Winter 2019 Anime Season Preview

Mob Psycho 100 Season 2

Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa

Character Designer: Yoshimichi Kameda

After months of anticipation, it is FINALLY here. You can bet anyone with even the slightest intrigue for creative expression through the medium of animation will be tuning in for this one. Even beyond the insane visuals there is a lot to like about what Mob Psycho 100 will be bringing to the table. Whether it be Reigen’s wacky antics, Mob’s tragically stoic disposition or Dimple’s hilarious desire to take over the world despite sorely lacking the means to do so (I’m sure we’ve all been there and can relate?). Whatever the reason, it will gather quite the crowd and boy are we in for a treat as it is more than fair to presume this season’s production will be able to top the very high bar that was set for the first one! Not only does it have one of the healthiest schedules for a TV anime this decade, but all the familiar insanely talented staff that made season 1 so great are returning (plus newcomers) to take full advantage of it! Does more Yoshimichi Kameda sound good to you? He’s now also credited with Chief Animation Supervisor so expect to see him correct much more frequently than he did for the first season. Yuzuru Tachikawa has really blossomed into a powerhouse director and we are about to lay witness to his Magnum Opus. Go and keep an especially turned eye towards episode 5 which has people foaming at the mouth literal months before it airs! All told everything about this project seems too good to be true but fortunately for animation fans everywhere Mob is very, very real.

The Promised Neverland

Director: Mamoru Kanbe

Character Designer: Kazuaki Shimada

Out of all the biggest titles releasing in Weekly Shonen Jump right now The Promised Neverland was without a doubt one of the most anticipated for its eventual anime adaptation. The much beloved manga is one drenched in tantalizing horror and nail-biting anticipation around every turn of the page. The off-beat story progression coupled with Demizu Potsuka’s whimsical and fantastical art makes it one of the more unique offerings among a catalog of familiar battle shonen. With that in mind fans are within their right to be concerned given the propensity for Jump adaptations to feel creatively restrained. Moreover, capturing the enchanting setting of Neverland and transferring it into (likely) 12 episodes worth of animation is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

Of course the reality of that fact stings a bit, but I think it’s important to stress they shouldn’t be trying to copy Potsuka exactly because these are different artists after all! You can still achieve the same result despite taking a different route to get there. By that I mean character designer Kazuaki Shimada did a good job capturing the youthful exuberance of Emma and the gang by channeling those round ‘moe’ faces that fans of Yama no Susume should be very familiar with. Likewise, Mamoru Kanbe (Sora no Woto, The Perfect Insider) is one heck of a creative director capable of creating his own setting that, while potentially different from the manga, can still serve the same effective end. Standing tall in his way however, will be background studio Atelier Musa. These are the same boring backgrounds that have plagued My Hero Academia for so long. It’s much more forgivable in an action driven shonen where the setting is not integral to establishing narrative focus. Here for Neverland however, it is poised to be its undoing. If you can manage to look past the sterile, uninspired background art, everything else is set up to succeed and I hope it does for the sake of this wonderful story.

Boogiepop Phantom

Director: Shingo Natsume

Character Designer: Hidehiko Sawada

This is going to be one I will check out purely on the pedigree of esteemed director Shingo Natsume (One Punch Man, ACCA:13) as I am very unfamiliar with the source material. Animation producer Yuichiro Fukushi more than has his work cut out for him trying to compete with Mob Psycho 100 in the arms race that is recruiting talented animators for the cause. Lucky for him Mob is far enough ahead of schedule that there will definitely be room for overlap, (we already know Katsuya Shigehara is handling the 2nd episode of BOTH series) just how much though we will have to wait and see. Though, it’s not just Mob standing in the way, 2019 is loaded with compelling anime projects that will demand talented creators, take Gosei Oda for example. Oda was Natsume’s most trusted supervisor on ACCA:13 and was recently named to Character Design duties elsewhere so suffice to say he might have a smaller role this time around if he even shows up at all. Instead most of the heavy lifting should and will fall on Hidehiko Sawada making his debut as a character designer. As much as I personally love his animation it pains me to say his designs leave a lot to be desired. Not to sound too negative because I want it to be good, but Boogiepop Phantom really seems to have red flags everywhere! It will be interesting to see if Natsume can overcome these challenges, he is one worthy of the benefit of the doubt nonetheless.

Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan

Director: several!

Character Designer: several!

It’s been 5 years since Space Dandy gave us an anime creator anthology, showcasing the industries biggest names while bouncing between wildly idiosyncratic styles on a per episode basis. What we have here in Ekoda-chan might be something at the very least just as horny as Dandy was, but perhaps even more distinctive in style! Not only will there be a different legendary director for each episode but entirely different character designers, voice actors, and animation studios! I’m not exaggerating with the ‘legendary’ descriptor either, some of the biggest names include: Osamu Kobayashi (BECK, largely recognized for issuing and fostering the web-gen movement), Koji Morimoto (Magnetic Rose, Dimension Bomb), Ryosuke Takahashi (Votoms, Flag) Masayuki Kojima (Made in Abyss, Monster, Black Bullet) and more! I can’t speak towards the source material they will be adapting as I really have no idea what to expect from the given synopsis other than it seems guaranteed to be a wild ride! Without a doubt one of the most unique offerings this season and one I’ll be paying close attention to for sure.

Dororo (2019)

Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Character Designer: Satoshi Iwataki

Osamu Tezuka source material has always had this celestial aura of importance surrounding it given his fame through the unending contributions he’s made to the growth of the manga industry. It quite literally would not be where it is today without him, and his stories have spawned numerous iconic anime. One such that is perhaps less known is his historical samurai manga, Dororo, adapted into a 26 episode anime by Mushi Production back in 1969. Here we are exactly one half century later and a reboot will be helmed by a personal favorite director of mine in Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Ruroni Kenshin, HxH 1999, Gundam Unicorn).

Furuhashi as a director has often found himself burdened with some less than ideal Studio Deen staff at his disposal. His shows usually manage to have some flavor despite that but as with any director they’re at their best when the animators and directors surrounding them are also firing on all cylinders. Look no further than his output on Gundam Unicorn, story boarding most of the series himself it is his best work to date in my opinion. The obscurity of the franchise among non-robot lovers means that he’s sadly still best known for Ruroni Kenshin but he’s come a tremendous way since then and it should not be used as the primary calling card for his work. With that slight tangent aside, will the joint production of studio MAPPA and Tezuka Productions be enough for Dororo to reach it’s fullest potential? Probably not, as MAPPA is swamped with other projects at the moment and they have never really shown strong or healthy scheduling abilities. That being said, freelance talent should be there for the biggest moments, and looking at the PV there is quite a bit to like so far. I’m hopeful it will be solid enough to have some memorable highlights, but given the state of most productions these days do keep your expectations in relative check.

Key visual for the new series, Dororo, likely drawn by Satoshi Iwataki.

Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru cour 2

Director: Kazuya Nomura

Character Designer: Takahiro Chiba

It goes to show you how unstable TV anime can be when even the normally fortuitous Production I.G. teams that brought you remarkable seasons of Haikyuu and Welcome to the Ballroom need a month’s worth of episodes off to catch their breath. Though you wouldn’t be able to tell the production was struggling by looking at the finished product so far. Professionals as always, the staff have given their all to keep this ambitious project running at full sprint. Leading the way has been ace of the show Takashi Mukouda– credited with key animation on eight of the eleven episodes so far as well as working on the opening! Here’s hoping the much needed break gives them a chance to get comfortably ahead as it’s been a very endearing series so far.

Some honorable mentions that are worth talking a bit about include a couple of films, Youjo Senki/The Saga of Tanya the Evil and Osomatsu-san the movie. Tanya is both a character and an anime that grew on me over time, so this sequel is very much appreciated and should feature most of the same staff that made the TV series a fairly strong production. Also I have to mention, the prospect of Shinichi Kurita doing animation on a healthy movie schedule has me counting down the days…

It’s been almost 4 years since Studio Pierrot produced their last film, and as much as the Naruto fan in me loves the Boruto movie it downright murdered all their concurrently produced anime series at the time. Here with Osomatsu-san we’re seeing something similar, but maybe not to as severe a degree as Kenichi Fujisawa and Hiroyuki Yamashtia have been absent for quite some time, perhaps holding big roles on the film. Osomatsu is a rather obscure property in the west, with the original 1966 series being long forgotten meaning it’s revival three years ago simply had no flame to rekindle. The same cannot be said for it’s popularity in Japan and just how much Pierrot is investing in this property should tell you how important it is to them. While a lot of the humor the show attempts might not reach me, every now and I’ll end up on the floor laughing for the stupidest reasons and for that I am grateful.

Overall this has the potential to be one of the strongest seasons of anime in recent memory, perhaps all time. An even scarier thought is that Mob Psycho 100 S2 alone would have been enough to warrant that claim…