Hello everyone, and welcome back to Why It Works! The fall season is truly winding down at this point, which means I’ve already started looking forward to what we can expect from the winter. And let me tell you, this winter is going to be a strong one--with plentiful hyped adaptations, lots of interesting original productions, and a host of talented creators between them, we’ve got plenty of compelling anime to look forward to. While it’s easy enough to recommend shows like The Promised Neverland based on their beloved source material, I feel this coming season’s bounty is most apparent in how many of my favorite anime directors are returning to handle new productions. So today on Why It Works, let’s highlight just a few of those directors, and perhaps zero in on what we can expect from their upcoming shows!
Yuzuru Tachikawa (Mob Psycho 100)
As I discussed a few weeks ago, I am beyond hyped for Mob Psycho’s second season, and a great deal of that excitement comes down to Mob’s director, Yuzuru Tachikawa. Tachikawa first came to my attention after the release of Death Billiards, his morbid and thrilling contribution to the Anime Mirai anthology project. That short film was later expanded into a full show, Death Parade, which demonstrated not only Tachikawa’s thematic ambition, but also his ability to stylishly adapt his tone to stories ranging from romance to horror to high melodrama. Tachikawa personally wrote the screenplay for all twelve episodes of Death Parade, and his hands-on approach to storytelling resulted in a first season of Mob Psycho that felt as dramatically cohesive and emotionally resonant as it was beautiful. Mob’s second season is in great hands.
Shingo Natsume (Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh)
Shingo Natsume began his career as an animator, contributing dramatic action cuts to works like Gurren Lagann and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. As a director, Natsume draws on his history as an animator and strong ties within the industry to create works brimming with beautiful action sequences and dynamic, creative cuts of animation. His greatest claim to fame so far is likely the first season of One Punch Man, an anime that offered dazzling visual spectacles from first episode to last, but he’s also demonstrated a keen eye for illustrating subtler drama through works like last year’s ACCA. I’m excited to see what he does with a story as beloved as Boogiepop Never Laughs!
Tatsuki only has one meaningful credit to his name, but it’s a big one: last year’s unexpected success story, the scrappy Kemono Friends. Originally conceived as a tie-in for a phone game that was on its last legs even before the show came out, Kemono Friends turned out to be a thoroughly charming and surprisingly well-written combination of slice of life adventures and post-apocalyptic drama. Tatsuki and his small team are now hard at work on an anime-original production that may well be the sleeper hit of the season, expanding on a small film he composed for an animation contest all the way back in 2012. Considering Tatsuki was able to turn a bare-bones tie-in into an emotionally rich hit, I’m eager to see what he does with his own original material.
Shinichi Omata (Kaguya-sama: Love is War)
Shinichi Omata first honed his skills on a variety of major productions by Studio SHAFT, contributing storyboards and directing episodes of renowned shows like Madoka Magica and Arakawa Under the Bridge. Having absorbed a variety of lessons from his work on these visually arresting productions, Omata ultimately left the studio, and began to develop his own visual identity through shows like Sankarea and Rozen Maiden. Omata’s productions possess a beauty and purposefulness of composition that make every their every scene feel like a living tapestry, and in 2016, his skills elevated Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju into a genuine masterpiece. Kaguya-sama may not possess the same pedigree as Rakugo’s source material, but any show with Omata at the helm is worth a watch.
Tsutomu Mizushima (Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai)
Tsutomu Mizushima has a catalog that speaks for itself - in recent years, he’s directed beloved shows ranging from Girls und Panzer to Shirobako to Prison School to Witch Craft Works (as well as The Lost Village, a self-aware horror catastrophe that nearly defies description). Mizushima’s works aren’t really defined by a resounding visual signature like Omata or Tachikawa; in fact, his skills as a director may be more organizational than visual, as his works always seem to bring the best out of his whole team. The one thing you can undoubtedly say for Mizushima is that the dude understands what makes drama fun--whether it’s office feuds or wild tank battles, Mizushima has a keen understanding of pacing, efficient characterization, and all the other building blocks of engaging narrative drama. Mizushima has earned an open invitation to my anime table, and I’m eager to see how he charms us next.
I should probably stop here, but there are certainly plenty of other talented creators to look out for in the winter season. Whether individual shows succeed or fail, anime as a whole provides us inspiring stories of brilliant animators, directors, and writers honing their craft day after day, and developing styles that bring a unique appeal to whatever projects they touch. I’m excited to see how all my favorite artists express themselves this season, and please let me know in the comments what other shows you're all looking forward to!