Summer Anime Preview: The Best New Shows of the Summer Season

Every season Japan turns out a fresh crop of anime TV series. With accessible (and legal) simulcasts becoming increasingly common on sites like Hulu and Crunchyroll, it’s now easier than ever to watch almost any new anime only hours after the Japanese broadcast. So why wait? Here are our five top picks for the summer season.

The Eccentric Family/Uchouten Kazoku

The Eccentric Family Uchouten Kazoku

In an alternate Kyoto, humans live together with two mythical races, tanuki (shape-shifting raccoon dogs) and tengu (long-nosed, winged creatures). The Eccentric Family follows the antics of Yasaburo Shimogamo (voiced by Takahiro Sakurai), the third son of a tanuki family, as he interacts with tengu, other tanuki, and a mysterious human girl.

Much excitement about this project has come from the fact that this show is an adaptation of a novel by the author of The Tatami Galaxy, which was itself adapted into an award-winning anime in 2010. The Eccentric Family has a bright, distinctive visual style, and character designs by the creator of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei contribute to the whimsical, slightly offbeat aesthetic of the show. Add a colorful cast of characters, some barbed dialogue, and hints of dark family mysteries lurking in the background, and you get a show that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on this season.

For fans of: The Tatami Galaxy, Kyousogiga, Yozakura Quartet

Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll

Silver Spoon/Gin no Saji

Silver Spoon Gin no Saji

Silver Spoons protagonist is Yuugo Hachiken (Ryohei Kimura), a freshman at an agricultural high school. Although he has no interest in agriculture, he figures his new school has two advantages: first, it’ll get him away from his family, and second, he’s sure to be top of his class, because how smart can farmers be anyway? City-raised Hachiken soon discovers that farming isn’t the cake walk he expected, but makes a bevy of new friends sure to keep his high school life interesting.

Silver Spoon is based on an award-winning manga by Hiromu Arakawa, whom many will know as the author of Fullmetal Alchemist. If it seems odd that the author of a bestselling fantasy manga would be writing about farming, it may make a little more sense when you learn that Arakawa grew up on a dairy farm in Hokkaido and has based the manga partially on her childhood experiences. And if Arakawa alone isn’t enough reason to check out this series, it’s also worth noting that Silver Spoon is airing in Fuji TV’s noitaminA block, a TV time slot that has historically produced such quality series as Nodame Cantabile, Mononoke, The Tatami Galaxy, and Bunny Drop/Usagi Drop.

Hachiken’s fish-out-of-water flailing provides ample opportunity for comedy in the first episode, but the large, diverse cast as well as questions about Hachiken’s reasons for his choice of school are likely to pay some narrative and dramatic dividends down the line—and as a second season is already scheduled for winter 2014, it looks like this series will be given plenty of time to deliver on any promises it makes.

For fans of: Moyashimon, Fullmetal Alchemist

Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll

Free!

Free!

This show about a high school boys’ swimming club revolves around Nanase Haruka (Nobunaga Shimazaki). After winning a swimming tournament in elementary school with his teammates Makoto (Tatsuhisa Suzuki), Nagisa (Tsubasa Yonaga), and Rin (Mamoru Miyano), the boys buried their trophy in a time capsule and went off to different middle schools. When Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa are reunited in high school, they return to their old swim club to dig up their prize, only to run into Rin, now swimming for a rival school.

Co-produced by Animation Do and Kyoto Animation (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-ON!), Free! may be worth watching if only for the splash (pun obviously intended) it made on the internet a few months ago, when Kyoto Animation (known colloquially as KyoAni) released a commercial based on the concept. Popularized on 4chan and Tumblr before it was even confirmed as a TV series, the subsequent uproar when the show was announced led many to claim (wrongly) that Free!’s internet popularity had been responsible for the show’s production. The announcement also made waves among some KyoAni fans who felt that the studio, known for soft slice-of-life shows featuring adorable high school girls, was betraying fans’ expectations in making a show targeted at a female audience.

That said, this one’s a KyoAni show through and through. Free! combines the trappings of sports anime (friendships, rivalry, and taking your sport extremely seriously) with the slice-of-life interactions and fluid character animation that KyoAni has displayed in shows like K-ON! and Hyouka. The visuals are top shelf, and although the sports plot is just getting off the ground, KyoAni rarely misses the mark with their characters and storytelling.

For fans of: Kuroko’s Basketball/Kuroko no Basuke, K-ON!

Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll

Gatchaman Crowds

Gatachaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds follows Hajime Ichinose (Maaya Uchida), an obliviously cheerful and relentlessly odd high school girl who is recruited as a Gatchman—a warrior who fights to protect humanity from alien criminals—by a cryptic man who appears to her one day at school. Accompanied by fellow Gatchaman Sugane Tachibana (Ryota Ohsaka) and Joe Hibiki (Daisuke Namikawa), Hajime must use a high tech notebook and shiny new power suit to defend the citizenry against mysterious enemies known as MESS.

First a little context: Gatchaman (a.k.a. Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) is a superhero anime franchise from the 1970s. While Gatchaman Crowds takes place in the Gatchaman universe, no prior knowledge is required to watch this standalone series. In fact, it’s doubtful that fans of the original Gatchaman would even recognize this as part of the same franchise.

Now onto the show: Gatchaman Crowds reunites the creative team from Tsuritama, helmed by director Kenji Nakamura. Nakamura’s presence virtually guarantees a visual and creative treat, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten with Gatchaman Crowds: gorgeous and unique art, brightly colored (though a tad over-designed) power suits, and enemies that resemble nothing so much as Rubik’s Cubes with tentacles. This series is definitely an odd one, but it jumps into its fairly campy premise and superhero-style action with such a ridiculous sense of all-in fun that it’s hard to resist.

For fans of: Tsuritama, Tiger & Bunny

Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll

Blood Lad

Blood Lad

Blood Lad follows a vampire named Staz (Ryota Ohsaka). Though the boss of a sizable territory in the demon world, Staz has no interest in lording over demons or drinking human blood—he’s more interested in his collection of Japanese manga and games. When a human girl, Yanagi Fuyumi (Iori Nomizu), accidentally wanders into the demon world, he rushes to interrogate her about Final [redacted] and Dra-Gunboll, but is stymied when she is rather abruptly devoured by a rampaging monster and turned into a ghost. Not to be deterred, Staz vows to do whatever it takes to restore Fuyumi to her pre-ghost state… including traveling to the human world.

Sporting some stylish neon visuals and a fun, if not terribly original, scenario, Blood Lad hits the ground running with a quirky, spazzy protagonist and pop-culture-driven humor. The opening sequence promises a large cast of characters to add to the undead shenanigans, but with a rumored run of only ten episodes, it remains to be seen if this adaptation can successfully pull a satisfying supernatural comedy out of the manga source material.

For fans of: Sankarea, The Devil is a Part-Timer!/Hataraku Maou-sama!, Nyaruko-san: Another Crawling Chaos/Haiyore! Nyaruko-san

Watch it streaming on Hulu


Kelly Quinn is an assistant editor at Tor Books. She can also be found on Twitter.

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