Until the eventual (hopefully) launch of Anime Enthusiast, we at TVEnthusiast will present irregular columns that cover all that is happening in the world of anime television. Consider these volumes to be a soft launch of sort for an eventual website of its own. In this Volume of Anime Enthusiast we will be covering the best series of the past spring anime season, the best series of the current summer anime season, and our most anticipated titles of the upcoming fall anime season. Future volumes may take a different approach. In the Meantime, let us know what you think, what you want, what you liked, and what you loathed in our comments.
The Best Anime of the Current Season (so far)
Akame ga Kill – Crunchyroll
Akame ga Kill tells the story of Tatsumi, a young warrior who traveled with 2 of his friends to the Capitol in order to earn rank and money to help save their village. When the series begins Tatsumi and his friends were separated, and Tatsumi by himself enters the capitol hoping to find work and meet up with his friends. As it turns out, the capitol is a dark place filled with corruption, and Tatsumi finds himself in the company of infamous assassins. Akame ga Kill goes for the gut punch on episode 1 for the immediate hook, then dials up the fun, humor, and adventure to quickly invest you in the characters. I eagerly anticipate each episode showing up in my queue.
Sword Art Online II – Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu
This is a no-brainer. Sword Art Online was one of the best anime series of last year. The story about a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (or VRMMORPG) that trapped its players within the game, made in game death real, and set the players to freeing themselves by conquering the game, resonated with a massive audience of game playing anime fans. The second season finds series protagonist Kirito, exploring a new VR game with similarities to First Person Shooters in order to discover if a certain item in the game can kill people in the real world. So far the second season, which takes on the series 3rd arc, is shaping up to be more interesting than the 2nd arc of the first season. Many of those who have read the books upon which the anime is based state that this arc is the best in the series, it will be exciting to see it develop.
Tokyo Ghoul – Funimation, Hulu
It is your typical story of boy meets girl, only the girl is actually a ghoul, and the ghoul tries to eat the boy, but the girl and the boy are crushed by construction materials from above under mysterious circumstances, and the boy is saved with transplants from the girl/ghoul, so the boy becomes a ghoul. This is the general story behind Tokyo Ghoul as it begins. Ken Kaneki (the boy) must learn to live as a ghoul, a life in which all food and drink aside from human flesh and coffee (coffee?) are vile to the palate and harmful to digest. Tokyo Ghoul succeeds in showcasing the horror of such a transformation, the sudden desire to devour his best friend for example. The series is excellently paced, super moody, and fun to watch.
Tokyo ESP – Funimation, Hulu
Tokyo ESP was one of the most talked about series of the new season before it even started. This is, of course, due to the popularity of its manga source material. Tokyo ESP deals with a sudden and ongoing event that exposes citizens of Tokyo to hypnotic ethereal flying fish. Those who have encountered these fish begin developing ESP abilities, which creates conflict between those who have new power, and those who do not. So far, Tokyo ESP is a fun action series with great animation and likable characters, it didn’t hook me immediately like many of the other series but that is because it is still establishing its structure for the audience.
Terror in Resonance – Funimation, Hulu
This is probably it, the best anime of the season, certainly well made, incredibly dramatic, the most gorgeous ED song in ages. Terror in Resonance is about Terrorism directed towards Tokyo from the perspective of 2 young Terrorists and the bullied girl they turned into a hapless accomplice. There isn’t much else to say at this time as much of the story is yet to unfold. I am already hooked.
What We are Looking Forward to in the Fall Anime Season
The Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai)
Based on a manga, which draws heavily on Arthurian legend, The Seven Deadly Sins is about a band of super powered knights, each with a sin that haunts them. The Seven Deadly Sins were thought to be long gone, but a princess manages to find their leader and plead for his help in taking on the Holy Knights that have taken over her country, and imprisoned her father. The Seven Deadly Sins are now outlaws, scattered to the wind, and lost to the world. The leader of the Seven Deadly Sins, and the princess of the kingdom he must serve now journey to reassemble the ranks of the greatest band of knights. The Seven Deadly Sins is a great manga, and will hopefully be a great anime.
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis (Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis)
Barely making the list of my anticipated series is this anime based on an Online Card Game. What can I say, I am a sucker for fantasy, and the high production values, and gorgeous art of Rage of Bahamut: Genesis has me excited.
Ronja the Robber’s Daughter (Sanzoku no Musume Ronia)
This is a huge deal, a TV anime from Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies) that is directed by the son (Goro Miyazaki) of the studio’s legendary founder Hayao Miyazaki (Castle in the Sky, The Wind Rises, My Neighbor Totoro). To add to that pedigree, it is based on a famous Swedish book by the Author of Pippi Longstocking. So, yeah, expect whimsy by the boatload. In every way conceivable, this is an anime series to pay attention to.
Inou-Battle in the Usually Daze (Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de)
And the award for most nonsensical title of the year goes to… This anime about members of a literature club that gain superpowers, but never the occasion or need to use them. Inou-Battle is a story about getting the things you always dreamed of, and then never having a proper use for them. The premise alone gave me a chuckle.
Based on a classic manga series by Hitoshi Iwaaki, Parasyte follows the survivor of a parasitic alien invasion, who develops a symbiotic relationship and friendship with the parasite that tried to take over his body, yet only managed his right hand. The manga series is nearly 25 years old, ending nearly 20 years ago. Anime base don classic manga has been successful recently, most notably with JoJo’s Bizare Adventure, but also Togashi Yoshihiro’s (Yu Yu Hakusho, Hunter X Hunter) Level E.
Chaika: The Coffin Princess 2 (Hitsugi no Chaika 2nd Season)
Chaika was a great action/fantasy series with some dark turns and existential ponderings. The series, about the daughter of a fallen magical emperor who wants to reclaim the parts of her father’s body from those who use them as magical fuel, was entertaining, emotional, and full of questions. I am excited to once again watch the adventures of Chaika and Toru.
Log Horizon 2nd Season
With so many series taking on the whole “stuck in a game” genre of anime, it was inevitable that we would see something take a more thoughtful, intelligent, and coldly logical look at the realities of such an event. Log Horizon was that series. Shiroe, the series protagonist, assembles his old friends from the game and goes about enacting change in the world of the game that pushes it from being a game to mirroring human existence.
Psycho Pass suffered some flawed characterization and storytelling, but did one thing exceptionally well. World building. I am excited for Psycho Pass 2, not because of the characters, not because of where the story left off, but rather because of the brilliant dystopian scifi landscape that the series brought to life.
Yowapeda 2 (Yowamushi Pedal 2)
Yowapeda shocked me, I never expected to become so addicted to an anime about cycling, but I did. Yowapeda manages to addict its viewers on fast action, technical jargon, and fun characters that work hard and grow. It is similar to Initial D, which was also an addiction of mine. The first season of Yowapeda ended on one of the worst cliffhangers I have ever seen in an anime’s final episode. Seriously? The middle of the race? Really? Apparently so.
Mushi-shi: Sequel Series 2 (Mushishi Zoku Shou 2nd Season)
The popular insect based shounen action series returns. I never caught the bug (ba dum tss) myself, but I feel like I might be flayed for skipping its part in the list, and so it is here. Since I don’t really have any investment in Mushi-shi I will let it stand as a reminder for those who do that the next season begins this fall.
Our Top Picks for the Spring 2014 Anime Season
Brynhildr in the Darkness (Gokukoku no Brynhildr)
Brynhildr in the Darkness was an emotional devastating series about girls that had alien organisms implanted into them by means of a carrier harness on their necks. Told that they are witches, these girls must maintain a steady diet of special pills, or they will melt (literally). Though these witches have powers, the central characters of this story happen to be quite weak and hide away from the organization they escaped from. These witches encounter Ryouta, a highly intelligent boy with a photographic memory, who lost the girl he had feelings for at a young age and has always blamed himself for the accident that claimed her life. Ryouta acts as our protagonist and entry point to the series. Ryouta is shocked when a new transfer student looks identical to the girl he lost as a child. He quickly becomes entangled in a web of conspiracies and death that both threatens his own life and provides him with a new opportunity to right his most haunted memory. Brynhildr in the Darkness is a great series through and through, I hold out hope for a second season.
Chaika: The Coffin Princess (Hitsugi no Chaika)
Chaika: The Coffin Princess takes place in a fantasy world that was once ruled by the exceedingly powerful Emperor Gaz. Six nations backing 8 powerful heroes, defeated Gaz and divided his remains between themselves. The remains of Emperor Gaz were so imbued with power that they could essentially be seen as weapons of mass destruction. Enter Chaika, who claims to be the daughter of Emperor Gaz. Chaika is on a mission to reclaim the body parts of her father in order to give him a funeral. Chaika uses magic, but when she uses it without fuel, she sacrifices memories. So while she knows her mission, she doesn’t remember much else. Enter Toru, a Saboteur (a special kind of warrior) who has lost purpose in his life until he encounters and rescues Chaika. Toru introduces Chaika to his sister Akari (also a Saboteur), Chaika hires them for her mission, and the journey begins. Chaika: The Coffin Princess goes to some dark places, fiddles a bit with existentialism, and provides its viewers with entertaining characters and strong production values. A second season is coming this Fall.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders)
Still ongoing, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures: Stardust Crusaders tells the the story of the 3rd Joestar to bare the name JoJo. Each arc of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure follows another member of the Joestar family as they encounter impossible villains and partake in a bizarre adventure (as the name implies). The first season begins the story with the discovery of a strange mask by an English gentleman who raises 2 children, his son Jonathon Joestar, and the son of a man that he thinks (incorrectly) saved his life. This second son, Dio, makes it his mission to ruin the life of his brother Jonathan while taking all of the power of the Joestar family for himself. Stuff happens, allot of stuff, and an epic battle begins between the brothers that outlives Jonathan and carries on to his descendants. Dissertations could be written about the interweaving plots and musical homages in JoJo, I will spare you that. Stardust Crusaders, as I said, picks up with the 3rd JoJo, Jotaro Kujo, The great great grandson of Jonathan Joestar. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s greatest strengths are in its melding of drama, action, and comedy, as well as its ability to continually reinvent itself. That the series has the trappings of an 80s anime (overly dramatic and overly muscled characters for example), only adds to the humor that the truly bizarre series exudes. JoJo started as manga in the 80s, and is still ongoing, the series has over 111 volumes of material (for reference, all of Dragon Ball, including Z, was 42 Volumes total).
An Irregular at Magic High School (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei)
It is nice, every so often, to have a central protagonist who is smart, confident, and capable. This is the recipe for success of An Irregular at Magic High School. As an audience, we believe in the protagonist Tatsuya, we don’t need to see him challenged, we just want to see the machinations of his plans. An Irregular at Magic High School takes place in a version of our world in which magic not only exists, but has been aided by technology. Technological breakthroughs play a supporting role in their usefulness to magic, with magicians using devices called CADs to help them focus and activate their spells. In this futuristic world of magic, those who have traits that are considered good for magic are valued above those who have more limited, less desirable, or non existent magic. This creates a prejudice that is most noticeable in the school of the series which divides its classes into course 1 (Blooms) and course 2 (Weeds) base don their abilities. The story centers on the creepily sweet relationship between brother Tatsuya, and sister Miyuki. Miyuki is a prodigy of magic, the best in her class by far and enters the school as a Bloom, her brother Tatsuya is a Weed, incredibly weak in the skillsets the school values for magic. But it isn’t that simple, Tatsuya is as strong as his sister, perhaps stronger, perhaps stronger than anyone at the school, or even the country. He is held back by family traditions, magical limiters, and by having magics that do not test well to the schools standards. Every week we join Tatsuya and his doting sister Miyuki as they upend ignorant prejudice while scheming towards a greater goal.
The most gorgeous anime of last season, Mekakucity Actors, combines minimalism with repetitive texture to gorgeous effect. Though it has often been called convoluted and contrived in it’s anime telling, I always felt the anime was more about the journey than the destination. Mekakucity Actors is told with such stunning beauty that I never cared that the story is told with more complexity than it contains. Mekakucity Actors’ anime comes to us from Shaft, the creators of similarly gorgeous series Bakemonogatari, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Some might say it is style over substance, I would reply that style IS its substance.
No Game No Life
I have said before that it is nice to have an intelligent and capable protagonist, and this series does as well. No Game No Life centers on Brother and Sister Hikikomori (shut-ins) Gamer team “Blank”, infamous across the internet for their seeming inability to lose a game. They catch the attention of a god of a different realm who brings them to his world. This world they are brought to was once at war, with 16 intelligent races killing each other for power. One god conquered all and established new rules. The god, Tet, took away the capacity for violence from the 16 races and forced them to resolve their differences through games which must adhere to 10 pledges. Sora and Shiro (the siblings that make up “Blank”) want to take on Tet in a game, but in order to do so they must conquer the 16 intelligent races through various games. No Game No Life is beautifully animated with a stylish color palette and lavish settings. Due to its popularity, one would hope that a second season is inevitable.