Spring 2016 Anime Preview: Plus Ultra!

Maybe it’s the flowers blooming or the lovely warm weather outside that makes this time of year so pleasant… or perhaps it’s the remarkably good season of new spring anime that’s lifting my mood.

Spring season features a long list of worthy contenders, including the fourth installment of fan-favorite JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and a new entry in the venerable Macross franchise, in addition to a host of new shows. As always, we’ve picked the most promising of the new stuff, and boy is it an eclectic mix this season: we’ve got cartoons ranging from superhero adventure to surreal school comedy to fantasy slice of life. With simulcasts a mere click away, there’s no time like the present—read on for six of this season’s best shows that you can watch right now.

 

My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia

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In a world where the majority of the planet’s population has manifested superhuman powers called “Quirks,” Izuku Midoriya (Daiki Yamashita) is one of the powerless minority. Despite being Quirkless, he has always dreamed of being one of the brave heroes that defend society from those who would use their Quirks for evil. When an encounter with a villain puts Izuku face to face with the hero he admires most of all, the invincible All Might (Kenta Miyake), Izuku is given a chance to pursue his dream in a way he never expected.

This highly anticipated manga adaptation puts a shonen spin on the superhero genre. Although Izuku’s story is textbook Shonen Jump material (underdog dauntlessly pursues his larger-than-life dream), author Horikoshi keeps things interesting with a large dose of influence from American comics and a winning cast full of colorful characters and weird superpowers. My Hero Academia is off to a running start under the direction of Kenji Nagasaki (Gundam Build Fighters) at studio Bones (Noragami, Akagami no Shirayukihime), and the dynamic visuals are supported by a heroic score from Yuuki Hayashi (Haikyu!, Gundam Build Fighters). Expect this show to only improve as the rest of the cast is introduced.

For fans of: One Punch Man, Tiger and Bunny, Naruto, Blue Exorcist/Ao no Exorcist

Watch it now on Funimation & Hulu

 

Bungo Stray Dogs

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After being kicked out of his orphanage, Atsushi Nakajima (Yuto Uemura) wanders the streets of Yokohama penniless, hopeless, and hungry. His fortune changes when he rescues a man, Osamu Dazai (Mamoru Miyano), attempting to drown himself in the river. Dazai and his companion Doppo Kunikida (Yoshimasa Hosoya) are members of the Armed Detective Agency, a group of private detectives rumored to possess supernatural powers that allow them take on cases beyond the ability of the police. And by a wonderful coincidence, it just so happens that Atsushi himself may be the key the their latest case.

Another manga adaptation with plenty of hype behind it, this fantasy-action show’s major gimmick lies in the fact that most of the characters are named after Japanese literary figures. Never fear—little knowledge of literature is actually required (though it is worth noting that the historical Osamu Dazai did in fact commit suicide by drowning in a river…pretty dark stuff). Led by director/writer duo Takuya Igarashi and Yoji Enokido (Ouran High School Host Club, Star Driver) at animation studio Bones, Bungo Stray Dogs boasts the polished art and animation one would expect from this team. After a flashy, fast-paced opening, Bungo Stray Dogs now seems to be trying to strike a tonal balance between goofy comedy and a serious action plot—but at the moment, I find both aspects sufficiently entertaining, and am looking forward to the rest of the season.

For fans of: Durarara!!, Bakemonogatari, Blood Blockade Battlefront/Kekkai Sensen, Noragami

Watch it now on Crunchyroll

 

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto / Sakamoto desu ga?

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High school student Sakamoto (Hikaru Midorikawa) is smart, athletic, and mysteriously aloof. Girls admire him, boys envy him, teachers are amazed by his accomplishments, small animals and infants are soothed by his very presence. In short, Sakamoto is the coolest high schooler on this planet, and probably on any other you care to name.

Adapted from Nami Sano’s almost inexplicably popular manga, Sakamoto desu ga? thrives on a strange chemistry born from a mix of absurdist humor with parody of high school tropes. The comedy here lies as much in Sakamoto’s antics as in the other characters’ reactions to him, especially as he slowly wins over potential enemies with his superhuman coolness—though as much as I try to explain it, this show really needs to be seen to be understood. Helmed by veteran comedy director Shinji Takamatsu (Daily Lives of High School Boys, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!) at Studio Deen (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, KonoSuba), Sakamoto is in excellent hands, and I anticipate another twelve episodes as funny as the first.

For fans of: Daily Lives of High School Boys, Cromartie High School, Gintama, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita/Humanity Has Declined, Nichijou, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Watch it now on Crunchyroll

 

Flying Witch

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Fifteen-year-old Makoto Kowata (Minami Shinoda) has recently moved in with her relatives in the countryside of Aomori to attend high school. Aomori is peaceful, quiet, and surrounded by nature—an ideal place to complete Makoto’s training as a young witch. Makoto and her cousins Kei (Shinsuke Sugawara) and Chinatsu (Eri Suzuki) spend their days going to school, enjoying country life, and meeting new friends… both human and supernatural.

Based on a manga by Chihiro Ishizuka and adapted by JC Staff (Shokugeki no Soma, DanMachi), this charming slice of life show follows the everyday adventures of a teenage witch-in-training. Flying Witch has a slow, measured rhythm to its storytelling and comedy (the characters even walk slowly) that tends to lull you into its peaceful world, where mundane activities such as frying tempura are blended seamlessly and matter-of-factly with supernatural visitors and flying brooms. An excellent entry this season for those who enjoy funny, comfy, slice of life as well as understated fantasy.

For fans of: Natsume Yuujinchou, Barakamon, Silver Spoon

Watch it now on Crunchyroll

 

Kiznaiver

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High school student Katsuhira Agata (Yuki Kaji) has been a target of bullying ever since he can remember, in part due to his strange inability to feel pain. The significance of this trait becomes apparent when classmate Noriko Sonozaki (Hibiku Yamamura) reveals to Katsuhira that he and six of his classmates have been chosen for a program in which they are to be connected by the Kizuna System, an experimental technology which allows them to share the effects of their wounds—and pain—with the rest of the group. Now this collection of disparate personalities, assembled like some kind of anime Breakfast Club (the delinquent, the basketcase, the playboy, the childhood friend…), dubbed “Kiznaiver,” will be forced to work together towards the unknown goals of the Kizuna System’s developers.

The latest original project from Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia), this science-fiction thriller is off to an intriguing, though not wholly engrossing, start. On a superficial level, the show is appealingly stylish, with attractive character designs and some of Trigger’s signature visual quirks in evidence. Yet the first two episodes have been heavy on exposition and short on reasons to invest in the characters’ personal stories. Writer Mari Okada (AnoHana, Nagi no Asukara) is a controversial figure whose work is often either loved or reviled by fans, and director Hiroshi Kobayashi is rather untested in his role. I’ll be interested to see if subsequent episodes develop the characters into more than the stereotypes they are meant to embody, and give us a reason to care about the fate of the Kiznaiver team.

For fans of: Bakemonogatari, Mekakucity Actors, Gatchaman Crowds, Star Driver

Watch it now on Crunchyroll

 

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress / Koutetsujou no Kabaneri

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After the outbreak of a disease that turns people into zombie-like Kabane, monsters that attack humans indiscriminately and infect with a single bite, humanity has retreated behind walled cities connected by armored steam trains. Protagonist Ikoma (Tasuku Hatanaka) is a steam smith who makes a living maintaining the trains that come through his station, while secretly working to develop a weapon that can pierce and destroy the tough hearts of the Kabane. When the station experiences a devastating outbreak, Ikoma is finally given a chance to test his weapon and fight back against the Kabane.

First off, let’s get the Titan out of the room—this is an anime-original show by the same director (Tetsuro Araki) and studio (Wit Studio) that adapted Attack on Titan, and has a very similar premise and some very similar visuals and very similar themes. That said, it also has a cool steampunk-meets-Edo-era aesthetic and a strong first episode that promises plenty of zombie-killing action to come (and not insignificantly, the protagonist seems rather less annoying than Eren). Although Kabaneri is shamlessly tapping into the popularity of its predecessor, I’ll be interested to see if Araki and his team plan to play with the world and themes in Kabaneri enough to say something original here.

For fans of: Attack on Titan (duh), Last Exile, Owari no Seraph, Knights of Sidonia

Watch in now on Amazon Prime Video

 

Nothing here catch your eye? Love something I left out? Be sure to let us know what you’re watching this season in the comments!

Kelly Quinn will only be responding to comments from Savage Garden fans. Tell her how bad her taste is on Twitter.

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