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Japanator's Winter 2015 Anime Preview Guide!

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Cartoons to keep warm by!

Winter may be upon us, and as the weather cools, it's the perfect time to curl up by the fire or stick your legs under the kotatsu and let the Japanese cartoons roll! This is Japanator's official Winter 2015 Anime Preview Guide!

As ever, we're here to dig deep into the dozens-strong animated offerings straight from Glorious Nippon, to separate the wheat from the chaff and tell you just what might be worth watching, as well as to tell you what we'll be keeping an eye on ourselves.

This winter seems thankfully light in total new series count, with a few standouts, a lot of sequels both widely anticipated and out of left field, and some intriguing newcomers. Let's check 'em out!

Tsukimonogatari


Tsukimonogatari OP by pKjd

Broadcast Date: December 31, 2014 (Streaming on Daisuki)

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo (Monogatari Series, Arakawa Under the Bridge)

Studio: SHAFT (Monogatari Series, Mekaku Cityactors)

This one's actually a bit of an oddball entry, and not just because it's the latest part of the naturally oddball Monogatari franchise. It's oddball because you can watch it right now on Daisuki, as all four episodes of the arc premiered at once, Netflix-style. Then again, SHAFT did pull this stunt before, its adaptation of Nekomonogatari (Black) last year, as part of the runup to Monogatari Series Second Season

In any case, we continue the increasingly complicated run of adapting author Nisioisin's novels, with a story arc focusing on Kagenui and Yotsugi, the demon-hunter/familiar pairing that first made their debut in Monogatari Series Second Season. Tsukimonogatari purports to be the opening to the "Final Season" of the Monogatari Series, so if you're new to the franchise, there's a lot you'll need to watch if you want to catch up. Or not, the different arcs have stood well enough on their own with a little bit of background research done. 

 

Kantai Collection ~Kan Colle~


Broadcast Date: January 7, 2015 (Streaming on Crunchyroll)

Director: Keizo Kusakawa (Sekirei, Unlimited Fafnir)

Studio: Diomedea (Squid Girl, Astarotte's Toy)

One of the most fun things about the growth of the mecha musume genre is just how wide its figurative net is when it comes to scope. All you really need is the juxtaposition of cute girls (or more rarely boys) and some kind of nerdy nonsense like enthusiasm over battle mecha or vintage World War II hardware. 

Kantai Collection is one of the latter, based on the browser strategygame that took the otaku world by storm with its moe anthropomorphizations of classic Japanese naval ships. As an overarching plot - or rather the lack thereof - has never been much of a problem for mecha musume shows, Kan Colle's premise feels like a melding of Strike Witches and the more recent Arpeggio of Blue SteelA bunch of cute girls are apparently capable of channeling the spirit of Japan's old navy, and these "Kan Musume" are the only weapon in a war against some mysterious fleet denying humanity its seafaring birthright. 

As Japanator's resident mecha musume fan, I'll be giving this one a look, but after good runs with the likes of Girls und Panzer and even ArpeggioKan Colle has a surprisingly high bar to pass to impress.

 

Maria the Virgin Witch


Broadcast Date: January 11, 2015

Director: Goro Taniguchi (Code Geass

Studio: Production I.G. (Kick-Heart, Haikyu!!)

Superficial a person as I am, I initially dismissed this one on account of its vaguely Dragon Ball-esque character designs.  Akira Toriyama's style is essentially the reason I never played Chrono Trigger until the PSP era, a permanent black mark on my RPG nerd credentials, so I irrationally blame him for it.

Upon closer examination, though, it's really only Maria, the titular virgin witch, that looks like a cousin to Android 18. More importantly, Maria the Virgin Witch is about a virginal sorceress living in the time of England and France's Hundred Years War. She hates the warso much she summons a succubus and incubus to do the dirty work and bring peace to the land. Let me say that again: She summons a succubus and an incubus. Seems that Miss Maria has some pretty dirty "dirty work" in mind! 

 

Assassination Classroom


Assassination Classroom PV Long by pKjd

Broadcast Date: January 9, 2015 (Streaming on FUNimation)

Director: Seiji Kishi (Humanity Has Declined, Arpeggio of Blue Steel)

Studio: Lerche (Re: Hamatora, Danganronpa The Animation)

And here's the winter's young-audience heavy. You know the one: Adapted from some obscenely popular ongoing manga, now with an anime adaptation to serve as marketing fuel for the source. This season's entrant is Assassination Classroom, where an alien that destroyed the moon promises takes over a high school class and promises to destroy the Earth if the kids in the class can't kill him by the time they graduate.

Given how dominantly school life features in every modern Japanese person's youth, there's no wonder a story about a bunch of students following through on their urges to murder their teacher took off like a rocket. That said, after World Trigger's poor showing and the near-absence of Seven Deadly Sins thanks to a rumored license snap-up by Netflix (which also bogarted Knights of Sidonia last time), I'm a little wary of this particular type of seasonal offering. 

That said, thanks to FUNimation the show will be in fairly wide release, so there's no reason to to at least see what the fuss is about. 

 

Sengoku Musou


Broadcast Date: January 11, 2015 (Streaming on FUNimation)

Director: Kojin Ochi (Detective Conan, La Corda d'Oro Blue Sky)

Studio: Tezuka Productions and TYO Animation (Detective Conan, Tamayura Hitotose)

If I were an executive in charge of tie-in marketing at Koei Tecmo, makers of Dynasty Warriors and its associated spin-off franchises, I would be pissed at the people who let Sengoku Musou (aka Samurai Warriors) fall by the wayside. After all, the Samurai Warriors games have been putting the mass slaughter in videogame Japanese history for far longer, and yet the culture at large has credited Capcom's Sengoku Basara series with putting feudal warlords on the pop-cultural map, leading the so-called "Samurai Boom" that led to marriageable young ladies to have crushes on Date Masamune, Sanada Yukimura, and a host of other 16th-century jerks.

And here we are, with Sengoku Musou's first anime adaptation, and it just looks sad. After Sengoku Basara received no less than three seasons and a movie, the original samurai brawler ends up looking like the pale imitation.

I guess this is what it must feel like to have been a fan of Everquest around the time World of Warcraft blew the doors open on MMORPGs.


Yurikuma Arashi


Broadcast Date: January 5, 2015 (Streaming on Crunchyroll and FUNimation)

Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara (Penguindrum, Revolutionary Girl Utena)

Studio: Silver Link (Penguindrum, Kokoro Connect)

Debuting back in 2011, Penguindrum was a deliciously weird production that for many a fan, made the long wait for a new series from the director of Revolutionary Girl Utena worth it. Three years later, it looks like Ikuhara's been watching a few too many of Stephen Colbert's ThreatDown segments, because the premise of Yurikuma Arashi revolves around an unending war between mankind and its immortal enemy: BEARS!

Yup, a weird asteroid exploded and turned all the bears anti-human (just as all humans were already inherently anti-bear), and now the two sides are separated by a giant wall. But lo, a pair of bears have taken human form to infiltrate the other side in order to find tasty people to eat, and so begins the forbidden human-ursine infatuation story, complete with lots of blunt innuendos about cute girls (or bears in cute girl form) "eating" other cute girls. Hm, methinks that Ikuhara's been watching what Goro Taniguchi's had planned with Maria The Virgin Witch as well.

 

ISUCA


Broadcast Date: January 23, 2015

Director: Akira Iwanaga (Tegami-Bachi)

Studio: Arms (Ikkitousen: Dragon Destiny, Wizard Barristers)

If When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace was a showcase of the things you need to do to make what is ultimately a harem rom-com seem fresh and exciting, ISUCA seems like a showcase of a harem rom-com doing precisely none of those things.

Honestly, I'm rarely this negative about a show I haven't seen, but there's very little to make this thing stand out, other than some positive word about the source material providing some good Shana or Familiar of Zero vibes. It doesn't help that the only trailer on hand barely a month out from debut is a live-action music video preview of the opening theme.

Now, I liked at least one of those shows, and I'm regularly Japanator's resident genre apologist when it comes to harem pap, but ISUCA's gonna have to work real hard to make its own case, even in a relatively light season like this one.

 

World Break: Aria of Curse for A Holy Swordsman


Broadcast Date: January 11, 2014 (Streaming on FUNimation)

Director: Takayuki Inagaki (My mental choices are completely interfering with my school romantic comedy)

Studio: Diomedea (Squid Girl, Astarotte's Toy)

Who's better, Warriors or Mages? That's the eternal question, and if you ask me, my money'd be on Mages if only they didn't wear robes most of the time. But what if they wore school uniforms (alongside the warriors), channeled the spirits of ancient heroes from ages past, and what if the hero of this story was a Mage AND a Warrior?!
 
That's pretty much the premise of World Break, and you'll be forgiven for thinking that sounds uncomfortably similar to a lot of other shows that have come and gone over the years. As an avowed fan of a game type that everyone else says is always the same every time, I can't in good conscience be too dismissive of the show, but it's hard to get really hyped up over it. Then again, I thought the same of Lord Marksman and Vanadis last season, and that turned out to be way more watchable and engaging than the initial premise held out to be, so there's always hope.

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!


Broadcast Date: January 6, 2015 (Streaming on FUNimation)

Director: Shinji Takamatsu (After War Gundam X, Daily Lives of High School Boys)

Studio: Diomedea (Squid Girl, Astarotte's Toy)

Magical Boys. It seems like so simple a twist on the Magical Girl concept, but why has it taken until 2015 for a show to take it as far as this one has? Sure, we had the "Masou Shojou" from Is This A Zombie, and for decades now cute boys have had transformation sequences and group relationships as drool-worthy as the ones cute girls have had, but this might be the first time I've seen a studio create what seems to be a genuine Magical Boy anime.

Sure, thanks to the comedy pedigree of director Shinji Takamatsu, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is more than likely to be a screwball parody show, but there's enough earnestness in there to make it all work out, especially given that you're not supposed to take REAL Magical Girl shows - the PreCures and Sailor Moons of the world - that seriously anyway. This'll be one to watch - and not just to see hot young men dress fancy, fight evil, and in promo art, stack themselves on top of one another that gives uncomfortable subtext to the term "wood pile".


Unlimited Fafnir


Broadcast Date: January 8, 2015

Director: Keizo Kusakawa (Sekirei, Kantai Collection)

Studio: Diomedea (Squid Girl, Astarotte's Toy)

Is Diomedea this season's J.C. Staff? I'm not sure, but what I am sure about is that they're making no less than four full-length anime series this season, and Unlimited Fafnir, a show about cute girls who have dragon powers and the one boy who they fall in love with, is probably the least interesting of the bunch.

I normally would conveniently forget to include a show like this in a season preview, just to save myself the trouble of pretending to be enthusiastic about a program no one on staff and few in the audience would watch, but I'm irrationally irritated by Unlimited Fafnir's existence at the moment. Y'see, it's being directed by Keizo Kusakawa, who's also directing Kantai Collection, and I'd really like that show to be good. Thus anything that appears like it could split his or Diomedea's resources away from making Kantai Collection decent is on my blacklist. 

Naturally, that sentiment doesn't make much sense, especially not with what we know about anime production, but like I said, I'm irrationally irritated with the show. 


The Rolling Girls


Broadcast Date: January 10, 2015 (Streaming on FUNimation)

Director: Kotomi Deai (Silver Spoon Season 2)

Studio: Wit Studio (Attack on Titan, Hozuki no Reitetsu)

You thought Wit would be back to work on Attack on Titan after their brief diversion with Hozuki no Reitetsu? Well, don't worry, because they are, and that's coming later. For now, though, feast your eyes on The Rolling Girls, the studio's first original project. 

It's been a decade since the Great Tokyo War, and all of Japan's prefectures have gone solo, becoming countries for themselves and going to (highly colorful and cartoonish) war with armies called "Mobs" led by heroes called "Mosa". Enter the Rolling Girls, a quartet of girl bikers drawn from the Mob and tasked with travelling across the scattered nations to mediate disputes, solve problems, and probably find themselves or something.

Sounds good, looks even better, and I can't help but admit that and if I didn't know who was making it, I'd have mistaken The Rolling Girls this for a Trigger-produced spinoff from Kill la Kill. That's a pretty good problem to have for Wit, if you ask me, and it's great to see these relatively new studios flexing their muscle by trying different projects, rather than being attached to one big thing and ending up being defined by it.

 

The [email protected]: Cinderella Girls


Broadcast Date: January 9, 2015 (Streaming on Daisuki)

Director: Noriko Takao

Studio: A-1 Pictures (The [email protected], Sword Art Online)

I actually said almost everything I needed to about Cinderella Girls in this post, so I'll do the lazy thing and quote some of it here:

Given that The [email protected] was my favorite anime of its year, I feel almost obligated to find something to like about this new adaptation of [email protected] Cinderella Girls, the mobile game spinoff I gave approximately zero attention to over the last few years. So here goes.

Umm..well, the girls of 346 Productions (pronounced "Mishiro Pro") all look alright, and personality-wise it's fairly easy to take your favorite 765 idol and apply their archetype to one of the others. I can already see a Takane-type of sorts in Anastasia, an Azusa type in Minami, and a Miki-type in Rika. So when in doubt, existing [email protected] fans can pick whichever one most resembles an idol they already like and stick with her. 

That said, they don't make as much of an impression as the 765 girls did. That might shake out once they're given more time to say more than their names and catchphrases, though. Plus, despite there being over 200 idols in the Cinderella Girls game, they seem to have picked this core cast uniformly from the younger end of the pool. At their ages, very few of these "cinderellas" will be out past midnight.

Perhaps the more pertinent question at this point is how the show will fare with some key staff shuffled around from last time, and without the muppet-faced character designs I liked so much before? Also, will the Cinderella Girls be enough to carry the idol torch in a post-Love Live world?

War has changed, friends.

 

Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend


Broadcast Date: January 8, 2015 (Streaming on Crunchyroll and Aniplex)

Director: Kanta Kamei (Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, Bunny Drop)

Studio: A-1 Pictures (The [email protected] Cinderella Girls)

I don't consider myself an especially hardworking feminist (else I'd have big problems with a larger proportion of anime than usual), but even I take issue with the way Aniplex has localized the title of Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata. In Japanese, the literal translation is "Method of Raising a Dull Girlfriend", where "kanojo" (meaning "Girlfriend") gets those special chuunibyou pronunciation characters to make it read as the English "Heroine". The problem here is that it sounds awfully sexist, to "raise" your boring girlfriend. Aniplex should've paid attention to those furigana!

As for the show, it's from the writer of White Album 2 and stars Tomoya, a nerd that enlists the help of two lady classmates to create a visual novel starring his muse, the beautiful Megumi Katou. The catch is Megumi has all the personality of a male visual novel lead (read: none whatsoever), and he and his co-creators will have to train their would-be heroine into a woman properly suited to star in that most noble of vehicles for fiction: The dating sim.

So clearly, the plot itself isn't nearly as problematic as the title might imply. It's almost a reverse angle on The Taming of the Shrew, if you wanna be generous about it. After all, it's these three nerds helping a girl be as much of a character as her good looks would imply. Meeting one's full potential and all that. Why the bad title then?


Death Parade


Broadcast Date: January 9, 2015 (Streaming on FUNimation)

Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa (Death Billiards)

Studio: Madhouse (Redline, Chihayafuru)

If you've been deprived of "dark" anime, and don't feel like jumping on the Tokyo Ghoul or Aldnoah.Zero trains halfway through, Death Parade is poised to be your jam. It's based on Death Billiards, Madhouse's entry to Anime Mirai 2013. As might be imagined from the title, Death Billiards involved a couple of guys playing a very high-stakes pool game in some purgatorial bar. Death Parade expands on the concept to encompass darts, roulette, and all manner of pub and casino games to illuminate human nature. Maybe Mushishi was too tranquil for you? 


Gourmet Girl Graffiti


Broadcast Date: January 8, 2015 

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo (Tsukimonogatari)

Studio: SHAFT (Monogatari Series)

There's very little I need to write to justify how this show could be really exciting. All I need to do is first, point out that Gourmet Girl Graffiti is quite proud of its "slightly erotic eating sequences".

Next, I'll point out that SHAFT and Akiyuki Shinbo are the studio and man that did this for toothbrushing.

I'm in.

 

Sequels and Continuations

On the sequels and continuations front, we've got a bunch of expected entries, like the Egypt arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, as well as the returns of Aldnoah.Zero and Tokyo Ghoul after taking breaks. 

For some reason somebody commissioned a third season of Dog Days, and perhaps even more bafflingly, a new, two-cour season of Fafner, which is actually way novel now that Evangelion clones are out of style. 

The real star of the returnee's party, though, is the new season of Durarara!!, and that's been gone and missed for long enough that it deserves its own info box:

 

Durarara!!x2 Shou


Broadcast Date: January 10, 2015 (Streaming on Crunchyroll and Aniplex)

Director: Takahiro Omori 

Studio: Shuka 

It's been a whole five years of waiting, but we're finally getting some more Durarara!!. And all it took was for someone to wrangle together the original staff at Brains Base to form a whole new studio just to put this thing out. 

And not just this thing, for Durarara!!x2 Shou is just the first sequel. Two more seasons, subtitled Ten and Ketsu are planned for later this year and early next, all set to adapt gobs more of the original novels. 

Man, it's been so long since I last saw some Durarara!! that I can't even remember what happened besides the second half not being as good as the first. I'll need to catch up!

 

And that's pretty much it for winter's new offerings. Beyond all that, shows like Gundam Build Fighters Try, Log Horizon 2, and Terra Formars, if I ever get around to catching up on that, will continue on schedule. I may have said this was a "light" season, but there's still plenty to watch!

What's on your viewing slate this Winter, and what would you like to see us cover? Let us know!

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures


 


 


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