Last Winter was notable for being overshadowed by two superior Fall carryovers, Zetsuen no Tempest and From the New World. Both scored higher than the best Winter show, Kotoura-san—a great little show in its own right, and the only winter show to score higher than 8 (and just barely: 8.083). Winter 2013 was hardly a dud, featuring the first half of Chihayafuru 2, the epic fantasy series Maoyu, and the imminently endearing Tamako Market. But there were four shows—OreShura, Amnesia, Unlimited, and Vividred—we’re not sure we’d need to watch again if given the chance. As we promise every season, we’re looking to be more selective this Winter, so the best anime receive the attention they deserve.
For those new to our way of doing things, we prefer to know as little as possible about what we’re going to watch heading into the shows, meaning we never read the manga or source material beforehand, depending instead on the promo art, brief synopsis, studio, and people involved to determine what’s worth watching. Click on an anime’s title for more details, courtesy of MAL. We’ve selected ten shows: three we’re definitely watching; three we’re probably going to watch; and four in our “maybe pile.” Combined with the four Fall carryovers, that makes totals fourteen shows, so we’ll have to make a couple cuts in the first few weeks of the season to get down to a more doable 10-11.
Still, if you feel we’re missing something, feel free to post your recommendations in the comments. At the very least, we’ll watch the first episode.
KyoAni (Comedy, Drama, Romance, School, Slice of Life) – 9 Jan
The interactions between the core couple, Yuuta and Rikka, and the awesome action sequences were the primary reasons we watched this and the reaosn we’re coming back for more. It won’t be enough for this sequel to merely match the quality of its predecessor. We’ll be looking for progression in the core couple’s relationship. We’re worried that the extremely irritating Sanae is listed as a main character; the less we see of her, the happier we’ll be.
Studio Deen, Earth Star (Fantasy, Horror, Shounen, Psychological) – 10 Jan
Anime with this specific combination of genres are few and far between, and the last good psycho-horror series we’ve watched was Another from Winter 2012 (Aku no Hana was psychological, but not really horror). It’s even rarer not to see then word “school” included in Pupa’s list of genres. The two siblings on their own (and the butterfly motif) give off a dark and hopeless Grave of the Fireflies kinda vibe. We enjoy stocking our watchlist with shows representing a diverse array of tones. It’s directed by Mochizuki Tomomi (Five Leaves) Speaking of Aku no Hana, the lead male is voiced by the female Ise Mariya, who had one of the year’s best voice performances as Nakamura. Kido Ibuki (Oka Chinami, Golden Time) voices the little sister.
Bones, Bandi Visual (Comedy, Sci-Fi, Space) Jan
Dazzling the Stage…wait, let’s not equate this series with Star Driver. This Winter Imaishi Hiroyuki‘s phenomenal Kill la Kill will run alongside this show, which marks the return of Watanabe Shinichiro, along with the writers of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Eureka Seven. With a pedigree like that, there’s no reason this can’t be fantastic. Our expectations are lofty.
Satelight, Lantis, Media Factory (Action, Mecha, Sci-Fi) – Jan
The director doesn’t ring any bells, but we know Kawamori Shoji’s ambitious work well, and for this series he’s the original creator and heading up mech design, and series composition. His involvement is enough to make this worth a watch, even if we’re a little mecha’d out after Valvrave, Majestic Prince, etc.
5. Sakura Trick
Studio Deen, Pony Canyon, TBS (Romance, School, Yuri, Slice of Life) – 10 Jan
We haven’t watched a decent yuri series since Aoi Hana way back in the Summer of ’09 (before RABUJOI existed) and Sasumeki Koto that following Fall. Sakura Trick may have what it takes to end that drought; we’ll see. We’ve somehow never watched anything done by its director, Ishikura Kenichi, but we’re more familiar with character designer Sakai Kyuuta (Sankarea), and the two leads are voice by the very able Iguchi Yuka and Tomatsu Haruka.
(Love Song of a Certain Pilot)
Bandai, TMS (Adventure, Drama, Romance) – 6 Jan
This looks like the most “Ghibliesque” of the upcoming Winter shows, revolving around the young, Europeanish pilots of ficticious fighter planes in a ficticious land. Taketatsu Ayana (Oreimo) and Yuki Aoi (Madoka Magica) voice the two female leads. Please, please don’t be as dull and inconsequential as Fractale!
Aniplex, Shaft (Comedy, Romance, Shounen) – Jan
We’re fairly loyal to Shinbou’s Zetsubou-sensei and Monogatari works, but other stuff he’s done has been more hit-or-miss. We’re hoping this is a hit, despite its somewhat generic look and the fact it’s coming right on the heels of Monogatari’s second season. When we heard “kids of rival yakuza bosses forced together”, we instantly thought of a reverse Romeo & Juliet premise. Touyama Nao, Hana-Kana, and Asumi Kana star.
Bones, Avex, Ai Addiction (Action, Adventure, Shounen) – Jan
Noragami’s premise seems to combine the aspects of Kokoro Connect, Kyoukai no Kanata, and Aku no Hana, with supernatural elements like gods, a weak protagonist, and a contract. Its sounds dark, and the promo art is a birds-eye view of a town under a somewhat bleak sky (again, not unlike Aku no Hana’s). Kyoukai not Kanata rose above our reservations regarding its familiar elements; Noragami will have to do the same.
Aniplex, A-1 (Action, Fantasy) – Jan
VeIn our humble opinion, far too many organizations in anime are led by little girls, or at least people with little girl bodies who may actually be older. “World domination” and “little girl” could also be used to describe Squid Girl, which was pleasant enough but went on a season too long and was so very lightweight. What gives us hope for this series is that it’s helmed by Okamura Tensai, director of Darker than Black and Ao no Exorcist. He’s proven with those shows that he knows what he’s doing, so we’ll give it a look, despite the little girl in charge.
J.C. Staff, Lantis (Action, Fantasy, Supernatural, Seinen) – Jan
Director Mizushima Tsutomu has done both light (Squid Girl, Girls und Panzer) and dark (Blood-C, Another). Writer Yoshida Reiko has also penned Panzer, Bakuman, and Majestic Prince. Seto Asami (Chihayafuru) is the female lead. Between this and Noragami, both are supernatural school romps, but this looks like the lighter of the two. We’ll obviously have no idea which one we’ll like more (or even if we’ll like either) until we watch them, but we’d like to keep one and drop the other, so early impressions will be key.