The AniTAY team has reassembled to produce a list of the finest delectable delights of this anime season for your reading pleasure. Every anime season is home to dozens of anime series, and even the discerning fan might have trouble shifting through it all to find the gems. AniTAY is hardly the arbiter of taste (and it could be reasonably argued that ours is shit), but we still gave our all to select our favorites. This article is the product of weeks of debate in our international community of long-time anime fans, and we hope it at least serves as an interesting reference.
This season had surprisingly few series (around half of the number compared to spring seasons in previous years). Nevertheless, there were several tough decisions to be made, and the format of this article reflects those challenges. We’ve also had several new contributors in this collaboration and last season’s, leading to an even wider variety of opinions before. This is reflected in the different writing styles of each of our authors. As always, not every show that everyone likes has made it into the final article. Please feel free to send your complaints to Dexomega.
UPDATE: The AniTAY Podcast Season 4 has just launched! Check out our new format and subscribe for regular anime and Japanese pop culture discussions!
Finally, some notes before we get started:
- 1) As always, we have omitted continuing shows and sequels. Only new stuff here. Check out our spring sequel guide below for information about sequels.
- 2) Similarly, only shows available for legal streaming are considered. Netflix has complicated what the word “available” means. We included a separate section for Carole & Tuesday since it is not yet available for streaming in all countries.
- 3) We included a “where to watch” section, but keep in mind that our listings are based off availability in the United States.
Written by: Thatsmapizza
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Ecchi, Slice of Life
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Hidive
Ao Hoire wishes for nothing more than to escape her father’s legacy as a famous erotic fiction author. The best way for Ao to escape is to get accepted into a prestigious college far from her father’s abode.
For her dream, Ao has vowed to focus on her studies, but her plans are thrown into chaos when the most popular boy in her class, Kijima, confesses his love to her. Can Ao stay focused on her goal or will she be overcome with thoughts of Kijima?
Why You Should Be Watching: If you’re looking for a raunchy romantic comedy and you’re pressed for time this anime season, then Ao-Chan Can’t Study is right up your alley.
Ao-Chan is a master of setting up and executing its horny jokes. The show takes its time showing you Ao’s wild fantasies about how her interactions with Kijima could turn into something more raunchy and then subverting her expectations when Kijima acts like a normal person. These subversions are hilarious because of how the show exaggerates every part of the Ao’s actions. Ao doesn’t just think about being tied up by Kijima in the show- we are shown exactly how Ao thinks Kijima will put her in bondage gear with a sweater, only to have Kijima put his sweater around her to keep her warm. The sheer audacity to show the difference between Ao’s fantasies and reality is hilarious and it’s made doubly funny when you realize that each joke becomes a double entendre. The set up and structure of each joke is fantastic, but what gives each joke life is the fantastic voice acting.
Azumi Waki’s performance as Ao is a blast to watch. The way Azumi switches between Ao’s different moods on a dime is fantastic. It gives every joke centered on Ao messing up or overreacting an extra punch that will make you laugh your socks off. Ao-Chan would not be as fun as it is if Azumi Waki didn’t do such a great job playing Ao.
Ao-Chan doesn’t break any grounds as a comedy, but due to its short length and its great execution, it’s an easy recommendation.
Recommended by: Doctorkev, Edmundton, Requiem, TheMamaLuigi, Thatsmapizza, Vukir
Written by: Aoi Yamamoto
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Historical, Shonen
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Rumors to some and known by others, demons wander at night. Most people advise that one should stay indoors in the evenings to avoid being eaten. However, these man-eating pests are also hunted by demon slayers. One day, a young man named Tanjiro goes off to support his family, only to return to find his home completely decimated by demons with one survivor: his younger sister, Nezuko. However, despite her appearance and the fact that she shows demon-like behavior, Nezuko still retains some humanity and emotions. Tanjiro then joins his local Demon Corps and goes on a journey with his sister to turn her back to human.
Why You Should Be Watching: , Demon Slayer is a chance to see Ufotable animate something that’s not Type-Moon or game related (the source is actually a Shonen Jump manga licensed from Viz). The action scenes are beautifully animated and lush, and the art geek in me loves how the animation and the scenery are directly influenced by traditional Japanese art. . For example, when Tanjiro performed his water moves, I squealed at the Hokusai-inspired vibe it gave out. The only nitpick I have is that the CG sometimes comes across a bit jarring and off-putting.
Tanjiro’s also not the typical Shonen Jump MC. Obviously the poor guy’s been through a lot; all he wants is to make his dear little sister normal again and to provide for her whenever and however he can. Nezuko’s also no the typical SJ heroine who stands by as a damsel in distress. Due to her new powers as a demon, she can physically change her size at will as she protects her brother like a pitbull alongside her increased strength and mobility. And at 26 episodes (it’s been confirmed that this will run for two cours), I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our siblings!
Aoi Yamamoto, Doctorkev, Koda, Requiem, Tenshigami, Thatsmapizza, TheMamaLuigi, hybridmink, TGRIP
Written by: RedStripe118
Genre: Drama, Romance, Fantasy
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Tohru Honda is an upbeat high school girl, albeit one who was recently orphaned and calls a tent her home, but she does her best to not let those struggles bring her down. When Tohru stumbles upon a prestigious family with an incredible secret, however,she also finds a new home among them. She begins living living with her classmates, the princely Yuki Soma, and his hot-headed cousin, Kyo Soma. She finds herself becoming increasingly intertwined with the entire Soma clan as she learns more about what makes them tick and how they change through the empathy she shares.
Why You Should Be Watching: TMS Entertainment and company have done a bang-up job adapting this shojo manga classic to the screen, complete with a beautifully modernized style that still preserves the essence of Natsuki Takaya’s iconic art. Its power extends far beyond its effectiveness as an adaptation, however. Twenty years may have passed since this story’s initial premiere, but its rich mix of character interactions and pathos still manage to stand out from what almost every other series bring to the table.
As a notable example, I really like how Tohru and Yuki already have an established camaraderie before the show’s events. Yuki may be the popular guy and everyone’s crush, but it does not mean he is oblivious to others’ existences. To wit, he and Tohru are friendly acquaintances, who even think positively of one other. Thus, when Tohru “meets” him once again, it is through meeting the “real” Yuki usually hidden from everyone else, zodiac curse and all.
Therein lies the central conceit of Fruits Basket as Tohru meets the many members of the Soma clan: seeing who somebody is, and then seeing who they really are underneath those first appearances. The show is riveting because of how upfront it is about these characters’ hidden depths, and how thoroughly it then explores them. Everyone harbors far, far more than just a family secret. Yuki, contrary to his princely reputation in school, is a tangled mess of resentment and insecurity; Shigure is more serious than his carefree attitude lets on; and the volatile, hot-headed Kyo is harsh and chaotic, but fueled by defensive awkwardness, and he’s guilt-ridden when those harsh tendencies hurt others. Tohru herself - the outsider with a knack for drawing out all of these unseen sides - is no exception, with a cheerful exterior that belies an internal world of hardships and emotional baggage. Yet those very same things fuel her boundless reserves of empathy for others.
That, I think, is the ultimate key to it all. Fruits Basket champions empathy with as much single-minded enthusiasm and earnestness as a shonen battle series touts determination, and is all the more life-affirming for it.
Recommended By: Aoi Yamamoto, Doctorkev, Edmundton, Koda, Protonstorm, RedStripe118, Reikaze, Tenshigami, Thatsmapizza, TheMamaLuigi, hybridminks, Vukir
Written by: Reikaze
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, School
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Hitori Bocchi is a very lonely girl. Throughout elementary school Hitori had only one friend, but her friend Kai decided to attend a different middle school! To add to that, she refuses to talk to Bocchi unless everyone in Bocchi’s new middle-school class is her friend! Cue the adorable Bocchi trying to make friends with her classmates, but there’s one small problem for her - Bocchi has extreme social anxiety! She’s not good at talking to people and when she gets nervous, her legs cramp. She doesn’t even know how to make friends or what it even means to be a friend! Hilarity ensues as Hitori’s journey towards friendship begins.
Why You Should Be Watching: Reading the premise might make you think this show would be a cringe fest, but Hitoribocchi is not another Watamote. Instead, Hitoribocchi is an incredibly endearing slice-of-life comedy about one adorable girl and the friends she makes along the way. The show plays with social anxiety in a lighthearted way: instead of putting Bocchi down, the show is constantly encouraging in a way that makes it feel relatable and uplifting. Everyone in the colorful cast has their own quirk that are fun to watch as they each react to the same scenario in different ways, and the comedy surrounding them is great. If you were looking for a slice of life to make your day better, Hitoribocchi should be on the top of your list. *Do Your Best Beam!*
Recommended By: Edmundton, Koda, Reikaze, Tenshigami, Thatsmapizza, TheMamaLuigi
Written by: TGRIP
Genre: Short form Isekai-Crossover Classroom Comedy
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, VRV
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Through each protagonist pressing a mysterious red button, the main groups of four separate isekai series (Konosuba, Overlord, Re:zero, and The Saga of Tanya the Evil) are all transported to yet another world, but this time instead of a fantasy setting, it’s a relatively ordinary Japanese high school. What follows are the two dozen characters forced to take classes with one another as they deal with both newfound normality and explaining their own world to their friends that’ve never experienced highschool life.
Why You Should Be Watching: I’m not going to pretend that this is anything more than just glorified fanfiction, but it is nevertheless enjoyable fanfiction, with not only vibrant animation for something that’s obviously made on a miniscule budget but also surprisingly sharp writing, direction, and acting. This was definitely made by people who have a knowledge of each series that this show is pulling from, and it goes the extra mile by having most (if not all) of the original voice actors returning to their roles (both in the original Japanese audio and English dub).
Though Isekai Quartet is best enjoyed with knowing at least a bit of each show, the only one I have in-depth knowledge of is Konosuba and I’m still enjoying the heck out of this show mostly because its main attraction never gets old: the character interactions. There is so much material with roughly twenty distinct characters bouncing off one another in nearly every way imaginable. Unexpected friendships form, enemies are made, and the larger premise of would-be heroes (and antiheroes) re-experiencing their previous normal lives, while also “comparing notes” as to how they’ve experienced being transported to another world makes this a show worth experiencing.
Recommended by: Aoi Yamamoto, Doctorkev, Reikaze, TGRIP, Thatsmapizza
Written by: Edmundton
Genre: Music, Drama, School, Shounen
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Takezou Kurata is the last remaining member of Tokise High School’s Koto club after his seniors’ graduation. Now the club President, he must find new members to join the club in order to keep it alive and follow through on the dreams of his seniors. However, the first student to submit an application is misunderstood delinquent Chika Kudo, trying to get over an incident where he was arrested for destroying his grandfather’s Koto shop. Kudo seeks to learn the Koto in order to atone for his past mistakes, but his straightforward personality clashes with Takezou’s timid nature and reluctance to let him join after hearing of Kudo’s reputation. Joining them is famous Koto prodigy Satowa Hozuki whose cold personality hides a troubled past related to her family’s prestigious Koto school. In the end, all three will have to unite to keep the Koto club from shutting down and reach the National Koto competition.
Why You Should Be Watching: At first glance, Kono Oto Tomare! may seem like a by-the-numbers highschool drama about a group of misfits who don’t get along overcoming their differences in order to save their club. In execution, however, it is a symphony of character relationships that come together to make a greater whole, both in their Koto performances and in how they carry the show forward. The drama is never overwrought or unearned and our main cast is surprisingly understanding of each other, and the ways in which they are willing to help one another will definitely bring a smile to your face. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see characters admit their mistakes despite what their outward personalities imply as they ask each other for help or advice. And while it may not seem like it, when the show wants it is hilarious with great comedic timing. So, while this isn’t a comedy don’t be surprised if you end up laughing more than you would imagine. Kono Oto Tomare mixes this comedy with believable characters and heartwarming interactions, making it an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a school drama with heart.
Recommended by: Edmundton, Protonstorm, Requiem, TGRIP
Written by: Gugsy
Genre: Drama, Romance, Baseball
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler Free Synopsis: 30 years ago, Meisei High School won Koshien, the national high school baseball championship, in their first and only appearance. Since then, Meisei has fallen back into mediocrity, but with a new generation of stars, can Meisei rise back up once again?
Why You Should Be Watching: That synopsis may sound to you like your typical shounen sports drama, like Ace of the Diamond and others, but you would be mistaken to group Mix with them. For one thing, Mix comes from legendary manga author Mitsuru Adachi, who has written some of the finest baseball manga/anime ever. Touch, in the 1980s, is one of 15 manga to have sold more than 100 million copies, and his more recent work Cross Game is arguably even better in quality.
What Adachi really specializes in isn’t baseball stories, but in stories that are about people who play baseball. It’s a bigger distinction than it seems. The other aspect of Adachi’s stories is that they are slow to get going (Cross Game is the one exception, with maybe the most perfect first anime episode ever), but once they get going, are some of the most gripping stories in anime. He excels at both character interactions and character development in general. Touch and Cross Game (and to a less extent H2) told super dramatic and gripping stories about characters you would come to love, while still being about baseball — qualities that Mix fully embraces and embodies in its currently-available episodes. Though Mix is in the early stages, based on all available precedent, I have faith that it will build into something great, memorable, and touching like its predecessors. .
Recommended by: Gugsy, TheMamaLuigi, TGRIP
Written by: Doctorkev
Genre: Absurd Comedy, Slice of Life, Cute
Where to Watch: Netflix
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Kaoru, a single twenty-something Japanese salarywoman lives with her pet bird Kiiroitori and two bears: the large, brown Rilakkuma and the small, white Korilakkuma. This is the story of a year of their life together in Kaoru’s small, rustic apartment.
Why You Should Be Watching: Sometimes don’t you just want to go home and hug something soft and furry? So thinks eternally single Kaoru, who initially wanted a cat, but somehow finds herself living with two bears of mysterious, unexplained origin. Invited in by her adorably strong-willed and oddly intelligent pet bird, these two friendly bears offer Kaoru respite from her everyday worries.
This is a strange show to pigeon-hole - I’ve never seen anything quite like this gorgeous stop-motion anime. At between 12 and 14 minutes long, each episode never overstays its welcome and are mostly episodic, though there are some underlying plot threads that develop over the course of the series. The tone is light and breezy; at one moment a simple domestic comedy, at other times veering into fantastical whimsy with ghostly invaders, a plague of psychedelic mushrooms, an army of dancing snowmen, and even the sweetest alien abduction you’ve ever seen.
Poor Kaoru herself never seems to get a break - ditched by her old college friends who are all getting married, she consoles herself with beer, a crush on her deliveryman, and funny misadventures with her animals. There is a dark undercurrent to Kaoru’s crisis of purpose, but it is never the sole focus of the show. It is juxtaposed with whimsical interludes driven by the inscrutable actions of Rilakkuma and co. - they never speak intelligibly, yet the detailed character animation communicates very well their emotions.
Little bird Kiiroitori is perhaps my favourite character - a fussy clean freak who works hard, expresses anger at mess and chaos, and knows his own mind. Rilakkuma has a huge zip down his back - he appears to be a bear who wears bear onesies. There’s something a bit creepy about that. This is never explained.
Every single episode is currently available to stream on Netflix. Give it a try. You need Rilakkuma in your life, even if you don’t know it yet.
Recommended By: Doctorkev, Koda, RedStripe118, TGRIP
Written by: TheMamaLuigi
Genre: Supernatural, Musical, Comedy, Drama, Butts
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Kazuki, Toi, and Enta find themselves thrust into a world of connections and kappa when they break Asakusa’s famous kappa statue. Keppi, a kappa that emerges from the statue’s remains, turns the three boys into kappa and tasks them with defeating kappa-zombies, harmful manifestations of people’s inner desires if they wish to return to normal. The boys must connect with each other in order to defeat the zombies, obtain a Dish of Hope, and have their wishes granted – but victory also means one of their deepest secrets is revealed.
Why You Should Be Watching: Let’s get this out of the way up front: Sarazanmai is about butts. Going inside butts, emerging from butts, and all the juice that comes along with it. Sarazanmai is also a show about connecting, reconciling with one’s identity, and opening oneself up to all the vibrant craziness in the modern world. Those familiar with Kunihiko Ikuhara’s other works (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, Yurikuma Arashi) will find themselves at home as Sarazanmai feels like a natural extension of the themes explored in those works. Kazuki, Toi, and Enta all embody the contemporary struggles faced by adolescent boys in postmodern Japan. The show explores topics of sexual identity, drag, guilt, and how to connect in an age of constant connection with nuance and depth that makes the characters feel not only engaging but believable. The boys’ secrets and lives are revealed not in exposition dumps but slowly throughout several episodes. This urgent un-urgency regarding character development lends the show a conversational feel, as each episode focalizes itself around one aspect of one of the boys’ personality as it naturally arises from the events happening within.
Sarazanmai utilizes a vibrant and colourful palette to portray a Tokyo that feels both arrestingly inviting and uncomfortably sterile. Like the characters, the city itself has dark secrets that will inevitably reveal themselves. And it is these secrets that form the crux of the show’s main theme: connection. It stresses that we cannot move on, mature, and bond with others until we reconcile with our past andwhere that past has brought us. The show holistically combines its lively visuals and animation with music, direction, and a general subtlety that invites us not just to watch but analyze, interpret, and discover. It appeals to viewers who revel in dissecting and digesting the intricacies of a given shot and to those who just want to watch some captivatingly beautiful visuals and kappa boys save the day. Sarazanmai is great because it is a testament to what makes anime extraordinary: intricate and appealing visuals, strong direction, and a deliberate coalescing of Japanese folklore and postmodern sensibilities to create a work that could not exist in any other medium. And really, isn’t that why we all watch anime? For entertainment, for art, and for butts?
Recommended by: Doctorkev, Koda, Protonstorm, Reikaze, Thatsmapizza,TheMamaLuigi, hybridmink
Written by: Requiem
Genre: Slice of Life, School Club, Cuteness
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Hidive
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Nanako Yukishiro seems like a normal, happy first-year high schooler, but she has a bit of a quirk: instead of speaking out loud, she communicates exclusively through the use of written “senryu,” a form of haiku written with 5-7-5 syllables. Odd, yes, but it does not hamper her happy school life as we follow the day-to-day adventures of her and the Literature Club with former delinquent Eiji and club president Katagiri. Let the fun begin in 5-7-5!
Why You Should Be Watching:
This show is, in a word, adorable. It is unrelentingly, unbelievably, invariably adorable. From the soft, warm visual designs to the characters themselves and their relationships, everything and everyone in Senryu Girl is almost too cute. This show is a warm blanket of happiness.
Nanako’s quirk is readily accepted by her friends and peers, and the show never frames her haiku-centered communication as a negative - a perfect example of what a lovely and comforting little show this is. Moreover, Nanako’s inner monologue is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, whose voice is like a comforting hug. If it was just a gimmick, the 5-7-5 thing would probably get tedious, but it is integrated so well, and everyone else has such equally wacky traits that it never wears out its welcome. The short run time of 12 minutes per episode also helps.
The shining star of Senryu Girl is the relationship between Nanako and Eiji, the delinquent with a heart of gold. Their romantic affection is obvious, especially to the other cast members, and their interactions are delightful. The show does an excellent job of keeping their relationship engaging without unintentional awkwardness or anyone being tsundere to anyone - they’re just two people who really enjoy each other and it’s so sweet it could cause diabetes. That’s not to give short shrift to the rest of the ensemble; they’re nearly all great, with a girl who communicates through manga sketches and a fortune teller who always gets the kanji for people’s names wrong as the standouts.
It’s hard to adequately describe a show like this in words; its strength is in how it feels. So, please, give this charming little gem of a show a try. And get ready to smile.
Recommended by: Koda, Protonstorm, RedStripe118, Reikaze, Requiem, TheMamaLuigi, TGRIP
As noted earlier, only shows available for legal streaming are considered. However, Netflix has complicated what the word “available” means. This category is for recommendations of shows with region-locked Netflix availability. We expect that they will be released worldwide in the near future, so keep these on your radar if they our not available in your region.
Written by: hybridmink
Genre: Drama, Musical, Comedy?
Where to Watch: Japan, Netflix in the near future
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Two girls from different walks of life decide to make music together in the future. Through their experiences we learn about the potential trajectory of the music industry and experience a plethora of original songs along the way. It’s a story about the creative spirit and the industry that often hampers it.
Why You Should Be Watching: Carole & Tuesday is an original work by Bones with chief direction from Watanabe Shin`ichirou, of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo fame. It follows a familiar tale of a rich kid (Tuesday) running away from home to pursue her dreams of playing music. She soon meets up with a much less affluent girl (Carole) and they hit it off immediately. While the premise isn’t anything new, their surroundings make it quite unique compared to the “rise to fame” story told so many times over.
We don’t often see these types of narrative told in an unfamiliar world. Here we have a down-to-earth story that also happens to take place on what feels like a near-future version of Earth… - only it’s actually on Mars. I love how C&T has so many little nods to the technology and culture of its world without spending too much time on exposition. Carole’s alarm clock is a robot owl, Tuesday’s briefcase returns to her after being stolen, people order at restaurants using touchscreens built into the tables, and they use their smartphones to post pictures...on Instagram. It’s a weirdly believable hodgepodge of technology and I love it.
But the show is named after the main characters, not the world they live in. Honestly, five episodes in, I don’t feel like they’ve really developed the girls much past the first episode. The creators seem to be having more fun establishing the world around them. I think giving the audience context for the current state of the music industry in this world will give more meaning and context to the milestones Carole and Tuesday achieve, but I hope they get more time to express their personalities outside of their singing.
Speaking of which, the music is really well done. While it feels a little odd that every artist in this show sings in perfect English, it doesn’t take me out of it too much. The vocalists are great and the vibe of the music fits the casual tone of the show. You can really feel that Netflix money coming into play when people are actually animated as playing instruments rather than panning across still images with bubbles floating in the air (Piano no Mori, I’m looking at you!).
I’m looking forward to seeing the inevitable bumps along the road that Carole and Tuesday encounter, but I may be even more interested in learning about the music industry on Mars. One thing you can always count on with a Watanabe joint is fantastic pacing and world-building. I haven’t heard Yoko Kanno yet, but we’re already off to a great start in the music department with newcomer “Mocky”. Check it out if you’re looking for a familiar tale set in an unfamiliar world, filled with music and friendship along the way.
Recommended By: Aoi Yamamoto, hybridmink, Stínolez, Thatsmapizza, TGRIP
(Note: Our honorable mention section is reserved for shows that had significant support but at the same time significant pushback during our debates. In order to represent both sides, we include both “for” and “against” opinions for our honorable mentions.)
Written by: Vukir (for), Koda (against)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Seinen, Harem
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Haruto returns home one day with a new figurine from his favorite anime. While out of the room, Nona, a fictional space traveler, awakens to discover she’s not where she last remembers. Once the secret is out, the two embark on a mission to learn and understand each other, as well as the new reality they both find themselves in. It doesn’t take long for them to be at odds with old friends, family, new strangers, and otaku fandom alike.
Why You Should Be Watching: This show is meant to hold a mirror up to otaku fandom and quietly judge, all while your snack filled mouth goes slack and you feel called out. The creators make every effort to show the you they see and understand the hypocrisy and double-standards of stereotypical otaku. It tackles the contradiction of idealized purity and innocence alongside stashes of doujin under your bed to the notion that 2D women are superior to 3D women and a justification of a hikikomori lifestyle, and that’s just the start of episode one.
Following episodes dive into additional characters from fictional worlds and their interactions with Haruto and Nona, as well as Haruto’s interactions with others, both figurine and human. Arguments over why one side felt an anime was the greatest and the other argued that the show was garbage is sure to strike a note with every anime fan. Who hasn’t argued the merits for or against Naruto at some point in the last two decades? Here we see anime that mirrors life, specifically to those of us who are entrenched in such intense interest and passion for a show or character, and at only 15 minutes per episode, no specific topic overstays its welcome before moving on.
All of this is done with a smile and a wink, a not-so-subtle nod to the audience that the show’s creators get it. They understand the components that make up otaku and gives them their own unique place among fans. They know and respect that fans can love a show and find expanded materials of it online to further their interests, whether through fan-art, fan-fiction, or other assorted media.
Even the style of animation is designed to elicit feelings in favor or against their techniques. Amazing Stranger uses standard 2D digital animation for the “human” characters, and cell-shaded 3D CGI for the figures. CGI in anime has always been something that bothers many viewers, but in this situation it works on two levels: it’s designed to give a sense that they aren’t natural, since they are living figurines. It is also clean and unobtrusive in its style, avoiding drawing too much attention away from the story. Sure, sometimes the CGI is noticeable, usually during awkward movements, but this again plays into the notion that Nona is a small plastic statue, not a living, breathing human. For those like me that are put off by CGI, this show is certainly one that shouldn’t be judged by the animation alone.
The environment designs are clean and simple. While this does help blend in with the CG figures, it also does wonders for consistency and quality. It’s not Violet Evergarden levels, no, but so far the show has consistently kept the same look, feel, and design for each character and their world.
Amazing Stranger won’t take home awards for best animation or most original story, but this season, it’s a show worth watching.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: For all its genuine strengths, Amazing Stranger one glaring flaw that often undercuts much of the messages the show offers, and that flaw is that the show is relentlessly horny. While the first episode did start on a slightly titillating foot, it seemed a bit of an anomaly as the following two episodes were relatively devoid of such things and seemed more focused on delving into the real meat and potatoes in the show: commenting on the capitalistic side of otaku media seen from the perspective of the very characters birthed by the industry. Unfortunately, it turns out that those two episodes were the actual anomaly in the show, as every episode since has had some rather uncomfortable fan-service scenes that completely stop the momentum of the episodes.
The most recurring character to fall victim to this is Bellnoa, the living figure based on a proud magical warrior from a game series that parodies Dragon Quest. In fact, it was probably the first major fan-service scene involving her that has been the most egregious one in the show so far. For whatever reason, Bouida can control the physical Bellnoa through her game, which comes complete with spawning the in-game menu screens around her in the real world. While he has her paused, he decides to do a bit of dress up with her to see what the in-game costumes would look like in the physical space. To Bellnoa’s credit, she does warn him to enjoy what he is doing while he can, because in the end she’ll be victorious regardless of what he does.
Bouida enthusiastically takes her up on her “offer”, and this results in him swapping her from one fanservice outfit to the next, each subsequent one more risque than the last, all while Bellnoa is helpless to resist. The scene ultimately feels uncomfortable to sit through, especially when at the very end of it the episode seems to be judging anyone who enjoyed the scene through Nona and the rest of the supporting cast showing compassion towards Bellnoa and scolding Bouida. . This is despite the fact that the show was very much willing to give multiple in-depth camera angles of every single curve on Bellnoa’s body.
Fan-service scenes are not all bad across the board, but they get iffier the less the characters themselves want to be involved in them, and unfortunately that’s the side of the spectrum on which the fanservice scenes in Amazing Stranger often fall. You have multiple scenes of Bellnoa being relieved of her clothing against her will and there are at least a handful of bathing scenes where she or Nona is aggressively groping the other, among other scenes that can result in some cringe from the audience. I would be remiss to leave out the fact that the show has a bit of a wandering leering eye in regards to the camera, too, often focusing on girls’ boobs or butts for no apparent reason.
This all comes at odds with how the show tries to mock how stuff of this nature seems an inherent part of the industry. It even came close to ruining one of my favorite recurring bits in the show. In the second episode, Nona came across Bouida’s stash oferotic doujinshi based on her show, which leaves her miffed. She calls the doujinshi “thin volumes”, and throughout subsequent episodes she’ll refer to certain erotic situations in the show as reminding her of said thin volumes. Unfortunately, while this particular callback works at first, the more she uses it, the more it seems like the show is trying to justify the existence of some of these honestly unnecessary scenes. Amazing Stranger has a lot of genuinely good things to say, it is just a shame it feels the need to distract the audience with tits and ass.
Contributors in Alphabetical Order:
- Aoi Yamato
- Dark Aether
If you enjoyed this article, please check out our collaboration from last season here:
Additionally, the AniTAY podcast has an episode from earlier this month where we discuss some currently-airing anime in detail. Want to hear even more about some of the series on this list? Check it out here:
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