Yes, this is in fact happening. Whilst I have bogged down with real life priorities, like getting a job, I just couldn't resist putting out the Winter 2014 Anime Preview. Especially since I didn't have the time to put out the Fall 2013 Preview.
As usual the Winter season isn't all that great. In fact, it usually ends up with almost nothing to offer, so I was surprised when there were some okay looking anime in the lineup. Given how bad this year's winter season was, I could understand the scepticism some of you may have - I still do - but there is hope. Now, it won't be an incredible season but there will be plenty of nice series to look out for.
On top of that, a number of series from the Fall will be carrying over. So for those who don't like the look of the upcoming series, you can always rest in the comfort of knowing a few of your fall favourites will be going on. Finally, I'll be ignoring short series and any vaguely incestuous in this preview. OVA's and Movies will be included at the end.
Let's dive in.
Studio + Material: Bones - Original
Kicking off the preview is easily the most anticipated series of the Winter 2014 Anime season. Re-uniting the team that brought you Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, makes this series the Kill La Kill of the upcoming season.
The premise sounds comedic, and presumably it'll retain some elements of Bebop plot - alien hunter in space. What really excites me though, is the old-school visual. Even the main character looks like JT from Redline but with campier vintage animation.
Usually I would caution against getting your hopes up, but it seems damn near impossible. This IS Watanabe directing and Sato writing we're talking about. If it does fail, we'll all be disappointed.
Expectactions: Highest - Most anticipated series of the season.
Hamatora the Animation
Studio + Material: NAZ - Multi-media project
There's always one. One anime so clouded in mystery, occasionally from a new studio and almost certainly an original with no discernible origins. Hamatora fits all those criteria and what's more, it brings with it an inconsistent director and a fresh staff.
Yes Seiji Kishi will be directing this, so it could turn out great or it'll be complete mess. With him will be his scriptwriter for Aura (Kumagai) - continuing his trend of inner-circle partnerships - as well as the equally inconsistent Machida. They'll be the team taking on what looks like a Durarara!!-esque project about a group of supernaturals.
With similar projects having been made in not too distant past, it's hard to muster up any hype for this series. That may sound like a bad thing, but when considering what happened to series like K, it works to the project's advantage. Being left in the dark and apprehensive about Hamatora may allow to exceed expectations.
Expectations: None - Nowhere near enough info to form any.
You would think that a season such as Winter might bring with it a generic Sengoku reversal anime, but surprisingly this season we won't be seeing an anime like that. Instead, we'll be getting a fantasy action series, in which the weapons themselves are infused with the spirits of historical figures.
Generic-sounding it may still be, but I'm glad Nobunagun is veering away from what we usually get when it comes to girls and anything Sengoku-related. The promo poster does look rather slick and stylish, even with studio adapting this manga being Bridge.
Bridge's minuscule resume - Mitsudomoe and Devil Survivor - make it hard to judge the studio. Furthermore, the director has no major accomplishments to speak of. The same could be said of the writer, Yamaguchi-sensei, but he has done Aquarian EVOL and Gingitsune. If there is something exciting here, he could potentially bring it out. Otherwise, its hard to get excited about this anime.
Expectations: Medium-Low - But retain some hope.
Witch Craft Works
Mizushima-sensei continues to keep a packed schedule these days as he transitions from doing two seasons at Production I.G to adapting a manga about witches. Not little magical girls mind you, but rather high school aged witches.
The few chapters of the manga I read were nothing special. Pleasant but beyond that, they didn't offer much else. That said, I always give anime adaptations a second chance and especially when the staff is so skilled. Apart from Mizushima-sensei directing, veteran writers who've worked with him will be on board.
J.C. Staff hasn't been my favourite studio as of late, though I don't despise their work. Certainly I do wish they would return to their older roots but I'm willing to give their works a shot. It's hard to see Witchcraft Works being their return to glory, but it should be fun to watch at least.
Expectations: Medium - Great staff, average source material.
Studio + Material: Sunrise - Original
Sunrise, check. Mecha, check. Two guys - brunette, blond - check. And of course: specially chosen name to ensure fujoshi following, check.
Everything about this project screams typical Sunrise. On the heels of finishing of the second cour of Valvrave, our good friends at Sunrise are at it again. This time they've tapped Yasuhiro Tanabe to debut as the director of this piece. A promotion for Horizon II´s assistant director. A promotion to a third-tier project by the looks of it.
Given the directors inexperience, you would of course expect the writer - in this case creator - to carry the experience. As it happens veteran Sunrise busybody Yatate-san is does indeed cary the experience in the staff. His multiple contributions to Gundam will probably ensure a certain standard being met. Hard to imagine it being a high one.
Expectations: Very Low - Aren't we tired of Sunrise doing this every season?
Studio + Material: Silver Link - Light Novel
Staff: Shin Oonuma (Director), Michiko Yokote (Writer)
Perhaps the one director, whose appeal continues to elude me is none other than Shin Oonuma. With the exception of Baka to Test I have never found myself loving any of his works. Occasionally he would put something decent, but never anything great.
It's hard to see a school romantic comedy involving an idol being any better. The genre itself is plagued with giant pitfalls and predictable, making it already difficult to accomplish success. Add in a director I don't get, and I continue to lose interest quickly.
Each season I do give Silver Link a chance to prove me wrong and each season they fail miserably. If they do pull a rabbit out of the hat for this project, I'll be impressed and shocked.
Expectations: Very Low - Silver Link and Oonuma don't do it for me.
Staff: Kenichi Ishikura (Director/Writer)
It's rare to see a pure yuri anime these days. Sure you'll come across the occasional comedy with yuri undertones, but to have a straight up yuri a la Maria-sama is a rarity. As doubtful as I am that Sakura Trick will be a "serious" yuri show, it's still an interesting appearance in the lineup.
I personally don't follow the genre. I have yet to watch any real yuri anime or for that matter read a yuri manga. To me, the genre doesn't mean much. However, there are plenty of people who do like the genre and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this may well be a treat for them.
In any case, Ishikura-sensei is on his own with this one. The SHAFT animator is taking his talents over to Studio DEEN, who continue to diversify their portfolio with each new project. DEEN's work this year hasn't been stand out, but in terms of diversity they have been interesting to watch and maybe this new series will be another addition to their good pile of work.
Expectations: Low - Not my genre.
Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta
A few years back, TMS and Madhouse collaborated on a movie entitled Toaru Hikuushi e no Tsuioku, which is set in the same universe as this series Three years later, TMS is back alone to adapt a TV series for the 5 volume light novel of the same name.
TMS has been silent for the year. After their failed adaptation of a pachinko game with Lupin IIII character designs, they haven't put out a single new anime. Now that it's been a year, they are finally back to animating a serious source material with some real promise. Being only 5 volumes long, it's possible to get a pretty faithful adaptation.
Unfortunately the director doesn't have much experience but with Reiko Yoshida in the writing staff, that problem can be easily resolved. All that's left is to see whether TMS Entertainment can reproduce their 2012 successes and continue to establish themselves as a serious studio.
Expectations: Medium-High - Good source material and prequel movie.
Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
This anime is really a Dogakobo anime. By that I mean it's about cute girls doing cute things, with the only difference being the rare existence of a male fiancé. Other than that, it's the same thing we've seen from the studio time and time again.
GJ-bu director Fujiwara will be leading the project and he'll be aided by veteran writer Shimo, whose resume includes Clannad, Kanon (2006) and most recently Golden Time. Not the usual resume for Dogakbo's liking, but plenty of experience with romance anime to bring to this project.
As always there is a difficulty with adapting 4-koma manga. It's a source material that haunts many who have tried and failed, and incidentally it's one I don't much care for. This is not a series that's on my radar. It could end up better than expected but that depends on the direction the studio, director and writer decide to take.
Expectations: Low - Source material and studio combo has been done to death.
Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha.
Staff: Tooru Takahashi (Director), Touko Machida (Writer)
Yet another new studio dipping its toe into full animation production. This time with a story of love and fox spirits. What sounds like shojo but is actually intended to be seinen.
Not much I can say about the source material, other than it sounds interesting. It looks deceptively like it's targeted at the shojo demographic, but it is in fact running in the same magazine as Blood Lad. The premise sounds familiar, though there does seem to be some differentiation.
I myself am pretty interested in this series. Even with a new studio and very unknown director at the helm, it does look like a nice break from the usual Winter season anime. I'd go as far as to say, something like this would usually run in the Spring season. Hopefully it'll turn out as one of the better anime of the upcoming season.
Expectations: Medium-High - Looks like a Spring anime, but the studio and director are too new.
After its weakest year in seven years, Brain's Base continues to put out rather uninspiring and generic anime. As evidenced by their latest pick, an adaptation of a manga about a delinquent boy in a group of insane girls.
The manga has been around for a good number of years but has never made any news - no impressive sales, rave reviews etc. A good number of chapters have been scanlated online but I myself have never crossed paths with it.
Adapting the obscure manga are Uezu and Sugawara. Hard to believe Uezu is not pairing up with Kishi this season, though apparently Sugawara was the assistant director for Kamisama Dolls, making this essentially the same type of team up. Uezu-san has been on a losing streak for a while now, and this project seems hardly like the type to break it.
Expectations: Very Low - Brain's Base and Uezu are persona non grata at the moment.
Studio + Material: MADHOUSE - Light Novel
Light novel source material about a guy being dragged into a world of magic.......sounds familiar? If it does, it's because this is what every other anime that comes out these days is. At least this one does have an experienced director-writer combo.
Director Sato is certainly the more impressive of the two. With works like One Outs and Kaiji he's been around for a while, even if he hasn't been MADHOUSE's go-to guy for quite some time. Writer Fudeyasu has less impressive accomplishments to speak of, but there are some titles on his resume that were very well done.
Even with MADHOUSE and a good director, this will most likely be generic series. Possibly decent, though nothing extraordinary should be expected.
Expectations: Medium - MADHOUSE but generic sounding LN.
SoniAni: Super Sonico the Animation
After cranking out a number of good anime, including this year's Hataraku Maou-sama! it pains me to see WHITE FOX do something like this. By that I mean making an anime of a mascot girl for Nitroplus, who just happened to have developed the source material for the studio's most successful series: Steins; Gate.
This just feels like a payment for patronage. What's even more puzzling is that Yousuke Kuroda will be writing the scripts, seeing as how he's got a decent resume. The director has never had a project to himself and has bounced around from studio to studio, but Kuroda is a more established and respected figure.
Let's call a spade a spade: this is the equivalent of the studio performing oral sex to its biggest moneymaker.
Expectations: Very Low - Why WHITE FOX? Why?
Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil
Studio + Material: ARMS - Original
Staff: Yasuomi Umetsu (Creator/Director/Composition)
Nowadays whenever ARMS comes out with another project, there is little to no excitement. The studio has retained its reputation for being all about the ecchi and not much else. Their attempt to be more serious with Maoyuu Maou Yuusha didn't go down all that well either.
This time they're pinning their hopes on Yasuomi Umetsu, the creator of Kite. They've given him essentially all creative control, to animate what actually sounds like an interesting premise of magic and law. It can easily go the wrong way, but there is also a chance this could be a surprisingly decent series.
With that in mind, I'd exercise extreme caution. Umetsu-sensei is hardly that accomplished and ARMS may be ready to diversify their resume but they are still the studio whom many love to hate.
Expectations: Low/Medium-Low - Sounds interesting but the studio and director aren't very good.
Nobunaga the Fool
Studio + Material: Satelight - Original
Kawamori-sensei is back with another project. This time it's a story of Jean d'Arc and Oda Nobunaga with technology and a world divided. Original? Not really but intriguing at least.
I'm not a big fan of Kawamori or Satelight, where the anime will be produced, and I'm not sure this will be anything special. It does look decent in terms of art style and the story would sound appealing if I was still into more mainstream shonen series.
Nevertheless, it could be okay. The story sounds a little on the generic side, seeing as how it's been done in a variety of different ways for different anime. Also, the director isn't a big name and has little experience, so it's unlikely this is expected to be a huge success.
Expectations: Low - Kawamori isn't really my type of story creator
Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezvda
Studio + Material: A-1 Pictures - Original
Staff: Tensai Okamura (Director, Writer)
A-1 Pictures continues to balance its busy noitaminA workload along with its more mainstream projects. Their latest addition to the latter is this original series by the creator and director of Darker than Black. Only this time it looks like a more comedic project.
The story sounds like a comedic gag series involving a secret society bent on world domination. Made me think of Legion of Doom almost immediately and if it is something along those lines, I would be inclined to watch it. Otherwise it's hard to imagine what type of series we would get.
Since there is a competent director/creator attached, this could be one of the more unexpected surprises of the new season. The studio's quality continues to fluctuate but it's usually putting out decent quality series. Even if they are a little dull at times.
Expectations: Medium/Medium-High - Sounds funny and has a good director/creator.
Hoozuki no Reitetsu
Wit Studio is back quickly after racking up money and reputation from their adaptation of Shingeki no Kyojin. There next project signals a possible route for the studio to embark upon, in adapting less known but high quality source material. In this case it's the Manga Taisho nominated story of bureaucratic demons.
Having read all the chapters I can find, I'm very excited about this anime. It's a great comedy about demon king's right-hand man and his daily misadventures with other demons in hell. Along with a very good manga, comes a great director in Kaburaki (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Kimi ni Todoke) and a writer with experience in the genre in Gotou (Azazel-san).
There's no doubt in my mind this is the second most anticipated series (for me) of the Winter 2014 anime season. If not for Space Dandy and its calibre of staff, this would be my first pick.
Expectations: Very High - Second most anticipated series of the season.
Bones' other, less high-profile project for the season is an adaptation of a manga about gods. As you'd expect, the director-writer isn't as high-profile as the one for Space Dandy and it's definitely not an impressive one either. Tamura-sensei doesn't have much on his resume and Akao-sensei has some rep with Arakawa Under the Bridge.
The manga is pretty impressive considering the plot. It has more depth than one might expect, and the characters are exceedingly complex. That doesn't mean the premise is cliché-free, rather it veers away from them perfectly and shifts focus effectively.
Even if it is the lower profile project from the studio, it has good potential. The manga is good and the staff is good enough to take on the adaptation to deliver a more thought-provoking than expected supernatural series.
Expectations: Medium-High - Impressive manga adapted by BONES.
Shonen Jump broke with tradition by awarding Nisekoi's anime adaptation to SHAFT and Shinbo. The usually reserve their manga for less artistic studios, so you can imagine the surprise to many fans of the manga, magazine and studio with this choice.
I'm both interested and worried with how Shinbo and SHAFT will tackle this adaptation. It's a very typical romantic comedy harem, so you can understand my scepticism of the studio and staff choice. Perhaps this is WSJ's way of attracting new readership or simply trying something new.
Even with my reservations, I look forward to watching this anime. It's funny and easy to watch, and that's its main appeal. The story is bog standard harem which really depends on the characters, and that is what attracts people to watch it.
Expectations: High - Shinbo is an odd choice, but the manga is a nice read and hopefully a good watch.
Tonari no Seki-kun
Staff: Yuuji Mutou (Director)
I'm bending the rules a little by including this anime in the preview. Technically it is only 10 minutes long per episode but the reason it's in the preview is because of its charm.
Each chapter of the manga is short, concise and pretty funny. It's very episodic, with a new random event brought about by Seki-kun as his classroom neighbour looks in shock and gets into trouble. Hit or miss at times and at others, a very funny result.
Shin-Ei Animation and the director are very unknown, though it doesn't matter much for this anime. Being only 10 minutes per episode, it ends up as one of the low-key series of the season. Regardless, we've seen recently series do well with just ten minutes.
Expectations: Medium - Funny enough to watch, but not serious enough to pay attention to.
Gin no Saji 2nd Season
Studio + Material: A-1 Pictures - Manga
The second cour of Silver Spoon is upon us and it does have a change to it. Assistant director Deai is being handed a tough task by being elevated to the number one position and continuing a rather exquisite adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa's agriculture manga.
Season one went swimmingly well for A-1 Pictures and I suspect season two will go well also. The manga does take a turn to the serious but the adaptation has already adopted a more solemn and serious tone, so it won't be a big shock. Truly meticulous planning on behalf of the staff.
A much-anticipated 2nd cour.
Expectations: Very High - Sequel of a good series.
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren
Studio + Material: Kyoto Animation
Staff: No change to season one.
KyoAni is back to printing money. They're getting back to Chuu2koi and are keeping the staff exactly the same as the one for season one. For me this isn't all that exciting but nonetheless the series itself was a nice romance drama.
Apparently the plot will thicken with the introduction of a new girl and a situation where Rika and Yuuta are living together. You can pretty much see where this will be going, and that's a bit of a let down for the series since it ended on a relatively high note.
I digress. This is still a cash cow for KyoAni, so it is no surprise the studio is going to milk it for all it's worth. Fans should be happy.
Expectations: Medium - Decent series but I didn't like season one all that much.
Winter 2014 Anime - OVA's
Here's some OVA's to look out for:
Mushishi Special: Hihamukage - No it's not a sequel to arguably the most universaly beloved anime in existence. It is however a one-hour special, which sweetens the deal a little bit.
Neppuku Kairiku Bushi Road - A special that evidently takes a twist on the ninja genre. Already been delayed once, but now set to air on New Years Eve.
Genshiken Nidaime OVA - The always great series is back with more for us to enjoy.
Natsume Yuujinchou: Itsuka Yuki no Hi ni - Incidentally, Brain's Base's sole sequel anime gets an OVA.
Sword Art Online: Extra Edition - Some fan service OVA for one of 2012's biggest sellers.
Winter 2014 Anime Movies
Finally, these are the movies to look out for:
Tiger and Bunny Movie 2: The Rising - This will be the movie with all new content. Even with the first movie being mostly recap, it reminded me just how much I enjoyed the series and look forward to the new movie.
Giovanni no Shima - Production I.G is putting out a movie that looks like an attempt at a Ghibli style story. The director is a very old-school one and the writer is brand new, with an empty resume. Could be interesting.
Buddha 2: Tezuka Osamu no Buddha: Owarinaki Tabi - The first film had its flaws, but I have a hunch this one and the one after will still be worth the watch. If only to watch the adaptation of a legendary manga.
Hunter x Hunter: The Last Mission - More from this series is also fantastic.