Peter shares his favorites from the summer season's hotly anticipated titles and pleasantly surprising premieres!
It’s that time again. We’ve had another spread out offering of premieres, with Attack on Titan’s first episode still set for this weekend. Since that one seems like a safe bet, I’ve determined it’s time to offer my recommendations. As usual, there are a lot of great anime that show a lot of promise, but not everyone has as much time as me to watch anime, so I’ve curated a list of my Top 5 (plus a few shoutouts) recommendations for the season!
I heard a lot of hype coming to what looked like a fairly typical shonen, maybe even leaning toward younger audiences with its quirky character and enemy designs and the colorful CG mechs that didn’t look like they’d be participating in very gruesome combat. Turns out looks can be deceiving. The first battle between the Nebula soldiers and the enemy was an Evangelion-esque battle where one of their number had to experience his most painful memories and defeat the monster by overcoming his past regrets. Even more engaging was the twist that makes you wonder whose side the amnesiac Soya is fighting for. There’s a lot going on, both fun and fascinating, and it’s all so oddball that it’s hard to distinguish between mysteries and red herrings. Is there any substance to Soya’s struggle to eat real meat or just a running gag? Only one way to find out.
Just visually, HANEBADO! comes into the season as a powerhouse. Amazing production, a superb opening, and great character designs make this an easy anime to give a try. While many sports series try to keep things upbeat, I was a fan of the notably dark opening episode where Nagisa suffers a crisis of confidence after being completely shut out by Hanesaki to the purpose where she wonders what the point of all her sweat and blood was worth if it couldn’t earn her a single point. Even better how that development lead into her doubling down and resenting anyone who wasn’t willing to put in the same effort. Hanesaki herself seems to have some angst regarding badminton leading to her quitting despite her overwhelming ability. This premiere was early so I’ve followed a few more episodes. I’m a little worried they’re rushing the resolutions of some of these struggles but I’m on the hook to see how it all plays out.
With the past two seasons delivering tremendous slice of life anime with Laid-Back Camp and HINAMATSURI, Asobi Asobase has quite the big shoes to fill as the preeminent comedy series of summer. The first two episodes have been very promising. Where LBC was fluffy and Hinamatsuri played with drama, Asobi Asobase is all about shitty characters being awful to one another and I’m here for it. Even the OP and ED have become part of the joke, with an opening misleadingly portraying the trio as innocent girls thinking about first love acting as a preamble to a scene where they’re mercilessly slapping one another capped off by my favorite ending of the season which shows their true colors. My absolute favorite is Olivia, who uses her english name and blonde hair to make the other girls think she’s a foreigner for the explicit purpose of getting away with whatever cruel abuse she can come conjure.
Have high hopes for this series as I, maybe unfairly, have been hoping it will fill the Golden Kamuy void before Sugimoto and Asirpa return in Fall. Always down for a historic drama and Angolmois is focusing on period of Japanese history that hasn’t seen much adaptation. The series is still setting things up but I’m definitely seeing some things I like. Good voice performance and, although the production seems a little bare, some good direction that makes the most out of its shots. The series brought out its big guns during the one big fight its had so far and also made it clear it's not afraid of blood. It also doesn’t seem to be out to lionize the events of the Mongol invasion, focusing on some national politics and denialism that indicate Japan may not mounted the most effective defense.This one will probably take a few more episodes to really kick into gear, but the characters and events so far have shown a lot of promise.
Not quite sure what to make of this one yet. I’ve previously written about how I’m fascinated by the unique backstory of this series, inspired by a freeware game created in RPG Maker. I’m always interested in seeing what aspect of a cult hit caused it to grow such huge fan base it gets adapted to anime, like Dies irae. The formula of an innocent girl getting locked in a building with a rogues gallery of serial killers is certainly a horror game standby, but a few developments have made me believe there’s something more to the series. Rachel’s ambiguous past, along with her scene with the dead bird, and final moments with Danny, imply that she might not be so different from the psychos she’s trapped with. Her dynamic with Zack has become much more goofy than I imagined. Not being afraid of the killer leaves her free to call him on his weird idiosyncrasies and he’s got nothing to threaten her with. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m in it for the drama or comedy, to be honest.
Those are my top 5 for the season, but there are many more shows I plan to follow. If you’re like me and can’t be satisfied by a single comedy, Chio’s School Road and Cells at Work! both had great premieres and look to offer a ton of quirky fun for the next three months. Although Harukana Receive didn’t leave as deep an impression as HANEBADO!, it’s second episode showed the series is serious about beach volleyball and has some good personal narratives as well. Holmes of Kyoto also delivered a mysterious first episode that has me on the line for at least a few more episodes.
Where last season had a lot of returning titans, Summer has had a ton of new titles, requiring a bit of dedication to find the shows that work best for us. I hope this list helped you narrow down some new anime to follow and, as always, give any shows I didn’t mention some love down in the comments! You might help someone else find their favorite anime of the season!