Spring is in the air and we all know what that means…that’s right, new cartoons! In addition to the return of a few favorites—Fate/stay night UBW begins its second half and cynical school comedy My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is back, among others—this season brings a slew of anticipated adaptations. From the ultra-stylish Blood Blockade Battlefront to the sweeping historical landscapes of The Heroic Legend of Arslan and the genuine and sweet Ore Monogatari, there’s something for everyone this season. And with simulcasts of basically everything airing in Japan, there’s no reason to wait. The sunshine outside might tempt you to go out, but here are six new shows that are worth staying in for!
Blood Blockade Battlefront / Kekkai Sensen
One day, as New York City was just sitting there minding its own business, a portal to another dimension opened up, trapping New Yorkers with a bunch of alien creatures from another world. Luckily, New York didn’t seem to mind all that much, and the city swiftly became known as Hellsalem’s Lot, a hodgepodge of humans and extra-dimensional monsters living together in sci-fi squalor. Libra, an organization led by Klaus Von Reinhertz (voiced by Rikiya Koyama), has taken it upon itself to police the paranormal chaos. Young photographer (and sometimes pizza deliverer) Leonardo Watch (Daisuke Sakaguchi) came to Hellsalem’s Lot looking for clues to his sister’s illness, but becomes an impromptu Libra recruit after a chance meeting with hotheaded member Zapp Renfro (Kazuya Nakai).
It’s no exaggeration to say that Blood Blockade Battlefront starts off with a bang. Based on a manga by Trigun author Yasuhiro Nightow and directed by rising star Rie Matsumoto (Kyousougiga) at animation studio Bones (Space Dandy, Fullmetal Alchemist), this action comedy is chock-full of talent. It’s also totally nuts. Blood Blockade Battlefront paints a New York that is as weird and chaotic as its denizens. Matsumoto’s directorial flair is certainly on full display here, and the show has style and swagger to spare. Add a jazzy soundtrack and some flashy battles, and you’ve got a fun series that’s sure to be a treat for the eyes and ears week to week. As for the story, it’s definitely more in the stages of “what’s happening?” than “what’s going to happen next?”, but I’m willing to give this one time to come together—I’m sure that even if the plot remains nebulous, I’m not going to regret watching.
For fans of: Baccano!, Space Dandy, Trigun, Kyousougiga, Redline, strangely placed security cameras
The Heroic Legend of Arslan / Arslan Senki
Arslan (Yuusuke Kobayashi) has been raised a pampered prince of the prosperous Pars kingdom, where he spends his days training for battle and yearning for the acknowledgement of his father, the warrior king Andragoras. At fourteen, Arslan is thrown into a battle that threatens to destroy the powerful kingdom that his father has built. Arslan must turn to his father’s general and advisor, Daryun (Yoshimasa Hosoya), for help in regaining his place in the kingdom.
This historical fantasy adventure has quite a pedigree—the anime adapts a manga by Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist, Silver Spoon), which itself is an adaptation of an ongoing fantasy novel series by Legend of the Galactic Heroes author Yoshiki Tanaka. Though there were some worries going in that inexperienced animation studio Liden Films (Terraformars) would drag the quality down, so far the visuals are certainly serviceable, though they won’t be winning any awards for art or style (or use of CG soldiers). Arslan has spent the first two episodes setting the stage for what is obviously going to be a long, slow-building plot, and while I was skeptical after the first episode, the tense and exciting second had me hooked. With this source material I have no doubt that Arslan has a very good story to tell…but since both the novels and the manga are ongoing, beware unfinished endings.
For fans of: Akatsuki no Yona (Soo-won’s voice actor plays Arslan here), Magi, Fullmetal Alchemist, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Saiunkoku Monogatari, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit/Seirei no Moribito, military strategy
My Love Story / Ore Monogatari
Ore Monogatari has your typical shoujo romance lead: a big beefy dude who sucks at getting a girlfriend. Takeo Gouda (Takuya Eguchi) is a high school freshman who is used to taking a backseat to his super-popular, super-handsome best friend Makoto Sunakawa (Nobunaga Shimazaki), who also happens to be super-uninterested in the cute girls that flock to his side. One day while riding the train home with Sunakawa, Takeo saves a girl, Rinko Yamato (Megumi Han), getting harassed by a molester and falls head over heels in love. Yamato is determined to see her saviors again—but is she interested in Takeo or Sunakawa? Cue shoujo sparkles.
This high school romcom is adorable right off the bat. Takeo is an incredibly likable protagonist: earnest, loyal to a fault, and oblivious to the point of density. The selling point here is obviously not only that Ore Monogatari is told from a male perspective, but that Takeo is not the typical shoujo romance hero (shockingly he is neither handsome, popular, a genius, nor secretly rich). While this brings a lot of humor and originality to the premise, at its heart, Ore Monogatari is still a bona fide shoujo romance, filled with blushing, copious sparkles, and a heartwarming love story. Production-wise, this show is blessed with the studio, director, and character designer of Chihayafuru (if you didn’t see the resemblance between Suna and Taichi, you’re guaranteed to now), and they are hitting the mark with a polished, delightful premiere and seriously, so SO many sparkles.
For fans of: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun/Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Chihayafuru, Lovely Complex, macarons, Fraw Bow
Watch it on Crunchyroll
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma
Soma Yukihira (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) has helped out in the kitchen at his father’s humble neighborhood restaurant since he was a kid, and dreams of someday surpassing his father’s skill and taking over the place. Just as he’s about to graduate middle school, Soma is thrown for a loop when Dad announces he’s packing Soma off to boarding school while he closes the restaurant to go cook in swanky kitchens overseas for a few years. Soma is left to the mercy of the Totsuki Institute, an elite cooking school where only the best of the best will survive to graduation.
This cooking comedy is essentially a battle anime where the characters fight with olive oil and demi-glace instead of swords or fists. If the idea of extreme cooking doesn’t appeal to you, then turn around now; if you’ve always secretly yearned for an Iron Chef anime, then rejoice, because this is your moment. Although the adaption by J.C. Staff (Witch Craft Works, Raildex franchise) is nothing special visually, director Yoshitomo (Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera) has succeeded in capturing a lot of what makes the source material fun, milking every last bit of tension in the cooking scenes with fittingly overdramatic music and hilariously hyperbolic character reactions.
The reactions themselves do deserve a mention, as they may be a deal-breaker for some viewers. One of the gimmicks of Shokugeki is the over the top “foodgasms” whenever anyone takes a bite of something delicious. While I find the fan service to be pretty equal-opportunity (both men and women succumb to the overwhelming power of a tasty dish), as well as just plain funny in a lot of cases, some may find it too much. For those that don’t mind characters stripping for the sake of a soufflé, Shokugeki has good odds of being a fun ride this season.
For fans of: Yakitate!! Japan, Koufuku Graffiti, Toriko, omnipandering
Watch it on Crunchyroll
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches / Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo
Ryuu Yamada (Ryota Ohsaka) is a high school delinquent who generally tries to mind his own business and slog through school. His boring school life changes one day when he falls down a flight of stairs with honor student Urara Shiraishi (Saori Hayami) and wakes up to find out they’ve swapped bodies. After numerous body-switch shenanigans, the pair figure out that their predicament was caused by kissing—in fact, Yamada can switch with anyone he kisses. It’s student council vice president Toranosuke Miyamura (Toshiki Masuda) who provides the clues they need: a legend that the school is home to seven witches with mysterious powers. Eager to learn more, the three revive the Supernatural Studies Club.
This kiss-and-switch romantic comedy is a highly anticipated adaptation of Miki Yoshikawa’s popular manga. Yamada is heaps of fun, with wacky characters and lots of supernatural school adventures, and Yoshikawa (Yankee-kun & Megane-chan) expertly balances more serious moments with goofy slapstick humor. I confess that, as a fan of the manga, I was pretty worried about this one. The first episode, however, allayed some of those fears. Though the production quality isn’t everything it could be and the pacing is frightfully quick due to adapting the material to fit the one-cour length, the spirit and humor of the source material still shines through. If they manage to keep it up for 12 episodes, Yamada should be a worthwhile watch this season for those looking for a fun school comedy.
For fans of: Yankee-kun & Megane-chan, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun/Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Kokoro Connect, Witch Craft Works, Nisekoi, Miyamura
Watch it on Crunchyroll
Seraph of the End / Owari no Seraph
In a world where a devastating virus has killed everyone over the age of 13 and vampires have enslaved the remains of humanity as a food source, Yuuichirou Hyakuya (Miyu Irino), a young orphan, lives as livestock in one of the underground vampire cities in Tokyo. He and his closest friend from the orphanage, Mikaela Hyakuya (Kensho Ono), dream of killing the vampires and leading the rest of the children to freedom in the outside world.
This supernatural action show is based on a manga written by Takaya Kagami (Legend of the Legendary Heroes). Owari no Seraph hits the ground running with a tense first episode, sporting strong art and animation from Wit Studio (Attack on Titan, The Rolling Girls), gorgeous post-apocalyptic backgrounds, and a dramatic score from composer Hiroyuki Sawano (Kill la Kill, Aldnoah.Zero). Plot-wise Seraph doesn’t bring anything terribly new to the table: this is very much another “last desperate remains of humanity face an overwhelming enemy” story in the vein of Attack on Titan or Knights of Sidonia, and indeed, by the second episode, the show is already beginning to fall back on some tired tropes. This may be a case, however, where production quality carries the material through—if you are craving flashy battles, sadistic vampires, and a healthy dose of angst, Seraph is a good pick this season.
For fans of: Attack on Titan, Blue Exorcist/Ao no Exorcist, D.Gray-man, Pandora Hearts, vampires in capes
Nothing on this list strike your fancy? Try KyoAni’s Sound! Euphonium for a high school drama with brass instruments. Too fluffy? Take a look at Plastic Memories, a near-future sci-fi story about AI and humanoid robots from the writer of Steins;Gate. Not wacky enough? Check out Show By Rock!!, a thinly-veiled rhythm game advertisement that’s completely bonkers and surprisingly entertaining. Too much animation? There’s always Trigger’s Ninja Slayer, which is basically Inferno Cop with ninjas and Boom Boom Satellites. What are you watching this season? Let us know in the comments!