The summer season is upon us, and as usual, that means ice cream, overworked A/C units, and new anime. This season’s got a variety of summer-ready shows, from anime about beach volleyball and a college diving club to the return of our favorite swimming anime. If you’re not in the mood for the beach, there’s also quiet mysteries, madcap school comedies, quirky action shows, extremely intense badminton, and a gritty crime drama that’s not to be missed.
With so many simulcasts at our fingertips, there’s no reason to wait to catch these shows—escape the heat this summer with these five shows you can watch right now.
On the streets of New York, a young gang leader named Ash Lynx (Yuuma Uchida) witnesses the last moments of a dying man, who hands him a mysterious vial and whispers the words “Banana Fish” before bleeding out on the pavement. Meanwhile, a young assistant photographer, Eiji Okumura (Kenji Nojima), has arrived from Japan with his mentor to research a story on street gangs in the city. Amidst an unspooling conspiracy involving Iraq war veterans, corrupt police, and an organized crime leader who’s got Ash under his thumb, Ash and Eiji are driven together to solve a mystery that could cost both their lives: What is Banana Fish?
Adapted from a shojo manga written in the ’80s and ’90s by Akimi Yoshida, Banana Fish is a hard-boiled crime drama set in the city that never sleeps. To the disappointment of those who enjoy Ray-Bans and Miami Vice, Director Hiroko Utsumi (Free!) and her team at MAPPA (Yuri!!! On Ice) have brought the story into a modern day setting, but don’t be fooled—while the fashion and iPhones say “2018,” the storyline is still a pulpy 80s crime drama. A word of caution: there is some tough subject matter here, especially surrounding issues of sexual violence and abuse, and while these topics are for the most part handled respectfully by the manga, the large role they play in the plot may be too much for some viewers. That said, Banana Fish is an incredibly compelling, emotionally complex story that is richly deserving of the adaptation it’s finally getting. The show is off to a running start and will likely continue at full steam for its entire 24 episode run—if there’s one anime you should be paying attention to this season, this is it.
For fans of: Monster, Erased, Gangsta, 91 Days
Watch it on Amazon Video
Karen Aijo (Momoyo Koyama) attends a prestigious girls academy known for turning out once-in-a-generation theatrical talents. When fate reunites her with Hikari Kagura (Suzuko Mimori), a girl she made a childhood promise with, the two, along with other members of their class, will compete in a mysterious and magical audition process for the privilege of being the Stage Girl chosen for a starring role in the legendary show “Starlight.”
This colorful addition to summer is a multi-media project that began life, as far as I can tell, as a stage musical, and is now beginning the second phase of its life as an anime project. This series in one part Love Live, one part Star Driver, and one part Revolutionary Girl Utena—and if that sounds like your ideal combo, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed here. The show, produced at Kinema Citrus (Made in Abyss), is quite polished and sure of itself (any show that features a talking giraffe voiced by Kenjiro Tsuda would have to be), and the Stage Girl audition scenes are particularly visually spectacular. Come for dance class, stay for Ikuhara-inspired magical stage fighting and fated rivalries.
For fans of: Revolutionary Girl Utena, Princess Tutu, Star Driver, Love Live, Magic-Kyun! Renaissance, Mawaru Penguindrum
Watch it now on HIDIVE
Cells at Work!
Running a body is hard work! The human body becomes a complex city populated by anthropomorphized red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, killer T cells, and more in this adaptation of an unusual manga by Akane Shimizu.
I can only describe the experience of watching Cells at Work! as a bit like watching The Magic School Bus as a shonen anime. The show is literally about how cells work in our body, and it feels very educational while somehow also managing to be surprisingly entertaining. Red Blood Cell (Kana Hanazawa) is a well-meaning but bumbling newbie trying to deliver her packages of oxygen to the lungs, platelets are adorable elementary schoolers wearing galoshes, and White Blood Cell (Tomoaki Maeno) is a no-nonsense tough guy who gleefully (and messily) dismantles invading streptococcus bare-handed. This is a fun show if you want to try something a little different, with the added bonus of possibly learning what a dendrite is.
For fans of: Moyashimon, Delicious in Dungeon, Servant x Service
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
High schooler Souya Kuroi (Abe Atsushi) has an unusual life. He lives with a girl dressed as a maid and a giant cat that devours whole cabbages for breakfast. He also can’t remember anything about his past up to two weeks ago, though he has strange dreams of super-powered people fighting desperately against an unknown threat. When enormous UFOs that look like stuffed animals designed by a lunatic appear all over the world, a group of heroes assembles to defeat them. Souya, too, receives a call: he is to join the fight—but not on the side of the heroes.
This strange show is the brainchild of Satoshi Mizukami, mangaka of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Spirit Circle, and others. His work has been pretty criminally overlooked for anime adaptations, and as such, his fans are rightly excited about this original anime project. I’m just going to be real here: Planet With is weird, and it’s almost certainly going to get weirder—but the chances that it’s going to take us somewhere interesting along the way to further weirdness are high. Those familiar with Mizukami’s work will recognize in Planet With his interest in the tension between heroes and villains, and in particular how good people can be thrust into the role of the villain. For those who like action shows with a twist, this is definitely one to keep a close eye on this season.
For fans of: Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Assassination Classroom, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Captain Earth
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
Free! Dive to the Future
Haruka and Makoto, former members of the Iwatobi High School swim team now attending college in Tokyo, reunite with members of their middle school swim team. But are their former teammates friends or rivals?
There are quite a few sequels and continuing series this season—My Hero Academia, Overlord, and Gintama, to name a few—but it feels appropriate to bring some attention to the latest season of Free!, a series that first took the world by storm in 2013 (that’s right; before the ice skating anime, there was the swimming anime). This season of Free! brings us back to the boys as they are entering college, and introduces a slew of new characters from episode one. I’m looking forward to seeing how the series’ sports-meets-slice-of-life vibe transitions to a college setting, which often doesn’t get a lot of attention in anime. Expect some college life, hot-blooded swimming, destined rivals, and, of course, glistening male torsos.
For fans of: Haikyu!!, Yuri!!! On Ice, Kuroko’s Basketball, Yowamushi Pedal
Watch it now on Crunchyroll
What are you watching this season? Let us know in the comments!