Our Most Anticipated Anime of Summer 2018
The new anime season is right around the corner! Anime News Network's Summer 2018 Anime Preview Guide begins July 1st, but in the meantime, we're counting down the shows we're most excited about. Once you've perused our staff picks, head on over to the forums and make sure you tell us yours!
Most Anticipated: Planet With
I'll be frank - the summer season isn't looking that great at the moment, and as I survey the landscape, it seems easy to assume that My Hero Academia's continuing episodes will likely be the highlight of the season. But there are definitely shows that have some serious potential, and for me, Planet With stands chief among them. The actual anime staff attached to Planet With aren't the most impressive (its director Youhei Suzuki might be best known for the relatively well-regarded slice of life Urara Meirocho), but the show's original creator is an absolute legend: Satoshi Mizukami, the creator of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer. Biscuit Hammer is one of my all-time favorite manga, offering a mix of clever, naturalistic humor, terrific character writing, and often staggering battle sequences. That Mizukami is collaborating so directly on Planet With, even to the extent of working on storyboards and series composition, gives me at least some hope that this show will capture the spirit that's made his prior works so transcendent. If it can do so, it won't just be me celebrating - Mizukami firing on all cylinders is an incredible sight to see.
Runner-up: Revue Starlight
My anticipation runner-up seems like a much more safe bet, the altogether star-studded Revue Starlight. There's no brilliant original creator informing my feelings here; Starlight is an unabashed media mix, designed simultaneously as an anime and stage production, and undoubtedly soon to be followed by music releases and maybe even a mobile game. Fortunately, this particular media mix's anime arm is blessed with a fantastic team over at Kinema Citrus, and the results speak for themselves. Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara collaborator Tomohiro Furukawa, assistant directed by star animator Takushi Koide, and boasting art direction by Studio Pablo's Kenji Fukuda, Starlight is far and away one of summer's most talent-loaded productions, and has all the resources it needs to succeed as a top shelf idol drama. That terrific trailer feels like it echoes the original [email protected] in all the right ways, a similarly star-studded production that turned out to be my all-time favorite idol show. Obviously great staff doesn't automatically mean a great show, but it certainly doesn't hurt, and so my hopes are high for Revue Starlight.
Most Anticipated: Cells at Work
After reviewing Heaven's Design Team for the Spring 2018 Manga Preview Guide and reading that Rebecca thought it somewhat similar to Cells at Work, I got really excited for the upcoming anime adaptation this summer. Cells personified as countless little people working together in a single body doesn't seem like it would be that interesting to anyone out of elementary school, but Heaven's Design Team is so funny in the way it teaches about the world's strangest animals. Even if Cells at Work proves educational—though that's not a bad thing—it's sure to teach in an amusing way. It's also not the typical show we see every season. It may not prove as good as I hope, but it's likely to at least stand out among the rest. At the very least, I'll walk away with a better understanding of how our blood cells work.
Ever since entering endgame mode back in 2015, Gintama has transitioned from lengthy year-long seasons to shorter one-to-two-cour ones, due in no small part to the dwindling supply of source material at the staff's disposal. However, whereas the show's previous two breaks coincided with the end of story arcs, Gintama's most recent hiatus fell smackdab in the middle of Silver Soul, the series' highly anticipated final arc. Although a lot of important narrative progress was made throughout Silver Soul's first twelve episodes, the series temporarily bowed out right as the fight for Earth's survival was just getting started, marking the first time Gintama has taken a break mid-story. With Prince Ensho's Altana Liberation Army determined to conquer the planet and the immortal Utsuro determined to reduce it to space dust, Gintoki and the gang are in for the fight of their lives. Since the storyline in question is still unfolding in the parent manga, it's too early to determine if the upcoming season will adapt Silver Soul to completion or simply cover another chunk of this massive arc. Either way, more Gintama is never a bad thing, and I look forward to seeing how Odd Jobs Gin-chan and the series' extensive roster of supporting characters contend with the ever-expanding onslaught of new threats.
Most Anticipated: The End of FLCL Progressive
I recently revisited FLCL1 in preparation for these new series, and my main impression coming out of that one was that I really wanted to see the female version of that story. Don't get me wrong, the original FLCL is still very much a masterpiece – it fully stands an articulation of what it feels like to be a horny kid facing down adulthood in a world that you struggle to understand – it's just that it's very much a male perspective on that, and thus told in large part through panty shots, boner imagery, and the Oedipal fear that the girl you like may be fucking your dad. This isn't to say that there's anything wrong with this stuff. It's real, it's relatable, and I dig FLCL for what it is. But at the same time, I don't think it's controversial to say that we receive way more stories about the male variant on this experience than the female one. FLCL remains widely beloved beyond members of the specific group whose experiences it depicts says a lot about its power as a work of art. At the same time, however, I'd appreciate it if an anime were to build itself out of metaphors for what was happening to my body when I was a confused and horny teen, and not make that into something that occurs on the periphery of a boy's story. Fortunately, FLCLs Progressive and Alternative may as well have arrived with the specific intent of addressing my gendered gripe. Halfway through its airing, the first sequel, FLCL Progressive, has had some sharp writing for its female main character, Hidomi, as well as the other ladies who populate its chaotic cast. It is also, so far, uniformly excellent – while it's only 2/3rds done at this point (which is OVA-speak for there being two episodes left), Progressive has already established itself as a great comeback album, in that it both replicates the feel and expands on the themes of the original FLCL. More than anything, FLCL2 feels like talking to a legendary rock star a few decades after their major period – they may have sobered up and lost some of their energy, sure, but they've taken the time to reflect on the actions of their youth, and how these fit into a larger world where you have specific responsibilities. Basically, FLCL Progressive has been so great as a continuation of OG FLCL, that I can't wait to see what this team does with a flat retelling. And one about lady stuff at that! I'll just go ahead and say that a robot better come out of somebody's symbolism-vagina. Also, love that older-looking “cool aunt” Haruko. Inspirational, aspirational, life goals, wife goals.
Most Anticipated: Hanebad
We've been really spoiled for great sports anime lately, from Free! with its upcoming third season to the intermittently-adapted Haikyu, which remains one the best shows I've watched in the past decade, period. I'm still waiting for a continuation of that one, but Taku Kishimoto, its scriptwriter, is taking on something similar-yet-different with the upcoming Hanebad. This show looks to offer a different side of the sports-anime spectrum that I've been hoping for, featuring a girls' sports show every bit packed with drama and tension as the prevailing male-dominated series. Anime like these thrive, I think, because while they surely have their quirks, the earnest seriousness with which they present their sporting struggles is infectious. And thus far the animation we've seen in the trailers looks strong, showing off some great cuts that I hope are just giving us a taste of what we can expect. I like anime a lot when it's fun, and a show that can get me to cheer for these girls is something I think I need right now. I don't know anything about badminton, but I didn't know anything about volleyball when I started Haikyu, and I could watch those kids play forever now.
Runner-up: Free! -Dive to the Future-
But the return of formative franchise Free! can't be ignored either. It's true that the second season couldn't quite match the interpersonal drama and stakes of the first. And the movie did little to imply that we could expect too much ramped-up intensity. But by this point the fraternity of Free! boys are endeared to us, and seeing those characters in action is an appeal all on its own. There are people, myself included, who would watch Haruka and Rin splash around in a kiddie pool for twelve episodes and be happy with it, least of all because we'd know to expect some gorgeous Kyoto Animation sakuga and water effects throughout. The promise of new characters and the inherent concern of the boys considering their futures as graduation looms does lay the seeds for some excitement to hopefully come through, but regardless I'm happy to watch just for one more chance to see these boys again. Regardless of what curveballs the new season throws at us, the presence of Free! at least ensures that summer will go swimmingly.
Most Anticipated: Attack on Titan Season 3
I really enjoyed the first season of Attack on Titan when it aired back in 2013, but the second season was a revelation, ramping up the action, horror, and pathos to an absurdly good degree. It was in reviewing that second season that I truly became a fan of the franchise, and I'm very happy that we haven't had to wait another four years for the third season, which is set to premiere this July. I haven't read the manga, so I'm clueless as to what to expect from Attack on Titan this year, which is exactly the way I like it. I've heard whispers from friends that are up to date on the source material that this arc isn't necessarily the series' best, but I trust Araki Tetsuro, Koizuka Masahi, and the rest of the talented crew at Wit Studio to take the best of the manga's qualities while hopefully ironing out the less beloved wrinkles of the story.
This season is also set to dive more into Levi's character, which I'm all in favor of. I never really understood what made him such a fan-favorite, outside of being a badass, so I'm looking forward to seeing his character fleshed out while Eren, Armin, and Mikasa all do their thing. Also, it seems like one of the Big Bads of this season is gonna be a Crazy Dude in a Cowboy Hat, which I am always on board for. Really, all I want is for the show to stop beating around the bush and finally just tell everyone what the hell is in Eren's basement (I know it has long since been revealed in the manga, but no spoilers, please!) Though who am I kidding? If we just got 24 episodes of eye-ball searing Titan-killing spectacle, I'd probably feel just as satisfied.
Runner Up: Hanebad
The rest of this season is filled with titles I have almost no background with or preexisting hype for, so for my runner-up I'm going to go with Hanebad! I'm going to be honest: I picked this one because it's a slavishly animated, emotionally-heightened sports drama about girls playing badminton, which is one of the least intuitively cinematic sports I could think of revolving an entire series around, second only to curling, perhaps, or croquet. I have to admire any series that's willing to pour what looks to be an absurd amount of money and effort into telling this story, especially because from every preview I've seen, Hanebad! looks really good. The characters are well designed and expressively animated, the badminton sequences seem like they'll be genuinely fun to watch, and there also seems to be plenty of youthful angst to spice up the drama in between matches. I never thought I'd say that a badminton anime looked like one of the must watch titles of the summer, 2018 has proven itself to be a crazy enough year to make it happen.
Most Anticipated: Free! -Dive to the Future-
I am a simple woman with predictable tastes. And honestly, this summer selection isn't looking particularly stellar to me. In other words: bring back the swimmer boys! This time, Haru and company go to college and no doubt have many shirtless adventures. I'm being glib here—the the Free! franchise quickly realized it couldn't retain its audience's attention with skin alone, and the show's biggest surprise from the beginning was that it in fact did not have the emotional depth of the shallow side of the pool. The previous two seasons poured their attention into developing powerful relationships between characters whose appeal reached far beneath those oft-displayed muscles. After two seasons of character-motivated drama, I wouldn't feel it's too much to expect a third. Just hoping they tone down that EDM from the first promo video.
Runner-up: Banana Fish
Already, 2018 has been a banner year for remakes of older works. From Legend of the Galactic Heroes to Devilman Crybaby, several '80s IPs got a new lease on life this spring. Now Banana Fish, a shojo manga that premiered in 1985, is getting its chance at a modern anime adaptation. With director Hiroko Utsumi (Free!) at the helm, this Studio MAPPA work already looks polished and stylized, primed to take viewers down into the New York City underworld that protagonist Ash Lynx inhabits. The visuals are well into the 21st century, but it remains to be seen how well the plot will fit there. Banana Fish was initially groundbreaking in its depictions of homosexuality merely by indicating that such a thing existed. Today, characters' internalized homophobia may seem dated to viewers, and its depictions of sexual assault doubly insensitive. A gripping drama rife with violence, it might just be action-packed enough to sidestep its potential concerns.
Most Anticipated: Cells at Work!
This might just be a side effect of all the fun I had watching Hinamatsuri, but I find myself craving more weird, offbeat shows as we head into the next season. Cells at Work was the first new series to catch my eye: the idea of having characters based on different types of cells is unusual enough to be intriguing, and the preview videos suggest that the show will take a creative approach to depicting each cell's job. Explosive bacteria invasions interrupting a red blood cell's delivery run? White blood cells rushing in and pounding said bacteria to a pulp? Count me in, as long as the writing can keep up with all of the zany ideas. Along the same lines, I'm also keeping an eye on Dropkick on My Devil, which looks like it could be an amusingly twisted take on the “monster girl roommate” premise. As far as I can tell, it seems like the kind of story you'd get if Tohru from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid spent every waking moment trying (and failing) to murder Kobayashi in cold blood. Sounds like a comedy to me!
On a more seasonally appropriate note, this summer might also be a good time for swimsuit fanservice sports shows. We've got a new entry in the Free franchise lined up alongside beach volleyball series Harukana Receive, so between the two of them we should end up with a surplus of dudes and ladies competing in skimpy outfits. For anyone who'd rather take the fanservice out of the equation, I'm genuinely curious to see if Hanebad can make badminton look exciting. There have been good shows made about both tennis and volleyball in the past, so I suppose it's worth trying a sport that mashes the two of them together.
Most Anticipated: Cells at Work
The Cells at Work manga is the most fun I've had with biology since my marine bio class in high school when we “dissected” (read: ate) lobsters. Based on the trailer, I see no reason why the anime adaptation can't do the same. The story, which is intended to provide a fun lesson in immunobiology at the sixth-grade level (or thereabouts), anthropomorphizes all the parts of the immune system, with adorable platelets, militant killer T-cells, and of course our hapless heroine Red Blood Cell who hasn't quite gotten a grasp on the whole situation yet. It doesn't sacrifice facts for fiction, just makes them more accessible and fun. The big risk here will be whether or not the series talks down to its audience – the manga manages to avoid this, but on the whole my studies of children's media has shown me that books are generally better at not talking down to readers than TV shows, so there is a real risk here. But it's a risk I'm willing to take in anticipating this series, and I really hope it doesn't let me down, because there's a lot of potential here for a fun show about all of the little people who use your veins as their roadways.
Runner-Up: Tsukumogami Kashimasu
I love the idea of tsukumogami, objects that take on a soul after one hundred years of existence. In part this is probably because I work at a history museum in the summer, but it's also a wonderful mystical concept that helps explain human attachment to objects. That means that this is high on my list of shows I'm looking forward to – not only does it have tsukumogami, but it's also set in the Edo era, which is always interesting, and it has the potential to be the sort of “be careful what you wish for” tale that series like xxxHoLiC and Yokai Rental Shop are. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's definitely one of mine, so essentially this show is checking off a lot of boxes for me in terms of things I like. The visuals come courtesy of Lily Hoshino, whose work I always enjoy, and honestly there's just something appealing about the whole thing. I don't know enough about it to definitively name it as my “most anticipated,” but it's definitely something I'm looking forward to.
I'm also tentatively excited for Phantom in the Twilight, mostly because of the scene of the heroine pulling a weapon from the ground, and Holmes at Kyoto Teramachi Sanjo, but the former could fall into the “dark = deep” trap while the latter risks being too slice-of-life and not enough mystery for me. But I'm more excited than not for this coming season, and I'm looking forward to seeing what shines through.
Theron MartinMost Anticipated: Overlord III
I'm sure that a lot of people are going to put the third season of Attack on Titan here, and I'd be lying if I claimed I wasn't looking forward to seeing where that one goes after its barrage of huge plot twists last time around. However, a particularly strong second part during the Winter 2018 season has left me anticipating the third season of Overlord far more. In fact, I may well marathon the second season as a warm-up. Few franchises out there right now can match it for interesting side, supporting, and guest-appearance characters, and it has so many potential story threads afloat right now that it hasn't reeled back in more than half of the hooks that it tossed out in the first episode of the second season. It definitely offers a lot to look forward to.
Runner-Up: Back Street Girls
This series stands a good chance of ending up being a disaster, but after reading the premise I'm morbidly curious to see how bad it might be. I mean, we're talking about a trio of young yakuza who must make up for a costly failure by undergoing operations to become female idol singers! What could go wrong there? Finding that out will, of course, be much of the fun. My third most-anticipated would probably be Cells at Work, as I am curious to see how that one is carried out. Other non-Attack on Titan titles which have more mildly caught my attention include the vampire-fighting series Sirius the Jaeger, the supernatural comedy Janshin-chan Dropkick, and Happy Sugar Life, a series which professes to be yuri romantic drama with psychological horror elements; I'm intrigued to see how that one could possibly be put together.
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