Our Most Anticipated Anime of Summer 2019
Don't look now, but Spring just flew past us with blazing speed and it's already time for the Summer 2019 anime season! Our Summer Anime Preview Guide launches shortly, but before we dig in, our team of critics rifled through this summer's anime offerings to pick the shows they can't wait for. Don't forget to tell us your most anticipated shows of the summer in our forums!
After a spring season defined by a few specific high-profile productions, it's nice to see the summer season is looking to be a bit more diverse and distributed in its riches. And personally, none of those riches glimmer more brightly to me than the upcoming fifth season of Senki Zesshō Symphogear. Symphogear is a delirious whirlwind of singing and action, starring a group of girls who sing to activate powers ranging from a giant silver sword to an entire missile array. Drawing on the mecha-magical girl legacy of Nanoha and embracing the bombast and aesthetic verve of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Symphogear is an unparalleled celebration of anime excess, and also one of the most charming, winningly tongue-in-cheek adventures out there. My only real fear for this season is that like the fourth, it will be trapped in streaming limbo - but Symphogear deserves a wider audience, and so I'm keeping up the hope that it'll find a home in time for summer.
Along with Symphogear, I'm also eagerly awaiting the debut of O Maidens in Your Savage Season. Honestly, I'd be excited about O Maidens even if I just knew Mari Okada was involved, but this isn't your usual garden-variety Okada production - based on a manga she also wrote, O Maidens looks to be the most unfiltered, Okada-est Okada imaginable, full of the contradictory emotions and oversized adolescent drama that tends to define her work. Director Masahiro Andou is also a highly accomplished creator in his own right, and has worked with Okada in the past on productions ranging from Hana-Saku Iroha to CANAAN to Blast of Tempest. Okada anime aren't always great, but they are almost universally interesting - she has a clear authorial voice and a passion for the messiness of human intimacy, and I'm eager to see what emotional brutality she'll be inflicting on us this time.
Most Anticipated: Dr. Stone
With Shonen Jump being more accessible in the West than ever lately, I've been working hard to catch up on my seemingly infinite back catalogue of Manga I Totally Should Have Read By Now. I've still got a ways to go, but one of the series I've had absolutely no trouble burning through these past few months is Dr. Stone, which is essentially what would happen if you took the traditional Shonen Jump action formula and replaced the central hero with Bill Nye the Science Guy's manic manga doppelganger. I will admit that I thought the original story was a little rough going as it established its central premise, as fascinating as it is – thousands of years after most of humanity was turned into stone, a teenage genius named Senku and his friends awaken to a hostile world that can only be revived through the infinite power of the scientific method. Things pick up very quickly, though, once the story establishes the gimmick that fuels its narrative rhythm: Replacing the usual escalation of shonen battle shtick with an accelerated recreation of mankind's greatest scientific discovery. Trust me, if you've never experienced Dr. Stone before, prepare to get hyped over the heroes' fight to develop metalworking, glass, and the foundations of modern chemistry using whatever is available in their new post-apocalyptic society.
TMS Studios has been killing it in the past few years with its excellent Lupin III anime and the kickass Megalobox, and series director Shinya Iino was a part of the staff that produced one of my favorite anime of the past decade, Made in Abyss. Needless to say, I'm excited to see this story in the hands of a team I trust to bring out the best in the source material. Senku has grown into an exemplary protagonist as the manga has progressed, and the supporting cast is filled with loveable heroes and competent villains, which has kept Senku's quest to restore civilization feeling fresh and exciting. To borrow a phrase from the show's hero, Dr. Stone is ten billion percent fun, and I fully expect it to be one of the popcorn hits of the summer season.
Runner-Up: Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san 2
I'm a simple guy, and though I know this summer will bring plenty of science-fiction thrills (Astra Lost in Space) and historical action highs (Vinland Saga), I expect my colleagues will give those new series the love they deserve in this list. That's why I'm using some of my real estate on this list to make sure that a certain little romantic-comedy sequel series doesn't get lost in the shuffle. The first season of Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san won me over with its sweet and earnest look at the young love that blossoms between the eternally flustered Nishikata and the titular Takagi, who is every bit as good at teasing the object of her affections as promised. Some have found the focus on adolescent awkwardness and Takagi's constant heckling of her crush to be off-putting (not to mention the characters' distractingly large heads), but what I love so much about this story is how quickly it establishes a real chemistry between its two leads. Nishikata is frustrated by getting one upped by Takagi, sure, but the reals laughs come from how the kids are both head-over-heels for each other, but Takagi is the only one who really “gets it”, at least so far.
Despite being about middle-schoolers, I find this series' approach to romance to be more realistic and compelling than a lot of anime, because you really believe in the characters' friendship, which makes it that much easier to root for them as a couple. In other words, Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san is freakin' cute as hell, and I'm very happy to get more time to spend with these characters in this second season. If you can get past Takagi's teasing, I highly recommend catching up on the first season, so you can laugh along with the shenanigans this summer.
Most Anticipated: The Ones Within (Naka no Hito Genome)
I'm getting serious Danganronpa vibes from this story of a bunch of teens who are kidnapped, deposited on a desert island, and forced to play games in which they risk their lives. Instead of ultimate high school talents, we've got Twitch streamers specializing in a bunch of different video game genres. And instead of a homicidal bear, there's a harmless-looking alpaca. Going by the promotional art, there's even pink blood! To be perfectly clear, there's no formal connection between The Ones Within and Danganronpa, no shared studio or creators or anything like that. It's just going with a premise that seems very familiar and has therefore piqued my interest. The promotional video exhibits graphic, stylized art with dark, sinister undertones. Based on the eye-catching character designs, I've already got a favorite: the sarcastic, sadistic Yuzu. I've never read the survival game manga this show is based on, but I'm all ready to hit like on this anime and smash that subscribe button!
We've got an originality problem in the isekai genre, one that this premise is ready to smash to smithereens. There are only so many times you can watch a bland Gary Stu become the world's greatest hero. In Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?, Masato never gets the chance to be the star of his own story because his own mother is there outshining him at every opportunity! Based on the promotional video alone, Masato's mom brings a dose of wholesome to the typical isekai harem vibe, barreling through her son's attempts to look cool with that mom-centric tunnel vision where she can't see him as anything but her baby boy who still needs her to loudly discuss his underwear purchases. Combined with the fact that she's mega-powerful comparatively proves that mother still knows best. This show looks charming and light-hearted, bringing an effervescent earnestness to a genre of anime that has been overrun by jaded sameness. That said, if there turns out to be an incest subplot later on, I regret looking forward to this one entirely.
Most Anticipated: Astra Lost in Space
While I don't dislike sci-fi, it's not my favorite genre, so I might have never been that intrigued by Astra Lost in Space if I hadn't had a chance to review the first volume of the manga a while back. (Strangely, I didn't originally notice the manga is by Kenta Shinohara, who created Sket Dance, a comedy series that still often makes me laugh whenever I think of my favorite episodes of the anime adaptation.) However, I found Astra to be an ideal mix of humor and epic storytelling in the first volume alone. Some characters in the somewhat large cast may have been too tropey, but it proves forgivable with so much else going on: aliens, new worlds, and a group of young people desperate to traverse the galaxy to make their way home. I never got around to reading the rest of the manga, so I look forward to seeing it all unfold on screen. I didn't realize the series would prove relatively short, as it's now completed, which means the anime has a full story to work with, a must in this kind of series, which puts so much stock into the enigmatic wonders of the universe.
I'm not the biggest Fate anime fan, but I've seen most of the anime incarnations and Waver Velvet stood out as a favorite of mine in Fate/Zero. I also have a soft spot for good detective anime, and after seeing the preview for this series months back, I was crushed to learn I'd have to wait a while for more. Fortunately, it's due to start airing this season. It's likely a good entry point for anyone new to the series, as it doesn't seem like a comprehensive knowledge of all things Fate will prove essential to enjoying this show. I liked the aesthetic for the first episode, as the series presents a sort of grim, contemporary London with a touch of the elegance of an earlier historical period. There've been so many Fate shows, it'll be interesting to see how the mystery genre fares in the franchise.
Most Anticipated: Is It Wrong to Try and Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? 2
The summer season is stocked with interesting-looking titles, but there's no question that the one I am most looking forward to is one of the latest-debuting ones: the second TV series adapted from probably my current favorite franchise. Despite the corny name, the first series proved its mettle through a surprisingly strong central relationship between hero-wannabe Bell Cranel and the goddess whose Blessing he bears and through some of the greatest individual and group battles fantasy anime has ever seen. Powered by a wonderful musical score, that first series showed a greater appreciation for the spirit of heroic adventure than just about any other title (in anime or out) that I've ever seen, and that theme has continued strongly in the additional storylines in the series' movie, Arrow of Orion, and mobile game, Memoria Freeze. Preview videos and cast listings have confirmed that the new season will covered at least the next two storylines in the novels (volumes 6 and 7), both of which offer some interesting twists on the base concept, but will we get more than that? Regardless, I'm eager to see how these next two arcs are adapted.
Runner-Up: to the abandoned Sacred Beasts
There are so many good options here that picking just one as a runner-up is difficult. However, I'm going to go to the opposite end of the season and pick what should be the season's first title to debut. It's here partly because I have read the first couple of volumes of the manga on this one and found its story to be a compelling one. While it may seem to share some themes with Fairy gone, its focus on soldiers who were turned into actual monsters to win a war, and how they generally don't integrate well into post-war life, carries a lot more weight, especially in its implications about the impact of PTSD and the difficulties of reintegrating trained killers into society. Those disappointed with Fairy gone should find a lot to like here. Other titles of particular interest this season include O Maidens in Your Savage Garden, Vinland Saga (animation about Vikings? I'm there!), and for sheer perversity's sake, Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? Because the first episode debuted months ago, the Fate/ franchise spin-off Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note, with its promising balance of comedic and dramatic content, is already a will-watch title, so I suppose it could be included here as well.
Most Anticipated: Astra Lost in Space
As I was reading this manga, I kept thinking that it would make a great anime, so now I'm in the position of simultaneously being really, really excited to see this and terribly afraid that somehow it won't live up to what was one of my favorite manga released last year. I think the odds are in its favor, though – the source material is only five volumes, which means that there's neither a need to cut things nor draw them out, and the story itself is fascinating. When a school field trip goes wrong, a group of high school students in a space-age world end up stranded on a distant planet and have to use their wits and individual strengths to find their way home. But there are so many more questions beyond just “how did this happen?” – Why was one girl allowed to bring her younger sister along? What ties all of these kids together? And what does it have to do with history? Astra Lost in Space is equal parts mystery and science fiction adventure, and it has some really interesting plot twists as well. Not to mention it also respects its characters, which is an integral piece of the whole. Don't let me down, Astra!
I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the new season of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? – if you've been reading the light novels, you know that the plot developments and story arcs past the previous season's adaptation are much more intense with higher stakes, not just for Bell, but for the world in general. While this first one has a few issues that could make things tricky in terms of one of the new characters, it's exciting that we're going to see more, and of course get to hear Yoshitsugu Matsuoka's Bell again. (Or see Hestia's string; whatever makes you happy.) I'm a little more leery of Vinland Saga (another manga favorite), simply because I prefer to read my gore than watch and hear it, as well as O Maidens in Your Savage Season, because it's the kind of story where I feel being able to determine your own pace may be better than having one forced upon you by the dictates of required minutes of television. But both are still on my list of things I'm curious to see, and if they all pan out, this reader will also be one very happy viewer.
I'm a sucker for historical fiction in anime, especially when it covers a time or place beyond the usual “Oda Nobunaga with some weird gimmick” territory. That's why I'm really looking forward to Vinland Saga, which features some good, old-fashioned Vikings. I've heard good things about the original manga, which is apparently really well-researched. It looks like we'll get a revenge story and some political intrigue, along with a generous supply of swordfights, so it should be a good bet for fans of Golden Kamuy or folks looking for a darker action series. If you're in the latter of those two groups, it might also be worth keeping an eye on to the abandoned Sacred Beasts, which swaps out the historical angle for more of a dark fantasy vibe.
This season also includes sequels to a pair of shows that I ended up liking much more than I expected to. For all the fuss around a certain piece of blue string, the first season of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? turned out to be a perfectly decent piece of genre entertainment, so I'm happy to see it get a proper sequel. On a similar note, the first season of Karaki Jozu no Takagi-san flew completely under my radar when it first aired, but thankfully I stumbled across it a few months later. Utterly charming and boasting excellent comedic timing, it was a delightful little comedy, and the premise is flexible enough that the upcoming sequel should have plenty of material to work with. If nothing else, it'll help balance out all the burly Viking dudes stabbing each other to death in Vinland Saga.
After a relatively dry spring season, it's nice to have a whole row of new anime I'm really looking forward to for summer. A lot of it's headlined by hot adaptations like Vinland Saga, Fire Force, Astra Lost in Space, and of course Dr. Stone. With that last one I'm especially interested in seeing how its society-rebuilding science-adventure story is going to work, and I'm uniquely hyped on it based on how excited it has several friends of mine. But more than any of those blockbuster properties, I find myself most interested in the anime version of O Maidens in Your Savage Season. I've put off reading the manga, meaning I get to go into this series and all the outrageous things I've heard about it comparatively fresh. I've not been as universally impressed with Mari Okada's writing as others I know, but I can't deny that she turns out stuff that's interesting to watch regardless. And everything I've heard about O Maidens up to this point makes this ridiculous semi-autobiographical tale of blossoming female libidos sound like a truly unique experience.
And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't communicate my usual kid-on-Christmas-eve joyous anticipation over the imminent arrival of a new Symphogear series. Symphogear XV promises to go even bigger than the preceding seasons- it pretty much has to escalate, have you seen how this series works?. With Crunchyroll finally graciously revealing that they're getting up to speed streaming the preceding season as well as this new one, there's never been a better time to get caught up. I'll have to marathon through the catchup material for this one now, priming myself for the hopeful spectacle of Hibiki and her girlfriend Miku joining hands to punch God himself. And if you still aren't up on this yourself, there's never been a better time to get into this one-of-a-kind experience. Watch Symphogear!
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