This year had a promising start last winter but the rest of the year has been uninspiring. There have been some watchable shows but the best ones have been sequels. What’s missing are those special shows that feel new and exciting.
That aside, this season still has some new shows that seem interesting enough for me to recommend as “possibly worth your time.” Here they are, with the most promising first.
You can’t go far wrong with Natsume Yujin-cho 5 (Natsume Yuujinchou Go) (Crunchyroll). This is the fifth season of the critically-acclaimed series previously called Natsume’s Book of Friends in English. The writing remains as excellent as ever. If you are a fan of the earlier seasons then you shouldn’t miss this.
If you aren’t familiar with the series it’s worth checking out, but I’d recommend that you watch at least the first season before watching this. (That’s the first 13 episodes here.)
Poco’s Udon World (Udon no Kuni no Kin-iro Kemari) (Crunchyroll) is yet another adorable-little-kid anime, with the twist that this time the kid isn’t human. A lonely 30-year-old man goes back “temporarily” to his home town and ends up adopting a shape-shifting tanuki who takes the form of a little boy.
March Comes In Like a Lion (Sangatsu no Lion) (Crunchyroll) got off to a rough start but it’s turning out to be pretty good. This is a bittersweet comedy about a morose 17-year-old Shogi prodigy living alone in a Tokyo apartment and still devastated by the sudden death of his parents. He is more-or-less adopted by a family of 3 sisters who have also lost their parents. (Shogi is a Chinese form of chess that evolved independently from the Indian game that was also ancestral to European chess.)
The first episode was pretty rough, starting in the middle of the story and relying on a confusing series of flashbacks to establish the premise. By the third episode things had fallen into place and it now looks very good.
There have been anime series about the anime industry but usually they present a romanticized view in which everyone works hard together to produce something great. Girlish Number (Crunchyroll) presents a cynical view of an industry where everyone has to pretend to be enthusiastic about a series that they all know is really crap.
The main character, an aspiring voice actress named Chitose, is very cute and naive, but the cuteness is just an act. She’s actually ruthlessly ambitious, an aspiring Eve Harrington. Acting cute is her only real talent; she’s too inexperienced to realize that she’s actually a pretty bad actress and will have to work hard to improve her skills if she’s going to get anywhere.
Flip Flappers (Crunchyroll) is an extremely offbeat take on the magical girl genre. A seemingly ordinary girl is recruited by a crazy magical girl to join an organization called FlipFlap and hunt for magical objects in bizarre parallel universes. Weird but amusing.
In Izetta: The Last Witch (Shuumatsu no Izetta) (Crunchyroll) cute girls try to defend a small alpine kingdom against the evil “Germanian Empire” in an alternate-universe version of World War II. The intent here seems to be to imitate Studio Ghibli both in style and tone, but with more fan service. (Izetta can use magic, but only at certain locations, and apparently only when scantily-clad.)
This isn’t really Ghibli quality but if you must imitate something you could do a lot worse.
I have to give credit to the producers of The Great Passage (Fune wo Amu.) I takes a lot of guts to make an anime series about lexicographers compiling a dictionary. This has to be the ultimate nerdy story about nerds.
The series focuses on a somewhat autistic young lexicographer who falls hard for his landlady’s daughter. His slightly less nerdy colleagues alternate between teasing and encouraging him.
This is being streamed on Amazon Prime Video but is not yet available in the U.S.