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Japanator's Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide!

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Oh, all the series we will watch

Spring hasn't really sprung for me in my neck of the woods yet, but it's officially the season of flower buds and abundant sunshine, no matter what my thermostat says. Fortunately, even if I have to wait a while for warm, beautiful weather to grace my doorstep, I won't have to wait much longer for a fresh new crop of animated entertainment, as the verdurous spring anime season is just about upon us.

Here's our pre-season guide to what's coming out and who's covering what. Of course, show assignments may change as Jtor editors viciously plot and scheme behind each other's backs to steal the best shows and leave their competitors with lame harem fare, so take that particular information with a few grains of salt. Some of these shows look promising, others not so much, but there's one thing we know for certain: no matter what happens this season, Recently My Sister is Unusual will definitely be over. YES.

LET'S SPRING!

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

Many men

  • Studio: David Production (JoJo: Phantom Blood, JoJo: Battle Tendency)
  • Air Date: April 4

This is already the standout show of the season for many before it's even aired -- to the extent that people are saying "Who even cares what else is airing in the spring, there's more Jojo!" Personally I missed the boat on Jojo, but considering just how excited anime fans are for this second season, it looks like I'm going to have to catch up if I want to retain what little cred I have as an aniblogger. However, that won't be my job next season, as Elliot will clearly need another weekly brew of over-the-top action to inject directly into his veins once Kill La Kill comes to an end. Expect him to be all over this like show like Mako Mankanshoku with a plate of piping hot croquettes.

Knights of Sidonia

White knighting?

  • Studio: Polygon Pictures (Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, Sky Crawlers)
  • Air Date: April 10

"Though this one more or less flew under the radar as a manga, as an anime it's had quite a few folks intrigued. Sidonia offers mecha-based, high-concept anime with an almost Titan A.E.-like post-apocalypse plot, full of generation ships, gene-engineering, third genders and a voluminous cast. Sidonia seems to be what older anime fans who watch for sci-fi have been waiting for. It also reminds me a bit of Broken Blade, the serious sci-fi darling of a few years ago."-- Josh Tolentino.

What Josh says. The CG-animation will be a turnoff for some viewers, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I didn't watch Arpeggio of Blue Steel, but this show has some surface similarities; I think the fact that it doesn't include ships personified into adorable moe girls may lead to it being taken more seriously. I hope this show ends up being a quality example of hard sci-fi, because it seems like that's a genre that anime tends to botch more often than not. I'm going to be covering this, and though I'm only a casual sci-fi fan -- I've always been a fantasy gal at heart -- maybe this will be the story that converts me.

The Irregular at Magic High School

Magic sibling love

  • Studio: Madhouse (Wolverine, Iron Man, X-Men, Redline)
  • Air Date: April 6

"I figured it was inevitable that this light novel series would get an anime adaptation. I know this because even as far back as Accel World's 6th episode, where billboards and posters advertised the novels and even implied an anime was on the way."-- Josh Tolentino

This is the show that everyone's saying is going to be "the next Sword Art Online," and as Japanator's resident person who doesn't hate Sword Art Online, I thought I'd give it a shot. However, I'm having second thoughts; this is by the same people that did the X-Men anime? Really? That was one of the worst shows I've ever seen. Plus the main character is supposedly bad at magic and goes to magic high school, only all the girls totally want him for some mysterious reason; it's one of those deals. Plus, this is one of those shows where all the girls have weird-looking boobs. Seriously, I'm okay with boobs getting an emphasis, but if you want to showcase breasts, learn how to draw breasts; is that really so much to ask?

Oh well, it looks like this may be typical harem fare, a la Infinite Stratos II, but maybe this one will surprise us. I'll try to keep an open mind and see what there is to learn at this latest magical school; it certainly can't be any duller than this season's Magical Warfare. It just...can't.

No Game, No Life

Soo many colors

  • Studio: Madhouse (Wolverine, X-Men, Redline)
  • Air Date: April 9

So instead of a tale of one awesome gamer who gets pulled into a video game, No Game, No Life features a brother-sister pair of awesome gamers who get pulled into a video game. I'm tempted to poke fun at how many of these sorts of shows we've seen lately, but the fact of the matter is, there's nothing inherently wrong with the "pulled-into-a-video-game" format; it's only a problem when the writing isn't any good. I don't know how the writing is going to be for this one, but at the very least, from the trailer the animation seems to have some spark to it; I'm kind of digging those weird glowing eye-worm thingies a few characters are sporting, among other things.

Who knows, maybe this will be the video game anime that puts other video game anime to shame. At the very least, it should help keep fans of Sword Art Online and Log Horizon occupied until those shows return in the summer and fall, respectively. L.B. has donned his iridescent, flame-retardant gear and is prepared to cover this, along with about ten other shows; seriously, if there's a show you're interested in that isn't listed here, you should probably just assume L.B. is covering it. He's a go-getter, that one.

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (Nanana's Buried Treasure)

Purty girlfriend

  • Studio: A-1 ([email protected])
  • Air Date: April 10

The Noitamina block just ain't what it used to be. When it started out, it was where you looked to find original anime that had something new and different to offer. However, ever since the baffling decision to air Black Rock Shooter years ago, the brand no longer stands for creativity and artistic merit the way it once did. Now, with Nanana's Buried Treasure, the once celebrated platform for creative, original shows is being used for...a magical girlfriend show. A young man encounters a beautiful girl with magical powers, and hijinks ensue, blah blah blah you know the rest. Unless this is the show that's going to perform a massive deconstruction of the magical girlfriend show (yeah, ok), it looks like yet another harbinger of Noitamina's slow decline.

Still, Aniplex of America ran out and licensed this before it even premiered, so maybe they know something about this show that we don't; after all, it is possible that the bog-standard premise could be hiding something more interesting. I checked who signed up to cover this, and apparently Amber signed up to cover Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin and L.B. signed up to cover Nanana's Buried Treasure, so they've both laid claim to it in different languages. You guys? Work this out among yourselves, okay? Don't make this have to go to a cage match, you have no idea what that does to our insurance premiums.

Goukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in the Darkness)

Well they're certainly in darkness

  • Studio: Arms (Wizard Barristers, Elfen Lied)
  • Air Date: April 6

A brainchild of Lynn Okamoto, the creator of Elfen Lied, the big question on everybody's lips about the upcoming Brynhildr is "Will this be super-violent like Elfen Lied, or just kind-of-sort-of violent?" Either way, we didn't have much violence this past season (with the exception of the Guillotine Gorilla Incident that will forever live in infamy), so fans who like some proper gore with their entertainment are definitely going to have to give this a shot.

The set-up -- featuring a sad boy who is made less sad when he encounters a girl who looks exactly like his dead childhood friend -- doesn't really tell us much, so it's mainly the Elfen Lied pedigree that draws interest here. Studio Arms also did Wizard Barristers though, and after the travesty of justice that was Wizard Barristers 11, let's just hope that they manage their animation budget a little better this time around; it kind of defeats the purpose of gore if you can't see it. Brittany, our mistress of horror coverage, will be tackling this one, but of course.

Mekaku City Actors

Actors or vocaloids?

  • Studio: Shaft (Nisekoi, Madoka Magica)
  • Air Date: April 12

All the trailers for this show so far do that annoying thing where they just show still character artwork but make the camera zoom all over the damn place to try to fool you into thinking it's animated. Fortunately, since this is a Shaft project, we already have a pretty good idea what this show's going to look like: expect plenty of supposedly "normal" locations that actually look like they take place on an alien planet, or perhaps in some bizarre hell dimension where everyone's neck is triple-jointed.

I've read like five summaries and I still don't quite get the concept of this show; supposedly it's based on a series of popular Vocaloid music videos. I mean, I know what all of those words mean individually, but what? Anyway, the story is about a guy who meets a magic vocaloid and gets magical powers...and is also an actor, I think? Then he and a team of actors use their new powers to fight, I don't know, Beyonce? This sounds like it has all the makings of a hot mess to me, unless it comes back around from the other direction and becomes fabulous. Chris missed his Shaft fix by forgetting that Nisekoi existed this season, so he's going to give Mekaku the old college try.

Ping Pong The Animation

Sometimes it's called table tennis

  • Studio: Tatsunoko Productions (Gatchaman Crowds, Wake Up, Girls!)
  • Air Date: April 10

This one is a bit of an oddity. A popular sports manga being tapped for an anime adaptation is certainly nothing new, but it's pretty unusual for a studio to go back and pick a manga from twenty or so years ago. Plus, it's being directed by Maasaki Yuasa of Tatami Galaxy fame, which means it's a sports anime with a really respected director at the helm. I've been hearing for years that Tatami Galaxy is a woefully unappreciated masterpiece, so I look forward to seeing what the guy can do with the story of a bunch of dudes playing ping pong; I should also go back and watch Tatami Galaxy already, but that's neither here nor there.

Yuasa's trademark art style -- which many people consider ugly -- is on full display in the trailer, so it's possible the visuals may turn some viewers off right from the outset. However, as a card-carrying fan of Flowers of Evil, there is no anime with characters too ugly for me to get into! NONE!

Ben, always quick on the draw when something with good critical buzz comes along, will be covering this to fill the hole in his life after Samurai Flamenco is over. Of course, we all know that nothing can truly replace Samurai Flamenco, but hey, that's not Ping Pong's fault.

Black Bullet

Back to back fisticuffs

  • Studio: Kinema Citrus (Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Yuyushiki)
  • Air Date: April 8

In the year 2031, Tokyo still exists, and there are magical girls in it; there is also one dude with a gun, who interacts with the magical girls. There's some kind of magical virus at work, but it only affects females, and...honestly, this sounds like the most generic light novel adaptation ever and I'm having trouble mustering up the interest to even write a few sentences about it. That's not to say it's necessarily going to be bad, and in a moment of foolishness I agreed to cover it, so I hope it has something going for it. But it sounds like every other light novel that's been adapted in the last four years...that doesn't feature a bunch of people trapped in an MMO.

Since I have nothing else to say about the show, let's talk about the song by fripside that's playing in the trailer: is it just me, or does every song that fripside has put out since Only My Railgun sound just like Only My Railgun, only not nearly as good? Discuss!

Kenzen Robo Daimidaler (Daimidaler the Sound Robot)

SOUND ROBOT

  • Studio: TNK (Ikkitousen: Xtreme Xecutor, High School DxD)
  • Air Date: April 5

First of all, this show may have the most annoying website I have ever seen. I'm conflicted about Daimidaler; on the one hand, the villains are supposedly giant penguin robots, and I am all about giant penguin anything. However, the enemy mechs in the trailer don't actually look all that penguin-like and apparently, our protagonist powers his robot through lust and can only go into combat after groping a girl's soft bits...all brought to you by the studio responsible for Ikkitousen: Xtreme Xecutor. Is there any sentence in existence that inspires less confidence then "From the studio that brought you Ikkitousen: Xtreme Xecutor?" Not too many, I'm sure.

I don't know if the alleged penguin motif can do anything to save this one, but there's always a chance it'll turn out to be wacky, self-parodying fun, so who knows. So far, no one has stepped up to the plate to cover this, but someone's going to have to check on it at some point to confirm whether or not the whole Penguin Empire thing is just a tease.

Captain Earth

He is a captain. Of Earth.

  • Studio: BONES (Space DandyNoragami)
  • Air Date: April 5

Listen to this premise: aliens from outer space come and attack, and a young boy must pilot a giant robot to fight them. C'mon BONES, are you even trying? At least put in something about how the robot can only be powered by his hormones/suppressed memories/cotton-poly blend jumpsuit! A dull premise, and to add insult to injury, the title led me to believe this was going to be some awesome Captain Planet redux, but alas.

All that said, the trailer looks nice enough and Bones has been doing some good stuff lately -- like whenever an episode of Space Dandy has a decent script for them to animate. I'm still kind of mad at them for making No. 6, but that was years ago already and I have to let it go. Elliot needs some more mecha in his life so he'll be covering this one for us; I sincerely hope this show gives him the giant robot action he's looking for, and not just boys with beautiful, soulful eyes staring at each other endlessly...not that there's anything wrong with that.

Ishuukan Friends (One Week Friends)

She's not the happiest gal around

  • Studio: Brains Base (My Little Monster, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
  • Air Date: April 6

This is a 4koma adaptation, but instead of being all about girls just hanging out (or boys plotting during class like mad geniuses; still love you, Tonari no Seki-kun), it's seems to be a much more somber affair. Chronicling the story of a sad girl who loses her memories of her friends after only one week, and the boy who endeavors to be friends with her in spite of that, this might tick that box of "anime that makes me need a good cry" after Golden Time comes to an end. I don't know about you, but I've scoped out a perfectly good crying spot and I don't want to stop using it just because Banri and Koko are no longer making each other miserable on the regular.

I'm curious how the pacing is going to work, because while I'm very familiar with how comedy 4koma stories translate into anime, this could be a different beast. Then again, just because it deals with chronic memory loss doesn't mean there can't be humor -- perhaps of the wistful and wry variety. If all else fails and this turns out to be a bust, I guess we can all just go watch The Notebook and bawl our eyes out. In any case, newcomer Dae Lee is on sobbing coverage duties.

Hitsugi no Chaika (Chaika the Coffin Princess)

That's a serious backpack....

  • Studio: BONES (Heroman, Captain Earth)
  • Air Date: April 9

I have to admit, for all the magical girls out there, I haven't seen too many that are packing sniper rifles, so that's something Chaika immediately has going for it. We don't know much about this one except that the titular Chaika seems to be carrying a coffin on her back and pals around with a soldier, but my interest is piqued because the original light novel is written by Ichirō Sakaki, who recently penned Outbreak Company. He also wrote Scrapped Princess, which I know has its own contingent of fans, but I haven't seen it so I can't comment.

But still, as little as we have to go on here, Outbreak Company showed us that even a flimsy premise can be made to work if it's written with the proper care. Apparently Sakaki wrote Hitsugi no Chaika before Outbreak Company though, and what little I've heard about the former light novels isn't too good, so I may be getting excited for nothing. Fortunately, Elliot is doubling down on his BONES coverage and will be able to let me know if this one turns out to be another pleasant surprise.

Mahou Shojou Taisen (Magica Wars)

Magical girls yaaay

  • Studio: Gainax (Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3)
  • Air Date: April 8

Now, this is interesting. This is a magical girl show starring 47, yes 47 magical girls, each one based on one of Japan's prefectures. The "create a magical girl based on your prefecture" project was undertaken by the TV show Otaku 2.5 Dimension, and all the girls have been designed by artists on Pixiv. To further cement the whole "local pride" thing, the girls are played by voice actresses who hail from each of their respective prefectures. Cute.

What about the plot?, you ask. What kind of stupid question is that? Who even needs a plot? This show has 47 magical girls in it, do you even understand? I have no idea if this is actually going to work as an anime (and Gainax's recent track record has been less than stellar), but it's interesting as a design project if nothing else. Amber is going to be checking this one out to see if it really has 47 magical girls or if some of them are just palette-swaps, but I know I have to try at least an episode of this for myself just to see what it looks like.

Selector Infected Wixoss

Selecting

  • Studio: JC Staff ( A Certain Scientific Railgun, Witch Craft Works)
  • Air Date: April 4

Now this project is truly a strange witches' brew of concepts and staff. It's ostensibly about girls playing a magical card game, which makes you think it's going to be a cheerful and super-commercial kids show. But then you watch the trailer, and it's all dark, foreboding imagery with a hard-edged industrial soundtrack.

On the creative side we have Takuya Satou, the director of Steins;Gate. I for one thought Steins;Gate was brilliant -- and not only because it has a semicolon in the title. But then we also have Mari Okada doing series composition, and her style is controversial to say the least. I don't hate her the way some otaku do, but I do think she's very uneven; Nagi no Asukara is pretty decent, but the Kenshin New Kyoto Arc OVA was absolutely god-awful.

Based on the trailer and knowledge of Satou's involvement, I think this one has a lot of potential, but I'm only very cautiously optimistic; I'm sensing that this could become one of those anime that seems to have a zillion promising ideas thrown into a blender, but never really forms into a cohesive whole. I'm definitely going to give it a shot anyway, but regardless, L.B. will be delivering the verdict on this one.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Once She's Flagged (?))

Wait, that's one big flag!

  • Studio: Hoods Entertainment (Fantasista Doll, Mysterious Girlfriend X)
  • Air Date: April 7

The title translates to something like "Her flag has flipped over," but I've yet to see a proper English translation for this puppy yet, so I'm going with the snappier Once She's Flagged, which amuses me more than it probably should. I can only hope the sequels will be called Once She's Flagged Again and Once She's Flagged Xtreme Xecutor.

This appears to be a harem anime where the twist is that the main character can see "flags" over the girls' heads, just as though he were playing a visual novel, only it's real life-- or, err, real life inside the anime. You know what I mean. I'm not confident this title will have much appeal beyond the cross-section of people who are already fans of both harem shows and visual novels, but hey, The World Only God Knows has achieved a fair amount of popularity, so its certainly not out of the question. I'm afraid this could end up being very boring, but unlike me, Brittany has no fear and has volunteered to cover this.

Hey: how much do you want to bet the main dude spends the whole anime trying to save the tragic girl marked with the "death" flag? I will bet you an entire box of Pocky this is the case.

Mangaka-san to Assistant-san (The Comic Artist and His Assistants)

drawing time

  • Studio: Zexcs (The Legend of the Legendary Heroes, Mushi-shi, Chu-Bra!!)
  • Air Date: April 8

Hey, this is by Zexcs, the studio that did Chu-Bra!! Yaaay! I realize I'm the only one in the world who's excited by that, so I should mention that they also do Mushi-shi.

This is based on a 4Koma about a plucky comic artist and his beautiful assistants; I don't know why he has so many beautiful assistants, but apparently he does. He wants to draw sexy times in his manga, and they're willing to model for him to help him draw sexy times, but how far will they go? And is his manga any good? Honestly, this could be the lamest comedy ever and I would probably still enjoy it, just because I love comics and I love shows about people making comics. Still, I hope the humor actually has to do with manga, and it's not just a typical harem/sex comedy that happens to take place in an office with piles of drawings and ink pens around. I'm covering this one, needless to say.

Akuma no Riddle (Riddle Story of the Devil)

Riddle me this, riddle me that

  • Studio: Diomedia (Gingitsune, Astalotte's Toy)
  • Air Date: April 4

Diomedia is in my good books for animating Gingitsune, everyone's favorite coming of age story about divine fox heralds and the cozy little shrine they live in. As a follow up, the studio is taking on Akuma no Riddle, which is about...a whole bunch of teenaged girl assassins killing each other to death. Well, never let it be said that Diomedia doesn't have some range.

The two main female characters fall in love, but it remains to be seen whether this show has some serious yuri vibes going on or if the love affair is just a minor distraction from the murder and mayhem. See, now I'm imagining Sakura Trick, only full of vicious career killers who also happen to be adorable schoolgirl lesbians; that's probably not what this show's going to be like, but it sounds awesome, so I can dream. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what any of this has to do with the Devil or riddles; maybe L.B. can tell us after he checks this one out.

Haikyuu!!

Volleyball time

  • Studio: Production I.G. (Eden of the East, Kuroko's Basketball)
  • Air Date: April 6

Another sports anime, only this time the sport of choice is volleyball. Recent seasons have brought us baseball and basketball anime, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before this sport got its day in the sun. Somewhere out there is an otaku who loves playing volleyball, and for them, this anime will represent a wonderful convergence of interests; however, I am not that person. I never want to write anything off, since you never know what series may end up holding surprises, but this is a sports anime based on a Shonen Jump manga; if you've ever seen one of those, you probably already know what to expect.

No one jumped up to claim this (sigh), but eventually someone will have to give in to the urge to post screenshots displaying witty dialogue like "I love the way you handle balls," and it will be covered. Question: if these sports anime keep proliferating like rabbits, when am I going to get a good figure skating anime? It's gotta happen, right?

Atelier Escha and Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky

purrrrrrty

  • Studio: Studio Gokumi (The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, The Severing Crime Edge)
  • Air Date: April 10

I really think they should have just dubbed this series Alchemists of the Dusk Sky and left well enough alone. Or how about just Alchemist Dusk? That's actually kind of catchy.

I've never played any of the Atelier series of games, even though the combination of grinding and item crafting via alchemy sounds right up my alley. I'm really just afraid I'll get super-addicted and end up putting 600 hours into Atelier Cream Pastry, or whatever the latest game in the series is called. Maybe with this adaptation I can dip my toe into the world of Atelier without my OCD kicking in big time.

Something tells me that the item-synthesis based gameplay of Atelier may not translate that well to a television show; I'm sensing there are going to be a lot of talking heads here. Still, if the art on the show looks anything like the game then it's at least worth checking out, because Atelier has a really pretty, classy, style that I'd like to see more of. No one's volunteered for this yet, but I'll probably drop in to Duskland to see if this anime with the convoluted title has anything new to bring to the table.

Kamigami no Asobi: Ludere deorum (Tricks of the Gods)

Oh my Man Gods

  • Studio: Brains Base (Blood Lad, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)
  • Air Date: April 5

Here's another one of those reverse harem shows about a gaggle of absolutely gorgeous guys romancing one lady on an idyllic, palatial academic campus. However, this show one-ups other reverse harems by making the handsome heroes literal gods; heroine Yui has been appointed, by no less than Zeus himself, to teach young gods about love. I kind of like the fact that they skipped the pretense of making the guys in any way human/realistic.

Usually the "romance" in these shows is pretty tame, but there's a sick little part of me that's kind of hoping this show will go all Fifty Shades of Grey on us out of nowhere. Then the internet can go nuts having arguments about whether or not Yui is able to consent to sex with angels, or if they are just so eminently desirable that she has no agency, or something. C'mon, Tricks of the Gods! Get all weird and perverse on us so someone will actually remember this show a few months from now!

Surprise genre-switching notwithstanding, I doubt that this show is going to appeal to anyone who wouldn't normally watch a reverse-harem, but maybe the whole divine backdrop will add some points of interest we haven't seen before. If nothing else, it could be a gift from the gods to sustain rabid Uta No Prince-Sama fans until that show returns in 2015.

 

So, that's a lot of shows to look forward to. Obviously, there's more anime slated to air this season that isn't covered in this guide; we just picked what we felt were by far the highest-profile shows that carry the greatest expectations, plus a few personal picks. Still, there's some anticipated sequels on the way (Date a Live II, Love Live II, plus the return of Fairy Tail) and plenty of other titles to consider. Tell us: what are YOU watching this season? Besides Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, obviously.


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Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures


 



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