It's a new year, a new season, and with that comes a new batch of anime to watch. But what to watch? Obviously you'll keep up with the sequels to your favourite anime from yesteryear, but what about all those new titles you've never heard of before? You could go out there and watch all 20+ of the new anime, but who has time for that? You certainly don't! You've undoubtedly got far more procrastinating on the internet to do. So instead, why not let some poor sod like myself sift through the junk that Japan has served us this season and tell you which of them have had the most promising premieres.
Boku dake ga Inai Machi (Erased)
MAL Rated 8.77, Ranked #29 | Aired Winter 2016 | Produced by A-1 Pictures
Isn't it nice when Noitamina pulls one out of the bag, particularly after they had a weak 2015? The timeslot with a stated goal to make anime for an audience different than the typical young male crowd had drifted away from that in recent years, so it's nice to see them return to this genre lately. The story is about a failing manga author who finds himself with the ability to travel back in time, normally just for 10-20 seconds at a time to prevent something bad from happening. But then something very dramatic happens (that I won't spoil) and suddenly he finds himself being catapulted back in time a lot further than usual. A LOT further. One of the most impressive things about this premiere is how fantastically well written and directed everything is. The highest praise you can give it is that it doesn't do a single thing wrong. There's not a single misplaced line or awkward scene or confused pacing. It's about as close to a perfect first episode as you can get. If the series can keep up that form then we have something special on our hands here.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
MAL Rated 7.95, Ranked #571 | Aired Winter 2016 | Produced by Studio Deen
While Rakugo might not be as lacking in flaws as Erased is (the pacing is a little off whack, probably due to the fact the first episode is re-cut from the OVA that aired a few months beforehand), it nevertheless is the anime I'm more excited about because of how unique it is. The story is set in the '60s and features a dude who has just got out of prison and decides he's going to study Rakugo. Rakugo is an old Japanese form of performance arts that's probably best described as "kneel-down comedy". During a Rakugo showing, a performer sits in front of an audience and, using nothing but a fan as his prop, tells them a story, often humourous. Don't worry if you have no knowledge of Rakugo. The first episode animates a full performance, which is one of the highlights of the whole episode. For the scene to work, they had to pay careful attention to body language, changes in the tone of voice, and all sorts of little animation quirks to give the performance the impact it was set up by the story to have. The level at which they knocked that scene out of the park shows how fantastically talented the staff behind this is and how great this anime could end up being.
MAL Rated 7.44, Ranked #1732 | Aired Winter 2016 | Produced by Feel
Dagashi Kashi (or "Candy Crush" as some clever people have started calling it) is about a kid who has been told he has to take over his dad's old sweet shop in the middle of nowhere. Just as the son is trying to convince his dad that he wants to be a manga author instead, a very strange lady from out of town shows up and tries to convince him to follow in his father's footsteps. Dagashi Kashi could have been yet another forgettable shounen romcom, the kind of which Japan throws up several of every single year, but it manages to stand above its peers thanks to some genuinely hilarious characters. The girl from out of town is fantastic, from her profession of love towards the '40s era cartoon mascot character on the packet of crisps to her tale of how she came to town delivered in the form of a fantasy epic. But the real standout character is the dad, the man who looks like a Yakuza boss but squeals in glee when somebody expresses a love of candy like he does. Plus there's something endearing about the character designs, especially the slight cross-eyed look they give whenever they're excited by something.
MAL Rated 7.75, Ranked #925 | Aired Winter 2016 | Produced by Studio 3Hz
Dimension W almost feels like it was specifically targeted towards western, English speaking audiences. Which is probably why Funimation is one of the companies on the production committee. The series features a bounty hunting adult male protagonist, a hot robot girl, and a cyberpunk future with unlimited energy technology inspired by Tesla. Yes this is the works and if that sounds like the kind of thing you've been crying out for Japan to make, you're in luck. The show is wonderfully animated and features the main character doing a little bit of breakdancing in the opening credits. The story is not much to write home about as of yet. The main character has picked up the robot creation of a famous scientist who has a grudge with the government and she's determined to follow him on his bounty hunter quests. Nothing too special. But when something looks this good in a genre we've been craving for, we're more than willing to give it time to get up a head of steam.