Our Most Anticipated Anime of Winter 2020
Our Most Anticipated Anime of Winter 2020
We're gearing up for the launch of our Winter 2020 Preview Guide on Saturday, January 4, 2020 - in the meantime, here are our staff picks for the shows we're looking forward to the most!
There are a lot of shows airing during the winter 2020 season that I'm at least curious about but when it comes to frenetic excitement, I've narrowed it down to just three. The first is unequivocally Haikyu!! To The Top which, I'll remind you, I've been yelling for since Karasuno smashed Shiratorizawa in 2016. Yes, I have some how lived another three-and-a-half years if only to see my boys continue to grow out of the concrete and reach for the sky. Production I.G is back for this fourth installment and as an anime-only fan I have no idea what's going to happen. Not even a little bit, but oh boy I can't friggin' wait.
My excitement for Haikyu!! is only rivaled by another series from Masaaki Yuasa. The DEVILMAN crybaby director and his Science SARU studio have picked up a metric ton of work over the last few years, mostly movies. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a high school comedy about three girls who decide to create an anime together. Each girl possesses different skills whether it's artistic ability of financial sense but together they hope to pull off their fan project. This is a completely different tone than Devilman but one thing I love about Yuasa's work is his animation style and its sense of movement. I can't wait to see how they turns out for a hijinks-style comedy.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is my last “must watch” and it checks all my boxes. The fantasy story hinges on a father-daughter relationship between a forest golem and a human where humans are nearing extinction. The dynamic reminds me of a few of my favorite manga, namely The Girl from the Other Side and The Ancient Magus' Bride. The girl in this story is named Somali and she begins traveling with a golem to find her “home” but the focus is on discovering the world they reside in and why things (like human extinction) have come to pass. It's the mix of mystery, magic, and emotion that attracts me to these kinds of stories so I'm hoping Somali and the Forest Spirit delivers.
2020 will be off to a very interesting start for me, because I will be coming at most every new or returning series that is premiering this winter as a newbie. For even my most anticipated shows, I've got little to go on outside of positive word of mouth and whatever preview footage gets released. Dorohedoro is one of those series, a MAPPA produced adaptation of a manga that is, as best as I can tell, about a grunge-rock lizard boy getting into shenanigans with his weird friends, in what I can only assume is some kind of post-apocalyptic setting. I've seen smatterings of the awesome looking manga here and there online, but that's about it, and honestly, that's all I need. The show's art and aesthetic stylings look supremely fun, and post-apocalyptic settings earn easy points in my book. It looks like the grimy lovechild of Mad Max and Fallout, with a splash of BEASTARS thrown in for good measure. Sign me up.
Another show that I'm interested in is Pet, though I'm approaching it with some reservations. It looks like a grim and violent battle anime involving people that get blessed (or cursed) with special powers, and this type of anime feels like one of the most wildly inconsistent subgenres imaginable. Sometimes you get engagingly nihilistic monster mashes like Gantz, and I can afford to indulge in that kind of trashy fun a few times a year. Other times, though, you get awful gobbledygook like Big Order, where any concerns about writing a story that is even marginally coherent go out the window once the dumb spectacle consumes everything in its sight. The series is coming to us from Geno Studio, which has proven somewhat unreliable when it comes to producing consistent and satisfying animation, but the previews look promisingly shiny and weird. It's impossible for me to predict what kind of show will Pet ultimately be, but even if it doesn't turn out to be one of the season's best, I would be happy if it made for some reliably schlocky entertainment.
As I look towards the winter season, there's one show standing head and shoulders above the rest for me: Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!, or Hands Off the Motion Picture Club! Eizouken's unique art style and imaginative premise would probably have caught my attention in any case, but the reason I'm actually excited is Eizouken's director, Masaaki Yuasa. Yuasa is a living legend at this point, having directed anime as diverse and impressive as The Tatami Galaxy, Ping Pong the Animation, Kaiba, and DEVILMAN crybaby. He is easily one of the greatest living anime directors, and beyond his own talent (as well as the profound talent of his collaborators at Science SARU, who'll be spearheading this project), he also has a tendency to pick only the very best source material for his adaptations. I'm excited for any new Yuasa project, and Eizouken in particular seems like exactly my sort of thing; with his team at the helm, the winter anime season will be starting strong.
Along with Eizouken, I'm also looking forward to the adaptation of Q Hayashida's Dorohedoro, though I'm keeping my expectations muted for this one. Dorohedoro is a much-beloved manga, but its rough-edged and highly detailed visual style seems like it'd be almost impossible to translate into animation. From what I've seen of the show's trailers, the anime is doing its best to match the aesthetic of the original, but still making some compromises - in particular, the use of CG models for some major characters feels like an awkward visual concession. Still, Dorohedoro has a unique look and a lot of fans, and I'll be interested in seeing how the full production shakes out.
I don't know much about Eizōken ni wa Te o Dasu na!, but the art style alone led me to take a closer look. A trio of students dreams of creating their own anime, but instead of the traditional nuts-and-bolts slice-of-life club approach, this adaptation of an award-winning manga is being directed by Masaaki Yuasa, who also helped bring colorful, distinctive anime like Space Dandy and The Tatami Galaxy to life. (As well as DEVILMAN crybaby, which I haven't had a chance to view yet, but I remember from all the chatter about the visuals alone.) The character designs are amusing and expressive, and there's so much going on in the concept art I've seen, from mecha to flying insect-wing ships. The girls look more like literal explorers of their imagined (?) anime worlds than animators. I'm really interested to see how this show pans out, and I hope it turns out to be a memorable mix of comedy and surrealism.
My runner-up would be A Destructive God Sits Next to Me. I'm a sucker for manzai comedy done well in anime (see Gintama), and the pitch for this series revolves around a high schooler who just wants an average life but can't resist being the tsukkomi (straight man) to any boke (funny man) he encounters. Despite his efforts to avoid odd people who might make him want to spit out wry commentary about their antics, a boy suffering from chunibyo gets assigned to the seat next to him, thus the “destructive god” in the title. It looks like there are more than a few boke in Seri Koyuki's class, which will make keeping his comments to himself in an effort to avoid the manzai comedy trap something of a hassle. While the preview doesn't look to be utterly wacky in my opinion, there's real potential in this scenario for manzai comedy fans like me. I may be getting a little tired of chunibyo characters relying on all the same tropes—down to the eyepatch over the eye—but I'm willing to give the trope another chance in the trappings of this comedy.
Choosing a top pick for the upcoming season was difficult because there are three titles airing during the Winter 2020 season which could compete for my Most Anticipated of the Year honor – and, perhaps not coincidentally, they're all continuations or sequels that I will likely wind up doing episode reviews for. Even though it's already airing, Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld's final quarter will be one of the big titles of the season as the epic 47 episode arc comes to a conclusion. The adaptation has been well-done so far and I'm looking forward to the deeper involvement of secondary characters and seeing what happens in the end. A Certain Scientific Railgun 3 is among them because the Railgun branch of the franchise and Mikoto Mikasa as a character have long been favorites; of the three new series in that franchise, this is the one I was actually waiting for. Ultimately, though, I had to give the slight edge to the second season of 2019's funniest and cleverest comedy series. Not only will it continue to feature four of my five favorite isekai franchises, but it's also adding in The Rising of The Shield Hero into the mix, and that seems loaded with comedy potential. Amongst other titles that I am anticipating but at a lesser level, I am curious to see how In/Spectre works in anime form (I have read and generally liked the manga's first volume), what I've read and seen about Dorohedoro makes it sound potentially fantastic, and it's hard to ignore the arrival of Magia Record, the Madoka Magica side story. I'm also mildly interest in Breakers, as its concept – a focus on para-athletes – is something that I don't think has been done before in anime.
This winter the show I'm most looking forward to is a bit unusual for me in that it has strong potential to be sad, or at least very bittersweet, when it ends: Somali and the Forest Spirit. Despite my aversion to depressing stories, this still looks like it has amazing potential to be so beautiful that it doesn't matter all that much – not only do I really love the art in the original manga (published in English as Somari and the Guardian of the Forest, a title I think works a bit better), but the addition of soft, dreamscape colors really enhances its anime adaptation. It's also the sort of narrative that I think will really benefit from the addition of voices and music, both of which stand to enhance the already folkloric quality of the tale. It also presents an interesting twist on the usual fantasy story in that humans are being hunted to extinction, marking a shift in the power balance of the world and making they prey rather than the predators we normally see – and the hunters aren't the usual vampires that tend to show up when we get this kind of “humans = food” story. Instead it's a question of the natural world turning against humanity, and that does feel like a relevant fantasy to explore right now. But really what most draws me to this show is that it looks heartwarming and beautiful, and if it excels at either (or both) of those things, the potentially bittersweet ending may be worth it.
On the almost complete opposite end of the anime spectrum, the other show I'm eagerly anticipating is Haikyu!!'s fourth season. Since I'm about as far from a sports person as you can get, that says something about how engrossing this volleyball story is, and honestly, while I want to see them get as far as they can playing the game, I'm also really invested in the characters themselves. It was actually a tough call between Haikyu!! and Somali and the Forest Spirit for my top choice, but what pushed the fantasy a bit closer to the top was that I don't love the section of the story Haikyu!! is going to be starting with, so at the end of the day, I'll take an adorable child traveling with a dying Golem over determined high school volleyball players, if only by a tiny margin.
We're all ready for more of those good volleyball boys, right? After a little over two years, which felt like an eternity, Haikyu!! is returning for a fourth season, titled Haikyu!! To The Top, and I almost feel like I don't need to explain why this series is good. At this point, Haikyu!! is a series whose successes speak for themselves. It's kept up momentum and excitement despite these gaps in season production because the source material is so well-conceived fans are hanging on for every step this anime version takes. The previous season devoted its full run of ten episodes to depicting a single match of volleyball. That sounds like an absurd indictment of shonen-series tournament pacing, but anyone who watched will tell you it was the most brisk, nail-biting ten weeks of their life. With that in mind, I am a bit relieved to hear the story for Season 4 will see the cool crows of Karasuno not jumping straight into another tournament game, as a break will also serve to give me time to emotionally prepare for what's next. Because I am still coming down from the adrenaline high of the third season, two years later.
If that doesn't help me chill out, then the short-form psuedo-sequel to Laid-Back Camp very much ought to. Laid-Back Camp was an unexpected triumph when it released last year, finally demonstrating for me the unchecked potential power of the iyashikei genre. This little follow-up, titled HeyaCamp, presents a mere stop-off on the way to full proper second season, but hey, I'll take any excuse to spend more time relaxing outdoors with Rin and friends.
Once again, the anime I've been most looking forward to this Winter season has been gobbled up by the gaping maw of Netflix, so I'm starting my 2020 in limbo waiting for the adventures of my gyoza-loving lizard friend. Dorohedoro is, simply put, one of my all-time favorite manga. I love it so much I still haven't been able to bring myself to read its final volume, for fear that I'll finally have to confront the fact that it's over. It's a wonderfully weird piece of pop art that strikes a perfect balance between the goofy and the gory, and I couldn't be more excited about the anime introducing its lovable cast of magic murderers to a wider audience. I honestly don't even care if the anime is good—as long as it gets more people to read the manga, I'm content. At least, that's the attitude I'm trying to maintain, because I'm still a little apprehensive about the use of 3DCG in MAPPA's upcoming anime (Caiman in particular looks like a lizard puppet in the previews). However, I'm big fan of most of the staff and VA choices, and Shinji Kimura especially is the perfect choice for art director. Q Hayashida's scratchy and intricately detailed illustrations are what give Dorohedoro so much character, and I don't envy any animation team tasked with adapting her art into motion. In my mind, the perfect Dorohedoro adaptation would have aired during MTV's Liquid Television block, but absent that fantasy, I'm eager to see how this turns out.
As far as simulcasted anime goes, Winter's no-brainer for me is Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!. Masaaki Yuasa is simply one of the most talented directors working today, and all of his work with Science SARU has been incredible so far. I don't even know much about this particular anime beyond of the skeleton of its plot summary; Yuasa's name alone is more than enough to sell me on anything he does. His infectiously lively style has proven adept at adapting everything from down-to-earth sport narratives to cosmic struggles between humanity and the void, so I'll follow him wherever. The other Winter show that stands out to me is Somali and the Forest Spirit, which seems like a nice, mercifully isekai-free fantasy tale about a young human girl and her adoptive golem dad. I'm always a sucker for found-family stories, and the art direction and character design look distinctively pleasant and whimsical, so I'm hoping it all coheres into something that can keep me cozy during these cold winter months.
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