people generate energy from alternate dimensions but then people do it illegally so bounty hunters have to chase after them and so on. It’s got the works as far as your science fiction cyberpunk has, albeit it’s a touch more colourful. Robot girls with snake robot tails, random mentions of Tesla, cool futuristic weapons. It’s being adapted by Bones so we know the animation will be fantastic, which the trailer adequately shows off. OK I guess the director isn’t up to much since his last 2 anime have been Saekano and Oreshura, but those are crappy harems, not cool cyberpunk stuff. Maybe this is just the kind of thing I personally am into. The manga author also did King of Thorn, which I loved the movie version of (once you look past the highly dodgy CG), but seemingly nobody else did.
I believe this will be the season where my enthusiasm for phone game adaptations disappears. The reasoning I had was that phone games have little to no story so this gives the creators near complete freedom to do what they wanted. Rage of Bahamut was a great example of what happens when they were given this freedom, as was Show By Rock in its own weird way. Yeah neither of them were great, but they were cool and stood out from most everything else. This season though it seems like the phone game adaptations decided to generic-it-up a whole bunch. Divine Gate’s phone game is just some dungeon crawling RPG where you go through a gate and fight magical monsters. So we’re going to tell a story about a bunch of colour coordinated teenagers fighting monsters. It being animated by Pierrot with the director of Bleach kinda confirms it. Boring shounen action series ahoy.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Right off the bat, the animation is cool. It’s this water colour style on a video game fantasy series, which is a neat look. I’ve been critical of A-1 Pictures in the past because it seems like whenever they have an artistic choice to make, they always go for the safe option. So kudos for that at least. The actual light novel this is based off though is not as stellar. It’s yet another bunch of teenagers fall into a video-game-like fantasy world. They don’t call it a video game, but they form MMO clans, fight basic monsters, have different classes, level up, and so on. It’s like Dungeon Pickup Artist in that they just use all the language and format of video game MMOs. Part of the reason this bugs me is why are they always falling into the same fantasy MMO? Why can’t they fall into something like Civilisation? Or Splatoon? Or Binding of Isaac? Btooom may have been garbage but at least they fell into an FPS. Anyway, the actual material bored me silly and featured girls groping each other and comparing breast sizes within a few pages. Pretty sure this will be popular though. If Fantasy Anime League was running this season, this would be an automatic inclusion.
It’s PA Works latest buncha highschool students in a club. This time it’s a wind instrument club. Do they have a scene where they all seem delighted as students only for a quick cut to them 6 years later as working adults, drained and exhausted behind the wheel of their car as they struggle through the lower rungs of their chosen profession? Nope, so we’ve so far established it won’t be as good as Shirobako. But let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and look at it closer.
The club is about to be closed down, because there’s no such thing as an anime where a high school club starts the story as wildly successful, until a Mystery happens and they have to solve it. Not sure how violent it is, and given it has a Nitro+ writer on board, maybe it will have some Gakkou Gurashi-style twist to it. Somehow I doubt it though. Plus something bugs me about the character designs. I know I’ve been asking PA Works to drop their weird, varnished shiny faces, but they’ve somehow gotten worse with this iteration.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Every now and then Studio Deen decides to stop shitting in its own hand and smearing it on paper and submitting that as their latest anime and instead make something quite cool. Actually that’s unfair, Deen have been getting better in general lately. This is from the ex-Shaft folks who moved over to Deen and made Sankarea, an anime that wasn’t great but was so massively improved on its manga that I put in a mental bookmark to keep an eye on whatever they make in the future.
Their latest anime is this period piece manga adaptation. It’s set in the 1970’s where a dude comes out of prison and decides to take up Rakugo. Don’t worry, I had to google what that was too. It’s a form of performance art where one person sits on a cushion and tells a story and…well that’s kind of it. If you’ve ever seen Joshiraku, that anime always opened with one of the people doing a bad impression of Rakugo. It’s an odd enough description to have my interest piqued. The trailer looks cool too. Oh yeah sure, it’s destined to be the criminally underwatched anime of the season as historical stuff so rarely does well. I think Kids on the Slope is probably the only one from the past 10 years that anime fans paid any attention to. But it’s the first historical anime I’ve been interested in for a long time.
Give Blessings to This Wonderful World
And then there’s the studio Deen that makes this stuff. This is a nice collection of all the most popular current light novel tropes. A loser male lead who spends his whole life playing video games accidentally dies. But then he’s given a second chance at life by a beautiful lady so he and the lady get transported into a fantasy setting that looks awfully familiar if you’ve ever played any fantasy MMO ever. Yes it is one of them. I’m almost surprised he doesn’t get resurrected and goes to a magical high school.
Luck and Logic
There’s certainly enough money behind this thing to be successful through sheer brute force more than actual quality. When you’ve got that many backers behind a mixed multimedia project then you can usually expect sparks to fly. This anime version is being launched alongside the mobile card game so the creators have pretty free reign and a mountain of funding behind them to do what they want. Which is why it’s irritates me so much that this looks so…bland? The plot description just talks about a guy who is rescued by a princess as these ancient enemies attack their town, but looking at the trailer I’m just waiting for the line “and then he goes to a magical high school” to follow.
I’ve Had Enough of Being a Magical Girl
This anime is for pedophiles. Moving on.
Myriad Colors Phantom World
I’ve done it. I’ve finally reached the state with KyoAni where I haven’t watched their anime for so long I no longer feel any antagonism over them. So now when I look at them doing this new crappy light novel harem about teenagers at a magical high school fighting monsters I can say to myself “well at least the trailer looks more energetic and lively than the other shitty light novel adaptations this season”. Not sure that’s a thing worth celebrating for KyoAni fans out there though.
There’s been a bit of hype behind this one from fans of the manga, which I will proceed to take a massive dump over. Rainbow Days is another bloody high school romance series in which a bunch of cute boys faff about and talk about the cute girls they like. Fuck all happens, none of the jokes are funny, and it’s as engaging as watching a slug climb a skyscraper. The closest comparison would be Kimi to Boku, another show about a bunch of boring teenage boys faffing about being very pointedly not funny. The trailer looks like garbage with no movement whatsoever. The studio have made nothing of note. The director has made a bunch of SD Gundams. Oh ok fine he also directed Shiki which I’m told is great, in which case I’ll keep an eye on Rainbow Days to see if it suddenly turns into a horror anime. Maybe it takes a Gakkou Gurashi turn. I’m sorry, I should probably not be this scathing, but I just have no time of day for these bloody shows whether the cast is male or female.
No matter how many times I try to get a handle on what this is about, I fail miserably. So I think it’s about a giant magical flying sphere that can time travel. It picks up a bunch of men and women and they travel across time and form new relationships…I think? I tried reading the manga adaptation of this but that didn’t really help, beyond letting me know that the manga is really badly written. But the source material is a visual novel for ladies. I don’t want to be dismissive and call it an otome game since I mentally categorise them as games in which you are presented with a selection of pretty boys to bang, where as this seems a touch more ambitious.
I kinda like the staff too. The director hasn’t done anything by themselves but they’re an old Bones animator with stuff like Eureka Seven and Space Dandy in their history, along with some Satelight stuff like Macross Frontier and Aquarion EVOL. The studio is Kinema Citrus who recently made Barakamon. At the end of the day visual novels for ladies being turned into anime have a terrible track record unless you’re really into the kind of trash Prince-sama serves you up. But I feel it’s also about time they do something more ambitious and possibly even good. Norn9 might not be that, but it’s at least a bit cooler looking than most everything else that has been chosen for an adaptation so far.
Nurse Witch Komugi-chan R
It all starts with The SoulTaker, an early Akiyuki Shinbo anime before he joined Shaft. It’s a pretty dark (and IMO not particularly good) series with a character called Komugi in it. She then starred in her own spinoff series Nurse Witch Komugi, since this was the era where random side characters got spinoffs of their own where they became magical girls (see Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha). It’s a silly parody of SoulTaker and magical girl series in general. This was during the mid-oos though and some suit randomly decided that this was a franchise they just needed to bring back today. I can’t say I entirely understand either.
Landlord is in Puberty
Please tell me! Galko-chan
Another 4-koma about a teenager who looks like a gyaru/kogal but is actually a totally normal teenage girl. The image was used by teenager girls as a form of non-conformity originally, but I don’t entirely know what it has formed to nowadays. From reading this manga you would swear it now means “dirty slut” since it seems to base most of its jokes about her being embarrassed to talk about boys. Oh get it, it’s so funny because her image makes you think she sleeps around but she doesn’t lol.
Phantasy Star Online 2: The Animation
Asides from finding it highly amusing that we’re getting this anime adaptation despite the fact the game never made it outside of east Asia, much to the irritation of fans of the previous Phantasy Star games, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this. Video game adaptations are fairly universally rubbish and I have no real faith that this will be any different. Although I will note that the plot description has them attending a magical high school.
Prince of Stride: Alternative
Yo so why didn’t they call this Prince of Parkour? That is a fucking cool name and describes the plot a whole lot better than Prince of Stride does. It’s about a bunch of teenagers forming a high school club around an extreme sport called “stride” that totally isn’t parkour and they run relays against other schools as they jump over obstacles naturally in the terrain like stairs and barriers and other things that make it totally the same as parkour. To keep this simple, it’s basically Free with parkour. So less excuses to get the guys naked really.
It’s based off another visual novel aimed at ladies, which may be part of a trend this year of these otome games being not-as-shit? It’s being adapted by Madhouse with the director of No Game No Life and Pet Girl of Sakurasou, neither anime I ever wanted to touch with a 10 foot poll but that entirely came down to their source material. By all accounts they sounded like well directed anime, particularly No Game No Life. So hey, this sounds all right as a sports show with a bit of manservice I guess? For me personally it depends what the ratio of “sport” to “faffing about” is and I don’t have huge hopes for that, but I will still stand up and applaud otome game adaptations being a bit more varied with what’s being made into anime.
Sacred Sword Mountain: Stardust’s Banquet
Doing the season preview this late is a slightly different experience than normal. For example, if I’m writing it a month before the season begins and there’s very little promo material, I can give them the benefit of the doubt and say maybe they’re still working on it. But when it airs in less than a week and I still can’t find a trailer, massive red lights start whirring in my head.
Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut
When I first saw the title, I thought “hey cool they’re making a new Rage of Bahamut, I liked that anime”. Then I saw it was just another light novel adaptation about a guy who falls on top of the student council president while she’s naked and goes to a magical high school and blibble blibble blibble.
Have you ever had someone try to describe to you the Muv Luv Alternative universe and try to explain to you why it’s considered one of the greatest visual novels of all time? So there’s this crappy visual novel Muv Luv which is just another crappy dating sim basically, until you unlock the secret end which is this dark, post-apocalyptic mecha action series in which humanity fights these endless battles against an immeasurably powerful foe called Beta. They then released Muv Luv Alternative which is set entirely in that world, but you still have to have played Muv Luv and its final unlocked arcs to start Alternative.
Talk about barrier to entry. It would be nice if there was some other anime of the material which made it easier to get into. Oh right, they tried that with Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. But that was based off a spinoff novel that was regarded by the fans as rubbish anyway so it’s not like that anime had any hope. Schwarzesmarken is not only a brilliantly stupid name, but it’s also the latest attempt to make an approachable starting point for Muv Luv. It too is set in this world ravaged by Beta and details a story set in East Germany in 1983. The trailer doesn’t look great, and the skintight suits the pilots wear in Muv Luv has always looked terrible, but I can’t deny I’ve always wanted to understand why some people hold this franchise in such high regard.
Girls beyond the youth KOYA
A bishoujo game game about a dude who makes a bishoujo game along with a bunch of other pretty ladies. That right there was enough to make me tune out, until I heard Romeo Tanaka was involved. The guy who wrote Humanity has Declined. “Oh that crazy guy”, I thought. “I’ll at least look at anything he’s involved with”. That is until I read that all he did was come up with the original scenario. Sort of like the way they slap Butch Gen’s name onto anime where all he did was sneeze somewhere in the vicinity of the studio. The actual writer was the guy who wrote Akame ga Kill. Oh well, interest gone.
Awww bless you Sanzigen, you really are trying with this one. They did the 009 RE:Cyborg movie, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, and lots of other dodgy looking CG anime. They’re getting better certainly, I shall grant them that. It looks better than Ajin which is a touch depressing. This is them having their 10 year anniversary celebration with an anime original project and I can only wish them the best.. Something about this just seems so earnest that I can’t dredge up my usual dislike of fully CG stuff. It’s the over-designed children characters, or the dramatic soundtrack. I’ll be cheering you on Sanzigen with this dumb looking thing with a plot description that reveals nothing. You show those old fogeys with their hand-drawn stuff what the new kid in town can do.
Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
So imagine Prince of Stride was actually called Prince of Flying and was about flying instead of parkour. Now also imagine it’s a game for dudes now. Now imagine it has a way less interesting art style, the most bog standard moe girls, and instead of being adapted by the Totally Cool Madhouse is being done by the death rattle that is studio Gonzo. I personally like to imagine that, since the characters are growing wings out of their feet, it’s the spiritual successor to Garzey’s Wing.
Pandora in the Crimson Shell
Hey you remember the first time you saw Ghost in the Shell? The marvel at the sheer depth of imagination behind this cyberpunk that became almost the modern poster child for the genre not just in anime, but for the world? I bet you thought this guy would be making tons of cool science fiction after that, right? Wrong! In what might be the single most disappointing thing in anime history, Masamune Shirow used the success he had from writing the critically acclaimed and wildly popular Ghost in the Shell to draw what he always wanted to draw: Smut!
It’s like the reverse from how manga authors usually start. They write the porn because it sells so they can eventually write the serious mature series they always wanted to write. Shirow started out with the mature work and then spent the next 20 years drawing absurdly thin women covered in machine oil. Pandora in the Crimson Shell was him discovering that he also likes perving on little girls so made a completely forgettable series about a robot girl and cat eared maids. Don’t get drawn in by the marketing appeal telling you this is by the person who made Ghost in the Shell. That was a long time ago. That person no longer exists.
There’s an anime about this fat bloke who really likes marshmallows called Oji-san to Marshmallow. Sushi Police is about actual police who travel around the world and shoot people who make bad sushi. No really. Sekkou Boys is about statues of ancient Roman gods who become idols. They use photorealistic marble statue busts in the way something like Hatoful Boyfriend uses photos of actual birds. It may just be the most brilliant takedown of idol culture ever.
As always with direct sequels, there’s not too much point in previewing it in detail since you already know if you’re going to watch it.
Red Haired Snow White 2
This one rubbed me the wrong way when it started acting like it was super fucking unique for having this redhead strong willed female lead in a fantasy setting when Akatsuki no Yona came was out literally a few months beforehand.
Assassination Classroom 2
Fairy Tail Zero
So this is actually a prequel to Fairy Tail, but its very much one of those prequels that requires you to have seen the original. I can’t see this having a Fate/Zero effect and bringing in a whole new fanbase.
To properly explain my feelings on Gate would take several hundred words so I won’t waste them here. It wasn’t quite the Mahouka follow up I was expecting because it was actually really well made, but in other ways it was exactly the Mahouka follow up I thought it might be. Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is to say that the author insert character is not the otaku male lead but the gothloli who orgasms as war happens around her.