Welcome to the winter 2018 anime season, where all your dreams can come true—babysit cute kids, travel to Antarctica, tease your crush, collect Sanrio merchandise, go camping, be an idol, pilot an anthropomorphic robot girl, ride a bicycle, merge with a demon. With several highly-anticipated premieres, the return/reboot of some classics, and a few pleasant surprises, winter’s got a little something for everyone. Read on to get the details on six shows worth watching right now—plus, did I mention Anime Strike is dead? Go watch Made in Abyss and Land of the Lustrous.
Akira Fudo’s (Kouki Uchiyama) life is turned upside down when his best friend, Ryo Asuka (Ayumu Murase), informs him that demons are not only real, they’re coming to reclaim the Earth from humanity. The only way to go toe to toe with the oncoming demon army, explains Ryo, is to merge with one and use its demon strength against its own race. Becoming a Devilman—a creature with the body of a demon but the heart of a human—will mean risking his very soul…but if Akira succeeds, it will only be the beginning of his battle.
First, some context: the Devilman manga is a property more than forty years old, revived this year to mark the fiftieth anniversary of creator Go Nagai’s legendary career. But Go Nagai isn’t the only unique voice here—the manga is adapted by director Masaaki Yuasa, known for surreal visuals and weighty themes in works like Kaiba, The Tatami Galaxy, and Ping Pong the Animation (he directed an episode of Adventure Time once too, it was weird).
Yuasa’s update to this classic property is powerful, but not for the faint of heart. The graphic on-screen depictions of sex and violence have already made this show notorious in the few weeks since it hit Netflix, but Yuasa brings more to Devilman than yellow blood and more gyrating bodies than even Go Nagai envisioned. His adaptation injects emotion into scenes that could easily be overblown, garish, or just plain bizarre to a 2018 audience, while retaining and amplifying much of what made Devilman so influential in its day (not to mention adding a killer soundtrack). Devilman is carnal, unsubtle, and at times horrifying and disheartening—but ultimately humane and, I think, hopeful. Highly recommended, with a content warning.
For fans of: Berserk, Evangelion, Parasyte, Kemonozume, Shiki
Watch it now on Netflix.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
Sakura Kinomoto (Sakura Tange) was an ordinary elementary schooler until she opened a mysterious book in her basement, accidentally loosing dozens of magical Clow Cards into her town. With the help of Keroberos, the guardian of the cards, as well as friends Tomoyo (Junko Iwao) and Syaoran (Motoko Kumai), Sakura was able to gather all the cards. Sakura thinks her adventure is over until she has a strange dream, and wakes up to find a book full of cards that have turned clear as glass.
Twenty years after the debut of the original TV series, Cardcaptor Sakura is back with a brand new arc. Based on a new manga by CLAMP that began in 2016, Clear Card picks up where the original CCS left off, following Sakura and her friends into middle school. The new show feels incredibly nostalgic—the original cast is back, and so are the frilly magical girl costumes (though sadly not the rollerblades), with the designs freshened up just enough to give the series a modern lift. If you loved CCS back then, you will be happy to dive into Clear Card now. If you never watched CCS, what are you waiting for?
For fans of: Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu, Little Witch Academia
Watch it now on Crunchyroll.
DARLING in the FRANXX
In a bleak and distant future, humanity is protected from giant monsters known as klaxosaurs by human pilots who operate mecha called Franxx in male-female pairs. Hiro (Yuuto Uemura), also known as Code:016, has failed out of the training program with his partner. But his fate takes a turn when he meets a mysterious horned girl named Zero Two (Tomatsu Haruka), a pilot who is rumored to kill her partners—and who might be Hiro’s only chance to remain a Franxx pilot.
This heavily hyped collaboration between Trigger and A-1 studios has a slew of big-name talents at the helm (Atsushi Nishigori, Hiroyuki Imaishi, and Masayoshi Tanaka, to name a few), and it shows. Darlifra is an extremely polished production, and the creative staff here is playing to their strengths, with shadowy futuristic organizations, angsting teen pilots, and flashy robots fighting giant glowing monsters. The show is slick for sure, but a little soulless at the moment—none of the characters are making a huge impression on me at this point, and Darlifra has yet to distinguish itself from other mecha shows about sad teen boys fighting overwhelming odds. Check this one out for unique mecha designs, aggressively heterosexual flower metaphors, and cool action, and hope that the show develops more sticking power over time.
For fans of: Star Driver, Gurren Lagann, Diebuster, Eureka Seven, Xam’d, Aquarion EVOL
Watch it now on Crunchyroll.
High-schooler Ryuichi (Kotaro Nishiyama) and his young brother Kotaro are left orphans when their parents are killed in a plane crash. With no living family, they are taken in by the chairwoman of a private school whose son and daughter-in-law died in the same crash. But she’s not planning to take them on for free—Ryuichi is to spend his free time helping care for his little brother and a handful of other toddlers in the school’s “babysitter club,” an on-site daycare center for the teachers’ children.
If you are in need of a pure shot of shojo cuteness, this is your show for the season. Most of the appeal here is obviously the spectacle of cute boys watching over painfully adorable toddlers, but all the fluff is built around an emotional core that’s impossible to miss. The scene in the premiere in which Ryu thoughtlessly picks up the phone to call his father (and realizes that he, of course, cannot) hit me particularly hard, and made the concerns of the show abundantly clear. Come for the burbling babies, stay for a potentially sensitive treatment of loss and family. Plus: Pair with Sanrio Boys for a surprisingly charming lineup of boys bucking gender stereotypes.
For fans of: Shonen Maid, Sweetness and Lightning
Watch it now on Crunchyroll.
After the Rain
High school student Akira Tachibana (Sayumi Watabe) is a reserved girl, keeping to herself both at school and at her part-time job as a waitress in a family restaurant. Ever since an injury caused her to resign from her school’s track team, she’s withdrawn even more into herself. But she does have a soft spot for one person: Masami Kondo (Hiroaki Hirata), the kind middle-aged manager at her job.
I’m on the fence about this seinen manga adaptation because honestly, the premise feels a bit squicky—a twenty-eight year age gap with a teen isn’t exactly a winning romance angle for me. But so far, at least, I’m not running for the hills. From the first episode, Tachibana’s crush feels like teen infatuation (and what teenager hasn’t fallen for an out-of-reach adult), and Kondo is a kindly, trod-upon dad type who is the opposite of predatory or even suave. Tachibana’s awkwardness and isolation is skillfully drawn out in a series of small moments, and the show’s quiet atmosphere and delicate, pretty visuals are appealing. I can see myself coming to like this show if it uses Tachibana and Kondo’s relationship, such as it is, to lift Tachibana out of her self-imposed solitude. But beware—I’m not ruling out the possibility that we have another Bunny Drop on our hands.
For fans of: Sweetness and Lightning, Garden of Words, Working
Watch it now on Amazon Video (R.I.P. Anime Strike)
Violet Evergarden (if you can get it)
After four years of brutal war, Violet Evergarden (Yui Ishikawa), a girl raised as a tool of the military, is released back into civilian life. With no home and no family to return to, she is given a job at a private postal service. There, she becomes fixated on the work of Auto Memories Dolls, a group of women who transcribe their clients’ thoughts and emotions into letters which convey their feelings to the recipient.
Violet Evergarden is probably the show causing the second most agony this season, but unlike DEVILMAN crybaby, it’s not because of the content. Netflix has seen fit to simulcast this one in several territories worldwide, including the UK and Canada, but will reportedly not be releasing it for US audiences until spring. If you are in one of the lucky regions, Violet Evergarden is a highly-anticipated, by all accounts gorgeously-made production from Kyoto Animation. For everyone else—we wait.
For fans of: Hyouka, The Ancient Magus Bride, Spice and Wolf
Watch it (if you’re lucky) on Netflix
Watch are you watching this season? Tell us in the comments!