It’s that time again—new anime is here along with the fall leaves, and it is our duty, as usual, to divide the 2D wheat from the chaff. Fall is traditionally a strong season for anime, and though this one is a bit lacking, there are still a few new shows worth checking out. Joining a roster of strong sequels—Haikyu!! is back, along with Kyoto Animation’s Sound! Euphonium, the second part of Bungo Stray Dogs and Iron-Blooded Orphans, and the fifth season of Natsume Yuujinchou (hallelujah)—are a smattering of interesting offerings. Fans of madcap comedies might check out ClassicaLoid, a show about classical composers making magical gyoza, and shoujo and BL fans can unite this season over unlikely romcom Kiss Him Not Me. If you’re in the UK, count yourself lucky because The Great Passage, a literary drama about publishing a dictionary, is apparently available only in your region.
And if you just want the best of the season’s new anime without all the funny business, keep reading—I’ve picked three promising shows that you can start watching right this minute. Here’s a little hint: axel, lutz, loop.
Yuri!!! On Ice
After facing a series of crushing defeats in international figure skating competitions, twenty-three-year-old Yuri Katsuki (a very good Toshiyuki Toyonaga) returns to his small town in Kyushu to decide whether to continue his professional career or cut his losses and retire. But when his childhood idol, five-time world champion Victor Nikiforov (Junichi Suwabe) turns up on his doorstep, Yuri finds himself once again plunged headfirst into the heat of competition, where his primary rival may be yet another Yuri—a fifteen-year-old rising star named Yuri Plisetsky (Kouki Uchiyama).
This original anime from director Sayo Yamamoto (Michiko & Hatchin, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine) needs hardly any introduction at this point, as it seems to be already the hands-down favorite of the season… and with good reason. Lovingly produced by studio MAPPA (Days, Ushio to Tora), Yuri!!! On Ice is gorgeously designed and animated (just take a look at the beautiful minimalistic opening ), both through the flashy figure skating sequences and the smaller character moments. And it’s not just nice to look at—the show is surprisingly goofy and charming, with characters, especially Yuri himself, that you can’t help but get attached to upon meeting. Yuri!!! On Ice has already packed lots to love into the excellently directed first two episodes, and if Yamamoto and MAPPA can manage to keep it up throughout, this may handily take the title of anime of the season.
For fans of: Ping Pong The Animation, Yowamushi Pedal, Haikyu!!, Your Lie in April
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
March Comes in Like a Lion / 3-gatsu no Lion
Seventeen-year-old Rei Kiriyama (Kengo Kawanishi) is one of the youngest professional shogi players in Japan. Despite his apparent success, his personal life is far from ideal: his relationship with his adoptive father is strained, and he has few friends at school—when he even bothers to attend. Rei finds solace with the three sisters of the Kawamoto family, Akari (Ai Kayano), Hinata (Kana Hanazawa), and Momo (Misaki Kuno), who welcome him into their warm and colorful home.
This rich character drama, which revolves around professional shogi (a Japanese strategy game like chess), is a highly anticipated adaptation of a seinen manga by Chica Umino (Honey & Clover). The source material is dripping with honors, including the Manga Taisho Award, Kodansha Manga Award, and the coveted Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. Apparently at Umino’s request, director Akiyuki Shinbo is overseeing the anime at Shaft (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Bakemonogatari), a studio with a penchant for visual and directorial gimmicks that some find unique and interesting, and others find tired, lazy, or downright obnoxious (depending on who you ask).
While some of the manga’s fans are a bit bent out of shape about the studio choice, I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes of this one. The visual idiosyncrasies have so far stayed relatively restrained, and while we’ve yet to really dig into the meat of the story, the contrast between Rei’s rather bleak inner life and the warmth of the Kawamoto family comes across loud and clear. The source material alone makes this a must-watch this season, although how this adaptation goes down with fans remains to be seen.
For fans of: Honey and Clover, Your Lie in April, Chihayafuru
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
Poco’s Udon World / Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
When his father passes away, Souta Tawara (Yuichi Nakamura), a web designer living in Tokyo, returns to his small town in Kagawa Prefecture to wrap up some of the family’s loose ends. In particular, he must clean up and close up his father’s udon shop, a favorite among both locals and tourists in an area of the country famous for its udon noodles. Souta is surprised to find a lost child napping amidst the shop’s cluttered bins and boxes—and he’s even more surprised when the toddler, Poco (Shiho Kokido), turns out not to be human at all, but a shapeshifting tanuki with a fondness for udon.
It seems that “single guy raising an adorable child solo” is legitimately a trend in anime now, especially with Udon no Kuni coming hard on the heels of last season’s Sweetness and Lightning. Based on a seinen manga, this adaptation by LIDENFILMS is so far merely pleasant—not as poignant as Sweetness and Lightning or Usagi Drop, not as funny as Barakamon, and, though the fantasy aspect is intriguing, not as colorfully supernatural as shows like Flying Witch or Uchouten Kazoku. Above all, I am interested to see how the show takes on Souta’s relationship with his father and the restaurant, which is clearly a source of tension, as well as if the fantasy aspect will come more to fore or remain principally an excuse to drop a toddler in the lap of a hapless young man. A sweetly enjoyable outing for those looking for a replacement for Sweetness and Lightning.
For fans of: Barakamon, Usagi Drop, Sweetness and Lightning, Flying Witch, Natsume Yuujinchou
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
Nothing here catch your eye? Love something I left out? Let us know what you’re loving (and hating) this season in the comments!