There’s an autumnal nip in the air and we all know what that means: pumpkin-flavored beverages, decorative gourds, and new cartoons. In contrast to a summer season full of more contemplative projects like Uchouten Kazoku and Silver Spoon, fall is crammed with stylish, action-packed shows, from the schoolyard battleground of Kill la Kill to the terrific madness that is Kyousogiga to impromptu superheroes in Samurai Flamenco. With simulcasts a click away, there’s no reason to wait. Here are some top picks for the fall season that are available to watch right now—let’s just hope some of them can live up to the hype.
Kill la Kill
Kill la Kill follows protagonist Ryuuko Matoi (voiced by the talented Ami Koshimizu), who transfers to a hyperbolically-walled high school ruled with an iron fist by jackbooted student council president Satsuki Kiryuuin (Ryouka Yuzuki). With the help of a scissor-shaped sword and a sentient sailor uniform, Ryuuko confronts Satsuki and the student council’s four generals in order to discover her father’s killer.
There are a lot of reasons to get the drill in your heart spinning for Kill la Kill: for one, it reunites the director (Hiroyuki Imaishi) and writer (Kazuki Nakashima) of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The show is also Studio Trigger’s (Inferno Cop, Little Witch Academia) first TV anime since the studio was founded in 2011 by former Gainax members. After Trigger’s popular Anime Mirai entry, Little Witch Academia, followed by their successful Kickstarter campaign for Little Witch Academia 2 (which was funded more than four times over it’s $150,000 goal), expectations have been running high for their first full-length series.
After watching the first two episodes of Kill la Kill, I think it’s safe to say fans won’t be let down—in fact, fans will be lucky if they can manage to catch their breath. Kill la Kill is full of the exuberant creativity and frenetic energy of such Gainax favorites as FLCL and Gurren Lagann, with all of the cockeyed absurdity and gleeful shamelessness of Panty and Stocking and Inferno Cop. If Quentin Tarantino directed a Saturday morning cartoon, it would look something like Kill la Kill. With an expected 26 episodes, the main question here is whether Nakashima will be able to keep this show on the narrative rails though the whole run—but whatever happens, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.
For fans of: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, scissors, fun
Samurai Flamenco follows Masayoshi Hazama (Toshiki Masuda), a model who has always dreamed of becoming a superhero, and Hidenori Goto (the always hilarious Tomokazu Sugita), a jaded young cop. Despite having no relevant skills, equipment, or experience, Masayoshi is determined to become the hero he’s always aspired to be: Samurai Flamenco. When Goto catches Masayoshi trying to mete out vigilante justice to hooligans and drunks on the streets, he becomes caught up in his superhero antics.
Samurai Flamenco is one of this season’s two original shows airing in the noitaminA time slot, a programming block that has traditionally been dedicated to shows that fall outside the default demographic of young male viewers. An original noitaminA show is always something to get excited about, and this one comes with the added bonus of being directed by Takahiro Omori, who previously directed the much-lauded Kuragehime/Jellyfish Princess for this time slot, as well as such shows as Baccano!, Durarara!!, and Natsume Yuujinchou.
This show is basically Kick-Ass wrapped in a buddy-cop bromance comedy—except that one of the cops is actually a kid in ski goggles—and so far it’s hitting all the right buttons. One might wish that the art was a little more polished in places, but it’s a minor quibble in the face of all the things it gets absolutely right. The leads have great chemistry, and the first episode was well-paced, funny, and surprisingly earnest in its treatment of vigilante heroism. Masayoshi is winningly naive and goofy with his cobbled-together superhero suit and stubborn idealism, and Goto’s down-to-earth realism and exasperated yet indulgent attitude is the perfect foil for him, whether the pair are confronting snotty middle school kids or just sitting around eating curry in Masayoshi’s swanky penthouse apartment. This show is brimming with heart, and with a 22 episode run ahead of it, Samurai Flamenco has ample time to make use of its fun premise and charming leads.
For fans of: Tiger & Bunny, Kick-Ass, Kamen Rider, Tomokazu Sugita
Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll
Kyokai no Kanata / Beyond the Boundary
Akihito Kanbara (voiced by Kenn) looks like a normal enough high school student, but his half-youmu blood allows him to heal almost immediately from even fatal wounds. When inexperienced youmu hunter Mirai Kuriyama (Risa Taneda) attacks Akihito at school, she learns about his immortality—and he learns that she is the last of a cursed clan that manipulates blood as a weapon against youmu.
Kyokai no Kanata is a fantasy entry from animation studio Kyoto Animation (K-ON!, Free!). They’re known primarily for producing shows with soft character designs and adorable antics mixed with wonderfully fluid animation, and their distinct aesthetic is instantly recognizable here. KyoAni fans have been clamoring for the studio to take on an action series since they worked on Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid back in 2005, and it looks like in Kyokai no Kanata they may have gotten their wish. The premise here is well-trod stuff—demon hunters, special powers, traumatic back-story—but veteran KyoAni staffer Taichi Ishidate’s skillful directing and dynamic action sequences elevate Kyokai no Kanata above such fantasy fluff as Strike the Blood and Tokyo Ravens this season. Add a slowly-revealed cast of intriguing supporting characters and some good comedic moments, and Kyokai no Kanata is more than worth a look.
For fans of: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!/Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions, Bakemonogatari, sakuga, glasses
Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll
Galilei Donna revolves around three descendants of Galileo Galilei (yes, THAT Galileo): sisters Hazuki (Kei Shindou), a spitfire law student, Kazuki (Rumi Ookubo), a pining high schooler, and Hozuki (Rina Hidaka), a youngster with her ancestor’s considerable gift for invention. The trio are as different as sisters can be, but when they are suddenly attacked by a mysterious organization looking for Galileo’s “inheritance,” the three must work together to get out of their dangerous predicament.
Galilei Donna is the second original noitaminA show this season, helmed by director Yasuomi Umetsu (Kite, Mezzo). The series hits the gas in the first episode with a fast-paced and action-filled premiere. Galilei Donna seems to have the markers of a show that’s been designed to be popular—cute girls, action, airships—but the first episode manages to incorporate the show’s disparate elements surprisingly well. The sisters have opposing personalities without falling into completely stereotypical types, the technology (including airships shaped like goldfish) adds a science-fantasy twist to the action, and the mystery plot cranks into motion without a hiccup. It doesn’t hurt that the show also looks good, with a bright color palette, some nice effects animation, and crisp art (fans of Sword Art Online may recognize the work of character designer Shingo Adachi here). One gets the feeling that the creators think the Galileo premise is a little smarter than it actually is, but if it gives them an excuse for a high-tech flying goldfish, then I’m happy to go along for the ride for this 11 episode series.
For fans of: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, explosions, goldfish
Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll
Yowamushi Pedal follows protagonist Sakamichi Onoda (Daiki Yamashita), a devoted anime geek. As a new freshman, Onoda can’t wait to get to high school and join the anime club so he can finally make friends who share his hobby... but upon arriving at the club room, he finds that the group has been disbanded due to lack of members. Disheartened, he gets on his trusty old (emphasis here on old) bike and heads out to console himself with anime goods in Akihabara—a whopping 45 kilometer ride. Onoda’s casual feat of endurance catches the eye of bicycle racing club member Shunsuke Imaizumi (Kousuke Toriumi), an elite cyclist desperate for a competitive edge, and club manager Miki Kanzaki (Ayaka Suwa), who’s on the lookout for a special new member to round out the team.
Okay, yes, this anime is about cycling, but stay with me for a minute here. Yowamushi Pedal is an adaptation of a very popular manga by Wataru Watanabe, and is scheduled for a 39 episode run (the longest of any of the shows starting this season). The sports anime formula here is fairly standard—a kid with a talent he doesn’t know he has is discovered by a team that needs him, sports ensues—but YowaPeda executes it with fresh appeal. Our lead Onoda is endearingly geeky, with an understandable wariness of the athletic-club jocks he encounters as he tries to revive his humble anime club, and the supporting cast that we’ve glimpsed so far seems full of interesting personalities. The first two episodes have been funny, charming, and well-paced, and the production values here are solid, with the quirky character designs giving the show a unique look. Sure, it doesn’t have scissor swords or goldfish, but YowaPeda is definitely worth a test drive this season if you’re looking for a fun watch.
For fans of: Eyeshield 21, Over Drive, matching bicycle gear
Watch it streaming on Crunchyroll
Kyousougiga is the story of, well, it’s complicated. Our protagonist Koto (Rie Kugimiya) is a young girl stuck in the strange city of the Mirror Capital—a fantastical version of Kyoto, cut off from the real world and ruled by a monk, a priest, and a demon. Taken in by the monk, Myoue (Kenichi Suzumura), and with her companions A and Un tagging along, Koto causes mayhem throughout the Mirror Capital as she searches for a black rabbit that may hold the key to returning home. What is Koto’s connection to the rabbit, the Mirror Capital, and the trio who rule it?
Part family saga, part Through the Looking Glass, part pure madness, Kyousougiga must be experienced to be understood. This show originally debuted as a lovely but incomprehensible 25 minute web short in 2011. Now, through great good fortune, the project has received a full 13 episode TV run that is allowing the staff to make full use of its beautifully imagined setting and characters. Each episode carefully unveils a small piece of the mysterious connections between Koto and the vibrant and eccentric inhabitants of the Mirror Capital, and the show has a lush, dynamic visual style that crams details into every frame. Kyousougiga is definitely the kind of show that will make you work—the plot comes together subtly, and from a variety of perspectives—but the reward is a show that is handily one of the best airing this season, if not this year.
For fans of: Uchouten Kazoku/The Eccentric Family, FLCL, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Lewis Carroll, hammers
Now available streaming on Crunchyroll
Kelly Quinn is an assistant editor at Tor Books. She can also be found on Twitter.