Summer season is upon us at last, and what looked at first to be a rather dismal showing has shaped up in the last few weeks to have quite a few worthwhile new series. Among the interesting trends this season are a cluster of sports shows (Cheer Danshi, Battery, Days) and idol shows (Tsukiuta, B-Project, Love Live Sunshine), as well as several hotly anticipated sequels and spinoffs (Shokugeki no Soma, Cute High Earth Defense Club, Handa-kun), some of them VERY long awaited (Berserk, twenty years after its first TV series, and D.Gray-man Hallow, ten). There’s also a show about a cat that lives in a banana.
As always, I’ve picked out five of the best new shows airing right now, as well as a special bonus this season—two shows that are available to binge watch from start to finish. Quit trying to catch that Zubat for a minute, it’s cartoon time.
Mob Psycho 100
Shigeo Kageyama (Setsuo Ito), known as “Mob” to his one sort-of friend, is a middle schooler with powerful psychic abilities. He must be careful how he uses them, because if his emotional capacity reaches 100%, his powers will overwhelm his body and he will explode. Mob spends his days lying low as the assistant of a fraudulent psychic detective, Reigen (Takahiro Sakurai), who uses Mob’s prodigious powers to boost his own reputation.
This supernatural action show is an adaptation of a manga by ONE, the artist behind the super-successful One Punch Man. Unlike OPM, which used the sexier and more detailed art of collaborator Yusuke Murata, director Yuzuru Tachikawa (Death Parade) and animation studio Bones (My Hero Academia, Bungo Stray Dogs) have opted to maintain ONE’s (let’s say) crude style, and made the most of it with splashy, cartoony animation and crazy neon colors. Like One Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100 is primarily a gag manga with action scenes, though there are some hints even in the first two episodes that there may be a bit of a deeper story for our boy Mob here. A must-watch this season.
For fans of: One Punch Man, Ping Pong, Gintama, Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
Sweetness and Lightning / Amaama to Inazuma
High school math teacher Kouhei Inazuka (Yuichi Nakamura) is adjusting to being a single parent to his young daughter, Tsumugi (Rina Endou) after the death of his wife six months ago. While he does his best, he struggles to cook wholesome meals for his daughter. When he and Tsumugi run into one of his students, Kotori Iida (Saori Hayami), whose mother is often too busy to share meals with her, the lonely Kotori convinces Kohei and Tsumugi that they should learn to cook together.
Based on a seinen manga by Gido Amagakure, this fluffy slice of life has an irresistible charm—who, after all, can say no to cute children eating delicious food? Under the cotton-candy fluff, however, are bittersweet undertones: Kouhei trying to deal with the challenges of raising his young daughter alone is faintly heartbreaking, and though Kotori’s family hasn’t been given much screen time yet, she is also clearly a very lonely young adult. Painfully adorable, with the added bonus of teaching basic cooking skills.
For fans of: Usagi Drop, Flying Witch, One Week Friends, Barakamon
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
Set in Prohibition-era America, 91 Days follows one Angelo Laguza (Takashi Kondo), whose family was killed in a mafia dispute when he was a young child. When Angelo returns to his hometown years after the incident, he teams up with his friend Corteo (Soma Saito), now a small-scale moonshiner. The two set out to get revenge against the mobsters who murdered his mother and little brother.
91 Days has been on my radar for a while now, both because it is an anime-original story, something that is always welcome in any season, and because of its relatively unique subject matter—the only other anime with a similar setting that comes to mind is the widely-loved Baccano!. What director Hiro Kaburagi (Hoozuki no Reitetsu) brings to the table in 91 Days, however, takes much less from the madcap world of Ryogo Narita and far more from American mafia yarns like The Godfather and Boardwalk Empire—91 Days is a somber, intense, and (so far) compelling mafia revenge story. An excellent choice for those who enjoy a high body count with nary a high schooler in sight.
For fans of: Baccano!, Joker Game, Gangsta, Jormungand, Senkou no Night Raid
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
When middle schooler Takumi Harada (Kouki Uchiyama) moves to a new town, he is determined to join his new school’s baseball team as a pitcher. After a chance meeting with his new team’s catcher, Go Nagakura (Tasuku Hatanaka), Takumi’s confidence as a pitcher is shaken. Will the two be able to form a formidable enough battery to take them to nationals?
This sports drama is an adaptation of an award winning novel (that’s novel novel, not light novel), and is also the Noitamina entry this season, not that that means much these days. As of the first episode, it appears that Battery will focus more on character drama than competition—the protagonist is a cocky brat with plenty of room for development, and the spotlight is on his relationship with his family and his new catcher. The show also has some nice visual touches: character designs by Takako Shimura (Wandering Son) are, as always, a pleasure to watch in motion, and the watercolor opening and ending sequences go far towards setting the literary mood this show is after. A good choice for those who enjoy character-driven sports stories like those by Mitsuru Adachi.
For fans of: Cross Game, Touch, Ookiku Furikabutte/Big Windup!, Diamond no Ace, Haikyu!
Watch it now on Amazon Video
Shy high schooler Naho Takamiya (Kana Hanazawa) is surprised when she receives a letter that claims to be from herself ten years in the future. Though skeptical, Naho begins to believe when the events laid out in the letter become reality one after another—most significantly, the arrival of transfer student Kakeru Naruse (Seiichiro Yamashita). Naho’s letter warns that Kakeru is no longer with them in the future, and begs Naho to take action to save him while she can.
This shoujo drama, adapted from Ichigo Takano’s popular manga, is yet another entry in the time travel/do-over trend we’ve been seeing much of recently (see also: Erased, ReLIFE, Re:Zero). Here the science-fictiony plot device is merely the prime mover in what is principally a romantic drama. Orange’s restrained tone and naturalistic presentation quietly build tension about Kakeru’s future, and Naho, though essentially a shy everygirl, becomes increasingly easy to cheer on as she begins to break out of her shell thanks to the letter’s instructions. A great choice this season for those who enjoy their romantic drama with a touch of science-fiction.
For fans of: Ao Haru Ride, Koe no Katachi/A Silent Voice, Erased, Your Lie in April, AnoHana, Wandering Son, ReLIFE
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
BONUS—Binge-watch These Now:
Another life do-over show, this time following Arata Kaizaki (Kensho Ono), an under-employed, single twenty-seven-year-old who is offered a pill that will make him appear seventeen again and allow him to return to high school for one year. For those of you who were Drew Barrymore fans in 1999, let’s call this Never Been Kissed: The Animation. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by ReLIFE; in addition to drawing a pretty sensitive contrast between Kaizaki’s maturity level and the kids he’s thrown in with, I enjoy how the show (and the popular web manga it’s based on) uses the high school setting not to escape or erase Kaizaki’s own personal issues, but to force him to confront them with the maturity of an adult. All thirteen episodes are available to watch now on Crunchyroll.
For fans of: Erased, Orange, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Another Netflix “Original” anime that did not actually originate on Netflix, this mecha show follows high school student Yukina Shirahane (M.A.O), who is thrown into the middle of an interplanetary invasion when she encounters time-traveling samurai Ouma Kennosuke Tokisada (Youhei Azakami) at the UN facility where her mother works. That’s right, a time-traveling samurai. This anime-original show, created by studio PA Works (Shirobako) and director Tensai Okamura (Darker Than Black), also has robots, and aliens, and you guessed it, alien robots. Amidst the large-scale sci-fi premise, however, the main cast, especially Yukina’s family and Kennosuke, are both refreshingly human and insanely likable, and have left me eagerly awaiting the second cour of this show. The first thirteen episodes are available now on Netflix, with the second half of the show to be added, presumably, in the fall.
For fans of: Suisei no Gargantia, Aldnoah.Zero, Eureka Seven
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!