Our Most Anticipated Anime of Winter 2017by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
A fresh new year brings with it a fresh new slate of winter anime premieres! Our team of critics have picked out some of the most promising new titles of the season to look out for, and be sure to let us know what shows you're most excited about in the forums!
Going into this winter season, there is one series that I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on: Little Witch Academia. Yeah, it's the predictable choice, but this franchise is popular for a reason. Filtering a Harry Potter-esque world of witchcraft and wizardry through the manic and boisterous lens of Studio Trigger was a brilliant move, and the central trio of Atsuko, Lotte, and Sucy just play adorably well off each other. I loved the two original films that Trigger produced back in 2013 and 2015, so when I learned that the property would finally be adapted into a television series, I was ecstatic, especially knowing that Director Yoh Yoshinari was remaining on the project. I am especially curious to see if that universe's kinetic and lush design sensibilities translate as well to the small screen with more limited resources, though enough heart and charm can overcome most any budgetary issues, and Little Witch Academia has that in spades. After the utter craziness of 2016, it will be nice to usher in the New Year with a series that promotes the more magical elements of anime, both literally and figuratively.
Another returning franchise is Blue Exorcist, coming back to animation after an almost six year hiatus. The original 2011 series follows the exploits of the half-demon Rin Okumura, who joins up with his human twin brother Yukio to attend Exorcist school and fight off the demonic horde threatening the human world. The anime followed the template of Kazue Katou's manga pretty closely up until it's back third, and like so many adaptations, its anime-original material left a lot to be desired. Still, the series on the whole delivered deft worldbuilding and slick action setpieces, not to mention an especially endearing relationship between its sibling protagonists. This new series ignores the anime-only material and picks up right where the manga-adapted episodes left off. I had hoped for a long time that we'd get to see more of the manga material put to screen, and even if it took a bit longer than expected, I'm glad that fans old and new will finally get the chance to see the story through.
As far as relative unknowns go, I admit that I'm looking forward to seeing how Granblue Fantasy The Animation turns out. I know absolutely nothing about the Android game on which the series is based, but both the game and the series have Final Fantasy alums Nobuo Uematsu and Hideo Minaba attached, which certainly bodes well. Mobile game adaptations can be very hit or miss, but A-1 Studio's animation looks exquisite, and with Uematsu on board, it'll at least have a soundtrack to match its lush visuals. I remain somewhat skeptical, but consider my curiosity piqued.
The winter season is looking a little barren for me, particularly in comparison to this great fall season, but there's still a fair amount of stuff I'm looking forward to! The big picks by far are both sequels, with my most-anticipated show definitely being Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2. Rakugo's first season was easily the highlight of last winter for me, with strong direction and great character work making Japanese comic theater feel as accessible as any other artform. I even wrote an editorial gushing about the visual storytelling of the first few episodes! My only real complaint with the first season was that it felt a little emotionally distant, but with the second season jumping from flashbacks to a buoyant present-day (relatively speaking) story, I'm hopeful that'll be less of an issue.
The second big sequel I'm looking forward to is Little Witch Academia, a full length series following on the heels of Trigger's two short films. I'm frankly not expecting this series to be quite as good as those films; not only is a fair amount of the key staff not returning, but it's just impossible to hold a lengthy TV anime series to the same visual standards as a one-off film. That said, Little Witch Academia's base universe, design, and characters are all excellent, and I'm very happy to spend a lot more time exploring its world. I doubt there'll be anything I enjoy on a week-to-week basis as much as Little Witch Academia.
The pickings get a bit slimmer after that, and most of the other things I'm looking forward to are more in the “well, this could be good” category than something I'm truly confident in. ACCA has a strong original creator (Natsume Ono, the creator of House of Five Leaves) and director (Shingo Natsume, director of the blockbuster One Punch Man), so that's definitely worth a look. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid looks pretty silly and also crass in a way I'm not a fan of, but Kyoto Animation and director Yasuhiro Takemoto are generally very good at handling comedies. Scum's Wish looks like one of those messy character dramas I tend to fall in love with, and Onihei has a compelling period-piece premise. Other than that, I'll be letting the first episodes decide what I stick with this time. Every season has its own surprises!
While I really enjoy excellent art, animation, and direction, what matters most to me in a series is the actual story. That's probably why my two most anticipated titles this coming winter season are ones that I'm familiar with already: Little Witch Academia and Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Of course, that also means that if neither of them manage to live up to my rosy expectations based on the movies or the manga, I'll be thrown into either a fit of despair or a blind rage (okay, maybe that's hyperbole), but it's a chance I'm always willing to take.
I'm probably most looking forward to Little Witch Academia. It combines my love of magic-wielding girls with a story about an underdog proving herself, and more importantly, it has the opportunity to expand upon the fascinating world laid out in the two films. The world of Little Witch Academia was barely explored in either movie, just giving us glimpses of a place that felt like a combination of Harry Potter and Tweeny Witches, and having a full television series to go into more depth will hopefully allow the story to expand both its scope and exploration. It'll also let us get to know Akko and her friends and classmates more fully, which should give the characters more depth. Even if the show barely touches on these things, just the chance to live in the story's world is welcome. Plus there's going to be a dragon. How can you say no to a series with a dragon?
Clearly I can't, given that my other most anticipated series is Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Based on a totally delightful manga by Coolkyoushinja, the story is a welcome change-up from the usual monster girl formula, which I admit I'm getting a little tired of. It doesn't go too far off the beaten track, but the fact that Miss Kobayashi is the unwilling host of the dragon maid already makes for a change, especially since she's a working adult rather than a milquetoast high school or college boy. Tohru the dragon also isn't at all deterred by Miss Kobayashi's gender and still falls for her, making this a monster girl series with a yuri element. Not that it ever gets particularly serious, at least not in the single volume of manga that's been released in English thus far, but honestly just tinkering with the formula is enough to dispel my genre ennui. The fact that the manga is really funny definitely helps as well, and I'm eager to see how movement and voices add to the story and humor. KyoAni being the studio behind it is just icing on the cake.
I've got exactly three anime on my radar this winter, so I'll talk about the one I'm the least sure about first! ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. has a complicated but not inherently intriguing premise, and the commercials for it didn't tell me much more about what to expect (just a jazz/hip-hop fusion soundtrack and a strange alternate universe Japan that's shaped like an adorable birdie). Still, I can't help but be excited by the two Natsumes behind it: director Shingo Natsume and original author Natsume Ono. With the director of Space Dandy and One-Punch Man behind the wheel, it's safe to expect a visually stunning production, even if it's a more low-key drama than an action series. Likewise, its manga author is known for her arresting visual designs, distinctive character expression work, and thoughtful writing aimed at older audiences in works like Ristorante Paradiso and House of Five Leaves. That's a sharp enough pedigree to get me stoked.
I know way more about what to expect from my other two picks: the Little Witch Academia TV series and the second half of Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū. The first two LWA movies were a ton of fun, quintessential Studio Trigger enthusiasm with the juvenile crassness scraped off. (I like their crass stuff too, but variety's the spice.) So I'm totally down for more family-friendly adventures at not-Hogwarts with Akko and her friends. And of course, since I put the first half of Rakugo Shinjū at #3 on my list of the best anime of 2016, I've definitely been on the edge of my seat for a whole year waiting to find out if Kikuhiko will find redemption before he dies a bitter old man, and what will happen to his surrogate daughter and young apprentice in the meantime. Bring it on, Winter 2017! Hit me with your best shot.
A lot of shows are getting sequels or continuations this season, including a couple of my personal favorites. I'm really looking forward to watching more Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū, which won me over earlier this year. A compelling plot and a strong cast of characters made for a really enjoyable first season, and the series hits right at my soft spot for stories about people working in a creative profession. If you're not already on the bandwagon for this one, give it a try while there's still time to catch up.
I'm also eager to take a look at Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation, but I have my share of worries about this latest installment in the bicycle racing franchise. Many of my favorite characters in previous seasons were third-year students, and it looks like we'll be seeing less of them now that the story is moving into a new school year. That said, I'm willing to give the new lineup a chance; after all, the first season took a while to really hit its stride. As long as Onoda keeps carving his way through the pack while singing goofy anime songs, it should still be a safe bet.
Finally, as the guy who did the episode reviews for both Monster Musume and Actually I Am last year, I can't help but notice that we have two new monster-girl titles headed our way. Demi-chan wa Kataritai has already made some promotional waves with a life-sized statue of its dullahan character, while Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is tweaking the usual formula a bit by having a woman as its obligatory human protagonist. It'll be tough for either of them to one-up Monster Musume when it comes to getting viewers' attention, but I'll be curious to see if they can find their own niches in this bizarre little sub-genre.
I don't commonly choose my priority anime titles for an upcoming season based on the director, writer, voice actors, or production studios because I'm more a fan of individual animation productions on their own merits rather than how an individual or studio influences them. Because of that, none of the titles that I'm looking forward to in the Winter 2017 season have anything to do with who made them or who stars in them, but rather that they're part of an established franchise I enjoyed in the past or a new franchise whose concept sounds like it has potential.
Chief among the former – and easily my most anticipated title – is the Konosuba sequel. The original series was unexpectedly and tremendously funny in the way it poked fun at “transported to another world” stories, one of the biggest surprise hits of 2016. So I expect no less from it this time around. The other sequel that I am keenly looking forward to is Rewrite 2. Yeah, I know a lot of people weren't happy with the way its adaptation of the main storylines was handled, but I was rarely down on the series as much as general opinion seemed to be, and given the depressing way the series ended, I'm very curious to see where it goes next.
Among the “concept with potential” titles, the one whose blurb has intrigued me the most is Scum's Wish, a story about a seemingly ideal couple who apparently hide some nasty secrets beneath their perfect veneer. The translated title is absolutely loaded with potential meaning, and an appealing character design style doesn't hurt. It's also hard to ignore a series with a subtitle like Yojo Senki: Saga of Tanya the Evil, an anime about an office worker who is reborn into the body of a little girl and becomes a battlefield terror. (If pedigree matters to you, the show stars Aoi Yuuki and is directed by the same guy who did Punch Line.) Masamune-kun no Revenge also sounds like it could have promise in a “revenge scheme gone south” kind of way, but I'm less certain about that one. Nearly every season for the past couple of years has had one or more titles that end up impressing far more than initial expectations, so the fun will be in finding the gems from this upcoming season.
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