Fri
Jul 18 2014 10:00am

Summer 2014 Anime Preview: In the Name of the Moon!

Sailor Moon Crystal

As summer reaches its sweltering peak, what better reason to stay indoors with the A/C on than a new season of foreign cartoons? With a packed schedule of both new and returning shows, the summer season is looking rather suspiciously good. Fans will be pleased at the return of Space Dandy to both Japanese and American televisions, as well as new seasons of Sword Art Online (with guns!), Free! (with mermaids!), Kuroshitsuji (with circuses!) ...and perhaps not so pleased with the return of Sengoku Basara (with uglier character designs!). For the binge-watchers, sci-fi series Knights of Sidonia is now available in full on Netflix. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s a whole roster of new shows, ranging from the rose-strewn Sailor Moon reboot to the moody and mysterious Terror in Resonance. With simulcasts mere moments away, there’s no reason to wait. Here are six of the best new summer shows that are available to watch right now.

Sailor Moon Crystal

Sailor Moon Crystal

Usagi is just an average 14 year old girl who’s a little clumsy and a bit of crybaby...yeah, you know this one. Sailor Moon Crystal is a 26 episode series that is meant to follow the story of Naoko Takeuchi’s beloved manga more closely than the beloved 90s TV series did. Crystal is clearly striking a conscious balance between old and new: The new character designs draw heavily from the original manga while attempting to create a more modern look. The casting brings back Usagi’s original voice actress, Kotono Mitsuishi, while replacing the rest of the sailor senshi. The transformation sequence embodies this most of all—though the sequence is (somewhat controversially) animated in full CG, the visuals remain very close to the original 90s rendition.

So does Crystal stand a chance of living up to the nostalgia-laden expectations of Sailor Moon fans? Overall, I would say yes. The premiere hits all the major milestones—meet cat, transform, glimpse Tuxedo Mask, beat up bad guys—without a hitch. The animation, if not superlative, is certainly adequate, and though the new look takes some getting used to, the overall result is very pretty: the long-limbed, detailed character designs do add a delicate girliness, and the silhouetted eye-catches and title cards are especially lovely. The poised prettiness, however, comes at the price of slightly more static characters that at times feel a tad plastic. More than once I found myself missing the more cartoony style of the 90s series (not to mention the amazing 90s fashion, but we can’t have everything). That said, Crystal is just getting started, and with a few more episodes (and the entrance of the rest of the senshi), the show may well settle comfortably into its shiny new style.

For fans of: Sailor Moon, duh.

Watch it on Crunchyroll, Hulu (airs biweekly)

 

Terror in Resonance / Zankyou no Terror

Terror in Resonance

Two mysterious teenagers known as Nine (Kaito Ishikawa) and Twelve (Soma Saito) reveal themselves to be abnormally adept with explosives, carrying out a devastating terrorist attack on a major government building in downtown Tokyo. High school student Lisa Mishima (Atsumi Tanezaki) is unwittingly caught up in the violent plans of the two boys, who call themselves “Sphinx.”

Director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Kids on the Slope) returns to the noitaminA time slot with a tense terrorism thriller. Terror in Resonance opens with a tightly paced first episode that introduces the main cast—the stoic Nine, the eerily cheerful Twelve, and the despondent and mysterious Lisa—and wastes no time demolishing the Tokyo skyline. A haunting soundtrack by the legendary Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: SAC) adds considerably to the mood, and the art and animation from studio MAPPA (Kids on the Slope) is sharp and polished throughout this impressive premiere. Terror in Resonance is certainly playing its cards close to the vest: not much is revealed about what’s going on in the background, although Nine and Twelve’s dark past is sufficiently hinted at that it’s sure to become a factor later on. If this original show can keep up the tension and momentum it’s established in the first episode, it’s likely to be a winner this season.

For fans of: Eden of the East, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, riddles

Watch it on Hulu and Funimation

 

Barakamon

Barakamon

After responding to a famous calligrapher’s criticism of his work by clocking the old man in the jaw, young calligrapher Seishuu Handa (Daisuke Ono) is packed off to a small rural island in disgrace. The city-bred artist is immediately out of his element amongst his inexplicable new neighbors (who all have atrocious country accents and don’t lock their doors), and is especially tormented by a child named Naru (Suzuko Hara), the acknowledged village scamp.

Barakamon is an exceedingly charming slice of life comedy that makes its considerable appeal apparent from the very first episode. Striking an easy balance between comedy driven by a city boy’s fish-out-of-water antics and a sincere exploration of Handa’s struggles to develop as an artist, the show manages to be heartfelt without being pretentious or saccharine. The unlikely friendship between Handa and Naru is a great source of fun here, and child actress Suzuko Hara brings a natural artlessness to Naru that is a perfect counterpoint to veteran voice actor Ono’s performance as Handa. Add fluid, organic animation from Kinema Citrus (Black Bullet, Yuyushiki), and Barakamon easily stands among the best shows premiering this season.

For fans of: Usagi Drop, Silver Spoon, Yotsuba&, rural villages

Watch it on Funimation (US) or Crunchyroll (outside the US) 

 

Aldnoah.Zero

Aldnoad.Zero

Aldnoah.Zero takes place in an alternate history where humans have colonized Mars. Years after a lengthy war between Earth and Mars, an uneasy truce keeps the planets at peace—until a terrorist attack on the Martian princess during a diplomatic mission to Earth sparks the war anew. The show focuses on Slaine Troyard (Kensho Ono), an Earthling in the Martian military, Inaho Kaizuka (Natsuki Hanae), a high school student on Earth, and the princess Asseylum (Sora Amamiya).

Reuniting the director and writer of Fate/Zero (though Urobuchi’s only responsible for concept here, not scripts), Aldnoah.Zero is a slickly-produced original mecha series. Debuting with a fairly standard mecha premise (empires, robots, humanity at war), Aldnoah.Zero distinguishes itself with a solid premiere that, though perhaps a little exposition-heavy at times, does good work setting the stage, both in terms of world-building and character introductions. Character designs by Takako Shimura (Wandering Son) are a special treat here, and the large-scale plot and action is bolstered by an equally large-scale score from Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill). There’s a lot of potential present, though neither our protagonists nor our robots have seen much action yet. I suspect that Aldnoah.Zero will sink or swim based on how the relationships between the main three develop as the show progresses.

For fans of: Code Geass, Kakumeiki Valvrave, almost any entry in the Gundam franchise

Watch it on: Crunchyroll and Hulu

 

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun / Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

When Chiyo Sakura (Ari Ozawa) finally works up the courage to confess her love to her high school crush, Nozaki-kun (Yuichi Nakamura) mistakes her for a fan of his work. Yes, Nozaki has been living a not-so-secret double life: average high school boy by day, famous shoujo manga artist by night. Nozaki quickly recruits Chiyo as an assistant; meanwhile, poor Chiyo struggles to get her feelings across to her exceedingly dense crush.

Based on a 4-koma manga serialized in Gangan Online (the same online magazine as Barakamon), Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is an ensemble comedy that affectionately parodies shoujo manga tropes. The deadpan Nozaki is obviously at the heart of things, but it is the tenacious and lovable Chiyo who drives much of the comedy, which, true to its 4-koma roots, is light and fluffy, jumping spryly from gag to gag. The rest of the cast is equally wacky and entertaining, and the show is taking a leisurely course in introducing more characters to the mix. An added bonus here is production by animation studio Dogakobo, which brings a little extra oomph to the character animation of this uncommonly fun show. For maximum shoujo sparkles, watch alongside Blue Spring Ride this season.

For fans of: Daily Lives of High School Boys, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou/The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, Love Lab, tandem bicycles

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

 

Tokyo Ghoul

Ken Kaneki (Natsuki Hanae) is a college student in Tokyo, a city haunted by grotesque monsters known as “ghouls”—creatures that appear to be human, but must consume raw human flesh to survive. After a fateful encounter with a girl named Rize (Kana Hanazawa), Kaneki becomes a half-ghoul and finds himself forced to abandon his humanity in order to stalk the streets of Tokyo for his next meal.

Based on a manga by Sui Ishida, Tokyo Ghoul is a horror fantasy show that executes its fairly well-trod premise extremely well. Director Shuhei Morita (Oscar-nominated for his short film Possessions) excels at creating the noirish, creepy atmosphere that the material demands, and animation studio Pierrot (somewhat surprisingly) delivers some top-shelf animation here. Kaneki is a sympathetic protagonist, if not especially interesting at this point, and Hanae gives a visceral performance as a young man struggling with his new inhumanity. Gripping and suspenseful, punctuated by action scenes full of splashy gore (mostly censored for the TV broadcast), Tokyo Ghoul is certainly worth a look for those itching for a dark, character-driven fantasy.

For fans of: Shiki, Future Diary/Mirai Nikki, Psycho-Pass, coffee

Watch it on Hulu

 

Watching anything good this season? Let us know in the comments!


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

13 comments
Cybersnark
1. Cybersnark
Argevollen on Crunchyroll

On an alternate Earth (or an Earth-like planet inhabited by humans) Arandas is being invaded by Ingelmia. Part of the problem is that Arandas' big lumbering mecha are no match for the faster and lighter Ingelmian mecha (another problem is that Arandas' army is run by ass-covering cowards).

Then a headstrong and insubordinate young pilot rescues a civilian truck carrying the Argevollen; a new machine that moves blisteringly fast (and seems to this sci-fi fan's eye to be completely out-of-place technology --Star Trek-style touch panels versus WWII-looking switches and levers).

It seems a bit by-the-numbers so far, but I like the character designs and I trust there's a political/technological conspiracy afoot.
Cybersnark
2. Athreeren
I don't often watch anime, but I'm glad I read last season's preview, as it allowed me to discover Mushishi. So this summer, I'm going to watch the first half of season 2,in order to catch up when the series starts again in August.
Shelly wb
3. shellywb
You picked my top new shows, except for Aldnoah.Zero. That one just seemed to hit every cliche I hate, so I really don't like it.

So I'd substitute Love Stage for that one. It's so cute and sweet, and the older couple is meta-cute. (The rock star older brother is played by the mangaka's actual rock star older brother Daigo. His character is in love with the glasses-wearing Rei, whose VA is also the glasses-wearing Rei on Free!....who Daigo cosplayed in a butterfly outfit on the cover of his latest single.) Anyway that made me laugh, and the show makes me laugh and gives me the warm and fuzzies. But Eiki Eiki's character designs do take a little getting used to if you're not familiar with them.

I decided I'm going to buy the Sailor Moon DVDs. I love the English VAs they've chosen and so far don't like the Japanese ones I've heard, so I'm skipping the simulcasts and will just watch it in English. Heresy, I know. And put me down for disliking the CGI transformation which looks really cheap.

Of all of these I think Terror in Resonance is my favorite. It reminds me of Death Note's first half, in that it's a cat and mouse game with the cops in which the suspense is just superbly done. And the girl caught in the middle just takes it one level higher.
Cybersnark
4. wandering-dreamer
Noazki-kun also reminds me a lot of GA Art Design Class which was another 4-koma manga that got adapted into an anime. It's about five girls (mostly) in an art focused high school and the weird highjinks they get into their assignments, I fell in love with it and it's also on crunchyroll, although I must say that watching Blue Spring Ride and Nozaki-kun in the same season is proving hard....
Kelly Quinn
5. KellyQ
@3. shellywb - I am also watching Love Stage and I'm loving how fun and fluffy it is! They're doing quite a good job with the adaptation there. I will say that I think I enjoy DAIGO's presence as trivia more than I like his actual performance - so far he sounds a little unpraticed compared to the rest of the cast.

I am also not a fan of the SM transformation sequence. I'm certain they had their reasons for doing it that way, but I would have vastly preferred a 2D version. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the seiyuu in action, because I quite like a lot of the cast, but I've got my doubts about Mitsuishi returning as Usagi. I wasn't wowed by her in the first episode; it felt like she was really straining for that fourteen-year-old voice. I know it would have been controversial to recast Usagi, but I kind of wish they would have just bit the bullet since they recast everyone else.

@4. wandering-dreamer - I already feel like watching AHR and Nozaki-kun together is going to be a disaster. Every time Kou says something super smooth and shoujo-ish all I can think of is this:

Cybersnark
6. Colin R
I guess I don't get the problem with the Sailor Moon CG; it seems to blend with the animation pretty nicely.

And that new opening song is sweet.
Shelly wb
7. shellywb
@5 KellyQ- You're right about Daigo! As loveable a guy as he might be in real life, his voice acting leaves a little something to be desired. I know I'm cutting him a lot of slack for who he is. Hopefully he gets better (or hopefully if they have a spin-off based on the novel that features his character's romance, they'll find someone else to play him)!

It was Usagi's voice I disliked most in the new show. I feel bad about that, but it just doesn't sound right to me. It doesn't help that I just watched the original show in Japanese a few months ago so the original performance is stuck in my mind.

@6 It just didn't blend in for me, and I found it kind of cheesy. I'm glad it works for you though. I did really like the OP.
Ben Johnston
8. AlcairNovall
I would add only that Fairy Tail get's to continue finally! After the Daimatou Enbou and the mysterious events surrounding (spoiler) and (redacted)'s arrival are wrapped up in truly epic if slightly unsatisfying fashion the third pillar of the dark guilds, Tartaros, begins to makes its move against the whole of the wizarding world. And only Fairy Tail stands in their way.
Cybersnark
9. ZoëE
Ao Haru Ride is also really good so far. It's about two people who fell in love in middle school and were seperated, who are reunited in High School. Except they've both forced themselves to become different people so it's not the same anymore. But when they reuite, they start to examine the people they've become.

And the animation is pretty.
Cybersnark
10. ZapRowsdower
I'll echo Tokyo Ghoul. It hasn't disappointed yet, save for the excessive censoring.

A few more to consider:

Akame ga Kill:
Young swordsman joins band of misfit assassins cleaning up their capital by making hits on corrupt people in power. Like Fairy Tail with a dose of grimdark morsel ambiguity.

Hamatora:
Super powered detective duo solve cases in Tokyo. I was a little *meh* on reading the premise of this one, but surprised by the actual show. Its Darker Than Black with less brooding, and more humor, and a great ensemble of side players that are allowed to be part of the story.
AlecAustin
11. AlecAustin
I'll second ZoëE's recommendation for Ao Haru Ride/Blue Spring Ride @9. The subtlety and precision in the way emotions have been depicted in the two episodes so far has been stellar.

I've also been enjoying Rail Wars, despite it being slightly goofy - the protagonist's enthusiasm for trains really comes through, and the ongoing gag with our protagonists being the junior security team and not the highly armed mobile police is pretty amusing.
Ben Johnston
12. AlcairNovall
After watching a bit of Aldnoah.Zero, I'm reminded hopelessly of Guilty Crown. The two shows are obviously very different in prupose and what not, but the atmosphere and the way that the characters act are reminding me of GC sooooo much.
Kelly Quinn
13. KellyQ
@12. AlcairNovall - I can definitely see where you're coming from on the Guilty Crown resemblance. Let's just hope Aldnoah.Zero doesn't end up rsembling GC in other ways...such as totally jumping the shark in the second half.

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