Ah, simulcasting. The anime industry’s last-ditch attempt to stave off financial doom in the wake of rampant piracy has actually made it incredibly easy to watch damn near every new show that airs in Japan within days of its initial airing. It’s great if you have the time to watch everything, but not everybody has the wherewithal to wade and potentially suffer through every new show in the hopes that they’ll find something they’ll like.
So allow me to do that for you. Here are eleven of this fall season’s new anime shows, ranked and judged by my own completely arbitrary criteria!
11) CROSS ANGE
CROSS ANGE is almost an on-the-nose title, because this is a show that certainly made me CROSS, and left me feeling very ANGEry. Here’s a slew of words I would use to describe CROSS ANGE: Scummy. Vile. Bilious. Deplorable. Heartless. Cruel.
The plot, in order to provide a bit of context: Princess Angelise lives a life of luxury in a mystical place ruled by “Mana” and wealthy magic users. When it comes to light that Ange is a “Norma,” or someone who can’t actually use magic, Angelise is exiled to a faraway place with other “Normas” who are used as soldiers piloting giant flying mecha to do battle with Dragons. I mean, sorry, DRAGONS, which is some silly acronym to describe what are just simply fucking dragons.
It’s all fairly standard mecha anime fare as far as the plot goes. Rich girl is thrust into an uncaring world of war and has to learn strength in battle and deal with troublesome comrades, and so on. Where CROSS ANGE differs from the norm is in its unrelenting, despicable cruelty towards its busty protagonist; Princess Angelise is routinely humiliated, undressed, tortured, raped, and abused by virtually every character in this goddamn show. It’s not quite I Spit on Your Grave levels, but it’s close. It’s a hateful piece of bitterness made by people who either hate women or have had women objectified in their minds for so long that they no longer view them as people. This is the sort of show that Eli Roth would probably want to make a movie out of.
I’m never going to watch another episode of this show ever again, but I sincerely hope this show ends with Princess Angelise murdering every single god-damned character in this noxious universe. If it doesn’t, CROSS ANGE‘s writers need to do the world a favor and launch themselves dick first into the nearest trash compactor.
CROSS ANGE can be hate-watched on Crunchyroll.
10) World Trigger
Two aspiring manga artists sit across from one another, incredibly bored.
“We need to think of the most generic, by-the-numbers manga we can so we can get published in Shonen Jump and make millions of dollars,” one says to the other.
“Okay,” the other replies. “Let’s just make a manga about kids fighting generic monsters. Those are always popular.”
“Sure,” says the other. “Let’s have, like, the monsters come from some portal or something that opened up.”
“Cool,” he says. “let’s call them ‘Neighbors’! That’s clever, right?”
“Damn right it’s clever. And they fight these monsters with powerful weapons. And we’ll call them ‘Triggers’ for some reason.”
“Hey, works for me. We can call the manga ‘World Trigger’! And the twist is that one of the main characters who fights these ‘Neighbors’ is himself a ‘Neighbor’ from the alternate plane!”
“And we’ll explain all of this lame mythology with utterly lazy narration in the opening pages!”
Then the two of them danced around with mediocre glee.
“And then we’ll sell it to Toei Animation, who’ll spend literally zero money in animating it for broadcast. Seriously, it’ll look like you gave a 12-year old DeviantArtist a Wacom tablet and ten cases of Ritalin.”
And that’s how World Trigger was likely born. See the fruits of their bored labor on Crunchyroll.
9) Laughing Under the Clouds
What a misleading title! I spent not one moment laughing at anything from Laughing Under the Clouds. Also it was sunny and there was no clouds. LIES.
And beneath those lies is your omnipresent, never-exciting, yearly iteration of “cute boys poorly animated in a fantasy setting.” Laughing Under the Clouds has a ho-hum plot concerning three brothers living in feudal Japan, one of whom is a boozy combat genius, another is the strong-willed younger brother yearning to live up to the legacy of his elder, and another even younger brother all doe-eyed and filled with youthful guile. I’m attempting to make these characters sound halfway interesting, because the writers of Laughing Under the Clouds give them all the charm and depth of a soggy graham cracker.
This show does have to offer, though, lots of attractively-drawn bishounen talking about their friendships with each other in not-terribly-subtle ways as to fuel dozens of “shipping” fanfics. It’s also unoriginal, uninteresting, predictable, badly animated tripe. Will the Cloud brothers continue their defiant ways, resisting both the imperial government as well as ruthless outlaws hunting for their heads? Will their internal squabbles only strengthen their bonds as brothers?! More importantly, WHO CARES?!?
Honestly, in a world where Free!! exists, lame bishounen shows like Laughing Under the Clouds seem extraneous and pointless. At least Free!! is interesting and well-done. If you wanted to watch a show where adorable young boys glisten in the sun, their taut, sinewy bodies covered in sweat and water, you’d watch Free!! and not this. You’ve got your bases covered already.
Laughing Under the Clouds is located under a big banner that says “Fujoshi Bait” on Funimation.
8) Terra Formars
Hey, I’m all for Japanese anime and manga creators’ rather liberal use of the English language to add a bit of flavor to their projects. But when we’re dealing with a rather blatant spelling error, that’s taking things too far.
If only that were the least of Terra Formars‘ problems. The plot! Giant cockroach people on Mars (that look a little too uncomfortably like racist caricatures of black people for my liking) are gobbling up human settlers on the distant planet in the distant future, and so a ragtag group of Earthlings with special powers are augmented even further with risky surgeries to turn them into a hardened army of racist caricature-hunting badasses.
It’s a pretty familiar premise, but it isn’t without promise. If only the writing were at least somewhat, I dunno, subtle. The first episode begins with the main character fighting a fucking bear in an underground battle-to-the-death, in order to raise money to pay for the operation for his sick high-school sweetheart, for the bemusement of evil rich people. The violence then goes so over the top, it even defies Japanese TV’s relatively lenient standards for such things – half of the fight is obscured by black and white bars, censoring the majority of the violence as well as the screen, making the action nigh-unintelligible. Suffice to say that the bear does not fare very well.
Then the rest of the episode poops out exposition like diarrhea, as characters stand around and talk unnaturally about the future they live in as well as setting up their rather one-dimensional personalities. There’s the hardened military badass chick! The gruff veteran who laments his lost squadron! The punk kids from the streets! The shy, quiet girl with powers!
Terra Formars pretty much shoots blanks and wastes its somewhat neat Starship Troopers-esque premise. Catch it on Crunchyroll if you’re desperate for an anime bear fight, I guess.
7) In Search of Lost Future
Are you nostalgic for the carefree days of your youth spent in a prototypical Japanese high school? Or are you the sort of Japanophile who wishes you could be nostalgic for your days in a prototypical Japanese high school, and vicariously lives this fantasy through slice-of-life anime? In Search of the Lost Future might be what you’re looking for, so long as you’re not demanding it to be actually entertaining or anything.
Based on a porn game that took its title from a Proust novel, In Search of Lost Future begins with an odd sci-fi scene that has zero context within the rest of the episode, and shifts its focus on Sou Akiyama, a shiftless milquetoast who pines for his childhood sweetheart (yawn) while they aimlessly kill time in the school’s Astronomy club. Then the episode ends with a SHOCKING TWIST that’s supposed to knock viewers for a loop, I guess, were it not handled so ham-fistedly.
The audience for In Search of Lost Future is pretty narrow, and the pace is bafflingly languid. If you’re looking for a slice-of-life High School show that is actually entertaining, keep reading, because there is one.
Meanwhile, if you can’t get enough of shy high school kids professing their love to one another, In Search of Lost Future is streaming on Funimation.
6) Lord Marksman and Vanadis
For the uninitiated: There’s a genre of fiction in Japan called “light novels,” so-called because they’re considered “light” reading. The majority of them are written for teen boys and hardcore otaku, and most of them feature a bevy of pretty girls falling for a super-cool dude who is awesome at everything and are usually set in some kind of futuristic or fantasy setting.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is so Light Novel it almost hurts; the titular “Lord Marksman” is a nobleman from a small outlying village controlled by a much larger faction, and when the Marksman, named Lord Tigre, is the sole survivor of a brutal skirmish, he is captured by a busty “War Maiden” with wind powers and gets sucked into a world of political intrigue.
This is pretty much just fluff; colorful, mindless fantasy featuring a bevy of ludicrously breasty girls in revealing armor against the backdrop of a boilerplate fantasy world. That isn’t to say the show isn’t entertaining. Compared to everything else I’ve listed before this, Lord Marksman and Vanadis stands head and shoulders above them. That probably has something to do with the fact that the show is directed and animated well by studio Satelight under the tutelage of Tatsuo Sato, a veteran anime stalwart responsible for making Martian Successor Nadesico and Bodacious Space Pirates.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis won’t blow anyone’s socks off, and chances are in a year or two it’ll be instantly forgotten, but it’s lively and fun and you can certainly do a lot worse. Check it out on Funimation.
But wait, there’s more! And these ones are actually good!
5) Fate/stay Night
Alright, now we’re getting to the good stuff.
For the TYPE-MOON uninitiated, this is going to be a lot to take in, so bear with me; Fate/stay Night was originally a Japanese hentai game that became a huge hit, was then ported to home consoles like the Playstation 2 minus the sex, and has since crossed over into damn near every realm of media with other games, books, visual novels, fighting games, anime and manga, you name it.
Technically, there’s already been a Fate/stay Night anime series from 2006, but that one was stifled by lousy animation and some poor choices insofar as truncating the story. Now, though, there’s a new hifalutin’, superbly-animated version by Ufotable, the same folks who handled the superb Fate/Zero. Although, technically, this is an adaptation of Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works rather than Fate/stay Night, but, uh.
See what I mean? This shit is complicated. But there is a plot, and it’s pretty interesting. Set in an alternate world very much like our own but with magic, it concerns a young girl named Rin Tosaka – feared at school for her icy demeanor – who is secretly a powerful mage. Every sixty or so years, powerful mages fight in what is known as the Holy Grail War, wherein the victor receives said Holy Grail which provides them with riches and power and wisdom and so forth. Except the next Holy Grail War is starting ahead of schedule, and Rin has accidentally summoned a sly, sarcastic warrior named Archer.
There’s a lot to take in with Fate/stay Night, and the sad thing is, if you’re not already on board with TYPE-MOON’s work, this probably will only bore and confuse people. The new Fate/stay Night doesn’t hold anybody’s hand, but at least, to its credit, it doesn’t glibly waste its very interesting atmosphere and world-building with reams of awful exposition.
Fate/stay Night is well-made and interesting, but its languid pace and often-impenetrable world is likely going to be a little too much for people who haven’t already familiarized themselves with this series. I much prefer Fate/Zero as an introduction to this series, as it stands quite well on its own and ties in excellently to the rest of the series, but still, if you’re willing to stick with it, Fate/stay Night certainly has tons of promise.
4) When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace
I was complaining earlier that In Search of Lost Future was a boring, staid high-school show with all the same archetypes and tropes I’ve seen a million times before. Lo and behold, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace came into my life and provided a fresh and amusing antidote.
Jurai Ando is a geeky 8th-grader raised on a diet of silly manga, and he torments his classmates in the Literature Club with his overwrought enthusiasm for superpowers. Then, for reasons that are completely unexplained, Ando and the rest of the Literature Club show up one day and, lo and behold, they all have superpowers. One girl can transmute matter, another can stop time, another can create alternate worlds, while poor Ando can only summon a tiny, useless black flame.
Despite their superpowers, nothing else seems to change. There are no monsters to fight or anything. Basically When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is about these kids using their powers for banal things while Ando mines the depths of his manga addiction to give them all silly names like “Dark and Dark” and “Closed Clock.” Essentially it’s a very funny, very fun show that parodies the endless amount of anime and manga that come by every season about kids in school and kids with powers.
And did I mention that it’s animated extremely well thanks to studio Trigger, the mad geniuses behind Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia? It’s a ton of fun, and if you’re like me and sick to death of watching boring high-schoolers go about their anime days, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is a great spoof.
Check it out on Crunchyroll.
Are you a fan of silly transformation sequences, giant costumes, violence, and monsters? GARO was made for you, my friend.
Set in a bizarre anime version of the Spanish Inquisition, the Kingdom of Valiente is terrified of witches, and burns anyone suspected of such on sight. But behind the scenes is a race of shapeshifting monsters known as “Horrors,” who manipulate the populace with fear, and meanwhile devour and kill humans at will. Enter the Makai Knights, who wear powerful CGI armor that turns them into Horror-hunting machines.
Forget the plot, though; the really great part about GARO is the interaction between Leon, the sullen teen Makai Knight whose mother was burned as a witch, and Luis, his boozy, constantly-horny father-figure and Makai Knight partner; the interaction between the two of them is always great, and gives the show a wonderful lighthearted tone.
The CGI is sometimes a little bit wonky, which is a shame because MAPPA does great work otherwise. Regardless, GARO is a blast, and manages to maintain some rather radical tonal shifts between silly comedy and dark, brutal violence.
Check it out on Funimation.
2) Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
What is it with all these fantasy shows this season? No matter; between GARO and Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, if they’re all this good, I’m fine with it.
Now, if you were to tell me that one of my favorite shows of the season was going to be an anime adaptation of a popular Japanese iPhone game, I’d tell you that you were crazy and should be hospitalized. Lo and behold, though, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis is terrific entertainment.
While other shows seek to overload you at the outset with reams of exposition and information, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis actually gives its audience some credit. The opening scenes introduce the audience to its fantasy setting with very little dialog, and sets its tone with sheer animated exuberance. Once again, MAPPA struts its stuff with exceptional set pieces and peerless direction.
The show follows two rival bounty hunters: Favaro, a carefree, slippery lout, and Lidfald, a former knight who lost it all because of Favaro and hunts him down. The two cross paths and hijinks ensue, all the while a mysterious woman looms in the shadows from parts unknown.
The parts of Rage of Bahamut: Genesis are all pretty familiar, but what makes it more than the sum of those is in its cheeky energy, swift characterization, and great design and animation. It’s also one of the few shows this season that’s pretty safe for a general audience, and is entertaining for all ages. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis proves that you can take a familiar concept and improve on it, all the while maintaining respect for your audience by foregoing lazy shorthands like expository dialog and voiceover.
Check it out on Funimation.
1) Parasyte -the maxim-
My absolute, must-watch, number one show of the season is no doubt Parasyte -the maxim-.
Animated with aplomb by MADHOUSE and directed splendidly by longtime industry stalwart Kenichi Shimizu, this is the next great horror-comedy-drama gorefest that’ll sink its gooey alien probes in you, week after week.
The premise, as expected, focuses on an average high-school boy, awkwardly fumbling around his schoolyard crush while dozing through school. Life is normal and boring, until an alien symbiote hatches nearby and burrows itself into his skin in a rather disturbing sequence. The parasite soon gains control of his right arm and grows sentience, and the ability to alter its shape and form at will. Of course that’s not the only alien parasite around; dozens of others have fully taken control over their human hosts, and are prowling the streets and skinning their victims alive and eating them, leading to mass hysteria over the “Mincemeat Murders.” Shinichi, the dude with the alien arm, then finds himself in an untenable position of fighting off other infected humans while trying to keep his own infection a secret.
I personally think Parasyte -the maxim- is one of the few anime shows in a LONG time that has the potential to break itself out into some real mainstream success. This is an extraordinarily well-animated show, and all the beheadings and flayings and decapitated limbs jump off the screen as true artistry. (Funny aside: Shimizu, the director, animated on a few episodes of Goof Troop.) Outside of a truly obnoxious opening theme song that manages to out-lame Linkin Park at their lamest, everything in Parasyte -the maxim- is super entertaining. There’s also something really refreshing in watching such B-movie-like material being produced with such care and craftsmanship; ordinarily it’d take a lot to watch scenes of a guy talking to his alien right hand and not be taken aback by the ludicrousness of it all, but MADHOUSE and the series’ writers are truly having a ton of fun with the concept.
This is really exciting, don’t-miss-it levels of gory, funny, anime joy. It’s currently sloshing around in gristle and goo on Crunchyroll.
Whew, that’s a lot of anime. Hopefully I pointed some of you in the right direction. As in, far, far away from CROSS ANGE.
Previously by Brian Hanson: