This year's spring season has a lot to live up to. Spring 2018's Boku no Hero Academia 3rd Season brought back one of the most popular franchises of this anime generation; Steins;Gate 0 presented a twisted version of one of MAL's top anime; Hinamatsuri was Anime of the Year for numerous site moderators; Megalo Box was arguably the biggest sleeper hit of 2018; and Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii was the second-most popular romantic comedy of the year.
It goes without saying that first impressions are incredibly important; they can make or break a show for its initial viewers. But there are always so many shows in a season, and it's hard to know what to watch. To help out, we decided to watch the premieres for 20 of the most popular shows this season and put together our thoughts.
We've excluded sequels like One Punch Man 2nd Season and Bungou Stray Dogs 3rd Season. If you've already seen the previous installments, you likely already know whether or not you'll want to watch their sequels.
So without further ado, here are our shows to watch (and not watch)* in Spring 2019!
*Based on premiere impressions only
Verdict: Maybe Watch
Silver and Arvo Animation? Who? Never heard of 'em…
The original Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai manga was discussed from time to time by my MAL friendship group, and while I didn't pay much attention to the specifics, it still piqued my interest in its anime adaptation. Despite not usually being the biggest fan of harem shows, this one took me by surprise with the vibrancy of its characters, art, and soundtrack, especially from a fledgling studio. High school girls needing to be tutored by the cliché "hard-working poor student" to achieve competency in their desired areas of study is an unfortunately thin premise, but the series is oddly soothing and relatable, albeit lacking in raw comedy.
While some may not be fans of a brighter, more colourful art style, the rich hues of this show contribute to its charm. Surprisingly, what caught me the most was the music, which isn't what you'd immediately expect from a harem anime. In the first half of the episode, the touching background tones established an emotional connection with the characters and their plight; emotions it almost had no right to for what it was. My main point of criticism is that the defining characteristics and motivations of Furuhashi and Ogata are clumsily shoehorned in. The statements "I love the stars, so I want to study science" and "I want to understand emotions, so I want to study the liberal arts" are delivered rather bluntly without the emotional grace they really required. Nevertheless, this is the better, much more promising series about being unable to study this season.
During the first few minutes of Carole & Tuesday's premiere, I was absolutely engrossed. The character we're first introduced to, Tuesday, is likable from the get-go, and the tidbits of worldbuilding that we see in the first few scenes are nothing short of magical. Rustic Victorian architecture, tastefully mixed with sci-fi flair. A giant Creamy Cream Doughnuts sign, bathing the wide open countryside in a warm neon glow. An automatically rolling suitcase that, for some reason, gave me fond memories of the Companion Cube. Everything was going perfectly, and when the show treated us to a wide shot of Mars' Alba City and a statue of Ares pointing his spear triumphantly at the sky – I was absolutely brimming with confidence, confidence that Carole & Tuesday's premiere would be the best of the season.
However, a few minutes after we met the show's second titular character, Carole, the episode quickly began to lose its momentum. Sure, the characters never became any less likable. The worldbuilding elements were definitely still there. But the sense of wonder I experienced in the opening scenes faded away as more of the story was revealed, replaced by a gnawing feeling that the show was beginning to tread familiar (and rather banal) ground.
This isn't to say that the premiere was bad. It's just very, very frontloaded. Still, as predictable as the story is shaping up to be, I feel that the real stars of the show – Carole, Tuesday, and their music – will make this journey an enjoyable one at the very least. Based off of the premiere, my recommendation for Carole & Tuesday is a tentative "watch."
Verdict: Probably Don't Watch
Fairy Gone was arguably one of the most hyped originals this season. Early promotional material teased good visuals, an intriguing premise, and a setting very reminiscent of Youjo Senki's take on the WW1 era. And indeed, the first episode of Fairy Gone contained many of these things – strong art direction (the design of the fairies in particular), an interesting world, and hints of an emotionally-charged plot. The ingredients were all there.
But where Fairy Gone's first episode fails is in bringing all those pieces together. You can have all the best ingredients in the world – a subpar cook will still produce a subpar meal. In other words, Fairy Gone's direction is bad. Pacing and presentation of the story are messy, and there are a number of very questionable shots (for example, one very early on, where a soldier throws a sword that inexplicably sticks in the ground). The editing also leaves much to be desired, with the camera jumping around far more than it should.
As reddit users u/TangledPellicles and u/uselessBMO put it, "Looks like the guy who directed [Fairy Gone] directed Jojo." … "Except with Jojo it kinda works."
All in all, the messy premiere makes it hard to recommend Fairy Gone. At the same time, I also find it hard to completely write the show off. The world it presents just has so much raw potential. And with 24 episodes total, Fairy Gone still has a lot of ways that it could go. Hopefully, with a marked improvement in direction, that way will be "up."
I can't tell you if the first episode was a good adaptation of the manga, nor can I tell you if it improved on the original 2001 series. I came into Fruits Basket (2019) as someone who has never watched an episode nor read a chapter of Fruits Basket in my life but was very aware of its deep cultural status. Fans of the manga and original series will already be very well-inclined to check this series out, so I'm here to tell all of you out there who were like me, someone yet to be introduced to this world of perseverance, self-exploration, and pure magic, that this is a series you can and should watch.
Fruits Basket is full of archetypal characters: the abundantly optimistic Tooru, the dashing prince Yuki, the solemn but sometimes perverted Shigure, and the emotional bad boy Kyou. It's this cast of eccentric characters that clearly makes Fruits Basket shine, a group of misfits you can't help but open yourself up to almost immediately. Their dialogue doesn't quite hit the mark it's aiming for in the humour department, but there's an extraordinary level of humanity projected, rather ironically, from this family that involuntarily transform into the animals of the Zodiac. I don't know what's coming, but the first episode makes clear that it's going to be an emotional journey with just the right amount of nuance.
Although I found the character art to be a bit clunky and uneven at times (particularly Tooru's), the vivid colours and enchanting backgrounds upheld its visual quality and set a tender tone throughout the episode, bringing Fruits Basket into the modern era of anime and the hearts of its fans, both old and new.
"Born too late to explore the earth. Born too soon to explore the galaxy."
The start of many a bittersweet meme, these words muse on a rather disappointing truth – the vast majority of us will never be able to experience the wonder of exploration. Though we may see the same sights as great explorers like Lewis and Clark, we will never be surprised in the same way that they were. We already know what to expect when we visit national parks. We've seen the pictures, read the reviews. It's a shame, really. All that's left to explore are the depths of the sea and the far reaches of space. And with the exception of an outstanding few, none of us will ever get to explore those places ourselves.
What would happen, then, if an entirely new continent were to suddenly rise out of the sea? As soon as Gunjou no Magmel posed this question and began to tell the story of the Second Age of Exploration, I was sold. It also doesn't hurt that the main character, Inyou, plays a very interesting role within this premise. He's an "angler," and his job is to rescue explorers who have fallen victim to the new continent's countless horrors (yeah, things get pretty grisly).
However, despite the great promise that the anime's backstory holds, I don't believe Gunjou no Magmel will have nearly the same amount of staying power as something like Made in Abyss. So far, Gunjou no Magmel's execution just isn't that great. Animation is often stiff and incredibly awkward (looking at you, dead guy. Your rigor mortis set in within literal seconds) and, more importantly, the story in the premiere is not as impactful as it could be. I don't want to spoil too much of the plot, so just take my word for it – there's a part near the end of the episode where you're obviously supposed to get a case of the feels. Unfortunately, the weak way in which the anime built up to that point makes the whole thing fall rather flat.
At the end of the day, Gunjou no Magmel is a show that I definitely intend to continue watching. I don't think it's going to be making any "Top Anime" lists, though.
Verdict: Maybe Watch
There's really not too much to say about this one. Adapted from a free-to-play mobile game, Hachigatsu no Cinderella Nine is being made by the same studio that's also in charge of the Fruits Basket remake. If you were managing that studio, where would you be budgeting the majority of your resources? Hmmmm...
In all seriousness though, you'll know if this show is for you. Everything, from the art to the voice acting, clocks in at a solid "okay, I guess," and nothing makes it stand out from all the other shows that feature cute, all-girl casts doing things in cute ways. But if you're in the niche audience that a "moe sports anime" caters to, give this a go. Otherwise, there's probably no reason to bother.
(If all you're looking for is a solid baseball anime, look no further than Diamond no Ace. The third season is airing right now!)
Verdict: Probably Watch
Having social anxiety isn't easy by any means, and entering school without any pre-existing friends can be one of the most crippling challenges in early life. I certainly understand that feeling, and evidently many others do as well judging by the episode discussion thread. While the first episode of Hitoribocchi does balance this issue and its comedic inclinations to a degree, it leans more into humorously awkward situations than attempting to realistically explore that premise.
Hitori Bocchi, as a new middle school student, desperately tries to avoid the daunting challenge of introducing herself and making friends with childish ploys, some of which are genuinely amusing. It's this natural immaturity that makes me mostly okay with foregoing a proper dive into its thinly underlying theme of social anxiety. The series' brand of comedy lies mainly in Bocchi's self-dialogue and the snappy timing of her live reactions, providing relatable and entertaining spurts of emotion over real, everyday hurdles in a school environment (e.g. overthinking the actions of other people and how to address a friend's troubles). While Hitoribocchi may not be the most compelling nor the most humorous representation of making friends, the story may be worth something yet if it continues to lean into its heart of supporting (and supportive) characters, of which Nako is a great start.
It's no Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. adaptation, but it's certainly cute and funny enough to be a substitute until we get one (hopefully).
Verdict: Watch (if relevant)
Only half of this show appealed to me from the outset: I really enjoyed Re:Zero and Konosuba, but I haven't watched Youjo Senki and Overlord is, to be brutally honest, insufferably boring. But upon watching the first episode, I found the show's greatest strength. The inability to appreciate a quarter of the references and my aversion to another quarter didn't diminish my enjoyment of its character and context-driven comedy at all, not to mention the truly fascinating concept: basically, an isekai isekai. Of course, you still need a decent amount of awareness of each series to really stay engaged with its premise.
For some reason, the first episode felt the need to spill background exposition for Youjo Senki and Tanya alone, seemingly under the assumption that a minority of its audience would have seen or read the series. Despite being one of those sorely targeted viewers, it felt ultimately unnecessary and time-wasting when there could have been more specific interactions across franchise casts in those precious minutes. After all, who knows how many we have to witness this spectacular spectacle?
Even though the overload of main characters are in chibi form, the designs are crisp and oddly appealing, managing enough expressiveness to adequately emulate every eccentric personality on display and perform visual comedy. My only worry is that the show will quickly run out of gags and its novelty value in the long run despite rich character material, even with the underlying storyline it established at the end of the first episode. However, for now, this is a must-watch for fans of any of Konosuba, Re:Zero, Overlord, or Youjo Senki.
- Complete lack of dialogue makes for an interesting premise
- Complete lack of dialogue makes the show incomprehensible
Joshikausei asks for just three minutes of your time every week. In exchange, it offers you a trip. What's not to love? This gets a "watch" from me!
Verdict: Don't Watch
If you're an anime fan, you're likely well aware of how pervasive and repetitive the "Isekai" subgenre has become. The setup almost always goes the same way – a somewhat disillusioned Japanese male dies in a freak traffic accident and gets reincarnated into a fantasy world where some form of magic exists. Then, because [insert the only unique part of the story's premise here], MC ends up becoming the strongest person in the land, racks up a harem, and on and on and on.
Kenja no Mago looks poised to follow this formula to the tee. And even though this uninspired approach usually results in a fairly entertaining show... Yeah. I don't know about this one.
The world is dull. The plot is dull. The visuals (though reasonably well-executed) are dull. And perhaps worst of all, the characters – MC in particular – are incredibly dull. A good writer will tell you that one of the most integral parts of a compelling story is character motivation. And so far, all we've found out about what the main character wants is… well, nothing. All we know is that he transmigrated, he's OP, and that his street-smarts are sitting at an impressive 0%. That's it. Compare this with last season's overwhelmingly popular The Rising of the Shield Hero, where the main character's desire for revenge serves as an outstanding front-and-center hook to an otherwise average story.
Watching the first episode of Kenja no Mago left me convinced that this show is actually meant to be a parody, a la 2016's poorly-received Mayoiga. It does everything you expect an Isekai to do, in such a bland way as to be funny, and – as many viewers have already pointed out – features a mansion and female lead that are suspiciously familiar.
I will give the show credit where credit is due, however. It's implied at one point that knowledge of modern chemistry may play a role in MC's over-tuned magical ability. That, if nothing else, was very interesting.
In the end, this show gets a "don't watch" from me. As the hero himself so aptly put, when witnessing the events of his own freaking show:
But if you're really in need of another Isekai offering to watch alongside Shield Hero, this will probably tide you over until the next one comes along. Just don't go in with high expectations.
I really, really had my doubts at first. The episode opened with a jarring use of CGI (though more naturally fitting than most) and the music was far too dramatic for what was actually happening, muddling the tension leading up to the dramatic drop. But that didn't matter one bit for the thrilling 15 minutes that followed it. Thanks to the well-established dream team of studio ufotable and composer Yuki Kajiura, we were treated to what was one of the best premieres of the new season. Accompanied by an effective assortment of musical stylings appropriate for the setting, the carefully crafted "camera work", riveting voice acting, and ambient sound effects sent literal chills down my spine both out of horror and awe.
Tanjirou's character and the beginning of his story arc are definitively established in the span of 24 minutes without feeling rushed or crowded: a reliable young boy with a gifted sense of smell, who will do anything to protect his loved ones. While it does sound cliché in writing, there's just something really compelling about him, and I'm looking forward to his journey from here. And of course, LiSA continues to uphold her reputation with another exhilarating opening theme that will surely top many viewers' favorites of Spring 2019.
Before watching the first episode, I knew three things about this show – one, that it features Kotos (a "Japanese zither," for all intents and purposes), two, that it's adapted from a very well-rated manga, and three, that it's tagged as a shounen. And honestly, I think that's really all you need to know. Those three things tell you exactly what to expect.
The prim and unassuming Takezou. The angsty and misunderstood Chika. These are the two main characters that we've been introduced to so far, and there's a lot of distrust and conflict between them at first. Unsurprisingly, however, their mutual love of the Koto quickly brings them together. Also unsurprising is the fact that this show might as well be viewed as an underdog sports anime; the Koto club is dying and in desperate need of new members (shocking), and the goal left to Takezou by his now-graduated seniors is to advance to the Nationals (shocking).
As tried and true as its formula is, the show delivers on it well. And by centering its story on a traditional musical instrument – a Japanese zither that has been out of the mainstream for decades, if not centuries – it makes things just unique enough to pique my interest. I, for one, can't wait to see how the inevitable "Koto battles" will go.
Kono Oto Tomare's premiere was probably one of the safest ones I watched. You can't really go wrong with it.
Verdict: Don't Watch
The title already explains everything you need to know: a capitalised NO and the word "Hate".
The first episode just couldn't decide what it wanted to be: a serious drama steeped in mystery or a slapstick comedy steeped in ecchi? Sure, anime is the medium for delightfully combining the two, but the bumbling division of atmospheres in Kono Yo no Hate de Koi wo Utau Shoujo YU-NO's storytelling was frustrating, to say the least. Especially since the premise genuinely interested me before I dived into this troubling introduction to a series with two cours.
As a fellow adaptation of dated material like Fruits Basket (2019), it strikes out far more spectacularly in its attempt to be both humorous and dramatically interesting. For example, Mitsuki, like every other character, is wondrously thrown before our emotionally paradoxical main character Takuya to bluntly offer her condolences for his father, but then immediately transitions to whispering "I'd make you feel better again" seductively into his ear and just leaves. Days later as I write this, my head is still in my hands from that moment, which probably should not have been the most memorable part of a show with the tags Drama and Sci-Fi.
By far, this was the most agonising premiere of Spring 2019, but I plan to continue for the small amount of original interest I still have in its premise (and my stubbornness to not drop anime).
Verdict: Maybe Watch
Continuing the apparent Spring 2019 theme of students struggling to study due to… circumstances, we have the middle ground between Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? and Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai.
I'm rather glad that they chose to go with a half-episode runtime, because it condenses events into satisfactory blocks that doesn't have me checking the timestamp waiting for it to be over as I feel it would at full length; neither of the two episodes so far feel rushed in their effort to tell an offbeat story. As a comedy, it's doesn't quite hit the mark and I don't really see that side improving much. Its sexually-driven humour doesn't live up to the likes of the much-beloved Prison School or High School DxD, but the relative subtlety of which does well to accentuate its premise (particularly the memorable expressions of Ao-chan herself). As a quirky romance, I see a lot of potential in the forward sincerity of Takumi versus the troubling sexual over-awareness of Ao-chan to remain engaged with the ongoing developments in their "youthful" relationship.
Among a field of strong opening themes like Kimetsu no Yaiba's "Gurenge" by LiSA and Sarazanmai's "Massara" by KANA-BOON, "WONDERFUL WONDER" by EDOGA-SULLIVAN manages to hold its own with a catchy, unique rhythm and sensibly fun animation that has me coming back to it on YouTube and Spotify more regularly than I'd like to admit. Honestly, I may have to call it my favourite OP of the season.
Verdict: Probably Don't Watch
I don't know whether or not this was a sensible assumption, but I went into this series expecting sexual hijinks more on the playful ecchi side of things. I could not have been more wrong. It's so numbingly over-the-top that it took me some time to collect my thoughts after the episode was done.
A spirited student who incidentally finds himself in compromising positions (both physically and figuratively) with all manner of the opposite sex is certainly nothing new in the world of anime, but none so brazenly shameful as this. With an implied golden shower and not-so-implied suppository in only the first episode of a mere 12 minutes in length, Nande Koko ni Sensei ga!? is setting itself up for a runaway train ride I'm not sure I want to be on, but can't resist taking to see the lengths to which it goes. In a bafflingly strange way, it's mildly enjoyable.
I really don't have anything else to add. If you're after senseless but decently made softcore porn, this is the series for you.
Verdict: Probably Don't Watch
Most of this season's premieres can be summed up in one or two neat sentences. RobiHachi's, not so much. But if I were to try, the terms "penthouse spaceship transformer" and "needlessly naive main character" would definitely make their way in there. It's a rather surreal show so far, and I'm not convinced that that's a good thing.
Apart from the strangeness of it all, there's not much else worth commenting on. RobiHachi does have its funny moments. The colorful art design is right up my alley. The characters' eventual destination, Isekander, is intriguing enough. However, I can't really bring myself to care that much about the characters or what they're doing.
RobiHachi's premiere was certainly a bright one. Fun, even. It just wasn't very compelling at all.
Sarazanmai is, put simply, disgusting. Disgustingly good.
I didn't realise how much of a respected name Kunihiko Ikuhara was to the MAL community until I read through the episode discussion thread, and soon discovered that I had encountered his work before in Yuri Kuma Arashi, a surreal experience that became an ongoing meme (Kuma Shock!) with an old friend of mine and still resonates with me today despite its flaws. With the new addition of Sarazanmai, I may now have to consider myself a fan of his unapologetically ludicrous but thematically pleasing works.
The most shocking part of this absurd 23 minutes wasn't the dizzying amalgamation of rich imagery and symbolism nor the extreme amount of anally-charged aesthetics, it's that it was stupidly fun regardless of how you engaged with its underlying messages, and I was ready to watch it all over again within minutes of completion. It wasn't quite the most exciting premiere of Spring 2019, but it was easily the most visually gratifying of the lot in terms of not just animation quality, but how those visual elements were directed as well.
Whether you're the type to indulge in poignant allegories or just simply watch for a good time, there's something there for you in Sarazanmai (provided you're not overly squeamish). It's certainly not for everyone, but I can't help recommending it to anyone and everyone regardless of taste just to see their reaction.
It's a rare thing to say nowadays since English localization of anime has probably gotten as good as it's ever going to be… but the magic of Senryuu Shoujo is lost in translation.
From the moment I read the synopsis, I began to have misgivings. "The main character communicates using haikus? And that's her whole shtick...?" If you're like me, and you were forced to write "haikus" during middle school, you'll probably have a pretty good idea of where I'm going with this. Taking a distinct form of poetry from a distinct cultural style within Eastern literature and trying to garble it into something digestible for people raised on Western literature… doesn't really work. Again, the magic is lost in translation.
As for the rest of the episode, it's pretty standard fare. A quiet, almost painfully adorable girl. A misunderstood "bad boy" who actually has a heart of gold. A literature club that these two characters both belong to. Honestly, I'm quite surprised that this show isn't tagged as a romance, because it gives off mad romcom vibes.
Is Senryuu Shoujo watchable? So far, absolutely. But with such an important aspect of it watered down in the localization, I don't think it'll appeal to Western audiences as much as it does to Eastern ones. And that's a damn shame.
Verdict: Probably Watch
Sewayaki Kitsune no Senko-san is a wish-fulfillment show that I have to admit I almost willingly embraced without judgment in the second half of the episode thanks to its pure and fuzzy wholesomeness, a staple of Doga Kobo anime. It's almost impossible not to empathise with the stressed and overloaded company worker with no time or self-care for himself, a bleak reflection of modern society.
On the playing field of iyashikei anime, standing alongside the likes of Natsume Yuujinchou and Yuru Camp△, it still has a ways to go in order to prove itself worthy. Heart and healing aren't merely achieved through visually cosy moments, but through exploring something meaningful with its characters and their desires. There's potential in the budding relationship between Nakano and his new companion, but the current lack of depth to Senko-san herself makes this show feel more like a superficial version of Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon.
It's a nice setup, but contrary to broad fan reaction, it's not the pamperer but the pamperee that's carrying the show for me at this stage. He exhibited just as much adorableness as the caring fox girl despite being a tired middle-aged man, or rather because he was just a tired middle-aged man who was finally able to smile for himself.
Verdict: Don't Watch
We've all slogged through boring filler episodes before, and many of us have probably thought that "man, I wish anime would just cut out all the fluff." Well, Shoumetsu Toshi is here to answer the call, putting the pedal to the metal right from the start – exposition is kept to a minimum and everything proceeds at a blistering pace. In a refreshing departure from the narration-heavy approach we so often see these days, "show, don't tell" takes center stage here.
There's just one small problem. What Shoumetsu Toshi has to show in its first episode isn't all that great, both literally and figuratively. The quality of the animation varies wildly; the characters and story are often more lifeless than the questionable CGI scattered throughout; the show goes from giving off a sci-fi vibe in the beginning to having the MC dodging simultaneous attacks from a helicopter gunship and a Taoist monk while blazing along in his moped. Really, it's just a bit too much corny anime nonsense delivered in too small of a package, as if an entire season's worth of show was crammed into one single episode.
The result is a premiere that is objectively quite bad… but also surprisingly enjoyable (and probably not for the reasons the creators intended). Something about Shoumetsu Toshi's dumb and turbocharged approach really clicked with me, and I had way more fun watching the MC weaving his moped through a storm of shoddily-animated gunfire than I had any right to.
Does that mean this premiere is worth your time, though? Eh. No, not really.